Interview with Jack Webster

Title

Interview with Jack Webster

Description

Jack Webster applied to join the RAF in December 1942 and attended a selection board at RAF Cardington, and was eventually called up in June 1943. After initial training he went to 4 Radio School at RAF Madley passing out from there with eighteen words per minute on Morse Code. From RAF Dumfries Advanced Flying Unit flying in Dominies and Proctors he was posted to 12 OTU Chipping Warden where he crewed up with a Canadian crew, his pilot Flt Lt. Keith Elwood. After completing their heavy conversion on to Lancasters at RAF Bottesford, they were posted to 514 Sqn at RAF Feltwell where they completed one sortie to a synthetic oil installation at Huls. He and his crew were then posted to 138 Squadron at RAF Tuddenham and carried out a further four sorties with them. He and his crew also took part in Operation Manna and Operation Exodus. He left the RAF in 1947.

Creator

Date

2016-10-04

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:48:28 audio recording

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

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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.

Contributor

Identifier

AWebsterJK161004

Transcription

DK: Right. It’s David Kavanagh on the, I think it’s the 4th of October 2016, interviewing Jack Webster at his home. If I just put that there we’ll try and ignore it. If I keep looking down I’m just making sure it’s still going.
JW: That’s right.
DK: I’m not being rude. That’s looks ok. Ok. Could I just sort of ask first of all what you were doing immediately before the war?
JW: I was working in the Public Analyst’s Office.
DK: Right.
JW: Clerical more than anything. And it was a reserved, or it got known as a Reserved Occupation and did I want to join up or not and of course, I said no. Anyway, suddenly, when I was eighteen I suddenly changed my mind.
DK: So, what year would that have been? You were eighteen?
JW: ’25. ’42.
DK: 1942.
JW: December ’42.
DK: So, was it the immediate choice to join the Air Force then? Or —
JW: Oh yes. Yeah. I suddenly decided. The idea of flying suddenly appealed to me.
DK: Right. So, what, what did you, where did you start your training then at with the RAF?
JW: Well, I went to a selection board first.
DK: Right.
JW: At Cardington, and they offered me wireless operator air gunner. They said they’d got too many pilots. And, and they sent me to sort of deferred. Sent me back home and told me to hang on. And then in June ’43 I finally joined up.
DK: So that was a letter through the post was it that you got?
JW: Yes.
DK: From the joining office.
JW: And went to Viceroy Court, in St John’s Wood. Was there about three weeks I suppose and that was the start of the career so to speak. But I mean from there I went to ITW, Initial Training Wing at Bridlington and I can’t remember how long we were there but —
DK: What would you have been doing at the ITW?
JW: It was drill mostly. Drill and admin lessons. And then from there went on to Number 4 Radio School at RAF Madley in Herefordshire where it was more or less all day long Morse more than anything because they suddenly had done away with the air gunnery part because the Lancaster didn’t need the, they had the separate gunners so they just had a straight signaller or wireless op.
DK: Yeah.
JW: And any road I don’t know how long I was at the Radio School but I finally managed to pass out at eighteen words per minute Morse.
DK: Did you enjoy Morse code? Was it something you could do easily?
JW: I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it or it wasn’t easy. We got fed up with it in the end. I mean, I think some of them almost went crazy with it. I mean all day long the instructor would set up a creed machine and he’d sit back and read his paper while we sort of sent messages and things to each other. But anyway, I finally passed out there and got the brevet S and then I was sent to Dumfries Advanced Radio School, Advanced Flying Unit and we, that was on Ansons. They were just the pilot, navigator and the bomb, and the wireless op.
DK: Was that, would that have been the first time you had flown then?
JW: Oh no. I did flew, we flew at Radio School.
DK: Right. Ok.
JW: In, first of all in the old Dominie and I was sick the first time. And then after that we went on to Proctors. They were just the pilot and the wireless op and we had the pilots who were on, had sort of completed their tour. They were on rest period really but they were just flying I suppose and they were fed up with flying anyway. And of course, we had the trailing aerial which used to allow, there was a case of one of them tried to shoot up a plane in the led weights that went through the windows of the trains. They had a strict instruction. No shooting up the planes. But anyway, going back to, I went to Dumfries and, on Ansons and it was the wireless ops job there to reel the undercarriage up which —
DK: Oh right.
JW: By hand which was quite a job. And we flew up and down sort of the Irish Sea, over the Isle of Man and all this sort of thing. More or less more for the navigator than the wireless op because the wireless op was the same as what we were doing all the time really.
DK: Yeah.
JW: And, and then from the, we went to OTU at Chipping Warden.
DK: Can you remember which OTU it was? The number?
JW: I can’t. I don’t know if I’ve got it down in here.
DK: I can check later.
JW: I can’t think where I would have it. Oh, yeah. I have it.
[pause]
DK: That’s ok.
JW: Number 12 OTU.
DK: Number 12 OTU. Ok.
JW: At Chipping Warden. That’s it. And then from there —
DK: What type of aircraft were at the OTUs?
JW: Wellingtons. And that’s where we crewed up and I finished up with a, at the time all the rest of them were all Canadians.
DK: Right.
JW: Until we got to Heavy Conversion Unit when we picked up the pilot engineer.
DK: So how was the crewing done at the OTU? How did you meet your pilot?
JW: We just sort of walked around and I think somebody came up to me and said, ‘Have you got a crew?’ I said, ‘No.’ That was the pilot and he said, ‘Well, you know do, do you fancy joining me?’ So, I mean one was as good as another as far as I was concerned. That turned out he’d already had the two gunners, the navigator and bomb aimer. All Canadian. So, he said, ‘If you don’t mind Canadians.’ So, no. I didn’t. That didn’t worry me.
DK: Can you remember his name? Your pilot’s name.
JW: Yeah. Flight Lieutenant Elwood. Keith Elwood.
DK: And he was Canadian.
JW: Canadian. Yeah.
DK: So what did you think of the Canadians then? As you met them there.
JW: Oh, I got on alright with them there. Yeah. We always went around as a crew. Yeah. Yeah. We picked up the engineer at Heavy Conversion Unit.
DK: Right. Can you remember where the Heavy Conversion Unit was?
JW: 1668 at Bottesford. Between Grantham and Nottingham. Yeah. And —
DK: He was English, was he? The flight engineer.
JW: Yeah. He was English.
DK: So you were the two English and the rest —
JW: Two English.
DK: Were Canadian.
JW: Five were Canadians. Yeah. And, and then, and then from there we were posted to Feltwell. Yeah. RAF Feltwell which was the 514 Squadron at Cambridge.
DK: 514.
JW: And we were, we were only there for one operation and then we got posted to Tuddenham with 138 Squadron.
DK: So where, where was your first operation to with 514?
JW: That was to a synthetic oil works in the Ruhr at a place, I don’t know how you pronounce Hüls and I always remember that some of the plane, it was bombed up and had a four thousand pound cookie and fifteen five hundred pounders and it was a disappointment really. It was a GH bombing through cloud and where the pilot sort of, you fly in a rough formation and the pilot had the equipment or that, the leader had the equipment to determine when to drop that and when he opened his bomb doors you all opened yours. When he dropped his bombs you dropped yours. It was all very well until we nearly over the target then all the planes suddenly made contrails and it was like flying through cloud and after a touch you couldn’t see a thing. The navigator, I said, ‘I think they must have dropped them by now.’ So the pilot went up above the contrails and you could see and they were there. They’d turned off. So we circled around and the navigator, he said, ‘Well, we’re roughly over the target.’ So he just let them all go.
DK: So you never bombed with a GH leader then.
JW: No.
DK: You just —
JW: No. It was —
DK: And this was in daylight presumably.
JW: This was in daylight.
DK: Yeah.
JW: How I don’t know what. When we got back obviously they got interrogated. They didn’t interrogate the wireless op because there’s nothing we could see anyway, really. But what happened with them I don’t know what they, whether they said anything. Whether that was why we suddenly got posted I don’t know [laughs] but 138 Squadron had then converted from special duties. They were at Tempsford. They’d converted the special duties on to heavy bombing.
DK: So just going back a bit presumably it was at the Heavy Conversion Unit that you saw, first flew on the Lancaster was it?
JW: That was when we first flew it. Yes.
DK: So, what were your feelings about flying on that compared to the Wellington and —
JW: Well, that was, that was quite an upgrading so to speak. I mean that was a heavy bomber compared to the Wellington. And you know, everything. It seemed more spacious and yeah —
DK: So, then you’ve got on to 138 Squadron. That’s Lancasters again presumably.
JW: That was Lancasters again. Yes.
DK: And where were they based? 138.
JW: At Tuddenham. Just, we were settled at Mildenhall. In fact, I think we did have one pilot that came back with a bomb load and landed at Mildenhall by mistake instead of Tuddenham. In the night time I suppose that was easy because the two dromes, the drem lighting you know it sort of entwined one another.
DK: So when you were flying out on an operation then what, what’s your role as the wireless operator? What? What do you do when you’re —
JW: Well, the main thing is you just listen. The main thing was you had to listen in every half an hour to base and if they hadn’t got any message they would transmit a number and you had to record that number to prove that you’d heard the —
DK: Transmission.
JW: The transmission. But apart from that it was possibly the navigator might need a loop aerial bearing. Or the Group might transmit a wind, a different wind speed and if there was any recall or cancellation they would, that would come through them.
DK: So, once you got a message you would immediately tell both the pilot and navigator.
JW: If there was, yes.
DK: Yeah.
JW: Yeah. It, it was very rare to get a message. Obviously, there was no verbal messages. They were —
DK: What about your Morse Code training? Did that come in useful when you were once on operations?
JW: I didn’t really use it a lot. It’s funny that all these things you learn, you are taught, they don’t come in to use. I mean, I suppose had we got in to trouble Morse would have been handy then.
DK: What would have been your role as wireless operator then if the aircraft was in trouble?
JW: Well, to send any emergency position that we were at.
DK: Right.
JW: Or if we were coming down in the sea. But other than that there was not much you had to do.
DK: So how many operations did you fly?
JW: I only did five.
DK: Five. So, one with 514 and three with —
JW: Four with —
DK: Four with. So, five altogether.
JW: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
JW: But the, I suppose the, the one I remember most is a daylight on Bremen. The allies were waiting. We were going to go in to Bremen and we were supposed to go and soften them up and they routed us over Wilhelmshaven. And the Met man said before, and when we took off, before we took off he said, ‘There will be ten tenths cloud so you should be alright.’ Of course, when we got over there it was clear. It was. And we were then sort of getting near the target and the rear gunner suddenly, the light came on on the intercom and the rear gunner came on. He said, ‘Oh skipper, the kite behind has been hit.’ So, I got a bit, in the astrodome to have a look just in time to see two of them baling out. I thought well this is, this is getting too close. And we’d hardly got clear of them and suddenly we got hit. Not a, it was just a thump more than anything and the pilot called up he said, ‘Everybody alright?’ Everyone was alright. He said, ‘Can anybody see anything?’ And nobody could see anything. No damage and it wasn’t until we landed that we saw the, there was a hole in the fuselage just near the elsan and the trimmer tab on the rear elevator had been got. It was gone. Of course, he knew there was something wrong because it didn’t fly quite right and there were holes under the, in the wings. Under the wings. But apart from that just after that the master bomber cancelled the operation anyway because the target was obscured with smoke and cloud so —
DK: So you never bombed then.
JW: We bombed.
DK: Oh, you had.
JW: We had bombed.
DK: Oh right. Right.
JW: Yeah. But they stopped it after. I got a, I got a report on the one there somewhere [pause – pages turning] Yeah. The raid [pause] Yeah, the raid was hampered by cloud and by smoke and dust from bombing as the raid progressed. The master bomber ordered the raid to stop after a hundred and ninety five Lancasters had bombed. The whole of numbers 1 and 4 Groups returned home without attacking. So, I found out. I got the result off the internet. That was the, oh we went to Kiel. That’s when we capsized the Admiral Scheer and the Admiral Hipper and the Emden were badly damaged.
DK: Did you manage to see the battleships down there? Or —
JW: No. It was dark. It was night.
DK: It was dark.
JW: Night. There was five hundred and ninety one Lancasters and eight Mosquitoes. There was only three Lancasters lost. And at Bremen there were six hundred and fifty one Lancasters, a hundred Halifaxes, seven hundred and sixty seven aircraft altogether.
DK: Have you got the dates of those? Can I —
JW: Yeah.
DK: So, it’s the 9th 10th of April 1945 was Kiel. And then 14th 15th of April Cuxhaven.
JW: No. That was —
DK: Oh, Potsdam. Sorry.
JW: Potsdam. Yeah.
DK: So, 14th 15th of April 1945 Potsdam.
JW: Yeah.
DK: And then 22nd April 1945 Bremen where your aircraft was damaged.
JW: Yeah.
DK: Do you remember the Potsdam raid at all?
JW: That was night time. That was very [pause] We expected it to be a lot worse than it was. But —
DK: Just outside Berlin isn’t it? Potsdam.
JW: That’s a, that’s the suburb of Berlin.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
JW: That said that was, that was the first time Bomber Command four engine aircraft had entered the Berlin defence since March 1944. But there was only one Lancaster shot got down by a night fighter.
DK: Were you ever attacked by any —
JW: No.
DK: Aircraft.
JW: No.
DK: So just that one incident of damage. Yeah.
JW: One damage. That was the only time we, yeah.
DK: So, moving on then. Presumably you were then involved in Operation Manna.
JW: Manna. Yes.
DK: And how many operations?
JW: I only did, we only did one Manna drop because it was a job to get on. Everybody wanted to do it and some of them were lucky. Some did quite a few. But we only got the one.
DK: Can you remember whereabouts in the Netherlands you dropped the food?
JW: The Hague.
DK: It was at the Hague.
JW: At the Hague. But I think it was probably the race track. They had a big cross out on the ground. And I can always remember as we got there I sort of looked out and you could see a German soldier standing there with a rifle and people were waving sheets and things. The words of my navigator, ‘Gosh,’ he said, ‘Look at those poor bastards.’ Yeah.
DK: So how did that make you feel dropping the food to the —
JW: Oh, that was, that was good. And I mean after that we, I only did the one but in 1983 there was, in the little booklet we used to get every sort of I can’t think what it was called now. I’ve got loads of them. Oh, “Intercom.” That’s right.
DK: Right.
JW: That’s, we used to get that every so often and there was a piece in there about anybody who took part in Operation Manna, if they were interested in having a reunion to contact this chap. So, I thought, I said to my wife, ‘Oh I don’t know. I’m not going to bother.’ ‘Go on. She said, ‘You don’t, you never know.’ So anyway, I contacted him and we had a smashing time in Holland for the weekend. I got a huge piece. I know I typed it all out and on the way back we decided we would meet the following year at Droitwich and we had quite a good weekend there. And then we got invited back to Holland by the Dutch people and we went back there in ’85. Sorry, in ’83. ’85. ’89 and 2000 and gosh they wouldn’t let you pay for anything.
DK: They, they were pleased to see you were they?
JW: Oh, they were. And the first time when we went there we went in to the sort of hotel they’d booked for us and the room was full of sort of chocolates and sweets, drinks and a little thing you know, ‘Thank you for what you did.’ I mean we got more thanks from the Dutch people than we ever did from Bomber Command. It was, yeah and they had one, they actually had a reunion last year but unfortunately I wasn’t in, couldn’t go anyway. But I don’t think there were many of them left.
DK: So, were, were you involved in Exodus as well then?
JW: Yes.
DK: The picking up of the POWs.
JW: The POWs. Yeah.
DK: So, what, can you remember where you landed to pick them up?
JW: Yes. At Juvencourt. There was, we did six I think. Five or six. And brought them back twenty four at a time. And it was there that one of them from 514 Squadron crashed on take-off and they, they lost the whole lot.
DK: Oh dear.
JW: They never did know what happened. They wondered whether the prisoners moved about and upset the balance of the aircraft. They don’t know.
DK: Did you actually see the aircraft crash?
JW: No. No.
DK: Ok. Just —
JW: No.
DK: So, what was the, what was the prisoner’s reaction when they saw you and they were, you were flying them home?
JW: Oh, they were quite pleased to see, I mean it’s funny we, we had, we had to hand them out five cigarettes, a little packet of boiled sweets and a sick bag. And we, we didn’t have any parachutes then. They said it would look bad to have parachutes on when the prisoners didn’t have so we flew without parachutes.
DK: And were they mostly Army POWs?
JW: They were Army POWs. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
JW: And some of the them were, I can remember one chap when, as we saw the cliffs at you know, the white cliffs come in to sight tears came in to his eyes. He was, he’d been away quite a while I think. But oh, they all had trophies. Helmets and bayonets and things. But —
DK: So, what, after the war is finished then what, what —
JW: The war was over. Yeah.
DK: So, what were you. What did you do immediately after that? Did you stay in the RAF for very long?
JW: Oh, they kept us on because they kept us on for what they called the Tiger Force for Japan. And it wasn’t until, well then after that we then did what they called Operation Review which was flying over different parts of the country, and different flying up and down taking photographs. It was as boring as anything. I mean, I think one of them was nine hours we had.
DK: What, what was the point of that then? Just —
JW: They were make, forming new maps I think.
DK: Oh, for map reading.
JW: I think it was. We never did really know why but that’s all we could assume. That they were making some new, new maps.
DK: So that was Operation Review.
JW: Review. Yeah.
DK: The only reason I asked you that is just literally yesterday somebody was asking me what Operation Revue was and nobody knew.
JW: Oh.
DK: You’ve answered the question.
JW: Yeah.
DK: Thank you. So you never really found out what it was for.
JW: Not what it was for. No. We saw a lot —
DK: Were all the squadrons doing this or just yourselves?
JW: No. I don’t, I honestly couldn’t say.
DK: Yeah. So, you were just flying up and down the country taking photos.
JW: Yeah. I mean it was hard on the navigator. He had to work out exactly when to turn and of course they all had to, the photographs all had to overlap.
DK: Right. I’d better tell. I’m going to tell them now what it is. Oh right. Thanks. So, so when did you actually leave the RAF then?
JW: 1947.
DK: Right. If I could just go back a stage you said that you were earmarked for Tiger Force.
JW: Yes.
DK: Going off to the Far East.
JW: Yeah.
DK: What was your feelings when the war, the war suddenly ended?
JW: Well, I suppose we, you know I think we knew. Or you could see it was going to end I think. But they wouldn’t let us go until I don’t know when. That must have been [pause] No. I can’t think. I mean, suddenly they just said, oh you’re redundant and they posted us. They posted. I got posted to [pause] God, I can never remember numbers. My memory for names now. It was RAF Molesworth. That’s it. And there was only, there was nobody in charge there. A, I think a flight sergeant. The bar was open all night. You know. It was, the Americans had left a radiogram there with one record and this one record was, “Off We Go in to The Bright Blue Yonder.” Gosh. And, and that record went and in the end somebody smashed it. But I was, I don’t know what. I was put in charge or asked to look after the cycle store. And that was a huge Nissen hut full of bicycles. And nobody wanted a bike anyway so I [laughs] —
DK: So really the, the war has ended and they really didn’t know what to do with you.
JW: They didn’t know what to do with us.
DK: So, after you’ve left the RAF what did you do then? What was your career?
JW: I went back to the Public Analyst for a very short time. I mean, the thing that, I think when I finished in the Air Force I was earning fifteen and thruppence a day which was pocket money because clothes and food was all found. And when I went back to the work I was earning five pound a week which was nothing really. But —
DK: Was your job left open for you then?
JW: Oh, yes.
DK: So, they —
JW: Yeah
DK: They had to take you back.
JW: They didn’t have to. No.
DK: Right.
JW: Because I left on my own.
DK: Oh ok.
JW: But I wasn’t there that long when I then got a job with the Norwich City Council as a rent collector. And from a rent collector I got to a housing inspector and that’s when I finished.
DK: So, looking back now, seventy odd years later how do you feel about your time in the RAF?
JW: Well. I must say I enjoyed it but when I, it’s funny at the time you don’t think about it but when I look back and I think of the times we took off. Look, every time we had a Cookie on board and a load of bombs and a full load of petrol and you then realise if anything had gone wrong on take-off that would have been the end anyway and —
DK: Did, did you think about those dangers at the time then?
JW: No. That’s what I’m saying. I didn’t.
DK: Yeah.
JW: At the time.
DK: It was full of petrol and high explosives.
JW: Yeah. I didn’t think about it at the time.
DK: Yeah.
JW: But it’s looking back now and —
DK: Do you think that’s because you obviously were a lot younger then? And —
JW: This is it. It was. Yes. Definitely.
DK: Don’t feel the dangers.
JW: And it’s the same I suppose over the target. You think it isn’t going to happen to us you know.
DK: It’s always going to happen to somebody else.
JW: Somebody else. Yeah.
DK: So how, did you stay in touch with your crew then afterwards?
JW: Well, it’s funny. I tried. I tried to contact them and I couldn’t and I, it all happened. I got, this is a long story really but I got an email from a girl whose father was at Waterbeach.
DK: Yeah.
JW: Oh, I said Feltwell. I meant Waterbeach.
DK: Ok.
JW: And she came over here with her mother. Her father had died. She came over here with her mother. Oh no. Her father hadn’t died then. She came over with her father and her mother to visit old places where he’d been and while they were here, her mother they were waiting for a train and her mother had a heart attack and died. And anyway, she then told me that she’d been in touch with several people at Waterbeach and as she heard that we’d been there did I remember her dad who had since died? But I said no. I pointed out that we were only there a short time. And anyway, she suddenly contacted me and said she had heard from a chap who was stationed at Waterbeach and he was trying to contact me. And she gave me his email address and I, I got in touch with him and he had moved from Canada to New Zealand. He’d married and moved over to New Zealand and he gave me an address, email address of someone. A museum in Canada where I might be able to contact the rest of the crew. So, I went on to this email and I couldn’t. There were pages and pages of people wanting to contact. And so I left a message. You know, “Anybody in Flight Lieutenant Elwood’s crew of 138 Squadron —” And I forgot all about it and suddenly I got an email, “I’m Flight Lieutenant Elwood’s son. Unfortunately, my dad has died.”
DK: Oh.
JW: And so —
DK: Do, do you know when he passed away? Your pilot.
JW: I don’t. No.
DK: No. No.
JW: No.
DK: Right.
JW: And at first, the pilot. The engineer had also died. I don’t know how I got in touch with his wife but no, I tried no end of times to try and get in. Even when I met Canadians over in Holland. So I left messages with them to, they were going to try and contact.
DK: You never got in contact with any of the crew then.
JW: No.
DK: No. That’s a shame.
JW: Only the navigator who —
DK: Oh right.
JW: He then, he couldn’t remember a thing about what we’d done.
DK: Oh right.
JW: He’d, he’d shut everything out.
DK: Can you remember the navigator’s name?
JW: Yes. Keith Evans.
DK: And was it Keith Evans who had gone to New Zealand then?
JW: Yes.
DK: Oh, right. Ok.
DK: Yes.
JW: And then he, it was Keith Evans who got you in touch with the Canadians.
JW: No, not Keith. Johnnie. John Evans.
DK: John Evans. So, it was John Evans who went to New Zealand.
JW: Yeah.
DK: He was the navigator.
JW: He was the navigator.
DK: It was he who put you in touch with the Canadian Museum.
JW: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
JW: So, did he, is he still alive or —
JW: No. He’s dead.
DK: Right.
JW: He died of cancer.
DK: Right. And, and he totally blocked out everything.
JW: He blocked out everything.
DK: So you never actually met him then.
JW: No.
DK: Just emailed communications.
JW: Emailed. He couldn’t remember. He couldn’t even remember us getting hit. He’d shut out, he said right from the start he had, he was seeing a psychiatrist or something. He’d shut everything out. All he could think of was the people he might have killed.
DK: Right.
JW: And he shut everything. In fact, he said, ‘Can you tell me about the hit? When we got hit.’ So I tried to tell him on an email as best I could but he couldn’t remember anything.
DK: Did you hear from him again after that? Once you two had —
JW: Oh, we corresponded.
DK: Right.
JW: Backwards, and you know quite regularly.
DK: And did any of it come back to him do you know?
JW: No. No. It’s funny. Operation Manna did.
DK: Right.
JW: He remembered that.
DK: But the, but the actual operations over Germany he’d blocked out.
JW: He couldn’t. No. Or he didn’t know. Whether he didn’t want to I don’t but —
DK: But you say he’s since passed away.
JW: He’s, he’s since died. Yeah.
DK: Ok. I think that’s probably enough. If I stop this now. Well, thanks for that anyway.
JW: Yeah.
DK: That’s really interesting. Thanks for your time.
[recording paused]
DK: So, your crew then. Left to right. So that’s you.
JW: That’s me. He, we called him Sealevel he was so short. He was Clark. L Clark.
DK: Al Clark. Yeah. So what, what he was then?
JW: He was the bomb aimer.
DK: Bomb aimer, so and —
JW: Curly Watson. He was the engineer.
DK: So, he was the other English.
JW: Pilot. The other English chap. Yeah.
DK: Yeah. So you’ve got sergeant.
JW: The first names I don’t. Bulward. his name was Bulward, definitely.
DK: Bill Ward.
JW: Bul, Bulward.
DK: Bulward. Right.
JW: They called him Bull, I think.
DK: Right. Bulward.
JW: That’s Keith Elwood.
DK: That’s, that’s the pilot.
JW: Pilot.
DK: Yeah. And then —
JW: That’s John Evans, the navigator.
DK: Yeah.
JW: And there’s Dave Richardson the rear gunner.
DK: Right. Ok. I notice on here. You mentioned a couple of the Cook’s Tours.
JW: Oh, yes. Yes.
DK: So, what did they involve then?
JW: That was, that’s funny. I had a, I don’t know whether I’ve still got the letter. I had a letter from, oh here it is, from a woman at Downham Market. It was in the book. Have you seen the book, “Yours.” There was a letter in there from this woman that when she was in the WAAFs she flew on a, what they called a Cook’s Tour. She said, “But nobody will believe me.” So I wrote back. Wrote and told her and said that was quite right and and I got a letter to thank me.
DK: So, did you do a number of the Cook’s Tour’s?
JW: Only two.
DK: And did, was there WAAFs on board yours?
JW: No. I can’t. In fact, one of them, one of them had ATC boys.
DK: Oh right. So, and can you remember whereabouts in Germany you went to see the damage?
JW: Oh, we went to Cologne. I can’t really remember now. Actually, it didn’t sort of —
DK: Right.
JW: I I can’t remember other than Cologne. Obviously, we went. What I can remember is coming back we flew, we circled around the Eiffel tower. I said, ‘Well that’s something nobody else had done.’
DK: So, what was people, what was the, the people on board, what was the reaction when you saw the damage on the cities down there?
JW: Well, I honestly, I can’t say what they because I suppose most of them were in the, they weren’t where I was because I was sitting at the, at my place and there’s no room for anybody else there but, so they were either in the cockpit standing where the pilot, behind the pilot or in the bomb bay or even some of them had a ride in the upper turret.
DK: And were they mostly ground crew then on the Cook’s Tours?
JW: Most of them. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I can’t remember any WAAFs.
DK: Right. But you were able to confirm this WAAF that written it in. She’d written a letter then.
JW: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
JW: I’ve got the, if I can find it here. That’s such a —
DK: Right.
JW: Picture. [pause] Oh you never, I don’t think you’d ever read it now. Oh, I must have thrown it away, I think. She put, “Dear Mr Webster, thank you for writing to the editors of, “Yours,” regarding the Cook’s Tours. I’ve received thirty letters from people who either went on one on the trip or verified they did take place. It brought back a lot of memories. One lady wrote to me from — ” I can’t see what it is, it’s gone. And told me there is a table in the Crown Hotel there with names of crews carved on it. I’d love to go back. I wish I had written down the names of the crew I flew with and the WAAF corporal. She passed out going over the Channel. It was quite [pause] especially when —”
[pause]
DK: Right.
JW: “When the pilot dived down at a ship. I’ve often wondered what the message was in code. I could see flashing. I also remember seeing Cologne Cathedral and Essex.”
DK: Essen.
JW: Essen. Oh yeah. Essen. I thought it was Essex. Essen. “I was posted to Bletchley Park after the trip and I was demobbed on the 11th of April ’46. I said I would never volunteer for anything again.” [laughs] Oh it goes on. It’s torn out.
DK: Does it have her name there? The lady’s name.
JW: Yours sincerely, Mrs K Dorrington.
DK: Dorrington.
JW: Queens Road, twenty. That’s from Epping in Essex.
DK: And what’s the date of the letter?
JW: 9.9.’95.
DK: Right. So, a while ago.
JW: Yeah. She was probably in a worst state than this letter you know.
DK: So you mention here Operation [Sun Bombs]. A trip to Castel Benito.
JW: Oh yes. I think that was to give us a holiday more than anything. We were there about three days. All we did was sit around the swimming pool and, well, and went swimming. And it’s funny there was a Flight Lieutenant Banbury who was in 138 Squadron and I’ll always remember he stood on the diving board and he did a dead man, you know where they [pause] I’d never seen it done before. But the funny thing is after I was demobbed I happened to see in one of the local papers that a Flight Lieutenant Banbury had been killed at Watton flying an Anson with some ground staff on board and he hit the caravan coming in to land.
DK: Oh right.
JW: To think he’d flown a Lanc and all that and got crashed off in an Anson.
DK: There’s two more operations here. You’ve got Operation Sinkum.
JW: Oh yeah. That that was just flying out over the Wash dropping a lot of the spare bombs. Old bombs.
DK: And then Operation Spasm.
JW: Yeah. That was a trip to Berlin.
DK: Oh right.
JW: The first ones that went they were lucky. They took cigarettes and bought them for marks and they came back and they could change as many marks as they liked. When we went we could only change back to marks what we’d changed. Took out.
DK: Right.
JW: Yeah.
DK: Can you remember where you landed in Berlin?
JW: Yeah. What was the name of it?
DK: Was it Templehof, was it?
JW: Temple. I think it was.
DK: Yeah.
JW: Yeah. That’s the only one I can —
DK: So, you flew to Templehof and landed.
JW: Landed.
DK: In a Lancaster.
JW: In Lancs. Yeah.
DK: Oh right. And so what, what did you think of Berlin now the war’s ended and you’ve landed there in the centre of the city?
JW: I can’t remember much. We saw the Reichstag. We went to the Olympic Stadium. But apart from that I, I know I went in somebody’s bedroom. The chap, I was after stockings and he took me in to this, his wife was still in bed and he fished under the pillow and came out with these nylons for cigarettes. But —
DK: Was Berlin damaged? Was it?
JW: Well, it was what we saw of it. Yeah.
DK: And you didn’t see any Russians there or anyone or anybody else.
JW: No.
DK: So you were just in the British Sector.
JW: Just in the British Sector. Yeah.
DK: And was there many Lancasters on this trip to Berlin then to land there or, can you remember?
JW: Well, not from my squadron there wasn’t.
DK: No.
JW: I don’t know whether. I suppose other people, I don’t know if other people went there.
DK: Ok. Well, I’ll stop that. Thanks again. I’ll stop and turn it off.

Collection

Citation

David Kavanagh, “Interview with Jack Webster,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 1, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11763.

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