While the Little Ships were crossing the Channel 70 years ago today, a less inspiring event was taking place elsewhere.
At 8.30pm, Captain Warren and the crew of his Whitley bomber took off from RAF Dishforth on a mission to bomb on a German airfield in Holland. After a change of course necessary to avoid a violent thunderstorm over the North Sea, they arrived at the coast and searched for their target.
Amid anti-aircraft fire, they followed the river and turned right; the second pilot called out, "I've got it! Bombs Away!" Mission accomplished, they set a course for home. At the estimated arrival time, they dropped through the cloud only to find themselves over an unfamiliar city with the sea beyond.
A horror-stricken Warren recognised it as Liverpool. "According to my calculations, we can only have bombed something inside England. Christ, what are we to do?"
Flying by a magnetic compass damaged by the thunderstorm, they had dropped their entire load on the Fighter Command base at RAF Bassingbourn. Fortunately for them, if discouragingly for the RAF, the attack caused no casualties and almost no damage at all.
The unfortunate Captain Warren was demoted as a result and dubbed 'Baron von Warren' by his fellows for the rest of the war - two fly-boys in Spitfires even dropped an Iron Cross on RAF Dishforth in tribute.
Caveat: I can find no internet or encyclopedia reference for this story - my sole source is 'The Wrong Kind of Snow' by Woodward and Penn, who sadly do not give provenance.
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