A WAG OF A FINGER
BY GEORGE WOOTTON
On the night of 25th April 1945 we had left the Yards at Freilassing in flames. Since then, US General Mark Clark our C in C., had realised a well publicised ambition He had peed in the Po. He then followed his forces across that great river. They fanned out with over a million prisoners. Supplies were needed and that was urgent.
Planks were placed in the bomb bays of our Liberators and on 7th May we flew our first cargo to Rivolto near Udine. There, RAF personnel unloaded our aircraft. 111 Squadron of Spitfires had just moved in from Ravenna. Some of their pilots had also flown new Mark IXE Spits back from the UK. They also brought back, probably in a Dakota, a precious cargo of British beer. On that night day we had the mother of all parties. The cease fire held. At midnight flares rocketed into the skies. Luckily for us they missed the aviation spirit. It was the end of hostilities. At 0640 hours on the first day of peace, we lifted off to fly back to Foggia. We touched down at 08 40.
The party on 7th May 1945
Our next supply flight was the following day. That was the first of five to Lavariano and of many more to Aviano. Sometimes we carried compo’ rations and sometimes Jerry cans of petrol. The latter was a volatile cargo. A burnt out Lib was close to that airstrip. It was not hard to guess what it had carried.
Prisoners unloaded our aircraft. Sometimes they were Russian Cossacks, sometimes they were Germans. We were surprised to find that those Germans were ‘just like us’ - only very much older. We got on well. They were ‘mountain’ fellows and wore rather attractive alpine type caps with an edelweiss badge at on the side. What a souvenir!
We all had to eat, so a box of rations was opened. Now, every box carried a round tin of fifty cigarettes. They were a rare commodity among prisoners. I offered a tin in exchange for a cap. I got a wag of the finger. There was to be no parting with that hat. I felt like a naughty boy for asking. After all - we were all about twenty years younger.