Interview with Ann Mullin


Interview with Ann Mullin


Ann Mullin’s father, Sergeant George Fredrick Bedwell was killed in action. She found it difficult to come to terms with the loss. She found it impossible to visit his grave although she lived in Germany after the war.




Temporal Coverage




00:22:45 audio recording


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JM: This is Julian Maslin recording an interview with Mrs Ann Mullin as a second generation interview on the 6th of December 2016 at Ann’s home in Rugeley in Staffordshire. Ann, I wonder if you could start this interview by telling us a little bit about where and when you were born and something about your growing up memories.
AM: I was born in Aldeburgh in Suffolk but I lived at 2 Chapel Road Saxmundham with my nan. I’m stuck now.
JM: You were born in Saxmundham in Suffolk.
AM: I was born in, yeah. I was born in Aldeburgh Hospital but I went back to Saxmundham. 2 Chapel Road with my mum, my granddad and nan and my mother because my dad was already away. Yeah the war was already started and he volunteered. So he went first I think. I’m not sure when he started. It would have been then.
JM: And when you were born please?
AM: 6th of December 1939.
JM: Right. And so your father was in the RAF.
AM: Yes. He volunteered. So I think he, I can’t remember that because I was just born, you know.
JM: Yes.
AM: But I know he was at home when I was about four or five. And I used to walk up the road with him. And they brought me a little chair for a doll and I kept sitting on it. And he took me up to a Common somewhere when we moved to Knodishall not long after that, which is near Saxmundham. And he took me up on the moors and there was a dead rabbit and I climbed up on him and he had to carry me home because I was terrified of it.
JM: So it was a very affectionate relationship.
AM: Oh yeah. I can remember. I can remember him so well. Really, like it was yesterday. It’s weird because I can’t remember other things but I can remember him.
JM: You saw him in his uniform.
AM: Yeah. Oh yes. The photo was with, well I will get that back but the photo was with him in uniform and me with a beret on the top of my head.
JM: Wearing his beret.
AM: Yeah. No. It was mine.
JM: Yours. Oh right.
AM: It was his. He had one of those hats you know that they wear.
JM: Yes. The forage cap.
AM: The pointed ones. Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. I remember that. And I’m trying to think what else. We went to meet the bus once and he didn’t turn up so I don’t know if that was when he was missing or a time before because I can’t remember seeing him after that. I just remember a few things you know. And —
JM: So were you, when you were a young woman and perhaps when you married and had a family were you aware of your father’s role in Bomber Command? Or was that something that only came back later on?
AM: No. I knew. My mother talked a lot about it.
JM: She did.
AM: She got married again but that wasn’t very good.
JM: Right.
AM: And I don’t want to talk about that.
JM: No. No.
AM: And she used to tell me he was, he had, you know he volunteered to go because he wanted to go in the RAF. He didn’t want to do anything else. And if they go, call for you you get in any old thing they want you to go in, don’t they? So he went in to the RAF. And my brother was born about, he was born, my dad was killed at New Year. I don’t know if it was the 1st or the 31st. It was in between. That was what it said wasn’t it? And my brother was born on the 23rd of February so it was only a few weeks after. And I remember him being born as well. And I can remember going on the bus to tell Granny Bedwell. That would be my dad’s grandmother. That George was missing and we had to fetch the lady next door. She, Granny Bedwell was in hysterics nearly. So we left there. But yeah I remember all that. And I used to ask, ‘When’s daddy coming home?’ All the time. For years and years. I can remember. And then I said, ‘Oh he’s missing but he’s not gone. He’s alive. He’s in a prisoner of war camp or something,’ you know. Make out I thought he was going to come back but he never did, did he? Yeah.
JM: No. We’ll come to his story in a moment.
AM: Yeah.
JM: But in terms of your life have you actually done any research on what your late father did? How he served?
AM: Well, my brother does a lot doesn’t he? And you know he’s sent me things and that. So I’ve had quite a lot of information.
JM: Yeah.
AM: About all that.
JM: And what can you tell us please about what your father did?
AM: He was in the rear. Rear turret. He was a, I think he was a bomb aimer. No. I don’t think he was a bomb aimer. I think he was a —
JM: Rear gunner.
AM: Rear gunner. Yeah. A rear gunner. Yeah. But he was something else. Navigator I think. That’s what it said in the list that Johnny got. Yeah.
JM: And he was on a Lancaster squadron.
AM: He was on the Lancasters. Yeah.
JM: Do you know which squadron it was?
AM: 9th. 9th Squadron.
JM: 9 Squadron.
AM: Volunteers. Yes.
JM: 9. Yes.
AM: Yeah. I do remember that.
JM: Yes. That was a very important squadron.
AM: Yeah. Johnnie found all that for me. My brother. So —
JM: Yeah. Do you know how many operations your, your late father completed?
AM: No. I don’t know. I mean It was towards the end of the war so, because it ended about six months after that.
JM: Yeah. Yeah.
AM: So he must have gone through a lot mustn’t he?
JM: Yes. He must.
AM: Yeah.
JM: Yes. He must.
AM: He went down in Germany. The crash site.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Johnnie knew it. I don’t know where it is.
JM: Yeah.
AM: I’ve never been. I don’t think I could cope with that.
JM: No. No. So you don’t know what happened to the aircraft?
AM: I think it just crashed.
JM: Did it?
AM: They found the crash site. Yeah. Yeah.
JM: So perhaps mechanical failure rather than enemy action.
AM: I don’t know. I’m not sure. I don’t know. I don’t think John knows either.
JM: No. No.
AM: No. I just know it crashed.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Probably shot down.
JM: It’s possible. Of course it is.
AM: Yeah. It could have been, couldn’t it? Yeah.
JM: Of course it is. Yes. And is your late father buried in Germany?
AM: Yes he is. I’ve never been there either. Hanover.
JM: At Hanover. Over Hanover.
AM: Is that where it is? I always get mixed up with Hamburg and Hanover but I think its Hanover.
JM: Hanover. Yeah.
AM: Yeah.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Yeah. I did have a photo of that. I don’t know where that’s gone now.
JM: Well, perhaps we can find that and —
AM: Yeah. Johnnie might have got that one.
JM: And scan that in. Yes.
AM: Johnnie might have got one.
JM: Yeah. Yeah.
AM: And he’s on the War Memorial in Saxmundham because we went to see that.
JM: Yeah. Yeah. So were you involved in creating that war memorial? Or was it simply a—
AM: No. It was happening in Saxmundham. It took them a long while to get it up I think.
JM: Yeah.
AM: His name was on it. And I saw his name in, in — where is it? Oh God. Where we’ve just been? Lincoln.
JM: Yeah.
AM: I saw his name on there.
JM: Right.
AM: That was a bit sad there.
JM: So you went you went to the Spire for the opening and saw his name.
AM: Yes. Yes. We went on the Spire. It was a bit sad sometimes.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Because they had these students and they were pretending to be in a plane. You know. In the air. You’ve probably, did you go to it?
JM: I did see it.
AM: Yeah.
JM: I was there.
AM: And it was a bit scary. It really made me cry.
JM: Yes. It was very —
AM: To think he went through that, you know.
JM: It was very very well produced I thought.
AM: It was really well done but it was sad wasn’t it?
JM: Yeah. Yeah.
AM: Yeah. I was upset over that.
JM: Yeah.
AM: So were several people I think.
JM: Do you know whether the squadron got in touch with your mother after your father was lost? Was there any contact?
AM: I don’t know. I’ve never, never thought about that. I knew he was missing but it must have been confirmed at some time but she didn’t tell me. Or I’ve forgotten. I don’t know. Because I kept asking for him but in the end I think I stopped. I must have done.
JM: Yeah. And it was a telegram was it? That notified your mother that he was missing.
AM: I’m not sure because the telegram he sent, the one that I’ve told you I’ve got a picture of which my grandson’s got at the moment that was, that just said he was coming home. And it was, it was 1943 but I can’t remember the number. The month now or anything. But I know he was killed. I’ve always hated New Year and I don’t know why. And then I realised when Johnnie found out that it was at that time. And I didn’t know but I might have known really you know.
JM: Yeah. So this is very interesting that even though you were really a very small person at that time. Really a child and —
AM: Yeah.
JM: The loss of your father had an impact on your life.
AM: It lasted all through it. You know. To think, why. Why? Right at the end of the war more or less.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Wasn’t it? Yeah. Yeah, it did. It really upset me. My nan worshipped him as well. She always talked about him.
JM: Yeah. I would have thought that possibly the squadron commander might have written to your mother. That often happened.
AM: It probably did. I haven’t seen anything.
JM: No.
AM: But I’ve got, I had a lot of stuff, you know off Johnnie but he might have something about it.
JM: Yes, well —
AM: I don’t know. I can imagine she would. They usually do, don’t they?
JM: They very often did.
AM: But they all knew he was missing because I went with my granddad to tell Granny Bedwell so, yeah.
JM: You wouldn’t know the name of the pilot who was your father’s pilot?
AM: No. I don’t know that. No. No.
JM: Right. Ok.
AM: His parents lived in Kings Lynn and we used to go there as well.
JM: So you grew up after the war coming to terms with the fact that your father had been lost.
AM: Yes.
JM: In action.
AM: Yes. Yes
JM: Is it possible to say what affect that had on your upbringing?
AM: I just, if my stepfather said anything to me I’d say, ‘My dad’s coming back.’ Things like that, you know. I didn’t want him replaced.
JM: Right.
AM: No.
JM: So I need to be clear about this. Your mother remarried. Was that soon after the war?
AM: Oh no. It was. No. I was about ten or eleven I think.
JM: Right.
AM: Yeah.
JM: Yeah.
AM: It was quite a while after.
JM: Yeah. So your mother remarried.
AM: She knew already anyway.
JM: Right.
AM: You know, from family.
JM: But this, this new father figure coming into the family was something you had some difficulty in —
AM: A lot of difficulty.
JM: A lot of difficulty.
AM: Yes.
JM: And I know you don’t want to talk about that.
AM: No. I don’t want to talk.
JM: And I’m not going to press you.
AM: No. No.
JM: But it’s important for the record.
AM: Yeah. No.
JM: That we understand that.
AM: No. No. I didn’t, didn’t like him at all.
JM: No.
AM: I tried but —
JM: When, as you were going through your life and you were having your own family etcetera there would be, perhaps a film. The Dambusters or something of that sort.
AM: I watched it.
JM: Or something on the radio.
AM: Yes.
JM: How did you feel about that?
AM: I can tell you whenever I went to the pictures and there was, it was a war film I used to have a panic attack.
JM: Go on.
AM: You remember that don’t you? When I’ve said I’ve watched war films and had a panic attack watching them. Yeah. I forgot about that.
JM: So you’re saying that if you saw a film or perhaps a documentary.
AM: When they were all in — yeah. In an aeroplane.
JM: In an aeroplane.
AM: Then I used to get a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe.
JM: And how long would that go on for?
AM: Not long. It used to go off.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Someone told me to deep breathe.
JM: Right.
AM: And you’d get over it, you know. So —
JM: And you were looking to see if there was any evidence of your father.
AM: Well, if anything on the pictures and you know the documentaries that are on.
JM: Yes. Yes.
AM: On National Geographic.
JM: Yes.
AM: And everything. Aren’t they? Oh yeah. I always still look for him.
JM: Yeah. So you’re still looking for him.
AM: I’ve never seen him have I?
JM: No.
AM: I might do one day. He could be on one of them you know. Yeah.
JM: It’s possible.
AM: Yeah.
JM: What about reading? Did you, did you read of, about the bombing war at all?
AM: I read books all the time about the war. I’ve got a pile of them up that corner.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Yeah. It’s always about that.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Yeah.
JM: But —
AM: Because I remember, I remember the siren going off and my mother saying, saying to my mother, ‘Wake me up when the siren goes,’ but she never did. But we didn’t get much in Saxmundham anyway. But when we went to Kings Lynn we were always in an air raid shelter.
JM: Yeah.
AM: And there was a man there who showed me this watch. You know an old fashioned one.
JM: Yes.
AM: Yeah. And he used to sit and show me that. So, I remember the air raids a lot.
JM: Yes, because the East Anglian coast was quite a vulnerable place.
AM: Yes, it was.
JM: Wasn’t it?
AM: Well, we weren’t quite on the coast but they used to bomb the railway where we lived in, in Saxmundham. Always bomb holes all over that field. And then we had German prisoners after the war. Well, I think it must have been in the war. It wouldn’t have been after would it? All in a big pit digging. I don’t know what they were doing but we used to talk to them. One had a dog and it was the equivalent of snowy. And my mother went mad because we’d been talking to them. But they were young kids. They were young.
JM: So there was no resentment.
AM: No.
JM: Even though your father had been killed.
AM: We didn’t have resentment to the Germans. No. No. Not really. Didn’t like Hitler. I hate him. I still hate him. Yeah. But these they were young kids. They, some of them spoke English. But I never went to see them again.
JM: No.
AM: Because she told me off that much. You can understand can’t you? Yeah.
JM: And when you’d done the reading and and watching the programmes has that in any way — has that affected your view of what Bomber Command was doing because as you said earlier —
AM: Not really. No.
JM: They weren’t very popular.
AM: No. They weren’t.
JM: But how did you feel about it?
AM: Oh I thought they should be popular and it’s come around now. They’ve got, I wanted them to have some sort of memory and they did in the end didn’t they?
JM: Yes. Yes. The Bomber Command clasp.
AM: Because he didn’t even want to talk about it, Churchill. He just didn’t, didn’t notice them did he? Sort of thing.
JM: He forgot them.
AM: He forgot them. Yeah. That’s it. But somebody obviously didn’t because he’s, they’re all back on now.
JM: Yes.
AM: Which is good.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Yeah.
JM: And you’ve never been to Germany at all.
AM: I lived there for a year. Two years. No. About a year. No I was there for two years. I had my daughter out there because I was married to a soldier.
JM: Right.
AM: Yeah. We’re divorced now.
JM: Yeah.
AM: You know. That was a long while ago.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Yeah. I had my daughter out there. My other daughter.
JM: And what was it like? Living in this country which was associated with the loss of your father.
AM: We lodged for about four weeks before we got our own place but the woman was lovely who we were lodging with. But the husband, he never spoke to us at all. And all he did was watch war films. He was in his lounge. We were never allowed in there. We just stayed in our room and the kitchen and the bathroom and that. Never went in there. He used to sit on his own watching war films.
JM: Gosh. What — may I ask what —
AM: He never spoke to us once.
JM: What years were this please?
AM: In the 60’s.
JM: In the 1960’s.
AM: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, because I got married in ’62 and we went to Singapore and then after we’d been in Singapore for a year that was the time Kennedy died. And then we went to Germany and I was there about two years. Julie was two when we came back.
JM: Right.
AM: And Andrew was about three.
JM: Do you remember the base that you were on?
AM: Oh. Hang on. I’m trying to think. I can’t.
JM: No.
AM: I don’t remember very well. I do know where it is. It was oh dear. Hang on. [unclear ] the town [unclear]
JM: Right.
AM: And I think we were there.
JM: I just wondered.
AM: I can’t remember what it was called.
JM: Because some of those bases weren’t far from Hanover. And I wondered if —
AM: I think it was away from there.
JM: It was.
AM: I had Julie in Munster.
JM: Right.
AM: Which was the nearest hospital and that was about two hours away.
JM: Right.
AM: So, no. I’m trying to think. It was [unclear] the town we were in. But I can’t remember the name.
JM: No.
AM: I know, I remember the one in Singapore but I can’t remember that one.
JM: That’s quite ok I was just wondering whether when you had been living in that part of West Germany whether there had ever been any opportunity or feelings to go to see where your —
AM: No.
JM: Where your father was lost.
AM: I didn’t want to go and look at the grave at the time but I wish I had now. We were thinking about it but you know I was having a baby at the time and she was only a baby so, and then we came home anyway.
JM: So you had to —
AM: I would have liked to have gone. I would.
JM: Yeah. Yeah. Would it be fair to say that had you found his grave you would have then had to accept that your father was lost?
AM: Yeah. There wouldn’t have been any hope then would there? There wouldn’t have been any hope.
JM: So hope would have gone.
AM: And then I’d just have said it’s probably not him in there you see. Yeah. I still don’t want to accept it. I mean he’d be dead anyway probably now. Although a lot of the veterans aren’t, are they? They’re still around.
JM: Yeah. Have you ever been involved in any of the veteran’s organisations or had any help from any? Such as the Royal Air Force Association or SSAFA.
AM: No. Not really.
JM: Never. Ever asked for any support?
AM: SSAFA. We had SSAFA. The SSAFA was, everyone had SSAFA. We had SSAFA in Singapore. I can’t remember whether we did in Germany. But SSAFA was there.
JM: Yeah.
AM: Yeah. But I was too young then I think to do anything like that.
JM: Yeah.
AM: You know. It’s affected me more as I’ve got older and I don’t know why. I mean when I was tiny obviously I was upset but it’s just I still look for him. Like Emma said, you know.
JM: Perhaps it was because you were busy looking after a family and work.
AM: Well, yeah that’s it. You haven’t got time to think about things have you? No. Yeah, I think so.
JM: Do you think this interview will help you?
AM: I think so.
JM: To make sense of it.
AM: Yes. Yes.
JM: Because you’ll know that you’re speaking to a family of people with similar experiences.
AM: That’s it. Yeah. That’s it.
JM: And speaking to the future.
AM: I expect there’s a lot like me are there?
JM: There will be.
AM: Yeah.
JM: There will be.
AM: Yeah.
JM: Yes.
AM: So, yeah.
JM: Yeah.
AM: I think so. I wanted you to come anyway. I kept on about it. Yeah.
JM: You did. You did. And I’m sorry I couldn’t get here any earlier.
AM: That’s alright. I know. I realise when you said.
JM: Circumstances. Yeah.
AM: Some of them are really old aren’t they? So —
JM: Well, we’re losing veterans every month.
AM: All the time. Yeah.
JM: Men in their nineties.
AM: Yeah.
JM: And as —
AM: They’ve done well though haven’t they?
JM: They have. They’ve done very well. And those who are mentally sharp are marvellous men. Unfortunately many of them aren’t mentally sharp.
AM: No.
JM: But their families know the stories.
AM: Their families know. Yeah.
JM: Yes. Yes.
AM: Yeah.
JM: Yes. Right. I’m going to stop there just for a moment.
[recording paused]
JM: Let me just. Now, there’s a topic that I’d like to raise with you if I may Ann and that concerns your views on the damage that was done to Germany in the bombing war. Have you got any feelings which you’d like to share with us?
AM: They were just people like us, weren’t they? They didn’t want Hitler towards the end did they? No. I think it’s horrible. I don’t, I don’t like that at all. There’s children there and old people and you know. No. I don’t like that. But we had it didn’t we? They did it to us so it was just tit for tat really but I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t want to, I don’t know, think too much about it because loads I mean they were probably worse off than us.
JM: I’m sure they were in many ways.
AM: Yeah.
JM: Yes. Yeah.
AM: Because they didn’t have any decent government had they?
JM: No. Yeah.
AM: Yeah.
JM: Do you remember your mother ever saying anything about that because after all that had taken — ?
AM: No. I can’t remember her ever saying anything. She didn’t like Germans though. I know because the reaction I got when we were talking to those army men.
JM: Yeah.
AM: You know. The prisoners of war. No. She didn’t like them. But I don’t think she’d want them all to be bombed. Although we were as well. No.
JM: Have you ever been over to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby? Have you seen the Lancaster there?
AM: We went — where did we go?
[recording paused]
AM: We went —
JM: So you were saying that you haven’t been to Coningsby but you may have been somewhere else.
AM: We went to Duxford.
JM: Right.
AM: And we were looking at the, we went straight to the Lancaster obviously. And there was a nice man there and he said, ‘You can come up if you want and have a look,’ and he got me in. But then I thought oh he must have had awful claustrophobia when he was in there. There’s not room to move is there?
JM: No.
AM: Yeah. Yeah. I did go in it. I loved that.
JM: Did it make you feel closer to your father?
AM: Yes. It did. Yeah. But then I thought, well he must, it must have been horrible for him in there. He obviously didn’t mind. Yeah.
JM: And when the aeroplane went down were all the crew killed? Do you know?
AM: I think so. I think —
JM: Yeah.
AM: It was complete. Johnnie knows more about that than I do.
JM: Yes. Right. Ok. Well —
AM: Yeah.
JM: When I meet your brother that information will come out. Yeah.
AM: Definitely.
JM: Is there anything else that you’d like to tell us? You know. Feelings or reactions that we’ve not touched on this afternoon.
AM: Not really. No. No. I don’t think so.
JM: I hope you found it useful.
AM: Yes.
JM: It’s certainly been very interesting.
AM: Yes. Yes. Even though I keep losing my words now and again.
JM: That’s fine. You’ve done very well, Ann. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you. That’s wonderful.
AM: Oh great.
JM: Thank you, Ann.
JM: This is an additional piece of information that Ann wants to give us relating to her late father’s service in the war. Ann —
AM: So what you do you want me to —
JM: About the barrage balloons.
AM: Oh yeah. My mother wanted him, he wanted oh God he volunteered to go in the RAF as you know. And then my mother told me afterward that she’d stopped — she said she didn’t want him to go to Canada. And he didn’t go. And then he got killed so she always blamed herself for it. It wasn’t her fault was it?
JM: So he might have been going to train as a navigator.
AM: Yeah. As a navigator. I know he did rear gunning but I thought he was a navigator. But obviously if he couldn’t we got that wrong. But I must have heard it somewhere so I think probably my mother said he was going. You know, that’s what he was going to be trained to do.
JM: Right. Right.
AM: And if he had have done he would have been there a while wouldn’t he?
JM: And you were telling us that he’d worked on a barrage balloon.
AM: Yes. At the beginning. I think it was my Auntie Nancy that told me about the barrage balloons. I hadn’t heard about that. But they were in Kings Lynn. There were loads of them. I can remember them when I was tiny because we used to go to Kings Lynn a lot because his mum and dad lived there. Yeah.
JM: So it’s quite likely that your late father was —
AM: He started off. Yeah.
JM: Started off on barrage balloons.
AM: He did start off on barrage balloons. Yes.
JM: And then was trained for aircrew. Possibly for navigation.
AM: He got more money as well.
JM: Oh yeah. He would have done.
AM: That’s why.
JM: Yes.
AM: Yeah.
JM: And then if his training for navigation didn’t work for some reason then he becomes a —
AM: A rear gunner.
JM: A rear gunner.
AM: Yes.
JM: And I was telling you that 9 Squadron is one of the most respected and admired squadrons in Bomber Command.
AM: Yes. I like that.
JM: Yeah. Based at Bardney, near Lincoln.
AM: Yeah.
JM: And flew Lancasters. And was a part of some of the most important bombing raids in the last year of the war.
AM: That’s right.
JM: Including the raids against the German battleship Tirpitz.
AM: Yes.
JM: So it’s possible —
AM: Find out about that.
JM: It’s possible that your father was involved in that.
AM: Yes.
JM: So we’ll look that up.
AM: Yeah. That’s great.
JM: Thank you Ann. So I’ll just —



Julian Maslin, “Interview with Ann Mullin,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 21, 2024,

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