Interview with Cyril Edwin Bailey


Interview with Cyril Edwin Bailey


Cyril Bailey was working in a garage before he volunteered for the RAF. He considered that he would like to be a mechanic but was told there were no vacancies and he was encouraged to become a flight engineer. He joined 625 Squadron at RAF Kelstern and became the only English member of an all-Australian crew. On an operation to Dortmund he and the pilot were both injured by shrapnel. The pilot’s hand was so badly injured he was no longer able to play the piano which had been one of his jobs as a pre-war teacher. On another occasion the bomb aimer made his way past Cyril and collapsed. Cyril applied oxygen and revived him. While on an operation three other aircraft were in view when they were attacked by an ME 262 who shot down the other aircraft and was just closing in on Cyril’s aircraft when the pilot executed a corkscrew manoeuvre and they were able to escape. While with another crew Cyril was walking to briefing with his pilot and said he expected the operation that night would be Dortmund. This proved to be the case. The pilot made sure to fly within the gaggle because this was like a premonition. After his tour of operations Cyril was posted to India as a driver.




Temporal Coverage




01:05:31 audio recording


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DM: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is David Meanwell. The interviewee is Cyril Bailey. The interview is taking place at Mr Bailey’s home in Surbiton, Surrey on the 24th of April 2018. So, Cyril perhaps you could start us off by just saying a bit about where and when you were born and your early life growing up.
CB: Yeah. Well, as far as I know I was born in Minster-in-Thanet in Kent but I can’t remember that place. It’s only when I got to the schooldays that I remember Preston where we had the, a blackberry farm where my father was working, working on. We then moved to Birchington where my father had took over management. Management and work of a farm there. That was quite a good time. I was there until I left school. Basic education of course. Just the three Rs and that’s it.
DM: So, you were born in 1925, I think.
CB: Yeah.
DM: How old were you when you left school?
CB: Fourteen. I was fourteen years old then.
DM: So, just at the beginning of the war.
CB: Yes. Yes. It was, yeah. It would be there. Yeah. Would be round the same year. So, I had to wait for a few years before I could join up.
DM: What did you do when you left school?
CB: Well, when I left school the first thing I did was to go into a private Preparatory School as a [pause] What’s the title of it now? Basically, it’s any job that was around the kitchens et cetera. The cleaning, serving up school meals and all sorts of things. That went on to, that was in, that was in Westgate about three miles away from Birchington. But then the war came on and they evacuated up to North Wales. Of course, that left me without a job. So, in the meantime, I started looking around and then I had a telegram one day. Would I like to rejoin them up in Wales? Well, I had no job so I said, ‘Yes, please.’ So that was the Myra and Dorian Williams. They run that school. Dorian Williams was later a [unclear] and horse shows. You’ve probably heard of him, and his wife was the honourable Myra Williams. Anyway, she sorted all the travel warrants et cetera for me to go up there, and so I travelled up. Well, I was fourteen, wasn’t I? She picked me up at Oswestry, and of course it was midwinter then, and I always remember that one because there was all snow and ice and when she came to the premises where the school was being run, we slipped on the ice and went into a ditch. Of course, it was in the mountains. Country roads. Nothing, anywhere at all. No telephones or lighting or whatever. So, she said, ‘Well, I’ve got to go back. Walk back to see if I can get somebody at one of the garages way back.’ I said, ‘Shall I come with you?’ You know. I was only fourteen. She said, ‘Oh no,’ she said, ‘If you’d like to sit in the car and just wait for me. Just look after the car.’ Well, anyway, after about a half an hour or so she turned up with a bloke in a breakdown lorry, and they pulled her out of the ditch. No damage done. It was only just skidding, and we carried on our way. That was to a place called Llangedwyn in, in North Wales. It was a massive great big, I did have a picture of that somewhere, a great big country mansion sort of a place, and I quite enjoyed my time there because I was in charge of looking after all the boilers. The two massive, great big six foot boilers there. One was for the hot water and the other one was for the heating. I looked after those and did all the odd jobs around the place chopping up wood for the firewood, getting the coal in et cetera. Anyway, that went on for about a couple of years and I thought, well I don’t know it’s time I went home and so I packed it in. So, I just said, gave my notice in and got on my bike and cycled home.
DM: Cycled.
CB: Cycled. Three hundred miles, I think. Nearly.
DM: That took a while.
CB: It did. Yeah. That took me about two and a half days. The first day I got as far as Coventry, and that, I didn’t realise at the time but that was after they’d had that big bombing raid. But the part of the country where I come in that was still standing. Anyway, I saw somebody in the street there. That was about six or seven o’clock in the evening, I said, ‘Do you know anywhere I could put up for the night?’ I’d made no arrangements at all, you see. He said, ‘Oh yes. I’ll contact my sister. She’ll take you in.’ And their names were Mr and Mrs Devey of 62 Vernon Street. Coventry. I always remember that. Anyway, I had my week‘s rations on my case which was strapped on the back of the bike. It was only an ordinary Roadster bike. You know normal, a Hercules Roadster, and I had nearly all that week’s rations at breakfast the following morning funnily enough which she did. Anyway, so it was about nine o’clock again when I started off on the bike and heading for London. So that took me, I wanted to get through London so I just carried on cycling and finished up, I think it was about three or four o’clock in the morning the following day so had been cycling since nine o’clock right through, through the night in to, finished up at Chatham or somewhere. I forget the name of the station now but they’d got the fire going in the station waiting room there so I thought well that’s lovely, I just parked myself in front of it and dozed off. It had been quite a long day. And I was rudely awakened by all the early morning workers and so that means out. So, I had to get on my bike again. That was about five or six o’clock in the morning, I’m sure. And, so I carried on till I got then to my home which is in in Birchington, and of course I was black as the ace of spades all over with dirt, travelling. No washing or anything like that and my mum said, she said, ‘Oh, you’d better get in the bath and clean yourself up.’ So I went in there and promptly went to sleep in it because my mum got a bit worried. She was banging on the door. Anyway, I come to again and that’s all. I finished on that one. Anyway, then of course, that meant I’d got to find a job down there so that was, and eventually I ended up as a mechanic in a local garage. Jenner’s Garage. And that was, went on until I got papers to go to join up. And of course, during the time I was working at the garage I joined up the ATC as well, at Margate. So, this is where my bike come in handy because cycling to and fro Margate about three and a half miles or so.
DM: What did you pick the ATC?
CB: Well, I don’t know. It was quite silly actually, because when I was working up in North Wales, I went to the nearest place was Oswestry which was about ten miles away. So, I used to cycle there once a week to just go to the pictures, and have a look around the shops, and in a shop, I saw, was looking at some books there. It’s got, “Teach Yourself” — and part of the rest of it was obliterated, you know with other stock in the way. So, I went in the shop. ‘I’d like that book you’ve got in the window.’ He said, ‘Are you sure you want that one?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Yeah. “Teach Yourself.”’ He said ‘Okay.’ It was, “Teach Yourself to Fly,” it was [laughs]
DM: So that was fate.
CB: That sort of triggered the interest in flying, I suppose. But anyway —
DM: So, you used to go to the ATC at Margate —
CB: Oh yes. Yes. I got in to the ATC there and I did quite well on that one. Of course, the time came to join up so I said, ‘Well, I’d like to go as a mechanic in the Air Force.’ And they said, ‘Right. If you, we don’t want any more mechanics at the moment.’ He said, ‘There’s a flight engineer’s job going now.’ And so, ‘Well what’s that? Just the next stage of mechanic?’ ‘More or less.’ I said, ‘Well, does it entail a little bit of flying after doing repairs?’ ‘Something like that.’ That was it. That was my interview. So, I joined up and from then on, we went, well when I finally joined up, I think it was St John‘s Wood where we first got all our clothing and kit et cetera. Then the next move was going up to near Newcastle. I forget. Oh, from then we moved in to St Athans.
DM: So that was after Whitley Bay.
CB: That was after Whitley Bay and, but, oh just going back a bit the, Whitley Bay, the best thing I remember about that all the square bashing we did. It was mid-winter on the prom and that was all snow, ice and everything else and you used to get frozen like mad there.
DM: What year are we in now?
CB: Oh, that would be still in ‘43.
DM: Right.
CB: And once, when we’d been square bashing and things like that I got back to the billets which was private houses taken over by the Air Force, and we had a kitchen range in there. I thought I’d put my shoes in there to dry them out a bit and I forgot about them until I suddenly got thinking about getting them out and there was one of them had scorch marks all over the sole of it as if they’d been worn out. Worn down. So fortunately, when I went to get them replaced I gave that excuse and, that I’d rubbed it down with a bit of emery or something and I got a fresh pair of shoes. Anyway, from there we went on to St Athans. Oh yes. There was another chap which, when did I [unclear] yeah. Jack. Jack Forrest. We, we, when we first joined up, first joined up we met up and we went through all of this St John’s Wood, Whitley Bay and St Athans together. So, we got quite friendly on there and that was the engineering course. Flight engineering course which was I believe about two or three years condensed down to about six months. We both got through that okay, and then we got posted out. Well, Jack didn’t get posted to the same place as me and so I didn’t see more of him. And then we went to, after we finished with St Athans went in to Lindholme Conversion Unit. That’s in Yorkshire. Followed on to Hemswell. The number 1 Lanc Finishing School. And this during the time was on the, other than Lindholme or Hemswell that Dave, I met up with Dave, and we started to do some flying in the old Halifaxes. That would have been Lindholme and he gave me about, because they had a dual control there, he gave me about twenty minutes tuition on how to steer a plane straight and level. Apparently, that was what we were supposed to be able to do if anything happened so we could bring it back. And then, from then after Lanc Finishing School we moved to Kelstern, 625 Squadron and there we had quite a few [pause] went through about twenty eight ops, operations during that time.
DM: When did you first crew up with all the rest of the crew? When did you first all get together as a team?
CB: Can we stop there?
[recording paused]
DM: So when, when did you first meet the pilot and become part of his team?
CB: Oh, oh that was in June of ’44, when we went to, the engineers et cetera had to go into a hangar or something, some sort.
DM: A big building.
CB: Yeah. A big building. And everybody was milling around, sort of saying and introducing each other and then David, he come over to me and he said, ‘Did you fancy coming with me and my crew?’ So, I said, ‘Yes, I think that would be alright.’ And that’s how we carried on.
DM: They were all Australian.
CB: And they were an all-Australian crew. Yeah.
DM: How did you feel about that?
CB: And, well I thought it was quite good. I thought it was quite good there and, do you want me to read that? And so of course Dave, David was very pleased to welcome the flight engineer and introduced me to the rest of the crew. And one of the first things they said, I think it was one of the gunners, he said, ‘Oh,’ he said ‘An English rose amongst blue orchids,’ they joked. Of course, I replied, ‘Don’t you mean colonial thorns?’ And then our bonds solidified. Then we went on from there.
DM: Do you remember much about your first op?
CB: No. But whilst we were still in training, before we actually joined up in to 625 —
DM: Right.
CB: Whilst we were —
DM: Where we were training as a crew.
CB: We trained as a crew and they said, oh again very short of aircraft there so we used the training aircraft. The old Halifax, I think. And we went over to [pause] I forget the name of it even now. A place over in Holland somewhere.
DM: And you were a decoy.
CB: And we were just a decoy. We did have one fighter come, come towards us but Dave started doing the old corkscrew then, and he put his, he could see we were prepared for him and so he buzzed off fortunately because we didn’t even have an upper gun turret on there neither. It didn’t. Anyway, we managed to get back all right and of course things after that as I said, we got into 625 Squadron and my first op was to Beukenhorst Wassenaar. That’s a rocket storage place there. But as far as I remember that was reasonably quiet. Just a few bits of flak, but that was about all. And that was in the September of ’44.
DM: Could you say a bit about what your typical duties were as a flight engineer on a flight? What you had to do.
CB: Yes. Well, general it was to give obviously assistance to Dave, the pilot. The main thing was looking after the petrol tanks making sure that we were using the fuel off correctly and keeping tabs on how much we were using to calculate the quantities depending on the engine revs, boost, all the time. So, every time there was a change of speed or height which entailed changing the revs et cetera, the engine, we had to recalculate and see how much we’d done up ‘til then and make note of it all and so we’d got a continuous count of how much was used over what periods of time. So, you always keep control of that. And of course, Jack of all trades. Anything else that goes wrong we’d have to try to and sort it out. I know once we had, a bomb aimer he wanted to go back to the loo at the backend, so he was, he slowly got past me and got as far as the wireless operator and he collapsed. Of course, they called out for me to sort it out and apparently when he’d gone, he hadn’t taken his emergency bottle of oxygen with him and of course he passed out. So —
DM: So, you had to sort him out.
CB: So, I managed to get a, link him up again to the system and after about ten minutes he sort of came around, but he wasn’t the same for the rest of the trip. Yeah. That was a bit unusual that one.
DM: Did you ever have any bombs hang up that you had to deal with?
CB: We did once, and that was when I was when I had a Canadian crew. But that was —
DM: So, you were sort of filling in or —
CB: Yeah, and that was because for the first twenty operations I was with David.
DM: Right.
CB: Until we went, got as far as Dortmund. That was November 29th 1944, and we, we got hit. Well, by flak which blew out our windscreens, and plus it also injured both Dave and myself. Dave got his hand, right hand had got a, a splinter of flak gone in to that and severed the tendons then. He was squirting out blood all over the show because at the time I was laying on my tummy on the floor pushing out Window. Which was anti, anti, what’s the name stuff.
DM: The bits of metal.
CB: Yeah. Metal.
DM: To confuse the radar.
CB: Yeah. That’s right. To confuse the radar. So, of course —
DM: What were your injuries?
CB: Oh, this is on Lancs. Those were a Merlin.
DM: Yeah. But what, what, but you said you were injured as well.
CB: Oh yes, sorry, my injury, yeah. Yeah. I got a bit of flak in my chest. Fortunately, that was not, not very serious. It didn’t hurt me at all so, and made a mess of my clothes of course, but I was able to look after Dave and I knew I had to be quick the way he was squirting out blood there, because it came right across the cabin and so I held his hand tight. Held his wrist tight with one hand as tight as I could, and it slowed it down quite considerably. And whilst I was there, I was able to get the First Aid out for him. Anyway, and then I managed to get to a padded bandage on, on to his hand, and put a tourniquet on his arm to help, help stop it and that appeared to be alright. Whether he was, of course then you were still continuing on and I see David had a bit of flak in, stuck inside his helmet. I thought, well I won’t touch that. He doesn’t seem to be worried about it. But another one in his shoulder. So, I just pinched that. Made him flinch a bit but he was still, still going on all right.
DM: So, he was still sort of flying the plane to the best of his ability.
CB: He still, he was, yeah. But of course, one handed.
DM: Yes.
CB: Because this one, it was useless. He lost his, lost his hand completely there so everything that he would have normally done, the old, the engine and trimming and and everything else like that. We, we went on quite well on that way. I did ask him if he wanted me to take over at all and he said, ‘Oh no. No. No.’ And yeah, I don’t know when we got back to this country because I still had to do to look after the engines and all the calculations for the fuel. That’s how I made sure we’d got enough to go where we wanted to go. Anyway, we decided to try and make it all the way, and then when he, when he come to our own place at Kelstern, when he called up control and said he had an injured man on board but he didn’t say who and of course between us we got the plane down, but I had to do the trimming under his instructions because I mean his, he could feel what the plane was doing obviously with the left hand okay, but we made a perfect landing that time. So, of course, the blood wagon was waiting for us when we get back to dispersal, and they took him off straight to, straight to the hospital there. He’d, he’d also got another one. A bit of flak in his leg which I didn’t know about. So, he might have lost a bit of blood from that.
DM: Did you have to go to hospital?
CB: Yes. And at anyway, so they, they took him off and of course when, when you got to the debriefing room and of course I hadn’t finished the last, what? About the last twenty minutes half hour of calculations on the fuel, and of course the engineer’s controlling officer there he said, ‘Why didn’t you do that?’ I said, ‘Well, because I was wounded.’ He said, ‘Oh, did you? Where?’ I had to tell him then, and of course he called the medics over and the next thing I know I was hopped off to the infirmary. And that, that was funny because it was mid-winter as I say. Bitterly cold and when we got to the infirmary there, I had to wait outside for about an hour in the, in the cold ambulance because they had to make negotiations to take us in there. Anyway, but that, there was another, another crew member from one of the other planes. He was going there as well because he’d been wounded on his, on his flight, and anyway, we got in there and they did us quite well there. They did an operation on there and dug, dug a hole out because if it had gone in there and travelled right across, and, and they’d sort that one out and after that it was quite nice because we finished in the hospital there and on to sick leave. That was unfortunately the last time I saw my crew.
DM: Did you ever think when you were, after you were hit by the flak did it ever enter your head that you might not have got back or were you too busy?
CB: Well, I was more concerned with just keeping going. It didn’t enter that, only in as much I was quite worried wondering whether Dave could be alright but he was perfectly okay. Well, perfectly all right. He was doing it. That’s it. But I think he, when we come in to land or were coming in to land I did turn the oxygen up to, to the maximum there and I think that did help revive him quite considerably. He thanked me for doing it before we even left our seats.
DM: I assume if the flak had blown away the windscreen it must have been pretty cold as well.
CB: Well, funnily enough no. It was a little bit draughty but I think it’s the way that the contours of the aircraft was made that it just skimmed over the nose and not directly on to the windscreen right there because I thought that should be causing quite a blast through there but it didn’t. It was still comfortable with all the clobber on which we had and that was it.
DM: And you got a medal for that, I think.
CB: Yes, well Dave got the DFC immediately for it and he recommended me for the DFM and that came through at a later date about that one. Yes. So that was the first twenty operations which we had. They were —
DM: Did, did the whole crew split up or did any, did you stay with any of them?
CB: Well, during the, during the, after the, this and this turn at Dortmund there Dave couldn’t go back because he was in hospital and the crew were asked to, if they could stay together. But unfortunately, they, they got split up and I think the mid-upper gunner, yeah. That’s right. Mid-upper gunner. He stayed on the station. I didn’t know that but the others went off to another ‘drome, you know. Somewhere else.
DM: Where did you end up?
CB: Well, what do you mean?
DM: When you came back from your sick leave where did you have to go?
CB: Oh, well I, I went back to Kelstern. Yes. I was quite a while there but this was where I picked up another crew there. I thought they were Canadians but since then I’ve found out that the pilot was an Englishman [laughs] And I don’t know where I got the Canadians from because oh probably because I had to go as a spare the first trip back. And that was not until [pause] oh that was on the, in March. March ’45.
DM: Right.
CB: So, we had quite a, quite a long time.
DM: So that would have been your twenty first op then.
CB: Yes, that would have been my twenty first op then. That was with a Flight Lieutenant Jardine and to, to an aircraft factory. But that was a good long trip. The first one back and it’s nine hours fifty minutes and so that was a bit wearying one. And the second one after that was with this Flight Lieutenant Russell that was with, and his crew I went with until I actually finished my operations. But to have the nine hours fifty minutes on that first one. A night one as well. Then the following day I got the new crew and we went to Kassel. Kassel. That was seven hours forty minutes that night one. So, two long, very long trips as a starters but didn’t, but they didn’t go down too well but still. Then they were, my third one after that one we were back to Dortmund. And when we were going, you know on the way to go to briefing walking together as a crew there and I said to the skipper, I said, ‘I know where we are going.’ He said, ‘How do you know that?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t really know but I think we’re going to go to Dortmund.’ And of course, we got in there and the screens opened up and Dortmund it was.
DM: Just like a premonition.
CB: Yeah. I just knew it was going to be that. Anyway, we went through there. I had a little, oh we’ve got to go back there again and I didn’t know. Well, we did go, and it was quite a good raid that time. I thought well I got my own back now. But I did notice that when we was again going over there he kept well into the middle of the formations we were all in, you know as a gaggle formation and that’s like three in the front and the rest of you strewn behind. And I thought well that’s, that’s quite good of him to do that and it made me feel a bit more comfortable but —
DM: It must have been quite nerve wracking.
CB: It was a bit, yeah. But as things went down, well it, back to somewhere near a comfortable to, to accept.
DM: Yeah.
CB: But then of course the, after that one I went to Bremen. It was the railway the bridge. That was my worst one that was. We had been [pause] yeah, we had just, just finished the bombing run and the doors were still open and of course we get hit by flak again. But that time it got the, most of it was down in the bomb bay and because it cut all the hydraulic oil pipe and we lost all our hydraulic oil and that was, I thought it was on fire but it was just the fact that it was all spraying out the back. And of course, the port inner, I think it was the port inner, yeah that started smoking as well. So, we got a bit of smoke in to the cabin there which I thought well what’s going to happen now. But anyway, I feathered the port inner and that stopped that one going so it hadn’t actually got to flaming which was fortunate and the, all the hydraulic oil was spraying out the back. That looked like smoke actually. The way it was going. And so of course, that meant that the bomb doors were still, still open. Then the flaps went down at ten degrees and [pause] yeah that went down ten degrees and the air pressure went down because I don’t know why that was. Something to do with in the engine part and so the engines went back in to M gear which was a low gear. So, I was getting a bit of a state and you know and then there was about three of us straggling behind. We were all about a mile apart from each other and I saw this [pause] ME 262. He came up behind the last one and of course he went down on to him as he went up in flames. And as he come up he went up to the next one. He went up in flames. And of course, we started to look to see if there were any parachutes. I didn’t see any parachutes but apparently there was two out of those two planes somewhere but then as he came up and they went down then he came to us but of course the skipper, he went into a corkscrew, you know as fast as he could because the engines had gone down, the bomb doors still open, the flaps down a bit. And he missed [laughs] I remember seeing, seeing tracers, you know going underneath us, that’s where it was in the engineer’s side we’d gone to starboard so that was wide open. We just looked. Looked straight into the face of the pilot as he was peering out of his what’s the names. Tracers et cetera. But fortunately, he missed. By that time the skipper had called up for help and this Mustang, he come over and started chasing him off and because the, with the twin jet there he just burst out in a puff of smoke and had gone.
DM: Yeah.
CB: And of course, the Mustang couldn’t keep up with him although they were pretty good but anyway then he stayed with us for a little while, see that we were still going okay and then he buzzed off on further duties again. Anyway, then we got down, come to get back and the skipper said to, said about lowering the undercarriage. I said, ‘Are you able to?’ Oh, no. No, the skipper called up the control and said we’d, we’d lost all our hydraulic oil so we’d got no, no undercarriage. So, I had to intervene and say, ‘Hold on. We haven’t tried the emergency air yet.’ And because this was, I suppose they must have heard all that on ground control. But anyway, so I said, ‘Well, let’s, let’s try it to see if it’s going to work.’ So he turned on the emergency air and of course it did work. Fortunately, it did go down but ever such a long time well, compared to hydraulic and then compressed air and it finally locked. The undercarriage locked on and so we came in and landed quite safely but that was quite a —
DM: Traumatic trip I would think.
CB: Very traumatic. Yeah.
DM: No one was hurt.
CB: No one was hurt this time, no. No. It was quite, quite good that one. But then of course we had, from then on we had maybe four more. Four more trips and then that was the lot.
DM: I suppose after the, the trip where you were in combat I suppose you’d say with the 262 you didn’t get any time off or anything. You were straight off on the next op a few days later.
CB: Oh, yes. Yeah.
DM: Yeah.
CB: On the 23rd of the March for the Bremen. And the 25th of the 3rd and it was Hanover. The city Blitz. So didn’t waste much time there.
DM: So when, what date was your last op? If you can remember.
CB: My last night, last one was on the 14th of April. 14th of April but that was to Potsdam. It was after the Nazi headquarters apparently. So, no it was quite, quite exciting I suppose if you call it one way.
DM: So, when you came back from that last raid did you go on leave then?
CB: Yeah [pause] No. Not, not straightaway I don’t think. No. Because, no it was the, although there was where we had to sort ourselves out for another job so we [unclear] Yeah. We were sent off to Catterick. Or as I called it a misdirecting centre [laughs] and anyway —
DM: That was training, was it?
CB: Retraining for ground trade because they said, ‘What job? What do you want to do now?’ I said, ‘Well, being as I worked in a garage I’d sooner get a driving job.’ So, I went off to Catterick for that. Oh no. Went off to Weeton from Catterick.
DM: What rank were you by this time?
CB: Sergeant.
DM: Right. You didn’t get any huge promotions or anything.
CB: No. No. I didn’t have that. And we went up to Weeton, to the Driving School there and passed that okay. And Blackpool was the Personnel Dispersal Centre or something like that. Yeah. Well, that’s where we, after that we had, had to go to this other place, well West Kirby, or both of them actually until we could be sorted where we were going to go and they said, ‘Where do you want to go?’ So, and so they gave me a couple of choices. So the choices of, for me I thought well, Manston was near my home down, down near Birchington and you never get your first choice so I thought choose one up in Scotland and then Manston as the second. And this is where the funny part is because when I got the papers saying where I was, where I was going to go it wasn’t either of those. It was out to India [laughs] Yes. So, I had to get on board ship and get posted out to India as a driver. And we went to Bombay as it was known then first off and ever so, receiving place in, in Bombay and we had to go to the stations where we were to go for the rest of our time, or nearly and that was over near Calcutta on the opposite side of India. It took about three days on the, on the lines there and the, I always remember those trains there because they were, the seats were like park bench seats. They were slats and we had to sleep on those or on the floor. Fortunately, I’d picked up a sleeping bag from somebody coming back home when we was at Bombay and so I used that which was handy. Anyways, it was about three days going across there and it was mostly a single track railway with a double section now and again where they had to meet, meeting somebody coming the other way and you changed, changed lines and he went on the other side. And there we were obviously we were waiting there because we managed to get some tea made by using the steam from the engine. Making cups of tea. But it wasn’t very nice but still it was wet and warm. And then I went up to Calcutta. Well, that was only for one day and then then until we put the proper station which was Baigachi. It’s about thirty mile outside Calcutta and I had quite a, quite a good time there because I was, as a driver you were doing all sorts of things. You know, there was sometimes I was on daily routine stuff and then I was on the crash tender and the Army ambulance, you know. Wherever they wanted a driver you went on.
DM: How long were you in India for? Can you remember?
CB: Oh, that was [pause] the 4th of November ’45 but I stayed there. I started there and come back home again [pause] 31st of the 12th. Oh, yeah, 31st of the 12th ’46. ’45.
DM: Right. So, a couple of months.
CB: Yeah. A couple of months. Yeah.
DM: And then when you came back was that when you were you demobbed?
CB: Yes. We come back to Kirkham, 101 PDC and that’s where we got demobbed.
DM: Did anyone ask you if you wanted to stay in the RAF?
CB: Yes. They did. Yeah. And I forget what my answer was there. I don’t think it was very positive at the time.
DM: Right. You wanted to get out. You’d had enough.
CB: Get out. Yeah. I’d had enough it. Yeah. It’s fair enough once you finished flying and everything was all so settled down you think, oh, thank goodness for that. It, you know, it felt quite, I suppose quite shattered you know. But then of course you get to look forward to demob then. But it was during that time that they asked, told us we’d got to hand in as well as all our clothes et cetera and, because we got an issue of suits and hats and things like that and we had to hand in our log book so, and that’s where I, I finished up there. I finished up the Air Force.
DM: So, you went home to Birchington.
CB: So, went back to Birchington and picked up in the garage where I was on there. I stayed. Stopped for about, about two weeks I think it was before I went back to them and asked them, ‘Can I have my job back?’ And the answer was that, ‘Yeah. I suppose we’ve got to, haven’t we?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ [laughs] So that was as far as the garage work was concerned. I stayed on the, there until I got cheeky to one of the governors there. The old, old chap that was there, owned the garage. Mr Jenner. He’d got three sons. They were running it and one of them was, I always remember because he was, he was the driver one. He used to drive you to keep you going and he said something to me which was a bit sarcastic and he finished up by saying so and so and so and so, ‘Old boy.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’ll show you old boy.’ That was it. Cards [laughs]
DM: When did you, did you always stay in touch with the pilot or any of the other crew or was that later on?
CB: Yes. We kept in touch with, with Dave and he was —
DM: Did he fly again do you know? After.
CB: No. He never flew again. No. His hand was so damaged he could never do anything in ops. I believe he did do a couple of flights before he went but it was nothing to do with flying in anger at all. It was just he wanted to keep his hand in a bit but — [pause] So he used to be a pianist. A schoolmaster and a pianist as well but he never played the piano again after that. He couldn’t, you see.
DM: No.
CB: It put his hand right out of action. Yeah. So, anyway —
DM: So, he went. Did he go home to Australia?
CB: Yeah. He went back to Australia and of course he had to [pause] I think it was a hospital ship he had to go back in. Anyway, he picked up where he left off but he still had troubles afterwards, you know because it had really knocked him out a bit. He also, whilst he was invalided in this country before he went back he, he’d got, I think it was pleurisy whilst he was in hospital. He was in Rauceby Hospital. And that, and then whilst we was, oh whilst we were on, on sick leave, yes, that’s right. Whilst we were on sick leave because that was about three months wasn’t it that we were off sick leave? He did come down to my family’s home in Birchington and so, so he got quite attached to, he stayed with us for a couple of nights and I’ve been in touch with them more or less ever since.
DM: Did you ever visit him in Australia?
CB: I thought of going to Australia but as far as, that just wouldn’t happen because the money in those days was very, very poor. I mean when I used to work in the garage I used to take home five pound a week. That was with Saturday overtime as well. So that, most of that went on food and lodging and, I don’t know.
DM: After you got your cards did you stay in the garage trade or did you change tack?
CB: No. No. No. When, when I got the cards I went on to, I picked up another job working in an ice cream factory [laughs] That was interesting but we used to make the ice cream and I used to be, as a driver I used to deliver it as well. Went to all the shops. We were doing, quite a nice business that was. Yeah. So —
DM: When did you move up to Surbiton area?
CB: Oh, that, that was after I’d been messed around with little odd jobs like that of course [pause] Oh, whilst, whilst I was still at the garage we, I used to go into Margate with about two or three of us ex-service and just to have a drink and pass around Margate et cetera, and that’s where we met up with a couple of girls there. And they were, we were we always used to leave it ‘til we missed the last bus home which was about a three and a half miles walk and we were just starting to come back to Birchington and met these two girls and they said, ‘We can’t find our hotel.’ So I said, ‘Well, what’s the name of it? Where is it?’ I says, it was on the way to where we were going so, ‘We’ll take you there.’ And that’s it. Anyway, the outcome of that was I kept in touch with one of them, was Dorothy and after about eighteen months I think it was we got married but she was living in Surbiton and this is how I came up this way. When the jobs were getting a bit dodgy Dot’s father, Dorothy’s father, he said, he said, ‘Do you want, do you fancy working up with me?’ And that was with the Metropolitan Water Board in Surbiton. And I said, I asked all about it and so the first thing we knew was that, ‘Oh, yes. Well, yes I can but what’s the wages?’ ‘Oh, it would be starting at ten pound a week.’ I thought ten pound? Double what I was getting and so I said yes. So, we come up to Surbiton and I was with the Metropolitan Water Board working in the engineering side and that was for about a year or something like that I think and it was getting a bit boring on there although it was interesting work because we used to do the engineering side. Then I went on to looking after the boilers on there because they were steam turbines on there and they used to have the massive great big boilers. It was the pumping station for most of the west of London, you know. Surbiton, Kingston, Putney, Honor Oak, Battersea. You know, all those surrounding in that section of, of what’s the name? And, and then of course when I finished with the, oh I thought it was about time I had a change after I’d been on there for a while. After I went on to an inspection course as an inspector of water fittings et cetera up in Battersea. And that was, that was about a three mile ride again every day on the bike. Yes. And then from then on I was really doing quite well on that because in the end was, you know I was always checking around people’s leaks, looking after tap washers and things like that and anything new, used to look after that. Make sure they’d done all the fittings correctly and up to British Standard specs et cetera. And then I thought well what’s the next move now because this was getting a bit stale again. And so I thought well, the next move on that would have been if you wanted to go any further stages going upwards you’d have to wait for an inspection side, supervising et cetera. You had to wait ‘til somebody either dies or retires. That wasn’t very good as far as I was concerned so I went in to, took a radio engineer’s course. You know, what do they call it when you do it by post?
DM: Telegrams?
CB: What?
DM: Telegrams? Right?
Other: Correspondence.
CB: Correspondence course.
DM: Correspondence. I see what you mean. You did a correspondence course on radio engineering. Yes.
CB: A correspondence course. Radio engineers. And on the strength of that I got a job with EMI. Electrical Musical Industries. And that was to do with Ministry of Defence work doing all the sensing heads for all these different missiles. Skyflash, Seawolf and you’ve probably heard of some of those and we were working on that. I lasted about twenty six, I think, years altogether.
DM: So, that one kept your interest up. That one did.
CB: That kept my interest on that one. It was, it was quite good because it was all good work and always up to the highest standards. I was overlooked most of the time by Minister of Defence officials to see that work was done up to the standard wanted and it was quite interesting. I finished up being in charge of one, one section there until, until I retired. But I did have a heart attack about two years before that and so that sort of put me off song a bit and oh yes because that was when I had the heart attack I had to have a kick start on that one.
DM: Right.
CB: And so anyway, I did go on for a bit longer and then of course retired.
DM: So, looking back on your days in the RAF do you have fond memories of it now or —
CB: Well, I know that I’ve never never forgotten a lot of it. Most of it was what, what happened during, whilst we were at Kelstern but the sort of, that stuck in your mind. I remember things about that that, well just don’t go. I still remember it quite a lot in the details of what goes on there. Yeah. That plane which when Dave and I both got wounded and the windscreen blown out. That plane never flew again neither so it must have been well and truly peppered because it never did fly again. So —
CB: Yeah.



David Meanwell, “Interview with Cyril Edwin Bailey,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 16, 2024,

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