February 9, 1943.
S/Ldr Ladro, DFC, was one of the best Polish flying instructor from
before the war, and while with 304, already a veteran of the bomber
squadrons. In October 1941, returning from a mission, he had to ditch
his badly damaged Wellington in the North Sea, and was miraculously
rescued with the whole crew.
Immediately after spotting approaching Junkers, Ladro dropped the charges and put the Wellington W-304 in a violent corkscrew dive. His rear gunner opened fire and one of the Junkers started to lag behind. The remaining three fiercely attack Polish aircraft, but managed only to make it look like proverbial colander. The Wellington received only one direct hit of the 20 mm cannon shell, which made a gaping hole in a starboard wing. The rear guns sights were destroyed, but the gunner, slightly wounded, kept fending off the attackers with accurate fire. Front gunner and co-pilot were seriously wounded, and drenched with sweat S/Ldr Ladro, tried to outmaneuver every Junkersí pass by instruction given by the navigator. All this was happening at the sea level, with the Wellington continuing to press for homely shores.
During short breaks between attacks, Ladro held the controls with his
knees giving his arms a rest. The situation was becoming desperate.
Luckily, into the fiftieth minute of the battle, the Germans went out of
ammo. They did not give up however, and tried to ram the Wellington or
force it to ditch. When this tactic fail, and the Pole hang on to his
course, the Germans broke off the engagement. One of the Junkers flew
directly in front of the Wellington and wiggled his wings.