Interview with Jack (John) Perry


Interview with Jack (John) Perry


Jack (John) Perry was orphaned at the age of six. He lived with family, a Children’s Home and various foster homes. Named Jack by his parents he was forced to be known as John when in children's homes, a name he continued to use during his RAF service. He has since reverted to Jack. He volunteered for the RAF as soon as he was old enough just before the outbreak of war. He trained as an electrician and was posted to RAF Scampton. He flew three operations as a stand in air gunner but failed the medical to become air crew. He was present when a Ju 88 had intruded with the returning squadron and strafed the airfield. He was posted to RAF Turnhouse and then Tarrant Rushton with the glider squadron. After the war he went to work for de Havillands in their experimental section.




Temporal Coverage




01:26:55 audio recording


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NM: So this is, this is Nigel Moore. It’s the 15th of January 2016. I’m at the home of Mr John Perry in [deleted ] Welwyn Garden City. So, tell me a little bit about your childhood and growing up before you joined the air force.
JP: Very interesting. Yeah. Well, I was born in Wimbledon 1920 and never saw my father because he died before I was registered. My mother died when I was six years old and I went to live with one of her younger sisters in Poplar. All I remember about that was being dressed in a grey suit with a bag. Going to school at Queen’s Road, Wimbledon and passing the Royal Arsenal Co-op where they had all the carts garaged there. That apparently was where my father worked after he came out of the army. And I got, as I say one morning I went to say goodbye to my mother in bed. She was in bed. I just went back and saw my granny coming and I said, ‘Mummy won’t speak to me.’ I went on my way to school. And she’d died of consumption. Apparently my father had died with it before that. Put his down to a result of first war gas according to my cousin later on. She was a bit older than me. Now, I remember my mother’s funeral. We were, my brother and myself and my cousin Winnie. And my mother’s younger sister, Auntie Mabel had a pram. And we weren’t allowed to go to the burial or the funeral so we were on the kerb outside the house. As I say after that I just know I went to one Auntie, Jessie in Poplar. And my brother, who was three years older than me went to Auntie Ethel in Romford. And that’s Winnie’s mother. My cousin. I can’t remember much about it except that we lived in a bungalow on a newly erected square of bungalows. And my mother or my father were either caretakers there. That’s my auntie I should say. I remember the 1926 strike. All the marchers in their peaked caps and corduroy trousers tied at the knees marching. And then apparently my uncle he worked in the docks. East India Docks. Whatever he was. A caretaker or something or other. But anyway, I just remember doing one of two things with my auntie like giving me a bunch of wooden skewers to go and get some sausages from the butcher. And climbing up the iron railings in the tenement buildings that were there empty. The next thing I knew I was in a Church Home. And I remember the morning there I was standing in the room with all the rest of the children that were there and I know I wet myself and I had to go before the head man there. He was in his surplice and that. And I can’t remember much about it except that he had this board on the desk and he give me a hit with it. A Cribbage board it was as I know now. Now all I remember is that I used to be taken from there to school with a young school teacher. Used to take me on the bus every morning to school. Then after that I remember going to, in hospital for me adenoids and tonsillectomy. They were done and I got scarlet fever develop whilst in the hospital. And they took me across the bridge from the hospital to the workhouse and I was in the workhouse there for two weeks in bed, I remember with scarlet fever. And then a lovely old gentleman, I shall always remember him with his beard and that, came and took me away from there to a place at Fairlight, at Hampton Hill in Middlesex. All I can remember about that is that we used to sit around in the evening and he’d play this big phonograph. He’d got a big, with tubular discs. He used to play that in the evening. I remember then from there I was boarded out to a footballer in Hamptons. I don’t know where it was actually but, and all I know is that he and his wife they’d got two daughters and he used to take me with him to the football every, when he went training and playing. He used to sit me in the stands. I’m not sure now, I know they wore blue jerseys. Whether it was the original Wimbledon or whether it was Chelsea. But after a few times there I was taken back into care because, I don’t know the reason why but I was picked up with this social worker in a big browny red Talbot motor and taken to New Malden in Surrey. Children’s Home. There because I was born in Surrey so I was their responsibility. I remember that. When I apparently showed signs of bad temper or something or other they used to put me in the gas cupboard under the stairs and shut the door until I stamped it out and screamed at them. And then I remember I ran away from there, from this New Malden and I got as far as Teddington I think and I was picked up by the police and returned. I was about nine then, I think so [pause] Then I was boarded out again from there. Oh, when, I was labelled uncontrollable what they used to do, one of them, the masters of the house was as a punishment he used to take me down to the shed in the garden where they had a boxing ring rigged up. Put me in there with an older fella to knock me about a bit. To punish me it was. But as I say I loved it all because I loved fighting. And then I got boarded out again to other people. And I was going to New Malden Council School then. And it was somebody in New Malden. She’d already got two boy boarders. One of them was already working. And there again she used to put me in the cupboard under the stairs. And that was full of quart beer bottles. They were drinkers. Both of them. Her and her husband. I didn’t last long there. They took me back to this Children’s Home in New Malden. And then I remember I just started to go from council school to the newly built central, the first one, secondary modern school. West Malden Central School. I was put in to a 1b because I was only ten and the starting age was eleven. But this 1b was full of children that had qualified through exams. I was still only eleven. And when I passed the certificate for going to grammar school but at that time, going to grammar school everything you had had to be paid for so being a council boy nobody would do it so I, I didn’t go. I remember I picked up again then to go to, oh as I say when I first went to New Malden Children’s Homes and I was there, first day registered my, met my registrar there. When I was asked my name I said, ‘Jack.’ I was called Jackie. He said, ‘No such name. The name is John.’ So from then, that time on I became John all through until I was still in the air force. I was still as John. But I deviate. I was picked up at this Children’s Home in West Malden by a man and woman. They had, at that time a Vauxhall racing car. There was only fourteen of them built. And I was in the dickie seat at the back and I was taken in that car with them up to Shropshire in the West of England School of Handicrafts. I was eleven then. Because I was a little bit more intelligent or advanced then some of the other inmates there because most of them were cripples or parental rejects for fits and all that sort of thing. And they just started taking people from council homes too. And I was one of them there. Because I was a bit more intelligent I was asked or told to be companion to their only son, Tom Parker. And that’s how it stood. He was, had a governess. And I think I was just in there. I remember, as I grow older I did quite a lot of things. I know I was about fourteen I think, one of the masters who was a Territorial Army lieutenant he got me interested in the military. And I passed an exam to go to the Royal Ordnance Corps. Boy entrant. Gosport. And I was on my way there. Had to go to report to the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry Barracks. And I got to the barracks and he wasn’t there with me, this guy. He’d gone or something. But at the [pause] registrar or whatever they call them in there and they said, ‘We want your parent or your guardian to sign this,’ and I’d got nobody. So, they called up Petton Hall and they came and fetched me back again. And I carried on and I remember doing a lot of carpentry work and also helping rebuild a lorry with a, renewing the engine and that. And then, but they were pumping their own electricity there with a big Crossley gas engine. And I got I had to do that in the morning. It was fed by an anthracite boiler with a drip feed to supply the gas. I did that and then they had a, they started building the stables into another home for people and I got put on to help the electrician there. The electrician, plumber and brick layer from outside and each one had an apprentice if you can call them that. And I had to apprentice an electrician then. That’s where I learned my trade. There until I was eighteen. Another one of the masters got me thinking about going and I remember I went and I caught a train and went to Birmingham. To Snow Hill Station. Come out and there was the RAF recruiting office. I went in there and did the entrance exam. And then I joined the air force at the age of eighteen. I went down to West Drayton. At West Drayton I was kitted out and had my hair cut and the king’s shilling and then I went to Uxbridge for the initial training. Three months. That was drills and things like that. I remember I was good at football. We were playing a match between the squadrons. Flights or what there. And then a Fulham scout was there watching me and I think about half time he left because I finished up on the ground most of the time, being small. Then one of the PTI instructors was a RAF boxing guy and he used to take me down to the boxing ring and have, showed us about because I loved it. The boxing. Until one time I was boxing against a Halton apprentice. Seventeen year old apprentice. And he gave me two pokes and I was on the floor. I thought that’s me finished. I went from there to Henlow camp for electrical training and, and that I was there about eight to ten months. I remember seeing on the flying field there the monoplane and I thought that’s new. And it was a Hurricane that was under test. And that’s the first of the Hurricanes then before they started going. Anyway, I, come the July 1939 all my entry were posted. We hadn’t finished the course or anything but to various sections then. As I say, in this entry that apart from people and an AMIE chappy and another one that’s national, national certificate. Another one who had been an electrician in the theatres. So we were all posted to different places. I went up to Scampton. And I remember going there and joining 83 bomber squadron. That [pause] and initially I was put into a bell tent because accommodation wasn’t ready for months. Apparently they were just starting to receive the Hampden aircraft squadron. They already had one electrician there with the squadron and he’d probably been some time with them. They couldn’t find work for me so I was sent over to work in the battery charging room with a civilian operator there they had. And then I remember the day that war broke out then. September the 4th. They had this tannoy message over there. I was just walking in the, between meals and things and they said, ‘The next time you hear this you have to all go down in the shelters.’ I don’t know what happened after that. I know it was a sunny day. And I just remember that they had another electrician posted to them and he was sent to the battery room and I was taken out of the battery room to the maintenance hangar. And I was there for a bit. We had, I made friends with another Southern Irish chappy that had joined up for the war and then he was my friend then. And I remember he’d done a minor service on a, on a Hampden aircraft and he’d gone on leave and he hadn’t signed up for it. So I, I was told have a look and see or sign for it by the NCO in charge. I checked it over and signed it up. They took it out for engine runs and when they went to start it, it caught fire. And then I know one of them came from Farnborough to inspect it and check what may have happened. And the guy that came was an electrician, Jimmy Phillips that had been on the course with me at Henlow. As I say, he’d been a National Certificate holder so he got on all right. And what they found was that when they pressed the button to start the engine up with the ground plugged in that the relay, something like that, had arced between the things and they’d sparked and caught fire. Anyway, of course they had to, Handley Page sort all that out and put rubber sleeves on so that it couldn’t happen again. And I remember that both Paddy and I were sent out. That more aircraft had come and we were designated to flights. About ten or twelve aircraft in each flight. I was in B flight and then service them. Daily servicing, DIs and sign up for the 700s so that they could fly. I remember that on one occasion I, the, the bombsight selector was showing that a fault, amber light, a fault on something. An earth on the system. And I remember it took me about forty eight hours to trace that right back to where it was, and it was a tail wheel microswitch had frozen solid and causing the short. So Handley Page had to send a work crew out to sort that out and they had a gel mixture in all microswitches exposed to the weather. And then I remember being on duty crew which we used to do. And in the first instance the first duty crew I think I had to go out with the flashing beacon to some distant part of Lincoln. And that was an all night job. Brought it back in the day time. Another time, duty crew, we had just had all the runway lit up with glim lamps that were battery operated lamps for the flare path and goose necks with paraffin and the chance lights, one at each end of the flare path. And we’d just got them all lit up for the aircraft returning from a bombing raid when a Junkers 88 joined the circuit and strafed the runway. It was a pretty sight with green and yellow and tracer bullets. A couple of our returning aircraft gave chase. I don’t know what happened to them or him. And then, oh and so one night when we were, Paddy and I were out and we came, we were on the way back to camp and we came back the top of the airfield way with a mini cab. I can’t remember why. But we were just off the aircraft, airfield and this aeroplane, one of ours, crash landed. Out of, out of the aerodrome precincts in the field. I remember Paddy and I stopped the car and ran over to help them out. And we were the first people there. The ambulance came and everybody was alright. I think that there was a burning thing. Then the ambulance brought us back to camp and took us right back to the Red Cross. Their place because they’d take the passengers to be checked over. I don’t remember much else there [unclear]
NM: You, you mentioned you had three, three flights as a —
JP: Oh yeah. I’ll come to that.
NM: As an unofficial gunner. How, how did that —
JP: I’m coming to that. That was at Scampton with the squadron. Just after the war broke out a DRO was posted up for tradesmen to volunteer for air gunners. To sit in. And three of us from the squadron or flight, or anyway in the billet, volunteered and as I say I was very pleased to. We had a week’s training with the armoury sergeant who was the first air force person I’d seen in khaki. He was a sergeant obviously and he showed us how to strip the guns down, rebuild them, oil them. The Vickers K gun. And then took us out for target practice. And I remember it was stupid it was nothing to do with guns, K-guns or anything like that was a Hispano Suiza, a big gun. And firing at a Messerschmitt 109 target board. And then when we’d done that we were, I personally was given a crew place. And we were designated to go to Kiel and it was a paper, just paper delivery. We were told not to fire the guns unless fired upon or the pilot told us to. Otherwise we were just there to make weight. We did one trip there and another trip with the same purpose to Wilhelmshaven. And then a third trip was a camera study of the pens. The submarine pens at Wilhelmshaven. We were, we were told that we’d got to be registered and, but we were going to have a medical test before we went to do the air to air firing at North Coates. And then when I was having the medical, I remember it was in the barrack room then, the guy just said no and, ‘You’ve failed your medical for eyesight.’ Never did tell me what it was. It was just an eyesight test. So I never qualified. I know one of the other people, he did. I was very proud of the squadron because the 83 Squadron was commanded by Wing Commander Snaith of the Schneider Trophy. Renowned I think. And I used to follow that when I was a kid. And the aircraft. That was, that was alright until I got posted away and found myself up at Turnhouse in Scotland and there I was put on the, into an office. K4 area. I was, I had to be interviewed by the group captain of the Turnhouse. And then we, he had us go to him and swear to secrecy. It was the Duke of Hamilton was the group captain I remember. Anyway, I found myself out in the civilian lodgings on the decoy sites just being built up in Edinburgh area. I was there on this decoy site. The first one at east of Kinleith, which was at the foot of the Braids Hill. The decoy site was on Braids Hills just outside Edinburgh. And all I’d do there was check the circuitry of the fires and the diesel machines and everything there. And then I had to train ACHs and I was posted to a site at Millerhill and made area electrician. So I had a dispatch driver with a sidecar to go around the other sites checking the batteries and the, checking out the circuitry. The, the flight lieutenant in charge of the unit K4, all said, everything we had a code word — Starfish. If you were ever approached by anybody, Secret Service police or anything like that you just had to say, ‘Starfish,’ and you’d go on your way. It was a secret code. Anyway, he said that, ‘You’re doing the area electrician. I’m going to get you promoted.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m a Group 2 tradesman. I’m as far as I can go.’ And he, he got in touch with Colonel Butcher, MOD and he applied to the Air Ministry to get me in. The Air Ministry apparently turned back and said, ‘Unfit for NCO material.’ And I could only ever assume that that was because I’d passed my eye test to be aircrew. Because they’d already made then aircrew all had to be NCOs when I was there. In my flights I was just given a sergeant’s stripes during the flight as protection in case you were taken prisoner. And that applied to all the wireless operators. They were only Group 2 tradesmen as well. And then, as I say, but I was so proud of 83 Squadron. I was very disappointed when I left them because already they’d had John Hannah a VC. And to my knowledge they had done the first two bombing raids to Italy which was a two way and they lost a lot of aircraft on that. And then part of the hundred bomber attack on Berlin, I think it was. And of course Handley Page were adapting these aircraft for all sorts of things. 83 Squadron and 49 which was the other squadron at Scampton they had Barry Learoyd as a VC for his antics on a raid on the dams which was unsuccessful but he stayed there and watched everybody drop off their bombs apparently. And he was the leader. But then they had adapted for mine laying and everything what they did. Anyway, I digress again there. When I, when I had this promotion turned down the, my senior officer there said, ‘Well, we’ll send you for Group 1 training,’ which had just started up in electrics. Group 1. And I was sent back to Turnhouse waiting for permission there and he said, ‘We’ll get you there and ask to have you back again.’ Anyway, something happened at Turnhouse. I was in the cubbyhole. I was working on a microswitch again there. That was the first place I saw WAAFs working on Spitfires. Laying on the tail planes while they revved them up. Wonderful. Anyway, a posting came for somebody else there and they were posted and they they didn’t take the posting because they were compassionate posting to Turnhouse for reasons of family or something like that. So I was put on there and I was promised that the posting would follow me through. But that’s how I got on to the glider units. First and foremost I had to go to a place called Lasham to start up a Heavy Glider Maintenance Unit. And I remember I had to pick up some of my belongings from the civilian billet and I missed the 10 o’clock train out of Edinburgh to London in the morning. I had to wait until 10 o’clock at night to get another one and of course consequently I’d missed all my connections. I got down to Hook and I had to go from there to RAF Odiham. I used public transport to get there and the transport arranged to pick me up there had gone back. And I was three days at Odiham. They said, in the cook’s hut, of course it could be anytime and they were people that were early risers and that, the cooks. So, anyway I did get to Lasham and I was there, I think two weeks. I know Christmas time was on there. The aerodrome wasn’t ready. Nowhere near for reception. And all we had were Nissen huts. I remember me and another of my colleagues we took up an option of going to Polk’s Photographic Works Christmas party. And I remember coming out of that to get my transport back from that and being set upon by two Royal Marines. And then a Royal Canadian military policeman come and banged them up and carted me off to their billets. And I was there overnight. And they took me back to Tarrant Rushton in the morning and, not Tarrant Rushton. Lasham. And they immediately sent me to the Red Cross place to be checked over for any broken bones or severe bruising. That’s how I spent my Christmas. Then we were taken by bus to Hurn Airport where we started forming this Heavy Glider Maintenance Unit. We didn’t have much to do with the gliders at the time. All we were doing were wiring up the tow ropes for the intercom with don 8 wires. And then we were, I think it was the [pause] mostly to do with the Army Airborne Div. Training their pilots and that. Anyway, we, we were all bundled off up to West Kirby in Liverpool and kitted out with khaki wear and given a sten gun and ammunition. Put on a boat. And that was in Liverpool and we went from Liverpool up to the Clyde to join a convoy and we were, we were on the Duchess of York, the liner. And I remember my accommodation there was on a table. They did have hammocks but I couldn’t get in them. And we went there. This convoy sailed to North Africa. I remember going there. A two man submarine came up there. It was a Russian two man submarine waving their arms to us. Anyway, we were docked at Algiers. And you’ve never seen a most unruly rabble. Everybody just straggling one after the other. We finished up with all our gear and arms and ammunition at a transit camp there and just asked who you were and they sent you to a portion of the transit camp. And we were there overnight and then we were put on a train. Three day journey to go over to Morocco. Or the borders of Morocco. To a French Foreign Legion base. And we were there. And then we were, five of us were taken in the group captain’s Wellington bomber, it was an unarmed Wellington bomber. And flown from there over to Tunisia. I remember you could see the, going over the Atlas Mountains and the shepherds and that. On top of the hills and that. That low. Anyway, we got to this Kairouan in there. That’s where we formed the unit prior to the invasion of Sicily I think. But that, that was, I don’t know how the gliders got there or anything. Or the Halifaxes that towed them. They must have, they were all unarmed and they must have flown out but anyway there was quite a number of them and a few Wacos. And the Americans had Wacos and Dakotas. And then, then they did the invasion and talk as if some of the Americans even dropped their gliders at Malta. Anyway, and then there was a question there of retrieving a Halifax that was down. We went over with another Halifax. I wasn’t even with the Halifax squadron. I was a glider person. But I think I was senior electrician or something like that. Anyway, we got there. The mafia were guarding it and said give us forty eight hours and then we’d have to burn it. Anyway, but they got it back. Then of course we came back again on the Samaria back after there. And we were finished up at Netheravon in Wiltshire. And from there we went on disembarkation leave. I’d still got my sten gun and bullets. I thought, well I don’t want to take these home so I dumped them outside the armoury door. Everybody else had got rid of theirs somehow or other. Anyway, when we came back to Netheravon we were flown in the gliders there to Tarrant Rushton. That’s [pause] I didn’t like that trip at all. It was horrible. I was boiling hot and sick. I was glad to get out of it. I thought of the poor devils that had to go and fight in this afterwards. Anyway, there we did a lot at Tarrant Rushton training the airborne pilots and we took delivery of the heavier glider, Hamilcars and they took tanks and tank crews. Minor small tanks. And then, and then the night before the invasion of, on D-Day we were all lined up with these gliders and the Hamilcars again. And then they were, didn’t know what they were going to do but I remember seeing the Ox and Bucks Regiment marching on to the parade grounds. And then they all queued up ready and the Halifaxes lined up to take off. And then at [pause] I remember sitting on a Horsa glider. I was doing the intercom connection lot into the glider. Had a bit of trouble with it and I went over to talk to the pilot and asked him to check it out. I looked around and a load of kids with a rifle stuck between their legs. Only seventeen and eighteen. It made me feel absolutely sick. They must be sending these somewhere. Only kids. Anyway, about 11 o’clock at night there was this armada of lit up aircraft flying over and our lot just had to join them. They were apparently going to establish a bridgehead subject to the seaborne landings. Very nice. And then of course later on we had the airborne there. They did Arnhem. That was after but I wasn’t involved in the crossing of the Rhine at all. I was in hospital then. Anyway, that’s where I finished my time. At Tarrant Rushton. All I got as a thank you was thirty six pound I think for pay. Reserve payment and thirty six pound gratuity. And I just recently had a Legion of Honour from the French nation saying thank you for deliverance. Lovely. I’ve got a written notice. Somebody said thank you. Made me so proud. That’s about it. Except that I got married and that and had a family. And then of course —
NM: That’s quite some story. That’s quite some story. So, you stayed at Tarrant Rushton after D-Day.
JP: Yeah. Yeah.
NM: Right through to —
JP: Right through to —
NM: The end of the war.
JP: VE. VE yeah.
NM: And then you were demobbed.
JP: I were demobbed in March 1946. We’ve got it all down here somewhere [unclear] [pause] my service record is a bit haphazard. And that’s 83 Squadron. 1941.
NM: Ok. I’ll look at those in a minute can I?
JP: Yeah.
NM: So, so after the war what happened? Tell me after the war.
JP: Well —
NM: After your demob.
JP: I was very lucky. I, I got [pause] we were in, my wife and I and the eldest son were in digs in Wimborne. I looked for work. I got a job with Asian company in Bournemouth. Electrician. But on an air force recommendation that they wouldn’t take me on as a skilled man. They took me on as a man mate. I got four pound ten a week I think. That was six months. But I was put with a sixty year old man and I became his hands and that. I was with them, I can’t remember, a few years but then I got a local job at [pause] one of the foreman that I was working with. Asian company on a building in Bournemouth. We did renovation of all the hotels that the Canadians and Americans had, ravaged I think it’s called [laughs] The word. And this time we were doing another job repairing a restaurant. And this guy started up a business with a friend in Wimborne. He asked me to go there with him. That’s where I worked for a bit doing council house erections and odd jobs around. I became a washing machine, Bendix engineer. Did all sorts of things. And then I went to an engineering firm. This was after we’d got our house. Council house in Wimborne. My neighbour, an engineering firm wanted an electrician and he said, ‘Come and do it with us.’ So I did. I went there and used to do the servicing of the machines. And then we had a little section where they started up doing cards. Soldering and that. Anyway, they went bust, and I started looking for jobs. I went to Tarrant Rushton where flight refuelling were starting up. Well they were still in operation. And I couldn’t get a job there. [unclear] around the bend. I finished up at de Havillands in Christchurch. I went there and they took me on straight away. And also I met friends of a, worked for Mace and Co were there in an experimental department. As I say we were the experimental. We were doing the 110 Sea Vixen eventually. And they were also doing the production of Venoms. Sea Venoms and that. So, now I did that. As I say I went to Hurn Airport and was working night shift on servicing aircraft. Flight testing. As I say I went from there on loan up to Hatfield when the Sea Vixen’s were transferred from Christchurch up to Hatfield. I was doing experimental there. I’ve got here [pause] We were doing the Nimrod. Servicing the Comet into a Nimrod. That was all on the secret as well. And then of course I went over to the flight test for the [pause] they were still doing the Comet 4s in the flight test there. [pause] I don’t know, I’ve forgotten the name of it now [pause] Before the 146 anyway.
NM: Trident.
JP: Trident. Yeah. I went to China on delivery. Aircraft to China. Couple of times which was very good. And we had a Christmas at the Chinese expense up in Peking. That was quite an experience. We went to see Mao Tse Tung laying in state. And believe it or not we marched right up to the front of the queue. Then of course I was, I transferred under pressure to go into the inspection department. And then I did very well there. As I say I finished up doing the final inspection for flight electrical. I don’t think, there’s nothing else to say.
NM: And that took you to retirement did it?
JP: Well, I took my pass, my retirement pay about a month I think. But I was stuck here at home mowing the lawns and that.
[recording paused]
JP: Alright?
NM: Yeah.
JP: Down south. I went and got a job down at Swallowfield Service Station serving the public with fuel and that. Did that for five years. And then they, actually they closed down because the tanks got, had to be filled up with concrete because they were serving up dirty fuel. But I was seventy then so I had to settle down in retirement. That’s my life.
NM: So when you look back at your time, your service during the Second World War what, what are your reflections?
JP: Well, the biggest and most is the neglect of what 83 Squadron and subsequently 49 and the other people did before the public noted. I mean of the Dambusters they seemed to have taken over and the others are forgotten. They hurt me. I know that Guy Gibson, the big man. He was a pilot officer at Scampton in 83 Squadron in the beginning of the war. I remember him coming back visiting when he was the big Pathfinder. I don’t know why he came back to visit. Whether he came back to visit Barry Learoyd who was then ADC of 83 Squadron, he transferred from 49 or he was just sussing out the place because he was taking it over. I wasn’t there long enough to find out. I did know that while I was there Waddington started taking delivery of the Manchester. And the thing was it was an utter failure. The wheels were too big or something. That was the forerunner of the Lancaster.
NM: So did you volunteer for going to Edinburgh and then the gliders or or were you posted?
JP: No. I was posted there. No. Actually, when I got posted to Edinburgh I was living with my wife in Lincoln. And she went home to give birth to my eldest son and I, I wasn’t able to go. I only had a forty eight hour pass to get married. And when she was giving birth to my son I wasn’t allowed any leave at all. Then I was posted up there. As I say, to the glider squadron. It was because the person that had been delegated to do the transfer, that was a compassionate posting to Turnhouse and as I was there waiting for a posting I was the one that got put on the [pause] I didn’t mind. Because they did say that the, going to Group 1 training, ‘And when you finished we’ll have you back again.’ There was a promise. Once I got to the glider unit I was no longer an electrician. I was a Terry of all means. I used to do the picketing. All we did with gliders was hump batteries backwards and forwards to the charging unit. And then we’d do all the picketing down at the aircraft. And latterly with the Hamilcar gliders I used to drive the track, tractor to tow the Hamilcars off, off the grass into the hardstand. That’s what my job was really. Just preparing them for the runway.
NM: Tell me a little bit more about the three unregistered operations you did to Kiel and Wilhelmshaven.
JP: Oh that.
NM: How did you feel about those raids?
JP: Well, I thought I was at last going to fly. And all the, at the time the, as I say the radio operators were the only air gunners that were there. And the, when the Hampdens, they’d got a seat for air gunners at the back they hadn’t got any trained air gunners. And they asked for volunteers and we had the course there but each time at the briefing we were told not to fire unless fired upon or attacked. Or unless the pilot told you to for any reason or other. We were just make weight. I know that the bomb aimer was the one that dropped the packages of leaflets. And also, I think on the last trip for the photography, I think he did the photographing from his position in the nose. But the only thing about it was that I remember we got caught in a searchlight. I thought when they said my eyesight was defective that it might be because the searchlight had affected it. But subsequently, years later I found out I’d got a lazy eye. So I’ve still got that.
NM: So, apart from the searchlights did the three trips pass without incident or were there —?
JP: No. No incident at all. Just a cold flight because we only had the helmet and the jacket. They would do, they of course used to start off in daylight to do their raids.
NM: So, these were daylight raids were they?
JP: Yeah.
NM: So what did you feel looking down across occupied France and Germany itself?
JP: Well, France wasn’t occupied then of course. I mean we’d only just declared war on them. Apparently the French Ministry had asked the British Ministry not to bomb Germany for fear of reprisals. So I believe. They were, all initially we were doing were bombing marshalling yards and shipping. I think that the biggest was, although I wasn’t involved with it at the time was Dresden. When that chief air vice marshall decided to throw caution to the wind and kill civilians as well. There’s others, that was a thousand bomber raid. But I was very sad to leave 83 Squadron. I was very proud to be a member of it. I do think that they, like the Dambusters were the super squadron.
NM: Have you kept in touch with 83 Squadron at all?
JP: No.
NM: Joining reunions or associations at all?
JP: No. No. Not at all. No. I [pause] my, when I was, I wasn’t even offered an extension because I only signed on for six years and no reserve in the first place. But then I did nearly eight years. As I say when I saw all those kids although they might have been trained I was just disgusted with the air force.
NM: Why?
JP: I just felt that we’d be sending them to die. Took me a long time to get over that. And then of course we heard the next day about the, the seaborne invasion.
NM: So your feelings about D-Day were mixed were they?
JP: Yeah. Very. I was proud to be part of the armada on that. Whatever it was for. We didn’t know. But as I say subsequently it come out it was to establish a bridgehead.
NM: So, how have you recently got involved with the Bomber Command Centre then? How did you hear about that again?
JP: I think my son Paul picked up on it on the computer.
NM: So tell me about your Legion d’Honneur from France. How did that come about?
JP: Oh my daughter. She lives in Sandy in Bedfordshire. She said the, the mayor, the mayor in the local paper put a notice. The French authorities, War Office wanted to contact all those that had taken part in D-Day. Apart from the official landers those that had helped in the behind to notify them because they were offering to reward them. And I, she told me, I wrote to the mayor there they put my name forward to the War Office and they sent it over to France and I thought they’d forgotten all about it because I wasn’t actually part of D-Day. Pre D-Day we were. There’s a lovely letter there. And believe it or not there was eight hundred of us applied. They said they, they would do the awards if we wanted it. That they would arrange it but they’d got so many to do that they couldn’t possibly do. They were very good.
NM: So how do you feel Bomber Command has been treated since the war?
JP: Well, I don’t know much about it really. Obviously they’re doing their stuff all over the place with the Vulcan and things like that and the involvement in the Falklands War.
NM: Do you think the veterans of World War Two have been fully recognised?
JP: Well, now they’re beginning to be. But not before. I mean, I myself, but I feel apart from me it’s a memory, they’re forgotten. [unclear] All those aircrew lost. No recognition. It’s only that somebody wanted to revive D-Day. Not D-Day but Dambusters. Brought them to light. Then after that then people started thinking about Bomber Command as a whole. Because there weren’t only Hampdens. There were Wellingtons, Whitleys. They were the heavy bomber of the day and of course when the initial landings in in France they were still, fighter planes were all mono, all biplanes. The only monoplane they had was the Fairey. Fairey Battle. Light bomber. All they had over in Dunkirk and that. Then of course the Hurricane was a major fighter plane in the Battle of Britain. And then Spitfires of course were the master aeroplane.
NM: Ok. Shall we, shall we leave it there? Or —
JP: Well, I, yeah. As I say the decoy. Always assumed that the Germans were never going to bomb Edinburgh anyway because Hitler decided that was where he was going to be his seat. But some of them down south. They really got wiped out. The decoy sites. It’s all hearsay.
NM: So, so during the interview you said your real name was Jack. Which of the two names do you prefer? Jack or John.
JP: Jack. That’s how I’m known now mostly. Except in official circles. As I say, my wife, how she did it she found my relatives. My brother and my Auntie Ethel and Uncle Edgar who I remembered when I was a boy with mother. I always used to go to the greenhouse with him. And still, when I saw him he’d still got at Aunt Ethel’s a greenhouse with tomatoes.



Nigel Moore, “Interview with Jack (John) Perry,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 24, 2024,

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