Flight Lieutenant John Jeffrey "Jeff" GILLINGHAM
454 RAAF Squadron
Service No: 419858
Date of Birth : 8 Feb 1913
Place of Birth : STRAFFORD, VIC
Date of Enlistment: 3 Oct 1942
Date of Discharge: 18 Feb 1946
Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Jeff Gillingham - Pilot
Alan Norman Godfrey - WOP/AG
Iver "Rod" Roderick Pedersen - Flight Sergeant
The following from Mark Lax's book
The squadron's role in Italy would be daylight medium bombing and targets would include factories, storage depots, rail yards, bridges, Todt labour camps and gun emplacements. Sorties would be much shorter than the 5-6 hours experienced at Berka and crews would work even more closely with the British 8th Army with close bombing missions requiring high navigation accuracy and utmost crew concentration.
There would be nothing worse than bombing one's own side. Alan Godfrey a WOP/AG on Jeff Gillingham's crew recalled the early operations in Italy.
"The shorter duration of flights, many less than two hours, meant time was spent forming a 6-aircraft box, climbing to a bombing altitude of 10,000 ft, dropping bombs after a 10 second bomb run and going home as fast as possible. I recall one raid when the time from bomb drop to touch-down was 7 minutes. (When I first operated from Cesenatico we were within artillery range of the front line and were described as being the closest air strip to a front line on any Allied field of operations). The effect of this type of operation was that the pilot was fully occupied, including making sure that he kept an appropriate space between him and the closest formation member, and the navigator/bomb aimer was also gainfully occupied."
With this in mind an during a spell of particularly bad weather, Rod Pedersen suggested a visit to the front lines, about 20 miles from the base. They came across a Canadian Unit and joined a mail run jeep up to a mortar position. Ted Denton, one of the adventurers continued the story:
"Just before reaching the mortar position we must have been spotted by Jerry and before long, we came under fire, I presume it was mortar fire from a hill top which the Axis still held and we were certainly not taking mail to that mortar position. The Canadian driver told us to abandon the Jeep immediately, and to go to ground; the next thing I was flat on my face in sticky mud. After a short period of time the firing ceased and we made our way on foot a few yards to the Canadian mortar position. These enemy positions were the kind of target that our aircraft were called on to attack to soften up the area and help the ground forces advance."