Interview with Norm Maconachie

Title

Interview with Norm Maconachie

Description

Norm Maconachie volunteered for aircrew as soon as he was of age having already been a member of the Air Training Corps. While sailing to the UK he was woken at 3am to the sound of the guns on the Aquitania firing on a Focke Wulf Condor which was on reconnaissance. On arrival in the UK he was posted to Dumfries AFU for further training and there witnessed the first loss of one of his mates who was killed in a training accident. While operational Norm’s greatest fear was the searchlights.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-06-08

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

00:33:29 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AMaconachieN160608, PMaconachieN1601

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

JH: Good morning. This is John Horsburgh. It’s the 8th of June 2016. And I’m talking to Norm Maconachie this morning. We’re at in Killarney Heights in Sydney. Norm, perhaps we can start by telling us when, when and where you were born.
NM: I can’t remember the suburb. Newcastle, New South Wales. I can’t think of the suburb. But the first school I went to was in Hamilton in Newcastle.
JH: Yes. So, this is 19 —
NM: ’24. ‘24.
JH: ’24.
NM: Born in ’24. Yes.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yes.
JH: And I think you were telling me before your, your parents came out from —
NM: Sunderland. Sunderland.
JH: Sunderland.
NM: Yeah. In 1923.
JH: Yeah.
NM: In 1923.
JH: Yeah. So, that’s interesting. So, did your father have any history in the First World War?
NM: Yes. He was in France for four years as a corporal farrier in the British army. They used to call them the Old Contemptibles. The Kaiser called them the Old Contemptibles. They were the first English troops to go to France in the First World War.
JH: And he managed to survive the First World War.
NM: He survived. Yeah. He got the flu in 1918 which a lot of people died from. More people died with the flu in 1918 than were killed in the war.
JH: Oh goodness.
NM: Yeah.
JH: So, before we get on to your, your time in the air force. Bomber Command. Perhaps we can look at your early life. For example, growing up in Newcastle. And your schooling. Tell us a bit about that.
NM: I didn’t grow up in Newcastle. I only spent five years in Newcastle and then my parents went to a poultry farm in, in Westdale which is four miles west of Tamworth. On the road to Gunnedah. We lived there for about three years and we came to Sydney in 1932. And I left school just before I turned fourteen. In 1938. Got a job as an order boy in the chain grocery firm. Got sick of that bother by the time I was seventeen. At seventeen I went to work for Marcus Clark’s in Central, near Central Station in Sydney. And I joined the Air Training Corps when I was seventeen. And then on my eighteenth birthday I went down for my aircrew medical and I got, I was on the reserve a day, the next day after my eighteenth birthday I was on the reserve. And when was it? It would have been about late November I think I started my aircrew training at Initial Training School. Then I went to Parkes and Port Pirie. And on the 12th of August 1943 I sailed out of Sydney Harbour for San Francisco. That took fourteen days. We went across America by train to Massachusetts. And one of the boys got [pause] got something. I can’t think it was. Yellow Jaundice or something. Anyway, we had to, we were quarantined for about four weeks on the east coast of America. And we got a weeks’ leave in New York. And the people in, it was a town called Taunton about thirty miles in from Boston and the people spoiled us rotten. You know they couldn’t do enough for us. You’d be walking along the street and, ‘Where are you going? Where are you going, Aussie? Where are you going?’ ‘Boston.’ ‘Get in.’ And it’s only thirty miles away. ‘Get in and we’ll take you.’ [laughs] Terrific. Anyhow, in September we boarded the Aquitania in New York and we zigzagged across the Atlantic. It took about, I think it took eight or nine days and we finished up, we landed at Greenock in Scotland. And I think it’s on the Clyde.
JH: So did you, did you have a destroyer escort for the submarines?
NM: No. No. Those big boats didn’t have escorts. They were, they used to, they were fast and they zigzagged.
JH: Yeah.
NM: You know. But on, halfway through across the Atlantic I awoke, we were all woken up about 3 o’clock in the morning. Boom. Boom. Boom. You know the guns going off on the ship. On the Aquitania. And they think it was the four, a four engine Wulf, courier Wulf. Wulf. A German.
JH: A Focke Wulf.
NM: No. Yeah. But it wasn’t a, it wasn’t a fighter. The FW. I’ve forgotten any of the, the ME 109s and the FWs. They were the main fighters over Germany. And the ME 109, they used to bomb Brighton while we were there in October ’43. Yeah. Well, we got to —
JH: So, was there a bit of a panic that night or —
NM: Oh yeah. On the boat.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Well, there were fifteen thousand troops on the Aquitania.
JH: Yes.
NM: And half the Americans were black.
JH: Yes.
NM: And they were first up on the deck. You got killed in the rush sort of thing [laughs] But I know there was a bit of a panic but nothing happened and, but I suppose it was relaying up to the subs you know that we were there. But —
JH: Did you have, approaching Scotland did you have a Coastal Command? Did they come out and escort — ?
NM: No. I can’t remember that. No. We had Liberators when we left New York.
JH: Yes.
NM: Took us out as far as they could.
JH: Yeah.
NM: But I can’t remember any reception of people.
JH: Yeah.
NM: All, all I was thinking was of the Golden Gate Bridge over Frisco, you know.
JH: Yeah.
NM: And Alcatraz and —
JH: Yes.
NM: Anyhow, we got to Greenock in Scotland and then we got the train down to Brighton and we must have stayed there for a couple of months before —
JH: Yeah.
NM: Before we started training. Just after Easter.
JH: Did — when you arrived in Greenock —
NM: Yeah.
JH: Did you know where you were going? Or you —
NM: Oh yeah. We knew you were going to Brighton.
JH: You knew pretty well, you were going to Brighton.
NM: Yeah. Yeah.
JH: Yeah.
NM: And a lot of the boy’s kit bags were slashed by the, by the wharfies, you know.
JH: Why? Why was that?
NM: Well, a lot of our boys brought stockings and things for the girls in England, you know.
JH: Yeah.
NM: From America. When we had our leaves in New York and Boston.
JH: Yes.
NM: And anyhow they, they just did that. But it didn’t, but it didn’t happen to me.
JH: Yes. Yeah.
NM: You know. So —
JH: Yeah.
NM: Yeah. And we got as I say we were there in Brighton a couple of months and then went up to Dumfries and a bloke called Merv Simpson was the first mate killed in Dumfries.
JH: Was that an OTU?
NM: No. That was an AFU.
JH: AFU.
NM: Advanced Flying Unit. Yeah.
JH: Advanced Flying Unit. Yeah. Yeah.
NM: Yeah. Merv Simpson. The only son of a widowed mother in Brisbane got killed in an Avro Anson. They hit a hill in fog one night. Or one [pause] yeah. So, that was our first casualty. And the bloke who topped our course had, in Australia when we got our half wing at Port Pirie was a bloke called Bill Creader. He, he was [pause] of Canterbury Boys High School in 1940. He topped our wireless course. He topped our gunnery course. About half a dozen blokes got commissions off our course and he wasn’t one of them. And he was one of the first killed and he’s buried in France.
JH: Really.
NM: So what a waste. Eh? What a waste. Yeah.
JH: So, were you assigned to 630 Squadron at that stage?
NM: No.
JH: This was later on.
NM: After OTU. After OTU we were crewed up.
JH: So, so you went from —
NM: Operational Training Unit.
JH: From Dumfries to OTU.
NM: Yeah. Yeah.
JH: Where was that?
NM: Market Harborough.
JH: Market Harborough.
NM: Yeah. Yeah. What was the question?
JH: Well, I was just asking at what point were you assigned to 630 Squadron and there you said at OTU.
NM: No. From, no, from OTU we went to Conversion Unit on Stirlings.
JH: Yes.
NM: As a crew. And then we went to Lanc Finishing School but we were crewed. You get crewed up at OTU. Operational Training Unit.
JH: That’s interesting. I noticed reading through your logbook you were with your pilot pretty well all the way through from then on.
NM: From OTU. Yeah.
JH: I’d be interested to know about this crewing up. How that happened and a bit about your crew.
NM: Well, you crewed up.
[telephone ringing]
NM: Excuse me. I’ll get this.
[recording paused]
JH: Yeah. We just paused. Norm took a phone call. So, we’re back. Back on air.
NM: Right. Well, at OTU everybody was there. Our pilot, navigators, wireless operators, air gunners [pause] flight engineers. And you just made your way around, you know like but I was hanging back, you know. I was hanging back and two, two English gunners said to the skipper, ‘We know an Aussie. An Aussie who hasn’t got a crew yet.’ So, I formed then. I formed up with them. And I was lucky that we survived [laughs] The, but I had, I put it down to the pilot, you know. He was, I think he’d done about four hundred hours in Canada and he was a very, a very confident bloke you know. And he was good. He was a good pilot. We landed three times with the bombs up.
JH: What was his name, Norm?
NM: Jimmy Ovens.
JH: Jimmy Ovens.
NM: Well, that, that —
JH: Yeah.
NM: His name, it was, his name was Les Ovens.
JH: Yes.
NM: But we didn’t. We knew him as Jimmy.
JH: Yeah.
NM: As Jim.
JH: Where did he come from originally?
NM: Essex.
JH: Oh, he was English.
NM: Yeah. They were all English except me.
JH: You were the only Aussie.
NM: I was the dehydrated Australian [laughs] Yeah.
JH: Very good.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Ok. So, so you crew up. You crewed up.
NM: Yeah.
JH: And then you were posted to East Kirby. Is that correct?
NM: Kirk. Kirk.
JH: Kirkby.
NM: Kirkby. Yeah
JH: In Lincolnshire.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Yes. In 5 Group.
NM: Yeah. That’s right.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah.
JH: So, what was it like? Your first first time at the squadron. When you arrived.
NM: It wasn’t bad. All the camps were pretty good over there.
JH: Yeah.
NM: We were well fed you know and I couldn’t complain. A bloke [laughs] nineteen years of age [laughs] You, you wouldn’t call the king your uncle.
JH: That would be in ’44. 1944.
NM: Yeah. October. About the 29th of September ’44 we got to the squadron.
JH: Yeah.
NM: And we didn’t do our first trip ‘til the, about the 3rd of October. I think. It was a daylight.
JH: Yes. Tell us about your first operation.
NM: It was a daylight on Wilhelmshaven and I’d never seen that many planes in the air [laughs] at one time. Especially in the daylight, you know. But it was uneventful. Uneventful. We just hit the target and went home.
JH: Was that with the Americans or the RAF?
NM: No. No. That was strictly RAF.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Strictly Lancasters.
JH: Had you done any nickel raids before?
NM: No. No.
JH: Yeah.
NM: No. No.
JH: Yes.
NM: No. No.
JH: Yes.
NM: We just went straight on. In those days your pilot always did a second dickie with a crew on the squadron. Just to get the feel of it. Just to get the idea of what it was all about, you know.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Yes.
NM: But I don’t know who he did his with but that would have been before Wilhelmshaven anyhow.
JH: Yes. And so I notice in your logbook a lot of operations in Germany. Maybe you could tell me about, you know, one or two hairy operations you were on.
NM: Got caught in searchlights over, over Holland. Going in one night. For about ten minutes. And the skipper, as I said a good pilot. He got us, he got us out of the searchlights.
JH: Yeah. By a corkscrew manoeuvre.
NM: Yeah. That’s right. A corkscrew manoeuvre. And what scared me the most was doing the corskscrew on full tanks and a full bomb load I thought the wings were going to come off. You could hear the strain, you know in the wings. But the things that frightened me most on any trip were the searchlights. We’d be going along. We’d be going along and you’d look out on the port side and you’d see a whole of valley of searchlights, you know. And the next thing the navigator’s telling the pilot to turn into them [laughs] So you’re going down the middle of them, you know. And that frightened me more than anything. Searchlights.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Yeah. Over Munich one night though we, we had an FW190 came down under us. I don’t know whether he’d been attacking us but he came down and he went up like that and you could see the crosses on the wings, you know.
JH: Yes.
NM: But that was, that was more exciting than frightening.
JH: Yes. Yeah.
NM: As I say at nineteen. You’ve got no brains when you’re nineteen. You don’t think about things like that. But you wouldn’t, I don’t suppose you’d, [laughs] you’d have even joined aircrew —
JH: Yeah
NM: If you were worried or thought about things like that.
JH: Yes.
NM: Like you say with the beer it was well for us it was just beer and girls, you know [laughs]
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Yes. So, were there any operations where you really earned your beer in the pub as a wireless operator? You know, for instance did you have to get into an emergency aerodrome on any occasion?
NM: Oh yes. Yeah.
JH: Yeah.
NM: We had quite a few. Well, three or four times we were diverted.
JH: Yes.
NM: To other, other places because of fog over your own, over home.
JH: Yes.
NM: But you get the message. You’d get the message when you were half way home you know.
JH: Yes
NM: So let’s say [unclear]
JH: Yes.
NM: Put it that way.
JH: And apparently on some occasions the wireless operator and the emergency aerodrome couldn’t contact for whatever reason. And sometimes you’d have to find a way of getting their attention.
NM: Well, you knew where you were going. But once you got, once you got over England the pilot had RT, you know.
JH: Yes.
NM: Like when you got home like [pause] Gauntly Zebra Silksheen. That’s right. Our station was, “Silksheen” The call sign was “Silksheen.” The squadron sign was “Gauntly.” And then you had the aircraft’s Z. So the pilot when you were over, when you got near the aerodrome the pilot would just ring up, say, ‘Gauntly Zebra to Silksheen,’ and then they’d come back and say, ‘Circle field at five thousand feet,’ or six thousand feet. And then you’d gradually come down until you got on the circuit. And then you’d hit the funnels.
JH: Yeah.
NM: And come in.
JH: Yes. Did you ever have any, any fighters, German fighters coming close at that stage?
NM: JU88s used to go to England when we were coming home and they used to shoot our blokes down as you were landing. They called them intruders and our, and our fighters did the same thing in Germany.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah. But we were lucky there. We never stuck any of that.
JH: Yes. What about the upward firing fighters? Did you come across them?
NM: I didn’t come across those.
JH: Yeah.
NM: I don’t think anybody even saw them.
JH: Yes.
NM: Anybody who was shot down by one of those —
JH: That’s right.
NM: They just came up underneath.
JH: That’s a good point.
NM: And I’ve often wondered like if they hit a four thousand pounder in the bomb bay.
JH: Yeah.
NM: How, that would affect the bloke who was underneath you.
JH: He would have copped it as well.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah
JH: Yeah. Yeah. What, what was one of the worst nights for the squadron?
NM: Well, actually one of the worst on percentages was eleven of us went out on our second last trip to Leipzig and two of them didn’t come back. One just disappeared. Never heard of again. And then the other one. One of the crew was killed and the others were taken POW. But that was only — what was that? That was the 9th of April. So, it was only, it was a month before the war finished. So they were only POWs for a month.
JH: Yeah.
NM: But they did say to them. The Germans said, ‘Don’t tell anybody that you were on Dresden.’
JH: Yeah.
NM: If you want to live, you know.
JH: Yeah. You would have been lynched.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Maybe.
NM: Yeah. Oh yeah.
JH: Yeah. Yeah. Were you on any of the Dresden raids at all?
NM: No.
JH: Yeah.
NM: I was on leave.
JH: Yes.
NM: When we did Dresden.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Yeah. A couple of my mates were. One just died recently. He was on Dresden.
JH: Yes.
NM: But you know it’s a waste. Its —
JH: Yeah.
NM: You don’t like [pause] just you don’t like talking about it really, you know. It’s — and none of my kids are a bit interested, see.
JH: Yes.
NM: Four of them up there on the wall.
JH: Yes. Yeah.
NM: They couldn’t care less, you know.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah. And good luck to them you know.
JH: Yeah.
NM: That’s the way it should be. Yeah.
JH: But maybe your grandkids.
NM: Well, they might. Yeah.
JH: Might be interested.
NM: They might. Yeah.
JH: Or will be. Yeah. Yeah. So, I was going to ask you. I think 630 Squadron was involved at the end. End of the war on picking up the POWs.
NM: Most of them.
JH: You mentioned some POWs there.
NM: Yeah. Well, I was —
JH: Yeah.
NM: I’d finished a tour by then.
JH: Yes.
NM: And so I wasn’t in that.
JH: Ok.
NM: I would have liked to have been in it.
JH: Yes.
NM: Because it was, as well as picking up POWs you could see what, what sort of hell you’d inflicted on the poor buggers, you know.
JH: Yes. Yeah. Well, that, that’s an amazing logbook you’ve got there. It really is. Reading. Reading through and to come through all that. So you did a tour?
NM: Yeah. Did it.
JH: Yeah.
NM: I think it’s in there.
JH: Yeah.
NM: It’s in there.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Tour completed. Yeah.
JH: And so the end of your tour pretty well coincided with the end of hostilities. Was it? Or —
NM: A month before.
JH: Yeah. So, you could have gone on if you, if you’d wanted to do but I guess the crew, for the crew that was it.
NM: Well, actually after the war the RAF was getting you ready to come out here with a, with a mob they called Tiger Force. So, they were going to call it Tiger Force.
JH: Yes.
NM: But then the atom bomb finished all that.
JH: Yeah. Yeah. So perhaps you could tell me a little about what it was like, you know you had leave in in the UK. Did you go to London?
NM: Oh yeah. London.
JH: Yes.
NM: Bath and Bristol and Brighton.
JH: Yes.
NM: Went to Stratford on Avon. We got a lot of leave. We got nine days leave.
JH: Yeah. Yeah.
NM: Every five weeks.
JH: Yeah. So would you go with your crew? Or —
NM: No. No. I had relations. My mother’s sister and her husband lived in Sunderland.
JH: Yes. Of course.
NM: And I used to go there a lot on leave.
JH: Yes.
NM: But other times I’d just, we’d go to London and you’d meet up with blokes. The Australians. Australia House was a sort of a — they called it the Boomerang Club in London.
JH: Yes.
NM: And if you were at a loose end you’d just go there in the morning and have morning tea. And then you’d probably go to the local pub for a beer.
JH: Yeah.
NM: You’d meet. You’d generally always meet someone you knew.
JH: Yes.
NM: When you were on leave in London.
JH: Yes.
NM: Because you’d go with the Boomerang Club. And I think the favourite pub in London for Australians was a place called Codgers.
JH: Yes. Codgers. Yeah.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Well, Boomerang Club is famous isn’t it?
NM: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if they — I don’t know if Australians today meet there. I think it’s most Australians are in Earl’s Court aren’t they?
JH: Yeah. That’s correct.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Yeah. Yes.
NM: But it was Australia House but they opened it up for us. Most of the blokes, well all the blokes I knew — well, most ninety percent of the blokes you’d see in there were air force. Australian Air Force.
JH: Yes.
NM: Reading or, you know.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Waiting to meet mates.
JH: Yes. So, and VE day. Were you in England for VE day?
NM: VE Day. VE Day I was at Aircrew Officer’s School in Hereford. Yeah. Pretty sure it was Hereford. Yeah.
JH: Yes.
NM: And of course as you can imagine what it was like. You’ve seen it on TV.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah.
JH: So, so then it was time to think about coming home. How long were you waiting? Did you go to Brighton for instance?
NM: Yeah. We went to Brighton.
JH: And waiting for a ship.
NM: Yeah. I think, yeah we went back to Brighton when I finished the tour. Went back to Brighton and I finished the tour in, on the 16th of April ’45. And didn’t leave England ‘til September. I’m not sure what the date was.
JH: Yes.
NM: And apart from that course that I did which only lasted a month we were on leave all the time.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Yeah.
NM: That was —
JH: Well deserved.
NM: [laughs] I don’t know about that but it was, it was pretty good I’ll tell you.
JH: Yes. So, so at some point you were assigned to a boat.
NM: Oh yeah.
JH: To come home.
NM: Stratheden.
JH: Yeah.
NM: We came home on the Stratheden.
JH: Stratheden. Yeah.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Yeah.
NM: First class.
JH: Yes.
NM: Oh yeah.
JH: And did that, was that the one that went to New Zealand first and then to Australia?
NM: No. That was the USS Mount Vernon. We went from here to San Francisco.
JH: Oh right. Yeah. Yeah.
NM: That’s where, that’s where I went. That’s where I learned to like jam and cheese.
JH: Yeah.
NM: You got jam and cheese on your bread. These Yanks [laughs]
JH: So, how, how did you pass your time on the long voyage?
NM: We used to play a lot of five hundred.
JH: Yeah.
NM: That’s about all.
JH: Yeah.
NM: I mean, you’d be detailed for duties.
JH: Yeah.
NM: In the kitchen.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Peeling spuds and all that sort of thing.
JH: Yeah.
NM: So, but we generally filled in our time, spare time, playing bridge. And often at night you’d sleep on the deck, you know.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Because balmy nights you know.
JH: Yes. Of course.
NM: On the Pacific. Yeah.
JH: Yeah. So, where did you dock? In Sydney?
NM: When we came home?
JH: Circular Quay.
NM: Circular Quay.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Family waiting for you.
NM: No. Dad. Dad and my brother.
JH: Yes.
NM: Were waiting.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Mum didn’t come in.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Yeah.
JH: So, homecoming and then you had to think about jobs and things.
NM: Back to my old job. Back to my old job at Marcus Clarks.
JH: Yes.
NM: And I was there for twelve months and then I started a carpentry course with the [unclear] out there. They had a Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme in this country.
JH: Yes.
NM: And you could, if you passed the enter, three years you do a twelve month course to get to [unclear] and then you could be a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist.
JH: Yes.
NM: A plumber, a carpenter. Whatever you wanted to do.
JH: Yes.
NM: An accountant. And not everybody took advantage of that.
JH: I see.
NM: And I didn’t wake up to it ‘til about twelve months after the war.
JH: Yes.
NM: And —
JH: So then you took advantage of that.
NM: I did carpentry. Yeah.
JH: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And then family. You got married.
NM: Didn’t get married till ’52.
JH: ’52. Yeah. Yes.
NM: Sixty four years ago.
JH: Yes. Yes. And I see, well you’ve got four children and —
NM: Yeah. Two boys and two girls. Yeah.
JH: And grandchildren now.
NM: Six grandkids.
JH: Yes.
NM: Yeah.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Yeah. You got any grandkids?
JH: Yeah. I’ve got one.
NM: Oh have you?
JH: A grandson. Yeah.
NM: Oh right.
JH: Two kids and one grandson.
NM: You’ll be, you’ll be in line for a great grandfather.
JH: Yes. Yeah. Well, that, that’s fantastic. So, maybe we could finish off by talking about well for example are you involved in, do you keep in touch with the Squadron Associations and the Bomber Command Association for example?
NM: I’m a life subscriber to the Air Force Association.
JH: Yes.
NM: And I’ve been a member of the RSL since 1945.
JH: Yes.
NM: Because they hooked you as soon as you got off the boat [laughs]
JH: Yes. Yeah. Well, that’s good. Yeah. And so, yeah can I ask you what, what your views are on the way Bomber Command was, was treated after the war? You know. There was no campaign medal.
NM: Well, look John I’ve never thought much about it. All I ever thought about was meeting the mates on Anzac Day. And I didn’t, I didn’t think much about it. I wasn’t that interested in what anybody thought about it, you know.
JH: Yes.
NM: It doesn’t matter what you do. There’s going to be people who like it and people who don’t.
JH: Yes.
NM: But I don’t regret doing it, you know.
JH: Yes.
NM: But I do think, I do think that it’s getting to the stage where they should be talking more about the Kokoda Track.
JH: Yes.
NM: Because that threatened Australia, you know.
JH: Yes.
NM: And the way they go on about Gallipoli. Sure. Terrible. Terrible tragedy Gallipoli but only one sixth of Australians were killed at Gallipoli.
JH: Yes.
NM: Compared to the Western Front.
JH: Yes.
NM: In France.
JH: Yeah.
NM: Forty eight thousand, you know.
JH: That’s a very good point. Yeah.
NM: Yeah. Yeah.
JH: Yeah. So, I get the feeling that it was very much that you were doing it for your crew to a large extent. You had this bonding with your crew. Your pilot.
NM: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. That would be right. But even then, when you went on leave unless one of the crew asked you to come home with them or something like that.
JH: Yes.
NM: As I said I used to go to relatives in Sunderland.
JH: Yes.
NM: And, and I had relatives in a little village between Bath and Bristol.
JH: Yes.
NM: Called Keynsham.
JH: Yes.
NM: And that was a nice little place too, you know.
JH: Yes.
NM: But what I liked about England were the villages.
JH: Yes.
NM: You know. Terrific.
JH: Yes. Have you been back?
NM: No. I haven’t been back. No.
JH: To Kirkby?
NM: No. No. I haven’t been back.
JH: Yeah.
NM: If my skipper. My skipper died when he was seventy two.
JH: Yes.
NM: And if he’d have been alive when I retired I would have definitely gone back to see him.
JH: Yes.
NM: Because he wrote. He started writing to us. All the crew. He started writing to us in about 19 — not until about 1988.
JH: Yes.
NM: As a matter of fact I got a ring from a girl in Sydney and she asked me my name. And she said he became a special constable.
JH: Yes.
NM: As well as his ordinary job.
JH: Yes.
NM: He became a special constable in the police force and this girl, this woman in Sydney she, she was at a function in England when my skipper was there. I think she might have been sitting next to him or something. He said, ‘When you go back to Sydney see if you can find a bloke called Norm Maconachie.’ [laughs] Which she, which she did. She rang up and she said that his name was Les, Les Ovens. ‘No,’ I said, ‘I didn’t know a Les. I knew a Jim.’
JH: Yes.
NM: Jim Ovens. And it was the same bloke.
JH: And it was the him. It was him.
NM: And he finished up the secretary of the 57 630 Squadron Association.
JH: Yeah.
NM: In England. And he was very keen.
JH: Yes.
NM: Very keen.
JH: Yes.
NM: And he had a wife who he looked after. She was ill.
JH: Yes.
NM: And she died and [paused] she died and he only lasted a couple of months after. He collapsed shopping one Saturday morning with a heart attack and that was it.
JH: Yes. Well, Norm. I’m — that’s a great story you’ve been telling and I’m privileged to be the one asking you the questions. So I’d like to thank you.
NM: Oh, I was only one.
JH: For all this.
NM: Out of a hundred and twenty five thousand.
JH: Yes. Yeah.
NM: And in, in Australia in 1942 we had a population of seven million people. And nine hundred thousand of them were in uniform in 1942.
JH: Yeah.
NM: We’ve always seemed to have [unclear] a lot more, you know.
JH: They’d done their bit. Thank you.
NM: Yeah. Right.

Collection

Citation

John Horsburgh, “Interview with Norm Maconachie,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 26, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11300.

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