Interview with Sidney James Richards

Title

Interview with Sidney James Richards

Description

Sydney James Richards was born in Greenwich, London and was working in a drawing office in the Arsenal before joining the Royal Air Force. He was originally intending to join the Navy but changed his mind as he decided he preferred aircrew. He did his training near Nottingham as a Wireless Operator Rear Gunner and was stationed at RAF Fiskerton. He became a Warrant Officer and flew twenty operations before having to bail out over the suburbs of Berlin on his twentieth. He was captured with the pilot of his crew, Bob Petty, and became a Prisoner of War. Two of his crew were killed on an earlier operation when their aircraft was hit by flak whilst flying over the Ruhr. He was liberated by the Russians and he walked out of the camp with his friend and they walked until the found Americans who helped them get back to England. When he left the Royal Air Force he went back to his previous employment and subsequently became an Insurance agent which he continued to do for the rest of his working life.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2017-03-22

Contributor

Rights

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

Format

01:05:14 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ARichardsSJ170322, PRichardsSJ1701

Transcription

DM: Okay Sidney. Can you tell me just a little bit about where you were born and about growing up before you joined the RAF?
SJR: Ah yeah. I was born at Greenwich, Harley Cottages and eh war came and I was working in the arsenal. I could have stayed in there but em decided to join the air force and I joined and I was accepted em to train as the air crew and carried on from there.
DM: Can you remember where you trained?
SJR: Pardon?
DM: Where did you train? Can you remember?
SJR: I trained at, oh wait a minute? [pause] In the Midlands. Near Nottingham it was. Yeah. In the Midlands.
DM: And you trained as a Wireless Operator Air Gunner. Is that right?
SJR: Eh?
DM: A Wireless Operator Air Gunner. Is that right?
SJR: Yeah. Wireless Operator Air Gunner. Yeah. I was accepted as that. You had an interview if you wanted to be aircrew to see if you were suitable [coughs] and they said okay and I had the interview and all the rest of it and they said ‘We’ll accept you in aircrew’. [pause] Of course it was a voluntary thing, aircrew. [coughs] So em the retraining from then on, aircrew.
Other: You were gonna join the em the Navy weren’t you? But changed your mind at the last minute.
SJR: Yeah. Changed my mind. Was gonna go in the Navy and then the Air Force and then I changed me mind and decided to have a go in the Air Force as aircrew. You know.
DM: Can you remember why you changed your mind?
SJR: Pardon?
DM: Can you remember why you changed your mind?
SJR: Well, I fancied aircrew. You know.
DM: You wanted to be a fly boy?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: So after you trained, do you remember anything about crewing up? Can you remember how that went? How you found your crew?
SJR: Oh yes. Em. Well you all mucked in together and generally had a chat with each other and Bob Petty was my skipper he was the pilot and eh we got together that way talking to each other and so on. And em then we became a crew. And it was a good crew I was in and eh Bob Petty he’s gone back to South Africa or he’s gone to South Africa. Otherwise I expect we’d have kept in touch but eh I don’t have the training. So eh.
Other: Who else was in your crew?
SJR: Pardon?
Other: Who else was in your crew?
SJR: Oh, there was the navigator of course. [mumbles]
Other: Who was the navigator?
SJR: Eh. The navigator? Oh, John Tulloch. Yeah he was the navigator.
Other: And you were particularly friends with him, weren’t you?
SJR: Yeah. Oh John Tulloch. Yeah.
DM: Was he Scottish by any chance? [chuckles]
SJR: [chuckles] Oh John. Yeah.
DM: Thought he might be.
SJR: We got on well together. He lives in London so we used to meet up at times in London, you know? Him and his wife. And eh have a meal and so on, so oh yes, as I say he went off to South Africa.
DM: So you were based in, was it Fiskerton you were based?
SJR: Fiskerton. Yes.
DM: Fiskerton yeah. What was it like there? What was life like on the base?
SJR: Oh just normal you know. We used to go into the village have a drink. You know. Eh just normal sort of country life. The locals had to put up with us [chuckles] so eh. That’s about it. We used to go into Lincoln for a night out or anything. Of course the Midlands was full of aircrew like me. And eh the airforce weren’t bothered as long as you were there for ops. You could do what you liked virtually, but as long as you were there they’d say ‘Ops on tonight’ as long as you were there. But otherwise it was a pretty easy life. Nobody interfered with you or anything so eh, we had an easy time of it when we weren’t on ops. [chuckles]
Other: Was there one time you were cycling home from a pub one night and someone tried to stop you? Wasn’t there a policeman stood in front in the road?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: What happened there?
SJR: Eh I forget now.
Other: You and a couple of others were cycling back.
SJR: Yeah. [hesitates]
Other: And didn’t the policeman suddenly jump out in the road to stop you for some reason?
SJR: Yeah. I can’t remember.
Other: Can’t remember.
SJR: Yeah. Yeah.
Other: He tried to stop you and you just cycled round him.
SJR: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, that’s right.
Other: [laughs] and waved goodbye.
SJR: Yeah and rushed out and we just, as though we were gonna pull up and stand there and everything, so we just shot away [laugher] [coughs]. Well that’s what life was like in the Midlands with aircrew and everything. Nothing to lose, you know. Here today, gone tomorrow type of attitude. But eh it was alright otherwise, as long as you were there for flying they weren’t bothered what you got up to really.
DM: Can you remember anything about your first operation? Your first flight?
SJR: Eh. First one [hesitates]
DM: How did you feel? Were you sort of nervous before you flew or?
SJR: Oh you were apprehensive, you know. It was over the Ruhr. A lot of raids were over the Ruhr. That’s where everything was there. And eh you just got on with it, you know. And eh landed back again, had a nice meal and went to bed. So they didn’t interfere with you much in those days, the aircrew, you know. As long as you were there for your job that was it but eh you could come and go in those days as much as you liked really. As long as they said you were on tonight as long as you were there. So it was an easy life really.
DM: Do you remember, cos you said you flied over the Ruhr. Do you remember much about the flak? Was it bad over there?
SJR: Oh well, flak yeah. Eh plenty of flak going in and eh you dropped your bombs and you go up another two thousand feet when you got rid of them and so it was quite a nice peaceful flight home cos you were too high for the em they used to, flak used to go off lower and over the Ruhr coming up to the Ruhr you got plenty of it. Occasionally you’d see a plane go down but eh well I did twenty like that and eh had a good crew, a good pilot, Bob Petty, and eh that was it. As long as you were there for any trips you know, aircrew, they didn’t bother too much what you got up to [laughs].
DM: Did you have any encounters with enemy aircraft?
SJR: Any what?
DM: Encounters with enemy aircraft? Did you ever get sort of shot at by other, by German aircraft?
SJR: Shot at?
DM: By Germans. Aircraft.
SJR: Oh yes, yes.
DM: By the Luftwaffe.
SJR: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, but eh well we got shot one time and the rear gunner and the bomb aimer were both killed with this fighter attack. But eh the rest of us were a bit higher so the bomb aimer was there and the rear gunner was on the same level so he came in and let fly and took out these two lads. So eh we brought them back, you know, we got back and eh two lads dead. But it was all the way you lived those days, you know. So eh all sorts of unexpected things could happen [chuckles].
Other: What was it like when you took off? Your Squadron took off?
SJR: Yeah. Oh eh just taxied round got the go to go and eh off we went.
Other: Did, were they all seeing you off. All the ground crew?
SJR: Oh yeah, yeah. We had quite a little group wave us off. WAAFS and eh specially nice to see the WAAFS out there. [chuckles] And eh it was always a bit of a night. They’d line up at the end of the runway and give you a wave as you went off. So eh.
Other: What was your relationship like with the WAAFS? Did they have much to do with you?
SJR: Oh, not a lot. Only in the mess you know.
Other: Yeah.
SJR: Eh that’s em
Other: But they didn’t get over friendly, did they? You told me.
SJR: Oh no, no. Aircrew no.
Other: Why was that?
SJR: Here today and gone tomorrow. Type of thing you know.
Other: Yeah. So they didn’t want to get involved?
SJR: Yeah, well they would have a late date or something and the bloke would get shot down or something. So they weren’t that with aircrew.
Other: Yeah.
SJR: Too unreliable. [chuckles]
Other: Yeah.
DM: So when you lost your two crew members, you obviously had to have two new ones or did you just get sort of different people every time after that?
SJR: Oh no. Crews were fixed all the time. Yeah. Oh yeah. Cos you knew each other and you could rely on each other so you didn’t have, you generally had the same aircrew. Cos you knew who they were and they knew who you were. So eh you didn’t want to go on another crew.
DM: And were all your crew NCO’s or was anyone an officer?
SJR: Were what?
DM: Were all your crew NCO’s or was anyone an officer?
SJR: Oh no. NCO’s and officers you know. Our eh, our pilot was an officer.
DM: But you mixed in off the base I guess, when you went out?
SJR: Oh yes, of course, yeah. Blimey, yeah. Well you’re all in the same bracket so that’s you know. So there was no, ‘I’m an officer and you’re a NCO’ or anything [chuckles]. No.
DM: Now you said you flew twenty missions?
SJR: Yeah.
DM: What happened on the twentieth mission?
SJR: I got shot down.
DM: Was that the one when you got shot down?
SJR: Yeah, yeah.
DM: Tell me about that.
SJR: Eh?
DM: Tell me about that. What happened?
SJR: Eh, well we got hit by flak and a fighter, a fighter, got us.
Other: What happened when you took off? Did you, you had a problem with one of the engines didn’t you?
SJR: Oh, yeah, yeah. We actually got to the target a bit late. So of course they were already
Other: But did, did, Bob Petty, he radioed back to everyone to say that we’ve got an oil leak? Didn’t he?
SJR: Yeah, yeah.
Other: And what did he say?
SJR: Eh, told us to carry on I suppose.
Other: Well, did, did, but he asked you if you wanted to carry on or not. Didn’t he?
SJR: Yeah, yeah, and we, yeah that’s right. Yeah. He said do you want to carry on and we thought well we’ve got all ready crewed up, you know? Ready and so on so we said ‘Yeah, let’s go’. So we got over the target that bit later than the first wave. So eh we should really have turned back. We shouldn’t really have gone, but em once you get all ready you go. So eh, that was it.
DM: So you got hit by the, by this aircraft and so then I assume that the pilot gave the order to bail out? Did he? Is that what happened?
SJR: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. No, he didn’t need to tell us about that [chuckles]. We bailed out and hoped for the best.
Other: What did you do when you were hit? Did you go back and check to see if the gunner was okay?
SJR: Well, no, not really, I mean.
Other: You were the second to last one out, weren’t you? There was only Bob Petty came out after you?
SJR: Yeah, yeah. No, no. It’s every man to get out and that was it.
Other: Right.
SJR: You all looked after yourself. So you didn’t go round asking [chuckles]
Other: No.
SJR: Or anything, so when you got the word to bail out that’s what you did.
Other: So three or four others got out in front of you, didn’t they?
SJR: Yeah. Oh yes, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Other: And the plane was getting low.
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And you were trying to get through the escape hatch. Didn’t you?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: Didn’t you get stuck?
SJR: Yeah, yeah. Stuck a bit, yeah.
Other: And then what happened?
SJR: Oh I got clear, dropped out. But we were sort of losing height all the time. So eh.
Other: And, did, you got searchlights put on you. Didn’t you?
SJR: Oh yeah, yeah. Searchlights. So I was lucky they didn’t eh [chuckles].
Other: And you tried, you moved the parachute [unclear]
SJR: Yeah, I tried to get out the beam but couldn’t get out.
Other: They were shooting at you weren’t they?
SJR: I think that’s what they were. That’s what I was afraid of. [laughter] But as far as I know. Otherwise they would have hit us, you know, dangling down like that. Yeah. And of course when you’re not sure where you’re gonna land when you, when you hit the ground. You know?
Other: Where did you land?
SJR: Oh, I can’t remember now.
DM: Is it
Other: Sorry. You landed in someone’s back garden. In a tree, didn’t you?
SJR: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.
Other: And the house owner?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: He came out didn’t he?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: With a pistol?
SJR: Pardon?
Other: He came out and pointed a pistol at you didn’t he?
SJR: Yeah. That’s right, yeah.
Other: And how did you feel?
SJR: Eh.
Other: Cos he was shaking. He was shaking, wasn’t he and you got worried.
SJR: Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh well. All part of life those days [chuckles].
DM: So who, who, after you landed in this German chap’s garden? He came with a pistol. It sounds though he was more worried about it than you were. So did he arrest you or did the police or the army come?
SJR: Oh. What? When I was
DM: When you landed in his garden.
SJR: When I landed [mumbles] Oh, I can’t think now. [pause] It must be the airforce.
Other: The police?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah.The police.
Other: Wasn’t it the police who came and arrested you?
SJR: Yeah. The police, yeah, yeah.
Other: They rounded you up with the others?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: So did all of your crew get out safely? Or?
SJR: Em. Let me think, now. [pauses] It’s all a long time ago.
DM: Oh, yes. I know, yeah.
Other: The other, the crew members who got out before you ended up in Berlin centre, didn’t, the centre of Berlin, didn’t they?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And you heard nothing more from them.
SJR: No. Well it’s some that did land there were lynched. So eh
DM: So it could’ve happened to your
SJR: Yeah. So.
Other: And you, you and the pilot, because you were the last out, you landed in the suburbs, didn’t you?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah. Out of Berlin, yeah. So we were a bit of a curiosity rather in the suburbs [laughs] [mumbles] rather than landing in Berlin.
Other: What did they call you? [pause] They called you something, didn’t they?
SJR: [unclear] they called us. Or something like that, I don’t know.
DM: That’s right, yeah. So, you and Bob were reunited when you were taken prisoner? You were sort of gathered up together were you?
SJR: Eh. No, I don’t, no we weren’t eh. I forget that we were split up I think.
Other: You were put in a
SJR: Eh?
Other: You were put in a, in a police station, weren’t you?
SJR: In a what?
Other: In a police station?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: With others? With people who were sheltering from the air raid?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah.
Other: And what happened? You had some cigarettes on you didn’t you?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And what did you do?
SJR: [pause] Oh, I forget now.
Other: You offered, you offered some cigarettes.
SJR: Oh, that’s it, yeah.
Other: You gave cigarettes didn’t you?
SJR: Yeah, yeah. They were gratefully accepted too. [chuckles] All this a long time ago.
Other: And then what happened? The soldiers came along didn’t they?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And they marched you out.
SJR: Yeah.
Other: Across a field, didn’t they?
SJR: Yeah, that’s right. I thought I was gonna be shot. [pause]
Other: What happened? Did he, he kicked you, didn’t he?
SJR: Eh?
Other: One of the soldiers kicked you?
SJR: Kicked me?
Other: Yeah.
SJR: Yeah. Yeah.
Other: And what did you do?
SJR: Eh?
Other: And what did you do?
SJR: Kick him back? [chuckles] No. [laughs] Didn’t do anything. [laughs]
Other: Didn’t you push him? Push him away?
SJR: Yeah. Pushed. Yeah, yeah. Pushed him. All this was all, you know, all, everything happening at once type of thing. All a jumble.
DM: Can you remember if they interrogated you? Did they sort of
SJR: Eh?
DM: Did they interrogate you? Did they try and get you to tell ‘em all your secrets?
SJR: Oh yes, yes. Oh, they interrogated you. Yeah. But eh you know they used to take you in and put you in solitary and then take you in for interrogation. But eh they used to advise us before we went not to try and be clever. Just to say nothing. Not try and put them off or anything. You know. Just to eh don’t tell ‘em anything. Oh yeah.
Other: What did you say? What did you tell them?
SJR: Nicht verstase [sic] [chuckles]. Don’t understand.
DM: They didn’t, they didn’t question you in English? Or did they?
SJR: Oh yes.
DM: They did?
SJR: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Other: What were your conditions? Cos they kept you in a cell, didn’t they?
SJR: Yeah, yeah. In a cell.
Other: And what was it like in this cell?
SJR: Oh, dead boring. It was just a cell, you know.
Other: With a light on all the time?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: What was it? Was it hot or cold?
SJR: Oh, just normal. So eh [pause]
Other: And they pulled you out all the time. Didn’t they? They kept pulling you out.
SJR: Yeah.
Other: When you were asleep.
SJR: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yes. Take you in for interrogation. Before we were shot down they used to say ‘Don’t try and be clever in interrogation’, you know. Just say, you know, nothing. But don’t try and be clever to put ‘em off or anything. Cos they’ll soon eh catch you out.
DM: So eventually, you obviously ended up in a P.O.W. camp?
SJR: Eh?
DM: You ended up in a P.O.W. camp?
SJR: Yes. Prisoner of war.
Other: How did you get there?
SJR: Eh, train.
Other: And what was it? You had a, did you have a nice comfortable seat?
SJR: Oh, yeah.
Other: You did?
SJR: No, no. And I can’t remember
DM: Was it a cattle truck or something you went in, or was it a proper carriage?
SJR: Eh?
DM: Did you go in a cattle truck or something, or were you actually in a carriage with six.
SJR: Oh, in a carriage. No, no. They didn’t put us in a cattle truck. [chuckles]
Other: When they marched you there, they had the, they marched you down the middle of the road, didn’t they?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And all the locals would come out.
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And what were they doing?
SJR: Oh, just having a look.
Other: Weren’t they kicking you and punching you?
SJR: Oh no.
Other: No?
SJR: No. No.
Other: I thought they kept you in the middle of the road?
SJR: Oh yeah.
Other: Away from everyone.
SJR: Yeah. Oh yeah. But no there was, they just came out and had a look.
Other: Right [pause]
SJR: So many things happened in those days, it’s a job to recall it all. You know?
DM: What time of year was it when you got shot down? Can you remember?
SJR: Em, May.
DM: Right.
Other: No, it wasn’t.
DM: No?
SJR: Eh? When was it?
Other: It was coming up to Christmas, wasn’t it?
SJR: Was it? Oh.
Other: And you were upset because you had been feeding a turkey?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: You told me.
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And that was one of your thoughts. You thought, ‘I’m gonna miss Christmas and I’ve been fattening this turkey, and I’m gonna miss it.’
SJR: Yeah, yeah.
Other: Wasn’t it?
SJR: Yeah. It was just before Christmas.
Other: Yeah.
DM: So I imagine it was pretty cold and bleak at the P.O.W camp, was it?
SJR: Oh yes, yeah. They didn’t look after you too well, you know. Didn’t make it too comfortable [chuckles]. But eh it was just a prisoner of war camp. I could’ve gone either German or Russian. But those days Russians were a bit unknown quality. You didn’t quite know what they were like, so I thought, well, we’ve got an agreement with Germany about P.O.W’s so eh I went with the Germans, and not with the Russians. Because they held some back, bargaining and all this business for years later. But eh, oh well. That’s what war’s like [chuckles]. Nobody wins huh.
DM: Did you make any friends in the camp? Anyone in particular?
SJR: Oh, in the prison camp?
DM: Yeah.
SJR: Oh, I suppose yes. One particular bloke I was friendly with. He cleared off to South Africa when we got back. And eh, oh you get to know some blokes and eh you chat about your civilian life, or where you lived and this sort of thing. So eh anything to pass the time.
Other: There were some Russians in your camp, weren’t there?
SJR: Yeah. [pause]
Other: Weren’t, they were starving, weren’t they?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah, yeah. They didn’t feed, overfeed them.
Other: What did they do?
SJR: Eh [pause]
Other: Because you were starving, weren’t you?
SJR: Pardon?
Other: You were starving. And you had big pots of food put outside and you, you in your hut,
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And everyone in your hut [unclear] that. Didn’t they?
SJR: Yeah, yeah.
Other: But what happened when you put the empty pot outside? [pause] Didn’t the Russians come round?
SJR: Yeah, yeah.
Other: And try and find
SJR: Yeah, yeah.
Other: All the scrapings.
SJR: Well, they didn’t look after them at all. The Russians. All this a long time ago.
DM: Do you remember the Red Cross parcels?
SJR: Red Cross parcels? Oh, yeah. A godsend they were. Oh yeah, yeah. Blimey, they were. When parcels came in and you could barter with parcels, you know. Oh, they were an absolute godsend.
DM: Did you barter between yourselves, or did you barter with the guards?
SJR: Em, well between ourselves really if [pause]
DM: What sort of things do you remember being in the parcels that you enjoyed the most?
SJR: In the food parcels?
DM: Yeah.
SJR: Well I enjoyed all of it [chuckles]. I suppose, porridge, porridge oats and things like that, that were easy to prepare.
Other: You have a funny story about your Christmas dinner in the prisoner of war camp. Don’t you?
SJR: What was that?
Other: You, you put, you boiled up a huge pot of water and you put your tins of food in it.
SJR: Oh yeah.
Other: And what happened?
SJR: They burst didn’t they? Yeah.
Other: The labels?
SJR: Eh?
Other: The labels.
SJR: Yeah, yeah. That’s right, yeah. Yeah, the labels. All, yeah I remember now, the labels all came off so we [laughter]. So you’d written the name on the label [laughter] so at the finish we had all these tins, no labels and everything, so they just tossed them round and if you were lucky you got something good [laughter]
DM: Like a lucky dip!
SJR: Yeah. Otherwise that was it. Yeah, yeah.
Other: Otherwise you got a tin of brussel sprouts! [laughter]
SJR: Yeah, yeah but I mean daft things. It was stupid, wasn’t it? Putting them in there. Of course the labels are gonna come off. [laughter] Oh dear, oh dear.
DM: Do you remember, while you were in the camp, do you remember anybody making any escape attempts?
SJR: Making eh?
DM: Escape attempts from your camp?
SJR: Yeah. Oh yeah, You could get out of the camp all right but you couldn’t get out of Germany. So it was a bit of a waste of time. If you could’ve gotten out of Germany, but eh [slight pause] several tried it but just weren’t, you know, something to do, but they eh they all came back. They caught them you know. So there was, you couldn’t really get out.
Other: And what happened to the rest of you in the camp? [pause] Did the Germans wanted to dissuade you from trying to escape?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: So what did they do?
SJR: What was it now? [pause] Oh can’t
Other: They would keep you standing, wouldn’t they? On parade out there?
SJR: Oh yeah, yeah.
Other: For hours and hours.
SJR: Yeah, keep you yeah. That’s right, yeah. Keep you hanging about out there. So some blokes were collapsing, you know. [pause] All general fun [chuckles].
Other: There were some Americans in your camp, wasn’t there?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And what were they saying to you?
SJR: Oh, something about it wasn’t like that in America.
Other: Didn’t, didn’t, weren’t they saying ‘Last week I was in ‘
SJR: Times
Other: Times Square.
SJR: Yeah. Yeah.
Other: And they’d been arrested? Captured and they hadn’t fired a shot?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah. Straight in and straight out. Yeah. And hadn’t done anything.
Other: And what happened to one of them who wouldn’t wash?
SJR: Oh, they washed him.
Other: How did they do that?
SJR: Oh, stripped him off. Hosepipe on him.
Other: With a broom?
SJR: Yeah. He wouldn’t wash and keep himself clean in the camp, you know? You’ve all gotta look after yourselves and he wouldn’t do it, so they said ‘All right we’ll do it for you.’ Had him out, stripped him off, put the hosepipe on ‘im and got the brooms [chuckles] and eh, well you couldn’t ‘ave somebody like that walking about not washing or kind of thing or anything. So eh nobody else tried it after that, I don’t think. [laughter] Well some of these Americans were pretty primitive, you know. I mean, fancy a bloke not wanting to bath or wash, you know. It’s a bit primitive, isn’t it? So eh that was the only way they did it and eh [chuckles] so we didn’t get any more. Yeah.
Other: Was there one of your fellow prisoner there? Didn’t he try to take some food?
SJR: Take what?
Other: Pinch some food?
SJR: Oh yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yes. They gave him a hammerin’, beat him up.
Other: Did, they didn’t hand him over to the Germans?
SJR: Oh no. No.They wouldn’t do that. They dealt with him themselves and eh they got him in a ring and beat him. So nobody else tried it. [chuckles] Well you dealt with it yourselves, you didn’t want to get the Germans involved.
Other: No.
SJR: Somebody pinching food and so on. So eh it was dealt with by the prisoners. They dealt with him and taught him a lesson.
DM: Did you get letters from home? Did they get some letters through to you?
SJR: Eh, yes, yeah. Yeah, you could write home and eh far as I can remember. [pause]
Other: Was there another incident? You were playing football, one day, and the ball went over the inner, the inner fence?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: So there was an inner fence and an outer fence?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And the ball went in, into this gap?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And what happened there?
SJR: Eh [pause]
Other: There was a sentry, a German sentry saw ‘im going to get the ball didn’t he?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah.
Other: And what did he do?
SJR: I forget now what [mumbles] [pauses]
Other: He shot him.
SJR: Eh?
Other: He shot him didn’t he? He shot him. He killed him.
SJR: Yeah. Oh that’s right. Yeah, yeah. There was a bit of an uproar in the camp, you know. But that was it. He was in a forbidden area, so he just eh shot him. So he wouldn’t get into trouble.
DM: Did you stay in the same camp all the time, or did they move you somewhere else later on?
SJR: No, no. Was in camps most of the time. And em [pause] course when the Russians came everything sort of burst open, you know.
DM: So the Russians liberated the camp? It was the Russians who got there first?
SJR: Yeah. The Russians, yeah. Oh dear. The camp poured out. [chuckles] Oh dear.
Other: What did the Russians say to you?
SJR: Oh, I can’t
Other: Didn’t they advise you to stay put for a while?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah I think that was it, yeah.
Other: But you and your mate Jock?
SJR: Oh we decided to walk back. Yeah, yeah. That’s right, yeah. And they told us to stay there, but we decided to walk from there to the other side of Poland and get back to our lines, you know. So that’s what we did.
Other: Didn’t the Russian prisoners get hold of one of the Gestapo?
SJR: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Other: And what happened to him?
SJR: Oh well [mumbles] All sorts happened to them. Oh it was all very grim.
DM: When you left the camp, you and Jock, and you were walking back to try and get to our lines, how did you survive? Did you take food with you or did you get food from people on the way?
SJR: Whatever we could get on the way back. Yeah.
Other 2: [quiet voice] Is there something about a chicken? [louder] Did you try to kill a chicken once?
SJR: Pardon?
Other 2: Didn’t you try to kill a chicken? On your way back, you told us?
SJR: Oh yeah. Tried to kill a chicken, yes. Quite right. Tried to kill a, [chuckles]. I said ‘I’ll have a go at it,’ and got this chicken the way my father used to do it, dead easy, you know, and I [unclear] this bloody chicken and eh [chuckles] Oh dear, oh dear.
Other 2: And did you manage to kill it in the end?
SJR: Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh dear. My father used to do ‘em just like that, you know. [mumbles] I said I’ll do it [laughter]
Other: When you were walking back the Germans kept coming out to you, didn’t they? German civilians?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And, and surrendering, weren’t they?
SJR: Oh yes, yeah and all that sort of thing. As if we were going to do anything.
Other: Why were they doing that?
SJR: Well, they thought we might eh get our own back on them or something. [chuckles]
Other: No. No. The, the
SJR: Eh?
Other: The Germans, the civilians wanted to give themselves up to you, didn’t they?
SJR: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. To the English or Americans, the Americans. Yeah. They wanted to be our prisoners and not Russian.
Other: Why was that?
SJR: Eh, well Germany and Russia didn’t get on so they’d rather be prisoners with us than with the Russians in those days. [pause]
Other: And then one night, didn’t you, you and Jock, you found a house?
SJR: Eh?
Other: You found a house? You thought you could go in there and perhaps sleep. Spend the night sleeping in the house?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And there was a woman there with two daughters, wasn’t there?
SJR: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Other: And what did she say?
SJR: Eh, ‘Oh, I’m sorry about this. There’s three of you and only two girls,’ or something.
Other: And what did you say?
SJR: Oh. [chuckles] We weren’t interested.
Other: Yeah. And why was that?
SJR: Cos we were too exhausted and hungry [laughter].
Other: Yeah. And running alive with lice you told me.
SJR: Yeah and so
Other: And you weighed about six and a half stone.
SJR: Yeah, that’s right, cos they weighed me when I [unclear].
Other: You weren’t capable of doing anything.
SJR: Eh?
Other: You weren’t capable of doing anything.
SJR: Oh. Oh no.
Other: And then what happened in the morning? You were sitting in the kitchen?
SJR: Oh, I don’t know about that.
Other: Didn’t the door burst open? The door burst open, didn’t it?
SJR: Yeah, yeah.
Other: And who, who was there?
SJR: Oh I can’t remember.
Other: Some Russians, weren’t they?
SJR: Oh Russians, yeah, yeah. Yeah, Russians.
Other: And they said to you, ‘Are you British.’ And what happened?
SJR: Oh, I can’t remember now.
Other: Didn’t they, they just closed the door and went away?
SJR: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It was a long time ago all this.
Other: You probably saved, just your presence there, saved the women?
SJR: Oh yeah. We certainly did. Yeah. Yeah. Oh everything was so wide open, you know.
Other 2: What was that? Can you remember those? Where you go those from?
SJR: [pause] Oh yeah. Yeah.
Other: What is it?
SJR: German eh, German, it’s German money, isn’t it?
Other: Yeah.
SJR: [pause] Yeah. [pause]
Other 2: You can’t remember where you got it from?
SJR: No.
Other 2: Oh.
SJR: Took it off somebody else I expect [laughs]. No I can’t remember.
Other 2: Yeah.
SJR: Oh, I brought this back did I?
Other 2: Yeah. Those were the things we found and we found this as well.
SJR: [pause] Oh my [pause] Yeah.
DM: So, what’s that, Sid?
SJR: Oh, they’re identification.
DM: From the camp or from the airforce?
SJR: Oh, from the camp.
DM: Yeah.
SJR: If anything happened to you, all they’d do was break off, break it across. That would stay fixed round your neck and they’d hand that in as another one dead. So that’s why it’s
DM: So, it’s perforated in the middle and they broke it in half?
SJR: Yeah, that’s it. They’d break it, put one with you and one to record it.
Other 2: We found all sorts of things.
SJR: [unclear]
Other 2: We found that. [pause]
SJR: Oh, what’s this? Where’s me glasses? [pause] One, two, eight, four, six, double two. That’s me.
DM: So what is that?
SJR: Eh. Eh.
DM: So what is it, Sid? What is it?
SJR: Eh. Let’s have a look?
DM: Oh right. Permission to be absent from duty. [laughter]
SJR: Eh?
DM: Permission to be absent from duty [laughter]
SJR: Oh! [laughter]
Other 2: Where were you off to?
SJR: Eh?
Other 2: Did you go anywhere nice?
SJR: [laughter]
DM: Did you have a girlfriend when you were?
SJR: No. No.
Other 2: Why not?
SJR: Well, moving around a bit and so on. So, and of course, the girls weren’t keen on us. Oh, yes. Royal Air Force.
Other: Didn’t a member of your crew get married?
SJR: Eh, yeah.
Other: And what did you say to ‘im?
SJR: Eh?
Other: And what did you say to ‘im?
SJR: Oh, I can’t remember now.
Other: Didn’t you say ‘Don’t get married.’ To wait until the war had finished.?
SJR: Oh yeah. Yeah. He got married during the war.
Other: Yeah.
SJR: Yeah. That’s it. Yeah. Yeah.
Other: And you said?
SJR: Yeah. We said to wait until the end of the war. But eh he came in and said he’d got married and that was it.
Other 2: Who was that? [pause]
SJR: Oh, dunno. [pause] George Lancaster, probably a Flight Engineer. George Lumsden. Hello George. [chuckles]
Other 2: Was he on your plane when you got hit?
SJR: Eh?
Other: Was he on your plane when you got hit?
SJR: Oh, I expect so.
Other: Can’t remember what happened to him?
SJR: No. Flight Engineer.
Other 2: And what about him? [pause]
SJR: Eddie Smith, rear gunner.
DM: Was he the rear gunner who got killed?
SJR: Eh, yeah. Eddie Smith. That was him.
Other: Didn’t, didn’t, every time you took off, didn’t he have a little phrase? Didn’t he say something?
SJR: Eh, something about the tail up, or something.
Other: And then on your last trip out there he didn’t say it did he?
SJR: No.
Other 2: Oh lord!
SJR: Poor devil got killed. Old Eddie. Nice lad. Rear Gunner. Killed, yeah. Second, third December, yeah. Yeah, yeah, just before Christmas.
Other: He said, he usually said, ‘Here we go lads,’.
SJR: Yeah, that’s it.
Other: As you came
SJR: When the tyre went up. He was a rear gunner.
Other: Yeah.
SJR: So when the tyres went up and he said, ‘Here we go.’
Other: And then this particular, your last flight
SJR: Yeah.
Other: For some reason he didn’t say it.
SJR: No, he didn’t say anything. Yeah. Weird really. A lot of peculiar things happened. Poor old Eddie. Yes, second, third December. Oh dear, yeah. Yeah, we brought him back and the bomb aimer. We had two dead that night. [pause]
Other 2: We found those as well. I don’t know who that handsome chap is? [laughter]
SJR: Oh dear, yeah. [pause] Yeah.
Other 2: What happened with them? Was that when, did the Germans take those pictures?
SJR: Yeah.
Other 2: Could you remember that?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah.
Other: Who are they?
Other 2: It’s Dad.
Other: It’s you.
DM: It’s you. Your Kriege pictures.
SJR: Yeah. It must have been.
Other 2: Cos you look different there. Was that when you’d just got captured or? You look all clean. Had you just been captured then?
SJR: Yeah. Must have been.
Other 2: And it’s got your RAF number on, hasn’t it?
SJR: Yeah.
Other 2: But then this one has got a different number. What’s that number on there?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah. These were found and with the Germans had them.
Other 2: Oh right.
DM: So you found those after the camp had been liberated, did you?
SJR: Yeah. Oh yes. Yes.
Other: You don’t look so happy there.
SJR: No. [laughter] No. Been shot down and beard and everything. Yeah. Identification yeah, sort of thing. Oh dear. Oh dear. Those were the days. [laughter] Royal Air Force. [pause]
DM: So you, you and Jock headed off through the German countryside, tried to kill a chicken, em and when did you make contact? Did you make contact with the Americans or with the British?
SJR: Em, Americans.
DM: What happened then, when you, when you
SJR: Oh they were okay. Yeah. Looked after us and eh all the rest of it you know. Got us back, you know. They were okay.
DM: How did you get back to Britain? To England?
SJR: How’d I get back?
DM: To England?
SJR: Oh, flew back, I expect. I can’t remember. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Flew back.
DM: Did you ever think of staying in the Air Force after the war, or couldn’t you wait to leave?
SJR: Eh. I did have thoughts about staying. I was a Warrant Officer. So I had a rank and so on and it was a toss up, you know. In some ways after, I wish I’d have stayed in. Cos I had a rank and all the rest of it.
DM: So, before you went in the Air Force, you were working in the Arsenal you said?
SJR: Yeah.
DM: So what, what job did you take on when you came out of the Air Force?
SJR: Eh, I, in a drawing office. In the central office.
DM: What sort of, what did the company make? What were you drawing? What?
SJR: Copying and that sort of. I can’t remember exactly.
Other 2: That was in the Arsenal, wasn’t it?
SJR: Yeah. In the Arsenal.
DM: So you went back into the Arsenal after?
SJR: Yeah. Yeah. I went back, back in the Arsenal. And eh so I could have stayed in the Air Force, in fact. I was, in fact, I wished later I had carried on in the Air Force. But eh, you get the idea of getting back into civilian life again. And eh [pause]
Other: What did they do to get you, what did the authorities, what did the Government do to get you back into civilian life?
SJR: Oh, they put us on our er, our sort of leave of course, you know, to get us, you know, introduced back into civvy life again.
Other: They took you to some places, didn’t they?
SJR: Yeah, oh yeah. Took us around. Oh we were, we were well looked after when we got back from Germany. Yeah, looked after us quite well. Oh dear, so many things happened those days that eh it’s hard to recall it all. [pause]
Other: And what happened when you, cos you left the, the Arsenal after that, didn’t you?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And what did you do then? [pause] Insurance?
SJR: Yeah. Insurance. Yeah, yeah.
Other: Became an insurance agent.
SJR: Yeah. Oh yes, that’s yeah.
Other: And you did, did that throughout your working life, didn’t you?
SJR: What?
Other: Insurance?
SJR: Yeah, yeah. Oh these are the old badges [laughs]. Signaller. Oh dear, oh dear. Warrant Officer. Good rank, Warrant Officer. Nobody interfered with you. You do more than some of these young officers. So they didn’t like interfering with you. [chuckles] Cos you do a bloomin’ sight more than they did. Oh, that’s a dart medal I won.
Other 2: Where did you win that?
SJR: Eh?
Other 2: Where did you win that?
SJR: I think that was in Germany. Yeah [chuckles]
Other: So you had like competitions and things in the camp?
SJR: Eh, yeah.
Other 2: Did you play sport as well?
SJR: Eh, yeah. Oh dear. Different life altogether.
Other 2: It is. [pause] We found that picture of you and two friends. You haven’t put names on the back.
SJR: Oh yeah.
Other 2: Do you know who they are? [pause] They haven’t got anything on the back. Eh? [pause]
SJR: No, no. [pause]
DM: Have you ever been back? To Germany?
SJR: Eh, no I don’t think so. Well I can’t remember. No, I haven’t. No.
DM: What about to Fiskerton? Have you been back there?
SJR: Where?
DM: Fiskerton? Where you were based. Did you, did you, have you visited back the airfield?
SJR: Yeah. Oh, I’ve been back there. Yeah.
DM: Good memories?
SJR: Eh?
DM: Did you have good memories:
SJR: Oh yeah. Okay. Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. As long as you were there, I was aircrew, so as long as you were there for flying, you virtually did as you liked, you know. So as long as you were there when there was something on, there was ops on, you had to be there. But the rest of the time they weren’t too bothered, you know.
Other: We went to Fiskerton, didn’t we? A couple of years ago.
SJR: What?
Other: We went to Fiskerton.
SJR: Yeah.
Other: A couple of years ago.
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And there’s a memorial there, isn’t there?
SJR: Yeah.
Other: And you looked out and you saw the ground where the air drums were.
SJR: Yeah. Yeah. Fiskerton. Yeah. Midlands.
Other 2: I bet you went in the pub.
SJR: Eh, yeah. I had [unclear] in the pub there.
DM: That’s you, isn’t it? On your return visit.
Other: That’s you at the memorial. [pause]
SJR: That’s me?
Other 2: It is. [laughter]
Other 2: I took the picture.
DM: It is. And your favourite son. [laughter]
SJR: Oh, yeah. These are [mumbles] RAF Fiskerton on the occasion of [unclear] ninety-six. Oh good God. [laughter] [pause] German P.O.W. photographs of Sydney Richards. Ah.
DM: That’s em.
SJR: Oh that’s em look at that yeah [mumbles]
Other 2: So young.
SJR: Yeah. Look at that there. [laughter] God. [laughter] Yes, a smart lad. [chuckles]
Other 2: [unclear]
SJR: [mumbles] That was a long flight.
Other: Yeah.
DM: How did you feel about bombing the Germans?
SJR: Eh, well didn’t have any feelings really. We were at war and they sent us to mostly were military, you know. We weren’t bombing civilians populations. No, the military, the Rhine, Rhine Valley all along there. All factories. When we were bombing them. But we weren’t actually out to bomb, we had a couple of trips to Berlin, I suppose, which was just to let them know. But eh otherwise it was all just military targets, factories and so on. So anything to disrupt them. So eh.
Other: And it’s war, isn’t it?
SJR: Yeah. That’s it. Yeah. Put their factories out of action. So eh and the rest of the time we were out in Lincoln, living it up. [laughter]
Other: Living it up. Yes.
SJR: Oh dear. Well they did need a [unclear] at all, you know.

Citation

David Meanwell, “Interview with Sidney James Richards,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 8, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11554.

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