Interview with Herbert James Wylde


Interview with Herbert James Wylde


Herbert James Wylde was working in local government in Glasgow before he volunteered for aircrew training with the RAF. He started pilot training and had gone solo when he was sent to Canada to continue training. While there he began training as a bomb aimer. He was posted to 90 Squadron at RAF Tuddenham. The first operation the crew did was relatively simple and raised their operation confidence. However, a couple of days later their target was the heavily defended Cologne which was completely different and he says the came back different people. He said although luck played a part in operation that was backed by a good crew and he had complete confidence in his. He missed out on the VE Day celebrations because he was in hospital. After the war he returned to his job in local government at Glasgow.




Temporal Coverage




00:42:18 audio recording

Conforms To


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BJ: So, this interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Brenda Jones. The interviewee is Jimmy Wylde. The interview is taking place at Mr Wylde’s home in Glasgow on the 18th of December 2016. Thank you, Mr Wylde for agreeing to talk to me today. So, could you tell me about your life before you joined the RAF?
JW: Well I went to, went to local schools. Shawlands School. Five years. Took my Highers. What they called, in the old days, the Highers. Then I had a temporary job. And then I sat examinations to go into local government. I went into local government within about three or four months of leaving school. And then I went. I was called up. Went to Edinburgh for a test. I wanted to go to aircrew and they give you a test. I sat a test there and they told me to wait. And I think I waited about eighteen months on deferred service until I was called up about, in 1942 I think it was.
BJ: And what were your parent’s occupations?
JW: My father was a lino typer. He was in the newspaper business. A lino type operator. My mother died before the war started.
BJ: Right. So, why did you choose the RAF?
JW: I don’t know. It’s the way they talk. I don’t know. I just fancied it.
BJ: And what did your training involve?
JW: When? Where? Training where? In the RAF?
BJ: The RAF. Yes.
JW: Oh dear, dear, dear. I went to, as you know all the RAF crew went down to the big centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground. And from there I think I went down to Paignton. Yes, Paignton. Did navigation, wireless operation, keep fit. And then from there — oh good grief you’re asking a lot here. Shall we — went to, is it called, a place called Fairoaks? Went to, well went to a centre. Went to, I think the pilot’s course started there and we started training and I went solo inside about seven hours flying. And I passed my solo and then went on a waiting list to go to Canada. We messed about at different places. Holding in Manchester. Heaton Park was a big place. There was about twenty thousand aircrew there. All waiting too. And then from there I went to Canada. Eventually we went to Alberta. A place called, oh was it Penhold? Started training. Started training anyway. And I passed on my first set after about, I can’t, twenty hours. Then from there we went to another place in Alberta. We trained in Oxfords. Twin-engined aircraft. I can’t, oh be in the air, I can’t remember how many hours in that. Maybe, I don’t know, fifty. I don’t know. I got two thirds through that and they decided that I wasn’t all that bright. I wasn’t all that good at it. Funnily enough I knew myself I wasn’t all that clever. So they said, ‘What do you want to be?’ Well I said to [unclear] that got tossed off earlier and he said, ‘It’s a piece of cake this. I’m going to be a bomb aimer.’ Of course, we’d done a lot of the navigation. A lot of the work. And then I went on through Canada. I went from there to Manitoba. Different places. Training. Then dropping bombs ding ding ding. Practice bombs. And at the end of that for some reason they decided I was to go on Coastal Command or something. A bomb aimer, Coastal Command. They sent me to Jarvis in Hamilton, Ontario and we did about a month there. I can check it up. And we dropped bombs on moving targets on the water of Lake Ontario, you know. That was instead of still ones. And then there was one instructor, there was a machine gun thing and of course they had a Lysander used to fly with this windsock covered and you had to fire at it to see if you could hit it. It was a barn door [laughs] Couldn’t hit a barn door. Anyway, it was all part of the training. We left there and came back to Britain and I think we did a lot of, you’re still on the [unclear] holding it all together. The memory is not so clever. I went to, well a few transits. Killing time to get on to the Training Command. Even went on a keep fit course. I’ve got some pictures of it. Oh, it doesn’t matter. I waited to go on to training for Bomber Command. The first place we went to on Bomber Command was a place called Millom in Cumberland. And there we practiced dropping bombs on, I think it was Ansons we were on. And then where did we go? Oh dear dear. Where did we go after that? I’m trying to remember where we went to get crewed-up. We’re coming up to the stage we’re at units. Where did we go to get crewed-up? I can’t remember offhand. Anyway, we went to this big RAF station. Everyone was milling around. They said, ‘Pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, wireless ops. Talk amongst yourselves and see if you can crew up.’ So we all talked to one another and I found Johnny Wade, and there was Norman Wade, the wireless op. Now, his wife, I think, Norman Wade down in London, she said he’s away. He’s away with the fairies. And so we got the crew together. That’s how we crewed-up. Just, we just talked for a while. ‘Yes I’ll, — ' Eventually, we didn’t pick up the engineer at that stage, he came later. And then went on to flying. Practiced on Wellingtons. If you want the places it’s in the book. You can find out. And then from there we went on to Stirlings. And then we went to the squadron. And then we were, we did some daylight trips and navigation trips. And then the big day for our first trip. I always tell people this. This story. Our first trip was a daylight trip. We were all geared up. We thought we were the greatest of course. We were on Bomber Command. And we went to bomb. The dams at Holland were a bit bogged. Went there. Not a drop of flak. A piece of cake. We’d done it. Bees knees. Backed out. Two or three days later up again. Cologne this time. Oh well. I’ll tell you. We got the shock of our life going to Cologne. The flak. You’ve never seen like of it in your life. We were all, we came back different people. It was quite frightening.
BJ: What happened?
JW: Well, nothing happened to us though. But the flak. Oh. I mean, you see at night, the bomb aimers are at the front, quite often you could see the aircraft all at different heights. Lancasters and a lot of Lancasters. We bombed them you know. When the bombs were dropped quite often. If you’re that’s why you always thought hold on to your shed you’ll be bombing from twenty thousand feet. The next week we were bombing from fifteen. We were down at the bottom. There were guys above you and they just opened the doors. But I mean, but the Cologne, from then on it was quite frightening. Oh, but it didn’t bother us an awful lot. That’s, that’s what it was. That’s it
BJ: What was it like being in the bomb compartment?
JW: Well, as a matter of fact all you got was abuse from the crew because as you know you took a picture actually when you dropped your bomb. You had a camera. And the pilot would be saying, ‘Go on.’ I was at the bombsight, ‘Left. Left. Steady. Steady. Steady.’ Quite a run up to the target and then I would get, I won’t tell you the language you heard from back as they dropped so and so bombs. On and on and on. And as a bomb aimer you concentrate on the bombsight. I think you are removed from the rest of the crew who are sitting. I’m working through all this muck that is getting thrown up. And then the bombs away and just got to hold for about a minute steady and then you broke away. That was. That’s it. You got the story.
BJ: What other missions did you fly?
JW: I did, I did the Dresden one.
BJ: Right.
JW: That was towards, that was in February. February ’44.
BJ: What was that like?
JW: Oh, a piece of cake. Oh no flak at all. The next day we went back to [pause] dear, dear, dear, dear, dear. Oh, I’m sorry. That’s the pilot talking that one. Chemnitz. Which is all, Dresden was quite hard — about seven hours. We went to Chemnitz was just up the coast and we dropped them there. There’s one thing, you know. The RAF are bitterly criticized over Dresden. No. I don’t believe in this. If you’re at war you’re at war. I know that you get children and all the rest of it but you chose it and that was it. The Americans went there the next day in daylight. You never hear them talking about it. I mean at the time the opposition, there was no opposition of course at the time, you know. I think it was, I think it was October, or it felt like. [pause, pages turning] Oh come on [pause] A lot of this tells you the story in here. That was, that was after the war was over. Wait a minute. That’s Dresden there. I used to, I wrote some comments at the side. Have you seen one of these?
BJ: Yes. I have. Yeah.
JW: Flying inside the flak was heavy. We came home quite often with maybe an engine short or something. But the one thing about it was that I always said we had a good crew. I would say that you always said you were lucky. Well you had to have a bit of luck. But I was very fortunate. The pilot and the navigator — I would say they were the best. The rest of us were quite good but I thought these two were exceptional. The navigator was a Sergeant Bayne. He came from Falkirk. Was it? We never, we never missed a target. Got there. And Johnny Wade, the skipper it was — somebody had to be above the normal. You could be lucky. I mean your luck. I think if you’ve got a good crew your luck’s increased. And particularly it’s the pilot and the navigator. They were the key people. We were just doing a job but they were the key as far as I was concerned. Johnny Wade particularly. He was terrific. And Alan Bayne, the navigator, we were always there dead on. Never, never lost. He was terrific. Anyway, what else? I can’t think of anything else.
BJ: So, what did you do when you weren’t in the air?
JW: Drank. I’ve got a picture of the pub. It’s at Barton Mills. You may not know. There’s a pub at Barton Mills. It’s quite up near. We used to, I would say we spent more time there then we did in the, in the air I would have said we spent our time training. The fittest we’ve ever been in our life. By the time we finished the squadron you could have swept us aside. You couldn’t have existed if you didn’t. There was a [pause] we had some great nights there boozing. It kept you going. I mean it’s, you were a wee bit, the crew stuck together. We did. We met and mixed. You were a unit. Quite a unit. And I’ll tell you, tell you one episode that took — we came back on time. We’d had this fighter fly to our starboard quarter [unclear] at night time you know. All the guns were chattering and I was down the front. We came back. We landed on there. The rear gunner at the time, no, the rear turret, you wouldn’t have believed he hadn’t been shot dead. The turret was full of holes. Not a scratch. I wouldn’t have believed it till I saw it. You saw the holes in the turret and he was holding his hand, not a scratch. Quite extraordinary.
BJ: What was, how was he after that?
JW: Pardon?
BJ: How was the, how was the gunner?
JW: Och, he was fine. We never thought about things, about what happened. We just lived. We had a good life. The good things were good. Quite solemn and everything when you came down. Coffee. Drinks. Bacon and egg. Eggs were a rarity. No one got them. We got them. But I don’t [pause] it’s difficult. You see you never got close to any other crews. You know what I mean? Our own crew, we stuck quite close together. We were all sergeants. The rank meant nothing. I don’t know why they made different ranks. You got commissions and all that. Suppose you felt a wee bit clever or something. I didn’t agree with it but I just thought. I was saying that actually after the war the reunions were quite nice too. They were quite good at [unclear]. Trying to think of anything else I can really tell you.
BJ: What else do you remember about the missions you flew?
JW: Well, I remember vividly one. It’s a war story. When I tell a war [laughting] story, we went on a mining mission to Sweden. It was in December ’44. I don’t know if you remember, you wouldn’t remember 1944 when the Battle of the Bulge was on and the army. The wind, the snow and the time the weather was terrible. Well, we took off from Tuddenham to lay mines in this, up at Skagerrak in Sweden. We took off [unclear] we got word to say aerodrome closed. Ice. Fog. They diverted us to Lossiemouth. So we went to land there at Lossiemouth. They’d never seen a Lancaster there. They were quite tops you know. We played, I don’t know, we played hard to get. Anyway, we landed at Lossiemouth. We were there two days. Clear to take off. We headed out to go to Tuddenham. We got down as far as Yorkshire. The ice and the fog clamped in. Tuddenham was closed. And they had, have you ever heard of FIDO? FIDO is a, some aerodromes had it for landing in fog. They had burners giving out hot air. We had it but it wasn’t enough. The story starts now. We got diverted to an aerodrome called Pocklington which is in Yorkshire. The United States Flying Fortresses. Lancaster lands, you see. They looked at it you see. The photos were, you must understand about the Yanks. If the Yanks had something they always had to be better. If you had two, they had three. You know. That’s the way it was. Well, on a Lancaster, I don’t know if you know the Lancaster. All your Bomber Command, every mission the aircraft did they put a wee bomb there. A wee bomb was written there. So if that aircraft had done forty missions there were forty wee shells. We landed. The Yanks were, ‘What’s all that?’ Forty missions. We didn’t tell them the plane had done it. We’d only done about fourteen. They treated us like gods. We didn’t tell them because we knew the Yanks. They’d have said they had been a hundred and forty four. But the aeroplane had done forty. We’d done about twenty or so. Didn’t tell them. Isn’t that terrible [laughs] We looked at one another. And they treated us like gods. The next morning the weather cleared and I don’t know whether you’ve seen American pictures of a Flying Fortress taking off. Typical. The Yanks took a terrible hammering in the air. In daylights. More than we did. Do you know the skip cap? All went down. The Yanks, their big cigars. We were up and down in flying control and there was a daylight raid and they all took off one after the other. And then we, then went back down and came back home. But the Yanks. I don’t think people are aware the Yanks took a terrible hiding. But I guess the war, the losses were all that heavy. We lost sometimes one in twenty. At one time there were four in twenty. But the losses at one time they were fifty percent. Terrible. It was about two years earlier. Oh dear, dear, dear, dear. Because two years earlier they didn’t have the radar. You could almost get to the target. But the time they got the radar when I was there you got there. You couldn’t miss it. In the olden days it was very very difficult. Very difficult. And one days, I think it was only about five percent got to the target. If you had twenty aircraft only five got to it. And even then they got within thirty miles. Terrible. Terrible results.
BJ: So, what happened at the end of the war? After victory in Europe?
JW: Victory in Europe was, after the war, after the war, after we’d done our tour we all got siphoned on to doing different things, ‘What do you want to do?’ And I got siphoned first of all to a place called [pause] Where was it? Near Shakespeare’s place.
BJ: Stratford.
JW: Stratford. And there they were trying first to bring in aircraft from the ground. ‘You are now approaching,’ it’s like radar control today. Your plane. I don’t know if it’s true but three in the aircraft and the pilot was carrying. He wasn’t allowed to do anything. He had to follow instructions from the ground. It was hair raising. It was a nightmare. ‘Now, you’re clear to land. Do you see it? It’s over there’ [laughs] After about three I’d had enough. I was in the front. That’s it, I’ve had enough of this. The war was bad enough. This is worse. But from then on, that was on Training Command and then I was in, you wouldn’t believe this, on VE day I was in [pause] oh dear, dear, dear. I was training bomb aimers on Lancasters, flying. And the war ended of course. There was a, oh London was the big place to go for the celebrations. There was about seventy of us in hospital with diarrhoea. Severe. And I spent it in hospital. Not, not, really ill. Couldn’t move. It was what we’d eaten. Instead of being in London enjoying the [pause] we were flat on our backs. That was it. Great celebration. Anything else you want to know?
BJ: So, what did you do after you left the RAF?
JW: I went back to local government because I was in there beforehand. And I spent all my life in local government. I retired when I was sixty. Been retired thirty four years now. And that’s it.
BJ: And how do you think being in Bomber Command affected the rest of your life?
JW: I would have said its, bar getting married you know and all the rest of it it’s the main thing in my life. My main memories. It’s [pause] I was, I don’t know if you know that after sixty years they gave Bomber Command a medal. Winston Churchill. At one time Winston Churchill was, Bomber Command was saving Britain and saving this, when it came to the end of the war. But Dresden did it of course. The world criticised us for Dresden and he wanted, he wanted out. We got no medals. Sixty years later we got one.
BJ: How did you feel about that?
JW: Terrible. And Arthur Harris was criticised left, right and centre. Got no recognition at all. Kicked out. It was Dresden that did it. It was a defenceless city I must admit. It was a defenceless city. But you do as you’re told. And the Russians wanted help, the Russian front. There was a lot of politics in it, you know. A lot of politics in it. But I don’t know. In many ways it was, I’m not going to say good time but it was, I’ll not forget it. I’ll not forget it. That’s about, that’s how I won the war as you’ve got it down there.
BJ: What became of the rest of the crew you were with?
JW: We lost touch. Norman Wade, I think, I spoke to his wife, I still keep in touch with her. Norman Wade, the engineer and the wireless op and myself. We never — we lost contact. After the war we didn’t do much. Afterwards, it must have been twenty years, Norman — I don’t know how I got in contact with Norman Wade. And we started trying to find the other members of the crew. We only found the engineer. Only three of us. I don’t know what happened to them all.
BJ: What was the engineers name?
JW: Jack. It’ll come soon enough. I can’t remember. I have a funny feeling he might not be alive because I haven’t had a Christmas card for two or three years. That’s a sign. We’ve only had a Christmas card that kept us. Norman Wade, I’ve kept in touch by phone with his wife. You haven’t met her, have you? No?
BJ: No. No.
JW: Well she —
BJ: And did you, have you been in touch with the, through the Bomber Command Association?
JW: I tried. They’re very reluctant to divulge information. I think, I don’t know, Norman was, he said he had tried to get into contact with the rest of the crew and didn’t make it. Although, mind you he did say that one of the crew had been in jail or something [laughs] I don’t know. But I lost, although I kept in touch with Bomber Command and that I didn’t, I was a member of the local Bomber Command here but I never got involved because I went to the meetings at the beginning. They were always the same ding ding ding. I never, I never really [pause] I said I’ve had enough of that. My memories were better than that. My memories. I mean Tuddenham itself is, and that says it. That’s it. It must have been about the middle 90s. The local village. We used to go and have a church service at our actual memorial. We had a church service. Then we all went out. We had a dinner dance. And the next morning they walk us to the one in the village memorial to 90 Squadron. It’s still in the village today and that was taken then. I think that’s the only one I’ve got of that. That’s, I think you’ve got all this silly nonsense from me.
BJ: Jimmy, thank you very much for taking the time to show me this.
JW: Is there anything. I don’t think there’s anything. Is that enough for you?
BJ: That’s fine. Yes. That absolutely —
JW: Because I feel that [pause] And, you know, I remember names. There was a Wing Commander Dunham. He was on his third tour. Imagine surviving two and going for a third. I don’t think he made it. I’m not sure. I think he bought it in the end. And then there was Canadians. Canadian casualties. There were a few Canadians. Never really got to know them well but Barton Mills is still there. A hotel and pub. And it’s quite upmarket now. But it’s a drinking den. I would have said that, oh hard to visualise what, if we weren’t on the battle order that was us down there. Did I tell you we bought an Austin 7? Have you heard of an Austin 7?
BJ: Yes. Yeah.
JW: You know that was an old car then and Johnny Wade. He said he could drive. Now I think we, I can’t remember how he picked it up because bicycles even to go down to the village was three or four miles. It was a hell of a pedal. He says, ‘There’s a guy selling an Austin 7 for thirty five pounds.’ Thirty five pounds was a lot of money in those days. So, I think we all put some to it. but Johnny, it was Johnny’s car. He got it. it was a wreck of a thing. Top speed thirty miles an hour. Got us down to the pub and back. And petrol, you couldn’t get. Now we got an arrangement with a local farmer who used to drink in the pub. He had what they called, it was called red, it was red petrol so that the ordinary people if you were using red petrol you shouldn’t. That’s only for farmers. Well we got to the farmer. We paid the farmer his money. We went down there and he let us go out and siphon the petrol. And that’s how we, so we never bought any petrol. We got it from the farmer. That’s so, life was different in those days. It was. I can’t [pause] I can’t remember anything else generally to tell you. You probably hear different stories from different people. Different. They tell you in sepia. They’ve all got different. I would take with a pinch of salt even what I say, everyone says. Memory enhances the view a wee bit. You know. It does, it does change the view a wee bit. I just feel that it’s the sort of thing [pause] Oh Jones. Jones. We came over a daylight raid. We did a few daylight raids and we got back and Jones we knew occasionally. He came down and joined us down at the pub occasionally and his crew. They’d gone down in The Channel. That was it. Oh terrible. But three days later in The Bull, boy walks. They’d been picked up in The Channel. They were straight down the boozer [laughs] and we had drunk to his death already. Jones has gone down. Oh. That’s it. It was a daylight raid but in the daylight you had a chance of getting picked up. He was picked up but funnily enough I can’t remember him flying. He must have gone on sick leave. I can’t remember him flying again. We didn’t see a lot of him. I remember Jones. Why do I remember that? Extraordinary. And I can’t remember my next door neighbour’s name. It’s terrible. I’m trying to think if there’s [pause] no. We got leave. We used to get leave every, we used to get a lot of leave, every what three or four weeks. It depends how the battle order was, how the casualties were, whether you’d be boosted up the list or not. And I was, folk I know, you’re home on leave and a lot of them had sons in the army. They never saw them for years and I was home every four weeks. But I mean —
BJ: What was it like coming home?
JW: Oh, you got a good reception going home. Oh yes. But dear, dear dear [unclear] a friend of mine, he was an accountant. He stayed on to finish his accountancy degree. He wasn’t called up. And he went into the army and into the Tank Corps. Made lieutenant in the Tank Corps. He was down near Ballantrae, Ayrshire. Big tank training people. And he spent the war, the rest of the war there. Never went to Europe. Training. In Glasgow, Gordon Street’s one of the main streets in Glasgow. Gerald [unclear] and we were walking along there and this army boy comes along. Gerald, he’s a bit of snob Gerald, he stopped. Salute. The RAF. [unclear] He dressed this boy down. I said, ‘Gerald, if you do that again you’re on your own.’ He dressed this boy down for not saluting. I never saluted anyone in my life [laughs] You know. He was, I would say he was a bit of a snob. He was a wee bit that way. But he saw out the war in the Tank Corps. He was never, he never left the country. It was the luck of the game. You could be lucky in your postings. I mean some people got posted maybe to the Pacific and that. Different things. A friend of mine got posted to South Africa and he used to spend, his great thing was when they went on leave he used to pinch hotel towels. He had a list of all the towels from all the hotels he stayed in. The RAF do terrible things so they do. Now, I don’t think there’s anything else. You don’t want to see, do you want to see the picture?
BJ: Yes.
JW: That’s all the crew there. You’ll see in that.
BJ: Yeah.
JW: If you want to look underneath there.
BJ: Ok. Right. Ok. This, this your —
JW: That’s the crew there. The engineer’s not there. They’re all there. That’s our Lancaster there. That’s a better picture of the crew there.
BJ: What was your plane?
JW: That’s the Lancaster there.
BJ: Yeah. Do you remember what the, what the symbol was?
JW: No.
BJ: No.
JW: No idea. No. That’s Johnny Wade, the skipper, there. That’s the engineer. But that’s more or less it. What’s that one? That’s yours. I had a few things to look through. I can’t remember. Anyway, that’s my life in the RAF.
BJ: Right.
JW: I don’t think I’ve missed anything. Do you think I’ve covered everything?
BJ: Yes. That’s fine. Yes. Just want to hear what you’ve got, you know. What you remember and what you —
JW: Yes.
BJ: Think about it.
JW: Let’s see. I’m trying to [pause] it might be a bit hard. I can’t remember how many trips we did. [pause] No. It’s over the target I think you get a better, if you manage to get a pilot could tell you because I, he would be concentrating but some of the aircrew like a wireless operator was sitting next to the navigator. I mean you’re always doing something. You’re not aware of the problems. You know.
BJ: Did you have problems in getting the bombs out ever?
JW: No. no. Sometimes, well sometimes different Lancasters. We used to, more or less get the same Lancaster. There was, I think during the war there was a Packard Rolls Royce engine in the Lancaster. Some of them were made in Canada. And one of the aircraft there was a Canadian aircraft that had the engine in, and I always remember that we got this one day with a full load and we had to drag it off the runway. I mean, I feel you could drag it off. Once we got up and got airflow it was alright. I thought it wasn’t going to come up. But that was, I mean I didn’t sit in the front. I sat at the back and once we were airborne I went down to the front but, no. It’s [pause] are you making any more calls today? Are you?
BJ: No. That’s it for today. Yeah.
JW: And you’re going to, when’s the next call?
BJ: I don’t know yet.
JW: You don’t know yet.
BJ: No. No. I don’t know.
JW: How long are you going to be in up Glasgow then?
BJ: Oh, I live in Glasgow.
JW: You live in Glasgow.
BJ: Yes.
JW: Oh, I didn’t know.
BJ: In Partick.
JW: Partick.
BJ: Yeah. Not far.
JW: I used to, I used to stay in Gibson Street. The top of Gibson Street.
BJ: Oh yeah.
JW: In my younger days.
BJ: Nice. Yeah.
JW: And I went to, over the Banks, you wouldn’t know that. It’s at Charing Cross. Woodside School.
BJ: Yes. Yeah.
JW: Well there was several. I didn’t go to Woodside because I was going, I went to Shawlands. I know the West End quite well. The Botanic Gardens. And something else. I’m trying to remember. It’s [pause] no. It’s gone. Did you, have you lived all your life in Glasgow? No.
BJ: About sixteen years. My mum’s from Glasgow.
JW: Oh, I see.
BJ: Yeah. Yeah.
JW: Oh, I mean we’ve been in this house over forty years. It’s, I’m now on my back. Everything’s here because I’ve got, they come in to make my tea tonight about 5 o’clock. I mean I could make it but I’m not allowed to bend. I’ve got to watch what I do.
BJ: Yeah.
JW: I gave up driving last year. So I thought better safe than sorry. I’ve got a wee electric buggy if I want to go down to [pause] trying to think of anything else. Bomber Command. Come on. There must be something else. I can dig up some fairy story. Surely I must have another story. Oh I can’t remember another story. The one thing. It was a black marker. We were flying in the Lake District. Cumberland. In Cumberland Milom was the place. And you wouldn’t believe it. It was night exercises from Bomber Command you know. I think it were Ansons we were on. The casualties through the bad weather were quite heavy. As I said, quite, there wasn’t a night when another Anson didn’t, it was very mountainous around there and I would have said that it wasn’t very clever. There was one night I think. I wasn’t involved in it. Four of the crews went to the thing and said they weren’t going to fly. The wind. The weather was terrible and somebody’s got to make a decision. You have to train. We’ve got to do it. I’m sure they went out nights they shouldn’t have done. Training. And I didn’t fancy it at all you know. But I’m trying to think of something of interest to your point of view. You put it all together. Is this, is actually is it the Association you are with?
BJ: It’s a project so it’s —
JW: By Bomber Command?
BJ: Yes. It’s a project that’s come to just record the history and, you know what was involved in Bomber Command and the memories of the people.
JW: You see the trouble is there’s not many of us left because remember I was a member of the Association here with Flight Lieutenant Reid. The Victoria Cross. He was The President. He died about two or three years ago. He was a most interesting man. He got a Victoria Cross for bringing his aircraft back. His aircraft was nearly destroyed going there and he carried on and came back. But I didn’t know him terribly well. I just remember the Association. I’m still a member but [pause] you can understand there’s a sameness about it. You’re talking the same things. After a while I’d had enough. I mean they are very personal to yourself rather than [pause] I don’t know. It will be interesting. Are you, is this, is that a book that’s going to come about this? You don’t know?
BJ: No. It’s, it’ll be available for anyone who wants to listen to the interviews or read.
JW: Listen to all that rubbish I talked about. Oh, for goodness sake.
BJ: It’s very important to record what it was like for people that were there because we don’t know. We can’t imagine it.
JW: Well you can. Is that still recording?
BJ: Yes.
JW: Well I can say this. Looking back, they were good. It’s hard to say they were good times. And you know they talk about fear and what have you. I can’t remember it but there must have been. There must have been. When you’re twenty-one. Well, you know, you don’t care much, do you? When you’re eighty-one you don’t think like twenty-one. I just feel that we didn’t even question it. The one thing [unclear] Dresden raid really annoyed me because I know it was a defenceless city. I know. But in war there was women and children in London. Germany wanted a war. You got it. You say, well you can’t say Glasgow doesn’t want to be in the war because I’m very sorry. I mean. As I say when you come to it it was the easiest trip we ever did. Because we got there and at that time Mosquitoes were down laying the flares. I don’t know whether you knew we used to bomb on flares. Reds and greens. When you got there you didn’t sort of pinpoint, a shot up. You saw the red and you bombed the area. Your green this time. This time the master bomber was down there and you dropped the reds here. You bombed reds. Bombed reds and whatever it was you know. But as I say these Pathfinders must have had quite a difficult time down. They went down low you know. I’ll tell you what was quite frightening. While the bombs doors open I was going ,when you’re bombing at night time, one Lancaster, I tell you it wasn’t more than about a hundred feet below us. When you’re talking about all these, maybe what, maybe sometimes there might be about eight or nine hundred aircraft over the target about maybe ten minutes. There was a lot of aircraft in the air. There was a lot of crashes you know because you can’t just, anyway. I can’t think of anything else to tell you. That’s it.
BJ: Alright. Thank you very much, Jimmy.
JW: No. No problem.
BJ: Cheers.


Brenda Jones, “Interview with Herbert James Wylde,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 12, 2024,

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