Interview with Cyril Gosling


Interview with Cyril Gosling


Cyril Gosling trained as an armourer at Kirby in Blackpool and was first posted to 49 Squadron where he worked on the guns and turrets. As part of his role he would go on flights in the bombers to check the guns accuracy by firing at drogues. On one occasion they had to make an emergency landing when the engine failed. He often rode on the bomb trolleys on their way to the dispersals.
Cyril was chosen to move to 617 Squadron as an armourer when the squadron formed at RAF Scampton. He met Barnes Wallis and knew Guy Gibson, often taking his dog for a walk. Cyril flew in one of the Lancasters as they carried out a test run over the Derwent Water dam. Cyril's memory of the day of Eder, Möhne and Sorpe operation was marred by a tragic event at the base. His friend had a 'dear John' letter from his girlfriend and took his own life in front of Cyril. After the war Cyril moved to Canada and was involved with the destruction of war equipment not longer needed. He was saddened by the fact that along with armaments, they had to destroy clothing which would have been gratefully received by families in England. During his periods of leave he and fellow RAF colleagues went to New York. They were treated in his words like 'Royalty' and put up in hotels for free and were introduced to Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Cyril also remembers going up the Empire State Building when later the same day a B-25 Mitchell bomber crashed into it in during thick fog. Cyril return by Ship to England in September 1946.







01:21:14 audio recording


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SP: So, this is Susanne Pescott. I’m interviewing Corporal Cyril Gosling today at his home in Oldham. I’m interviewing today for International Bomber Command Centre Digital Archive and we’re at Cyril’s home. It’s the 7th of September 2018. Also present at the interview is Cyril’s daughter Gillian. So, first of all Cyril thank you very much for agreeing to talk to me today.
CG: You’re welcome.
SP: So, do you want to tell me a little bit about life before the RAF? When were you born Cyril?
CG: The address?
SP: So, what date were you born?
CG: 1923.
SP: 1923.
CG: First of the seventh 1923.
SP: Brilliant. And where did you live then?
CG: Golden street. 47 Golden Street, Oldham.
SP: Oldham. Yeah. Yeah. And what was life like in the early years for you?
CG: A bit, a bit rough. I wanted to go into engineering but mother said, ‘Ooh it’s too it’s not for you that. I’m going to get you in a shop.’ A grocer’s shop who lived next door to me. Literally, you know. So, I finished up early on in this shop. The grocer’s shop. And that were alright, you know running around with a bicycle like I was doing. And then what happened to it? Now [pause] I finished up getting fed up with it. Complaining to mother. And this lady came into the shop. I were cleaning the, you know, all the equipment in the shop and this lady dashed in and said, ‘Can you give me a half a pound of bacon, I’m in a hurry.’ I said, ‘I’ve just stripped it down. The machine.’ And I said, ‘Well, because it’s you I’ll do it.’ But so, without a to do, without putting the machine together again I ploughed on. [stress] ‘Oh. I’m sorry I’ve just cut my finger [laughs]
SP: So, you cut your off finger on the machine.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: On the bacon machine.
GC: You were only fourteen, weren’t you?
CG: So, I finished up at hospital. We didn’t have a car in those days. I went on the bus to the Oldham hospital and I were getting off half way there and mum said, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘Well, to the pictures. I always go to the pictures Tuesday afternoon. Because the shop’s closed.’
GC: On the way back.
CG: On the way back.
GC: From the hospital.
CG: Anyway, I sat through my normal journey, you know. When I come back she played heck with me and I got back home. I got through, sat through these films which I liked and she said, ‘You’d better go and see Mr Livingstone.’ That was the manager of the Oldham shop. ‘Why?’ ‘He’s in bed poorly.’ ‘Why, what am I supposed to do?’ And she played hell with me then. She said, ‘You go gadding out, go to the pictures and there’s poor Mr Livingstone in bed poorly.’
GC: With shock [laughs]
SP: Yeah. And that Mr Livingstone was the, ran the grocers’, the manager of the grocers.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. Yeah.
CG: And that’s it. So, I had to go around one or two people who heard about it got a shock, friends like. So anyway, I said, ‘I’ve had enough of this.’ War was just starting.
SP: Ok. Yeah.
CG: I said I want to join up.
GC: At the Local Defence Volunteers. Talk about the Local Defence Volunteers. Dad’s Army.
CG: Oh, that were it. Sorry. Yeah. I jumped in. Dad’s, you know, Dad’s Army. So, without any further ado I went to the local part of it asking for volunteers and I signed up there and then. And I said I worked for a store in Oldham. I volunteered. Anyway, I signed up and it was just like, like it is on television then [laughs] yeah.
SP: What sort of things did you do in the Defence League?
CG: It were just like it said on television.
GC: Dad tell them about when you thought a paratrooper had dropped down when you were on guard duty.
CG: Oh that.
SP: So, they thought, yeah, so in Oldham they thought there was a paratrooper arrived, did they?
CG: Yeah. And we were, we were based at [unclear] Barracks which is in Oldham.
GC: [Up the big hill?]
CG: Yeah. A group of [unclear] on there. And there were one bloke which always amuses me when it comes on. He would start by, like it was on, and he used to anything like this. He would say, ‘Don’t flap. Don’t flap,’ you know. And he was. Anyway, when I come through, he calls me, official, you know. So we’re up at the top there. And this bloke was always shouting, ‘Don’t panic. We’ll sort it out.’ Anyway, we went off. Four of us there. Four of us looking for this parachutist. And he called to me and —
GC: Denshaw.
CG: Denshaw over that way. Anyway, it seems daft now but we had search parties out. All looking for him. We never found him.
SP: They never knew what it was then?
CG: Not really.
SP: No. So, after the Defence League in Oldham you then decided to join up did you say?
CG: Yeah. Joined up.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Yeah.
SP: So, what, what made you decide on the RAF?
CG: It’s funny. I don’t know.
GC: They said that he’d got flat feet. The army.
CG: I, I don’t know. Passed me.
GC: Didn’t they tell you you had flat feet?
CG: Oh. Oh, yeah. Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Flat feet. So, they suggested the RAF.
CG: I fancied it.
SP: Yeah.
CG: But they turned me at down first.
SP: Right.
CG: Because I had flat feet.
SP: Right.
CG: Anyway, after struggling they accepted me. So, we went to Padgate which is, do you know it? [Crowmarsh?] Blackpool of course. Roughed it.
SP: So, what was life like in black, what was it like in Blackpool during your training?
CG: Well, all I can say, there were hundreds of young ladies chasing our uniform [laughs]. So, and then from there we went to Filey. You know it?
SP: Yes. Over to the east coast.
CG: Yes.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Yeah.
GC: His fitter’s course.
CG: Did our square bashing and what have you.
GC: Kirkham. You went to Kirkham to do your fitter’s course.
CG: Oh yeah. Sorry.
GC: Tell her about when you had to take your turn of doing guard duty. When you were patrolling around in that blizzard and you were all wrapped up.
CG: This is one of many things. This camp is, you know, for fitters. Teaching fitters. Anyway, it was winter and I were on guard duty in the camp. It was snowing and I marched up and down because it was, I were cold. Suddenly Filey disappeared. I didn’t realise. There was so much straw and I sunk into a big hole in the ground.
SP: Right.
CG: Fortunately, the corporal who was bringing a chap to replace me and I had all the equipment on me. Rifle, everything, you know. So, I was shouting out and he was shouting, ‘Where are you?’ I said, ‘In the water.’ And they dragged me out and it was so freezing out there. The corporal, he had a phone. I don’t know where that come from but he got, got me out, you know and leads to the M O station and they said, ‘You’re lucky. If he hadn’t have caught you you’d have been passed away.’ You know, it was in the hole because it was freezing. Anyway —
GC: You got two weeks survivor’s leave didn’t you?
CG: Yeah. I don’t know why I’m here. If they can do that to me [pause] anyway [laughs]
SP: So, what, what sort of things did you learn on the fitter’s course? What was the training?
CG: It was guns. You know, things like that. We went to the fitter’s camp to —
GC: That was your next bit. Eventually you moved to Scampton.
CG: Yeah.
GC: Where you were a fitter/gun armourer.
CG: Yeah. I were a gun armourer. Needed fitting a bit. Everything, you know.
GC: You had to make sure that the turrets on the planes were working and that the ammunition was laid out correctly.
CG: Yeah.
SP: So, what would it be like? So, did the, on an operation and the planes would land. Or pre-operation what would your role be? What would you do before the planes went out and when the planes came back?
CG: I had to load the guns. You know, with the ammunition. The turrets. Making sure they were working alright. Then we’d go out on trial runs over the sea. Over that way, you know. That way. And, well all of the, all the engines were [pause] oh it brought down one of the engines. Nothing to do with me actually but, and he, the pilot said, ‘Right. We’re in trouble here. One engine’s packed in. We’ve got to get back to shore.’ Well actually we were practicing these, with these engines and firing them to the —
SP: To the drogue was it?
CG: Yeah.
SP: When you went out practicing firing on the planes.
CG: Yeah.
SP: So, did you actually go on the flights with them for that?
CG: Oh yes. Yeah.
SP: Right.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. Was that to check that all the machinery was working?
CG: That’s right. We fired at a drogue. What they called a —
SP: A drogue. Yeah.
CG: [unclear]
SP: Yeah. So, the drogue was for you to, the guns to aim at, wasn’t it?
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Anyway, it [pause] he said we’ll have to jettison. He said we’ll have to get out of the plane. And what was it now. Like abandon ship kind of thing, you know. Anyway, we had the door open. Open the door, Jumped out. Anyway, when we looked across, we could see the shoreline like. They could see there were a trawler from one of the boats from [pause] what do they call the place?
SP: It’s alright. From one of the ports. One of the boats did you say could see you?
CG: Could see. Yeah. Could see it coming out fast because two of the blokes had dropped out.
SP: So, they’d baled out.
CG: Baled out. Yeah. And I didn’t go. I didn’t go. Two went and they got picked up. You could see them in the water. Anyway, he carried on then because he could see his men were alright, you know. We didn’t go back to, we went back to Waddington. That’s wasn’t ours. Scampton was our place.
GC: You didn’t jump because the pilot said it was ok, didn’t he?
CG: Yeah.
GC: He said everything was ok. Picked up.
CG: Yeah.
GC: So, you didn’t jump.
CG: Yeah.
GC: Saved you having a, saved you having a soaking in the sea.
CG: Anyway, it did, it did, it did crash land but it was only at Waddington. It’s not far away. Well it’s a big place.
SP: What was the landing like then because obviously you were coming in with a damaged, was it a damaged engine did you say? Yeah. So, what was that like for you to come in on a damaged engine?
CG: Well I were in the rear turret and I didn’t know any better and the pilot said, ‘They’ve shook me up so much,’ He crash landed actually because he come down and he finished up in doc for that. He was a nice lad. Because I dressed out in blue, hospital blue. Slouching around, you know [unclear]
SP: So, was anyone injured on the, was anyone actually injured on the landing or was everybody ok?
CG: They bumped me.
SP: Shook up. Yeah.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Ok.
CG: So it were, where did I go from there? Oh, I went in doc. In doc.
SP: So, you’d have to get back to Scampton.
CG: Oh yeah.
SP: Yeah. Was the plane repaired then at Waddington? Or —
CG: It were, yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: But I didn’t go in that. I got in the ambulance, you know, to the hospital
SP: Yeah.
CG: Take over. Sat back and enjoyed myself [laughs] Where did I go from there?
SP: So just about your time still at Scampton. So, you’d check the guns. You’d, you’d go on the flights to check that everything was working.
CG: Oh yeah, I was —
SP: Yeah. What would you do when you were on the ground during the day? What would be a typical fitter’s —
CG: Yeah.
SP: You know.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Armourer’s day? What would that be like for you?
CG: Firstly, the turrets. You know, the turrets. Automatic you know. We had to make sure they were all geared up. Working right. Fitted all the turrets with hundreds and hundreds of bullets and stuff like that. We had, we went back to Kirkham more knowledgeable you know, [laughs] Which was going to Blackpool because Kirkham — Blackpool. Kirkham. Any excuse.
SP: So, going for more training. Was that because things changed like different types of plane had different turrets, different guns?
CG: Oh yeah. Yeah.
SP: So, would that be going to be upskilled on different types of guns or did you have to just to keep your knowledge every year or something?
CG: Well, I kept going back to Kirkham to pick up. They’d teach you there. We just, not enough. They were sat up there.
SP: Right.
CG: On this, you know firing of these ground level, you know. We did that several times so I got [unclear]
SP: So, did you work with a particular crew or did you work on all the planes? Or were you linked more to one plane and one crew. Or —
CG: For the two. I were attached to two flights because I went to Scampton then and that’s where I were fully qualified.
SP: Right.
CG: You know, I were fully but —
GC: You had Hampdens. And then you moved on to Manchesters before you got the Lancasters. When you were with 49 Squadron, before you went to 617.
CG: I think I’ll put my hat and coat on.
SP: And go [laughs] So what were the, you know obviously some very early planes there with Hampdens and that. And Wellingtons. What did you think of those planes compared to your Lancasters?
CG: Rubbish. I must admit we landed several times. Crashed.
SP: On which plane? Was it the Manchester did you say?
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Horrible.
SP: Yeah. A lot of people said it was quite a very difficult plane.
CG: Yeah.
SP: So, you had a few crashes in that. On landing.
CG: Oh God. It were more or less a clapped-out rubbish aircraft.
SP: Yeah.
CG: You more or less landed them, you know?
SP: Yeah .
GC: Dad, you said often that you would see planes limping home in flames. And you’d see them coming in where the bank of trees was. And they were, they were very, it were very, your heart were in your mouth waiting for them.
CG: Oh yeah.
GC: Wasn’t it? You know. Whether they would make the runway.
CG: Yeah. This is now wartime. You know. Proper war time.
GC: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: I mean they come over, you know. Landing.
SP: Yeah.
CG: But, you know, they were your friends, you know.
GC: And the hydraulics failed didn’t they? And they belly flopped, and if you were in that rear gun turret you didn’t stand much a chance did you? In the back.
SP: So, can you talk me through one, maybe an operation that you’d watched go out and you were waiting to come back where there were some problems. What was that like? Waiting around for the planes to come back?
CG: Horrible. Yeah. You know. Especially if you see one coming and it had been shot at and it were all in flames going over the top of these trees. I don’t know why there were all these trees in the way. I saw all that, you know. But anyway, it was rough.
SP: So, did you see any that actually didn’t make it?
CG: Oh yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Yeah. Yeah.
SP: What was it like then on the base when —?
CG: It was horrible because the turrets were electric you know and if they’d shot up. The plane. The electrics didn’t shut off, you know. So, the person who was in that turret he can’t move it.
SP: Right.
CG: So, he’s stuck in there until one of his mates come from the mid-upper turret and winds it by hand. You know, the electrics are gone.
SP: Right.
CG: But —
SP: So was that the case for some of them where they couldn’t get to the rear gunner because of the electrics going.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Right.
CG: But, yeah [pause] happened anyway. We’re still, it was still like, how shall I put it [pause] it’s was all going ahead now with a proper war you know.
SP: Yeah.
CG: So, there was so many accidents, you know. I mean, I lost one or two friends you know. But they had been loading the bombs up. And they’d sit on them while they went out to dispersal [unclear] and there would be many accidents where it’s gone up. You know.
SP: So, the armourers would sit on the bombs as they went out to the planes. And what would cause the, the bombs to go off?
CG: I don’t —
SP: Just —
CG: I don’t [unclear] it. I think they were bouncing too much, you know. But they sat on them and went up with them.
SP: Yeah.
CG: I never did that.
SP: No.
CG: I went to dispersal on a bike.
SP: Yeah. And did you have a set dispersal point that you’d go to?. Were you allocated to a set dispersal point where you’d always go to and look after the plane that landed there?
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. And was that far away from where you were based?
CG: It wasn’t far and we used to, well we were given bicycles. Used to [pause]
SP: Yeah.
CG: But there was lots of things. Had to keep up with 58 Squadron. they were never, I’d never heard of that one before but it came from somewhere outlandish. I don’t know where it was but they parked them way out.
SP: Right.
CG: There must have been a reason for it because, well I know there’d be a reason for it. You know. What shall we say [unclear] we had flares you know.
SP: Fido? Was it the runway did you say, with flares?
CG: No. These flares. This was something to do with 58. Something. I think it was that. It’s gone now.
GC: 58 Squadron.
CG: Yeah. I’m not sure.
SP: Ok.
CG: But they were right out at dispersal but, and obviously they loaded it with the flares. And the bloke, it was dipping, and I remember that [pause] helping out because officially I was nothing to do with that squadron. I don’t know where they come from, but he pulls, he loaded this big flare. He set out and he got all the, blew that one up. It blew nearly every one of them up with people.
SP: Really, right.
CG: Yeah.
GC: Good job it were a bit far out. That’s bad isn’t it. So about three planes went up didn’t they?
CG: Yeah.
GC: Because the flare went off.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Right.
GC: And that were when they were on the ground.
CG: That’s right.
SP: And which airfield was that at. That was, was that when you were at Scampton or at one of the other —?
SP: Yeah
SP: At Scampton. Ok.
CG: Yeah. Nothing really, nothing doing.
SP: Yeah.
CG: I don’t know why a full squadron was on. On that Scampton crew. But they played it down of course.
SP: Well, you were at an airfield where obviously 617 Squadron were so —
CG: Yeah.
SP: You had quite a lot of inventive things going on there didn’t you, on that?
CG: Yeah.
SP: So, did you meet or see anyone at that time from 617 Squadron?
GC: He was in it.
SP: But any of the crew? Did you work on their planes then for 617 Squadron, on their practicing or —
CG: Oh honest, we were right. What it was they wanted to create a squadron and we had planes that they had and all, but mine was 49 Squadron. Apparently, they was told to create, to go around picking the best people up and create a squadron which was 617 Squadron. You know what it was, you know and they pinched two of my planes from 49 Squadron.
SP: Right.
CG: So, and then we moved over.
SP: So, you went with them because they wanted the best fitters as well.
CG: Yeah. Oh yeah. Put it that way, yeah. In fact —
SP: So, the planes that you moved over with from 49, were any of those involved on the Dambusters run itself or were they —?
CG: Oh yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Yeah. He was told to create —
SP: Yeah.
CG: A full squadron. Create a unit. 617 Squadron. So, they did all right. He had this dog [unclear] I’m losing it.
SP: No, you’re alright.
CG: Like a —
SP: Is this Guy Gibson’s dog?
CG: Yeah.
SP: Guy Gibson’s dog, N*****?
CG: Yeah. Oh N*****. Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: He got, he got killed didn’t he? I don’t know whether you read it but, our pilot —
GC: You used to take it for a walk.
CG: I’d take it for a walk.
SP: So was this part of your duties. To walk the dog.
CG: Yes.
GC: When he was, when Guy Gibson was out on duty he looked after his dog sometimes and took it for walks.
CG: And then some silly so and so [unclear] but another, a corporal had the job of looking after that dog.
SP: Yeah.
CG: And he let it loose and he got run over it, didn’t he? [unclear] but it got run over by a taxi outside the camp which [unclear] upset Guy Gibson.
GC: Well it would wouldn’t it?
SP: So, did you meet Guy Gibson then?
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Oh yeah.
SP: Yeah. Do you want to tell me a little bit about that? Meeting Guy Gibson. What was he like? What —
CG: He was alright. A bit, you know, stultified. Yeah. He were alright to talk to. Yeah.
SP: You saw Barnes Wallis knocking about, didn’t you?
CG: Oh yeah.
SP: Yeah. So, Barnes Wallis as well. So, so he went up to Scampton. To the base while you were there.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. So, what, what would a day be like working with the 617 Squadron, or the Dambusters? Because they were testing different things wouldn’t they? So, was your job slightly different when you were working with them to when you were working with 49 Squadron?
CG: Well, they had more flying tests because obviously part of it over water, skimmed over the water. We had to do that.
GC: You went over Derwentwater didn’t you? Where they did the test. You were low flying over there in the, in the tail of a Lancaster.
SP: So, you went up on your normal testing of the guns when they were doing the low-level flying.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. Do you want to tell me about one of those trips?
CG: There’s a big photograph of it in my bedroom.
GC: It’s in there.
SP: Well take a photo and put it with the recording but what was it like flying at that low level compared to when you’d gone up previously on the —
CG: Yeah. It’s funny when you went up for a test flight. By being right at the front of it you look as though you were flying, you were flying the plane, you know. Just like that. This was very low flying. And the pilot were in front of you, and he’d be only that far from it, and I’m saying to the pilot ‘Pick it up, pick it up. You’re too low,’ and he was, he was about that far from the ground. He gave that impression because he was just so low.
SP: Yeah.
CG: You felt like you were flying that plane you know.
SP: You were so close to the water.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: So —
SP: So do you know who the pilot was who you went with that day?
CG: No.
SP: No.
CG: I’m sorry. I’ve got it down somewhere.
SP: That’s alright. It would be one of the Dambusters guys doing their practice.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: And then we, we had some mishaps, you know.
SP: Ok. Do you want to tell me about any of those? What happened? The mishaps.
GC: Didn’t you say the Lancasters always had, you always thought they had a weak undercarriage and they tended to fold on landing.
CG: Oh yeah.
GC: Yeah. And that made you crash a couple of times didn’t it?
CG: Yeah.
GC: And when you were in the rear turret it meant you were thrown about a lot and you were black and blue.
CG: I finished up in hospital.
GC: You ended up at Blackpool again, didn’t you?
CG: In hospital. Yeah.
GC: In your hospital blue. Bruised. Blues. Said it was with the bruising and got the girl’s attention. He’s a right flirt.
CG: Apparently I finished with [unclear] with everything.
SP: So obviously there was problems with the undercarriage. What other mishaps were there with the other things?
CG: Sorry?
SP: You said there were a few other mishaps. Obviously, the undercarriage issues. Anything else?
CG: Yeah.
GC: Tell you some other bit of mishaps what about when the bombing was worse and you worked for three and a half days without sleep and you had to go and get some more bombs because you ran out.
CG: Oh yeah. At Scampton. We were there.
GC: Waddington.
CG: Waddington. We ran out of bombs so we got a big transport and went from Scampton down to the centre of Lincoln. Down by the cathedral. Pinched the bombs and come back through Lincoln.
SP: With all the bombs [laughs] through the centre of Lincoln.
CG: They acquired these. They were on the, they were loaded on these trailers and we were going back up the hill towards the cathedral. The last bomb, they weren’t bombed up by the way but it could have gone off.
GC: They were unarmed. Yeah.
CG: But it was these so-called mates of mine they were sat on these trailers again. On the wagons, you know. And it was going up the hill and this chap, he kicked the wedge from underneath this bomb and it started rolling from half way up the hill down to the bottom. ‘It’s a bomb. Get off the road,’ It rolled down the road. I can laugh now but —
SP: Some steep hills in Lincoln for that bomb to roll down weren’t there?
CG: It was. You’d have got, first you’d got it was, the bomb more or less rolled, only one road. Wedged it up. What do you call it [unclear] the wedges got thrown off so —
GC: What about the night when there was an attack on the base from German fighters and you digged up that tripod with the Lewis gun?
CG: Well, I mean, the, trying to pick my brains there. I created a Lewis gun which is —
GC: Strapped to the tripod.
CG: Yeah.
GC: To try and get the German.
SP: So, you were telling me about the tripod that you made.
CG: It was just, yeah, we put, instead of firing one Lewis gun I put two together. Fired them both together, you know. But and I could, build it around and I got a tripod too. And I got the shock of my life. I was in this, you know. Flight, yeah. I didn’t think that it were about from here to in there.
SP: So about six feet away, yeah.
CG: With this German plane going past I could have shook hands with the bloke. It seemed my impression. And no matter what, everybody said it were me what shot him down.
SP: So, you shot at the plane. Was this a plane coming in strafing the —
CG: Yeah. It were German.
SP: A German one. Just on his own? One or was there more night fighters.
CG: Just one.
SP: One. Right.
CG: Yeah. So afterwards we heard that he’d been shot down. We all claimed it [laughs] And so we all hopped onto transport of all kinds. Went out. [unclear] where I pinched this gun, German gun. Naughty. He shouldn’t do that.
SP: So, you took the gun off the pilot? Yeah. What type of gun was it?
CG: [unclear]
SP: It’s alright. Yeah.
GC: You said before was it a luger. A Luger gun [unclear]
CG: Yeah. It was a Luger.
SP: Yeah.
CG: It was a Luger. I was thinking it was a bigger one but it wasn’t.
SP: So, you took that gun off him and when did you have to give it back. Straight away or —
CG: The civilian — not civilian but our —
SP: Military police.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: They took it off for an enquiry.
SP: So, you lost that.
CG: Yeah.
SP: So, did you get up to any other incidents with your firing or shooting?
GC: Oh, in promotion you were put in charge of the firing range at Scampton weren’t you? Tell them about —
SP: Sorry?
GC: When you got a bit of a promotion you were put in charge of the firing range at Scampton. And you know they had that stockpile of old grenades. Well, tell them what you did with them grenades.
CG: Oh yeah. I mean
GC: Springs had gone weren’t it?
CG: Scampton is an old, you know, well known and —
GC: They were rusty, them grenades. You’re going to knock it off.
SP: So, this pile of grenades Cyril. These were old that were rusty, yeah.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. What did you have to do with them?
CG: Well, they wanted to get rid of them. The idea was to get rid of them anyway. But they were really going off and it’s, the CO said he thought I had to, that there was three grenades and of course I was involved with armaments stuff that were fitted and clearing it. And it were, there were built a pit and I’m stood behind this bloke who happened to be a cook. He come pfft.
SP: So, he pulled the pin out.
CG: He pulled the pin out and threw it at me. Just a silly so and so, you know. Where did it land? Right at my feet. So quick as a flash I dived at it. Knocked him flat on his face. I mean. And it were up in the air and it went off.
SP: So, you kicked the grenade away and it went off.
CG: It was just like that. They put me through for an award but I never. I don’t know what happened [unclear]
[recording paused]
SP: So, Cyril you were saying as well that on one occasion you were issued with a 20mm aircraft cannon. So, do you want to tell me a little bit about that?
CG: Well, I don’t know where they got it from. It were my idea but I mean obviously we had smaller cannon. Like smaller than they have on ships you know. You know they were quite, you know and the thing is the spring on that that type of cannon you see them on the, on the ship. They’re like that.
SP: So, it made you judder. It was really powerful. Yeah. You’re showing me how you were really juddering it. Yeah.
CG: Yeah. So, I told them my bloke’s in charge of them. I said this one is going to vibrate so it’s a long barrel and it’s going to. You’re going to tie a rope around and you go down your side and you were there to hold it down. To, and then keep it down otherwise they’d be all up in the air. It sounds like brrrrr going on the left hand side, let go and it went up in the air straight over. See, there was a bank you were firing in to. But obviously by letting it go that it went up into the air. Anyway, the farmer he was following me, was er, round wondering what was happening, you know. And he was rather uncouth. He was swearing.
SP: So why did the farmer come around?
CG: He saw me, I, me who shot the cow.
SP: So, when the gun went up and it shot over the bank it had killed a cow. So were you in trouble for that or —
CG: I was. Yeah. But we pacified the farmer by volunteer begrudgingly and he obviously did this, and he come and this talk of where it was, he cooked. Cooked. And I said, ‘I can’t eat that. I’ve just shot him,’ and I wouldn’t but some did.
SP: Yeah. So, they actually ate it on base.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. Bring it round. So, you did everyone a favour that day didn’t you? They were getting some nice beef on that day. Yeah.
CG: A favour. There were some remarks about it.
SP: So, what was food like on base generally?
CG: Oh, it were alright because we were well established, you know. We were well doted on. Yeah. It were quite good.
SP: So, would you eat in the mess every day?
CG: No.
SP: No.
CG: No, it were mainly officers.
SP: Right. So, where did you eat during the day then? Was it just —
CG: Just [pause] we had our own place.
SP: Right.
CG: You know.
SP: So was it a hut designed for fitters.
CG: Yeah.
SP: And armourers etcetera. Yeah.
CG: Yeah.
SP: So that’s where you’d see your friends and that.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. So, what did you do on the days when you weren’t working? Did you get days off? What would you do on a day off?
CG: I, one of the chaps he got, he was being moved out of the camp and he had a motorbike. A rather expensive one and he was moving out the same day. Posted somewhere else and he had to get rid of this motorbike. I’d never had one in my life and he had about two hours to sell this. Anyway, it were a nice bike and I bought it for five pound. And I’d never driven a bike in my life, especially one like that. Anyway, I get on. This bloke showed me how to do it. [unclear] The bike were a livewire. You could call it. To go in to the café not café. You know where you eat.
SP: Yeah.
CG: And how am I going to get it to stop? ‘Cause it wasn’t that wide the path. Anyway, without any further ado I thought somebody open the door for me. And they did. I went straight in to the door on this side. Wrapped it up. So, I flogged it to somebody else.
SP: That was the end of your biking days.
CG: Two hours. Two hours I had to, I bought it, sort of thing. I’ve never had one since.
SP: No.
CG: No way.
SP: So, it wasn’t your transport into Lincoln was it, then?
CG: Yeah.
GC: Pushbike instead.
SP: So, yeah, you went on pushbike into Lincoln from then on, did you? You went on pushbike into Lincoln after those days.
CG: After that.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Yeah.
SP: And where did you go in Lincoln? Was there anywhere in particular all the ground crew would go?
CG: Yes. I’d say the ground but officers went there.
SP: Yeah.
GC: Dragging his brains now, trying to remember.
SP: Yeah.
GC: You’ve told me this many times and I’ve forgotten myself dad.
CG: Have you?
GC: That pub in Lincoln. What’s it called? I bet you don’t know.
SP: So, you’d mainly go in to a pub where everybody tended to meet in Lincoln.
CG: Yeah.
SP: So, what was life like in that pub? What’s a typical night like that? Mad?
CG: There might be fifty people.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Yeah. All of them mainly on bikes.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Oh, come on Gillian.
GC: Go on prompting. Put him out of his misery. He don’t know.
[recording paused]
SP: Ok. So, you remember the name of your pub? What was it?
CG: Yeah. This mate of mine. He opened a pub.
SP: And that was the Adam and Eve.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: And he used to bribe some of his mates to stand in for him so he could run his own pub, you know. Without any trouble. And all the officers knew, you know. He said they’re on duty that night but he wanted to be at this pub. So, he would slip, he would slip to, oh dear. So, he’d get as many as, roughly fifty, more sometimes.
SP: Yeah.
CG: I think he made a lot of money. He used to bribe ‘em.
SP: Yeah.
CG: But it were a laugh when we were all in because the roads, they all were on pushbikes on the road that way. All on country roads and it was a laugh were getting your mates on to, on their bike and push them off into it.
SP: So, this was after all the drinking. You’d have to weave your way back on bikes. Yeah.
CG: We had to.
SP: And how far was it? About.
CG: What? Back to camp?
SP: Yeah. About. How far back to camp?
CG: Oh, about seven. Seven, seven miles.
SP: Seven miles is quite a distance to wobble on a bike. Yeah. So, Cyril you were based at Scampton for quite some time with the armoury.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Obviously a key part of checking all those planes ready for the Dambusters raid. And obviously you were there at the time of the Dambusters raid and after and obviously saw Guy Gibson, Barnes Wallis and had actually taken the famous dog for a walk as well. So obviously some really important role, or a really important role by yourself during then. So, once you’d finished at Scampton you then ended up going to Canada. Do you want to tell me a little bit about that?
CG: Well, I was, I knew, it was explained to me that they wanted to destroy — what did they call it? Lease lend. British American stuff. They didn’t want it. They’d lent it to us. We didn’t want it. They didn’t want it. So, they decided all of it but we had the job of destroying it all. It was hundreds of thousands of dollars of [ brute? ] blown up. Everything. All new stuff. They just didn’t want it. We didn’t want it. We had fifteen blokes working. Destroying it, you know. New stuff. Flying jackets. Everything. It were a full time up. It dwindled off finally. You know. Then we started enjoying ourself.
SP: So, where was this? Where were you based? This was in Canada was it? You had to go over to Canada to destroy.
CG: Oh no. In the camp.
SP: In England.
CG: No.
SP: Sorry.
CG: Sorry. It were over there.
SP: Right. So over, yeah.
CG: They took us over there.
SP: So, you went over there to do the destroying and that. Yeah.
CG: Yeah. A base on a Canadian camp. But they had nothing to do with me. I were in sole charge of all, of all the information to me and I decided. The only thing is I were a fitter armourer not a bomb armourer. Things like, I had to fathom it out. Sort it out. How to destroy. Let it burn, burn, burn in big furnaces.
SP: How long were you in Canada for?
CG: I were there ten months.
SP: Ten. Ten months, right.
CG: In that time, I nearly went back because when I got out there it worries you. High up people you know. And as soon as they finished they packed in and went and they left me to look after everything, you know [laughs] Ridiculous.
SP: So, this was at the end of the war obviously.
CG: Yes.
SP: So how did, did you get de-mobbed then or —
CG: No.
[recording paused]
SP: So, Cyril we were just going to talk about your demob but before then we’ll talk a little bit about your time in Canada. So, on your days off I believe you went down to New York?
CG: I went New York, Chicago, Montreal, Nova Scotia. All over. And in New York we found out if you go to this place in New York this person was a multi-millionaire and he, we had it, just two of us being fed. You’ve never seen anything like it. You only see them on telly. All the stairs was divided up and all the gold. This chap a multimillionaire. And it was all genuine and we got it all free for a whole week. And we waited. Waited and everything. There was girls there. This older lady used to come in and she brought these young girls in. ‘Do you want to go anywhere in New York? Just tell me and I’ll get tickets for you.’ We got it, that flat. I’ve never seen in my life a staircase going like that. Just like that.
SP: And that’s just because you were in RAF uniform?
CG: Yeah. Precisely.
SP: Yeah.
CG: [unclear] I mean it was laughable. I’ve got to tell you the bit. These mates that got brought over here I used to say to them, they actually took over a cinema in the camp and this captain used to —
GC: It’s fine.
SP: So —
CG: Yes. She used to come up in a beautiful soft topped thing and I said to these mates of mine, and one said, ‘What’s on tonight?’ I said, ‘What’s on tonight?’ I said, ‘Just come here and look at this. My friends used to come up in a beautiful soft top do, and you only had to go from A to B and the first one comes along and said, ‘Are you English?’ Because the war had finished and they were all, you know, doing. And you were asking me what’s on at night at the pictures. I said, ‘You want an answer do you?’
SP: I believe you saw a few famous people as well while you were there.
CG: Oh, lots of them.
SP: Yeah. Anyone in particular you remember?
CG: Well, Bing Crosby and, he did the abroad. What was it? Bing Crosby. Frank Sinatra. And women. I don’t know I keep losing it. But in fact I’ve got photographs actually somewhere because this is just an hasty look. We’ve got a lot of them.
GC: Yeah. We have.
CG: Yeah. Photos of your time over there in America. Brilliant.
CG: Skated. That was what put me off this because she was so fit. A really fit person. Skated, skied up in the mountains.
GC: Jacqueline.
CG: I saw her, you know. Nice tan on her. And me [laughs]
SP: Yeah. So, whilst you were in New York and you were being treated because of your RAF uniform, in a very special way, you went up the Empire State Building as well.
CG: Oh yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. What was that like?
CG: Oh you know, it had had that fire in there. I think you mentioned it didn’t you? When I had come away from it. And yeah. We came away and we had this, this bloke had a camera.
GC: Telescope.
CG: A telescope. This were about a good mile away.
SP: So, you’d been up the Empire State.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Done all your views, come down and there’d been an incident where a plane had gone in to it.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Yeah. Well, this but was another one.
SP: Right.
CG: The one had already done that one.
SP: Right.
CG: Gone into it. This was another plane.
SP: Right.
CG: We’d come away from it. We’d come down. Come away. And we come across this bloke reporting it, and we asked and he said, ‘Oh there’s a plane crashed into it.’ It were another one. One of our own. A chap and his wife, she’d had to be, they’d had to be gone in to. I can’t believe it. Just think an hour before it could have been us in there.
SP: You’d have been up there. Yeah. Right. So, was this a small plane?
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
CG: I forget how much we put in. So many dollars in. It were a few. Crafty this bloke with the telescope.
SP: For people to look. Yeah.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Because there was a report that a B25 Mitchell in the fog had gone into it so obviously —
CG: Yeah.
SP: There were some problems around that time so —
CG: Yeah.
SP: But luckily for you, you were in the right place at the right time then weren’t you and you’d come down.
CG: But she said, [unclear] she laughed, when she looked. I said, ‘Oh no, no you outn’t,’ I said. Yes. Anyway, we got on very well then. She was as bad as Jacqueline which was my girlfriend.
SP: So, Jacqueline was your girlfriend in Canada. Yeah. From the family that were up there.
CG: Yeah. Yeah.
SP: Yeah. So, from, after America and then you went back obviously to and from Canada. You came home via Halifax via Nova Scotia, did you? Talk to me about your journey home from Canada.
CG: Funnily enough, yeah. We were going to fly home but we found out there was that plane, not a plane, a ship.
SP: This boat. The HMS —
CG: Yeah. Leticia.
SP: Leticia, yeah.
CG: That was just coming in. It was hours disembarking. And all them from out of that were from England and they were all women and they all had youngsters. You know. They’d got married over here and they were coming to, to live in Canada with baby.
SP: So, their, their boyfriends or husbands were Canadian.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Or American.
CG: Yeah.
SP: And obviously they’d met in the war, in England
CG: That’s right.
SP: And after the war they were going back to live with the families of their crewmen or army.
CG: Well these were, these were actually coming in.
SP: Yeah. From England. The ladies with their children.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Were coming in to Canada.
CG: Yeah.
SP: To live with the force’s, boyfriends and husbands. Right.
CG: We were just the opposite. They were traded. You know after we got off this, off our boat and they were going in the opposite direction. We were talking to them. Yeah. Where do you live? You know.
SP: So I believe you had some fun getting on your, was it on your train towards the ship. You nearly missed it did you?
CG: How did you know that?
SP: Do you want to tell me a little bit about that then?
CG: He put me off.
SP: Yeah. So, you were going to post a letter and —
CG: Oh yeah.
SP: You nearly missed the, oh you did miss the train, didn’t you?
CG: I did.
SP: So how did you catch it up?
CG: Well there was this taxi bloke he, he said we’ll drive, drop you off. He could see what had happened and he said, ‘I’ll try and catch your train up.’ No chance. Anyway, he dropped me off. Then the train [pause] and then we went about ten miles finding an express train. Anyway, we went to the station. It were only a poky little station. I thought it’s never, it’s never going to stop for me here. Anyway, the station master there was the only bloke I could see, and it were, you know, anyway, so I tried. No. I thought it’s not going to stop for me. Anyway, I thought I’d try. He went past me and nearly run me down in the train. But I got chewed up for that. Stopping an express train.
SP: So, you managed to get on.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Right.
CG: Well, the funny thing was I got on board this ship and one or two of my so-called mates said he’s tried to dodge out. He’s tried. All I wanted was to post this card. I said, ‘I want to post this card.’ ‘No, you can’t. You can’t get off.’ He was stopping me moving. You know, moving.
SP: Yeah.
CG: They were winding me up.
SP: So, you got on. How long did it take to get home? Can you remember how long it took on the ship? To sail.
CG: It were only a small ship that I got.
SP: Yeah.
CG: It were luxury because on board were all these women and girls with babies. They’d, they’d turned over like.
SP: Right.
CG: So, you could just imagine and they had the servants, you know, from here. So, we were, there were only fifteen of us and these blokes, English blokes who were more or less with these beautiful girls who’d come over. They were looking after then. They were looking after us then [laughs] honestly. It were like a cruise. It were beautiful. I know it was only a small ship but beautiful.
SP: So, you docked and then you’d go to your demob. Where were you de-mobbed?
CG: Liverpool. Yes. It be so daft. As a mate got out and he was going back with me. We were only, they were only handfuls. Anyway, he was just, you know like how can I make it right? Anyway, how shall I put it [pause] he could go back to his old trade.
SP: Right. Yeah.
CG: But it was when you go abroad and you have these people, you know checking your clothes and all that. What do you call them?
SP: It was like at immigration.
CG: Yeah.
SP: So you were coming in.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Coming in to immigration. Yeah.
CG: Yeah. But, well we didn’t say anything to this other bloke. There was immigration and we were winding him up. They hadn’t noticed ‘cause he’d got his uniform, you know all were in uniform. All the rest of us, nobody, but he didn’t know. And they got panicking because they’d brought cigarettes.
SP: Oh, so they had the cigarettes on them. Yeah.
CG: Millions of them.
SP: Yeah.
CG: And we passed word to this bloke, ‘You’ll have to watch it, Pat’ ‘Why?’ ‘This bloke’s on board doing —,’ and you know lot of cigarettes, all kind of things.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Anyway, the following morning he’s still on board. He still hadn’t checked up. His old mate was there and he were pulling his leg. He didn’t realise it. And the following morning his best friend were looking for him and the ship weren’t a massive one.
SP: Yeah.
CG: But the bay what it had gone in there were millions of cigarettes in boxes all floating around and what had caused it was this bloke saying, I believe this, what do they call them Gillian?
GC: [unclear]
SP: So, they’d all got wet, the cigarettes then.
CG: Oh yeah. They were all floating.
SP: Floating. So at least he got through immigration alright then. He didn’t get in trouble. So you were de-mobbed then. What did you go on to do after the war?
CG: [Francis. Francis’ at Hollywood.]
SP: Right. And what did they do?
CG: Engineering.
SP: Engineering.
CG: Yeah. Yeah.
CG: Which is what you’d wanted to do originally wasn’t it?
SP: Yeah.
CG: Yeah.
GC: You were a fitter though.
SP: Yeah.
CG: But I finished up inside the, and I also started building these transformers and what have you, massive things.
SP: Yeah.
CG: And I finished up going all over the place. I got married by then.
GC: You went working on ships, didn’t you?
CG: And I then, I was going on ships, planes all over England.
SP: Right.
CG: and Ireland. That were my job.
SP: Yeah.
CG: And I used to go, they used to be at Harland and Wolff’s building ships there and my job was to go out, check it out, making sure. We used to go north of Scotland on trials and stuff.
SP: Right.
CG: A bit different.
SP: So a lot of travelling.
CG: It was.
SP: Yeah.
CG: I used to fly there.
SP: Yeah.
CG: Part of my job.
SP: And is that what you did ‘til you retired then? Worked in engineering and that.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Brilliant. So obviously you worked in engineering until you retired. When you first got back and you were de-mobbed, I think you met your wife quite soon after the war.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Do you just want to tell me a little bit about that?
CG: Well we both liked dancing, you know and doing —
SP: Where did you meet her? Which dance hall did you meet her in?
CG: I forget what it were called but at the stores.
SP: Right. So, in Oldham.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. You met her there.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. Got married soon after.
CG: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. And what was your wife’s name?
CG: [laughs]
SP: And your wife’s name was —?
GC: Nora.
SP: Yeah. Your wife’s name was Nora. Brilliant. So, you met her. I think you told me it was love at first sight wasn’t it? Well Cyril it’s been really a pleasure to interview you today.
CG: Oh it is. I’m not. I’ve been losing it. I have. I can’t —
SP: Well you’ve got some fantastic stories there that we can share with people.
CG: Oh I have my [unclear]. Yeah.
SP: We’ll take you some photographs and I’d just like to thank you on behalf of the International Bomber Command for your time today. So, thank you very much Cyril.



Susanne Pescott, “Interview with Cyril Gosling,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 20, 2024,

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