Interview with Bill Thomas


Interview with Bill Thomas


Bill had joined the Air Defence Cadet Corps and Air Training Corps. He volunteered as a pilot in the Royal Air Force and flew Tiger Moths at RAF Sywell but was re-mustered as a navigator. Bill went to Canada as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, where he did bomb aiming, gunnery and navigation training. He was offered a commission and did some special training on Prince Edward Island before going to the holding unit at Moncton.
Bill returned to Scotland and converted to bomb aiming. He crewed up at RAF Castle Donington and went to RAF Sandtoft and RAF Hemswell to the Lancaster Finishing School. Bill was transferred to 166 Squadron at RAF Kirmington, flying Lancasters. They then went to RAF Scampton as 153 Squadron. Bill conducted 29 operations and one which was aborted because of engine problems. Bill then trained as an equipment officer, being sent to RAF Strubby. He then demobilised and returned to his job in local government.
The interview discusses relationships between commissioned and non-commissioned crew, Bill’s thoughts on Dresden, Bomber Command and Arthur Harris, and the awarding of medals.




Temporal Coverage




01:19:53 audio recording


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BB: Ok Bill.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Thank you for allowing me to come into your home and interview you. It’s a real pleasure to meet with a veteran like yourself.
WT: I’ll give you, I’ll give you the bill later on.
BB: Thank you very much. Ok. What’s your birthday date?
WT: 28th January 1922.
BB: And place of birth?
WT: Redruth in Cornwall.
BB: Redruth. And did you go to school there as well?
WT: Yes I did.
BB: And you did your school certificate and all that kind of thing.
WT: I did.
BB: Ok. When did you, did you volunteer to join the RAF or were you conscripted and then decide for aircrew?
WT: Volunteered because as I said I’ve got that thing all written out. We had, in 1938 they started a flight of the Air Defence Cadet Corp.
BB: Yeah
WT: I joined that because our headmaster was an ex-fighter pilot in the First World War. And then I left school to start work so I couldn’t carry on with the flight but I managed to find the town flight and joined them
BB: And what was your pre-war occupation?
WT: In local government.
BB: Ok.
WT: On the health department side.
BB: And what attracted you to wanting to volunteer for aircrew?
WT: I think it, it was our headmaster who was, as I say, he was a fighter pilot.
BB: The ex RAF sea pilot. Yes.
BB: Yeah. Good. He encouraged you to do that.
WT: Not only do that when I, when I was working, walking down past his house, as I had to, I heard, ‘Thomas. Why haven’t you joined the ATC?’ I said, ‘Well,’ ‘It’s the school.’ ‘There’s one down the end of your road. I’ll see you tomorrow night at three.’
BB: Good. So you, you volunteered for aircrew. You obviously went for air crew selection.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And they obviously graded you as, as a bomb aimer or did you go for a particular -
WT: I wanted to be a pilot.
BB: Right. And what happened with that that you couldn’t be. Were they oversubscribed or they just needed bomb aimers?
WT: No well I came out from doing the stuff. I went up to Sywell.
BB: Yeah.
WT: Tiger Moths.
BB: Yeah.
WT: Well I got twelve and a bit hours in but I never saw it
BB: And then you were scrubbed.
WT: Well I could take off. I could do everything in the air
BB: But the landing was a problem.
WT: Landing was a problem. On the little mini run, place -
BB: Yes.
WT: We had.
BB: Yes
WT: But the big one I could get in at. The chief flying instructor
BB: Right.
WT: Took me on a check and he said, ‘I’ll try my best but I don’t know what I can do,’ but he couldn’t.
BB: Anyway, so you were remustered as a bomb aimer.
WT: No. As a NavB.
BB: Oh as a Nav oh as a NavB. Ok. Right.
Other: Excuse me for just a second. Turn it off and press that to start again. Hold that down to this constant.
BB: Ok.
Other: Ok, right.
BB: So -
Other: I want to go and check on my dog.
BB: Ok. So -
Other: I’d better check on the dog in the car.
BB: Ok.
WT: Oh alright my dear.
BB: A NavB.
Do you want me to get up?
BB: A navigator bracket bomb aimer ok. Now, was that the half brevet with the B on it?
WT: No the old-
BB: Oh as the old observer. Ok.
WT: Oh yes.
BB: The flying O.
WT: That’s what I got.
BB: Right.
WT: ‘cause I went to Canada. Eventually.
BB: Oh you went, part of the old Empire Training School.
WT: I did. And I did my bomb aiming and gunnery. And then to oh I’ve forgotten what it’s called now - L’Ancienne-Lorette. And I did my navigation training there. I must have come out fairly well because I got granted a commission.
BB: Right.
WT: So the first six, we never knew which ones out of thirty two were commissioned and then I went to Prince Edward Island and we did three or four weeks special training there to go out over the sea. Navigation and all that. So -
BB: Ok.
WT: That finished.
BB: Right.
WT: Back to Moncton and that was the holding unit.
BB: Yeah.
WT: There for ages waiting to go back to England and eventually doing so. I had come over to Canada on the Queen Elizabeth.
BB: Wow.
WT: Came back on the Aquitania.
BB: Which of course had been converted to a trooper so it wasn’t very luxurious.
WT: Luxurious oh it was luxurious enough.
BB: It was enough, still luxurious.
WT: oh it was alright. And then down to the holding unit waiting to be, go somewhere. We were pushed here there and everywhere and eventually back again and told we were then going to Scotland to something, I said, ‘What is that for? Bomb aimers.
BB: Bomber aimer.
WT: So they converted us from that to bomb aiming.
BB: I see. Right. And so what time, at what date did you actually go, finish that training?
WT: Oh I can do it.
BB: Ok.
WT: Do it from here. [?]
BB: Roughly.
WT: Monckton. Harrogate. Oh back to England in November ’43.
BB: November ‘43 so -
WT: And then to Harrogate.
BB: Yeah.
WT: And then we were at Sidmouth, back to Harrogate again and eventually up to Wigtown.
BB: Oh.
WT: That was April ’44.
BB: Ok and you joined so your OTU where you crewed up. Where was that?
WT: That was down at Castle Donington in May.
BB: Castle.
WT: ’44.
BB: And was that? When my uncle was flying for 9th squadron at Bardney, an Australian pilot he did his OTU at Kinloss.
WT: Ah huh.
BB: And they threw them in to a big hangar and all the navs and the pilots and the air gunners and the bomb aimers were all in this big hangar and they virtually crewed up until they found their own crew.
WT: This is what we did.
BB: Good. So it seemed to have been an RAF -
WT: That was the way of doing it. Yes.
BB: Programme.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And it was, it was very good because each crew kind of found the people they kind of trusted to fly with and they’d ask questions like, to the pilot particularly, ‘Were you alright on your course?’ ‘What were you?’ ‘Oh I was above average.’ ‘You’ll do.’ And it was usually the navigator that found the pilot.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And once they’d got those two, ‘oh I met a bomb aimer over there. A guy I liked.’
WT: This was the way we did it.
BB: And that was exactly the same -
WT: We did it the same way.
BB: That you did it.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Ok and so you were all taking each other on trust at that stage.
WT: Sure and then we went on from there to Prangtoft sorry, Sandtoft.
BB: Sandtoft.
WT: And then Hemswell for Lanc finishing school and then I did what, I was transferred then from there to 166 at Kirmington and 166 squadron was there and we were the 3rd flight. AB. I think it was C flight. And they -
BB: And what were they flying at the time? Lancs?
WT: Well that was Lancs.
BB: Lancs. Yeah.
WT: And what they did was they they nearly burst C flight ready and then we went back actually down to Scampton.
BB: Right.
WT: As 153.
BB: Ok.
WT: And we were the first aircraft to land at Scampton ’cause they had just put the stuff in. We were the first aircraft to land there. In A Able which was somebody else’s kite anyway.
BB: Yes.
WT: But er yeah we went along the runway the lads were all waving. He said, ‘There’s mine’
BB: Now, when my uncle was on 9 squadron in ’43 of course. This was a bit later on in the war. The pilot i.e. my uncle and his navigator flew a second observer, a second crew. They went with a regular crew on a raid.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Who were about to finish their tour so the pilot and the navigator flew on that raid as supernumerary just to see what it was like.
WT: Only one. It was only the pilot went from our -
BB: Ok. Right.
WT: ‘cause he -
BB: They still did that in that place by the time you -
WT: Yes.
BB: Yeah.
WT: They did one trip.
BB: Yeah. As a spare bod. And -
WT: That’s right.
BB: They came back.
WT: That’s right.
BB: And then got their own crew.
WT: That’s right.
BB: Was the air, was the Lancaster you had on 153 a brand new one or was it, had it been recycled?
WT: Well -
BB: From another crew?
WT: Well it was one of the, it was one of the -
BB: One of them.
WT: In fact we didn’t get I Item until about four or five and then it was regular hours.
BB: Ok.
WT: Flying. That’s what it says up there.
BB: Yeah my uncle did much the same thing. He did, he did it seemed to be a Bomber Command practice.
WT: Yeah.
BB: That they got the pilot and the nav to fly these initial sorties.
WT: Ahum.
BB: And then they were given a gash not gash but spare Lancs or –
WT; Yeah.
BB: To fly one or two trips.
WT: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: And then their own brand shiny new Lancaster arrived from the factory and they had that for the whole of the rest of their tour. My uncle’s Lancaster was called Spirit of Russia and it finished the war with a hundred and nine ops.
WT: Did it?
BB: And so it was lucky. But anyway we’re not talking about my uncle we’re talking about.
WT: Thomas.
BB: So there you are on ops.
WT: Yeah and we -
BB: With your scratch crew. Yeah.
WT: Yes and we carried on right up until well we did one on the 3rd of February ’45. No sorry the 7th of March ’45. And on the 8th we did a grand loop.
BB: Ah.
WT: Our pilot passed out.
BB: Oh.
WT: We think it was a fit and we were on our way to Castle.
BB: Ah.
WT: And we came out and [wing co Piley?] said, ‘You’ll be flying tonight’ and we said, ‘Not [so and so] likely until we know what’s happened to the skipper.’ He said, ‘You’ll be on a charge.’ I said, ‘I’ll see you there. Sir’ and left it at that.
BB: So, what, the was pilot was
WT: He -
BB: Obviously written off.
WT: Yes he was pretty.
BB: Wrtten off.
WT: He was gone. By that time they’d taken him away. By the time we’d got gathered together and he came back, tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘It’s alright. The spare crew are going.’ so I saw him in the mess.
BB: He didn’t give you a spare pilot to fly that night.
WT: No. Well he wanted us to fly.
BB: Fly. So you didn’t do that.
WT: We didn’t go. No. We just didn’t. It was -
BB: That was your last trip?
WT: No.
BB: No.
WT: So what happened then, Bruce went into hospital and eventually they realised he wasn’t coming out. They sent us home on leave and brought us back and I can’t remember whether they gave us three weeks or anyway we came back again and we did our last three with a Canadian no an Aussie pilot who’d lost his crew and had three to do.
BB: Right. Ok that -
WT: So he did three.
BB: That was usually the way.
WT: We thought we should have done one more so what we did was twenty nine and a half ‘cause we had an abortion in the middle of it.
BB: Right. Right. Ok and I gather that rather unfairly French targets counted for half.
WT: No.
BB: At that time of the war.
WT: No.
BB: No.
WT: No.
BB: No.
WT: In fact the first one was Fort [Frederick Heinrich] just on the Dutch coast.
BB: Oh right. Ok.
WT: But that was a full.
BB: Ok.
WT: That was full.
BB: Yeah.
WT: They were all full.
BB: Yeah.
WT: ‘Cause we didn’t do very many French ones.
BB: No. Not at that stage. No.
WT: No. We were going out.
BB: No. No. Right.
WT: Including Dresden.
BB: Yes. Now what was you’re, ok we’ll get to Dresden later.
WT: Yes.
BB: ‘Cause it’s been quite controversial and everybody sees that as the bad thing that Bomber Command did. Um what what’s your opinion of that?
WT: My opinion is as I’ve said to many people we bombed Dresden because we, one, we were told to. But it turns out afterwards that Mr Churchill was given from the Russians three, three targets that needed to be hit, Dresden and two others. I don’t know which they were. And he was given to us, he gave them to Bomber Harris and said, ‘There’s the three. You do them whenever you think right.’ And we went on the Dresden -
BB: Yeah.
WT: Trip.
BB: Yeah Churchill gave them to Portal who was chief of the air staff.
WT: Yes and he -
BB: And Portal gave them to Harris.
WT: Yeah and Harris, Harris sent them.
BB: Just did what he was told basically.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Yeah [?]
WT: But Harris said to us, you know, we didn’t, he chose them.
BB: Yes.
WT: He chose Dresden. Ten hours twenty that was.
BB: Yes it was a long trip.
WT: It was. And it was the best bonfire night I’ve ever seen.
BB: Yes it did. It was rather grand.
WT: But -
BB: As far as the crews were concerned –
WT: I found out afterwards and I’ve got the book saying -
BB: Yes.
WT: That Dresden was a target. It was full of troops. They were making very small arms stuff.
BB: Yeah.
WT: For submarines and things like that all scattered all over the place.
BB: Yeah it was a -
WT: So -
BB: Legitimate target.
WT: A legitimate target.
BB: Legitimate target. Yes. So that was Dresden and I think in the post war my own opinion and this is my own opinion and you know Churchill wanted to stand in the Conservative government. Labour were coming up and what we understand of labour it’s now called Labour it was a socialist government coming up and he wanted to back away from the actual how effective Bomber Command had been and um and more or less threw Harris to, to the wolves.
WT: And washed his hands.
BB: And washed his hands of it. But he did the same with Dowding after the Battle of Britain so there we go it says something about the great Churchill doesn’t it?
WT: No. I don’t, don’t respect him.
BB: No.
WT: Anymore.
BB: Anyway -
WT: Sorry.
BB: Enough of that.
WT: Go on.
BB: No. No. It’s ok but I saw Dresden on your bookcase and I thought I’d ask about it.
WT: I got it there.
BB: Now getting back to the crew.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And how you all trusted each other and had to rely on each other.
WT: Yeah.
BB: What, were there any, I mean were you scared?
WT: No.
BB: You weren’t scared.
WT: Never scared.
BB: Ok. Funny I’ve heard this a lot from Bomber Command crews. They weren’t, they were apprehensive but they weren’t particularly scared.
WT: No. We just went in and did it.
BB: And did it. Yeah ok. Now we’ve read a lot, or I’ve read a lot, there’s been a lot of post-war um study on LMF issues.
WT: Yes.
BB: Lack of moral fibre issues. In your time in Bomber Command did you ever come across anything of that sort?
WT: I think there was one. One night that I never found out true there was three of us three kites on a set of pads.
BB: Yeah.
WT: Or whatever you call them.
BB: Yeah.
WT: And we did a run up and then we used to come outside -
BB: Yeah.
WT: For a smoke or whatever knowing that the signal would go up, get in your kites, and there was a pilot on one of those things and I didn’t know him sat in the hedge smoking a cigarette and there was a little bit of a kafuffle and three staff cars came down and he went with them. Now, that was the bloke who had refused to go that night. When we got back everything was hushed.
BB: Was he commissioned?
WT: Yes.
BB: Yeah.
WT: We didn’t, I don’t know what had happened to him. I didn’t know the guy.
BB: He was just posted. That was it. Gone.
WT: It was just, he was just taken off. Yeah.
BB: Yeah ok. What year would that be roughly? Roughly. Doesn’t have to be exact.
WT: I can’t remember. It was certainly in ’44.
BB: Ok.
WT: ’45 I mean.
BB: ’45.
WT: The beginning of ’45.
BB: Because, coming back to my late uncle’s crew his rear gunner um Sergeant Clegg had been a pre-war warrant officer but had been busted down to sergeant many times for doing nasty things, naughty things I should say. I won’t go into details.
WT: Right. No.
BB: But he was always in and out of Sheffield. You know what Sheffield was?
WT: Yeah.
BB: Yeah. He was always in and out of Sheffield and that’s another place that doesn’t have much publicity. It was the air crew rehabilitation centre or whatever they wanted to call it.
WT: Ahum.
BB: But I only found this out by looking at the form 500, 540.
WT: 540.
BB: Yeah and it had all the missions for my uncle and the crews and you’d see Sergeant Clegg and then you’d see three or four trips no Sergeant Clegg some other gash gunner had gone in and I asked some survivors on my late uncle’s crew what about Clegg? At first they were all very protective and then they said well actually Clegg was a bit of a lad and he got into trouble with drink and women and was always been sent to Sheffield but in in the air he was a perfect rigger just I mean you know my uncle trusted him implicitly and when he was at Sheffield my uncle felt really, really uncomfortable with this gash gunner sitting at the back who he didn’t know. But you know he got, he got through his tour unfortunately my uncle but was killed instructing.
WT: Our wireless op he was, he was an Australian and he was a silly B really and he drank like old boots so when he got in the kite he would do everything he had to do but Jack, our navigator was a great guy ‘cause he knew there was a group, a message to come. I’ve forgotten was it half hourly -
BB: Yeah.
WT: Quarter hourly.
BB: Half hourly.
WT: He’d give Digger a kick.
BB: Usually the weather and, yeah.
WT: We’d could usually hear, ‘Digger wake up you silly B.’ And he’d be, ‘Oh oh alright,’ he says and he never missed, he had everything down, he never missed a thing. He knew exactly where we were going.
BB: Yeah. That’s great. My uncle’s navigator was the old man of the crew. He was -
WT: Yeah.
BB: He was thirty two.
WT: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: He’d been a postmaster in the Isle of Man and had volunteered to be a navigator because he was very good at maths but he was the old man of the crew and the rest of the crew called him Pop. Because the average age on, the average age on my uncle’s crew was what nineteen, twenty.
WT: Ahum.
BB: My uncle himself he was twenty one when he was killed. And that’s having done thirty trips.
WT: I was, I got I was twenty one in Canada. While I was in Canada.
BB: Yeah.
WT: I got deferred service so so such a long time.
BB: Yeah.
WT: In fact I registered as I had to do.
BB: Was that because you were local government job that was deferred?
WT: No nothing to do with that at all. ‘cause they were happy.
BB: It wasn’t a reserved occupation or anything.
WT: No it wasn’t.
BB: No.
WT: It wasn’t reserved. What happened was I signed on as we had to do and I said look here’s my number. Oh yes well that’s ok. Three weeks later I got called up for the army and [noise off] that’s somebody downstairs.
BB: Oh right.
WT: Don’t take any notice of that. And I got called up for the army and I managed to get out of that with a big brigadier somebody that we well knew. He rang them up and he said silly B. He told you what was happening because they were going to come and fetch me.
BB: Yeah.
WT: So that worked out alright.
BB: Good.
WT: Because, you know it didn’t always go right.
BB: No.
WT: I was lucky.
BB: So there were, there were evidence of LMF when you were on the squadron.
WT: Just that one.
BB: Just that one.
WT: Just that I know of.
BB: Yeah. Exactly. Just that you know of. And he was commissioned.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Yeah. I’ve heard other stories where had it been a sergeant air crew Harris was so worried about this kind of thing that we would call it post-traumatic stress disorder.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Today um they were, they were lined up in front of the whole squadron, stripped of their chevrons.
WT: That’s right.
BB: And their brevets taken off. Which was very very harsh but it did get the message. And other aircrews I’ve spoken to they were more scared of that happening to them.
WT: That they -
BB: Then facing the Germans.
WT: So that kept them going.
BB: And I suppose that was Harris’ view. You can either be scared of me or you can be scared of them.
WT: Sure.
BB: Make your choice.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Um but it now the Americans had a completely different attitude to it in the 8th air force and they were flying daylight raids.
WT: Ahum.
BB: As you know. So there was a different thing. The other commands, coastal, fighter, transport they had their, it wasn’t so prevalent.
WT: No.
BB: In those commands. But it’s, it’s, it’s an issue that is very interesting academically and the Sheffield thing. So that might be something that might be an aspect of the Bomber Command research.
WT: [?]
BB: No I’m just saying but you knew of it, it happened on your squadron and that was -
WT: That’s it.
BB: Quietly posted away.
WT: Didn’t take no notice of it.
BB: Yes, that’s right. I mean, you know, a very good friend of my father’s, a chap called Musgrave who was a pathfinder, a pre-war fitter when the heavies came in he volunteered to be a flight engineer, went to St Athan, came out with [E] joined his crew at the Heavy Conversion Unit and went on and did his thing but he did ninety three ops at the end and I said to him once, sadly he’s no longer with us but I have his log books and he said, ‘Well, you know we were dead anyway after four,’ four to five ops in that tour no statistically, statistically -
WT: I know. Yes.
BB: Dead. So let’s go.
WT: I’m going to empty that.
BB: Oh I’m sorry. Right.
WT: Are you going to switch it off or not? Whichever you want to do.
BB: No I’ll just.
WT: I’ll run.
BB: No don’t run. Take your time.
WT: No. No.
BB: Take your time.
WT: It’s only two minutes.
BB: Yeah.
BB: Ok.
WT: Sorry about that.
BB: No, don’t be. No, it’s fine.
WT: You can’t stop it you see.
BB: No. I know you can’t. Thank you very much.
WT: You know.
BB: So that’s great.
WT: You know.
BB: That’s great.
That’s great. Sure
BB: We’ve covered why you wanted to join, you joined, you got re-mustered from pilot to bomb aimer sorry NavB er went to Canada for your initial training.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And then came back to the Heavy Conversion Unit. Lancaster finishing school.
WT: Right.
BB: And went to the OTU and got your crew.
WT: Yes. That’s right.
BB: And you did your, you did your trip. Was it twenty nine do you remember? You told me.
WT: We did twenty nine. I always say one was a half.
BB: Ok.
WT: We got out one night and we had an engine go.
BB: A boomerang.
WT: And she wasn’t very, we weren’t very happy but we carried on for a while and then another one started to go sick so we turned -
BB: Now -
WT: So we turned and came back.
BB: Yeah.
WT: That was about -
BB: What mission, what sortie was that?
WT: That was about the 8th of February.
BB: 8th of, yeah.
WT: Politz I think it was called.
BB: 8th of February 45.
WT: Hmmn?
BB: 8th of February 45. Yeah.
WT: Yes.
BB: Yeah.
WT: And er when we got back somebody said, ‘Why didn’t you go on?’ And he had a few rings there and I said, ‘Sir look out on the pan. There’s an aircraft out there. It’s got two good engines. One is alright I think. The other one’s rough.’ I said, ‘There’s seven of us here.’
BB: What did the flight engineer think about it? He must have made the judgement on that?
WT: No, he had -
BB: The captain.
WT: He had to shut it down. It was -
BB: Yeah.
WT: So I said, ‘And you’ve got the seven of us are here are ready to go again.’ I said, ‘We didn’t go over and get a VC and lose your aircraft for you.’ Cause that -
BB: What did he say to that?
WT: So he said, ‘Well forget it.’ I said, ‘just as well [stress] sir.’
BB: Station commander?
WT: Hmmn?
BB: Was that the station commander?
WT: Yeah. No. It was the er -
BB: Squadron commander?
WT: No. It was the station commander. He happened to be there, yes.
BB: Yeah. Station master as they used to call them.
WT: They usually had four rings.
BB: Yeah. Group captain. Yes.
WT: There was the AOC there. He was there. He was great ‘cause I was friendly with his WAAF lady.
BB: Yeah.
WT: I used we used very friendly just chatted and all that and had a drink and I was saying good night to her outside his house one night and suddenly he tapped me on the shoulder, he was coming in. He said, ‘Don’t keep her up all night because she’s got to get me breakfast in the morning.’ He said, ‘This isn’t a -
BB: Yeah, but they knew what was going on.
WT: He knew.
BB: They loved their aircrew. Yeah.
WT: He was happy.
BB: Now -
WT: I’ve done a whole lot screed on me.
BB: I’ll look at that later.
WT: Yeah that’s what I wanted to -
BB: One other thing I wanted to mention to you because -
WT: Yeah.
BB: Bomber Command had a high instance of venereal disease. VD.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And it was, it was a big a big issue because crews were getting sick and having to go to Halton and all these other hospitals and Harris had a view of it that, ‘cause the chief medical officer in Bomber Command went to see him about it, right. Went to see Harris
WT: Ahum.
BB: To, you know, tell him, you know, it’s got to stop and he said, ‘If my old lags want to have a bit of fun let them have it because they could be dead tomorrow. Now get out of my office.’ He said something like that. But I mean did you, were you aware of any of that?
WT: No. No.
BB: Were there any kind of big posters?
WT: No it was -
BB: Or lectures?
WT: No. It was a good squadron as far as that was concerned. No. We had good fun. We had this -
BB: Yeah
WT: We did a lot of that.
BB: Right. But less of the other.
WT: As far as I’m concerned.
BB: Apparently it was a big problem in Bomber Command but probably in certain areas.
WT: We, we were lucky. I was lucky. I think we had a good squadron there.
BB: Yeah.
WT: They really were. I didn’t know all of them or anything.
BB: No. No, of course.
WT: I didn’t get to know them.
BB: No. No. No. You didn’t.
WT: No.
BB: And I suppose there was the usual horror story in the morning when you went in for breakfast and there were blank chairs. Guys didn’t come back.
WT: Yeah but then I mean people weren’t in because I was lucky I was in the mess lower ground floor. All I had to do was come out of my room turn left and right and there was the dining room.
BB: Right.
WT: So I was dead lucky. Well the bar well there was no bar because it was a peacetime mess.
BB: Sure.
WT: I mean we had to go down a little alleyway.
BB: Sure.
WT: And get served in the trap hatch as we called it.
BB: Right.
WT: The [corps?] was very good.
BB: Now inter relationships within the crew between commissioned and non-commissioned crew members? Any, now you flew as a crew and that was it but of course when you landed you went to your separate messes.
WT: Yes well the, Bruce and I were in -
BB: The other mess, officer’s mess.
WT: The other -
BB: Sergeant’s mess.
WT: Five were together in a house.
BB: In a house ok they were billeted in a house.
WT: One of the wartime houses they were in.
BB: Ok. Ok. Right. I’ve heard a lot of stories where they couldn’t mix formally on base so they went to the local pub and the crew got out all together.
WT: Well you couldn’t do it on base.
BB: No. I know.
WT: You couldn’t be walking -
BB: No. I know.
WT: Around chatting.
BB: No but I meant there was the officer’s mess and the sergeants mess.
WT: They couldn’t mix them up. No.
BB: So they went off base to do it. At least that’s what my uncle did.
WT: The only time we, the only time we mixed was the pre-ops meal.
Interview: Yeah.
WT: And usually that was the sergeant’s mess because it was bigger because of their numbers so we could join them there for the meal.
BB: That’s right.
WT: ‘We had our pre-op meal there altogether.
BB: Because you were one of the privileged guys in the Lancasters. PNB pilot/navigator/bombardier. They were the three main crew PNB and they were recruited -
WT: Ahum.
BB: You know as slightly more rigorously selected and recruited more rigorously than let’s say the gunners because you had the, had to have the education to do those jobs.
WT: Oh you did. Yes.
BB: And you had to have the right characteristics.
WT: Yeah.
BB: So -
WT: I had my London General School Certificate.
BB: Well that’s right. That’s right um well that was, that was good. Let’s see, course you came, I mean I’m not, the time you got into the squadron -
WT: Yeah.
BB: It was late ‘43 or early ’44?
WT: Do you know my memory.
BB: Yeah.
WT: It’s the age.
BB: It’s ok.
WT: Alright. My first op was on the 15th of October ‘44.
BB: ’44. So the war was, the war was still there. And -
WT: Oh yes.
BB: Still brutal.
WT: Oh yes.
BB: Bombers were still being lost.
WT: Yes.
BB: Right up to the last day.
WT: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: But was there any feeling of it can’t be long now or did you think it was just going to go on and on until it stopped. I mean did you have any sense that we were winning?
WT: No.
BB: And doing all that stuff?
WT: We were, as I said.
BB: D-day had finished of course.
WT: No, no, yeah it didn’t. D day, D-day, D-day was over, yes.
BB: Yes.
WT: When I was at OTU.
BB: Yeah but there was still, you know -
WT: Yes.
BB: Still the fighting.
WT: Oh yes well we were the old line.
BB: Still bombing.
WT: The line went further -
BB: Yes.
WT: And further back.
BB: Yes, that’s right.
WT: But there was still a line.
BB: Oh a lot of day -
WT: There was.
BB: Yeah. And did you go on any daylights? Because there were a lot of daylight raids coming in
WT: We did, we did the odd daylights. We did one, two, three. About three. No four. I think there were four -
BB: Four daylights and at that stage of the war was the Luftwaffe still effective or were they -.
WT: Hang on. The last one we did was in April.
BB: April.
WT: ‘45.
BB: Ok.
WT: That was at Nordhausen. Wherever that was.
BB: Nordhausen ok but the um but the Luftwaffe by that stage was essentially gone. I mean no fuel, and losses had been high.
WT: They were up in the air.
BB: Yeah.
WT: And I spotted and -
BB: Did you ever see any of the new jets? ME262 or -
WT: I was going to say because I spotted some one night when we were out and we couldn’t understand. We thought they were rockets and they seemed to be going straight up and this happened a couple of times. It was more over Holland.
BB: Oh the V2s coming off.
WT: No. It was, it was the -
BB: Oh the exhaust from the -
WT: New jets.
BB: The new jets. Oh ok.
WT: The new jets no the V2s had finished by that time.
BB: You didn’t, you didn’t
WT: But we, I reported it but didn’t know anything.
BB: Yeah.
WT: I just said I didn’t know what they were.
BB: Yeah ok.
WT: So that was up to them. I, I didn’t know what they were.
BB: No.
WT: Until after the war. I found out.
BB: Yes. Yes and the German night fighters were still around, prowling around um did you, did you at that time they had Junkers 88s and Messerschmitt’s 110s with the Schräge Musik. Upward firing guns.
WT: Yeah. That was yeah.
BB: When they started to appear crews would just see this massive explosion in the sky and -
WT: Ahum.
BB: Thought they’d been hit by flak. They hadn’t, they hadn’t realised that they were getting under the -
WT: No.
BB: The belly and er it took a long time for Bomber Command to actually tell the crews -
WT: Yeah.
BB: About it.
WT: We knew about it.
BB: You knew about it but it, it was a very effective night fighter technique and -
WT: We only, we used to see searchlights in the sky.
BB: Yes.
WT: And there was the old master one.
BB: Yes.
WT: The red one.
BB: Yes and that was the radar and if that locked on to you the radar guided one -
WT: That was radar but one of them was coming towards us and I was screaming to Bruce and he said give me an idea of timing and I said, ‘Now,’ and what we did then we went straight through it.
BB: Yeah.
WT: As quick we could and he went like this and he disappeared.
BB: Yeah.
WT: So in other words he’d he’ll find somebody else.
Instructor: Yeah he’d find somebody else and ‘cause once you’d been combed that was it.
WT: We did it twice.
BB: More or less. Did it twice.
WT: That happened twice.
BB: Yeah.
WT: Ahum.
BB: That was it to get out.
WT: We didn’t get fired at.
BB: Well it happened to my uncle once and he actually put the aircraft straight down the path of the searchlight as best he could.
WT: The front gunner.
BB: With the front gunner blazing like mad.
WT: I would that’s right.
BB: And quick get out of the way and that ‘cause they changed that but it was -
WT: No. But we were, we were lucky.
BB: The [line was still] well ok with the advance of the allies but the German night fighter force went on quite effectively until more or less the end were constrained by fuel at the end and losses.
WT: It was.
BB: And losses of course. But what would between the flak and the night fighters and collisions and all that sort of thing what would you say was the main, the main fear? Night fighters?
WT: I don’t think we had fear.
BB: No.
WT: I’m sorry if -
BB: You put it away.
WT: It sounds big headed but -
BB: No, no, no.
WT: I don’t. I don’t think.
BB: No. I’m not I’m not. Yeah.
WT: We knew we had a job to do. If we didn’t do it -
BB: Ok. I’ll put it -
WT: We were in trouble.
BB: I’ll put it I’ll put it another way.
WT: Yeah. Go on.
BB: When you had the intelligence briefing.
WT: Yeah.
BB: At the brief.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Obviously they briefed you on night fighter tactics
WT: Yeah
Instructor: And where the flak concentrations -
WT: Yeah.
BB: Were and your route was planned.
WT: Yeah.
BB: To avoid these things and you had Window ah Window.
WT: Window.
BB: Were you dropping Window at that stage as a regular thing?
WT: All the way. All the way we could.
BB: And you had Boozer giving you the electronic aid that latched on to the night fighter radar.
WT: I didn’t do anything about that.
BB: Ok. That must have been with the wireless op.
WT: Wireless op had that.
BB: Yeah.
WT: Because he had, he had a little book.
BB: Yeah. That’s right because the Germans countered that by finding the frequency and all the -
WT: That’s right.
Instructor: And all the rest of it.
WT: That’s right.
BB: Everything like that. It went back and forth I think on the -
WT: Yeah he had that on his table.
BB: Yes. Ok. Rebecca and Boozer and all this stuff.
WT: Yeah we had [?]
BB: Yeah but window was quite effective, yeah.
WT: We did that religiously.
BB: Yes.
WT: I was glad to get rid of it mind.
BB: Yes.
WT: Get in the blooming way.
BB: Now the, my uncle’s wireless operator, he was the warmest guy on the Lanc. Everybody else was cold but he was the warmest behind his little curtain.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Um so he was either too hot or too cold but usually hot.
WT: I was happy.
BB: You were alright in your -
WT: I was alright.
BB: Your place.
WT: Where I was.
Instructor: Could you, you were usually you were at the front of course.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Yeah and I mean for take-off you weren’t there you were probably back -
WT: For take-off we had an arrangement. When we were on OTU -
BB: Yeah.
WT: They trained the, what do you call it, to take off with Bruce?
BB: Yeah.
WT: What’s the, God -
BB: Flight engineer.
WT: Flight engineer. Sorry, I’ve got amnesia.
BB: It’s alright.
WT: No the flight engineer he trained, he was trained to take off and land so -
BB: Yes. That’s right.
WT: Fine. Instead of me being down in the nose which was a bad place to be -
BB: Yeah, Yeah.
WT: I’d be sitting on the engineer’s seat and there were two red wheels and those were the fuel.
BB: Yeah.
WT: And they said to me if I ever saw a red light come up.
BB: Scream.
WT: Do that.
BB: Turn it off.
WT: No turn them both off.
Instructor: Yeah.
WT: And that’s what I did until he poked me in the back and he said, ‘I’ve finished Bob, now’ and I’d say, ‘Cheers.’ and I’d go back to my office. We did that. I came up to landing the same way.
BB: Right. Now again I’m sorry to go back again to my uncle’s crew because it’s, it’s not him we’re talking about but they were representative. His bomb aimer, every time they were approaching the target, the whole crew would get on you know well the captain would say, ‘Try and make it one run this time will you?’ ‘Cause you know, ‘Sorry I’ve got to go around again boss. You know it was like it was never did so it was -
WT: Never did one more round. We went in every time.
BB: Excellent. Excellent.
WT: ‘cause I think it was a question of where you were.
BB: Yes, I understand. In the bomber stream. Yes.
WT: You know, in the stream. But I never had to once.
BB: Because you know the Germans were great at having dummy markers and flares.
WT: Sure.
BB: And changing the, trying to get a feel for the aiming point and, you know.
WT: And the whole thing when you worked it out the whole cross wind.
BB: Yes. Yes.
WT: You could pick it up
Instructor: Yes,
WT: Ages before you
BB: Right.
WT: And I’d get Bruce to change so that we had a good direction.
BB: Right. Ok.
WT: And he was very good ‘cause he just used the pedals to to do
BB: [the rudder bar] yes that’s right to correct the [yaw] My uncle’s bomb aimer only went around I think twice on one target but it was, it was, it was an important one. Um ‘cause my uncle went to Peenemunde. He did the Peenemunde raid. Well he was lucky. He was in the first wave. The diversion raids had, there were no night fighters because -
WT: No.
BB: They had, they weren’t there.
WT: They were somewhere else.
BB: They were somewhere else.
WT: Yeah.
BB: But the guys in the third wave-
WT: They copped it didn’t they?
BB: They copped it. Yeah. But of course they weren’t told what it was for.
WT: We were very, very lucky. I really think we were.
BB: I think luck had a big part to play whether you survived your tour or not
WT: I think so.
BB: And that yes as well
WT: Yes.
BB: That and a great crew and a competent crew.
WT: Well our navigator was red hot.
BB: Yeah.
WT: ‘cause one day Bruce said to him, ‘Jack, why don’t you let Bill take over?’ And before I could say anything he said, Bill you don’t mind or Bobs they used to call me. ‘Bobs you don’t mind but I’d rather be responsible myself for what’s happening.’ I said, ‘I’d rather you did.’ And he did. And he didn’t want me to help with the Gee. He did it all himself.
BB: No. Yeah. Yeah.
WT: He wanted to do it all himself. No, he did it all himself.
BB: Yeah. My uncle’s navigator too. He had all these aids.
WT: Yeah.
BB: But he liked to do it himself and used Gee as a backup you know and -
WT: You know Jack was a good navigator.
Instructor: Yeah.
WT: In fact I contacted him after the war. He was over in er, on the east, west coast somewhere and I had a couple of words with him, He got taken ill and died just like that within nine months of my knowing him.
BB: Oh dear.
WT: There’s one of our crew left still here. Harry the rear gunner. He’s down in Yorkshire.
BB: Oh right I must get his -
WT: He’s not a hundred percent.
BB: No.
WT: At the moment.
BB: No.
WT: And we have a reunion of 153 but it’s got that about there’s only about two members.
BB: No.
WT: That go. It’s all the associate members.
BB: I know.
WT: But they meet every year down in err oh down the road -
BB: Scampton oh in Yorkshire. No in -
WT: Lincoln.
BB: Lincoln. Scampton, Waddington.
WT: No. In Lincoln itself.
BB: Oh Lincoln. Ok
WT: In a pub, in a, in a hotel
BB: Yes.
WT: And go to BBMF.
BB: Yes.
WT: And BBMF -
BB: Yes
WT: Bring them in.
BB: Yeah it’s great. I’ve been there.
WT: They are very much with us.
BB: I had the very great privilege of flying in the BBMF Lancaster.
WT: Did you?
BB: Yeah I was on duty as a reservist and briefing and debriefing crews. Modern crews.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And they said do you want, do you want a flight? And I said yeah. They said, ‘There’s Jacko Jackson over there.’
WT: Ah.
BB: ‘He’s the captain.’ He said, ‘Go and see Jacko.’
WT: Yeah.
BB: And he’ll fix you up and I went across and I said, I was a flying officer at the time and I said, ‘Good morning sir.’ And he said, ‘Yeah. I know about you. You’re coming with me on a one hour flip around in the Lanc.’ We were doing a test, air test of something so
WT: Ahum.
BB: It was wonderful and I told him about my uncle and all that and I went to every position except the rear gunner position.
WT: Yeah.
BB: They wouldn’t let you in there but I went mid upper gunner, I went down the bomb aimer and it was the bomb aimer’s place. It was, it was great but you get a sense of how that main spar going across could be a real hindrance if you had to get out.
WT: I’ve got some photographs I don’t know where they are now of our people in that one going over the main spar.
BB: With all the kit on?
WT: No. Well we didn’t have that. We used to throw that down over the top but there’s one of the ladies, she took over as the squadron scribe, association scribe and I still keep in touch with her and there’s one of her looking over the top and all I could see was her backside so it appeared on the thing
Instructor: Yeah.
WT: Guess who?
BB: Guess who. Because you either went out the main door at the back.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Or you went out the bomb aimers hatch at the top.
WT: Hatch.
BB: Yeah and when that, if that’s in a spin or you know it was difficult but it was difficult getting out of the Lancaster but it was quite difficult when those things -
WT: Sure.
BB: When they caught you.
WT: I say, you know, we were so lucky.
BB: Yeah.
WT: So lucky.
BB: Yeah. So did all your crew that you trained with and flew with survive the war?
WT: Yes we all survived.
BB: All survived.
WT: Together yes we all survived together and after that we were dispersed to various place
BB: Of course. Yes.
WT: I went one way, somebody went, Harry funnily enough he was a sergeant he was sent to India and he was in the post office out there somewhere and they dropped him to corporal.
BB: Yeah. That happened a lot.
WT: Terrible that was. I couldn’t understand that.
BB: Wartime temporary. Now you’re a corporal. Yes.
WT: Yeah.
Instructor: That’s right. Yeah. And err in your own case when the war finished when did you actually leave the air force? Was it ‘46 sometime or -
WT: Yeah. I think, ohI can’t remember offhand.
BB: Well just vaguely?
WT: It’s in my in -
BB: Logbook?
WT: No. It’s in my script somewhere.
BB: Oh ok. Well anyway it was most. Most were let loose by 1947.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Yeah. Most.
WT: Where did I put my scribe script?
BB: Oh don’t worry about it but where
WT: Oh, here it is in my hand.
BB: What did they have you do in that time?
WT: Oh.
BB: Were you supernumerary somewhere or were you -
WT: No they wanted, wanted us to train as something and I trained as an equipment officer.
BB: Right ok so the whole surplus aircrew thing.
WT: Yes.
BB: Because of the war
WT: Yeah.
Instructor: They said you can go home, you’re a good bloke, you’re commissioned we need you blah blah blah but you got to remuster as something else.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And, and -
WT: And I was told that’s what I was going to be. I did a course for six weeks on equipment. Got sent to RAF Strubby.
BB: Oh I know where -
WT: Which had been -
BB: Strubby is in Lincolnshire.
WT: Coldest place on earth. Was shut down and it was ready to be everything taken out.
BB: Right.
WT: And I had a few bods there to do that and we had trucks coming out
BB: Taking -
WT: Getting rid of stuff and so on.
BB: That’s right
WT: And I had another guy ‘cause I was attached to some maintenance unit over on the coast and they sent a guy to help me Frank Wilkes bless him a brummy and we worked together and we both got our going off together so we, we, we went off down to London to get our -
BB: Right got your demob suit and out you went.
WT: I didn’t want a hat so he put his, he put my hat that I would have on. I took it outside and I gave it to - [laughs]
BB: So, ok. So you were demobbed.
WT: Yeah.
BB: After all of that. Having gone through that having gone through all that with Bomber Command being demobbed, done your trips with all the trials and tribulations and terror of what could have happened. What did you do then?
WT: I went back to my job.
BB: You went back to your job.
WT: It was reserved. I joined the health department of the Cornwall County Council in September ‘39, no August ’39.
BB: Yeah.
WT: So I was there then until I joined up but my job was held for me, my, while I was only on my two bob or whatever it was a week my pay was made up.
BB: Right.
WT: But as soon as I got more that stopped and I had to go in and pay the, pay the difference
BB: And obviously you rebuilt your life.
WT: Yeah.
BB: After that and here we are and well done.
WT: My wife, my wife was -
BB: I was going to ask about that.
WT: She was -
BB: Did you meet her in the RAF?
WT: No I met her in, at work.
BB: At work.
WT: I remember it was -
BB: Post war work.
WT: Yeah. The uniform did it.
BB: Ah the uniform did it.
WT: So what I would -
BB: It still had the pull of the air crew.
WT: Well I always went up in my full uniform.
BB: Of course you did.
WT: And it was funny when we had that grand loop.
BB: Yeah.
WT: I went home on leave. I went up to see somebody and I went in see the boss ‘cause I was his favourite. He was the first boy post boy he’d ever appointed ‘cause he was new.
BB: Ah.
WT: Dr Curnow and
BB: Curnow?
WT: Curnow same as Cornwall
BB: Yeah.
WT: Curnow.
BB: Yeah.
WT: C u r n o w.
BB: Yes I had, one of my medical officers was from Cornwall. His name was Curnow.
WT: Yeah. He, he stayed there all the time. For a long, long time and he said to me, when I’d finished I went back, and there was a brr brr and his secretary said that, ‘Yes he is.’ She said, ‘He says go in.’ He said, ‘Sit down. Have you finished?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Hold your hands out.’ He said, ‘You couldn’t do that last time you were here,’ he said, ‘You had the twitch.‘
BB: I was going to come to that
WT: [?] yeah
BB: This chap Musgrave I was telling you about. The guy that did the ninety three trips. He had a permanent twitch. It was sort of –
WT: Ahum.
BB: Like that.
WT: No. No.
BB: But he had a twitch and everybody knew you know he had been
WT: Yeah.
BB: Bomber command but he was very, not because he was boasting about it they just knew that he got out. He finished the war with DFC, DFM and God knows else what but he’d been a pre-war guy but he had a twitch and I asked him once where he got it. How it started. And he said he’d had a crash and er he survived. One or two guys didn’t and that affected him.
WT: That was, that was from when it started because he had said he hadn’t noticed it before.
BB: Yeah.
WT: He was a good chief was Doc Curnow.
BB: So
WT: I was his boy.
BB: Yeah. So these things did have a knock on, knock on affect.
WT: Sure.
BB: Now, the, and then you had all that post war thing you know getting a job, getting married, a family and all of that. Most of the Bomber Command people that I have met and indeed other wartime aircrew not just Bomber Command they never, ever talked about it for years and years. Never.
WT: I agree.
BB: And some of them really still are reticent to talk um either it’s too painful for them one way or another.
WT: I don’t know.
BB: Or it’s just that was that was a bit of my life I’ve now put it in a cupboard.
WT: That was me.
BB: And get on with life.
WT: For a long, long time.
BB: Yeah.
WT: Until eventually I joined you know the Aircrew Association and so on
BB: Yes. That’s right.
WT: Especially when I came up here.
BB: Well I mean you guys were young and you’d gone through such a lot.
WT: Ahum.
BB: And it was very hectic and life was for today.
WT: Yes.
BB: Tomorrow you didn’t know if it was going to happen.
WT: I was, I was getting, I was married.
BB: Yeah. You had responsibilities.
WT: And we had our -
BB: And other things took priority over all of that.
WT: Yes, there were.
BB: And then of course there was this post war denial about Bomber Command.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And what they did and all the rest of it. How did that make you feel? Did it make you feel angry? Did it make you feel what the hell did we do it all for?
WT: I could have killed Churchill. Easily. You know, without any argument.
BB: Because of what he did.
WT: Because of Bomber Harris.
BB: I mean they called him Butch.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Because you know but he he loved his crews and -
WT: He was, he came to Scampton once and he was great.
BB: And they loved him
WT: Yeah.
BB: Despite you know sending them off every night knowing that x number of Lancaster’s wouldn’t come back or Halifaxes or whatever. But that’s how he got his name Butch, Butcher.
WT: Yes.
BB: Butcher Harris but they seemed to get on with him.
WT: Yeah.
BB: They seemed to like, you know, his manner.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And his we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.
WT: The one person on the squadron the squadron we didn’t like was the four ringer.
BB: The group captain.
WT: The group. He was not a nice fellow at all. We didn’t like him a bit and he used to come in to get his fags so we’d push him to the top of the queue so he could get the hell out.
BB: Did he ever fly? Did he ever go off?
WT: Yes he did a few.
BB: Yeah.
WT: He did one or two.
BB: Yeah.
WT: And he was, fortunately not with us but the AOC was there. He was -
BB: Was that Cochrane? Or Saunby?
WT: I don’t know what he was called.
BB: Yeah.
WT: He was a lovely fellow.
BB: Yeah.
WT: He had his own little [?]
BB: Yeah.
WT: In fact his WAAF
BB: Driver.
WT: No.
BB: His PA.
WT: No. Looked after him.
BB: Oh right.
WT: Looked after him. I got courting with her a bit.
BB: Ahh.
WT: Nothing like, nothing
BB: Nothing like going for the top.
WT: Untoward and one night we were saying goodnight and suddenly there was this tap on my shoulder, ‘Hurry up, don’t keep her up all night. She’s got to get my breakfast in the morning.’
BB: The morning. You said, ‘Yes sir.’
WT: Now who would have said that?
BB: They knew and, they knew and they let the guys get on with it.
WT: I saw her afterwards.
BB: In that respect.
WT: And she said that he laughed his head off.
BB: Oh that’s great. That’s great.
WT: They were a good lot.
BB: And now you’ve got your grandchildren, great grandchildren.
WT: Great grandchildren.
BB: And you’re going to be giving them your logbook and one thing and another.
WT: Paul my grandson. I’ve got a grandson and a granddaughter. Paul is supposed to inherit all my stuff.
BB: Yes.
WT: Which he will do.
BB: Yes. Good.
WT: But in the meantime.
BB: I hope you’ve written that down in a will or something?
WT: I don’t. My son knows.
BB: Ok.
WT: He knows. He’s as good as gold but Paul sorry my oldest grandson, great grandson Jack is very keen on Lancasters ‘cause they live in Lancaster.
BB: Yes of course.
WT: And he knows all about that so Jack has got lots of stuff to do with Lancasters and I said I’ve got all these books I don’t know whether I ought to be getting rid of them sometime. Pete said to me, that’s my son, the other day, ‘Dad don’t do anything until August. Jack’s coming up. He’s mad on the Lancaster’s and things, he’s got stuff all over the place so, in his room.’ so there’s four Lancaster – one, two, three, four, five books.
BB: Yeah.
WT: But you know
BB: Garbett and Goulding books.
WT: Yeah I met him and one other there and he’ll have those whatever happens. What, what about the others in the bottom lot I don’t know ‘cause the top one is all Cornwall but they’re spoken for one way or another.
BB: I have four hundred such books and I do a lot of research and I write occasionally in Flypast and other magazines um and they’re just for my own research. I mean, for example you said you were 153 I went to the books oh yes but now coming back to the controversial issue of medals.
WT: Sorry.
BB: Did you have to apply for your medals or did they come through the post eventually to you?
WT: I had to apply for them.
BB: You had to apply for them. And when did you apply for them
WT: Lord knows. I can’t remember.
BB: Yeah because they ok they had a lot to get through.
WT: No. That’s not true. I, I when I was an equipment officer before while I was still under training a bit with another thing.
BB: Yeah.
WT: I was asked to go up the headquarters somewhere and I took the logbook with me and I went through about my medals then and then I said, ‘Yes but I want the Air Crew Europe.’ ‘Well you can’t have it.’ ‘Well I said I don’t want any more.’ I went to go out and they pushed me back in again and they insisted that I had to have these four.
BB: Right, so now the, I had a very, my father knew another very nice man and his name was Slim Summerville. He had been a pre-war regular but he was a wireless operator I gather on Whitleys the one’s that flew like that -
WT: Ahum.
BB: And he hated them. But then he was shot down in November 1940 in France he made a crash landing. All the crew got out, sorry Holland, all the crew got out still fly, they flew in their number ones. Odd. But anyway they were all sitting around, standing around this aircraft trying to get it to burn and they couldn’t burn it. The Germans came. November ‘40 Battle of Britain had just finished. There they were. This Luftwaffe feldwebel came to them and said, ‘look we’ve got nowhere to put you but this Dutch, this Dutch farmer will look after you, we’ll put one of our guards there promise you won’t try and escape.’ ‘We can’t do that,’ they said but, ‘Never mind you go there.’ A month they were in this farmhouse having a life, they thought this is alright. This is ok. And then things got, they were then they were sent back in to Germany and they were sent towards the east. They were part of the great march but and he finished the war all the rest of it. When he was ill he came, I went to see him and he said, ‘Look,’ he said, ‘Bruce I never claimed my medals because I didn’t think I’d have very many being a POW but I’d like to pass them on to my grandchild.’ So I said, ‘Well ok.’ He said, ‘I can’t give you my logbook because it was when I was taken prisoner it was all lost and whatever.’ So I had to go to the National Archive in Kew and reconstruct his logbook and I took all this stuff and I said right your entitled to the Aircrew Europe, you’ve done, you’ve done all these missions between the qualifying dates of the -
WT: Yes sure.
BB: Award. Why, they said he wasn’t entitled to it. That he was only going to get the ‘39 to ‘45 star, the defence medal and a war medal. That’s all he was going to get.
WT: Oooh there’s one -
BB: Because he was -
WT: There’s one missing there really.
BB: So -
WT: France and Germany.
BB: Yeah but he was a POW. He wasn’t there.
WT: But did he -
BB: So -
WT: But he’d been doing work.
BB: Yeah but he was captured in 1940. So anyway so I went back and I said no you did x number of missions on the Whitleys you’re entitled to the Air Crew Europe so he said, ‘Well you write. I’ll give you permission and you write.’ So I wrote back to them first to air historical branch then to RAF records and they sent, they said, ‘Yes you’re right.’ So they reissued it. But with, but with the Air Crew Europe and I had them mounted for him and I took them to the hospital to see him in hospital and I pinned them to his pillow and he died three hours later. But he was so happy -
WT: Lovely.
BB: To have got them.
WT: Of course he was.
BB: Yeah. And he said -
WT: I’ve got mine here somewhere.
BB: All the rest was rubbish but Air Crew Europe’s the one so I am going to take your fight up.
WT: No.
BB: If I can do it for him, I can do it for you.
WT: Oh, there’s no point.
BB: Yes there is.
WT: I shouldn’t bother.
BB: Your grandchildren need it. I understand how you feel but if you’re entitled to it why don’t you take it?
WT: I’ve got them somewhere. I thought I had them there.
BB: Let’s have a look. Oh there they are. Right.
WT: They’re a replacement ‘cause I lost mine.
BB: Did you?
WT: And I lost the -
BB: What happened?
WT: Hmmn?
BB: What happened?
WT: I don’t know it was -
BB: They were all issued unnamed.
WT: It was in a move.
BB: They were all issued unnamed.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Now you see if I get you the Air Crew Europe. Right. Just say, let’s just say no this annoys me with the the whole medal thing you did all of that. Now I know you’re very proud and, and, and you don’t particularly want it but you earned it and this parsimonious government took their bloody time in giving you the Bomber Command clasp which I, did you ever claim it?
WT: No.
BB: Right.
WT: Yes I got that.
BB: Right.
WT: Yes.
BB: You need to sew that on.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Now, if I get you the Air Crew Europe if by chance we’re successful they’ll probably give you the Air Crew Europe with the France and Germany clasp.
WT: Ahum.
BB: ‘cause you couldn’t have both.
WT: Ahum.
BB: So you have to give that one back.
WT: I think the other one’s still there ‘cause I always said I can’t sew so
BB: So what I’m saying is they’ll probably take that one probably ask you to return that one.
WT: I’m not fussed about it you know.
BB: I’m just going through the procedure.
WT: I know.
BB: And um they that’s what they would do. Um but it is such a prestigious, it was only it was the only thing of the stars that I’ve talked to with the guys before that meant anything was the Air Crew, Air Crew Europe whether your coastal, bomber or whatever -
WT: Yes. Exactly.
BB: It was. Because they didn’t get a medal. That was only medal they actually got that was you know air force.
WT: I got mine. Those are replacements.
BB: Yes.
WT: Because -
BB: Exactly I’ll take a photo of those later.
WT: In transferring -
BB: Well -
WT: Something got lost and we never found them. I didn’t, I didn’t -
BB: Let me put it this way let me see what I can do and if I can do it you’ll take it. Right? You’ll take it if I can get it for you.
WT: Alright.
BB: Fine. Good.
WT: You’ve won.
BB: I feel very strongly about that ’cause you know medals are very emotive things even today.
WT: I won’t argue with you.
BB: No. Good. Ok well I’m going to stop the interview now. I think we’ve covered all the ground. Is there anything else you’d like to say that I may have forgotten?
WT: No.
BB: To ask?
WT: [If you]
BB: Are these your target pictures?
WT: Target pictures.
BB: Yeah.
WT: We were allowed to have those as the crew, the crew -
BB: Now -
WT: Took some as well.
BB: The other thing that used to get people a bit jumpy, ‘Have you got the flash skip? I’ve got to go around again.’ And, ‘Oh go on then.’
WT: No.
BB: Because a lot of crews were really ‘cause that was flying straight and level for a bit of a time to get that flash picture and if you missed it the first time you had to go back and at debriefing as you know once they processed the film -
WT: [?] that’s right.
BB: You were kind of ticked in the box that it was ok.
WT: The problem was the bottom of those it was -
BB: Yeah.
WT: A job to read
BB: Yeah.
WT: Very difficult to read
BB: It is.
WT: All the stuff.
BB: It is but -
WT: But the one there the first one Fort [Frederick Heindricks].
BB: Yeah.
WT: That was an aiming point.
BB: Yeah.
WT: So I was told.
BB: Right.
WT: You could see the smoke coming away.
BB: How, we hear a lot about the pathfinders and the marking and all these different marking techniques. Were they, were they good? I mean were they -
WT: They were good as far as we were concerned. We would come up and every now and again they would say please you know bomb on so and so -
BB: Yeah they had the master bomber saying forget that that’s a spoof yeah go to -
WT: That’s right.
BB: Bomb on the greens.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Bomb on the greens. That kind of thing.
WT: Yeah. We had that.
BB: Yeah and because so -
WT: And that, that’s they’re all the same
BB: Oh ground zero.
WT: That’s, no that that’s Dresden.
BB: That’s what I’m saying ground zero at Dresden
WT: I wouldn’t know. With, you can see the modern building.
BB: Yeah.
WT: And the one that’s been destroyed.
BB: Yes.
WT: A friend of mine he lives here in Morpeth and they went over to Dresden and he came back he said, ‘Bill I thought I’d take a photograph. This is what you did you B.’
BB: Well yeah tough it was a legitimate target.
WT: Oh yeah as far as I was concerned it was.
BB: Thank you very much. They’re very interesting.
WT: Yes, I, those are, you know, to me, the crew had some you know.
BB: Yeah.
WT: So -
BB: My uncle had some and they used to put them in their logbook.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Because the pilot’s logbooks were different as you know.
WT: Yeah.
BB: They were slightly bigger.
WT: Yeah well they were. That’s why mine is a bit of a mess and just written on. You know, scrolled
BB: I’ll have a look at that later. So I’m going to stop the interview now. Are you happy with that?
WT: Yes you -
BB: Ok.
WT: I don’t know if you saw those. That’s my doings. That’s, that’s how I got to know you.
BB: That’s all the stuff.
WT: And that was the newsletter. Yes.
BB: Yeah.
WT: And that’s, yeah, that’s ok.
BB: And there’s your medals back.
WT: Oh there’s, ok.
BB: Give those back to you there.
Yeah oh don’t worry about that. Oh yes that’s the Bomber Command clasp in there.
BB: Oh yes well let’s have a look, you’ve got to sew that on haven’t you?
WT: Well yes I said my daughter and grand daughter.
BB: Well why don’t you. Is it still in it’s envelope? Let me just take a picture of that ‘cause that’s you. That’s-
WT: You can undo that clip better than I can.
BB: That’s very nice.
WT: That’s what it should be.
BB: About bloody time too.
WT: I think -
BB: I was -
WT: I, I hated the thing actually it should have been a blooming thing like the other people had.
BB: Yeah. I was I was privileged in being selected to be an usher at the Bomber Command memorial opening in London.
WT: Lovely.
BB: And I was in my squadron leader stuff and all my own medals on and it was great and I was given, I was given six, three Australian, three New Zealand, three Australian and three New Zealand air crew to look after. To host.
WT: [?]
BB: Yeah and they were all of your vintage, your age, you know, now.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And they’d come all the way from Australia and New Zealand for free business class with [doorbell] New Zealand sorry
WT: That could be your wife.
BB: Could be my wife.
WT: Oh she’ll be, open the door.
BB: Oh I can get that for you sorry.
WT: No that’s alright. It could be somebody else. Hello.
Other: Hello.
WT: I’ve got someone with me. We thought it was his wife.
Other: Oh a parcel for me.
WT: Oh yes darling.
Other: That’s why I came. That’s very kind of you, Bill.
WT: That’s alright.
Other: Thank you very much indeed.
WT: I’ll keep the sixpence you’ll, I’ll send you the bill.
Other: Sixpence and you’ll send me the bill.
WT: We do things for one another.
BB: Yeah of course you do.
WT: Only around the corner. She’s a dear.
BB: Well done for that.
WT: When I came home last time from hospital I weren’t all that brilliant and she was doing shopping, she was insisting on doing my laundry and all that and I said -
BB: So -
WT: So I took a parcel in for her today.
BB: Right so -
WT: Where’s that going in there wasn’t it
BB: It’s with your medals yeah. Yeah yeah. So I’m with these guys and we’re all sitting them all down and I was getting and it was a pretty hot day and one of the Australians said ‘cause my name’s Bruce you see.
WT: Yeah.
BB: ‘Here, Brucie go and get us a beer mate.’ So I went and got them the beer and they ate this up and, ‘Here, I’m pretty hungry mate. Got any sandwiches?’ And we were going away and they said, ‘Look mate it’s getting hot here when’s this thing going to you know finish?’ I said, ‘Well, you know, the royals are going to be there. The Queen’s going to open it and so on and Prince Charles and Camilla will come and see you.’ ‘Right. Right. Ok.’ So this went on and the RAF BBMF Lancaster flew down and dropped these poppies but it got it wrong got it, slightly, slightly off track and all the poppies ended up in Piccadilly all over the place and -
WT: That’s one of them,
BB: Yes. Yes I know. I recognised that,
WT: Yeah.
BB: And this Australian looked up and he said, ‘Oh Christ the navig, the navs all wrong you know’ and, you know, ‘I suppose you can’t get the people these days’ and all that sort of talk, you know. Anyway I sent one of my little one of my helpers, one of my guys in our squadron, a corporal. I said, ‘Go and pick up as many of those as you can get.’
WT: Sure.
BB: And he met a policemen, this guy, with his helmet -
WT: Yeah.
BB: Just doing this you see and the policeman kept some in his pocket and he gave the rest to this guy so he gave each one of these guys one of the poppies and that was great but this Australian who was really quite vocal, nice bloke but he had with him a group captain Royal Australian Air Force from the embassy must have been the air attaché standing maybe just about there and you’re the guy right and he said, ‘Brucie, look when the royals come down can I ask when I’m going to get my’ dot dot ‘medal because I’m getting old and I’m going to fall of my perch mate and I’d rather like it.’ And I said, ‘Well you could but I don’t think it would be, you know, polite.’ He said, ‘[Dot dot] polite mate I’ve been waiting a long time.’ And then the group captain came across and said, ‘Look I’ve told you about that. That’s my job. Leave that to me.’ You know. Blah. ‘Well you’d better hurry up mate.’ And that was the end of that conversation and of course you get your, get the clasp.
WT: Oh dear.
BB: But it all went it all went it all went very well and every time I’m in London and I’ll be there next week I always get one of those British Legion wooden little wooden crosses.
WT: Yes.
BB: With the poppy on.
WT: Yeah.
BB: And I take my uncle’s crew and -
WT: Put their names down
BB: Just the one name. So my uncle first, then the bomb aimer, then and I put them all down and I look at the little little book they’ve got there.
WT: Yeah
BB: And its people write things down.
WT: Yeah
BB: And there’s obviously flowers. There’s things that gets me is this little one flower and an old plastic see through bag or
WT: Yeah.
BB: Something. With, ‘To Uncle George’ killed blah blah blah blah and you think gosh, you know and it’s such a focus that place for everybody to come and do stuff.
WT: Standing there with tears streaming down my eyes that day
BB: Yeah. Yeah.
WT: I couldn’t even -
BB: And I said to the Ben Fund people
WT: I shouted once, ‘Excuse me I’ve got to go to the toilet. Don’t do anything.’ [laughs]
BB: And I said to the Ben Fund guys who run it you know I hope someone collects all this stuff and takes it away.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Because -
WT: Sure.
BB: You should do a book after five years or something with all the, ‘cause they leave copies of pictures.
WT: Sure.
BB: And crew pictures and -
WT: Yeah.
BB: You know, it’s a great archive there just on its own.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Yeah.
WT: One of their associate members who’s a bit of a B really but he rang up and said Bill I’ve got a poppy that came falling down. Did you want one? And he sent it up to me.
BB: Oh excellent.
WT: So that’s why I popped it on there.
BB: Yeah.
WT: And it keeps falling down but it fell behind one day so I put it there -
BB: I think -
WT: So it doesn’t go anywhere else.
BB: I think –
And by the way that -
BB: Yes.
WT: Is as good a representation of a lot of us coming off -
BB: Ops.
WT: Off ops yes.
BB: I’ll take a picture of that.
WT: The actual depth of that thing.
BB: Yeah. I’ll take a picture of that but -
WT: It’s terrific.
BB: I think I have at home a programme from that day. I’ll send it to you. From the Bomber memorial.
WT: I was here then.
BB: Yes I know but I’ve got -
WT: Yeah.
BB: You know I think I’ve got a number of spares. I will send it to you.
WT: But I would love to have been there.
BB: Well it was such a privilege.
WT: Two or three of our members were there.
BB: Yeah it was a privilege to be there and, and
WT: ‘cause we had a, I started a help doing it with Johnny [Johns?] on, who by the way has written a lovely book on our stuff. Did I have that out? No I didn’t
BB: That’s ok well I’ve got a feeling -
WT: That is
BB: Ok.
WT: That’s on.
BB: 153.
WT: That is done. Is on the internet somewhere or something.
BB: Is it?
BB: I’ll try and find it when I go back.
WT: Johnny’s done it. He’s got -
BB: When was that written? Let’s have a look
WT: Just inside is by the date its a few years ago. I don’t know if
BB: Oh here we are. April 1998.
WT: Yeah Johnny was one of the pilots that came just after when the war was more or less finished. He started just when we were just finishing the war but he became the chairman of our Association.
BB: Yes. How lovely.
WT: It’s a terrific book because it’s got -
BB: It’s a lovely book.
WT: You know you can see when everybody did everything.
BB: Yeah it was a lovely book. And it’s, it’s -
BB: It’s terrific.
BB: I have one similar for 9 squadron but not in so much detail.
WT: That, that has got every op was done and who was on it and everything else.
BB: Yes.
WT: And about all these tables.
BB: Has anybody got all these for the national -
WT: And the aircraft.
BB: We would have got these for the national archive.
WT: Oh no. No he -
BB: Logbooks.
WT: He was down there. He used to go down and, and -
BB: Yes at the archive.
WT: Yeah, he’d go down there.
BB: Oh I was down. It’s a great place to be it really is.
WT: He lived down in York way.
BB: Yeah.
WT: No he didn’t Salisbury sorry it was Salisbury ‘cause his daughter, one of his daughter is still there.
BB: Yes, That’s lovely.
WT: He used to come regularly to our dos.
BB: And you were on C flight yeah.
WT: Hmmn?
BB: C flight.
WT: No A.
BB: A flight. Ok.
WT: I was A flight. Yeah.
BB: A flight. Ok.
WT: Yeah there was -
BB: Sorry.
WT: You will see our crew there somewhere.
BB: Yes. I’m just looking for it here.
WT: Bruce Potter at the top.
BB: Potter’s crew eh.
WT: Did you not see it?
BB: Yeah hold on.
WT: He was on A flight.
BB: Potter.
WT: Almost where you had your thumb there.
BB: Potter.
WT: Is it over that side somewhere?
BB: Oh here he is. Potter. There we are.
WT: Yeah.
BB: I’ll take a note of that.
WT: His name was Bruce.
BB: Well he’s got an Australian name mate.
WT: Certainly has, yes mate.
BB: Except mine’s more Scottish than Australian. In fact one of my objectives for this when I was down here my uncle who was the Australian he married my mother’s sister ‘cause I was born in Gainsborough which is Bomber Command Hemswell not too far from Hemswell.
WT: Yes, Hemswell. Yeah.
BB: And my brother was born in Newark and my, this Australian pilot was courting my mother’s sister while he was on ops but he wouldn’t marry her while he was on ops ‘cause he didn’t feel, he’d had so many young ladies coming to the mess after their husband’s had died and he wouldn’t do it. He said he would marry her when he’d finished ops but he was killed instructing and they were only married four months but my cousin was born you know shortly thereafter well you know nine months later basically and so he, he was born in the place where I was brought up by my grandmother at Coldstream in Berwickshire and the family claimed, the family claimed the body.
WT: Oh yeah.
BB: And he was brought up by train to Cornhill station and lay overnight in the family house and my grandfather had, was a commander of the local home guard having been an old soldier and he wanted to open the coffin ‘cause it lay in the front room with a flag on it and my mother was a nurse and my mother said I don’t think we should do that ‘cause he was burnt. She knew he had been burnt and so they didn’t do it. They said let’s just remember him.
WT: As we thought he was.
BB: As we was and when the guys came up from, from the RAF station he was at for the funeral his widow, my aunt, said I’d like his watch or his flying jacket please. Sorry all we’ve got is this this and which you’ll get from the committee of adjustment and they’ll send to you and all the rest but so when you go to this little Scottish cemetery you’ll see this Australian AF war grave.
WT: Right.
BB: That’s him.
WT: That’s him. Well I never.
BB: But he was only twenty one and the last time his mother saw him was when he was seventeen and a half to leave, leave Australia to come home come here.
WT: Yeah.
BB: You know.
WT: Yeah.
BB: It was just one of those awful things.
WT: What are you trying to do there?
BB: He had finished his, he had finished his, his ops and was screened and funny you know the crew all got together you know.
WT: Ah huh.
BB: And they said, ‘We’ll go on pathfinders. We’re safer on pathfinders than we are instructing.’ And that was the view and he said, ‘No, I can’t. I’ve got to, I want to get married and I’m not going to that.’ but if he had done that he probably would have been alright.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Yeah.
WT: Exactly.
BB: There we go. It wasn’t to be I suppose. These things are always -
WT: Yeah.
BB: Sad.
WT: Sent to, sent to try us.
BB: They are. Well Bill thanks very much.
WT: That’s alright my friend.
BB: And I’ll be back I’m sure if I’m down this way again. It’s so lovely to talk to you.
WT: Yeah.
BB: There’s all your bits.
WT: Yeah. You’ve got, you’ve got the medals.
BB: I’ve got that picture you leant me and I’ll send that back when I get home tonight and I’ve got -
WT: You didn’t, you didn’t take the medals.
BB: No. No.
WT: No.
BB: No you’ve got them. Better check I don’t want you to, there they are in the bag
WT: That’s alright, they’re in the bag.
BB: They are in your just check please just check. No, no, no I haven’t got them. There they are
WT: I don’t know why, yeah they’re there such as they are.
BB: Well we’ll try and change that.
WT: I’m never bothered about medals.
BB: No. Well a lot of people don’t but the gran
WT: I’m not a medal man.
BB: No. A lot of people weren’t but you know there’s things like grandchildren who, who -
WT: Well. Paul -
BB: You’ve got, you’ve got your grandchildren now.
WT: My grandson.
BB: Who you would obviously like.
WT: They’re down in Salisbury at the moment I’m hoping they’re going to move a bit nearer but he’s interested but his nephew bless him is he’s only seven and a half at the moment.
BB: Yeah.
WT: But there’s a photograph of him up there. Jack. He’s very, very keen on it. Very keen.
BB: Well so he should be. It’s a great honour that you’ve done this.
WT: There’s the office.
BB: There’s the office, that’s right.
WT: These were, these were taken from the just, what is she called the one over, Just Jane over there in, we used to go down there a lot to the Panton Brothers where they’ve got the aircraft that taxies around.
BB: Yeah. Ok what have I got to do here now?
WT: [yawn] excuse me. This is all to do with the Lincolnshire arrangement that going, the spire’s gone up hasn’t it?
BB: Not yet. No, no, no, not -
WT: Oh I thought they’d already lifted it because our lot were down on oh a month and a half ago to their, to the reunion and that was the day when it was going to be delivered. They moved, had to move away because time was going on they’d only just got down the road and they saw it going back up.
BB: Right.
WT: Just coming. So they couldn’t do anything about it.
BB: No.
WT: I thought they said they put it up that night. Erected it.
BB: What? The spire?
WT: Yeah.
BB: In Lincoln?
WT: Yeah.
BB: Well to tell you the truth it might have done but I haven’t heard of it yet but -
WT: Well I thought that’s what they it had happened. They brought that in and the lorries or whatever was carrying it were going to get it upright for them to to anchor it down or whatever. I don’t know. Because they are going to build a great big wall around it aren’t t they with the name of the people who died
BB: Yes
WT: Or were killed. So [they’ll have old Giffords?] down on that one bless him. My room-mate.
BB: Oh God. There’s more bumph here.
WT: Cost you more money now.
BB: Yeah. Yeah. Right so we’d better get on with the paperwork. Let me just have a look at it
WT: Oh I thought you’d done it.
BB: No I’ve just been reading it here so we’ll better get on with it. Won’t be a minute. I think I’ll just call my wife up I’m a bit worried about her. See where she is
WT: I was going to say from my bedroom you can probably see the car.
BB: So when’s your next medical people coming in. When, when do they come in, every day to see you?
WT: No. No. No Wednesday is the day when everything normally happens.
BB: Yeah.
WT: At the moment I’ve got ear trouble but I’m off for another week but on Wednesday they come in to change your leg bag and do all kinds of things so I have to watch it but I’m alright I’m off for the next week or two I’m not doing too badly.
BB: Hi Jeannie. It’s me. I’m finished with Bill. I wonder if you could come back to to look at this documentation. It might need a witness. I’m not sure. Ok I’ll call you later. Or you can give me a call now. Thanks bye.
WT: Oh you’ve left her a message have you?
BB: Yeah she’s -
WT: Oh.
BB: She’s probably walking the dog.
WT: Stay where you are I think I can see the car from here.
BB: Ok thanks.
From the bedroom.
WT: No the trees are in the way. I said the tree is in the way.
BB: Oh its William [Headley] Thomas isn’t it?
WT: [Headley].
BB: Oh that’s worth, that’s worthy of a photograph.
WT: Oh I don’t know I was just going to show you that. They were taken more or less the same time. You see what she’s wearing?
BB: Yes.
WT: A new pair of wings.
BB: Oh that’s lovely. May I take a picture of that one?
WT: Oh, go on. You don’t want that man.
BB: Yes I do. You’re, now that, now that you’ve been interviewed my dear boy you are now part of the national archive.
WT: Don’t.
BB: You are going to be in the Bomber Command archive.
WT: Am I?
BB: Yeah, you are.
WT: I thought, I thought it was the Lincolnshire.
BB: Yeah but it’s going to the University of Lincoln.
WT: Yeah.
BB: Yeah.
WT: Yeah.
BB: But that’s why we’ve got to sign this other stuff.
WT: While you’re doing that it’s happened again this damned bag.
BB: Oh I’m sorry.
WT: No it’s alright ‘cause it just happens like that I have a big bag to put on the end of it at night thank God.


Bruce Blanche, “Interview with Bill Thomas ,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 20, 2024,

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