Interview with Jim Weston. One


Interview with Jim Weston. One


Jim Weston joined the Royal Air Force because he wanted to become a radio mechanic. While training at RAF Blackpool as air gunner wireless operator, he re-mustered as a pilot. He remembers being posted to 23 Squadron at RAF Little Snoring, where he carried out intruder operations against enemy night fighters. He witnessed the take-off of a V-2 rocket. Jim remembers his last operation to Dresden, targeting an enemy airfield nearby. At the end of the war, he was posted to a Dakota squadron in Egypt. He then flew around two hundred and twenty trips during the Berlin airlift. He spent his last days with the RAF at RAF Cranwell before coming out in 1950. On being demobbed, Jim went back to work at a paper factory.




Temporal Coverage





00:54:13 audio recording


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AWestonJ171130, PWestonJ1703


SP: This is Susanne Pescott and I am interviewing James ‘Jim’ Weston, a pilot with 23 Squadron today for the International Bomber Command Centre’s Digital Archive. We’re at Jim’s home and it is the 30th of November 2017. Also present at the interview is Jim’s son, Steve. So, first of all, thank you, Jim, for agreeing to talk to me today. So first of all, do you want to tell me a little bit about your life before you joined the RAF?
JW: Well, I worked in a paper factory and when the war started I was transferred to the engineering department and by 1940 and ’41 I was on munitions, on a milling machine, making aircraft parts. So when one of my friends had joined up earlier than me was killed in Norway and my other friend was waiting to be called up, so I went to Wigan to join up. They told me that the job I was in, my boss would get me off the list in reserved occupation but the interviewer said, there’s just one exception, if you volunteer for aircrew, and passed the interview and the medical, it takes preference, so that’s what I did, and that’s how I got in the Air Force.
SP: And what was it that you particularly wanted to join the Air Force for?
JW: I was interested in radio. I wanted to become a radio mechanic but when they did call me up some months later, it was to Blackpool to be an air gunner wireless operator. But while I was there in three months in Blackpool, an officer came round and said they were short of pilots and navigators, if anybody wanted to remuster, now was the time, so I remustered and got on a pilot’s course.
SP: So, what was life like at Blackpool at that time?
JW: Well, it was just a fortnight before the Americans came in the war in 1941 and there must have been a thousand men there, learning to be wireless operators, so, I joined this group that went to ACRC in London near Lord’s Cricket Ground in a group, of some flats. From there we were posted to St Andrews in Scotland to join ITW, Initial Training Wing on a pilot’s course. From there three or four months later, after ground subjects, we went to Perth in Scotland on Tiger Moths to learn to fly. So we weren’t told how we’d got on but I’ve been posted from there to Manchester, Heaton Park where people weren’t always easy. We were going to go either South Africa, America or Canada, that’s the three places that pilots were trained and everybody wanted America because we knew how good it was. But late in Autumn of ’42 we got a train to Glasgow and finished up on the Queen Mary which docked in Canada, sorry, docked in Boston, America and we got a train from there to Canada. But the Queen Mary, some weeks before, had collided with a cruiser and sank it and it had, its bowels were crippled, but they hadn’t got time to repair the ship, they filled it with concrete. So I went to America while it was like that some months later before they repaired it properly. So from, the train journey to Canada to a place called Moncton, we went to a Assiniboia to an airfield, it was a three day train journey to get to the middle of Canada and that, from there on we learned to fly Tiger Moths with a covered cockpit because it was very bad weather in Canada, the winter of Canada, I went past the part of the early flying, posted again to North Canada, to North Battleford to fly Oxfords, that meant we were going in to Bomber Command. So by May 1943, we finished the course and we all got wings, posted back down to Moncton again, ready to go for a ship, from there we moved to Halifax, in Nova Scotia, and we caught a ship back to UK, docking in Liverpool in 1943, June I think it was. And from there we went on further training to Scotland on Beaufighters eventually being swapped over to Mosquitoes which got me to Little Snoring in Norfolk where eventually I did a tour.
SP: So, before we talk about your tour, do you want to tell me a little bit about what life was like while you were training, what would a typical day be like while you were doing your training in Canada?
JW: Well, the first part of the training that we did in Perth on Tiger Moths, I think there were thirty of us, and we all have to do so many hours with an instructor, and the instructor threw the aircraft about a bit, mild aerobatics and two of the crew were constantly airsick and they were taken off the course to either be a navigator or a bomb aimer. It seems that they don’t mind you being sick in the back of the aircraft but not if you’re sitting- if you’re flying in it, so we lost two there and gradually the twenty eight of us moved to Canada and some more fell out on the trip. So we finished up eventually getting to Battleford with some more that joined us about thirty odd people that I’ve shown you on that photograph where we got wings.
SP: So, when you were in Canada itself, what was the airbase like where you were, where were you billeted?
JW: The airfield in Assiniboia was a grass airfield so we, it was all snow at the time we were flying on it.
SP: Was that hard to [unclear]?
JW: Well, if you can land an airplane on snow, you can land it anywhere because you have now perception of depth when you’re flying over a white blanket, like I say, some failed by the wayside by doing this.
SP: And you flew quite few different planes there, you said, the Tiger Moths started off and?
JW: Tiger Moth, from Tiger Moth to Oxfords.
SP: Yeah.
JW: And then we got back to UK, more Oxford training and eventually on to Blenheims and Blenheims, from Blenheims you went to Beaufighters and I was on Beaufighters when D-Day was announced. So we were taken off Beaufighters almost overnight and said, you going to go on Mosquitos now not Beaufighters, so, we got two hours dual on a Mosquito and then he said, off you go and that was the amount of training we got on a Mosquito, two hours.
SP: And was it quite a lot different from the?
JW: It was a faster aircraft altogether but a Mosquito.
SP: Yeah. So, which was your preferred plane of those, which did you enjoy flying?
JW: The Mosquito I think, that was, once you got over the odd things about it like slight swing on, take off it was a very nice aircraft that, never had any trouble with it.
SP: Yeah, so, you then got posted to 23 Squadron
JW: 23 Squadron, yeah
SP: At Little Snoring
JW: To do intruder work.
SP: Do you want to tell me a little about what that was, intruder work?
JW: My first trip was to Zuider Zee in Holland, find out the coastline, just a sort of break-in trip and then the next one after that was to Denmark and gradually we went into further ones into Germany with the exception of we did, I did three to Norway and all the rest were Germany.
SP: And what would a typical trip be, what would the role be for you?
JW: Well, we were briefed at two o’clock in the afternoon, told where we were going to go, if there were say thirty of us about to go out that night we went off at different times. It might be from two o’clock after briefing you could be going out as soon as it got dark somebody would be taking off. And then all those wait till four o’clock in the morning to do their take-off, so there was always a constant stream of people going back and to from Snoring.There were two squadrons on the station, 23 and 515.
SP: I’ll just let the clock chiming there [clock chimes] [laughs], yeah, so we got 23 and 515, so, obviously you’d take-off, what would your, what would you be doing in your role on a trip then, so you’d take off and say a typical trip to Germany what would that be?
JW: Well, we took off and I was low level, we never went above about two or three thousand feet down to four hundred feet except on a couple of special occasions when all the squadron were told to all go off at the same time and bomb a certain city to draw the night fighters from one part of Germany to give the heavy boys less trouble. Two of the stations to bomb were Bonn, BONN, we all went to Bonn one night and another night we all went to Wurzburg and we had to bomb from about fifteen thousand feet. And it was a clear night and as I went over the city I could see the trams running, you know when a tram goes over the points you see flashes, electricity, I could see all the trams are running, all the way through the raid,
SP: Did you meet much opposition on the trip?
JW: Never saw any German night fighters but a certain amount of flak, especially over a large city, if you flew over a large city, they’d poop off with the flak but when we went to attack an airfield, the airfield would never fire at you until you’d open the fire first. I suppose they thought they were cloaked in darkness and it was always blacked out the airfield, so, we’d find it, attack it and then the flak would started after we’d done the attack.
SP: Yeah. Are there any particular operations that stand out in your mind for any particular events or anything?
JW: Well, I went to a place called Kitzingen two or three times and that’s just north of Munich I think it is, and just south of the airfield there was a hill with three red lights on it for the German airmen, so if we got a bit misty all we had to do is find these three red lights and fly due North for two minutes and we were over the airfield. I actually attacked Kitzingen on Christmas eve, that was my trip to Kitzingen, and it was lit up and so we attacked it with cannon fire that particular night, the flak started but I’d had gone then.
SP: Particularly how many planes would there be on those sort of operations?
JW: Well, if we had news that one particular station was now harbouring night fighters the attack would be, there’d be about, three of us would be attacking the airfield in rotation, somebody might do it from seven till eight, I might do eight till nine, and somebody would do nine till ten, keep their night fighters on the floor.
SP: So, how do you feel about those operations, cause obviously it was an operation that was really helping the heavy bombers, wasn’t it to keep them out of the air?
JW: Yeah, that was the idea, intruders was designed for that reason so, once you’d done the trip over the airfield, you’d done your hour, if you have any bombs left or cannon fire left you’d attack a train or anything that moved over Germany at night so it was trains, we used to go after the engine.
SP: Was that quite often, you had some time to do that or ammunitions left or
JW: Yes, several, I can’t say the exact number, but it was occasionally we’d have to, have time to do that, yes
SP: Anything else about that time in 23 Squadron that stands out or?
JW: One particular night, I don’t know if it was January or February, I, my turn to go, say about eight o’clock at night, I can’t remember exactly but it was snowing very hard and there was snow already about an inch all over the airfield. So I could taxi round by seeing the blue lights through the snow till I got to take-off point and it was still snowing very hard and I couldn’t see the lights on the runway to guide me for a take-off only the first two or three lights. I sat there with the engine going for a minute or two and then a voice came out of the dark and said, aircraft at the end of the runway, take-off at your own discretion, that means they put it in your call so I figured it and then I thought, well, if I can see two or three lights now from here, as I progressed forward I’ll see the next few and the next few. So I decided to take off and I got off alright but as soon as we were airborne in the snow, I went on to instruments, turned round, this was going west, so I turned round to go east, so, I was over the North Sea when suddenly all the instruments stopped, they were locked, so I didn’t know, what height I was doing, what speed I was doing, so I was, it was still in a snow cloud and I was feeling, flying the aircraft by feel not by incident instrument and it suddenly started to stall, and my navigator shouted at the same time as I put the stick forward and I got out of the storm I thought, I climbed slowly, I wanted to get above the cloud and then drop down when I got through the side.Eventually I got over the cloud and I looked round and the instruments were still locked so I remember being shown a year ago about a direction finder in the tail here, hanging on the loop, on the barrel about this big and it was a direction finder, so, I looked around for the instrument was on the right hand side and by this time I was above the cloud and I looked round and found the North Star and set this gyro to zero for North and then I put a mayday call out. I got a call from, I forget the name of the place but it was Woodbridge in, where is it, near Ipswich I think it is, and it was an emergency airfield and they talked me down, I wanted to know what height I was at and eventually they talked me down and I landed. When I landed the instruments were still stuck and my navigator asked one of the instrument mechanics to come and have a look at it to confirm that I’d landed with no instruments that I’d had the trouble. So we, they put us up for the night and by this time the next morning it had thawed so I went back to Little Snoring then.
SP: So, you obviously you had a night at a different base that time?
JW: What?
SP: You had a night at a different base that time, but you were based at Little Snoring, do you want to tell me a little bit about the airfield and the base there?
JW: That was a couple of miles outside a little town called Fakenham and we got out once or twice into the town but not very often and about every seven weeks we got a leave which extended, you know, over the twenty seven weeks I was based there so I got a few trips home. The CO was a Wing Commander Murphy and he was a real toff, very, one of the old school. But I know on the airfield there used to be a Tiger, no, a Tiger Moth, a Magister aircraft, single engine and an Oxford and all the pilots were supposed to use these two aircraft occasionally, to get keep the hand in and I went to the CO Murphy and I said, I’ve got a weekend off now, can I borrow the Oxford or the Magister? And he said, take the Oxford, and I took it and flew it to the nearest airfield to Warrington, about two miles south of here and I stopped over the weekend and then flew it back. So next time I was off, a few months later, I went to him again and I said, can I borrow the Oxford? And he said, yes, but I want you to take my navigator with you this time, he was a flight lieutenant and he was from Liverpool but we couldn’t land at Liverpool, so we landed at a little airfield opposite Liverpool, on the other side of the Mersey called Hooton Park, so I dropped him off and another person while they went on leave and I came to Stretton and then on the Sunday morning I went back to Hooton Park, picked the two of them, pair of them up and flew them back to Little Snoring. That’s how good the CO was.
SP: Yeah.
JW: Yeah.
SP: The benefits of being a pilot, I’ve not heard that before. Yeah.
JW: Yeah, well, I went to Stretton four times, twice in an Oxford, once in a Magister and another time I was on a seven day leave when the rest of my friends in the squadron we have helped to do an air test and I said to one of them, while you’re doing an air test, can you drop me off at Stretton in Warrington. I took him to Warrington in about twenty minutes and he dropped me off and I came home and when I went back on the train it took me about twelve hours.
SP: Definitely a different journey
JW: Yeah.
SP: So, you talked about your crew there, do you want to talk about your crew, who was in your crew?
JW: My crew?
SP: Yeah, your crew.
JW: It was Don Francis, he was, at the time served instrument mechanic who transferred to aircrew and became a navigator, he was very, very good. Oddly enough, we only lost, was it, eighteen months ago he died. We were due to go and meet him and his sons and they rang us up and said Don had died overnight. So we kept in touch over the years, and met once or twice on reunions but was about to see him for the last time and we were too late, he’d died.
SP: It’s good you kept in touch all those years to catch up.
JW: Oh yeah, we did, yeah.
SP: So, there were two crew on a Mosquito?
JW: Two, yeah.
SP: Yeah. So, and how did you crew up, how did you all get together?
JW: We crewed up when we were on Beaufighters in Scotland, learned to fly a Beaufighter and as soon as you’re competent in it, we all got in one big room and there were say ten pilots and ten navigators and they just said pair up. So he came to me and said, have you crewed up yet? So, I said, no, he said, oh well, I’ll join you then and that’s how we met.
SP: And it worked perfectly ‘cause you really got on, you kept in touch all these years. Yeah.
JW: Yes, we did. [pause] One particular night, I wasn’t available for some reason and my navigator was spare and the CO Wing Commander Murphy went to him and said, would you like to do a trip with me? And Don said, no, he said, why is that? He said, well, I know Weston’s a damn good pilot, but I don’t know what you’re like. So, he wouldn’t go with him. But sometime later, Murphy did the same thing, to a flight sergeant Dougy Darbon and they got shot down. That was the end of Murphy. But there’s been a lot of talk about this Dresden being a cruel raid but actually it was my last raid and I had to go to an airfield in the Ruhr which was supposed to be a night fighter base which is on the way to Dresden but, there was, nothing happened, there was no activity at all and but Dresden was bombed twice I think, once by us and once by the Americans and there’s been a lot of talk about it being cruel, but it was no more cruel than these V-2s that were dropped on London and other places, that was just as bad as attacking, it was, anybody, didn’t it, the V-2?
SP: So the, you were due to go to an airfield that was outside Dresden to draw the night fighters.
JW: To draw the night fighters, or stop the night fighters getting off, yeah.
SP: Yeah.
JW: But, like I say, it didn’t mean a thing towards Dresden and it was the same as Cologne or any other German city, yeah.
SP: Yeah.
JW: Yeah, I remember one particular night, we’d been to an airfield and there was no activity and I said to the navigator, find me a town on the way back, city or a town, and he, he pointed he said 5 minutes will be so and so, and we, I forget the name of the town or the city now, so I dropped a bomb on that and then came back to base. The next night we were getting briefed for another raid, another trip and they announced that this particular city that we dropped one bomb on was due for a four hundred Halifax and Lancaster raid [laughs] so the people who had the first night they think, oh, that bomb, that one bomb, it will be all over in a minute, but four hundred more kept coming, I can’t remember the name of the city now.
SP: You said on one trip you actually escorted four hundred Halifaxes.
JW: Yes.
SP: Can you tell me about that trip?
JW: Five of us were briefed one afternoon to say you’re going to Norway tomorrow but today fly to Scotland , Dallachy, and wait there overnight. And if the raid is still on the next morning, there’s four hundred Halifaxes going to Bergen which is in north Norway after the U-boat pens. So we were told what time they were taking off and we took off an hour later because we were a hundred mile an hour faster and we caught them up, we could find, we were in rain or snow or cloud most of the way but my navigator had them on the radar we knew exactly where they were all the aircraft and as we approached Norway by a miracle about fifty miles away from Norway, the cloud disappeared and it was a perfect day. I was about fifteen thousand feet and I climbed higher because the bombers were gonna go in about fifteen and we could see little ships coming out of the harbour all going out to sea, they all knew what was coming up. Slowly these Halifaxes came over and hit these U-boat pens and in about five or ten minutes, there was nothing but grey smoke coming from the coastline and we’ve circled round and round waiting to see if any German fighters came up but there was no activity like that and eventually the four hundred has finished and we waited till they’d all dropped the bombs and still turned round. We had to escort them to, I think it was two degrees east or something like that, something beyond the range of their fighters and once we let them go, we catching them up again so and circled around to waste time and gradually as they all disappeared back to UK, we went back to Scotland to refuel at Little Snoring. We got back to Little Snoring and put the radio on at night and they said a force of, I don’t think they mentioned Halifaxes, a force of bombers attacked Bergen in Norway today and one aircraft was lost but it wasn’t lost over the target what, we found out later on its way back to UK it flew into a hill and so, it was a completely well worked out trip and nobody hurt at all. [pause] On one particular trip on the way to Holland, about fifteen hundred feet, two thousand feet, I could see V-1s coming the other way and I described it to the debriefing officer later and he said, oh, we know all about them, we are dealing with them. So I forgot that until some weeks or days, I’m not sure of the time, I was approaching Holland and I saw a light on the ground suddenly start to lift off and I thought it was a fighter or another, one of their aircraft about to take off and I followed it and watched it climb and I climbed so far after it and it was a lot faster than me and the last time I saw it, it looked like a star, the light had gone. I reported this to the debriefing officer and he said, ‘oh, we know all about them, you’ll be hearing about it’, so a fortnight later we found out that it was a V-2, I’d seen one take off but as I passed over the spot I told my navigator to plot the position so they knew where it was from but I do believe later they were moving these V-2 sites constantly to baffle the people who were seeing them take off. My last raid was on the night of Dresden. I had to go to an airfield in the Ruhr, it was supposed to be a night fighter base but it was complete darkness I went round and round and found nothing at all and came back to base, having not fired a shot because couldn’t see anything but Dresden was a target that was attacked by the RAF and the American Air Force in over two days so that was the end of my tour. I was, after some leave I was posted back to Scotland to a place called Charterhall where they were training other night fighters base to join the squadrons doing the work, I was on this base when V E Day, so I was posted to another airfield in Lincoln where I met another pilot from 23 Squadron and we were there two or three weeks, and there was a notice came on the notice board, they wanted pilots to train on single engine aircraft Typhoons, to go to the Far East, so I said to this Benny who was, I met there, do you fancy that? So he said, yeah, so we both put our names down this to go and train on single seat fighters. A fortnight later the postings came through, he was posted on Tiger Moths and I was posted on Dakotas which I did for the next three years. So, I joined a squadron at Manston, Kent, going back and to, to Germany and places like Gibraltar until ’47 when I was posted to Burton Wood in Lancashire waiting a posting overseas. Eventually the posting came in, it was Egypt and I was posted to Fayid on the canal zone and there’s, the chief officer of the canal zone, I met him and he saw my logbook and he said, oh, Mosquitoes, he said, I’ll put you on Mosquitoes. After all this training on Dakotas I was now going back on Mosquitoes and it was a PRU unit at Fayid. But they’d formed, photographed everything for five hundred miles in every direction so there was nothing to do until one day the CO came in the crew room and he said, can anybody fly an Anson? Well, I said, I can, I’d had a couple of hours, so he said, right, get yourself on a Dakota to Iraq [clock chimes]
SP: Just wait for the clocks to chime [laughs]
JW: [laughs] When you get to Iraq, at Habbaniyah, you wait there for a York to take you to India, I want you to bring an Anson back because the British were getting out of India at this time, if you remember the date, and so I flew this Anson back the long route all the way back to Egypt, got it back to Fayid and another, a week went by and he said there’s another aircraft in India, who wants to bring it back? Who wants to go? So two of us put our hands up and there was two, two were waiting there, two more Ansons so we did the same trip Habbaniyah. Wait for a York and when the York was approaching Habbaniyah the one, I was a passenger in this York and another York came alongside flying in formation and ahead was only about, fifteen, twenty miles away from Karachi when this other York, this suddenly decided to lift off and come over the top of those, and he came over the top of us and knocked the tail off. The York has three fins at the back and it knocked three foot off, every fin. What the pilot managed to get it down and they were both charged then with dangerous flying but we were very, very lucky that day we didn’t knock it all off. From there they realised there was no work for this PRU squadron (Photographic Reconnaissance Unit) and I was posted to a Dakota squadron at Kabrit, so that was a more interesting place and there lots of trips that we did to, we went to Greece, Sudan, Eritrea, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and India and in 1948, May 1948, how many? Six of us were briefed to go to Israel to bring out the air force, the British were getting out of Israel at this time, three of these aircraft went the first day and I was on the second wave and when we went down to flights the next day the CO was waiting for us, he said, there’s been some trouble at Ramat David, this airfield, the Egyptian Spitfires have come over, five of them and attacked all these Dakotas. One was blown up and burned out, one was damaged and they also attacked the control tower, so he said, you three are going but you’ve a Tempest escort to get you there. So we went off with these Tempest, we got to Ramat David and we evacuated personnel and equipment from there to Cyprus but as we went back, as we went to Cyprus at night time the next day we were in a bar, somebody brought a newspaper in and the headlines were RAF shoot down five Egyptian Spitfires. These Spitfires, they’d come back again and these two Tempests were waiting for them and they shot the five down, so that was the end of that. Actually this, the one that was damaged, was still working on the airfield and I waited with him and eventually he said, the pilot came to me and he said, I’m gonna take off and if it’s alright I’ll come over and give you a waggle and he said, you can take off then. He said, if it’s dangerous, I’ll come and land and I’ll come home with you. Anyway, he took off and he came back apparently alright, did this and then I took off and I flew the last aeroplane out of Israel back to Egypt.
SP: So Jim, do you want to talk a little bit about your route to India when you were doing the transport?
JW: Yeah, the CO of the Dakota squadron said that anybody can fly an Anson, they wanted to bring aircraft from India and I volunteered because I’d flown Ansons and he said, pick yourself a navigator, get a lift to Habbaniyah in Iraq and wait there for a York. This York will take you to Karachi, where there is an Anson waiting to be brought back. Well, an Anson can’t fly very far so I had to come back the long route, which is underneath Iran, what was it? Sharjah, Duwarni, and then we, to Bahrain we stopped the night in Bahrain and then the next day take off from Bahrain and go to Shaibah in Iraq, from Shaibah back to Habbaniyah, stop the night. The next day we took off and went to an airfield in the middle of the desert called LGH 3, Landing Ground number 3, which is halfway between Iraq and Israel, eventually we stopped at Israel, I can’t remember the name of the airfield, we stopped the night there and this particular night there was a fence all around the airfield because of wild dogs and on the second trip, one trip where just two of us went there was, we landed .The night before we left Karachi on the second trip this other pilot and myself went out into the town and had a few drinks and by we didn’t think we something we shouldn’t do, we had something to eat, the next day we both had the runs, so, all the way back we stuck with, having to get out until eventually we got to Israel. I mean, I was in one Nissen hut with my navigator and he, Peter was in another one next door and outside there was a toilet that had been built in between the walls, it was a concrete circle with a wooden seat on top with six partitions for the toilet and in the night, Peter was, he was still in trouble with his stomach, he got up with two lots of paper, one lit and the other one for the obvious reason and he lifted the lid off this toilet he was going to use and threw this lighted one down and it blew up and it woke us up the bang [laughs] and he come and stood in the doorway, we put the light on and he said, just look at me, and he was covered from head to foot in excretum from airmen long since gone and he said, I had to show you because you wouldn’t believed it tomorrow. So he went and had a shower, but, so we didn’t sleep again that night.
SP: Yeah. On one of the trips as well you said that you stopped at a place called Habbaniyah and there was, you say there was a smuggler there
JW: Oh, the smuggler
SP: Yeah
JW: We passed all these things on to him and made a profit on that and then brought some of the cigarettes back to Egypt to a shopkeeper on the base and made a profit on that one as well. Yeah.
SP: Helped increase the salary a little bit [laughs].
JW: Actually, the one, the shopkeeper, he was caught selling these cigarettes and they hadn’t got a stamp on so they put him in jail for a few weeks. A Sudanese lawyer dressed in a smart suit came looking for me and he said, Weston? I said, yes. He said, did you sell some cigarettes to Mr so and so, I said, no, it wasn’t me, he said, oh, he told me it was you but he said, I realised you wouldn’t admit it but he said, in future if you get anymore cigarettes, he said, here’s my card, and this was his lawyer [laughs].
SP: [unclear] [laughs]
JW: Another trip we did from Kabrit, there was some trouble in Eritrea so I can’t, I think it was either three or four aircraft, took twenty soldiers each, to quell this little riot, Eritrea, Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and that was another trip we did, and when we landed there, I was told to go to a certain hut and it was just going dusk when I got to this hut and I put me tackle on the bed and there was no light on and suddenly the window was open and something flew in and clanged into this light and it fell on the floor and the regulars that lived in this hut, they all covered themselves with a blanket or a sheet and I did the same, I said, are they dangerous? They said, no, but aren’t they bloody awful. And it was, it turned out to be a dung beetle and it had flown it and hit the light and it fell on the floor and it looked like a little tortoise on the floor and then suddenly the wings sort of came out of the shell and it went up like a helicopter and out again through the window so I thought it was something dangerous but it wasn’t [laughs].
SP: And very unusual to see.
JW: Yeah.
SP: Yeah. So Jim, you also mentioned you were heavily involved with the Berlin airlift, so do you want to talk a little bit about that?
JW: I will do, yeah. Now, while I was serving in Egypt, a CO came into the crew room one day and said he wanted crews that were willing to go to Germany as the Berlin airlift had started. The airlift had started in June, and in August they wanted more people so I volunteered to go, my crew went with me, and we got a lift to UK, Oakington in Cambridgeshire and the very next day off to Fassberg in Germany and started the airlift from Fassberg. So we go from Fassberg to Gatow in Berlin and back again in two trips a day until the Americans joined in the lift and they wanted an airfield so we were all taken away from Fassberg and went to Lubeck so that the Americans could have Fassberg only for themselves. So we started the airlift again from Lubeck and two trips a day and then you’d finished and the idea was, when we got a weekend off, when you went back to the base, your first trip would be two o’clock in the afternoon, go to Gatow, come back, reload, go back again to Gatow and then back home and then the next day you started at one o’clock and the next day after that you started at twelve o’clock and slowly went back in time. The idea was that everybody would share the night flying that was going on so you did this for about seven or eight weeks and then another weekend off. So when you’ve been on this about three or four months, when you’re having a meal, you didn’t know whether it was breakfast, dinner or supper because you’ve lost track of the day, the time and eventually I finished up doing over two hundred, around about two hundred and twenty trips to Gatow and we landed at Gatow, unloaded and then we either bring back old people or children to Lubeck to be reallocated so there was less mouths to feed in Gatow itself. So the Americans, like I said, they joined, the British went to Gatow and the others went to Tempelhof or Tegel, I’m not sure of the right one, the Americans, and this went on till the following, I think it was the following June when the airlift finished but we carried on doing it even though it was officially finished. The Russians had lifted the barriers on these places but they’d stopped transport coming in and trains so in the fact that the airlift was over but I remember doing two trips to Warsaw after the airlift was over. And I’ve been to a lot of places in Europe like Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Vienna and some places in the Middle East like Gibraltar, Malta and wherever you landed there at one of these places, a well-dressed man or woman would meet you and say, welcome to and take you to immigration but the difference was when we landed at Warsaw, I opened the door of a Dakota and standing underneath it were two rough looking soldiers, Russians with a Tommy gun and they pointed the Tommy gun at you and motioned it down like get off and that was the difference in [laughs] get in the reception, so I only managed to do that twice, yeah, to Warsaw.
SP: You said you did a trip to Warsaw with some diplomats as well you took to Warsaw?
JW: With what?
SP: Some people to negotiate treaties.
JW: Oh yes, I think it was five MPs were going to negotiate some sort of pork or bacon, deal with the Poles, I can’t remember what the other people were they were took in [pause] no, I can’t remember what they were, who they were but I only did two trips to Warsaw from what was the main airfield in UK at the time before Heathrow, I can’t even remember the name of that one now, it’ll be in that logbook.
SP: We’ll copy your logbook, so it’s with the recording, so.
JW: Pardon?
SP: We’ll copy the logbook, so it’s with the recording, so, yeah.
JW: Yes, ok.
SP: So, obviously you completed your time with the RAF.
JW: Yes, I came back to Oakington to do trips to Gibraltar and odd trips around Europe. When it was my time to be finished, the CO sent for me near the end of my tour and said, you’re wanted in air ministry, go to, go get a train voucher and you go to Air Ministry to meet and eventually either a wing commander or squadron leader and I went to Air Ministry on the train and then the Tube and I met this man and he said, I had to bring me logbook, and he opened me logbook and said, oh yes, he said we’ve got a record of this, he said you’ve got a well, a very nice setup, you’ve been a good servant to the RAF, is there something we can do for you? He said, like, where would you like to be posted to for your last few couple of months? So, I said, the nearest airfield to Warrington, the nearest flying unit to Warrington, oh, he said, right. I came back to Oakington, when me posting came through, it was Cranwell, now, Cranwell is the worst place in the world to spend your last days because if it moves in Cranwell you salute it, and if it doesn’t move you paint it white and I only found out, oh, years after, that the nearest airfield to Cranwell is Waddington and this chap in the Air Ministry had got it wrong but I didn’t realise it was in the time so I spent me last time in Cranwell and then I came out in 1950.
SP: And what did you do then after?
JW: Oh, I went back to the same firm I’d worked at. When, you, did I tell you about joining the Air Force, oh, I got, when was it? I went to Wigan, I’ve told you about going to Wigan and the boss got to know about it and said, you’ll not get your allowance, have I mentioned the allowance?
SP: No.
JW: No? Oh, when I went to join up at Wigan, and then they said you could only join up as aircrew.
SP: Yeah.
JW: So, my boss got to found out and he said, I’ll get you off, you know, so I didn’t say anything so a couple of months later my posting came through and I had to go to Padgate and he came to me and he said, I tried to get you off and he said, they tell me you joined flying unit so, I said, yes, he said, you’re not getting your allowance, you know. Apparently if a married man from this firm got called up, he paid his wife so much and if you was single, he paid your mother so much and he said you’ll not get your allowance, so, I said, oh, I managed to say that I’m not bothered about the allowance, I said, I’m going into a war and I thought, well, and twelve months later, while I was in Canada, I got a letter from me mother to say that the manager or the director of this firm had sent for her and said that where’s your son, and she said, he’s in Canada learning to fly, he said, oh, he said, I’ll start paying you this allowance. But I never told me mother about this allowance but she was due it so he started paying it, and he said to her, have you got a job or your husband got a job and she said, no, I have not, me husband’s in a job, he said, well, I’ve got a job for women in munitions part of this factory but would you like a job? So, he gave her a job and he said to her, your husband, tell your husband to come and see me and he gave him a job. And so, they both worked right through to the end of the war. And eventually when my time was over in 1950, I met a girl from the firm that I was going to marry and he sent for me the boss again and he said I believe you are going to marry, so I said, yes, he said, has the firm bought you anything? So I said, no, he said well, what would you like? And I said, I’d like a bedside cabinet in walnut, he said, go and buy one, or get one made, and give me the bill and I am the only man or woman in that factory that ever got a wedding present off the boss. It was on his conscience all that time.
SP: Yes, yeah. And what was the company called?
JW: Chadwick’s paper mill.
SP: Chadwick’s paper mill.
JW: It’s on the side of the river, across there but it’s gone now, it’s been flattened, it’s gone so
SP: It’s based in Warrington
JW: It’s based in Warrington, yes.
SP: Yeah.
JW: It’s quite a big firm, there’s about four hundred people working there.
SP: Yeah. So that was your wife then.
JW: That was the end of time, yes, when I got married, yeah.
SP: And did you stay at Chadwick’s for the rest of your…?
JW: I stayed there for a while. And then I wanted, when Steven came along, me first, and I wanted more money and I went to another engineering firm and went to several jobs like that until eventually I was working at one when the new boss at the Chadwick’s phoned the firm I was working at and said ask Jim to come and see me and he offered me another job, more than I was working, more money than I was working so I went back to Chadwick until it finished again. And then from then I finished up with a job at the college in Warrington as a technician which I served me time there till I was sixty five, that was, that’s thirty years ago I’ve been retired.
SP: You’re ninety-five now.
JW: Yeah.
SP: Ok.
JW: So, that’s the end of my story.
SP: There was a lot of really interesting, lots of different experiences there that you shared with us so on behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre we would like to thank you for your time today, Jim.
JW: Right.
SP: So, thank you.
JW: Ok.
SP: Addition to interview with Jim, so, over to you, Jim.
JW: Twinwood’s an airfield, is a satellite of Cranfield, I was there in the June of ’44 and it was the airfield that Glenn Miller took off for his last flight to France and disappeared, Twinwoods.
SP: Yeah.
JW: I think his band was based in Bedford, Bedfordshire and he was on his way to fix up a date for his band to come and play in Europe, France or somewhere like that when he disappeared and they’ve never found any trace of him at all.
SP: And did you see him at all on the base?
JW: No, I was there some months before him,
SP: Right, yeah.
JW: People said, where did Glenn Miller fly from? And I think he came from a place called Firstford, American base and for some reason came to Twinwoods because that his band was based in Bedford itself and it made some sort of reckoning with him and then he took off in a Norseman, it’s a single engine aeroplane with just him and the pilot.
SP: Ok, well, thank you very much for that, it’s one of those things we will never know until maybe they find the plane and it see whether or not
JW: Might be



Susanne Pescott, “Interview with Jim Weston. One,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 20, 2024,

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