Interview with Arthur Baxter Reid


Interview with Arthur Baxter Reid


Arthur Baxter Reid from Edinburgh was in the Home Guard before he joined the RAF. He trained as a wireless operator. While training he flew on a test flight with a pilot. The plane crashed and caught fire. The pilot leapt out of his window leaving Arthur inside. He used an axe to get free. Arthur was posted to 100 Group, 192 Squadron. On an operation to attack the Scharnhorst their aircraft had engine failure and they had to return. As they were flying slowly they soon had the experience of being joined by other stricken aircraft returning from the actual operation in various stages of damage. On one operation their special operator said an aircraft was coming up behind them but the rest of the crew could not see anything. After a few moments Arthur looked to the side and saw a JU-88 flying alongside. They continued to fly together until they both waggled their wings and promptly left the area.







00:55:07 audio recording


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AReidAB170725, PReidAB1701


JS: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Jim Sheach. The interviewee is Arthur Reid. The interview is taking place at Arthur’s home in [buzz] Edinburgh on the 25th of July 2017. Arthur, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Could you tell me a little about your life before you joined the RAF?
AR: I think we were very normal. Grew up. I went through the schools. I ended up secondary at Boroughmuir. And then from then I ended up with a seven year apprenticeship in a grocers. So, it came out about you know volunteering. I thought, so as soon as it came out I went straight up to the RAF and I volunteered. And I think they were just starting it. Anyway, they took my name and they said, ‘We’ll put you on the Reserve.’ So at the same time I popped into the Navy place and asked them. I said, ‘I want to be in submarines too.’ So they laughed and they failed me. I don’t know why. Because I didn’t have enough teeth. Teeth in my mouth. They failed me. They stopped me for that. And as for the army you can have that. I wasn’t going there. So anyway, there was a gap in between being called up so I joined the Home Guard. I spent about six months in the Home Guard and then I got the usual railway ticket and instructions and I was qualifying for a wireless operator/gunner. So, I had never left home at all. Anywhere. So I found myself with a little case and a railway ticket and we went out. We went away in the old Caley Station. Do you remember that? At the West End. And just went straight down to Blackpool and there were thousands of us there in blue uniforms. And the funny thing was we were never that popular because most of the people were put up with the landladies and of course they weren’t getting much pay from that. So, anyway we were there for, I think about three or four months on different courses. That’s right. And the funny thing was I had a good friend. We still are friends of course and we both went to the old tram station in Blackpool where we did the Morse. Learned the Morse code. Now, I find that the Morse code is something special. You pick it up or you don’t pick it up and he couldn’t pick it up at all. So they said, ‘I’m sorry. You can’t be what you want but we’ll re-muster you and you’ll be a gunner.’ So he re-mustered as a air gunner. Should get a drink of something here. I’ve got tea here. And so then I was posted. I had my first posting and I was sent up to Lossiemouth. At Lossiemouth I spent a few months up there in the ground station so that I would learn all about communication. Air and ground. And it was on there that I had my first experience. There was a rule of course in flying you must have a pilot and the wireless. That’s the rule. So I see him later in the officer’s mess that night [unclear] and the plane we were taking up had a new engine. And so they had to get a pilot and then they had the wireless operator. And I was a trainee in the station so they put me in the plane with the guy. And when we got in the plane at the very beginning I was [unclear] and he’d been similarly he had got himself all fixed up with a lady and they whipped him out and told him he was to go up in the plane. Well, the two of us went up in the plane and he threw it all over the place and it was ok. So he decided then that he would teach them a lesson in the officer’s mess for doing that. So he flew right over them. Blew them up. When he came to land he overshot the runway so we left it and we went into a field. Right across the field. And there was an air raid shelter I remember and we ended up halfway up the thing. And then the next thing the plane went on fire. That’s right. So being a good pilot he immediately opened the pilot’s window, leapt out and left me in the plane burning. And the funny thing was I was never, never frightened. I don’t know why. But it went up. It was burning. So we always had an axe in the plane so I just hacked a hole in the thing. I got out and I walked back to the camp and I reported it and that was it. I never heard any word about it. They just smothered it all. They lost a plane but he was, although to be fair he was court martialled and sent back to Canada. So that was my first one anyway. So after that I had a selection of gunnery courses, wireless courses and then I got, I was crewed up. Now, in my day in the crewing up system everybody that was a mixture of all things we all gathered in a big parade ground and you were just left. And the pilot came along and he thought he liked that one. So this little man, and he was a real [laughs] a big moustache and everything, you know. He was a pilot so he took the look of me and he said, ‘Would you like to be my wireless?’ I said, ‘Oh sure. Right.’ So, after that we picked up the navigator, two gunners and that was it. So that was us crewed up. And I think we were, well the only interesting thing was that this pilot he was in Spitfires during the Battle of Britain and when the fighting stopped they didn’t have so many planes coming across he got bored so he re-mustered in to the Bomber Command. And I was very lucky to have got him. He was a wonderful pilot. So he was good. I flew with that crew for, oh two years and there wasn’t anything wrong. So I think the next thing was, oh yes, then we went along to an OTU and that’s where, as a crew and we stayed there for a while and cross countrys and all that sort of stuff. And then I was sent down individually to a Gunnery School in Wales. And it’s when we were in Wales that they had the system of the German model on a railway and it went around. This was all to teach you about this radar business about and they went over and somebody went on. I don’t know who it was now. And they had a turret, a dummy turret. You just fired the guns. So we did that and he, I think he allowed a little bit too much so he killed the bull that was just over the fence. We didn’t know what to do so we, there was nobody else there so we dug a big hole and buried it. Covered it up again. Then when we got back to the camp the CO was waiting. We got away with that one alright. And it was after that we went to OTU and that was straightforward and it was then we were, well it wasn’t the Secrets Act. We were told, ‘Keep your mouths shut where ever you go.’ And it was then we found out it was a secret squadron. And the very first one we went to [pause] yes, the first one we went to we were sent up to, to Wick. But before we went to Wick we got to Lossiemouth again to refuel. And when I was, went in there the first time I think it was a Mark 2 or a Mark 3. This was a new Mark 8 one with the engines. And when we took off there it was like a rocket. So we arrived up at Wick and this was a, and we always had very good, well we got information with the Resistance movements. They would keep you in mind. So I think there were about seventy odd, a mixture of planes of all kinds. And then we were told that the Scharnhorst was in a, was in a fjord being repaired. So that good enough for us and we joined them. You see we were a single plane but we just mixed up. And we got about halfway and everybody had to be below fifty feet. That was for radar in these days. So our equipment broke down which meant we were useless so we turned and went back. And we were pretty slow coming back and some of the other ones had been and were coming back. And I didn’t understand at first what it was. Some of them had one engine stopped and other ones were smoking. So that’s really what it was. It was a usual bad trip and they didn’t get the Scharnhorst but they got half the German Air Force waiting for them. So I think they lost about fourteen or fifteen on that one. And we did a lot. We did a lot of [pause] a lot of, actually I don’t think many people did that either. We had to do thirty four ops and we, in between Coastal Command and Bomber Command. Coastal Command headquarters were down in Portsmouth I think and we used to go down there and we were right down to depth and had that great big board in the cell and the girls put the ladders up. And I thought this was funny. But in, indirectly it was because of that that the WAAFs changed their uniform because seemingly the girls were so sick climbing up these ladders and getting on to their backs they made so much fuss that it just came out that there would be no more uniform skirts and they came on to trousers again. And then we used to go out from there for about oh, eight, nine hours trips. We didn’t carry any bombs. We carried an overload tank, and the thingummy. And what we were after there were submarines and battle ships. Anything at all. People don’t talk much about the Bay of Biscay but I found out myself a long time afterwards that it was always busy. There were some terrific battles in the Bay of Biscay because the planes were coming from Egypt and the German bombing. A really big do. So anyway we were out one day and we got told to keep your eyes open for a pilot. He’d bailed out and he was in his dinghy. So we kept that in mind. And then that was the day that the lieutenant in the boat, the submarine had surrendered and what they were doing was they were keeping their eye on the thing while they got a British plane to come and take them in. So seemingly the captain of the ship was so nosy he decided to have a look at it. So he went aboard it and went down and that’s when he examined it and he just saw this box standing next to the [unclear]. So he just thought maybe there’s something into this thing so he brought it up. And I think that was the first of the Enigma machine. That’s right. That was that. So anyway, that was that and we got back to base. To the coast again. We had the rule in the Bay of Biscay that it was one hundred miles from the coast to the Scilly. The Isles. The Scilly Isles. We knew that was a hundred miles so we came in over the harbour there and there were a lot of people there in the harbour and we wanted to find out if the dinghy had been found you see. So we went down there about seventy or eighty feet off the ground and we went around on one wing [laughs] I think they were all panicking. So we saw the man and he waved to us. So that was good. So anyway, we got back to our own base. It was quite disappointing. Had it been a German pilot [laughs]. That sort of spoiled the day [laughs] But we had lots of fun though. I mean and as far as the RAF goes I’ve talked to lots of people and I’ve never heard one wouldn’t have gone back. I mean they were the happiest days of my life. Not training or anything like that but when you were in a proper station. We had six and a half years’ service and in squadrons of course you got an awful lot of freedom. Oh yes. There was a constant battle between the stores department and aircrew. There was one night, one day we got a, we got a call from the CO to go to the crew room. So we all piled in there and he came in. He was a heck of a nice man. He was actually an international rugby player for Wales. I remember that. So he came in and talked and he always called us boys. He said, ‘Well, boys,’ he said, ‘You must know I’m pretty, you know, I’m very fair and I’ll do anything I can for you,’ he said, ‘But,’ he said, ‘How can I go to the stores and ask for that?’ So, we’d all been putting wee things down. Flying jackets, watches, helmets. He said, ‘Not even I can do that,’ he said, ‘There were six of you in that plane and there was eight people applying for their stuff.’ [laughs] He said, ‘Try a wee, you know, next time try a bit bigger.’ So that was funny. And I’ve got a, I’ve got a small, I’ll maybe show you it. It was a small cigarette lighter. It’s got quite a wee story because that was about seventy two years ago. One of our planes crash landing. And our ground crews were great too. They were. So we had, one of the guys was a very handy boy. So he took a broken bit of Perspex and then I had a, I had a bullet. A bullet for a machine gun. It had come off a Liberator that landed at our place. And I had a wee look inside when they were away for their meal. And it must have been pretty tough because the ground was covered with bullets and everything. So what he did he emptied the inside and just left the outer cover. He fastened that on to the bit of Perspex. Then he put a wick on and made a space for the stuff to go to hold it and well I haven’t used it for so long. But up to about fifteen, twenty years ago it was working perfectly, you know. All you did was take away the screw and pour the petrol in and that was it. And I think that’s something special because not many, you know had an American bullet and a bit of broken Perspex. And he made a perfect wee thing. I must show it to you before you go. And I always, the funny thing was that, I’ll let you see my logbook when I go too because you see my friend Alistair, he was on Lancasters and he was involved with the dropping the food to the Dutch people. He actually got a medal on that and he got a letter from the President thanking him. And he was busy with prisoners of war. Bringing them home and all that sort of stuff. But it’s always sort of niggly. I didn’t know what the rule was about but if you had, if you hadn’t had an operation before a certain date you wouldn’t get the Aircrew Europe one. You’d get another medal but not the Aircrew. And the Aircrew was the one that was proper. So, anyway we’ve known each other a long time and he’s ninety two now. The last, last week in the Daily Record they interviewed him and they had a double page spread. They’re telling about his career and stuff which I thought was very nice. But what I didn’t like about it was the fact that in my, in Alistair’s, that’s his name, Alistair, in his squadron they were allowed coloured cameras. Any kind of cameras. But if any of us were caught with a camera in our station it was a court martial. You were never. So all I’ve got is about four wee pictures I took in black and white. And that will always niggle me that will. But anyway, after that, this wasn’t me but I think it was one of our squadron. You had to go back to the time when the Blitz was on in London. And one of, one of our planes anyway they discovered how they were getting hammered so much and they found that the Luftwaffe had a beam. A sound beam. It was in Berlin and it went straight across to London. To where it was getting blitzed. And all they had to do was just fly and drop their bombs and that’s why I think the blitzing was so heavy. They couldn’t miss it. So our next problem was how to stop it without letting them know. And as far as I know what they did was they started to bend the beam slightly and they kept doing that ‘til I think it was practically on the outskirts. I mean they had fires burning all over the place. Excuse me [coughs] Am I talking too much?
JS: No. You’re doing fine.
AR: You must remember this was just individual for my life. There was other guys did a damned sight more. And I think what happened — what was the next big event? Oh yes. There was the time we were, we weren’t flying so much and the CO didn’t like that at all so he got all of us up. Put us in the bus sort of thing and he sent the whole lot of us down to an army course. So aircrew were never what you would call, you know healthy. And we had these damned uniforms and rifles and oh to hang this, and crawling along the ground. So I remember there was a piece of it where you had to jump over a wee stream. I came charging up, jumped over, missed it, landed in the middle of the water and I cut my lip with the rifle butt [laughs] Oh, I was in a mess. So we had more fun than anything else. And we did the daftest things, you know. We, we were in a small town down near the middle of Norfolk and one night the crew were in and we’d had a few drinks. There was nothing but, there was nobody about. It was night time. All that was there was the traffic lights. So, we [laughs] we started playing take offs when the green light went. Took it back and stopped. And while we were doing that up came this policeman and his bike. I think he didn’t know what to charge us with [laughs] Of course he didn’t bother, you know. And that was that. Anyway, the CO had left instructions that the first one due, crew back would get a weekend off you see. Well, what they had done was dropped us off everywhere. All over the place as they would do. And we were very fortunate because our rear gunner had a pal who had a pub about a mile from there. So we just fetched up there for the weekend. After all, we had time. And then we got back and I don’t know if we were first in. We were back very early and the CO was standing at the gate watching this like and he never said anything but if we didn’t smell [laughs] he must have known. We were not walking straight. But that’s, that he never interrogate there. Another thing we used to do, that was a big event we had group captain in charge of the place and he’d a wee plane of his own. And this just came out of the blue. Not let anyone know and see what was going on. But then again the night before he came we didn’t expect him. All the crews were up on the runway playing take-off and landing on their bikes. We all had bikes, you see. You have no idea of the things we got up to. And of course then we all got, staggered home and went to bed. But of course they left [laughs] all the planes were, the bicycles were all over the runway and up came Charlie and he couldn’t get in. What a fuss there was about that. That was never talked about. Another time, Wing Commander Willis, that was his name he got a brand new bike all of his own. And he warned everybody, he said, ‘One finger on my new bike,’ he said, ‘And I’ll send you somewhere you’ll not want to come back from.’ And anyway that was fine. So they were having an officer’s dance that night. And I wasn’t involved in this one. So they got hold of his beautiful new bike, broke it up, put it on the flag pole where the flags were and pushed it up to the top. And it was up there all night. And of course there again the group captain came in and [laughs] So we got off with murder. We really did. Absolute murder. And this, they were, we had so much freedom. And then we had the other one was the, if you were on an op you could have breakfast. Have one before or after. Most of them took it before. And this used to rile the peacetime guys that had it before. And they kicked up a stink about it because we got a lot of potted jam and butter or something extra and of course I was very pally with one of the waitresses. The cooks. So we always got a little extra of this stuff, you know. But the job we were on we were pretty safe, I think. We could have taken it after lunch. But what these guys used to do they used to come sneaking in and join us and they would just say, they just used to just say, ‘Ops.’ And the trouble was that the WAAFs knew who it was and they wouldn’t give it them. Oh, they were flaming. And there was always antagonism. For a while anyway. There seemed to be some system. A lot of guys could join up on set courses and as soon as they got their pilot’s wings, well they were actually operational. But they made damned sure that they were going to be there when the war finished and then when the war finished they were veterans and they got all the credit. And there were a lot of bad feeling about that. And the worst time I remember bad feeling was, I remember when America came into the war or something. And it was the morning after that. There was a whole noise going on seemingly and it was what do you call him, the head man in the American 8th Air Force? They had come into the fight and they came out in the paper and he said that, ‘With the help of the RAF we’ll beat the enemy.’ Well, that did it. I mean two years late. We’d been on our own. And he said that. We just about mutinied [laughs] I think they had to withdraw it. With the help of the RAF. Oh, that was a bad thing to say. And there’s, there’s so many things after that. There was a joke in Bomber Command crews that when, you know if you joined up and they find the joke was that, ‘Well, you’ll like it here. I mean you can make friends awful easy in Bomber Command,’ they said, ‘The difficult bit is keeping them [laughs] That was the sort of sarcastic joke but it went down. And have you heard about the, the just in case letters? Never heard of that? Well, you see then again we were so secret. We’d go up at night with the rest of the crews and dressed with them. And we just watched them. There was a big, big pile of men and you could see these wee envelopes were getting passed around. And I used to wonder what it was myself. So, anyway what it was it was the people on planes had a friend or another friend and they handed them a thing and this was just in case they don’t come back. That. Have you ever seen the Bomber Command book? The manual. The one I was selling.
JS: No.
AR: I’ll let you see it. I can’t, I’ve only got my copy but if you want to buy one I think it’s about, they’re both twenty five. I think it’s about fifteen pound now. It’s a big manual and it’s the story that came out with the Memorial. And the idea was that they would do it both. I think they both came together. You see we get a bit muddled. There’s two of them. A wee rest I think. [pause] I can’t, can’t get my mind to focus. I’ve been talking so much. I mean I’m ninety seven so I mean —
JS: No. You’re doing —
AR: I’ve got, making —
JS: You’re doing well.
AR: Making allowance for me you know.
JS: You’re doing well.
AR: Yeah. What was I talking? I was talking the bomber, the bomber, oh no it was the Memorial one. That’s right. And we went down. Have you ever seen the Memorials?
JS: Not yet. No.
AR: Well, they’re well worth it. I’ve got a photograph over there. I’ll let you see it. I went down there and we were greeted by a group captain. They always have an officer at the Memorial and he [pause] they came in and there was a big, a big bunch of men there. And I found out afterwards, when I was introduced to them that they were all the men that had built the thing. And I met the, we met the man, a Lord somebody, he was the one and all he did the expression in their eyes and things like that. I liked that. Anyway, it was a Group Captain Mike [Searle] I think it was and he, I was talking about these just in case letters. I said, because he’d been three tours with Pakistan and all these places. He’d had a rough time. I said, ‘Did you ever send a letter?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘I’m in trouble.’ He said, ‘I sent out three and I only got two back.’ That’s funny that. So he explained it all to us. It was a very nice story. And then, well a great privilege he introduced us and took us across to the RAF, the hotel. The big place. Huge place just right opposite. He took us in there and the one thing that struck me was there was no noise. Just the normal thing. And it didn’t matter what rank you were. You could be an air marshall or something. Anybody. You gave your order but when it was ready you go back to the table and pick it up and bring it back to the table and pick it up and bring it in. So we were was just the family. And they keep telling you that the RAF’s a family. They say because when you joined it you joined the family. When you’re there you’re in the family. And when you leave us you’ll get help from the family. And that’s true. So I said to him at, after we had our lunch, it was a huge hotel and I said, ‘I believe you’ve got a special section where every RAF motto, motto thing is on the walls.’ ‘I’ll take you up there,’ he said. It was Arthur and I because we always go together. So we went up and there was about seven hundred and something mottoes. I said, ‘Well, where’s my one?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I’ll find it.’ Anyway, he was up and down for ages and then he found it away at the bottom of the pile [laughs] So, but they said not many people get up there. I think they only let air crew up in there. And I think the, yes, he was, he was quite a, he would be something special anyway to do with the in the air, the mottoes. Going back to the RAF in general, everywhere I go, you know these air shows I go to and sign books. No matter where I’ve gone it’s the same story every time there’s so much love for the RAF. There’s something about Bomber Command that just, people all come up and, and I had a, oh I always find you get such a selection. I’ve had New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians. Ordinary people all came up. And this little man came up. He was a wee sort of stubby man and he was very tanned and it turned out he was a Yankee, I think. Anyway, he thanked me. He thanked us all for what we did in the war and everything like that. And I said, ‘Oh well,’ I said, ‘We gave them a good doing.’ And he said [unclear] ‘The bastards it,’ he said [laughs] Oh he didn’t like the Germans. And I think it was then Arthur and I were, my wife and I were in a hotel in London and we went down for breakfast and all individual tables of course and you just took what you got. And I got, I got us a four man and a girl and we were just chatting away a wee bit. It turned out that I had been in the Air Force and the girl, the girl said something about, ‘You weren’t dropping the horrible bombs were you?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah. With great gusto.’ So she left the table [laughs] And then the other guy was sitting listening and he heard that and he said, ‘You were these bombers?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Oh,’ and he got up and left the table. And I thought that’s nice. You come to London and this is what you get. But that was a time, and there again I don’t know if you know the story about what happened when the war finished and how they turned their back on us altogether. And I was talking to this group captain about it. And I said, ‘Do you think it was fair that they turned their back after we had done?’ He said, ‘I don’t definitely,’ he said, ‘But It was ninety percent political because Churchill knew there was general election coming and that people had told the army soldiers that they would get out earlier. So he didn’t know what to do. And you must remember that during the war Churchill came to every squadron regularly and he always, they had a habit of going to the nearest bomber and piddling against the wheel. I don’t know why he did that. But everyone loved him in the air force. We were when are you coming you know? And yet he turned his back. And if you had looked at the record later on after we’d finished and the Victory Parade through London he was broadcasting. And he was praising the Fighter Command for everything they had done to save Britain. Never mentioned bombers once. Never a bomber. He didn’t want to know bombers. And I think why the people turned against us was because they were sick of war. They were sick of bombings and that in the towns. So it was a bad thing and I’m sure that even today there is a slight prejudice at the bomber. They don’t want to know Bomber Command. Forget about them. There was one, you know once a year they have a sort of veteran’s march and they all go over there. Well, I was watching once and it just happened quickly. They were all marching in, in their groups and this tannoy thing came on and said that bomber, ‘Bomber Command will not be showing in this parade.’ He just slipped it in. Why would he say that? That Bomber Command weren’t allowed to go in that parade? And you think there was no backbone. No. And somebody said so many thousand of these bomber boys, they went to their deaths never knowing the, you know. I proved that several times. But I thought, I thought it was terrible. And then he didn’t do any good in his, he wrote his big volume and he more or less said on second thoughts maybe, maybe we should have not been so cruel. Bombing. And that was nothing to do with me, you see. And that’s why I’m just coming to the Memorial because [pause] who was it? Do you know the Bee Gees? The singing group. Well, one of them was walking in Hyde Park about it and they were telling the story about this what happened to Bomber Command. Anyhow, one of the Gibbs. And he said something about, ‘Say that again,’ he said. ‘They wouldn’t,’ he said, ‘They wouldn’t give us a medal, a statue. They refused for years.’ And he said, ‘You mean they won’t give you a statue?’ They said, ‘No. We’ve not,’ he said. ‘Well, we’ve got to do something about that,’ he said, ‘Because,’ he said, ‘I’ve just passed a statue of a wee dog.’ And they said, ‘If they can put a bloody dog up they can put Bomber Command up.’ And he was the first one that came forward and suggested it. And he put three million pound in and from there it just went up and up and up. But you see there again with the bias and they were refused one or two places. So I’m sure it’s Hyde Park. Anyway, it’s the park right opposite the Palace. And it was, I’ve only been twice in London. I went on a spot of leave down to London during the Blitz. I didn’t fancy that. I didn’t know what the noise was, it was shrapnel coming down [unclear] took with me. And then I was on our squadron we had Halifaxes. I was always in Wimpies and Mosquitoes. And the Mosquitoes were all New Zealanders. I don’t know why. And they sort of kept to themselves. But I think they, they always had their eye on Peenemunde because that was where the Germans did the job. And they were one. And there was a story I had only been aware recently that seemingly near the end of the war, it was when these V-2s were coming down and nothing could stop them and the Resistance sent them a message again. And it was only a matter of time before the celebrations were starting and the squadron that the Germans had their last little present. They’d been storing these rockets up and they were all aimed for London. And the idea was, and I think it would have worked if they’d have landed enough of these things on London, London would have surrendered and we’d have lost the war. And that was about two or three weeks before it ended. So then again we weren’t very pleased at that happening. And we went on another on another case, if I’m boring you tell me. There was another case. One of our, I was duty officer this night and it was the first time I’d done it. Anyway, there was a secret war going on. I’ll give you an idea we were up one night and it was a moonlit night and we were over the Dutch and French coast I think and we were doing our usual up parading down and the man we were carrying said, ‘There’s something coming up behind you at starboard.’ So, my skipper said to the rear gunner, ‘Can you see anything?’ And he said, ‘No. I can’t see anything.’ And it was a brilliant night. I don’t think people were very impressed. So I was sitting up behind the pilot that night. Look out. And we’d been flying along, I mean it was, and I just happened to look that way starboard and there was a JU88 sitting about two hundred yards from us. We flew, we flew along side by side for a wee while and then this guy waggled his wings, you see. And we waggled our wings back at him. You see, that JU88, it was like a Wellington at night time. So he realised. And my skipper said to me, ‘Is he a foreign. Is he foreign?’ I said, ‘I don’t know but I can see the big crosses.’ That was good enough for him. He said, ‘Right,’ he said, ‘We’re offski.’ So we went back out. They went the other way. I don’t know yet so whether the wagging wings was a signal to go down and surrender or else, you know. Och it’s not going to happen. I’ve done it, you know. That sort of thing. But very seldom, but it was so bright and this damned thing sitting out there looking at us and the rear gunner never even saw it. Oh boy. That went down well. And then when, the funny thing was that when we carried these special people when they came in to the plane they had their complete RAF record of where they had been, what they were doing there and if anything had happened they would have been put down as second pilots. So we’d be missing one of our crew and they would go up instead. That was common. And then at night time when we were all getting dressed and the first thing you always put on was a big harness. And then you put on all the gear and picked up your tab and off you went to the plane. And I think every crew they just went to the position and had to sit for about an hour before it took off. So as soon as we got in our plane and closed the door we took off our harness. Put it in the bomb bay. We didn’t fly above two hundred feet. Sorry, two hundred and fifty feet I think it was and we were down that all the time and this is why I say we were such a secret squadron. They’d let the crew see us with harnesses on but we never used them. And a lot of that went on. And as I said a while ago I mean you know don’t look back on that as anything really because we were such good friends. And it was, it was only, it was only two days ago we were down at a place there. We were talking about statistics and casualties and the correct figure now is that there was fifty one percent died. And they said there was no other unit who could have beaten that. Fifty one percent. I mean, that, that was half of what was it, yes. That was a lot of [unclear] and that’s why I find out that it’s like doctors and nurses. If you go in to an ordinary hospital you’ll get good treatment. But if you get up with the higher ranks they’re different people altogether. Well, I find that too. Certain people. And one of the men, this is another wee story, you see what we were doing in the castle was there were people that were sponsoring, you know big firms and then they come and then they present the cheques to us. And this man, he, he had been in the army. And he was not satisfied or something so he re-mustered out the army and he took up an SAS job. He was over three times at Pakistan and these sort of places. And then when he came home he found that his house had been burned down and he had no home. And he had been severely injured by one of these explosions. The bombs had been pretty bad. And he had one ambition when he got back home was to be in the police so he applied but they said very sorry but with his wounds. And then he, a terrific man he then decided he would make a career for himself. And he decided that his father had been a, owned a, it wasn’t whisky. It was vodka firm. He’d got the same idea. But the snag was he didn’t have the money. So he appealed to one or two people and the only people that answered were the RAF Benevolent Fund. They stepped in and helped him to make it up and he never forgot that. He comes in regularly. And what was it he said? Oh yes. When his factory’s operating, for every pound he takes in twenty percent goes back to the RAF Benevolent Fund. And then I bumped in to another awful nice man. He has a firm. And you see when you do that you meet people. And this nice man, he lives in Falkland up in Fife. He’d been thirty years in the police force and he, he applied somewhere and they wouldn’t accept him and he had a terrific record. So he decided then that he would make the Benevolent Fund his main target. Made up with about five or six other people. And oh, he’s such a nice man. He’s got a beautiful house too. Oh, a lovely house. He told me the story of the house. It was built by his great grandfather 1850. And after his own died he went on a mission and he bought land around about it and he turned it into a wonderful place. When we got on to the, he’d got two doors. One front and back. If you go the back way you come down through the garden. It’s the most beautiful garden. It’s got, it’s got a waterfall. It had a heron pond. Had the heron’s ponds which got promptly eaten by the [unclear] so he just left that one. He’s got about five different gardens. A marvellous house. And the house is in perfect condition. And then he showed me a book. I might have it here. It’s so big I can hardly hold it. Its, it’s actually called, “100 Group.” It’s the story of all the squadrons and this what I was. It tells you all about the things and that’s why I learned about what I was doing. I never knew. Seemingly the air force was one of the first squadrons to start what they called flying the electric war or something like that with the Germans. And these, these were, it tickles me these big, big, you know very well off men but they’re so humble, you know. There’s that guy that he lost his house and he lost his money. He managed to get a loan and look at him today. He’s got his own factory of vodka. And when we went up when that was the night that we went to that stupid castle. Still feeling it. And after, after that night we went down to the [pause] one of the Scottish regiments hotels and had a nice meal there. Then the, and this is what tickled me, he was the guy that had been bombed and all these wounded and been in the SAS he came along and he made a presentation to me with a bottle of vodka. And he just, he took my breath away. Anyway, he was thanking me for all that I had done for him. And I thought, ‘No. No. I’m not having that.’
JS: That’s terrific. That’s been really really good.
AR: Yeah, well just a lot of things out of there.
JS: No. Not that’s been that’s been absolutely.
AR: I mean, you’ve sort of got, got a variety, haven’t you?



James Sheach, “Interview with Arthur Baxter Reid,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 27, 2024,

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