Interview with Ron Flynn


Interview with Ron Flynn


Ron Flynn was living in London before he volunteered for the RAF. He trained as a flight engineer and joined a British / New Zealand crew. He was posted to RAF Mepal. There was at least one occasion when a fire in the engines was extinguished by the pilot doing a steep dive. When they returned to their base they crashed through the fence at the airfield.



IBCC Digital Archive




Julie Williams


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00:33:17 audio recording




AFlynnRA161229, PFlynnRA1601


DB: This is an interview with Ronald Albert Flynn at his home at Backwell, near Bristol on the 29th of December 2016 at 14.40. Can you tell me a little bit about your time before you joined the RAF?
RF: I was at an ordinary elementary school for quite some time and lived in north, or south, yes South London. No. North London. Sorry. I was actually at a factory making furniture or assisting people to make furniture. And the, after looking at the papers and seeing what was going in the world I thought of joining the army or the air force. The air force. I decided air force would do me. And I, with a friend went to a place, a place just outside Enfield to volunteer. We were given an address to go and we were received by RAF officers that would put you through the paces of cleaning everything. How to wash and shave. We knew that already. And we were sent to a unit in London where the officers were there to take any volunteers. I’d been eventually accepted in the air force. They gave me a uniform and gave me oh a history of the air force and what they did. And also I went through a programme of keeping myself clean. Cleanliness. Which obviously I’d already knew. From there they sent me to, or to report to some offices in North London where we met quite a high ranking officer and he told me that everything was ok. If they would, they would think about where you would be placed. I eventually got notice that I had to report to a training. On a training course at Cosford. It was, it wasn’t, there were no aircraft there at Cosford.
Other: And what did you do there, Dad?
RF: Where did I go from Cosford?
Other: What training did you do there?
RF: Cosford was an introduction into the history of an airman. Even told you how to wash. But I went from there to [pause] is it Stettin?
Other: No.
RF: No. Not Stettin. That’s German that [laughs] Beckford. Deptford. A place. A camp in Norfolk. And it was, it consisted of men who had just volunteered and what they were going to do or what they, what they thought they would be able to do. And I wanted to be — I wanted to fly. But I wasn’t too sure about how or who I wanted to be with. But they posted me to a unit with literally hundreds of other airmen. I forget what the name of the place was but I had an idea that it was an overseas unit.
Other: But how did you learn to be an engineer?
RF: I [pause] I applied. Prior to that, being posted to that station I had volunteered for aircrew. But they didn’t seem to take any notice of that and I thought I’m in line for, to be posted to North Africa which I didn’t very, like very much. But suddenly an officer came to the head of the group and said, ‘Will the following men fall out.’ And my name was mentioned. And I was posted on an aircrew course. [unclear] lesson. I decided the job I would like on the aircraft was the engineering and we went on a course of Merlin engines which was very interesting. Like I say where the engines lived at the, put on the Lancasters. And fortunately I was, they said, ‘Fall out.’ They’d accepted me. Which I was very pleased. From there they posted me to a, I think that was Cosford to experiment on engines. The Merlins. The Merlin engines which, which was very interesting. Merlins of course were the aircraft in Lancasters and I was hoping that that would be the case. I’d be chosen to go on Lancasters as a flight engineer. And fortunately they did post me to a station where I would meet a crew. And I was interested in a New Zealand crew. For what reason I don’t know. But when they called my skipper, new skipper’s name out, Smith — I thought oh I haven’t got my right —
Other: New Zealand.
RF: New Zealander. But it turned out that he was. He was New Zealand. And the rest of the crew were his, all New Zealanders which I was very grateful. The Stirlings was a fine aircraft but it was too massive. And everything seemed hard work. But nevertheless they were safe enough and, but I was looking forward to doing the same thing on Lancasters. Which I did eventually. And they posted me on a flight engineer’s course which was of course to learn all about engines. There was a, as again and also air frame. Of course I would be responsible for engines and the general working pieces in the aircraft. And looking after the whole, the whole crew really. I can’t think much of the reception. I can’t remember the reception. But arriving at Mepal I was amongst all aircrew that spoke the same language. I, we had to, we had to get some practice in the Lancaster and — which lasted oh a fortnight probably before we could do, start doing any, any operations. But the crew I had was excellent. So I had no real bother joining them and performing my duty to stand by the, next to the skipper. Taking orders from him. And at the same time making sure that the remainder of the crew were happy and or could I help them in any way. The two gunners were English. And the rear gunner was quite elderly actually and, but he enjoyed it and he wanted to carry on. Eventually he finished the same time as myself so he set off. He’d enjoyed it. I can’t see why but [ laughs] He, he — the other four members of the crew were from New Zealand and very nice. Very good people. One was the bomb aimer who was a little bit scatty [laughs] He amused me because I stood just above him, behind him so there was always a bit of conversation. The skipper was wonderful. I didn’t, my job was to look after the engines of course and take instructions from the skipper. Everything was fine. So I thought to myself I’m going to like this. And I did. I can’t —
[recording paused]
RF: Little things do happen that are unexpected. Like on one occasion we were leaving Berlin and we were hit by bullets from a fighter aircraft and caught the outboard, off side outboard engine alight. Which I had to put out of course. From there I had to do some adjustments with the various instruments of keeping the, keeping the kite in the air. But we were quite happy and ok, on three engines. But we had a long way to go of course and I had to manipulate various units and petrol. But we were doing quite, quite well. When we did reach home —
Other: The skipper wanted you to restart it.
RF: Well, yeah. But, yeah prior, prior to — no this, I’m sorry. On the way home the skipper said, ‘I think I’ll start that engine Ron.’ I said, ‘I don’t think so skipper. You shouldn’t. We’ve got no means of putting the fire out if it catches fire.’ He said, ‘I’ll put it out.’ ‘It’s entirely up to you. You’re the, you’re the captain.’ So he started the engine and of course it caught fire again. So I said, ‘Up to you. Down to you skipper.’ So he put put it in a nose dive at about three hundred mile an hour and blew it out. He was successful in his wisdom but it didn’t help me. But —
Other: When you got back.
RF: When we got back we were, everything seemed ok and we were on the approach to land and the engine that was, we’d had trouble with packed up again. And we were, we also a slight problem with the offside inner engine and of course we had no chance of getting to the airfield. We came down. Fortunately we weren’t too high at that. We came down into a, a cabbage patch just outside the aerodrome and pushed through the fence and finished up in the middle of the aerodrome. And of course, the old engineering officer the following day called me to his office and said, ‘What’s the idea of bringing the kite back in that state?’ So I had to explain to him what had happened. But he was quite ok after that. There were one or two other incidences which I —
Other: What about when you had to circle and drop your bombs?
RF: Well, that —
Other: And somebody who was not as good as your skipper was not quite so keen to come as low. He was dropping his bombs from a higher —
RF: Yeah.
Other: Above you.
RF: Yeah, I mean. I can’t —
Other: And what it —
RF: Well, that one I’ve already explained to you at Stettin. When the engines went. That there was the funny one about dropping that bomb on the water. I’m sorry. That was the Stettin one which I’ve already mentioned actually.
Other: I think that’s where he —
RF: Came. We were hit. We were hit by a shell which came through the roof and took the toilet with it, in the bottom, out of the bottom. Which I had to inform the skipper that he can never go back and use it [laughs] That’s how I went back to see that there was a hole in the top there in the sub fuselage and a hole down the bottom and it had taken the toilet it. So I said to the skipper, ‘You don’t want to go to the toilet because we haven’t got one.’
[recording paused]
RF: Not really. No. When you were away from the bombing area you did relax. If you’d got a sandwich you would have a sandwich or something like that or a cup of, a flask of coffee or something. But one, one incident was quite funny when suddenly a hole came in the aircraft.
Other: You told —
[recording paused]
RF: The thirtieth op.
Other: Can you remember dad?
RF: I can’t remember the thirtieth op. They call a tour thirty. And when they, when the engineering officer told me that I’d got one more to do I just said, ‘No thank you. I’ve had enough.’ And that’s, that’s the end. Not a very exciting station itself. We had to go downtown.
Other: And what did you get up to dad?
RF: Oh, we used, I used to go with Paddy — the mid-upper gunner. We did drink. We did drink quite a lot. Unfortunately, the police didn’t like it when we were walking along. Came up a road in Cambridge and he arrested us. And I must agree that it was wrong but I’d had too much to drink. So being as we were in uniform this police realised who we were and just put us to sleep in a room to sleep it off. Which we were very grateful. But we got to, got up in the morning and went to camp and had to go in front of the commanding officer. It’s, you know I daren’t repeat what he said to us [laughs] And that was it. Paddy and I used to, we used to drink quite a lot obviously but we also went dancing. And some of the people there were quite happy but one or two didn’t like us so they called the police. And the police, we had obviously had too much to drink but the police lifted me up. One arm. One policeman on one arm, another policeman on the other arm and led me down to the cells. And Paddy was the same thing. But we slept overnight there and we just got told off in the morning and they said, ‘Don’t do it again.’ And we went back to camp.
[recording paused]
RF: Not that I can remember. No. None that I fancied [laughs] but I wasn’t, I wasn’t interested in going out with women. I don’t know why. Don’t ask me. That’s unusual I know. But probably the women didn’t want to go out with me [laughs] But no. Paddy and I used to like a drink and we often got into trouble when we went into Cambridge.
[recording paused]
RF: They of course asked us what we would like to do. I thought I would like to do a bit of driving. And they sent me to a driving school and it was quite interesting. Also, I made friends with Paddy. Paddy Flynn. Same name. So, and he was typical Irish. Lovely chap but he drank too much. And of course I was with him and we very often got into trouble with the. Paddy came with [unclear] too.
Other: Yeah. You had to —
RF: Yeah. Eventually, after the end of the driving school the commanding officer asked me to, or he informed me that I was being driven down to Cornwall. ‘Would you do me a favour and take Paddy with you?’ I said, ‘No.’ Anyway, ‘It’ll be alright. I’ll take him.’ When we were in Cornwall it was, Paddy unfortunately really didn’t grasp this driving job and I had to [pause] he could, he could drive but you wouldn’t say it was safe driving. And so I really tried to avoid any passengers getting in his car to drive down to the town.
Other: What about when you took the teams out in the coaches? You and Paddy.
RF: Yeah. On one occasion the commanding officer said, ‘You’ve got two people to take to town.’ I forget the name of the town. But he said, ‘You take one bus and Paddy will take the other one.’ So I said, ‘Alright. That doesn’t sound good to me.’ But he insisted and that was all I could do. ‘Just take it easy.’ So I did. And Paddy did. But unfortunately coming back on those country roads and Paddy had had a few drinks I got home before him. And of course he didn’t arrive. So I had to go back and I found Paddy and all his occupants in a field [laughs] And fortunately nobody was hurt. So we got out of that one but, and Paddy wasn’t driving any more. We finished up in Newquay in Cornwall which was very pleasant. [unclear]
Other: Can you remember — ?
RF: In to the motor trade. Motor garage trade.
Other: And insurance assessing, didn’t you?
RF: I went, yeah I did a bit of — I went into the motor trade. Just in Welwyn Garden City.
Other: No. That was —
[recording paused]
Other: Do you remember dad? The driving —
RF: An assessor. But I mean Paddy was —
Other: Oh yeah. Nothing to do with him. Nothing to do with him.
RF: No. I got, I made enquiries about being an assessor for accident repairs to cars. For which I was introduced to a repair garage at, in Welwyn Garden City. No.
Other: In London.
RF: Oh dear. It was obvious that I feel, not unsafe but when I was in the air force I knew the crew. So there was no fear. We were looked after in many ways. But —
Other: Tell Dee about when, when you had that truck and you drove off to a tip to try and get a new bit for your exhaust and then they called you in when you got back. What did they think you were doing?
RF: Well, this was when the war had ended and I was — what did they call it? [pause]
Other: You had like a little —
RF: I remember working at this ‘drome. If I can remember the base. Anyway, it was the Queen’s Flight and we were given the job of when the Queen was —
Other: Flying.
RF: Flying anywhere. We would, in a fire tender drive down the side of the runway and with the Queen’s aircraft until it was airborne. Which wasn’t too often. But we were there just in case. But on another occasion I took the jeep because the exhaust was blowing. So I took the jeep out to the scrapyard. Just away. Just a short space. A short drive through. About a quarter of a mile. I did find a bit of an exhaust. I didn’t know if that would do but I took it just in case. When I got back the warrant officer in charge collared me and said, ‘Where have you been?’ I said, ‘I’ve just got some components here that I might have to put on the jeep.’ He said, ‘Yes, I’ve heard that before.’ He said, ‘You’ve been running people down to the station on leave.’ I said, ‘No. I wasn’t.’ I said, ‘No. Certainly, you’re wrong there.’ And for that reason I suppose he advised the authorities to take my rank away of warrant officer. Down to, back to flight sergeant. So, I said, ‘Oh yeah. Do what you like,’ I said, ‘I’m not worried. I’m going home shortly.’ And that was it.



Denise Boneham, “Interview with Ron Flynn,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 11, 2020,

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