At precisely 21:10 hours on June 5, 1944, the first of 18 heavily-laden Lancaster bombers lifted off from North Killingholme, near Grimsby. In the five months since 550 Squadron had moved into the newly built airfield, just a few hundred yards from the banks of the River Humber, the locals had become accustomed to the noise.
The unit had flown to Berlin, to Nuremburg and other targets deep in Germany. But that night something was different – 550 was about to write itself into the history books.
The fourth aircraft away that evening was LL811, coded ‘BQ-J’ and sporting the name Bad Penny II just below the cockpit and an image of a pink elephant. (It was so named because of the old proverb that said that bad pennies always came back.) At the controls was 22-year-old Cardiff-born Fg Off Kenyon Bowen-Bravery. He and his crew were on the 25th operation of their tour, joining the squadron shortly before it moved the 14 miles from Waltham to North Killingholme.