Interview with Stan Instone


Interview with Stan Instone


Thomas (Stan) Instone was working at a factory making Bristol Hercules engines but volunteered to be aircrew as soon as he was of age. Initially his application was unsuccessful but he persevered and trained as ground crew. He later remustered as a flight engineer. After training he crewed up with a Canadian crew and was posted to RAF Middleton. His aircraft was attacked by a night fighter and the rear gunner was seriously injured and ultimately lost an eye. Stan was able to get him out of his turret. Stan and his crew were eventually shot down and the surviving members all became prisoners of war. He was initially at Stalag 13D before the long march to Stalag 7A. His poor health made the journey particularly arduous and he credits his fellow crew member with the strength to carry on.




Temporal Coverage




01:33:18 audio recording


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CB: Right. My name is Chris Brockbank and we are currently in Slough talking with Stan Instone about his experiences with 419 Squadron RAF, RCAF in the war and also his POW experiences. But Stan could we start off please with your earliest recollections of life. The family. Where you went to school and that sort of thing.
TI: Oh yes. Well, I was born on the 1st of January 1925 in a small urban district outside of Nottingham, about three miles outside which was actually a mining community or part of a mining community. And my father was a miner at that time and so I saw very little of my father one way or another. But anyway I had a very happy childhood because we lived next door to my grandmother who I adored and it was a very close community. At the age of nine my father decided to leave the mine and go in to insurance and he got a job in Great Yarmouth actually. So as a nine year old I went to Great Yarmouth which I thought was fantastic. By the sea and all the rest of it. And we were there until more or less the outbreak of war where he got a promotion in his job in insurance and moved to Greenford which is not too far away from here. And oh, while I was at great Yarmouth I was at Great Yarmouth Grammar School. And no great academic. Nothing, nothing startling but, you know I enjoyed it etcetera. But moving down to Greenford it was rather more difficult. I went to Southall County School which was a sort of a grammar school which was a mixed school and I’d only ever been at an all boy’s school and the sight of girls was a bit too much [laughs] I think. But anyway I didn’t stay very long and the bombing started. And my, having a younger sister three years younger than myself and my parents decided that I and my sister should go to my grandparents in Carlton outside Nottingham because it would be in a safer area than the London area you see. Anyway, I was there for a while and then he got another promotion. But this time to Blackburn in Lancashire. So, up I went but by this time I was fifteen years old and I thought school was no longer appropriate as far as I was concerned. And so I got a job with a factory outside Blackburn and it was making Bristol aeroplane Hercules engines. You know the 14 cylinder sleeve valve engine, you see and so right from the start I had a sort of RAF associated background as it were. And we were going through, it wasn’t an apprentice but it was like a trainee going from section to section on lathe milling etcetera etcetera. So I got myself a fair engineering background and also being well aware of how the engine was put, you know the parts you made and how it was put together you see. And at seventeen and a half I volunteered for the RAF and went to, I was in, oh and see I’d joined the ATC in Blackburn. And it was very good because we were, went to various places. Kirkham for air gunnery. They had a turret there we were allowed to fire. At Squires Gate where we actually took off in Ansons and things like that. So, and then I also did a summer course at Silloth near Carlisle where we were flying Ansons you know. They were flying Hudsons but we were not allowed anywhere near the Hudsons. We were allowed to play with the Ansons you see and so that was that. So I had a fair background in the ATC and I had probably about twenty hours I suppose in the, in the air you know. Anyway, I applied for this — pilot of course. I wanted to be a pilot. Everybody wanted to be a pilot of course. And I was rejected almost immediately. And I did a, the next operation was a wireless op air gunner but I seemed to fail my Morse aptitude test. And the only thing on offer was a straight AG. And I thought no. I daren’t go home and tell me mum I was a straight AG because at that time the life expectancy of a rear gunner on ops was about twenty minutes. So that was it. So, anyway I thought well later. So I decided well if I couldn’t fly at least at eighteen I would join as ground crew. I thought I’d be a flight mech you see. So I joined up in Edinburgh and I got my 3021416 and I was posted to Arbroath. That was the square bashing place you see. I’d only been in two weeks, two or three weeks, and the call went through for remuster to flight, they were looking for flight engineers then. But on my first interview flight engineers weren’t mentioned although they were in being of course. But you probably know the original, the early flight engineers were recruited from the ground crew. Corporal fitters to, you know air frame and engines and given a short course and that was it. But then they decided on a direct entry flight engineer. So, anyway within two or three weeks I re-mustered. I volunteered for a flight engineer. And I was then sent to a selection board in Edinburgh and had a whale of time there. I answered all the right questions. I don’t know if you ever did the — they had an SME. They called it a SME 3. It was like a television screen with a rudder bar and control column. And there was a random dot on the screen itself and by, you know operating the control column you went to try and get your dot in line with that. Seemingly I did very well. Anyway, up to the, you know the preliminaries I saw these senior blokes sitting in there looking very important and being an AC2 at that time smart salutes etcetera. And, and they asked me various questions and they said, ‘Well, I think we could recommend you for pilot training.’ I was a bit surprised. He said, ‘But. There’s a but,’ he said, ‘Because there’s so many in, in the queue as it were it was nine to twelve months before you were likely to start the course.’ Because as you probably know any PNBs, that’s pilot, navigator, bomb aimers were being trained in the Empire Air Scheme in Canada. Some in America obviously and, as was then Rhodesia. So, well I’d sort of set my heart on the flight engineer. I said, well I would go for an engineer, a flight engineer. And he was a bit nonplussed. He said, because he like me didn’t know much about what a flight engineer did you see but I remember him saying, ‘You’ll be in charge of three, four very powerful engines,’ you see. So I said, ‘Well, fine sir. Thank you very much sir.’ You know. Anyway, I wrote, went back to my, finished off my basic training and almost immediately I was down to ACRC. That’s the Aircrew Reception at St Johns Wood you know. Lords. Three weeks there. As a serving airman of course. We were in a flight of serving airmen. I mean I’d got oh about three months at that stage mind, you know. Really serious. Anyway, I then was posted to Whitley Bay for ITW. Six weeks there and then St Athan on a six month, well about six or eight months at St Athan and I finished. I finished in June. Early June ’44 at St Athan. Just before, well just around about D-Day it was actually. I had a week’s leave and I found myself at 1664 Conversion Unit. No, there was no preliminaries in between. Finished at the course, the [unclear], and then on to the, and there as you may know the flight engineer’s course is all ground work. No flying whatsoever. In fact at the, the engineering school at St Athan there wasn’t a whole aeroplane. There were bits of one but no, all we had were circuit boards and engine stands and stuff like that, you know. So we had to learn about hydraulics, pneumatics, electrics, you know, instruments. You know. Anything to do with connecting with an aeroplane because although there were heavy bombers — the Stirling, the Halifax and the Lancaster they were all very similar. You know the systems did differ. There were differences as you know but there’s handling differences but basically they’ve all got the same sort of components you see. Anyway, I passed out well and was awarded my sergeant’s stripes and brevet in June ’44. Then as I say a week later I was at 1664 Conversion Unit. Now this was the point that I’d had virtually no flying. I think I’d done three hours in an Oxford over the Bristol Channel I think while I was at St Athan. And that was my total flying experience in the RAF. But I’d come with about twenty hours ATC. I was more experienced than most actually and having got to Dishforth and see these great big black Halifax 2s and 5s. God, have I got to sort of fly those? You know. And so it was a question of you flew as second engineer with whoever would take you. Now, all that meant was that the engineer who knew a bit more than I did would show you the various knobs or levers to pull etcetera. Whatever it was. Anyway, I think we flew like that for a couple of weeks or so. And then one day the tannoy went. Tannoy went and it said, ‘Will all engineers not yet crewed up report to the engineering section at 1400 hours.’ Which I duly went there and we were wondering, there was I don’t know how many engineers there. Probably a dozen or more and, probably fifteen or so, I don’t know. Anyway, there was, I had a friend who I’d been at St Athan with so we were very, very close. You know. Alright. And anyway with that eight Canadian pilots came into the room looking for engineers. And so there was two flying officers and six sergeants. So I thought to myself, ‘Well he’s a flying officer. He must know more than I do,’ so I went up to this guy and all I said, ‘I’ll be your engineer if you like.’ He said, ‘Ok by me.’ We shook hands and that was the selection you see. And my mate went to the other flying officer and did likewise. So, we were taken. We were crewed up then. So we, now my crew had just come up from OTU at Honeybourne. They were flying Whitleys. And we hadn’t, the bomb aimer had dropped out and so we were without a bomb aimer at that particular time. But we did our normal sort of circuits and bumps and local flying and day cross countries and so on and so forth. And then it came to night flying and so we did that. We were scheduled for night circuits and bumps. Well, we had a screened pilot at first you see. So we took off. These were Halifax 2s by the way and I had type trained on Halifax 3s. That was with the radial engines. Nothing to do with Lancasters at that stage. And we took off. Did a few circuits and bumps and the screened pilot said, ‘Ok. Do a couple more on your own and call it a night.’ Well, we took off alright. No problem. But coming on the circuit to land, in the engineers compartment in the Halifax was behind the pilot and it was Rolls Royce engines and of course they had cooling flaps. And I noticed one of the engines was running a bit on the hot side. And the controls for the radiator flaps were like four fingers and up for closed, down for open or whatever it was. Anyway, I thought well I’ll open, you know open the flaps up you see. And then I went to open the flaps. No resistance at all. No hydraulics. So I said to the skipper, I said, ‘There’s no hydraulics on there. We’d better try the undercarriage.’ We tried the undercarriage and expected the, you know the thump and the green lights. And nothing happened. So we were circling around and the skipper tried a bit. Climbing and diving and things like that. Shook it around a bit in the hope that it would happen. And anyway I mean I was starting to panic a bit at that stage you see and — because it appeared that one, one had partially come down and the other was still stuck up in the nacelle. So we, there was an emergency system whereby you opened a cock as it were to allow air into the system and theoretically gravity would take over and the weight of the undercarriage. But there was no spanner missing for the cock [laughs] Anyway, this wasn’t going to happen at all so anyway somebody suggested, well there’s the header tank in the rear of the fuselage. A cylindrical one about this high. And if it contained the fuel there’s a hand pump on the side and a bit of luck you could pump like mad and — but shining the torch in it [laughs] it was like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. It was bare. Nothing there. Oh God. Now, I don’t know who it was suggested it but somebody said, ‘Well, there’s the elsan there.’ So, we all had a good pee in the elsan [laughs] those that could and we tipped the contents of the elsan into the header tank and believe me the smell was [laughs] terrible. I can smell it today. Anyway, pumped like mad and suddenly clunk and green lights came on. And we landed. Just like that. So, that was my first experience of, of night flying. And that seemed to set the tone for the Blaney crew as we were then called. The Blaney crew. Because everywhere we seemed to went we seemed to run into a certain amount of bother. And that was it. So that was my first experience. And then of course we went on to night cross countries. And ultimately then we were posted to 419 Squadron in September 1944. OH, by the way in the meantime at Dishforth we did a couple of leaflet raids on France while the Normandy operation was, was in being as it were. In the old Halifaxes. And, but, so now seven of those crews that came through at that particular time were posted at the same time to Middleton. The 8th one was still, they hadn’t done quite so well on their, on the OTU so they were behind. But they were subsequently lost. They’d done a leaflet raid and didn’t make it back. So that was the first of the eight crews gone. And at the, at the end of the, well by the time I was shot down the other crew with the flying officer had actually gone to 44 Squadron on Pathfinders. They survived the war. And of the other six one rear gunner survived. So, that was the subverse of the, out of the original fifty seven five of our crew survived. The whole of that George Bates crew survived and one other. I met him in Germany by the way. And so the thirteen out of the original fifty six people you see. And that was the, that was fairly sort of average squadron loss I would have thought at that particular time. So anyway that was the training done and then in October they decided we were good enough to operations. And my first one was a night operation to Essen. We got buzzed by a fighter plane again. But we got, we got back but our squadron commander was killed on that particular one. McGuffin was killed on that raid. And then we did a, the next day we did a daylight on Essen. And this one again there was a great, a great big Lancaster flying above us with its bomb doors open and a four thousand pounder, I’m not joking, it dropped between our port, our port wing and our port tailplane. Just like that. If we’d had a big stick we could have touched it, you know. Really. Anyway, that was, that was that. Then we did a daylight on Essen. On Cologne. Saw the cathedral. But it was fairly quiet that one. And a night Cologne. Anyway, in the space of seven days we did nine trips err nine days we did seven trips. And then we come to Bochum. And that was a nasty one this was. And we’d previously gone from [pause] flying south from Middleton because Middleton was the most northerly of the bomber stations you see. So we’d fly south, congregating around about Reading, around this area. Head over Beachy Head into France. And then nearly all our targets were Ruhr targets anyway so heading north you see. But this particular one was on Bochum which again is a Ruhr target of course. We’d flown over the North Sea, over the Hague and we got flak all the way. All the way from the coast right up to the target. Then suddenly there was no flak. Oh God. You know what that means don’t you? Fighters. And there was. We had five fighter attacks. One after the other. And the rear gunner actually hit a 109, a 110 rather. Twin engine one. And he was, he was credited with that as a kill. The mid-upper had seen you know had hit a ME109 but hadn’t — you know. It was only a possible. Nothing else. But then there was some guy got on the back of us and he really — well that’s it. He knocked out the rear turret. Badly wounded the rear gunner. And we went in to, I don’t know whether it was deliberate or accidental but the pilot put us into a steep dive and we were, you know virtually like that. And we were doing over three hundred miles an hour in a Lancaster which is a bit on the fast side actually. But we managed to pull out about two thousand feet and set course for, for Woodbridge near Ipswich. And so my job then was to find out what had happened to the rear gunner. So I went back and he was still conscious actually but he was [pause] he’d lost an eye and he had wounds, a badly wounded arm and chest but he had more important I didn’t realise at the time because his helmet was blood soaked and he had I think at the end the count was thirty shell splinters in his head actually. Anyway, I got him back to the rest bay and sort of did what I could for him but by that time we were getting closer to Woodbridge so I had to go back and sort of make sure the, because the fuel situation. I mean, after all that’s what the engineer’s main job was fuel management you see. And anyway we got back as far as Woodbridge but the skipper you know on the approach we’d been, we radioed in we had injured on board etcetera and we couldn’t get the tail down. It was sort of, you know sort of down like that and we had to more or less stall it in to get it, you know, to get down. Anyway, the ambulance came and took the rear gunner away to [pause] Ely I think it was. Ely Hospital. And when we went to inspect we found that the starboard fin and rudder was virtually gone and the starboard elevator just, just curled under like that. So how my, how that pilot had managed to pull out of that dive you know with virtually no elevator control at all. Anyway, that was it. So that was a really bad night and that was the, our ninth trip. We had a weeks’ leave and back again. And then it became the winter time had started. We were only flying about two. Two a month then. We did, just went on and on like that, we did a trip to Dortmund, Duisburg. You know. You name it we’d been there. You know, from, on the Ruhr Valley. And the Ruhr Valley was a pretty horrible place. Was, you know because there were so many flak guns etcetera. And if the guns weren’t there the fighters were. And ,and then it sort of went on until the 20th of February 1945. The night we took off on to Dortmund. We’d been there before and [pause] but we didn’t make it. About twenty miles short of the target we were, now the book says we were hit by flak but we were not. We were hit by an upward firing fighter. He hit us in the starboard wing and the bomb bay. Mind you we still had the bomb load on board. We had a four thousand pounder and twelve cans of incendiaries. And there would be about two hundred gallons I suppose in the mid tank still. And I’d my and I’d drained the wing tank. I don’t know if you realise it there’s three tanks in each wing on a Lancaster. The main one’s in board of, in the fuselage in the inboard engines and mid tank between the two engines and then the wing tip tank. And we had, originally we’d had about sixteen hundred gallons which was a normal load for the Ruhr. And anyway the mid tank was on fire. Burning furiously behind me because I [pause] I’d hoped we could put the fire out. Had it been in the engine bay the extinguishers might have worked but the tank we had on fire with that amount of petrol it was hopeless. And then the small fire had started in the bomb bay. Anyway, the skipper gave the order to bale out. And, and the, at that stage the bomb aimer was already in the compartment. He’d opened the hatch but instead of throwing it on to the bomb sight which he was supposed to have done he’d dropped it through the hole. And what happened? It jammed solid in the opening. At that stage the navigator pushed past me because that was [pause] and he was jumping on the, on the thing to try and free it. And at that stage the rear gunner called up saying he couldn’t get out of his turret because the doors, the doors had iced up. Now on some of these some were hinged and some were sliding and the idea was he used to push it like that. But he couldn’t open it because you know even a car door in the icy weather you can’t open it sometimes. Well, that had happened. Now fortunately, anyway I went back, I said I’d see if I could do anything. I went back. By the time I got there the navigator, the wireless op and the mid-upper had gone and the entrance door were swinging open. Things like that. Anyway, I went back to the turret but he’d already turned it around and fortunately for him I think he’d turned it with the flames because I think, we think what happened was the flames from the, the the fire in the wing tip had actually thawed the ice on the doors and he was able to open it. So he managed to open his doors and he went out backwards. Now, on our squadron the rear gunners had pilot type ‘chutes. On some they had an observer type which they kept inside the fuselage. On ours he had the pilot type ‘chute. Well, he went out but he got his foot caught so he was being trailed behind the aircraft. You know, with the flames sort of — not badly burned but sort of. And anyway he rolled over. Had to leave his boot behind. Not his foot. His boot. And he came down. Well, at that stage I’d gone back to the pilot and said, well I just, I’d already got my parachute on and I just sat on the hatch and I expected the pilot to follow me. And I don’t remember any more at all. And I woke up on the way down and there was seemingly bits of aircraft flying with me. You know. Like that. You know I was very comfortable. You know. Lying on my back there falling and [pause] I thought I’d better do something. I pulled the rip cord and suddenly there was this terrible jerk and it sort of shots up and shots up and eased on the shoulders there. I looked down and there was the cloud base and I was just about to drop through it. And I remembered ah that the Met man, he said the cloud base over the target would be eight thousand feet. So I thought oh I’ve got eight thousand feet to go. But I hadn’t. As I dropped through this cloud I saw this dark mass below. What’s that? And suddenly I was in a pine, a pine forest. And I just just went through the tree. Just clump, clump, clump. Just like that. And I don’t think I hit the ground any, any harder than that. So I undid my, you know unbuckled the parachute and took the Mae West off and tried to hide them and started to walk. But I’d been hit in the arm and I was, and the face. Not. Not seriously but it was bad enough to sort of be a bit a bloody as it were. But I was picked up within, within hours. And I’d hoped to get to you know to get up to Holland but I’d lost my escape aids on the way down and so I was struck. So I was in the village lock up for about two days I think. And that was a horrible time. It was damp. Cold. And then I started, my chest then started to really pack up and I was getting so breathless I was [pause] Anyway, after two days the guards came. ‘Raus Raus.’ And there was a truck outside and then there was my bomb aimer and the two gunners and a load of [stiffs?] as well mind you know. And we were taken then to Dortmund. To a Luftwaffe station at Dortmund. A night fighter station it was. And we were then in a, in a cellar there for a couple of weeks. So, at this stage I will have to pause again because —
CB: Right.
TI: I’m sorry about that
[recording paused]
CB: Ok. Right. So we’re just continuing from the night fighter station and what you did at the night fighter station.
TI: Well, at the night fighter station we were put in a cellar. Put in a cellar there with bunks. With very little facilities. There was no, no blankets and very little sort of in the way of bedding at all. But we were, there was quite a number there. There was the four of us actually. The two gunners and the, and the bomb aimer and myself. No sign of the pilot, navigator or the, or the wireless op. And we were there for a few days but I was, and there was an American colonel, a P47 pilot. A Thunderbolt pilot. He’d got very badly burned around his neck and all he had was a paper crepe bandage around there with all pus and stuff. And there was an American bombardier with a large chunk of flak in his buttocks mind so he was sort of face downwards you see and I at that stage I was just, I was really having difficulty breathing actually altogether. Anyway, they decided that there was about four or five of us who were not very well as it were. We should, they would transfer us then to Dulag Luft which was in Frankfurt. And so we were taken by truck and from, from Dortmund, from the, from the [pause] to Dortmund Station. And that is where the article in the book there was. Anyway, there was two guards with us and there’s, there would probably be about a half a dozen more. But two Americans very much in evidence with their uniforms etcetera. And we were there and suddenly an old guy, he’d be about fifty I suppose but by that he was very old by our standard who saw the Americans and he really went wild because he was shouting and screaming and you know by which time the crowd had sort of got attracted to this you see. And some of the guard pushed us into a corner and they put their, held their rifles in front of us and told, told them to go away. And it had got very very nasty actually because I think undoubtedly had the, had the guards not been there we would have been done over. As to how badly is another story. But anyway fortunately a train came in and their trains were not very frequent in Germany at that time and so everybody rushed to get on the train and we were put on this train to Frankfurt. And I think it took us about three days I think to get from Dortmund to Frankfurt because every time there was an air raid the train was stopped and go into a tunnel if there was a convenient tunnel and it just, so it went on you see. And I got to Dulag Luft and, ‘My name is Instone, my rank — ' You know. ‘3021416’ and I was put in solitary confinement. And I had nine days solitary confinement actually. Anyway, on the ninth day the doors had opened. I was taken there and this is the scene I will never ever forget because it was a small room about this size I suppose and there was a German officer. Immaculately dressed. Monocle. Sabre scar, cigarette holder. ‘Ah Good morning sergeant,’ he said, ‘And how are you this morning?’ [laughs] But on his desk was two rather thick orange covered booklets. One said, “419 Squadron” and the other said, “428 Squadron.” And of course my eyes went vrrr to the 419 ‘Ah sergeant. You’re 419 I see.’ He said, ‘There you are.’ He said, ‘There’s all the, there’s all the records,’ he said, ‘Tell me were you a Darlington or a Stockton man?’ Well, of course it was Darlington. Middleton St George is halfway between Darlington and Stockton. So you either went one or the other you see because the train was there. So I was a Stockton man. He said, ‘How’s sergeant — how’s Squadron Leader Black? How’s he getting on?’ He was, he was the squadron leader you know. He knew more or less everything. Oh, he said, ‘By the way,’ he said, ‘Do you go to the Oak Tree?’ Which was just up the road. Well, you know. Anyway, he said, ‘Your crew,’ he said, ‘Your pilot, La Blaney,’ and he went on. And — La Blaney. I said, ‘No. Not La Blaney.’ And I was a bit reluctant to say very much but his initials were LA Blaney but being a Canadian squadron it could have been like a French name like La Blaney you see. But anyway, but all the crew was just there. As indeed was me and crews of others. You know previous things. Anyway, it was eventually, he questioned me about various things which I either didn’t know or was unable to tell him anyway. And we parted. He said, ‘You’ll have a shower now.’ That was a first time I’d had a shower since I’d been down there, you know. Or a wash even. So, and then, we were then sent to a transit camp run by the Americans. Somewhere outside of Frankfurt. And then we were eventually, eventually we were in to cattle trucks. Loaded in cattle trucks. You’ve seen these people going to Belsen and stuff like that. Well, it was very much like that. About, it was supposed to be forty [arms?] and ten horses or something like that in these thing but we were actually packed literally packed to the gills. You could either stand or sit. It was one of those like that. And I think four days there. Between there and Nuremberg. We were allowed out to have a pee, whatever you know but that was all. I don’t think there was any food at all at that stage and when we eventually got to Nuremberg which was Stalag XIII-D. And the first person I saw was my wireless operator. Andy Kindret. And he was waiting at the gates and he’d been waiting at the gate for all the intakes and so we were, so then there was five of us together in Stalag XIII-D. Well, conditions weren’t good there because I think we had a a communal mess I think. Anything that was at seven thirty in the morning. I think it was a slice of rye bread and a bowl of gruel or something like that. And at 6 o’clock or thereabouts in the evening was the same. Same thing. And that was that was then. We did actually manage to get a Red Cross parcel there which was fantastic, you know. And we were not there very long. We could hear the guns from the, from, from the east. Or the west actually because the Americans were coming up. It was the American sector at that stage. And they decided to move us out so by this stage the amount of inmates in that compound was two thousand. So we then, we went, so we marched. Marched is [laughs] shuffled I think more than anything else. We advanced. We had no idea where we were going. We were just going south. Further into Bavaria actually. And we eventually found, got to Moosburg seventeen days later actually. It was nearly a hundred and fifty miles. Nearly. You know. And we got there to Stalag VII-A at Moosburg. And then it was so crowded. It was just almost impossible to move, you know. And there was, the only food we were getting was, because it was nearer the Swiss border we were getting Red Cross parcels through. So there was Red Cross parcels or parts of Red Cross parcels available and that. So we managed actually but we were there. We weren’t there very long. And on the Saturday night, this would be about a week before VE Day I think because we didn’t know about VE Day at that stage there was a pitched battle. Because apparently in the town of Moosburg was an SS garrison and the Americans were on the other side and the camp was used as a firing range as it were. And we spent the nights under the hut actually. But there was no, no captives. All the SS garrison were wiped out apparently. And then General Patton himself rolled into the camp. Into the camp in the Sunday, on the Sunday afternoon. Pearl handled revolvers and all, you know. And what, what did amaze me actually the American Red Cross staffed by girls was there with a bread making machine and a doughnut making machine [laughs] and the queue for [laughs] two miles. Well, I don’t I know how long it was. For a slice of bread and a doughnut. And that was it. But then the Americans started to shift the Americans out because there was two airfields quite close by there. There was Straubing or Regensburg. And they were being shipped out but we were there for about four days after, after the, we were released by then. And we were eventually taken to [pause] I think it was Straubing. That was the camp by the aerodrome. There had been Junkers 52s there. You know, the three engine ones there. And we were there for another three days on the airfield waiting to be picked up. And we were eventually picked up by, again by the Americans in Dakotas and taken to Juvencourt and spent the night in a American transit camp at Reims. Again, the memory that will live with me forever is that there was an open air cinema with Judy Garland in, ‘Meet Me in St Louis,” I think. On a white wall. And so that was — and the American dishes with about fourteen compartments of this that and the other [laughs] you know. And the next day again we went to Tangmere. Well, back to Juvencourt and by Lancaster to Tangmere. And then thence to, from there to Cosford. And that was really the end of the — I was there for another three or four days because I had a [pause] my chest had improved somewhat but not good. But they weren’t very happy about it and I was there for a few days while a medic, and a new uniform and stuff like that. And eventually went home to Blackburn. And then eventually I had about eight weeks leave I think and then back to — I was, back to [pause] I did a course which I thought was demeaning. A flight mech’s course at Melksham. You know. Because I’d already done a leader’s course and I knew more than what the, what the instructors were saying actually. But they were there. And I went then to Hawarden near Chester. I finished up there. And so I was demobbed from, from there in June ’47.
CB: So what did you do at Hawarden?
TI: I was sergeant in charge of mods. We were rebuilding. We were, they were doing Halifax 3s and 7s. Taking the bomb bay out and putting panniers in and flogging them to the South African. The South African government. We were also re-skinning Anson 19s. They were the VIP Ansons, you know. They had plywood wings. Wing covering and that sort of skin like that. And I was in charge of mods and stuff like that, so. It was not a very, it was a job I didn’t like at all. I wanted to get back on to obviously flying or even in something more technical you know. But they decided because of my state of health I suppose that was it. But I tried. I kept saying, ‘Well, can I get back?’ ‘No.’ ‘No.’ ‘No.’ ‘No.’ Anyway, I finished up with a small pension, but it [pause] That was it.
CB: So when in 1946 did you come out?
TI: ’47.
CB: ’47 I meant.
TI: June.
CB: June. Then what did you do?
TI: Well, the place I’d worked at before was no longer. Well, it was British Celanese then. It went on producing. And I worked for a local government for a while. But my health was bad. Blackburn was not the best of places to be in actually because I don’t know, I don’t know if you know much about the north of England but Blackburn was a mill town. And I think at one stage it had a hundred and seven mill chimneys belching forth black smoke and there was always an industrial haze over the, over the town. And if it wasn’t raining it was going to rain, you know. So, it was one of those places. And I was, I had a particularly bad spell and I went to see my, my doctor. Well, he was on, on holiday and his locum was an ex-Merchant Navy doctor I think. A fellow called [unclear] I’ll always remember this guy. He had sticking out hair and wire rimmed glasses, ‘What’s wrong with you then lad?’ I said, ‘My chest. I can hardly breathe.’ So he examined me, you know. He said, he said, ‘Lad,’ he said, ‘For Christ’s sake get out of this bloody place or it’ll kill you.’ He said, ‘Emigrate. Do anything but get out of this place because if you stay here you won’t be around much longer.’ So I literally took him at his word because at that stage my parents had moved down to Weymouth from Blackburn. My father again had a promotion in his job but had left me behind. And so I went down there. That was a good move and a bad move because it improved my health. My health improved considerably because of the southern climes you know and that sort of thing. And I worked for the local police. I worked for the police headquarters in Dorchester. I was in charge of all stores and uniforms. Things like that. Quite an important job really but as a civilian that was. And of course I had the advantage everybody liked me [laughs] And there, but after a while I got to the stage where I was getting nowhere. I’d got as high as I could you know from a money point of view. And I came to London. I had a girlfriend then. She was a nurse in London before, this was before Jenny of course. And I said to her, ‘Let’s go to Windsor. I’ve never been to Windsor before and I want to see the Air Force Memorial at Runnymede. Anyway, as it was we went to Windsor. I was quite amazed. And Runnymede I thought was marvellous, you know. But right next door to the Runnymede was — it was called Shoreditch Training College. Teacher Training College. And I had been doing a night school course in Dorchester on model engineering and such like that and the instructor had said, ‘Have you ever thought about going into teaching?’ I said, ‘No. I’m much too old now,’ you know, because I was in my thirties by this stage you see. He said, ‘I think you’d be alright.’ So I said, ‘Where did you train?’ He said, ‘Oh, I trained at Shoreditch.’ But Shoreditch at that time was in Shoreditch, London you see. But after the war they’d moved out to Cooper’s Hill, you know which was next door to the Runnymede. So I applied and got there. I did three years. Very enjoyable. And qualified as a technology teacher which I continued to do until I was, I retired in 1990 when I was sixty five. In the meantime I met Jennifer of course and the rest is history there. And, but I retired from the school I was at in [pause] well they said, ‘But we’d like you to carry on for a bit,’ so I did another three years part time because you can’t do too much otherwise it affects your pension. And I finished there and the local grammar school said, ‘Can you help us out?’ So I did then another five years part time. So all in all by the time I got to seventy two they said, ‘Well, I’m sorry. But the, we don’t think the insurance company is going to cover you anymore.’ And a, and a friend of mine who I’d worked with before his technician had an accident with a circular saw you see. And he said, ‘I’m desperate. I’m desperate. Can you help me out?’ So I worked there until I was eighty two [laughs] but I didn’t — after that I said, ‘No more. That’s it.’
CB: Fantastic.
TI: That’s it.
CB: That’s very good. Thank you.
TI: I think we’ve got to show you something else now haven’t we?
CB: Just, can I just ask a couple of questions?
TI: Yeah.
CB: One of the interesting things that’s difficult to broach and talk about is how crew members came and went. Now, some people were wounded so they had to go elsewhere. But others because of their mental state. And you said that the bomb aimer didn’t come from the OTU. What had happened to him?
TI: I don’t know. I really don’t. I never. I didn’t find out at all. It was a closed shop as far as I was concerned. We picked up a second tour man actually at, at Dishforth and we remained. He’d, well I don’t know whether he’s still alive but we were in contact until quite recently weren’t we? Mark and I went over to Canada to stay with him for a while. And he’d been over to us. He and his wife. His wife died. His wife died some years ago. But I think the last we heard he couldn’t manage himself. He was in pain at the hospital. But we’ve, in spite of everything I’ve not heard nothing more so if he’s still alive I don’t know but he’s older than me. He’s about three or four years older than me anyway so he’d be well in to his nineties anyway. Other than that now the rear gunner — excuse me I must go to the [unclear] again. I’m not doing very well.
CB: You’re doing fine.
[recording paused]
TI: The rear gunner.
CB: Right. We’re restarting after a short break. Rear gunner.
TI: The rear gunner who had been badly wounded over Bochum on the 4th of November ’44 came to the squadron two days before our final trip. He’d, he’d been awarded the DFM. DFM. He had an eye patch but he was on his way back to Canada but he [pause] so we had a night out as you can imagine. In Stockton. But anyway he was a very — he went back to Canada. He survived the war but he died in a car, a motorbike, a motorcar accident in America in the 60’s I think. Was it, Mark? We found out because he had, he wanted me to go over to Canada because I was one who got him out the turret. He felt he owed me something. He wanted me to go to Canada and get me a job there but with the RAF and my health it was no go. By the time I thought about it he’d gone off the radar as it were. But he’d the last I heard from him he was going into hospital to have these sort of splinters done.
CB: What was his name?
TI: Lanctot. Donald Lanctot. And — but he, he went to the States as a surveyor or something wasn’t it, or a [pause] He’d got some qualification anyway.
CB: Ok.
TI: And he married an American I think. Was it in Malibu? In Malibu I think. Malibu.
CB: It can’t be bad.
TI: Can’t be bad. But he died in a auto accident in the ‘60s.
CB: Sad. What about the other? Because you got through gunners. Several.
TI: Well, we lost, I lost contact with the two gunners. I was in contact with Andy Kindret because Andy was, we were buddies. We shared a room at Middleton and he was with me constantly throughout the march and in fact I said if it wasn’t, if it hadn’t have been for Andy I don’t think I would have made it anyway, you know. But he looked after me and he was a great help. But of course he lived in, just outside Winnipeg and he took a, he got married and had children and he was a commercial, a commercial artist first of all. And, and he worked for Canadian Television on set design and stuff like that.
CB: Ok.
TI: And retired. He was about six months older than me actually. But he died just shortly after he retired. But he’d just, he was just finishing — the last letter I got from him to say, “I’ve just finished a painting of our Lancaster.”
CB: Right. Brilliant.
TI: “And when I’ve done that I’ll send you a copy.”
CB: Right.
TI: He never did actually because he died. I got a letter from his son, you know because his son had sent all his effects to Nanton Air Museum.
CB: Right.
TI: Again near Winnipeg. And again it was Mark that found the information.
CB: Let’s just quickly. Your son Mark. What were you going to say?
MI: I was just going to highlight he is particularly interested in the gunner who went absent without leave at Dishforth.
TI: Oh yeah. Yeah.
MI: And also Kenny Shields.
TI: Oh yes. That’s right. Yes. I’d forgotten about that.
CB: So the one who went absent without leave. What happened there?
TI: He was sent to Sheffield.
CB: Yeah. Prison.
TI: Which was an Aircrew Detention Centre. And he came back but the skipper wouldn’t have him. He said, ‘I can’t rely on you. I can’t rely on you because if you go away. Got to be absolute.’ I mean, and then Ray Altham came in. He was one of the guys around Dishforth you see. So, Lanctot was the rear gunner and Ray Altham was the mid-upper. But when Lanctot, Don Lanctot was, you know, lost the eye etcetera we had to have another. So, Ray Altham opted to go in the rear turret and we got another guy called Kenny Shields. He was actually a wireless operator rear gunner but he was a very, he wanted to fly with us anyway and did. He was killed in a road accident. He was a Canadian but he had relatives in, I think it was Wigan. If it wasn’t Wigan it was one of those mill towns anyway. And at Christmas, we were on leave that particular Christmas and he’d had too much to drink and not being aware of driving on the left, you know. He stepped in front of a bus and that was the end of that. And he was buried at [pause] he was buried at Harrogate. In the Stonegate Cemetery there. And then we got this guy called Nozzolillo. Lou Nozzolillo. And he was first, first Italian descent. First generation Canada. And a good guy. Very. But you know but apparently he did very well in government because he lived in Canberra — not Canberra. Ottawa. And something to do in government. Quite high up. But I’d no real connection with him at all. It was Phil. Phil Owen and Andy. Andy Kindret first of all. Phil Owen came over. And we were, we were buddies then actually. But —
CB: So the crew was all Canadian except you.
TI: Right. That’s right.
CB: And all sergeants except the pilot.
TI: No. No. No. The pilot was a flying officer. As was the bomb aimer.
CB: Right.
TI: He was a flying officer. He was a second tour man actually.
CB: Right. So how did the crew gel?
TI: We did. Absolutely. And that was, that was what, it was the — I couldn’t have wished for a better crew. I would have flown anywhere with them, you know. I had tremendous admiration for my pilot you know, and you know we had a very [pause] you know, and got on very well. And I’ve been asked before but being Canadians there was no bullshit if you understand what I mean. There was very much, it was Christian names all the way down the line as it were. And I mean obviously there was, if there was a ceremonial parade it would have been different but I mean in the air and on the ground it was first names and that sort of thing. And we looked after one another as, as a crew. As a bomber crew particularly you’ve got to look after one another. You know, you do your job in your, in your area and that’s it. And that’s it. But being an engineer I found it suited me great because Lancasters, I went from training on Lanc err Halifax 3s which was the radial engine one which incidentally I’ve never flown in on to Lancaster 10s. So I knew nothing about the Lancaster so I had to learn it very quickly from Dishforth or from the squadron itself at Middleton. And we found the, the Lancaster totally different from the Halifax 2s. It was so manoeuvrable and light. You know. It was. Whereas the Halifax was a bit — on the Merlins I think the 3s and 7s were very good. But the 2s and 5s were with the Merlin engines were not. Very heavy. Very. And on the stalling oh terrible when they stalled. You know, it was a real judder etcetera etcetera. But the Lancaster was a very kind aircraft. It was a pilot’s aircraft I think, you know. And being a flight engineer we sat up front. We had, only had a canvas seat actually. I mean had we been, had we, we sort of had to assist the pilot on take-off and landings obviously and things like that. Well, our main job was to monitor you know the temperatures, pressures of all the, all the instruments and stuff like that. And calculate the fuel because as I say we started off with about sixteen hundred gallons and I think we had six little [pause] you know, gauges. So you couldn’t tell within probably a hundred gallons how many you had in the tank. So you had to work out. We knew exactly. We had a chart anyway but certain revs and certain boosts etcetera we would be using around about fifty gallons per hour per engine, you know. That sort of thing. And depend on if there was a headwind or something like that. But whatever. So we calculated the fuel so we knew more or less what was in the, in each of the tanks. And of course we had to, manually we had to sort of operate. So on take-off we always took off on the main tanks. That was inboard and over the target always on main tanks because you couldn’t be, you know mucking about sort of changing cocks. But on the way out I would drain the mid, the tip tanks and then on the way back we’d sort of juggle it until such time when we were coming in to land we were on main tanks and there. Because as you probably know it was a court martial offence if you landed with less than thirty miles, thirty hours, thirty minutes flying time. Unless it was an emergency mind. So —
CB: So when you talked about your role when sitting next to the pilot how did you — what were you actually doing with the throttles and how was the pilot communicating with you on take-off and landing?
TI: Well, the pilot had the, he had the, you probably know the outer throttles had a — were curled at the top. So the pilot would take them in his right hand and I, as an engineer would push up the, the others behind him you see. So he would actually manoeuvre the aircraft partially by the, by the throttle settings, you see. And it was my job on take-off to be through the gate you know. That was it. Three thousand and up if you were lucky you know. And then after, after then it would be after three minutes he would fly on full power for three minutes. Then you’d throttle back and start your, start your climb etcetera.
CB: So what, what would be the revs that you climbed at?
TI: Well, it would be three thousand initially but then —
CB: Yeah. But then what?
TI: Then we would drop to about twenty six hundred.
CB: And then cruising when you were straight and level.
TI: Well, more or less two six.
CB: Ok.
TI: We were flying out about a hundred and eighty and you’d come back at two twenty. That was the, that was the sort of average speeds for the — dependant on the winds as you know but it would be on an average and we, and we would get approximately one mile per gallon out of a Lancaster.
CB: Right. So you’re going out at one eighty knots.
TI: Yeah.
CB: And there was a reason for that.
TI: Well, I think because you kept, you kept the engines, you kept the revs down to about two six you see and of course you had variable pitch so, so we had to do the prop settings as well you see. There was the —
CB: As an engineer.
TI: As an engineer. And so it was. You had to do your log every twenty minutes anyway to work out your fuel. You know. So it was, you were fairly well occupied, but you had, you could move about the aircraft if you wanted to because everyone else was stationery. You know. They were stuck. But I could go to the bombsight. The idea was bomb aimer used to sit with the navigator. He would look at the H2S and the navigator was the Gee. The Gee one. Well, there was one actually when there was a navigational error which I think was, it wasn’t very funny at the time but as I, and I can’t remember what time it was but I know it was a Ruhr target and I know we flew over Mönchengladbach which was a German artillery school mind [laughs] Anyway, we were due as a second wave on this particular target and when we were, when the first wave was going in the navigator said, ‘Jesus Christ,’ he said, ‘I’m on the wrong chain.’ And we were fifty miles south of track. So we pressed on [laughs] in the better position and of course by the time we got to the target every other bugger had gone home.
CB: When you said, ‘On the wrong chain,’ you’re talking about GH.
GH. Yeah.
CB: And he was on the wrong chain of GH.
TI: That’s right.
CB: The navigation aid.
TI: That’s right.
CB: Yeah.
TI: And I think every flak gun in and around the area opened up. I’ve never seen so much flak in my life. I really haven’t. You could, you could smell it even. When you could smell, when you could smell cordite it’s bad. Well, anyway we got apparently untouched. We got back thinking oh heroes. But no. We got three. Three cross countries to improve navigating [laughs] Anyway, anyway we had [cough] I’ve got a frog in my throat. To follow up on that the ground crew couldn’t get the starboard inner started on the following morning. It wasn’t going. Anyway, the inspection they saw a small hole on just the leading edge. Now as you probably know there’s all the pipes, all the plumbing’s on just behind the leading edge and a piece of flak had actually penetrated the outer skin and flattened the fuel line. But it, while we were in the air I suppose the booster pumps in the tank and the you know the suction of the, in the engine itself had managed to draw fuel. So we had suffered those sort of engine problems but it wouldn’t start. So they had to cut that bit out and put a new bit in actually. But that was, you know surprising, you know.
CB: Amazing. Going back to the fateful incident where you were shot down was the — you said it was a German fighter underneath. Who saw that?
TI: Nobody.
CB: Right.
TI: That was the whole point. You see, the rear gunner said it was two bumps. Two. Two flak. Two bursts of flak. I knew it wasn’t flak because all it was was bump bump. That’s all there was. Just two shells hit us actually and immediately the wing tank burst into flames. And yet its gone all the way through. In Chorley we were shot down by flak but we weren’t. If you read that article there the guy that found us that shot us actually he’d actually scored a hundred and — a hundred and twenty two kills in his career of which —
CB: A German you’re talking about.
TI: Yeah. Of which a hundred and twelve were four engine bombers. And we managed, a friend of ours in Canada had actually had researched it and he found the name of the pilot that actually shot us, shot us down because he shot two down that night. We were, there was one earlier on and then we were the second and he went to return to base. But he, like our rear gunner was killed in an auto accident in the 60s.
CB: Was he really?
TI: He was from a well to do family in wine apparently and admitted in one of the wine in France as a —
CB: At the time you were shot down were you aware of the German Schräge Musik system?
TI: No. We hadn’t. But it was, you see the one I’m talking about over Bochum was that the Wild Boar as they called it was a free for all but in the latter stages the, it was the Schräge Musik actually.
CB: Right. Ok. Now, another question’s to do with when you were a prisoner of war. So, at the end then there was the Long March. So could you tell us about that? How did that come about? And what happened?
TI: Well, it wasn’t. Ours was the short march. As against their —one incident which I failed to tell you about this. On the march. I think three days after Nuremberg we were straggling along the road in between pine trees. It was a narrow, well, a good road but narrow and a deep ditch either side with pine trees either side and there were three Focke Wulfs came over. Three Focke Wulf 190s came over. Followed by three P47s. The Thunderbolts. Oh we were all, all fired up about getting, you know getting the, giving that Focke Wulf what for. But the next thing we saw was the three, three P47s nose down strafing the column. So we were strafed by the Americans. But they broke off. They must have realised. They killed fourteen of the, in the, in there but it was a horrible situation that was. You could feel the bullets, you know. I know we were on the road one minute and the next minute we were in the ditch. I mean I think all the living records were broken [laughs]
CB: And not everybody was killed presumably.
TI: No. No. There was —
CB: Of the people who were hit.
TI: No. It was fourteen. Fourteen were killed.
CB: Killed. And then wounded as well or not?
TI: Yes.
CB: Others.
TI: They broke off and after that a lone Spitfire used to come over every day and waggle his wings to say we know you’re there actually. And then so it was not a pleasant march because the weather was pretty awful at the start. Cold and wet. And you were sleeping anywhere. Outside. Under the hedge. Anywhere that was sort of going. And food was virtually non-existent. And then it improved tremendously as we got further south. So the weather became again almost, almost pleasant you know because it was, I mean one of the nicest nights we had was in the cattle shed. Literally with the cows. And it was warm and dry. Well, nearly dry anyway [laughs] And so it was, it [pause] it was an experience anyway but —
CB: So how many days was the march running?
TI: Seventeen days I think. I think it was seventeen.
CB: And at the other end what happened?
TI: Well, we just in, just all in one compound. A huge compound with lots and lots of people. I think at the end of the war — we actually did visit the camp later. Years later. Was it fifty eight thousand in the, in there?
JI: Eighty. Eighty.
TI: Eighty. There was eighty thousand POWs in Moosburg.
CB: Mainly army were they?
TI: Anybody and, anybody and everybody. It had been. We went there and I must have been I’m sorry about that —
CB: It’s ok. We’ll just stop.
[recording paused]
CB: Restart. Ok. Good. Fire away. What have you got there? “The Final Touchdown.” So what’s that story?
TI: That’s the —
CB: This is a newspaper story.
TI: The one. It was in 2014. That was before Vera. We were due to take a piece of Lancaster. Now, I think Mark ought to come into this because he’s the one that did all the work.
CB: Ok. Let’s just pause a mo. We’re now talking about when the Australian — the new, the Canadian Lancaster Vera came over to Middleton St George and you were there.
TI: This was before.
CB: Yes.
TI: This was before.
JI: Yeah. I think, I think you’re at cross purposes. But there is a story. He’ll tell you.
CB: Ok.
JI: Get it in context.
CB: Right. Go on then Stan. Then Mark.
JI: Quite an interesting one really.
CB: Go on Stan.
TI: Well, it was Mark actually that discovered a German Archaeological Society were looking for some wreckage of — I believe a Halifax wasn’t it? In the Dortmund area. Not having any luck at all. Quite how he got on to them I don’t know but he did and he contacted, he said, ‘Well, I know my dad’s Lancaster blew up around that area in February ’45.’ And so they did [pause] it was a village called Sprockhövel. About twenty miles from Dortmund roughly. I don’t know. And anyway they, they tried excavation and things like that without very much success and they contacted the local farmer who at that time was a six year old. At the time of the shooting down was six years old and his uncle owned the farm and he’d since then inherited it. And apparently he said, ‘Well, I’ve no idea he said but I’ve got an idea that there was. My uncle used a lot of aluminium pieces to repair chicken coops and stuff like that. I’m not all together sure but I think there’s a couple of bits down in the cellar.’ So they went down in the cellar and sure enough there was two pieces of aluminium and on one piece apparently there was a serial number and they could actually, I think again through Mark’s expertise of whatever that they were able to trace it back to Victory aircraft in Canada with the serial number of KB804. And so I was — so they invited us over. And I must say I was very reluctant to go to Germany because having dropped bombs on them I wasn’t too sure what the reception was. But I was totally amazed because they — Sprockhövel is as I say twenty miles south of Dortmund and the nearest railway station is Bochum. And Bochum was the one where we had that nasty incident. But we were met by Karl and his, met by Karl on Bochum station, taken to Sprockhövel and we were given a reception. Mark and his wife went and Jenny and I went and we had a remarkable reception. You know. We were feted and, you know. And then in the town centre at their museum they’d got the, and they had a picture of, of that one. The small one, you know. Which you can get through there anyway. And all the crew and things like that. And they’d this piece of metal. KB804 you see. Quite a thing. Anyway, they arranged newspaper things. The Burgermeister of the town came and a television crew from Dortmund came. So we were feted weren’t we actually? And that was it. And we, you know came away. And a few days later the family came over with a chunk of Lancaster. Would you like to see it?
CB: Absolutely. Yes.
TI: I’ll get it.
CB: Right.
JI: Where is it?
TI: In the garage.
CB: We’ll stop for a mo.
[recording paused]
CB: Stan’s been to the garage so we’re now looking at the piece of metal from his Lancaster that was brought back to the UK by the German family.
TI: Sixty nine years after the —
CB: Sixty nine years after this.
TI: Event.
CB: And you were supposed to take this up to Middleton for the reunion.
TI: Well, Mark took it up.
CB: Mark took it up.
TI: I was in hospital.
CB: Oh right.
TI: I had pneumonia.
CB: Yeah.
TI: Mark took it up but to me it means a lot actually.
Other: Yeah. Absolutely.
CB: Extraordinary.
TI: And so —
CB: So this is a good six feet long and a foot wide.
TI: Yeah. But I was and the point is that I was very proud to be a member of Bomber Command but, but having with my experience of Dortmund, particularly Dortmund station. Having travelled through the streets of Dortmund and seeing the terrible devastation and the chap who’d lost his family to the American bombing etcetera I did feel some remorse as it were you know so — and since then on our subsequent visits to Moosburg, Nuremberg and to Sprockhövel in Germany I found the German people so much nicer than I ever thought they were. You know. And you know I I you know I’ve got a certain amount of regret for dropping bombs on them because at eighteen, twenty thousand feet dropping bombs it’s so impersonal. On the ground you see the devastation. It sort of hits you a bit. And so you know I’ve got a certain amount of remorse as far as of that. I was, I did my job. And I’m glad I did my job but it's the but again isn’t it? How I feel about it.
CB: So, as a crew what was your attitude in terms of going on raids?
TI: Well, we wanted to. It was, well we wanted to do thirty trips and finish. Finish a tour. That was, that was the point. You started off. You volunteered for it and that was your job. It was a job. Nothing more than that. And yes you were worried. You hoped you were going to make it but you always hoped it was going to be somebody else, you know. And that was the point. And I think the navigator in the latter stages had started to feel the effect actually. And I think that was when the muck up of the, you know the navigational south of track etcetera. And he became, he got very, of course the navigator was probably in the worst position of all because he was curtained off behind the pilot you see so he never saw the outside unless he wanted to poke his head behind the curtain. And so he was not aware of the flashes and the bangs and stuff like that you see and I know that if there was any sort of near, ‘What’s that?’ you know. That sort of thing. I think we were finding that he was getting a little a bit, a bit flakey as it were, you know. But we, he was a good navigator as far as I was concerned and I would never have anything said against him or that. But there it is.
CB: Did you ever try to get a reunion of all the crew after the war?
TI: No. Well, I would have liked to have done but we were never, we never were in a position to sort of afford the trip.
CB: It would have been a bit expensive wouldn’t it? Yeah.
TI: And of course they were well spread, you see. There was two in Winnipeg. The two, the wireless op and the rear gunner were Winnipeg. Or near Winnipeg. The pilot, well he was dead of course but New Brunswick on the eastern side. The two, the tail gunner Lanctot and the navigator were Montreal and Lou Nozzolillo was originally Toronto you see. But so they were so spread that it was very difficult.
CB: So they didn’t get together either.
TI: No.
CB: No. Ok.
TI: And, you know I think probably Andy and, and Ray they may have.
CB: Because they were close.
TI: They were relatively close but that was all.
CB: Now, we’ve covered a lot of things and in, in that conversation that’s prompted Vic to think of something. He wants to ask you a question.
Other: When we first started you told us about what it was like to come back. And I don’t think on the record that we actually talked about that. But I mean thinking about different times, different situations these days if somebody that went through something like you went through on a daily basis apparently or near daily basis would be, would be given all sorts of support. But I gather that when you came back —
TI: No. There was nothing.
Other: Would you like to talk about that? And can I put this down on the floor?
TI: You just, you just resumed. You know. My mates were getting demobbed at that time. All the ex-ATC people were getting demobbed at the same time so we formed that. That was our support. But there was no support as far as no counselling. No nothing.
Other: No.
TI: You just got back into the bosom of your family and that was it, you know.
Other: Yeah.
TI: But I found it awful. I did find it awful. I wanted to go back into the air force. I really did because I found Civvy Street dreadful after the air force, you know.
Other: What sort of period are we talking about here in terms of finishing? Well, of course you were still in the RAF weren’t you after —
TI: Yeah. That’s right.
Other: But what about when you were just coming back. What? That’s what I had interpreted.
TI: Well —
Other: When you first —
TI: That was the difficult part because as I say we had eight weeks leave actually from returning from Germany to going back. I was then posted to Melksham which was a camp that had been closed down but they’d reopened it because they didn’t know what to do with redundant aircrew. That was the top and bottom of it. I mean some were lucky enough to sort of still be clearing bomb dumps and stuff like that. And a few were just sort of dropped back on to Training Command or something like that. But the majority of us we were nobody. And especially being, you know with the Canadian Air Force we’d no, we’d nowhere in the RAF at all you see. We had, I mean all I ever did on training. Training establishments as far as the RAF was concerned so I’d nobody. And it was very very difficult feeling. I mean alright I got on, on the course at Melksham. I made friends and stuff like that. And eventually posted to Hawarden. I made friends there and I was quite, quite happy in as much as I would have been far happier had I have been able to fly. Fly again you see. But I was just sort of seeing out my time really because you know my having —my health was gradually improving and you know it was [pause] that was it. But as a [pause] there was nothing if you understand me. You just sort of carried on and did what you could, you see.
Other: Yeah.
TI: And jobs were not easy to get actually because you know especially with the factory I had worked at had closed. Had closed down as far as I was concerned and so I got the job in sort of local government and not that I liked that very much but it was you know it was a job you know.
Other: On a similar theme do you want to say anything about your — I think Kindret was your buddy was he?
TI: Kindret. Yeah.
Other: Yeah. Do you want to tell us about anything, you know? What the support was between the two of you because I think you said something like you didn’t think you’d have got through it if it hadn’t been for him.
TI: Well, at Middleton St George when we — when we went to Middleton St George first of all we were in Nissen huts just outside. Quite close to the Oak Tree in fact. I don’t know. Chris knows. Probably knows where the Oak Tree is but —
CB: Yeah.
TI: But then as crew were shot down or finished their tour or whatever then we moved in. Of course the officers then moved into the officer’s mess and the sergeants into the sergeant’s mess and that was just inside the main gate. And 428 was one side and 419 was the other. Well, Andy and I were fortunate to share a room on the top floor of this, of the mess. And, and we had a great relationship. I mean, you know we had similar interests and things like that. He was, his parents were Ukraine actually and they moved to Canada. He’d been born in Canada so he was first generation there. But he used to write home in Russian. That sort of thing. So, but he was a great, a great artist because I always regret he did a crayon sketch of a Lancaster while we were on the squadron and he gave it to me. And of course in the ensuing moves between families and things like that it’s got lost, you know. So it was something that I do regret. But — and we used to go to Stockton together. He had a girlfriend and I had a girlfriend and that sort of thing, you know. And he had intended getting married to a girl in Stockton actually but when we got shot down that was, well it wasn’t the end of that as far as he was concerned but when we got back to England and he got kitted out again he went up to Stockton to see the girl with the intention of actually getting married but there was a sailor. They, they were of the opinion that we’d been killed you see and so she’d moved on. Moved on to the Navy [laughs] rather than the air force. And so he came to visit me in in Blackburn. I was still with my parent’s house at Blackburn then. And we had one hell of a time before he went back to Canada. And that was really the last time I saw him actually. Although we wrote. We wrote regularly, you know but as we got older you know it got to be a post, you know a letter and then a postcard and that sort of thing. But we were in contact right up to the end as it were. But he did support me. Particularly on, on the march with the, you know because my chest was bad and you know and things like that. And I really quite honestly I wanted to give up. I got to that stage I couldn’t really take much more. He was the one that prompted me, ‘Come on.’ You know. That sort of thing. And it was — so I owe a lot to him. I owe a lot to the crew. To the pilot. To him particularly and, and to Phil the bomb aimer. We’ve been friendly for years and that sort of thing and it’s a great loss to me when the crew, the breaking up of the crew itself.
CB: It was the family.
TI: A family. Absolutely. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. At the end of a raid you returned with the aircraft normally undamaged you said. So what did the crew then?
TI: Well, there’d be a debriefing of course.
CB: Ok.
TI: And then —
CB: And how did that go?
TI: You would, you know, they would do then you would have your meal and go to bed. And that was the end of that. And the following day you would, you’d find out whether you were on. If the battle order had been put up. If not you would push off in to the town or somewhere like that because Middleton was a good station but there was no facilities whatsoever. No cinema. No bar or anything. Oh there was a bar in the officer’s mess. And there was nothing in the sergeant’s mess. All there was was a billiard table. That was all. So, if you wanted entertainment you went elsewhere you see. And it was, as I say it was on the the railway station. The train went one way. Stockton one way. Darlington the other. So it was either or, you see. I got to Stockton. That was my first time there and you know I got established. Got a girlfriend there. Not, not serious, you know. It was more interesting [unclear] there. But it was alright. Then to the local dance hall. La Maison de Dance it was. What a name [laughs] La Maison de Dance. At the end of Yarm Lane. But it was, you know it was entertainment as it were because you you never knew, you know when, where, were you, whether you were going to make it or not you know. That was, it was always at the back of your mind. And I remember that night at the, on Bochum the rear gunner was he was very lively. He was a great one for the girls mind but he was very lively. That particular night he was very very quiet. Very, you know shut in on himself as it were. Totally out of character. Whether, whether some symptons had told him that he was going to get it that night I don’t know. But equally the, on our last last trip, our last trip as it were I had misgivings as well you know. There was something. I didn’t think I would. I never thought I would make it quite frankly.
JI: No.
TI: And I always thought with the amount of sort of, of crews being written off and that sort of thing I didn’t think I would make it actually. I think while I was there, there was only one crew finished the tour.
Other: When you say you had misgivings. Did you have misgivings every time you went?
TI: No.
Other: No.
TI: No.
Other: So —
TI: I mean you —
Other: So it was something quite unusual.
TI: You were, you were worried. That’s not to say you weren’t worried. You really were worried you know.
Other: Yeah.
TI: But it was you got to the stage well if it’s going to happen to us. If it happens to us it happens to us you know and there’s nothing you can do about it. You know. It was —
Other: So you learned to live with a lot of anxiety really.
TI: That’s right. Yeah.
Other: Yeah. When you say you came back and you went to bed. I mean what was sleep like?
TI: You were usually so tired out you know.
Other: So you were exhausted really.
TI: Exhausted. Yeah. Because you were, you were in the air for between six to eight hours and then you went you’d had your, the briefing beforehand. Then you had your debriefing afterwards it would be most of a day you see.
Other: Yeah.
TI: Or a day and a night actually. And I suppose most of our, most of our — I only did two daylights. All the others were night trips you see. So you were getting back 5 to 6 o’clock in the morning sometimes you see. And then of course you were just crashing out. And then all you did was wake up around about lunchtime. Go in to the section to see if there was a battle order up and If you were not on that you sort of, ‘Right.’ So, we said, ‘Skipper?’ ‘Ok.’ That’s it. There was virtually no discipline in the sense that you had to be there. You — if it was ok with the skipper that was ok. And that was, that was it. As much as that. And we had leave every six weeks which was a great thing actually. And on two occasions two of the crew, you know the crew came — the navigator came with me and and the wireless operator, you know. So they came with me for a weeks’ leave in Blackburn of all places [laughs] So, but it was [pause] it was something I wouldn’t have missed if you understand what I mean. It was —
CB: Absolutely.
TI: To me it was every, when I’d got a crew I was really somebody. You know. I felt I was somebody. You know. And we did our job to the best of our abilities but what, as I say what really turned me off was at the end of the war from being a somebody you became a nobody. And that was what really really hurt. It really hurt actually because we were just ignored. That’s absolutely. And I said that the public generally went a bit anti aircrew you see. Especially Dresden. After Dresden of course you know. And, you know, and so that’s why I didn’t bother sending for medals. I didn’t want anything to do with it at all. But it was Mark that actually said, ‘You ought to send for your medals.’ And he did. And of course since then he’s made sure that you know I’ve got as much information as I have done. Other than that, left to myself I wouldn’t have bothered at all.
Other: Were you on the Dresden raid?
TI: No.
Other: No.
TI: I was shot down a week after.
Other: Right.
TI: I would have been. We were on leave. We were on leave. That’s right. On the Dresden raid. We were on leave. Then straight back and shot down.
CB: So, just on this context of when you left the RAF you were very unhappy with the arrangements. You came back from being a prisoner of war. You didn’t have any link with the crew because they’d already gone to other places anyway.
TI: That’s right.
CB: So you didn’t want to take up your documents. That would be your logbook and other things. Did you have anything that you recovered?
TI: Well, in the sense that they sent some things home, you know. To my parent’s home. Yes. But nothing. Nothing really. Just general things you know.
CB: Right.
TI: And no I didn’t and I was sorry that I didn’t get the log. I’m sorry I didn’t get the logbook. But you know. One of those things, you know. And that they said they destroyed it as well. Mark did actually write to Gloucester.
CB: Yeah.
TI: And they said no. They were destroyed and that sort of thing.
CB: So what prompted Mark, your son, to look into your experiences?
TI: He became very interested in medals. Even as quite a young child actually. And he got to [unclear] he knew that I’d been in the RAF you see and he sort of started to of course at that time you could pick up the ’39 ’45 in any junk shop for pennies as it were you see. And I think he started collected. But he was more interested in not the medal themselves but the sort of the story behind the medal you see. And he’s got a fair collection actually on that. And it was through that that he sort of I suppose gee’d me up and said you’d better to do something about it, you know. I’m glad he did because you know otherwise I — and more recently I was, I’d been given the Legion d’honneur of course.
CB: You have. Good.
TI: By the, by the French.
CB: Yeah.
TI: Government. Just for, you know for my small part in the liberation of France etcetera you see. So I feel, another thing I feel very strongly about of course is that they stopped issuing the Aircrew Europe medal after D-Day. So anybody that flew after D-Day was not entitled to the Aircrew Europe. You were just entitled to the France and Germany Star. Whilst I think the guys that were on the D-Day landings more than deserved the France and Germany Star believe me but to bracket us all. Alright, Mark. I’m off [laughs] To bracket us all with the France and Germany star was you know. There’s been some atonement by the fact we have now a clasp for Bomber Command on the ’39 ’45 Star but that’s all. You know.
CB: When did you receive your clasp?
TI: A couple of years ago wasn’t it? About. Sort of like that.
MI: One of the first.
CB: And for your Legion of Honour. Where did you go for that?
TI: Didn’t. Came with the postman.
CB: Oh right.
TI: Came in a box. I didn’t want, I didn’t want the fuss and bother.
CB: Ok.
TI: Being kissed on the cheek.
CB: Any more?
Other: One more.
CB: Yeah. From Vic now. Vic asking another question.
Other: Going back to the Dresden business and the impact that has had. I think you were suggesting from the public on the aircrews. Can you tell me something about how that evolved for you? I mean I’m thinking that there was a Dresden raid. I don’t know anything about how information came around. Like on the BBC and things like that.
TI: What did, what did surprise me I knew nothing about it in — I was on leave I think when the Dresden raid was on. I saw nothing in the newspapers or anything like that at that time. I think there must have been on the radio there was a raid on Dresden. It didn’t make any impact on me. I was shot down a week later in Germany but there was never any mention in Germany of Dresden. And I thought there might have been. There might have been some repercussions etcetera towards aircrew but there wasn’t which was rather surprising in itself. But it was the general public that sort of had gone on and of course —
CB: In Britain you mean.
TI: In Britain. That sort of took and Churchill had turned his back on aircrew you know. He just ignored us then. And he was, he’d been forced you know with Stalin etcetera. He agreed. I don’t think Harris wanted to bomb Dresden. I don’t think so. But it was Churchill’s, you know that sort of the role was supporting the Americans and you know for the Russians because Dresden was, it was the largest garrison town anywhere in Germany and it also was a rail, a rail network as well to the east and things like that. It was a very important town was Dresden. But it was unfortunate that they, they bombed it to, you know, almost to destruction.
CB: Well it was actually in the context of the overall bombing.
TI: That’s right.
CB: It wasn’t unusual in terms of other cities having been bombed to destruction. It was just a more.
TI: I know but I mean I think —
CB: A sensitive topic at the end of the war.
TI: Yeah. It was. Very. It was a bit over the top really. It was a thousand bombers and the Americans as well. But also what annoyed me was the British have been, have been given stick for the Dresden raid yet there’s no mention of any American involvement.
CB: No. It’s really interesting isn’t it?
TI: And you know this is a —
CB: There’s a story associated with that.
TI: I knew very little about the Dresden raid actually. It was only since then of course all the you know the newspaper articles and things like that about Dresden and stuff like that. And it was, there was no question about it that the aircrews were not held in great esteem after the end of the war.
Other: Yeah. So actually the last thing you said it’s the newspaper articles and so on much later is it?
TI: Yeah.
Other: You think. Yeah.
TI: Yeah.
Other: Yeah.
TI: Yes. And it was you just didn’t there was no point I talking about it. You talked with your mates.
Other: Yeah.
TI: And things like that.
Other: Yeah.
TI: But there was no point. Nobody was interested.
Other: Yeah.
TI: That was it. You’d done the job. Just like an ordinary soldier, you know. Whether you’d been in D-Day or were a cook in the cookhouse or anything like that. You were just a soldier or a person. That was it. Full stop.
CB: Now, your wife Jenny’s quite a bit younger so she’s got a comment to make.
JI: Yeah. Well, I was at school. Just getting towards leaving school. CND had just started. I think the first march was 1958. And it was around about that time that a lot of the activists who were marching for CND were building up a pressure group on Dresden. And people were volunteering to go after that to go and rebuild Dresden. I’d never heard of Dresden before that. So I mean I would fix it in 1958 that that’s where it came from.
CB: Yes. Well, there was a very interesting East German component in that but we’ll ignore that for the moment.
JI: I think that went above the head of a sort of seventeen year old schoolgirl. Not necessary.
CB: Any more from you?
Other: No.
CB: I think we’ll stop there. Thank you all very much indeed.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Stan Instone,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 27, 2024,

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