In this entertaining memoir, Jim Burtt-Smith tells of his remarkable experiences during World War II and in the years since.
Jim is the opposite of the ‘public schoolboy’ image of an RAF pilot. A working-class London lad, he learned to fly before the war with the Civil Air Guard for five shillings a day while working as a tram driver. When war broke out he volunteered for the RAF and went on to pilot a Wellington bomber with 115 Squadron.
He and his crew flew numerous missions over Germany before finally being shot down. Jim’s aircraft ditched into the North Sea, qualifying the crew for membership of one of the world’s most exclusive clubs – the ‘Goldfish Club’ – whose members are all aviators who have made a forced landing into water. Adrift in a small open dinghy, they prayed for a rescue, although when it came their relief was tempered with disappointment as it was a German flying boat that picked them up. They were to hear those fateful words: "For you the war is over."
Their fighting days may well have been over but Jim and his crew had plenty of experiences ahead of them as prisoners of war, for it was only July 1942. Jim was sent to Stalag 8b at Lamsdorf and regales us with many revealing insights into POW life. He remained a POW until the Russians liberated the area in 1945.
But his war is not over yet and some remarkable adventures were yet to come as he made his way towards Allied lines across war-torn Germany.
After the war, Jim set up and ran a family business and his extra-curricular activities included co-organising a number of highly successful air shows and becoming involved with the Goldfish Club, of which he eventually became President. Having lost touch with his former crew members from New Zealand, he finally tracked them down after a 40 year search and they were reunited in 1988.
Since retirement his activities included many trips to Australia, New Zealand and Canada as President of The Goldfish Club, meeting up with fellow ‘Goldfish’ and exchanging stories.
At the age of 80, Jim won an award for bravery for his part in rescuing two police officers from a burning patrol car.
In 1997 he appeared on the TV show 'Blind Date' and went to Venice with his ‘date’.