Interview with William Frederick Chubb


Interview with William Frederick Chubb


Bill Chubb had several challenges in his early life and his father died when Bill was 12. After several jobs he joined the RAF as a flight engineer. He became part of a Canadian crew, despite some objection! Bill tells many tales of his RAF time, fighter affiliation, bombs that failed to drop and dealing with aircraft swing on take off. He had to press for his pension after he was medically discharged and went to a number of reunions with his wife of 65 years.







01:26:52 audio recording

Conforms To


IBCC Digital Archive


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 17th of April 2018 and I am in Polegate near Eastbourne, talking with Bill Chubb, flight engineer, about his life and experiences. So Paul, so Bill, what were your first recollections of life?
BC: Well I must have started school at five years old. I hadn’t been at the infant school very long when I fractured my thigh and I was in Lewisham hospital for fifteen weeks, in South East London, with me leg strung up for the fifteen weeks. When I left, when I came out of the hospital, it was quite some time before I could actually walk again. So, and then that, I go on to when I was twelve years old, my father, who had rheumatic fever during the First World War, he finished up with a weak heart, and at twelve years old, 1938, he dropped to the floor in front of me. Well, that was 1938, at twelve years old. So 1939 war was declared, so there was just me mother and I, my three sisters, and the oldest one [clock chiming] was fifteen years old when I was born and they were married. I started work at the, how I got the job I don’t know, but I started work at the British Ermeto Corporation, which was government sponsored, and the main offices were in Victoria, London, with a warehouse and works not far from there. I started that job and they was doing AID inspection, learning me how to use a chrom, um -
CB: Chronometer.
BC: A chronometer and another one, what was the other one? I forget the other one, and then war was declared so the whole of the firm, lock stock and barrel, was moved down to Slough and I went with them, and I only used to come home of a weekend. Well after we’d been there a few weeks the firm was moved on again, into Maidenhead, further away from London cause the firm was getting bigger and I, I stopped coming home and I, one particular week cause me mother was on her own I wanted to stay with her, so I wouldn’t go back and my mother had various letters from that firm, hoping that I would return, because they offered me a permanency in the draughtsman’s office, but I still didn’t go back. So I left and I got a job in Hatton Garden, in a silversmiths. Now the war was at its height then with the bombing so at times I couldn’t even get there. I didn’t like the job but for the sake of, you know, bringing a bit money into the family, the two of us I stayed there for a while. But then my future brother-in-law, he was a butcher and he knew a lot of people and he got me a job in the County of London Electric Supply Company with, I stayed training as a electrician and I was still keen on the Air Force anyway, so eventually my papers came through and I left and started ground crew. What happened then?
CB: Where did you report?
BC: Pardon?
CB: Where did you report?
BC: Um, oh, er I’m getting confused now.
CB: We’ll just take a pause.
BC: Time I’ll always remember, we was working at a factory the Old Kent Road and all hell broke loose around about lunchtime, and we were being sprayed by in Focke Wulf 190s, going up and down Old Kent Road, spraying everything and they bombed the childrens’ school at Hither Green and killed many, many children. But there was a rumour back that they actually got him before he hit the coast, actually brought him down. Well then after that I was called up, and I went to, for me training, as a um, I was in for a armourer’s assistant, but course I had to do me foot slogging first, before I started. And er, hold on I’m getting a bit confused. I did make some notes.
CB: Okay, fire away.
BC: When I was finally called up for aircrew, I went to Skegness, and, to do my training.
CB: Initial training.
BC: Oh, I got posted from there after that, and I went to Cullerton Cross in Devon: Number 1 Balloon Centre. I always remember the Station Commander was, Captain, Group Captain Pendlebury he was about four foot high [laughter] and every Monday morning, cause I was wearing a white flash, cause I’d been accepted for aircrew, he asked me who I was and what I was doing. Well then I got posted from there and I went to [pause] 158 Squadron at Lissett and that was operational. But I was only there a matter of, a matter of weeks and I got my posting and I went to St Athans, I went to St Johns Wood, for ACRC.
CB: That’s it. Yup.
BC: From there I posted to No 1, No 4 S and TT, St Athans for my engineering training. [Pause] From then, after me training, and I passed out as a flight engineer, I went to the 1659 Halifax Unit and that’s where I met Bill Miller.
CB: This is the Heavy Conversion Unit.
BC: Heavy Conversion Unit, where I met Bill Miller and his crew. There was an objection to me joining the crew, by one of the crew.
CB: Because?
BC: Because I wasn’t Canadian. But he was over-ruled, and I remained with the crew. The skipper, never, ever [emphasis] heard of that, otherwise he’d have told him he can go. But I remember going to Heavy Con Unit because, to meet the crew, and there were so many men there and the flight engineers were mostly English anyway, they were, being associated with a Canadian crew. And there was this guy, who the, who’s this, hell, Bill Miller, who’s this hell Bill Chubb, a flight engineer? And of course he was a Flight Lieutenant, and I’m saying that’s me sir, it’s me sir! [laugh] And me and Bill were pals till we left the air, till it was all over. That’s how we got on; we done twenty six trips. One of them was not counted because we came back early, so.
CB: In general, the Canadian squadrons seem to have used British flight engineers because they weren’t training flight engineers.
BC: No, in Canada, were they. When they went from two engine stuff to four engine. There was a, one or two, not many.
CB: No.
BC: And I think they must have been engineers, ground staff, that knew a lot about aircraft and they remustered to, and that’s how they came over. Because many people have asked me why was it that you flew with a Canadian squadron, so many people, even when I went to Aces High, there was a lady there who asked me that same question.
CB: It’s because they didn’t train them. So how was the crew?
BC: Spot on. I’d do it all over again, if I was with that crew.
CB: Which was the one who objected?
BC: The wireless op, because his ancestors were French. The rear gunner, the rear gunner was Polish and I still correspond with his niece and I can show you a picture of that that I’ve got because I still contact the bomb aimer, er the navigator, Barry, he lives in Vancouver. He must be about ninety, ninety six or seven, I think, Barry. He got married, he remarried again at eighty six [laugher] and he’s still going strong.
CB: Such energy! We’ll pause there for a mo.
BC: There’s only the two of us left now.
CB; Now what about the pilot?
[Whisper] It’s recording.
CB: What about the pilot, what was he like?
BC: Bill Miller? Well after the war he went back to Canada, and he married an English girl, they got married and he wasn’t, flying was in his blood and he didn’t like the job he had, so they saw an advert for the RAF wanting pilots. He came back to England, re-joined the RAF and he stayed on until he retired.
CB: Did he.
BC: And then he done quite a time with the MOD.
CB: Right.
BC: That’s what Paul was, MOD.
CB: Yeah. Your son Paul. Your son Paul, works for the MID, MOD. Now who’s the, you are one of two survivors, who’s the other survivor?
BC: Is Barry Hall, the navigator. [Background talking]
CB: Where does he live? Vancouver?
BC: Vancouver.
CB: Right.
BC: He lives on Vancouver Island.
CB: Okay, we’ll pause there for a bit. So just two of you left, but over the years, how many reunions have you had?
BC: Our first reunion was in 1988, in Winnipeg and that’s where I re-met all of the crew except for the wireless operator and the rear gunner, anyway the rear gunner had passed on, anyway. But the wireless op, he just didn’t want to know anything about, you know, after the war.
CB: Didn’t he?
BC: Didn’t. Then the second one was four years afterwards and same place, Winnipeg and we had really, cause the bomb aimer’s daughter lived in Winnipeg so she supplied all the you know, all the private stuff. The parties and that while we was out there. And that second one, we booked another holiday while we was in Canada and the wife and I, we had eight days helicopter flying over the Canadian Rockies!
CB: Amazing!
BC: And It was quite an expensive holiday because all those what were in there were either Americans or Canadians, they were solicitors, doctors and all that, and one of them, when we first met he asked me you know, a lot about what I’d done and why was I in Canada and I said well cause of the reunion, and he said, oh, well he said I’m a DA, he said being English, you wouldn’t know what that was. So I said I do. So he said what’s that? I said a duck’s ass! [Much laughter] It shook him rigid.
CB: But he really meant District Attorney.
BC: But we were friends for the rest of those eight days, believe me. [Laughter] But it was a hell of a holiday. It really was.
CB: Yes. Fantastic.
BC: It was the holiday of a lifetime. And I still correspond with one of them ladies that was on that holiday, even now, every Christmas. They really, you know.
CB: Can we just go fast backwards to the interesting situation of the French Canadian wireless operator. He vetoed your joining the crew but was over-ruled you said. What was his attitude after that?
BC: Naturally enough, eventually he got his commission and that made him even a bit more, against me, I don’t know, but with this throwing out of the Window, you know, the silver paper lark, I always found that when we was going, that was always piled up in my position where it was only a foot away from his position in the aircraft. And I have a book, I still don’t know who was responsible for putting out that Window. Cause when we was on leave once, when I came back they said oh the position for throwing out the Window is in a new position. Well what we had to do, there was a kind of a funnel, but cause it was in the floor when you go down into the nose of the aircraft, and it was in the floor. Well for me to do it, it meant I kept on picking up the bundles and bending down to put them down through the floor. Well while we was on leave, someone thought of the idea of if they made a funnel that went into the hole in that floor, it would save that purpose. But it had to be stored. Well, being on leave, I didn’t hear all, any of this so when we came back, we were flying that night. So, and I was showed where the funnel was, strapped up, well I thought that was the permanent position. But it wasn’t the permanent position and when I started throwing out that stuff, I was jamming it down this funnel that was strapped on the bulkhead behind my position and eventually it became full up with silver paper and the whole lot collapsed, and we had an aircraft full of silver paper. [Laughter]
CB: This is a Halifax, yes.
BC: I didn’t know. But I wasn’t involved, I wasn’t told because of being on leave. And that’s where it was. Actually, cause I thought the hole was in the side of the aircraft, so where they put it, and it was quite, you know, quite large, but the idea was to get that funnel and put it in the floor of the aircraft. And that would have been another [emphasis] obstruction for actually getting out fast.
CB: So we’re talking about a Halifax. Moving from the front to the back, the bomb aimer’s right in the nose, who is nearest next? [Clock chime]
BC: Who is?
CB: Which. Who’s comes after the bomb aimer, moving backwards, who’s behind him?
BC: Navigator.
CB: Right. And behind him?
BC: The wireless op.
CB: And the pilot’s upstairs.
BC: Over the, over the wireless op.
CB: Right.
BC: And then my position was behind the pilot, or on the wall.
CB: Upstairs.
BC: Yup.
CB: Okay, right. We’ll pause there.
BC: It’s used in all phases of war, where the Lancaster wasn’t. It was a good aircraft, I’ll give you that. [background talking] But I still think the radial engines were one over on the Rolls Royce. I do. And I think if the war had gone any longer that would have been more so. Because the engines on the Halifax, fourteen cylinder Hercules, was being changed to eighteen cylinders on the two, on the two inner engines. So you had two eighteen cylinder engines, either side the fuselage, and then the two original fourteen cylinders, and that would have, I think it would have run rings round the perishing Lancaster, as well as the ceiling and the climbing ability but of course it never came to that because of the war ending. [Sounds of cups and saucers] But one of the reasons why I did choose the Halifax, I thought there was more chance of getting out of a Halifax than there was a Lancaster and I proved it time and time again by reading these books, about that, and they all say the same. In this particular book I’m reading, that Paul gave me, they reckon the ability to get out [emphasis] of a Liberator was sixty percent, and a Fortress. But when you come to the Lancaster it was down to fifteen percent. That’s in black and white, and I’ve marked that book for anybody reading that book later on.
CB: So is that to do with the size of the hatch, the placing of the hatch or what? The location of the hatch.
[Other]: Think it was the wing spar.
BC: I think the placing of the hatch, because the one near the pilot on the Lancaster was only very small, for anybody in trouble, trying to get out, probably quite easy normally, but in an emergency, like that, they’d, it would be a hell of a job, it was a hell of a job anyway, [emphasis] but to, you know, to get out of an aircraft like that. That was one of the reasons why I plumped for the Halifax, after the PBY, cause that’s the one I really wanted to fly.
CB: Catalina.
BC: I’ve never flown in one. it’s a beautiful aircraft, that Catalina. I’ve never actually seen it flying.
CB: Now the challenge for the bombers was not just flak, it was attacks by fighters, so you practiced dealing with fighters: fighter affiliation. How did that work? You were on the lookout.
BC: I was on lookout, out in the astrodome, yeah, you know.
CB: So where’s the astrodome in the Halifax?
BC: It’s just, it would be above the engineer’s position. The instruments are, the pilot’s there and that’s the astrodome.
CB: And when the navigator needed to take a fix then he’d come along with his sextant.
BC: Sextant.
CB: Yeah. Right. So how did the fighter affiliation work then? What were the responsibilities of the crew and what did the pilot do? The fighter comes in -
BC: It was mostly controlled by the, by the two gunners, wasn’t it, you know, [clock chimes] cause Pete was very good, he was extremely, you know.
CB: But you’d have your head in the astrodome looking out for the fighters, wouldn’t you, giving an added pair of eyes. [Clock string]
BC: Yeah, it was you know: corkscrew port go, and all this business.
CB: So that’s called, then what happens with the aeroplane, when they corkscrew, what happens?
BC: Well you have to hold on tight to start with, especially with Bill! Cause I always remember, we had, I don’t know why they was changing, but there was a crew that flew on Lancasters, and it was Squadron Leader MacMurtry, and he wanted an engineer to be with his engineer when they first flew in a Halifax. So of course dear Bill, being friends, said my engineer will come with me, I will fly with ‘em. When we came back I said I don’t want to bloody well fly with him no more, I think he thought we had a ruddy Spitfire! [Laughing] Yeah, he really, you know, he was doing, I suppose okay, it’s a, whether a Lancaster done that what he was trying to do with that Halifax, but my skipper wasn’t, you know, wasn’t that, he probably could do it if he wanted to but he didn’t. But when this MacMurtry bloke, oh mate, I thought I’m not flying with him no more. they all laughed their heads off. That was one. Another thing I remember, when we took off on different trips according what type of day it was, all circled the drome and all set course at the same time. If took off early and you were circling the drome quite a bit, I tell you what I did notice, I’m sure I saw the rockets being fired from wherever they were, cause I seen the vapour trails going up, when we was up there, and we was up in Yorkshire. I saw that quite a few times.
CB: So when they were going up, this was in Northern Europe you could see, in the dark.
BC: Yes, you see the vapour trails of the, I suppose V -
CB: V2s. Because we’re talking about later in ’44.
WB: Yeah. Well most of my stuff was in ’44.
CB: Indeed. Now there are all sort of hazards in flying aeroplanes and sometimes bombs didn’t go when they ought to.
BC: Oh yeah, we had that on our third trip, I think it was on Bochum, I think that’s how you say it, and we got diverted coming back, but before we got diverted we had a terrific crash [emphasis] and we thought we’d had a collision and I was going round with a, an oxygen holder, a portable oxygen with a torch taking out the floor panels, you know, trying to find what could have caused that, and we didn’t find anything, and I didn’t find anything but everything was still okay. It was okay, so we came back and I got diverted. I can’t remember where it was, it’s in there somewhere.
C: In your log book.
WB: Castrock Rock Salt, That’s the name of the trip we had, we were diverted to Wombledon coming back, with this terrific crash, which I never found out what it was. So we landed at the place allocated for us and switched off the engines, dropped the flaps, opened the bomb doors and a thousand pounder fell out, [clap] boom, on the ground!. It had iced up on the racks of course, coming back dropping low and, you know, that finished up on the floor. Thousand pound bomb!
CB: So the bang was the bomb falling from its, onto the bomb doors.
WB: Well we realised that, that was the big bang we heard, with it falling on the bomb doors, you know.
CB Lucky to hold them. Right, now what about shrapnel?
BC: Pardon?
CB: What about shrapnel? Was there lots of flak? How often did you get caught?
BC: Not too large lumps, but smaller stuff, specially one bit that came through, I think it was the Perspex above the skippers head, missed him, luckily, came back and walloped me on the floor, on me boot, but no damage. But talking about damage, the rear, the mid upper gunner, he had an injury, but it wasn’t through enemy action. We came out, it was around about our twenty second trip, I think it was, twenty second or twenty third, and we came out and we nearly always had Q Queenie, we came out, done the necessary and the skipper wasn’t happy with the main compass. So we were picked to go a second aircraft. We piled all the stuff onto the truck and we went to the second aircraft, but when we started up the port inner engine, which the hydraulics were worked off of, as we started off, so the hydraulics blew and I was covered in hydraulic fluid. So that was number two aircraft: unserviceable. So we all piled out again, piled out and went round to the third one. Well, time was getting a bit short, so we put all the stuff on the truck, the truck came, the WAAF took us round to the next aircraft. In the panic of jumping off the truck, it was one of those that had a tarpaulin cover, with down the side of each lock, truck, had these hooks, one up and one down. Arnie, the mid upper gunner, he jumped, but he caught his finger where he had a ring, on that, and pulled his finger off and we were just standing there looking and the WAAF driver came round, said what was we doing and we said looking for his finger on the floor and she went [sound effect], she passed straight out. Anyway. He, we still wanted to go. Well I think it was Wing Commander France, I think that’s who it was, said after all the trouble we had had, we could scrub that, but Bill, the skipper, still wanted to go. I mean took Arnie off in the blood wagon down to York, Bill wanted to go so we went. We all volunteered to go, but we needn’t have done because of the problems we had had. I think that was our twenty second trip, I thought that was our twenty second, what that was. But um, it was Harburg, Harburg Runinia, yeah Harburg Runinia. That was that trip. We never saw Arnie any more, and later on, it was only a few years ago, that he wrote about going back to Canada. He went back on the liner, the Aquitania. Well the Aquitania, when I was at school, they took us on a school journey, to Southampton and we went to Southampton and that was the boat that took us on, the Aquitania, and it took Arnie back to Canada after the war, before it was broken up. But he never did [indecipherable] was a character on his own, Arnie. He had ancestors that were Scottish. And when we went to the reunion, the first time, that was 1988, in the convention centre in Winnipeg, you know, there was over, there was five thousand at that reception, including the wives and Arnie disappeared and I knew what was going to happen. And when he appeared, he had his, all his regalia on for a Scotsman, you know, and his kilt and all that and he used to be able to get a balloon, used to blow, and they were what, anything, massive length and he used to play a mouth organ and how he worked it, I don’t know, but he was using the air of the balloon to, for the mouth organ like a, you know, and he really had ‘em going, he rally did, he was funny, that way. He always had something, and we, not at this house, but the other house we were, in Bromley we had ‘em cause we went to see the plaque in the, in London, the, what church was it? It was the RAF Church.
CB: St Clement Danes.
BC: That’s it. We had a plaque put in the floor. They all came back to us, in Bromley, you know. That’s where he, up and down the garden with his kilt, [indecipherable] he was a real character, I say that book of poems, that’s what he used to do. When he wasn’t when he was in the mess of a night, when we weren’t flying, he was either writing poems, cause his whole [emphasis] family wrote poems, his father and his, and it was either writing to them, or sitting there, with a poem, it was brilliant. Oh, another thing he done, we had a reunion up in York and a coach of Canadians come over here and all stayed in a hotel, but Arnie stayed with us and he, I’m talking to him about the Old Kent Road and he had an ambition to be able to talk like a London Cockney. And he used to drive barmy while he was here just coming up the Old Kent Road! I took him up there in the car when we went up to York once, but he was a real character. We got on well together the two of us, you know, but he really, [clock chime] he could certainly write poems, as I say. If you want to borrow that book, you can borrow it.
CB: Looks very interesting. Let’s pause there for a mo. So the aircraft on their hardstandings have got the ground crew looking after them. What was the relationship between the crew of the aircraft, the aircrew, and the groundcrew?
BC: Extremely, well, they worked all hours, you know, to get those aircraft going. In all weathers. I mean some of the weather up in Sc, Yorkshire is atrocious. I mean I remember clearing the runway, you know, with picks and shovels, to enable us to fly off into Germany, you know. And that was, talk about kind of rubbing it in, you know but if you couldn’t take off, you couldn’t fly, but they had us all out there, and we did, when, this business of the Halifax bearing off to starboard when you first take off.
CB: Ground swing.
BC: Yeah. I often wondered, did that apply to Lancasters? Did it?
CB: Well I think it applies to all aircraft where the torque is taking it round, but it’s worse on a Stirling because it has no airflow over the fin because it’s a single fin, until you get the tail up. Better on the Lancaster and the Halifax.
BC: I’ve often wondered that.
CB: So on, that’s a point, on take off: what was the role of the flight engineer on take off?
BC: Assist the skipper as regards to counteracting that business of the starboard engines being opened up slightly before, you know, at an angle to counteract that swing.
CB: So you put your hand on the throttles at an angle so the take up on some of them is slower than the others.
BC: Just keep that bit from going that way.
CB: So for take off how much responsibility did the flight engineer have for controlling the throttles?
BC: With Bill, he was always there, he was always there to kind of, you know, cause he was always looking for, you know, things that might happen, you know. He was a good pilot, a really good pilot. I think that, because I always remember a letter from Barry that he wrote to me once, cause I’ve got arthritis, in me spine, and Barry made the comment cause we were talking about it you know, I’ve had it so long, and he said well don’t blame it on Bill’s landings because you never knew that you was down!
CB: So gentle.
BC: He was so gradual old Bill, the perfect pilot as well as being a very nice bloke. My wife, she liked Bill and they got on very well together.
C: So where did you meet your wife, and when?
BC: Well I belonged to the ATC, Air Training Corps, and that was even before I went in to the Air Force, and with the dances that used to, you know, of a weekend at the Artillery House in Bromley Road and that’s how I come to meet Freda. But at that particular time, when we first met, Freda was with a friend of mine, a Ron Miller, who was also in the Air Force, and I took Freda away from Ron Miller [chuckle] and never saw Ron Miller at all after that, once they parted. Cause they always seemed to finish up arguing, until I came along.
CB: You were their salvation. So how did you keep in contact after that? Because she was in London when you joined, so you joined up in the RAF and what happened then?
BC: Well Freda had her sister who was four years older than her, and her sister used to look after her as regards stockings and things like that because the Yanks were around for you know, for the stockings and that.
CB: They were big on stockings.
BC: They wanted to go to this dance, and it was in London. So Freda went with her sister, Elsie, to this dance, and while the dance was taking place a raid developed, so they couldn’t make it home, so they had to go into one of the underground shelters, which was, for her mother and father, it was absolutely horrendous. But they came home the next day, thinking you know, and they wouldn’t let them go again, not, you know, those sort of things happening. Course when the war first started, Freda, her mother, and her sister, they moved to Guildford; they had an aunt in Guildford. And of course her sister being four years older than Freda, she was eighteen, so Freda was only just fourteen to start work, and her sister got a job in, it was a brewery, she got a job in the brewery, in automation with the bottles going round and sticking the labels on the bottles. Well Fred worked in a firm, they got her a job in the to do with tablets, you know. And these tablets were affecting her in a, of a night.
CB: What, purifying tablets were they?
BC: Yeah, they couldn’t, she couldn’t keep awake, so they made her leave. So Elsie spoke for her in this brewery, so she got the job in the brewery. Well evidently, the girls working there had to take turns in getting the glue for the bottles, and they showed Freda where the glue was kept, and you know, when she started working there, when her turn came round where she had to go to pick up the glue and it was in a large barrel. So it came to the time when it was Freda’s turn to go and get the glue, so she went, she toddled off to get the glue, and she was gone a long time. Well evidently, this glue was in this large barrel you had to [indecipherable] down to ladle the glue out and I’m afraid Freda went head over tail into the glue pot, into the glue barrel and that’s why they couldn’t make out where she was! And she was upside down in the bloody pot! [Laugh]
CB: Lucky to survive I should think.
BC: And they had to cut all her hair off, to get the glue, because they never, with her hair they would never get it out so that’s what they had to do, but she was only fourteen years old. [Laugh] And the few times, that I, you know, we were married for sixty five years.
[Other]: Were you?
CB: So when did you marry?
BC: And that was a, you know, [indecipherable]. We, Sixty five years we was married.
CB: When did you get married?
BC: When?
CB: Yup. And where?
BC: 1947, at St Lawrence’s Church, Catford, South East London [pause] and there’s my son.
CB: How many children? Number one son.
BC: Number one son. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without him. Honestly, I just .
CB: Brilliant. So how did you keep in touch with your wife to be throughout the war while you were in the RAF moving about?
WB: Well only when I came home on leave. Letters were the only thing we had. And when we came, actually when I finished flying and they disbanded 423 Squadron same as they did with the other Canadian squadrons.
CB: Yeah, because they were repatriated.
BC: I was sent on a driving school, up to Blackpool and I finished that, when I came, when I passed out, I got me driving licence, I was put on embarkation leave and I’ve got a picture here somewhere, of us. I was on embarkation leave and er -
CB: Stop there for a mo. We’ve just been talking about how you got together. When VE Day happened on the 8th of May 1945, the squadron was about to be disbanded because of that, but what happened? What was the general feeling around at the time? Were there celebrations?
BC: Well to start off with [indecipherable] they burnt the flag pole, they set light to the flag pole. [Laughter] I think the Canadian Air Force was a bit different to the RAF, you know, they were a bit more relaxed. And then it was after that that I was sent on this driving school. Cause what else could we do.
CB: Of course. When, after the driving school, what did you do after that?
BC: Well I was put on embarkation leave.
CB: Yes, you went on embarkation leave, but you never actually went to the Far East, did you.
BC: No, no. I went down to, I was given embarkation leave and I went down to Torquay because Freda was staying with an aunt who lived in Torquay,, how long we stayed there I don’t know, then of course we came home, but then when I went back I went into hospital because of me ears and I went in about three times, but I still, so finally I was taken off the draft and let go, and I was discharged. Now being discharged medically, failing to fulfil RAF physical requirements, I thought I’d be entitled to a pension, which I applied for, but it was taken, it was turned down. So the matter was taken up with the British Legion and again it was turned down; so that was it. Well after a while I kept on going to see my doctor, a Doctor Hopman, and one day he turned round to me and said Mr Chubb, I cannot attend to your ears any longer, he said you’ve got a problem. And he sent me to the Ear, Nose and Throat hospital in Gravesend Road and I’ve had trouble with me ears ever since. Well we moved down, I don’t know how it started, oh, we went, when we went to Canada first time for the reunion, they couldn’t make out why I never got a pension, and so Bill, me skipper, he took it up. He took it up and when we came home, cause he lived over here then, he lived in Buckden in Cambridgeshire and we hadn’t been associated together very long, when we came back here and he gave me an address and they sent me some forms. I filled them forms in and sent them back and in a year’s time I got a pension and that was forty odd years after I left the RAF.
[Other]: Blimey.
BC: I got a twenty percent pension. Well then we moved here in ’95, 1995 and we hadn’t been here very long and I got a letter, to go to Brighton, they had one of these caravan efforts, you know, with, they moved around the country and I had more tests and that’s when this ear was involved as well. I don’t wear this one, it’s a bit, you know, noise it’s, you know, but I can’t, I can speak to you normally as we’re talking now and I can understand what you’re saying, but if it’s coming from that or on the telephone, I don’t stand a chance. When, where there’s electricity involved in speech, even with me hearing aids, I can hear it, but I can’t understand what they say. So, I watch the news, I watch the news, but unless their diction is so, I don’t hear what they’re saying. Yes please! Cup of tea?
CB: Fascinating. Can I go back to other times when you’re flying and before then. Nowadays it’s called something different, but in the war, where people failed to perform as required they were banded LMF. Lack of Moral Fibre. Did you ever come across or hear of any of that?
BC: Not once. Not once, cause I don’t think there was any. Not that I knew of, really.
CB: And did the crews, did the squadrons know about it?
BC: I think so, must do, but I never heard of anybody being, you know, court martialled. Oh, in a book I’ve got, there is a story of that, it’s about the RAF at East, not East, was it Eastbourne, probably, anyway it’s in this book. It was about this chappie who flew on his first, he was in the squadron and he’s written in, and he flew on his first trip and he felt as though the aircraft was lop-sided all the time, so he couldn’t remain in his seat. He was a rear gunner I think, he couldn’t remain in his seat and he said that he would like to change crews, but they said no, we could not do that. So they took him to the CO and the CO said you, you’re refusing to fly. He said I’m not refusing to fly, he said I just want, don’t want to fly with that particular crew. But they wouldn’t give in and that crew went on an op that night, with a spare gunner, and he was put in the guard room for overnight. Well then the next morning he had to go and see the CO, where he was going to be all rigged up for a court martial. But when he went into the CO’s office, his attitude had changed and the CO couldn’t have been nicer and the reason why: that crew ever came back. And he got, at the end of his tour, which he finished.
CB: With another crew. He finished it?
BC: Yeah. He got the DFM.
CB: Did he.
BC: But he was going to be treated, the CO wouldn’t have that he didn’t want to fly with that crew. He said you’re refusing to fly. He said I’m not refusing to fly, I’m just refusing, I want to fly with another crew, I don’t feel happy with that crew. They didn’t come back that night, so next morning, it was, he said the CO couldn’t have been nicer to him. Other than that, I don’t really know anything about, you know, cause I never met anybody. But I did, whether I read it or not, I don’t know, but if somebody did go LFM they were sent to, to um, Sheffield. I know they was stripped of all, you know, rank and everything, yeah. What was actually Sheffield, what was it?
CB: It was a prison in the middle of Sheffield.
BC: It’s a?
CB: A prison.
BC: Oh, was it. Cause on the First World War they got shot didn’t they. They used to shoot them. But I mean I always think, you know, I can’t remember I was, it was one particular trip I think that I was very dubious about on the run in, and that was Magdeburg, when we were in, and that was a long trip, where it was really going when we actually got there and that’s about the only trip I really thought about, you know, but we were lucky, I think we just, we weren’t more skilful than any of the others, but we were just lucky that we got away with it each time.
CB: So you’d arrive at the aircraft at dispersal in a truck or a bus?
BC: Hmm?
CB: You’d arrive at dispersal, before an op, in a truck, or in a bus, which did you arrive in, in a bus?
BC: A truck.
CB: Right. And so you got out of that, what did everybody do before they got to their stations? Any rituals?
BC: Can’t say really.
CB: Did you keep any mementos, souvenirs, keepsakes?
BC: No I didn’t.
CB: Or did you water the fence and the rear wheel?
BC: Pardon?
CB: Did you water the fence or the rear wheel?
BC: Oh yeah, there was all that in it, you know, we were quite a, especially when you got all keyed up for a trip – scrubbed. And you start over again the next day. I think that was one of the worst things.
CB: What effect did that have on the crew?
BC: Well good in a way, because the, you know, yeah, thank Christ for that, kind of thing, that’s one we got away with. But I think it’s been such a long time ago that you tend to, you forget how you felt each time, but as I say, I think my skipper was an inspiration to me. I was the youngest one of the crew. The rear gunner was there with us, Pete, Pete Potaski, and being the youngest one in the crew, I don’t know whether they, I didn’t feel as though I wasn’t doing me bit, cause I was, you know, but they were all.
CB: Now when you joined the RAF it was in a ground mechanic engineering role. What prompted you to volunteer for aircrew?
BC: I wanted it right from the very beginning. Because when I went to Ennisdale Road, to the recruitment centre, later on I had a medical and I had an aptitude test and I was approved, okay, pilot, navigator, bomber. But of course I was too young, my age was, I think I must have been about sixteen and a half or seventeen, my age was against me I couldn’t do nothing about it, that’s when, I did hear that there was a more chance of getting in the Air Force, cause I definitely didn’t want the Navy and I definitely didn’t want the Army, [chuckle] but that’s why I, you know, I really wanted aircrew, but as I say I always thought that by the time, if I’d have stuck with that and waited until I got, I wouldn’t have got anywhere near, I wouldn’t have done ops. Cause I reckon, I mean I’m ninety three in couple of days, well if you’re any younger you didn’t actually do operations. [Clock chime] Cause there is, in the High Street there’s Archers, the Estate Agents. Now I got involved with the chappie in charge down there and I took some photographs down there and asked if they’d reprint them for me and we got chatting and he said my father was a pilot on Liberators, Coastal Command. I said oh. He wasn’t in the war, it was just after the war, whether he’s alive or not now, we got chatting, we got quite friendly, you know. I said have you got any kind of memories, only he said, you know, he’s got no mementos, nothing like that, I thought ah! I wrote to these chappies who send all these photographs to me and I said could you possibly get a photograph of a Lancaster, of a Liberator and he sent me not one, but an airfield full of ‘em! So what I done, I went down to the Salvation Army place and I bought a frame for this picture and I framed it and I put it in a box, and took it down there. And I said I know you don’t believe in Father Christmas, this was just before Christmas, I said I know you don’t believe in Father Christmas but there’s a Christmas present for yer, open it if you want to, so he did. And he was absolutely, you know, he couldn’t thank me enough.
CB: Gobsmacked.
BC: Anyway, on the Christmas, Christmas week I was there on me own, thinking about just, you know, and the bell rang. So I went to the door and there was this man standing there and I looked at him and I thought, do I know you. I didn’t, so he said Archers, in the High Street. I said h yeah! He said, here y’are, present for yer, gave me a bottle of whisky!
CB: We’re going to take a pause there.
BC: We see him a few weeks ago, didn’t we, in Sainsburys, yeah. He don’t do so many days now.
CB: Right. It’s time for your cup of tea. When we, you had a mixed officer and NCO crew, so how did that work, socially?
BC: Quite, it was very good, we got on very well, extremely well together, the only thing, the problem was, the wireless operator, wasn’t, we weren’t kind of against one another, cause he knew his job and you know, we kind of, I still don’t know now, it’s in this book I’ve got about flying with Eastmoor, whether it was his job to throw out, because his position was right next to where this chute was and I think it was him, and there’s a chappie who was a flight engineer, I did ring him last year, I think meself, he’s gone a bit. Cause when we finished, we started up the Eastmoor Family, and he was that one who that done all the necessary and got a write up every three months or something like that, course he’s now ninety odd and course he’s not writing now, but, you know, he really, mean skipper was involved with it as well and they called it the Eastmoor Family and our, what’s his name, Ivan, Ivan Mullet, he was good at his job, what he was doing and you know, he was so interesting and this book that he’s written that, where I got a lot of information from. It went on for quite, about four years, he’s so old now he’s had to pack it in. So we haven’t got anything. Course Bill’s passed away, as I say I was hoping to show you them photographs.
CB: I’m pausing again. Can you just explain, clearly in the aircraft having officer and sergeant ranks was not a problem because there’s a cohesion in the crew with their individual tasks, but when you go out into the social environment, first of all on the station, socialising on the station but also outside. How did that work? Was it different, socialising on the station from outside?
BC: No, don’t think so because it seems with the Canadians, they, I mean when I first met Bill he was a Flight Lieutenant and I was a made up Sergeant, but, you know, they didn’t want to know. They didn’t want to know anything like that type of thing [indecipherable]. Bill did, I did hear that he would have liked, he would like to have had, he wanted, eventually an all officer crew, but I’m afraid I let him down. But the rear gunner, he was made up Warrant Officer. But as regards, you know, I didn’t, I think it was due to the situation, the VE Day and all that business that I wasn’t granted, and I’ve never got over it really, because I really [emphasis] wanted the RAF as my, what I wanted to do, cause I would have, probably would have stayed in the Air Force. But I had no choice.
CB: So what did you do, when you left the RAF?
BC: Well I went back. There was a government scheme, that if a chap working for a particular firm, went into the services, if and when he came back, [clock chiming] his job would still be there. And that was put in operation, but in my case, when I came, course I came back slightly early being discharged medically and the Electric Light Company were getting the work coming in so they wanted, so I didn’t, I can’t remember how many days’ leave I was given, you know and I actually started back to work rather early to what I need have done. So, I got me job back. But the point was, as the weeks went past, other chaps were coming back, so therefore, at first of all, when it was you know, not many coming back and then it kind of, more were coming back because more had left who’d gone in the services, and so they finished up with more staff than what they wanted, so therefore, one night I just got me cards. But the point is, that applied to all electrical firms that they were getting back far too many, you know they couldn’t cope those who came back early were getting their cards back and take on the others that were just coming back. So I lost me job and I worked for London Transport for quite a while and I drove a London bus! Well then, I didn’t like the job, so in 1960, or ’59, I joined Post Office Telephones before, it, well before it became British Telecom, that’s the worst thing that could have happened to it, because I enjoyed my job, and I was there till I retired. Normally it was sixty five, retirement, but as I was a civil servant they said I would have to go at sixty, which I didn’t want to do, so at fifty five I was given forms to fill in to the fact that when I arrived, when I was sixty, I would carry on. Well this did happen, but not until I was sixty five. At sixty three they said, you’ve got to go. So that’s when I retired; that was 1988. But matter of fact, a few weeks, a few, couple of months now ago, I had a letter from BT to confirm that I am who I am, and I’m still around, because of my pension.
[Other]: He’s drawing his pension longer than he worked for them.
CB: Is that right! Fascinating.
BC: I had to confirm that I was, you know, cause I mean it does happen, no one says anything, chap passes on and they still pay the pension, so that had to be confirmed.
CB: Diverted to Hardwick, an American base.
[Other]: [indecipherable] Brake, brake, brake.
BC: We landed at Hardwick, diverted. It was an American, was an American base. Well, they sent an Anson out to repair our hydraulics, for the next day. So after that they [clock chime] took us up in a Liberator to fly, you know, so naturally enough we had to do the same, so when the hydraulics were repaired, we piled a few of them into the Halifax.
CB: Americans.
BC: And up we went, circling the drome and what happened the hydraulics went again, and burst! So we was there another couple of days when the weather turned out, so all together I think we was there five or six days. Well of course they ripped, they ripped our stripes off everything we wore -
CB: As a souvenir.
BC: As a souvenir, and also so we could use the, we was using the Officers Mess. That was the idea.
CB: Officers Cub
[Other]: That was very good.
BC: We was there five days. They really looked after us.
CB: What about the food. What was that like?
BC: Eh?
CB: What about the food?
WB: We found it quite good. I’ll tell you what we, I did like, I personally did like, and that was the, what they call them? Square.
[Other]: Waffles
BC: Eh?
[Other]: Waffles.
CB: Waffles.
WB: Waffles. Piles of ‘em! And every night,
CB: With syrup. Fantastic.
BC: Actually really, really great. And course, when we finally did leave there, after five days, the skipper really shot that drome up, he really did, he really went to town. He knew, whahw!
CB: Put it right down.
BC: I never really, thinking about it, I never thought he had it in him to do that sort of thing! But he was.
CB: He was a Canadian, so he was trying to make a point. How did, as the crew and the squadron was Canadian, how did they get on in the countryside with British people?
BC: Well we had a farm right near us, and I always remember a couple of the chaps went down there, to help that farmer get his machine going again, cause they, you know, they were really and also, I never went meself, but they got well in with the, one of the, in the village, one of the families and that and they used to go in there and play cards of a night, you know, when we wasn’t flying. It was really, another thing, a chappie, not with the crew, but on the course, we wasn’t far from York. So I didn’t know what pretty girls were made of, so, we went into York, because there was, it was Phyllis Dixie, the first stripper in England, or Great Britain, the first one, they took me to show me. This chappie I was with, took me to show her.
CB: You were quite young, weren’t you.
BC: Yeah. Phyllis Dixie, the first stripper in London! Yeah, I remember that.
CB: But you didn’t have anybody to report to in those days. [Chortling] Bill Chubb, thank you very much for a most interesting conversation. Much appreciated.
BC: I didn’t know what to expect, what was what, you know. Cause trouble is, like now, I’m all right for a while, I go to say something and I’ve forgotten it. Cause I looked after my wife, who developed dementia, for six years. She died seven years ago, my dear Freda, she really is. I looked after her, as much as I could, never want to go through that again.
CB: No. I can imagine.
BC: Six years. We started off down here, we came up ’59 and at 2001 we was involved in a major road accident.
CB: Were you?
BC: I always wanted a Rover car and that’s what we bought. We had a brand new Rover and I hadn’t it that long. Complete write off, and it’s a wonder we weren’t written off as well and it wasn’t my, none of my fault. But they blamed me for one third of the accident.
CB: So what happened?
BC: Some law, cause they reckon my blinkers were still working when we, when I went straight on. And that was the get out. Who invented that I don’t know. But that Rover car, a Rover 200 was a beautiful car. Anyway the one I’ve just got rid of, was a VW I’ve had seventeen years.
CB: Brilliant.
BC: Paul got it. Sold it for me, yeah, very good.


Chris Brockbank, “Interview with William Frederick Chubb,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 21, 2022,

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