Interview with Ronald Charles Davis

Title

Interview with Ronald Charles Davis

Description

When the war broke out Ronald was a solicitor’s clerk, then got a job with in Portsmouth. Whilst there he volunteered for air crew and went to London to join the Air Force. After about six months he was called up for training. He went on a fitter’s course and then to Scotland, working on fighters. Ronald went to an operational training unit to become a flight engineer. Training was on a Mk 2 Halifax. In 1944 the squadron flew to Calais as part of the D-Day invasion. Following leave, they were posted to 78 Squadron at RAF Breighton. He remembered his first daylight operation and also an attack on Dresden. Ronald carried out 37 operations. Ronald married Freda in 1949 and in 1950 was posted to Rhodesia where they both spent about two years, during which their son was born. In 1952 they went home and Ronald worked on Meteors at Duxford. They had a daughter and Ronald later worked on Shackletons. He then went on a course for engineers to work on Hastings with 48 Squadron and he took the family with him to Singapore. He took part in the operations following the Malaysia and Borneo uprisings bringing the troops in. He also was posted to a number of places, including Darwin, Sydney, Fiji, Christmas Island and Hawaii. Their son died in a car accident in 1972. Ronald retired from work aged 65.

Creator

Date

2018-02-01

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:59:44 audio recording

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Identifier

ADavisRC170818

Transcription

DB: This interview is Ronald, with Ronald ‘Ron’ Davis and his son Derek Davis on the 18th of August 2017 at 10.50 hours. Ron, can you tell me a little bit about your life before you joined the RAF?
RD: Yes. What happened was that when the war broke out I was a solicitor’s clerk and I thought to myself I’ll find some other job because that wasn’t very interesting at the time. So, I went to Hants and Sussex, Hampshire err in Portsmouth and I went there as a metallurgy to look after checking the gluing of the wood and the metal and the softening of the metal for the fitters to work on. Then I went on to the floor and did fitting on the floor. And while I was there I volunteered for aircrew and I went to London in December, no, in September of ’41 and I joined the Air Force there. But because I was working in an aircraft factory I was deferred for six to seven months. Then they called me up in June or July, I can’t remember exactly what date and I went to Blackpool and I got fitted out in uniform and did my square bashing as it is along Blackpool front in in the glorious sunshine of the weather there at Blackpool. Houses. The like lodgings. We went to, yes I think I can, wait a minute let me get my mind around this [pause] There was probably four or five of us in lodgings in houses all the way around Blackpool and and they supplied the bed. You know the sleeping quarters and the food. And every morning we’d go out on parade and in the evening we’d go back the our house and have our meals. And that’s about it really. I don’t think there’s anything else. We went dancing at Blackpool Tower. Is that Blackpool Tower?
DD: Yeah. Yeah.
RD: Yeah. Blackpool Tower. Yeah. So, there’s nothing really. When we finished that I went on a fitter’s course. Oh, do you want me to continue? Went on a fitter’s course and I I went from there to Scotland on, I worked on night fighters there and while I was up there they, they wanted some engineers for Bomber Command and I applied. Went on a course. Passed that. And we went to Operational Training Unit and crewed up. The way that you were crewed up was, there was a dozen or more in a room of engineers, flight engineers and the officer came in with a list of pilots. Now, he said, ‘Does anyone prefer a pilot you know?’ Nobody knew. So, he said, ‘What I’ll do, I’ve got a list of the engineers and a list of the pilots. I’ll call out the engineer and I’ll call out the pilot first and the first one for the engineer.’ And that’s how we went through it. Then all of a sudden I got, ‘Sergeant Fraser. Ron Davis.’ So, we met and shook hands and I thought, and I went around, along to see the rest of the crew which was the two gunners, a navigator, a bomb aimer, wireless operator and that was it and we got crewed up. And then from there we did our training on a Mark 2 Halifax. While we were there the invasion plans started and as a training we went to, a lot of us, a lot of the aircraft went to, flew across the south coast to the north, North Sea around Calais way and Kiel to divert the diversion of the D-Day invasion. And when we came back we realised that that was what was happening at that particular time. And then when we finished there I went home, we had a five days leave and then I was, was sent a letter saying you’re, you’re required at RAF Breighton and, on a certain day and I went there with the rest of the crew.
[recording paused]
DD: Where you stayed. Where you were billeted. You told me the story about when you [pause] just mention what year this is as well. It’s 1944 now, isn’t it?
RD: Yeah. It must have been. Yeah. ’44. Yeah. Just after D Day.
DD: That’s right, yeah.
RD: Yeah. Just after D-Day.
DD: Because you skip from the beginning of the war, ’42 straight to ’44.
RD: Yeah. When I was working on the —
DD: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Ok.
RD: Yeah.
DD: Ok. Just so the listener knows what what part of the year we’re, what we’re talking about. That’s great. You’re doing really good.
[recording paused]
RD: Yes. Then we had the letter to say we had to go to RAF Breighton, which is in Yorkshire, to 78 Squadron and Mark 3 Halifaxes. I went there, met the rest of the crew and we were in a Nissen hut which wasn’t very warm. We had these coke fires or whatever it was we could find and there was two crews in there. The other crew we talked to but mostly we kept to ourselves. And the crew I got together with in the OCU were Canadians. I forgot to mention that. All Canadians except the signaller, the wireless operator who was come from London. And we got together down there in there in the hut and the first thing we realised that the, Jack Fraser who was our pilot he had to go on a mission with an experienced crew. Now, we did a bit of worry over that because we saw the aircraft go off and the six of us was on the airfield and watched them go off and we thought, ‘Oh my God,’ you know, ‘Is he going to come back?’ Anyway, he came back and of course we, we walked around him saying, ‘What was it like?’ ‘What was it?’ You know. What did you do? What did you do? What did —’ You know, ‘Did you, did you see any aircraft go down?’ I can remember it now, and he couldn’t get it out quick enough, everything that happened. So, our first op was we went out to the dispersal unit and we saw this aircraft that we were going to go on because we had different aircraft each time we went. We didn’t have a particular aircraft we went to and we looked up at the nose and we saw about fifty or sixty little bombs on there so it had done a few ops. So, we got there. We were going to the other side. We went to Calais just inside France. I can’t remember the place we went to but I can look it up in the logbook and we set off with the rest of the crew, with the rest of the aircraft. But the thing was it was such an old aircraft that we had a job to maintain height and speed to keep up with the rest of the aircraft so I was using a lot of fuel and the idea of when you got to the target you had to see the target to bomb it. That was essential. So off we went trailing behind everything. We got to France. Going over to France we saw that the rest of the aircraft in our squadron was coming back. We were on our own. We went over to the target. We couldn’t find it so we turned around and came back. And looking out all the time we had flak coming up as we came in and we had flak going out. Got over the Channel and I said to the captain, I said, ‘We’re getting a bit short here.’ So, he said, ‘Well, what do you think? So, I said, ‘Well, let’s land somewhere else.’ So we got in touch with where was the place? [pause] Newmarket. And we asked if we could land and he said, ‘Yes. Have you got a full bomb load?’ I said, ‘Yeah, we’ll get rid of it.’ So, we dropped it in the sea and we landed and we had our interview in a room there and there were people all around us. They knew that the bomb, the aircraft had done a few ops and they said, ‘Which op were you on? And we said, ‘The first one.’ So their faces dropped as much as to say, ‘Oh gawd,’ you know, ‘Sprog crew.’ So, we told what happened and everything else and then we landed up in the pub. But anyway, that was as far as, I’ll tell you there was one particular thing while we were in the pub. Our bomb aimer was about five foot tall and a lot of people said, ‘Were you an ex-jockey?’ Being Newmarket they would say that I suppose. And he said, ‘No. I’m from Canada. I don’t race any horses.’ So anyway, we had a bit of a laugh over that. Then we got back to Breighton in the end and the engineering officer says, ‘You did all right.’ And he said, ‘Can I have a look at your —’ Oh what was it? I had to make a programme about how different temperatures of what things was going on on the aircraft and I forgot to do it. I did the first line as we went going out there and I changed over from one tank to another but I forgot to write it down. So when I handed it to him he just picked it up, it was a bit mucky and he looked at it and he said, ‘Mmmm.’ I thought, hello. So he said, ‘Next time do a better job.’ He knew what was happening with a first time crew. So after that we settled down in our Nissen hut which had a shower, it wasn’t very warm, and basins along the front there so that the two crews could wash down and what have you and the toilets were available. Yes. It was, the food was good and the mess was excellent and like I say we were all sergeants at the time and then all of a sudden the pilot, the, good old Jack he got his flight sergeant and then we started our operation.
[recording paused]
One of the trips we went on was to Gelsenkirchen and it was a daylight one. And miles beforehand, before we got to the target we could sort of see this sort of cloud in the distance and it was ack ack fire. And I thought God, we’re going to go through that which is what we had to do. Well, we went through it all right but the bomb aimer missed his target and the captain said, ‘Do you want to go around again or do we carry on and drop the bombs somewhere else?’ And we had a call from all the other six saying, ‘Yes. Go around again.’ So we came out of the, out of the target, came in again and found the target and bombed it. I’ve never been so frightened in all my life. It was a, it was a real [unclear] or something or other. I don’t know what it was but it was, it was real frightening but we managed it and we came back and that was another thing that happened. Now, another time we went on the thousand bomber raid and the aircraft were so close together when we got over the Channel or over, or over France I suppose or Belgium. Wherever it was. I can’t remember. I know we went to Dresden. I think it was Dresden on a thousand bomber raid and there were so many aircraft close together that I must admit one or two went in to each other and went to the ground very quickly. And then we started to spread out and we spread out and spread out and spread out for a way way. You couldn’t see the other aircraft. And on that particular one I happened to see a Mark 5 Halifax get shot. Now, the mid-under on the Mark 5 was a, I think it was a .5 gunner underneath there. All the people as far as I can remember got out but what remarked me was what I could think of the gunner that was underneath went out with the gun. Hanging on to it. I can see him now and he let the, it seemed to fly away and then a chute come out so he must have grabbed hold of the gun to force himself out of the aircraft and had dragged him out and he [pause] well they got away with it, I think. Yeah, I’m sure of it. There was so much happened. Aircraft going down. People were saying oh somebody got out of there. Yeah. One, two, three, four and that was it see. We got them all out and that, that was it. One of my jobs was to make out a log which I eventually got off to a fine art. I didn’t have anywhere to sit. I just stood on oxygen bottles and put my backside against the, one of the sides and my knee against the other side and I could quite comfortably sit there and write down different things. My job was, I started with we had seven tanks in either wing and we started on one and three on either side. When we got airborne we’d go on to the outboard tanks. When we were over the target I’d try, I got on to one and three and then after the target I would go on to the other tanks to drain them so that when I come in to land at my home base I’m on one and three. Now that is more or less a sequel of what you had to do to keep the fuel equal in weight so the aircraft was steady. If for some reason you lose a lot of fuel because of ack ack fire or whatever one of my jobs is to try and even out the fuel in both wings. It wasn’t all that complicated. You got used to it, you know. You knew what you had to do. You were trained to that, what you had to do and, and that was it. Now, also on a flight engineer’s part he is the, he was the bloke that had to keep, everything was going alright with the engines and changing the fuel as you, as I’ve just said. But also, I got a, after the bomb, as the bombs had gone the bomb aimer said, ‘All the bombs gone.’ and I would go along the aircraft and we had little canopies, little holes that I could lift up and have a look. Put my head through and make sure that the bombs had gone. And then I’d go back and do the necessary on my paperwork. Keep an eye on the captain. See that the controls were done and what have you. And then it was a question of keep an eye, an eye out for any aircraft that was near. And the two gunners were very very good. They were always on the chatter saying, ‘You’re too near —’ so and so. Or, ‘You’re too near this aircraft,’ Or, ‘There’s a fighter floating around. And there was always a question of what’s going to happen? If we, if we got caught in searchlights which we did two or three times the rear gunner would say, ‘Port dive,’ or, ‘Starboard dive.’ Whichever the case might be and the old captain would whip it over to one side, dive and try and get out of the way of it. We still had to watch other aircraft that was nearby but nevertheless it was one of those things. On, on most of the occasions I was with the captain and on one occasion as I say was, I was standing up by the, by the, behind the captain just watching, keeping an eye on everything and one of the windows was hit by shrapnel and it whistled through. It must have missed the captain because it hit my oxygen mask and knocked it off and I didn’t think anything of it really. I just put the mask back again. Then I realised there was a hole in the glass in front of the captain so I bunged some paper in there as well as more than oh there was two or three marks and I bunged some paper in there. And then I realised afterwards that it could have hit the captain, it could have hit me and probably done a lot of damage but nevertheless that’s all that seemed to happen in, in the thirty seven ops I did.
[recording paused]
RD: Superstition on, on the crew’s side was very, it was always there. I mean I can remember once the wireless operator went sick and we had to have another one on our one op only and and we were a little bit worried about it. Now, you could tense it in the, in the air. Everybody was the same but we got over that. But there was one particular, well there was quite a number of things. Now, I, on the, on the flights they used to give you a packet of Wrigleys Chewing Gum and some boiled sweets. No one ate the boiled sweets. They chewed the gum sometimes and with me when I chewed the gum there was four pieces in a Wrigleys thing and I had the habit of chewing one at a time and then sticking it underneath the red lights of the four warning lights just to say if I don’t do it the light will come on. So I did it. And that was one of the things that happened. I don’t know what happened with [pause] Oh, I’ll tell you my mother bless her she decided to keep me warm to make a scarf of all the colours she could find of wool and goodness knows what. I was very proud of that and I wore it and the rear gunner said, ‘Cor, that looks nice.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ We had a bit of trouble. I don’t know exactly what it was now. I can’t remember. But the rear gunner, he said, ‘That’s the scarf that did that.’ This is how it is when you’re superstitious or whatever it was and he said, ‘Get rid of that.’ So I says, Oh no.’ So the next day, the next time I didn’t wear it. Now, everything was alright. Wore the scarf again and we seemed to be there was something wrong with the aircraft and it wasn’t working right so we got rid of the scarf completely after that. The other thing was the navigator after the bombing raid always hummed. Now, what was it he used to hum then? Don’t, “Don’t sweetheart me because you’re —” he was humming. Hmmn hmmm hmmm hmmmn da da da da de da da. Always hummed the same thing. The first two or three bars and then he’d shut up as much to say he’d done it. He’d got over there and that was it. Yeah. Oh yes, every so often, I think it was every, every number of ops you went home for five, five days and sometimes I used to take the rear gunner. Sometimes I took the captain home with me. And yeah, we had a nice time but most of the time the Canadians had their own thing in London. They had the Canadian Club. The Canadians, when they finished their ops they really, the Canadians they came over, the bomb aimers, or the bomber force came over and when they finished I think they went back to Canada again afterwards. It was just a question of doing their ops and going back again. I got in contact with the rear gunner about five years, six years ago. I phoned him up and but I’m afraid that the rest of the crew have passed away. I think the, I think the rear gunner is still with us although I’m not too sure. I haven’t heard from him at all. The wireless operator who was from London I think he became a wing commander after the, during the war and after the war, I think. I wasn’t too sure. But yeah, I was, I was looking forward to, when I phoned up the rear gunner and asked him about the rest of the crew and he said they’re so and so and so and so. They’d died at a certain time. Apparently, they, they knew about it and I didn’t know and it was through [pause] I don’t know exactly what it was through. I found out his his phone number and like I said I phoned him and he was quite pleasant. He’s married and living in a flat and that was it. He was, he says, ‘I’m ninety.’ I said, ‘Oh well, that’s it then.’ You know, sort of thing. He was quite happy about it but I don’t think he was really interested in what I wanted to do. I’d liked to have gone to see him but at the time I wasn’t in that position to go there to see him.
[recording paused]
RD: One day there was the two gunners, the wireless operator and myself. Now, at the time the captain, old Jack Fraser he got his commission so he wasn’t really in, in the hut with us. He was in the mess. So the four of us went down to this pub for a drink. Now, the pub is a, is a long walk down either side, or one side of the river and the pub was there all on its own. It started to rain and when it rained there it rained heavy. We didn’t realise that until they said, ‘Time gentlemen. Off you go.’ And the bloke said, ‘You’d better hang on. I’ve got my wet suit on. Half a wet suit.’ He said, ‘I’m going down the road and see if it’s, see what the weather is like.’ And apparently the river overflowed and went into the chicken run. It was about four foot. So he said, ‘You’d better stay the night.’ So we stayed the night and the next morning he said it’s about, it’s gone down a lot but it’s still about two foot. So we said, ‘Oh well, we’d better back just in case something’s happened.’ So we went back and we had, there was a WAAF there. She was about four foot nothing I think. I thought, ‘Gosh, she’ll drown.’ So, what we did I think two of them picked her up and walked through the water with her but I think in the end she got fed up with hanging there. She just dropped down and walked through. We came out and the captain and the navigator and the bomb aimer were waiting for us and they said, ‘Where the [pause] where have you been?’ Not so much words but, ‘Where have you been?’ I said, ‘Well, we had to go down for a pub and that.’ He said, ‘We’re on ops. Get yourself ready.’ So we went back and changed, washed ourselves down and we went off on ops. And that was one of the occasions when the captain wasn’t with us. If he would have been with us we wouldn’t have been on ops. But as it was he, he was running around trying to find us and he didn’t know where we were. So, that was it. I don’t know why the navigator or the bomb aimer didn’t say we had gone down to the pub. They were in the same room as us. So anyway, that was one of the things that happened but, Yeah. It was. That was quite interesting sometimes. The things you’d get up to in regards to if you wanted to drink at another pub you’d borrow a bike and ride down. And you go and have a drink with a couple of the lads. And that’s by the way when when the ops were finished I was surprised that none of us, the captain wasn’t all that sure. But that was our last flight and we didn’t realise that until all the, his mates, his Canadian mates, pilots and crew of other aircraft came in the aircraft before we’d even shut down I think, with a crate of beer and we sat there and we thought, ‘Oh what’s, what’s going on?’ He said, ‘This is your last op.’ And we was quite surprised that it was, you know. That we was. Quite chuffed and we had a drink and then we went in to the debriefing and that was it and we thought, ‘Cor blimey. Thirty seven ops and that’s it.’ So, we thought, ‘Well, we got through that lot.’ It was, it was, it was surprising. It was a surprise. We were so keyed up on, on what we’d do, you know it was one of those things. It’s I mean, when [pause] when, when we first started flying the captain would say to us, ‘Everybody in the rest position first.’ We’d take off and then we’d go. Well, I did that first of all and I thought no. That’s not [pause] No, I’m not going to do that. So, I said to the captain, ‘No. I’ll stand by you and do the undercarriage up, do your flaps and what have you. Hold on to the throttles for you while you do it up and ease it back for you when you’re ready.’ Which is what I did afterwards. But most of the crew, the rest of the crew were in a rest position which was between two spars and we took off and we landed like that. I was by the side of the captain and, and that was it. It was one of those things. Obviously different people had their own ideas but we got on very well. The captain was absolutely first class. There was never any effort as regards to flying, landing or what. He was first class. The two gunners were there as well. They were all first class. Everybody. And I think that’s why we came through.
[recording paused]
RD: Freda was working in the Co-op as a cashier. She was in the middle of the Co-op, up high and they had when anybody came in and the money was handed over it was put in a cup and you pulled a handle and the cup would go to the cashier. She would recognise how much it was and then the change would come back. That’s what it was like in the Coop then, and that was in the early part of the war sort of thing. You know. End of the war. And mum, my mother used to work as an assistant in there. You know, a shop assistant. When we were living in Bognor and obviously Freda was in Bognor and Freda said to her, ‘Why don’t you come and have a meal with us? I’ll get my son to come around and pick you up.’ Which I did. And we, what we had there was the family of, let me think, were there three or four boys? It was all boys in the family and mums and dads and that and while we were there having our meal she wanted some sauce. I’ll never forget this. We had some sauce and Freda wanted some sauce. I said, ‘You’ve got to shake it first.’ And I shook it and the lid was off and it went all over her dress, her blouse so she had to go in the bedroom of mum, change her blouse, put one of mum’s blouses on. Mum was a bit bigger than Freda. And that was it. So, I took her home. I took her back home and I didn’t kiss her goodnight because I wasn’t, I don’t know what was wrong. I shook her hand. I said, ‘Did you enjoy herself?’ I don’t know what she said. She went in and that was it. So, later on, I, oh yeah, that was it, I said to her, I said, ‘I’ll come around again some time. We’ll go out.’ She said, ‘Ok.’ And we made a date. I don’t know what it was at that particular time and I went around there and the sister was there who was just turned, no she wasn’t, she wasn’t fourteen. Yeah. She was just fourteen, I think. Freda was just under seventeen. And I said, ‘Is she ready?’ ‘Yeah.’ Off we went and went out and had a meal. I don’t know whether we had a cup of coffee. Went along the front in Bognor and met her mum when I came back. Her father was still in India. He was an officer in the, in the Army. The two girls were born in India. One was born in Bombay which was Freda. The sister was born in Doolally. And I got in with the family and I used to go out with Freda quite a lot. I thought she was a nice girl. And then dad came home and in the front room we had a little natter as father would do about his daughter. I said, ‘That’s alright.’ So one thing led to another and I said, ‘Right.’ So, we got engaged and then I said, ‘Let’s go to Jersey for a holiday. A weeks holiday. ‘Yeah. That’s alright.’ In the front room I went with father again. They’d, ‘I know what you RAF boys are like. Behave yourself.’ So I said, ‘Well, it’s alright.’ You know. Anyway, we went to Jersey. Had a weeks holiday. Very nice. Came home. And then in ’49 we got married and that was very nice. And that’s it, I think. Nothing else really happened. In ’49, like I said we got married. In ’50 I got posted to Rhodesia and Freda came out and we spent two years in Rhodesia. Or two and a half years I did but Freda spent a couple of years in Rhodesia. And while we was there we had our, our son was born. And then in ’52 in the summer, no in September of ’52 came home with a son. Everybody wanted to get hold of the son.
[recording paused]
RD: After we came back from Rhodesia it was amazing really. In Rhodesia we stayed in a hotel first of all before I went to accommodation. While we was in the hotel in 1950 when we were still on ration in England I could sit down to a whacking great meat meal that I’d never seen before in all my life. Not during the war anyway. But after we came back from Rhodesia we went to Duxford and I went on Meteors there. Working on Meteors. And while we were there my daughter was born and then where did we go? Oh, we went somewhere else I think in [pause] As they grew up they went to school. I went on to Shackletons. Big aircraft. And while we were there a bloke said to me, ‘They’re crying out for engineers to work on Hastings.’ So I applied. Went on a course again and they said ok so I was, took the family with me to Singapore where we had 48 Squadron Hastings. While I was there two and a half years. While I was there I flew everywhere I think. We had the Malaysian uprising which I attended. The Borneo Uprising which I attended. Bringing the troops in. The places I went to was Darwin, Sydney in Australia. Suva in Fiji. Christmas Island. Hawaii. Guam. And back again and do the same route again in six weeks time. Keep the flag flying. We went to new [pause] where was that? Newfoundland? No. I can’t remember exactly where we went but different places all around the, around the Indian Ocean there. It was quite some, we went to Gan on one trip and when we’d landed there, they said, ‘You’re going to take some of the people back to Pakistan.’ While we were driving up India to Pakistan you could hear the Indian fighters because there was a bit of a skirmish between Pakistan and India at the time and they were saying, ‘Keep out the way. Keep out the way.’ And eventually we landed in the, in I think it was Pakistan. I don’t know. Anyway, we landed and unloaded the labourers and we picked up another load of labourers to go to Gan to work. So as we came back they, when we landed at this place you could bring your own beer. And bringing your own beer means to say you’ve got to take the empties back so that you haven’t sold it. So this is what we did. We had a load of empties and the captain said, ‘How are that —' you know. He said to the queue, ‘What’s with the queue? What are they doing down there? Are they happy enough?’ Because they’d never flown before. ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘I think they are.’ ‘Right.’ He said, ‘What we’ll do is throw some empties down the passageway and I’ll rock the aircraft.’ [laughs] And they started to panic. They thought all the crew were drunk. But it was just a little bit of a joke. It was laughable afterwards. But there was, it was great fun. It was good fun. I can remember one time. We were taking, and I cannot remember where but he was, he was an officer but I think he was a [pause] , I’m not too sure what. What he was doing. I think he was a priest I think or something like that and he came with us and we, we went to Honolulu. And he came up to the front and he said he wanted to fly. You know, ‘Can I go up there?’ And we said, ‘Yeah. Go on.’ He had a look, oh yeah and he came back again and he said, ‘Oh, that was quite interesting.’ He said, ‘I’ve heard about this George.’ Automatic pilot. ‘Oh yeah.’ ‘I didn’t see it.’ Oh, you come up here and we’ll show you.’ In the meantime, the captain got one of his gloves, silk gloves wrapped around the oxygen mask and put it on the controls. The oxygen blew the gloves out every so often. Every so often. This officer came up and he said, ‘That is George isn’t it?’ ‘Yes,’ we said. ‘I’ve often wondered what George was like. Now I know.’ And he was quite happy to go back and sit down.
[recording paused]
RD: What other trips we had. There was popping into Christmas Island and we had a look at the atomic bomb or the bomb that they blew up on the island and it was all dead around there. Absolutely dead. And while we were there the aircraft, the flight to go off to Honolulu or where ever we went to went u/s and we stayed on the base for another week or so. And while we were there we witnessed or I witnessed thirteen of these atomic bombs being dropped from the aircraft. And what it was it was 4 o’clock in the morning, it was just about sunrise and what you had to do was sit outside and the person in charge would count how many there were. See that you were all there. Anybody in the boat going fishing would be back by then and they were sitting on the beach and you had to face the other way while the aircraft. You could hear the aircraft come over or you could see it sometimes come over and then the loudspeaker would say bombs, bombs would go off one, two, three and count right the way down and then it would, it would explode and then it was, it was just like daylight then. Complete daylight and then you would feel the wind and then the heat afterwards. And I saw thirteen of those and each time they had to make sure you were sitting outside of your hut on a beach which was on the side there and away, with your back turned from where you dropped your bomb and the aircraft would scream off. As soon as he dropped it you could hear the aircraft scream off and yeah we were lucky enough to be there. While we were there we went to the different messes for drinks and entertainment and whatever and one of the places we went to was American. Well, there was only two there really. I don’t know about the, we never went to the Navy mess. I don’t know whether they had a Navy mess. Anyway, when we were there the Americans put on a show for us and that was very nice. That was a real men’s show and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Then we, after we said, ‘Well, why don’t you come back to our mess?’ So, they did and on this particular time there was three airmen roughly about five ten or six foot, slim and they’d dressed up in beautiful clothes, wigs, make up was perfect and they did the Andrew’s sisters. Miming the Andrews sisters. And when they arrived in our mess, the sergeant’s mess the Americans were there and they were agog with it obviously. They went barmy. And then as they were singing this song one of them sat on the knee of one of the Americans and he went bonkers. He did. He went bloody mad. And it went down very well but I’ve often wondered how those, these three lads they did a marvellous job. How they got on after, after the, after they went back home I’ve often wondered. They were a good show. A good show indeed.
[recording paused]
DD: Detail. Just —
RD: Yeah, I was doing fitting in one of the, one of the stations, I can’t remember exactly where and I wore my engineer’s brevet on my uniform and one day there was a Lancaster had landed and there was a squadron leader there and he wanted to take this Lancaster up for a trip just to keep him. He’d flown during the war. This was after the war by the way and he just happened to spot me and he said, ‘Were you an engineer?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘On Lancs?’ I said, ‘No. On Halifaxes.’ ‘Well, that’s just the same, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘Yeah. I suppose so. If you want me to go with you, you know. Yeah, alright then.’ Well, I stood up there by the side of him, watched the clock. He started the engine and we flew around for about three quarters of an hour, I suppose. Chasing the cows over the field as you do and it was, it was quite pleasant and afterwards he shook hands. He said, ‘Thanks very much. I just wanted to get my hand in again.’ And that was it. I was quite surprised. Now, I can say I flew in a Lanc as well.
[recording paused]
RD: One of my exercises was to fly the aircraft when we were on a cross country trip. The captain would say, ‘Get in,’ and, ‘Straight and level.’ And I think the first time I did that he said, ‘You did very well but you were going around in a bloody circle.’ And I said, ‘No, I wasn’t.’ He said, ‘You were going around and around and around and around and gradually dropping down.’ I said, ‘Oh, I know what to do next time.’ So I did it about, it was only two or three times just to get the hang of it and the last time I did it he said, ‘That’s better.’ I was only in there a matter of what? Ten minutes at a time but anyway I knew what I had to do in case but I think the navigator because when they were in Canada it was a question of the navigator would do a bit of flying as well as navigate. So, if I couldn’t do it a navigator I think would have hopped in and done something. You know. But I think I would have, I think I would have coped. I think I would. I don’t know. But that’s what we used to do. We used to make sure that everybody knew we couldn’t do everybody’s job but as I was next to the captain anyway, or the pilot, the boss I I had a go and that was all right. When I joined the Air Force I was working at Airspeed Oxfords at, it was Airspeed Oxfords then and they were making Oxford aircraft, twin engine training aircraft. While I was there they were making gliders which I didn’t understand. This was 1940, you know when, the start of the war, you know, ’39/40. When I finished my training, when I finished in the Air Force I did thirty two years and it was ‘73. I had to, I came out because in ’72 my son was killed in a car accident and I stayed on another year and I just couldn’t cope really so I came out. And obviously before I came out I applied for a job to see if, if Airspeed Oxfords were still working and they said it was Hants and Sussex. And what they were doing was re, old engines, when their time was expired which was the Pratt and Whitney engines. We’d take them apart, clean them and check them, see for wear and tear and do them up again and what I used to do was build. I used to take them down, they’d go for inspection and then back they’d come and I would build them which was either seven pots, fourteen or double fourteen. A double seven. Which was a four, yeah, a fourteen or two fourteens, yeah and it was quite interesting. I stayed there until I was [pause] eleven, eleven years or thirteen years. Thirteen years I think it was. And they didn’t want me anymore because I was sixty five. So, I thought alright. So then I did driving for Vauxhall Motors which was in Chichester and I did that for five years until I was seventy. I had taken spare parts all over Portsmouth, Brighton. You name it. All over the place and when I finished at that I settled down at home in Bognor. And when the time came that we were both getting on towards ninety plus my daughter said, ‘About time you downloaded.’ So, we moved three years ago into this very charming flat in Chichester and we left our three bedroom house with a nice garden, a lovely garage, motor car and everything else behind because I’m partially sighted now and not allowed to drive.

Citation

Denise Boneham, “Interview with Ronald Charles Davis,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 28, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/10774.

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