Interview with Jim Penny. Two

Title

Interview with Jim Penny. Two

Description

After volunteering for the RAF Jim Penny began his training which also took him to USA. He was present when the announcement of Pearl Harbour was made and all RAF trainees could openly wear their uniforms as the two countries were officially Allies. He found the steering on the two training aircraft difficult and was scrubbed from the course but when he was interviewed by RAF personnel he was reposted back on to pilot training. When he returned to the UK to finalise his training he crewed up and was posted to 97 Squadron Pathfinders based at RAF Bourn. On one occasion during a test flight the winds were intense and his request to land at a different runway were refused. He ordered the crew to crash positions and on landing the undercarriage collapsed. The CO witnessed the crash and when he found out that the change of runway request had been refused he dismissed the duty controller immediately. The mid-upper gunner was told on one occasion that he had to get a new flight suit because of the state of his but he refused saying it was his lucky flight suit. He was dismissed by the CO and Jim was given a new gunner. Jim Penny flew operations as a pilot with 97 Squadron from RAF Bourn until his aircraft was shot down over Berlin 24th November 1943 and he became a prisoner of war. All other members of the crew were killed.

Creator

Date

2017-09-05

Language

Type

Format

01:30:58 audio recording

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Contributor

Identifier

APennyJA170905, PPennyJ1501

Transcription

CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 5th of September 2017 and I'm in Shrewsbury with Jim Penny to talk about his interesting life and times. What’s your earliest recollection of life then, Jim?
JP: Say again. My earliest recollections of what?
CB: Of life?
JP: I haven’t thought [laughs]I have no idea.
[recording paused]
JP: Well, my earliest recollections when I was four years old we had a Catholic school, a Catholic Church across the road from where we stayed stop and the canon used to walk up and down reading, I think his breviary in the morning and one day I went across there on my little tricycle and I said, ‘Are you the Canon?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘When are you going to be fired?’ And he burst out laughing and we were friends from then on and remained friends until I started school which is why I know I was four years old. That do?
CB: Yeah.
JP: Well, I was born in 114 Dixon Avenue, Glasgow on the 19th of July 1922 to William Penny and Elsie Ann Harvey who was born, dad was born in 1880 and mum in 1881. Both came from Aberdeenshire. My father had two brothers and five sisters all of whom immigrated to the dominions. My father to New Zealand. His plan was to send for my mother but realised he couldn't afford the passage. He bought his passage home to marry her. My mother had eight brothers but none of the Harveys emigrated. My father, my parents left school at eleven. My grandparents were crofters and in due course my dad became a ploughman. I soon discovered, I had four brothers my memories of them are being much loved and cared for. The twins Tommy and Lorney born [pause] born in 1905 were Scottish [pairs] champions for five years. Sandy, born in 1909 was a good scholar and Bill born in 1914 at one time was the twin’s coxswain. When he was eighteen the four brothers became a crew and I became their cox. I was aged ten and we were known as the Fourpence Halfpenny Crew. My memories are that we won most of the regatta's we entered. Coxing my brothers and sometimes other crews at regattas at their request gave me an early confidence with adults. I still think it was easier for me, easier for me to adapt to service life. Tommy became an engineer. Lorney and Sandy were carpenters and Bill was a draughtsman. When war came along Bill was employed in the shipyards and both Tommy and Sandy were conscripted for the same shipyard. Somehow Laurie who [unclear] was overlooked. He was conscripted for the Army at the ripe old age of thirty eight. I went to Aberdeen, no, Albert Road Academy when I was five years old. It had Infant, Junior and Senior sections. I was very happy there. I remember the great respect I had for Miss Muir, the infant teacher and Mr Wylie the head of the Junior School in a separate building, and the senior headmaster Mr Hamilton. I also had a great regard for three teachers Mr Moffett who taught maths, Mr Crawford who taught history, and Mr Shapiro who taught English.
CB: How did your brothers treat you?
JP: Well [pause] well, all terribly well. Sandy was the gentlest of them all. [unclear] alright? Bill didn’t like me at first. My mum had an unfortunate failing. She loved the babies and when I turned up he was eight years old and he’d been the apple of her eye for eight years and suddenly there was this little brat and he didn't like me at all to start with.
CB: No.
JP: But we actually, later on became the best of friends.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Much later on.
CB: Yeah.
JP: But at first he was not too happy. I think he started mellowing when he was eighteen and became part of the brother’s crew and I became the coxswain.
CB: Yeah.
JP: I was ten at the time.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And he started mellowing then.
CB: Right [laughs] Yes.
JP: But prior to that and actually funnily enough my [pause] Bill and his wife and Ursula, my wife were, the two wives were great pals and we would warn each of them. My mother, when my mother visited us, my home all she ever did was, to them was to talk about our kids. And when she came here all she did was to talk about their kids. This was, you know she was fixated on children.
CB: Yeah.
JP: She was lovely. Yeah. But that's by the way. Anyway. Now the next bit is going to be getting into the Air Force. Is that alright?
CB: Yeah.
JP: Yeah.
CB: Why did you choose the RAF and not the Army or the Navy? You’re going to cover that?
JP: That's in there.
CB: Yeah. Okay. Fire away.
JP: Yeah. You’ve got it in there.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Right. When the war came along in 1930 I was seventeen. I tried to join up and was told to come back when I was eighteen. From an early age I’d always wanted to fly. Probably from reading so many stories of World War One pilots. Instead of going back to school I got a job at Rolls Royce where I thought learning about aircraft engines might be helpful to a pilot. On my eighteenth birthday in 1940 I was accepted for the RAF at the Recruiting Centre. There were many delays before I was, I had had an aircrew medical in Edinburgh and it was the 28th of March 1941 when I was sworn in as a member of the RAF VR. The RAF Voluntary Reserves. I was ordered to report to London Aircrew Reception Centre on the 3rd of June 1941 and I’d be nineteen the following year. On the train to London I met Alec McGarvey and Johnny Thompson who were ex-policemen. Police had been a Reserved Occupation aged twenty four, twenty five, and over and permission being given that between twenty five and thirty could volunteer for aircrew. The number of ex-police I met at my time of entry convinced me that every policeman in the entire country had volunteered. At St John’s Wood the RAF had taken over hotels and blocks of flats. We were given uniforms and our civilian clothes posted home. We had to march, ate our meals at London Zoo restaurant and were vaccinated and had three injections. I need a pause. Can you —
[recording paused]
JP: Was six weeks in Newquay, Cornwall. In my Flight of sixty forty were ex-policemen. We had drill, PT, rugger, shotguns, skeet shooting and rifle. Lectures in meteorology, Morse Code, aerodynamics aircraft recognition and navigation. This last required maths. The school boys like me helped our ex-police for as one said, ‘You didnae need much maths in the polis.’ From ITW my Flight went to Canada on the Highland Princess. In Toronto we were issued with civilian clothes and went by train into the USA. My memory is that it took the best part of three days to reach Montgomery, Alabama passing no major city or town but six hundred civilians arrived at Maxwell Field near Montgomery. General Hap Arnold commanded the South East Army Air Corps. We were the sixth [pause] no, I beg your pardon we were the fifth [pause] Right. Ok. We were the fifth six hundred to enter the Arnold Scheme. RAF men were also being trained as pilots in Texas at civilian flying schools. Observers as navigators were then called were also being trained and Navy airmen by the US Navy. It has always been a matter of great regret to me that so little has been known to the British public of the invaluable aid when most needed despite the US Neutrality Act. In three weeks we learned American Army drill and customs though we also had an RAF liaison officer wherever we went. I was in the cinema in Americas Georgia on the 7th of December 1941 when the film was stopped. The manager announced that Pearl Harbour had been attacked by the Japanese. They played the US National Anthem. Then the film began again. The next morning we were told we were now allies and would wear RAF uniforms at all times. For basic training we went to Cochran Field, an Army Air Corps base manned by Air Corps ground staff and officer flying instructors. The Vultee was an old monoplane with a fixed undercarriage and a standard instrument panel suitable for night flying. I was in trouble from the start as the controls were heavy and my instructor was no GM Austin. He’d been my instructor previously. He was a brilliant man. With a change of instructor I did well again and the aerobatics with a more powerful engine were as much fun as in the Stearman. We had to fly at night and instrument flying under a hood in the air was also practised on the link trainer. A primitive forerunner of a more modern actual ground cockpits. For advanced training we went to another Air Corps base. Napier Field near Dothan, Alabama. We flew an 86A which the RAF named the Harvard. Again, I was in trouble for not only was it light on the controls but on the approach to landing I let the speed fall dangerously low near to stalling. A stall so near the ground could have resulted in a crash which could have killed both pupil and instructor. I checked [unclear] with three other senior instructors and failed each one for the same fault. I was sent back to Canada with some other washouts. At a Personnel Despatch Centre at Trenton, Ontario, I was interviewed by a flight lieutenant who asked why I had been washed out. I said I’d failed to adjust to the flight controls after the heavy Vultee and I thought it would have been better to go straight to the Harvard from the Stearman. He said an RAF team had been sent to the USA to investigate the large number of washouts that advanced and this was just what they had recommended and he would recommend that I should return to pilot training. So I was sent back to flying but on twin engine aircraft. That flight lieutenant even apologised for realised that like most I wanted to be a fighter pilot. Years later after the war I went to the RAF Central Flying School to become a flight instructor. In a Harvard the first thing my instructor said, ‘Always rest your hand lightly on the trim control to ensure your pupil uses it correctly for it’s very sensitive. And suddenly I remembered in the Vultee on the approach to landing the trim control was wound right back. This I’d done in the Harvard at advanced and this was the real reason of the dangerous fall in speed as the nose eased up on each approach to landing. I wonder how many others had fallen into the same trap.
CB: Yeah.
JP: At the nearby airfield [pause] Hang on. I missed a bit. Something has gone wrong here.
CB: Ok. We’ll just stop a mo.
[recording paused]
CB: Right.
JP: I was then sent to [pause] number 35 SFTS, North Battleford, Saskatchewan which is a long way north. Near there was a nearby airfield. We flew the Airspeed Oxford which was a low wing twin engine aircraft with a single fin and rudder. My instructor, Pilot Officer Henry Shackleton soon to be a flying officer was another excellent instructor. Quiet, patient and with a pleasant friendly manner which put one at ease. The Oxford, for me had no vices. Indeed, at one point Shackleton asked if I would mind if he recommended me to be a flying instructor. In the mood of the time and being young and stupid I said I wanted to go on operations. On the 25th of September 1942 we were awarded our coveted wings and promoted to sergeant. Out of over sixty only six were commissioned. Our next step was at the PDC at Moncton, New Brunswick. We were to return on the Queen Mary but on the 2nd of October 1942 she was , she hit and sunk a cruiser which had tried to pass in front of her. We came home on the Queen Elizabeth. Back in England we were billeted at the Grand Hotel in Harrogate for a month. Not then so grand and we were back to rationing. RAF Shawbury, Shropshire near Shrewsbury was the first English airfield I flew from on the 15th of January 1943. It was to be the last airfield I served at on retirement on the 19th of July 1971. It has a special place in my memories for it was always a happy station blessed with very good station commanders. Right.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
JP: We were very popular in America with the civilian population. Despite our civilian clothes they knew exactly who we were and of course when we went into uniform it was even better. And they would collect outside and take us away for the weekend and it’s strange how most of them had nice pretty daughters who also seemed to like us. Will that do?
CB: Just right.
JP: With a minute. Hold on a minute.
CB: Yeah.
[recording paused]
CB: So, you're in the Deep South really.
JP: Yeah.
CB: The American bit. So, what’s the reaction from a race point of view?
JP: Well, yeah. What I was going to say was the story I've got in here. The negro waiter in the mess.
CB: Oh, yes.
JP: Would you like that one?
CB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
JP: Ok. While we were at America’s Georgia in the mess we had negro waiters. One day I was writing a letter. Everyone had gone and in a little compartment I was writing this letter but one of the waiters [pause] are you ready?
CB: Yes.
JP: One of the waiters came in and in a cultured voice asked, ‘Would you care for a coffee, sir?’ I was startled by his tone and choice of words, so different from the usual mess hall language and subservient attitude of the negro waiters. I said I would like a coffee and as he poured I commented on his educated tone and language and asked what he was doing here as a waiter. He said he was a graduate of a negro university and taught school for the local negro children in the evenings. He reminded me most courteously we were in the Deep South and the only jobs for negros were menial. He needed this job to support him while he taught. The white mess hall waiter overseer as you saw it, the white mess hall overseer was standing at the other end of the mess hall. I warned the waiter not to look around but to leave bowing low as he went. I gathered up my letter, drank the coffee and left. As I neared the overseer he asked in a hectoring tone what, ‘That nigger and I had been talking about.’ I told him I’d sent him for coffee and when he brought it I thanked him as was the British custom when someone did us a service. Is that what you were after?
CB: Yeah. Very —
[recording paused]
JP: Another incident.
CB: Yeah. Fire away.
JP: We accepted an invitation to church services for afterwards we would certainly be invited to a meal which was a way to meet nice girls. Some were the most courteous and hospitable people to us. The church service on Armistice Day we were quite horrified when they read out the names of those who were killed in the last, in the First World War and when they came to a negro name they always put coloured after his name and we thought that was quite dreadful.
CB: Yeah.
JP: That one. [pause]
[recording paused]
JP: Back in the UK I first went to RAF Shawbury. We flew the Airspeed Oxford while they checked our competence as pilots and we were allowed to fly over blacked out Britain. Once again, I was asked if I would like to be recommended to be a flying instructor and again turned it down. For Oxford’s training we first went to nearby RAF Tilstock Heath, still in Shropshire. There we crewed up. This was a strange experience. In a large hangar were assembled pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, wireless operators and gunners. The officer in charge said, ‘There you are gentlemen. Get on with it.’ And left. Everyone looked as stunned as I felt. How did one start? Thinking I might try and get a Scottish crew I walked over to a nearby group of bomb aimers and asked if any were Scots. Sergeant Campbell said he was from Glasgow and he knew a navigator from there. He fetched over Sergeant Jimmy Graham another Glaswegian. With him was a red-haired gunner who Jimmy introduced as Sergeant Red Dries, an American from New York who was in the RCAF saying that they wanted to be in the same crew. I was delighted and all I needed was a wireless operator. A little chap nearby said he was from Grimsby but would he do? I liked the look of Sergeant [Carnes] and said yes. I never knew their ages until long after the war. A kind lady at the Air Historical Branch gave me their, gave me these. Jimmy Graham was twenty eight. Bob [Carnes] was twenty three. Bob Campbell was twenty two. And much later from relatives I learned that Red was actually twenty nine. Dicky Fathers was twenty one. He was our flight engineer who joined us later at Heavy Conversion. We were sent to RAF Sleap, a satellite airfield a few miles from Tilstock Heath where we flew the Whitley, a bomber powered by two Rolls Royce Merlins. When we practised single engine landings I thought the Whitley had difficulty holding height on one engine. Returning to Sleap from a night cross country exercise we lost power on one engine and started to lose height. We were approaching the Pennines and with high ground to come, a black night and the possibility of altimeter error I told the crew to stand by to bale out if we fell below three thousand feet. Fortunately, we held height just above three thousand feet and made it safely back to base. That was when I found out that Bob Carne was terrified of having to bale out. It didn’t stop him flying. Now, that is courage. Navigator Jimmy, bomb aimer Bob and I were each assessed as above the average and were asked if we would volunteer for the Pathfinder Force. All the crew agreed for it was an elite force even though we had to agree for a first tour of forty five operations. We went next to Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Blyton. There we were joined by our flight engineer Richard Dicky Fathers who fitted in well with the crew. I flew a Halifax first and then a Lancaster. In this, my diary there is an entry, “The Lancaster is really fine. Much lighter on the controls than the Whitley and the Halifax. The finest plane I’ve ever flown.” On the 26th of July 1943 I was promoted to flight, acting flight sergeant and we left for the Pathfinder Navigation Training Unit at RAF Upwood. There we flew three exercises with a staff instructor aboard. I still remember one when we flew north above the Irish Sea between the Western Isles, around the top of Scotland and down over central Scotland and the Pennines. At ten thousand feet on a clear summer day it was the most pleasant flight I’d ever made. We passed inspection and were posted to 97 PFS Squadron at RAF Bourn in Cambridgeshire.
CB: Right. We’ll stop there for a mo.
[recording paused]
JP: It was, right here we go then. It was customary to send a newly arrived pilot on two operations with an experienced crew as a second pilot. There was no dual control in a Lancaster. The flight engineer sat beside the pilot and the so-called second pilot stood behind him listening to the crew and observing what he could. My first second pilot was Pilot Officer Ken Fairlie, Royal New Zealand Air Force. On the 14th 15th of August Milan was a twelve hundred miles and took seven hours and forty five minutes and I was standing all the way. I was impressed with the crew’s intercom discipline. No chatter. All related to the task. The Alps were awesome in the moonlight. We bombed at eleven thousand feet and the flak seemed light and below us and the long journey home I was even bored. I was soon to find out that a boring flight was most unusual. For the next second pilot I went again with Ken Fairlie. This time to Leverkusen. Five hundred miles in to Germany. We bombed at thirteen thousand feet with both light and heavy flak shell bursts which I thought rather dodgy. We saw lots of flak enroute and I realised the navigator was doing a fine job keeping us clear of turns. The next op was to Berlin. They thought it unfair to send a crew on its first op to the big city so I went with Squadron Leader Savage. The flak barrage was very heavy and we were very conscious of the danger of fighters. I was to learn that flak was very heavy over all German towns with [unclear] getting heavier. One crew failed to return from that Milan, from that raid and five of the Leverkusen, the fifty six were from Berlin and we were distressed to learn that Ken Fairlie and his crew had failed to return from the Berlin operation. In August my crew and I flew three operations. Nuremberg, Munchen Gladbach and Berlin. On every op we flew we also arrived at ETA, Estimated Time of Arrival. This meant we bombed on time and our camera proved bombed on the aiming point the red and green target flares dropped by the leading Pathfinders. We always carried a cookie, a four thousand pound blast bomb, an assortment of a thousand and eight hundred and five hundred HE. High Explosives. Bombs. Some crews carried incendiaries. Circling base on the first return awaiting our turn to land my eyes were sore and blinking. The elsan too was at the rear and not available to a pilot. I solved the eye problem by alerting the crew over the sea, setting George the automatic pilot and closing my eyes for five minutes. It worked and at base my eyes were clear. The ground crew solved the elsan problem by fitting a large funnel to my seat leading to a tube fixed to the fuselage though extracting the necessary member from layers of flying clothing was not easy. A hundred and ninety five crews failed to return from those three raids and one was from our 97 Squadron. It now seems strange to recall that we could ignore the reports of the overall losses but one of our own cast a sharp gloom yet we really did not know any of the other crews. We were sufficient unto ourselves. In September 1943 we flew four operations and a routine air test which turned out to be very dicey. On the third, sorry on the third fourth, we always say third fourth because you took off in one day and landed in the next.
CB: Yeah.
JP: We went again to Berlin. The flak barrage seemed even more concentrated and we thought even more searchlights. Once again we arrived on time and bombed on the markers. This time we routed home north over the Baltic until latitude 58, level with the north of Scotland and south to base. It took longer but few fighters were reported and the twenty who failed to return were half the losses on previous Berlin raids. On the 3rd, 5th we were again on our way when less than an hour out we had a fire in the port outer engine and a runaway prop. We turned back and jettisoned the bombs in the North Sea. The [drag] created by the runway prop gave a very aching left leg by the time we got home. This is known as a boomerang and does not count as an op. I was rather pleased when I went to see the engineering officer and he congratulated me on landing safely with a runaway prop. On the 9th of September the squadron crews were at briefing but I was not on the list for that night and we were flying an air test. On return to base the windscreen was horizontal and the strong wind at right angles to the runway. Fair request to change the runway with refused and ordered the crew to crash positions before making the approach grabbing and rounding out at the last moment didn't prevent sideways movement and the starboard tyre burst causing the undercarriage to collapse. The undercarriage leg protruded through the right wing and the plane with a right off. Possibly the best approach for landing ever made it was seen by a Group Captain having just come out of briefing. When the duty controller admitted he had refused to change the runway the Group Captain relieved him of his duty and ordered him to leave the station that day. Is that one alright?
[recording paused]
CB: Right. We're re-starting now. September the 15th.
JP: Yes. On September the 15th we were briefed to bomb a rubber factory at Montlucon in France. We were cautioned to be very accurate and there were only four flak guns. What was expected to be a nice safe cooperation turned out to be quite hairy. We were to bomb at four thousand feet but others from six thousand and eight thousand. Some of us might have must have got the timing wrong as on our approach to the target we saw bombs falling all around us. One aircraft was directly overhead. Indeed, some aircraft were hit by incendiaries. The factory was completely destroyed. The next day we went to bomb the Modane Tunnel in an alpine valley. The tunnel was a main route for returning military to France. The Alps seemed to loom alongside as we bombed at thirteen thousand feet. This time the long flight didn’t bore me. I was piloting, not standing. In October a mid-upper gunner Flight Sergeant Morgan joined us for his second tour. On the 2nd 4th and 5th we bombed Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart. Always on time and on the PFF flares confirmed by our camera. For us the raids were uneventful apart from the usual hairy time over the targets for the flak was heavy at all three. Losses were fairly light. Seven, ten and four but one was a 97 Squadron PFF crew. We set out to bomb Hanover on the 5th but this was another boomerang for there was an oxygen failure in the mid-upper turret so we turned around and jettisoned our bombs in the North Sea. Briefed again for Hanover on the 18th we bombed successfully. Of the thousand Lancasters seventeen were lost one of whom again was from 97 Squadron. The next target was Kassel but we were briefed to draw off fighters by a spoof target on Frankfurt. There we just entered the camera run when we were caught by a blue master beam and immediately coned by all the slave searchlights. I escaped by doing a stall turn. That’s to pull up the stick up in to a stall and kick full rudder. We dived sideways. The beam went ahead. The coned plane is usually shot down by slave guns. Routed past Kassel we saw a solid oval fire. For the first time I felt rather sorry for the folk below. I regret even more our spoof had failed for forty two were lost mainly to fighters. November 1943 again it was supposed to become a PFF crew, a PFF crew with after only eleven operations. Jimmy’s faultless navigation ensured we arrived over target on ETA and Bob’s accurate bombing was confirmed by our camera. From now on we would carry back-up green TIs as well as the cookies and high explosives. Dusseldorf.
[recording paused]
CB: Right. Target indicator.
JP: The red —
Other: I thought that was what you were talking about.
CB: Keep going. Can you do that now because —
JP: Yes. Yes. Ok.
CB: So as Pathfinder then you are marking the target.
JP: Yeah. Well, what happened —
CB: So how are you doing that with, with coloured flares?
JP: I’ve just done that bit we’d become Pathfinders hadn’t we?
CB: Yeah.
JP: Right. If we can cut in there where I’ve talked about being, becoming markers. Alright?
CB: Yes. Yeah.
JP: So I’ll explain that now. Ok. Right. The system was that the most experienced pilots dropped red, a red flare. They were the initial marking the target and this was backed up by the newer PFF crews like us.
CB: Yeah.
JP: With green flares. And the wind some would cause them to drift back so they would re-centre with a further red and then that would be backed up by further greens. Is that ok?
CB: Yeah.
JP: Is that?
CB: Yeah. Yeah. That’s good.
JP: Have we got —
CB: Yeah. So, we’ve got that.
JP: You’ve got that. Some other colours were used but not in my experience. Anyway, that’s ok. So we, we were back up. We were properly PFF crew as it were.
CB: Yeah.
JP: So, Dusseldorf on the 3rd 4th of November the flak seemed heavier and concentrated around the aiming point but Bob put our greens on the reds. Of five hundred and twenty five heavies eighteen were lost. We then went to Mannheim, Ludwigshafen on the 17th. These were twin towns separated by the Rhine. Eighty three Pathfinder aircraft took part guided by a new navigator aid which only navigators and bomb aimers were trained. Need to know. They didn’t tell the pilots. The raid was successful and only one was lost. On the 18th 19th we went to Berlin. The oxygen connection to the mid-upper turret was again broken. We were well on our way and turning back risked a head on collision for there were some six hundred aircraft behind us still coming. I ordered the gunner to the astrodome where he could at least keep a look out for fighters. On the bombing run I concentrated on my instrument panel ignoring the flak but I still remember Bob’s cool calm voice while looking through the flak shell bursts as he guided me to target. On the 23rd, 22nd, 23rd the Berlin as usual was dicey but Command reported bad weather and grounded German fighters and only twenty five were lost. Aircrew were of this acceptance of losses. The nickname Butch was in the black humour of the time for Harris was held in high regard and they were proud to be the Butcher’s men. Six hundred and fifteen aircraft took part. Two FTR were lost from 97 Squadron.
CB: So, as Pathfinders —
JP: Why I mentioned, why I mentioned them then was —
CB: Yes.
JP: When you came back you were conscious of an empty table at breakfast.
CB: Of course.
JP: Because crews ate as crews. You didn't mix with the other crews. There was one crew we did but I didn't put that in. Mainly because the pilot was from Canada and knew my aunt in Canada.
CB: Right.
JP: And we became friendly.
CB: Yeah.
JP: His crew and ours. But normally we didn't mix but I think because you know the empty table.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Put a bit of a gloom on you.
CB: Yes.
JP: But you ignored the others. What was happening elsewhere. It was our own squadron that mattered based, well as far as I was concerned anyway. Where have we got to? Oh, this bit about the acceptances of Butch. We’ve done that bit haven’t we?
CB: Ok.
JP: That was the 18th 19th.
[recording paused]
JP: Where would we put it?
CB: Well, just now because you mentioned a bit earlier that you got a new mid-upper gunner.
JP: Yeah.
CB: So what happened there? What about the first one?
JP: Well [Beattie] was the first one you see.
CB: Right.
JP: He was the first one we got.
CB: A pilot officer.
JP: A pilot officer.
CB: Right.
JP: And then the next day the group captain ordered him off the station because he had, wouldn’t buy a new, he wouldn’t get have a new he could have been given one but he was going to fly in that one.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And he insisted he was going to fly in that one and the group captain ordered him off the station.
CB: So, the origin of this was that —
JP: So, that was the origin of that.
CB: Yeah.
JP: So I then got another pilot officer.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Pro tem.
CB: Right.
JP: A mid-upper rather and I had a couple of I can’t remember I had the warrant for a couple of ops and then another for a couple of ops, you know.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Something different and then this chap arrived on his second tour.
CB: Right.
JP: And as he was a second tour man they thought they’d give him to us.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Which we were rather pleased about.
CB: Yeah.
JP: He wasn’t a bit pleased.
CB: Oh.
JP: No. He wasn’t a bit pleased.
CB: Why didn’t he like it? He didn’t like your crew?
JP: He’d done a tour in the Middle East.
CB: Oh.
JP: And he came back and he only had to do a couple of tours over, trips over Germany and he was experienced enough to know just how bloody dangerous it was.
CB: Oh.
JP: And I think he didn’t, that’s this is nothing. That’s not going on there but I reckon he disconnected his oxygen. He put his feet through it.
CB: Oh.
JP: And that’s why twice, the first time we came back but the second time we were on our way to Berlin and we were halfway, nearly halfway there and all these other, I wasn’t going to turn back against that lot.
CB: No.
JP: So, I went. I carried on without the mid-upper gunner put in the turret.
CB: Yeah. What, just going back to Bates though.
JP: Sorry.
CB: The earlier one. Bates. What, the –
JP: Oh Batey.
CB: Batey. So he was outside the aircraft you said and the group captain —
JP: We were sitting as we did.
CB: What happened?
JP: We had all gone out the aircraft.
CB: Right.
JP: And we were sitting around waiting to get on board you know because it was all timed when the group captain came around, saw his, I must admit it was a wreck. I mean there were no sleeves. it was a wreck of a whatsit but it was his lucky battle dress, you know.
CB: Right.
JP: He’d done his ops on it you see.
CB: He’d already done a tour.
JP: He wasn’t going to not, he was going to keep on wearing it because it was his lucky battledress.
CB: Yes.
JP: People were funny that way.
CB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
JP: I mean some chaps used to carry a little, I know one chap had a little —
Other: Talisman.
JP: A talisman he put at the side of the window, you know. It was a funny old time.
Other: Well, it was dangerous wasn’t it?
JP: Yeah. It was a funny old time.
CB: Yeah.
JP: But that’s why I had —
CB: So the group captain, what did the group captain say to him?
JP: He said, ‘Just, get a new battledress.’ You know. Get a proper, you know, battledress. And Batey, he should have said, ‘Very good, sir,’ and just gone on wearing it, you see. But he said, ‘No, sir. I can’t do that. I can get a new one but I’ll wear this one for my ops. It’s my lucky battledress.’ He said, ‘No. You’ll wear a new one.’ And when he refused the next day he ordered him off the station.
CB: Oh.
JP: And incidentally only just recently I found he had completed a tour with another squadron, gone out to Australia. It was Australian not New Zealand and he’d only, he died about oh a couple of years back.
CB: Oh right.
JP: Before I could get in touch with him. I didn’t find out until he’d actually died which was very annoying.
CB: Yeah.
JP: I would have loved to have met with him.
CB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
JP: But he completed his tour of ops and I bet he wore that bloody battledress.
CB: How, how what was the cohesion of the crew like?
JP: What was the —?
CB: Was there good cohesion in your crew?
JP: Brilliant. Oh, the crew were wonderful. My crew were wonderful. I come to a bit where I —
CB: Ok.
JP: I praise my crew. With the exception I must admit of the new mid-upper.
CB: Yeah.
JP: He never, he never became a member of that crew. He flew as the mid-upper gunner but he never associated. Basically, he kept himself to himself and none of my crew or myself were able to get through to him at all.
CB: Not even on social.
JP: Yeah. He was totally unsocial.
CB: Oh right.
JP: And I think, I think frankly he was intelligent, a very intelligent chap and he knew just how dangerous it was and rather objected to it. He’d rather, in fact, he’d rather, he shouldn’t have been posted to a Pathfinder crew.
JP: No.
CB: He’d have been better off in an ordinary crew.
CB: Right.
JP: That was that one.
CB: Ok.
JP: Anyways, that’s not going on there.
CB: Let’s go on to that.
JP: Now where did we get to? The third. So, we’ve only done that bit.
CB: Right.
JP: Right. Well, we know we are now. Ok. Here we go. On the 3rd 4th we went to Dusseldorf. The 3rd and 4th November. The flak seemed heavier and concentrated around the aiming point but Bob put our greens on the reds. Of five hundred and twenty five heavies eighteen failed to return.
[recording paused]
JP: Towns. We’d done that.
CB: You have. Yes.
JP: We’ve done the twin towns. We’ll jump a bit. Did we do the oxygen connection for Berlin being broken. Did we do that one?
Other: No.
CB: Oh.
JP: Right. On the 18th 19th we were briefed for Berlin. The oxygen connection to the mid-upper turret was again broken. We were well on our way and turning back risked a head on collision. There were some six hundred aircraft behind us. I ordered the gunner to the astrodome where he could at least keep an eye. Look out for fighters. On the bombing run I concentrated on my instrument panel ignoring the flak but I still remember Bob’s cool calm voice while looking through the flak shell burst as he guided me to the target. On the 23rd , 22nd 23rd Berlin as usual was dicey but the Command reported bad weather grounded German fighters. Only twenty five aircraft were lost. Aircrew were aware of this acceptance, oh we’ve done this. The nickname Butch was in the black humour of the time for Harris was held in high regard and we were proud to be the Butcher’s men. Six hundred and fifteen aircraft took part. Two FTR were from 97 Squadron. On the 23rd 24th of November we want to get into Berlin. Stop. I just want to —
[recording paused]
CB: Ok.
JP: We've done [pause] on the 23rd 24th of November it was again Berlin. This one was to be different and at ninety, I remember as if, oh [pause] perhaps you should say ninety five. At ninety five I remember as if it were yesterday. On approach to the aiming point Bob would say, ‘Two minutes skipper.’ I'd reply, ‘You have control.’ He directs, ‘Port a bit. Steady. Steady.’ As he was about to release the bomb his voice would rise to a crescendo, ‘Steady. Steady. Steady.’ This time he said, ‘They’ve re-centred skipper. It will be another two minutes.’ This time as his voice reached its peak a shell exploded in our bomb bay. A TI exploded and we were surrounded by Greek fire, green fire. All our regs were fused and I’d no intercom to order bale out. Dicky was down by Bob throwing out Window, the metallic strips for deceiving radar and he could see me. I released my seat straps, bent forward and waved to him pointing to his parachute which was behind my seat. I knew the cookie would explode but I’d full control and hoped someone might get out. I counted eighteen seconds and Dicky hadn’t reached his ‘chute. Then I was sitting in mid-air thinking, ‘Where's my bloody plane gone?’ A delayed drop would get me clear of flack but over the aiming point and with some two hundred aircraft still to come I pulled my rip cord to let the wind drift me clear of the bombing. Hanging from my parachute I’d only myself to think about. I remember that a shell exploded nearby could [candle] the ‘chute and make it fold up and I’d drop like a stone. Courage is a strange thing. I had accepted I would die with the thought that my mum would be distressed but hoping some of my crew might get out. Now, with only myself to think about I’d never been so terrified.
[recording paused]
JP: All my crew died. The impressive skills of navigator Jimmy Graham and Bob Campbell were the main reason we were so successful with the Pathfinders. Always on time and always on target. Robert Bob Cowan our wireless op quietly passed information on radio positions fixes and wind speeds and direction by notes to the navigator. Richard Fathers, our flight engineer was always alert and helpful. When the mid-upper turret oxygen was twice broken he went back using a portable oxygen bottle and was most upset when he was unable to repair the damage. Although our gunners never came into action we had faith in their ability. Red was very much a part of our crew and very popular from when we first came together. The US Air Force tried to recruit Americans serving with RCAF or RAF but Red refused to leave his crew saying he might think about it when our tour was completed. Seventy years later I can see them and hear their voices. Sergeant Mortham had completed a tour in North Africa. He made no attempt to mix with the crew. I thought he didn’t really want to do the second tour. That’s it.
[recording paused]
JP: Right. I mean, after the war when I crewed up again later on by that time I’d been, just been commissioned and I never had this, could never get the same rapport with my crew as I did during the war where we all, we would even sleep together. I mean Jimmy, they were in a one four bedroom house and a two bedrooms and Dicky shared the two bedroom with me. We were, you know, we ate together, we went out together. You know, we did everything together.
CB: Well, you were the family, weren’t you?
JP: We were very very close in that short time. It’s difficult to describe. Any ex-serviceman who has been in action can tell you the same thing. You become close to the people you serve with when you’ve been shot at.
CB: Yes.
JP: When you’re shooting back. The Army is the same thing. Any Army chap you are, they are the ones you are close to.
CB: Yeah.
JP: The ones you are concerned with.
CB: But as the years went by and the months after the war and then the years went by how did you feel about the loss of the crew?
JP: I can’t describe it. It’s just it’s there. It’s always with me that I couldn’t save them. I couldn’t do anything. I mean, what happened was out of my control and the fact I was blown out was a, was a sheer fluke.
CB: Yeah.
JP: As one wag said after the war to me, ‘You invented the ejector seat.’ And of course, I was sitting on a, I was sitting at the pilot’s seat.
CB: Yeah.
JP: I haven’t put in here that the group captain said they were going to give us cushions because it was uncomfortable sitting on the ‘chute. I said, ‘I don’t want a cushion.’ I explained why. It would mean that the, if I had a clip on tie my and that flight engineer would have had to come back, clip it on me, then clip his on and in the meantime he was blocking the others getting past him to get out. And I said, ‘You know, this is not on.’
CB: No.
JP: ‘You’re going to block the crew getting out.’ And we’d have to, probably have to get out in a hurry you see.
CB: You got used to sitting on a parachute did you?
JP: Oh, it never bothered me anyway.
CB: No.
JP: No, it never bothered me but it wasn’t that. It was the fact that the idea of having to have a thing that would waste time.
CB: Yes.
JP: Of the crew getting out.
CB: Sure.
JP: Which was why I objected. And so he let me carry on wearing. If I hadn’t been wearing, I could have been sitting on a bloody cushion that night.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Fortunately, I wasn’t.
CB: Yes.
JP: But there we are.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Now, where did I get to oh just started —
Other: You’d just blown out of the aircraft.
JP: I’d just been blown out. Yes.
CB: So, you’re falling down with your ‘chute which you’ve opened to drift away from the stream.
JP: Yeah. Yeah. We’ve done that bit
CB: So what happened next?
JP: We’ve done a tour hadn’t we?
Other: Did all that come automatically?
JP: What’s that?
Other: I mean you were, you woke, you woke up in mid-air.
JP: In mid-air I was still virtually in a sitting position. Literally. And said, ‘Where’s my bloody aeroplane gone?’ I knew where it had gone actually but that was the thought.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And then as I say immediately unfortunately remembered that it was a shell burst near me which pulled up my parachute. But before I thought of that I think I thought about it after it was open but sitting there I thought, it’s amazing how your mind works quickly at the time. I was twenty one and I was sharp, shall we say then and I had two choices. To do a delayed drop through the flak or pull the ‘chute straight away to drift me clear because I knew the wind would drift me clear and I was right. Remember I was right smack over the aiming point when we were hit by flak. I knew what was still to come so that’s why I pulled the ‘chute straight away and I did in fact. I was I’m coming to that bit I was blown —
CB: You knew what the wind was anyway.
JP: I drifted clear of the flak.
CB: Yeah. But what height were you?
JP: Twenty thousand feet.
CB: Right.
JP: At the time. Yeah. But —
CB: So you were a bit short of air at that height.
JP: Hmmn?
CB: A bit short of air at that height.
JP: I don’t even notice it. Don’t forget I was [pause] you know, I wasn’t, didn’t, I didn’t notice being short of air at all strangely enough. I was probably above twenty thousand. I went upwards I think. Well, I know I did.
CB: Yeah.
JP: I know from my injuries what, what happened. I worked it all out afterwards.
CB: Yes.
JP: Sitting in a German cell that night.
CB: Yeah. So you were dropping on your parachute. Then what?
JP: Well, no. I’m on my parachute now. Right.
CB: Right.
JP: And we ought, and I’ve mentioned my crew.
CB: Yes.
JP: Right.
CB: Yes.
JP: Ok. Here we go. I landed in a suburban back garden well away from the bombing. The top of my head had been cut open. Later I concluded the steel panel on the pilot’s seat which was about there had first broken the Perspex but left enough to split my helmet. This must have been torn off my head when the side panel blew out. I was attached to that side panel with the intercom cord and the oxygen tube and my neck could have been broken. Instead, it was just very painful. I must have hit my legs on the wheel on the way past because my left leg was bruised black but the right leg was unharmed because I had a metal cigarette case in the front pocket which was bent in half [pause] That’s it.
CB: Keep going.
CB: That was really, I didn’t bother putting this in. I worked all, all that out that night in a police cell.
CB: Oh right. Yeah.
JP: It was pretty obvious what had happened and this was I was covered in blood because a head wounds bleed terribly.
CB: Yes.
JP: And on the way down the smoke covered in the sense that I must look as though I was badly burned when, when they saw me.
CB: Right.
JP: But I know I did because in this civilian house I was taken to by the chap that picked me up there was a mirror and I saw what I [laughs] I was in a terribly state. Anyway, here we go. I was quickly captured and with all too short a time taken by train to Dulug Luft, the Luftwaffe interrogation centre. At the Dulug they had no crew to link me with which confirmed my fear that all my crew had been killed. They thought I was a Mosquito pilot and their interrogation centred around the Mosquito and how much they knew. They kept showing me large folders with information they had on Mosquito squadrons made easy to keep schtum. Just repeat my name, rank and number because I knew sod all about Mosquitoes. I had three investigators one friendly, one neutral and one always threatening to have me shot. In between investigations, interrogations I was in solitary confinement in a small cell. One day my interrogator said, ‘You don’t like the Germans, do you?’ I broke my silence saying, ‘I was taught they were brave men and very clean people. I’ve been here a month and I still have blood in my hair.’ That afternoon a guard took me for a shower. It was a major psychological error for it gave me an enormous boost to have won that concession. A month later a guard took us to the officer’s mess to take tea with my interrogators. I was told I was to be sent to a prisoner of war camp the next day. They told me I had doubled the time spent in solitary confinement without giving anything away. I was puzzled at the time as to why they gave up on me when they did. Many years later I found a rising loss rate in January with three hundred and three POWs arriving from another Berlin bombing simply meant they needed my cell. The final Berlin raid in March cost seventy two aircraft lost with three hundred and seventy killed and a hundred and twenty to be became bombing Berlin was a battle lost. Despite my admiration for Harris I think he should have ended those Berlin attacks much earlier. Preferably before the 23rd 24th of November.
CB: When you were shot down.
JP: Yeah.
Other: Yeah.
JP: February 1944 I arrived at my first prison camp. Stalag Luft 6 which was for RAF and later American airmen, aircrew. Luft 6 was well run by Dixie Deans, the elected camp leader and a legend to all who knew him. With Red Cross parcels [unclear] we later lost at the Dulag on the Prussian border in July 1944 were moved as the Russians advanced. On the 8th of July we were at Stalag 357 at Thorne in Poland. An Army camp. The stalag number was transferred which makes me think that the Thorn camp was completely evacuated. Where the Army POW went I have no idea. On the 8th of August the RAF were sent to Stalag 357 at Fallingbostel in Lower Saxony in North West Germany. Another camp. Conditions deteriorated with the destruction of German transport. We ran out of Red Cross parcels, an essential supplement to the limited German rations. In a bitter winter cold we all lost weight and grew weaker. Now with an allied front we were moved again but not the Army. In groups of a thousand the RAF we were moved aimlessly around. My group from the 17th to the 19th of April 1945. On the 19th we reached a small town. We were issued with a Red Cross parcel each. Moving a few kilometres away we sat under the shade of trees to open our parcels. We were attacked by six Typhoons and a Spitfire. After the war I met one of the Typhoon pilots who confirmed as we had thought at the time they thought we were German troops hiding under the trees. Twenty nine were killed and fifty wounded. The wounded were taken to Bosenberg Hospital near [. I weighed between six and a half and seven stone and had diarrhoea. I couldn’t eat solid food for I had gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. The British doctor sent with the wounded not fit to walk any further. The German doctor was excellent. Although three more died of their wounds he gave them all full care. He soon had me fitter and able to help with our wounded. On the 3rd of May I was sound asleep when a chap in a red beret woke me up. ‘You’ve been liberated lad.’ ‘About time too,’ I replied and promptly fell asleep again. A few years ago I learned that the chap in the red beret had been Brigadier Hill who commanded the [unclear] liberators. That morning there were tanks outside the hospital and we were taken to the Corps Field Hospital and then flew back to England in Dakotas. There’s that there.
[recording paused]
JP: We were taken to an airfield.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And flown home in a Dakota.
CB: So you came home —
JP: Landed somewhere in southern England.
CB: Yeah.
JP: I’ve no idea where.
CB: You mentioned about a bit earlier that you were taken by truck over the Rhine.
JP: Yeah.
CB: An open truck.
JP: Well from where we were to Fallingbostel, at [pause] oh dear. From hospital, from the German hospital. Have a wee second.
CB: That’s ok.
JP: I forget things.
CB: Yeah. But you were in, you, they put you in a truck you said.
JP: I gave the name of it didn’t I?
CB: Yes. You mentioned it just now.
[pause]
CB: But what about —
JP: I’ve not mentioned it without —
CB: The point about you were in the truck and who else was in the truck?
JP: Oh, it wasn’t a truck. We were in a sort of I don’t know what it was called but it was an open boat type thing.
CB: Oh, yeah. A duck.
JP: Quite large across. We were taken from the hospital, the German hospital.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Boizenburg.
CB: Yeah.
JP: I got the name, didn’t I? Boizenburg. From Boizenburg we were taken and we had to cross the Rhine and to cross the Rhine we had, went on this.
CB: A barge.
JP: This barge thing. It wasn’t a barge. It was a big floating thing. Very large. And there was a squaddie there shivering. He’d been in a tank which had blown up and I took my, I had an RAF issue coat, you know —
CB: Yeah.
JP: What do you call them?
CB: A greatcoat.
JP: Hmmn?
CB: A greatcoat.
JP: A greatcoat.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And I took it off and put it over the poor chap you see.
CB: Because he was —
JP: As a result it was a very windy cold day. I ended up with [pause] whatever it was I ended up with.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Flat on my back.
CB: Right.
JP: But we ended up in this field hospital and I have no idea where that is.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And from the field hospital we were taken to an airfield. I don’t know where that was.
CB: Right.
JP: And we were flown home in Dakotas to southern England. I don’t know where we landed.
CB: No.
JP: But it was in southern England.
CB: Yeah.
JP: I was put in a hospital near there for a couple of days and then I come to the next bit where —
CB: You went back to Shawbury.
JP: We went to Cosford.
CB: Cosford.
JP: RAF Cosford Hospital. Which then was an RAF hospital.
CB: Yeah.
JP: So where have we got to?
CB: Yeah. That’s it.
JP: Hmm? So back and yes so we’ve done that bit about the tank outside. Flown home in the Dakota. Yeah. So, ok, we can go then. So back in England after three weeks in RAF Hospital Cosford I was sent on indefinite leave and had a wonderful reception from my family in Glasgow. I knew I had a niece and found I had another niece and two nephews. All four and another nephew shortly arrived are still a loving part of my life. The RAF finally remembered me and I reported to Number 34 Maintenance Unit on the 6th of October 1945 and was there ‘til September 1947. RAF Montford Bridge was a vital posting for it was near Shrewsbury where I skulled with the Pengwern Boat Club. Thanks to another oarsman in 1940 I met Ursula. We were engaged in 1947 and married in 1948. Also in 1948 I was commissioned on the 2nd of February. Back flying and with a new crew we flew the Wellington at Operational Training. Much to my delight I then flew the Lancaster at Heavy Conversion again. September 1949, I joined Number [unclear], City of Lincoln, Lincoln Squadron Bomber Command at RAF Waddington. We flew the Lincoln. An enlarged version of a Lancaster. It flew higher, faster and further and carried a larger bomb load. For me it was not as manoeuvrable. Ursula joined me there in married quarters with our first born. We left Waddington October 1950 for me to go to the RAF flying, Central Flying School to become a flying instructor. My first posting was to southern Rhodesia and from May 1951 until November 1953 we enjoyed a happy country with perfect weather for flying. For flying training. A task I found rewarding when I sent a pupil solo. Our second son was born and we explored the country including Niagara Falls. Back home I was posted to RAF Ternhill. Again, near Shrewsbury. After a short time I went for a permanent commission medical and failed it as I was high tone deaf. I was quite heartbroken for I had loved flying. I was offered a branch commission in the [unclear] branch. I was thirty seven and loved serving in the RAF so accepted this gratefully. It carried the warning there was limited promotion. This turned to be no promotion and I finally left the RAF still a flight lieutenant on the 19th of July 1971 on my forty ninth birthday. I still have the letter offering me a further five years service but I had already decided to become a teacher. The RAF did not leave me. I’m a member of the RAF did not leave me I'll stop by the member of the RAF, Shrewsbury RAFA and the Shropshire aircrew. This can’t be raised because there are fewer, less of us. I went to Teacher’s College and gained my Teacher's Certificate. From 1972 to 1987 I taught English at Meole Brace Secondary School which became a, became a Comprehensive in 1981. From 1948 to 1983 I studied with the Open University and became a BA Hons. Purely an ego trip to prove to myself I could have done it in Glasgow Uni if the war happened intervened. Despite many separations between postings Ursula and I had enjoyed in many parts of our country, living in many parts of the country and also overseas in Germany. When we came home from Rhodesia with the aid of a mortgage we bought our house in Shrewsbury in 1956 and live here still. Aged ninety five and ninety when asked how we are we always reply, ‘We're still here.’ Anything else is boring. Our three sons and daughter have supplied us with five grandsons and seven granddaughters. Two married grandsons have supplied us with two great granddaughters. Another marriage is due next year and we have hopes for two who have partners. Throughout the year we have visits singly or in batches from some of the above. Every summer we have a clan gathering at our Shrewsbury home. All who can come. They all get along so well together the gatherings are joyful occasions. In 2018 we will celebrate our seventieth anniversary at the clan gathering. I am indeed the Lucky Penny. The title of the memoir I wrote and had printed in 2014.
CB: Brilliant. Really good.
JP: That does it.
CB: Excellent. Thank you.
JP: Is that alright?
[recording paused]
CB: What’s the first question?
Other: Right. So many. I'm getting slow as well I have to say. [pause] Well I thought the bit about the being blown out of the plane I mean it's such a, not unique but I mean nearly unique experience. Is there anything you'd like to say more about that? People would be fascinated I'm sure.
JP: No, it’s —
Other: I mean you treat it as though it’s, well, you were trained.
JP: Yeah.
Other: For it and that’s why I asked you whether [pause] You automatically did the things you’ve been trained for didn’t you? When you were thrown out.
JP: Well, I wasn't trained for being blown out. But I just think the mind works incredibly quickly when something like that happens. I had two options. Do a delayed drop to avoid the flak or, or open the parachute straight away to drift clear of what was still to come.
Other: Yeah.
JP: And that was the best option really.
Other: Yeah.
JP: Because I did as I say land in a suburban garden. Does that not work it out?
CB: It is but I think a supplementary question there is when you landed in the garden what was the reaction of the owner of the house?
JP: When I landed in the garden I fell over because I didn’t do the proper thing. I fell over because one leg was so badly bashed and I just couldn’t, could hardly stand on it.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And I fell over. It’s in my book.
CB: Because of the steering wheel in the aeroplane.
JP: And there was old Nick, horns and all looking at me against the fires of Berlin. And then the goat moved. I remember that bit.
CB: Good.
JP: And then I then I saw somebody. I was lying there. I couldn’t, oh my ‘chute was part over a tree so I couldn’t bury it as you should do and I saw a chap and then he went into a shelter. So I managed to get out but I kept falling over and I managed I think about two lampposts falling over and leaning up at the one post and this enormous German with a tin hat on picked me. He was a civilian, probably what do call them when we have them in this country?
Other: Sort of a Home Guard.
JP: Hmmn?
Other: A Home Guard.
JP: Probably a Home Guard, something like that picked me up, literally picked me up well I’m not very big. He carried me to an air raid shelter. A little like a little [unclear] you know, a little turning point and there was an older, an old lady, a young woman. The young woman looked like she would cut my throat. The old lady looked sorry for me. I remember her saying, ‘So jung.’
CB: So young.
JP: And oh, when we came in he said, ‘Ah, Englisher.’ You know, no, ‘Englander.’ And I said, ‘Nein. Scotsman.’
CB: He’d have been insulted.
JP: That was automatic in those days and then when the war you know when the bombing stopped they took me to their house. That’s where I saw the mirror and that was terrible.
CB: Right.
JP: That’s why they were all so sorry for me.
CB: Yes.
JP: I looked dreadful. I looked worse than I was in other words. And I was staggered to that. I could hardly walk with this leg. Then a couple of squaddies came along. Oh, incidentally just before I hit the deck the searchlight came on near me and let me see the ground and do a proper, you know pull up.
Other: Clear up.
JP: And a couple of squaddies came probably from the battery I should think and took me to a police station. At least I think it was a police station because it was a police cell sort of thing. One of them. I was there the night in the police cell. Then, the next day they took me to an airfield where they collected all the aircrew who had baled out that night and then took a train to the Dulag. And that was quite interesting because there was one chap on the way to the station, well, at the station there was a large, they were on the way in to the station. One chap was on a stretcher and three other blokes and me. By that time I was walking, was carrying this chap on the stretcher and the German, one of the civilian at the station came out at that stage and spat at them and the corporal in charge of us with his sub machine gun hit him right in the gut with it and pointed around with it. I don't know what he said but that crowd backed off. They were all civilians waiting to get out of Berlin and they backed off and he wasn’t having it. He took us into a big canteen through the one to the one at the back, sat down at a table. We put the chap, it was up to us to put this chap’s stretcher down. We sat at the table and I still remember to this day the waitress in German type what the waitress in the German type, what the waitress dress whatever it was came up with a dirty great tankard. One of the enormous tankards of beer and I think the four of us must have sat there like this [pause] probably because he laughed and raised his pint and another tankard to be shared between the four of us. And that was the German frontline troops. And at the Dulag apart from their, you know, their routine —
CB: Yeah.
JP: At the end they gave me this tea party as it were. Took the tea. And Dixie Deans, Dixie Deans incidentally had been shot down early in the war, spoke perfect Germany. He’d worked in Germany and he’d got the very good German senior officer in charge of the place, he’d got him under his thumb. He really, he was brilliant was Dixie Deans.
CB: He was a wing commander, was he?
JP: No. he was, he was, he was an airman. I don’t suppose he, well he would by that time be officially because you started as a sergeant.
CB: Yeah.
JP: You got promoted after a year to flight sergeant. I got promoted before then because I was going on to Pathfinders and then you became. a third year became a warrant officer. So Dixie I think by then would have officially been a warrant officer but as far as he was concerned he didn’t know that. He was still a sergeant.
CB: Oh.
JP: But the NCO aircrew were what’s the, where the officer’s dulag. The officer’s camp was. They were there. The NCO aircrew were there and then they opened this one at Fallingbostel and Dixie was marching. They all were assembled and the group captain who was a prisoner there Dixie had the chaps and gave a, they all marched down, Dixie gave an eyes right and he saluted and the British saluted back and the German in charge of the camp said, ‘They are soldiers.’ And our chaplain said, ‘Of course they are, you fool. They just don’t behave like that to you.’ Or words to that effect.
CB: Yeah.
JP: I was told this by, Dixie had the committee which were known as the Escape Committee but where we were well there were all sorts of stories there. They, you only want what, three feet down you hit water and we did get a tunnel out through the loo. Some brave bloke went in to this hole in the loo and got a hole in the wall above the water lever and got a tunnel out. And we did get a tunnel out there but I think only one chap got out. Fortunately, very fortunately the guard came who was patrolling outside spotted it otherwise it would mean another one. And when we went to the one in Poland it was an Army camp. Now where at [unclear] you double the whatsit and a long single bar there. Step over that you could [unclear] between the fire. When we got to the Army camp there was only that much difference between there and there and the huts we were in were about from here to there from the wire and there were six huts. There were other ones, but the first six huts and I reckon every hut there had a tunnel going out within twenty four hours of getting there. Fortunately, we were moved before we could finish.
CB: Right.
JP: Because it would have been a mass break out and they would have just shot them all.
CB: Yeah.
JP: As they did the officers earlier on.
CB: Yeah.
JP: So really it was just as well. But the ethos of the time you did your damndest to try and get out.
CB: Of course.
JP: But a lot didn’t. Some did. I asked Dixie about escaping. He said, ‘How’s your German?’ I said, ‘Non-existent.’ He said, ‘Well, until you can speak German the Escape Committee won’t help you. Only someone who speaks German has a chance of getting away. Anyone else, no.’ So it was very, one chap did get away and escaped and got picked up by the Russians eventually but he spoke fluent German and he was one that Dixie escaped whatsit. They used to, we had our own secret radio there at [Gutersloh]. So well organised and twice a week a couple of chaps would turn up, ‘BBC news chaps.’ And somebody went on the window and watch for safe and they’d read the BBC news which kept us updated with what was going on. It was terribly well [pause] and that radio. How they did it I’m buggered if I know. Mind you, don’t forget we were aircrew which meant we got a lot of wireless ops and also Dixie had the guards organised. First of all, he would or a [unclear] would be briefed. We were not allowed to just [unclear] and eventually got a guard who had taken some [ had got them to bring in some forbidden things like parts of the radio and that sort of thing. And when they got to them they pointed out that he had to do as he was told or they would be reported which meant the Russian Front you see. So Dixie and both these chaps had this all organised. New kriegies like me just ignored it. I mean we just kept schtum. Need to know basis. We didn’t need to know so we kept quiet but I went to a lot of, I know one, at least one chap who got a degree while he was in prison. He’d been shot down at the beginning of the war. He’d been there four years. Or been a prisoner for four years.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And he got himself organised and he got a degree. So there were chaps who had no interest in escape. They were just interested in surviving. Which was quite understandable. I was interested. Being young and stupid I was interested in escaping. But as I say, Dixie said, ‘No German, you’ve had it.’ Which was probably just as well because I was young and stupid in those days. I mean I turned down being an instructor twice which was a daft thing to do. I often wonder what would have happened if I had. If I’d have taken up in Canada I’d have been an instructor in Canada. Probably. But my instructor in Canada, in Cosford Hospital I met him. He'd come over. He’d done a tour and he’d been shot down. So I met him again. I wish I’d kept in touch.
CB: Small world. Yeah.
JP: I didn’t unfortunately but I was still an NCO, he was still an officer and there was a gap. I found that out when I became an officer. I could never get the rapport with my crew that I had with my crew during the war. It was, and yet it was quite common for sergeant pilots to have officer members of the crew like my first mid-upper. But the skipper was still the skipper.
CB: Yeah.
JP: You were still the boss. That was out of the time.
CB: Just going back to when you landed.
JP: Hmm?
CB: Going back to when you landed by parachute.
JP: Yes.
CB: You said that the young lady was hostile. What happened after you came out of —
JP: Well, they took me to, but they took me to, when the bombing stopped they took me to their house and that was where I saw the mirror.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And I was there, I had a drink of water I think. The big fellow was quite friendly actually.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And the old lady was quite sorry for the young fella. He said, ‘So jung. So jung.’
CB: Yeah.
JP: And we were there for a very short time before the squaddies came to take me to the police station.
CB: But did this young lady also go to the house?
JP: Oh yes. She was the wife.
CB: She was his wife.
JP: She was the wife. Well, I don’t know this for sure.
CB: Right.
JP: But I would say this was a family, local family what we’d have, what would we have had in this country? These little —
CB: Well, the Anderson shelter.
JP: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
It was like an Anderson shelter.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Very small. I don’t think there were any kids there. I think it was just the two ladies. The old, the old lady and the young lady. I think just the two and as I say the old lady was you know one of the, I remember her saying, ‘So jung.’ And I remember him carrying me in. I saw him in daylight saying, ‘Englander,’ and my immediate reaction was, ‘Nein. Schottelander.’ But —
CB: So was this, had you drifted to the outskirts of Berlin.
JP: Hmmn?
CB: Had you drifted to the outskirts of Berlin?
JP: Oh yes, yes that’s why I was —
CB: So there was no bombing close.
JP: I drifted in to a suburban garden.
CB: Yes.
JP: Basically, which must have been on the outskirts of Berlin.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Well away from the bombing. In fact, when I landed as I say I looked up when I fell over and I landed. I released my parachute. It was over a tree and I saw old Nick with his horns and then as I say the goat moved and that was the sort of, oh Nick.
CB: Yes.
JP: I’m dead.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And then the goat and I saw that head against the fires.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Of the fires of, you know —
CB: Of the city.
JP: Where the bombing was. So I was well away from it.
CB: Yeah.
JP: So pulling the ‘chute was the right thing to do.
CB: It was.
JP: But so that was, that was —
CB: I’ll stop there.
[recording paused]
JP: These years with that —
CB: With the knowledge of the trip.
JP: Terrible regret that I couldn’t save my crew.
CB: Yes.
JP: I tried at the time.
CB: Yes.
JP: I knew I was going to die.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Because I remember thinking mum’s not going to like this or mum’s going to be upset. And the other thought was I wish I’d left a son behind. Which I thought was rather funny. I’d never actually known a woman properly.
CB: Did you —
JP: I’d courted quite a few but I’d never actually —
CB: No.
JP: I was still at that, my generation were.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Or at least a lot of them were. Some of them weren’t of course.
CB: No.
JP: A lot of my generation. I had four big brothers and they told me sod all.
CB: Yes.
Other: Yeah.
JP: Literally, I knew, you know —
CB: Yeah. Nobody enlightened you.
JP: There was no sex education in those days and, oh, I remember my brother Sandy. Only one thing he said, ‘Jim, just remember those that would I wouldn’t and those I would don’t.’ That was my advice from Sandy.
CB: Right.
JP: It took me years to find out those I liked also did [laughs] But that took me a long long time to find out. Fortunately, as I say I met Ursula.
CB: Can I just ask you again on this other topic because on a different interview I have done but did you feel in any way guilty in the fact that you were the sole survivor?
JP: I think that was part of it. I think that was the —
CB: Because you were the captain.
JP: Yes. I think that was definitely part of it. That I was the only survivor and my wonderful crew, and they were a wonderful crew really. They were brilliant. I mean, we were good as a crew. We really, we deserved to be Pathfinders but I think now and I didn’t think even when I wrote the book I hadn’t had that thought I’ve had a lot more I know, in fact I do a talk. It’s over there. I do a talk with one of the squad things on the importance of Bomber Command.
CB: Right.
JP: It started off as a talk in my book.
CB: Yes.
JP: Which I did to a school and it went very well.
CB: I bet.
JP: And then with doing research I learned so much more and I learned just how important Bomber Command was. There were two crucial raids. One was that first raid on Berlin. What happened at the time, I’ve got it in my book, what happened was that a Luftwaffe pilot dropped his bombs on London. I don’t think he was meant to. I think the silly bugger got lost probably but this is, anyway someone bombed Berlin.
CB: Yes.
JP: And Churchill was livid and ordered the RAF to bomb, bomb London rather, the RAF to bomb Berlin.
CB: Yes.
JP: Approximately eighty odd aircraft set out. About twenty nine of them got there.
CB: Yes.
JP: The others couldn’t find it.
CB: Yeah.
JP: But they did bomb it. Hitler was livid and took the Luftwaffe off bombing the airfields and the radar stations to set up the Blitz and set up the Blitz on London.
CB: Yeah.
JP: If he’d not done that we could have lost the Battle of Britain.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Because they could have knocked out all those airfields. The Luftwaffe was very powerful at that time.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
JP: They could have knocked, you know, it could have cost us the battle of Britain if he hadn’t done that.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And the second one was the thousand bomber raid.
CB: On Cologne.
JP: Because, on Cologne. No. It wasn’t Cologne. It was another one. Was it Cologne?
CB: Cologne. On Cologne. Yeah. The cathedral.
JP: The Luftwaffe immediately realised the significance of that. That we turned Germany in to, the whole of Germany into a battlefield and they had to bring, instead of supporting the troops in the field they had to bring back aircraft, pilots, thousands and thousands of the best anti-tank gun in the war. The German got the, it’s in the book. That that gun was also —
CB: The 88 millimetre.
JP: Hmmn?
CB: The 88 millimetre.
JP: Indeed. That 88 gun was a brilliant gun.
CB: Yes.
JP: I’ve been told.
CB: Yes.
JP: I’ve been told that even by soldiers as well.
CB: Yeah.
JP: Anti-tank. But they had to bring all those back and put them all over Germany as we knew because the bastards every time we bombed a city the flak was horrendous so there was lots of guns there.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And the men to man them. It could be argued but for that the Germans could have put Russia out of the war before our invasion was ready.
CB: Yeah.
JP: So, Bomber Command was vital. Yeah. Apart from the obvious that they bombed and Harris when he got, he put up that he was going to do area bombing and they were [pause] you see at the beginning of the war Bomber Command crews dropped leaflets on Germany.
CB: Yes.
JP: Men were lost dropping bloody leaflets on Germany.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
JP: And they were also ordered not to bomb with slightest chance of killing a civilian at the beginning. We weren’t ready for war.
CB: Right.
JP: Mentally or otherwise and those early aircraft were bloody, I know, I’ve flown two of them.
CB: Yeah.
JP: They were —
CB: Nightmare.
JP: Hmmn?
CB: Nightmare to fly.
JP: Yeah. They were alright, but they weren’t, compared to the Lancasters you know they weren’t a patch on those. The Lancasters were brilliant. A really wonderful aircraft but as I say we weren’t, we weren’t ready for war and the same people who had us operating are now, I mean I’ve been asked if I wasn’t ashamed of being a bomber pilot. That’s one of the things that set me off on proving how necessary we were. The first was when I was doing my teacher training. A young, one of the other young chaps on the course said, ‘Weren’t you a bomber pilot? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?’ So I said, ‘Sprechen sie Deutsch?’ And he looked at me. I said, ‘Sprechen sie Deutsch?’ ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ I said, ‘I’m asking if you speak German?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, you bloody well would if we hadn’t bombed the bastards.’ That was my attitude at the time.
CB: Yes.
JP: I was but not so long ago a teacher, a retired teacher at the prep school here, from the prep school here three of us went to, they have a very nice little service at the, Battle of Britain service privately at the school, the prep school and three of us went to that. One was an ex-Battle of Britain pilot, a pal of mine from [unclear] and one who was, who had been involved with Coastal Command on Mossies but was a bombers still. He was a Coastal Command Mossies. And this chap asked us, you know what we’d been doing and Brian who’s the talker amongst the three of us, Brian said, ‘He was a Battle of Britain pilot.’ ‘Oh wonderful. Oh yes.’ ‘What was yours?’ he said, ‘I was a Coastal Command pilot.’ ‘Oh.’ And Brian said, ‘He was a bomber pilot.’ And his face went. Oh. And I looked at him and I thought you don’t approve of me being a bomber pilot. No. Well, of course, ‘Why did we bomb Dresden? ‘I said, ‘I’ll lend you my book on it. You’ll see why.’
CB: Yeah.
JP: Which I did. It’s up there.
CB: Right.
JP: The book on Dresden and it’s a different story.
CB: Yes.
JP: If you read that.
CB: Yeah.
JP: One of, one of the things that was so important was it was a [pause] what’s the word for it? A nice pleasant place.
CB: Yes. Well, architecturally it was superb.
JP: Yeah. But what people don’t know was that the railway feeding the Russian Front, the German troops to the Russian Front passed through there. So far as I know the Russians asked us to bomb.
CB: They did. Yeah.
JP: The other thing was why did we bomb so near the end of the war. At that time if you’d asked when the war would end they would say imminently, now or ten years, twelve years, twelve months’ time because there was no sign of Hitler giving up. So we didn’t, when I was in, I was in prison camp at the time so I had nothing to do with that but if I’d been flying I would have bombed the place I’d been told to. You just went to where you were told to do.
CB: Well, they’d only just had the Battle of the Bulge.
JP: Yeah. And also, don’t forget —
CB: Yeah.
JP: Is that the Americans also bombed Dresden.
CB: Yeah.
JP: We bombed it at night and the next morning —
CB: The Americans did it.
JP: The Americans bombed it.
CB: Yeah.
JP: But this was where the bad things come in and that same attitude which is Bomber Command was Churchill our hero at the time when he was giving his valedictory speech about the forces after the war carefully avoided any mention of Bomber Command. And there was no Bomber Command medal. There should have been. They’ve given us a stupid little —
CB: The clasp.
JP: The clasp. There should, there should have been a Bomber Command medal really.
CB: Yeah.
JP: When you think of the casualties that we had and the, there was such, so a few of us really. I was amazed really with how few of us there were overall. Over the whole lot and over a third of them got the chop.
CB: Well, forty four percent were killed.
JP: Yeah. Yeah. Well, there we are.
CB: Good.
JP: So Churchill I’m afraid —
CB: Let you down.
JP: I didn’t really approve of him.
CB: No.
JP: We’ve been virtually ignored all these years and yet, and yet from my research about Bomber Command played a vital part in the war. Very vital.
CB: Absolutely. Yeah.
JP: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
JP: I think without Bomber Command we could have lost the war. We really could. Germany had enslaved the whole, just about the whole of Europe. There was a story told about, what’s the one part in the Alps there. Oh, what’s, what’s the country? The very [pause] oh God. The one between France and Italy. Not —
CB: Not Switzerland?
JP: Hmmmn?
CB: Switzerland.
JP: Switzerland.
CB: Yes.
JP: Switzerland. My memory is going by the way.
CB: That’s ok.
JP: Words disappear in mid-sentence.
CB: Yes. I know.
JP: You know. I’d like a cheese and [pause] and I couldn’t think of the word tomato until I went to the larder and saw it. I’m definitely going gaga. No two ways about it. But Switzerland there was a story told about the Nazi general said to the Swiss general, ‘What would you do if we invaded you with five hundred or six hundred men or whatever.’ The Swiss general said, ‘I would order all my troops to fire twice [laughs]
CB: Go on.
JP: The Swiss had his own rifle.
CB: Yes.
JP: Every Swiss was a marksman.
CB: Yeah.
JP: That’s what he was saying. If you try and invade us we will fight back.
CB: Yeah.
JP: And incidentally, by the way, again with my research Yugoslavia had a very good Army but the defensive point was there and that’s one, that part is for Germans. Because Germany after the war they lost the Rhineland which Hitler walked into without objection from anybody. They, they lost this part of Czechoslovakia. The name escapes me. It’s in there.
CB: Sudetenland.
JP: Hmmn?
CB: Sudetenland.
JP: Sudetenland. The Sudetenland. He walked, because when they lost Sudetenland that was their major defensive area so when he walked in there and took that over when they did go to return they no longer were in a position to defend themselves.
CB: No.
JP: And he assured before that happened he assured what’s his name? Our prime minister of the time.
CB: Chamberlain.
JP: Chamberlain. At the time and the French he had no further —
Other: Intention.
JP: To go any further. And Chamberlain, I heard Chamberlain on the radio saying, ‘And now we are at war with Germany.’
CB: Did you?
JP: And I’ll swear that man was near tears because he’d fought in the First World War.
CB: Yeah.
JP: So, there we are.
CB: Well, Jim Penny, thank you for a most interesting interview. Thank you.
JP: Is that ok?
CB: Yeah.
Other: Fabulous.

Collection

Citation

Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Jim Penny. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 15, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11526.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.