Interview with Maurice Stoneman


Interview with Maurice Stoneman


Maurice Stoneman was posted to 57 Squadron at RAF East Kirkby as the flight engineer on Lancasters in 1943. He recalls that on returning from operations they used to fly around the Boston Stump and around Lincoln Cathedral before finally landing. In total Maurice flew 29 operations across Europe. During an early operation mines were dropped in the Königsberg canal, blocking the exit of the German ships the Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau for three weeks. On one operation, anti-aircraft fire had cut the fuel to two engines. They had to crash land on a sandbank in the Wash. Air Sea Rescue came out and picked them up. In February 1944, their aircraft lost its brakes and was diverted to RAF Swinderby where a cable across the runway was used to catch the tail wheel and bring them to a safe stop. During a flight, a German pilot was seen to parachute out of his aircraft and land in the sea. The Air Sea Rescue collected the pilot. He was taken to the squadron mess and entertained by Maurice. An operation to Leipzig resulted in his aircraft being attacked by a Ju 88. The mid upper gunner was seriously wounded, dying later in hospital. The aircraft lost hydraulics and oxygen. Maurice describes this operation as ‘a shaky do’. Transferred to a Lancaster Finishing School as an instructor, and then to 9 Squadron for one final bombing operation before the war ended. He also took part in Operation Manna.




Temporal Coverage




00:35:15 audio recording


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AStonemanMW180605, PStonemanMW1801


DK: Let me introduce myself. So this is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Mr Maurice Stoneman [buzz]
Other: In Farnborough.
DK: in Farnborough.
MS: [unclear] Cameron.
DK: I’ll, I’ll just put that there. The date is the, where are we? 5th of —
Other: 5th of June.
DK: The 5th of June 2018.
Other: Right. So I’m going to have a cigar.
DK: Ok.
Other: I’ll be back in a minute Mog.
DK: Ok. So, can, can you remember much about your time in the RAF?
MS: Very well. I knew my crew. And from there I went to the parachute school.
DK: Right.
MS: Excuse me.
DK: That’s ok. Take your time. It’s alright.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Is this your crew here?
MS: That’s the crew. Yeah.
DK: Yeah. So which one’s you?
MS: There’s me.
DK: That’s you.
MS: Yeah. There’s the skipper. And he, he’s no longer with us. He had a prang.
DK: Really.
MS: He was crop spraying and ran into a tree.
DK: Oh dear. Can you remember his name?
MS: Yeah. Johnny Ludford.
DK: Donny Lodford?
MS: Ludford.
DK: Ludford. Johnny Ludford. Right. Ok.
MS: Yeah. That was a headmaster of a school in Edinburgh.
DK: Right.
MS: And he was an Eton schoolboy that one.
DK: Right.
MS: And that was Buzz. He’s just passed away.
DK: Right.
MS: I don’t know what happened. There was Canadian. I know.
DK: That’s you.
MS: There. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
MS: I don’t know what that bloke’s doing now.
DK: So, so that’s you. You. Right. Going on.
MS: That’s me there. That was our mid-upper.
DK: Right. So you were the flight engineer.
MS: I was the flight engineer. Yeah.
DK: Right. So that’s the flight engineer. You. That’s the pilot.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Mid-upper gunner.
MS: Yeah. Navigator.
DK: Navigator. Yeah.
MS: Bomb aimer.
DK: Bomb aimer.
MS: Wireless op.
DK: Wireless operator.
MS: Rear gunner.
DK: Right. Can you, can you remember their names?
MS: No. No.
DK: No. Ok.
MS: Johnny Ludford. Buzz, wireless op. Woody, he was the schoolboy. He attended [pause] what was that place near Windsor?
DK: Eton.
MS: Eton.
DK: Eton. He went to Eton did he?
MS: He was an Eton schoolboy.
DK: Right.
MS: And, and a very posh talk, you know and we used to pull his leg. But he flew. He flew in to a tree. He was low flying crop spraying and there should have been two on board. One was a lookout. He was the pilot and he hit a tree.
DK: In South Africa. And was killed. Oh dear.
MS: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know which school but he was the headmaster of that school.
DK: That’s the navigator.
MS: Yeah. And that’s the wireless op.
DK: Right.
MS: And the rear gunner. Canadian. Mid-upper gunner.
DK: Right.
MS: Flight engineer.
DK: Right. Ok. So, can you, can you recall which squadrons you were with?
MS: Yeah. 57.
DK: Just making sure we’re ok.
MS: 57. Yeah.
DK: Right.
MS: At East Kirkby.
DK: East Kirkby. Right.
MS: And I remember we were near Boston and we used to come across the North Sea around there at Boston. What did they call it?
DK: The Boston Stump.
MS: The Stump. Yeah. The Stump. Go round, round, we used to, and around Lincoln Cathedral and land. But when we saw Boston Stump we said we’re home.
DK: Home.
MS: We made it.
DK: So, how many operations did you fly?
MS: Twenty nine.
DK: Twenty nine.
MS: They wouldn’t let, they wouldn’t [pause] but I laid, one part I laid mines.
DK: Right.
MS: In the Konigsberg Canal and we went low and laid these mines. And there was two German warships there. Gneisenau [pause] I can’t think of the other.
DK: Scharnhorst. Was it the Scharnhorst?
MS: There was two warships.
DK: Right. Ok.
MS: Gneisenau. And I went through this this morning in my mind and now I’ve forgotten it.
DK: Was it the Prince Eugen? The Prince Eugen?
MS: Yeah.
DK: Ah right. The Prince Eugen.
MS: Eugen. Yeah. Eugen. Yeah.
DK: So, so you actually saw those two battleships.
MS: Yeah. There was two of them and they were trapped in there for three weeks. Couldn’t get out because we were laying mines there. And we went down that low and off to port across Poland all the Polish people were —
DK: Waving to you.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Waving.
MS: Yeah.
DK: So you were that low. Yeah.
MS: We were that low dropping food and we were that low we were [pause] that middle picture there.
DK: Ah.
MS: Yeah
DK: Let’s have a look.
MS: The Duke of Edinburgh gave me a copy of that.
DK: So, that was —
MS: For each of the crew.
DK: So, that was, that was Operation Manna.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. How many? How many Manna trips did you do?
MS: Altogether I did twenty nine. Plus laying the mines. And thirty one.
DK: Thirty one. Is it ok if I have a look at your logbook?
MS: You’re very welcome.
DK: Thank you very much.
MS: I’m afraid it’s got a bit worn.
DK: It’s a bit old now, isn’t it?
MS: Yeah.
DK: So, you had a nickname of Mog then, did you?
MS: Mog. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
MS: The crew didn’t call me Mog.
DK: No.
MS: It’s the people here call me Mog.
DK: Right. Ok. So, so you were 1943 then. I’m reading from the logbook. So you were with 57 squadron.
MS: Yeah.
DK: And your pilot was Ludford. L U D F O R D.
MS: Yeah. Johnny Ludford.
DK: Johnny.
MS: Johnny Ludford, and he, as I say he was crop spraying in Africa and he flew in to a tree.
DK: Oh dear. Was he, was he a good pilot?
MS: Yeah.
DK: You felt, felt happy with him? Did you?
MS: Yeah. Because my seat was next to his and I operated the, Johnny just used to steer it.
DK: Right.
MS: And I’d operate the throttles and the rev counters. I did all that. Otherwise it would have been monotonous.
DK: Yeah.
MS: But I sat next to Johnny. I met his, his father who took that photograph of the crew.
DK: Right. So, so you, you and the pilot had to work as a team did you?
MS: We certainly did. Yeah.
DK: So he’s, he’s controlling the aircraft and you’re controlling the engines.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Right.
MS: Yeah.
DK: So you had to know what the engines were doing then, did you?
MS: Yeah. Well, he would start them off at the take off, and then when we got to a certain speed I would follow his hand up with all four engines.
DK: So you’d follow his hand up on the throttles.
MS: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: And then, and then you took over the throttle controls then.
MS: Yeah. He would, he had to steer it.
DK: Yeah.
MS: Now, I controlled the throttles until we were airborne and get the flaps up, and got the revs out.
DK: So did, is it something you could still today do you think? Could you get into a Lancaster today and take off?
MS: I could do it I think.
DK: Yeah.
MS: But the controls are a bit more modern.
DK: Right. So just, I’m just looking at your logbook here.
MS: Yeah.
DK: So, it’s 1943, and November the 5th and you’re doing a lot of training flights by the looks of it. Training.
MS: Doing what?
DK: Training flights.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Bullseye.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Remember a bullseye?
MS: Yeah. I enjoyed that actually.
DK: So what was a bullseye then?
MS: I’d sit next to the pilot and I would operate the throttles. Everything. He would steer it.
DK: And on your right you’ve got the controls to the engines, haven’t you? Dials.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. So what, what did you have to do with the dials?
MS: Well, usually once we got airborne I didn’t have to do much.
DK: Right.
MS: But I’d pull up the flaps. The undercart. Yeah. I did all that. The flaps.
DK: Right.
MS: Undercart. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the flying side.
DK: Did you, did you control the flaps and the undercarriage when you landed as well?
MS: Yeah.
DK: So as you’re landing.
MS: Before —
DK: Johnny’s, Johnny’s controlling it.
MS: That’s right. When we came in to land the skipper would say, ‘Wheels down.’
DK: Put the wheels down.
MS: I’d put the wheels down. The flaps, fifteen when we took off.
DK: So just looking at your logbook you’ve done an operation here. Your first operation to Berlin.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Do you remember? Do you remember going to Berlin?
MS: Nine times.
DK: Nine times.
MS: Yeah.
DK: And what was it like? A trip to Berlin.
MS: You got flak up your bum [laugh] It was dodgy. And one time we landed. I’d got across the North Sea on two engines.
DK: Right.
MS: And then we crash landed in the Wash.
DK: Oh.
MS: In the Wash. And Boston Stump was just over there. And the air sea rescue people were there to pick us up.
DK: Right. Can you remember what happened to the two engines?
MS: Yeah.
DK: Had they been hit by flak?
MS: They were, they were alright. It was the supply. A shell hit the supply.
DK: A shell.
MS: A shell.
MS: Yeah. Ack ack.
DK: Right.
MS: Hit the supply. And so I switched them both off otherwise you’re losing fuel.
DK: So the shell hit the fuel supply and you’re losing fuel so you switch off the engines.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
MS: Switched them off. Switched the supply to starboard off.
DK: And, and can you remember much about crashing on the sea then? Because you said you landed in the Wash.
MS: Yeah. On a sandbank.
DK: On a sandbank. Ah. You weren’t actually in the water.
MS: Not actually in the water but RNLI came in and saw we were ok.
DK: Right.
MS: And they took us [pause] from, from 57 Squadron. They came and picked us up. Went to the mess. But we reported it. One of their fighters was shot down.
DK: Right.
MS: And we saw the pilot on a parachute.
DK: Right.
MS: And we reported it and he then came to the mess. He then, he married an English girl [laughs]
DK: So, so he was a German pilot.
MS: German pilot shot down but we took him to the mess.
DK: Right.
MS: And —
DK: He later married an English girl.
MS: He, yeah he married one of the girls there.
DK: Can, can, can you recall where this German aircraft was shot down? Was it over England?
MS: No. The North Sea.
DK: Right. Ok.
MS: North Sea. And the RNI, RNLI went and picked him up.
DK: Right. That wasn’t your aircraft that shot him down was it?
MS: No.
DK: No.
MS: No. He was shot down by a Mosquito.
DK: Right.
MS: Yeah. The Mossie had a bit more fuel than the single seater fighter.
DK: Did you have a drink with him in the mess then? Did you?
MS: We did indeed [laughs]
DK: What was it like meeting a German then?
MS: Well, the point is he seemed to know Great Britain. So he weren’t a complete stranger.
DK: Oh.
DK: But he talked good English anyway.
DK: He talked good English. Yeah.
MS: Yeah. We, well, broken English.
DK: It must have been very strange meeting your enemy then.
MS: Yeah.
DK: So just looking at your logbook again. So you’d done nine trips to Berlin.
MS: Yeah. Out of all the trips we did nine to Berlin.
DK: Right. And you’ve also got Leipzig. Do you remember going to Leipzig?
MS: Yeah. Leipzig.
DK: And Frankfurt.
MS: Yeah. Leipzig and Frankfurt.
DK: So you got Brunswick on the 14th of January 1944.
MS: Yeah. We bombed a dam.
DK: Oh.
MS: When what’s his name got all the publicity about bursting a dam —
DK: The Dambusters.
MS: We were bombing a dam further over.
DK: They didn’t make a film about you then.
MS: No. Möhne and Eder Dam.
DK: So, I’ve just got here you did an operation to Berlin.
MS: Yeah.
DK: 15th of February 1944. And it says diverted to Swinderby.
MS: Yeah. Swinderby. Yeah.
DK: Can you remember why you had to go there?
MS: Yeah. We lost our brakes.
DK: Right. Ok.
MS: And at Swinderby, I think Swinderby [pause] I didn’t think it was Swinderby. Anyway, we touched down at a special aerodrome where they let you touch down, across came out a wire.
DK: Oh right.
MS: On our tail wheel. And that slowed us down.
DK: Oh ok. Ok. And you’ve got on here 19th of February 1944 you’d gone to Leipzig again.
MS: Yeah.
DK: And you’ve written in here, “Junkers 88. No hydraulics, oxygen. Electrical failures.”
MS: Yeah.
DK: Right.
MS: That was the worst raid.
DK: Can you remember that? So you were attacked by a German JU88.
MS: Junkers 88. Yeah.
DK: Can, can you remember much about that?
MS: I remember him coming over the top and he hit the mid-upper gunner and wounded him.
DK: Right.
MS: But we got him back and he was in hospital.
DK: Right.
MS: He didn’t make it.
DK: Oh [pause] So the JU88 attacked you and killed your mid-upper gunner.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Right. You’ve put here brackets, “Shaky do.’’ Is that, is that an understatement? Right. So you remember the attack by the JU88 then.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Did your gunners fire back?
MS: Yeah. They, oh yeah. The rear gunner he was really good too. He was quick. And we know the rear gunner got one of the Junkers 88. But in the main the Mosquitoes and what’s the twin boom aircraft?
DK: The Lightning?
MS: Lightning. Yeah. Yeah. The Lightning.
DK: That, that —
MS: Yeah. He got, he came with us and he followed the Junkers 88 and we know that that aircraft pranged in the North Sea.
DK: So it was shot down then. Right. And, and can you remember coming back then ‘cause from Leipzig because your aircraft’s damaged?
MS: Yeah. Yeah. I remember that and Boston. There was a Boston Stump. And we’d go around Boston Stump, around Lincoln Cathedral and touch down.
DK: At East Kirkby. Yeah. So just going through your logbook again you went to Stuttgart twice. Frankfurt. Essen. Nuremberg.
MS: Frankfurt was a difficult one.
DK: Right.
MS: There was a lot of ack ack on the way in.
DK: So I’ve got here Frankfurt. That was on the 22nd of March 1944.
MS: Yeah.
DK: So that was a lot of flak fired.
MS: Yeah. I can’t remember all those dates
DK: No. No. No. No. And you’ve got an interesting one here. It’s the 5th of April 1944. Toulouse.
MS: Toulouse. Yeah.
DK: Yeah. And you’ve put here, “Nine tenths target destroyed.”
MS: Yeah.
DK: Was that a successful raid then?
MS: Yeah. Mind you sometimes it was awkward because the Germans were in France and we, we took them on. I don’t know where. Toulouse. Yeah. Yeah. Toulouse it was, I think. And we took, took them on.
DK: Right. And it says you actually attacked at six thousand feet in a full moon so —
MS: Yeah.
DK: Can you remember that? Clear conditions.
MS: Yeah.
DK: So you’ve got here Danzig Bay where you’re dropping mines. Dropping mines.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
MS: Yeah. Yeah. The two German warships. We dropped in the entrance and we dropped mines there and the Germans couldn’t get in.
DK: Right.
MS: Took them three weeks to clear the mines.
DK: So that was very successful then.
MS: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
MS: I remember we kept the, kept the Germans at bay for another three weeks. I remember the Toulouse raid.
DK: Right.
MS: The Toulouse raid. That was a close call.
DK: Can you remember what happened?
MS: Yeah. We got hit in several places. I had to shut the engines off and we landed in the banks of a [pause] I can’t think of it. We were in the banks of the Wash anyway.
DK: Yeah.
Other: As I said, David, I don’t know if it’s in there but he was actually on the Tirpitz raid as well.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
Other: Presume that was with 9 Squadron.
DK: Yeah. So you finished with 9 Squadron then and you’d gone off to the Lancaster Finishing School.
MS: Yeah. I was an instructor.
DK: And then it looks like you spent a bit of time with 50 Squadron. 50 Squadron. Five zero Squadron.
MS: Yeah. Well, 57 was my main squadron.
DK: Right. Oh, hang on. I’m going on a bit. Sorry. My fault.
MS: The main thing that annoyed us was I was commissioned and a friend of mine I went through the ATC. The lot. But he failed his exam and he had a, he had a separate room to me and I said no, on the train this was going down to Cosford to the engineer’s course. And then they came and I said I wanted to stay with him. And the squadron leader came and ordered me out of that. I had to go in to the first class.
DK: Right.
MS: He ordered me to go and I left this bloke. My friend. We went through the ATC, the lot together. And he just failed his exam.
DK: Right. Ok. Do you want to take a bit of a rest there? I’ll just stop this for a moment.
[recording paused]
DK: How do you look back now on your time now in the RAF? In Bomber Command. How do you look back on it?
MS: Yeah. [pause] Yeah. I just wish that the skipper was alive. The last one as far as I know was the wireless op, Buzz.
DK: Right.
MS: And his son rang. Rang me up to say, ‘We lost dad.’ So —
Other: That was a couple of years ago.
DK: Right. So —
MS: Yeah.
Other: And your skipper was Johnny Ludford.
MS: He was a good bloke.
DK: Yeah. Done that.
MS: A good crew we had really.
DK: A good crew. Yeah.
MS: Good and friendly. A Canadian. When we got back we had a moon stand down of four days. Our rear gunner, Canadian, he went back home and he got three months holiday [laughs] And we had just about four days I think it was.
DK: So the Canadians got three months and you got four days.
DK: So, in 19 — you then went to 9 Squadron. Do you remember 9 Squadron?
MS: No. I did the one trip in 9 Squadron.
DK: Only one.
MS: And then peace was declared.
DK: Right. So you went to 9 Squadron. You flew Lancaster WST and you did one operation to Pilsen. Pilsen. P I L S E N.
MS: Yeah.
DK: So, that’s when the war’s ended.
MS: Yeah.
DK: And did you do the Operation Manna trips then? Dropping the food.
MS: Well, I was posted to Kidlington.
DK: Right.
MS: And from there I was at High Wycombe. That was a parachute school.
DK: Right.
MS: And I did several jumps, you know. Parachute jumps. And when I got to Kidlington they, they wanted to know what I did, and as a favour I did a parachute jump and landed in a field near the officer’s mess. Then we all went and had a drink.
[pause – pages turning]
DK: Ok. I’ll end it there. I can see you’re getting a little bit tired. If you want to have your drink I’ll turn that off now.
[recording paused]
DK: Just put that back on again. you’ve got some photos here. So that’s from 1945. [pause]
MS: Yeah. That’s me.
DK: Ok.
MS: I was second. Second in command.
DK: So, that’s at Skellingthorpe in 1945 and you’re third one in, is it? That one.
MS: Yeah.
DK: So, is that you there?
MS: No. Next to him. Yeah. Next to —
DK: Next.
MS: Next to the silly bugger there [laughs]
DK: Right. That’s you there. Right. Ok.
MS: Those are photographs of the parade.
DK: So, they’re after the war, are they?
MS: I had to attend them. Yeah. There’s me. I’ve got a mark over them. There.
DK: Oh that’s you there. Right. Ok. So that’s post war then. That’s 19 —
MS: It was a bit difficult because those rifles look a bit like that. And that bloke was doing his National Service. And that was the CO.
DK: So that’s 1955 then.
MS: Yeah.
DK: So what year did you leave the RAF? Do you recall?
MS: I don’t know.
DK: No. Ok. Ok.
Other: I think it was ’54.
DK: Oh ‘54. Yeah. From ’45. Ok. Let’s stop that there.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Maurice Stoneman,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 21, 2024,

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