Fl/Lt. Clement Longden 971461 RAFVR. Born 22nd September 1919, Chesterfield. Died Worcester 25th April 2009. Age 90.
Page prepared and submitted by his son Richard Longden.
During World War 2 the average number of missions flown by Allied bomber Crews was seven. Clem Longden flew 52 without a scratch at which point his Superiors decided they’d chanced Clem’s arm long enough and found him a safer Job on the ground. This probably makes him one of the luckier combatants of the war.
Luck or technique? It was probably a mixture of both that he survived, but towards the end, the mental pressure really got to him.
At the debriefings after he landed from a Mission they would ask ‘Is everyone back?’ and the reply would be ‘We haven’t heard from so-and-so for 15 minutes’.
You know then they probably copped it. Lads on their third or fourth raid and there was him topping 30 and then 40. He must have had a Guardian angel sitting on his shoulder all the way.
Clement Longden was born on the 22nd September 1919 to his parents Thomas Ray and Sarah. He was educated at Chesterfield grammar School where he excelled in all subjects and Sport especially Rugby and cricket – he was awarded a trial at Derbyshire County Cricket Club.
In August 1939 he left his Job as a trainee accountant and made his way to Sheffield City Hall where he volunteered for the RAF.
The RAF trained Clem in the dual role of wireless Operator and air gunner.
He was posted 115 Squadron at Marham to fly Wellingtons, they had six man Crews and carried around 9,000lbs of bombs. Rather disconcertingly, directly beneath where he sat was the bomb bay.
The Wellington crew – it is thought that all but Geof Prior and Michael Myers survived.
Clem’s first mission was appropriately on the evening of November 5th 1940. His was among 20 Bombers in a raid on Flushing, a town right on the Dutch coast, where the Germans had been massing barges ready for an Invasion. Flying at about 180 mph it took them one and half hours to get there, then they were over the target for 3 – 4 mins and then they put the nose down and opened the taps a bit and got home in an hour.
It wasn’t a heavily defended target, but they gave you those to start with.
The bombers were at their most vulnerable on the outward flight, when they had a full bomb load and 2500 gallons of high octane fuel.
To counter the attentions of the German flak batteries and fighter planes, the bomber pilots adopted a corkscrew method of flying, twisting and turning the slow moving bombers and also varying their speed.
It all helped to stop the Germans getting a bead on you, but survival was just as much luck as technique according to the phlegmatic Clem.
Raids on all the major German targets followed – Hamburg, Bremen, Dusseldorf, Berlin. Thirty in all.
In April 1941 he was transferred to Pershore airfield as an instructor, before switching to fly Lancasters out of Scampton in Lincolnshire in August 1942.
It was then Clem Longden nearly met his maker. ‘We were on a Mission to Wismar, the submarine base on the Baltic, and we’d just got rid of our bomb load, fortunately, when a 110 Messerschmitt shot us up.
I was in the mid-upper gun turret at the time when the perspex cover disappeared.
I sat there with tracer bullets zipping past either side of my head, I remember thinking: if I move six inches either way, I’ve had it.’
The fighter’s gun fire raked the bomber, slicing into the rear gun turret and badly wounding the occupant.
Fortunately, the bomber pilot escaped injury, thanks to a bullet-proof shield behind his seat and he was able to fly the battered Lancaster back to Scampton.
‘Once we were in the clear, I pulled the lad out of the rear gun turret and gave him a shot of morphine to ease his pain. I think it was his only third mission.’
His partial log book entries can be downloaded here.
But for Clem, there was a lot of war left. He flew his 52nd and last bombing raid on March 29,1943 over Berlin.
Enough was enough his superiors decided, and by then a Flight Lieutenant. He saw out the remainder of hostilities as a gunnery instructor in South Wales.
After the war, he returned to accountancy and during the 1970s/80s did pioneering work setting up financial accounts Systems on Computers for companies such as Rank Hovis Mcdougall and EMI
Clem married his wife Pauline in 1942 at Worcester Cathedral – they were together for 67 years.
They had four children of which his eldest son, David, followed in his fathers footsteps joining the RAF after gaining a scholarship at Cranwell. His son became a flying instructor on Hunters and Gnats until he was tragically killed in 1971. We also have a page on Fl/Lt. Dave C. Longden – an outstanding pilot and also took part in many air displays in the Gnat.
Clem’s eldest daughter also pre-deceased him.
In retirement Clem became a member of his local Probus Club and he was also a member of Worcestershire Aircrew Association, the Organisation for wartime and post war flyers.
He also enjoyed gardening and collecting dolls-house artefacts along with his wife.
David Clement Longden died on Monday 13th December 1971 and was interred at Little Rissington Churchyard. Shown right.
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