Interview with William Paul Gould

Title

Interview with William Paul Gould

Description

William Gould joined the Air Defence Cadet Corps at his Grammar School in Stoke on Trent. After selection to join the RAF as a wireless operator/air gunner he went to RAF Eastchurch to remuster as a flight engineer, and from there did his training at RAF St Athan. He joined his crew on 622 Squadron at RAF Bottesford. From there the Squadron moved to Mildenhall to commence bombing operations on Lancasters. At the end of 1944 and beginning of 1945 he flew operations in support of the Allied armies advancing on Germany. He witnessed V-2 rockets at close hand. He took part in three Operation Manna drops to the Dutch people, and also took part in repatriating ex-prisoners of war back to the UK. His regret is that at the end of his tour of operations he was reposted so quickly he didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to his crew.

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Date

2018-06-19

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01:26:16 audio recording

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IBCC Digital Archive

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This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

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Identifier

AGouldWP180619

Transcription

DH: Right. Ok. The numbers are turning over now so I apologise, we’re going to start again.
WG: All again.
DH: All again. But at least we haven’t got very far. Right. Because I’ve just, I thought the numbers aren’t ticking over. Right. Ok. Right. Ok. Right. From the top then. Here we go. This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Dawn Hughes, the interviewee is Mr William Gould. The interview is taking place at Mr Gould’s Home in Telford, Shropshire on the 19th June 2018. Thank you, Bill, for agreeing to talk to me today. Ok. First of all can I ask you again about the lead up to the war and how you came to join the RAF?
WG: Well, I, obviously I was at school before the war and my interest in flying was started probably when I was around about the age of seven or eight and I made little gliders to start with and, with balsa wood and little bits of well sticks for lighting the fire were carved down to make bits of planes and models of course. And I suppose I was influenced to a great degree by people like Amy Johnson to go and fly to Australia and —
DH: Wow.
WG: But there were an awful lot of difficulties that she got over. She was, she were really, was bitten by, by flight I think. Anyway, from there of course you leave school and eventually you start work. The war came before I left school and I started at a local motor engineer’s at Stafford. So I got on the train every morning down from Stoke Station down to Stafford. Then it was the same ride back to go to the Technical College which is right by the station. And again I got interested there in, in other people’s model making but the old urges were still there, you know. You don’t lose it. As I said, I joined the Air Defence Cadet Corps at the Grammar School. We were the first ones in Stoke on Trent to have that. The other school, High School had the Army Cadets. I don’t think we had a Naval version in those days. Anyway, it was from, from that we learned all about flight and air movement. Practical so far as the construction of aircraft are concerned but not of engines. And then of course I had a friend who was with me in the Air Defence Cadet Corps and we were I suppose sixteen and quite a bit and decided we’d go along to the Recruiting Office and volunteer for the Royal Air Force. Of course, they had a bit of a laugh when they found out we were still sixteen but we didn’t expect to go straight away. Next week perhaps [laughs] Eventually they, they sent for us to go down to Birmingham for a bit of an interview and medical and then we were virtually a little selection as to what type of job we were expected to be proficient at in the Air Force and my friend got flight engineer straight off. I was unfortunate. They shipped me in as a wireless operator/air gunner. Now, I, I had a little difficulty with the Morse Code in the Air Defence Cadet Corps but they didn’t take any notice of that. They wanted wireless operator/air gunners so you were in. I eventually survived to get out of that and remuster to flight engineer. They took me, took me down to Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey. Anyway, so I remustered there and went then from there to Locking in [pause] just south of Bristol and started the [pause] what is the first step from ITW? Training for a flight engineer. And then it was the next posting was the little bit further up the line to go to St Athan, South Wales to really get down from the, well the nitty gritty of being a flight engineer and we actually had aircraft to play about with [laughs] From there of course eventually you pass out and it was seven days leave and report back to a flying station. And we’d no, no crewing up there but we did a bit more ground training and one or two of us were lucky we got off the deck a few times. And then I got posted to Initial Flying Training Wing and initially at Bottesford, Lincolnshire and it was there that I was crewed up to a crew who had already been together for a considerable time. My skipper was an Aussie. He was thirty four and I gathered that he really did want to be thirty five which I thought was a pretty good thing really. So, we got a skipper that was from Australia. We got a navigator from Clitheroe, Lancashire. We got the bomb aimer from, well the first one was from London but he had problems. He was airsick most of the time. We’d only got to get the wheels of the ground and he was violently sick so he was stood down, and we had another bomb aimer that joined us. As a rookie he’d just come from Canada having done his bomb aimer’s course in Canada and a part of a pilot’s training course as well. The wireless operator again after a little bit of a hick-up with the crew. Again, another one that was not as well as he thought he was so he was, he was stood down in favour of a laddie to finish his tour off because he’d, he’d flown on Blenheims. First of all in the United Kingdom and then he was posted out to India and on his way back from India he was on operations in North Africa when the push, a push was on. And then he came to, back to the UK to eventually find himself at Bottesford and we, he crewed up with us and he was very, very good. He really, he was a laid back airman. Really laid back. He had a motorbike and his girlfriend was in the Land Army and he used to leave the camp on the motorbike and go and see his girlfriend and of course you need petrol. He was very adept at finding out where the local Army bases were. Always the Army. Never the, never pick on your own Force and he used to go in to their camps, find out where the petrol depot was and just arrive and get them to fill him up with petrol and then he’d sign for it and off he’d go.
DH: Cheeky.
WG: He was. He was a W/O by this time. Of course, he’d done an awful lot of service, and he was a warrant officer so whether they thought the very smart uniform that he’d got was extra special I don’t know but they certainly served him with the petrol. He didn’t always use the same base but he, invariably he did. He was the most laid back person I’ve ever met. We, we, had a lot of fun after the war. I did manage to get his name and address and I went out with his wife to France with the Blenheim Society and we went to their, their old base which was a place called [Virieux] in the Champagne country. Oh, the Royal Air Force certainly picked some very nice places. It’s a pity we couldn’t have defended it a bit better but it was a very nice spot and a very hospitable local community. We had some lovely times going out to [Virieux] as the Blenheim Society. Yeah.
DH: The squadron that you were put on to. That was 622 Squadron.
WG: 622.
DH: Yeah.
WG: 622, that I eventually went to from Bottesford. But before we left Bottesford and we were in the, it was not good weather whilst we were there, and I used to pass it regularly after the war because I used to go up to Grantham every weekend and, working. And from Stoke on Trent you go straight past or straight through the village and the village is on reasonably level ground but there is a mound of which the railway put a line across the top of it and then at the beginning, virtually at the beginning of the village there’s a very nice church with a spire. It had three red warning lights on the top so that, you know you could really see it because it just pipped the top of the embankment from the railway and it was just to the right of the line that was the main runway. So when you were going on the runway at night you got the red beacons on the top of the steeple. Well, one night we took off and how we, just how much clear it was of the top I don’t know but I’m certain that had there been a train on the line we would have knocked it off. Or they would have knocked us off actually because we, we hadn’t got enough airspeed and anyway I looked up at those three red warning lights. I can remember it now so well [laughs] And then we were posted. I think they thought they’d get rid of us before we did some real damage.
DH: Yeah.
WG: Anyway, we were put on the train to the station near to the Mildenhall camp and then the lorry fetched us two. My rear gunner was from America. The USA. His residence was in New York. His father worked for the Underground. Yeah. And my mid-upper gunner was from Lowestoft, and the son of a butcher so they had a butcher’s, family butcher’s business in, in Lowestoft. And he was, he was quite laid back. We got a guy out of the armoury on one occasion, and he decided that we’d, he had a car and he decided we’d have a little bit of shooting practice. He did the shooting. We drove along the country lanes and if a pheasant or a partridge or a rabbit or whatever showed its face well it was as good as dead. And then he tried with, he tried with the proprietor at the Bird in Hand which is right by the aerodrome [laughs] he tried to get him to do the bit of culinary work. And then he found out that, ‘Where did you get these, this game from?’ You see. And he happened to be one of the members of the local Shooting Society. So anyway he got around that one. Talked his way out of the pot. Anyway, I had, we had a very lucky tour. One of my early trips was to, dropping mines. And we seemed to do an awful lot of mine dropping. Usually briefed by the Royal Navy who did the fusing. Especially when they were after something particular, they’d set these things up just to put the right vessel. We had, we had a very lucky tour really. No, no nasty things. We got peppered a few times but they soon put a patch on [laughs]
DH: What was the Lancaster like to fly in? What was the Lancaster like as an aircraft to fly in?
WG: Oh, wonderful.
DH: Yeah.
WG: Wonderful. It was an aircraft with no, to me with no vices.
DH: Oh.
WG: You could do things with it that with a lot of aircraft you’d be in trouble if not serious trouble with. But they seemed to say look have another go because you didn’t quite get it right, you know. Yeah. It was a wonderful, wonderful aircraft.
DH: So on an operation as flight engineer what, what, because some of them would last anything up to eight hours wouldn’t they? So what would you do during that time? Can you just describe that?
WG: The brief time in between.
DH: The time in between take off and —
WG: Oh.
DH: Actually dropping the bombs and then coming back.
WG: Well, most of my, most of, if it was a night attack you were on your own. And it’s just a matter of really speaking once you’ve taken off you do two things. You’re keeping a check on your own petrol consumption particularly, the state of your engines and if anything else was untoward. As did happen on the odd occasion and you had to do a little bit of, ferret around to see where things weren’t quite what they should be. But mainly it was a matter of keeping your eyes open and making certain that if there was anybody about it was a friendly one and not too close. I saw the first, my first experience was over Belgium with the V-2s. I mean you suddenly saw a vapour trail go right in front of you. Just a little bit disconcerting.
DH: God.
WG: It was just a massive, well, you’ve seen the rockets go off and it’s just that massive vapour trail. We were up at about twenty thousand feet and this thing suddenly passes you.
DH: When you were dropping the mines, the ones that the Navy —
WG: Yes.
DH: So can you describe what the targets were?
WG: Well, the targets are just a landmark or a sea mark.
DH: Right.
WG: It’s just pure straightforward navigation, and you studied your maps before and you knew what little nooks and crannies you were looking for to drop these things on the shipping lane. It’s mainly stuff coming out of Kiel but you know warships that we were after.
DH: Yeah.
WG: But we did drop them way up to the Skag, to get to iron ore vessels I think they were. We were never told. We were just given a location and fortunately we dropped them on the locations but with, when the Navy had briefed you or at least they’d done the setting up of the mines they would come back and tell you that yes you were successful, you know.
DH: That’s good.
WG: We had that. Yeah, oh yes. We got what we were after.
DH: So did you, can I ask what the date was when you joined 622 Squadron? What, what year and month? Doesn’t have to be exact.
WG: Oh, it had to, it does seem funny saying nineteen doesn’t it?
DH: I know.
WG: Yes. You were on to [pause] Yes, 1944 local flying. Yes. When the, I’ve got two here. One is a local familiarisation. That’s, you know you just arrived at the place and you want to know where everything is round you. That was on the 17th of December. On the 17th again we did a cross country. That would be in the, in the evening. And then a fighter affiliation. And then we did an ops on Trier. This is when the, we, we had the Battle of the Bulge. When they were fetching all their equipment through the railway yards at Trier. So we were called in to bomb. Bomb Trier, yeah.
DH: So, that was bombing, that was the Germans at Trier.
WG: The Germans at Trier.
DH: Yeah.
WG: Yes. And then the 24th of December we’re coming up to a very interesting time at Christmas. And we did another one on the airfields at Bonn. That was quite peaceful and we were diverted on the return because of fog and we landed at a little place with beautiful aircraft, Mosquitoes. And that was at Little Snoring, which if you look it up on the map you’ll find it’s, well north of Norfolk. And we landed there and of course the Air Force being what it is, trying to look after you properly and take care of Christmas Day we were, we were at Little Snoring you see and we couldn’t take off because of fog at one end or the other. If we were clear Mildenhall had got fog. When they were clear we’d got fog. So we were there from the 24th until the 29th, 28th when we flew back. But they came and picked us up with five others and brought us back to have Christmas dinner [laughs] Lovely. Lovely. Yeah. And then we, again we did a night. A night. A night job on Koblenz and we dropped that with instruments, on Gee. Yeah. And we, we virtually jettisoned the load. In fact, it was just dropped. It was not put on to a pinpoint target. It was just get rid of them because we’ve got problems with the Gee. GH equipment.
DH: Can you explain that a bit more?
WG: Well, it’s instrumentation that put you in the right place and it gave you a marker that you’d got to drop the bombs, you know. And with a bit of luck they all went down in the right spot. Nothing really untoward. It’s just the fact that the equipment we’d got was not fully serviceable and we had to jettison. We were a little more fortunate on the 31st of December because we actually did one on Vohwinkel which is on the marshalling yards. So you’d got a fair, a fair target to spread eagle your bomb load. Yeah. [pause] That’s something like nine, nine hours. Nine hours flying time. Not bad. Four and a half there, four and a half back. It was all the usual targets really. Places we’d heard of from 1939 when we’d gone out with Blenheims and Fairey Battles which a squadron had in ’39 out in France, Fairey Battles. They got minced. Minced up because they were attacked on the floor. We’d arranged them all in nice little parking lots so it makes an easy target to come down in one swoop and, you know you get the lot. Do you want any more?
DH: Yeah. Can you name some of them because you said some of the places that you recognised?
WG: Oh, I remember some of the names. You see, Dortmund. Well known to everybody. We’d all heard it on the news from 1939.
DH: Yeah.
WG: Munich. A lot of things went on there. My little note here there were no serious opposition. In other words we never saw any night fighters and the flak wasn’t that heavy either.
DH: Right.
WG: Krefeld. You see we’re coming now to December of, and January. January of ’45. Well, the war was, really speaking it was on its way out, you know. The Germans had got enough to do to try and stop the Army. They still put up a very serious opposition with night fighters because they could, their radar was so good.
DH: Oh right.
WG: They could vector people in. Tell them where to go and then I think they’d even got you on, well they’d got your number marked really. That’s one thing that [pause] whether it was better radar than ours I don’t know but it certainly, it certainly enabled them to put fighter aircraft too damned close to you and they could see you.
DH: Did you ever have any close shaves?
WG: These were all night.
DH: Yeah.
WG: All my early ones were night. Night attacks and then we started to do daylights and that was lovely. You could see where you were going. And by the logbook I don’t think we wanted them to have any heating because we were doing coking plants. They were making up, they were making petrol so [pause] Yes, little though, we got the, we got the coking plants alright. And it just says here complete cloud cover and flak moderate. Sometimes you felt if it had been put out as a paper you could have walked on it.
DH: Really.
WG: Sometimes it was very, very heavy. Yes. Oil plants. We’d gone on to synthetic oil plant here at Wanne Eickel. Then we had a little bit of practice and we did sort of a low level attacks on Ely Cathedral. It’s a wonder it’s got any glass in it with people passing over so low.
DH: Yeah.
WG: But they were nice little local runs you see. Take off, do a couple of little circuits on it and then back to base. It was back in time for tea. Yeah. I had quite a little spell in late January with local, local flying. We put it to good use because we used that as the test flying for when we dropped the food and that’s only three months away but all these were low, low level exercises. Oh yes. We were doing a photo shoot on at low level as an exercise and then it was hindered by a snow storm. Yes. [pause] Then one or two, well certainly one raid here that I didn’t like to be on. Coming from Stoke on Trent going to Dresden which I’d been taught as a boy on the wonderful ceramics that had been made there. To go there was almost like dropping it on, on [unclear] you know. But I think that’s about the only time I had any conscience at all about dropping bombs. Yeah, it’s funny that’s come to light. I haven’t looked at this for an awful long time. Little name here. Wiesbaden.
DH: Right.
WG: When we had [pause] that was using our Gee equipment, and we were up at twenty six thousand feet taking notes. And then we got on the 13th Dresden. As I say this really did bring it home as a pottery lad. It was a bit naughty, but it was the worst flying weather that I’d ever experienced.
DH: In what way?
WG: All the way, well for a considerable time across France we were in thick cumulus cloud and being thrown about like a cork in a rough sea. It was wicked. But it got us. Well, it partially relieved my conscience because we were, we had to abandon it. Yeah. There. The ice coming off the propellers and bits of aircraft, and flak might have been flying outside. It was hitting the aircraft and it really gave you a thumping.
DH: So that was bits of ice coming off other aircraft.
WG: Yeah. Yeah.
DH: Flying out. Wow.
WG: Which were the worst conditions that I ever flew in.
DH: Yeah.
WG: And then the following night we did the adjacent city of Chemnitz. And yes, that was done with marking the target with flares and we took, you know target markers and we dropped on those. Then we came a little bit closer to home with Weisel. Which is where the Canadians and ourselves, the English made the crossing across the Rhine.
DH: Right.
WG: And we went there sort of three days. The 16th, the 19th and the date we went, or when the Army crossed. I know there were three. Yes. On the 23rd and they really gave it a peppering going in and coming out. It was very heavily defended. When we, my neighbour from Oakengates, he said when they crossed, they crossed when we bombed it, he said we made such a damned good job, he said you couldn’t get down the streets for masonry. We flattened it.
DH: Oh my God.
WG: They had to get the bulldozers across quickly to clear the path to get the troops across. But they’d peppered us for certainly two of my trips were very heavy.
DH: Your specific target that time for those three was it the German Armed Forces? Was it marshalling yards? Was it —
WG: The target was preparing the ground for the Army to go in and take the, take the town.
DH: Right.
WG: But it was very heavily defended both from a point of view of anti-aircraft fire and for ground fire to meet any opposing troops.
DH: Yeah.
WG: Yeah. Weisel. Weisel. Dortmund. Gelsenkirchen. That was a nicer one [pause] and then one I did with another, another skipper and we were brought back to, because of fog we had to land at Tangmere on the south coast. And then it was Dortmund again. They liked that place didn’t they? And Gelsenkirchen. Yes. Both very well clouded over. My note here. Ten tenths cloud. Yes.
DH: You mentioned where you’d had quite a peppering and it’s been heavy flak. Have you ever had any really close shaves?
WG: One at night that really did rock us because the gunners, my mid-upper gunner swears that he was trying to get us on the radio, on intercom, and he, bellowing down it and checking his connections and, before I reported that we’d got an aircraft on the starboard side and we took a little bit of evasive action. Just dropped perhaps fifty feet and he was very relieved after. When we, when we were out of trouble his intercom started to work. It was funny that. He said, ‘I’d seen the darned thing and I was trying in fury to tell everybody.’ That’s Cologne. And Gelsenkirchen. Ham. Weisel, and yes [pause] Kiel. Kiel Canal. The German Navy. Naval base. And then we did another little gardening trip. We called mine laying gardening. And we were in the Kattegat so it’s sort of a nice little area out of Kiel and yeah, the thing was you’d got to keep, you’d got to keep low all the way from England. You were virtually skimming the tops of the waves all the way to the target and you’ve got to go up above Denmark and then down. You didn’t, you wouldn’t climb to get over Denmark. You’d go around the top and then down. You planned it all to stop the night fighters finding you. We were lucky. We were very, very lucky. And then we come to the very happy events really. Then we come to the supply drops. The Manna. Operation Manna which gave the, certainly the Belgians and the Dutch a lifeline, because they had, well they just had no food.
DH: Yeah.
WG: And they, they used to go out along the railway lines in the hope that they might get enough coal to light a fire and it was bitterly cold. A bitterly cold winter. Aye, there was people that suffered and they were eating, eating the fruit of their wares, tulip bulbs. Dear.
DH: How many runs would you do across to Belgium and Holland?
WG: Food drops?
DH: Yeah.
WG: How many did I do? That’s one [pages turning] Yes, two. Three. I did two on Rotterdam there. One on the Hague. Yes. Dropped them on the football ground. Oh, the racecourse. Yeah. That was nice but it was totally the ingenuity of the ground crew to lash up this mesh across the bomb bay.
DH: Yeah.
WG: That you could drop the lot all at once, you know and it was all, all the food. It was all obviously in its packages, but it was put in two sacks and if, if one sack broke the idea was that the other one might save it and fortunately most of it did.
DH: Good.
WG: They [pause] Yeah. I remember these. I remember looking down and you could see the faces and they had pieces of cardboard and on it they’d [laughs] it’s funny. They were eating their livelihood, their tulip bulbs. They were eating those as food. They’d got nothing [pause] and they’d got little notices. Whether it was in chalk or what I don’t know but it just said, “Cigarettes please.” [laughs] so —
DH: Did you take them cigarettes?
WG: We, we, on the second trip we did get some, the gunners to drop through the slots in the, in the rear turret. We pitched a few packets out. We kept them in the cellophane wrappers, you know and just, I mean we were low. I mean we were not much above the height of these houses.
DH: Really. So the cigarette drops were unofficial then.
WG: Oh, it was totally unofficial. You know what you’d done one these appeals for cigarettes and you smoked yourselves in those days. You realise what they were perhaps going through. The pangs. So it was a matter of an easy way out. And the rear turrets had hardly got any, you know there was a big hole because the gunners didn’t like to see the Perspex. If it, if there were specks on it you’d think it was an aircraft. So most of the gunners had part of a cover unspoiled with the removal of the Perspex. Yeah. That was, that was one. I must, yeah. It was, it was upsetting to see these people down below. We knew they were starving. You don’t do the type of drop that we did without food. And to lash it up in a matter of a few days and get the supplies to the airfields because there was an awful lot of, you know you’re dropping seven hundred tons. A lot of. Not one aircraft [laughs] but it’s all got to be got the aerodrome. And —
DH: How many aircraft would there be doing that?
WG: Well, we [pause] I suppose 15 Squadron at Mildenhall were putting fifteen aircraft in the air and we were certainly putting fifteen out of 622 Squadron.
DH: Wow.
WG: So we, somewhere I had the tonnages but I’ve lost those. Yes. And then we were called on. We did the last food drop on the 7th. And on the 10th, this is in May we were asked to go to, or ordered to go to Juvencourt in France to pick up ex-prisoners of war. Now, this was, this was doubly emotional really. The first one that I was able to speak to we’d loaded them in, we carried about twenty and I got one up right by me. But you tell them, ‘You’ll have to stand back there when we are going to take off because I shall be, I might have to come back here quickly.’ And no problems with him. The rest of them were sitting, sitting down on what is the bomb bay. The roof of it. And we sat them down there, a couple of them along the flight bed and they were, they were fairly close together. No, no ‘chutes of course. No harnesses. Just whatever they were standing up in outside. That’s what they flew in. And this boy, he didn’t look much older than, well he certainly wasn’t. I didn’t think he was anywhere near thirty, put it that way and he was picked up very, very early in the war. Before, way before Dunkirk and he said, ‘We were told to go out — ’
[telephone ringing – recording paused]
DH: Ok.
WG: I got him up by me and explained what would happen on take-off. That I would be assisting the skipper and where if you, you know put him in a nice safe little spot. And in the conversations before we’d taken off it was that he’d been sent out on a night patrol to pick up a German prisoner and find out, so that the intelligence could find out where he, where he was in the way of the German Army. Obviously, they would know his rank but they were after his regiment and what the regiment was equipped with and so on. Anyway, this lad found himself on the wrong side of the wire and he was picked up instead of him taking the prisoner and he did the rest of the war as a POW. He was in reasonable state. He was a bit, you know the worse for food or poor food, and he said overall he hadn’t been too badly treated which wasn’t quite the case as we came to the finish, because there was an awful lot that were trying to get away from the Russians and they were force marched really. Anyway, this poor lad was, had served most of his military career in a German POW camp. Yeah. It’s, it makes you wonder afterwards where all these people went to.
DH: Yeah.
WG: Because I’ve, we fetched a fair few back from, from Juvencourt. I’m just wondering how many more I did there. The food drops by the way and the returning, the POWs, ex-POWs. They don’t count as operations.
DH: Oh right.
WG: Yeah.
DH: So, at an operation you’ve got to be being shot at.
WG: Yes. Although, the first few aircraft that went out to Belgium were fired at but only, I mean you’ve got Germans that were being hassled. They were told not to fire. But the news didn’t always get to the men did it?
DH: No.
WG: You know, it would be back in the billet. One, two, three, four, yeah. There were four there in quick, quick succession. Eleven, fifteen, sixteenth, twenty first, twenty third. Just a [pause] yeah, and then that brings us safely to the end. The end of the war. And then I was posted very quickly. ‘Get your kit together. You’re posted.’ And I never had chance to say thanks a million to my skipper, my navigator, my bomb aimer, wireless operator and the two gunners. Never. I regret it. It rankles a bit.
DH: Yeah.
WG: It was close as close and then you were [pause] I was, I don’t suppose I was the only one but there were too many that never got really to say cheerio or even get addresses.
DH: Not like today is it?
WG: I managed to through, through the Blenheim Society, and I don’t know how I was contacted by them but I went out to the base that 15 Squadron were on out in France. They were there in 1939. And through that I met my old wireless operator, and he had obviously had more time, he was able to furnish some addresses and again I picked up crews from them.
DH: Yeah.
WG: From him. And when I go to Mildenhall I always go over to, for the reunion. I go over to see my mid-upper gunner at Lowestoft.
DH: He’s still there? He’s still alive?
WG: Yes. He’s ninety three. We were, we were the two juniors in the crew, yeah. My skipper as I say he was, he was thirty, thirty three when we met him and he wanted, he wanted to live to be thirty five so [laughs] And then Paddy. Paddy, I picked up oh very late when he’d finished his, he’d stayed in the Royal Air Force and he’d flown on Javelins which was Delta Wing aircraft, you know. Yeah. And he’d flown, flown on those. And I rather think the rest of us we’d all finished up as ground crew.
DH: Before we started the interview you were telling me about the bomb aimer. You told me a little story about how he was, he didn’t do what he was told and and, and what sort of bomb aimer he ended up being really. Can you explain that for us please?
WG: He was a bit of a naughty lad. He was sent out to Canada to train as a pilot, and he liked to see what was on the ground I think and particularly when it was in front of the CO’s accommodation. And he sort of did his little bit of aeronautics low level, fast in front of the COs offices and whether he got annoyed with the noise through his windows I don’t know, but Paddy was hauled up a number of times and told stop the low, you know to stop his low flying antics. And I think it was the third attempt by the CO he decided the best thing he could do for the Royal Air Force was to ground him. Take him off flying. Paddy said, ‘Well, if you won’t let me train as a pilot I’ll train as a bomb aimer,’ he said, ‘But I’ll be the best — ’ blankety blank, ‘Bomb aimer you’ve turned out.’ you see. Which I believe he was. He was very, very good. We only, I think one day on the Ruhr we had to go around twice and the skipper told him off when he got back. He said, ‘Don’t ever you do that again.’ [laughs] So he always made certain he got it well lined up before we got too close. Yes. He was, he was quite a boy. I took him, I had a little two fifty side valve motorbike and no lights, no dynamo. No nothing you see. So, it was all daylights for me. And Paddy was courting a girl. One of the nurses at Ely. Ely Hospital. And one day he came, he said, ‘Can you take me to Ely this afternoon?’ So, we’d got nothing on anyway so yeah fair enough. I said, ‘But I’ve very little petrol Paddy.’ So, ‘Oh, don’t worry about petrol. I’ll get you filled up.’ Which he did. And coming back they’d just been resurfacing roads in patches and there was a lot, quite a few corners and one of them had got quite a build-up of pebbles or crushed granite or something. A little motorbike didn’t handle too well when it’s, half its wheels, or half the depth of the tyres are buried in loose shingle. So I thought I was losing the front end and Paddy heaved himself, oh I’d stooped down. I was flat on the tank. He sort of heaved himself up off the two footrests and barrelled over me, and then rolled right in to a lovely clump of nettles. I mean it was a lovely, lovely bunch. But no hard feelings. His wife said afterwards I tried to kill him [laughs] but I’d never do that to Paddy anyway. Anyway, it was one of the family things that he remembered after the war to tell her.
DH: Did he marry that girl he was courting?
WG: Oh, he married the nurse, definitely. Yes. Yes. Oh, I admired his choice. Lovely girl.
DH: Looking back, apart from you said about Dresden with the Stoke on Trent.
WG: Yes.
DH: That connection. Have you got any regrets about the war?
WG: They’re all a total waste of human resources [pause] but unfortunately they become a necessity. I can’t think how we could have ever have got a peaceful Europe with the likes of Hitler.
DH: Yeah. What are you most proud of with your time in Bomber Command?
WG: I’m proud to have taken part in [pause] in so much of it. [pause] Yes. Overall, I think the Royal Air Force did a fantastic job and I’m proud of, proud of that side of it. And the humanitarian side at the end of the war because that certainly saved hundreds of people’s lives in Holland and Belgium. Holland was —
DH: Can I ask were you ever scared?
WG: Not, not scared. You’re trained to do a job and you were the crew that have trained to do a job and you realise that if we all do our job to the utmost of our ability and that’s all you can expect of anybody then ok, if we’re unlucky we get shot down. But we were, we were, when you think of the short period of time that people were together in training we were very well trained. I mean it takes an age now to get people from —
DH: Yeah.
WG: From Civvy Street to virtually to get them in uniform. To do a useful job flying takes an age. And you’ve got people with a far better education than we had and of course technologies. It hasn’t just jumped, it’s [pause] gone over. Who’d have thought twenty years ago that you could have a little thing in your hand, no, not as big as a packet of cigarettes that would communicate you, or give you communication to any part of the world and take photographs at the same time.
DH: It’s amazing.
WG: It’s just, you know one little thing. I mean, you, you have something today by the end of the week it’s redundant. I don’t altogether agree with it. [laughs] But it’s a fact. Technology has gone sky high.
DH: You said earlier on that once the war finished you ended up as ground crew. How long were you in the Air Force for after that?
WG: I came out in 1947. So I did two years after the finish. Then I was overseas.
DH: What did you do overseas?
WG: I was MT.
DH: Yeah. Did you —
WG: I was, supposedly I was in charge of the paperwork for the, part of the Air Ministry Works Department in Singapore. But I was never a pen pusher. I liked to get my hands dirty at times and I would go, I would go driving. Because you could pick somebody. Air Ministry Works Department wanted architects or perhaps quantity surveyors up at the north end of Malaya. ‘Oh, that will be very nice. Yes. I’ll go. I’ll take you.’ You see, and leave somebody else to do the nitty gritty back home doing the paperwork. That’s, that’s what I did. Do paperwork when you get back or [pause] Yeah, I had, I had a very easy passage. I just wish that it would have been a little bit better organised before and had at least a couple of days with the crew.
DH: Yeah.
WG: The poor lad from New York. I never got to say thank you or even bye bye.
DH: What did you end up doing in Civvy Street?
WG: I came out and I went out with my brother in law who had also been in the Royal Air Force. He’d been training wireless operators strangely. Yeah. Down in Compton Bassett and then up at Madley, Hereford. Yeah, I went with him because he’d started a china and glass retailing. Well, wholesale and retail, and stayed for the rest of his life.
DH: Did you continue doing that?
WG: I continued. I did about two years of it and then I came down from Stoke on Trent down to Shropshire then. This is where I settled and [pause] Yes, came down and I worked on an engineering works for a very short time and then I found a real niche in the gas industry on sales, and went eventually doing heating and air conditioning.
DH: Do you think your experiences during the war shaped how you, how you became?
WG: No, I don’t think it did. I think it made me pretty tolerant of a lot of things really. I don’t like bad behaviour in people. But perhaps it’s made me a little bit more tolerant than I was.
DH: Is there, I’m going to bring the interview to a close in a moment. Is there anything else that you can think of your time in Bomber Command that we haven’t already talked about that you wanted to mention.
WG: No. It was, well it was very fulfilling at the time. I think it was. I think it was wonderful how with so little knowledge even though I was passionately interested in aircraft, when you get in it you realise how precious little you know. But it does help to round off the corners I suppose. I think it’s marvellous how both Air Force, Army and Navy were able to train people from all walks of life to do specific jobs and do them damned well. I don’t know. I really think that’s, that is marvellous that they can put training programmes in which had been the basics of a lot of training in civilian life in all types, types of companies. Whether that some of them have learned it from there I wouldn’t know. Sometimes you — [pause] Yeah. To make somebody safe and safe enough to put with other people with very dangerous things in their hands or in control of. I think it’s, I think that’s a, that is a fantastic achievement from whichever Force it might be. And look at the technology that we’ve had. Crikey.
DH: Ok. It just remains for me then to say thank you very much for talking to me today.
WG: Oh, thank you [laughs]
DH: Very enjoyable.

Collection

Citation

Dawn Hughes, “Interview with William Paul Gould,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 25, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/10832.

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