What it was really llike...

On the Imperal War Museum in London, I found this touching interview with the father of one of the BoB pilots:

“He (son) wondered just how much longer he could take it. Each day someone fails to return, often another empty seat at the table. He was relieved when often they would turn up, apparently they had safely baled out, or injured in a crash landing. But many died horrific deaths, slowly burnt alive being trapped in their cockpits. He thought that he would rather have died instantly, or went in nose first into the ground rather than being burned alive.
He was a changed lad, time took care of that taking him from a young man with a bright future before the war to a man that seemed full of hatred, he said that he felt as if he was a human killing machine and said that if he ever dies, then put on his headstone “Here Lies Another Human Killing Machine”.
On leave he could not sleep, or he would scream out in the night. How he died we will never know, he went out on a mission, and never came back, and that’s the sad part, we do not even have a grave where we know that he is at last resting in peace.”

The strain must have been terrible, something we often forget reading only about the glorious events.
I have also been reading the story about Graf and Grieslawsky. In the end of the Stalingrad campaign Graf was more or less becoming a reckless killing machine, taking enormous risks to rack up his kill score, often so exhausted after missions that he had to be pulled out of his cockpit. But he finally got his rest before he cracked, and after a leave he was assigned to organize a Mosquito hunters group on the 1943 Western front.