Interview with Wally Lashbrook


Interview with Wally Lashbrook


Wally was born in February 1913, and joined the Royal Air Force in 1929 as an apprentice at RAF Halton and completed pilot training at RAF Prestwick. He flew many aircraft including Tiger Moths, Hendons and Halifaxes, and served with 51 Squadron and 102 Squadron. He reminisces about Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, who he met under the name of Aircraftman Shaw. Wally was shot down on an operation to Pilsen, where he evaded capture and returned to the United Kingdom. He describes an incident when he was in a Mosquito at 32,000 feet. Wally got involved with the Royal Air Force VR Training Branch and worked with Air Cadets. Wally was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Force Cross. After the war, he joined the British Overseas Airways Corporation as a civilian pilot.







01:20:36 audio recording


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ALashbrookWI150903, PLashbrookW1501


BB: Ok Wally. My name is Squadron Leader Bruce Blanche.
WL: [Unclear] in the hangar and unfortunately, when I went off to Singapore, he was carrying on with his motorbike, he killed himself straight after, in Southampton, when I was halfway to Singapore.
BB: Right.
WL: It was a dead loss to [unclear] He was a quaint little fellow.
BB: Yes. Yes.
WL: Yeah.
BB: He must have been a very interesting man to, to have known. Because he became very famous as you know, in Arabia and he joined the Air Force afterwards under a false name, as Aircraftsman Shaw.
WL: That’s right.
BB: Yeah. And he wrote a book called, “The Mint.”
WL: Yeah.
BB: But, so, you joined as a Halton apprentice in 1929.
WL: I joined in 1929.
BB: Yes.
WL: That’s right.
BB: And then you — you —
WL: Went to Singapore.
BB: Went to Singapore and then you at some stage you decided to be a pilot.
WL: Three years. Three years in Singapore and they selected certain lads — sent them home as pilots. Sent to be taught to fly. They all had that ambition. Some of us were fortunate enough to get selected. I was one of probably a thousand to get, and then four of us got sent back to Prestwick to learn to fly. That was 1929.
BB: 1929.
WL: We learned to fly. Yeah.
BB: So you learned to fly at Prestwick.
WL: Sorry in 1936.
BB: Yeah.
WL: I learned to fly in Prestwick, yeah.
BB: And what did you learn train on at Prestwick?
WL: Tiger Moths.
BB: Tiger Moths. So, it was an EFTS. Elementary Flying Training School. Yes. Ok. And —
WL: I was there and then of course [unclear] let’s think. What squadron was I? I can’t remember the squadrons.
BB: Yeah. That’s fine. But I gather you went with 51 Squadron for a while.
WL: Yes. I was.
BB: Yes.
WL: For a short time, but I don’t think I did a great job there. I broke the one and only Hendon.
BB: Yes.
WL: Landed badly on the undercarriage.
BB: Yeah. Hendons were a bit cumbersome as I remember. Not remember, as I know from my own research. So, you, you re-mustered as a pilot.
WL: That’s right. Re-mustered.
BB: And you completed your pilot training. And how long did it take you to go solo on the Tiger Moths?
WL: As I think it was a rather longer than most people.
BB: It would be in your logbook but — yeah.
WL: Probably [pause] I’d have to look at my logbooks.
BB: Ok. Most people went, went solo after about eight hours or so.
WL: Oh, well, I was much longer than that.
BB: Were you? Well. It’s ok, Wally. Don’t worry about it. We’ll get, we’ll get it later. But then you went on to, to ops. Did you fly — you got your DFM. Distinguished Flying Medal.
WL: Yes.
BB: So, you must have been obviously an NCO at that stage. Flight sergeant.
WL: I was an NCO. That’s right.
BB: Yeah.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And what were you flying when you got your DFM? Was it Whitleys?
WL: Hendons.
BB: Oh right.
BB: Yeah. When you got your DFM was it, was it Halifaxes? I’ll have a look at the logbook don’t worry. It’s ok.
WL: Yes.
BB: And then you obviously got commissioned.
WL: I got commissioned. Yeah. Let’s see — I can’t —
BB: No, I’ve got the dates, Wally. It doesn’t matter. So, the transition from a, being Halton apprentice.
WL: That’s it.
BB: With all the technical knowledge and working on engines.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And meeting people like Aircraftsman Shaw — Lawrence of Arabia.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Re-mustering for aircrew. Going through all the aircrew selection. You were selected for pilot, so you must have been at the top. The top of the cream.
WL: Yeah. I managed to survive. I crashed in a Tiger Moth.
BB: Yeah.
WL: And I got stuck in fog.
BB: Right. And then —
WL: I false landed anyway.
BB: Yes.
WL: And a fellow, a flight sergeant, flew it out of the rocky place I’d finished up in.
BB: Carry on. Carry on. Just keep talking.
WL: Yeah. Well from there I went on to Hendons.
BB: Yes.
WL: Tiger Moths and then Hendons.
BB: Ok. And then, so you got, you got your aircrew cap. You went through pilot training.
WL: Yeah.
BB: You went on to a squadron and obviously got the DFM at the end of that tour. Was that with 51 Squadron?
WL: That’s right.
BB: Yeah. Was that Halifaxes you were flying?
WL: Oh, I’d have to look that up.
BB: Ok. Right. I think we can find that out. And you did a full tour of missions with 51 and then you’re obviously screened at some stage. Did you go on to instruct at an Heavy Conversion Unit? 1652 at Pocklington?
WL: I was, yeah, I was with 30152a.
BB: Yes, right. Ok.
WL: I got, I must have got my commission before. Before that.
BB: Yes. You did.
WL: Yeah.
BB: You did. Yes. And then you went back to a squadron again. Was it 102 Squadron?
WL: 102 Squadron. That’s right.
BB: And then you did, oh no, I beg pardon you did some time with the Pathfinder force too. With 35 Squadron. I believe.
WL: Well, no. It wasn’t Pathfinders. No.
BB: No.
WL: No, I was, well, look in my logbook.
BB: Ok. We’ll have a look in the logbook later.
WL: Yeah.
BB: So, and then afterwards, after the war you ended up with a DFC. Sorry DFM, DFC, Air Force Cross.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And then you went on and you stayed in the Air Force I think, until — was it 1953/54 something like that?
WL: Yeah well, I was. I’m stubborn and the old memory doesn’t —
BB: Don’t worry about it. It’s — your medals tell the story.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And you went on to 102 Squadron.
WL: That’s right. Yeah.
BB: And you finished the war with your DFC, AFC.
WL: Yeah.
BB: You obviously stayed with the RAF for quite a while. You came out of the RAF and obviously got involved with the Air Cadets.
WL: That’s right.
BB: The RAF VR [T]
WL: Yeah.
BB: Training branch.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And that’s — how did you find that? Very rewarding I suspect. Teaching young — young girls and boys to an interest in aviation and in flying.
WL: Well I was general duties more than flying.
BB: Yes.
WL: I enjoyed working with youngsters.
BB: Yeah. They are very rewarding. Working with young people.
WL: I was a keen. I was an athlete.
BB: Were you?
WL: Well I wasn’t —
BB: No, but what was your particular sport?
WL: Pole vault for one thing.
BB: Oh, excellent.
WL: Four hundred metres.
BB: Oh, that’s excellent. So, you were quite an athlete. Well of course that —
WL: I wouldn’t say I was quite an athlete
BB: No. But you were interested in sport?
WL: Hmmn?
BB: You were interested in sport.
WL: Very interested in sport.
BB: That’s what the RAF liked in those days.
WL: Yeah.
BB: I were.
WL: That’s how I got the DFC I thought.
BB: Yes. Ok. ‘Cause I remember when I was in the Air Force, Wednesday afternoons in the Air Force was sports. You had to go and play football or cricket or rugby, or something like that.
WL: Yeah.
BB: It was always Wednesday afternoon as I recall.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Every Wednesday. Station, station routine orders. Wednesday afternoon sport.
WL: Yes.
BB: And you couldn’t get out of it. No. You had to do it, otherwise your commanding officer was after —
WL: I used to organise the sport.
BB: [unclear]
WL: Inter squadron. That was —
BB: That’s right. Inter-squadron sports.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Yeah. Very, very important. It keeps, it keeps the body fit and the mind agile.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And that’s very important for the RAF.
WL: It’s very good for the morale.
BB: Good for morale, good for building team spirit. Which, in aircrew is very important. And teaches you discipline and all of that. So that’s good.
WL: That’s right, yeah.
BB: Yeah. And, now, after the, after your time in the RAF when you came out in the 50s, yeah, I gather you joined BOAC.
WL: The which?
BB: British Oversea Airways Corporation. Did you? You flew as a civil pilot for a while, did you? With BOAC
WL: Oh, I was, yeah, I was flying Halifaxes.
BB: Yes.
WL: And civilians.
BB: Yes. Oh yes. Yes. Called the Halton, I think it was called.
WL: Yeah. I went all over the world.
BB: How interesting. How interesting.
WL: Yeah.
BB: I remember as a child my, my father worked, my parents worked overseas and we used to go out to see them and it was always in a BOAC Super Constellation.
WL: Oh yeah.
BB: Or something like that.
WL: Yeah.
BB: It took something like twenty eight hours to get to Singapore, Wally. Could you imagine that?
WL: No.
BB: London Heathrow to Singapore. Twenty eight hours.
WL: Yeah. Got used to it.
BB: Night stop at Karachi. Changed crews at Karachi.
WL: Singapore was. Yeah it was. I went as far as Hong Kong you know.
BB: Right.
WL: And flew to America. America.
BB: Right. Right.
WL: Canada.
BB: Canada. Interesting.
WL: It was.
BB: And then you obviously left BOAC.
WL: Nearly all the bits of Africa.
BB: Lots of Africa. Yes. It must have been very interesting that flying after the war. Pioneering the air routes and flying the routes for BOAC, must have been very, very interesting.
WL: It was very interesting.
BB: And challenging too. Quite dangerous.
WL: Unfortunately it was quite dangerous as you say. We lost a few.
BB: I mean the weather. I mean the unpredictable weather. And meteorology wasn’t an exact science then as it is now, and you know, navigation aids were sparce, so it was all dead reckoning stuff.
WL: [unclear]
BB: No. Hardly any beacons. You know.
[motor running outside]
WL: What’s that noise?
BB: We’ll just wait while the —
WL: Eh?
BB: We’ll must wait while the chap cuts the grass outside.
WL: Oh, that’s what it is.
BB: Yeah. It’s alright. It’s not an engine running up. Somebody’s not taxiing out. It’s ok.
WL: Yeah.
BB: No. But you know what a splendid privilege it is to see you, Wally, and to be here. I’ve done a lot of research on you because there’s a lot out there on you. You’re really quite famous. And it’s a real honour to be here and you’ve served your country, and the Royal Air Force extremely well, and we’re all very proud of that.
WL: Well it was a job to me.
BB: Yes. It was a job to lots of people.
WL: Yes.
BB: But nonetheless, they don’t give you these things on the table for jobs. They don’t give you all of this stuff for just doing a job.
WL: No.
BB: You did some tremendous things. I mean, for example, you were shot down, you evaded, you escaped back to the UK when your Halifax was shot down on the Pilsen raid.
WL: Yeah. Oh well it was a pilot’s existence.
BB: Yes. It was. And you must have qualified for the Caterpillar Club because you had to use your parachute didn’t you? Oh no you crashed. Did you crash land or did you bale out? I can’t remember.
WL: Hmmn?
BB: Did you crash land that particular Halifax or did you bale out? Did you parachute?
WL: I’m trying to think.
BB: I’ve got a, I’ve got a feeling that you crash landed it and the guys got out.
WL: I crash landed.
BB: Yes. That’s right.
WL: Yeah. I think —
BB: After the Pilsen raid. When you got back to base, got back to Linton on Ouse. That’s right. Yes.
WL: Yeah. I was very fortunate in my landings.
BB: What?
WL: Very fortunate in landing.
BB: Yes, well there’s only good landings, Wally, are the ones you can walk away from.
WL: I’ll say. I was fortunate I never landed on the water.
BB: Yes. I, I was talking, I was talking to a Bomber Command veteran, not so long ago who had to ditch in the North Sea with his crew. And they were there, they were there for three days in this dinghy before the Air Sea Rescue people.
WL: Found them.
BB: Got to them.
WL: Yeah. Well I was fortunate.
BB: You were fortunate indeed. Yes.
WL: Yeah. I didn’t. I landed on the land if you like.
BB: Yes.
WL: I can’t remember which one we [unclear], but that was the —
BB: So, what, what I will do now, Wally, with this noise going on. I will have a look at your logbooks.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Oh, h’s finished now. So, we can carry on as normal for a little bit. So, when were you born, Wally? I mean.
WL: 1913.
BB: 1913.
WL: Yeah. January the 3rd.
BB: February 3rd .
WL: January the 3rd .
BB: January the 3rd .
WL: 1913.
BB: And where was that, Wally? Can you remember where you were born?
WL: Well it was my address [unclear] Devon.
BB: Ok. So, 1913. That’s just, just before the First World War.
WL: That’s right.
BB: So obviously your father might have gone off to the First World War, did he? Or —
WL: No. he was a protected.
BB: Oh, he was a —
WL: Farmer. Yeah.
BB: Oh, reserved occupation, I think they called it.
WL: I marched as a boy, five years old in 1918. You know, a wee boy.
BB: Yes. A wee boy. And of course, that’s, that’s during the First World War.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Air power came to its, its true meaning. You started off with balloons and then it started off with reconnaissance.
WL: That’s right.
BB: And then the fighters and then the bombers. So, and of course the RAF, the Royal Flying Corps — the RAF were formed so —
WL: The fascinating.
BB: So, all of that post war you grew up in, an age where aviation was, was coming of age.
WL: Yes.
BB: And there was all that, you know, guys like Cobham and flying circuses and all these wartime aces going around doing aerobatics at air shows at like Hendon and all these places. And so, you grew up in that air minded generation.
WL: It was balloons.
BB: Did that influence your interest in aviation? Did that spark your interest in aviation?
WL: I always, you know, was amazed with aviation. Watching the airships.
BB: Yes, those were amazing things. I, I — they were truly amazing things. You know, when you think of the zeppelin. Think about the zeppelin. How big they were.
WL: Yes.
BB: And then you know, of course, the Americans used them a lot more that we did, for surveillance over the ocean, but we did the same and, you know, we had these airship bases all over the place.
WL: All over France and that.
BB: Yeah.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And they were — but they were, I mean they were, you know, you were sitting on a balloon full of helium or gas.
WL: That’s right.
BB: They just went up like a light. But from what I’ve read, it took an awful lot of fighters to put one down. Yeah.
WL: Yes. I remember seeing the flying, the airships.
BB: Yes.
WL: Crossing Bude.
BB: Oh yes.
WL: Crossing Bude. Going out to sea.
BB: Yes.
WL: And coming back in again.
BB: On, on, on the Clyde.
WL: Yeah. And I remember the balloon, the airship going down on the way to France.
BB: Yes.
WL: And also one who caught up in America. US.
BB: Oh right. OK. No. It was and of course, they’re making a comeback as well now. The technology has been resurrected and twenty first —
WL: Is that right?
BB: Twenty first century being applied on the new technology so that down at a place called, what used to be RAF Cardington.
WL: Where?
BB: Cardington.
WL: Paddington?
BB: Cardington. The big balloon hangars used to be there and, near Bedford and there’s a company there trying to get airships flying again.
WL: For [unclear]
BB: No. No. For aerial surveillance, and agriculture, and all sorts of things.
WL: Yeah.
BB: It’s really — it’s gone, it’s gone in a big circle, Wally.
WL: Well I would never have thought they could find anything useful for them.
BB: Well, they’re small, I mean, they’re probably the size of the hall here.
WL: Yeah.
BB: But they are used for coastal surveillance, communication platforms.
WL: Yeah.
BB: They’re doing all sorts of things with them now. So, you know, it just goes in a big circle but of course, the technology now is a lot better than it was in the 1913/14.
WL: Yeah
BB: So that’s fascinating, but when you consider the changes in aviation in your lifetime, it’s incredible.
WL: Yeah. I know it’s —
BB: Supersonic flight, men on the moon, space travel.
WL: Oh I know it’s —
BB: You know. It’s amazing.
WL: Really is —
BB: When you were a boy, you probably couldn’t even visualise that.
WL: No. I mean I was really airships crossing over Bude. The seaside you know. Going out to sea.
BB: Yeah.
WL: And back in again. And then of course, the ones that crashed. The one that crashed on the way to Paris.
BB: Yes, that’s right. But coming back to the Royal Air Force, obviously you’re were a career, you’re a career officer. Once — when the war ended, and all the wartime people left wha,t what decided you to stay in the Air Force after the war? Was it because you just liked the flying?
WL: Well, it was a job.
BB: It was a job. Well it was a job. And you are quite right.
WL: Yeah.
BB: I mean, at the end of the war and the wartime Air Force was cut. Was drastically cut, and people had to go and get jobs. So, you were lucky to —
WL: A paid pilot was —
BB: Yeah sure, but I mean, you must have been very, very good at what you did as a pilot, which is testimonial in your medals here for the Air Force to say, ‘Ok Lashbrook, you can stay on, you know. You’re a good boy. You can stay in the Royal Air Force, in the peacetime Air Force. Was it very difficult? Did you have to go to interviews and be selected?
WL: I was peacetime farmer if you like. I was paid civilian.
BB: Right. Oh, a ferry pilot. Yes.
WL: A ferry pilot.
BB: Was that for Handley Page?
WL: Hmmn?
BB: Was that for Handley Page? The aircraft manufacturers.
WL: No. No. I forget.
BB: Oh.
WL: Skyways.
BB: Skyways Airwork.
WL: Yeah. I was —
BB: Oh right. Ok.
WL: I worked at Skyways.
BB: I remember as a teenager, Skyways DC3s taking the holidaymakers over to France in the early days.
WL: Yeah.
BB: In the 50s. A lot of — Skyways had a lot of ex-RAF DC3s. Dakotas.
WL: Yeah
BB: And they used to fly them out of Lydd, Lydd in Kent, and they just took these people across to France and you know.
WL: That’s right. I [unclear]
BB: And then they got the DC, DC4 I think, and they went a further afield.
WL: That’s right —
BB: It was a interesting company — Skyways. It was an interesting company.
WL: Yeah.
BB: I mean it was part freight, it was part airline, it was part, we’ll fly anywhere, anything, anytime you want.
WL: Anywhere. Yeah. Where we want to go. Unfortunately, we lost a few.
BB: Yes. Well as I said, most of the airliners after the war, initially, were either converted Halifaxes or Lancasters, or they were DC3s, which was a transport, or they were a DC4, DC6. So it was a lot of the wartime aircraft, whether they be transport or bomber, were adapted for aviation after the war.
JK: Excuse me. Alright. Is this an opportune moment to take you up for lunch?
BB: Yes. Of course.
JK: Alright.
WL: So, Wally. We’ll finish it here.
WL: Yeah.
BB: I will come back after lunch and take some pictures.
JK: Right. Ok.
BB: Or we could that now if you like. Before lunch.
JK: That’s ok.
BB: Ok. And we can talk over lunch. Ok.
JK: Ok. Has he been alright? Has he been —
BB: He’s been fine.
JK: Right, Dad. Do you want to have a wee sip of your sherry? I’m going take you up for lunch. I’ll just take you up in your chariot. Ok.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Well, Wally, thank you very much for sharing your adventures with me.
WL: [unclear]
BB: And I’ll peruse your logbooks and take some photographs after lunch if that’s alright.
WL: Yes. That’s fine.
BB: And then I’ll leave you in peace, but thank you very much for allowing me to come in and talk to you.
WL: Well, I hope it was [unclear]
BB: It is. Wally. Wally, you’re such a character and your medals tell your story really. And as I said my generation and a lot of other people owe you and your colleagues in Bomber Command, many of which are not here, a tremendous debt of gratitude. Particularly as after the war Bomber Command was, was forgotten, the achievements were forgotten. Mainly through politicians trying to distance themselves from the bombing campaign which was terrible. I mean them doing it. And now with the Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, The Bomber Command Memorial, plus the one that’s going up in, has gone up in Lincoln and this archive that we’re here today to record your history, is a testament and an oral monument to you guys. So, thank you very much. I salute you.
JK: Ok. And a personal thing, well not personal, that was Dad receiving his Bomber Command clasp.
BB: Clasp from Bob Kemp. Yes, I know. Bob was one of my COs in the RAF.
JK: Oh right. Lift your foot a minute, Dad. Right foot.
BB: That’s on the benevolent fund website.
JK: Oh right. Well you’ll know that one. And then above is when he was a hundred.
BB: Yeah. Yeah.
JK: This is —
BB: Letter from the queen.
JK: Yeah. And this was the Deputy Lord Lieutenant. His name is David Dickson.
BB: Right.
JK: His father was involved with the Cadets, Colonel Seton Dickson.
BB: Right.
JK: And his son is now the deputy lord lieutenant and visits my Dad quite often.
BB: Oh that’s great.
JK: And is a lovely person. This was Dad on his hundredth birthday with my older sisters.
BB: Right.
JK: Diane, who lives in Florida. And that was my two children Michael and Sarah.
BB: Oh, how nice.
JK: This is Sarah here as well.
BB: My daughter’s called Sarah.
JK: Yeah. Sarah’s thirty two, she’s a pharmacy technician. Sadly, Michael was killed in an industrial accident.
BB: Oh, I’m sorry.
JK: Four years ago, when he was twenty six. But he was, he and dad were rascals together.
BB: Is that right Wally?
JK: Yes.
BB: Rascals together. Eh.
JK: You and Michael.
WL: Oh aye.
JK: Right.
WL: We got on well.
JK: Right. We’re going to go up now and get into the chair. Ok. And we’ll take you up.
BB: Yeah.
JK: You’re going to go to the quiet tearoom to have your lunch with Bruce.
WL: I can leave my stuff here. Yes?
JK: Yes. If you want to take the logbooks with you to have a look at.
WL: When I come back. You lock this place presumably. It’s safe enough. I want to come back and take some pictures of the medals and just peruse the logbooks. Ask any questions that come from them but —
JK: Well what we’ll do is —
WL: I don’t want to tire him.
JK: They actually don’t. My Dad doesn’t use the key for his door so —
WL: Right.
JK: So what I’ll do I’ll put them, I’ll give them to Ann in at the office and you can get them when you finish lunch. Just in case anybody wandered in and out. I’ve discussed with Dad. These are — these are —
WL: Sorry.
JK: Museum pieces now.
BB: Oh they are. They’re very valuable.
JK: So — well not so much that but —
BB: Well I can tell you what they’re worth right now. I mean that little group with the logbooks, about twenty five thousand pounds.
JK: Oh really. Really. Well they will eventually go to — probably Halton.
BB: That would be a great thing to do.
JK: Because there’s not much point keeping them in a drawer at home is there? Once, you know —
BB: Well they might be good for grandchildren.
JK: Well I doubt if — they would have been Michael’s but —
BB: Right.
JK: As I say. That didn’t work out.
BB: Ok. Well, you have daughters.
JK: I know but I’d rather them be seen by a lot of people.
BB: No. I understand. I understand.
JK: You know. And there are so many people who now who are very, very interested.
BB: Yes.
JK: You know, and Dad and I was just discussing what you said earlier on about, you know, Bomber Command being kind of shoved under the carpet almost.
JK: You’ll be done by —
BB: Oh half an hour or so.
JK: Shall we say about 2 o’clock or something like that.
BB: Yes, that would be fine.
JK: I don’t know when —
BB: I don’t want to tire him out.
JK: Oh, he’ll be fine. He’s not going anywhere.
Other: I’ll do it, I’ll do all that Jessica.
BB: Thank you very much.
Other: You go and do what you have to do.
JK: That’s his logbook and medals.
Other: Right.
BB: I’ll look after them.
Other: Right. Ok. Yeah.
JK: And I’ll go down to Marie Curie and see what I can pick up.
Other: Thanks a lot.
JK: Alright Dad, I’ll be back after lunch.
WL: Right. Ok then.
JK: Bruce is going to have lunch with you and then take you back to your room for some photographs.
BB: Right.
JK: And then take you back to your room for some photographs, so don’t spill tomato soup all down your front. Ok.
WL: [unclear]
JK: I’m joking.
BB: I used to do — I do that.
JK: And then I’ll come back. Ok.
WL: Ok love.
JK: And take Bruce to the station.
BB: Yeah.
JK: Ok. So are you alright with that?
BB: Yes. Yes. Alright.
JK: Ok. I’ll see you in a wee bit. Behave.
BB: Yeah. Right.
JK: See you later. Bye.
Other: Would you like some orange juice or something as well.
BB: No. It’s fine.
Other: Are you sure? Wally, can I pour your wine for you?
WL: Yes please.
Other: Yes. How’s your morning been Wally. Ok?
WL: Excellent.
Other: Are you in good hands.
WL: Yeah [unclear]
Other: Are you alright with a little bit of wine.
BB: Of course.
Other: Help yourself.
BB: I’m not driving. I just get on a train. I’ve got the easy job.
Other: Wally likes a wee bit of wine or champagne don’t you, Wally?
BB: Well, I don’t blame him. So do I.
WL: Yeah.
Other: There you are my darling.
WL: Thank you.
BB: I go and see, I go and see my GP he says, or the nurse, and she says how many units of alcohol do you think you drink in a week Mr Blanche? And I go —
Other: Not much.
BB: Not much. So I say about fifty a week.
Other: Yeah.
JK: I’ll take that.
Other: Yes. Of course.
BB: She does the wee sums, ‘Oh that’s fine.’
Other: We always —
BB: But she know —
Other: We always fib about these things.
BB: She knows she can add another.
Other: Yeah.
BB: How does that come off.
Other: Shall I get it for you.
BB: Oh I see.
Other: Got it.
BB: Got it now.
Other: I’ll take it away. Right. Ok. I’ll leave you and Wally in peace.
BB: Thank you very much.
Other: And your lunch will be through in a minute Wally.
WL: That’s alright.
Other: Right.
WL: No problem. Thank you.
BB: Thank you, Wally. That’s really good.
WL: This is our secret room.
BB: It’s a lovely room isn’t it?
WL: Yeah.
BB: It’s a lovely place here? Anyway, Wally, here we are. Cheers mate. Happy landings.
WL: I’ve got one there now.
BB: Happy landings.
WL: Yeah. Cheers.
BB: Happy landings. Happy landings. Yeah, my poor old uncle. Twenty one when he was killed.
WL: Hmmn?
BB: My uncle was twenty one.
WL: Twenty one.
BB: Yeah. He, he was Australian. He left home when he was seventeen and a half.
WL: Oh that’s terrible.
BB: And joined the Royal Australian Air Force. Did his initial training in, at Point Cook in Australia on Tiger Moths and then he went to Rhodesia?
WL: Rhodesia.
BB: To do his, yeah, in the Empire Air Training Scheme. He was trained in Rhodesia where he went on to some other light aircraft. And he came to the UK, and then he went on to the Airspeed Oxford.
WL: Oh right.
BB: To do his twin.
WL: Yeah.
BB: On the Oxford.
WL: Oh.
BB: And then he went on to the OTU at Kinloss. Number 19 OTU.
Other: Sorry, excuse me. There we are Wally.
BB: To crew up. He crewed up there.
Other: There you go.
WL: Thank you.
BB: Then he went on to Wigsley. To the Heavy Conversion Unit.
WL: Where?
BB: Wigsley in Nottinghamshire.
WL: Nottinghamshire.
BB: 1654 HCU.
WL: I didn’t know him.
BB: No. No. No. And then he went on to 9 Squadron at Bardney. Completed his thirty trips. Was screened as an instructor at OTU. And then there was a mid-air collision and he was killed with members of both crews. So, it was a big shame really.
WL: Yeah.
BB: He was killed in a mid-air collision while he was instructing. So, it was —
WL: Oh dear, that’s sad.
BB: Yes. That’s terrible. Having completed thirty ops during 1943 early ’44.
WL: What aircraft was he on?
BB: He was in Lancasters when flying operationally.
WL: A Lancaster.
BB: Yeah. But when he crashed he was in a Wellington 10.
WL: Wellington.
BB: Yeah. They were used at the OTUs to train.
WL: I used to be on a Wellington squadron at one time.
BB: Yes. Did you? Oh right.
WL: Marham.
BB: Oh at Marham. What were the Wimpies like to fly? They were a very strong aeroplane. They took a lot of punishment.
WL: [unclear] you had to be careful with your landing. The undercarriage wasn’t all that good. But I had [unclear] a short time. I get lost with the the aircraft I was on. I flew eighty different types.
BB: Eighty different types. Wally, what a tremendous feat.
WL: Yeah. Including the Lancaster.
BB: What did you think of the — what did you —
WL: I didn’t fly a Lancaster —
BB: Operationally, no just fell in that sort of stuff. Hamlyns. Hamlyn squadron —
WL: Hampdens.
BB: Hamlyns. Oh. ok.
WL: Pilots notes.
BB: Oh, pilots notes. Ok. Yeah.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Well I mean, the Halifax, the Lancaster and the Stirling were the heavies. The four engine bombers.
WL: Yeah.
BB: When you speak to the Lancaster people they go — oh well the Halifax. Yeah. Then you speak to Halifax people and they go uh Lancasters.
WL: Well I was Halifaxes of course, but I always felt, shall we say, a little inferior to the Lancaster.
BB: It didn’t have, it couldn’t get the height could it? The Halifax.
WL: It couldn’t get the height and it couldn’t do the stuff. Not like the Lancaster.
BB: No. It didn’t but it was the mainstay of Bomber Command.
WL: But the Dambusters.
BB: The Dambusters.
WL: Yeah.
BB: I’m afraid I agree with Butch Harris on these panacea targets and these elite squadrons. Harris was very anti all of that, you know. He thought it was taking the effort away from the main task of bombing the cities.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Did Bomber Harris ever come to your station and meet the crews? As you remember.
WL: I’m trying to think. I don’t think so. I usually did the, sort of exhibition.
BB: Yeah.
WL: Circuit or whatever.
BB: He was an interesting character, Harris. You either loved him or you hated him.
WL: I don’t remember —
BB: Bomber Harris. He was the CnC of Bomber Command. Butch Harris.
WL: That’s right. I know who he was.
BB: Yeah.
WL: But I can’t remember if I did meet him.
BB: Well he didn’t — he very seldom left High Wycombe but when he did he usually went off to a squadron to show his face or whatever.
WL: Yeah.
BB: But he was, he was the face of Bomber Command and —.
WL: The Lancaster was on its own. I mean —
BB: Oh, unique. It was a beautiful bomber.
WL: Yeah. I —
BB: Roy Chadwick did a wonderful job.
WL: I always thought so. Compared with the Halifax.
BB: Yeah.
WL: We should have —
BB: The Lanc had the height. It had the speed.
WL: The secondhand type.
BB: Well you know yes, the Lancaster was the cream. The king of Bomber Command.
WL: Absolutely.
BB: But you know —
WL: We were all very jealous.
BB: Sure, but I mean the Halifax did a good job. I mean it was in 3 Group mainly. 4 Group. And it did, it did a lot of good work.
WL: Yeah.
BB: It just didn’t have the charisma of the Lancaster.
WL: And didn’t have the Dambusters to glorify them.
BB: I think, I think too much is made of the Dambusters but never mind.
WL: Hmmn?
BB: I think too much is made of the Dambusters.
WL: Yeah. Probably.
BB: Guy Gibson was not — I mean he wasn’t liked by everybody.
WL: Is that right?
BB: Some of the, some of the ground crews on the squadrons when he was —
WL: Hmmn?
BB: Before he was famous some of the ground crews didn’t like him very much, but a great, I mean a very brave man. No doubt about that but —
WL: I don’t think I ever met him.
BB: No.
WL: No.
BB: Well, it’s really nice being able to have lunch with you Wally. Thank you very much.
WL: I did a quick circuit and landing in a Halifax.
BB: I mean the Halifax was interesting because the — as I remember, correct me if I’m wrong, the navigator sat in the front. In that big glass dome at the front of the Halifax.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And the flight engineer was up with the pilot and then the wireless op was sort of behind.
WL: That’s right.
BB: And then the gunners were, were appropriately placed in the mid-upper and the tail.
WL: The rear turret. The rear turret. The rear turret caught it all the time.
BB: Yeah. It wasn’t, it wasn’t a very, very survivable position but I’ve talked to many —
WL: It was one of the most vulnerable.
BB: Yeah, very vulnerable, but the rear gunner really was the eyes of the aircraft and his diligence and eyesight often saved, saved the crew you know, you know. ‘Watch out skipper. Corkscrew port’. ‘Corkscrew right’. Yeah. I mean my uncles rear gunner had been — he was, he was a regular but he was a naughty boy. He was a warrant officer. Kept on getting bussed down to —
WL: Sorry?
BB: My uncle’s rear gunner.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Was a regular. A chap called Clegg, and he was always in trouble with the RAF police. And he went to the aircrew punishment rehabilitation centre at Sheffield many times because he was just a naughty boy. So, my uncle had to, my uncle had to deal with a spare gunner every time he flew on an op because his rear gunner was in the clink.
WL: [laughs]
BB: But in the air he was super. Absolutely super. Saved the crew on many occasions.
WL: Yeah.
BB: But on the ground, Wally, he just women, drink, song. That was the rear gunner. But can you blame him? His life expectancy as a Lancaster rear gunner was what? Three or four ops. If he was lucky. That was —
WL: Yeah. That sounds bad.
BB: It was bad. it was bad.
WL: [unclear]
BB: Anyway, bon appetite.
WL: Thank you.
BB: Bon appetite [pause]. Lovely.
WL: I was very, I was going to say Halifax minded.
BB: Yeah. Well you would be. I mean, you are, I mean, I appreciate the sexy lure of the Lancaster but it wasn’t the only bomber in Bomber Command and the Halifax did a tremendous job not only in the bomber role but in Coastal Command. In towing gliders. You know, it was a very versatile aircraft.
WL: Very versatile.
BB: And
WL: A freighter
BB: And in many ways —
WL: It finished as freighter really.
BB: Well they did. I mean —
WL: I mean I took things like propeller shafts as far as South America.
BB: Yeah. When you were flying.
WL: Yeah. Take them. Suspended the load you know and they also ships, ships shafts I took to Singapore.
BB: What? Propellers? To Singapore?
WL: Yeah.
BB: In the Halifax, as a freighter.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Gosh, that must have been a long trip, Wally. How long did that take?
WL: I took, I took them to South America.
BB: Were you part of the British South American Airlines that were —
WL: No. No. I just — I just —
BB: Yeah. With Skyways?
WL: Took a placement crankshaft of a ship. Something like that. No. I suppose it was the heaviest freighter around at the time
BB: The Halifax could take quite a load couldn’t it? I mean if it could take a bomb load.
WL: Yeah.
BB: It could take heavy equipment.
WL: Heavy shafts underneath
BB: They’re all, they’re all practising for the Air Show tomorrow, Wally
WL: Is that what it is?
BB: Prestwick Air Show tomorrow.
WL: Prestwick Air Show is it?
BB: Tomorrow. Yeah. Over the weekend.
WL: What have they got to show.
BB: Yeah. Well I hope everything’s going to be ok there. I hope so.
BB: So, when you got your DFM, DFC, etcetera, did you have to go to Buckingham Palace to get it?
WL: Yeah.
BB: And the King. The King —
WL: Wait a minute. I have a feeling that I got mine on parade.
BB: Oh, you got it on the station.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Someone came along and pinned the DFC on you.
WL: The Queen twice anyway.
BB: Yeah. Must have been, must have been very interesting to —
WL: She was quite, how do we say, very attracted by the DFM’s stripe.
BB: Yeah.
WL: And the DFC.
BB: The DFC is a thicker stripe.
WL: That’s right.
BB: The DFM is thinner.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And then the AFC is like a DFC, but red.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Yeah. It’s quite interesting.
WL: I remember the Queen saying, ‘Oh, you’ve nearly got your set.’
BB: You’ve nearly got the set. Yeah.
WL: Yeah.
BB: She does have a sense of humour. When I got my medal from the Queen, Wally, in the year 2000, I was amazed how knowledgeable she was about what I had done.
WL: Yeah. Amazing.
BB: She is tremendously well informed.
WL: [unclear]
BB: Well informed and you know I was looking for the ear piece in case someone was saying you know.
WL: Yeah.
BB: This is so and so and so and so. But no. No. No. She just - she was just amazing.
WL: Beautiful.
BB: Amazing. I had the privilege of meeting her just recently and very, very, you know interested in people and caring. Caring. She really is a genuinely very nice lady and works very hard.
WL: I remember she said how are the Cadets doing now?
BB: The Air Cadets are doing very well. They are an integral part of various schools and organisations. Both public schools and secondary schools. Government schools. No, it’s a great — all my, two of my children were Cadets. My daughter Rachel got an Air Cadet scholarship to learn to fly.
WL: Did she?
BB: Yeah. And my son was registered in the Cadets as well and they did — the Cadets is a wonderful organisation whether they be Army, Navy or Air Force.
WL: Yes, they —
BB: Because they teach youngsters initiative, discipline, be proud of themselves.
WL: Respect.
BB: Respect. And they go on whether they join the armed forces or not that training and that discipline stands them in good form for, for the future.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And it’s a pity there wasn’t more of that around. I mean, it’s not, it’s not for every child.
WL: I agree with you. Yeah.
BB: It’s not for every child but, you know, if you’ve got the aptitude and you like all the outdoors and the gliding and all the things that they teach you in the Air Cadets like, you know, social. You know, just to get on with people, do well at school, educate, be respectful and above all discipline. All sorts. And I don’t mean discipline in the straight military sense.
WL: Yeah.
BB: But just how you manage your life and how you, how you proceed with your life. It’s a tremendous opportunity and it’s a pity that more, more youngsters don’t have the opportunity to take advantage of it. In my view.
WL: I agree with them certainly.
BB: In my view. Because unfortunately, I’ve switched this thing off now, unfortunately, Wally there’s no discipline in the home and there’s no discipline at school anymore. And so, the kids essentially just do what they want. And that’s terrible.
WL: The only way they’ll get respect —
BB: That’s terrible.
WL: Is in things like the Cadets.
BB: I mean the transition from my son who was — he had two elder sisters. All very bright, Wally. The sisters were very bright at school. My son always felt, ‘They’ve, you know, they’re brilliant. I’m not so brilliant’, and it was trying to get him to get out of that mindset to think that he is ok as well. And that’s what the Air Cadets did for him. The Air Cadets brought him out. Gave him self-confidence. Gave him belief in himself a lot more.
WL: Definitely.
BB: That’s tremendous. And now, Wally and I’ll tell you when he goes out now, he presses his trousers, he cleans his shoes.
WL: Great
BB: He just looks, he takes pride in what he looks like and that’s good. And so, it’s done him a tremendous amount of — its boosted his confidence when he needed his confidence boosted, you know. And having two elder sisters who were good at everything, didn’t have to work hard at school. It just came naturally to them.
WL: Children.Girls.
BB: I’ve got two girls and a boy.
WL: [unclear]
BB: And the girls are much older. There’s four years difference between them and but my son always felt slightly put out by his elder sisters who used to, who were always, ‘You can do that. It’s easy. Why can’t you do that’ and that kind of thing.. Did you have any brothers and sisters, Wally?
WL: No.
BB: No.
WL: I had a sister. Well, I was in the Air Force when the girls two or three years younger than, younger than me.
BB: Yes, that’s right. I went to see a, I went to see a gentleman, oh, two or three months ago who had been a bomb aimer. Someone like you. I went to interview someone like you who had been a bomb aimer. And he was ninety eight. He was a youngster, Wally, a youngster.
WL: Ninety eight.
BB: Yeah, and he was on Halifaxes and he had started off as an erk and, and when, when the bomb aiming aircrew category devolved itself from the flying observer —
WL: Yeah.
BB: Category. He volunteered and he saw a thing in routine orders, you know, volunteer for aircrew and he became a bomb aimer and he did that, and became a bomb aimer. And he was saying he was never very popular with, with his crew, because if he couldn’t see the target, he made them go around again. ‘Sorry skipper. Target obscured. Got to go around again’. Now, you know what that’s like as a pilot. You know, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here. what the hell are we doing here. They’re shooting at us’. Yeah. ‘Go around again? You must be mad’, you know. But anyway, he and of course —
WL: If he was over the real target, he might be —
BB: Bomber Command had the photoflash. Right.
WL: Yeah.
BB: You had to get the picture. You had to get the picture and so, he went around and so his captain was always saying, ‘Hurry up’, you know, ‘We’ve got to go’.
WL: Shot down again.
BB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But he said what was the point of taking a bomb load all that way and not dropping it in the right place, but that was his view as a bomb aimer.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Yeah, I mean it’s why you’re there, you know. And he said, he said, ‘I really wanted to be a pilot, but they made me a bomb aimer’, and he said, ‘At the end of the day, I was glad I was a bomb aimer because’, he said, ‘The pilot had a drivers airframe. They take you from A to B. you drop your bombs and they fly you home again’. That was his —
WL: His.
BB: That was his concept of — you know.
WL: Yes.
BB: That’s how he rationalised not being selected for pilot training. That his job was — you know. But it was the crew, and the crew was cohesive, and sometimes you had, for example, going back to my late uncle, if the crew was disrupted by somebody being sick and they got a spare bod in to flying with them, they felt, ‘Oh this isn’t, this isn’t right. We’re going to be unlucky here. We’ve got a new bloke’, you know. And it was usually the rear gunner, Wally.
WL: Aye.
BB: So, they were all worried about, you know, is he as good as our regular gunner because you know. And it was amazing. I don’t know whether you found it in your experience. On every squadron.
WL: Hmmn?
BB: On every squadron on Bomber Command —
WL: Yeah.
BB: There was a pool of spare gunners. Now whether they had lost their crews, or had been sick with the crew went out and they never came back, but he was left — these guys were like, in a pool. They’d say to someone, ‘You got a gunner for tonight?’ ‘No’. ‘Well I’m free if you want, you know, want a gunner’. It must have been awful for them because you know they were a spare bod here.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Spare bod there. Not really part of any crew. Just spare bods.
WL: Not nice. Wasn’t as nice anyway.
BB: No. But of course, the gunners were very vulnerable, especially the rear gunner, as you know. I mean Lancs would come back shot up and the rear gunner still in his turret, you know, and dead and —
WL: Aye. My gunner was killed when we were shot down.
BB: That’s right, I saw that on the —
WL: Hmmn?
BB: I saw that on your —
WL: Yeah.
BB: Story. No, Wally. It’s all a long time ago, but the lessons of history — we ignore them at our peril, Wally. We ignore them at our peril. I mean I, when I served, we — I was thirty three years a reservist, and I was in intelligence. That was my role and so I was briefing and debriefing crews, you know, sending off and when they came back, sitting down and, ‘Did you get the target?’
WL: Debrief them.
BB: Yeah. Yeah. But this was during the war in the Gulf. The Gulf War.
WL: In the Gulf.
BB: Yeah. With Iraq and so on. And you know, aircrew, I love them dearly, but all these guys wanted to do was to come in, dump their stuff and go to bed. Natural enough. But I would say, ‘No guys. You’ve got to sit down, and I’ve got to write the debrief’. So you know. ‘Captain — did you reach the target?’ ‘Yes, we did’. ‘Navigator — did you drop’, because it was pilot navigator — ‘did you drop the bombs’. ‘Yes, we did’. ‘Do you have a picture?’ ‘Yes’. Of course, the picture now are all scanned television type pictures, you know.
WL: Yeah.
BB: But we lost a couple of aircraft. The guys had to eject and were taken prisoner by the Iraqis and so on.
WL: Not good.
BB: Not good but —
WL: Where were they taken prisoner?
BB: In Iraq.
WL: Yeah. [unclear]
BB: Sorry?
WL: [unclear]
BB: Sufficient to say the bad guys got them. The bad guys got them.
WL: Yeah.
BB: But they managed, one of them managed to escape and was in the desert. He did all his survival stuff. And he of course, nowadays, Wally, they’ve got something like this and they go, press a button and beep, beep, beep. All the helicopters and aeroplanes log on to this signal.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And they just they just go and get him. Winch him up in a helicopter and take him home. If he’s lucky. I mean, I was telling you when we were in your room about the guys in the dinghy. The ditched crew. I mean.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Awful. They by the time the Air Sea Rescue launch got to them, the medical officer on the launch, on the HSL, high speed launch, said to one them, ‘You’re lucky. A few more hours and you would have been [click]’. Just exposure.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Yeah. I mean, you imagine sitting in a five man Lancaster type dinghy.
WL: That’s amazing. These people.
BB: Hello.
Other2: Hello. I thought I recognised your face. Maybe. I’m not sure. I used to speak to Wally and tell him that I used to work down in the RAFA club many years ago.
BB: What? In Edinburgh.
Other2: No. In Prestwick.
BB: In Prestwick.
Other2: The RAF Club. And I wondered did you go to it?
BB: No. I live in Dunblane.
Other2: Oh. You’re up in Dunblane.
BB: Yes, I, apart from being down at Prestwick a couple of times when I was with the Royal Air Force, I haven’t been back.
Other2: Right.
BB: I’m here to interview Wally on his Bomber Command experiences.
Other2: Oh.
BB: But thank you for all your hard work with RAFA. It’s a wonderful organisation.
Other2: Aye. It’s great. And you’re up from England now. Have you come up from down south?
BB: No, I live in Dunblane.
WL: You are in Dunblane.
BB: Yeah. Yeah.
WL: No, the reason I was asking you that — such a coincidence. Wally, do you remember the day when I was talking to you about my brother-in-law and about the gentleman that’s coming up from England.
BB: Yeah.
Other2: To speak to him because, sorry Ann.
Other: That’s alright.
BB: Ann. That was lovely. I really enjoyed that. Really good.
Other: You’re welcome. You’re welcome. I’ll get a tray to clear away, Wally, alright.
BB: I’m very lucky.
Other: Are you alright.
WL: Yes. Thank you.
BB: Wally’s lucky to have such wonderful food. Thank you.
Other2: And because I remember him saying that he was a — oh what was the planes that they landed the pilots on. Oh, my God, my head’s gone dark.
BB: Don’t worry about it.
Other2: He phoned me and they’re interviewing men, and there’s somebody coming up to speak to him about it.
BB: Right. Ok.
Other2: About his experiences because he’s apparently, one of the few that get out of Armagh or something like that and then —
BB: Arnhem.
Other2: Arnhem.
BB: They used to tow the gliders into Arnhem.
Other2: The gliders. Ah huh.
BB: With the Halifaxes and Stirlings.
Other2: That’s it. That’s what he did.
BB: My uncle. My mother’s brother was a glider pilot during the war.
Other2: Yeah.
BB: And he flew into Arnhem.
Other2: Ah huh.
BB: And he was trained to fly by the RAF.
Other2: That’s right.
BB: At the glider pilot schools and then he flew a Horsa glider behind, towed by a Halifax and dropped, landed his glider. And he said it was like a controlled crash. It wasn’t a landing at all. You put it down as best you could in a field at night.
Other2: As best you could. Yes.
BB: You know, and everybody ran off and scrambled out. And then of course the glider pilots had to become infantry then.
Other2: That’s absolutely right. Absolutely. Well that’s what my brother-in-law did. And some great experiences, and him and Wally could have had so many —
BB: A very brave man indeed. Very brave men.
Other2: So much in common. They had great conversations, the two of them.
Other: Are you finished Wally?
Other2: But my brother-in-law is absolute deaf.
BB: Well, Wally is a Halifax man of course. The Halifax was used in that role.
Other2: That’s right. But my husband, my brother-in-law is so deaf, that he wouldn’t hear Wally talking to him.
BB: No. No.
Other2: A shame really.
BB: It is a shame.
Other2: Because they could have had some great conversations, couldn’t you, Wally?
WL: Definitely.
Other2: The two of yous [unclear] Sorry about disturbing you here.
BB: No problem at all.
Other2: Ok.
BB: Thank you very much. That was very —
Other: Oh, you’ve still got some wine left there, have you finished?
BB: I think so. Thank you.
WL: Aye.
Other: Are you still recording? You’ll be getting all these voices in the background.
BB: No, we’re off.
Other: Off.
BB: Yeah. We’re off.
WL: Good.
BB: No. No. There’s a limit, you know. I don’t want to push him.
Other: Yeah. Push him too hard.
WL: I don’t want to push him.
Other: No. Well, Wally’s got lots of stories. I love Wally’s stories.
WL: Ok.
Other: I love Wally in fact.
BB: What I’ll try and do then we’ll try and get you a transcript. A copy of the tape.
Other: A transcript. Yeah. That would be great.
BB: Just for, because it’s about preserving Wally’s story for the future.
Other: Oh, of course. Yeah.
BB: For posterity.
Other: He’s a hundred and three in January.
BB: Well I wish I’d look so good.
Other: I said to him we have to get a bigger cake every time.
BB: I wish I looked as good as him now.
Other: Oh, he’s fantastic. I’ve said to him, if I was ninety I would marry him. But I suppose it’s manners to wait till you’re asked, Wally. Yeah.
WL: Yeah.
Other: Yeah.
BB: Wally, you’d be baby snatching.
WL: Aye.
BB: See. She wants to marry you, Wally. How about that?
WL: Aye. She’s a character.
BB: Eh?
WL: Ann [unclear]
BB: Oh dear. You’re a character.
WL: Aye.
BB: Let me take a picture of these medals while I remember. What a lovely — I mean, you know, Wally, these are tremendous. These are tremendous. Military MBE, DFC, DFC. AFC, DFM.
WL: That’s right.
BB: Bomber Command clasp on your 1939/45 medal which Bob Kemp came and gave it to you. Aircrew Europe, Africa star, defence medal, war medal with mentioned in dispatches. Coronation medal and Air Cadet.
WL: How many mentions in despatches have I got there.
BB: One. One. One oak leaf.
WL: [unclear] Two actually.
BB: Well you’d better write to them and say give me another oak leaf.
WL: Yeah. That was way back.
Other: Do you wish to go back down to Wally’s room?
WL: No. I’m just going to, the logbooks and everything are here.
Other: That’s fine. Do you want to stay here then?
WL: Would that be alright?
Other: You can stay as long as you like. Are you comfortable Wally?
WL: Aye.
Other: Are you sure? Are you warm enough?
WL: Yeah. Fine. No problem.
Other: Ok. I’ll be back in about ten just to see you’re ok.
WL: We won’t be long.
Other: I’m not rushing you at all.
WL: I might go back to the room to take some pictures later.
Other: You want Wally down there? No?
WL: No, he’s comfortable here and I don’t want to disrupt him too much.
Other: Right.
WL: No. We can go back —
Other: I can take Wally down in his wheelchair.
BB: Ok. Well we’ll go back there.
Other: Well finish that. I’ll come back in ten minutes.
WL: Right.
BB: Finish your drink, Wally. That’s great. Thank you. You know I can’t, I can’t explain.
WL: Sorry.
BB: I can’t explain with how much — what a great honour it is to talk to you and others like you, Wally. Others like you. Because my uncle didn’t survive so I couldn’t talk to him.
WL: No. I’m a bit dumb too.
BB: And you know its, its just, you know, you guys, you guys in Bomber Command, you weren’t the brillcream boys of Fighter Command, you know, you were the guys that night after night got in your aircraft.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Flew over Germany. Over occupied Europe to get to your target. You had night fighters, you had flak, you had the weather.
WL: Navigation.
BB: You had — oh yeah, we’ll get on to navigation in a minute. But until the advent of Oboe and Gee and H2S, you know. I mean, one of the big problems with Bomber Command at the early part of the war, was actually getting to the target.
WL: Oh yeah.
BB: Until the boffins came up with all these navigational aids which, of course, were a double-edged sword as you know, Wally, because they put out a signal and the German night fighters could home on it.
WL: Oh my —
BB: And you had things to jam the night fighter’s radars and they had things to counter that. The electronic war. The electronics war. If we had lost the electronics war it would have been pandemonium. You know, Bomber Command losses were high enough, but you know the boffins. War is a great innovator. All sorts of things come out of the war that wouldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been a war.
WL: Yeah.
BB: Like take the jet engine. I mean, would we have had the jet engine in 1945.
WL: I don’t —
BB: Without Whittle and the need for a jet fighter to counter the German jet fighters. We probably wouldn’t have had it until the 1950s, probably the early 60s.
WL: Aye.
BB: You know I was talking to a chap in the RAF club in London not so long ago, who was a fighter pilot. An American. He was over. He flew the P51D. The Mustang which used to go and escort American bombers into Germany.
WL: P51 were a quick aircraft.
BB: Yeah. And he actually tangled with a Messerschmitt 262 in his, in his Mustang ‘cause these things came up high. Zoomed through the bomber stream, squirting away.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And then zoomed away with their rocket, you know, with their jet aircraft. Over the top, down again and he managed to catch one. He was flying along like this, it was just going up like that and he gave it a fifteen second burst. It was going so fast and he didn’t think he’d hit it but as it got to the top of its loop it blew up. So he must have, must have hit something.
WL: Caught a shell.
BB: You know, I was also speaking to a Luftwaffe pilot who flew them. And he said at the end of the runway you wind it all up - zzzzz - and he said none of the pilots of the Luftwaffe, when they first flew the jets, realised the thrust. They were kind of put back in to their seats like this and pushing back on the stick.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And you know how, in the Messerschmitt, you gently do this. In a jet, if you did that, it would just —
WL: Yeah.
BB: Straight up.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And he said it was very frightening. And, of course, the technology wasn’t brilliant. I mean it was, it was new but these things used to blow up, Wally. Just like that. The rocket engines just went and, of course, the fuel it was it was very very dangerous. This is your DFM. I’m just making some notes here. 563198 [pause] right.
WL: I was in a twin engine — what do you call it?
BB: Mosquito?
WL: Eh?
BB: Mosquito.
WL: Yeah. Twin engine Mosquito.
BB: Yeah.
WL: I got up to thirty two thousand.
BB: Bloody hell, Wally that —
WL: And I throttled to go downhill. I throttled back and when I tried to open the throttles it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t work.
BB: Wouldn’t work.
WL: Apparently the jets wouldn’t catch alight again.
BB: No. No the —
WL: And there was me thirty two thousand feet.
BB: Nothing on the clock [laughs]
WL: No motors.
BB: Thirty two thousand feet. No engines. But you had the height, Wally, you had the height.
WL: Yeah.
BB: So you were able to do something. What did you do? Put it into a dive and just hope for the best.
WL: No. I did the old [unclear]
BB: Right.
WL: I tapped it, if you like, tactically approached the airfield.
BB: Right.
WL: So that I was fortunate enough — my judgement was such that I just come over the edge of the airfield and landed.
BB: Gosh.
WL: Aye.
BB: Yeah. So long as you walked away from the landing, Wally. That’s fine.
WL: Yeah. I walked away alright.
BB: Yeah. You know the old saying. There’s old pilots and bold pilots.
WL: Yeah.
BB: But there’s no old bold pilots.
WL: Right.
BB: This was at Prestwick.
WL: Yes. It would appear that the jets wouldn’t function.
BB: Yeah.
WL: At that altitude.
BB: Lack of air. Lack of oxygen.
WL: [unclear]
BB: Couldn’t reignite. I was privileged to meet recently the current Duke of Hamilton.
WL: Oh yeah.
BB: Who, of course, ran Prestwick. Scottish Aviation.
WL: Yeah.
BB: And of course, he was — the original duke was a pilot himself and flew over Everest and did all that sort of stuff.
WL: Was he the one who went — the first man over Everest.
BB: That’s the one. Yeah that’s him. That’s him. That’s him, Wally. Gosh. What a big logbook you have here. Lots and lots of aeroplanes. Lots and lots of aeroplanes. 10 OTU. That’s where you went. Jurby, Isle of Man. Number 10 OTU.
WL: Hmmm?
BB: Number 10, Isle of Man. Where you did your initial training.
WL: Is that right?
BB: Yeah. On such wonderful aircraft as — what was it? Let’s see. Whitleys.
WL: Whitleys.
BB: Yeah.
WL: Oh aye old Whitley.
BB: Yeah. Whitley 3s. My uncle flew at his OTU at Kinloss. The Whitley flew like that as you know. Nose down like that.
WL: That’s right. Yeah.
BB: Awful bloody aeroplane. Dear oh dear. So you were B flight. Gosh. What a tremendous history here, Wally. So what were your total flying hours at the end? Let’s have a look.
WL: [unclear] Six thousand I suppose [unclear]
Other: Wally, when you’re ready my darling. Have you enjoyed that, Wally?
WL: Very much so.
Other: Good.
BB: What a wonderful history .
Other: I know. It’s amazing isn’t it?
BB: You know he is unique. Wally is unique.
Other: Yes. He is.
BB: Absolutely unique. You know, I was just saying to him that my uncle was killed in Bomber Command and I was brought up with his picture on the mantle piece, and ‘cause I was brought up by my grandparents, my parents were abroad and separated, I went to a wee, I went to a wee school in the borders. One teacher for everything.
Other: Wow.
BB: You know.
Other: Yeah.
BB: And you had the strap.
Other: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: If I was a naughty boy. The tawse.
Other: Yeah.
BB: Naughty boy.
Other: I had the strap at school.
BB: But I went home to my grannys and this. I didn’t ask, but one Remembrance Sunday I was in the BB on parade and I said to my Granny, ‘Who’s that granny?’ Well that’s your uncle. He was killed in the war’. End of story. And when they died, of course, I grew up.
Other: Yeah. Of course . Yeah.
BB: Discovered girls.
Other: Yeah.
BB: All that sort of stuff. Went to university all that stuff. Got married. Had a career. Went home when they died. Cleared the place. And there was this picture still there. So I took it and I decided I’m going to find out who this guy is. Turned out it was my mother’s sister’s husband who was killed in the war.
Other: Right.
BB: They were married for two months and he was killed.
Other: Oh gosh. Yeah.
BB: You know he was in Bomber Command and he didn’t want to marry her when he was flying on operations.
Other: Yeah.
BB: Because he’d seen so many widows.
Other: Yeah.
BB: Been to so many funerals.
Other: I know its terrible.
BB: But they decided, at the end, that he would only marry her at the end of his trip.
Other: Yeah.
BB: And they got married. They were married I think three months when he was killed instructing but she was pregnant. So my cousin in Australia that’s his father.
Other: Oh his Dad. Right, Wally, shall we get you down to your room. Are you happy with that, Wally?
WL: Yes. Quite happy.
Other: Because Brian, you want to take pictures down there, do you?
BB: Lets get Wally back to his room.
Other: Yeah.
BB: Get him to rest. And then —
Other: I’m expecting the school kids in, Wally.
BB: Oh right ok. Ok.
WL: Alright.
Other: And Wally has a great connection with the kids. In fact, if you look at his zimmer frame, he’s got a Halifax on it and one of the kids made did that for you wasn’t it, Wally?
WL: That’s right. Yeah.
BB: Do you have a library here?
Other: No. Well, we have books but it’s not a library. No.
BB: Right. Ok. Well I’ve brought a book to give that I was going to give to Wally.
Other: Right.
BB: I’ll give it to the — to the —
Other: Right
BB: Somebody might want to read it.
Other: What is this book?
BB: It’s on Bomber Command.
Other: Oh right. Well. So who are you giving it to. The manager maybe.
BB: I’ll give it to you.
Other: Yeah.
BB: You look after him.
Other: Yeah. Myself and many others.
BB: Well exactly. But you can pass it around. It give an idea of what these chaps did.
Other: Yeah. Wally. Did you know Wally was friends with Lawrence of Arabia?
BB: Yes he told me about AC Shaw.
Other: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: Aircraftman Shaw.
Other: Ah Wally. That’s us. Alright sir.
BB: Yeah.
Other: It’s just too long a walk for Wally. All those —
BB: Yes it is.
Other: He doesn’t often use his chariot.
WL: [unclear]
BB: Chariots of fire.
Other: Chariots. Would you hold that door for me? Thanks. You’re alright, Wally. You’re Ok. Here we go, Wally.
WL: Right.
Other: We usually try and get a bit of speed up.
BB: You’re not getting take off speed yet though.
Other: We’re just going along the runway, Wally.
BB: Wally you’re just at the end of the runway,. You’re at the end of the runway. Brakes off. Let’s go.
Other: Here we are.
BB: P1. P2. Rotate. You’re airborne. You’re airborne.
Other: Coming through Samantha.
WL: Here we come.
BB: Where are we?
Other: Straight ahead.
BB: Straight ahead. Right.
Other: At the corner.
BB: Right.
Other: At the corner we’re going right.
BB: Right. Ok. Nearly at base now. RTB.
BB: Return to base.
Other: There we are.
BB: Here we are Wally. Back in the hangar.
Other: Yes. Here Wally. Here’s a nice comfy seat for you. You see his zimmer. Look. Halifax.
BB: So do you want to —
Other: The kids did that. Yeah. Wally. Take you time darling. Take your time Wally. Let me get to this side. In the comfort of your own home Wally.
WL: That’s it.
Other: That’s better.
WL: Home again.
Other: Home again.
BB: There you are.
Other: Oh. Thank you so much.
BB: “The Bomber Boys.”
Other: That’s great.
BB: It’s little stories. It’s not one book.
Other: I’d love to read it.
BB: It’s lot of little stories.
Other: Great.
BB: And it gives you an insight into what, you know.
Other: Thank you so much.
BB: Of what himself went through. No problem. It’s a pleasure. It’s an honour.
Other: Are you comfy Wally? Do you want to sort yourself a bit?
WL: I’m alright.
Other: Sure?
WL: Yeah. I’m fine.
BB: Is his daughter coming back?
Other: Yes. Jessica’s coming back to get you I think.
BB: That’s great. Thanks.
Other: Where were we Wally? Oh yeah. Here’s your stuff back. I’ll just take the photographs.

[informal chatting]



Bruce Blanche, “Interview with Wally Lashbrook,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 13, 2024,

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