Interview with Martin Arthur Catty


Interview with Martin Arthur Catty


Martin Catty grew up in London and was evacuated, with his school, to Westward Ho! at the beginning of the war. He completed a short training course at Cambridge University in 1942 and joined the Royal Air Force. After training, he flew 40 operations, as a navigator, with 514 Squadron from RAF Waterbeach. He describes how many of his operations were in daylight and using GH, so he often released the bombs. He mentions turning a Tiger Moth upside down after landing in a dust-storm during training, and how he ‘cooked’ his navigation log after he had taken control of the aircraft to give his pilot a rest. He recalls flying with another crew who smoked in the aircraft and discusses using the Elsan. He discusses some of the ground personnel and an explosion after a bomb fell from an aircraft at RAF Waterbeach in 1944. He became the navigator for the RAF Waterbeach base test crew after his tour and, after the war, he flew as part of a ferry crew, taking ground crew to the Middle East. He was also an instructor for landing using the blind approach beacon. He was demobbed in October 1946 and completed a degree in engineering. Martin talks about his elder brother who also flew as a navigator and then flew for BOAC. Martin worked in management roles for The General Electric Company until he retired.




Temporal Coverage




00:51:53 audio recording


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MC: Start. Yes.
DE: Start so this is an interview with Martin Catty. My name is Dan Ellin. It’s the 22nd of August 2018 and we are at Riseholme Hall. This is an interview for the International Bomber Command Centre. So, Martin would you mind telling me a little bit about your early life and what you did before you joined Bomber Command?
MC: Yes. What I can recollect. I lived in Hendon in London and went to a prep school locally and then afterwards to a prep school in Surrey, at Crowthorne and then on to Highgate School in London where I was until we were evacuated to Westward Ho at the beginning of the war and we took over mostly what United Services College had left at Westward Ho. You know, Stalky and Co and all that. There was the Kingsley Gymnasium and places like that and we took over certain cafes for classrooms and, and so forth. And then after I had taken my O levels we got this visit from the RAF offering us a short course at university to do the Initial Training Wing stuff at, on the short course and study either engineering or other, other more academic subjects I suppose. Anyhow, and therefore that was lasting six months from, from April ‘42 to about September ‘42. I was at Pembroke College, Cambridge for that and then after that course where I apparently did, compared to some of the others quite well which meant that at the end of the war I was invited to go back to Cambridge University although to tell the truth I hadn't got the qualifications to do so. But I was invited back. Anyhow, so then I went to St John’s Wood where we joined the RAF proper. Got kitted out, inoculated and God knows what. Queued for about three hours in the basement of a St John’s Wood block of flats and then got posted to Sywell outside Northampton for grading. Pilot grading, you know. Where I was successful to be graded for pilot training. Then went up to [pause] No. We didn't immediately go up there. They had got all the transport at that time was being used for building up the Second Front. Therefore, we were sent up to Whitley Bay. The RAF Regiment place where they loved to get their hands on aircrew chaps [laughs] We were, I was very fortunate in being with a young Sergeant who really wanted to teach us things rather than take the Mick out of us. So we had a fortnight there and were promised Christmas leave afterwards. It was pretty awful actually because the quarters were bombed out houses, no windows, no hot water and just a blanket. So, it was and we were up in the morning, freezing morning in about December holding rifles, no gloves [laughs] Anyhow, it was. And then we were sent after that, after Christmas to Brighton which was the RAF Discip School where naughty pilots were disciplined and so forth and we spent about a fortnight there I think waiting for transport to turn up. The only, well visible thing I think [pause] I remember being put on jankers for something but I can't remember what it was for [laughs] And we won a drill competition so we were allowed leave to go to London where my parents lived. And then in, we were sent up to Heaton Park in Manchester which was a sort of transit camp on the way to Canada. And from there we went to West Kirby somewhere where we were, no, to Liverpool. We were taken out on a tender to a big ship on the, well a small ship on the horizon but as it got nearer and nearer it turned out to be the QE which of course was never fitted out as a passenger ship. It was fitted out immediately as a troop ship because it had only just been launched before the war. So we went out to Canada on that. About six hundred of us jammed into this little batch of cabins in the middle with about four bunks high. Twenty four to a cabin, I think and the whole ship, rest of the ship was empty except for the officers wives upstairs where I fortunately got as a duty baggage party which meant I went down the hold to get a trunk that some officer’s wife had said she didn't want during the journey and suddenly realised she did [laughs]. So we, well we, it was very easy manhandling because as the ship came down you could take a great big trunk, jam it on the companionway and then you could handle. It had the advantage that at the end of the trip when we landed at New York the rest of the people went straight up to Canada but we were given an extra day in New York to get the luggage and so forth and then taken up to Moncton in New Brunswick in Canada the next day. Or taken up, we were put on board a plane where the Canadian flight lieutenant wanted to impress us how good Canada was and we were treated very well. Then we walked into the camp and I remember being greeted by some corporal, ‘Oh, Catty MA. Martial Arts are you? Oh right.’ [laughs] So all my life I’ve been, wanting to be, I am now Master of Arts anyhow [laughs] but, and then we were posted to Virden in Manitoba. EFTS where we did the, obviously the Elementary Flying Training. We got through that alright. No problems really.
DE: What aircraft were you flying there?
MC: Tiger Moths.
DE: Right.
MC: Yeah. The Tiger Moths at Grading School of course was one without a canopy. Open cockpits. The one in Canada had canopies because of the very low temperatures we flew in even at low heights. I mean it was sometimes minus forty below. Things like that. So anyhow I got through that alright. In fact, I got the Ground School Award which I think stood me in bad stead later on but be that as it may [laughs] and got posted on to SFTS at Brandon which was not far from Virden actually. And then I was within about a month of completing the pilot’s course when I unfortunately was in the flight hangar when somebody arrived from Central Flying School to do, to grade the station and the chap they had selected to go up with him wasn't there so they sent me up with him and he didn't like it. In the end he said my flying was too mechanical. So I ceased flying training as a pilot, went to a manning depot, also in Brandon which was a terrible, well we were in a cattle market with about, God knows how many, four hundred people sleeping in a cattle market with bunks about four high and they’d got nothing to do with us except send us for route marches [laughs]
DE: Not very pleasant then.
MC: No. And of course, because we’d ceased flying training you lost your flying pay so we were on two thirds of the pay we were used to. So you could hardly afford to have a beer let alone anything else. However, that lasted about a month before I eventually got a posting to Winnipeg. Number 5 AOS. Where we flew Ansons which was not the plane I was on at the SFTS. That was a Cessna Crane. And well, I suppose I spent the usual course. When we graduated at the end of it we were not sent home because all the transport again was tied up with Second Front sort of thing and then they sent us, most unusually on leave.
DE: Right.
MC: Went to Niagara, went to New York. I had an uncle who lived in Stamford Connecticut so I went with him but they dressed for dinner so I couldn't stand that [laughs] I don't know why I'm telling you all this.
DE: No. It's interesting. It’s great stuff.
MC: Really? [laughs] And so, eventually we got on the Andes to come back from, I think it was, was it Halifax? I can't remember the port. Whatever. Which was basically an almost flat-bottomed thing designed for going up the Amazon and rolled like mad. Again, because I forgot to say this but when we went on the short course one of the promises was that when you graduated you'd be commissioned so of course we did get commissioned which meant of course we didn't get our uniform. So the people who didn’t get commissioned got flocked around by all the ladies of New York whereas we looked like erks and didn't get any.
DE: Oh dear.
MC: That didn’t matter. Anyhow, we left, I think on the 30th March ’44. The day of the Nuremberg raid because as we were sailing out of the harbour the 9:00 o'clock news came on and it said ninety odd of our aircraft were missing or something and we said, ‘Turn it around.’ [laughs] However, we eventually got back and went to Harrogate to get kitted and get the uniform and so forth. Just arrived in time to be best man at my brother’s wedding. My elder brother who was also in the RAF. I'd only had my uniform for about a week and then got posted to OTU at Chipping Warden. And there as I mentioned to someone else some of the aircraft were pretty ropey. They were Wellingtons. We called them Wimpies.
DE: Yes.
MC: 1Cs and things like that and one of them actually the wing fell off in the air, you know. So it’s, but I don't know, one I’ve accepted these things. And I crewed up, of course at that stage and I crewed up with this Canadian skipper, Flight Lieutenant Ness, Johnny Ness. There’s a photograph of him. I don't remember the actual process of being selected. Who went with whom. I think the skipper probably said, ‘Oh, that chap.’ I don't know but, so after getting crewed up etcetera at OTU, one or two weren’t because the Wimpy would not take seven people of course as crew. I think the gunners joined us later. Went to Con Unit, conversion to four engine aircraft at Stradishall and then on to Lanc Finishing School. LFS at Feltwell. Then got posted to Number 514 Squadron at Waterbeach and that's how I have arrived at Waterbeach.
DE: Right.
MC: And then we, I mean quite frankly at the time I got there which was about October ’44, somewhere like that it was, the chop rate had fallen right down to a very low rate. Something like five percent. Something like that. Whereas it was of course at times very, the chance of finishing a tour of opps was very [pause] but we were. So I’ve got to say it was a fairly easy time we had there. It was 3 Group and 3 Group concentrated on GH bombing. I don't know if you are aware of that. Basically, Gee was navigation which I think relied on ground stations sending out signals which the aircraft reflected and we bombed on GH which was the aircraft transmitting the ground through reflecting. I think I've got that the right way around. I'm not sure. So, in fact, as navigator since we did a lot of daylight raids over the Ruhr I used to release the bombs more than the bomb aimer. I think I did more daylights than night trips. I'm sure I did. The logbook will —
DE: We’ll have a look at your logbook.
MC: But I think I finished my tour in March, something like that and I joined, Waterbeach was also number 33 base which controlled two other stations. Mepal and Witchford I think, and I joined the base test crew which tested all Lancasters coming in to the base whether Waterbeach or going to one of the others as navigator which of course wasn't a very great amount of navigation to do. And that's where I more or less was when as I hear [John Toddy], the chap I flew with on Lancasters who I was very pally with said to me, ‘I volunteered you for ferrying aircraft, Lancs out to the Far East.’ And it was going to be done in three stages. UK to Egypt, Egypt to India and India to Burma or wherever they were going to be used. But in, so having been sent to Morecambe to get kitted out with, I mean, you know, shorts and everything else and having inoculations, Yellow Fever, goodness knows what else they cancelled it because it was obviously getting to the stage, getting near VJ Day and it wasn't needed anymore. But we were, being in [unclear] by that time. We went to Talbenny in Wales first. I think, I can’t remember, again, it was number 1630. Anyhow, whatever unit we were and then that was transferred to Dunkeswell in Devon which was an American base up to that stage. One of the things of course that may be amusing I don't know but we found a whole lot of lovely American leather boots. You know, booties or whatever you want to call them. They were wonderful. And they were all left foot. There wasn’t a right foot amongst them [laughs] which wasn’t very [laughs] Anyhow, that’s just in passing. From there on our crew got selected to take a ground crew from Air Ministry out to the Middle East to train all the various Middle East ground crew stations how to service Lancs. So we took the Lanc out to [Khormarksar]. Whatever. Wherever we landed we’d say goodbye chops see you in a fortnight's time. They did their job teaching the crews and we did well when we went where we liked. More or less. Although it was the time of the troubles. We had to wear sidearms. You know, the Palestine and Israel. Palestine troubles. Went to several stations out there. Shaibah. In fact, I had my birthday at Shaibah if I remember rightly. And well eventually got back obviously at Christmas. And a little tale, I don't suppose it’s really amusing but we, in Cairo a Liberator landed and we knew the crew because they were from Waterbeach. And so we got flown back supernumerary crew to Waterbeach. So we went out to the brewery tap there where we knew the landlord and the skipper produced a bottle of Curacao or something like that and said, ‘Here you are lad. This is for you.’ And the voice from the back, which turned out to be the Customs man said, ‘That doesn't look like fresh fruit either.’ [laughs] Right. So thereafter my skipper got demobbed and I was, well in time I got crewed up or went as navigator with Wing Commander Tubby Baldwin who, we were flying an Anson 19, I think it was, out to Cairo to Misr Airlines. It was fitted out as a passenger aircraft. So we lobbed down in several places on the way obviously. Got to Cairo and ended up, I ended up training as instructing pilots in BABS, Blind Approach Beacon System. The radar system that had just been brought out and I went to Melbourne in Yorkshire and Bramcote in Warwickshire, you know. Obviously, there was a pilot with the pilot training. We were telling them what to do and how to use it and so forth. And that's how I ended my career in the RAF.
DE: Right. So when were you, when were you released? When were you demobbed?
MC: Either September, October. I think it was October ‘46 when I went up to Cambridge because they’d asked me if I’d like to go back.
DE: Right.
MC: And I managed to do it on normal release. I didn't have to take out Class B release did they call it or something where you went for early release. But anyhow I spent three years at Cambridge which I did some studying. But I really wasn't qualified because I hadn't got the maths training. It was really necessary. Particularly at Cambridge for an engineering course because not only did you now have to use a formula. You knew how to, you were taught how to derive the formula. You know, you were never taught really how to use things.
DE: Right.
MC: So, anyhow that was my, the end of my service with the RAF.
DE: So, what did you do after university?
MC: I went as a, to GEC in Birmingham, Witton, Birmingham, on a graduate apprenticeship course and then took jobs in management supervisory sort of rather than using my engineering studies as such where more my training to be able to think things through. And stayed in, if you like in management until we moved around once or twice but I stayed with GEC the rest of my career.
DE: Ok. Wonderful.
MC: I think I held the very rare distinction of turning a Tiger Moth upside down.
DE: Oh, you must tell me about that.
MC: Well, I was out solo. Out solo and I saw this black line on the horizon. I thought that's a bit strange. What's that? And then it got bigger and bigger and I suddenly realised it was a dust storm approaching. Fortunately, I was upwind of the station so I just landed as the storm hit us. The wind was so great that my ground speed landing was something like five knots or ten knots and it was very [pause] and you know you, and you were surrounded so as I turned across wind to go towards the flight hangar, the wind got under the tailplane, lifted the tailplane, got under the wing and the tailplane went over so slowly. I heard the, there was a fuel gauge on the top wing of a Tiger Moth and that went and then the prop broke and there I was upside down. Nothing on the clock. And the ground crew came out and said, ‘Oh, okay. Are you alright?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Well, I'm glad as you came you didn't release your belt. The last chap who did this fell down and broke his hip.’ [laughs] So, and then I was released out and then the doc came out, the MO. ‘Taxiing accident?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you feel alright?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Cheerio.’ By that time the ground crew had gone. There I was in the middle of the ‘drome with my parachute slung over my shoulder walking back all the way to the flight. Fortunately, I was greeted by the flight commander who said. ‘Don't worry Martin. I’ve done it in a prop myself.’ He said, ‘The ground crew should have been on your wing almost as soon as you'd landed. It wasn't your fault.’ So I didn't get any trouble from that.
DE: So, no black mark against you.
MC: No. So I don't think there are any more interesting, well if that's of interest I don't know but be at that as it may.
DE: Is it OK if we just go back through a few things?
MC: Yes. Certainly.
DE: I’ll ask you a few questions.
MC: Yeah.
DE: You know, you said that when, I think you were in Brighton you, you were put on jankers.
MC: Well, I can't remember why I was put on jankers. I think some cheeky remark I made of some sort and some Warrant Officer heard it and it wasn't too bad. It was peeling potatoes and things like that you know but of course the other thing I don't know what the local population said because we were up early and the PE instructor would take us for drill before breakfast and he sang, ‘Come on you wankers.’ [laughs] And the local population [laughs] had to listen to this. However, and then at Brighton we, as I say we managed to be the Flight that did the best drill so we were given a pass to have a forty eight hour pass for the weekend in London. But the actual reason I can’t because we were stationed in the Grand Hotel but we ate in the Metropole Hotel. I can't remember much more about it.
DE: Never mind.
MC: Yeah.
DE: Could you tell me a little bit more about what life was like at Waterbeach?
MC: Yeah. Well, it was very pleasant. The food was good. Mind you I was obviously commissioned so in the officer’s mess and therefore we were just, I would say we had twice as good food as the general population if not more. We were looked after very well from that point of view. You could get in to Cambridge very easily. There was transport in to Cambridge. It was an enjoyable life I’ve got to say. Ok. And at that time the operations were not that scary, you know.
DE: What were they like?
MC: Well, most of it I was, being a navigator I was immersed in my charts and Gee screens and things like that. Never looked out of the aircraft from one moment to the next and therefore, it was quite easy. Because of my flying experience and pilot training I used to give the skipper a bit of relief once we were over friendly territory and takeover the aircraft. In fact, there’s a picture of me sitting in the pilot's [pause] which was all very good but I’d be there for about half an hour or so until we were getting a bit nearer the station, the ‘drome and I had to get busy, get back and cook my log like mad as if I’d been actually navigating. Which was alright at times except a lot of the logs have comments on them. ‘You should have done more.’ Got more. And the reason I didn't was because I was piloting the aircraft [laughs] Which was alright. There was one time. Oh, by that time we had H2S, right, which the bomb aimer could was using to navigate us if you like while I was not navigating which was all very well until the one time he mistook, I'm not sure where maybe the Dutch thing. Anyhow, for Brussels and we arrived half an hour earlier than any other plane from the squadron which took a bit of [laughs] the nav officer said, ‘Why are your winds in a different direction to everybody else?’ However, that was life. It didn't worry one at all and I've got to admit that our operational life although we were doing, the tour was forty ops at that stage not thirty and in fact, the pilot used to do forty ops because his first op was one flying with another crew to get used to it. And the rest of the crew did thirty nine. Except I didn't of course because I volunteered to be a navigator to an Australian pilot who had, his navigator was ill. So I actually did forty trips. And that was a bit of a strange crew. However —
DE: What way was that strange?
MC: Well, I'm not sure that I should tell you [laughs] In the sense that once they got up to operational height they all lit fags. Now, that was completely verboten basically but, so I didn't join them I might say partly because I probably didn't have any with me [laughs] So what? They were still a very efficient crew. Darby Monroe was his name.
DE: I know there was some American aircraft and the stories go they had ashtrays.
MC: Really? Yeah. Well, of course one of my problems which were, you know, I’ve always from my very early days I had bladder problems and it was great that the Lanc had an Elsan at the back. When I, it's very strange, probably the first half hour I would want to go about four or five times. The rest of the trip I didn't. It didn’t happen. However, and of course well I've got to say that by and large it was a very enjoyable time on operations. The only thing I ever really saw was to feel the ack ack you know under the aircraft and so forth. We lost an engine once but nothing more than that. So we had a very good, I mean he was a good skipper, Johnny Ness and he was considerably older than I was but we got on very well together and I wonder what has happened to him since but, and of course as soon as we finished the tour he got posted to Canada. Back to Canada whereas I stayed on the station. [pause] Anyhow, that’s my war experience.
DE: Ok. You mentioned it was very easy to get into Cambridge. What, what sort of things did you do when you weren’t on ops and you had some, had some time?
MC: Went to pubs [laughs] I was not a dancer so I didn't go dancing. And well, went to one or two films and things like that. But I don't really recollect that much about it except one used to drink quite a lot in those days and if you weren't going to Cambridge you went to the bar and drank it there [laughs]. But I actually met my wife at a mess party at, in the officer’s mess and when I went back to Cambridge we hooked up again and eventually got married. In fact, I got married as an undergraduate because I was on a grant of course and you got an extra, you got a married grant if you got married. I mean we —
DE: Makes sense.
MC: Were really looked after. No. We were looked after very well. But obviously partly because at school I went up the Classics side of things and only swapped to the science side because I was looking at the stage or my father was looking to get me in the Navy but in the end I went and my brother being in the RAF anyhow, and he was stationed around here. Fiskerton, I think. 49 Squadron. Which I think Coningsby maybe. Fiskerton. Scampton. Somewhere. I think all those names ring a bell to me.
DE: Right.
MC: To me.
DE: Yeah. So he joined the RAF a few years ahead of you.
MC: Two years to the day. Our birthdays are the same. Two years apart.
DE: And that's what? 13th of November.
MC: November. Yes. I was born on his second birthday.
DE: Oh wow. Easy to remember then.
MC: Yeah. But it had the snag that we got joint birthday presents.
DE: And it's close to Christmas as well.
MC: Yeah. However, but he had a very, much more, he was squadron nav officer anyhow. I think for 49 Squadron.
DE: And he flew Manchesters as well as Lancasters.
MC: Well, yes I think he started on Wimpies and then went on to Manchesters and then of course fortunately the Lanc came along and they were very glad to see the end of the Manchester. It was underpowered. The only other aircraft I think, aircraft that had a bit of a quirk was the Stirling which had gravity feed fuel feed. So if you turn the Stirling at a very steep angle or even upside down the engines would cut out [laughs]. Oh well. Anyhow you've got me talking a long time.
DE: No. No. Yeah. You’re doing, doing fantastically. You've been going nearly forty minutes. A couple of other questions. When we were looking at some of the things that you've brought in you said, you mentioned the intelligence officer, was it Tommy Thompson?
MC: Yes. Yes.
DE: Could you tell me a bit about him? What was he like? What was his job?
MC: Well, basically, of course, he came to every briefing and gave any intelligence about extra dangers on the way across or anything like that but he also he and his staff interviewed us as we, after we landed and he went through the trip and so forth. But he was a very good friend and we used to play snooker and have a drink together. But he was a nice chap. He wasn't aircrew. He was ground crew but he was, I got on very well with Tommy. I didn't, well I’m just trying to think of what other interaction there was with him. I don't [pause] No. Just a good pal in the mess.
DE: Right. Yeah. Did you know any of the other ground staff?
MC: Well, there was, the other person who wasn’t ex-flying was of course the adjutant. He was, I didn't know him very well but knew him by name. And probably the, we were exceptional in the RAF that we used to take our ground crew out for drinks in the village at Waterbeach. Meet them at a pub and take them for an evening drinks which was un, sort of other Services the officers would not socialise with other ranks whereas we were quite happy to do that. I mean we knew we relied on them anyhow. The only time I had any other problem with, I think ground crew was, I'm not sure which raid it was, a long distance one and the bomb aimer was doing the bombing because it was out of range of GH. Out of the range of Gee. And we, he opened the bomb doors and I actually said, ‘We're not there yet.’ You know. So he closed them again until we got to the target area. He’d seen a dummy target of some sort and unfortunately the camera took a picture of the bombs away when it actually opened the bomb doors and didn't. The bombs weren’t away. So when we got home we were accused of being umpteen miles short of the thing and we said, ‘No. No.’ And it came around to this why you stick to your story and the corporal photographer will be put on a charge or you don’t. So, we did stick to our story [pause] I don't think there's anything else I can add.
DE: Did you have anything to do with the medical officer there?
MC: No. I wouldn’t think so. No. No.[pause] I can't recollect anything to do with him anyhow.
DE: Again, just before we started recording we had a little discussion about there was an explosion there. Can you —
MC: Yeah.
DE: Could you tell me any more?
MC: We were in briefing at the time actually. In briefing, and we suddenly heard this explosion and of course the op was cancelled, briefing was cancelled and so forth and we heard afterwards it was a bomb that had dropped and exploded. And of course, there were casualties. In fact, I did ask Peter Smith I think who was showing us around the IBCC whether he, he knew of that and he did seem to know of it.
DE: Yes. I believe the names of the people who lost their lives in that explosion are on the Memorial.
MC: Are they? Oh.
DE: Still on with, with things on the ground you said you took the, you went out with the ground crew for drinks.
MC: Yeah.
DE: Did you always have the same aircraft and the same ground crew?
MC: No, but we, there was one aircraft we flew more than others, I think. Probably, was it C for Charlie? I can't remember. But there was that particular ground crew that we knew anyhow because they were, you know, in attendance when we got to the aircraft and so forth. So, we knew. We knew them and we used to invite them up probably once a month or something like that, you know. Not that regularly but just locally to the village, you know where there were plenty of pubs [laughs].
DE: Fantastic. What happened to your brother? Did he manage to finish his tour?
MC: He did finish. In fact, he seconded to BOAC and then in fact joined BOAC and flew with them out to South Africa as navigator and so forth and other places. But, South America mainly actually he flew come to think of it and on, oh, I don't know. What was it? No. I don’t know what his aircraft was but, and then he I think he was still with them when they became British Airways. Then they didn't want navigators anymore because the navigation in the Western Hemisphere had got to a stage, beacons and so forth and therefore he emigrated to New Zealand and joined Air New Zealand to train other navigators out there. But he, he had a far more torrid operational experience than I did.
DE: Yeah.
MC: Without a doubt. And he was 5 Group in this area.
DE: Yes.
MC: Whereas I was 3 Group, of course in, around the Cambridge area. And it was 3 Group who did the GH bombing basically.
DE: Yeah.
MC: So, as I said earlier I think I released the bombs as much as the bomb aimer did on [pause] but it was something one did. You didn’t have to think about it too deeply. And I suppose we all thought Bomber Harris was a hero and he stuck to his guns. But —
DE: What do you think about the way the Bomber Command and Harris and the campaign has been remembered?
MC: Well, it was, I've got to say that after a year or two one did wonder what one, what one was doing. Was it right or was it not? And, and of course that was general. I mean, that’s why Bomber Command took a long time to be recognised. Because people didn't want to talk about it and they were of course one or two instances where things, the firestorms and so forth were shocking. But actually, at the time one did what was one’s duty sort of thing but afterwards one wondered was it right. Anyway, who can tell? After the war of course, after VE Day we flew some food out or food parcels to the Netherlands and took about, about a dozen, I think Belgian refugees back to Brussels. Flew them back. One of whom was Mrs five-by-five and really because she was quite a considerable weight the skipper insisted that she go forward of the main spar. Now, I don't know if you know the main spar but like I say —
DE: Yes.
MC: But there was no way she was going to get over this and so we had to get hold of her leg and put her leg over to one side and then lift her up and rock her over it. The number of petticoats she was wearing [laughs] Oh dear. We got there anyhow but to see their faces and their joy when they saw they were over their own country was fantastic. But that was quite an exercise. Then of course we flew back some prisoners of war. Twenty four on a trip I think. And, and then it, I can't remember the name of the station we landed at but anyhow —
DE: What was that like? Flying them home?
MC: Oh, ok. They were, they were quite subdued I'd say really and obviously one was doing one’s own thing and therefore one didn't really get that much to talk to them. Again, of course they were very happy to come back home. In fact, my wife's, my brother’s wife’s brother-in-law was a prisoner of war in the RAF. Yeah. He, and when he came back we used to, he lived in Malvern and we used to go out with him, He ended up as my bank manager [laughs] which was quite useful. He studied while he was actually a prisoner of war and [pause] That must be the end I think. I must have dried up by now surely.
DE: Ok. Well, unless there’s anything else that you can think of to tell me.
MC: Well, I can't think there's anything else that would interest. Well, I mean, with John Tully in Devon. He could drink a pint of scrumpy and a pint of bitter and all the locals were waiting for his legs to fold. They didn't. And he had us lost in town. He drove us back to Dunkeswell. The next morning he would say, ‘Martin, what did we do last night [laughs] You know. Before any drink driving. But in fact, there was nothing on the roads really at that stage.
DE: No.
MC: One often wonders where they, what happened to them since and so forth. I went to one or two squadron reunions but in the end I went to them and I hardly knew anyone there. So they’ll say they were at Waterbeach or [pause] and Waterbeach of course was taken over by as an Army training place. We did have a little museum there but what's happened to that I don't know. Right. Well, I can't think.
DE: Well, I’ll switch it off. It’s just quite often what happens is I’ll press stop and then you'll say, ‘Oh, there's another thing. Thank you very much.
MC: Well, I –
DE: It's wonderful to talk to you.
MC: I don’t think it’s been much use to you but be that as it may. It’s memories disjointed and so forth.
DE: No. It's been marvellous. Thank you very much.
MC: Oh right.
DE: Thank you.


Dan Ellin, “Interview with Martin Arthur Catty,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 22, 2024,

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