Interview with Lacey Peter Webb


Interview with Lacey Peter Webb


Lacey Peter Webb remembers his role as a flight engineer in the Royal Air Force during the war and flying thirty operations on Halifaxes and two on Lancasters. Retraces his training in various stations, among them St John’s Wood, where he was selected to the be part of the Queen’s guard of honour. Tells of the selection process and the crewing up. Remembers when, on the way back from an operation over Dortmund, they couldn’t lower the undercarriage. Discusses the role of the master bomber. Explains the difficulties in coordinating bomb drops among aircraft of the same squadron when approaching the target. Tells of his life after war and how the entire crew was demoted.







00:45:50 audio recording

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DK: So, I just make sure it’s working. This is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Mr. Lacey Webb at his home on 24th of October 2016. It seems to be working. I’ll just leave that, just move that over there. If I just leave that, leave that there
LPW: Yeah.
DK: If I keep looking down, I’m only checking to make sure it’s still working. It’s ok. So, what I like to know is first of all, before joining the Royal Air Force, what were you doing?
LPW: I was assembling furniture.
DK: Ok.
LPW: In a factory in the local town.
DK: Ok and then, what made you then want to join the RAF?
LPW: Well, when you think, I was fourteen, I was actually fourteen and fourteen weeks old when the war started. So I was a, brainwashed really by the war, I mean, all my teenage life was interrupted by the war from thirteen when I used to read the papers and so forth and of course when the war started, I was fascinated by the bomber operations.
DK: Ok.
LPW: And as I grew old, as I, they became my heroes and I wanted to become a member of Bomber Command.
DK: Alright, so it wasn’t seeing the fighters in the Battle of Britain.
LPW: No, no, it’s. And then, when I got seventeen and three quarters, they called us up. We signed on, then, men they called us then and I went up to Norwich for my medical and then of course you have to state what you would like to force you to join I said the Air Force, aircrew, you did a little test, they took about thirty of us in the room and asked us how many beans make five, you know quite simple little questions. They sorted through quite a number actually and then I went to Cardington and I actually met an interesting chap on the way down the bus from Bedford station down to Cardington, chap sat next to me and he said he’s going down. He says he’s going for an aircrew medical but he wasn’t [unclear]. He was a meteorological officer and he was going for a medical and he said he was Bob Hope’s cousin, cause he said he came from Bath, I think, which is Bob Hope’s hometown I think. Anyway, we were
DK: Not many people realise Bob Hope was actually born in Britain do they.
LPW: Not really and anyway I done my thing there and I think there’s about sixty of us. When we went for our interview on the third morning, there were just four of us left. Amazing, I was amazed,
DK: So the others had all been
LPW: Failed, as soon as you failed you were gone.
DK: Thank you.
LPW: I think they were pretty ruthless about selection. And I went in and met the old boys, us three RAF and they all had their gold braid and they asked me what, you know, what I would like to be and I said, I’d like to be a pilot. Of course, they looked at my educational qualifications, they said, you’re not quite up to that, son, but they said there’s a new trade as flight engineer and you take the place of the second pilot. And that’s how I became to be a flight engineer.
DK: So what form did the training take after that then?
LPW: What, when I joined up?
DK; Yes, once you
LPW: Well, I went, cause we all went to Lord’s Cricket Ground when we were first called up. I think three weeks at St John’s Wood and my [unclear] at St John’s Wood, believe it or not, was in the honour guard for the Queen Mother, was the old Queen Mother, the Queen at the time she was visiting the YMCA at the aircrew reception centre. And that was a private house set back and what happened was that the NCO in charge of the squad had done a bit of drilling and so forth, he selected about forty blokes out of the hundred and twenty, more or less the same height, and cause we had our, hadn’t changed our uniform, so some of us were short blokes head, the great coat came down, half way down the thigh and the tall chaps, they [unclear] tall policemen, about seven or eight policemen, they came half way up the thigh, you know. And some had hats that, flapped round their heads. Anyhow these chaps who were in charge of the squad lined us odd bods outside on the road, to keep the crowds back, I suppose and the real squad, he took off somewhere until the Queen went into the YMCA, they was supposed to come and line the garden down to the road when she came out. Of course, they got lost somewhere in the maze and so they brought all us odd bods to perform the guard of honour as you would say. Well, I’m sure that when her Majesty walked past us and she looked at us, I’m sure she was smiling and she thought to myself, what an odd lot of bods it was.
DK: Couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
LPW: Yeah. You imagine, you know, all the different, because when they gave you, you all got the same thing, you know. But there you go.
DK: So once you’ve done your
LPW: Three weeks down there.
DK: You’ve done initial
LPW: I went to Bridlington for six weeks initial training and
DK: Was that most of your square bashing there, was it down at Bridlington?
LPW: Yeah, and then we done aircraft recognition and we pulled the Sten gun to pieces and put it together and all that sort of stuff. And then, at the beginning of January we went down to St Athans and that’s where the training started, you know.
DK: As a flight engineer.
LPW: Yeah. First of all, they explained to us what a nut was and what the washer was, you know, it completely started right from the scratch
DK: It was very basic stuff.
LPW: Terrific rarely when you think about it, I just found this book of mine which was, which I done my course on and you want to have a look at that, at this quite extensive really.
DK: So, just for the benefit of the recording here, I will sort of go through what’s in here so. So, it’s got the Hercules six, which is the engine. So, it’s all the power outputs for that type of engine, leading particulars, degree of supercharging, oh wow, that’s all the engine though and so it’s got diagrams of the cylinders and crank shaft.
LPW: Is everything is in there.
DK: So.
LPW: All the diagrams, they draw those.
DK: So, you had to draw these
LPW: Yeah.
DK: Engine oil pressure pumps
LPW: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Oh wow.
LPW: I mean, when you look at that, we had a six months course, I know it wasn’t all on,
DK: Not just on the engine.
LPW: But they gave us two weeks to learn to pick up on a Lanc, completely different engine, airframe and everything
DK: So the work on the, the training on the Hercules was the assumption you could go on the Halifax.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: So we got
LPW: We’d actually done [unclear] training in the last six months, really.
DK: So I got here Clarks viscosity valve
LPW: Six weeks.
DK: Do you remember the Clarks viscosity valve? [laughs]
LPW: Yeah. I just found that out this morning, I thought, I will have a look at it.
DK: This is, this is marvellous. You got a diagram inside the Halifax there which you’ve drawn
LPW: Yeah.
DK: Oh, wow.
LPW: Interesting, isn’t it?
DK: Yeah. One thing the centre is doing is they are making copies of things like this, I think this is something that they’d be really interested in. I’m gonna have a think about that, I could get it copied it for you and get it to the centre there. Very in depth, isn’t it? Hayward compressor, oil temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge, so, these are all diagrams that you
LPW: Yeah, we had to draw those, yeah.
DK: Oh, I know they’d be interested in this. Ok, so, I’ll just put that back down there. So, that’s your, so that was your training all at St Athans. So, how long did the training at St Athans last?
LPW: Six months.
DK: Six months. And then after that where did you, where were you posted to then?
LPW: Well, apart from one of us, I’m pretty certain that I was sent to [unclear] for about two hours and then they sent us to a different conversion unit.
DK: Right.
LPW: And I went to Topcliffe. Conversion unit. And I was there for about and that was where I joined the crew because the crew, originally, as you know, they’d done initial training the other six together. They come to heavy conversion, pick up the flight engineer, then we’d done about a month there.
DK: So that’s where you first met your crew then, at Topcliffe.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: And they were all Canadian?
LPW: Yeah.
DK: So they’d trained in Canada and then come over.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: I know it was quite normal that the Canadians didn’t seem to train flight engineers.
LPW: They didn’t. Well they, at the end of the war, I got my screening leave, went back, walked in the section, who should I see, the Canadian trained flight engineer.
DK: So they did towards the end of the war then.
LPW: But you know, the Canadians financed and serviced the whole group
DK: The 6 group.
LPW: I don’t think the British public ever realised that.
DK: So that was the first time you met your crew then. Did the pilot choose you or did you go up to them?
LPW: Well, we were in a room and certainly this chap, or two of them came and said, you’ve been recommended to us as a flight engineer and that was the pilot and navigator. And that’s how we met.
DK: And what was your impression when you first met the pilot and navigator?
LPW: Well, I thought, seem very competent, you know. They were chaps. I suppose the pilot was about twenty-six and the navigator was about twenty-eight.
DK: So they were quite a bit older then, weren’t they?
LPW: Yeah. I mean, from what the rest of the crew said, in the mess
DK: So this is the crew here, is it?
LPW: That’s the pilot and that’s the navigator.
DK: So, can you remember the pilot’s name?
LPW: Yeah, Phil Millard.
DK: Millard. And the navigator?
LPW: Cyrus Vance.
DK: Cyrus Vance.
LPW: Yeah. His name was Pigger Vance, he was American. Well, he went to America when he was three years old.
DK: Alright.
LPW: And his brother was shot down over Berlin.
DK: So that’s the navigator Cyrus Vance. And remember this one?
LPW: Yeah. Pigger Vance.
DK: Pigger Vance. Yeah.
LPW: Gordon Upwell, he was the wireless operator. That was me there.
LPW: John Nookes and Bill Smith. He was the mid upper and he was the rear gunner. Myself there and there and the same there.
DK: Alright.
LPW: And that was in my heyday there.
DK: So that’s you, so, so the pilot was Peter Webb?
LPW: No, pilot was Phil Millard.
DK: Oh, sorry. Sorry, I’m getting confused.
LPW: Yeah. Actually, they screened me. They’d done 34, I’d done 36. I had to screen them at the same time.
DK: So how many operations did you actually?
LPW: Actually, I did 32.
DK: Thirty-two.
LPW: Although the tour was thirty-five at the time. I think they threw the two trips in that we had to abort. They had plenty of aircrew at the time you see.
DK: So you then met at Topcliffe and where did you all move on to then? Is that when you joined the squadron?
LPW: No, we got posted to the famous Lion squadron, and, 427, at Leeming.
LPW: At Leeming. One thing about my Air Force days. I always went to a sort of a modern camp, Topcliffe and Leeming were pre-war stations. And in St John’s Wood we went in a proper hotel in St John’s Wood and at St Athan a hut camp had all the modern facilities and never did go on a satellite. Some chaps had a hard time on satellite ‘dromes and Nissan huts and so forth.
DK: So the stations you were on weren’t all very well built.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: Is that ok if I have a look at the logbook then? So looking through, so you did thirty two operations
LPW: Yeah.
DK: Starting off with the Halifax.
LPW: Yeah. Cap Gris Nez was my first one on the 27th of September. Is it still legible?
DK: Yeah, yeah, so, twenty, that’s daylight, isn’t it?
LPW: Yeah.
DK: So, 28th of September?
LPW: 28, was it?
DK: Pilot was Millard. And the aircraft is ZLV. Cap Gris Nez
LPW: [unclear] Although we didn’t bomb, they called us off before we bombed.
DK: Ok. Just going through here then.
LPW: Yeah. What was the next one?
DK: Cross countries, sea searches there.
LPW: Yeah. On squadron
DK: Return from Bury St Edmunds. Oh, here we go, sorry, operations Dortmund.
LPW: Yeah. Was that the second one?
DK: Yeah, looks like it.
LPW: What was that one?
DK: That says cross country.
LPW: Oh, right. Yeah.
DK: So I think the second one here was I think the 6th of October.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: ’44.
PLW: Dortmund.
DK: Dortmund. And it says, thirteen hang ups. So, the bombs didn’t drop.
LPW: And the undercarriage didn’t come down when we came in to land, the pilot on the downward leg, he said, load was showing red red, what are you going to do, Peter? So I got my hacksaw out, the old training came in well, cut a little piece of copper wire and released the pressure, the oil from the piston and down came the
DK: And the undercarriage came down. So that was from the Dortmund operation, was it?
LPW: Yeah.
DK: So you were carrying thirteen hang up bombs and couldn’t get the undercarriage down.
LPW: As we had a little bit of trouble to take off. We got caught in the slipstream [unclear] plane ahead of us and that swung us off and the pilot overcorrected it. And went slowly across the intersection of the runways and even today, I can see people jumping down off aeroplanes to stand and watch, some on the wing of a plane jumping. When we got back, they said we just went over the bomb dump.
DK: So that was the Dortmund raid as well, was it? So next operation was the 9th of October and it’s Bochum and mentions fighter attack. Were you attacked?
LPW: Just think, I think the gunners saw something and they, the pilot went into a corkscrew.
DK: So the next one was an early return.
LPW; Yeah.
DK: And then Duisburg, which was a daylight, wasn’t it?
LPW: Yeah, Duisburg, twice in twenty four hours.
DK: So there was Duisburg, daylight,
LPW: Yeah.
DK: And then Duisburg again [unclear]
LPW: Yeah, one Sunday morning, we got there just early, eight, ten o’clock time
DK: In fact, one of the veterans I interviewed last week, his name was Ray Park, 218 Squadron, he was on both the Duisburg raids.
LPW: Was he?
DK: Yeah, he mentioned that it was a daylight and then a night time [unclear] on that raid.
LPW: Yeah. Then we got back to bed, they got us out of bed again, to go to Stuttgart, but the pilot complained and they took us off the raid.
DK: So you should have done Stuttgart after that. Then on the 23rd of October, Essen.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: And then, 25th of October, Homburg.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: And 2nd of November, Dusseldorf.
LPW: Yeah. A lot of training as well.
DK: Yeah. Not the cross country, it was a local flying
LPW: Yeah.
DK: Then you got, St. Vith here
LPW: St. Vith, yeah, Boxing Day.
DK: St. Vith.
LPW: Yeah. But, you know, when they, Ardennes, defence when the Germans broke through, we bombed the cross roads, Boxing Day.
DK: Yeah, so that was the 26th of October. You put here a note, excellent prangs.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: So that went well then.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: So that was in daylight as well then.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: And then flak damage to ailerons.
LPW: Yeah. If we finished that, we had to go up to Russia, it tells you in there where we went to
DK: Alright.
LPW: We couldn’t land at Leeming it was fog, when we took off, that was down twenty feet, we got above, it was a lovely day once you got above
DK: So then you got Ludwigshafen.
LPW: Ludwigshafen. Mannheim and Ludwigshafen. One either side of the river.
DK: Yeah. So here, 6th of January 1945, mentions that you blew a tyre on the end of the runway.
LPW: Yeah. That was a day of disaster, really was [unclear] somewhere. Daylight raid? We were the spare crew and suddenly I said, off you go and off we went. Turned, just as we turned on the runway, the tyre burst. Now, the golden rule about turning the plane, you never clamp the inside of the wheel tight because you grind, hold it and the wires that reinforce the tyre break. And will allow and the pressure comes on the tyre. And your [unclear] bursts and we got into the spare plane and the time we got there we were about five minutes late of the end of the raid. The pilot said we carry on here and the Lanc formed up on the side of us about hundred yards, level with us. I often wondered about this and we were about and on the bomb run and suddenly this Lanc blew up, it’s a Pathfinder, all the different flares caught fire, just [unclear] and after seeing you know the Dam Busters film, where Gibson after he dropped his bombs, he flew down beside the other to take the flak away from the, I often wonder if that chap would have done the same for us, you don’t know do you. On the way back we were, half and half on our way there was a terrific thump. Someone said, what was that? And the rear gunner, he said, that was a Jerry fighter, this Jerry fighter went just over the top of us, and that was the air pressure gave us a terrific thump, so that was the day of, could have been.
DK: So that was all on the 6th of January 1945.
LPW: Yeah. Could have been a day of horrors, couldn’t it?
DK: So originally on aircraft W, blew the tyre at the end of the runway and changed to L.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: And bombed five minutes late. [file missing]

So, David Kavanagh again. 24th of October 2016 interviewing Mr. Lacey Webb at his home. This is the second of two, working ok. So, just going back to your logbook. As you say, you did thirty two operations then.
LPW: Two aborted.
DK: Aborted.
LPW: One just after we got off the deck. One trip. Is in there somewhere. You went up the North Sea, designated area, and dropped the bombs. By the time we dropped the bombs and used up the fuel, we were, had the right amount of weight down for landing.
DK: Got one here. Operation to Magdeburg.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: So that was the sixteenth of January 1945.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: This is number four tank, port stuck, number four tank cocks [unclear]
LPW: What happened done all my pre-flight checks, you’d operate all the fuel cocks and everything you know and the fuel cock on number four was stuck, couldn’t move it and as it happened the OIC (Officer in Command), the warrant officer OIC, the flight, was actually in our dispersal. And he personally got up on the wing and eased this cock, made it work, that’s the one we took off on. Turned it off, we were always given a fuel system before we took off, when we, you know, the golden rule was one tank, one engine, in danger areas like take off, landings and so forth and the target area. Went to turn it on, won’t move. So we were then there’s a hundred and thirty gallons left in there and spare overload is always a hundred and twenty five extra in case of emergencies. So then I had to work a system where we were, a hundred and thirty gallons, that was locked away and then we worked on another system and kept the engine revs and boost pressure down so we just got enough to get back.
DK: And then it says you jettison two clusters east of Hanover, among searchlights.
LPW: Yeah. We had two hang ups and we stirred a hornet’s nest as soon as we dropped, we got predictable flak.
DK: So you’re still flying the Halifax then into 1945.
LPW: Yeah. At Magdeburg, I remember now, looking over the edge of the thing, I said to the pilot, oh, look all those little lights down there. And cause we had, we were loaded with incendiaries, he said, what they are Peter are houses on fire. Rows and rows and rows of them.
DK: And I got, first of February, Halifax U and then ops to Mainz.
LPW: Yeah, Mainz. Yes.
DK: Mainz. And it says, terrible weather on return journey.
LPW: Yeah. They had a little electric fire [unclear].
DK: We got one here that was abandoned. It’s 17th of February, ops to Wesel. Called off by master bomber.
LPW: Yeah. They were fantastic people these master bombers, cool as cucumbers.
DK: So what was the role of the master bomber then?
LPW: They were to tell you what bombs to, you know, new TI’s (target indicators) go down, which to bomb and so forth and I was watching a film the other day called Appointment in London about a bomber crew and well, with Dirk Bogarde took over the master bombers role and obviously [unclear] and that bomber command, that master bomber was given instructions [unclear] and always on one raid. The master bomber was issuing instructions very quiet, you know, controlled. And suddenly he said, I think they used to call themselves Tarpat, Tarpat 1 to Tarpat 2, he said, we’ve been hit, he said, take over, Tarpat 1 to Tarpat 2 take over, Tarpat, I just can’t as if they might have crashed or exploded or something. Very tragic at the time. But they were really wonderful blokes, these master bombers
DK: Can you remember which particular raid that was?
LPW: Not really, no.
DK: No. Very tragic.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: So now you’re all of the raids that were into Germany, weren’t they?
LPW: Yeah. Cause the tragic thing was when you’re over the target, planes are getting hit by other plane’s bombs. You know, I mean, navigation was a perfect art, you’re all, you know, converging on the target, some overshoot the turning point by a minute that’s three miles at a hundred and eighty. We used a hundred and sixty, I think, on the run in.
DK: Yeah.
LPW: And then if you turn early and I mean early so when you come to target you’re all sort of coming and we had a plane just below us, used to bomb in two hundred foot layers and the bomber he said watch out for [unclear], you know, he said, I can see him, I can see him, he says, watch him, watch him, and of course when he let his bombs, you know the trim of the plane you actually lift up and our bombs went the same time as the other bloke, cause he came up and we came up and [unclear] and sideslip away. It wasn’t until we finished the tour on to that night and we went in the mess and had a bit of a booze up with another crew who just finished, that turned out that was their plane.
DK: So you were from the same squadron then.
LPW: Cause that was the only thing about, we were both same squadron, the same hut, the same time, you see, different levels.
DK: At night, could you see much of the other aircraft, normally?
LPW: Not much, you could feel them.
DK: Yeah.
LPW: When you’re doing dog-legging, that’s a dangerous time again, lots of, they always reckon they allowed for least one crash but if you’re early, cause the, the weather forecast is never accurate, couldn’t be accurate the, you know, the speed, wind speed and the direction was never a hundred percent accurate so, if they got the wind speed and direction, if you were early, get all bombers certain time, it would dog leg. You know minute, minute to do a minute and you did minute the other way and when you start dog-legging, cause all the other people had done the same, they all believed of course of the weather forecast, so suddenly you can feel the slipstream of another plane and you know, never see them.
DK: So just go stepping back a little bit. What was your role then as a flight engineer, if you take a normal operation?
LPW: Well, you were then responsible for all the mechanical and electric drives, and make sure everything, all your tests and so forth, but you assist the pilot in take-off and landing. Until he gets the wheel up, only the throttles would control the direction the plane but as soon as he gets the wheel up, then he can the rudders and will control direction and then you take and open the throttles up and that’s what it’s all about. And other than that and the Halifax, the main job was the fuel system, six six tanks in the wing, you know, and two engines, all different and we had a little computer and it gave all the different heights and engine settings at different speeds and all that in little [unclear] places and then you turned these things round and so you know that you’re using point nine eight gallons per engine for so many minutes, you calculate that on the fuel and so you know exactly how much fuel you got in each tank and when to turn them off, that sort of thing, that’s what the flight engineer is, mainly was.
DK: So, I noticed here towards the end of February, 23rd of February you were then on Lancasters.
LPW: Yeah, we then converted on Lancs, yeah.
DK: So, actually it was a mix, wasn’t it, cause 23rd of February on Lancasters but 24th of February back flying on Halifax.
LPW: Oh yeah, possibly, yeah.
DK: So it was check out on the Lancasters, local flight to a place, to Dortmund and 24th was back on a Halifax. So what was your impressions then of the Halifax against the Lancasters?
LPW: Completely different planes altogether. Halifax, we loved the Halifax, I had my own panel on the Halifax. The pilot sat here, an armour plate behind him, behind the pilot but I had a panel with all those gauges and that on. On the Lanc, you sat beside the pilot but my feeling about the Lanc was claustrophobic to me, very narrow, and all cramped up and we didn’t like it. But of course we were Halifax men but it was a marvellous plane.
DK: Yeah.
LPW: Wasn’t it?
DK: Yeah.
LPW: I mean, the amount of weight they carried and the distance they went, nothing else was touching it.
DK: So, can you remember how many operations you did on each?
LPW: That’s a little bit wrong there.
DK: Cause it’s got here twenty eight ops on Halifaxes and four on Lancs
LPW: yeah, that’s actually should have been thirty and two.
DK: So, thirty on Halifaxes and two on Lancasters.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: So your last operation then, let’s just have a look, is on, it’s a Lancaster then, Lancaster U,
LPW: 20th
DK: 20th of March 1945.
LPW: Yeah. That’s just the day before they crossed the Rhine I think.
DK: Right, and that was to Hemmingstedt.
LPW: Right. In Sweden. No, Denmark, not Sweden, Denmark.
DK: To the south Danish border. And you put here, very excellent prang.
LPW: We were then excellent you see [laughs].
DK: And it says here first back and first to land. So, after your operations then, what did you go on to do then?
LPW: Well, we got a ten-week screening leave and then back to the squadron and two day I was posted to Catterick, that was an aircrew assessment centre, reassessment and well, all aircrew went to assess what they could do on the ground and we were there for three days. I did get down to football with their station team and they sent me home on indefinite leave and I was at home on D-Day, V-E Day and I think on the 13th of May I was posted to the Isle of Man as a UT (under training) flying control assistant and that’s where, that was a navigation school on Isle of Man and we were there till the June of ‘46 and we came back to Topcliffe where I’d done my conversion unit as, cause a Canadian [unclear] took over Topcliffe as a navigation school.
DK: And but at that point did the rest of your crew had they been sent back
LPW: Oh yeah, sent back. I mean, they, in the three days I had come back off leave, the rear gunner told me they’d already gone except him, all the squadron, back.
DK: So, when did you actually leave the RAF then?
LPW: Don’t know, I think February ’47, I think.
DK: And did you go back to the furniture making?
LPW: No. That was my
DK: So Sergeant L P Webb from first of November ‘43 to 12th of March 1947 and [unclear] he was employed largely on clerical work, discharged duties exceptional manner.
LPW: Yeah.
DK: [unclear] duties, carried them out very satisfactory by the squadron leader, so that is dated 7th March 1947.
LPW: And it cost me a three drinks to get him to write that
DK: [laughs]
LPW: Cause you know, they demoted us as aircrew.
DK: So what
LPW: Did you know they demoted all aircrew?
DK: So, what rank were you when you were in aircrew then?
LPW: I reached the dizzy rank of warrant officer. I got my crown after nine, what the hell I got it for I never did know. You automatically got your crown after nine months, twelve months, you see. My past date on the end of July ’44 gave me three stripes and suddenly when I got to the Isle of Man, I was called up in front of the CO, he, I’ve only been there a day, he said, you’re improperly dressed, sergeant, he said, you are actually a flight sergeant, and in that time I was home on indefinite leave, I’d been promoted to flight sergeant. So I had, and now I had three months as a warrant officer and next time it was a twelve weekend and then they demoted all aircrew to sergeant and some of them. If I just stopped in another six months, I would have been demoted to my ground rank, which would have been aircraftsman second class, flying control assistant UT. If I had been in the ground staff the time I went in, I’d had been at least an aircraftsman first class and maybe an LAC leading aircraftsman, that was the unfair part of it all.
DK: It was very unfair, isn’t it?
LPW: Yeah, but I think some chaps I met who, I mean, quite a few had done two tours of ops, in the heavy in the early days when there was, I mean they had no chance of finding the target in the first two years of the war because there was none of these electronic gadgets and then there was days when they were bombing Berlin and the Ruhr and so forth, you know, when they took the heavy toll on them. I met these chaps, one booked on three tours, he’d been a warrant officer for about three years, he signed on for a little extra time, he couldn’t tear himself away from the Air Force, got demoted to sergeant, you know, pretty tough one.
DK: So what was your career then after you came out of the Air Force?
LPW: I then, I don’t know whether it was psychological but I thought I’d like to get into the building trade. So, I took the course on brick-laying and worked for a local firm, went and worked for a big firm in Norwich.
DK: Did you sort of think that at the end of the war you wanted to do something constructive rather than destructive?
LPW: Yeah, I think so. I don’t know whether it was psychological or what it was, you know, I had been part of a destructive force, and
DK: So, how do you look back now on you period in Bomber Command?
LPW: I thought is marvellous. I thought that was a really great time, to tell you the truth.
DK: Did you manage to stay in touch with any of your crews at all?
LPW: Yeah. Yeah, the bomb aimer, I’ve been over to Canada two or three times, to stay with them and I’ve been over to see us, he passed away now.
DK: Which one was the bomb aimer?
LPW: Not the bomb aimer, the wireless operator.
DK: The wireless operator. What was his name?
LPW: Gordon, Gordon Upwell. Ever such a nice chap he was. Ever such a quiet speaking fellow.
DK: So you actually went out to Canada to meet up with him. And did you stay in touch with any of the other?
LPW: No.
DK: Ok. I think that’s probably enough, we have probably spoken more than enough, but thanks very much for that. I’ll turn the recorder off.
LPW: [unclear] Period really.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Lacey Peter Webb,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 24, 2024,

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