Interview with Penny Turner

Title

Interview with Penny Turner

Description

Penny Turner’s father, Flight Sergeant Albin John Turner, pilot of a Wellington bomber was killed in action during the first bombing operation on the 4th September 1939. Years later, when she was five years old, her mother told her that her father was killed in the war. She explains that her mother received no help from the Royal Air Force, which she claims aided widows with sons rather than daughters. She has no memory of her father and realises that she had a lonely and unhappy childhood. She also describes her emotions upon visiting the International Bomber Command Centre and hopes that people will learn a lesson about the atrocity of war.

Creator

Date

2017-05-29

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:12:28 audio recording

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Identifier

ATurnerP170529

Transcription

SC: I think that’s now. So, I’m with Mrs Penny Turner at your house at [Buzz] Lowdham.
PT: Yes.
SC: Nottinghamshire. It’s 11 o’clock, the 29th of May 2017 and your father was Albion John Turner who was a flight sergeant pilot of a Wellington bomber on one of, if not the first bombing raid and was killed on the 4th of September 1939. So if you perhaps want to start now and explain anything about how you first —
PT: Yes. Well —
SC: Found out —
PT: The first time I found out I was a small child sitting on, in the gutter actually under the gas lamp.
SC: Yeah.
PT: With a load of friends in the street and we were playing Snobs. We’d throw them up and catch the stems on the back of your hand.
SC: Yes.
PT: And we were all playing and one of the boys said, ‘Where’s your father, Penny?’ I said, ‘I haven’t got one.’ He said, ‘Of course you have. We’ve all got a father.’ ‘No. No. I haven’t got one.’ So I ran in along the passage to my mother. I said, ‘Mother. Where’s our father?’ ‘He was killed in the war, Penny.’ I turned around and ran straight back and said to the boy, ‘He was killed in the war.’ And carried on playing Snobs. I knew nothing of that you should have a father.
SC: Yes.
PT: So I felt nothing.
SC: Yeah.
PT: But since then of course it’s slowly got in here and —
SC: Do you know what age you were at that? Or roughly.
PT: Probably around five I would say.
SC: Yeah.
PT: Yeah. Because we were sort of, we had quite a life. We didn’t have televisions. We weren’t very worldly.
SC: Yeah.
PT: We were children. We played on the Common.
SC: Yes.
PT: All day and only came home when it was nearly dark you know.
SC: Yes.
PT: We were free to run wild and play. So I played. Spent my childhood on the West Common.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And the ornamental ponds and Whitton Park.
SC: And where was this at this stage?
PT: All around Lincoln.
SC: Yeah.
PT: In fact, I’ve looked in the history books and they used to have lots of things for the war. The First World War was parked on the West Common. It’s the next street to where I lived you see. The Common.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
PT: In Lincoln. And so that’s the first time I found out and then November the 11th we would all stand around the War Memorial in the middle of Lincoln High Street and all the ladies were crying. It was miserable and we used to all get upset and I used to hate it because everybody was upset. You see as children we’d never really been told anything.
SC: Yeah.
PT: I was only one when my father was killed so I didn’t know anything.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And it was war days and you looked out the bedroom window you can see the bombers coming over and bombing around. It was a very unhappy childhood. Very unhappy childhood. Lonely. Hungry and cold.
SC: Yeah.
PT: Different to the children’s lives nowadays.
SC: Indeed. Yes.
PT: With an unhappy mother —
SC: Yeah.
PT: That cried a lot.
SC: Yeah.
PT: Because she was eight months pregnant with my sister you see.
SC: Yes.
PT: So she was born a few weeks after my father had been killed. So naturally she was very unhappy. That’s the first time I found out about it.
SC: And how did that then develop? How did you feel about it as time went by?
PT: Well, as time goes by you put it on the back burner. You sort of got on with your life and didn’t think about it until different things would crop up in life and you’d hear families that had got fathers.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And you saw the different ways you know. Different life they had.
PT: Yes.
SC: It was very much different. Yes.
SC: Yeah. And how much of a relationship with the RAF did you have as a child then?
PT: Well, none really afterwards because all I knew was that my mother, she was with her friends on the [pause] on the first night it was my mother. They were comforting her. And the second night my mother and her friends were comforting this other friend that she’d got two boys and her husband had been killed. And those two boys I have to say were paid for by the RAF to go to a better school and everything. And mother always felt that that was a bit [pause] because we were girls.
SC: Yeah.
PT: We didn’t get any help at all.
SC: Yes.
PT: But the boys did. Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And mother thought that was a bit.
SC: Yeah.
PT: Yeah. But times have changed.
SC: Yes.
PT: There’s even a young lady pilot in the Red Arrows now.
SC: Of course, yeah.
PT: I follow the Red Arrows all the time.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And, and, but yes, there’s a lady Red Arrow. Whereas today that wouldn’t discriminate between a lady and a man.
SC: Yes.
PT: Yeah.
SC: And what were your memories of RAF Scampton or —
PT: Well, you see being as I was one and a, just eighteen months after I haven’t really got any.
SC: No.
PT: But I’ve always sort of hovered around and wanted to know things, you know
SC: Yeah.
PT: But because it was too painful I put it all at the back but I can see it’s all in that box there.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And I’m glad for them to have it at the museum.
SC: Yeah.
PT: Yes.
SC: Yeah.
PT: Yes.
SC: Good. Yeah.
PT: I can’t think of anything else.
SC: Well, if there are any other —
PT: Yeah.
SC: Memories or thoughts of how it affected you.
PT: Just the thing. The Red Cross. The Red Cross would every now and then which delighted us we could go along and choose some clothes from the Red Cross.
SC: Gosh.
PT: Which was nice. And that was nice and [pause] and dried milk. And I think it was powdered egg.
SC: Gosh.
PT: Powdered egg we got.
SC: Yeah.
PT: Yes.
SC: Yeah.
PT: So, but no it was very, it was very, we didn’t get any handouts like you get today.
SC: Yeah.
PT: You know.
SC: Yeah.
PT: There were no handouts at all but, yes.
SC: Yeah. And how did you come to research your father’s history in the RAF? You’ve obviously got all the photographs.
PT: Well, no. It’s all that my mother had got in this box.
SC: She’d gathered it.
PT: Because I’m the eldest and I’ve got it.
SC: Yeah.
PT: One thing that’s really brought it home to me which I won’t mention any names but on Facebook I got friendly with someone that we knew. She lived down near the river and they’ve got, they had about ten children and I spoke to her and I said, ‘Yes. It was very poor in our days. It was —’ mentioned different things. She said, ‘Oh yes, but we had a wonderful childhood. And she said they had a barge. I think the father used to go up and down on the barge and I really envied her now. I’ve looked back and saw what a wonderful childhood they had.
SC: Yeah.
PT: They had nothing as money but they had togetherness and they had a father.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And they had a home life and a mother that was happy apparently and she pulled me up on what I’d said. And I realised that I’d had a lonely childhood.
SC: Yes.
PT: Always on my own. Mother was at work. Don’t mind if I —
SC: No. No. No. You, yeah. Yeah.
PT: Always on my own and always lonely waiting for her to come home from work.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And it would be dark and we would waiting under the gaslamp to see her coming. And wait for her to cook something and soon as the fire got a bit of heat we had to go to bed.
SC: Yeah. Yeah.
PT: It was a lonely, unhappy childhood.
SC: Yes.
PT: And this girl that had come from a big family that we thought would not have ended up she’d had a wonderful childhood she said.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And all that.
SC: Yeah
PT: And of course, she’d got her father and the things that they got up to.
SC: Yeah.
PT: She played in all the places I did but she had the happy childhood and we didn’t.
SC: Yes.
PT: And it wasn’t ‘til I got all this out and you hear other people’s stories that you realise you didn’t really have a childhood.
SC: Yeah.
PT: You were unhappy.
SC: Yes. And part of that is because —
PT: Yeah.
SC: It wasn’t explained.
PT: I never spoke, never spoke to her about it, to anybody else
SC: Yeah.
PT: Because if I said this to my family or my husband as was they wouldn’t understand.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And they said, ‘Pull yourself together. Stiff upper lip.’ Which I’ve always done.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And never talked about it.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And so that going and asking my mother where my father was, that was the only time that I think it was ever mentioned.
SC: Right.
PT: So that’s why I’m like a —
SC: Yeah
PT: And that’s why when we went to the Spire day in September when I came back from that I nearly had a breakdown.
SC: Yeah.
PT: Yeah. I insisted that my son came. Both sons and grandson and I drove them there. We got through it but leaving that field, I’ve got a photo of leaving that field where all the people had something to do with the same thing that I’d held inside me —
SC: Yes.
PT: All my life. I didn’t want to leave that field and it really made me, I felt raw and I came home.
SC: Yeah.
PT: You know, I really wanted to cry and scream out loud like perhaps I should have done if I’d known.
SC: Yeah.
PT: When I was one a half that my father had just been killed.
SC: Yeah.
PT: You know and, and that’s why I didn’t go last week because I thought no you’re going to get yourself in a mess again. But it was nice because my niece went.
SC: Yeah.
PT: And found out from the photo there wasn’t the one but as I say it doesn’t matter. It’s just putting a poppy in to say that was for him.
SC: Yeah.
PT: You know.
SC: Yeah.
PT: Yeah.
SC: So —
PT: So I don’t know what other people’s feelings are and I’ve never been able to talk to Carol, my sister.
SC: Yeah.
PT: Because I know it hurt her the same.
SC: Yes.
PT: So we haven’t spoke about it.
SC: Gosh. Yeah.
PT: You know.
SC: Yeah.
PT: It’s just something you carry on with your life and we’re lucky to be alive.
SC: Yeah.
PT: But, and then when that happened last week, all this and you realise that mans never learned anything. We are still at war because they said —
SC: Yeah.
PT: That that war was going to be the war to end all wars you know and —
SC: Yeah.
PT: It’s not. It will never stop will it?
SC: Yeah.
PT: You know.
SC: Unfortunately, not.
PT: No. No. But yes, there should be, you know a place where people can go and see what happened.
SC: Yes.
PT: And hopefully learn from it.
SC: Yeah.
PT: But —
SC: If we can learn the lessons that would be —
PT: Yeah.
SC: Yeah.
PT: But I’ve just read a book.
SC: Yeah.
PT: I can get it up on here. And if I’d read that because I believe in nothing now since I’ve read this book. What was it? Something else.
SC: I’ll turn this off next to you.

Collection

Citation

Steve Cooke, “Interview with Penny Turner,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 15, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11738.

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