Interview with Ken Fawcett


Interview with Ken Fawcett


Ken Fawcett worked for the Post Office and served in the Home Guard for two and a half years having signed up at sixteen. He joined the Royal Air Force at Lords Cricket Ground in September 1943. He initially requested pilot training but realising the duration of training Ken transferred to air gunner which enabled him to join a squadron much sooner. Ken trained at No1 Elementary Air Gunnery School at RAF Bridgenorth and No 12 Air Gunnery School at RAF Bishops Court in Northern Ireland. He recalled gun turret training in Anson aircraft using ammunition tipped with coloured paint so that his accuracy firing at towed target drogues could be assessed. Following gunnery training Ken transferred to No 17 Operational Training Unit at RAF Syerston flying Wellingtons, he recalled his first sight of a Wellington was a training flight stalling on takeoff and crashing with the loss of all crew members. No 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley brought four engine training in Stirling and Lancaster aircraft in preparation to joining 619 Squadron in 5 Group. Ken’s Crew included: Pilot Ken Alan and Wireless Operator Bill Eudey from Australia, Bomb Aimers Kirk Kent and Jack Barton, Gunner Charlie Clegg, Flight Engineer Ken Mepham and Navigator Terry Fellows. On completion of nine operations with 619 Squadron at RAF Dunholme Lodge his crew were transferred to 227 Squadron at RAF Balderton, they completed both daylight and night operations and Ken recalled seeing capital ships shelling the French coast during the D Day invasion. He described a typical operation from pre-flight test to returning to base and how they would quiz the ground crew as to how much fuel was loaded, this gave an indication of the duration of the operation that evening before the official crew briefing. Ken gives a vivid insight into the role of the rear gunner as a lookout scanning the darkness for both friendly and enemy aircraft, trying to discern dark shadows against a dark sky or sparks from an aircraft’s exhaust. The danger from collisions or another aircraft dropping its bombs from above was ever present. Opening fire he described as a last resort given the range of the enemy fighter’s cannons were twice that of his .303 machine guns, so stealth he stated was the best policy. On completion of 36 operations Ken was transferred to No 17 Operational Training Unit at RAF Syerston as an instructor and then to RAF Cranwell in preparation to join Tiger Force in the Far East. VJ Day led to the cancellation of Tiger Force before he completed his training.




Temporal Coverage




01:06:22 audio recording


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AFawcettK170926, PFawcettK1701


DK: This is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Mr Kenneth Fawcett at his home on the 26th of September 2017. I’ll just put that there. What I’ll do is if I —
KF: Switch it on and off.
DK: Yeah. I can switch it on and off.
KF: Yeah.
DK: And if I’m looking down I’m just making sure it’s still working. Ok. Ok, what [pause] just having a look at the, at your bits here I’m just wondering if we could go back a bit and just ask you what were you doing immediately before the war?
KF: I was working with the Post Office.
DK: Right. So what made you then want to join the RAF?
KF: Because I didn’t want to be called up to the Army or the Navy. Is this on?
DK: Yes. Yeah.
KF: Sorry.
DK: No. That’s ok. That’s ok.
KF: During the wartime you were called up at eighteen. If you didn’t make any preference beforehand you were posted to either, you could go in the Bevan boys which were the miners.
DK: The miners. Yeah.
KF: You could go in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force. If you volunteered for any particular job then you could take that as, in your choice. So a number of us, six of us went off to the Recruiting Centre and made our choices. Three of us joined the RAF as aircrew. Two joined the Navy. And one joined the Army.
DK: And were these six, were they your friends then were they?
KF: They were all my working colleagues.
DK: Working colleagues from, from the Post Office.
KF: From the Post Office.
DK: Right.
KF: And we were then, having made our choices we were left to be called up eventually as we got nearer to eighteen.
DK: And then what happened then? Did you have to go off for your initial training somewhere? Or —
KF: Well, you were called up eventually.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And then you were posted to, I joined up at the Lords Cricket Ground in London.
DK: Yes. Yeah. I know it well.
KF: Do you?
DK: Yeah.
KF: That was an ACRC Recruiting Centre.
DK: Alright.
KF: And you went down there and you were billeted in the empty luxury flats in the area.
DK: Right.
KF: And we dined at the zoo restaurant.
DK: Right. Yes. Yeah.
KF: In Regent’s Park.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And then from there you went on through the courses.
DK: So what was it like then? Was this, would this have been the first time you’d left home or —
KF: Yes. Yeah.
DK: So after your initial at Lords Cricket Ground where did you go on to after that?
KF: You were then sent to 17 ITW at Bridlington.
DK: Right.
KF: Which was like a, an introduction to the, you did the square bashing.
DK: Square bashing.
KF: And kitting out and one thing and another.
DK: What did you think of the square bashing?
KF: Came naturally because I’d already done two and a half years in the Home Guard.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
KF: So that was, I joined the Home Guard when I was sixteen. And at seventeen, eighteen and, seventeen, eighteen and a half you were called up.
DK: Right. And what year would that have been?
KF: ’43.
DK: ’43. Yeah.
KF: September ’43.
DK: So, after Bridlington where did you go on to then?
KF: After Bridlington went to Northern Ireland.
DK: Oh right.
KF: Which was the Air Gunnery School.
DK: Right.
KF: And —
DK: So, by this time they’d already decided what trade you were going to be in.
KF: No. That was decided for you at, at the Doncaster Recruiting Centre.
DK: Right.
KF: I had to go for PNB. Pilot, navigator, bomb aimer.
DK: Right.
KF: And then while I was waiting for call up I realised or I found out that to become a pilot was a two year course and being ’43 and being eighteen and naive I wrote to them and asked them for to reassign me to the shortest course which was air gunnery.
DK: Right.
KF: Because at that time I had ambition to get in the war.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Stupidly. But so they did and of course I got called up to go to a Gunnery School.
DK: Right.
KF: So Northern Ireland. Bishop’s Court —
DK: Right.
KF: Was an Air Gunnery School with Ansons.
DK: Right. So, when you got to the Ansons then would that have been the first time you’d actually —
KF: Flown.
DK: Actually flown.
KF: Fascinating really. Because what they did was they took seven pupils up in an Anson and I was fortunate to get the co-pilot’s seat.
DK: Right.
KF: And in the Anson the pilot said, ‘There’s a handle down by the side of your seat.’ You know it do you? And he said, ‘You wind it up and you watch the lights and when they turn green we’ve got them locked.’
DK: Can you remember how many times you had to turn the —
KF: About a hundred. And of course I’m down here winding this and looking at the lights and by the time we I looked up we were about a thousand feet up in the air. So I never saw my first —
DK: Take-off.
KF: Take-off.
DK: Oh no.
KF: But it was interesting.
DK: So, what did you think of the Anson then? Was that [unclear]
KF: It was, it was interesting because it was my first flying and funnily enough I, we used to get kitted out with a flying suit and parachute and I said to the instructor one day, ‘You never bring a parachute. Why is that?’ He said, ‘I’ll tell you, son,’ he said, ‘If you jumped out at this height you’d never survive.’ So we were always down time taking parachutes. But that was only an aside, you know.
DK: So what would you, at the Gunnery School then were you introduced to the gun? The guns you were going to be using before the first flight.
KF: Yeah. You had to learn all the parts of the gun.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And you had to be able to strip a gun down and reassemble it.
DK: So, can you remember what type of weapons they were?
KF: It was a Browning 303.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Air cooled. And the Anson had a gun turret on.
DK: Right.
KF: And you took your turn in the gun turret and the ammunition belt had been tipped. The bullets had been tipped with paint of different colours.
DK: Right.
KF: So that you may be designated the blue tips. And when you fired at a drogue that was being flown by another aircraft, when the drogue was taken to the ground and counting the holes in the drogue the blue paints would show up and you’d be credited with those hits.
DK: Yeah. Was it something that came naturally to you?
KF: Well, being in the Home Guard for two years I’d been firing Bren guns and Thompson sub-machine guns and throwing grenades and, and anti-tank mortars. So, you know at sixteen and seventeen we were playing soldiers anyway.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So with ammunition and firing it became second nature.
DK: So, after the Gunnery School then where did you go on to next?
KF: That’s what I got this for.
DK: Ah. Say for the tape that’s your force’s logbook —
KF: Sorry.
DK: That’s ok.
KF: Bridlington. Oh yes. Bridgnorth. 1650 Conversion. No. Number 1, Elementary Air Gunnery School at Bridgnorth in Shropshire.
DK: Right. So that was more advanced.
KF: That was more advanced training. More square bashing. More fatigues and what have you.
DK: Right. And what aircraft were based there? Was that —
KF: No. There was no flying there.
DK: Oh right. Ok. So it was purely just gunnery training.
KF: In fact, I think I’ve got these the wrong way around. It was London, Bridlington, Bridgnorth and then [pause] yeah. I haven’t got them in order. 12 Air Gunnery School. 17 OTU. That was at Silverstone. So, yeah. We did Bridgnorth and then [pause] That’s right. Bridgnorth and then Silverstone.
DK: Right.
KF: 17 OTU.
DK: Right. So, Bridgnorth first. Then Silverstone.
KF: Yeah.
DK: And that was 17 Operational Training Unit.
KF: Right.
DK: Right. And, and is that where you would have met your crew then? All the rest of your crew.
KF: We were taken to a station in the Midlands. I forget the name of the one. And you were taken into an assembly room and there were twenty pilots, twenty navigators, forty gunners because there are two gunners to a crew.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And twenty wireless operators. And the pilots were told to wander around and go to each trade and select a member of a crew. If a pilot approached you and asked you and you didn’t like the look of him you could say no. If you liked him you’d say yes and then he would go on to find a wireless operator or the, whatever crew he hadn’t yet selected.
DK: And this was all mixed together regardless of rank.
KF: Yeah. Completely.
DK: And just by trade.
KF: And you were entirely free to say yes or no to the guy.
DK: How did you think that worked? Because it’s quite unusual in the military. It seems a very relaxed way of —
KF: Oh, it was. It was unique to the military. Instead of being told you would do this or that you were given the choice because I think in the sense that if your life was on the line and you didn’t like the guy you were going to have to live with you were given the option of declining. Although face to face it’s a first instinct. If you sort of, it’s an attitude when you first meet somebody.
DK: Yes.
KF: You have a feeling.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And this fella came along in dark blue because the Australians were, were in dark blue uniform whereas we were in light blue. And he came along and asked if I cared to join his crew. I looked at him and he had his Australian colleague with him who was the wireless operator and I just thought oh it’s different. ‘Yeah. Ok.’
DK: Ok. Just for the tape can you remember their names?
KF: Yeah. Ken Allen.
DK: Ken Allen was the pilot.
KF: Was the pilot.
DK: Yeah. And —
KF: And he was from Melbourne in Australia.
DK: And the wireless operator?
KF: And the wireless operator was a Bill Eudey.
DK: Right.
KF: He was Australian. He was from Melbourne.
DK: Right.
KF: And the pilot at that time was a flight sergeant.
DK: Right.
KF: He subsequently got promoted to commissioned rank.
DK: Right. And can you remember the name of the second gunner that joined your crew?
KF: Yeah. Mike Clegg. Mike Clegg from [pause] Rotherham.
DK: Right.
KF: In Yorkshire.
DK: We’re missing one. Is the other one the navigator?
KF: The navigator was a guy from London. But subsequently we lost him because he couldn’t keep up with the training.
DK: Oh. Ok.
KF: So we had a different navigator when we eventually went on to ops.
DK: And can you remember his name?
KF: His name was —
DK: We can come back to it. It’s alright.
KF: Yeah. I’m looking. Where’s the photograph?
DK: Is he there?
KF: No. That’s, that’s have you got this to switch off or not?
DK: Yeah. I can pause it. It’s ok.
[recording paused]
DK: Right. So looking at the photograph here from right to left.
KF: Mike Clegg.
DK: Mike Clegg. Yeah.
KF: That was the navigator.
DK: Yeah.
KF: He was from Preston. That was the flight engineer. Ken Mepham from Manchester.
DK: Ken.
KF: Mepham.
DK: Mepham. Yeah.
KF: That was the second bomb aimer because that first bomb aimer Kirk Kent.
DK: Right.
KF: Had a nervous breakdown during the course of the ops.
DK: Oh. Ok.
KF: So he came back with the photograph.
DK: Right.
KF: But he was on our twenty seventh op.
DK: Right.
KF: So he did twenty six and then he did twenty seven to thirty six. That was Bill Eudey, the Australian wireless operator.
DK: Right.
KF: Ground crew. Ground crew. Ground crew. And myself.
DK: And who’s that down there?
KF: That’s the pilot.
DK: That’s the pilot. And the pilot’s name?
KF: Ken Allen.
DK: Ken Allen. So these are two bomb aimers then. That one and that one
KF: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: And he had a nervous breakdown.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Right.
KF: He was on the train going home on leave. He was on the train and had a collapse on the train. So he was off then for several weeks.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And then we finished our tour while he was having hospital treatment.
DK: Right. With, with the replacement bomb aimer.
KF: With, yeah.
DK: Right. Ok. So if I could just take you back to the Operational Training Unit then. Number 17.
KF: 17 OTU.
DK: 17 OTU.
KF: Silverstone.
DK: So what type of aircraft were you training on then?
KF: Wellingtons. Twin engine Wellingtons.
DK: And what did you think of the Wellington as a, as an aircraft?
KF: We went from Silverstone. We were there for a week and then we were sent to Turweston, which was the satellite airfield where there were also Wellingtons. On the morning we arrived, about 11 o’clock we went to the mess. We had lunch. We came out and we were going up to the flights and it was in a lane and we heard a Wellington landing. So we went to a gap in the hedge, watched the Wellington land and take off again on circuits and bumps.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And sadly the pilot pulled the plane up too steeply, stalled and crashed. So our first sight of a Wellington was one coming down on its tail and all eleven onboard were killed.
DK: That was —
KF: So we, we looked at the pilot and thought how clever is he?
DK: That must have made you all a bit nervous about what was to come.
KF: Well, you didn’t get nervous really. You just simply thought well, but that was the first we’d saw of the Wellington. You know.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Anyway, we, we eventually did some of the training there. Then we were sent back to Silverstone to complete the training.
DK: Right.
KF: So each trade was working with the pilot as a student pilot.
DK: Right.
KF: With a trainee, with a instructor alongside.
DK: So you’d have the instructor pilot, your pilot as trainee and the rest of the crew there.
KF: That’s right.
DK: So had you decided which gun position you were going to take?
KF: Well, on the, on the Wellington there was only a rear turret.
DK: Right.
KF: There was no mid-upper turret. And we weren’t particularly designated to any particular one. So throughout the tour we used to switch.
DK: Right.
KF: Sometimes I’d go in the mid upper turret. Sometimes I’d go in the rear turret.
DK: So this training then at the OTU that was mostly circuit and bumps.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Cross country.
KF: Yeah. Yeah. It was mostly really for bomb aiming when the Wellington would fly over the predetermined bombing range on the, on the coast. Used to fly out to the coast at Lincoln.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And near the Wash somewhere. And the bomb aimer would then drop the practice bombs and he would get a qualification depending how good he was.
DK: And at this point can you remember were you beginning to feel confident with your crew? Or were you beginning to gel and —
KF: Oh yes. You got on very well. If you hadn’t got on well you would apply for a move.
DK: Right.
KF: But no. We all got on fine and eventually you did everything as a crew. When you went to the pub you all went together. And when you went for a meal you all went together. Basically.
DK: Yeah.
KF: But your crew because your lives depended on each other you became quite associated with one another.
DK: So after the OTU then where did you go on to then?
KF: Lanc Finishing School.
DK: Right.
KF: Where the pilot was particularly trained to switch from twin engine to four engine.
DK: And would that be the point when your flight engineer joined you?
KF: That’s right.
DK: Yeah.
KF: No. Sorry. There was, before the Lanc Finishing School there was an OT.
DK: It was at the Heavy Conversion Unit.
KF: That’s right. Yeah. Convert. Conversion Unit.
DK: Can you remember which Heavy Conversion Unit it was?
KF: Wigsley, Wigsley.
DK: Wigsley. Yeah.
KF: Yeah. And —
DK: And was that —
KF: That was the conversion from twin engine to four engine.
DK: Right.
KF: And then from there we went to the Lanc Finishing School to give the pilot training from radial engine to Lancaster.
DK: So, at the Heavy Conversion Unit what four engine bombers —
KF: Stirling.
DK: Stirlings. Right. Ok. And what did you think of the Stirling?
KF: Well, not being the pilot particularly, we were passengers.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So each aircraft didn’t matter to us particularly.
DK: Yeah.
KF: As gunners.
DK: And on the Stirling did you train in the mid-upper and the rear turret?
KF: Yeah. There was the mid upper and rear.
DK: Yeah. So after the Heavy Conversion Unit on Stirlings you then went to the Lancaster Finishing School.
KF: The Lanc Finishing School.
DK: For the pilot. For the Lancaster.
KF: That’s right. For the pilot to convert.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And I’m not sure what stage, before Lanc Finishing School or after you were posted to a particular group.
DK: Right.
KF: And we were fortunate in the sense that we were posted 5 Group which was considered the elite group of the Bomber Command.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
KF: Because 5 Group was at Grantham.
DK: Yeah.
KF: With —
DK: Ralph Cochrane.
KF: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: Yeah
KF: Yeah.
DK: So you were quite pleased about that then, were you? Did they —
KF: Oh yes. Yeah.
KF: Yeah.
DK: Because to be sent on the Lancaster as opposed to the Halifax.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Because you know the Halifax was slower and it was more vulnerable. So to get on to Lancasters we were quite happy.
DK: And then your first squadron was?
KF: First?
DK: Your first squadron.
KF: 619 Squadron.
DK: Yeah.
KF: At Dunholme Lodge.
DK: Dunholme Lodge.
KF: Just outside Lincoln.
DK: Yeah.
KF: It’s now a school. I think.
DK: Yeah. I actually drove through there quite recently.
KF: Did you?
DK: it’s all farms now.
KF: Is it?
DK: The airfield’s long gone. Right. So this was your first operational squadron then?
KF: 619 was. Yes.
DK: 619, at Dunholme Lodge. And did you like the squadron as you joined? Was it —
KF: It was very basic.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And you were in Nissen huts, and there was sufficient beds in one Nissen hut for two crews. And one crew would have one end of the room.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And the other crew would have the other end of the room and you just simply got on with each other. But sadly, very often the crew in the other end of the hut would go missing so another crew would come in. And that was the [pause] you just shrugged and —
DK: Yeah.
KF: Tough. Sort of thing.
DK: So on your first operational squadron then can you remember much about your first operation?
KF: My first operation I was called to operate with another crew.
DK: Right.
KF: Yeah. One of their gunners had gone sick so I was called up to make up their crew.
DK: Yeah. Would you mind if I close the door? There’s a bit of drilling going on outside.
KF: Is there? Yeah.
DK: Yeah. It’s picking up on the [unclear] is that alright?
DK: That’s it. Somebody had a, somebody had a drill going.
KF: Did they?
DK: Yeah. Sorry. So your first operation then you flew with another crew.
KF: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
KF: It was a daylight op to Le Havre submarine pens.
DK: Right. And at, so as an extra gunner then where did you actually sit because you couldn’t obviously both get in the turret. Did you just sort of swap places with him?
KF: At what stage?
DK: Well, you’re with another crew at this point.
KF: Yeah, but their gunner had gone sick so I was sitting in his turret.
DK: Oh, sorry. Oh, sorry. I thought you meant —
KF: He wasn’t flying. He wasn’t flying so I took his place.
DK: You were a replacement gunner.
KF: I was a replacement gunner.
DK: So how did that make you feel then? Flying out with a different crew then on your first operation?
KF: You just got on with them. You just simply fitted in and they accepted you and you accepted them. There was no, no embarrassment at all.
DK: Yeah. So when was your first operation then with your actual crew? Was that the next one?
KF: The next one was a daylight to Brest. That was a, so throughout the whole tour I had always done one more than they had —
DK: Right.
KF: You know, I was one ahead of them. It was interesting because when I came back, ‘What was it like? What was it like?’ And of course when you flew from Lincoln to Le Havre this was in September and of course D-Day was in June.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So you flew over the Channel and saw the battleships shelling the French coast.
DK: Right.
KF: It was quite spectacular because it was daylight.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And of course Le Havre was a short hop over France so you weren’t in too much of a, you got the odd ack ack but nothing special.
DK: So as your operations have progressed then can you remember the different targets you were sent too?
KF: Oh yeah. Yeah. I remember them all really.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Not necessarily in order but the first, the third operation was a night one to Munchen Gladbach.
DK: Right. So that would have been your first time over Germany then.
KF: This was the first time over Germany and of course it was spectacular because it was night time and you saw all the fires and the explosions and it was all like a bit of a firework display. In fact, I called the navigator and I said, ‘Terry,’ Terry Fellowes, that was the navigator —
DK: Terry Fellowes. Right.
KF: Terry Fellowes.
DK: Terry Fellowes. The navigator, yeah.
KF: And he was always in, the navigator worked in a curtained off area.
DK: Yeah.
KF: With lights on.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And the lights had to be shielded from outside to save giving your position away. So he looked out and he blamed me after that. He said, ‘I wish I’d never looked out,’ he said. And he said throughout the rest of the tour he never did look out.
DK: Look out.
KF: But of course as gunners we were seeing everything, you see.
DK: Yeah. So, as a, as a gunner then this might sound a silly question but what was your actual role as part of that crew? What was your job?
KF: Your main basic job was a lookout. Particularly in the dark because you’d have seven or eight hundred aircraft all flying along in the dark with no lights on and you particularly had to have good night vision.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Because you could see, you might be flying along for a while and suddenly see some sparks and when you looked up you discerned another aircraft only fifty, sixty feet away. So you’d then call the pilot up. Warn him that there was another aircraft to the port or starboard. Wherever. And he would veer away slightly and you would sit, then you would tell him yes ok you were out of range. And of course you were looking out for enemy aircraft. The difference in the dark sky is very minimal between seeing something and not seeing something.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So you had to have good night vision to see a black shadow against a slightly less black background. And then you had to recognise the shape. And if the shape was an enemy aircraft you’d got to decide whether to move away or attack or whatever. If he was doing no harm you left him alone because he had a bigger gun than you did.
DK: Right. So the intention would be you wouldn’t want to draw attention to yourself if you saw an enemy aircraft and he wasn’t behind you.
KF: If he wasn’t, if he wasn’t aware of your presence you kept schtum because if you fired your gun every fifth round of the belt was an incendiary. And it was an incendiary to aid you to know why you were firing. But at the same time it gave your position away.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So that if you fired when you didn’t need to and then the enemy aircraft could say, ‘Hello. I didn’t know you were there. I’ll go for you.’ So you kept quiet. If he saw you and you attacked, he attacked then you’d call the pilot up and call him to veer and corkscrew port or starboard. If the aircraft was coming in from the starboard you dived in to him.
DK: Right.
KF: If he was diving from the port you dived in to him. And the pilot, you’d call the pilot up and just simply shout quickly, ‘Corkscrew. Starboard. Go.’ And the pilot never stopped to ask. He just went.
DK: Right.
KF: And then he did a corkscrew. You know what a corkscrew is?
DK: Yeah. I do.
KF: And he’d do the corkscrew until you felt you’d got rid of him and then he would get back on to course. And the navigator then would curse and swear at you because everything had gone up in the air. His plan, maps and pencils and everything else shot up in the air.
DK: Yeah. So, you were actually attacked by German aircraft.
KF: Oh, you could. Yeah. On several occasions.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
KF: So you, you simply got out of the way because they had cannons which had a six hundred yard range.
DK: Yeah.
KF: We had 303s which had a three hundred yard range. So if you fired at him he could stay further away and hit you and you couldn’t reach him.
DK: Did any of these German attacks ever damage the aircraft or did you always always manage to —
KF: Not, not to, well I say not to our knowledge. We sometimes came back and there was holes in the aircraft. Whether they were shrapnel or bullet holes you never really discerned.
DK: Yeah.
KF: The ground staff would have known because they were having to repair them. But when you got out of after coming back from a raid there were very often holes in the aircraft from either bullets or shrapnel.
DK: Right. But you never came back severely damaged though.
KF: Not severely damaged.
DK: No.
KF: But the amazing thing to me was that seven of us in an aircraft. We came back with holes in the aircraft but none of them ever hit anybody. Not one of the aircraft, not one of the crew was hit with any bit or injured.
DK: Right. So how many operations did you do with 619?
KF: We did nine with 619.
DK: Right.
KF: And then they wanted to form a new squadron so they took the best or the experienced crews from 619 and they also took the experienced half the crew, half the squadron and the other half was taken from a squadron at Bardney and they were sent to Strubby. And then from Strubby we went down to Balderton where we formed 227 Squadron. And then from ten ‘til thirty six we did at Balderton.
DK: Right. So you did thirty six operations altogether.
KF: Well, a tour was thirty.
DK: Right.
KF: And every four weeks of flying you were sent on ten days leave. So we thought right if we do twenty eight we’ll go on leave for ten days, come back, do two and we’ll get to our next leave. So we were being clever to get two lots of leave in quick succession.
DK: Yeah.
KF: When we came back from the twenty eight ops thinking we’d two to do and we arrived back on station and we were told that they had increased the tour from thirty to thirty five because of the bad weather down the training line was stopping new crews coming up the line. So we had seven to do.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And sadly when you went to the flight and looked at the casualty board while we’d been away somebody had done thirty one and shot down. Thirty two, shot down. If they had finished their tour at thirty they would have survived.
DK: They’d have survived.
KF: So there was a bit of an ironic situation.
DK: How did that, can you remember how that made you feel at the time?
KF: Well, you’re invincible at eighteen. Anybody else was going to.
DK: Yeah.
KF: When you saw an aircraft being shot down over target you just simply said, ‘Well not me. Tough mate.’ You know.
DK: So you did, so the rest of your crew did thirty five but you did the —
KF: I did the odd one.
DK: Extra one at thirty six, yeah.
KF: What I didn’t realise until much later was that I could have called off at thirty five but I carried on with my crew without question.
DK: So, could, could you talk through sort of what an operation would be like. A night time one. Presumably they got you up quite late during the day and then you’d, would you do a sort of training mission during the day with the aircraft? Or —
KF: Yes. You did what they called the pre-flight test.
DK: Right.
KF: You would, the morning would [pause] in the morning the pilot would go to the flights and look at the Battle Order. If he was on and the aircraft he was designated to then we would go out to that aircraft and make sure everything was in working order and then he would do a pre-flight test of about ten minutes, fifteen minutes. Check that it was, sounded all right. The radio operator would contact base and make sure —
DK: Yeah.
KF: The radio was working. And we would just make sure the guns were, were working. We didn’t actually fire them but you made sure that the mechanism was working. And then you landed. Then you went to a meal. Then you would come back and get briefed. And then you would go to the aircraft and wait for take-off and then when the green light went up you took off.
DK: What was it like at the briefings though when you saw what your target was going to be? Was it —
KF: Well, you went in to, all the buildings were Nissen huts.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And this was the biggest style of Nissen hut. And you went in and it was seated. Benches and chairs. And you were looking at the stage and the whole of the back of the stage was covered with a big curtain. And when the CO and the briefing crew came along you stood up to attention. The guy, the CO told you, ‘Sit down.’ And then the curtains were drawn back. And then you would see the whole map of Europe and a tape would be from base to the target.
DK: Right.
KF: During the course of the day you established from the ground crew how much petrol they were putting in. If it was a little, a small amount they could put more bombs. If it was a long target, a long range target it reduced the amount of bombs you could take because there was more petrol.
DK: Petrol.
KF: So if the petrol load was high you knew it was a long way.
DK: Yeah.
KF: If the petrol load was low you knew it was a shorter one.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So when you looked at the map you have a preconceived idea that it was going to be a long one or a short one.
DK: Yeah.
KF: If it was long one it was obviously going to be in to, in to Germany. One particular one was Gdynia. Which was in Poland.
DK: And that was your longest.
KF: Ten and a half hours that one.
DK: Ten and a half hours.
KF: Five hours out and five hours back. And but if it was a short one it would be something like Le Havre or Brest or —
DK: Yeah.
KF: Any of the occupied countries. You know.
DK: So before, you had a pre-flight meal presumably before you went.
KF: Well, you just had a normal meal.
DK: Yeah.
KF: But as aircrew you were privileged in that you could have as much milk as you liked.
DK: Right.
KF: Where, I’m talking, that’s surprising but milk was in short supply at the time. So being privileged you could drink as much milk as you liked. You could eat, you could ask for anything you wanted from catering.
DK: Yeah.
KF: That was available.
DK: So basically you get the green light and off you go. For take-off then where were you? Were you in the turret or were you in the —
KF: You were in the turret.
DK: Right.
KF: But you had to centralise them and, and not swivel them because that would unbalance the aircraft.
DK: Yeah.
KF: When you were taking off. The pilot could feel you if you were swinging the guns about. So you sat with your guns centralised.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And you just took off down the runway and got airborne. Once you were airborne then you could swivel your turrets.
DK: Yeah. And what was that like though? Being sort of dragged backwards as it were.
KF: Didn’t really, didn’t I don’t think there was anything. It’s just like sitting on the train backwards.
DK: So you would be in the turret for the entire time.
KF: Oh yeah. You never. It wasn’t wise to leave the turret.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So you stayed in it. But if you were over friendly territory there was in the aircraft there was what they called an elsan which was a chemical toilet. And if needed to go to the loo you could go.
DK: Yeah.
KF: But being in a flying suit as the gunner you had four layers of clothing on.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So you would, you made sure you didn’t need to go to the loo.
DK: Yeah.
KF: You made sure before you put your suit on.
DK: Yeah.
KF: That you’d drained yourself.
DK: Did you have electrical heated suits?
KF: Yeah.
DK: You did. Yeah. And were they any good because I’ve heard different stories.
KF: Oh yes. They were good. No. They were good.
DK: Yeah.
KF: In fact, sometimes they would, I remember once getting my foot slipper was getting too hot and there were studs at the back of the heel fitting on to the suit, and I just disconnected it.
DK: Yeah. What was it like being in the rear turret then? Was it, because you are cut off from the rest of the crew. Was it a little, a little lonely there? Or were you —
KF: Well, you could always call up on, on the intercom. You never felt. I mean the rear turret was behind the tail so you were hanging over the back and you could see the tail struts were out here somewhere.
DK: Yeah.
KF: You’re out in space really. You’re in a, in a Perspex dome.
DK: And do you remember much about as you reached the target and the bombs dropping and what happened to the aircraft then?
KF: Oh yeah. I mean the pilot, the navigator in particular, to get seven hundred aircraft over the target they were all give a different direction to come in so that they weren’t all falling over one another. So every aircraft would come in at a certain time at a certain angle to make sure that they all dropped over the target but they were all zigzagging about. So you would be [pause] the navigator would tell the pilot what course to fly. He would fly the course. Then eventually he would see the target because it had already been marked by the Pathfinders.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Or it was already in flames anyway. So as you approached the target on the heading that you had already been given, no, the navigator had been given. At the height the bomb aimer would be laying on the front nose looking through the bombsight and as he got closer to the target he would direct the pilot. The navigator would fall out of the equation and the bomb aimer would take over and tell the pilot, ‘Left. Left. Steady. Right. Steady.’ Got him on. And then when the pilot, when the bomb aimer was over the target he would press the tit, shout, ‘Bombs gone,’ and the aircraft would lift up. You could feel it. But what you had to do as gunners you had to make sure that the guy above you wasn’t directly above you dropping on — several aircraft got lost on targets by other aircrew dropping their bombs on the aircraft below.
DK: So, as, as the bomb run was happening you were looking up there and there and there right up to —
KF: Well, you were looking left, right and centre. And if you, two aircraft on the route from base to the target some aircraft would be two minutes later than they should have been or two minutes earlier. So there would always be a little bit of congestion over the target.
DK: Yeah.
KF: The worst thing that could happen when you were over the target was not being able to drop the bombs and then you were shouted, ‘Bomb bays closed. Go around again.’ So you had to go around again whilst everybody is shooting at you. Because the guy above you was going to drop his bombs on you.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And so you would tell the pilot and he would drop back a bit and then the guy above you would drop his bombs past you. But sometimes because the guy above didn’t want to go around again he wouldn’t care that you were underneath him.
DK: Yeah.
KF: He would drop them and hope they didn’t hit you. But that was one of the hard facts of life.
DK: So you dropped your bombs on target. You were heading for home now.
KF: After you’ve dropped your bombs the bomb aimer and the pilot had to continue for another thirty seconds on a straight and level course to allow the flash, photo flash to trigger over the target and it took a photograph of where the bomb aimer had dropped his bombs.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And then after thirty seconds of level you could fall off and then the navigator would give the pilot a course to set for home.
DK: Yeah. So you’re setting back for home then. How, how are you feeling as you approached the airfield? Was it a sense of — ?
KF: Well, you left the target but you still had to be alert.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Because when if an enemy aircraft was above you he could see you silhouetted against the flames below.
DK: Right.
KF: So he could come down on you when he, and what he would often do was go under you. There was a bit of a fallacy that the rear gunner is in the most endangered position.
DK: Right.
KF: Not necessarily so because an enemy aircraft depending on which angle he’s coming at you isn’t necessarily going to kill the rear gunner first.
DK: Right.
KF: He could come in from the side and as you possibly well know there was what they called schrage musik. And the enemy aircraft had a gun —
DK: Yeah.
KF: At an angle. And he would come underneath you and fire into the wing.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Where the petrol tanks were. And the first you knew of it was where the wing took off. You know. And so periodically you would get the pilot to tilt over so you could look underneath and then look underneath again.
DK: You never saw anybody coming up to shoot you from below then when you [unclear]
KF: No. No. No
DK: No. I guess, yeah, so when you got back home then what was the feeling as you got back off an operation?
KF: You were only relieved when the wheels touched down. You were always looking out for, at one time, particularly during the end of the war a lot of the German aircraft used to follow the bomber crews in when their airfield was lit up and they were landing on the runway. When they were wheels down and flaps down.
DK: Yeah.
KF: They were at their most vulnerable because they couldn’t manoeuvre and the enemy pilot who’d followed him in would then shoot him down and several aircraft sadly were lost —
DK: Right.
KF: On the approach to the runway. So you never gave up until you actually wheeled down.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And hit the runway.
DK: Yeah. Is it ok if I have a look at the old logbook? [pause] I just wondered if I have a look at the various operations there.
KF: Red were night ops.
DK: Red for night ops. Yeah.
KF: Green were daylights.
DK: So that —
KF: And black was flying.
DK: This is just for the recording. So that’s the Lancaster Finishing School.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Syerston. So then 619 squadron. So that’s Allen. Your —
KF: Flight Sergeant Allen.
DK: Your pilot. So, that’s the first operation was to Brest. Wasn’t it?
KF: Yeah
DK: So with a different pilot. Franks.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Yeah. [unclear]
KF: And then the next one was Le Havre. Was it Le Havre?
DK: I’ve got Darmstadt.
KF: Sorry?
DK: Darmstadt.
KF: No, that’s, there’s another one.
DK: Oh, here we go. Le Havre.
KF: Later on. That’s it.
DK: Gun positions.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Yeah. So the Brest operation was on the 2nd of September.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Then Le Havre.
KF: That was the first one with my crew.
DK: The first one with your crew. 10th of September. And then the 11th of September your first night operation to Darmstadt.
KF: Darmstadt. That’s right.
DK: So there’s Darmstadt. Munchen Gladbach.
KF: And then Munchen Gladbach.
DK: So most, most of the German cities here aren’t there? Ops to Bergen. Was that —
KF: Norway.
DK: Norway. Right.
KF: Norway.
DK: So that’s with, that was Balderton. So you joined Balderton with 227 Squadron in October ’44. [pause] So there’s a Dortmund Ems canal.
KF: Yeah.
DK: So that was two operations there then.
KF: Oh, we went there several times.
DK: Several times. Right.
KF: The idea was you, there was a high point between Dortmund and Ems.
DK: Right.
KF: And the idea was to break the banks, drain the canal and none of the barges could travel from Dortmund to Ems.
DK: Right.
KF: With material for the war production. So they kept going back and of course when they built the, when they repaired the dam and the water went back in again you went back again and burst it again.
DK: Right.
KF: So that’s why we kept going back to the Dortmund Ems Canal.
DK: You went there on the 4th of November. Then again the 6th of November.
KF: Went back three or four times I think.
DK: Yeah. Then Munich, 27th of November.
KF: Three times to Munich.
DK: Three times Munich. There’s a recall there I see. The Urft Dam.
KF: Urft Dam. Yeah.
DK: U R F T Dam. Yeah.
KF: Gdynia.
DK: Gdynia.
KF: That was Poland.
DK: Yeah. So Gdynia was on the 18th of December. Oh. So you did Munich on the 17th of December. And then Gdynia the next day. The 18th of December.
KF: Yeah. Two long ones. Because Munich was right down in the far end of Germany.
DK: Then the 30th of December there’s ops to I’ll spell this out for the recording H O U F F.
KF: Houffalize.
DK: ALIZE. Houffalize. The Dortmund Ems Canal again on January the 1st.
KF: Yeah.
DK: So, Houffalize again.
KF: You see, Royan. That one is a coastal town in France.
DK: Right.
KF: And when the D-Day landing took place they went down. The Americans went down the peninsula and Royan was in a German garrison but because the Americans went down so fast they were —
DK: Cut off.
KF: Cut off.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And the French were complaining that the Germans were going out in to the countryside and rustling for food and one thing and another so they asked for, and the garrison was too big for the French Resistance to take on so they asked us to go down and —
DK: Bomb them.
KF: Bomb them. But the point I’m getting around to is that the briefing by the meteorological officer was completely wrong, and when. Because it was only a pocket in France and the country around about was already occupied by us —
DK: Yeah.
KF: We didn’t do a deviation. We went straight to the target. The wind speed given by the meteorological officer was wrong and there was a huge tailwind which got us there early. And we flew over Royan about six or seven minutes early for the bomb aiming, for the bombing and there were no markers down so we didn’t know where we were. So when we’d over shot the target we had to turn around and come back because it was fatal because every other aircraft was still coming.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So there was and we lost several aircraft in crashes.
DK: Collisions.
KF: Albeit there was very little anti- aircraft.
DK: So that was Royan. R O Y A N. And that’s January the 4th.
KF: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. In France.
KF: Well, if we’re going back one if you look back at December [pause] December we were out on New Year’s Eve. December 31st. 30th.
DK: No. That’s the 18th there.
KF: Sorry?
DK: 30th. Yeah.
KF: That was the, that was—
DK: Houffalize.
KF: The [pause] when the Germans broke through. You know the Battle of the Bulge.
DK: Oh, the Battle of the Bulge. Oh right. Ok.
KF: That was the Battle of the Bulge.
DK: Right. So that’s —
KF: And what date was that?
DK: 30th of December.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Houffalize.
KF: The night before the New Year. Night before New Year.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. So Politz.
KF: Politz.
DK: Politz on —
KF: That was in Czechoslovakia.
DK: Yeah. So Politz again there. Dresden on the 13th of February.
KF: Yeah.
DK: Do you remember, do you remember much about that?
KF: The famous Dresden raid.
DK: Do you remember much about that operation?
KF: Nothing special. Just another one. It was only afterwards that we, I mean that was this is what really appalled me. If you remember Harris. Bomber Harris, you know.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
KF: You know. He got no credit for doing what he did because after the war everybody was saying, ‘Look at the damage you’ve done. Oh terrible.’ So even right up until when was the Battle of Britain, not the Battle — the Bomber Command Memorial.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Seventy odd years later.
DK: Yeah. 2012 that was. Yeah.
KF: And what I’m saying is really nobody gave you credit for what you did.
DK: No.
KF: And in fact, I’ve an opinion. I’ve a theory that we did Germany a favour in a, in a odd way. When we knocked everything out of Germany I mean we flew over Germany after the war to look at the damage and it was, you might have seen photographs yourself.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
KF: They had nothing. So they had to renew everything with new equipment to get back on their feet. And we gave them thousands. And America did. To save them going over to the Russian sphere.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
KF: We pumped millions of pounds into Germany. They got all completely new equipment.
DK: Yeah.
KF: New factories. New houses. New, new buildings.
DK: That’s it.
KF: We’re coming back to all our old clapped out aeroplanes and trains.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And infrastructure. And Germany then went to be a very renowned engineering country.
DK: Yeah. It was the West German economic miracle wasn’t it?
KF: That’s right.
DK: But of course it was financed by the Americans and Volkswagen. Yeah.
KF: Volkswagen. Volkswagen was saved by the British Army.
DK: That’s right. Yeah.
KF: They ran it for several years after the war.
DK: Yeah. True. So then —
KF: But people forget that.
DK: Yeah.
KF: I mean Germany today in my opinion is ruling Europe.
DK: Yeah.
KF: By economic means. Whereas it tried to do it —
DK: Militarily.
KF: By military means.
DK: Yeah. So just going on then into March ’45. So you’d then got, I see the Dortmund Ems again. March the 3rd. Harburg on the 7th of March. And a place near Leipzig on the 20th of March. So, would that have been your last operation then?
KF: What was that one.
DK: Leipzig, Poland.
KF: No. That was —
DK: Bohlen.
KF: What date was that?
DK: March the 20th.
KF: No. Bohlen was the last one.
DK: Yeah. Bohlen. Yeah.
KF: Oh. Near Leipzig.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Bohlen. That was the last one.
DK: So your last operation then March the 20th.
KF: Yeah.
DK: Bohlen near Leipzig.
KF: That was their thirty fifth. My thirty sixth.
DK: Right. So that’s B O H L E N.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Yeah. So the war’s come to the end then and did, did you [pause] what happened to your crew then? Did they all split up?
KF: When we finished operations. The two gunners. Myself and my other mate we were sent back to Silverstone as instructors. What you [pause] if the war had lasted longer if you did thirty ops then you did six months rest. And at that six months you were sent to a training base to train up the crews coming up the line. And then you went back for another thirty. And then you could opt out altogether or volunteer for more.
DK: Yeah.
KF: But being, being the end of the war we were at Silverstone as instructors when VE day came up.
DK: Was there any plans that you might go out to the Pacific afterwards?
KF: We were then sent to Cranwell with a view to training for Tiger Force.
DK: Yeah.
KF: But fortunately while we were at Cranwell VJ day came up.
DK: Were the atomic bombs a bit of a relief?
KF: So, oh yeah. Funnily enough there was always a fear that dropping in, dropping over Europe if you were shot down.
DK: Yes.
KF: And you could get out if you could out. Dropping out over Germany and either trying to get back through the escape channels or getting captured didn’t bear the same risks or fears that if you dropped over Borneo.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And going, thinking of going out to Japan.
DK: Get caught by the Japanese.
KF: Or the Japanese theatre you kept thinking of the bloody jungles and dropping in the trees and God knows what, you know.
DK: So did you manage to keep in touch with your crew after the war?
KF: Sadly no. It’s always with hindsight.
DK: Yeah.
KF: I suppose some crews did keep in touch but life was so quick and so you moved so quickly that we, we dispersed.
DK: Right.
KF: And didn’t keep in touch. But years later I got in on my computer and I found what they were called in Australia the Odd Bods Organisation. Have you heard of it?
DK: No. I haven’t. No. No.
KF: The odd bods. There was a lot of Australian crews, members and they flew from RAF stations. Some of them went to an Australian, purely Australian squadron.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So when they went back to Australia after the war those who weren’t in the Australian squadron formed a group called the Odd Bods.
DK: Right. Right.
KF: They were the odd crew members —
DK: Yeah.
KF: In the British. And I got through to them and I found in their website a Roll of Honour and saw Flying Officer Allen.
DK: Oh right.
KF: Who had died. As a civilian of course.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
KF: Years after this is. So I got in touch with the secretary on the computer and asked him if I could get in touch with his widow.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And I said I also knew Bill Eudey who was the wireless operator.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
KF: So he said, ‘Oh, he’s also died.’ So he said, ‘Yes, I’ll get in touch with the widows to see whether they’re happy for you to communicate with you. And they came back and said yes.
DK: Oh good.
KF: So I got in touch with them both. One was on the computer.
DK: Yeah.
KF: One wasn’t.
DK: Yeah.
KF: The pilot’s wife wasn’t computer literate so I kept in touch with her by correspondence.
DK: Yeah.
KF: But sadly since she’s died.
DK: Right.
KF: The wireless operator’s widow I speak to every morning on, every Saturday morning on Skype.
DK: Oh excellent. That’s —
KF: We have a chat you know.
DK: Yeah. There’s some good aspects to new technology isn’t there?
KF: That’s right. Yeah. The flight engineer when you got to the OC, OC [pause] whatever. Conversion Unit.
DK: Yeah.
KF: That’s when you picked up the engineer.
DK: Right.
KF: So we picked up an engineer. A flight engineer from Manchester.
DK: At the Heavy Conversion Unit.
KF: At the Heavy Conversion Unit.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And he eventually moved to Australia.
DK: Right.
KF: So I tried to get in touch with him. But he had died.
DK: Right.
KF: And these are all about ten years ago.
DK: Yeah. Oh, that’s a shame.
KF: So I’ve got in touch with his widow. But then she’s since died. You know.
DK: Yeah.
KF: This is what time does. We all go off the end at the end.
DK: Eventually. So all these years later looking back at your time in RAF Bomber Command how do you feel about that period of your life now? Looking back on it.
KF: How do I feel?
DK: [unclear]
KF: I suppose really being one of the fifty percent that lived you know you feel relieved that you, as I said earlier none of us got wounded at all.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So we were lucky in that sense and to survive as well was also another bonus, you know. But you see people began to get this attitude of we were cruel. We were [pause] so they didn’t want to know you. They don’t say directly but there was that undercurrent.
DK: Yeah.
KF: That you did. I mean the RAF Bomber Command was the only arm of the services that fought throughout the whole of the war.
DK: Yeah.
KF: The Navy never went out of bay, err out of port unless they had to.
DK: Yeah.
KF: The Army got defeated at Dunkirk and had two years where they were completely reforming.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So the RAF Bomber Command were the only group that kept the war going.
DK: Yeah.
KF: When everybody else was marking time.
DK: Yeah. That’s very true. Ok. I’ve just got one final question. I know I asked you this before but for the recording could we, could we just go through the crew again. Is that alright?
KF: Sorry. There’s one.
DK: Have you got one with the names?
KF: I’ve got one with all the names on. Let me go upstairs again.
DK: Are you ok doing? Are you sure? Is that alright?
KF: I’m trying to think where I put it.
DK: It might still be on the table. Put that on there again. So left, so left to right that’s Charlie Clegg.
KF: Yeah.
DK: Terry.
KF: Terry.
DK: Fellowes.
KF: Fellowes.
DK: Then it’s the rigger there presumably.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Harry Reeves. The rigger.
KF: Yeah. Harry Reeves.
DK: Then Charlie Tudor, flight mechanic.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Then Sergeant Ken —
KF: Mepham.
DK: Mepham. That’s M E P H A M.
KF: That’s right.
DK: He was the flight engineer.
KF: Yeah.
DK: Then Jack Barton.
KF: Yeah.
DK: The second bomb aimer.
KF: That’s right.
DK: Yeah. Then Pilot Officer Bill —
KF: Eudey.
DK: Eudey.
KF: E U D E Y.
DK: E U D E Y. Then Corporal Scotty Scott.
KF: Yeah.
DK: Who was a fitter. Flight Sergeant Ken Fawcett.
KF: Yeah.
DK: Which is your good self.
KF: That’s right.
DK: You’re listed there as the mid-upper gunner. Yeah.
KF: That’s right. Well, the gunner. We used to do both.
DK: Yeah. And then Flight Sergeant Kirk Kent.
KF: That’s right.
DK: And then kneeling is —
KF: Flying Officer Allen.
DK: Flying Officer Ken Allen.
KF: Ken Allen.
DK: The pilot. So just going back to Kirk Kent did you ever find out anything more about him as his, when he was ill or —
KF: No. No. Things are [pause] wartime you didn’t take the same personal interest in, you simply they were there or they weren’t there.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Whilst he was in hospital we were flying operationally so we didn’t have time to bother.
DK: Right.
KF: How he was or who he was or where he was.
DK: Right. Ok. And —
KF: Movements were so fleeting.
DK: Yeah.
KF: You just came and went. People. You didn’t, you didn’t get —
DK: On that point, just one final thing as a crew did you all used to socialise outside?
KF: Oh yeah.
DK: What did you do then? Do you go to the pubs and —
KF: Yeah. You go down the pub together.
DK: Yeah.
KF: You wouldn’t necessarily all go together.
DK: No.
KF: At Balderton the air, the air [pause] the station.
DK: Yeah.
KF: The runways and all that were over the A1.
DK: Right.
KF: The living quarters were about a half a mile away down a country lane. What they used to do was to disperse everything so that if there was an attack on it everything wouldn’t go together.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So that if the living quarters was always away and the mess and everything else was away.
DK: Yeah.
KF: So you would get from the, you would simply walk or sometimes you could get a station bicycle.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And you’d cycle from one place to another. The living quarters were down a country lane which if you went down about a mile down the road was in to Balderton village.
DK: Right.
KF: Where the pub was.
DK: Right.
KF: And that was either you went to the mess or you went to the pub.
[recording paused]
DK: Well, thanks very much for that. That’s been absolutely marvellous. It’s been just over an hour.
KF: I don’t know whether it’s me or what but when I did the Duxford one they said it would only take about a quarter of an hour.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And when we ended up it was about an hour and a bit.
DK: An hour and a bit, yeah. Well, this one’s an hour and a bit so that sounds about right. Ok. Well, thanks very much for that. I’ll switch off now.
[recording paused]
KF: Flying fortresses were coming back from the daylight.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And the air was full of Maydays. They didn’t have separate navigators on every aircraft. They had a lead navigator and a back-up navigator and when they turned everybody turned.
DK: Yeah.
KF: But when they came back in dusk and it was getting dark they were panicking because they couldn’t, they didn’t have navigators to get them home.
DK: They hadn’t navigated in the dark.
KF: That’s right.
DK: What did you feel about the Americans then? Were you sort of in awe of them? Of what they were doing. Or think they were daft.
KF: Only in awe in the sense that going out one night when they were coming back they were flying a slightly, you could see them in the dark and dusk you know.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And there was holes, and the tails were flying off, wings were hanging off, engines were hanging off. And I mean they took an awful lot of hammering but that was partly their own fault because they simply wouldn’t. They didn’t. You see we were individual and we could fly. We could turn off target. Off course.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And get back on course because the navigator knew what he was doing.
DK: Yeah.
KF: But when they came off course very often they were isolated and they were picked off.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. So you preferred the way the British did it then. At, at night.
KF: And when you see most of the documentaries they were always showing daylight raids by American Fortresses.
DK: Yeah.
KF: As if the Bomber Command didn’t exist.
DK: Yeah.
KF: Because everything that the bombers, the did the Americans did was in daylight.
DK: And they could film it.
KF: So the cameras could film it.
DK: Yeah.
KF: But at night time there wasn’t a lot of material.
DK: No. Did you, did you ever meet any of the American aircrew at all?
KF: No. But mind you I will admit that when some of our aircrew parachuted over an American airfield or crash landed on an American airfield in an emergency —
DK: Yeah.
KF: They usually come back loaded with, they were taken to the PX store.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And they were give free hand to take what they wanted.
DK: Oh right.
KF: So the guys used to come back with a load of goodies that we’d never seen for years.
DK: They were very generous then, were they?
KF: Oh yeah. Yeah.
[recording paused]
KF: But they were funny because they couldn’t discern very often when an aircrew crashed anywhere near the American field. They were apprehended.
DK: Oh right.
KF: And treated as if they were Germans.
DK: Right.
KF: Because the Americans didn’t always recognise an RAF. They had to convince them. And then they would allow them to ring the squadron.
DK: Yeah.
KF: And call for the transport to come and bring them. Once they realised they were British then they treated them.
DK: Yeah.
KF: With generosity. But they very often used to because the German Air Force blue was similar to ours.
DK: Right. Right. So they had to be wary to start with.
KF: But the Americans were quite naive you know.
DK: Well, you’d think they wouldn’t make that mistake wouldn’t you?



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Ken Fawcett,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 19, 2024,

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