Interview with Jack Robson

Title

Interview with Jack Robson

Description

Jack Robson was in the Home Guard until he was called up by the army. He trained as a radar mechanic and worked at various batteries. He was then posted overseas and served in India and Singapore. His return home was on the record breaking run on the Andes.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-11-21

Contributor

Julie Williams

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

01:26:40 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ARobsonJ161121, PRobsonJ1601

Coverage

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

SC: So that should now be recording. So, I can see that the levels are ok. So, we’re here on the, it’s the 21st of November today.
JR: Is it?
SC: It is.
JR: Oh dear.
SC: It’s the 21st of November. I’m with Jack Robson in your home with your daughter Marion. And I’m the interviewer, Steve Cooke, today. So, thank you first of all for inviting me into your house to hear your story. And you just tell me anything you can about first of all where you grew up and what you did as a —
JR: I’m a local fella.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I was born in born in Bulwell actually.
SC: Right.
JR: And then I lived much of my life in Netherfield. Married a Gedling girl. Lived in Gedling. And we moved here in ’54 and been here every since. And my wife died. How long? Its fourteen years now isn’t it? Coming up.
Other: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: St Valentine’s Day. Yes.
SC: Right. Yeah.
JR: Yeah. And I’ve been here sort of ever since.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And where am I?
SC: Did you have an interest in searchlight radar? Or —
JR: No. No. No.
SC: No
JR: I was called up and I —
SC: When? When were you called up?
JR: ’41.
SC: ’41. So quite early in the —
JR: Yeah. Well —
SC: Yeah. Fairly early.
JR: And, and I, I went in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. I, I finished in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and I asked to go into radar. It was called radio location then.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And, and we’d heard about it. Of course we knew nothing about it. What’s this? Of course the Germans would know about it so.
SC: Yeah.
JR: They — and I had to listen and I got, I went on a course and I learned radio work. And then radar as it became. Called radar.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And what I, I did several but the one I was particularly on because I worked on it was searchlight control. SLC. Or as they called it, ‘the girlfriend. Elsie.’
SC: Oh right. Yeah.
JR: Elsie. SLC — Searchlight Control. And, and it was a radar that controlled, well, used it for the searchlights.
SC: Yes.
JR: And it was one of these amazing things. You see you’d be following an aeroplane with searchlights, with the radar and for instance it may be low down and when it comes above — I can’t remember now what the figure was but probably fourteen degrees or something like that.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Above. Above level number five. There was, there were five switches on. It got the —
SC: Yeah.
JR: Big switch on the right hand side the searchlight.
SC: Yes.
JR: And he sees the pointer going around. Pointing at them. Also the elevation. It’s above angle and number one, the commander of the —
[knock on door. Recording paused]
JR: Well, we’ll say exposed and like pull the lever like you’d expect.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And invariably the radar’s been following it. Invariably the aeroplane’s in the beam.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Beautiful. Perfect.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And of course they, they used it actually for, one time they needed to expose to sight aeroplanes with searchlights for the gunners to fire. But the guns had radar themselves so they didn’t need it. But the searchlights were used for, used with aeroplanes.
SC: Right.
JR: Fighter aircraft. And so you, you, as I say you exposed on to enemy aircraft and lit them up and then they were attacked by, you hoped by —
SC: Yes.
JR: By fighters. Yeah. I never saw it happen but that’s what it’s supposed to.
SC: Yes. Did you train locally?
JR: No. No. No. Where did I go? I did my basic radar work in, radio work in Glasgow. And then I went to Bury where I learned the radar.
SC: Right.
JR: And —
SC: How long did that take?
JR: Oh. Five months.
SC: Five months.
JR: I think I was five months in Glasgow learning the basics. And then I had two months in Bury doing searchlight control. LW Light Warning. You know. Various radar systems.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But searchlight control and, and as I say I was on searchlights. I, I was in Devon. Clovelly was the troop headquarters of A troop of the 469 Battery of the regiment was raised in searchlights. But, well the reason they were Royal Engineers but they became part of Royal Artillery and they were, they were mostly Territorials.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Territorial Army.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And so the local Territorial battalion or whatever would be. Some of them would be searchlight.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I think number [pause] the local ones, the Sherwood Foresters. I think the Robin Hoods are the 5th. Is it the 5th? The Sherwood Foresters was the, was the Territorial —
SC: Yes.
JR: Battalion of the regiment.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And they were searchlights too.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. At, where was — I was —
SC: You’d done your training first in Glasgow. And then in Bury.
JR: And then in Bury. Yeah. And then I was posted to — well actually to the 2nd ack ack Workshops at Callington in Cornwall.
SC: Right.
JR: And I went down there and straight away I was posted to the 469 Battery which was, the headquarters were at Holsworthy in Devon. And I went with, off to the A Troop. The headquarters was at Clovelly.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Right.
SC: You know.
JR: Just on the coast.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. And I was at Clovelly but I had sites at, oh God places dotted over.
SC: Yeah.
JR: About a half a dozen sites with A Troop.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I used to look after the radar on there you see. And quite interesting. I —
SC: So what was your day to day life like?
JR: Well —
SC: Operating the —
JR: I would go around and do maintenance on the sets and things like that. Then there was, I remember, I remember — oh right, here’s one. I remember I was having my hair cut.
SC: Right.
JR: One of the lads was cutting my hair.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And of course it’s in daylight and still daylight but getting evenings. They stand to you see.
SC: Yeah.
JR: In other words they, they parade and, and they go through the motions and work the searchlight and all the rest of it ready for any action and apparently something got, went wrong because they found this out at a site and they rang up. I think, I think it was telephone. There was a wireless or there was telephone connections.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And they rang up and I with half my hair done answered the telephone and to-ing and fro-ing with this and sorted what the trouble out. I actually sorted it out over the telephone.
SC: Over the telephone.
JR: Yeah. They, and they, they told me the symptons of what was wrong and I said, ‘Oh. Has the drill sergeant been out today?’ Pause. ‘Yes as a matter of fact’ I said, ‘Did he take the cover off the receiver?’ Pause. Because we’re not supposed to. ‘Yes.’ And this, this thing is, it’s in a steel box and there’s a, well a primary sleeve comes out. You put your hand in —
SC: Yeah.
JR: And you can operate the gate control and the what not on the, in the set.
SC: Yes.
JR: But that’s all you can do.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But you can take the box off and get at it you see.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I said, ‘has the drill sergeant been? And he’s opened it?’ ‘Yeah. Yes.’ Reluctantly it came out. I said, ‘Well, if you look in you’ll find that a plug marked DR will not be in properly.’
SC: Right.
JR: And, and of course the set was a distance away. And he come back and he said, ‘You’re a blooming marvel,’ He said, ‘This thing wasn’t pushed it in. He put it and everything worked perfectly.
SC: Wow.
JR: And they thought I was marvellous.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And it was one of the simplest forms that you could imagine.
SC: Yeah.
JR: You know. But they, but my, my fame — not fame. My —
SC: Yeah.
JR: Soared you know. They thought I was great.
SC: Yes. Your status. Yeah.
JR: Oh yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yes. But I think I was the first to see Window.
SC: Oh right.
JR: I may. I may be kidding myself here.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But we’d heard about it.
SC: Yeah.
JR: We got the name Window.
SC: Yeah.
JR: You know what I’m talking about.
SC: I do. The chaff. I’m just going to put that down like that.
JR: Yes. That’s what they called it. Yes.
SC: Yes.
JR: Well, we’d heard about it and I was stationed at the time. I was stationed in Norfolk.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I’ll tell you where. I was stationed with, funnily enough I was with the 469 Battery in, in Devon.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And they were raised in East Ham. And in Norfolk I was with the 47 Battery. 470 Battery. Raised in West Ham. And it contained practically the whole of West Ham football team.
SC: Wow.
JR: Oh they were football mad. Oh. And oh yes it was. They called me out. I was, I was sleeping actually. They woke me up. They were working and they said, ‘We’ve got — something’s daft.’ And I went and had a look at it and the radar was just one mass of [unclear] You know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Just a green. I said, ‘You know what this is don’t you? You’ve trained it. You’re all —’ ‘What is it?’ ‘It’s Window.’ And I think it was the first occasion that the Germans used it.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I think probably I was the first person to see it.
SC: Wow.
JR: And that was in Norfolk actually. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And it was Window. And they went into the action the, how you deal with Window and all the rest of it.
SC: And how do you deal with it?
JR: Well, you can’t actually because the radar is just picking up all these little bits.
SC: All the, yeah
JR: You just can’t. You, there are various things one can do. I mean, for instance the original jamming what they did is they picked up the radar signals and they broadcast on the same frequency from a set. The same frequency as the previous, so instead of getting the beep on your radar set you got just a mass of —
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: But we worked out a system. Pressed the switch and JL it was. Anti-jamming. And actually you got a better signal. You only got that one signal.
SC: Right.
JR: From, from that that particular aeroplane.
SC: Wow.
JR: So, it didn’t work really did it? Really.
SC: No.
JR: But with Window what can you do with that?
SC: Yeah.
JR: Little bits of metal. Aluminium foil and there were just aeroplanes all over the show.
SC: Yeah. Yes.
JR: And I said, ‘It’s Window. Do you know what you do now?’ ‘Ah,’ but it, I think it was the first time they’d done anything.
SC: They’d seen —
JR: The first time I’d seen. And I think it was probably the first time it was used in this country.
SC: Right.
JR: And I was probably the first to spot it. I don’t know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I may be kidding myself there.
SC: And that would have been 1941 or 1942.
JR: Oh no. It would be ’43.
SC: ’43.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
SC: So how long were you at Clovelly?
JR: Only months. And then I went, I went on a course and when I got back I found my, my company was in Callington but they’d provided these various batteries with people.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I was one. So when I got back I’d been replaced of course. And I got, went to another Battery. 335 Battery at [pause] where was 335 Battery?
SC: Was it still in Devon?
JR: Yeah. But South Molton.
SC: South Molton.
JR: That was it. Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Oh yeah. South Molton. Yeah.
Other: Dad you started as a, as a Home Guard.
JR: Oh, I was a Home Guard for a year before I went in the army. Yeah.
SC: Right. Tell us a little bit about that.
JR: Oh. Well, 1940 I was [pause] no I was seventeen in ‘40, I was seventeen and late May came. And we got all the tools and the Germans ran over us in France. Belgium and France and whatnot. And Holland. And, and Dunkirk happened and all the rest of it. Oh dear. And I’ll tell you this. I don’t know what it’s worth but we were in dire trouble. We’d been beaten. Kicked out of the continent. Dunkirk had happened and all the rest of it. But people still thought we’d win the war.
SC: Yes.
JR: You know. I can’t. There was no [pause] yeah. Yeah.
SC: No question.
JR: No. No. No. It was we’d go on and win the war.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And anyway where was I?
SC: Joining the Home Guard.
JR: Oh yes. The, the, there was all the troubles and what not and Anthony Eden broadcast on the wireless broadcast and he said we’re forming this. Calling it the Local Defence Volunteers.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And he said we want men between the ages of seventeen and sixty to apply at the police stations and join. So I rushed up to the police station and there was a crowd of other people there and the policeman comes in, ‘What’s going on?’ He had no idea of course. So he said ‘Well, I’ll get your names.’ Got a sheet of paper out and got the names. We became the Local Defence Volunteers. Later called the Home Guard. And we were, I think we could be quite be effective. We were obviously, people don’t realise that they’d, we’d be mopped up by a determined enemy. I mean a disciplined force would soon sort us out. But of course you’d delay them.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And in a war delay is dangerous.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: And so it did matter. But anyway —
SC: That was local was it?
JR: Oh yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. And I was in that for a year before I went in the army myself then.
SC: And did you train quite regularly?
JR: Oh yes. Yeah. Oh yes. And uniformed and all the rest of it. Yes.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And my first uniform was an armband [laughs]
SC: Yeah.
JR: But then we got, we did get uniform then proper.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And armed too. We got armed with American rifles.
SC: Right.
JR: .303. Three hundred. .300 rifles.
SC: Right.
JR: Similar to British P-14s. They were called P-17s and they fired, as I say .300 rimless cartridges. Yeah. So we had those and we [pause] well we’d have delayed the enemy. That said we would have done the job. And then I got called into the army.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I was, I finished up in the Ordnance Corps and trained to be a radar man. Which we didn’t call it radar then. It was radio location.
SC: Yes.
JR: But [pause] and, and I particularly did searchlight control and light warning in [pause] where did we do that? That was in Bury.
SC: Yeah.
JR: In Lancashire.
JR: And I was, I was posted to the second. The 2nd Anti-aircraft Workshop at Callington in Cornwall. And when I got there I was only there hours and I was packed off to be the resident at the 469 Battery. ‘A’ troop headquarters at Clovelly.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: And I was there for some while. Some months. Saw a bit of action there and whatnot. But —
SC: Tell me about the action that you saw there.
JR: Well, one of the actions was there was a dinghy. Aircraft in the, from an aircraft in the sea off Hartland and they, they had the searchlight on it all through the night.
SC: Right.
JR: Until they could be rescued. And, and I know that the searchlight at Hartland it wasn’t on the point exactly but it was near there. The searchlight. And it, it lit up the dingy until they could be rescued.
SC: Right.
JR: And I know that they ran out of [pause] you know searchlights is it’s an arc lamp.
SC: It’s an arc. Yeah.
JR: And I think, is it the negative pole burns down?
SC: Yes. One of them does.
JR: You have to wind it up.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And actually there’s an automatic one. It, you know feeds up.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But they ran out of carbons to burn them out. So they had to fetch a fresh lot, you know.
SC: A fresh lot of —
JR: Yeah.
SC: Rush them out to them because they were using them up.
JR: Yeah.
SC: Keeping these people illuminated.
SC: Because they would last about two hours I read somewhere.
JR: I don’t know how long they’d last now.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But, but they get used up.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And they had to send some out especially, you know. There was no emergency because they said, ‘We’re running out of carbons, send some more,’ you know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And someone would go out. No bother. But because they were using them up because they were illuminating these people.
SC: All night.
JR: All night. Yeah.
SC: Did they rescue them?
JR: Oh they rescued them. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: It took a while.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And, yeah I remember that happening. Yeah.
SC: And was it in Clovelly that you, you did the, you were telling me earlier about the lights of the day and the verey lights. And you —
JR: Oh yes. That’s everywhere you see.
SC: You did that everywhere.
JR: What happens is they — every day a searchlight detachment. A dispatch rider would come by motorbike and give you the slip of paper which was the letters of the day and each hour they changed. The combination changes you know. Red, yellow, blue, green, white.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And no black [laughs]
SC: No.
JR: And these these these would be fired out of the aeroplane.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And they’d let you know they wanted help with the homing beam. And your homing beam was your, your searchlight was always pointing at the — you’d leave it so that the searchlight is pointing at some special place.
SC: Yeah.
JR: As I say when I was at Devon it was Chivenor which was the local aerodrome.
SC: Aerodrome.
JR: Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And what happens is the man on the lug arm which was, as you know a number four. He [pause] three times like that.
SC: Make it go up and down. Yeah.
JR: Then lays it not, not horizontal but close to horizontal.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Pointing for then, you know after a half minute does it again.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And of course the others are doing it so the aircraft knows he’s got to go there.
SC: Yeah.
JR: There would be help there. You know.
SC: Yes.
JR: But and I remember the first thousand bomber raid and apparently they sent everything over and stuff coming back had got no navigation equipment and all the rest of it.
SC: Yeah.
JR: There was no end of appeals for homing beams.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And the RAF always insisted that pilots who have asked for help must go around and thank the —
SC: The searchlight crew.
JR: Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And the searchlight crews obviously entertained them. Gave them tea.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And of course as one was, as one crew was, aircrew was going out another one was coming in because there were so many that had been helped and they ran out of tea, I know. But the army rose to the occasion and there was extra tea ration.
SC: More tea.
JR: And all was well but that’s how things were you know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And of course because the RAF insisted every aeroplane that is, that is helped the crew goes around and thanks.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: The result that the men on the ground know that this is vital.
SC: Yes.
JR: And we used to be in competition. If, see the letters of the day come down. Then the sentry on duty at night he hammers on the hut which wakes the Number 5 been designated and he’s still dressed. He’s asleep in bed.
SC: But dressed.
JR: But dressed.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And number 9. The sentry then hammers on the hut, wakes him up and rushes off to the Lister or whatever it is. The Lister generator.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And Swings it. Gets it going.
SC: Yeah.
JR: It’s a hundred yards away. And number 5 gets out. Whoever’s been designated number 5 gets up and he’s dressed. And he goes out to the Lister’s working, switches on and it’s always pointing. Left pointing at the —
SC: At the aerodrome.
JR: And so it gives the homing beam.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And the aeroplane said thank you very much and off he goes, you see.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And it works.
SC: It works.
JR: Oh yeah. Yeah. And of course it works because the crew come around. They say, ‘Thank you ever so —'
SC: Yeah.
JR: ‘You were a great help.’
SC: Yeah.
JR: And —
SC: I’m sure that saved many lives.
JR: Oh yeah. I’m sure it did.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I’m sure. Yeah. Yeah. Because apparently the thousand bomber raids were, I won’t say we were particularly but going out in to the Atlantic having flown over Britain you know, didn’t know where they were.
SC: Really.
JR: Because Britain was black.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I mean everywhere. People won’t realise this but there was black out and —
SC: It really meant completely black.
JR: It was dark. Oh God. You could get lost.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Oh you could.
Other: Did you fetch them back out of the Atlantic then?
JR: Beg your pardon?
Other: Did you fetch them back from —
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Apparently they were going, flying over Britain, ‘Come on back here. This is the way.’ And it worked. Simple system but it worked.
SC: Yeah. Simple but it worked.
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: So how many were there in a searchlight — do you call it a team or a battery? Or a —
JR: It’s a detachment.
SC: A detachment.
JR: And the detachment, a searchlight detachment is usually twelve men. It varies. And of course everybody could do everybody’s job.
SC: Yeah.
JR: You know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But they have a normal operation. They, they had the specified job.
SC: Yeah.
JR: So number was the detachment commander. What’s number two? God. Two and three. Four. What’s number four? Number four’s on the lug arm —
SC: Right.
JR: This is on the left of the searchlight.
SC: Yeah.
JR: See, I met two kinds of searchlight. The ninety centimetre and the hundred and fifty. And the hundred and fifty was mounted on. And was usually mobile.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Funny story about that [pause] I was — the searchlight it’s, you know it’s got to move up and down like that.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And it turns around. Now, there is a device on it. It’s a piece that’s loose. It’s fastened but loosely to the chassis. And it comes up and it fits. Fits around the pin on the searchlight. Put a pin in. And it holds the searchlight. I forgot to put it in and climbed on top of the searchlight and it tilted. Push it in, it’s a hell of a height. And I, and I hung on to the radar aerials. The radio aerials.
SC: Yeah.
JR: The jagis and hung on and she tipped up completely. And I found myself hanging there and on the end about eighteen inches off the ground and I just dropped off.
SC: Right. Just dropped down.
JR: But it’s quite a height. It’s — but when it swung over I was alright because I was hanging on. But I never did that mistake again.
SC: Yeah. No.
JR: Make sure you’ve —
SC: You’ve put the pin in.
JR: The pin in. Yeah. Yeah. And —
SC: So did you have a specialist job in that team? What number were you?
JR: I wasn’t in it. No.
SC: No. You were —
JR: I was just the radar mechanic.
SC: You were the radar mechanic.
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Right.
JR: And I had —
SC: Yeah.
JR: I was with the, usually in the back with the troop headquarters.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I went out to them.
SC: Oh you went to lots of different ones.
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I’m trying to think of things that, that happened there. Yes. I remember as I say once we got trouble. As I was having my hair cut. I remember I was having my hair cut. I got half way through it and I’d got to go on the telephone. A the field telephone it was.
Other: I think you’ve already had that story.
JR: Have I told it? Oh God. I get like that.
SC: That’s, that’s when you thought you were a superstar.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Because you got that. You knew how to fix it.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. It worked very well that did.
SC: Yeah.
JR: My reputation soared.
SC: Yes.
Other: Dad. Dad. You know you went to Glasgow. You were telling me a bit of a story about the landladies there.
JR: Landladies?
Other: Yeah. And how you got kicked out of a, out of a boarding house because some others would pay more money.
JR: Oh yeah. Yeah. That was it. We were in civvy digs in Glasgow. Me and another. Actually a Nottingham fellow.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Excuse me.
SC: Do you remember whereabouts in Glasgow?
JR: Yeah. Because many years later we went on holiday in Scotland and we were on a bus trip and we went down and I said, ‘We’re on Great Western Road.’ And we came down. I said, ‘I lived there. In that,’ and I pointed at the window of the room that I was in.
SC: Yeah. And what road was that?
JR: We were coming down Great Western Road.
SC: Great Western Road.
JR: And the street we were on was Rupert Street and we were number 5 so it was at the end. Of course all apartments you know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I said, ‘There’s my window. My bedroom window,’ as we went by.
SC: And then what happened? You got —
JR: Oh yeah.
SC: You were in civvy.
JR: Well what happened is that we used to go [pause] we were, were as I say in civvy digs and we’d got training at [pause] actually it was in the Electrical Trades Institute where were going to lectures. But we were being trained and we used, we used to go back. Me and Ken. He was a Nottingham lad. Came from off Derby Road. He [pause] he and I used to go back to our digs for a mid-day meal.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Very good it was. They were good digs they were. But when we were having them there was also a couple of sergeants came and had their meal as well. And our landlady found that these sergeants were in digs with a friend of hers which is why she had them for the mid-day meal.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And the sergeants would give the landlady a few shillings out of their own pocket. Apart from what the army paid.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And of course we didn’t. And she thought she’d rather have these sergeants. So, I don’t know what happened but, but we were hustled out and, and in trouble for it. I don’t know why. But we were in trouble for it.
SC: Right.
JR: Oh no. It didn’t matter much. I mean nothing, nothing untoward but —
SC: Yeah.
JR: But we went into, well compared with them they were terrible digs actually but it just shows you how it can be.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But you survive.
SC: And what kind of training did you do in Glasgow?
JR: Well, we did the basic. It was the basic. Teaching people. First of all they had to teach some arithmetic and stuff like that. And mathematics.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And there was, and then there was electrical stuff. All manner of electrical stuff.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But it was basically electrical stuff and you had civilian lecturers and what not. And then we went to an army school and I went to one in Bury. In Lowercroft Camp, Bury and we learned the radar there.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I did searchlight control and light warning.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And with the result that when I was posted from there I went to a search, to an ack ack company that dealt with searchlights.
SC: Yeah.
JR: So I was on searchlights.
SC: Yes.
JR: And I was [pause] I was with the 469 Battery and then I went. I went to Leicester on a course. When I got back I found I’d been transferred to the 335 Battery which was near South Molton.
SC: Yeah.
JR: In Devon.
SC: Yeah.
JR: The same regiment actually. And then I went on, went on another course and back to Bury and had a course there. And found out I’d been transferred from the 2nd ack ack company at Cannington to one at Norwich.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And when I went there I was posted out to a site at East Walton in Norfolk. On the King’s Estate in Sandringham.
SC: Oh right. Yeah.
JR: And it, well. Sorry. No, that’s not. No. No. And that was a troop headquarters again and one of my sites that I had was on the King’s Estate.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Sandringham.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I looked after searchlights there, you see. For a while. And that was interesting because the site I was on was actually American. American equipment, Sperry.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Quite different. And all the instructions were in French.
SC: Right. Why would it be in French?
JR: Because it had been ordered by the Americans err by the French from America.
SC: From America.
JR: But of course it had been intercepted when France fell.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And, and we took it on, you see.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But as I say everything, what was it, the petrol was l’essence. You know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: When you had to put petrol in and all the rest of it. But —
SC: Petrol in the generator. Yeah.
JR: Yeah. When it worked.
SC: Yeah.
Other: Is that where you lived in a stable?
JR: No. No. No. We lived in a Nissen hut.
Other: But you did live in a place where there was —
JR: Well, yes. I was at Chepstow. In this, on the racecourse there.
SC: Right.
JR: Used to run around the racecourse and beat any horse [laughs] Yeah.
SC: So you did proper army fatigues.
JR: Oh yeah. Yeah.
SC: And training.
JR: Really fit.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah.
SC: Yeah. And that was at Chepstow and you were actually in more or less stable.
JR: Oh. In the stables.
SC: In the stables.
JR: Billeted in the stables. It was interesting because the stables had wooden partitions when we started but they finished because we had stoves but we ripped the wooden partitions out to burn them.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. It was winter. It was cold. But yeah.
SC: And do, do you remember any other incidents with the radar? Because it was a lot of American bases in East Anglia.
JR: Well, as I say I was in East Anglia [pause] And then I, and then I was posted to Hucknall wasn’t I? Yeah.
SC: So how long did you stay around Norwich and in Norfolk?
JR: Oh only months.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I remember going on [pause] I didn’t have the same leave as the, as the Royal Artillery members you see.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And because I, I mean I had to be replaced by another person before I wanted leave.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And so I remember going. Having a weekend leave. Just a weekend. And I got back on Sunday night and I had to walk from King’s Lynn to East Walton where my headquarter — I don’t know. About fifteen miles I think it was.
SC: Gosh.
JR: Something like that. And I remember it so well because something’s going on. I stopped. Somebody, somebody following me.
SC: Right. Yeah.
JR: And when I got to, back to the head, to the troop headquarters where I was stationed it was a local bobby. And he’s followed me. And he said, and I’d been handed over by another and the bobbies were in the background. I didn’t know. I got the, there was somebody there. Someone following. But it was a bobby.
SC: Just checking up on you.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: What am I up to?
SC: Yeah.
JR: At, you know, I think it was about two or something like that in the morning.
SC: Yeah.
JR: What am I up to?
SC: Yeah.
JR: They didn’t interfere but they —
SC: No.
JR: But they were there.
SC: Yes.
JR: You know, you think to yourself my God. Because some of them. I remember at that place there was a local bobby came and told one of them off. He’d been, he’d spotted a wounded pheasant and he was after it. But the local land owner had also known about it and he was, and they came face to face. So he said, ‘What’s your name,’ and all the — and the local bobby came. He said, ‘He’ll be delighted that you’d told him the truth of where you were and all the rest of it, and I’ll go back and report to him. He’d be delighted that you’d done so.’
SC: Yeah.
JR: And he said, ‘Now look. If you’re doing poaching this is how you do it,’ [laughs] and he gave him a lecture in how to poach.
SC: How to poach.
JR: [laughs] The local bobby. Oh dear.
SC: Yeah.
JR: That was at East, I was stationed at East Walton then.
SC: Yeah.
Other: You weren’t always in this country though were you?
JR: Beg your pardon?
Other: You weren’t always in this country were you?
JR: Oh no. No. No. I went to India.
SC: How did that come about?
JR: Well, I said can I serve abroad?
SC: Yeah.
JR: I don’t know how they deal with it but eventually, I was stationed at Hemel Hempstead at the time and eventually I was posted back to my [pause] I was temporarily attached to the 24th or was it the 15th Workshop in Northampton. And then they moved to Hemel Hempstead. I was at Hemel Hempstead. In the workshops there. We were opposite Brocks Fireworks. The little huts where, you know trenches and huts.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Everything was very separate, you know. You were —
SC: Yeah.
JR: If you had an explosion they’d just blow.
SC: One small —
JR: One small place and only one person.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And they were opposite. And they were always banging and there was fireworks going off all the time and they were working with fireworks that we used in the services you know.
SC: Yes.
JR: Things like that. But they were banging and shouting all the time with them. Rather — when we were in Northampton we were next door to a factory that made Sten guns.
SC: Right.
JR: So we’d always hear Sten guns firing all the time.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Oh dear.
SC: So you went from Hemel Hempstead and that’s when you went over to India.
JR: Yeah. Yeah, well I was posted back to my Workshop which was at Arminghall in [pause] next to Norwich and then I found several of us had been posted to Hucknall actually of all places. Hucknall.
SC: Just up the road.
JR: And we were in a unit that were destined for overseas. And we, we got together. Formed a new unit. 469 ABS. Advanced Base Workshops. And we, we were in, in Hucknall for some weeks. You know, messing about. Playing about.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And then we were all loaded on to a train. We finished up at Gourock. On board a ship. And then the next thing we — oh God. Cold. Back up to the Arctic Circle and away in the mid-Atlantic. You know. In a convoy.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And then we sailed. Went to India.
SC: So what route did you take to get to India? You went on a troop ship was it? Or a —
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Yeah. So you went out into the Atlantic.
JR: Yeah.
SC: And then down.
JR: And we went to Gibraltar.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Got in to Gibraltar. I think we took oil on at Gibraltar. And then we went down to Africa, around Africa and over to India.
SC: Oh you went all the way down.
JR: Oh, the Med would be out of the question at that time.
SC: Of course.
JR: Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Although, I think they did clear it finally.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But we and we went, sailed to India. Called in at Bombay. “Welcome to India but mum’s the word.” You know, six foot high letters on the big warehouse. “Welcome to India but mum’s the word.”
SC: “Mum’s the word.” Wow.
JR: Yeah. You know. You remember that.
SC: So you got to Bombay. And then where did you go from there?
JR: We went to a place called [unclear] That was a, I suppose a transit camp of some kind. And that was interesting. Talk about futility. I was, I was given a duty. There were four of us. We were taken by lorry out into a desert. And there was a basha which is, it’s just pillars with a roof. No, no walls. And on it was a, and it was an iron stove. And alongside there was this tower, wooden tower about thirty feet high I should imagine with a ladder. And it was a top and six eight foot square. Like a boxing ring. And you climbed it and you were there and you were a fire guard. But we had no communication. We had, didn’t even have a flag let alone telephone or wireless or anything. And no transport. We were taken out there by a lorry. Dropped. And there was a man cooked food on the stove and then got on his bike and went somewhere. [unclear] And you could see lights in the far distance from some arrangement or other. But there was nothing. And how we got in touch with people I don’t know. It was just one of those futile, futile things.
SC: And what was your job?
JR: Just to look. See there were no fires about.
SC: Right.
JR: Well what was on fire in the desert I don’t know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: We could see tents in the defence. And — [laughs]
SC: Yeah. And how long did you do that for?
JR: That was just a night.
SC: Just a night.
JR: That was.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But we were there before we went to, we went to, Bangalore was our station then. That was nice in Bangalore.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Camped on the polo ground.
SC: Right. Wow. And what did you do there?
JR: Nothing really. It was just, we were just there. It’s the old, old business that sometimes there’s nothing doing but the fact that you’re there.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I always remember a friend of mine was [pause] he was called up and he did his training in the air force and then they kept him on for about an extra six months.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But it was the [pause] was it the Suez Crisis or something? About 1950 or something like that.
SC: The early ‘50s. Yeah.
JR: And he said, he said, ‘We were there doing nothing.’ Like this. I said, ‘You were there.’
SC: Yeah.
JR: Which is better than being at home and all the rest of it. You’re —
SC: Yeah.
JR: You’re mobilised ready.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Whatever may come, you know. But I mean he was there languishing. Doing nothing. What he thought.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But of course he’s, he’s mustered ready.
SC: Yeah.
JR: You know. He’s available.
SC: Yes.
JR: When you’re at home you’re hardly available are you?
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. But yeah.
SC: So how did you get on with the food in India? In Bangalore.
JR: Oh we had, we had British food mostly.
SC: Right. And did you have, have your own charwallah?
JR: Oh yeah. We — when we were in India there was four of us in a tent. Big tent. Four, four charpoys. Charpoys are beds.
SC: Yeah.
JR: They’re just this wooden frame on wooden legs and rope. Criss cross rope. You know. Diamonds. Criss cross across.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And then some up to form a pillow kind of thing. And four of these in the tent and we were the, on the end line, second from the top and it was a bit of a hill. And I remember the rain came. We’d got to dig trenches. Oh that was hard going. It was hard. Bit of a job. Gave it up, you know. We were lying on the bed. A bit of a rain. And then we were lying on the bed in the afternoon and hearing shouts and curses. Looked out and we were at the top. We were second row down. The end one. And the ground sloped away. And down below there were men working like mad digging trenches because the place was flooded.
SC: Because it was flooded.
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: So they tried to divert the rainwater.
JR: I, and I remember, I tell people and we were in a little tent. Two of us. And we’d got a double charpoy and the top bunk was only about this high. The bottom one down there. You know. Just room.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And both men lying on top of the, with all their kit because the tent was underwater. Well, the water was, when you looked out you see just see nothing but water. No land at all. You see people could, I know it’s only about eighteen inches deep but they’re you know in dips. People could easily get drowned, you know.
SC: Yeah. So this must have been during the monsoon.
JR: Monsoon. Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. But — yeah.
SC: Do you remember anything else that happened whilst you were in Bangalore?
JR: Not really. I remember taking part in a, in a cross country run.
SC: Yeah.
JR: About three or four miles. I did quite well in it. We left the Americans standing. They were fat.
SC: Well, that’s [laughs] stayed the same then.
JR: Yeah. But the Nigerians beat us.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Oh God, they could run.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I had great fun.
SC: Yeah. And did you actually do a radar mechanic job whilst you were there?
JR: No.
SC: No.
JR: It’s the old old business. The army has a schedule. A unit has this. And one of them is to have two radar mechanics for this and you make up the numbers. And you find out there’s no equipment like that. There’s no equipment like that in India. The whole of India.
SC: Right.
JR: So what job have you got?
SC: Yeah.
JR: And eventually I found myself running the workshop control.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Because not knowing the job and I I found myself in this job running the workshop. Well, when I say running the workshop I mean the control of work through it.
SC: Yeah. So what did that, what did you do for that?
JR: Well, people would come in. Want this job doing.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And you know, someone, the Royal Engineer’s would have a pump and it’s you know the bearings shot or something like that so we would fix it up with bearings.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And give that back to them. And then I would see, they’d come to me first and, just to do the — and I don’t know. So it gets —
SC: Completed.
JR: Completed properly.
SC: And fixed.
JR: And you’re in control —
SC: Yeah.
JR: Of it you know. You know what’s happening.
SC: Yeah.
[Doorbell. Recording paused]
SC: Anywhere from Bangalore in India or did you stay there?
JR: Well, I went to Madras.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And places, villages, you know between Bangalore and Madras. And then the war ended.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And we found ourselves off to Singapore.
SC: Right.
JR: So I finished up in Singapore.
SC: So this was when the war ended.
JR: Yeah.
SC: Against — in Europe.
JR: Yeah. But then ended some months later against Japan.
SC: Against Japan.
JR: Yeah. And we were, we were preparing for the war like invasion of Malaya.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And we were water-proofing everything to make a landing in Malaya. I presume it was Malaya anyway.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And we did actually make a landing in Malaya. More or less as planned.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I think. And I finished up at Singapore in Malaya. I was there for about a year actually.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I worked out the [pause] I did actually. Yes. Worked out the workshop arrangements and did, did well like that.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah.
SC: And you were there for a year in Singapore.
JR: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. Just about a year we were there.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Then I came home. I came home to —
SC: How did you get back home? Also on a ship?
JR: Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: We were, we were on the, sorry we were on the ship called the Andes. The south, it was the Royal Mail Line down to normally between Southampton and South America. But it was a hired trooper you know. We were, we were on the, on the Andes. And she made a splendid trip back from — about sixteen days back from Singapore when we were coming home. Quite quick.
SC: And did you come back through the Mediterranean?
JR: Yeah. Yes.
SC: You did.
JR: By that time —
SC: Through the Suez Canal.
JR: [unclear]
SC: Yeah.
JR: And whatnot. Yeah. Yeah. We came up. I remember the Med. It was a terrible storm. You could see, actually see the ship twisting.
SC: Gosh.
JR: A dreadful storm. And people were sick all over. The new people who had come on at Port Said. RAF. There was a big contingent of RAF joined us at Port Said. They were being sick all over the place. We were accustomed to the motion.
SC: Yeah.
JR: It was dreadful that was. It was terrible storm it was. I mean you could see the ship twisting.
Other: Is that where they, where was it where they turned the ship around?
JR: Oh that was, that was going to India. And I don’t know, we were in the middle of the ocean and it was stifling. And the captain turned the ship around and sailed the other way for half an hour to get some air into the ship.
SC: Wow.
JR: Dreadful it was.
SC: It was a very long route that you took.
JR: Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Around the Horn of Africa.
JR: Yeah.
SC: Around the —
JR: Well the Med wasn’t safe.
SC: Safe. Yeah.
JR: But I remember coming home. It was Christmas Eve at, in Aden and the RAF came out in launches and went around the boat singing carols.
SC: Wow.
JR: Aden. And now it’s a free country isn’t it?
SC: Yes.
JR: Yeah.
Other: Have you mentioned Burma?
JR: Eh?
Other: Have you mentioned Burma?
JR: Well I was only there for a short while. That was all. It was visiting. That was all.
SC: Was that before Singapore?
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Right.
JR: But —
SC: So you went from Bangalore.
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: To Burma.
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: And what part of Burma were you?
JR: Oh only, only in the [pause] I’m not sure whether its India actually. Chittagong.
SC: Chittagong.
JR: I’m not sure whether it’s in Burma or not. It’s there anyway.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Yeah. And then you went from Chittagong to —
JR: Back to [pause] back to — no. We weren’t at Bangalore. Back to — near, it was somewhere near — what’s that port? Madras. Near Madras.
SC: Near Madras.
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And went there and my unit split up into what was called SMP Ship’s Maintenance Parties. And there would be parties of two or four people on landing ships and what not.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Going out all over the place.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And funny enough because many years later we were on holiday in Sutton on Sea and a fella comes with a family there and he’s friendly with the people who are in digs next to us. Anyway, and I said to this fella ‘Your friend’s a Scotsman’. He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘I know him.’ He was a Scotsman. We chatted and he, he, I said, ‘I know. I remember. You came back from a Ship’s Maintenance Party.’ I said, ‘I debriefed you.’
SC: Gosh.
JR: ‘Yes. You did. Yes. Yes. Yes.’ And oh yes. Yes. So we, you know it’s interesting. As I say you meet these people and many years later you recognise them and oh.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I’ve met one, two, three, four, five. I’ve met half a dozen people that I was in that unit with.
SC: Wow.
JR: Strange. A unit of about six hundred men from all over the country and I’ve met about six of them since.
SC: Since. Yeah.
JR: Yeah. In funny places.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: I was, immediately the first year I was demobbed it would be forty — it would be ’47 and I went to the Isle of Man on a holiday. And it was, I went on the night boat and it was bitterly cold so I went down in the bar to warm up. And the bar was one of these rectangular ones. Came out and around you know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I sat in a corner here and I looked across and in the identical corner was the old sergeant major. And he said he couldn’t make do in Civvy Street. He was going to join up again.
SC: Really.
JR: Yeah. He said, he said, ‘If I do it quickly,’ he said, ‘They’ll post me back to the old unit.’
SC: Right.
JR: Yeah.
SC: Small world.
JR: Yeah.
Other: Where did you have the POWs working in the workshop dad?
JR: India. We had a lot of Italian prisoners of war.
SC: Italian. Right.
JR: But when [pause] when Italy joined the, joined with us they become not prisoners of war. They became Surrendered Personnel.
SC: Right.
JR: That was a change of name.
SC: Right. I didn’t know that.
JR: From POWs to SPs.
SC: Right.
JR: Surrendered personnel.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And we had a number of them working. Vechi was the one I remember most. And he’d been captured in North Africa and he’d never been home since 1935.
SC: Gosh.
JR: He’d been in the invasion of Malaya err of [pause] what’s the place? Abyssinia.
SC: Abyssinia.
JR: In 1935. And he’d never been home. And this was 1945 would it be? Yeah. It would be ’45. He’d never been home. Never seen his girlfriend for ten years.
SC: Ten years. Gosh.
JR: And, Vechi his name was. I remember him. Spoke very good English. They had a very good canteen they did. Making their own drinks.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Their grappa and —
SC: Yeah.
JR: Oh yeah.
SC: And were there many of these surrendered personnel?
JR: Oh yes. There was quite a crowd of them there and we used them you see. And we were friends with them.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And this Vechi was a particular one. And we [pause] he was a particular friend. And it was so funny that was. We worked in, me and another fellow went from the unit which was on, camped on the polo ground. We went down to the 515 Command Workshop, Indian army and did some work there you see. And there was quite a number of these surrendered personnel in that place. And every now and again you’d suddenly hear someone singing opera. Italian you know.
SC: Wow.
JR: Aye. And beautiful singing too it was. Yeah. They were very good. And yeah. 515 Command Workshop. It was so funny because years later my [pause] I got my station superintendent and his wife were talking and they said something about it. I said, ‘Oh 515 Command Workshop.’ And they both were there you see.
SC: Wow.
JR: They said, ‘Well, I know it. On Brigade Road. Yeah. Yeah. I know it’. Yeah. I said, ‘I worked there for a while. Yeah.’ They were there for quite some time, you know. Met there and married. Yeah. Small world.
SC: It is. Yeah.
JR: I met half a dozen people that I knew in the army and my units I met in Nottingham sometimes.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Not necessarily from Nottingham but met a half a dozen which, you know considering the millions.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: Is quite good.
SC: How long did it take you to get back home from Singapore?
JR: Sixteen days.
SC: Sixteen days.
JR: It was, it was a record run by the Andes.
SC: Right.
JR: She was a fast ship. Belonged to the Royal Mail Lines down to South America.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And she was fast. And she, she made a very quick passage in sixteen days from Singapore to [pause] to — and I arrived home.
SC: Did you come back to Liverpool or Southampton?
JR: Pardon?
SC: Liverpool or Southampton.
JR: Southampton.
SC: Southampton.
JR: We got, we got, we arrived in Southampton and we stayed on the ship that night. We got off in the morning. Crossed. Crossed the dock and there was a train. And get in the train and we were off up to Farnborough was it? Somewhere like that.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I went into a room. They made me a book that I’d filled in. A book. And they were tearing pages out. Went around it and came out. Went in as a soldier, came out a civilian.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Still in uniform.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Then into a lorry to a clothing depot. Picked me clothes. I was allowed a suit, a raincoat, a hat, a tie, two shirts, two pairs of socks, a pair of shoes. I got them in a cardboard box.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And then I was put on the train. Came home. And I arrived home at quarter to midnight on the 31st of December.
SC: 1947?
JR: ‘6.
SC: ‘6. Yeah.
JR: And I saw the New Year in at home. Just.
SC: Wow. Just. Yeah.
JR: Yeah.
SC: And home was up here.
JR: Netherfield then I think. Yeah.
SC: Netherfield. Yeah.
JR: Yeah.
Other: Dad. Where —
JR: Yeah.
Other: Where did you get your injury?
JR: Oh. That was in Netherfield. Riding a bike in the blackout. You couldn’t see a thing and I ran into, they built brick air raid shelters, surface ones, on the road. And I was riding on this road and just went straight into, on a bike into the side of the wall.
SC: Into the side. Gosh.
JR: This piece of nose hanging out and whatnot.
SC: Gosh. Why did they build it there?
JR: All the doctor did was stick it back. Put some sticking plaster on.
SC: Really.
Other: I was just thinking that was your only war wound.
SC: Yeah.
Other: Cycling into an air raid shelter.
SC: Yeah.
Other: You’d think that they’d be a bit vulnerable stuck in the middle of a road.
SC: Yeah. It doesn’t seem a sensible place to put an air raid shelter but —
JR: Well, where did you put them?
SC: I don’t know. I suppose it’s the most obvious.
JR: Do you know the first air raid where we lived at Netherfield. I only found this out fairly recently. But do you remember where we lived there was that open space wasn’t there?
Other: Well, I can’t —
JR: On the corner of the street, the street there, one Cross street and this open corner.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I’d only learned recently that was full of houses. And they were all blown up in The Great War by, from, with a zeppelin.
SC: Gosh.
JR: Dropping bombs.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And I only learned that quite recently. I always wondered why is that open there?
SC: Yeah.
Other: Yeah.
JR: I mean in this as it were you know normal densely —
SC: Yeah.
JR: Housed place.
SC: Yeah.
JR: It used to be houses there but they were blown up.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: And as I say I only learned that quite recently.
SC: Yeah. Do you, since you left the army do you go to any reunions?
JR: No. I don’t.
SC: Or —
JR: I joined nothing and I’ve done no, no reunions or anything like that.
SC: But you’ve met a number of people over the years that you’ve —
JR: Yes. I’ve said I’ve met a number. I met two on Colliery Road in Nottingham. And they were both in my unit. Two different fellas. And then I was, I was on a trolley bus going down to Trent Bridge and I climbed up, up to the top deck and dropped to the seat and just there was the old armament sergeant major.
SC: Gosh.
JR: Fanny. His name was Adams. Nicknamed Fanny of course.
SC: Of course. Yeah.
JR: And, ‘Fanny. Hello.’ We had a few minutes. You know, swinging the lamp.
SC: Yeah.
JR: As it were. Yeah. Yeah. He lived in West Bridgford and he was going home and I was going to Trent Bridge on the trolley bus. He was going home.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Walked over Trent Bridge into West Bridgford and so ran into him. Yeah.
SC: And what did you do after the war? What job did you —
JR: Oh, I went to the power station. Became, finally became station chemist at the power station.
SC: Gosh. At, at one of the local power stations.
JR: Yeah. Nottingham.
SC: Nottingham.
JR: Yeah. It’s not there.
SC: Right.
JR: It’s been knocked down.
SC: Yeah.
JR: These thirty years back.
SC: I was just thinking of Normanton on Soar as the only power station I could think of. But —
JR: Normanton. That’s, that’s —
SC: That’s way over to —
JR: Ratcliffe.
SC: Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe on Soar. Sorry. Yes.
JR: Well, there was one at Nottingham.
SC: Was there?
JR: Yeah. And next door to the colliery on Colliery Road.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Which of course is now part of the ring road isn’t it?
SC: Right.
JR: Yeah.
SC: And you worked there.
JR: And there is a, is a, it’s called Electricity Road or something like that. I don’t know but —
SC: Yeah.
JR: There was a power station there. Yeah.
SC: Right.
JR: And I was there.
SC: Right. Burning coal. Burning presumably coal. Local coal.
JR: Coal burning. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: In fact we took, we had the colliery next door. We took all their output apart from twenty five tons of coal a week which used to go down to Coventry, I think. I think some place in Coventry wanted that particular coal.
SC: Really.
JR: It suited them and they had twenty five tons a week.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But we had all the rest.
SC: Yeah.
JR: We had our own coal waggons that were filled in in the colliery. Came around on to our side and sent empty. And back again. And some of them made two or three trips a day.
SC: Yeah.
JR: You know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And we had all their output. What would it be? About twenty thousand tonnes of coal a week. Something like that.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. I think it was. Yeah.
SC: And what did you start at the power station as?
JR: Chemist.
SC: As a chemist. You started as a chemist.
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: Yeah. And you stayed working there.
JR: Yeah. I started as assistant chemist. I finished up as the station chemist.
SC: The station chemist.
JR: Yeah.
Other: Dad were you in the power station before the war though?
JR: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Other: So, in actual fact you went —
JR: The station was built in 1925.
Other: Yeah. So you went back to the power station.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Oh yes. The power station was there. You could see it and see it was a power station. In fact at the Festival of Britain they brought out a catalogue for the Festival of Britain 1951.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Anniversary centenary of the [pause] of the London, of the —
Other: Great Exhibition.
JR: Great Exhibition.
SC: The Great Exhibition. Yes.
JR: 1951. And they brought out a book and the chapter on power was headed by a picture of Nottingham Power Station.
SC: Nottingham.
JR: Because it looked like a power station then.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. Now power stations look as though they are just a box.
SC: Yes.
JR: With a chimney.
SC: Proper chimneys.
JR: Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But that looked like a power station actually.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And so I was there. Yes. Finished up as station chemist.
SC: Yeah. And you retired. Do you remember what year? Or roughly.
JR: Yeah. ’81.
SC: ’81. Yeah.
JR: It was the 31st of May 1981.
SC: So you’ve been retired for —
JR: Yeah.
SC: Thirty.
JR: I’ve got used to it now.
SC: You got used to it.
JR: Well, actually I got used to it by coffee time on the Monday after the Friday. Yeah.
SC: Good for you.
JR: I was made redundant.
SC: Right.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Yes. In effect I was made redundant. I didn’t need to have been but [pause] I would have likely to have been seconded off to somewhere else.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And travelling in the winter. I thought no. So, make me, you know. So they gave me a nice package to finish with and —
SC: Yeah.
JR: And made me redundant.
SC: Yeah.
JR: How old was I? Fifty seven when I retired. So, you know, it’s not bad.
SC: That’s great. Yeah.
JR: And the earlier you retire the longer you live.
SC: Yeah.
JR: So what am I now?
Other: You’re ninety three, Dad.
JR: Ninety three.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I think I’ll last till ninety four.
SC: Yeah. When will that be? When will you be —
JR: February. Yeah. February.
SC: Oh right. Yeah.
Other: When did you see the, from Hucknall the plane flying over and you had a word with your friend? You know. About the [pause] you queried what was going on.
JR: I know what you mean. I had a good friend who lived in Watnall Road in Hucknall and he was, worked for Rolls Royce. Aero engines. You know.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And there used to be an aeroplane. It was a wartime business.
SC: Yeah.
JR: 1941. And I’ve seen it on the internet actually. I don’t know whether you could drag it up and look. 1941. And there used to be a [pause] a Wellington. That’s it. A Wellington. And it used to be going around the, circling around, around well home. Around here. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Doing big circles.
SC: Yes.
JR: Coming over. And it was funny because it got something, instead of a gun turret at the back it had got some funny contraption and sometimes you could see smoke coming from it. And I saw my friend Bill Allen who as I say was worked for Rolls Royce. He was apprenticed at Rolls Royce in Hucknall and I said to him, rather interesting, I said to him, ‘I’ve seen this funny thing.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘Oh that,’ he said, ‘That one is fitted with a Whittle engine.’ That’s the first time I heard the name Whittle.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: And he said, ‘That’s a Whittle engine,’ he said, ‘It’ll, it’ll revolutionise air transport.’
SC: Gosh.
JR: And of course it was a jet engine stuck on the back of a —
SC: Yeah.
JR: Of a Wellington aeroplane.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And we saw it at the time. you saw it and the propellers weren’t turning so it was just going along by the jet.
SC: Powered by the jet.
JR: Yeah. It was quite interesting.
SC: Because there was the test, there was a test bed and a test centre at Hucknall wasn’t there?
JR: Yeah. Yeah.
SC: For Rolls Royce.
JR: That’s where it was from. Yeah.
SC: So you saw the first jet propelled aeroplane.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Before they actually built the one that they really tested it in.
SC: Yeah.
JR: They built the special one didn’t they?
SC: Yes.
JR: A Gloster or something like that.
SC: The Gloster Meteor I think it was wasn’t it?
JR: Well yeah. Yeah. But anyway —
SC: Yeah.
JR: We saw this aeroplane. It was a, as I say a —
Other: Wellington.
JR: Wellington.
SC: A Wellington. Yeah.
JR: I was going to say not a Lancaster. A Wellington.
SC: Wellington.
JR: Two engine one.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But we saw them without the engines. Propellers not turning but still going.
SC: It must have seemed very strange.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. With this funny contraption on the back. You could see it. It was shaped.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And that. What’s that? Going like the clappers.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. That would be 1941 I should imagine. Before I went in the army anyway. Yeah. Still experimenting.
SC: Yeah.
Other: You wouldn’t see it over here though. Would it have be while you were at Bulwell, dad?
JR: No. Netherfield.
Other: Netherfield.
SC: Netherfield.
JR: Yeah. You’d see them about.
SC: Yeah. Well, that’s all been absolutely fascinating. If there’s anything you can, can you think of anything else that —
Other: I was trying to think of some of the stories —
SC: Yeah.
Other: That dad’s told me from time to time.
SC: Yeah.
Other: Just to prompt him.
SC: Yeah. I think we’ve captured a lot. A lot of things.
JR: I remember we knew that flying bombs would come over.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And we knew that there would be rockets too. Long before they came.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Long years before. Well years. Yeah. I remember going — I was stationed at Hemel Hempstead and I went to [pause] we were a party to Anti-Aircraft Command Headquarters in, near Watford. And we were fixing up a radar assembly. Very special. It was based on on the carriage from a GL. That’s a gun laying equipment.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Which had huge yagis and I remember they pulled them up with a rope and they moved up and down like that. And you know turned on —
SC: Yeah.
JR: And they were yagis which are [pause] a yagi. Do you know what a yagi is?
SC: I’ve seen the pictures of them. Yeah.
JR: Yeah, well they’re —
SC: Yeah.
JR: Well they’re, you know cross members.
SC: Yeah. The flight, yeah. Yeah.
JR: And they’re directional aerials.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And they’d got this. What’s this one? And he said, oh a Royal Artillery officer he said they’re going to send rockets up and we were using these to detect them.
SC: Wow. Yeah.
JR: I don’t know how far they went but, and I know that in the field opposite us was — what’s the name of them? The fireworks people.
Other: What? Who you mentioned earlier on?
JR: Yeah.
SC: Was it Brocks that you mentioned?
JR: Not Brocks.
SC: Brocks. The —
Other: I thought it was Brocks.
JR: Oh, was it Brocks? Oh it was a fireworks factory.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And they were firing maroons up into the sky and they were apparently parachutes and there was a bottle of air blowing a whistle. And you got [unclear] as they were dropping.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And apparently, we heard that there was going to be one of these on every building. Fire station, police station and whatnot in the areas where they expected a rocket to fall. Predict a rocket to fall. They would press a button and all these things would go off in that area.
SC: Gosh.
JR: To give you warning. Give you a few minutes warning before the rocket.
SC: Before the rocket arrived.
JR: I don’t know if this worked or not. This is what we were told anyway.
SC: There were all sorts of different ideas.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Some of them mad and —
SC: Never heard of that one. Yeah.
JR: Some adopted and some not.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. I don’t think anything was adopted. Just had to sit and take it.
SC: Trying, yeah. Different things.
JR: Yeah. But this was long before they ever came.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
JR: You know, nothing’s secret.
SC: No. They must have known that —
JR: Oh yeah. They knew something was coming and they were preparing something.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah. I don’t know. You see. You see a little bit of it.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And you’re just a little thing in the middle.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And you see a little bit of it
SC: Yes.
JR: But you see a bit and then you only realise it long afterwards when —
SC: Yeah.
JR: You’ve seen the whole picture.
SC: Yes.
JR: When you’re allowed to see the whole picture you say, ‘Oh. I saw a little bit of it. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Yeah.
SC: I’ll probably stop the tape now because I think that —
JR: About to run out —
[recording paused]
JR: James took me to, somewhere up north. Nottinghamshire. To a 1940s do. Was it Rufford? Rufford Abbey. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: That was it. And there was a fella dressed in a battledress. He said, ‘What do you think?’ He knew I was — I said, ‘Well, that’s wrong there.’ ‘What?’ And he’d got on his pocket here. And he’d got a button on it. I said, ‘There’s no button on that.’ He said, ‘Well, I put it on because —' I said, ‘No. That’s your, that’s your field dressing pocket.
SC: Yeah.
JR: ‘Oh. What’s that?’ I said, ‘Well, the top of the pocket, it’s an open pocket. The top is, has got a zigzag on it and it’s sewn on so it becomes tight. You can slip your field dressing in but you can’t get it out until you break that and —
SC: Yeah.
JR: Pull it out. And that’s your field dressing when you’re wounded. All it is is a big triangular bandage.
SC: Bandage. Yeah.
JR: And, ‘Oh,’ he said, he says, ‘I’ve learned something.’
SC: Yeah.
JR: He thought it was just a pocket and he put a button on it.
SC: Yeah.
JR: But no. It’s a specialised button for, specialised pocket.
SC: Pocket for bandage.
JR: For your field dressing. Yeah. Yours. No one else’s.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
Other: You did have a lot of your friends killed during the war.
JR: Oh yes. Lots of friends killed.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Goes through them. And I remember going to some years ago now going to a Remembrance service at Mapperley Methodist Church. And the lady there said, ‘Are there any names you want me to remember?’ I said, ‘Where do we start? Have you got a bit of paper?’ ‘Oh. Go on.’ Georgie. Georgie Rose. Pete Robinson. Roy Edge. Gordon Davis. Slick Hayes. Nobby Burton. Nobby [pause] Oh dear. I’m forgetting names now but there’s no end of them.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Georgie Morgan. Albert Swain. You know. Ernie Webster. All these people. And you know the funny thing is I can’t see them as old.
SC: No.
JR: Mauled or white haired old men. I can only see them as young twenty year old lads.
SC: Yeah.
JR: As I knew them when they were killed.
SC: Yeah.
JR: Oh dear. What a waste.
SC: Yes.
JR: What a waste. George. George Rose was my particular pal. And when I used, when I came home and I saw his mother in the, on the village street she’d weep at the sight of me.
SC: Yeah.
JR: I’m not being funny there.
SC: Yeah. No.
JR: But she saw me and it hurt. George. Her only boy. Oh dear. And he was my great pal was George. And who was the first one on the street to be killed? Dennis Swain. He was the first one. He was killed in 1940. And then there was a great stream of them. Jackie Baldwin. Grace Girdleston’s brother. What was his name? Girdlestone. Billy Steele. Wilf Underhill, Jackie Baldwin. Oh dear. You know, these were your pals.
SC: Yeah.
JR: That you played with and what not. They were your pals and they got killed. No end of them. Gordon Davis. George Rose. Pete Robinson. Roy Edge. He was a nice lad. Little Joe. Never knew his name. He was always little Joe.
SC: He was little Joe, yeah.
JR: He was a little fella but he was a splendid chap. A Scotsman. He carried a, what do we call it? A chanter. It was a, it was a pipe off a —
SC: A pipe from the bagpipe. A chanter.
JR: A bit. You play it. yeah.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And you know —
SC: Yes.
JR: You get a sound. You know —
SC: Yeah.
JR: It was alright. It was fun. But he had that. I remember little Joe. As I say, I never knew his name but just little Joe.
SC: Yeah.
JR: And a nice fella he was. Killed.
SC: And this were mainly people you served with in the army. Yeah.
JR: Yeah. Yeah. Oh dear. Little Joe.
SC: Yeah.
JR: As I say I remember them as young lads rather than as they would be old men if they’d have lived.
SC: Yes. Of course.
JR: I wonder what they’d be like. Crotchety old men like me I suppose.
Other: They might not be crotchety. Who says you are? [laughs]
JR: Oh dear. Oh dear.

Collection

Citation

Steve Cooke, “Interview with Jack Robson,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 13, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11559.

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