My name is Ivan Steadman and I have just finished reading Alan’s book which I found especially interesting.
I am just a couple of months younger than Alan and I did my National Service with the RAOC from April 1957 to April 1959.
I am contacting you because, as a result of the plebiscite in Cameroon that you mention, it was necessary to change the currency in the former British Southern Cameroon. The old Nigerian pounds shillings and pence had to be collected in and the CFA franc given out on exchange.
I had been out of the army for over three years when I was one of about a dozen volunteers, all employees of Barclays Bank, who went out to Cameroon to help with this task.
I was there from March to July 1962 and I spent a couple of months in the villages around Bamenda, a month in the villages near Mamfe and the rest of the time I was in Buea. We were split up into teams of two English bankers and two French bankers alone with a local cook, driver and boy. We had two or three vehicles per team. When we drove north, we went up to Kumba and then we crossed the border into the French Cameroon where the roads were a lot better! We could usually make the journey from Buea to Bamenda in a day.
Around Bamenda we were given a schedule of villages to visit and, typically, we spent about a week at each one. We had to find our own accommodation at each village and, occasionally, this meant us living in mud huts but we always chose ones with corrugated iron roofs! Substantially, we lived off the land, so we got a lot of our food from the local markets which, rather confusingly, we’re usually held every eight days rather than weekly. Unlike your experience, we all kept healthy and none of us Europeans even had a stomach upset. This must reflect great credit on our cook. I was appointed chicken buyer for my group. Some of them were very scrawny but the cook used to feed them on maize and it was uprising how quickly they fattened up. Although living conditions were very basic I really enjoyed my time in Cameroon and one very quickly learned how to look after oneself!
Before going out we had a briefing in London and we were informed that there might be terrorist activity in the areas we would be visiting. We did not give too much weight to this and, I am happy to say, we did not have any problems in this respect. However, we did see several burnt out huts which we were told had been destroyed by terrorists.
It occurs to me that I, and all my colleagues who went out to Cameroon in 1962, should be very grateful to you, and all your fellow soldiers who, at considerable personal risk, sorted out a lot of this problem before we arrived. Thank you all very much for what you did.
Since my return from Cameroon I have only come across one person who had been to Cameroon. He was a professional photographer and went out there to photograph the wildlife. That country is hardly on the tourist trail.
Thanks again for what you did and for writing the book.
I do not intend to write all stories about the brave men who won the Victory Cross, but there is one man who deserves more recognition for you the reader. His name was Norman Cyril Jackson. He was born in Ealing, London on April 8th 1919. Through problems he was adopted by a family named Gunter, when he was only a few weeks old. They set him on the right path in his life and he passed for the grammar school at Twickenham. When at school Norman was always interested in engineering and on leaving school he carried on this interest by becoming a Fitter and Turner with an Engineering Company. In 1939, when the dark clouds of war loomed he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve. He was trained at Halton and Hednesford where he passed the RAF Engineering exams.
Promoted to Sergeant he was Flight Engineer on a Lancaster bomber on many bombing missions over Germany. The mission that won Sergeant Jackson his Victoria Cross happened on the night of 26/27 April 1944 when 215 Lancaster bombers and 11 Mosquitoes raided Schweinfurt. The path finding aircraft inaccurately marked the target, also contending with strong headwinds and enemy fighters attacking constantly. With all this to contend with the bombs were dropped successfully. The aircraft was climbing out of the target area when it was attacked by an enemy fighter at about 20,000 feet. The Captain took evading action at once but the enemy fighter with a burst of his machine gun secured hits on the Lancaster’s starboard wing which started a fire between the inner engine and the plane’s fuselage. During the engagement with the fighter, Sergeant Jackson was wounded by splinters in his right leg and shoulders. Although shaken up, he told the Captain he could deal with the fire on the wing. The Captain gave him permission to deal with the fire.
Pushing a small fire extinguisher in the top of his life jacket and putting on his parachute pack. Sergeant Jackson jettisoned the escape hatch above the pilots head. He then started to climb out of the cockpit and along the fuselage to the starboard wing. Before he left the fuselage his parachute opened and the whole canopy and rigging spilled into the cockpit. Unbelievably Sergeant Jackson continued on trying to reach the fire. The Pilot, Navigator and Bomb Aimer gathered the parachute together and leased it gently out has the sergeant crawled along to his objective. With the plane travelling at 200 mph and with strong headwinds Sergeant Jackson fell from the fuselage onto the wing. He reached out and got a hold on the air intake and succeeded in hanging on, but unfortunately he lost the fire extinguisher. The fire by now was spreading rapidly and Sergeant Jackson was getting severely burned to his face and hands etc. Unable to hang on anymore he was swept away over the starboard wing with his parachute trailing behind. He survived the parachute landing but broke his ankle when he hit the ground and suffering with burns he was captured and interred where he was put in a hospital for ten months recovering from his burns.
With the fire spreading rapidly the Captain of the Lancaster gave the order to abandon the aircraft. Four of the crew landed safely but the Captain of the Lancaster, Flying Officer F. Miffin and the rear gunner were killed. Sergeant Jackson’s experience did not come to light until after the war when prisoners were repatriated back to England. Sergeant Jackson had said nothing about what had happened but the navigator Flight Lieutenant Higgins and the other survivors of the Lancaster told the story and they recommended him for the Victoria Cross. He was awarded the Victoria Cross in October 1945. After the war He married raised a family but always struggled with the injuries he received during the war. Norman Cyril Jackson died in March 1994 and his buried in Middlesex England.
One in this present day cannot visualize the sheer bravery of the RAF aircrews during World War Two. I and you the reader must be quite astonished to read and comprehend about such a very brave man as Warrant Officer Norman Cyril Jackson VC.