Interview with Geoff Payne


Interview with Geoff Payne


Geoff Payne has his first experience of the Royal Air Force with the Air Training Corps, at RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire, where he had one of his first experiences of military humour. He joined in 1943 at the age of 17 and a half hoping to become a pilot - he took the faster option because of his young age and trained as an air gunner.
Basic training was carried out at Lords Cricket ground in London. One clear memory is helping to carry patients down several flights of stairs from a nearby hospital during an air raid.
Time was spent at RAF Bridlington on Initial Training Wing before attending Air Gunnery School in the Isle of Man. Further training was undertaken at RAF Banbury where he was crewed up on Wellingtons, before moving to the Heavy Conversion Unit at Wratting Common to convert to Stirlings. During his time here he attended an escape course at RAF Feltwell and was instructed in unarmed combat, which he dismissed as pitiful.
He and his crew were posted to RAF Witchford, Cambridgeshire, where he flew his first operation in February 1944 replacing an ill air gunner. He later discovered this was an inexperienced crew. He remembers the target was around Osnabrück in Germany and it was a melee over the target where they were attacked by two Me 109s, which they successfully shook off. On his return, he remembers being unable to sleep and went for a walk into Ely. There he discovered the Oxford Cambridge boat race was being held and watched it
Target areas of Germany included Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Augsburg. On his 5th operation, the aircraft was attacked, and the aircraft lost its heating and communications. He suffered frostbite and spent several months recovering in Ely hospital.
On regaining fitness, he was transferred to RAF Waterbeach and was allocated to a crew led by Ted Cousins. Waterbeach was a pre-war airfield with comfortable facilities. Time off was spent competing in athletics and football along with drinking at the local public houses.
When time allowed, he went home, but found the experience boring: all his friends were serving away, and there was little to do except drink or go to the cinema. His elder brother was serving as a navigator in the Far East, and he felt it unfair to talk about his experiences with his family.
At RAF Waterbeach there was a greater variety of operations. Targets varied from Germany to Southern France. He also remembers one trip to Poland. This entailed flying over Denmark and they could see the lights from Sweden and anti-aircraft fire.
He has a clear memory of most of his operations but does not wish to dwell on some. On one occasion he spotted a Me 109, he tried to warn the pilot but his intercom had frozen and emergency light was inoperative. He tried to open fire but his guns jammed – the night fighter opened fire and hit the centre of the aircraft. The aircraft began violently manoeuvring and he wasn’t sure if this was deliberate evasive manoeuvres or if they were out of control. He made his way forward and discovered the aircraft door open and the mid upper gunner missing. There were cannon holes all around the centre of the aircraft. He still wasn’t sure if he was the only one on board until he reached the main cabin and found the rest of the crew in position. They made it back home where they realised an incendiary bullet was lodged in the ammunition pannier.
His last operation was one of the thousand-bomber operations in Germany, the air black with anti-aircraft fire. On his return, the air gunners went sent to the bomb dump to assist the armourers in preparing the bombs for the following days attack which was carried out by the United States Army Air Forces.
After completing his tour of operation, he was posted to RAF Brackla, hoping to be retained as physical training instructor, but ended up at RAF Weeton near Blackpool to be trained as a driver.
He served at several locations across Southern England before his final posting which was with a microfilm unit in Frankfurt. Fraternising with locals was not allowed, but he did manage to learn German. He played in a football match against a much better German select team.
After demob, he returned home and was involved in the manufacturing of cars at the Triumph factory. He married, and because of unrest and strikes in the car industry, he moved to Scotland and was employed at the Carron company in Falkirk as a production director manufacturing steel bars, where his ability to speak German became an advantage in his dealings with foreign companies. He met an ex Luftwaffe pilot and experiences were exchanged - there was no animosity whatsoever and it was accepted they both had been carrying out their duty.
Geoff looks back on his time in Bomber Command with great fondness. It was like a big family. He still has contact with surviving crew members, and still attends reunions.



IBCC Digital Archive




Ian Whapplington


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00:32:26 audio recording




APayneGA170528, PPayneG1702

Temporal Coverage



Brenda Jones, “Interview with Geoff Payne,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 25, 2020,

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