Interview with Raymond Race


Interview with Raymond Race


Raymond Race was born in a family working in the textile industry and joined the RAF in 1943, serving on the metropolitan communications squadron. Tells about his family’s military service: his father joined the Royal Field Artillery; his eldest brother who served on 103 Squadron in Bomber Command, flew an operation on Peenemunde and got shot down over Holland; another brother served as an air gunner in Coastal Command. Describes his elder brother’s military service and his burial place and the memorial built in Holland on the crash site. Tells of his life after the war, working as a civil servant.




Temporal Coverage




00:29:12 audio recording


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IL: It’s the fourth of February 2016. I’m interviewing Mr. Raymond Race. We are mainly talking about his older brother who was in Bomber Command and we are doing this at his home in Sutton in Hull. So, if you, just tell us about your early life, Raymond, yours and your brother’s early life.
RR: Right, yes. Well, so first of all, I told you, we’re a Wakefield family, my, it’s really, it’s the story of the industrial revolution [unclear] to put it that way because my family originated in Helmsley, they were all agricultural workers and gradually over the years they moved down from Helmsley to North Yorkshire, to West Yorkshire, Buckley and into Wakefield and they all worked in the textile industry so my father who was a [unclear] man in a woollen mill I think it was, no, I know it was, three uncles, four aunts and my mother all worked in the same mill, so we all lived basically within a half mile radius of the village so that’s the background to the family all we have is my father, as I showed you, was actually in the RFA, which is the Royal Field Artillery and we’re a family of six children [unclear] who is the brother, the eldest brother who was with Bomber Command as I say it was the oldest brother, my next to oldest brother actually he is still alive, was an air gunner with Coastal Command and I ended up just after the war, and basically I think it was the first of January ’46 I was conscripted as it were and I was on ground staff with, after the initial training with the what was then known as the metropolitan communications squadron in Hendon, which was, as the name implied, it was just a communication squadron flying the Proctors and aircraft like that for the some of the headquarters staff it was used to fly about during the business. Now I was a corporal in the squadron office, so that’s basically the background of the family, apart from the fact that my youngest brother when he was called up, he was a traitor, he went into the RAMC [laughs]
IL: What made three brothers all join the RAF?
RR: Don’t know.
IL: There was no, you didn’t have any
RR: No, nobody, I don’t know why [unclear] joined, he was my oldest brother, he was a [unclear] actually and initially when he joined for the first, he joined in May 1940 and he, it was in 19 and he was on maintenance work at various establishments, ground maintenance work not aircraft maintenance and he remustered as a, to become an air gunner in, I think it was, oh yes, it was December 1942 and then from that point of course he went through the training the acceptance [unclear], what do they call it, the aircraft, the, I think they call it the, anyway it was the process by they were accepted to become flying officers as it were and then they were trained at, he was trained obviously as an air gunner and then they moved on to training with the squadrons and he ended up with 103 Squadron which was in Elsham Wolds in, I think that was July 1943 was that, so that’s [unclear] I think there was another one somewhere
IL: So that’s a picture of his crew from Elsham Wolds, so when, how
RR: That’s the [unclear] the crew there, yeah.
IL: Yeah. So, how old was he when he first joined up?
RR: He was born in 1921 and he joined up in May ’40, so
IL: So he’d be nineteen.
RR: He’d be nineteen. I think initially it would be, I think he’d had gone exempt from service because he was in a building trade for some reason but eventually he just said, I am going to join up and did so, that’s the crew [unclear] was that, that’s in fact is quite unusual because if you read the back 103 squadron Peenemunde.
IL: Right.
RR: Now that is one of the famous air raids of the war. Peenemunde, it was the German rocket research establishment on the Baltic coast and the RAF raided the place, it was delayed the production of rockets actually, was after that raid they moved the establishment, the research establishment somewhere in Austria after the raid which just delayed the production of V1s and V2s otherwise we [unclear] enough to win war in the end. On that raid there is one of the various books on it and the air gunner, one of the air gunners shot down, actually shot down a Messerschmitt.
IL: On your brother’s plane?
RR: On my brother’s plane, yes [laughs]
IL: Gosh! Gosh! And so, is this, did your brother talk about it, did your brother talk about anything?
RR: Never.
IL: Ok. So this is stuff you found out subsequently
RR: Yes, yes. From various books. There’s a bit written about the war and the aircrew and thing
IL: Did you ever meet any other people in his crew?
RR: Never. No. He was very reluctant to talk about it at all because by the time after many years he just disappeared no one didn’t, no one actually was gone. I in fact, if you go a little bit further from that point about that was August 1943 I think it was somewhere about October ’43 the crew as a whole were transferred to the Pathfinder group
IL: Right.
RR: And that’s was when they moved over to RAF Warboys in that group, in number 8 Group it was at Bomber Command and strangely enough when the attack was made on Peenemunde the squadron they moved to 156 Squadron was in fact one of the leading squadrons [laughs] and so, as I say, the moved, they did several, from what I can gather, they did several flights from there until the 30th of January 1944, when they were shot down coming back from a raid over Berlin.
IL: Right.
RR: So he is in fact buried in a village called Vollenhove which
IL: Is it presumably in Holland?
RR: Holland, yes. The aircraft landed in what was then part of a polder, which is where the Dutch,
IL: Yeah.
RR: Yeah. And although they were in the nearest village, which is the village, as I say, Vollenhove
IL: Right.
RR: But the new village, where they actually crashed became, of course became land after the war by the Dutch and they created a village and the village is there in fact created a memorial to the, I think there was another aircraft had crashed nearby and they called it Marknesse and that’s a memorial the Dutch village themselves, the villagers themselves created that memorial to those two aircraft so they payed for those two aircraft.
IL: So, this is presumably a Commonwealth war grave that he’s now buried now.
RR: It is in fact.
IL: Was he reburied or was that a?
RR: [unclear] Commonwealth war graves commission.
IL: So what effect did that have on you and your family?
RR: My mother was distraught of course, she, was her eldest son, and she was even more distraught when, where is he? That was him, when my cousin eldest brother Donald, when he joined up and he followed a similar pattern because he, when he joined the air force he was in the RAF regiment which was [unclear] airfield and then again he volunteered to become an air gunner but he went to Coastal Command as an air gunner and he flew Liberators, is an American aircraft, so, but he did all, most of his training in, I think it was the Bahamas actually [laughs]
IL: Nice if you can get it.
RR: Apart from the fact that he had to go by ship from here to Canada and travel from Canada down through [unclear] and America to the Bahamas by train [laughs]
IL: That would be, that would be the difficult bit, wouldn’t it? [unclear] on the ship.
RR: Oh, there he is.
IL: So was your other brother, was your other brother actually in the RAF when your eldest brother died?
RR: No.
IL: Right. But it didn’t put him off?
RR: No. He was just about becoming of that age to join up but I think it was just having a bit of impetus [unclear] to join up, not to deter him, now that’s him, I think [unclear]
IL: Yes.
RR: [unclear]
IL: So your elder brother, how many missions did he fly?
RR: As far as I know he, when he flew from Elsham Wolds when he joined that aircraft which is a W registration number it was, I think he did with that crew, with that particular squadron, I think flew, ten I think it was, and then they were transferred to Warboys and the Pathfinder group. From what I can gather, from the information I was able to get I think he did about eight with that before they were shot down.
IL: Right.
RR: Yeah. Strangely enough there is a record that the aircraft, that of course they didn’t take the aircraft with them, they just, as a crew, the aircraft was still flying of course from Elsham Wolds as far as I can gather that particular aircraft was shot down in December 1943.
IL: Gosh! Ok.
RR: I forgot the number. There is a specific number on that, they are all numbered of course these aircraft, [unclear] interesting, sad actually [unclear] when they were shot down on the night of the 31st of January, in fact two of the crew survived and parachuted down.
IL: Right.
RR: And they were not immediately captured actually I believe, they were taken by the Dutch underground but eventually they were captured after about, I think about two months, they were captured and put into a, I think it was Stalag Luft something they called,
IL: Yeah.
RR: A prison camp it was, yeah, and they, one of them was, [unclear] somewhere, I can’t remember his name, Coin, that was it, Pat Coin, he was the radio operator, he in fact went to live in Canada. And there was another one, I forget his name now, I put it somewhere, but anyway the other one was a navigator who was not part of the regular crew because someone had been ill and he survived and he lived in Blackpool that gentleman.
IL: Right. So did you or your family ever see and meet these people?
RR: No. I wrote, I was in correspondence with the, Coin, Pat Coin his name was quite a long time actually and in fact he send some of the information through from the bits and pieces [unclear] and
IL: So did he, was he able to say how they were shot down?
RR: No, but there is a, a narrative in one of the books about these particular raids. Now apparently they were damaged over Berlin and as they were coming back, they were shot down by a German fighter.
IL: Right.
RR: As I say, two of them actually managed to parachute out but the rest of the crew were killed. Actually there is some, oh no, that’s, no, no, that’s another one, that’s another one of the same crew, that is in fact the church where they’re buried, local church [laughs].
IL: Gosh!
RR: [unclear] Oh, that’s the, that’s what I was looking for. That is our crew, but that is the war grave for an aircraft apparently they were shot down in 1942 is that one which is not, I don’t know where they came from, but that’s ours [unclear] the five.
IL: So was he buried immediately?
RR: As far as I know, yes.
IL: Yes. And then obviously [unclear] yeah.
RR: And then, they came in later.
IL: Have you ever managed to visit?
RR: Yes.
IL: Good.
RR: My parents, I believe again it was a bit easy as this but I believe they were taken on an escorted visit just after the war to see the graves, when they Commonwealth graves actually on the transfer and my wife and I went to, oh, I forget now [laughs], must be twenty years ago now, we actually went to on one of the weekends from [unclear] with a ferry and we went by train up Rotterdam to a place called Zwolle it was and which was the nearest rail end and then by bus from there to look at the grave, yeah.
IL: I can imagine that was quite emotional.
RR: Yeah. My mother and my older sister in fact they went, they were able to go to the opening ceremony for that memorial that the Dutch village had created for them. Do you need anything else? [unclear] Those are up there actually.
IL: Oh, those are his medals. Oh, the family. Your brother’s and your father’s.
RR: That’s, all much yes, those my father’s, yeah, and that’s his Lapel badge, ubique is the name of that logo [unclear] these days which is [unclear], that’s the Bomber Command clasp [unclear].
IL: Yeah. Is that the one that was only released fairly recently, yes.
RR: A couple of years ago, yeah.
IL: Yeah. How did that make you feel, that it took so long?
RR: Very annoyed, I think lots of people were very annoyed about it, yes, all down to Churchill of course, I shouldn’t have said that [laughs]
IL: You can say what, honestly, you can say what you like, Raymond [laughs].
RR: Oh dear [laughs].
IL: Yes, it was a sort of expediency, wasn’t it?
RR: It was political.
IL: Absolutely.
RR: Very political [unclear]
IL: So how long were you in the RAF for?
RR: I was in for two years and three months.
IL: Right.
RR: Cause I, [clears throat] another one of these quirks, I was still there [unclear] the wartime regulations
IL: Right.
RR: First of January ’46. Because after that of course we had, now what do they call it? National service but that didn’t start until the first of January, I think it was the first of January ’47. So they did exactly two years after that but I was a bit longer because the old wartime regulations [unclear]
IL: Oh, careful!
RR: [unclear] Oh there, that’s where [unclear] I think, oh yes, I am, that’s initial training [laughs], that’s me.
IL: Right. So what was your actual role?
RR: My particular role?
IL: Yeah.
RR: I was in the squadron office.
IL: Right.
RR: The corporal in the squadron, I’m dealing with the [unclear] of the squadron.
IL: So what did you do as a later career?
RR: Well I just carried on for what I had done before, I was, started up, you probably know, you remember the public assistance? I can’t think that far back [laughs]. 1939.
IL: No, not quite, not quite.
RR: Well, you know, you’ve heard of [unclear], you’ve heard of workhouses and things like that?
IL: Yeah.
RR: Well, under the old public assistance system, because the local authorities dealt with care of the elderly, the decrepit, provided hospitals and all sorts of things but then of course when the, I think it was the Beveridge report was made
IL: Yes. Well, I don’t remember it but I was, I am aware of it [laughs]
RR: I worked through it you see [laughs]
IL: Yeah, of course.
RR: And then of course the things split up, there was the national health service and there was the welfare service and the national assistance service which put a lot of the services started providing the residential accommodation and things like that and the welfare of the elderly, the national assistance provided cash, help and you did all national health service [unclear] and after five reorganisations I finally retired in [laughs] the 60s, no, I worked in the initially with the [unclear] county council as a duly authorised officer, do you know what that is?
IL: No.
RR: Well, sorry. [laughs]
IL: It’s alright, it’s lovely to hear you explain.
RR: Yes, well, [unclear] act I think was in 1989, 1890 I think it was, and the mental health act of 1930, I think it was, to commit a person to a lunatic asylum as it used to be called, on a public basis there had to be two medical opinions, one a GP and one a specialist. But the person who actually did the admin part of getting them there was a duly authorised officer of the local authority, that was me.
IL: Alright.
RR: You could also, under the mental health act, the duly authorised officer on the advice of a GP could arrange for the admission on a temporary basis I think it was for three days to a mental institution so in that sense I was the visitor [unclear] as it were.
IL: Gosh!
RR: And then eventually I moved from the West Riding I was an assistant divisional officer there to become the deputy director of welfare services in Holme city.
IL: Right.
RR: And then after another four, was it four? Four reorganisations, I eventually retired as an assistant director for [unclear] county council [laughs]
IL: Gosh! So, is there anything else you would like to tell me about Bomber Command, Raymond? We will take some, if it’s ok with you, I will take some photographs of [unclear] the fresh you got.
RR: [unclear] oh, it’s Marknesse [unclear] those are still there, oh, that’s the, those are the war graves there and the memorial there, that in fact is the memorial window in Warboys parish church.
IL: Alright.
RR: To the squadron. We light the way, is the 15, 456 Squadron motto.
IL: It’s lovely.
RR: Yeah. But there’s all sort of bits and pieces. I mean, there are, of course, well, you probably know that, various records in, I think there is certainly one in role of honour in Ely cathedral because that must be, I think people around the Cambridge area who were killed. [unclear] The 103 Squadron, I think their motto was, let me get [unclear], the official badge of 103 squadron was black swan.
IL: Right.
RR: Now, let me see if I got the pronunciation right. Noli mi tangere. Which I understand is ancient French and it means touch me not [laughs]. I know if you’ve seen that.
IL: I don’t think I have.
RR: [unclear] Canadian [unclear]
IL: Gosh! [unclear]



Ian Locker, “Interview with Raymond Race,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 23, 2024,

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