The Dambusters2014 Charity Motorcycle Ride will focus onto the 70th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden (A Bridge too Far) and specifically the Victoria Cross won by Flt Lt David Lord of 271 Sqdn on 19th September 1944.
Unit : 271 Squadron, 46 Group
Service No. : 49149
Awards : Victoria Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross
Born on 18th October 1913, in Cork, Southern Ireland, Flight Lieutenant "Lummy" Lord was a distinguished 31 year old Dakota pilot with 271 Squadron, who flew resupply missions to Arnhem. He had previously flown similar missions using DC3's with 31 Squadron in India, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Burma. In July 1943, his extensive service record was mentioned in dispatches, and he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On Tuesday 19th September 1944, while on the final approach to the drop zones and only three minutes away from them, heavy anti-aircraft fire tore into the wave of slow moving supply aircraft. Lord's plane received two hits on the starboard wing and the engine on that side burst into flames. At such a low height there was no way to extinguish such a fire, and so the only real option in such a situation would be to abandon the attempt to drop supplies and bail out before the fuel tanks exploded. However Lord refused to do so, and kept flying true and steady to make sure he dropped his supplies on target. With his aircraft clearly in dire trouble, Lord was singled out for attention by most every German anti-aircraft gun in the vicinity. He continued on his path and reached the drop zone. After completing his run, Lord was informed by his calm and highly disciplined crew (three RAF personnel and four Army despatchers) that two canisters of supplies still remained. Lord turned the aircraft around for a second pass over the dropping zone, still under intense fire.
When all the supplies were at last dropped, and the aircraft had descended to the perilously low height of only 500 feet, Lord cried to his men "Bail out! Bail out! For God's sake, bail out!", while making absolutely no effort to do so himself. A few seconds later, the starboard wing exploded and the plane crashed in flames into the ground, just north of the Reijers-Camp farm on LZ-S. There was only one survivor, Flying Officer Harry King, who was blown out of the side door when the engine exploded. King himself landed in no man's land between the British and Germans, but he managed to find the 10th Battalion and stayed with them until eventually captured.
The sight of Lord's crippled aircraft was witnessed by troops on the ground, who were so mesmerized by this single plane that they stood up in their trenches to will it on. They were all highly moved, in some cases to tears, by this tremendous display of courage and self sacrifice on their behalf. With flames licking wildly under the fuselage, many men were pleading with the crew to jump, but they would not, and instead the despatchers were seen to be continually throwing out more supply containers until the wing collapsed. From the point that the engine caught fire to the moment of the crash, Flight Lieutenant Lord flew his Dakota, steadily while under very heavy anti-aircraft fire, for a total of 8 minutes. For his suicidal bravery and single-minded determination to get the supplies to those who needed it, David Lord was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
The great tragedy of this story was that the supply dropping zones had been overrun by German troops. Due to the radio blackout, the RAF knew nothing of this, and so David Lord and his men gave their lives desperately trying to drop cargo that would end up in the hands of the enemy.
We are delighted to have the permission of artist Gary Eason of www.flightartworks.com to use the image above which shows Flt Lt David Lord's Dakota over Landing Zone 'S' at Arnhem as he struggled to keep control while his crew dropped vital supplies to the surrounded airborne troops below.
The full citation for Lord's VC appeared in a supplement to theLondon Gazette on 9 November 1945.
Air Ministry, 13th November, 1945.
The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:—
Flight Lieutenant David Samuel Anthony LORD, D.F.C. (49149), R.A.F., 271 Sqn. (deceased).
Flight Lieutenant Lord was pilot and captain of a Dakota aircraft detailed to drop supplies at Arnhem on the afternoon of the 19th September, 1944. Our airborne troops had been surrounded and were being pressed into a small area defended by a large number of anti-aircraft guns. Air crews were warned that intense opposition would be met over the dropping zone. To ensure accuracy they were ordered to fly at 900 feet when dropping their containers.
While flying at 1,500 feet near Arnhem the starboard wing of Flight Lieutenant Lord's aircraft was twice hit by anti-aircraft fire. The starboard engine was set on fire. He would have been justified in leaving the main stream of supply aircraft and continuing at the same height or even abandoning his aircraft. But on learning that his crew were uninjured and that the dropping zone would be reached in three minutes he said he would complete his mission, as the troops were in dire need of supplies.
By now the starboard engine was burning furiously. Flight Lieutenant Lord came down to 900 feet, where he was singled out for the concentrated fire of all the anti-aircraft guns. On reaching the dropping zone he kept the aircraft on a straight, and level course while supplies were dropped. At the end of the run, he was told that two containers remained.
Although he must have known that the collapse of the starboard wing could not be long delayed, Flight Lieutenant Lord circled, rejoined the stream of aircraft and made a second run to drop the remaining supplies. These manoeuvres took eight minutes in all, the aircraft being continuously under heavy anti-aircraft fire.
His task completed, Flight Lieutenant Lord ordered his crew to abandon the Dakota, making no attempt himself to leave the aircraft, which was down to 500 feet. A few seconds later, the starboard wing collapsed and the aircraft fell in flames. There was only one survivor, who was flung out while assisting other members of the crew to put on their parachutes.
By continuing his mission in a damaged and burning aircraft, descending to drop the supplies accurately, returning to the dropping zone a second time and, finally, remaining at the controls to give his crew a chance of escape, Flight Lieutenant Lord displayed supreme valour and self-sacrifice.