Interview with Doug Beasley

Title

Interview with Doug Beasley

Description

At the start of the war, Doug Beasley left school at 16 to start work. Initially a member of the Air Training Corps, he was sent for aircrew selection when he became 18. There was a 12-month wait to enlist as a pilot, so he opted to become a flight engineer. He joined Number 3 Initial Training Wing in Torquay, after spending three weeks at Lord’s Cricket Ground, in October 1943. Many of his fellow intake were ex-police officers, older as they were not released from the police until they were 30 years old. After six weeks he was posted to RAF St Athan for basic training as a flight engineer on Halifaxes, then to 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Marston Moor. It was here that he was formed in to a flight crew when they transferred from their Operational Training Unit. At this stage they were flying the Halifax II and V. It was with this unit that he flew his first operation, a leaflet dropping raid over France on 12th August 1944. He joined 76 Squadron at RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor flying the Halifax III. He describes in detail many of his operations, mainly over Germany. One in particular occurred in January 1945 when his aircraft was attacked by a Ju 88 night fighter. Though struck by many bullets and cannon shells nothing vital was damaged though the pilot’s neck was grazed by a bullet. After completing his tour of operations, 38 rather than the normal 30, he became an instructor with an operational flying unit flying Wellingtons. In 1946 he became the Air Sea Rescue officer attending a course at RAF Calshot. He left the RAF in 1947 to return to civilian life.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2018-03-26

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

01:21:34 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ABeasleyDG180326

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

DK: So, I’ll just introduce myself. So, it’s David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Doug Beasley at his home on the 26th of, where are we? March 2018. So if I just put that there.
DB: Yeah.
DK: If I keep looking over I’m just making sure it’s working.
DB: It’s working.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Right. Yeah.
DK: It is. Sometimes get caught out with the batteries going or something.
DB: They’re quite good those aren’t they?
DK: They are nice. A very handy little —
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Little bit of kit that. Right. So, if I can just ask you —
DB: Yeah.
DK: What were you doing immediately before the war?
DB: Well, I, I was still at school when war was declared but in, when I was [pause] yeah I left school and when I was sixteen I started work in, in a company called British Glues and Chemicals Limited.
DK: Oh right.
DB: And I was studying really accountancy. I also was in the Air Training Corps immediately I was sixteen. And that meant that as soon as I was eighteen I went to, to the Aircrew Reception.
DK: Right.
DB: Selection.
DK: Yeah.
DB: People.
DK: Was the Air Force your first choice then?
DB: Oh yes. Yeah. Well, I was in the Air Training Corps.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: And the, three months later I was in the RAF. And the reason was, I was accepted as pilot, navigator, bomb aimer which everybody wanted to be and they said, ‘But it will be at least a year before you join up.’ And I said, ‘Well, all my friends have gone into the RAF as well.’ And the new position of flight engineer was just coming in.
DK: Right.
DB: And they talked, well I don’t say they talked me into it but you acted as second pilot anyway.
DK: Yeah.
DB: So, so —
DK: If I could just take you back a bit.
DB: Yeah.
DK: What was the first things you had to do when you joined the Air Force? Because presumably there was a bit of square bashing going on or something. Or —
DB: Well, yeah, the first thing was I joined up at of all places Lord’s Cricket Ground.
DK: Right.
DB: And thirty thousand of us turned up there. And as I’m a cricket fan I’m part of the history of Lord’s, you see.
DK: Oh excellent.
DB: So, and we —
DK: You, have you ever been out to bat there, Doug?
DB: Hmmn?
DK: You’ve not been up to bat. No. No.
DB: No. No. No. Nothing like that but —
DK: That’s what I always wanted to do.
DB: There’s a special plaque up in Lord’s Cricket Ground.
DK: Yes. I’ve seen that. Yeah.
DB: So we were there for three weeks and then funnily enough I was, I then went to the Initial Training Wing which was [pause] I found all these things.
DK: Ok.
DB: Which was at Torquay.
DK: So if just say this for the recording then.
DB: Yeah.
DK: So you were at Number 3 Initial Training Wing.
DB: Yeah.
DK: C Flight of number 2 Squadron. And that was in October 1943.
DB: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: So whereabouts are you then? Are you —
[pause]
DK: Ah.
DB: The names there as well.
DK: You haven’t changed much.
OJ: I couldn’t find him earlier [laughs]
DK: So they were all sort of the same age as you then were they?
DB: Well, no they weren’t.
DK: Oh right.
DB: I was explaining to my grand-daughter a lot of them were policemen.
DK: Oh.
DB: And they were not allowed to join until they were thirty years old.
DK: Right.
DB: So I found myself, all that back row were policemen basically.
DK: They do, and now you’ve said they do look a lot older don’t they?
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And —
DK: So how old would you have been in October ’43?
DB: I was just, I was just eighteen then.
DK: Eighteen.
DB: Yeah. Eighteen and a quarter. Yeah.
DK: So presumably they couldn’t join earlier because they were in a Reserved Occupation.
DB: Yeah. They couldn’t join earlier.
DK: Yeah.
DB: No. I mean we were you know the younger ones. I don’t know how many were in the same category as me but I always seemed to be about the youngest at the moment, you know.
DK: Right.
DB: But I think it was because of this Air Training Corps I was in. As soon as I was eighteen I was interviewed and then three months later I was in the RAF. And that was when I joined up to Lord’s Cricket Ground you see.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So 3 ITW was based where?
DB: Torquay.
DK: Torquay. Right.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. And we were there for about six weeks I think. Yeah.
DK: And what used to happen at Torquay then?
DB: Well, that was, that was when they really [laughs] they really, you got, you got a pretty awkward flight sergeant looking after you and they were basically getting us absolutely fit. There was a lot of running going on etcetera. But it was your initial training for the RAF.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. On that.
DK: Was it something you took to well at the time?
DB: Well, yes. Well, there’s a lot worse places than, to be than Torquay. So that was quite interesting. Yeah. And then after that I started my basic training which was at St Athans.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Which was one of the largest, well I think it was the largest place in the, outside Singapore. Something like that anyway. And I was there then for, oh that was quite intensive training. Yeah.
DK: And was that training to be a flight engineer?
DB: Oh yeah. Very definitely.
DK: So you didn’t, you said you tried to join as a pilot.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Bomb aimer. Navigator.
DB: Yeah.
DK: But was turned down for that then presumably.
DB: Well, I wasn’t, I wasn’t really turned down. I could have taken it if I was prepared to wait twelve months.
DK: Right.
DB: But as I mentioned most of my friends had joined the RAF.
DK: Right.
DB: And, well I didn’t want to miss it.
DK: Yeah.
DB: I know that sounds a bit foolish but —
DK: So, what was the training like then at St Athans? What did you have to do?
DB: Well, it was, it was very comprehensive really because I wasn’t ever trained as an engineer. But of course the most important subject you had to be good at was mathematics because in the air you did everything.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And so there was a lot of basic training on engines and stuff like that but what, what was really always mentioned was it’s what we had to do in the air.
DK: Right.
DB: If things went wrong. And of course there was a lot of basic training because the pilot and myself were the liaison group with the engineers. Ground engineers. So it was pretty intensive. The training.
DK: So, at St Athan did they actually have aircraft that you worked on or was it all parts?
DB: Yeah. Well, there were aircraft there but part of the training was we went to Speke Airport.
DK: Right.
DB: Where at that time they were producing Halifax aircraft which I was on, and so we saw, saw them in production then and I think we spent about three or four days there.
DK: Right.
DB: Really learning all about the thing. And, and that was the first time I saw a lady pilot, you know taking off.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Because it was an airport.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Well, it still is. Liverpool Airport now. So that was quite an interesting background. And then after that I went straight to the Heavy Conversion Unit. I mean, and that’s, that was immediately on to four engine aircraft.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And the flight engineer, we were all flight engineers there in the Heavy Conversion Unit and I think I was there a good two or three months ahead of the crew.
DK: Right.
DB: Because the ordinary crew went to Operational Training Units, and what happened was then they came to the Heavy Conversion Unit and we flight engineers all lined up and, and the respective pilots came along and —
DK: Picked one of you.
DB: Picked. Well, it was quite interesting with mine because he was a Canadian and he was thirty one years old. And he just said, ‘What’s your name?’ So, I said, ‘Beasley.’ He said, ‘No. Christian name,’ you see.
DK: Right.
DB: So I said, ‘Doug.’ He said, ‘My name’s Doug.’
DK: Yeah.
DB: So we had something in common straight away. And so it was a funny form of selection.
DK: Yeah.
DB: What crew you were in.
DK: Do you think that, do you think that worked well then with the pilot just coming up and choosing his flight engineer?
DB: Well, it did as far as we were concerned. Yes. I know of no complaints at all. We all, we all got on very well. The two gunners were British. One was Welsh.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And one was English.
DK: Can you remember your pilot’s name? Doug?
DB: Yeah. Kerr. K E R R.
DK: Kerr.
DB: I’ve actually as a matter of interest I only found this the other day myself but it’s, I’ve got somewhere here photographs of them all. All —
OJ: I thought I’d be nosey.
[pause]
DK: Oh wow.
DB: That’s, that’s the same as that one.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: That was one of my pals. That was when I first joined up.
DK: Yeah.
DB: But that was the, that was the pilot. Kerr. Pilot Doug Kerr. This was July 1944.
DK: Just, just for the recording.
DB: Yeah.
DK: That’s Kerr. K E R R.
DB: K E R R. Yes.
DK: Dg Kerr.
DB: The navigator was Alec Marshall.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And then that was the bomb aimer. Jerry Lowe.
DK: Jerry Lowe. Yeah.
DB: The wireless operator was Mel Magee. And these, these were the two gunners.
DK: So the two gunners.
DB: Yeah.
DK: The mid-upper gunner was?
DB: Vic Hewitt.
DK: Vic Hewitt.
DB: Yeah. And Wally Hearn.
DK: Wally Hearn.
DB: Yeah.
DK: That was the rear gunner.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. So I only found this the other day.
DK: Wow.
DB: So that was quite interesting.
DK: That’s superb that.
DB: I think, I think it just goes on to all sorts. Well, I think there’s another one here. This is with the crew.
DK: Right.
DB: That’s me there. And this was another part there. This is the —
DK: That’s the Halifax in the background there, isn’t it?
DB: That’s right.
DK: This was the Heavy Conversion Unit at Marston Moor.
DB: Yeah. That’s right.
DK: The Heavy Conversion Unit at Marston Moor.
DB: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: I’m just saying this loudly for the recording.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Oh wow.
DB: So, and then the, you were at Heavy Conversion Unit for, well I was the lucky one. I had already had experience of the Halifax and they hadn’t you see.
DK: No. So what had they trained on then before?
DB: Well, they were, on Operational Training Unit was on Wellington aircraft.
DK: Right.
DB: And so there was six of them in the Wellington. Training. And I just didn’t go into Wellingtons at all. I went straight on to the, where the flight engineer had to be you see. Yeah.
DK: So was it the Heavy Conversion unit then the first time you actually flew?
DB: Yeah. Yes. And I was flying with, with well the trainee flight engineer people.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. And it was quite a hectic course you know because you were then taught how you had to handle the four-engine aircraft. Eight petrol tanks and all the, everything the flight engineer should know basically. So it was, it was quite a course. And then I, the rest had done ordinary flying but they hadn’t flown in a Halifax before.
DK: Yeah.
DB: So we had a trainee. An instructor for the pilot.
DK: Yeah.
DB: But nobody was with me. I was, I was on my own.
DK: You were on your own.
DB: Right from the word go.
DK: So how did you feel then when you had your first take off in a Halifax?
DB: Well, I had done.
DK: Yeah. Done it before. Yeah.
DB: I’d done plenty of flying before.
DK: Yeah.
DB: With, with the instructors.
DK: Yeah.
DB: So, so I did, you know but that time well I was I had to know it all, you know. And, and then the first time I flew with the crew I mean the, the rest of them they didn’t know what the flight engineer was for or anything particularly.
DK: Yeah.
DB: So that was when we started to form as a complete crew.
DK: Right.
OJ: And was that still when you were eighteen?
DB: Yes. I was. No. I was nineteen.
OJ: So you were nineteen then.
DK: Nineteen now.
DB: Nineteen.
OJ: Flying a plane at nineteen.
DB: No. I was nineteen by then. Yeah. Yeah.
OJ: Gosh.
DK: So your pilot then was quite, for most of the pilots quite a bit older then if he was in his thirties.
DB: Yeah. They called him pop.
DK: Yeah.
DB: He was naturally —
DK: The old man of thirty.
DB: Naturally grey haired.
DK: Yeah.
DB: But he was, he was a wonderful character. Extremely good and we, you know while we were at Heavy Conversion Unit we learned our business really. What it all meant.
DK: So at Heavy Conversion Unit what were you doing? Were you going on cross country flights?
DB: Oh yes. We were doing day flights. Night flights.
DK: Yeah.
DB: The lot. And even one, one was dropping leaflets over enemy territory. Not, not anything too serious but in the end it counted as our first op.
DK: Right. Right. So your first operation was from the Heavy Conversion Unit.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. And then of course what happened after we finished at Heavy Conversion Unit which I think it was August ’44 we then went to [pause] well, Holme on Spalding Moor.
DK: Right.
DB: Which was the 76 Squadron base. Previously 76 Squadron were in [pause] I said the name of the [pause] but it’s a famous —
DK: Linton on Ouse.
DB: Linton on Ouse.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And the famous one there was Leonard Cheshire you see.
DK: Yeah.
DB: So we were we were quite a famous Squadron because of him.
DK: You didn’t meet Cheshire there then?
DB: No. But at Holme on Spalding Moor, in the Memorial Gardens there is a special thing for him.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. That’s at Holme on Spalding Moor.
DK: Right.
DB: No. We never met him because by that time when I was flying he was, he was in the Pathfinder.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Pathfinder Force. And, and of course as you know he was in the crew that dropped the atom bomb.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: And I think that was what made him do the work he did afterwards. So we then went to the Squadron and in pretty rapid time we, we did our first operation.
DK: Right.
DB: Which I think I —
OJ: One of these.
DK: The logbook.
DB: The logbook.
OJ: That.
DB: That’s the one. I think it was [pause] it was August I think if my memory is right.
[pause]
DB: 17th of August.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And these, these were the sort of —
DK: Right.
DB: Before. And that was our first operation on the 27th —
DK: So is that first op?
DB: So we were there say from the 7th, after about a week.
DK: Is this a week?
DB: No. I’ve, this is when I was just flying as the engineer.
DK: Right.
DB: No crew.
DK: So just for the recording then —
DB: Yeah.
DK: When you were at the Heavy Conversion Unit you were flying Halifax 2s and 5s.
DB: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: And they were with the Merlin engines.
DB: Yeah. They were.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. And then we went to the radial engines. So this is when I, my own crew, there’s the Marston Moor.
DK: So just for the recording again.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: It’s 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit at Marston Moor.
DB: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And, you know this is where I was learning my stuff. Second engineer.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Every time. And I flew with those people there. And then this was when I started doing the real, real —
DK: With your crew.
DB: Real. Yeah.
DK: So that’s between the 4th of July ’44.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And the 7th of August ’44.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Oh, no. Carry on. It’s the 12th. It’s the 12th, the 12th of August.
DB: Right through to that, yeah. We did about sixty one hours one way and another.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: In the Heavy Conversion Unit and they counted that one as an op you see.
DK: So your first operation then was the French coast.
DB: Yeah. 12th of August. Yeah.
DK: A bullseye.
DB: We were dropping leaflets and stuff like that.
DK: So that’s referred to as a bullseye.
DB: Yes. Yeah.
DK: This one.
DB: Yeah. It —
DK: Ok.
DB: And then this is when the real —
DK: Right.
DB: This is when we converted to the Halifax 3 so we had —
DK: With the radial engines.
DB: Yeah. You know, those first parts were basically learning.
DK: Yeah.
DB: With the radial engines.
DK: Did you find much of a difference between the Merlin-engined Halifax and the Bristol Hercules?
DB: No. Not really. The basics were the same as far as the flight engineer was concerned. I mean our main responsibility was looking after the fuel and keeping the balance of the aircraft right. So we were, we were, well I was always pleased. There was always plenty to do. You know.
DK: So that —
DB: Yeah.
DK: So the fuel systems were similar.
DB: In both.
DK: In both aircraft.
DB: Yes. Yeah. It was just the engines that were different.
DK: Yeah.
DB: There has always been an argument that the best aircraft of all was the Lancaster with radial engines. The Lancaster 2.
DK: 2, yeah.
DB: But well I noticed even last night they kept mentioning the Lancaster all the time and, but it’s the, it’s one of those funny things. It was the Spitfire all last night. No mention of the Hurricane, you know.
DK: The Hurricane. Yeah. Yeah.
DB: This always upsets us a little bit.
DK: Yeah. I’m not surprised.
DB: But that’s the way it goes and then —
DK: So you joined 76 Squadron on the 17th of August ’44.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: And you’re flying your first operation on 25th of August ’44.
DB: Yeah. And that was —
DK: So that was an operation to Watten.
DB: Yeah. That was the, this was the V-1. The V-1 unit.
DK: I’ll spell that for the recording.
DB: That’s in Calais.
DK: That’s W A T T E N.
DB: Yeah. Watten. And, and that was, in fact you’ll notice it was in daylight, which was most unusual and they always say the first one is, is can be fatal. A lot of people went on their first op and this was quite hairy. We, in my diary we saw three aircraft shot down and we were hit by anti-aircraft fire and we lost an engine. So that was a good start, you know. And anyway we survived it and —
DK: So you came back on just three engines.
DB: Three engines. Yeah. And of course when we got back, when you land damaged it’s the pilot and myself with the ground crew and it was quite frightening, you know. What we saw there. But I’ve never forgotten what my pilot said. He said, ‘Well, one thing I’m pleased about is, we all did what we had to do.’ And I’ve never forgotten that.
DK: Yeah.
DB: But that was really what crews were all about.
DK: Yeah.
DB: So, so it was a good baptism in a way.
DK: Did you find that because of that danger you kind of bonded then as a crew? If you’re doing your, your part.
DB: Well, it did, it did a lot of good. Yes. I mean we all got to know each other reasonably well but not, not in, not in actual duties like that.
DK: Yeah.
DB: So, yes it did do a lot of good because it paid off, you know.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah.
OJ: And you were saying three planes got shot down. Were you the only ones that came back? Or how many others? How many others went out on that?
DB: Well, we didn’t lose any in our Squadron but there were three we saw shot down.
DK: From other Squadrons.
DB: We had to take evasive action when we lost an engine. Well, I mean it momentrally things aren’t right. You know.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And you know I’m, I’m saying to the pilot, ‘Feather the engine,’ and he does what he has to do but of course we’re taking evasive action as well and we found ourselves going over Dunkirk and I think I’ve mentioned that in the diary and we saw another one shot down there and so we were lucky.
DK: Yeah.
DB: We survived it. The first one.
DK: And that was flak that damaged the engine.
DB: Oh yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. I mean it was very, I mean they were heavily defended those V-1 sites and this was when it was really at its peak. The V-1s. And we did a lot of, a lot of French flying in those early stages. Yeah.
DK: So, obviously it’s just after D-Day, isn’t it, so?
DB: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: So your, so your next operation then was two days later. The 27th of August.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And that was to —
DB: And that was a place called Homburg. Yeah.
DK: Homburg. Homburg.
DB: And again that was a daylight one as well. And then you’re, there are all sorts of things here. There was Le Havre, look. We went there.
DK: So, Le Havre on the 10th of September.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. I’ll just read these out for the recording.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So the 10th September Le Havre. 15th of September Kiel.
DB: Yeah. That was the first German one. Yeah.
DK: 20th of September Calais.
DB: Yeah.
DK: 23rd of September Neuss. Near Dusseldorf.
DB: Yeah. Near Dusseldorf. Yeah.
DK: Near Dusseldorf. That’s N E U S S.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Then where are we? 25th of September.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Calais.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And then 26th of September Calais again.
DB: Yeah. So it was quite, quite a busy month one way and another. Yeah.
OJ: Can I just take a look at [unclear]
DB: Yeah. And then we go in to sort of October.
DK: Ok.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Can I read those out for the recording?
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So 7th of October was Kleve. 9th of October — Bochum. 14th of October — Duisburg. 15th October — Wilhelmshaven. 25th of October — Essen. 28th of October — Westkapelle.
DB: Yeah. Its Walcheren Island.
DK: Walcheren Island. Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: And then 30th of October — Cologne.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And then the 31st of October — Cologne again.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And those, those were all at night then were they?
DB: No. Where it’s in red they were at night.
DK: Oh right. Sorry. Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. So it was pretty hectic going. And then November.
DK: So, November then.
DB: Yeah.
DK: 2nd of November — Dusseldorf.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Another back there. 6th of November — Gelsenkirchen. 16th of November — Munster.
DB: Yeah.
DK: 21st of November Sterkrade. S T.
DB: Sterkrade.
DK: Sterkrade.
DB: Yeah.
DK: S T E R K A E E and then 29th of November — Essen.
DB: Yeah.
DK: I’ll get back to those in a moment.
DB: Yeah.
DK: So what was, what was it like then? Operations actually over Germany?
DB: Well, all, they were always heavy flak. You were lucky if you didn’t get anti-aircraft fire and, of course it always looks a lot worse at night. Although having said that that first operation we did where we lost an engine it wasn’t much fun in daylight when when, when you’re under a lot of pressure. The main problem at night was, I mean I think there was one of those, I think it was one of the Cologne ones where we were the thousand aircraft and the mind boggles. A thousand aircraft over the target in twenty minutes.
DK: Yeah.
DB: You know, its —
DK: Could you, could you actually see much at night though from your aircraft?
DB: Well, at night time there were no lights on or anything like that. In daylight sometimes you were supposed to be flying at say twenty thousand feet and sometimes the aircraft couldn’t get up to that. Not necessarily your own. So you could have some below that if the aircraft wasn’t as good as, we were lucky. We had fairly new aircraft. These Halifax 3s. So sometimes we seemed to be above but it was not much fun if they opened the bomb doors.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And a lot of that happened of course and hit aircraft below them. So none of the German targets were, were easy, you, you, because the fighter force was pretty engaged at that stage, you know. So there was very seldom. It was either heavy anti-aircraft fire and of course where the fighters were concerned they tend to come up underneath you.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. They were, they were quite good.
DK: Can you recall actually seeing any German fighters?
DB: Oh yeah. We were hit by one. I’d have to look in my diary —
DK: Yeah.
DB: To see which one it was but we, we were attacked by a night, a Junkers 88. In fact, if you go in there.
OJ: Do you want me to have a look with me?
DB: What are we up to?
DK: Up to 29th of November.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. If you —
OJ: That’s December.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. I can’t remember. It’s in the diary.
OJ: November the 18th or was it November the —
DB: Well —
DK: Would it be in the logbook somewhere?
DB: Yeah. It’s in the, no it wouldn’t be in the logbook I don’t think.
DK: [unclear] ok.
OJ: That’s in to November.
DB: If you can —
DB: That’s November 6th
DK: Oh, here we go. It is in the logbook actually. 12th of January 1945. Attacked by Junkers 88.
DB: Oh, yeah. Yeah. That’s right. That’s when it gets [laughs] Yeah. Well, that’s good I put it in there. Hanover. Yeah. I thought. I said Cologne didn’t I? So that was pretty, pretty you know it was mainly German targets and it was about that time when we, you know a tour of operations was thirty.
DK: Right.
DB: But the weather was so bad and I really genuinely mean that. Terrible the weather was. And we took off sometimes when, when we shouldn’t have done one way and another. And, and we the weather, the weather was so, so bad that what they did instead of doing thirty they brought in a points system. So you had three points for French targets, four points for German targets and because of that instead of doing thirty we ended up doing thirty eight, you see. And this was all because of the bad weather. The replacement crews couldn’t come in. And if you look at the last eight that we did and you’ve got to remember psychologically we’d got away with it —
DK: Yeah.
DB: For the thirty. And this coincided with the Ardennes Offensive and we, that was, you know that was before we’d done thirty. When the Ardennes Offensive was on. We went to a place called St Vith, and it was, we were going to take off on the Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and finally took off on Boxing Day because of thick fog. And we took off in thick fog because we had to go to St Vith. It was so critical. This was when the Germans were —
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: Getting the upper hand. And it was, it was very heavily defended but it was a daylight as well and we, I think well we saved the day for them.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Because it was the railway station we took and they were reinforcing.
DK: Right.
DB: Reinforcing the troops.
DK: And that was to support the American troops on the ground was it?
DB: Well, yes.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: And it was very difficult. And when we got, when we were going back we still couldn’t land at Holme on Spalding Moor because the fog was still thick, and so we got diverted to East Fortune and I always remember it. We’d never been to East Fortune. This is in, in Scotland and I, I remember saying to the pilot, ‘There’s no going around again,’ because it was pretty hairy. We were on, we were, you’re not ever quite empty but it was quite serious. Anyway, he was a good pilot and we landed.
DK: So you were down to your last drop of petrol.
DB: Yeah. And in fact we had thirty gallons left. Which is nothing in a four engine aircraft.
DK: No.
DB: And then we went back and the weather was, was, that would be around Christmas time when we did the St Vith one.
DK: Yeah.
DB: When we had to go. Then we got onto the last date and again it was, it was, the weather was unbelievably bad. And this was when the Russians were asking Bomber Command to help them out and because, you know they were winning but they didn’t have the heavy bomber force and we were, we were attacking troop concentrations and everything else. And the trip we did was a place called [pause – pages turning] Let me just get the page. These were the last eight there.
DK: Yeah.
DB: We, we went to, to Böhlen which, we were the diversionary flight for Dresden.
DK: Right. Yes. Yeah.
DB: And it’s only recently I realised that. So look at that flying time. Eight hours twenty minutes you see.
DK: Eight hours twenty minutes in the air.
DB: Yeah. And so sometimes when you’re the diversionary raid that is to draw the fighters away. But it, I don’t think they were expecting it. The Germans. So in a funny sort of way we, we got away with it. Then if you notice the next night, again to help the Russians, eight hours.
DK: To Chemnitz.
DB: Eight hours five minutes again.
DK: Yeah.
DB: So those last ones, this is, I mean we were on borrowed time in my book. But you know you notice there that there’s the thirty eighth one. So the last two were daylight ones.
DK: Right.
DB: So it’s —
DK: So then just go through them. Böhlen was on the, where are we? That was on the 13th of February.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And then Chemnitz on the 14th of February.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And then the last two. 23rd of February — Essen.
DB: Yeah.
DK: 24th February.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Near Dortmund. Kamen.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. That was our last one.
DK: Both daylight.
DB: Then. Yeah.
DK: So what was it like flying daylight at that stage?
DB: Well, the last two were daylight. I mean Essen is always a worry because it was very heavily defended etcetera and they weren’t, I mean the Germans were suffering a bit then with, there wasn’t much fighter opposition towards the end. But funnily enough saying that after I finished flying, I don’t know whether this has been mentioned before but I think it was in April our, our Squadron were badly affected. The Luftwaffe made their last, and they followed the bombing, bombing fleet back to bases and quite a few of my friends they were shot down over, over our own ‘drome. And I think in total we lost about twenty aircraft that night but that was the last fling of the Luftwaffe.
DK: Yeah.
DB: They never gave up.
DK: No. No.
DB: Unbelievable really. So that virtually covers the flying part. But the other thing which is relevant is after I finished flying I became an instructor at Operational Training Units.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And this is where it was Wellington aircraft and it was where my crew trained. All of them. And that, that was interesting. And I think it was in 1946 it was my first time I’d ever been to Southampton and I was nominated to be the air sea rescue officer.
DK: Right.
DB: And the course was at Calshot, near here. And it’s something I’ll never forget because it was about a month’s course and of course you realise what you didn’t know when you were flying. But on the, towards the end of the course we were all told we were going to have some very important visitors, and it was McIndoe’s.
DK: Right.
DB: The famous surgeon.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: And what he’d arranged is we were all aircrew on this course, and this was part of his mental treatment and we were told, each one had a gorgeous nurse with him, and I think it was a coachload that came. And I’ll never forget it as long as I live. It’s very difficult talking to people who haven’t got a face basically. But they were talking as, as if they because that was his secret. He said, ‘You’re no different now than you were before.’
DK: Yeah.
DB: And mentally he’d got them and they were conversing and of course it was very clever, with other aircrew. You know. And it was very upsetting for all of us.
DK: Yeah.
DB: As you can imagine. But that was something which is very relevant to the flying.
DK: Did he —
DB: To experience that.
DK: Until that time then it hadn’t really crossed your mind about what could happen then and the dangers and the fires and whatever.
DB: Well —
OJ: Did you kind of not think about it?
DB: I think it’s it —
OJ: Yeah.
DB: I think its [pause] yeah.
DK: [unclear]
DB: Of course we’d lost, we’d lost crews.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And funnily enough it was only just recently — three aircraft were lost and in three cases they were sharing our billet. The crew.
DK: Right.
DB: And that’s pretty awful you know but you’ve got to remember they weren’t dead. They were missing.
DK: Right.
DB: I know now what’s happened to them but you didn’t know. So it is very difficult to [pause] I think it’s because you think it’s never going to happen to me, but it comes pretty near to it when you’re asked to leave the billet and then they collect all their belongings.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And the same night there’s a new crew in.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. It’s very very difficult to comprehend that sort of thing.
DK: How did you get on with the new crew when they came in? Did you, was it more difficult to make friends with them then?
DB: Well, no. No. Well, you were just aircrew.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: And, and I mean they were always in awe of us if, particularly when we’d done about twenty five. They always reckoned if you could get to twenty you stood a chance.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Did you find then, did you feel you were more confident then, the more operations you did?
DB: Well, now it’s very, yes you’re more confident as a crew. Yeah. Because you knew each other inside out.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Sort of thing. But I wouldn’t say you were any more confident because it might be your turn.
DK: Yeah.
DB: You know. And I always felt sorry for the ones who had done twenty plus and then went missing.
DK: Yeah.
DB: That sort of thing. And the worst ones for us were that last eight. And look, look where they were. You know. So that made it worse.
DK: Can I just take you back to, as I say this is the 5th of January 1945.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And this is Hanover and you’re attacked by a Junkers 88.
OJ: That’s Jan 14th.
DB: Yeah.
DK: So you’re in Halifax 3 NA218.
DB: Yeah. What date was that?
DK: It was the 5th of January. January 1945.
DB: 5th of January.
OJ: That’s Jan 14 —
DB: Yeah. Here we are. Yeah. Hanover. Yeah.
DK: Do you do you want to read it out?
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yes, I will do.
DK: Yeah.
DB: “Tonight our target was Hanover. This was a trip on which we were over enemy territory for quite a long while. Everything was ok until we started our run up.” That’s to the target. “A Junkers 88 attacked us from a head on position and slightly below and raked us with machine gun and cannon fire. It was shaky for a minute or so and we were hit but nothing vital had been put out of action. On return we found damage to the wings, fuselage and starboard rudder. In places it was just like a pepper pot. When one shell went right through the starboard inner air intake but by some chance it never hit the propeller. We considered ourselves very lucky as nobody was hurt. The flak was moderate at the target and we dropped our eight and a half thousand pounds of bombs through cloud.” So it, but one remarkable thing was I sat behind the pilot and, and the bullets, we heard them, you know. They were that close. And the pilot was just a slight bullet —
DK: Grazed.
DB: Grazed.
DK: Grazed. Yeah.
DB: So that was how close it was.
DK: Yeah. And that was in his neck.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: That was how close it was. But of course we didn’t know that ‘til, in fact he didn’t really know it until we got back that he was bleeding a bit, you know. But that was a bit shaky because again you had to take evasive action and if my memory is right we went down from about twenty something thousand feet to about ten thousand feet taking evasive action. And of course at the end of that you don’t know quite where, where you are and the navigator eventually gave a course and it, it turned out to be a reciprocal course which is easily, easy to do. But fortunately one of the gunners said, ‘I think we’re going the wrong way,’ [laughs] and [pause] it wasn’t a joke at the time.
DK: Yeah.
DB: But we, we successfully, that’s why you know, you rely a hundred percent on your crew and it was all put to right in no time at all. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And of course I come into my own when, something like, because sometimes what I think it was on that particular one we couldn’t make contact with the rear gunner and that was my job. I was the roaming one, you know.
DK: Right. Yeah.
DB: And had to go. But everything was alright you know. But so it was tricky. Yeah.
DK: So when you can’t hear anything from the rear gunner what do you have to do?
DB: Well, I just go down and I’ve still got, you know I’ve got all my equipment including the intercom and all that and when I, when I got down there I think in in the excitement he’d obviously taken evasive action and his thing had just come out.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. So it was nothing to worry about.
DK: Right.
DB: But it wasn’t easy. I had to go up and down the plane a few times because once we had [pause] well, it could have been quite serious. We, we, you know when the bombs have gone and on this particular one there was one sticking. And that’s again, I have to be the one who goes down to the bomb bays and in this case it wasn’t noticeable at all. And then, also to make certain that all the bombs have gone when you get over the Channel on the way back you open the bomb doors again and, everything all right. The next morning, ‘Will Flying Officer Kerr and Flight Sergeant Beasley report to the commanding officer’s, immediately.’ And we didn’t know what it was for. And this this was when this thousand pound bomb had, was somehow icebound or, or I don’t know what it was. And of course after we’d you know opened the bomb doors and everything else and of course what happens is when you landed at night they don’t open the bomb doors ‘til the morning.
DK: Right.
DB: And the ground crew immediately spotted this.
DK: So the thousand pound bomb was still in the bomb bay the next morning.
DB: Yeah. It was hanging loose.
DK: Loose.
DB: And of course, I mean we, you know you’re not quite on Christian name terms with the commanding officer but he’s a pilot like.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Like an aircrew like yourself and he said, ‘Well, I can’t say you’re inefficient,’ he said, ‘Because you’ve done —’ I think it was about twenty odd ops we’d done. And he said, ‘These things happen.’ But it was a bit disconcerting you know.
DK: So you wouldn’t have known. Well, you didn’t know you were landing with a bomb on board.
DB: Yeah. Well, we landed with a loose con. Yeah. Yeah. Or probably that loosened it but it certainly wasn’t visual to spot it.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. So how did you visually see the bombs? Was there something you looked down.
DB: Well first of all the bomb bay was open and then you get a pretty good view. You knew where the bombs were.
DK: Right.
DB: Supposed to be. It wasn’t easy. It was quite easy to make a mistake and the saving grace was always opening your bomb doors over the ocean.
DK: So if there were any hung up they’d drop.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: They, and we never, we’ll never know to this day what the real story was but we ended up with one loose one in the bomb bay.
DK: I bet that gave the ground crew a bit of a shock the next morning.
DB: Well, they were very nice about it because [laughs] because you know what anybody says the ground crews were unbelievable.
OJ: Did you have —
DB: There’s no other word for it.
OJ: Different ground crew or was it the same one each time?
DB: Oh, it was the same one all the time.
OJ: So you had a really good relationship with them.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. And of course when you finished your tour of operations it’s a real, real good booze up. All. Everybody. Yeah.
DK: As, as the flight engineer then did you have to, did you want to know all about the mechanics of the aircraft? So did you talk closely —
DB: Oh yeah.
DK: To the ground crew about what they were doing?
DB: Oh yeah. I had a working knowledge of everything.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. So as they were working on something you would know about it.
DB: Yeah. What happened was if there was something wrong with the aircraft it was the pilot, myself and one of the ground crew who, who went up. You know. You’d see in my logbook it’s quite often that we, when we were having the aircraft tested.
DK: Right.
DB: And no, they, I, I always felt well one of my friends from the Squadron now he was ground crew and they had one night when the, when their, when the plane didn’t come back and he was, he was making the comment, he said ‘We always wonder where it was something we hadn’t done,’ you know. That was the relationship between them.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And it must be very upsetting.
DK: That must be difficult for him. That —
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: He was thinking had you done something wrong.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So your, the crew itself did you used to socialise with them at all? Did you?
DB: Oh yes. We went everywhere.
DK: What did you used to do off duty?
DB: There are photographs.
DK: Yeah.
DB: I think in there somewhere where, where we’re all out, I don’t know I think it’s in this one but —
OJ: On the razzle [laughs]
DK: On the razzle [laughs] in pubs and things.
DB: No. But we were, we were socially I don’t think it’s in yeah there’s, there’s where we were fumigating the billet at seventy —
DK: Right.
DB: So, that’s when we first arrived there. And they were nissen huts. I never lived in anything other than nissen huts.
DK: So, what, what were you actually fumigating for then? Because there would be —
DB: Well, because it was a nissen hut which, which was awful.
DK: Right. Yeah.
DB: Yeah. It looked awful. Yeah.
DK: Nasty bugs in there.
DB: And they were very cold.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. Yeah, and so, you know all the crew were —
DK: So there was nasty bugs in there was there?
DB: That’s right. Yeah. You know. There’s where we were out on the river.
DK: Oh wow.
DB: Having a —
DK: So just for the recording its —
DB: Yeah. We all, we all —
DK: You’re off duty at Knaresborough.
DB: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: And that’s July 1944. So you’re in a boat there are you? A rowing boat.
DB: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: Are you there?
DB: I’d be there somewhere. Unless it was me took the photograph.
DK: The photo.
DB: Oh. There’s me there.
DK: Oh, right. Ok.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. But so we we were always together and —
DK: Can I?
DB: The other remarkable thing about it was we, we and you will probably find this goes on we had six, seven days leave every six weeks.
DK: Right.
DB: When we were flying. And the bomb aimer and the wireless operator they always came to our house. We lived in Welwyn Garden City then, and they always came to our house and my sister was only talking about it the other day. She was fourteen at the time I think, and she said the wireless operator as soon as he came in he’d put his photographs up on the mantlepiece. He said, ‘I’m in a home now,’ you know. And she remembered this, these things very vividly.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. And my father always enjoyed them turning up because with them being Canadians they had all sorts of goodies. And it was funny. Our crew. It’s most remarkable. Three, three didn’t drink, and four didn’t smoke. Including myself. That was most unusual then, you know.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: Most unusual. So my father did very well with cigarettes. Yeah.
DK: So where would you go on your off duty times then? Where did you used to go on your off duty times then?
DB: Well, mainly York.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. Because York, when we had a stand down it was York where we mainly went to. Sometimes we went to Goole. And Market Weighton was another place near. And the village. The village was quite good at Holme on Spalding Moor. There was a very good pub there. In fact, when we have our reunions we still go there.
DK: You go there. To the same pub.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. And, and it’s still a good pub.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Oh right.
DB: Yeah.
DK: If I could just go through the log book again.
DB: Yeah, by all means.
DK: Just to say. I think we got up to the 31st of October didn’t we?
DB: Yeah.
DK: Oh no we didn’t we got to November here. So just for the recording again then so just carrying on the 17th of December ’44, Duisburg. 26th of December it’s —
DB: That was, yeah that was the Ardennes Offensive one.
DK: The Ardennes Offensive.
DB: Yeah.
DK: So, the 29th of December — Koblenz. 30th of December — Cologne. 1st of January 1945 — Dortmund. 5th of January — Hanover where we know you were attacked.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: By the Junkers 88. So the 14th of January Saarbrucken. I’ll just whizz through these if you don’t mind. 1st of Feb Mainz, 2nd of Feb Wanne-Eickle.
DB: Wanne-Eickle. Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Bonn. That’s a well-known one.
DK: Yeah. 4th of Feb — Bonn. 7th of Feb — Goch. 13th of Feb —
DB: That’s a long one.
DK: Böhlen.
DB: Yeah.
DB: Böhlen near Leipzig.
DB: Yeah.
DK: In support of the Dresden raid.
DB: Yeah.
DK: 14th of Feb Chemnitz. 20th of Feb near Dusseldorf. 23rd Of Feb — Essen. 24th Of Feb Kamen, and that was the last.
DB: Yeah.
DK: The thirty eighth.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And so, and that’s total flying here. Total. So operational flying hours. That’s your total flying.
DB: Yeah.
DK: So, well that’s seventy nine hours five minutes daylight, and a hundred and twenty two forty night time. That’s a total two hundred and one hours forty five minutes.
DB: That’s pretty, pretty good.
DK: In thirty eight operations.
DB: Yeah. It was quite funny.
DK: Just put that down for the recording.
DB: I’ve never looked at the [pause ] my wife and myself we, we had, in the rubber business we were, and we were going of all place to a rubber conference in Essen.
DK: Right.
DB: And on the way there we, we stopped at a place called Munster. And I [pause] and the cathedral there was badly damaged and they had an arrangement with the Coventry one.
DK: Yes. Yeah.
DB: And I said to my wife that I was flying at that time, and do you know that was the first time I’d looked in my logbook. I fact, I had job to find it. Yeah. And I was on it.
DK: Yeah.
DB: The Munster raid there and it, it was, that was I had been to Germany on business but I’d not been to where I’d been.
DK: On [unclear] yeah. Yeah.
DB: Well, I went to Cologne.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Because they were the main. They were the difficult ones.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Cologne. Essen. Well, they were all difficult but you remembered that you, if Essen came up on the board you weren’t very happy to go there because it was heavily defended you know.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So how did that make you feel then? You were going to Germany on business.
DB: Well, I —
DK: Is it something that was in the back of your mind at the time when you were there?
DB: No. I think the worst was over. You know. When I went, it could have been almost twelve months after the war ended when I I’m talking about.
DK: Yeah.
DB: In fact it could have been longer than that, and things were almost normal back in Germany by then. It was, it was probably later than what —
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. It would have been. It would be in the 1980s. Well, that’s a long time.
DK: A long time afterwards. Yeah.
DB: After the war you see. So things were getting back to normal. But I, I was, you do get brainwashed you know. You hated the Germans and I very much disliked the Japanese because one of the neighbours where we lived in Welwyn Garden City he came back and well just looking at him was enough. Terrible. And but they were brainwashed as well, weren’t they?
DK: Yeah.
DB: So were the Nazis, so, and you can still see it really.
DB2: If I can just intervene a minute.
DB: Yeah.
DB2: We went to the church in in Munster. Or part of the Cathedral. And part of it had been bombed. Was it the entrance? Entrance lobby that had been bombed?
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DB2: And [pause]
DB: Yeah. That was Munster was it? Yeah. I’ve mentioned that.
DB2: Yes. Well, it’s on my mind. Munster.
DB: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah.
DB2: A university town.
DK: Yes. Yeah.
DB2: For two reasons. But it’s a university town and the Cathedral had been bombed.
DK: Yeah.
DB2: Part of it.
DK: Yeah.
DB2: And over the, you know a sign had been put up, “May we forgive each other as He forgives us all.” He.
DK: Yeah.
DB2: The capital H.
DB: Yeah.
DB2: Forgives us all.
DK: Yeah.
DB2: Which I thought was rather beautiful.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yes.
DB2: And the, the students, the university students were some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. Men and women. They were supreme examples of the human race.
DB: Hitler Youth.
DB2: And yes.
DB: Yeah.
DB2: They were obviously the start.
DB: That’s right. I’d forgotten that. Yeah.
DB2: The start. The start of another of Hitler’s dreams you know.
DK: Yeah.
DB2: Yes.
DB: Well, at the end of the war when the war was ending we were warned that the, the main if if you crashed or whatever happened you, if you were picked up by the Luftwaffe you were alright. If you were picked up by the Gestapo you weren’t.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And if you were picked up by the Hitler Youth you weren’t.
DK: Yeah.
DB: They were absolutely brain washed, you know.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And they were fighting right to the end. Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah.
DK: If I could just ask just very briefly what would a raid actually involve? When you got up in the morning what sort of procedures did you go through?
DB: Well, first of all you were warned that we were flying.
DK: Operations were on.
DB: That operation was on. And you didn’t know where you were going of course. And then you, in other words you had you had to be aware that that evening or whatever daylight whatever it was you were flying so you took the suitable precautions and then you were called for briefing.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And we had separate briefings. All, we went to the engineer’s department. The navigation department. We never knew where we were going but we all, and the gunners we were told what the bomb load was and everything else, but we never knew the target until we actually went into the actual briefing. And then sometimes it was, and none of them were good news but some were better than others [laughs] you know.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. So that was basically the procedure.
DK: Yeah. And then you went out to your aircraft at that point.
DB: Oh yes. You went out to your aircraft and of course it [pause] there was a very good article. A book just written. Been written for the, you know with this anniversary.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And he, in the book it says that in the aircraft the main people who were working all the time were the pilot, the flight engineer and the navigator.
DK: Is that the Patrick Bishop book?
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. And I’d never looked at it that way but I was glad because I thought well I was occupied most of the time.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: And I was. The only time I wasn’t occupied was when we were over the target and I was up in the astrodome. But you know all the petrol was right.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Alright, when we lost an engine that gets a bit difficult. But —
DK: Yeah. Was that, on the Halifax I’m not too sure. Whereabouts are you in relation to the pilot?
DB: Yeah. I’m sitting right behind him.
DK: Right behind him. Right.
DB: And the idea behind that and this was the, normally if I’d have been in a Lancaster all the time I’d be sitting next to the pilot you see. But it was very clever in the Lanc, in the Halifax. I was sitting immediately behind him. And the bomb aimer assisted him on take-off, you know. And then there was a clear entrance all the way down the aircraft so that if anything went wrong the crews could get out much easier than they could in the Lancaster, you see.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: It annoyed me a bit last night. I don’t whether you watched.
DK: I did. Yes.
DB: The programme.
DK: Yes.
DB: It annoys me every time. It was Lancaster.
DK: Yeah.
DB: No mention of the Halifax.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And then it went on to Spitfire. No nothing on the Hurricane. And then it went on to, no mention of a Wellington aircraft.
DK: No. No.
DB: Which was a very critical one.
DK: And then when you looking on later our next door neighbour here he flew —
DK: Do you want to just —
DB: And he flew, he flew Victors. Next door. No mention of the Victor. The Vulcan bomber.
DK: Really?
DB: Yeah.
DK: Is that a neighbour who flew Victors then?
DB: One of my neighbours. Yeah.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. My next door neighbour here.
DK: Oh right.
DB: This is, you know after.
DK: Yeah.
DB: But he flew in just as awkward circumstances and it’s always the same. I mean, I’ve nothing against the Lancaster but funny enough it’s been proven that the Halifax was a much more versatile aircraft.
DK: Yeah.
DB: I mean it served on Coastal Command. It took paratroopers.
DK: Pulled gliders.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And it even dropped off spies in various places.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And, and, there was in fact there was an article the other day about the Halifax where one crew they, they were right out in the middle of the Atlantic somewhere and they attacked this U-boat and sunk it, but the U-boat also put the Halifax down and they were, six of them got out and it was somebody local here as it turned out.
DK: Oh right.
DB: They, six of them were in the dinghy for eight days and survived. And how they [pause] they were trying to get, get fish. And when I did this course you know on this air sea rescue the thing, the last, well one of the last days we were there we were in the Solent and they put us in a dinghy at 8 o’clock in the morning. This was in March. And left us. And we were there ‘til it went dark. So that was one day, and then the air sea rescue boat came out and picked us up. And that was enough for me.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: It was enough. I thought to myself how can, but of course you’ve no choice have you if your shot down. Yeah.
DK: I noticed that the TV programme last night didn’t even mention Coastal Command, did it?
DB: No. It didn’t.
DK: And the U-boats that were attacked and all the rest of it.
DB: That’s right. No. It was, it was a good programme but not —
DK: Yeah. The usual suspects.
DB: Yeah.
DK: The Spitfire, the Lancaster and the Vulcan.
DB: And of course the, the thing that annoys us most of all was, was, they had to mention Dresden. You know. That’s automatic. Particularly with the BBC, you know. And that’s unfair as well. And in fact one of the things I did for a friend of mine he, he, he was talking about Dresden and etcetera and the last magazine that came out from Bomber Command was the truth about Dresden. I don’t know whether you’ve read —
DK: Yeah.
DB: The last Bomber Command. And I’d written about the last eight for this friend of mine. And of course we were on that. On the raid indirectly. On the thing.
DK: Yeah. On a diversionary.
DB: And I think this article said they first of all claimed it was three hundred and fifty thousand were killed and in the end, I mean it’s it was a terrible number but it was twenty five thousand, you know.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. But all these do-gooders they don’t understand do they?
DK: No.
DB: But what I like was the Dambusters pilot, err bomb aimer who’s the only one left now.
DK: Yeah.
DB: What’s his name?
DK: Johnny Johnson.
DB: Johnny Johnson. Yeah. His article. He was, he’s fed up with it. I don’t know whether he was on the raid.
DK: Yes. I’ve met him a few times.
DB: Yeah. Well, he always says, ‘Were you there?’
DK: Yeah.
DB: And of course they never were. ‘Did you know the circumstances at the time?’ ‘No.’ ‘Well, keep your bloody mouth shut.’ You know. And, and I thought well I couldn’t put it better myself.
DK: Sums it up doesn’t it?
DB: Yeah. It does. Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Ok. Well that’s great. Just one final question. I think you’ve really answered it there but all these years later how do you look back on your time in Bomber Command?
DB: Well, I’m glad I did what I did. You know. I don’t think I’d want to do anything else.
DK: No.
DB: At all. And I did what I wanted to do which was to serve in Bomber Command.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. So I’ve no regrets at all about it.
DK: Did you stay in touch with your crew after the war?
DB: Well, we did up to a point. In fact, I found, found a letter from the navigator and the wireless operator but with I think the answer is that you want to forget the war when it ends. And the first time I ever thought about it was, it was in the 1980s I think it was, and we’d, we had a place in Spain. In fact, we’ve still got it but we, we were on our way back and we stopped at a hotel. We came in at Plymouth and we stopped in this hotel and there was a fella there who, he had the aircrew [pause] what did they call, they called it the Aircrew Association you see. And I said ‘What’s all that?’ And he, he said, ‘Well, the Aircrew Association’s just been formed.’ And this was in the 1980s you see.
DK: Right. Yeah.
DB: And that was the first time it had ever registered. And I said, ‘Well. I was in the aircrews,’ and I said, ‘How do I apply to get in to the Aircrew Association?’ You see. So he told me how to do it. And they kept saying he was too young that fella [laughs] A nice compliment. So, but anyway I wrote and thanked him so he knew it was genuine, you know.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Because they check you out at the Air Ministry. So and, and so I joined the Aircrew Association and then not long afterwards I got a phone call again saying, ‘We’re now forming the Squadron Association.’
DK: Right.
DB: And that was how the 76 Squadron Association, and this was in the 1980s. So it’s only resurfaced since that.
DK: After then.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Did you leave the RAF soon after the war then?
DB: Yeah. I left in 1947.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. And funnily enough I think I said in what we talked I ended up in Swinderby. That was the last station I was on. And in the Operational Training Unit there.
DK: Right.
DB: So can’t be much nearer to Lincoln can it?
DK: No.
DB: Than that. Yeah. So I know I know Lincoln quite quite well. So I I was thinking of staying in the RAF because I was invited, invited to because anyway the remarkable thing was I’d also heard that the Halifax had been converted. I forget what they called it. The Hastings or something like this, and it, it was commercial flying. And all they needed was a pilot and, and navigator and, and first engineer.
DK: Right. Yeah. Yeah.
DB: Like a second pilot I would have been. So I applied for this job and he said, ‘You’ve got all the qualifications,’ he said, ‘But we can’t appoint you.’ So I said, ‘Why is that?’ He said, ‘You’re not old enough.’ And you had, you had to be twenty four then.
DK: So how old were you at the time?
DB: Twenty two.
DK: So you were twenty two. You’d flown thirty eight operations.
DB: Yeah.
DK: In Halifaxes.
DB: Yeah.
OJ: And how many hours?
DK: Yeah. Well just operational over two hundred and one hours.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And they wouldn’t let you fly the civilian version.
DB: Yeah. They were most embarrassed.
DK: Right.
DB: But that was the rule. The ruling at the time. And funny enough, well I ended up alright anyway but if if I’d have flown with them I’d have eventually ended up with BOAC.
DK: So you could have carried on.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Flying with the airlines.
DB: Funnily enough you know when the Squadron Associations were formed one of my best friends who was in the same flight as I was he knew my pilot extremely well and he went on that, and I told him. And he said, he said, ‘I only just made it, Doug,’ as well. You had to be twenty four. Yeah. Unbelievable.
DK: Absolutely.
DB: Yeah. And I’ve never forgotten that. So I could have carried on flying but I went to the accountancy work.
DK: I think it was the Halton. The civilian version.
DB: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah.
DK: The civilian version of the Halifax.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. So it was quite interesting to be. So —
DK: Bonkers isn’t it?
DB: You talk more about it now than, I mean from 1940, well when I came out let’s say 1950 to 1980 you never really really talked about it. I was in the RAF Association but the only thing I remember there was they did the Dambuster film. 1953. And that was a story in itself really. One of my friends there, all you had to be was in 617 Squadron you see and he didn’t serve on the Dambusters raid but he was in 617 Squadron, and we had another fella who was a member and he said he was on 617 Squadron, you see. So again you had to do it through the Air Ministry and all this.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: And this fella who was the chairman at the time he said, ‘We’ve got a problem, Doug,’ he said, ‘This other fella. He’s never even been in the RAF.
DK: Oh.
DB: So,’ he said, ‘You’ll have to help me out when he comes in.’ So he duly turned up, and this Harry, Harry Nutall his name was, he said, ‘Have you had your invitation yet to the premier of the Dambusters film?’ ‘No. No,’ he said, ‘I can’t understand it.’ So he said, ‘Well, let me tell you something,’ he said, ‘You’re not going to get an invitation. You’ve never been in the RAF.’ And we never saw him again. And it just shows that some —
DK: Yes.
DB: I think they kid themselves to believe it.
DK: Yeah. Walter Mitties. Walter Mitties they’re called.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And I’ve never forgotten that.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And that was the only time really it came to life. Because after that again it all went back.
DK: Yeah.
DB: But now it’s, I mean you know the Bomber Command Memorial in London.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Is quite something isn’t it?
DK: Have you, did you get to the unveiling of that?
DB: Oh yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Well, all the family came to that.
DK: Yeah. I was at that.
DB: That was a memorable moment that. Yeah.
DB2: You couldn’t get him away.
DB: That was quite something wasn’t it?
DB2: Yes.
DB: Yes.
DK: So what are your feelings on the new Memorial then?
DB: Well, I think it’s going to be good. I’m looking forward to seeing it but I’ve made up my mind as well that, you know at one time we, we weren’t going to go to the official one and now I’ve got the feeling well I should go you know.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. Right.
DB: Sort of thing. But I want to go again because this time it’s more important because that Memorial must, must be quite something. To see all those names on.
DK: It is. Yeah.
DB: Yeah. It’s very emotional I should think. Yeah. And funnily enough one of my, one of my, well best pal, in fact I’ve got his, you know looking through this stuff. He flew when it was much more dangerous than I was. He was on the Nuremburg raid.
DK: Right.
DB: And he survived. He survived that and he went to Ceylon afterwards. It just says, “Ceylon Air Force,” and I’ve just found a letter from him where it was dated September the something 1945, and then there’s a note on there. Went missing in October that year. And I am concerned that his name goes on this board.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. Because I’ve got his name, rank and number. He was a warrant officer like I was you know.
DK: So that was, what year was that then?
DB: ’45 when he went missing.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. But he’d served a full tour. Yeah.
DK: But the war had ended though presumably.
DB: Well, yes it had because he was obviously sent to the Far East.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: To carry on there. So he’d started there but he just went I don’t know where.
DK: Yeah.
DB: I never got the detail.
DK: I know this is a bit of an issue at the moment.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Because those on the Memorial are those that served with Bomber Command within the UK.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Those that went to the Far East.
DB: Yeah.
DK: And even the Middle East.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Aren’t included. If that’s where they were.
DB: Yeah. I read that article about that.
DK: Even though they might have served in the UK. I know we’re trying to get around that.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Not get around it. That’s the wrong phrase. But to include them.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. They want to include those that were in both the Middle East flying bombers. And Italy. And then the Far East.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So at some point, all being well he should appear on there.
DB: Yeah.
DK: But not, unfortunately not at the moment.
DB: No.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. because he was serving in the Far East you see.
DK: Can you —
DB: Because we were, we were —
DK: Can you remember his name?
DB: Yeah. I’ve got his, I’ve got his —
OJ: Is it in the office?
DB: Can you just.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Look on the desk in there Tavie. You’ll see a letter in there from him.
DK: Cool.
DB: And his name rank and number is all on there.
DK: Yeah.
DB: He was a warrant officer like I was. He finished his tour of operations. He did the Nuremberg raid so he, he was always about six months to a year ahead of me.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. And he —
DK: They went —
DB: There’s a letter from him which is dated September ’45 and then I heard in October.
DK: Right.
DB: He went.
OJ: He knows exactly what he’s talking about.
DB: His number is on, on here. Everything. Yeah. That’s, I think that’s my, that’s his writing.
DK: Right.
DB: And I think that’s my sister’s writing, but I’ll have to find out. But I think here is his, yeah his full rank and number are on there you see.
DK: Oh right. So —
DB: Yeah.
DK: That’s warrant officer JE Topple.
DB: Topple yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Can you remember what JE stood for?
DB: John. John Topple.
DK: So, he’s, for the recorder he is Warrant Officer John E Topple.
DB: Yeah.
DK: T O P P L E.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Service number 1874884. And he was with 99 Squadron in Ceylon.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
DB: But he’d done a full tour of operations before.
DK: Right.
DB: Yeah. In the UK.
DK: He went missing out there.
DB: Yeah. But you know he was on when it was at its worst.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
DB: So I feel I his mother and my sister were only talking about it the other day. She always thought he’d knock on the door some time, you know. Yeah. But so I don’t know the circumstances but —
DK: No. But he went missing in September 45. Or October.
DB: Yeah. Went missing October the 7th 1945. So —
DK: Right.
DB: I don’t know what he was doing out there particularly.
DK: 99 Squadron then were flying the Liberators out there.
DB: Oh, were they?
DK: So he was on the four engine bombers.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So they stayed in the Far East for quite some time after the war.
DB: Did they? Yeah. Yeah. He was still active service. Well, I was still really until 1947 really. Yeah. Yeah.
DK: That’s even more of an issue actually because it’s actually someone on bombers in the Far East.
DB: Yeah.
DK: After the war has ended.
DB: Yeah. But —
DK: Officially. Though still on active service. Yeah.
DB: Yeah, but he served in. I forget what squadron he was on in the UK.
DK: Right.
DB: But he did a full tour. He did his thirty ops anyway. Yeah.
DK: Well, it’s something, certainly something we need to look into.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. But I feel it’s my duty to, you know. You know.
DK: I know this is you know the Memorial round there and the names on there it is expanding.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Because a lot of the records only showed those who died on operations.
DB: Yeah.
DK: While the aircraft was in flight.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Some of those who died when came back.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Aren’t included.
DB: No. I know that.
DK: So, that’s why some records say fifty five thousand.
DB: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: But our records are showing fifty six thousand.
DB: Yeah.
DK: It’s increasing.
DB: Yeah. I think in our book which is, you know there’s a 76 Squadron book. We’ve got, we’ve got everything in there.
DK: Yeah.
DB: And I know we were about seven hundred. Over seven hundred casualties.
DK: And that’s one Squadron.
DB: One Squadron.
OJ: That’s scary.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Ok. We’ll press on.
DB: Quite a lot of detail as well.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, it’s been good for me to go through everything.
DK: Excellent. It’s been great for me. I’m rather conscious of how long we’ve been but thanks very much for that.
DB: Yeah.
DK: Just for the recording can I just have your name.
OJ: Yeah. I’m Octavia Jackman.
DK: And your grandmother’s name?
OJ: Doreen Beasley.
DK: That’s excellent.
DB: Oh you’re still there.
OJ: I’m still there.
DK: Ok. Well, thanks very much for that. I’ll switch the recording off now.
DB: Yeah.
[recording paused]
DK: So that’s completion of a tour of 76 Squadron. February 1945.
DB: Yeah. Well, that [pause]
DK: So who’s, do you remember who that is there?
DB: Yeah. That’s the, that’s the navigator.
DK: Yeah.
DB: That’s the wireless operator. Pilot. Rear gunner and myself. I don’t know where the other two are on it.
DK: Yeah.
DB: Yeah. But I don’t know where that photograph is now.
DK: Right.
DM: With the —
DK: With the ground crew.
DB: Wait a minute.
OJ: Which one?
DB: I had it’s it’s I did I did find it. Is this some old photographs?
OJ: That’s your whole envelope of photographs. And you’ve got —
DB: Yeah. I think. I think [pause] No. That, that’s 76 Squadron, you know dinners, and all that sort of thing. But there is one somewhere of, of all the ground crew as well.
DK: Yes. It’s unfortunate it’s not in the album isn’t it?
DB: Oh, wait a minute. I’ll tell you where it is. It’s in my other room.
OJ: Do you want me to go up?
DB: It’s in there isn’t it.

Collection

Citation

David Kavanagh, “Interview with Doug Beasley,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 2, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/10101.

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