Interview with Frank Stanney

Title

Interview with Frank Stanney

Description

Frank Stanney was working on the land before he volunteered for the RAF. After training he flew operations as a wireless operator with 61 Squadron. One day his pilot took off as a twenty year old and returned as a twenty one year old as it was his birthday during the flight. During one particularly long operation the crew witnessed the Northern Lights.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-02-12

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

00:40:37 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AStanneyF160212

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

DK: Right. So, I’ll introduce myself. David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Frank Stanney on 12th of February.
FS: 12th
DK: 2016.
FS: Twenty one six.
DK: Yes.
FS: Yes.
DK: 2016. That’s it. Yes. I couldn’t remember the year. Ok. That looks like it’s going ok. So, really what I’d like to know really is, is perhaps if you could say a little bit about how you came to join the RAF.
FS: Well, well for a start I was in the Air Training Corps.
DK: Ok.
FS: Well, that was, I was fifteen, sixteen years old. Because obviously I decided to volunteer for the RAF in 1943.
DK: Ok.
FS: Well, I was only eighteen at the time.
DK: So —
FS: Like thousands more.
DK: So, had you come straight from school or were you working?
FS: Oh no. I left school at fourteen.
DK: Ah ok.
FS: And while we’re on to it Sibsey is just down the road. I was at Sibsey School in 1937.
DK: Ok.
FS: This is not quite the war of course. And this German airship came over. The Hindenburg. We didn’t know what it was at the time.
DK: Right.
FS: But it was the German Hindenburg airship. And when it got back to Germany that night, they were tethering it up and it blew up and caught fire.
DK: Oh right. So —
FS: There’s not many left that saw that.
DK: So you saw the Hindenburg.
FS: But I did.
DK: Oh wow.
FS: And there’s not been many more that did actually. Anyway, and then I was, decided to join in 1943 and I was, I was called up then and went to St Johns Wood in London. I had three weeks there initial training.
DK: If I could just take you back a bit. When you left school at fourteen. Were —
FS: Sorry? Sorry?
DK: Were you working?
FS: I was on the agriculture.
DK: Agriculture.
FS: Yeah.
DK: Ok. Ok.
FS: Well, that’s all there was to do. And how should I say? There was not many other type of work. Not much at the time in Lincolnshire. Especially Boston. Fishtoft. It was all agriculture —
DK: Right.
FS: Well, and then of course the war. I was, and then getting back to it I was in the, I was there six weeks and I got my calling up papers. I’d already been in. I thought that was quite funny. But I wished now afterwards I’d kept it. But I sent it back and told them to save paper [laughs]. But I wish now I’d kept it for a souvenir thing. However, I went to St Johns Wood. Then I went to [pause] oh dear [pause] Hereford. No. Yeah. Madley. I was stationed at Madley.
DK: Madley.
FS: I think that’s where I got my three stripes and my badge of course. Then we went up to Scotland. Dumfries. To do more training. Came back. I went to Market Harborough to be crewed up with seven, well six young men like myself. Seven.
DK: So, what, what role were you training for then?
FS: Well, I was, already done the Morse code. I’d already learned the Morse code so I was training to do the radio operator.
DK: Radio operator.
FS: Yeah.
DK: Ok.
FS: But I’d I thought I was putting in, changing something. I had a brother a year older than myself. He joined the RAF. Now, he did an air gunner’s course and the radio operator and he went straight on Transport Command where they didn’t need air gunners. I didn’t do the air gunner’s course. I went straight on Bomber Command. I can’t quite get over how funny.
DK: Yeah.
FS: However, yeah, Market Harborough. We trained there. Where did we come back to? Lincoln? Wigsley. Wigsley. Does that —
DK: Wigsley. Yeah. Yes.
FS: On Stirlings.
DK: Right.
FS: Because we were Wellingtons at Market Harborough. Then we came on to Stirlings and went in to Syerston at Nottingham on Lancasters.
DK: So, what, so was it an Operational Training Unit you were on?
FS: Yeah. Operational Training. And then of course we came back from Syerston to Skellingthorpe. Not far from where you are. It’s now the Birchwood Estate. 61 Squadron. And that’s where I did my flying from.
DK: Just going back to the Operational Training Units. How did you feel about flying on the Wellingtons?
FS: Yeah.
DK: Was that a good aircraft?
FS: [unclear] Wellingtons we flew in, oh they were terrible things to fly in.
DK: Ok.
FS: You’ve got to have the opportunity but if you ever get the chance they’re awful things to fly in.
DK: What about the Stirling? Was that —
FS: Stirlings were quite good actually. Although they were all electrical but they were quite good but being heavy. But we did like the Lancasters better than the Halifax.
DK: Right. How, how did you crew up? How did you meet your crew? Were you —
FS: Met the crew at Market Harborough.
DK: Right. And how was the crews organized?
FS: Well, shall we say, getting back, as you said to Market Harborough when I went, got on the train to go from here at Boston, the young lad in there was air gunner.
DK: Ok.
FS: And obviously we didn’t know one another but we sat next to one another and he was from Grimsby.
DK: Right.
FS: But he was also going to Market Harborough. So we crewed up together.
DK: On the train.
FS: And he was, he finished up as our mid-upper. But as I said I’m the only one left now. But it was quite interesting. We all got in a big ante-room as they called it. Had the pep talk and one thing and another and the CO as he was then, ‘Well now, you pilots just walk around and choose who you would like to fly for you.’ Well, fortunately for me I was sat next, we didn’t know one another mind you, I was sat next to a pilot and fortunately he asked me if I’d be his radio operator. Course I agreed. Which, he went down to choose his and five minutes later a Canadian came around. He was on his rounds. Would I fly with him? I said, ‘I’m sorry I’ve just chosen,’ you see. Well, a fortnight later this Canadian took off one night and he hit the electric cables at Market Harborough. Killed the lot. I could have been with him. Course you wouldn’t have been here now. Anyway, that was a bit of luck.
DK: Do you think it worked well that you basically found your own crews?
FS: Yeah.
DK: Because it’s quite unusual, being in the military. Normally you’re ordered to do something. This is —
FS: Oh yeah. Yeah.
DK: This is, this you had to find yourself. Do you think that really worked?
FS: Yeah. And how else do we say? We could move from there to — went to Syerston and fortunately or unfortunately shall we say, a week in January ’45 we couldn’t fly for snow. It was, it was really up to here. So that either saved my life or had to volunteer to do two more. You don’t know. But we didn’t fly for nearly, for above a week. But we were only training and then of course we came to Skellingthorpe and that’s where we set off on the night trips. Daylights. And as I said I did ten. Eight nights and two daylights. One daylight we got the outer, starboard outer shot out but it didn’t, and fortunately it didn’t frighten me but as I stood up, out of my seat to have a look out the right hand window to see if there were any more shell holes. I didn’t know at the time or we didn’t know but we were flying alongside 617 with the ten tonners. As I looked out this [unclear] just released his ten tonner. That was something worth seeing. Not many of them. There was only forty four dropped, I think during the war and I actually saw one being released.
DK: So when you lost the engine —
FS: Yeah.
DK: Had you been attacked by another aircraft or was it —
FS: No. We weren’t attacked. It was anti, anti-aircraft fire.
DK: Ok.
FS: But luckily although call it shot out, it shot out of action. I mean the engine wasn’t shot out itself. We came back on three. Daylight. Comfortable. And funnily enough it never frightened me. I was never frightened at all. I never even fastened my parachute harness up. Never.
DK: Was that the only time your aircraft was hit?
FS: Yeah. Yeah. And the last one we were on was an oil refinery in Norway.
DK: Right.
FS: And that was, shall we, well it was a night but early morning and we could see the Northern Lights shining across. A beautiful sight. [laughs] Sort of a show of colour at the same time.
DK: Right.
FS: But as I just said it never frightened me.
DK: And what did you feel about the Lancaster as an aircraft?
FS: Sorry?
DK: The Lancaster. What did you think of the Lancaster?
FS: The —
DK: The Lancaster. Was it a good aircraft? The Lancaster.
FS: Oh aye. Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. How did you feel flying on one of those?
FS: Oh yeah.
DK: Safe?
FS: Yeah. It were alright. Yeah.
Other: How did you feel, he said.
DK: Pardon?
Other: How did you feel flying on one? A Lancaster.
FS: How did I feel?
DK: Yeah.
FS: I enjoyed it. I did really.
DK: Did you feel safe?
FS: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
FS: Yes. As I said, and I wasn’t frightened. I never, funny, knowing that. Even, I mean obviously we were shot at a lot of times but it didn’t frighten me, funnily enough. Not as much as the Mrs does [laughs] We’ve had sixty odd years. Sixty odd years. Now then. What else?
DK: So, what, what was Skellingthorpe like?
FS: Well, as far as I could just remember it was just an ordinary airfield. We had 50 Squadron there which were VN and we were 61 with QR. I’ve got a big picture up there. You can have a look at it. No. Just as far as I can recall it was just an ordinary airfield. 5 Group of course. Which were, we didn’t know at the time but we were supposed to be the group, 5 Group, the group it was but we didn’t know. I mean we were just ordinary airmen.
DK: Yeah. So as, as wireless operator what did you have to do? What were your duties?
FS: Well, one thing we didn’t have to do was go to sleep. No. We used to get a message. I think every half hour. They were not necessarily on the half hour or the hour but at any time half hour.
DK: Right.
FS: So we weren’t asleep. So one two three. I think we got three diversions. Bad weather, fog, weather and so on. So we were diverted different places which was lucky in one. We even had one right down in the New Forest.
DK: Right.
FS: Instead of coming back to Lincolnshire. Right down. Of course we had breakfast there of course. It was quite nice. So, one in Norfolk. Coltishall. But it was quite good. But that was my job. If, I couldn’t really go to sleep although I did have a little shut eye. No doubt a lot of them did. Then what else?
DK: So, so you would receive a message.
FS: Yes.
DK: And then you’d tell your pilot then.
FS: Pilot yes.
DK: Yeah.
FS: Pilot. Navigator.
DK: Pilot. Navigator.
FS: They were, yeah.
DK: Yeah.
FS: I had to tell them. It used to come in Morse code obviously.
DK: Yeah.
FS: Then I had to transfer it. Translate it over. Quite good.
DK: And did you send messages at all?
FS: Not really.
DK: You didn’t communicate with the airfield then?
FS: Probably, I may have done but I can’t really remember doing so. Not. No. I may have done. Yes. When we’ve got a diversion. Yeah. Maybe I had to do. Yeah.
DK: Ok. So, what did you used to do when you weren’t on operations? What did you do on your days off?
FS: Come home and see my girlfriend [laughs]
Other: That’s a silly question [laughs]
FS: Before I met [laughs] hey you ask a silly question. No. I’ll tell you.
DK: Did you go to Lincoln?
FS: Yeah. Obviously it was [unclear] the crew.
DK: Ok.
FS: I had a motorbike at the time.
DK: Ok.
FS: But we hadn’t much petrol. And then we were siphoning some out one of the tankers one day to come home with but it wasn’t too bad actually. You see, not too far from Lincoln this wasn’t. What else could I, that I could remember. May. It was May, shall I say the day the war finished which was May the 8th ’45 we flew to Belgium for a load of ex-prisoners of war but that was the time we went up without parachutes. And we were half way across the Channel when Winston Churchill gave his speech to the end of the war. And when they played the anthem, me being the radio operator I switched the radio on so that the rest of them could hear and we were tried to stand up [laughs] We used to laugh. You’d never seen any, a hell of a, we get, we get to Belgium. Get there. Landed there. Oh it was hot. Middle of May. Well, May the 8th actually and we hadn’t been down there long before the equivalent to our NAAFI came round with coffee and biscuits. But it was ersatz coffee? Have you ever had ersatz coffee?
DK: [unclear]
FS: Have you?
DK: Never had it.
FS: Made with acorns.
DK: Yeah.
FS: It was quite nice actually.
DK: Yeah?
FS: Yeah. And of course we enjoyed this. Load up the twenty four. And before we struck up —
DK: That was, that twenty four prisoners.
FS: Ex-prisoners.
DK: Ex-prisoners of war.
FS: Twenty four.
DK: So you got twenty four on the Lancaster.
FS: If you, have you seen in one?
DK: I have, yes. Yes.
FS: Now, can you imagine how we got twenty four in? There were three of them. When I was sat here as I am now I look out of the window and my radio was here in front obviously but when we got airborne I had to get on my hands and knees and let all the airmen out. But before we struck up I had to have a word with these three so there’d be sign language when I wanted to [unclear] asked them, I told them I would have to get down and move. So when we got airborne I had to mumble mumble and they moved. And I explained to them that when we come into land I had to do the alternative, you see. It was quite good actually. But when we dropped these off at Grantham, sorry Peterborough we flew back to our own base of course. Handed in our flying kit, and gear and had a meal. And the flight engineer and myself, unfortunately we went to the sergeant’s mess and got drunk. I was violently drunk.
DK: Yeah.
FS: But I managed to get home the next day to Boston. It was May time and May Fair was on at Boston. The May Fair. But I didn’t know just at the time but there was a soldier got slung off one of these rides in Boston and was killed.
DK: Right.
FS: Just on May Fair. I don’t know what, quite today but May the 8th was the fair but it was somewhere just on there.
DK: Off a bus.
FS: Yeah.
DK: Oh dear.
FS: Yeah.
DK: Just going back to the prisoners you picked up.
FS: Yeah.
DK: What, what was their reaction to going home? How did they —
FS: Well, they got in with rifles and bayonets and boots. It was interesting there to watch them with their souvenirs.
DK: Right.
FS: They got masses of things but I mean we were, we couldn’t take a photograph or anything. I wish we could. But it was quite interesting to see what they’d got. Big boots as I just said. Helmets and all sorts they’d got. And then we had another one a bit later on. But then August the 15th was the end of the Japanese war because we were training. We’d volunteered for it actually. The whole crews had volunteered but —
DK: Were you expecting to go out?
FS: Yeah.
DK: To the Far East?
FS: We were expecting —
DK: Yeah.
FS: To go out, yes. In fact, we got, now then, Oh I can’t remember now where we were actually going to be but somewhere near Russia we were going to be. And fly from there to Japan. But as I just said the war finished just in time. Nagasaki and Hiroshima were bombed.
DK: Yeah. How did you feel about that? Did you feel relieved you weren’t going to the Far East?
FS: Sorry?
DK: How did you feel about not going to the Far East?
FS: Up to a point I was disappointed. But other than that I was pleased because it was nasty. It was really nasty. But then, August the, yeah we went to Italy flying ex-prisoners of war back. Sorry. Ex —
DK: Army.
FS: Desert Rats, home from, there was a transit camp in Italy. We had five trips to Italy flying ex-prisoners. Ex —
DK: Yeah.
FS: And that was quite good but one day we’d got all loaded up. We’d only twenty in, mind you then. Not twenty four. Starboard outer wouldn’t start up because getting back it was just hot. We couldn’t run the engines up like we did in this country. We had to, as soon as we got struck up, taxied around but we got belting down the runway, the starboard outer wouldn’t pick up. So it was brakes on, flaps still down. We stopped. We’d five days in Italy without any money [laughs] It was quite interesting. Quite interesting because it gave us the chance, mind you it was all, the one thing what I didn’t see which I didn’t know existed was the Leaning Tower. Now, we didn’t and even if we had we couldn’t have got there because we were stationed just outside Naples. The Leaning Tower was like from here to Blackpool and it was this, but it gave us the chance to get to Sorrento which was a beautiful place. The Bay of Naples which I went swimming in. Naples itself of course and pause] oh dear. What was the other place? [pause] Tell you. Oh crikey. It covered up in the ashes from —
DK: Pompeii.
FS: Pompeii. Thank you. I went there. Yeah. We went down there.
DK: Ah.
FS: Have you been?
DK: I have. Yes. Yes.
FS: Did you see all what I saw?
DK: Yes. It’s an amazing place.
FS: Did you see it? Did you? It was quite interesting there.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FS: Yeah. Quite interesting really but it’s awful to see the women with the children. Oh it was awful.
DK: Yeah.
FS: But that big man on the wall. Did you see him?
DK: Yes.
FS: [laughs] Can’t tell you [coughs] It was quite interesting.
DK: How, how do you look back on your time in Bomber Command? How does it make you feel now? Seventy years later?
FS: Well, it makes me feel pleased really that we did something. As I said I don’t know where I would have been if I’d been called up. Even though I wouldn’t have gone in the army anyway. Or the Navy. Do you know I couldn’t have gone in the navy.
DK: No.
FS: I couldn’t. I was pleased what I did.
DK: So did you come out of the Air Force soon after the war or —
FS: Yeah. I went in at eighteen.
DK: Yeah.
FS: Which was ’43. I was made a sergeant of course. Then a flight sergeant. Then when I was nineteen, flight sergeant when I was twenty. Demobbed at twenty one. That was the end of the war you see.
DK: And, and after that did you come back to Lincoln and work on the — ?
FS: Yeah. Came, we moved to Sturgate. That’s where we were flying abroad from Sturgate.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FS: But that was, that wasn’t too bad. Right out in the country of course. Near Gainsborough as you know. And a bit further [coughs] excuse me a bit further to come home from there, it was. It was probably worth it in the long run because I’d got a girlfriend. She was a bit keen.
Other: [laughs]
FS: Then the wife she pushed her out [laughs] and then we crewed up together you see. And we’ve had sixty long, sixty some years.
Other: Sixty two.
DK: Well done.
Other: About 1952 wasn’t it? When we got married.
FS: We met. We’ve been, well we had this house built of course. We’ve been down here fifty odd years haven’t we? When we moved here, this was after the war of course there was oh a big house. A huge double fronted house. Old. Twelve inch beams across the ceilings which now I’ve regretted having it knocked down. But it was facing that way.
DK: Yeah. Old building.
FS: But we couldn’t afford to have it done up. It was cheaper to have this built than that one.
DK: Yeah.
FS: But that was just before old properties started to go up in price.
DK: Yeah.
FS: And, I mean we can’t help it now but I’ve regretted it. Haven’t we? It would have been worth more than I am. It would be worth more than I am.
DK: Did you stay in touch with your crew after the war?
FS: Yeah. Stayed in touch with them like. All, all six of them up to a point. Yes. But as I said the last one was a pilot. He passed away last back end. But one of them was killed. The tail end Charlie as we called him, the rear gunner, he was from Banbury down in Oxford. He went to the policeman on East India docks when he first came out and he couldn’t stick that. It was too rough. So he went into Ford Motors at Dagenham. Engine. Motor assembly.
DK: Yeah.
FS: And that was too keen — too, too calm. So, he went back on the land and unfortunately he had a tractor roll over him and kill him. But we didn’t, you didn’t meet him did you? Tubby.
Other: Did meet him. Once or twice.
FS: We went, we went to his grave but you didn’t meet him did you?
Other: Yeah. About twice I met him.
FS: Did you? Oh. But you did meet them all didn’t you?
Other: Yes.
FS: Eventually.
Other: It was all very friendly.
DK: Yeah.
Other: You know, happy about the wartime sort of thing. What they’d had.
DK: So one of your crew was Canadian.
FS: No. We’d no. No. We were all —
DK: Oh sorry I missed something.
FS: All English.
DK: All English.
FS: All English. About, [unclear] in here [laughs] No. We were all English.
DK: All English.
FS: Yeah.
DK: And, and all from, four of you from the same area of Lincoln.
FS: Yes. Yeah. No, we were all English fortunately. As I told you a bit earlier on it was a good job I didn’t go with that Canadian.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FS: One of those things. He was flying. Flying accident.
DK: Can you remember, just for the record, your pilot’s name?
FS: Sorry?
DK: Your pilot’s name.
FS: Yeah. Roocroft.
DK: Roocroft.
FS: Roocroft, Eddie.
Other: [unclear]
DK: Eddie Roocroft.
FS: Excuse me. I don’t know whether you, whether you’ve seen any of these things but these of course you’d get these from Lincoln wouldn’t you? When we had this meeting.
DK: Yeah.
[pause, pages turning]
FS: You can look at any of those. I think I’ve even mislaid my logbook.
DK: That’s a shame.
FS: I don’t know where it is. It might be up in the loft under the foam. I don’t know. That wasn’t part of the course.
DK: There he is. Oh wow.
Other: Is he, have you met anyone before this session? Have you met anyone else?
DK: I have. I’ve interviewed ten veterans so far.
Other: Oh yeah?
DK: So, Frank’s my eleventh.
Other: Oh. Lovely. We used to meet up about once a year and go over the past with them when they were alive.
DK: Yeah. It’s good that you stayed in touch.
Other: Yeah.
DK: It’s nice that you stayed in touch.
FS: Yeah.
Other: We did didn’t we?
DK: So that’s your crew there is it?
FS: Yeah. That’s it. Yeah.
DK: And which one are you?
FS: Guess. Try to guess.
DK: Well, I know you’re a sergeant. That one. Go on. Tell me.
FS: Now, you’re nearly. No. You’re not quite on him now. Yeah. You’re on him now.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve got you.
FS: You can tell?
DK: I can now.
FS: Yeah.
DK: You’ve hardly, you’ve hardly changed.
[laughs ]
Other: Hardly changed.
DK: So was, was that your Lancaster there then?
FS: Yes. That was ours. Yeah.
DK: Did you fly all the missions on the same one?
FS: Apart from the first.
DK: Right.
FS: The first one was obviously a spare at the time but we had that one all the time.
DK: Ok. Right.
[pause]
FS: Oh, and that by the way is not, that’s, I was on the one that’s described there. I was on that raid.
DK: And you saw the bomb dropped.
FS: Yeah. That’s it.
DK: The Grand Slam bomb.
FS: Yeah. That’s the big one. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
FS: It was, as I said it was a daylight job. Yeah. I’ll pass you another one.
DK: Oh, I see. That’s a part of that isn’t it? So, he was your pilot then?
FS: Yeah. He was mine.
DK: Yeah.
FS: Yeah.
DK: And he passed away last year.
FS: Last year. August time, would it be [unclear] ? Passed away.
Other: About then wasn’t it?
FS: He was just, much after ninety one anyway [pause] That’s a bit of showman. I never did smoke. I never have done. That was done for a bit of show of course. Although, oh and I don’t know whether you know anything about [pause] whether you’re interested in bomber leaflets that we dropped.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Oh you’ve got the leaflets yeah. So, that’s you again. Yeah.
FS: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
FS: That’s me again. Yes. Again, yeah. Did you, of course these have been done at Lincoln you see, before. Now then what was that one?
DK: I’ll, I’ll turn the recorder off now. Ok.
FS: Have you done enough?
DK: Yeah. Thanks very much for that.
FS: You’re welcome.
DK: Thank you.
[recording paused]
DK: So if I go up that’s —
FS: Yeah.
DK: That’s you.
FS: That’s myself.
DK: So, wireless operator.
FS: Yeah.
DK: You.
FS: Mid-upper — Leonard Aitken. Navigator — Neil Followes. Pilot —Eddie Roocroft, Flight Engineer — Ted Ruckcliffe. Bomb Aimer — Tony Hargraves and the rear gunner [pause] Tubby. Tubby. Oh crikey.
[pause]
FS: Well dash me.
DK: We’ll call him Tubby.
[pause]
FS: Tubby. Tubby. I can’t. Do you know, I can’t. Tubby. Tubby.
DK: Not to worry.
FS: Oh he’s gone. Tubby. Just give me a minute. Came from Banbury.
[pause]
DK: Tubby. Do you remember?
FS: Tubby’s name.
DK: Tubby’s second name.
FS: Tony. Len. Tubby. Well dash me.
DK: Not to worry. It’ll come back to you.
FS: Yeah. It will.
[recording paused]
DK: Could you just say that again?
FS: Harvey. Derek Harvey.
DK: Tubby Derek Harvey.
FS: Yeah.
DK: Rear gunner.
FS: Rear gunner.
[recording paused]
FS: Twenty years old when we took off and when it turned midnight obviously it was his 21st birthday and that’s when we dropped the bombs.
DK: So your pilot then, Roocroft was twenty years old.
FS: At that time, yes.
DK: And that was a raid to Czechoslovakia.
FS: Yeah. But as I said, when we dropped the bombs he was twenty one. Not many had a twenty first birthday like that was there?
DK: Yeah. So when you took off he was twenty. Dropped the bombs he was twenty one.
FS: Yeah.
DK: Was, was that your longest operation? To Czechoslovakia.
FS: Oh no. No. Sassnitz right around the Baltic coast. Right, all the way around. Nearly ten hours. That was when we see the Northern Lights again. Pretty. Have you seen them?
DK: I haven’t. No.
FS: Their worth it.
DK: I will do one day.
FS: If, if you get the opportunity. I mean we didn’t, we got three bob. That was how much we got for each hour flying but it’s really, really worth a look if you can get. They’re flying from Humberside again sometime this month. But you don’t know whether they are going to be on show or not.
DK: No.
FS: I mean, we were lucky. Right around by Sassnitz on the Baltic coast we saw the Northern Lights. What else? As I said, the last one we went on was Norway. Oil refinery in Norway. At Tønsberg. It was quite interesting because although it was our last one we were going around, we were up about eight thousand feet and the smoke was coming up as high as we were and Eddie said, ‘Were going round again and watch this.’ So we did a semi-circle and watched. And I passed the remark, I said, ‘It’s time we went home for our breakfast Eddie.’
DK: So you actually circled the target again.
FS: We went around twice yeah. Well —
DK: Twice.
FS: Yeah. We did. And still being shot at of course. We never worried. No. That’s why I’ve gone grey I think.
DK: So what about operations to Germany? What targets were, did you go to there?
FS: Bremen, Farge, underground submarine pens just out of Bremen. Dortmund-Ems. I did three Dortmund-Ems Canal. Two nights. One daylight. Oh dear. Heligoland. Heligoland. No. Heligoland was, we didn’t go on that one. And the Dresden I missed which I’d like to have been on because I was on leave. Do you know I can’t remember just now.
DK: Did you, did you know crews that went on the Dresden raid?
FS: To?
DK: Did you know of crews that went to Dresden?
FS: No.
DK: No. What about, what about France? Was there any targets in France?
FS: In France?
DK: In France. Did you go to France?
FS: No. I don’t think so. No. Because you see we were in, go on to February ’45 and the war was on the decline in its way.
DK: Ok.
FS: But it was, no, it was quite interesting. We were still getting shot at. You had never been on one, and of course you never will — but a funny little story I’ll tell you. There was nothing more — oh flying in the dark, coming home, getting fed up, helmet shoved back and at about quarter past six one morning coming over France not too high. And I should, because I sat this side, dropped my curtain down, had a look outside I could see these Frenchman. I couldn’t see straight down because of the wing. I could see these Frenchman with their hands in the air. I thought, God, that’s alright. Waving to us. Thank goodness we was bombing Germany, you see. We gets back for breakfast in our mess camp. We’d had, had a debriefing of course. Had a cup of coffee or tea. Having breakfast and I was standing next to Len, the mid-upper. I said, ‘I see this morning, Len the froggies waving to us. Viva us for bombing Germany.’ He says, ‘What?’ He says, ‘It was milking time,’ he said, ‘The cows were going across the fields with their tails in the air.’ He said, they weren’t viva at us [laughs] I thought it was quite funny really. [pause] Sassnitz, Heligoland. Dortmund-Ems three. Oh Weisel was one. When we’d crossed the Rhine going into Germany towards the end.
DK: Right. Yeah.
FS: We was on that one. That was an interesting one. Not, we weren’t very high on that one. We were just crossing the line there.
DK: So, what were your feelings when you landed? When you got back after a mission. As you touched down how did you feel?
FS: Well, I think really we were pleased we’d done something towards the war. Other than that I can’t remember. But it was quite an interesting do. Weisel. Dortmund-Ems. Heligoland. Tønsberg. Sassnitz. Did I say Sassnitz. I did didn’t I?
DK: Yeah.
FS: Right around the Baltic coast. That was a long trip. Nearly ten hours, and we were tired. Very tired after that. ‘Cause you see being on an active airfield trying to get some sleep was nearly impossible because they was taking off and landing.
DK: Yeah.
FS: Taking off all day.
DK: When you got back was there a debriefing? Did you —
FS: Yeah.
DK: Did you have to speak to anyone?
FS: Yeah. When we got back obviously hand the flying gear in and have a cup of tea. Then it was debriefing of what did we see and all this that and the other. And of course it was breakfast time.
DK: And what was the breakfast?
FS: Oh, it was quite good actually. It was bacon and egg most mornings. It really was. I mean obviously the sergeant’s mess, I mean not like the ordinary squaddies as they called them. But we were supposed to get good stuff. We did alright. Yeah. I was quite pleased with it. It was quite good. And the cups of tea was quite, quite good actually.
DK: Yeah.
FS: Yeah.
DK: Ok. I’ll just —

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Citation

David Kavanagh, “Interview with Frank Stanney,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 7, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11696.

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