Interview with Henry Moss


Interview with Henry Moss


Henry grew up in Bradford and left school just before the outbreak of war. He had various jobs like working in the mill, a greengrocer’s shop, the dye works and then garment cutting for the army. At 17 and a half was called up in London where he was kitted out and had the necessary inoculations. He had been in the Air Training Corps so chose to apply for the Royal Air Force. He was told he could be a wireless operator air gunner, trained in Morse code and learned about the .303 Browning. The recruits were sent to RAF Pembrey in South Wales for gunnery training where they worked on Martinets and Ansons. They then went to 26 Operation Training Unit to crew up and fly on Wellingtons. Henry spent time at 1669 Heavy Conversion Unit in Nottinghamshire to train on Lancasters as mid-upper gunner. He was posted to 138 Squadron which was a special operations unit working on Halifaxes and Lysanders aircraft dropping supplies to the resistance. They also dropped off or picked up agents in France. Their first two operations were to Kiel. Henry recalled a daylight operation to Bremen in 1945 when they suffered a hole in the fuselage from anti-aircraft fire. During the war they did five operations in all, plus trips for Operation Manna and Exodus. The crew did not keep in touch after the war. When Henry was demobbed he went back to work for the army garment firm.




Temporal Coverage




00:55:40 audio recording


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AMossH181114, PMossH1801


DK: Right. So this is, I’ll just introduce myself. This is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Henry Moss at his home on, what’s the date? Right. The 14th of November 2018. I’ll just put that there.
HM: Yeah.
DK: If you just speak normally. Yeah. That’s looks ok. So, if I can ask you first of all Henry what were you doing before the war?
HM: [laughs] [coughs] I had all sorts of jobs before the war. I left school just before the outbreak of war. Being in, I lived at Bradford at that time.
DK: Yeah.
HM: I was just leaving school. The boys without any qualifications went into the mill. Worked in the mill. From the mill I worked in a greengrocer’s shop. From the greengrocer’s shop I worked in a dye works. And then I went into garment cutting. Making waterproof clothing for the Army.
DK: Right.
HM: Cape down sheets, and dispatch rider’s waterproofs. And I stayed in that until I was called up at seventeen and a half.
DK: So what made you decide on the RAF then?
HM: Oh, I always fancied the RAF. I was in the ATC.
DK: Right.
HM: Previously to the RAF. And from the RAF at seventeen and a half it must have been November time 1943, got my call up papers to report to Viceroy Court in London.
DK: Right.
HM: That was a big block of flats that overlooked Hyde Park.
DK: Viceroy Court.
HM: Viceroy Court.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
HM: I forget what the district was now.
DK: Yeah.
HM: But it looked over Hyde Park. And the mealtimes, part of the building went to the zoo in Hyde Park —
DK: Oh right.
HM: And were fed. And others, like myself stayed in the building. We got kitted out there with uniforms, inoculations and all that stuff. And I think it must have been sometime early December we moved up. We moved up to Usworth. A primary training. Normal primary training. Marching, saluting and all that stuff. To let, to let you know you’re in the Air Force.
DK: How did you take to that? Did you like it or was it something you, because you would you have done it in the ATC?
HM: Oh, it was something entirely new.
DK: Right.
HM: I was a bit apprehensive at first going down to London. First time really away from home.
DK: Yeah.
HM: In Bradford. A small town. Well, I’m saying it’s a small town. It’s a big town now. All on my own in a strange, trying to find this Viceroy Court. I found it rather daunting. But once I got there I was alright. When it came to moving of course we had transport from Viceroy Court to the station. Train laid on for us to go up to Usworth.
DK: Right. That’s where you did your —
HM: Northumberland.
DK: That’s where you did all your square bashing was it?
HM: Did all the square bashing.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Initial training.
DK: So at this stage then do you have any idea of what trade you wanted to do in the Air Force?
HM: I hadn’t a clue about it.
DK: So you hadn’t been divided out yet as to pilots and —
HM: Pardon?
DK: You hadn’t been divided out. Pilots, navigators, and —
HM: Oh no.
DK: No.
HM: Not up to this point.
DK: No.
HM: No. You hadn’t a clue what. What it was all about. You did various tests. Arithmetic tests and a bit of writing and so on. They decided I could go as a wireless operator/air gunner.
DK: Ok.
HM: I forget the name of the place we went to now. Anyway, whatever it was we did basically wireless operator or learning the Morse Code.
DK: Right.
HM: Practicing that.
DK: So, so these took the form of classes then were they of Morse Code. Morse Code classes.
HM: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Mostly. Yeah. There were Morse Code classes.
DK: And how many of you would be in there for the class?
HM: I should think about a dozen.
DK: Right.
HM: All tapping away going beep beep beep beep beep.
DK: And was it something you took to then was it? Something you found easy.
HM: I didn’t find it particularly easy but I managed it.
DK: Right.
HM: And also between the learning the Morse Code was learning about the Browning machine gun. The 303 Browning. Taking it to pieces. What it did. How many shots it fired. What the effective range was. And learned all those bits and pieces. I didn’t think a lot of that was necessary because if you got a fault with your guns if its more than just cocking and trying it again.
DK: Yeah.
HM: You can’t do anything because it’s so cold up there and you’ve got your gloves on and the tiny pieces. I found some of that was a bit superfluous.
DK: So what did the gunnery training consist of then? Were you, were you actually firing the guns at targets?
HM: Not at that time. No. It was just sort of introducing us to the gun.
DK: Ok. Right.
HM: Learning about it.
DK: And just taking them to pieces [unclear]
HM: Taking them to pieces and putting them together again.
DK: Yeah.
HM: We got so we could do it blindfold. And that was —
DK: Did they, did they time you then as you were?
HM: Oh no. They didn’t time you but as it got near the end of the course you’d have done it blindfold and somebody would take a piece out and you’ll be feeling all over for it. But the Morse Code. I passed on that alright. Passed on that, and we went to [pause] I can’t remember the sequence we went in but eventually we went to —
DK: Was it the Operational Training Unit?
HM: Burry training. Burry Port in South Wales.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
HM: To an airfield there. And that was gunnery training.
DK: Right.
HM: More or less a first shooting.
DK: So what, what —
HM: The, it was a Martinet aeroplane. That was a single engine type towing a drogue.
DK: Right.
HM: And you’d go up in an Anson. I think it was four of us went up in the Anson. Took it in turns trying to shoot at the drogue. The way they could sort out who’s was what, the bullets were painted differently on the —
DK: Oh right.
HM: On the bullet itself so if it hit the drogue —
DK: You’d know whose it is.
HM: Red was yours. Blue was somebody else’s.
DK: Yeah. So did you, did you find, presumably that was the first time you’d flown then was it? In an Anson.
HM: That was the first time I’d actually flown.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Yeah.
DK: So what was that like then?
HM: Well, then again it’s exciting.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Starting to fly. And that was, that was the feeling most of the time. When are we going to fly? What’s it going to be like? Will I be sick? Will I get airsick or —
DK: And, and were you?
HM: That was a worrying thing. Some did.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Most of us didn’t but —
DK: You didn’t then.
HM: I wasn’t airsick at all.
DK: So what was the Anson like? Presumably it was a bit cramped in there with four of you at the back there.
HM: It was a little bit. Yes. I remember that it was each side of the fuselage there was a little table and two of you sat at the table. You did this shooting at the drogue to see how well you could aim it and fire it.
DK: Yeah.
HM: They told you about offsetting for the distance.
DK: Yeah.
HM: And one thing and another.
DK: And was it, was it something you were, you were quite adept at? Could you, were you quite a good shot? Or —
HM: Not particularly [laughs] I must have been adequate because I passed through all right.
DK: Right. So —
HM: Then again we did a bit of Morse Code but not much of it. You just keep refreshing yourself.
DK: Yeah. So, so at this stage you could have still been —
HM: Oh, I could have been turned down. Yes.
DK: Turned down. Yeah. Or you could still have been a wireless operator as well then.
HM: I could have been a wireless operator.
DK: Yeah. So after your training then in Wales where did you move on to next?
HM: That [laughs] I can’t remember these places.
DK: Don’t worry. Yeah. Would this have been the, the OTU?
HM: Yeah. It would have been the OTU.
DK: It might actually be in the logbook.
HM: It’s probably in my logbook.
DK: Let’s have a look.
DK: Right. So just for the recording then I’ve got number 1 AGS Pembrey so that was Gunnery School.
HM: Pembrey.
DK: Pembrey. Yeah.
HM: Yeah.
DK: Air Gunnery School. It’s got your results here. You look like you’re quite good.
HM: Are they?
DK: Yeah. Exam result ninety eight point five percent.
HM: Oh, well that’s not so bad [laughs]
Other: Wow.
HM: Yeah. Is that the —
DK: So you’re —
HM: Oh, that’s when we went to OTU is it?
DK: That’s the OTU.
HM: The Lancaster.
DK: Ok.
HM: Yeah. They were the actual flights.
DK: So that’s the flights in the Anson then.
HM: That was the flights. Yeah.
DK: So they’re from June 1944 and it’s got how many rounds you fired here.
HM: Yeah.
DK: Three hundred rounds. So one to three tracers. Two hits.
HM: [laughs] Two hits.
DK: You’ve got eighteen hits here.
HM: Yeah.
DK: It says total flying nineteen hours and forty minutes. All in Ansons.
HM: In the Anson.
DK: Yeah. So that’s at the end of the training.
HM: That’s the end of the training at Pembrey.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Yeah. Then we went to —
DK: It doesn’t actually say does it?
HM: It doesn’t say does it?
DK: So you’re on Wellingtons.
HM: Operational Training Unit.
DK: Right.
HM: In Wellingtons.
DK: So for —
HM: Then you did the crewing up.
DK: Right. So can you say a little about the crewing up then? How you all got together to form a crew?
HM: Well, you were all in a room. You chatted with various people and somebody you got on with and you’d say, ‘Oh you’re a gunner. Shall we crew up?’ ‘Yeah. We’ll be alright.’ Then you look for a navigator, or the navigator were looking for gunners. Or a pilot was looking for gunners. You finished with a crew.
DK: So, and can you remember your pilot’s name?
HM: Yes. Colin [Runji?]
DK: Right.
HM: He was an Australian.
DK: Australian.
HM: He was evidently quite a sportsman in Australia. Although being English we’d never heard of him.
DK: So he was quite famous in, in Australia then.
HM: He was quite, yeah something in Australia.
DK: Oh, here we go. At the back it says it’s 26 Operational Training Unit.
HM: Yeah.
DK: Does that ring a bell? 26 OTU.
HM: That doesn’t mean a thing to me.
DK: Right.
HM: But if you look in the records —
DK: Yeah.
HM: You’ll probably find it.
DK: Yeah. That was on the Wellingtons then.
HM: Yes.
DK: So that was between July ’44 and November ’44.
HM: Yeah.
DK: So can you remember much about flying in the Wellingtons? What it was like?
HM: Yeah. Well, we did a lot of take-off and landings. Training for the pilot. The air gunners had nothing to do. They just sat in the turrets.
DK: Right.
HM: And hoped for the best.
DK: So were you, for these training flights then were you sitting in the, in the rear turret?
HM: In the turret.
DK: Yeah.
HM: In the rear turret or mid-upper turret.
DK: Yeah. Would you be in the rear turret when you took off then?
HM: If I was in the rear turret. We used to swap around.
DK: Right.
HM: Sometimes be in the rear. Sometimes the mid-upper.
DK: Yeah. So how did you find the Wellington then as an aircraft? Did you feel quite safe in it?
HM: Oh yeah. Yes. No problems with flying with it.
DK: Right.
HM: They [pause]
DK: But you felt quite safe.
HM: What can I say? Oh yes.
DK: ’Cause you mentioned earlier about an incident where the pilot landed and he shouldn’t have done.
HM: Yeah. That’s in the Wellington.
DK: Right. Can you just repeat that? What happened?
HM: Well, I don’t, I don’t think I made a comment about it because we didn’t know that until after the flight.
DK: Right.
HM: He just disappeared. And when making enquiries we found that he’d been sent home or whatever it was.
DK: So what, what had he done wrong?
HM: Well, coming in to land he was doing a circuit. He come into what they called funnels. The pilot’s flying nice and steady ready to land. Got the gear down, the flaps down, and you as you were approaching you’re supposed to watch for a verey pistol.
DK: Right.
HM: Or you’re supposed to notice it if was fired. Well, this particular flight there’s a red verey pistol fired and evidently the pilot didn’t seen it.
DK: So if he had seen it he should have gone around again.
HM: He should have gone around again.
DK: Yeah. Because why would, do you know why it was fired? Was there something on the ground?
HM: Well, it would only be if there was somebody on the runway.
DK: Right.
HM: Ready. Getting ready to take off.
DK: Right.
HM: So he was sat at the end of the runway. You sort of went over the top of him.
DK: So there might have been a collision then.
HM: Oh, quite possible.
DK: So he just, he went. So you got a new pilot then.
HM: So we, started well basically we went to the end of that course and then crew up again.
DK: Oh right.
HM: With another. Make another crew.
DK: So you had to crew up all over again.
HM: All over again. And then really start the course again.
DK: Oh. So this is, this is when you would have then got the Australian pilot
HM: That’s when we got —
DK: The second time around.
HM: No. The first time.
DK: Oh the first time. Right.
HM: The first time it was an Australian pilot.
DK: Right.
HM: Then we [pause] I put my glasses away, I want them.
DK: Have you’ve got his name there?
HM: Yes. [Runji]
DK: [Runji]
HM: Lots of different pilots.
DK: Yeah.
HM: As [Runji] Then flew there. Warrant Officer Wild. [Runji] [unclear] [Runji] Watkins. But, but [Runji] was the main pilot at, in the OTU.
DK: Right.
HM: [ ] [pause] at the end of the course as I say we crewed up again.
DK: Right. So that’s the second time.
HM: This is the second time around.
DK: Right.
HM: When we flew with somebody called [Adey?], Flying Officer Bond. Then we got Sergeant Crawford who ended up our pilot.
DK: So —
HM: We flew with him for the rest of the time.
DK: So Crawford became your pilot.
HM: Yeah.
DK: Second time around. Right.
HM: Yeah. And he was a sergeant.
DK: Right.
HM: Evidently, as far as I can make out he was in the Air Force when war broke out. He was an engine fitter on one of the [pause] no, on one of the [pause]
DK: A pre-war thing was it?
HM: The [pause] big water platform.
DK: Oh the Flying Boats.
HM: The [pause]
DK: Seaplane?
HM: Just had a new one. Must have been commissioned just recently.
Other: Aircraft carrier.
DK: Oh aircraft.
Other: Aircraft carrier.
DK: I’m with you. I’m with you. Right.
HM: He was on an aircraft carrier.
DK: Right. Ok.
HM: Somewhere out east.
DK: Right.
HM: And as soon as war broke out and he asked to be remustered.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
HM: And then he came back to England. Then he went out Canada for his pilot’s training. Did his training in various aeroplanes.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Then he came back to England and then finished up.
DK: At the OTU.
HM: Yeah. The OTU.
DK: So that was Sergeant Crawford then.
HM: Sergeant Crawford.
DK: And was he a good pilot?
HM: He was. Yes.
DK: Yeah. You felt confident then with him did you?
HM: I felt very confident with him. Something else. I wish I’d made more comments.
DK: Yeah.
HM: About what went on.
DK: So how —
HM: On one of the [pause] No. It’s not there. On one of the flights, it was a night time flights everything was going all right. Taxied round, end of the runway. Started taking off. Just got off the ground and he had to close one of the engines down. There was something overheating or something and Mayday. Mayday. And he just flew around and landed again on one engine. So he must have been a reasonable pilot.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
HM: That was a bit scary. You didn’t know whether the aeroplane would fly with the one engine or not.
DK: Yeah.
HM: But he made a very good job of it.
DK: Yeah. So you felt quite confident with him after that.
HM: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
DK: So did you have a conversation with him about what had happened to the engines, do you know or did you just —
HM: Well, it wouldn’t mean a thing to me.
DK: Right.
HM: It was a runaway prop.
DK: Yeah.
HM: I didn’t know what a runaway prop was. I still don’t.
DK: So after, how did you feel then about having to do the training twice? And have to go back again.
HM: Not very happy because it —
DK: No.
HM: The crewing up with [Runji] then having to go through it again.
DK: Yeah.
HM: That was annoying. But once we got —
DK: Crawford.
HM: Our pilot. Crawford. We were quite happy. We’d got a, we’d got a crew. We got on very well together.
DK: Yeah.
HM: And that’s the one on the, on the picture there.
DK: Ok. So just for the recording then just looking at your logbook then it says here you then went on to 1669 Heavy Conversion Unit.
HM: Yeah. That’s when we converted to the Lancaster.
DK: Right.
HM: And that was at —
DK: Langar.
HM: Pardon?
DK: Langar.
HM: Langar.
DK: Langar.
HM: Yes. Up in Nottinghamshire I believe it is.
DK: So that was at the Heavy Conversion Unit then and we’re talking February 1945. Is that? Or was it ’44?
HM: February. Oh it might have been.
DK: Yeah. Because that’s ’44.
HM: I joined the squadron in early March.
DK: Right. So the Heavy Conversion Unit then would be February.
HM: Langar, yeah. That was converting to the four engines.
DK: Right. So how did you feel? That was the first time you saw the Lancaster then was it? Close up.
HM: Yeah.
DK: And what did you think?
HM: Oh, we’re going up in those [laughs] How does it stay up there? But —
DK: So was it quite a change after the Wellington then?
HM: Yes. Because the Wellington, two engines it was a smaller aircraft. You think fine. But when you get to the size of a Lancaster. And in the Wellington you did evasive action.
DK: Yeah.
HM: But it’s hard doing evasive action in the Lancaster. A big aeroplane doing acrobatics. You wondered how it’s going to go but it went very well.
DK: Yeah. So you felt quite confident in flying in those.
HM: Yeah.
DK: I see here you flew as the mid-upper gunner.
HM: Yeah.
DK: What was that like then? What were the views like?
HM: Oh, the views was fantastic. I would say you could look all around.
DK: Yeah. And presumably it’s here that you got the extra crew because there’s more crew in a Lancaster than the Wellington.
HM: No. We still had the full crew.
DK: Oh right. In Wellingtons.
HM: We just had the same crew in the Lancaster as we had in the Wellington.
DK: Oh ok. So that was, that was just training then on the Lancaster just to get —
HM: Just training on the Lancaster
DK: Yeah. Yeah
HM: And getting used to it.
DK: Yeah.
HM: How to evacuate quickly and that sort of thing [laughs]
DK: Right. And then it’s got, looking at your logbook here we’ve then got March 1945 you’ve got to 138 Squadron.
HM: Yeah.
DK: So can you say a little bit about 138 Squadron? What they were?
HM: 138 Squadron is a mysterious squadron. As I say it was a Special Operations Unit before I joined. They were flying Lancasters. Before we joined they were basically Halifaxes.
DK: Right.
HM: And Lysanders. Their job was to take ammunition and food to the Resistance. So instead of going out in a bomber stream.
DK: Yeah.
HM: They’d go out in a single Lancaster to a field somewhere in France and drop the supplies to the Resistance.
DK: Oh right.
HM: Or the Auster. That was the single engined. Do you know the Auster?
DK: Yes. Yes. Yeah.
HM: Yeah. Fixed undercarriage. Single engine. If there was a special agent wanting to be picked up and brought back to England then they’d use the Auster.
DK: Right.
HM: Then again find somewhere. Find a field somewhere in France. Land. You’d probably drop an agent. Pick another agent up.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Pick one coming back then take off and bring them home.
DK: Right.
HM: Most of it was at night. Well, it was all night time. The nickname for 138 Squadron at the time was The Moonlight. Moonlight squadron.
DK: Right.
HM: Or Tempsford Taxis. Obviously they were based at Tempsford.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
HM: And with the taxiing service in and out to France or Germany whatever. You got the taxi then.
DK: Yeah.
HM: But when, when I joined it was decided that they were not, it was after D-Day, that it was no longer needed because they take the agents in on the ground from there.
DK: Yeah.
HM: So they reverted to Bomber Command.
DK: Right.
HM: And that’s when I joined them.
DK: So by that point it was an ordinary bomber squadron.
HM: It was an ordinary bomber squadron. Yes. Whereas before, reading about it now when I, in the bomber squadron all the crews went to the briefing. With that there was just a pilot, navigator and bomb aimer.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Only those that need know knew where they were going and what they were doing.
DK: Right.
HM: So the air gunner would go along. Not knowing where they were going. They might discuss it amongst themselves.
DK: Yeah.
HM: But they weren’t supposed to. Go out and come back again but they weren’t allowed to discuss it with another aircrew.
DK: Right.
HM: Missions were never discussed between aircrews.
DK: So —
HM: It was very secretive.
DK: Yeah. So what, what then is kind of your role as an air gunner? What are you supposed to do?
HM: Yeah.
DK: On an operation.
HM: On an operation you just sit there in the turret scanning, looking for any enemy aircraft. Which I never saw.
DK: No.
HM: Never fired my guns in anger.
DK: Right. You’d have tested the guns presumably on the way over did you?
HM: You could do but we never did.
DK: Right.
HM: Well, we didn’t.
DK: Is that, I notice when you joined the squadron you’d gone on some training trips. One with an H2S radar.
HM: Yeah.
DK: And another one with GH bombing. Was that the GH bombing on?
HM: Yeah. That, that is basically for the navigators. Navigators —
DK: Yeah.
HM: GHS or HS2 and the Gee were all navigational aids.
DK: Right. And you’ve got something here. Just special training. You can’t remember what the special training was can you?
HM: Special training.
DK: Bit mysterious. Maybe you can’t tell me.
HM: I haven’t a clue.
DK: Ok. So looking at your logbook again then it’s got your first operation here was to Kiel.
HM: Yes.
DK: So what was it like then when you finally —
HM: Kiel?
DK: Got an operation?
HM: Well, it’s exciting. We hadn’t been in long enough. We hadn’t experienced a bombing raid. We didn’t know what to expect. I was excited. And well, we flew out. Nothing, nothing untoward happened.
DK: Yeah.
HM: There were searchlights and the flak but you expected that.
DK: Yeah. So you’ve gone out as the mid-upper gunner on this raid.
HM: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. And can you remember seeing much of the target itself when you were over Kiel?
HM: Yes.
DK: What was that like?
HM: Basically if that’s Kiel you flew across, it’s like, where Germany and Denmark. It’s —
DK: The border.
HM: What do they call it?
Other: Jutland?
HM: The prominence of Denmark.
Other: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: A strip of land.
HM: There’s a border it goes across.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Well, we flew across the part of Germany which was close to the border with Denmark. And as you’re flying along you could, you could see the fire, ‘That’s it. That’s it.’
DK: Yeah.
HM: That must be the target.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Now, yes. And no. That’s not it. And we were flying along and the navigator made a mistake or something. We flew past the target. When navigator realised that he’d gone wrong we had to do a loop.
DK: Right.
HM: The pilot wouldn’t turn around and go that way because he’d be joining the bomber stream. He’d be flying against them.
DK: Yeah.
HM: So he went around that way and joined the stream again.
DK: Right. So you went over the target.
HM: So we then flew towards the target.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Bombs away. Let’s go home.
DK: Could, when the bombs were dropped did you notice any turbulence or whatever.
HM: Oh yeah.
DK: You were flying up.
HM: The result was that bit of lift.
DK: Yeah. So you’ve come back from your first operation then though it hadn’t gone according to plan.
HM: Yeah.
DK: How did you feel when you got back?
HM: Oh, it’s hard to remember [pause] We just thought well that’s that.
DK: Yeah.
HM: That’s it.
DK: Job done.
HM: That’s done. The job done.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Wait for the next.
DK: And did you have to go along to a debriefing, or anything? Were you debriefed?
HM: Yes. When you landed you went to debrief. And the intelligence office, officers there. The crew was all there. What was your experience? Did you notice anything? Did you? How did it go? Or as I say we’d no experience. Just a, just a normal flight. Just flak.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
HM: Just searchlights. But nothing affected us.
DK: Yeah.
HM: It was all going on around you but —
DK: So your aircraft was never hit by flak then.
HM: Not that particular time. It was later on.
DK: Oh, ok. Ok.
HM: That was on the [pause] about a few days later we went again to Kiel.
DK: Right. I’m just looking at the logbook here. This is —
HM: Yeah.
DK: Just for the recording. You’ve gone to Kiel on the 9th of April.
HM: Yeah.
DK: And it’s
HM: That was our first one.
DK: And you’ve actually got here the German ship the Admiral Scheer sank.
HM: Oh, that was the second.
DK: Was that the second one?
HM: That was on the second one.
DK: Ok.
HM: No. There’s two there. And the Admiral Scheer was sank the second. That’s why we went back a second time.
DK: Right. And did you see the battleship down there?
HM: No.
DK: No.
HM: No. We were too high.
DK: Yeah. So you did, let’s say Kiel on the 9th of April. Then the 13th of April Kiel again.
HM: Yes. That was when the Admiral Scheer was sunk.
DK: Right. And then 14th of April you’ve then gone to Potsdam.
HM: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Yeah. The following night. We thought that was a bit rough is that. Two. One after the other.
DK: Yeah. And then —
HM: But then thinking about it ‘43 and ‘44 when the bombing was really going, they’d be doing that every week. Three or four times a week they’d be flying.
DK: Yeah. And then looking at your logbook again you’ve then done a daylight raid because it’s in green.
HM: Yes. Heligoland. Heligoland.
DK: Heligoland. So that was on the 18th of April.
HM: Yeah.
DK: ‘45.
HM: That was [laughs] A bit of a dead duck.
DK: Right.
HM: Heligoland, I don’t even know where it is. It’s just, as I say Denmark land. Germany. And it’s just a little island.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Evidently, it was a naval spotting station and spotting transport where our ships were.
DK: Right.
HM: And there again, there was a little bit of flak. There wasn’t a lot.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Because it was such a small island. No searchlights evidently because it was daylight.
DK: Yeah. Could you see a lot more of the other aircraft then in daylight? What was the —
HM: Yeah. You could see them around you.
DK: Yeah. But presumably you couldn’t see them at night time.
HM: At night time you couldn’t.
DK: No.
HM: I did once.
DK: Right.
HM: Then again I should have made a note of it. At Heligoland you could see the torpedo boats feeding away out from the island. The island was just one cloud of bomb bursts.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
HM: You couldn’t see much of the land for the smoke and debris from the bombs.
DK: So that was hit quite hard then.
HM: Pardon?
DK: It was hit quite hard was it?
HM: Yeah.
DK: You say you saw an aircraft at night.
HM: Yeah.
DK: Was that quite nearby?
HM: That was a night flight. There again I don’t know which flight it was.
DK: No.
HM: Because I never made a note of it. I was in the mid-upper gun, mid-upper turret and suddenly there was this shadow went up. We were going and it went up in front of us.
DK: Right.
HM: I recognised it as a Lancaster. At night time. No lights. No nothing but there was this shadow went up in front of us.
DK: Right.
HM: If it had gone up a minute or two later or we’d been a minute or two earlier we’d have —
DK: Collided.
HM: Real come to.
DK: Was that, was that a bit of a frightening thing to see then was it?
HM: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
HM: He was doing evasive action. I don’t see why they should do it at night.
DK: Right.
HM: Because you’ve got, I don’t know how many aircraft were on that raid but if you could have five or six hundred or the thousand bomber raid going over the target for some time. Granted the aircraft are stacked and the first ones would be higher, the ones behind them should be a bit lower.
DK: Yeah.
HM: But you’ve always got that creep. Someone’s got there a bit early. Some had got there a bit late. So there’s bound to be some mix up.
DK: Yeah.
HM: And if you start weaving about in a stream of aircraft. He, he couldn’t see any other aircraft.
DK: Yeah.
HM: All he is doing is just hoping for the best. His gunner must have seen something and told the pilot to corkscrew. But that was it.
DK: Yeah. Could have been, could have ended a bit disastrously couldn’t it?
HM: It could have done.
DK: So after that you’ve then done on the 22nd of April ‘45 a daylight raid to Bremen. Do you remember going to Bremen?
HM: Yes.
DK: And you’ve got here in brackets flak holes. Is that when you’ve been hit?
HM: Came back with some holes in it. Yeah.
DK: Right.
HM: Yeah.
DK: So what was that like then? When your aircraft was hit?
HM: Well it, quite normal. There’s plenty of flak, plenty of [pause] plenty going on and suddenly and there’s click click. ‘Has somebody dropped something?’ [laughs] No answer from the crew. Just as though you were driving along and somebody threw a stone at you.
DK: Yeah
HM: Or there was a mob throwing stones at you. But fortunately nothing, nothing was hit that was vital.
DK: Yeah.
HM: None of On the controls or oil pipes. It was just a hole in the fuselage.
DK: Right. Right. Was that anywhere near you? The hole in the fuselage or—
HM: I think it was actually by the bomb bay.
DK: Oh right. So almost underneath you then.
HM: Well, near. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Just forward of the mid-upper gunner.
DK: So, so then you’ve got one more raid. What does that say? Operation the Hague. You see that one there. It’s a daylight one again. It’s a [unclear] one.
HM: Oh yes. Holland was starving.
DK: Right.
HM: They were all, they wanted some food. Somehow they made communication with the Germans. We could go in and drop food in Holland as long as we drove on a, or flew on a specific line.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Course. At a certain height. They’d let us go in and drop food and nobody would fire at us. Hopefully [laughs]
DK: So this this —
HM: So that was dropping food at the Hague. Holland.
DK: Oh right. Right. It is the Hague then. So that’s what became known as Operation Manna then.
HM: Operation Manna.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
HM: We did that a couple of times I think.
DK: So that to the Hague then was the 3rd of May. And then you’ve got another one. Operation Manna on the 8th of May.
HM: Yeah.
DK: It looks like you’ve done two trips there.
HM: Yeah.
DK: Right. So could you see the people on the ground as you were dropping the food?
HM: Oh yeah. Yeah. You could see them walking about. There were civilians waving.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Looking up at you.
DK: So how did you feel about that then? Dropping the food after dropping bombs. It was it a bit different.
HM: Well, it felt a bit strange really seeing the Germans down there walking about [laughs] and you’re flying.
DK: So you could actually see the Germans down below as well.
HM: Oh yes.
DK: Yeah. So you were very low level then.
HM: Yeah. I think it was about a thousand feet.
DK: Right.
HM: Something like that. And then there was after that there’s Exodus.
DK: Yeah. Operation Exodus. So what was Operation Exodus like?
HM: That was bringing prisoners of war back.
DK: Right.
HM: We flew out. We flew to a base at Juvencourt in France. Picked up I think it was about twenty. Twenty ex-prisoners of war.
DK: Right.
HM: The sat around in the fuselage. We’d land. They’d come and climb in and find themselves a perch. Then we’d fly back again.
DK: Right. So how many of those trips did you do?
HM: About four or five I think.
DK: Right. And did you speak to the ex-POWs? Were they —
HM: Well, what we’d called, I mean to say you didn’t get much chance because you was in the turret. As soon as you landed it was basically loading them on
DK: Right
HM: And then taking off and coming home again.
DK: Right.
DK: So they were quite relieved to be going home were they?
HM: Oh yes.
DK: Yeah. Had some of them been a prisoners for a length of time do you know?
HM: I would imagine so. I’ve no idea. Like I said, we didn’t really get a chance to speak to them. Then again when you’re flying you can’t have a conversation.
DK: No.
HM: Because of the noise.
DK: Yeah.
HM: We could be this close. I could shout at you and not tell what I was saying unless you were watching me and could do a bit of lip reading.
DK: No. Just going back to that what were the conditions like then as a mid-upper gunner? Presumably you’re were very cold up there.
HM: It was cold. Yeah.
DK: What were you wearing?
HM: Well, you were wearing your normal clothes. In fact you got issued with some special underwear. Long johns and long sleeves.
DK: Yeah.
HM: There was a mixture of wool and silk. Climbed in to that and then your normal uniform on top of that, and then you’d have a padded, padded overalls thing on
DK: Right
HM: Like a boiler suit done up the front. And then you got your overall. The one that you see us wearing on some of the pictures I think. It’s just sort of a canvas flying suit.
DK: Right. So, so altogether then you flew well one, two, three, four, five. Five. Five operations.
HM: Five. Five operations. Yes.
DK: And then a couple of Manna trips and the Exodus trips.
HM: Yeah. Well, they weren’t counted as operations.
DK: No. No.
HM: The five as you go along. That would have been counted towards you —
DK: The tour.
HM: Tour.
DK: Yes. And that would have still been thirty if the war had gone on.
HM: Oh, it would have been thirty.
DK: So how did you feel then as the war’s ended? Were you quite relieved at that point?
HM: Yeah. I suppose we were.
DK: Yeah. And did —
HM: The airfield just, just erupted. I don’t know where they came from but there were verey pistols firing off all over the place.
DK: And just go back a bit. Did you meet any of your crew off duty at all? Did you get to know them?
HM: Oh yes.
DK: Yeah. So what did you do?
HM: Yeah.
DK: On your off duty time.
HM: We’d usually go along to the local pub. You get to know the locals.
DK: Yeah. And, and did you keep in touch with the rest of the crew after the war?
HM: No. We didn’t.
DK: No. No. So you’ve all gone your separate ways then.
HM: We all went our separate ways.
DK: You haven’t been in touch with them since.
HM: No.
DK: No.
HM: When I got married the wireless operator, I sent invites to them all but there was only the wireless operator turned up.
DK: Right. So —
HM: I heard later Howard, he’s always on the internet looking at things. Our pilot evidently emigrated to Canada.
DK: Right.
HM: And there was an obit. I’m presuming it was our pilot. There’s an obituary to a Flying Officer Crawford who had died in a nursing home. He was a bit older than we were. I think he was about twenty eight, twenty nine.
DK: Yeah.
HM: When we was only, I was nineteen.
DK: Yeah.
HM: So he was an old man.
DK: Yeah [laughs]
HM: Evidently this pilot officer Andrew Robertson Crawford had died in this nursing home in Toronto.
DK: Oh right.
HM: Who’d emigrated from England after flying with the RAF. That’s all that’s all there was it.
DK: Sounds like it would probably be him them.
HM: And a bit of what he’d done in Canada. He’d gone to college and qualified as some sort of engineer.
DK: Right.
HM: Although he was qualified with the RAF as an aero engineer.
DK: Yeah.
HM: He’d qualified as something else over there.
DK: So presumably you left the RAF quite soon afterwards then did you?
HM: Oh yes.
DK: Yeah.
HM: When I came home on leave I used to visit the place where I worked beforehand. The garment cutter.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
HM: And one time I went the boss asked me, ‘Would you like to come out?’ I’d just met the wife then, or girlfriend and I said yes. He said, ‘I’ll try and see what I can do.’ Of course, if you’d got a job to go to and the boss enquired can you come home you were allowed early release.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
HM: So within about a week of that, seeing the boss and him saying yes I was on my way home. Demobbed.
DK: Wow. So it happened quite quickly then.
HM: Oh, it did.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Yes.
DK: Quite, quite unusual from some of the people I’ve spoken to. Hanging on for months before they got demobbed.
HM: If you, if you got a job to go to I believe it could be, could be done.
DK: Oh, ok. Ok.
HM: And evidently he wanted me back so —
DK: So, so how do you after all these years how do you look back on your time in the RAF? How do you feel now about it?
HM: Quite happy about it. I thought it was [pause] I thought it was a good spell.
DK: Yeah.
HM: It’s an experience you couldn’t have anywhere else. Yeah. It was quite, I found it quite a good experience.
DK: Yeah. You found it useful in later life then did you? Sort of that experience.
HM: Not really [laughs]
DK: Oh [laughs] Ok. I’ve just got your photo here.
HM: Yeah.
DK: I wonder if, are you still able to name, name the crew? So that’s, that’s to the recording here that’s a Lancaster of 138 Squadron.
HM: That’s a Lancaster of 138 Squadron.
DK: And that’s the one you flew on operations.
HM: Yeah.
DK: So do you know, can you name them all here?
HM: Yes. There’s —
DK: So that’s, that’s the ground crew presumably at the front there.
HM: That’s the ground crew. I can’t remember their names.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
HM: That’s Ted Bramsgrove. He was the navigator. Then there’s me. Then there’s Tom Kelsall, he was the engineer. That was the pilot, Flying officer Crawford.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Eric Scott. He was the bomb aimer. Oh, what’s his first? Fry was his surname. He was the wireless operator. And Duncan MacGregor he was the other gunner.
DK: So he would normally be in the rear gun turret would he?
HM: Yeah.
DK: For the most part. Though you did swap over didn’t you, at times?
HM: We did swap over. Yeah.
DK: So they were a good crew then were they?
HM: They were. Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
HM: Yes. He was a farmer. He was a school teacher. He was a shop assistant. I don’t know what Mac was.
DK: So quite varied.
HM: He was Irish. He’d come from Northern Ireland.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Belfast.
DK: So quite a varied background then.
HM: Oh yeah.
DK: Yeah. And that’s your ground crew there.
HM: That’s the ground crew.
DK: Yeah.
HM: Which looked after the aircraft.
DK: So did you have much to do with the ground crew at all? Or —
HM: Not a lot. No.
DK: No. You just wanted to make sure the aircraft was ok.
HM: You’d chat to them when you went out to dispersal to climb in.
DK: So that’s you there then. Second from the end.
HM: Yeah. Second on the left.
DK: Second on the left. Ok then, that’s —
HM: I’m thinking you must, I think Howard had that.
DK: Yeah.
HM: And he asked me what all the names were.
DK: Yeah.
HM: I think he sent that.
DK: Yes. If he hasn’t I’ll make sure he does.
HM: Yeah.
DK: That’s a great photo that. Ok then. I think that will do. I’ll, but thanks for that. I’ll turn off. Turn this off now. Thanks for your time.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Henry Moss,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 7, 2023,

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