Interview with Eddie Humes


Interview with Eddie Humes


Eddie Humes flew as a navigator on Lancasters with 514 Squadron during the war. He chose to join the RAF in May 1939 instead of going to work in the mines. He was initially expected to be posted as a rigger on aircraft but was then sent to a balloon training centre, which didn’t please him very much. After finishing training, he applied for transfer to aircrew, but was posted to a balloon drifter on the Thames and from there, to the East End in London. Then his posting to aircrew came through and so he transferred to St John’s Wood for aircrew training and then to St Andrews and to Manchester, where he trained to be a navigator. Was then posted to RAF Chipping Warden on Wellingtons, RAF Little Snoring and to RAF Waterbeach on 514 Squadron. Remembers his first operation to Biarritz. Gives a vivid and detailed account of when they were shot down in 1944 over Belgium, on the way back home from Aachen, when the port wing was hit. Six members of the crew died in the crash, leaving him the sole survivor, breaking his leg in the landing. He was taken by a Belgian family but, because of his severe injuries, he was handed over to the Germans, who brought him to hospital, where he underwent surgery and spent a long period of convalescence. He then spent the rest of the war being moved from camp to camp, in Belgium, Germany and Poland and was then forced to march hundreds of miles from Poland to Austria, from where he was sent to France and repatriated. After the war, he went into teaching and ended up as a deputy head, until his retirement. He joined the squadron association and together with the association’s secretary, his engineer’s nephew, he went to Belgium to build a memorial to his lost crew.




Temporal Coverage




00:54:55 audio recording


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AHumesEL170826, PHumesEL1701


SP: This is Susanne Pescott and I’m interviewing Eddie Humes today for the International Bomber Command Centre’s Digital Archive. We are at Eddie’s home and it is the 26th of August 2017. So first of all, thank you Eddie for agreeing to talk to me today. So, did you want to tell me about your time before the war?
EH: Well, before the war, I left school at fifteen, with my ‘tric but didn’t follow education through partly because of the circumstances at home, you know. We had a big family and needed workers and employment situation was bad unless you wanted to go in the mines and my parents didn’t want me to go into the mines so we had a little bit of an argument and eventually they agreed to me going to the RAF and the following, follow on is printed in just another story so there’s no point in me going on that. Uhm, I got my wish eventually, I got onto aircrew, that’s in there as well. I joined in on the 3rd of May 1939 and did my basic training, drills and what have you, and then expected to be posted to be a rigger on aircraft but the war was imminent and when we met to be told where we were going, I was told I was going to a balloon squadron and it didn’t please me very much and but the comment from the powers that be was you’re in the Air Force now, you do as you’re told so I was posted to a balloon centre, training centre and stayed there till I passed my exams. And then I joined a squadron where 90% of the people on it were over fifty, they were auxiliaries who at night and that was their choice to be balloon operators, I wasn’t very happy but that was the situation. Finished the training, went to a cricket ground in Leyton, Essex and our billet if you like, put it that way was a tennis hut which housed twelve of us with cold water and nothing else virtually and our balloon was flown from there and I kept asking, could I transfer to aircrew but nobody wanted to know. Fortunately I played football fairly well and on one occasion when we were coming back, I spoke to one of the officers and he said, make another application straight away, so I made another application to transfer to aircrew and they sent me to a drifter on the Thames to fly balloons from a drifter on the Thames which was, again wasn’t very nice, a) it was at the mouth of the Thames and we got the incoming tide, the outcoming tide which, I wasn’t a sailor, it didn’t suit me very much, there were half a dozen airmen and half a dozen old, very old sailors, fishermen and sometimes we got the balloon up before the German fighters came, other times we didn’t and if we didn’t get it up, then we were strafed. Fortunately, I was posted back into the East End of London onto another balloon site, which had few younger people than I was used to previously and it was during the Blitz, there were all sorts of stories but they don’t want. Uhm, and then my posting came through, did I still want to go to aircrew? And I was in, a week I was in St John’s Wood with lots of other people a) who were transferred and b) who had just joined up and we were there for two or three weeks and then posted to St Andrews in Scotland, the university, and we did our training, were billeted overlooking the golf course which was nice and we did our ground training at the university, part of it, this consisted of everything, gunnery, Morse code, astro, everything, and when that was finished again as a result of football I had a leg injury and I, I wasn’t there for the passing out parade sadly but we were then posted to Manchester, which was a holding centre, and at Manchester normally you stayed for two, maybe three weeks and you were posted abroad, you were told what you were going to be, and you were posted abroad. We were told, I was told that, we were on parade, that there was going to be, that I was going to be trained as a navigator, I didn’t mind that even though I’d flown and soloed I didn’t mind that at all but there were some Belgian pilots there who had already flown against the German Air Force and they were reclassified as navigators as well, so they turned off and went down to the Belgian embassy and we never saw them anymore. But we’d been there, dozen of us had been there about getting on twelve weeks and we talked among ourselves and they designated me as the senior airman only because I’d been in the Air Force the longest, to go and see the adjutant and I did that and the adjutant said, ‘You’re not here’. I said, ‘I am here, obviously, and there are a dozen others beside me’, and he made a few enquiries and he said, ‘Right, you better go off home on leave’ and we went on leave and ‘We’ll call for you when we need you’. And about three weeks afterwards we were called back and expected to be posted abroad like everybody else but unfortunately, we were posted to Bridgnorth. And we did the remaining of our ground training at Bridgnorth. And then from Bridgnorth we went, up to this time the only aeroplane we’d seen was Tiger Moths at school in Scotland. And we went from Bridgnorth to Dumfries to do our flying training and there we were in pairs, two trainee navigators to each aeroplane, we flew on Ansons, sometimes in the morning, sometimes during the day, sometimes in the evening, that was quite an experience, and obviously we were putting into practice all that we learned on the ground. Getting near the end, when we were getting near to our examinations, people came in from that’d been trained in Canada and they’re already sporting their brevets and their stripes, commissioned, badges and so on, which didn’t please us very much, and it pleased us less when we were paired up with them to fly and they’d never flown over a darkened city, all their flying had been done over places where there were lights and they had to learn practically all over again at night-time. Anyway, we got over it and obviously satisfied the examiners and got our stripes and so on, went on leave and were posted to Chipping Warden, that’s in Oxfordshire and there we met the Wellington for the first time and met crews, pilots, air gunners, bomb aimers, all the rest of it. And you had a couple of weeks to wander about and get to know people in between lectures and then you were gathered together and you were expected to crew up there, some did, some didn’t but it was voluntary, you weren’t directed to anybody and said you’ve got to fly with him, you’ve got to fly with him, it was voluntary. And then you complete so many hours on Wellingtons, we had pilot, bomb aimer, navigator, wireless operator, rear gunner, five and then at the end of your training, if you passed satisfactory for the officer commander, we went on leave and then you got a posting to your conversion unit and when I got to the conversion unit, it was Lancasters and we were, well, I was surprised because they had radial engines, they didn’t have inline engines but that’s what we were going to fly, Lancaster IIs and the place that we were at was called Little Snoring which is a particularly peculiar name, but we did our further training on there, we picked up another gunner, mid-upper gunner and an engineer, completed the training, posted to Foulsham to join 115 Squadron and when we got to 115 Squadron, we thought 115 Squadron, but we were told, no, you’re not, you’re forming 514 so we were then into 514. We transferred, took aircraft from Foulsham, flew to Waterbeach and we were very happy at Waterbeach because it was a peace time aerodrome and all the buildings were brick, hot and cold water, bathrooms and so on and so on. So then we again, we settled as a crew and had to do all sorts of training until we were called on operations. And on squadron, we were delayed going onto operations because we had to train on a new system called Gee-H, which was navigator’s job and it was something like a television, it had two, what do you call them? Two bars going across in opposite directions and when the, the underlying one, the navigator pressed the bomb, to drop the bombs, uhm that took some time because we had to do high level and low level, we had to practice near Lincoln at high level and near Heeley [?] at low level, but again, we became proficient and that was satisfactory. Our first operation was to, and there is some doubt in here, but it’s verified in the pilot’s logbook, that we went to Biarritz, which is the north of Spain, border of Spain and France and we couldn’t quite believe how easy it was ‘cause there was supposed to be other aircraft there but we didn’t see any other aircraft and we didn’t have any opposition, there was no flak, nothing and when we got to Biarritz, circled round for a bit because we were supposed to wait for other aircraft but they didn’t come so, we bombed and came home. But when we got to the British coast and were heading for home, we were picked up by our own searchlights and directed west and each time we tried to turn and go home, they picked us up again and directed us west again and eventually we landed in Exeter, which was a Polish fighter ‘drome and as we landed, one of the engines packed up, so we were there for a few weeks, a couple of weeks and ordered home, we had a military escort home and when we got home, the rear gunner was getting off the train and somebody kindly helped him with his parachute but they held onto the silver handle and the thing blowed out. Well, we were in trouble when we got back to base, the navigation officer and the commanding officer didn’t like it all and they weren’t ready to believe our story, but eventually after enquiries they found that a Wellington had put out a mayday call and the observer corps had mistaken us for a Wellington and taken us to Exeter, so that was all sorted out. And we just went on, we did four or five to Berlin, Mannheim, Leipzig, but the logbook, I don’t know this, I did ten, the pilot and the rest of the crew did twelve, and I did one with another crew to Mannheim. And then, as I say, we went to Nuremberg, which wasn’t a very pleasant, and then Aachen was the next trip we were to do and the shortest virtually and that’s when we were shot down coming home from Aachen. The port wing was hit first, and then the port engine, port outer engine caught fire and the engineer was adamant that he could put it out but he didn’t for a few minutes and eventually the engine fell out and obviously the aircraft couldn’t fly on, so the skipper told us to abandon aircraft. I got smashed all the navigation instruments and so on, tore up the log and got to the escape hatch, found that it was open and the bomb aimer had done his job, opening the escape hatch, as I went to go through, I noticed that his parachute in the whole day had gone without his parachute he’d gone but his parachute was still there. And as the aircraft was spinning, I tried to get out but I couldn’t, I couldn’t get out with the force, and I pulled my own parachute, that pulled me out of the aircraft and in doing so, it broke, I broke my femur, as I say in the story, on the way down, the only person I wanted was my mother, pray to God that I’ll be alright. I hit the ground and I didn’t hear the aircraft anymore and shortly afterwards there were some foreign voices and I called for help and I called in English of course and they told me to be quiet and they were Belgians and they took me to a house, took me in there, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t see them, couldn’t see the house, couldn’t see what was inside it [unclear] blind, and when I woke up in the morning, there was a group around me and I could only assume they were praying ‘cause they were all voice were monotonous and they brought the doctor, and the doctor looked, he said, I’m sorry, I can’t do anything, you’ll have to go to hospital and the only hospital is a German hospital. So, they called the Germans and he put garden, took wood from the railings in the garden and put a splint on my leg and the Germans came to take me and the lady wouldn’t let them take my, take the, me without the sofa, I had to go on a sofa and this was verified by her daughter, whom I’ll talk about later who was there at the time and she said, my mother wouldn’t let them take you without the sofa. And then, I went to the German hospital, wondering what gonna be in front of me and they were very kind, first meal wasn’t very pleasant but they were very kind and they did the operation, they said, we’ve got to operate, there wasn’t much I could do about it, I couldn’t say no, and I was put, when the operation was completed, I was put into a room, a kind of pleasant room, with French doors and big open window, big frame window, and in traction, no plaster or anything like that, I was just in traction and there was guard inside and a guard outside and when I asked why they were there when I couldn’t walk, I was in traction, they said, it’s to stop the Belgians from coming in and taking you out. So, that was fine for a few weeks, quite enjoyed myself there, didn’t do anything of course, just talked to the German guards who wanted to, didn’t want to speak English, they wanted to speak, they didn’t want to speak German, they wanted to speak English, for when they came to England and they, they ruled England. And then one night I was, flares dropping round everywhere, you could see them out of the window, and within minutes the place would be being bombed and the hospital was very badly damaged. My ceiling came in, the door and the windows came across the cage, fortunately the cage stopped anything from dropping on me and in the morning the surgeon came, he was still in his apron, which was pretty bloody, and he had a scalpel in his hand and I thought, that’s the end for me, but it wasn’t, he was fully apologetic, and it wasn’t the Germans’ fault, it was the Air Force fault for bombing the place. Well, he said, obviously you’ve got to be moved, is not, your leg’s not ready yet to come out of traction so he said, I’ve got to take it off, you can’t be moved as you are, so they took it off, and the way I went in a back of a lorry and the lorry went over a bomb crater and I fell off and broke my leg again. We stopped overnight in a place that was a rest home for German forces and that was just overnight and of course again I had several people come to look at the strange fellow and then I went to Brussels and in the Brussels hospital we were in an annex and there were several aircrew in there, injured aircrew, American, Canadian, there was even one Italian, he wasn’t aircrew, and one Russian, who ill, they’d been put in there and we stayed there for about, I suppose, seven or eight weeks, I’m not sure. And then again, the British forces were coming and the German officer in command came in and said if we would sign a letter to say we’d been well treated, he would leave us there. So, obviously we signed it and the Germans left and on the morning, I’m not sure, the sixth or seventh of September, the British headed into Brussels but just before they came into Brussels, our doors burst open and the SS came in and we said, you know, we got this paper, well, not me, the commander senior officer said, we’ve got this paper and they just tore it up and said, you know, doesn’t mean a thing. And we were put into a bus and headed out of Brussels which was in a state of chaos because they were evacuating Brussels and Brussels, part of it was on fire. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and on the way out of Brussels, we were attacked by RAF fighters and the, there was a wing commander with us, and he took his life in his hand because the two old German guards were old like home guards, they wouldn’t get off the bus, so he tackled them and disarmed them and we got off the bus and went into a pigsty on the side of the road, and whilst we were there, three, three people made the attempt to escape. Now, I know that one of them survived and got back home because he was on our squadron and I know he got home but I don’t know what happened to the other two. And when it was all over, we were put back on board and taken to Holland. We arrived in Venlo and were, the bus was attacked by Dutch people who thought we were Germans and we were taken to a convent, excuse me. The, whoever was in charge put us on the top floor of this convent and when we asked the nuns why we were on the top floor, they said, well, it’s a tall building and maybe no one will notice you’re here. And we were there for three or four days and then one of the Canadian prisoners got a bit furious and he walked out onto the balcony and looking over and people saw him and waved and of course, as it happened, there was the Gestapo down at the bottom and we were quickly shipped off to Dusseldorf in Germany and Dusseldorf was a workers camp, French, Polish, Russians, Italians and we had a couple of brushes with the French people because they were taking the British Red Cross parcels and we were getting the, the rubbish, you know, the French which was not as good as the British ones and they said, well, they were entitled to it because they were working, we weren’t, as NCOs, you didn’t work, only a few volunteered to work, and we didn’t have any problems with other people, the Russians came and helped, they were glad to have a cigarette or a bite of bread or anything that we could give them ‘cause they didn’t get anything, they had to sort out for themselves, and the Germans put the Polish people on guard at the Russian compound and the Russian people on guard at the Polish compound and they weren’t bothered much about the Italians and that, that was alright until we were moved from there and the medical officer, the French medical officer asked me, would I leave my crutches and take a stick, I said, well, I can’t walk, you know, which going back, that had happened in Belgium, in Brussels, the Germans told me to walk, I said, ‘I can’t walk, I’m still in a cage’, so they gave me crutches and said, they took the cage down and said, walk, so I did my best, and the same thing happened in the French camp, they asked me to leave the crutches because they were short and would I walk with the walking stick. Well, being young and stupid I said yes, I managed alright and then we went from there in cattle trucks, yeah, I think was there, yeah, from there in cattle trucks to, no, I’m sorry, we went from Venlo to Dusseldorf in cattle trucks and the cattle truck was divided by a barb wire, sort of fence across the inside of the truck, and the German guards were on one side and eight of us were on the other side, and during the night, there was quite a commotion, one of the German guards had got too close to the fire and his uniform, his overcoat had caught fire, there wasn’t much we could do about it because there was barbed wire between us and his big moan from then on was what is the officer going to say when he arrived in Dusseldorf? Well, we don’t know ‘cause we arrived in Dusseldorf just after a bombing raid. And when we got off the train and on the busses, the people quite rightly were annoyed about the air raid and they tried to attack us but the German guards kept them in their place and we arrived at the interrogation centre where we were put into single rooms and there was no windows in my room, no heater, just a bed with a straw mattress on it and a little signal that if you wanted to go to the toilet, you pushed this signal and a guard would come and take you but we had, they tapped on Morse code between the pipes but I couldn’t read the Morse codes, too quick for me and if your neighbour banged on the wall, that meant that he was going to put his warning down that he wanted to go to the toilet and then you’d put yours down and so you kept the guard running up and down all the time. That was a couple of days there, then we went for interrogation, now we’d been warned back home about the interrogation, what would happen and what wouldn’t happen and so on and the things they told us exactly happened. You got a form [coughs], you got a form to fill in and as I say, what we’ve been told would happen did happen, we were given a form and asked to fill in all the details on the form and you wrote your number, your rank and your name and handed it back [coughs] and they warned you that you hadn’t finished and gave it to you back then and you gave it back to them and this went on a few minutes and then they appeared to get cross, which we’d been warned about really, and a hand went under the table and obviously pressed a button and there was a shot outside and again we’d been warned about that and they said, that’s what happens to the people who don’t cooperate [coughs] and they gave me the form and I gave them back 642170 and he appeared to lose his temper, he didn’t but that was his attitude and he said, ‘As it happens, we know more about your squadron than you do’, and he handed a cap down, he said, the name was inside, Stead, Sergeant Bill Stead and he said, ‘He was on your squadron, wasn’t he?’ Well, I knew damn well he was but I couldn’t say that to him. He said, and the squadron did this and the squadron did that and I just sat there. Eventually he said, ‘You’re a waste of my time, you’re a waste of everybody’s time’ and he called the guard in and I was transferred to another place a few hundred yards away and there we got new uniforms, American uniforms and a case full of good pyjamas, soap, toilet, all the rest, all the things you needed and you had to be careful what you were saying because you didn’t know whether the people in there were planted by the Germans and we’d been there two or three days, we went to our first prison camp, no, not to the first prison camp because we were, those who were injured like me went to a camp near Meiningen in Thuringia and it was an old opera house and there were, I suppose, a hundred or more people in there who’d been injured, different types of injuries and in there was that, Warrant Officer Jackson who got the VC for his efforts, he was in there at the time and you were there until such times as you were transferred to another prison camp and whilst you were there it was quite pleasant because there were concerts and meetings and outside of the camp there was a group of circus performers who practiced every day and that was quite good for us but we didn’t know how they’d evaded being in the army, we never found out and then we were transferred to a camp in Poland and this camp in Poland was fairly new, it hadn’t been open very long and we were given a block number and at the beginning there were six or seven of us in the room but after a few weeks the place had filled up and there were I think twelve in the same room, twelve bunk beds, and I say, we didn’t grumble about, we knew we were there for a while and there was a stove on one wall and in the Red Cross parcels we used to get something called Klim, was a milk spelled backwards and when the tin was empty, we used to put it on the pipe and extend the stove a little bit further and would eventually get it into the middle of the room, so everybody could get warm because of this pipe and then that’s when the Gestapo would come in and smash it all down, start again. And again we had concerts and we had education classes and so on and so on and then Christmas eve ’45, no, ’44, I was shot down ’44, Christmas Eve ’44, we were told to pack our things, we were likely to be moved, and we had a concert that night, there was a Christmas concert, and we had a priest there, we had mass as well, and in the morning, we were told to move, we had to get out, the Russians were advancing and it’s a rule of war that prisoners have got to be moved away from the battle front and so we set off and we walked, the snow was very deep, very deep indeed but we set off for Germany, we were in a place called Kreuzberg, Poland. We set off for Germany and by the time we got to the river which divides Poland and Germany, we picked up children, people had left their children, left them, thinking we’d look after them, but of course we couldn’t but we walked across the river which was frozen to a place called Oppeln and the children were moved away, I don’t know what happened to them, but from then on it was a case of walking, a few nights in a camp, walking, a few nights in a camp until we got to Lamsdorf, which was a, thousands of prisoners in there of all nationalities, thousands and the first room I was put into I wasn’t very happy, they weren’t, they weren’t clean, they weren’t, they weren’t very nice people to be with, let’s put it that way, you didn’t want to live with them after what you’d had in the other prison camps and I asked for a move and I got a move, was to a oh no, I was taken to a camp for interview by the Swedish Red Cross to see whether I was suitable for repatriation but it transpired that I wasn’t bad enough for repatriation so I moved to another camp, which was an army camp, and there were only two or three airmen there, they’d had airmen before but they’d been moved and we were sort of in with the army, we weren’t there very long and then everybody was moved and when the move was mooted, you were told to get yourselves in groups of seven or six, seven or eight, and there was a group of people there who said to me, will you join us? And I said, yes, of course, you know, I’d join anybody, they’d been prisoners since Dunkirk, so they knew the ropes and I said, yes, willingly. They said, well, the thing is, we want somebody to be quartermaster and you are obviously not one who can go and pinch things and take things for your own, so , you’ll be quartermaster and we will keep the things coming in which worked out very well. And we left there, walked down, walked through, I used to walk during the night and sleep in the woods during the day, in case find a source, walk in and think we were German troops, so we walked during the night, slept during the day and ate during the day obviously and then we got a lift on cattle trucks, about forty was in the truck, and we finished up in Prague and when we got off the truck, you were allowed off the truck to use the loo and ladies came like the WVS, German equivalent of the WVS and gave us soup, no, gave us hot water from the engine so that we could make soup and we did that but that wasn’t a good idea because the next day we were all complaining with stomach ache, the water from the engine obviously hadn’t been very clean but we got over it and this was the routine for the next few days on a truck for a while, off a truck walk and we got to Munich and when we got to Munich, there wasn’t room for us at Munich so we stayed the night and set off walking again the next day. And by this time we were in Austria and we were put into a school in Austria but not the original people I was with, about eight of us airmen and a couple of strangers and I think the second night we were there, I went out the morning ‘cause there were no guards, I said, ‘Well, where have the guards gone?’ They weren’t there, young boys actually, they had taken over from the old men, but they’d gone and I saw a lot of people going to church, I asked them, ‘Why are they going to church?’ I said, I was a Catholic and that wasn’t a feast day, as far as I knew. And they said, oh, you don’t know that the war is over. So, I went and told the others, and we walked to a nearby airfield with all the aircraft there was smashed in, they’d been destroyed by the Germans. And the Americans came through and told us to hang on they ‘d be other trucks coming through and they’d bring us food and what have you which they did and then they picked us up and took us to Reims, in France, and there we were grouped and told then aircraft would be flying back in and again with my luck the aircraft that we were going to fly back in, the navigator was missing all the night, and the people I was with, the army people said, well, you’re a navigator aren’t you, I said, ‘Yes, but the pilot might not want me’, anyway they went to the pilot and said, this fellow’s a navigator, and the pilot said, ‘How long was it since you flew?’ I said, ‘Oh, about twelve, thirteen months or so on’, he said, ‘Well, you think you can map read till we get to England?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m sure I can’. So, they gave me the map and off we went. And we got to England and when we got to England they were in wireless contact then and we stopped at a place called, an aerodrome called Wing and there we weren’t very happy, we were taken to a tent and fumigated [laughs], we had puffers put up our sleeves and down our necks and what not and a bit humiliating but there, it had to be done and from there we went home on leave. And at the end of leave, we came back to Cosford and we stayed at Cosford to people like me who were wounded, who had recuperation. And the Japanese war ended, and I remember it well, I was in the swimming pool, and when somebody came in and said, the war in Japan is over, I got out the swimming pool got dressed and went, went to what I thought was home. But, oh, I had a pass to go home, but by a direct route, I couldn’t divert southwards, I had to go northwards and on Woolhampton station, train came in for Liverpool and the next thing I knew I was on the train for Liverpool, I thought, what am I doing here? Well, I’d left a girlfriend who lived near Liverpool but actually in my prison time, I never heard a word from anybody, father, mother, family, friends, no one, it was a bit of a joke when the post came there was nothing for me but I’d moved so many times that nobody had an address and when they wrote it was just passed on and it never caught up with me. Anyway, I got to Liverpool and I thought, well, here it goes, and I went over to my girlfriend’s house, knocked on the door, mother opened the door, she said, ‘What do you want?’ And I said, ‘I’m Eddie.’ ‘Eddie who?’ she said, ‘cause I’d lost, well, about three and a half, four stone in weight and my clothes were pretty, new uniform was pretty hopeless, it was hanging on me, and I was nearly black with the sun being out in the weather all the time and she said, ‘You’d better come in then’, ‘cause she didn’t remember who I was. At roundabout half past five the door opened, Nora came in, looked across the room, saw me and went out again and it transpired it, she had a date for that night but she called to her friend’s to cancel the date and from then on we were together and we married in the September of ’45. And, well, we stayed married for seventy years. And then I was discharged from the Air Force because I wanted to fly and they had so many fliers they didn’t want people who’d been injured, so, they had enough fliers. So I took discharge and went to a special unit where you worked out what you’re going to do afterwards and I made the suggestion that I’d like to be in education but again it came up the question you haven’t got university qualifications and you haven’t been to a training college and so on and so on, however I got over all that, and the education officer said, ‘Why don’t you go a step higher and try for teaching?’ I said, well, you know, as has happened in the past, ‘I might qualify for teaching’, he said, ‘If you’re qualified as a navigator, you’re qualified for teaching’. So, I had a test and passed the test, and I went to a teacher training college, they wanted me to go to, the one year, but I wanted to do a two year and I, I became a teacher. And eventually I spent a couple of terms in the Wirral, near Liverpool and then I came to Worksop taught fifteen year old, fourteen, fifteen, it was the first year I had children had to stay until they were fifteen and I had the first class in this particular school, fourteen, fifteens, they’d all, they weren’t, I’m not being unkind, the majority of them weren’t clever, they hadn’t passed the eleven plus, they hadn’t passed the thirteen plus, but some of them were quite bright, anyway that’s beside the point, and I stayed there for ten years. And then we talked it over and Nora had a good job, we talked it over and it was become quite obvious that I was going to get any further in a secondary school, I was in an all age school, so I decided to transfer to primary school, and we moved to Bishops Stortford in Hertfordshire and I was deputy head there for, I think 1967, ten years, and then I got a headship in Derbyshire, [unclear], and I was head there until 1984, then I retired. Came here. And that’s the story so far. Well, I eventually got in touch with what’s the squadron association and began going to the reunions and I had the wife of the commanding officer wanted to start a museum and she asked all of us who were there and at that time there’d be about eighty, ninety ex-squadron members there, if they had anything that would start the museum and I asked, I said, ‘I haven’t got anything really but I’ve got my prisoner of war identity card, would that be of any use?’ ‘Oh yes’, she said, ‘Let me have it. So, I did. And I suppose a couple of years afterwards, I got a phone call, ‘Please don’t put the phone down, I’m not a double glazing salesman, my name is Clive, you might remember my uncle, Clive Hill.’ I said, ‘I remember him very well, he was my engineer.’ ‘Oh’, he said, ‘Well, can we start from there? My mother has been ill and they have told her that her illness was due to worry about not doing anything about finding what happened to her brother.’ Rightly or wrongly, that’s what they’d said, and he said, ‘I’ve taken over and the Ministry of Defence wouldn’t give me any information about anybody but my uncle, they wouldn’t let me have your information. But I’ve talked to the secretary of the association, squadron association and he has given me your address and phone number, can I talk to you?’ And I said, ‘Yes, of course.’ And she’d gone down to Waterbeach to the museum, to try and find out something about his uncle and he’d given up and as he walked through the door, coming out, he saw this card on the wall and eleventh of April ’44 and he said, that was the night my uncle was shot down. And there was only one aircraft shot down. So, you must be the survivor, he said, I had an inkling there was a survivor, because there’s only six people buried. And, well, from then on, we kept in contact and the then secretary of the association was ill and he wanted to give up and Clive took over and all the information was dumped on his doorstep and he’s been the secretary ever since and he does a fantastic job and of course we’ve kept in touch as families, we’ve been away together, we went to Belgium together, to put the monument up, he went to Belgium to find the spot and as he was looking round, the farmer came up and said, you know, are you from the police, are you looking for somebody? He told him why he was there and of course things blossomed and they gave us the plot to put the memorial on. And we were entertained for the weekend by the local council.
SP: Did you ever meet anyone from the farm after the war?
EH: Oh yes
SP: Who had taken you in?
EH: Yes, the wife of the farmer came to the last reunion and was delighted and so were we. And I met the sister of the family that took me in, but she died. We stayed with her overnight at the time we were putting the monument together, but her brother had died and her parents had died, she was the sole survivor. And we’re still in touch, Clive he, if he can’t arrange a pickup for me on squadron association reunions, then he comes himself, comes from Castle Bromwich, picks me up and takes me and then brings me back again, which is a long journey. So, we are looking forward to next year, which would be the seventy-fifth anniversary of the squadron forming, so hopefully we get there. I think that’s about everything.
SP: Okay, Eddie, well.
EH: I can remember as I’ve been helpful or not.
SP: That’s been very detailed, so thank you very much for your time on behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre. It’s been an
EH: Oh, thank you for putting up with it
SP: Excellent story, lots of details. Thank you very much for that.



Susanne Pescott, “Interview with Eddie Humes,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 28, 2024,

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