Interview with Mervyn Jones

Title

Interview with Mervyn Jones

Description

Mervyn Jones is a miners son from Wales. His father wanted a different life to that of a miner for his son and the family moved away to Slough where was plenty of work. Mervyn had always had trouble with his ears and so his father assumed he wouldn’t pass his medical although he signed all the forms giving his permission for Mervyn to enlist. In fact Mervyn lied about his age to enlist and was indeed successful in his application. A WAAF gave him a little green leatherette dog to take on ops. On this particular op the mid-upper gunner passed out through lack of oxygen, the predicted winds were wrong and so they had to rearrange their flight plan and on return they lost hydraulic power. It was the last time the dog went on ops. The crew were advised about not getting too involved with other crews and the reason for this became obvious when one crew they were all friendly with were killed in action.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-04-22

Contributor

Julie Williams

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.

Format

01:11:36 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AJonesMH160422
PJonesMH1601
PJonesMH1602

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

DM: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is David Meanwell. The interviewee is Mervyn Jones. The interview is taking place at Mr Jones’ home in Farnham in Surrey on Friday the 22nd of April 2016. Ok. Mr Jones if we could start off with you saying a bit about your early life.
MJ: I was born in Abercynon. A small mining village at the junction of the Aberdare and Merthyr valleys. My father was a miner. Like most miners in those days there was very little money available and we were quite poor but we lived and enjoyed ourselves. My father wasn’t very keen on seeing his children being brought up in a mining village. First of all he went to Burnham on Sea or Highbridge to work on the farm there but decided that farming was not going to be very much better than mining from his children’s point of view. So he was given a lift whilst he was aiming to go to Poplar where he was told there was a lot of work. He got as far as Uxbridge and when he asked for directions to Poplar he was, he was then asked, ‘What are you going up there for?’ He said, ‘Work.’ And the individual he was talking to said, ‘Well, don’t go there. Go to Slough.’ So, he said, ‘Never heard of the place. Where is it?’ So, they told him and he and the friend he was with they went to Slough and spent the, spent the night on a, sleeping on a bale of straw in the cattle market only to be woken up at about 5 o’clock in the morning by all the cattle coming in. That was in about August. Dad got work and he managed to get a house to rent. And the rest of the family that’s my mother, my brother and two sisters travelled up in December 1935 and we lived, lived in Slough and around for quite a number of years after that. In 1939 I became employed by a firm of solicitors in Slough as the office boy. Duties were not too onerous but I was given various books to study with a view to making a career in the law.
[recording pause]
MJ: One little backdrop. In 1937 having read various newspapers about football teams I decided that I would go to the Arsenal ground and see a football match. I told my parents I was staying on this particular Saturday with a school friend when in point of fact I travelled up to Paddington and then on to Highbury. Saw a wonderful football match and I’ve been an Arsenal supporter ever since. That was in 1937 [pause] Come 1941 I volunteered, or went to join the air force realizing that I was in fact twelve months too young. So I told them my birth was 24th of January 1924 instead of 1925. And fortunately for me no, nobody really queried it. And I was duly signed in and in April 1942 I was told to report to Padgate. The [pause] my father had signed all the forms for me to join. He believed that I wouldn’t pass the medical but whether they were rather lax or not I don’t know but —
DM: Why did he think that?
MJ: Well, all the, all the Jones’ family suffer with ear trouble and although in those days it wasn’t too bad I still had trouble from time to time. I think it stemmed from when I, when I was a very small child every time I was teething I got ear infections. And it’s effectively the same thing throughout the whole of my life. If I get a cold I get an ear infection. Sometimes in both which is rather embarrassing. The — I reported to Padgate where I was kitted out and so on and then we went on to Blackpool. The radio school there. And having completed that course went on to Yatesbury where I was very pleased to pass out as top of the course which surprised me and surprised the family as well. We went from there to Peterborough and a little satellite drome called Sibson. We were supposed to be there to do repairs, or repairs to the radios in the Harvards that were used for training but for the whole time that we were there we didn’t see a radio. Didn’t see anything at all. All we did was guard duty and run of the mill stuff. But we went back to Yatesbury and finished off the course where again I managed to be top of the course. From Yatesbury we went to Stormy Down in South Wales for a gunnery course where lo and behold I came top of that course as well. I won’t tell you the whole secret of it but a lot, a lot of people were pulling my leg about the fact that the warrant officer in charge of both radio school and then the gunnery school was a personal friend of the family [laughs] So, I rather suspect that my successes were partly, must be partly down to him. I didn’t think I was that brilliant. I thought I wasn’t a bad wireless operator. We went from there to various sites. Cark and Cartmel for flying in Ansons. And then on to Market Harborough where we were flying in Wellingtons. Mark 1 with Pegasus engines. Totally underpowered clapped out old things that from time to time ploughed into the ground and killed all the crew. Whether we were lucky or not I don’t know. I think I must have been because we had no problems at all. We, we crewed up there with a pilot, Ginger Durrant. A navigator called Jones who unfortunately got us lost on a couple of occasions and got shifted out of the [pause] shifted out of our crew. And myself. We then, we finished training there and were sent to Swinderby to convert on to Stirlings which I was never enamoured with. But having done the conversion course we were then sent to Syerston to convert on to Lancs. Which we duly did. And then got posted to Scampton for about three weeks. And from Scampton we went to Metheringham. We went there at the end of February 1944. We got there and two days later it snowed and it stayed snowy. No flying for about two weeks. Then we did the usual familiarisation before we were ready to go on ops. It wasn’t until the 20th of March that we, we did our first trip which was to Frankfurt. And we had bombed and we were flying straight and level to take photographs and we were suddenly coned in searchlights which was quite an alarming experience. One minute it’s pitch black. The next minute you’re absolutely flooded with light. Anyway, the skipper put the aircraft in a very steep dive and threw it all over the sky and after a while and it’s difficult to judge how long it took, it might only have been a few minutes. It might have been a few seconds. But anyway we were suddenly in the dark again. And the thing that fascinated us was there was no anti-aircraft fire. There had been all the time that we were travelling but whilst we were in the searchlights there was nothing. And we came to the conclusion that searchlights were holding us so that night fighters could come up and attack. But anyway they didn’t and we got away with it. We got back on course. Came home with no problems at all. The second op was a major disaster. We were briefed to go to Berlin and it was the last of the raids of the [pause] I think they called it the war against Berlin but whatever it was it was the last of the main force flights to that city. Well, we took off and we got part way, about half way across the North Sea and the skipper doing the usual checking with everybody. Making sure they were ok. Called up the [pause] mid-upper gunner and got no reply. So the usual thing, if anybody wants anything done they call the wireless operator. So they called me, ‘Go and see what’s wrong with Wally.’ So, I went down there and shone a torch in to see what had happened. Wally was well away. He was flaked out and his oxygen tube was flapping in the breeze. How long he’d been like that we had no idea. Presumably from take-off. But anyway we dropped down to about eight thousand feet and kept going. And the engineer and I tried to get him out of the turret. At first we lifted him up with his bottom, unhooked the seat and with that we couldn’t hold him, the weight of him, he slipped down and was totally wedged. Feet in the front. His head over the guns. And his bottom sticking out of the turret. And it took us an hour to get him out. We strapped him in the rest bed, plugged him in to oxygen and the intercom. And by then we were well over the Baltic so we climbed up to operational height and turned to go due, almost due south to Berlin. This was the raid where the Air Ministry was forecasting the winds of sixty miles an hour. And our navigator said, ‘It’s more than that. It’s more like ninety.’ And in fact that’s what it was. So when we turned to go to Berlin we shot down from the Baltic to Berlin in no time at all. Realising that we were going at a fair, fair old lick he decided that when we, when we got to the target if it was marked we would, we would drop our bombs on the first run so we didn’t have to go around into wind which would reduce the ground speed considerably and making us a sitting duck for night fighters. Anyway, we went through Berlin and we dropped the bombs, got back on course to go home. No problems at all other than Wally. Anyway, we got, we got fairly close to England and got a message we were diverted to Wing in North Bucks so changed course and then the engineer, his nickname was Podge, he said we’d got trouble with the hydraulics. So, when we got over England we, I was given the task of pumping down the undercarriage to make sure we could land in reasonable fashion. I did that and Podge indicated to all of us that we, we would be able to land on wheels but we would have only a limited amount of flap and possibly no brakes at all. So anyway we, we got permission to land at Wing. We came in and landed and we landed on the almost on the perimeter track to try to make sure we had enough runway to be able to stop. But we didn’t. We just went off the end of the runway and pranged the thing. And when we got out we were told by the ground crew that, at Wing, the aircraft was a write off. Which turned out to be not quite true. It was very badly damaged but it was eventually brought back to Metheringham and they took about two and a half, three months to repair it. So we were taken back the following day by another crew, interviewed and so on and that’s the last we heard of it. But the one thing that we had discussed on the way back we would not say anything at all in debriefing or any, anywhere or anytime afterwards about what happened to Wally. Because if we did he would undoubtably be grounded and we didn’t fancy going through the rigmarole of having another replacement as we’d had a replacement navigator with Jones having been thrown out. We had a rather large individual given to us as our new navigator. A fellow called Jim Pittaway who was quite a bulky fellow and naturally he was called Slim. I use these nicknames because when we were flying we used those nicknames. We never called each other pilot or skipper or wireless operator or gunner or whatever. It was always nicknames. The, the bomb aimer was Buck. His name was Buchanan. The pilot was Ginger. The engineer was Podge. The navigator was Slim. I was Taff. The mid-upper gunner was Wally. And lo and behold the rear gunner was Keith [laughs] because nobody could think of a suitable nickname for him. Anyway, we, we had two little dodge it flights for the first experience. The remarkable thing was that apart from a few flak holes in the rest of our ops we had no problems at all. It was uncanny really that we did another thirty three ops and we had no difficulties of any description. It was quite remarkable. When I say that there were two occasions when we had to abort for an engine trouble but you know, that that happens to everybody. The — can we, for a moment?
[recording paused]
MJ: We did thirty five ops because quite, quite a few of them were at one stage described as a third of an op. Mainly the occasions when we went to France instead of Germany. After, after our fourth trip, the fourth one in fact was that infamous Nuremberg raid, after our fourth trip we were given Able as our aircraft. And we did twenty eight out of our thirty five in that aircraft which is, was a squadron record for that particular aircraft which completed a hundred and eleven ops [pause] The painting up here was given to me last year as the sole surviving member of our crew in recognition of our twenty eight ops in that one aircraft. The nearest to us — I think there were two or perhaps three that did eleven but that was the gap. Eleven to twenty eight. It was quite a record.
DM: Did you keep in touch with the crew after the war?
MJ: I did with the pilot. With Ginger but not the others. I initially made contact with them but it just faded away. So I thought oh well perhaps they’ve got their own lives to live. They didn’t, perhaps they don’t want to live in the past. But it was only Ginger that I kept in touch with and it was fortunate that he was in touch with the rest of the crew and passed on information about them from time to time.
DM: When you were on ops what were the off, what was the off duty periods like? Did you all associate together as a crew or — ?
MJ: Yeah.
DM: Were you all NCOs or —
MJ: Until, until we got to the squadron we were all NCOs. And then Ginger was commissioned. But the rest of stayed as sergeants, flight sergeants and ultimately warrant officers. A lot of our raids as I said were over France. And we operated twice on D-Day. First time was about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. And then we went back again 11, 12, 1 o’clock for a second op. And then after that it was communications and occasionally German reinforcements. You know, tank squadrons. That sort of thing. They also did a lot of communications. Railway junction sand bridges and so on. There were also a couple of doodlebug depots. One in particular that we went to twice in forty eight hours was a place called Saint Leu-d’Esserent which was a storage place for these doodlebugs. We operated that particular night with 617. We went in at, the base that we had was 617 at Woodhall Spa, 83 and 97 Pathfinder Squadrons at Coningsby and 106 at Metheringham. That was base. We flew several times with 617 but that Saint Leu-d’Esserent was a bit of a shocker really. The storage was actually built into the side of a mountain and we were briefed to bomb the approach roads and railways. 617 in the first raid had other duties. I don’t know exactly what. But certainly on the second one they had these earthquake bombs and dropped these on top of the, not on the, right at the top but up the mountain and blew the whole thing to pieces. It was, I gather never repaired after that. The trouble was from our point of view that on the first raid there were two aircraft lost. On the second raid there were five. Which was the second time that the squadron lost five aircraft. The other occasion was [pause] I can’t remember the name of the place we went to but it was the night that 106 Squadron got its first or perhaps I might say the second Victoria Cross. I say second because Gibson was the officer commanding when 106 was at Syerston. And from there of course he went on to the Dambusters and that’s when he got the VC. We finished our ops in July.
DM: ’44.
MJ: ’44. The last raid was a bit of a nightmare from the weather point of view. We flew from Lincoln down to the middle of France to Givors. And for most of the journey we were in a thunder storm and lightning flashing everywhere and so we had to switch all the electronics off. We didn’t want them blowing up and starting a fire. We were about a quarter of an hour short of Givors when the clouds stopped. Beautiful evening. We duly bombed, turned around, came back and flew all the way back in the same thunderstorm. Very uncomfortable journey. Well, I then finished. Well, we all finished our tour. Ginger, because he’d done the second dickie trip had done thirty six. The rest of us with the exception of Slim, the navigator who missed one op because he had tonsillitis, he did thirty four. The rest of us did thirty five. I was then posted back to Market Harborough instructing. Something which frankly I hated. You get in the aircraft with a trainee wireless operator and he was told to operate. If he had any trouble come to me. Well, I must have been lucky or very unlucky depending on which way you look at it. I was never asked to do anything. So all I did was sit on my parachute on the floor opposite the wireless operator and toured around the country in these clapped out old Wellingtons. Didn’t like it at all. And I made several attempts to persuade the CO to send me back to a squadron but he wouldn’t have it. Anyway, at the end of, end of six months I was posted. Sent to 218 Squadron in Chedburgh in 3 Group which, the squadron had only fairly recently converted on to Lancasters. That prior to that they were still flying in Stirlings. Anyway, we, I did three more ops and the war ended. So I was a little frustrated because I thought there was a good chance of being able to complete a second tour. Anyway, that was that. The end of thirty — thirty eight ops. We then had the Manna ops. Flying and dropping food in Holland. I did four of those. Then I did seven Exodus trips bringing back British mainly prisoners of war. Flying them from Juvisy to Hurn, outside Bournemouth. And then back to Chedburgh. And then I did one ferrying a Lancaster to Abu Sueir which is near Port Said in Egypt. The idea was the aircraft were then being sent out to the Far East. We only did one. It was, it was a glorified holiday. We were stationed then [pause] I had a pilot called Lofting, a navigator called Andrews and an engineer who was called Conant. He proudly announced that his father who lived at Cottesmore where there was a ‘drome anyway, his, his father was the MP for Rutland. But he, he — no I won’t go on that. We’d, we were stationed at [pause] I’ve forgotten the name of the aerodrome now. Near Newquay anyway. Sorry. I’m getting ahead of myself. We were stationed at Dunkeswell near Honiton and we flew from there to St Mawgan which is near Newquay. From St Mawgan we were briefed to fly to Abu Sueir. Stopping first at Tripoli. Unfortunately on the very short journey from Dunkeswell to St Mawgan the port inner packed up and the radio failed. So there we were at this VIP station where all anybody flying across the Atlantic especially the big wigs landed there and were treated with food that was by our standards out of this world. And we were given the same food, the same treatment as the VIPs. I could have stayed there for the rest of the war actually. It was rather nice. Anyway, we, they brought in a new engine. Fitted that. And repaired the wireless. Or so they thought. We took off heading for Tripoli. Got half way across the Med and the engines started playing up again and the wireless packed up. So we decided the nearest ‘drome was an American one at Tunis so we logged in there. Contacted Tripoli. Told them what had happened. And we, we spent about a week in Tunis doing all the things that we couldn’t do back home. Again living with American breakfast and Tunisian food for lunch and dinner. Went to the cinema a couple of times. On the first occasion Conant lit up a cigarette and you could see the smoke going up as the beam of the film was on the screen. Then all of a sudden we were [laughs] I think there must have been about four people, these ushers or usherettes or whatever they were shining torches at us and old Conant put his cigarette out rather smartly [laughs]. Smoking was banned in cinemas out there. Anyway, we eventually got as far as Tripoli just in time for Christmas. We had a very hilarious time there. And then we flew on to Abu Sueir. Left the aircraft and travelled into Cairo by train. A very slow journey but quite comfortable. And they must have thought we were thirsty people because every five minutes they were coming around with kettles full of tea. Very weak tea. Tons of milk in it. What sort of milk I wouldn’t know but I suspect it was goat. Anyway, we went, we went to Cairo and spent New Year’s there and flew back in a Dakota on New Year’s Day. From Cairo to Luqa in Malta. No. To El Adem in the desert, Luqa on Malta, Nice and then home. And we took off at 4 o’clock in the afternoon of the 1st and arrived at Hurn about mid-day on the 2nd. A boring journey. There was nothing to do. There were no magazines to read. It was just a case of shut your eyes and let things go by. Anyway, we got back and we were told we were to take another aircraft out there. And we did familiarisation on, but two lots of circuits and bumps and that was the last of my flying in the air force. And I got sent to various stations after that. No flying. Ended up in the demob office getting everybody ready to go home except me [laughs] which was a bit frustrating at times. But anyway in August of 1946 [pause] That’s right. August ’46 I was demobbed. Sent down to Wembley, kitted out with a suit and a hat and shoes and what have you and went home. And I was officially given leave as everybody was. I made contact with a firm that I used to work for and yes they would take me back as a junior clerk at the princely sum of three guineas a week which was a bit of a come down considering that I was getting about seven pounds a week in the air force. All my friends who had been in the army or the navy they were all demobbed at the same time and they all, I think all except one worked in Mars on the Slough Trading Estate. And they, they were earning far far more than I was. That didn’t worry me. I was looking to the future and I kept on studying. Unfortunately, I was told after a while that I should pack it up. I had two illnesses that were causing or had caused a lot of problems. One of them I had what the doctor described as the finest dose of shingles that he’d seen in all his career. So I decided that’s it. You’re not going to qualify as a solicitor. You’ll be for the rest of your days, as I was at that moment a solicitor’s managing clerk. Now described as a legal executive. And I held that job until I retired in 1989. I came back as I say in ’46 and in ’47 I met a young lady that in 1948 I married and she’s sitting over there. We will be celebrating our sixty eighth wedding anniversary on the 17th of July this year. We had one daughter. You might have seen when you came in. One grandson sitting there. And I’ve one great grandson who is coming up to two.
DM: When you, when you look back on your days in the air force what’s the sort of abiding memory? You know. Is it one of pleasure or fear or what?
[pause]
MJ: I enjoyed my time in the air force except for that period when I was instructing. Or supposed to be instructing. From the point of view of entertainment, pleasure and so on particularly when we were at Metheringham it was a case of into Lincoln, have a couple of beers, go to the cinema. Things like that. I always made, I made a promise to my father that I would, I would keep him informed as to how I was getting on with various ops. And rather a primitive idea every time we did, I did an op, I wrote and said I’d been in to Lincoln to see a film. And I named the film thinking that, you know if the censors people opened it and read the letter that they might think it was genuine. It wasn’t. Anyway, I [pause] I did this the whole time and he kept the letters. And it wasn’t until oh many many years afterwards [pause] the 1980s I think it was my brother was doing some decorating, came across the letters, decided he didn’t want them and threw them out. And I was a bit annoyed actually because some of them were quite interesting letters from the point of view of what we were doing but without disclosing any trade secrets. Anyway, it was something that happened and you know I was annoyed with him at first but oh well that’s it. We, we, as a crew we kept to ourselves very very much. I can’t remember where it was. I think it was at Swinderby. A couple of crews were assembled and they were given a talk by a flight lieutenant who had done two tours. It was a general talk about life on, on the squadron. One of the things that he said that stuck in the minds of all of us was, ‘Don’t become too friendly with other crews because if you do and they get shot down you will feel a lot of embarrassment, a lot of sympathy. It could upset you quite considerably that these friends of yours had just disappeared.’ So we talked about it afterwards and decided well we’d keep ourselves to ourselves. I mean we didn’t snub anybody but when we went anywhere it was not as a whole crew. It was sort of, ‘I’m going in to Lincoln tonight, Wally. Interested?’ ‘Yeah. Ok.’ And off we’d go. And the same with the others. They would do that. It didn’t happen quite the same way when I was at 218 Squadron. That was quite different. I enjoyed it there but there wasn’t the friendship with the crew. Partly I think because they had been shot down. The pilot was killed. The wireless op, his parachute was damaged so he jumped out holding on to the navigator. But as soon as the parachute opened [pause] the navigator and the parachute went up and I’m afraid the wireless op went down and he got killed. And I was there replacing him. The pilot we had, also a replacement, back on his second tour. And the navigator. He didn’t want to fly anymore. But he was just given a ground job and that was that.
DM: Did you have any superstitions? Any routines? Anything you had to do before you flew? Or —
MJ: No. The only thing that we did we had a doll which was given to Keith by his girlfriend. And it was then handed to me so that I could on every trip strap it up to the pole that was by the side of my radio. Tied it up the top. And it did thirty five ops and then when we parted I gave the doll back to to Keith so he could return it to his girlfriend. I met a WAAF as everybody did at some stage or other. Chatting with her she produced a little green sort of leatherette dog. Only a tiny little thing, ‘Take it on ops with you.’ So we took it on ops for the second one which I described to you. To Berlin. And that’s the only op the dog did [laughs] We, I I don’t think, oh I can’t speak very well for the others but I don’t think I was ever scared. When we, when we were coned in searchlights I was worried then. I remember not panicking but thinking, ‘God, we must get out of this otherwise we’ll get the chop.’ You know. And there was nothing any of us could do except rely on Ginger which we always said he was a very good pilot and by God the way he threw that Lanc about that night was unbelievable. I thought he was going to loop the loop at one stage. He was a very very good pilot.
DM: You mentioned the ear problem. Did that ever give you problems when you were flying? You obviously didn’t miss any ops because of it but —
MJ: What I had trouble with in flying was sinus. I wasn’t going to report sick. No way. If I couldn’t hear I couldn’t hear. That was it. You know. But seriously I didn’t like the idea of reporting sick. Missing ops and then becoming a spare bod. Flying with any Dick, Tom and Harry that was short of a wireless op. I didn’t fancy that at all. We had two little incidents where we more or less did the wrong thing. Buchanan went into the kitchen at the mess one night and leaned back, put his hand down on the red hot stove and on his left hand, which was fortunate he had an enormous blister on the palm of his hand. He just took a, stuck a bandage around it, wore a glove and kept on flying. And on one op, having ground tested everything we got out of the aircraft and waited for the signal to rev up and go. And I was getting out of the, getting out of the Lanc after doing what was necessary, caught my foot on the stepladder that we used to come out of the — get in and out of the Lanc. I just fell flat on my face from the top step down and I ripped my hand, the right hand. It was badly swollen but I wasn’t going to go sick. No way. But other than that and Slim having a couple of days in hospital when he had tonsillitis or flu or something apart from that nobody had any problems at all. Going back to [pause] the second trip to Berlin, in all the time that we were together after that nobody ever mentioned Wally’s oxygen. There’s no record of it anywhere. We just didn’t. Didn’t want to change despite his silly mistake of not connecting it up properly. You know. You get to know people and you trust them. And we did trust Wally. Even after that incident. He, he was quite a good gunner. But they never had to fly like Keith. Never had to fire his guns in anger. In all the trips that we did we never fired guns.
DM: Did you have any thoughts after the war about the way Bomber Command were viewed in the aftermath? You know. This sort of almost disconnect with with what had happened.
MJ: No. I thought about it and I thought we were doing the right thing. The Germans had bombed every capital in Europe. Quite indiscriminate bombing. They came over to this country and bombed London and Coventry and Portsmouth and so on. Quite indiscriminate. They started it and we finished it and it, that was it. Now people say they very much regret the fact that they dropped these bombs and killed civilians. But I haven’t heard any German saying he’s sorry for having killed people in London. I look at it on the basis it was an all out war. If we didn’t win then we would be finished as a country. We would. Life, if you were allowed to live it would have been hell. It was something we just had to do and did it. I never regretted it at all. The one thing that does upset me is every time they talk about Bomber Command they talk about the last big raid. And it’s quite silly really because what happened was the same as happened in Hamburg when they bombed that. Nobody could forecast that there was going to be sudden strong winds fanning flames and so on. The same thing happened in — I don’t remember the name of the town [pause]. Right at the end of the war. [pause] I’m being told over there.
Other: [unclear]
MJ: Hmmn?
Other 2: I should know and I can’t remember.
Other: Dresden.
Other 2: Dresden.
MJ: Dresden. Yeah. I read a number of books in recent years about Dresden. Some were very anti the Bomber Command for having bombed it and more or less destroyed it. But there was one that I read, I can’t remember the name of the author but it gave a very very good account of why Dresden should have been bombed. At that stage even if there was no reason to have bombed it before Dresden was the railway junction at the southern part of the Eastern Front. And millions of German soldiers, armaments, tanks you name it all passed through Dresden to get to the southern Eastern Front. There were no very big factories in Dresden but there were hundreds of small factories. Some operating in garages and sheds and things like that. All producing items which were then transported to main depot and fitted as part of radar and so on and so forth. So from that point of view there was, as the book quite firmly came down to the fact that Dresden should have been bombed before. And it was, there was a request from the Russians to to bomb that town in order A — to stop the manufacture of armaments. Radar bits and so on. And B to stop the German army sending troops through that depot. I I [pause] I don’t think it was the wrong thing. In fact it was necessary in my opinion. That. I’ve never regretted dropping bombs on Germany for the simple reason it’s not just tit for tat because we dropped a damned sight more bombs on them then they did on us. And with a regime like the Nazis they just had to do that to get rid of them. You know. I had no regrets at all. I may be a bit exceptional in that. I don’t know. But it annoys me when people who have been on ops suddenly say that they’re terribly sorry for what they did. I don’t think they should say that. I don’t think they should even think it. It was something that just had to be done.
[recording paused]
MJ: A little earlier I was talking about not being too friendly with other crews. Other personnel. We generally kept to that. Not snubbing anybody or or so on but we didn’t become friendly. When I joined up I was sent to Oxford for medical examination and [pause] I was standing next to a young chap who told me he’d come from Portsmouth. And everywhere I went he went. And we started talking. When I was told to report to Padgate I was walking through the gates and who should be standing or walking next to me but this fellow. A chappie called Bill Sizer. And he told me that his, his father and his uncle were colour sergeants in the Marines and they didn’t take kindly to the fact that he’d joined the air force. Well, Bill and I did all our training together right up to and including Market Harborough at OTU. And then he and his crew were sent straight to Syerston to convert on to Lancasters whilst as I said before we went to Swinderby to convert on to Stirlings and then on to Lancs. So that he was a month or so in front of us. He was posted to Waddington first and then they moved to Fiskerton with 49 Squadron I think it was. Yes. 49. And in June of ’44 I was outside our billet writing a letter home and Ginger came along and said he’d got some bad news. That Dickinson and his crew, Dickinson was the pilot, Dickinson and his crew which included Bill Sizer had been shot down and were still missing. Or treated as missing and eventually they found out that in fact that they were all killed in the south of France. When he told me that initially my first thought was that lieutenant is going to be proved right because I was very upset. He was the only person that I really became friendly with in the whole time apart from the crew that I became friendly with during the whole time that I was in the air force. I think it shook everybody in our crew because strangely enough all, all the members trained together. The two pilots trained out in America. The two bomb aimers, both Canadians, they trained together in, in Canada. Engineers trained together. The wireless ops trained together. The two gunners trained together. And the only difference was the navigators. Jones had trained at the same time as Dickinson’s navigator but not Slim. But that upset me more than anything and I realised then that this flight lieutenant was absolutely right. We talked about it for, you know, one night in the billet. Ginger said something like, ‘Forget it. But don’t forget them.’ And left it at that. And we did. We didn’t mention it at all after that. You know, it was a sad situation but it happens to everybody.

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Citation

David Meanwell, “Interview with Mervyn Jones,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 3, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11143.

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