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P/O. Gerald McPherson Air Gunner, 186 Squadron

Announced in September 2015 Gerald is to receive the highest medal from the French Government 'The Légion D'honneur'. Further details to follow.


Compiled in 2011 by Fay McPherson and submitted by Susan Clarson-Griffin

The following incidents occurred between October 1944 and April 1945.

On 15th February 1945 Jeff and his crew were instructed to carry out an air test on M for Mike. 

This exercise involved testing certain working parts of the aircraft following an overhaul by the ground staff.  

When returning to base after completing the exercise Jeff spotted an American Fortress Bomber flying in the same direction to our starboard. 

Jeff had been keen on formation flying when he was training on single engine aircraft, so he and the engineer (Jock) decided to do a little formation flying with the Fortress. 

He eased up to the Fortress and placed our starboard wing between the wing and the tail of the Fortress. 

After a few minutes Jeff feathered one engine followed shortly by a second engine and subsequently a third engine. For about five minutes we flew on one engine in close formation with the Fortress with four engines. 

We could see the American airmen looking at us in awe that a Lancaster with one engine operating could keep up with their four engine aircraft.

Gerald at the tender age of 91 -  Presentation of the French Légion D'honneu (courtesy Fay McPherson via Susan Clarson-Griffin)

     

Left to right rear: Fl/Sgt. Mallinson, Sgt. Parrish, Sgt Hepburn, Fl/Sgt. McPherson. Front: Fl/Sgt. Liversidge, Fl/Sgt. Houghton and Fl/Sgt. Perry.

     

The crew - England 1945

     

Above left: Three McPherson brothers, all served. Left to right: Cyril - served as a pilot on the Vultee Vengeance A-31 aircraft, stationed in Northern Australia. (See photo below) Harry - served as rear gunner on Halifax's with Bomber Command. Gerald - served as rear gunner on a Lancaster with Bomber Command. 

     

Taken near Merauke, Dutch New Guinea on the 23rd December 1943. (courtesy AWM) 12 Squadron RAAF NH-L and named "Dianne", Fl/Lt Cyril Mcpherson as pilot with Fl/Sgt. Turner as Observer.

     

A 4,000 lb. “Cookie” loaded in the bomb bay of an Avro Lancaster, surrounded by SBCs (Small Bomb Containers) of incendiaries. (courtesy IWM)

On 11th January 1945 when I was in hospital with tonsillitis, the rest of the crew and a Canadian rear gunner, set off on a daylight raid to Krefeld.  Whilst flying over England prior to setting course for Germany, the 4,000 lb. bomb broke loose and crashed through the bomb bay doors. This left a gaping hole in the bomb bay doors. The bomb landed in a paddock outside Bishop Stortford – luckily no casualties. Jeff decided to continue the operation as they still had 9 x 1,000 lb. bombs to drop. They completed the operation and returned to base safely.

On 9th March 1945 the crew went on a daylight raid to Datteln – near the Ruhr. Whilst flying at about 9,000 feet over England prior to setting course for Germany, one of the four engines malfunctioned and had to be shut down. 

Jeff and Jock discussed whether to abort the raid and return to base (the normal procedure in such circumstances) or continue the flight to the target. They decided that they could probably climb to 20,000 feet with a full bomb load and reach the target with the other 180 odd planes, provided they used up more fuel for the other three engines and cut corners on each occasion they were instructed to change course. 

They were so successful that we were 12th of the 180 odd planes to drop our bombs. However, I was a little concerned when I heard on the intercom that a couple of the 11 planes in front of us had been shot down by anti-aircraft fire. We returned to base safely again.

     

Crew from left to right: P/O. James (Jock) Hepburn D.F.M. (RAF) Flight Engineer, P/O. Dennis Parrish (RAF) Bomb Aimer, P/O. Gerald McPherson (RAAF) Rear Gunner. P/O. Ron Liversidge (RAAF) Navigator, P/O. Jim Mallinson (RAAF) Mid Upper Gunner, Flt./Lt. Jeff Clarson D.F.C. (RAAF) Pilot, W/O. Wilbert Perry (RAAF) Wireless Operator.
 Pictured with the crew is 'Mike' the crew's Lucky Lancaster XY-M NG354, which was flown for approximately 50% of their missions.

On 11th April 1945 Jeff and the crew were briefed for a night raid on Kiel, a large German naval base.  Whilst over the target and just after we had dropped our bombs we were caught in searchlights and coned by several of them for about 15 minutes. In an endeavour to escape the lights, which turned night into day, Jeff threw the plane around like a fighter plane.  

The engineer subsequently told me that at one stage the plane was upside down and that it was a remarkable feat by Jeff to get the plane back on to an even keel.  

After Jeff successfully flew us out of the searchlights and set sail for U.K. and after crossing the coast of Denmark, we were briefed to descend to 7,000 feet and continue to fly back over the North Sea at that height. On reaching the Danish coast, Jeff was obviously tired and stressed and decided to descent to 7,000 feet quickly rather than gradually. 

I was in the rear turret and aware that we were descending rapidly, when, all of a sudden, I was aware that the tail of the plane was skidding. I instinctively looked down and saw that we were skidding over the body of another Lancaster about 6 – 8 feet below. It was about midnight, but we were so close I could see the two gunners sitting in their respective turrets. It appears that Jeff and Jock had seen this other plane just in time.

After we landed we were informed that we had completed our tour.

     

This photograph of the Crew with members of the Ground Staff at 186 was taken on April 10th 1945 after having completed the squadron's last trip to Kiel.

We heard later that we shouldn’t have gone on that raid. A few hours before we took off, a signal had been received from Bomber Command Headquarters that the tour of operations had been reduced from 40 to 35.  

As all of the crew had already completed 35 operations, we should have been taken off the Kiel raid. We also heard that the Navigation Leader had brought our situation to the attention of our new Wing Commander. 

His reply to the Navigation Leader was that it was too late to take us off the Battle Order and that we would be OK!!

A VERY LUCKY BIRTHDAY PRESENT FROM MOTHER NATURE:

On 14th November, 1944, my 20th Birthday, we were briefed on our fifth operation - a daylight raid on central Germany, which would be without fighter escort.  (This was normal procedure for raids on the Ruhr )

As we sat in the briefing room the curtain was drawn back to reveal that our target was deep into enemy territory, more than halfway across Germany.

With a feeling dread we boarded our Lancaster and took up our positions ready for take-off. The minutes passed with no sign of departure, then a message came through the intercom that due to bad weather the operation had been cancelled.

So with a feeling of great relief we hurriedly left the aircraft and made our way to the Mess, where we celebrated my birthday in style - safely on the ground!”

     

Above showing Gerald McPherson on the left and Jim Mallinson, both of 186 Squadron at the Bomber Command Memorial luncheon 2008, held in Canberra, Australia.

I can assure you that our original Wing Commander (a Canadian) would have acted differently and refused to let us go on the Kiel raid.

Is it any wonder that Jeff was awarded the DFC and Jim (Jock) Hepburn the DFM

Further details can be found on this tribute page.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon

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Last Modified: 17 November 2015, 23:30