Heroes Return Blog – Stories from Second World War veterans’ trips

Shot out of the sky

In 1944, Lancaster Bomber aircrew member John Davies Jones from Usk in Monmouthshire, was shot down over Germany, captured and held as a Prisoner of War (POW). Two of his fellow crewmen were killed. A Heroes Return 2 grant paid for John to return to Germany and visit Durnbach cemetery to pay his respects at the graves of his colleagues

John Davies Jones joined the RAF as an apprentice in 1938 when he was just 16 years old. Four years later, he was flying in dangerous and daring night missions over the occupied territories of Europe on board a Lancaster Bomber.

John was a bomb aimer – his role was to guide the pilot and the aircraft into position over a target and then release the bomb load.

On his 19th mission on the evening of 12 September 1944, John’s aircarft came under attack from a German fighter plane and crashed.

“It was 23:00 hours and we were on route to bomb a target in Frankfurt. As we turned to bomb Frankfurt we were engaged and shot down by a German night fighter.

“Everything happened very quickly. My initial duty was to put the fire out in the bomb bays. I thought I had stopped it but the order came to bail out. The plane went down near Mannheim in Germany and not everyone on board made it.

“Our skipper, Norman, a 20 year old New Zealander, and the mid-upper gunner, Harry, were both killed.

“I was only 22 but I was one of the oldest crew members on the plane. That’s how young some of the crew were.

“A couple of the lads were lucky enough to land near one another but I landed on my own. I was captured the next day hiding in the woods. People were leaving Mannheim to get away from the bombings and they happened to come into the woods I was in and I was caught by German soldiers.”

“I was taken to Dulag Luft, a well-known interrogation centre where they try to break you to get information out of you. The only thing that you have to give is your number, rank and name – and that’s what you keep to. I was put in solitary confinement for two-and-a-half weeks. They prey on you and play terrible mind games. They leave you in the cold, try and starve you and stop you from having sleep. During the interview they threatened me with my life.”

John was then taken to a POW camp called Stalag Luft VII in Bankau on the Polish/German border.

“Daily life was monotonous in the camps. We weren’t treated like the army prisoners and there was no work to go out to. But we had a Welsh club and choir. We also had a grass-covered ground to play rugby and soccer. We even played internationals. My wife had been notified that I was a POW. We were allowed to send cards home. She sent cards, but nothing ever got through from the Germans.”

“The worst thing about it was the enforced march we had to do from the Polish border to another prison camp south of Berlin in the freezing cold winter of January 1945. The Russians were advancing and the Germans ordered everyone to leave.

“We started at the beginning of January and the march lasted the whole month.”

John was a POW until the advancing Russian Red Army finally overtook the Germans and pushed them back.

“But then the Russians wouldn’t let us go home for three weeks because the Allies were fighting over who took parts of Berlin and we were pawns in that game.

“We were eventually released in May 1945 and I came home in June, when I was able to see my baby daughter, who I had only ever seen once before I was shot down. I then had some leave and went back to the RAF.

“Looking back, I count myself to be one of the lucky ones. I’ve never talked much about this with my family and I doubt that I’ve talked about my experiences in this way for 60 years. They never really asked either. I think they were just glad to have me home.”

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