Interview with Geoff Green


Interview with Geoff Green


William Green was born in Kings Lynn in Norfolk and joined the Royal Air Force when he was 17 and a half at the outbreak of war, becoming a rear gunner on Lancasters and, eventually, rising to the rank of squadron leader. He tells about going on to help form 625 Squadron at RAF Kelsternand his training for rear gunner, which included some navigation and aircraft recognition. William tells how he was sent on an instructor course to train new recruits but admits he did not have the temperament to do this for very long. In 1944 he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down the first Me 262 aircraft, whilst coming home from an operation to Mannheim. It was the first confirmed shooting down of this particular aircraft and it was during a night operation. William tells about a particularly bad operation to Mannheim, when he helped with a badly injured bomb aimer, whilst being coned by searchlights and coping with anti-aircraft fire. He also recalls a flight where the aircraft was hit and flying controls to the ailerons were severed, meaning the pilot had trouble controlling the aircraft. The flight engineer picked up a toolbox and acted on the starboard trim control cables with a penknife, allowing the pilot to land. William completed two full tours with Bomber Command, flying over 100 operations, including 55 bombing operations on Germany alone, and his aircraft was nicknamed ‘Phantom of the Ruhr’. He tells the story of how he helped with the painting of the nose art. Towards the end of war, William was in India with Transport Command, particularly in Delhi and Calcutta.




Temporal Coverage




01:34:43 audio recording


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BW: Right. This is Brian Wright. I'm interviewing Squadron Leader Green at […], and it's Friday the eleventh of September, twenty fifteen, at two thirty. So, Squadron Leader Green, I understand you were a rear gunner in a Lancaster.
WG: Yes, Gunnery Leader. Yes, I was in the rear turret, yes.
BW: Could we just start with your full name and your rank at the time you were doing these operations.
WG: Yes, it's William, do you want the [pause] name, when you say name, full name.
BW: Yes please, yes.
WG: What's the word I want for the Christian, ah, Christian names you want, do you?
BW: That's right.
WG: William Geoffrey Green. That's, er, Geoffrey is G E O double F R E Y.
BW: OK. And what rank were you at the time, when you joined the squadron?
WG: I was a Sergeant.
BW: Sergeant.
WG: I passed out as a Sergeant, yes.
BW: OK. And, if you would, just describe for me, please, what your life was like prior to you joining the RAF. Where did you live, and what prompted you to join the RAF?
WG: Yes. Well, I was born in Kings Lynn, Norfolk. [pause]
BW: And how long were you living there before you joined up?
WG: I joined up when I was seventeen and a half, officially, but as far as they were concerned, I was eighteen, because you had to be eighteen then. Yes, anyway, that's right, I joined up and then from there, I went to, oh dear, it's a long time ago [pause]. Well, I was being trained, you know, in various places; OTU's.
BW: Yes
WG: Operational Training Units, and all those sorts of things. The usual, the usual drill, you know, for a new boy, if you follow me. And, er
BW: Did you come from a large family?
WG: No, I had one sister.. [pause], I had one sister, was she in the WAAF? I don't think she was. Oh, it was you in the WAAF, oh no it wasn't?
Laura: No. Mother.
WG: Oh, your mother. Yes, that's right and then, oh, I've lost my train of thought now.
BW: And what prompted you to join the RAF? There was obviously a war going on at the time. Why the RAF and not the other services?
WG: Yes there was. I had a silly though that if I didn't [pause], if I didn't join the Air Force to fly, there was no point in joining it. That was the main reason. I didn't, I had no, all my friends at home, school friends and what-not were in the Army, and I hadn't anything, hadn't any keenness to join the Army. I always, I think I always wanted to fly, until I did, and then of course, I didn't want to [laughs]. My father used to say, 'I can't understand why you want to fly'. And of course, I thought that over, and I thought, 'you're dead right’. I don't know why I wanted to fly, because as soon as I started I was, not terrified, but bordering [laughs]. No, it's a bit of a line, that. I was pleased to fly. I realised I wasn't a Navy type, and I don't suppose they would have accepted me, anyway, because they were, the people they, the people that went into the Navy who I knew were all sort of special types, they'd got something to really offer that service. Well, I had nothing at all to offer the Air Force, but I just wanted to, I just thought it would be just nice to come home on leave, and walk up and down the High Street in my uniform. [laughs]. Oh dear.
BW: And did the thought of becoming a pilot attract you, or was it something that you thought, I’d rather be in a crew?
WG: Yes, it was. I got accepted, I was accepted under the PNB scheme, which stood for Pilot, Navigator, Bomb Aimer. In other words, if you failed as a pilot, they tried to train you then as a Navigator, and if you failed at that, you were trained as a bomb aimer. And if you failed at that, you were out [laughs], so I should have got out in the first place to save all that trouble.
BW: So how did you end up, then, as a gunner? Because if you were on that scheme, and as you said, if you weren't successful in one of those categories, you were out. What then led you to be a gunner?
WG: Well, that was the last thing I could be before I was out.
BW: I see.
WG: That was the lowest form of animal life, I suppose, and if you failed at being an air gunner, well they didn't want you. You can't blame them, I suppose but fortunately, I didn't fail. I often thought I would, but I wasn't good at maths and that sort of thing, you know. I did think of, I was mustering to train as a navigator, and then I realised that I would need a higher standard of maths than I could offer, so I just had to let them sort of guide me through the Air Force, sort of thing, without volunteering for anything.
BW: And what were the tests like, that you had to sit during your training? Do you remember those?
WG: Err, well yes, there were partly navigation, but very, very junior navigation stuff. Nothing complicated, because if it was, I wouldn't have got it but -. What else was it, oh, it's a long time ago. Err, aircraft recognition, that sort of thing, signals, and that's about all, you know. And then I, and then I was transferred on to do an instructors course, and I joined an instructors team to train the lads coming in, sort of thing, you know. But it didn't last very long because I, well, oh for about, maybe about six months, because I was not really the type to train people. I was too short tempered, I suppose. If they didn't, er, if they didn't sort of pick it up the first time, I didn't want to know, and I didn't give a second chance. I had many a second chance, but I didn't, I didn’t agree with that. Oh, I don't know. So there you are.
BW: And what was life like on the base? You went through the training and the Operational Training Units, and you got to base. What was the accommodation like? What were the facilities like on the base at the time?
WG: Excellent. You mean living accommodation and food, that sort of thing? Oh yes. Yes, in those days, aircrew had, aircrew had, er, they didn't eat with the non-aircrew type, if you follow me. You didn't actually have special food, I suppose, though I don't really know, but it was jolly good food, and you were built up a bit that way. I was a bit of a weedy lad when I was young, younger, so I was built up really, I suppose.
BW: So you were well fed?
WG: Well fed, yes, oh yes.
BW: Your training and lifestyle really made a man of you in that respect
WG: Oh yes, yes, and of course, when you'd finished in the daytime, you were really on the town at night, you know. The SP's were chasing you, or you were chasing the SP's [laughs], and being rude to people, I expect. Oh dear.
BW: So where did you socialise when you went off base, where were the local towns that you would visit?
WG: Oh, Grimsby. Grimsby, er, oh dear, I should have got the log book, I could show you my log book, if you wanted to see it, if it would be any use to you, would it?
BW: If you have it, and it's not inconvenient, yes, that would help.
WG: It's in the drawer, Laura dear, would you mind. That's very kind of you. Yes, what was I talking about?
BW: Visiting Grimsby?
WG: Log book, oh I remember, yes, I'm very forgetful nowadays, you've obviously noticed.
BW: You were talking about Grimsby, and visiting towns.
WG: Oh yes, Grimsby, Grimsby, Lincoln, er. Yes, I did a tour from Grimsby, I did a tour from Grimsby at a place called Waltham. Was it? Yes, Waltham. And then I thought, 'well that's that, I've finished my flying'. But I hadn't. Instead of being transferred to instructing, I think they realised I was no good at it, because I was interviewed, instead of being, er, what did I do then? I went to, I went to, I stayed on at Grimsby instructing, for a while, and then I went to two or three other stations in Lincolnshire, instructing, you know. And not only instructing, but giving talks on what it was like, if you follow me, you know. I suppose line-shooting, you know.
BW: And was this with a view to encouraging new recruits to join the Air Force?
WG: Beg pardon?
BW: Was this with a view to encouraging new recruits to join the Air Force?
WG: It was, yes. It was going round instructing to recruits, yes. I went round to one or two stations. Bircham Newton and Finningley, all in the Lincolnshire area, you know and then I, then I was screened, as they called it, taken off, and I thought, 'well that's that, I've finished the dicey part of flying'. But of course, I hadn't. I should think it would only be about six to eight months, and I was sent back again, which rather shook me, because I thought I'd done with all that nonsense. And I thought, ' well, this is tempting suicide', but it wasn't. I completed a second tour then and then I went back on to instructing again. And what happened then? It was getting towards the end of the war, I suppose. And it's difficult trying to remember what I did then. I stayed in Lincolnshire, I know. Mainly, I was always flying anyway as well as instructing, well, with instructing, you were flying as well. The new recruits, the new aircrew people and then I suppose the war ended. Well, no, it couldn't have done because I did a second, I was going back on a third tour. Voluntary, actually. Other blokes, er, I was no good at instructing, and I was interviewed for another instructors job, but I asked to go back on a third tour, but fortunately [chuckles] the war ended. So I didn't do a third tour. That's why I'm here, I suppose.
BW: And so, you were doing the instructing in between your tours? You did your first tour, then had the instructor posts you were talking about.
WG: That's it.
BW:Then second tour.
WG: Second tour
BW: Followed by another post as instructor.
WG: Well yes, but it didn't come off, the second, the second instructing bit
BW: Right. So, just take us back, then, to that point when you met your crew. How did you join up as a crew, how did you meet and crew-up?
WG: We went to, I can't remember the station, but it, as I say, it'll be in my log book, which is out there. Oh, Laura's got it. Thank you very much. I, er, oh dear. Excuse me. Here we go. Oh, there's a five pound note there, Laura. Is it yours?
Laura: No.
WG: That's something, isn't it? I'm glad you came [laughs]. Would you like to look at this yourself?
BW: Yes, we can have a look through. I'll just put the recorder on pause while we pick out one or two points in the log books.
WG: Alright. This is 'Results of Ammunition Courses and Remarks'. That's the one, that's it. There you are, there's a good write up here [laughs], though my mother wouldn't agree, 'could have done much better had he tried harder' [laughs]. That's what the school people used to say. 'Over confident, needs watching'. One signed by a Squadron Leader, here it is, 'could have done much better had he tried harder'. 'Over confident, needs watching'. That's that bit. And then here, [paper rustling] oh dear, oh dear, here we are. Here we come to the nitty-gritty stuff. These are all the, this is Seventeen Air-gunners School, Stormy Down, Bridgend, Glamorganshire, South Wales. I was a trainee here. Here I was training on Whitley's, Defiants. Whitley's and Defiants, yes, and that was headquarters training with number 17 AGS. And then in nineteen forty three, I was on number 28 OTU, Wymeswold, Leicestershire. Er, circuits and landings, and what-not. Cross countries, landings, formation flying, air test, cross country, bombing, exercise, and all that business. What's all this? Oh, exercises, bombing exercises, circuits and landings, circuits and landings, at night, circuits and landings, cross countries, cross countries, bombing, that was all night flying. [unclear] Then I went to heavy conversion unit, Number 1656 Heavy Conversion Unit, Lindholme, Yorkshire, where I flew on Halifaxes, Lancasters. Circuits and landings, cross countries, oh dear, they were a bind.
BW: What did you think of flying in the Halifaxes and Lancasters? You'd previously flown in, say, Whitleys, how did that?
WG: Well, it was really, really nice to be on them, because it was a step up, if you follow me. Halifaxes, I didn't like Halifaxes, except that there was plenty of room down in the rear turret. You could move about a bit, you know. In fact, they seemed to me to be too big, quite honestly but they were much better, in my opinion, they were much better than the Lancaster. The Lancaster, you were a bit cooped up, you know, it was a bit difficult to move. They were hard to get into. To get into, you got in the back door and then you lifted up onto a sort of a table, a long table, then you had to get, you had to hang on with your hands at the back, and get your feet on to this table, and push yourself forward until you got to the doors of the rear turret. And then you got into the rear turret and closed your doors, and you really felt trapped in, sort of thing, but once you started flying, you, I overcame that. I don't know about others but I overcame it.
BW: Is it correct you had to leave your 'chute outside of the turret? You had to put it on the side?
WG: Yes, on the left hand side. In a clip. You couldn't, with the Lancaster, you couldn't get your, that was a snag, you couldn't get your parachute actually in with you. If you had to bale out, you had to centralise the turret, turn it to starboard, open the door, open the doors, and you really were, as you opened the doors there, you were outside in the thin air, you know. But with the, that was with the Lancaster, but with the Halifax, it was a bit different, to a point anyway, but it was all a bit, it was all a bit nerve-wracking to begin with. And then you suddenly got used to it, and you got used to people saying, 'well, you shouldn't have joined', sort of thing, you know [chuckles], which of course was very true. But too late. [laughs]. I was looking back, well it's different looking back, but at the time I used to think to myself, 'I'll be glad when this is over', but when it was over, I was rather pleased that I could think back on those days, and the people I knew. They all seemed different from the, this is, shouldn't really say it but they seemed different from your ground crew friends, you know. Different type. As if when you were being selected for flying, that they were looking for something. Which they found [laughs]. Oh dear, yes.
BW: And how did you feel being a rear gunner, when there were other gunners on board. I mean, being a tail gunner is perhaps traditionally thought of as, er, a job a lot of people wouldn't want.
WG: Very true, yes. I felt safe in the rear turret because it was, in my opinion, I think, when I got in and got the door shut in the training, I thought, well, at least if anything happens, I've only got to turn this to port or starboard, half turn, and do that, or do that, and the doors automatically opened, and you go out backwards. Once you got your parachute clipped on, you know. Er, yes. What was that question you asked me?
BW: Originally, how did you crew up, how did you meet? At the Conversion Unit.
WG: Oh yes, that's it. We went to an Operational Training Unit, and they said, 'right, you're going to, there are either seven or nine crews of you'. In other words, there were either, there were seven to a crew, so there were either forty nine of us, which was seven to a crew, oh, I forget. I can't forget how many there were in the other lot. And then we were put into, we were put into an operations room, and said, 'right, well there are seven aircrew positions amongst you, and each, each aircraft has seven men', seven different types, gunners, signallers, all that nonsense, and we were told to pick our crew. And you sort of looked round at people, and I found myself with another bloke, just stuck. Nobody seemed to want us, we were just standing there. Everybody else had got, had been picked, as a crew, you know. Which I suppose is rather fortunate, because I, that's how I met Ron Clarke, who I've kept in touch with ever since. But he's dead. He died suddenly. He and his wife died. But we, and then there were six of us who were there that, later on, on my second tour, were picked for going up to Air Ministry for being decorated. And [chuckles], yes, that's right yes, we went up to Air Ministry, and so many of us got a DSO, I got a DFC. And then, let's see, after that I was posted to Bircham Newton, I think it was, training staff, training aircrew, you know, which was a bit of a bind, so I volunteered for a third tour, but it never came off because the, it was quite obvious that the war was ending, and it did, and I didn't do a third tour. Which perhaps was a good thing. That's why I'm here, I expect [laughs].
BW: You mentioned going up to the Air Ministry to get a Distinguished Flying Cross, and they were only awarded to officers at that particular time-
WG: I beg your pardon?
BW: They were only awarded to officers at that particular time, a DFC. Do you recall what the event was that led you to be decorated?
WG: Er, oh yes. Yes. It was, there were several air, several air, several Lancasters were lost, and it was, all I could really say was, it was a very dodgy period. It was, well in my case you were frightened. Quite often. You didn't just think you were frightened, I was frightened, but you overcame that, I overcame that to the point where, I wasn't pleased to go on Op's, but I used to wake up in the morning thinking, 'well, if we're on Op's tonight, is it going to happen?' That's how it got me in the end, and I used to wonder if I would lose my life, you know. Which I didn't, of course, but there you are. And then after my first tour, as I say, I went on instructing, and I was going on for a third instruction course, but I was selected for another tour of Op's, and I took rather a dim view of that, because I thought to myself,' you could go on too long', you know. There's a limit to it. Lots of blokes, I knew several people, several blokes who were, who had done two or three tours, but it was a bit dodgy, you know. So fortunately, I went back on to instructing, went on to instructing, oh, and then I went round, then I went round to schools, in the Lincolnshire area, I suppose, in other words telling them how brave you were [laughs]. And they seemed to believe it [chuckles]. Yes. And after that I was taken off flying. I think I got a bit 'flak happy', as they called it. If you'd done too much operational flying, you were getting a bit round the bend, you know, and you were doing silly things, and taking too many risks, I suppose. And then, yes after the instructing, I suppose the war ended. I don't know when it did end.
BW: You mentioned about, er, thinking about whether you were going to be on Op's the next night, and so on, and it was popular for crews to take mascots, or lucky charms, or have certain rituals. Did you have any of those?
WG: No. I had no faith in lucky charms.
BW: Did any of the crew that you flew with have anything?
WG: Yes, they used to take things that, usually belonged to their wives. My navigator had a, what was it, oh, a little paper, not paper, a little doll about as big as that, that she'd had as a kid. And I suppose they thought, 'well, if I take this, I shan't get killed', sort of thing. That's how you thought of it in those days, you know. You thought, I half expected, I didn't think I would get through, quite honestly. I never thought I'd get through a second tour, and when I was half way through my first tour, I said, 'well, if I get through my first tour, I'm not going to volunteer for a second tour'. But I did. I volunteered to stay on [laughs].
BW: And it was usual, for pilots certainly, who had completed thirty operations to be awarded the DFC? What did you get your DFC for?
WG: No, it wasn't [pause], you're right in saying up to a point, but my skipper was awarded a DFC, but not for doing a second tour. There were, there were, I did know one or two blokes who got them for doing a second tour, but nobody ever seemed to know why. We took a dim view that you joined, you went as aircrew, and that was your job. So of course, of course, you were flying on op's, and bombing Germany and all that sort of thing, but to be decorated just for becoming aircrew, I thought was all wrong. But that was all besides the point, I suppose.
BW: And was yours awarded because you'd completed a number of operations, or was it for a single action?
WG: No, I shot down- oh dear, what did I shoot down? An ME109, I think. I've got it in here somewhere. I've got it in here somewhere. Yeah, I shot down [pause], I don't know if I'm boring you?
BW: No, no. Not at all.
WG: Kelstern to form. Oh yes, I went to Kelstern then, to help form a new squadron. 625 Squadron, with two other aircrews. And we went on another, we went on, we went on to, we formed 625 Squadron, at Kelstern there, and then I got an immediate award. I've got it here in red ink. See previous page. 'Doug Wheeler badly wounded'. He was the bomb aimer, he was badly wounded. And I went up onto the [coughs], there was a bed in the aircraft, just before you get into the pilot's area, and the navigator's, the front part, and he was badly wounded, and they took him up onto the aircrew bed, and I sat with him and [coughs], that’s right. and Warrant Officer Clarke was the pilot, and he was awarded the DFM as well, and the flight engineer was as well. The three of them were awarded the DFM, because they were all NCO's then. And that's about all there.
BW: Your bomb aimer was badly wounded, and you went up.
WG: The bomb aimer was badly wounded, that's right, yes. The bomb aimer was badly wounded, and he lost quite a lot of blood. And it was thought, not by me, but it was thought by, I think it was the bomb aimer, er, I think it was the wireless operator relieved me sitting with him, and he seemed to think that he was losing too much blood, so he couldn't last much longer. But he did, of course. And he and I left together, and I remember, I remember walking down to Grimsby railway station, and our kit was already there. We were being posted. I was going home, home on leave, and he was going home on leave, and it was on the railway station, that's right, both of us on the railway station, and we both said goodbye as our various trains, as our trains came in, and that was that. I kept in touch with him, we kept in touch with each other, but I did not see him again. I went to his home town in, I went to his home town and I met his mother, his father was dead, and I think I met his brother, who had already been accepted for aircrew, but was still a civilian. And then from there I went somewhere else instructing, so I thought, well, I couldn't keep on with this instructing business, because I was never good at it really. I was the wrong temperament. And I volunteered for a third, I volunteered for a third tour. But it was quite obvious the war was ending, and I was never called back to do a third tour. And that was that, I went on a further instruction course, and I was going to join, I was going to be transferred to the er, transferred to the American Air Force, with others but, who were stationed in Lincolnshire, but it never materialised, fortunately. I went to, oh I forget where I went then.
Laura: You went to India.
WG: Oh, I went touring. Touring round various stations, Army and Navy, no, not Navy, but Army and Air Force stations telling them what it was like on operations, sort of thing, you know. You shot a line [chuckles].
BW: Now, you mentioned on that particular instance when you were looking in your log book, that the pilot and the flight engineer were also awarded medals. The pilot got a DFC and the navigator got a DFM. Was your DFC awarded on the same raid, because they got those medals as a result of their actions over Mannheim.
WG: No, I got mine, yes, Mannheim, wasn't it, I got mine after I'd left them. I was on my second tour then. I think I'd started my third tour, quite honestly. But I don't really, it'll be in the log book here. Yes, yeah, I can't remember really.
BW: Ok, do you recall that night when you flew over Mannheim. It was a particularly notable instance, but what were your recollections?
WG: It was, sorry?
BW: It was a notable raid that night.
WG: It was indeed, yes.
BW: What were your recollections of it?
WG: Er, perhaps being more frightened than I normally was. Yes, when you're running up to, the bomb aimer, as you obviously know, was right in the front, I mean, the bomb aimer's nose was there, and there was the fresh air, there, sort of thing, you know. And when you're up the front there, I suppose I was more frightened, but it did pass off, you know. Because I thought, well, if I'm going to frightened like this, I'm going to be no good to the aircrew. They won't want me. That's when he was taken down to the bed, and I went down there with him as another member of the aircrew. Immediate award of the DFC to Warrant Officer Clarke, and the DFM to flight engineer. Warrant Officers and Officers, if they were decorated, got a DFM, and, oh yes [unclear], oh I don't remember, but it's not important.
BW: You mentioned that you'd shot down a ME109.
WG: Yes.
BW: And was that while you were over Mannheim? Or was that on a separate raid?
WG: No, it wasn't when we were over Mannheim, no. Everybody thought Mannheim was going to be a killer, sort of thing, but it wasn't, so it must have been another. No, it wasn't Mannheim. [reading]. 'Immediate award of the DFC, immediate award of the DFC.' Oh yes it was, it was Mannheim. It was Mannheim that we got it, the three of us. We were badly shot up by night-fighters. We were coned, we were coned in searchlights. The searchlights, when you're coned in a searchlight, it switches on twice, a certain searchlight. You see the searchlight in the distance, or I would see them at the back of me, being in the rear turret, creeping up at you on the back, and they would switch on and switch off, twice, and the third time when they switched on, they'd got you. And it was just like this in the turrets, daylight, you know. And of course, that's when the fighters see you and they come in to attack. But we weren't attacked, but we were coned, and it was, it was just like daylight. [Reading] 'Night-fighter, night-fighters, coned in searchlights', that's right. And, that's right, yes, that's it, we were hit there because it says here that we were, 'coned in searchlights and riddled with flak. Upon landing aircraft broke in two', oh yes, and on landing our aircraft broke it's back. And we went, I think Clarke took it into a hedge, because we were still going pretty fast down the runway, having just landed, and we went off the runway, dead ahead, and into that hedge, sort of thing. Which obviously stopped us, and nobody, no sound and nobody moved, it was just as though the whole lot of us were dead [laughs]. It wasn't until we crawled out, feeling very sorry for ourselves [laughs].
BW: And you were saying about the flak on that, on that mission, that it was accurate, and it was at the height that you were at, and it sounded like hail on the side
WG: That's it, the flak, the flak, the flak that was coming up from the ground to the fighters, was coming down onto our aircraft as well, and we could feel it. It shook, it shook the aircraft a bit. That was particularly frightening, I suppose, but only for a while. I'm convinced that, I'm convinced that many times, I never spoke about it, to see if others witnessed it, but many times I was so, so frightened to a point where I was frightened back to normality. I used to think to myself, 'Christ, I'm frightened. This is no good.' And then suddenly, it was suddenly clear, and I would be quite happy to be sitting there, waiting for it to happen. It was as simple as that, you know. You were so frightened, you would be glad to be hit, and shot down. That was the truth, I suppose. Up until then, up until then, when you knew Op's were on, and you were getting up and shaving and what not, you thought, 'well, what's going to happen, I wonder, today.' And, 'tonight', rather, and so often nothing happened. We were only attacked twice, I think. I did fifty five, I did, yes I did fifty five bombing raids on Germany, nine on Berlin, and that was pretty frightening. I was frightened going over Berlin, because they really were a crack lot, the German, the German fighters. I mean, once they'd got you in their sights you could imagine them saying to themselves, 'I've got him this time’. And they would, you see, you'd see others being shot down, of your own type. I saw quite a lot.
BW: You saw quite a lot?
WG: Well, I say quite a lot, less than a dozen, but you know, if you look across at somebody by your side, you see maybe a mile away, and then you see a ball of light on this aircraft, and it gets bigger and bigger, and then suddenly it blows, and that's frightening, you think, 'well, it could happen to me, this’. But, it didn't. But it was frightening to see somebody else, some of your own people shot down. And, I suppose, to see others, the enemy shot down, because you think, well they've all got mothers and fathers. What are they going to say when they get home, you know.
BW: Some veterans talk about it being relatively isolated in the formation, in other words, they would fly a mission and not see other aircraft, perhaps until they were over the target. Was that something you saw as well?
WG: Sorry?
BW: Some veterans say that they didn't see other aircraft in the formation until they were perhaps over the target. Do you, was that something you experienced as well, or were you aware you were in a formation all the time you were on the mission, or did you only see them over the target?
WG: No, we weren't so much together, in a heap, going over. You didn't see any of your own aircraft, seldom saw. The only time you saw other aircraft, or I saw other aircraft, was when German aircraft were firing at our aircraft, in the sky somewhere, but not actually firing at ourselves. So rightly or wrongly, I thought, 'well, thank god they're firing at them and not us’, sort of thing. You know. I didn't feel sorry for the others, I was just pleased for myself [chuckles].
BW: Were you able to pick out enemy night fighters at the time?
WG: Yes. Not so much fighters, but Heinkels. Bombers. We flew alongside, they flew alongside us, or we flew alongside them, same thing, for quite a while and you didn't open fire, I didn't at least, the other two gunners in our aircraft and myself didn't open fire, because you thought, well they're not firing at us so they haven't seen us, so if we fire at them, they're going to see the light from our shots going out, you know.
BW: The muzzle flash and the tracers.
WG: Pardon?
BW: They would see the muzzle flash and the tracers.
WG: Exactly, yes. You'd be giving your position away. And you just called up the pilot, and he would usually do a power dive, which could be quite dicey because you never knew if you really would pull out of a power dive. Especially if you'd still got your bombs on board. So the practice was for the bomb aimer to jettison his bombs, no matter where he was, where we were, but to jettison the bombs to lighten your load and increase your speed a bit, in a dive, you know. We'd been down as much as below a thousand feet, which is a bit of a bind, in a way. You get away from them, but you've got the bind of the slow climb up where they could see you, they could see your engines lit up, you know [pause], yes, they could see you more clearly then.
BW: And I believe you flew a couple of raids over Italy as well.
WG: Oh yes, that's right. Oh yes, so I did. I flew over [reading] Munich, Stuttgart, Hanover, Berlin, Berlin, Mannheim, Munich, Mannheim, er, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Milan. There you are, Milan. Peennemunde, Leverkusen, Berlin, Nuremberg. Oh yes. Did not complete operation. One of the engines was hit. It started a fire, we thought, but it didn't. And Berlin again, then Berlin, Mannheim, Munich, Mannheim. Mannheim was a bad place to bomb. They were very good there, with their night fighters. Hagen, Munich , Stuttgart, Hanover. Oh dear, so it goes on, so it goes on. Stettin, er Russelsheim, Stettin again. Oh, yes, then we went on to the V2 sights. They were in daylight, which was particularly bad. Frankfurt, Danzig, mining. mining Danzig Bay, that was a long trip, that was nine hours there and back. Westkapelle, daylight, Calais, daylight, Cap Brunet, daylight, three hours fifteen, oh dear, oh dear, Westkapelle, damn-busting, daylight. Saarbruken, Stuttgart, six hours fifty five minutes, Essen, five hours thirty, Cologne, oh dear, oh dear, I didn't know I'd done all this [chuckles].
BW: This must have been in nineteen forty four.
WG: Yes it was, November. November forty four. Gelsenkirchen, Van Ickel, that was in the Ruhr, Dortmund, er Maasberg, wherever that was, I don't know. That was on the second tour. Er, Marseilles. Yes, that's about it. The rest of it's all Transport Command stuff. Getting toward the end of the war then. And, er, and, that was it. Calcutta. Delhi and Calcutta, Delhi and Calcutta, Bangalore, Yellow Hanker.
BW: What were you flying there, in Transport Command? In India.
WG: Er, Lancasters. I was always on Lancasters. Except in training, when I was on Lancasters, and oh, what do you call the bloody things? [unclear] I've forgotten what they're called. [pause]. They're all Lancasters there. They're all Lancasters.
BW: You spent a lot of time. obviously, over the Ruhr. So your aircraft, when you were at 100 Squadron, the Phantom of the Ruhr, was appropriately named, wasn't it?
WG: Yes, yes. Sorry?
BW: I say your aircraft, the Lancaster, was called the Phantom of the Ruhr.
WG: That's right, yes.
BW: It was appropriately named, you spent so much time over it.
WG: Yes, the navigator, no, not the navigator, the bloke next to the pilot, the flight engineer, did a very good etching of the scene. What was it was called?
BW: Phantom of the Ruhr.
WG: Oh, that's right, yes. He did, he actually drew a phantom, the head, you know, of a phantom, then underneath he wrote, ' Phantom of the Ruhr'. Yes, I had a photograph of that, I don't know what happened to it. I've lost lots of things I wish I'd kept. Um. Yes [pause]. Yes, there were good and bad days, you know, good and bad days. I often thought, many times, I should never have volunteered, and then I thought, well, if I don't volunteer for flying, there's not much point in volunteering for the Air Force. And I couldn't volunteer for that, I couldn't be an Army bloke. I couldn't have been in the Army. I wouldn't have wanted to be a soldier.
BW: I have a photograph here of the nose-art of the aircraft.
WG: Oh, that's it. The engineer did that.
BW: I think this was after your time on the aircraft, it went on to fly over a hundred sorties.
WG: Yes, that's right.
BW: I think the crew pictured here, unless you recognise any of them, are from the end of the tour, because there's quite a number of –
WG: I don’t think I’ve seen this. Yes, here you are.
BW: - bomb markers on the side, there, to indicate the number of sorties.
WG: May I just show this to Laura? You can come over, it's all right. That's, our flight engineer drew that, and I stood, er, I stood, this is the front of the aircraft, as you'll appreciate and I stood beneath the aircraft here. I stood on a [slight pause], what do you have with Scotch to drink?
Laura: Tonic?
WG: Tonic. I stood on a Schweppes, an empty Schweppes tonic box and held the paint, held the point, no, the pint, held the paint up like this, while he dipped it in and drew that.
Laura: Very clever, wasn't it?
WG: Yes. He was standing about here, and I was over on this side, and, yes, well, that's nice, that. And then he would, and then I held the thing, whatever he wanted, his paint, when he painted the first half of those, they were all the bombs we dropped. And then our aircraft, we were taken off, and our aircraft went on to another crew, and that was their bit that they did.
Laura: My word.
WG: Yes. Now what was in there, oh nothing. There was something in there I was going to show you. But it's not important. Sorry about that.
BW: That's alright. There's another photograph here of your skipper, stood at the back of the aircraft, which has damage to the starboard elevator plane.
WG: That’s it.
BW: And there's your turret at the back, with a hood over it. It shows some of the damage that was received to the aircraft on that particular raid over Mannheim. The holes that the shells caused.
WG: Oh yes. That's it, yes. Oh yes. Yes, that's it. That's dear old Ron Clarke. He was a Warrant Officer then. There's his Warrant Officer's rank badge, there.
BW: Yes, on his right sleeve.
WG: Pardon.
BW: On his right sleeve.
WG: That's it, yes. And of course there're the holes in the aircraft that the flak caused, that shot up at us. And that was covered up, that was covered over for some reason or other. They were usually covered over, turrets, if they bought somebody back dead, you know. They were taken down to a special hanger for any repairs to be done, and for whoever was in the turret to be taken out, and then they'd, as a mark of respect, they covered it over. Thank you. Yes. [Pause]
BW: Do you have any other information in the log book, at all? Do you have any other photos or descriptions, that you particularly recall?
WG: Oh, I don't know [unclear[ [pause]. No, all I've got is a letter from the Under-Secretary of State for Air, presents his compliments [chuckles], and by command of the Air Council, has the honour to transmit the enclosed awards granted for service during the war of nineteen thirty nine, forty five. That was that. I don't know what this is. This is, Squadron Leader in correspondence from reserve [unclear], oh, The Council, the Air Council desires me to convey to you their warm thanks for the services you have rendered to the Royal Air Force, which they greatly appreciated. They have granted you permission to retain the rank of Flight Lieutenant under the terms of paragraph three oh two of Queens Regulations and Air Council Instructions, but this grant of rank does not confer the right to any emoluments. Your attention is drawn to the attached memorandum, and also to the enclosed extract from Queens Regulations regarding the occasion on which officers who have been permitted to retain their rank, wear uniform and the badges of that rank. So I always keep that in case. I used to, I used to go on parades when I was still in the service, um, on uniform parades, but you couldn't do that unless you'd actually got permission to actually do that. Thank you. Well, sorry about all this, this is a non-issue.
BW: That's alright. That's no problem. You mentioned that you joined as a sergeant, and at some point you've obviously been commissioned.
WG: Yes.
BW: Do you recall when and how that happened?
WG: Well, I didn't actually join as a sergeant. I joined, I joined. War was declared on the Saturday. I was in the kitchen, helping my mother with getting the food ready, and war was declared at eleven o' clock on that Saturday, and I asked mother if she could lend me some money to get a ticket to go to Lincoln to volunteer for aircrew. And she, yes she did, she gave me the money. She wasn't, and of course my father was very, well, not very annoyed. He said, 'I can't understand it’, he said, ‘why don't you wait until you're called up?' [laughs] I said, 'if I wait, if I wait until I'm called up, I've been advised that they will put you anywhere in the crew, but if you volunteer, you can more or less choose if you want to be a rear gunner, or a signaller, or navigator', though I hadn't got the brains for that, navigator. But if you volunteered, you could choose more or less where you were going to fly, but if you didn't, you were put anywhere in the aircraft, where they wanted a spare bod, I mean. A Lanc would come back with, maybe with somebody killed in a turret, so they'd whip him out and stick you in, sort of thing. Filling in space, you see, that sort of thing, so that was the reason I volunteered, so that I could volunteer – I felt very happy in the rear turret. I never felt, I don't think I felt really frightened, once I got up in the air. But waking up in the morning, knowing that that night we were going on operations, I did feel a bit dodgy, but it wore off once I got on to the squadron, sort of thing. But until then I did feel a bit, I thought, well it could happen, and that sort of thing, and what's mother going to do, you know.
BW: What was your social life like on the squadron? You mentioned, you wouldn't be on op's every night.
WG: Oh no, no, The amount of flights I did, it's in the log book. Most op's was four nights in seven, following on. You see, you go on op's, and you might be on again tonight, and you were on again tonight, and you'd say, 'well, we can't be on tomorrow night'. But of course, when you woke up you found you were on, you know, I used to, even though I was not commissioned then, we did have a batman who used to look after us and keep our buttons clean, usual thing, you know, and they would do various things for you. I've forgotten what I was going to say, never mind, it doesn't matter.
BW: And did you get time to socialise? You mentioned going out to Grimsby and places, did you socialise in the mess, the Sergeants Mess?
WG: Oh yes. If you'd got a bit of money in your pocket, you would go out of the mess, into town, where'd you'd girlfriends, and that sort of thing, you know. But if you'd, if you hadn't got money, you would stay in the mess and use the facilities there, the bar, they usually specialised in supplying you with a good bar. I mean you paid for it, you had to buy the stuff, but there was a bar in every mess, and if you hadn't got much dough you would go into the bar in the mess because you could book it. And you didn't have to pay until the end of the month, when you got your money. Until then, you had to pay for it there and then.
BW: And did you socialise really with your crew? Did you go out together, or did you socialise with your other friends, who were gunners on other aircraft?
WG: Very seldom. If I socialised with anybody, which I did, it would be with those of my rank and air-crew calling. You know, air gunners would go with air gunners, and navigators with navigators, and that sort of thing. Occasionally I would go out with Clarke, my pilot. Quite often, I suppose really. He was an extremely nice bloke. And we used to go, er, we used to go, I suppose boozing. But not to get violently drunk, you know. Because it was too expensive, anyway [chuckles]. Otherwise we would never have been sober.
BW: And I believe you liked doing crosswords, as well, is that right?
WG: I beg your pardon.
BW: I believe you like doing crosswords.
WG: Yes, I used to do a crossword in the turret coming back quite often. It was advised not to in case we were followed back, and we were seen by whoever was following us back that we weren't really, that the turret wasn't moving. So that once you got up, once you left the shores of the country, you never kept your turret still. You always went backwards and forwards, up and down. So that if you were seen by enemy aircraft, they would see that you weren't asleep, you were alert, sort of thing, you know. That was the idea.
BW: And I believe that on the way back from a raid on Mannheim, when you had actually been shot up, and the searchlights were still on you, and following you away from the target, you joked that you had enough time to finish the crossword, because there was a light in the turret.
WG: No, at night time it isn't that dark. When you're flying, when you're up in the air at night, even if you're the only aircraft in the sky, the sky's still light. Not like this, but you know, you can be seen.
[Noises off as someone knocks to come in]
BW: Yes, I'll just pause the recording here for a moment.
BW: So, we're just looking through one or two things in the log book at the moment. Would you mind if I read a couple of extracts from it? Would that be alright?
WG: Say what? To read it out? Oh yes, yes.
BW: There's, [pause] firstly there is a description here for seventeenth of August nineteen forty three, a night mission to Peenemunde, codenamed Hydra. And the description underneath, which you've indicated, reads, 'six hundred aircraft, Lancasters, dropped sixteen hundred tons of high explosives. This prevented the stockpiling of five thousand V2's, which Hitler intended to be dropped on London simultaneously, in one day’. And there's a quote in a short section from the Daily Telegraph magazine which indicates that in general, the raid, Bomber Command's raid was an outstanding success, and a shattering attack on Peenemunde research and radio location factory, Germans biggest development centre for air defences. In a message to Sir Arthur Harris, Chief of Bomber Command, the Air Minister says, 'photographs prove the outstanding success of your attack’, and goes on to say, 'the accuracy of the bombing, in spite of a smokescreen, and of fierce fighting over the target, testifies to the skill and determination of your crews, and to the effectiveness of your planning and tactical methods’. And that was dated the fifth of June nineteen forty three. So that was obviously a very well defended target, but notable because of what was achieved as a result, in hitting the V2 sights. The other description in here comes from, erm, the forth of November nineteen forty four, which I think must be your second tour.
WG: Yes, yes it was the second tour, forty three, forty four.
BW: When you went on to 625 Squadron, based at Kelstern.
WG: Yes. We formed there, I think.
BW: And, I believe it was C Flight from 100 Squadron that formed 625.
WG: That's right. Yes.
BW: The description here says that it was a raid on Bokum, and that, in brackets, a jet aircraft, ME262 confirmed, and the description goes on to say, 'awarded the DFC. This was their fastest and latest fighter, and the first to be shot down at night by Bomber Command, and confirmed’.
WG: Yes, that's right. I shot it down, yes.
BW: That's particularly notable because firstly, it was a jet aircraft, and secondly, it was at night.
WG: Yes.
BW: Do you recall how you recognised the aircraft? Did it appear to be a jet, were you able to recognise it? Or was it just another target for you?
WG: Well, when I was on then, on both tours, the only [pause] if it hadn't got four engines, which were easy to pick out, even at night, because it's not as dark as all that up there at night. But it is dark, of course, but if it hadn't got four engines, you had a go at it. Because it shouldn't have been up there, sort of thing, so it must have been an enemy. Must be an enemy. You didn't recognise it perhaps as an enemy, except that it had only got two engines. Otherwise, it would have four. Which meant it was one of your own.
BW: And who saw who first? Do you think.
WG: Well exactly, yes.
BW: Who saw who first on that occasion? Did you see him?
WG: That I can't remember. I don't, I only remember being attacked maybe a couple of times, but that was in the early part of the war [pause]. It's difficult [pause]. Yes it’s, you could pick them out, quickly. But even if you didn't, you still fired at them, because you couldn't take the risk. If you didn't fire at them and they were enemy, they fired at you, it would be too late because they might hit you. But it was better to take a chance, and sometimes a wrong chance. On occasions your own being shot down. That has happened. I don't know how it was proven, but it all comes out at, it all comes out when you come back, and you're interrogated. And you really are interrogated, I mean, you don't stand a chance, even if you want to, to shoot a line or tell a load of lies, because they'd soon find out, the way they interrogate you. They aren't aircrew themselves, they're ground crew, and really, really trained for that job of sorting out the truth from the shooting a line business.
BW: And so when you landed, how soon after landing would you be debriefed?
WG: Straight away. You'd be taken in transport straight away. You wouldn't even speak to your ground crew, be allowed to speak to your ground crew. The, er, as soon as you landed, the first people you spoke to were the ground crew, the ground crew, er, oh dear, questioning you, interrogating you [pause].
BW: And were you debriefed as a crew together? Or were you debriefed individually?
WG: You were all put in the debriefing room, and each aircrew department were briefed by their own people. And then you were together briefed as a crew. And it was there to make sure there was no line-shooting, you know. Well, I suppose it was, that's what it was done for. They could easily say, well you're telling us this story, but your mate is telling us this story. That sort of idea, you know.
BW: By line-shooting, you mean telling them something inaccurate.
WG: Telling lies. Yes, telling lies and lies that could never happen, you know. You were boosting up your bravery perhaps, I suppose. If that's the word, yes. I don't know if you could say that many of us were brave. It was just one of those things. You'd volunteered to do it and you were there, so you'd got to do it, but I don't think that I looked upon it as bravery, I looked upon it as being a bloody idiot for being there [laughs].
BW: What I'd just like to do now, is just to show you a list of the crew, and you've talked about Ron Clarke, and there's your name at the bottom, this is when you were on 100 Squadron.
WG: Oh yeah. That's right.
BW: Yeah? And there's one or two other names you've briefly mentioned. Are there any particular instances or things you would remember about each of those men that you flew with?
WG: There's Ron Clarke. I think Clarke got a second DFC, but I'm not sure. Bennett got a DFM, that's right. Flight Engineer. Sidell, Jim Sidell. Well, Jim Sidell was killed, the navigator, so he got nothing. Wheeler, the bomb aimer, didn't get anything. Easby, the wireless operator, didn't get anything. Simpson didn't get anything. And then there's myself, yes. No, that was the crew. And er, what was the question, what did you ask me?
BW: Do you remember anything other about the other members of the crew, anything else about them? What sort of chaps they were?
WG: No, we didn't. I don't remember any of us really teaming up when we weren't flying, and going out together. We used to sort of go on our todd, so if we got up to something we didn't want too many people to know [laughs]. Which was my idea, anyway. I don't know about Clarke, But no, Clarke didn't, he’d be doing something. He'd be studying, I expect. He was a studing type [unclear]. Easby's very ill now. I don't know if he's still living. I intend to phone up and speak to his wife, but-
BW: Do you know if Harry Bennett is still alive?
WG: Bennett, Bennett. Where's Bennett's name here? Bennett, yes, Flight Engineer. No I don't actually. I don't even know, I don't even know where Bennett came from.
BW: I believe he came from Preston. In Lancashire.
WG: Now that's a point, yes. Somewhere up North. Yes, he was a north country chap. The Flight Engineer. He was a good bloke. He could, if something went wrong, he would get out of his seat up front, next door to the pilot, and walk down the aircraft with his tool kit, and if anything was wrong, and he could do something there, he would stay down there and mend it, and do all that sort of thing. He was a very brave bloke [coughs].
BW: Do you recall how he got his DFM?
WG: Who?
BW: Bennett.
WG: Bennett. No, no I can't. No.
BW: There's a description that when you were over Mannheim one night, and because you were heavily hit by the flak, it severed the flying controls to the ailerons.
WG: Oh yes, so it did.
BW: And there was a lot of vibration going through the flying controls, which meant the pilot couldn't handle the aircraft properly.
WG: That's right. That's it.
BW: And the story goes that Bennett took out his penknife, and bearing in mind you were probably at five thousand feet at night over Germany and France at the time, apparently he took out his penknife and severed the starboard trim control cables.
WG: That's right, he trimmed the controls, that's right. I don't know if it was his penknife, but he did sever controls, yes, which steadied the aircraft, and it was, well everybody was, we all were scared when this, when the aircraft was really shaking, you know. And then it suddenly stopped, and after, we realised that dear old Bennett had done that. He'd gone down and put his, put his breathing apparatus thing on, and stopped the vibrating.
BW: That's quite a thing to have done.
WG: Well, yes.
BW: Firstly, to know what to do, and then to be able to see it and cut it.
WG: Yes, yes. Yes. It doesn't say anything there, but I think Bennett was decorated as well. There were, there were, there were three of us decorated to my knowledge, I think he could have been the fourth one, but I'm not really sure. But three of us were decorated, and as I say, I think he was the fourth one, but actually, getting down and stopping the vibration, which it was thought could have prevented the aircraft being flown properly [coughs] or safely. Safely was the word, not properly. Same thing.
BW: And the other description that I just wanted to read on the back of the log book that you've got here; on the tenth of January nineteen forty five there's a description in here from a Squadron Leader, which looks like a Flight Commander of 626, in relation to your proficiency and assessment says, 'this', oh.
WG: This officer?
BW: 'This officer [pause] that knows his job, which he does well, this officer that knows his job, which he does well, put up a splendid show whilst on this', I can't make out the last word, but it says underneath, 'awarded the DFC'. Does that description-
WG: Which bit? Oh, 'whilst on the squadron'. Whilst on the squadron, yes. What does it say there, then?
BW: It says, 'Our officer, that knows his job, which he does well, puts up a splendid show whilst on this squadron. Awarded DFC'.
WG: Oh, I see. Yes.
BW: That would be your second one.
WG: That's right, yes.
Laura: You’ve not drunk your tea, Pops.
WG: Pardon?
Laura: Your tea
WG: Pardon?
Laura: Your cup of tea?
WG: Oh yes, my cup of tea. Oh there's a cup of tea, look.
BW: From these tours, then, what happened after, towards the end.
WG: Sorry?
BW: From, after completing these two tours, or three tours, because you completed a hundred operations, didn't you?
WG: Yes, I think so. Something like that. Yeah, well two and a half tours.
BW: And what happened after that? When you, when the war ended, and you stayed in service, but you went out to India and the Far East.
WG: Oh yes, I did, yes, Yes, I went out to, I went out to Delhi, and Calcutta, and Bangalore. Erm. I wasn't instructing. I can't think what I was doing. I wasn't lecturing. Well, I was lecturing in Bangalore, but not for very long. I asked to be taken off because I wasn't any good at it. I was, you know, if the blokes you were instructing weren't sort of, didn't cotton on, I used to get bad tempered, so it was no good [long pause]. Yes, looking back, they were good days. When you're there, they're not, really. You wonder, why did I do it? [pause]
BW: And when the war ended, and you'd been in India, what then happened? You came back and you left the Air Force at some stage, did you?
WG: Yes. I came back from India. I was, where was I, I think I was in Calcutta then. Oh yes, that's what annoyed me, was that when I went out there, I flew out there and was there a fortnight, and when I came back, I didn't come back quickly in an aircraft, I came back on a boat, and that took about three to four weeks to get back to the country, which I thought was rather bad. Because they flew me out there quickly, and then it took a long time to get me back home.
BW: They wanted you out there quickly, but didn't want you back home so fast [chuckles]. And did you come home to get married, and raise a family after that?
WG: Yes, I came home and, I don't know, yes, I came home, what did I do [pause], I don't know where I met Betty. Oh, we met, yes, I was with a group of blokes somewhere, and we saw a group of WAAFs, and we teamed up with these WAAFs, and I went off with mine. I don't know what happened to the others, but I never met them again, but I went off. I forget where we went, and we stayed together for some time. She was , she was a plotter. She used to plot enemy aircraft, and that sort of thing. In Bomber Command. And, I went to Bomber Command for a while, and asked to be taken away, but until then, that was where we met each other [Pause].
BW: And when did you get married?
WG: That's a point [pause].
BW: Was it soon after the war? Or was it a few years after?
WG: No, the war was still on, I think. Is my log book here? Oh, thank you. Thank you very much. I don't know if it tells me in here. I don't know, I must, I don't know when I got married [pause and paper rustling]. 'Slightly above average', and, 'above average'. That's slightly above. No, I don't know. [More paper rustling]. What was I looking for? 'Screen, after twenty sorties, second tour.'
Laura: Pops. I think you got married on the thirteenth of April, it was a Friday, and I think it was nineteen forty five. Would it be?
WG: Oh, nineteen forty five.
Laura: I think. It was forty four or forty five, I think. Before you went to India.
WG: Oh, that's right, before I went to India, wasn't it.
Laura: Yes
WG: Yes [pause]. November forty four, Bokum. Oh yes. Oh, I don't know [pause].
BW: When you left the service, what did you go on to do then?
WG; Well I, er, before the war I joined the firm that my father was the secretary for, at Kings Lynn. A timber importing firm, Patrick and Thompson’s. And I was going out to, I was going out to India. We had a branch in India. In, where was it, Bangalore, no, not Bangalore, oh I don't remember now. And I don't quite know what I did. I didn't do what I expected to do, or what they said I was going to do and I think that the way the war was going, it was felt that soon it going to end, so it was a pretty cushy time for us all. Because we weren't, there wasn't very much to do really, and I didn't know whether to stay in or not, and I wasn't keen on going back to my father, to the firm where my father was, so I stayed in. And I was going to get, I hadn't got a permanent commission then. I was on, not a part-time commission, I forget what the word was for it, but it wasn't a regular commission, and I thought, well, if I'm going to stay in the service, I must get a regular commission, or else they can get me out any time. But with a regular commission, provided I'm playing it straight, I haven't got to bother about a job, because I'd got a job. And it was quite well paid. I was a Flight Lieutenant then. And when I went to Bangalore, I was promoted to Squadron Leader, and then when I came back, when I came back, I was demoted to my previous regular engagement commission. It wasn’t an active one. But then I decided that with how things were going, I wasn't very keen. I was getting into spots of bother, and that sort of thing. I was made a personal assistant to an Air Vice Marshall, which was a bit of a bind because you're always on duty, you know. You could suddenly be in bed, and your batman would come in, and give you a shake, and say,' the old man wants you’, and you could get up at any time of the day. Yes, at any time of the day and night. Because if you'd been flying at night, you'd be asleep during the day, and you'd have to go down to see what he wanted, and all that sort of thing. And his wife would, many times when I was in their house, she would come in and say, 'Geoffrey, just nip down to the butchers will you, and get so and so’, that sort of thing, you know. That wasn't my cup of tea, really, not what I'd joined to do [laughs]. Walking back with strings of sausages round me neck [laughs].
BW: Well, I think you've been very open, and it's been a great pleasure to listen to you, sir, and to all your experiences, so I want to thank you on behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre for doing that, and it's probably an appropriate place to leave your reminiscences, with a string of sausages round your neck [laughs]
WG: Thank you very much indeed.
BW: Thank you.



Brian Wright, “Interview with Geoff Green,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 25, 2024,

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