A Lancaster bomber over Milan was caught by a burst from an Italian night fighter.
In the bomb-racks the incendiaries had caught fire, and the pilot, seeing his machine ablaze, gave the order to bale out. The rear gunner, Flight Sergeant Leslie Airey. whose home is at Shipley, was wounded in the foot and could not jump and the pilot decided to crash-land.
When the machine was only a few hundred feet from the ground, the crew, working heroically, had put out the fire, so the pilot resolved to make for England, and the great bomber came safely home with only enough petrol for two minutes flying left in her tanks.
The King heard this dramatic story from the lips of Flight Sergeant Airey when he was decorated with the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal at a recent investiture at Buckingham Palace.
Airey, who was on crutches, said afterwards: “The King congratulated me on my decoration. Three other members of the crew, including the pilot, have been killed since”.
His mother and wife saw him receive his medal.
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