Interview with Ronald Huntley

Title

Interview with Ronald Huntley

Description

Ronald Huntley enlisted in the Royal Air Force as a flight mechanic, before volunteering to join Air Sea Rescue. Born in Edmonton, London, he represented his school in athletics at Crystal Palace and witnessed its destruction by fire in 1936. After leaving school in 1937, several different employment roles preceded his enlistment in the Royal Air Force. Initial training was followed by a 16-week flight mechanic course at RAF Cosford. After several postings on various aircraft, he was at RAF Duxford, employed on a modification programme of Typhoon aircraft, when he volunteered for the Air Sea Rescue launches. Following a course on diesel engines at RAF Locking, Ron was posted to Padstow and became part of a rescue launch crew where he was responsible for the engine. All kinds of rescues involving both aircraft and shipping covering the Western Approaches were undertaken. Occasionally, they also attended incidents involving holidaymakers around Cornwall. On the 17th April 1944, a Warwick transport aircraft from 525 Royal Canadian Squadron crashed and Ron’s crew were involved in the retrieval of the bodies along with a lifeboat. They also retrieved large sums of money, and Ron recalls what he experienced and the “hearsay evidence” that evolved. It has also been suggested there was a large amount of gold on board the aircraft. When the war finished, Ron was posted to Northern Ireland where he maintained boats used to shuttle crews out to Sunderland Flying Boats on Lough Erne.

Creator

Date

2017-10-05

Temporal Coverage

Coverage

Language

Type

Format

01:04:51 audio recording

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.

Identifier

AHuntleyR171005, PHuntleyR1702

Transcription

HB: This is an interview for the International Bomber Command Digital Archive on the 5th of October 2017 at 3:15 PM between Harry Bartlett, the interviewer from the International Bomber Command Centre Archive and Mr Ronald Huntley who was a member of the RAF and eventually became a member of the Air Sea Rescue Service of the RAF and all I’d like to do first Ronald is to ask you where were you actually born originally?
RH: I was born in London.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Edmonton in London.
HB: Right. And you went, did you go to school there?
RH: Yes. I went to Crowland Road School.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Not a particularly good pupil. We moved. My parents moved from a flat. Is this on?
HB: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes, it’s —
RH: Moved from a flat in, in Ferndale Road in, just off, just off Stamford Hill.
HB: Yeah.
RH: In London. We moved to Thornton Heath in the Croydon area in 1929 and we moved to Foxley Road, Thornton Heath. I went to school at Winterbourne School in Winterbourne Road in Thornton Heath.
HB: Right.
RH: And then when I was eleven I went on to the Norbury Manor School in Norbury which is just in South London. I ran for the school in 1934 at the Crystal Palace and I was fourth in the hundred yards and I was in the winning relay team. I was at the Streatham ice rink in 1936 and that night in November the Crystal Palace burned down and I was with three of my pals. We raced up the Common, got to the top of Gipsy Hill and tried to get on and the police stopped us and that was the end of, of course Crystal Palace that time.
HB: Yeah. What, what did you, did you study anything particular at, at Secondary School, Ron?
RH: No. I didn’t. I failed to get a scholarship. I left school at fourteen. I, my, if you will my first job was with a wholesaler in the Crescent which was right opposite St. Paul's Cathedral.
HB: Oh right.
RH: Right opposite.
HB: Yeah.
RH: I worked on the third floor in gent’s material lengths for suitings. Customers used to come up there. Unfortunately, I had a habit of whistling and I was told off many times for whistling and in the finish, believe it or not after three months I got the sack for whistling. You couldn't do that today of course but there you are. I did. That’s it.
HB: So, so you so from —
RH: This was, this would be 1937.
HB: Yes. Working in, working in a gent’s suit.
RH: I went to an advertising agency in Queen Anne‘s Gate run by a one man business. Very good customers. Overlooking St James’s Park.
HB: Yeah.
RH: I think he was an engineer. I did some engineering work with him because he, he’d in fact started the business on a thousand pounds he’d won for making a bomb release for the Bristol Bulldog in the First World War.
HB: He made a —?
RH: A bomb release.
HB: Oh right.
RH: For the Bristol Bulldog.
HB: Yeah.
RH: His name was Morgan. Anyway, come the, come the start of the war of course advertising went down the drain and that’s when I went in and I did one or two odd jobs then because I hadn’t, I was obviously [unclear] and then I took a Government Training Centre course at [Whaddon]. I think it lasted nine months. And then from there I was posted to Chobham. This is Fairoaks Aerodrome in Chobham as an improver I suppose you’d say. I learned various things there about the Tiger Moth. How to swing a prop without getting your fingers chopped off. But mainly it was concerned with Blenheims that were coming in and landing flat. Undercarriages giving way and that and they we were doing body repairs. I was then put on nights and that really destroyed me because you were working six days a week in those days and I only had one day at home which was Saturday night. So I left on Friday morning as it were or Saturday morning when it finished I’d go home and you’d have to have a kip and then you’d, and then you’d got to go back for Sunday. Well, this lasted about three months before I said to myself, ‘I've had enough of this. I’m going.’ I said to the foreman, a fellow called Tommy [Glynn] and he came from Limerick. This shows you how the memory plays you. I said, ‘Tommy, I'm going to pack up this job. I’m fed up with this. I'm not going to keep working nights.’ And that’s when he told me, ‘Well, you’ve taken a Government Training Centre course. They will dictate where you go. You may finish up even worse off. The only way you’ve got out is to join the Services.’ The next morning I put my suit on, went back into Croydon, into George Street where the Recruitment Centre was and joined the RAF and that was in February I actually went there. But I failed believe it or not to go in there for the course. I failed to get as a mechanic. I could get in the Air Force but I couldn’t get as a flight mechanic. I failed on the bloody fractions and decimals. So I spent the time learning fractions and decimals and in July I went back and funnily enough saw the same flight sergeant at the desk. He didn’t know it was the same, he asked me. I said I’d been before. He said, ‘Who saw you?’ I said, ‘You did.’ Anyway, I passed all the exams that day and he said, ‘You’re in.’ And you know and I went in and that was almost within a week.
HB: That’s good.
RH: And that’s, that’s when I, from there I went to Cardington. Four days. Kitted out. Short cut. Short back and sides. I then went to, then was posted to Skegness and there was about three hundred or so of us on the train going to Skegness. We came off on what was a wooden station platform with all the, with all the PTI, you know the PT blokes all in their white jumpers looking as fit as a fiddle and I remember one was standing there about six foot two. He had a crooked nose and I thought, I just thought to myself I hope to God I don't get him and sods law being what it is who did I get but this fellow. A fellow called Tommy Rellington. Turned out to be a professional boxer.
HB: Oh right.
RH: And he was the nicest chap you could wish to meet.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And he fought Freddie Mills while I was there.
HB: Oh, did he?
RH: Yeah.
HB: Right.
RH: I was there six weeks. [unclear] then. And that's when I was, I was then posted to Cosford. I was at Cosford for sixteen weeks on a, on a flight mechanics course and then I was posted to Northern Ireland. Eglinton Station, Northern Ireland on a Spitfire squadron that was doing Western Approaches patrols for the shipping coming in. I don't know how quite I was there but one morning the squadron was told, ‘You’re moving. Lock stock and barrel.’
HB: Was that a temporary base that one?
RH: Yeah. Yeah.
HB: Eglinton.
RH: Yeah. I’ve got a friend who goes to Limavady who, and he knew of Eglinton straight away.
HB: Yeah. Right. Yeah.
RH: Yeah. It’s quite close to Limavady there but it was also RAF.
HB: Right.
RH: Moved. The whole squadron was posted down to Baginton. It took us fourteen hours on the train to get down. The whole station came down. The planes came in after we were there. Nobody really seemed to know why we were there but we were there. And then it turned out that we were all going to be kitted out and we were going overseas. We were given a fortnight’s leave, overseas leave before we went and funnily enough I was told along with a few others, ‘You’re surplus to requirements for the station. You’re new to the station anyway. You’re surplus to it. Don’t need it. You're going to be posted.’ And then I was posted. From there I was posted to Larkhill which is Army coop and the aircraft there were Tiger Moths, Taylorcraft, Piper Cubs and a couple of Lysanders and that was flying normally dawn ‘til dusk. The idea was that they were taking flight lieutenant second, second lieutenants up to do a twelve week course and they were flying all these to learn for gunnery so that the gunners could spot for gunners. The flying actually had to be done at four hundred feet and they were good. The practicing was done above that but that was the ultimate when they were out actually on the field was supposed to be four hundred feet which was in, within rifle range now, wasn’t it? Anyhow, a dangerous job in the long run. Those fellows were learning to fly so it was dawn to dusk. And from there not only did I do the servicing in that outside as it were doing normal daily inspections but I was also put in the workshops to do complete overhauls as well.
HB: Oh right.
RH: So I was doing both at that stage and then the squadron did a total move from what was a made up station down to Old Sarum which was a permanent base at that stage.
HB: Yeah.
RH: They flew from there for, I can’t remember the dates but we flew from there and then I was posted from there out of the blue. ‘You’re posted again. You’re going to Duxford.’ And I was posted to Duxford for one simple reason that I found out afterwards that these, the Typhoons that were there at the time had been made a permanent squadron, operational squadron and then it was dropped from operational level because of the number of mods it needed. So a number of reps were sent there. Not a number of reps, a number of fitters were sent there with the sole idea of doing these modifications.
HB: And that was modifications to the Typhoons.
RH: Yeah. Modifications on the Typhoons.
HB: Yeah.
RH: There was a book full of them and they were in sandbag bays dispersed, tied down and everything but they had, because of the weather and the coldness they had to be run up every four hours. So you’d work a day and may have to work four hours in to the night every four hours, something like. And you had to do, you had to do about five or six of these and get, if you wanted a cup of tea you’d got to them fairly quickly because you were going to stand up to a level in the oil, then strap it all back and then run the service to get it to the next dispersal point and do them and if you wanted a cup of tea you got to do it in three and a half hours roughly. Go back to the hut, get a cup of tea and start all over again.
HB: Right.
RH: I came off one, off one Saturday night or a Sunday morning and I went over to the DROs to look for the daily, daily report, orders to see what was on before I went to breakfast. Not a thing I normally did funnily enough. But on this it was got that they wanted fitters for air sea rescue launches. And somehow or other I suppose because I was fed up with the nights again all going I just said I’m going to have a go at that with my pal and we both volunteered. We went in to the chiefy and said we wanted to go and within a week I was posted to Locking, Super Mare. Down at Super Mare on a course on diesel for, because some of the boats had diesel on.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: I was posted there.
HB: That was at Locking. Weston.
RH: Locking. At Weston Super Mare.
HB: Weston Super Mare. Yeah.
RH: And I did a nine week course there and then I was posted to Padstow in Cornwall to take over.
HB: Were you with your pal all that time while you were doing your training —
RH: No. My pal went somewhere else.
HB: He went somewhere else.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Yeah.
RH: No. I did my own [pupilship]. I then went, I then went from there to Padstow. The first launch I was on was a sixty foot Pinus. It had three Perkins diesels. P6 Perkins diesels in. The boat number was 12341234 it was called. It also had a long mast on it which was like the leigh, leigh lights on a plane. From St Eval they went out and on this, this tall light that was standard that we had on the boat they were coming in and locking on it and dropping lights on it or dropping their bombs on it for doing bombing submarines when they were sufficient.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
RH: And this thing ran for twelve weeks continually, twenty three and a half hours a day every day outside Padstow on about a six seven mile run each way at about a twelve knot speed for twelve weeks while they practiced.
HB: Which aircraft? What aircraft were they then there Ron?
RH: Well, anything that they always sent out. Anything they sent out. Yeah. Anybody that was learning to bomb. They would be Liberators. They would be Whitleys or anything like that you know. All sorts of aircraft they sent out. I know that. And this boat went up and down, came in, refuelled, got a couple aboard and out it went again with another crew of course.
HB: Right.
RH: And that —
HB: So that, so that would, twenty three and a half hours that would be daylight, night.
RH: Yeah, oh yeah.
HB: What? All weather conditions.
RH: Yeah. All weather conditions. Mines out there. Many times we sunk mines out there. Get the rifles out and sink the mines. I’ve been within fifteen feet of a mine on a boat when, and you know, you know. But that’s a risk you take.
HB: Yeah.
RH: From there we picked up, we picked up quite a few and then I had another launcher after that. 2641 which is that launcher up in the photograph. That was, that’s a Thornycroft. It had two RY12 Thornycroft six hundred and fifty horsepower engines in that. Top speed of only about twenty seven knots but it was a different kind of boat altogether. It was faster and shaped better. Could shine better. On that we picked up a lot of people.
HB: Yeah.
RH: The Warwick went down. The Warwick cruiser, the Warwick went down and there were fifty, reported, fifty five on one boat extras. Liberty ships go down there.
HB: Did you, did you go out to the Warwick?
RH: Yeah. Well, it was only about six mile out. It was torpedoed.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Yeah.
HB: And you brought survivors back did you?
RH: In boats. Yes. Yeah. Exactly.
HB: Yeah.
RH: They had to beach one of the boats. They couldn’t get out to the, on to buoy. They had to beach it to get it up and they jumped off it. Yeah. And then a Liberty ship went down. On that we picked up six, five cartons of all sealed and everything. Turned out it had all their cigarettes in it.
HB: Oh right.
RH: There was ten thousand cigarettes in each pack. Fifty thousand fags and the skipper wouldn’t let us pick them any more but the Navy were running around picking them up as fast as they could.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Anyway, the skipper sold them at a penny a packet to the base. You know, on the base.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And for the money we invited some WAAFs down from St Eval for a party one Saturday night. That was when they went. The incident that really sent us out there was in February, February the 15th, the day after [pause] what’s the 14th? Yeah. Somebody’s day, isn’t it? Anyway, the 15th of February 1944 and we picked up the crew and nine men in three dinghies and they turned out it was an American crew. Flight Wing 7 of the American flew out of Dunkeswell near Honiton, had done Biscay patrol, got shot down about fifty miles off Brest by two JU88s a line astern coming at them. Remember all aircraft had, the aircraft, on a Liberator only had .3s. The Germans on their 88s had 5s and [unclear] So you had to get within a thousand yards to even be able to hit them never mind see them and they could fire from far away. The story which is in that book, the fella who tells the story they were sure they’d hit the first plane. Right. But they were hit themselves and eventually of course outer engine went, another engine went. They were throwing everything over the side that they could to keep it afloat. Eventually we had to ditch and luckily of course the two wireless operators aboard were giving out SOSs and the Americans made a big effort to get them. Sent out a lot of their own planes, their own stuff to get them. Right.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: And we, we’d been out the night before knowing that there was, there was a call but we couldn’t find them and it went dark and you had to pack it in. And we waited all the following morning. Everybody was on edge because we knew they were going to get called. And we were called out to it and this time with aircraft support you were bound to hit it. On your own you’re doing mile, square mile searches and there’s every chance you could sit out, you could be within a hundred yards of them and because of the swell you wouldn’t see them. You’d have everyone aboard looking but there’s no guarantee. And with wind and drift there’s no certainty that you were even going to get to it.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Because the position you were told would probably come out an hour or two before. Could be three or four hours before. You don’t know. If you’ve got aircraft that’s it. An aircraft would come over. We’ve had it. I’ve had it where we’re going one way and an aircraft comes over, dips over the top of it, goes away, dips again, comes back and does the same thing. And the skipper would just say, ‘Sod where we’re going. Go there.’ And there’s where the bloke is. He could see him. We couldn’t.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: Well, on this particular day we went out and of course we went to the place because the aircraft were there. Picked up nine people and when they’ve been in the water twenty four hours I’ll tell you it’s, they’re heavy and they are absolutely dead from the stomach down because they’d been sitting in water all night. It’s a hard job and everybody is involved fitters or not, you’re all involved in trying to pull them on board and you’ve got to hang on because if you let go you’re both going to go. And you’re both going to finish up in the —[laughs]
HB: Yeah.
RH: Anyway, we got them all on board. Found out one was dead and they knew he was dead. But the medical officer didn’t know that they knew because he left him showing and I actually, I said to George, George Hardy who was the medic aboard, I said, ‘What about him George?’ And he said to me, ‘He’s dead. I’ve left him like that deliberately not to upset the rest of the crew.’ But the rest of the crew in fact they kept him aboard knowing he was dead so that he would be buried at home.
HB: Right.
RH: It was eight we picked up. Put them on the, on the, when we went to Padstow. Four of them walked off believe it or not. After all that time they just walked off. One or two had bad injuries or injuries to legs and so and then two were met by the senior medical officer from St Merryn at that stage. St Merryn which was a Naval base. And they went and that was the end of that and I knew no more about that until well into the ‘80s and I, I’d got another photograph of another job and I said to them, I got in touch with a detective inspector called Derek Fowkes who was very keen on aircraft and knew pretty well every action that had happened in Cornwall. But he was walking around the lifeboat station at Newquay one day and he saw their things. All their different rescues and so forth they’d been on and he looked at this particular one in 1944 and he said, ‘What’s that?’ And a bloke called Henwood, who was, who was the engineer aboard that said, ‘Well, that’s what, that’s the “Gold Plane.”’ And if you listen to his talk on the BBC he says, “Gold Plane.” That had a, that had a [unclear] there must be a story there somewhere.’ And for the next sixteen years he followed it up.
HB: Can I just stop you there a minute Ron?
RH: Yeah.
HB: You know the American plane that crashed?
RH: Yeah.
HB: They were —
RH: Yeah.
HB: They’d done, they’d done, the Liberator had done the Biscay run. They [pause] now you, you caught up with them again didn’t you to get the article?
RH: Yeah.
HB: Did you actually go to America to visit them?
RH: Yeah.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Well, if I can.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. So, so the booklet that we’re going to copy was the, the fact that they all got home. Did they actually ditch in the sea?
RH: Yeah.
HB: They actually ditched the plane.
RH: The plane. Yeah.
HB: And they all managed to get out.
RH: In fact, I’ve got a letter. A letter of commendation from their own people.
HB: Yes. Yes.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Yes.
RH: The way they ditched it tells you how they ditched.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Yes. Vertical to the, to the wave.
HB: Yeah.
RH: It’s, it’s a very difficult thing to ditch a plane properly and you could ditch it properly and it come wrong. That plane, the reason there was only nine is that there was eleven on board. The two that died never got out with the two operators and if you know a Liberator at all they’re underneath the bottom they’re underneath the pilot and everything else and the thing split.
HB: Oh right.
RH: And of course they would either be drowned or they wouldn’t get out.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
RH: So out of the eleven two were drowned.
HB: That’s a shame. That’s a shame.
RH: Yeah. One died.
HB: Yeah.
RH: From injuries. Then they kept on. They got him in the dinghy, kept him in the dinghy and he died in the dinghy. Eight got out.
HB: Yeah. So you’re, on you’re the boat that you were on that time which was two —
RH: The Thornycroft.
HB: The Thornycroft.
RH: 2641.
HB: Yeah. What, what was the crew on, on that boat that you were on? How many were there of you?
RH: Ten, I think. The skipper. There would be First Class Coxswain, Second Class Coxswain, three MBCs, a radio operator, a medic and two fitters.
HB: Right. MBCs?
RH: Motorboat crew.
HB: Motorboat crew. Right.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Right. So that’s so, so you’re fetching nine back albeit one of them has unfortunately died.
RH: Yeah.
HB: But you’ve got eight guys in there.
RH: Yeah.
HB: You’re bringing them back from six miles away.
RH: Yeah.
HB: And then —
RH: It was more than six.
HB: Yeah. Oh, sorry. Oh.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Sorry, I thought —
RH: Yeah.
HB: It was about six miles.
RH: No. No.
HB: But further than that.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Right. Right.
RH: Yeah. It took us an hour to get back I think.
HB: Yeah.
RH: So at twenty seven knots we wouldn’t have been doing full whack. It would be twenty five miles. Twenty mile anyway.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Right. So moving on to the “Gold Plane.”
RH: Well, this, this Derek Fowkes found anomalies in it. I mean the first —
HB: As in the report of the crash.
RH: Yes. That’s right.
HB: Yeah.
RH: The anomalies starts with the fact that St Eval told him to bugger off as it were.
HB: Right.
RH: Three times he rang St Eval and they only logged it once and they didn’t do anything with the logging. That’s the point. It was reported the following morning as I said to you earlier by, by a manager of one of the hotels ringing the lifeboat station and saying, ‘There’s wreckage out there.’
HB: Yeah. This was from somebody seeing —
RH: Wreckage.
HB: An explosion at 1 o’clock in the morning.
RH: Yes, that’s what, he was a sergeant in the Home Guard [the secretary] was.
HB: Yeah.
RH: He was on the film as a matter of fact.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Yeah.
HB: And that and that and he he rang in three times and it was only on the third one they actually recorded it.
RH: Recorded it but they didn’t do anything about it.
HB: Right.
RH: Didn’t report it anybody.
HB: No.
RH: So the first time anybody saw anything was when this manager saw it from the hotel and he rang the lifeboat and the lifeboat went out at twenty to ten.
HB: Yeah.
RH: I couldn’t tell you what time ours was but ours was something about 12 o’clock I suppose because the lifeboat had already picked up, I think eleven when we got there.
HB: Yeah.
RH: It looked like an abattoir.
HB: Yeah.
RH: I mean it was, they’d dropped the sides so the bodies the blood and everything was about. It really looked —
HB: Yeah.
RH: A real mess. And then we found the skipper dived to try and get the fellow over the side that was attached to a wheel which was floating. Couldn’t get him out and the lifeboat eventually towed that in.
HB: Yeah.
RH: They put a rope on it and tied it in. We left it. We couldn’t do anything and we were in touch with the Walrus. The Walrus told us to go further out and that was when we found two bodies. Both of course dead. A couple of under arm briefcases, jackets, a couple of jackets. You know, officer’s jackets and suitcases and on opening them up we found out that the officer’s one was going to Alexandria over with penicillin we reported in the thing and that was new in those days. And the other one was going to Yugoslavia as far as we could see. Certainly, he was he was Yugoslavian. He was going there. Everything pointed to that. And they were both senior officers.
HB: So, so the one that was going to Yugoslavia. Is he the one that had some money on him? Had the suitcase of money.
RH: No. No. No, that was the suit, no the suitcases were picked up and nobody knew where they came from.
HB: Right.
RH: The money that was picked up there was a body belt picked up by the motorboat, by the lifeboat which had seventy thousand dollars in.
HB: Right.
RH: In hundred dollar bills and as you know it was four dollars to the pound in those days.
HB: Yeah.
RH: So it was about eighteen thousand quid roughly. We opened ours. We opened up the suitcases on the way back and found that we’d got forty five at a rough quick count. We’d got the old five pound notes in the white in fifties.
HB: Wow.
RH: And somebody added them up and said, ‘There’s about forty five thousand quid there.’ We had, remember the harbour master was still aboard from the Navy, and the petty officer and five of us. I swear to this day if the harbour master had been in charge of the boat instead of our fellow nobody would have seen that money but us. But the skipper we had was a regular in the Air Force. He was only a second lieutenant. No. A pilot [pause] what’s the —
HB: Pilot officer.
RH: Pilot officer. Up from a pilot, pilot, a flight lieutenant. First, first rank up from that in the rank in the RAF.
HB: Flight lieutenant.
RH: Flight lieutenant. But he was a regular.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And he was as honest as the day is long and then he thought that was out of it altogether and we took it back, put it in, put it to the senior medical officer I think it was for St Merryn that came to meet the crew. Of course there was no use picking them up in the early days. Gave all the stuff over to them. Four of them walked off the boat. The rest were taken off and from that point on although that was the talking point of the base for a couple of days because of the money.
HB: Yeah.
RH: It died a death.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Because there were other things going on.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: And other boats picking up other people. And I didn’t hear anything about it. I rang Fowkes over something or other and I can’t think what but something else turned up and I rang him and said, ‘I understand you know about this.’ And he said yes, yes and he starts to talk about the “Gold Plane.” And I said, ‘What is the “Gold Plane” you’re talking about?’ And he said, ‘Well, this was a plane that went down. This was, I think it was on 27th of April 1944’ and I said ‘The one, the one that they had the armament at the back?’ He said, ‘That’s right.’ I said, ‘Well, I was on the rescue boat. I was on 2641 when it went.’ ‘Were you?’ He said, ‘I didn’t know anybody that, other than the Navy bloke.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ So, of course, I then got in touch with then his story comes up he spent sixteen years of his life that’s, that was put down by the Air Force as an explosion from the engine. He said, ‘I think that was an explosion. I think that boat was sabotaged.’ The story runs that the air commodore in charge of St Merryn, no, St Mawgan told his wife that was by sabotage but not by the enemy. That plane went out —
[pause]
And he looked then to say, ‘Who was on that boat? Who was, who was on the plane? And on the plane were twelve people that he can write off. Right. In itself. Two were people that were suspicious but two were French and one was, it turned out he found out had been in touch with the Cagoule which was a Nazi operation in France and he was suspicious of both of them and he followed those up. He also found that they’d put twelve people down and fifteen of them down. Sixteen people. Twelve of the crew. Twelve visitors, four in the crew. Sixteen altogether on that plane that went down. They got fifteen of them and one was listed, put down as, “An unknown seaman for 1944 found at sea.” And he said, ‘That fella’s the pilot.’ Now, how the hell anybody argues about it I don’t know because first he had a Canadian uniform on. Secondly there was a watch on with the time of 1.30 on it. But they put him down as a seaman. So he said, ‘I want him exhumed.’ And of course being, he was told he couldn’t do it. He said, ‘Well, being a police officer I know there are ways to do things you know that you know isn’t being out of the law.’ And he got permission to do it on the strength of it. If it was wrong he would have to pay. If it was right they would pay and he brought two group captains down and authorities to the blah blah you know the different names they use for these to test it and they took his bones, put it together and said that’s him. That is the fella. I forget his name now but he, anyway, he was the pilot and the pilot was Canadian and he’d been to Canada, fortunately been to Canada. Seen the parents, seen the, seen his brother, seen the only Canadian left that had been on the report that they put through the inquest that they had. Saw him as well and both of these were very well you know I didn’t put anything down there that I wasn’t told to put down. I put down what I thought. Only what they somebody wanted me to put down. This was an RAF captain. They put all that down and as far as he was concerned he said that was sabotage. And then he made I think what was a lot of people said was a mistake he said that that it was easy enough to put something through the, under the pilot to blow it up because the pilot took a package up on that was only from the pilot. That could only have been put on by the pilot alone. If you listen to anything else they’ll tell you everything that was on the plane was logged.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Before they went on. Everything.
HB: Yeah.
RH: This wasn’t about me.
HB: Yeah. Right.
RH: So this put the suspicion and he’s relying really not on the legal law but on civil law possibilities. Probabilities. You know. And he never knew what I found out afterwards unfortunately for him but after it was all over I said to my son in law especially when I’d got the film and seen it all I said to my son in law, ‘You go. I’ve been to Kew. You go down. You go through your Archives. See whether you can find anything.’ He’s a great one for doing. He didn’t start with the RAF which is where you’d expect him to start. He started with the BBC programme. I don’t remember but in the late ‘90s the BBC said, ‘Anybody that’s got a story tell us. We’re looking out for —’ And he went there and he found a short letter which I have from a woman called Hazeldene, [unclear] Hazeldene, which said that her father going down he was he was a major in the Army. He was, he was evacuated before Dunkirk back home with an injury. He finished up at Baker Street in MI6 and she said he went down to Cornwall to put some gold on the plane. Nothing more than that. But that letter. Who’s the fellow’s name? So now I’ve got a four page note now of the whole fellas, he was, he went down. He said he went down in May. That’s just when the only bit’s that’s wrong, he went down in April. He went down in April. He got the date wrong. That’s all. He went, the gold was put on the plane. This was all that was in that. He went to the plane. He actually said, ‘I got to the plane and as I got there I was told, ‘You’re not going tonight. Taking off to go another night.’ He said, ‘They took the gold off.’ And that plane crashed. The following night he goes down he goes right around and that gold finished up at Foggio in Italy on an American station and he came back from there. Now, Fowkes never knew that, that there was gold but every bloody, every fisherman in Cornwall near enough certainly along that coast went out trying to find gold.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And to this day they believe there is gold there.
HB: Yeah.
RH: The other thing is a salvage vessel, the RAF salvage vessel is too large for anywhere else but Ilfracombe. If a plane went down in the war nobody ever bothered to go down and look for it but that boat was brought down for four days down, run out to find out, put out to sea at exactly the same spot. A diver went down. When that diver came up he was searched. And that went on for four days. They never found anything to do with the plane. They found other, other planes. They found a B27 or something that had gone down there before but they never found anything else and that lasted for four days and that’s suspicious in itself. What was there that they thought. This, of course, only made the fishermen think there has got to be gold there.
HB: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So, look, just remind me Ron when you were telling me earlier on what squadron was that? That plane from? The “Gold Plane.”
RH: 525.
HB: 525 Squadron.
RH: 525. Yeah.
HB: And then what kind of plane was it?
RH: It was a Warwick.
HB: A Warwick.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Oh right. Yeah. The Warwick. Yeah. A transport plane.
RH: Which wasn’t a particularly well thought of plane.
HB: No. No.
RH: Twin engine.
HB: Yeah. And that was, that was from a, was that a Canadian squadron? Or a —
RH: It was a Canadian squadron, Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Yeah and it was —
RH: 525.
HB: The bulk of the crew would be Canadian.
RH: It was RAF transport.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Transport Command.
RH: Yeah.
HB: And there was sixteen.
RH: April 17th 1944.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And one Warwick. 525 Squadron based at Lyneham.
HB: Yeah. And that was one of the stories the BBC did a film on.
RH: Yeah. They were, they called it the “Gold Plane.”
HB: The “Gold Plane.” Yeah.
RH: It was shown in late, late ‘49 err late ‘99 and in 2002.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And I’ve got a copy of the film. Well, I had two copies. One of them is with Leach.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Who is down there. That fella.
HB: Yeah. So that, yeah that’s interesting that. If you, so the two bodies you brought back were part of the group that the lifeboat had got.
RH: No. We were, they brought back eleven. Two more were found. We found two.
HB: Oh right, sorry. Yeah. I missed that bit. Sorry.
RH: Yeah.
HB: I do apologise.
RH: That’s alright. The lifeboat had got eleven when we go there and twelve of course with the chap that they towed in. Two more were picked up. Out of the sixteen only two were left and we picked up those two.
HB: Right. Yeah.
RH: One was put down as an unknown seaman.
HB: And it’s only after I presume well that would be well after the war wouldn’t it?
RH: Oh yeah.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: But he was, he was buried with honours.
HB: Yeah.
RH: After they’d exhumed him and they knew who he was. He was buried with honours and his brother came over from Canada to it and they had the old guns out and everything.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Oh yeah.
HB: So that and that was the work of this, this —
RH: Derek Fowkes. Yeah.
HB: Yeah. This Derek Fowkes.
RH: This detective inspector. Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Oh that’s —
RH: If nothing else he did that.
HB: Yeah. That’s absolutely brilliant.
RH: Yeah. But there was a report by a fellow called Nesbitt.
HB: Right.
RH: Who’s fairly well known apparently in the historical circles and he ridicules the story totally.
HB: Oh right.
RH: Nesbitt. Yeah.
HB: So we’ve got an American crew that you’ve rescued. They’ve lost two. They’ve lost three guys. You’ve got the “Gold Plane.” It sounds like Padstow was a bit of a, a bit of a centre of activity Ron.
RH: Well, in itself it was but of course compared with some stations it wasn’t.
HB: Yeah.
RH: You know, compared with the east coast.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Or Dover you know.
HB: So the, so the bulk of your work from Padstow was Coastal Command, Western Approaches.
RH: Yeah. Well bearing in mind there’s another station at Newlyn.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Okay. And there’s also a station further north up the coast. Where would it be? Before Fleetwood. Somewhere there. Up the coast a bit. Altogether there was three hundred rescue bases over the whole world when we finished.
HB: Yeah.
RH: There was about forty, about forty odd around England.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: Well, we were forty four.
HB: Yeah, and, and so in the main, in the main you really did turn your hand to anything then.
RH: Yeah. We picked up civilians sometimes.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Some silly bugger on holiday goes out in trouble.
HB: During the war.
RH: Yeah. Yeah.
HB: No.
RH: Well, of course it’s a, it’s a holiday spot. Cornwall.
HB: Well —
RH: The beaches are beautiful, you know.
HB: Yeah.
RH: I mean, you imagine, not now if you go, of course, there’s always something but in those days you’d walk across that beach, beautiful sand and nobody about.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Beautiful.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Rather like South Africa. My son’s out there and I’ve been out there. Rather like that.
HB: Oh lovely.
RH: Yeah.
HB: So you so this is all I mean this would be around about 1944ish.
RH: ’44.
HB: ’44. So did you see your time out there, Ron? Or did you —
RH: No.
HB: Did you move on?
RH: Well, this was [pause] when the war was over, 1945 say, you know, late ’45 and they decided that the rescue boat base they only needed one rescue boat base at the most. In fact, they were going to close it. It closed in ’46. But at that time they wanted, they wanted to get rid of everybody. They were, you know basically —
HB: Yeah.
RH: And I was posted to Castle Archdale in Northern Ireland because they needed a [unclear] to take the crews out and service the aircraft that was in the loch, which was Sunderlands.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. And that’s Loch —?
RH: Lough Erne.
HB: Lough Erne.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: The incident there was the dinghy. The little dinghy. We used to go out and pick up, take the [unclear], out to the pilots and the crews, you know, there were fitters and so on, to the boats and then bring them back and the dinghy was only supposed to take about ten or eight or something like that you know. You’d go out two or three times to it. And one night it comes in about half past four, 5 o’clock in to this jetty where it was and the jetty sort of stopped there and all this was long reeds floating out of the water.
HB: Oh right.
RH: You know.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And this boat came around and too many had jumped on it and it did the turn and they kept buggering about. Turned the boat over and nine were dead before and they never got back to base.
HB: Oh dear.
RH: And then you’re talking of something that’s no more than two hundred yards away from you. Coming around there coming in to the [pause], yeah.
HB: Oh well. That’s nasty.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Yeah.
RH: I had a funny incident there as well. They took a boat down to Killadeas which is at the bottom end of the loch, also a RAF station. They’d taken a boat down there sometime in the fog. It couldn’t get back. They had an overnight crew there like everywhere, you know and I was on crew that night. This was at, I don’t know, 7 o’clock. Something like that. I can’t. I can’t tell the time because I can’t place the, where it was in the, in the January to December but we went down there and as a fitter, you know its nothing to do with you, you know. That’s about crew stuff. And one of the fellas said, ‘Well, I’ll take it down.’ He said. He was going down. I said, ‘Well, I’ll come with you if you like.’ You know, it was something to do. ‘Yeah. Okay.’ What I didn’t know is that he didn’t know that there were buoys put out deliberately to show the boats where to go because of the rocks.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
RH: We’re going out there as large as bloody life. Been going, I don’t know how long. Bang it goes. We hit a bloody rock. Of course, the boat’s shuddering. Water is coming in at the back. Of course, the props had been pushed through the bottom of the boat, you know. The rudder, you know. Propeller. I get out, I get the floorboard up to examine it and I can say in the mist we could see an island. ‘Make for there.’ And we came across a little buoy. You know a little buoy.
BH: Yeah.
RH: Not a big thing but a little. Bob wanted to stop there. I said, ‘Not on your bloody life, mate.’ You know, because you don’t know how long. I mean it is going dark and you think —
HB: Yeah.
RH: You couldn’t stay there all night. You’d drown. Make for that. And we’d seen this island just and made for it. We got there. Got about from here to that door away from it, two feet and the boat went up like that and it hit a rock and it split the nose up. You could see the bottom, you could see the land. I mean you could walk to it if you wanted to walk through six feet of water. But we decided if we got there and, when we thought it was an island if we get down and we’re soaking wet. You know.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Gotta stop there all bloody night. We’ll stay here where we are and we sat in that top of that boat all night. At half past six the following morning the tannoy went. I realised that it wasn’t an island it was the bloody main base. I could have walked back to my base in ten minutes from there.
HB: Oh no.
RH: And got a night in bed. What else happened though they woke up at the, at the base where we were, at the main base. He gets out. Says, ‘Where’s the —’ this fella was supposed to make breakfast apparently in the morning, ‘Where is he and where’s Huntley?’ They both went out and neither bed had been slept in. Gets a retender which is a forty foot boat there, comes racing out, sees us, turns and he goes over the rock.
HB: Oh no.
RH: Stays on top of the bloody rocks.
HB: No. Two boats written off.
RH: Two boats. The third boat comes out for us and picked everybody up and I’m thinking, I’m not going to be in this at all because I wasn’t supposed to be there as a fitter, you know.
HB: Oh, no. No.
RH: So I had it all right. I don’t know what happened to them. I just went around to the sort of things that came up from Coastal Command when you put boats out of action —
HB: Yeah.
RH: Was nobody’s business, you know.
HB: I can imagine.
RH: Yeah.
HB: I can imagine.
RH: We went, coming back a bit we went to a rescue of of Australians. This is also ’44 sometime. A fellow called [Rossythe] I found out afterwards but there were eight of them in a crew and they were in a Liberator and they were doing some sort of exercises. I think he went out and he went too bloody low and he went in.
HB: Right.
RH: We went out to it and the Walrus had gone out to it and the Walrus actually had picked them up but on the way out on an engine there’s a bloody great filter which of course you clean and do but there’s also a gauge on top. Green and red. And this thing we were just turning up the top if it went. If you were going on a crash call above all things. This thing kept going in red red red and I thought if that blows it’ll kill us and ruin the bloody engine. In the finish I had to close. You could close down the engine of them as well as at the front. I’ll close. That’s when this Canadian fella that I speak to now, the other week, he was with me, I said, ‘Titch, keep those down. Don’t [unclear] I’ll go and see the skipper. I walked up to skipper, I said, ‘I’ll have to close it down that engine. We’ve got someone gone wrong.’ The skipper went bloody mad. Crash call of course, you know. I said, ‘The filter’s gone. I shall have to, I’ve got to take it out.’ ‘How long will it take?’ I said, ‘I’ll do as quick as I can.’ I go back, took the bloody filter out which is about like that. All full of glass mesh all enclosed, you know like —
HB: So about the size of a soup bowl then.
RH: That’s right.
HB: Yeah.
RH: That’s right. The pressure on it. Took it out. Couldn’t get a replacement. Put it back. Ran the engine for three months without it before we got the replacement. Yeah.
HB: And it still worked obviously.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Yeah.
RH: But when we got there the Walrus had taken them, couldn’t get off because the number of people on. So the, a fellow called George Riley was our medic.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And he got in a Carley float. You know, a Carley float? Well, it was on the back of a boat. There was like a little thing. It’s all, all made of cork and it’s just another, it was actually for the crew but he got this put a rope up. Put a rope over there and brought another one from there.
HB: Oh, right. On the Carley float.
RH: I know —
HB: Right.
RH: They were doing it by rope.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And you can’t get too close because that’s an aircraft.
HB: Oh yeah.
RH: You know. And he must have sailed over and hour or so. I mean, he must have been knackered by that time but we got him aboard but one medic said, ‘That bloke, if that bloke broke his back. If his back isn’t broken now it bloody will be by the time we get him out of there.’ Of course, a Walrus was going to, in the back [unclear] it’s turning in, turning out with a bad back. You couldn’t understand why they took him.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And of course he can’t get off.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: So we got those back.
HB: Yeah.
RH: You know.
HB: Oh right.
RH: There are various incidents that happen to you.
HB: So, so how many people do you think, it’s a bit of an unfair question, I suppose, Ron but how many people do you think your crew saved?
RH: I should say out of the boat, that boat particularly —
HB: Which was —
RH: 2641.
HB: Right.
RH: I would, close to a hundred and fifty.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Yeah. And there was a lot more satisfaction in picking up a hundred, one person than putting an aircraft in the air that’s going to kill some bugger, I’ll tell you that now.
HB: Yeah.
RH: But I can say that now because the war is over.
HB: Yes. Yes.
RH: You know.
HB: Yes.
RH: During the war I wouldn’t have cared if they killed a dozen bloody Germans you know.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Well yeah.
RH: Yeah
HB: So that so you’ve gone to Lough Erne and it’s what by now? It’s what? 1946.
RH: 1946. Yeah. I was demobbed July 1946.
HB: July ’46.
RH: I went to Uxbridge from, from —
HB: Yeah.
HB: From there.
RH: From Lough Erne. Yeah.
HB: And that is, what’s that? That’s trilby hat.
RH: Yeah.
HB: And mac and suit.
RH: Yeah. So, there and I think fifty quid or something like that in my pocket. Yeah.
HB: Right. And what, what did you do then?
RH: Well actually I couldn’t get. I wanted to go and I wanted to be a rep but I couldn’t get a job as a rep so I actually went to work in a garage.
HB: Oh right.
RH: And I worked on cars and re-cylindering both engines and all that because more cars then were coming back on the road. Old cars being made up. Boring bloody the cylinders out, sleeving them and all that caper.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: Until I wrote, I kept writing to firms. I then took a correspondence course in sales to let somebody know that I was interested and I spent some of my own bloody money and I tried to do it.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And I got a job with a firm called [Kerry, Bowan and Witcher?] I didn’t ever want to do it really because it sold typewriters and carbon paper and all that bloody stuff.
HB: Oh right.
RH: And it wasn’t my cup of tea if you know what I mean. Actually I spent two years with them and I earned good money but I wanted a job in London. Well obviously you get more bloody money in London than walking around Croydon and all that bloody area. Firms were there that are using that kind of stuff and they wouldn’t give me one and they called me up one day. They had a contract they wanted me to sign and I thought he was going to give me a London area. I had to go to Leyton way where he was. A little fella. Came from Lancashire. Twinkly blue eyes. Could lift you up in the stars with one visit. The second visit he was as dead as a dodo. But he could lift you to the stars in one. And I went there. Curiosity. I want to speak to this fella you know. That sort of attitude.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And he, he slides across up to you he [unclear] and he pushed, ‘Just sigh that.’ And I twigged that’s what he’d brought me for and I said, ‘Well, I’ll sign that when I know what you’ve got under there.’ I said, ‘Prove you’ve got nothing under there.’
HB: Yeah.
RH: I said, ‘Well, I’ve been asking for a London territory,’ I said. He said, ‘Well you won’t get one.’ I said, ‘Mr,’ I said, ‘We’ve finished our interview. Thank you very much.’ Off we go.
HB: Yeah.
RH: What do you want?
HB: It’s alright. It’s just that noise had started and I couldn’t, I thought there was a door there to shut. Oh so did you, did you because you mentioned your, was it your first wife. Did you meet your first wife in, during the war.
RH: No.
HB: Or was that after?
RH: Afterward.
HB: Right.
RH: I worked for them ‘til I worked there for another two years. So something like ‘48 sometime I got a job with [Johnsons Wax]. Selling.
HB: Oh right. Yeah. Yeah.
RH: No. Yeah, I did from there. [Johnsons Wax] And I went over to see the boss one night and he said, well these are the areas. And I just said, ‘Which is the best area?’ And he pointed to Worcester as it turned out. ‘Worcester. Hereford. Gloucester,’ he said. So I said, ‘I’ll have that.’ So that’s when I moved. November 1949 I moved up to Worcester. I was put in a hotel for a fortnight then I was going on an area I didn’t know. I had no car. It was train and bus. Had to go back at night and make the bloody forms out and catch the post, you know and all that caper. And he said, ‘You’ve got to find digs.’ Well, I mean you try and find digs when you’re, I mean over the weekend you’ve not a bloody chance.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Really. Or late at night and people don’t want to open their doors do they? Anyway, I found a place over at the cricket ground.
HB: Oh right.
RH: [unclear] I got in there on my own. An old couple with one room sort of thing and I thought oh well, this would suit me for a bit. Out on the Malvern Road it was going out of Worcester and I, I’d no sooner got there, I don’t suppose I’d been there a fortnight and this area manager, ‘I want you to move in to Birmingham. The Birmingham rep’s [unclear] So I want you to move in to Birmingham.’ Christ almighty. I’ve got to move again. So I go in to [unclear] Road near the cricket ground to a hotel. Again, the same thing you know. Give me a fortnight. I’ve got to find digs and I didn’t know Birmingham and you’re walking it and I’m a Londoner and they don’t particularly like southerners [laugh] I found out to my cost. Sort of a Cockney bastard coming up here and taking our [laughs]
HB: Yeah.
RH: You know what it is. Anyway, I got on alright. I mean I could sell. I found out I could sell with the first firm. I knew it didn’t bother me going and seeing people and getting no’s. That didn’t bother me but a lot of people, I saw blokes pack it up in two days by getting too many no’s. I worked a long long time before I ever had a blank day. I always did something in the day and I could usually reckon to get five, six, seven, eight, nine orders in a day you know whether you’d get to [unclear] and you’d want to do it because you know you’ve got to want to do it.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And I got this from there. I went in to Birmingham and I then found out, well to tell you the honest truth the area manager was a real pig really. Cheat you for a bloody halfpenny never mind anything else. I mean you were working bloody hard at digs as well. I met my wife there while I was there.
HB: Right.
RH: At a dance one night. I went to the dances and then went [pause] and then I had an interim bonus out for Christmas and I get letters saying how well I’d done and all this from the firm, from the boss. This was AC Thompson, you know. They were big people and they were at West Drayton at that stage. And I get the bonus the day before Christmas which I think is going to be well, we’ve got a bonus. Four quid it turned out to be. And so I said, I was with my wife then, I said I was disgusted. Four pound didn’t even half a week’s bloody wages never mind any, sod it. I’ll get another job. I went straightaway went to get another job. That’s when I went to County Laboratories which was Silvikrin in those days. Silvikrin were bought out by Brylcreem. So I had Silvikrin, Brylcreem, Bristows blah blah blah. I had a big firm.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And I spent seven years there. If you want to be any good at a firm they had about forty or fifty reps I suppose all told. If you want to be any good you got to be in the first three or four. And I made bloody sure I was there, you know.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And Birmingham was a good area.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: I mean, the bloke in Cornwall couldn’t hope to be in the first four could he? It wasn’t a big enough area really.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Not his fault.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And then I know I was, I’m a bit of a, I want a challenge in life. You know what I mean?
HB: Yeah.
RH: I’d been seven years doing this and I was well organised. I had postal orders. I then sometimes go out for them but I used to go out anyway.
HB: Yeah.
RH: You know, some of those going to the pictures. I wouldn’t go to the pictures. I refused the pictures many a time. Pouring with rain I refused the pictures. You know. That’s my job to go and do the job. Go out and speak to customers. It’s just an attitude I had I suppose from my father really.
HB: Yeah.
RH: After seven years I was walking in to a shop and I could tell you exactly when it was and all of a sudden it hit me. I’m sick of this bloody job. Doing the same. You know.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Another job and I got another job. That wasn’t all that good. Twelve months later I packed it up and went to another job. That wasn’t all that much good. I packed that up and went to another job which was great but I knew the firm were going to go bust the way it was acting.
HB: Oh right.
RH: I was there about five years and I decided now was the time to get out and I got out and I went to Flymo.
HB: Oh yes.
RH: When it was starting.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
RH: And that probably was, that really was a job and a half.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Of course, I took that from about a hundred and sixty eight thousand to nine million.
HB: Oh yeah.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Really good.
RH: But they unfortunately I was what fifty four and they decided they were going to sell it and he sold it because the patents run out after fifteen years. He knew there was competition coming. He sold it back to Electrolux. He was an Electrolux bloke actually. Sold it to Electrolux, made his money and we were out.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Because Electrolux didn’t want us. They’d got their own reps.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Out you go.
HB: Oh dear. Yeah.
RH: And I finished up with an American firm selling a [plating] process. A hand plating process. I’d been used to going in on advertise goods you know commercially.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: Easy enough. This was a different story. You had to demonstrate it. You had to, they had to grind it back and prove the point.
HB: Yeah.
RH: You know, you put a cylinder in and filled it. They had to prove that it would stop in and all that kind of thing.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And then you’ve got to put that if they’re going to buy the equipment before the board so you’d got months to go, you know before the board meeting.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Once every two months or something like that and I went from the January to the May without an order and having to phone the American boss every bloody week and he was saying, ‘You’ve got to keep at it.’ Blah blah. He was having a go at me all the time pushing me on and then one day I turned to him and I said, ‘Well, look here I’ve been doing this job now for three bloody months or four months. I’ve got promises in the bag. Yes. I’ve done the demonstrations’. I said, ‘and I’m getting, I’m getting just a bit cheesed off and I’m getting disappointed with all this.’ And he turned. ‘Don’t. No. No. No. No. No.’ He said, ‘These are long gestation period orders. Keep on. No, no don’t get disappointed. You’re working hard.’ And I knew then where I stood.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: And it just so happened that May brought me five bloody orders and the equipment was from five to fifteen thousand quid.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And then I got a ten percent commission on it. So you can imagine my —
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Everybody would be happy.
RH: Yeah. I would say now I know I can make some bloody money. Of course, as long as you, you had to keep filling the pot but once you get going —
HB: Yeah.
RH: The world was your oyster.
HB: Yeah.
RH: I was working half the bloody country.
HB: Brilliant.
RH: So I only —
HB: So, when you, when you cast your mind back Ron to your war time service you know.
RH: Yeah.
HB: You’ve, you’ve come from a sort of a modest background, a very modest education, you’ve come in to the RAF. What do you think the RAF gave you that helped you in your later life?
RH: Well —
HB: Your wartime service.
RH: I seem to have said this before and I think it’s right. It turns you from a boy to a man.
HB: Yeah.
RH: You start mixing with all sorts of people. It alters your whole attitude you know.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And you realise that, you know there are people there that are really bad and you also realise there is an awful lot of goodness there.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: Yeah. People that would help you out. People who would back you. You always felt secure.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Yeah.
HB: And now and obviously from the time you went to Padstow you are in a very sort of tight, a tight crew.
RH: Fifty people. That’s all the base was all the time.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s a very small tight group.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Was, was that part of, was that part of seeing you through the whole thing that? Having that small group to rely on?
RH: No. I mean I don’t think so really. I think I liked being you see when you go on a boat that is your crew.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Ther’s nothing to say you can’t go on another boat but basically a crew stays together and mine happened to be the CO‘s boat.
HB: Oh right.
RH: You see.
HB: Oh right.
RH: It didn’t matter who’s it was you’re in that group.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And you rely on that skipper. He’s, he’s after all he’s, he’s in charge of the boat.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: You know.
HB: Yeah.
RH: Yeah. I mean I enjoyed that. But you don’t necessarily like everybody on the crew.
HB: No. No. Did you stay close to many of them of your crew?
RH: Well, one I still ring now.
HB: Right.
RH: Titch. We crewed.
HB: Oh right.
RH: He’s a fitter. We crewed together. He’s on one of the stories I’m telling you. He was on.
HB: Oh right.
RH: Except he wasn’t on the one where —
HB: The Americans.
RH: Yeah. No. He wasn’t on that one.
HB: Yeah.
RH: We were on standby.
HB: Yeah.
RH: He was in bed probably.
HB: Yeah.
RH: But I rang him a fortnight ago. A week ago.
HB: Yeah.
RH: He’s in, he’s in a place called Kenilworth, would you believe. In Canada.
HB: Oh right.
RH: In Ontario.
HB: Oh right.
RH: His wife picked up the phone. He came on the phone and I said, ‘George, you’re too close to the phone. I can’t understand you.’ And she picked up the phone and she said a fortnight ago we thought we’d lost him. He’s got heart trouble. She’d had a horrible time. She said can I take a —
HB: Oh, that’s a shame.
RH: Yeah.
HB: Well, yeah.
RH: He’s ninety three so —
HB: So, silly question. Was it all worth it?
RH: Yeah. I mean I’ve got a party coming in in nineteen days time. I’ve got thirty eight people coming here family and friends and I thought you know I’m bound to be asked something. and I think to myself yeah I can’t look forward because of this really. You know, I’ve got to balance problem.
HB: With your, with your mobility.
RH: So you tend to say today tomorrow and back.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And looking back over life and looking and comparing it with other people to me and my brother who died at sixty six. Better off than I was. Had a much better job than I ever did but still died at sixty six. I look back over life and at people I’ve met and I think well I’ve met more good people than bad people.
HB: Yeah.
RH: And I look back and I think, well I’ve had a good life.
HB: Well, I think that’s a point for us to perhaps—
RH: Close up. Yeah.
HB: I’m just, I haven’t even looked at the clock.
RH: It’s up there. Twenty past four.
HB: Yeah. Twenty past four. What I’d like to do is thank you, Ron. I mean that really has been very interesting.
RH: Good.
HB: And, and I mean that. It’s an aspect I haven’t seen much of so I’m going to terminate the interview now.
RH: Yeah.
HB: At twenty past four. So I’m going to switch the machine off.

Collection

Citation

Harry Bartlett, “Interview with Ronald Huntley,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 23, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11130.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.