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Bomber crew's great escape.

Byline: Ray Marshal

IT was October 1944 when a 6ft 3in Geordie climbed into the big, four-engined Stirling with six other crew to embark on another "cloak and dagger" mission.

The lumbering heavy bomber was to slip in low over Jutland and parachute more than a dozen bulky metal canisters of weapons and supplies to the Danish resistance.

For navigator flight lieutenant Richard "Dickie" Gee, it was to be his 60th flight over enemy territory, and none of them had been straight-forward - many a time they were dropping agents behind enemy lines. At the Danish coast, they were to drop to 500ft to avoid the radar and "dog leg" the breadth of Jutland before their drop - negotiating any flak which may come their way. But the Luftwaffe had other ideas.

Around 2am on October 7, the Nissum Fjord course alteration point was coming up when, suddenly, rear gunner Paddy Maloney burst over the intercom: "Two Junkers 88s are coming in fast astern with cannon firing."

The Stirling was so low that it was almost impossible to manoeuvre out of trouble. But pilot George Abecassis beat the attack by corkscrewing to starboard and losing even more height.

Dick Gee, hunched at his navigation table, could only listen as the intercom exchanges recorded the deadly chase. They were down to 50ft and almost skimming the fjord.

Australian bomb aimer Ross Philp barked: "Height! We'll hit the shore."

The leading Junker raked the bomber with cannon shell and Paddy Maloney fired back with his four Brownings - but was astounded to see his shots ricochet off the armoured nose of the Junkers.

The blazing Stirling descended, tearing down telegraph poles in a masterly crash landing at 200mph.

Dick Gee was flung violently forward and knocked out cold in the midst of the inferno.

He recovered - but his clothes and hair were alight, and his parachute harness was caught. The blaze worsened but Dick, a Geordie who loved life, was not ready to die. Another desperate heave and the clip gave way.

However, acrid fumes blackened, smothered and fogged the fuselage. Dick thought this was the end. Then, gathering his wits, he fumbled by the navigation table, past the now empty seats and dropped through the escape hatch.

He fell 10ft to earth, to be met by George Abecassis, Paddy, flight engineer "Daisy" Flower, and Ken Walker, wireless operator. Flying Officer Sam Woodham also staggered into the group. Aussie Ross had been killed outright by cannon fire.

The bedraggled band struck out northwards, leaving the exploding Stirling behind. They knew the Germans would soon be on the scene. They decided to head 80 miles east, to Kattegat, where they stood a chance of escape to neutral Sweden. By dawn they had made five miles, encountering electrified fences and barking dogs and mud. "Daisy" was too badly injured to continue and staggered off to a farmhouse, and George and Ken were soon captured and tortured as the Germans tried to find out the RAF dropping zones - but only Dick had the list.

Dick, Paddy and Sam decided to contact local Danes and cut across country to a farmhouse.

A young servant produced a plate piled high with sandwiches, then told them to go to her father's village.

Knocking on a door, a child answered. Despite being home alone, he said: "Welcome, come in."

When the boy's parents returned, the group were given a map and, the next morning, they moved on again. The boy's whole school turned out to wave them on, but there was not a whisper to the Germans.

There were many close calls with German troops, but the group also received help from many more locals as they travelled - food, bandages and accommodation.

Then they got lucky, and met Ragnar Schroeder, a Danish surveyor.

In no time they had been handed over to the Resistance and a car took them to Hornslet. They had been walking for two weeks.

Then it was by train to the port of Aarhus - crawling with Germans - and then on to another port, Grenaa.

At night, the Resistance put them aboard a fishing boat and they headed over the Kattegat to Sweden. Imagine their surprise when, days later, in a Stockholm cafe, they spotted "Daisy". "I met a doctor who swathed my head in bandages and cycled with me across Jutland," he chirped.

Dick Gee returned to Tyneside with the DFC.

1265: The first English parliament met in Westminster Hall.

1327: Edward II was deposed by his eldest son, Edward III.

1649: Parliament tried King Charles I. 1841: Hong Kong occupied by the British. 1882: Coxon & Company, a shop in Newcastle, became the first shop in the world to be lit by incandescent electric light. 1910: Canberra became Australia's capital. 1936: Edward VIII became the first British monarch to fly in an aeroplane. 1952: Patricia McCormick became Mexico's first professional female bullfighter. 1964: The Great Train Robbery trial began.

1971: First postal workers strike. 1986: Britain and France agreed to build the Channel Tunnel.

1988: It was announced that Russian goldminers had found the remains of a prehistoric mammoth.

1999: Dr Ian Wilmut, who created Dolly the sheep, announced that he was preparing to branch out into cloning humans.

2000: Figures showed London was the most expensive city to inhabit in Europe.

2001: President Clinton spent his last day in office issuing pardons - including one for his half-brother who had been jailed for drug offences.

2007: A northern bottle-nosed whale swam up the Thames into central London. It died a day later.

1896: George Burns (deceased). Comedian.

Born Nathan Birnbaum.

1914: Roy Plomley (deceased). Creator of radio's Desert Island Discs.

1920: Frederico Fellini (deceased). Italian film director whose films include Sweet Charity.

1924: Slim Whitman. country and western singer whose hits include Rose Marie. 1930: Edwin Aldrin. American astronaut known as "Buzz".

1944: Eddie Shah. Former newspaper publisher who launched Today. 1946: David Lynch. American film director whose work includes The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and the TV series Twin Peaks.

1949: Ivana Trump. Ex-wife of Donald Trump. 1950: Liza Goddard. British actress famed for her role in Bergerac. 1965: Countess of Wessex. Wife of Prince Edward. Previously Sophie Rhys-Jones. 1969: Andre Cason. American sprinter who held the world record over 60m. 1970: Skeet Ulrich. American actor whose films include Scream and As Good As It Gets. Born Bryan Ray Ulrich.

1971: Gary Barlow. Singer/songwriter with Take That, whose hits include Could It Be Magic and Patience.

1976: Kirsty Gallacher. TV presenter. 1979: Will Young. Winner of 2002's Pop Idol whose hits include Leave Right Now. 1981: Owen Hargreaves. Footballer for Manchester United and England.

1936: King George V. Died at Sandringham.

His last words were reportedly "Bugger Bognor".

1965: Alan Freed. American radio DJ, who coined the phrase "rock'n'roll".

1984: Johnny Weissmuller. American film actor and swimmer, famous for playing Tarzan. 1990: Barbara Stanwyck. American actress, whose films include Double Indemnity, Forbidden and Stella Dallas.

1993: Audrey Hepburn. Actress, whose films include Roman Holiday, Sabrina, The Unforgiven, Breakfast At Tiffany's, Funny Face and My Fair Lady.

1994: Sir Matt Busby. Former Manchester United manager.

CAPTION(S):

STIRRING STORY: A Dutch magazine tells the survivors' tale and, inset, how our sister paper The Journal reported it. LONG MARCH: navigator flight-lieutenant Richard "Dickie" Gee, above and left.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 20, 2010
Words:1219
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