Interview with George Thomson. One

Title

Interview with George Thomson. One

Description

George Thomson had always wanted to fly. When he volunteered for the RAF he hoped to be a pilot but re-mustered as a navigator. He was posted to 15 Squadron based at RAF Mildenhall. On their first operation they were attacked by fighters three times. On their nineteenth trip they were attacked again and were shot down. The crew baled out although the pilot and the mid-upper gunner were killed. When he landed he and his flight engineer attempted to evade but were captured after eight days and spent the rest of the war as prisoners of war.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2017-10-05

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

00:39:00 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AThomsonGB171005

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

GT: Ok. This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Alistair Montgomery. Monty. And the interviewee is Warrant Officer George Thomson. And the interview is taking place at George’s home in Newton Mearns near Glasgow. George, tell me a little bit about your, your family background and where you lived prior to joining the Royal Air Force.
AM: I lived in Giffnock. Merrylee Park actually but now called Giffnock. I was there from about the age of seven until I eventually went and joined the Air Force at that stage.
GT: Right. And were you any of your family in any of the services?
AM: My father was in the First World War. That was, that was the only involvement he was in. But he was, he was out in Mesopotamia
GT: Right. So what year did you join the RAF and what made you join?
AM: What, what age was I?
GT: No. What made you join? Why?
AM: I always wanted to fly.
GT: Right. Right. So that was it.
AM: That was it. And I joined in 1942.
GT: Right. Now, tell me a wee bit about, about the training process and —
AM: Well, I volunteered in 1942. Around about June. And I didn’t get called up to report to Lord’s Cricket Ground until the beginning of October of that year. And I went down there, had a couple of weeks in London at Lords Cricket Ground. I’d actually failed my medical for my eyesight as a pilot at that time and when I went down to London they sent me to a specialist to see if anything could be done about it. And this specialist said, ‘Well, we can operate on you now but you’ll be, you won’t be flying for six, six weeks or eight weeks. Or you won’t be carrying on in the Air Force for six or eight weeks. Or you can wait until after the war.’ So I chose to wait until after the war. I re-mustered as a trainee navigator.
GT: Right. And where did you, where did you start your, the flying element of your training?
AM: The flying element was in, was in Bishops Court in Northern Ireland.
GT: Right.
AM: Just south of Belfast.
GT: Right. And how long did that last?
AM: We went there in, I was first of all I was at the initial training wing in Scarborough and then went from there to Bishops Court after a spell in Manchester, at Heaton Park. Holding until we could get a vacancy on a course. And then went there. October ’43 that would be.
GT: And so that was the basic element.
AM: That was when we started flying training. Yeah.
GT: Right.
AM: On Avro Ansons.
GT: Right. And what did you go on to after the Anson?
AM: From there we went, went to Operational Training Unit in Wellingtons.
GT: Right.
AM: And that was in in Buckinghamshire.
GT: Right. And is that where you, where you crewed up?
AM: That was where we crewed up. Yeah.
GT: Tell me a wee bit about this famous crewing up process.
AM: Well, I didn’t then know anything about it but we all lived in the mess and we got to know each other. And for two weeks we actually did ground courses in your individual trades. As a navigator I did another two weeks in further navigational training. And you just met in the evening in the mess and you’d have a drink together. And I, I was at the end of the fortnight instruction came out that captains of aircraft had to submit the names of their crews within forty eight hours. So you crewed up with the people you knew. And in fact it was my rear gunner who got me into the crew. Because he said to me one night, we were sitting in the mess and he said, ‘Have you got a crew yet?’ I said, ‘No. Not yet.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ll introduce you to your pilot.’ So we went through to the snooker room and the pilot was playing snooker there. He was a New Zealander. Norman Overend. And my rear gunner said, ‘This is your navigator.’ And Norman looked up and said, ‘Aye. Fine.’ And he carried on with his snooker. And it was left at that. My rear gunner was a fellow who was Isador Spagatner, he was, he was a Jew of Austrian descent although he’d been born in this country. And he was the oldest member of the crew. He’d been in the police force before he joined up in the Air Force. And he always, on operations he always carried a revolver in his flying boot in case he got shot down because he reckoned he wouldn’t stand much chance as a Jew. But when he bailed out his revolver fell out of his landing boot and he landed without it.
GT: From the Wellingtons did you move as a complete crew to the Lancaster OTU?
AM: No. We moved on. We moved from there to Stirlings.
GT: Right.
AM: And we spent about two months on Stirlings. My pilot liked a Stirling. I liked the Stirling. The best navigation station of any aircraft I’ve ever been in. Commodious. Plenty of room to move around in and the pilot liked it. The only person that didn’t like it was the flight engineer because being electrical he kept running around changing fuses on it and he was busy doing that. And at one time the mid-upper turret started revolving and got faster and faster and the mid-upper gunner was going to be sick. Eventually he had to vacate the turret and he couldn’t stop the turret. It was still, still revolving when we landed.
GT: So, so why were you changed then from the Stirling on to the Lancaster?
AM: I think the conversion from the Wellington to the Stirling was only to get four-engine experience.
GT: Right. Right.
AM: And then once we’d finished with that we spent a conversion course which lasted about four days on to Lancasters.
GT: And where was that?
AM: That was at Feltwell.
GT: Right. Right. And you left Feltwell as, as a crew.
AM: And went straight to 15 Squadron.
GT: Straight to 15 Squadron.
AM: Mildenhall.
GT: Mildenhall. And what was it like arriving on your, on your first squadron as a new team?
AM: Well, when we walked into the squadron we had to report. Mildenhall, you actually stayed in individual houses. You didn’t, each crew had a house.
GT: Gosh.
AM: They were the old married quarters because Mildenhall was a pre-war station.
GT: Yeah.
AM: And the married quarters were vacated and we stayed in a house. A two room [cough] Excuse me. A two room and kitchen house in a terrace [coughs] Which was really a plus point. It was quite good. It worked out very well. And we walked. You had to cross the road to get into the station then. And we walked, the first day we walked in my wireless operator was a chap, Bob Kendall. And we walked in, we met another wireless operator called Bill Kendall who came from Liverpool and stayed one street behind where Bob Kendall stayed and they’d never met before.
GT: Gosh.
AM: That was a coincidence. Bill Kendall had been there for about a month by that time. When we walked in he just said, ‘Well, good luck to you,’ and that was it. He ended up, he finished his tour and eventually at the end of the war he joined the Australian Air Force and he served there for a while and was billeted out in Australia for many years.
GT: Tell me, tell me what you can recall about your very first operational mission.
AM: Well, when I reported to the navigation office I had to go and see the navigation leader who was a fellow flight lieutenant, Jackie Fabian. He was an Australian. And when I walked in and spoke to him I said, ‘I’m George Thomson, reporting for duty,’ he said, ‘Oh, not another bloody Scot.’ [laughs] he said, ‘We’ve got a Bagpipes, we’ve got a Haggis. We’ve got one or two with Scottish names. We’ll just call you Tommy.’ I didn’t know why he couldn’t just call me George. Anyway, I was called Tommy from then on and I was known as that. And after that, when I came back after the end of the war at one time when I was at work, when I came back home my mother said, ‘There’s been a chap on the phone asking for Tommy but I said there was no Tommy here. But he said he would phone back.’ And he phoned back that night and it was a chap from the squadron who knew me of course as Tommy. It was another navigator.
GT: Right. Right. So —
AM: Oh, and that, that very first day when I walked into the navigation office Jack Fabian said to me as I was walking out, he said, ‘Would you like to do a trip tonight? I’m short of a navigator.’ I said, ‘No. I’d rather do my first trip with my own crew.’ He said, ‘Oh, that’s alright.’ So there was never any compunction. The only time I flew with other crews was on training exercises. I never did any operations with other crews.
GT: Right. And can you remember you first mission with your own crew?
AM: Yeah. The flight engineer and I were at the cinema in the afternoon and it flashed up on the screen, “Would sergeants Howarth and Thomson report to their flights immediately.” So we walked down to the flights. We obviously hadn’t read the Battle Order in the mess that day and the rest of the crew were, were getting ready to go out to the aircraft. I met Jack Fabian, the navigation leader and he handed me a flight bag and he said, ‘Follow the crew in front until you get sorted out,’ and off we went. It was a daylight on a French target.
[recording paused]
GT: Right.
AM: So there were no repercussions after that. I mean we didn’t get in to any trouble about it. It was just the fact that we hadn’t read the Battle Order for that day.
GT: So, how did the mission itself go?
AM: Fine. We were attacked three times over the target. The first time running in to the target we got attacked. The rear gunner spotted the aircraft coming in and gave us, well we did some evasive action. John Jones, the bomb aimer hadn’t let the bombs go over the target. Said to the pilot, ‘We’ll have to go around again.’ And we went around again. We got attacked again and he didn’t drop the bombs again. So we went around for a third time and the pilot said, ‘This time you drop the bloody bombs [laughs] never mind where they land.’ But that was the fact, that was the only, the first time, the first trip we were attacked three times. One other trip we were attacked once. And we were coming back from a night trip over the Channel and a fighter appeared behind us but he peeled off. He didn’t come in to attack us. He just peeled off. And it was only on the last, our nineteenth trip that we got attacked again.
GT: Right. And were most of your trips at night or did you fly any daytime sorties?
AM: No. There was probably about fifty fifty.
GT: Right.
AM: Night and daytime.
GT: Right. And —
AM: See D-Day, D-Day had taken place. The army was pushing on and we were bombing quite a lot of the German troops ahead of the army.
GT: Right. Tell me about one of these sorties. What were they, what were they like?
AM: Well, one of the ones that we did we were supposed to bomb from six thousand feet and halfway across the Channel the Master Bomber came on and said, ‘Cloud base is eleven hundred feet. Get down to a thousand feet and drop your bombs from there.’ So we dropped our bombs from there and we came back with damage to the bottom the plane where the bombs had exploded. Bits had come up and —
GT: Right. And obviously at night flak was an issue. You know. What was it like the first time that you encountered really bad flak?
AM: Not very good. After about the second or third time they introduced a device which if you’ve a predicted gun on you from the ground it lit up a signal in the pilot’s cockpit and he counted to three and turned left or right. And when you flew on you could see that the thing exploded where you would have been if you had carried straight on. Or near enough to where you would been if you had you carried straight on.
GT: Right. And can you explain to me a little bit, particularly from your perspective as a navigator, what the, what the corkscrew manoeuvre was like?
AM: Pretty awful. You had to grab all your instruments and hold on to them. The night we were shot down we were bombing from sixteen thousand feet and we did a couple of corkscrews. And by the time we got down to the bailout stage we were probably down at about twelve thousand feet.
GT: Right.
AM: You lost about two thousand feet every time you did a corkscrew.
GT: Right. Gosh. And tell me a little bit about being a navigator in the Lancaster. You know, behind this curtain as it were and, you know maybe a little bit cut off. How did it feel not seeing the action and seeing the action and —
AM: Well, you were, you were so busy all the time. In fact most of the long trips that we did we only did two very long eight and a half hour trips. One was to Stuttgart and the other was to Stettin up in the Baltic. They were long trips and the only time that you could really relax was when you were over the target. I used to have my coffee and sandwiches when we were actually over the target rather than try and interrupt when I was navigating. Twice we were selected as group navigators. This was the scheme that they introduced. You had to send back a position every six, six minutes and they collated these. There was, there was three hundred aircraft. There might be fifty doing this and they collated this information and then they sent back signals to give you a correction of course rather than leaving it to the individuals to sort it out themselves. It didn’t work too well. Only did it twice.
GT: Was this to try and get a more accurate wind? Or —
AM: Yeah. And try and keep the main force together.
GT: Right. Right. And on these, particularly the night sorties how aware were you of the other aircraft around about you?
AM: Not really. Until you got over the target. A couple of times I went up to the pilot’s cockpit and had a look out when we were over the target just to see what was happening. You could see a lot of aircraft then but not really before that. Never, I never because I wasn’t looking out at all. I mean I was navigating on instruments and I didn’t bother with what was going on outside.
GT: And of the targets you went to, again at night when you went up to the front end what was the one that sticks in your mind most?
AM: I think the one that stuck in my mind was the one going to Rüsselsheim which was in the Ruhr area. And there was a hell of a lot of flak going up ahead of me when I looked out from the pilot’s cockpit. And I saw one plane getting hit but it didn’t go down. It was actually hit but I didn’t see it go down at all. But I saw, saw a flame bursting out from one of the wings and then it seemed to die off.
GT: Right. Gosh. What was it like as a crew when you got back to Mildenhall after, after a sortie? What was the sense, your personnel sense and the sort of feeling among the crew?
AM: Relief. Relief to some extent. You went into your, your post briefing of course and that took a bit of time and then you went back to the mess and had a meal. It was just a question of a bit of relief. There was only, there was one time and we were actually we did a raid late afternoon about 4 o’clock to a synthetic bomb site. A synthetic oil supply in Germany. And it was covered with cloud when we got there and we bombed. We did bomb but we came back. We probably got back about 8 o’clock at night and we were told we would have to stand by and do it again. And then we were kept in the briefing room. And about 10 o’clock they then said, ‘Well, you’d better go back to your beds and have a rest and we’ll call you out whenever it’s required.’ So they called us out about 2 o’clock. Back down to the briefing room and we were there for the rest of the night. And, and the next day. Now, the interesting thing was, and there’s a photograph of it in the some of the magazines. You may have seen it. At Mildenhall there was an investiture taking place the next day. And of course, we were, we were all in the briefing room and I hadn’t shaved for two days. I hadn’t had the chance to shave for two days. I didn’t wear regulation uniform when I was flying. I wore a navy shirt, towelling shirt which I found more comfortable than flying in the regulation shirts. And it had its own collar and I just flew open neck in it. And the, we were told not to come out of the briefing room. Not to be seen because the investiture was taking place. And we all, we understood that it was Bomber Harris who was coming to do the investiture. In fact it was the King and Queen and the two princesses. We didn’t know that. But the King was obviously very observant because there was only about fifty aircrew on parade for the investiture. Including those who were being invested. And there was two squadrons of aircraft — 15 and 622 Squadrons, both based at Mildenhall. Two squadrons of aircraft sitting around the perimeter. And the King said to the, the air commodore who was the group commander, ‘Where are the rest of the aircrew?’ And the commander had to admit that we were in the briefing room waiting to take off. The king said, ‘I want to see them.’ So an RAF Regiment sergeant appeared on a bike, come in to the briefing room and said, ‘Everybody outside and just form up in groups. The King wants to come and have a word with you.’ So we came out and had a, well if you see the photographs. You haven’t seen these photographs have you?
GT: No.
AM: I’ll let you see one. We were standing there. A really scruffy bunch. And the King and Queen came along. Princess Elizabeth was behind them. I don’t know where Margaret was at that time. Anyway, there was a [knock] and an Australian pilot standing very, in the bunch that I was in right at the front. And of course being an Australian with a different coloured uniform the King spotted him and said to him. And this, I’m going to use a very crude word here. The King said to him, ‘I understand you’ve been waiting since this morning to take off for a bombing raid.’ The Australian pilot shifted his chewing gum and said, ‘We’ve been waiting all f’ing night sir.’ And the King turned to the air commodore and said, ‘Perhaps next time you’ll get your facts right.’ There were no repercussions to that either.
GT: Yeah [laughs] What was it, what was the local area like around Mildenhall during the war?
AM: Very quiet. Not much doing at all. The, the village was, was quite a wee bit away from the actual station itself. There was a pub called the Bird in Hand just outside the station and that was a sort of rallying point. At nights we’d go there. And once a month the, the two squadrons would get together and have a booze up there with the OCs —
GT: Right.
AM: In attendance as well.
GT: Right.
AM: But other than that it was not very good. There was a bakehouse that also had a small café attached to it and quite often in the morning if you were late up and didn’t want to go in to the mess you went down to the café and had your breakfast down there. The OC did not recommend it but we just did it.
GT: And what about interractions with the, with the non-aircrew part of the team? You know, the ground crew and the admin staff.
AM: We got on very well. We had the same ground crew when we had LS-P Peter as we had when we LS-M Mike and we used to take them out once a month for a booze up. Not on the station. We took them to a local pub.
GT: Right. And did you ever come home to Scotland during the war? During your leave.
AM: Oh yes, yeah. You see you got a week’s leave every six weeks.
GT: Right.
AM: If you were on operations. And I came up and I took Norman Overend. Twice I brought him up to stay with my parents and I over the week’s leave.
GT: Right. And how was that? You were coming away from the intensity of flying operations to coming to, you know what by that stage of the war was a completely different area in Scotland where the war wasn’t directly impacting.
AM: It was, because my mother got quite annoyed about it. That you got this week’s leave every six weeks and somebody, one of our neighbours had said to my mother one time, ‘I see George is home again,’ Sorry, ‘Does he not, does he not do anything? Is he not actually doing anything?’ My mother was flaming. She said, ‘He’s flying all the time.’ That was the end of it.
GT: Tell me now George about, about your, your last mission.
AM: My last mission was I regarded it as a bit of a disaster because we were told we were bombing Frankfurt. Three hundred and ninety eight Lancasters were scheduled to bomb Frankfurt that night. It was the last major attack on Frankfurt of the war because German troops were coming through. Through Frankfurt to the station to get down to the front lines. And, but the route took us just north of Mannheim before we had to turn on to the last course to get to Frankfurt. And it was on that last turn just north of Mannheim that we got attacked from the rear. And as we straightened out after we did our evasive action we got attacked from underneath by this, this guy. Henrik Schmidt.
GT: Right. And was this the schrage musik that was fired?
AM: Yeah. It was. Aye. And they hit our bomb bay. We had a mixed load of incendiaries and heavies. They hit the incendiaries on the port side. And the incendiaries of course just went up in flames underneath the wireless operator’s seat. That was when it, I heard the bang and looked across to the wireless operator and I could see the flames going up under his seat which he vacated fairly quickly. He had a go at it with a fire extinguisher but it didn’t do much good. And then the flames started to spread on to the port wing. And it was at that point that the pilot just said that we should bale out.
GT: Right. We’ll have a wee pause. And then —
[recording paused]
GT: That’s not, not the intention. Right. Ok. Right. So, so George you’ve just been attacked. We now know it was by an ME 109, 110 and you’re leaving the aircraft. Tell me. Tell me what happened then.
AM: Well, I was still at my navigation desk when the pilot said bale out because the port wing’s going on fire. So we started to bale out and as I passed the pilot he said to me, ‘Fix my parachute for me, George.’ He just wore a chest parachute. So I picked his parachute and he said, ‘Good luck.’ That was his last remarks to me. I went down to the hatch. The bomb aimer had opened the hatch by this time. And the flight engineer went out first and I went out second after him. And the wireless operator came out after me. And the bomb aimer came out after him. And the two gunners went out the rear door. What happened to the mid-upper gunner we just don’t know but I mean he was killed but I suspect he was killed on the ground. Anyway, I landed in the same field as the flight engineer and that’s where we started to make our attempt to walk out of Germany.
GT: Tell me a bit about that.
AM: Well, I landed. It was a field of maize that we landed in. I landed in the middle of the field and when I got up and had a look around I could see this parachute stuck up part of a tree in the corner of the field. And I decided to walk over and find out who this was. So I walked over there and it was our flight engineer. We got the parachute down. He was, he’d landed on the ground all right. And we got the parachute down. Buried the parachutes and then decided what we’d do we would try to get away from the spot where we’d been shot down. And we seemed to be in open country and we just headed off. We had a choice of either going to Switzerland or going to Alsace Lorraine. And we chose Alsace Lorraine in the expectation that we might meet up with some of our own troops coming up north. But as I say we didn’t. We got down to the Rhine and that was when we were caught. But that was our decision.
GT: And during the, during the march out how many days were you on the run before you were caught.
AM: Eight days.
GT: Right.
AM: Yeah.
GT: So you must have had some remarkable experiences during the eight days.
AM: We had. Yeah. We had. We had quite a lot. I’ve actually given a talk especially on that particular subject because eight days covers quite a lot and quite a few things happened to us. Including for example walking through a village one time when we didn’t realise we’d turned a corner and we were heading straight into a village with women and children in the street.
GT: And what were you wearing?
AM: We were in our RAF uniforms. We just carried on walking. We nodded to the women and carried on straight through and that was it. Nobody paid any attention to us.
GT: Gosh.
AM: Whether it was because there was the two of us I don’t know. That might have had something to do with it. But we felt if we’d turned, if we’d turned back a way they might have suspected something. And the choice was we keep on walking and hope for the best.
GT: So how were you actually captured?
GT: Well, we got down to a place called Rastatt down near the Rhine. And the [pause] we’d walked through Rastatt that night. And there was a big marshalling yard there and we went into the marshalling yard in the hope that we might find a train that might take us across the Rhine. We didn’t as it happened. We got stopped by a railway policeman. Well, we think he was a railway policeman. He was certainly in uniform. And he talked to us and we couldn’t understand what he was saying. And we didn’t say anything to him and he couldn’t understand what we were trying to say. And he lost interest in us and walked away and left us. And at that point we decided we’d get out of this place and get out of Rastatt and we started heading down a road that was going towards the Rhine. And about 3 o’clock in the morning we decided we’d better rest in this wood rather than try and get down to the Rhine early morning. And we dived in to this wood and found this spot to get down and shelter and laid down and went to sleep. And about 7 o’clock in the morning Barry give me a shake and said, ‘Look who’s coming.’ I woke up and there was four guys, four German soldiers with fixed bayonets bearing down upon us. That, that was it. We’d gone to sleep about two hundred yards from a German army camp we hadn’t spotted.
GT: And what happened to you then?
AM: Well, it was actually, they were actually Austrians that caught us. And it was an Austrian tank regiment that was in this camp. We were taken back into the camp and two officers came out and they seemed quite amused by the whole incident. And then the first thing they did was take our boots off and we had to stand in our stocking soles while they decided what to do with us. And then they got a horse and cart out and we, the two of us and two guards were taken back in to Rastatt and stuck in the local jail. A county jail. I’ve been back in it twice since the war and, haven’t been back to the jail but I’ve been back in Rastatt. Very smart place too. And we got stuck in individual cells and that was it. And then that, that was about the time we got there it was probably be about 8 in the morning and before 9 o’clock the door opened and an officer came in. German uniform. He was an Austrian. And an NCO. And the NCO barked at me, ‘English?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And he said, ‘American?’ I said, ‘No.’ That was all he seemed to know and he turned to the officer and had a few words and the officer then turned to me and said in pretty good English, ‘Well, if you’re not English and you’re not American what are you?’ And I said, ‘I’m Scottish.’ So, he turned and explained to the NCO who was then despatched from the cell. The officer stayed with me and the interesting thing was he didn’t ask me any questions about where I’d been shot down or where I’d been because I had eight days growth on my face anyway and I was looking pretty scruffy. And he was more interested in telling me he’d been educated at Oxford and he’d left there in 1937 and gone back to Germany. And then the NCO reappeared with a tray bearing a plate of meat and potatoes, a slab of bread and a mug of coffee. The coffee was foul. Not very good at all. And then they went off to Barry’s cell. He was two cells down and they opened the door and the NCO said, ‘English?’ And Barry said, ‘Yes,’ and they just shut the door and left him. He didn’t get, he didn’t get anything to eat until lunchtime. So it paid to be Scottish. I think it was the fact that it was Austrians and Scottish. If it, if it had been Germans and Scottish they wouldn’t have paid any attention. But because he was an Austrian I think he sympathised with the Scottish that we were involved too.
GT: So what happened when you left Rastatt?
AM: We were there three days. And the second day I was in the loo and I was standing washing my hands when this German, this English officer came in. I didn’t know there was an English officer there. I was puzzled by it because he was actually dressed in his best blue. He wasn’t wearing a battledress. He was wearing a uniform top. And he said to me, ‘What squadron are you from?’ And I said, ‘Mind your own bloody business,’ and walked out and left him. And the interesting thing was the next day when Barry and I got moved this English officer didn’t come with us. He was a German. Or an Austrian. He was in to find out information about us. That was it.
GT: And where did you go to then?
AM: We got taken by a van about twenty, it must have been about between twenty or thirty miles heading north up towards Frankfurt to the Interrogation Centre. The Luftwaffe. Dulag Luft. And we went into this small village and we were stuck in another cell there for the night with three other prisoners that they’d rounded up. Two. Two English and one American. He was an American fighter pilot. The other two were English bomber crew members. And then we got moved the next day up to Frankfurt. Up to Dulag Luft.
GT: Right. And did you get any reaction from the civilian population? Or —
AM: Well, we had when we got to Frankfurt because we had to walk quite a bit through Frankfurt.
GT: What was it like?
AM: I got hit in the head by a turnip. Somebody heaved it at me. Fortunately it wasn’t going very fast when it hit me in the back of the head. I just ignored it. There was about thirty of us at that time and we’d been amassed together and were heading for Dulag Luft itself. And that was it.
GT: Right.
AM: But you see Arnhem had taken place by this time and Dulag Luft, the interrogation camp, we were only there three days and then got moved to the prison camp. But my bomb aimer and my wireless operator were both there and they’d been there, they were caught within twenty four hours of having been shot down and they’d been kept there all the time we were missing. Which was eight days on the run, three days in Rastatt and overnight in this wee village I can’t, I didn’t know the name of, and then a day’s travel up to — so they were there about nine or ten days and they’d been told that we were dead, the flight engineer and I because they couldn’t find us. But the pilot’s body was in the plane. He was, he died in the plane.
GT: Right. And you got moved from Frankfurt then.
AM: To, over to Stalag Luft 7 in Silesia.
GT: Right. That was a long journey.
AM: Five days we were on the train. But a lot of the time was spent sitting in sidings while other trains that were more important were going through. Particularly troop trains were going passed. We were each issued with a Red Cross parcel before we got on the train. That kept us going for the five days.
GT: Right.
AM: And the Germans who were guarding us got a loaf of bread and two sausages.
GT: Right, George Thomson. Warrant Officer George Thomson, for the moment thank you very much indeed.
AM: My pleasure. Thank you.
GT: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I could listen to you go on all day it’s just — right.

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Citation

Alastair Montgomery, “Interview with George Thomson. One,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 26, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11715.

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