The Lancaster which was allocated to our crew on the night of 16th/17th December 1943 was JB176-OF-K, JB176 being the registration number, "OF" being the squadron's code and K the aircraft's letter.
K-King was a Mark III Lancaster, which had been completed at the end of August 1943 by the famous firm of A V Roe and registered with 97 Squadron on 6th September.
She had already been on twelve operations, variously to Hanover, Mannheim, Munich, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Cannes, Ludwigshaven, and Berlin.
When first delivered to the squadron she had been the favourite aircraft of a very senior crew of distinguished calibre and exceptionally high overall rank. The skipper of this crew was Squadron Leader S P Daniels, and his bomb aimer, Squadron Leader C M Dunnicliffe, was to be acting CO of 97 Squadron on the night of 16th/17th December.
However, after this crew temporarily left the squadron, K-King was always flown by a different crew, which meant that by mid November she had become one of the reserve aircraft.
Her penultimate operation was the Berlin raid of 26th/27th November, on which she was flown by Charles Owen. He wrote in his diary on return to Bourn:
"First trip with my own crew, and the Big City at that. Usual flares and aircraft shot down on way in. Target was clear, and we could see fires burning from an attack the previous night. Hundreds of searchlights and very heavy flak, firing mainly into the cones. Flew over Hanover by mistake on return journey and was coned for seven minutes. Lost height from 20 to 13,000 ft. during evasive action from intense heavy flak. Several holes in starboard wing and roof of cockpit, and the bomb-aimer was wounded slightly in the leg. Also attacked by a fighter when coned, but only damage was six inches knocked off one blade of the starboard outer prop."
It was one of the very few times that Owen (who survived the war) would get himself into trouble.
K-King went in for repairs. She must still have been out of action when the early December raids began. Her thirteenth and last outing was to be with our crew.