Interview with Kenneth Lindley


Interview with Kenneth Lindley


Kenneth Lindley was born in Hillsborough, Sheffield in 1926. Before joining the RAF Kenneth was an engineer’s apprentice, and often helped the Air Raid Warden by acting as a messenger. He reminisces joining the Air Training Corps as a teenager. When he joined the RAF, he recollects his first training experiences where a lot of marching was involved. His parents did not want him to join the Royal Air Force, due to his father’s experiences in the First World War. Kenneth trained as an aircraft fitter in Weston-Super-Mare. Kenneth remembers his experiences in Malaysia and Singapore and the people he served with. Just before going to Singapore, Kenneth remembers an accident in Weston-Super-Mare, where a Boston aircraft coming in to land and took the top off a bus, which ended up killing several people. While in Singapore, Kenneth remembers Earl Mountbatten’s Dakota aircraft often coming in for a service. Goes back to talking about his experiences in Sheffield and the air raids. Once leaving the RAF, Kenneth goes back to complete his engineering apprenticeship, and then got married. He then moved to Bridlington from Sheffield with his wife and lived there for 26 years. Finishes the interview with some other stories of his time in the RAF and serving abroad. Kenneth remembers being sent a 21st birthday cake in a parcel from his parents that had melted.




Temporal Coverage




00:35:26 audio recording

Conforms To


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ALindleyK180613, PLindleyK1801


HD: This is Helen Durham for the International Bomber Command Digital Archive on the 13th of June 2018 and I am interviewing Mr Kenneth Lindsey. Mr Lindsey thank you ever so much for allowing us to come and do an interview.
KL: You’re welcome.
HD: I gather that you grew up in Sheffield. Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood and growing up there?
KL: Yeah. 1926 I were born, in Hillsborough area of Sheffield and I lived there until I went in the air force and that was a long time ago. I’m sorry, I -
HD: What did you do in Sheffield? What did your parents?
KL: I was an engineer.
HD: You were an engineer.
KL: I served an apprenticeship at an engineer’s apprentice’s in Sheffield, and I left there when I was probably in my twenties.
HD: I gather you helped the Air Raid Warden. Can you tell me about it?
KL: I was a messenger boy. I used to ride my bike all over Sheffield because the first thing that went down was the telephones when an air raid took place, so the first thing that wanted to be done was messages passed between posts. Each area in the city had posts, ARP posts and it had wardens in there with a group of people, including messenger boys and that was our job, was to take any messages that needed to be taken to another post, but the telephones had gone down, we used to get on our bikes and take it.
HD: Would that be during the day?
KL: That was during air raids that, yeah.
HD: And how often did they happen?
KL: Well, they some, they happened at various times. Sometimes we got one every night, well the sirens went every night but not necessarily aircraft activity or bombs being dropped that sort of thing, there but there were some occasions when it was fairly regular, otherwise there were long periods in between warnings.
HD: And how did you become a helper?
KL: As a younger boy, probably about fifteen or sixteen, I joined the ATC, the Air Training Corps, and it went on from that. I were in the ATC right up to going in to the air force actually. And it did give me my 013080412 is my ATC number, yeah, in the air force.
HD: And so, when did you go into the air force?
KL: I can’t remember exactly. Can you help there Jane?
[Other]: I think it was sixteen? You had to break your apprenticeship off you told me, you’d started your apprenticeship and then you had to break it off.
KL: Yes I did. It would be probably in the, oh god, no, I can’t, I can’t remember.
HD: It’s all right.
KL: It’ll come back, I’m sure!
HD: So you left Sheffield then.
KL: Left Sheffield. When we got married I left Sheffield, yeah.
HD: And tell me a little bit about your wife.
KL: I’ve got a picture of her somewhere: there. [Pause]
HD: So you joined the air force, and what was the first thing you did with the Royal Air Force?
KL: Get sick of it! [Laugh] No, I, looking, when I look back on it now, I really enjoyed my time in the air force, but there was a lot of, the first part of the air force, when you go to Padgate for instance, it’s all march here march there, and that sort of thing and it’s getting used to having to accept instruction and er -
HD: And you were still quite young.
KL: Pardon?
HD: You were still quite young when you went.
KL: Oh yeah.
HD: Were you encouraged by your family or did you have to join the air force?
KL: No. I was in a reserved occupation actually. I always wanted to be in the air force, and I think probably what finally decided me to go in the air force, first of all I wanted to join up by my parents wouldn’t allow me, and then my friend, Harry Furnace, he were an air gunner, and he got shot down over Bremen so I think that started me, wanting to go in the air force.
HD: Why did your parents not want you to join?
KL: My dad was a sergeant in the army in the first world war and he suffered a lot from fits and things like that that were attributed to his wartime service, cause they had a rough time in places.
HD: And they didn’t want the same for you.
KL: That’s right, yeah.
HD: So when you went into the RAF you started training and what was your position that you had?
KL: Training in the RAF?
HD: Yes, what did you train to do?
KL: I trained to be an aircraft fitter.
HD: And whereabouts was that?
KL: Oh, funnily enough, Weston-Super-Mare! [Laughter]
HD: That’s nice.
KL: [Unclear] place. Just outside Weston-Super-Mare
HD: And can you tell me a bit about your time at Weston-Super-Mare? What did you get up to?
KL: Well there were girls and there was pubs and all sort of things like that. Really a happy time there it was, at Weston, and the training was quite good too.
HD: And what was the accommodation like?
KL: Do you know, I can’t remember what the accommodation was like. I believe it was huts, on the site.
HD: And how long were you at Weston-Super, Super-Mare?
KL: Probably about a year, or a little bit longer.
HD: And you did all your training there.
KL: Yeah.
HD: And then where did you go? {Sound of church bells]
KL: I’m not sure where I went then, I think I went straight overseas from there and I went to Tengah in Malaya and stayed there for a short period of time, and then I were transferred to, and I can’t remember this bloomin’ RAF station, but, can you remember Jane?
[Other]: I’d have to look at the back of the postcards in there.
HD: Can you tell me a bit about your experiences in Malaysia?
KL: Yeah, entirely wild, eye-opening there, because the type of people that you meet and the religions and that sort of thing are entirely different to the western world so really, it’s a good thing for such people to go to a place like that and see how the other half lives, yeah.
HD: Any specific experiences that you remember there?
KL: No, I can’t think of anything, not specific.
HD: Did you have a special crew that you were with?
KL: Yeah. Mick Luff was my friend, he came from Dover, we all, we joined together as a crew like, and we all worked on the same aircraft together, but we all had different trades.
HD: And how long would you work on the aircraft for?
KL: Depends on what wanted doing to it, what sort of service were required, and that sort of thing.
HD: And so the planes came into the base and you repairs and the fitting.
KL: That’s right. They were put through a proper sequence of what wanted doing and it were put into action at that point.
HD: So tell me a bit about the crew, especially - Mick?
KL: Yeah, he came from Dover, it’s difficult, you go out together, you do things together and you don’t really take note, it’s another day.
HD: So what was it like on the camp there?
KL: It were quite good, but, all the people that were in charge of certain areas and things like that were Asian or that type of person.
HD: So did you eat a lot of Asian food?
KL: I ate a lot of different types of food, yeah, and I sometimes say when I pick a loaf of bread up, don’t I Jane, I held it up like that cause that’s what we had to do then, you had to hold it up and then pick all the weevils out! [Laughter] Things like that really, really you remember. [Laugh]
[Other]: You told me a story when I was little about -
KL: You what Jane?
[Other]: You never put anything down for long did you, or the ants would carry it away.
KL: Walks off. You can see a slice of bread going up a wall like that! [Laughter] Honestly.
HD: So conditions weren’t very good.
KL: They wasn’t first class at all, let’s put it that way.
HD: But you were all young men, so you could cope.
KL: Oh, it were just taken, you know, that’s what you had to do, and that’s it, get on with it.
HD: And do you ever see or hear from the crew?
KL: No. I never have done. We were all over, Scotland, all over the place. Yeah.
HD: So when you left Malaysia, where did you go next?
KL: I came home, yeah. I went to a camp in England and we were put through the final whatever you have to do and then I came home.
HD: Did you go on to Singapore at all?
KL: I went to Singapore, yeah.
HD: And what did you think of Singapore?
KL: I’m amazed what it is now. There was one [emphasis] tall building when I was there, and I forget what they called it, don’t know whether I was a Shell building or something like that, but it was a tall building and there were just one, and the rest was palm trees and what have you. Singapore now you, oh bloomin’ heck, I don’t recognise any part of it. And yet we used to go down into the town and we were right down in the town but.
HD: Did you meet the people?
KL: Met the people that were living there, yeah.
HD: And what was that like?
KL: It was strange really because in many ways they didn’t understand what you were on about and you didn’t understand what they were on about and you just had to guess and I’m sure sometimes your guess was wrong.
HD: And you were fitting aircraft in Singapore?
KL: I was an aircraft fitter yes.
HD: Any experiences that you had in Singapore?
KL: Oh yeah, I got bumped on top of a sand hill, landing.
HD: Oo! Can you tell me about that.
KL: Not me, we just, Squadron Leader Spencer it were, flying it, the aircraft, and it was a twin engined Dakota and you used to have to come in over the top of sand dunes to get to the runway at, Seleta, Seleta? Yeah, Seleta, and he just didn’t judge it very well this one and it bounced on top of, off the top of the sand dune.
HD: Oh, what happened to you?
KL: Just before, just before I went to Singapore, I’m trying to think where this happened, we were going home on leave, where I were doing training so it would be at Weston-Super-Mare, and a Boston, twin engined bomber were coming in to land and we were just passing across the end of the runway and it took the top off the bus in front of us and wrapped it up on the runway and I think he killed about eight, something like that.
HD: Really, you were lucky.
KL: Yeah. Oh yeah, took, the top right off and it were just wrapped it right up as hough it had been put through a machine. Yeah.
HD: Oh dear, yes. Accidents did happen.
KL: Oh they happened, yeah.
HD: And what were the crews like? The flying crews. Did you mix with them?
KL: No, not really. They had their own people, whereas we’re the ground crew, we got our own people. We not knowingly met, let’s put it that way, yeah, we didn’t deliberately go out with each other or anything like that.
HD: And so, going back to Singapore, were there any other experiences? The aircraft that you maintained?
KL: Most of them were twin engined aircraft. Dakota was very common but we did used to have flights come in that were single engined aircraft and on one occasion there were about four came in, these single engined aircraft and I don’t know whether they didn’t pull their wheels up properly or what but they all finished up on their nose!
HD: Coming in a bit fast.
KL: Oh yes! Doing something like that. Bit hard on the brakes or something.
HD: So you had to do the repairs then.
KL: Oh yes.
HD: That’s good. And what about Earl Mountbatten’s aircraft?
KL: Yeah. It used to come in for service, but we didn’t used to get on to that service. I don’t know whether they had their own special crew and bring it, coming in with the aircraft and they took on the servicing, but was his Dakota that he used to bring in, and of course he’d got lovely armchairs and a dirty big radio set, round like that which I don’t know what it received or where it went or what, but it were enormous radio and it came right round like that and he’s sat here like this and: I’m in charge, you know.
HD: Did you meet him then?
KL: I didn’t. No.
HD: Did you meet anybody of influence whilst you were on your travels?
KL: Not to my knowledge. No.
HD: And how did you feel about the war whilst it was going on?
KL: Well, [pause] it was exciting. I mean the sirens used to go, there used to be loads of activity taking place: the enemy aircraft used to come over and we used to hear ‘em and see them coming over and it were one of those things that you became accustomed to. I think there were occasions when you got a prickle up the back of the neck. Now I can think of one special occasion. You know the bottom of Oakley Road Jane, the chemist, he had a wall that were curved round like that where you went down to get in his shop. I can remember this aircraft “mrmrmrm” and it were obviously diving and it were coming nearer and nearer and nearer, and it were coming straight down our road like that. I get laid on the floor down the. It just went mrmrm.
HD: And went off. Was that in Sheffield?
KL: Yeah, yeah. That made the back of my hair stand up, I’ll tell you. I was scared.
HD: They did have some bombing, didn’t they, in Sheffield.
KL: Oh yeah.
HD: Do you remember what it was like?
KL: But it’s, we had thirteen hour raids on two or three occasions.
HD: And what was it like going to the underground shelters?
KL: Well, the shelters, most shelters were built in the back garden, they were Anderson shelters, the metal shelters. If you were out in the street there were areas where you could go to an underground shelter, that usually were reinforced shops weren’t they, and things like that.
HD: That must have been very frightening.
KL: You became accustomed to it and it became exciting I suppose. Hmm.
HD: And what did you do whilst you were in the air raid shelters?
KL: Sleep, or read, or talk, that sort of thing. We didn’t have electric lights so it were just candles in our house. There were no, no lights in the cellar, we just sat with a candle. And then they reinforced the cellar, they put steel girders across the cellar roof and put thick, thick corrugated iron sheets on top of that, so that it supported the, er, and they also then cut holes through the wall so that you could get through with a wooden door on and a catch on either side, and on our side of the road before you got to another road, there would probably be perhaps twenty houses, something like that, or eighteen, or something, something like that, but each one were connected to the next one with a wooden door so that you could get right from one end of the street to the other end.
HD: And how old were you when you went down in the underground shelters?
KL: Oh, starting probably at fifteen, sixteen and that and then towards the end of the war, yeah.
HD: And how long were you down there for?
KL: All night some nights, yeah. And I mean all night, you know, talking about twelve hours, or something like that. [Cough] Pardon me.
HD: So it was very tiring.
KL: The raid would start about, well I used to get home from work, and you’d just managed to get sat down to me tea and the sirens would go, but then you’ve got time, in those days you had time, to finish your tea and then take cover like, but it very often used to start about six o’clock, quarter to six, something like that, and go on while early hours of next morning.
HD: And so these -
KL: The blitz, that were a thirteen hour night, that and I’m talking about the blitz, that went on with continuous bombing, it killed about seven hundred and odd people in Sheffield that, and we had two of them, one on the, one on the Sunday night and one two days previous.
HD: So what was it like coming -
KL: 15th of December the second one, 12th, 13th were the two blitz nights and the one on the 15th. Well what happened is, the Germans, they must have mistaken something in the city for the railway line or something like that, we think it’s the moor, they used to call it the moor, it were a long straight road, weren’t it, and that got really splattered, they did both sides of that, and all the centre of Sheffield on the first, 12th/13th of December 1940: they really clobbered it, the town centre, yeah.
HD: And this was before you went into the RAF.
KL: That was, yeah, yeah. And it was after we’d repaired the holes through the roof from a previous bombing, [laugh] and when we come back a big girder about five foot long had gone through the roof again!
HD: So what was it like coming out of the air raid shelter?
KL: Ahh, [sigh] a relief. The time of the year it was generally foggy or very dark in the morning and that, so it were, and the fires lit everything, the sky, all the clouds were reflecting the fires in there, yeah.
[Other]: And what was the smell like? We’ve talked about the smell before.
KL: You what darling?
HD: The smell.
KL: Oh yeah. I can smell blitz night. If houses is falling down, being knocked down, I can tell, it’s exactly the same smell. There were a peculiar smell about damaged houses, that sort of thing.
HD: A sad couple of nights for Sheffield.
KL: Pardon?
HD: A sad couple of nights for Sheffield.
KL: Yeah, there were three, three, 12th 13th, those two days, and 15th they were bad that. That were when they came and concentrated on Sheffield. Yeah.
HD: So you went into the RAF.
KL: Uhum.
HD: And you went abroad.
KL: Yes.
HD: Then you came back.
KL: Yeah.
HD: And is that when you decided to leave the RAF?
KL: Yeah. No, I think while I were in the RAF I were really wanting to get out, I always wanted to get out, but I’ve realised since I’ve been in the RAF and I’ve got out, that the times that I had in the RAF were fantastic and I wouldn’t have missed them for anything, yeah.
HD: Was that because of your pals?
KL: Because of the life, yeah. Hmm.
HD: And you came out of the RAF in 1945 when the war finished?
KL: Don’t know, got a thing here somewhere. That’s me telegram that I sent.
HD: Oh it was the 6th of February, 1948.
KL: ’48. Yeah.
HD: And what did you do after?
KL: After I came out? Funnily enough I had to finish my apprenticeship, yeah. I forget how many years I did. Something like three years or even more than that.
HD: And that was back in Sheffield.
KL: Before I was called, before I could claim full wages, cause I were an engineer and they were very keen on apprentices doing an apprenticeship, they’re not like apprenticeships that you do now.
HD: And what was life like when you got back?
KL: Yeah. Things had changed. You’d only been away for a number of years, three years, four years, something like that, but things had changed and life were very different. Yeah.
HD: And you and your wife, you were in Sheffield?
KL: I weren’t married then.
HD: You weren’t married?
KL: No.
HD: No. When did you get married?
KL: 1950.
HD: And did you stay in Sheffield?
KL: Yes. Oh, how long was in Sheffield Jane?
[Other]: Oh, till 1957.
KL: And we move from Sheffield to –
[Other]: Bridlington.
KL: Bridlington. And we stayed at Bridlington for twenty six years, yeah.
HD: What did mum’s dad not allow you to do when you came back from the RAF? What didn’t he -
KL: Wouldn’t let us get engaged. Been away too long. [laugh] Teah.
HD: How did you feel?
KL: Upset! [Laugh] Yeah.
HD: So how long did you have to wait?
KL: About three years I think it was.
[Other]: Yeah. Two years.
KL: Pardon?
[Other]: You got married in ’50 and from 1948,
KL: 50, yeah, two years in’t it.
[Other]: But you’d known each other all the time, before they got married, before he went away, you’d known each other, hadn’t you.
KL: Pardon?
[Other]: You’d known each other before you went away.
KL: Yes. I did, yeah.
HD: And were you able to correspond whilst you were away.
KL: To my knowledge we did, yeah: proof here.
[Other]: This has got all the photographs, to mum look, all my love, all my love Ken.
KL: [laugh]
HD: Wonderful. Yes, yes.
KL: I didn’t realise I’d sent so many pictures while I were abroad.
HD: You obviously enjoyed the photography.
KL: And funnily enough I didn’t have a camera, I never had a camera, but I always were made available pictures as a group, but we’ve probably all got the same pictures.
HD: So someone took them and then gave you copies.
KL: Someone took them and everybody got a copy, yeah, all the group, all the flight would get a copy and that sort of thing.
HD: Can you tell me a bit about when you used to fit out the aircraft? What sort of repairs did you have to do?
KL: Well we didn’t deal with any radio or electrical repairs, it was all mechanical that we did. We didn’t do the engines: I did the airframes. There were separate fitters, fitted engines and did, and certain fitters who were radio trained, that sort of thing. So I was airframe fitter, so that’s the mechanical side of the controls, and undercarriage and that sort of thing and ailerons and elevators, that, that would come down to us.
HD: A responsible job.
KL: Oh yeah, yeah, if you push that foot you want it to go that way, if it goes that way you’re in trouble! Yeah. The bloke I used to fly with a lot was Squadron Leader Spencer they called him, it were all right, never had any trouble with him.
HD: So when you look back is there a particular incident that you find amusing, or sad, or something that stands out in your time in the RAF?
KL: Well one, one sad incident was, you used to have to go on guard duty and you used to have to take a loaded rifle on guard duty with you and an incident took place in, on duty, with some blokes and they got killed, so you know, the rifles went off and things like that, whether it was deliberate or not I can’t remember now, but there were that that upset us a bit.
HD: Did that happen frequently?
KL: No. No.
HD: And did you have a chaplain when you were away?
KL: There was one, yeah. I don’t make use of them, I’m a non-believer, but there was one, and they were available to anybody that wanted to have discussions with them.
[Other]: A funny story, was it a prompt dad, your twenty first birthday, what did they try to send you over, from England, a parcel?
KL: Oh yeah! It had a cake in it, I’m trying to think the details, but I can’t. But when I got it, it were like a big muddy! Weren’t it Jane. It had melted, and all, it were, oh dear, yeah, that were, I remember that Jane, I remembered that!
HD: Did you manage to eat some?
KL: I think probably licking is a better -
HD: So where were you on your twenty first?
KL: My mother, I mean she sent, she probably gave her ration up to make the damn thing as well!
HD: So where were you at the time?
KL: Sorry?
HD: Where were you at the time? On your twenty first.
KL: I’m not sure whether I were still in England or were in, I think I were in Malaya at that time.
KL: See, we spent a lot of time in tents in Malaya as well. We lived in tents, probably six of us in a like a bell tent.
HD: Yes, quite rough conditions.
KL: Well they were conditions you had to get used to, yeah. I mean the monsoon season we had, we had a bit of that as well. It gets a bit noisy inside a tent when it’s raining. Well it really rains there, I mean a cup of water is a drop of rain. [cough] Pardon me.
HD: Well thank you very much for giving this interview and for remembering some of your experiences.
KL: I’m pleased to be able to tell you.
HD: Yes, yes, and you’ve got some wonderful photographs to remind you.
KL: Yeah, and I’ll send them to you, if er -
HD: Well thank you again for this interview for all those experiences. Thank you.
KL: Okay. I’m sure there’s a lot I’ve not talked about yet! [Laugh]



Helen Durham, “Interview with Kenneth Lindley,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 12, 2024,

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