Return against the odds

Drawing showing the area lost in the collisionThe target for the day was the industrial town of Wiesbaden near Frankfurt. One of the ‘Fortresses’ flown by 2nd Lt. Henry Roff had just completed his bomb run and had fallen a bit behind and below the rest of the formation. He was attempting to regain his position when an anti-aircraft shell burst underneath him and threw his plane up into the plane above. The nose of that plane tore off the entire rudder and most of the tail fin of his aircraft together with the tail turret with ‘Scotty’ the poor gunner still inside. Both Fortresses started to fall out of the sky but the pilots managed to regain control and headed for home. Making it back to Sudbury without a rudder was a major feat of airmanship but Henry Roff’s job was not done. The staff in the control tower would not let him land, fearing a crash on the main runway with many aircraft still to come in. He was diverted to Woodbridge which had a huge runway – 2 1/4 miles long and 250 yards wide and also had the massive ground coverage of fire tenders and ambulances to deal with crippled bombers in distress. Lt Roff succeeded in putting his plane down safely. The picture and drawing show the massive damage the plane had suffered. When the crew got back to Sudbury they saw, on a shelf above Scotty’s bunk, the pile of Christmas presents which he had recently received from his folks back home for himself and his fellow crew members; one said, “I recall this being a pretty solemn time when we noticed Scotty’s gifts.”

Photo taken after touch down at WoodbridgeFour days later, flying in a new Fortress, his plane was shot down. He and his crew baled out safely and, luckily, landed in a recently liberated area of Belgium. He returned to Sudbury for further missions.

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