Interview with Geoff Rushton


Interview with Geoff Rushton


Geoff Rushton worked as a bank clerk before he volunteered for the Air Force. He trained as a navigator in Canada and after crewing up flew 20 operations with 15 Squadron from RAF Mildenhall. He and his crew were then posted to 186 Squadron at RAF Tuddunham, where they completed their tour. He discusses his crew and the events on some of his operations. On their first sortie to Stuttgart they returned on three engines and another operation were attacked by three night fighters and considered baling out. He married Mona, his childhood girlfriend and became the mayor of Gosport after the war.




Temporal Coverage




00:28:18 audio recording


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 and



ARushtonG180212, PRushtonG1802


JS: Right. This is Joyce Sharland with Flight Lieutenant Geoffrey Rushton and his wife Mona at their home [buzzzzzz] and the date is the 12th of February 2018. So, Flight Lieutenant Rushton could you please tell us —
GR: Yeah.
JS: A little bit about you early life.
GR: Yes. I was born in Portchester in 1924 and we lived there for a few years before we went to Portsmouth where I went to school in Portsmouth. When I left school I joined Barclays Bank as a junior clerk at sixteen and during that time I enrolled for the RAF and got my calling up papers in March.
JS: Ok. What year was that?
GR: 1942.
JS: Ok.
GR: And my place of, I had to report to Lord's Cricket Ground which was a great, marvellous thing for a young lad who was terribly keen on football. And we did all our exams and tests in, in the cricket ground and we lived in the flats in St. John's Wood and ate at the zoo restaurant, Regent Park Zoo Restaurant. And the thing that’s always, I always remember is that during our meals some, they’d evacuated all the animals apart from monkeys and the monkeys were still in their cages there and during occasionally they’d start up and they’d take off the siren. All of them made a tremendous siren noise when the siren went and then ten minutes later they’d do the all clear [laughs] Then I did a series of training. I went down to Paignton and did some training there before I eventually went to Canada for my training. And conditions on the troop ship were absolutely appalling but we got there in the end and I did my training in Canada which I thoroughly enjoyed. At Winnipeg. Portage le Prairie just outside Winnipeg. Then I came back to England. Did various courses again. And when we got to Operational Training Unit at Wing we were crewed up and they had a marvellous way of crewing people up. They put the pilots and the navigators and the bomb aimers together and we wandered in a room around all the other people and chatted to them and in the end we crewed up. All seven of us. We kept together all the time.
JS: Right. You trained as a navigator didn't you?
GR: Yes.
JS: Yes.
GR: I was a navigator. Yeah.
JS: How did you find the training?
GR: Training was very good. We were trained by ex-bush pilots in Canada. We couldn't lose them anyway they knew their way around. So they were the pilots and we did our navigational training there with a lot of astro-navigation which we did. Had to get a certain number of star shots. I think two or three hundred of those.
JS: Right. So you came back to England and you crewed up. Where were you when you crewed up. Where were you based?
GR: We were at, I can’t remember which. Which training? I’ve forgotten where it was we crewed up. I think it was at Wing. It was Wing Operational Training Unit. That's right. That's where we crewed up and then we did some training on Wellingtons, Stirlings, and then eventually to, on Lancasters.
JS: And what base were you?
GR: This was at Mildenhall.
JS: Mildenhall.
GR: Yeah.
JS: Were you there for the duration of the war?
GR: No. No. We did twenty trips there and then because we were the senior crew we got moved to 186 Squadron which was at Tuddenham which was just a few miles away.
JS: So in that first posting you did twenty operations.
GR: Yes.
JS: Where did you go?
GR: Several in France. One or two in France. And various —
MR: Well, we’ve got them.
GR: We’ve got them in my logbook.
MR: Got it here.
GR: One interesting trip was a daylight raid where we were allowed to fly as low as we wanted to which was quite unusual. It was down in France and we had to go down to, right down to the tip of England to Lands End.
MR: Geoffrey, here are all the trips.
GR: Yes.
MR: That you did there to France. That’s what you did in France.
GR: And it was interesting to read that when we, in Bomber Command Report the day after, or a few days after the raid Bomber Command said that it was strange that several Lancasters were seen circling a nudist camp [laughs]
MR: Now, that was all there from first ones in France.
JS: Ok. And what was the Lancaster that you were flying? What, do you have a particular —
GR: Well, I think we stuck to one.
JS: One that you stuck to.
GR: One fairly —
MR: It does tell you there Geoffrey.
GR: I’ve got one. It was pretty much the same Lancaster we had. We did have various ones though. Our first operation was to Stuttgart and we lost an engine soon after we took off. It packed up and we continued on our journey but of course it made us late getting back and we were about half an hour, three quarters of an hour late. And I think they blanked us off and said, well they’ve gone [laughs] because we were so late. But of course with three engines you can’t go as fast as you can with four and that held us up a lot but anyway we got back alright. So quite safely.
JS: Greeted with relief when you arrived, I assume.
GR: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think it was noticed [laughs]
JS: Now, you showed me a book just now in which one of those operations was described. Was that this posting we’re talking about?
GR: That, that was, that was when we went to Stettin.
JS: Right.
GR: That was —
JS: Could you talk us through that?
GR: That was a long flight right up in the Baltic. it was a long flight. Over eight hours I think it was we were there and we were shot up on three occasions by three different German night fighters and we hadn’t dropped our bombs and we were shot at again. And that’s when we had the discussion about whether we should all bale out because it’s difficult to tell how badly an aircraft is damaged when you are inside the aircraft. You can't sort of see. See all the aircraft. But you know as I say we got back quite safely.
JS: Can you run me through for the benefit of the recording that discussion that you had about whether to bailout? You were over Sweden at the time. Is that correct?
GR: We were over Sweden at the time and the pilot said. ‘Geoff, what do we do? Do we bail out now or do we stick it?’ And that's when I looked at my maps and said, ‘No. Let's make it. Make a go of it.’ And we got back and we got back safely. We were obviously very late getting back but still we got back.
JS: Right. Do you have any recollections? I'm sure you do have recollections of the feelings you were experiencing during those moments of crisis?
GR: No. I don’t. Being a navigator you had to work very hard and you were working hard all the time which is more than a lot of the crew did. The bomber, the gunners for instance it was a very boring job for them and I think they had a job to keep awake during that time. Because apart from it was very very cold for them I think that kept them awake to a large extent. But we were warm in the aircraft and I was kept busy doing my navigation.
JS: Right.
GR: I don’t think you noticed it too much. Can I tell you one little story? In the, in the aircraft you had on Elson. If you wanted to spend a penny you had to go down the fuselage to spend a penny. And I had to go there one day and Alan was waiting for me and I just started to spend the penny and he flew the aircraft all over the place and I got my trousers were wet. So a few weeks later he wanted to spend a penny and so the bomber aimer took over the aircraft and I waited and when Alan just got his buttons undone and had started I said to Bunny, Throw the aircraft around.’ And we did and Alan got soaked. And I said, ‘You know what it’s bloody well like now.’ [laughs]
JS: What was the, the camaraderie like between your crew? You flew together for the duration of the war.
GR: Yes. We all, we were together all the time. Yes. There was one change I think but that was about all but no, we all stayed together and I, six of us were sergeants and Alan was the only officer. And six of us were in a Nissen hut which we shared with another crew. And that was the thing that was more disturbing than anything else because often in the night you’d wake up and you would know someone was mooching around in this, in the Nissen hut and it would be the military police because they’d come to collect the belongings for the chaps that hadn’t come back for the rest of the crew. And that happened to us about three times. You know, the pals we got in other crews just went missing and they were collecting up all their bits and bobs to send off to their relatives.
JS: Must have been upsetting for you. Did you find it upsetting or did you have to just —
GR: No, I think when —
JS: Focus on what you were doing.
GR: When you’re young you get a bit sort of bravado. Cocky or something like that, I suppose, really. You don’t really, it doesn’t really, you take it in to a certain extent but you don’t let it sort of get you down.
JS: Do you think it was important that you had good relationship with the guys you were flying with?
GR: Yes. I think it is. Well, it was terribly important to have a good relationship and get on well together because you know you spent quite a lot of time together.
JS: And who were your crew? Could you list your crew for us? Who were the men that you were flying with? What were their names and where are they from?
MR: Here you are.
GR: Well, Bunny Rabetz was a farmer from Dorset and he was quite amusing because we were doing like we got, we talked about the master pilot just now and we were doing the run in to the target and Bunny was down in the nose of the aircraft saying, ‘Left a bit. Right a bit. Steady.’ And on one occasion he said, ‘Back a bit.’ [laughs] because we’d overshot. And we all said, ‘Oh God.’ That meant we had to go around again.
JS: And the other, other men you were flying with who were they? Were they Englishmen?
GR: Yes. They were all English. From all parts of the country. Yes. One from Cheshire and one from London who was in the police and went back and he was a detective at the Metropolitan Police. Yes. We all got on very well together. I don’t think we had any real arguments. I mean there was a lot of leg pulling. They got me drunk. I didn’t drink at all and then we went out to Newmarket one evening and they kept plying me with and I thought it was, they were non-alcoholic drinks but they weren’t. Are you still recording this? And, and we had to get out of the train and get on to, get on to another train. As we were doing that we we couldn’t go any further. So we got out of the train and they said that this is the end of the journey and it was late at night. Near midnight. And they said, by then I had passed out and they laid me on the platform and they said to, the porter came along and they said, ‘Well, what are we going to do?’ And he said, ‘Well, you can all go in there.’ And there was a place on the station for the lads to go to run by one of the charities. ‘But,’ they said, ‘They won’t take him.’ So they said, ‘Well, what are we going to do with him?’ So they said, ‘Best take him up to the police station.’ So they took me up to the police station, I can remember all this very vaguely, and saw the sergeant and he said, ‘I’ll give you a cell. We haven’t got any prisoners so there’s no heating on.’ So he put me in a cell, gave me a, wrapped me up in a blanket which was very good really and then about 4 o’clock or 5 o’clock in the morning I came too, staggered out and saw him. He said, ‘You’ve been a stupid boy, haven’t you?’ I said, ‘Yes. I have.’ [laughs]
JS: But that, that sort of camaraderie was important, wasn’t it?
GR: Well, it was important, I think, really. Yes. I think the crew that didn’t get on well together well they didn’t last long. I’m sure it sort of gave you the right spirit for surviving.
JS: Absolutely.
GR: And for being good at your job. Yes.
JS: So, what was life like on the base while you were waiting to be despatched on operations? How did you, obviously you went to Newmarket a couple of times. How did you spend your time? Did you spend your time together as a crew? Or did you spend it independently?
GR: Oh yes, we all went together. We were very good. We all went out together. We went, we used to go to that pub that they mentioned in the article in the paper and although I didn’t drink I had sort of squash or lemonade or something and then we used to stay behind and help wash up the glasses and that.
MR: Bird in the Hand.
GR: Sorry?
MR: Bird in the Hand.
GR: Bird in the Hand. That’s it. Yes, it was.
JS: Right. And can you remember, can you recall when you were told you had an operation you were told that night so you had the day to think about the operation?
GR: Yes. Yes. You were. You were told in the morning or the notice went up with the crews that were on duty. Not telling you anything about where you were going obviously but yes you were on call and then we did an air test. We did a lot of fighter affiliation. Every week almost we had to do fighter affiliation where we took off, circled around the aerodrome and a Spitfire or a Hurricane would come in and they’d attack us from behind so that made us sort of do the, oh, what do you call it now? The deep dive and turning around. Anyway, I’ve forgotten the name of it for the moment. And that sort of, you know was good practice for us to get used to so if we were attacked by the Germans we could take the right evasive action.
JS: And was there, did you feel apprehensive knowing you were going? How was that day spent between knowing that you were rostered?
GR: Well, I think we just went about our normal way. We of course had a special breakfast or meal with eggs which we normally didn’t get. If you were going on an op they gave you a good breakfast. Bacon and egg. That was alright. And then of course for briefing the navigators, pilots and bomb aimers were first of all at the briefing and it was then that we were told which target we were going to go to and they gave us all a weather reports and so forth. And then the rest of the crew joined us. And I had to do, you did every stage, you never went direct to the target you went by various, you had perhaps six or seven changes of course, zigzagged all over the place because they didn’t want the Germans to pick you up on radar and guess where you were going to bomb because then they could assemble the fighters and make it very hot for us.
JS: And what was it like when they made it hot for you? What was it like when the fighters came up to meet you?
GR: Well, I don’t know. You just went about, I mean obviously we took the right evasive action. Corkscrew is the word I was trying to think of. That’s it. You brought that back to me. That was the famous exercise that you did to evade a fighter and it was a deep dive and a turn and a swoop. So all my navigation equipment used to, when we did that my navigation equipment went all over the place and I used to swear at the pilot [laughs]
JS: But when you got back, when you landed there a sense of relief was there? Or was it just waiting for the next one.
GR: Yes. We, you were assembled, you went down to the briefing room and then you had the RAF intelligence officers asking and of course they spoke and spent a lot of time with the navigator to find out what time we got there and what we did and all the rest of it. And yes, yeah that took about twenty minutes I suppose really when you’d landed. And then you went off and had a meal and then went back to your billet for bed.
JS: Back to bed. And you served for the whole duration of the war. Is that correct?
GR: Yes. Yes, until I was demobbed.
JS: Right.
GR: When I was demobbed, when I finished flying I went on to embarkation duties and I worked at Liverpool docks and then Southampton and then I went to Norway. To Norway and I was stationed on, I had [ over there and by then I’d been commissioned and I enjoyed Norway very much indeed.
JS: What date are we talking about now? What date? What date did you leave?
GR: Well, just a few, a month or so after the war finished I was in Norway.
JS: Ok. Yeah.
GR: I enjoyed Norway very much and when I came back I reported to the Air Ministry and they said, ‘Well, you’ve got to go on to usual, you know embarkation duties. Where would you like to go?’ So I said, ‘Well, I’m living in Portsmouth so I’d like to go to Southampton.’ So I was posted to Southampton and enjoyed it there.
JS: Right. How long did you serve in Southampton? How long were you there?
GR: About six months I suppose. Until I was demobbed. And then when I was demobbed I went back to Barclays Bank and by then we’d just got married in May.
MR: ’45.
GR: ’45. So I went back to the bank and when I went back to the bank the local directors interviewed me and said, ‘Well, Rushton you’re young to be married. Is your father going to keep you?’ I said, ‘No, and I wouldn’t like to ask him.’ [laughs]
JS: Where did you meet? Did you meet before the war?
GR: We were at school together.
JS: Oh.
GR: So now we’ve been married for seventy —
MR: Well really in church, wasn’t it? He was a choirboy.
GR: I was a choirboy. Yes.
MR: We used to go to church every Sunday and he had a lovely voice and we used to look at one another. That’s how it started. And then I had to, I used to take the dog for a walk. My grandmother’s dog. My mother died when I was young so I lived with my grandmother.
JS: Yeah.
MR: And my father was in the Navy and I used to take the dog for a walk and go around near the church where the choirboys were.
JS: Yeah. I know what you were doing [laughs] Looking out.
MR: That’s it [laughs]
JS: Was there an opportunity to keep contact with Mona and other family members during the war? Were you writing? Could you make telephone calls to each other?
GR: We wrote letters. Yes. We wrote letters to one another. Yes. We did.
MR: It was when you were in Canada wasn’t it?
GR: Yes.
MR: We met sort of then and then he went off to Canada and I hadn’t hear any more and then all of a sudden I got a letter from him from Canada and that was where it started really. And then, well —
JS: Hard for those waiting at home. It must have been hard for you waiting at home.
MR: I used to hear the aircraft go out at night. I was going to bed and I’d hear this hum. You know. And I thought oh they’re off somewhere, you know. You do think about it.
JS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And what about other family members? Were your parents, did you keep, were your parents still alive?
GR: I lived with my mother and my father was in the Navy.
JS: Yeah.
GR: Away quite a lot. And I’d got two sisters.
JS: Right. Right.
MR: Only one left now.
GR: Only one left now. One died.
MR: There was a big gap. There was just his sister, Molly. And you were sort of —
GR: There was five years difference. She was five years older than me.
MR: And then there were seven years before his sister Jill and then [unclear] came along.
GR: My sister Jill.
JS: Ok.
GR: My other sister is still in Portsmouth. Living in Portsmouth. My young sister. Yes.
JS: So you’re all local.
GR: Yeah.
JS: A local family.
GR: Yes.
JS: Yeah. Good stuff. And you said earlier that you kept in contact with the men that you flew with.
GR: Well, we [pause] well, we did.
JS: More or less.
GR: Not closely. No. We wouldn’t, I wouldn’t say we were regular writers but we used to occasionally phone up or drop a line but it wasn’t a lot really and Alan went to America and he came to England as we said before.
MR: Well, he stayed with us didn’t he? He stayed with us here actually.
GR: He stayed with us there. That was the time when I was made mayor in Gosport.
MR: It says about that.
GR: And so he came to that. That ceremony.
MR: It says in the article about it.
GR: And then we went out to America and we saw him because he remarried. He married an American.
JS: Yeah. It strikes me sometimes as a little bit strange but not having lived through it I’m speaking from no knowledge at all but having lived in such close proximity and served in such close proximity with people that that would forge friendships that you take into later life or did you feel that you wanted to put it behind you and move on?
GR: Yes. I think we did to a certain extent. Yes. We all went our different ways and it was always difficult. I mean, we weren’t sort of very well off in those days to sort of, you know to spend on the phone or do things like that and we didn’t, I don’t think we had a car then ‘til several years after the war finished because, you know bank pay wasn’t terribly good.
MR: Well, it was really Alan, wasn’t it?
GR: Yes.
MR: The Australian pilot.
GR: It was through Alan, yes.
MR: And also wasn’t it the rear gunner?
GR: Yes.
MR: It says here, Rabbetz. He was the one that was the farmer’s son, wasn’t he? Down in —
GR: No. That was Bunny the bomb aimer.
MR: Oh. Well, it was the bomb aimer you kept in touch with.
GR: Yes. No. That was Bunny Rabbetz. Yes.
MR: Yeah. You kept in touch with him and his wife, didn’t you? Those were the only ones then.
GR: Kept in touch with him because he was not too far away.
JS: And you’ve showed me a newspaper cutting of a reunion you went to at Mildenhall.
GR: Yes, that’s right.
JS: In 1987. What was that?
GR: That was the reunion. 15 Squadron had a reunion once a year and we all managed to get, well not all of us but most of us managed to get there so it was quite an occasion. I think we were the only almost complete crew that were there. Yes.
JS: And we were saying earlier on of course that it took some time for the work that the people that you did to be recognised by the government. How do, how do you feel about that? How do you feel about —
GR: Well, I think it was disappointing that we didn’t get a medal because I mean I’ve looked at the medals that they’ve been giving, giving out since they’ve given them out for sort of, you know, what I’d call skirmishes. And I think really that the politicians were a little bit swayed by the church and others who criticised all the carpet bombing that went on in Germany. But the French were very good because I got my Legionnaire medal which the French gave which I think was marvellous really.
MR: It’s a lovely medal.
JS: Yeah. And you’ve had nothing else. Nothing since.
GR: No. No. The pilot got the Distinguished Flying Cross because we’d completed a full tour but no, the rest of us didn’t get anything. I don’t think we really expected anything but —
JS: But it’s wonderful that we’ve got a Memorial about to be unveiled now.
GR: Yes. Yes. I’m looking forward to seeing that. I’m glad they’ve got it at long last.
JS: Yeah.
GR: Was that alright, Joyce?
JS: Absolutely fine.
[recording paused]
GR: In the bank and also in the RAF. He was a pilot and he was on the Pathfinder Squadron and he got shot down on his thirtieth raid, trip and he was unfortunate enough to land in the town where they’d been bombing and the women were all ready to lynch him and it looked very very dangerous. And suddenly, he said, a soldier appeared. A German soldier appeared, got hold of his arm and took him, and took him in to a corner of a shop doorway and put his rifle across his chest and stood in front of him and he said to all the women, ‘He’s my prisoner. You mustn’t touched him.’ And he said it was that German soldier that saved his life. You don’t get many good stories about some of the Germans unfortunately but that was one I thought was a nice true story.
JS: Needs repeating, doesn’t it? We were talking actually earlier on about the, you showed me the photograph which could have passed as a passport photograph if you’d been shot down over enemy territory.
GR: Yes.
JS: And you were saying you had a silk handkerchief.
GR: A handkerchief, yes. With the map on it of the area we were bombing and most of France and Germany so if we did get shot down and were able we’d make our, try and make our way back and try and go in to France and meet some friendly people. And they usually told us who the friendly people were and among them were the church. The French church. And I’ve forgotten one or two other people that they said but generally speaking the French were very good and some people got back. Although I did hear one story of a chap in a prisoner of war camp, and they taught us this in our lectures that they gave and he was in the prison of war camp and he was sick and he made out he was sicker than he really was. And in the end the commandant agreed that he should go in for treatment in the town and see a local doctor which he did and he gave his promise that he’d come back. But he didn’t keep, he didn’t keep his word. He got back and eventually he got back through Sweden, through Switzerland, back to England. And when he was interrogated there about it all they said, ‘You’re going to go back.’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘No.’ And they said, ‘If you don’t go back to Germany and report again you will penalise all your other chaps who really are sick and want some treatment.’ And I’ve never been able to find out if that was true but I’m sure it was because that’s what they told us and they said they put him back again, through Sweden I think, and he ended up back where he was.
JS: And he went back.
GR: Which I think was probably the right thing to do because it would have penalised other people. It was nice for him to get back but —
JS: That’s the thing isn’t it? You say it’s, it has an effect on anybody else who’s serving.
GR: Yes.
JS: Yeah. Yeah. But you never used your, you were never shot down. You never had to use your silk handkerchief.
GR: No. No. Never jumped. No.
JS: No.
GR: No.
JS: Did it come close at any time?
GR: Yes. One or two occasions. The Stettin one was very close really. That was the nearest I think that we got to.
MR: When they went over Sweden. Yes.
JS: Any others? Was that the most dramatic that you can —
GR: It was the most dramatic. Yes.
JS: Yeah.
GR: It was really. Yes, we got shot at once or twice on other occasions but nothing as bad as it was with three fighters having a go at us on different occasions. It wasn’t the same occasion.
JS: That, that was fairly routine when you went up.
GR: Yes.
JS: Wasn’t it? To be shot at. That’s what it —
GR: Yes. Then when the war was over I went back to the bank and I ended up at, did my bank exams and was assistant manager at a couple of branches including Jersey and then I became a manager at Gosport here and was here for six years. And then we went away and I went to London to [pause] oh God where was it we went to in Essex?
MR: Rayleigh.
GR: Rayleigh, in Essex. I couldn’t think of the name. And then I went up to Head Office. And then from Head Office where I was a general manager’s assistant I then became a local director in Southampton. Back in Southampton looking after about a hundred branches. Then I retired and here we are.
JS: Did you say at one point you were mayor?
GR: Yes.
JS: Of Gosport.
GR: Mayor of Gosport. Yes.
JS: When was that?
GR: 1987.
MR: Well, it says here on this —
GR: ’87. Yes.
MR: It says on this.
GR: Yes.
GR: ’87, I think it was.
MR: ’88, wasn’t it? It says, “Geoff Rushton soon to be made mayor of Gosport in Hampshire.” And this was in May.
GR: ’87.
MR: So —
GR: It was ’87. Yes, it was.
MR: That was ’87 or was that ’88?
GR: Yes. I enjoyed my year as mayor. We like Gosport and we, although we’ve moved around an awful lot we said we wanted to come back.
MR: We were both born in Portsmouth.
JS: Yeah.
MR: And Portsmouth is our home town but —
JS: Yeah.
GR: I like it here.
MR: If you’ve lived in Portsmouth Gosport was known as Turk Town because in the early early days there were a lot of Turks in a ship that was wrecked and the Haslar Hospital had a lot of Turkish. There’s a wall there and a lot of them were buried there sort of —
JS: I didn’t know that.
MR: Near the sea.
JS: Yeah.
MR: All these Turkish people. So, it was known as Turk Town but we loved Turk Town.
JS: Yeah.
MR: And we came to Gosport.
JS: Yeah.
MR: Though we lived in Portsmouth.
JS: Yeah. No, I like Gosport.
GR: There is a poem I could just read to you if you like from downstairs. Shall I go and get it?



Joyce Sharland, “Interview with Geoff Rushton,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 27, 2023,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.