Interview with Johnny Graham


Interview with Johnny Graham


Johnny Graham wanted to join the RAF as soon as he was of age. His grandmother asked him not to because she had lost her only son in the First World War. However, he joined the RAF on his nineteenth birthday. He trained initially as an armourer. He then volunteered for aircrew and was posted as an air gunner to 100 Squadron. His greatest memory was flying back to the UK and as the dawn broke seeing the D-Day operation unfolding on the Channel.




Temporal Coverage




00:25:35 audio recording


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AGrahamFJ170611, PGrahamFJ1701


JS: Right. This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Jim Scheach. The interviewee is Johnny Graham. The interview is taking place at [ buzz ] Edinburgh on the 11th of June 2017. Also present are David and Maureen. Mr Graham's son and daughter. Johnny, could you tell us a little bit about your life before the war?
JG: Well, I was born on the 15th of March 1922. In [unclear] Dalry in Edinburgh. I was born in the street called [pause] This is yours wasn’t it? Downfield. Downfield Place. Aye. In a top flat. And I was there for the first five years of my life. I attended the Dalry Primary School which was a stone’s throw along the main road. And, and then from then we moved out to Corstorphine. Out to Balgreen. Aye. And I went to Roseburn Primary School until I was twelve. And from there I went out and I went to Boroughmuir Secondary School. My father worked for the council. He was actually a conductor on the trams. On the tramways. And I have to say [unclear] look after us. There was me and my sister who was two years younger than I. At Boroughmuir I did three years secondary education. Which was good. It was a good school, Boroughmuir and I had quite a good education. During that period an organization was formed called the ADCC which was the air cadets of Great Britain which was a forerunner of the ATC. And when I was eighteen I wanted to join up but my grandmother wouldn't let me because, well she asked me not to because she had lost her only son in the First World War. So I joined on my nineteenth birthday [laughs]. And that was me in the RAF. I wasn’t away very often but occasionally we’d go away [pause] I went to a Receiving Centre at Cardington in Bedfordshire and we got sorted out there and sent to Bournemouth for square bashing. A bit of square bashing at Bournemouth. And, and this progressed from there. I wasn't aircrew all the time of course. I joined as an armourer. A bomb armourer. Defusing and fusing bombs. And then a gun armourer [pause] Now, I think [unclear]
JS: That's fine. How you, you said you were an armourer. Then you transferred to air crew.
JG: Yes. That was the Royal Arsenal. Eighteen months, two years, something like that. And I underwent training. Aircrew, aye. I was in the OTU and joined with what was to be my crew. My pilot was a guy called Bill Smith who also came from Edinburgh. And we did our initial training on Ansons and Wellingtons. And when we finished on the Wellingtons we went on to the four engine Halifaxes and Lancasters. What more can I tell you? [laughs]
JS: Could you, could you tell us a bit about the rest of your crew?
JG: Aye. There’s more in my logbook. If you look in my logbook I will tell you.
JS: How did you —
JG: I'm sorry I'm spoiling it.
JS: No. That's fine. No, you're not at all. How did you, how did you get on with the rest of your crew?
Other: He’s not —
JG: You’ll have to forgive my memory.
JS: No. That’s fine. That’s fine.
JG: I’m quite old now —
JS: I know. I know. That’s why I was asking. How did you, how did you get on with the rest of your crew?
JG: Very well. Except one instance. There was tale of, tale of sort of training experiences. The mid-upper gunner with a guy called Desmond. I think his second name was [Thor ] or something. I can't remember. I remember his first name was Desmond. And anyway, he embarked on a [pilferising] and he took a lot of stuff from [all of us] [unclear] and I remember, I always remember when an initial thing he took from me was a fountain pen. A [unclear] fountain pen which I got from where I was on Princess Street as a going away present. And I thought a lot of it and I was really hurt when he pinched that. Anyway, they got the, they got the RAF policemen and they arrested him and took him away and we got a new mid-upper gunner [laughs] I’m trying to think. The first place we went to. I need my logbook. Go and get my logbook.
JS: That’s fine.
JG: Because my memory is getting —
JS: No. You're doing fine.
JG: Oh, there's my crew. That's my first crew. That’s Bill Smith. The navigator was Burnett. Burnett. Flying Officer Burnett. That's the guy I was talking about. Desmond. There’s me there. That’s the bomb aimer. Canadian. Jimmy Bowens. Wireless operator Jimmy Whiteside from Dundee. And Barney, Flying Officer Burnett was Canadian. And the pilot of course was Edinburgh.
JG: I remember [unclear] Aye. Second from the left. Second. That wasn’t his name though. It wasn’t Jimmy Bowens. Oh aye. His name was Thor. The guy that did the stealing. [pause] That’s not right. The name's Burnett. B U R N E T T.
JG: Then went to Sandtoft.
JS: That's great. Did you have the same crew all the time? Did you have the same crew all the time?
JG: At that point. At that point. We did thirty operations together. Occasionally we moved to somebody else's crew. You know, for experience. Aye. But I remember Sandtoft. We called it Prangtoft because there were so many crashes [laughs ] Aye [unclear] That was the different pilots I flew with to get experience. You know.
JG: Finningley. RAF Finningley. Stormy Down was in Wales. There’s not much else I can tell you.
JS: Is there [pause ] is there —
JG: Anyway. [pause] Then we went to OTU at Worksop. [pause] [unclear] the officer’s coming. Sandtoft. There’s no flying at 1667 Con Unit at Sandtoft. And then we went on to Hemswell. And our first operation was Merville in France. And then Duisburg and Dortmund in Germany. Here’s France. They were all French. It was just before the invasion so [pause] I remember there, that was a hairy one.
JS: Do you want, do you want to tell. If you remember that operation do you want to tell us a little bit about it?
JG: What was it doing there? [laughs] [pause – pages turning] here is some. Aye. [unclear] something. And that was [pause] Gelsenkirchen and Kiel. Twice to Stuttgart. Aye. I think that’s it. I can’t say much about that except I went on thirty operations. Thirty one I actually went because when I went on my thirtieth one and then the group captain was waiting in the, in the hangar and he said would you, ‘Could you please do another trip for me?’ And I said, ‘Oh, well, I don’t know.’ [laughs] Anyway, I did this one and it was to France. And the guy that I was flying with was a wing commander. A Wing Commander Gundry-White. A double barrelled name. And he was doing this trip so that he could say he’d been on operations. Anyway, I won’t go into any details but he got a DFC. I didn’t get anything [laughs] I wouldn’t have minded if he had come around and shaked my hand and said, ‘Thank you for coming with me.’ But he didn’t. So, one of these things. That’s about it really. I just did, sort of, we did an operation to fly the troops back from Italy. And we were glad to get back so quick. Aye.
JS: How many? How many times did you —
JG: It was a base just outside Naples.
JS: You’re doing fine.
JG: Every time.
JS: You’re alright.
JG: That’s about it. I don’t know what else I can say except that when I was demobbed I went back to my old company John [Muir’s] [unclear] And later on from there I went to the House of Fraser. The House of Fraser. I don’t know.
JS: That’s been really really useful. Thanks very much for sharing that with me.
JG: Thank you.
JS: I’m just going to stop there.
[recording paused]
Other: Has he remembered?
JG: I know but I forget to remember what I remember. Go on.
JS: You’re fine.
JG: Please. Please.
Other 2: What?
JG: Please.
Other 2: You’re wanting the article.
JS: That’s fine. If that helps.
Other 2: Where would that be?
Other: It was just he mentioned this the other day and he always remembers it.
JS: It’s always much tougher when someone puts a microphone in front of you.
JG: Oh, like that. That was —
JS: Hang on a second. Just let me make sure.
JS: Okay. Do you want, do you want to tell us about this trip?
JG: I saw all the ships. We, we had bombed the German shore guns on the night of the 5th. 5th of June. And the 6th if June it was D-Day of course. And as we were coming back over our course the sun was just, the dawn was just breaking and suddenly there was all this light and I saw all these hundreds and hundreds of ships on the Channel. So they asked me about that.
JS: That’s quite a memory to have.



James Sheach, “Interview with Johnny Graham,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 23, 2024,

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