Interview with Tony Dyer


Interview with Tony Dyer


Tony Dyer was a three or four year old child when his grandfather took him to the cinema in Reading on the 10th of February 1943. As Tony was ironically watching the animation of a bomber and a tank on the Pathé News segment a bomb hit the nearby People’s Pantry. The bomb was dropped from a Dornier aircraft. Another bomber went on to bomb Newbury.




Temporal Coverage




00:11:14 audio recording


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CM: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Claire Monk and the interviewee is Tony Dyer. The interview is taking place at Mr Dyer’s home [buzz ] on the 27th of November 2017. Mr Dyer, thank you so much for agreeing to speak to us. Can you tell me about your childhood and the events that you’ve seen?
TD: Yes. I’ve a story to tell. I was born in 1939, in January, before the war started. The Second World War. I was born in Reading, I now live in Lincoln and my parents were at home and dad was in the Army. The Royal Engineers. Ok. And we used to look after the WRAF locally based in Shinfield Park, which is another place of the RAF which is now probably closed. Consequently I being the youngster, dad being away, mum being busy I was often child minded by my grandparents. Ok. My grandparents lived towards the middle of Reading. We were on the outskirts of Reading in an address called Alpine Street. And I can still remember that quite well. My granddad was probably involved in the First World War. I’m not sure how old he was at the time but in 1943 I think it was, 1943 I was being baby sat by my grandparents. And my grandfather had a job because he was long past his serving date and his job was to be commissionaire at the cinema in Reading High Street. Broad Street it was called. And I think the name of the cinema was Vaudeville. Ok. Fine. One of the things which they must have done was, was to as I say I don’t use the expression farm, farming out perhaps [laughs] But obviously he took me under his wing one day and I was given a freebie in to the cinema, would you believe? How about that? And I think my age at the time was probably about four and a half. And that was his way of child minding me at that time. Ok so far?
CM: You’re doing brilliantly. Keep going.
TD: Well, the memory that I have which I want to record and it’s still vividly with me now and its one of those things I can’t remember much of my childhood but this day I can remember particularly well is that I was sat in the cinema. A freebie of course. I didn’t pay. He got me in. And we were watching the cinema. I can’t remember what film was on but I do remember what happened next because we were watching, I think they called it the Pathé News. The Pathé News was being broadcast and what actually happened then was, was that I was looking at the Pathé News, and I can see it now very clearly. There was a bomber going across the screen. I’m not quite sure if it was left to right or right to left but the bomber was going one way and there was a tank coming the other way. And what happened then was that the bomber dropped a bomb and I’m not sure what the bomber, where the bomber came from but, nor the tank but what happened was that on the Pathé News they animated the bomb. The bomb came down bump bump bump bump bump bump, hit the tank and there was a big explosion. And it wasn’t just on the screen there was a big explosion but in the cinema there was a big explosion as well and all the lights came on would you believe? And this is what I remember so clearly because there was obviously a lot of panic and commotion, and I was taken [pause] I made my way out of the cinema and we [pause] I must have been with my granddad. I can’t remember him being with me at the time but I went to the High Street and it was utter utter devastation all down the High Street. What had actually happened on that, on that particular day was, was that two Dornier aircraft from the German Air Force had come and bombed a place called, it was called the People’s Pantry. And it was, it was one of those places they used to feed people up I suppose. It was called the People’s Pantry. I knew it very well. It was probably about four hundred yards down the High Street from where I was. Broad Street it was called in Reading. And I understand a lot of people were killed. And my sister in law has given me some reflections from the archive in Reading recently to say that there were thirty nine people killed by two Dornier aircraft which flew over and dropped bombs. And there is a, there is a little story about when one of the pilots was seen to smile and wave as he went past as well would you believe? And as I say that, that memory has stayed with me for a long, long time and I think, I don’t know if it’s worth recording but that’s what I wanted to do.
CM: Absolutely. Did it change the way that your grandparents looked after you?
TD: I honestly can’t remember actually because I really can’t remember. I can remember vividly where we were. I can’t remember what they did with me other than that. They probably walked me around by the river. There was a river close by. And I just remember that particular day. And as I said, I was, I was born in ’39. This happened in ’43. In, I think it was Wednesday, the 10th of February. Yeah. When? 1943. And that, that bombing raid was actually targeted. What they’d done actually was to, as I understand it they were bombing the Railway Station probably. And the Railway Station was probably to the north of where they hit Reading so they were a bit off target and they hit the People’s Pantry instead. And another four hundred yards they would have hit me as well. So, so as I say thirty nine people were killed on that occasion. And I think Newbury suffered as well on that occasion as well. But both aircraft were eventually shot down anyway. So, that’s it really.
CM: Fantastic. Do you think that incident affected, changed the way people in Reading were afterwards? Were they more cautious? Were they quite care free until that point?
TD: Well, its, I don’t know. You know, I was very, I was very young. That’s the occasion. I can, I can remember going back home. I can remember the WAAFs being in my house because I can remember being in the, under the staircase when there was an air raid warning. I can remember the, the shoals of aeroplanes flying over my house in Reading. There were hundreds of the things, you know. So it was all a bit scary but I mean being, being a young kid it probably didn’t affect me as it did, as it would have affected my parents. And dad was away of course. He was an engineer so I’m not quite sure where he was but he was. So, so there you go.
CM: Fantastic. Did, when we spoke on the phone —
TD: Yeah.
CM: You said you had gone into Bomber Command yourself.
TD: Yeah.
CM: Do you think that, was that through National Service or was it that’s where you felt that’s where I’m going to go because it’s a reflection of this?
TD: Well, my, my background now has been, yeah, has been through Bomber Command. I did National Service. I went out for two years. Went back and did another twenty in the Air Force. I was involved with Bomber Command. To a point I suppose with High Wycombe and also overseas as well, Northern Ireland particularly when the Troubles were rife. So that was a bit of a scary time for everybody. And yeah, and I’ve worked with the Vulcans on Scampton, Waddington and places like that. So, so I have a background with Bomber Command in a way. So that’s how.
CM: Fantastic. And you, so now you’re retired.
TD: Yeah.
CM: Even though you don’t look a day over twenty one.
TD: Thank you very much.
CM: Pleasure. What are you doing with your life now?
TD: Well, I do, I do one or two things. I still do voluntary at the hospital. I’m a member of the British Legion. We do some fund-raising for the British Legion. We want to do some fund-raising for the Bomber Command Memorial at some point which we’ll talk about later on perhaps. And I do sessions with, music sessions with people who suffer dementia and things. And that would involve quite a lot of ex-service people as well. Not only men but obviously women as well because that’s the way it is. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m an active volunteer.
CM: Fantastic.



Claire Monk, “Interview with Tony Dyer,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 14, 2024,

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