Interview with Sam Thompson

Title

Interview with Sam Thompson

Description

Sam Thompson grew up in Northern Ireland and volunteered for the Air Force. After training he completed two tours as an air gunner with 103 and 9 Squadrons. He took part in operations against the Tirpitz and served in Germany after the war.

He was on the operation that attacked the Sorpe Dam and the Tirpitz. Coming back from one operation he looked out and a Condor aircraft was flying parallel and he noted the armament it carried as they worried about how to get out of the situation.

Creator

Date

2016-07-12

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:33:52 audio recording

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.

Contributor

Identifier

AThompsonS160712, PThompsonS1601

Transcription

GR: Morning. This is Gary Rushbrooke for the International Bomber Command Centre. I am with Warrant Officer Sam Thompson at his home in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire 12th of July 2016 and I’m going to hand you over to Sam. Sam, I know we’re in Lancashire at the moment but your accent is definitely not from Lancashire. Where were you born, Sam?
ST: I was born at Larne, just outside Belfast in Northern Ireland. County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
GR: Right. And did you grow up there? School there and everything.
ST: Oh yeah. I finished school. I think I was fourteen.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Fourteen was the, the age that you could leave school and start work. I think I did that now. I went to Magheramorne Cement Works where my father.
GR: Sorry?
ST: Magheramorne Cement Works.
GR: Cement works.
ST: There’s only two in Ireland. One in Northern Ireland and one in Southern Ireland.
GR: Right.
ST: They make cement. British, British Portland Cement Manufacturers.
GR: Oh yeah. I know who you mean. Yeah.
ST: Yeah.
GR: So —
ST: And I think when the war started my mother died.
GR: I’ll just backtrack. Brothers and sisters?
ST: Oh. I’ve got seven. I’ve got four brothers and two sisters.
GR: Four brothers and two sisters.
ST: Yeah. Two sisters. Yeah.
GR: And where are you in the hierarchy? Elder brother?
ST: I’m the middle one.
GR: You’re the middle one.
ST: Yeah. Yeah, I was the middle one.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah.
GR: What was growing up like in Northern Ireland?
ST: Well, we didn’t, we didn’t want for anything, Gary. We, we had, my dad had a good job and —
GR: Yeah.
ST: All our family had, and the cement works was, he was foreman and the eldest brother was manager of British Portland Cement Manufacturers. And I went. Started work as a, it’s called a flint picker.
GR: A flint.
ST: Yeah. Well amongst other limestone you get these hard stones. What do you call them? What do you call them? There’s a name. There’s a name for them.
GR: Right.
ST: It’s a hard flint. A bit of flint.
GR: Yeah.
ST: And they use that for different runs and I used to pick them from there and put them on this trolley that ran from underneath the conveyer belt. It was, it was alright. It was a little bit monotonous but —
GR: Yeah.
ST: And then my brother got promoted to undermanager and eventually reached manager. So I took his job and he was [pause] what the hell would they call it? [pause] Well, it was, it was a big conveyer belt and at the top was this bloody big heavy motor that brought the trolleys from the cement face or the limestone face.
GR: Yeah.
ST: And brought the limestone up to the crusher and it was crushed into cement.
GR: Yeah.
ST: So then I started there first and then I went I thought to myself one day, I said, ‘I’m not bloody stopping here. The war had started in [1934]. My mum died in 1939.
GR: Right.
ST: Yeah. So I gave myself a year so I thought to myself bugger this for a lark. So I’ll never forget my father standing at the door waving because the train went, the railway line was between this loch and my house and he was at the door waving me as I went to Belfast to join up.
GR: Oh right.
ST: In 1940.
GR: So had you made your mind up to —
ST: I’d made my mind up so I thought —
GR: To volunteer for the RAF.
ST: I want to join up in the RAF, so —
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. So —
GR: Why the RAF?
ST: Well, I suppose it was a bit more bloody Brylcreemy you know [laughs]
GR: Yeah. Glamour boys.
ST: Class distinction.
GR: Yeah. I’ll be a fighter pilot. So —
ST: Yeah.
GR: So you set off.
ST: So I set off to Belfast —
GR: To Belfast.
ST: To join up and I went to Weeton just outside Blackpool.
GR: Right.
ST: Got all my kit together and then we went square bashing in Blackpool.
GR: Was that the first time you’d left Northern Ireland?
ST: It was. It was in that. And by Christ I was a virgin I was [laughs] And then that’s where my life started to be quite honest Gary.
GR: Yeah.
ST: I knew what it was like then instead of doing [unclear]. I mean I made up for it since.
GR: Good man. When you obviously went up to Belfast to join up were you with any friends or on your own or —
ST: No. I was on my own.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah.
GR: And your brothers. I don’t know whether they were older brothers or younger brothers. Did any of your brothers join up as well?
ST: No. No. There was only me.
GR: Yeah.
ST: They all worked in the, it was classified work.
GR: Classified work.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Producing cement you see for everybody.
GR: Right.
ST: Nearly all of my family worked in the cement works. It was there for everybody in Magheramorne to go to Magheramorne Cement Works.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Do you know what I mean?
GR: So out of the family.
ST: Of the family I was the only one who joined up.
GR: You were the one who joined up.
ST: There was a few joined up later on but I I ended up as aircrew you see.
GR: Yeah.
ST: They ended up as you know with trades. Different trades in the RAF.
GR: So from Belfast over to England and you said you arrived at —
ST: I did my, did my square bashing as they called it.
GR: Yes.
ST: At RAF Weeton. Then I went to there’s another one not very far from Weeton I went. Anyway, I was posted a few places.
GR: Doing basic training.
ST: Not knowing, yeah doing, yeah different places, doing. Then I thought to myself this is, they say they want bloody air gunners and wireless operators. So I said I’ll join up. So I went to join up as a wireless operator air gunner.
GR: Right.
ST: But I did alright in the theory but as a, I passed as an air gunner but I failed on theory as a wireless operator. I went to Yatesbury.
GR: Yatesbury. Yeah.
ST: Yeah. And did my wireless operators course there but I failed on, it was theory. Not so much practical. And then when I failed to make that I went as I joined up like a —
GR: So you were going to be a, yeah. You wanted to be a wireless operator air gunner.
ST: Yeah, and I failed so I went over as a straight air gunner.
GR: Straight air gunner.
ST: That was straight in. Straight into the tour without having to worry about it. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Did you know then, obviously you didn’t know if you were going to be a mid-upper gunner or a rear gunner. Or —
ST: Well, I wanted to go to a mid-upper gunner and that’s what I finished up as.
GR: Right.
ST: But sometimes I felt, I felt uncomfortable cold in the rear turret. I changed over with the rear gunner and he come into mine for his little bit of warmth and [pause] and I went. I was posted to, and everything was sorted out as regards Weeton. I went to Porthcawl, Bridgend.
GR: Yeah.
ST: South Wales. And I ended up at 103 Squadron.
GR: Right.
ST: As an air gunner. Mid-upper. Mid-upper, yeah.
GR: What about the initial flying training? When did you first —
ST: Oh yeah. I went to Silverstone.
GR: Right.
ST: On Wimpies.
GR: On Wimpies.
ST: On Wellingtons. Yeah.
GR: Right. I’m just looking.
ST: Well, I think it’s in there but I —
GR: Yeah. I’m just looking through the logbook and I’ve got you were at Number 7 Air Gunnery School.
ST: Yeah.
GR: And your course finished around about the 25th of July 1942.
ST: Yeah.
GR: And then it looks as though you started flying training on Wellingtons.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. So yeah, July. July ’42. So when did you meet you first crew? How did you —
ST: Oh.
GR: How did you meet your crew and how did all that come about?
ST: I met them in the hangar.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. He was Flight Sergeant Berry his name was. Ken Berry. Came from, I think he came from Southern Ireland. He was one of these la de da ones he was you know. But we soon, we soon gelled in.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. We all met in this hangar and he come up and picked me for mid-upper gunner. Then he went around picking his bombardier and his engineer out of all the gunners that was there.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
ST: Yeah. I don’t remember, I don’t remember much about my first crew. Although I did thirty operations with them.
GR: Yes. And I’m looking around about September 1942. You’re doing some flight training with Sergeant Berry.
ST: Yeah.
GR: As the pilot and —
ST: He was a nice big chap he was.
GR: Yeah. So 103 Squadron was a Halifax Squadron at the time wasn’t it?
ST: It was at the time and then they got these Lancasters and we all, we all stood around —
GR: Ok.
ST: The runway watching them come in. We counted nineteen of them. Nineteen Lancasters coming in.
GR: Yeah. Well —
ST: Not long after that we were all converted to Lancasters and —
GR: Yeah. Can you remember much about your first operation which was to Dusseldorf?
ST: To be honest, to be honest Gary they were just matter of fact.
GR: Yeah. How did you feel? I mean obviously you just qualified as an air gunner. You’re in your mid-upper turret. So you did your first operation.
ST: Yeah.
GR: No apprehension or —
ST: Well, I was bloody scared as hell but you didn’t show it.
GR: No.
ST: And anybody that says that aircrew wasn’t scared was a bloody liar.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Anyway, I had some, we had some dicey do’s you know like bloody we got shot up over the bloody Ruhr one day.
GR: I’m just reading here again in your logbook first operation Dusseldorf. Attacked by an ME110.
ST: Yeah. Yeah.
GR: Opened fire but no —
ST: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, we managed to get, get it shut out of the way but managed to —
GR: Yeah.
ST: Scare it off [laughs]
GR: So on your first operation you were attacked.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah.
GR: And quite an initiation in 1942. Dusseldorf, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven.
ST: Oh yeah.
GR: The first three operations.
ST: Yeah.
GR: So —
ST: We did, we did Berlin on the same day twice. It took, we took off at 12 o’clock. We were back about seven. That was, that was interrogation and everything else.
GR: Yeah.
ST: We went to bed. We were up again at bloody twelve. Briefing at three. We took off at five and we were back at twelve o’clock at night again. So we bombed Berlin twice on the same day.
GR: And —
ST: It’s in there. It’s in there somewhere.
GR: Yeah. I’m just, yeah 16th.
ST: Yeah.
GR: 16th and the 17th of January.
ST: Yeah.
GR: 1943.
ST: Yeah.
GR: And you had two trips just under eight hours each.
ST: Yeah. Yeah, that’s it.
GR: Twice to Berlin.
ST: Yeah. That’s it. Yeah.
GR: What was Berlin like?
ST: Bloody awful but I told you that, no. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t scared. I was bloody scared but I think you got used to it.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. And I suppose there was a hell of a lot of bloody aircrew. I mean a hell of a lot of aircrew had it worse. Had worse.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Worse experiences than I had. I suppose I had a placid bloody two tours of operations. I mean we got shot up a few times but, we come back one day and we counted I think it was a hundred and forty five holes in the aircraft. And then another time we came back —
GR: I wouldn’t call that placid but —
ST: Yeah. Well, I mean it was [laughs] it was and you know the only, the only accident that happened to our crew was one of the little pieces of flak came in through the fuselage and hit the bomb aimer in the eye. That’s the only bloody —
GR: That’s the only injury.
ST: That is bloody good that is.
GR: It is.
ST: [unclear]
GR: Yes.
ST: Do you want the light on?
GR: No. No. I’m fine. I’m just looking. You obviously went to Milan.
ST: Oh yeah. We went to Italy. I think we did Italy three times.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. And that was what? That was one of the times we went to I’m not sure whether it was Milan or Turin. It was one of them two. And we dropped our bombs and we were turning to come back over the Alps again and then that was a lovely sight that was. Coming in.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Over the Alps and going back and we were a little bit tired but all of a sudden I saw these little, little white specks in the front of us. I said, what the, ‘Skipper, what’s the, what are those planes in the front of us?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘It’s the Yanks,’ he said, ‘Coming in to —’ I found out later on that they were bombing Regency [Reggenza?] A place called Regency.
GR: Right.
ST: Further down south but over over to the right of Italy. I know where it is but I can’t.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Anyway, I said, ‘Oh bloody hell,’ I said. Then all of a sudden they were met by these bloody Focke-Wulfs and 109s and there I was sitting in my turret going around watching it you know. Going around at the same time. Getting back again as soon as we could. And they were getting shot down right, left and bloody centre.
GR: The Americans were.
ST: I said, ‘Look at that.’ Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: The Yanks. The Yanks. I think they lost nineteen in that operation. Regency.
GR: God. Yeah.
ST: I checked up a little bit later.
GR: Of course, the Milan and Turin raids were daylight raids weren’t they?
ST: Yeah. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. So —
ST: Yeah.
GR: So you had a beautiful view of the Alps and a beautiful view of American aircraft being shot down.
ST: Yeah. Shot. Yeah. Yeah. We did. Most of them. Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: But on 103 Squadron most was a night squadron.
GR: Yes.
ST: The second tour was mostly daylights.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. But that was a bit of a special squadron as well. It was a sister ‘drome to 617.
GR: That’s right.
ST: But they took all the bloody —
GR: The glory.
ST: The glory.
GR: We could come on to 9 Squadron.
ST: Yeah.
GR: While you was at 103 I noticed that yes you did change over from Halifaxes to Lancasters.
ST: Yeah. That was early in, well on my first tour on 103 Squadron.
GR: Yeah.
ST: I think I did about eight or nine I think.
GR: Should I ask which aircraft you preferred? Was there any difference?
ST: Oh, well the Lancs, the Halifaxes were a bit more roomy.
GR: Yeah.
ST: The Lancs were, they were alright but you had that speed and height and they get you out of the way.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Where the Lancaster it was about two or three thousand feet below us but it couldn’t go any higher.
GR: Right. Was there much difference in the mid-upper turret between the two?
ST: No. No. No. I think I think they were Boulton Paul Defiants in the Lancaster and I think they were Frazer Nash on the Halifaxes.
GR: That’s it, yeah.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: That was the other one. It was a joystick.
GR: Oh right.
ST: Yeah.
GR: So one of them was a joystick.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Turning them about.
ST: The other one was a handlebar.
GR: Handlebar type.
ST: Yeah. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Yeah. That’s good. So yeah. So I’m just progressing through your logbook. 1942 into 1943. Oh, they let you have Christmas Day at home. That looks good.
ST: Yeah [laughs]
GR: So, and —
ST: I got married. I got married in 1943.
GR: Right. Well, I’m just coming to the, what looks like the end of your first tour.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Yes, so you finished. Finished flying your first tour around about March 1943.
ST: Yeah. Yeah.
GR: So you got married in 1943. Who to?
ST: I got married. Well, I bloody had to poor wee bugger [laughs] She was a WAAF and —
GR: Come on. Tell me more.
ST: She was a WAAF. A WAAF in the sergeant’s mess.
GR: She was a WAAF.
ST: Yeah.
GR: In the sergeant’s mess
ST: A blonde. A blonde. As soon as I walked in the sergeant’s mess the first time I saw her she was at the hot plate. It was, there was a door for the waitresses to go in.
GR: Yeah.
ST: With the order and a door to come out with the order after you’d been served at the hot plate.
GR: Yeah.
ST: And she was standing taking, she was a cook. A cook in the sergeant’s mess. Oh, there’s a lot I could do for that blonde. Jesus, I never thought I’d be married to her for sixty one years. Yeah. So —
GR: Sorry, Sam. What was your wife’s name?
ST: Marjorie.
GR: Marjorie.
ST: Marj, yeah. Yeah.
GR: So your charms obviously worked on Marjorie.
ST: Eh?
GR: Your charms obviously worked on Marjorie.
ST: Oh, that did. Poor little soul.
GR: I think I’ll just pause it for a minute while Sam gets a photograph of Marjorie.
[recording paused]
GR: So you got married to Marjorie in 1943.
ST: ’43, yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. Yeah.
GR: Where was the wedding?
ST: The Registry Office in Derby.
GR: Right.
ST: Yeah. The Registry Office in Derby. I remember.
GR: Yeah.
ST: I remember that one. Her mother never did like me [laughs] Right until the day she died.
GR: Nothing wrong with aircrew so —
ST: [laughs] Yeah.
GR: Yeah. And I presume there was some children to follow.
ST: Oh, crikey. I had Maureen my eldest daughter. She lives in a bungalow over there.
GR: Yeah.
ST: ‘43.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Sammy, my eldest son. Sammy, you met —
GR: Yes.
ST: ’44.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Tony was born in 1946. My eldest son and then after that Sally, Karen.
GR: Yeah. So just working our way again through the logbook even though you’d been flying Lancasters for 103 Squadron they then sent you to Lanc Finishing School.
ST: Yeah. That was Silverstone.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Was that training other people or —
ST: Oh yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: We were taking this, they put me in charge of this group and I was a sergeant and I was taking this lot to the gymnasium. About thirty of them in, you know, in threes and up comes [unclear] come up with a bloody flag flying, ‘Stop.’ He shouted, ‘Sergeant.’ So, I bloody jumped back and went to see who it was. It was some bloody group captain or something. He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m taking these to the gymnasium. ‘Oh,’ he said, he says, ‘Right then.’ He says, and he had a look at my ‘39/45 star was on. That was the only one I had up on my medal. He said, ‘You’ve just been flying have you?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’ve just done a first tour at 103 Squadron, Elsham Wold.’ He said, ‘Would you like to go back?’ I said, ‘Well, yes, I would,’ I said, ‘But I’m supposed to be on resting for, you know finishing a first tour.’ Anyway, not long after that they asked me if I wanted to go to bloody Bardney for a second tour. And I thought to myself, God, what have I got to lose?’ And I went back and to 9 Squadron.
GR: So, 9 Squadron at Bardney.
ST: Yeah.
GR: I presume it was a different crew so you —
ST: Oh yeah. A different crew.
GR: Yeah.
ST: That was, it was an Australian crew I had then. Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. An Australian crew. But —
GR: And were they a new crew? Or did you, were they already a crew when you joined? Or did you all —
ST: You know I am a little bit dubious about that. I’m just trying to [pause] Yeah, I think they were a crew then and they asked for me to, if I wanted to go as a mid-upper.
GR: A mid-upper gunner. Yeah.
ST: I said, yes I said. So I went down and finished. Finished my leave. He finished his first, no. Oh that’s it. I went with —
GR: Flight Sergeant Williams.
ST: Now, that was it. I did twenty with him and mine was finished. But I can remember something. Something happening or something and he ended up doing the last six with somebody else. So I don’t know what happened there.
GR: Unless Flight Sergeant Williams had done his full —
ST: Yeah.
GR: And he was tour expired.
ST: Yeah. Tour expired.
GR: So, so what was Bardney like? 9 Squadron at Bardney.
ST: Oh, it was, it was nice. Yeah. It was a good Squadron that was. Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Because at the time as you said earlier they were a sister squadron to 617.
ST: Yeah. Yeah. Well, we did all them special —
GR: Dropping the Tall Boy big bombs.
ST: Yeah. The only one that I —
GR: Yeah.
ST: Didn’t do was the Tirpitz. The first two attempts at the Tirpitz where they both, where they landed in Russia.
GR: Yeah.
ST: I didn’t go on that one. I think I was on holiday but then on the third one I think they sent us over on, was it October or something.
GR: Yeah. I’m just again just looking through the logbook to jog everybody’s memory. You’d done a few operations to Munster, Karlsruhe.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Just have a quick, quick, quick look. And at the time what a lot of people obviously don’t realise is you actually went to the Sorpe Dam.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Which was what the original Dambusters had done.
ST: Yeah. Aye, well they didn’t, they didn’t breach the —
GR: Sorpe.
ST: Sorpe. They missed it.
GR: Yeah.
ST: So they sent us back about October.
GR: That’s right. Yeah.
ST: And we breached it for them. So that was we sort of realised that we were just as important.
GR: Yeah.
ST: As that was.
GR: 9 Squadron. Dambusters.
ST: Yeah. That’s, that it. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
ST: And not exactly the 16th of May with the other big Mӧhne and Eder dam and the —
GR: Yeah.
ST: Sorpe and the other one that burst. But they didn’t do that on that op.
GR: Yeah.
ST: But you see —
GR: But then that operation does lead on to the 29th of October.
ST: Yeah. Yeah, it was somewhere around October.
GR: Yeah. Then you went to bomb the Tirpitz in Tromso Fjord.
ST: Yeah. They had tried two attempts at the Tirpitz but they didn’t do it. One of the chaps sent me that.
GR: Yeah.
ST: He charged me twenty quid for that and all.
GR: Just looking at the wall. A little bit of the Tirpitz.
ST: A little bit of the Tirpitz bulwark. Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: It is nice. Twenty quid he charged me though.
GR: Yeah. Well, we’ll come back to the actual raid but after the war when the Tirpitz had turned turtle when it, when it was scrapped.
ST: Yeah.
GR: All the wooden deck which is, that is a little bit part of —
ST: Yeah. Yeah. The —
GR: All the local farmers used it for fencing. So all around Tromso all the fencing.
ST: Was it?
GR: After the war was made up from decking from the Tirpitz.
ST: Oh, bloody heck.
GR: So what was the actual raid like? Obviously, you took off.
ST: Well, to me it was easy.
GR: Yeah.
ST: To be quite honest.
GR: Because you flew up to Kinloss and then took off from Kinloss.
ST: Yeah. That was a bloody long, long run on one.
GR: Yeah.
ST: We stopped at Scotland to refuel.
GR: Yes.
ST: And we had the night there and then we took off in the morning again.
GR: Yeah.
ST: That, that wasn’t so bad. We come straight back again.
GR: And what was —
ST: Ours, ours was a near miss.
GR: Yeah.
ST: But I think, did we go in first or did 617 go in first? I think they went in first as usual and two of them hit the Tirpitz.
GR: Yeah.
ST: But we, I think they did say that ours dropped and caused it to capsize.
GR: Yeah.
ST: It was something to do with the vibrations or something.
GR: It was. Yes. And the grand, the Tall Boy bombs.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Were about twelve thousand pounders.
ST: And we had a near —
GR: Yeah.
ST: A near miss —
GR: And they reckon that even though the Tirpitz had been damaged.
ST: It was —
GR: Your near miss.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Or 9 Squadron when they dropped.
ST: Yeah.
GR: But then the, the near misses and the explosion.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Turned the ship over.
ST: Sort of was —
GR: Yeah.
ST: Was the, was the, yeah the instigator of, yeah.
GR: So we’ll have it on record that 9 Squadron sunk the Tirpitz.
ST: Well, we do say that don’t we [laughs]
GR: You knew that.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. And then obviously flew back via Kinloss.
ST: Yeah.
GR: And —
ST: Stopped overnight and then back the same day, the next day.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
ST: It was bloody long. My bloody bum was frozen.
GR: Yeah.
ST: It was, it was numb by the time you came back you know.
GR: And back on the Tirpitz raid did you see any German day fighters? Any, you know Luftwaffe —
ST: No. Just a bit of flak. That was all.
GR: Flak. Yeah.
ST: I mean, as you say, as you read your history we were bloody lucky. And I was looking at it not a, not a week ago it came on here that they —
GR: Yeah.
ST: The day the Dambusters, but it was a different, different concept.
GR: Yes.
ST: They way they explained it to you.
GR: Yeah.
ST: And they said they were very lucky the fighters didn’t reach us there because a fighter Squadron.
GR: Went somewhere else.
ST: Either —
GR: Yeah.
ST: No, they went there. Saw there was nothing doing and turned and came back again. But that way, that time we were just on the way turning to come back home again. So they came up behind us but didn’t see us.
GR: Yeah.
ST: According to what that last —
GR: And of course, it was a daylight raid so —
ST: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
ST: But the, as I say time was, you know I was following that. The pilot who led the raid, who led in the 109s and the Focke-Wulfs —
GR: The Focke, yeah.
ST: Yeah. You know. He seemed to know what he was talking about because he said that he got, he got as far, he didn’t get as far as the Tirpitz. He said when they realised that the raid was over so he turned back again.
GR: Turned back.
ST: To that bloody Air Force.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Air force where they were. That airfield where they were. I forget the name of it now. Where the fighter Squadron was.
GR: Yes. And I, I can’t. I can’t remember the name. So, yes. So your raid on the Tirpitz it was sunk and you got back.
ST: Yeah.
GR: And you got back well. More operations with 9 Squadron. It looks as though your second tour was completed.
ST: Yeah.
GR: On the 24th of February 1945.
ST: Yeah. I missed, I missed the last one that 9 Squadron did.
GR: Yeah.
ST: And that was the Eagle’s Nest.
GR: Berchesgaden. Yeah.
ST: Berchesgaden. I missed that one.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. Yeah.
GR: Well, I have to read a little interesting bit in your logbook for that last operation which was the Dortmund Ems canal.
ST: Oh yeah.
GR: A bit of flak. Flea bites.
ST: [laughs] Oh well. Yeah. Flea bites.
GR: So what was flea bites? I don’t think I’ve seen flea bites written in a logbook before.
ST: We didn’t, they didn’t bother you so much you know. You got away from that one.
GR: Yeah.
ST: But we, I saw my bomb land at the end of the column and I could see it collapsing.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah.
GR: Yeah, so —
ST: That was, that was a daylight one and all.
GR: Yeah.
ST: It was. And we were lucky in a way as regards fighters you know. Other than those two connections there.
GR: Yeah.
ST: And lucky we got away with it. Mind you we had, we were all coming home one night, I think it was at night time. Yeah. Coming home one night and it was getting near the dawn and we were in cloud most of the time. So he eased up through the cloud and just before we broke the cloud I looked up and on my starboard and I said to the skipper, ‘Skipper, what the hell is that big thing on the, on the port side?’ He said, ‘What big thing?’ He looked out because he could see it from his window. He said, ‘Oh Jesus,’ he said [laughs] So we didn’t know what to do. Whether to have a shite or a hair cut. A big Condor.
GR: Oh.
ST: And that was one of their Coastal Command.
GR: Yes.
ST: And it was going out when we were going out. We were on the same, on the same course. And I could see every bloody gun on it. Well, we didn’t know what to do whether to bloody dive or get shot down or —
GR: Or go after it.
ST: Or go after it but it was a bit too bloody big that one was you know. Three oh, 303s against bloody their armament.
GR: Yeah.
ST: So we kept in tow with them for about ten, fifteen minutes and then the skipper said, ‘Well, I’ll ease down off the end of this cloud.’ So we went back in to the clouds again. And it just carried straight on.
GR: Yeah. Yeah. Was it like a reconnaissance aircraft?
ST: One of their, yeah. One of their Coastal Command ones.
GR: Yeah.
ST: It was a Condor. I did a little bit of research on it and that was heavily armed that one was.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah.
GR: So two tours completed for Bomber Command.
ST: Yes.
GR: Fifty operations.
ST: Yeah. I got recommended for the DFM but I didn’t get it [laughs]
GR: Oh dear.
ST: Yeah. I wasn’t exactly, I wasn’t exactly an angel of virtue you know. I was a little bit of a hard boy. Fly boy. You know. I liked my women and —
GR: Well, yeah. You settled. You settled down with one for sixty one years.
ST: I did settle down. Yeah. I had a couple of those years I must admit. I’ll hold my hand up. I had a couple of those years.
GR: Yeah.
ST: You know. Yeah. But I didn’t, I didn’t hurt her that much.
GR: No. That’s obviously. Yeah. So where was you on VE Day? As the war came to an end you’d finished your two tours. Can you remember where you were?
ST: I think, I think I went to bloody Porthcawl.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Near Bridgend.
GR: Training again or —
ST: Yeah.
GR: On leave or —
ST: Yeah.
GR: I think that was all we did. Yeah.
GR: And then what happened after? What happened after the war?
ST: Oh, I stopped in. I went, they sent me over in Germany for three years. I was in Germany for three years.
GR: Right.
ST: Yeah. Near, near a place called [unclear]
GR: With the Squadron or —
ST: No. On my own. I went as a, I was a MT officer.
GR: Right. Motor transport. Yeah.
ST: Yeah. I was, I was in charge of the MT section there.
GR: Right.
ST: Keeping everything on the road and —
GR: Yeah.
ST: Having a good time.
GR: And did all your crew go back to Australia?
ST: Yeah. They did.
GR: Yeah.
ST: But they’re all, they’re all dead now. I can’t understand it. I’m the only one left. Yeah. Yeah, the skipper died a little while ago. Then the bloody engineer lived a good while. The wireless operator he died as well. He was an Australian
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. The rear gunner. Little Titch his name was. He went back up to Newcastle. He lived in Newcastle for a while after. I think that’s where he came from.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Yeah. He died.
GR: But twelve years in the RAF was it?
ST: Yeah.
GR: You did twelve years. Yeah.
ST: I came out in 1952.
GR: Yeah. And then you came out. Yeah.
ST: And I went to Rolls Royce and I was working at Rolls Royce.
GR: Right. What did you do at Rolls Royce?
ST: You know the turbine blades?
GR: Yes.
ST: They well milling them from a block. A block that size. Well, the little ones, turbine blades were that size.
GR: Yeah.
ST: Then they kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and the big engines they were that size. And they used to get them just one big block of cast iron.
GR: Yeah.
ST: And they used to do it from scratch in these special machines.
GR: Yeah.
ST: So [pause] and then I finished up. Came up here. I finished at Mullins. They made cigarette machines.
GR: Right.
ST: So that was a good, they had a very good pension. Mullins did. I did twelve years.
GR: Yeah.
ST: I did twelve years down there.
[phone ringing]
GR: The phone’s ringing so I will say Sam, thank you.

Collection

Citation

Gary Rushbrooke, “Interview with Sam Thompson,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 20, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11714.

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