Interview with Ronald Davies


Interview with Ronald Davies


In spring 1940, Ronald Davies joined the RAF to train as a pilot. Following initial training, he was posted to America but was dismissed after crashing a Cessna. Following Pearl Harbour, he trained as a navigator in Port Albert, Canada, but upon returning to England he completed a bomb aimer course at RAF Millom. Davies formed a crew at RAF Wymeswold and trained on Wellingtons and Hallifaxes, before converting to Lancasters at RAF Hemswell. He joined 101 Squadron and completed thirty-one operations between May and November 1944. He describes completing operations during D-Day, and crash-landing at RAF Thorney Island when returning from an operation over Reims, then travelling back to RAF Ludford Magna by train as V-1 bombs dropped over London. In May 1945, he was posted to Singapore where he remained until he was demobilised in June 1946.




Temporal Coverage




00:57:47 audio recording


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ADaviesRS180201, PDaviesRS1801


SP: This is-
RD: No just-
SP: So, this is Susanne Pescott and I'm interviewing Ron Davies of 101 Squadron today for the International Bomber Command Centre’s digital archive. We’re at Ron’s home and it’s the 1st of February 2018. Also present at the interview is Ron’s son Peter. So, first of all, thank you Ron for agreeing to talk to me today. So, do you want to tell us what life was like before the RAF for you?
RD: My father was a farmer, and he’d been in the first war and suffered from a lot of damage and, so when the second war [pauses] broke out, I was furious to find I was in a reserved occupation. I felt I wanted to emulate what he’d done. In the event, I did join the air force, which [chuckles] almost came to blows with my father, but it was something I had to do and something which I’ve never regretted. And so, at the age of eighteen in the spring of 1940, I joined the air force as a pilot UT. Went to No 1 ITW in Newquay and then to No 8 EFTS in Anstey near Leicestershire, and I was there when Coventry was bombed and we were just ten miles from Coventry, and Anstey was a small pre-war flying station, and relied on the outside private people to maintain and train the planes. After Coventry of course, the place wasn’t closed down but our course finished, and we were then sent to Manchester, were eventually posted to Canada- Sorry, to America, because we were supposed to be trained as co-pilots onto the Sunderlands, flying boats. Now, are we coping? I spent- First of all, four months in Atlanta and trained on Boeing-Stearmans and from there, the- We went to Jacksonville Academy and we went onto fly the Vultee Valiant, which was greater because America was neutral, their standard of flying was much higher and with less pressure than England. When we finished onto that, we went onto Cessnas, twin-engine planes, and just a month before the end of the season and we had an unfortunate accident and we were- Both the co-pilot and myself were dismissed and we were sent back to Canada. Here we were lost, and suffered because we’d been in an accident, we were sent down to the hospital for check-ups and they kept us there as attendants. So [chuckles] having joined to fly we were now almost slaves in this unfortunate place. Then came Pearl Harbour and we- Suddenly everyone realised that our time was being wasted so we were then re-trained as navigators and I went over to Port Albert, which is just outside Goderich and I spent twenty-six weeks training on navigation and astro and all the things that entailed to it. Eventually we managed to get back to England and by now England was full of aircrew. We’d been away for so long and were sent to an army barracks in Whitley Bay, and we spent nearly three months there and to escape it we managed to get onto a consignment of bomb aimers who were being trained at Millom, and I think I've already told you that twenty-seven of us were posted to 10 OTU in Abingdon to fly Whitleys and then Halifaxes. But to help a colleague I switched to flight- To go to 28 OTU Wymeswold. From there we moved to the satellite which was Castle Donnington, and we completed our OTU on Wellingtons and we did two nickels which were flying over France with leaflets, and then we went from there to Halifaxes on Heavy Conversion Unit at Blyton. We did six weeks on those. From there we went to Hemswell which was No 1 LFS, Lancaster Flying School. We did ten days on that, and then we were rushed to 101 Squadron where we picked up an eighth member who was Keith Gosling and we arrived at 101 the last week in May of 1944, and we remained there until the 6th of November, during which time I completed thirty-one operations and another seven abortions. So altogether it was the equivalent of quite a lot of trips. We- During that time, Keith Gosling was lost and his replacement was a man called Roy Hall, and he stayed with us for the rest of the tour.
SP: So, Ron do you want to tell me a little bit- You had an eighth crew member, so obviously your eighth crew member Keith Gosling, you said was lost, do you want to tell me a little about what happened to Keith?
RD: Ey?
SP: Do you want to tell me a little about what happened to Keith Gosling then, you said he was lost so?
RD: He was lost with Flying Officer Meier[?]. Because, there were more crews than there were special operators, occasionally if the special operators own crew wasn’t flying then had to stand in, so he stood in and it was- Unfortunate thing, it was Meier’s first trip, and then I don’t quite know.
SP: So, Ron obviously there’s some details about Keith which we’re going to cover at the end, so do you want to carry on with where you were up to with your tour?
PD: If we- Can I just-
RD: The eighth member was a German speaking operator of a special equipment called ABC, airborne cigar and this was a jamming device which detected correspondence between the ground and the, and the enemy aircrews and their idea was so that it would give us a little bit of breathing space by jamming this. The unfortunate off-shoot of that was that the transmission itself was a warning device to the aircraft, so 101 Squadron itself suffered much more greater casualties than the average squadron. The invasion assistance that we were giving began to wane and we started going back to Germany again, and flying to many places. I don’t want to say too much about that, but could almost really wrap over and say that we finally finished our tour on the 4th of November and at that point- Ah, just remembered something else, and we were flying F-Fox and the first one was lost on the 12th of June and the second one was lost on the 30th of August, with another crew flying it because we were stood down that night and in the meantime we had to fly other planes until we had a replacement, and we finally had the third Fox, so there were three foxes all together. On the 12th of September and at the same time we finally had a replacement for our mid-upper gunner whom we’d lost on- Well he wasn’t killed, but he just didn’t fly again after Reims and that’s were Flying Officer Ken Gibb DFC with seventy-five operations under his belt came into being. So, can we- A new F-Fox came and that was NF936, and we finished our final trips in that, but- On the 2nd of November. But Paddy the engineer had been ill on one of the trips and he still had a trip to do, and two members of the crew refused to fly anymore operations, and we seemed to think that it was a shame for Paddy to go on his last trip on his own, so I volunteered to go with him and we flew our last trip on the 4th of November, Paddy and I, and at the same time, the crew in our hut, whose captain was Flying Officer Edwards, took over our F-Fox, and we planned to have an extension on the sergeants mess license for when we came back to celebrate. Unfortunately, F-Fox didn’t come back, and the whole of the crew were killed, so we cancelled the extension and it seemed a shame really that on our last day we lost our plane, our hut mates, it was a bit distressing. In the meantime, during July, I'd been on a trip and I had arrived late at the briefing through a fault on the intercom, and I was hauled before the CO and threatened with expulsion from the aircrew and told what an unpleasant character I was, and the final words of the CO when I left the interview was, ‘From now on, you will be under my personal observation’, and I then went home on leave after the completion of our tours and when I arrived I found a telegram addressed to Pilot Officer Davies, so he must’ve forgiven me because he’d recommended the commission. From then on, we went to flying training at a place called Angle in South Wales and we were flying with four crews from 617 Squadron, and they were all- Two had expired from- And we flew for six months on this experimental work and the work was to bomb or- To train the bomb site to cope with eastern conditions and the idea was to bomb the Japanese fleet, and we finished that tour by the end of May. At which time we returned to- We were seconded to coastal command, when I returned to 101 Squadron a character there called Gundry[?] White with whom I'd also blotted my copy book, when he saw me coming back, he made sure that my existence was short and sweet, and I found myself posted to the Far East, and within a month I was at Mauripur which is just outside Karachi, in a transit camp waiting to join the Tiger Force which was the name for Bomber Commad in the Far East. Fortunately for us, before that happened, they dropped to atom bomb and then the hydrogen bomb and at that point I was posted to Dum Dum in Calcutta, and from there, from there I spent seven days on an American liberty ship and ended up in Singapore on my way to Kuala Lumpur. There was so much chaos in Singapore that- And there was no transport available, and so I ended up helping to rehabilitate prisoners to come back home, and when that happened the whole station was posted to Changi- We were at Kallang sorry, and Kallang was to be handed back to the civil authorities and we were all to go to the RAF. But within- I being the youngest of the officers there was left to- With thirty people to tidy everyone up and hand it back to the authorities. But, before that could happen, after four days the runways at Changi were declared unfit and unsafe for four-engine aircraft, and so I stayed for the rest of the war in Kallang with these thirty people and our job was to refuel all the aircraft which were coming through and in particular, we had twenty-five Japanese prisoners of war come every day and it was my job to see that all these people were done. At the, at the end of my time, I was then demobbed in June 1946. I went back to the main base in Singapore and that night there was a NAAFI show with Tommy Trinder and I thought, ‘That’ll be a fitting way to finish’, and when I got in the very first person, I saw was Gwen Lansing-Green[?] who was the daughter of our landlord back home, and I had to go twelve-thousand miles to see my next-door neighbour. You can make as much as that as you wish. We arrived home after six- We went from Colombo which then was Ceylon, Bombay, Aden, Suez, Gibraltar and Liverpool and that was the end of my service, and that was in the book, then everything finishes and it starts again fifty-two years later when I- By this time I’d lost touch with all the crew, and it was fifty-two years later when I was reading a paper and my pilot was writing a story of his accident and from that I wrote to him, we were reunited, and then started all the galivanting to- Back to bomber land. Does that fill in?
SP: That’s great Ron, I think if we just want to go back to a couple of bits you mentioned during your time during the war, you mentioned that obviously you were special operations and Keith Gosling, you said he went on a different flight to you at some time. Do you want to tell us what happened to Keith?
RD: Yes, well now that I can tell you, that I answered the pilot’s letter and then that is where we began to find out all the information about Keith Gosling, and it really goes on- It’s very long winded because it took about twenty years to find all this out. Well, the one word for it is a cover-up. No one wanted to disclose, in fact, I doubt the air force really know, that their only Canadian air force covered everything up, and when you read the stories that we found out, most of this happened because the Canadian government were more concerned with paying a widows pension to someone who wasn’t a widow, and most of the investigations are concerning that, and the fact that a plane, six men were killed, many, many facets of information passed over to the enemy, and if I tell you that the Stasi people were concerned and that’s what- Meier[?] was a member of that.
SP: So, what actually happened? Do you want to tell us what actually happened?
RD: Well, it all started with Keith Gosling’s friend who was called Sam Brookes and they both trained together and they both received their commission together and they both came to 101 Squadron. Now, on the first visit back to Lincoln after I'd met up with the pilot, the- 101 had this mad idea of having two nights for a reunion, and one night would be in Lincoln, or an RAF station on a Saturday with a dinner, and the following would be on the Sunday afternoon when we would go to the church in Ludford and the first night, or the first visit we had and the reunion was being held in Waddington, and we stayed at the Premier Inn or some such, who provided a courtesy coach to take us to Waddington and sitting next to me was Sam Brookes and of course, as you know from your father's experience, whenever two airmen get together it’s always, ‘When were you here? What crew were you with?’, and Sam Brookes case, ‘Who was your special operator?’, and I said, ‘Oh, Keith Gosling’, struggling- ‘That’s strange, we’ve just come back from France where Keith was buried’, he said, ‘And there weren’t seven graves, there were only six graves and Keith Gosling was named as the pilot’, he said, ‘very strange’. But by that time, we’d got to Waddington and we said, ‘We’ll talk about this when we get back’. Unfortunately, for us, we got carried away a bit and that night there were a changeover of chairmen and Air Vice Marshall Eric Macey was handing over to Air Commodore Jim Uprichard, and they start- One was a pianist and the other was a cellist and so you can imagine, half-past one in the morning and the sing songs are going and the drinks are flowing, and we sudden realised we’d missed our bus. So, we never saw Sam Brookes again, in fact, I never did see him because in the shadow of the bus, you don’t really recognise and nothing ever happened from that, and it was three years later before Sam Brookes met our pilot. Now, our pilot had amnesia and he couldn’t remember anything and so, he then wrote to me to tell me all about Sam Brookes and to try and carry on this conversation and from then on that’s how they approached me and not the pilot because, I wouldn’t say my memory’s good, but I can remember a lot of things that happened at the time and I had all the dates in my log book to cover them. And so, that is why I was approached at the last meeting as to what I thought of Keith because Fred, with the best will in the world could remember Keith Gosling but he could never remember that he’d flown with us as a crew member, so it was all these odd- And that is why my- Or I was asked for a second opinion if you like. So-
SP: So, Keith actually went on another operation, what actually happened on the operation when his crew was killed? What actually happened on the operation that Keith was on when his crew was killed?
RD: They flew to Homberg, and- Have to think about how much I can tell you without breaking confidentiality. They flew- And everything I tell you now is conflicted, every evidence is conflicted. When the raid was over, they should’ve come over Holland and the North Sea back to Ludford, but they actually were flying over Belgium, I think it was- I can’t remember the name of the, of the town at the moment. But the bomb aimer bailed out, and when he was interrogated back in this country, they asked him why he bailed out and he said he’d bailed out because he thought the plane was going to crash, but on further interrogation he admitted that all four engines were running and so his explanation didn’t quite fit in. Now, the plane then continued flying away from England and it actually crashed at E-V-R-E-U, Evreu, which if you look on a map is half-way from Belgium to the Alps and at that point, how a pilot could get out of a plane and leave all six members in and how it remained static, but of course, the bomb bays were already- The bomb hatch was already open from the bomb aimer leaving, so all he had to do was get out, and once he got out the plane- He obviously hadn’t put it onto automatic and so it just crashed. Now, that was the first part, and the second part was, the bomb aimer, when he was interrogated, they found he was unfit for further flying activities, and yet he’d been a person, very convivial, until he went on that trip, he was a very natural person. He went back to Canada, and this- Within three years and he disappeared mysteriously in a boating accident, and no one could ever interrogate him again and the pilot, Walter Meier, he was eventually in East Germany and in 1972, he was found in a gas filled room, asphyxiated, and the coroner deemed that there was a fault on the flu system, but again, a mysterious death. The whole thing, and without telling you anymore that’s as far as I can go but, I think it has to be mentioned.
SP: Yeah.
RD: Now, we’ve covered up to fifty-two years after being demobbed, and that started my life back at Ludford, back at Lincoln, back at Coningsby, Brize Norton, covered the whole lot really.
SP: So, what did you do after you were demobbed? What did you do after you were demobbed Ron what did-
RD: I was unemployed for months and months, you see, once you went abroad this country had a year to get itself sorted and they made sure that those who had the good jobs were not going to let anyone in. Eventually, by this time my son had been born and we had a flat in Llangollen and the only job I could get was in Crewe. So, I bought a motorbike and I travelled from Llangollen to Crewe in the worst winter of the war, so I came back from one-hundred-and-twenty in the shade to minus-twenty day after day. In fact, I think, I read somewhere once, where it was forty days of snow, and I rode this stupid motorbike all that way and then eventually I managed to get into the textile industry and managed to keep my head above water, just about. But, during this time, I haven’t told you this but, whilst I was on the observers course my eyesight went and I couldn’t see [emphasis], and they took me off the course and it was only by sheer luck I managed to find a squadron leader who would pass me fit. I wasn’t really, but he did and then half way through my tour, my ears went, and I’ve suffered with both my eyes and my ears ever since. In fact, last month I had two visits in one day at the eye clinic and I had a cold so I had to cancel them both. I still suffer all these- Health problems if you like, maybe I would’ve suffered them anyway but-
SP: So obviously you worked in the textile industry after and did you do that until you finally retired, or?
RD: Yep.
SP: Yeah?
RD: I didn’t retire till seventy-nine. Well, I couldn’t, my first wife died in 1976, and I, I married again and the second wife had vascular dementia, and then my daughter came here- Oh I had a bad fall and I was in a wheelchair and my daughter came to live with me and she was diagnosed with cancer and then that went. So-
SP: How did it make you feel coming back from the war and being unemployed and having to fight for a job really after all you’d done?
RD: Well, it is so difficult to try and explain. One day, I had an interview in- On the East coast for a job and I left Llangollen at quarter-to-eight in the morning when the first bus, and I finally got to Leeds at four o’clock in the afternoon, too late for the interview and so I rang them up and I stayed the night on a station, the Salvation Army, you could stay there for about two shillings and I caught a bus the next morning, the conductor finally showed me where this place was, it was about a miles walk and I was walking along the road and a chap comes back in the opposite direction and we both said, ‘Good Morning’, ‘Morning’, and then about another ten yards and this voice said, ‘You’re not going for the jobbers oil executive are you?’, well, yes I was, he said, ‘Well, I wouldn’t bother if I were you’, he said, ‘I’ve just taken a car back and it’s got bullet holes in’, ‘Bullet holes?’, he said, ‘Well the job is, you go round farms and you sell oil to tractors and it’s rubbish’ he said, ‘And then not only that but you have to go back the following month to try and get the money’, and this farmer had fired his shot gun at him so I turned back. Well, I- Again, I had to stay the night in Manchester and I got back three days later and the first question ‘Did you get the job?’, and I can only tell you that’s how bad this country was, there was just no work, the employment was eleven-million, that’s all and we had thirty-million. So, it gives you some idea. There were at least three million people looking for jobs and you were just one of many. But worse than that of course, the air force had its name tarnished by the Dresden affair which had been bought up by all the political correct people, and that was another reason that- That’s why for fifty-two years I didn’t want to know about the air force or the war or anything else, and it took the whole of one's capabilities to try and keep your head above water, to try and move on. It was a job to stand still, and the first two or three years I bought a house in Crewe and we were so hard up, whilst I'd been in the Far East, we bought rugs and they all went to the auction room, everything we could sell, just to try and pay your bills, and then- It is not something you’re able to communicate to people today, and so, if I don’t talk very much about it, there wasn’t very much to talk about [emphasis].
SP: I think it’s interesting because I think people are- Would be surprised that with such high regard that you’re all held with now in Bomber Command that it was so different at the end of the war and you had to find so much to get jobs.
RD: [Chuckles] Well, Dresden, I make a big thin of Dresden in my book, and I show examples of just what the Americans did ten times worse than what we did, and never any castigation at all. But then, that’s my pet hobby.
SP: And again, you know, for people listening that book ‘From Landsmen to Lancaster’ is the one that explains it in detail isn’t it, by yourself on there.
RD: Yeah.
SP: Just going back to your time with 101 Squadron, tell me about your crew, who you had, I know we’ve talked about one of them but tell me a little bit about your pilot and your- The rest of your crew and your-
RD: Yeah.
SP: Ok, so do you want to talk me through your crew Ron? Yeah?
RD: That’s myself, that’s Paddy Ore[?] the engineer, that’s Titch Taylor the wireless operator, George Williams the rear gunner, Fred James the pilot, Jim Coleman the navigator, Ken Gibb the second mid-upper and that was Roy Hall the second wireless operator-
PD: Special, special.
RD: - and I have all their letters and how they-Oh, he, he also couldn’t get a job after the war and he went back in the air force and he flew five tours of operations on Hastings which was the future of the Halifax.
SP: Yeah, that’s right. And you say a few of them from Canada? You had quite a few Canadians in your crew?
RD: George, he had a tremendous- He never married, and he died in 2009 and he worked on the early warning system in Siberia [chuckles] so none of us really- Fred became a teacher, well that was just about as much as he could do because of his amnesia and-
SP: And how did you crew up? Where did you crew up and how did you crew up?
RD: We crewed up at Wymeswold and really that’s- It’s so involved that- There were four crews who were- We considered ourselves friendly because mostly were Canadians and Australians but in Castle Donnington within two months there the Australians in our crew were burnt to death, the Canadians in the next hut they were also burnt to death. We had two plane crashes in ten nights, and when we were at Blyton, we had another plane crash. So altogether before we ever got to Ludford Magna we’d lost about twenty odd people, and I was reading somewhere that eight-and-a-half-thousand people were killed in training alone. Well, tend not to think of these things, I don’t know- With all the other things going on whether they detract from it really.
SP: So, do you- You crewed up pretty quickly then as a team?
RD: Well, what would you like me to say? Just tell-
SP: Just tell how you crewed up, yeah? Can you remember who spoke to who and-
RD: Well, that was at 28 Wymeswold, 28 OTU Wymeswold, which is just outside Loughborough. There would be about a hundred people and for three or four days we just talked, and I mentioned Walt Reif[?] as the Canadian, he in fact was [chuckles]- The more I talked, the more I bring in complication. Walt Reif[?] was a German, he was born in Germany, emigrated to America, naturalised America, they wouldn’t take him into the air force and so he went over the border to Canada, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and ended up the same way, and his bomb aimer was also born in Germany and he was naturalised Canadian and ended up, if you like, also- We had an Argentinian, as a pilot and his name was- What as it?
PD: [Unclear]
RD: Peter?
PD: Highland, Highland [emphasis]
RD: Peter Highland, Pancho, and Chris Cockshott who was a trainee pilot with me and he was the co- He and I were flying the Cessna when we crashed and we were both kicked out and we stayed together for a long time and we met up again in Ludford Magna and he was killed on his third op, on the- In a F-Fox which we should’ve been flying. So, the more I talk about these things the more involved it gets and then I told you that on the last night of our flying we had- Flying Officer Edwards crew, well the navigator there, he came from Mauritius and his name was Tedier[?] and he was the one and only person from Mauritius who joined Bomber Command and was killed in action. So, I'd forgotten all these things. Going back to crewing up, well I crewed up with Fred first and then Fred found George Williams and Jim Coleman and a man called Eric Smith, that started our crew and Titch Taylor of course also. But Eric Smith didn’t like Fred, he found he was too authoritative (being Canadian) and so as we finished our term at Castle Donnington, Eric broke his wrist and he was given the option of having a rest and then joining us later or joining another crew, and he said, ‘Don’t take offence Ron, but I can’t stand Fred so I'm going to join a Canadian crew’, and he did, and he was killed on his first op. But- So if you go back then that was actually three crew members who didn’t make it but to try to avoid too much confusion, I haven’t mentioned too much of it, in fact I don’t think I've mentioned that in the book at all. Oh yes, I did, yes, yes.
SP: So obviously you did the crewing up, but you were also involved with D-Day?
RD: Sorry?
SP: You were involved with D-Day, were you? Around D-Day, do you want to talk a little bit about your role within D-Day operations.
RD: Well we didn’t know it was D-Day, we just were sent on a trip and we flew for seven-and-a-half hours and when we were coming back, we could see the English Channel was black with ships and we reported all this at the briefing and it was two hours later when we were in the mess when we finally found out that there had been the invasion, and from then on, we were- All leave was cancelled and for three weeks we weren’t allowed off the station. We were just standing by and it was during that time we went to Reims, and when we crash landed at Thorney Island normally a plane would come and take you back, but because all the planes were on stand-by we had to come back by train, and that was another story. We were in London as the V-1 bombs were dropping because we- It took us two hours to get from Havant to Waterloo, and then- I can’t remember the reason, but we couldn’t get a direct trip to Kings Cross so we went part on the underground and watched all the people getting their beds out and then we got the last train from Kings Cross and that was with difficulty, the whole of London was trying to get out. We got into, where was it? We got into Lincoln, we finally got transport back to Ludford, got back into Ludford at half-past-ten, which is exactly forty-eight hours after we’d taken off, and by lunch time next day, we found our names on the board for an op that night, but then it was cancelled and I went over- I used to keep my pilot training up by going on the link trainer, and I went over to the squadron where the flight were to do this and I was suddenly told I was to fly with an air test, with a pilot and so we flew over Liverpool, checked all the Gee equipment and whatever, and we got back to Ludford at seventeen-fifty, I checked my watch, seventeen-fifty and because it was a scratch crew I was flying as the joint navigator and engineer, and I said to the pilot when we got back, ‘If you fly over the control tower I'll fire off a [unclear] cartridge and they’ll change the runway because it’s a short runway’, ‘Nonsense, nonsense’ he said, ‘We’ll go in’. So, he landed, and he hit the runway bounced thirty feet, shot across the perimeter track in between- Across the main road and we ended up in a haystack, and all the equipment we’d been testing was scanners underneath the aircraft, they were all smashed. He still didn’t speak and we were walking back and this boy came up and said, he was about eighteen I suppose, pimply faced youth and he said, ‘My bicycle was in that hut that you’ve crashed’, and the pilot looked, ‘Go and thank Christ you weren’t on it’, and that was all he said, and for that we were both ordered to write an essay and appear before a court as to our actions on why this accident had happened, and after three days it was all cancelled. I was sent on leave and when I got back this pilot had gone so [chuckles] it’s only when you sit down and work it all out and you realise why I didn’t want to think about it for fifty-two years.
SP: Yeah, and just going back to D-Day, you said you flew, what was your role on D-Day? What was 101 Squadron doing? What was the role?
RD: We weren’t bombing, we were flying with- The special operator was jamming the equipment over the fighter stations so that they couldn’t get the information to- Of what was happening.
SP: That’s great, and then you talked about Reims and you said you had to land- You had to crash land on the way back, do you want to tell me a little bit about the trip to Reims?
RD: Well, we had two engines shot out so we landed with- We landed with just two engines and we did a ground loop because all the port undercarriage was ripped away and, and in my book, I mention that the pilot in his résumé of what happened that night, and he said that we were attacked by three different fighters and we ended up at zero feet flying over the tree tops and that’s how we were saved really, and he heard all the canon fire crashing into the front of the plane and thought I would be a bloody pulp, that was his expression. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. But the whole of the front of the plane where I was, it was almost unrecognisable, and the plane never flew again, it was written off. That was just one, we had about four similar episodes, but that was the first one and the first one is always the worst one, after that you become a bit blasé about it all. But the other thing about many of it was really the weather, we were sent in weather that was really never fit to fly, but needs must. They had to keep the pressure up. It’s easy to understand now, it wasn’t quite so easy then
SP: And then on your crash landing, you had a problem with where you wanted to land wasn’t it? Was there some other planes?
RD: Well, it saved our lives, had we landed on the runway and done that we would probably of done the- Thorney Island has a sea wall and that was where Tony Benn made his mistake, he said his brother crashed into a sea wall, so when I told him Thorney Island, he said, ‘No, you’re wrong’, and I said, ‘Well, you can’t be right on both. If he crashed on Tangmere, Tangmere doesn’t have a sea wall, so he couldn’t of crashed into it, it had to be there’, and he also said that his brother was taken to Chichester hospital, well Chichester’s right next to Thorney Island, so that stood me in good stead.
SP: So you were coming in- You were wanting to land at Thorney Island but two Mosquitos were in front-
RD: They said, ‘You can’t land here’.
SP: Right.
RD: And then the pilot, well, he had no option. We didn’t- We had a fuel leak, we couldn't climb any further and, in any case, there was the- These V-1’s were taking off, they started on the 16th of June and the incident I'm telling you about was the 22nd, so I think I mention in the book, at seven-thirty in the morning when we were starting for breakfast and it was the first of seven raids of the day. So not only did we crash land at Thorney Island but we found ourselves in the centre of the first attacks of these things which was a-
SP: So, from what you were saying to me earlier, the- They’d said you couldn’t land on the runway because the Mosquito was in problem so you landed on the grass but the Mosquito actually crashed.
RD: We landed on the grass, which is level. Thorney Island was a coastal command station and it was quite vast, it was pre-war when space was- Cost nothing. So, it- That helped to save- The fact that we were landing on grass instead of concrete made a big difference.
SP: And the Mosquito that crashed was Tony Benn’s brother?
RD: Yes
SP: Right, so yeah, so that’s the link into the Tony Benn story, it was his brother.
RD: Did Tony Benn have a, a navigator with him?
PD: Yes.
RD: Yeah so-
PD: I think all the Aussies had navigators.
SP: Yeah so they crashed on-
RD: Tony Benn and his navigator were killed.
SP: Tony Benn’s brother, yeah and his navigator.
RD: What they had-
PD: Michael Ben [unclear]
RD: -was a malfunctioning altimeter.
SP: Right.
RD: And he didn’t know his height and so they sent another Mosquito up to bring him in and we listened to all that, that was the part which perhaps I didn’t emphasise. We listened to the whole caboodle and after they crashed, we still had to get down if you like, it doesn’t help.
SP: No, so that was Michael Benn who crashed with his navigator and then you listened to that ok, yeah. Is there anything else, Ron, that stands out that you want to make sure you cover?
RD: Have I missed anything Pete?
SP: Ok Ron, well thank you very much for sharing all of those storis with us today, it’s been a privilege-
RD: Well, thank you for coming.
SP: - to meet you, so thank you on behalf of International Bomber Command.



Susanne Pescott, “Interview with Ronald Davies,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 15, 2024,

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