Some reports of bailing out of a Lancaster bomber.
"ABANDON AIRCRAFT! ABANDON AIRCRAFT!"
We were about 20 miles North-North-West of Liege, Belgium. The bomb-aimer jettisoned the escape hatch in the floor of his compartment, clipped on his chest parachute and without hesitation rolled out of the aircraft into the night.
Next it was the engineers turn. With a brave smile and a nervous wink, he stepped down to the waiting hatchway, knelt on the edge and was gone.
"The gunners have bailed out from the rear door, Skipper," the navigator reported. "They'll be OK."
The wireless operator followed the engineer out through the open hatch, leaving just the navigator and me aboard.
"Good luck, Skipper," he said courageously as he handed me my parachute. "See you in Spain."
He checked twice to make sure my parachute was clipped on securely, then with a reassuring glance, disappeared into the night.
D-Donald and I were alone.
Just for a moment the ship's captain syndrome almost overcame me. I felt sadness and shame because I was about to desert my mighty Lancaster. Soon D-Donald would be no more. It was no consolation that many had gone before me and there would be many more to follow.
D-Donald and I were still loosing height. Hurry, hurry, we were down to 2000ft.
I stood up to the right of the control column, keeping the aircraft straight and level with my left hand. Below the open hatchway waited. I hurried down and knelt at its edge.
Then for a moment I thought of the hundreds, no thousands of aircrew who had attempted and were yet to attempt, to save their lives by abandoning their stricken aircraft, as I was about to do. For the vast majority, their desperate bid to stay alive would have been so different from my relatively orderly exit. The stark terror of a spinning aircraft with all those on board gripped by irresistible centrifugal forces preventing escape, flashed through my mind. Maybe their aircraft was on fire, adding to their desperation. If wounded comrades were left behind, what future nightmares would memories of a 'last glance into terror stricken eyes' generate for he who survived? What turmoil invaded the minds of those who knew they were trapped and could do no more than wait the inevitable?
But I was lucky, all my brave crew were clear. All I had to do was roll forward and kindly D-Donald, still flying straight and level, would free me.
The escape hatch on the Lancaster was 23in wide and 26in deep. As I squatted there ready to jump, I found it difficult to imagine how anyone could get through such a small hole. Resigned to losing the top of my head as I rolled out or worse getting stuck, I committed myself to fate and fell forward with my hand tightly gripping the rip cord.
For the moment the slipstream seemed determined to push me back into the aircraft.
Suddenly I fell free - free to plummet into a fearful black void.
From http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stor ... 5520.shtml
A night fighter then appeared on the scene and hit us from below. My last recollection of the conditions in the aircraft before impact was that the inner/outer port side engine was on fire (it could have been either as there wasn't much space between the engines), the suicidal height at which we were flying, the noise, cabin full of smoke and partially lit, communications out, cramped conditions in the cockpit, no place to wear your parachute (it had to be stored on the floor), frantically searching for it; the rush of cold air from the open back door, trying to prise open the escape hatch, every second wasted making survival more improbable. The whole episode could not have lasted for more than a few minutes, and before we realised it was a doomed machine, we would have had even less time to make our getaway.
The Lancaster was not aircrew friendly. There was an element of fear of the unknown. Bob Bethel's seat and instrument panel were on fire; oxygen bottles and machine gun bullets were stored in that area and the hydraulics were located there. He was not at his post and had bailed out by the back door. Bob Webb and Charlie Clement were checking instruments for bail out.
My responsibility on Pathfinders was to release the bombs at the front. I would lie on my belly and, on orders from Bob/Charlie, would release, and on that night all the bombs had been dropped. In the event of having to ditch the aircraft, it was I who would open the escape hatch at the front, and Bob Bethel would open the back door and let Johnny Seale and John McGill know what was going on; this was part of our drill. I tapped Bob Webb and Charlie Clement on the shoulder, indicating my intentions, and did the same to Brian Giddings, and he gave me the thumbs up. As I descended the steps to bail out I noticed someone at the top of the stairs - I now believe it to have been Bob Webb, due to the location of where his body was found. I am also of the opinion that Johnny Seale had been hit by the night fighter and was probably fatally injured. When I bailed out, due to the low altitude of the Lanc, I sprained my ankle on hitting the deck.’