Interview with Bert Hammond. Two

Title

Interview with Bert Hammond. Two

Description

Upon volunteering for aircrew, Bert Hammond completed basic training and formed a crew at 26 Operational Training Unit, RAF Wing. He joined 514 Squadron based at RAF Waterbeach and completed thirty operations, before instructing at RAF Manby. Despite training as a rear gunner, Hammond swapped with the mid-upper gunner due to his familiarity with morse code. He describes an emergency landing after anti-aircraft fire damaged instruments forcing them to turn back before reaching Gelsenkirchen, the terrifying view of the night sky over the city targets, and how his pilot once evaded a radar-controlled blue searchlight. He also recalls a royal visit to the squadron, experimental flying with a captured Ju 88 to test the airborne radar, and being featured in a film at RAF Benson. Hammond suggests that his most important role was not firing, but acting as the eyes of the aircraft to prevent collisions, therefore he routinely cleaned his turret before each operation. He postulates many planes were lost due to inexperience and lacking knowledge of night fighters shooting petrol tanks from below. He states the close bond and efficient communication between his crew secured their safety, hence upon completing their tour, they refused to join a pathfinder squadron after the wireless operator opted out.

Creator

Date

2019-02-12

Language

Type

Format

00:51:08 audio recording

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

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.

Identifier

AHammondBF190212, PHammondBF1901

Transcription

BH: Yeah. I mean I’ve sort of give an abbreviation —
DK: Ok. I’ll just, I’ll just do an introduction first.
BH: Yeah.
DK: So, I’ll just say this is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Bert Hammond at his home on the —
BH: Do you want my proper name? Bertram or Bert?
DK: Bertram. We’ll say Bertram.
BH: That’s my proper name.
DK: Bertram. Bertram Hammond. Yeah.
BH: Bertram Frederick Hammond.
DK: Bertram Frederick Hammond on the 12th of February 2019. So, I’ll just put that there.
BH: Yeah.
DK: If I’m looking over I’m just making sure it’s still working.
BH: Yes.
DK: So we spoke a few months ago. Obviously you talked about joining the Air Force.
BH: Yeah.
DK: So, what do you actually remember about your time in the Air Force then?
BH: Well, I’ll start if off again now with I was born in Norwich. At a young age I joined 233 Squadron ATC. Played football and cricket. And we went flying in Bostons and a Rapide, you know from various squadrons around Norwich. Volunteered aircrew. Medical and selection board at RAF Cardington. I had to come back to have my tonsils and adenoids out. Medically unfit. Joined the RAF at ACRC, St Johns Wood. Where are we then? Had the flu, not flu, the jabs.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: Inoculations there and kitted out. Then we went on to RAF Bridlington and did marching primarily there and dinghy drill. Then posted to RAF Bridgenorth. Had a lovely time there because I had a local aunt so had some wonderful Sunday lunches. Then to RAF Morpeth Air Gunnery School and you know ground tuition and flying. I was, at a young age there I was one of the youngest. I also went on these courses I was picked out as a roll of honour guard for an AOC what was coming. He never turned up. They cancelled it. And I also did guard duty. Then we were posted to 26 OTU at Wing and little Horwood which is a combination of the two where we crewed up. Flying and ground instructions and various things like that. On one night we were taking off on a cross country. This was at Waddington and it was a pretty brand new aircraft. It was a pitch dark night and just about to take off when I heard somebody call, “Mayday. Mayday.” Didn’t realise it was me. I was in the tail you see. And the skipper according to all accounts later on was not supposed to keep airborne especially on take-off. Lack of speed.
DK: Yeah.
BH: But he got it around and he landed on the belly but he got a green endorsement for getting an aircraft without crashing it.
DK: Yeah.
BH: But that’s all part of what was going on in because they flew night and day.
DK: Yeah.
BH: These OTUs in those days.
DK: Was it, did he become your pilot all the time then?
BH: Yeah. Well, we crewed up there you see.
DK: Can you remember your pilot’s name?
BH: Yes. It was Flying Officer Michael Warner. Yeah.
DK: Ok.
BH: The other thing was that crewing up was bizarre. You just picked. Picked ab lib you know. He came up to me one day and said, ‘Would you like to be my rear gunner?’ So I felt honoured somebody had asked me [laughs] But that’s, that was the situation there. I was there quite a while. Then we went, posted to RAF Methwold. This was the escape course.
DK: Right.
BH: Training how to be —
DK: Yeah.
BH: [unclear]
DK: Yeah.
BH: And then we went to, posted to Waterbeach. The one, I forget the name. It was a conversion flight which we went on to the Mark 2 Lancasters.
DK: Right.
BH: We then started a squadron. The initial first op the wing commander of the squadron came. You know, came with us. Initial flight. It’s normal when there’s a flight you can only describe this when your name goes up on the battle course, you know it’s in the officer’s and sergeant’s mess. The duty. If your skipper’s down you’re on that night. And then of course the old tummy begins to churn a bit.
DK: Yeah.
BH: You go out and do your DIs. You get an idea of the length of a trip by what’s in the tanks. The petrol tanks. Full tanks, you know it’s a long one. We had a bit of problems. We were on our way to Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr. We got into a bit of a problem with being shot up a bit with flak. We lost a lot of instruments and the skipper decided to turn back and we made an emergency landing at RAF Woodbridge.
DK: I’ve just found that in your logbook actually.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Operation Gelsenkirchen.
BH: Yeah.
DK: And it says landed at Woodbridge. And it was a Lancaster Mark 2.
BH: Yeah.
DK: It’s saying here that the serial number U826.
BH: Yeah.
DK: And it was on the 12th of June 1944.
BH: Yeah [unclear]
DK: So that was just after D-Day then.
BH: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. Ok. Did you actually drop your bombs at Gelsenkirchen?
BH: No.
DK: You came back with them.
BH: No. He lost his instruments and he decided that he’d, and we’d got no navigation whatsoever so I don’t know how he got it back that night at all but because it was pitch back and of course we, of course he’d got no airspeed indicator. He we came in a bit fast but better still than being a bit slow and stalling it.
DK: And you still had the full bomb load.
BH: No. We dumped it.
DK: Oh. Right. Ok.
BH: We dumped. We dumped. No. We dumped a cookie.
DK: Right.
BH: In the North Sea.
DK: Ok.
BH: So [laughs] where we are now? It wasn’t, I said operations were going on just the same as when you were picked and all that. You, some of the, some of the operations were quiet compared with if you went to big cities.
DK: Yeah.
BH: It was a slightly different ball game there because of the intensity of the ack ack, searchlights. Night fighters were always a problem. We went [pause] where are we now? We went to [pause] one. We were going to Stuttgart.
DK: Right.
BH: We went there twice and ironically after the war my pal Richard which you’ve kindly found you know, all the details for me. He was on his first raid. He was on that raid and he never made it back. He’s buried in France.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: I may, I said it’s a coincidence I did see a Ju 88 night fighter climb out of a searchlight ready. Ready to home in on us, you know. It may have been the same one I don’t know but it’s a coincidence. After the war you learn these things.
DK: Yeah.
BH: The —
DK: And just going back to your logbook again I see you did Stuttgart on the —
BH: [That’s nine hour] Yeah.
DK: Yeah. 25th of July.
BH: Yeah.
DK: And then the 28th of July 1944.
BH: Yeah.
DK: So you did Stuttgart twice in three days.
BH: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Yeah.
DK: And then it’s —
BH: They went, actually went four times.
DK: Four times.
BH: Four nights.
DK: Ok.
BH: Four nights on the run. Yeah.
DK: Right and you’ve mentioned here you say the industrial centre of the town. So —
BH: That’s what, that’s what they told us.
DK: Yeah. So can, can you remember what you could see over the cities then as you were approaching then?
BH: Well, I never saw much of them because being in the tail and then of course I transferred to mid-upper.
DK: Right.
BH: Because I was the only one in the aircraft besides the skipper and the wireless operator who could, who could do Morse.
DK: Right.
BH: I mean at a reasonable speed. I mean I learned it in the ATC.
DK: Yeah.
BH: So we said, ‘Well, you’re no good down the tails. If the other gunner’s prepared to swap, you know,’ he said, ‘You’re nearer in the mid-upper. You’re nearer to the wireless op.’
DK: Ok.
BH: ‘In the case of emergency.’ So that’s what I did. I did that from the start.
DK: So, were all your operations in the mid-upper gun turret then?
BH: Yeah. Yeah. And the point was that you could turn and look and sometimes I probably shouldn’t have done but I had a quick look around to see where we were headed and you could see the target ahead.
DK: Right.
BH: And it looks [pause] you think, God we’ve got to go through that. You know, you think you’re never going to make it through that because I mean a big, I’m talking about big towns now like Stuttgart. Stettin we went to near Poland. Bremen. Another one was near Stuttgart. I forget the name of it now. It’s in there.
DK: Yeah.
BH: But those targets we were over big towns. They threw up everything as you might say at you, you know.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Ok. We, I mean we were fortunate. Lucky. Call it what you like. We only had a few holes in the aircraft sometimes but they soon patched them up, you know.
DK: Yeah.
BH: But —
DK: And what was it like then visually as you see all these guns firing at you. What? Was it colourful? Was it —
BH: Oh yeah.
DK: Was it like a firework display?
BH: Well, all I can say it’s like a minor, you know London, New Year’s Eve when they have all around the river there. It was similar to that only under a controlled area of course but I mean there’s searchlights up and of course your problem then was fighters from above.
DK: Right.
BH: Because you were silhouetted against all these lights, you see. It’s like a big beam of light with ack ack flying all over the place. So you, you when you come out the other side you think how the hell did we come out? I mean to be honest about it because the point is once a bomb aimer takes control you’re steady. Steady. Steady. Steady, ‘til he drops his bombs. Then you’re still steady because you’ve got to take a photograph.
DK: Yeah.
BH: So you’d about another minute properly and that seems like eternity because I’ll be honest about it you are sitting there saying to yourself, ‘For Christ’s sake drop the ruddy things.’ [laughs]
DK: Could, could you actually hear the bomb aimer then with his instructions? [unclear]
BH: Oh yes. All of it. All on the —
DK: You were sitting at the top there and waiting for him to —
BH: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Say, ’Bombs gone.’
BH: Yeah. He, he’s telling the pilot you see what to do.
DK: Yeah.
BH: So it’s all over the intercom. Yeah.
DK: Right.
BH: Oh yeah. The other thing is of course night fighters were the dreaded things. I mean, you searched, searched, searched and searched. I’ve often come back from, you know long trips with sort of bloodshot eyes and things like that which I’m, which I’m sure was a problem because I’ve had a lot of problems with my eyes over the latter years and I’m sure it’s, you know.
DK: Right.
BH: Partly due to that, you know.
DK: Right.
BH: From my younger days. The other thing was when you’re [pause] the Germans had a, what they called a master searchlight. A blue one.
DK: I was going to ask about that actually. Yeah.
BH: Well, we were caught once.
DK: Right.
BH: And once, once they click on it’s a radar controlled. Once they click on to you up comes supporting you know manual and we got caught this time. We were going away to Stuttgart strange as it may seem and the bomb aimer says, he says, ‘We’re coned.’ That’s right, ‘We’re coned.’
DK: Yeah.
BH: And he threw out Window. That’s the metal strips.
DK: Yeah.
BH: By the galore, you know [laughs] and the skipper put it into a dive and I watched the searchlight gradually disappear. Normally, once you’re coned you’re in trouble because the fighters are waiting to pounce on you.
DK: So what did the pilot do then? Did he put the aircraft into a dive?
BH: Straight dive.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Yeah. And then of course I said the bomb aimer was throwing out this Window. The metal. You know.
DK: Yeah.
BH: The metallic strips. It gradually disappeared. But that’s the only time we got coned. We got caught with ack ack. But we were, I mean we were very fortunate let’s put it that way.
DK: Were you ever attacked by a night fighter at all?
BH: No.
DK: No.
BH: No.
DK: But you did see them.
BH: We see them. We evaded them.
DK: Yeah.
BH: We saw. This is the point. The whole thing, you see of, of a bomber going out is as far as we were told is to get back so we could go again the next night. Don’t put your bomber into jeopardy otherwise, you know.
DK: Do you think the role of the gunner then was more to observe rather than —
BH: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
DK: Than to fire your guns.
BH: As the skipper said, ‘You’re our eyes.’
DK: Yeah.
BH: Oh yeah. I mean this, it was not, it was not only shall we say enemy fighters. Night fighters. There was also the problem of collisions because if you put like on a big raid shall we say on a town perhaps four hundred aircraft because we start bombing and it’s all over in twenty minutes. Those four hundred aircraft are crammed into that twenty minutes.
DK: Yeah.
BH: I mean, they could be above dropping bombs on you. There could be collisions. I mean often we would avoid collisions. Seeing the aircraft, you know just above you or just, you know [pause] because we, you had to tell the skipper every move you see of an aircraft because he might make the run or suddenly dive or pull up out of the way of something and go in to the aircraft. So you have to be, you are the eyes. It’s simple as what Mick said.
DK: Yeah. It must have been quite frightening as you were in the mid-upper gun turret and seeing an aircraft above you then.
BH: Well, you just tell the, you just tell the skipper, you know. That Halifax Lancaster whatever it may be, you know, above you. You know. Otherwise keep still. Don’t move.
DK: Yeah [laughs]
BH: That was a big problem. Collisions. There, there isn’t much I can say about operations except that [pause] you always went for your briefing in the, you know and the first thing you looked at was where the tape ended to see where you were going. It’s a funny thing but you know I said you were always apprehensive. There was always a bit of nervousness.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Until you got in the aircraft and then you had a job to do. Then they used to stand at the runway and wave you off. There would always be, you know a contingent of some RAF there of some sort. But the funny thing as you got on ops, you got experienced. It became a sort of a challenge, you know. It’s a bit of excitement come into it because you know you were trying to get back home again sort of thing, you know. Safe.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: That was, that’s a feeling where I’m doing the best I can because you were a member of a crew which you became very very close. That’s all I can say about that. But it wasn’t all ops on the squadron.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: This, where are we now? On, we went to, oh well one day of course, the skipper was an officer and we went in to of course that was a peacetime camp at Waterbeach. They had barrack rooms. So rather than go in to the mess where he couldn’t come in we went in to the barrack room so he could come and join us. He came over one morning and he said, ‘Right lads,’ he says, ‘Pack your bags, he said.’ We’re off.’ We said, ‘Where are we going?’ He said, ‘We’re going to Farnborough.’
DK: Yeah.
BH: So we said, ‘What?’ You know, we said ‘Well, what are we going there for?’ He said, ‘We don’t know until we get there.’ But he said, ‘The adjutant has just told me you’re down there.’ And we went down to Farnborough and we found out we were experimental flying with a captured Ju 88 night fighter.
DK: Oh right.
BH: It’s in the logbook there.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: Which is, which was a bit unconcerning because they put a hood over the, it was daylight we were doing it. Put a hood over the, over this night fighter. He was sort of flying by night you see.
DK: Yeah.
BH: And he could home on us just like that.
DK: Really?
BH: Yeah.
DK: So were they testing the airborne radars on the —
BH: Yeah.
DK: Ju 88.
BH: Yeah.
DK: And homing in on you.
BH: How they homed on to them. Yes. And it was all down through, they found it was all done through the kind of intercom system.
DK: Oh right.
BH: The next —
DK: Did you manage to get a good view of the Ju 88? Were you able to —
BH: Oh yeah. He come up you know. He homed onto us.
DK: Yeah.
BH: And he was flying about all over around Farnborough and that for a while.
DK: Right.
BH: Yeah. But it was, it was, it didn’t give you much pleasure to find out how easy he could home in on you.
DK: I can understand that. And did you manage to have a look on board the Ju 88?
BH: No.
DK: No.
BH: No. They wouldn’t allow us. No.
DK: No.
BH: We tried to but they wouldn’t allow us to.
DK: So you did actually land at Farnborough then.
BH: Oh yes.
DK: Yeah. And then did the experiment then.
BH: Yeah. We had a, the other thing was we had our lunch there and we come back and I think we were on ops that night. I’m not sure.
DK: Actually, I’ve just found it in your logbook here.
BH: Yes.
DK: So, it’s the 8th of August 1944.
BH: Yeah.
DK: And you’ve gone in Lancaster Mark 2. It’s Q666.
BH: Yeah. That was from the conversion flight.
DK: Right. Ok. So you’ve flown from base to Farnborough and the next, later that day you’ve got here so that’s later that day on the 8th of August 1944 experimental flying with Ju 88.
BH: Yes.
DK: So you didn’t put in your logbook anything about the radar then.
BH: No. No.
DK: And as I see then the 18th then. So a few days later you were then operations to Bremen.
BH: Yeah. Oh of course we went the same.
DK: Yeah.
BH: I don’t know how long we [pause] I think we stopped.
DK: It looks like the 18th. Oh, it might be the same day.
BH: Yeah.
DK: It might be the 8th.
BH: Anyway, the next, the next thing was that we went to a call. Got another call later. Well, I don’t know what date. What time of year. I can’t remember. It’s probably in the logbook. I never looked. The skipper came in again. He says, he says, ‘Get your, get your kit bags.’ Your bags you know. You carry your utensils in for staying a night or two. He said, ‘We’re off to RAF Benson.’ ‘What for?’ Now, previous to that the skipper had come in and he said, ‘Do you know what?’ He said, ‘I was having my breakfast this morning,’ he said, ‘In the officers mess and I said to the chappy with me, I said — ’ he said, ‘That civilian over there,’ he said, ‘God, he does look like Edward G Robinson. The film star.’ He said, ‘It is him.’ He said, ‘What’s he doing here then?’ He said, ‘Well, he’s going to make a film,’ he says, ‘And he’s come to get experience of an RAF Squadron.’ So whether it was anything to do with that I do not know.
DK: No.
BH: But a few days later we were off to RAF Benson. That’s a photographic unit.
DK: Yes. Yeah.
BH: We made a film of some sort. I never knew much about it. I was, I was —
DK: So was he on board your aircraft then?
BH: No. No. No.
DK: Right.
BH: No. We never saw him. I never saw.
DK: Never saw him.
BH: I don’t know how long he stopped. But we went down to RAF Benson. We made a film. I was, I was in the film as a wireless. As a wireless op.
DK: Oh ok.
BH: And the skipper flew in on one, you know with one engine cut, you know. That was the photographic section. Section.
DK: Right.
BH: That was, that was —
DK: So there should be a bit of film of you somewhere then at Benson.
BH: I would have thought so.
DK: Yeah. I’ve just found it on your logbook actually.
BH: Yeah.
DK: So, just for the recording here.
BH: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: It was, that was on, that was on the 4th of August 1944.
BH: Yeah.
DK: And you went in Lancaster 2F 612.
BH: Yeah.
DK: So, base to Benson and then it looks like you flew back the next day on the 5th.
BH: Yeah. It wasn’t long.
DK: Benson to base. So there was a bit of filming going on then.
BH: Oh yeah. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
BH: But as —
DK: And was your aircraft filmed as well then, was it?
BH: Oh yes. But that aircraft, but these aircraft were from the conversion flight, you know.
DK: Right. Ok.
BH: We didn’t, I mean obviously we couldn’t take a squadron kite because they were in use you see.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: But I mean the O-Oboe which you’ve got there. As I said it tells you that we did, even when we went on to Mark 3 we remained as O-Oboe.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
BH: That was our permanent aircraft, you see.
DK: I’m with you. Yeah. I see it. O.
BH: Yeah. Also, also on the where are we? [pause] visiting July was the King and Queen and Princess Elizabeth came. Came to, you know visit us there. It was all hush hush sort of thing.
DK: Was that at Waterbeach?
BH: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Waterbeach.
BH: I found some photographs on my pad.
DK: Right.
BH: Because I wasn’t sure of the date. I don’t know if it was June or July because it wouldn’t be in my logbook obviously.
DK: No. No. No.
BH: And they all did like aircraft lined up on the runway and pictures.
DK: Yeah.
BH: And all taken about that. Spitfires flying overhead.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Of course who it was, and nobody knew what it was. Nobody knew what it was until they arrived. Absolute circus of security.
DK: Were you introduced to the King and Queen?
BH: He went past me.
DK: Right.
BH: But the Queen, what’s known later as the Queen Mother.
DK: Yes. Yeah.
BH: She used to call us, ‘Our little boys. Young boys.’ She was, of course you look at the photographs around here. We look so young. Well, because we look so old now [laughs]. But that was, in fact after we finished a tour we were going to PFF. 7 Squadron at Oakington. But the wireless operator, Jim he was the eldest, he said, ‘I don’t like to do this but I’ve got two boys,’ he said, ‘And I think I’ve been lucky. We’ve been lucky up until now.’ So he didn’t go and then of course we all ummed and ahhed, sort of thing. The only person what went was the bomb aimer, Cyril.
DK: Right.
BH: But I finished up then going to [pause] where are we? Went. Got posted. Posted to RAF Nairn.
DK: Right.
BH: Up in the north near Inverness. This was a aerodrome which had been built and not in use but I think it was a kind of a rest camp until they sorted you all out. There were quite a few of us there. Then I was posted to RAF Manby.
DK: Right.
BH: Air Armaments School, and became an instructor ground and air. And as I said I met some interesting people there.
DK: I see from your logbook at Manby you were flying Wellingtons again.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Were they were they quite old then and a bit clapped out?
BH: They weren’t too bad.
DK: Right.
BH: They weren’t too bad. The only thing I would say there is you often hear, you know, luck is on your side. One morning I was down to fly down to Wales. I forget the name of the camp now. We were going down to pick up another Wellington. I can’t think of the name anyway. Anyway, I was late. I missed, I missed the bus down to flight, you know. Of course, I walked down but of course by that time they’d taken off. I normally flew with a warrant officer [pause] Oh God, here we go again [pause]. Jock. I forgot his name. He’s in there somewhere. But as the day went on a big thunderstorm came over and a Flight Sergeant Townsend. That was the other one.
DK: Townsend. Yeah.
BH: He picked up this aircraft that had no ground communications at all. Should never have flown. He got into the, into the storm. He got puzzled where ever he was and just flew in to the North Sea. And I could have been on that aircraft.
DK: You could have been on it and it’s only because you missed the bus.
BH: Yeah. I was late.
DK: And that was flying, Flying Officer Townsend.
BH: Flight Sergeant.
DK: Flight Sergeant. Sorry. Flight Sergeant Townsend.
BH: Usually go warrant officer.
DK: Yeah.
BH: The other I flew a lot with. But this was [pause] I played football over there for the station with pros and against. The RAF was a great education of people during the war you come up against. As I said, Ronnie Price. I met him occasionally and he became quite, he became very famous. One of the top session musicians.
DK: Yeah.
BH: I tried to get some of his CDs. Couldn’t. And my cleaning lady who is a friend also, she saw, she got me some now.
DK: Oh good.
BH: I’ve got, I’ve got his obituary.
DK: Yeah.
BH: We used to take a paper. I’ve got it in there.
DK: You can listen to him again then.
BH: Oh yeah.
DK: Yeah.
BH: I’ve got a player. I mean, he taught me a lot.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Taught me. I mean I’ll give a little idea when I played in little dance bands you know. I’ve played in pubs with concert rooms you know. You name it I’ve played there. Night clubs. And the night club was organists. They were pros.
DK: Is it, do you still play at all?
BH: Only for fun.
DK: Oh ok.
BH: I mean, I can’t play. My legs aren’t very good now and I, my organ is a bit of a problem so I changed. My, my Kate my friend she says, ‘Why don’t you find out?’ But she said, you know, ‘Why don’t you do this or do that and she she pushed me and thankfully she did into buying a keyboard.
DK: Oh ok.
BH: Wonderful.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Get all sorts of things on that.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. It looks very impressive.
BH: Well, it’s, it’s music was a big part of my life.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: All down to, I mean my father taught me.
DK: Yeah.
BH: But Ronnie Price because I wanted to play dance music. My father was a sort of semi-classical pianist, you know. Very good.
DK: So you did thirty operations then altogether.
BH: Sorry?
DK: You did thirty operations.
BH: That’s right. Yes.
DK: With 514. So you didn’t do a second tour of operations then.
BH: No.
DK: The intention was you were going to go to the Pathfinder Force.
BH: Well, I were. We were. But as I said, you know we weren’t, if we didn’t go as a team you know we said, you know, we won’t go. I mean, as I say only one went. I mean, as far as I’m aware he survived the war.
DK: Right.
BH: Did Cyril.
DK: Did you get back in touch with your crew after the war at all?
BH: Yeah. I phoned up and we called him Mick, Michael and I was here. I mean, it was well after the war and I knew he came from Ipswich and I came from Norwich so we had a kind of affinity with being close together in, you know in that way. Counties.
DK: Yeah.
BH: And I sat, I sat in my office one night and I thought to myself oh, I went through the book and I couldn’t find anything about Ipswich in it, you see. So I thought, well I went across to the post office about a week later and I thought, I wonder if they’ve got any [unclear] books there. And of course it comes under Colchester.
DK: Yeah.
BH: I found his name in there as Ipswich, you know. Michael John Walker. And, I thought, well I took down the number and gave it a ring and a lady answered the phone. So I thought, so I said, ‘I’m looking for Michael John Walker.’ She said, ‘Oh, I’ll get my son.’ Anyway, of course I explained who I was. She said, ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘Oh, Mike, will be so pleased to hear from you,’ she said. She said, ‘I’ll give you his home address. He lives in Bedfordshire now.’
DK: Right.
BH: Lives at Bedford. He was flying. He did BOAC.
DK: Right.
BH: And then of course he got married and he went for the short hauls. And I phoned him up and as I said we met at the George you know and then I —
DK: And he was your pilot then.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: And he went, we went to I didn’t know who else. We contacted the other gunner. He came from Birmingham.
DK: Are they the people named in here?
BH: Yeah.
DK: Your crew.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
BH: We made contact with Jock the navigator. Jock Tait.
DK: Right. So — sorry go on.
BH: We found Jimmy Foyle, the wireless op.
DK: Right.
BH: The only one we couldn’t find was the bomb aimer Cyril and the flight engineer.
DK: Right.
BH: Tommy.
DK: That’s Tommy Buchanan.
BH: God, he was a looking, good looking [laughs] God, he was like a film star. Yeah.
DK: He’s got the right name hasn’t he? Buchanan.
BH: Yeah.
DK: So, your pilot then, just for the recording then was Flying Officer Warner.
BH: Michael John Warner. Yeah.
DK: Michael John Warner.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Your flight engineer was Buchanan.
BH: Tommy Buchanan.
DK: Sergeant Tommy Buchanan.
BH: Yeah.
DK: The bomb aimer was Flight Sergeant C Holmes.
BH: Cyril Holmes.
DK: Cyril Holmes.
BH: He became an officer.
DK: And you haven’t, you never contacted him again.
BH: No. We couldn’t find him.
DK: So the navigator was Sergeant J Tait.
BH: He became an officer.
DK: Right. And then wireless operator was Warrant Officer J Foyle.
BH: Jimmy Foyle. Yeah.
DK: So the gunners were yourself —
BH: Yeah.
DK: Bert Hammond.
BH: And Don Shepherd.
DK: Yeah. Don Shepherd. And did you contact Don Shepherd?
BH: Yeah. We used to meet up.
DK: Yeah.
BH: We used to meet up at [pause] there was, first of all there was Jimmy. The other gunner, Don. The navigator Jock Tait.
DK: Jock Tait.
BH: Tommy Tait. Jock Tait.
DK: Tommy Tait.
BH: And we first met up at Peterborough.
DK: Right.
BH: Then we went to, met up at Leicester. And then we met up again. Oh, we went to Leicester two or three times and stopped the weekend, you know. And then we went to, up to York.
DK: And this is your Lancaster here then.
BH: That’s the one I did seventeen ops in. In the Mark 2. Yeah.
DK: So you did seventeen ops and it’s Lancaster O.
BH: Yeah.
DK: 734.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Of B Flight.
BH: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: B flight of 514 Squadron.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Waterbeach. So you did seventeen ops on the Mark 2. Were the rest on the Mark 3 then?
BH: Yeah. Well, and other Mark 2s.
DK: Other Mark 2s.
BH: Yeah. Until we got allocated to O-Oboe as our permanent one we did on N-Nuts, U-Uncle, Q-Queenie. You know. That was all on B Flight.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Yeah. And then we got allocated that and we kept O-Oboe. We went on to the Mark 3. But —
DK: And, and how did you find the different Marks of Lancaster then? The two.
BH: The Mark 2 was quiet. It was very good near the ground but it struggled up at eighteen thousand. In fact, the maximum the Mark, Mark 3 was, you seemed ages getting up but once it got higher and higher it was, you know it went up to twenty two, twenty three thousand feet.
DK: So the Mark 2 had a higher rate of climb but it couldn’t keep going then. Yeah.
BH: Couldn’t reach the maximum. The maximum was about eighteen thousand.
DK: And were they faster off the runway at all?
BH: Oh yes.
DK: Yeah. So they were a faster aircraft.
BH: Yeah. On the ground.
DK: On the ground. On the ground, yeah.
BH: Yeah. On ground level shall we say.
DK: Yeah.
BH: But the equipment was, I mean we first of all we had Gee navigation which was ok up to, I think about two hundred miles. After that it faded away. Then of course we had H2S underneath which was just brilliant wasn’t it? I mean the only thing we felt, you know like the two gunners and the wireless op who operated, he had a night fighter detector. We felt that if we put out the impulse they could home on that.
DK: Picking it up. Yeah. Yeah.
BH: So we decided to, that’s why I think we survived a lot we, we relied on our eyes.
DK: Did you switch the H2S on and off then?
BH: I don’t know.
DK: Right. It wasn’t on all the time.
BH: I don’t think so.
DK: No.
BH: I don’t think so. You see the bomb, the bomb aimer was, he was an excellent map reader.
DK: Right.
BH: I mean, he could pick up on the ground. He used to give [pause] what shall I say? Help to the navigator. You know, give him fixes. What they call fixes.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Do you think the defensive armour wasn’t very good because there was nothing looking down was there?
BH: There was on the Mark 2 if you look.
DK: Right.
BH: It’s a single gun look.
DK: Ah.
BH: Now, there aren’t many people know that.
DK: Yeah.
BH: When people says it wasn’t.
DK: Yeah.
BH: I say well I’ve got a photograph to prove it.
DK: And it’s on there. That’s Lancaster 734.
BH: It’s supposed to be the wireless op. He wouldn’t go down. He said it was too bloody cold [laughs]
DK: So it was never used then.
BH: No.
DK: But you did have one pointing down.
BH: That was the part where they used to come up. They’d got these German night fighters. I think mostly it was the Ju 88. Up guns
DK: [unclear]
BH: They used to come up from underneath.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Of course they come up from the dark part of the earth, you see. You got a sky you can see something in the sky even on a dark night. But the earth is pitch black.
DK: Yeah.
BH: But I mean you were hoping for some little glimpse of something that’s all.
DK: Did the pilot move the aircraft a lot so you could see down?
BH: No. No. I used to lean over.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
BH: I’d look underneath. And then the rear gunner used to, used to, you know [pause] specialise in looking down.
DK: Right.
BH: But I kept my look on the wings and up above.
DK: Right. Ok.
BH: You know. Then of course we said, ‘Right. We’re now, we’re all on the ground, you know. We communicated.
DK: So this under belly gun then.
BH: It was a 303.
DK: It was a 303, and that was for the wireless operator to use when he —
BH: Well, there’s nobody else unless the mid-upper.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Unless the mid-upper went down.
DK: You never went down.
BH: No.
DK: So it was never really used then.
BH: Well, it wasn’t because the point was that you were restricted of view because you could only look down. You can’t look beyond you. You see what I mean?
DK: Yeah.
BH: Because there’s a hole where it goes out and that’s the only view you’ve got.
DK: Yeah.
BH: So anything coming up behind you you can’t see. So —
DK: Well, you’d be looking in the dark again anyway wouldn’t you?
BH: Oh yeah. Yeah.
DK: Looking down.
BH: I mean you’re far better to be something where you could look a little bit ahead and then look down.
DK: Yeah.
BH: This time you could only look straight down more or less. There wasn’t a lot of room to view something.
DK: Did you used to practice the corkscrew manoeuvre?
BH: Oh yeah. I mean —
DK: What was that like?
BH: I remember [laughs] I remember the first time was at OTU. I think it’s flying officer somebody calls us. He goes, he was, he was our instructor all through you know and by the time we were up there [pause] ‘Alright,’ he said, ‘We’re on corkscrew.’ And he said, you know today and he explained it all. Well, I didn’t know what to expect. I know you go down and anyway of course you had an aircraft attacking you, you see and he slung this one and it seemed to go straight down. And of course the G Force. You’re just pinned against you, I mean I was in the rear turret then because they were, they were Wellingtons.
DK: Right.
BH: You’re just pinned. You can’t fire anything because you’re just like frozen. The G Force was pushing you against the back of the ruddy turret. They pulled out at the bottom with more G Force.
DK: Yeah. The other way.
BH: Talk of that, when we were at Manby they, because it was Empire Air Armaments School they, I mean we started doing some experiment with what’s the name sight. Gyro sight.
DK: Right.
BH: Because that was always the ring and bead he you know.
DK: Yeah.
BH: It’s a new gyro sight you see. That’s all in my logbook there and we were doing all these experiments on ordinary flights. Full scale combat, you know. Fighters. Spitfires attacking you. And this particular [laughs] this particular morning I crawled down, you know. There had been the sergeant’s mess dance the night before. And anyway, this flight lieutenant there and he said, he said, ‘Oh, I’m glad you’ve arrived,’ he says, ‘Hammond.’ So I said, ‘Oh yes, sir.’ He said, ‘Well, you know what you’re on this morning.’ I said, ‘No. I’ve no idea.’ ‘Full scale combat manoeuvre.’ I thought oh God. Anyway, we went up and I’m not kidding we didn’t have one Spitfire attacking we had two. When one finished the other one started. I’m sure he did it deliberately [laughs] That was the only time I’ve ever felt sick in an aircraft. Mind you that was no breakfast.
DK: Oh dear.
BH: Yeah.
DK: And did you ever use this evasive manoeuvre —
BH: Oh yeah.
DK: On operations?
BH: Only on occasions where once or twice we weren’t sure if we saw anything so we made him over.
DK: Right.
BH: Just weaving. To get us a bit of you know, to look underneath, you know. But we —
DK: Did you think those that were shot down then were probably either unlucky or they weren’t trained enough to to look and weave and manoeuvre?
BH: The trouble was I feel that we weren’t aware of the German night fighters coming up underneath with these two guns pointing. I mean they just pointed to the petrol tanks.
DK: Yeah.
BH: They weren’t worried about the engine. I mean if they got the petrol tank. Boom.
DK: Yeah.
BH: But I mean, I mean they had cannons on.
DK: Yeah.
BH: They didn’t, they didn’t have just machine guns. I mean, I mean I think we weren’t aware at that time.
DK: I was going to say is that something you found out about —
BH: Yeah.
DK: Since the war. They didn’t tell you at the time.
BH: We suspected something like that but there was never anything. Not until the latter part of my tour did they mention it.
DK: Really?
BH: But I think we went, people went back you see and reported. I mean, if you’re shot down you can’t report it can you?
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: I mean it’s, it’s a something which it’s hard to explain to people when you’re in a situation where you know there’s always tension. There’s always tension and you’re, you’re keyed up.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Because you know. Well, you, I don’t say you’re frightened for your life but you trying to protect your life and your comrades with you.
DK: Yeah.
BH: So you, you know you can be jumpy. That’s why I used to make sure my turret was spotlessly clean because you could be firing at a speck [laughs] on the turret. I mean, that’s how, that’s how jumpy you can get, you see.
DK: Yeah. Is that something you personally did then? Clean the turret.
BH: Oh yeah. The ground crew did it.
DK: Yeah.
BH: But I checked it.
DK: Right.
BH: Yeah. And I checked my guns. I made sure of that. Yeah.
DK: So what did you think of the Browning machine guns because they were only quite a small calibre weren’t they?
BH: Yeah.
DK: Up against the Germans.
BH: They [pause] I think primarily the mid-upper, the rear had four and I think that was a better combination.
DK: Right.
BH: For defence. Two. I don’t know whether that would be. I mean two obviously together God you’ve got six machine guns but you had to be fairly close to be effective.
DK: Yeah.
BH: There’s no good being about four hundred yards away because, you know. But I mean you know, but I mean its close encounter anyway at night but it’s going to be a sudden burst.
DK: Yeah.
BH: And it’s got to be in the right place. There’d be, I mean plenty of gunners shot down night fighters. Oh yeah.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Were you aware of any in your squadron who had actually shot down German —
BH: Oh yes. Oh yes.
DK: Night fighters.
BH: That’s where you get your information from.
DK: Right.
BH: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s how they suddenly realised they were coming up underneath.
DK: Yeah.
BH: I mean, when we first went nothing was said. It must be around about [pause] I’m only trying to remember where they went into the briefing room and the gunnery officer said, ‘Be aware of aircraft underneath. You are well aware of the Junkers 88 fitted up with two vertical guns or more or less. Coming up underneath.’ And that’s the first time it was ever mentioned.
DK: Right.
BH: Because that was information fed back by people who had survived, you see.
DK: Yeah.
BH: It’s very, I mean today, I mean I say one little thing triggers off another because you [pause] I mean when I came out of the Air Force I wasn’t interested in flying, you know. I wanted to go on with my life sort of thing, you know.
DK: But your pilot though did, didn’t he? He joined BOAC.
BH: Yeah. He went. As I say he’s somewhere in that book.
DK: Yeah.
BH: It’s marked there. He crashed out in, I don’t know if it was the Bahamas or somewhere out there. They ran into a storm.
DK: Right.
BH: And they survived obviously but he had a nice, made a nice career of it.
DK: And was he —
BH: He married a, he married a —
DK: A stewardess.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: Mind you that was one of the old ones. She could speak two or three languages.
DK: Oh right.
BH: We’re still in contact. I mean the skipper, I’m the only survivor now.
DK: Right.
BH: But the skipper’s wife is still alive. She was a lot younger, Zina. We have a chat on the phone now and again.
DK: Yeah.
BH: She sent me a book. 514 Squadron.
DK: Right.
BH: And, and for Christmas my friend who’s a cleaner what comes today, Kate. She gave me another book.
DK: Oh right.
BH: One was operations of all 514 Squadron what Zina sent. There’s plenty of books out.
DK: Yeah.
BH: It’s rather strange.
DK: There are. Yes.
BH: Yeah.
DK: There’s lots of them there.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Ok then. Well, that’s, that’s been very interesting. That and our early interview.
BH: Well, it’s a bit fuller isn’t it?
DK: It is. Yeah. I mean the other was a bit more of an outline of what you did.
BH: Yes.
DK: This is a bit more full of other bits there.
BH: Well, if it’s any help. A pleasure.
DK: No. It’s been marvellous. Ok, well I’ll turn, turn the recording off now but thanks very much for that.
BH: Oh, you’re welcome.
DK: That’s very interesting.
BH: You’re most welcome.
DK: Thank you.
BH: It’s nice, it’s nice to think somebody is, is still interested.
DK: Oh yes. There’s, there’s quite a few people out there interested in it all.
BH: Yeah. I mean I —
DK: You know. Your stories.
BH: You know, when I went to meet they were very very kind there to me.
DK: Oh yes. Because you went to the BBMF recently didn’t you?
BH: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. They showed you the Lancaster there then.
BH: Oh, went around it.
DK: Did you? Did they let you get on board?
BH: No.
DK: No. Oh.
BH: Of course because of my [unclear]
DK: Right. Ok.
BH: But I mean they were —
DK: I did see a picture of you there actually [unclear]
BH: I’ve got some.
DK: Yeah.
BH: I’ve got some there and I got a picture when I went to the museum and you know got, they got some pictures there as well. But I mean both places went out of their way.
DK: Yeah. Oh, that’s good.
BH: The one that I’ll tell you it’s a bit, a bit amusing because Kate’s, that’s my, you know my friend, cleaner. He was ex-RAF and he’s got a lot of contacts and he got me to the Battle of Britain Flight.
DK: Right.
BH: And he took me.
DK: Right. Ok.
BH: Took the day off. He’s his own boss, you know. I walked in. We sat down. It’s only another pilot from Lincoln there. It was a Veteran’s Day. What they call Veteran’s Day.
DK: Yeah.
BH: And there was another pilot from Lincoln, you see and he’d only done three ops. But that’s immaterial. He was a pilot. He experienced it didn’t he?
DK: Yeah.
BH: Anyway, sat talking. Sat down and overcame a couple of ladies because we went in to an area where they had got brochures and —
DK: Right. Yeah.
BH: For sale and things like you have at your museum.
DK: Sure. Yeah. Yeah.
BH: And we sat there talking and these two ladies come over and one sat down. The other one wanted, one blonde lady sat down with me and she wanted to know all particulars and all that. I wrote, she said, ‘Oh, have you got a pen.’ I said, ‘No.’ Went and got a pen from somewhere and it was one of these you could buy, you know. So anyway, she wrote all the particulars down. ‘Well, where do — ’ you know, ‘Where have you, how far have you come today?’ I said, ‘Oh, not far.’ She said, ‘Where?’ I said, ‘Leasingham.’ Well, of course it’s Leasingham. A lot of people, we —
DK: Right. Yeah.
BH: Locals call it Leasingham.
DK: Leasingham. I did wonder which it was actually.
BH: Well, locals called it Leasingham.
DK: Leasingham. Ok.
BH: But I mean she said oh I only live about a couple of miles way.
DK: Yeah.
BH: So, she said, ‘Oh,’ She said, ‘I’ll be able to come and visit you there.’ So anyway, she said, ‘Oh you can have this pen.’ She had this pen and we had a snack lunch and they looked after us really well, you know.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
BH: And after we’d looked around all the aircraft and that and of course they’re in pieces.
DK: Yes. Yeah.
BH: And anyway, of course coming away you know of course Kate’s husband Del, he got, he borrowed a sort of pushchair and I said, ‘No. I’ll try and walk because the doctor said to try and keep walking.’
DK: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
BH: Anyway, I’m trying and as I’m walking out to go out to the car park this arm came through my hand. I looked around there’s the blonde lady in the car park. She said, ‘Oh, I bought you this.’ A nice, nice little box of the biscuits, you know.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
BH: With the nice fancy lid with a Lancaster on.
DK: Oh, that was nice. That was nice of her.
BH: So she kissed me on the lips goodbye.
DK: Must have made your day then.
BH: Del, Del he’s a bit of a lad. He said, ‘Come on now,’ he said, ‘Have you finished with your girlfriend?’ I’d only just met her that day. But she would, she came here at Christmas. Lovely Christmas card.
DK: Yeah. Oh excellent.
BH: And a keyring with a Lancaster on it.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, wonderful.
BH: Yeah.
DK: People do show an interest. People do show an interest. Ok. Well, I’ll switch off there. Now, that’s marvellous. Thanks very much for your time.
BH: As I said, as long as, as long as we’re not because we had a rough time after the war.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Bomber command.
DK: Yeah.
BH: Nobody wanted to know us. They condemned us. And after all we didn’t know what we were dropping.
DK: No.
BH: It was pitch dark.
DK: No.
BH: Or where we were dropping it rather, I mean. And I think it’s, I think people realise now. But I mean it’s as I said we’re not looking for any accolades. We just like people to remember what it was for.
DK: Yeah.
BH: That was all.
DK: Yeah.
BH: The same with the Army and Navy, isn’t it?
DK: Yeah.
BH: The same. I mean, it was, it was for freedom. We won’t go on to that.
DK: No. No. Well, on that point, that’s an important point though I’ll switch off now.
BH: Yeah.
DK: Ok. Thank you.

Collection

Citation

David Kavanagh, “Interview with Bert Hammond. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 18, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/17132.

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