South East Wales

Teenager's VE Day joyride flight over Cologne in Germany

Mike Powell Image copyright Mike Powell
Image caption Mike Powell, now 87, has fond memories of his adventure on VE Day

From the crowds to the parties and the overwhelming sense of relief, everyone who experienced VE Day on 8 May 1945 will undoubtedly have their own special memories.

But for 87-year-old Mike Powell, from Miskin, he'll look back on the day 70 years ago, when he went out to deliver eggs, and ended up flying to Germany.

Teenage Mike was the son of a farmer who had moved to Suffolk from Llansawel in Carmarthenshire.

Each day between 1943 and 1945 he would deliver eggs to the nearby USAF airbase at Seething and soon befriended the crews of 448th Bomb Group.

From time to time he was allowed to fly with them when their B24 Liberators were "flipped" between the various bases on the east coast, but then came VE Day.

"I know it was a day when everyone should have been happy, but I was feeling a bit down at the news really," Mike said.

"I knew that now the war in Europe was over they'd all be off to the Far East or back home to America.

'One last flip'

"I think they could see that, and so they offered to take me for one last flip.

"What I didn't know then was that we wouldn't just be hopping up the coast, they were planning on taking the ground crew on a trip to see the areas the Liberators had been bombing."

In fact Mike was taken on a four hour round trip, flying over the devastation left by Allied bombing raids on Cologne.

While Mike himself was told to remain in the cockpit, he recalls that many of the ground crew who accompanied them sat on bulkheads over the bomb bay, leaning over the open bomb hatch to take photos.

He says that while the flight was the most exciting thing to have happened to him in his 87 years, he could not help but be moved by the scene below.

"It shocked me of course; there was absolutely nothing left but the cathedral sticking up out of this completely flattened landscape," he said..

"It made me think about the people there, but as the lads pointed out, if it wasn't them, it would have been us."

However, once Mike made it back to Seething Aerodrome, he realised that something had slipped his mind.

Image copyright Mike Powell
Image caption Mike Powell with his mother Nora

"They called their Liberator 'Bomb Baby'. They'd painted the name on the side, and after every mission they made it back from they painted another little bomb next to the name.

"Once we got back that day we added the very last bomb, and it was only then that I remembered that after delivering the eggs I was meant to have gone straight back home to do the milking.

"Well of course my dad asked me where I'd disappeared to for the last six hours, and when I told him I'd been to Germany and back I didn't half get a hiding for my cheek!"

Mike explained how it took one of the aircrew coming to the farm to corroborate his story before his father would believe it.

Caught fire

But then he let slip that on one of their previous flips an engine had caught fire and Mike had been forced to jump out with the rest of the crew.

"They'd joked when they were showing me how to use the parachute, that if it didn't open I'd have to go back to the base and get another one; I never dreamt that I'd have to use it for real.

"Because I was quite small for my age, even on the tightest fitting the straps were still quite loose. When it opened and yanked me up, I was singing soprano for a week."

Tragically, having survived more than 20 raids on Germany, 'Bomb Baby' crashed on its approach back to New York later that year, and the pilot was killed.

Even though Mike never got to fulfil his ambition of joining the RAF, he says the influence of his American friends helped him develop his subsequent career in engineering.

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