Updated: Jul 1, 2020
At the end of last year I heard a news report on the BBC that a new Virtual Reality Experience which allowed viewers to be transported back in time to the 3rd September 1943 when a Lancaster Bomber took off from 207 Squadrons base at RAF Langar in Nottinghamshire to take part in a raid to Bomb Berlin.
Given my special interest in Bomber Command and the fact that my Great Uncle had been taking part in Missions to bomb Berlin about this time I just knew that I wanted to experience this! So when I heard that our local library would be holding events to experience this, I quickly signed up.
Virtual Reality or ‘VR’ for short is a computer generated simulation of a three dimensional image that can be interacted with in a real way. The viewer sees this via special electronic equipment which includes a headset with screen and handheld control.
BBC War Correspondent Wyndford Vaughan-Thomas and his sound recordist, Reg Pidsley flew on the dangerous mission on the night of the 3rd September 1943 and documented everything as the drama unfolded. This was aired on the radio hours after his return so that listeners could hear what our boys in Bomber Command experienced and saw on a nightly basis.
The BBC took the original sound recording of the mission and worked with this to create a visual experience of what this may have looked like. As VR gives you a 360° view of the Lancaster Bomber named ‘F’ for Freddie it means that as you turn your own head and body you can get various views of the aircraft which include a view of the pilot & engineer, a view over both wings, a rear view of where the wireless operator and navigator sat, a view along the fuselage and of the mid upper gunner from above.
The film starts with what seems like a really long take off along the runway, the arrival at Berlin with terrifying bursts of Flak surrounding the aircraft and searchlights looking for bombers which results in one of the Lancasters in front of them being shot down.
The crew drop their bombs over Berlin just before coming under attack by enemy aircraft fire, they manage to shoot down this Aircraft before heading for home. You can hear the relief in their voices as they spot the coast of England and a song is sung.
I must admit that at the end of the experience, I felt quite emotional!
It puts you in their seat and really gives you a true insight into how terrifying the experience really was for the young men of Bomber Command who put their lives on the line night after night.
'F' for Freddie would be shot down 4 months later over Stettin.
The sad fact is that many would lose their lives, live out the rest of the war in Prisoner of War camps and many would carry the scars of their experiences for the rest of their lives.
If you don’t have access to VR technology then follow this link to see this video on You tube it is a great alternative to the real thing
May those who never returned home from dangerous missions Rest in Peace!
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