Interview with Christopher George McVickers

Title

Interview with Christopher George McVickers

Description

Christopher ‘Kit’ McVickers was working at the steelworks before he volunteered for aircrew. He trained as a wireless operator and was posted to 218 Squadron based at Woolfox Lodge. His pilot refused to fly and was replaced with a new pilot. The crew found the incident upsetting because they loved their pilot and worried for him. Kit went on to complete his tour and then after a short time out of the RAF he re-joined. He went on to serve overseas including the Indonesian Confrontation. He flew in various aeroplanes including Lincolns, Shackletons and Lockheed Neptunes. He ended his career as a missile controller at RAF Neatishead and Patrigton.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2017-10-06

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

02:08:19 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AMcVickersCG171006, PMcVickersCG1701

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

HB: Right. This is an interview for the International Bomber Command.
CM: Yeah.
HB: Digital Archive between Harry Bartlett, representing the Archive and Christopher George McVickers who was a member of 218 Gold Coast Squadron and served throughout the war in —
CM: Well —
HB: With 218.
CM: ’41.
HB: From 1941 through and served after the war through to 1965.
CM: ’67.
HB: Thank you. I was wrong.
CM: Well —
HB: I have.
CM: Don’t forget I wasn’t flying for the last eighteen months. I was just, I was a missile controller.
HB: Right. Right. So, Kit isn’t it?
CM: Kit.
HB: We call you Kit.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Right. Where you were born, Kit?
CM: Blackhill, County Durham.
HB: Right. And did you go to school at Blackhill?
CM: I’ve no recollection of ever going to school.
HB: No.
CM: I forgot about it. I went to school quite obviously.
HB: Obviously.
CM: Went to school at Benfieldside.
HB: Aye. And, and your first job was in —
CM: Errand boy.
HB: Yeah. In the —
CM: As you did in those days. This was, I’m talking 1935 ’36 you know.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Did up to fourteen.
HB: So you were an errand boy.
CM: I failed the eleven plus.
HB: Right.
CM: But it wasn’t — I had a broken arm during that period and also went to hospital with scarlet fever during that period.
HB: Right.
CM: When I came back to school because obviously the sickness thing. And the eleven plus was pending, I couldn’t do it at the time.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Because I couldn’t sit at the desk like that.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: So I missed all the revision and everything else. So, they all said, you’d have no chance with that.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So I took, I took it privately. By myself.
HB: Oh right.
CM: Just with my arm out of the, just like that. So consequently I didn’t know how to pick my pen up or to write.
HB: Aye.
CM: So I made a mess of it and I failed it.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So there was a lot of talk about it at the time. Jane knows all about this. And my father made such a fuss of this. ‘My son has never had a chance. He’s had no chance. No revision. Nothing at all.’ Sat down with his arm out of his sling and taking an important — so that’s, but at that time they did their very best.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But they couldn’t do anything about it.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. So you just —
CM: I was going to pass the eleven plus but I didn’t due to circumstances.
HB: Yeah. So you became an errand boy.
CM: Yeah. I was. I won’t say I was a very humble errand boy but I was the best errand boy in the locality.
HB: Yes. Absolutely. And you went to the steelworks I understand.
CM: Yes. My father, my father’s brother Kit who was the, as I said was general secretary of the Iron, Steel, British Iron, Steel and Kindred Trades Association. So he had so much power he could say to me, ‘It’s your sixteenth birthday coming up Kit lad.’ Kit lad. He said Kit lad. He said, ‘Just report to the timekeeper and say you’re Uncle Kit sent you,’ he said, ‘You’ll be set on.’ So I thought, My God, this is nepotism but in a fine sort of way but that’s how I got the steelworks.
HB: And that was at, that was in Consett.
CM: Within two years of course, those were ’36 ’37 then the war broke out and instead of being, doing, on the staff of the steelworks which I was they said, ‘Ok. We’re going to need all the best men we’ve got to man, man the furnaces,’ because a lot of the people on the furnaces had been, were Territorials and they’d been called up anyway. So semi promotion was not only I was going to be boy plus beyond boy to the eighteen year old man. Man’s, man’s business. So suddenly I got promotion beyond the dreams of avarice.
HB: Oh lovely.
CM: But the only fault of it was the timekeepers thought these were boys and they’d be boy labourers. Therefore, they must pay boy labourers wages. So about three months later Kit said to me, he said, ‘How are you spending all the extra money Kit lad?’ And all I was getting was, I said, ‘Well, I’m not getting any extra money.’ I’m getting boy’s labourers wages. He said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Just stay here. Don’t move from that place for ten minutes.’ And off he went to see the, not the commanding officer —
HB: No.
CM: The general service manager. You know, the boss. Came back and said, ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘You’ll get all the backpay you get at full men’s wages. Not only that it’s all the people who’ve been doing the same thing as you. They’ll get the same thing. Well, I was the most popular chap in the steelworks. By this time it was quite a lump sum between boy’s labourers wages and men’s labourers wages.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Anyway, I did pretty well because leaving school at fourteen didn’t make much difference. I had the intelligence then in the first place. Which I would, that’s why my father said I would have been a cert for the grammar school.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So I had the grammar school brains without the grammar qualifications.
CM: That’s —
HB: So I did alright.
HB: So that was up to, that was sort of ’37 ’38.
CM: That’s right. Well —
HB: So, so, how, how did you come to join the RAF?
CM: It was 1941 before I joined the Air Force.
HB: Yeah.
CM: By that time I was nineteen.
HB: Yeah. And did you, did you volunteer Kit?
CM: Oh yeah. Yeah. They wouldn’t let you go unless you volunteered.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And you had to be, you had to volunteer for either submarines or aircrew or some other damned dangerous job.
HB: Yeah.
CM: They wouldn’t let you go otherwise. They wouldn’t let you go just to be an ordinary soldier.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: You know.
HB: Yeah.
CM: You’re more important then to be manning the furnaces.
HB: Yeah. So, so it was so you basically you were in a Reserved Occupation.
CM: Oh, that’s right. Yes, I was. Yes.
HB: And then to —
CM: Like Kit. Like Kit himself.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: The boss. And the boss of the steelworks. They were all Reserved Occupation.
HB: Yeah. So you then went from Reserved Occupation and you volunteered for aircrew.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Right.
CM: But if it had been anything other than aircrew they would said no.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Back to where you were more useful.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: Which I was by then. I was an experienced furnaceman. A fourth. There a fourth hand, third hand, second hand and first hand. You know, four men manned the furnaces. So you progressed from fourth hand to first hand but it took you about forty years to do it.
HB: Yeah. Oh yeah.
CM: The SiC turn system. [unclear] was in operation.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. So —
CM: Organised by my Uncle Kit.
HB: Yeah. So you come and join the RAF. And you obviously had to go for your [pause] you obviously had to go for your training. Where did, where did you go for your training?
CM: First three months was Blackpool.
HB: That’s —
CM: General service training.
HB: Yeah.
CM: You know, square bashing.
HB: Was that at Padgate?
CM: No. That was at Blackpool.
HB: At Blackpool.
CM: Yeah. Blackpool.
HB: Right and —
CM: And from there to Yatesbury.
HB: You went to Yatesbury.
CM: Yeah. But, well say Yatesbury. In actual fact it was a branch of Compton Bassett which was the Ground Radio School. Yatesbury was the Air Radio School.
HB: Ah. Right.
CM: You went to the Ground Radio School because we weren’t going straight on to be at the air gunner’s course. There was a bit of backlog so we went in —
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
CM: Graduated as wireless operators at this station. I was supposed to get to Anglesey but there wasn’t flying there.
HB: Oh right.
CM: But they had a small station that was there to get experience of this.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Just general wireless operating which stood me in good stead because by the time we really got to the squadron, you know, I was an experienced wireless op.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Not only just getting practice but doing the real thing.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But that made me a pretty good wireless operator to start with, with the experience I had.
HB: Oh right. So that —
CM: So —
HB: So you progressed through that training.
CM: That’s right.
HB: In ’41.
CM: That’s right. And then I was doing these stints at various units and then eventually I was called back. This time to Yatesbury to do what they called the refresher course. Six weeks.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Refreshers. Getting, you know the last time that we were nineteen year old nincompoops. They said — we’d better give them a bit more of a refresher.
HB: Yeah.
CM: That was good.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Because I found that I learned more in the six week refresher course than I’d learned for the whole three months before. Getting it again. Because by that time —
HB: Yeah.
CM: I knew what I was all about.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I could take it in better. So, as I said I came and graduated as a W/op AG at [pause] we didn’t do any flying at the gunnery school. It was at a ground gunnery school only because at that time, 1943 the losses, the losses were so great they wanted people desperately at the squadrons. And that’s where I got a, I did a —
HB: Yeah.
CM: I was a w/op AG without doing the air gunnery course. But I still wore a gunner’s brevet because I’d been trained as a ground gunner. That’s, they just cut the courses short.
HB: Yeah.
CM: At that time.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So, I graduated in June, 2nd of June 1943 as a w/op ag. Wireless operator/air gunner.
HB: Air gunner. Yeah. Right. So in [pause] you end up in 1943 in, at the OTU at Ossington.
CM: That’s right.
HB: That’s obviously where you start, start your proper flying and wireless operating.
CM: That’s right. With Sergeant Topham.
HB: Yeah.
CM: As my captain. But he couldn’t, when he went to the Lancaster finishing, the Stirling OTU. What did they call it? Heavy Conversion Unit.
HB: Yeah.
CM: When we eventually got there we realised that Johnny Topham, even though he was a wonderful man. He was an ex-police, police sergeant from Newcastle he picked me because I was an ex-errand boy from Consett.
HB: From Durham. County Durham. Yeah.
CM: But he couldn’t fly a — he couldn’t land a Stirling. Stirlings are very very difficult aircraft to land because they’re high up.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I can show you a photograph of a Stirling, you know.
HB: Yeah.
CM: A hell of a, if you fell out the cockpit of a Stirling you’d kill yourself.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It’s so high.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And he couldn’t land the Stirling. Very difficult to judge the distance.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Because of this huge electrical undercarriage and everything.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Very difficult to gauge. Two or three feet as you circle, bang down with a hell of a — break the undercarriage. So you had to be really a skilful, have the feel to start with and Johnny couldn’t do it.
HB: Right.
CM: So he had to go by the board. He went to Lancaster Finishing School and got away with another crew and did a tour of operations.
HB: Right. So, so —
CM: Nevertheless, I went, we got Johnny, with Johnny Lloyd who was an ex-instructor.
HB: Ah right. So that’s, that’s the Lloyd that appears in the operational record.
CM: That’s right.
HB: With you. Oh right. So, it says in your logbook you just, perhaps you can explain it to me it says OTU satellite Bircotes.
CM: That’s right. In each of these OTUs they always had a spare. For diversions and things like that. And sometimes you’d be stationed at the satellite because it was more convenient. To take more, more aircraft in the air. More people going through. So Bircotes was a small grass field right almost just on the edge of Bircotes mining village.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
CM: So but there was a lot of juggling about there with pilots like Johnny Topham I’ve just been telling you about and other people like that. John Lloyd, the other bloke too, he went LMF as well. So it was branded as a kind of a jerky sort of tour.
HB: Yeah.
CM: You went to. You see it followed through the worst thing. I’d be a long time in the squadron with Johnny Lloyd and of course every time he took us he took us fly us he took us, he could fly a Stirling, every time he took us to it he could [unclear] with it. They thought was great. We thought was great actually to have a captain who could fling a Stirling around the sky as if he’d been born and bred to it. But of course the authorities didn’t like it. They wanted to be trained in the orthodox sort of way.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So my passes to these sort of things is varied, many and varied.
HB: Yeah. I don’t know if you can remember this, Kit as just an interesting little note in here. September the 4th 1943. You’re with Sergeant Topham as the pilot.
CM: That’s right. Johnny Topham.
HB: And you’re doing a, you’re in a Wellington.
CM: That’s right.
HB: And you’re doing a cross country test.
CM: Yes.
HB: Routine test. And it says in here that you couldn’t maintain your height.
CM: That’s right.
HB: So what happened?
CM: Crashed at, crashed at Catfoss. Doesn’t it, doesn’t it mention crashing at Catfoss?
HB: Yeah. Yeah. It does.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Yeah. So, so what? You just hit the ground and slid.
CM: Well, we were coming in to land. The communication wasn’t very good. But he had got to the air traffic control that we were coming in to land because he had lost, lost an engine. He couldn’t maintain height. But when we approached the runway there was a Beaufort, a Beaufort. At Catfoss was Beauforts. It was a Coastal Command station.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And he’s on the end of runway. So what can we do? We had to get down because the aircraft wouldn’t make it. It wouldn’t have got off the other side.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Only one engine and that engine was derated.
HB: Ah.
CM: It was derated and therefore it was not, they couldn’t put us off anyway. In spite of the fact the engine was, and we’d lost one altogether they’re going to crash anyway. So at the very end of the runway Johnny was trying to get over the Beaufort that was standing at the end of the runway who obviously wasn’t aware what was coming in behind. Just at the last minute he just kind of boosted over the Beaufort and hit the ground but then that lifted pretty well high up. Then when we landed this time hit too hard, undercarriage split and we crashed in to —
HB: Slid down.
CM: That’s it.
HB: Anybody hurt?
CM: No. Of course with the Wellington when it crashes on the ground you can’t get out.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
CM: Did you know that?
HB: Yeah.
CM: You get in through the nose.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And that goes straight against the ground. So they’d got a screened, a screened navigator basically standing beside me in the astrodome. And he undid, I wouldn’t have known about this, he undid the four screws under the astrodome and just on the approach he knew. He knew what he was doing. He was going to make an escape hatch to start with before we even got down.
HB: Right.
CM: And he put us down. He says, ‘You’re going out there.’ The only snag is that when we hit I was knocked arse over t [laughs] and I was lost. But the navigator he hung on. He was experienced. He hung on and he was the first out. And when the others would have got out the same, the pilot got through the cockpit.
HB: Aye. Aye.
CM: Which took a lot of time to take in. Of course I was hit in the back and I strolled out of the, from underneath the astrodome and I heard the navigator say, ‘The w/ops still in there. The w/ops still in there.’ Because expecting the Wellingtons are notorious burners.
HB: Aye.
CM: Experienced. And then one of the, one of the brave members of my crew got in. I’ve forgotten his name, what it was now. But he was the chap and he hooked me out. He sort of picked me up and pushed me through the astrodome.
HB: Right. That’s —
CM: And I can’t, looking back I can’t ever remember thanking that chap.
HB: No.
CM: I was so shocked that they did that. That Kit McVickers was involved in this crash. I couldn’t get over it. But I can’t ever, I may have done. I think I should have done through my background and training.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But I can’t ever remember saying. Look [pause] I can’t even remember his name.
HB: And that was just a, and that was just a routine training flight.
CM: That’s right. That’s right.
HB: At night. A night time one.
CM: I was very pleased of course that the crew were around me.
HB: Yeah.
CM: The most wonderful men. But then again all the crews I’ve ever had. They were all wonderful men.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. So then you moved on to the Conversion Units at Chedburgh and Wratting Common.
CM: That’s right.
HB: And that, and was that when, that was when you moved to Stirlings was it? From the Wellingtons?
CM: That’s right.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. And so, yeah. Oh, I see what you mean. Yes. Yeah. Topham was, Topham was your, was your pilot nearly all the way through there. And then [pause] it’s alright. I’m just, I’ve turned two pages in your logbook here. At Stradishall is where you joined up or you occasionally flew with Lloyd. What, what was his name? What was his name?
CM: What? Whose? What was —
HB: Lloyd. The pilot. Lloyd. What was his name? His full name.
CM: Just on Stirlings.
HB: No. On, yeah, Stirlings. Yeah.
CM: Well, first of all there was Johnny Topham.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And then Johnny. Johnny Lloyd. Both Johnny’s.
HB: They were both Johnny.
CM: Yeah.
HB: Right. So you, so then you pick up with Johnny Lloyd at Stradishall.
CM: That’s right.
HB: And you, and you do your training there and then you’re posted to 218 Squadron at Woolfox Lodge.
CM: Woolfox Lodge. Yeah. The best station I’ve ever been on.
HB: Right
CM: Right on the Great North Road.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: The billet. Within one minute of leaving my billet I’d be out on the side of the road and the boys — here’s my younger daughter now and her husband are coming. You’re very popular Mr Bartlett. Fred is it? Fred or Jim? First name.
HB: Harry.
CM: Harry. God, I was going to [unclear] yeah. And of course there was always traffic going backwards and forwards.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Military traffic.
HB: Yeah.
CM: You always get that. So I was lucky in that respect. This is, this is Mr Bartlett. Harry Bartlett.
Other: I Know. We spoke on the phone.
HB: Let me just, let me just, let me just stop the tape.
CM: Fiona.
HB: For a second.
CM: Yeah.
[recording paused]
HB: It’s 12.30 and we’re going to restart.
CM: Does that mean that memorable conversation hasn’t been recorded then?
HB: No. Perhaps as well we haven’t recorded that bit of the conversation. Right.
CM: But that, that was part of my life and of course we depend on communications with the girlfriends to keep us going. We looked forward. No one was more popular than the postman at Bomber Command. Letters coming in. Really beautiful. People loved their communications.
HB: Absolutely. Absolutely. Right. Well, we’ll just go back. We’re on 218, Gold Coast Squadron now. And that’s — sorry I’ve, I’ve closed the book and lost the page.
CM: It is bewildering because it isn’t straightforward because losing these people to LMF and one way or another it became a little bit bitty through my tour.
HB: Yes. Yes. That’s [pause] sorry that’s — I’ve, I’ve somehow managed to lose the whole of the Second World War there to closing the pages. A clever thing to do.
CM: I know. It’s easily done.
HB: Right. So, so you’re on, you’re on Stirlings. We’re in 1944 and you’re flying operations then. And you’re doing all the standard.
CM: But don’t forget at that time there’s the preparation for, D-Day was coming and of course although we were on the squadron but we were the new boys. And they didn’t want, with this big invasion going to take place, new boys cluttering up the edges. So consequently we found ourselves as a crew just chucked a little bit to one side because they wanted to get the main force trained. We were just incidental. So the only chance we’d got of getting operational in those days was mine laying. But of course even mine laying went by the board. We were also trained. Trained up to do this raid on the, with 617 Squadron dropping radars. Dropping Window all along the route to indicate a big fleet going to the north of where they actually landed. And 218 and 617 were two squadrons doing that. I wasn’t even on that because we were just on the, we were the new boys.
HB: Yeah.
CM: On the edges.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But with all this activity going on but not being part of it and we were too late to join it.
HB: Yeah.
CM: They didn’t want to be cluttered up because at that time it was getting on for June wasn’t it? If you look at the date it’s getting on for June the 6th
HB: Yeah.
CM: D-Day.
HB: Because, because throughout what you’re talking about. Through, throughout June and [pause] June and July you’re flying bullseye.
CM: Yeah. The bullseye was the last thing before you actually did operations. It just kept, took in all the aspects of bombing.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Without actually being there. Bullseye. It was. There was some navigation, dropping bombs and practice bombs and flares. We did use operational techniques without being actually on operations.
HB: Right. Right.
CM: That sort of thing.
HB: Right. So, we’ve come through June. We’ve got into July. You’re still doing a lot of training flights.
CM: That’s right. Because that was the aftermath. Things were still in a bit of chaos.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I did my first operation there. Sometime around, around about. Generally, on pages you can see war operation. I didn’t even know how to report in my logbook. You never put war operations. You put operations.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Have you seen it yet? Operation. War operation. That was the only one we did in the Stirling.
HB: I’ll have a quick. I’ve got it. War operation.
CM: The one.
HB: That was the 8th of July.
CM: Yeah. So I missed getting the —
HB: Yeah. That was in a Stirling.
CM: That’s right.
HB: With the pilot, with —
CM: Lloyd.
HB: Warrant Officer Lloyd. Johnny Lloyd. Johnny. Johnny Lloyd.
CM: That’s right.
HB: And that was — Attacked FB. Flying —
CM: Flying bomb.
HB: Flying bomb depot.
CM: Yeah.
HB: In daylight.
CM: That’s right.
HB: [unclear] Capel. Yeah.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Right. So that was, that was your first was it?
CM: That’s right.
HB: That was your first op.
CM: Also shortly after that they decided they weren’t going to fly Stirlings anymore so in all the chaos their transferring to Lancasters. You see.
HB: Right [coughs] excuse me. Oh yes. Because by August you’re doing, you’re doing the training on Lancasters. And then we get to September ’44. Then it really starts doesn’t it?
CM: Well, our Johnny went LMF if you read it.
HB: Who? Who went LMF?
CM: Of course that’s not in my logbook because you couldn’t put anything. You didn’t even leave. You just didn’t leave the ground.
HB: No.
CM: You just sat on the side of the runway.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So it’s not, it’s not even listed because why, why should it be? We didn’t get airborne.
HB: No. Who? Who, who actually went LMF?
CM: That you’ll find that in the end Warrant Officer Lloyd ends. No more for him at all. And they get a new one. This one. It took a bit of, it took about three or four weeks to get a new captain who was Hill. Warrant Officer Hill.
HB: Oh yeah that was —
CM: Who was the best pilot.
HB: That was December. Yeah. In the December. Right. And well we’ll, we’ll come on to that because you’re flying with Lloyd in Lancasters. NF 955 and 56. And you’re doing operations at Le Havre. Three. Three times you went over Le Havre.
CM: That’s right.
HB: And —
CM: On the last trip there, when Glenn Miller was — we jettisoned all our bombs in the sea because the target was covered with, covered with, covered with mist.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So you couldn’t drop them because there was civilian people in Le Havre.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: So we jettisoned in the sea and that was the day that Glenn missing, Glenn missing went miller [laughs] Glenn Miller went missing.
HB: Oh right.
CM: Flying to the site of a new concert they were going to have.
HB: Oh right.
CM: He must have been, he must have been the most terrified man in the world to suddenly find you were flying over the North Sea just within a few miles of France and suddenly being bombed by, in the middle of the ocean, the middle of the North Sea by about five hundred bombers.
HB: Oh.
CM: The jettison area couldn’t, they couldn’t, they could have jettisoned by the city but civilians were there.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It was a terrible waste. And he must have thought what on earth is happening here?
HB: And that was, that was —
CM: The gunner from 90 squadron at Tuddenham he saw, he saw this little plane. Pioneer or some —
HB: Yeah.
CM: He saw it actually go in.
HB: Did he?
CM: So there’s no doubt about that.
HB: Yeah.
CM: The September. The bombing.
HB: Because that’s, that’s 5th 6th 8th of September. Yeah. And then you did an operation to Frankfurt.
CM: That’s right. A night.
HB: A night operation.
CM: We lost four aircraft on one flight on that raid. In that incident. Because it’s a city you see.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. And that was, that was Lloyd flying that. And then you did an attack. Oh, 28th of September you did an attack on Calais.
CM: That’s right.
HB: A German garrison.
CM: We could, we could actually see the airfield from where we were bombing it. And then we lost three aircraft on that raid. The Calais raid.
HB: Yeah.
CM: The fire. The 88 millimetre fire from, from Calais was so accurate that the aircraft was shot down within sight of their base.
HB: Oh no. Oh dear.
CM: So at Calais is hardly worth anyone going actually.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Just shoot the bombs from the guns from Dover.
HB: Right.
CM: But I remember that as being very very fraught because it was a small target and there were five hundred bombers on it. It was absolutely bloody dangerous.
HB: So, I mean your last — it says in here your last operation with Johnny Lloyd was Wilhelmshaven.
CM: Wilhelmshaven. That’s right.
HB: Yeah. That was 5th of October. And then you did, you did some navigational training which was abandoned.
CM: Who was flying on the navigational training?
HB: That was Lloyd. That was Johnny Lloyd.
CM: Oh that’s —
HB: That was an abandoned exercise.
CM: Yeah.
HB: And then —
CM: Now, one of those trips wouldn’t be in my logbook because we didn’t get airborne but he suddenly decided he wasn’t going to go.
HB: Right. Because then you’ve got a you see where they’ve cut the logbook to fit this folder they’ve lost the actual first day. So it’s really early on in December and you’ve got Johnny Lloyd flying on a familiarisation with a Lancaster. Circuits and landings.
CM: That’s right. So it was only, it was when I was on Lancasters that we did the aborted trip on the —
HB: Yeah.
CM: He went LMF.
HB: And then —
CM: So —
HB: And then within a couple of days you’ve got WO, Warrant Officer Hill.
CM: That’s right. Well, there you are you see. One didn’t fly and then you’ve got to get a new captain. Still, we never saw Johnny Lloyd again.
HB: Yeah.
CM: He just vanished off the face of the earth.
HB: Yeah.
CM: That’s what I say. All these things —
HB: On the time, on the date.
CM: All these things of the crew were hushed up.
HB: Yeah.
CM: You don’t hear very much about but mostly it was never put down in black and white.
HB: On the day that, on the day that as you described it he went LMF. What, what happened on that day? Can you remember?
CM: Well, taking off as I believe about 2 o’clock on the afternoon. That’s right. And as I said the 149 Squadron which was with us at Methwold were coming on to the peri track this way and we, 218 were coming around this way. So the peri track was filled with aircraft converged on the runway here. Right. Well, so when we went into the runway on the right hand side we were blocking the runway. No one could take off. Then we started to backtrack slowly. Taff in such a state by the door I can’t imagine what it was like. Silence in the crew. Turns around in front of all this other aircraft, took aim [unclear] and off he went again. Exactly the same thing. [unclear] went straight in there and of course the commanding officer in the background weren’t having that. So anyway straight in. They came in the jeep at the foot of our aircraft and straight away, barking. Couldn’t move. And then, ‘Follow me.’
HB: Yeah.
CM: Before the jeep went back to dispersal.
HB: So, he was, he was sitting in the pilot’s seat.
CM: That’s right. He was —
HB: But he just couldn’t take off.
CM: That’s right. He just wouldn’t take off.
HB: He wouldn’t take off.
CM: He said he could but he didn’t want to. He realised I think that Good God, I’m going to be ruddy be killed on this operation. I’m not sufficiently good. I’ve overstretched my capabilities. And I’m not really, I should have taken more notice of [pause] I think he was worried he was going to make a mess of things.
HB: Right.
CM: This turmoil inside for some reason. I don’t know. Presumably —
HB: So you got back. You go in. You got back to this dispersal.
CM: We got back. He stayed in his seat. He says.
HB: Yeah.
CM: One of the commanding officers came running at the aircraft. He says, ‘Stay where you are. Stay where you are.’ And then he says, ‘Don’t anyone move. Leave the captain there and come out now.’ Stop what you’re doing. Just drop it. Come out.’ So we all trooped out and they had a whatsthename, jeep waggon came out. A little bus to take us back. And one of us said, ‘What’s going to happen to Johnny?’ You know. Because he was very popular you see. We loved him. Johnny Lloyd. He said, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘He’ll be taken care of. Don’t you worry about that. Johnny’ll be taken care of.’ And we found out later that he’d ditched, within twenty four hours he’d left the station.
HB: Right.
CM: And within, ooh a few weeks we found he’d been turfed out of the Air Force.
HB: Right.
CM: He then went back to his place where he lived and he became destitute. That’s the story we found out later and he was ashamed of himself. Humiliated. His status as a captain and as a solicitor, it was the damned report, it was terrible. But then we found he’d, there’s a rumour that his family had gone off and sent him to Australia and he was doing his training as a solicitor. But the booze. The booze also took part in it this time.
HB: Oh right.
CM: And nothing went in there. In the erratic, an erratic state, to doomsday if you like. Just died in Australia.
HB: Oh, that’s a shame.
CM: I’ve still got — he gave me the book of poetry I’ve got down there somewhere. With his name in the front.
HB: Right.
CM: Johnny Lloyd. He was a very clever man. During the time we were there, the time we were hanging about. I’ll tell you about it. A chap who had been sent on leave to, to Ireland was court martialled and they want someone to take the case. And so Johnny said, ‘I’ve got nothing to do. I’ll take it.’ And he’d been sent on indefinite leave on this unit [unclear] To an escort unit. And he was sent on leave and they’d forgotten about him. They just kept on sending him a renewal of his leave and his money every fortnight. So of course he thought, well, the money’s coming in I must be on, still on indefinite leave.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Well, it lasted about two years this.
HB: Oh no.
CM: So anyway Johnny was, to cut an awful long story short he was, Johnny, he was a very good solicitor. Very good [unclear] He had the gift of the gab. A Welshman but a poetic Welshman.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And a solicitor. And he got, he got the chap off. It was the talk of the command.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Of 3 Group for a long time.
HB: Obviously, a well —
CM: Eloquent and [unclear] Put on a defence that they couldn’t penetrate. What could the man do? He was living in the neutral part of the, though he wasn’t in the war. He was there getting his regular payments and money and free meals and ration cards.
HB: Oh dear. Yeah.
CM: So he said what could he do? He must have been sickened. ‘I’m not doing the right thing but what can I do? If I go back now they’ll probably court martial me.’ Which is what they did when he did get back.
HB: So, Johnny. Johnny —
CM: So there you are. That’s an incidental.
HB: Yeah. No. No. No. It’s important. Johnny. Johnny. Johnny Lloyd was a popular man.
CM: Oh yes.
HB: Did you ever see him after the war?
CM: No.
HB: At all.
CM: Shirley and I —
HB: That was it.
CM: My wife and I went to this place of birth and every time we mentioned the word Johnny Lloyd everyone clamped up.
HB: Oh right.
CM: We got, we got the one chap who was at the boozer. The boozer. [unclear]
HB: Yeah.
CM: He knew Johnny and said he was a fine man but he said he didn’t get a job and he could be found on any any day any time on the street ends, ‘Can you give me sixpence for a cup of tea?’ But that’s a big blow to me as a chap who loved him. And Shirley who didn’t know, didn’t know him but to come across that sort of situation.
HB: Sad.
CM: So he went to Australia. Drank himself to death.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I did go to his house because I think one of his relatives still lived there but they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t talk to us.
HB: No.
CM: And Shirley, my wife could charm the birds out of a tree but even her eloquence couldn’t do it.
HB: No. That’s a shame.
CM: So what I did, my duty by him. I wanted to find out what really happened but I failed. Well, I knew that what the end was.
HB: You say, you say failed. I think you probably did your best.
CM: I can take you and show you a photograph of Johnny Lloyd. My script is, my computer has been u/s but I’ve got a photograph of my crew. The crew I finished my tour with and the one that was with Hill. But this one here was done on the Stirlings when he first came to the squadron.
HB: Right.
CM: And it’s a very good photograph which was of Johnny —
HB: That’s, that’s alright. We’ll grab the, grab the photo in a minute.
CM: In a minute.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: Oh, I was going to turn the computer on. You know when it comes up —
HB: Don’t, don’t worry about that.
CM: Ok.
HB: We’ll sort that. We’ll sort that in a minute because what I wanted, what I wanted to do was was to get through. You’ve got —
CM: Operations.
HB: You’ve now got —
CM: Operations. Yeah.
HB: Another pilot —
CM: Yes.
HB: That you’re getting to know and learn. Now, you said earlier to me before we started the recording he was an experienced pilot.
CM: Johnny. Yes. He was at, oh for two years at an airfield. An Advanced Flying Unit.
HB: Right.
CM: Flying Ansons.
HB: This was Hill?
CM: That’s right. That was Johnny. But that’s, that’s appeared in the book of course, but he was a well-known pilot.
HB: Right.
CM: He was an exhibitionist through the routine. Very good at it.
HB: Oh right.
CM: But he wasn’t meant for operations. Johnny. He was poetic. He’s like that famous Dylan Thomas.
HB: Sorry. That’s Johnny. That’s Johnny Lloyd is it?
Other: We’ve moved on.
HB: Yeah.
Other: From Johnny Lloyd, dad.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: Eh?
Other: We’ve moved on from Johnny Lloyd.
CM: We’ve —
HB: Right. So, it’s Johnny. So, so Hill.
CM: Yeah. Well, Hill —
HB: We’ve now got him as the pilot.
CM: He was an experienced pilot from the Far East err the Middle East.
HB: The Middle East.
CM: He’d had a tour of operations on Wellingtons.
HB: Right.
CM: So, when we got him —
HB: What was, what was his first name, Kit?
CM: First name? Bill.
HB: Bill. So that’s Bill Hill.
CM: That’s right.
HB: And he’d come to you from the Middle East.
CM: Yeah. He’d been in this country some time actually.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But he wasn’t trained on Lancasters and when we got him he was just an ex-Wellington pilot. And then we went to, through the, he did the Lancaster finishing course there.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Change of direction with Bill Hill. Then back with, back to my old squadron again.
HB: And —
CM: 218.
HB: And really really quite quickly he’s in to an operation.
CM: That’s right. Because he was experienced.
HB: On New Year’s Eve 1944 to Vohwinkel, in the Ruhr Valley.
CM: Yeah.
HB: Wow. And you obviously, and then, and then you had to go, you did that in the daytime and then you had to go back and do it in the night time.
CM: That’s right. I remember that one.
HB: Blimey. And that, that’s yeah. You’re then really then in to doing quite a few of these operations.
CM: That’s right. That’s when, that’s when my tour really started, because —
HB: Yeah.
CM: Johnny sorry Bill Hill was determined to get through a tour. He wanted to do it as quickly as possible.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: Yeah. He was a good.
HB: Well, he’s got a good team.
CM: He was an excellent pilot. He was an ex-deputy headmaster and he was only about twenty five.
HB: Oh right.
CM: He was a clever lad.
HB: Yeah.
CM: He used to do comic turns as well on the stage.
HB: Did he?
CM: Oh yes. And in the air. He keep coming back from operations Johnny err Bill, Bill Hill was witty with us all together. And also on Dresden I remember he said to me, he said, ‘Wireless operator.’ I said, ‘Yes, captain.’ He said, ‘Do you want to see a, see a sight you’ll never ever see in your life ever again?’ I said, ‘Well, yes.’ He said, ‘Well, just get in the astrodome and have a look down. Down stairs. Dresden.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It was too. I’ve never seen anything. The first thing I saw when I was in the astrodome was smoke. Something you hadn’t even heard of. Smoke from the burning city coming past the aeroplane. But you could see the [unclear] of streets burning ferociously.
HB: What height would you be at there?
CM: Oh about twenty thousand feet.
HB: About twenty. Yeah.
CM: It varied twenty, between twenty one, twenty two, twenty three. It could be fifty feet.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It was so that you wouldn’t — to lessen the risk of collision over the target.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Because all the aircraft coming in on the markers from all directions, you know. Coming in.
HB: So you were at twenty thousand feet and you’re actually flying through the smoke.
CM: Yeah.
HB: From Dresden.
CM: So the smoke was so intense. The wooden mostly, part of the really beautiful buildings the wooden buildings were quite inflammable and they were set alight. And there it was.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Start the whole firestorm as they called it.
HB: Can you, can you remember what they told you on the briefing for Dresden?
CM: Yes. They said there were people in the town, the troops concentrating in the town. They said, not only that but not only ball bearings but some things very important mechanisms to further the war.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Radar and all sorts of things they had scattered all over Dresden. All sorts of other things. Now, our enemies are saying well it was a quiet town. It didn’t do anything at all. It wasn’t. It was very well armed but they didn’t have any, this late in the war all the guns had been taken away because the Germans thought oh they’re going to leave Dresden alone because it’s a wonderful city. They’re good that they, because that business with Churchill started off and Dresden, Chemnitz and Berlin and all these taken at this, we wrecked them all. Dresden was wrecked in one raid.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Eight hundred and fifty bombers.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Just saturation. It’s in there I think, is Dresden.
HB: Yes, yes. Yeah. I’ve got —
CM: Nine hours fifty minutes.
HB: Yeah. It’s got, it’s got marked in your book here. Dresden. Saturation raid. And Chemnitz.
CM: Yeah. Next day there wasn’t such a good raid because the weather was bad.
HB: Yeah. I’m just going to check because I think. I’m not sure about the batteries on this. Oh no, we’re alright for a minute.
Other: Dad.
HB: Alright for a minute.
Other: Would you like me to make you another cup of tea?
CM: Ask Mr, Mr Hartley. I presume you’d prefer to be called Harry.
HB: Harry.
CM: Harry.
Other: Harry would you like —
CM: In Geordieland you would be called called Harry Hartley.
Other: Daddy, would you like me to make you a cup of tea?
CM: Yes, dear. It’ll freshen up the one that.
Other: I’ll make you a fresh one.
HB: Right. So —
CM: I told you that was the thoughtful one, didn’t I?
HB: Yeah.
CM: She’s the more thoughtful one.
Other: Dad faces us off against each other as you’ve probably realised.
HB: Oh, I gathered that [laughs]
Other: Yeah.
HB: Right. So, yeah. So, we’ve got, he’s certainly rattling through the operations here because you’re, you’re talking for, this is February 1st 3rd 9th 13th 14th 18th 19th 23.
CM: That’s right. That was —
HB: And that’s operations every two or three days isn’t it?
CM: That’s right. That’s right.
HB: Right. And and that, so I mean that’s how it goes through to April ’45.
CM: Well, there you can see the tour, the tour expired citation. Can you see that? Tour expired.
HB: Hang on.
CM: It would be in the last few pages of my logbook.
HB: Yeah. First operational tour completed.
CM: That’s it.
HB: 9th of April.
CM: Just got to put a tour in before the end of the war.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Because I was still, I was very young you know Mr Hartley. I was always, I wasn’t a kind of a middle aged old bastard. [laughs]
HB: Oh no. No.
CM: I was quite youthful.
HB: Oh no [laughs] I mean, I mean you were born in ’22.
CM: Yeah.
HB: And you’ve gone in there at what? Nineteen? Twenty?
CM: That’s right. That’s right. Nineteen.
HB: Nineteen. Right. And, and —
CM: I joined —
HB: Then you finished, you finished your tour there and —
CM: Kiel. It’s on the top of the —
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Your last one was Kiel.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Naval, the naval arsenal.
CM: And on that raid there’s the battle cruiser, German pocket battleship. The last one that was [unclear]. We sank that on that raid. It was moored in the Kiel Harbour. It was moored at the side of the quay and it turned over.
HB: Oh right.
CM: As well as other members of the Bomber Command which were much more [unclear] than me. They sank the Tirpitz in Trondheim harbour. It wasn’t me that did that.
HB: No
CM: But Bomber Command sank more battleships than the Navy.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It’s incredible that when you think of it.
HB: That’s amazing that. Right. So we’ve got — we’ve now gone to 90 Squadron at Tuddenham.
CM: Tuddenham. Yeah.
HB: But before we get there. Right. We were talking about girlfriends earlier on.
CM: Girlfriends. Not Tuddenham.
HB: We were talking about entertainment and dances and all this sort of business and this carry on.
CM: Scandals.
HB: No. No. No. I’m not after, I’m not after scandals.
CM: They’re not scandals.
HB: I’m not after scandals at all but if you want to tell me any scandals I’ll talk to you.
CM: There weren’t many scandals.
HB: But did you actually, looking at the picture on the wall you obviously met your wife during the war.
CM: No.
HB: No.
CM: No. I married my wife just after the war. My first wife.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And —
HB: And did you meet, did you meet your wife during the war?
CM: No. She was a girlfriend from home.
CM: Right.
HB: Jean Smith. Unfortunately, we were married for about, only about three or four months she became pregnant.
HB: Right.
CM: And about a few months after that she had a miscarriage and she had, she contracted tuberculosis. Galloping tuberculosis and within six weeks we knew she was going to die.
HB: Oh no.
CM: Just this, this galloping thing. You couldn’t. Just a few months after that they found a cure for tuberculosis. Even this severe one that Jean had. But it was too late for her.
HB: Was that when —
CM: She went down just like I’m doing, it happened to have, no matter what I eat I can still lose weight.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Just lose weight. But that’s the same with poor Jean no matter what she ate she turned in to a shadow and just faded away.
HB: And what, when was that? What —?
CM: That was in ’46 I think, really.
HB: 1946.
CM: Because I’d, I’d left the Air Force by then but I didn’t stay left because as soon as Jean died I thought well what the hell do I do? Going back to the steelworks. Three shift system, you know. I think I’ll go back there. I was very happy in the Air Force. So my father said well Jean I’m afraid that we weren’t going to keep her long like. So I wasn’t long in the when I left the Air Force I was sent home, you know, and she just died. So she died and I wasn’t the sort of man to hang around of course and I started going out before I met Shirley. My beloved wife. My really beloved wife. Married fifty seven years. Two children. And a beauty. Look at that photograph on your right hand side.
HB: Oh yes. I’ve, I’ve already seen the photos. Yeah. Yeah.
CM: And you see that on the wedding photograph I haven’t got the common sense to hold my wife by the hand. I said why couldn’t it, to anybody that sees that now, ‘Oh, you made a mess of that Kit lad.’ I said, ‘Why didn’t the photographer say for Christ’s sake. Hold your wife by the hand.’ Not hold your belt by the hand. But they didn’t. Now, if I’d been a photographer I think I would have said, ‘Hold your wife by the hand.’ Certain things, certain trades must do that’s to make sure that the pose is right.
HB: Yeah.
CM: However, it’s nice. You see my wife. She was only eighteen then.
HB: So where did you meet Shirley?
CM: Grimsby. I was stationed at Binbrook.
HB: Right.
CM: I figured out that for over five years I was in two Bomber Command squadrons.
HB: Right.
CM: 12 and 101.
HB: Right. Right. So, so when we’re, so let’s just go back to 218. You’re in 218.
CM: Yeah. Yeah.
HB: You’re based at Woolfox Lodge.
CM: Well, when tour expired the crew left. All the crew. Leaving me behind because I had just been promoted to warrant officer. They wanted a warrant officer to take charge of the parachute section. So they left me behind. And they said also, ‘You’ve done a few trips less than your crew. Therefore, you’ll be available for a spare.’
HB: Right.
CM: So I was, so I was a new warrant officer and I was still on the squadron.
HB: Right.
CM: Which had the parachute section.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But I had to pack that in deliberately because the chap in charge of the parachute section, genuinely head of the section itself came to me. He said, ‘Mac,’ I didn’t let the fact that he’d missed out the sir because I was a warrant officer by then. And he said, ‘They’ve got fifty parachutes not on inventory.’ Right. I said, ‘Yes,’ knowing what was coming. He said, ‘Well, if they’re not on the inventory they don’t belong to anyone.’ He said, ‘We could make ourselves a little bit of money here.’ I got a cold, I remember feeling a cold feeling. I’ve gone through a tour of operations. I’ve risked my life and I never knew, knowing the McVickers luck I was going to be found out before I could say one word I was going to be found out. So, I said, ‘No. I want nothing to do with this,’ and I went straight from there to my commanding officer at the station, not the station commander the one that’s responsible, and said, ‘I have a problem sir.’ He said, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘It’s very personal sir but it’s taken me a long time to think about this.’ He said, ‘You’ve got, I think you’ve told me this you’d better get on with it. And I said, ‘My flight sergeant, he wants me to do a, about the inventory.’ I said, ‘I want absolutely nothing to do with it.’ He said, ‘You’ve done the right thing.’
HB: Right. Yeah.
CM: ‘You’ve done the right thing.’ And all that’s happened as far as I know he was just taken off. Taken off. Was posted.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So I’ve shared this because I felt very guilty about this. He said, ‘It’s your duty to do that.’ So that was a bit of guilt in my life.
HB: Yeah.
CM: However, it is. It is. It was the right thing to do. If I’d been involved I would have lost my whole career on operations. All the medals would have [makes noise] you know.
HB: Yeah. Everything.
CM: So anyway I I don’t know whether that would figure in your synopsis but they’d say, ‘Was he a nice chap?’ ‘No, in all my years he was a bastard after all.’ You know.
HB: No. No. No. No. What, I mean what obviously what you’re now telling me is, is this is, this is at the end of the war and there’s big, obviously a big change of attitudes.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Now. So, and and you’re posted out to Conversion Units and you, and you eventually end up at Binbrook.
CM: That’s right.
HB: As a warrant officer there. And I mean there you’ve, it’s still very intensive. Even in 1947 you’re still flying. Flying an awful lot.
CM: Oh, that’s right. Flying was there. That was still a bomber squadron.
HB: Yeah.
CM: In fact I used to say to Mike Chalk my friend, he said, ‘We’re the only two buggers that, we’re the only two wireless operators left on the squadron.’ I said, ‘We can’t be operational.’ Then the Korean war came up and we had, we had not only Binbrook but all the crews there were no more than you could purpose with four or five to crew. Couldn’t make up proper crews.
HB: Oh right.
CM: So, by this time they started the new ranks. I don’t know if you know anything about this. Because this is something that should be very interesting to you. What happened immediately after the war. If you look at this photograph here.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Take a little look standing up, Harry.
HB: Oh no, I’ve seen that one.
CM: And what do you see on the arm of your favourite flight sergeant? By that time ranks had changed and I was, can you see that rank?
HB: That’s. Is that, is that the change to master.
CM: No. That was the master. That was signaller 1. Three. Three stars and a crown.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Now, that was the same as flight sergeant. I’d been reduced to flight sergeant anyway so they reduced me even further to signaller 1 which was the same as a flight sergeant. So anyway, it resulted in a mass exodus.
HB: Right.
CM: Of people. Some of the officers had been given a commission by an interview and there they were walking around. Didn’t touch them at all.
HB: Right.
CM: So people got fed up with this because there were still more NCOs than officers and of course they were leaving in droves. The next we knew that’d, just over two years and the next thing we knew was revert. Take the stripes off, take the stars off, revert back to whatsaname, whatever that indicated. And in my case it was flight sergeant so put flight sergeant stripes on. Same as there.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: So —
HB: Got one there.
CM: Not many people know about this.
HB: No. No.
CM: At the same time it’s a very important aspect of Bomber Command after the war. Not only Bomber Command but all the Commands.
HB: Yeah. Yes.
CM: All aircrew. The NCOs were given a kick in the teeth and shat on from a very great height.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: Now, they recognise that there’s been that but they promised there’d be recognised, all that they should be kept the aircrew separate from the sergeants but it was good that way but what we sort of did was the complete dislocation of all the squadrons of Bomber Command. They didn’t have, they didn’t have a Bomber Command.
HB: No.
CM: By this. Not very much talked about that but I can show you letters I’ve written there.
HB: Yeah.
CM: About this.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And I think this is relevant.
HB: It is. It’s all, it’s all relevant. It is all relevant.
CM: You didn’t know about this and yet you’re an interviewer.
HB: No.
CM: You can see it there.
HB: No.
CM: Passed the —
HB: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
CM: Because it was only because I had certificate that I was married. Jean. You’ve seen Jane.
HB: Yeah.
CM: My other daughter. That’s her as a baby. That’s in —
HB: So that so that, that’s occurring as the Korean war’s —
CM: That’s right.
HB: Brewing up.
CM: Though Bomber Command wasn’t involved at all in the Korean war.
HB: No. No.
CM: Because they couldn’t be. They didn’t have enough crews. Now, you see that must have hit the people who organised this. It must have hit them with a hell of a wallop. They were responsible for the absolute the demolition of one of the most powerful weapons known to history. The Bomber Command was as you know.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Far bigger than the American Air Force in, in its numbers. And don’t forget they made big mistakes, the Americans at the beginning of the war. They thought they could fight the fighters off. They couldn’t.
HB: No.
CM: They shot a lot of fighters down but they couldn’t fight them off.
HB: No.
CM: They lost fifty aircraft, fifty each on two of the ball bearing plants at Schweinfurt.
HB: Yeah.
CM: That’s a hundred and twenty aircraft. No. A hundred aircraft. A hundred aircraft.
HB: Yeah.
CM: These B17s. There were only them that you can recognise and of course Bomber Command and I think my God and they introduced this new rank and they all kept going out in droves and asking to get premature release. We’ve destroyed a really good Air Force. That, that is never talked about.
HB: No.
CM: But I talked about it.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I wrote a letter [unclear] a student.
HB: Yeah.
CM: You’ll have to come again. I put it all down in black and white.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And I’ll show it to you. You might, you might create a, Mr Hartley what’s known as a coup.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: Because nobody else knows about it.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: And I’ll show you something and you might think after all you must have the better interviewing technique. You speak with posh language but you didn’t get this information.
HB: No. No. That’s true.
CM: You flashed a photograph of me out in my, in my James Bond days. I was auditioning for James Bond [laughs] You see.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Things are made in —
HB: Was this occurring after you’d gone to the instructor’s school? Or before?
CM: It was, it happened if you look at my logbook it says it should be ‘47.
HB: So I’ve got you going, I’ve got you going to Scampton in July ’47.
CM: That’s right. I was on detachment there.
HB: On Lincolns.
CM: That’s right. Because all the Bomber Command was on, at Binbrook.
CM: All Lincolns.
HB: Yeah.
CM: All Lincolns.
HB: And so was, so the time you’re talking about when they decimated the NCO level.
CM: Yeah. Yeah.
HB: Is that before ’47 or after?
CM: Well, it was 1948.
HB: Oh right. Right.
CM: I was married in ’48 look at the bit.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Even though I’m wearing a, what’s, look carefully a warrant officer’s uniform right. If you look carefully you can just see the badge.
HB: Yeah. With the circle.
CM: But we were allowed to wear the officer’s uniform because at that time there was a hell of a shortage of uniforms.
HB: Oh right.
CM: And just keep on wearing it until as soon as we get new uniform. So there we were parading around as warrant officers even though we weren’t. And eventually we had to have the warrant officers tapes off and put the whatsanames on, but that was very humiliating you know Harry.
HB: Yes, I can imagine.
CM: And just you remember especially the warrant officer suddenly got bumped to sergeant’s stripes. Stars instead of stripes.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It was just humiliating in the extreme. There was a tremendous amount of ill hateful feeling about it in the squadrons. They detested the officer who kept the, nobody who kept their own rank.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And at the same, they graduated as officers, they graduated as, but the same, exactly the same training. Exactly the same job.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Yet they were left alone.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And that of course that led to tremendous resentment.
HB: Yes, I can imagine.
CM: But regardless of what happens in this interview I will dig out certainly this for your own personal viewing.
HB: Yeah. Oh, I’d be, no, I’d be, I’ll be interested in that. I’ve got a — I don’t know if I’ve read this right. I’ve got you here in your book. In your, in your logbook at number 100 Torpedo Bomber Squadron, Hemswell.
CM: That’s right. That was the squadron when I came and joined the Air Force. I was posted to Hemswell. Hemswell was.
HB: Is this when you, when you rejoined?
CM: When I rejoined the Air Force.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Yeah.
HB: And that was August. I’ve got August ‘47.
CM: ’47 would be.
HB: August ‘47 for that. Yeah. And then it goes. And then it goes through. Were you instructing there?
CM: No. At Binbrook, no. I was a —
HB: No. At Hemswell.
CM: At Hemswell.
HB: With the torpedo bombers.
CM: That was a detachment, I think. No. That was at, this was what was the squadron name at the top?
HB: It just says number 100 torpedo bomber squadron.
CM: That’s right. That’s right. That’s Hemswell.
HB: At Hemswell.
CM: I was just attached to the squadron. Binbrook was being resurfaced.
HB: Ah right. Right. That — yeah. Yeah. Because then you returned to Binbrook.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Yeah. I see what you, I see what that, I see what that does. So you’ve come through to ‘47 ’48.
CM: That’s right. Yeah.
HB: And you’ve gone to 12, 12 Squadron.
CM: 12. That’s right. Famous squadron.
HB: At Binbrook.
CM: VCs. The VCs were the two men who sacrificed their lives at the bridges at the invasion. You know, they bombed the bridges and both were killed, attacking success of one of those bridges and they both got VCs. But they’re all [unclear] the Fairey Battle this was.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
CM: At the beginning of the war. But the airman that was flying with them wasn’t a sergeant. He was an LAC so the thing is this. The argument that he was an LAC. Therefore he wasn’t entitled to a DFC but as a LAC he wasn’t entitled but also quite obviously to the DFM which the two sergeants had got. The VC, sorry the two sergeants had got. He got nothing, but the LAC was doing the exactly the same job as the pilot and the navigator who got, two got VCs. They couldn’t leave him out and isolate as if he’d done nothing. God knows what acts of bravery he would have done, but they didn’t. They just a little kind of, little bit of [unclear ] but they got VCs and he got nothing at all. That was quite a bit, that was at 12 Squadron. That was a squadron to which I belonged at that time. The chap called Norris [unclear] and on Pampas and Seaweeds.
HB: Yeah.
CM: We did, did a lot of Mousetrap trips on those squadrons
HB: Yeah. I noticed. I noticed that in your —
CM: Pampas.
HB: Operation Pampas. Yeah.
CM: And on one of those trips we met the Queen Mary in 17 degrees west and Nogger said, he said to the crew, ‘This a chance I wouldn’t miss for a thousand years.’ A thousand pounds. I’m not sure which. I think it was pounds. And we said, ‘Yes, Nogger,’ because we were all in awe of him. He was a skilful pilot.
HB: Which, which was he?
CM: We did an exhibition of flying to the occupants of the Queen Mary that they’d never seen in their life. Much better than you’d ever see in the —
HB: Yeah.
CM: He did everything.
HB: Was his name Norris?
CM: Nogger Norris. Yeah.
HB: Nogger Norris.
CM: Yeah.
HB: Right. Yeah.
CM: And I took a photograph of the Queen Mary but it was taken with my father in law’s box brownie camera. So, it was, even though I was pretty close to it it looks as though it was farther away.
HB: Yes. Yeah.
CM: But when we took the photograph with one of these alongside, Giles the cartoonist was on board the Queen Mary. Right.
HB: Right.
CM: He was on board.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And he, and Giles saw this, he saw this going on. This kind of shooting up. And he drew a cartoon of it and on the cartoon you could see the Lincoln aircraft 17 degrees west shooting up very close to the Queen Mary. In caricature. In drawing.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: So, we didn’t know about that. So when we got back after all this shooting up and God knows what. I lost my trailing aerial as well. Is it in the book?
HB: There’s a thing in here. It just says trailing aerial struck by lightning.
CM: Do you see how many hours it is?
HB: Eight hours thirty five.
CM: Eight hours.
HB: Yeah.
CM: All through the Pampas you’ll see they’re all about six hours. So, the captain —
HB: Yeah.
CM: We came back late wanted to know exactly where we’d been for the two hours that’s missing. So Nogger Norris knowing this, before we landed said, ‘Don’t forget chaps. We haven’t seen the Queen Mary. Ok.’ So, when we landed we kept our buzz. A good crew. We kept it mum.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So the first thing that happened was the flight sergeant in charge of the ground staff got Nogger and [unclear] over to see the where my aerial left the aircraft. And my aerial left the aircraft, came down the, fair lead from the reel, down where we sat through the hole in the bottom of the aircraft and about three or four inches down at the fuselage it had welded itself onto the side of the fuselage about nine feet. It was nine feet along the fuselage, just up the fuselage, welded and beyond that there was a little nidge of about an inch and a half sticking up and it was beautifully rounded at the end. And the flight sergeant said to Nogger and I, he said, ‘That takes a bit of power to do that.’ To do that.
CM: Yeah.
CM: It takes a few volts to do that.’
CM: Yeah.
CM: I thought, Christ almighty all those millions of volts within two feet of my Charlie.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.
CM: So, anyway it was interesting at nine o’clock the following Monday morning. This was a Friday night, Friday morning. The commanding officer [unclear] there, Nogger there and me here and the other navigator Chuck. I can’t remember his name now. It’s a terrible thing. Those names would have come easily six years ago.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
CM: And just as he started I was right though about these missing two hours. And suddenly the shutters opened at the back and the adjutant popped his head through. He said, ‘Sir. Sir.’ He said, ‘Adj, I told I wasn’t to be disturbed for the next, the next hour.’ He said, ‘I think you’d like being disturbed by what I’ve got to show you.’ So, he said, ‘What is it? What is it?’ So the Adj took something in from the fellas and said give it to the commanding officer. And [unclear] remembered stern faced [pause] And I saw his face changing from stern to kind of a little smile at the edge of his face. And eventually [laughs]
HB: Yeah.
CM: He said, ‘Nogger,’ gave him the papers, ‘I know exactly what you were doing for those two hours.’ And of course it ended up with laughter. Because no harm had been done.
HB: No.
CM: And there was the, Giles with his family aboard the, the Queen Mary and on the side of the ship you see a beautiful sketch of the our aircraft. Can you believe that?
HB: I can. I can believe it.
CM: I cut it out, put it in my logbook and it rotted for the next twenty years. and just rotted away. And when we decided to put these down, these things down in print I realised that I didn’t have this. Now all my family, all my, have you seen them, have you seen them?
HB: Yeah.
CM: And others as well have tried to get copies of that. It’s not, it’s not to be got. Even the people getting back, the back, the numbers of the aircraft, of the Daily Express.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: It wasn’t there either. But Fiona looked up my career in the Air Force list as a warrant officer in the air force list she found it wasn’t listed and it said not to be released until 2022.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. It’ll be, it’ll be in the Official Secrets Act.
CM: So, so because that’s nothing to do with the Queen Mary. It also stopped me from having any contact with other things attached to that.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So that I didn’t get it. Peter particularly at the museum museum archives but they couldn’t get that.
HB: No.
CM: But somebody’s got it. So I couldn’t make a proper story about it because I didn’t have the proof. Because people would say, ‘Oh yes, I’ve seen that. Oh yes. Indeed.’
HB: Yeah.
CM: But that was it.
HB: So then.
CM: I’m listening.
HB: We get to 1949 and we’re off to shorts.
Shorts and topi and off to the sunshine in Egypt.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Was that, what was —
CM: Shallufa. Then we went there and Bomber Command went there after the war. For a month every, like six or seven months I was there. Eight or nine months.
HB: Yeah.
CM: The desert was good weather. It was good flying weather.
HB: Yeah.
CM: That’s what was good. That’s what we went for. Took off from Shallufa and we did El Shatt. I always thought that couldn’t be the proper name. El Shatt. E L S H A T T. El Shatt. I was ashamed of putting it in my logbook [laughs] Bombing range.
HB: And yeah like you say just there for a few months and then you know what what accommodation did you live in in Egypt then? For those few months.
CM: Nissen. Nissen.
HB: In the Nissen hut.
CM: Well, the Nissen was corrugated iron. They were small.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Plenty of wood there and that sort of stuff.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. And then you’re back to —
CM: Don’t forget that Shallufa in the winter was colder. It was colder in Shallufa than it was in Binbrook.
HB: Yeah. I can, oh I can believe that. Yeah.
CM: By God, I’ve experienced some cold. Literally shivered. And shivered all night.
HB: Yeah.
CB: Couldn’t get warm.
HB: And you’re back to Binbrook.
CM: That’s right. Detachment you see.
HB: Yeah.
CM: [unclear] 12 Squadron detachment and 101 Squadron detachment.
HB: And then [pause] this is where the change comes isn’t it? In 1949. Because you go to Scampton on a Conversion Unit.
CM: Scampton. That’s right.
HB: And then. And then you go to 101. Binbrook.
CM: That’s right. I went back to Scampton because that was the Lancaster Finishing School then.
HB: Right.
CM: Right. So, that led to the —
HB: Yeah. Oh. Yeah. You did say. You did say that. Sorry I just need to keep checking this. The batteries.
CM: They won’t be able to understand a word I’ve said, Harry.
HB: Well I can understand you and that’s all that’s all, that’s all that’s important.
CM: You’re nearly a, you’re nearly a Geordie yourself.
Other: Dad.
CM: Yes, dear.
Other: In ten minutes I’ve got, I’ve got an appointment.
CM: Fiona, darling, I thought you’d gone. Didn’t you think she’d gone, Harry?
Other: No. I’m sitting here but in ten minutes I’m going to have to go because I’ve got an appointment in Ashby at 2. So I’ll go on my appointment.
CM: That’s right.
Other: It’s just, it’s just the flats.
CM: Make sure Harry’s alright. A glass of whisky maybe.
Other: Can I get you anything at all, Harry?
HB: No. No. I’m fine. I’m fine.
Other: Would you like another drink?
HB: As long, as long, as long as Kit is alright.
Other: He’s got his cup of tea. Dad has his lunch at —
CM: The only thing that’s wrong with me is ninety five [unclear]
Other: Dad has his breakfast really late like, you know sort of late late so he has his meal, his lunch sort of often about 4.30. So he’s —
CM: Oh yes. That’s it.
Other: But, so I will come back, dad after I’ve done my appointment.
CM: Yeah. Ok.
Other: My son is wanting to buy a flat in Ashby.
CM: Right.
Other: And we’ve got an appointment to look around it with him.
HB: Right.
Other: Just to see what we think. And we cancelled it yesterday because we got stuck in traffic. So I’ll go.
HB: Well, what, what I’ll probably do is.
Other: I’ll come back.
HB: I’ll finish the interview and then I’ll contact you later and let you know how we’re going to come back.
CM: That’s right. I said to —
Other: You’re most welcome if you think you —
CM: Fiona said, ‘Oh he won’t, he’s not interested at all in what you did after the war. He’s not interested in,’ this and that. And I said, ‘You don’t know what he’s interested in until he comes.’ I thought about this because that is something that I think is very, that people should know about.
HB: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Other: It’s an interesting one.
CM: The dirty trick that the Bomber Command well not just bomber but the Air Force generally.
HB: But it, it’s that transition period we are also interested in.
Other: Yes.
HB: Because we’re going from a time of world war.
Other: Yeah. Conflicts.
CM: That’s right
HB: Into a peacetime and policing operations.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Of, you know Korea and all those.
CM: That’s one of the reasons why we never got the medals. Can’t you see that. We can’t demote them, treat them as S H I T and then kind of go we’ll give them medals as well.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Couldn’t do it.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So that was what the fuss was about. We didn’t. We were not even honoured in Bomber Command.
HB: Yeah. Well, it’s a quarter past one. I’m going to just stop the tape for a minute while —
CM: Ok.
HB: Your daughter goes.
HB: And then I’ll restart it in a —
Other: And if you wish —
[recording paused]
HB: Right. We’re recommencing the interview. We have had cups of tea and a comfort breaks. So we’ve moved on now to around about 1952 at RAF Watton in 192 Squadron.
CM: Central. Central Signals Establishment to use its full name.
HB: Yeah.
CM: That’s to mask what it actually did. It was a spy squadron.
HB: Right.
CM: But Central Signals Establishment gave it a kind of fancy name but [unclear] believe anything if you like. Not a hundred percent anyway.
HB: That might, that might answer the question. In your logbook you’re flying with Flight Lieutenant Neil.
CM: Yeah. Flight lieutenant. He was, that was on Super Fortresses. In other words B29s.
HB: B29s.
CM: I’m an ex, an ex-Boeing B29 wireless operator.
HB: Yeah. Were they called Washingtons?
CM: That’s right.
HB: Yeah.
CM: The Washington was an American name for an American aircraft.
HB: Right.
CM: But we called them Washingtons. American but it was also British.
HB: Right.
CM: So there was a Washington [unclear] married them both together.
HB: So in your logbook it says your duty on [pause] in at the end of 1952 was left scanner and right scanner and special operator.
CM: Spec op. That’s what you called spec ops because you did this job I was telling you about. I don’t know whether I’ll be shot at dawn about this but it’s still secret. Top secret. But it was literally finding out the frequencies of the radars and the special operations. We did that. Once we got that we could be able to jam it. To jam it. And once you knew where the frequency was on the end of the spectrum you could put a jam in there and make it impossible to operate.
HB: So who’s, who’s radars were you trying to discover?
CM: Yeah. But I don’t know how you can’t mention that without breaking the Official Secrets.
HB: You won’t break the Official Secrets Act now.
CM: Yeah. As I said in this Fiona found out that nothing’s to be divulged about me personally in the Air Force until 2022. My hundredth birthday. So you make that of what you will.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: But the B29 as I say were a joy to fly after Lincolns. We used to, we used Lincolns to Watton before that.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But the B29 was a luxurious aircraft. Do you know that it was separated by a tunnel? There’s the front end of the aircraft right the co-pilot, the captain and the engineer and all this but the back end of the aircraft was nothing else but spec ops. Right.
HB: Right.
CM: And the whole thing was connected like, like two bellows. The front bit was pressurised. There was a tunnel going over the bomb bay to the rear compartment. So to get from the front to the rear they crawled along the tunnel.
HB: Oh right.
CM: It was from here to well just beyond the window there you know.
HB: So you’re talking —
CM: No bigger. No bigger than that wide.
HB: So you’re talking a good twelve fourteen feet then of tunnel.
CM: That’s right. So getting there hurt your knees crawling up and down so people didn’t tend to go forward. Anyway, the two people at the back were about that stationed from the observer point.
HB: Yeah.
CM: That’s the back end of the tunnel. To see, to be able to see the engines, all the engines, the flaps. Right. And the undercarriage. They couldn’t see them from the front.
HB: Oh right.
CM: Even the engineer. So I was the left scanner and right scanner but the eyes for the engineer who couldn’t keep on crawling back and forwards along the tunnel.
HB: Right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
CM: So important.
HB: Oh yeah. Yeah.
CM: So I always went for the right scanner because I felt that it was the one place to be to keep a good lookout for the —
HB: Right.
CM: And sway up and down left scanner, right scanner. Otherwise it would be, you couldn’t put spec op. You could be spec op, yes. But on transit you were just kind of sat sitting. You used to fly from Watton to Nicosia in Cyprus and then fly from there the next day with all these aerials. There was an armed guard when we landed in Nicosia and the aircraft was never ever left alone. And the next day we would take off with the full crew of course and the trip would be about, we’d be down there eleven hours, twelve hours doing nothing else but scanning all the frequencies. Picking up their radars. You had to be very lucky because they knew when there was spy aircraft around. They’d switch off. But they had to switch on to see where that spy aircraft was. So watching out all ready to go because it only took a few seconds. It was on. You recognised it. You’d press a button. The camera would take a photograph.
HB: Right.
CM: So I scanned the photograph and the recording and did this virtually the same thing as sitting at home and doing this thing with you, because as we were doing that the recording, they’d take it back to Watton and you’d see it properly. You didn’t see it.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: They had —
HB: Yeah.
CM: Yeah. Boffins.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Boffins. Whatever they are.
HB: Yeah. The boffins.
CM: Boffins.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So it was an important job and I think I was part of the Cold War as well as the hot war. So that should —
HB: Yeah.
CM: Be a footnote of that thing that I said. Mr McVickers bravely advanced for the, to be a spec op and took part in the Cold War. Which I did.
HB: Well that’s right. I mean, I mean it’s, it’s very obvious from your logbook that —
CM: I’m a lying bastard.
HB: No. Oh, no. No. No. No. Nowhere near. No. You’ve certainly, you’ve certainly done a bit. I mean there’s, there’s a section here that’s quite fascinating because in the middle of doing your spec ops and whatnot you go to the School of Marine Reconnaissance.
CM: No. No. That was when I was posted there.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So when you’re posted you’re still kind of doing whatever you were doing beforehand.
HB: Right.
CM: They sometimes overlapped a bit before you went and it’s doing middle of the road.
HB: Yeah.
CM: A flew flights, you know. That’s what it amounts to.
HB: Yeah.
CM: The School of Maritime Reconnaissance now.
HB: Yes.
CM: The Royal Air Force, St Mawgan, Newquay, Cornwall. It should be on top of the whatsthename —
HB: Yeah.
CM: That was, that was a five months course. Now within, after doing four months to start the flying phase of it the CO sent for me and said they were very very short of flyers at 224 Squadron. I said, ‘What do you mean, sir?’ He said, ‘They desperately need a signaller.’ And I said, ‘I really am not the person to pick. I’ve been off the flying for five years. I’ve done no flying on this and I’m on a course. I’m on a [unclear] aircraft radar work at all.’ ‘Nevertheless,’ he said, ‘You can, with all your experience could pick it up with no trouble at all.’ That wasn’t true. When I got to 224 Squadron which was down there if you looked at 224 squadron —
HB: I’ve got 22 —
CM: Not 224.
HB: I’ve got 220.
CM: That’s the one. 220 Squadron.
HB: 220 Squadron.
CM: 220 Squadron.
HB: Yeah. St Eval.
CM: St Eval.
HB: St Eval.
CM: And that’s —
HB: That was on Shackletons.
CM: Well, within, within about a fortnight they realised that I wasn’t trained on the radar and the radar was the most important thing. I wasn’t trained on it. So I thought — I was in a hell of a state. And I told the commanding officer that I’m really not trained for this work. But I’ve just been sent. I’d no idea at all why I was sent there because Cornish the commanding officer said to me, ‘We don’t need you. We don’t need any training chaps, we’re fully, fully committed.’ So I thought what the hell is going on here?
HB: Yeah.
CM: I think, now during the time I was there they sent me to to Mount Batten. Now Mount Batten was the headquarters of Coastal Command. And I was replacing a man who was doing Anson flying. Supposed to be an instructor. A very important instructor flying from station to station and everything. And the man had gone sick for something. Obviously transitory. But when I appeared on the scene he suddenly made a remarkable recovery.
HB: Right.
CM: So I was stuck there at Mount Batten [unclear] let’s get it right here because Mount Batten is the commanding. This is the most important place in Coastal Command. Why don’t you use that to do something for yourself? So I went to see the postings department which posted all the people in Coastal Command. Everything was done from there.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And I flannelled one of the, with the WAAF officers who were there. I said I’m in a bit of a dilemma here Miss, Ma’am and explained what had happened and everything, ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I think we can probably do something for you. What would you like to do?’ So I said, ‘Well, there’s one Neptune station dealing with nothing else but Neptunes. Lockheed Neptunes.’ I said, ‘This is based in Topcliffe in Yorkshire and would be ideal for me for getting home and everything else and also picking up, because I’d been on a course, picking up on what had left out in being mid-course. ’I said ‘Perfect solution, She said. She said to me ‘Your next course. I’ll put your name down. I’ll put your name down now. So it’s finished. Nothing has happened. You go.’
HB: Right.
CM: So when I went back to the station. St Eval. 220 Squadron. I could say to the people I’m posted. You know. I obviously shouldn’t have been here in the first place. I’ve been reposted. So I was gash again. I was completely gash. And I just spent my time sitting in the mess and making myself a bloody nuisance where ever I went, you know. And soon enough, as soon as the [unclear] came up I got the posting off to go to Kinloss to do the Neptune course.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I was on Neptunes for two and a half years. The best aircraft I’ve ever flown in my life.
HB: And what was, what was the Neptune?
CM: Lockheed Neptune. I’ll show you what.
HB: Oh, that was, it was —
CM: Lockheed was the one before the Boeing, well after the Boeing but —
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Because obviously you’d been flying on Shackletons.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And then you go to Neptune.
CM: I’m afraid it will have to wait now for the next time you come actually.
HB: Oh, no, don’t worry about that. I’ve found. Yeah. I’ve found Topcliffe now. Yeah. With Coastal Command.
CM: That’s right. It’s all Coastal Command.
HB: Yes.
CM: That’s a Bomber Command Lincoln. That’s one of the Lincolns. If you look at the SR is the code letters.
HB: Right.
CM: The code letters for 101 Squadron.
HB: Right.
CM: We, I was on B flight there, George [ ] was the co-pilot and the bomb aimer in the astrodome. That’s me. Best photograph I’ve ever had taken. You see they get access to the photograph.
HB: Yeah.
CM: What had happened, there had been an aircraft sent to take photographs of the villages and towns actually but the photographer being a clever little bugger he said it would far better if you had an aircraft superimposed and we happened to be airborne SR 101 Squadron.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Doing bombing at Wainfleet range. So, they called us up, ‘Are you finished there?’ ‘Oh, we’re finish in a few minutes.’ They said, ‘Go through to Cleethorpes and rendezvous with this aircraft that’s taken —'
HB: Oh right.
CM: And that’s how we got it.
HB: That’s how they took the photo.
CM: It’s a good photograph of Cleethorpes. You can see the [unclear]
HB: And that’s the, that’s the Lincoln aircraft. Right. Yeah.
CM: And that’s the Lincoln, that’s right. And that’s me.
HB: And that’s you in the astro.
CM: No matter how, no matter how vague it is that’s me. It’s one of the —
HB: Well, you need, you need to put that in the pile for, to copy. And that one definitely. Right. So, right we’ve got you, got you in Topcliffe and you’ve done rocketry and all those sort of things and then —
CM: Made drops to the weather ships.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Weather trips. All that sort of thing.
HB: So, I mean you were at Topcliffe a good, a good long time weren’t you?
CM: Two and a half years. I did a full tour.
HB: Yeah.
CM: On Neptunes.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But I was the first. The first They took one, one squadron member from each squadron. At least one. One member and posted them separately just to see if it could be done. Suddenly they found themselves with all these Neptune crews. No pilot could have told us yarns, you know [laughs]
HB: Oh right.
CM: So, so the experiment they took the flight sergeant McVickers, that was me and Flight Sergeant Chalmers and another one called flight sergeant [pause] Oh I can’t remember his name. But [unclear] squadron, just us three people on a course on Neptunes.
HB: Yeah.
CM: [unclear]
HB: It’s alright. I’m just, I’m just double checking the battery. Make sure the battery’s still alright. Yeah. Yeah. That, yeah that’s an aspect that we don’t, that’s an aspect we don’t sort of come across, you know. Obviously they’re trying out different ways of putting.
CM: That’s it. Well, you see we’re flying there but tac incident said put that new chap Flight Sergeant McVickers on the —
HB: Yeah.
CM: A cold chill went down my spine. Because I hadn’t had any — I’d had exams. I’d had the exams instructions on the radars. The APS 20 and things like that.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But I didn’t have the practical. I’d never used it in the air. So I mean, to ask you to sit down and do something from scratch which I didn’t even know how to switch on, you know.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Anyway, they forgave me for all that and telling me off and I did alright for two and a half years.
HB: So, so Neptunes. The Neptune. I mean, it goes, it’s obviously a well used aircraft.
CM: I’ll show you a photograph.
HB: For that.
CM: You’ve never seen anything like it.
HB: For that.
CM: It was the most luxurious aircraft I’ve ever seen in my life. Neptune. Never. There was one of these commanding officers, ‘Oh you can’t take photographs.’ [pause] Yes. If you come again. I know now what you’re after I’ll have anything ready.
HB: No. No. No. Worry not. Worry not about that. I mean the important thing is getting your, your story.
CM: Operations.
HB: Yeah. Absolutely. So, now, we’ve gone, you’ve gone to Kinloss in [pause] you’ve been on the Shackleton course. That’s in ’56. 1956.
CM: What was that in 1956?
HB: That was, that was you were at Kinloss in ’56.
CM: Yeah.
HB: Doing a course.
CM: Yeah.
HB: A Shackleton course.
CM: Yeah. That would be the Neptune course because there was flying attached to that.
HB: Yeah.
CM: We were flying on those. On Neptunes.
HB: And then [coughs] excuse me. You’ve got [pause] ’56 you’re off to 224 at Gibraltar.
CM: Gibraltar. Yeah. 224 Squadron.
HB: And that’s on Shackletons. Where were, where were you operating then from Gibraltar?
CM: Well, once again I’ve got to show you this. The base of Gibraltar. The base of the rock there’s an open space. And you can imagine the north face, they always shows the north face in Gibraltar so that’s the face facing north. Right in front of the north face of Gibraltar they built a runway. The sea is at one end at Algecirus Bay and then extended in to the rocks so the whole thing, was not enough room for a proper runway but they kept on building it out to sea, out towards Algecirus, Spain. So there was a long enough runway. Our photographs you can see sticking out of the Bay.
HB: Yeah. So, so you were you were obviously looking at your logbook you were flying out of there regularly. Did you cover the Mediterranean and —
CM: That’s right.
HB: Western approaches or —
CM: The Med, did cover the Med but also as you say the Western Mediterranean, but we did all the trips to Malta and Corsica and Sardinia and visiting there. North Africa of course.
HB: Yes.
CM: Is on the right hand side as you go along. So a lot of trips just landing there. Anyway, I did the exercise. Managed to survive. Became quite proficient at the radar but you know I thought that’s not fair for me. I’m cast out of my course.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Which I would have joined the squadron with the crew as to be a signalman. A signalman. It would be good to replace that man as a special job and he made an immediate recovery. The best thing that ever happened to him was me appearing. So I mean, he thought, oh Christ and he recovered.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It was a cushy job.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, I mean this is what sort of comes through in your logbook is you’ve got this level of consistency going through now.
CM: That’s right. I did.
HB: And, and as, as an air signaller and you were going through here [pause] sorry. What did I just notice? Yeah. That was something caught my eye. In 1957 you were doing communication trials with HM submarine Subtle.
CM: That’s right. I went to one trip to Ballykelly. We went, this chap and my number two and my signals team, we went to this submarine. HMS Subtle [unclear]
HB: Yeah.
CM: And we went for a full day in a submarine. One of the, well one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve ever had.
HB: Yeah. So you actually went in the submarine.
CM: Yes. I’ll tell you something else. I’ve lifted the periscope up. Transferred, transferred into — I’ve watched the submarine sink from, from the periscope area.
HB: Yeah.
CM: They gave us two a really wonderful experience of a submarine. [unclear]
HB: Yeah.
CM: Which was invaluable for, that’s what we were there for. Submarine killers.
HB: Yeah.
CM: In Coastal Command that’s what we did. We looked for submarines and sank them.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So we were gaining experience that was something good. And they showed us, the crew showed us the biggest pile of pornographic material, photographs I’ve ever seen in my life. It was about this big. And the [unclear] as well. God, it really embarrassed me.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I never seen. Every angle. Every possible. I thought these people are all sex maniacs. Because we were getting it regular. This was the [laughs]
HB: Yeah. The, the where — what I’m, what I’m what I’m interested in is you started your career in wireless ops and wireless operator in the ‘40s and we’re now in to the late 50s.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Coming up to the 60s.
CM: New equipment is coming up.
HB: So all of that equipment as it comes along I mean, was it every time new equipment you came out you had to go on a training course?
CM: No.
HB: Or did you a lot of on —
CM: No. If there was something radical, something completely different you’d go on a training course, because nobody could do anything about it.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And the men in the latter part were the men that got the Air Ministry details, put everything down, the whole thing. They’d learned from there. Then they’d teach the people who were going through the courses. That’s right. So the radar, the equipment on the Neptune aircraft is so far advanced that until just recently in the last ten or fifteen years it was still being used in the spy planes.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It was so accurate. The APS 20 it was called. Air Pulse Search.
HB: Air Pulse Search. Oh right. Yeah.
CM: Ever heard of that? Air Pulse Search.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And the other one in the part of the wings, took part of the wings. One had the APS 30, the APS 31 and yet that’s just the system where you could lock on to an aircraft and home on the aircraft. Or anything. A ship.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Very very accurately with the APS 31. So the APS 31 and the APS 20 made perfect for long distance. They were used for aircraft coming in. The APS 20. An aircraft designed by the Americans for their aircraft, the Neptune was the aircraft used by us for long distance search except for the big fighter stations.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Air defence of Great Britain stations. They had their own.
HB: I’m interested in a note here in your logbook, Kit for [pause] we’re talking March 1958. And it’s something I’ve not seen anywhere else. You’ve suddenly got a list of it says, this is the 6th of March — anti-submarine air offensive operations.
CM: That’s right. It’s the whole squadron.
HB: A large [unclear] of those.
CM: The submarines, our submarines had taken the place of enemy submarines.
HB: Right.
CM: But about the German expression. They were enemy submarines. We had to find them. So they’d been given —
HB: Right.
CM: We had a good idea what they were using in submarines but we had to find out. In other words we had taken our submarines as being enemy submarines. We had to find out all about them.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Well, that was really good training.
HB: Yeah. Ah right. That’s explained it then because I was, I was suddenly thinking 1958.
CM: I was stationed at Kinloss then.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Wasn’t I on the, that’s when I was on [ unclear]
HB: No. No. That was you were still at Gibraltar in ’48 err ’58 sorry. ’58.
CM: I was in Gib then.
HB: Yeah. You were in Gibraltar then. That’s what caught my eye was the fact that you got offensive operations but, yeah I understand that now. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s that transition you see that you’ve gone through all of this equipment. It’s, and its, I presume not only has it become more technical.
CM: Complex.
HB: It’s become small.
CM: Complex.
HB: Yeah. Complex. It’s almost become smaller as well.
CM: That’s right.
HB: I would presume.
CM: More adaptable.
HB: Yeah.
CM: The telephone valves, valves suddenly vanished off the face of the earth and first thing in this system, they got the APS 20 which was about this size.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It suddenly became about this size but the big thing was the screen.
HB: Right. So it went from, it went from the size of a coffee table down to —
CM: Well, yeah. In the [unclear] sense.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But, but it was an interesting job. Can you imagine to a schoolboy to be with all this anti-submarine equipment?
HB: Yeah.
CM: The finder. It was very very interesting. And if you’ve got something real on the screen. Something that was enemy, you know. Not so much enemy.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Simulated enemy. You think this person diving the submarine I have got him in my sights offensively [unclear]
HB: Yeah.
CM: With depth charges which we had.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. That, well that —
CM: We’d be doing the job which we knew we’d be employed in doing if a war broke out.
HB: That was your job. That was your job wasn’t it? And then we get to 1960 and you’re back to Kinloss [pause] flying Shackletons again.
CM: Yeah. This would be the Shackleton then would be in January was it?
HB: Yeah. Shackleton 1 it’s got. Yeah. You got people like, you got numerous pilots with you. All sorts of different pilots.
CM: I think that would be on [unclear] it was [unclear] training. Must have been flying the aircraft that trained them.
HB: Right. Right.
CM: Numbers and numbers of the —
HB: Yeah because you’ve got, you’ve got exercises.
CM: That’s right.
HB: A3, A1, A4, A5.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Not exercises for me but exercises for the pilots.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: Trained in, that was for the aircraft and I was just crew then.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Did all the dogsbody stuff. All the stuff that —
HB: Yeah. Yeah. The sweeping up. Making the tea.
CM: I did cooking as well.
HB: Cooking.
CM: Oh we had a, you could get airborne for twenty four hours in a Shackleton, you know.
HB: Right.
CM: Twenty four hours. I never did one. I did a twenty two hour trip once but it’s too long. I think a complaint. ‘I’m not having this. You’d better cut my hours down.’
HB: Yeah. I mean there’s some seven and nine and ten hour flights here.
CM: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. And then yeah as I say you carry on, you carry on at Kinloss for a good old time again.
CM: So my next posting after that was I did a [unclear] on the ground staff doing, looking after these, they called the a space stage two trainer. Looking at simulating trips in the air but not leaving the ground.
HB: Right.
CM: You could make exercises. You could make them up all the time.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So instead of wasting money on petrol you could do the same thing on the ground. Get the same experience. The same equipment and everything. So that was saving money.
HB: So was that, was that sort of classroom based or was that in some sort of simulator?
CM: No. This was actual equipment. You’d sit in these cubicles with the same stuff that you’d have in the aircraft.
HB: Right.
CM: You have use of the headquarters in these cubicles. You’d have other aircraft in these cubicles. And all the equipment.
HB: Yeah. So the cubicle would be set up exactly as if you were in the air.
CM: That’s it. But radar. Of course you couldn’t get a radar signal there so they simulated that. Simulated kind of things coming up.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: But nevertheless you could save a lot of money by just doing it on the ground.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It was all handle work. Key work.
HB: Yeah. I can see. I mean I can see in here that I’ve come to that part. Yeah. Of the sort of the sort of staff training and what not. The [pause] yeah because that I mean obviously the booths that you talk about that were set up, you know with the equipment.
CM: That’s right.
HB: They obviously became the forerunners of what we now know in the modern —
CM: Yeah.
HB: Era of the flight simulators.
CM: That’s right. That’s right. But the link trainer I mean, it’s a simulator.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But you can get, you can fly blind with. The thing is you couldn’t get airborne so got to fly blind there except for putting specs on, hoods on people which they did do. But it was too costly and too —
HB: Yeah.
CM: The link trainer fulfilled that role exactly. They couldn’t see anyway, so you had to go by the instruments.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
CM: You see people used to use the instruments and have faith in the instruments you were using. That was good. The link trainer was good for that.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: People who were poor at blind flying became excellent after a few spells on the link trainer.
HB: I have noticed throughout your logbook —
CM: Hmmn?
HB: I’ve noticed throughout your logbook there’s regular little comments signed by senior officers. Wing commanders and such of, “above average,” “high average.” That’s how they’re assessing you.
CM: That’s damning you with faint praise.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. So where are we now? We’ve got to — now, yeah this is, this is the thing. 1963.
CM: Posted to Changi.
HB: You’re in — yeah.
CM: Posted to Changi.
HB: 205 Squadron, Changi.
CM: The best posting I ever had.
HB: Was it?
CM: My wife, she was a very good looking lass but by God the people there the commanding officers they wouldn’t, they would all make a beeline for Shirley whatever the occasion was.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Commanding officers, flight commanders, ordinary people in reserve couldn’t get a look in. So, I said to Shirley, ‘Who are you with, darling? The commanding officer or me?’ ‘You darling.’ ‘Good.’
HB: So a little bit of marital strife there [laughs]
CM: Shirley and I had a very good looking daughter if you see photographs of Jane when she was fifteen sixteen.
HB: Yeah.
CM: She was a very good looking girl. Just like her mother.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Well I saw that in that photograph. Yeah. But so that again that’s flying out in the Shackleton Mark 2s and that’s and I presume that’s doing much of the —
CM: Well, you should come across somewhere there at Changi that we had a wall, if you look at my medals. I’ve got a medal which very very few people have had. Fiona’s put it somewhere where you wouldn’t miss it. So Fiona’s put my medals where we’ll never miss them so the chances are I’ll never find them.
HB: Oh no. Worry not about that.
CM: This one’s particularly good.
[pause]
HB: So that would be [pause] so I’m just trying to find it actually in here. Would that be, would that be Borneo? Would that be the Indonesian Confrontation?
CM: Yeah. That’s right. That’s right.
HB: In ’63.
CM: That’s what I would show you if I could find the damned thing.
HB: Yeah.
CM: The medal I got for it.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Fiona’s, Fiona’s put it in a place —
HB: You’re a bit, you’re a bit far away from the recorder now Kit.
CM: My daughter has put my medals in a place where I can’t miss them. Therefore I know I’ll ever find them.
HB: Don’t worry about them.
CM: Ok.
HB: We’ll sort them out later. I was just trying to find —
CM: Well you’ll notice that those top of the. Something called Hawk Moths.
HB: Hawk Moths.
CM: Hawk Moths. We were fighting in the Indonesian confrontation.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But there’s one thing we weren’t allowed to do Harry. We weren’t allowed to kill them.
HB: Oh right.
CM: It wasn’t a war. It was a confrontation. Once we started killing the bastards it went to a — so what we did they supplied from Sumatra. If you can imagine Sumatra or just in the Malacca Straits. There’s Malaya one side and Indonesia on the other.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Sumatra. But they used to go across from Sumatra to Malaya and do damage. Dropped by parachutes and people and all this business so we knew that we had to get these people as they’re flying, as they’re sheering across the Malay Strait with motor, motor torpedo boats they were, I think. Big boats but vulnerable. We found that the only thing we could frighten them to death with was this. We used to get, we used to have one, it was always at night. They always came across at night. They didn’t come across in daylight. The fighters would have got them.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But they couldn’t do what we could do. We could kill them or make severely inconvenience them by a simple method of using our four engines.
HB: Right.
CM: Four Griffon engines. So much power. One thousand eight hundred and fifty horsepower and the propellers had to be contra rotating to absorb all the power. They had tremendous [unclear] Simple as a Shackleton pull you out of anything, any trouble you were in just open the throttles and get out of it. And what we used to do was to fire off these 1.5 magi flares. There was thirty six of them in banks of, packs of six. Six sixes are thirty six. Six sixes. Now, they used to burn. Burn in the air. Bang when they go up there and when they reached their zenith it would burst. It would burn with a really fantastic light for about thirty five, forty seconds. Not very long. But long enough at thirty five seconds to appear what was going on. And as they went out, bang another one would go off. And this was going out this would lit up again. So you could get maybe a minute of continuous light. A minute’s a long time.
HB: Yes. Yes.
CM: You know, you know the smart gun there, get the radar detector going towards it and just suddenly, they’re not expecting it up it would go. Bright as day. So what we could do then look at the boat going along from Sumatra to the main whatsaname Beach in Malaya.
HB: Malaya.
CM: And you’d fly towards Malaya ourselves so the boat length ways. Not that way but that way. So then —
HB: So you’re coming in on the side of the boat at ninety degrees.
CM: That’s it, but you’d go down to ten feet. Just above the waves and you opened the throttles and go over this boat. Just dead, bend down just a little bit and level off and the whole blast of this right against the, the force of it, the force against the boat and over she’d go, and all the crew as well.
HB: So it would capsize.
CM: Capsized. Yeah. That’s something else. You’ve got a scoop here.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I’ve never heard this mentioned anywhere, that was.
HB: And that, that’s in the —
CM: But you see it there as Hawk Moths.
HB: It’s Hawk Moth operations.
CM: You can see.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. I can see Hawk Moth here.
CM: That was down in the Malacca Strait.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And of course we wouldn’t then, we’d find a few people. There’s always people swimming around.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So we said after all if it doesn’t kill them they’ll probably get in to the boat anyway. You couldn’t sink these damned things.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But all the stuff had been tipped out.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And the whole operation, their operation would be cancelled.
HB: Yeah.
CM: In other words we won the war.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: That’s why it’s important to me to find where Fiona has hidden my medals. So she can, she can find them easily.
HB: Oh we’ll find them. We’ll find them at the end of the interview, Kit. Don’t you worry.
CM: She’s lovely. She’s a lovely lass but by God she doesn’t have the thoroughness of Jane.
HB: Right.
CM: Jane’s very thorough.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. There’s quite a few. Quite a few of these Hawk Moth operations in there.
CM: And of course during my time there we won the war. Sukarno gave in.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: I was chosen to be the photographer at the HMS Bulwark and HMS Centaur, the Ark Royal and the huge fleet out there just out for the Confrontation. They formed two lines of ships. The capital ships, the aircraft carriers and the battleships and destroyers and all the little ships.
HB: Oh right.
CM: That were there. And we flew down through the, we had an avenue of ships and we were taking photographs actually.
HB: You were doing the aerial photos.
CM: I was on the verge of coming back, I never saw those photographs.
HB: Oh right.
CM: But I was chosen as the photographer. Photographer, you see. But that was, so that was the end of the Confrontation. The Indonese gave us a medal and we got another General Service Medal. So that added two medals to my which nobody, not many people —
HB: No.
CM: Certainly not many people in the war, my medal rate, did you see that? The medals. You still can read it.
HB: I saw, I saw the medals on the photographs.
CM: That’s right.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But there’s two short.
HB: Ah right. Yeah. Which is —
CM: The Indonesian one and the what’s the name.
HB: Yeah.
CM: That’s right, because they show the medals, that’s extra medals because the medals then were the general service medal and the Malaysian medal is on there.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And there’s two complete rows. Well I’ve never seen anybody except me that’s got these two complete rows because I carried on after war.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I was on operational squadrons after the war. I was in a front line squadron.
HB: I was going to say it’s all operational isn’t it? Yeah.
CM: I was the last in.
HB: Yeah.
CM: That’s why I wanted to kind of make a special mention of me about the guerrilla boat because I think your word after getting this scoop. These two scoops.
HB: Yes, it does. Yes. That’s great because that takes us through to where are we? 1965.
CM: But I didn’t do any flying though at that.
HB: June ’65 you [pause] I think that was —
CM: I went, I wasn’t —
HB: Sorry. July.
CM: I was a missile, I was a missile controller at Neatishead.
HB: Yeah. Because, because we — yeah. We —
CM: That wouldn’t be in the logbook.
HB: Yeah. So we’ve done —
CM: They don’t put missiles in logbooks.
HB: I think [pause] I’ll just, I’ll just make absolutely sure about this.
CM: So, it’s a full career flying in front line squadrons all the time.
HB: Yes.
CM: So I’m quite proud of that.
HB: Yes. I mean you’re flying [pause] Let me have a look. You’ve got a Hawk Moth operation on the 16th of August 1965. And you’ve certainly flown some hours on that.
CM: Oh yes.
HB: And that —
CM: I flew a lot after the Indonesian conflict to start with.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But we did have a new flight commanding officer at that time and he took a shine to me.
HB: Oh right.
CM: Unlike some of the buggers [laughs]
HB: Yeah. So that’s where, that’s when your actual flying logbook finishes.
CM: That’s right.
HB: But then in ’65 you go — or ’66 sorry.
CM: I left in ’67.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So I was on missiles. I was the controller at Neatishead. But unfortunately —
HB: At where?
CM: Neatishead. It’s the biggest, one of the biggest air defence stations.
HB: Neatishead.
CM: Neatishead. N E A T. Neat. I S. Neatis Head. H E A D.
HB: Neatishead.
CM: Neatishead.
HB: And that’s where?
CM: That’s Norfolk, I think.
HB: Norfolk. Right, right.
CM: But unfortunately, on my wife’s instructions I’d put in for a commission when I left whatsaname, I knew I was pretty well thought of, you know.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And I knew that Commanding Officer Harvey was, he loved, he literally, he kept treating my wife at every possible occasion. This came back to me. So I knew I was well in with him but whether he was going to translate that into a good recommendation, so I just applied. Nothing. And Fiona said err my wife Shirley said, ‘Have you still applied?’ So I banged an application in. Then I was posted to Neatishead. The first thing that happened, I was posted there. I had a good long spells of leave before I went there. The commanding officer said to me, a very nice man, he said, ‘I’ve had a recommendation,’ from your whatsaname, commission he said, I can’t possibly send this on unless I know something about you.’ Right. Oh sod off. I didn’t, I was deaf as a bloody post I think. I couldn’t care less about a commission. I was nearing the end of my time.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And I thought it was just incidental. I knew I would be, I knew it would waltz through it so what happened? I fell in very very much with a girl who was a flight lieutenant. God knows what her name is now but she was the WAAF commander. She sat at the desk opposite me.
HB: Right.
CM: And she and I became quite comfortable.
HB: Yeah.
CM: For want of a better word, she did. It wasn’t long before she asked me about, ‘Can you take me home in your car tonight, my car’s u/s.’ [unclear] I realised, my God at my age of forty four, forty three this bloody woman’s is in love with me.
HB: Oh dear.
CM: This ugly bastard like me, you know. This was so amusing. So I didn’t dare to mention that I was here but being the adjutant because I’d put or commission, but she seemed to know. She said to me now and then, she said to me, ‘Everything’s ok, you know. Everything’s ok.’ So from that I assumed that she was giving the reports to the whatsaname. The commanding officer hardly saw me. She was putting in the reports about me. Right. So I thought I can’t go on here. I’m a bit of a, I’ll have to find an excuse to get out of it because I’m as deaf as a bloody post. I had to go through all the treatments, ‘Sorry Mr McVickers. You’re deaf.’ You know, that real deep deafness was starting so I knew I wouldn’t get through anyway.’ Anyway, to cut a long story short they had this sent to have a big overhaul at Neatishead, all the whole thing. It been going for years and years. The whole thing’s has to be changed. They’re going to be away for, I think it was six weeks two months, it’s going to be overhauled, all the new equipment. Everything kind of renewed. So they sent me, because there’s nobody at the station virtually at Neatishead, there’s the ground bit and there’s the top of the hole. There’s a big hole. They put me with the other spec ops doing this job and sent me to Patrington which was another Air Defence of Great Britain station. But when I got there I found that the situation was different. The man who was in charge of everything there was a [pause] what’s the word, he was less senior than me. So they said, ‘Well, you’ll have to take over.’ So I said, ‘I can’t possibly take over the job. He’s been trained to be an air traffic controller. A missile controller. How the hell can I possibly do it?’ He said, ‘Well you’ll have to go on a course,’ but I said, ‘I can’t have this. The best thing would be for me to pack the whole thing in.’
HB: Yeah.
CM: They said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Well if I haven’t been properly trained I’m going to be taking a job about which I know nothing.’ I was looking after all the missiles on the ground you know. I said, ‘I’m supposed to be a controller from Neatishead.’ Signalling the targets on the whatsaname and phoning them through to Woodhall Spa or [pause] I’ve forgotten the name of the other place actually, near Grimsby. There what I’m looking for. Just to pass the target on to them. Nothing else. I was the controller. Missiles controller.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And the people there thought the best thing was I thought my god what’s going to happen suddenly coming home from Neatishead to say, ‘Report to for training for the commission.’ That’s the last thing in the world I wanted at the time.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: So I didn’t tell Shirley about that obviously but I’d certainly heard nothing about the commissions and I left the station. You know. Left the, my friend the WAAF. The flight lieutenant. The good looking WAAF, and suddenly I was unemployed. So I thought the best thing I could here is kept mum. I’m out. I’ve got a good job. A good job lined up and I thought far better to get a job at forty five then be an officer at fifty three or fifty four and find out nobody wants you.
HB: Yes.
CM: So I used my loaf and told Shirley what happened. She said, ‘Oh let’s get out. I’ll get a job as well.’ So she became, to cut a long story short, she’d been a photographer at some hotel just up the road apiece and this job came up in the Trading Standards Department saying they were starting a new section. A completely new department called Consumer Affairs. So they set out all the qualifications, sort of. ‘What a pity Shirley. You could have applied for that.’ She said, ‘I fully intend to apply. To apply for it.’ I said, ‘Well but you’ve had no training darling. You’ve got no qualifications except matriculation.’ So she said, ‘I’m going to apply.’ I said, ‘What are you going to put down for qualifications?’ She said, ‘Just that I’ve been a service wife for nineteen years. I’ve been nineteen years.’
HB: Yeah.
CM: So off she went and within a fortnight she got a letter back. She’d passed the first stage. We found out later there was seven hundred and odd applications. And that was the big weeding out.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And Shirley survived that. And I said, ‘If you survived that’s good. You must have looked good on paper.’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘I did. I did a good job with that’. So the next was personal interviews. They took a long time actually. But after a while I said to Shirley. ‘What’s happened at this interview? What’s going on here?’ She said [pause] So I thought that she knows something that I don’t know.
HB: The tap on the nose. Yeah.
CM: So I’d better press her, I said, ‘For Christ’s sake, I’m your husband,’ you know. Got to get a job to save the family because I was getting two thousand two hundred at that time. ’67. When the national average was seven hundred and fifty.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I was getting two thousand.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So we would be digging into our capital. And the next thing that happened was another interview with only about twenty or something like that. Shirley came home. I said, ‘What happened?’ She said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ll get the job.’ I said, ‘Shirley, darling how could you possibly get the job with all these qualifications and you haven’t got any of them? You’ve just matriculated.’ So I was really worried about it so I didn’t make a mess on the carpet. In other words Matriculation did. She said, ‘I’ll be their first choice and I’ll get the job.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s lovely you assume that but I think you’re being a little bit premature. Anyway, to cut a long story short again four, four, four left, four interviews and she was, Shirley was told and the other, presumably the other three were told that by 6 o’clock tonight one of you would have got the job. He said, ‘We’ll be visiting the one that’s got the job before 6 o’clock tonight.’ Although whatever it was I forget the timing, so I said to Shirley, ‘Aren’t you a bit nervous with it being in the last four?’ She said, ‘No. I’ll get the job.’ So, I said, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Oh, I’ve been their first choice all every interview I’ve had.’ I said, ‘But how can this happen?’ This job of course with all these qualifications, suddenly it was.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But anyway, at ten to six that night I’m sitting tactfully in our living room err the dining room. No. Spare room.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I could see the front and I saw these two people get out the car. Mr Butler and Mr Charlesworth. One was an ex major and the other was a Swordfish pilot.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So I realised then straight away sort of found out what they were that they’d taken a shine to Shirley because I was the sort of a warrant officer aircrew. You know.
HB: Yeah.
CM: This is the sort of men, somebody that they wanted in the background of. I’m not saying that’s true. But I just think that’s what happened.
HB: Yeah. That’s what you thought. Yeah.
CM: One of the things in her favour.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So I said to Shirley, ‘Shirley, they’re here.’ And she came in and she said, ‘Yes.’ She said go in there and I’ll call you in. I took them into our special room that we had. And I said, Shirley came with me ‘Mr Charlesworth of course, my wife, Shirley.’ ‘We know. We know your wife, Mr McVickers. We’d like to be, if you don’t mind, alone for the, with her for a —’ So I knew straight away that she got the job. She was the first choice just exactly as she’d said.
HB: Yeah. She’d known that all the way through.
CM: It was, yeah she was, first appointment. The only one thing that they said to me, Mr Charlesworth, he said, he said she was an outstanding candidate. That’s was it. She was an outstanding candidate.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Now, what that means I don’t know but an outstanding candidate gets rid of all the qualifications. Qualification this and qualifications the other. They just took her on her own merits.
HB: Absolutely. Yes.
CM: And Mr Charlesworth err Mr Butler said afterwards, many many years afterwards, she was working there about twenty years she was the obvious choice to do the job. That’s because —
HB: So so while Shirley’s getting her job and you’re —
CM: I was then worked for Anglian Water.
HB: So, so you’d, you’d then finished and you joined —
CM: Anglian Water.
HB: Anglian Water.
CM: I left the civil service. It didn’t make that much difference.
HB: Yeah.
CM: The man that told me that I was a natural, natural at the job which I wasn’t and also one of the employees there told me if you want to get on here don’t kind of send things back for verification. Just pay them anyway. You see, you’re allowed a five percent, a five percent error. He said you’ll never make any [unclear] It was so simple that there’s no errors. No possible errors. Overtake the hard ones by scores. So you never get five percent error.
HB: So what was your actual —
CM: So I held a job, Mr — he did the X, Ys and Zs and I did the As and Bs. It’s a good to contrast. He got very few applications because everything was to be handed to me. And see he did the bits that were difficult for me. He cancelled them all out.
HB: Right. So what exactly was your job.
CM: It was an easy job.
HB: Yeah.
CM: At the top of the tree.
HB: Yeah. What exactly was your job Kit?
CM: Vetting Officer. I decided how much if a person was eligible. For instance if you’d only had half the payments in you only got half the payment. Right. So if the person came in and they’d only got say, fifteen instead of the twenty six minimum application you’d cancel it altogether. Right. But he’d gone straight to the name then, assistant or something. He’d say what had happened. They’d pay him as if he was full, full stamps.
HB: Oh right I see.
CM: He gets full stamps. So I mean no matter how little you had, their people who only had fourteen they’d get for fourteen and they’d get less then the person that had got none, none at all and he get paid the full. So us vetting officers we soon cottoned on to that. This was completely and utterly unfair.
HB: So this is for the water rates.
CM: No. Not water. This was, this was, that was the next job that I came to.
HB: Oh sorry. Sorry. I’ve missed a bit out. So that, so that was in to the civil service.
CM: Yeah. That’s right. The Civil service. And he kept on saying to me, ‘Don’t worry about that.’
HB: Yeah.
CM: After one year you become a, the, become a something officer.
HB: Yeah.
CM: [unclear] officer. It was the next step up. Free. Just get it free. You’ve got that anyways, if you’d done a year.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So I thought [unclear]. Here I am stuck in a job I dislike intensely, you know, being an aircrew man all my life and suddenly I’m kind of stuck there. So Shirley said, ‘I’ll find you another job.’ This is my wife. By this time she’s working at you know, she’s the department commander.
HB: Yeah. [unclear] Consumer Affairs.
CM: I’ve got all the certificates that she’d got.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: Given to her. Not kind of worked for but given by virtue of her job.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And she said, ‘I’ve got a job here for you, working for Anglian Water as a district inspector.’
HB: Oh right.
CM: But what I got with the job wasn’t district inspector. It was area inspector. A rank higher up.
HB: Yeah.
CM: There were people who were experienced. Of course I had no experience but I did as Shirley said when I went to the interview. The first one I thought what the hell? Shirley can do it I can do it. So I was completely not bothered about it.
HB: Yeah
CM: I’ve got a good job anyway I’ve got pensions from the Air Force, I’ve got pensions from water board, I’ve got pensions from this and pensions from that.
HB: Right.
CM: So I did.
HB: It’s alright I’m just double checking the battery.
CM: Anyway, I’m terribly sorry I’ve taken over.
HB: No. No. No.
CM: But then you’re getting something about my background.
HB: No. No. No.
CM: I ‘m lucky. I’m lucky I have been, how lucky I could be.
HB: I’m interested in the length of service you’ve given.
CM: Yeah. I did thirty one operations in the hot war and there were five six, six, seven in the Cold War.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I did in the, in the, in the whatsaname for.
HB: Malaysia.
CM: Over the water to fly in the helicopters to look for where an aircraft had been. [unclear]
HB: Yeah.
CM: I had to map it out and tell them where it was and they’d come out and sort it out.
HB: The Air Sea Rescue. Yeah.
CM: So I had a particular job there and the promise to being an area officer and then another rank higher but I had to have the qualifications. They got to invent the qualifications for me. They said just get the A level in the, we’ll do the, all the chemical experiments for you. I said I’m in the base of a bloody load of corruption here. There was experienced both the civil service, they both told me first thing. They’d be a bit what’s the name. Something officer, there.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Field officer.
HB: Right. Yeah.
CM: But I wasn’t long enough, part time.
HB: So you’ve, you’ve gone all the way through the war. You’ve had your RAF career over twenty years.
CM: Twenty six years.
HB: Twenty six years. And you, you’ve gone back into civilian life. What do you think, what do you think the war, that your wartime service with Bomber Command what do you think that gave you for your later life in the RAF and —
CM: Confidence.
HB: Right.
CM: I was a, as far as I was concerned I was not only a wireless op air gunner who did his job but also I knew that I wasn’t, I wasn’t really scared. I told you I was the biggest coward and everything. I wasn’t.
HB: Right.
CM: I was apprehensive. I used to look at the, the aircraft coming in, the place where the aircraft was parked and find that there were so many bombs, if you looked at the front of the aircraft and you could see nothing else but steel all the way around from middle right at the end. Right through this. A huge bomb bay about easily from that to here in a Lancaster.
HB: Yeah. A good eighteen feet. Twenty feet.
CM: Nothing at all. And you’d look at the front and you’d find that, yes you could see it, everyone said it but you wouldn’t believe it. The wings were fitted upwards.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I thought my God it’s so bloody heavy there that the damned wings are lifting up.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And of course everyone, we were all aware of that, you know. And how the hell could this possibly get airborne? But as soon as the aircraft had gone on off the runway and got the a airflow over it the wings then start to lift, because if they [unclear] to lift and of course they reassert themselves.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And of course the Lancaster designed from the bomb bay. It was designed as a —
HB: Yeah. So so you attribute your confidence to it.
CM: And also I was a good wireless op. Morse, because I always, I never got any IMIs. IMI means de de da da dit dit — please, ‘please send that again.’ De de da da dit dit.
HB: Right. Yeah. Right. So, of, of your crews.
CM: Yeah.
HB: Because you obviously had you know a number of, you know slight changes during Bomber Command duties.
CM: Well, they didn’t know anything about ops. They didn’t tell them anything in Morse.
HB: No. No.
CM: But as something else to think about doing lectures. When I was doing my t cal, it was teaching I used to think to myself what I should really do is something that’s really interesting. And one of the interesting things about being a wireless operator was emergencies.
HB: Right.
CM: Now, you know that everyone sends SOSs when they were da da da da, so. But it used to be SOS de de dit da da da dit dit dit da da da dit dit dit. So this brilliant bastard, who it was said, ‘This is not distinguishable.’ It’s dash O S sent, sent separately. Why don’t we put it all together and make it one symbol? So what they did SOS and with SOS, SOOS and they put a bar across the whole lot which meant it ran, the whole thing bit of it, instead of it being it dit dit dit da da dit dit dit it became de de de da da dit dit dit dit dit dit da da dit dit dit Which everyone knows as SOS.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
CM: So therefore it was adopted.
HB: Oh right.
CM: So we knew we had a system whereby if you had an emergency we used this system to do this. There’s a word called PATASACANDI. PATASACANDI. And if you think about that PAT is Position and Time. PAT CAS Course and Speed. A PATCAS Altitude. And then name. Name of aircraft. Intention of pilot. Right. All of this went out of your mind even and put all the things in and send it as PATACASANDI. In other words —
HB: Right.
CM: Height would be QAH fifteen, fifteen thousand. PAT, PAT in time of course you’d get your watch, plus course and speed. You ran the different course off from the, the whatsaname [unclear] and yaw thing, and speed. I didn’t get the speed but the navigator put down the speed. QTJ my speed is, my air speed is, such and such and such, my ground speed is depending which you were going to use. Then —
HB: Right.
CM: The course. And then there was the altitude. And the other one was the nature. The nature of, nature of, nature of the emergency.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Engine just, engine on fire. Bomb in, bomb in, bomb in bomb bay. Whatever the emergency was. They put that. Then intention of pilot. A PATCASANDI, Intention of Pilot. I at the end — intention of pilot. PATCASANDI. Everyone in the aircraft and the engineer knew that. How to send an emergency message was always in your head.
HB: Yeah.
CM: It was easy. You also knew the Q signals which we’d stick to them. The QAS for height. QTI for skip a course, your QEH was [unclear] of the whole thing so you could do it in your head. All the navigator had to say was, Kit.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. Yeah.
CM: I was confident that if there was an emergency I could send that.
HB: Did you, did you, when you look back we obviously lost an awful lot of —
CM: Engine Yeah.
HB: Aircrew and, you know people, you know, people didn’t come back. What was your, what was your general feeling? You know. You fly out on an op. You come back and a couple of your planes are missing. What was, what was your feeling about that, Kit?
CM: What we’d do then if you knew an aircraft had been shot down. We’d got sometimes to the 500cc channel, the name of channel 500 KCs which was 500 used by everybody. Maritimes, aircraft all go to the 500cc and you could hear anyone in distress sending his distress position.
HB: Right.
CM: That was the wonderful thing about being a wireless op you could be individual, an aircraft you’d see shot down and we’d know you didn’t have any chance of sending anything.
HB: No.
CM: But others which were badly damaged the wireless operator there frantically trying to get a message through.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Because his message and don’t forget you obviously finished off the message, the SOS by pressing his key for twenty seconds which was a long time [buzz] All the time in the world for the ground staff and other people anywhere taking bearings on you so therefore they get a good picture of just exactly where you were in the North Sea.
HB: Yeah.
CM: I feel I’m taking over too much now of this. Way over things that don’t even matter.
HB: Oh no. No. No. These —
CM: Well, it gives a good background to a wireless operator’s job.
HB: Well, that’s, that’s why you’re being interviewed Kit.
CM: Is that right?
HB: Because your wireless operator experience, I mean we’re talking lots of years here has developed. But —
CM: That’s right.
HB: In Bomber, in Bomber Command.
CM: They were going to be shot down.
HB: Yeah. You, you must have experienced that, you know. With friends.
CM: Yeah.
HB: And other crews that you knew.
CM: Oh yeah.
HB: Who didn’t come back.
CM: Yeah. I won’t talk about that.
HB: No.
CM: Distressing experience I just cut it out of my mind.
HB: No. That’s, yeah that’s understandable. I mean it’s, it’s a difficult area because none of us now can even imagine how you would feel and what you would experience.
CM: That’s right but I do wish before you go and I know you’ll be thinking to yourself how can I get away with this [noise] I’ve broken your communicator.
HB: Worry not. I’ve stood it back up.
CM: I wrote, I wrote a letter once, on an old notepad, so I’ll just [pages turning] Look at this. Do you hear what Sherlock would say? You’ve got all these to read when you’ve got time. Not now.
HB: Well, we will. We will on another occasion, I think.
CM: That’s the chap that was flying that Typhoon.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Now, I won’t, I won’t keep this, but I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a description of a flight I made. Just a flight rather than the flight. The definite article rather than the indefinite article. Ah is indefinite article. The is action.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So this particular flight was in my mind and I wrote it down exactly how it was. But also I’ve mentioned something which I’ve never seen mentioned anywhere before. Are you listening carefully for it Harry? It was well known in Bomber Command that an awful lot of atrocities took place. Have you heard about this?
HB: About the —?
CM: Atrocities towards aircrew.
HB: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
CM: Some of these people who are — they went through a very very harrowing experience. Some of them went mental. Deranged in fact. And they gathered themselves during a raid and tried to collect any bombers. A lot of people, had they baled out over the target and they’d come down in the streets and they, generally speaking there were some people who would [unclear] had very bad time indeed. They were hanged from lampposts. They were kicked to death by the civilians. They were shot by platoon commanders who wouldn’t take them in. They just cut them down with that, you never hear anything about that.
HB: No.
CM: It’s up to Bomber Command did [unclear] that’s why to a lot of people like me know about this. If people knew about the really bad times that they faced if they were ever taken prisoner. If the Luftwaffe were around the area and the Luftwaffe were patrolling they were pretty safe, but if there were no, no Luftwaffe around the SS they couldn’t have cared less. They’d shoot you out of hand.
HB: Yeah.
CM: An awful lot. There’s never been any book published. Any publication about it. People know, know this went on. But if you try to find anything about it.
HB: Yeah.
CM: The only way you find out about is by looking up at this report that I put in.
HB: Right.
CM: Which I can show you.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But I can’t now because I can’t remember where it is.
HB: Well, yeah.
CM: So I thought this might be the sort of thing that you’d be looking for.
HB: Yeah.
CM: On top of. In addition to. As well as —
HB: Yes. Yes.
CM: Rather than —
HB: I mean, it’s been fascinating listening to you Kit talking about that, you know. Not just, not just the wartime but the whole of, the whole of your RAFs experience. And you know how, I mean you said that you described this period of time when NCOs were being reduced in rank and whatnot.
CM: Well —
HB: But, but how —
CM: They don’t, they, let’s put it this way they didn’t say it was a reduction of rank
HB: No. No. No. No.
CM: They were exactly the same.
HB: Yeah.
CM: But we as aircrew had been warrant officers. We’d been so used to all this you know.
HB: Yeah. Exactly.
CM: But It was just taken over, three stripes, three stars and a crown, the same as a flight sergeant.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And they wouldn’t have it —
HB: Yeah.
CM: The aircrew who served they wouldn’t have it. That’s what buggered that up.
HB: What do you, do you think? Do you, when you look back now for that time during the World War? Do you think the public really understood what you were trying to do?
CM: I didn’t think. No. I don’t think they even thought about the things I’ve been telling you about now. The murders. That’s what they were. They were murders. And the best way that they used to kill and this comes up time and time again. Butchers. Butchers actually decapitate theirs. They set them in a line and one after the butcher would take their heads off. So called ISIS.
HB: But the public. The public back home here.
CM: They never found anything about that.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Never let anything be published.
HB: But in general terms though your, your service in Bomber Command.
CM: I tried to be a bomber.
HB: There were lots and lots of you.
CM: Yeah.
HB: As you came to the end of the war the public in this country had a view about the Spitfire boys and, you know the Navy and, and what not. Did you, did you — what did you think the public thought Bomber Command had achieved in the war?
CM: Well, I think that they pretty thought, and don’t forget and I came from a steel town and I used to and meet with a brevet and my stripes, you know. I was some sort of particular to the girls, I was a hero of Bomber Command. Because a lot of that on the radio all you got was, nothing happening in the war. The war years. The war world. But Bomber Command — last night’s operations. This. There. Bombers bombed shipping.
HB: Yeah.
CM: [unclear] what at the end was always the same. Of all, out of all these operations thirty five, forty four, sixty five, ninety seven in one case —
HB: Yeah.
CM: Of our aircraft are missing.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Now, you don’t have to be an intelligent member of the community to say ninety seven. Ninety seven, down the road. That’s from here to —
HB: Yeah.
CM: But there was a town up there. [unclear]
HB: But, so, so in general times you felt that the public were with you.
CM: Oh yes, really. There were also the liberals and the communists and the whatsanames. They wouldn’t be of course.
HB: No.
CM: But we were, as far as we were concerned we were being instructed. We willingly went into Bomber Command because in Bomber Command you bombed civilians. You couldn’t go to war like that.
HB: Yeah. And what, what was your view? Did, or did you even have a view of the government’s position at the end of the war towards Bomber Command?
CM: As regards the treatment of Bomber Command. It was absolutely atrocious. I’ve just explained to you about that.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Within, within on year of the war ending we were no longer flight sergeant or warrant officers. We were signaller 2s and signaller 1s and engineer 1s and engineer 2s, and pilots even. Pilot 1 and pilot 2s and pilot 3s and pilot 4s.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Because if you had one star you’re a pilot 4. For two stars you’re a pilot 3.
HB: Yeah.
CM: If you had one star you’re a pilot. No. You’re a pilot, a signaller 2 or pilot 2 with one star. No. Three stars was sergeant. Two stars — three stars and a crown was a flight sergeant. Three stars by itself was sergeant. Two stars was corporal. And one star was lance corporal.
HB: Right.
CM: That’s how, that’s how they looked at it.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: But the lance corporal couldn’t go.
HB: But the thing.
CM: Lance corporal couldn’t go in the sergeants mess.
HB: No.
CM: So they had to have separate messes and everything else.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So it was a complete and utter — it didn’t happen to the officers like that.
HB: No.
CM: They weren’t even mentioned. But we were treated badly.
HB: Politically, what, what was, what do you think was coming across politically from —
CM: Oh I think that at that time.
HB: Churchill and people like that.
CM: Don’t forget Bomber Command was the only way we could hit the, hit the Germans at all.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: Where could we hit? Where could we hit the Germans except in their homelands.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
CM: We destroyed their cities one by one.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Until only one was left.
HB: Yeah.
CM: Dresden. And in the last few days of the war we destroyed that as well.
HB: Yeah.
CM: So we did an incalculable addition to the winning of the war because they, whatsanames the people would be dehoused. Had no where to live. The slave labourers were living in terrible conditions in mountains. The whole system was run by slave labour.
HB: Yeah.
CM: And that was because of Bomber Command. They literally — the population were bombed out of their homes.
HB: Yeah. Well, Kit I think, I think we’ve come to a natural conclusion.
CM: That’s right. I feel as if I’ve, I feel as if I’ve monopolised the conversation.
HB: It’s not a conversation. It’s your story, Kit and it’s very very important.
CM: So you learned about the way that the way that Bomber Command were treated at the end of the war.
HB: Absolutely.
CM: You’ve seen my logbook. You know I’m a genuine person. You know that I’ve done well for myself.
HB: Yes. You certainly have. Its, it’s ten to three.
CM: Dear God have I been speaking for two or three hours?
HB: We, we started —
CM: You must have —
HB: We started before 1 o’clock.
CM: You must have put it to at least a half an hour of that Harry.
HB: I’m going to terminate the interview now. Thank you very much Kit. I really do appreciate that.
CM: But you will come back.
HB: Yes.

Citation

Harry Bartlett, “Interview with Christopher George McVickers,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 30, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11399.

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