Two stories and a letter by Ted Neale



Two stories and a letter by Ted Neale


#1 Ted Neale's account of a train trip in South Africa. Ted and his tall friend were attacked in Bloemfontein by a group of six locals.
#2 Designated pilots-navigators or bomb aimers at Heaton Park then sent to Bridgnorth to await a ship to South Africa. Ted went to Port Elizabeth at 42 Air School to train, then Cairo.
#3 A letter referring to Ted's service history and his deafness. Over the years he attempted to get a disability pension but only received small lump sums. He details fellow aircrew who have been treated differently to him. Then he discusses a Canadian pilot, Kurt Lavack, who had survived a landing accident which Ted witnessed at close hand, when an unreleased bomb exploded. The pilot, Kurt, was later given a substantial pension by his own (Canadian)government and the British government. The letter concludes that at the age of 80 he deserves to be treated better.




13 handwritten sheets


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 and





[underlined] Minding my own business. [/underlined]
Walking down the street in [underlined] Bloemfontein [/underlined]. [inserted] [symbol] [/inserted]
We had trained as NAVIGATORS & BOMB AIMERS at 42 AIR SCHOOL SOUTH AFRICA. BREVETT & STRIPES up and happy, we were on our way to DURBAN on the “BLUE TRAIN.” good food, good beds with clean bedding supplied in a valise with a seal which you broke to prove it was fresh, the train puffing along, walk to the front of the train, swing doors to the track and pick what we thought were melons, which turned out to be pumpkins, [underlined] UGH. [/underlined]
[page break]
[underlined] 2 [/underlined]. then climb back aboard the train to continue on, that slow. One of our number had fell[inserted]en[/inserted] off the train in the night, going to the toilet he opened the wrong door, only had a shirt on, walked along the track until he come [sic] to a town. Named Watson (we called him Wiley), he did catch us up eventually.
This being a single track you had to halt in a place where another track was laid so that the trains can pass going in the opposite directions.
We stopped at BLO[inserted]E[/inserted]MFONTAIN. The brewing capital of S.A. for eight hours, and we were in
[page break]
[underlined] 3 [/underlined]. the middle of the town. I was walking along with my mate Lofty Winterbourn, 6ft 3 3/4” and don’t forget the 3/4” he would say.
Six young fellows walked past and in the guttural Afrikanse [sic] we heard [underlined] RAF [/underlined] Bastards, next thing I knew I was on the deck and they were jumping on me, they picked on me being smaller by the best part of a foot, however Lofty was doing his bit, I reached up and grabbed a shirt and pulled myself up and kicked someone where it was most painful, then they took off but not before I had ripped
[page break]
[underlined] 3 [/underlined][sic] the front of a shirt. We went back to the train where we thought our attackers had gone, and along with the other 40 or 50 [inserted] aircrew [/inserted] on the train we went all through the train looking for a torn shirt, with no success, by this time my eye [inserted] was [/inserted] black & closed & a little finger with a black nail & bruising where they had stamped on it, we went into town again where we supped their special four XXXX brew, which helped to ease the pain. Then time to get back on the train & continue our journey [underlined] to DURBAN [/underlined]
[page break]
A happy band of NAV’s, we came together at Heaton Park, where in front of the band stand we were designated our trades of PILOT BOMB/AIMER or NAVIGATORS, being released from essential service in the Woolwich Arsenal I had the option of returning to civvies since my release was specified for PILOT only. I had soloed quite successfully at GRADING SCHOOL but the P.N.B Scheme had started so they just went through the list 1-2-3. P- N.B.
So we arrived at BRIDGENORTH. a hut full of NAVS U/T. wasting time since all the [inserted] troop [/inserted] ships were being being [sic] used for the North African landing, until eventually in early 43 we all left Liverpool on the “STRATHMORE” arriving after 3 weeks
[page break]
[underlined] 2 [/underlined].
in Durban, still together on to EAST LONDON, then on to various AIR SCHOOLS for flying training. In my case at 42 AIR SCHOOL PORT ELIZABETH we went on our wings parade, where we were called to return to our classrooms. The married men were told to fall out, while the rest drew playing cards, the half of those left that lost were to go to the Middle East to O.T.U. while the rest including the married ones were to go back to Blighty. We all returned to Durban where by various means we made our way to CAIRO, then went our separate ways.
[page break]
Dear Sir. I am writing to you for the prospect of help for what has been a situation that has rankled for me for many years. I volunteered for the R.A.F. and was eventualy [sic] released from an exe[inserted]m[/inserted]pted occupation in the Royal Ordinance factory, the Woolwich Arsenal. I joined the RAF for aircrew training in early 1942. I served until October 1946 when I [inserted] was [/inserted] demobilised. In that time I trained & served as a Navigator, my active service was with 37 Squadron A Wellington squadron on bombing raids from Italy. On completion of a tour I joined a Communications flight out of Casertare Algiers, flying on Baltimores & ANSONS. I was fortunate enough not to suffer any apparent injuries, although I was hospitalised twice for what would be considered today as a Post Traumatic Stress syndrome, but the forces of the day being what they were I was discharged from hospital as
[page break]
[underlined] 2 [/underlined] N.Y.D. which was the jargon for “not yet diagnosed”. on demob I returned to my civilian life. After a short time I realised that I had a loss of hearing, I was seen by a consultant hearing specialist who diagnosed what he said was “high tone” deafness which amounted to a complete loss of a spectrum of my hearing, he said that there was no treatment for the condition, and that a hearing aid would not be a cure.
The pension authorities at this time did not accept that this hearing defect was pensionable.
Some years later I made an application and an appointment was made for another hearing test, which confirmed the original diagnosis, and this time, I was granted a lump sum of £1,500 being the lowest award available, something over 2% disability
After many years I received a letter from the pensions department
[page break]
[underlined] 3 [/underlined] inviting me to have another ear test, resulting from which I received another sum [inserted] just [/inserted] in excess of £1,000. After a few more years I was [deleted] invi [/deleted] informed that I had run out of time to make an appeal, but if I made an appeal it would be considered, although it was out of time, In the event I was told that the appeal would not be allowed. As a result of the hearing test I was considered for a hearing aid from the N.H.S. which I eventually received, as the diagnosis of 30 years or more proved correct the hearing aid was of no use. Being taken in by glowing adverts I paid over £800 pounds [sic] for the latest hearing aid which was no improvement on the NHS one. I was fortunate enough to receive most of my money back. After a few more years the hearing department of the NHS wrote &
[page break]
[circled] 4 [/circled] invited me to go for another consultation when they fitted me with a hearing aid for my other ear which once again proved useless. I have lived my life missing out on social functions theatres, television etc, [sic] at our BIGGIN HILL Aircrew Association meeting just last week I sat [deleted] while sat [/deleted] through the meeting without understanding a word. It is the same at the Sidcup branch of RAFA. My [inserted] old [/inserted] wireless operator made an application for deafness disability and was granted a pension whilst nowhere as severely afflicted as myself. I will explain my reason for making this application at this time. I have [deleted] bef [/deleted] kept in touch with both my South African pilot & the rest of my crew all these years, including my bomb-aimer also in South Africa. With the
[page break]
[circled] 5 [/circled] [inserted] advent [/inserted] of E mails, I now keep in touch via my younger brothers computer. Of recent date my Pilot has passed on news of one of our old squadron members, a KURT LAVACK. who is living in SWEDEN, he is a Canadian who was a pilot on our squadron in Italy, back in 1944 I was crossing the runway one evening when I heard a Wellington aproaching [sic] to land, so I halted to watch it land, as it touched down there was a massive explosion, and I watched as the aircraft disintegrated in flames. I watched as the fire & rescue crews dealt with the crash, surprisingly only two of the crew died, the rest of the crew survived with injuries & burns, except for the pilot, who was unsathed [sic], [deleted] becau [/deleted] because the pilots seat was armoured to protect him from flak & bullets etc, the rest of the crew were will know [sic]
[page break]
[circled] 6 [/circled] to me as friends. Kurt was back in the air with a new crew within a few days. It appeared that a hung up bomb had released on landing, slid forward & detonated on striking the end of the bomb bay. My brother managed to contact KURT by E mail & we have corresponded this last few months. He sent a recent E mail in which he stated that some war-time service people who he had befriended in Sweden asked what pension he had received for war service, they said that the Canadian government would be pleased to receive a letter from him because funds had been made available for ex war service people, he received from them a substantial sum of money, they also apparently forwarded his particulars to the War pensions in England, since he served with the RAF and not the Canadian air
[page break]
[circled] 7 [/circled]. force. from the British he also received a substantial sum of money still being in Sweden he felt that I should have a reasonable case for a pension as he had never lived in England. I am now 80 years of age, living on only a state pension, with a wife who is severly [sic] arthritic and is in constant pain. Do not construe this as an appeal for any financial help from yourself, I just want help to get from my government what I consider is well overdue



Ted Neale, “Two stories and a letter by Ted Neale,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 19, 2024,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.