Interview with Rex Searle. One


Interview with Rex Searle. One


Rex Searle joined the RAF in 1938 as an air frame fitter. He was based at Hendon and then at Biggin Hill with 601 Squadron before the squadron was split and he moved with them to France. He was evacuated back to the UK via Boulogne as the German army advanced in 1940. He continued to work as a fitter until he volunteered for aircrew and began training as a flight engineer. He joined a Canadian crew in 432 Squadron at RAF East Moor. After he was demobbed he later rejoined the RAF and flew in Lancasters and Shackletons.




Temporal Coverage




01:48:29 audio recording


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ASearleROJ170725, PSearleROJ1709


CB: Right. My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 27th err 25th of July 2017 and we're in Reading with Rex Searle to talk about his life and times. So what are your earliest recollections of life, Rex?
RS: Oh yes. Recollections. Well, that’s going back some [laughs] Well, pre-schooldays I suppose. Yes.
CB: Where were you born?
RS: In Silverton. Born in Silverton. Yes.
CB: Yeah. And what did your father do?
RS: Oh. He was engineer at the water works. And he used to run turbines in fact. At least he used to watch over them. Yes. That's right. And that was in the, in the local water works of course. Yeah.
CB: Where did you go to school?
RS: To, oh what on earth was the name of that school? Oh, I can’t remember what they call it now.
CB: It was a primary school and then you moved on did you? Or was it a school that had children right up to the age of —
RS: Up to the age of fourteen. Yeah.
CB: Right.
RS: That's right. Yeah.
CB: Were you good at any things at school?
RS: I would say average [laughs] Yeah. Average. Yeah.
CB: And when did you leave school?
RS: At [pause] I was under fourteen. Less than fourteen years I was, in other words. For some reason I left. I can’t remember why. I was early leaving and that was that. I can't think of anything else to go with that.
CB: And then what? What did you do then?
RS: What did I do then? Good heavens. I can't really remember.
CB: If your father was an engineer did you decide to go into engineering yourself?
RS: Well, probably. Probably. I can't remember thinking that but I expect it was. Yes.
RS: Some reason like that.
CB: What sort of job was it?
RS: His job?
CB: Your job. What sort of job did you go to?
RS: When I left school. When I left school. What the hell did I do?
CB: Tell you what. We’ll stop just for a mo.
[recording paused]
RS: I never thought about this one.
Other: About 1933 Dad? Isn’t it?
RS: Yeah. I don’t see how I can answer that.
CB: Do you think you got into a job quickly? Because it's just after the Depression isn't it? 1933.
RS: Oh yes. It was rather quick. Yes. Yes. I sorted some engineering basis and I did go into it and I took it on at the time. Yeah. That’s right.
CB: So what made you join the RAF?
RS: I wanted to fly. Yeah. It was purely and simply that. Yeah.
CB: Where did you join up?
RS: Where did I join up? Where did I? Where did I join up? [pause] What was that in north, north of London.
CB: Hendon.
RS: Hendon. Yeah. Hendon. That's right. I went to Hendon first of all. Yeah.
CB: And what did they say when you, how did you get there? Did you have to sign up somewhere first or did you go straight to Hendon to apply?
RS: I can't remember the details of that at all.
CB: Okay.
RS: Long time ago.
CB: Indeed.
RS: Yeah.
CB: So, what do, what do you remember about joining the RAF? What do you remember about joining?
RS: Well, I think I was quite pleased to get into, into it. Yeah.
CB: And did they give you a number of options for jobs? Trades. Or did you say specifically what you wanted to do?
RS: I did. I did say what I wanted to do. Yes. I'm sure I did. Yeah. Yeah, and that would be flying. Something to do with flying itself, you know.
CB: So which part of flying because there were different trades in flying aren’t there?
RS: Yeah. Well, I wanted to pilot the aircraft but I obviously couldn't do that so I went in as a flying, flying as a co-pilot to start with. And, and then of course I used to take over the various aspects of air crew. Doing each, well as a crew we would swap around doing different jobs.
CB: Yes. But when you joined initially —
RS: Yeah.
CB: You were nineteen. Were you? What year? Was it 1938?
RS: Yeah.
CB: That you joined.
RS: Ahum.
CB: So had you, were you still eighteen or had you reached nineteen when you joined?
RS: Well, that would be a pretty, pure guesswork. I can’t remember.
CB: Well, we can look it up can't we?
RS: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Yeah. So what I was wondering was what they put you on to as soon as you joined the RAF because what did you do on the ground as a trade?
RS: I went in on to ground crew engineering. Yes.
CB: And then they trained you. How did they do that?
RS: Well, they had a system at the time of putting you in, in to a class as it was and you got experience through that.
CB: Was this at Hendon where you joined originally or did they send you somewhere else?
[telephone ringing]
MS: Sorry. I thought I’d put that to quiet.
RS: No. Hendon wasn’t the original. It was the, it was the secondary. Secondary posting. Yeah. I’m just trying to think what the first one was.
CB: I'm just going to stop it a mo. Cover that.
[recording paused]
CB: We know that your first posting was Cardington but it's how did you get there because you were trained somewhere before that.
RS: Yeah.
CB: And I just wonder where that was.
RS: Oh yeah. That was in [pause] I can think. Now, where on earth was it?
CB: Was that somewhere in the south or was it in Wales or —
RS: Somewhere near Manchester.
CB: Was it?
RS: Oh yeah.
CB: Right. Okay.
RS: Somewhere out there. Yeah.
CB: So they then qualified you as an airframe fitter did they?
RS: Yeah.
CB: And so your rank increased from AC2.
RS: Yes. That’s right.
CB: To what?
RS: That’s right. Yeah.
CB: So what did you go, what did you get after that? Did they make you an LAC or —
RS: Yes. LAC. I did become an LAC. That's right. Leading aircraftsman.
CB: Yeah.
[background noise]
RS: Oh, steady on, Michael.
CB: I'll stop for a mo because you just want to put the hearing aid in again.
[recording paused]
CB: Right. We were just talking about how you qualified as a airframe fitter and you moved up from a —
RS: Oh yes. I went on a course. On an engineering course. That's right. Within the, within the RAF of course. Yeah. And that's how I became a fitter.
CB: And then you went to Cardington.
RS: Yes.
CB: What was in the, Cardington is known for its two very big hangars. What was there?
RS: Yeah. There was a big hanger in which they used to have [pause] What did they have in there?
CB: So they had a big, they had the big airship.
RS: Yeah.
CB: The R100.
RS: That's right. Yeah. That's what there used to be in there, wasn't it?
CB: But what else was there? There were trainers there as well were there?
RS: Yes. There were.
CB: What were they?
RS: They were very small aircrafts. I think its half a dozen of them that we had which we looked after. Brand new they were as well. Yes. Moths. I think they were Moths.
CB: And did they fly or were they always on the ground?
RS: They were always on the ground. Yeah. Until later when they, they flew. They did fly eventually. I know that. Yeah.
CB: So what were the tasks that you undertook as an airframe fitter with those new aircraft?
RS: Well, just looking after them. Inspections. Visual inspections of them and things like that.
CB: What is the role of an airframe fitter? What did he have to do? He wasn't on engines but he was on airframe. So what did you do?
RS: Well, an inspection of the aircraft in. Visual inspection. Looking around. Checking all the bits and pieces. And that's about as far as it went I think.
CB: So you, you were making sure the flying controls —
RS: Oh yeah.
CB: Worked.
RS: That's right. Yes. Yeah. Chocks and plates and all that sort of thing.
CB: This was a fabric covered aeroplane was it?
RS: Not necessarily. No.
CB: Right.
RS: Yeah. Yeah. Hurricanes for instance. They, they were fabric covered or metal covered. Yeah.
CB: Depending on which part of the aircraft.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. The note I've got here said they were, that the trainers were Miles Magisters which had fixed undercarriage of course.
RS: Yes. They did. Yes. Yeah, that's right.
CB: But the Hurricane was more complicated.
RS: Yeah. Yeah. Of course they had the undercarriage that folded in of course, on take-off.
CB: How reliable was that?
RS: Turned out to be very reliable. Yes. Had to be. Absolutely. Oh yes.
CB: So what was going on at Cardington? There were these different aeroplanes but what did they do with them? Were they training? Were they storing? Were they delivering? What were they doing?
RS: No. They were, you know just used as [pause] well as aircraft and putting them in use in some way. I don't know. I can’t remember now. What would they do?
CB: So, then in 1939 —
RS: Yeah.
CB: You were posted to 601 Squadron.
RS: Yeah.
CB: City of London at Hendon. What were the people like who were in that squadron?
RS: What were they like in that squadron?
CB: They tended to be titled and monied.
RS: Yeah. Well, they did. Yes. I don't know what I can say about that. No.
CB: So they were flying later. They moved from Hendon. Do you remember moving from Hendon to Biggin Hill?
RS: Yes. I do remember that. Yes. That's right. We did. And then we split the, oh yes we split the squadron into two halves. Half stayed in England and the other half went to France. I went to France with them. That’s right. I remember. I remember going over there in a Bristol Bombay, yeah. Big old aircraft with a fixed undercarriage.
CB: And what were they doing over there?
RS: Just basing us. Basing us into a, into a position where we were looking after the [pause] Well, looking after the bases of aircraft being flown from there. Yeah.
CB: So, at that time this is, when is this? 1940?
RS: Yeah.
CB: So were they in combat and —
RS: Yes. They were.
CB: What happened as a result of that?
RS: They were they in combat. Yes. That's right.
CB: And this is from Merville. The base was at Merville was it?
RS: Yes, it was Merville. Yes. Quite right. Yeah.
CB: So, casting your mind back to the flying that was going on they were in combat. Some of the planes got damaged. Some didn't come back did they? Or —
RS: That's right. Yeah. Oh yeah these were the days when we were repairing with newspaper or anything else. Dope on the outside of the aircraft, you know.
CB: So we're talking about Hurricanes, are we?
RS: Yeah. Yes. We are.
CB: So why did they need to be patched up?
RS: Because they've received damage through airborne fighting if you like.
CB: So after you've read your newspaper you used it to patch the holes.
RS: Yes, we did [laughs] yeah.
CB: Because we're talking about fabric covered aeroplanes so —
RS: That's right well we didn't have the fabric for it so the next best thing was stick something over it to keep an air flow across it.
CB: So some of your spares weren't there.
RS: That's right.
CB: So how does the system work then for patching a hole?
RS: How does this work for packing it up?
CB: For patching a hole? How do you do it?
RS: Oh, you use red dope and get a piece of whatever you've got and, whether it's the paper or anything else and just doped onto the side. Onto the, over the patch. And that's how they flew.
CB: What does the dope do?
RS: They really made, really just stuck the patching on. Yeah. And then a good fix.
CB: So it makes it a good smooth surface.
RS: Yeah. Yes, it did.
CB: So as an airframe fitter this was your concern. Your job.
RS: Yeah, well that was a matter of using those techniques to over, overcome the necessary repairs if you like. Yeah.
CB: So that's a relatively easy fix by using newspaper and dope.
RS: Yeah.
CB: But what about other spares? Did you have enough of other spares or were they difficult or what?
RS: Well, that was a matter of if we, if we couldn't do anything then we’d make something perhaps. Yeah. For instance it would be bits and pieces in, inside the aircraft that needed new parts and we’d do our best to sort that out really.
CB: What sort of damage did these aircraft sustain in combat?
RS: Well, fire. Being shot. Shot up by pieces. Yeah. Being shot by other aircraft. Obviously enemy aircraft.
CB: Well, the German fighters had exploding —
RS: Yeah.
CB: Cannon shells. So what did that do?
RS: If it was hit by a shell then there would be rather extensive and well we’d do our best with what we could do. If anything at all. Yeah.
CB: But you did hydraulics as well did you?
RS: Did we have — ?
CB: Did you yourself deal with hydraulics?
RS: Hydraulics?
CB: Yes.
RS: On occasion. Yes. Yeah. Or checking them as well.
CB: But they could be damaged.
RS: That’s right.
CB: And instruments. What about that? Cockpit instruments.
RS: Yeah.
CB: You dealt with all those things.
RS: Oh yeah.
CB: Then what were the other trades?
RS: Yes. Yes. Yes. One used to get mixed up with the, the gunners. The gunners. I was nearly shot by them because they were on the, on the wing and they were doing something on there. And obviously they were doing the gun, sorting something out, and they let fly with a lot of ammunition. And it, it went straight past me because I was standing in front of the leading edge, [laughs] I was very lucky there.
CB: Because there are eight guns on these planes so —
RS: That's right. Yeah. But when you are standing on one side and you've got the, the boys up on the main plane and that's when they were let, they let the, these guns be fired.
CB: Did all four —
RS: And they just missed me.
CB: Did all four on that side go together or just one of them that nearly hit you?
RS: Well, they seemed to go all, all at the same time. Yeah.
CB: But nobody else was hit.
RS: No. But there used to be a lot of holes in the top of the, top of the hangar from the guns that went off.
CB: Oh, it happened regularly did it?
RS: Well, it happened more than once. Yeah.
CB: So what caused the guns to go off?
RS: Don’t know. It was something to do with the people on the, the stuff on the wing. Messing around somehow with the gunfire.
CB: So, when the planes had been on an operation how long would the operations last each flight. If they went into action? Roughly.
RS: How long? Well, it could be half an hour. It could be an hour. Yes. That's about all I think.
CB: And when they came back then was there an urgency to get them back again in the air or —
RS: Oh yes. Yes. We had to check them. Check them out. Check them over and keep doing the necessary [pause] do anything that was necessary to repair it if it wasn't so.
CB: So they had to be rearmed and refuelled.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Did you, was part of your work —
RS: Yes.
CB: Refuelling.
RS: Yes. It was. Yeah.
CB: So how did that work?
RS: Oh, you just top the tanks up to what you can get in to them.
CB: So the petrol bowser would come up.
RS: Yeah.
CB: And have long hoses. Where did the hoses go into the aircraft? Was it under the wing or on top of the wing?
RS: Oh, that was, that was on top of the wing. Yes. Yeah.
CB: Close to where the guns got fired accidentally.
RS: Yes [laughs] that's right. Oh dear. I’m still here [laughs]
CB: Meanwhile the pilot's having his cup of tea somewhere.
RS: Yes. That’s —
CB: And finding bullets going over his head is he?
RS: Yes. Yeah.
CB: So what was the disciplinary action taken in that circumstance?
RS: No disciplinary action at all. No. It's just one of those things.
CB: Part of living dangerously.
RS: Yeah.
CB: What prompted the return of the squadron to Britain?
RS: To England? Why did we return to England?
CB: Did you run out of aeroplanes or —
RS: They sort of split the, the squadron into two if you like.
CB: Yeah.
RS: And a half went over to France and the other half stayed in the south of England. Yeah.
CB: But, but when you were in France you had to get out.
RS: Yeah. We did. Yeah.
CB: So what caused that?
RS: Well, the first we knew the Germans were on our tail.
CB: Right.
RS: Coming up. Yeah. Being chased.
CB: So did the, did the fighters fly back to England or had they all been damaged or destroyed?
RS: Well, there was only one over there at that time. Only one left over there. Yeah.
CB: So, what happened to that?
RS: Oh, it flew back.
CB: Right.
RS: Yeah.
CB: So, how many people are there on the ground that you, you had to get back to Britain? What happened there. How did you set off?
RS: How did we set off? Oh. Chasing. We were about thirty miles I suppose from, from the coast and we got back to the Le Havre and from there of course you waited in the water to get across the, across the water to [pause] where was it?
CB: So, which port did you actually leave from?
RS: I’m trying to think what the names were.
CB: Were you at Boulogne? Or Dieppe?
RS: In Boulogne. It was Boulogne.
CB: Dunkirk.
RS: Yeah. Boulogne.
CB: Boulogne. Ok.
RS: Yeah.
CB: So you're on the Merville Airfield.
RS: Yeah.
CB: And who decided that you'd got to get going?
RS: Yes.
CB: Who decided that and what instructions?
RS: Our own instructions. We knew what was coming up and trying to get the hell out of it.
CB: So you all went in lorries did you?
RS: Yes. Yes. Yes, we did. Yeah.
CB: So you got to Boulogne. Then what? Did you get the lorry all the way to Boulogne? Or did you have to walk some of the distance?
RS: We, I don’t know. Followed the, we were on the road for quite a while. Yes. To get to the coast. Yeah. Then it was a matter of getting across the water.
CB: So was the town under attack by the Germans at that stage or not?
RS: No. Not then. But it was very close.
CB: So did you bring the truck back with you?
RS: No. No. They were left behind. Yeah.
CB: So you, you come into the port. What did you what instructions did you have then?
RS: What instructions did we have?
CB: When you got to the port.
RS: Well, we didn’t have any. Any instructions at all. After crossing the, crossing the sea we got out the other side and we were lucky enough to get some chocolate and stuff like that handed to us. And then we carried on ashore I think. And we went off. And I had ended up by going home. Yeah.
CB: Did you go directly to your home? Did you?
RS: More or less. Yeah. Yeah. Went up to North Wales first. Then from there I called in home because I remember sitting in the kitchen waiting for the family to, to get up, you know. Because we had arrived in the middle of the night.
CB: When was this? Was it the beginning of the Dunkirk evacuation or towards the end or in the middle?
RS: Well, it must have been in the middle of it, I think. Yes.
CB: But when you got to the port how many RAF people had been on the lorry with you?
RS: When we got to the ports on the French side? I was, I was on a tanker in fact. It was full of, full of fuel which was it a bit dicey [laughs] Yes. But it got us there.
CB: So you were directed onto the tanker with a mixture of air force and army people or just air force or what was it?
RS: Just RAF. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: And which port did it come into in in England?
RS: Which port? Which port? I can’t think of the specific port.
CB: Was it Portsmouth? Or was it Southampton? Or down in Devon?
RS: It’s, I think there was a station. Not a station. There was a railway there.
CB: So they put you on a train and sent to you where? To London? Or did they send you a different direction to North Wales?
RS: No. I went, I went up to an RAF base which was fifty miles north of that point. And —
CB: North of where you landed.
RS: And that's where I I went home after that.
CB: Right.
RS: Yeah. Accordingly.
CB: So, after you went home then what? They recalled you somehow.
RS: I can't remember being recalled. No. But we made our way back to where we should have been, I suppose. Yeah. It’s a bit hazy. All that sort of thing.
CB: That’s alright. So the RAF wasn't going to let you hang around because it needed engineers. What did you do next? You've returned from France.
RS: Yeah.
CB: You've had time at home. Then what?
RS: I can't remember what happened then.
CB: It looks as though you went to Middle Wallop.
RS: I probably did.
CB: When you came back.
RS: Quite likely.
CB: And then the Battle of Britain started.
RS: Sorry?
CB: Then the Battle of Britain started.
RS: Oh.
CB: When you had returned, didn't it? Shortly afterward.
RS: Yeah. It did.
CB: So what do you remember about that?
RS: Well, some people take the mickey out of us because of course we’d run out of the country. Yeah. That's right.
CB: Air force people or civilians?
RS: Air force people. Yeah.
CB: Okay. So you're working as a ground engineer at that stage. Still with your squadron.
RS: Oh yes. Yeah.
CB: Okay. Then the following year then you went abroad. Is that right?
RS: Yes. That's right. Yeah, we did. Yeah.
CB: What did you do there? [pause] So you went by ship.
RS: Yes.
CB: To South Africa.
RS: Oh yes. We went, that's right, by ship and there was crossing the Atlantic all the time. Backwards and forward. So we crossed the Atlantic about four or five times I think coming down there until we eventually finished off in South Africa.
CB: What was life in South Africa like? What was it like being in South Africa?
RS: Well, it was new. New to us. Or new to me. Yeah. And quite exciting really. Yeah. I would say.
CB: So you were supposed to go to Cape Town. That was one of your destinations was it?
RS: No. It was a bit further north than that.
CB: Then you went to Durban.
RS: That's right. Durban. Yeah. Yeah. Durban was the one. Yeah. Of course, we went across the, across Africa as well and right to the other side. I remember crossing there.
CB: A lot of people when they went to Canada and South Africa and Rhodesia were effectively adopted by a local family. Did you have a close experience with South Africans when you were there?
RS: Yes.
CB: A South African family.
RS: Well, we did actually. Yes. We were taken in by a family. And I remember sitting down at a full table [laughs] That sort of thing, you know. Yeah. That was before. Before I left. I went across to [pause] where on earth was that? A bit of a blow that one.
CB: How long were you in South Africa?
RS: I can't remember now. It couldn't have been for very long. No.
CB: Because while the South African family was looking after you were you actually attached to an air force station where you were working?
RS: No.
CB: Or was it just holiday?
RS: It wasn't a holiday or anything. It was just a matter of being picked up by these people and taken in, you know. Somewhere to go sort of thing. Yeah. That's all.
CB: I'm going to stop there for a bit. Give you a breather.
[recording paused]
RS: And into the jungle at the top. On the, on the eastern side there was. And I don't know. There were snakes and all sorts of things there. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: So this was just something to do.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Going to see the snakes.
RS: Yes [laughs]
CB: Not to warn you off.
RS: Yeah.
CB: When you stayed with the South African family were you staying in their house or just going for meals?
RS: They had a bungalow. Yes.
CB: Oh right.
RS: That’s right. Yes.
CB: Right. And were you on your own or were you with colleagues?
RS: No. I was on my own.
CB: What had happened to the others?
RS: I don't know. They disappeared. Yeah.
CB: And how did you know where to report next?
RS: How did I know? No idea.
CB: So your next stop was North Africa wasn't it?
RS: It must have been I suppose.
CB: So you went to a Maintenance Unit. 106.
RS: Three.
CB: 103 Maintenance Unit in Aboukir.
RS: Yes. Yeah. I did that.
CB: And you were dealing mainly with Blenheims at that time. What do you remember about that?
RS: That's true. Yeah. Yeah. Blenheims.
CB: So because it was a Maintenance Unit what was going on?
RS: That was 103 was it?
CB: Yes.
RS: 103.
CB: What was going on there?
RS: Not a lot [unclear]
CB: Well, Maintenance Units —
RS: Yeah. It was a Maintenance Unit. Well, I suppose must have been looking after aircraft that had been positioned there, I think.
CB: What I meant was that with the squadron you were involved with frontline servicing. When you went to the Maintenance Unit the aircraft were there for more serious faults to be fixed. So my question really is what sort of work did you have to do on these planes that were more seriously out of action?
RS: Well, patching them up. That's about it I suppose.
CB: Battle damage was a real problem.
RS: Yes. It was.
CB: And what sort of things would you have to do or make?
RS: Get some paper and stick it over holes in the, in the fabric on the aircraft.
CB: You can do that in front line.
RS: That’s the sort of thing we did.
CB: Yeah. You can do that in front line servicing but at the MU it's going to be more serious isn't it? It's going to be structural, mechanical.
RS: Yes.
CB: Or electronic.
RS: I couldn't have stayed in a MU. I must have been, I don't know, elsewhere somewhere.
CB: And there are all sorts of people in these places so who did you meet who you knew already or palled up with for the future?
RS: I don’t think so.
CB: I gather you met your two future brothers-in-law, Eddie and Bert in Alexandria.
RS: Oh, well that's asking. Yeah.
CB: What happened there?
RS: Yeah. I had met them up there. Yes. Yeah. I can't remember what stage that was though. I must have been there at a later date.
CB: What happened in Alexandria? Was it a place to go on leave or in the evenings or were you stationed there some of the time?
RS: I was stationed nearby. A little, a little further to the east of it. Yeah.
CB: And what dangerous things happened to you in the Maintenance Unit? Because you talked about on the squadron guns going off. Well, what sort of dramatic things happened at the MU?
RS: Well, I don’t really know.
CB: Did you get blown out of bed by a bomb? Where did the bomb come from?
RS: Oh yes. That's right. Yes. Oh, that was in Alexandria. Yeah. I was in a hotel there and of course I got stuck in, stuck in Alexandria and had no means of getting back to base so I stayed there. And it was during the night there that we were bombed and I went standing up above the bed that I was on. Towards the ceiling. I came down and I remember running like hell to get over to the sea wall which was close by. I jumped over the sea wall and stayed on the sea side of the wall. And I felt quite safe there [laughs] Yeah.
CB: We don't think much about Egypt being bombed. So where did these enemy aircraft come from? Were they Italian? Or were they German? Flying from where?
RS: They would have been German and from the [pause] well where the Germans were in the, in the desert. Further in the desert, you see.
CB: So from Egypt is that, was it at that time that the experience of the bombing had — what sort of experience did that have on you?
RS: Just bombing. That’s all.
CB: Was there an element of shock in it so that made you react differently?
RS: I don't think so. No. I can't remember.
CB: Some people had nightmares as a result of experiences. What about you?
RS: Not really. No.
CB: Okay. At what point did you volunteer to join air crew from being a ground engineer?
RS: Now, that's a good question.
CB: Was it at that time?
RS: No. That must have come after that. Yeah. I think.
CB: There was a carrot of some kind associated with that was there?
RS: Was there?
CB: Was there? Which was to be able to go to the pastures of Palestine.
RS: Yes. There was that. Yeah.
CB: But actually you didn't go to Palestine, did you?
RS: No. No. I didn’t.
CB: What did they do to you?
RS: The nearest I went there was [pause] well, partly into the desert actually. So it's all a bit hazy. Too hazy. I can’t remember.
CB: So it sounds as though you thought Palestine was a good place at the time but they stuck you on a boat and sent you back to the UK. Is that right?
RS: I don’t think it was like that at all was it?
CB: So it looks as though you were put on a ship and returned in a convoy to England. Arriving at Liverpool.
RS: Oh [pause]
CB: Did you?
RS: I think that must have been a different, different phase.
CB: It looks as though you had to wait on the ship for a while.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Why was that? So you get to Liverpool. Can't get off the ship.
RS: Could be. I don’t know.
CB: A cue to disembark.
RS: No. I don't know now.
CB: So in the background you've been abroad. You've come back. Where did you meet your wife?
RS: Where did I meet her? Where did I meet my wife? Well, she was a girl that I had at home. She lived there.
CB: You knew her already.
RS: Yeah. That's right.
CB: So you then came back to Liverpool. Got off the boat three days later. And then what happened? You went home.
RS: Yeah.
CB: And how soon did you marry? When you got back how soon did, before you married Isabel?
RS: You’re testing me now.
CB: It’s always testing. Working out when people got married [laughs]
RS: I don’t know.
CB: According to this, which is your earlier testimony that you had to wait three days before you could disembark from the ship. But after that, five days later after arriving home November ’43.
RS: Oh.
CB: You married Isabel on the 20th.
RS: Oh yeah. Of course it was. Yeah. Yeah, that's right
CB: These things are supposed to be marked on your consciousness [laughs] Never to be forgotten.
RS: That’s right.
CB: I'm going to stop there for a mo.
[recording paused]
CB: So after you were married. Now you had to get back into RAF activities. You went to St Athan, did you?
RS: Yeah. I suppose that's what the sequence was. Yeah. It must have been.
CB: To train.
RS: Yeah.
CB: To do what?
RS: To do what?
CB: To train as a flight engineer.
RS: Probably.
CB: That's where the flight engineer training took place didn't it? So you were an airframe fitter which meant that you had RAF engineering in you as it were.
RS: Okay.
CB: But in order to —
RS: Yeah.
CB: Do a flight engineer job which is what you'd applied for, volunteered for then you needed training at St Athan.
RS: Yeah. That's right.
CB: And so that's November December time 1943 as you were married on the 20th of November.
RS: Oh.
CB: And then the flight engineer course must have taken you quite some time.
RS: It took a while I suppose. Yeah.
CB: Which was followed by going to the HCU. The Heavy Conversion Unit.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Filling in.
[recording paused]
RS: There was a, a truck that was laden with fuel. Full of fuel and of course it never occurred to me about being blown up at any, any particular stage you know so I'm glad to leave that.
CB: So you just parked that in Boulogne.
RS: Yes. That's right.
CB: This is to do with your escape.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. So was that close to the ship that you parked it or were they nervous about that?
RS: Well, I wasn't driving it so somebody must have driven it away somewhere. I don't know. I don't know what happened to it.
CB: And then when you got on the ship was there a choice of ships? Was it the last ship? What was it?
RS: Well, it was a ship that was in, in dock in Boulogne.
CB: In the harbour.
RS: In the harbour. Yeah. That’s what I was trying to think of. And, well —
CB: What was special about it? It was to do with its load was it?
RS: Yes. You had to unload it and we unloaded by [pause] well taking the load out of, out of the middle of the ship anyway. I don't think there’s much else you can say about that.
CB: What was it carrying? What were you moving from the ship?
RS: Ammunition. That's right. Yeah.
CB: So what did you do with it? Just stack it up on the —
RS: Just stacked it up, I think. Yeah [laughs] What else can you do with it? Could have thrown it over the side I suppose but —
CB: Well there was nobody taking it away was there?
RS: No. No. We just left it.
CB: And then how many of you got onto the ship?
RS: How many got on to the ship?
CB: Well, there must have been a reason for taking it off the ship in the first place.
RS: Well, that’s what they were there. No reason why we should have taken it off. You'd better leave it there and let some other poor sod pick it up.
CB: But there must have been a number of you together were there to get onto this ship?
RS: Only two or three of us. That’s all. That's about all. Yeah.
CB: So the ship left with only, only you on it. You three was it? Or did it have lots of soldiers on it?
RS: Oh no. It had a lot of people on board.
CB: Right.
RS: They were already on there you see. Yeah.
CB: This ship was the Oriana. No.
RS: No. Already on the ship.
CB: Already on it. Beg your pardon. Right.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. And who were they? Were they soldiers? Air force?
RS: Soldiers I reckon. Must have been.
CB: British and French or just British?
RS: British, I think. Yeah. I didn't go into all that.
CB: No.
RS: At the time.
CB: And they sailed. How long did it take to sail to England?
RS: How long? Oh, about half an hour I suppose.
CB: A bit more than that.
RS: Probably. How long does it take to cross the —
CB: Yeah, from Boulogne.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Not too bad.
RS: Not too bad at all.
CB: Into where? Boulogne into Dover? Folkestone? New Haven?
RS: Well, it was, no [pause] I don't know where they went at all. It was a blank sort of place. I think there was some woman there with chocolate and stuff to hand to us. I said, ‘Thank you very much.’ Not much else about it and well it wasn't, it was just along the coast. That was all.
CB: So fast forward now to November ‘43 when you were married. You had some leave afterwards, did you? Where did you go on honeymoon?
RS: Where did we go on honeymoon? Where did we go?
CB: Up on the northeast coast was it?
RS: I remember my father was there and he gave me, gave me something. It was probably some money on something like that. I don’t know. And then he cleared off and we stayed.
CB: Was it the seaside?
RS: Sorry?
CB: Was it at the seaside?
RS: It must have been I suppose.
CB: Scarborough?
RS: No. It was on the south coast wasn’t it?
CB: Oh, was it?
RS: Yeah.
CB: Oh right.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Okay.
RS: It was a long time ago.
[recording paused]
CB: So, let's just start. So, after your honeymoon and then your flight engineer training at St Athan you were then sent to an HCU.
RS: Yeah.
CB: And at the HCU you then joined a crew that had already been formed.
RS: That's right, yeah.
CB: And what were they?
RS: They were Canadians. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: And how did you fit into that?
RS: Very well. Very well indeed.
CB: What were they like?
RS: Typical Canadians. They were okay. Yeah.
CB: And they, how did they accept you?
RS: Well, they had to because we were English and they, they were all Canadian and they had to take us. So that was that.
CB: And what was the aircraft?
RS: Halifax. Yes. Yes. Hali 1s. 2s. Yeah.
CB: And what were the engines on those?
RS: Well, the engines, well 1600 cc's. I can’t remember the names of them now.
CB: Were they radials or —
RS: They were radials.
CB: Were they inline?
RS: Yes.
CB: Okay.
RS: Oh yeah.
CB: Bristol engines. Right. Okay and what was your job as the flight engineer?
RS: Oh, act as, act as co-pilot and engineer. That was it.
CB: So, you acted as co-pilot. At what, at what time in the flight envelope were you helping the pilot?
RS: Well, anytime that they wanted to vacate the pilot’s seat. And I'd just get up and take over. Yeah.
CB: What pilot training had you had beforehand?
RS: None. Only experience.
CB: In air experience flights.
RS: Oh yes. Yeah.
CB: And on take-off very often the engineer helped the pilot.
RS: Yeah.
CB: With the throttles.
RS: Yeah.
CB: What did you do?
RS: Well, holding the four throttles and holding it full on during the take-off until there was such time as he was ready to pull back on it.
CB: So, at what stage would you reduce the revs after take-off?
RS: What stage?
CB: Would it be a particular height or after a certain period of time?
RS: Well, after having cleared the field. Yes. And then that would be it.
CB: So these are Bristol Hercules engines. Did you synchronize them after you got into —
RS: Oh, we did. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. And how did you do that?
RS: By watching the shadow of the flaps. Yeah.
CB: So how do you adjust the engines to synchronize them?
RS: By, by moving the favoured engine to slightly to get the shadow correct.
CB: Are you changing the revs or the pitch or both?
RS: What are we doing? Changing the pitch. Yes.
CB: So there's a cruise speed.
RS: Yeah.
CB: For the engine.
RS: Yes.
CB: And you'd set all four to do the same would you? And then adjust the pitch slightly.
RS: Yeah. Having, having done that pair you can do that pair and then look from the other just to synchronize them together.
CB: So you’d do —
RS: Which you could do a little bit with the instruments anyway.
CB: And as the flight engineer then you're on your feet a lot of the time doing various tasks are you?
RS: In the air. Yes. Oh yeah.
CB: So what do you do about the fuel?
RS: About the fuel. Well, we, it’s logged all the time. Yeah. From the word go.
CB: So you're logging the consumption.
RS: Yes.
CB: And then you're managing the disposition of the fuel between tanks. How did you do that?
RS: By taking the amount of fuel that’s in the tanks and even them up. Well, running the engines from certain tanks on that side or that side and then vice versa.
CB: Did you exhaust some of the tanks earlier than others?
RS: No. No.
CB: So they all had the same, had fuel in. Or did you —
RS: Oh yes.
CB: Move it out of the wingtip tanks into the central tank?
RS: No. No. No, we used the, well that's usually, that's how we wanted it you know.
CB: So at the HCU what was your main role there.
RS: At the HCU.
CB: At the HCU. Most of the work was cross countries, was it?
RS: Yeah. It would have been. Yeah. Yeah, that's right.
CB: And did you practice fighter affiliation?
RS: Oh, quite a bit. Yeah.
CB: What did that mean for you?
RS: Messing about up in the sky. Yes.
CB: You had to hold on.
RS: Yes.
CB: And did they practice corkscrews?
RS: Yes. We did. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: So you'd be especially sitting down for that would you?
RS: Not necessarily. No. Standing up in the, in the astrodome. Yeah.
CB: As a spotter.
RS: Yeah.
CB: So where would you hold on to secure yourself in that position with your head in the astrodome?
RS: Something like that. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Were there —
RS: Whatever is there.
CB: Are there special bars up there to hold on to or what?
RS: I can’t remember now. Don't think there were. No. I don't think so.
CB: So how did you stabilize yourself during a corkscrew turn?
RS: Well, sort of go with the, with the aircraft. However it is.
CB: Because everybody else was seated is what I'm getting at but you're the only one standing up aren't you?
RS: Yeah. That's right. Yeah.
CB: Did you tend to have more bruises than most people?
RS: I don't think so. No.
CB: When you finished at HCU what did you do next?
RS: What was next? HCU.
CB: Then you went on to your squadron [pause] with the Canadian crew.
RS: Well, we crewed up. I crewed up with the rest of the crew.
CB: You did that at the HCU. So then you went to —
RS: Yeah.
CB: To do this for 432 Squadron.
RS: That's right. Yeah.
CB: And still on the Halifax but was it a newer model.
RS: Yeah. Yeah. It’s strong, a Halifax actually.
CB: I’ve got here Halifax 3. If you were on the 1 and 2 how is the 3 different from the earlier one?
RS: Not a lot different really. Yeah.
CB: And you went to East Moor.
RS: Sorry?
CB: You went then to the station at East Moor for 432.
RS: East Moor. Oh yeah. East Moor. Yeah. That’s right.
CB: What was that like?
RS: East Moor. I can't remember anything in particular. It must have been very similar to anywhere else.
CB: But it was fairly new was it?
RS: I expect so. Yes.
CB: What did you live in?
RS: I can't remember.
CB: Nissen huts.
RS: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: And how many crews to a Nissen hut would there be? Because there are seven in the crew aren't there?
RS: Yes. That's right.
CB: And what were the ranks? Were any of the crew commissioned or were you all NCOs?
RS: Oh no. They were all — I could be either. I don’t know probably sergeants and some commissioned. Yes. The pilot was usually commissioned.
CB: Right.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Followed by one of the others.
RS: Well, as the rest of the crew was but didn't really run into it do we? I mean it doesn't matter if you're commissioned or not. What you're doing in the air is different. Yeah.
CB: And how well did the crew gel from a professional point of view?
RS: I think we did very well. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: And how many ops did you do with that crew?
RS: Thirty-two I think it was. Yeah.
CB: What sort of excitements did you get during those ops?
RS: Well, the usual things like [pause] well, what you’d expect to see.
CB: Because there’s a number of factors aren't there? There's taking off in the aeroplane if something goes wrong. Then it's difficult to get airborne.
RS: Depends how far you've got I suppose.
CB: Did you have a crash on take-off?
RS: No. I don’t think so. No.
CB: Causing you to overrun the runway. Or on landing was it?
RS: It was landing.
CB: Yeah.
RS: Yeah. Landing.
CB: And what did you end up in?
RS: In a pond. Yeah.
CB: What happened then?
RS: I can’t remember a lot about it now actually.
CB: Because it's always an embarrassment if you're landing and the brakes fail.
RS: Well, if that does happen then you would have to just carry on and come to a stop wherever.
CB: So when you overshoot the runway and land in a ditch as your plane did —
RS: Yeah.
CB: Then what's the first action? People get out but what's your, what do you have as a first role before you get out?
RS: I would switch everything off. Fuel in particular, master cocks and that sort of thing. Which I did.
CB: And the engines? Who will have, who will have stopped the engines?
RS: Who would stopped the engines? Well, the engineer.
CB: Oh really. Not the pilot.
RS: No. No. The pilot would be gone [laughs] Yeah.
CB: Right. Okay now what about on operations flak and fighters clearly were major hazards.
RS: Yeah.
CB: So, first of all flak. How much flak did you take?
RS: How much flak? Well, how do you discern that?
CB: Were you damaged much by flak?
RS: Quite a bit. Yeah.
CB: On ops.
RS: Quite a bit. Come back full of holes.
CB: Would you regard that as a regular occurrence?
RS: Yes. I did.
CB: Or only occasional. How many people got wounded from flak?
RS: Well, there's only one drew blood and that was the bomb aimer. He was the only one. He only got a bit of blood on his thumb. That's all he had. Yeah.
CB: That was the thumb he used to —
RS: He was lucky.
CB: Yeah.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Was that the thumb he used to release the bombs?
RS: I expect so. Yeah. Of course.
CB: So when you got back what was the ground crew's reaction to all these holes in their aeroplane?
RS: Well, there's always, always talk about it, you know. What was it? And all that sort of thing.
CB: Did they show that they were a bit upset that you’d bent it?
RS: No. Never upset like that. Never like that. No.
CB: What about night fighters? How often did you encounter those?
RS: Quite a few times. Yeah. A few times.
CB: And what was the result of that?
RS: Well it was a matter of getting rid of them by flying, twisting around and that sort of thing. And losing them in the dark hopefully.
CB: Did the gunners shoot at them?
RS: Yeah. Sometimes. Yeah. That’s right.
CB: And was their operation of the night fighters was it on the way into the target or on the way back?
RS: Well, it could be either actually. Yeah. Usually on the way, on the way out I think.
CB: As the engineer on the way in to the target —
RS: Yeah.
CB: What was your role to the actual coming up to the dropping point?
RS: Oh, keeping your eye out for other aircraft. And not much more than that really. Yeah.
CB: What height were you normally flying?
RS: Usually about sixteen thousand feet.
CB: Which meant there were other aircraft above you at eighteen.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Or twenty.
RS: Probably.
CB: So were you looking out for the ones above?
RS: Oh, yes. Yeah.
CB: And what was the danger there?
RS: Well, being bombed from above. Yeah.
CB: And did you see any sticks go past you?
RS: Yes. We did. Yeah. Oh yes.
CB: How close?
RS: Very close, in fact. In fact, when I've been through, you go through you see a load of bombs coming down and you go right through the line of them without touching of course.
CB: Oh you didn't get hit.
RS: No.
CB: That was good judgment or luck.
RS: Yeah. Very lucky.
CB: So you were acting as a spotter there. The fighters aren't going to come in on the final run-in because of the flak. So what are you looking out for? Mainly other aircraft is it?
CB: Other aircraft.
RS: Your own.
RS: Yeah.
CB: And in the —
RS: That’s right.
CB: In the dark, what do you actually see?
RS: You actually see engines. The, the exhaust overheating and that sort of thing, or getting hot.
CB: So there's a glow around because they're radials.
RS: Yeah.
CB: There's a glow around them is there of the exhaust gasses?
RS: That's right. There was that as well. Yeah.
CB: So that's always visible on your engines is it?
RS: Yes. It would be. In the dark.
CB: The engines were mainly reliable but to what extent did you have to tender the engine?
RS: To what extent did I tend the engine?
CB: In other words going wrong or not working right in other words.
RS: Well, it depends on the extent of that. I mean you could lose an engine all together which I had done. Yeah.
CB: You mean it had stopped altogether. Not fallen out.
RS: That's right. Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
RS: It stops and I feather the thing and that's it.
CB: Did you have to do that on some trips?
RS: Yes. We did.
CB: Did you? And in a particular position? Or how many times did you have to feather engines?
RS: There's only once that I can remember. Yeah.
CB: What was that circumstance? What happened there?
RS: Well, something went wrong with the engine. I can’t remember what it was now. I think it was to do with pressure. Yeah. The pressure on the engine. Fuel pressure that is. Yeah.
CB: Lack of fuel pressure.
RS: Yeah. Lack of fuel pressure. Yeah.
CB: And was that an outer engine or an inner?
RS: That was the outer, yeah.
CB: So the gyroscopic effect was greater there. How did the pilot handle that? Losing an outer.
RS: Well, it's like they're in practice. They practice in these things in three engines. Sometimes two engines. So you can go on to two engines and you're quite safe.
CB: So when the fault starts on an engine the pilot calls you and what does he say?
RS: What does he say? ‘Eng. What's wrong?’
CB: Does it start with vibration on the engine?
RS: Not necessarily. No. No.
CB: The event.
RS: If it does it tells you something.
CB: Who decides to feather?
RS: Who decides to feather? Well, it could be the engineer. It could be the captain. Or both. Yeah.
CB: And once you've done it what did you say to him? The bomb aimer says, ‘Bombs gone.’ What do you say?
RS: No. I can’t think now.
CB: Now, with the electronic gear you had a signaller but did you get involved in some of his activities that would be related perhaps to German jamming?
RS: No. No. I don’t think we did.
CB: But did the Germans try to get onto your frequency sometime and —
RS: Well —
CB: And broadcast propaganda to you.
RS: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I heard a female voice at one stage. The female was calling up from below us. Yeah.
CB: What was her patter?
RS: I can't remember what it was now. No. I can’t remember.
CB: Talking about, was she trying to make you feel badly about dropping bombs on to —
RS: Oh yeah, she did say. That's right. Yeah. She did say something about, ‘People down here,’ you know. Yeah. That's right.
CB: People down here doing what?
RS: Well, people are down here and you're dropping bombs. Yeah.
CB: Did she describe the effect of the bombs? What did she say?
RS: No. She didn’t. No.
CB: Now, when you were flying along occasionally you had fighter attacks.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Did you ever have a more passive approach from a fighter? In other words flying near you.
RS: Well, I suppose we did. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: On a homeward bound leg. A fighter came beside you. Is that right?
RS: Yeah. It did once. Yeah. Yeah. At one stage. Yes. Flew alongside us.
CB: Yeah.
RS: That's right.
CB: And what was he doing?
RS: Nothing.
CB: Did he know you were there?
RS: Well, I doubt it.
CB: Right. He just happened to be beside you.
RS: Yeah.
CB: This is in the dark.
RS: Yeah. It was in the dark.
CB: Yeah.
RS: And he was on the light side. So we could see him but he couldn't see us.
CB: Oh, I see.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Right. And in the bombing run there would normally be pretty intense light over —
RS: Oh, searchlights.
CB: The target with searchlights
RS: Yeah.
CB: How did you deal with those?
RS: How did we deal with them? Well, you can't unless you just don't look at them. Don't look into them. Yeah. Otherwise you'll lose your night sight. That's it.
CB: Did the bomb aimer have dark glasses to handle that?
RS: No. Normally no. Or if he did I never saw them.
CB: Right. So what did the pilot do when you were coned by searchlights?
RS: Well, he just twisted the aircraft and that's about it. He couldn’t do anything else.
CB: On the approach to the target did he ever turn off and do a circuit and come back in again into the bomber stream?
RS: Yes. We did that. Yeah.
CB: And why would he do that?
RS: Well, because he's got an aiming point himself anyway and you've got to come back to that.
CB: Do you mean he went over the aiming point and missed that so he had to come round?
RS: Yeah.
CB: What about taking evasive action before reaching the target?
RS: Yeah. Well, what can you do then other than move away from it?
CB: Yeah. The radar gun laying of the flak guns.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Presented a particular challenge.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Flying towards the box of flak must have been daunting. What happened? Did the pilot go straight on or did he turn left and then left and left to come back in?
RS: He would turn left and left. Yes. [unclear]
CB: So your damage was never too bad.
RS: That's right. Yeah. We did sustain damage but not all over us.
CB: So you never had any engines out as a result of flak.
RS: No.
CB: So, of the thirty two ops you did what was the most daunting one would you say?
RS: I don’t know. Each one was different really. Yeah.
CB: They were all pretty daunting.
RS: Yeah. Much the same.
CB: So you reached the end of the tour. What happened then?
RS: You came off flying. A rest period.
CB: Right.
RS: Supposed to be.
CB: Where did they send you next?
RS: Well, nowhere in particular I don’t think. Other than that.
CB: The bit I forgot to ask you about was when you had that mechanical problem with the engine.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Was that before the target? So, you still had the bombs on.
RS: Yes it was. Yes.
CB: So what did you do? Did you go over the target with the engine feathered or did you turn off?
RS: No. We [pause] what happened? Yeah. We did turn off. Yes. I think we just turned off and left it at that.
CB: So, you finished your tour in March 1945 but one of your ops was to Dresden. Was it? Or did you never go to Dresden?
RS: Dresden. Yeah. We did do Dresden.
CB: You did. So what do you remember particularly about that?
RS: There was pretty thick anti-aircraft business down there. Yeah.
CB: And then the 14th of February 1945 you went to Chemnitz.
RS: Yeah.
CB: That was the same time as the Dresden raid.
RS: That's right. From one to the other.
CB: What was that like?
RS: Yeah. What was it like? Well, quite hairy I suppose.
[recording paused]
CB: So the Dresden bit you didn't go on. You went to the diversionary raid at Chemnitz.
RS: Sorry?
CB: You went to Chemnitz not Dresden.
RS: I thought I did both actually.
CB: Did you?
RS: Yeah. I’m sure I did.
CB: So, you finished ops with 432 Canadian squadron.
RS: I'd have to look at the book to find out then.
CB: Yeah.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Because you weren't on flying after that.
RS: No.
CB: You were on a ground tour weren't you?
RS: I can’t remember. I can’t remember.
CB: Well, just have a look [pause] So that's the end of your war time flying with a hundred and seventy five hours and a picture of the crew.
RS: Oh right.
CB: Stopping there.
[recording paused]
CB: So after a ground tour you then left the RAF in ‘46.
RS: Yeah. I don't know what I did.
CB: Most people left around ‘46 ‘47.
RS: Yeah.
CB: You went to Ordnance Survey at Tolworth. You were, what were you doing there with the Ordnance Survey? Were you in the office or were you out and about?
RS: Ordnance Survey.
CB: It’s called mapping and charting. It was called mapping and charting.
RS: Yes [pause] I don’t know. I can’t remember now.
CB: Then in 1950 you re-joined the RAF. There must have been a compelling reason for that. Like the RAF was looking was it for flight engineers again.
RS: Yeah. I suppose they were.
CB: Did that have something to do with the Korean War?
RS: Could have been. I don’t know. I really don’t know.
CB: As a flight engineer. And you probably went on to Shackleton's.
RS: Oh, that was the Shackleton time was it? Yes. Oh well.
CB: So you were posted to St Eval in Cornwall.
RS: Yeah.
CB: So now you're doing maritime reconnaissance which is a bit different from Bomber Command work.
RS: Yeah. Well, not all that different is it?
CB: No.
RS: No.
CB: Not for the flight engineer.
RS: No.
CB: And that involved airborne radar. So did you have to look after the airborne radar as well?
RS: No. We didn't. That would come under the rest of the crew I suppose. The radio chap.
CB: So your role was managing the engine.
RS: Yeah.
CB: On a variation of a Lancaster.
RS: That's right.
CB: Not too different from the Halifax.
RS: That's right.
CB: So then after a while you changed to Transport Command. What do you remember about that?
RS: You go further. That's about all that is.
CB: A lot of work to the Far East.
RS: Yes. That's right.
CB: What was memorable about that?
RS: To the Far East. Well, visiting the Far East [unclear]
CB: Okay. We’ll stop there for a bit.
[recording paused]
RS: By shadowing.
CB: What was shadowing when you're adjusting the engines?
RS: Well, you look at the, a pair of engines on either side and you look into the two and you get a shadow in there. In, in those two. And the same that side.
CB: Yes. But what is the shadow?
RS: And then you want to synchronize them you see.
CB: Right.
RS: To get them to.
CB: So you want the prop blades do you —
RS: Yeah.
CB: To be in synchronization and the shadow is when they're not.
RS: Yeah.
CB: So they want them to so that at the, at the top of the cycle as it were two of the blades are vertical. Is that right?
RS: That's right. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. So why is it important to synchronize engines?
RS: Yeah. Vibration.
CB: Because if they're not synchronized what happens?
RS: You do get vibration. Yes.
CB: What's it do to the aeroplane?
RS: Well, it would shake the aeroplane to pieces.
CB: Right. And with four-engined aircraft this was crucial.
RS: Yeah.
CB: So, if I gather what you said you synchronize one side, then the other and then you make sure all four are synchronized.
RS: Yeah.
CB: Is that right?
RS: Yeah, well you join them. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. And do they fall out of synchronization or do they tend to keep —
RS: Normally they do keep. Yeah.
CB: Their synchronicity. Right. Thank you.
[recording paused]
CB: We're stopping now at ten past five to reconvene another time.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Rex Searle. One,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 20, 2024,

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