I met David Balme towards the end of March 1943.
He and his crew were at 1661 HCU Winthorpe, and were nearing the end of the course. The Mid-Upper Gunner had fallen by the wayside so I was slotted in.
By the end of March we had joined 207 Squadron at Langar - one Flying Officer and six Sergeants, four of them scrubbed Pilots.After three 'second-dickie trips', we commenced our tour on Frankfurt, and I flew with David until the beginning of November 1943, operating on targets from Danzig to Spezia.
A vintage year, 1943, but few are here to remember it. It soon became clear how fortunate I was to be a member of his crew.Quietly confident, and calm when the Germans were angry, David was the type of pilot one hoped to fly with, but doubted one's luck.
Towards the end of the summer he was made boss of 'A' Flight and we operated less frequently, but it was always the easier trips that were ignored.
Balme crew complete their 207 tour: L-R: P/O Les Mitchell (R/G), Flt Lt Jimmy Moore (M/U), F/S Johnny Rumgay (A/B), Sgt Harry Thomas (W/Op), David Balme, Sgt Colin Lawes (Nav), Cpl Potter and another (Ground Crew), Sgt George Bashford (F/E)
During that period one of the aircraft on the flight gained a bad reputation for handling, and worst of all, a poor ceiling with a full load. David flew it on 'Ops' - he did not have to, but that was the way he was.
He had a great affection and respect for the men who serviced the aeroplanes, and this he conveyed to them, spending considerable time in their company and this they appreciated.
After a period at Air Ministry, he started a second tour towards the end of the war, as CO of 227 Squadron. After VE Day he took over 49 Squadron at Syerston in preparation for Tiger Force (the RAF Bomber Force being prepared to go to the Far Fast for the final phase of the war against Japan). A few weeks after VJ Day he left the service.
I met David again in 1972-73, and we met fairly regularly with Les Mitchell, our tail man and some of his second tour crew. I shall miss seeing him, with his dry humour and that grin. His type are pretty thin on the ground. Rest in peace, David.