Interview with Fred Young


Interview with Fred Young


Fred Young volunteered for the Royal Air Force at seventeen and flew operations as a flight engineer with 57 Squadron from RAF East Kirkby. He recounts his experiences on several operations including Berlin, Magdeburg, Leipzig, Essen, Munich, Dresden, and Mailly le Camp. After his first tour he became an instructor before returning to operations, with 8 Group Pathfinders at RAF Oakington. After the war he returned to Birmingham and took up an engineering position before moving into sales and settling in London. He retired at 70 and returned to the Midlands taking up an active role in the British Legion, and writing a book “Where Did My Youth Go?” recounting his experiences during the war years.







01:07:42 audio recording

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AS: Okay, we’ll start. This is Andrew Sadler interviewing Fred Young in his home in Offenham in Worcestershire on Wednesday, July 20th, 2016. Fred thank you very much for allowing me to interview on behalf of the Lincolnshire Bomber Command Archive this morning.
FY: Right.
AS: Can I start by asking you about your early life where you were born and when?
FY: Yes, I was born in Birmingham, I spent most of my life down in London, and I’ve been all round the place, continent, everywhere.
AS: Did you have, did you have any of your family involved in World War One, was your father for example?
FY: No my father wasn’t but his brothers were.
AS: And did have any bearing on you becoming going into the RAF in the Second World War.
FY: No, when the, when the war started in ’39 my Uncle Ern who I’ve got a photograph of in there was on The Somme. Anyway he lived in London he rushed over to my father and said, ‘Don’t ever let Freddie get in the army’. [laughs] So I went in the Air Force.
AS: So you volunteered for the Air Force?
FY: Oh yes, yeah VER yeah.
AS: And can you tell me about how you enlisted in the Air Force?
FY: Well I, I [sneezes] I was in a protected job at the time so the only thing I could get into to get into the services was air aircrew.
AS: What job were you in?
FY: I was an accountant in, in the railway up in Somers it’s in Birmingham anyway.
AS: And how old were you then?
FY: I was seventeen, I went in at seventeen put my age on a year and called up in ’41, up to Warrington. I, I was a frail person I couldn’t carry a kit bag to save my life and we had to march from Padigate Recruiting Centre in, in Warrington to the railway station I had a job carrying it so did many others because we weren’t used to manual work like that. And then, then after that was pure training I was posted to Blackpool to do foot slogging and that was I think it was eight weeks there and I stayed in Blackpool ‘cos I went down to Padgate the engineering side of the business and that’s where I learnt my trade in engineering. You can’t better the RAF for training you up, wonderful. We were there quite a long time and then suddenly they cleared Blackpool, because um they sealed Blackpool off because the army were going, had a free town, and they were going out to the Middle East to Al Conlek [?] So we had to get out and we went down to Melksham. We went to a camp in Melksham where the everyone had turned it down the Americans, the Army, the Navy ‘cos it was a Navy area, but the RAF accepted it. We were up to our ankles in water most of the time in the huts. And then we came back again to Blackpool and I remember it well because we were all on parade in the Blackpool football pitch in their stadium, and they were calling out the names of those who were going to go on, ‘cos we were all mixed up, and those who were going to the Far East, and there was quite a lot going to the Far East, but all those in aircrew training carried on down on to the engineering side and they moved down to South Wales to, to finish off aircraft. I, I was down there tuning in the engineering side ‘cos it was not only engines it was air frames, electrics and everything else, it was very good training area. And then we came, we had exams every week and I failed the electrics, I could never get my head round electrics, everything else I was perfect on so I had to drop out and have another week, and all my friends then all went on. I passed the next week now all my friends went on to Halifaxes and instinctually they were all shot down. I went on the Lancasters, so I carried on, on my training on the Lancasters there. That was quite a thing we were pretty well exhausted mentally after all that period of training, ‘cos we never had leave you were constant all the while and eventually they sent us to a training centre keep fit area and they put us through keep fit to get us back to normal if you like, yes. And that was good ‘cos it did got rid of all the fuzziness and then I was a flight engineer. So then we went to stations in 5 Group, am, am trying to remember where it was now, but we went to the, oh Winthorpe, we went to Winthorpe that’s right and there we picked up a crew now the crew had been together on Wellingtons most of the time and I joined them there. So it was getting to know each other and I was the youngest and obviously called “Youngster” it was my nickname right the way through service. So from there we, we did training on Stirlings, and then we did training on Lancasters. I found out that was the worst period of the time really, well I don’t know if you know Newark there’s a church there got a red light on the top because it’s quite near the main runway and we are doing a night final exam flying and we are going up to Hel, Heligoland, and we took off but we didn’t take off, we were going down the runway we had a flight lieutenant who’d just come from America he was an instructor in America, Pilot, and we were two thirds of the way down the runway and we were just going to lift off and he cut all the, all the switches so we crashed to the other end of the runway. We went in the nose, the nose went in the whole distance up to the cockpit. I don’t know what happened to him he was reported obviously, we got away with that one, which was a good sign. Now we had our problems with the navigator, on the next trip we found ourselves over Hull in an air raid at night when we should have been down in Devon, he’d taken reciprocal courses so he was dumped straight away and we got a new one, Hugh. Now Hugh was a British BOAC, Overseas Airways yeah on the Pacific Airline, and he was a navigator there, so he was a good navigator, because they didn’t have radar or anything and he navigated across the Pacific, and he was brilliant, anyway that was Hugh and he joined us. Off we went to 57 Squadron and East Kirkby, they just moved from Scampton where 617 were and they moved there. We then went to, we were there about a week, and then we were called up with as battle stations is on battle and they just put a notice up and there was all the names of the people who were going. And went to the briefing and it was Berlin, which is quite shaky for the first op but we did eleven of them so we got away with it. [laughs] But we were a good crew, we were all rehearsed we did practice an awful lot, we never used Christian names in the air we were always referred to navigator or bomb aimer or so on. And after, we did quite a few initially of the Berlin raids and then we went to Magdeburg. From Magdeburg we went to Hanover and we were working our way round Northern Europe I suppose. ‘Cos you know, I mean they probably told you, we did, you never went straight to a target you went all round the Baltic or down over Switzerland and up, and then we went down to Leipzig and we were held at Leipzig because the pathfinders hadn’t arrived they were shot down and the back-up hadn’t arrived so we were there twenty minutes going round and round Leipzig, and of course people were getting shot down by their fighters. [interference on recording] And then anyway we went through that okay and carried on, we were it was quite a flat tour really. And then we went to oh, trying to think, it was on the Baltic coast, and that was where we had a near mid-air collision. Normally you come out of the target area and you turn to port this chap turned to starboard and came straight at us, because of the angles he obviously climbed out of the way, we went the other way but we got his slipstream and he blew us down into a spin. We spun round going down from twenty three thousand feet and we finally pulled out at three thousand feet we were fighting it. The bomb aimer was complaining ‘cos he was, he was wedged onto the roof of his cabin at the font [laughs] with gravity holding him in there. But we were spinning down we got it straight, ‘cos engineers sat in the Lancaster were always sat next to him, and I, he always let me fly over the seas you know so obviously I’d get a feel of the aircraft, so we were fighting it together, I was on one side of the control column and he was pulling it back and I was pushing it forward like, and so eventually it came up. I asked the navigator what speed we were doing, he said, ‘You went off the clock I couldn’t tell’ [laughs] so we don’t know what it was.’ Anyway Hugh was navigator leader and when we got back to East Kirkby he went to navigation centre, checked all the logs and he found that it was one of our aircraft squadron that nearly hit us, and he of course the language was quite out of this world apparently, I don’t know but they didn’t speak to each other again much. [laughs] Because he, I mean he came out and you know could have caused two fatals, our own and his, and he could have gone down as well. But that was um, there we got, then we had the of course Nuremburg, this is where our navigator was brilliant he, he navigated there and he, there were two targets they’d built a dummy town, did you know that?
AS: No.
FY: They built another town on the other side and people were bombing that because it was the first one they were coming to, and Hugh said, ‘No you’re wrong’, there was a bit of a thing going backwards and forwards and in the end we, we accepted Hugh ‘cos he was unbelievable. We bombed the other one which was the target that was why we lost so many people, they were being shot down on the way across the coast going in and on the way back they were shooting them down over the aerodromes they didn’t count those. The, the JU88’s were coming at the back following the crew that the teams in and shooting them down on the approach. That was something that was kept quiet. But anyway we had that, we had, going, going back again to the, to Berlins they introduced the new flying boot, it was a boot that you could, you could cut the top off it had a knife inside, you cut the top off so you could walk if you got shot down, and the rear gunner always wanted to keep up to date with things and he had them you see, but when you got in your, well I call them his huge outfit, looks like the Pirelli man you know, all balled up. He forced his feet into the boot forgetting he hadn’t got the electrics in his boots because they were ordinary boots for other, other members. He got on the way to Berlin, he got frostbite in his feet and he was, he was crying out, but we said to the nav you know, ‘Where are we?’ and he said ‘We were two thirds from the target there’s no point in turning round and going back there.’ So we continued to the target and all the way back [coughs] and when we landed the medical team were waiting for us and they took him and I think he lost both feet all because he wanted those boots on. Then we got another rear gunner who, who was, his crew was shot down, he was ill and he and somebody else went in his place and they got shot down, so he was spare as they say so we had him, a bit disjointed this but I say as I am remembering it. We went through I say after Nuremburg we got back and we thought you know ninety-six aircraft that’s quite a lot of men and we well thought it’ll be an easy one next then and Mr. Butcher we called him and he sent us to Essen of all places which is in the middle of the Ruhr which is highly defended, so we thought that’s a good one you know you’ve sent us into the slaughterhouse and then back again into another one. So we had that and we went through that all right obviously ‘cos I’m here. We went down to Munich and the route took us down south and Hugh said, ‘Shall we go across Switzerland on the way in?’ ‘cos we aim there and come up and yeah so we did that unfortunately we were so, what’s the word, taken aback by the snow and the twinkling lights of the, of the chalets in the mountains in there a J88 came up and took a piece out of us [laughs] ‘cos we weren’t concentrating and then we found out that it happens to be the J88 training pupils there it was just lucky we had a pupil and not a, not a professional [laughs] otherwise he would have taken us out completely no doubt about it, but they came right across the top and opened the canon [?] and that woke us up again so then we went straight up to Munich. The other one is the Frankfurt we, we, we did Frankfurt run that wasn’t too bad really it’s just a long haul. And then we had the Navy in one day they came and they wanted the RAF to drop mines in the Baltic, and when they told us where it was it was up in Konigsberg right up on the Russian side. Apparently there was a lot of German transport and things in the bay in Konigsberg Bay, Dancing Bay, and they wanted us to mine across the whole lot to stop them getting out until the Navy got there, that was a twelve hour flight so we had overload tanks on in the fuselage and that was quite a long haul that, we did it we dropped all the mines on the drop there was only two squadrons on that there was 57 and 630 the rest of 5 Group weren’t in on it. Then finished the first tour on Maligny Camp, I don’t know if you’ve read anything about Maligny Camp, it’s where it was a big French camp, tank and the Germans took it over obviously and this is where they serviced all the tanks coming back from Russia. And they were building up a division there hundreds of tanks, and repairing them, preparing them for the second front, repel the second front. And we were called in to bomb, we had to bomb at five thousand feet because it was moonlight, we had to, it was, it was quite complicated action really. We were the first to bomb we bombed two minutes past midnight and we got through, unfortunately because 57 squadron went first the Yorkshire squadrons who followed us got caught with all the fighters and the Ack Ack so they took quite a hammering, crashing, but after the war when I went to Maligny the people there had no resentment to us because not one bomb fell outside of the camp. There was a lot of French people killed but they were killed through falling aircraft, and if those tanks, Panzers, had been released on the second front there wouldn’t have been one because it was an absolute division, hundreds, and we did wipe them out completely so, that was the last one of my first tour. And then I went on to training command instructor [coughs] which I found very worrying [coughs] [laughs] you’ve got to have a lot of nerve, a lot of nerve.
AS: So you did one tour and then went into training?
FY: Yeah, I went in as an instructor. And then I got, I said look, I was on Stirlings and Lancasters instructing, which was the pilots used to you know like circuits and bumps, the pilot, the instructor pilot he’d leave the aircraft and leave me with the other pilot so I was in charge sort of thing we did all sorts of funny things. We got I had a Stirling and I was in the second pilot’s seat [coughs] and we were coming in to land at night and he was way off and I kept kicking the rudder to get him back on to get the lights, the green lights, but what I was getting amber and red [coughing] which meant we were all over the place. When we landed and we were told to report because they obviously saw it from the control tower just switching back like this, and, and I had to report and tell them what I saw, made and they sent this pilot for a medical and he was colour blind, can you believe it? Colour blind he was from America, he’d been instructing in America, well being all lit up in America they didn’t have any problems with lights with colours, but anyway I don’t know what happened to him he disappeared. And it was getting, it was getting a bit dicey and then we had at Winthorpe this was, the two main runways at Winthorpe and the other aerodrome were parallel, on to each other, there were two aircraft two Stirlings on night fighter exercise and about twenty odd air gunners in each one, and the one aircraft was taking off and the other one got into trouble and landed on top of the other one so it was absolute mess. It’s in my book all this, and he said I rushed up to the station and the WAFS there, I just don’t understand the WAFS, the medical WAFS, they were going to each one and they’re all charred you know getting their documents off them, but I don’t know how they did it, I still don’t understand it because the smell was terrible, I mean it was like pork, horrible smell all these poor lads they were all young gunners, air gunners. So anyway just after that I was posted back on to ops, ‘cos I asked for it, and they put me on to 8 Group Pathfinders down at Oakington in Cambridgeshire. Now they, that was good I enjoyed that, second tour. I can’t, I was, first op on pathfinders you’re, you’re, you’re supporters you go in first and drop flares and then the master bomber would follow you in and pick the spots. Now we don’t carry a bomb aimer on that op, and the engineer does it I had to go down and I did that dropping on the target area so that it lit up then we went round we came round again and went through again, always went through the target twice, and then we came back. And then the next one we were visual markers VM, now that new bomb by visual on a bomb site, and you did so many of those if you were any good then they moved you up to primary visual, primary er you, you bombed by radar anyway, the navigator did the bombing, he, he pressed the buttons and everything and he had the target on his screen and that’s when we marked that, used to go through right the way round and then go through again and keep doing that until the target finished. Then we had nothing really happened after that of any consequence, I was at, I finished I was a warrant officer, I turned a commission, all commissioned crew except me I was a warrant officer, and I refused a commission, but when I went back to squadron when the war ended, well just a couple of days before the war ended, a station commander asked me to, would I fly with him and we were going down to Africa, so I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go down with you.’ So as an engineer to go down to Castel Benito like Tripoli so he was away two days I don’t know where he went and then we flew back. After that I was his engineer I always flew with the station commander, and he had put me in for a commission and I said, ‘No, I’m nearly demobbed, I shall, I shall be going out.’ I mean I’ve got to sign on you know, I mean I’d done five years I think it was like everything else you think oh I’ve got to get out of this now I’ve had enough, which I did. And I was demobbed, I went to Birmingham, back to Birmingham, incidentally I don’t like Birmingham [laughs] and I got an engineering job obviously ‘cos I’m an engineer, and they opened sales and I went into the sales side. The, one of the directors called me in, in Aston it was, called me in and he said, ‘We’re opening an office in London on sales, would you like to go back?’ I said, ‘Yes please.’ So I went back to London and while I was down there that’s when I got married to my wife and she was Birmingham so she had to make a change. She came down and I was mishmashing around, I hadn’t, mentally I didn’t know what I wanted really, I kept getting letters from the Air Ministry, I’ve still got them somewhere, asking me to go back in with the, with the rank I had left, and I, I, I said, I wrote back in the end saying no I don’t want to go back now I’m just getting used to being out. However, they sent me three letters from the Air Ministry wanting me back but on a short term you know, I wish I’d have taken it now obviously but I didn’t. The other one was I had applied to British Airways, British European Airways, yeah the European side [coughs] and they sent me forms which I filled in, they said, ‘Yes you’re what we want, you’ll have to come down and have an exam.’ Now you’ve got to bear in mind this is 1945 so I sent in the requisition and then they sent back and they said, ‘Well send us the cheque for seventy-six pound to pay for your exam’, I hadn’t got seven let along seventy-six pounds in those days so I had to turn it down because you know I mean there was no guarantee I was going to pass, ‘cos don’t know what the exams going to be like. So that was a game, ‘cos years later out with Hugh, the navigator, he was a British Airways navigator, a pilot, captain, and he said he always looked for me, he said ‘I was sure you were going to come in, sure’ he said, ‘But we never saw you.’ He emigrated to Nova Scotia, and I used to go over there ooh about two or three times a year and stay with him, my wife and I did, and we used to talk it out, we used to go into his den and go into all the various charts he’d got and yeah it was quite interesting. But anyway from there I was in engineering I didn’t know what I was any good at really apart from flying, and then I got a job with a sales company who got a contract to sell spring pressing, I hadn’t a clue on me, I went straight away to night school and checked it all out, it was a Yorkshire firm [coughs] and I found out that they were for some reason, they were halfway to bankruptcy. I used to go up there and it was a small factory and it clicked that was it I, I, I found my knew everything about spring pressing I could sell it and this, that, and the other and I stayed there, stayed there for forty odd years. Then I semi-retired, I did, I was in London based in London, I, I wouldn’t go to Yorkshire but I was based in London, and er, I used to go up there once a month for about a week or two days but then I was usually on the Continent flying out to the Continent, to the, to the French office, the German office and don’t forget there was East Germany then in those days, we had the Communists. I used to go down to Leipzig regularly a Communist area, Warsaw, I used to go all over the Eastern Bloc, it’s you get to know people, different types, I met a woman in a Keller in Berlin, East Berlin and on the, ‘cos you know they opened like a door, and we went in sitting down at the table and anyway she, she said in her English [unclear] and she said, ‘Oh I was from Berlin, I came from Berlin, West Berlin, I got stuck over here we should have never gone to war’, she said. [laughs] Which I thought was yeah, she said, ‘I said we’re all Saxons’, she said, ‘We’re Saxons.’ [laughs] So there wasn’t any animosity there at all. The same with Holland, we did food dropping in Holland, we had to mark the fields out where they were going to drop the food, so we were in first, we was on Pathfinders. The German Army Station there were all in the square all on parade, I can’t remember which one, which place it was now. Anyway we flew across there and our rear gunner said, ‘Can I have one burst?’ [laughs] ‘’Cos they were all lined up for me’, he said. [laughs] I said, ‘No we are on a peace, they’ve given us peace.’ So we followed on and then the light, the thing came on, [interference on recording] there was a chap on a bike and he was waving to us madly as we were coming towards him and of course the bomb doors opened with the marker which is like a bomb and he just fell off his bike you see he thought it was a bomb. Anyway we did all that properly and then we went down to the canals and there was a Dutch boat, you know sail boat and we went right down in front of him and slipstreamed and trailed all the way back [laughs] and they were shaking their fist at us, yeah that’s a bit of humour in it. That was, that was, that one it’s strange on the Second Front they left Holland they didn’t you know free Holland till later, because they flooded all the dykes had been opened, but they were starving [coughs], eating, they were eating rats and all sorts. So it was a mishmash really. So I say when I came out I went into engineering and from there when I semi-retired I moved to Ledbury. So I got a phone call from a competitor I, I used to deal with and he was a, he was the managing director of Solfis [?] and he’d retired and he said ‘I’ve got a company down in Sussex, now I’m gonna retire properly’ he said, ‘But my son’s going to take over, I want you to come down and look after him.’ I said, ‘No you know I’ve had enough.’ And he said, ‘I’ll give you “x” thousand pounds in cash’, and I did the main contract, he said, ‘Come down for six months.’ So I did I went down, I drove down from Ledbury every week and I, they made me a director there I finished up Solfis [?] as managing director and then I was there twenty years nearly. I was seventy when I retired from there, yeah. So you know, jolly good, I was I tell you I had a good life, you see I had my big arguments see with my wife it’s always money, the jobs you do but you don’t get paid for them, because I liked work I didn’t like money came secondary when a load of contracts came up I wasn’t bothered as long as we got the contracts and I signed it. And but that backfired on me when I was seventy you did sign a contract when you retire at seventy so I had to that was in April I remember that. So we, we’d already moved to Sussex from Ledbury so my wife wanted to go back to the Midlands and so we got up here. Now I’m not a gardener, I don’t like gardening, the only reason we had gardeners down in Sussex [background noise] and my wife loves sitting in the garden so I thought as long as we’ve got a green patch to sit in we’d be all right, so I got the stamp type of garden here, which is, even now I can’t look after it ‘cos I’m not interested in gardening doesn’t interest me one bit. [coughs] And from there I went in to Trevor, I met Trevor down the road, the British Legion, he was the chairman of the branch here and he got me involved in the British Legion. I did quite a lot in the British Legion here and then I went into County, I was County Treasurer, I was County Treasurer for about seven or eight years, and then my wife was very ill I just couldn’t spend the time going round to all the different branches and that. And so I retired from there but I kept up the branch here, but then again Trevor and I, he’s ninety on Thursday, we’re going to lunch on Thursday, he’s ninety, I’m ninety-two, he’s a youngster to me so we’re going to dinner. [laughs]
AS: So when you were offered a commission and you refused it that was because you’d have had to sign in to stay for a longer period?
FY: Yeah, yeah, oh yes. I mean you gotta sign in for a period, because then of course you got to remember people were being demobbed left, right and centre, you know particularly the officers side and they, they wanted a stopgap they wanted people in between for ten years just until they got the new people coming through.
AS: So when you did, you did one tour, am I right in thinking that if you did one tour you were then like exempt from doing any further combat?
FY: Oh yes, yes that was the end but I carried on.
AS: So why did you want to go back?
FY: Because I was nervous of being an instructor. [laughs]
AS: You thought that was more dangerous than being shot down by the Germans?
FY: Yes, yes definitely. [laughs] And, I, I thoroughly enjoyed it, I mean I wasn’t, I never, you know on Dresden people, I was talking about Dresden, they want to read the book on Dresden. It was the, it was the centre of the Nazi in Southern Germany, they had two concentration camps on the outskirts of Dresden, they had prisoner of war camps, they were manufacturing Messerschmitt parts for canopies in one instance. So there was quite a lot in Dresden, and though it was the near the end of the war but the Russians were knocking on the door and they wanted you know an easy way in which is what we had to do for them. But it’s, it’s I went to Chemnitz that night which is about oh a hundred miles north of Dresden and we bombed Chemnitz, no nobody said a word about that we were unopposed all the way [laughs] so not a word about that. There’s one or two like that we went to Beirut in Germany that was the only time I felt not sad. I had a South African captain pilot he was South African Army and he wanted to go do an op, so my, my pilot said, ‘Here take my place then you’ve got a team here you’re all right.’ So we were master bomber that night ‘cos the bomb aimer goes, er, there was six hundred aircraft, he called the first three hundred in, it was undefended we almost wiped it off the map, then he called the other three hundred, which he needn’t have done ‘cos we’d already done it, then you know I thought that was wrong, that was the only time I thought it was wrong, the rest of it I’d, I’d no pity. I mean on the first tour [coughs], I’m gonna use some bad language now, [laughs] on the first tour Smithy the pilot the moment I locked the wheels up he said, ‘Right you bastards here we come.’ And he always said that except for once and that was time we nearly crashed. [laughs] So he kept on saying it [laughs], the crew said, ‘You didn’t say it, you didn’t say it’ you see so we did, ‘cos we were only young [laughs], I mean I was twenty when I came out.
AS: So when you were flight engineer on the Lancaster what was your duties when the plane was up?
FY: Oh well I, responsible for everything really up front, the bomb sight, all the fuel make sure the fuel was being used correctly, the throttles right, you know rev counter, the whole bag of tricks really, the I mean the pilot was only a chauffeur [laughs] all he did was point it in the right direction and that’s it, that’s what the navigator used to say. [laughs] [coughs] And the bomb aimer usually was asleep I used to have to kick Alf and wake him up at the target he always used to nod off on the front nothing for him to see in the dark is there [laughs] till we got to the target. Yeah he was good the bomb aimer. But we, I thought I’d go in Transport Command and so I applied at the end of the war and I was sent up to York training but I wasn’t there long because the station commander sent for me to go back he wouldn’t, wouldn’t let me finish that course, laughs] ‘cos he wanted me to stay with him down down at Oakington but we’d moved upward by then. I think the only reason he liked me was because I used to run the football team and he always wanted to play football [laughs], yeah he was, I liked him he was nice.
AS: Did you say you trained on Halifaxes as well?
FY: No, I on Holtons [?], that was when I went to go on Transport Command, it was a Holton [?] they were a converted Halifax, but apart from that I was on Stirlings and Lancasters. I did a small tour on at the time rather on Manchesters which is a deathmell they was, twin engine Lancaster, that had terrible engines kept failing on people all sorts that’s when they dropped them and brought in the Lancaster with four engines yeah. Then it went on to Lincolns, never flew a Lincoln but I went on a course for Lincolns I never, I never flew one [coughs] it’s only a blown up Lancaster.
AS: And what was the chief advantage of the Lancaster?
FY: Oh its, its bomb bay, I mean the amount, we, we take to Berlin twenty thousand, twenty-three thousand pounds, a Mosquito would take four thousand pound bomber, the Americans would take three and a half thousand on a, on a Fortress, they didn’t carry much, they looked rather good on the films when you see all these but they were only five hundred pounders coming out. We had four thousand pound cookie, thousand pounders, we had banks of incendiaries, and sometimes we had two thousand pounders although one stuck it wouldn’t go we had to try and shake it off. It, it, to me it was, it was using the word it was a darling, it, it you were in love with it. It’s the only place if you go up to East Kirkby on their, their anniversary day when they have dinners, I’ve given those up now, but they, the Battle of Britain Lanc always came over and everybody there was taking photos and the men were crying, I was so moved it, it, it’s an aircraft you can’t explain. I mean it would fly on one engine you lose eight hundred feet a minute on one engine, it definitely fly on two I mean ‘cos we, we demonstrated that to America when the Americans came over the hierarchy wanted to go into a Lanc we took them up and he said this American whoever he was I don’t know who he was, and he said, ‘Will it fly on three?’, so we feathered one, ‘Fly on two’, so we feathered one, he said, ‘You can’t fly without an engine?’ I said, ‘No we’re losing eight hundred feet a minute so we better make up our minds about what you want to do next?’ [laughs] So we upped air and got them, got them all working again. But er yeah it was, there was always an amusing part was we used to have a lot of American aircraft land at East Kirkby and Oakington, mainly Oakington, and they were lost they wouldn’t know where the aerodrome was they got lost, there was Whirlwinds, Fortresses, all sorts really used to land there. We used to oh here we go again, but they used to always ask us to go to their aerodrome you see for a, for a drink yeah. So coming back from a daylight trip once and this Mustang pulled up alongside us and he flashed ‘Can I join you?’ And then we Morse Coded back to him ‘Yes’ and he followed us all the way to the UK, then he waggled his wings and he went away. And then we got a phone call to the mess asked us over to his place for a drink [laughs], he said he was completely lost [laughs] but it I mean they’d no navigation you know, it was a fighter with overload tanks. Are you all right?
Other: Yes I’m fine.
AS: So did you find it easy or difficult when you actually were demobbed, when you came back to civilian life?
FY: Yes.
AS: ‘Cos you said you were only twenty at that point.
FY: Yes difficult because you haven’t got a youth, my book is “Where Did My Youth Go?” it’s, it’s finished now it’s on sale. But it was the gap you came out, your suits were up here right, you’d grown so much, you couldn’t believe you’d grown so much. We were allowed after the second front we could have civilian clothes if we wanted so I sent for my suit I couldn’t get in to it, you don’t realise the difference between you know a seventeen year old and a twenty year old. But apart from that yes, it’s, it’s a muddled, muddled world, ‘cos the, quite an upheaval of course because of the you know Atlee was in power in those days, and then I’ve forgotten who followed him oh Churchill, and then somebody else followed him. But I know I’ve still got my passport when I used to go over to East Germany and all I could take was twenty-five pound, I always had to arrange with the German customer to pay for my hotel out there then I’d pay his hotel at this side when he came over. So like the Poles, just the same for the Poles from Warsaw, they used to come over every six months sign the contracts and I’d fly out to Warsaw and sign the contracts that side for the next six months, [coughs], we did an awful lot of business with them. The beauty of that was like East Germany and Poland in particular factories don’t order through people like us they go to a central purchasing bureau and they order the stuff from us, so the orders were absolutely huge without having to go round to the factories you see, we we, we spent two or three million pound each time we go over and we’d have to do that we’d have to go all round the different factories to get it but in Poland they did it themselves for you, it’s different now they’re all split up again now you see. The same in Berlin, East Berlin it was the same there, that was on the it was in a broken down old house on the second floor and the bottom part was derelict didn’t looked like it was going to stand, but on the next floor was the whole of purchasing for East, East Berlin, for East Germany. Amazing things that went on over the, you all thought we had a wonderful time travelling here, there and everywhere, but we didn’t. [laughs]
AS: What’s your feeling of the way the Bomber Command were treated and after the war?
FY: Terrible. Churchill put us on one side, I mean I was decorated, I got a DFM in that time, which was whitewashed you know, nobody, nobody bothered. That is why I think you see Bomber Command is so connected now and joined together because we were so badly abused, everybody else got, Churchill never mentioned Bomber Command once in his speeches, he mentioned the Army, the Navy, everybody except Bomber Command. ‘Cos he, he, he’s the one that sent us there, he got Harris, Air Marshall Harris to do these jobs, and then the moment we did the Dresden job [interference on recording] he pulled out, and yet he was the one who sent us to Dresden, Harris didn’t want to do it. If you read Harris’ book he said it was the worst decision he ever made.
AS: Yeah I have read it actually. Well thank you very much Fred, is there anything else that you want to add?
FY: Ah, memory now isn’t it [laughs] it’s thinking.
AS: Can you tell me about your book?
FY: Yeah, I mean it’s called “Where Did My Youth Go?” And it starts off before the war, not before the war when the war started, I think I was fourteen year old, I left school at fourteen. I was a messenger on ARP and I was a messenger all the way through during the Blitz in ’40 in 1940, we were bombed out there in London, we were told we had to find accommodation with relatives, of course all my father’s brothers and sisters they all lived in Birmingham so we got on to them and they found accommodation for my mother. We couldn’t go because we had to get, in those days you couldn’t change your job just like that you had to get permission from the Government, so we were waiting for that to come through so we couldn’t go up to Birmingham, and we were transferred to a company in the same situation as you. Well like I was on the railways at the time at St. Pancras in the accounts so naturally I was sent back to Moore Street Station [coughs] in Birmingham. So anyway we were, while we were waiting all this the air raids were still going off and my mother sent a telegram, ‘I’ve got a house, I’m trying to get furniture together’ ‘cos we lost all the furniture when we were bombed. Then we got, two days later we got another telegram saying, ‘Don’t come it’s been bombed.’ [laughs] So my mother was an absolute [unclear] she was, she made me go in the Air Force really, I mean I got my revenge there, but she, I, she was in a terrible state when we got there, her nerves, she was pale, oh terrible. Anyway then we got the Birmingham Blitz started when we got back, when we got there. And so I joined the the First Aid and Rescue Squad down in Walsall Heath. Went to the BSA and they were flooded you know all those people were killed in the floods with the bomb. We had the cinema where everybody was sitting there looking at the screen and they were all dead from the blast, all sorts of things that we dealt with on that. Birmingham took quite a hammering it did really, you know. I was, some of the lads there they rescue people, I mean they’d go into you know all sorts of situations and not think about the danger of it they’d do it. So that was, then obviously when the Blitz stopped, things didn’t get back to normal but you got back a bit more of your life you know. It’s you know that’s when it develops from there Moore Street, but I had carbuncles on my neck through no sleep because I was on rescue all night and in the day I was at work, never slept. That’s a lie I did sleep for you know about quarter of an hour or so but during the day I nod off but then you get called out yes, but that’s what kept you going. But it’s, it’s you know terrible and that was because I was run down, I mean the doctor obviously said that, he said, ‘You were absolutely wrung out there was nothing left, and that’s what your body’s doing it’s getting its own back on you’, I said, ‘Thanks very much.’ [laughs] But apart from that, as I say you can’t actually answer that, the question about the reaction after, now I can’t tell you that’s a difficult one really. I used to like dancing, I used to do a lot of dancing, ballroom dancing of course. I used to see all my relatives I’d never seen in Birmingham, meet them all. I had, oh yeah, I was at a wedding. Yeah my cousin down in London, Margaret, she married a Canadian airman, and I never got on with my aunt she always, always talked me down because her daughter was brilliant, and she was good, but I had it stuffed down my throat for about twenty years, I should think how good she was. Anyway it came to the situation where the wedding, and the chap who she married, the Canadian, brought his best man another Canadian and he kept calling me sir you see, and my aunt said, ‘No, no that’s Fred, Freddie, call him Freddie.’ So he said, ‘Oh can’t do that he’s an officer.’ So I got my own back on her, ’cos it took the wind out of her sails. [laughs].
AS: Right well we’ll switch the machine off then and then get you to sign the form if that’s all right.
FY: That’s okay yes. Was it two hours? Oh my.



Andrew Sadler, “Interview with Fred Young,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 12, 2024,

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