Interview with David Kenneth McKenzie Dall


Interview with David Kenneth McKenzie Dall


David Dall spent his early life in South Africa. He moved to the UK as a child to live with his grandmother and continue his education. He was enthralled by the stories his grandmother told him about the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War and so when it came time to volunteer it was obvious where he would apply to the RAF. He had wanted to train as a gunner but was posted for training as a wireless operator/air gunner. He was posted to 101 Squadron at RAF Ludford Magna.




Temporal Coverage




01:30:58 audio recording


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ADallDKM161122, PDallDKM1601


CB: Right. My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the, Tuesday the 22nd.
DD: 22nd.
CB: Of November 2016. And we’re in West Hendred with David Dall who was a 101 Squadron man and talking about his life and times. So, what are the earliest things you remember about your life, David?
DD: Well, the first thing I remember was out in Nyasaland. Now Malawi. My father was a tea planter. He used to take me around the tea estate on the back of his motorcycle inspecting stuff. And from there I sort of grew, grew up a little bit more. God. This is very difficult.
CB: We can start again.
DD: Sorry.
CB: Don’t worry.
[recording paused]
DD: My earliest recollections was living on a tea estate in Nyasaland. Now Malawi. I used to go around — I used to go across to my father’s factory most days accompanied by my boy who looked after me. An African whose name was Kaios. That went on ‘til I was about five or six, I think. And I was sent then to the convent to start my education in Limbe. Just outside Blantyre. I stayed there until I was about eight and then came over to this country when my father and mother separated. I was then, I spent one year acclimatizing, being acclimatized to schooling in this country. I went to Streatham Grammar School. And from there I went on to a public school in Suffolk called Framlingham. And I was there until 19 — was it — ‘42. And then my grandmother, my grandmother who was my guardian decided because of air raids around Suffolk that I was to go back to her but she lived in London. And of course the bombings was on at that time 1941/42. Sorry. Not ’42. ’41. Eventually she decided that it wasn’t worth staying there and she managed to buy a house down at Redhill in Surrey. I went down there and although I didn’t do any schooling I stayed there until I was about what seventeen and a half. And because of contacts my grandmother had with the RFC people during the First World War I got to know all the stories about the RFC now the RAF. And it sort of, you know I wanted to join up as soon as possible. And in 1942 I volunteered but I was seventeen. Seventeen and three quarters then. I volunteered for the air force but they turned me down. So I sort of thought about it and eventually I decided to go up to another place and volunteer there. And I got in. That was Croydon. It was, you know it was so busy there you could flannel your way through. So I was accepted there although I was three months under age. I waited and eventually I got a communication from the RAF to go for my interviews in Oxford. The main, the main part of that was in the medical side which I passed. And they sent me back and said wait. And the next thing I knew I was in. I started off — I think it was at Cardington. Yeah. I went through the basics there and got my uniform and all that sort of business. And I had volunteered for aircrew which I, you know I passed in my medical. Wait a minute. Can you stop it a second?
[recording paused]
DD: Not yet.
CB: So we’re just doing an alteration now because it wasn’t Cardington.
DD: No. It was Padgate.
CB: So where did you go to the ITW?
DD: Yeah.
CB: At? Padgate was it?
DD: I didn’t, I have to, I hadn’t — can you switch it off again.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
DD: Cut that. It was from, where did I go? God, I can’t remember. It’s taxing my —
[recording paused]
CB: Back with Madley.
DD: At Madley, I started, I did my first part of the wireless course. And then when I completed that I was posted as, to sort of a holding place at Pengham and Tremorfa in South Wales. From there I went back to Madley to do my, to commence my flying on Proctors and Dominies. When I finished there I went to Manby and did the gunnery course where I got my sergeant stripes and felt very good [laughs] I then went to Millom in Cumberland to do my AFU. And from there when I passed out there to Whitchurch and then on to the satellite at [unclear] to fly on Whitleys and train there. After we finished there and crewed up we then were sent to a holding unit at Boston. And from there we received our engineer and rear gunner to complete the crew. We did a — and went to —
CB: That was at the Heavy Conversion Unit.
DD: The Heavy Conversion Unit. Yeah.
CB: Right.
DD: And once we passed out there we went to Ludford and there we did —
CB: Which squadron was that?
DD: 101 Squadron at Ludford.
CB: And what was special about 101 Squadron?
DD: It was an ABC Squadron.
CB: Airborne Cigar.
DD: Yeah. Cigar.
CB: What did that mean?
DD: Well, it meant that we had to have an extra member in the crew who understood and spoke German.
CB: Right.
DD: I’ve told you that.
CB: Ok. What happened when you arrived at Ludford?
DD: When we arrived at Ludford we had to do a little bit more training and eventually we were informed that we were going to carry an extra member of the crew who spoke German and understood. His job mainly was to jam up night fighter stations and ground stations. After, after, after we finished our initial training there we were then unfortunately set onto the worst trip of all. Berlin. We did two Berlins on the trot. And we had a break and we did our third Berlin. And then we did, gradually went through different bombing raids until one I most remember was Nuremberg where unfortunately we lost seven aircraft. Which meant we lost fifty six people. And from there on we had quite a good run with the trips until we reached our thirtieth mission. We thought we were finished but that was the night before the night of D-Day and we volunteered for one extra trip. But there’s one trip I do remember. When they first started using the blue searchlights. We were in the front coming after we had bombed, on the way back we were suddenly caught in this blue searchlight and the next thing we knew we were diving straight to the ground to try and miss all the searchlights coming up. The blue lights. We ended up about two or three hundred feet off the ground. Yeah. That was from the height of about seventeen thousand approximately. I know my rear gunner was blinded by the searchlights as we passed through them going down. He just couldn’t see anything. He’ll tell you that too. That was a rather a nasty trip but going back to our last trip, coming back it was a most amazing sight. Oh, we did two trips around Europe drawing fighters away from the coast. You know, for D-Day. For the landings. When we’d completed those and we were returning to England we saw the invasion forces coming in and it was the most marvellous sight I’ve ever seen in my life. The hundreds and hundreds of ships in the Channel. It was beyond belief to see what was going on down there. And eventually we landed back at Ludford and that was us finished. That’s it.
CB: When you were on the ops to draw the fighters away how did — was that daylight?
DD: No. Night.
CB: That was night.
DD: Night. Yes. All night trips.
CB: So what was the, were you bombing on that?
DD: We did a bombing raid. Yes. As far as I can remember. Yeah. We did. Yeah.
CB: And how effective was the drawing away?
DD: Well, apparently very few fighters and bombers hit the beaches, you know. The numbers were, mind you they were, they didn’t have a lot of fuel for the aircraft in those days. The Germans didn’t have the fuel and they were running down. So in a way we helped a bit but not a great deal I don’t think.
CB: So, when you went on the raids other squadrons would assemble and then get into the bomber stream.
DD: We were spaced out.
CB: How did your 101 fit in to the bomber stream?
DD: Well, 101 was fit, was spaced out in the bomber stream. From the beginning to the end.
CB: Right.
DD: I don’t know what distances apart they were but different heights and different levels. But the one thing I do remember on the night of Nuremberg all the aircraft that we did see shot down. But we were told afterwards that they were oil bombs that blew up in the sky to, you know to frighten us. I think there was something, something there you could look into actually. But we thought, we were told that all these big sort of bursts of flame were oil, ack-ack and things. And you know at the time it really worried us actually.
CB: Did it?
DD: Because we thought it was all the aircraft going down.
CB: How many did you see go down yourselves on that raid?
DD: I never, I didn’t count them but it went on and on all night. Going to the target and coming back. But we were very lucky. But we were lucky we had what was called Monica which picked up, you know it couldn’t really differentiate between a fighter and a bomber except that the bomber was a bigger blip on the screen to the fighter.
CB: So this was a rear looking radar detector.
DD: Yeah. And which, which I was monitoring all the time. As soon as I picked up one I’d inform the pilot what to do. You know, whether to turn port, dive port or, you know, climb or something like that. But they were very basic. It was a very basic thing but it did help. And —
CB: So when you saw all these planes exploding.
DD: We thought were planes.
CB: Yeah. How did you think — what did you think about that?
DD: Well we were a bit shattered.
CB: Were you?
DD: I think the morale in the crew went down a little bit.
CB: Did it?
DD: But — and we weren’t really told much about it when we got back to base.
CB: And did, when you got down to debriefing after a sortie what did you do?
DD: Well, we told them all about it. Of course they were interested in that because they didn’t realise how many aircraft had been lost actually at that time. But the morale on the squadron the next day was rather low.
CB: Was it?
DD: Yeah.
CB: Because they lost ninety.
DD: We’d lost seven. We lost seven aircraft.
CB: Ninety eight. Yeah. You’d lost seven. Yes.
DD: Yeah. On that.
CB: Yeah.
DD: That was fifty six people and the messes were empty. Well, not empty but you know really reduced and it affected us a little bit that.
CB: Now, your crew came from a variety of places. What, where, where —how many were Brits and how many were Canadian?
DD: Well, we had three Canadians.
CB: Who were they?
DD: The pilot, the navigator and the bomb aimer. And the rest were British.
CB: Right.
DD: Although I was allowed to wear the Rhodesian flash. I got permission for that from Rhodesia House.
CB: That was good.
DD: Yeah. Because you see it on one of the photographs.
CB: Yes.
DD: You see my Rhodesia up there.
CB: Right. And how many of the crew were commissioned?
DD: One.
CB: And —
DD: Just one.
CB: Who was he?
DD: The pilot.
CB: Right.
DD: The navigator was commissioned after the tour finished I think. Yes. He got his commission just after.
CB: And how many were decorated at the end of the tour?
DD: Oh. The Canadians were. We weren’t.
CB: Right. What did they get?
CB: Right.
DD: Or DFCs and DFMs. But the English crew we got nothing.
CB: No.
DD: Nothing at all.
CB: Ok. How well did the crew gel?
DD: Very well indeed. We all, when we were doing our training and our sort of air tests and all that sort of business we each took each other’s jobs. We learned them that way.
CB: There was a purpose to that. So what was it?
DD: In case. In case we were, you know someone was killed or wounded or something like that. We could take over. Someone could take over the job. But we went through all of them. We didn’t have much to do with the engineer. At least I didn’t. But I sort of knew the navigator’s job and did a bit with the bomb aimer. And of course gunnery I knew. And that’s the way we sort of carried on. You know, we kept on learning about each other’s jobs and I think that’s the reason why we got through.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Because we, you know we knew our jobs so well. Plus the fact that we had a very very good pilot. He was good. There was no doubt about that.
CB: What age was he?
DD: He was the oldest in the crew. Twenty four I think.
CB: Oh really old then.
DD: Yeah [laughs] he was. We used to think of him as the old man.
CB: Yeah. Now, you were a wireless operator. So, what, what was your role? What were you actually doing on the sorties? On the operations.
DD: On the operations I was taking the wind speeds because as, the wireless operator used to do a lot of work with the navigator. We were getting wind speeds from back in the UK from Group. And not only that we were monitoring on this Monica so you know sort of one side the other one there. Doing that sort of business. We were trained in Gee. You know —
CB: Which was the plotting system.
DD: The plotting system.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Yeah. And I used to help the navigator with that as well when I had a quiet period. Giving him some readings as and when he wanted.
CB: Because that’s how he found on the lattice because it was a lattice system.
DD: Yeah. Aye.
CB: So that’s how you were following where — your location.
DD: Our location on the ground. Yes.
CB: And how far was that effective away from base?
DD: It was quite — initially it wasn’t very good. But it gradually got better and better more or less each trip we did because information was coming in all the time and someone was looking into that.
CB: And when you were — the Monica was designed to alert the crew to the appearance of night fighters.
DD: Mainly the pilot.
CB: Yeah.
DD: As soon as I saw anything that came up on the, on the screen I would tell the pilot to dive port or dive starboard depending on which area the aircraft was coming in and get him sort of aircraft port quarter.
CB: Right.
DD: Starboard or something like that. Whichever way it was the pilot would dive down and do his, you know — squiggle [laughs]
CB: Do a corkscrew.
DD: The corkscrew. Yeah.
CB: You had to hold on when he did the corkscrew.
DD: You certainly did. Yeah.
CB: Right.
DD: Straight. Ray, Ray was a very energetic pilot I would say.
CB: You had, as a signaller you had regular communication at a timed space. How did that work?
DD: Timed space. Every fifteen minutes I would have Group. And then we could listen out for any other information that was coming in.
CB: Which would be what?
DD: Well, mainly to do with, well the wind. The windspeed was the Group one. When we got far away, you know some distance away from England we just kept to the Group and listened out to them for any information.
CB: So —
DD: Because as I say normally it was every fifteen minutes but if anything special came up it would come in between.
CB: Now, you and the navigator were also yourselves were you measuring wind speed?
DD: Well, he was.
CB: How did he do that?
DD: I didn’t do the windspeeds. The navigator did all that. One of the things I used to do was to stand in the astrodome to check out, you know aircraft. You know, when I wasn’t looking on the Monica. If it was quiet I’d be looking around and see what was going on. Sometimes you know if we were flying a bit low from there you could pick out features on the ground. If, if there was any light down there. See what — from the astrodome I could see any ack-ack. You know. Where it was bursting. Where the searchlights were. That all came into it. You know, you were talking all the time either to the skipper or the navigator.
CB: And how often did you see other aircraft near you while you were on the op?
DD: Not, not a lot until you got to the bombing stage. When you were on the run in. Generally the aircraft were all coming closer and you’d see people up there, down there. In fact one night we just missed a load of bombs that came out of an aircraft above us.
CB: Did you make the call? Did you? To the pilot.
DD: No. WT silence.
CB: No. No. But I meant did you tell the pilot?
DD: Oh, yes. Yes.
CB: About the aircraft above.
DD: Well he saw. Everyone saw it.
CB: Oh right.
DD: Except the rear gunner. He was out of it [laughs]
CB: So, in that circumstance what does the pilot do? Does he, if it’s ahead does he throttle back or does he move? I mean, it’s —
DD: Well, as far as I remember he kept steady. Steady on that route.
CB: And just hope it didn’t hit you.
DD: Well, you could see them coming down. More or less by the time you got to that spot you know you were clear. You could go through. But it didn’t happen very often but it did happen occasionally.
CB: There’s a, there’s a famous picture somewhere of a Lancaster with no rear turret.
DD: Yes.
CB: Because it had been —
DD: Yeah. Hit it.
CB: Demolished from bombs from above.
DD: Yeah.
CB: So this was a constant.
DD: It was a worry.
CB: Yes.
DD: But not only that actually. The prospect of a collision over the target was very real.
CB: Right.
DD: You know. You know, if you’re flying slightly off course and coming in you could sort of hit each other.
CB: Yes. Did your pilot tend to fly slightly on the outside and then move in or was he always tried to be in the middle of the melee?
DD: He was generally in the middle. Once or twice we had to go around again. Which wasn’t very pleasant.
CB: You mean you didn’t drop the bombs. You went around.
DD: We didn’t drop the bombs. No.
CB: Or if you were too soon.
DD: The ack-ack was too strong and we had to move away.
CB: Right.
DD: And go around again.
CB: Right.
DD: And redo our bombing raid.
CB: So you were looking out for the flak. Were you looking for the flak boxes?
DD: What do you mean flak boxes?
CB: Where they had concentrations of flak in a particular height or a particular area.
DD: Oh yes. Yes. Well, at that stage you were looking forward. To see, you know any boxes as you say. If you saw it dead ahead which obviously the pilot could see as well you didn’t say anything. But if you saw it off to the side then you would inform him.
CB: Right.
DD: Or even if it was behind you.
CB: Because he couldn’t see it.
DD: Because over the bombing, the bombing run, my job was actually to be in the astrodome to see what was going on around and inform everyone.
CB: During the bombing run.
DD: During the bombing run. Until we actually got to the bombing run. Even then when you came out of the bombing run well Ray always used to make a swish down. Out of the way.
CB: Get to the —
DD: Get to below the bombing, bombing height. So we went down about two or three thousand feet to get out and then he’d start climbing up a bit. But it varied actually. He, he decided what he did then. We didn’t of course.
CB: But he would turn left or right after releasing the bombs?
DD: Not always. Sometimes he went —
CB: Just straight on.
DD: Straight on and down. You know. Gently going down. Watching out for other aircraft if they were lower. Especially when, if the Halifaxes were low, or the Stirlings. You couldn’t go down to their level of course. You only went down about two or three thousand feet.
CB: Still.
DD: It was a bit different to that flak level which, you know it helped us sometimes because we, sometimes the rear gunner would say flak was on our trail. You’d see it bombing you know. Getting there. Because there were so many guns around. Well especially Berlin. There was something like sixty thousand guns. We never liked that [laughs]
CB: No.
DD: That was one of our horror trips.
CB: How often did the aircraft get hit?
DD: We weren’t hit at all actually. We were lucky in that respect. As I say the fact we had such a good pilot. He knew what to do exactly. Get out of the way of things.
CB: And did you experience any night fighters behind you on any occasions?
DD: On Monica. Yes.
CB: Yeah.
DD: But when you gave the order for the pilot to do something he got away from them [pause]
CB: So you never got shot at by a pilot, by a fighter.
DD: We did one night. The attack was starting but we’d picked it up on Monica and we got out of the way. He lost us. As I say Ray was such a good pilot he knew where to go and get out of the way of everything.
CB: How did the crew respond to Monica? What did they think about it?
DD: They liked it. The gunners. The two gunners loved it. You know. We could tell them exactly where to look.
CB: Right.
DD: Because when you’re looking into the dark all the time you can’t see. Your eyes get a bit blurry. But if you know where to look, concentrate on that, it was a big help.
CB: Now, you’ve got the eighth man in the aircraft. To what extent did you link in with him? Because he was using electronic equipment.
DD: Yeah.
CB: And you were the radio man.
DD: Yeah. Well, I I if I could pick you know in a quiet run anywhere if I could pick up a night fighter station anywhere I would inform him. I didn’t have a lot to do with him. They were kept separate to us.
CB: Was he always the same man?
DD: No. No.
CB: Or did it vary?
DD: No. Different one. Although we had one bloke I think we flew about three or four times with. But that was rather unusual. But he liked our crew apparently. And as I say they were a thing on their own.
CB: What did you know about them?
DD: Nothing. We were kept separate from them.
CB: Did they speak to the crew in any way?
DD: Oh, when we were in the aircraft occasionally but not during a flight.
CB: Right.
DD: They were completely on their own.
CB: So where were they sitting? So —
DD: They were sitting just behind the main spar. They had, I think there were three transmitters and two receivers. And they sat there. Opposite the rest bed.
CB: And where was their aerial? What was it like? And where was it?
DD: Don’t know. We had nothing to do with it.
CB: No. But it was, it was sticking out of the aircraft.
DD: There was one sticking out, yeah.
CB: Yeah.
DD: But we, we knew nothing about it.
CB: That was the ABC. The airborne cigar. Wasn’t it?
DD: Yeah.
CB: Right.
DD: I think so.
CB: So on the ground then to what extent did you fraternise with any of the special ops people?
DD: We didn’t. We didn’t fraternise at all.
CB: Why was that?
DD: Well, they were kept separate from us completely.
CB: In, in what way?
DD: Well, we just didn’t meet them.
CB: They lived somewhere different did they?
DD: Probably. We didn’t know anything. Once we got back on the ground and we went for debriefing we didn’t see them again.
CB: Oh. Did they go into debriefing or were they —
DD: No.
CB: They were debriefed separately.
DD: I can’t remember seeing them.
CB: Right.
DD: Maybe one or two did. I don’t know. But they were a law unto themselves as far as we were concerned. We had nothing to do with them.
CB: So they were German speakers. How many of them did you think were not Brits anyway?
DD: Well, we didn’t know how many there were but we had a few that were Brits. When I say a few I think over the whole course we probably had about three or four. The rest were foreigners mostly.
CB: Native German speakers.
DD: Well, yeah. Well, there were a lot of Poles, Czechs. No, we didn’t have much to do with them.
CB: No. Going to your earlier time when you crewed up how did that work?
DD: Very well indeed.
CB: So what happened?
DD: Well, we were put into this room and all everyone was milling around and talking to people. A couple of people asked me, you know if I was, you know wanted me to join them. I wasn’t. Actually, I saw Ray. I liked the look of him.
CB: The pilot.
DD: Yeah. So eventually I made my way across to him and had a talk. He brought in the navigator and we got on well the three of us. And that was it. We crewed up.
CB: And then there was the third Canadian. I mean did they get together because they knew —
DD: The bomb aimer.
CB: They were Canadian or —
DD: Yeah. Probably.
CB: Just coincidence.
DD: Yeah. He, he joined in at the end I think. There was a bit of a mish mash of things but you know, you’re all milling around and —
CB: Yeah.
DD: If you liked the look of someone or thought you they might be a good, you know crew mate you got on to them. But it was a strange affair but it worked well really. Then we, we all gelled. Yeah.
HD: A good job you did.
CB: So that was at the OTU. But how many crew were there then? That wasn’t the full.
DD: No. We had the pilot, navigator, bomb aimer and one gunner.
CB: Yeah. And then you.
DD: And me.
CB: And you were a wireless operator/air gunner.
DD: Yeah.
CB: What was the brevet you were wearing at that stage?
DD: At that time it was the AG bridge.
CB: And you had a flash on your sleeve.
DD: Oh, you had a wireless.
CB: Showing you were a wireless operator.
DD: Yeah. Aye.
CB: Right.
DD: And then that changed did it? Later.
CB: Well no. Not until I came, after I came out.
DD: Right.
CB: And then you —
DD: They had the signals badge then.
CB: Yes. Yeah.
DD: I didn’t get that. I was a W/op AG. You see, I had the two jobs.
CB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So —
DD: But the ones that came in afterwards. They all wore, the wireless people —
CB: Yeah.
DD: All wore Ss.
CB: So, were you pleased to keep the W/op AG?
DD: Yeah.
CB: Rather than a signaller.
DD: I was.
CB: Right. There was a better badge of respectability.
DD: [laughs] Well, I suppose it was in way. It meant you —
CB: Well, you’d done more hadn’t you?
DD: You were an older member.
CB: Yes. Established member.
DD: Aye.
CB: So, when you got to the HCU then the flight engineer came. So how did he and the rear gunner, how did they get selected?
DD: Oh the rear gunner was selected in the mish mash. We got him there.
CB: You were short of one. One gunner.
DD: Yeah. Mid-upper.
CB: Yeah. Mid-upper.
DD: Mid-upper.
CB: Ok. So how did you get him?
DD: He was sent to us.
CB: Sent to you.
DD: Sent. Yeah.
CB: Right. What about the engineer? How did he come into the —
DD: He was also sent to us.
CB: Oh right. No choice.
DD: No choice.
CB: Right.
DD: No.
CB: And how did that do? How did they gel with everybody else?
DD: Well, at first we weren’t very happy about it. The mid-upper gunner — it took a little bit longer to get to know him because he was a very strong Welsh chap. Very taciturn. We didn’t know quite what to make of him at first but eventually it turned out that he sort of relaxed a bit and he was, he was ok. You know, he gelled alright then.
CB: And the engineer?
DD: The engineer was a Cockney from London. Arthur Moore. He was, [laughs] he was a strange chap but we liked him.
CB: And then —
DD: But he wasn’t really part of the original crew.
CB: No. That’s what I meant. Yeah.
DD: It took a little while to get used to them both but eventually they did. They gelled in with us.
CB: And had he been trained as a flight engineer or had he originally been a flight mechanic? An air mechanic.
DD: No. He was trained as a, as a flight engineer.
CB: Right.
DD: Didn’t know a lot about him. He kept himself to himself. But I can’t — no. He was, yeah he was trained as a flight engineer. I’m pretty sure about that. Smithy can confirm that.
CB: Now, thinking about the social side. So how did, how did that gel?
DD: Well, we had a motorbike.
CB: Oh.
DD: And sidecar.
CB: For all seven of you. Yeah.
DD: There’s a photograph of it.
CB: Yes.
DD: We did one night get seven on it and got stopped by the police [laughs] It was a night out in Louth. Oh dear.
CB: It must have been a good one. Yes.
DD: It was a good one that.
CB: Yes.
DD: I can’t tell you. We were hanging out all over the place [laughs] But normally it was quite ok.
CB: Yeah.
DD: If we went into Louth to go in the cinema or something like that we used to get a taxi mainly. But this one night I don’t know why. I think, we didn’t go in on it. We came back on it, I think.
CB: Who did it belong to then?
DD: Pardon?
CB: The pilot? Did it —
DD: It belonged to, the navigator had some relations in Wolverhampton and they gave him the bike.
CB: With the sidecar.
DD: With the sidecar. And he brought it back to the squadron. Yeah. We had some good times there.
CB: What happened on the airfield? Did they have dances on the airfield? Or did you —
DD: Oh there were very few dances. Very very few. Normally when you had a stand down well you either stay in the station or went off into Louth or something like that.
CB: Market Rasen?
DD: Occasionally. Not so much. Mainly Louth we went into.
CB: Any other places that you would consider?
DD: Grimsby.
CB: Grimsby.
DD: Yeah. Cleethorpes.
CB: Have a fight with the sailors.
DD: No. Didn’t have any problems up there at all. Yeah. It sort of mixed quite well actually from what I remember.
CB: Well, places like North Coates were Coastal Command so did you link —
DD: No.
CB: In any way with them on a social?
DD: No. Not at all.
CB: Didn’t come across them.
DD: No. No. I can’t remember anything about that.
CB: No. So you got to the end of the tour. Thirty one ops. Is that right?
DD: Yeah.
CB: Because you did the extra.
DD: Thirty one there.
CB: Then what happened?
DD: Well, we just [pause] well for about a week after we finished and then we were all sort of posted off different places. We didn’t — mainly we, mainly we didn’t see each other again. I did meet up, when I was attached to a Canadian OTU I met up with the skipper then.
CB: Where was that?
DD: That was Gamston near Retford.
CB: So, when you were at the end where were you posted immediately after?
DD: Well, I was posted to Gamston.
CB: Oh you were. Yeah.
DD: There was a bit of a mish mash that happened from there on. We were sort of posted around. When the OTU closed we were sent off to Peplow. We were there for about a week and then oh we went all around different places for a about week or two weeks’ time ‘til eventually — where did we get to? Oh, I finished up at Gamston. Again.
CB: Again.
DD: Yeah. On ferry flight. We were ferrying the old Wimpies.
CB: Where did you —
DD: Down to Little Rissington.
CB: Oh yeah.
DD: There were hundreds down there.
CB: They were breaking them up.
DD: Breaking them up. Yeah.
CB: And what did they do? Take you back with an, in an Anson or something.
DD: No. Three aircraft used to go down.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Two were delivered. One brought us back.
CB: Right.
DD: It was alright until we had some bad weather and we landed at Cranwell and they didn’t want us there [laughs] We were all scruffy, you know. In our flying gear and everything. We had to go in to the mess like that and people’s faces were looking down at us. Oh God it was terrible. Oh dear. I shan’t forget. I was flying with, the pilot was a Flight Lieutenant Bristow. He was a Canadian and he and I really got [laughs] got on well. But the way they treated us. They couldn’t get rid of us quick enough. Although you know we’d landed on the grass airfield and this this Wimpy had sunk in. They didn’t like that. They didn’t like anything about us.
CB: So when is this? This is late ’44.
DD: This would be oh ’45.
CB: ’45.
DD: ’45. Anyway, we got out. We collected. We didn’t even stay the night there. We went off as soon as we could.
CB: Yeah. So —
DD: We were supposed to stay the night because of the weather but they, they pushed us off.
CB: Yeah. So, I meant to say late ’45 because the war had ended then. Had it?
DD: Yes. Because we were doing the ferrying and it had all finished.
CB: Yeah.
DD: And the Canadian OTU, they closed down and all the Canadians went back.
CB: Yeah.
DD: That’s where I met up with my skipper.
CB: Right.
DD: Because he came down there for three days. And —
CB: By coincidence was it? Or did he come to say hello?
DD: No. No. He was posted there because that was a holding unit before they went off.
CB: Oh right. Ok.
DD: To where ever they were going.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Yeah. I didn’t see him again until nineteen — no 2002.
CB: What happened then?
DD: Well, in between he’d, I was out in Africa. He was flying. He started off, he was in the, he joined the Canadian Air Force out there flying Sabres in Germany and then when he came out he joined a civilian — he became a civilian pilot. And whilst I was in Nyasaland and Rhodesia he was, he was coming to Zambia to try to catch each other. He tried many a time to get hold of me but we always seemed to miss each other. And in my second, in my second tour with the air force when I was out in Hong Kong he used to get a flight to Singapore. But I didn’t know that. Oh I just tried to get hold of him.
CB: So, fast backwards or where we were just with Gamston. That was where they were repatriating the Canadians.
DD: The Canadians. Yeah.
CB: What was your role there? Just delivering aircraft was it? For —
DD: Well no. I was only, only there was an OTU going on.
CB: It was still running.
DD: It was still running.
CB: Right.
DD: And we were getting English people in and I was an instructor there.
CB: Before you did the —
DD: No. The ferry flight came first and then we went back to the OTU.
CB: Right.
DD: That was it.
CB: And how long did that go on for?
DD: Not for very long because it closed down. And then —
CB: Then what?
DD: Eventually I was sent to Brize [pause] not Brize Norton. To Finningley. Bomber Command Instructor School.
CB: And you were training instructors were you?
DD: Well, yes. People who had finished their tours. This included pilots navigators and navigators. We had to teach them to be instructors. We had a few wireless people but not many. But their jobs were to go out then and teach others.
CB: And how long did you do that for?
DD: Oh, I was there for about a year. And then I, you know, the war had finished and it was getting a bit iffy so I decided, you know I’d come out and go back. My father wanted me out there.
CB: So when did you actually leave the RAF?
DD: The beginning of ’46.
CB: You were demobbed in the normal way.
DD: Well, not in the normal way. No. I got a class B discharge.
CB: Right.
DD: Which was an immediate. You know immediately coming out.
CB: Yeah.
DD: I had to wait three — I think it was three months until I got posted out to the Palestine Police stationed at Jenin.
CB: So you’d volunteered then.
DD: I volunteered for it. Yeah.
CB: As you were serving out your demob leave was it that you volunteered?
DD: No. No. I didn’t get any demob leave. I got a demob suit and all that sort of business but I had volunteered to transfer. That’s why I got a class B discharge.
CB: Yeah. To the police.
DD: Yeah.
CB: So the motive of applying for the Palestine Police was what?
DD: To get to Africa.
CB: Right. How was that going to work?
DD: Well, it was more or less although it was semi, it was more or less half. Half civilian and half [pause] not army but what do you call, what do you call it?
CB: What? Military police?
DD: Semi-military and half civilian. But you could, you know if you didn’t like it you could buy yourself out. That was the idea. Buy myself out and then I could get down to [unclear] and up to Nyasaland.
CB: So what role was yours in the Palestine police?
DD: I was only just a British constable. Just a basic.
CB: So they gave you training there or in Britain?
DD: Well, I didn’t have any training at all because I ended up in hospital.
CB: Why was that?
DD: I got Blackwater Fever?
CB: Oh. How did you get that?
DD: Well, the boats that used to come up from [unclear] had, you know sometimes they had mosquitoes in and they’d got a chap off the boat who was down with Blackwater Fever. Brought him to the hospital I was in. Probably the mosquito that had bitten him then bit me. I got it. So I was invalided out. And that was that.
CB: To where?
DD: I was invalided back to this country. And that was the end of that.
CB: So that was the opposite way from what —
DD: Yeah.
CB: You wanted to go.
DD: And that, it took me another three years before I could get a boat. As I told you. I got a job with the African, not the African Lace Corporation err what were they? They were tied up with the African lace. They used to send people out to do jobs in Africa. So I got a job with them because you know one of the people who, the person who wrote to me was a friend of my father’s. Had lived out in Nyasaland.
CB: Right.
DD: So he got me out there.
CB: But it took three years to do it.
DD: Yeah. It did.
CB: What were you actually doing in that time?
DD: Oh I got various little jobs you know. You know, I didn’t do very much. I joined actually a chap who did landscaping and a sort of a gardening job because I didn’t want to be inside. I got a job with him for a while.
CB: Where was that?
DD: That was Redhill.
CB: You were staying with your grandparents, were you?
DD: Yes. My grandmother.
CB: Right.
DD: It brought some money in. It wasn’t a well-paid job but I knew, you know eventually I was going to get back to Africa. So I couldn’t go for a decent job until after I’d been there a year. I did get a job with a garage.
CB: Doing?
DD: In Redhill.
CB: Doing what?
DD: Well, I was —
CB: The electrics was it?
DD: The electrics. Yeah. I was, I was looking after the batteries you know. The batteries and things like that. And then you know I got this. I kept an eye out for anything going in Africa and my father was trying to get me out there. But eventually I saw this advertisement in, “The Times.” Wrote off. Got the job.
CB: What was it?
DD: Oh, just a store keeper in a — working in a store. So it got me out there and —
CB: Where?
DD: Out to Nyasaland.
CB: Right.
DD: And I didn’t fancy that work at all. Obviously. So I repaid. I’d saved up money then and I repaid them and I bought myself out. And joined my father. That was it.
CB: And what was he doing then?
DD: He’d retired but he’d bought this place down in Rhodesia and no sooner than I did that —
CB: This was tobacco.
DD: Tobacco. Yeah. As soon as I did that I joined him. Got stuck in. Yeah.
CB: So how was that, how was that managed? Was there a professional manager?
DD: No, my father was looking after it.
CB: He was still doing it.
DD: Yeah.
CB: Right.
DD: He was doing it. But I gradually sort of started taking over the curing and sorting of the tobacco and selling it on the, in the auction houses. And after I’d been there a second year there we hit the highest price ever known because we managed to get some American tobacco seed which was called Hicks. And that produced a larger leaf and a brighter leaf which we, we managed to get an ounce of that. An ounce of seed. Grew that. And we were the first people to hit a hundred pence on the auction floor. At a hundred pence, you know, a pound. And then [pause] a little bit later that was, then my father passed on.
CB: Oh. So —
DD: I couldn’t afford, I hadn’t got the money because we were still paying. Paying out on the tractors and things. I couldn’t afford to, you know stay there.
CB: What? To keep it rolling.
DD: No. So I sold up and came back to this country.
CB: So when you sold up was it a ready market for other —
DD: Oh yeah. It was a good market.
CB: Right.
DD: Yeah. But actually you couldn’t get a lot of money back but we managed to just about break even. That was it.
CB: Because you’d — the tractors and equipment were on loans were they? So —
DD: Yeah. And all the fire equipment for the barns was expensive stuff.
CB: Right.
DD: Which you couldn’t buy outright. You had to buy, you know it was like a never never.
CB: Yeah. So, what are we talking about now? That’s — it took you three years to get out there.
DD: Aye.
CB: So, that was 1949.
DD: Yeah. ’49. And I was there ‘til ’54. Wasn’t it?
HD: Well, I met you in ’56.
DD: ’55.
HD: Was it ’55?
DD: ’55. Yeah. ’54 I came back to this country. Yeah.
CB: Ok. So what did you do then?
DD: Oh. Various jobs. I had a couple of jobs. One job I did or two jobs actually. One I lost the job because my son was born. I met Hilda and we married and had our first son and because I took a day off I lost the job.
CB: Oh.
DD: Yeah. Do you remember that?
HD: Was that when I had Jan?
DD: Yeah. When Jan was born.
HD: Yeah. You took a day off didn’t you?
DD: I was working at — what was it? Fields. And because I took a day off without telling them because Hilda started having Jan the night before. The Sunday night. And —
HD: You took the Monday off.
DD: I took the Monday off and I was sacked. Just like that.
CB: A bit severe.
DD: Yeah. It was severe. I thought —
HD: I wouldn’t happen today would that. Would it?
DD: Oh God no.
CB: So what did you do then?
DD: Well, I got a job. Where was it? As a salesman didn’t I? But I didn’t like that. Anyway, you know I could see there was no future in what I was doing so I decided you know the air force was. So, I went in and looked into that. They said they’d have me back.
CB: When was that?
DD: That was when?
HD: 1959 that was.
DD: No. ’58, wasn’t it? When I started. ’58. Because ’59 I went back in.
CB: And what did you do? So, you left the RAF as a warrant officer.
DD: Yeah.
CB: Originally. And with all the trappings of that. When you returned what did they do about your rank?
DD: My rank? It went down to corporal.
CB: Oh. And what were you doing?
DD: Well, I went, I didn’t have to do the basic training. I went straight in and went to Hullavington where I was on — was it — was it Parachute Servicing Unit.
CB: Parachute School.
DD: Yeah. I went there.
CB: And what were you doing there?
DD: Well, as a corporal I was a checker for the parachute packers.
CB: Checking the quality of what they’d done.
DD: Yeah. Yeah. I was there for about a year wasn’t it? About a year. Then I went to Watchfield.
CB: And you got a quarter did you? Because you were married. You got a quarter, did you?
DD: We got a quarter. Yeah.
CB: As a corporal.
DD: As a corporal. Yeah.
CB: What was that like?
DD: It wasn’t too bad. At Bicester. Was it?
HD: No. It was quite nice.
DD: Yeah.
CB: At Bicester?
DD: Well, we were at Bicester when it first — sorry.
CB: Hullavington.
DD: Hullavington. We went from Bicester, I went to Watchfield and then down to Hullavington didn’t I? That was it. And then I went back to Watchfield.
CB: Right. So, Watchfield. What was going on there? Because it used to be the Air Traffic School in the war.
DD: Yeah.
CB: So what had happened?
DD: They were dropping. Well, it was a training ground for dropping MSPs and also troops.
CB: What’s MSP stand for?
DD: What is it? Referring to parachutes MSP is a Medium Special Parachute.
CB: Right.
DD: The heavy duty ones.
CB: Right.
DD: Dropping Land Rovers and such like.
HD: From Watchfield —
DD: Yeah.
HD: We went to Netheravon.
DD: Oh that’s right. Netheravon. Oh God. Yeah. I’d forgotten about that.
HD: We didn’t go to, we didn’t go to Hullavington until after we had [unclear]
DD: That’s right. We went from —
HD: Watchfield. The first time.
DD: We went to Netheravon.
HD: Netheravon.
CB: And what happened there?
DD: I was running a parachute unit.
CB: And what rank were you by this time?
DD: I was sergeant.
CB: Right. So, were you a sergeant at Watchfield?
DD: Yes.
CB: Right.
HD: You got made up at Watchfield.
DD: Aye. I went to Netheravon. I was there for how long? About —
HD: About nine month.
DD: Nine months and then we went to Hong Kong.
CB: Ok. And you were still a sergeant or have you got promoted again?
DD: No. I stuck to sergeant.
HD: You did ask to get a commission though didn’t you?
DD: Yes.
HD: To go for a commission.
DD: Out in Hong Kong we had our own little parachute unit you know. To look after the aircraft coming in.
CB: Right.
DD: I had a small staff there. We were there for — what? Two and a half years. And then we came back to Hullavington. That’s it. Yeah.
CB: So the parachute section out in Hong Kong. Did that require more common re-packing of parachutes because of the climate?
DD: No. We didn’t. No. We didn’t. We kept emergency equipment for any aircraft coming in. That was the main job there.
HD: Yeah. It was very interesting out there because the Vietnam war on at that time wasn’t it?
DD: And we used to get all the Americans coming up from Vietnam.
CB: Vietnam.
DD: Yeah.
HD: And the bombs going all around the island.
DD: Oh yeah. Whilst we were there you know the Chinese started playing up a bit. And I was official machine gunner.
CB: Oh.
DD: One machine gun we had there [laughs]
CB: Where did you keep that?
DD: Well, I didn’t keep it. It was kept in the armoury. But I would have to go on the top of the roof and sit there with it. That was my job.
CB: What kind of gun was that?
DD: It was a Lewis gun.
CB: With a rotating drum.
DD: Yeah. That’s all. Oh it was, it was a funny place that.
CB: That was on the airfield.
DD: Not on the airfield. It was just on, it used to be the old seaplane unit.
CB: Oh.
DD: And, oh and then I took over the running of the cinema. It was, it was a glory job.
HD: But you had a lot to do with, I mean when that plane landed didn’t you?
DD: Oh yes. When we had the emergencies.
CB: What sort of things?
DD: Oh.
CB: With aircraft you mean?
DD: With aircraft. Yeah. They’d lost an aircraft out at sea and they thought it was shot down by the Chinese. And we had an Argosy out there that I had to go on it and be a sort of an observer.
CB: Out at the crash site.
DD: No. We couldn’t find it.
CB: No. But you went out as an observer.
DD: It was, yeah.
CB: To find the crash.
DD: To try and find it. See any wreckage or anything.
CB: Yeah.
DD: But we found nothing at all. I don’t know what happened there but it was something to do with some — we found out later it was something to do with some spies that had been on the plane. And that’s why they wanted to find the wreckage and find them I suppose.
CB: Yeah.
DD: I don’t know.
CB: What sort of a plane was it?
DD: An Argosy.
CB: Oh right.
DD: It was not stationed there but it had been there for a couple of weeks. It was due to go out the following week and they just asked for people to go on the plane to observe.
CB: Because they needed lots of eyes to see.
DD: Yeah.
CB: So, how long were you in Hong Kong?
DD: Two and a half years.
CB: What was the quarter like there?
DD: Well, we had, we started off in civilian flats actually in the town.
CB: Oh.
DD: And then eventually we got a bungalow on the airfield.
CB: Yeah. Air conditioned?
DD: No. Fans [laughs]
CB: So, two and a half years later you returned to the UK. Where did you go then?
DD: Hullavington.
CB: Right. And what’s your new role there?
DD: I took over the, I was in the office then recording stuff. Numbers of parachutes packed and all that sort of business.
CB: Because you were the specialist parachute person.
DD: Yeah.
CB: Right. How long did that last?
DD: I did a bit of time study there as well.
CB: Oh right. They sent you on a course did they?
DD: No. They knew I’d been on a course. When I, you know, when I was at Bradford I’d been on that course. Time study. I had it in my background so they got me doing that. Working out times for the packing of parachutes.
CB: Then what? So, you were there at Hullavington how long?
HD: Nine month. It was usually nine month everywhere we went really.
DD: And then we went to — where was it?
HD: Watchfield again.
DD: Watchfield. Oh yeah. Back doing the same job as before.
CB: Right.
HD: Then about nine month there and we went back to Hullavington.
DD: Yeah. And then got posted to Brize. Didn’t we?
HD: No. We were never posted to Brize. We went to —
DD: Not Brize.
HD: To Abingdon.
DD: Abingdon, yeah. To Abingdon, Sorry.
CB: Ok. And what happened at Abingdon?
HD: Oh we stayed there for —
CB: It was a transport base by then wasn’t it?
DD: Yeah. More or less the same. I was running, they were sending, I was attached to the parachutists. The parachutists again. We used to get the supplies up from Hullavington and then issue them out to troops. That was about it actually.
CB: So when did you retire from the RAF?
DD: ’81.
CB: Ok. And where did you retire from?
DD: From Brize.
CB: Ok. From Brize or Abingdon?
DD: Brize.
HD: Well, I I stayed in Abingdon.
CB: Yeah but you —
HD: Because I I didn’t want to move the boys.
DD: We had quarters in Abingdon but I was working at Brize.
CB: Yeah. After Abingdon. Ok. And so you’d done a total of how many years in the RAF?
DD: Was it four years during the war and twenty two?
CB: Afterwards.
DD: Second tour.
CB: So, they gave you an RAF pension for that.
DD: Yeah.
CB: Based on —
DD: That’s why, one of the reasons why I went in.
CB: Yeah. Based on which rank?
DD: Based on a sergeant. Yes.
CB: Yeah.
DD: They didn’t count the wartime because I was out longer. I was out too long. Although, when I was out I did join the Reserves and I was flying at Redhill. You know, just the little Ansons and Tiger Moths.
CB: Doing what?
DD: Nothing. I didn’t. I wasn’t, it wasn’t full time. I was part time.
CB: No. No. But what were you doing? You were flying the aeroplane, were you?
DD: Yeah.
CB: Piloting it.
DD: No. No. No. No.
CB: No.
DD: No. I did get to. I started learning to pilot. Yes. In fact, I flew from [pause] in a Tiger Moth from where was it now? Somewhere down, somewhere in Devon back to [pause] that was my only, not solo. I wasn’t solo. I had a pilot you know a chap who was with me.
CB: Yeah.
DD: He was teaching me though.
CB: How long were you in the Reserve? It was the RAF VR rather than VRT.
DD: Yeah. RAF VR.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Until I went out to Africa. And they wanted, actually they wanted me to come back.
CB: So, you left the RAF in ’81.
DD: Eighty. That was ’81 yeah.
CB: Yeah.
DD: And I didn’t have anything more to do with the air force then.
CB: No.
DD: That was the finish.
CB: Right. What did you do after then as a job?
DD: Oh. I got a job with a newspaper firm at Eynsham.
CB: Oh.
DD: That was it wasn’t it?
CB: What did you do then?
HD: Yeah.
DD: I was on security. Sort of — that’s all I did actually. There was two of us there.
CB: For how long?
DD: Was it — how many years?
HD: Not long. You weren’t there all that long. About three or four years.
DD: Oh, it was more than that.
HD: Was it?
DD: Yeah. It was about seven or eight years.
HD: Was it?
DD: Of course it was.
HD: I can’t remember.
DD: [unclear] went bankrupt and his brother took over. Went on there. Yeah. About eight years.
CB: And then?
DD: That was it. I retired.
CB: So, how was it that you went back up to Lincolnshire?
HD: Yeah. Well we bought the house from —
DD: We bought a house up there.
CB: You liked the air.
DD: Well, actually we got a council house in Abingdon.
HD: And we had this buy to, you know the buy —
Other: Right to buy.
HD: Yeah.
Others: Yeah.
DD: So I bought that one and with the proceeds of that I bought the house up in Mablethorpe. That was it until the family wanted us. Wanted us back here.
HD: You took ill didn’t you? And he couldn’t — I couldn’t, I had no support up there.
CB: No.
HD: So my family was still in Abingdon. So we came back down here didn’t we?
DD: Yeah.
HD: They wanted us back down here. So, although we got quite a bit, we did make some money from the house didn’t we?
DD: Quite a bit.
HD: But it wasn’t enough to buy down here so we had to go back into council again. I mean so we put the money in. We put the money away.
DD: If you wanted we could buy this one.
HD: Oh, we could now but we’re not going to bother.
DD: No.
HD: And so we’re quite reasonably off you know.
CB: Yeah.
HD: We’re not wealthy but —
CB: Comfortable.
HD: We’re comfortable.
CB: Comfortable.
HD: Yeah.
DD: At least we can leave the children something.
CB: Yes.
DD: See, if we’d bought another house it would have meant selling it again and all that sort of business.
HD: Yeah. We didn’t want to go through all that.
DD: Whereas we can leave them quite a good amount. So they’ll be set for life then.
HD: And they don’t have the bother of, you know with us.
CB: Yeah.
HD: They can hand it straight back. So that’s our life. Let’s hear yours now.
CB: Very interesting. Thank you.
[recording paused]
DD: Searchlight business.
CB: Yeah. Could you just go back to the blue searchlight? I’ll do it because of the, because of the searchlights they used blue lights. What was the significance of that?
DD: That was the master searchlight. That was going more or less all the time. Waving around but being controlled from the ground.
CB: By radar.
DD: By radar.
CB: Right.
DD: And when they picked up an aircraft.
CB: Yeah.
DD: That would show up somehow. You know. We didn’t know too much about it but then the searchlights around it they were, you know. I don’t know how many there were around it. It would come up the beam to catch that plane. But we were — my pilot was crafty. He would [unclear] he went through it.
CB: Straight down.
DD: Straight down. We never got caught again.
CB: So did he give a, make a call before he dived so deeply?
DD: No. He didn’t say a word. He just [unclear] Just like that. We were hitting the roof. Oh God. Peter will tell you that. He has a vivid remembrance of that.
CB: So this wasn’t designed as a joke. It was because he needed to take action quickly.
DD: No. It wasn’t. No joke. No. His reaction was amazing.
CB: So, what you’re saying are you is that when the blue light illuminated your aircraft it was necessary — how quickly did you need to respond to that?
DD: Well, you waited until the searchlight started coming up. They went up, you know. Shining through the blue light.
CB: Yeah.
DD: To try and catch you.
CB: Oh, I see.
DD: So if you went [unclear] you did that you could bypass it. That was at the beginning. I don’t know whether it worked later. But it was a standing joke in the squadron about that. I think other aircraft, other aircraft behind us, you know must have seen it and possibly they did the same. Some of them. I don’t know. But we were one of the first to hit the [laughs]
Other: What sort of angle of descent was it?
DD: Pardon?
Other: I mean you said [unclear] straight down.
DD: Well, as far as I know it was straight down.
Other: Oh really.
DD: And then he gradually brought it out of the dive and we ended up about two hundred feet from the ground.
Other: Oh.
CB: Oh you went as far as that.
DD: Oh yeah. Right down to the ground.
CB: Right.
DD: And then we skimmed all the way back to the coast.
CB: Oh. This is after dropping the bombs.
DD: After dropping. Yeah.
CB: Yes.
DD: After dropping the bombs. Yes.
CB: Did you get coned by a blue light before the target?
DD: No. No. We were once or twice in ordinary searchlights but we got out of them. But that blue. That was a nasty bit of work. It caught a lot of people.
CB: Now, when, just going back to the bombing run, the bombing run is a sequence of lining up then dropping the bombs. Bombs gone. But then a photograph had to be taken. So —
DD: Yeah.
CB: How did you feel about that delay? Before you —
DD: It was accepted.
CB: Yeah.
DD: We couldn’t do anything about it. You had to have proof.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Because if you didn’t have that proof they wouldn’t allow you to take it as an op.
CB: Right.
DD: It wouldn’t be counted. So everyone had to do that really.
CB: So what was the delay? Assuming you were flying at eighteen, twenty thousand. What was the delay?
DD: The delay was around about [pause] Oh I would say about, depending on the height actually it wasn’t long because a Cookie went down very quickly.
CB: That’s the four thousand pounder.
DD: Yeah. Four thousand pounder. To be quite honest I couldn’t, I couldn’t tell you. It’s under half a minute.
CB: Yeah.
DD: It wouldn’t be more. Around about that.
CB: So, the key is that you’re trying to capture the explosion of the bombs on impact.
DD: Once it went off then you were —
CB: Yeah.
DD: You could go. But it wasn’t — sometimes it was alright. Other times you know you were a little bit worried about it.
CB: The sequence was though was it that the bombs went.
DD: Bombs went.
CB: Then, then the flash went.
DD: Then the flash—
CB: Down.
DD: The flash went at the end of the bombs.
CB: Right.
DD: Bombs. And it took about a half a minute I suppose.
CB: Ok.
DD: Somewhere in that region. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t swear to it but it was somewhere in that region.
CB: In your time on operations or perhaps any other time but what was your most terrifying experience?
DD: I think it was that blue. Blue light. Blue searchlight. Because that was really frightening. Where you just, you were sitting there, you know going along normally and the next thing you knew you were up there [laughs] and looking down. Looking down at people. And it was amazing. Well, Peter was the opposite way around. He was looking up. Didn’t know where he was.
CB: No.
DD: But I think that’s about the most frightening thing.
CB: What was the most pleasant memory that you had about being in the RAF?
DD: Most pleasant.
CB: Was it during the war? Or afterwards perhaps.
DD: It was after the war. Finningley held an airshow and of course the Lanc was a sort of a main thing there. There were other aircraft but the Lanc was a bit of the — but they did a four-engined over shoot. Three-engined. Two. And we were supposed to do a one-engined. Yeah. Mind you that’s alright and the Lanc would fly on one. You know, if you were high. Mind you were dropping all the time down.
CB: Dropping down all the time. Yeah.
DD: Yeah. But they were going to do this over the runway and I was in that with the wing commander. And when he said, ‘I’m not going to do the one,’ [laughs] that was the most pleasant. Because had you, I was worried about that.
CB: A sigh of relief.
DD: Aye. I think that was the thing that really stuck in my mind. We did, you know the two engine. That was alright. No problems. But when he said one. Do you know I was really chuffed.
CB: The final thing is we didn’t really talk about after the war and keeping in contact with the crew. Now, your rear gunner is the one, Peter Smith is the one you’ve kept in contact with.
DD: Yeah.
CB: What about the others? Did it fall away or did you never have?
DD: It faded away actually. I met my pilot in 2002 because he came over here. Oh it was great seeing him again. But the others —
HD: Peter.
DD: Oh Code. You know the warrant officer. Warren. Warren Code. He died. Passed on. And also the bomb aimer. So those three you [pause] those three you know we had no contact with but Peter went over to America, to an aircrew meeting of some sort. I can’t — he’ll tell you that anyway. He’ll give you all the info. He met up with most of the crew there.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Except the English ones. He met up with the two Canadians.
CB: Yeah. I meant that there was no link with the British side.
DD: No.
CB: Other than Peter.
DD: No. We lost track completely.
CB: Yeah.
DD: I think that happened a lot of cases actually.
CB: It did.
DD: In the end. I think in a way you were glad you were finished with the air force in a way.
CB: What was people’s attitude at the end?
DD: Oh. Not very good. Aircrew were looked down on.
CB: Were they?
DD: Yeah.
CB: By whom?
DD: The populace.
CB: What, what started that do you think?
DD: Well, it more or less started about the bombing of towns. That was mainly their idea. They didn’t like that idea. We shouldn’t have done that. It should have been military targets all the time. But that couldn’t happen in the war. But aircrew were looked down upon.
CB: Were they?
DD: Yeah. And some of them had quite a rough time.
CB: Did they really?
DD: Yeah. Churchill ignored us.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Bomber Harris was kicked out. Went to south Africa. Yeah. He felt it too.
CB: I’m going to stop there for a mo.
[recording paused]
CB: One thing we didn’t ask, David was you were trained as a wireless operator which was a real skill and after the war you might well have followed that up as a, in relevant areas. Why didn’t you use your new skill there?
DD: Well, there were too, there were too many things going on in my mind at that time. Going back to Africa and how to get there. I didn’t want to tie myself down. I had to be free to be able to go at a, you know, quickly.
CB: Yeah.
DD: That was the main reason. I wasn’t really keen on being a wireless operator actually. I would have preferred being a gunner. I would. Because that’s what I volunteered to do. But they said no. Wireless operator/air gunner. So that was that. I was really forced into that. As I say I wanted to be a gunner.
CB: Yes.
DD: I’d have enjoyed that more.
CB: You weren’t alone with that requirement but what, what was it that attracted you most to the thought of being an air gunner?
DD: I think it was my grandmother who did this actually. During the First World War she had a lot to do with RAF sea people. And in fact one of them, what was his name? Ball, I think. Used to be a visitor to my — he shot down one of the zepps. And she was always telling me stories, you know. They told her. And it as a youngster I grew up on that. And I always fancied the idea of flying anyway. So when the war came along you know that’s the first thing I thought of.
CB: You felt you wanted to give it to them directly.
DD: More or less. Yes. Yes. Because whilst I was in London we had a, I’ll have to tell you this. My grandmother owned a very old Victorian house. You know, one of these three storey high things but it was attached to the next part. You know. It was split into two houses. And one particular night the bombing raids were on and I was always shoved down under the stairs. You know, by the gas meter and always the smell of gas. Horrible. Anyway, there was a lull and I wanted to go to the toilet. So I went upstairs to the first floor. Went to the toilet. Whilst I was sitting there a aircraft came over and dropped a bomb which landed just the other side of the next house. Cracked the pan. I ended up on the floor [laughs] That’s what happened to me.
CB: A bit of a mess then?
DD: It was a bit of a mess [laughs] I hated the Germans after that.
CB: Of course. Who wouldn’t?
Other: Disturbing the dethronement seems to the height of ignorance.
DD: It was terrible that. I was frightened actually.
CB: So, in the bombing in general because you were there before you joined the RAF what was your feeling about what was going on?
DD: Well, I hadn’t really formed any thoughts but I thought then if they can do that to us we can do that to them. That was my idea really, I suppose. In a way. Knowing that people in you know in London had died as they had I suppose I wanted to retaliate. You know kids ideas are a bit different to what you think nowadays obviously. But I’ve never really thought about it but that’s, that’s I suppose that’s the way I thought.
CB: To what extent did you have contact with people who had been in the raids? On the receiving end.
DD: Well, in our street, or in my grandmother’s street there were about five or six houses that had been bombed. People we knew had died. I suppose that was in the back of my mind as well. You know a lot of things went on when you were a youngster. Especially in raids. Yeah.
CB: What was the general public attitude during the raids?
DD: People who were in houses, I think they were a bit frightened you know. Well obviously. But people who managed to get shelters, you know like the underground I think they didn’t think so much about it. But then there was that case of one shelter being bombed wasn’t there? That was terrible.
CB: Cannon street. Yes.
DD: Cannon street. Yeah.
CB: So, did you grandmother have a shelter in her garden?
DD: No. Not in the garden. No. She had one of these things that went under the table.
CB: Right.
DD: It was sort of a box about this high. You had to lie down to get in to it. But she had that. Because she was then about eighty something. She couldn’t have gone outside because most of them got water in them and no, she couldn’t have. She couldn’t have done that. But actually I put myself in. I went in there one night to try it. I didn’t like it. It was claustrophobic. Very claustrophobic. Because, you know it was so low really when you come to think of it. And you’d got all this wire. Wire netting around it and then the heavy iron on top and below you. They weren’t nice things.
CB: They were designed simply to avoid being crushed.
DD: Yes. More or less. Yeah. Or being caught in masonry.
CB: Yeah. That’s what I —
DD: At least it gave you some leeway. Give you some air.
CB: Yes.
DD: The idea was good. But I wouldn’t have fancied it. Staying in one. Even though there was the gas in that under stairs. I hate the smell of gas. Although gas in those days seemed to be much stronger than it is nowadays.
CB: Well, it’s a different type of gas isn’t it?
DD: Yeah. It was —
CB: One other point about aircrew is you were in the, of the, based on the time, well fed.
DD: Oh we were. Yes. Very well fed.
CB: So, what was the food generally?
DD: Well, it was more or less not, we didn’t have fancy food. It was straightforward nutritious food.
CB: Before an operation what did you get then?
DD: Oh eggs and bacon [laughs] and when we came back as well. In fact you got more or less egg bound the number of eggs you got. But everyone else only had, they would have one a week or something like that. I think my grandmother had one. One a week.
CB: The civilian population had one a week.
DD: One a week.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Something like that. I don’t think it was more than that. But we used to get cheese. And we used to get milk. Aircrew used to get a pint of milk a day and you used to go into the mess and go to the bar and say, ‘I’ll have my milk.’ You’d have that one then, one sort of lunchtime. One in the evening. Of course, when you went on trips, on ops rather, you would get your chocolate, Horlicks tablets, wakey wakey pills and some fruity sweets. Every time. And I never used to eat many of them at the time. I’d probably take them back and give it to people.
CB: And, right and what did you drink? Coffee or tea? Or what was it?
DD: It’s wasn’t a lot of, there was some coffee. You generally got that at the debriefing.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Coffee. It was generally tea you drank.
CB: In a flask was it? [pause] Because it was pretty cold up there.
DD: No. I didn’t get a flask. Do you know I can’t remember what we did there. We did have a drink but I can’t remember what it was now. It might have been coffee. To keep you awake. Because those wakey wakey pills you wouldn’t take them until you were getting near the actual target.
CB: Right.
DD: You’d take one then. And that would get you through the target and then one on the way back.
CB: Because the trips were how many hours?
DD: Oh it was varied. I think the longest we did was coming up to eleven hours. Ten and a half. Eleven. That was the longest.
CB: Where was that to?
DD: Now, where was that now? Oh God. Down the east. The east part of Germany. Where the hell was it now? Do you know I can’t, I can’t remember the name.
CB: But on the Baltic coast area.
DD: More or less up nearly up to there. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Stettin or — you didn’t do Peenemunde.
DD: No.
CB: It’s a pity your logbook was stolen isn’t it?
DD: I know.
CB: Because that’s an absolute travesty.
DD: I’ve been upset all my life over that because it was all written out nicely and signed by you know wing commanders, group captains. We had all sorts of people signing them. I’ve always regretted that. But you’ll be able to get an idea when, if you go and see Peter.
CB: Yes.
[recording paused]
DD: Well, one night when we bombed we didn’t lose the Cookie.
CB: It didn’t go.
DD: It didn’t go.
CB: So the Cookie was the big four thousand pounder.
DD: Yeah. The bomb. We were flying. Now, where was that? We were flying — not Nuremberg. Next one up there. Coming back from that district and we were flying north of Switzerland. The bomb aimer had to, you know come back.
CB: Stuttgart was it?
DD: It could have been Stuttgart. It think it might have been. Yeah. He had to release the bomb but when that bomb hit the ground there was the most massive explosion. We never knew what it was.
CB: It had hit something.
DD: It hit something.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Of course, there was no photoflash or anything but yeah it was interesting that. We never did find out what was, what it was.
CB: No. Now, did you ever return to Germany after the war?
DD: No. I didn’t go back.
CB: And did you go on any Cooks Tours that they ran after the war?
DD: No.
CB: To see the bombing.
DD: Oh, now on the, with the Lancs.
CB: Yeah.
DD: We took ground staff across to show them. Flew around France and Germany.
CB: From the —
DD: From the place up north [laughs – pause] I’ve forgotten the name again.
CB: But when you [pause] what Granston?
DD: No. No. No. Not Gamston.
CB: Gamston I meant to say.
DD: Finningley.
CB: Oh Finningley.
DD: From Finningley. Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
DD: We took —
CB: In Lancasters.
DD: Two or three trips we did actually across there.
CB: So, what, who were the people you were taking on the trips?
DD: Ground staff.
CB: Your own crews.
DD: Well, no we didn’t have our own crews then.
CB: No.
DD: That was only on the —
CB: So, they were, what sort of people were they?
DD: Well, anyone.
CB: Anybody on the airfield who was interested.
DD: Anyone on the airfield who wanted to go.
CB: Yeah.
DD: Really. More or less.
CB: And when you got over you would fly at a higher level would you and then well you —
DD: Well, normally. Yes. Come down.
CB: And then ten thousand. Then come down.
DD: If we were flying over the Ruhr we’d come down fairly low and let them see.
CB: Yes.
DD: Especially Cologne.
CB: Yes. What height would you fly over there?
DD: Oh, a couple of thousand feet.
CB: Oh, I see.
DD: Right down.
CB: So people could see.
DD: Oh yeah.
CB: And what was their reaction to that?
DD: A bit aghast. You know, they wouldn’t say very much. Probably they did say something when they got back on the ground.
CB: Yes.
DD: But you couldn’t talk very much.
CB: No.
DD: When you were up there. But I think they were a little bit shocked.
Other: At the devastation.
DD: Yeah. And that’s one of the reasons why I think aircrew were looked down on after the war. Not looked down on but, you know, ‘You bombed civilians,’ and that sort of business. But I heard one person say that. Which wasn’t very nice.
CB: And of course the factories were in amongst the civilian population.
DD: Of course they were. Yeah.
CB: Because people didn’t commute.
DD: They didn’t realise that.
CB: No.


Chris Brockbank, “Interview with David Kenneth McKenzie Dall,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 25, 2024,

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