A short but dangerous war

Marcus Dower at home yesterday, remembers the last hard and sometimes hilarious days of his wartime career.
Marcus Dower at home yesterday, remembers the last hard and sometimes hilarious days of his wartime career. Renee Pilcher

ADOLF Hitler could not have known what he was up against when Southside's Marc Dower helped bomb the Fuhrer's last resort.

Marc Dower was somewhat surprised also.

It was 1945 in the last days of the Second World War in Europe, when the young Gympie gunner found himself once again in the sort of mortal danger that had become routine.

The sole survivor of a training crash, Mr Dower had already discovered the dangers of wartime aviation, even with no-one shooting at you.

Mr Dower spoke to The Gympie Times yesterday, in the lead-up to the June 28 unveiling of a long overdue memorial to the men and women of Bomber Command.

The British-based fusion of allied airborne destructive power took the war to Germany at an incredible cost - 55,573 dead by the end of the war.

Their indispensable role in achieving victory will now be properly commemorated for the first time, largely thanks to the work of a handful of activists, including the late music legend, Robin Gibb.

But there was no talk of memorials on that fearful day in 1945, as a young Marc Dower hung in the cold Bavarian air above the legendary Eagle's Nest, the mountain-top mansion where Hitler and Eva Braun would often take refuge from the cares and stresses of war.

And there was no rest for the wicked on that historic day, not for the Nazis and not for one particular member of Dower's crew, a severely inebriated officer who had not expected to fly that day. "He'd had a good day and he was well and truly over the 0.05 limit when we went to briefing about 3am," Marc recalled with a chuckle yesterday.

It was the last big bombing mission of the war.

"My crew couldn't fly because the bombardier, who lost his leg earlier in the war, had an appointment to have work done on his artificial leg.

"But there was an emergency crew and their rear gunner was crook, so they asked me if I would fly.

"Emergency crews seldom flew, so one of them took a job as orderly officer for the day".

It was a job that brought with it some serious perks, including several occasions where a drink might seem polite.

"We had our 'last supper,' as we called it and he couldn't eat his.

"He took about four Benzedrine tablets and away we went.

"By the time we met up with the other aircraft, he was violently ill and begging the pilot to pretend he had engine problems and return to base.

"We gave him some coffee and flew over Europe at about 3000 feet.

"We were supposed to come in behind the Pathfinders, who found the target, but we were a bit early.

"Normally, the procedure was to circle back and come in at the end, but we wanted it over with.

"We did a really tight turn, with about a 60-degree bank, came in at the lead and it was 'bombs away'."

He laughs as he adds: "And we got the best bomb grouping, on the aerial photograph of the target, of the whole squadron!"

Others were not so fortunate.

Another plane, shot down over the target, crash-landed in Austria.

"Everyone had bailed out except the pilot and the rear gunner, who had damaged his parachute.

"The ones who bailed out would have been bashed when they landed, but they all survived.

"The pilot and gunner were more fortunate. Everyone just wanted to know what the Americans were going to do. They stayed at the mayor's house. They were prisoners of war for one day before the war ended."

Topics:  europe world war 2

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