22nd April 1944 | Reg Miles Biography
On 22 April 1944 we went to the Ruhr Valley, known by all bomber crews as Happy Valley, solid flack from end to end.
Dusseldorf was a very serious affair, bits of red hot flak flew about inside the 'plane as the shells burst. Our navigator got hit but fortunately right on the torch in his May West (flotation vest), made him grunt a bit but he was okay to get us home again. I had to check all manner of bits that got damaged, seem to remember the fuel control levers, about ten of them got damaged and it was a nightmare of a lottery which bit of frayed wire controlled which tank, but guess I must have done the right thing because we got home!!
Just remember all this is being done in more or less pitch black darkness with the "driver " dodging flak bursts and weaving about for the gunners, none of it calculated to appeal to the faint hearted!! But I wanted to get home as well and could have been on a promise from my latest girl friend, what more incentive could a guy have? Over Dusseldorf we were hit by flack. We returned safely. This was a full point towards our 30 needed.
6th July 2018 | Damien Smith for MotorSport magazine
Refusing to accept defeat
I'd been counting down the gap, lap by lap, as the Williams duo blasted past into the braking area for Stowe. Nigel Mansell, the 'true grit, true Brit' hero of the masses, had been forced to pit for new Goodyears thanks to vibrations from a tyre imbalance.
The gap after Mansell's stop had been more than 25 seconds. We'd all thought it was over. But now the tension built as Mansell closed in on the enemy within - the team-mate whom he couldn't stand. We didn't need the snatches of commentary from the useless speaker system to tell us what was possible. We could see, as lap records tumbled.
If I close my eyes, I can still see it all unravelling in a 190mph flash from my perfect vantage point: the cars appearing into view from Chapel Curve almost as one, the violent vibrations of speed down the Hangar Straight, the dummy left, Piquet's jink to defend and Mansell's glorious swoop to the inside. Through the turn the Canon-liveried rear wings were side by side, almost touching. But Mansell was past and gone - on lap 63 of 65. We roared as one, a moment of purest sporting joy.
It had been all or nothing, 'Red Five' running out of fuel after the flag. We swamped the track in celebration - then dutifully climbed back over the sleepers in time to see 'the moustache' riding pillion on a police motorcycle. They stopped in front of us, Mansell climbed off - and kissed the track, Pontiff-style, at the point opposite me where he'd sold his dummy. Blessed was he that day.
It was the greatest race I'd ever seen. It still is.