Interview with Charles Gallagher


Interview with Charles Gallagher


Charles Gallagher was born in a small village outside Nottingham where his father was rector of the local church. At the age of six the family moved to South Brent on Dartmoor where Charles enjoyed country sports and helped with the local hunt. At secondary school he enjoyed cricket and rugby before going up to Cambridge where he joined the university air squadron. On joining the Royal Air Force he was selected for navigator/bomb aimer training: after a five week journey by troop ship to Cape Town he commenced his training near East London in South Africa. Charles then attended an Operational Training Unit in the Cotswolds before transferring to RAF Stanton Harcourt where he joined his crew as bomb aimer. He described the process of crewing up and how in his case it led to a lifelong friendship with one of his crew. After flying Whitleys which he described as an ‘elephant’ of an aircraft he was posted to 76 Squadron and transferred to flying Halifax aircraft at No. 165 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Marston Moor. Charles recalled one operation on Osnabrück while stationed at RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor where his aircraft returned with 196 holes in the fuselage. The pilot ordered the crew to bail out but they stayed with the aircraft which made it back to base. In June 1945 the squadron converted to C-47s and flew to India with Transport Command. On return Charles joined British South American Airways on ground passenger handling, including a short posting to Bermuda.




Temporal Coverage




00:57:13 audio recording


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AGallagherGCK170925, PGallagherGCK1701


CB: So, this interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre Digital Archive. The person being interviewed is Gordon Charles Kilbride Gallagher known as Charles.
CG: That’s it.
CB: And my name is Cathy Brearley and I am the interviewer. Also present in the house is Mrs Mary Rose Gallagher who is Charles’ wife and the date is Monday the 25th Of September 2017. So —
CG: Cathy, great to meet you.
CB: Thank you very much and first of all I would like to thank you very much for giving us this interview. It’s very kind of you. Thank you. So —
CG: Pleasure.
CB: So, could you start off by telling me a little bit about whereabouts you were born and where you grew up?
CG: I was born in a little village, in those days on the, well it’s still of course on the banks of the River Trent outside Nottingham my father being clergyman of the parish. Wait a minute. He was rector or vicar. He was rector, that’s right, of Wilford village. That proves in nineteen [pause] deary me 1924, I lived there for the first six years of my life and then my father exchanged parishes with one named South Brent on Dartmoor in Devon where I had a wonderful boyhood which took in all the country sports. I’m ashamed to say of one but it was natural at the time but that was otter hunting. And they asked me to, having been out one day they asked me to, within the, to be the hunt whip which was moving in the front of the pack of hounds up rivers, lakes and so on. And I just loved it.
CB: So where, how old were you when war broke out?
CG: War. When the war broke out I was, I was fifteen and let’s see now, I was fifteen and I had just gone to Blundell’s School in the West Country about, thirteen miles out of, north of Exeter. I loved the five years I was at Blundell’s. I’ve always been tremendously keen on doing sports. Cricket and rugby. And then, let’s see now, what happened next that I really loved and remembered because I was jolly lucky. I loved all these activities at school and then went up to Cambridge in the, to join the Cambridge Royal Air Force Squadron. You maybe wanted to ask why on earth I joined the Air Force. It was two principal reasons. One, during the Battle of Britain I was there. We endlessly talked what was going on and really it was as simple as this. We had one objective. The aircrew uniform and the second was the inspiration from the men who wore them. After six months at Cambridge which I dearly loved, wonderful, wonderful university I moved up to [pause] from Cambridge I flew while I was there in the old squadron at Duxford and was finally assessed for which category of aircrew I was going to train for. It turned out that I did, I missed the pilot but got navigator, bomb aimer training combined and moved to South Africa on a wonderful passage. First of all we started at Manchester, Heaton Park where the drill, the drill sergeant had the thickest neck I’ve ever seen on a human being. He was the Heavy Weight Champion of Great Britain at the time. Boxing. And then a fantastically moving fortnight. I may be a day or two out. It was about a fortnight with a party of, I thought wonderful ladies who regarded themselves largely responsible for the Air Force because we lived with them for about, as I say a fortnight and then moved on either to South Africa or to Canada. I went with a wonderful bunch of young men aged eighteen and a half on the [pause] now what? I’ll remember it later. The troop ship, which took five weeks to get us to Cape Town and then on finally to [pause] what’s that wonderful place, port on the east coast that escapes me? It’ll come to me later. But we were greeted as all of the members of the British services were greeted. By an incredible lady known as the White Lady. The Lady in White, and she greeted us. Greeted us with the old song, “Songs of England,” which was a wonderful experience. It really was unique. Then transferred down to East London which was what? I’ve forgotten exactly how long we had, we had down there but it was the best part of six months. Yes. Six months, and then on to our Flying School. A place called Oudtshoom in the, in a little desert on the east side of South Africa having had an incredibly amusing weekend because we got lost. They sent us down to Cape Town, to the Air School there and we were not actually meant to have gone there. It was to Oudtshoom where we had another three or four months before we graduated as, in our case about thirty of us, navigator, bomb aimer and then finished up in, there was one little Air School where we did gunnery, in addition. And then finally just after Christmas back to the UK. I’ve done nearly too much talking.
CB: No. No. No. That’s all interesting. So how long did it take on the troop ship? It must have taken several weeks, was it?
CG: What? Going out to.
CB: Back to the UK.
CG: Going out to South Africa took five weeks.
CB: Yeah.
CG: Which was a heck of a long time.
CB: Yeah.
CG: It was due to having to dodge submarines and one thing or another. We went practically over to South America before turning east and arriving in to Cape Town to a wonderful welcome.
CB: What sort of things did you do on the ship?
CG: On the ship?
CB: To keep, to keep busy for five weeks.
CG: That was fascinating. We did a very healthy amount of physical stuff to keep us fit and it was just even looking at endless sea during the five weeks it [pause] the fascination of it then. It’s difficult to describe.
CB: What was the food like on the ship?
CG: Food was absolutely wonderful as long as you avoided one thing. They used to serve mealies. The chefs used to serve mealies instead of porridge which was, for me was Teflon and sand but still we get over that. And one thing was delightful. When the chef who was serving the mealies passed you behind you never never to ask for the salt when he asked you the inevitable question because all he did to give it to you and he gave it to you in large quantities was lean forward and it was everything running off his forehead went into your stuff.
CB: Very unfortunate.
CG: There you are. You asked me, Cathy. I’ll tell you [laughs]
CB: Yes [laughs] So, after your training you came back to the UK. Whereabouts did you come to?
CG: First of all we went to Millom, in Cumberland where we simply did acclimatise European conditions. Flying. Then on to [pause] a peaceful little village in the Cotswolds to Operational Training Unit where we flew Whitleys. I always thought a Whitley was rather to be compared with an elephant as far as the flying was concerned. Not, in no way attractive. That’s all really I would want to say about Whitley except that we did one of the most important and fascinating things in my life there. At [pause] oh, what was the name of the place?
CB: Stanton.
CG: Stanton Harcourt.
CB: Stanton Harcourt near Abingdon.
CG: That’s it.
CB: Yeah.
CG: Abingdon was a regular station. That, that was, I was just going on to say a wonderful, wonderful thing in my life happened there. The crewing up. And it was fascinating. We formed our own crew. It was the last thing we expected. It was just simply eighty, eighty of us. Seven in a crew. Twelve. Anyway, seven aircrew and [pause] first of all we were completely gobsmacked when we were told. We were marched into this hangar and were told to crew up. We never never expected to have to do it ourselves but actually it turned out marvellously well. I don’t know whether it was Jim, the navigator or myself that spotted him first but what mattered was that we spotted him. One man sitting on his own reading something or other. I’ve forgotten what. And Mac MacFarlane became one of the great friends of my life. He’s still alive. He’s ninety five now. Not very well sadly. I’m ninety three. But we’ve been life-long friends and this was a magical occasion being able to pick our own crew. We just went round spotting people. We really didn’t know much about their flying ability as members of the crew but we knew whether we liked them or not and that played an enormous part.
CB: So, who were the other crew members?
CG: Sorry?
CB: Who were the other crew members apart from yourself and MacFarlane?
CG: Well, I remember —
CB: MacFarlane.
CG: The pilot obviously who turned out to be not only a top class, and Jim and I of course absolutely latched on to this. We discovered that he’d been a trainer in America after he’d passed his own pilot training. He went on and trained Americans for a year. Now, that of course gave him a huge amount of experience and we thought this is just the man we’re looking for so we, we asked him, knowing that he was going to be the boss [laughs] We asked him if we might join his crew rather than, ‘Will you come and join our crew?’ I remember that so well. But this was all the wonderful light but fabulous sense of humour that Bomber Command eventually possessed. And I’m sorry if I’m diverting again for a moment but that is why I came to be able to continue a question from people I talked to while selling my book later was, ‘How the hell can you stand there, look me in the eye and say that they were the, one of the best in my life when half of you were killed.’ And I said it was simple. It was a combination of comradeship, probably towering above all others and sense of humour because it gave you the balance in your life that you had to lead and that you can’t have wanted to leave because the brilliance of the training amongst other things. It taught you [pause] it taught you with a sense of humour to get the balance in your life that you had to have and finally of course the sense of humour was one of the most wonderful ways of breaking tension. Tension that is bound to come in the conditions you were in and one wisecrack from a member of the crew at a time it didn’t disturb your concentration. It just built your ability to do your work. Yes. And the extraordinary effect it had actually and I didn’t discover this for about thirty years, on your later life in Civvy Street. How to handle people. If we all could learn that lesson we wouldn’t have half the problems in life the way internationally we’re going through now, and internally. I hope that gives you a bit of an idea Cathy, of why I was able to answer that question. Why was it? Well, five eventually years of your life so happy.
CB: Lifelong friendships.
CG: It was.
CB: And who, who else was there with you then? Who was your rear gunner?
CG: Our rear? We had a rear gunner and an upper gunner. We had a flight engineer who was a little wee Jock as we called him.
CB: Sorry?
CG: Wonderful little Scotsman.
CB: What did you call him?
CG: A wonderful little gunner.
CB: Wee?
CG: Wee Jock.
CB: Oh, wee Jock. Yes.
CG: The skipper was a wonderful skipper and he was a big Jock [laughs]
CB: Do you remember their actual names?
CG: Oh Lord, yes. Jim Portwood, navigator. Mac MacFarlane. Walter MacFarlane. We called him Mac. Then you had the two gunners. Jack. I’ll call him Jack for the moment. I forget his surname. I never called him by it. The mid-upper gunner. And for the first twenty trips because he was on his second tour he only had to do twenty trips. Jack. Jack. Jack. The second Jack. No. We called him just Jock. Sorry. Big tall chap. And he left us after twenty trips and we took on a little fella. Absolutely brilliant man. No [laughs] It’s all in my logbook.
CB: It may come back to you.
CG: I can’t remember.
CB: So, you crewed up.
CG: Yes.
CB: And then where did you go to after that?
CG: We crewed up. And the other thing that was so wonderful we never, all of us, all of seven from different backgrounds, different lives altogether and the comradeship was superb. It had to be.
CB: Yeah. Of course.
CG: There weren’t options. I’ll tell you what.
CB: So, was that when you then joined 76 Squadron? Was that when you joined 76 Squadron?
CG: 76. We went through the historic battlefield at Marston Moor to do our operational conversion to Halifax bombers. And then of course one was aware of the intense rivalry but continuing tremendous comradeship when we met up with the Lanc boys. Lancaster bombers based in Lincoln.
CB: Yeah.
CG: We were based in Yorkshire. A little place called Marston Moor.
CB: What sort of things did the conversion training focus on?
CG: Sorry?
CB: What sort of things did the conversion training focus on because you had been flying in Whitleys?
CG: Whitleys. Halifaxes.
CB: And then, yeah. What sort of things was the training actually focused on?
CG: Endless, [pause] how you, how you do forget some things. Landings and take offs but the —
CB: As a navigator was there a huge difference?
CG: Sorry?
CB: As a navigator was there a big difference for you? In the different aircraft.
CG: Oh yes.
CB: Yeah.
CG: We, we grew to love the Halifax. I thought the Whitley was a ridiculous thing but —
CB: And what sort of system did you use in the Halifax for navigation?
CG: Well, I —
CB: Did you use Astro navigation?
CG: Oh well, I was, I was navigator bomb aimer.
CB: Oh, you spent more time as a bomb aimer.
CG: Once [unclear] and I met up at Stanton Harcourt.
CB: Right.
CG: We realised one could do [laughs] I shouldn’t be saying this should I but one could do both and the other could do one. So, it was obvious. And we were also great personal friends.
CB: What was life like at the base on the days when you weren’t flying? What sort of things did you spend time doing when you were not flying?
CG: When I was —
CB: Not flying. When you were at the base.
CG: Yes. We were cramming in as much time in to York as we could. We had two buses permanently based at Holme on Spalding Moor that would take us into York whenever we were allowed to go and I’m sure you can guess all the kinds of things we did when we got there.
CB: And the local people were very welcoming.
CG: Sorry?
CB: The. the local people were very welcoming.
CG: Oh.
CB: Hospitable.
CG: Yes. Wonderful. But the village was not really pleasantly walkable.
CB: No.
CG: It was a bit of a distance. But the pubs in the village were altogether different. Different [sadly]
[recording paused]
CB: So as a bomb aimer then whereabouts exactly in the aircraft were you?
CG: Next to the pilot. That’s when he’s going home when he’s not, actually in the action part of the bomb aimer is simply on the bombing run. But I did quite a bit on, oh radar and various other things to help the navigator.
CB: So, you were lying down.
CG: Lying down on the bombing run and in control. In other words, you were telling the pilot exactly what to do. The bombing run would be sounding from the bomb aimer. ‘Left. Left.’ ‘Right.’ [pause] ‘Bombs gone.’ That would be roughly there. That sort of thing. But it would be, have to be on the pilot’s return what he said was always wonderful. It reminded me every time particularly Mac with his voice. Particular, steady quiet control. It was, it was so effective on the crew. It really was. If you heard a joke he, even if it wasn’t a worried voice it wasn’t actually doing that, certainly to him but, but it was concerning. Now, Mac had this extraordinary control. Quite a steady, and authoritative voice.
CB: Was it difficult to communicate with each other when you were, you were in the aircraft because it must have been very noisy?
CG: It could be very noisy but as opposed to the Americans, I must say this because I have a lot of time for the Americans but they could be shouting. You couldn’t hear them sometimes. I’m taking it from the, largely from the very good film of some of their things, “Twelve O’clock High,” for instance. It was, they were very good. They really did. But they were, in their communications they were much noisier. There’s no question about that.
CB: How long did it take to get from, how long was the flight typically from home to where we went.
CG: Well, in total we were away for eight hours if we were on the Eastern Front. Their Eastern Front. For instance, to give you an idea, in the article that I’ve written now to go into the new edition I talk about one episode when we were diverted. I wanted to put it in because there was nothing like it before on the American 8th Air Force. The [pause] the Liberator and the Flying Fort, Flying Fortress in reverse order because it was in reverse order, their numbers. Far more Forts. But I loved it because it enabled me to talk about the type of men they were and they had so much in common with the training. We’re not on the air, are we?
CB: Yes. We are recording now.
CG: Oh.
CB: I started it when I asked about your crew position.
CG: That’s fine. That’s fine.
CB: Yes. Yes. We are recording. So, how did you feel when you were setting off? Did you feel afraid?
CG: Wonderful moment. This is the training because this, I forgot to tell you about our training. Why it was so incredibly effective. They trained you in many ways just as though you were a hairdresser or anything you care to think of. Just doing it as a, it’s a job. You don’t think, ‘Oh crikey. I’m going —’ You might quietly sort of say, for a second but your whole attitude during the day when you’d heard what the target was. It was based on very differently at times but you were trained. That’s what, I volunteered to do it. All flying people, submariners, people like that, they wanted to do it.
CB: And were you told just immediately before you set off what the target was?
CG: Yes.
CB: That was something you found out at the very last minute obviously.
CG: We had a full briefing. Supposing, supposing it was a maximum effort and around about twenty four aircraft were going from the squadron you would get a rumour very often when you woke up in the morning but always the target would be announced. Announced at briefing where all twenty four men multiply it by seven if you will and, and it would be that number of men who were going on that particular trip and that would be all be in one room having gathered at briefings at something like 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Don’t forget we operated in winter so we left earlier. So we were getting in to Germany in the dark.
CB: So, was it mainly night flights that you did?
CG: Yes. But we did quite a lot of daylights and the time we got so badly beaten up was in daylight. Holland. Battle of Osnabruck it was, sort of thing and to get to the target we’d had to turn left and the American Fortresses turned right to get past each other I remember. But I’ll tell you just out of interest really that we were really smashed up. A hundred and ninety six, I think it was holes in the aircraft. Some of them, you know that size.
CB: Three feet wide.
CG: Yes.
CB: By two feet deep. Goodness.
CG: Yeah. So, the outer framework on the aeroplane just blown away.
CB: It’s amazing you survived that.
CG: The under-gun turret I remember which luckily wasn’t used that day [pause] That was shot clean out. But —
CB: So, had anybody been there it would have been a different story wouldn’t it?
CG: Oh, just gone. But — [pause]
CB: A hundred and ninety six.
CG: It’s in the old Osnabruck and it was absolutely incredible how you could cause so much damage, one engine gone and seven of you would sit there and only the flight engineer had his arm slightly [pause] We pulled his leg endlessly for weeks afterwards because he went and put up the wound and survived and it might have been a scratch of a rose. But it, it was a genuine war wound what I’ve been told. He did it just for fun.
CB: That must have been real teamwork then to have brought that aircraft back home.
CG: Sorry?
CB: It must have been real teamwork to have brought that aircraft back home.
CG: Well, yes. I think the thing that appeals to people when they talk to me about it afterwards was that the skipper had said, told us to bale out and he called it, and he wrote the article on it and he called it his mutiny and of course he —
CB: His mutiny.
CG: With a big smile on his face. We just said, ‘No. We can’t possibly let you try and land this thing on your own. We shall stay.’ But it’s worth reading. I have one for you. We had to do the North Sea in in the dark. On one occasion in fog, and I think if I can find it —
CG: It’s from my old school. They’ve bought eighteen books on the —
CB: Blundell’s. Yes.
CG: On the first one. That was, she, she I’ll show it to you because it’s been honestly very typical.
CB: That’s lovely if they’re doing some work.
CG: Yeah.
CB: In schools.
CG: Oh, they are.
CB: At that particular school.
CG: And she, she has an extraordinary—
CB: On people who were students.
CG: I will show you the diary. The school diary later because it shows a group of about twenty five thirty people that, she is a development officer there and she takes some, I think one group a year around the battlefields of Europe to teach them history because she thinks it’s the best way.
CB: It is. Absolutely.
CG: Of course, it really does teach them history. You’ve got the date of when we went on to Dakotas, haven’t you?
CB: Yes. The Dakotas. You did the conversion training in June 1945.
CG: Right.
CB: According to your logbook.
CG: Now —
CB: And then went on ops in the August.
CG: That is completely accurate.
CB: Yes.
CG: The old logbook.
CB: Yes. So, what was the Dakota like then to fly in?
CG: Lovely.
CB: Was it?
CG: Oh, it was a lovely aircraft. Totally different. But it was a joy to be in it.
CB: And that’s a troops carrier. So you did that for some weeks.
CG: And that we did when we got to India and you’ve got all the dates there on flying out to India and when we got to India we arrived at Mauripur which is again there, I think [pages turning]
CB: What was it like there apart from very different?
CG: Yes. Totally different atmosphere but we had great fun in a way. And we went down to [pause] then we were very soon went on to Poona which was a lovely place surrounded by hills and beautifully green and not desert at all, like Mauripur. We loved it.
CB: And that was still moving troops around in that area.
CG: That was. Yes. Can I, we picked them up at [pause] a place on the east coast. A big port. It should be there.
CB: Not Wadi Halfa.
CG: No. That’s beyond.
CB: No.
CG: That was on the way out.
CB: Masirah?
CG: That was in the sort of Egypt area.
CB: Mauripur. Poona.
CG: Carry on.
CB: Just looking —
CG: Sorry about the state it’s in.
CB: Just looking at the logbook now. [pause] So after being in Broadwell.
CG: Yes.
CB: Whereabouts did you go to from there?
CG: From Broadwell, I think we went, that’s when we changed from [pause] Yes, it must have been because we were 76 Halifax Squadron towing these gliders around full of troops and they were, that was all in preparation for the attack on Singapore. Then one night we were having one hell of a party. I shall never forget it. I don’t remember it in detail but I shall never forget it. And what happened then? Then we were told at the end of the evening as it got to the end of the evening they said, ‘Right. It’s all off boys.’ The bombs were dropped on Japan. So, no need to go out to bomb.
CB: And that was Hiroshima.
CG: And that was still towing them in with our Halifaxes. And then it was all on again. About a week later we got another counter telegram telling us to, that it was on again and to train on Dakotas for India.
CB: Yes.
CG: Still to India but for a different purpose. For bringing internally the prisoners of war around.
CB: So, you went to India.
CG: Yeah.
CB: And you were in Karachi for about a year.
CG: I think, do you know, how about this for a memory this was all of seventy three years ago. We left on the 16th of September. See if that’s right. Or don’t. Do whatever you like. Have a look at it.
CB: It’s alright. So, you left on the16th of September. Which year?
CG: ‘45. And took us four or five weeks. No. It didn’t. I’ve gone without looking at that.
CB: So, you went out to India.
CG: But it would have taken us probably about inside ten days obviously and then I taught my skipper to play cricket and squash at Poona [laughs] He was a great guy. I excused him not being able to play cricket because after all he was a Scotsman.
CB: What was life like in Poona?
CG: Very good.
CB: Was it?
CG: Very good. We, we had one wonderful evening. Absolutely wonderful. We walked back into the mess one evening, always did look on the notice boards straight away because there were sometimes goodies going and there was a goodie going. It was a theatre. I can’t remember offhand. Its somewhere but I can’t remember quite if I put it in the book or not. The theatre. A famous, a famous show of some sort or another and then that was followed by the Governor of India putting notices on the board. The governor was from that area. You know, the governor of Bombay. That’s right. He had a house or something out there or his palace I suppose and he sent two officers from the Navy, Army, and Air Force around here, invitation to his evening to a Welsh Choir which was touring India at the time. We thought this was too good to be true and luckily we were the first two in there so we nailed it. And I’m telling this story because I shall never forget. Never. In there, and when we got there they’d probably been invited to something else earlier in the day or something were the top princes of India both Muslim and Hindu which we found fascinating. Otherwise, you had the Maharajas and whatever they called the Muslim and I shall never forget the Welsh Choir and we never forgot it. Any of us. That they played the [unclear] before finally obviously the British national anthem. And the, all these Indian nobles stood stiffly to attention and we hadn’t moved because the Welsh were still, we hadn’t realised that we should stand when they and so that was wonderful but it was just seeing them standing there in millions of pounds worth of jewellery. Dripping with it. Oh, it was fantastic. it was. It was very moving. Very moving.
CB: So, it was the —
CG: I’m sorry about all that.
CB: That’s interesting. So that was the [pause] where you were there was sort of known as the first and the last.
CG: Something we did.
CB: Yeah.
CG: When we were in Poona.
CB: Yeah. So, they, you were, the work you were involved with then was flights that were internal flights around India.
CG: Yes.
CB: And obviously there were troops coming and going from there to the Far East.
CG: Yes.
CB: And yours was the first.
CG: Yes. I think we probably, probably did a few but it was mainly prisoners of war. Thin as rakes. And I had complete diversion I won’t spend any time on it but I had lunch with Mary the other day with one of those men. Aged now a hundred and eight. No, he was ninety eight. Incredibly well, healthy man who had been a prisoner of war. And some of the stuff he’d had to go through. Some of the things will never be known. But we couldn’t understand how he looked so well.
CB: It’s good that he did.
CG: In the book.
CB: Good that he did. So, you had two different kind of experiences in India. You said one was very much in the desert and the other place in India was —
CG: Cricket.
CB: Not in the desert at all.
CG: Cricket.
CB: Cricket. What was the desert like? Apart from hot, obviously?
CG: Mauripur. Mauripur was another beautiful place. It was a fascinating place. Something, something we’d never seen before. I mean that’s the best I can say really. Poona was utterly beautiful and that’s why I got some very good cricket but later in the turn of the year I got up this cricket team because I suddenly realised, we all did that there wasn’t that much for us to do.
CB: Were you kept busy when you were in Mauripur? In the desert. Did you do a lot of flying.
CG: No.
CB: Or did you have a lot of time where —
CG: Not a lot.
CB: You weren’t.
CG: We did a bit. We went down to Jiwani as soon as we got there. The little place on the south coast of Arabia somewhere called Jiwani. No airfield. Just a sort of a dirt track and we landed out there. They were completely out of water. No water at all. So, they said, ‘Hey, we need something to drink. We’ve got nothing and it’s boiling.’ So, we, the first job we did when we got to India was to load up with water and go down there and landed on this old track I remember and exactly, [pause] Let’s get this right. ’46 yes. Exactly forty years later I took my youngest daughter to to India, on up to Kashmir and coming back I was standing at the, with her having coffee at the, oh what aeroplanes were they? Anyway, they were BOAC aeroplanes and I forget what, I don’t know first of all what the things are but he we got chatting and talking about old days and he said, ‘Well, come up to the flight deck and sit and we’ll have a chat.’ So, lovely and I took Katie up there with me and it was really great fun. I put that in this book.
CB: And whereabouts were you when the war ended?
CG: When the war ended I was in the back end of, oh sorry I beg your pardon when the Jap war ended? The whole thing?
CB: Well, victory in Europe.
CG: In Europe, by the 8th I was on the squadron and that night I think it was I shot up to Scotland. I just forget where and I can’t remember why we didn’t all go but we didn’t and out of the front door of the house came a very pleasant looking woman. Turned out to be his sister and he was very very fond of her, I remember and she smiled. She said, ‘Right. Off.’ And we, ‘Oh God.’ The telegram had just arrived. We’d just left the squadron that morning and, “Return to the squadron immediately.” We got back there. The place was absolutely buzzing with excitement. They said we’re off and the only thing they could tell us, they couldn’t even tell us where other than the Far East. So, then all the excitement started again.
CB: So, for you because of where you were based.
CG: In —
CB: Victory in Europe, the 8th of May didn’t mean —
CG: Oh yes.
CB: The end of —
CG: No.
CB: Your operations and your work, did it?
CG: We didn’t leave Portreath until, I’m sure I’m accurate on this until the 15th or the 16th of September 1945. Although it was only just after the war ended in May. So we’d been about what? May? June? So, five months.
CB: And then when your Service had finished did you stay in the RAF? You didn’t. You left, didn’t you?
CG: No. I had a wonderful life. I mean, it’s all a series of a wonderful part of life. I wrote to British South American Airways and said, ‘Can I have a job please?’ And I got a ground job and I found it fascinating. They were doing passenger handling and it was a really interesting job and anyway I got that and do you know within a month I got a call from the head of passenger handling. He said, ‘We’re posting you out to, I’ll tell you where in a moment, when —' so and so, ‘Comes back.’ So I realised it was an overseas posting. Where did they send me but Bermuda. Oh, Bermuda. It’s gorgeous.
CB: How long were you there for?
CG: Sorry?
CB: How long were you there for?
CG: I was there, only there for three months. They warned me it wouldn’t be more than that but I mean, sheer heaven.
CB: And you were awarded the DFC.
CG: Yes. I was.
CB: When was that? Was that —
CG: They always look the same don’t they? When was it? I’ve got that upstairs, torn up, half torn up it’s all I’ve got left of it but sending over my father in England to me in, and I was then in Poona I think. Which just said you’ve got the DFC.
CB: So, he knew before you did.
CG: Hmmn?
CB: He knew before you did.
CG: Yes. And —
CB: It must have been difficult for your parents.
CG: Well, they were the people in the war I was so sorry for. I mean they always knew when a telegram arrived what it was. And mother got one and —
CB: Was that for a specific act? Your DFC. Was that awarded for a particular event?
CG: I think, quite honestly I think it was a sort of a rather particularly successful tour.
CB: Yes.
CG: And having a good crew.
CB: Yeah.
CG: And that was what I believed it was and I’m sure of it. And I always felt sad that the other four members of the crew didn’t get one. Jim got one. Mac got one. I got one. But there we are.
CB: Indeed. Well, thank you. Thank you very much for your time and thank you for giving us this interview.
CG: Not at all. I hope I’ve covered all you wanted to know.
CB: I’m sure. I’m sure. Thank you very much.



Cathy Brearley, “Interview with Charles Gallagher,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 18, 2024,

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