What a difference six days made! Less than a week after the Pathfinder Mosquito attacks on Kiel, and on the airfields in the Kiel and Lubeck area, Pathfinder Lancasters were back using the airfield at Lubeck to collect and bring home prisoners of war.
One of the crews flying on 9 May was that of Flying Officer Coombes and Bill Lapthorn, his flight engineer.
Amongst Bill’s photos is this very fine one of returning POWs, grinning cheerfully, in all states of bizarre clothing. They are standing in front of a 582 Squadron Lancaster – its code ’60-H’ identifies it as being Coombes’s aircraft. Although he looks almost as scruffy as the POWs, it is likely that it is Coombes himself who is third from the right, whilst Bill is crouched down in the very centre of the front row, to his left another crew member, unfortunately unknown. In the immediate foreground are some of the ex-POWs’ meagre possessions, including a bed roll. A very fine historical photograph.
My brother just told me another story that Dad liked to share. On the day they went to Lubeck to collect PoWs, he apparently requisitioned all the newspapers that were destined for officers and instead gave them to the PoWs! I guess some had not seen UK papers for years. ROGER LAPTHORN, May 2020.
Bill Lapthorn logbook and photographs: courtesy of Roger Lapthorn.