Interview with Jack Jarmy

Title

Interview with Jack Jarmy

Description

Jack Jarmey was born in Romford Essex. At the age of five. following the death of his father, Jack moved to live with his grandparents in Illfracolme. Despite excellent results in all his subjects at Grammar School Jack left school at 15 to work in the family business. On his eighteenth birthday Jack signed up to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot and commenced training at No 9 Initial Training Wing at Stratford-upon-Avon followed by elementary flying training school at Swindon. Flying training continued in Florida and Montgomery Alabama flying Stearmans. Following a bad landing Jack was cancelled from flying training and transferred to Trenton Ontario for navigator training. On completion of training he returned to the UK onboard the Queen Elizabeth with 14,000 other aircrew. Jack joined No 11 operational training unit at RAF Oakley in April 1943 flying Wellingtons and completed his training at No 1651 heavy conversion unit at RAF Waterbeach flying Stirlings. Posted to 75 Squadron at RAF Mepal in July 1943, Jack completed 26 operations. He commented on the much-improved Gee Mk2 navigation system which he said was very accurate up to the Dutch coast. He also recalled being in the astrodome during the operation on Peenemünde and called on his pilot to corkscrew as he could see a Lancaster above them with their bomb doors open, the Stirling he explained had a much lower flying ceiling than the Lancaster. On completion of his first tour Jack trained crews at No 3 Lancaster finishing school at RAF Feltwell for ten months before joining 218 Squadron in early 1945 for a second tour of operations flying Lancasters. Jack commented on the increased accuracy of Gee-H navigation with multiple aircraft in formation with the Gee-H equipped aircraft during daylight operations. Jack had completed a total of 41 operations and remained in the RAF following a permanent commission. He served in a number of administrative and flying roles in the Far East and the UK including Shackeltons at RAF Ballykelly on anti-submarine maritime patrols, finally retiring in 1977.

Creator

Date

2017-07-26

Language

Type

Format

01:38:26 audio recording

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Identifier

AJarmyJFD170726, PJarmyJFD1703

Transcription

GT: Ok. This is Glen Turner from 75 Squadron Association as Secretary and a certified IBCC interviewer interviewing Mr Jack Jarmy and this is for the Digital Archives to be based at Lincoln. And Jack is with me and good evening, Jack.
JJ: Good evening.
GT: Evening. So, I’m going to ask Jack some questions on the history of Jack’s life with Bomber Command in the middle and Jack can we start please by you describing your title and your service number please?
JJ: Say again, sorry?
GT: Your service number and your title.
JJ: Service number.
GT: And your trade.
JJ: Airman’s number 1337329 and officer’s number 134695.
GT: And your trade was RAF navigator.
JJ: My trade was, originally was pilot. U/T pilot.
GT: Great. Jack, can you begin with us please by stating your date of birth, where you were born and your, your years growing up?
JJ: I was, date of birth was 26th of April ’22 in Romford, Essex and I, from the age of twelve I lived with my grandparents. No. From the age of five I lived with my grandparents because my father had died when I was five. Do I go on then to joining the RAF?
GT: Yes.
JJ: I was very keen to join the RAF and I thought initially as a wireless operator but then at the age of eighteen, the very day I was eighteen I was living outside of Portsmouth, I got on my bicycle without telling my grandparents, cycled down to Portsmouth and volunteered for training as a pilot. And I was accepted on the spot actually but I wasn’t officially called up for about another eight months or so.
GT: In, in —
JJ: 1941 that would be.
GT: Jack, how well did you do at school then before that?
JJ: I did very well actually. My last examination at Ilfracombe Grammar School I was first in every subject except one and when we were having to leave my grandparents had to move away to make some money somewhere as their capital was running out the headmaster told me that I was an absolute cert. There were two university places at Cambridge in those days and he said, ‘If you could have stayed here you’d have, without a doubt you would have got one of them.’ But I didn’t know at the time until we got to Portsmouth that I was having to leave school and help in the family shop. So that was a bit of shock needless to say.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: And I did that for three years until I was eighteen and on the very day I was eighteen as I say I went down and joined the RAF and they accepted me when they saw my Grammar School report.
GT: So, all your subjects were fabulous except one.
JJ: I was first in every subject except one.
GT: And what was that?
JJ: I think that was Religious History [laughs]
GT: Fabulous. So, once you’d gone to sign up and they’d accepted you —
JJ: Yeah.
GT: Please continue that story on how long you waited and where you joined up from there.
JJ: Yeah. I waited about, I think seven or eight months before I was called up for attestation in London and then I was in the RAF. So we went to [pause] I’ve got it here. Sorry. I have it here and I can’t bloody well read it. [pause] Terrible this. I’m on the wrong page. Sorry. Oh. [pause] Here we are. 9 Initial Training Wing at Stratford on Avon, is it? Stratford on Avon. I can’t see the dates. If you want to have a look here.
GT: No. That’s alright Jack. So, you were then —
JJ: Initial Training Wing for pilot training. About six weeks and then we went, I went to EFTS at Swindon, Cliffe Pypard where I soloed fairly quickly. And I had done about twenty hours when we were informed that the system was training. They were introducing grading school for everybody but the training would be done overseas. Either in the states, Canada or, or was Africa —?
GT: Rhodesia?
JJ: Rhodesia. That’s right. So, I went across to Canada and we got on the train for three days down to Florida. And I, the first thing they told us that the scheme we were under twenty, a good twenty percent would be washed out at Primary School, another twenty percent at basic and a further twenty percent the final school because that was the way they got, the American way they got all their gunners, navigators etcetera. So I passed out fine in the Stearman at sixty hours. Lots of aerobatics. A lot more than we did in the UK. You could throw the Stearman all over the skies. It was a wonderful biplane. Then I moved on in Montgomery Alabama for basic training and of course I’d only done about seven or eight hours I think and the course ahead of us did a cross country, their final cross country and they ran into a tornado and about twenty nine out of thirty three aircraft crashed. So I think morale was a bit down that morning and when I landed I had a German instructor, Lieutenant [Kloppenstein] and he just said, ‘Mr, you’ve had it.’ Bad landing. And I was fourteen days leave and then back to Canada.
GT: So, he cancelled you from flying training.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: Because of one bad landing.
JJ: An American. Virtually one sortie I think, yeah. Twenty percent were being knocked out anyway around about then you see and I’m sure I was shaking. A friend of mine was [unclear] before so we got fourteen days leave and we went down to New Orleans. Hitch hiked down to New Orleans. Then we went back and up to Trenton, Ontario where you were re-selected. Whilst at Trenton I met two pilots who had been washed out at Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, Florida for not being sufficiently doing well and they went back to Canada then and they put them on a pilot’s course and they got their wings whilst I was washing dishes in the officer’s mess [laughs] Met them. Three months and they’d got their wings. That was the system. Anyway, I opted for a navigation course and did well on it and then came back to the UK on the Queen Elizabeth with about fourteen thousand aircrew. Mostly Americans. And we stayed in Harrogate for a few weeks waiting for OTU. I then went to Operational Training Unit. That’s right. Where we all met in a room. About ten of each grade. Navigators, pilots, wireless operators and they just said, ‘Have a chat around and sort yourselves out into crews,’ which we did.
GT: So, so, Jack if we could just confirm the dates on here.
JJ: Ok.
GT: So, I’m, I’m just looking at your logbooks.
JJ: You’ve got the dates there, I think.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: So as a navigator January 1943 and you were then arrived at number 11 OTU at Oakley.
JJ: Oakley. That’s right.
GT: Yeah. April 25th 1943. So please tell us how you crewed up.
JJ: We just walked around with a cup of tea and chatted to people and mostly the pilots would say, ‘Would you like to fly with me?’ And this New Zealand sergeant came up to me and said, ‘Would you like to fly with me, sir.’ Because I was a pilot officer [laughs] And he seemed a nice fellow you know and I said, ‘Yeah, fine.’ And then we walked around and found a bomb aimer and a wireless operator. You didn’t get engineers then until you got to Dishforth training on to four engine aircraft. We picked up an engineer there. So we did the, the Wellington training cross countries and circuits and bumps etcetera. And then we went to Dishforth. 1335 or something HCU. Heavy Conversion Unit to convert on to the Stirling.
GT: Ok. Now, again looking —
JJ: Did I say Dishforth? Sorry no.
GT: From your logbook Jack can I just help you for a moment there? I’ve got there —
JJ: Near Cambridge.
GT: Yeah. Now, you, you completed with the Wellingtons forty seven hours day and twenty eight night and then you moved to 1651.
JJ: That’s right. 1665.
GT: 1651 Conversion Unit at Waterbeach.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: And there —
JJ: Waterbeach.
GT: That was July 1943 and you converted to what?
JJ: Converted on to the Stirling at Waterbeach and then we were posted to 75 New Zealand Squadron at Mepal.
GT: And your logbook says July 25th 1943.
JJ: Was it as late as that?
GT: Yeah.
JJ: I thought it was earlier.
GT: And then, then you became —
JJ: That was probably the first flight.
GT: You began your operations then did you not? So —
JJ: Immediately. Yeah.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: That’s right.
GT: And who was the —
JJ: You just —
GT: Commanding officer at the time, Jack.
JJ: Pardon?
GT: Who was the commanding officer at the time for you?
JJ: Roy Max I’m sure. A wonderful fellow. Absolutely wonderful. I met him later on. It was the first time an officer had called me by my first name. We just walked into his office and he says, ‘Hello Jack,’ you know, ‘Pleased to meet you.’ No officer of any rank [laughs] and I’d been in for about a year had called me by my first name before. He was wonderful. We loved him. Yeah.
GT: Fabulous. And is there —
JJ: A marvellous CO you know.
GT: And you, you completed your tour of how many operations on 75?
JJ: I think it was about twenty six because we went in to, we called it Prayer Meeting about 9 o’clock every morning which was just a meeting you know. It wasn’t no prayers or anything and the CO said, ‘Flight Sergeant Mayfield —’ and there was another crew, ‘You’ve finished your tours.’ And we sort of thought, ‘You’re joking.’ And he said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘3 Group has decided you, you know you’ve done a good tour and they’d like you to, well they want you to finish your tour now.’ So we couldn’t believe it you know. We thought we’re going to live after all [laughs] which you didn’t think you were before that you know. We lost so many crews. I think we lost twenty two out of, two out of twenty two every night.
GT: 75 New Zealand squadron at the time and they were based —
JJ: Yeah.
GT: At Newmarket for you or Mepal?
JJ: No. Mepal. They’d just moved to Mepal when I joined them. Yeah.
GT: That was a brand new airfield.
JJ: A new airfield. There was mud everywhere, you know and we were in Nissen huts but that was alright.
GT: And it had a rather terrible nickname at the time.
JJ: They were known as the Chop Squadron in 3 Group. Everybody knew 75 for some reason as the Chop Squadron because they lost so many crews. But there was nothing wrong with the crews. They were absolutely first class wonderful chaps. Never flown with anyone better and we were just, somebody had to be unlucky and it seemed that we were whether we were the start of a raid or the end of the raid, wave or something we just [pause] I’m sure one night we lost three crews. One had done twenty seven, it sticks in my memory and they were almost finished their tour. One at twenty three and I think the other one was fourteen and I think at the time we’d done thirteen. We were then the senior crew on the squadron. But three best crews like that just went. A fighter or something must have got into them you know. They were close together. But they were first class crews you know. But it wasn’t very good for morale. We lost our radio operator after one trip actually. He went LMF and we had another w/op and two more trips he went LMF. They disappeared over night, you know. You didn’t see them to say, ‘Goodbye mate.’ One was Wally [Gee] I remember. He was twenty seven. We called him grandad. He was older than we were at twenty, twenty one but a nice lad but he got the shakes and he couldn’t do anything when we got back in the circuit and he was gone in the morning and the other one the same. There was quite a lot of LMF at the time. People couldn’t cope, you know.
GT: What, what was the feeling about the aircraft? The Stirling itself. Was there a doubt?
JJ: We liked it you know. We came back several times on three engines and once on two you know and the only trouble was you rarely got about fourteen thousand six hundred feet because you know they’d had this trouble. They’d locked off, had to lop off the wingtips. They couldn’t get them in the hangar before they went in to service. And it couldn’t get the height with the bomb load. You couldn’t get, rarely got to fifteen thousand. I think we got to fifteen thousand on the trip to Turin in the cold air over the Alps. But the rest of the time it was about fourteen six for bombing. Halifaxes at eighteen and Lancs at twenty, twenty one.
GT: Were all your operations at night?
JJ: Yeah. In the first tour.
GT: And did you encounter night fighters at all?
JJ: Oh, a lot, yes. We were, we had some very close deals you know with night fighters coming in but luckily the rear gunners were good. They seemed to go somewhere else you know. Sprayed. We always came back with holes, flak holes in the wings and everywhere. Holes everywhere in fact. But, and I think about three times we had to corkscrew with a gunner coming in and you’d lose about a thousand feet like this, you know. And if you were coned the Germans, had some searchlights that were on radar and if you were coned you had a devil of a job and you were a sitting target for the night fighters then. So you did a terrific, lost a thousand feet or so over ninety degrees down and then up and my stuff on the navigation table would all hit the roof. I was hanging on to the table. I would have hit the roof. But pencils and paper and everything went up and down on the floor but you were lucky. You avoided being shot down.
GT: That was your tail gunner yelling, ‘Skipper corkscrew left or right.’
JJ: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He did it immediately.
GT: Could you hear him? Could you brace yourself?
JJ: Oh yes. ‘Corkscrew.’ So you grabbed the desk you know and you went over and down about a thousand feet and then up again and it seemed to work every time. You evaded the fighter or the searchlights. It happened I would think on the first tour at least six times because I remember blooming charts and everything going up to the roof. Trying to hang on.
GT: Was your skipper good at that?
JJ: Very very good. He was first class. Cool as a cucumber. No bother. He was. We had the utmost trust in him. He was a very good pilot. Very good. Yeah. Alan. Wonderful. I was so sorry I couldn’t get in touch with him at the end of the war, you know. I’d have liked to have done.
GT: Several, several other chaps have told me of a story of being on the toilet can in the back when a corkscrew happened and it wasn’t very pleasant so —
JJ: No [laughs] it wouldn’t be. No. Had to make your way down to the toilet you know in pitch darkness. Climb over the spar and feel your way down. They used to say take an oxygen bottle with you. I just took two deep breaths, you know and then had a whiff down there and then came back. Usually managed to wait until after the target area to go for a wee. I couldn’t do that nowadays.
GT: Yeah. Fabulous. So —
JJ: But they had a wonderful spirit in the crew despite all these losses. In all the crews you know. The only words you ever heard at breakfast someone would say, ‘Poor old Gerald Smith and Dick Tracey bought it last night.’ And that was what we always said. ‘Bought it last night.’ And that was it. You didn’t talk any more about it. I think you couldn’t. It would have upset you you know where they’d gone. You just hoped they’d baled out but you never knew. We never had the messages back. That was just, that’s all you ever said. So and so bought it last night. Oh God. Hard luck. Then you got on with your job. You had to.
GT: What was it like flying into Newmarket because I understand —
JJ: I didn’t fly from Newmarket. Mepal.
GT: I beg your pardon. Mepal.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: You were flying out of Mepal then and you had Witchford next door.
JJ: That’s right.
GT: So did the two airfields conflict at all?
JJ: Then when we came back we did a circuit around the two airfields. So there were about forty aircraft milling around and sometimes you had to put your lights out because there would be a Jerry around you know. A fighter. And, and often VHF was so bad then, the HF was the wireless operator would get the ok to go in and land, you know on the Morse. The voice communications were terrible then in ‘43. They improved later.
GT: Because Lincoln always had their cathedral to home by. What did Mepal have that you guys could home in on?
JJ: We had a light. A flashing light, you know. What do you call it? I can’t think of the light giving the two letters of the airfield.
GT: The aldis lamp.
JJ: You had, you had Gee. Gee was just starting up. The first Gee we had the Mark 1. It was terrible, of course. It wouldn’t, you would just set it up and ten minutes later it would go off frequency. But fairly quickly after in that first tour we got Mark 2 Gee and that was a great help and that was good for getting back to base. It was wonderful. You could just home down easily. It was really good if that was working and it usually was. It was a wonderful aid that was. We got that going out as far as the Dutch Coast and then you lost it so you could get good winds as far as the Dutch Coast and then you were on dead reckoning and guessing what the winds were from what they’d been wrong. The Met winds were always thirty degrees out and ten miles an hour but they were something to start with. But you usually got a wind, a good wind by the time you touched the Dutch coast from the Gee. We took pictures back I think about every four minutes or something like that while you’d still got it. Wonderful aid.
GT: And what about the the Ely church or the spire from the Ely side of things.
JJ: I don’t think we ever saw that.
GT: You couldn’t see it.
JJ: No.
GT: No.
JJ: No. We did training on it on our next tour with GH. I’ve got a lovely photograph with the tower right bang in the middle because I was the GH leader in the second tour on 218.
GT: Right. Well, I’ve got you completing your tour —
JJ: December.
GT: Well, November 26th was your last flight with 75 New Zealand squadron out of Mepal.
JJ: ’43.
GT: In 1943.
JJ: That’s right.
GT: Yeah. And, and from there where did you move to from there because your crew was —
JJ: I went direct. Myself and my bomb aimer both went to Lancaster Finishing School which was at Feltwell as instructors and my pilot went to another airfield not far away. I can’t remember where because later on one night we cycled over there and then got caught by a policeman coming back. Funny story. Do you want to hear that?
GT: Please. I’d love to.
JJ: Right. Jock Somerville, the bomb aimer and myself got a call from Alan Mayfield one day to say he’d just been commissioned because he was just a flight sergeant when he went to, I can’t think of the name of the airfield. It was only about six miles away. And he said, ‘I’ve just been commissioned. Can you get a bicycle and come over for Sunday tea?’ So we got the out the old [Senda] bike you know and we went off on the Sunday afternoon for tea. We didn’t drink. No one was really drunk in those days you know. All the times on the first tour I never had a drink of spirits or beer or anything. I don’t think the majority of the rest of the crew did. Alan Mayfield didn’t. It was difficult. I was in the officer’s mess and the rest of the crew were in the sergeant’s you see so you couldn’t have much to do with one another other than crew room and what not. But we all got on so well together but so we went over to Chedburgh would it have been? No. Not Chedburgh. That’s where I did my second tour. I can’t think of the name. Six miles away roughly. So we went over and then he said, ‘Well, you know, stay for dinner, you know.’ So we stayed for dinner and I think we did have a couple of beers because he’d been commissioned. So we were on our way back to Feltwell and there was a light ahead of us waving so we slowed up and there was a blooming policeman in the middle of the road. So, I don’t know whether Jock or I said, ‘Go.’ And he went one side of the policeman pedalling like mad and I went the other and we went about thirty yards and there was a barrier across the road [laughs] I had to stop. So of course, the policeman came along and you know we said, ‘Well, we’ve been a year, or you know, months bombing over Germany. We’ve just had a rest now.’ And he said, ‘I’m sorry. I’ll have to take your names.’ And we thought that was the end of it. We cycled on and I was lecturing about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. There was a tap on the door and there was this blooming policeman and oh, Jock had said his name was Smith and I said it was Jones [laughs] So he said, ‘Are you Mr Jack Jones.’ And I said, ‘I’m afraid so.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry but you’re going to be summoned.’ And believe it or not we were summoned to the local court for riding a bicycle without lights at 11 o’clock at night on a country road with no, no traffic or anything at all. Well, I went into Ely Hospital to have my tonsils out then. I’d had some throat trouble. Jock went along to the court and he was fined ten shillings. And then they called my name and Jock explained that I was in hospital and the judge said, ‘Fifteen shillings.’ Well, Jock was a very fiery Scotsman and he jumped up and he said, ‘You can’t do that. We were both together and you fined me ten shillings and fifteen shillings for him.’ Well, the judge said, ‘Very well, you can find, you can pay fifteen shillings as well.’ [laughs] You can’t believe it can you? In the middle of the war.
GT: Astonishing. Jeez. So —
JJ: It was quite a joke.
GT: What a joke. Jack, I’m looking through your logbook and you joined Number 3 Lancaster Finishing School at Feltwell.
JJ: Yeah. Yeah.
GT: January 8, 1944 and, and pretty much you spent all year there. Is that correct?
JJ: Yeah. Ten, ten months before I was back on ops.
GT: So how many crews would you have trained or lectured or shown?
JJ: I think the crews came for a month because they did quite a bit of circuits and bumps and then they did a couple of cross countries and then went off. Crews coming mostly from the, from Cambridge you know. There.
GT: So, you’d done a full tour on Stirlings and then went to a Lancaster Finishing School.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: Where did you get your Lancaster training from or didn’t it matter?
JJ: Oh, it just, well I mean the equipment was all the same. It was no bother. You just got in. We didn’t do much. Sometimes I flew on a cross country with a crew but that was just finishing. Most of it was circuits and bumps and lecturing in the, you know, ground school lecturing. The information you could give them. How to, you know, be sure and keep on track, not to stray off because they picked up the strays and other little tips you learned from navigating, you know. How important it was to keep in the main stream and not get out of it. Things like that we used to give them. Other odds and ends. There wasn’t a lot of Ground School but they did a couple of cross countries and we had to mark them of course and you know help them with any tips or anything on navigating. It was mainly after you crossed the coast you were on your own. You hardly got a fix on anything you see. You couldn’t get anything. You couldn’t anything in the Astro. I used to do a bit of Astro coming back but not on the way out to the target. Bomb aimer would look out and he would see probably fifteen miles away flak going up. Someone had gone off track and you knew that that was some town you know or other and you could get a bearing. He’d give me a bearing on that on the astrocompass. And that was a good ground speed check or something like that you see as you went out and you just used your Met knowledge mainly to think what the winds had changed to and then you always got a good fix over the target. That’s why I never got into the astrodome except once because you got a fix there and you got your, you could get a good wind for the last three or four hundred miles you see to use on the way back.
GT: So your bomb aimer helped you with a lot of the navigational help.
JJ: With the visual. If we, if it was clear he might be able to see crossing a river on the way just if the moonlight was out. He could say, ‘We’re crossing a river now.’ And that was a great help. You could look it up on the topographical map and that would be a hell of a good help and give an estimate, ‘Oh, there’s a town over — ’ And he’d take a bearing on it with the astrocompass coming up and say I would think it was about, you know just a guess ten or twelve miles away. Well, that was a great help. One of the greatest things was you knew if you got a lot of buffeting from time to time you knew you were in the main stream then, you know. There’s about six hundred other aircraft going that way. So you were delighted to get a bump, you know. You knew you weren’t far away from the from the main stream.
GT: When you were in the main stream did you have aircraft above you and therefore they were dropping their bombs? Did you have any near misses in that way?
JJ: We had a very near miss. I’m not sure if it was first tour or second on Peenemunde. The end of the tour I think. You know there was the rocket range there. It’s the first tour wasn’t it?
GT: So that was the V-1 flying Doodlebugs.
JJ: No. The V-2.
GT: It was the V-2s was it?
JJ: V-2s they were developing there. I think they’d done the V-1 already. Is Peenemunde? I think. I thought Peenemunde was on the first tour.
GT: Ok. So, so what happened there? The bombs went past you.
JJ: We flew up nearly to Sweden and then we were bombing from eight thousand feet coming in and the Stirlings were on the first wave. Have you found Peenemunde?
GT: That’s fine. You carry on telling the story and I’ll see.
JJ: It was the first time I’d managed to get into the astrodome because it was fairly quiet flying in. There wasn’t a lot of flak or anything and I looked up and saw a Lancaster just above us probably not more than sixty or seventy feet, maybe a hundred feet with bomb doors, bomb doors open and I screamed at the pilot, ‘Turn hard starboard now, now, now.’ And he immediately went up and as the wing went up the stick of bombs went down about twenty yards. Where we’d been. And they would all have gone through us. You see, the bomb aimer’s looking ahead. Doesn’t see something here. And that was a Lancaster actually. I reckon he was early on target. He shouldn’t have been above us. We were just eight thousand feet but that was the nearest we ever had of having bombs through the wing. I certainly wouldn’t have been here now if I hadn’t gone into that astrodome. You see the mid-upper gunner is busy looking around at his level for fighters and didn’t think to look up. But it was a very close shave.
GT: Great.
JJ: It didn’t miss us by more than twenty yards I reckon. You could see every five hundred pounder going down.
GT: Your bomb loads that you had was there anything special or everything was just cookies, five hundreds?
JJ: Usually had a cookie. Four thousand. Four thousand and made up of five hundreds and incendiaries depending on what the target was, you know. Occasionally a few thousand pounders but mainly five hundreds.
GT: Did you do any special ops or was it all just standard?
JJ: No, it was all, the first tour was all standard targets. Yeah.
GT: So, from your time with Lancaster Finishing School did the crews come to you brand new from joining up or —
JJ: Yeah.
GT: Were there a mixture of experienced —
JJ: Yeah. No. Virtually no experience. They were all new trainees. There might be the odd pilot or the odd navigator doing a second tour. The odd pilot doing a second tour. But nearly everybody coming through LFS when I was there were first tour people, you know. They’d come from overseas, done OTU, conversion on to the Stirling at Cambridge and then they came to us to fly the Lancs.
GT: So once you’d finished at LFS was that your choice and did you apply for another tour?
JJ: No. You didn’t apply. You just went where you were told. Yeah.
GT: So they put you on a second tour without you asking.
JJ: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, they just came through one day. December wasn’t it? Just before Christmas and said, ‘You’re posted to 218 Squadron.’ And I was off in about a week. Had a week’s leave and away we went. But I was delighted to get on the Lanc you know. Such a good aeroplane to fly. You know the Stirling soared up at this angle and you had a job to climb in. We had faith in the Stirling but we, I don’t know we knew that we’d have been better on Lancasters, you know. We just because the height you know. You got the light flak. You got all everything at fourteen thousand five hundred feet or so.
GT: What was your main height for the Lancaster bombing raids?
JJ: They were more about eighteen. Usually about eighteen or nineteen. You could get it up to twenty one but usually bombing height was eighteen or nineteen. We did quite a lot of daylight raids in ’45 on 218 and we, we qualified as a marker, GH marker so we had two aircraft formating on us. A daylight raid you had one either side. You know, a few yards off and then you had to watch us and push the bomb tit as our bombs went and even though the bomb aimer could see the aiming point he wasn’t allowed to push the tit until I said. On the GH was very accurate. You had two intersecting lines. You kept yourself on one and then said, ‘Bomb now.’ You know and you pushed the tit for the bombs. Lots on bridges and specialised targets. Mainly on bridge crossings it was in the book there, I think. Shorter trips. And of course, we had a bit of fighter cover as well so it was a lot safer. The losses weren’t anything like they were on Stirlings in ’44. ’43/44 was a bad time for everybody wasn’t it?
GT: So, the aircraft numbers for instance. Each, each squadron generally had twelve aircraft per flight.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: So 75 Squadron had three flights of twelve. Did 218 Squadron have that many and how many did you fly?
JJ: No. Two flights I’m sure. 218.
GT: Ok. You might have gone up with twenty four aircraft a night. Or a day trip perhaps.
JJ: Say again.
GT: Did you fly with twenty four aircraft all the time?
JJ: No. You know, there was always two U/S or something or you hadn’t the crews. If you lost two crews and two new crews would arrive that day. I think on average we put up twenty. Twenty aircraft. Sometimes twenty one and very occasionally twenty two but usually it was about twenty aircraft.
GT: Can you describe for me the purpose of a pilot from a new crew arriving and going as a second dickie? Can you describe that for me?
JJ: Well, all the pilot did when you arrived on the squadron your pilot went as a second dickie with an experienced crew just to get the feel of the thing. See what it was like, you know and learn a few tips on flying and corkscrewing and that sort of thing. And then you were on your own. And you always, I think you always did two mining trips. You did what do you call it? Probably got the name in there. You did a mining trip to just off Germany. The islands there.
GT: They did some gardening.
JJ: Gardening. It’s called gardening. That’s right. So you did that low. You dropped them from I think about a thousand feet. They were on parachutes you know and you got to the area, you got quite a lot of flak on that first area. There must have been a lot of ships around us. And we, I can’t remember if it was two or four and then we did a second gardening trip down to Bordeaux and we were coming back fairly low because we’d dropped the things low. And it was a nice moonlight night and bomb aimer was sitting in the nose then and he said, ‘There’s a train down below skipper. Let’s go down and shoot it up.’ So we did and we blew it up. When we got back to debriefing the intelligence officers said, ‘Don’t you ever do that again because they’re equipping most of the trains with, you know machine guns and whatnot because the fighters had been doing a lot of this and the train had got a chap with four Bofors guns or something and you hadn’t got a chance if you flew in at a hundred and twenty miles an hour. So we thought we’d done well, you know. We were thinking everybody was going to say, ‘Well done.’ [laughs] But they said, ‘Don’t ever do it again.’
GT: You got lucky.
JJ: It was quite fun to see this train blow up.
GT: Some crews have told me that they did a whole tour without using their nose guns. Did you in your tours did they use them at all?
JJ: That’s the only time we used it. On the train. Nose and the tail. Yeah. No. We never saw anything in front. Fighters came up behind you and underneath you see. So no bomb aimer never fired those guns. He used to test them and that was all.
GT: And that was going to be my next question. Do those that man those guns in the nose was generally going to be the bomb aimer if —
JJ: The bomb aimer in the front.
GT: If he needed to.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: Yeah. So going into your second tour then Jack so you were posted off to 218 Gold Coast Squadron.
JJ: Yeah. Yeah.
GT: And Gold Coast is Australian or South African?
JJ: South Africa.
GT: South African side.
JJ: I think. I’m sure it was South African.
GT: And there was a South African connection like New Zealand had.
JJ: There must have been some connection in, you know a lot earlier. They had Gold Coast in brackets for some reason or other. We never met anybody from the Gold Coast or anything. It was probably the first war. They might have provided some people. Fighters or something and they kept the name going when they resurrected it anyway.
GT: So when you were posted on did you get a choice of a crew or did you just get given?
JJ: No. I was posted. Posted there and arrived and, ‘This is your crew.’ You know. The pilot was a first tour. I was second tour and the two air gunners were second tour. Great chaps. They were a bit older than me. They were thirty one and they’d both been gunnery leaders on different, you know, in between and they were first class they were. So —
GT: Your logbook shows that you, you did, you arrived there in February 1945.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: And you continued on from your first tour of twenty one ops and you did your twenty second op on February the 7th. So —
JJ: That’s right.
GT: So was there anything outstanding about 218? Anything that you remember that was of note.
JJ: Well, I don’t want it to go in the book. The CO. Are you recording?
GT: Yes.
JJ: No. I won’t say anything.
GT: Ok. Whatever.
JJ: I’ll tell you afterwards. Yeah.
GT: Yeah. So, so you got various. I can see day and night flights here.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: And —
JJ: We had a good, we had a good crew. We had two excellent gunners and we did get the odd other attack. I think I did a Berlin trip there didn’t we? Yeah.
GT: Right. So, I’ve got your second operational tour was completed on the 24th of April 1945 and your total operational hours by day sixty eight hours and total operational nights fifty hours. Total grand operational hours a hundred and nineteen and ten minutes.
JJ: That was a full tour anyway for me and a second tour was, was that.
GT: Now, for your work you were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: Can you tell me about that please?
JJ: There’s not much to say. I think I’d probably been a good navigator. Good results, you know from our bombing and everything. So for some reason or other I was awarded the DFC. Nobody else in either of the crews was actually so I think, I think I was a good navigator. We didn’t have any problems. We had one dicey coming back trip when we were on two engines coming across France and the engineer said we were losing fuel. We’d been shot up a bit. I can’t remember which, I think we landed right at the end. Bradwell Bay. And coming across France and I managed to pick out a diversion airfield and got us there and as we’d taxied around the, as we were going in to land the engineer said the tanks are just about empty. As we taxied around the runway all four engines cut. Another five minutes and we wouldn’t be here now anyway.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: We’d have stalled out but we’d had, we knew we were losing fuel you know and we’d had fighter attacks and whatnot but we couldn’t do anything about it. We just made it to the South Coast so that was Bradwell Bay. So we went, left the aircraft and went back on the train with parachutes and everything else [laughs] nav bags and sextant.
GT: Were your aircraft replaced pretty quickly if you lost any?
JJ: Yeah. We didn’t usually fly in the same aircraft. At 218 we did. We had Queenie that had done about fifty, sixty trips and we did quite a few trips in Queenie. And she features in some of the post-war picture books, you know. That one lasted, oh it was just about the end of the war when we finished anyway. But otherwise, you know we never had an aircraft last long enough you were different aircraft nearly every, pretty well every night.
GT: Your logbook shows Queenie to be LM577 and your total operational tally of sorties was forty one.
JJ: I don’t know.
GT: Now, for me that’s, the use of the word mission was —
JJ: No.
GT: Was not correct and you guys did operations.
JJ: Yeah. We didn’t call it missions. The Americans called it missions. We never used the word mission. No. So many ops was the term. Nobody ever used missions. No.
GT: Fabulous. Alright so and then once you had finished your last operation, your forty first one there and that was April 1945 what happened to you after that? Was it VE day to come?
JJ: I was posted. No. It was just before and I was first tour, second tour you see. The rest of the crew and the gunners were second tour. They told us we’d finished our tour. The pilot and the engineer and the wireless operator hadn’t finished. They were on their first tour so they were left and they, I went on leave for a fortnight and when I came back they started dropping the food to the Dutch. So I went along to see the CO and said, ‘I’m posted up to Catterick, you know to get me out of the way. I’d like to stay and fly with my crew.’ Well, I don’t want this to go on the — turn it off.
GT: Ok.
[recording paused]
JJ: Ok. I think the flight commander or the station commander must have put up for the DFC because I got it just, just before I finished my tour and I was the only member of that crew to get one and my other crew hadn’t either. First tour. So I had to be off to Catterick to Selection Board trying to find someone to take the place of all the bank managers and people who had been doing admin jobs. So I was sent off to be adjutant at [pause] it was near Lincoln. Fighter Sector Headquarters. Wonderful. I thought my God some people have had an easy job. It was a Fighter Sector with about sixty, seventy girls and about ten airmen and a group captain, a wing commander and a squadron leader in charge of it. And they had Group Captain Arthur Donaldson as head of them. A fighter man. Wonderful chap and he insisted on having a beer every lunchtime actually [laughs] And it only lasted about three months I think and they closed the station down, you know. They didn’t need Fighter Sector Headquarters any more. And I went from there to Molesworth which was 1335 Conversion Unit for Meteors. Jets.
GT: Now we’re talking February 1946.
JJ: That’s right. And I was the first navigator to fly in a, in a jet because they converted one on the station. The engineering officer went for the first trip and I went up for the second. That was before they had dual seats in the, in the Meteors. Wonderful. Zoom. I loved it.
GT: I’m looking at your logbook and that flight was October the 16th 1946 in EE229 Meteor 1 and your pilot was Flight Lieutenant Williams. That’s pretty fair for twenty minutes. Yeah.
JJ: Yeah. I was —
GT: So with your DFC, Jack did you get handed it or did you have to go and get —
JJ: No. I got the letter from the, signed by George, you know saying I’m sorry I can’t give it to you.
GT: In person.
JJ: But well done. That sort of thing.
GT: You didn’t have to go down to the —
JJ: Didn’t have to go down to the Palace. No. No.
GT: So, did your CO just pin it on you or —
JJ: No. Just got it in the post I think. I can’t remember the CO giving it to me.
GT: God.
JJ: He might have done but he wasn’t on the squadron, you see. I’d moved on.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: Admin jobs and whatnot there.
GT: So after the war had finished were you given an option to carry on? And you were what rank by then?
JJ: I was flight lieutenant then.
GT: Ok.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: So did you get given an option to stay on in the peacetime?
JJ: No. Just with your age they just said, you know, ‘You won’t be demobbed for another year or so.’ So then I went from [pause] I went down to Chivenor as adjutant. I went to I think Molesworth first. That’s right. Molesworth and Bentwaters. That’s where we had the Jet Training Unit. Yeah. And from Bentwaters, oh I had a chat on the phone to the [unclear] people at Command one day. They were very friendly you know and they said, ‘Is there anything you wanted to do?’ And I said, ‘Well, I want to get back on flying.’ They said, ‘We can’t do that but there’s a job going as adjutant down at Chivenor.’ So that was the Spitfire OTU sort of thing you know. They were still converting people then flying Spits. So I went down to Chivenor and I seemed to get on well with the CO there who hadn’t been a flying man during the war. He was a very nice man but we had several Spit accidents you know and I had to arrange funerals and things. Totally new. Never had any experience of all these jobs and one day he said, ‘Would you like to apply for a permanent commission?’ I think I’d been there about six months. He said, ‘I’ll recommend you if you like.’ So I was delighted. Didn’t really know what I was going to do when I went there. I wanted some different job than the one I’d been doing before you know and I hadn’t had any training. And I got a permanent commission while I was there you know. Group Captain Whitfield or something. Something like that. I can’t remember his name. But I don’t think I did any, I don’t think they had, they had an Oxford or something there I flew around in but not very much. I think I did about eighteen months there and I was constantly court martials and things. Talking to the [unclear] people at Command and I always said, ‘When am I going back on flying?’ And they came up one day and said, ‘We can’t get you back into Bomber Command. We don’t move people there.’ From where I was it was fighter I think or something or training but he said, ‘Would you like to go on to Hastings?’ I had to do all refresher courses because I’d been off flying for about three years. So I went to Swinderby on Wellingtons and then Hastings up at [pause] oh dear. By the Great North Road. You’ve got it there. Dishforth. And another refresher course at somewhere. Somewhere near there. Anyway, Dishforth was the Hastings course and I went to a squadron. 511 Squadron at Lyneham on the Hastings and I loved it and I’ve still got a, you know you had a grading system. You had to pass exams. I was sort of a fully fledged passenger and everything else. We did trips to Singapore. The Middle East mainly. Usually did about one trip a month or two months to Singapore. Did lots of trips to the Middle East freight and passengers. A lot of passengers.
GT: Jack, I’ve got you 241 OCU. You were there from December 31, 1949. And you —
JJ: About three months.
GT: You flew right there to the end of March 1950 and then you joined 511 Squadron.
JJ: 511 Squadron.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: That’s right.
GT: April 1950.
JJ: Yeah. Yeah.
GT: And you flew with them right through to [pause] well your logbook goes on up until 1952. So you were flying all over the world with the Hastings.
JJ: Yeah. Mainly the Far East. Not the world but I think we did one trip to America. I can’t remember now. Maybe not. I think we went to the Azores but I can’t remember. But mainly it was to the Middle East and the Far East. I went to Japan. The war was on then and we took winter vests out for the British who had been sent out in the middle of winter without any winter clothing. And we actually arrived there the day before Christmas and we said, they said, ‘Oh, you needn’t fly over on Christmas day.’ It was an American base you see. And we said, ‘Well these chaps need these vests. We’ll go.’ So on Christmas Day we flew over to Tokyo and we had to orbit for fifty minutes before we landed. The jets, American fighter jets were just around and around you know. The Korean War. We landed. They all came over because they hadn’t seen an aeroplane sitting up like this before [laughs] They were quite surprised. Wondered what it was and then we went back and went into the mess and they said, ‘Sorry they had lunch at lunchtime. There’s no food.’ [laughs] At that time funnily enough I had an American pilot on an exchange scheme, a Polish co-pilot and an Irish wireless operator and we had a bottle of whisky between us and went to bed. That was our Christmas. Christmas dinner. We hadn’t had any food over in Tokyo. You know. Too busy. But that was something to remember.
GT: So then you moved over to, I see Valettas. What squadron were you with there?
JJ: Valettas. Oh, what did I do in between?
GT: In Libya.
JJ: Libya. Yeah. I went out to, I was posted out to Castel Benito in Libya as adjutant and I was promoted there after about six months to squadron leader. So I was posted down to the Canal Zone and I was in charge of the, mainly with the Army dropping paratroops and doing the routes down to Livingstone and all over the place there for a bit. And then for some reason or other, oh that was it the senior admin officer at Shallufa down in the Canal Zone was repatriated for inefficiency or something like that and I was sent down as senior admin officer. There was a wing commander there and we had the Lincolns used to come out and do their bombing on the bombing range there. So I was there until probably about eighteen months. The station closed down and I actually handed over to the Egyptians and they’d all been trained at Cranwell. There was about six majors came along. Everybody on the station had gone except myself then and the Egyptians arrived and our lads, a few left to guard the place were flown home and I handed over to these Egyptians. So I’d laid on a lunch for them and it was a good lunch and the first thing they said was, ‘Have you got any whisky?’ And we brought out, luckily we’d got a crate of whisky left and they all had whisky. Lots of whisky with their lunch. Then we brought the flag down and put theirs up and I was off to Fayid. And I’d left my car. I’d bought a car at Castel Benito and I had to leave it there for eighteen months but the young MT officer used to look after it for me and I arrived back and the family were actually out there then. They did come out to Shallufa. The wife and the two boys about five and six. So we all flew back to Shallufa and I said, ‘I’m not putting my car on a boat and taking it home. I’m driving home.’ And I got the ok to drive all the way. Five thousand miles. North African coast, back through France and I arrived back about two days before Christmas Day. It took us six weeks and lo couldn’t get any film to take any pictures on the way but it all went fine, you know. We’d find a little hotel every night and booked into it. Oh, the young, we had a great help. The young MT officer was going out of the Service and he said, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘You couldn’t find room for me?’ I had the Ford Zephyr. A big car. I had big cases on the top you know and I said, ‘Oh, we can squeeze you in, Norman.’ So he came with us. Well, before we got to Algiers he said, ‘You know, the engine’s making a nasty noise. I think you’d better stop.’ So I stopped and he dipped the, I didn’t know there was a dipstick for the engine oil. The oil. Gear oil. It was dry. So he said if we’d gone on another ten miles it would have seized up. So he went, he hitchhiked about twenty miles into one of the towns. I can’t think of which one. He said, ‘I couldn’t get the proper oil. I got some oil. That’ll get us to the next town.’ And it did and we got, there was a Ford dealer there you know and Northern Algiers. It wasn’t as far as that. No. I can’t remember where it was. Anyway, we got the car checked over and it was ok and filled up with the proper oil and we carried on. Crossed over from Tangier to Gib. My eldest son, it was misty, it was just before Christmas and suddenly Gibraltar appeared. I knew the skipper of the ship because I’d met him when he was on Hastings. He used to come in the mess you see. And two days later we were in what’s the [pause] Malaga. That’s right. David who was about six and a half then. He said, ‘You know dad. I’m going to join the Navy.’ It was this strip across, you know just the thing from, so I said, ‘You’re not joining the Navy until you go to university.’ But he applied to Dartmouth and was accepted. He served a year. He loved it but he said, he came home one day and he said, ‘Dad, I’m not going to be a normal Naval officer.’ It was a bit snotty you know and he liked to do what he liked and when he liked and he said, ‘I think I want to come out.’ So I saw his CO who said, he was doing engineering he said, ‘If he doesn’t come out within three months they won’t let him out because he was doing all the, getting all this training.’ He’d just done the service training. So anyway, we didn’t have to pay much but we got him out and he applied for university and all three accepted him. He went to Swansea and got a good degree in engineering and he’s the one who’s in America now. Seventy years old. Still working. Loving it.
GT: Well —
JJ: Teaching you know modern electronics and whatnot to everybody.
GT: Well, military is obviously in your family Jack and I’m looking at your logbook from 1954 in Shallufa and I can see the aircraft types range from the Hastings to the Valetta, Beaufighter and Pembroke.
JJ: Oh, we had the Beaufighter at Shallufa.
So the, well where was that from?
JJ: Used to go down and the CO flew in and I went with him and we used to go down and get fruit and veg from Akaba because the Egyptians wouldn’t let us buy any local fruit and veg. The NAAFI. So we used to go and fill it up there. Probably got a bit of whisky as well I think.
GT: So, by, by March 1955 you were back in England and it says here you were based in [Khormaksar?]. What aircraft types did you work on from there and where did you move to?
JJ: I went to 18 Group when I came back from first of all from the Middle East. I can’t remember which station. 18 Group were the headquarters at near Rosyth. Pitreavie Castle. That was it. It was the headquarters and it controlled all the aircraft in the Atlantic you know. All the Shackletons and everybody else in the Atlantic. Anti-submarine warfare. And there again I said, ‘Can I get back flying on Transport Command?’ And again the [unclear] people said, ‘We can’t. The Air Ministry do that. But if you like we can get you on to Shackletons.’ So I jumped at it and I went up to Kinloss and did the Shackleton course and I went to Ballykelly as a flight commander then for about two years.
GT: Two years on Shackletons.
JJ: Yeah. Great. We used to do, well fifteen hour trips mainly. One a month fifteen hours which was pretty wearying and you worked all the time. You didn’t just fly around. You had a rendezvous out with a submarine somewhere in the Atlantic you know and probably a ship and you got sonar buoys tracking the submarine. You did exercises with them out, two or three hundred miles out or more in the Atlantic and you used to get the odd ship, trip to Gibraltar as a bonus occasionally. But it was all anti-submarine work all the time you know tracking Russian submarines. Very interesting work photographing them if there were warships out. Fly alongside and wave [laughs]
GT: So, your logbook reads that you were on 204 Squadron for most of that time.
JJ: That’s right. I was flight commander.
GT: And then your last entry in your logbook is from MOTU, St Mawgan.
JJ: That’s right. I was posted down at OC Ground Training at St Mawgan. Again the Shackleton.
GT: And your last flight —
JJ: Operational Conversion Unit. Yeah.
GT: And your last flight showing 29 June 1966.
JJ: What was that in?
GT: Shackletons.
JJ: Shackleton. Yeah.
GT: And your final hours total two thousand two hundred and fifty two hours fifty minutes by day, and night six hundred and ninety three twenty five minutes. That’s, that’s a huge sum of hours there Jack.
JJ: Quite a lot isn’t it. Yeah.
GT: Total.
JJ: Yeah. It was a lovely aeroplane to fly in, the Shackleton you know. It was reliable and and the crew we had five radio, five radio operators and two that rotated the jobs. One on radar, one on tracking the sonar buoys, another one looking out and observing. One probably in the galleys [laughs] And I forget what the other one did but it was enjoyable flying you know. Good crew flying.
GT: So when did you retire from the RAF?
JJ: I went out from St Mawgan to Cyprus as OC of the ops room there. Most of our aircraft we had to control the Vulcans at [pause] what’s the place?
GT: Akrotiri?
JJ: Akrotiri. That’s right. Actually, I had all the Vulcan. I had top secret. It was more than top secret. It was something else. I had the safe with all the plans for a war with Russia. Even the air commodore wasn’t allowed to look at it, believe it or not. The air commodore. And I used to give him, he wanted, he only lived across the road like that in a big thing, you know and he used to come across to the Ops Room every morning for briefing. And then he found out in the UK they had television so they sent me back to Bomber Command to do a quick course on television presenting and we got television in and so I briefed him just across the road. Pointed to the targets every morning on the television. I can’t believe it. Absolute waste of money and we used to like to see him as well because he’d have a chat. He sat in his office with his briefing on the screen. Oh dear.
GT: So the ultimate for you was —
JJ: And from there I was OC. I went out with short notice from St Mawgan. The previous squadron leader was someone I knew. He had been CO of ASWDU, Air Sea Warfare Development Unit at Londonderry. Yeah, where, I did a tour there as well. He was a very efficient chap and he fell out with the group captain and he packed him up one weekend and sent him home. Said he wanted another officer. So I was, went out because they wanted a maritime man out there. I went out at about a week’s notice to, to Headquarters and took over the ops room there. And then I was coming out. I was due out at forty nine. So I put in an application to stay in you know to normal retiring age sixty years and they came back and said they couldn’t give me a flying job, you know. You know, flying. But they offered me to transfer to the supply branch so I went as OC. I did the course, and it was funny there were two of us. Two. A pole and myself had been wartime and the other, I think eighteen students were all university. Fellas and girls and we came top of the course. We didn’t know a thing about it but you see they were out at dances every night and enjoying themselves in the pubs and we were sitting, we sat together and swatted. Anyway, we came top of the course which was very satisfying and I went to the Helicopter Conversion Unit which was good because I never put that in my logbook, you know. I had the odd flight there and worked with them and I found it was the easiest job I’d had in the Air Force. Being OC Supply for a big unit, you know. I thought my golly some people have had an easy time. And from there I was very keen to settle in Scotland and I applied for any chance of a job at Kinloss. About the only place and they said no. But they offered me a job at Carlisle. OC packaging. So I went on another course and learned about packaging and I packed everything from a split pin to an aircraft wing you know at Carlisle. And again it was good. They were all civilian. They just had one squadron leader and then they were all civilians. The rest were people in the hangars you know. But we got on well again and I found it a piece of cake you know from flying days with all the troubles and things that happened when you were flying. It was, it was easy going. Yeah. Quite fun. So that was my career.
GT: And this, you retired from Carlisle.
JJ: I retired from Carlisle.
GT: And what year was that, Jack?
JJ: I tried to get a job, fifty five and thirty two. Seventy seven. I tried to get a job and I thought I’m in packaging you know. Equipment. I went to a big furniture place in Carlisle and I told him what I’d been doing and I said, ‘You know, we’ve got the computer and we put in automatic supply when something is sold and whatever.’ Well, they hadn’t got any and he said, ‘I’m afraid you’re too experienced.’ He was afraid I was going to take over his job. I said, ‘I’m quite happy to do a menial job. I just want a job to do something.’ So he said, ‘I’m sorry. No.’ He thought I was after his. And then I decided well I’d met Joyce. My wife and I hadn’t been getting on for a long time. You’re not putting this on tape are you?
GT: No. So ok, you met Joyce and —
JJ: I met Joyce and we got married after about three years. But the reason I haven’t been, you’ve got nothing on there I would have loved to have gone to New Zealand, you know. All the New Zealand people I knew I loved them. I got on so well with them and I loved fishing and I would have loved to have gone to South Island with a caravan but because I married after I left the Air Force Joyce wouldn’t get any pension from the RAF. They changed it now but not retrospective. So if I passed out you know as I very well could have done at any time on I didn’t tell them why. I just said no. I don’t want to go. She would have got about a hundred and ten pounds a week to live on you know. No pension from the RAF and no pension from her husband who had died. He was a bank manager. So she would have had about a hundred pounds, you know. I threw away thoughts about going to New Zealand.
GT: Did you keep in contact with any, one of the people from earlier crews like 75 or 218?
JJ: No. I tried to but they said their wartime crews you see. I wrote to the New Zealand government to ask for flight, well he’d been a pilot officer then and gave his name and they said they were sorry they couldn’t disclose. Perhaps they thought there might have been something funny. I don’t know. Then I wrote to the MOD about my bomb aimer, Jock earlier than that and they said they couldn’t give me any information and I presumed he’d been killed because he went back. He went back to 75, Jock Somerville for his second tour and I never knew that until I met his son Simon all these years afterwards and he’d survived and we could have seen. We were such good pals you know flying together. So that put paid really to any keeping in touch with people.
GT: Any, any other stories you can think of from your wartime Bomber Command?
JJ: I don’t think so really. Nothing at the moment. No.
GT: So you joined up for Bomber Command —
JJ: There was plenty of, you know, excitement. We invariably I should think every three trips you were attacked by a fighter or you had searchlights on you or something like that you know and you were corkscrewing and pretty worried and short of fuel. Fuel troubles you know from flak in the tanks and whatnot. Losing fuel flying back short. Diverted. Bad weather when you got back. You were always a bit worried. Quite a lot of aircraft they put oil drums out on the, I forget the diversion airfield now. Flare path you know and you could get in there if you pushed the fog out a few yards. But, well, I would think you know one flight in three you were a bit worried when you got back you know getting down and getting short of fuel and that sort of thing. One thing I’ll never understand that our squadron, 75 we only had a tot of brandy on two occasions after a long trip to Berlin. I think both occasions I think it was and yet you hear people from other squadrons used to get it regularly you know. A nip of brandy when you finished debriefing, yeah and went off to bed. But you see we were in Nissen huts on 75. I think there were five either side officers. Well invariably you know you probably got back 3 o’clock in the morning or something like that. You’d just get to sleep and the lights would go on and the adj would come in with the station warrant officer collecting up somebody’s kit. You know. It happened almost every trip you know. You could guarantee it. It was terrible really. So many people. You see there weren’t a lot of, there weren’t many commissioned navigators. The pilots, a lot of them there were still a lot of sergeant pilots you see. I had a sergeant pilot as well. But so there weren’t many commissioned people in Nissen huts you know but most of the pilots, most of them were pilots and they’d come in and just collect. The only good thing was that the New Zealanders used to get food parcels. They used to get oysters and I was afraid I didn’t fancy oysters then. Joyce loves them. I still don’t really like them. I tried one. And fruit cake. And we used to have these lovely fruit cakes around the little fire in the middle of the room you know. Had a job to get the fuel for it in the cold weather but the lads used to dish out this fruit cake all around and, which was lovely. Always remember that fruit cake from New Zealand. But everybody got on so well you know. You were, they were great people. I just loved them all I would have loved to have emigrated to New Zealand. If I’d had, if I hadn’t got the, you know the job, the permanent commission I would have definitely gone I think.
GT: You’ll be pleased to know that Roy Max’s medals have been loaned to us in New Zealand by his wife.
JJ: Oh good.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: Good. Marvellous. Wonderful. Now, Dickie Broadbent was my flight commander. Did you ever know him?
GT: I met Dickie Broadbent quite a bit.
JJ: I say I, I only spoke to him on the phone. I’d have loved to have gone down and met him somehow but the following year I think he died. I can’t remember the other flight commander’s name or, the bombing leader was a great fellow. We used to have long chats. He and another fellow before he joined the Air Force they used to go off into the mountains shooting deer. They’d go for about four months and they’d live on deer meat and porridge stuff that they made up for four months. And they said for the other month remaining they made enough money they kept some of the tails or something and others they took photos or what. Anyway, they were able to prove how many deer they’d shot and he said, ‘In that four months we both made enough money —' he wasn’t married, ‘To live it up in a good hotel for the other eight months of the year.’ Wonderful, wasn’t it?
GT: Yeah.
JJ: I saw a programme a couple of years ago. They don’t do that now. They go in helicopters and shoot them because there are far too many aren’t there?
GT: Yeah.
JJ: South Island. Yeah.
GT: Well, the farmer —
JJ: He was a great lad. I can’t remember his name now. He was the bombing leader and gunnery leader you know. I can’t think of his name. I used to have long chats with him about New Zealand you know. Particularly the island fishing. They’d take their fishing rod as well of course up there and they’d sleep on this for four months he said and then live it up in a hotel for the other eight months.
GT: So your aircraft preference? The Lancaster or the Stirling or the Shackleton?
JJ: Say again? The —
GT: Your preference.
JJ: Preference? I think the Lancaster you know. We had the utmost faith in it. I think it was mainly because the losses were so heavy on the Stirling. We still liked it, you know. We were, we were quite heavy on it and it got us back as I say a lot of times. Very often on three engines. More often than not on three engines all the way back. One would seize up or something or get shot up with a night fighter but we always got back alright. And we, we came back on two on one occasion whereas the Lanc would fly on two grand you know. You could almost fly on one once you got rid of the bombs. And of course, two years later or a year and a half later the equipment was more reliable. We had Air Position Indicators, and we had [pause] What did we have on the Shack? The API, the Air Position Indicator was a great help when they brought that out so you didn’t have to give a manual plot all the time you see what you were steering to get your winds. You wanted your manual plot and in a fix that would give you wind. But the API would give you an air position where you’d be if there was no wind you see. Work from the air pressure and whatnot of the pitot head. That was the great thing and we did and the last few trips on the Lancaster we had the oh, the radar. What did you call it?
GT: H2S?
JJ: H2S as well. And that was a great help navigation. You know you could pick up rivers and things like that. Made it so much easier at night. You’d see when you were crossing the river and it was wonderful check on ground speed and everything and small towns as well. You could work out where you were with that. So that was, that was that was the great thing about the Lanc. Having that. Once we got the H2S, we didn’t get it until about halfway through the tour I think but when we got it it was great. But the thing I remember the most was the good comradeship always, you know. No matter rank. NCOs didn’t mean any different you know when you were together. It didn’t matter if you were a sergeant or you were a squadron leader you were all doing your job and fine, you know. In the Shack we used first names for all the sergeant AO operator. You know, air signallers etcetera in the airplane. We used, we’d use the first names and then they brought in you must say, ‘Pilot to nav.’ You mustn’t use your name. That was getting on after the war you see on the Shackletons you’d got the people in Cranwell trained in MOD who said we’d got to get back to the old systems ,you know. Keep people apart.
GT: So Jack you’ve had a marvellous career in the RAF.
JJ: I enjoyed everything too. That’s the great thing you know. I was never unhappy. I wasn’t very happy on the flying you know. When you’re on ops you think God am I going to get back or not, you know. If I’m always thought if I’m lucky I’ll bale out. Try and get back or in a POW camp but I never expected. I wouldn’t have put any money on finishing a tour you know because chaps were disappearing every night really. First class chaps you know. Just couldn’t believe it. It was upward firing young guns cannon that the Jerries had were fatal you know. Particularly in the last year of the war. God. Remember was it Nuremberg we lost about ninety bombers I think, one night. Terrible. They got something wrong. Met winds or something and it was a clear night and they just shot them down. I went to Nuremberg and we did a, Joyce and I last year did a trip on the Rhine and we went to Nuremberg and I must say they showed all the pictures you know and I thought my God I can’t believe how they’d built it all up. Skyscrapers are going, you know. Wonderful.
GT: Did you think about the damage that was happening underneath you? Was it just a job or —
JJ: I didn’t think about the damage. I used to feel for the folks and families down there, you know. You’d think, God, what are we doing this to them for? You know. Because you know although you had, although you had an aiming point and hundreds of people were getting killed and injured as well and you used to think about that. I think night time when you’re in bed you thought oh poor blighters you know. What a crazy world this is. Sort of getting nowhere by pulverising the place to death and families you know getting blown apart. I used to think about that a lot actually. I think probably everybody did but you just had your job to do. Oh, I’ll show you those two pictures.
GT: Now, Jack, what, what did you have? Bomber Harris, he was your leader.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: What was thought of him?
JJ: We thought he was a good man. He was doing a good job.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: And and who did you have visit? Did you have anybody visit you on the squadron like the King or —
JJ: No. I always seem to be falling over nowadays. I lose my balance. No. We didn’t. We had, oh no that was after the war. I was on a fighter station and was it [ ] we got sort of five minutest notice. But annual inspections you know you get a fortnight to prepare and everything was on the top line but this fighter man you’d suddenly get a message to say he’s on his way down in a Spitfire. He just came down and he said, ‘I’d like to go and see the airmen’s mess.’ That was just after the war. He came down to Bentwaters I think. A very cheery nice fellow. But he, you know they couldn’t, you couldn’t fool him what was happening on the station. He did that all over the place apparently. They got the message on the VHF about a quarter of an hour before he arrived. He just walked down and invariably went along to the airmen’s mess and sergeant’s mess and wandered around for a bit and then cheerio and back again. It was good leadership wasn’t it?
GT: Yeah. Did they mention anything about Tiger Force to you?
JJ: No. This was for the Far East wasn’t it?
GT: Yeah.
JJ: Yeah. No. I finished my second tour you see so I, but the rest of the squadron thought they were probably going out. Yeah.
GT: Well, Jack I think we’ve covered a huge part of your —
JJ: I hope its been a help.
GT: Your career.
JJ: But a very good memory now you know for names etcetera but I enjoyed chatting to you anyway.
GT: Well, thank you Jack because this this will go into the archives at in Lincoln.
JJ: I think. And polish it up and —
GT: Yeah and it’s been it’s been an honour to sit and chat with you.
JJ: Yeah.
GT: For the time that you served.
JJ: Thank you.
GT: And it’s been marvellous so —
JJ: Thank you.
GT: I’m going to sign off now. This is Glen Turner who has been interviewing Mr Jack Jarmy and Jack whereabouts do you live?
JJ: Now?
GT: Gatehouse of Fleet.
JJ: Gatehouse of Fleet near Dumfries.
GT: Near Castle Douglas, Dumfriesshire.
JJ: In Scotland. So this is the 25th of July 2017 and my interview with Jack Jarmy is now concluded and this is Glen Turner saying thank you Jack very much for your service.
GT: Ok.
JJ: And your, your time tonight.
GT: Thank you. I hope it’s been useful.
JJ: Very much so.
GT: Ok. This is now the end of our interview.
JJ: Yeah. Yeah. Ok.
GT: Please show me your photographs, Jack.
JJ: My photographs as well.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: I’ve got no photographs of 75 but I’ve got two you weren’t supposed to pinch your bombing —
GT: Oh photographs.
JJ: The flash.
GT: The photoflash.
JJ: I’ve got one there.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: You can see where it is and that was the target. You can see it was.
GT: Obliterated. Yeah.
JJ: Just about.
GT: Flashed out.
JJ: Yeah. And I’ve got one picture of the old that I got somewhere or other. The Stirling. Only one. You know, you just couldn’t get photographs or anything. This is Canada. And there’s one more. That’s right. Is it Castel or something.
GT: Yes. It is. It’s got Castel there. Yeah.
JJ: Yeah. And this was Ely when I was doing afterwards on the Shackletons for the [pause] No. Sorry, 218 Squadron that must have been. Yeah. GH bombing. Yeah.
GT: Yeah. Well that’s March ’45 you’ve got.
JJ: That was the target. That’s right. Yeah. That was the target and we qualified on that. On that picture and I managed to get that. There was something about 75 I cut out. I can’t read it now. My eyes aren’t very good.
GT: Ok. I’ll take a photograph of that tomorrow because it’s quite, quite small. So where you see that’s wrong too because it’s got the wrong crown on it.
JJ: Yeah. I see.
GT: Yeah. So where was this one? In Belgium.
JJ: They must have given us that in Belgium. Yeah. Yeah.
GT: That’s a shame.
JJ: That’s the —
GT: That’s a window with —
JJ: Yes. That’s right. When we went to this Belgian sergeant had resurrected and dug a swamp with a crowd of people obviously and got the Stirling out and they invited us over then, you know. Civic function. And they gave us a lovely time for about four days or so.
GT: What year was that Jack?
JJ: Now, it was the first year we were here so it’s, or the second year. Thirty years ago. Thirty years ago. Yeah. And that was a Stirling but I don’t know from which squadron it was but it was Mepal that arranged the trip.
GT: Ah. Ok.
JJ: You see. We went with a bunch of people from Mepal. That was in the Canal Zone and a Daily Mail reporter. That was when I was OC admin.
GT: Wow. [pause] Great photos.
JJ: Don’t know what those cuttings are. Must be something from the paper. I don’t know what there was.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: Cuttings from the paper. [pause] I don’t know what that was.
GT: It’s great It’s great that you’ve got some photographs. That you ended up on a four engine jobby again. Very good, Jack. And let’s just confirm the time for us. It is quarter past eleven at night
JJ: Ten past yeah
GT: Oh gosh. Well obviously, you’ve got a day tomorrow so we’d better —
JJ: Well just, we’ve got to get this freezer you know.
GT: Yeah.
JJ: No rush. We never go to bed before about 11 o’clock. Joyce is a night bird. She’ll stay up longer that I do.
GT: Well, those are probably —
JJ: Oh, I think that bit fell out.

Collection

Citation

Glen Turner, “Interview with Jack Jarmy,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 23, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11140.

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