Interview with Elaine Green


Interview with Elaine Green


Elaine’s uncle worked as an armourer in RAF Scampton. He first joined the Royal Flying Corps before the organisation was renamed the RAF. He worked with Barnes Wallis at the time of the design of the bouncing bomb. He sustained an injury which the family believe led to his early death.







00:18:02 audio recording


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DK: Ok. We’ll get, just get this going. If I keep looking down I’m just making sure it’s working.
EG: Ok.
DK: So, this is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing, interviewing [unclear] on the 22nd of May 2018. So, if I just put that there.
EG: Yeah.
DK: I’ll. I’ll occasionally look over like this.
EG: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So, what, what I want to do first of all is just ask a little bit about yourself. So, have you always lived in this area then?
EG: No. I, I was born in Yorkshire but I lived in Peterborough but my grandfather lived on Nelson Street in Lincoln.
DK: Right.
EG: And we used to go and see him. And my aunt and my uncle were there as well and my cousin, Richard.
DK: Right.
EG: But they moved around to Woodhall Spa and all around there in lodgings.
DK: Right. If you don’t mind me asking how old would you have been during wartime then? Would you —
EG: I was born 1940.
DK: Right. Ok. So come, come the sort of Dambusters time —
EG: Oh yeah.
DK: You were about three. Three years old.
EG: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
EG: Oh yeah. Yeah. I don’t remember that but my mother does.
DK: Yeah.
EG: They weren’t supposed to say anything but my uncle did say to my mother, ‘Don’t tell Lottie.’ That was his wife, ‘But pray for us on the 16th.’ Or around about there.
DK: Right. So, your uncle’s name was —
EG: Ernest Richard Bolton.
DK: Bolton.
EG: Bolton.
DK: Bolton.
EG: B O L T O N.
DK: And he was with 617 Squadron.
EG: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: Right [unclear]
EG: Yeah. He was in there for twenty five years. I’ve got the paperwork about it. He, I think he was the eldest one in the squadron. He was the, he looked after the bombs and he was the chief armourer.
DK: Right.
EG: He worked with Barnes Wallis. There was letters between him and Barnes Wallis but my aunt destroyed them.
DK: Oh dear.
EG: I know. My cousin was furious about that.
DK: Oh dear. So, you don’t, now after all these years you probably don’t know what exactly he was doing with Wallis then.
EG: Well, he was at the Ladybower.
DK: Right. Right.
EG: And also down by the sea. Where ever that was.
DK: Reculver? Would it have been Kent?
EG: I don’t know but it’s my Aunt Ettie, his sister in law that told me what she knew.
DK: Right.
EG: Guy Gibson said to him, ‘As you’ve been here right from the beginning would you like to go?’ Now, I’d have said no but he said yes and he went so there was a hundred and thirty four went that night. Which plane he was on we’re not sure. It could have been Guy’s. We’re not sure. And, but he cut his head badly and when he got back he was in hospital for two or three days.
DK: Right.
EG: Yeah.
DK: So, he actually went on the raid then.
EG: He went on the raid.
DK: Right.
EG: As an observer. As an observer. I mean what was Guy? Twenty four.
DK: Yeah.
EG: And he would be forty four.
DK: Right. So, he’d have been born in —
EG: 1900.
DK: 1900. Yeah.
EG: Yeah. There’s a photograph of him. That’s his medal.
DK: Right.
EG: That’s a letter from the King.
DK: So, he was awarded the, just for the recording here he was awarded the MBE then.
EG: Yeah.
DK: So that’s the MBE there.
EG: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So, it’s Squadron Leader Ernest R Bolton, MBE.
EG: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
EG: Yeah. That was from Arthur Harris.
DK: So, there’s a post, well, a telegram here.
EG: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: A telegram here to Squadron Leader Bolton at 54 base which was Coningsby.
EG: Yeah.
DK: So, “My warmest congratulations on the well-deserved award of your MBE.” Signed by Arthur T Harris.
EG: Yeah.
DK: Air Chief Marshall.
EG: That’s right.
DK: And can I just, for the recording that’s dated 16th of June 1945.
EG: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So that’s, that’s from the Under-Secretary of State for Air.
EG: Maybe Johnny Johnson might know about it.
DK: Yeah. Might do. Yeah.
EG: That was —
DK: That’s the Gazette. Yeah.
EG: The Gazette.
DK: The London Gazette.
EG: Yeah. And that was when he died, I think. That one. 1947.
DK: Right.
EG: Yeah.
DK: So —
EG: You can have all those.
DK: So, yeah. Right. Thanks. He’s in the London Gazette then and that’s, this is recording his, his death, is it?
EG: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Oh, was it —
EG: I don’t.
DK: Oh, no. It’s —
EG: Bolton.
DK: Bolton. Yeah.
EG: Bolton. I don’t know what MBE.
DK: Yeah.
EG: No. I know he died in ’47.
DK: Right. So, he died January 1947 or —
EG: Yeah.
DK: About that time.
EG: Around about that time. I can remember the funeral. We weren’t sure what it was but we were, my cousin and I were pushed next door while they went to church.
DK: Right.
EG: I think it was St Faith’s. That’s the nearest church to Nelson Street.
DK: So, whereabouts were you living then at this time?
EG: Well, we were living in Peterborough.
DK: Right.
EG: My mother and I.
DK: Right. And Bolton himself, your uncle where was, where would he have been based? Was he based at Scampton at the time?
EG: Well, when he died, no. He’d retired.
DK: Right.
EG: And he’d got a job and through the accident on the plane.
DK: Right.
EG: He caught, he got cancer of the brain and died.
DK: Gosh.
EG: Because of it.
DK: Really?
EG: Yeah.
DK: So, while he was with 617 Squadron then he’s gone up in a plane.
EG: Yeah.
DK: And been injured in some way.
EG: Yeah.
DK: And that led to his death.
EG: Yeah.
DK: In 1947.
EG: ’47. Yeah.
DK: Right. So, he retired and then died very soon afterwards.
EG: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Lovely old chap. I can remember he always used to cook breakfast when we used to go up for a weekend and put a pinny on. He’d got his uniform on.
DK: Yeah.
EG: But always liked cooking breakfast.
DK: Yeah. So, do you know much about what he was doing before 617 Squadron?
EG: No. That’s where —
DK: So you don’t know whether he was, because Gibson tried to recruit most of the aircrew and ground crew. Do you know if he would have been personally recruited —
EG: I think, yeah. I should think he would be, yeah.
DK: Recruited by Gibson.
EG: I should think he would be but you’ve got to find that out.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
EG: There was a programme the other night about it but it was 2010 and they’re saying that the ground, he, he couldn’t recruit many people.
DK: Yeah.
EG: Yeah. Not many volunteers [laughs]
DK: No. So, do you know much about what he did after the Dambusters raid then?
EG: No. I know nothing. Now, if you ring my cousin up he might know more.
DK: Ok.
EG: Because he was living with his mum and dad.
DK: Right.
EG: But he said he was at Coningsby.
DK: Right.
EG: Yeah.
DK: Because —
EG: Well, it’s not far away.
DK: Yeah. Because 617 then moved so he’s probably then moved with them.
EG: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: To Coningsby.
EG: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: And I think they went to Woodhall Spa after that.
EG: Well, they lived at Woodhall Spa for a bit. But they did have accommodation, I think at Scampton —
DK: Right.
EG: At one time. I remember seeing a photograph of Richard when he was a little boy sitting on the step. It looked like a Nissen hut.
DK: So, the story about the dog then.
EG: The dog.
DK: The dog would —
EG: Well —
DK: The dog called N*****. We can say that in front of [unclear].
EG: Well, I’ll tell you another story about him later but they brought, we were up at my grandfather’s at Nelson Street in Lincoln for the weekend. Uncle Richard brought N***** home and he chewed my hat. I was about two at the time but I thought maybe he’d gone away with his wife but looking at this other, he had a lady friend called Margaret.
DK: Right.
EG: And they used to go to Honeysuckle Cottage.
DK: Oh right.
EG: Did you know that?
DK: No. Yeah. Yeah.
EG: Yeah. Well, I’m not sure about this but my friend, Liz, her mother was his driver and I can’t remember if her name was Margaret but they used to interview her.
DK: Just in case. So it, so that’s, I mean do you remember much about the incident?
EG: No. I remember nothing.
DK: Yeah.
EG: It’s what my mother always told me.
DK: So, no pictures of the dog then.
EG: No.
DK: No.
EG: No. None at all. But funnily enough I was in the dentist in Grantham here and Richard Todd used to live here, around here.
DK: Oh right.
EG: And Richard came into the dentist and, being nosy I said, ‘Oh Richard, by the way,’ I said, ‘Have you heard that they’re going to do a remake of your film?’ And he had this booming voice.
DK: Yeah.
EG: And he shouted out, ‘And do you know they’re going to call the bloody dog Trigger?’ [laughs] Oh dear. Oh, I remember that. But they never did, did they?
DK: No.
EG: Make another film.
DK: So, so the story is, so, the story is then as the armourer there he actually went on the raid itself.
EG: Yeah. As an observer.
DK: Observer. Right.
EG: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: And is, is there anything, you haven’t got any any documentation at all about when he was with, just that?
EG: Just that.
DK: When he was with Wallis.
EG: This is what my cousin put though yesterday.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
EG: For me. You can have all that.
DK: Ok.
EG: But if you want my cousin you’ll have to ring that number.
DK: Yeah. So, what’s your cousin’s name then?
EG: Richard Bolton.
DK: Right.
EG: It’s another Richard Bolton.
DK: I have got my pen here somewhere.
EG: But the RAF, because my uncle died they sent my cousin to boarding school and paid for it.
DK: Oh right.
EG: Yeah. He was at Queen’s College, Taunton, Somerset.
DK: I can never find my pen when I really want to.
EG: Here you are. Just put Richard Bolton on there.
DK: So, is that his son?
EG: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
EG: Yeah. I think he was stationed in India for a while. I’m positive he was, joined the, not the RAF but before the RAF.
DK: Right.
EG: So, he would be one of the, what did they call it in those days before the RAF.
DK: Oh, the Royal Flying Corps.
EG: The Royal Flying Corps. That’s right.
DK: Right.
EG: Yeah.
DK: So, his career might go back that far.
EG: Oh yeah. Yeah. He’d been there twenty five years.
DK: Could well do then, couldn’t it?
EG: Yeah.
DK: Because that was 1918.
EG: Yeah.
DK: Might have joined the Royal Flying Corps.
EG: He’d be about eighteen then.
DK: Yeah.
EG: Yeah. So, he’s one of the old school.
DK: Oh right.
EG: Yeah. He was a Regular.
DK: So, do you want to, for the recording then do you want to tell your story about your father and the tank? You’re going to have to repeat it again because I’ve just the recorder on.
EG: Well, dad was about, he would be about five at the time.
DK: Yeah.
EG: When my grandfather came home and said he was going to take dad up to the Common to see Little Willie, the tank which was called in those days the Water Tank of Mesopotamia.
DK: Yeah.
EG: And they picked him up, took a photograph of him and put him in the tank and rode around the Common with it.
DK: Right.
EG: So, he was the first child in the world —
DK: To ride on a tank.
EG: On the tank.
DK: So just for the recording what was your father’s name then?
EG: Ernest Watkinson.
DK: Ernest Watkinson.
EG: Yeah.
DK: The first, first child to ride on the tank.
EG: Yeah. I know. I’m still looking for that photograph.
DK: Yeah. As I say you might want to try the Imperial War Museum. They might have it.
EG: Well, they’ve got photographs of a woman with a dog with a long frock on and a hat and two little girls. But not a little boy sitting on a tank.
DK: Yeah.
EG: But I would have thought the papers would have been there. The newspapers. Local.
DK: Could. Could well be.
EG: Yeah.
DK: If you look in the archives for the —
EG: Well, I did ring them up.
DK: Yeah.
EG: And heard no more from them.
DK: Probably might have though if it was a local paper that no longer exists where the archive.
EG: Yeah.
DK: That could have gone but —
EG: Yeah.
DK: But I expect it’ll be out there somewhere.
EG: But also, when my father, who was in the Second World War and he was stationed in Suffolk near Orford.
DK: Right.
EG: Do you know where Orford is?
DK: Yes. Yes.
EG: Yes. South of Southwold.
DK: Yeah.
EG: And he was on duty in the forest there. Is it Rendham or Rendlesham Forest, on a field phone and he was told what he saw that night he wasn’t to divulge.
DK: Was this the famous flashing lights?
EG: No.
DK: Oh, another one.
EG: Before that.
DK: Oh, before that. Oh right.
EG: Before that. No. No.
DK: Because that was quite recent, wasn’t it?
EG: Oh yeah. Yeah.
DK: That was the 1980s, wasn’t it?
EG: Yeah. Well, apparently —
DK: The Americans saw something in the woods.
EG: Yeah. The Americans saw something in the woods.
DK: Yeah.
EG: No. This was during the war this was.
DK: Oh right.
EG: And apparently the Germans landed. There’s a shingle street and they came with rubber boats and the Canadians, I believe it was the Canadians, dad said went over, dropped petrol on the top of them and dropped a bomb in the middle and they’re all buried in the forest.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
EG: So, whether that was the film, do you remember, “The Eagle Has Landed?”
DK: Has landed yeah. Yeah.
EG: That’s based on that I think.
DK: Based on that. Yeah. There has been rumours of German landings hasn’t there but nothing has ever been —
EG: Oh, yeah. Well, dad saw it that night. Yeah.
DK: Right. Ok.
EG: Yeah. So, whether the lights came on after that —
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
EG: I don’t know.
DK: Yeah.
EG: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: So, he had a son then. Richard Bolton who was your cousin.
EG: Yeah.
DK: Was there any other children then?
EG: He had two sons from his first marriage.
DK: Right. Ok.
EG: But what their names are I don’t know. They were much older. His first wife died. Whether in childbirth I’m not really sure.
DK: Yeah. So, you don’t really know anything more about this accident that he actually had on this aircraft other than he banged his head.
EG: Well, he banged his head. I believe cut it open. That’s what my aunt said.
DK: Right.
EG: Yeah. Yeah. But he was lovely. He really was a nice man.
DK: And you haven’t got any stories handed down about, you say he was a chief armourer but —
EG: Yeah.
DK: What his actual role was as an armourer?
EG: He was, well that’s all I heard. He was a chief armourer and he worked with Barnes Wallis.
DK: Yeah.
EG: They were quite close and he went around with Barnes Wallis as well. I said there was letters but my aunt destroyed them all.
DK: Yeah.
EG: Why? I don’t know.
DK: Because I’m, I’m wondering. He’s clearly got involved in the development of the bouncing bomb, hasn’t he?
EG: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
DK: And the various issues you’d need to set the thing off.
EG: Yeah. Well, Barnes Wallis might have. If he’s written to him he might —
DK: Might have copies of it.
EG: Copies. Yeah.
DK: Because I think the Barnes Wallis Archive now is in York, I think.
EG: Is it?
DK: I think it’s at the York Aircraft Museum. I think. It should be at Brooklands but, because that’s where he worked for many years but I don’t think it is. It’s either, either Brooklands or up in York.
EG: Yeah.
DK: That’s where it might be. There might be something there.
EG: Yeah. But I took my cousin up to Scampton. Saw the grave and Guy’s office.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
EG: And what have you.
DK: Because it’s got a big fence around it now, hasn’t it? Iron railings.
EG: Has it? Oh.
DK: Yeah. Iron railings around, around the grave.
EG: Oh, yeah. I saw the —
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
EG: Railings around the grave. Yeah. And funnily enough the Red Arrows just turned up that time.
DK: Yeah. Oh right.
EG: And the chap, the guide who was taking us around said, ‘If you wave they’ll wave back.’
DK: Yeah.
EG: And as they came down they waved [laughs]
DK: Excellent.
EG: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Ok. Well, that’s, I think that’s probably all we’re going to be able to do today.
EG: Yeah.
DK: But just background on him. Is there anything else you’ve thought of?
EG: I can’t think of anything else.
DK: Yeah.
EG: He was, I think he was the oldest one in squadron. There might have been another one on the ground crew but there definitely the flight wasn’t.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
EG: They were in their twenties weren’t they? I mean even Guy was twenty four.
DK: He was only twenty four wasn’t he?
EG: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: David Shannon had only just turned twenty one.
EG: Terrible.
DK: Yes.
EG: I know my uncle as that happened in the May my uncle, my mother’s youngest brother was twenty one on the [unclear]
DK: Yeah.
EG: In July he was shot in Sicily.
DK: Right.
EG: And his captain visited [unclear] in Yorkshire and he said, ‘If it’s any consolation we got the sniper.’ And she turned around and she said, ‘No. You shouldn’t have done that. Somebody else’s son.’
DK: It’s always the tragedy, isn’t it?
EG: Yeah.
DK: The tragedy of war. Nobody, nobody wins in war.
EG: Nobody wins in war.
DK: Yeah.
EG: My grandfather you see we were all mining stock.
DK: Right.
EG: All my uncles had gone down the mines but my grandfather didn’t want his youngest son going down. He said, ‘You’re going to be a gardener.’ So he was called up and killed. Yeah.
DK: Oh dear.
EG: Yeah.
DK: Right. Ok, then. Well, I’ll, I’ll stop the recording there. That’s, that’s great. Thanks very much for that.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Elaine Green,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 19, 2024,

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