Interview with Ernest Holmes

Title

Interview with Ernest Holmes

Description

Ernest Holmes joined the RAF and served as a pilot, flying operations first with 76 Squadron and then on Pathfinders. Gives a vivid and detailed account of when he was shot down over Holland: how he was given shelter by a farmer’s family and moved to different locations; his eventful escape to Belgium; his capture and interrogation by the Gestapo and internment in a prisoner of war.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-01-29

Contributor

Peter Schulze

Rights

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.

Format

01:37:23 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AHolmesEA160129

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

BB: Testing one two three. I’m here in Perth to interview Ernest Holmes, ex Pathfinder pilot, what we’ll do Ernest is just, I’ll get you just to tell me your name, what you did in the RAF in your own words, just try and tell your story as best you can
EH: What story is it you want?
BB: When did you join the RAF and just not in great detail but just talk it through.
EH: I am Ernest Holmes and at the age of nineteen I volunteered for service in the RAF to train as a pilot and on the 10th of June 1940 I then left home which was on my mother’s birthday to go down to Padgate. From there I eventually did training in Blackpool, the square bashing, then I was posted to Hooten Park where I was working in operations room. Then I eventually got interviewed and accepted for training as a pilot. I went to Desford where I did the, sorry, I went
BB: That’s ok.
EH: Squire’s gate I think it was to ITW, from there I went to Desford to do the initial training on Tiger Moths after thirty hours accomplishing, then went to Canada for further advanced flying on twin engine aircraft, I went there on a [unclear] factory that was called Swen Fine and that was torpedoed in 1943
BB: God!
EH: But I went there on a I think there is a photograph
BB: We will have a look at those later. Thank you.
EH: I don’t know where I then
US: Can I just interrupt, do you take sugar?
BB: I take sweeteners.
US: Perfect. Right.
BB: Thank you very much. So, you went to Canada.
EH: Went to Canada. And then returned to the UK after six months in Canada
BB: You got your wings in Canada.
EH: Got my wings in Canada [unclear] sergeant. Then I went to Abindgon on Whitleys
BB: That was number 10 OTU.
EH: Yes. There I was assessed as exceptional and proof is in my logbook [laughs] and from there I went to train on the Halifaxes and from there I went to 76 Squadron
BB: So, that was the Halifax XCU.
EH: Yes.
BB: Where was that? Somewhere in Yorkshire?
EH: Outside Oxford.
BB: Outside Oxford, ok. Remember that. And then from there you went onto the squadron which was 76.
EH: 76 Squadron.
BB: So you crewed up at the OTU.
EH: We crewed up there and from 76 Squadron I had asked to go onto the Pathfinders so we eventually moved, I can’t recall the actual dates but the logbook [unclear]
BB: Right. Was that the whole crew or just you? Sometimes the whole crew would [unclear]
EH: The whole crew, the whole crew went.
BB: Ok. Now was that a end of tour discussion well chaps what we do [unclear] or do we go onto Pathfinders?
EH: No, it was just a posting.
BB: Oh, you’re posted?
EH: But I had already asked.
BB: [unclear] Oh, you requested it. Ok. That’s good.
EH: And we went.
BB: [unclear]
EH: And then we had to do the training on the Pathfinders and then from there I was moved to 35 Squadron. [unclear]
BB: [unclear]
EH: So we’d already completed about twelve operations or so on 76 Squadron, then we started the training with
BB: Pathfinders.
EH: Yes, the operations with 35 Squadron.
BB: And I suppose that was pretty intensive, all the instructing the markers and sky marking and ground marking and all that.
EH: Yes, it was just a job for us.
BB: Yes.
EH: But I still recall quite clearly the change of attitude of each person, we were all friends, we referred to each other by name, nick names, I was known as Shirley, short for Sherlock, for a long time I was Sherlock, and there was no Holmes came along, so differentiate I am Sher-ee.
BB: Ok, I got you, yes. Ah, ok.
EH: No. And times operations you had on the crews and on my last operation when I was shot down we had a mixed crew. I had two Canadian gunners, my navigator became station officer now deceased and he had DFC DFM and the engineer DFC DFM also deceased., they became chief engineer and also chief navigation instructor, so they came off my crew and I got Johnny Stewart, Derrick came with me but that night I had eight of a crew, not seven.
BB: yes, I counted that up on the [unclear].
EH: Pardon?
BB: Were you carrying an extra wireless op?
EH: The wireless operator wanted to learn how to use the radar
BB: Right.
EH: There was no special training so he came along. Training, been trained on operations and I had a second wireless operator
Bb:
EH: But I also had two gunners. The two Canadian gunners had previously had asked for me to finished their tours with me, they finished, the Canadian scheme was after thirty ops they went back home, they were no longer required to do anything or get involved in any activities in the war unless they chose so but they too wanted to go back home [unclear]
BB: So they did.
EH: They went back home. So I had two new gunners and also a new engineer, the engineer was on his first operation
BB: God!
EH: And I’m not quite certain if the gunner was. David has my logbook.
US: Yes, I got wartime and I’ve also got the flight plans.
EH: You have.
BB: That’s
EH: No. You’ll have to know. Ask the questions and I’ll give you a brief [unclear].
BB: Ok. From the information that I had already, from David, plus my own research material, I’ve sketched out here a tabular form, your career is by unwonded from the information I had.
EH: Yeah.
BB: You enlisted on the tenth of June 1940 as an AC2.
EH: That’s right.
BB: Service number 105851.
EH: Yes, 105851.
BB: And you were a UT pilot basically at that time.
EH: Yes.
BB: And then you went to ITW and then on to number 7 EFTS at Desford.
EH: That’s right.
BB: Where you learned to fly Tiger Moths and they had some Miles Magisters there as well.
EH: That’s right.
BB: And then you went to number 35 AFU North Battleford, Saskatchewan
EH: That’s right.
BB: Where you learned twin engine aircraft on the Airspeed Oxford.
EH: In the Oxford.
BB: In the Oxford. And you were made a sergeant at that stage.
EH: Yes, when you got your wings.
BB: Yes, that’s right. And then you went, came back to the UK, you went to number 10 OTU at Abington Whitley
EH: That’s right.
BB: And your station commander was group captain H M Massey, who happened to be later on in the same prison of war camp as you, as the senior RAF officer in Stalag Luft III.
EH: North compound, yes.
BB: Yes.
US: Did you know that, Dad?
EH: I did, no, I didn’t know it.
BB: He was senior British RAF officer, he was shot down and taken prisoner, I got it here, I can let you have all of this and then you went to HCU on Halifaxes and was promoted flight sergeant.
EH: I was a flight sergeant at Abingdon.
BB: At Abingdon, ok, so, ok, [unclear] and then you went on to the squadron and were commissioned pilot officer on the squadron shortly after you arrived, I think.
EH: it’s on 35 Squadron.
BB: Yes.
EH: Yes.
BB: Yes. And by the time you got to 76 you were already commissioned, you were promoted to pilot officer with the new service number 157389. And then you did your Pathfinders, you went missing on the 22nd of May in Holland on a raid to Dortmund
EH: That’s right.
BB: Shot down and evaded capture, fought with the French resistance for a while but you were betrayed by the Gestapo and taken to Stalag Luft III.
EH: Yes.
BB: Prisoner of war number 0288.
EH: I don’t know the number of prisoner of war.
BB: Here we are. And you were involved in the long march.
EH: Both two marches.
BB: Two marches. Ok. Your aircraft was MD762 code E for Edward.
EH: Can’t recall
BB: Yeah. And it crashed, obviously a night fighter got you and you had to get out of the aircraft and landed in a place near Middlebeers in North Bravent.
EH: Yes.
BB: At 0522 in the morning.
EH: Yep.
BB: And then obviously you made it on the 21st of May ’44 you became an acting flight lieutenant [unclear] gazette illustrated on the 10th of October 1945.
EH: I knew nothing about that till a year later.
BB: I got all this stuff for you. And then you were liberated at Lubeck and then you opted for a permanent commission and went on to do lots of other things, flying on Yorks and
EH: yes.
BB: All sorts of nice things and then you were at [unclear] in Kinloss for a while. I was a member of the RAF reserve for thirty three years, in the maritime world and spent a lot of time at Kinloss briefing and debriefing crews as an intelligence officer and then I went on to, after maritime I went on to fast jets, doing the same with fighter [unclear], I did that in both Gulf Wars and it is very interesting and If I hadn’t actually researching the RAF for years and years and years, I knew about the intelligence cycle and debriefing crews and that interest stood me in really good sted when I had stop the aircrew to deal with in their flying suits, and they just wanted to get to the bar and I wouldn’t le them go to the bar [unclear] they had been debriefed so it’s funny how life but that’s a fascinating story.
EH: That I was [unclear] again.
BB: So.
EH: Can I speak about?
BB: Of course you can. Yes.
EH: When we were shot down, there was no warning, no indication, there was no warning, interception, [unclear] just [mimics a noise] and I lost control of the aircraft, went into a dive, I had my feet on, trying to pull it back but one thing fortunately, I had the loose fissing harness, eventually I was on the [unclear] panel trying to pull the aircraft up, what I was doing of course pulling myself out of the seat, now I had already abandoned the walk southwest, I was somewhere getting near the coast and I choose south west but if I was near the coast walk around the German defences and I also broadcast on my radio so that crews would recognise my voice and this was so, whilst I was on the underground, now is this the part that you are interested in?
BB: yes, yes please, yes.
EH: They started and I landed and I started walking but there was a lot of cloud around, I had to stand and wait to wait till I could see the North Star decide which was North South East and West and I walking South West and I saw someone, this is out in the countryside, light a cigarette and I heard dogs barking so I walked away from that, the person lighting a cigarette a later found out was Derrick, we went away [unclear] because at the time that the second explosion took place where the engineer was in the hatch [unclear] under the escape hatch, Derrick was there, standing with his parachute clipped on, Donnie Stewart the navigator pulled the curtain back, touched me on the shoulder, which was the sign and I am still trying to point [unclear] and then there was a third bang, big explosion, I lost unconscious and I woke up hanging over the nose of the aircraft still strapped to my side with the loose harness fitting your arm and your arm [unclear] I pulled myself back and found my legs were trapped with the control column so I kicked them free, released my harness from the seat and then eventually released my leg and pushed myself off and then pulled my parachute and I just waited, I didn’t know where it was going to land and lot of mud, I don’t know if you [unclear] at that time, we could wear what we liked on our operations, I had an old style army trench coat but I used to use it as cover, the Canadians had leather jackets, leather coats, so some of us did dress up in the hopes that if you were shot down some camouflage, now whence I came across this farm and I knocked on the door, didn’t get an answer but there was a well, water well, I didn’t get an answer so so I opened this gate and the thing about the gate that struck me was a concrete bomb had been used as a pillar to the gate unknown to me the Germans had been using that farm area as a precious bombing range [laughs]
BB: Gosh! [unclear]
EH: So I continue walking and I hear dogs barking and I start walking through water think if there were dogs they would get my scent water would help, remember I am still I once shock I was fighting
BB: Sure but you, you know, it’s a big experience that kind
EH: And then I came to a wood and I started going through the wood, it’s amazing the noise you make at night time when you walk through and I heard dog was barking again, so I came out of the wood and I continued walking
BB: You still have your flying boots at this stage
EH: No, I never used my flying boots
BB: [unclear]
EH: Normal shoes.
BB: Ok, right.
EH: In fact the only gear I had was the roll neck clover on my blazer and my roll neck clover on my jacket and underwear I had my pyjama trousers on, that was all. And my shoes but in my socks I had a Bowie knife, I lost that and I know when I landed and [unclear] I was [unclear]
BB: You couldn’t find it
EH: And then I came to this [unclear] and was the only [unclear], I could hear noises and I thought it was a blacksmith that must have been, I heard this and I thought that’s a blacksmith I think I was thinking that’s the blacksmith and he will have a big handkerchief with a sandwich and I think I was going to steal that, however I came to this [unclear ] and I could see this church steeple and I thought I gotta find a place to hide, twelve hours earlier I could have just jumped across I couldn’t I was so worn out, so I waded across up the ankle deep, knee deep [unclear] to the other side to get rid of any dog scent now I saw walking up to this park, the corn was growing high now and then oh I hate this bank noise I heard and there came a girl, she must be seventeen, eighteen cycling, she was going to and she had a runny bicycle which had small wheels in the front with a flat tray and she had a milk and she was the one that was and when she passed she said, Guten Morgen, and I thought she spoke to me in English, and I said, you speak English? nein, so I said, RAF, Flieger, and she pointed for me to hide in the corn and she went off back to the farm and I’m hiding in the corn as she was quite high at the time and I heard all the voices come by and eventually I stood up and there was [unclear] the father, he was a little man and along with him was [unclear] and was Jan, the elder son, well, the elder son was probably be about thirteen, fourteen, that was Jan, and then there were three others with him, they were all students, one was Willy [unclear], he was hiding form the Germans because the students were over the age of sixteen were to go to work in the defences so all the students went into hiding and [unclear], he was actually studying medicine at the time and he was in hiding and then there was another [unclear], we called him the painter, he was an artist, we could pick him out in a million, he wore a [unclear] type hat, it was a huge hat and a cloak, he didn’t speak English and I took an dislike him because he spoke to the others who spoke English [unclear] and [unclear] and
BB: Willy
EH: Willy and they laughed and then they asked me, I said, what did he say? He said, he wants to know if you have a gun, no, have you got any cigarettes, don’t smoke. And then it was laughter when this related to the artist or painter, I took an dislike to that chappie because he had said, he hasn’t got a gun, he hasn’t got any cigarettes, he is no bloody good to us, let’s kill him.
BB: I could see you take to dislike him, yeah.
EH: I took an instant dislike to that chappie, I met him once or twice after that, but then he said that they were going to help me so they took me to the farm and there they had the old tin bath hanging on the wall, they had to untie my shoelaces and help me take my clothes off and when my clothes were off of course I’d been circumcised, no reference me to that, far my concern, from the RAF and they were trying to help, well, a few things happened, I would say, I mean, I would say they had a fireplace, a brick thing found underneath water in this and on the top of that was a lid and that’s where they used to put the milk [unclear] once it had been because it had been and taken away but they held in that for a couple of days and then I went in the pigsty and that and then he came up to me one day and this is up to six days that’s the farmer, he came up to me with a bottle, a small bottle of whiskey and sixty gold flake cigarettes 1944 didn’t have the money to buy it, any ideas?
BB: Black market.
EH: SOE.
BB: SOE, oh yes, of course. The escape alliance.
EH: And he was tied to the SOE and was the only way he could have got it but anyway I didn’t drink and I didn’t smoke so I told him he could have them. And then they walked me into they called it the orchard, there was and there were about six beds there, this is where the students [unclear]
BB: Right.
EH: They were hiding, came to sleep and during the daytime they disappeared, look the headmaster of the village school had a spare room and the headmaster go to the library to get the medical books for Luke that continued his study and but I only saw him at night time and at meal times so I’m on my own most of the time but then Naty I come across at one time used to buy the biscuits came in a big tin box, in packets inside that box, and she used to bring one of these different types of grain and my task was to sort out those that were edible for humans and the rest for the animals so I used to sort these out, this she would have to do it cause she, she run that farm, she milked the cow, she did the shopping, and she was the one that had to go to the to get the licences to get the nes free papers for the family because the sons couldn’t go otherwise they were under and [unclear] himself couldn’t go so that, you know, she was the real workhouse I can write a book about her but I can tell you what happened I was there and eventually became when I was to get go to the next place, no whilst I was there I had a haemorrhoids and the doctor to come and he prescribed just a little tablet to insert
BB: Yes
EH: And he wanted something to remember me the only thing I had was a small protector [unclear] to give to him and then on the sixth of June which by chance was to be the date I was to be best man at my wife’s, at that time my girlfriend’s brother who was in the RAF, he was getting married and I was to be best man but [unclear] thought it was my marriage
BB: Right.
EH: But he came up to me and envasi, envasi, I knew the invasion had started
BB: 6th of June, D-Day.
EH: On the 6th of June, yes, so I said to him, whiskey so he went back and we had a little drink, just he and I, had a little drink and then, when I had to leave the farm, decided to take me a photograph, now a business man provided Frans with a suit, is that the photograph?
BB: That’s the photograph of Frans.
EH: Of Frans?
BB: Yeah, yeah.
EH: Yeah, well, the photograph of the dog,
US: [unclear]
EH: So this business man provided me with a suit but said to me, leave here, leave, get away from here or all be killed, they’ll all be killed, they and he give me ten guilders which was no use to me, I couldn’t use anyway but then my conscience risking their lives but they had to make the arrangements or point me in the right direction, true enough they made arrangements and the next place I went to was [unclear] the family Faro, the family Faro, they are all deceased, a woman, she had a son, she ran at a village a shop and to a different people coming in that’s people hiding and moving to the next place, I was then moved from there to, it was a big house and a little Dutchman but he had an American wife she was very tall and I don’t think they were happy to have me hiding in their house I was only there I don’t think forty-eight hours and I don’t think they were happy but he himself said that he flew aircraft in the First World War
BB: Alright.
EH: But then I got the impression this American lady, she was a bit concerned about me staying there, then I moved from there to a farm, it was just a single wooden building and there was an old man wearing clogs he didn’t speak English but his son I did discover was in the Dutch navy and this chappie asked me, you know, could I get him shoes, of course ration back here and he also on the tie of that suit I was wearing, he wrote his son’s name and address, service number so that if I got back to UK we could contact them through the embassy. Unfortunately I must continue now and then from there I was moved again, I lived in Holmegrun, you see, that’s a drawing, it’s a forst, and there was a hole on the ground and they actually made it into a, lined it with straw and then so that the wooden perch with and we were locked in there and at night time they would come give us something to eat and drink and then we would wonder round the woods to attend to mother nature and then come back and were locked and meantime I knew from the underground, four members of my crew had been killed, one had been captured, that was five of us, myself was six, then I was introduce to Derrick, is tappest, tappace place, Moregas I think was the name that, we later went back, Derrick had been hidden inside in this monastery and we were brought together with the underground to see if we were the persons we claimed, he recognised me, I with him, so from then on that accounted for my crew, there were seven now, the sixth man, the eighth man must still be evading capture, that was my hope. And the only man I wanted to hope was the original, Mack was the original wireless operator but he wanted to learn how to operate the H2S so that’s why unfortunately didn’t find discovered after the war was also dead. But then to this the last place in Holland I’ve forgotten the name now but somewhere in the records of my and there I gived them ten guilders that I had, that I couldn’t use into Belgium eventually came along and was a female and came half way and we were told she doesn’t speak English, she doesn’t speak French, for a person living in Belgium, however we were not to try to speak to her but just follow her so I was unhappy because this wasn’t the sort of reception that I had when I was moved to another place I was introduced, I wasn’t even introduced to this person, eventually we, to the bus and sitting on the back of the bus were youngsters, seventeen, eighteen years of age, all dressed the same, I think that they were Hitler Youth movements and they were all sitting at the back of the bus, we the only ones, I think that they were part of the ploy, that we were being betrayed, and they were there to ensure that tried anything funny they would have shot us, I’ve no proof of that, just a feeling, hunch I had, thinks are not going the way they should and I said to the French Canadian, he’s the navigator, he came from Montreal, I asked to speak to her in French but she declined, she didn’t understand, she didn’t understand English, she knew fine well what was happening, I didn’t but Derrick and I were a bit suspicious so we eventually were driven into Antwerp and she got off the bus and we followed but we went together, we just followed so he followed, I think the French Canadian first, then Derrick and then I behind, eventually we take into this large shop, it msut have been a big shop like McEwans, shop or something, but it was a coffeshop high ceilings and everything, lots of people in uniform and three people in civil clothes and there was an empty table with four chairs or fice chairs and we were told to sit down, then a chappie came and sat beside us, the girl we had followed, she produced a piece of paper and he produced a piece of paper, put them together and I knew straight away this is not, this is not right, Derrick knew, he wasn’t happy and the French Canadian, he didn’t pass a word about it, but I felt that there’s something not right, al these people around me, there was a slight hope cause I had been told underground possible at some stage in German uniform and take me down to Switzerland I was hoping that was it.
BB: But it wasn’t.
EH: But eventually this girl got up, they put the two pieces of paper together word or something it was a poor imitation of the real thing however the chap she went off and we were told to follow this chap and we went through a back entrance so this, just let me borrow something
US: There’s a photograph. You’re ok?
EH: This was the shop, you see, the woman here and we were taken through the back road down here and directly opposite was a church and the church was not on level ground, was raised, visible wall around it but raised.
BB: yes.
EH: I didn’t get the name and they went three people standing there and we were introduced to him, this chap that had met us inside and then we were told to get in the car so the three of us got in the back of this car and some girls went by in uniform, I hadn’t seen a female in uniform and I asked that young girl, oh, are those young ladies Germans? No, they were girls that work on the telephone section, they had their own dress.
BB: Uniform.
EH: So we start the car and we start driving on oh I would say about four, five hundred yards and they just pulled into an archway and they are standing outside with two [unclear] and this chap gets out of the car, follow me, we follow, I’m still thinking, oh, they gonna put me in a German uniform and take me into, when he got us inside he turned around, right gentlemen military police.
BB: Luftwaffe police?
EH: That was it. And they separated us and they put me in a room upstairs, I would say, it reminded me of my old school, a big room, high ceiling
BB: Master study.
EH: But aside of that, triple bunk beds and I was posted into a single room, there was one window, I tried to open the window which had been screwed tight, oh, I couldn’t open it, but in any case there was only, there was [unclear] downstairs, a space between the buildings and I could see a drain of pipe running from upstairs on that wall but I couldn’t open the window even trying and I wanted to try and go down but I was so exhausted by this time, I just [unclear] and fell asleep. And I was woken by kicked, of course I jumped up then lying dreaming rifle pushing my teeth.
BB: Were you still in your
EH: Civvy clothes?
BB: Yeah, but did you have your uniform underneath your civvy clothes?
EH: No, just civvy clothes.
US: That’s the suit, my dad was wearing, you can see the double two tails
EH: That dog belonged to the business gentlemen’s
BB: The one you didn’t like.
US: The one who, the business man who gave him the suit
BB: Who gave him the suit, sorry, [unclear]
EH: So, he then took me, stripped me and he took me I was both individually to this and then he turned round, he says, right, who are you, you are a spy. I got my dog tags, he took the dog tags off, he just threw them across the room, and he said, [unclear] my grandmother, I will see with lots of and two dog tags oh I am so and so this, I’m meaningless, said he. So I am now without my dog tags.
BB: Was he Gestapo or Luftwaffe please?
EH: Just something, the German military police, I think he was trying to
BB: Provoke you into something
EH: Well, it wasn’t physical but then he said, you’re a spy, we shoot spies, and then he stripped so I was stripped naked, he saw I was circumcised, he said, ah, you’re a Jew! Oh, we have special treatments for Jews. Note, at that time we didn’t know what was happening in the concentration camps, so we had thought so I could either be shot or there is a special treatment for Jews. And there was a little pressure put on me, asking questions but they are trying to scare you, frighten you and then they pushed me into a separate room, this big room with lots of bunk beds, obviously they were using it as a sort of barracks but there was no, I think it must have been a school or something at one time, but they put me in this room and I put my head out the door, everything was quite at the end of the corridor was a guard, German guard and he had a rifle and he start pushing the [unclear] up and down, Jew, Jew, [mimics a noise] obviously [unclear] from Berlin, we were in a terrible mess and I went back to the window was a chappie, I think he was a blacksmith cause he had a little fire there and I sang, my name is Ernest Holmes, I am RAF, just singing, [unclear] and there was only one occasion when he turned round, he was nodding but I hoped that would be the a blacksmith not a German but I think I got the message through to him that I was there but I didn’t want to be there and then, eventually from there they put us in a truck, it’s a fifteen hundred trucker [unclear] and there’s a gate and we had to go, they closed the wired type of gate so that we were trapped and then sitting outside there was a German with a machine gun and from there they took us into from Antwerp they took us to Brussels and they took us to a place called the castle, that used to be prisoner of war camp, no, used to be a prison, but then the Germans had taken and the three of us were then locked in a room and then you could see quite clearly a microphone and the window like a prison was high and we were given little food, little liquid, and we had biscuits, we can buy them over here, they’re nachabrot, it’s just, that was it, no food, no meat.
BB: How many of you were there at this point? How many people were you at this point?
EH: Three of us in this room. And then we were taken out, I can only speak for myself, I can tell you what happened to Derrick cause we were separated and then I was taken downstairs naked, no, before that the intelligence officer was there and he was dressed in an RAF type uniform but he had buttons with a red, white buttons with a red cross on,
BB: Oh, ok.
EH: He spoke very good English but he was huge. I think I described him as a fat however he [unclear] you know, oh they want to know who you are and I said, I clear my protection to the Geneva Convention, prisoner of war
BB: [unclear]
EH: No, he was quite content to sit and just wanted me to sit and speak, you know, and get frightened cause you know, then he started putting [unclear] oh, you’re a spy, we’ll kill you, Jew special treatment we are building up and when he stripped me and I was taken into the dungeon, when I got into the dungeon there was a German with a machine gun standing and he [unclear] on, what’s the name of the thing that you are standing on? You give, someone is giving a talk,
BB: A [unclear].
US: [unclear]
EH: There, against the wall, was a was this person but dressed as a [unclear], you could smell the newness of the suit, and I thought, no, I’ve seen that shape before but I didn’t want to admit he was the chappie the first as a red cross man you see but this chappie, Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude, and then I was there for some time, five, six minutes, with this harassment coming from this coming and there was this person and I think this is part of the ploy to actually test me to see if I was a Jew, cause he had been dressed in this suit there is no other a Jew in Brussels in 1945
BB: Very rare.
EH: So, I just as I went by, I said, don’t lose faith, don’t lose faith but in such a loud voice, eventually I was taken back and then I was asked to sign a form and this was to be a form that was printed from the red cross, but printed on the top of that form was printed in Berlin, so I knew straight away this is a show trying to get information so eventually we were, Derrick went through the same process, Derrick also had bene circumcised, now I don’t know about the Canadian cause from then on we were separated but eventually he decided that we were prisoners of war and this was after about seven, eight weeks, we were then, we were going to prison of war camp and it was whilst we got in the prison of war camp the escape had taken place on the 23rd of March,
BB: Great escape.
EH: I wasn’t shot down until the 22nd of May. And the prisoners were wearing black armbands they told me the story of what had happened but I was in the same hut, have we got the book?
US: I’ve got it, yes.
EH: There is a little logbook I was given.
BB: Yes, I [unclear]
EH: Now, I had been was given a logbook and the first thing that was in my mind was my crew, there’s lots of just the people
BB: Gosh, yes, go on. [unclear] the shower.
EH: The first thing I did was thinking of my crew, I tried, I was mainly concerned about this eighth men member and I hope that it was Mike, can you find the page David?
US: [unclear] which is the poem?
EH: Yes. One left.
US: Carl wrote a poem expressing his feelings about what had happened
EH: The drawing was on that side, the poem’s on the right.
US: Do you want me to read it out, Dad?
EH: Yes. It was [unclear]
US: [unclear] to sent a photograph of the crucifix
EH: Oh.
US: So, it is in memory of those members of the crew flying Lancaster E for Edward who sacrificed their lives for their country on the 22nd of May 1944, so I will remember, when the sun sets and darkness falls, I will remember, when the sun rises and another day is born I will remember, for remembrance is all that I possess of those I knew so well, those who flew with me into the silent night to fight the foe, they asked not for bloodshed nor did they start the fight, but when they heard the bugle call they jumped to fight for right, after they prepared for missions flying into the sleeping night to bring death and destruction to those who called right might, they did their job right, they did it well but this couldn’t last for on the 23rd of May we fell and became as the past, four aviator missing, these we know are dead, three more accounted for, the eighth man is still ahead, making his way for his own homeland, keep going, my friend, Tommy, Johnny, Mac and Jock have left this earth but we who live will remember, I with Derrick and Ron, from the setting of the sun to the rising of the [unclear] we will think of those who kept up England’s fame, will you and England remember.
BB: Moving. And we do remember and Bomber Command [unclear] a very bad deal at the end of the war
EH: Yeah.
BB: And I blame Churchill for that. Cause Harris, Harris had defied Churchill on a couple of occasions and Mr Dowding had done as well sending more Hurricanes to France and I think he was quite vindictive in that respect occasionally, great man but I think you know he’s human when he’s doing things but I think that Harris and Dowding got a raw deal.
EH: The whole of the RAF got a bad reputation but for what has taken place but if it hadn’t taken place, we would all be speaking German.
BB: exactly.
EH: Ah
BB: I mean, when you listen to contemporary newsreels of that time, particularly after the Blitz, the Blitz on other cities, the populations of those saying, go and give it back to them! Go and give it! And so Harris did exactly that, he was doing what he was bed by the war cabinet and by Churchill and he went and he fulfilled that as best as he could and then it all got [unclear] after the war cause [unclear] so well. But that’s all been, I think, Bomber Command went through that darkness
EH: Yes
BB: And then it came out at the other end and here we are
EH: There is a little gap
BB: That’s what these guys at Lincoln are trying to do
EH: Yes, but there was a little gap, someone [unclear] resentment as I did because a medal was produced that cost fifteen pounds and this was to, and I bought one
BB: This was the Bomber Command memorial, this
EH: No, no, this has nothing to do with Bomber Command,
BB: I beg your pardon.
EH: Someone had produced to say a thank you, to say that we had done a good job
BB: Oh my god, Right, right.
EH: But that was replaced seventy years later with the Bomber Command crest.
BB: Clasp.
US: The bar and the
BB: That didn’t [unclear] till 1945, yeah.
EH: So in a fact, I have, I told you about this medal, it’s now meaningless but that was the resentment that we had and that’s why I bought it
BB: Quite right.
EH: I have it, it’s hidden
BB: [unclear] let down by
EH: The thing
BB: Did you apply for your Bomber Command clasp?
EH: Yes, I have, we have the medal, but the sad thing was, after the war I went to Bomber Command, to Pathfinder headquarters [unclear] give me the choice of either going back at the squadron or going into Transport Command but he warned me, the squadron is preparing to go out to the Far East and being [unclear] tropical [unclear] I said at the time I think I have had my fair share of war, I remember that two forced marches and [unclear] so he arranged to go to Pathfinder, to the
BB: Transport, Transport Command
EH: To [unclear], I’m sorry Bournemouth, I went there with the squadron and who was the CO of the squadron? The squadron leader and Wing Commander Dan [unclear] he sent me on my last op and he was waiting for me coming back from that last op to show me the London Gazette and he gave me my ribbon to put on
BB: Oh, how wonderful.
EH: And he repost me, he said, you are improperly dressed, oh, I don’t know what I had, all I had was the thirty nine forty five, and he, from there he didn’t tell me but he took me with his we sat down and we went through all my operations experience through, I finished up with up with a France Germany medal and also the Italian star and I was wearing them until Kinloss when a group captain Caddy, a Canadian, he was a gentleman, he wanted normal story to, [unclear], the reason he wanted me was there was the coronation and there was seven medals allotted to Kinloss and I was to get one of them, so I had to get my other medals, when I applied for them I discovered I wasn’t entitled to the France Germany medal because I’m in Holland trying to get through, but I wasn’t in France, I wasn’t entitled to it, and also I had done [unclear] to Caen to [unclear], there is a bridgehead to Italy and the railway lines from Caen were feeding that and we went to destroy that railway line in Caen itself and we went down to four thousand feet to bomb and it was in aid of the [unclear] bridgehead
BB: Right
EH: And so I took those down, I had to apologize to the CO I had been wearing this because they told me I wasn’t entitled and he got really annoyed with the and he said, oh, I’ll speak to the OC, we already trained through the Pathfinder force [unclear] you went there so you didn’t get it, so I wasn’t entitled to the France Germany because I hadn’t been stationed in Italy, I couldn’t
BB: But you clearly got the France and Germany clasp, you get the aircrew Europe?
EH: No. No, I haven’t got a France Germany at all.
BB: No, I met sometimes
EH: I got a victory medal
BB: Right, didn’t get the aircrew Europe?
EH: Didn’t get the France because I am in Holland
US: But Dad, listen to the question again. Listen to the question again.
BB: Did you get the aircrew Europe star?
EH: Oh yes,
BB: Cause that would have been where you would have worn the France and Germany clasp on that star, had you been able to
EH: No, I didn’t have the, there was no recognition at all for the France Germany, the, I got the victory medal
BB: I see [unclear] put that right
EH: I actually, the many things that freshen my mind but when I think of my story that I have, can I tell you a little more?
BB: Sure, of course you can.
EH: Frances, Frances von der Heyden,
US: [unclear]
EH: After I left
US: She was Francis daughter
BB: Francis daughter
EH: And she was the girl that found me, she was the workhouse on the farm, she looked after us, she made food for us, and [unclear] for us, for the undertakers and there were six children, she was the elder but let me speaking two separate stories [unclear] after I left, the bridge too far does it ring a bell?
BB: Arnhem. Yes.
EH: Well, the aircraft going passed nearby, near the [unclear] where I was and [unclear] and she comes across an American airman who was wounded on a shoulder ands he made arrangements and she took him in the farm and he was in the pigsty where I had been but then [unclear] by this time the troops were not too far away and [unclear] went across, no, I didn’t see this, I am told by the family, he went across the fields to the British and said he had an American and he wanted help, take him away but they didn’t believe him, they thought that it was a trap and the Germans would be [unclear] of him but they gave him some dressing [unclear] so he went back somehow somewhere the Germans found out he crossed the line and they came to the village and there they found them in the church and they were going to shoot the whole family and France argued, he was master of his house and the family had to do he was [unclear] not them and they shot him in front of them
BB: Yeah, was that ever followed up after the war because if they went in and did all this stuff after the war [unclear]
EH:
US: There is a memorial to Frans
EH: Well, what did happen with I had to be taught but they what happened when I first went back however the family unfortunately went [unclear] dispersal remember was nature and young baby sister I think she is still alive and one of her brothers and that’s left and there’s grandchildren after them [unclear] I’m in contact with and I have been on contact with her family for over seventy years
BB: Oh, that’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. Other Bomber Command aircrew I have interviewed, were they, had they similar experiences to yours, have kept up with their people as well. It’s amazing the bond that existed, you know, there was these young, frightened aircrew, had the horrendous experience of getting out a bomber, landed in a foreign country, had done all the theory about what to do and you know Mi9 teaching them all sorts of things but at the end of the day, you know, they were given help and shelter and food and help you know by the resistance, well the escape line I should say.
EH: But what they did for me is not my story, it’s her story, there was Frans murdered cause he had helped this American, the same thing could have, if I had been there the same thing could have happened to [unclear] but there at one point came when I will switch now from Frans to [unclear], [unclear] was invited to go to America where the some Dutch friends of hers and while she was there, she fell in love with the brother in law of this couple she was staying with and she wanted to get married but she was visiting the States and was not allowed to stay so she in actual fact gave us a [unclear] I should have it somewhere, the second page of the [unclear] Express, and this was where they had approached someone in the government to ask permission and she was told by the senator that if she could prove that she was a fit and worthy person to enter the States, he would try to do what he could for her and she sent me the cutting of the paper where this article was in and I went to my lawyer and explained to him the position and he then [unclear], he actually wrote the letter and she got permission to stay and they got married. But that wasn’t the end of the story because Jan and her brother who was back home he found, he didn’t speak English but he and I, he and I could converse, we understood one another but he, he had an American correspondence [unclear] information so he approached this person and he give them the name and address and the service number of the American that was there and law and behold that American was [unclear] and the family went across, Nat was living in the States, and the family, members of the family, they went there and they actually saw,
BB: Oh, that was good.
EH: Yeah, Jan asked them, [unclear] and make sure so he showed them the wound and he asked, why didn’t you, oh, I thought you were all dead, I thought they shot all, he hadn’t even reported the fact that [unclear]
BB: Yes
EH: So that was a sad tale.
BB: That was a very sad tale, yeah.
EH: Yes.
BB: Well, Ernest, thank you very much
EH: Can I tell you one, just one more?
US: Dad, just two seconds. We are going to have fish and chips for lunch.
BB: Right.
US: I was just going to go and pick them up.
BB: Yes.
US: Would you like to join us? You will join us.
BB: I’d be delighted to, thank you very much indeed. Yeah.
US: I’m going to slip away to get some lunch. Alright?
EH: [unclear] tell the story that I could see it as a [unclear] for a love story [laughs]
BB: Ok, on you go.
EH: [unclear]
US: [unclear] if I leave at this point.
EH: When we were, when we had our last meal, you know, after operations and before operations you go and you have your meal, there was normally sausage, bacon and eggs, well, that night when we sat down, Derrick and I sat together and there was no eggs, and I said to the [unclear], you’ve forgotten the eggs, and she said, Jock he said, [unclear] I can’t go ops without eggs, I got the chop, and she said to me, I’m sorry there’s no eggs and I apologised to her
RH: While we are on the subject of things that crews took with them, good luck charms, whatever you want to call them, my uncle was in 9 Squadron during the war, Australian, he flew from Bardney and did his full trip with 9 and then married my mother’s sister and then he went off to an OTU to instruct staff pilot as an instructor but unfortunately he was killed in a mid-air collision at the OTU, he flew, he flew with apparently, the photograph of my aunt, was later his wife, which he put on the panel of the Lancaster in front of the control column and he swore that got him through every op that he did but that [unclear] did the last one at the OTU [unclear].
US: These are letters that we found that have been written by somebody from [unclear]
BB: Right
US: After the war and we don’t know anything about this person, perhaps Dad will tell you
BB: Okay.
US: I’ll get some lunch.
EH: Can I finish this?
BB: Of course, you can.
EH: I was telling you about this that was on my conscience, when I was hiding that [unclear] that girl
BB: Yes
EH: Was on my mind and I was [unclear]
BB: I can imagine.
EH: [unclear], received the [unclear], I mean I am an emotional person, but by God if anything gets up my nose I just [laughs] however when I went back to see Bennet after the war, he said to me, give me the choice and I said that I’d go back to Holland and he said, right [unclear] go back, go to [unclear] and tell the CO to fly you to Holland but you make your own way back, oh, I accepted that but then when I went onto the squadron I didn’t know a face a part from the navigator I had previously
BB: Right
EH: Gibbs and the [unclear] saw me and he called, don’t move! [unclear]! She’s still here! And he disappeared through the door of the kitchen and he came back with the girl that had served me last meal and the one that I’d said would get the [unclear] and she came right across and the mess
BB: Full
EH: I didn’t know a face other than the [unclear] and my crew member he came across and flung her arms around me and I held her, I [unclear], I apologised for [unclear] and she had seen the [unclear] and she said, oh, I’m glad you’re back and she turned round and tears streaming down her face and they were also mine but I left it to the navigator and the [unclear] to answer any questions about my [unclear] was, there was no physical connection
BB: No, no.
EH: Just that eggs [laughs]
BB: Yeah. That’s interesting. Well, that’s a very interesting story now David passed me this letter, must be to do with someone in the Netherlands, that’s interesting. Anyway thank you for talking to me
EH: No
BB: And it’s a fascinating story and it’s probably the best interview which describes the whole prisoner of war initial interrogation
EH: right. I hope it hasn’t swamped you
BB: Not at all, not at all, because
EH: [unclear]
BB: That’s probably the bit than your Lancaster
EH: Yes, that’s the bit of my Lancaster because after the war we went back this is years later because I’m in Transport Command
BB: Yes, flying your
EH: And then the [unclear] had started but before that we went, [unclear] came with us, and we went, the, Jan, that’s the elder son, now deceased, he had [unclear] with some [unclear], every year the [unclear]
BB: Yeah.
EH: And he had mentioned the fact to these people that he called me Shirley [laughs] and he told his folks that that was, where the aircraft was and we were the undertakers that were alive, Willy and Luc and [unclear] and Jan and they came with us to the farm and the farmer, the farmhouse [unclear] and I couldn’t recognise it, if this is the place, my aircraft came down there and I was in the field here and I came across [unclear] but there was a well here and the farmer said, you are standing on it, the story was lightning put the farm on fire so the farmer had to [unclear] the whole place and [unclear] not just the farm building [unclear] the animals the whole and there was another personal build, I have a photograph of that, we have a photograph of at the farm at [unclear] and we also have photographs of [unclear] got after the war but I had to give everything to David because with my sight gone
BB: Yes, yes
EH: I felt so helpless
BB: I know but I mean, well, fifty-five thousand [unclear] aircrew in Bomber Command didn’t make it
EH: Didn’t make it, no
BB: And the chances of survival of a bomber crew in at the height of the Battle of the Ruhr was four trips
EH: yeah
BB: Four trips
EH: Yeah
BB: So, if you survived four you were already dead.
EH: That’s right
BB: And all the aircrew that I interviewed and tracing my late uncle’s crew as well, who survived the war, they all had mechanisms that distanced themselves from that [unclear] and it was to live for today, everything
EH: [unclear]
BB: Everything was that, don’t think about tomorrow, don’t think about the next op, don’t think about the Grim Reaper, no, it’s just live for today, and they said, they guys that worried about it, were the ones that, you know, that weren’t concentrating, that made a mistake or something and it was just, I don’t know, a luck of the draw, but there was a certain, I perceived a certain mental attitude which got people through,
EH: Well, but after the war I [unclear] because there was only one survivor, Derrick and I, Derrick and I were in contact, but Derrick now is dead and but the chappie who was my wireless operator, her also has died but I got he was interview by a chappie who collected stories from DFCs and DFMs.
BB: Alright.
EH: And he, the same chappie asked me more information and he told, I said ,there was no indication [unclear]
BB: God!
EH: Yeah, seconds
BB: Was it Schrage Musik that got you at the end? You know, the night fighter with the upper firing gun? Below the Lancs?
EH: Yes. You see, I can’t
BB: You can’t answer that because it just so instant
EH: I can’t answer
BB: Yeah, it was just one big matter
EH:
BB: It probably sounds like Schrage Musik because as you know, they went underneath the [unclear]
EH: Yeah
BB: Between the two inner engines, straight in the bomb bay [unclear]
EH: Well, we had two close encounters, but we never had to fire the guns
BB: No
EH: Never
BB: No
EH: So the wireless operator [unclear] had been fighting this [unclear] and the other but there was no guns fired, there was no warning, within thirty seconds the whole lot was over
BB: Yeah. Lucky, you were lucky.
EH: He, no, is dead so I can’t, but I went round to visit the families of them so [unclear] the widow of Johnny Stewart, he was the navigator, he kept a diary and he’d written every time in his diary trips that he went on and he always mentioned my name and his wife asked me who Shirley was, he spent, a lot of people thought my name was Shirley
BB: Yes, yes, yes.
EH: Was Sher-lee
BB: Eee, yeah, and the wife was wondering who Shirley was.
EH: Now then we, this is part of the aircraft, the farmer after the Germans had taken away the aircraft, bits and pieces so David actually took this as a memento
BB: Oh, that
EH: That’s it, I found the aircraft, I’ve been there, and this
BB: You went back to the crash site for the family
EH: Yeah
BB: Not only that, my great grandson, my daughter lives in Belgium and she had a daughter and she was [unclear], Alison was my [unclear].
BB: Gosh!
EH: And but he’s a great guy but he died playing tennis
BB: Heart attack.
EH: He and I got on fine and a lot of people use do think, oh, any with Alison [unclear] but there was no, in fact when he wanted to get married, he wanted to come over to us for my permission, I thought it was pointless in coming just for me to say yes or no.
BB: Yeah.
EH: So I said, don’t bother coming. You come over and have the marriage here and that was all over. So their daughter, so my granddaughter, my grandson and Alison went to the place with, along with one of the grandson of the Van de Hayden family, Hank, this is his name and he’s the one that kept in contact, he is the one who actually took them and they went to the farm and they walked all the way back to where I found, where [unclear] found me but instead of wading across the stream there is a bridge [laughs] and of course there’s no well, is all covered over
BB: All covered over, yeah. How interesting. And of course, you took a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force and you went on to do lots of other things. I mean, flying the routes with Avro York, long haul to Singapore and all sorts of [unclear]
EH: Yeah,
BB: And everything in between
EH: Yes
BB: How did you find the York, cause the York was really a
EH: Well, the armed forces
BB: Basically a Lancaster
EH: The armed force thing was, either the country flying and I’d be away three weeks, back for a few days, come up to Scotland and flew back again, so I couldn’t keep in contact with Derrick, he could go to Holland, I couldn’t
BB: yeah
EH: Cause when I was [unclear], I was [unclear] the CO to take me there, I said, I, eventually you realise that you can’t go empty handed
BB: Yeah [unclear]
EH: You can’t go empty handed, I need money, I didn’t have any money, I don’t think I had my check book with me at the time and we didn’t have cards at that time and I thought, I can’t go across there empty handed so I decided not to go. And then [unclear] Berlin airlift of course, my boss Ben was flying his own aircraft there as a civilian
BB: Yeah.
EH: So I met
BB: Avro Tudor [unclear], is that American Airways [unclear]? No, he started up the South American
EH: That’s right
BB: Airways
EH: That’s right. But then he was
BB: Tudors, Avro Tudors. And Lancastrians and Yorks.
EH: Yeah. He was flying [unclear] petrol
BB: Yeah.
EH: And now, when I visited the other members of the [unclear] I found that the widow of Mack who was the original wireless operator now training on the H2S, he had written a farewell letter to his wife which I gather he wrote every time and kissed this is my last trip, I didn’t know that till his wife told me she was most concerned because he had a baby and there was something wrong with the baby I remember that when we went out as a crew, we, they gave us some little bottles of oil of olive,
BB: Yeah
EH: For the use, for the baby was something wrong but her problem was she didn’t have access to a bank account, it was in his name, she couldn’t get it and I was only visiting there for a short weekend and I couldn’t help her so [unclear] so trying to get the Pathfinder club, he wasn’t even a member, he was in the Pathfinder but he wasn’t a member.
BB: [unclear]
EH: He died so I hope someone did have a [unclear] because Derrick tried to find her living in London, went back, no one in the area knew what had happened to her but the humorous part was that I went to Derrick’s folks, his father was a navigator in the First World War, and he too was shot down, he too became a prisoner of war, now, my story is we were having a dinner with the Pathfinder organisation and now where was the dinner?
BB: RAF club?
EH: No
BB: Pathfinder club?
EH: I, we had, I couldn’t go to the many [unclear] living, I was flying back and forth [unclear] whenever I had time and [unclear] I was with the Pathfinder club in the [unclear]
BB: [unclear]
EH: But with Derrick’s father, there’s a book written by [unclear] Broom.
BB: Oh yeah, Broom. Yeah [unclear]
EH: [unclear] The Battle for Berlin.
BB: The Battle for Berlin.
EH: [unclear]
BB: Alright, I’ll make a note of that [unclear]
EH: And at this time, I was now pilot officer.
BB: Alright. And of course you clocked up seventy hours on Yorks and so the transition to civil aviation was multi-engined experience flying the routes with Transport Command
EH: Yes, but my experience was an actual fact trading fuel, I did a tour with [unclear]
BB: Yes, [unclear]
EH: [unclear]
BB: By the [unclear]
EH: Unfortunately, you see, I held senior appointments but not the rank, I was interviewed by the but I have forgotten [unclear] Scotland [unclear] Scotland at [unclear]
BB: Yes, I used to be at [unclear]
EH: And he, it was a good [unclear], thought I had a raw deal, you know, interview with him
BB: Yeah
EH: But then he said to me, you should just tell the fuckers to stick it up their [unclear] ass, that was the words he used to me, yeah, [unclear] at the time but then I later met him again when I was on Glasgow University [unclear], when I went there the [unclear] was actually using the old typewriters typing things and printing, print out with these
BB: Yes, yeah. [unclear]
EH: And I said, oh, this is nonsense, [unclear] so I want and I got a lot of equipment, I got a camera, projector and also a [unclear] and my esteem went up with the squadron and eventually the OC at the time, I’ve forgotten his name, he came round and I heard wing commander [unclear], not a nice man, he was singing my praise and the OC said to me, [unclear] we are in, and I thought, well, and I think I should have said, Coastal Command. But I said Transport Command cause it [unclear] the end, if I had said Coastal Command and he would have brought precious memories up and that was a third recommendation for me [unclear] so I held senior posts but not the rank.
BB: Yeah, well that was, that’s a shame, no, I went, I started my intelligence work at [unclear] Castle, it was sent HQ NORMA, Northern Maritime Region
EH: Yes.
BB: And I reported directly to the admiral and they received [unclear] the coast of Scotland and Northern Ireland [unclear] and yes, the black huts, the black wooden huts, [unclear] we used to sleep in those and walked down to the pits, down those stairs, yes, it was interesting time, was very busy but ,[unclear] mainly spent hunting Russian submarines in the North Atlantic. With Shackletons initially, the MR 1 Shackleton and then of course [unclear] and so on.
EH: Well, I flew the Shackletons at Kinloss.
BB: Was it ten thousand rivets flying in formation?
EH: When I first came to Kinloss and were only doing coastal cross I was [unclear] at the time.
BB: Yeah, so you were [unclear]
EH: And then I suggested, [file missing] Winston Churchill was coming back on the Queen Mary I think it was from America and I arranged for a flight on Shackleton to go and greet him
BB: Excellent
EH: We got full of praise for that.
BB: Excellent. Yes.
EH: That was the first time the Shackletons had actually flown over [unclear] wartime, was just doing coastal crawls all the time do to the intensive trial period but was an easy aircraft to fly
BB: Yeah
EH: And I flew them, I didn’t fly as captain but I flew the aircraft, take-off, landing and flying around and I did even did practice bomb runs on the Moray Firth
BB: Yeah, yeah.
EH: And well I didn’t do a lot of flying in it but I did fly the Shackleton.
BB: [unclear] it was [unclear] the Lincoln, you know, it went from Lancaster, Lincoln, Shackleton
EH: Yeah
BB: So it was lovely aeroplane.
EH: Oh, Yes. Oh, the Lancaster.
BB: Shackleton, [unclear] Shackleton.
EH: Well I had Mark I, II, Halifax, and the Mark III, now the Mark III was a complete change, it was a [unclear] aircraft, it had sixteen hundred horsepower Hercules engines radials
BB: Yeah.
EH: It was a heavy aircraft, what a difference was from the [unclear] so I got three stitches of [unclear], and then the Lanc, I flew the Lanc, that was a beautiful aircraft to fly.
BB: Did you fly the maritime version as well?
EH: Pardon?
BB: Did you fly the maritime version of the Lancaster as well?
EH: No.
BB: No.
EH: No. No, but I did visit one, there was one in a museum here
BB: Oh, that’s right [unclear]
EH: David was nursing at the time, was training at the time, [unclear] hospital and he heard about it and we went out to visit and there’s a photograph and on that photograph there’s the name Holmes and I reckon it’s a pity they hadn’t put they date on and I reckon as a photograph of an operation, you know, the names were taken off.
BB: Yeah, what a shame.
US2: Can I interrupt? Sorry. We need to [unclear]
BB: Ok, right.

Collection

Citation

Bruce Blanche, “Interview with Ernest Holmes,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 6, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11118.

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