Interview with Desmond Hawkins

Title

Interview with Desmond Hawkins

Description

Desmond Hawkins volunteered for the Royal Air Force and became a navigator. After training on Wellingtons and Manchesters, he flew Lancasters for 44 Squadron and completed a tour of operations. He was commissioned as flight lieutenant and after the tour was posted to an Operational Training Unit at RAF Chipping Warden as an instructor. He then completed a further sixteen operations with 625 Squadron. He talks about the development of radar. He also mentions some of the operations to the Ruhr, Berlin, Italy and Czechoslovakia as well as a particularly long flight that led to landing in Blida, North Africa. Then carrying out a bombing operation from there on Leghorn, where his aircraft was attacked and damaged. After the war he went to work in the City of London but rejoined the Royal Air Force for four years. He wrote a book called 'No Future'.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2015-10-01

Contributor

Christine Kavanagh

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

00:46:44 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AHawkinsDH151001

Conforms To

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

IL: So we’re now talking. So this is — it’s Ian Locker conducting an interview with Des Hawkins at his home in Melksham. It’s the first of October 2015 and the time is about 3 o’clock. So Des, tell us a little bit about your early life and how you came to be in Bomber Command during the war.
DH: Well, it’s fairly simple. At my age at a rather special grammar school I was attending at Bradford-on-Avon, known as Fitzmaurice Grammar School, and we were very well-educated, supremely [emphasis] well-educated but, above all, we were naturally patriotic in those days, and when war came along I thought, ‘Right, the schoolboy’s aim is always to drive an engine locomotive.’ It had to be changed to, ‘ I want to fly?’. So I volunteered and eventually, in 1941, called to interview where we had very intensive medical examinations, and problems to solve, and be interviewed. I wasn’t particularly helpful when it came to the interviewing board. I didn’t think much of them and I don’t think they thought much of me actually but the fact is when they asked me why I wanted to join the Royal Air Force I said, ‘Well, that’s simple. I want to fly, obviously,’ and adding the word “obviously” put a bit of criticism into the questionaire and they suitably looked down a bit. [Background noise] Is it off?
IL: It’s switched on. It’s just you have quite a slightly quiet voice so I’m getting the recording level a bit higher.
DH: Oh, I see.
IL: But that’s fine.
DH: Well, the next question they asked me was, ‘ Have you any relations in the Royal Air Force?’ And I said, ‘Oh yes. Wing Commander A L Grice NC.’ Now that stunned them a bit because NC, as you know, is an army decoration basically and he had been a captain in the Great War, and had wing commander status in the last war, simply because he was a very positive research man. He had all the skills to conduct the sort of matters that needed to be put forward during wartime and at that point they all smiled, got up, came round the table and shook me by hand. They said it would normally be eighteen months you’ll be called up in — you were given a little badge, RAFER, and told to go back to civvy life but you’re sworn in, sworn in the Air Force, but you’re in civvies and they said, ‘Because you have someone in the RAF already, instead of waiting eighteen months you will wait only three months’, and that was the way it turned out. Thereupon, I was posted overseas, to Canada, down to the United States under the Arnold Scheme, the illegal [emphasis] scheme where we weren’t allowed to wear uniforms but they provided the RAF with flying training. But we had to wear lounge suits to settle the matters created by the Neutrality Acts but we were kicked out there. It wasn’t a very successful scheme. Even if you didn’t have your blankets, your sheets, at the corners of exactly forty-five degrees you were washed out. You got de-merits and when you had enough de-merits, like coming in under the fence at night like we did, you were washed out of the course. That happened to me and I went back to Canada where I decided that I’d no longer wait for a pilot’s course. I would be a navigator. I had all the satisfactory education necessary and that’s the way it transpired. Back to England and then they lost us at Bournemouth for about three months. They had to dump us somewhere, where we bathed and filled The Norfolk Hotel nightly, and had a whale of a time. And then they eventually caught up and I went to OTU at North Luffenham in Stamford, Stamford near Oakham, up that way, to be trained on operational training, rather different from just flying. Flying at night, in total blackness of course. Absolutely opposite to what it was like on the other side of the pond, and after that we then — we crewed up then. We selected each other for members of a particular crew. We then went to a conversion course from Wellingtons to Lancasters.
IL: So had you ever flown on that, Wellingtons, when —?
DH: Oh yes but not until we got to OTU. You had to learn to fly them there and do the night training there.
IL: So you learnt as a crew?
DH: Oh yes, absolutely. That was the idea, to weld together a fluid, effortless, satisfactory working group.
IL: Right.
DH: Then we had an intermediate stage before we flew the Lancs, we were flying Manchesters, because the layout of the Manchester, althought only two engines, was the same as in the Lancaster. It was easier for pilots. Then we were posted to number 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron which was the first squadron ever to have Lancasters off the production line. Althought that was some while before I joined them.
IL: Gosh.
DL: There afterwards, after a tour of operations, I went as anb instructor to OTU Chipping Warden in Oxfordshire. It was nearly as dangerous to be an instructor on the OTU as it was flying on operations [laugh]. At least that’s the view I formed. Ultimately, of course, time went by, the second front happened. I wasn’t involved with bombing operations then. I went back after [emphasis] the second front was opened to 625 Squadron and completed sixteen trips, not quite allowing me to complete a second tour, of twenty this time instead of thirty, simply because the war ended. And I can only say that’s a broad statement, chronology of events that happened.
IL: So your first, your first tour, you did thirty operations?
DH: Yes, that was the requirement.
IL: OK, tell me a little bit about — tell me a little bit about what happened on a tour of operations. Tell me about the places you visited. Tell me about the first tour.
DH: Well, that list I’ve given you has got it. Not that one. One of the others. Didn’t I give it to you? Didn’t I give you —
IL: It’s here.
DH: Oh yes, yes, the others. Now there are a number of people around who would say, ‘Forty-six? I’ve done ninety.’ But of course they couldn’t have done it unless they were in at the start of the war. Well, they didn’t contribute very much because very often, because they couldn’t find the targets on the continent so easily and, of course, many of the support second front trips were very small, maybe an hour and a half ,and some people have counted those as whole operations. You can knock up a fair number like that but if you look at my [emphasis] list you will see here that, whilst the first are all the Ruhr, measuring five or six hours each time, but when it got down to a bit later in that, when the winter came along, these hours were going up, 7.30, 7.55, ‘cause they were long trips, right, and then you can see here three Berlins. The shortest was 5.50. There was special reasons for that, the weather was thoroughly dud . None of the defences couldn’t get off the ground so we went the shortest way rather than the long way round. But here you see, on this second tour, these places: Misburg [?], Zeitz, Pölitz, Chemnitz.
IL: All much more East Germany.
DH: Yes. 8.25 hours. And there is one on here, we were at the very maximum, 10.55, a low level operational on a transformer station in Italy but because the night hours were insufficient to come back over enemy territory, too dangerous, we went on to land in North Africa, deliberately, it was planned that way, and then when we could get back (although the weather was bad for a week or so) we bombed Leghorn on the way back and taking off from where we were, in North Africa, Blida. And then again, so these all were fairly long trips.
IL: Absolutely.
DH: It’s not like a fighter pilot, going up for a maximum of half an hour and landing because he was either out of petrol, munitions or both. We couldn’t. The moment we entered over the continent the Germans were after us all the way out to the target and all the way back. It was a very, very, harassing situation altogether and very, very wearing, to such an extent that, when I first went to 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron they said, ‘You won’t be on operations for a couple of days. Get used to flying around the countryside, Lincoln countryside, see where we are.’ And we did that but at night, of course, there were empty beds, increasingly every night, and I suddenly realised there was absolutely no future in this at all. I wasn’t going to live more that two or three trips. That was my opinion and hence, postwar, when I came to write that book, that’s where the title “No Future” comes from.
IL: Absolutley. So, how did —? Just sort of describe that sort of —? How you came to terms with that sort of —? How does someone come to terms with ‒?
DH: Danger?
IL: With fatalism, you know —?
DH: You get used to it. It comes under a well-known phrase in the RAF, “getting flak-happy”. If you get a lot thrown up at you and you get through it to start with, and you always get through, so you acheive some kind of strange kind of optimism and the view that, ‘Whoever’s going to get shot down it won’t be me, it will be the other chap’.
IL: Right.
DH: Fatalism, yes, but rather a strange kind of optimism as well.
IL: And did you ever feel frightened? Did you ever — you know?
DH: Yes, yes. This North African trip we bombed Reggio there satisfactorily but we passed over an unknown defended area on the Italian coast, going across to Sardinia [?] across the Mediterranean, and they chewed us up a bit and on that occasion the pilot was throwing the airplane around like nobody’s business and all my navigational instruments slid off the table onto the floor, and the one moment that they slid onto the floor and I bent down to pick them up there was a horrid grafting bang right beside me or behind me, and shocked to find there was a great big hole in the fuselage. My own instrument board in front of me was smashed. If I had been in normal posture, sitting up at my table, it’d have taken my head off at the neck so that was the reason to be shocked. But having got over it I realised I’d got a guardian angel somewhere and forever after that I seized to worry about anything.
IL: Amazing. So how — how did you — you know? Obviously you mentioned earlier when you were chatting about that people couldn’t, you know, navigators, aimers, people couldn’t find targets and things in the early days of the war. What was different for when you were there? What were the improvements?
DH: 1943 when I went on the squadron they had already experienced Mark 1 GEE, a system of fixing your position on the ground by radar.
IL: Right.
DH: It was very unreliable and you often had to kick it to get it to work even but by the time I got on the squadron we got Mark 2 GEE which was much more reliable and useful. It helped us fix our position before we got to the enemy coast so we could recalculate as navigators the real [emphasis] wind velocity —
IL: Yeah.
DH: — and speed, and we were then able to adjust the forecast winds accordingly from there onwards, to give us more of a chance to get further into Germany accurately. And then, of course, later that year there was a new thing came along called H2S which gave you a plan of the ground. Rays were transmitted from the dome at the rear of the Lancaster under the — just under, near the mid-upper turret there’s a bulge. It transmitted from there, hit the ground, sent back pulses which would put a blip on your screen or a number of towns, must a blip. No names on them of course but in conjunction with dead reckoning navigation we were mostly able to decide which town that would be. In the Ruhr there were so many towns. That was where the problem was. You couldn’t tell which was which, right, because it was like one big industrial blob. But it did have its drawbacks. We went down to obstensibly to go to Pilsen, in Czechoslokavia, and we bombed and there was tremendous fires, a marvellous thing, suitable for the occasion, so to speak, but it turned out not to be Pilsen at all. It was this place here. Where the devil is it? Oh, I can’t find it. Pölitz.
IL: Oh, Pölitiz. Yeah.
DH: Pölitz. It seemed we’d done a wonderful job, nobody knew it was there, or at least all the armaments and that that were there. We did a good trick but we never found Pilsen. Why? Because it was the topography of woodland and hills and that masked the fact that Pilsen was there. So nothing’s perfect.
IL: No, absolutely.
DH: But it helped.
IL: Yeah.
DH: Considerably.
IL: So how, in terms of — when you were briefed on targets, what were you — what were the targets, you know? We’ll talk again about Dresden, you know, aftermath and things like that but were you always —? Did you think you were targeting always — it was, sort of, you were always targeting industrial complexes? Or was there ever a realisation that this was —
DH: They were mostly, as far as I know, industrial complexes and the fact that a lot of people got killed at the same time was unfortunate because they lived near their working space. So if their factory got blown up so does some of the people that lived around that area. It’s inevitable in war. You can’t do much else about that.
IL: OK, tell me a bit about some of the people who were part of your crew.
DH: Well, Burness is the star. A New Zealander who was a first [emphasis] class pilot. Considering the amount, small [emphasis] amount, of training you had before you had before you got onto operations, he was a first class pilot but he couldn’t accept anything that wasn’t acceptable. He was a shrewd, shrewd fellow but also quite a hard one. He once — we were doing some air-firing off Skegness on one occasion, practising, and he swept in over the coast and went right over a group of naval cadets on the forecourt and they all had to fall down, as they claimed they’d had been knocked down. We were pretty well at nought feet. Now he did that and when we got back there’d already been a complaint. Now they’d picked up the squadron letters but they hadn’t picked up the aircraft [emphasis] letter but the Squadron Leader Shorthouse, who was the flight commander then, said, ‘Bernie,’ he said, ‘That was you. The Navy is complaining,’ and he said, ‘Well, what’s the matter?’ He said, ‘They were forced to fall to save their lives, to fall to the ground to escape this aircraft coming in fast and furious over the top of them.’ He said, ‘Damn bad discipline, that!’ [Laugh] But he couldn’t be broke. He fell out with the group captain and he wouldn’t be told. He was strong, a first class pilot, but he knew that he had to defer to me. On one occasion we went down to one of these long trips, seven or eight hours, the weather was dirt, and it was the time when they broadcast from home, Meteology broadcast, revised winds, as they calculated them, but I said to him one day, I said, ‘They broadcast winds saying we’ve got to use seventy-five miles an hour.’ I said, ‘That’s rubbish. They’re a hundred and fifty miles. I know I got a proper fix.’ He said, ‘Well, what are you asking me for? You’re the bloody navigator!’ So I ignored the broadcast winds and went round. We found the target. There wasn’t much activity but it was the target. And we came back, hardly any aircraft anywhere. Usually you used to get a slip-stream, from an aircraft in front of you, absolutely nothing. We were an hour back before the next aircraft in Bomber Command simply because we hadn’t gone all over Germany, right, by false wind forecasts? And the group captain said to Bernie, he said, ‘You haven’t been to the target Burness.’ Because bear in mind they didn’t like each other. ‘OK,’ he said, ‘Come on chaps,’ he said, ‘ We’re going to get something to eat and go to bed.’ So we did. There was a hell-of-a shemozzle the next day because they hadn’t got any intelligence report from us. Right? So was the aircraft missing? Where’s the intelligence report? So it had to be explained and when asked by the commander at base, Scampton it was, ‘Why didn’t you go to briefing? Why didn’t you deliver an intelligence report?’ Bernie said, ‘Well, we hadn’t been to the target according to what the group captain, Sir, so no intelligence report was possible.’ That caused a storm. The offending officer was court-martialled as a result of it because we were able — . They back-tracked all my plots, couldn’t find anything wrong with it. They checked the engine consumption to see if we’d flogged the engines to get home quickly, nothing wrong with that. But above all things, the absolute wonder if the moment, we’d got an aiming point photograph of the target, which was taken automatically when the bombs went down and it wasn’t a good night but there wasn’t too much fire and flame, which very often obscured what could otherwise be a decent photograph, right, so we were totally exonerated, absolutley and completely, and the officer concerned was treated as he should have been treated. I believe he was court-martialled and sent to the middle east, taken down to wing commander but that’s a little bit private that bit , but I don’t care, I’m passed caring now anyway. But these were the sort of things that had to be contended with on some occasions. I never suffered like some did, any harsh reaction after I stopped operations, and when I went back to civvy life and worked for a good many years until I retired, only then did it come and smack me right in the face, all of a sudden I got all sorts of think-back feelings, I forget what the word is, looking back.
IL: Post traumatic stress.
DH: Post traumatic stress and that was terrible. And I thought, ‘Well the only thing I can do is put it down on paper,’ and that’s when I wrote that book after I retired from my civil job after the war.
IL: So what did you do as a job after the war?
DH: I was at Lloyds of London.
IL: Oh right.
DH: Yeah and er, but that didn’t solve the problem in itself because I started getting calls from the BBC to talk on radio, because we lived in Cornwall then. I’d retired and then they started asking me to do after dinner speeches. That didn’t relieve it, not a bit. Until the book was published, properly, it got around, all of a sudden it died away. I haven’t had anything since, just like that. Something spurred it, I don’t know quite what it was. Such are the frailties of human nature, one way or another.
IL: So what sort of things were happening to you just at the time when, you know —?
DH: Well, what sort of things why I might have been affected? Well, it’s quite something when you see an aircraft shot down in flames on your starboard beam or on —, you see one explode in the air right in front of you, all that kind of thing, you saw it so often and you began to think, ‘I’m going to get that one of these days.’ But we didn’t.
IL: So were there any other interesting people on your crew?
DH: Er, they all had their own facets, most notable I think is probably the popsies they chased in their off duty hours.
IL: This is the sort of thing we need to talk about.
DH: Yeah, but they were, of course, integrated thoroughly. They knew what to do and did it well and we didn’t — we weren’t completely ousted [?]. We did shoot down two or three night fighters which was quite something because you rarely saw a night fighter in total darkness, he saw you first . He could see your exhaust fumes from four engines. That told the Germans it was an English bomber so he could come up underneath and fire up. You couldn’t see underneath, right, so you just had to keep out of the way and that kind of thing.
IL: So would you have seen night fighters on most of the night missions?
DH: Yes, yeah.
IL: Gosh. Mm.
DH: Not in its full shape.
IL: No.
DH: But it was there, you knew it was there, and later in the war they did develop a radar thing operated by the radar operator, though I can’t think of it now, which showed if you were being trailed by an airplane, put it like that. But probably the most interesting thing about it all to me was how I got my commission.
IL: Yes, please tell me about it.
DH: Is that worth listening to?
IL: Yes, of course.
DH: Well, in those days, when you qualified in your particular trade, say navigator or pilot, you were made a sergeant, only a sergeant, and we took our sergeant’s rank to squadrons, and eventually to flight sergeant, but by then a number of the crews, straight from training, without experience, were coming in as commissioned ranks. They started commissioning by er, during, after training. We missed all that and it kind of rose up one night at a briefing, 44 Squadron, when Wing Commander Nettleton VC was briefing us for an operation and, like he always said, he drew attention by to the most senior crew by way of saying, ‘Look, if they’ve survived, why shouldn’t you?’ Right, now when they said “Flight Sergeant Burness” there was a lot of the new bods who looked up in a bit of astonishment, ‘Flight Sergeant Burness will lead the squadron tonight.’ It didn’t mean anything because you went indepentently. But sitting at the table, as it happened, were one or two of the big-wigs from Scampton, seeing how we were conducting our briefing, I suppose, or rather our management was. There were one or two covert chaps down the table when he said this. The next morning we were called to — yeah, the wing commander’s office. He said, ‘Do you want a commission?’ ‘Do you want a commission?’ We’d never thought about it really. He said, ‘Right.’ We did sort of hesitate for a moment because we thought well it won’t make much difference to the pay, though the mess bills would be bigger. He said, ‘Right, get into Lincoln. It’s been arranged with the tailors. You’re back in the mess, the officer’s mess, by tonight. You should be clothed properly in your new uniforms.’ And I think I —. The pilot didn’t achieve that because it had to go through the New Zealand Air Force pattern. So I had to attend at the mess that night and I wasn’t very happy about it, of course, but there it happened. And it made it easier for me when I went as an instructer, you know, it was a bit more listening went on, and it showed that whilst the operational features were first class, they were well planned, the administration wasn’t so good. Now why should they forget about those people, or were they hoping they’d all get wiped out before they needed to commission them, right?
IL: I suppose that’s true of a lot of them. Didn’t they? We talked about earlier about the lack of recognition that Bomber Command had. Tell me a little bit about your thoughts on — put your thoughts on tape.
DH: I’ve already said some, haven’t I? But that wasn’t on tape.
IL: But that wasn’t on tape.
DH: Well, it was my view we had Winston Churchill, as good a commander as he was during wartime, he was responsible for not giving Bomber Command the proper credit for its acheivements because he hoped to be the first peace-time Prime Minister, and he didn’t want to go looking for that position thought of as a warmonger or anything like that. Political, it was. So Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command, got blamed for hitting the wrong targets, like Dresden, for example. Well, of course, it was never his decision. It had to come from the top. He, Arthur Harris, wasn’t allowed to bomb who he felt he should do. He had a pattern [?] from the Air Council and the Prime Minister. So we all thought in my area, although he’d been a good war commander, he let us down at the end because it should have been recognised that Bomber Command did, as it was expected to do, pretty well win the war because our troops and the American troops, being conscripts, were not up to the standard of the German army. They didn’t have much chance of getting on to the French [unclear] unless they were helped very very considerably indeed, and of course they were by Bomber Command, because we bombed all his supplies, so he couldn’t bring his troops up to — force us back into the sea as would in [unclear] have happened and he says, ‘my few.’ I’m firm about that. I’ve thought about it a lot and so, of course, he didn’t get his seat, as the Prime Minister. I would think all Bomber Command voted against him. Right, now then, what else was there to add to that do you think?
IL: Whatever. You were talking about Dresden as a target. That it wasn’t the innocent target that has been portrayed.
DH: No, it wasn’t.
IL: And you also mentioned, you know, your experiences of arguing with people on the radio. These are all useful things.
DH: Er, yes. Well, Dresden, of course, wasn’t the classic [emphasis] city that people like to think of it, as solely classic, and it’s a shame to break the buildings downs, but it housed the centre of the German Eastern command for fighting the Russians, and also had started making precision instruments that had been knocked out of the Ruhr by Bommber Command, and they built them down in Desden where it was thought it might be safe and also at Yalta, as I remember, this President Roosevelt, Josef Stalin and Churchill agreed to help the Russians and that was put in place by the Royal Air Force under the command of Winston Churchill, to bomb Dresden. So there isn’t much argument about this. That’s what happened but no one likes to think they couldn’t be stopped, like some of the people came on the radio after the war saying, ‘The war was nearly over. Why did we have to smash Dresden?’ Well, of course, it wasn’t known at that time that the war was nearly over. It collapsed rather sooner than expected and, in any case, her view, of this particular woman I’m thinking of, wouldn’t have been respected by those who lived in London with V2s falling all around them and smashing them to bits. So it was well justified and I think that’s about as much as I’d like to say about that, right?
IL: OK, but you’ve had some recognition recently.
DH: Oh, you mean the clasp. Well, yes, I was publicly presented with that by Air Vice Marshall Pat O’Reilly, retired, in the King’s Arms Hotel, Melksham. I didn’t really want to attend but the RAF Association thought I wasn’t doing the proper thing by opting out so I went along and, well, it was a social occasion which happened with a severe background to it, of course. It was a late [emphasis] recognition of Bomber Command without achieving much in the way of expense and that was, had a lot to do with it.
IL: Have you been to the new Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park?
DH: No. I’ve thought of it. I’ve been a very busy man actually. I haven’t really had time to do much. You’ve caught me at a time now when I’m tolerably free. I could go up tomorrow I suppose.
IL: You say you’ve been a busy man. What sort of things have you done after the war then Des, as well as obviously working?
DH: Well, a lot of book work. I did do some work for a City of London organisation after the war, by post. I done it for a fair few years. I’ve given it up now. It was taking up too much of my time and —. But in general mobility is not as good as it used to be though I get about alright. But I’m now more thinking where am I going to get a good meal next and which pub shall I go to?
IL: Sounds good to me.
DH: Yeah, well I find, and it’s not so silly as it sounds, but I go and I join a group of us oldies. We indulge in intelligent conversation over lunch and, in my humble view, that’s the only thing that’s really left for very elderly people. You can’t do much except use your brains, be friendly with people, discuss perhaps the situation in the world today, try and fight it’s battles without much success because the younger ones aren’t listening, right, or can’t listen, one or the other. And so we enjoy our food while putting the world to rights, in theory.
IL: What —? Tell us a little bit about how you socialised during the war. What sort of — what was the social life like between operations?
DH: At the bar. Briefly, that’s about it. Occasionally we would wallop off into Lincoln but you always did the same thing there. You went into The Snake Pit as they called The Saracen’s Head in Lincoln. It was known as The Snake Pit ‘cause it was thought there were more German spies in there than anywhere else in the country and so you could only have a drink. You didn’t drink too much generally but you did rather absorb a bit of it. It wasn’t bad. You didn’t do much except for one thing, one good thing, we used to get week’s leave every six weeks, phenominal, until it started getting down to three weeks because so many people in front of you had not come back from ops, you moved up the rosta. So we were getting a lot of leave by way of easing the situation.
IL: How did you cope with not — the people, how did you cope with people not returning? People that you — or were these people you didn’t know or you were just socialising with your crew or was this something that you just accepted?
DH: You accept it very quickly because you knew it’s inevitable, that this sort of thing will happen. The losses in — the worst part of the war in Bomber Command was ’43, ’44, as you know, were pretty fantastic. Of over 75,000 employed, 56,000 were fatal, er, casualties, and that doesn’t augur for a particularly friendly future. So you just have to accept it. ‘There’s a war on,’ was an old expression we used to use. It can be used in many circumstances, ‘There’s a war on.’
IL: Right, can you stop for a second?
DH: At the end of the war as the war ceased all our aeroplanes were grounded so there was nothing to do, utter boredom, ONUE [?] by the bucketful and one got fed up with getting up in the morning, breakfasting, walking down to the flights to see if there was anything, walking back because there was nothing, day after day. There was only one way to handle this, to get released. But of course, if you were relatively young, you were the later ones to be released. They asked, it was a combination of age and service, actually, carried out and so I, like most others, got released as soon as I could, went into Civvy Street, got going, but even in the City of London, the pay was pretty poor, and it was not as much as I needed. I’d been earning more in the services and so I rejoined the RAFVR, I resigned my emergency commsission and took on a reconstituted commission but I had to go in at a lower rank. So, instead of flight lieutenant, as I was, it was flying officer. But that was reinstituted, your original substantive rank, was reinstituted about a year later. And I did four years flying around at weekends, on Anson aircraft, of all things, and for a fortnight during the summer months, for which you duly got a day’s pay plus flying pay, which was substantial, which helped me with my reintroduction to civil life. And then at the end of that four years I felt I’d truly had enough and resigned again, finally, but before that I was granted, because I’d done all of that, I was granted my substantive rank of flight lieutenant for life. End of story.

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Citation

Ian Locker, “Interview with Desmond Hawkins,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 18, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/1366.

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