Interview with Maurice William Marriott


Interview with Maurice William Marriott


Interested in aircraft through the Air Training Corps, Maurice joined the Royal Air Force in 1942 and went to Cardington. In July 1943 he went to the Air Crew Reception Centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground, followed by 17 Initial Training Wing in Scarborough. Elementary Flying Training School on Tiger Moths in Brough saw him become a navigator rather than a pilot. He was in the operations room at Beaulieu and describes an encounter with Air Marshal Coningham. Maurice was sent to Heaton Park and Morecambe before sailing to Canada and 1 Navigation School at Rivers, Manitoba. He discusses the difficult wind changes and how a Dalton computer was used to work out drift. He recounts the difficulties of astro navigation at night. Maurice flew on Ansons before returning to Britain.
RAF Harrogate and RAF Llandwrog on Ansons, were followed by Wellingtons at an Operational Training Unit at RAF Moreton in the Marsh. Maurice crewed up with Australians and trained on Gee navigation. He eventually moved to the 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley on Lancasters. The war finished before going on operations.
Maurice went to Leicester East on C-47 where he did a course on pannier dropping and glider towing (Hadrian gliders). He went from Lyneham to Karchi, stopping off in Sardinia. Maurice was stationed at Mauripur. He travelled to Calcutta and Chittagong, then Rangoon and 194 Squadron at Mingaladon airport. They did airline work in the Far East, ferrying VIPs, including Compton Mackenzie. Navigation was with Eureka and dead reckoning. He finished at Hong Kong where Maurice married. Demobilisation was in August 1947.




Temporal Coverage




01:47:18 audio recording


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AMarriottMW170824, PMarriottMW1701


CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is Thursday the 24th of August 2017. And I’m in Duston, Northampton with Maurice Marriott to talk about his life and times. So, Maurice what are your earliest recollections of life?
MM: I think my, one of the things I recall is my grandmother’s pub that she ran in Wansford near Peterborough. I remember the, the skittle room and the people in there. In particular I can remember the skittles being thrown and the noise they made.
CB: And what did your parents do?
MM: My father was a railway clerk on the LMS railway. And my mother was originally a school, schoolteacher.
CB: Yeah. And where did you go to school?
MM: I went to school in Northampton. Stimpston Avenue School in Northampton to start off. Then Campbell Square Intermediate School. And then Northampton Technical College after that. When I was twelve years old I think it was when I started at Northampton Technical College taking Commercial Studies.
CB: And what age did you leave school?
MM: I left school, my father had previously died when I was eight years old and I left school early because a job came up on the railway as a clerk which was, in those days was considered quite a good job. And I went for an interview and I got that job and I left school when, just when I was just over fifteen years old.
CB: And what did you do in this job?
MM: That was a clerk on the railway. Which I continued until I joined the RAF. I had various different jobs, at I worked at different places. Wolverton, Northampton and Bletchley and in the Goods Department. Then I was a claims clerk on, that was on, based at Northampton station.
CB: Did you enjoy that?
MM: Well, yes. It was, yeah quite a friendly, you know, crowd and everything. Yes. I wasn’t, you know it wasn’t particularly exciting. I was offered another job. A better job. But the railway wouldn’t release me. And I went to a tribunal in the end but they still wouldn’t release me. So I had to stop there until I joined up. They told me I couldn’t join up. It was a reserved occupation. I said, ‘Well, I’m already, I’ve already volunteered and I’ve got my number and everything.’ Previously four of us went down and joined up together in Northampton. And I told them that I’d already volunteered for the Air Force.
CB: Did they all join the Air Force as well in the end?
MM: They all joined. Three of us went to Cardington. Well, four of us went to Cardington and three of us passed out PNB — pilot, navigator, bomb aimer. And the fourth one failed the medical and he, he went in as ground staff and unfortunately he, he, we were all seventeen years old but he was already a smoker and he stopped smoking and, and was on the ground staff. And then he re-mustered as aircrew and as a flight engineer he was killed soon after he started flying. That was —
CB: On ops. Had he got to operations?
MM: On ops. Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
MM: And we were still, that was just after we, I think it was just after we, we were on deferred service for a time, the three of us. We couldn’t join for PNB training until we were eighteen and a half years old. And I think, think it was just about when we joined up he was killed. He was killed on the, as a flight engineer on ops.
CB: He was older than you was he?
MM: Pardon?
CB: He was older than you.
MM: No. He was the same age as us. Yeah.
CB: Extraordinary. Yeah. Just taking a step back the war started soon after you started your employment on the railway. So 1939 was —
MM: Yes.
CB: When you were fifteen, wasn’t it?
MM: Yes.
CB: So, what —
MM: Well I, when the war started I was still fourteen.
CB: Yes.
MM: And, and yes, well [pause] yes, it was. Sorry, I’m just a bit —
CB: It’s alright. So the war started when you were still fourteen.
MM: Yeah.
CB: What do you remember about the starting of the war?
MM: Well, I remember hearing the announcement that you know we, at that age we were all very keen on listening to the radio. No television of course. But we all listened to the radio and kept apace with what was going on and, you know, we heard the announcement that we were at war. And at, and that is probably soon after then when I started taking an interest in in aeroplanes. Although I’d previously, as a boy I used to go with, with a Sunday school teacher who used to have a Lagonda and used to take us boys looking at the aircraft at Sywell. And I suppose from that day I was interested in aircraft. And then when I was about fifteen I suppose I joined the Air Training Corps and I couldn’t wait to be called up. So I volunteered.
CB: Yes.
MM: To go in the Air Force.
CB: So the other options were Army or Navy. Did you consider those at all?
MM: I never considered them. No.
CB: Right. And what was your aim in aircrew? What task did you want to do?
MM: I think like everyone else we all wanted to be pilots. I think nearly everyone that joined up thought you know that was the glamorous job. Pilot.
CB: In 1940 there was the calamity of Dunkirk. How much did you learn about that?
MM: Well, I remember quite clearly there was a lot of Frenchmen came to Northampton and I remember where they were. A lot of them were billeted on the Kettering Road near St Michael’s Avenue and I used to talk to them about various things. Practiced my French. A lot of school boy French. And used to talk to them about their experiences and one thing and another.
CB: And what was their general demeanour? How did they feel about their circumstances?
MM: Well, they were all, you know it was quite upsetting really for them of course. They didn’t know. They were there. Got nothing to do sort of thing and they were just waiting to find out. They had to be told what was going to happen to them sort of thing. They didn’t know and I would imagine they eventually joined the Free French Army and one thing and another. Under De Gaulle, you know.
CB: So there was a camp set up was there?
MM: No. There wasn’t a camp. I don’t know what happened to all the Frenchmen in the end there.
CB: Right.
MM: That’s all very vague to me now.
CB: Of course.
MM: It’s all a long time ago now.
CB: So, with the ATC activity in mind what were you doing as an ATC cadet?
MM: Well, I used to go you know with you know, make friends with a lot of the boys who was in the ATC and we used to go there and sort of learn all about, you know sort of Morse. Morse and drilling and keeping fit. You used to go to the gym with the ATC and sort of do various, you know gym activities. You know, on the pommel horse and one thing or another. And I was quite athletic in those days. I used to do a lot running. I used to run the mile and one thing and another. But —
CB: And RAF Sywell was quite near.
MM: That’s right.
CB: So what opportunities did you have to go there?
MM: Yes. I, yes I flew from there with Wing Commander Mackenzie who was CO at, of the Number 5 EFTS at Sywell and he took me up for a, and we did a few aerobatics which I think he tried to frighten me. Which I think he did [laughs]
CB: What did that do to your resolve?
MM: I was more, more determined than, than ever to get in the Air Force. Yes.
CB: The railway workers at the time. What sort of people were they?
MM: Oh, well they were you know quite a nice crowd. A lot of, sort of girls and young when I was at, in Northampton at the, at one of the places I worked for a while. At Far Cotton it was called. Far Cotton. A lot of girls there. Comptometer operators. And, oh we had quite a bit of fun in between working but we worked hard as young, young lads and that there. And in those days we had to do shorthand and typing and one thing and another which I, one of the exams I passed to get on the railway in those days.
CB: And then there were a lot of older people were they?
MM: Oh, yes.
CB: Who couldn’t be called up.
MM: Yeah. Yes. A lot of them that were sort of near retiring age I suppose. Yeah. But — yeah.
CB: And the railways were busy.
MM: Oh, yes.
CB: All the time.
MM: Everything went by rail in those days and came to, and all the deliveries were done by drays. Horse and drays around the towns. Used to come in to, and be unloaded in Northampton at the Castle Station goods depot sort of thing. And all delivered around the town in horse drawn, horse drawn drays.
CB: So were there many lorries in those days?
MM: Yes. There were a few lorries but most of them were, they used to do the heavy deliveries from Far Cotton in most of the broken down sort of lorries. Old. Second hand. And there were still some big lorries that went to [pause] with solid tyres that delivered the grain to, to the breweries which were quite near the depot. Yeah.
CB: And there’s still a brewery in the middle of the town.
MM: Yeah. Yes. Just on the —
CB: The Carlsberg one, yeah.
MM: The Carlsberg brewery now. There were two breweries there. Northampton Brewery Company and Phipps. Phipps Brewery. Yeah.
CB: So, you said that you volunteered in ’43. July. But they wouldn’t take you because you weren’t old enough. And you —
MM: No. ’42.
CB: ’42.
MM: I volunteered in ’42.
CB: ’42, yes.
MM: Yeah.
CB: I meant to say. Right. And you then joined in ’43.
MM: Yes.
CB: Where did you go?
MM: You couldn’t go for aircrew training until you were eighteen and a half.
CB: Right.
MM: I went on July the 5th 1943.
CB: Yeah.
MM: To ACRC. Aircrew Recruiting Centre at London.
CB: Yeah.
MM: Lord’s Cricket Ground.
CB: Yeah. How long were you there?
MM: I think probably about a month in London at Grosvenor Court. I spent some days in sick bay with vaccine fever after my smallpox inoculation. But then I, when I came out of there I had a rifle put in my hand and was one of the, to line the route for General Sikorski’s funeral at, who was the Polish, I think sort of Premier. Whatever he was.
CB: Army commander.
MM: Pardon?
CB: Army commander. Yes.
MM: Yes. And we all lined up which I, I nearly collapsed after my vaccine fever thing.
CB: Oh really. Yeah.
MM: Stood there with a rifle in my hand at the [pause] in London and waited for the cortege. The cortege to come by. And nearly collapsed.
CB: He’d been killed in an air crash in Gibraltar.
MM: That’s right. Yes. Yeah.
CB: So, from ACRC where did you go next?
MM: After that it was Scarborough. 17 ITW at Scarborough. I was based in the Adelphi Hotel which was two big houses on the front knocked together. And Scarborough was all, all RAF. All the hotels and everywhere in Scarborough were RAF there. They were sort of I suppose quite a few hundred RAF there in Scarborough at that time.
CB: So that was the 17 Initial Training Wing.
MM: Yes.
CB: What did you do when you were there?
MM: There we did, we used to drill on the front there. The corporal used to have us drilling there. And we did quite an intensive course. Law and administration, engines, basic rules of engines. Navigation. And sort of, it was quite, quite an intensive course really, you know. Every day we used to all go down to the classrooms and there were some lectures on, on different subjects there. Maths and navigation was the main thing but —
CB: Yeah.
MM: Yeah.
CB: Because everybody was air crew but this was the PNB selection.
MM: That was the PNB scheme.
CB: Yes.
MM: Yes.
CB: Ok. And a bit of drill.
MM: Pardon?
CB: And some drill.
MM: Drill. Yes. We used to drill along the front there. There was always some of the holidaymakers that were still there used to watch us drilling. Yeah. It was a beautiful, beautiful summer anyway in 1943.
CB: And how long were you there?
MM: Can we stop for a minute?
CB: Yeah. Just pause there.
[recording paused]
CB: So, from Scarborough.
MM: Right.
CB: Where did you go?
MM: Went to Brough. Brough near Hull.
CB: Yeah.
MM: For on the EFTS on Tiger Moths.
CB: Yeah.
MM: We were all aspiring pilots in those days.
CB: Yeah.
MM: And I, I did about five hours flying there which I thought I was doing very well and we, but when I had my solo check I didn’t do a particularly good landing and that was the end of my flying as a pilot. Which I think obviously we couldn’t all pass as pilots because an air crew’s, mind you there’s only one pilot, so they got to fail quite a number. I think in the early days most when they were short of fighter pilots they kept on until they passed as pilots. When they wanted pilots. But when I went there I think they’d got a surplus of pilots and they failed quite a number of us. And I finished up as a navigator.
CB: So what did they do with you next?
MM: Then we were [pause] they’d, I think they didn’t know where to send us all. I did one period down at Beaulieu in Hampshire, in the New Forest. I spent a bit of time in the ops room. There was a Coastal Command mainly, but there was also a Typhoon squadron up on there but I was in the ops room and then various other little jobs around there. I met, I met, one of the things I recall there is meeting a Liberator coming in with Air Marshall Cunningham. Air Chief Marshall. I think he was an air chief marshall probably, Cunningham coming in and Air Chief Marshall Sholto Douglas and a few other high ranking officers were waiting to greet him. And when Air Chief Marshall Cunningham got out of the Liberator he came straight up to me before anyone else. I’d still got my white flash on and he said, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘There’s two corporals flew with me. Can you find them and give them some English money?’ And he gave me several pounds to give to them. He said, ‘I don’t think they’ve got any English money with them. Can you give it?’ And that was that [laughs]
CB: Your claim to fame.
MM: Yeah.
CB: So where did you go from there?
MM: And I think from there I went back to Scarborough for a little while at another, just messing about there. I don’t think we did very much there except we did a few, I remember cross country running and one thing or another for a few weeks just wasting time sort of thing. And then I went to Heaton Park, Manchester which was a holding unit before you went abroad. And I, I spent Christmas there at the end of 1943. And after that I, I think I went to Morecambe after that and before going to Canada. And I remember we went to Canada on the Queen Mary. We went one night to, to Scotland and boarded the Queen Mary there. We were taken out by DUKWs to the Queen Mary and went off during the night to Canada on the Queen Mary to New York.
CB: When you say DUKW these are the swimming lorries.
MM: Yeah.
MM: The, yeah.
CB: Yeah.
MM: Yes. That’s right. Yes. We, and then —
CB: So you went to New York.
MM: Went to New York. And then we went by train from New York to Toronto which was another big holding unit. And when we got to Toronto there was a scarlet fever epidemic there at this depot. This big exhibition place where we were billeted. And there were hundreds of us there. We were confined there for about, I think it was about five weeks and not allowed to, well weren’t supposed to leave the, the camp. The site there. The only break we, we, they used to march us along the shores of Lake Ontario every, every morning and, and then, then we went back to the, the depot. To the, where we were billeted. And while we were there they used to send film stars and well known people to keep us amused while we were there which would entertain us. There was, it was a big hall there. They used to come and entertain us all. Well known film stars used to come. And they used to put on wrestling matches and all sorts of things to amuse us. And after that I was sent to, as a navigator to Number 1 Central Navigation School at Rivers, Manitoba which is between Winnipeg and Regina. Half way between the two. And that was another, that was quite an intensive course there. From there I think I was there for about five months flying in Ansons and [pause] which we did, you know sports. You know football matches. It was very hot and we had football matches in between our studies but the studies were quite intensive and hard work for some of us who left school early. But about half the, half the course I was on there were ex-university boys and it probably wasn’t so hard for them. But I found it quite hard. But I ploughed through it and eventually graduated there.
CB: So you went, just going back a moment you were an AC2 in Britain.
MM: Yeah.
CB: When you got to Canada what did they do about your rank?
MM: Yeah. Well, as soon as you graduated you were either a pilot officer or a sergeant and I was a sergeant. You know, graduated as a, sort of half of the course were sergeants and half were pilot officers. And I say the, the course was the astro navigation was very hard and not very accurate I’m afraid. The [pause] and after the, after we graduated I, we went back. We, towards we were due to depart from Halifax, Nova Scotia but they asked some of us, it was going to be about four or five weeks wait there before we were sent, sent home and they asked some of us if we wanted to go apple picking. So, two of us volunteered. Well, more than that I suppose but two of us volunteered to go to one farm and we had a, we thought we were going to have quite a nice time there but we had to work hard. The farmers told us, ‘Oh no. We’ve got got to pay, pay wages for you to come here,’ So we used to put ladders up the trees and run up there, pick the apples and roll them down a hill. I think, put them in to barrels and roll them down a hill. But on our weekends off or something we used to hitchhike down to St John and we had all various little experiences going down there with different people we hitchhiked with. I can remember one hitcher, hitchhiking in a, in a car with a farmer. A farmer with a bottle of wine and I can remember that’s when the bonnets used to open both sides and as we were going along they used to open up and sort of like an aircraft you know. It used to, the bonnet used to come up each side as he was drinking his wine. Various. But yeah. That was good fun. Then we came back to [pause] eventually we were, we left from Halifax, Nova Scotia and went back to Liverpool. Then we continued with our training. We, we were at Harrogate for a time and, then I think from there we went to, to, I went to Llandwrog in North Wales on Ansons again on a, it was mainly sort of map reading and low flying course on Ansons. And after we completed that, that course we went to Moreton in the Marsh on Wellingtons. That was a Wellington OTU. Operational Training Unit.
CB: 21 OTU.
MM: Yes. And which was mainly Australians there and I think they wanted five more RAF aircrew to make up crews there and I was, I crewed. We were all sort of put in a room there and we made up crews. All got together and made up crews and I joined a crew of Australians there who, you know we all palled up you know very well together. And we spent some weeks there. That was quite an intensive course there again doing all sort of training in Gee navigation. Gee. And I got various other sort, types of navigation. One thing and another. And cross countrys. Cross country exercises. And then eventually we, we moved to 1654 Conversion Unit on to Lancasters at Wigsley.
CB: Near Lincoln.
MM: Lincoln. Near Lincoln, yes. And I, I can remember the first landing we made there after Wellingtons. We did, it wasn’t a very good landing. We came down with a bit of a bump but after that our pilot was, never did it, you know he was alright after that but the first landing wasn’t [laughs] wasn’t as it should have been. And shall we stop there?
CB: Did he have an instructor with him?
MM: We did the first time. Yes.
CB: For his bad landing.
MM: Yes. There would be, I think. For him. Yeah.
CB: Ok. We’ll stop there.
[recording paused]
CB: I’d just like to go back to Canada.
MM: Yes.
CB: When you were doing your navigation training.
MM: Yes.
CB: What was the most memorable thing about the landscape that you were flying over?
MM: Well, it was quite, quite [pause] it was mainly prairie, sort of thing around there. But there were various [pause] I suppose the change of winds was the main thing for, for navigators. You set off with one wind direction and then all of a sudden you found out the wind had changed which was quite confusing for, you know when we were in our training. As I recall it there were very often two of us. A second navigator and a first navigator and the, and one of them was doing map reading and the other was doing the plotting and that. But, but you know we had, it was quite difficult for them. For, you know some youngsters who were, you know flying for the first time. The, and a lot depended on the pilot we’d got. Whether he was very cooperative or not. They were all young chaps who had just graduated. Well, the pilots who didn’t want to be doing that job. They wanted to be sort of, they were hoping, a lot of them were hoping to go where the action was.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
MM: But, but —
CB: Because it’s a featureless landscape.
MM: Pardon? Yes.
CB: A featureless landscape.
MM: That’s right. Yes.
CB: So map reading must have been quite difficult.
MM: Yes. It was yes. But we had the turning points and that. And the timing and everything was, you know you’ve got to, all our plots and everything were marked afterwards so you’ve got to be, you know trying to do everything correctly and take the drift. You know, have drift sight and everything. You had to get the right drift on the, for the winds and everything.
CB: Yeah. So that’s an interesting point you said about the winds changing. So how did you go about establishing what the wind was doing? How does a drift sight work?
MM: Well, you get to know how much drift. You know, you’ve got your course and your track and you could tell how much, how many degrees of drift you’d got on it. It’s all quite complicated but we’d got the Dalton computer.
CB: Yeah.
MM: Which was our main little, no not a computer as you know it these days.
CB: No. No.
MM: But it was a mechanical sort of thing. No batteries or anything like that with it.
CB: A little, little aluminium box.
MM: Yeah.
CB: With a dial on it.
MM: Quite. Got all sorts of things on it, you know but there was quite a lot to, sort of a difference in height and you know temperatures and all sorts of different things. But yeah, I remember its quite, quite a lot to learn as young navigators.
CB: Yes. And of course it wasn’t all daylight.
MM: No, used to, at night that was, you know, when we’d do, did astro navigation. That was really difficult. You sort of got your head in the astrodome, you know, and sort of which, you know if the, if the, with the turbulence you’re knocking your head on the astrodome or something and you were trying to get the right star to identify, you know through the app. Through the sextant. And then when you got it there were all sorts of adjustments to make with the chart. With the sort of tables and things. I can’t remember much about it now but it, it was very there were so many different adjustments to make for, allowances for the, for the variations on the astrodome and all sorts of other things. As I say it’s all a bit vague to me now.
CB: Yes. Just to clarify that the astrodome is the transparent bubble on the top of the aircraft.
MM: That’s right. Yes.
CB: The sextant hangs from a pin in the middle of the astrodome does it?
MM: No.
CB: You just have to hold it.
MM: You do, you hold it. Yeah.
CB: Right.
MM: Hold it. Yes.
CB: Yeah. And you’re taking readings. Shot readings.
MM: Readings.
CB: Of stars.
MM: Yeah.
CB: At a timed point.
MM: Yes.
CB: And you then look at the tables.
MM: Yes.
CB: And you do a series of those to find out where you are.
MM: Yes. You can get, you know fixes you can identify one star.
CB: Yeah.
MM: And another one a different angle to, to fix your point but it took so long to do it and of course well it wasn’t so bad in, in Ansons but a fast aircraft, you know you’d be miles away before you could get the answer to —
CB: Yeah.
MM: You know, get your position. But it wasn’t a very, you were lucky if you could get within I’d say ten miles of where it should be I should think.
CB: By taking fixes.
MM: By, yeah.
CB: Yeah. Ok. Thank you. We’ll stop there.
[recording paused]
CB: You talked a moment ago about being at the OTU and crewing up with Australians.
MM: Yeah.
CB: How did that work and how did you get on with them?
MM: Well, I think, as I recall it they were all, we were all in a room together. I don’t know how many there’d be. Quite a, quite a lot of us in the same room. We all seemed to mix together and all of a sudden you, you sort of palled up with a little group and you know, you sort of blended in somehow.
CB: Who was the driving force in the selection? Would it be everybody had focussed on a pilot or how else might it have been carried out?
MM: I can’t really recall exactly how it happened but somehow I suppose it was. Yes, the pilot. Shepherdson his name was. A little, you know, not a very tall chap and we all sort of suddenly grouped together and as I say it was sort of pot luck somehow that we all blended in and we all got on very well after that. We, and then we, we eventually bought a car between us. I bought it in Northampton and we went, went back. Our little Ford 10. And we used to go about at Wigsley in this Ford 10, EHK 233 [laughs] Which I eventually acquired when the, when we, when the war ended I finished up with the car.
CB: So you’d go out in, all get in the car so — the crew is five isn’t it?
MM: Pardon?
CB: The crew is five.
MM: Six of us I think then.
CB: Six. Ok.
MM: And eventually I think there were seven when we acquired a flight engineer.
CB: Yeah.
MM: But —
CB: So it was an Australian crew. What was their Australian motivation for being in Britain to fight the war?
MM: Well, I think, you know [pause] I don’t know. I think that was, they were quite sort of loyal to Britain in those days and I’d say like all young men they, you know wanted to get in the, where there’s some action. You know. Yeah.
CB: Could you say a spirit of adventure?
MM: A spirit. Yes. It was really. Yeah.
CB: So when you got —
MM: You all, you all think at the time that nothing is going to happen to you.
CB: No.
MM: It’s, it might happen to the others but, but you, some, yeah.
CB: We’ll stop for a mo.
MM: Yeah.
[recording paused]
CB: Just on the motivation of the Australians. What was — how strong was their sense of purpose would you say?
MM: I think it was very strong. Yes. I mean I was in a, in a nissen hut full of Australians. The only Englishman in this thirty six foot nissen hut and I, I think they were quite sort of loyal to England in those days. Yeah. But the best part of it was they all used to have parcels come over from Australia and they used to share them and I used to join in [laughs] with whatever was. I finished up with a nice little sheepskin sort of waistcoat thing, you know. Which they, you know someone gave me there but they shared all the parcels that came.
CB: How many crews in each nissen hut?
MM: I should think there’d be about four. Four. About four. Four or five crews I suppose.
CB: Right.
MM: In a nissen hut. Yeah. They were all, you know beds on each side of the hut.
CB: Yeah. So you then went to the HCU at Wigsley, and there you acquired a flight engineer. What was he?
MM: He was an Englishman. Yeah. But I can’t really remember much about him. I think [pause] I believe he was a pilot who was, as I say in those days there were a lot of surplus pilots around and I believe it was a pilot who was sort of acting as flight engineer.
CB: Yes, they did a bit of that.
MM: Yeah.
CB: They re-mustered.
MM: Yeah. But of course they’d still keep their wings on. That was, you know they never took the pilot’s wings off if they had graduated as a pilot but —
CB: Well, that’s interesting.
MM: Yeah.
CB: Because from the interviews some of them maintained their pilot’s brevet.
MM: Yeah.
CB: Some of them had to give that up and wear an engineer’s brevet. In other words the E.
MM: Did they?
CB: And if then re-mustered again as a pilot they could return —
MM: Yeah.
CB: To wearing the pilot’s brevet.
MM: Yeah. I don’t know anything about that, you know.
CB: How did he feel to being re-mustered to engineer?
MM: Well, I I don’t think they’d think, the pilot wouldn’t think much to that because the pay would be less for a flight engineer than a pilot. But I’m a bit vague on that so I [pause] Yeah.
CB: Just take a break there.
MM: Yes.
[recording paused]
MM: Yes.
CB: So it’s a bit difficult when you come in to an established crew.
MM: Yes.
CB: As an engineer. How did you actually fit in to the crew?
MM: Yes. I think he fitted in alright. Yes. But —
CB: He could take the Australian banter.
MM: Yes [laughs] Yes. We, yeah we all got on well together, our crew. The air gunner used to come on leave with me. I’ve got a picture of him somewhere at, outside that house there on the end.
CB: On the wall.
MM: Leaning on the car that we got. The Ford 10. And he was very very fond of my next door but one neighbour’s daughters [laughs] When he wrote to me afterwards he often sent his regards to them.
CB: Yeah. But did you keep in contact with him after the war?
MM: Not very much. They went back and were all demobbed pretty well straight away. When the, when the Japanese war finished they seemed to all get demobbed.
CB: Yes.
MM: And I didn’t keep up. They wrote to me a few times and I suppose mainly, you know I was still pretty busy over there, you know. We did all the airline work on Dakotas and I was pretty busy and mainly my fault. I wished afterwards I’d have kept up the correspondence but I lost touch with them altogether.
CB: Yeah. Well, easily done.
MM: They wrote. They wrote to me, you know. Kept writing. But I eventually lost touch with them all.
CB: Different motivation.
MM: Yeah. Well, you, you know I was pretty busy over there one way and another and —
CB: Ok.
MM: Yeah.
CB: But just going back if I may we were at the HCU. So at the HCU what was the main activity? So you’re on to Lancasters there.
MM: Yeah. Well, we did sort of various parachute drill and things like that and I think, I don’t know whether I’ve got any —
CB: You’d be flying a lot of cross countrys.
MM: Yes.
CB: As a navigator.
MM: Yes.
CB: You were kept pretty busy, were you?
MM: Yes.
CB: What date are we talking about for the HCU?
MM: Well, the dates [pause]
CB: Just checking the book. I’ll just stop it a mo.
[recording paused]
MM: 5th of May ’45. My first flight.
CB: At the HCU.
MM: At the HCU.
CB: So the Europe, the war in Europe had finished three weeks earlier.
MM: Yeah. What date did the war finished?
CB: 8th of May.
MM: 8th
CB: 1945.
MM: Oh, I remember. Oh I must have been before then because I remember when the war finished. You know, all the station was in uproar sort of thing and you know all, went on all night sort of thing. I think war was, end of the war was declared probably in the early hours or at night or something.
CB: Good excuse for a piss up.
MM: Everything was, everyone was there rejoicing on the station, sort of thing.
CB: Yeah.
MM: Yeah.
CB: Would you say that it was [pause] although there was the rejoicing that it was a bit of a mixed reaction on the basis that you hadn’t had the action.
MM: Well, there wasn’t that, you know. At the time you know all we wanted to get in to, to go on ops, of course.
CB: Of course you did.
MM: In retrospect we were glad we didn’t, you know. When you think about that afterwards you’re glad you didn’t go on ops. But at the time we, you know we were all hoping to go on ops. But —
CB: So here we’re talking about the latter days of training.
MM: Yeah.
CB: To what extent were the crews aware of the loss rates in the front line, in the squadrons?
MM: Well, I think they were very very aware of it all, yeah. Yeah. I mean we, you know most of us knew people who had got killed and one thing and another. You know. Yeah. Some of my, you know good friends that were killed early on. I was saying the chap I joined up he went to Cardington but he was killed quite early on.
CB: Yeah.
MM: And others as well. You know, a friend of mine that I knew.
CB: Your instructors would on balance have been people who had already done at least one tour.
MM: Yes, yeah.
CB: To what extent did they talk about the practicalities of being on ops?
MM: Yeah. Oh yeah.
CB: Did they talk about that with you?
MM: I suppose, you know if we asked they would but I mean I don’t think they volunteer to talk about it very much.
CB: Right.
MM: And afterwards of course I knew you know you, know when you’re demobbed and everything then years afterwards I knew a lot of them. They were on ops. I’ve got books, you know books written by them and that sort of thing and that I’ve met and knew.
CB: Yeah.
MM: But they’d talk about it but —
CB: After the HCU which squadron were you posted to and where was that?
MM: Well, I went out to [pause] We were sent out from, went out from Lyneham. Sent out as a crew, I mean, after. After HCU we went with the, with this, some of this crew here.
CB: The picture.
MM: That crew.
CB: That picture in there.
MM: Yeah.
CB: Five of you.
MM: Went to Leicester East.
CB: Oh yes.
MM: On Dakotas. And which we did another intentive course there on pannier dropping and glider towing and all that sort of thing. Then we went down to Ibsley near Bournemouth on a glider snatching. That was an interesting operation. You know, come down and snatch the gliders. Hadrian gliders down there and, you know I did some I sat in, sat in the gliders sometimes and waiting to be snatched up. You were all tensed up waiting to be snatched up. And they used to snatch us up [laughs] and anyway when you do go up, you know it was quite good fun, you know. That was —
CB: A huge acceleration.
MM: Pardon?
CB: Huge acceleration.
MM: Yeah.
CB: So the bomber —
MM: It was taken up a bit by a winch in the Dakota. There’s a winch there that takes up a bit of the slack but not very much. It still, you know all of a sudden you’re sort of doing eighty ninety miles an hour sort of thing. Yeah.
CB: So how does this work? The Dakota has a cable on a winch inside the fuselage.
MM: Yeah. A long —
CB: It lets it out.
MM: Yeah. There’s a long hook.
CB: A hook on the end.
MM: A hook. Yeah. Snatches. Yeah.
CB: And it snatches a rope that’s held between two posts is it? On the ground.
MM: Yeah. Yeah. And of course it’s got to come down pretty low, you know.
CB: Brilliant.
MM: You know, fair sort of aircraft the Dakota. You know that.
CB: Yeah. But the Dakota itself is going to be pulled back by the snatch so —
MM: Yeah.
CB: They’re —
MM: A little bit of the jolt is taken up by this winch. This long steel, you know. I don’t know how, how much you know say perhaps a couple of hundred or a hundred yards —
CB: Yeah.
MM: Perhaps of cable you know that, you know that takes up a bit of the slack but—
CB: And then it pulls it in. Winches it in does it?
MM: Winches it in. Yeah.
CB: Right. So how far does the glider fly behind the tug?
MM: Well, it wasn’t very far. I suppose perhaps — I’m not sure now. Twenty five yards perhaps behind, yeah. To do your release, yeah.
CB: Yeah. They’ve got to dodge the airstream of the tug.
MM: Yeah.
CB: Right. We’ll stop there for a mo.
[recording paused]
CB: Cover this. One of your pilots was a man called Schuoua .S C H U O U A. What, what nationality was he?
MM: Well, he was sort of Argentinian but he’d been to England. He spoke perfect English. Better English than the lot of us. And his people were sort of in, in to textiles or something. He’d got plenty of money anyway because he, I remember he used to get short of money and wire home for another, another hundred pound or something. That was you know a fortune to us in those days. But oh, he was a great lad. He, of course he spoke Spanish was his native language but he said, ‘I’m Don Enesto Shuoua.’ [pause] But —
CB: Yeah. So he came out with you.
MM: Yes, he went and then had no sooner got out there then he was sort of demobbed.
CB: Was he?
MM: He was sent. Yeah. He came back home again.
CB: Went back to Argentina.
MM: Yeah.
CB: So when [pause] what we didn’t, we need to follow on from really is for, which we will do in a moment, is you went then to Lyneham as a crew.
MM: Yes.
CB: To go to, where did you go to?
MM: As, we went from there our first stop was Sardinia. We went on a cold miserable day in November and arrived in Sardinia on a beautiful hot day, where there was a, and where we spent the night there was a Italian aircraft which had crashed quite close to where we were billeted at. I can’t recall now just how far from us it was but that was that. And then we went by various routes to, well eventually we got to Karachi via [pause] I think it’s all down in the book.
CB: Yeah. Ok. But where did you go from Karachi? That was where, you were stationed there was it?
MM: Yeah. I was at, we were at Mauripur which was the outskirts of Karachi. I spent my twenty first birthday there. We were in a tent there. A small, small tent there. I spent my twenty first birthday with a bottle of whisky in a small tent there [laughs] And from Karachi went via Empire Flying Boat, the Caledonia, the name of it was to, to Calcutta. Spent a few days in Calcutta and then went from Calcutta to Chittagong by Dakota. We were picked up by Dakota and spent Christmas. Christmas Day we were in, in Chittagong. And went from, after that we spent a few days in, in Chittagong and then we went by Liberty ship. A Liberty ship. I think there were two crews of us then. We picked up another crew there. Two crews went by Liberty ship down to Rangoon. And there we were [pause] We went from Rangoon to 194 Squadron which was at Mingaladon Airport which was just outside Rangoon where we thought we’d be eagerly awaited but we were rudely awakened to the fact that no, they sort of didn’t. Didn’t care whether we were or not [laughs] sort of thing. We were given tents, implements to go and clear a bit, a bit of the jungle and put, put our big tents up there and make ourselves at home. Which we did. We cleared the jungle and, and cut down bamboo to put little, all around the tents to keep the snakes out. And put this like felt, they called it [unclear] or something on the, on the ground and we made it made our own beds there with bamboo. And oh, we, we you know quite enjoyed doing all this in the end.
CB: Built yourself a little village did you?
MM: Yeah, we, yes we were sort of all our all the tents were crowded around together sort of thing in the area and, you know officers and sergeants and everything were all mixed in together there really. But —
CB: What rank have you achieved by now?
MM: I was still a sergeant. I didn’t, however I eventually got a, got my crown and became a flight sergeant and then they stopped automatic promotions then, you see.
CB: Yeah.
MM: I was just, I think I was a month away from getting warrant officer but they stopped —
CB: Yeah.
MM: The automatic promotions.
CB: Meanwhile, what were you doing with 149 Squadron. Dakotas flying.
MM: 194.
CB: 194.
MM: Yeah. We were, we did all, we did all the airline work in the Far East. Well, really between, between Calcutta and well, we flew to Japan as, as well. All around that area. I didn’t actually go to Japan but some of the squadron did. You know, went to, when we eventually got to — we eventually finished up at Hong Kong. Finished at Hong Kong but then did quite a regular run to Japan. But I was mainly, mainly between. I was flying mainly between sort of Calcutta and Hong Kong and went down to, you know all the different places — Malaya and Singapore. And I went up to Shanghai once. All around that area. Our usual run was Calcutta, Rangoon, Mingaladon, Bangkok, Saigon and Hong Kong, but we used to do all various routes around there, you know. Kuala Lumpur and all different routes.
CB: Who were the people you were ferrying? Or was it largely freight?
MM: No. Mainly they had to have a good reason for flying. They were all sort of VIPs and I remember we had a, we’d got a general and all his staff we were taking from I don’t know where we started off from but when we were coming in to land at Hong Kong which was Kai Tak Airport, was a very dangerous airport. And it wasn’t the usual runway that we landed on. It was the one that was across. You could only land. You couldn’t overshoot or anything. There was hills the other side.
CB: Right.
MM: And we landed, landed there, we’d got crates of, apart from the general and his staff there were crates of rats we were carrying to the medical department for some reason or other. And we landed with a bit of a bump and one of, one the crates burst open and the rats got out. On the reception there was, waiting for his general at Kai Tak Airport there was a sort of reception committee waiting for this general and his staff and we were still trying to catch the rats and get them back in the crates.
CB: A bit of a delay then was there?
MM: Yes.
CB: But you got them all in the end.
MM: Yes. Yeah. But we had many many different experiences in, you know while we were doing different [pause] We, we had to. One of them was a belly landing in bad weather. We were going from Bangkok to Mingaladon, Rangoon. But we got caught in a, in a bad thunder storm and had to do an emergency landing. Belly landing in Burma, near Ye. The name of it Y E. We managed to sort of pick out a little, what was a little paddy field but unfortunately when we landed the mud, they used to put mud banks around this little paddy field to keep the water in the paddy field. It had all dried up and it was like hitting a brick wall. And we hit this brick wall and twisted the aircraft around and finished up tail first skidding across this little paddy field and got away with it with seventeen passengers on board. Which I’ve got pictures of. The various, some of—
CB: This was a wheels up landing.
MM: Yeah. And —
CB: The Dak wheels stick down slightly.
MM: Yeah.
CB: Don’t they?
MM: But, yeah. But it sort of ripped off an engine as we landed.
CB: Oh right.
MM: And you know, smashed the aircraft up a bit. But I was the only one who wasn’t strapped in. I’d got no, in the navigator’s seat there wasn’t a belt or anything. It was a, and I, but I sort of opened the door to tell, to shout to the passengers in there who were all strapped in to brace. I shouted out, ‘Brace,’ and slammed the door and then I tried to keep myself in the cabin but I was thrown around the cabin and I, funny how you, you know you hear about these things but you don’t believe it but all my life sort of flashed before me.
CB: Because you thought it was terminal. Yeah. Thinking of, as a navigator here we are in the Far East with huge expanses of sea and jungle were there beacons? How did you navigate in those areas?
MM: There was only, the only aid we had was the Eureka.
CB: Oh right. Yeah.
MM: Which I’d already done a course on, on Oxfords while I was at Leicester East. I had a few days course. I think it was about a week’s course on Oxfords. It’s in my logbook there so, but on Eureka which was a very easy thing. You knew what you but there were only two or three beacons in the Far East. There was one in Hong Kong and I think there was another one at, I think there was one at Saigon and one at Mingaladon I believe. But very few. They were about the only aid we had.
CB: So these are actually long range signals so —
MM: Yeah.
CB: How did you —
MM: A hundred miles.
CB: Oh, only a hundred miles.
MM: A hundred miles. When you got within —
CB: So how did it —
MM: A hundred miles you could home on to. You knew where you were and you could home on to the, on to the beacon. They were very useful.
CB: Could you just describe how Eureka worked? So there was a beacon at your destination but what are you doing to use it?
MM: Well it, a very simple thing as I recall it. It, you got a, on this instrument you could, it was [pause] just a line with and you could tell which side of the line you were on and —
CB: It was a cathode ray tube with a —.
MM: Pardon?
CB: A cathode ray tube.
MM: That sort of thing. Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
MM: And you could, you could, you knew which side of the line you were on you could home, home right in on the beacon. Very easy to, to use.
CB: Because it showed you in a blip which side of the line you were.
MM: Yes. Yes. That’s right, yeah. Yes. It was a sort of, as I recall it, yeah it was like a long blip thing. The movement. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. A sort of a variation of the blind landing system.
MM: Yeah.
CB: Right. But apart from that because the distances were huge —
MM: Yeah. But it was all sort of dead reckoning, you know, just, but —
CB: Were there intermediate beacons of any kind?
MM: No. No. There was just these one or two out there and the only other thing you could, the only other aid besides all dead reckoning sort of thing was I think occasionally, very occasionally I used the sextant for a position line on the sun.
CB: Right.
MM: That’s when you could get a fix but you could get a position line onto the sun. But nothing else. It was [pause] but quite, you know quite often say from Hong Kong to Saigon that was all sea, you know. You got [high land] all on one side but but it was all sea ‘til you — well not, you could, no it wasn’t all sea but halfway sea anyway. Then and you got on to sort of Cambodia and that. What was Cambodia. That was all, you know when we were there it was French Indo China down Saigon. Yeah.
CB: But you tried to take a direct route rather than keep close to the land.
MM: Yeah. Yeah. I did that dozens of time down there you know but you were always glad when you got terrain. I think it was. You were always glad when you, you know you got to land sort of thing.
CB: Why did the squadron relocate to Hong Kong?
MM: Well, that was British of course. Hong Kong. At that time it was British and I think they thought that was the best place to be sort of thing. We thought so as well. It was very nice there [laughs]
CB: So, in Hong Kong what was the social life like?
MM: Very good. Yeah. That was good there.
CB: Did you meet any interesting people?
MM: In those, in those days I mean Hong Kong was British and the Chinese you know sort of, they got on well with the British and they you know respect us. We were sort of in charge sort of thing anyway. But I had various experiences there when we went to what they called the New Territories. Used to go swimming out there. Got on a, going on the main road along there and there was a lot of trouble there and the big, all arguing and doing a lot of [pause] people all around there. And as soon as I got there I was, you know I was only a sergeant or flight sergeant or something there and I managed to quell it all [laughs] but, you know it wouldn’t happen these days sort of thing.
CB: It was an argument between Hong Kong people was there?
MM: There was all the sort of, a lot of new territories people. They used to carry their wares into, into Hong Kong you know.
CB: From China.
MM: [unclear] bars and one thing and another and all their, you know stuff they had grown and all that sort of stuff to sell in Hong Kong. And I think it was arguing with other Chinese. I think there was some Chinese army there or something. I forget now. It’s all very vague. But, you know they had a, there was a bus there, I think. They’d held up the, held up this bus and they were all arguing and doing and —
CB: You managed to quell the riots.
MM: Yes [laughs]
CB: Yeah. And what sort of interesting people did you meet there?
MM: Well, one of the, when we were on one of our trips we got Compton Mackenzie. Sir Compton Mackenzie he eventually became wasn’t he? And we were taking him, we were supposed to be taking him from Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. I think it was to Calcutta and there was, there was a Mandarin and people seeing him off. He’d been to, he was writing a book or something and he was there with his secretary and, and they were seeing him off there. He was amongst other passengers there. We used to have various interesting people that we used to take about but, but anyway we took off from, from there. We had an engine failure on, soon after we took off which wasn’t very nice [laughs] So, we had to fly around for a bit. Try and use up some of our petrol. Then we had to, we eventually landed again and went through the same procedure again the following day on a different aircraft. With a different aircraft. And when, and when we got down to Saigon we stopped at Saigon. We always used to stop the night at Saigon which we liked very much. We liked Saigon then. And we took off from there and I was talking to Compton Mackenzie and he said, I should, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘A pity we can’t see Angkor Watt.’ You know the, where everyone goes to see these days which wasn’t far from Saigon. I said, ‘Well, as long as you don’t put it in your book when you write your book about your travels in the Far East I think we can divert a little bit. It’s not far off our route and we’ll fly over it.’ So, we did that and he was pleased as punch. But he was the one who wrote, “Whisky Galore.” And all that, you know. They made a film of it.
CB: Yes.
MM: “Whisky Galore.” But he seemed an old man to us then but you know then I looked as though in the obituary in the paper and I realised he was only, I think he was in his late sixties in those days. Which of course was an old man in those days.
CB: These flights. How long were they?
MM: Well, we did so many different flights there. It’s all in my book there, you know. I mean from, from Rangoon to Bangkok was about, average about two and a half hours I suppose. Bangkok to Saigon was probably three hours. And a lot of them were say down to Singapore. We were going down to Singapore we used to stop at Saigon first and refuel and that would be another, you know down there was probably three hours. Four hours perhaps. Averaged at about sort of four hours I suppose.
CB: When you were out in the Far East you were stationed in Hong Kong as we were talking about just now.
MM: Yeah.
CB: At what stage did you know when your demob was coming up?
MM: Well, my number was fifty four. We all knew our numbers and they used to get demobbed by numbers sort of thing and you kept tabs of, you know when your number was coming up. But anyway I elected to stay on an extra three. I signed on for another three months because I got married there you see.
CB: Right.
MM: So —
CB: Tell us about meeting your wife.
MM: Well, we, we met in, on Hong Kong island. She was waiting for a tram to go, go to, I think it was a dance. And we got talking and it all developed from there over the months.
CB: What was Phyllis doing?
MM: Phyllis. Yeah.
CB: What was she doing in Hong Kong?
MM: Well, she was there during the war, you know. She was born there. That was her home. Her father was a British, you know. He was from Taunton. He was, worked for the, you know, British Colonial.
CB: Yeah. The Colonial Service.
MM: Service. Yeah. And —
CB: As a civil servant.
MM: Yeah. But you know he had died just before the war and her mother was, her mother was Peruvian actually. And, but you know it’s a long story but she was sort of hidden in a convent as a, as an Italian but, which at the time was on the opposition side anyway which, and of course it was occupied by the Japanese and — but they were, they were on the Japanese side at the beginning of the war of course. But —
CB: So when you met her she was on her way to work or what she was doing?
MM: No. I think then she was on her way to a dance hall. There used to be dances on in Hong Kong, you know. We might even have been going to the same dance. We used to go to a dance. I think it was, I don’t know whether it was the Yacht Club or something like that. And but [pause] that was all.
CB: So when were you married?
MM: March the 17th 1947.
CB: So, how long were you engaged for?
MM: Well, I suppose probably a couple of months or something. Something like that.
CB: And you deferred your —
MM: I deferred.
CB: Demobilisation, to do it.
MM: Yeah.
CB: Kept flying in that time did you?
MM: Pardon?
CB: Did you keep flying at the time?
MM: Kept flying. Yeah.
CB: So you were, when were you actually demobbed?
MM: That was, be sort of about August. August I think it was. 1947
CB: Right.
MM: Yeah.
CB: How did you feel about the end of your service?
MM: Well, for a time I was sort of kept thinking about going back in the Air Force. Didn’t know what to do quite. Yes. And you know it was all [pause] you know kept, you know, as I say I went as an agricultural student. I handed my notice. They kept my job open of course on the railway and they, they were very annoyed when I said I’m not coming back. They said, ‘Oh, we kept your job open,’ and all the rest of it. Didn’t they?
CB: Because you were going to college.
MM: Pardon?
CB: Because you were going to Agricultural College were you?
MM: Yeah. When I, when I told them I was going to they said, ‘We kept your job open and you should come back to us, you know. We want you to come back.’ And one thing or another but I said, ‘No. I’ve finished with clerical work.’ As I thought.
CB: [unclear] So you didn’t return to the railway.
MM: No.
CB: So, how did you, what did you do then?
MM: Well, I kept waiting for the course to start. And the unemployment people said, ‘Well, you’ve got to do something eventually,’ and for a few weeks I went in a stores for a firm here. Blackwood Hodge in Northampton. I was only there a few weeks then and then the course started and I went as a, you used to have to go to lectures. You know, agricultural. To somewhere in town. We used to have lectures on farming and that and then I had this. Went on this to this college in the not the well it was at Malton, Malton Park Farm.
CB: Yeah.
MM: It wasn’t a college. Malton Park Farm. It was St Andrew’s Hospital College. Farm I mean. Yeah.
CB: How long were you there?
MM: About seven months.
CB: And then what?
MM: Then I bought a small holding not far from here which is now all built on. I’d got about eighty fruit trees and I kept supplying half of Northampton with, with a lot of people had their hens in the back garden then. I used to sell, you know eight week old pullets and one thing and anther, you know. And one thing and another. Kept pigs. I don’t know. I used to go all around all the farms collecting the eggs and selling them to the shops and one thing or another. Fruit and so on. I’ll say, then I got a temporary job on the central in those days British Electricity Authority. Which eventually became Central Electricity Generating Board which lasted thirty years until they closed down two power stations. Did the administrative work for closing down Northampton Power Station.
CB: Did you?
MM: And Leicester Power Station.
CB: How did you get in to that?
MM: Then I elected not to move anywhere else and I, I finished up at British Timken which was just a stone’s throw away. I could walk there. Spent ten years there. My last ten years of working life there. Which I quite enjoyed.
CB: What did you do there then?
MM: Well, I was a, when I joined they said, ‘Well you wouldn’t want — ’ I was on the professional and executive list or something at Leicester. I wasn’t on the unemployment thing. And they didn’t send me any jobs to apply for or anything. And so eventually I got a job here just as there were strikes on in the engineering department and everything else. And they said, ‘Well, there’s only one job going. That’s a foreman’s clerk.’ I said, ‘Well, try me.’ You know. So I went and had an interview and got the job as a foreman’s clerk. Which was, you know just a little clerical job. I thought that would do me. I was already on a pension from the Electricity when I was fifty five so [laughs] and but then there was another job came up there as a [pause] as a clerical, and an engineering clerical worker or something. It was partly clerical and partly engineering. It was a technician sort of thing which developed eventually. I was called a technician there which I quite enjoyed you know. We tested in the, tested all the bearings from all over the world from the British Timken factories in America and Australia and Africa and everywhere else in the world. We’d test them. And I was there until I retired at sixty five.
CB: Didn’t you do well. Good. We’ll stop there.
[recording paused]
MM: Which wasn’t very nice.
CB: So the cunims are ahead of you.
MM: What?
CB: The cumulonimbus are ahead of you.
MM: Yeah.
CB: And are they, how big are they?
MM: They built up so quickly and we, we couldn’t get over them in those days.
CB: No.
MM: I mean we usually used to like to fly at five or six thousand feet or something like that.
CB: Oh, I see. Right.
MM: But sometimes you know you would try and get over them or you would see one, a bank of cloud and by the time you got to it they sort of rose so quickly. That was the trouble out there.
CB: Is this over the —
MM: There were more aircraft lost I think during the war and that with the weather than anything else.
CB: Oh, were they?
MM: And accidents and that.
CB: And are the cunims on the edge of the land or are they in the middle of the ocean?
MM: Well, they were all over. All over that area, you know. It’s the heat and everything. In the mornings that’s all we liked to take our early start and but they built up so quickly with the heat and you know they was so much weather. You know, rain and one thing and another they built up so quickly. We used to try and get an early start.
CB: On your planes you had IFF did you, effectively so that or some kind of beacon so people could keep an eye on you.
MM: No. Not as far as I know. No.
CB: I mean if you went down.
MM: No. I don’t know.
CB: Or if the plane went down how would they find you?
MM: No. No. As far as I know there was no, nothing [pause] I mean the wireless operators, you know they’d, you know if, if you’d got a chance the wireless operator would you give the rough position, you know, lat and long and sort of thing. Latitude and longitude and where. That was what we did when we came down in Burma. I was very proud of that. Latitude and longitude was dead on. So [laughs]
CB: What was the crew comprised of? Two pilots.
MM: Well, there was the pilot and, and the air steward was very often another pilot. He was acting steward because there was such a surplus of pilots and one of our air stewards was a pilot. [Bernardus] a big tall handsome bloke he was. Only a young chap and I’ve got a picture of him somewhere and he was one of our air stewards. But, but another one was, I had several different air stewards at different times. There was the wireless operator and navigator. So, you know there were usually four of us.
CB: What was the air steward’s job? Keeping you watered?
MM: Well, he was, you know he was taking sandwiches and looking after the passengers. You know.
CB: How many could you take at a time? Passengers.
MM: Well, capacity was twenty six. Sometimes there weren’t twenty six but that was the most we could take.
CB: They’d have luggage with them.
MM: Yeah. Not much but you know very often it was just sort of hand luggage and but, I mean one when we came down in you know our belly landing they could all carry their luggage. I think afterwards. It’s funny, until I knew this was going to take place I was looking for things to [pause] I know, and what not and I [pause] Ah, what’s this now. This was another [laughs] another thing I found. One of our things we had to do on one of our courses was ship recognition. We used, that was —
CB: Right. So, this is, this is —
MM: Had to a recognise ships you know.
CB: Yes
Other: Not easy
CB: Of all nationalities those. That’s got different —
MM: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: British. American.
MM: Yeah.
CB: Japanese.
MM: But —
CB: Those, they are warships.
MM: I was looking for, looking for maps. I say my son and his wife were just going to Canada and these are some of my actual maps that went around Rivers.
CB: Are they really?
MM: You know.
CB: Yeah.
MM: He’s going quite close and I was finding these. And I found my name on them somewhere but some of the routes we took but —
CB: What would you say was the most memorable thing for you in the war?
MM: I suppose one of the most memorable things was when we did our belly landing.
CB: After the war. Yes.
MM: After the war. Yeah. That was after the war but —
CB: But in the war itself was there something that stood out? Particularly memorable.
MM: Well, all through the war you know before I joined up even we used to keep in touch by, you know on the radio. We were always eager with what was happening everywhere. You know. Surprising that as you can’t imagine you know as a fourteen, fifteen, sixteen year old. Nowadays you can’t. But in those days we sort of knew everything that was happening you know in the Middle East or you know. It was always on the on the radio. All the different, you know what had happened everywhere. And we all used to talk about it and, you know keep in touch.
CB: And when you knew about your brother dying in —
MM: My —
CB: Who was it? A relative? A relative of yours.
MM: My son.
CB: Oh, I beg your pardon. In the war.
MM: That was my —
CB: No. No. In the war.
MM: During the war.
CB: Yeah.
MM: No. He was one of our, a chap I joined up with.
CB: Oh the chap you joined up with.
MM: Yes. Yes.
CB: Your friend.
MM: Yes.
CB: Yes. How did you feel about that? How did you feel about that?
MM: Well, you know. Just one of those things that you know we obviously, we you know thought what a shame it was, you know and all that.
CB: Yeah.
MM: But he was one of various friends of ours you know. Now, another boy I was quite friendly with near, I grew up with. You know. Geoff Boyson his name was. He was he was an air gunner. He was killed quite early on in the, you know in the war soon after he joined up. And several others. But you know it was just one of those wartime things you know. You, nothing you could do about it but you were you know very sorry about it all but —
CB: So the four of you who joined together as far as them and their families were concerned how did you keep in touch with what went on with them?
MM: Well, the, one of them, one of the four he, he didn’t. He finished up as, on a, on a navigator’s course but he didn’t pass. And, you know I saw him afterwards and everything but I don’t know what he was doing. What he did really after that. But he didn’t continue as air crew anyway. And the other one who I was [pause] he became a navigator and I was best man at his wedding and everything but he, he didn’t do much. He passed as a navigator but after that I don’t really know what he did. He didn’t do any more flying. But a lot, a lot of them that when the war finished they finished up as they made them in charge of transport or all sorts of different things. I’ve got a, sort of various books there written by one of them. One of them was, “Avenging in the Dark.” it’s called. I don’t know where it is now. He did two tours. He, he died after you know a few years ago now but he’s exactly a year older than me. He did a tour. A tour on Stirlings and a tour on American B17s.
CB: Oh, did he?
MM: Which not many people knew that the RAF used B17s.
CB: For a short time, yes.
MM: Yeah.
[recording paused]
CB: You talked about the different backgrounds of the people you were being trained with.
MM: Yeah.
CB: How well did the different backgrounds gel or did they tend to be —
MM: Well, you know we all mixed together. I mean my, probably my best friend there was ex-university but we never talked about it. I don’t know what he did at university or anything but, but we all got on well together but I know he didn’t get a commission and he said, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘My people will be so disappointed. They’re expecting me to get a — ’ Most of the university boys got a commission you see. But —
CB: But he didn’t.
MM: He didn’t. No.
CB: What, what did, he would end up as what?
MM: Well, he was sergeant.
CB: Yeah.
MM: Same as me, you know. And then of course we all went to I don’t know what happened to him but as I say people made friends with them and then all posted to different places.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.


Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Maurice William Marriott,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 19, 2024,

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