Squadron leader

You owe your freedom to the Avro Lancaster, a four-engined World War II aircraft, and the crews who flew it. Here we pay homage to the glorious dam-busting, Tirpitz-blasting, viaduct-smashing bomber

Jack, December 2003

Story by Lee Gale 

If it weren’t for the Avro Lancaster, you might be reading the opening line to this story in German. It would start off, “Dank zur helligkeit von Ernst Heinkel und er seines He-111 mittelmäßiger bomber… and drift into a frightening, umlaut-rich diatribe of how superior German aircraft helped bring our nations together. Your attention would be broken as the front door of your hovel was kicked off its hinges, and your aged, ill grandfather dragged into the street for summary execution because he was no longer contributing satisfactorily to the German Empire. In fact, this magazine would probably be called Jackboot, or Ulrich

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A 2003 interview with Tony Iveson, Lancaster pilot with 617 Squadron

By Lee Gale

A long time ago, I used to work for Jack magazine which, at the time, was by far the finest men’s title money could buy. Sadly, not many people agreed with that statement and Jack closed in 2004. Nevertheless, each issue would have articles that were lovingly crafted by writers with massive interests in male culture – namely football, World War II, decent comedy, obscure music and old-men’s pubs. You’d come in with an idea and it would be given the green light without question. It was an incredible environment to work in. I loved the Avro Lancaster and set about writing a long-form magazine article about its history as soon as I’d got my feet under the desk. This inevitably led to interviews with wartime RAF bomber crews.

I visited squadron leader Tony Iveson of 617 Squadron at his home in Tunbridge Wells in summer 2003. On the walls of his spotless home were paintings of Lancasters on various missions, and I seem to recall one was of 617 Squadron’s successful raid sinking the Tirpitz in 1944. Iveson was involved in three missions to sink the bothersome German battleship. I’ll put a few of my other interviews on British Ideas Corporation over the next few weeks. I’ve just read that Iveson died in November 2013 at the age of 94, so he would have been 83 when I interviewed him. He was perfectly lucid and a riveting storyteller.

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