Interview with Kenneth William Munro


Interview with Kenneth William Munro


Ken was a 456 Squadron Mosquito navigator. He initially joined the Army’s Victorian Scottish regiment but changed to the Royal Air force. He was selected to be a navigator and sailed to Canada. Ken did a course at Edmonton and was made an officer. He then sailed back to Scotland and went down to Brighton. After undertaking a new course on radar, he went to RAF Ouston to learn how to operate it. He flew in Ansons and Beaufighters before going to Cranfield to fly Wellingtons. Ken met his wife there, a Women's Auxiliary Air Force who managed the officers’ mess. He was due to join Bomber Command but eventually became night fighters aircrew and joined 456 Squadron. Ken was stationed at RAF Ford.
Ken describes how he met his pilot. They initially shot down V-1s flying Mosquitoes. They went to northern France and did cross countries. Ken missed D-Day as he was training on Mark 10 radar at RAF Twinwood Farm. They did intruder raids. He describes going to Linz and Linz and their encounters with fighters. His squadron, along with another Mosquito squadron, were sent to the Channel Islands and was instrumental in the surrender German forces stationed there on 9th May 1945.
Ken was a recipient of Lady Ryder’s Dominion and Allied Services Hospitality Scheme and describes some of the hospitality and leisure pursuits he experienced.
After the war, Ken received the Legion of Honour.




Temporal Coverage




01:25:28 audio recording


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KM: I was not in Bomber Command. You know that of course.
AP: Well, you were, you were Mosquitoes.
KM: Yeah. Yeah.
AP: That’s close enough.
KM: Night fighters, is it? As Bob, he wasn’t, wasn’t the CO. He was next door to him. And the fellow Baz Howard, he came from Queensland and he, we were down at Bradwell Bay. Down Essex. Down there, and he said one day, we were all sitting down in the mess down there [coughs] and he said, I’m going up to see a friend up in Yorkshire.’ And Peter said, ‘Well, I’ll go with you in a Mosquito,’ and he said, ‘No. I’ll do it on my own.’ And he went up there and saw his mate and came back and he got just about back to Bradwell Bay and one of the motors conked out. And so just coming in and just landing it because they were putting all the things that went into the North Sea and taking them home and putting them in there and he, he went down and he said he couldn’t get in in a tight turn because one motor was gone. So he went around again and about just as he got over the, what’s it called, the Black Sea I think it is, and all of a sudden the other one went as well and he just sailed along. We could see him. He hit the water bumped his head on his forehead here and sank in about five feet of water. And we tried to get out because there was probably about sixty of us, probably a hundred guys from the [unclear] walk out to find him. But it was quite a big current was going like that and we couldn’t get out ourselves. Even if we turned the clocks off and walked and went out there but so he drowned in a Mosquito and just sank there. So it was a great shame but he was a very nice fellow too. But it just shows you. If you didn’t have to do the right thing and you didn’t get in the first landing, went around again. He should have just put it down.
AP: Regardless. Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ll ask you about accidents and things later on I think. So, we may as well if you’re, we may as well kick off the proper interview.
KM: Yeah.
AP: And it’s recording now. I can see it jumping away there. So what I normally do I start with a little, a little spiel at the beginning. Just to sort of set the time and place.
KM: Yeah.
AP: And then I dive in. Ask a couple of questions. We’ll just have a chat.
KM: Yeah.
AP: For an hour, two hours. However long it takes.
KM: Yeah.
AP: Until you run out of stories.
KM: Yeah.
AP: Or one or the other of us begs for mercy. Right. So this interview for the International Bomber Command Centre is with Ken Munro who was a 456 Squadron Mosquito navigator during the Second World War. The interview is taking place at Ken’s place in Doncaster in Melbourne.
KM: Yeah. Applewood it’s called.
AP: Applewood it is called.
KM: Yeah. Yeah.
AP: That’s right. It is the 22nd of April err I’ll try again it’s the 22nd of May.
KM: Yeah.
AP: 2016. My name’s Adam Purcell. So Don, you’re not Don. You’re Ken. Sorry.
KM: Yeah.
AP: Ken, tell me something of your early life and what you were doing before the war.
KM: I got a job in nineteen, on the 24th of January 1938 in a chartered accountant’s called Wright and Roberts. Mr Wright died and it became MG Roberts. A well-known chartered accountant. And I stayed there until I got half way through the exams. Sort of half of the heart of it done and I was going to join the air force then. And he, Mr Roberts said why don’t you do your intermediate exam and then go? So I said ok. And by that time they didn’t want any more in the air force at that stage up in Russell Street and so I joined the Victorian Scottish. You know, you’ve probably seen my photograph over there. But I’ll show it to you later on but — so I was down there. Mount Martha was a beautiful spot down there in summertime. And after a while when the Yanks came in we had to go down to Back Beach at Ryde Down there. So we packed up. Went down there and we were there until about February I think it was. And then the word came around we were going to Fremantle and join the general who got out of Malaya. You know, when the Japs came. He got back to Australia. They didn’t like him doing that but he got there and we were to join up with him over there in the army at a place called Bushmead just out of Midland Junction there in Perth. They came around and there was a big van said, “Would you like to join the air force?” So I said, ‘Yes. I’d like to join the air force.’ So anyrate had to go, had to stay with the army. Went to Moura which is halfway to Geraldton. And at, finally they got in touch with me at Geraldton and said you can come down now to Busselton which is down near Bunbury. Down there. And so I was in the air force down there. And I was there probably for about probably about four or five weeks. I did a course down there.
AP: So that was your Initial Training School was it?
KM: Yeah. Then —
AP: Yeah.
KM: We went up to Pearce. You know, north of Perth. And we were there on guard you know. Still doing a job there. And there was Ralph White of course. Ralph White was the same thing. He was in the Victorian Scottish and so we got out. I came back to Somers in about [pause] September I think and then I did a course down there. Then Hubert Opperman, you know was our flight commander. He was, he was a teacher really. He was very good and he had another man called Ginger Markham, you know. And he came on top of the exercise we had to do and I was about second I think and he said. ‘We’re going to make you navigators.’ Which we didn’t want to be but [laughs] we sort of did well at arithmetic and that sort of thing. So anyrate, he said ‘Would you like to go to Canada?’ We both looked at one another. He said, ‘Well, if you’re not quite sure go to bed and sleep on it and come and tell me tomorrow.’ So we came back and said we’d like to go. So away we went and I went up to Bradwell, was it Bradwell Bay? Brad Park? Up there.
AP: Bradfield Park in Sydney.
KM: Yeah.
AP: Yeah.
KM: In to Sydney. And we were there. There for probably about three weeks and we were going on the Queen Elizabeth. And then somebody said there’s submarines outside there so they cancelled that and we had to stay back. Went across on the [pause] starting to forget things now. On an American very old steamer. What was it called? I’ve forgotten now. Anyway, we started from Sydney on, in March I think and it took us twenty eight days to get across the Pacific to — we were going to go to Vancouver but halfway across all of a sudden they could hear the throbbing of the motors going. Deathly quiet and the engines wouldn’t go and we were stuck there [laughs] about halfway across there. And anyway, they got them fixed up in about a day and we carried on. It took us twenty eight days to get us across the Pacific and they decided to go to San Francisco which, we had a day there. Bought a lot of chocolate and that sort of thing. People were very good there. The Yanks met us with cars and drove us all around ‘Frisco. And then we were only about a day and a half and then we got a train up to Vancouver which was marvellous. Beautiful scenery. And went to Vancouver and I think we stayed there a day or so and went out to Edmonton. That’s where I did my course there. So that was about all I think.
AP: Alright. Why did you want to be in the air force?
KM: Well, my father was in the barracks at St Kilda Road there and he knew the man who was the civil aviator. Sort of pilot you know. And he got this German three engine one with one there, one in the front sort of thing and he said, ‘Would any of your sons like to have a flight?’ I was about thirteen or fourteen and I said, ‘Yeah. I’d like to have a go at that.’ So a friend of mine who was, who was finally joined, [unclear] actually, he was a very clever bloke so he couldn’t join the forces because he was needed elsewhere. So, anyway we had all around Melbourne and he came back and he said to my father, he offered me to go down to Cerberus down there in the Mornington Peninsula as a cadet. I was about thirteen. I said, ‘No thanks. I don’t want to go to the Navy,’ so, ‘I want to go to the air force.’ So that was about how I got in the air force. And I did a course at Edmonton. I think it was about six months I think. And I was made an officer off course. And we went up to Halifax and got on the Aquitania and went to, to what’s that in the Clyde? What’s the name of it again? In the Clyde. That’s where we landed in there. I forget the name of the place but, and then had a train down to Brighton and that’s where we decided, want me to carry on?
AP: Yeah. Keep going.
KM: Yeah. Well —
AP: Keep going. I’ll come back and fill in the gaps later on.
KM: Yeah. Well. We got there. We got on the train. A little, little kid by the train line as you went to slide out to get out and he said in his Scots, ‘Have you got any gum mister?’ [laughs] And we said, ‘No. We haven’t got anything.’ So, anyway we went down to Brighton which was, we had a very nice hotel there. Just on the corner where the boulevard goes all along. Just around the corner down there. Near the Grand. You know, where Mrs Thatcher and they got — just away to the east from there. But it was very nice. We had a nice room there. And Focke Wulfs used to come across and shoot them up a bit occasionally. And at any raids that came we had to get down in to the, in to the bowels of the, of the hotel. And one day I I couldn’t be bothered. I thought I’d just stay in my room. And this Wing Commander Swan I think his name was, a bit of a nasty sort of fellow he came around, found me and he said, ‘I’ll let you off this time but you’ll be on a charge next time.’ Yeah. Anyway I went in to, in the, in the lounge one day and I sat down at a table like this. A man was reading a paper next door and he said, ‘Have you just arrived?’ and I said, ‘Yes. I just came in yesterday.’ And he said, in another two days he came and said, ‘I don’t know whether you know but I’m the posting officer from Brighton.’ And I said, ‘Oh. I think I’m going to Bomber Command.’ He said, ‘Well, they’ll probably take about three weeks before you can do that. But,’ he said, ‘There’s a new course.’ And I said, ‘Well, what is it?’ And he said, ‘Radar.’ I said, ‘I’ve never heard of it.’ He said, ‘Well, you have to do an exam.’ With another friend who came across so three other fellows came with me and we got, did the exam and got passed and so he said, ‘Well, you’re going up to Ouston which is up near Newcastle on Tyne.’ In there. ‘You’re going to learn all about radar.’ So, so anyway we waited about a week and away we went. And that’s when we, we — it was quite a nice station too. It was about October then I think and there was snow all around up there. And we started flying in Ansons you know. They had all the gubbins in there. And that’s how we learned how to operate radar and later on in [pause] first of all what did they call it? Radial engines. Oh God. Bomber. I’ll think of it later on. But it wasn’t a Mosquito, it was in. It was easier to sit back. The pilot’s up the front and I used to sit back there. Bomber —
AP: Beaufighter perhaps.
KM: Beaufighters. Beaufighters. I liked them. What did they call them? The creeping death, I think. You know.
AP: Whispering. Whispering death.
KM: Whispering death. Yeah.
AP: It took all the [unclear] sort of thing.
KM: They had plenty of power down below. I used to just sit back. There was a swivel chair. I used to face the back like that and then they put the power on and away it goes, and whirr like that. They were a very good aircraft. And down low they were very good indeed. But I did that for a while. And, I can’t remember. We had fellows that was going to do a camera thing, sort of thing and he got in one and went up and I was down the back and he, he did all sorts of things. Turned this and turned this and went over and back again. And I said, ‘How long are you going to be on this?’ And he said, ‘I won’t be that long.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m going to be sick in a moment.’ [laughs] and, which I was. And when I got down a WAAF came out and said, with a bucket and said, ‘You can clean it up yourself.’ [laughs] But so that was my and from then on we did mostly all sorts of things. It came behind an aircraft and it dropped down below them so they looked up and fired a bullet sort of thing. And then, then they had to do one, one coming straight to you and you had to go. You could see them coming. You had to do that left hand turn to come below. And if you could go, catch him again and again shoot him down sort of thing. So we learned all about that there. As a matter of fact Keith Miller was up there.
AP: Ah.
KM: Yeah. He was flying ones you know. Doing what we were. Trying to get behind him sort of thing but [pause] So, I think I was there ‘til about the beginning of February I think. And then we went down to Bedfordshire. At Cranfield. And that’s where I met my wife down there. And we did a lot of more work on, we used to get behind the [pause] I’m forgetting aircraft. Wellington. Yeah. We used to get behind them and do the same thing, sort of thing. And that went on for about in February ‘til late April I think. And then I was going to go to Bomber Command as an escort. And I had packed everything up and I was going to get the train down to London and go out to Coltishall. Out in Norfolk. And the signal came through from the air vice marshall from Australia — all people are going as night fighters. Going to 456 down in, in Arundel. Down south, And Arundel’s just near little, little Hampshire I think it was. Near Worthing. Down there. And so here we had to come back and finally get a train down there and that’s how I arrived at Ford which was a marvellous station.
AP: Sorry. Ford, did you say?
KM: Ford. F O R D.
AP: Yeah.
KM: But from Arundel we used to come down the road and over the railway line and a winding road down into the, into Ford which was a very good ‘drome, you know. And I think I finished up in B flight. B flight I think. There were two in the squadron And, and that was about it I think then. Do you want me to carry on?
AP: Please carry on. A whole story we want.
KM: Well, I met a wing commander. God, I forget things now. Big fellow and of course I think I’ve got, no I lent Bob Cowper book to a friend. Any rate the wing commander said, How do you do,’ and he told me what pilot I was going to be on and everything like that. And he, he was a good pilot but wasn’t very popular because he thought everybody, thought, he thought everybody was not up to his standard you know. So, but any rate I went down in the [unclear] I think it was and we had to do quite a few exercises at night, you know. And, and it was beautiful weather down at Ford down there because the summer was from, from June onwards. Right all the way to Christmas time. It was good weather down there so, so my first thing was to go up and shoot down the buzz bombs you know. And one day we had to go to — there were searchlights. S for Sugar and T for something else. T for Tear or something like that. And the ground control said to the wing commander, he said you need to go to — is it, what’s the name? Tearing or something like that. And he said to the wing commander you’ve got to go to tear west or something. He said, ‘I’m tearing west,’ he said. Which was a great big joke and he got the wrong thing altogether. But we went to S for Sugar and stayed there. And he could, he used to get up about, say about eight thousand feet you know. Angels height you know and look towards the French coast and you could see them coming because the fire out the back of them used to light up. And he said, ‘There’s one coming towards you.’ So up at eight thousand feet he said, ‘When it gets close enough you start to go down behind him.’ Like that. ‘Get right behind him and just press the trigger you know.’ And we were just about to do it on one thing and a Canadian fellow in a, in a single engine aircraft got in front of us and shot it down himself and he was put on a bad books. And the fellow was very cross about that but, but anyrate so we didn’t get any more from then. But, but one fellow in 85 Squadron, they were on Ford with us as well and Cat’s Eyes Cunningham was in 85, and his name was Mellish. And strangely enough I read in the paper one day and it had a thing about things in Great Britain. Quite a size. About that size in the paper and said he finished up a wing commander. He was, I think he was flight lieutenant then but he shot down eight when he was up for three hours. Eight of them. God. But he died probably about, oh about five years ago I think. But —
AP: Sorry. When you were shooting down, when you were chasing the buzz bombs.
KM: Yeah.
AP: You were in a Mosquito at this point?
KM: Yeah. In Mosquitoes. Yeah.
AP: And you were obviously talking to ground control.
KM: Yeah. Yeah.
AP: So they would, they would tell you that they could see one coming on the radar.
KM: Coming. Yeah. That’s right. Yeah.
AP: And just sort of, did they give you like vectors towards it? Or did they say it’s over —
KM: Yeah. Yeah. We — I think [pause] my memory’s going but yeah it’s one’s coming. Go to vector say to the right hand. Like that usually. So they, they would come down like that behind. Yeah. They go to a vector but it’s just forgotten. It was to the right. Usually to the right so we could do the left hand turn and come down. So we enjoyed all that. It was great so, and then what happened after that? [pause] Oh, we went down to B Flight and we used to get — they had a — what did they call it? On a slate or something. And they would be first say about 8 o’clock at night for three hours. And we’d go into France. Go into Le Touquet. There was a little inlet in there. There’s as I say Beachy Head about there. About here. Le Touquet’s across there. Used to go across and then go up to Lisle. Again, a man on the ground used to tell you what to do sort of thing. But did you know Fred Stevens at all? He, funny he’s got a friend down here I was talking to last night. He was one of the best pilots on 456 and the just natural to fly and, but my pilot was Karl McLennan. He was a very experienced pilot who [pause] he was 3 Course out of Australia and he did a lot of, as a to teach pupils you know. And finally came to, to Cranfield. I remember I was reading the paper one day and he came in. The bar was across there and he said, he looked around and he saw me with an Australian uniform on. He said, ‘Oh g’day. ‘G’day.’ He said, ‘Want to have a beer?’ I said, ‘I don’t drink.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, and after a while I was reading this and I thought I should do something and he said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want a drink?’ I said, ‘Oh ok. I’ll come over and have one.’ So that was my first beer.
AP: [unclear]
KM: So anyway, he said, ‘Are you going to crew up with anybody?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘What about me?’ and I said, ‘That’ll do me.’ He told me all about 3 Course. And I said, ‘You’re much more experienced then I am,’ you know but at any rate he said, ‘No. We’ll go together.’ So we did and he said, he talked to me, he said, he said, ‘Look, I’m what you’d call a live coward,’ he said, ‘So no fancy stuff. I’ll do exactly what I’m supposed to do,’ you know. Any rate he was a very good pilot you know. So we did, we did some cross countrys’ over as I say, over to Wales and back to High Wycombe. Up to Lincoln. Up there. And then back to, to Cranfield. And then there when we went down to Ford just before D-Day we were — I had, they had to show me as a navigator on Mark 10 radar which was a different sort of thing. So I had to go to Twinwood Farm which was a satellite of Cranfield for a month. So I missed out on Normandy. And [pause] but I learned all on how to work all the gubbins in a Mosquito. The pilot got in first across there. Quite small you know. He was rather chubby because he drank a lot [laughs] Mac. But, and I, I had the set there on a sort of a pulled out sort of thing and he sat there and I sat here. I used to pull it out when he got in. Pulled it out here and have it on the radio sort of thing which is with a dividing line down like that. That’s left or right sort of thing. And one for height sort of thing. Across like that. So it had a range of a hundred miles so if you, say you were coming back to England you just, and every aerodrome had a code you know. Say BA and AB or something like. And you wanted to go to that destination you knew what their code was and he just turned the aircraft around so it was dead in front of you like that. Whatever height you wanted to do. You either go up or down. And just sit there. And when you come to almost there you just knew exactly where you were and, and so when you got to say, Ford it was going beep beep beep and down you go. And that was great you know. Coming from say Germany there you just, just set it for where you want to go and a range a hundred miles so, you know —
AP: So this is Gee?
KM: Eh?
AP: Is this the Gee system?
KM: No. We had the Gee later on.
AP: Oh ok.
KM: Yeah. When we went for longer trips in Germany and you need that to — you had two. Two maps as a matter of fact. You had one that was going to certain distance about there. Then you’d get the other one would go further on. In fact one of our senior navigators he kept on using the first one and he [laughs] his pilot, Smithy said, ‘I don’t think we’re going the right way.’ And he said, ‘I’m in charge. I’ll tell you where you’re going.’ Anyway, he was going to Germany and, Smithy we called him, he was a pilot, he said, ‘I can see lights down there,’ he said, ‘It looks like Switzerland.’ Oh he got a black mark for that [laughs] But but he had to use his second one but they were very good.
AP: So the — sorry the first radar you were telling me about. That’s a navigational radar or an airborne like interception radar?
KM: In the aircraft yeah. Yeah.
AP: Yeah. It’s in the aircraft but —
KM: Yeah.
AP: Sorry. Was that for navigation or for finding fighters or something?
KM: Yes. Yes. Yes, a blip would come up.
AP: Yeah.
KM: A blip. Yeah. We were one, not that far from Berlin. We used to go over there until the petrol. Had to watch out that we had enough petrol to get back again. We used to circle the aerodrome. And it was a bright moonlight night. I remember that. And we were going around like that and I said to Mac, ‘I think we’d better go home in a moment because, you know the petrol is getting down a bit.’ So, you know, I just spoke to him. I just, like that, and I saw an aircraft about a hundred yards away sort of thing. I said, ‘There’s a German right there,’ and I said, I said, ‘Lose height. Left hand turn,’ which we used to do. Lose height. Went down like that. Ok. And then of course all of sudden they had the lights on the fellow. All the lights went out you know. And it came back and we couldn’t see too well then but we could see the runway and that sort of thing and it had all the, you know the, what do they call them? Sort of the pens where the aircraft went into and we went up and down the runway shooting all those things that we could see. We’re not quite sure whether we hit this aircraft. But at any rate the next one to start firing back at us so we did another run too and did all what we could about what we could see on the ground. And then we decided to go home after that because we were getting short on the petrol. So that was a bit of an unfortunate thing but just seeing that bloke but he just appeared. I can see him now just out there. But anyrate we went home again and we used to do that sort of thing, you know. Quite often. Circle the aerodrome and see what’s coming.
AP: So —
KM: They were getting short on their for petrol. The Germans. You know. And, but I’ll tell you about the last thing that we did. Bob Cowper picked us to go with him down to a place call Linz on the Danube. Way down. Almost to Budapest sort of thing. Down there. And the river came down like that and it went down like that down south a bit. About twelve miles down was an aerodrome and we were going to go. And we had a squadron leader from the, the, what are they called? It was all the big wigs down at Ford. And it was going to drop a napalm bomb on the aerodrome down there. Anyrate, he, it was a bright moonlight night and we went all the way. We went to Juvencourt, just out of Paris and we got more petrol and carried on down to, to Linz down there. And we had just arrived and I could see it in the moonlight. We got there right on ETA. I could see them in front of us. And then we had to go to the right hand side, down south and go to the aerodrome. Drop these bombs sort of thing. And anyrate this squadron said, ‘I’ll lead down,’ you know. And he went down then. About half way down he put a flare out and we said, ‘Oh, you’ve put it in the wrong place.’ You know. And all he could see was a farm, cows and everything else. And we said, you’re only halfway down there so he went on down there and he said, he went round an aerodrome and he said, ‘I’ll take the in charge. I’ll do the first run in now.’ And he went down then. He went down because they were ready for him I think. He said, ‘I’ve been hit already,’ he said, ‘I’m going home.’ So that was all he did all night. So, we said we, we were going down so we went down once. Did a left hand turn over the river there and came back again like that. And just as we got around to go down again on the aerodrome some tracer bullets came right past my ear. My hair went up like that. And it just missed us actually. And anyrate we, I mean say that that’s the river down there. We went down like that we came back like that. Came down. Did another run in again and that’s when the tracer bullets came across there. But we did it again and again they were ready for us again because somebody — I don’t know who did it, it must have been on the other side of the river there. It’s quite high up there because I can remember it seemed to be coming down like that you know. But anyrate, we did the same thing again you know, circled. They were ready for us again. But anyway came back and Bob Cowper said, ‘What a mess up that was,’ you know. Bob Cowper was going to do everything and did nothing you know [laughs] But strangely enough Bob Cowper went down to Ford one day and he went down to the intelligence and saw what this fella said. Said it was a great success. Which was [laughs] we were very upset about that but so that was about it and then back to Bradwell Bay and on May the 8th, you know, the Germans decided they’d had enough. And, and then on — Mac had been getting into the liquor all the time and he got, what do you call it? Like jaundice. Sort of thing. Had to go to hospital. And then they asked 456 and another Mosquito squadron to go to the Channel Islands where the Germans were going to fight on. And so they went. Three — two, two lots went down. Went down to quite low and first said if you don’t we’ll give you, we’ll shoot the whole lot of you, you know. So they finally decided. So the war finally finished on the 9th of May. So you know that was about it I think. But so we went, we were supposed to come — the rumours said we were probably going up to Burma, you know, when we get back. But we went back to Brighton again and stayed about a week I think. We had a little car. I’ve got a photograph of it over there as a matter of fact. And we had to drive up to post this out in the east end of London and we had to go across — was it Dartmoor or something? Where there’s a ferry used to go across and you go up the hill like that to this place where they had all, they got a whole new or old cars He came from nowhere. He was a [unclear] actually. We saw it. We went up there and he said well go back to that fella and see what he’ll give us for the car, you know. We bought it for thirty seven pound and went up there. He came around and he went all through it like this looking. And said, he said, ‘Eighty pound.’ So he said ok. We said, ‘Can we have for it about a week because we’re going to Brighton.’ He said ok. We came up here in a week’s time. He came up and John Darling who was a great mate of mine he was, he was driving and he came across this thing. This ferry or something. And as he came up the hill that. It was hard to get. I think I said, ‘Put your foot down.’ He said, ‘I am,’ he said. Going up the hill he said to me, ‘It’s just about gone. The engine.’ So anywhere we got that, this [unclear] came around. He went all over it. He looked up, he said, ‘Well, there’s a mark on the ceiling.’ And he said, ‘No. I won’t give you eighty. I’ll give you seventy five.’ So we said ok. We got our seventy five. Rushed like mad and got on a bus and went back and went to the very posh hotel. I can’t remember the name again. I was trying to remember it this morning. And we had a night there and spent the whole seventy five [laughs] Oh dear. But so that was the end of our story really but —
AP: So, I might go back and fill in a few gaps. You mentioned a few little bits and pieces that I’ve sort of —
KM: Yeah.
AP: I’ve grabbed hold of there.
KM: Yeah.
AP: You said you met your wife at Cranfield. Can you tell me that story?
KM: Well, I went to Cranfield and that’s as I said where I met Margaret. My wife. And well, no we just, we just carried on with that was Cranfield. I’m forgetting things now but [pause] it was, is it the second one that was at Ouston. Number one. It was, what would you call it? The EFTS or something like that. There was a name for it and then you did all that and then you went to the squadron.
AP: Operational Training Unit perhaps.
KM: Yeah.
KM: The word. That’s right.
AP: Yeah.
KM: Yeah. But Cranfield was a lovely station. A peacetime station. And, and we had a beautiful cricket ground there and we had married quarters, you know. You used to go out two story ones and that’s how I met Margaret actually.
AP: Did you get married in the UK?
KM: No. No. She was still in the air force down in Benson near Oxford. And she was still in the air force but we’d gone then from Liverpool back home again. And no, she came out in September 1946. Yeah. And we were married on the 15th of, of November. So we’ll be seventy years married in November.
AP: Wow. Wow. So was she, she was in the WAAF?
KM: Yeah.
AP: What was she doing in the WAAF?
KM: She was one of the managers of the, of the officer’s mess.
AP: Ok. Cool.
KM: Margaret. Yeah.
AP: Yeah. Margaret. Cool.
KM: Yeah.
AP: Lovely. You also mentioned something about when you, when you were young. When you were thirteen, I think.
KM: Yeah.
AP: That triplane.
KM: Yeah.
AP: Or the tri motor thing.
KM: Yeah.
AP: Tell me about that.
KM: Well, I don’t know why it came out here but this man was a very experienced pilot. He was a civilian sort of chief sort of thing but, no I always sort of wanted to go into the air force but but that flight it was a lovely day. Went all around the bay and that sort of thing, you know. That’ll do me, you know so, but at that stage was in Russell Street they had the air force sort of recruitment place. But they had enough at that stage and couldn’t take any more you know. In fact another thing. When I went on leave in England I think every six weeks you used to get a leave and that Lady Ryder’s Scheme that said do you want to go to the country or a town? Do you want to play golf or, you know. I said, ‘I want to go to Scotland and I want to play golf,’ and everything else. So anyrate I got up to Aberdeen and I got a train out to a place called Stewartville and I think I’ve got a map there. And I got out and we were with another fellow. This one from Somers, you know who was a navigator with me and there was a horse and cart there and where we were going. He took all the bags and he said, ‘I’ll drive you to the general’s place.’ He was the number one general in the UK at the beginning of the war. A very nice old man he was. And, anyrate, he had, I got it in my photographs in my album there. So, we went there and he welcomed us in. His wife and so forth. At about 5 o’clock or about half past five, it was summertime and he said, ‘Come down and we’ll have something to eat.’ So we had some cookies as they do. And we had to get them out of the cupboard sort of thing and I said to [unclear] ‘Is that all we get for dinner?’ You know [laughs] Never had — what do you call it? High tea. That’s right. High tea. I went upstairs and I wrote a letter to my mother, “This is a very nice place and I’ve got to know a leading general but we don’t have much of a dinner here.” [laughs] And all of a sudden there was a gong went and down we went down. We had jugged hare. I can remember it to this day. But he was a very nice bloke and he understood. He said, ‘Look I’m old and you’re young.’ He said, ‘You want to play golf go to Peterhead.’ He said, ‘You can have a game there.’ So we got on our bikes. And the wind we could hardly get past it. It was just blowing like one thing and we got there and then we were allowed most of the golf clubs that people from abroad would be allowed to play you know. So we got there and he came around and he said, ‘Yes. Well, you can go around here. he said this way we can go out here and I said, ‘I’m a left hand.’ ‘We haven’t got any left handed.’ Oh God [laughs] they’re like that, particularly in Scotland. They didn’t like left handers so we went all the way there and did nothing. So [laughs] but no, there was, in fact he had a brother I think it was. Sir Charles Burnett, I think. Down at Crathes Castle just on the way to Ballater out of Aberdeen. You know, along the river there. And a beautiful castle. We had a lot of pleasure whilst we were there. And he was the chief of the Gordon clan, you know. And in fact part of the castle that he had was used as a hospital for people in from the war. And we went down there. We had lunch down there. And he came [laughs] he had a, he bought a great big bulldog in one day and we were fooling around like this, ‘Come on here,’ and doing this. And he could see the dog wasn’t too pleased about it and Bob like, it bit him on his wrist. He wasn’t too pleased about that either but, but it was a lovely place. They had gardens. There was. They had like a purple one. A yellow one. Green one. Red one. One, two, three, four going down the hill sort of thing. It’s a lovely place. We’ve been back there quite a few times. Crathes Castle. I’ll show you where it is. Have you got a minute?
AP: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. I’ll give you a hand if you want.
KM: Yeah. [unclear]
AP: Oh where am I going? Ok. I can go and get it if you want.
KM: In the bottom drawer. On the right hand side there. No. No. No. Back here. Over here. Right hand side on the bottom one. There’s a map there.
AP: “Road Atlas of Great Britain.”
KM: It’s, yeah, that’s right. That’s it. That’s it. Yeah [pause] probably need my bloody glasses.
AP: Where are they?
KM: There. Right on [ pause ]
AP: Here. These ones?
KM: No. That’ll do. Yeah.
AP: That’ll do.
KM: I’ve got one. Another one. When I’m here it’s always over there so I’ve got two of them. That story. There’s Aberdeen. We went up here to — I’d better get this one but there’s Peterhead there. That’s about there this. The [unclear] yeah. Going out from there but what’s that? ’83.
[Pause. Pages turning]
KM: It’s been a marvellous book this one. I’ve kept it all those years.
KM: There.
AP: Ah yes.
KM: Aberdeen. Went up in a train. Up here I guess. Stewartville. There we are. We went from there in a horse and cart. About there. That’s where he lived. About there. So, and then we got on our bike. Went to Peterhead there but no, there isn’t a station there but no I know quite a bit about Scotland. I’ve been about seven times now.
AP: Lovely.
KM: I’ll show you where Ford is.
AP: Oh yeah. There’s Beachy Head there. Yeah.
KM: Yeah. Beachy Head. There’s a marvellous spot there. And living about here I think [pages turning] [unclear] See there’s Brighton and, and you see that’s a lady down there. She was at, she lived at Carshalton which is up towards London and she was, we used to stay with her. She had two hundred and fifty seven colonials. Australian, Canadians and that sort of thing at her house during the war. She was a marvellous lady, and anyrate at Carshalton Beeches two storey place. And the buzz bombs used to come over and she was out putting clothes on the line, and had a big fig tree there near the clothes line and she could hear the buzz bomb brrrrrr like this and didn’t worry to peg the things out. All of a sudden the sound finished. So she went for her life towards her dugout down there with steps on it and just got to the top and bang it landed in the back yard and blew all the leaves off the tree. And blew her down to her dugout down there. And she was bruised and that sort of thing. But it moved the house about a foot you know. So they had to move out of that and went down to Seaford. Down here. But she was a marvellous woman because she took it all in her stride. I would say [pause] Littlehampton. [Pause. Pages turning] Here’s Brighton. Came down to Worthing. Little Hampton. Now there’s Arundel. That’s where the big castle is. Played the first game of cricket there. Inside that thing is a cricket ground in there. And we used to have dances in his dining room once every a month you know. Because he knew, he knew the queen as a matter of fact. He was a cousin or something. But, but we used to ride down here. We used to have a swim down there. And but there were barbed wire along there as well but and our ground station was at Angmering, that’s right Angmering, that’s it. About there. That’s our ground station there and Ford was just, you just crossed the railway line there and just about there. That’s where the aerodrome was. There. That’s it.
AP: Oh yeah. I can see it says Ford there. Yeah.
KM: Yeah. Yeah. But, and then, and then we had [laughs] used to play cricket down at Middleton Sports Club. There’s a cricket ground down there and 456 had a — I’ve got something about that over there. I’ll show you my book later on but we beat them down there. You probably don’t know about Charlie Kunz. A marvellous pianist. He was a Yank who came to Britain before the war and stayed on. He used to have a programme on the BBC. Playing the piano. It was called, “The Hot and the Cold.” He used to play softly and then louder. Softly and louder. Very nice. But he had a son who played in a team against us. He was only about seventeen I think and the fellow that opened the bowling was the captain of the other side. His name was, I’ve got it over there. He played for England actually and a medium fast bowler and I opened up with another fellow and he got three wickets or something straightaway but I stayed on. I made fifty. And I dropped one a bit short note went bang. Was almost six. This young kid stuck his hand out and caught it. He came in after the, after the match. Very nice clubhouse there. Two storey place with two squash courts there. And he said, he came and he said, ‘Would you boys,’ Don Darling and myself, ‘Would you like to go and see my father?’ And I said, ‘Who’s your father?’ He said, ‘He’s a pianist. He’s at the Hippodrome at Brighton.’ So he said, and he gave us the tickets and everything. So we went to see and that’s the first time I heard beautiful piece. Fairly old, you know. It was getting a bit grey. And at any rate the lead at the Hippodrome with Arthur Askey. Do you remember Arthur Askey? He was a comedian, you know. Little fellow. And he had a, he had on a stage. He was in front of it. Behind it I think a ladies toilet like that and he came on and he said, ‘I’ll now play for you, “By the waterfall,” you know [laughs] Oh dear. That was a good night. So anyrate we had we got quite friendly with his son and I went over there one day and I wrote a letter to him and he was back in London by that time. But he got an OBE because he — I think he might be dead now I think because he wasn’t too well the last time I got a card from him, you know. But yeah so that’s about the end of my story I think.
AP: I’m sure there’s more in it. What, what other things did you get up to while you were on leave in England?
KM: Well, it all came back and said, ‘If you want to go to this places. This is a beautiful spot,’ kind of thing. So this fellow by the name Luke. Luke I think. He came from Tasmania. He went, ‘Oh you ought to go. He’s got four cars. He’d got two squash courts, he said he’s got a cricket ground and he’s got a three storey house.’ I said, ‘Well we’ll go to that.’ I got one of my brothers to go there. Mr [unclear] — he had a brewery in the east of London. Mr — God, I’m forgetting names. Old fellow with a moustache, you know. And Mr [pause] he had a younger wife and he had gout and I said to him one day, ‘Do you mind if my brother,’ who was in the navy, ‘Comes up to see me?’ ‘Oh no. that’s ok. He can come up.’ So anyrate he came over and he stayed the night. And he had a butler as well. He used to come and say , ‘Your bath is ready, sir.’ You know [laughs] I forget his name. This was very posh this place. His wife was very nice. And one night we were having dinner one night and he used to sit at the top of the table there, I was here and she was over there and she said, ‘I’ll bring the grandchild in now to say goodnight to him. He came and said goodnight to him and when she went out of the room he went down and he had a whicker sort of thing. Almost to the table. Opened it up and he had a gin or something with like this [ laughs] pushed it back before his wife came in. But it was a lovely place. I stayed there about a week, you know. I don’t know whether you know about Bill Edrich . He was the opening bat for the English Test Team. Came out to Australia in 1946 I think. And he was a flight lieutenant in the air force and his father was the manager of the estate where this Mr what was his name? I can’t think of his name but anyway when he stayed at his estate he he had an aerodrome on one part of his estate. A Yank aerodrome. And across the road was a place called [unclear] I think it was. And the fella in there was, came from Lancashire and he was a sir something. Sir Humphrey. Sir Humphrey his name was and he owned quite a bit of Lancashire up there. I think the, the Yorkshire ground was one, was on his land as a matter of fact and [laughs] we had, we had a pheasant shoot down at the one I was staying at. And they had all the men in the estate going beating to the, to get the pheasant out you know. Going around like that. He had to get in turn. He said, shoot when I, when you want them to fly. Bang. Knock one down. At any rate we both knocked one down and Humphrey, you know, Sir Humphrey [unclear] and this this fella from Tasmania, ‘Come on Humphrey. Come on. Get one,’ you know. Took him about five shots to get one. We didn’t know he was Sir Humphrey. Whatever. And he was the one we stayed with. His wife said, ‘I’d like to introduce Sir Humphrey.’ So we found out he was Sir Humphrey. So, but yeah but that lady, Lady Ryder used to do it for everybody. You could go down to to Devon or, I went down to to Predannack. Right down at the end of England. Right down. Right down there. In fact 456 were going to go down there but they didn’t go. Somebody else took our place I think. So that’s how they came to Ford actually. From there. That’s about all I think.
AP: A couple more questions. A couple more questions. So you, we haven’t spoken that much about your operational side of things. What you actually did as a navigator and a radar operator. Did you have, in the — well first of all what sort of trips were you actually doing in the Mosquitoes?
KM: Intruder trips. We used to go usually quite often on a bright moonlight night you know and yeah, you’d go up and down their, what do you call their roads again. Not the freeways. Anyrate you could see them to go like that. Two or three of our fellas used to see a train, you know. You could see that when they opened it with the coke or something in there. And they were sitting ducks. They used to go down and knock them off. We didn’t see any of those but Ron Lytton who lives, used to live out near Essendon and — how long have you been out there Adam?
AP: Three years now.
KM: Oh no. He’s probably dead about ten. He was a, he was a plumber out there. And his, his and he’s still alive actually Geoff Reeves was his pilot. A very good pilot and he knocked over about two trains I think, you know. But we used to do those things. Anything we could see. And the Arnhem. You know the one bridge too far. We were on that day. It was foul night. God it was blowing like mad, you know. And we got on to there was one in front of us. I could see one and I said to Mac, ‘Turn left,’ you know,’ And drop height,’ and everything like that. And then as he went around and around and we were behind him going there there and there and he, Mac my pilot, he said, ‘I think he must be one of ours,’ he said because we could turn inside a JU88. You know, get in beside him. He said, what about it? He said what was our call sign [pause] oh God I’ve forgotten that but he called out, ‘Is that one of our crowd?’ He said, ‘Yeah B,’ he said [laughs] and he said, ‘I’ve been chasing you,’ he said. ‘No. You’ve got the wrong one.’ So, but, but on Arnhem the [pause] oh yeah. We had a fellow called Woodhouse or we called him Woody as a matter of fact who was a leading ground controller. And they ,they took him over and they were going to parachute him down and then and he had some, a glider or something there put down what he needed to contact us in the air. So anyway he got down there but the Germans were waiting for him. Grabbed him, you know. So, so we never got any call about the Germans at all in the air. But, but we went up to, to Arnhem. Now, what happened there? Oh that’s right. As I say terrible weather. So we were going along and got St Elmo’s Fire. Have you heard about that? All along the wings. What’s going on here? You know. Anyway, we got out of that. But anyroad we got off course and everything else. We didn’t do much about that but after doing that chasing that bloke and this thing I didn’t know exactly where I was. And going home to England Mac said, ‘Well, where are we now?’ I said, ‘Well, about the time we went home now I think.’ I said, ‘Just go to the west. We’ll get to England someway.’ So in fact we got up to The Wash, you know. And we were down at Ford you know. In fact we started our flight at Manston which is down, down in Kent. Down there. It’s a very big aerodrome. Three runways you know. So big aircraft down that one. The middle one was ok. Anyone in trouble be on the right hand one. But we got, when I got back we were at The Wash which was probably about a hundred miles up to the north. And we turned down. I said to Mac, ‘Turn down south again.’ We got down there and then the, the, what was it? He couldn’t get the wheels down or something. The hydraulics didn’t work. So I had to get down and I had to pump it myself. I finally got them out after about half an hour but so we landed back there. So, but that was quite a night actually. But I’ve seen that. We’ve seen that film about one bridge too far.
AP: I haven’t seen it but I am aware of it.
KM: It’s very good.
AP: [unclear] Yeah.
KM: How did I get it? I don’t know where I’ve got it. It was over there. It had all the well-known actors in that one. Sean Connery’s in it and a lot of them. It’s a very good film actually. But I went to see it too as a matter of fact. There’s a bridge over the, where the they stopped the Germans actually there. But I went over to Normandy with a friend of mine. A cousin of Margaret’s actually. And they’ve got a sort of a museum there as well but there’s— have you ever been to Normandy?
AP: I have.
KM: Yeah.
AP: I have yeah. I spent a few years over there so —
KM: We went together and was over. And that was good too.
AP: But you said you missed Normandy because you were in a training programme.
KM: Yeah [unclear] on that but —
AP: What did, what did you think of the Mosquito?
KM: Beautiful. Nothing wrong with it at all, you know. I said that Don McLennan said the Halifax went, loaded up went to the left and then the right, you know. This went straight down. A very good pilot Mac. Once we were going down I used to go, he would drop it down. H would just go [unclear] very good. He was a good pilot Mac. Poor old Mac. He died probably about twenty years ago. He had Parkinsons Disease you know. I think it might have been all the beer he drank.
AP: How did you find adjusting to civilian life after the war?
KM: Eh?
AP: How did you find adjusting to civilian life after the war?
KM: I didn’t mind it. I I went into work. I was still in uniform. I didn’t have a suit. And Malcolm Roberts said to me, ‘Do you want to come back to work?’ And I said, ‘Oh yes,’ you know. And he gave me five pounds worth of salary [laughs] per week. And so I went to a place in, in Flinders Lane. He was one of our clients and I went in there and strangely enough he was the son of the chief there. Wade. You know. Evan Wade. And Terry Wade is over here in Doncaster. He’s still alive as a matter of fact. His wife’s dead unfortunately. But anyway so I did work there and I went back and forth until about 1948. Then I became a chartered accountant then. I went to RMIT to finish my course and so after a while he said to me, ‘Do you want to come over and be the secretary up here?’ So I went home and said to my wife what about — I’m not quite sure about it but anyway decided to give it a go and I was there for twenty one years. So, well worth it. So was that about it?
AP: Any, any final thoughts on your air force service?
KM: Eh?
AP: Any final thoughts on your air force service?
KM: No. No.
AP: What you got out of it.
KM: No. I got the, I got the Legion of Honour over there.
AP: Oh excellent.
KM: Yeah. But that was, that came later on, you know.
AP: Of course.
KM: But it was mostly the intruder trips that are as I say we’ve got the lady up in Canberra and had them all put down where I went to and that sort of thing. And then I was surprised to get it but I’ve got it over there as a matter of fact. You see the one, the blue one there on the [unclear]
AP: This one here.
KM: Pop it on there. My sister did that for me. Take the top one. That one. Yeah.
AP: Oh yeah.
KM: That’s it.
KM: Is that? Is that —
AP: Oh this is the presentation is it?
KM: Yeah.
AP: Yeah. Ok.
KM: That’s [unclear]
AP: Yeah. I see that.
KM: That’s the man who put them on. He gave you a big hug [laughs]
AP: Of course because he’s French. I see Gerald there as well.
KM: Yeah. Yeah. Gerald. Funny. He came in the same day as I. His son came out of Norway for it.
AP: Fantastic.
KM: But yeah. But — yeah.
AP: Alright. Well —
KM: Well —
AP: Well, I think we’re done. Thank you very much.
KM: Thanks Adam. It’s very good of you to come all this way.
AP: Oh it’s alright. I love it.
KM: [unclear]
AP: I really do. I’ll just turn the recording off.


Adam Purcell, “Interview with Kenneth William Munro,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 24, 2024,

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