On the night of 26/27th April 1943, aboard a brand new Lancaster bomber, the target for Flt Engineer Jackson’s 30th sortie was the highly defended ball-bearing factory at Schweinfurt. Exiting the target, his aircraft was attacked by a German night fighter, setting the starboard fuel tank on fire. Jackson, already wounded, strapped on a parachute, grabbed a fire extinguisher and climbed out onto the wing in an astonishingly courageous attempt to fight the fire. Incredibly, he was partially successful but the enemy fighter returned and its gunfire raked across the wing hitting Jackson’s legs, and sweeping him off the wing. With the Lancaster now seriously damaged and on fire, the remaining crew baled out, all surviving. Meantime Jackson fell 20,000 feet, his burnt and holed parachute somehow saving his life, to spend the next 10 months in hospital as a POW. For his selfless bravery Norman Jackson was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Warrant Officer Norman JACKSON, Victoria Cross
Norman Jackson Autobiography
Born in Ealing on 8th April, 1919 and after leaving Archdeacon Cambridge School I entered engineering and qualified as a fitter and turner. At the outbreak of war I was in an occupation which could have exempted me from military service. I volunteered to join the R.A.F. and was enlisted on 20th October, 1939. After training at Hednes and Hednesford I became classified as a fitter IIE and posted overseas to Freetown, Sierra Leone, commonly known as the white man’s graveyard.
My first unit was 95 Squadron to which I reported on 2nd January 1941, a short Sunderland flying boat squadron based on the West African coast near Freetown. For the following eighteen months I continued to serve as an engine fitter on flying boats and machine craft but my ambition was to undertake flying duties as a Flight Engineer and I eventually applied for training. As a result I returned to England in September 1942 and after six months at 27 Operational Training unit flying the Avro-Manchester I was sent to R.A.F. St. Athan to complete instruction. I was promoted to Sergeant and became Flight Engineer on 14th June 1943 and posted to 1645 Heavy Conversion Unit On 28th July, I joined my first squadron -106- based at Syerston and flying Avro Lancasters.
106 Squadron was probably the most memorable part of my wartime career. We were not simply a squadron but also great friends. I joined 106 Squadron on 28th July 1943 as Flight Engineer and we were soon engaged in operations and by mid-November we had completed 14 sorties. After our 14th sortie, the squadron was moved to Metheringham, Lincs. On the night of 2nd December, while bombing Berlin for the 5th time, our Lancaster JB612, with Miffin as pilot, was a victim of the flak. Then, whilst turning out of the target area, we were attacked by a night fighter.
With one engine out and despite the damage to the aircraft, Miffin brought us back safely. The squadron’s 29th Mission, on 24th April, took our Lancaster to Munich.
It was agreed that I was to stay with 106 Squadron until we were tour-expired, and the crew agreed to do the 30th sortie together and then transfer to the Path Finder Force. Thus on 26th April 1943 our 30th sortie began.
The target was Schweinfurt, our crew was in good humour, especially me since I had just heard that my wife Alma had given birth to our first child – Brian. The good humour was short lived and, as my Combat Report of the mission elaborates, it was going to be over a year before I saw my son!
Notes on Aircraft flown in Combat, 1939-45
During my wartime career I flew in Sunderlands, Manchester and Lancasters. Of these three I preferred the Lancaster. The Lancaster in my opinion was the best long-range bomber produced during the Second World War and I can only say that I was proud to be one of a crew that flew in one.