Interview with Violet Dicker


Interview with Violet Dicker


Violet discusses her late husband Alan Dicker. Alan went to Leighton County High School and at 16 he joined the Air Transport Command. At 17 he volunteered for the Air Force and became a navigator after doing his basic training at Blackpool. He went to America and Canada before being shipped out to the Far East where he stayed until 1947 as a Signal Officer. He also spent time in Singapore. Alan was then posted to Cornwall as a pilot officer where he dropped mail to the lighthouses and flew to the weather stations.
Violet remembered when Alan was knocked off his motorbike by an army lorry and suffered broken ribs. Soon after they were married. He was later posted to Coney Island. Later he worked for the Air Ministry at Ruislip, route planning for VIPs. He retired at Cottesmore and worked as a test navigator for Handley Page until they went into bankruptcy. When a vacancy arose at British Airways, he held a desk job until his retirement. Throughout Alan’s RAF career he worked with 205 and 203 Squadrons.
Violet gave a short account of her working life. She left school at 15 and got a job at the Air Ministry, and after that she worked at Dr Barnados homes. At 17 she joined the Land Army for two years and then went back to work for Dr Barnados.




Temporal Coverage




00:43:03 audio recording


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and we are now in Abbots Langley near Watford and the date is the 15th of October 2016, and we’re talking to Violet Dicker. She’s going to be talking as a proxy for her late husband Alan Dicker. So, Violet what do you remember about the earliest days of Alan and what he did? How he came to join the RAF.
VD: Oh, well Alan was one of four children. Children born to, well Alan, his Henry, his father was Henry George Dicker and Florence Dicker. Two. Two girls and two boys. Alan was the elder of the two boys. He went to Leyton County High School after passing scholarship which you had to take in those days. And then [pause] but he was always mad keen on, on aeroplanes and he made models and things like that. And so when the ATC was formed he joined the ATC and, but when he was seventeen I think it was he volunteered for the air force. So, I think he actually went into the air force just before he was eighteen. He did his basic training at the usual places. I can’t — Blackpool or somewhere. I can’t remember that. He wanted, always wanted to be a pilot but at that time there was a shortage of navigators so he had no choice. While, whilst he was still in the ATC he took some examination and it gave him a scholarship to [pause] Janet — what’s the name of the college?
Other: Teddy Hall. St Edmund’s Hall at Oxford.
VD: St Edmund Hall where he did a short course on I think it was —
Other: Short course. Maths. But sort of to do with —
VD: Yeah.
Other: Required for flying.
VD: I can’t tell. Somewhere we’ve got a copy of his — I don’t know what we did with it. With his. When he was commissioned. He started, anyway he was obviously, he was obviously a pilot officer first of all. Then he became, what’s the next one up?
CB: Flying officer.
VD: Flying officer. And then he was a flight lieutenant.
CB: So, he joined at, he went to Blackpool.
VD: Yeah. Somewhere like that.
CB: But he joined first of all in London, did he?
VD: Yes. Yeah.
CB: Did he go to Lords as the starting point? Do you remember?
VD: I think he did.
VD: Yes. ACRC. Yes.
CB: At Lords. Then the Initial Training Wing.
VD: Yeah.
CB: At Blackpool.
VD: Yeah. Yes. We were, we were, at this point we weren’t what you’d call, used to call courting. We were just part of a big group of youngsters. Boys and girls. As I say I belonged to this organization called the Women’s Junior Air Corps and we did a lot of things together and training and that. Marching and that sort of thing. And that, and then he went from there he went straight across to America.
CB: America or Canada?
VD: Well, Canada. Prince Edward Island.
CB: And what was that for?
VD: Well, I don’t know.
Other: Training.
VD: That’s where they were training pilots weren’t, they?
CB: Well, navigators.
VD: Air crews I mean.
CB: Yes.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Ok.
VD: When he left there I think, as far as I can remember he, almost all, straight away was shipped out to the Far East.
CB: Oh.
VD: Yeah. Was, Janet was it on the Queen Mary? It was wasn’t it? And he, he stayed in the Far East ‘til 1947 I think it was. It was, he was, wasn’t —he was using [pause] he was flying Sunderland Flying Boats out there. And —
CB: But when he came back from Canada —
VD: Yeah.
CB: Then he flew in England.
VD: No.
CB: He didn’t at all.
VD: He didn’t. He automatic almost straightaway went out to the Far East.
CB: Right.
VD: I think.
CB: So he joined, what year did he join up? He joined in 19’ —
VD: Seventeen. He was seventeen. So what year would that be?
CB: That make him 1941.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Ok.
VD: Yeah.
CB: So ’42 was, end of ’41 was when the Japanese invaded.
VD: Yeah.
CB: The Far East.
VD: He was out there for the fall of Singapore. And because the Japs poisoned all the water —
CB: Oh.
VD: So that was always his excuse for drinking beer. Because they couldn’t drink the water [laughs]
CB: Right.
Other: He wasn’t a big drinker.
CB: Ok. So, he, he was out in the Far East. Do you know where? He was in Singapore.
VD: Koggala.
CB: Where?
VD: Koggala. It was Ceylon, wasn’t it?
CB: Oh, in Ceylon, was he?
VD: Yeah.
CB: Right. Ok. Yeah. And what was he doing there?
VD: Well, he was, he was on flying boats. And was also then at the end as I say he was a signals officer and he was always looking for signals to come through. Putting him back on flying. And I think, I’m not sure when he saw a certain signal that they wanted someone somewhere he put his name straight forward for it.
CB: Right. And so he was in Ceylon for how long?
VD: Oh dear. I really couldn’t honestly tell you with any accuracy.
Other: You got married in ’50.
VD: Pardon?
Other: You got married in ’50.
VD: We got married in 1950. Yeah. But he’d been, by that time he’d been, he’d come home and he’d gone to St Eval.
CB: Yes.
VD: In Cornwall. And they did air, flying to the weather ships and dropping mail to the lighthouses and weather ships and things like that.
CB: It, it looks —
VD: St Eval.
CB: It looks as though before that he was at the Air Navigation School at Charlottetown.
VD: Yes. That’s right. He was at Charlottetown.
CB: From August ‘44 to January ‘45.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
VD: That’ll probably tell you more than I. You know.
Other: That was on Prince Edward Island wasn’t it?
CB: So that is as a pilot officer then.
VD: Yes.
CB: So that was good. And then he went Nassau.
VD: Yes. He did go to Nassau for a while. And I think it was from Nassau he went out to the Far East.
CB: Right. Ok. And so when he was out there flying the Flying Boats then do you know what he was doing at that time?
VD: Well, I think they were searching for Jap submarines and that sort of thing.
CB: Yes. It’s 205 Squadron.
VD: That’s right.
CB: At Koggala.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Got that. Right. Ok. So, it looks as though he did quite a bit of time there. Until 1947. From ’45 to ’47.
VD: Yes. He probably was. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Ok. And then after that —
VD: He was down at St Eval.
CB: He went to St Eval. In Cornwall.
VD: Yes.
CB: As you said. No. He went to Changi, Singapore for a bit.
VD: That’s right. He did.
CB: And then he went to St Eval. And St Eval was 1948.
VD: That’s right.
CB: January ’48. Right. And so he was there for a while.
VD: Yeah.
CB: On 203 Squadron. And where were you in those days?
VD: I was working as a secretary at Dr Barnardo’s Homes in the East End of London.
CB: Right. So what contact did you keep with him?
VD: Oh occasional letters really. That was all to start with. Just —
CB: Because these were as friends.
VD: Yes. Yeah.
CB: Rather than anything more serious you said.
VD: Yes. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Ok. And after St Eval he’s been there, he’s there actually for quite a long time isn’t he?
VD: Yes.
CB: ’48.
VD: And then he went to a Flying Boat station.
CB: At Calshot.
VD: Calshot.
Other: Calshot.
VD: Yeah. He was. I think we were married when he was at Calshot.
CB: So, when you were, you were in London how did you get to the stage where you were courting and —
VD: Well, no. We only wrote letters. And he used to get home about once a month.
CB: Yes.
VD: He had a motorbike and he used to come home on that.
CB: Crikey.
VD: And then early, well in, I can’t remember the exact date but sort of earlier in the year of 19 —
Other: ’50 ’49 ’48.
VD: No. It must have been 1950s.
Other: You got married in October.
VD: Eh?
Other: You got married in October.
VD: He was, he was coming home on his motorbike and he was going to ask me to marry him.
CB: Yeah.
VD: And he was coming somewhere near the Heathrow region, somewhere, that part of London and an army lorry pulled out without stopping in front of — he was on his motorbike. And this army, learner army driver pulled out of the side turning. Because Alan went for a burton. He’d just picked up an airman to give him a lift and this airman — I mean I’m only telling what I was told.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Went right over Alan’s head.
CB: Yes.
VD: Landed on the verge, the grass verge and didn’t have a scratch. Alan, Alan was in hospital. He had a broken wrist but nothing too bad. But the people at the Matchless factory where the bike went back to be rebuilt said they’d never seen so much damage where the rider had survived.
CB: Really.
VD: So it was his lucky day. So, of course that put off his proposal a bit and then when he did eventually propose we were married quite soon after that. On the 14th of October 1950.
CB: Yes. And he was at Calshot.
VD: He was at Calshot.
CB: At that time.
VD: Yes.
CB: So, he carried on at Calshot until —
VD: And then did we go to Thornhill, Alan?
CB: Then Shawbury.
VD: Well, I didn’t go. It must have been a course at Shawbury.
CB: And then Thorney Island. Right.
VD: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: So what was he flying at Thorney Island?
VD: Thorney Island. We were in quarters at Thorney Island.
CB: Yes.
VD: For about two and a half years.
CB: Were you? Oh right.
VD: It was, he was flying Valettas and Varsities there. They were rigged up as flying classrooms.
CB: Right. Because it’s a Navigation School.
VD: Navigation School. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Number 2 Navigation School.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Air Navigation School.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. I know it well. The Varsity and the Valetta.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Right.
VD: It was a lovely posting.
CB: Was it? Nice in the summer.
VD: Janet was born there.
CB: Right. And from there [pause — pages turning] this logbook runs out from there. Where did you go after that? I’m going to —
VD: Well, we must have come up did he come up to the Air Ministry?
Other: Yeah. It was at Ruislip
VD: Because we lived in the caravan at Bovingdon.
CB: In a caravan.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Your caravan or an air force one?
VD: Our own caravan. Yes.
CB: Yes.
VD: But it was a small site and they were nearly all air force people from various places around because quarters you know accommodation was hard to get. It was in Bovingdon.
CB: At Bovingdon.
VD: Yes. And Tim, my second child he was born while we were at Bovingdon. He was born at [pause] what’s the — what’s the —
Other: Halton. Halton.
VD: Halton.
CB: At Halton.
VD: At Halton. Yes.
CB: Yes. Ok. So, after that. So what was he doing in, he was going up on the train every day or what was he doing?
VD: What?
CB: When you were at Bovingdon.
Other: Was it?
VD: No. He drove the car. He was working at Ruislip.
CB: Oh Ruislip.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Oh right.
VD: He went by car.
CB: Yeah. To Ruislip. Do you know what he was doing there?
VD: I think it was route planning for VIPs and royalty and people like that.
CB: Right.
VD: It wasn’t flying.
CB: No. Ok. And then what?
VD: Well, I think he asked a bit to go back on and then we went to Bassingbourn. When they — what was the name of the new plane that came out? Before the V bombers.
CB: What? The Valiant?
VD: No.
CB: The Canberra.
VD: Canberra. That’s right. Yeah.
CB: So he was flying on the Canberra was he?
VD: Canberras. We were, we were at Bassinbourn for about two and half years as well.
CB: Yeah.
VD: That was a nice —
CB: What was that like? Did you get a quarter there?
VD: Yes. We had a lovely quarter. And we did at Thorney Island. And then from there he went to Cottesmore.
CB: Yeah.
VD: On V bombers. Victor.
CB: How long were you there?
VD: Pardon?
CB: How long were you at Cottesmore?
VD: About two. Two and a bit years I think.
CB: Yeah.
VD: He went, from there he retired so —
CB: Oh did he?
VD: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. What age did he retire then?
VD: Thirty eight. Because he’d done enough.
CB: Right. He was happy with that.
VD: That’s when he came to Handley Page.
CB: Yeah. So, how did the Handley Page job come up?
VD: Well, because there was quite a lot of liaison between people at Cottesmore.
CB: Yes.
VD: And Handley Page.
CB: Because of the Victor.
VD: And they were, they were short of a test, a test navigator at Handley Page. So I think, I think that was how it came about. He flew with a chap called Group Captain Johnny Allam.
CB: But he was a civilian then. Alan.
VD: Oh, they were civilian. All civilians.
CB: All civilian.
VD: By that time.
CB: Yeah. So where did you live then?
VD: We moved into the house in Bedmond.
CB: Oh right.
VD: In 1962.
CB: Right. That’s when he got the job was it?
VD: Yeah. He [pause] I can’t remember when he actually went to British Airways.
CB: Then he went to British Airways.
VD: I can’t remember whether —
Other: About ’70.
VD: It was after Handley Page went bankrupt.
CB: Went bust.
VD: Obviously.
CB: Yeah.
Other: It was ’68 ’69 or ’70.
CB: Yeah. He didn’t get a job at [pause]
Other: British Airways.
VD: British Airways straight away. He waited ‘til there was a vacancy I suppose.
CB: Did he do something in between? Or —
VD: No. No. Pottered.
Other: Sore point [laughs]
CB: Right.
VD: I went out to work for a while and he was pottering.
CB: Yeah. Having lost his job he lost his focus did he?
VD: Yeah. Well, he was a do it yourselfer who never quite finished anything.
CB: Right. Right. Ok.
VD: It’s sounds harsh to say that but it’s true.
CB: And at British Airways? What was he doing there?
VD: Well, it was just flight planning. They don’t use navigators so it was just a desk job. And you know they do all the flight planning for the pilots. Pilots. It’s all take when they go off everything is planned for them. You know.
CB: Yeah. They knew what they were going to do.
VD: And they don’t actually do it.
CB: No. And when did he, that was his last job was it?
VD: Yes.
CB: When did he retire from that?
VD: When he was sixty three.
CB: So that’s 1986. Is it? Oh. Well, he was born in 1924 so 1987. Yeah. ’87.
VD: ’87. I don’t know. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Ok. And that was retirement permanently.
VD: Yes.
CB: Right. Just going back to the early stages. So, in the war he couldn’t join ‘til he was, or try to join ‘til he was seventeen. So, you were both in London. What was it like being in London in those days?
VD: Well, it was a bit hairy wasn’t it? You know. We were in the shelters most nights. And he [pause] my family had an Anderson shelter in the garden. I don’t know what Alan’s family had. I don’t think they had one did they? Or they might have done like —
CB: Was it the next road or —
VD: Hmmn?
CB: Were they in the next road?
VD: No. A few roads away.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Quite near.
CB: Ok. So, how often, you had to go in to the Anderson shelter. In what circumstances were they?
VD: Well, once the sirens went you just automatically went to the shelter.
CB: Did everybody get in the shelter everywhere? Or —
VD: Well, I don’t know about anywhere else. My family, yeah. There was only my my mother and my sister and I ‘cause her husband was away in the Royal Artillery. So, there were only the three of us. So, it wasn’t too bad.
CB: So what was Alan doing at that time?
VD: Well, one of those things that —
CB: So, when, when he left school —
VD: Yes.
CB: What age did he leave school?
VD: I don’t, — he did his matric.
CB: Yeah. Was it sixteen he left or —
VD: I presume he left when he went into the air force. I’m not sure.
CB: Right. So, he went on essentially ‘til —
VD: Yeah.
CB: Seventeen. Eighteen.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Ok. And meanwhile you’re in London.
VD: Yeah.
CB: So, how did that change after the Battle of Britain? Or the bombing went on for a while in the Blitz. So, in 1941.
VD: Well, it went on ‘til the Battle of Britain really didn’t it?
CB: Yeah. Well, after the Battle of Britain then. The night bombing.
VD: Yes. Well, once the bombing stopped things sort of got back to normal more or less. As far as I can remember.
CB: And he —
VD: And then Alan, but Alan started writing to me when he was in the Far East. And we, we had just exchanged letters and then he turned up on a Boxing Day. He turned up on my doorstep. That’s right. I can’t remember which Boxing Day it was. And then it more or less went on from there, you know.
CB: Yeah. Yeah. Because when he went to Canada then did he at that stage you said it wasn’t a serious —
VD: No.
CB: Relationship.
VD: No.
CB: So —
VD: No.
CB: It was just casual.
VD: We were just part of a crowd you know.
CB: Yes. So his, his navigation training is August 1944.
VD: What are you after? What are looking for?
[pause – pages turning]
CB: Right. I’m just going to pause for a mo.
[recording paused]
CB: We’ve just paused to get some documentation. So, in practical terms we are talking about what Alan did but also what you were doing. So you left school at what age?
VD: Fifteen.
CB: Ok.
VD: Because —
CB: What did you —
VD: We weren’t getting any schooling in London. I was back in London. I had been evacuated but came home.
CB: Ah.
VD: And we were getting such that so one day a couple of us went out and got ourselves jobs at the Air Ministry in London.
CB: Oh.
VD: And I worked there for quite, in the communications department, for quite a long time until they wanted me to go on night duty and I really was too young to be doing that and wandering around London at night. So, I, I left and I got a job at Dr Barnardo’s Homes in Stepney.
CB: Was that building whole or had it been damaged?
VD: Pardon?
CB: Had that building been damaged?
VD: No. No. Not at that time.
CB: Right.
VD: And, and then when I was, I was —
CB: Because that’s —
VD: I wanted to go in the Land Army. And I could have gone in at seventeen when it, in February when it was my birthday but my best friend, we wanted to go together. She wasn’t seventeen ‘til December. So, I didn’t go. So we literally went at the beginning of nineteen —
CB: Forty.
VD: ’48 I suppose it was.
CB: ’42. Land Army. Was it?
VD: I was born in ’26.
CB: Yeah. So you were fifteen in ’41.
VD: So, it must have been ’43 mustn’t it?
CB: Yeah.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Ok. And where, where did you operate in the Land Army?
VD: In, at a place called Woodham Ferrers near Chelmsford.
CB: Yeah. And how long were you there?
VD: Not, not so long. I was about two years. And I started getting trouble with my legs because the job I was in was dairy work. And —
CB: Yeah.
VD: Your legs in a wet cold environment for a long time. I came out and I went back to Dr Barnardo’s Homes. And I stayed there until I got married.
CB: They were always short of people.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Ok. In the Land Army what were you actually doing?
VD: Dairy work mostly. Some field work. But mostly dairy work.
CB: So actually in the dairy.
VD: Well, milking the cows.
CB: Milking the cows. Yeah.
VD: And seeing to the milk and cleaning up after them and all that sort of thing.
CB: So you sat on a stool, did you? While you were milking.
VD: No. You don’t.
CB: What did you do?
VD: That’s a little fairy tale.
CB: Is it?
VD: Well, no.. They do still use milking stools for some of the cows that won’t take to the machines but they were mostly milked by machinery.
CB: Oh. They had machines then.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Ok. And how did you, how was the milk delivered? Did you get involved in that?
VD: Oh, we put it in churns and left by the front gate and it was collected. I don’t know who. But somebody.
CB: Yeah. Ok. Now, what appreciate, what did you understand about what Alan was doing during the war?
VD: Well, I knew it was dangerous. Yeah.
CB: Did you know he was flying?
VD: Oh yes. I knew he was flying.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Yeah.
CB: So, how did, did you know what he was doing?
VD: Not always. But sometimes. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Did he talk much about it?
VD: No. Not a lot.
CB: Because he’d been told not to. And the same for you.
VD: I suppose. Yeah.
CB: Yes. And in the Land Army in Chelmsford. Woodham Ferrers. Did you have much appreciation of what was happening in the air force at the time?
VD: No. Not really. Because we didn’t have much. But I was still in the Land Army when the flying bomb, the flying bombs came over.
CB: Right.
VD: Because I remember I was out in the fields doing, I can’t remember what I was doing. I was on my own working away from the farm. And one of these things came over with it’s you know —
CB: The V-1.
VD: Yeah. The V-1.
CB: The doodlebug.
VD: With the tail coming out.
CB: Yeah.
VD: And it cut out.
CB: Yeah.
VD: And I just lay flat on the ground.
CB: Oh. Did you?
VD: I don’t know where it dropped but it didn’t drop on me.
CB: What sort of briefing had you got about how to behave when that was —
VD: No. None at all.
CB: Nothing.
VD: Nothing. No.
CB: Because you didn’t expect to get it in the countryside. So, did you know people who — well you did in London who were —
VD: Oh yes.
CB: On the receiving end. So what was their approach?
VD: Well my friend. The one I’d gone in the Land Army with. Her father was doing air warden duties one night and there was a woman who’d come to visit some relatives with a young child and she insisted, she came from East Ham or West Ham or somewhere and she insisted on going home. They wanted her to stay. Stay where she was. Yeah. She insisted on going home and so my friend’s father and another man took her and there was a land mine. They never found anything of them.
CB: Landed in the road.
VD: Yeah. Well they don’t, I can’t —
CB: At the house.
VD: It landed somewhere on their journey.
CB: Oh on the journey.
VD: Between Leyton and East Ham. Yeah.
CB: Oh right.
VD: West Ham I mean. Yeah. I don’t think, you know —
CB: This was a daytime.
VD: No. Evening.
CB: Oh right. In the —
VD: Evening. Yeah.
CB: Right. Yeah. When are we talking about? What time? What date? Roughly. Are we talking about Blitz time? During the Blitz.
VD: Oh, the Blitz. Yes. Yeah.
CB: 1941 ’42.
VD: Yeah.
CB: ’40 ’41.
VD: Yeah.
CB: ’40 ’41.
VD: It was an awful period really.
CB: So Alan’s flying. How did you feel about him flying?
VD: Well, I mean I knew that he was flying and I knew that that was all he really wanted to do so you know you just accepted it really.
CB: And in later, after the end of hostilities. The war finished.
VD: Yeah.
CB: He was still flying. How did you feel about that?
VD: Well, it was what he wanted to do. It was up to him. It’s his life wasn’t it?
CB: Yeah. Yeah. And before the children came you were able to do a lot of things together anyway were you?
VD: Well, I [pause] do you know I can’t remember what we did before we had them [laughs]
Other: Practiced.
VD: Pardon?
Other: Practiced.
CB: Yeah. Because you married in 1950 so —
VD: ’50. And Janet was born in ’53.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Yeah. I had a miscarriage in between. Between. When we living at Bovingdon.
CB: Right.
VD: I had a miscarriage.
CB: Caravans didn’t help.
VD: Hmmn?
CB: Caravans didn’t help.
VD: No. Oh no. I had a, the miscarriage was after Janet. Janet was only two and a bit because we had to ask that, he had to go and knock the people up in the next caravan and ask them if they would take Janet.
CB: Oh.
VD: Because it was quite a messy business in the caravan. The doctor came out and then I went to Halton. And then we stayed there and a couple of years later I had Tim at Halton.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Yeah. So there were four years difference between —
CB: Yeah.
VD: Janet and Tim.
CB: Right. Now, fast forward to the situation where you’ve gone to Bassingbourn and then you’ve gone to Cottesmore. So Cottesmore.
VD: Yeah.
CB: We’re talking about V bombers. Cold War.
VD: Pardon?
CB: We’re talking about the Vulcan.
VD: Yeah. That’s right.
CB: The Victor in this case.
VD: Yes. Because there was the Cold War. They used to sometimes be on call and so he had to stay in the mess all over the weekend and they couldn’t come out. You know.
CB: QRA. Quick Reaction Alert.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Yeah.
CB: So, how did you feel about him being in that circumstance? It was different from the war but on the other hand —
VD: Well, it was terrifying really but you know I think you were sort of conditioned if you were in a service. You were a service wife. You knew what you were going into didn’t you? You know. Really.
CB: Well, there were two aspects weren’t there? One was flying.
VD: Yeah.
CB: And the danger.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Of just plain flying. But if there had been a war situation to what extent did you discuss that? How it would work.
VD: I can’t remember that we did. No. I can’t really remember that we talked about it.
CB: Because the perception was amongst the people, the aircrew.
VD: Yeah.
CB: That when the operation started they would be off to drop a bomb.
VD: That’s right.
CB: But the likelihood of coming back.
VD: That was —
CB: To anything.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Or actually getting back.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Was quite small.
VD: Yeah.
CB: But if they did the place would be devastated.
VD: Yes. That’s right.
CB: I just wondered to what extent that was a realisation that you had at the time.
VD: Well, I can’t remember sort of getting neurotic about it, you know. I do think service wives in a way were sort of I suppose you could say conditioned. They knew. They knew what they were letting themselves in for and you know life had got to go on and made the best of it.
CB: And at Cottesmore you had a married quarter.
VD: Yes.
CB: So, most of the married crews would have lived in married quarters.
VD: Yes.
CB: In those days.
VD: Oh yeah.
CB: The wives were pulled together. Not many of them worked did they?
VD: No. No. Because we were ten miles from Stamford.
CB: No.
VD: There wasn’t much opportunity to work.
CB: No. And people didn’t work.
VD: No.
CB: In those days so much.
VD: No.
CB: But the centre of the wives activity was the CO. The squadron — the station commander’s wife.
VD: Yeah.
CB: So, did, what did she do in terms of —
VD: Not a lot [laughs]
CB: Oh.
VD: That I can remember. There used to be the odd coffee morning and that sort of thing. But do you know I can’t really remember what we did. Of course then I had another baby while we were there.
CB: Yeah.
VD: At Cottesmore. He was born five years after Tim. And he was born in Oakham.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Oakham Cottage Hospital.
CB: Yeah. Yeah. What’s his name?
VD: Martyn.
CB: Oh Martyn. Right.
Other: With a Y.
VD: Hmmn?
Other: With a Y. With a Y.
CB: Martyn. Y. Yeah. Ok. And what about the social life around the officer’s mess?
VD: Well, they used to have the Summer Ball and that sort of thing. And lots of, lots of the people used to go in to the mess and especially Saturday evenings and just socialise and drink. But neither Alan or I were big drinkers so we didn’t go very often.
CB: And with young children on your hands.
VD: Yes.
Other: And a dog.
CB: And a dog.
VD: Pardon?
CB: And a dog.
VD: And a dog. Yeah.
CB: Yes. So you were a bit restricted there. How did you feel about your time at Cottesmore?
VD: Oh yes. I enjoyed it.
CB: And in the forces in peacetime friendships are developed more because of the married patch.
VD: Yes.
CB: How did that develop for you?
VD: Well, I kept in touch with a few wives for quite a, quite a long while but it gradually sort of [pause] I’m not in touch with anybody. Am I? Who?
Other: Esme.
VD: Oh yes.
Other: Esme.
VD: I am.
Other: Mrs Hoxey.
VD: I’ve got a great friend called Esme. Her husband was a pilot. She lives in Macclesfield now.
CB: Right.
VD: We became pregnant when we, I mean we became friends when we were both pregnant.
CB: Yes.
VD: And, and then we used to take it in turns to babysit for each other. One Saturday one would go shopping. Go to Chichester and go shopping. And that was nice.
Other: Mrs Bone. Mrs Hoxey. Mrs Bone. Mrs Hoxey.
VD: Who?
Other: Bone. Hoxey. Mrs Bone. Mrs Hoxey.
VD: Oh, the Bones. Yeah. I mean I’m still, exchange Christmas cards with a lot of these people but you know distance. The distance means that you can’t always visit and that sort of thing.
CB: Yes. It’s a close-knit community.
VD: Yes. It is.
CB: In that sort of situation.
VD: Yeah.
CB: So then, at the end of the service time and going to Handley Page how did the social life change then?
VD: Well, I was in, we were civilians by then you see.
CB: That’s what I meant. Yes.
VD: We came to live in Bedmond which is, you know a village. And I joined the WI and I did go out to work for a while when, whilst Alan was out of work for one period. For about eight or nine months. And I worked in Watford. But it was difficult because the buses didn’t fit, you know. So, I didn’t carry that on very long.
CB: Right.
VD: Some, of course we were members of the church. There’s a church in Bedmond.
CB: Yeah.
VD: And —
Other: Dad got involved with local politics.
VD: Pardon?
Other: Dad got involved with local politics.
VD: Oh yes. Alan became a local councillor.
CB: Oh right.
VD: Yeah. Yeah. He was a Three Rivers District Councillor.
CB: Yeah. How long did he do that for? Ten years.
Other: Several years.
VD: Hmmn?
Other: Several years. Several years.
VD: Several years. Yeah. I can’t tell you exactly.
CB: And during that time there was a change to BA. So what did that do as far as you were concerned? Was it a good salary hike and [pause] but of course he was working further away from where he was living. Did he get a good increase in salary for moving there?
VD: No. He didn’t get the job at British Airways until after he was living there.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Yeah. He had to wait until there was a vacancy I suppose.
CB: Yeah.
Other: I don’t think it was.
VD: Hmmn?
Other: I don’t think it was. It was just a job he could get related to flying. At his age. And I don’t think the pay was very good.
VD: How could you know? You weren’t very old.
CB: So, it sounds as though, that it wasn’t a planned career move as such. It was just a—
VD: No. It was just a means to an end.
CB: Yes.
VD: Because the end of the time that we were being very good, in a very good position for [pause] well, cheap flights.
CB: Oh yeah.
VD: And eventually free flights. We got one free flight a year so we went as far as we could on it. We went to New Zealand. Several times.
CB: Did you? Yeah. Good move.
Other: Twenty five times.
CB: Twenty five. Twenty five times.
VD: No. Not twenty five. Twenty.
Other: No. Twenty five.
VD: Twenty. Twenty.
CB: That’s a lot of times.
VD: A lot of times. Yes. We’ve got lots —
CB: Did you have any relatives there?
VD: No. Just lots of friends though.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Yes. We made lots of friends.
CB: And were any of those ones you’d met in the air force?
VD: No. No.
CB: Just coincidence.
VD: Yeah.
Other: But Violet you met in Dr Barnardo’s.
VD: Pardon?
Other: Violet, you met at Dr Barnardo’s.
VD: Sorry, Janet?
CB: Somebody you met at Dr Barnardo’s was there?
Other: Violet Smith.
VD: Hmmn?
Other: Violet Smith.
VD: Oh no. Yes. That’s right. She, yes she was the only contact we had wasn’t she? Yes
CB: Was she New Zealand?
VD: Hmmn?
CB: Was she a New Zealander.
VD: Oh yes. She and her husband went out on one of those hundred.
CB: Oh yeah. Pounds.
VD: Hundred.
Other: Ten pounds.
CB: Ten pound arrangement wasn’t it?
VD: Ten pound.
CB: Yes.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Yeah.
CB: For —
VD: Yeah
CB: To encourage people to emigrate.
VD: She was our first contact.
CB: Yeah.
VD: Yeah.
CB: And she stayed there did she?
VD: Yeah. She died eventually and her husband died but I’m still in touch with some of her children. Yeah.
CB: What would you say Alan’s most memorable activity was? Event? In his time in the RAF.
VD: Well, they had a nasty incident whilst he was at Calshot. They were doing what were called circuits and bumps and flying at night and suddenly there was this almighty sort of crash and, but they didn’t, they didn’t crash as such but — and they had evidently hit a piece of high ground.
CB: Oh.
VD: With a hole. You know, the hole —
CB: Yes. And bounced off it.
VD: And so they had to fly around all night. They were plugging up holes in the fuselage with chewing gum and all sort of things. And when they eventually landed of course they’d, they’d radioed ahead to say, you know, what was happening so the boats, the boats were there because it was almost as soon as it landed it started to fill with water.
CB: Yeah.
VD: And, but they were all, they were all alright. Anyway, it was quite a nasty business because at first it was assumed it was Alan’s fault.
CB: Oh.
VD: But then the — what is it? Altimeter was found to be faulty.
CB: Oh.
VD: And they had — but the strange thing about it was that nobody ever reported finding, you know like a furrow suddenly appearing in a field or on a hillside. Or whatever it was. Yeah. That wasn’t, although of course I didn’t know it was happening. I just wondered why he was so late home.
CB: Oh.
VD: Yeah.
CB: And you were living —
VD: We were living in Fawley. In rented accommodation.
CB: Right.
Other: Was that, was that a Catalina or Sunderland?
VD: Hmmn?
Other: Was that a Catalina or Sunderland?
VD: A Sunderland.
CB: Ok.
VD: No. He didn’t fly Catalina’s. Weren’t they American?
CB: They were.
VD: Yeah.
CB: Only Sunderland. Yeah. Ok. Right. One other thing and that is when Alan was out in Ceylon did he, was he awarded any decoration?
VD: No. I don’t think so.
CB: No.
VD: No.
CB: Ok. Right. Stopping there.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Violet Dicker,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 3, 2023,

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