Interview with Tony Gerard


Interview with Tony Gerard


Tony lived in South Pool before moving to Liverpool with his job in a bank. He also belonged the Air Training Corps. After about a year he decided to sign up for the Royal Air Force. His assessment and medical were at Liverpool. He was called up to in November 1943. He then went to the initial training wing at RAF Bridlington for six weeks, before going to RAF Weston-Super-mare to train on Lancasters and Halifaxes. He was then posted to RAF St Athan for about ten weeks before being posted to RAF Scampton and finally to RAF Swinderby working on Stirlings as a flight engineer. It was there where he met the rest of the crew. After Lancaster finishing school he went to RAF Tuddenham and joined 90 Squadron. From there their first operation was to Siegen. On one trip an enemy fighter flew alongside them and the crew held their fire so not to draw attention to their aircraft. He did some formation flying on some of the operations. Later he joined 7 Squadron on Pathfinders. During this time, he remembered an incident involving his motorbike which he lent to a colleague who had an accident with a police car. The bike had to be written off - tony had only ridden it once. The crew then went back to RAF Tuddenham where they took part in operations Manna and Exodus. Tony was posted to RAF Valley and then went by sea to Iraq driving lorries. The crew sailed back to Liverpool and went to RAF Burtonwood. After being demobbed he went back to banking in Liverpool until he retired.




Temporal Coverage




01:11:06 audio recording


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AGerardJA181122, PGerardJA1801


SP: So, this is Suzanne Pescott and I’m interviewing John Anthony Gerard known as Tony today who was a flight engineer with both 90 Squadron and 7 Squadron during the years 1943 to ‘45. Today’s interview is for International Bomber Command Centre’s Digital Archive and we’re at Tony’s home. It’s the 22nd of November 2018. Also present at the interview is Tony’s son Richard. So, first of all, thank you, Tony for agreeing to talk to me today. Do you want to tell me a little bit about your time first of all before you joined the RAF?
TG: Oh, I was in a bank in, in Liverpool. First job. I had to move from, from Dingwall. I was in Dingwall office because the manager there retired and the [old man] who was in the bank was made manager and of course he couldn’t, I couldn’t stay there so I had to move to the Liverpool branch. You know, because you, you couldn’t be managing a place where your direct dependants were, were employed. So, I was in Liverpool office for about six months in ’43 until, you know I had six months by which time I’d spent quite a lot of time in Southport because I got one of the girls in the bank lived in Southport so we used to go there, and she, she, it’s rather interesting as I went abroad because she used to be some, this this is not known to you, she used to be in in what they called, there’s a big hotel in in Southport this side you go so. At the time it was an American Forces leave place and she used to be one of the, they used to call them something and so [pause] so anyway so I was annoyed with her so I went off to Iraq on the, on the what was it? [pause] Oh, a South African ship. What was it again?
RG: Wasn’t this after the war? Sorry.
TG: This is after the war. Yeah.
RG: Yes. No. Life before —
[recording paused]
SP: So, Tony, that was about a year in the bank then in total before —
TG: Yeah. Yeah.
SP: You decided to sign up, was it? So —
TG: Yes.
SP: And what made you decide on the RAF?
TG: I was in the ATC as well, like. In the ATC, and most of the people in the ATC went in to the RAF. Most of my pals in West Kirby here joined the Navy, because they would be on the Naval sails here and I sailed here as well but I joined the RAF. I think I liked the uniform. I forget now like.
SP: So, what sort of things did you do with the ATC to get you prepared for the RAF?
TG: You had a uniform in the ATC and they used to meet in the, meet at the, it was very suitable. But the, what’s the name was [pause] the Golf Club because they had sort of outside so we were able to have —
SP: Like a drill square outside.
TG: A drill square. Yes. That was very suitable and we had every week it was. I forget now which night but it was very very suitable. Where were we?
SP: So you decided to join the, you were in the ATC. You decided to join the RAF.
TG: Yeah. Oh yeah.
SP: Do you want to tell me —
TG: So I had to go to Liverpool first in, in Liverpool where everybody who went to the war, for the initial [pause] initial oh, say who you were, what you were. How you were fixed with mental, night flight and all of that lot.
SP: Whereabouts in Liverpool was that?
TG: That was in, in, I can tell you the exact place. It was in Minshull Street. Minshull Street and that was, and they said righto, ‘Well we don’t, we don’t want anybody else now.’ This was in halfway ’43. So they said we’ve got enough people waiting now for pilots and navigators and bomb aimers because they went to Canada so you can either be, you can be on the list for either air gunner or flight engineer. We didn’t like the sound of air gunner so [laughs] A few people did but that was in March or April of ‘43.
SP: And how long did it take until they called you up for your training?
TG: So, I actually joined the RAF I think on the 8th of November. 8th of November 1943. My number was 015 [laughs] What was it now? Oh, fancy forgetting that. I can remember that at any time. The number. Nobody forgets their number [laughs] Everybody remembers their number.
SP: And what was your number, Tony?
TG: 3010831.
SP: Ok. Fantastic.
TG: [Laughs] yeah.
SP: So, what was the first thing you did?
TG: It’s not in here. The number. I don’t think.
SP: Yeah. Not in your logbook. So, what was the first thing you did with the training then? So, you got your service number and in the November ’43.
TG: 8th of November I joined up, down at um. What’s the name of the cricket ground in London?
SP: Lord’s.
TG: Lord’s.
SP: Lord’s Cricket Ground.
TG: Everybody who joined up, and fortunately I found that this, the whole of the intake was about twelve or fifteen intake were Durham miners and I’d never met any Durham miners before [laughs] At that time I was a bit, you know. I was a bit [pause] and they didn’t trust me of course. ‘From a bank? What’s a bank? We’re miners.’ And I forget now. I think, oh I know the only interest up there was I found they were good people and they’d already got the idea that you looked after everybody. That was in, intense. Intense outlook at, at [pause] what’s that name?
SP: Down at Lord’s when you were all together.
TG: Down at Lord’s. Yeah. We were there for about a fortnight or three weeks. And they, they learned that in about a day because you had to have about half a dozen injections and goodness knows what so, and one night, we’d only be there about a day and I was on the, sitting on the bed, on my bunk and we used to be in bunks and I had the top bunk of this place. I was dropped out through, through all these thingies and in the morning I found myself in the right bunk covered up with clothes. And that that convinced me they were [laughs] they were alright.
SP: They’d looked after you.
TG: Yes. They only learned it took one day and it didn’t matter what you were, you were part of that team at the time and therefore they had to look after you. And one of the blokes had took me, well they must have lifted me up on to the top bunk and, and that was a good start. But that was the, that was a good, a good start to I think probably your, your father thought had the same experience. That as soon as you joined the RAF whatever little bit you were in you were part of that and and everybody looked after each other. And even in that small number and the days, they would have only have been in a day but they looked after me. But, I always forget that, always remember that. And they were all Durham miners. They were tough characters. And I was [unclear] but we went to, in to ITW. ITW was, was a very cold spot because it was in, what’s that place?
SP: So ITW is the Initial Training Wing for you, isn’t it? So, that’s where you went to next.
TG: ITW. Yes. ITW. When you’d been two or three weeks and gone through all the rigmarole and in uniform etcetera in London you went to ITW and I went to ITW in Bridlington of all places. In December [laughs] It was howling gale off the North Sea and we were frozen stiff but we had a very nice corporal running our lot. Very nice. He was, he was a nice chap the corporal was. I can remember him now. Well, I’ve got a picture of him standing in front of our little group and he was a, mind you there was a bloke, a huge big chap and he’d been, he was a warrant officer, or [pause] He’d taken his doings off because he was on the course and he, he’d originally been motorboating.
SP: Right.
TG: Going out the North Sea picking up people who had pranged in the North Sea. There was a lot of people that pranged in the North Sea and he’d been a, he’d been originally been a, been running this motor boat and he was a warrant officer. He was a huge blooming chap and of course he got preferential treatment from the corporal having been a warrant officer before.
But he was the same as us then really. He was alright. But I got flu at the end. The day we, we, and the day we got leave we got leave at the end of ITW and that was six weeks. That day I ended up at Lime Street Station with a dose of flu and you know what you can be like with flu and I had to ring up the old man because it was about midnight. So I would have been there ‘til morning. The train had dropped us there late so that I managed to ring up the old man so he said, oh well of course he had, he had, he didn’t have much petrol but he had a bit and he came over and picked me up at Lime Street and I was sitting against the wall leaning against my kit bag [laughs] I was, and I’ll never forget that because I had flu for about a fortnight. Of course, I lost my course and it proved a very good thing because I met blokes off the following course who had gone, they had started having training at Weston Super Mare. This Locking. Locking camp outside Super Mare and I met some very good blokes there and we had, we had we used to have a good time at Locking. Mainly climbing over the fence at about midnight.
SP: Climbing over the fence at midnight. Where was that?
TG: That was in Locking. It’s, I think it’s still going. It’s about [pause] five miles I would say out of, outside Weston Super Mare. It’s a nice town Weston Super Mare. And they had some good hotels in it. It was —
SP: So was that because you were getting back late you had to —
TG: Yeah.
SP: Go over the fence. Yeah. Because you had missed your squadron bus back.
TG: Yes. We should have been back at eleven.
SP: Right.
TG: We were climbing through, mostly through the fence underneath. Always doing that and never got caught. Never got caught. And then of course eventually, having done six weeks there, six or ten weeks I forget now we went and joined the, the rest of the course at, at, St Athan in, which was a very good place to be there. St Athan. It was a good little place. Mind you, you had to work hard there. We were ten weeks or so there. It was about sixteen week course altogether and we had done ten of it at Locking. So, when this, this, when we’d been sort of six weeks or ten weeks at Locking we had already moved and then we were the next course and they were one above us that I’d been with. But never, you never met them because you were with your own lot.
SP: So, what sort of things did you train on down in Weston Super Mare? What was at Locking? What —
TG: Mainly on, on the Lancaster. There were two courses going on simultaneously there. One was we trained on the Merlin engines and and also on the other plane you were going in to and I was selected or put in the Lancaster lot and some were put in the [pause] what’s it called? Your father.
SP: Halifaxes.
TG: Halifaxes. To learn about the, but the whole thing took, it was in the, in the following August so I’d been nearly twelve months then. The fellas, I was posted and everybody got posted to different places and I got sent to Scampton of all places. Scampton [laughs] what a good place to start your [laughs] I went to Scampton for a few days and waited to be, because there were three Scampton men to the, I was in 5 Group and so that we stayed in 5 Group then. Of course, I spent about oh I’d only been in Scampton a few days when I was posted to Swinderby by myself. And I was still by myself. There was only one. One that had gone from Scampton. That’s where I met my crew. Swinderby.
SP: So, so your crew had already crewed hadn’t they? So they’d been flying.
TG: No. I hadn’t. They had —
SP: They had but the flight engineers always joined —
TG: They always joined at —
SP: At the end.
TG: At the end.
SP: Not at the end. But the end, when the crew got together, wasn’t it?
TG: Yes.
SP: Yeah.
TG: They’d been together for two or three months.
SP: Yeah. How was it to fit in to a team that had already been working together for that time?
TG: Well, I was, I was on in the ground in the, in the, hut when, it was a permanent, permanent station. Swinderby. Yes. It was. And so I was in the ground floor because there was just a spare bed there. So, I took it when I went there and I suppose I’d only been there about a day when a bloke came downstairs and said, ‘Is your name —’ so and so? And I said, ‘Yeah.’ So he said, ‘Oh, well, you’re joining our crew.’ [laughs] And he was the bomb aimer. He was a nice bloke, Tom and I used to go out with him quite a lot. We, Tom and me. Tom said, ‘Well, come and meet the rest.’ They were upstairs. So we just, the beds were moved around. I went in to that. That’s how I joined the crew.
SP: So, it was quite welcoming. That atmosphere that you talked about before.
TG: Oh yes.
SP: About everyone realising it was a team. It was straight away that you were part of that. Yeah.
TG: They, they’d already —
SP: Yeah.
TG: Been with each other for and they’d had a bit, a bit of a time of it. They had been to, been to training places themselves before I joined them. But there was no the point in joining until then because what we knew about the aircraft was, they didn’t need to know. You had to know because you had to mend it [laughs] if it went wrong. So anyway, that, that was how I met the crew and I couldn’t have met, everybody says the same thing. So, they were good blokes. I was, I was. Just as though I’d been with them all along. So —
SP: So how long was it then before you were on operations?
TG: Oh, well you can see here how many trips we did on Stirlings. On, because they, they didn’t have Lancasters at Swinderby.
SP: Right.
TG: They had Stirlings so you were, you were on a Stirling learning to be on a Lancaster but you went to Lancaster Finishing School. There were only four trips there on, on that.
SP: And where were you at Lancaster Finishing School? Was that —
TG: That was at, what’s it called now [pause] What’s the name? It says the name on the top.
SP: So, they’re at Warboys, Hunts’.
TG: Warboys.
SP: Yeah. So that was a Finishing School. What sort of things did you —
TG: No. That was, Warboys was —
SP: Yeah.
TG: Was the Pathfinders. Before we went to [pause]
SP: So, it was the Lancaster Finishing School and then you went on to —
TG: Went straight to, down to south, south, to Tuddenham.
SP: Tuddenham. Yeah. And that’s when you joined 90 Squadron.
TG: The squadron. That was the squadron.
SP: So, what was life like at Tuddenham?
TG: It was a wartime old place. Wasn’t a regular place. It was, actually it was only about a mile or two to our, where we were because we were Tuddenham. 90 was, was a sub to, to Mildenhall which is 15 which was a very posh squadron. Mildenhall, which was, we always had our our post, you know, post and we used to meet once a year. We always had those at Mildenhall.
SP: So, where the Associations used to have their annual —
TG: Yeah.
SP: Meeting.
TG: That’s right.
SP: Yeah.
TG: The annual meeting at Mildenhall which was very posh of course. They had a lovely [pause] it was a mess actually but we took it over for the day. But it was like a, you know a posh [pause] big it, was big and there was a big room with the eating and because originally at first huge but they only started it in about 1948 I think and we packed it in in 1960. But we only packed it in, I will never forget the bloke, he was a, the bloke who was chairman was, he was one of these in Norway and all this sort of caper and he was [pause] I forget now what he was but he was miles above us. We were all, while we were together we were all messed. Not officers. We were all other ranks. Even the pilot was. He started off with us and we had him for quite a while before he got his commission but he only got his because eventually they made all what they called captains of aircraft they made them all officers. So he, he was automatically was away but the way the navigator [laughs] saluted him just the same. He never got on with him really. He was a, he was very good navigator. He went on Transport Command and he always tells the story of the day he went into Transport Command he, he went in to the interview and he said, ‘I said to them, now I’m only a warrant officer and you’re, you’re only, if you’re not going to pass me say so now because I’m not an officer.’ So they passed. He was passed in the end. He was that good.
SP: What was his name? What was your navigator’s name?
TG: The navigator. He’s the next door to me on that, on that photo.
SP: Photo.
TG: The only one alive apart from me now and he’s the one that’s gone deaf. Solidly deaf.
SP: Right.
TG: I’m trying to think.
SP: And what’s his name?
TG: Bill.
SP: Bill. Do you know Bill’s surname?
TG: Bill. Bill. Bill. What was his surname?
SP: Don’t worry I’ll refer, everybody referred to everyone just by their nicknames or first names, didn’t they? Don’t worry.
TG: His name was Bill anyway.
SP: Yeah.
TG: Always to me. Then Fred was next door to him.
SP: And what was Fred?
TG: He was pally with Fred.
SP: What role was Fred on the crew?
TG: He died. The first one that died was Fred. After the war. He lived in Hull. Yes. That’s — [unclear]
[recording paused]
SP: Right.
TG: In, what’s in London? London East End. He was very, his father was [pause] was either couldn’t see or he couldn’t hear.
SP: Right.
TG: I’m not sure. But he had a rough life in the East End of London.
SP: And what was his name?
TG: Bill [laughs]
SP: Bill. And what role did Bill play in the crew?
TG: He was the navigator.
SP: The nav. Right. Yeah. That’s Bill. The navigator. Yeah.
TG: He was a damned good navigator.
SP: Yeah.
TG: He used to —
SP: So, Bill the navigator. And then who else was on the crew?
TG: That’s Fred. He was the first man to die. We all went to his funeral in Hull.
SP: And what role did Fred do?
TG: He, he was ooh, ooh when I left.
SP: Yeah. But he, what role did he play? Was he one of the gunners? Or was he —
TG: No. He was the wireless op.
SP: Wireless op. ok.
TG: He was a very good one.
SP: Yeah.
TG: Because he used to fly in in the Yorks so he was a very good. We had two very good. There we are in—
SP: So just looking at the pictures of the reunion with Tony.
TG: That right.
SP: At the moment.
TG: I’m at the end.
SP: Your pilot’s name?
TG: He was Skip. Always Skip.
SP: Kip.
TG: Pilots are always Skip.
SP: Kip. And where was Kip from?
TG: He was from down, what’s the further down the east coast? What’s the name of the places? Where they’ve now got a big [pause] Anyway, he was engaged. He used to always fly around that because his girlfriend who he married eventually and went to Rhodesia. He was, Proome was his name. P R —
SP: Yeah.
TG: O O M E. Because when he got his [laughs] his pilot, he was a flight lieutenant. No. He’d got a warrant by then. The day he got his his announcement of his, his —
SP: His commission.
TG: Officer Proome.
SP: Yeah.
TG: The bloke came in and said, said, ‘Flight sergeant —’ or whatever he was, ‘Proome. You are now Pilot Officer Proome.’ Of course, Proome [laughs] The whole place just descended in to laughter. He was, and he was writing. Proome his name was but of course it was the old saying. You know. The old P O Prune. But he was, I’ll never forgot the day he got. That’s the rear gunner.
SP: What was the rear gunner called?
TG: Jimmy.
SP: Jimmy.
TG: Jimmy. He got very pally with, after the war, he got very pally with the, what was he? The chief Pathfinder. What was the chief Pathfinder’s name? I C. He ran it from the time he, he was a so and so. I didn’t like him at all. Nobody liked him but he did and he, he got, there’s a memorial on Plymouth Hoe that he organised and got it going after the war.
SP: Yeah.
TG: It’s very good actually. It’s alongside —
SP: Yeah.
TG: Introduced me to—
[recording paused]
SP: And so this is your bomb aimer. What was his name?
TG: Tom.
SP: Tom Saunders.
TG: Tom Saunders. Yeah. And there’s the mid-upper gunner. A bit of a character as you can see.
SP: What was his name?
TG: His name was, oh what was his name now? [pause] Do you know, I can’t. I’ll send the —
SP: Don’t worry. We’ll get the details. So, were all your crew British?
TG: In the same positions there. The same positions. That’s in the bar downstairs in Mildenhall.
SP: So, we’re just looking at your picture of the reunion there. Yeah.
TG: Yeah.
SP: So, was, were all the crew British on yours or was any —
TG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
TG: Yeah. They were all British.
SP: So, you didn’t have any Canadians or —
TG: No. Didn’t have any, any, no.
SP: Or Australians.
TG: They were all British.
SP: Yeah. So, so if we go on to your time at, with 90 Squadron do you want to talk were any operations that stood out? What —
TG: Yeah. Well, we did, what did, twenty one of them. Was it twenty one? And then after the war, the war was ending, thank you we did one or two trips to Holland with the, with the what did they call it? They called it something —
SP: Operation Manna.
TG: Manna. We did a couple of Manna trips and then we did a couple of [pause] a couple of bringing POWs home from Juvencourt. We went to Juvencourt and the first day we went there we carried a load of, well about four or five anyway of new, new, new tyres in case anybody, because there were quite a number, quite a number of squadrons going to Juvencourt and in case anybody needed any. We, but of course we didn’t know that until the end of the day so we arrived there about 10 o’clock or eleven and we found out oh well, we never said anything. We don’t take any that day and so we went into Reims. And we went to Reims and in the middle of the square in Reims there is this cathedral. Reims Cathedral and it’s a magnificent frontage and a bloke came up and we got pally talking to him. He said, ‘There’s the, you can still see where the Germans had fired before.’ They were trying to ruin the cathedral and they fired and we saw chips off. Chips off afterwards. When we went back he said, ‘Well, I’ve been keeping this for a special occasion. Now, you come to my house with me.’ And we went around the corner and walked round’ And well, blow me he opened the back door. It was a back door wasn’t it? We thought where are we going in to here. We went inside and he brought out the most beautiful, of course it’s Reims is the centre of, of what’s his name? Yeah.
SP: Champagne, is it?
TG: Champagne.
SP: Yeah.
TG: And he brought out the most beautiful Champagne and he’d been keeping that all through the war for a special occasion and we went in to his house and he gave us a drink of this champagne and it was the best champagne I’ve ever tasted. Champagne’s nothing compared with that. It was marvellous. So that was our day in —
SP: In Reims.
TG: In Reims.
SP: Fantastic.
TG: When we came back. Back, during the afternoon we came back to Juvencourt and saw that we were the only one left. Everybody had left. They didn’t need us. They didn’t need the space for spare tyres.
SP: No.
TG: So, and we so we flew over Paris. We weren’t supposed to but we landed outside via. Skip said, ‘Well, we’re not going to get another way out.’ We were properly on the way southern. We went over Paris on the way and saw the Seine. A nice day that was.
SP: So those, those would have been towards the end of your tour, wouldn’t it? The dropping. The Operation Manna.
TG: Oh yes. We had done the thing.
SP: Yeah. So, do you know, just thinking back to when you joined the crew at Tuddenham. Can you remember where you went on your first operation?
TG: Yes. We, we went to Siegen. Or Siegen was it? Siegen. We went there twice. Where was the first? [pause — pages turning] Actually, we went there twice in wo days. The first day was coming on Christmas. Excuse me. And we [pause] our escorts couldn’t get. We had daylight escorts then. Fighters. And they couldn’t get off from their ‘drome so we were just approaching France and the recall came and we had to drop the bombs in the, in the channel. We couldn’t take them back in case they were dropped on the way down. But that was the first trip. To Siegen. There was a few like —
SP: Were there any major trips that stand out to you because you had a lot of operations that you went on?
TG: Yes. We went on quite a few. A few daylights. There’s oh there’s two. The red ones are night and the green ones are daytime and that was night.
SP: How can —
TG: Munich. I don’t know whether it was Munich or, or the other one.
SP: Cologne?
TG: Cologne. No. Cologne’s this end. Munich’s a long way.
SP: You’ve done operations to Nuremberg.
TG: I don’t know whether it was Nuremberg or Munich where where Jimmy said, ‘There’s a fighter alongside us. He said, ‘Don’t blame me. I’m sure he hasn’t seen us.’ And he said to Bill, ‘Bill, don’t fire anything. Don’t, don’t take any notice because he hasn’t seen us.’ So when [laughs] I can remember that. It was quite a, quite a hefty response from below. I think it was all this business going on so, but he was, the light from the, from the, it was night, both night trips. The light from, from the bombs and the fires.
SP: The flak.
TG: Coming up. There was an air brake on the aircraft, and you could look through and see other aircraft, and he must have. Must have seen us. But he was right alongside us and it was a German fighter. And eventually he left and so Jimmy breathed a sigh of relief, ‘Ok. He’s gone.’ [laughs] But he, ‘Don’t try and shoot. Don’t be a fool and shoot him down because —' he said, ‘He hasn’t, I’m sure he hasn’t seen us.’ I can remember little Jimmy saying [unclear] He was a very good rear gunner though. He never fired at anything but he was always on the lookout for things. And he was better than [pause] than the big big chap in the mid [pause] I think he was better because Bill used to say, ‘Jimmy, have you seen anything?’ ‘No.’ ‘Oh, that’s good.’
SP: So, you got quite a mixture of night and daylight raids.
TG: Yes.
SP: What, what did you find was the biggest difference between the two? What was the experience like?
TG: Well, the night ones you see we ended the night ones when we went to, to the training place at this [pause] we didn’t do many night ones later. That’s the training area for the aircraft.
SP: That was Warboys. So —
TG: Warboys. Yes.
SP: Yeah.
TG: This is —
SP: So, you did. So you did like Essen during daylight and Siegen at night.
TG: We only did four trips with, with, we were there about a month or six weeks before we got seen off back. Back to —
SP: So, what was the biggest difference between, you know a night operation to a day operations? Would it be a different atmosphere in the plane? Was there anything different you did day light to night?
TG: No, I don’t think so.
SP: No.
TG: Well, you could see. I never said [pause] the thing I I can remember the most is the arguments with, between, excuse me. My eyes water.
I don’t think there was anything. I remember one, one daylight raid we we shot off the runway and we used to you know sometimes they, he used to like to push the engines up to a certain point and he would say, ‘Right you —' on the right, tell me what, right. And he would let me know. But at that point we headed off the runway and shot across [laughs] really bounced. Poor old Jimmy in the rear turret was bounced up and down and then of course it was just a rough, rough part of the aerodrome. [unclear] started again. Ok. He was a good pilot. He was a good pilot. Even, even [pause] even Bill recognised. He didn’t like him. He used to argue with Bill and he, he’d look round, oh we’d be going [unclear] these were and, ‘Well, other people are going that way. Why are we going this way? What’s your —’ And Bill said, ‘If you want to get shot down go the other way.’ So he said’That is the right way.’ And it always was.
SP: Yeah.
TG: He never never gave him —
SP: Ok.
TG: You know, the wrong course or —
SP: Yeah.
TG: Yeah. Always. And at the PFF I was supposed to drop the bombs but, because Bill, what’s his name, the bomb aimer Tom used to be sitting next to Bill from behind us. Just behind us. We were all on top level in the Lanc. You were down below more in the Halifax. We were all on the top level. You could always see what was happening round you and you were given a course and say, ‘Well, everybody, other people seem to be going the other way.’ They’d be arguing and, ‘Well, I don’t care if they’re going upside down. This is the way.’ And he was always right because he was such a good navigator. Oh, he was. A clever lad Tom and ended up as an IC in London one of the one of the main places of of where you applied for extra, extra money or anything like that and and got to the top of tree by that. He was a very clever lad.
SP: Yeah.
TG: Very clever.
SP: You were telling me before about formation flying. So you’d done sort of formation flying on some of the raids. So that was quite, you saw some events happen on those. Do you want to tell me about [pause] about the formation flying?
TG: It was never the worst one was when the bloke alongside who lost a wing heading in to Cologne. Never forget that. Didn’t know until, until we suddenly [pause] Jimmy probably told us. He was alongside of us and if he, if he’d tipped that way and if he’d tipped too far he’d have gone in to us. That happened quite often in the war books I’ve read.
SP: So can you tell me what happened on that? So, how did it lose the wing?
TG: Nothing happened. Well, something, we presume it must have been a bomb dropped by somebody else because it was near the bombing point. But it was the last raid to Cologne. The last time we went to Cologne so it must have been when we’d gone back from Pathfinders then. It was twenty one or twenty two raids. We didn’t see anything at all. We just disappeared. All of a sudden you looked and the wing had gone.
SP: What effect did that have on the crew?
TG: None. None at all. ‘Hard luck,’ sort of thing. He couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t do anything about it. But he was, if he’d been a bit further over he’d have dropped it through our starboard wing because it wasn’t very far from us and he had the, a port wing went. It wasn’t our squadron though. It was one of the other. Probably one of 15 but it might have been one of ours. I forget now.
SP: So, you did quite a few of your operations with 90 Squadron but then you got posted to 7 Squadron.
TG: Yes.
SP: What, what, what role did you do at 7 Squadron?
TG: Sorry?
SP: You mentioned Pathfinders.
TG: Pathfinders. Yeah. They were, 7 was one of the [pause] what was the, the posh squadrons were 7. Were 7. Ad the, what’s its name?
SP: The one at Mildenhall.
TG: The bomb, the people who dropped the bombs on the dams.
SP: Right. So, 617 Squadron.
TG: 617.
SP: Yeah.
TG: Yeah. They were very unlucky really. Or he was. Very unlucky because the bloke who was IC of that business, what was his name? I can’t remember his name now. He was killed towards the end of the war flying a [pause] what was it called? A twin engine. A twin engine. Very good. A twin-engine thing.
[recording paused]
SP: So, a Mosquito.
TG: He was flying a Mosquito and he was killed at the end of the war. But he wasn’t a popular bloke although he was, he was very smart, very oh, oh the king and that sort of thing but he wasn’t popular. But he wouldn’t have had him killed himself because he did hundreds of operations. But he was, it was about the time of the bloke who started the, the [pause] started the —
[recording paused]
SP: So, when you were at 7 Squadron that was Pathfinders and you were doing some activity with Pathfinders. You mentioned Illuminator.
TG: Yeah. Where you, where you —
SP: You talked about the Illuminator role within Pathfinders.
TG: Yes.
SP: What, what was that role?
TG: Do you know, I can’t remember what [pause] It was the first thing you did when you got there was you were the illuminator. Now, what you did as an illuminator I don’t know. But at this, I remember this particular raid this Hanover one because we were with two aircraft. Only two of us and we were going through cloud. We were flying above the cloud a bit and all of a sudden there was a bang in front of us which blew part of the [unclear] in so we had a howling gale so. [unclear] dived into the bottom and chucked out Window quick in case they were, that would be, it was late in the war this was. Very late. Very late. In case it had been predicted flak flak and the next one would have been, would have been so [unclear] have been alive.
SP: So, it took part of the plane out.
TG: Shot down.
SP: Where the first part of the flak took the first part of the fuselage or the window?
TG: No. It was, maybe it was, I remember seeing a red, a big flash of the, of the whatever it was that they’d thrown up at us. But he was past it and we were following him. I don’t know why. He was past that. The next one might have, could have been even nearer and this was the nearest we ever got to a bit of anti-aircraft fire. But by Jove I was quick. I’d never moved so fast in my life.
SP: And that was on the trip to to Hanover.
TG: That was one to Hanover.
SP: One of the last ones. Yeah. Yeah.
TG: It turned out it was the last trip because [pause] I wasn’t with, I don’t know what had happened there. Whether they’d never, but I didn’t understand what this was all about and I couldn’t ask Tom, because I was supposed to know. But I knew I hadn’t been there. It was a [unclear] drop, you see. Dropped the main one before we got [pause] but I could see what we were supposed to be aiming at was a square in Hanover. It was a square. We were very low at the time. We were, oh a thousand or two feet and what we were doing there I don’t know. But I remember this and thinking this isn’t quite, this isn’t going to hit that square. And I never knew why. And after the war I never asked Tom. [unclear] for which I had the, the understanding of it. Of the, or whether he had just forgotten. Didn’t bother with the bomb aiming part. Fed up with his his navigation and his [unclear]
SP: Screen. Yeah.
TG: Rigmarole of the, on the navigator table.
SP: So that was your last trip with 7 Squadron.
TG: Yes.
SP: You were telling me about a little incident about a motorbike whilst you were at 7 Squadron. Do you want to —
TG: That was during our time.
SP: Yeah. So, what happened there?
TG: This, this, he was a warrant officer so I thought well, he must be a reasonable chap and he was going on leave and he knew Fred, you know. He, I forget now how he came to know about this motorbike and he asked Fred if he could borrow it for his leave in London. He reckoned he was going to London. And —
SP: And this was your brand new motorbike.
TG: It wasn’t new.
SP: Right. But it was new to you.
TG: You couldn’t buy them. You couldn’t buy a new one then.
SP: Yeah. But it was new to you.
TG: Hmmm.
SP: Yeah.
TG: Oh aye. It was too big actually but it wasn’t dear. It was about twenty five quid round about that point, and it was, so I said yes. ok. He only wanted it for a few days. And we didn’t hear anything for a week and then we’d heard he’d had the smash. And there’s a police car of all things. Bang with the investment. He was in hospital. The best. So of course, the police found out that it wasn’t his bike. So, I had to say well I I lent it to him which I did. I did lent it to him. So he hadn’t pinched it but I had to write it off.
SP: And how many times had you been out on the bike before that?
TG: Once.
SP: Once.
TG: Yeah. On the pillion behind Fred.
SP: So, you’d never actually driven.
TG: I wasn’t actually driving the bike, vroom we went off and Fred said, ‘Going to take you a while to sort this out this bike. It’ll do a hundred miles an hour. It’ll —
SP: So you never get to enjoy your bike.
TG: Never got the chance.
SP: No.
TG: Never got it out. Went back to Tuddenham again.
SP: So then yet you went back to Tuddenham.
TG: To Tuddenham. Yeah, that must have been one to[pause] that last one at Tuddenham.
SP: So, your last few operations were there.
TG: Yeah.
SP: And that’s where you did Operation Manna. Do you want to tell me a little bit about Operation Manna?
TG: Noe, we only went once to there. Twice to Juvencourt for for. Twice to Juvencourt. Because, because they drove. You could see them coming in there. People in in droves. In lorries. Big lorries the Americans had and they were all standing round. They were all POWs and you used to see them coming in into the [would be] sitting round wondering what to do with ourselves. That was at Juvencourt. That was, was Juvencourt, when we first went there was, was to carry a load of spare parts. Spare tyres for anybody who.
SP: But this time it was to pick up POWs.
TG: Yes. Yes.
SP: What was that like?
TG: [unclear] the top of, the top of the road. They’d come in and you could see them on the road, on the runway. And I can remember seeing so many people on the back of a lorry. There was, they were big long lorries. Americans of course had to have something big. Bigger than anybody else. And they, they were crammed. They were all POWs. Ex-POWs. And they used to feed the, up there on American K-rations. They used to be K-rations. Think I’ve got one anyway. What on earth it’s like now goodness knows but it’s [pause I I dare open it. They used to wander down to us and then they wouldn’t move. They thought we were going to take them back again. I remember when we were the last one that day. I can’t think of anything before. We’d been to Juven, we’d been to Reims and we came back and they all crowded around the aircraft and we were the only one there. The rest had taken theirs. We had to leave them there. That, that wasn’t good leaving them. They thought they’d be, you know packed in. They were the day after. But —
SP: Where? Which base did they bring them back to in the UK?
TG: We brought them back to a ‘drome near, near, oh I can’t tell you now. It was in the centre somewhere. Anyway, they would drop them there. They would brief them there. Take them up. Take them off our hands. They were so keen. I can remember that crowd. And we couldn’t start one of the engines and I had to get out and fiddle with it and blokes were coming up and you had to climb on, the Lancaster you had to climb on the wheel, up the wheel and then climb up to get at the engine and they all crowded around the [laughs] They were all trying to get me to lift some of them in and we couldn’t because you, I had to say well look when, I remember this so well and then they’d say, ‘We can’t take you because we’re not going where you are. We can’t land you at Tuddenham. That’s where we’re going because you wouldn’t, there’d be nobody there to take [pause] take you.’ But they wouldn’t be, and they were all in funny hats and funny they’d been, had, they had all been POWs. Some of them a long probably a long time.
SP: Desperate to get home.
TG: ‘No. You’ll have to wait another day. You’ve got to wait until tomorrow.’
SP: So obviously you brought other POWs back on other trips and what about the, you brought POWs back on other trips didn’t you? On some of the trips you brought POWs back. Right.
TG: No. The only time we brought —
SP: Right.
TG: The first time we, we, yes the first time we’d been out and had the day in the [pause]. Marvellous. Never tasted anything really like it.
SP: Champagne trip.
TG: Champagne trip.
SP: So, what about Operation Manna? You did a food drop. How? Tell me about that that food drop that you did on Operation Manna.
TG: Yeah. A couple of trips I think on Manna. I can remember we were very low and looking down and seeing people walking in the, in the [pause] That’s about all I can remember about that. And seeing people walking in the streets and it was one of the big towns. But that’s all I can remember about that.
SP: Was it quite a low flight for you to be able to push the food out?
TG: Yeah.
SP: You had to fly quite low, didn’t you?
TG: Yeah.
SP: Do you know about what, what —
TG: No, we didn’t, it wasn’t parachuted out. It was chucked out.
SP: Yeah.
TG: So they must have lost quite a bit but they chucked out quite a bit of grub out. Yeah. That was all—
SP: Yeah. So —
TG: That was all I can remember about Manna is that we flew low.
SP: So, obviously —
TG: Looking down and seeing people walking in the streets. Good grief.
SP: Yeah. Heading towards where the food was coming in were they?
TG: No. They were just [pause] because we didn’t drop it on the town itself. There was specified areas that you dropped these in.
SP: Yeah.
TG: This was it, and they had to be, they had to know it was coming because they were hit by one of them it could kill somebody.
SP: So, I’ve got, sorry so the time you finished Operation Manna and you’re picking up the POWs that’s your tour come to an end.
TG: Yes.
SP: So, what happened then?
TG: Well, we did nothing except go out every night [laughs] and slept while we could. We were all about to be posted. First the two gunners were posted and they became [pause] I forget what they became. Aircrew ended up, and the people that were flying at the end of the war had not been in the Air Force all that long and therefore they, they tried to get bring people from abroad and I was posted to Valley as a gardener.
SP: Right. To RAF Valley.
TG: Yeah. At RAF Valley. And I spent most of the time at home of course. I used to get told off by, I forget who it was. It was on the other side of the aerodrome you see and there was a garden in, a garden in front of the entrance. That was always the IC’s garden.
SP: [Unclear] And then you flew abroad again.
TG: No. I didn’t fly again. Oh, except of course went abroad on the Cape Town Castle. She was a fairly new ship and the Bay of Biscay was a bit of a do. I had to stay on deck and went to sleep on the deck. The Bay of Biscay. She was about thirty thousand tons but she still rolled.
SP: And where were you going on that trip? You were still in the RAF then?
TG: Yes. Oh yes.
SP: Yeah.
TG: That was, well I was on my way to Iraq but it, it was. I don’t know whether it was in Iraq or if it was outside Iraq. Just outside. But there were loads of us. Loads of us. All driving lorries. I’d been on a course in Blackpool but I already knew how to drive a lorry because no one had a car before the war. We used to go to Halkyn Moors on a Sunday and I’d have, I’d drive this car off the moors. I was only about thirteen at the time.
SP: A good experience for your driving.
TG: Yeah. So, I’ve been driving since I was thirteen.
SP: So, after your time in Iraq. What happened then?
TG: I spent about fourteen, fifteen months in Iraq in the same ‘drome and the only routine we had was occasionally they used to [pause] up the, what was it? Euphrates or or the [pause] what was, we used to go in go in to drive a fifteen hundred weight. And I used to have a pal in, who went with me actually but he was IC motor. Motor business. It was a terrible job to keep the engines going it was so hot and you couldn’t. You couldn’t. They were always breaking down. But you used to once a day you went into [unclear] into [unclear] that’s right into [unclear] which was up river from, what’s that place called that’s always in the —
Other: Pause.
[recording paused]
TG: She’d been blown up or something during the war. She wasn’t as good as the one we went out on. That was —
SP: So you sailed back to the UK.
TG: Yes. Back to UK. She came in to Liverpool actually the [unclear] did and we, we all we all got off and we were sent to what’s that place? You called, you named it. It used to be an American.
SP: Burtonwood?
TG: Yes.
SP: Near Warrington.
TG: Yes. That’s right. We all went in lorries to when we got out and from there we got chits to go on leave and they didn’t see us again until they needed to give us you know, yeah you know. Your civvy suit.
SP: No.
TG: And that was [pause] So, I didn’t see the RAF at all. There were so many coming into [unclear] what’s it called? Burtonwood, or this. They used to send you on leave straight away. There was a queue for chits for leave and, you know. So, I didn’t, didn’t bother. I rejoined the bank in Liverpool.
SP: So, then you went back to banking after the war.
TG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
TG: Back to, back to Castle Street. That’s the main branch. So I went back to Castle Street and that was that.
SP: And did you stay in banking then the rest of your life?
TG: Yeah.
SP: Until you retired.
TG: Yes. I had a few arguments with the bank because I I used to have a boat to sail. I did a lot of sailing and I have all my life. That’s the last boat I had. That’s off Anglesey. Beaumaris and Anglesey. That was the thing that I’d always wanted since I was about seven or eight years old. I wanted one of those and I was lucky I got one in the end. So for my twenty five years until we, until we we got a flat on the front which was very difficult. I mean to drive to Beaumaris every Saturday for a race as I always used to race, I never used to [pause]. So that was the last one I had. I had her for about twenty five years. Magnificent. So, I’ve been very lucky. I got what I wanted. Thanks to my wife who put up with the sailing. And I got what I wanted. One of those. So, I’ve been very lucky. Very lucky.
SP: What you wanted and what you deserved.
TG: Yes.
SP: So, Tony it’s been a real privilege to meet you today and I just want to thank you.
TG: Thank you.
SP: On behalf of the International Bomber Command story for taking the time to share your memories of your time during World War Two.
TG: Yeah.
SP: And in the RAF.
TG: Yeah.
SP: For people to be able to listen to in the future. So, thank you.
TG: Don’t mention it.



Susanne Pescott, “Interview with Tony Gerard,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 23, 2024,

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