Jack Harris remembers Christmas 1944:
Mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve in poor visibility 23 Lancaster bombers were despatched by 550 Squadron. Their target was the Cologne-Nippes Marshalling Yards. The German offensive in the Ardennes had been timed to coincide with several days of fog covering the Low Countries and UK – this raid was required to slow up German reinforcements of men and materials.
One aircraft had a snag which prevented it from taking off whilst another returned early with the starboard outer engine not working. The remaining 21 crews had a very successful raid until they returned; North Killingholme was fog-bound. One crew landed at Ludford Magna (only 16 miles south of North Killingholme). The remaining 20 crews (140 men) landed at 20:30 at Wendling, Norfolk – over 100 miles from base.
We were to be there for three days. The first night was spent on the gymnasium floor. After that the occupants of this USAF Liberator base showed true American hospitality with Xmas Dinner in the Combat Officers’ Mess, billets in the beds of people on leave and sharing their peanut butter, chocolate and cigarettes. Those left at NK had a quieter Christmas but drank to ‘Absent Friends’ with great enthusiasm.