It was the night of April 27-28, 1944, and Lancaster R-ND 781/G of 622 Squadron, Royal Air Force, piloted by Flight Lieutenant James Andrew Watson of Hamilton, Ont., was on a bombing mission to Friedrichshafen, Germany.
R-ND would never reach its target, but Watson’s heroic actions that black night over occupied territory would inspire an unsuccessful campaign to award him a posthumous Victoria Cross.
The seven-member crew—three RAF, four RCAF—were at 17,000 feet as they approached the turning point, 30 minutes out, for their final run into the target. Suddenly, they were attacked from dead astern and below by three Junkers Ju-88 night fighters. It was about 1:30 a.m. and they were a little south of Strasbourg, France.
“The attack was a complete surprise, there was no moon, just c...