Len Dorricott (3)

Last time, I was talking to you about Len Dorricott, who had flown a large number of missions as the navigator in one of the most famous Avro Lancasters of World War Two,  AR-G, G for George, of 460 Squadron of the RAAF. The vast majority of what you read, though, was written not by myself, but by Len’s wife, Rosemary. And meeting her future husband, apparently, was not Rosemary’s first encounter with the Avro Lancaster and the men who flew them.

She had actually had a much earlier connection with Lancaster aircrew. Here she recalls her childhood, and in particular the wonderful sights and sounds which were there at the end of her garden:

“Rosemary Dorricott : Childhood Memories Aged Nine

We stood in the garden in silence—and waited as dusk grew near—then the heavy throbbing of engines broke into the tranquillity of a summer’s night:

It was wartime—a time of austerity and uncertainty but the beautiful summer’s air belied the horrors of what war could bring!

Those heavy engines roared over our heads.

It was hard to believe those beautiful, graceful machines could be the bearers of destruction—but that was war and the means of our salvation!!

We thought of those young men going into the unknown whose mission it was to successfully accomplish the task they so bravely took on ! We counted each majestic machine, heavy with their bomb load and said a prayer for each one—and then the summer’s night returned to its tranquil peacefulness, as if there had been no disruption !!

It was dawn before we heard the first sounds of aircraft returning.

The sounds had changed—some with spluttering engines as they limped home.

Large gaps appearing in the order of their flight—and we knew, as we counted them back—that some would not return !!!

Dedicated to the Lancaster bomber

Bomber Command

World War Two 1939-1945

* * *

Over seventy years later, I stood on the tarmac at Coningsby with my veteran air crew husband. Bomber Command Memorial Occasions have taken a great part of his life recently, and he is now receiving great recognition for what he and his fellow RAF bomber crews did during the war, much deserved, and, not because of all this, I love and cherish him for the man he is — My Len ! !

Rosemary

                                                        August 2014”

One final detail that I feel I should pass on is that G for George is probably the most widely recognised Lancaster among ordinary people and certainly among little boys over the age of fifty.

G for George was, of course, the first Lancaster that you could make a plastic model of, when Airfix  brought out their 1-72 scale kit. It was originally, I seem to remember, in a box , or perhaps with a fold-over card top that kept all the little bits of the kit safe in their plastic bag. I think it was a Series 5 kit, price 7/6, or 37½ pence.

Here is is the fold-over card top which had a transparent plastic bag full of parts stapled to it:

And then came the artwork of Roy Cross, when the kits were sold in large, sturdy cardboard boxes:

I’ve always thought that Cross’s work should have been turned into prints on good quality paper, suitable for framing.

22 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History

22 responses to “Len Dorricott (3)

  1. A fascinating perspective, John

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed it, Derrick. History is always at its best when you can read the words of somebody who was actually there, who watched a series of events and then can tell us about the emotions that they experienced.

      • Yes. I once had an autistic client who had that special drawing ability. Some 50 years after the event he drew a picture of his parents’ bedroom. Flames appeared through the window. They were from a burning German plane during WW2 which he had watched as a child.

  2. Such beautiful words, not only describing the aircraft and its mission, but what she felt in time of war. A terrific post for the grand Lancaster.

    • Isn’t it just? And there is absolutely no way that any historian or writer can compete with the nine year old girl who stood there and watched it all happen. Little did she know then, of course, that she would have her entire adult life living with a husband whose office had once been an Avro Lancaster.

  3. Jan

    During the summer months, the BoB Flight Lancaster frequently transits the Trent valley en route to RAF Much Binding in the Marsh (and others’) station open days. When I hear the distinctive hum of the Merlins I always scan the sky to see if I can catch a glimpse and wonder what it must have been like to have hundreds overhead.

  4. My heart was touched with the words of this woman as she described her experiences during the war. Well done, John!

    • Thank you very much, Amy. As I wrote in my reply to GPCox, there is no better person to give you the truth pure and simple than a nine year old girl. I feel very lucky that I was able to contact her, and that she kindly agreed to let me use the material she had in these three blog posts.

  5. Pierre Lagacé

    While reflecting about “The Few”… which sometimes refers to fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain, I would use also “The Many” for those who flew with Bomber Command. There were also those with Fleet Air Arm.

    • Indeed. Bomber Command used around 125,000 men on operations and 55, 573 of them were killed, a 44.4% death rate. To that can be added the 18,241 men who were either wounded or became POWs.
      We do tend to forget the Fleet Air Arm somewhat, but it was certainly an extremely hazardous career choice. My mother’s brother was an officer in the FAA and I can remember him saying to me once that in all of God’s universe, there was nothing smaller than the deck of an aircraft carrier when you were a mile or so away, contemplating how to make a safe landing.

  6. Such lovely words a fabulous tribute John. I removed that boxed Lancaster well, my brother bought one, it was, if I remember correctly, the first bomber model we had. Always a classic in any size.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I was very lucky that my wife knew Len Dorricott from his Bromoil activities, and that his wife, Rosemary, then kindly agreed to put her material at my disposal to use.
      Going back to the Airfix range, the Lancaster was Series 5 at 7/6d and the only other bomber I remember was the Wellington at 6/-, Series 4. There were no Japanese and no Italian and the German bombers were represented only by the Junkers Ju88 and the Ju87 Stuka. Neither could compare to the size of a Series 5 Lancaster though. As a child,I can remember that it was actually heavy to pick up.

  7. That long quotation from Rosemary, aged nine, brings a strange lump to the throat.

    • I think that it’s the power of directness, the fact that the person was actually there and knew all of the emotions that she felt at the time.
      I can tell you what my Dad said about this and about that, but it’s no substitute for a man sitting in a Lancaster as it took off telling you directly how he felt at that moment.

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