Interview with Tom Walker


Interview with Tom Walker


Tom was born in Stainforth, near Doncaster. His father and two brothers were miners. One of his sisters was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service and the other was a qualified nurse; she became a sister in Barnsley Hospital until she joined the Army. She then went to Germany and eventually to Burma before being made a major at Bombay hospital. Tom left school at fourteen and joined the Air Training Corps. A few months later he went to night school at the technical college, gained qualifications and went to work as a tool setter before volunteering for the Royal Air Force. He went to recruit in Sheffield and was given a job making 25lb shells. In about 1943 he received his call-up papers, and was posted at Rotherham, St. Andrews, London, Newquay and then to training at RAF Riccall as flight engineer. His Australian crew was at the Heavy Conversion Unit with 462 Squadron, then carried out carrying out nine operations. Tom married the week before the war ended and while on holiday his plane blew up on the runway, killing all the crew. At the end of the war Tom became a transport manager at RAF Scampton for about three months before being sent to northern Germany. He stayed at Braunschweig for five months on motor transport at a small airport. On returning to England he was demobbed and worked on a building site before moving to the steel works at Rotherham.




Temporal Coverage




00:49:46 audio recording


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AWalkerT180717, PWalkerT1801


GR: This, so this is Gary Rushbrooke for the International Bomber Command Centre 17th of July 2018. I’m with Tom Walker and his son [buzz] And Tom, if you can just tell us a little bit about your early life. I know we’re in Rotherham. Was you born in Rotherham?
TW: No. I was born in Stainforth, near Doncaster.
GR: Near Doncaster.
TW: Yeah.
GR: So fairly local.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Brothers and sisters?
TW: I’ve got, one sister was in the ATS. The other one, she was a qualified nurse and she was a sister in Barnsley Hospital. She joined the Army and went over on D-Day 3.
GR: Right.
TW: And she went right to, to Germany to until they got to Germany. When they got to Germany they flew her back over here and flew her out to Burma.
GR: Right.
TW: And she ended up as a major.
Other: Matron of Bombay Hospital.
TW: Bombay Military Hospital.
GR: Oh right. Were your sisters older than you? Or —
TW: Oh yeah. I were the youngest of the lot. Yeah.
GR: You, you were the youngest.
TW: Two brothers and father worked down Hatfield main pit.
GR: Right. That’s what your dad did, did he? He worked in the pit.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Did you go to school around here? Locally to Doncaster?
TW: Me.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Yeah. I was in the ATC.
GR: Yeah.
TW: When I were fourteen. And after a couple of months I started going to the technical college at night.
GR: Right.
TW: So it got me fit you know. I could do maths and everything perfect.
GR: Yeah. So you left school at fourteen did you?
TW: Pardon?
GR: Did you leave school at fourteen?
TW: Yeah. Yeah. And —
GR: And is that when you started going to technical college?
TW: Yeah. I was in the, I was in ATS.
GR: Yeah.
TW: No.
TW: Cadets.
GR: Air Training Cadets.
TW: Yeah. I got in them. And my mates were already in the Navy or the Army. So I said to my dad, ‘ I want to go in the Fleet Air Arm,’ because I’d got an uncle who was a manager in Portsmouth and I wanted to go in the Fleet Air Arm. And this guy said, ‘Oh yeah,’ because I was six foot then and boxing and he said, ‘Ideal. What we want.’ He said, ‘Now, where do you work?’ I said, ‘I’m a tool setter.’ He said, ‘You can’t go in.’ So, he said, ‘You can’t do anything about it. You can’t go in.’ So, I went back home to Stainforth and I never spoke to my father for a month. So he, eventually he said, ‘All right. Go on. Go.’ So that started it all.
GR: So you volunteered.
TW: Yeah.
GR: To go in to the RAF.
TW: Yeah.
GR: And did they, did you go to a recruiting office or —
TW: Yes. I went to [pause] that were in Sheffield and then when, when I went to another office for AT, for flying. And they said, ‘You’ll be three months before you can get in because of the places.’ And they give me a job in a [pause] making twenty five pounder shells.
GR: Oh right.
TW: And it was a catastrophe because women were chasing me. So —
GR: So there was you and about three or four hundred women in a factory.
TW: More than that. Anyway, I only stood it one week on nights. During the day they couldn’t touch me. But I went back to this office that they were making me, giving me a job and I went out on to building Sandtoft Aerodrome.
GR: Oh right. Yes. I know it.
TW: Yeah. And that was well paid for because I was getting paid a man’s wage and lodging allowance.
GR: That’s good. Yeah. Yeah.
TW: And then I’d been working all day. We got on the lorry to go back to Stainforth. I got off. I saw my mother down the, down the street. My papers had come.
GR: Oh yeah.
TW: And when I went she were crying.
GR: And this would be what? 1943?
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Can you remember where you first went to, to start your training?
TW: Well, as I say I was in the AT.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
TW: I was in there and the bloke who run it had been a fighter pilot in the First War and he was, he were brilliant.
GR: Yeah.
Other: You had to go to London then didn’t you?
TW: Yeah. I went to London. ACRC. Aircrew Receiving Centre at London.
GR: St John’s Wood.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
TW: [Softley] Hall.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And it were a beautiful place.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And there were twenty in each room and this particular night we got in bed and there were two big, big rooms and then there were a corridor with sand, water and doings pump.
GR: Ah, right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Other: Stirrup pump. Stirrup pump.
GR: Stirrup pump.
TW: Aye. We, we’d just got in bed and these two blokes came in with water. Sprayed all our beds and us. So —
GR: That was your welcome.
TW: They were a big, big Geordie lad, farmer and me. I chased them and I hit this bloke. Knocked him out because all our beds were wet.
GR: Yeah.
TW: So, 9 o’clock in the morning I had to go and see the CO. And came out he was area bomber err —
Other: Boxing.
TW: Boxing.
GR: Right. And you were a boxer.
TW: And I, yeah. The bloke said this bloke he were a [pause] he said, ‘Oh, no. Go on. Clear off.
GR: Clear off.
TW: And it was next, that were next to London Zoo.
GR: London Zoo. Yes. Yeah.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Didn’t you used to get your meals in the zoo? Did you have to go across to the zoo?
TW: Pardon?
GR: Did you go across to the zoo?
TW: Oh yeah.
GR: Because that’s where you had your meals there. Didn’t you?
TW: That’s right. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Yeah. So —
TW: All there was all the lions there and everything making a noise.
GR: Yeah. Yeah. I think most chaps have said, you know.
TW: We could walk to the west, west end in London.
GR: Yes.
TW: From [Softley] Hall.
GR: Yes.
TW: That were brilliant.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Because it was like going from Stainforth to somewhere or something to —
GR: First time away in the big city.
TW: [unclear]
GR: Yeah.
TW: Yeah. And on the next street to where it was there were some old ladies with Rolls Royces all [unclear] Not, not NAAFI. This other —
Other: Women’s Institute, was it?
TW: Yeah. And we used to go in there and there were a table about like that big.
Other: Just hang on a sec.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
TW: And there was piles of all the shows in London.
GR: Yeah.
TW: All in piles all around.
GR: Very good.
TW: I’m going to get —
GR: Yeah.
[recording paused]
GR: So, after St Johns Wood where did you [pause] where did you end up after you had started your training?
TW: I went, got to Rotherham.
GR: Yeah.
TW: I was five months there. Then I went to Scotland.
Other: St Andrews.
TW: Yeah.
Other: Where the golf course is.
TW: The worst place I’ve ever been in my life. It was winter.
GR: Snow, wet and windy.
TW: Not a, not a, not no heating at all. And oh. Ah but at night you couldn’t even get in the cinemas or anywhere else because there were a Navy place there. And all the dancing was reels.
GR: Oh right. Yeah.
TW: I was glad to go away from there. Then I went down to London. To London again. And I did three months at Newquay. And then I started.
Other: Were it St Austell, were it? That one.
TW: Yeah.
Other: St Austell.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And then I went to start training at Riccall.
GR: At Riccall.
TW: Near Selby.
GR: Yeah. I’ve a friend who lives there at the moment. Did you know what you wanted to be? You know when you joined up.
TW: Yeah. Well —
GR: Did you want to be a pilot? Was you —
TW: I wanted to be a pilot.
GR: Right.
TW: And what happened was when I was on this ITW.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Initial Training Wing. They came to us and they said, ‘What do you want to be?’ ‘Pilot.’ So they said, ‘You’ll have to go a few weeks and go to America or Canada.’ And everybody had built up —
GR: Oh yeah. I’ll have some of that. Yeah.
TW: And then they came to, they came in to it one morning when we were on parade. They said, ‘There’s a surplus of pilots.’
GR: Yeah.
TW: Pilots, bomb aimer and navigator.’ So, I said what was there? And they said flight engineer. No. No. Glider pilots or doings [pause] or a gunner.
GR: Yeah. Air gunner.
TW: Flight engineer.
GR: Yeah. You went for flight engineer.
TW: I did about eight or nine months training from that and every, every week you had exam.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And if you didn’t pass it you go back again. And I were lucky. I got right through.
GR: Yeah. And that was at Riccall.
TW: Riccall.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
TW: No. No.
GR: Sorry.
TW: They were at, what was that one at —
GR: It don’t matter.
TW: Seaside. Anyway.
Other: What’s that dad? What’s that?
TW: Oh that place, at [pause] Not Newquay. The other place.
Other: St Austell.
GR: St Austell.
TW: No. Anyway, it don’t matter.
GR: Don’t matter. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
TW: And then I got passed out, you know.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And I went and then went straight up. Had nine days leave and then I went to Riccall and we had to go in this building and pick out a pilot. A squad. The rest of the crew.
GR: They crewed up. Yeah.
TW: Yeah.
GR: So, and you were telling me earlier that you ended up with an Australian crew.
TW: Yeah.
GR: So was that crew already formed? And then they got —
TW: Apart from a flight engineer. Yeah.
GR: So, they came. Did they come and get you or did you get them?
TW: Yeah. Yeah. They came to me.
GR: Good.
TW: And then we started training at Riccall. Bombing.
GR: Heavy Conversion Unit.
TW: No. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Heavy Conversion Unit.
TW: Yeah.
GR: HCU. Yeah.
TW: That was for them. It wasn’t me.
GR: Right.
TW: Because they had been on Wellingtons and things like that.
GR: Yes. Yeah.
TW: Anyway, we did all day training. And then night training. And then we went down to Foulsham.
GR: Foulsham. Yeah.
TW: Yeah. And one of, one of the things I told you before about the end of the war the last bombing raid we did was and they told us normally you used to go back to England about twelve thousand feet.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Don’t bother. You can go down low. So we went on this raid and then went to the Dutch Coast and we [pause] to the coast. About five minutes after the plane went right back like that. Bloody balloon on a ship.
GR: You were too low. So that was your last bombing raid of your war. What was your first one?
TW: Actually it was from Riccall because when you’d finished —
GR: Yeah.
TW: You went on one.
GR: Right.
TW: I think it was just in to Germany. Just in to German.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Unless it was German.
Other: Which was that one where where you had to go to that other airfield and Douglas Bader told you to get off the airfield?
TW: Oh well. We’d been on the southern side bombing.
GR: Yeah.
TW: You know, there was topside further north for Germany. Other one we’d been over France or somewhere. Come back and we went to Tangmere. That’s the thing. Landed Tangmere.
GR: Tangmere.
TW: Because there was thick fog.
GR: Yes.
TW: Right. So —
GR: Tangmere was a fighter base wasn’t it?
TW: That’s right. So, they took, they took us to a Naval barracks overnight and then go back and there were about seventy planes on this. German, American and the whole lot. Right.
GR: Yeah. All coming to Tangmere because of the fog.
TW: They had all gone and I was trying to get all the engines running. And what I did I got up inside the nacelle where the wheel, the big wheel went in. There were a pump inside it and I got up, got up into it and this bloke comes around and said, ‘What are you doing on my bloody airfield?’ And when I got out it were Bader. I’m on the route to taking off. I’ve roped all the lads in.
GR: Good stuff. Yeah.
TW: But I loved it, you know.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And, and I’ll tell you something that wasn’t about flying. The wireless operator was an older man and he’d been a gold digger and all sorts. A real character and he were my best mate. And we’d been in the sergeant’s mess having a drink and darts and I said to him, his mate came, an old mate of his came and he said, I said, ‘I’ll go and have a shower and get in bed then.’ So I’d not been in bed a while and ‘Tom. Tom.’ What is? What? He was at the side of my bed. No skin on his face. And what he’d done him and his mate had won, won two bottles of whisky and he’s, he’d drunk the whisky himself and he’d crawled because there were [pause] where all the Nissen huts were, were all rough concrete and everything.
GR: Yeah.
TW: He crawled all the way back and said what are we going to do about it? So we took him down to hospital, err hospital. Knocking on side and [unclear] doing.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And if he’d have been, if he’d have been an Englishman and an English thing they’d have let him off but they said, ‘No we’re going to. He’s going to get in trouble.’ So, ‘No. We’ll take him back and look after him.’ So we took him back and put him in bed and put a rope around him. And he were four and a half days living on oxo and bread.
GR: Probably taught him a lesson. Yeah.
TW: But he was such a character.
GR: Yeah.
TW: A typical Aussie.
GR: You obviously started on Halifaxes. Did you fly in any other aircraft or —
TW: Yeah. Yeah.
GR: Because when you first went to 426 squadron were they with —
TW: 462.
GR: Sorry, 462.
TW: Yeah. I went straight there. But when I came home to get married.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Three weeks before the war ended. When we came back after nine days it was all over the camp our plane had blown up because there were two crews for one. One plane.
GR: Oh right.
TW: One kite.
Other: You should have flown but you didn’t because you got married and the plane went —
TW: No. I said, while we were at the wedding and all that that plane has gone and got blown up on the end of the runway.
GR: With the crew inside.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Did the crew perish?
TW: Yeah.
GR: Right. Why was there, why would there have been two crews to the one plane?
TW: Well, you’d got to arm mostly every night.
GR: Right.
TW: Because a bomber, Lancasters were going out every night and we had to do it over a time. But there was two squadrons on Foulsham
GR: Yeah.
TW: 192.
Other: 162. 462 were it?
TW: No. No. 192. That crew. And they had Halifaxes like us doing the same thing. But they’d got Mosquitoes.
GR: Right.
TW: And when we went out they used to go up with us.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And they’d take off about twenty minutes, twenty five minutes later and they helped us to save us because it were that. The Germans wanted all of us killed on this 100 Group.
GR: Yeah, because 100 group were special operations.
TW: That’s right.
GR: Jamming German radar.
TW: What we had, we had a Canadian who could speak German as a woman or a man. And then he’d jam their radio.
GR: Yeah.
TW: So they didn’t know where they were going. But we went out with main force. Right.
GR: Yeah.
TW: On the route and then so far, so far along we’d turn off. Turn away. And then with this bloke who had special, dropping Window out so that they didn’t know which was the main. Which was the main stream.
GR: Yeah.
Other: You got a lot more leave didn’t you because you were on special?
TW: Yeah. We got —
Other: Special ops.
TW: Yeah. We got every month and Bomber Command got five, five weeks. Six weeks.
GR: Yeah. How many operations? Can you remember how many operations you actually flew, Tom?
TW: I was on nine from there.
GR: Yeah.
TW: One from Foulsham. From —
Other: Didn’t it work out —
TW: From Riccall.
Other: Didn’t it work out at thirteen you did —
TW: Yeah.
Other: But you said when you looked at the book other day you’d done more than that.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
Other: You’d done more in the book than you’d realised.
TW: Well, that’s right. That was the main thing anyway. Not nine.
GR: Yeah. And did you have any close encounters with the Germans while you were flying?
TW: No.
GR: Because they, they could actually track your aircraft because of the radar emissions you were giving couldn’t they?
TW: No.
GR: No.
TW: No.
GR: Because I thought they targeted 100 Group.
Other: You were deliberately doing it so they’d follow you didn’t they?
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
Other: Yeah. So —
TW: To get away from main force.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Because there were that many blokes getting killed. Probably hundreds and hundreds a day because there were —
GR: Oh, there were. Yeah.
TW: About three hundred to about six hundred Lancasters.
GR: But because of that I thought the Germans actually targeted your squadron.
TW: Oh they tried to. Tried to —
GR: Yeah. They tried to get you more than.
TW: Yeah. Yes.
GR: Yeah.
TW: It was —
GR: Did they ever come close?
TW: Oh yeah.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And the rear gunner were the best man I’ve ever known. He was brilliant.
GR: Right.
TW: Mid-upper gunner were frightened. He said if, of course when we were all going on the target where we were going to go. Me, the two gunners had got I had to, I could see out. Out of the plane.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And we were all watching all the time for them but he told me, ‘I’m frightened.’ So turned out that sometimes I had to go up in the turret. But they were right nice blokes.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Unbelievable living under them conditions.
GR: Yeah. Did they all survive?
TW: Pardon?
GR: Did they all survive the war?
TW: Did I —
GR: No. Did they all survive?
TW: Oh.
GR: Yeah.
TW: They with me. Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Yeah.
GR: And did they all go back to Aus, as soon as the war finished 8th of May ’45.
TW: What they did was they took the crews about four or five days. No. About say eight days afterwards.
GR: Yeah.
TW: They went straight back.
GR: They went straight back home didn’t they?
TW: Yeah. And the pilot, he were a gem.
Other: You went straight out to Germany then didn’t you?
TW: Yeah. And then —
GR: So I was just going to say so what happened to you? You’ve flown with these chaps. Then all of a sudden you’re on your own.
TW: Yeah. But he came to me. You know. Said how good I’d been with him.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Because you could get a lot of trouble with an aircraft, I’ll tell you that. In the war. But my job was that busy you’d no chance of being [pause] you know. You were that busy you weren’t bothered about what was happening.
GR: What else was going on because you had too much to do.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Because what you did I’d got a small paper like a cardboard computer that we’d got and you, when you, when you took off you had four engines.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Like when you got up to about ten thousand feet started back. Well, I’d already known what we’d done then and then after that every time that we changed petrol tanks I had to go to work it out where it goes. But what it was there was twelve tanks right. In the wings mostly. In the wings. And [pause] what was I going to say?
GR: You had to control the flow of fuel.
TW: Yes. That’s right.
GR: To all, to all the tanks.
TW: That’s right. But I’d got to control it right through until the next day. Well, what they did they filled the planes up to the top with fuel. Two thousand gallons.
GR: Two thousand.
TW: Right. And if you’d gone over fifty it makes a difference. Jankers. You were on jankers.
GR: Oh right.
TW: Well, I never went over thirty so —
GR: You were alright.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
TW: But it is complicated when you can fly that plane on one tank or four. Four on one tank and two over but what it is when you took off with a full load when you got up to altitude that you want you had to start getting rid of the outer ones.
GR: Right. I was going to ask you.
TW: So that all the way through like that because [pause] Oh, I’ve just forgotten my thought.
Other: When you land you’ve got petrol’s on the inside or the outside.
TW: Well, that was done but no.
GR: You certainly had to have the weight dispersed evenly.
TW: I just forget.
GR: It doesn’t matter. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But yes as flight engineers you had to control the flow of fuel.
TW: Yeah. Well, there was, there was —
GR: Do all this and do all that.
TW: The pilot or me could say no. We’re not going. You know. And engines had been in for servicing. The plane we had and when we, when we got out I thought chuffing hell, there’s something wrong here. We were getting hot. The engines. The engines were getting hot. So I worked it out and the radial engines, engines like that and they’ve got one of nine there and nine there. Pistons. And there’s a gill around. The rear one is cooler than the rear ones.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And this thing was getting boiling hot and I —
GR: It’s your job to sort it out.
TW: Yeah. Well, I rang the doings up and said it’s the gills. What they’d done they must have took the engine out and put it back on and it hadn’t been graded with these gills.
GR: Yeah.
TW: But put [unclear] back. Back of thing and we’d go about thirty, forty doings and I said to him, ‘You’ll have to slack back. Drop back.’ And we were going slow. Slower and slower and then when we turned around to come they were alright.
GR: Right.
TW: But it was, they were done, and when we came that one from Riccall we went on that raid and when we come back the, the lights for the wheels coming down wasn’t bloody working and we were flying around the doings.
Other: The airfield.
TW: And they were there looking out of the office windows to see if they’d come down.
GR: To see. Yeah.
TW: So, we did it for long enough and then I said, ‘No. Go on. Go to —’ I even went down to the back wheel, I said [pause] anyway we landed and everybody were like that.
GR: The wheels had come down.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Just the lights that weren’t working.
TW: Oh yeah.
GR: Yeah. So why did they send you out to Germany, Tom?
TW: Pardon?
GR: At the end of the war you went out to Germany.
TW: What I did, they all went back and I went to Catterick and to say whether I wanted to stop in the RAF or come out and I said come out. So I went and I was a transport manager. And I just, I went to where’s the Dambusters?
GR: Scampton.
TW: I were there for about, about three months.
GR: Right.
TW: And then they said you’ll have to go to Germany. So went to Germany. Well, I went down to London and then we went up to Hull. And it was just starting to snow and we got on a boat on the doings and when we were going [pause] not going this was this a, this was a major. Once we get out of the, out of the —
GR: Out of the harbour.
Other: Harbour.
TW: The harbour.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Ten. I think it were ten doings.
Other: Force ten gale wasn’t it? Or something.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Oh right.
TW: If you went on the deck to go for a meal or anything the bloody snow was going like that. Anyway, we got to Cuxhaven and there were a foot of ice on the harbour.
GR: Bloody hell.
TW: And they took us to a place to sleep. No heating at all. And it was just a bunk. Wood bunks with straw in.
GR: Right.
TW: So I were there about five days and then I went or got to go to Northern Germany and it were 4 o’clock in the morning when we set off and then they stopped the train so far, about probably a hundred mile to put water in the train. And while we’re, while we’re sat there where did they go? Some little kids with aprons on with pockets chocky full of money.
GR: They were like begging. Yeah
TW: Police come down. Their police with coshers. How many were killed?
GR: Killed?
TW: Police.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Hitting these little girls and boys with bloody bayonets. With the soldiers
Other: Who killed the police then?
TW: Pardon?
Other: Who killed the police?
TW: I’m not telling you.
Other: Oh.
TW: It was. And then when we got to Hamburg.
GR: Yeah.
TW: At Hamburg on the boat there were a lot of national doings.
Other: National what?
GR: German.
TW: No. It was England. They’d, been, they’d got called up didn’t they? National. There were a name for them anyway.
Other: Conscientious objectors.
TW: No. No. No. No. We got there and I got off and I were going to go to Brunswick so [pause] and these lads because if you went to Berlin you had to take a rifle and fifty bullets.
GR: Right.
TW: That was so it couldn’t be done by taking us in bulk and Russians pinching the bloody everything.
GR: The Russians. Yeah. Because the Russians were in Berlin weren’t they?
TW: Yeah. So I said to these, these young lads that were only eighteen you know, they were frightened to death. I said if you, if they pull that door open what you are in, they were like goods thing.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And you know, ‘Shoot them.’ And they said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Shoot the buggers else they’ll shoot you.’
GR: Yeah.
TW: And then I went on to Brunswick and I were there five months.
GR: Right. What, what was you doing in Brunswick, Tom?
TW: Pardon?
GR: What was you doing in Brunswick?
TW: Oh. Motor transport
GR: Motor transport. Oh right. Yeah.
TW: Mostly I used to do airfield because it were a little airfield on this. And I used to have to get up in a morning and there’d be a little aeroplane coming and I’d run down and this bloke come out and he were top bloke in the Army.
GR: Oh right.
TW: British Army. And he said, ‘Why haven’t you got a tie on?’ And I said, ‘I’ve just got out of bed.’ But if you’d gone there and saw that place. There were no housing, coal, electricity, water, food. They was eating all cats and dogs. Horses. Everything. Brunswick, there was just one building in the middle and it was run by these Jewish people and you could go in there. A little orchestra playing. You could go in there and say I want to phone home tomorrow. If you went back there were a phone.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Yeah. Yeah.
GR: And did you get to see any other German cities?
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Hamburg were flatted. Hanover were flattened. Berlin were bloody flattened. There was only one place open. Not touched. A place called Celle –
GR: Right.
TW: With a C.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Celle with a C. And there was a [unclear] on it and there were a platform and he were on a white horse directing traffic.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And [unclear] That was the worst place. They landed the airborne. We landed airborne. British.
GR: Yes.
TW: And that was the same. Only one building and it were, they used it as a garage. As a petrol.
GR: It must have took them years to recover.
TW: Oh.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Everything were flat.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And we were living in where these scientists had been. We were living in there at —
GR: Rightly or wrongly it was a job to be done though.
TW: Yeah.
GR: You know. You were there, you were there to bomb it.
TW: And this, this old lady looked after three. Three rooms. Three different blokes. And used to play hell with me [laughs] I’d say, ‘Who’s won the bloody war?’ But she were going to go but I made sure she got some food.
GR: She got food.
TW: She got that.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Aye. She used to come to my room at 5 o’clock and then they’d send it from our cookhouse to do doings for me.
GR: To do. So, she knew what she knew. Anywhere after Germany? Did you get reposted or —
TW: No. I stopped there.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And came back to England and got demobbed.
GR: Demobbed.
TW: My wife was ready for a baby so —
GR: Right. And you’d got married just before the end.
TW: Three weeks before the war ended.
GR: Before the end of the war. Yeah.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. What did you do after the war, Tom? So demobbed.
TW: I got demobbed. I went on a, on a building site and I went in a steelworks where it were all running up and down with red hot steel. And then I went on to open cast coal.
GR: This was back in Yorkshire. Back near Doncaster.
TW: No.
GR: No.
TW: This was at Wentworth.
GR: Wentworth.
TW: Wentworth in [unclear]
GR: Right.
Other: He drove.
TW: Best job. Best job.
Other: The big thing on, outcrop thing he drove. What do they call it? [unclear]
TW: I could drive any of them.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And I think I were there, I were there quite a while. Used to get paid and you were on a bonus all the time. So what you did, what the firm did, they gave us a national doings so I could go to the Post Office.
Other: Savings. A savings thing was it?
TW: No. You could just take this form down to the Post Office and you would get your wage and open.
Other: Bonus.
TW: No. No. What it was is if your wage went about something they’d give you these things.
GR: They’d give you extra.
TW: That’s right. When you could get it. I was ten or twelve hours days and nights. Well, the money I earned was unbelievable. And I did that for about four. I think it were about four years and then I went in to the steelworks.
GR: Right.
TW: And I went right to the top.
GR: Steelworks in Sheffield or —
TW: At Rotherham.
GR: Rotherham. That’s —
Other: Rotherham. Strip mills at Brinsworth.
GR: Strip. Yeah. Yeah.
Other: He went in with a Roller for years.
TW: I ran it for years and everything was happy.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And I’d got a lovely wife.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Up there.
GR: Oh yeah. On the wall.
Other: Where were you when you took my mum up in the plane?
TW: Yeah. Don’t tell anybody. They’ll prosecute me.
GR: They won’t.
TW: At Lindholme.
GR: Lindholme. Yeah.
TW: I was at Lindholme. Transport there for about six weeks and she rolled up from my mother’s, our house and I said, ‘I’ve got a little job for you,’ and I went and asked him, and the bloke said, ‘Oh, get in.
GR: What were, what plane did you take her up in?
TW: Lancaster.
GR: Oh, you took her up in the Lancaster. Who was the pilot?
TW: Eh?
GR: Who was the pilot?
TW: It was a training. Training.
GR: Oh right. Yeah. Yeah.
TW: Aye, but wait a minute do you know where Lindholme is?
GR: That’s now the prison, isn’t it?
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. And at the end of the war it was, it was for Italian and German prisoners of war wasn’t it?
TW: No.
GR: No.
TW: What I’m talking about was if he were there I didn’t see it.
GR: Right.
TW: A bloke walking about with his parachute.
Other: Lindholme ghost.
TW: A ghost.
Other: Lindholme has a ghost.
TW: Ghost.
GR: Oh right. Yeah.
TW: Everybody, every bloody newspapers and all what but they were people on that said they’d seen him.
GR: They’d seen him but you didn’t. You didn’t see him.
TW: Oh, no. No.
GR: No. No.
TW: But it was in the Telegraph and Star and —
GR: Oh right.
TW: They were calling me but what it was is the peat bogs where he, where he crashed his Wellington [pause] But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the Air Force and everything.
GR: I think everybody I’ve ever spoke to.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Have said yeah war is a bad thing but their time in the RAF —
TW: The funny thing was when I first got to Lindholme I were walking down this road and this bloke said, ‘Do you mind? Are you going to salute me or what?’ I said, ‘What about these here?’ Well, he had —
Other: Stripes.
GR: Stripes, yeah.
TW: No. No. No. I’d got about five medals.
GR: So you were both in uniform.
TW: Aye. Yeah. And he said, ‘I’ll have you charged.’
Other: Weren’t you a higher rank then him then?
TW: He was a first, no he was a first doings but he’d come from school straight in.
GR: Right.
TW: And he said, ‘I’ll report you.’ I said, ‘You bloody report me,’ I said, ‘While you’ve been in bed I’ve been bloody bombing Germany.’
GR: Right.
TW: You know.
GR: What rank did you finish up as, Tom?
TW: I should have been warrant officer.
GR: Yeah.
TW: But it didn’t come through.
GR: Right. Because and also right at the end of the war I think all those who had become warrant officer they knocked them back.
TW: Yeah.
GR: To flight sergeants, didn’t they?
TW: Yeah.
GR: So, yeah. But —
TW: I was lucky as I say it was nearly the end of the war.
GR: Yeah.
TW: But I was only that age.
GR: That’s it. You can only join up when you can join up.
TW: Yeah.
Other: You got banned from your boxing as well didn’t you because they said it had cost too much to train you.
TW: Oh aye. I did. I’d gone up. My mother one day, no. I’d got home from school and I went to go down this road and this kid whalloped me one. He were about fourteen or fifteen and I were about ten. So my mother said, I were crying, she said, ‘Get off out and go and hit him. Hit him on his nose.’ So I did do and when my dad came, my dad were on nights regularly in the pit and he came around and said, ‘Who was was it?’ I’d gone and hit him. This bloke. This lad. Anyway, when my dad got up after he’d had his sleep he said, ‘Come on. We’re going down to our Teddie’s.’ And he were heavyweight pit man.
GR: Right. Boxer. Yeah.
TW: Aye. And they were three [pause] three wrestlers and three boxers and they’d got a ring in —
GR: Yeah.
TW: In a barn. And they were bloody lightning. I’ll tell you that. And I did that from fourteen, I think it was when I started that. Fourteen. And then I went into the RAF I started a boxing with different teams like.
GR: Yeah.
TW: And when I got halfway through last five month of —
GR: Training.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
TW: They said, ‘You can’t box anymore because it’s costing too much to train you for your job.’
GR: Right. And you were beating everybody up. It was probably costing the RAF. All the people you were fighting.
TW: Aye, but one of the best one I ever had we were boxing against American Golden Gloves.
GR: Oh right.
TW: Bloody thing and during the day I’d already been in, there were a decompression chamber you used to have to sit in. Four on that side and four on this and they’d take the masks off that side, then pull all the air out of it.
Other: So you passed out.
TW: That’s right.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Until that one passed out and then you would have, they’d have to give you, you’d have to get to the other side. They made me do it twice and I were mad because I’d been training for this —
Other: You were boxing that night weren’t you or something and they made you go in the decompression chamber for some tests.
TW: Yeah. Anyway —
GR: The day before.
TW: I flattened him. He were only a young bloke.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Americans loved the RAF. Their Air Force.
GR: Yeah. Why? Well, I know they did but, you know.
TW: I’d got, I’d got leave and we was going to Kiel Canal and Lancasters dropped six ton bomb. Six ton bombs.
GR: Right. Yeah.
TW: Doings. And just we were just going to leave this bloke shouted me. He said, ‘Come here and have a look.’ You could see it laid on its side. This big, big battleship in water. Pilots clothes on, floating on —
Other: All the sailors clothes were on the side or the other,
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
TW: So I got on a train and there were some American doing and he said flipping heck he said, this bloke said, ‘You had a right night last night.’
GR: Last night. Yeah.
TW: So Lancasters shelled it definitely and then when I got, when I got home to Rotherham he didn’t like me, her old man so —
Other: That’s father in law.
TW: Yeah. He put wireless on and it said, “RAF bombers last night — ’ No. I told him and then it come on the news.
GR: Oh right.
Other: And he didn’t believe you when you said you turned that boat over.
TW: Yeah.
Other: What were it called? Can you —
TW: Von.
Other: Von Scheer were it?
TW: No. Von.
GR: There was the Scheer
TW: Von Scheer. That were it.
GR: Yeah. the Scheer which is S C H E E R. The Scheer.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Was bombed later.
TW: Yeah. That was the one. It were laid over in Kiel. Kiel.
Other: They bombed it and tipped it over didn’t it?
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. There was the Von Hipper and the Scheer.
TW: Yeah.
GR: It would have been the Scheer then if you —
TW: We shot the, where they sank it.
GR: They sank the Tirpitz. The Tirpitz was sunk in November ’44.
TW: No.
GR: No.
Other: Bismarck.
TW: Before that.
GR: Oh, the Bismarck was the —
TW: Bismarck.
GR: Yeah. That was the Fleet Air Arm in 1941.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
TW: That was, that was the same Von Scheer that turned over.
GR: Right.
TW: But in, in Hamburg Harbour there were a submarine had been blown out of the water onto the bloody quayside.
GR: You were doing a good job. The RAF did.
Other: They did all that lot and then helped —
TW: The RAF saved the world
Other: Helped to pay to rebuild Germany and now Germany want to rule it all again.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Yeah. The RAF saved the world but if the Battle had Britain had failed —
GR: Yeah.
TW: They’d have got our Navy which was the biggest in the world.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Army. And Air Force.
GR: The fighter pilots did it in 1940 and then Bomber Command —
TW: Yeah.
GR: For the next four. Four and a half, five years.
TW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
TW: Fifty five thousand men were killed.
GR: They were.
TW: In Bomber Command.
GR: Yeah. It was the highest casualty rate in the war.
TW: Biggest in the world.
GR: Apart from the German U-boat arm.
TW: Yeah.
GR: So, I’ll just put that down. That’s not bad.



Gary Rushbrooke, “Interview with Tom Walker,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 16, 2024,

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