Before Wally Layne of the Fletcher crew became a Pathfinder, he served on 50 Squadron. His CO was the legendary Gus Walker, who would lose part of his arm in a bomb explosion whilst trying to ensure that nobody would be hurt. The accident happened at RAF Syerston, the station at which 106 Squadron and Guy Gibson were based from 30 September 1942. (For some background to 106 Squadron see our page: Donald Margach and Guy Gibson)
The bomb explosion was so huge that Wally Layne’s wife Joan heard it in Grantham, twenty miles away. The full story of Gus’s survival from the colossal blast is told in Guy Gibson’s Enemy Coast Ahead. A cookie had fallen off a Lancaster and Gus, the Station Commander, jumped into his car and sped across the airfield to warn the crew to get out. It was a reserve aircraft but Gus did not know this. He was within twenty yards of the cookie when it went off.
There was one of those great slow explosions which shot straight into the air for about 2,000 feet and the great Lancaster just disappeared.
From Enemy Coast Ahead
Everyone thought that Gus must have been blown to pieces, but miraculously he survived. Having seen his arm sliced off below the elbow by a flying piece of metal, he calmly, under his own steam, walked to the ambulance. Two months later, he was back at his post.
David Layne wrote to us at the beginning of October 2019:
Walker was my father’s CO at 50 Squadron and my father held him in high regard. So much so that when Walker had left 50 Squadron for 106 Squadron [then at North Luffenham] Walker sent the NCO’s of 50 Squadron a Christmas Card which my father somehow obtained and I still have.
And here it is.
With many thanks to David Layne