Interview with Kenneth William Trueman

Title

Interview with Kenneth William Trueman

Description

Kenneth Trueman was working as a carpenter before he volunteered for the RAF and trained as a navigator in South Africa He flew operations with 640 Squadron. On their twenty fifth operation his aircraft was attacked by a night fighter. He baled out and landed in a field where the Maquis were waiting for a supply drop. Kenneth joined them to carry our sabotage work. He was finally repatriated after linking up with Americans.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2015-09-21

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

01:42:40 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ATruemanKW150921

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

CB: Right. I’m sitting in Solihull talking with Ken Trueman about his experiences in the war and my name is Chris Brockbank. And we’re going to talk about all aspects of his experiences including when he was shot down more than once and what happened as a result of that. So, Ken if you’d like to start with your earliest life and how life progressed, please?
KT: Well, I had just an elementary education. I was one of the first that they accepted for aircrew who didn’t have further education. And I went down to Bedford and got my number and everything like that and then waited for them to call me up.
CB: So you were born in Birmingham.
KT: Yeah.
CB: So you went to an elementary school there.
KT: Yes. I went to —
CB: And what age did you leave school?
KT: Fourteen.
CB: And then what did you do?
KT: I was a carpenter. Trained as a carpenter until I was eighteen. I need not have gone into the forces because I was in a reserved occupation. And my foreman said, ‘Well, you can’t go unless I sack you.’ And so that was the only time I’ve ever had the sack. And he sacked me and then I was able to go and volunteer. Which I did at Dale End in Birmingham. And then some weeks later I was called to Bedford. And I got first taste of service life which unfortunately was, it was snowing like mad. They got us up at 5 o’clock. We had to shave in cold water with a little blue light. And then we waited three quarters of an hour in the snow to get in the dining room. And when I got in the dining room the cup and the knife, fork and spoon I had to open my hand to get. And we all sat there in our overcoats and steaming. Steam coming up it was. That was my first, service life if you like. But then they sent me home on indefinite leave and I was, as I say I was there until the, ‘til the end of 1941 when I was called up to London and I had six weeks with a rifle.
CB: What else did you do other than with the rifle?
KT: Oh, it was, it was mainly getting our inject, medicals, vaccinations. We [laughs] we were in the flats at the [unclear] Court, but we had our food at the London Zoo [laughs] And then we, of course we were kitted out then as well. And then from there we were posted to Torquay. And that took three months. And on my first leave I got married.
CB: This is 1941.
KT: No. That’s 1942.
CB: ’42. Ok.
KT: Yeah. I got married in June, the 6th 1942 and I did my first operation on June the 6th 1944. And that was D-Day.
CB: Ok. So after you’d finished at Torquay where did you go? What happened then?
KT: Pardon?
CB: What happened after Torquay?
KT: Well, then as I say I went to Desford for this twelve hour selection board. Twelve hours flying Tiger Moths. And from there we, we went to Heaton Park and we were under canvas for eleven weeks. And from there we went to South Africa on a ten knot convoy that took five weeks from leaving Liverpool to arriving at Durban. And so we went right north first of all. We must have been near land because land birds was landing on the deck. And then we came down around the Cape to Durban. And that’s where I started the advanced navigation course. I don’t know how long that took but I then moved up, just up the road to Collondale to do the, start the flying in Ansons.
CB: Just taking you back you said you had only basic education.
KT: Mmmn.
CB: While you were being, working as a carpenter what did you do as far as your education was concerned?
KT: In what way?
CB: Well, did you go to night school or what did you do?
KT: No. No. But the RAF did pay for a course in maths and English while I, after I’d got my number. And that was the only —
CB: In the Birmingham Technical College was it?
KT: No. No. My, one of my teachers at my school did it for two of us. Two of us. And the other lad unfortunately failed miserably his, they, I mean you have tests all the time and he failed and they made him a flight engineer which was a very short course, you know. And he was killed on one of his first or second raids he was on. And I was still, I was still training.
CB: So, when you finished the maths and English that coincided with your actual call up but then you’d already been graded had you? PNB. Pilot, navigator, bomber.
KT: No.
CB: Is that how you —
KT: No. You were a pilot under training. Pilot UT.
CB: Yeah.
KT: Until you had the selection course.
CB: Ok.
KT: It was at the end of the selection course when you were told whether you were going to be a pilot or a navigator.
CB: Ok.
KT: And had I not failed the night vision test I would have been a pilot. But as it happened I was very grateful for it.
CB: Why?
KT: Pardon?
CB: Why?
KT: Well, if you think about a pilot in a bomber. He takes off. And immediately he comes under the control of the navigator. All the way to the target. Unless of course they’re, they’re fired upon with a fighter when the gunners take over and direct the pilot. Then when they enter the target the bomb aimer takes over and he guides the pilot. As soon as the bombs have dropped it comes back to the navigator. So, all the pilot is, is a taxi driver [laughs] And I’m lucky because I’ve got something to do. We had to fix a new course every six minutes. And I could do it in four minutes so I had two minutes every, I had two minutes rest every six minutes.
CB: How did you do the fixes?
KT: With a Gee box. Have you heard of it?
CB: I know it. I’ve used it. Yeah.
KT: And we also had H2S.
CB: So, H2S was a radar. So did you use that all the trip or was it only used intermittently?
KT: Oh, only used as and when. So long as you had got Gee I didn’t want H2S. Gee box was my, my game. But of course it was, it was jammed as soon as you got to the French coast.
CB: And H2S. Why did you not want to use that?
KT: In my mind it was, I think, something. I don’t know. I did use it but I liked the Gee box better and of course as I, I said they jammed. As soon as you got to the French coast it was jammed. But half an hour before you got to the target you took out a, I don’t know what you’d call it. Something. Take it out, put a new one in and you got Gee then for ten minutes. And so you can imagine having Gee box for ten minutes, the fixes you got. And that put you right for the target then.
CB: Is that because that particular one was using a different frequency? That’s why you put the —
KT: I don’t know. The boffin boys —
CB: Right.
KT: All I know is I took this thing out, put this new in and I got Gee then for ten minutes.
CB: Then what?
KT: It took Jerry ten minutes to —
CB: Right. For him to jam it.
KT: Yeah.
CB: Right.
KT: And then of course on the way back I just gave him a course for home and just checked up every fifteen minutes rather than every six minutes.
CB: So, that’s leapt ahead to action but you’re, we’re still perhaps back in South Africa. How did the training go? Who were the instructors?
KT: Oh, there was RAF and South African. People that had been on ops and they were instructors. And of course they were bored to tears. They wanted to get back on ops.
CB: Did they?
KT: Yeah. But I’ll tell you a funny story. When you finished your training in South Africa. Got my wing, you know. Half wing.
CB: Yeah.
KT: You were sent to a place called Retreat in Cape Town. Well, it’s not in Cape Town. There’s a train that runs from Cape Town to Simon’s Town.
CB: Yeah.
KT: Simon’s Town is where the South African fleet is. So, you’ve got this train that runs and halfway is Retreat. And the RAF had got a rest and recuperation and you were there for a week. And then I was posted to India. And after a week we were marched to the docks and immediately marched off again. And we said, you know, ‘What’s going on?’ And they said, ‘We’ve got too many. You’ll go next week.’ And the next week we were marched on to the docks and marched off again. And the next week we were marched on to them, marched off again. And the next week we were marched on. Four times we were marched on to the docks and marched off again. But the fifth week there was, there was only fifty of us so we said, ‘Oh, we will be going this time.’ And sure enough we sailed on Friday the 13th on the Athlone Castle. Now, I, I, service life suited me down to the ground. And if you’re on a, if you’re on a British troop ship if you take your mug to the galley any time of day or night, they’ll fill it full of tea. And so at 6 o’clock on Friday the 13th I took my mug, got my tea, went and sat on the stern and It was a lovely day. And smoked a cigarette. One of the crew came along and we started chatting and during the conversation I said, ‘Oh, by the way when do we get to Bombay?’ And he said, ‘We’re not going to Bombay.’ So, I said, ‘Well, we’re posted to Bombay.’ He said, ‘Well, this boat’s not going to Bombay. It’s going to New York.’ So, I put down my cup and rushed, nearly got myself court martialled, into the COs bedroom and woke him up. And he was a Colonel Blimp, you know, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’ I said, ‘Excuse me, sir.’ I said, ‘Do you know where we’re going?’ And he said, ‘Of course. We’re going to Bombay.’ I said, ‘I’ve just had a word with a member of the crew and he assures me we’re going to New York.’ ‘Get out. Get out,’ he said, ‘Get my clothes. Get out.’ So I got out quickly. I mean, I didn’t realise what I’d done. Rushing into the COs bedroom and waking him up. But anyway two hours later he called us all to the Blue Room which had become the sergeant’s mess and he said there’d been a mistake made. We are in fact going to New York. So, that was my first cruise. Two weeks. He said, now, even in those days, that would be 1943 the ships had fridges, you know. And he said, ‘The fridges are full of chicken, beef, lamb, pork. The chefs are going to go mad and we’ve got some West African Rifles who have agreed to be your servants if you pay them.’ So there we were. Sergeants, being waited on for two weeks.
Other: Lovely.
CB: Was the ship largely empty, was it?
KT: No. No. It was, there was fifty of us. There was, I don’t know how many West African Rifles. Somebody must have known something. They were going back home on leave so why put them on that boat? And there was quite a few American. But we had to pay for it because at night, when you were in the bunk you could crack the bugs. And we were bitten all over, you know. Because the boat was going to be deloused.
CB: Was going to be but hadn’t been.
KT: That’s right.
Other: [unclear]
KT: It was going to New York to be de-loused.
CB: Oh I see. Oh right. What a nightmare. I’m going to stop you there just for a moment.
[recording paused]
CB: Right. Ok. So we’re recording again having had a previous break.
KT: Ok.
CB: But we’ve got as far as the Athlone Castle going to New York.
KT: When we arrived at America they just didn’t know what to do with us. And so they, we didn’t land in New York. We had to get over the side, down a rope ladder onto a lighter boat and they took us up the East River to Fort Slocum. Which was an American base on an island in the East River. And we were there for three weeks.
CB: What did you do there?
KT: Well, we got our pass at 10 o’clock in the morning and we used to get on the train. It was twenty five miles into New York and it took twenty five minutes. In those days. And then we had, we were then allowed out ‘til 23.59 the following day. So, we then got, as soon as we got to New York we found a hotel and we spent the rest of the day in New York. Two days in New York.
CB: Ok. So after that then what?
KT: Well, then we came back on the Louis Pasteur. The French boat. To Southampton. And I was posted to Llandwrog for advanced flying training.
CB: This is in North Wales.
KT: Yeah. And the weather was so bad we did the same run eight times. From chicken [unclear] to Fishguard to Pembroke. All over the sea because the weather was so bad.
CB: What aeroplane were you flying in then?
KT: Ansons.
CB: Right.
KT: Ansons. Yeah. From Llandwrog then we went to Lossiemouth and we had, we were there December, January and February. Very cold but lovely.
CB: This was the OTU?
KT: The OTU. Yeah. Yes.
CB: So how did you, when you got to the OTU what happened as soon as you arrived?
KT: Well, after we’d been there a few days we were all let out into the ballroom or whatever you call it and we just wondered around. And I saw a fellow coming up and I said, ‘I’m looking for a pilot,’ and he said, ‘I’m looking for a navigator.’ And that was the nucleus of our crew. And then the next day we — oh no, the same afternoon, there were two of us wandering about then. We saw a wireless operator and said, ‘We’re looking for a wireless operator,’ and he said, ‘Well, I’ve got a friend who’s a bomb aimer. He’s an Australian.’ So then we got a wireless operator and a bomb aimer. So there was four of us then. And then we, we found two of the smallest gunners I’ve ever seen. They only looked like little boys. But they were Canadian and they agreed to be our gunners. So, there was our six. But after a couple of flights they came to us and said would we mind if they left us? And they went to an all, all Canadian crew. So we said ok. And we had to wait a couple of days for two gunners to arrive and they became our gunners. Alf Broddle and Lefty. He was Basil but we called him Lefty Orrick. Unfortunately he was one of them that got killed in the [pause] But I only escaped, you said something about escaping three times. I think what — you were talking to David were you?
CB: Well, can I come back to that? Because, absolutely. Yes.
KT: Only, I think what he means we were ambushed three times by Germans while I was on the run. I only, but of course we had a narrow escape. I think we’re over running the tale. A week before [drink being poured] Thank you. A week before I was shot down we, we went to bomb Caen. Now, our troops were held up at Caen and they wanted us to bomb the German lines which was only seven eighths of a mile from our own line so accuracy was the — so instead of the Pathfinders dropping flares our artillery fired coloured shells where they wanted us to drop the bombs. Now, these coloured shells didn’t last as long as our flares did. So they said, ‘If you’re going up on the run in and the lights go out, go through the target, don’t drop your bombs and come back but keep your bombs because we’re getting short of them.’ So, what we had to do because, because as we went up the lights went down. So we went through. Then we had to fly up north to get rid of the petrol because we couldn’t land with a full bomb load on. The all up weight was too much. And the petrol. So you had to get rid of the petrol and you couldn’t go over the sea and jettison the petrol out of a Halifax. You had to use it up. So we flew up to Scotland and back again. And we landed at Boscombe Down which was an experimental and it had a manual flare instead of an electric flare path. And the pilot was told to undershoot the landing tee. They put a coloured landing tee to show you where to come in. And so he undershot it [laughs] But too much really because I was getting up from my position to get into the rest position and I looked through the window just in time to see a telegraph pole which we took with us. Then we hit the railway van and then we took the telegraph pole on the other side. We just crashed then. And the plane of course was written off. It was. The fuselage was broken in three places. The four engines were torn out. The bombs had scattered everywhere. Two had become alive [laughs] and, and the next morning they found an American Grumman Martlet about a hundred yards away that had done exactly the same thing. And so that was a week before we, you know. A week or ten days. I’m not sure. I’m not quite sure. But that was Molescroft Maggie. That was our favourite plane. We did nineteen trips in Molescroft Maggie. And we called it Molescroft Maggie because she was M for Mother and our dispersal at Lossiemouth was very close to the village of Molescroft, so she became Molescroft Maggie.
CB: It’s interesting how these things arise isn’t it? So, come back to that. So, we’ve done the OTU.
KT: Yeah.
CB: And you changed crew during the HCU.
KT: Changed.
CB: OTU. The two gunners.
KT: Oh yes.
CB: That’s why you were —
KT: They only did two cross-country’s with us.
CB: Right. Ok.
KT: And then we had the new two.
CB: Ok. So when are we talking about then? What, what was the date of that? Near enough.
KT: It was nineteen [pause] it was, it was December. December ’43. January ’44 and February ’44.
CB: Ok. Then you go to Marston Moor.
KT: Marston Moor.
CB: For the HCU. So, you went straight there did you?
KT: Yes.
CB: Starting in March ’44.
KT: In between we did a commando course for three weeks at Driffield but I can’t remember whether it was before or after —
CB: Ok.
KT: Marston Moor. And at Marston Moor then we picked up our seventh crew member.
CB: Yeah. The engineer.
KT: Yeah.
CB: Why did you do a commando course?
KT: That was in the scheme of things. They did these sort of things. Well, it was [laughs] the idea was you did this commando course and at the end of it they put you in a bus and took you fifty miles away and dropped you off and you’ve got to make your own way back.
CB: Escape and evasion.
KT: That’s right.
CB: Yeah.
KT: And some of the things that [laughs] they’d pinch bicycles. They pinched cars. They pinched horses. But I had a brilliant idea because they dropped us on a pub car park. So we went into the pub. And every everybody, oh you know, ‘Have a drink.’ And I said, ‘Well, I noticed on the main road there’s a transport café. Anybody going down there?’ And a man said, ‘Yeah. I’m going down there in about five minutes.’ And so, let me see there was, our crew had been slip up into two. I’d got, I don’t know, I’d got, I’d got two or three of the crew with me. And so we got in his car and we drove down to the main road and went into this transport café. And I asked about. ‘Anybody going near Driffield.’ And one of the lorry drivers said yes. Yeah. So we got in and we had a lift back. And I said, ‘Now look,’ I said, ‘You mustn’t stop right outside the gate. Drive a bit further on and we’ll get out.’ So we got out and then we went to the back of the camp. Climbed over the fence, slept in our own beds. Got up the next morning, came back, walked in as if we’d [laughs]. But that’s the idea you see.
CB: Nobody sussed it.
KT: Pardon?
CB: Nobody sussed what you were doing.
KT: Oh No. No. No. No. So, that’s how we got back.
CB: So HCU.
KT: Pardon?
CB: So you get to the HCU. You got to the HCU and picked up the navigator err the engineer I mean to say because you’re the navigator.
KT: At Marston Moor.
CB: At Marston Moor. Yes.
KT: And then we transferred to —
CB: So at the HCU what did you do most of the time?
KT: Oh, we went on cross-country’s. You did so many day cross-country’s and so many night cross-country’s. And the pilot of course, he was under the instruction of the pilot he was taking over from and was transferring from two engines to four engines. For me it was just straightforward because although we were, they were a bit faster, I still, I still, my navigation was just the same.
CB: Did you have Gee already?
KT: Oh yeah.
CB: When you were at the OCU.
KT: Yes.
CB: OTU.
KT: Yes. Gee all the time.
CB: Yeah. Ok. And what about fighter affiliation? Did you do much of that?
KT: Oh, no. We did that at Lossiemouth.
CB: Right. Once you got to the, oh you did that. Right. Ok.
KT: Yeah. We were —
CB: When you were at the OTU.
KT: Yes. At Lossiemouth. When we came back. We always dropped an eleven pound smoke bomb and we were attacked by fighters. And you know the method?
CB: So, what was the method of the fighter affiliation experience?
KT: Well, I don’t, I wondered if you knew what it was.
CB: I don’t know, I don’t know how it worked.
KT: It was the corkscrew.
CB: Right. So, I know the corkscrew but would you describe it?
KT: Well, the, one of the gunners would say, ‘Corkscrew starboard go,’ and the pilot would then start and you see if you could, if he could see a fighter and start to corkscrew he couldn’t shoot you down. So that was why the gunner’s had, obviously had to keep their eyes open. But we were one of the first to be shot down by the German fighter that had a gun pointing up.
CB: The schräge musik.
KT: Pardon?
CB: The schräge musik. Yeah. The upward firing cannon.
KT: Yeah. We must have been one of the first.
CB: Where did, where did the, where did it hit you?
KT: Oh, the first shell cut a hole inside of the aircraft. No problems. The second shell went through the starboard outer. The starboard outer engine and set it on fire. And then there was a lull of a few, oh about a minute I would think. It was a long time. And the fourth shell took away the bomb, bomb bay I would think. But the fourth, the fourth shell went through one of the petrol tanks and then it was shhhh. One minute it was dark and the next minute was just like daylight. And the pilot must have put the automatic pilot in which was somehow got, it wasn’t flying straight and level. It was flying in a circle. So, we all came down more or less in the same place.
CB: How do you know? How did you know that it was a schräge musik operation? Did you see the other fighter?
KT: No. No. I was under the impression. When I got back to England we were debriefed and the intelligence officer said, ‘You were shot down by light anti-aircraft on the railway that was directed by your H2S.’ And that was another thing I didn’t like the H2S for [laughs] But it seemed, it’s quite obvious that when we, when we worked it out it was, it was a night fighter.
CB: And did they talk about Scarecrow?
KT: Scarecrow. No.
CB: Are you familiar with the scarecrow? That was the way of describing, explaining how this was working. A high powered shell explosion.
KT: [unclear]
CB: They perhaps didn’t start using it at that stage.
KT: Oh we never had any —
CB: No. Because it wasn’t. It was because of the schräge music but —
KT: No. We never had that. We never had any training on parachutes.
CB: Oh right.
KT: We were just given a parachute. Told how to clip it on. Jump out, count to three, pull.
CB: Right.
KT: That was it.
CB: Ok. So, just going a bit earlier than that. When you joined the squadron what happened then? So, you got a new aeroplane?
KT: Oh well, yes. Now. Now. We then started [laughs] we got, we got, you’d got to do three cross-country day and three cross-country night and on one of the cross-country’s it was up in Scotland and they routed you very close to Scapa Flow who then started firing at you. Far enough away but giving you some idea of what anti-aircraft flak was like. And the night one was at Portsmouth. They did exactly the same thing. And, mind you we’d only done, let me see, I’d done [pause] we’d got four. Four of each to do and we’d done about two of each when the pilot and I were walking across the base one day and we heard, ‘Pilots and navigators to the briefing room.’ That is the start of a raid. And then it said, ‘Sergeant Trueman and Sergeant Barr to the briefing room.’ So we thought well that’s funny, you know. So off we toddled to the briefing and there was an officer outside. And I said something like. Ah he said, ‘You’re going tonight.’ I said, ‘But we’ve still got, we’ve still got some cross-country’s to do.’ ‘Ahh no,’ he said, ‘It’s an easy one tonight,’ he said, ‘So everybody’s going.’ And so when we saw the target it was at a place called Maisy. And it was right on the French coast. Just by Cherbourg. In fact, we were over enemy territory for six minutes. Just across the Cherbourg Peninsula. And the intelligence officer, in the briefing said, ‘There is one anti-aircraft gun in the area. That’s all.’ And that anti-aircraft put a shell right underneath us but not close enough to hit us. But the noise. And you’ve heard of people having cold feet. My feet were like two blocks of ice. And I said, ‘That’s me finished. I’m not coming again, I’ve had enough,’ [laughs] Anyway, I sat down and had a cup of tea and we started to come back up and we looked out there at all the little boats coming across. We could see them in the — when we got back to base we said, ‘The invasion’s on isn’t it?’ They didn’t know at the base that it was on. They said —
CB: Security.
KT: But then it was — we did five. Five trips in, in seven days. We went on the 5th and the 6th, 6th and the 7th, 9th and the 10th, 12th and 13th. So, from the 5th to the 14th we did five trips.
CB: Is this day time flying or night?
KT: Oh no. No. We did, we did twelve daylights. Thirteen night flights. Of course a lot of these are buzz bomb sites. Which I think you could really say were quite an easy because I mean you weren’t over the enemy territory for very long. They were just in Northern France you see. You know the buzz bombs.
CB: Absolutely. The V-1s. Yes.
KT: Yeah.
CB: So what success did you have in hitting those because it was quite a small target?
KT: Well, I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know, I. All I did, all my job was to get them there and then the bomb aimer took over and he had to have a photograph. So, we always got the target. So long as you’d got a target to photograph you were ok. But actually what damage? The only one I know was, well two I know. They sent us, they sent just our squadron, 90, after a viaduct. Why they wanted to blow it. You know, a lovely viaduct. And what happened? It was a daylight and quite low and when, you couldn’t see where it had been after nineteen bombs had hit it. But the other one was a daylight raid. Villiers Bocage. Now there they were, the intelligence thought Rommel was there but they knew that the 12th Panzer division were in amongst the houses. So, they sent sixteen err six hundred bombers in daylight. Fairly low. About two to three thousand feet and we were luckily one of the first ones. We dropped our bombs, turned around and there we saw all these bombers coming, not towards us but to go because they took us up. And after, after three hundred had bombed the master bomber said, ‘Don’t drop any more bombs. There’s nothing left.’
CB: No.
KT: They never saw the 12th Panzer Division. So it must have been successful.
CB: Yeah. Fascinating.
KT: But the fourth raid we went on was, I mean I’m talking of seventy odd years ago and it’s still [pause] It was a place called Amiens. And we were coned by searchlights. Three. Three planes were coned. And my pilot he was marvellous. The second the lights came on he put the nose of the plane down and full power and dived down from sixteen thousand feet. Just dived out of the sky. And we were too fast. Too fast for them. They couldn’t get the lights down quick enough. And I thought, I thought when he pulls out of this the wings are going to fall off but they didn’t. But there we were then two thousand feet. It should have been fifteen thousand feet and we’ve got to come around then in to bomb. And all the bombs coming down. But anyway, we, we got our target indicator and that was that.
CB: So you thanked your lucky stars you hadn’t been hit by the people above.
KT: Well, yes. Quite a few people did. That happened to quite a few people.
CB: Did it?
KT: Yeah.
CB: Now, when you — two points. I’ll come back to initial briefing. But when you landed, the debriefing. What was the process then?
KT: When I landed?
CB: You’d done the raid. You’d done the raid. You’ve landed. You’re collected by the crew bus and go to the intelligence man.
KT: Yeah.
CB: To debrief you. How did that go?
KT: Well, you got out of the plane. Your bus came along and picked you up, took you into the briefing room and you sat around the table with one of the intelligence officers and you more or less went through the flight with him. Pointing out where heavy flak was. Which I had recorded. And any anything, anything that was a bit out of the ordinary was down in my log. And then you left there and went into the dining room and had bacon and egg.
CB: A great thing. Did the, because you’re the navigator you have to log the incidents. Did the other crew pass you incidents?
KT: Oh yes.
CB: To log.
KT: Yes.
CB: How did they do that?
KT: Intercom.
CB: Right. No. No. But how? Did they introduce it by just saying we’ve just done —
KT: Well, no. They, they’d just say it. The rear gunner would say there’s heavy flak on the starboard side. And I would note where we were and put it down.
CB: Right.
KT: They could always check back through my log. Just about where —
CB: Ok.
KT: With the time you see.
CB: Right. So fast backwards now. You said earlier that you and the pilot had been called for a briefing.
KT: Ah. Yes.
CB: So could you talk us through please.
KT: Yes.
CB: The briefing process and who and who wasn’t involved.
KT: Well, yes. Well, that is the pilot and the rear gunner. We got into the briefing room and there’s a big board and it said this is the target for tonight. And the intelligence officer will give you any information that they’d got. Where there’s heavy flak or where you are likely to get night fighters. Or you’re going over a mountain. Anything like that. And you’d leave there. The pilot goes to his section. I go to my section. And then we’d go through and make a log of the raid. And then —
CB: That’s your plan for the raid is it?
KT: No. No.
CB: When you say the log for the raid —
KT: No. We make a route for the raid.
CB: Yeah.
KT: Oh no. We do two more after that.
CB: Yeah. Ok. Keep going.
KT: And you don’t tell the other crew. Only the pilot and the rear gunner the navigator.
CB: The navigator.
KT: Know.
CB: Yeah.
KT: Until about, just before we go into the main briefing. And then it’s, they know then. And then you come out of there and you go and have bacon and egg. You come out at the end. You go into the parachute section. Pick up your parachute. And that’s when my stomach used to go down in to my boots. Always, when, when I got into the bus to go out to the plane and then when you got out to the plane there was always an hour before you took off. And then the ground staff used to take, take your money off you because we used to play pitch and toss and they were better at it then we were. You know pitch and toss, do you? Well, they put a ring and then so many yards and you’d toss a penny. And the one whose penny is near the middle of the ring has the first throw. All the heads it takes out until there was nothing left. And then you do it all over again. But they were much better at it than us. And then half an hour before we took off I used to get into the plane and the wireless operator used to give me the latest winds and I used to then work out the main log. You see a bomber doesn’t take off and go up like that. A bomber, fully loaded climbs very, very slowly and so he’s attacked by all the wind. So what you do, you take an average of all the winds at the various sites and you set a course using that wind. And then as soon as you take off after six minutes you take a fix and you find out whether you’re on course or off course. And you keep doing that.
CB: Ok. Just to clarify there. You’re talking there about different winds. So, what sort of levels would you expect there to be different winds at.
KT: Oh —
CB: Because the ground level wind is always different.
KT: It depends on what, it depends on whether it’s a high pressure system or a low pressure or how bad the storm is. Or whatever. It’s always different. And of course if they’ve got the winds wrong [laughs] Of course we had to get our winds on a plane flying out recording the wind velocity. It’s nothing like it is now.
CB: Ok. So could you describe how you measured the wind velocity? How did you do that?
KT: Well, it’s speed and direction. You know, the intelligence would give you the winds coming from the north. It was degrees. It wouldn’t say just north. It would be in degrees.
CB: So you’d be steering. You’d be steering a particular course on the basis of the briefing and then you would take an assessment.
KT: Well, yeah.
CB: As to where you had actually got to. Is that —
KT: If they said the wind is coming from this direction. So, you’d use that, but after a bit you’d find that instead of being blown over there you were over there so the wind read was coming from this way. It was easy when you know what you’re doing.
CB: Sure. ok. So you take off and it takes a long time to go up.
KT: Oh yes.
CB: You’re not going straight out to the North Sea are you? So what are you doing?
KT: Well, no. We, they used to bring us all together over Reading. And the people of Reading got fed up with it. Night after night, all these bombers coming together and then — but it depended where the, just where the target was.
CB: What speed were you cruising at?
KT: Oh, we cruised about, about a hundred and sixty.
CB: So, when your pilot put the nose down on the incident you were talking about. How fast do you think —
KT: Oh, I haven’t got the foggiest.
CB: Do you think you were going?
KT: I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know. It was just, it only lasted a few minutes. I mean I didn’t check what speed we were doing. I was just waiting for the wings to fall off. Yeah.
CB: So, can we just go back now to what you mentioned earlier. Your, you were shot down on which raid? The twenty-fifth?
KT: Yes.
CB: Right. So what happened there?
KT: Pardon?
CB: What happened?
KT: Well,—
CB: Which part of the run were you? Before dropping?
KT: Pardon?
CB: Before the dropping of the bombs or afterwards?
KT: Oh no. We’d dropped the bombs.
CB: Right.
KT: It was uncanny because we were hardly off course at all. I mean you were always off course. You always had to correct. Correct. But we just sailed through. Dropped our bombs sixteen thousand feet.
CB: Excuse me. Where was the target?
KT: Oh, the target was at Rüsselsheim. It was the Opel Motor Works.
CB: Right.
KT: They were making the V-2 rocket there.
CB: Right.
KT: We did our two minutes off the target, two minutes to port and then a course for home. And I don’t know how long it was afterwards but they brought us down from sixteen thousand feet to six thousand feet in a fairly sharp dive to fool the night fighters. And we, as I say, we just, we just more or less levelled out when we were hit by the first two shells. And I mean although they were, I mean if we’d have been hit by the flak, the anti-aircraft we wouldn’t have been here now. But they were smaller shells and that’s why I think it was the fighter. Not the —
CB: Not anti-aircraft fire.
KT: No.
CB: Flak.
KT: But the noise. There was no end of explosions. It was unbelievable. And I didn’t hear the order to bale out. I was busy working out where we were. And the first out, I realised. I mean, I knew it was just like daylight and the plane was on fire. I mean, it was quite obvious we were going to have to bale out. But I didn’t hear the order to bale out. The first thing I knew was a tap on my shoulder. The bomb aimer was giving me my parachute which I put on. I sat on the escape hatch. He took the escape hatch out and dropped it. I don’t know who got that out. He jumped out and then I jumped out afterwards.
CB: Where was the escape hatch on the Halifax?
KT: Right at the, [pause] you know the wings.
CB: Near the nose or in the middle? Near the nose or in the middle?
KT: No. It was towards the nose. But there were two. There was the door and then of course the rear gunner could either swivel his turret around and back out or come out in to the fuselage. I don’t know. All I know is that I had all the luck in the world. When I jumped out I could see a series of, and don’t forget it only took a few seconds. Well, not very long to get down from six thousand feet. And I saw a ring of fires. Little bonfires and I wondered what was going on. I knew I was drifting. I knew I was going backwards but I hadn’t any idea how to turn myself around. And I thought, well when my feet hit the ground the next thing that was going to hit the ground was my head. But I needn’t have worried because my feet touched the ground and then my parachute caught up a tree and I eventually finished up my head was about a foot off the ground and as I lay there with, I hadn’t got a breath. A man came along and he said, ‘Camarade.’ And I looked up at him and I said, ‘I’m English.’ ‘Angleterre,’ he said. He picked me up and kissed me on both cheeks. And I had fallen into the field where they were expecting supplies.
CB: SOE.
KT: Couldn’t have been more luckier than that could you?
CB: Right. So then what?
KT: Well, then it was a question of walking from one house to another and we just walked for hours. It was 1 o’clock in the morning when I got down. At 5 o’clock I’d been to about five houses because they’d already had one of my crew there. I finished up in the loft of a cottage that was all, you know boarded out and very comfortable and I just laid down and went to sleep. And they woke me up. That was 5 o’clock and they woke me up at 8 o’clock and took me downstairs. And they gave me a bowl of water with about that much water in it to have a wash with. And then they gave me my breakfast which consisted of a piece of bacon without any lean on at all. Just. And an egg that had been put in the pan and taken out. That was my breakfast. Then, then the fun began. The baker came to see me. The vicar came to see me. The policeman came to see me. The postman came to see me. All sorts of people came to see me and every time they came I had to have a little, like a thimble full of white. And I didn’t drink in those days. But oh no, you can. And by 12 o’clock I could hardly stand up.
CB: This was Advocaat was it?
KT: Pardon?
CB: This was Advocaat?
KT: No. It was —
Other: White wine was it?
KT: Pardon?
Other: Was it white wine?
KT: No. It was white spirit.
Other: Oh.
KT: No. It was, I don’t know what it was but oh. Then they took me outside and that was even worse then when the sun came up. But they took me across the garden. Oh. The door suddenly burst open. Three men came in. I thought this is the Gestapo, you know. But it turned out they were the Maquis and they said, ‘Come on,’ with the guns. Outside we went. Had to go down the garden. Down a path to the end of a country lane where there was a lorry and in the lorry were two of my crew. All the rest were Maquis people and they were the recognised army then. They’d got their uniforms on. It was a band with the colours on. And we drove through the streets of Ciney. And it was a tipper lorry really so I could look over the side. And there were the German officers walking up the road with their girlfriends on their arm. I thought this is amazing. And these men were, got their guns and they didn’t take, they didn’t [laughs] Anyway, we got to our first camp which was a group of gypsies had formed a Maquis group and strangely enough they’d captured the German station master. And he walked about freely. He didn’t want to be, he was quite happy to be with them. He was a civilian mind you so, but he’d been captured and as I say he was quite happy to. Oh dear. We had a party then. Everybody had to sing. Then they found us a little tent with some straw and the four of us, the three of us went to sleep in there. And at 2 o’clock in the morning they woke us up and they took us then to our, the camp that was going to be the group. The Chief, who we knew as Chief Tom had been educated at Winchester College so he spoke perfect English. And his brother in law was a, they used to come over to Scotland shooting the deer prior to the war starting. So there were — that’s how we started then. And we used to cut down telegraph poles. Anything to upset the Germans. But not to kill any because if we killed any they took it out on the villagers and the villagers fed us. So, we had to be — because we were in the woods you see. You know the Ardennes?
CB: Absolutely. Yes.
KT: So —
CB: So when you were there then — how long were you with them?
KT: Well, I’d got. We [pause] let me see. First of all we went out we went out on a raid to blow up a train and unfortunately — see they weren’t trained at all. They had no, they were all young lads and men that had had formed this Maquis group because they didn’t want to be sent to Germany for working, you know. So there was no discipline. And the man in charge, we’d all gone in to the signal box I think it was. The stupidest thing. And we then saw seven Germans coming along so we got out of the signal box and it was in there that the lines were down here and the banks went up and we got on top of the banks and the Germans started firing at us. And then we made a quick retreat. That was the first time we — but the second time we wanted to move camp. So we wanted to steal a lorry to put our, what cooking utensils we’d got. And we set up our Bren. We had a Bren gun. I had a Sten gun and two hundred rounds and a grenade which I kept in my pocket. And as I walked it rubbed. Rubbed the skin off. Anyway, I never used it. But a lorry, two lorries came along. We stopped them and there was about forty Germans in there. [laughs] So, we were in trouble. The bullets started to fly but there again we were on a bank. The bullets were going over the top and we were down here. They couldn’t hit us unless you put your head up which we didn’t. And after quite long time everything went quiet. And we got a New Zealand lad named Till . By this time we’d collected other, you know, other, other RAF. He said to the man next to him, ‘What’s happening?’ And they had a word which they used quite often. Kaput. You could use this word on everything and this man said, ‘The Germans kaput.’ What he meant was, ‘Germans. Keep down.’ But Till thought he meant they’d capitulated and he stood up. And the bullets just cut him down to ribbons. So, we had to get out. So we wandered around for two or three days in to the woods. Our group had been split up. Eventually we, we found one of the Belgian lads and he said, ‘We’re going to go to a place just outside [Maison?] where they’ve got a farm. We’re going there.’ So, we went to this farm. They were using the farm as an orphanage and we were in the cow shed which had luckily been cleaned out. And so there were twenty four of us. Or rather twenty of us. Four were in the house. They were ill so, and we were woken up one morning at 6 o’clock. It was a, it was the [pause] let me see it would be, it would be the 10th. It was the 10th of September. 6 o’clock we were woken up. ‘Shhh,’ and we looked out and let me, if this, this is the farm and the cow shed was up here. There was a road here. And the Germans were going around like that. They were going. If they’d have come this way they’d have caught us all but as they were going that way.
CB: They went around the far side of the farm.
KT: We got out. We ran across this field here . And we were halfway across the field before they realised and started firing. And, you know, if there’s bullets at the back of you it’s amazing how quick you can run.
CB: And you’re all the aircrew because the Maquis are not with you now, are they?
KT: No. Oh yes. Oh no, it was all aircrew. That included the complete crew of a Flying Fortress. No. There would be two or three Belgian men. Mainly aircrew. And of course once we got to the top and started to go down the other side they couldn’t fire at us any more. So we ran down the hill. And there was a river I suppose it would be, about as wide as this garden and twenty bods jumped in. Three strokes and on the other side. And we were in the woods then and we were ok. And I remember sitting on a log. Soaking wet. Hadn’t had a cup of tea. Hadn’t had any breakfast. Thinking, you know, this is freezing cold although it was August err September.
CB: 1944.
KT: 1944. If you’re soaking wet all your tobacco’s wet. And about 12 o’clock, after six hours in the woods then the, one of the Belgian lads said, ‘I’m going into the village to see if I can find out.’ And I think went about 12 o’clock. Two hours later we heard a tank coming into the woods. Prior to that the shells had been going that way. Then shells coming this way. Then shells going that way. So, we knew that there was a, an American tank column close by. And as I say, 2 o’clock we heard this tank coming in to the woods and we thought well, you know, we’ve had enough now, walking about [unclear]. And it turned out to be an American jeep without a silencer. Two Americans. They gave us all Cognac and cigarettes and you can imagine the effect. Cognac and cigarettes on somebody that’s hadn’t had anything to eat. Anyway, two more, two more jeeps arrived and we all got into the jeeps. Took us into the village and we were behind the American lines then. And then our problems started.
CB: Really?
KT: Well, we’d got to get to Paris for the, to the Hotel Maurice. Or Maurice they called it. That’s where the escapees were. And, but everything was going this way and we wanted to go that way [laughs] but eventually we got to a place where there was six American lorries going back. Directly back to Paris. And we each got in one of these lorries. Four of us. Two days. It took us two days. Wonderful. We used to wake up in the morning and I slept on the back of the lorry in his fold up bed. He slept in the cab across the seats. The driver. A lovely fella, I never. And he got plenty of cigarettes and he’d got plenty of food. He’d got a little primer stove. We made coffee. We cooked bacon. The Germans knew, the Americans knew about food. I mean the bacon was in tins. It was loaded with lard you know so that it was easy to fry. And at lunchtime we had corned beef hash. We lived like lords for two days. And we got back to this hotel. And you can imagine I hadn’t had my clothes off for five weeks and I didn’t smell very good at all. And my clothes. But the first thing we wanted was a shower. We couldn’t have one. They hadn’t got any water. They’d just got enough water to cook with. So we couldn’t even have a wash. But what they did they took all our clothes off us and gave us an American suntan. They call their, their, it’s like khaki. So I had a shirt and a pair of trousers. Some underwear. I had to keep my own boots on though. And the next day we flew back from Orly Airport to London. We arrived at 12 o’clock at night at Hendon and they put us through customs [laughs]. I mean it’s true.
CB: Fancy running customs in the war.
KT: It’s true. We had to go through customs. We’d been missing for five weeks. Had to go through customs. Then we got into the dining room and we were offered cold sausage and mash. And we told them what to do with it. So that was it. So then I wanted to phone. So I went into the ballroom of this, we were at the Central Hotel at Marylebone. Went into the ballroom where there was one phone and the queue went right around [laughs] So I didn’t bother. The next day we went for debriefing and that was it.
CB: So they took you somewhere else for debriefing did they?
KT: Yeah. Yes. I don’t know where it was.
CB: And there, did they send you back to Leconfield or did you go home?
KT: No. No. No. No, I immediately went on indefinite leave.
CB: Right.
KT: Which only lasted ten days. And as I say then I had a problem then because I had this letter to say I was a pilot officer. But when I got to Morecambe I had to wait until the papers come through. But by that time I’d left and gone to Nairn and I had to wait at Nairn.
CB: So, just to —
KT: Pardon?
CB: Just to clarify that. Why did they send you to Morecambe? What happened there?
KT: It was just a place to, I don’t know. They, somewhere to go. I mean we didn’t do anything. And then we didn’t do anything at, at Nairn. And eventually they sent us from Nairn on leave again. But I had my pass made out to London. And so when I, I got off at Birmingham. The next day I went down, down to London. To Bush House. I walked in to Bush House and was immediately thrown out by a warrant officer. And I walked back in and I said, ‘Before you can say anything I’m a commissioned officer and I want my papers.’ Oh. That altered things. And they rushed me through and got my papers and gave me my coupons. You wouldn’t know anything about coupons. Clothing coupons. And sent me back home and I went to, I got my uniform made. Well, yeah I got my uniform at one of the big shops in Birmingham and from there, let me see. Where did I go to from there? Oh, I went to Fauld at Burton on Trent. Or did I? It’s getting a bit vague now. But anyway I eventually finished up at Halfpenny Green at Wolverhampton as an instructor. And I was able to live at home from there. I used to go in like every morning. It was like office work.
CB: So, why didn’t they send you back to the squadron? Was there a policy?
KT: Well, I wouldn’t be able to fly over Germany because I was an escapee. And they, so that was my ops finished. I eventually got another [pause] a letter to say that I was due to go back on ops but that would have been in Japan or something like that. But of course they dropped the atomic bombs before that could happen.
CB: Just to get the chronological order here. When you came back from Paris — when are we talking about? Are we talking about before Christmas ’44 or after Christmas or when?
KT: No. I came back —
CB: Because you were shot down in September.
KT: On the 13th of September.
CB: Yeah. So how long before you came back from Paris?
KT: Well, I, I got behind the American lines on the 10th. It took two days to get to Paris. Then the third day. So we’re talking about the 13th or 14th and I came —
CB: Of October or November?
KT: Pardon?
CB: October or November.
KT: No. September.
CB: Yeah. But you were shot down on the 13th of September.
KT: No. 13th of August.
CB: Oh. The 13th of August. Right. Ok. Yeah.
KT: So, it was —
CB: So, you got back on the —
KT: Yeah. I was back and they sent me home on leave from there.
CB: Ok.
KT: From London.
CB: Yeah.
KT: That was my ops finished you see.
CB: Yeah. So at Halfpenny Green you were dealing, you were training navigators.
KT: That’s right.
CB: Or something else.
KT: Yeah. We marked their, we marked their logs.
CB: And how long did you do that for?
KT: About twelve months I think.
CB: Right. Ok. So, you mentioned earlier flying in a Dakota. How did that come about?
KT: I flew back from Orly Airport in a Dakota.
CB: Right. But you weren’t operational on Dakotas.
KT: Oh no. No.
CB: Ok.
KT: No.
CB: Ok. Right. So from Halfpenny Green we’re now talking about — that’s in ’44.
KT: Yeah.
CB: So, the war in Japan was over in August ’45.
KT: Yeah.
CB: How much longer were you in the RAF?
KT: Oh dear. I did [pause] Halfpenny Green then closed down. And I had the job of posting all the ground crew. Oh [laughs] what a job that was. Some of them had been there all during the war. Lived at home. Didn’t want to be posted anywhere. Because they, people used to, I used to get the information that such and such a camp wanted a sergeant and I used to send a sergeant there. Post him there.
CB: A ground crew sergeant.
KT: Pardon?
CB: A ground crew sergeant.
KT: All ground crew.
CB: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. All ground. I hadn’t anything to do with aircrew. Not posting aircrew. I’m just trying to think where else I was [pause] Because I left. Oh, I know what it was. I finished up, I I was posted to Sutton Coldfield which was a, I think it was 41 Group. It was a stores. And what did I do there? Oh that’s right. I was promoted to flight lieutenant and put in charge of the EVT. Educational Vocational Training. And that’s what I did. It was my job then to find jobs for, or courses rather for WAAFs and anybody. I mean, find WAAFs a cookery course or a sewing course or something like that. And I was there for six months. And from there I was given my marching orders at Wembley Park.
CB: When was that?
KT: That was in ’46.
CB: What time?
KT: Pardon?
CB: What time of year?
KT: Oh, I couldn’t tell you.
CB: Roughly.
KT: I haven’t got the foggiest idea now. I can’t tell you. I should think it would be summer somewhere.
CB: Yeah. Ok. Shall we have a break because you’ve done brilliantly. Thank you.
[recording paused]
CB: Well, I’ve got some cake for you in the car.
KT: Pardon?
CB: Do you like cake?
KT: Oh no. I won’t have anything to eat. No.
CB: Ok.
KT: That would spoil my tea.
CB: We just thought you might like some Victoria sponge you see. So —
[recording paused]
KT: Promoted to squadron leader but it meant my commission was a wartime commission.
CB: VR.
KT: But I could have had a permanent commission. I was called in to the adjutants office and offered this rank of squadron leader. But it meant I would be posted to Hong Kong. Well, I had been in the forces six, six years. We’d got a young daughter by this time and I didn’t think it was fair that I should, I’d be posted again so I turned it down. Unfortunately, what he didn’t tell me was that had I have gone my wife could have come over after about six months. Whether she would have wanted to I don’t know. She wasn’t that type really. So I, by and large I think I did the right thing, you know. But I loved the RAF. If you took to it you had a good time. If you didn’t like it you didn’t have a very good time because some people just couldn’t take it, you know.
CB: So people who couldn’t take it.
KT: They were always in trouble.
CB: Right.
KT: But they wouldn’t get on very far, you know.
CB: But what about LMF?
KT: LMF.
CB: Did you get any of that?
KT: Lack of moral fibre.
CB: Yes.
KT: We only had one. Don’t forget I was only on the squadron sixty eight days and in that time I did twenty five. We set off on twenty seven. But —
CB: Trips. Yeah. So, did you know about or you only had one did you say?
KT: Yeah.
CB: Circumstance you knew about. What was that?
KT: He just —
CB: Was it on your squadron?
KT: Yeah. He, he turned back. He’d set off on a raid. He’d come back for various reasons and, you know they soon realised that he’d —
CB: Was this the pilot or the navigator?
KT: He was the pilot.
CB: So what did they do to him?
KT: Well, they had, they had a station where they sent them to. I don’t know. I don’t know.
CB: Was he commissioned or an NCO?
KT: Oh yeah. I think. Yeah.
CB: Because they had the habit of parading people in front of the squadron. The station.
KT: No. They didn’t do that. They didn’t do that in this case.
CB: What affect did that have? His removal. On the rest of the crews?
KT: Well, it didn’t. It didn’t make any difference by, you know, after a time you get, you get hardened to it I think. You don’t think about it. You don’t think it’s you. Ever going to happen to you.
CB: As a crew then how did you get on together?
KT: Oh, we were marvellous. Only one [pause] let me see. There was one. Only one of us didn’t smoke. All the rest smoked. And so because of that we didn’t smoke in the plane. Lots of crews smoked. We didn’t. It wouldn’t have been fair anyway on the, our wireless operator didn’t. He didn’t smoke so —
CB: But it was actually forbidden to smoke in the plane but people still did. Is that right?
KT: Oh yes. I’m sure they did. We had one funny at Lossiemouth. We were going out on the cross-country and suddenly the pilot said, ‘My flying instructor’s coming with us today.’ And then my navigator instructor, he said, ‘I’m coming with you today.’ I never thought anything. But as we were on the way back he said, ‘Give me, give us a course for Stornoway.’ And so I said, you know, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘The wireless has broken down and we’re not to fly back without the wireless.’ I said, well I said, ‘We can see the base.’ [laughs’ I said, ‘We can almost see Lossiemouth from here.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘We’re going to stay at Stornoway.’ They wanted the night out you see [laughs] So, we landed at Stornoway and [laughs] I don’t know.
CB: And when you were, as a crew you were all in the same Nissen hut were you?
KT: Yeah. Oh yes. We —
CB: So what was that like?
KT: Pardon?
CB: What was that like?
KT: It was marvellous. We were a good crew because we, strangely enough not one of us used bad language. Now, that’s amazing. As I say six of us smoked but we wouldn’t smoke in the plane. And we got on well. We were all, we were six good friends. You’ll have to excuse me.
CB: Yeah.
[recording paused]
CB: Ok.
KT: Ordered to bale out. I was the second one.
CB: The second one out of the aircraft.
KT: Yeah. My escape hatch.
CB: Yeah.
KT: I presume the wireless operator would go out of the same one. Now, the others would go out of the entrance of the side of the plane.
CB: Right.
KT: I know that the flight, the flight engineer handed the parachute to the pilot. He said he handed it to the pilot. And I can only presume that the pilot went down the plane to see if everybody was — this was the sort of man he was. I’m only presuming this. I don’t know. And he found the rear gunner was either injured or trapped in his turret but they both went down with the plane. They were both killed and that’s the only thing I could — we had plenty of time to get out.
CB: But he was struggling, you think, to release the rear gunner.
KT: Yeah. I don’t know. As I say because I can remember the plane going around in the circle. I could see light. So, he had plenty of time to get out. It doesn’t take long to get out of an aircraft.
CB: So, did the plane then blow up or did it gradually go down?
KT: I don’t know. I never found out.
CB: You didn’t see it.
KT: I never found out. I went back to Ciney. We were, I did a lot of caravanning after the war. My wife and I were very very keen on it and we were coming back from Italy and I said to her, I said, ‘You know, if we went out of our way just a little bit and went a day early we could go to where I was shot down.’ And so that’s what we did. But we couldn’t find anybody interested in. Nobody knew anything about the Maquis at all. And I was just, this was at the Council House there. And I was just about to leave when one of the older men came and said, ‘If you come back here tomorrow at 10 o’clock,’ he said, ‘I’ll put you in touch with the Baron, Baron [ de Boert?] who was the second in command. I found out that the Chief Tom had died and his wife. His wife incidentally was the liaison officer between the Maquis and Britain. They’d both died. But the Baron was still alive and so we went back to the Council Offices the next day and this man got him on the phone. The Baron. And he said, ‘Oh, come along and see me.’ So, we went. We went and had a day with the Baron. And then I went back again on [pause] with the, with the Lottery. Hero. They called it “Heroes Return.” They paid for me and my partner then. My wife had died. And we went back and the Baron had died. But his wife was there. So, we spent another day. But I went to see where my two lads, I still call them lads now, are buried. They’re buried at a little place called Hotton, near Marche. Very very, you know, quiet — they look after the war graves.
CB: Is it in a War Graves Cemetery?
KT: Pardon?
CB: Was it a War Graves Cemetery?
KT: Yeah. And while I was over at —
CB: How is it spelled? Hotton.
KT: I went to see the grave of my grandfather who was killed on the Somme during the First World War.
CB: So what were the ages of your crew?
KT: Well —
CB: The signaller was how old? Ezra.
KT: Well, Dennis Barr was twenty two. Bernie Harken was thirty two. Bill Ezra was thirty. The two gunners were nineteen. And the —
CB: Engineer.
KT: The flight engineer was twenty.
CB: So, he was Goddard?
KT: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. What’s his first name?
KT: [laughs]
CB: Doesn’t matter.
KT: It’ll come to me.
CB: Yeah. Ok. So the rear gunner was the chap who was killed.
KT: And the pilot.
CB: And the pilot. Yeah. And Broddle —
KT: Pardon?
CB: Broddle was the rear gunner. Broddle it says here.
KT: Yes. No. It was another one.
CB: What was his name?
KT: No. They’ve got it wrong. Alf Broddle was the mid-upper gunner.
CB: Oh right.
KT: And Orrick was the rear gunner
CB: What was his first name? Orrick, B.
KT: Basil
CB: Basil. And Goddard was A.
KT: Arthur.
CB: Arthur.
KT: That’s it.
CB: Ok. Just some quick things. You were married early on and it must have been a bit of a strain being away from your wife. How did you deal with that? Were you able to see her much?
KT: No.
CB: She was in Birmingham was she?
KT: Yes. Yes. Yeah. I mean, naturally I missed her. And I was always glad to get home on leave. But, I don’t know, somehow I never thought of being, about being killed or anything like that. It never struck me.
CB: Well, how did she feel about the whole experience?
KT: Well, she, she was like of other girls then. Their husband or sweethearts were in the forces and that was it. They got on with it, you know. For them it was a question of coupons and rations and I never had anything like that. I didn’t know anything about rationing.
CB: No.
KT: Coupons.
CB: No. So what did she do in the war? Did she have to work in armaments or what did she do?
KT: Well, she worked for her father in [pause] they had a factory. He owned a factory that did the hardening, tempering and plating for the Air Force —
CB: And how many other of the crew were married?
KT: None.
CB: Right.
KT: I was the only one.
CB: After the war Ken, what did you do?
KT: Oh, after the war I started up on my own as a carpenter. Well, maintenance work really. And I did that until I got some sense. In other words I realised that people just didn’t pay. In those days if you did a job for anybody you did the work and you sent them a bill. And at the end of the month you sent them a statement. At the end of the second month you sent them a second statement. At the end of the third month — and this is how it went on. Eventually you had to go around and sometimes they’d give you something. And I realised I was flogging a dead horse so I got myself a job as a, for one of my customers. He’d got five shops and he wanted somebody to do the maintenance work at the shops. And so he offered me a job which I couldn’t refuse. And provided me with a little van. And that went on for a couple of years. Three. Three or four years until he got very fond of the ladies. And his wife set a private detective on him. I realised that the firm was going to come to a nasty end so I got myself a job as a rep. And eventually I finished up as the area manager for a plant hire company. And I worked for them until I retired.
CB: When did, when did you become a rep? When?
[pause]
KT: Let me see. I did ten years on my own. Seven. So ’46, ’56. About ’63.
CB: Good. Thank you very much. Well we’ve covered a very wide range. I’d just like to thank you.
KT: Yeah.
CB: Very much. For everything you’ve done there.

Citation

Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Kenneth William Trueman,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 12, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11734.

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