Interview with Edgar Meredith


Interview with Edgar Meredith


Edgar Meredith applied to join the RAF when he was eighteen years of age, and was interviewed in London and trained as an air gunner. During training he flew on Whitley aircraft and felt those training days were more dangerous than actual operations. He was posted to 51 Squadron, RAF Leconfield in Yorkshire before joining a Pathfinder aircraft. During an operation on Potsdam he and his crew were forced to bale out of their aircraft and Edgar was made a prisoner of war. On capture the Germans removed his flying clothing and left him his shoes. He wrote a letter home on repatriation, but his family didn’t know he was coming until he knocked on the door.







00:16:55 audio recording


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LD: Ok. This is an interview for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Laura Dixon and the interviewee is Edgar Meredith. The interview is taking place at [buzz] on the 12th of April. So, hello Edgar. Thank you for having me. Could you tell me some more about your early life before the Second World War?
EM: Early life.
LD: Early life. Yeah.
EM: Which way is that?
LD: Well, before you joined the Bomber Command.
EM: Well, I was posted to Leconfield up in Yorkshire and I was boots repairing at the time because my father hadn’t got a job. And of course I had lost a part of my thumb so they graded me grade two and of course when I got around to it I asked the corporal in the Medical Centre if there was a possibility of an upgrade, and of course immediately he said, ‘I’ll fix it.’ And after that I had an interview for aircrew. I went to Andover and they tested the length of my leg and was short for flying a bomber. So I went up to [unclear] House in London and I was interviewed up there. Mercury and all that you know and eyesight they said, and I got in this room and they said, he said, ‘Do you want to be an air gunner?’ [laughs] I said, ‘No. A Pilot.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘You’d be too long doing that. It would take about two years.’ So from there on I was a bomber.
LD: Ok. So you were a rear gunner, I believe.
EM: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: So what does a rear gunner do?
EM: Well, in the tail end and they keep a view of any aircraft coming to attack, you know. And of course if they did attack you’d tell the pilot to dive and then turn and like that. But of course the latest attacks were from underneath. This is the problem.
LD: Ok. So, did you, how did you become to be a rear gunner? Were you given the position or did you volunteer to have that position?
EM: I was given the position.
LD: Ok. So what kind of training do you need to be a rear gunner? How were you trained?
EM: Oh, God. They had all sorts of equipment [pause] Special equipment that you could think of flying in the air and you attacked the aircraft on screen.
LD: Ok. Ok. And how many missions did you fly altogether?
EM: Well, at the end of the war I did fifteen missions.
LD: Ok, and how old were you when you were flying?
EM: Well, I went in to the Air Force when I was eighteen and I was about twenty three when I stopped flying.
LD: Ok.
EM: Pathfinder Force.
LD: Ok. So, what was your relationship like with your fellow crewmembers?
EM: Very good.
LD: What did you do in your spare time?
EM: See those there.
LD: Oh, ok.
EM: Of course they were taking photos here I think.
LD: Oh, was that —
EM: Of course, we were bombing then throughout. The Russians, you know they were advancing and we were behind the lines bombing. Of course, we went to Potsdam and of course we had to bale out. With that they used to illuminate the target like daylight. We used to go in first and the Bomber Command would go over the top. So we had to be very careful to never bomb in the wind [laughs]
LD: Yeah. So what would you do as entertainment? As leisure time when you weren’t flying?
EM: Not a lot. And they had a process of spreading Window. It was aluminium strips and of course you’d go around all there filling these tubes up because the wireless operators would, well Germany was covered in aluminium tape [laughs] And of course when it happened first they thought it was a complete wipe out.
LD: Did your planes, did any of them get shot down?
EM: Well, I was in 51 Squadron and two were shot down there and one landed and the German officer shot him. He was from Newport too funnily enough.
LD: Really? Ok. So, did you keep in touch with your crew members after the war?
EM: Well, I spoke to Jack Tovey. The one on there. But he was posted up to London so I never saw him again.
LD: Ok. So, can you tell me about your life after the Second World War and after the Bomber Command?
EM: Well, of course at the end of the war they had to push people all over the place, you know. Because when we landed we were given [unclear] that puff up the trousers to kill any lice. Then we were transferred to Birmingham because when you’ve been in a prisoner of war camp it’s a similar experience and if you’re not careful you could kill yourself eating too much. That was all. When I was in Germany they were eating far more than chickens and everything.
LD: So, while you were in the Bomber Command flying these planes did you feel excited or were you nervous? What was the feeling?
EM: Well, it didn’t worry me at all.
LD: Oh. Is it because you were young or —
EM: Might have been.
LD: Yeah.
EM: Although there was one chap who wouldn’t bale out because he was too nervous and the aircraft crashed. One broke his back and the other was killed. It isn’t the place for scared people. Of course, when I baled out you would have to go from the turret, organised because with the turret I could turn it and open the doors and just fall out. But with the bale out proper I went up the fuselage and waited. And then of course I pulled on Jack Tovey’s trousers. Maybe it was a premonition, and I went to the rear entrance and of course I had a parachute on my back, and like a, like a braces and, but the other chap was the flight engineer. I think he must have got in there. He had to check the engines. Check the bombs and of course he must have gone out [and hit the spar] as he clipped them on.
LD: Ok. So, did you see many planes getting shot down?
EM: Didn’t see any getting shot down really.
LD: So, how do you think the Bomber Command has been perceived now? How do you think it’s been treated?
EM: Very badly I think.
LD: Oh.
EM: They just didn’t want to know after the war. But of course Dresden was a bit of it, you know [pause] Killed so many people there. At Hamburg they burned the whole city didn’t they? Nobody survived that.
LD: So, do you feel proud of your time in the Bomber Command?
EM: Oh, quite proud. You always wish you could do more but time and circumstance didn’t allow it so we had to get out. I served from ’42 to ’46 and I was released a year after I started my time.
LD: But you must have feared for your life at some point while you were flying.
LD: Oh, ok.
EM: Sorry [laughs]
LD: That’s fine. Ok.
EM: Some people of course were very frightened. All depends on your character I suppose.
LD: Ok. Is there anything else you can think of? Anything that you’d like to add.
EM: I can’t think of anything. I mean, when we were flying training it was more risky than flying bombers because we had old Whitley aircraft. One of the oldest aircraft in the force, and of course very often the undercarriage wouldn’t come down and you were circling for hours trying to find a bit of support. It was a belly landing or a normal landing. That’s the way it went, I suppose. And of course when I baled out they took all the clothes off us you know. I had a big woolly pullover and they took it off. The electrical suit you could get them on the top and left me my shoes. But they took all that off me, and I had a Polish coat about as thin as paper, and it was freezing. Absolutely freezing. Of course, it was April in Germany. It was one of the worst times. We didn’t have any food to eat hardly. Coffee was just water. We had a box from the British Red Cross. There was milk in there. Decorate the cake with milk. [Cwmbach] we used to call it. Of course, when I went in the camp there were four beds in the room, and of course I ended up, they’d make coffee. [unclear] it was left with three by the time I got there. Some would prefer to have a smoke than eat.
LD: So, how long would a mission take? How long would one mission take?
EM: Well, we were right at the far end really. About ten hours out and in. It was about ten hours. And it wasn’t very warm to sit there for ten hours [laughs] And of course at the end they stripped all the Perspex off the turret so you could see out without any reflections. Of course, in the end they had to keep going like this all the time because they were coming from underneath shooting up. And of course, they used to wait until you dropped your bombs and turned to go home and whoosh.
LD: So when the war was over you must have celebrated in some kind of way.
EM: Well, I didn’t celebrate because I was in Germany at the time and I wrote a letter home on May the 8th. Said I’d be home shortly and I had got a card when I got home that was mailed. They didn’t know I was coming home really until I knocked the door. ‘Let me in.’ [laughs]
LD: Ok. Well, if there’s nothing else you can think of that’s all the questions that I have. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
EM: I don’t think so.
LD: Ok. Well, thank you very much for talking to me. And that is the —
EM: It’s a pleasure.
LD: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much and that is the end of the interview.



Laura Dixon, “Interview with Edgar Meredith,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 1, 2023,

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