Interview with Malcolm Francis Morris


Interview with Malcolm Francis Morris


Malcolm Francis Morris, who was a child when war broke out, remembers joining the RAF as a boy entrant and then serving as an armament technician during the Cold War. Describes his training at St Athans and being then posted to Aden, where he was in charge of a bomb dump and occasionally disposed of the ammunition. Remembers various episodes: serving on 112 Squadron in Cyprus in 1974; being awarded the General Service Medal for the Arabian Peninsula; taking a specialist course on ejection seats and one on torpedoes; his posting back to England on various stations; handling different kinds of weapons. Talks about his experience with the Buccaneers and Shackletons and gives technical details about the nuclear armament of the aircraft. Expresses his critical views on Churchill regarding the destruction of the German cities during the war and the neglecting of veterans.







00:46:26 audio recording


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SB: This is Sheila Bibb interviewing Malcolm Morris at Cliffe in Kent on the 20th of July, I think it’s the 20th and I’m going to ask a few basic questions and then we will get into a little bit more detail. So, Mal, can you just start off by telling me a little bit about yourself, where you were born, your family, anything like that.
MM: I was born, as I say, in Herefordshire, in a place called Lower Bearwood near the village of Pembridge. My, I was a single child and an actual fact, I was rather late one cause my mother was forty when I was born and I was an only child at the beginning of the war 26th of July 1940. We were basically in a farming area although my father worked for the Herefordshire County Council driving rollers, road rollers, he was actually, he was called up during the first world war and went to the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry but never went to the trenches which is probably why I’m here basically and in the Second World War of course he was too old for start and also it was a reserved occupation mending the roads. He could’ve had a farm, his father’s farm but he didn’t want it so that went from, it was not a big place, just a small [unclear] so that went away from us as such. I attended school at the local church school followed by the secondary school cause I failed the eleven plus miserably so basically as I say, I was secondary school failed. The sergeant prompted me to apply to join up, and I found I could apply as a boy entrant at fifteen just as I left school, which I did, I went to RAF Cosford for the inauguration to see if I was fit, if you might say, which was quite an easy day as far as I was concerned, I was surprised I passed it, basically it was put square rolls in round pegs and things like that and I was told, yes you can join up and go down where you want, go down to St Athans in a month or so’s time, which is what happened. I spent eighteen months at St Athans being trained as an armament mechanic then, up to senior aircraftsman standard, which I passed out as but being still young I stayed as a boy entrant so for my first couple of years in the real Royal Air Force mostly at Waterbeach I was a boy entrant until I managed, to get all my [unclear] was coming through when I was seventeen and a half so then I got luckily, fairly lucky, I got on a fitter’s course fairly quickly and also what they call a conversion course cause first off they trained us as armourers fitters guns just that side of it but then they wanted it, when they lost the other trades, things like turrets and one or two other small arms parts of the armament, it did all come into one and I did a conversion course to become a junior technician and then they posted me out to that lovely place called Aden and I thought I would be going to Khormaksar working on everything under the sun when I got there they said, get on that coach, you’re going to Steamer Point, where is that? It’s down in the harbour but it was a much better place than Khormaksar and easy, it was an MU and I actually worked on a large bomb dump, I’m talking both air force, navy and army material which mostly we were looking after destroying at times. Basic throwing everything we didn’t want in the sea because at the same time at Khormaksar 8th Squadron converted from Vampires with 20mm guns to Hunters with 30mm guns and we had lots and lots of ammunition and I’m talking thousands of rounds. I threw, threw most of it into the sea and then they found out I’d thrown one lot I shouldn’t have thrown away [laughs]. But it was one of those things that happen. I did two years in Aden getting the general service medal for Arabian Peninsula although basically I hardly had a shot fired [unclear] or twice but not much. I returned to England and went to eventually RAF Northorpe at Coastal Command headquarters just looking after the small arms weapons, there was about fifty of them we were told there was two of us to do it, it was basically boring and I couldn’t get on, I couldn’t pass me corporal tech at the time so the flight sergeant said to me, how would you fancy a post in some [unclear] flight sergeant down there another junior tech who wanted to come to Northwood so we exchanged posts and I went to St Mawgan and I ended up on 206 Squadron for the best part of six years. Funny thing was that when I got to St Mawgan I met another lad in the armament trade and his [unclear] was up in Dartford in Kent so and I had a car, so he cottoned on to me and I used to drive him off to Kent where I met his sister. She is now my wife and has been for fifty odd years. Unbelievable really because I from London to St Mawgan and then suddenly going to court a girl up in Dartford in Kent, it was unbelievable, anyway that happened. We went up to Kent last eventually when the squadrons moved up to Kinloss to chase the Russian submarines round the North Sea, it was a bit closer than St Mawgan. Basically I loved it on 206 when they said to me one day the squadron leader engineer said, Corporal Morris, we are going to send you on a torpedo course. I said, I don’t want to go on a torpedo course, I’m happy in the squadron, I want to stay here. Oh, he said, you got to go, it’s a good idea for your career. I never really believed it, anyway I went. I got to RAF Newton on a pre-course, electrical course, and met the other half dozen armourers there and they said, oh, you are Corporal Morris, are you? Yeah, why? He said, well, you are going to Changi with us. Hello, nobody told me that! So I decided I’d pass the course, which I did and eventually got posted to Changi as it happened, my wife obviously came with me etcetera and by the time she was pregnant with our first eldest son which she produced in RAF Changi hospital and eventually the second one before we left the tour as was well at RAF Changi hospital, so both of our sons were born at RAF Changi. I served in the torpedo section which was basically air-conditioned and very, very nice and clean and after we’d been there about six months the group that I was with [unclear] at that time we just about looked at every torpedo and cleaned them up and repainted them so everything was alright after that, nothing hardly to do really and I got posted back to England and the funny thing then was when my post had come through it said 26 Squadron and I looked at the other blokes, by which time I was a sergeant by the way, I looked at the other blokes and said, 26 Squadron? That’s a Squadron in Germany, you don’t go from Singapore to Germany. They said, read the rest of the title, brackets, Royal Air Force regiment. Damn it, I don’t want to go to the regiment, anyway I’ve got no choice, come back and got posted to RAF Bicester with 26 Squadron on the regiment as a sergeant armourer on Bolfords guns, the latest version of what of course they had in the war the early versions, ours were, they could be electronically controlled but we didn’t have the radar to do it. If they wanted the radar, they had to borrow it, basically ask the army if they could use theirs [laughs]. Anyway that lasted for about a year when the regiment squadron was posted to Gutersloh and as it happened I didn’t realise that but I was still immune to be posted overseas unless I asked nicely. So the adjutant called myself as a sergeant armourer and a corporal radio lad on a Friday afternoon and he said, we think you are doing well because up till then I’d been the back end of the air force as far as it goes. We’d like you so much, would you like to come to Germany with us? You can go and ask your wives you’re both married, go and ask your wives whether they want to go to Germany and I looked at this corporal and he looked at me and we looked back at the adjutant and together we said, no thank you sir. So we got posted out and I got posted to Honington when I’d become part of what was by that time Strike Command on the Buccaneers early, the early squadron, 12 squadron Buccaneers, mostly the Mark IIs. I served in most of the sections and squadrons, on that squadron at Honington, I didn’t go on a nuclear weapons site although I loaded the nuclear weapons etcetera onto the Buccaneers because we were in those days fighting the Cold War etcetera, which was quite a good thing in the end but I found, by this time I managed to get up to chief technician which was the maximum rank I got and I was put in charge of the carrier bay but ended up doing just about everything else, loading Martels, specialist Martel man, the ejection seats of course, nuclear weapons, standard bombs. If the squadron couldn’t do it which at the time they were still in the bases of [unclear] and I ended up doing it with my lads which annoyed me cause my workers backing up on the section. So anyway that happened and I went on and from there the next posting came through and again a funny one, 112 Squadron in Cyprus, what’s that? Luckily one of my junior techs had been posted out to 112 so I did know that it was Mark II Bloodhounds, surface to air missiles. So I already had a contact on the squadron which was Andy so myself and my family went out in June ’74 and if you know the history of there, the Turks walked in in July and basically buggered up everything. We were not allowed to fight them, I think it was Callaghan was the foreign secretary then and he wouldn’t allow us to fight them. Mind you we hadn’t got a lot to fight with, I think we had a regiment squadron in Akrotiri, the royal Scots up at Episkopi where I was actually based and a couple of tank companies over at the other side, the eastern SBA as it was called, we were the western, which is the Sovereign Base Area, but our radar told me, by the radar lads of course that they could watch the Turkish F100s lifting off Turkey and lock onto them and could shoot them down quite happily except they weren’t allowed to. And luckily they didn’t come and bomb us although they went over the SBA a couple of times but they didn’t drop anything and the silly thing of the air force people [unclear] they put 56 Squadron Lightnings up with the F100s to escort them across, our missiles didn’t know the difference so we couldn’t fire anyway so we were immune from, we didn’t fire at all. Things quietened down, unfortunately the families were sent home because of the problems, had to be sent back to England which didn’t help very much cause my wife by that time had three children, we had three children, two boys and a girl, which is all we we got now and she eventually ended up at the place where they make air publications and I can’t think of name off the top of me head and she was there for about six months and then the powers at bay said to 112 Squadron, so good we gotta keep you on, so your family has gotta come back whereas some went home and I was considered an essential personnel by that time [laughs] but unfortunately although I was a chief tech to get a married quarter, which you couldn’t live out by that time, you had to live on married, on the site or on the camp, they said, oh no, we are going to change the system, the people who has got the least time to do are getting the married quarters first, so basically an SAC had no points with just a wife could get a married quarter was with three children and they were still in England, took about six months, not a happy time. Eventually she came back and we got a married quarter of course in Episkopi which went on alright, was gonna be nice, the Turks had quietened down, they had got the bit in the north in Cyprus that they wanted and then someone else come along and said, oh, we’ve decided to disband the squadrons in Cyprus, that was 112, 56 and the, I think it was two Falcon squadrons they put on at Akrotiri at that time. Thank you very much, when are we going home? As it happened obviously a senior NCO in the sergeant’s mess, I was a partner of the warrant officer who posted armourers around the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, Malta, I think [unclear] had finished by that time and of course Cyprus so he said to me, he said, hey Mal, you’re a chief tech with a qualification for torpedo, I said, yes, he said, how do you fancy going to Malta to finish your tour? And I said yes please and as it happened he was going there as well as the engineering warrant officer [laughs] so we went over to Malta with the family of course which was, I thought was quite nice but my wife wasn’t very keen on Malta, I don’t really know why, we lived out in Malta so she got on alright with the local people. As it happened the lady above her was Maltese although married to an RAF serviceman of course. So she got on quite well but she didn’t like it very much. And of course that time which is ’77-’78 Malta was closing down because of the president his name [unclear] he was checking us out basically because the Libyans were giving him all the money. So we started to pack up and my wife said let’s gonna go home so basically I sent her home. She went home and she went home to her mother at the time but I was now sort of [unclear] to requirements so they just said, well, we don’t want you here anymore you might as well go as well, so it only lasted about a month and I got back home and I was then posted to Marham again the specialist qualification came up, the Martel section. I didn’t like it. Anyway we got a quarter at Marham, settled down there basically with the children [unclear] school etcetera and because I was coming towards the end of my twenty two year contract time by that time I had put in for the last postance, it was overseas Cottesmore, oh, and Wittering but I got Marham so I wasn’t too bothered, alright, anyway went to the officer in the charge, but didn’t get on with very well, but that’s another story, I said, oh, we are going to post you to Coltishall, where do you want to go? I said, I don’t want to go now, oh, he said, you got no choice, you gotta go, it’s your last tour post and you’ve only got a year eighteen months to do. So, I went over to Coltishall which turned out to be quite well actually, by this time of course the family was still in Marham, I was at Coltishall but I got a quarter at Coltishall fairly quickly because the problems with Cyprus and being on a [unclear] I got more points than normal so I was quite high on the points list by that time, so of course my wife come over to with the children to Coltishall so we lasted the last twelve months, eighteen months, I was basically 6 Squadron chief tech in charge of the bomb dump being the Jaguars they were back up for Germany if the balloon went up, if the Cold War become hotted up we were supposed to go over the Jaguars and land on the motorway [unclear] but we never did and basically was exercises to go over to Germany or Netherlands or wherever they decided to go. I think I was out on the forth [unclear] Hercules with about a half a dozen blokes and fourteen cluster bomb out on the bomb dump to look after, so that happened once or twice, which was, my daughter was about eight by that time, the trouble was they used to put the siren out when the exercise started and daddy disappeared to camp on work or come back with this gun, his [unclear] disruptive combat so [unclear] all the rest of it and she was in tears basically and eventually a day or two later once we’ve loaded the Hercules etcetera away I flew for a fortnight or so or used to be ten days on exercise, so my daughter hates this siren and I’ve got one on the car and I’ll bring it up now and again and forty years old she still hates the siren. So basically I was at Coltishall coming up to the end of my time, I applied to sign onto 55 but by that time the Air Force was starting to shrink and they didn’t want chief, high chief techs they wanted Indians so they didn’t allow me to sign on, they did offer me forty seven but I always thought, seven years and I give the government two thousand pounds a year cause I get a pension that way and I know I said I went out instead. What didn’t help and I don’t want it necessarily said was actually the [unclear] group captain on one because he did something wrong in admin put all I didn’t get nothing out of it some poor corporal in the general office that I didn’t even know got a reprimand for giving the wrong information so I left the Air Force out of a bit of a cloud, it was the time I went and the other thing that decided the two us myself and wife the school, local school send [unclear] things in how many places your children [unclear] six months well we used those up and turned the page over and put another half dozen on the back because we are going in and out of Cyprus etcetera, so basically I left the Air Force in 1980 with myself, my wife and the three children and I got the job as a refrigeration engineer. I couldn’t spell it when I left the Air Force, a month later I was one for a firm called Hobart engineering in the Ipswich area and basically I was the Kent engineer for Hobart’s [unclear] travelled for twelve years till they made me redundant. So I was quite happy [unclear] and that’s about my lifetime.
SB: Ok, so that’s given me some food for thought.
MM: It did [laughs]
SB: [laughs] So I think if we go back now to when you first joined up and you are fifteen so that’s 1955, war has been over for ten years but we’ve still got an awful lot of things going on how did that influence your decision, do you think?
SB: Not at all. I would say not at all because as I said earlier I did want to join the air force but didn’t think I would be qualified to any extent and when I was offered the boy entrant I just jumped at it, to be quite honest. Again, the headmaster of the school who, hang on, he did cane me now and again, gave me quite a good recommendation although I was considered the best athlete at the time and I’ve gone downhill since then but I was considered the best athlete at the time in the school. So I had quite a good recommendation from the headmaster which must have influenced a little but I was right at the back end of the boy entrant entry, I think with my entry I was within about the last twenty numbers.
SB: Ok, so, the war itself didn’t seem to influence you. How did you feel about the possibility of maybe getting into another war and having to?
MM: Never really gave it a thought and it was the case or you buy it, obey the orders anyway and get on with it, which is what happened with the odd places I was, with the small wars like Aden, Cyprus, I never really got influenced in Northern Ireland, I nearly did because 26 Squadron the regiment were going to be sent to Northern Ireland but this is when they went to Gutersloh instead so, phew, I didn’t get to Northern Ireland because it was still active in those days and of course the Buccaneers were back up for lots of places which could have had wars, we used to go to Norway and even took them to Singapore for a month. After, that was after the Air Forces had left of course so the Buccaneers would have been in the war if it was going to be but we never really thought about it, to be quite honest. If it happens, it happens.
SB: Let’s talk a little bit about the planes that you done, mentioned Buccaneers, you also mentioned Shackletons. Can you tell me a little bit about what you liked, didn’t like about the varying planes?
MM: Well, if you know the Shackleton, which is my longest Squadron really, I was actually on the squadron, I was actually working on the Mark IIIs, which is the one with the tricycle undercarriage as opposed to the tail draggers, the two’s and the one’s, the two’s and the one’s were still bombing up wise, were still operating as the Lancasters did in the war with the winch, that you literally had to winch up the bombs which was hard work but the Mark III they had based that similar to the Vulcan where we had hydraulic jacks to lift the large frame which had the torpedoes on them so basically the Mark III Shackleton was, as far as I was concerned, was excellent. Ah, we did a thing called the search and rescue standby for a week, we had a Shackleton on one hour standby to take off for a search and rescue anywhere over the Atlantic or wherever basically required and if the first Shackleton went, the squadron had another Shackleton virtually ready at the same time but not quite ready, they had to call people in, especially at Kinloss because I was by that time I suppose the senior corporal, because there was only a corporal armourer and a sergeant armourer went off from St Mawgan to Kinloss, so I was considered the senior corporal for that sort of thing and for an S&R, search and rescue load of, what we had on them? We had the SAR staff sonobuoys and flares but they were all on the beams, there were only four beams that we put on and but they were all already on the trolleys set up on the beams so it only had to be pulled out to the aircraft, fix up the hydraulic jacks two of them, do one at a time and up they went. In fact I could actually, actually I haven’t and I have done, I could load the Shackleton for that in twenty minutes flat as long as I had a couple of blokes to obey and they knew what they were doing, if it was armourer’s great but otherwise it could be anyone else that actually knew because we helped each other on the Shackleton’s. So many a time at Kinloss I’ve be in bed and a quarter across the road from the main gate but there’d be a knock on the door and I’d stick me head out of the window it’s marvellous SAR’s been called out, we need the next load, oh damn, out of bed, get dressed, on me bike, cross I went, loaded the Shackleton up because there was other ground crew there to look after the Shackleton as such, they just needed a specialist armourer there, in about within two hours I was back on bed [laughs] and often the second one didn’t take off so cause I had to get up again [laughs]. That was the Shackletons of course they went round the world, I luckily got a trip to Singapore with them although that was into the Borneo confrontation and of course we never saw anything really of that, we were just looking for the gun runners basically on the South China Sea. As I said, on the Shackleton, if they went on a training trip to fire the guns, they’d take up one of the armourers missile from one of the others whatever to clear the stockages that invariably happened [laughs] and they gave us a go, so that’s how I come to fire guns out of a Shackleton which was a bit unusual for a ground training, I did hit me target, mind you it was the South China Sea at the time [laughs], my sergeant it seemed when he went up, he actually hit the smokefloat that they dropped down, canister about like two [unclear] so he actually had that they say, well none of the aircrew never got near they just got the South China Sea like me, which was I suppose handy because I’d been, it was Changi that we went on a detachment and of course later I was posted to Changi as a torpedo specialist so I knew the area but nothing great about it. Mostly then I also had Buccaneers later which were of course the nuclear Buccaneer, they carried two nuclear weapons, six hundred pound 177, nuclear weapon, the English-made version by the way, because I did actually put nuclear weapons on Shackletons which a lot people don’t realise they did, but we had to borrow them off the Yanks, the Yanks had a bomb, a special weapons bomb dump at St Mawgan and Machrihanish for this but we just had to ask them, we’d like to put two on our aircraft in a month’s time. So, sign here, a sort of thing. Which was one of the funny things there, I happened to be on tour six that we were doing the test in the early days, this must have been about 64, 63, 64, we were designated to do the test with the Yanks to see that ours went up and whatever, very little we did, it was just the case of doing the checks on the switches and things, I did the switches and the chief read the book, and I turned one switch the wrong way and the Yank said, stop, stop, that’s it, start again, so half an hour back again, I’m starting the book again and then one day we’ve been putting these on and off for a month or two, not too regular, they’d all come out painted I can’t remember now maybe blue or green and then one come out a different colour, one colour or another so we got them on the aircraft flew away for an hour or so, just to do whatever they had to do, and while we were there the Yank obviously stayed with us in the crew room, who was looking after the weapon, we said, hey, why is that a different colour? He said, man, that’s the real one! [laughs] Oh, and we got taken off [laughs], we’ll do this gently [laughs] took it off and waved goodbye to it. And until I went on the Buccaneers I never saw another live one, I did see live ones on the Buccaneer, but not often and actual fact the Buccaneers as to my knowledge, in the squadron anyway, they didn’t take off with a weapon on board, they may have channelled down the runway a little bit but they just come back and we took them off. They must well have been flown sometime because the navy had them as well on their Buccaneers but as far as I know we never flew one off on Honington in the time I was there it had actually flew off or if it did it was only a training weapon, but by the time I put mine on and gone back for a cup of tea I didn’t care where the aircraft went, I just had to wait till it come back again. So that was the Buccaneers mostly. It’s interesting time on the Buccaneers cause I became a specialist, took the course on the Martel guided weapon, was a TV guided or a radar guided Martel, two versions, which is why I ended up at Marham on the Martel section and I also got a Martin Baker course for a week on the ejection seats, they were just starting to fit rocket seats, the Harrier which needed a big rocket seat cause that could be going down when it’s crashed, as opposed to be flying along, so they had to have a good boost up to get into the air at what they called 0 0 feet, they could actually pull, no that they wanted to but they could pull the ejection seat handle and when they were sitting on the ground doing nothing and they’d still come down [unclear] I don’t think they ever tested it as such and I went to Martin Baker it was really nice, couple of pints at dinnertime and a meal and all sorts and for a week was really nice, we actually met in passing the man called Benny Lynch who in the back, just after the war, back end of the war, he was one of the first ones that ejected out of a Meteor in test and done more ejections than anyone else. I think by that time he had broken just about every body in, bone in his body and basically he was, basically just about at it but he was still kept on by as an idol of Martin Baker. That was the Buccaneers so and the only other aircraft I didn’t work on a lot but just out bomb up now and again was the Jaguar, as I said, I was mostly in charge of their bomb dump so if they went on detachment I was in charge of all the bombs and got them set up and put on the carrier or whatever required and the armourers on the squadron actually did the loading as such although they used to call me in now and again if they had a problem, mostly it was a problem I had caused or my lads had because they hadn’t quite done the right thing with whatever the fusing etcetera had to be done, so there was a few problems now and again. And that’s about my main time with the aircraft.
SB: Ok. Are there any particular stories that come to mind from your time, you’ve mentioned being able to fire into the South China Sea and so on, you have already mentioned a few things but are there any other incidents at all that you’d like to share?
MM: The one that amuses me a lot, on 26 squadron of the regiment they had thirteen Bulfords guns, twelve of them were obviously on the [unclear], four on each, three four is twelve, yes, but my gun was the thirteenth. But when I went to the regiment and the lads showed me everything and said, where’s this [unclear] on my infantry, he said, oh, they’re in, it’s in that building over there in the, we were working out of an old MT, one of the old MT buildings over there, but he said, well, we don’t know, we’ve taken bits off it like it’s what the Air Force called a Christmas tree, I if we wanted a part, we took it off there before they sent us a bit and after the time we didn’t bother to put it back on the other gun, cause we probably used it on something else eventually, so eventually it came around that we were going to take the squadron was going down to Manorbier to fire the guns and of course they wanted to fire all of the guns cause they were talking of going to Germany and we had to test the barrels and all sorts of things, so I said to the lads, I said, we are gonna have to get this gun out. And they said, well, we will have to be a bit careful the ones that have been there so we went up, opened up, started to push this gun out and I don’t know if you know but the wheels of the gun are locked down [unclear] when it’s being dragged along the ground, but when the gun is going to fire they take them up and it sits on feet, unfortunately this thing fell on the ground, luckily none of the lads got injured so anyway this gun [unclear], so I told their officers in charge etcetera, this gun [unclear] it and they said oh well, went through the system and they said, send it back to Stafford, so we [unclear] rigged it so as the wheel stayed up coming down and it disappeared behind the truck and a new gun, a gun from Stafford that was being refurbished come back to us, all nice painted etcetera etcetera, ok, alright so we dragged, in fact I went on the truck, dragged my gun down to Manorbier and the regiment obviously set their guns out cause they could set all twelve onto the firing range and carried on for half a week and then they said, right, now we’ll try your gun, I said, alright, we are going to fire this, he said, no, you can’t fire it, well, I got six armourers, ah, they said, but you’ve been trained how to load it [laughs], we were servicing the bloody thing but we weren’t being trained cause they put them in from the side and all sorts so, anyway one of the sergeants in the [unclear] took my gun, put it up on the range, started off red, he had tips of five rounds, very like a 303 but bigger and they started firing it, fired about two or three rounds, bang, bang, bang, now stopped, oh shit, called us out, and what they do? Don’t know, got jammed with a mechanism going back before you can’t move it cause it’s too big but two Welshmen that had done this for years, they had a trolley about the size of that table and a big piece of lead basically that you can hardly lift up on a chain but these done it so many times they, oh, we got another jammed gun, it was pointed in safe direction by the way [laughs], and they come up and one of them lifted this and swung it round and hit it in the right place and the gun went and fired, bang, stand a couple of times, we got a bit fed up with this, one of my corporals a very nice, very good lad Scotsman, he what it was cause I hadn’t got a clue, I hadn’t been trained on the guns and this was just experience and he said, you couldn’t get ammunition was called forty seventy or forty sixty it was just slightly bigger, the one, the seventy is slightly bigger but what he reckoned Stafford had done he had bolted the slideway for the ammunition to go in, one side was forty and the other was sixty so basically it was [unclear], skewed as you went down, he sorted this out and changed the bolt etcetera etcetera by which time they finished firing so he never did find out if it fired that way, it went to Germany and I don’t know. But the other things as well that the lads said, they’d been there before to Manorbier of course they said Sarge, he said, it’s bloody horrible there, we give out all the ammunition that’s basically our job on the day unless the [unclear] stops. And come the evening we got all these empty cases back and we gotta, we box’em and put this free of explosives, he used to take us hours to, he said by the time we got back to the camp at Pembrey, starts with the P but Welsh area anyway is a small camp, army camp, small, all the food had gone more or less, I thought, what am I gonna do? Hang on, he says, that a senior NCO must certify free of explosives so he’s fired the gun and he’s got [unclear] he knows it’s free of explosives, each gun had a sergeant in charge of it, I thought, right, make out a list, you will put all the empty cases back in the boxes, seal them up, the lads were doing it of course. Not my lads but his lads, because they had time between the aircraft flying over and things like that to do this sort of thing and certify it and sign it, so all we had to do basically the armourers as such was travel down the back of the guns, at the ones they stopped firing and pick it all up on a three tonner, take it down to a building and stick it all in the building, the next day I had to certify that it was all empty and take it down to the trains at Pembroke Dock, put them on a train, seal that and send it back to Stafford or wherever it went, I don’t know, and this was right because the sergeants weren’t too keen on doing the job but my army officer, the warrant officer on the squadron so it was the case of the warrant officer says and they did it [laughs] and it worked beautifully. The lads, in fact my lads were just about the first ones back because the others, the regiment themselves had of course cleaned the gun and strip it down, [unclear] over for night time etcetera so our lads were just about the first ones back to the cook house so they thought that was great [laughs], so from the lad’s point of view I scored but from the regiment point of view I didn’t like it. I got to know how to do things cause being only a sergeant, the flight sergeants were in charge of the flights and if I wanted something done like their guns cleaned, I’m talking about their private work, I say private, their individual work which they were allocated of course, the SLR by that time, self-loading rifle, I had the armoury as well to look after, although I had a couple of lads doing that of course, every [unclear] they knocked down a barrel and if anything was dirty they said gun number 24 or whatever is dirty barrel, so I used to phone up the flight sergeant and say, so and so and so and so and so and so of your people have got dirty weapons, oh, I can’t be bothered by, warrant officer so and so says and five minutes later they were done, the armoury clean and their weapons [laughs] so it worked out alright but it took me six months to work all this lot out by which time I got the chance to leave and I did [laughs].
SB: Right, so, I think we’ve covered a fair amount of your time.
MM: Good! Crakey, yes!
SB: In there so unless there is anything else you can think that you’d like to add to it? I mean, maybe one question I can throw to you. You said the war, Second World War, didn’t influence your decision to go in but how did you feel about those people who had taken part in, in war, those people who did fly in Bomber Command, how did you feel about it?
MM: At the time I went in because there were still so many in the Air Force, for instance my old chief on 206 Squadron went through the war from an apprentice, he was I believe an apprentice at the beginning of the war and he went through the war and ended up as a warrant officer but only on a temporary rank. And I felt a bit for him because eventually he chased the Japanese back up through Burma and went into Japan with them and became forces of occupation, he was told us that as a warrant officer he sent him out with half a dozen blokes and a truck and get rid of all the Japanese war stores and the Japanese way of storing stuff is different to our way, I mean, we put ammunition in one place over there and furniture over there and food somewhere else and paperwork everywhere else, spread out all over the place, the Japanese didn’t do it that way, they put everything in smaller places, so the ammunition, food, weapons, vehicles, obviously the weapons and ammunitions was part of what the old warrant was telling me destroyed of course. But they had everything else, they had furniture, clothing, well, because, like a large barn basically they used to tell us [unclear] where it was sort of thing and the door was there, well, because of the war etcetera you were worried about booby-traps which is part of why he went of course and the armourers so they used to blow the doors open as opposed to try to open them with a pickaxe or whatever [laughs], they used to blow them open, the trouble, well good thing from this point, I can tell you now cause he’s dead but the good thing about that was when the bang went off, all the local people, we knew about these things, turned up and wanted half of what they could get so basically you sold it to them what he could but the ammunition of course or the weapons etcetera and he ended up quite a rich man basically, in Japanese money though, which was a bit hopeless. Cause he was also involved with the Shackletons earlier on in the nuclear weapons and I reckon that’s where he died of leukaemia but again shouldn’t say this I suppose but the government won’t recognize the blokes from that time and the same thing with the war, the government never recognised it till they put the memorial up in Green Park, which I went to in a couple of years ago, three years ago now, wasn’t it? Couldn’t really, Churchill was good, he was the man of the time, the man we needed, but basically I, I and others of the same thing, we blame Churchill for the devastation we caused in Germany which really didn’t need to happen, it’s the, it’s hindsight it’s easy, hindsight is the, I always say, hindsight is the biggest and best management thing in England, the only trouble is they haven’t got any foresight. And the same thing he didn’t recognise Bomber Command basically way after he was dead etcetera which I think was a, since knowing all about it, was really a thing we shouldn’t have done and we are still in the same thing now, we hardly recognise the people that come back from Afghanistan etcetera, we have trouble looking after them, we shouldn’t, the Armed Forces Covenant, which I try and [unclear] a little, and try and see about but it seems to be dead in the water to be quite honest, where they should look after everybody after they come back out of the forces not just Afghanistan but because when I left the Air Force and went to Dartford, cause my wife comes from Dartford, luckily we put our name down on the Dartford council list, they wouldn’t put my name down because I didn’t come from Dartford, my wife they could put down so we basically since we’ve been married best part of twenty years, we’d had our list down so we got a council house which was most unusual. Although of course we were at Coltishall and because I was going out and the Air Force basically sent me an eviction latest six months beforehand so I sent out to the local council Norfolk and they said, oh no, we are not interested in you, you didn’t come, you come from Herefordshire, you go back to Herefordshire basically. And then I read the small print and it said, if you have worked in the area for a year or eighteen months or so, you can qualify to go on the list and I looked at the wife and said, you work for Birdseye, in the local frozen fruit factory for the last couple of years? Yes, we’ll put your name down instead so we did and we got the letter back where you could see [unclear] put her on but we haven’t got a place for her. But luckily the Dartford council come up with a place. That’s the sort of bad things about the way the Air Force or the government run the Air Force, shall we say. And of course 12 Squadron lately, they were flying Tornadoes of course out of Lossiemouth and went to the various Iraq and Iran and things and then they were told, oh, well, that’s it, we’d had enough, we don’t want Tornadoes [unclear] or 12 Squadron disbanded so they disbanded 12 Squadron the only one left operational is 6 Squadron [unclear] I was on and all the rest have gone and they disbanded 12 Squadron and then they suddenly found out they hadn’t got enough Tornadoes to carry on, so 2 Squadron was disbanded as well, and instead of, they just added the flag over to 12 Squadron and gave them the aircraft and then went on of course to have the Typhoons so 12 Squadron are now back in operation with a first lady wing commander in charge of the squadron, I think she still is on in charge, got a backseat as opposed to a pilot as such although she’s done quite a few Afghan operations etcetera but as a backseater as I called it as opposed to a pilot. I think she’s still in charge. So that’s, the government can’t get it right, no matter what they try, talk to Cameron now and he’s trying to go and bomb’em and we don’t wanna know.
SB: Ok. Were there any other people you came across who had actually been part of Bomber Command?
MM: Well, my chief was, he was Bomber Command before he went overseas to Far East, he was in Bomber Command with the Lancasters quite a bit. And of course I met quite a few in the fifties, stroke early sixties but most of those were chief technicians or flight sergeants, warrant officers sort of thing so, basically down a corporal level, the only one I actually knew fairly well for a while was in the war was in Aden, he was an LAC there, Yorkie, yes, LAC, I don’t know he never wanted [unclear] but he actually helped arm up [unclear], Spitfire at Biggin Hill [unclear], I went through the war but as an LAC and he was talking now in his forties he was still an LAC, he just didn’t want to go any further so but he never really told us many stories of the war as such, that was one of the ones that as I say he was at Biggin Hill for a while and reckoned he helped arm up the Spitfire for, well, he’d be then I think Squadron or wing commander by that time, I think, got that a bit mixed up, have I? I don’t know.
SB: Ok, thanks very much Mal.


Sheila Bibb, “Interview with Malcolm Francis Morris,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 12, 2024,

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