Interview with Stanley Bradford

Title

Interview with Stanley Bradford

Description

Stanley Bradford was working in a Reserved Occupation until he volunteered. The three services were represented but as he approached them in turn the army and navy both rejected him because of his work. The RAF said that since he was in Reserved Occupation he could only join as a volunteer for aircrew. He duly volunteered and began training as an air gunner. He went on to shoot down five aircraft and was awarded the DFM. He was injured on one operation and as a result of the pilot’s rapid descent to help him Stan also suffered a burst eardrum. After one operation their flight engineer had a breakdown and was replaced by another engineer whose crew had been shot down. Flying over Sweden they found themselves escorted by the Swedes and also guided by a searchlight beam towards home. On another occasion they came under attack from anti-aircraft fire from the Channel Islands when their navigation equipment was damaged. They were met and escorted home by a Typhoon from RAF Exeter.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-10-31

Contributor

Julie Williams

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

01:03:52 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ABradfordS161031

Transcription

CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today I’m in Abingdon with Stan Bradford DFM and we’ve just been to the Remembrance celebration in the centre of the town. And Stan was a mid-upper gunner and we’re going to talk about some extra items that have come out of the earlier part of the interview done by Matt Ashamall. So the first one that was intriguing I thought Stan was how you came to join the RAF. Because of when you were going in your truck.
SB: Yeah.
CB: To Blackpool. You thought you’d —
SB: Yes.
CB: Go into the Recruiting Office. So just talk us through that could you?
SB: Well, from what I remember it my foreman where I was an apprentice his name was Ervyn Jagger. And since the war I’ve been in management myself and one of the big things I felt I had to look at was his style of man management. And his man management was absolutely deploring. Now, our job. We were in a Reserved Occupation and our job was to repair fighting vehicles such as coaches that transported troops from station to station. If they had been involved in an accident we had to repair them and then deliver them to the old, back to the owners. And one particular day I was with a guy and he was an Irishman, his name was Mick Jagger. That was a good for you. Now, Mick was wonderful. But Ervyn Jagger, the foreman he came up to Mick. He said, ‘Mick. I’m going to take your lad off you.’ Which was me. And he said, ‘He’s big enough. And now the restrictions are lifted where you don’t need a driving test anymore,’ he said, ‘And I want him to take a Seagull coaches to Blackpool. Having repaired it now we’ll take it to Blackpool.’ And it annoyed me in so much that I was with Mick as a lad and I was doing pretty good. And it seemed to me that he was determined to stop me being so good because he had his favourites in the department. However, I got in the bus and we had to go through, I mean you will all have heard of Wigan Pier. And close to Wigan Pier we went through with this bus. And I thought, ‘Bugger. I’m going to go in the forces.’ My mates are in there that was in the village. It was a small village called Astley that had about a couple of hundred people and the local industry was a coal mine. However, I thought I’m going to have a go. So I went to the army guy and I said, ‘Can I recruit? Join the army.’ ‘Oh come in,’ you know, ‘We’ll take you on.’ Of course once he knew I was an apprentice he said, ‘No chance.’ He said, ‘You’re an apprentice in a Reserved Occupation. So,’ he said, ‘No chance.’ Well, for reasons best known to the service people there were three in a line. The army, the navy, the air force. So I’m now with the navy. So I went to the navy. And the navy bloke said, ‘Yeah. Come in.’ Once he started, Reserved Occupation, out you go. They wouldn’t have me. I thought well I’ll just as well fix the three up. I’ll go to the air force. And the sergeant in there said, ‘Yeah. We’ll have you. But,’ he said, ‘There’s only one place you’re going to be,’ he said, ‘Because I heard you talking about the guy down the street that you’ve been in a Reserved Occupation.’ I said, ‘Exactly.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘The only chance you’ve got of coming in to the air force,’ he said, ‘Is you go in aircrew.’ I said, ‘That’s alright. Put me down for aircrew.’ So off I went quite happily. Signed. And delivered the coach and then come back to my works where I was apprentice. Went home in the evening. I said, ‘Mum and dad, I’ve been and joined the services.’ My dad said, ‘What you done?’ I said, ‘I’ve joined the air force. In aircrew.’ He said, ‘What?’ he said, ‘Bloody nancy boys.’ [laughs] I said, ‘I’m afraid so, dad.’ Of course he had his say and it wasn’t very pleasant because he was a regimental sergeant major in the army in the First World War. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘You’ve done it. There’s nothing we can do.’ Within five days I had to go to a place which wasn’t too far from home called RAF Padgate. And there they did an attestation. So we had to sit an exam. Did we have a brain? We had an examination. Then we had a medical examination. A colour test. Make sure that we weren’t colour blinded because to get in aircrew you had to be spot on. Your hearing. And when they’d finished with you you could guarantee that you are a fit man. And from there within, we went home, and within less than a week I was in and back to Padgate. And I’ll always remember a funny story at Padgate. I said to the corporal who was in charge, we went to a wrestling match which they put on for the troops and this corporal, I said to this corporal, ‘Is there any chance of me going home?’ I said, ‘I only live just up the road.’ ‘Just the bloke we’re looking for. So what would I ended up? I was an usher ushering people to their seats. So, I didn’t get my chance to go home. And from there we went off to Lords Cricket Ground. So that was —
CB: Yeah.
SB: When I, why I joined.
CB: Fantastic. Thank you very much. Now, in the process of your flying you were very successful in engaging aircraft. So, I wondered if we could just take a sequence out of the overall sequence of your kills and because yours is a very unusual situation and it would be really useful to be able to hear how this progressed because some of the people I’ve interviewed never even shot at an aircraft let alone shot it down. So your first engagement was what?
SB: We were on the way to Nuremberg. And sitting up in the mid-upper turret you’d got a damned good view of proceedings and I happened to spot, when I was traversing the mid-upper turret [pause] a Lancaster blown up. And I thought Christ. I kept my eye on him. It was a 109. I kept my eye on him and I thought he appears to be swooping around towards us. And I thought extra alert on to him. So, I said to my pilot, told him there was enemy aircraft on our starboard beam. And astern and starboard beam is back of us. And lo and behold yes he was coming towards us. Well, one of the things in our training we had to know the aircraft that was we were engaging. We had to know it’s wing span. We had to know its speed. We had to know everything there was to know about who was coming so we could line him up in our sights and this 109 was coming towards us. And I thought right. I put my sights on him. Frightened to death. I watched him until he got within shooting range and then I gave him a burst. And hey presto I was lucky. I hit him and caught him straight in the engine and down he went. And I watched him go. I shouldn’t have done it but I did it. I watched him go down. We’re not supposed to look down at all. So, I watched him going down. And in between this what I told the pilot to, ‘Dive to port. Go.’ Now, a pilot never moved until the gunner said to him, Prepare to dive to port.’ And he always waited for the word, ‘Go.’ And you can imagine the suspense between the two of us. Him waiting for me and me waiting for him to [laughs] It was a little bit frightening but I did it. I did it.
CB: So you shot it down. So the idea of then going the opposite way. In other words to port, to the left was to get out of the way.
SB: Dive away from him coming in. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Because he might have got you himself even.
SB: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Right. Ok. So which operation was that? Was that one of your early —
SB: That was the very first.
CB: Very first. Right.
SB: Very first. From Scampton.
CB: Right.
SB: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: And the second kill. What was that?
SB: The second kill. Our rear gunner, he reported enemy aircraft astern of us and again he gave the pilot order what he wanted. I believe it was again dive starboard. And naturally it drew my attention to that situation. And Chick hit him. He fired at him. He hit him but he didn’t put him down. And I looked over as he went underneath us. I looked over and I thought well I’ve got to help him on his way. So, I belted him and he went down.
CB: What was that?
SB: I believe it was a Focke Wulf 190. And that was very close to the target. Nuremberg. Now, during this time obviously they the Focke Wulf in particular he shot at us and wounded us and he destroyed our navigational equipment. So, basically we come out the target the other end and we were lost. Ron, our pilot, he never kept anything from us. He always informed us of what was happening and he said, ‘Well, lads,’ he said, ‘You’ve done a good job getting rid of that lot. Now,’ he said, ‘We’ve got a problem. We’re bloody lost.’ However, this, what this did this brought in our navigator. He had what they called in those days a sextant. And this sextant it was taken from what they called the astrodome where the spare man, in this case it was our wireless operator in the target area looking for enemy aircraft to inform us if there was one about. But he relinquished the role and let the navigator go in there firing the sextant at the stars to get a fix. Where were we and whatever. And Tony got, Tony West his name was, he got a fix alright. And he seemed to get us somewhere near but we were all alone. By this time one of the engines had gone. We had three. And later on in the trip after probably maybe an hour, two hours we came out and Tony. He said, ‘I’ve got a feeling now, Skipper,’ he said, ‘We’re over the sea.’ He said, ‘I’m sure I see the enemy, the coast.’ So, he said, ‘Ron,’ he said, ‘If you’re looking for help,’ he said, ‘I would issue an SOS. Call up Darkie and say we’re lost.’ What are we going to do? So Ron did. He thought that was not a bad idea. He called out Darkie and SOSs and one thing and another. And before you could say jack’s a lad bump. Bang. We were over the Channel Islands and as is well known that the Germans invaded the Channel Islands and occupied it and the Germans were firing at us. We thought, Christ. It wasn’t very pleasant. But Ron stuck the nose down from what height we had and got well away as quick as he could. And after a little while an aircraft appeared and flashed his navigation lights. You know, the green and the red. And we picked him up by, well I picked him up. I said, ‘It’s a Typhoon bomber.’ I said to Ron, ‘It’s a Typhoon bomber.’ And he took a position. He was a little out of range of our guns. We only had a four hundred yards accuracy. And I said, ‘We aint going to have a go at him.’ However, I did identify him. He was a Typhoon. And he kept well out on [pause] of our range and he escorted us back. He was based at RAF Exeter. He guided us in. Wished us all the best. Did chatter. Got us on the runway. And we got to the end of the runway and the bloody engines packed in. Course the aircraft was knocked about like a colander. Well what they said to us when they got us out the aeroplane very quickly in case something blew up or whatever and debriefed us and then they took us for a meal. The old traditional egg and bacon. And the flight sergeant in the sergeant’s mess there was only two of us. Three of us, I beg your pardon. He took us into the mess and unfortunately the flight sergeant in the mess he’d just been informed that his son who was an air gunner had just been missing on operations. So he made a real special effort looking after us three. Two of us were gunners. And he said, ‘What about a drink lads?’ We were all dressed for flying so it was, thinking it was winter see keep warm so we kept the aircrew unit on and they took us into Exeter. We’d barely got out the van that he’d laid on for us into Exeter when the SPs got hold of us and whipped us back to base which didn’t please the flight sergeant. I think he doubted their parentage if I’m honest because of what they’d done and he told them what we’d gone through. And they said, ‘We’re doing our job.’ So it was all messed up. And the next day we flew back to Scampton where we picked our kit up and then off to East Kirkby.
CB: When —
SB: And then we had to wait a little while before 57 Squadron confirmed that we were credited with the two and they gave them to me.
CB: Brilliant. On a slightly different note what was the relationship you had with the ground crew?
SB: Perfect. Absolutely perfect.
CB: So, when you brought a colander back how did they express their feelings about that?
SB: I don’t think I’d like to come out with the language but can I just said Jesus Christ [laughs]
CB: Over the Channel Islands that was flak that hit you was it?
SB: The big guns.
CB: Yeah.
SB: Yeah. The big guns. Yeah. Yeah. And in point of fact some years later I said to my wife, we went on holiday into Weymouth and I said to my wife I spotted this sign, “day trip.” I said [unclear] ‘We’re going.’ And I went to see the old hospital and things like that.
CB: Yeah. The underground hospital.
SB: Just to bring back memories.
CB: Yes.
SB: Yeah.
CB: And those coastal guns.
SB: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
SB: Yeah.
CB: Fantastic.
SB: Yeah.
CB: Right. So that’s your first operation and you shot down two aircraft.
SB: Yes.
CB: So, we’re on the topic of the kills. What was the third victory that you had?
SB: I think the Dornier 217. That was a fighter bomber. And I’ve got a feeling. I’m not certain where that, where he was. [pause] He was, all I can tell you he was persistent. He had a go at us two or three times and we, between us we dodged him with our tactics. Again, which was a lot of the training.
CB: Yeah.
SB: And our tactics beat him.
CB: So, how did you actually get him in the end? In the fuselage? In the engines? Or what?
SB: Straight in the pilot’s cabin. Yeah. I thought, well the bugger had got to go hadn’t he? It’s him or me.
CB: Yeah.
SB: Either kill or be killed.
CB: What, what raid were you on then? What op?
SB: I’ve got a feeling we were Berlin.
CB: Right.
SB: I’m sure. Berlin.
CB: Yeah. So that’s number three. What happened with the next one?
SB: I think again it was an ME 109. We was just approaching. Again Berlin. We were going in there. We hadn’t had a very pleasant trip in there and Munday decided well we’ve come this far. We’re going to go and we’re going to go in there and we’re going to do what we’re paid to do. And we did it. And just as we were coming out the other end he was waiting for us. So I thought well he’s got to go and all [laughs] So, yes. I did him.
CB: So, we’re in the night and these are single-engine aircraft. They’re being directed by radar to you.
SB: Yes. Yes.
CB: Right.
SB: Yes. Yes.
CB: So how did you see him first?
SB: I think I looked. I’m pretty sure I looked up and he was just hovering above. Obviously out of the way of the flak. And I identified him pretty quick and said that’s what he was. And I’m pretty positive in saying that as was the case with the last one he didn’t see us.
CB: So effectively you got him —
SB: I hit him. I hit him in the engine. And the last one I — he was flying on the beam and Dennis was in the, as I said earlier he, Dennis was in the astrodome looking. Helping the gunners. Looking for enemy aircraft. And he said, ‘Look on the starboard beam, Stan.’ I said, ‘Funnily enough I just got, I’ve just seen him.’ And with that I had him. I’d time to tell him to tell Ron what tactics were involved so a bit too late so, however, I had him. I shot the pilot. I could, I could even see it now. I had him. Full. No bother.
CB: And at what distance are we talking about?
SB: I’m talking of what two, three hundred yards.
CB: Right. And in, I didn’t ask you but in the mid-upper turret how many guns have you got?
SB: Two.
CB: Right.
SB: Two.
CB: And they’re zeroed at what range?
SB: The maximum we had was four hundred. Maximum.
CB: Right. So, we’ve done three and four. How did you feel about it once you’d dealt with them?
SB: Could you say elated in one sense.
CB: Yeah.
SB: And thanking my lucky stars in the other.
CB: Sure.
SB: Yeah. Yes.
CB: Number five.
SB: I’m not. Do you know I’m not certain. I’m not. I’m not a hundred percent certain so I don’t know if you don’t mind if I don’t comment on the one. I’m not. I’m not — it’s misty. No.
CB: At what happened you mean?
SB: Sorry?
CB: You mean when it was and what happened.
SB: Yeah. I’m a little bit foggy.
CB: Yes.
SB: I’m not a hundred percent certain.
CB: But roughly. Just roughly.
SB: Roughly. Roughly again —
CB: Because they were all at night these things.
SB: They had a go at us.
CB: Yeah.
SB: I’ve got a feeling one was on the way [pause] they had a clue from the — see being it was early this one. They were waiting on the borders. Before Sweden. And I think again it was a 109. Pretty sure it was. And —
CB: Is this over Denmark is it?
SB: Sorry?
CB: Is this over Denmark?
SB: Yeah. On the way in.
CB: Yeah. To Berlin.
SB: In to Sweden.
CB: Yeah.
SB: Because we flew over Sweden which unfortunately Winston Churchill denied that we were briefed to go that way. Again, strange enough it was one of the most frightening we did. Not being used to seeing streetlights and things like this. And also they had, the Swedish air force were equipped with Focke Wulf 190s —
CB: Right.
SB: As their front line aircraft. Fighters. And they kept just outside the four hundred yard mark at which are guns weren’t effective and your sitting there, ‘Is that bugger going to shoot at us?’ And you didn’t, just didn’t comprehend what, what was going to happen. Were they going, were they going to have a go at us or not? But fortunately they escorted us straight through Sweden to the other end and believe it or believe it not there was a searchlight pointing at to sea. Straight over our track.
CB: This is on the return trip.
SB: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
SB: We’d done the bombing. Then we were coming home.
CB: Yeah.
SB: And it was unbelievable to think that —
CB: They would do that. Yeah.
SB: They was identifying the track. That’s the way you’ve got to go lads.
CB: Fantastic.
SB: And our man went.
CB: Yeah. But your engagement with the fighter was before then.
SB: Oh yeah. That was on the, coming into, into Sweden.
CB: Yes. Oh you went over —
SB: The had an idea from the —
CB: You went over Sweden both ways did you?
SB: No. No.
CB: No.
SB: No. No. Coming home.
CB: Right.
SB: Coming home. I’ve got a feeling one of them, because of the following wind it took us an hour and a half to get from take-off to bombing.
CB: Really.
SB: Yeah.
CB: Gee.
SB: And it took us six and a half to come back against the wind [laughs]
CB: Blimey. Yeah.
SB: I can always remember that you know.
CB: Yeah.
SB: Yeah.
CB: So that was a very memorable experience
SB: Yes.
CB: Because of the lack of knowledge.
SB: Yeah.
CB: Of whether the Swedes would attack or not.
SB: Yes. Yes. My very, very worst one was the one before the end.
CB: Right.
SB: We knew. We knew we were very very close to finishing. And we called it, it was christened the night of the high winds. And the wind blew us off track. And Tony West, he always put it down. He kept contact with Ron’s instruction. He kept contacting base about the winds. He said. ‘They’re not what you said they were going to be.’ And he kept on. On and on to them. And base kept saying to him there’s nothing wrong with the winds. And they wouldn’t accept there was anything wrong at all. However, it blew us off course and it blew us a hell of a long way off course and it blew us over the Ruhr. Now, in anybody’s language the Ruhr was naughty.
CB: Happy Valley.
SB: Yeah. Called, it was called Happy Valley. Yes. Now, what happened it was some pilots dream. An aircraft which we were the unfortunate ones. The aircraft were coned in searchlights. In total we were coned for thirty five minutes. Now, if you’re coned even for a few minutes you’re belted out, almost belted out the sky which they hammered us good and proper. We were shot. I think we had two engines in the end. And when I said about it being a pilot’s dream — if an aircraft was coned this was a signal for following aircraft to dive through. When they were coning you they couldn’t cone two of you together and it allowed the other one to shoot through. So they probably clapped their hands Christ thanked their lucky stars. Unlucky stars. But bless him, Ron my old skipper he threw that aircraft all over the sky and he got us out. Now, ‘Now, we’re free from that lot lads but,’ he said, ‘We’ve got another bloody problem.’ Fred Simmons, our engineer he said, ‘Ron,’ he said, ‘Unfortunately that little bit of a detour we had to have and all that you throwing it about the sky it’s affected our fuel consumption. So,’ he said, ‘We’ve got a decision to make as a crew,’ he said, ‘I always said and I always will stick to a decision that the whole crew make the risk. The decision whether we’re going to go back to try and get back to our original place on track or we come back over the sea.’ So, we said, well [laughs] we had different views but the vote was we came back by sea. And I believe we couldn’t make base because of we were short about I think we had two engines and I think we landed at Coltishall.
CB: In Norfolk. Yeah.
SB: Then a couple of days and fixed us up. Back to East Kirkby and Wing Commander Miller was our commanding officer and he said, ‘Because of the hairy situation you’ve just been in over the Ruhr,’ he said, ‘The trip that’s just coming up,’ he said, ‘Which I’m not going to put you on so you’re confined to camp.’ So we couldn’t go blabbing about where main force were going. He said, ‘I’m not going to put you on the Ruhr.’ He said, ‘I’m going to save you for a bit easier.’ Which wasn’t a bad idea really. In theory. So we attended the briefing for our last one. Lo and behold where was it? We looked at each other and said, ‘Jesus Christ.’ It was Nuremberg. Which was the infamous one that Bomber Command lost ninety odd aircraft. But between this I had been awarded my Distinguished Flying Medal. And we were briefed to go to Emden. And for some unknown reason, weather or whatever, they called it off. So, we were in our flying gear. I had a black and white silk scarf my mum gave me as a lucky mascot and buoyancy suits. We did look darlings. All grease all over the face where the buckles on your mask so you didn’t get frostbite. And so we were allowed in the mess because the trip had been cancelled so we were allowed in the mess in flying gear so we went in the mess for a jug or two. And I’d barely got a jug in my hand for a pint and the phone went in the mess and the page, paged me on the phone and it was my skipper. He said, ‘What the hell have you been doing?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I’m just having a pint.’ He said, ‘Well,’ he said, ‘You’ve been doing summat,’ he said, ‘Because I’ve got to get you into Wing Commander Miller’s officer straight away.’ He said, ‘Now, I’m coming outside the mess to pick you up.’ He said, ‘I’m only just over the road at the officer’s mess,’ he said, ‘I’m, like yourself, having one.’ He said, ‘I’m going to pick you up. Down the flights we go.’ So he marched me in. After a little while he called me in. He marched me into Wing Commander Miller’s office and Wing Commander Miller looked at me. He said, ‘You sergeant are improperly dressed.’ I said, ‘I’ve got a tie. A scarf.’ He said, ‘You’re improperly dressed,’ he said, ‘Coming in my office.’ He tore me a strip off. Then he said, ‘I’m pleased to tell you, Sergeant Bradford you’ve just been the immediate award of the Distinguished Flying Medal. Now,’ he said, ‘Get in to Boston and have some bloody beer.’ So, Boston was our nearest place and he said I’ve reserved a couple of seats on the coach for you. So,’ he said, ‘In to Boston. You go and have some beer.’ And that was it. So that was the finish.
CB: Fantastic. On the sequence we were talking about you shot down six didn’t you?
SB: Yeah.
CB: So, we’ve got to number five which was when you went on the trip that went via Sweden.
SB: Yes.
CB: What about the sixth one? What was that?
SB: I can, yes. Well, yes he was. It was a Dornier 217. And whether you, the Germans allowed them to sleep or not I don’t know but there was two of them in there. And again we were coming out of the target a little bit higher than usual and he was up there and looking out for us as we were looking out for him. And I engaged him. He saw us at the last minute. I engaged him and, well the rest is history. He had to go.
CB: Where was him in, where was he in relation to the aircraft?
SB: Again, he was, he was —
CB: High up.
SB: Starboard up. Higher. Yes.
CB: So, in the circumstances what would be the aiming point of that, on that aircraft?
SB: I just shot at the aeroplane.
CB: Right.
SB: I just shot at the aeroplane.
CB: So effectively it raked —
SB: It blew up.
CB: It raked the underside.
SB: It blew up.
CB: Did it? Right.
SB: Yes. He did.
CB: Yeah.
SB: Yes, he did. Yes. He did.
CB: So —
SB: And then there was all this, ‘Well done, Stan.’ And in point of fact I got a book on the Battle of Berlin.
CB: Yeah.
SB: And my pilot, bless him he wrote in there, “A present to Stan.” Martin Middlebrook’s book. It was, “A present to Stan who saved our lives on many occasions.”
CB: Brilliant. Yes. The planes you were, you shot down were a combination of twin engine and single engine.
SB: Yes. Yes.
CB: So the fifth one. Was that also a single engine?
SB: Yes. A Focke Wulf 190.
CB: That was a 190 as well?
SB: Yes.
CB: That was —
SB: Yes.
CB: Yeah. Ok.
SB: Yes.
CB: On the way to the target was it?
SB: Yes.
CB: Yeah. Ok.
SB: Yes. They were over the target and on the approach as well.
CB: Yeah.
SB: Fighter planes. Get away quicker see.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
SB: The big stuff like the Dorniers were outside the target waiting for us.
CB: What sort of — when they saw you in advance what sort of range did they start shooting?
SB: They was around the four hundred yards. They had — they, obviously they could. They had a bigger range than us. See, four hundred yards was the, a Browning 303.
CB: Yeah.
SB: Yeah.
CB: Whereas what were they armed with?
SB: Yeah.
CB: What were they armed with? What guns did they have?
SB: I don’t honestly know.
CB: So they had 30 mill err 20 millimetre cannon.
SB: I’ve no idea.
CB: Right. As well as machine guns.
SB: I’ve no idea at all.
CB: Yeah. Ok. Good. Thank you. We’ll take a pause there for a mo.
[recording paused]
CB: So, Stan with six aircraft shot down.
SB: Yeah.
CB: In RAF parlance that made you an ace.
SB: Yes.
CB: How did they recognise that?
SB: It was announced at briefing at East Kirkby that, ‘Gentlemen, we’ve got an ace in our midst.’ Miller. Wing Commander Miller. And I believe that there was another officer who was commanding officer of the whole of the group was Group Captain Taff. I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard of him at all.
CB: No.
SB: He was —
CB: Obviously Welsh.
SB: I believe, again that [pause] I used to get on pretty, well he did with most aircrew. He was a damned good drinker [laughs] But he announced that it was his pleasure to shake my hand. And he said to everybody, ‘Here we’ve got him. He’s an ace.’ That. And it was as quick as that.
CB: So, at Kirkby as everywhere else there was a gunner leader was there?
SB: Yes. Yes.
CB: And how did he react to that?
SB: I’d like to use a word but I don’t dare. Can we call —
[recording paused]
CB: So, there was a gunnery leader.
SB: Yeah. It was, it was the practice that the leader of each section, and I can only speak of 57 Squadron that the gunnery leader in my case, he said, ‘I’m going to rest you on the next trip,’ he said, ‘You won’t be going on the trip. I’ll be taking your place.’ Which rather dejected me and I went to my skipper and I said, ‘Ron, I’m not happy at all. My gunnery leader’s taking me off the trip and he’s going in my place.’ And Ron’s reaction was, ‘He bloody well aint.’ And he didn’t.
CB: What rank would gunnery —
SB: Flight lieutenant.
CB: Right.
SB: He had a thing about him. I can only again speak for my personal self and my other gunner, Chick who was a Canadian. I can only speak for the two of us. We never ever missed the opportunity to go out on the gunnery range and practice. Clay pigeon shooting and shooting from a, from a turret. From one like me I was in a two and he was in a four. We never ever, ever missed a session. Chick, he was the champion clay pigeon shooter and I was his deputy.
CB: Very good.
SB: Yeah. We never missed.
CB: Right.
SB: Now, so that gunnery leader should have talked to us and used us an example.
CB: Exactly. So my next question was what the reaction?
SB: He didn’t.
CB: Of the other gunners.
SB: He didn’t. Whether it registered. It must have registered mustn’t it? But he didn’t seem to take it on board.
CB: Ok [pause] Thank you. Now, a couple of other things. One is that when you were at Scampton you met Guy Gibson.
SB: Yes. I did.
CB: Just, what was the, he was 617 but —
SB: Yes. I was on my way. I can, again that’s one. Things like this never leave you. I was on my way into the sergeant’s mess. Right. And I think it was at mealtime and he was walking his dog. Naturally I had to throw him one up. Salute. And he called me over. And he had a thing. Gibson. About NCOs. He just [pause] he didn’t like them as much as he did officers. End of story really. I can honestly say that the aircrew — sergeants and flight sergeants, they weren’t his favourite people.
CB: Was that related to the role they did? So, did air gunners come off worst?
SB: I don’t know. I really don’t know. But he didn’t. He was against aircrew. Sergeants.
CB: Yeah.
SB: And flight sergeants.
CB: What about his dog?
SB: Friendly enough. Friendly enough. Them days the billets were just inside the gate and we were in one of those billets. There were two crews in the house. And he’d obviously been somewhere and come through the gates on the way to the mess when I met him.
CB: But the dog was called?
SB: I can’t remember it’s bloody name. Not Ricky. No. No. I forget.
CB: And the dog was called Nigger.
SB: Nigger. I went and looked at his grave this last year.
CB: Did you?
SB: When they called us up for our reunion. Yeah.
CB: And was the dog allowed to wander around? Or what happened?
SB: Yes. He did.
CB: With the dog.
SB: Yes. He did.
CB: That mess up your shoes?
SB: After I’d gone he was, he died.
CB: Did it mess up your shoes a bit?
SB: No.
CB: Ok. Thank you. The other one is a contentious one and its one that nowadays is used to, is described a different way but in war there are all sorts of sanctions that are imposed.
SB: [unclear]
CB: In war there are all sort of sanctions imposed.
SB: Sanctions.
CB: According to circumstances. So you had a certain situation where one of the crew on one of the trips lost his bottle. What was the circumstances of that?
SB: Ginger.
CB: What happened there?
SB: Well, that again was a Berlin. It was custom [pause] I would reckon that all pilots did it. When you were just before, well it was just before actually your bombing run you knew you were coming up shortly to your bombing run and pilots always lifted the nose of the aircraft slightly upwards. So that when the word, ‘Bombs gone,’ it automatically gave a lurch up and with it pointing upwards you took one hell of a lift up. And it was also custom that when the bombs had gone the pilot used to scream out, and it was a scream, ‘Full power.’ Now, the practice was that the engineer, the pilot had enough on his plate to steer the aircraft. So the engineer put his hand on the four throttles and pushed them forward and locked them. So they were screaming their guts out.
CB: So they’re through the gate.
SB: Through the gate.
CB: Yeah.
SB: And naturally the crew knew. We just took it as that was it. All glued to our seats. And when we got back Ron said to the crew, by which time Ginger had been left with intelligence but with the crew he got us all together and he said, ‘Well, lads,’ he said, ‘We’ve got a problem. We’ve got a problem. And,’ he said, ‘It’s not a pleasant problem. Ginger [pause] has gone LMF.’ He said, ‘You know from experience that it’s my job always to call for full power through the gate when we are coming out of the target to get us away as quick as we can and it’s unfortunate Ginger was hiding behind my seat. He couldn’t face up to it.’ So, he said, ‘There. You’ve got it.’ He said, ‘We’ve got no option but to report it to the commanding officer,’ he said. And well that was the end. He’d gone. Whether it was a stroke of luck. Fate. Is that what they call it? But we picked up another engineer within days because we, in them days it was essential we got as many bombers up there as they could and we picked up a bloke called Fred Simmons. And Fred, I always called him, he was point of fact we palled up. He was one of, my best friend. And what he didn’t know about an engine wasn’t worth knowing. He was absolutely brilliant. Now, Fred, he was with another aircraft and the crew he was with — Fred went sick [pause] And naturally if you had a sneeze in aircrew you were took off. So Fred was took off the trip and unfortunately the crew he was with didn’t come back. So we inherited Fred after a few days. We inherited Fred as our engineer. The replacement for Ginger. And he was brilliant. He was the kind of bloke that because I came from just outside of Manchester it was much too far for me to go home on a forty eight hour leave and [pause] he said, ‘You’re not going to stop on the station. That’s a certain fact,’ he said, ‘You’re going to come home with me. I live in Wisbech.’ Well, he was married. Unfortunately they couldn’t have children. And he lived with his mum and they kept the Railway Inn at Wisbech. So he and I used to go when we had a forty eight he used to take me and I used to help his mum. She was a widow by then. Incidentally Matthew took me to see the hotel. It’s still there.
Other: It’s a house now isn’t it? It was a house now, I think. Someone lived in it. It was still there. Yeah.
SB: Yeah. Yeah. Somebody lived in the house. What more can I say about Fred? We were absolutely — we lived in each other’s pockets.
CB: Did you, did you keep up with him after the war?
SB: No. I didn’t.
CB: Who did —
SB: Regrettably.
CB: Yeah. Just come back to that but what happened? What? What rank was Ginger?
SB: My rank. Sergeant.
CB: Right.
SB: Then, well naturally we progressed after a year.
CB: Flight sergeant.
SB: Flight sergeant.
CB: And what happened to him after he was arrested?
SB: I did contact him once. Something went wrong. He went to St Athan. South Wales. I believe it was an engineering.
CB: It was an engineering school.
SB: I believe. I don’t know.
CB: It was the School of Engineering. Yes.
SB: I don’t know.
CB: Yeah.
SB: I don’t.
CB: Ok. I think just one other thing. Who did you keep in contact with in the crew after the war?
SB: Only one. Ron. Ron Munday. I think that old Fred went. That’s all.
CB: So immediately after the war you had no contact with anybody.
SB: Market Harborough I went to.
CB: Yeah. Right. We’ll stop there for a break. Thank you.
[recording paused]
SB: Gave me an order see.
CB: Right. So what, we’ve talked about the dangers of what you were doing and clearly there was some amazing escapes, but the care, the aircraft was a colander on some occasions. The crew sometimes got wounded. In your case were you ever hit? And on what was the trip on which it happened?
SB: Yes. I was. I was wounded. We’d been instructed to bomb Stettin. Which was quite close to the place where they was building doodlebugs.
CB: Peenemunde.
SB: And I was wounded in a rather delicate position. And I won’t say any more about that.
CB: But in your role as a mid-upper gunner where were you in relation to the dangerous parts of the aeroplane?
SB: Well, I was just forward — backward. Sorry. Backward it would be wouldn’t it? Backward of the bomb bay. You could say within feet. Within feet. I knew probably first one they dropped when they went up in the air the aeroplane went.
CB: So of all the crew when the bombs went you were the one most relieved.
SB: Yes. Yes. I was.
CB: Yeah.
SB: Yeah. On many occasions. Yeah.
CB: Ok. And how many hours did you have to endure your discomfort after being hit on the way back?
SB: Five or six. There was blood all in my flying boot.
CB: There was a first aid kit in the aircraft. There was a first aid kit in the aircraft.
SB: Yeah. You couldn’t get at it. Your parachute, you couldn’t get at that.
CB: Right.
SB: As a mid-upper gunner you know.
CB: You sat on your parachute.
SB: No.
CB: Oh you didn’t.
SB: No. That was the position. Just close to the rear door.
CB: Right. But you couldn’t use the first aid kit.
SB: No. No.
CB: Ok.
SB: I can well remember when I was wounded. They got me out the turret. My bomb aimer was one Taffy. Taffy Evans. I could hear him say to Ron, I was conscious enough at the time, and ‘We got him out.’
CB: So, they lifted you out of the turret.
SB: Yeah.
CB: Then what happened?
SB: They took me to the — we had a bed.
CB: Right.
SB: Just by the main spar. And they just whacked me on the bed.
CB: Right.
SB: That was it. And then I went to sleep.
CB: So nobody then went into the turret in your place.
SB: No.
CB: No.
SB: There was nobody available.
CB: When you got back to East Kirkby what happened then? What was the sequence of events?
SB: I haven’t got a clue. When I say I aint got a clue I know because of what I was told.
CB: Which was?
SB: Our ground crew were there with the ambulance, well they didn’t drive the ambulance but they were there to assist getting me out of the aeroplane into the ambulance. There was no standing on ceremony. They whipped me off to RAF Rauceby.
CB: Which is the hospital near Sleaford.
SB: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
SB: Yeah.
CB: Right. And when you were in the hospital what happened there?
SB: I don’t know. Well, when I say I don’t know. I’d been patched up by then. I’d also picked up another. Classed as a wound. I burst an eardrum. Ron came down quite quickly to assist me. So the story went. And in doing so I wasn’t breathing properly and I burst this. Dead as a doornail. And I can always, I always remember what they did it last. Repaired me.
CB: Right.
SB: I can always remember the guy that did it. I thought he was a brute. He drilled a hole through the bridge of the nose and put a tube in. He said it was a silver tube. Up, connected on the tube. And he put the ball part of it under his white gown and he said, ‘When I raise my finger,’ he said, ‘You raise yours that you acknowledge.’ He said, ‘That’s saying it’s gone around and around the head and blown it back.’ And he were pumping away and I [pause] and he looked at me. He said, ‘Good God man,’ he said, ‘You look as if you’re going to bloody faint. Go and stand in the corner.’ And that was that. A few days later I was back on flying.
CB: Amazing. Thank you. Your dad. Yeah.
SB: It’s not [pause] My dad was in the fire watching. He used to have a, they used to have a bit of string with a box on with a gas mask. And I said to my dad because he was, he worked at the coal mine issuing lamps for the miners. And he used to have to be up about 3 o’clock to get these for the people to start at six. But I used to say to my dad, ‘It’s pointless you being up for the bombing raid. The fire warden in the street. I’ll sit on the wall outside and I’ll do your shift for you.’ [laughs]
Other: Really.
SB: Yeah. I did. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Because this is the bombing of Manchester and Liverpool.
SB: It was the bombing of Manchester or Liverpool. We were straight between them. I think it was like twenty eight miles to Liverpool.
CB: And they flew near you because of the Manchester Ship Canal.
SB: That’s right. Yeah. They used to be up and down the ship canal a lot. Or the River Mersey. The krauts were always up and down there. Of course, there was, you can well imagine I mean they didn’t get a free flight. They were always been shot at and the bloody shrapnel was around your house and — [laughs] You would get the odd broken window about. Yeah. Yeah. Those were the days Matt.
Other: I suppose coming over from Germany they didn’t have to fly over much land ‘til they got, even over on the west side of the country there wasn’t typically a wide bit of the country to get over was it? That we’d notice.

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Citation

Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Stanley Bradford,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 19, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/10118.

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