Interview with Cyril Henry Bridges

Title

Interview with Cyril Henry Bridges

Description

Cyril Henry Bridges was born in Ramsgate and served as a flight engineer in the RAF. He tells of his father, a deep-sea fisherman, who fought in the First World War and later helped evacuate troops from Dunkirk. Remembers his early life, taking on different jobs, as a butcher’s boy and working in a shop, to help his mother. After initially wanting to join the navy, he joined the RAF and trained at Penarth and Blackpool. After further training, he was posted to 115 Squadron. Remembers flying an operation to Schweinfurt as a spare flight engineer. Explains his role and duties as a flight engineer before take-off and landing and during operations and vividly describes the circumstances under which they were flying. After the war, he worked for a company making rubber mouldings and electronic accessories.

Creator

Date

2017-10-13

Language

Type

Format

01:04:43 audio recording

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

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.

Identifier

ABridgesCH171013
PBridgesCH1701

Transcription

CJ: This is Chris Johnson and I’m interviewing Cyril Bridges today for the International Bomber Command Centre’s Digital Archive. We’re at Cyril’s home in Ramsgate, Kent and it is Friday, the Thirteenth of October 2017. Well, thank you Cyril for agreeing to talk to me today, perhaps we could start with your story and if you could tell us please where and when you were born and what your family background was.
CHB: Well, I’d be pleased to do this, I, my name is Cyril Henry Bridges and I was born in Ramsgate and my father and my mother, my father was a very brave man, he served in the First World War, he was a deep sea fisherman had a [unclear] in Hull in Grimsby and he signed, I got records of his signature on a parchment when he took his indentures brought up apparently in a [unclear] work home, he and his two brothers were then apprentice to the sea, I’ve got this big manuscript, he’s joined it, his joining and at sixteen he decided he had enough of the sea and wanted to join the army when all the villagers were joining the army, so he absconded from the sea and went to France where he was wounded with a shot gun through his, top of his shoulder, and came out of the bottom of his shoulder and he eventually was sent on into, back to England after having treatment and he joined, there was this port at Richborough near Sandwich where they were shipping troops and ammunition and returning stuff that had been used from the battlefield and where he met my mother who was a waitress and she worked at, on munitions at this place at Richborough and they got together of course and he went back to, after the war, he went back to his Grimsby as where he lived and he corresponded with my mother and eventually he decided to become local. In the meantime, he joined this, the fishing fleet and got this document endorsed on the back that he had deserted his fishing trawler in the beginning and then they had, he’d come back to complete his apprenticeship. He did that and when he’d done that after a while he’d come to Ramsgate cause we had steam trawlers then, just the trawlers and he was able to join those and he married my mother, my mother and father had four of us, there was, I’ve got three sisters, I was the first born and I had three sisters born after that, at three year intervals. Anyway, I lost most of my family at the moment, father, mother and two of the, two of the sisters. Anyway, I joined, as a schoolboy, we had nothing, very poor, we were a very poor family, I’ve done a lot of errands for people to make up my father’s his shortfall on his money which was only thirty shillings a week, I then, I joined, collecting coke from the coke house to neighbours and working at a butchers, I was a butcher’s boy, then I got sort of a job that I could better myself, didn’t want to deliver meat anymore, I joined The Maypole, The Maypole was the sort of old fashioned superstores, there was Maypole, there was Home & Colonial, the international stores in perks, they all belonged to this one which I joined, which was The Maypole; I joined The Maypole for a few years, started bringing in a little bit of money my mother, prior to this my schooling had to end at fifteen, I was in Kent, class six, at St Lawrence School and then I then had to sort of go and earn some money to keep me in trousers, slippers, plimsolls etcetera. After a while I decided to join The Maypole as, when at first I started as a cellar boy looking after the cheeses and things like that and then after that on the counter serving butter and groceries. Then the next step I got was when the troops were being evacuated from Dunkirk and my father was on his way to Milford Haven, they used to spend three months fishing in local waters, the rest of the time in the western waters in the Irish Sea etcetera, he was on his way to Milford Haven or Padstow I think but I think Milford Haven was his [unclear], the place he got to in the end and having got there or before he got there they’d taken the boat as far as Dungeness and from Dungeness he was ordered to go to the beaches of Dunkirk to pick up soldiers. He did several trips, this I understand, to pick up soldiers and return them to Ramsgate and I recall the trains, the troops marching from the dock, the high street to the station and that was, [coughs] excuse me, that was that one little episode and my father then eventually got to Milford Haven, subsequently they were sunk by a Condor and they evacuated the boat which had beached in the Barry Islands, Lundy Island I mean, Lundy Island and they launched the boat to try to get away, get ashore with the boat, and he, the German come back and one sailor was, one fisherman was killed, he then spent a few days on this, on that island before they discovered that he, people discovered that he was on there. Anyway, he then got ashore and returned [unclear] in Milford Haven. My mother said to me, I don’t like your dad being on his own, she said, in these times cause by then two of my sisters were evacuated to the Midlands somewhere and the other sister, the younger sister was left with my mother and she said, I’ve got the [unclear], she said, and you go down and comfort your dad. Anyway, I got a transfer from The Maypole to The Maypole in Milford Haven and after spending some time at Maypole, my father says, do you want a bit of a leg up? What sort of a job do you want now? He said, I said, well, I’d like to go on the docks, see what I can do in the war effort, because we constantly had the warships coming in there for repairs and the dock was Milford Haven, it was Peter Hancocks, I was then there [unclear] and was still sending money home for mum and I was a poor kid really but I wanted to make a name for myself and I got fed up with doing mundane jobs for the dock, so I volunteered for the navy. I had a letter back saying that they weren’t recruiting and in any case I was stuck in a job that I couldn’t leave, so I said, what could I leave? They said, you could join the Air Force, they are looking for crews, [coughs] excuse me, I then, I then got a stop with this on the docks, as a shipwright apprentice, and after a bit of that, of boats going back in, being repaired, I thought, got a bit, just got, just going to be, I thought, better be doing a bit for the service if I can, so I decided to join the Air Force. I joined in the Air Force on Swansea, my first posting was, first place I got the uniform, or part of it, was Penarth, I joined a train at Penarth and it got underway and I thought I get a go on it, was issued with the tropical gear, and I thought, well, I’m going to, overseas, so the train travelled by night and at daytime was pulled into a station and in the end we ended up at Blackpool, so I’ve done my share of square-bashing at Blackpool and then I was transferred then down to a place in [unclear] Wales which was, I don’t know the name but, I’m sure, I can’t remember the name, it was near Cardiff anyway and that was for introduction to flight engineer, we worked with [unclear] hat, then I done that course and then I went on to the squadron and then I started servicing Spitfires, that was in Andover, and after that I was sent to at Cosford, where I’d done a flight engineer’s course at Cosford but that’s near Wolverhampton and then after that I went on, back on the squadron again and started working, went back then to a place called Innsworth which was in Gloucester where I had to choose what I wanted, they wanted me as a fitter or as a rigger but I had no choice but they said, oh, you got to go as a flight engineer, so then I went to Innsworth as a flight engineer and having completed my ops, I went to, transferred to a squadron which was, it was 115 Squadron. I got a notice sent to report to squadron and having reported there within a short time, I was booking into my flight sergeant’s building or room and he showed me that I was on that night, that was the first day I joined the squadron, and he said, I said, oh, that’s good, that’s what I’ve been training to do, so then he said, you won’t like what I said, I said, he said, do you want the good news or the bad news? I said, oh, I want the good news, he said, well, you’ll be on ops tonight, said, the bad news? You’re going as a spare flight engineer. Engineer’s gone sick on me and I put you in as a replacement. That was to Schweinfurt. And it was with a chappie, with a Canadian pilot, and it was a successful trip and it was a long trip and we’d come back all the better for it. In the meantime, I heard that my pilot had already, on the night I was doing the Schweinfurt trip, he was going as the second dickey to get used to the bombing. After that, I, well, I don’t, I just done what I was told and completed the tour. I’ll tell you a bit more about that later.
CJ: So, could you tell us, as a flight engineer please, what your responsibilities were? How you’d prepare for an operation and what you actually did during the operation?
CHB: Yes, what we did when we went to the mess and saw that we were on ops, we were never told, told where we were going by a map on the wall, marked with blue and red, comings and goings, what was here and what was there in a way of navigation, lights, the searchlights, and fighter areas that should be avoided. You go into the room where they are doing the, they give you a “gee-up” course with the CO and then the navigator, navigator officer does his bit, tell you all about what to avoid and what not to, you sit on a row of seats with your crew of seven and you all get a, one big bag with seven little bags in it so you filled your little bag and it went into the one big bag, that was for safekeeping, was made sure you took, nothing with you in a way you could be identified, apart from the medals you wore around your neck. What we get as an engineer, when I [unclear] in the mornings before we went to the assembly, they told us that we were on and I used to go up to my aircraft and go round the aircraft and check everything, checked with the groundcrew what needed to be done, what they felt was needed treatment, and normally the groundcrew was the same groundcrew that served you all the time, you got to know him, and he [unclear] to tell you any difference, any differences that [unclear] or any repairs that they had done in the meantime. I used to check, the ailerons, checked the pitot, schecked the tyres, checked that we had, on board we had the fire extinguishers, checked that we got an axe and generally checked the engines, but mostly came from the fitters on the ground to tell you the state of your aircraft. They made an awful sacrifice in doing this because the job was never ending and there was always repairing or checking. Anyway you got quite used to your crew when you went to the assembly in the evening, you were told then where you were going and it was all mapped out on the board, you weren’t allowed to leave billets and it was just a question of being available with the rest of the crew, the crew of course slept together, some were talkative, some did talk, some didn’t talk, but it’s just the question of getting in the aircraft and the engineer then, he’d already checked the fuel that was going aboard, he already checked how much it was and he used to put, check that the engines, [coughs] excuse me, engines were in good nick and after I’d satisfied that the Perspex in the windows and the door closed properly and one or two other things, he went back to billet and didn’t speak to anybody, just wrote a little note to your family and then, when you went out on the runway, to go at night time or in the early evening, you [unclear] up the crew, you make sure you got fuel in the body, two tanks in the body and in the case of the Lancaster, [coughs] excuse me, there’s two in just outside the fuselage, make sure it was in the right, you made sure you, when you took off, you took off with the inner tank, which had the most fuel in it, you took off with that and then you switched to the other, if you were in the air and one was punctured, you switched to that tank to empty it before it ran away. When you got out on to the runway I’d already, when I walked out to the aircraft again, checked that [unclear], the cover was off the pitot head, cause that was covered, that was and checked that everything was [unclear] in the morning and there we go on the end, we taxied to the end of the runway and gradually took off. I took off with both hands on the throttles, assisted by the pilot giving a nod, and I go to, [coughs] excuse me, go through the aircraft, the checks before we took off you go through the engine checks, run them up and test the magnetos and carburettors and things like that, got both my hands on the throttles, the pilot had already run down the fairway with it and I took over from him because we had to go to full boost, so I pushed them through the full boost, got the aircraft half way with the load and got to circle the aerodrome and I just throttled back to running throttle and it seems, when you are waiting for the time to start our bombing run. Well, we took off and I had a spare, I was sitting on a reversible seat, I could change it from looking out the front where I, where all my buttons were and a lot of [unclear] also on the right hand side of the fuselage, which was of course the starboard side, and I had gauges and throttles there so I could never [unclear] static is that the view rolled over. Anyway we then took off, the navigator giving the route where we going and we never, in our aircraft, we never said anything to anybody unless there was something to be said, eyes everywhere and you had to report anything that was heading your way but flying was another thing, it’s odd experience, cause when you took off, you got up to top speed and of course the undercarriage, you lifted the undercarriage up, you lifted the undercarriage up, and on the Lancaster the rear wheel was fixed but on the Stirling of course it was retractable, well you had to go back and check that it was up and locked, so, didn’t have to do that on the Stirling, on the Lanc. Anyway we, well, I think it’s another, I think, I am going another way now, did you [unclear] want me to
CJ: Perhaps you could tell us what it was you were as an engineer you were doing during the flight? I presume you were checking engines settings and fuel use.
CHB: Yes. One had to as engineer, we had to fill a form in, and rank the periods and that we [unclear] that we’d have enough petrol and done an awful lot of calculation as well we, we had instruments but we didn’t depend solely on the instruments, we had to do stuff mechanical [coughs], anyway, that, in the flight we said nothing to nobody, as I say, nobody talked to anybody, there was one particular, do you want me to go through into, the one particular and bombing trip which we had of the thirty or twenty nine trips we had done, the most hairy was the one that we was on the Stirling, and it was quite early in the days of joining the squadron, we went on a diversion to try to force somebody I don’t know who but I know we never got informed but we then tried to land at our base, our base was fogged up, we couldn’t get into our base, so we had to fly on to Downham Market by then from there to and it wasn’t as bad as we were expected from our own aerodrome so we, we went to land and I’d done these usual checks with the pilot and we had a [unclear] to tell to check things and I used to make sure that we was in the correct m gear as opposed to s gear cause there was two gears over your head, make sure that the thirty degrees of flap so that we could land, I went all through the checks and the undercarriage, [unclear] as I said, in the, in the other aircraft, we had to go back and check that the rear wheel was up and locked or down and locked, whichever, which way we go, up or down. Anyway we went to Downham Market and the first thing we did, we flew along the runway which we thought was the runway but it was a roadway that ran parallel with the runway and I had to cut the engine off, the starboard outer, I think it was the starboard outer, anyway it was playing up so I put it into no motive and with no motive, the propeller stopped and we went round again, the pilot on three wheels, on three engines, went round correctly into the fog very fast I had to, while we, when we, he said we are going to land and I had to check that the, I checked that the wheels were down and thirty degrees of flap and full flap but when you get it down, what I said to him, I think we are not on the runway, we’re on a roadway, [coughs] he said, I’ll go round, so we went round and ideally pulled the undercarriage up, pulled the flaps up and adjusted the engines, we went round again and I don’t know if it was the second or third time of trying, he turned on the dead engine and the aircraft just slid along and hit the ground and he was an Australian pilot and he got all of us clear and he was the only one that was barely injured but he never flew Lancasters, never flew Stirlings again ever. They sent him to the Middle East on canvas twin engine jobs, [coughs] I since been, a word [unclear] lucky to have a word with the pilot later years and he apologised for the and he said, I nearly killed you, I nearly killed all of you, I said, no, you didn’t, you saved all of us, he was the only one who really suffered from it but when you, when you were flying, went full boost, get off on the runway which just staggered off sometimes and then you sort of back to about 120 or whatever you did, the navigator determined what you needed to get to the target on time. We got then into a circuit to gain height and before you set off to the target, so the time to set off was fixed, so you might have done one turn or two turns, two or three turnings on your airport to gain a bit of height, cause you had to get to, get over the target by eighteen thousand feet else they’d shoot you down so you made a stab to get to the coast, get over the coast, then you, the next one is the, get over the enemy coast and you get up to whatever the bombing, bombing height got to be. [unclear] Aircraft, some were good, some were bad, some you couldn’t make it was like hitting a ceiling, tried to get higher than the aircraft, anyway the rest of, target [coughs] sorry got the lack of oxygen [laughs] anyway we, then, when you get to flying at night time, all you feel is the air, your comrades are there cause the aircraft, it’s the back lash of another Lancaster and got every eyes peeled to see what’s about, you couldn’t see much but you could see the Jerry if they come on you, anyway they, everybody had their eyes peeled to what, you had to see what aircraft were around us, and you were always able to [unclear] when one stirred, one Lanc there and a Lanc there and a Halifax here and a Halifax there, and you carried on to your bombing, on to your bombing run, and then it’s up the doors to keep us steady on one course, that was up to the, up to the bomb aimer, who was selecting the target, and then, we keep as steady as we possibly can, everybody with their eyes out, but aircraft cutting across in front of you, and underneath you, a lot I should think were [unclear] throwing bombs flying underneath, but you got on the target then you got out as fast as you possibly could, you got into a circuit, come back on track again, and you did it all over again the next day, until you completed your tour.
CJ: So, how did the crew manage to keep the aircraft straight and level if you’re flying through anti-aircraft fire?
CHB: Well you ignored the anti-aircraft fire because there’s nothing you can do about it and as regards the aircraft flying with you, there’s nothing you can do about it them either, providing they all held their breath, if you like, the pilot [unclear], out the [unclear] if you like, done the correct thing, and the pilot if you had a good pilot, which I had, best pilot in the world, he was an elderly man but a very, very good pilot, I owe my life to him and only had one bad incident that when, my life was saved by the bomb aimer, we’d gone down over the target, and he’d done his work and he got up, he looked up and he saw that I was lying on the floor of the aircraft and he come over and put the oxygen mask on me again, I was right as ninepins after that, the only bad incident I had [coughs]. All the bombing trips were all different, you couldn’t say one was the same as another, if you got a long trip to Friedrichshafen or somewhere long, it was just mundane but if you went to the Ruhr, you’d do it there in no time and there and back, the trouble with the Ruhr is that they were so gallantly manned by the Germans who would let nothing through and if you get the odd German captured the bomber flying in your lane, the detail in the instruction to his fitters, his fighters and that was the thing that I don’t know. You don’t know how you get through it, you just get through it, you just sort of fingers crossed, nothing you can do about it, if you [unclear], we had several incidents when the bombers were on your tail, the fighter was on your tail, and you have the corkscrews to deal with, you know that he is faster than you are and that sometime someone has got to give away [unclear] the fighter, you either go to his right and down or left and down and then you had a great chance of undergoing him because you were doing, you started doing a corkscrew then on your downstroke you had a chance to get at him and on the upstroke you had another chance to get at him and if he, if you tackled them they went, they had so much to pick, so much to choose, that if you started, you just showed him that you were aware that he was there, he would leave you alone and that’s what we found, was the best thing to do but we did keep straight and level so that we get a photograph of what we just done and in the latter part of course when you the Pathfinders, their chaps in Mosquitoes at zero feet telling you well now bomb the red, then bomb the, now bomb the green and you straight knew all the time where you wanted the bombers to fall over the cities and they were very fine people, in fact all the boys were good, lost too many of them, didn’t we? I think that’s the [unclear] all I can remember.
CJ: Then did you ever discuss between you what you might do if you were shot down and got out of your aircraft? Did you have escape equipment with you?
CHB: Yes, we had a dinghy in the wing, when we were at sea, we had, a bit of a problem in as much as we lost a few people. We lost the mid upper gunner, that left us while we were being attacked, he thought we wouldn’t going to make it, so he left, he leapt out of the door, but he survived the parachute, apparently, I never saw him after, nobody could ever find him after, apart from a NAAFI girl that says he got down safely and then you had, I had certain things that I couldn’t do, they limited what a parachute couldn’t do when you’re flying, you hear tales of people getting out on the wing and all that sort of thing, in my opinion that was not possible. I, at one time, there were [unclear] the rods, the aileron rods within the aircraft had to try and turn them together that’s a bit of a [unclear] didn’t’ get [unclear] but you get used to it, it’s something that you take it for, you don’t take it as for granted, you are on the alert all the time, that never leaves you but I didn’t worry too much about whether I was going to make it or not. I was with a band of boys and it’s something we had to do, it’s as simple as that, but we couldn’t do an awful lot when we was in the air, I at one stage there when this particular chap that bailed out, we’d been chased by Germans to a [unclear], and we were, do you use that petrol? Because you didn’t get too much extra petrol, and we eventually thought, we started to, thought about it a bit, the engine [unclear], the engine got out of control the engines which I had to fill out and we started to stagger home and we were very short in petrol and I said to the pilot, we want to get down as soon as we can, he said, well, we don’t want to be taken as prisoners, no, not that, I said, I’d rather jump in the Channel, so we did that and landed at Manston. We got off, were serviced, I went to the engine and borrowed four bikes which got to our mother who said to me, what are you doing in all that Air Force gear? I said, well, we just come back from a place, she was taken by surprise I must admit, but Manston was a lovely, lovely runway there, we landed on that but we had crosswind, we took off crosswind when we joined our squadron the next day but no, I had a good run really, I got [unclear] wonderful, this particular occasion I was talking about was this chappie bailing out, we got into trouble and when we was clear that this fighter or two fighters there we got away from them, our pilot was a clever pilot, clever, clever, he, we got, he got, the little bit of, pressure off us, and he said, go back and see what you can do, so I went back and I saw the rear gunner was on his way up to me, so I said, what’s the matter? He said, I thought you would have left them, he said, that’s what the mid upper gunner must have thought, I said, well, get back in your turret and see, ok, was nothing wrong, anyway as I say, that was the mid upper went out. Another time when we were chased about all over Germany and the navigator was asked, this was a different navigator, he was asked to give us a course home, so he said, I can’t find a course, you’ve lost me, he said, it was all over Germany, you lost me, so the pilot said to me, go and give him a map, fine, so I got a map, and we come back via Manston aerodrome that was the time, we landed after being attacked but the another occasion was so that navigator was lost. When we were landed he was in trouble, he was just passed off, I never saw him again. Then the rear gunner, he tells me he had a fighter in his sights and he started to take the fighter and he got a jam with his belt, his ammunition belt, so he took off his gloves and it stuck to the gun and he got frostbite so we lost him, he went to another squadron and after being hospitalised he went to another squadron and completed a tour of ops with them. He’s still about, I’m in contact with him, but he’s the only one, I lost the wireless operator which was the same man we had all the time, the navigator was changed, we had two navigators besides the one we started to, and we had two pilots when we started to, bomb aimer, he’s the same bomb aimer, the pilot and the navigator were both awarded the DFC, and the bomb aimer and myself were given the ranks of officers. I tell you it was our reward to, it was good, was interesting. After that, if you want me to go on after that? We were sent to, we were sent to Scotland for a break which I enjoyed very much. After that I went to Farnborough for [unclear] and [unclear], we picked up Wing Commander Winfield and used to pick him up out of, by Anson, we got an Anson converted with a winch and used to dive to [unclear] the men on the ground, sort of goal post to sit between and we had an arrester hook sort of what the navy had on their fighters when they can land on airship (aircraft carriers), boats but used to pick him, pick this chappy up him up [unclear] dinghy and off land. I was based then at White Waltham so we used to travel between White Waltham and the base where the aircraft was.
CJ: So, this was a new method for rescuing airmen who were downed, is that it?
CHB: That’s right. It was, they then they brought in the helicopter then. So we was, they discontinued then and then they sent me to Hereford to the admin school, didn’t like it very much, it’s where the, I think it’s an army unit that’s trained airborne or something at Hereford and I’d done a bit there but halfway through the course, they said to me, we want you to go and up to Dishforth and talk about going onto Yorks. So we done this short training course there at Dishforth and two other places in Scotland which were close to each other and then we went, then I was transferred to Ossington where I spent a very good part of my life and we were on Yorks training, this was after the war, we were training ex pilots, ex RAF pilots getting them ready, I think, for Civvy Street and I used to electrics and carburation and fly as flight engineer on Yorks and done that for a long time and then I sent to, when I finished, I was sent to Manston as currency officer, few places in between but I can’t remember for the moment.
CJ: So then were you demobbed after that?
CHB: I was demobbed after Manston. Yes, that was in ’46.
CJ: What did you do then?
CHB: Then I enjoyed my freedom for a bit and met the ladies of course. I then had about a fortnight off I think and a man said to me who I found, I was in the pub one night and a man come up to me and he said, I see you’re in uniform, I said, yes, he said, well, I’ve got a business in London, I’m moving down to the coast, would you like to come and work for me? So I said, well, what do you do? He said, well, I am an engineer for a die sinking company PDS tools and there were two companies he owned and he said, we are bringing these, all their equipment down from London, setting it up in an old skating rink in Thanet, so he said, I’d like you to be there when they bring their machines down and install them, so these machines, shaping machines and mills and lathes and capstans and all sorts of the machinery that had come down and was installed in this old skating rink and I, he said, well, being as you done that, work for me, I’d like you to make progress, engineer in charge of progress and I said, oh, that’s fine. So I got it up on his feet, done very well, the owner of the firm was a chap by the name of Gutteridge, Mr Gutteridge and he was then associated with Haffenden, rubber people that made hats and rubber caps, swim caps and mats and rubber mats and electric plugs and hot water bottles and they were in Sandwich and they employed a couple of thousand people and I went in and we started engineer work, we moved from, we moved from the skating rink and moved to Sandwich, moved with all our equipment into Sandwich, so we operated then under W. W. Haffenden which were the people that owned the rubber works. We operated as their, as their tools, made their tools, made their hot water bottle tools, electric plugs, made all their tools, and also had a good clientele outside where we made other people’s tools as well so on the engineering side, we employed about fifty registered toolmakers and the light machinist toolmakers and I was there about thirty five years and I got myself up to director, this auxiliary Sandwich engineering and Haffenden Richborough I was on the board there, well, it wasn’t a board, it was a collective board, but the main owners of course were the real bees’ knees but I was there thirty five years and they said to me, we are going to make some changes on in the tool, we are going to do various bits and pieces and wondered if you wanted to stay in, see it through. I said, well, what’s the alternative? I leave, they said, yeah, you leave with our blessing, and with a salary introduced, that was I was sixty then, leave with a pay until you are sixty, next five years at sixty five, we can give you a golden handshake, and we will make it so that if you are ever called into work, a question to be asked we pay you thirty quid an hour, so anyway, I decided that I would take the money, and I was out of work for a week and I then went as a manager of another tool company, Steven Garlotty, I was there for about five years, then I had enough then, and that was all my work until I finished. I’m still here.
CJ: Coming back to the period after the war, did you encounter any bad feelings at all towards Bomber Command aircrew?
CHB: Yes, really, and they all stem from some chap in the, an MP, he was an MP for the West End in London and he, I’ve been reading the books, he put bosh on it, he wouldn’t have anything to do with the Air Force and it brought bad feelings towards the Air Force, they couldn’t [unclear] weren’t entitled to have a medal and [coughs] for the number of people we lost, I thought we would’ve been better treated but we weren’t, I’m trying to think of the man’s name but he was the one that stopped us getting medals and went to drag this down to bombing innocent people. I agree that bombing innocent people wasn’t the thing I liked doing but they [unclear] bombing [unclear] to kill me, it was a thing to do, we did the right thing, Germany was doing the wrong thing, taking people and gassing them and I was against that lot so it never come hard to me to dislike what had been done to that. I joined these things like Aircrew Europe and lucky I got the Aircrew Europe Star and the France Germany Star but you don’t wear the France Germany, you just have a clasp, you’ve got the Aircrew Europe, and I got on various committees locally from there, I never really done much and
CJ: And I believe you had an award from the French recently.
CHB: Yes, I did, I was lucky to be recognised by the President, then President of France, I always say it’s the Croix de Guerre, but unfortunately it wasn’t the Croix de Guerre, I don’t know what they called it now.
CJ: The Legion d’Honneur
CHB: That’s it, the Legion d’Honneur and I was very pleased to get it, we never did anything like that, I always got my [unclear] bit was in the First World War I’ve got all my Dad’s medals and his name and rank and his identification all along the rim of the medals that he’s got but just compare that to what the medals we’ve got, you can go in a shop and buy as many as you want without being asked what you want and we were never recognised and that always bothered me. They never gave the thoughts of the people that were killed, I think it was a hundred and twenty six flight engineers, and fifty two of them were dead, but I think, don’t quote me on the number, I don’t think that’s right
CJ: And did you join a squadron association, go to reunions?
CHB: Yes, the Aircrew Association has a, the local branch, I went there and also I went to the French one, the Normandy vets, I went to both associations, kept that going and of course I joined the museum in London, got a free life pass there
CJ: Is that the RAF Museum?
CHB: The RAF Museum, I belong to that. I belong there in Piccadilly, I’ve been a member there from when I left Haffenden’s and my wife was a member there too, but she has since passed away, but I still am a full member of the Piccadilly Club, I’ve only been there once in a lifetime I think. But apart from that I went merrily along and enjoyed my golf, never got it [unclear] but enjoyed it [laughs]. That’s about it I suppose.
CJ: Well, thank you very much indeed for speaking to us today.

Citation

Chris Johnson, “Interview with Cyril Henry Bridges,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 8, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/10726.

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