Interview with Harry Hughes

Title

Interview with Harry Hughes

Description

Harry Hughes flew as a navigator on 102 and 692 Squadrons. Remembers various episodes: training in the United States and Canada; taking part at various operations over Germany, including The Battle of the Ruhr; describes the Hamburg firestorm; how his aircraft was hit by friendly fire during the Essen raid; flying into a jet stream; tells of how he came to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Describes operational flight procedures and conditions. Discusses technical improvements and modifications on aircraft. In his view, bombing Dresden was Bomber Command’s biggest mistake. Towards the end of the war he was ferrying Mosquitos to Southeast Asia.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2015-10-21

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

02:28:15 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AHughesWH151021

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

HH: It’s all in the book, I think, mainly, isn’t it?
AS: Most of it is, but we need to get it on tape. I think. This is an interview with Harry Hughes, flight lieutenant Harry Hughes DFC DFM, a navigator in wartime Bomber Command on 102 Squadron and then later on Mosquitos. My name is Adam Sutch and the interview is being conducted at Harry’s home in St Ives. Harry, thank you ever so much for agreeing to this interview. Perhaps we can start by going over a little your early days. I believe, you were born in Dorset.
HH: Yeah.
AS: Ok. Did you have brothers and sisters?
HH: A sister, yeah. But I went to school in Sherborne, the Grammar School in Sherborne not the big school, not the public school. And, it was a good school but there we are, I think it was a good school anyway but they, in their wisdom they closed it down now and they [unclear] with the Lord Digby school, cause the Lord Digby school is gonna cost too much to repair or something and I think some [unclear] wanted to get hold of the building and make flats out of it. You know, usual thing.
AS: Yeah. How did you get on at school? What were your subjects? What did you do well at in school?
HH: Mainly maths. I got a distinction in Maths and a distinction in Physics and Chemistry. I got all pass as except English language in which I got, I didn’t fail, I got a past, just got past so I didn’t get my trip. Did so
AS: Sorry.
HH: Anyway that’s beside the point. Anyway that’s there in 1940 and my very first job was a night watchman for some lady at Lewisham Manor near Sherborne, who lost all her staff and she wanted somebody to be in the house at night and to patrol her grounds. While I went round the grounds watched, no, never again, it was too bloody scary [laughs].
AS: Things that go bump in the night.
HH: Yeah, who is there and thing [laughs]. Anyway that’s beside the point.
AS: But this was 1940. Was this, was the Battle of Britain going on over your head or had that [unclear]?
HH: Yes, yeah.
AS: What, was that what pushed you towards the air force or?
HH: No. Well, I think. Well, what pushed me towards the air force was the fact that I went, my father wanted me to join the navy and I, I went down to Portsmouth to set up an exam to be a writer or a supply probationer [unclear] his own clerk, he, I didn’t fancy that, but anyway they gave you twelve blocks of [unclear] and pens to ad up that way and then you had to add up that way and then you had to add them all up across and then the figure you got down here and the figure you got down is gonna be the same. Mine was nowhere near. Anyway
AS: But your Maths were good so, you threw it really, did you?
HH: Pardon?
AS: Did you deliberately mess up, because your Maths were good.
HH: Yeah. Yes, I know, but not the [unclear] type [laughs]. Anyway, we then, coming back on the train, I was pretty certain I’d failed, so, coming back on the train, I had to change at Salisbury and I had about an hour to waste, wait at Salisbury so I went in the town and I saw an RAF recruiting office. So I went in there and saw a sergeant there and I signed on for aircrew.
AS: Just like that?
HH: Yeah. And they took me on as a pilot or navigator had to go to Oxford to [unclear] station and I went there and with all the gunners from South Wales became gunners rather from the mines, you know, and so that’s how I came to be in the Air Force.
AS: Ok. Did you go through the aircrew recruiting centres in London at Lord’s and?
HH: Yes, I was the first one there.
AS: Really?
HH: Very first one to go there, I think. In July 1941, I suppose, yeah.
AS: That’s pretty early. What, what happened then? They take you into the Air Force at that stage, I suppose, you didn’t know what you were going to do.
HH: Well, we were going to ITW and
AS: Where was that?
HH: Torquay, which is very nice and, [unclear] my bloody reading glasses on, I can’t see, and then I was sent down to America to train
AS: Ok.
HH: Down in the United States Air Force.
AS: Straight from Initial Training Wing.
HH: Yes. Straight from ITW. We didn’t get a chance. Later on they used to, they did a little course on Tiger Moths up on somewhere in the world, somewhere up that way.
AS: So, you hadn’t actually flown in an aircraft when you went to
HH: No.
AS: How did you, obviously they wouldn’t fly you over, but how did you get across the Atlantic, in a convoy or?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Ok. What was that called?
HH: A ship called the Highland Princess, which I ended up selling. I sold the Highland Princess, the Highland Brigade and the Highland Monarch.
AS: Presumably not during the war when you got there.
HH: No. Four of them, I sold them in about ’50, or ’52, something like that
AS: Ok. So, you’re going across the Atlantic in a convoy. Was the ship crowded? What was the conditions like?
HH: Well, we were in hammocks, you know, on meat hooks in the, you hung your hammock on meat hooks in the Laura Hall, do you know?
AS: Gosh.
HH: And we are right up on the stern of the ship because every time the, I think she was twin screwer if I remember rightly, because every time the ship rolled the prop shoot [mimics a sound] [laughs].
AS: Is that the prop coming out of the water?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Gosh! Gosh, and so, there must be hundreds of men on the ship with you.
HH: Yeah.
AS: All [unclear]
HH: You found out hang on to your four and a half hat because one went missing, what do you do? Go and pinch another one. So, it went all out of the ship [laughs]. [unclear]
AS: Yes, yeah, absolutely.
HH: Yeah, I remember that so, we were hidden, anyway.
AS: So, you went across in uniform with
HH: Yeah.
AS: Hundreds of other people
HH: No, when we got to, we were being issued with, at Wilmslow I think it was in Cheshire, we’d been issued with a grey [unclear] suit to wear in America, cause we all had to go down grey [unclear] suit, you know.
AS: Ah, cause America wasn’t in the war then.
HH: Cause they weren’t in the war then, yeah.
AS: Right.
HH: So, and so we went down to Maxwell field in Alabama first of all for acclimatization.
AS: Wait, where did the ship come in?
HH: Halifax.
AS: Oh, so you landed in Canada.
HH: Went to Canada first, yeah.
AS: Ok.
HH: And then, I think, yes I think we were there, we were trained down to Toronto, I think, and then we went from Toronto down to Alabama, to Maxwell Field, to Montgomery, Alabama.
AS: Ok. Was the whole journey really well organised, or was is the usual service mess up?
HH: No.
AS: No. It was good?
HH: It was good, yeah. [unclear] planned I think, pretty well.
AS: How were you received at Montgomery, at Maxwell Airforce base?
HH: Oh, pretty well. In fact, the very first Sunday we were there, first weekend we were there, the American officer came round and, when we were having lunch, and he said, there’s a fair in town at the moment and they’ve heard that you boys are here, so we’d like you, they’d like you to come along and be their guest. So we thought we were going there but no, it was a scam, we were all scammed out of our money. Yeah, so we woke up in the morning, everybody had lost all their money, it was a real American type scam you know and I saw a coach loaded with American service people all in uniform. So I said, where is this coach going? Oh, they said, we are going to a little village called Bradford just outside of Montgomery and we’re going to church and if we’re lucky we will get invited out for lunch afterwards. So, I said, can we come along? Then the three of us got on board anyway. And we went in and sang all the hymns [laughs] and, little gospel stuff too it was, yeah.
AS: Deep South, isn’t it?
HH: Clappy, you know, happy-clappy kind of stuff, you know, and anyway afterwards all the American were all invited out to lunch and we were there, standing there, wondering what the hell to do, because it was a long walk back to Maxwell from Prowhtow but twelve miles I should think and then suddenly this lovely blonde turns up, she says, you are from Maxwell? I said, yeah, as a matter of fact, we are. Oh, she says, matter of fact, what sort of language is that? She says. Well, I say, well, you probably wouldn’t understand but we are English [laughs]. Oh, she says, you are English? And she rushed around and she got all the American council so that we were all invited to and she was a daughter of, she coloured me anyway and the other two were taken off somewhere else, I don’t know where. And then, we had lunch and her father was the local judge and he said afterwards, after we had lunch, he said, I guess you would like to take my daughter out for a drive, would you? I have a nice Buick in the back. Buick with a [unclear] for your change and I didn’t even have a licence [unclear] never mind [laughs]. Never mind, and I got in the car and I drove her right, then snug in and came back. And that was that and I never saw here again, I heard later she married an American navy pilot, he was killed in the Pacific. So I could have followed it up if I wanted to but I didn’t but by that time I was back in Canada anyway.
AS: So when did the serious business of learning to fly start and how did that go?
HH: Pardon?
AS: When did the serious business of learning to fly start and how did that go?
HH: When we up to, we were posted from Maxwell airfield to Albany in Georgia to an aerodrome called Darr Aero Tech, that was the owner of the aerodrome, I think, Darr Aero Tech. And it’s still there, I was there not long ago. And so, I certainly had to do a flight commander’s check and he decided to wash me out so I went back up to Canada and trained as a navigator.
AS: On the flying piece, how much flying did you do? Do you think it was fair that you got washed out?
HH: No.
AS: How did that come about?
HH: Well, they wanted, the Air Ministry wanted as many people washed out as possible who could train as navigators, bomb aimers and gunners and what other. They weren’t too short of gunners but the
AS: I believe you had an instructor with a German sounding name.
HH: Oh yeah. Schmidt.
AS: Schmidt.
HH: Yeah, that was a joke really. That was in the book, wasn’t it? Yeah.
AS: So maybe he sabotaged your flying career, your piloting career. So, I presume that a lot of people were washed out at this stage.
HH: They were, but the reserve was washed out.
AS: Why not?
HH: Over 80 percent. I know it was a whole lot of us came back. And on Pearl Harbour, the day of Pearl Harbour we were given an exhibition rugby match in the town. And somewhere over the tannoy came the announcement that Pearl Harbour had been attacked by the Japanese and so everybody went home, they all packed up and went home. So we went home as well. And that night, I had a place I used to get under the wire and go into town at night, you know [laughs] and when I came back to get on the wire there was a man there with a gun [laughs]. And he was trying to shoot me thinking I’m one of the Japanese. He said, look mate, I don’t [unclear] you look like a bloody Japanese [laughs].
AS: Did you go out of the gate after that?
HH: No. Well, I didn’t bother after that.
AS: So
HH: I went back, well, the following day we were on the train to go back up to Canada.
AS: Is that quick?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Commander’s test and then pack your kit and going up to Canada.
HH: About for, about a week later I suppose I was back, I was on the train going back up to Canada. And it’s quite an experience travelling by train in America, isn’t it? In those days with the [unclear] and everything, with bars and but we had to change, we were on what was called the Chattanooga Choo Choo, but going the wrong way [laughs]. We were going there, were going north but the Chattanooga Choo Choo goes, comes south, doesn’t it? But we were on that line anyway. And I remember we stopped off in Boston and we had a bit of a wait there so we decided to go into town, we never did see Boston because we got round the way into town, we got attacked by these Irish Americans.
AS: For being British?
HH: We had taken them into the war.
AS: Ok.
HH: It’s not our fault but [laughs]. And they were at war now. And they be caught up and be killed. And then anyway we got away with that alright.
AS: You were physically attacked?
HH: Yeah, yeah. They had knives and God knows what. They weren’t very nice people. Anyway, I say Irish American but I imagine they were Irish Americans, being in Boston, wouldn’t you?
AS: Big population there, isn’t it?
HH: So, then I went to Trenton where I was interviewed by a group captain and he was Raymond Masses brother.
AS: God lord, Raymond Mass of the Agfa?
HH: Yeah. It was his brother. He looked just like him too. Yeah. And.
AS: Was that a sympathetic interview?
HH: Yes, yeah.
AS: You wanted to be a pilot and then suddenly that stopped. Was the system generally sympathetic to you?
HH: Oh yes. So they were quite keen to take me on as a navigator. And so then I went from there to Quebec City, L’Ancienne-Lorette. And from there up to Rivers in Manitoba. It was such a dry town, that was, [unclear] there.
AS: God Lord!
HH: Yeah.
AS: Were you in uniform by this time? RAF uniform?
HH: Yeah. Wearing a Canadian uniform in fact [laughs]. They issued us with a Canadian uniform, so [unclear] quite smart actually. And they were very similar to ours but the cloth is a little kinder, shall we say?
AS: So, you’re in probation and you went out, presumably looking for a drink, do you?
HH: Well, we knew that Mont-Joli was dry but there was a little, there was a [unclear] just down the river called Rimouski, a timber park mainly. I remember when I took my Institute of [unclear] exams, one of the questions was, can you explain what were the, what sort of cargo was exported from Rimouski, well everybody else thought it was in Russia, didn’t’ they? [laughs]
AS: [unclear] Clear mental picture.
HH: Yeah, I’ve seen it. Anyway, we were trying to drink, we were drinking some, we went to a bar we were drinking this clear liquid, we had asked for whiskey but they served us up with this clear whiskey, clear liquid and when we were coming back in a taxi we were, we’d had about two each of these, we were all very sick we had to stop the taxi we were really sick and we saw afterwards that [unclear] don’t drink anything that is given to you because there is a stuff called alcool which is made from good alcohol and it’s can make you blind.
AS: It’s like drinking [unclear] freeze, isn’t it?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Gosh, lucky escape!
HH: And so that was that. And from Mont-Joli we went to the staff end course at Rivers in Manitoba which was astronavigation, advanced navigations course it was.
AS: What was the basic navigation course? What was your basic navigation training like? Was it mostly classroom or?
HH: A lot of [unclear].
AS: What were you flying in?
HH: Ansons. Yeah. Mark 1 Ansons you had to wind up the undercarriage, do [unclear].
AS: Yeah. Did you take to it easily, to the navigation, because of your Maths proficiency or?
HH: Oh yes, yeah.
AS: And you found it easy to be an accurate navigator?
HH: Yes, I mean, you’re training all the time of course and right the way through when I came home from Rivers, came home over on the Union-Castle ship, called the Cape Town Castle, which I didn’t sell. And, what’s the time?
AS: Now.
HH: [alarm clock rings] The taxi, yeah.
AS: Ok. We’ll pause at there, shall we?
HH: Yeah. Astronavigation course A and it was mainly a flying by using star shots yeah. But when I got on the squadron, I mean you had to carry about three sets of books, you know, and a narrow almanac as well. Had to work out your star shots. But when I dropped at squadron they had a marvellous little equipment, a little projector over the navigators tail [unclear], which about that high off the table and you had to measure it up with a special stick to make certain it was in focus and on this astrograph there are three stars you could use and, two stars rather, two stars plus Polaris you use to get a three star [unclear] , and you worked out a dating point for the time before you, before you got airborne and driven it on your chart and then you lay your chart down on the table and lined it up with the astrograph and then this projector, these position lines of these stars onto your chart. So, the bomb aimer, all the bomb aimer had to do was to take the chart, [unclear] my bomb aimer was a trained navigator anyway and I think he’s still alive, I’m not sure, and.
AS: So it is very much team work.
HH: Yeah.
AS: Between you and the bomb aimer but actually on astros. So, you, we jumped straight on to being on the Squadron. Did you know, as soon as you started navigator training, that you would be going to Bomber Command?
HH: Well, it’s pretty obvious I would be. Yeah.
AS; Ok. And, so, you finished your training in Canada, came back to the UK by ship, and what happened next before [unclear] squadron?
HH: [unclear], is it Cumberland?
AS: I think Scotland.
HH: Near Carlisle, north of Carlisle then, between Carlisle and Keswick I suppose. And a little aerodrome there and we learned to fly in wartime conditions, you know, where the balloon barrages weren’t etcetera. Where to avoid them.
AS: And is this when you stepped up from Ansons to bombers?
HH: No, no, this is still on Ansons. And then from there we went down to Hampstead Norris still on Ansons and then we went to Harwell, Hampstead Norris was a satellite of Harwell at the time and then we crewed up with our pilot and wireless operator, I think we already had a wireless operator and we crewed up with bomb aimer and engineer, no, no, we didn’t have an engineer at that time, this is on Wellingtons and.
AS: What were they like the training Wellingtons, were they in good neck, were they ruddy old kites or?
HH: No, no, pretty ruby, they were draughty, oh God they were draughty. The wind used to whistle through that fabric, you know. [unclear] construction, wasn’t it?
AS: What was, was there a step up in gear going on to heavier airplanes and operational tactics?
HH: Oh yeah, yeah.
AS: You are moving much more quickly in your calculations and navigation than perhaps when you were training?
HH: We did quite a lot of cross countries and bull’s eyes we did in OTU.
AS: What’s Bullseye?
HH: Bullseyes we did down, we’d go down, say the Channel Islands and experience a little bit of flak there and then we’d come back up again and fly across to Portsmouth and somewhere and fly across the coast there or else we’d fly, head to the North Sea towards Denmark and come back into Hull.
AS: So this was almost a simulated bombing mission, was that?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Training, for training. Ok.
HH: They were called Bullseyes anyway in cooperation with the army, I suppose, with the the ack-ack.
AS: So, when you’re at OTU, you’re on Wellingtons.
HH: Yeah.
AS: Ok.
HH: Then we went up to a place called Riccall in Yorkshire, near Selby, and we had to, we trained, we converted onto Halifaxes.
AS: What, can you remember what year, what month this would be when you?
HH: Well, that would be about Christmas of, just around Christmas in ’42, I suppose.
AS: Wow, so what type of Halifax would this be? The Merlin one or?
HH: The Merlin one.
AS: Ok.
HH: Yes, so The Hali 1, what’s his name? Not Gibson, what the hell was his name?
AS: Cheshire?
HH: No. Gus Walker.
AS: Gus, oh yeah, yeah.
HH: [unclear] and he’d take that, all the mid upper turret and the front nose cone as well, there is a very big heavy turret in the front nose and like the Lanc was, you know. And then, it’s pretty useless that front turret but anyway. Then, eventually we got the Hali II.1 A which had a [unclear] turret on the top, yes, same as on the Hali 3.
AS: So your mid upper then got his job back.
HH: Yeah.
AS: So, Gus Walker he took these turrets out to save weight, to carry more bombs?
HH: To save weight, yeah. Just to save weight, to make improve performance a bit. And he had a better height. I better ring up my taxi.
AS: So, by taking the turrets off, Gus Water was giving his aircrews more of a chance really, wasn’t he?
HH: Yeah, but then later on they improved the, we still had the Merlin 22s, same as the Lanc had, you know. Merlin 22s, but the Mark II.1 A was a much better aircraft, you came to, you know, eighteen, twenty, twenty one, twenty two thousand.
AS: Loaded?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Which is, you were at the same height as the Lancs. And the Lancs had the habit of dropping their bombs on you. Which happened on our very first trip. We went to, we were waiting to have a nice and easy trip but no, we got Essen. And then, when we were over the, when we were over the target on our bombing run but a lot of our bombs dropped on us, a lot of incendiaries dropped on us and he engineer and myself had to go back and kick them out the door [laughs] and which is good practice actually, it could have happened to us again over Wuppertal.
AS: Really?
HH: But that time there was a, I think it was a two thousand pounder or a thousand pounder, I don’t know, and it came and took our port ruder right off, and the port tail and the port tail plane yeah.
AS: And what sort of problems did that give the pilot?
HH: Mh?
AS: What sort of problems did that give the pilot?
HH: Well, we found, she was, it was still flying alright but I found that we were crabbing a bit. And I remember seeing a light below and I said, take a drift on that, will ye? And anyway we found that we were crabbing quite about ten degrees to port, I think, yeah.
AS: So you do all your sums again and take that out by adjusting the
HH: No, I just stirred ten degrees off every course [laughs]. Yeah.
AS: That must have been quite a hairy landing I would think.
HH: Sat nav was alright, yeah. [unclear] anything but normal.
AS: Wow.
HH: And when we got back, the little corporal in charge of our ground crew, he came out, what a bloody [unclear] you’ve done to my air craft! [laughs] as if it was our fault, you know.
AS: Did you fly your own regular air craft that had attached to?
HH: Yes, yeah. [unclear] until one time we let, we were on leave and I think it was an Australian pilot who took it and he was very conscious of saving fuel. So he throttled right back coming back and the result was that the, when we around the engine up the following day, the engine started to shake, port engine started to shake and suddenly the prop came off and went right through where I’ve been already sitting and sliced my table in half, but I was in the rest position now for take-off you know.
AS: Wow. So that was one of your nine lives gone?
HH: Yeah. I tell that story I say, as you can see I’m still here [laughs]. I wasn’t sitting there at the time.
AS: So, did they repair the aeroplane or was that the demise of D Dog?
HH: That was finished, D-Dog was finished and we got the Mark 2.1 A then.
AS: Still as D-Dog or was there superstition about that?
HH: No. We were still with D, yeah. But, Jackie [unclear] he was our mid upper gunner, he was really pleased to get that. We had four guns, he was really happy [laughs]. But it was much safer to have somebody in a blister looking down underneath.
AS: Is that what he used to do before he got the target?
HH: Yeah. Yes, and he used to put it in his log book, duty, rear gunner’s me [laughs].
AS: Yeah. On, when you were on ops, had the idea of the bomber stream come in by then?
HH: Oh yes. Yes, we were on the very first time they dropped, the Pathfinders used Oboe on the Essen raid. I think it was first used on the 5th of March, wasn’t it?
AS: I don’t know, 1943. This was
HH: Yeah, ’43. By this time, yeah.
AS: So, it was quite early on in the idea of the Pathfinders.
HH: Yeah.
AS: So, you went on ops just as the stream and the concentration were starting to take place. I know you were deep in the bowels of the aeroplane at your navigation table. Did you, did the crew see other aircraft around them, feel the other aircraft around them?
HH: No, you are in the slipstream the whole time. Especially when you got near the target, when you’re on your final run, you sort of you feel the slipstream and you have to remember that five percent of our losses were due to collisions, it has been estimated.
AS: That’s a high percentage.
HH: I think we were told that at the time. Air survigiliance you know.
AS: Against the dangers of collision. What about enemy aircraft on your first tour? Did you have any encounters with the German night fighters?
HH: Oh yeah. [unclear], he shot down two, he shot down a Ju 88 and an Me 110 I think it was, yeah.
AS: And this, this was your rear gunner.
HH: And he had a problem with [unclear]. Al lot of Battle of Britain pilots would have given their eye tooth for a score like that. Probably would have gotten a DMO and a DFC.
AS: [laughs] there are a lot of unsung deeds in Bomber Command.
HH: Anyway then we finished up in October ’43 and I was sent up to Sixcrew, was a Canadian crew.
AS: With the Canadians. How did you?
HH: And they wanted everybody to be Canadians, you know. They didn’t want an English instructor so I got, I quickly got posted down to 3 Group. And
AS: Somewhere along the way you, you picked up a DFM. Was that during your first tour?
HH: Yes, was the first tour.
AS: And what was the story behind your DFM?
HH: I don’t know really. It’s not in the book even, not in the, my citation is not there, there’s a book of DFMs in the RAF, both of DFCs and DFMs. And there was an Australian, called Cameron, he found this book of DFMs but I don’t know, I think Gus Walker probably. You see, I’d broken my left foot, I’d broken a bone of my left foot and having leave, we were due for leave I went on leave on with my foot in plaster, came back and had the plaster taken off and then I fell off my bicycle [laughs]. Didn’t help. So, the doc said, right, I’ll keep you in hospital till your foot’s cured. I don’t want any arguments. And the following day Sam came in, he said, we are on tonight, we want to take, and they want me to take a spare navigator and I said, no way, Sam ,let’s go and see the doc. The doc was in a good mood cause he was going on leave. So, have you read all this before?
AS: No.
HH: So, he said, alright you, you can go this time, but he says, provide you come back into hospital as soon as you get back. If you get back, he said, if you get back. So, he then went on leave. Anyway, once we arrived at main briefing, done my navigation briefing, I think we came at main briefing and Gus Walker was on the door. And Gus said, we are you going? I said, I’m on crutches you see. I’m going on ops. And he said, why? I don’t where my crew is going, I don’t want them to go without me. Well, alright then. So I went in and we went to Berlin that night. And when I got back, Gus was still on the station. Cause he was in charge of 3 Squadron, wasn’t he? Back there. And he said, right, [unclear] he says, I’ve been hearing all about you, he says, it’s alright, I’ll take you back to the hospital myself. And then I got in his car and he told me off a bit of Mall strip who had been irresponsible and some of that and as I got out, he said, bloody good show. And I think it was he who recommended me for a DFM, I don’t know, probably.
AS: Excellent. It’s a wonderful, wonderful story. What happened, you said, you tried the book in the RAF club to find your citation. Have you explored anywhere else, to try and find the DFM citation?
HH: I did write to some time ago, I don’t know, I think they did, you get from RAF records I think.
AS: Ok.
HH: Because I wrote to them the other day and asked them if, cause I had a letter from them to say that I could retain the right, substantive right of flight lieutenant when I finished in the reserve and used the courtesy right for squadron leader. But I’ve never used it. So I no wonder [unclear] to have [unclear], so I asked them if that still retained, shall we say.
AS: And you are still waiting for a reply.
HH: Well, they wrote back to me and said that I should give them some more proof of whom I was, you know, passports, etcetera so I send them up a copy of my, one of my utility bills and my council tax demand.
AS: Well, hopefully that’s good enough.
HH: It only went away last week, so we will have to wait and see.
AS: You mentioned briefings. I know the targets were different and the weather was different, but could you give me some idea of an average preparation for a mission from waking up in the morning to taking off. Is that possible, that sort of things that?
HH: Yeah, because you went down to the, you went down to the flights and you stood in the open outside the squadron offices and at ten to ten on the dot, if you were on that night, the phone would ring. You knew you were on that night then and then, but if you waited and waited until ten past ten the phone would ring again to say the squadron stood down by which time we had all disappeared cause we’d all. Didn’t want to go to our [unclear] or something [unclear].
AS: So it was all incredibly secret but the routine gave it away.
HH: Yeah [laughs].
AS: So if the phone call came at ten to ten, you knew you were on ops that night, what would happen then?
HH: All I did, we’d go down to our aircraft and check all the equipment in it and then if necessary you take it to test and then you were back on the ground again by, about eleven, eleven thirty, and then you’d either come back and go to lunch and or else you’d and then after you’d had lunch you’d go on for navigation briefing till about two o’clock.
AS: So the navigator was the first person in your crew to know where you were going, what time [unclear].
HH: Knew where we were going, yeah.
AS: Was that a very full briefing, with weather? Is this where you drew up your courses, you got your turning points and what not?
HH: Sorry?
AS: Was this a very full briefing?
HH: Oh yeah, well, the navigation briefing, yes, you got your various tracks you had to go on to and hopefully they’re taking you around the defended areas you know.
AS: The flak and the searchlights, yeah. Was there a lot of work involved for you to prepare your charts?
HH: Yes, it took quite a time. You were mainly with your bomb aimer to help you, you know. Haary Hoover, my bombing [unclear] each navigator, he trained in South Africa and.
AS: So, you two were the only ones that knew of the navigation briefing and the target. Was it difficult to keep it secret from your skipper and your crew?
HH: Oh no, you didn’t have to keep it secret but you just told the rest of the crew where we’re going so all this business of that being a gasp when they, when the curtains were pulled across for the map.
AS: Probably you already knew.
HH: We all knew where we were going by that time, at least my crew did.
AS: So, you’ve done your navigation briefing and what happened then? Just sit around waiting for the main crew briefing or did you have duties to do?
HH: No, we just, by the time you finished doing the nav, it’s about time for the main briefing and then having done the main briefing you were then marked for an ops breakfast. The ops breakfast, which was bacon and eggs, baked beans, all the things you shouldn’t eat.
AS: Baked beans?
HH: Yeah.
AS: And you’re flying at thirty thousand feet.
HH: Yeah.
AS: Oh, that could have been interesting. What was the atmosphere like? Was there a lot of tension? Was there a lot of horseplay? Was there a lot of fear? What was the atmosphere like?
HH: I don’t’ know, I can’t remember that there was a feeling of are we gonna make it or not, you know.
AS: Was that a personal thing or something that you talked about with the crew?
HH: I would never, never, never, my mid upper gunner, he, one day, we were in our room, I shared a room with him and then he packed up all his biscuits on his bed and folded up all the blankets and sheets. What are you doing that for? And he said, I don’t think we are gonna come back. So I’m putting the things in order now. And he got all his paperwork out and everything, that is everything to it, wife and things.
AS: What did that do to your morale?
HH: Well, I wasn’t, I wasn’t very happy about it but it was a [unclear] anyway. Then he said, afterwards he said, God, [unclear] we weren’t gonna come back. He knew.
AS: But after that on future trips he was fine.
HH: Well, I said, don’t you ever do that again, Jackie [unclear], you never do a thing like that again.
AS: Tempting fate. What about off duty, what sort of things did you, you guys get up to that you can talk about?
HH: Sorry?
AS: Off duty, did you get much time off to yourself? Or to yourselves as a crew?
HH: Yeah. We, I used to go out with, mainly with another crew cause all our crew, our skipper was commissioned, so we were all and the rest of them, Chuckie he lived in Leeds so when he was off, he went back to Leeds and the rear gunner was the same, he was somewhere just outside Leeds. Sam was from Leeds as well, the pilot, so it was only the engineer, myself
AS: So you latched onto another crew for the
HH: Yeah.
AS: The social element.
HH: Yes, [unclear] crew, yeah. I was pretty friendly with his navigator but he got killed.
AS: And did the rest of the crew come back?
HH: Yeah.
AS: And brought him back?
HH: They brought him back, yeah.
AS: Your, we were talking about your navigation training and astro, during your time, your first tour on ops, did you start to get Gee in the aeroplane or any other navigational aids that you used?
HH: We had Gee.
AS: You had Gee.
HH: Right from the start, yeah. We had the Mark 1 Gee which was, used to have to tune it, the narrow knobs on the side and you had to tune it to get a signal and it’s like tuning one of those. Televisions, you know.
AS: Keep wandering off. Did you, was this a big revolution in navigation as people say?
HH: The Gee was, yeah.
AS: The Gee was, it really did make a difference.
HH: Yeah, well, it did make a difference because, but you didn’t get it beyond the Dutch coast, it wouldn’t work beyond the Dutch coast but you had we, well, you had LORAN later, in Mosquitos we had Gee and LORAN. In fact, it really annoys me now to hear the met men talking about the jetstream because we found the very first jetstream. I found a wind of a hundred and twenty five knots at thirty thousand feet.
AS: Tailwind.
HH: Hundred and ninety five knots and when we got back, I told the met man, I said, we got a wind of a hundred and ninety five knots and you were forecasting forty five to fifty knots. He said, I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it! So he went to group headquarters and the group headquarters said we don’t believe it. They went to command headquarters and the met people up there said they didn’t believe it either. But then everybody else came back with these winds and they suddenly realised what was called jet streams but now they talk about jet streams all the time. And what they mean is where the warm front, the warm tropical front meets the polar [unclear] front and all the way along that you get depressions form and then, and with it you get this so-called jet stream, [unclear] form as well. Ah, so which comes first? The frontal systems or the jet stream?
AS: Must be the fronts, must be the fronts. So, when you are doing your tour, you’d had the nasty experience of being bombed twice by your own people, probably 5 Group,
HH: Yeah.
AS: Was that the limit of the difficulties you had? Was the aeroplane mechanically reliable or did you suffer?
HH: Oh, we, came back on three engines more times than we came back on four.
AS: Really?
HH: Yeah. I think we came back on three engines eleven times out of our tour.
AS: And what did your ground crew chief say to that?
HH: Well, wasn’t their fault, necessarily, well, he didn’t think it was anyway.
AS: It’s just overstraining them, is it, full fuel, full bombload [unclear] to heights. Coming back from the raids, what was your pilot like? Was he one of those that, wanted to pour on the coal and get home early or did he stick to heights and courses as briefed or?
HH: Well, he couldn’t do much else with a Halifax. There were as well Mosquitoes, with our New Zealand pilot, we were always first back [laughs]. Yeah.
AS: Becomes a matter of pride. On your first tour still perhaps we can talk a bit more about that. As you got towards the end, did the, you knew presumably you were going to stop on, what, thirty trips?
HH: Well, I did twenty six in fact.
AS: Ok.
HH: Which were two trips too early. I would have done twenty eight for my first tour, cause the pilot had already done two second Dickey trips to start with. [door bell rings] That’s my taxi now.
AS: Ok.
HH: So I’ll just pause this. We were just talking about your tour length. The question I was going to ask is did you feel a real rising tension as you got towards the end of your tour?
HH: But we didn’t know we were towards the end, we thought we had another two trips to do.
AS: Ok.
HH: But, I remember Sam coming in and he says, I have some good news for you, we’re [unclear] and you are half on leave from tomorrow. You are all going on leave tomorrow.
AS: What did that feel like?
HH: Mh?
AS: What did that feel like?
HH: Ah, it was good feeling but I forget what happened now. When I was on Mosquitoes I think when I was doing my last trip on Mosquitoes cause you had to do fifty on Mosquitoes you see for a tour.
AS: So, you finished on 102 Squadron and were there many crews that went all the way through like yours did?
HH: No, not a [unclear], I wish I had the [unclear] I’ve got it somewhere, might be in that case there, book of all the losses, you know. 102 Squadron losses.
AS: Oh, perhaps we can look at that tomorrow or now if you like.
HH: Well I, It might be in that case, I’m not sure.
AS: Let’s pause this and we’ll go and have a look. Harry, good morning, it’s day two of our interview session. It’s very good of you to agree to this interview. Can we start by going back to your first tour of operations during the Battle of the Ruhr on Halifaxes. Were you conscious at the time that this was a major battle or was it just one job after another?
HH: We were trying to hit Germany where it hurt, we didn’t only the Ruhr we went to places like Pilsen, and then we did Nuremberg and Munich and.
AS: Were you briefed on specific targets in these cities and told what you were going after?
HH: Oh, we knew that Essen was the Krupp works, yeah, and good, pretty good briefing by the intelligence officer what we were gonna hit because we went, we were going to. There was almost a mutiny one day when we heard they were sending us to a place like Gelsenkirchen or somewhere, I forget where it was now, and
AS: What happened then? What was the mutiny all about?
HH: Well, the intelligence officer said that he didn’t know why we were going there, there was nothing there, there was just a spa town that we were going to hit but what we didn’t know, of course, it was a leave centre for the Gestapo and the place was full of the Gestapo officers and but you know initially we said, no, why are we going there, you know? And there was almost not exactly a mutiny but it was a fear of you know, why are we bombing this place, we probably would just hit a lot of women and children.
AS: So, this was 1943. So even at that stage.
HH: This is ’45. ‘43 rather.
AS: So, even at that stage there were some concerns amongst the crew about what you were doing and where you were going.
HH: Yeah, the Hamburg raids for example. That’s the first time there was a real firestorm and we went on three or four of those raids, I forget now, it’s in the book, Hamburg in July ’43. The book is fallen to bits, isn’t it?
AS: Well, it happens to all of us, doesn’t it? As we get older. Here we go, 24th of July ’43 and the 27th of July. Ops Hamburg, yeah. And then the 2nd of August.
HH: Yeah, the 2nd of August when we, we’d already realised that the firestorms, you know, we were dropping our incendiaries first in setting fire to places and then dropping four thousand pounders, two and four thousand pounders on top of the fires which, that’s why It’s called the firestorm, the blast from the comparatively thin-cased two thousand pounders and what have it, would suck in the air and the oxygen, you know, and cause these firestorms.
AS: So, the thin-cased bombs would blow the roofs off and then the incendiaries would go inside and
HH: Well, you know, in that, wish I could find that, you could sit and watch that, the CD I’ve got somewhere in there of
AS: Is it of a Hamburg raid?
HH: Pardon?
AS: Is it of a Hamburg raid?
HH: This is the first section of the Hamburg raid which caused the firestorm. And I remember watching this from over the bomb aimer’s shoulder and watching these fires spreading and I remember saying, I felt very sorry for the people down there.
AS: At that time.
HH: At that time, yeah. In fact I said a little prayer for them.
AS: Is this something you discussed with the crew or any of your friends?
HH: Not really, no. I just said a prayer to myself, yeah.
AS: And was that really specific to Hamburg or to?
HH: Just to Hamburg, yeah. [unclear] the firestorms first started. It was worst then Dresden actually.
AS: I believe so in the numbers lost. So, your first tour was absolutely in the thick of what we call the Battle of the Ruhr and extremely difficult and dangerous missions.
HH: The people who came after me, they’d done Hamburg and the Battle of the Ruhr, and then they had to follow on doing the Battle of Berlin. In fact my very last trip was to Berlin I think, no, it was Hanover. My last trip was to Berlin, this one I went on crutches, yeah.
AS: Home on three engines, that one?
HH: Was that Berlin?
AS: Yes, 23rd of August. And then you did a Munich and a Hanover. What was Berlin like? Was it special, was it the
HH: Pardon?
AS: Was Berlin perhaps the best defended target? What was Berlin like?
HH: With the length of the trip really. You know, on heavies, on Lancs and heavies it’s two eight and a half hours there and back. What’s it say there?
AS: Seven hours fifteen, that’s still an incredible time. People talk about eight hour days, and that was a full day’s work at night.
HH: Was a full day’s work was being shot at too.
AS: And, I mean, was Berlin the best defended target, do you think or was that the Ruhr, perhaps?
HH: I think it was as bad as the Ruhr but it was, there was plenty of activity there but mainly a lot of fighter activity there over the target, over Berlin.
AS: And you, you could see the enemy?
HH: Oh yeah. They coned and searchlights one time I was on Mosquitoes, there was two Mosquitoes, an Fw 190, and an Me 109, all on the same cone.
AS: Wow!
HH: And there is a painting of that somewhere. I described it, you know. And there is a painting somewhere that is called Berlin Express. And [unclear] you’ve got there, the original.
AS: Ok, I’ll look for that.
HH: [unclear] then.
AS: Ok. Some trips to France as well. Le Creusot. You went after a sauce manufactory what was, can you remember what that trip was about?
HH: Oh yes, that was, they were manufacturing parts for tanks and things, I think.
AS: Gosh, here, after Le Creusot, Muhlheim, home on two engines.
HH: Yeah [laughs]
AS: What’s the story behind that? Did they just pack up or was it flak or?
HH: Yeah, they just packed up on [unclear] you know they were way overstressed on Halifax and we came back on two on that occasion, yeah.
AS: After a lot of, after the Hamburgs that we talked about and Berlin, Munich. Now, can you remember that trip? September ’43 to Munich.
HH: Yeah.
AS: First off, first back, in your log book, eight hours, fifty five minutes. Did the stream hold together, the bomber stream hold together at least [unclear] long distances?
HH: You we were all given certain times, you know, you had to be at certain times on all the way along the track, at the various turning points, you know. And I think it did help, you know, no doubt about it and then with the advent of Window of course, it just through their ground tracking, we had a little device, did I tell you, a little device called boozer in Mosquitos.
AS: No, you didn’t, no.
HH: We had a little device which, when they were tracking you from the ground, a little yellow light used to glow. But when they were tracking from the air, a red light used to glow. And one night, we were coming back, and somewhere around the Hamburg, sorry the Bremen Hanover cap, and this red light came on very bright and we knew the red light meant we were being tracked from the air you see. And then suddenly over the top of us, about the height of this building, just came two, I think they were Me 263s,
AS: The jets?
HH: The jets, yeah. Right over the top of us. And they didn’t see us. I got a photograph of the Mosquito, I don’t know what she’s done with it now. I’m going to ask her that when she was in last night.
AS: No worries, maybe today. So, this, the 262s had the speed, they were the only ones with the speed to catch you, really.
HH: Yes. They were doing about 100 knots faster than us. 50 to 100 knots faster than us. And then they sailed over the top of us and disappeared in the distance. There were four jets, two of them.
AS: So they had radar airborne in the jets.
HH: Yes.
AS: That is a pretty dangerous development, isn’t it? That was another one of your nine lives gone, really, wasn’t it?
HH: Yeah.
AS: A few slices of luck. Back to your first tour, you, when did you come off ops?
HH: I went to a conversion unit, a place called Wombleton.
AS: Ok, was that Stirlings?
HH: No, it was Halifaxes actually but.
AS: Ok.
HH: Canadian group, they are mainly on Halifaxes.
AS: In Six Rivers, how did you get on with the Canadians?
HH: Not very well.
AS: Really?
HH: No. They are very, they didn’t want to know us, you know, they just wanted to get rid of us as quickly as they could.
AS: I’ve heard this that they were running
HH: They wanted to run their own show.
AS: [unclear] as part of the Canadian
HH: I remember getting one crew and I said, I wanted to send them back for further training because the navigator was absolutely hopeless. He really was, he couldn’t, it was like putting, I don’t know, he was thick as two planks, he couldn’t. So, I said if you’re selling this crew with this navigator then I don’t stand a chance of getting through, not a chance at all. They’ll be shot down on, within their first five operations, they’ll be shot down.
AS: And do you know whether that guy [unclear]?
HH: No. They didn’t like this, you know, the fact that I criticised one of their Canadian crews and I was posted down to 3 Group and, which suited me, and the crew got to squadron, got to a squadron and they did go on a trip and got hopelessly lost and I heard it afterwards that the CO of the, I knew it was Lane, what was his name? Lane. He said, what the hell are you doing selling this crew? They should have been send back for further training. I had recommended that.
AS: Had you been commissioned by this point?
HH: Yes, yeah.
AS: Ok.
HH: I was commissioned at the end of my first tour, I think.
AS: What sort of process what that? How did that take place?
HH: Pardon?
AS: How did, what sort of process what that? How did that take place?
HH: I just had an interview, I don’t know, whom I had an interview with now, I can’t remember. And I mean after the interview I was a pilot officer but I was a flight sergeant before and my pay was sixteen schillings a day as a flight sergeant but as a pilot officer I was only going to get fourteen and four pence a day. So they said, oh, we can’t have that so they gave me a six pence rise, six pence a day rise so I was getting fourteen and six a day as a pilot officer. And then eventually when I was a flight attendant after a couple of years, I was out in India by that time, and I got, well I was on an Indian raise of pay anyway so, it didn’t [unclear].
AS: Back to the instructing. You finished an operational tour, had some leave and presumably your crew dispersed.
HH: Yeah. Pilot went to Rufforth [unclear] converting many French Canadians and to go to Elvington, French, I mean French crews rather, French crews to go to Elvington, to 77 Squadron.
AS: Did you keep in touch with any of your crew members after?
HH: I came up to York a couple of times and met Sam, Chuckie I used to see and my gunner and Harry [unclear] the, the last time I’ve heard from him, he was up at near Shrewsbury.
AS: You all went to instructors jobs, do you?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Did they teach how to be an instructor or did they just send you off?
HH: No, I just went in and just talked to them and told them where they were going wrong, you know, and how to waste time and things like that.
AS: In the year this is.
HH: Yeah.
AS: So, did you do any formal classroom training at these chaps or was it just, what, supervising in the area?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Supervising?
HH: Yeah, going through their logs and charts individually with them and showing them where they’d gone wrong.
AS: And I believe the same sort of thing used to happen on ops, that when you came back your nav leader would go through your charts, is that right?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Ok.
HH: They’d assess your, that’s the assessment on these [unclear] round there.
AS: That we saw before.
HH: The little design on his wall, Charlie had, he had sort of a [unclear] beside each one of you and you had two dots were very good, one dot for reasonably good, no dots at all for
AS: Average.
HH: Yes, average. Yeah.
AS: That’s his way of keeping track. So, on 3 Group, is this when you went to Stirlings? When you were training?
HH: Pardon?
AS: When you left the Canadians and went to 3 Group, that was, what was that, Stirlings, was that the Conversion Unit there?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Ok.
HH: Yeah, it’s down at Chedburgh.
AS: Ok.
HH: And, yeah, Chedburgh, near Bury St Edmunds. There was a beer draught down at that time and we used to cycle miles to find a pub with beer [laughs]. Then we’d keep very quiet about it [laughs].
AS: It’s not too bad.
HH: Me and a Canadian called Connor and we wanted to, we’d heard about that 8 Group wanted Mosquito wanted pilots and navigators, so, we both applied to go, we both applied to go back on ops together. So, our first application, we were turned down because, being in 3 Group on Stirlings, you know, they were rather short of crews, and so we were turned down anyway. So we waited a couple of weeks and we applied again and we got turned down again. So that night, I got a tin of black paint from the stores and I wrote a message, a letter on the ceiling of the mess to the group captain, I got quite polite there, you can’t pull your finger out and get us posted back on ops. We’re fed up with this instructing so could we please get back and so and so and signed it Connor and Hughes. The following day we were up in front of the old man and he said, right, you’re both going back, no way you’re going on the same crew or the same squadron. In fact, you go back first, Hughes. Connor will follow you in about two- or three-weeks’ time. And this is what happened.
AS: It’s amazing. So you weren’t actually instructing for very long, were you?
HH: No, from October until July, so six months.
AS: Ok.
HH: And you’re supposed to have six months, at least six months rest, you know? From operations. Between tours.
AS: Ok. And then, in July having arranged your own posting really, you arrive at 1655 MCU. What’s MCU?
HH: Mosquito conversion unit.
AS: Ok.
HH: At Warboys, yeah, and Weston [?].
AS: I imagine this must have been a completely different sort of navigating. Was it?
HH: Oh, just very quick, but you, you wouldn’t think it now but I was very, very neat and tidy in what I did. I knew exactly, I used to keep my pencils and my flying boots, my dividers as well, [unclear] my Douglas [unclear] I kept in my hat with my dividers, which was behind me and my [unclear] and, and then we used to take as your [unclear] fix, as soon as you got airborne, you got to operational high take fix, fix, fix, every three minutes, then work out a tracking ground speed when you lost it and then another three minutes later another fix, a nine minute tracking ground [unclear] plus the lady sick one and another one, further on, another fix and I can tell you exactly which way the wind was going, how far out the met was on their winds.
AS: And these fixes would be visual fixes or Gee fixes or both?
HH: Gee fixes.
AS: Gee fixes.
HH: So I’d take fix, fix, fix, you worked really hard to get the timing, you know, of the
AS: Whereabouts was the Gee screen in the aeroplane? You were sitting on the right in the [unclear]
HH: I was sitting on the right and the Gee was behind me and LORAN as well.
AS: Ok. So.
HH: Gee and LORAN which was behind me.
AS: So, could you operate the equipment with your harnesses done up?
HH: Oh yeah.
AS: Cause you just turned your head and
HH: Just turned my head. It was just like there and [unclear] but like I could turn [unclear] then and it was there, you know, just behind about there, about that angle to me.
AS: And it is just, as you say, second nature, three minutes, three minutes.
HH: It didn’t take long to take the fix but it took a long time but we, we had charts with the letters, lines of the UG chart superimposed on top of it. So, this really worked very well.
AS: So, what came up on the Gee screen? What allowed you to compare the screen to the map?
HH: Pardon?
AS: What was the presentation on the Gee screen? What actually came up? Was it numbers or?
HH: Well, you just, you could, you worked out, you knew what, you strobed the whichever signal you wanted to take, you know, and then you, you strobed the two of them and then fix and then you just read it off.
AS: I guess it’s, so you gotta an alphanumerical printout did you virtually.
HH: Yeah.
AS: Wow. So that could be done quickly.
HH: It’s quite, it’s very quick to work it all out, yeah, to work it out to actually calculate the winds on your Dalton.
AS: How did you operate at night, because I imagine you had no lights in the cockpit?
HH: Well, well enough.
AS: Ok.
HH: We had a red light and then, what’s his name? Anderson, our crew navigation officer, he found that you couldn’t see the red markings on your chart. So, that was all orange and green.
AS: Which was easier to see.
HH: Yeah.
AS: Ok. So, when you’d done your Mosquito conversion unit or at the Mosquito conversion unit, you must have crewed up with a pilot, how did that go?
HH: Well, I had already [unclear] with this Australian so, when this New Zealander came along, I [unclear], I crewed up with him.
AS: As simple as that. And did you do, did the aeroplane Mosquito take some getting used to it, so different from a heavy bomber, with different performance and
HH: Oh yeah.
AS: What was she like to fly in?
HH: It is nice and reasonably fast. And I don’t think you really noticed until you were doing some low flying.
AS: Shall we take a pause there? Ok.
HH: A Mosquito was, it was terribly difficult for a navigator to get out of.
AS: Why was that?
HH: Well, you had to, first of all you had to get hold of your chute and kept that on, then you had to jettison two hatches to get out,
AS: Underneath.
HH: Underneath, yeah. Slightly forward towards the nose, yeah. And but by which time your pilot probably gone out of the top and you were spiralling down and the chance to getting out was pretty slim.
AS: This hatch underneath must have been very close to the starboard propeller.
HH: Yes, we, yeah. Yes, it was quite close, yeah.
AS: Did you practice this on the ground a lot?
HH: No. I don’t think they thought you were, it was worth the risk. But the, a friend of mine used to fly with a man called Gill and he went down, [unclear] went down with his aircraft, and Gill got out and came home and he went to see Ronnie’s parents and they just slammed the door on his face, they wouldn’t talk to him. Cause they had thought that he’d should have stayed onto the controls until Ronnie got out. Which is really what one was supposed to do.
AS: I hadn’t realised that the drill for the pilot was to go out of the top.
HH: Yeah.
AS: Because there’s a tailfin behind.
HH: Yeah, you jettison, you jettison the hood I think, the hood went. And theoretically the navigator could’ve gone right after him, I suppose, but.
AS: I think the losses were less on the Mosquito.
HH: Oh yeah.
AS: I think you were safer flying in a Mozzie than in a Halifax.
HH: Yes, I mean, there’s somewhere I got the losses in Hamish’s Book, in Hamish Mahaddie’s book, all the losses in 8 Group and you will see that 692 do feature quite regularly, you know.
AS: Yeah, so you were posted to 692 Squadron after the conversion unit. You’d had, I suppose, eight months away from ops by then, ten months, had things changed a lot in that time?
HH: I don’t think they haven’t changed all that much for the heavies, no. And we upgraded separately and we used to do Window opening for the heavies, we used to do, we used to fly out with the heavies and used to meet out with them at Redding, they’d all congregated there, what’s that? There is something squeaking.
AS: I don’t know, let’s pause the tape. Well, Harry, we discovered what the squeak was, it was the smoke alarm. We were talking about Window opening and you meeting the Heavies over Redding.
HH: Yeah. We used to fly down with the and meet up with the Heavies and then we, weave in and out of them, stream, you know, and you could see the strength of the stream then because, you know, there was just a whole block of them all over the horizon.
AS: And these are daylights.
HH: Yeah, in daylight, yeah, [unclear]. And then [unclear] one of the Heavies would be signalling to us, you lucky bastard, [unclear]. So I was send back, been there, done that [laughs].
AS: Because you could fly a lot faster and a lot higher than [unclear]
HH: We [unclear], weave in and out of them, you see. And then, then when you got to the coast, you climbed very rapidly above and you got to your operational height. If we were going to say, if we were window opening say for Stuttgart, we’d probably do a, you go to Cologne first and drop a few bundles of Window there making them thing that was the target, you see. And then we’d go along to wherever, Stuttgart, and where the main force were going, and we’d, we’d do Window opening for the first wave of Pathfinders going in.
AS: Ok. This was the, was this the main role of 692 Squadron?
HH: Pardon?
AS: Was this the main role of 692 Squadron?
HH: Yeah, well, we were the light night striking force, yeah.
AS: Ok.
HH: But our main role was to bomb Berlin every night.
AS: Oh, you were involved in this Berlin shuttle?
HH: Yes. So, we used to drop our cookie, we used to drop Window for the Heavies and then we’d go along to Berlin and drop our four thousand pounders, keep them awake.
AS: Ah, so, did you have those special Mosquitos then?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Those with the pregnant bomb bay?
HH: That one there, isn’t it?
AS: Yes. Yeah.
HH: Yeah.
AS: So, who got to drop the bomb? Was it you or the driver?
HH: Me.
AS: You.
HH: Yeah. Unless we were doing low level. And even then it was me up on the front, up in the nose.
AS: How did you, how did you drop Window from a tiny little aeroplane like Mosquito?
HH: We had a chute, little wooden chute which used to go through the two doors and we just dropped bundles of Window through that. [unclear] grab the string as it went down, otherwise you’d just drop bundles [laughs].
AS: You don’t want them falling on someone’s head and hurting them, do you?
HH: No [laughs]. So, it’s a nice day there, isn’t it?
AS: It’s wonderful. It’s great. So, sometimes you were operating with the main bomber stream and sometimes as 8 Group by yourself or squadron by yourself?
HH: Individually, yeah.
AS: Individually too?
HH: We used to fly, [unclear] there was a song going round at that time sung by [unclear], I walk alone, to tell you the truth I’ll be lonely, I don’t mind being lonely, when my heart tells me you are lonely too. So, I made up the words for our squadron, we fly alone, when all the Heavies are grounded and dying, 692 will be climbing, we still press on, it’s every night, they will never give us a French route, for the honour of 8 Group, we still press on.
AS: That’s fantastic.
HH: It’s always a [unclear] no matter how far, one bomb is sunk beneath, it’s twelve degrees east, one engine at least [laughs]. It’s a pretty horrible little song.
AS: it’s brilliant. It sums up what you felt.
HH: Not as good as some of the songs, you see, [unclear] used to make up in India and down in Burma, you know. One man used to sing, rotting in the jungle, on a [unclear] marshy shores, dysentery, malaria and bags of jungle sores, living around in a bloody great heap, our beds are damp, we cannot sleep, we’re going round the corner, we’re going round the bend, two trips to Meiktila, maybe three or four, [unclear] a keen type, he thinks we’re doing more. When we get back as you can guess, we’ll put this f in kite us [laughs] and we’re going round the, and there’s about two more verses to that, I can’t remember, that’ s when the major arrives, and there’s two for you and f.a. for me [laughs].
AS: I think we will have to try and get you a recording contract. This could be an excellent CD on the [unclear].
HH: I don’t think they’d allow it to be broadcast.
AS: Probably not, probably not. But see, you, it sounds as you had very high morale on the squadron.
HH: Oh yeah. But, yes, [unclear] just I was on the [unclear].
AS: And on 692, as you say, opening with Window and then lots and lots of trips to
HH: Berlin.
AS: To Berlin. Did you ever get involved in a double trip, I believe some people, some crews did two trips to Berlin in one night.
HH: Yeah, we did, on one occasion we did. I think we did Duisburg in the morning and Berlin at night. Came back, and refuelled and bombed up again and we were away again.
AS: There must have been, I would expect, a cumulative tiredness of that level of operations. I’ve seen your ops on your second tour very close together.
HH: yeah.
AS: First of October, third, fourth, fifth, two on the fifth, very, very close together and then Berlin followed the next night by Cologne. Did you, were you conscious of getting tired?
HH: Well, no, because when you’re off, you went into town and into Cambridge and I met up with my girlfriend and she was lovely, my girlfriend, I must have a picture of her, I did have a picture. She was beautiful, she was lovely red hair and creamy skin, you know, and green eyes, oh, she was beautiful. As I walked down the street with her and everybody was stop and stare, at her, not at me [laughs].
AS: I was going to ask that. And you met her when you joined the squadron?
HH: When I joined 692, yeah. Yeah, we were walking, you remember, do you remember the Red Lion in Cambridge?
AS: I don’t know Cambridge well. I know where the [unclear]
HH: There used to be a passage where you could go through, you start off in the Baron of Beef, down by the river there and, and then you go from there to the Bun Shop and to get to the Bun Shop you have to walk through the Red Lion right, right the way through there, the foyer, there is a bar, two bars there and when I walked through there one night, there was Red sitting there with two of her friends and as I walked through, I said, [unclear] to [unclear] and I caught red hair and no [unclear] , and I said, I’m in [laughs]. And she followed me through to the Bun Shop and that’s how I met up with her [laughs].
AS: Excellent. Probably best not pursue that story too much further, I think. So, you got here on a trip to Berlin, landed in Woodbridge. Now,
HH: Yeah.
AS: I know that Woodbridge is one of the emergency landing grounds.
HH: Yeah, well we, very often we had to land, when we took S-Sugar, which is bloody awful aircraft with a terrible fuel consumption, if we took out to Berlin, we would end up, always end up landing short of fuel at Woodbridge. In fact, one night, when Harris was on this station, we were the only squadron operating that night, so he came to our briefing. [phone ringing]
AS: I’ll pause there. So, after the phone call, we were talking about S-Sugar and its ability to drink fuel.
HH: Yeah, on this night Harris was at the and [unclear] Northrop, our CO was reading out the battle order, you know, and he said, came to, flying officer Mormo, S-Sugar, [unclear] what’s wrong with our Robert? That’s got a mark drop on the starboard engine, you know to take the spare. But sf ens Sugar, sir, that bloody kite flies like a brick shit [unclear] [laughs] and Harris was standing there, and he was trying his best not to laugh, you know, his moustache had a twitch and [laughs] you could he’s gonna laugh every minute, you know. But he didn’t, he held it in [laughs]
AS: What was Woodbridge like? Is an emergency landing ground very different from a normal airfield?
HH: Oh yeah, you, huts with the roof off, you know, roof off and snow would come in, on a snowy night, yeah.
AS: Not finished?
HH: No, they had just blown off. That’s a nuisance that thing, isn’t it?
AS: Your smoke alarm, yeah. As we got to this time or you got to this time in the war, this was late 1944.
HH: Yeah.
AS: Had the scene changed in terms of aids to navigation, things like Sandra lights and Darky and ground organisation, was there a lot to help you?
HH: [unclear] Much on the ground I think, mainly H2S, Oboe, things like that, you know. And G8, wasn’t it? G8.
AS: G-H, yeah. I didn’t, I don’t [unclear] that word, I never had that but we were quite content with LORAN. In fact, I got a wind over, going down to, I think it was, Berlin I suppose, but yeah, we were going over to Berlin I think and I got a wind just north of the Ruhr, a hundred and ninety five knots.
AS: Wow!
HH: And [unclear] down, we hit a jet stream, you see, and but when I came back, I said to the met men, I got a wind of a hundred, impossible, impossible, impossible, then went to group and group said impossible as well, went to command and command said impossible when then everybody started to get them, they suddenly realised there was something in this jet stream. Now they talk about nothing else but the jet stream and it annoys me that because they ignored their existence during the war and that people did and we kept telling them, look there is something up there and it didn’t last very long, you see, you were in it and then you were out of it, you know. So you couldn’t use it as a general wind to carry on to Berlin, shall we say for example, and nor could you use it when you were coming back. You might hit it again but it’s been a different place slightly and
AS: It must have meant that you had to be on your toes with your fixes all the time.
HH: Yeah. Anyway we,
AS: In your logbook, it suddenly goes from duty as nav to duty nav b. What was the significance of?
HH: Well, I stood in as bomb aimer as well.
AS: Ah, ok, that’s what it was. Tremendous number of operations over the winter of ’44-’45.
HH: Yeah.
AS: So I presume you must have flown in most weather with the [unclear] that you had.
HH: I remember one night, I don’t know if I should say this because it’s a bit derogatory to somebody who’s now dead, and that’s to Don Bennett. He was in the control tower on this particular night and we were getting hoarfrost all along the wings, as we taxied out we were getting hoarfrost developed all along the wings, so Roy got onto control and he says, can we have the de-icing barriers right, please? And Bennett said, never mind about the de-icing barrel, just get off the deck. Well, we didn’t go, we said, no, no. It’s too dangerous. Anyway, another aircraft came after us and they ploughed into the end of the runway and they were both killed of course when their bomb blew up. And Bennett never said a word to us afterwards, he was, we came back for briefing that night and he’d left the station. We came back and got the de-icing barrel and cut clear of the hoarfrost. He literally left, you see. And then we went to Berlin that night, I think.
AS: I should think, with fuel and a four thousand pounder you must have needed all the runway to get off.
HH: Yeah, well, there is another tale attached to that, the, you see, we started off with four thousand pounders, I think we were the first squadron to have four thousand pounders, and then they put fifty iron drop tanks on each wing which were increased eventually to seventy five and then a hundred and then, and then we ran out of four thousand pounders and we had to borrow four thousand pounders from the Americans, which were four and a half thousand pounds. So another five hundred pounds to get off the deck. But [unclear], you just used to take it on in stride. No bother.
AS: You had no concerns.
HH: No, and I remember one day when I’d finished tour. I was sitting in the crew room minding my own business and the CO Canadian called Bob Grant came in and he said, you doing anything? I said, no. He said, grab yourself a chute [unclear] see you out of the aircraft. I said, what do you? we’re just playing local Gee chart and local match, will you? So when I got to the, they were loading a four thousand pounder and I said, well, what [unclear] have we got? You got full load of fuel and two hundred gallon drop tanks. And there’s a wind blowing right the way down the thre three [unclear] runway which was fourteen hundred feet or something compared to the two thousand feet on the main runway. I said, what are we gonna do then? He said, we’re gonna see if you can get off with this wind, the scale blowing, see if you can get off on this, on the fifteen hundred runway. So, we got to the end of the runway, and he waited until there was a gust of wind blowing, until the airspeed indicator was indicating about fifty or sixty knots. And we went. And I dropped the [unclear] on the light bomb target in the Wash and then we came back. And the rudder report said it wasn’t possible. I said, thanks for telling me. [laughs] it wasn’t possible. And he said, no, no, no, he said, I don’t think the crew, you can’t expect the whole crew to wait, the whole squadron rather to wait until there was a low, that’s turned till there was a gust of wind that would get them off the deck.
AS: It’s a good example of leading from the front though, isn’t it?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Doing the test himself.
HH: [unclear] below the ground, he’s dead now, he married a Yorkshire, he was CO of 5 Squadron, amongst other things and he was, when he got back to Canada, of course he was made up to brigadier, I think. He was a group captain here, so he was a brigadier. That was equivalent to air commodore, wasn’t it?
AS: I think so, yeah, yeah.
HH: I don’t know.
AS: And, ah, there it is group captain Grant, 19th of March 1945, bombload take off fourteen hundred yards. That was pretty much the end of you operational flying, I think, isn’t it?
HH: Yeah.
AS: On the Mosquito. Last trip, February ’45.
HH: Hanover, wasn’t it? Or Hamburg, Hanover.
AS: Frankfurt, I think, in your log. And did you know that that would be your last trip or? Did they told you [unclear] screened?
HH: Yeah. You knew you had to do fifty on Mosquitos. So.
AS: And what did happen after that? Did you go back instructing or?
HH: No, no, we were sent on leave and when we came back, we’d been posted, several crews had been posted down to [unclear] to ferry Canadian torpedoes across the Atlantic. And I crewed up with a different [unclear] gone back to New Zealand and he used to fly with Air New Zealand after the war. And thanks to me, because someone had put a bottle through his hand and all the tendons had gone. And so he couldn’t, when we were taken off at Whiten once doing a cross country, we got airborne and suddenly the throttle went back and he grabbed hold of them and held it with his hand and because you had to keep the throttle up so loose cause of this weakness in his left hand. So I said, I’ll tell you what we do, Roy, from now on I will tighten the throttle knot for you when you’re ready. As soon as you want, you just say, throttle knob and I will reach through and grab the throttle knob and turn it and tighten it for you. And we did that every trip. And but I, cause I had to reach over, I couldn’t strap in, so I did all my trips without strapping in [laughs]. I never strapped them again, not with Roy flying. So he never, I mean, he was flying with Air New Zealand afterwards he’d never have passed the medical if he’d disclosed that, you know.
AS: Eventually not in Mosquito, but he’d be flying with throttles on the other hand, wouldn’t he? So the problem
HH: Yea.
AS: The problem would go away. So you had some leave, you were posted to fly to Pershel to fly Mosquitos.
H: Yeah. And we were sent on indefinite leave, Pershel sent us on indefinite leave. And I thought, oh God, I’ll be grounded for sure. So, I got on a train and went out to Air Ministry and saw wing commander there and said, look, there is a war going in in the Far East [unclear] aircraft ferried out there, coming back for maintenance or what have ye. And it was a good idea, you know, come back in the morning, will ye? And I got the whole lot posted out to the Far East. Fifteen or eighteen, I think I told you this before, didn’t I?
AS: I think so but we didn’t get in on the tape, I don’t think, no.
HH: No.
AS: I bet you were popular.
HH: Fifteen, oh, I only got the line down there moaning, I just you do it for demob, oh for God’s sake, why the heck do I have to do it for demob any day now.
AS: I bet he kept quiet.
HH: And here I am, [unclear] I kept very quiet. And so, I mean I wasn’t here for demob for some time.
AS: So here we are, Lyneham in July ’45. A huge trip as a passenger on a deck. Thirty two hours flying.
HH: Yeah, back to Karachi, yeah.
AS: So by going, going East, you, did you, before you went, did you see, did you go on any of these trips over, over Germany to see all the destruction?
HH: No.
AS: Ok.
HH: I missed all that.
AS: You’d said earlier that you said a prayer for the people of Hamburg. What, at the end of the war, did you reflect at all on the, or during that, on the bombing? And what were your feelings about being involved in it in the war?
HH: Well, I spoke to our vicar about it, you know, and said, do you think Saint Peter will let me through the gates? No. So he sat and he said a prayer for me. [unclear] vicar of course. Anyway, but I was invited out to Hanover as a guest of the mayor and the local newspaper to commemorate the 60th anniversary of when we bombed them.
AS: And you went?
HH: So I went over, [unclear] I was asked to volunteer and I remember, at the Bomber Command meeting they said, did anybody go to Hanover, I said, well, I did. When I got home, I found out I’d been to Hanover about eleven times and [laughs] so I was well qualified.
AS: And are you pleased you went, was it [unclear]?
HH: They were very, very nice, I like German people.
AS: So do I.
HH: I got two of them coming over now. Here any day now. I think. They stay up at [unclear] castle, cause he’s paraplegic, he can’t get down my steps.
AS: Yeah.
HH: He’s, he had polio when he was a youngster. But they come over by air this time so he couldn’t bring his invalid scooter with him so I don’t know whether he’s gonna hire one when they’re here or not, I don’t know what they’re gonna do to get around.
AS: That should be possible, I think.
HH: Yeah.
AS: And these are friends you made when you went to Hanover?
HH: Yeah. Well, they were both reporters with the Hamburger Allgemeine. And anyway I was, the last day I was there in Hanover I was there for about three or four days, I had to attend a meeting of all the survivors from the raids and all the students from university there and the colleges and [unclear] and a little girl gets up and question time you see and she gets up and says, can you please explain what was the duty of the navigator? But if you ask me a stupid question like that, I’m gonna give you a stupid answer, for sure. So I said, well, the reason why we carried a navigator, cause we had to have someone on board who could read and write [laughs] and their mouths feel open, he went like this, everybody, so I said to my interpreter, I said, tell them, it’s a joke, will ye? Ah, a joke, yeah, we got no such humour in German, we’ve got no sense of humour at all. [unclear] So then, later on someone of the survivors said, why did you bomb the city? So I said, I was perfectly honest, we couldn’t hit anything smaller but just remember this, I said, right in the centre, within half a mile from the centre of Hanover there is the biggest rubber factory in Germany, so it made Hanover a very legitimate target. Yes, this man says, but you didn’t hit it, did you? Cause it’s still there [laughs]. I said, well, and you tried to tell me that the Germans got no sense of humour? [laughs] And then I was on their side from then on.
AS: I’ve lived there for eleven years. I’m with you. I’ve lived there for eleven years.
HH: Have you?
AS: Yeah. They’re great people, great people. I think.
HH: In which part were you?
AS: I was in Munich for five years.
HH: Yeah.
AS: And then Bonn and Cologne, in the Rhineland for about six altogether. Some of the places you visited by air, in fact. That’s the feelings of the Germans. How, there’s been a lot of controversy about how Bomber Command were treated after the war. Have you got any views on that?
HH: Well, I think, first of all, we should never, never have bombed Dresden, I think that was the biggest mistake we made. And Portal should have stood out and said, no! But he didn’t have the guts to do it, he didn’t have the guts to stand up to Churchill and it was Churchill who, on his way to Yalta, he stopped off at Malta, And they decreed to bomb five cities within reach of the Russian lines, you know, and I think Dresden was one and what’s that? And Leipzig and one other I think. Anyway he sent back this signal to Portal saying, from Malta saying, where is my spectacular, get on with it. So, Portal looked at the charts and he consulted the Met people and the only target available that night was Dresden. I didn’t go to Dresden, I went to [unclear], [unclear] that night, you can see it on there, in that book there.
AS: You believe it was, that Dresden was the turning point and that?
HH: Mh?
AS: You believe that Dresden was some sort of turning point?
HH: Yeah.
AS: How Bomber Command were treated?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Did you, do you feel now that it’s changed with the memorials and the clasp?
HH: Yeah, I think so. I think, there was a time just after the war, when the people who were against us were the people who were in the Air Force or in one of the forces and they felt that we were, they didn’t want us to have any publicity, you know.
AS: After the war.
HH: Yeah. And then, and then since then, they suddenly realised that you know, we had the highest losses of any unit in the, our forces, fifty five thousand killed, which is quite a lot, isn’t it?
AS: Yeah. Fifty five thousand, five hundred and seventy three.
HH: Yeah.
AS: And you’ve seen a, well, or you see a change in attitudes now.
HH: Yes, I think, younger people are much more inclined to want to hear about it and talk about it and understand why we did it and there is no good saying, well, we were under orders to do it, let’s ask what the Germans excuses were, you know, for the treatment of the in the concentration camps. We were all under orders.
AS: And you did it because it was right?
HH: Well, we do because we thought we were, cause we were shortening the war and therefore less people would be killed.
AS: Is it, I agree, you say, that now people want to hear about it, is it good for you and other veterans to be able to talk about it after all this time?
HH: It’s getting more and more difficult, there’s so many books have been written on there, now.
AS: And you are actually in one of the books.
HH: Yeah.
AS: Steve Darlow’s book. How did that come about? Did you get involved with him?
HH: I don’t know. He wanted, I think I was recommended by probably Bomber Command, you know, Dougie Radcliffe.
AS: Oh, the Bomber Command association.
HH: Yeah.
AS: Have you always played a big part in there?
HH: No, no, I was mainly in the Pathfinders association.
AS: Oh, ok.
HH: We were separate from, we were separate from the Bomber Command Association, but I’d already joined the Bomber Command Association when we disbanded. I’d already been a member for several years.
AS: And do you belong to your squadron or 102 squadron association as well?
HH: Yeah. Yes, it’s, I met a lad or two, they, when I went to the VJ-Day celebrations
AS: Yes.
HH: We had a form travelling expenses and I got three hundred pounds from the Lottery Fund.
AS: Excellent.
HH: And my son Jeremy, who’d driven me up there and then he got three hundred pounds as well. And I don’t, I hope he hasn’t. So I wrote a letter to the British Lottery and said, thanking them for the, I said, so, twice a year I got to go to, out to Pocklington in Yorkshire, which is rather expensive for me now cause you got virgin cross country you know, right up to York and it’s a long journey up. Is an interesting journey but there’s no, there was a little old lady pushing the trail along, pushing the trolley along, you know, that’s all that you get to east with some coffee and a fruitcake or something.
AS: It’s not the same as a full dining car.
HH: I like the dining cars on, [unclear] up on the 22nd of October I think, coming back on the 23rd, I always travel back down on the dining car which, on a train with a dining car which leaves at seven o’clock in the evening.
AS: Do you still have wartime comrades that you meet in Pocklington?
HH: Oh yes, yeah. Most of them are dead now but
AS: So, a lot of reminiscing and
HH: Yeah. There’s a friend of mine, who was a previous chairman, Tom Wingham, who, he wrote a book called Halifax Down, cause he was shot down on his second tour, and I used to have a copy but I can’t find it now. I don’t know what I have done with it, I loose things all the time now.
AS: I have a copy at home, I can send you one.
HH: Pardon?
AS: I have a copy, I can send you one.
HH: You got a copy of that?
AS: Yeah, I have.
HH: Halifax Down, yes, not a bad book, actually. Except that he joined the squadron the same time as I did, his crew did. And he’s quoted in his book, as if he was there three or four months before me. He’s quoted various trips in all these, out of those world war diaries, wish I could find that. Where did I put it?
AS: You have to take your logbook the next time you meet him.
HH: Oh no, he’s dead now.
AS: Ok.
HH: That’s why I’ve just taken over as chairman.
AS: After you came off ops, you did this trip out to the Far East, did you then get involved in ferrying aeroplanes?
HH: In what?
AS: Did you then get involved in ferrying aeroplanes?
HH: Oh yes, yeah.
AS: Ok.
HH: It’s quite a lot really. My very first trip was down Akyab, on the Arakan coast. I think I told you, didn’t I?
AS: Yes, but not into the details. So, what happened on that trip?
HH: I don’t think that particular trip’s in there, actually, I looked for it the other day but I can’t find it. I must have left it out for some reason.
AS: This was the trip with the Japanese.
HH: Yes, all the way around this were Zeros, you know. We heard them yacketing away and then this Indian crew comes on with their Hurricanes and the Japanese just disappeared.
AS: What was the radio conversation about with these Indian Squadrons, red flight?
HH: Pardon?
AS: What was the radio conversation story about the?
HH: Oh, well, the Indian crews? Yes, red leader to yellow leader, how do you read me, over? Yellow leader to green, you are not red, you are green, you know? Red leader to yellow leader, I am not green, I am red. And this Aussie voice comes up by the blue, you are black, you bastard [laughs].
AS: So, it’s still a combat area that you’re flying replacement aircraft I suppose in [unclear] squadrons?
HH: Yeah.
AS: Did you get involved in flying damaged aircraft for repair?
HH: Oh, I used to fly back from say Kamila or with two Pratt & Whitney’s engines in the back and a load of [unclear] girls as well amongst them [laughs], sitting where they could and trying not to get greasy, cause these, and yeah.
AS: Yea. Shall we, pause there I think?
HH: Yeah.
AS: And wind it up. Thank you that, It was absolutely wonderful to hear.

Collection

Citation

Adam Sutch, “Interview with Harry Hughes,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 16, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11127.

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