Roger Coulombe was, during the World War II, pilot of Lancaster bombers within 426 (Thunderbird) Squadron.
Statistically, the chances of bomber crews completing their operational tour of 30 missions were only of one out of three. After the war, Sir Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command, admitted: “They were virtually – and they knew it only too well – condemned to death, and living on borrowed time”.
Coulombe completed 30 missions over Germany, including a raid on Nuremberg from which 96 Allied bombers did not return. Impressively, Coulombe holds the record among all Allied airmen for the biggest number of raids on the capital Berlin, recognized as the city the most difficult to attack because of its tremendous anti-aircraft defence and of its distance right in the heart of enemy territory.
A raid on Berlin constituted a major fulfillment.
Coulombe accomplished twelve!
This exploit gave him the nickname “Berlin Kid”. Coulombe’s log appears as a chronicle to an endless journey through hell, underlining “extremely heavy air defenses in thousands of ack-ack guns and searchlights, its many hundred night fighters to defend [Berlin]”.
Attacked one night relentlessly by a JU88 and a FW190, Coulombe writes:
“I had seen the face of the German pilot so well during those few seconds, that I would have been able to recognize him had I seen him on the ground the next morning”.
Riddled with bullets, the Lancaster managed nevertheless to return to its base on one and a half engine, landing on a single main wheel! In an almost routine way, Coulombe had to begin spiraling evasive manoeuvres and vertiginous dives, at the helm of his heavy four-engined aircraft when facing fast fighter planes. The panic sometimes overtook his crew, but Coulombe always returned them safely to base.
After his operational tour, Coulombe became a flight instructor, obtaining the higher A2 rank and serving as Master-pilot within the No 22 Operational Training Unit. Volunteer for the Pacific Front, the war ended before his transfer to Asia.
After the war, Coulombe embraced a brilliant career in dentistry. By his brilliance, Roger Coulombe symbolized the anonymous effort of these thousands of airmen of Bomber Command, from which too many did not come back.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame on November 26th 2003.
Distinguished Flying Cross