Artefact of the Month
In September 1944 Lee Randall (known to his RAF colleagues and friends at that time as Wally) was a Hawker Tempest Sergeant Pilot in No 274 Squadron based at Coltishall, Norfolk. One day he volunteered to carry out a ‘Rhubarb’ (a low level sortie looking for ground targets of opportunity) over Holland with three other pilots in his squadron. After crossing the Dutch coast and passing Amsterdam to the north, a freight train was spotted. Unfortunately, the train was protected by an anti aircraft gun and in the attack Lee’s aircraft was hit by cannon fire in the radiator which caused his engine to seize.
A six ton Tempest does not make a good glider and Lee was lucky to see a clearing close by in the wooded area below. The field was rough but Lee managed to land safely and was able to walk away from the crash. Prior to the landing he had managed to transmit on the radio that, “He had his chips!” and received a reply, “Best of luck old boy, hope you get away with it”.
He had crashed behind enemy lines and decided to get away as far as possible from the area. After stumbling through woodland and getting completely soaked from the rain he decided to seek help and knocked on the door of a house. He was lucky; the couple who owned the house agreed to help and arranged for him to be passed on to the Dutch resistance.
Initially he was hidden on a farm (later a Barge) with a British Army Captain and a bomber pilot. They thought that it would not be too long before the allies reached them. However, it was not until April 1945, six months after he had been brought down, before Lee and his friends were liberated by advancing Canadian troops.
Lee ended the war in India, flying Dakotas, ferrying de-mobbed troops. After the war he returned to his pre-war banking career, married Joyce and continued flying (this time as a hobby) in gliders at Ringmer, Sussex.
DISPLAYED IN A CABINET IN THE MUSEUM’S MIDDLE HALL ARE LEE’S FLYING HELMET, GOGGLES, OXYGEN MASK AND ESCAPE BOOTS. THESE BOOTS WERE WORN BY PILOTS WHO FLEW OVER ENEMY TERRITORY AND COULD BE CUT DOWN AND WORN AS SHOES.