Interview with Richard Franklin


Interview with Richard Franklin


Richard Franklin served as a wireless operator and flew 34 operations in Bomber Command over Germany. Describes the only operation on which he risked being killed, when his aircraft was attacked by a German night fighter over Frankfurt. Tells of their flight engineer being accused of Lack of Moral Fibre. Mentions bombing various targets in preparation for the opening of the second front in France. Was posted to 427 Squadron.




Temporal Coverage




00:15:16 audio recording


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SW: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Sue Walters, the interviewee is Richard Franklin. The interview is taking place at Mr Franklin’s home in Cople, Bedfordshire, on Friday the 15th of July 2018.
RF: I’m quite happy to do this interview and to tell Sue my life in the RAF, particularly in Bomber Command. I knew, when the war broke out, that I would have to go into the services one way or another because I was still, I wasn’t in a reserved occupation, I lived on the farm but I wasn’t actually working on the farm and after the men who, some of the men who worked on the farm teased [?] me about life, what life would be like in the army, if I joined the army, they had served in the First World War, in the trenches and it was horrifying to hear them. So, I decided there and then that no way if I could possibly help it would I go in the army. I didn’t want to go in the navy because I, I’m no sailor and I got see sick when I went on an outing with school down to Poole Harbour. So when the recruiting office opened in Bedford, for the RAF, I went along and I volunteered to join the RAF as aircrew. And from then on my life was taken over by the RAF and I have no regret whatsoever. Unfortunately, a lot of my friends in Bomber Command lost their lives but I was one of the fortunate ones, I survived the war without any undue injuries and then I was so enjoying life in the RAF after the war, when I was travelling out to the Far and the Middle East that I signed on for a further five years and I would’ve signed on for until I was pensionable age, entitled to a RAF pension, had not a tragedy in my family persuaded me to go back home and join the family on the farm. Which is what I did and I’ve been since 1954, which is when I left the RAF, I’ve been a farmer in the village of Cople on a farm, that my father, my grandfather rather took on in 1901. I, my father took the farm, I took it on from him. I have now retired and my son is running the farm and that is the story of my life [laughs]. I did 34, I think it was 34, 44, 34 raids over Germany. 30 was the number of raids you do and then you were what they called “tour expired”, that meant you were finished flying on raids for the time being and I did my 30 and apart from one raid, when we got shot up by a German fighter and were in dire straits, we could’ve crashed into the English Channel or crashed because of the damage to the aircraft and the fact that we couldn’t get the wheels down, the undercarriage down to land but fortunately we had a very good pilot and a very good flight engineer and they got us safely back to England and nobody, nobody in the crew was in anyway harmed at all but I was one, I was the fortunate member of my squadron who survived a whole tour and was happy to stay in the Air Force for the time, for, till after the war. We had bombed Frankfurt and had left, dropped our bombs on the markers that were marking the target and had left the target area and the gunners were relaxing and we were on our way home and all of a sudden there was this God almighty explosion and the starboard outer engine caught fire and a night fighter had come up and they had guns that came up and fired on the underneath of the aircraft and it set the starboard outer engine on fire and fortunately the flight engineer and the pilot between them managed to extinguish the flames and feather the engine and we was, managed to get home on three engines but the fuel tank on the starboard side had been ruptured and we were desperately short of fuel, we knew that and we knew that we stood a very good chance of coming down in the Channel so we all put our Mae West on ready to abandon aircraft if we did but I was in, the fact that I was the wireless operator, I was in touch with the rescue services all the while home, they kept passing frequency beams onto us so they knew where we were. The air sea rescue were alerted but we made it back and then we were told to go to an aerodrome Lakenheath, near Cambridge, where they had sufficient fire tenders and rescue appliances to rescue us if we crashed. We couldn’t get the undercarriage down, so we had to land on the grass, on the side of the runway, fortunately it was a smooth landing and we all climbed out unharmed and that was it, that was the only near go to being killed that I had in the whole time I was in the RAF.
SW: Off you go.
RF: We were met by the station commander, the Group Captain, when we climbed out of the aircraft, and set down and he shook us all by the hand, and said: ‘Well done, chaps, go to the mess and have a good meal and I will see you in the morning’. Which we did. And we were issued with the railway warrants and with our flying gear and all that, with our parachutes, which we had to take with us, we tracked all our way back to Leeming, in Yorkshire, to our airbase, yeah. The one feature of that episode that I have always felt sorry for was the fact, that the flight engineer, who was engaged to a lady who was pregnant, decided that no more would he fly on operations and he went to the Squadron commander when we got back to our base at Leeming and said he was not going to fly anymore and that immediately court martial offence, he was told, you are going LMF, Lack of Moral Fibre, you volunteered to do it when you joined the RAF, you’ll be placed under arrest. He was placed into the guard room and that’s the last we saw of him. Until many years later, when I was serving in Transport Command, I met him out in a place called Sharjah, in the Persian Gulf. I was on my way to India and that was a terrible place, it had no facilities and he was, came up to me and said: ‘Hello, Sir’. I said: ‘Who are you?’ and he introduced, I knew straight away who he was and I said: ‘What an earth are you doing here?’ And he said that he had been reduced to the ranks and sent out here as an AC2 to clean aircraft toilets and clean aircraft out as they ferried through and that was his punishment. It was because of him and the pilot that we got back to UK from this bombing raid safely and in one piece and that was the way he was treated. Simply because his future wife had persuaded him not to risk his life again. And one of the reasons I was quite happy to go to the Bomber Command Memorial in Lincoln, because I was told that the names of all the people who were killed or missing were inscribed on the plaques in this memorial and the lady in the desk behind the reception just asked me for this fellow’s name. All I could give her was his name and his address, his home address and she found his name and his permanent address and she gave me a leaflet, telling me on which panel his name was inscribed and also a leaflet which told me when he had been killed, the night he perished along with all his crew and where he is buried and I know now that he is buried in a grave on the outskirts of Berlin along with his six other crewmates. 34 raids as a sergeant. I ended up as a flight sergeant at the end of the raid and then I went into Transport Command, I did a navigation course and I became a Flight Lieutenant, I was commissioned and went to became a Flight Lieutenant and I left the RAF in 1954. I’ve got three logbooks but they’re not all, uhm. These are the ones, that’s, that’s the second raid I went on, that’ll be to Düsseldorf and that’ll be, that was the third one with Berlin and then Frankfurt and Stuttgart and so on. We had to [unclear], then Leipzig, then Frankfurt again, that’s when we got shot up, then Berlin on again, another on Berlin again, Stuttgart there, Frankfurt again, Frankfurt twice in three, twice in three and once on the 18th and again on the 22nd. And Berlin again, then Essen and then this is prior to the second front opening, we were bombing in France, gun emplacements, Villeneuve, Le Bourget, Lens, Düsseldorf again, Karlsruhe, Villeneuve again, Gent, Bloen [?], Louvain, [unclear], Aachen, Bourg Leopold, operation [unclear], and my last, that’s it, my last operation was Arras, that was my thirtieth bombing raid and the second, the second front on the 5th of June we were bombing in Merville, France gun emplacements [?] and that’s when the second front opened. So, that’s and after that I went, I was what they called screened and I became an instructor at Stratford. When I finished my training as a wireless operator, I was posted to 427 Squadron which was an all Canadian Squadron in 6 Group based up on Yorkshire and they were, their standard of discipline was far more lenient and lax, than would have been if I had been on an RAF station and I quite enjoyed my time with the Canadians.



Sue Walters, “Interview with Richard Franklin,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 4, 2024,

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