Interview with Ronald Indge


Interview with Ronald Indge


Ronald Indge was a wireless operator on 578 Squadron and became a prisoner of war after his Halifax aircraft was shot down.
Upon leaving school, and unable to obtain employment in his chosen career, his father arranged a bound apprenticeship with a joiner. Attracted by the glamour of the RAF, when almost eighteen, and without his parent's knowledge, he travelled with a friend to Sheffield and they both enlisted in the RAF. Entry was initially deferred until Ron was at the required age. He describes his route through training, on successful completion of which, his crew joined 578 Squadron. In February 1944, Ron’s aircraft was attacked from behind, killing the rear gunner. With limited control of the aircraft, the remaining crew was forced to evacuate and Ron was immediately captured. Following interrogation, he eventually arrived at Stalag Luft 7. Whilst there he met a fellow prisoner playing a piano accordion. Having learnt to play in his younger days, Ron describes how further instruments were obtained and the formation of a concert party which enabled them to entertain their fellow prisoners. However, they were also required to entertain the German officers which caused some concern to Ron, but they received meals in return. There was a known collaborator amongst the prisoners, and care had to be taken to ensure no loose talk gave away any information. In January 1945, the advancing Russian army forced the evacuation and the prisoners were forced to march to Stalag 3A. This took several weeks in temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius, and improvised sledges were used to pull weak prisoners. Following liberation, Ron returned home to discover his mother was terminally ill. He spent some time on general duties before being discharged and with support from the RAF, was able to complete his apprenticeship. Contact with some of his crew has been maintained in conjunction with 578 Squadron Association, with several visits to the grave of the rear gunner. The site of the crashed Halifax, with the body still in position, was located when civil engineering was carried out in the area.




Temporal Coverage




01:24:29 audio recording


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DE: So this is an interview with Ron Indge. My name is Dan Ellin. The interview is for the International Bomber Command Centre. It is the 31st of January 2018 and we are in Mr Indge’s home in Woodhall Spa. So, Mr Indge could you start by telling us a little bit about where you were born and your early life, please?
RI: Yes. Well, well, I was born in Worksop and my early life was spent very happily I believe. A small family. My father had a business and life was very good to be very honest. I became very active in sports, particularly tennis and I met all sorts of people that all bore relevance later in life into the RAF. I perhaps ought to start by the end of the school time was Grammar School and I was in a mixed form in a Grammar School in Worksop. There were three forms in every, there was a male, female and a mixed form. I was lucky enough to be in the mixed form. And I think in 1939 which is when I left the school, the grammar school employment was very, very difficult to find or at the least employment I was looking for and, however I’ll now refer to a book that was written by a friend of mine. This chapter is called, “Early life.” It gives you the date of birth, and it reads as follows. “There was no work available. He wanted to work in a solicitor’s office or something similar. After he had not found work after two or three weeks his father found him a job as an apprentice joiner. He became a bound apprentice. The only way he could escape the apprenticeship was by becoming a sub mariner or by flying.” You could only break, that was a static thing. “Ron’s friend — ” now, I had a friend who, we used to tennis together most nights when it was suitable. He decided to volunteer for the Royal Air Force so I went with him to Sheffield on a Saturday and we both joined up at the same time. Neither of our parents knew until the Monday what we had done. “Ron was seventeen and three quarters years old at the time and felt some guilt but it was going to become more important as it got later. Ron says he joined,’ I think this is on one of the one in your, anyway, “Ron says that he joined the RAF for the glamour.”
DE: Right.
RI: Which I’m sure you’ve already got on one of your —
DE: A lot of people did. Yeah.
RI: I think that. Yeah. An important thing in early life which affected my life particularly was it was decided that I should learn to play a musical instrument. This was my parents. After, after a year of piano lessons my father decided that enough was enough and a waste of time and money so that was the standing. However, going up Gateford Road in Worksop which you know there was a furniture shop called Baldry’s , and in the window was a piano accordion and up there I saw this and it was fourteen pounds. What on earth made me so keen it was so I went in and a had twelve pounds in the bank at that stage. In the Yorkshire Penny Bank as it was then. And I withdrew the twelve quid. I went up and I got Arthur Baldry who owned the store and had a long talk to him and in the finish he agreed to sell me the thing for twelve quid. So that was how, that’s how the piano accordion business started. I got a fella to come and give me a few lessons to start with and it was sort of a, I don’t know I think to be one of my grandchildren is in the musical industry but I think to be in the music you’ve got to be keen anyway. I think it’s got to be. So it became for me and there are letters here which I’ll let you see that relates. I’d better not show you right now but I will. There is a letter that relates to one of the concert parties I was in anyway. But I’ll show you that that’s a letter of thanks as regards that. The thing’s falling to pieces. Right. That more or less covers the entrance in to the RAF and and to why I went and —
DE: So was, was —
RI: One can only imagine what my parents and my employer at the time thought when they found I’d volunteered to fly.
DE: Yeah. Was it, was it deferred entrance or did you go in straight away?
RI: That was a deferred entrance. Yes. I went into the ATC. Just for a few months.
DE: Right.
RI: And then of course we all went to an Aircrew Receiving Centre in London. That’s where we all joined in the eventuality.
DE: What was that like?
RI: Well, it was, it was good really because we used to eat in the London Zoo. They marched us from about 6 o’clock in the morning out of the billets and they were massive blocks of flats we were in. What they would be like now I’m not quite sure but they were beautiful places and I don’t know where all the people had been moved from but the Aircrew Receiving Centre was full of people of course. And London was being bombed at the time but however as I said we used to march to the, what was the old London Zoo and still is and we ate in their restaurant. They catered for us down there. There’s, I’ve got quite a lot of details about the Halifax which —
DE: Can we, yeah, can we talk a little more about reception and training before we move on to, to Halifaxes?
RI: Well, yes but I think probably that’s very commonplace for, that was, the training was universal really, was it not? And —
DE: Where did you train?
RI: I got drifted all over the place. I had eyesight trouble. I wasn’t, like everybody else I was going to be a pilot and all this carry on, and that. However, when I was examined I have and funnily enough my son’s got the same problem when I try and put my, I don’t know if it still does but when I put one finger to my nose the eyes, the eyes go in but one won’t stay there. It goes back. So they wanted all sorts and so I agreed then to change the entry into being a wireless op which is what I did at Yatesbury. The wireless school was at Yatesbury in those days. Near Calne in Wiltshire. So that’s, that went on there and I came out of that quite successfully and then the question came of where we got sent. I got sent all over the place funnily enough. I was, I even got up to Stranraer and then further up into Elgin in Scotland. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Yeah. And you know what that’s like there. And so that initial training was really in some ways it was I suppose was pleasurable because we got a fair amount of liberty and the hours in the rooms were fairly long but you have to try and remember that our ages at eighteen, life was very different now to looking at age of ninety plus. So the values are entirely different at that age rather than the values that we have now. There was no thought of long livity in those days where there is now. We all think about trying to live longer now but that didn’t happen in those days. We, we just took things as it was and made the best of a bad job and from becoming boys just having not long left school we became men very, very quickly. Going down to the boozer and fraternizing and things that we probably hadn’t done at home. I certainly hadn’t. But that’s the sort of thing we did at Yatesbury. We used to go down the pub in Calne where, famous for sausages of course. So that was the training really. And you passed out there with three stripes. Then of course you immediately it tended to go to our heads a bit I think [laughs] because I remember we threatened that if we could find any of the corporals that had given us big stick we would make sure that they had to suffer. But the night we went away from Yatesbury we went down to Calne and we couldn’t find a corporal anywhere. So the PTIs got away with that very fortunately I think.
DE: I think they probably were expecting it. Yeah.
RI: That had happened before obviously. That wasn’t new to them. So that was training over really.
DE: Did you —
RI: Then the next thing really is crewing up I suppose. I suppose that’s, I can’t just remember where the hell I crewed up now. I can’t just remember. And I’ve no mark on that so I can’t remember.
DE: Did you, did you do Morse when you were at Yatesbury?
RI: Yes. Oh yes. Yes.
DE: How many words a minute?
RI: I can’t remember now [laughs] It becomes a, I just, I just cannot remember now. I really can’t.
DE: I’ve read about something called Morse headache.
RI: I never suffered with that. Some did get some Morse Madness I heard of. I think one or two did fall by the wayside. But of course that was commonplace I think, wasn’t it, during RAF training? Some people took to madness or near madness and things because there was a place near Sheffield where some aircrew bods used to get sent that they couldn’t deal with otherwise and, but that’s sort of in the memory I think to be very honest. So then the crewing up came and which I can’t just remember where the hell it was now. But I sort of then was going to be crewed up on Halifax which now seems to be, it’s very little heard of. When we talk to people these days about the Halifax some of them have never heard of it. They’ve only heard of a Lancaster. Or in the case of a fighter a Spitfire in the case of a Hurricane. But that’s life. So that really was the training and then the commencement, that was the commencement of, we did a lot of when we were crewed up we then did a lot of cross countries and a few, I think we did a few leaflet raids as well. I think, while we were, while we were still in the u/t, under training but we certainly did a lot of cross countries and long ones to Ireland and right back down into Yorkshire. Yeah. I think we were. I know we were now. The thought has come back. It was at Riccall. At Riccall where, where we crewed up, because there was a runway at Riccall just between some trees because we pranged an aircraft down there. In fact, I’ve still got part of it in one of the drawers in there because I pinched the clock out of it at the time which lead to a big inquest from the, they had the coppers came around to us in our billets at night trying to find who’d stolen it. Who’d stolen the clock out of the aircraft. So, they won’t prosecute me now. It’s too late [laughs]
DE: I think you’ll be alright now. Yeah. I hope so anyway.
RI: Yeah. But there’s bits of it in there. Yes. So that, that was training at Riccall and then we eventually got posted along to 578 Squadron and which is where it all started and all the RAF career really ended. Or at least that part of it did. So probably the flight that involved the crash isn’t really relevant at this stage is it?
DE: Oh, I think. Yes.
RI: Is it?
DE: If you want to tell us about it then, yeah.
RI: Is it?
DE: Yeah.
RI: Well, the flight was to Gelsenkirchen which was an oil refinery. By this stage then in ’44 they had, much to a lot of people’s disgust Bomber Harris had then thrown everything to the wind really. A lot of the raids that we took part in I think into the Ruhr particularly were done in daylight where they actually could have been done in the dark with a lot less loss of life I think. However, we pranged in in Gelsenkirchen but we were hit at the rear of the aircraft and the rear gunner was killed. We were going to, when we found out he was, he was dead we left him there but the idea originally was to get him out, put a ‘chute on him and chuck him down because we were only minorly damaged really but enough that we lost some control of the aircraft. So when we found out he was dead he was left in there and went down with the aircraft. Now, I landed. On my way down I heard a big tear and the parachute, obviously they’d been aiming at me and they’d hit the parachute. This was broad daylight of course. They’d hit the parachute and just torn one panel. I’d forgotten that they weren’t in, they were only in panels which of course was the safest. So I probably descended a little bit quicker than normal but I got down quite safely and landed about, I don’t know about as far as from here to the, to that hedge. I don’t know how far that is. Down at the bottom. And about that far away from that ack ack site.
DE: Just a matter of yards then.
RI: Yards really.
DE: Yeah.
RI: And they were, I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were all young kids. Or they seemed to me to be young kids on there and just two who, who were officers. And eventually [pause] this is not in here I don’t think. It’s just coming back to me now. Eventually they handed me over to the civilian police who along came a German copper, handcuffed me to a bike, took me down to the local village and locked me in a cell and came, and through the bars of the cell said, ‘Essen?’ Now I thought when he said, ‘essen’ I thought he was asking me if I’d flown on a trip to Essen and my imagination running wild I thought he must think we’d dropped bombs on Essen. Perhaps killed some of his family. So I shook my head and said, ‘No.’ Of course later on when I learned what essen was [laughs] I’d then refused all the forms of food so of course they didn’t give me any. So, so that was that. And then of course we all were sent then to this aircrew, I forget the name of that. That’s in here somewhere I think. But there was a centre. There’s a picture of the, of the bod in there I think somewhere, however we’ll find that.
DE: Dulag was it?
RI: Yes. No. No. That’s dulag. No. There was a reception centre for all aircrew where you were put in small cells and questioned at all hours of the sort of nights and things. But by 1944, in September ’44 there was a great, a lot of the Germans were beginning to think that they weren’t going to win the war and so perhaps the interrogation wasn’t as bad as it had been previously. I spent, I think I spent three weeks in there I think, and then we were transported by rail out of there to various camps. And in my case of course some of the, it was due to German guards really that I think we would have all lost our lives I think. Because in some of the, some of the major stations we went through on the line back to Stalag Luft 7 the lines were broken and so we ended up walking through one bit, some bits of some of the Ruhr towns and then re-trained and went further on down the line. But the, the Germans if it hadn’t have been for the guards I’m sure we would probably have been executed. I’m sure we would have been executed anyway. The bitterness was, from the, in the cities was terrible of course. So that was the story. And then I’m now then in in Stalag Luft 7. And in there this is where the piano accordion business all came to fruition on my part really. What happened was two or three days after I’d been in there I heard a chap playing the piano accordion so I made my way around. I found him. And there was also a bod there had bagpipes funnily enough [laughs] God above. However, I got [Leo Mackie] I remember the man’s name now. [Leo Mackie], I think. I don’t know what nationality he was, however he played the squeezebox so I had a word with him and he gave it me and I had a play on it. So he said, ‘What about we try and get some more squeezeboxes?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Let’s have a — ’ So we asked some of the Germans and they wouldn’t play ball with us. However, we got through to the Red Cross and eventually we got sent six brand new piano accordions which, which was brilliant for us and a drum kit and a double bass and a guitar I think. Yeah. That’s right. I think they’re all, and there’s a picture involved which I’ll come to shortly because how we got that picture was later on. So, it bore fruition in many ways in that we started it. We got together. We used to play every day all day of course. Nothing else to do really. Or walk around the camp which so that was really a saviour for me because whilst I’m loathe to admit it now we went out on several nights under supervision to the German officer’s headquarters and played for them to dance and [emphasis] they gave us a meal which of course was a big thing. I’m a bit ashamed to say that now but however it is part of the truth of the thing and of course as we said at eighteen, nineteen things look very different and self-preservation is, becomes very important. So that was that of which we’ve got a photograph which we’ve only recently acquired. It was sent to, it was sent to Hollis. This photograph on there of course there’s a conductor. He was a professional musician and the lady at the end of course was just another bod all dressed up in lady’s attire [laughs]. So we used to give concerts both in the camp and we occasionally went out to give the Germans, so that really was a really big help for my part in the prison camp. A big help. And then of course eventually 1945 arrived. We spent Christmas in the camp of course which really wasn’t to be [laughs] However, 1945 arrived and eventually we could hear gunfire at nights which was of course the Russians advancing. Well, there wasn’t, Stalag Luft 7 was a virtual new camp when I went in it because when I first went in it was hen huts. Really hen huts. That’s what it was. But it was rebuilt not long after I got there so it was very tolerable living conditions really. Nothing like as bad as some of the other people had suffered I think, because of course the SS had tried very hard to take over Luftwaffe camps but the, but their Air Force wouldn’t let them. So their camps were run naturally by, by Air Force personnel, or their Air Force personnel which was a lot easier I think to what I’ve been told from the SS run camps. The SS tried to run them but couldn’t. However, they marched out by being turfed out which I can refer to later on and it’s all detailed down in some of these books anyway. After, I think there was about fifteen hundred of us in Luft 7, and but when we got to a thousand we got a doctor. Our own doctor then who was an ex-kriegsgefangene, he was a prisoner as well. He was, he was in the army actually. And as we, as we assembled out to march away we didn’t know what we were going to be doing but that’s, obviously we’d heard the gunfire at night and particularly, and so the doctor addressed us and said, ‘Now, unless you’ve got adequate provision stacked by and or can speak fluent German don’t try and escape and don’t carry anything that you don’t really need. And I mean anything.’ Well, this part you won’t believe anyway but I’ll tell you. I had a piano accordion and I read through the line and I thought that’s out definitely. And it was snowing now, down to about, well the temperature on that part of the march was between minus twenty and minus forty. It did get to minus forty once. Minus thirty most of the time. So I tried to flog this piano accordion for anything I could get hold of and eventually I couldn’t sell it at all. I could not get, you are not going to believe this. It’s gospel truth. I couldn’t get one cigarette for it. So why we hated the Russians so much I don’t quite know. So I kicked it to pieces and so did several others as well. So, these were brand new squeeze boxes and so that was, that was the end of that part of the story really. And from then of course they marched us on the Long March which there’s been much reference made about and there’s all sort of information in these books which I’m sure some time you’d like to have a copy of or whatever. It was, we straggled, but we were told really not to escape because if you got tired and laid down you certainly wouldn’t, that would be the end of the story. How many [pause] quite a lot did escape or did elect to leave the, the throng. So how many actually died on that march I haven’t the faintest of ideas. All I know is that there were at least half were sort of in Stalag 3a at the end. But whether or not they’d lost their lost their lives or gone elsewhere I was never quite sure. The only thing that happened in Stalag 3a was that the Russians liberated us and the Americans came with transport to take us over the river and take us back home. But the Russians wanted an exchange of prisoners over the river. They wanted some of their prisoners bringing back in to their land and then they were going to exchange and let us go. So we were held five weeks in which time they never, they never gave us any rations. Nothing. We had to go down the village and so we went down there. And another story, down the village which is only just coming to light now. I used to go down with John Tregoning down the village to steal food and if you couldn’t get into the houses you just, the Russians were up and down there on motorbikes and things. Riding about like children they were actually. They hadn’t seen such things and they used to ride down there firing guns through the windows and all. It’s unbelievable really. But John and I, walking down the street in the local village could hear either ducks, geese or some form of livestock and we knocked on the door of this property and they wouldn’t let us in. So we got hold of a Russian eventually who came past on a motorbike. We waved him down and pointed to this noise and pointed to the [laughs] that we wanted, and so he broke the door down and got us I think it was a duck. I think. Certainly, yes I’m sure it was a duck and so then he chopped it’s head off and gave us the body. So we took that back. John and I took that back to the camp and had a feast. But that’s how we lived for those, for those few weeks and eventually it became a bit more liberal and so John and I whilst we were still waiting for transport we decided to make our own way and we eventually made our own way from 3a as far as Brussels from where we flew home. So that was the end of that story really.
DE: Yeah. You mentioned before we started the recording about a crew member and a sledge. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
RI: Well, that’s Johnny. It’s in that book. It’s in the story that John’s written isn’t it?
DE: Yeah.
RI: That was done because John Tregoning had gone on the march. John had gone off his legs and, but that’s all been, he wrote that of course actually when we were on the march. This is a copy that he wrote afterwards. John. John did. He’d gone off his legs and found it very difficult to walk and we were terrified we were going to lose him and he thought he was going to die as well. So we fabricated some form of sledge by like two lengths of timber. I think John got them somewhere one night when we were locked in a farm I think. We then lashed a sort of a sledge if you like. Whether you’d call it a sledge or, I really don’t know. All it was two lengths of timber lashed together with a space between. And we took, one of us, it took two of us we took one end of each length of timber if you like and walked, and John laid in that and then the back two ends we dragged because of course it was, it was snow laden so it was very slippery anyway. It wasn’t hard to pull in any case. It would have been had there been no snow but with it being snow and ice it was reasonably easy to pull. So we did that for several days for which John, I’ve visited him in Plymouth many times since, he’s dead now but he thanked me very much because he said, ‘I’d certainly would have died, Ron if you hadn’t have given me that, if you hadn’t dragged me on that sledge down there.’ So that was that bit really on the march. Really. Yeah. But as I said you have to remember how old we were. You know the thought nowadays was you can’t even imagine it now at forty let alone ninety but it was relatively easy speaking I suppose at that age because I was back home for my twenty first birthday, of course.
DE: Ok. What was, what was the journey to Brussels like?
RI: Alright. It was great really because we, we, I saw Glenn Miller’s band. We used to stay in various camps. They made us very welcome. It was funny really. They never sort of thought that we were traitors or anything. Or anything of that sort. Coming to traitors. That’s another thing I’ve completely forgotten about, which is also in these books anyway and in the official book as well. I might retrace my steps a minute then.
DE: Ok.
RI: In the prison camp when I first went in the senior NCO, there were no officers in that camp, I was in Stalag Luft 7. At that stage there were no officers. They were all NCOs and the senior NCO he’d, he’d sort of taken charge of the whole thing, and you were told to go and have a word with him. And so going and having a word with this, this body we were warned that there was a traitor among us and that, he told us who he was, what his name was and all the rest of it and to beware of this because he was going around with bogus Red Cross forms. Wanting you to know and all the rest of it. However, I did see this bod and one night. This was in the early, this was before the camp was, before the new camp was built. This was in the old camp we used to sit around at night and play cards or whatever we did. I think some form of game. We got hold of some game. We used to sit around in candle light. There was no electricity of course. In candle light. We’d made our own candles out of whatever you could. Anyway, we got made, made up candles. And this bod came in. Now, I think there was about six of us in this and so he tried to enter conversation and nobody would speak. None of us would speak to him. This sounds impossible but its gospel. So this bod came in and, and then he said, ‘I’ve got a photograph of my lady friend here.’ Now this is unbelievable. So he passed this photograph around and when he got to me I said, ‘Oh, I know that girl.’ He said, ‘I don’t think you do.’ I said, I said, ‘She’s one of a twin in Worksop.’ And so she was. So to go forward again now so that was that. But he used to disappear. He used to go to Berlin and he used, he was a big friend of Lord Haw Haw in those days. He used to go to Berlin. Disappear, come back all well dressed and all the rest of it. So we all knew but of course he was shunned in the camp. But at the end, of, at the end just at the end of our stay in the prison camp he disappeared from Luft 7. He disappeared altogether and that was the last I heard of him of course at that time. So we didn’t know whether he’d been killed or, we didn’t care either. That didn’t matter too much to be very honest. However, after the war was over and I was in Worksop I had a lady friend who, we were married afterwards, Joyce. And she worked in the Co -op. We used to walk, I used to take her for, I had about three months leave altogether. However, that’s another story. I used to slip down to the Co-op. We used to go out for lunch together of course. You’ve got to imagine I’m twenty then [laughs] So you can probably, I’ll leave that to your imagination. And we were walking up Gateford Road near to where I bought the piano accordion funnily enough. Walking up there and I see this bod coming down with a lady on his arm and it was him. That was in Gateford Road in Worksop. So I said to Joyce, ‘We don’t speak to this man. Walk past him.’ Which is what we did. I wouldn’t, he did try and speak but we wouldn’t speak and so that was the end of that. And that was the end of it so far as I was concerned except later on when I got a news bulletin he’d been, he’d got five years hard labour I think. Eventually when all this, because of course we all made reports about him at the end of the story and so he got five years hard labour. So that was, we all clapped or at least I clapped. That was after the war that was. I clapped hands then when I found that out of course. That was it. But so that was a great coincidence in there really. But as I say the piano accordion made my life that bit better more than most. Well, it did anyway. There’s no question about that. So that was very fortunate really. Yeah. It was. Yeah. So that ends the story really as regards the prison camp I think. I can’t think of anything else.
DE: You were just about to tell us about the walk to Belgium and what that was like.
RI: Oh yeah. It was, we were gobsmacked really because we used, John being a navigator and a very intelligent one at that he knew the way right enough and so we used to make our way from camp to camp. It sounds impossible now but that’s what, we actually went to one, we got in one American camp one night or one day rather and they made us awfully welcome. And food we’d never had for ages and Glenn Miller’s band was there. He wasn’t there of course because he was dead but his band were there. They played all day every day. That was wonderful that was really. I’ll never forget that really. Being in the musical business myself as well. Yeah. So that was that but we went from place to place. Army places and all sorts but from there we enjoyed it I suppose in a way because we’d eaten. We ate plenty you see and that sort of thing. Yeah. The only thing about the remnant of the outcome of all this was when I was in 3a I got yellow jaundice. Now, yellow jaundice in the hospital there all it was was a mattress on the floor and there were loads of us. It was caused by eating too much fats we think. Or I think. At the time when we were liberated we were liberated then and we were eating all these fats and that came one way or another. And so I had yellow jaundice. I was five days in there. Now, when I came home, I’m going on a bit now I’m back in the UK, having flown back from Brussels. I’m now back in the UK. Now, I’d never heard from my parents through that nine, ten months I was away. And I arrived, I get a leave warrant and I come, I’m coming home now with my kit and a leave warrant. I got a month’s leave I think to start with. And when I got off the train there was the station master in Worksop then was a man called George Taylor who was a large friend of my father’s and when I got off the train George was waiting for me and he said, ‘Oh, Ron. Let me just have a word.’ He said, ‘Before you go home I want you to go up to the shop and see your father.’ So I said, ‘Whatever for?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t really know. Your father wants to see you.’ So I think that in Worksop from the station up to the top of Bridge Street is about a mile so I walked up there to right where the Town Hall is in actual fact. So I walked up there to the thing and saw my father was there waiting to see me. And they knew, I’d sent a telegram I think to say I was coming home and then he knew. My father knew. So he said, ‘Well, before you go home you’ve got to go and see Dr Anderson down Potter Street.’ So I said, well, that was just a bit further down the Town Hall. Down Potter Street. So I said, ‘What for?’ He said, ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I don’t really know.’ So I put two and two together and I thought now this is yellow jaundice. I’d had an x-ray by the way after, after. So I thought this relates to yellow jaundice. It’s given me heart trouble. That’s all I could think of because actually yellow jaundice has, does give all sorts of problems. So that was, that was, so I trooped down and sure enough Dr Anderson’s waiting. He had two sons then running his business but he was there waiting to see me. So he got me sat down and he said, ‘Now,’ he said, ‘I’ve got some bad news for you.’ I said, ‘Ok. Thank you,’ thinking, still thinking, I mean I’m in now dead stuck. So he said, ‘Your mother’s very ill.’ I said, ‘I beg your pardon.’ He said, ‘Your mother’s very ill and one of her sisters is looking after her and,’ he said, ‘I think she’ll probably live two weeks. She’s purely alive to see you.’
DE: Oh crikey.
RI: Which [pause] so I then made my way home and of course all that he’d told me was true. My mum was in a bed in the front room and had been there for months. And she did die about a fortnight after I got home. So that was home coming [pause] I’m sorry.
DE: No. Do you want me to stop it for a minute?
RI: Yeah.
[recording paused]
DE: Ok. So we’re recording again.
RI: The worst part of it really was that I had no need in the first place. As I was in a Reserved Occupation being a bound apprentice I was a fool to go. I’d no need to have gone in the Service until I’d done my apprenticeship. Five years. Or seven years, I think. And I’ve, in some respects I’ve held myself responsible for my mother’s death.
DE: You think it was something to do with her worrying about you.
RI: Well, I’d no need to have gone in the Services. I could have stayed out. And I think with hindsight it was what I envisaged the Service offered as against what I’d got at home. I’d got a marvellous home but at the same time you were subject to sort of home discipline I suppose in one way or another. And of course by going in to the RAF I envisaged all sorts of things which some which materialised and some didn’t but I’d [pause] people have said what a fool I am to think that I caused my mother’s death. I still don’t know to this day what she died of.
DE: Right.
RI: I don’t know what the death certificate was made out of. I don’t. I’m not quite sure. I went, I went to pieces actually for a while. I went back to Church Fenton which was, after I had this month and was interviewed by a wing co or whatever. I can’t remember what rank he was but it was an interview and he said, ‘What do you want to do with the rest of your stay in the RAF?’ And I said, he said, ‘Do you want to go on a pilot’s course again?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know really.’ He said, ‘Well,’ he said, we can put you on a Mosquito course if you like or — ’ I said, ‘What’s the alternative?’ he said, ‘Air traffic control. Flying control.’ So I said, well I then went out and then explained to him about things at home and all the rest of it and he said, ‘Well, take some more leave. Take us much as you like.’ I had actually about three months leave in total I think. But betwixt times I got talking to some friends, ex-RAF friends and as they said, ‘Think twice before you start talking about flying because the Japanese war is still on and the Japanese don’t take aircrew prisoners. What they do in actual fact [unclear] I speak to you. They cut the goolies off and sew them to your mouth and kill you.’ He said, ‘That’s what happens to all if you get shot down.’ But I think and I’m nearly sure that people that flew over Japan at that particular time towards the end of the war were given suicide tablets anyway. I’m not a hundred percent sure about that but I’m nearly certain that’s what happened. Yeah. Because the death rate they just didn’t take prisoners. Aircrew prisoners anyway. So that was that. So then the air traffic control business came in then. And the only row I had in, in my RAF career I think ended up by, I went on a course for air traffic control business which really didn’t amount to much. I got all the rudiments of it anyway and I was, I got eventually sent to Spitalgate near Grantham and there was a flight lieutenant there that was in charge. I was a WO1 in those days. The overall bod in that flying control at Spitalgate was the lieutenant and he’d, he was a pre-war bod who hated aircrew anyway because of the rapid promotion. [laughs] Not unusual. And, but I was the senior NCO there and the station warrant officer was also an ex-aircrew bod which was a blessing. So Christmas came in ’45 and there was a list arrived on the notice board of people on duty over Christmas. Of which I was one. So my father was now of course on his own and I spent the last Christmas in the POW camp. So I got hold of this flight lieui who didn’t like me anyway and I, mutual and I said, ‘I find that very hard to take.’ I said, ‘I think,’ I said, ‘And there are one or two more NCOs who’ll take my place anyway because I’d already broached it with them,’ and I said, ‘There’s one or two NCOs that will take my place so that I can have Christmas leave.’ ‘Oh no,’ he said, ‘It’s all been done fairly. That’s the end of it. And you’re on at Christmas.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘In that case I’ll put an application in to see the old man,’ who was an ex-aircrew bod you, see and I knew, I knew he was on a loser. So one thing led to another and then my name disappeared off there and I got Christmas leave and some bod took it on. But when I got, when I came back after Christmas leave a couple of the bods said, ‘You want to be ever so careful because he hasn’t half got it in for you now.’ I said, ‘That won’t matter anyway,’ I said, ‘No chance.’ He didn’t know I’d got a car anyway and he didn’t know that. Cars were very scarce in that time of course but I had my own car. And he sent me out to Coleby Grange which was in Lincolnshire here and I I ended up stopping there and closing that place down ready for the Yanks because they were going to put nuclear weapons in there eventually. In Coleby they were. And so I had a great time at Coleby Grange unbeknownst to him you see, yeah because I was a senior bod there. There was supposed to be a commissioned officer but we never hardly saw one. But we had a great time there. A really great time. And another part, another story which, this is hard, you’ll find this hard to believe. It became a storage place for the RAF when they were closing stations down we’d get all sorts of tackle then. And I got landed with the job of putting all this stuff that appeared on lorries and trailers and things into these hangars that were empty then. And of course one day, I hope you believe this, one day a lorry arrived and he came. I went to talk to the driver and he wanted to know where to take it. So I said, ‘Well — ’ And they were balloons they were. Air sea rescue balloons but not, not the land ones. The water ones. Over the water. So he said, ‘They’re all barrage balloons I’ve got.’ So he said, ‘Do you want one?’ Now, this sounds too silly for words but it’s, so I said, ‘Well, I don’t know really. Yes. Yes.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ve got one spare if you want one.’ So he give me one of these balloons. Bloody great thing of course. So I got one of the ground crew lads to take one of the seats out of the car and I got it in there and I eventually took it home for all the ladies to cut it up and made clothing for themselves after this. This was of course when clothing was scarce. So that was really the end of all that and I stayed there until Coleby closed down. Then I managed to get, I was demobbed then and came home. Since when of course a lot of these other things have born light now. And which I’ll probably go into now with. When you’re ready. Yeah.
DE: Okey dokey. Yeah.
RI: So really that covers, sort of I don’t know if I’ve done right.
DE: No. That was wonderful. So what did you do after you left the RAF?
RI: Well, the RAF. When I, as I was coming out of the RAF the RAF informed me by letter I think that certainly I was communicated somewhere or other, the RAF would pay a third of my wages to complete my apprenticeship. Which is what they did. And there’s a completion of apprenticeship papers in there somewhere. There is. Well, there is. It’s in there. And so I did two years and I did very well to be honest. I got, and I got on very well with, with the employer and who gave me a magnificent twenty first birthday I might add too. Gold cufflinks and everything which I’ve still got of course and, but I was obsessed with self-employment rather than somebody to, I’ve never liked people telling me what to do. That’s unfortunate. So I was obsessed with the idea of you know getting on my own sooner or later and [pause] And I hadn’t the money to set up in business but the Yorkshire Penny Bank I knew the manager in there. The Yorkshire Penny Bank as it was in those days. And I eventually took a shop in Chesterfield that sold news and it had, there’d been that, it was a big shop actually for a new starter but I borrowed money from one place or another and what money I had and we went into this. There was, we had a thousand paper customers. I’d never been in the shop in my life before. With bacon and everything in but it progressed but there’d been thieving going on terribly and the place had lost money. However, I soon put a stop to that and I got some of the family to come and help and so we progressed from there and then I eventually sold that. And because I wanted to go and live, oh I did have, I suffer with catarrh. Still do. And the doctor said, ‘You want to go and live by the coast.’ So eventually I went to have a look at the coast and found a piece of land and built half a dozen bungalows on there which we then let in the summer time and then eventually sold. And then through the Chesterfield business a chap arrived where I lived in, in, down on the coast and introduced his self. He said, ‘I’ve had a word with — ’ I think the Heinz representative, he said, ‘Who met you in Chesterfield. I said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ He said, ‘You wouldn’t be interested in coming along with me would you?’ So I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. In what respect?’ So he said, well he said, he was a man just a bit older than me, he played the organ as well by the way, Johnnie did. And one thing led to another and he said, ‘Look, why don’t you come and take the store over in Sutton on Sea for me?’ Why this all came through a traveller that had been to me in Chesterfield and then met him in Sutton on Sea. So I said yeah. So I took over and ran that and put it, it was losing money, we put it back on profit and sacked a lot of the staff because they were all at it. And yeah, so that was, so well my kids came and helped in there as well. So that, that was going, and then Johnnie was getting to the, he got caught with his, well that’s another story but he, he his wife left him and then he got married again. She was a great woman too I might add. However, things progressed and then he opened an organ shop. She came from Derby and he said, he was thinking of retiring and one week he came, he came down to, and had a word. He said ’Look,’ he said, he used to come to our house in Trusthorpe and he came and he said, ‘Look, Ron, can I have a talk with you? Can we come Sunday night and have a talk to you and I’ll bring Edna with me?’ I said, ‘Of course you can.’ So he came around, we had a meal together and all the rest of it and he said, ‘Look, he said, ‘I’m thinking of retiring.’ Now, he’s got a business there or had then and employed about two hundred people in the summer time. He had a Rootes group, a car place, spray shop, loads of restaurants, fish and chip restaurants. You name it he’d got them. He’d really got it. He’d been in the RAF too. But he’d really, he was a gruff man. You’d never believe with some of his language but the best business man I’ve ever met in my life. So we sat and he said, ‘Look Ron, he said, ‘I’m not looking for money,’ he said, ‘I’m looking for you to take it over lock stock and barrel,’ he said, ‘And you can pay me back.’ He said, ‘We’ll put it through a solicitor but I want you to pay me back gradually. A bit at a time.’ So I said, ‘Well, ok. Let’s think about it then.’ So off he went thinking we’ve already agreed to this. So when he’d gone I said to Joyce, ‘Look, I’m not really too sure about this. We’re going to, this, this business is a seven day a week thing from eight in the morning ‘til 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock at night when we close up.’ So I said, ‘Look, I think, I think not.’ So I went to see him down at his house in Mablethorpe and I said, ‘Ray, I’m ever so sorry but I’m going to turn you,’ Oh he couldn’t believe it.’ He said, ‘You’re never turning it down.’ I said, ‘Yeah. I am. Because I want to be on my own.’ So from there that was that. And I’ve always been interested in antiques as you probably look around you’ll see. And I said when we built these bungalows, I said to Joyce, ‘We haven’t had a holiday. Let’s bugger off and have a holiday.’ So we grabbed the kids and took the car and went toured around Scotland. We’d arranged to stay away two weeks and after about, I can’t be still anyway, after about twelve days, no. Less than that. After ten days we were back around as far as Stranraer and we got, I said, ‘Let’s have another two or three days before we go home. So I said, ‘Let’s go across to Ireland and find John Tregoning,’ who was the fella I’ve referred to already. He was a customs officer on the border. Now, I didn’t know where he was unfortunately so the first morning we were there we went into the customs headquarters in, in Dublin. No. In Stranraer sorry. Yeah. In Stranraer. No, it was over in, no, the headquarters of, it was in Ireland somewhere where the headquarters. Anyway, I went to see this bod in there and I said, ‘I’m looking for a man called John Tregoning.’ And he said, well we wouldn’t tell me where he was, he said was because, ‘The reason I don’t tell you is I don’t know whether you’re looking for retribution or whatever.’ So I said, well, so I explained it to him and then he said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what I’ll do,’ he said, ‘I’ll get in touch with him and I’ll have a word with him,’ he said, ‘And then if you come back I’ll tell you either yay or nay.’ So we do this and we went back and he told us Ray lived in Auchnacloy down on the border, you see. So we get down to Auchnacloy and we have festivities as you probably can imagine. And walking through, through the village we see a fella who obviously knew John, called George Taylor and we eventually go across to his place down in, he was dealing in antiques and horses and horse and carriages and things. I couldn’t believe the stuff he’d got. So, anyway, one thing led to another and so I formed a friendship with this George Taylor in Auchnacloy and it lasted, well until I packed the antique business up. We used to go to Ireland weekly, virtually. But he, he had some carriages and all these things that you see on the TV with these fancy carriages and stagecoaches and things and he’d all these. He’d over a hundred in one field. Traps. So I ended up buying some bloody traps you see and bringing them home to the UK [laughs] and landaus and all sorts. So that bore fruition, and went very well until to go back to my son he, he wanted to go, he wanted to go into navigation in the Merchant Navy. But when he went for a medical examination he found, they found he’d got the same trouble with his eyes I have. And so we had a, they rang me up from, from Grimsby actually. Been for this test in Grimsby and they rang me up and said this problem and they said that you could probably get him cured by getting him going to the relevant people. But he said, ‘We must warn you that he’ll have to undergo the same eye test every year. Now, he said if it deteriorates he’s never going to be out of trouble.’ So I went over and I told Robert what all this was and he said, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do, dad.’ I said, ‘Well, do you want to come and work with me for a while?’ So he joined me and that’s how it all ended up and it’s still the same thing now.
DE: Right. Ok
RI: He’s still, still doing now. He’s got some bungalows. So that’s another. So that, so that was that story really. How that all came about. My son came to work, to work with me and that’s how. Then of course the family all then we all amalgamated and got together and poor old, poor lad then we put him in we had a hot dog stall in Mablethorpe so we put him in there at nights. I think he gave more away then he sold but if you ever meet him. Oh, you met him anyway because he was with me when we went there.
DE: Right.
RI: Robert was. Yeah.
DE: So you mentioned that you met up with some of your crew.
RI: I did yes. I did. Well, I used to see John regularly because he was in Auchnacloy and we used to go and stay there you see. So we used to see John quite regular. Now, Tom Coram, came over from Australia and he wasn’t a very nice chap so that was best forgotten really. So I then decided to go to Canada to see, to see John Callingham. So we went and had a ride down the, you know, down. Did all the trip and I went and flew over on Concorde and all the rest of it we did because [laughs] So, so that was that. And so, yeah. So we had, we had a great time with John. There’s photographs of him somewhere which we’ll come to shortly. So we discussed all this. What we’d done and of course we were much older by this stage of course, you see. So things take on a different light really. But we had a lot of, he was a hell of a nice man and he’d taken a big part in in Canada in in Toronto in the ex-Service Associations. They used to fly him over to France every year to the, to this thing there. So he’d taken a big part actually after. He was a, what did he do? He was a [pause] he weren’t an engineer. No. He was a surveyor I think. Yes. He was. Yeah. So I saw him and the mid-upper gunner. He went. He played the clarinet by the way, the mid-upper gunner and, but he went to live in Australia and so I lost touch with him. The last time I talked to them on the phone he’d got dementia and so he didn’t really know anybody and all this tragic story. So that ended, and that finished that. John Tregoning, who was the navigator was the bod who we became very, very friendly with. We used to go and see him in Plymouth. When he came back from Ireland he took a big job in Plymouth so we used to go down there and have a few days with him in Plymouth. And he used to, hadn’t been on the Hoe and this Plymouth Hoe and all this business. So we had great times down there. Yeah, yeah, so that. And the Eddie Gaylor, the bod who was the spare rear gunner I met him regularly then of course because he used to walk past with his little dog and so forth. So I met him quite regularly. So, but the rest, for the rest, it sort of it disappears doesn’t it? The engineer that we had he had joined us latterly of course after, after we’d crewed up originally. He joined us last but he was a married man and he was twenty eight. Lived in Liverpool. But to us this is incredible.
DE: He was an old man.
RI: We thought he was an old man. He’d got kids. So we never sort of mixed with him at all whilst he was a good engineer so far, but he never sort of became part of us at all. And Christ he was only twenty eight [laughs] This is unbelievable really now.
DE: Yeah.
RI: You’ve disturbed all this news you have [laughs] you’re the one that’s responsible now. Yeah.
DE: Yeah. So when did you start going to Squadron Association meetings and reunions and things?
RI: Do you know, it was only through him. Through Eddie that I went. Meeting him. That was. Oh, it must be —
DE: Eddie was the spare bod gunner.
RI: Yeah. He was the spare bod gunner.
DE: Yeah.
RI: Yes. Yeah. And that of course at the reunions was where I met the fella who sold all the books. I will show you. I won’t let you read them now but I’ll show what he’s written. Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. Of which he’s put copies in the museum in Elvington. But you can’t get at them unless you get permission but they’re there to be read. All of them that he wrote on my behalf. Yeah. He became a great friend. A great friend, he really did, a real nice. What a nice man. He really was. Yeah. Really is rather. I must ring him, because going back to the rear gunner’s memorial at your place when your helpers told us that his name wouldn’t be on there because there was only Lincolnshire names on there I had to tell you that didn’t I? And then we find out from your good self that, that wasn’t true and of course the names that I imagine that the two Ridleys on there weren’t him but of course they are.
DE: Yeah. Yeah. One of them is. Yeah.
RI: Yeah. That’s right. One of them is Bert so I‘ve now got to ring around some of his family because they want to, they’ve seen it all at Elvington but they’ll certainly want to see this at your place now. So I’ve got the, one of them, one, his cousin he lives in a castle up in [pause] his two lads. One of them’s a test pilot for [pause] in France. And his wife flies the queen. And the other one is, is in charge of building the new airport in Hong Kong. So you can guess what they are.
DE: Yeah.
RI: Yes. So they all want, they send hampers to us at Christmas and all this sort of thing now. So it’s all, just to tell you the story about his family about the rear gunner’s family that’s written down. But you’ll see this but if you want to record it while you’re here. What happened was, I forget how many years ago it is now, but it does tell you in there anyway. How many years ago I get a phone call one Sunday afternoon and a bod saying, ‘Is that Mr Indge?’ Now, I don’t like being disturbed Sunday afternoons and I thought it was somebody trying to sell me double glazing or some silly bloody thing so I said, ‘Yes, it is,’ I said, ‘What do you want?’ I wasn’t very courteous I don’t think. So he said, ‘Well,’ he said, ‘All I can say to you Mr Indge does the name Ridley mean anything to you?’ I said, ‘Yeah. It does. It means a lot to me.’ I said, ‘Why? Do you know him?’ And he said, ‘No. But,’ he said, ‘I’m one of the Ridley family.’ So then we start to converse then and one thing led to another. So then he got in touch with his brother and his father who then ring me up and all this. So then eventually they want to come down here and have a look at a Halifax, you see. Now, I’ve been in the one in Elvington several times, and they normally in those days and still, as far as I’m aware still do, you can go in. You go in. Of course we didn’t, we didn’t come out that way. We came out via a hatch but the side of the Halifax is well back.
DE: Yes.
RI: But they won’t let visitors turn right down to the rear turret. They only let visitors go left up in to where the engineers and everybody else was sat. So they arranged then to come on holiday for which I never coughed a penny. They paid for my hotels and all this they did. These three did. And so then I rang Elvington and arranged that I could take them and they’d let them go inside the aircraft probably and have a look. Now, I’d been in several times obviously, and there was usually young men that were there to show you around the aircraft because it’s really a job for a very young man climbing in and out anyway. So when I went with these three Ridleys, it was an old man. Well, old. I say oldish. I suppose sixty five, seventy perhaps and he was going to take us into the aircraft. So he climbed into the aircraft first followed by perhaps myself and these other three bods and he then starts to, I said, ‘They would like to look in the turret.’ He said, he said, ‘You know that I can’t let you go down there.’ I said, ‘No. But — ’ I said, I told him who they were and he said, well he said, ‘All I can do,’ he said, ‘I’ll walk up the front,’ he said, ‘If they’d like to go down to the rear turret but,’ he said, ‘If I catch you,’ he said, ‘I’ll have to say. I’ll have to say.’ I said, ‘That’s fair enough.’ Now, perhaps this is unbelievable but they all went down. They went down into the rear turret in turns. Three of them. And they even say now how, how Bert’s cousin got in there because he wasn’t young of course by now. How the hell he got in there is beyond belief. But you’ll perhaps, you’ll find this out, they all came out crying. I’ve been and sat in the rear turret. They all deserved a VC. It was an awful job. An awful job. You were sat with nothing. It’s awful. Terrible job. Terrible. So that was really, so we’re now big friends and all the rest of it and so they all now want to come to the new one at Lincoln and have a look at the one of Bert’s name on the —
DE: On the wall. Yeah.
RI: On the wall. Yeah. They do.
DE: They’ll be most welcome.
RI: Yeah. Yeah.
DE: Yeah. I’ve not, I’ve not been inside the Halifax at Elvington. I’ve been inside a couple of the Lancasters.
RI: Yeah. That’s funny. I never have been inside a Lanc ever in my life.
DE: Have you not?
RI: No.
DE: There’s not meant to be as much room is there as there is in a Halifax?
RI: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. There was very little. They could get another thousand feet in height roughly. But their bomb load was a little bit more. But there weren’t a lot in it. A lot of the bods that had flown in both reckoned that the Halifax was the better of the two. I don’t know. I’ve no idea. I don’t really know. They were there just for a job weren’t they?
DE: Yeah
RI: They weren’t designed for comfort. They were designed to do a job weren’t they?
DE: Yeah. You were talking a bit earlier again before we started recording about how the Lancaster has been remembered and the Halifax less so perhaps.
RI: Yes.
DE: How do you feel about the way Bomber Command has been remembered over the last seventy years or so.
RI: Well, it’s got you see, even at Elvington now there’s some young men how this should be done now. They’ve rebuilt a Mosquito up there and they were hoping to get, we became very friendly with the bod that was building it. He reckoned it had cost him his marriage. And he used to get some young engineers from right from down south to come up there in the holidays and help him to rebuild this thing. And his second wife, Sotheby’s have an aircraft sale once a year and she, for some reason or other went to see them at this whatever in, up in Leeds. And they said to her, ‘If he wants to sell it we’ll get, could get him a million for it. But,’ but they said, ‘If he can get it airborne we’ll get him two million.’ But of course he won’t because he’s had bits to rebuild this thing from all over the world actually. I haven’t been for a while so it’ll be finished now I presume. But what a nice man that rebuilt this Mosquito. Yeah. Yeah. So you know and so it’s all progressed from there now and a lot’s happened since of course finding where the aircraft crashed and all the rest of it. Do you want to go down the route now? Or —
DE: Yeah. Fine.
RI: Or later?
DE: No. If yeah if you have a story to tell about that then yes please. Yeah.
RI: Well, when, I don’t know how this started now. How the hell did it? [pause] Well, we went. I went myself and Hollis’ went to Germany to Bert’s grave on several, three or four occasions because there are in Reichswald Forest there are several 578 bods buried. And when we used to go there’s always brought two little wooden crosses and we used to not only go to Bert’s but go to all the others and put a little cross on them. This was on Reichswald Forest, and so that went on for several years and I then started going down. I lost my wife and I started going for, the RAF have got some places, recuperation places. I don’t know what you’d call them. There’s one down on the south coast, there’s one in Scotland, and there’s several of them. I went to one of them down on the south coast and some bod down there got in touch with the National Lottery. This all sounds, but however it’s true and eventually I hear from a lady in, the National Lottery then had an office in Nottingham in that time of the day and I had a letter from them. Would I be, did I want any lottery funding for anything that I might? So I said, ‘Yeah, I do really.’ So, however the outcome of that was they sent me a thousand pounds. The National Lottery did. So I gathered together and there’s pictures now of this. There’s pictures of them all somewhere in this somewhere which I’ll give you before we go too much further.
DE: We’ll find them.
RI: We’ll find them. Yeah. So I then, so we gather, so we got this funding from the National Lottery but at the same time a German who worked in Germany, an Englishman who worked in Germany who was aircraft mad had discovered in Gelsenkirchen where there was some aircraft, aircraft had crashed. Now, he’d gone as far as sorting out that there was a Lanc and a Halifax. Now, they couldn’t decide which bits belonged to which except all the crew of the Lanc were killed and in our case only the rear gunner was. Now, we’ll get to this bit in a bit. The rear gunner was still in the, in that, in the back bit of the aircraft. And what happened was this, this bod who was Air Force mad but worked in Germany he, he found out that going back a little bit he found out that they’d been widening a dyke and they’d found all these bits of the aircraft and the turret with the body of Bert still in. Or what remained of him. And also he found out that there’s an old man with dementia, well it’s all fell foul now, but there’s an old man in that village that had got a photograph of it when it first came down. Before it, and actually there’s good photograph of Bert in it actually. Or what remained of him. But he won’t part with it. But they’ve promised us that they will part with it eventually but when the eventual will be I’m not, I’m not quite sure. But this is, this is part of the epilogue of course and this refers to it. This is what I’ve been meaning to give you, and let you look at. Now, I think, I think you’d better take the recorder off.
DE: Ok.
[recording paused]
DE: Recording now. You were saying about petrol.
RI: Yeah. Well, we were aware, I was aware that, and of course we all were, all aircrew members that once you were on ops you could get a petrol allowance for pleasure. And so far as I’m aware, and I’m certain we were the only people in the UK that got actually a petrol allowance purely for pleasure. Not involving business. So that, that, I never registered the thing. I never taxed it or anything. I’d no driving licence or anything of course but nobody bothered us in those days. There was nobody about. So when we were shot down they sent a list which they’re all here still. Those lists are still here. You’ll see them if you want to. Those lists told my father what, what behind, what was mine. There was a bit of money. There was several things and they would be forwarding this stuff to him. But there was no mention of a car. So of course my father apparently panicked and then rang about this car because there was a bike. That got sent back but there was no mention of a car. So my father actually went up to Burn I think eventually and some of the bods there had pinched the tyres and the battery [laughs] So eventually they got it squared up and my father was friendly with a garage and they got some tyres from somewhere and managed to get it. And so the Ministry wrote to him to say that the car was available for collection. So that’s, so it was here. When I got home it was there. All taxed and ready and on the road it was. Yeah. So that was another thing out of there really that I hadn’t told you about which it’s only you coming here that disturbed all this information.
DE: Made you think of it. Yeah.
RI: It has. Yeah. Yeah.
DE: So it wasn’t a bad life when you were on the station on ops then. You —
RI: No. No. Because I used to go out. We used to, we got in with several pubs locally. We used to take the squeezebox down. Never had to buy any drink because we just used to use the squeezebox and that was it. Yeah. No. That was good really. Yeah. From that point of view. Yeah. Yeah. You never thought of what might happen I think did we? You just, your name just got rubbed off [coughs] excuse me. Your name just got crossed off when you didn’t get back. So yeah. That was it. So that, that was the end really of the of the escapade until, a lot of it came to light with the grant from the Lottery Fund and when we all went and met among these others. Well, there were pictures of that too. We met this Roman Catholic padre and a member of the press came around and wanted to take pictures of us and all assembled. It was, it was remarkable how they found bits and pieces of the thing really but, but there was I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet there’s a vague picture of the remnants of the turret.
DE: I did see it. Yeah.
RI: Did you see it? Yeah.
DE: A black and white one.
RI: Yeah, it is. Yeah. So whether we shall ever get any more we don’t know but there’s nothing so sure that in my mind that that was actually him. Yeah. Yeah. So, but they took us for a ride around the old oil refinery at Gelsenkirchen where we were shot down and it’s a lot bigger now than it was then of course. But whether it was all in vain I’m not quite sure. I don’t know. I remember us all saying at the end of it all we’ll never buy anything Japanese or German ever again.
DE: Right.
RI: And look at us now.
DE: Yeah.
RI: We’re all riding about in them now.
DE: Yeah.
RI: But we all said that you know. We’ll never buy anything from Germany again. Yeah. I know the March reflection, you know. You’ve brought all of these reflections up. The March. Now really it’s unbelievable that we were straggled out for miles but the cold weather. I mean we couldn’t, I couldn’t live through it now any more. I suppose you’d [emphasis] struggle perhaps.
DE: I’m sure I would. Yeah.
RI: With twenty to thirty below. Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
RI: Yeah. But we were lucky because the Germans marched us through the day normally and at night time locked us up in farmyards and things. But we were a bit lucky because John Callingham, he was, he was of farming stock so he was able to, where a few nights we did manage I think he managed to get us milk and all sorts of things. Having been a farmer’s son and the rest of it. So that was very useful really this extra milk and things like that. Yeah. And then we, yeah, so there we go. So what else you would like to know about I’m not quite sure.
DE: I think we’ve ticked off just about everything that’s on my list.
RI: Good.
DE: Yeah [pause] No. So unless you have anything else that you’d like to tell me I’ll draw the interview to a close and thank you very much.
RI: Well, only that I’ll just get a couple of the books out and show you. Not that you’ll want to read them.
DE: I’ll just pause this then.
RI: If you ever do want to see them you know where they are.
DE: Smashing. Thank you.
RI: I don’t, you know one way or the other.



Dan Ellin, “Interview with Ronald Indge,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 24, 2024,

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