Interview with John Green

Title

Interview with John Green

Description

John Green was born on the 22nd of September 1921 in Penge, South East London. He registered for the Royal Air Force to prevent being called up by the Army and was drafted in 1942. He was posted to the Isle of Man, where he volunteered as a drogue operator during training operations, before transferring to bomb disposal in Bathford. In 1944, Green volunteered for aircrew and opted to train as an air gunner. He formed a crew at 30 Operational Training Unit, RAF Hixon, converted from Wellingtons to Halifaxes at RAF Sandoft, and attended the Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Hemswell. The crew joined 100 Squadron, RAF Grimsby, in October 1944. He recalls the conditions inside the mid-upper gunner turret, manually releasing their bombs over Speyer, and failing to complete their sixteenth to Kemnitz, which resulted in a Lack of Moral Fibre accusation to ground the pilot and disband the crew. In March 1945, Green was posted to 12 Squadron, RAF Wickenby, and completed fifteen further operations. He describes the lack of camaraderie with his new crew and shooting down a Ju 88 on an operation to Nuremberg, for which the pilot received recognition but he did not. For Operation Manna, he undertook three trips to Valkenburg, and one to Rotterdam, and recalls dropping chocolate bars for children and viewing a message of thanks written in tulips. Green describes his career after demobilisation, his opinion regarding the treatment of Bomber Command, emigrating to New Zealand in the 1970s, and his active membership with the New Zealand Bomber Command Association.

Creator

Date

2019-03-07

Language

Type

Format

01:28:12 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

AGreenJ190307, PGreenJ1901

Transcription

GT: This is Thursday the 7th of March 2019 and I am at the home of Mr John Green, born 22nd September 1921 in Penge, South East London, England. John’s home is in Auckland, New Zealand. John joined the RAF in June 1942 as a drogue operator on the Isle of Man. Later, John volunteered for bomb disposal, and after fourteen months he volunteered for aircrew and trained as an air gunner in early 1944. From June 1944, John crewed up with pilot Flight Sergeant Leslie Flooder, or Podge, an Australian, at 30 Operational Training Unit, Hixon and then 1667 Conversion Unit at Sandtoft, Lancaster Finishing School at Hemswell and then on to operations with 100 Squadron at Grimsby late October, completing sixteen operations and posted to 12 Squadron at RAF Wickenby for fifteen operations. All on Lancaster Mark III aircraft. John completed his RAF operational flying in May 1945 with a total of one hundred and eighty four hours, day and night flying. John, thank you for allowing me to interview you for the IBCC Archives, so please tell me why, and how, you joined the Royal Air Force.
JG: Right. Well, when war broke out, I, all your mates were joining up, and I think I was eighteen at the time and I thought myself well if I wait till I get called up they’ll put me in the Army, and I didn’t want to go in the bloody Army I said! So I went down to the recruiting centre and joined in the RAF just as an ordinary airmen, nothing special. They said okay, we will call you when we need you. I think it was another year gone by before they called me up.
GT: And what were you doing while you were waiting?
JG: I was working in engineering factory and when I got the call up I was posted to Blackpool for six weeks training, you know, fitness training and education and all that.
GT: But that was a far cry from you riding a bicycle wasn’t it?
JG: Yeah!
GT: What was the bicycle thing about?
JG: Oh, the bicycle, that was in one of me jobs, was, I was, what d’you call them, errand boy! That was when I left school at fourteen, I went as errand boy riding a bike with a big basket on the front delivering all the goods and that to people who’d bought them from the shops.
GT: And whereabouts did you grow up there, and born?
JG: In Penge. Grew up in Penge, joined, volunteered in Penge, and then I got posted from Blackpool, I got posted to the Isle of Man; a General Duties airman. And when I got the Isle of Man they wanted drogue operators, people to volunteer to fly, which you got an extra shilling a week by doing that which I was interested in, cause a shilling was a lot of money in those days!
GT: What was the role of a drogue operator?
JG: He dropped the drogue. In the bottom of the aircraft, mainly Lysanders, or whichever one I was in, you had a trapdoor. You open the trapdoor and in front of you, you had like a drum, a big drum with three metal drums on it, filled with wire and you used to clip one of these wire onto one of the drogues and try and drop ‘em out the aircraft, then you stood up and controlled the speed of the drum with a handbrake until you got near enough all you want out, you lock it up and then the aircraft used to fly around, towing the drogue, training all aircrew to fire at it.
GT: So the other aircraft would bead on to you and -
JG: On to the drogue and fire.
GT: Your log book states you flew Lysander, Fairey Battle, Anson and Blenheim aircraft and that was all with the drogue operations.
JG: No, Lysander and Fairey Battle, and what was the other one?
GT: Anson and Blenheims.
JG: No, Anson, Anson they done, I flew doing me camera work. Instead of guns, instead of having bullets, you had a camera and you used a camera firing. and the Blenheim, Blenheim was just a trip you wanted and I think it flew me, flew me I was going on leave.
GT: So that were the gunners flying, aircraft, to shoot at the drogues, the Defiants or aircraft like that?
JG: Yeah, any, could be even the Anson used to fly along the side, and they used to open the window and poke their cine camera out, or the guns out and if you had usually three gunners in your aircraft they had different colour bullets so when they got the drogue back, dropped back, into a, had a special field you should drop the drogue back then fetched it back to headquarters then they could count the bullet holes whether they were red, blue, black, or yellow, they knew how many hits you had.
GT: They just dipped the bullets into paint, didn’t they.
JG: Yeah, to get the colour bullet and that’s how they knew, and course with the camera, they had a cine camera. Because one day I was up there doing camera and I saw, I think it was an Anson coming along, towing, towing a drogue so I took a photo of me shooting this Anson down! I got a right bollocking for it! [Laugh] But good laugh, but it was such a good target, I said, it’s there. And I didn’t use a lot of film!
GTL Any close calls? Did any of the aircraft nearly shoot you down instead of the drogue?
JG: I think it happened once on our station, drogue operator got killed like that. Whoever was using it, instead of firing at the drogue away from the towing aircraft they fired while they were coming in and the bullets carried on and hit the towing aircraft.
GT: They were all three nought three machine guns, yes.
JG: Yes, 303s.
GT: So you liked that, is that something you wanted to carry on with or you went to volunteer for something else?
JG: No, I liked that, getting paid and then it came up they wanted volunteers, you get fed up with it as a youngster, wanted volunteers on this Bomb Disposal Unit so I thought oh, that’ll be a change, so joined that and I was posted to Bath, Barford Manor, that’s a country village outside of Bath in this big manor house what the RAF had commandeered. I spent I don’t know how long, quite a long time there, and from there I joined up from, into aircrew training.
GT: What explosives disposal training did you have?
JG: Bom disposal, oh just the lessons on the fuses and how defuse and listen, if they were ticking and that.
GT: So the bombs could have been ticking and did you have something to tell you?
JG: Oh yeah, you had like an instrument you got here, stuck on there and if it was ticking, if the fuse was ticking that meant it was alive, ready to go off. It’s timed.
GT: So what did you do?
JG: Run! [chuckles] Yeah.
GT: And if they wanted to dispose of them, how did they dispose of them?
JG: They had a disposal officer who used to go, get down a hole, and it was surprising, the bomb, could unscrew the cap which allowed him to get to the fuse and he could undo the fuse and slowly [emphasis] get it out to defuse the bomb.
GT: It was the officer doing that?
JG: Yes, that was the officer’s job.
GT: And these were mainly German bombs you were training on?
JG: They were practically all German bombs. A few of them were English ones where the plane, English planes had crashed.
GT: So did they send you out on daily, or night?
JG: Yeah, whatever it was needed. I mean when we wasn’t out digging up, or digging after the bombs, we were in the schools training, what to do, you know, learning all about it.
GT: Did you lose any men?
JG: No, not on bomb disposal.
GT: That’s good. So from bomb disposal you looked at aircrew and they obviously accepted you. Was it difficult to do?
JG: Yes, took a long time to get accepted. You had to go to school, you had to pass exams and that, for education purposes, and once you pass all them exams then you start your bomber training, your air gunner training.
GT: So when you were doing your training though, did they look back at what you did at school?
JG: No, no.
GT: Was it open to everybody? Everybody had to do that training. School.
JG: Well everybody who was going to be a gunner like, it might be my turn to go to the aircraft to take the guns out and take them to the armoury and then strip the guns and clean it all and check the barrel, cause on one occasion, that was I think after I shot down that Ju, when I clean and checked it, the barrel had no rifling left, was smooth, and the other three was okay, so that meant the barrel was useless, you had to put a new barrel in the gun..
GT: So did they choose you to be an air gunner or did you ask them that you wanted to be one?
JG: I chose, I chose to be an air gunner.
GT: And you had good eyesight, good health.
JG Yeah, I had good eyesight, hearing, everything was good and I didn’t, well I wasn’t intelligent enough to be a navigator, and wireless operator, I couldn’t stand that dat dat dat dat dat Morse code and of course the engineer you had to study specific engineer, studied all the instruments and the engines, navigator, that was the main job in the Air Force, was navigator. I think he was the most important man in the aircraft. I think he was more important than the pilot. He was the one who got you there and got you back, or told you, to get there and get back.
GT: Did you end up back on the Isle of Man in the aircraft doing the drogue shooting or did you do that at another place?
JG: No, I think we might, I’m not sure, no, didn’t land on the Isle of Man again. Once I left there I went to Waltham like the training stations, the different ones. The main two was Waltham and then Wickenby and then when I, that was it and when I was and waiting for demob I was at a RAF training unit for all new people coming in, joining in; I was in charge of the stores.
GT: So how long was your gunnery course?
JG: I don’t know, only by looking, offhand, you know, quite a long time, cause you used to start off wearing a cap with a white bit in.
GT: As a cadet.
JG: That signifies you’re a cadet for an air crew.
GT: Once you were, graduated and completed, that was what, late 1943?
JG: Yeah, the training.
GT: And you moved on to crew up somewhere?
JG: Yeah, Hixon, should be, should be 30 OTU, Hixon.
GT: And your log book shows that to be the 9th of June 1944 when you met there, on Wellingtons, so you met your future crew there.
JG: On Wellingtons, yes.
GT: So tell me about your skipper and your crew.
JG: He was, well what they used to do to crew you up, all the aircrew are posted to this aerodrome and when you come out, or in the mess for a meal, you meet all the other airmen. You get friendly with one, or they get friendly with you, and then by the time, I think it was only about, only about a week, I got friendly with the rear gunner, he wanted to be a rear gunner, I wanted to be mid upper, so then we met Barney, he’s the navigator, oh we met Podge walking round and we said, you go up to him and hi, you know, and have you got a crew, no I’m just getting crewed up. Did you want a couple of gunners? Yeah, he said, right, that was me and Jack and a pilot, carried on walking, we picked up the bomb aimer, navigator and a wireless operator, he was Australian, that was six of us and we done a lot of training there before we got posted to another station where all the engineers had been posted to and we made up our seventh member of the crew.
GT: What was the aircraft types that you did your OTU work with? Wellingtons?
JG: Wellington and Halifaxes, Halifax. It shows you there in the book how many Halifax, and then from that, Halifax, we went to er -
GT: Well your Conversion Unit was 1667 and you flew in Halifaxes there for about two weeks.
JG: Yeah. That’s right, that was coming off the Wellington onto that Conversion Unit and we flew Halifaxes and then from there we went to another station, Lancaster Finishing School.
GT: You only did five days flying for that!
JG: That’s all! Yeah, then that was it, then you were posted to your, you know, whatever squadron you were going to be; got posted to 100 Squadron
GT: You were 100 Squadron at Waltham and did your first operation on Cologne on the 31st of October, 1944.
JG: That was something I always remember about that first trip. We wasn’t, we wasn’t scared to start with, but we was once we was up there, but being in the mid upper gunner that had a three hundred and sixty degree turn, where you turned all the way round and when your guns got round and it was your own aircraft, they had something there where you couldn’t fire ‘em. But as I was turning round, I looked up the front the way we were going and all I could see was one big mass of red, where Cologne was alight, and the flashes of the flak and that exploding and all the FE, all, it frightened the bloody life out of me. I never, ever [emphasis] looked again where we were going to go, until after we left. That once, I only looked that once, and that was enough. I looked a couple of times, Heligoland is in there, that was towards the end, that was with the other pilot. And that was, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and there wasn’t a German fighter in the sky either. We could fly round there as if we owned it, you know, they just didn’t have the fighters left, not the Germans.
GT: Well John, I’ve just got a list of your crew and if you’ll allow me I’ll just quickly read them out, for the record here. Flying Officer Flooder, Australian Air Force pilot; Sergeant Barnes, RAF navigator; Sergeant Williams, RAF flight engineer; Flight Sergeant Maslin, Australian Air Force, wireless operator and Flight Sergeant Armstrong, RAF bomb aimer. And yourself Sergeant John Green, as RAF mid upper gunner, [dog barking] and the rear gunner was Sergeant Everly. So you stayed together for your first part of your flying, on 100 Squadron.
JG: The first fifteen ops, yeah.
GY: And for those fifteen ops.
JG: Until he got grounded.
GT: It was your skipper that was grounded, was that right. What was the story with him?
JG: After the Dresden raid there, it’ll be in the log book, after the Dresden raid we got back all right. Next night, next day they sent us down out Chemnitz after we’d done canals flying, we were put on, and the navigator, we’d been flying about an hour, and said I’ve had enough of this skipper, I can’t do my job, I’m too tired. So he come back, he told the pilot to come back and the pilot got the rollocking for it, for not carrying on, you know, regardless, dropping the bomb sort of thing.
GT: So he brought the bombs back to base.
JG: Yeah, and then what happened we got back to base you’ve still got all your bombs on, go out somewhere the North Sea and drop the cookie and we had to go and drop the cookie to get rid of it.
GT: Did you drop them armed? Were they armed when you dropped them? Did you make them explode or just?
JG: The cookie? No, we just dropped it. No, what the, there’s one op there, that, we dropped the bombs, and I’ve got it in, got: ‘Dropped cookie manually on spare’. That it? What happened there -
GT: It was the 15th of December 1944.
JG: Yeah. We got out and bombs away the pilot said, and then as we went away, he said, “Bluey,” that was the bomb aimer, Bluey, “are you sure all the bombs have gone, he said it feels heavy, the way it’s flying, so he said, “all right I’ll press all these switches, John will you get down and have a look?” So I get out the turret and look through a window in the floor of the aircraft and I could see the bomb. I said no, the bloody bomb’s still here! So they said right what we going to do? I’m sure it was the bomb aimer: let’s go round and drop it. And all of us: no you f-ing well don’t! We, no, we’re not going round there again! So I said to ‘em look, we’ve got to fly back, we’re gonna fly over, somewhere over Germany, you notify when we’re getting near where to the bomb aimer and skipper, when he gets out, I’ll drop it, I’ll pull the lever and drop it manually. And that’s what we done. We suddenly come up, there’s a town ahead, John, place called Spau in Germany, and then I’m talking to the bomb aimer and he’s saying, “right John get ready, get ready, when I tell you go, pull that lever, get ready, go!” Pulled the lever and the bomb dropped, and we just carried on. We just saw a big flash on the ground and that was it.
GT: What height would you have been at to do that?
JG: About fourteen, fifteen thousand feet. Cause we all, all [emphasis] of you kept above ten thousand.
GT: You’d have been on oxygen at the time.
JG: Yeah, yeah. Though when I, actually, what I done, get out my turret, and then at the side of your turret’s a small oxygen bottle, pull that out, clip it on to your oxygen mask so you’re on oxygen from the bottle, not from the aircraft. Yeah. That’s how they done it.
GT: And that was an eight thousand pound cookie.
JG: Yeah, er, four thousand pound cookie, but they finished up making them twelve thousand, that one they built, imitation up at MOTET haven’t they. They built that one. Must’ve made a bloody big ‘ole!
GT: So that was on the 15th of December, you did a further three operations there, 24th Christmas Eve, 1944.
JG: That’s when we landed at Rattlesden.
GT: Ooh! So tell me about that. What happened there?
JG: When we got back, I believe our engine caught fire.
GT: Ah, okay, was that from enemy damage, or did it?
JG: I don’t know, just so, put the fire out [cough] and when we get back it’s a bit foggy and that, and we didn’t have, only three engines, we didn’t have the mucking about, so we got ordered to land at Rattlesden. Rattlesden was American drome, and that’s when they pinched me bloody gloves, thieving bastards!
GT: Did the Americans not have much kit?
JG: No, they, Americans, course everything with the Americans was souvenirs. Course when we landed, we’d taken one, two, four pairs of gloves, the gunners had, and they were all left in the turret and of course we went you know, for a meal and briefing and for a meal, and then bed. When went up the next morning to fly back, we get to the aircraft and me gloves and that were gone and we couldn’t fly back cause our plane was unserviceable. I can’t, I believe it says there, come back as a passenger.
GT: So you lost all four pairs of gloves, to the Americans?
JG: Yes.
GT: Did they grab anything else?
JG: No, and they, I know when I come back and reported it, the CO, oh, I was put on a charge because losing your kit, and the officer who interviewed me over it was a New Zealander and he said, look he said, you couldn’t lock up. I said no, we had no locks on the door, he said so how the bloody hell can you, either take all your kit with you, how can you stop if you can’t lock the aircraft up? And he made a verdict of not, well, I wasn’t charged, it was dismissed and I was issued a new set of gloves. Through this officer, Wheatley.
GT: Your log book states that was about the 18th of November that that particular incident happened. You managed to get back to your home base. So what happened then with your skipper? You were telling me that your skipper -
JG: Yeah, well when we got back from the Chemnitz raid, you’ve got Chemnitz there, haven’t you, Dresden ten hours.
GT: Yup, what happened after that?
JG: We were flying, next day we flew to Chemnitz, and that’s when we returned, the pilot, the navigator said he was ill, that’s when they grounded the pilot, said his eyesight is not good enough to fly a four engined bomber, and he’d already done seventeen trips.
GT: So the pilot took the rap for the navigator’s -
JG: Yeah, more or less, yeah. He wasn’t, obviously, that was when the Station Officer, was a real cocky sod, but he come unstuck cause Podge, being Australian, imagine coming, going to Australia and saying this is what they’re gonna to do to me, because they kicked up a hell of a bloody stink.
GT: But the station officer’s accused your pilot of being -
JG: Lack of morale fibre, that’s what he was going to do, to stop him flying, but then I heard it was six months after, he was sent back to Australia.
GT: Did he fly again?
JG: In Australia he did, but I don’t know what though.
GT: But what happened when he went to London, to the Australian Consul?
JG: He went to Australia House, and course Australian, as they said, that’s the RAAF, it’s got nothing to do with you, and you’re on loan to him, he can’t make you lack of moral fibre and not only that you’ve done seventeen bloody ops, and course their, whoever’s in charge up there, he kicked a hell of a stink up. It’s getting to know the people who to kick up the stink with, and said this bastard’s not going to do this to one of my men, Australian. Next thing we knew, I think it was about, must have been about the second day, that next, we saw him, one of the crew saw Podge, he said oh he’s had to apologise to me, the CO, he’s had to apologise for what he said and done. It made him look a real right fool, cause everybody, all of it, all the news went round the squadron, about it.
GT: So that was coming up into mid February 1945 in your old log book, you’ve noted that your pilot was grounded. Was that the end of your time on 100 Squadron?
JG: Yeah, cause then, we wanted another pilot and they said no, we, other station was short of gunners and they posted me straight away to that gunnery, to RAF Wickenby.
GT: So your crew, incidentally disintegrated.
JG: Crew was finished, yes. Oh, they give no thought, for you or anything, you know, not when you’ve got an officer like that in charge of you.
GT: So there’s about two or three weeks in between the squadrons in your log book here, so on the 7th of March, is your first flight with 12 Squadron. So how did it work then, did you join another crew straight away or did you have a choice?
JG: No, that was when, as I said to you, when I got there they posted me to, I gets in the squadron, you have to call in the guard hut, as you go through the gates, and they said right go to the Gunnery Leader and send you over there. I went there and that, he said to me well John look, I can’t see you now, and I told you, we’ve got ops on, so I’m busy, come back and see me tomorrow morning. That was when they posted me to this crew that got killed. And that’s when I went back to him.
GT: Tell me about that, what happened there, you visited another crew that night?
JG: They were getting dressed and we were talking and they said how many you done John? I said I’ve done sixteen, they said oh, we’re lucky then, I said why and they said we’ve done twenty nine, we’re doing our last one tonight. Never got back.
GT: You were in their nissen hut were you?
JG: In the nissen hut. I woke up at six o’clock in the morning with the noise, it was all the Special Police coming to collect all their gear, collect all their belongings and everything; it’s all taken away. Then when I went back to see the Gunnery Leader he said, that’s when he said right we’ve got three crews all want gunners, you fly with all the three and choose one of them. And you can see the three there through, one of them was Castle was it?
GT: You’ve got Raymond, Dickie and Granham.
JG: That’s it.
GT: So why were they short of gunners? What happened to the other gunners?
JG: Well one of ‘em, I asked that question. One of them had a bomb, what you call ‘em, little bombs, incendiary bombs, drop through the mid upper turret.
GT: From above, another aircraft.
JG: Yeah. That killed him. Another one, he was sick, in the oxygen mask, and obviously the pilot, his pilot hadn’t kept in touch with him enough, got lack of air, and I don’t know about the third one. But anyway, I chose one of the three and the other two got shot down on the next time we all went on a raid. So I was lucky. That’s when I got with Granham, but you know I can’t remember any of the names, except Granham of that second crew. There wasn’t the same feeling between the first crew and the second crew. I mean the first crew we was all mates, always out together at night and that, and the second crew, I know you’re friends and that, speak and everything, it’s not the same what you call it, camaraderie there, I can’t even, all I know is one was named George, I can’t remember the names of all, any the others, and the pilot.
GT: And you did fifteen ops with that new crew.
JG: Sixteen with ‘em, yeah. Or fifteen.
GT: On your log book, mid March you’ve got one thousand bomber raid on Dortmund.
JG: Yeah, I think we, I went on three or four, that was when, towards that time of the war, they had all these aircraft, used to send everything up, Bomber Harris.
GT: That’s March 45 that was Dortmund and Essen, so what was that like, you were mid upper at that time?
JG: No, I was rear gunner then. It should say there.
GT: Rear gunner. Oh yes, it does. So what was it like with all these aircraft around you, and above you, and below?
JG: Well, during the day it was all right, but at night you didn’t see, only when you nearly had a smash with one, we crossed like that, that’s how close we were and you know, nobody, he didn’t see us, we didn’t see him, and, was something else to do with flying.
GT: But you were able to warn the skipper of any aircraft above you.
JG: Oh yeah, I remember, oh with Granham, oh that was when this Ju88, perhaps that’s why I didn’t get sighted, because we’re flying along and next minute tracer bullets come up, come up underneath [emphasis] the tail plane and over the top of the wing, big long stream of tracer and the pilot - what the hell’s that, and I said it’s all right skipper, it’s only tracer bullet, just like that, not even thinking, and then I gave the order corkscrew starboard go, and he dived down.
GT: So that was on your twentieth operation to Nuremburg, on the 16th of March 1945, eight hours thirty at night and your log book states: ‘combat with Junkers 88, fired five hundred rounds, fighter destroyed, crashed in flames, exploded on ground, brackets: confirmed.’
JG: Yeah. That’s what, it was confirmed by this other man from another station but they said, I mean there was a lot of talk about Granham getting the DFC and me getting nothing. But.
GT: So your skipper at the time was Flying Officer Granham.
JG: Granham. Yeah.
GT: Granham is his surname there. So he already had the DFC.
JG: Yeah, already had the DFC. He got the bar to it.
GT: And he was awarded a second with a Bar directly for shooting down.
JG: Yeah. Shooting down.
GT: And you shot it down and you weren’t awarded anything.
JG: That’s what a lot of ‘em were saying on the station. How is it that he got a Bar to his bloody DFC and the gunner got nothing and he shot the plane down.
GT: You were a sergeant at the time? Flight Sergeant.
JG: Not sure, probably Flight Sergeant. Then.
GT: So you don’t know if you’d been accredited with the kill.
JG: No, never bothered about, you know.
GT: There was distinction there that you should have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for your action.
JG: Yeah.
GT: And that never happened.
JG: That never happened. And then that’s how that came about, Paul.
GT: But in this case though your DFM, that others had been awarded for the same thing, you found out later that there was great disparity between -
JG: Oh yeah, between officers and airmen, non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers, big [emphasis] disparity, you try and get, and check out how many DFCs were awarded and how many DFMs were awarded.
GT: Did you find out the quantities of that?
JG: Yes, I’m almost sure it was what I said: twenty thousand DFCs and six thousand DFMs.
GT: And the shooting down of that Junkers that night for you saved your crew, and your aircraft.
JG: Well yeah, and if I’d have shot us down, I mean it’s lucky that the tracer bullets, if that’s your aircraft, come up under, underneath the tail plane, over the wing. That’s how.
GT: Normally every one tracer you see is another is four or five of rounds that are.
JG: All depends what they do, I think we had five, sometimes six, sometimes seven and then one tracer put in, you know, there.
GT: That’s pretty good shooting with three nought threes, to be able to get a Junkers.
JG: Yeah, but, that’s another thing what made me smile. On the training they’re telling you about your gunsight, your gun ring, you got a fifty, fifty percent crossing speed by half the gun sight, against a full gun sight, how you do this and that, and I said to ‘em, when they spoke to me about it after, some of the men, I said it’s biggest load of bullshit. What do you mean? I said I’ve ordered the pilot, I said, he’s corkscrewing like that, I said, all you’re supposed to aim at fifteen degree part I said all you’re doing is you’re firing a gun, the bullets are flying around and you hit lucky enough, hit a part of the engine what caught fire. And how the hell when I read sometimes on there or I read they got air gunners shot five or six, dunno, how the bloody hell, you couldn’t aim your gun, aircraft going like that. That was that you know, corkscrew come up the same way and then it went down again, till you ordered it, the captain, to stop. I know when we come up and the pilot, on one occasion, we’d just come out above the cloud, we’d dropped the bombs, flying back and he come above the clouds and it was beautiful [emphasis] clear and the pilot said Johnny, it’s pretty clear up here and we can be seen, what do you want me to do? I said can you go just in the cloud, just in the cloud so, and that’s what he done, for probably ten mile or so, flying just in the cloud. Made it a bit awkward, bit bumpy and that, wasn’t very good, but at least they couldn’t see us. Cause when you’re up, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, probably you haven’t but, if you’re about the cloud like that, that looks like sea above it, nothing there, just your lot, just looking at the cloud, yeah.
GT: On 75 New Zealand Squadron there was little documentation, but I’ve interviewed one chap who was an under [emphasis] gunner. Did you have any experience on 12 and 100 Squadron of Lancasters having under gunners?
JG: I know towards the end that’s when they found out the Junkers, instead of, he was firing upwards.
GT: Schrage musik. Upward firing cannons.
JG: Upward firing cannon. That’s why we lost so many aircraft before anybody knew about it! Then after that, when we’re searching, the mid upper gunner, the pilot every so often had to turn the plane down so he could look below and that way make sure there’s nothing underneath it.
GT: So the squadrons didn’t employ under gunners in any of the aircraft.
JG: No, not like the Americans, Americans had gunners in their Flying Fortresses. They had ten, ten gunners in their Flying Fortresses.
GT: For the gunnery side of things for you John, did you, that Junkers 88 you shot down did you have any other chance, or any other shooting opportunities with other attacking aircraft?
JG: Duren, we dropped, the Master Bomber called us down from seventeen thousand, called us down to five thousand feet, in Duren, dropped the bombs from five thousand, that was almost as if you’re on the ground, he called us down: it’s lovely down here. And we answered back and joked, yeah it’s f-ing lovely up here an all! We’re staying here! Of course, the Master Bomber couldn’t do nothing, he had no idea who it was!
GT: So you did all joined him?
JG: Yeah, so we slowly went down and joined him. You know, you’re talking amongst the crew, what do you reckon? Well look. if we go down, there’s a lot gone down, we’ve got more chance being in the crowd than staying up here on our own.
GT: But you risked being, having bombs dropped from those still above.
JG: Yeah, well that was my argument, but after this, seeing this plane dop bombs on another plane, how the hell, we were supposed to be the highest crew, usually round about sixteen, sixteen five, seventeen, seventeen five, eighteen. All depends how, I think on that particular night we were, our height was eighteen five hundred and yet there’s aircraft above us, and course we were talking, we’re supposed to be up the top, and the pilot saying what do you think they want these aircraft with these propellors for! They can go up higher! So long as the navigator knows, that if it’s, if he’s due to bomb at say sixteen thousand, then the instruments all set, but if we’re flying at seventeen, as long as the navigator knows, he can work it out, fiddle it out, that we’re a thousand feet higher than we should be.
GT: So by your twenty sixth operation which was Heligoland, in your log book you’ve stated: very good prang. Why was that a very good prang?
JG: Oh, l there wasn’t, well there was no cloud, it was a perfect sky like you get here, there wasn’t a cloud or anything in sight, not a fighter, no flak, you just flew round Heligoland. It was a u-boat place where all the u-boats dock, at Heligoland. That’s when they, they couldn’t, our bombs and that what we had, wouldn’t go through until they built the twelve thousand.
GT: Tallboy and the Grand Slam.
JG: That went through the bloody –
GT: Concrete.
JG: Concrete.
GT: So on the 29th of April, you started doing something different - Operation Manna. Tell us about Operation Manna, please.
JG: Yeah well, now we were given, [pause] first of all we were all told at a meeting that Holland is starving and that they’ve done a deal with the Germans that we won’t load our guns or fire on anything in Holland and we can drop the food, which we did do, the first time at six hundred feet I think it was. Was it, the first time?
GT: You’ve three entries in your log book for Valkenburg.
JG: Yeah, that’s Valkenburg was the first one.
GT: End of April beginning of May.
JG: So, and what happened, when we saw, it’s all in sacks, all stacked in the bomb bay, had a hell of a job with the bomb bay just opening like that a little bit to get the stuff in and course when it dropped, hit the ground we saw flour bursting and that, and we said, got back and reported it’s too high. They said right, go lower and the pilot said yeah, we can go lower, there’s nothing in the way at Valkenburg, and I always remember the second op Valkenburg, we’re going along, looking back and everybody’s running round the field and you’re dropping all these bloody great big sacks of food, and then we flew up the High Street and when I looked out the window, the church steeple’s up there! [emphasis] And we’re up the High Street and all the kids waving and that, to you, and you’re down flying up the Hight Street like a car and the church bloody steeple, I think Christ skipper, I said I want to go to Heaven but I don’t want to go this way yet! You know, and laughing and joking and all that, and then what we done then, on our particular, and evidently it was done. We used to fill up milk bottles and you know razor blades, how thin they are, you could bend it, bend it enough to put in the top and it used to open up, the blade used to open up jammed in the bottle and when they, you threw them out the turret it made a screaming noise, we used that a lot to frighten ‘em and what we done on our third trip to Holland, everybody on the station either had rag or handkerchief and cotton, you know the cotton, you know, parachute, you make your parachute, you tied it four corners and tied it round the choc bars. We all threw out we could see all the kids running with these little parachutes with the chocolate bars. Because that’s why, that’s why in the letters some of what Jack wrote, he went to Holland for two years running, they invited him over on the day they celebrate us dropping the food to ‘em, and the last time was Rotterdam, racecourse, flying along the racecourse about fifty, sixty foot high. Of course the pilots used to love it. So did we, flying like that! See when you’re young and that you never thought of danger, how dangerous it was. I think from what I was told, we only lost one aircraft on that and that was a Flying Fortress, on the way back, or something.
GT: Did you see any of the American aircraft doing the food drops as well, which was their Operation Chow Hound?
JG: No I never saw them, it was different timing and different places, you know.
GT: How many Lancasters would have been involved with the food drops that you saw?
JG: A few hundred, and then a lot of them, while that was carrying on, they went to pick up the prisoners of war.
GT: Juvencourt.
JG: Yeah, pick up all our prisoners of war, I wasn’t on that.
GT: Would you have wanted to be?
JG: One of me mates who was on it, he said we had twenty on the way back, prisoners of war, in our plane. Picked up twenty of ’em. Yeah.
GT: So you didn’t manage to do any more Operation Manna trips after that lot?
JG: No, I only done the four.
GT: That was your thirty one trips all together.
JG: Yeah. They posted me out.
GT: And you found out later why.
JG: He wanted to do some flying! I don’t blame him, I mean.
GT: Was that your gunnery leader?
JG: I went home on leave, they, I met the wife, and fourteen weeks I was home, fourteen weeks leave and while I was home on leave, I was a Flight Sergeant, I got a letter, on the, I got a letter on me demob leave promoting me to Warrant Officer which was another hundred and twenty pound!
GT: Good grief! That would buy a house, wouldn’t it! Now there were a couple of funny things that happened, funny when you look on them now, and one was when you were a mid upper on your first tour and the Lancaster above you was about to drop its bombs. They missed you but they got an aircraft below you.
JG: Missed us but got another one.
GT: What happened to the other aircraft?
JG: That’s what I said, the bombs had all dropped, we’d dropped our bombs and all, and the smoke cleared and the rear gunner, that was Jack, we’re on fire! I said shut up you silly sod, I said it’s not, I said it’s some poor sod’s had bomb’s dropped on ‘im! As the smoke cleared away, this other Lancaster bomber was turning like that, slowly turning to get back on course, with a bomb jammed in the wing. Told the skipper, and the skipper, we were going round, we went near enough to see it all and then skipper just carried on, you know, to get back himself, and we found out afterwards he landed, he made it, kept asking the people involved in our station and he said oh yeah, he landed okay, he landed in France on the emergency drome.
GT: The bomb hadn’t had time to arm itself before it hit the wing. Must have been so fortunate. That’s amazing. Now there was also a bit of an own goal, you were telling me about seven pound jam tins!
JG: That was the time I emptied it out the side.
GT: Tell me the story, come on, from the beginning!
JG: All the gunners had a big empty jam tin from the mess to use as their pee bucket cause we couldn’t get out our turrets to use the Elsan and this particular night I filled it up and I thought well what am I going to do? Am I going to empty on the floor, which it can go out through the bottom of the turret. I thought well, if I do that, the ground crew won’t be very happy that they’ve got to wash that out, and I slid the window at the side of me, in the turret.
GT: And what height would you have been at?
JG: Probably around eighteen thousand feet, I slid that open, and emptied the jam tin out. Within one second it had all gone round, straight back through the front of the turret – cause we had no windows, we took ‘em all out – all over me. We had no windows in our turrets, all the gunners took their windows out in front of ‘em, just had the guns there.
GT: So that would have been minus twenty, minus forty, is it?
JG: Sometimes it were really cold. We were cold, the rest of the crew were bloody ‘ot!. But the two gunners were nearly always cold. We had electric heated suits in the end, and I was colder still. Course when I told ‘em I looked like a bloody ice block, all they done was laugh. So did all at the station.
GT: So it all came back at you.
JG: Yeah, they couldn’t stop, they all thought how funny it was.
GT: And the jam tins there you said they were seven pound jam tins and the WAAFs managed to save these for you.
JG: Yeah. That’s what they used to have as their food: seven pounds of jam, in tins. That’s what all the RAF stations had, and I suppose the Army, Navy, and everything.
GT: Gee, you were lucky to not to have something frozen off.
JG: Yeah!
GT: So, the other thing was that during Operation Manna you’ve seen a photograph with the tulips and there was -
JG: Yeah, ‘Thank you boys.’
GT: There’s a photograph in one of the IBCCs books showing that and you remember seeing that.
JG: Yeah, I remember it was red tulips and ‘Thank You Boys’, probably from where we were about six foot long, so they must have had dozens and dozens of workmen overnight, planted all these in the middle of this field of tulips: ‘Thank You Boys.’
GT: You saw action with your, active bombing operations and then you did the Operation Manna and they classified that as an operation too.
JG: Oh yeah, we didn’t think they were going to, but they did in the end. Cause, and I remember at, what they done with the aircrew finished, they posted all the officers to one station and as many men to another one, filled up and they, let me tell you now, they got us on parade and said right, we’ll call your names out, just repeat your last number, your last three numbers and go and stand over there. They were calling all the names and this great big crowd got smaller and that one got bigger, and bigger and bigger, and in then end there was only about six of us left here, and we wasn’t in it. They were all going, being sent to Japan, against Japanese, Japan, we were too close to being demobbed, so they said it’s just a waste sending you out there, you’ll be sent back, and that’s when we got demobbed, you know. When we got our log book back, our pay book, there.
GT: The difference between the two, did it strike you then, that from doing the bombing operations that finally you were saving lives, of our allies?
JG: Oh yeah, with the food dropping, cause where we dropped, where we dropped the food at Valkenburg, it was surrounded by Germans. Actually I saw one German standing in the corner of the field, but, they had done a deal with the RAF not to take pictures and all that, and load the guns – like hell! We had our guns loaded, we weren’t going to take that chance with ‘em, but nobody got fired on.
GT: And nobody fired their guns.
JG: No, because, I found out afterwards by talking to somebody, of course they wouldn’t, cause they were starving as well. They wanted some of the food you were dropping: they were starving as well. Cause it was like, like a field, this part surrounded, all the rest is, a different, this part of Holland was surrounded by the Germans.
GT: You know there’s an Operation Manna Memorial in Rotterdam?
JG: I didn’t know.
GT: They hold a service every year and they thank you for your service to save them. It’s very special for the Dutch.
JG: I believe they’ve got to the last one or something, yeah. I know Jack used to go.
GT: Jack was your ex?
JG: Ex gunner. He used to go. Had a wonderful time he said. Said you never spent a ha’penny, you never spent anything. You wasn’t allowed to pay for anything.
GT: All the streets around the area are named after the commanders that organised everything in respect.
JG: What, actually what did annoy me, was this Dresden business, you know. Over the years they had meetings, cause they said there was three hundred thousand killed, in Dresden. Well it wasn’t all that long ago, only a few months ago, they had their last meeting over Dresden and they, all the people involved in the meeting are settled on nineteen thousand killed; well we had that in London! And they settled on nineteen thousand, killed in Dresden and not the three hundred thousand what they tried to say, you know, and that was only people over here, not over here, over in England. A lot of the do gooders, you know, you’re terror bombing, dropping bombs like that on Dresden and what annoyed me was Churchill blamed Bomber Harris for bombing Dresden, he said he had no need to do it! He went on the, yeah, he did, something there somewhere, I don’t know where I got it from, but he had no need to bomb Dresden. Well Bomber Harris had a letter from Churchill, ordering [emphasis] him, and he said I can prove how, I call him fat guts Churchill, whisky drinking gut, do you know if anybody speaks to me of Churchill, I say don’t talk to me about that fat gut! I said he put the blame on Bomber Harris for all these people being killed, I said, and he was the one who gave the order: him, Stalin, Roosevelt, at a meeting.
GT: And the very reason Bomber Harris was never given a peerage.
JG: That’s why though, when he finally come back here, they did do didn’t they, Memorial, they got the shock of their lives the way the people supported it.
GT: The Bomber Command Memorial in the Green Park. Now in 2011 and 2012 when New Zealanders went across, you being a British person.
JG: Couldn’t go.
GT: You were not involved, or not allowed to be involved with that. Have you been, yet, back to England?
JG: No, I’ve never been back; I won’t go back. I’ve never wanted to go back to England.
GT: Now if we can just move a little bit back from there. You emigrated to New Zealand in?
JG: 1979.
GT: And you followed your sons then, because you and Beatrice, or Betty, you had two sons.
JG: Yeah, and one of ‘em who’d already been back once to England, he went back home again and this time, he broke up with his wife.
GT: So you’ve got Mike who’s aged seventy two, living in Kent.
JG: In Kent.
GT: And you’ve got Paul here, living in New Zealand.
JG: Just over there.
GT: Who is fifty five, so you have your son close, and obviously you had a great time, Betty and yourself, here in New Zealand.
JG: You can go and see his garden, Paul’s gardens, see his swimming pool and all that.
GT: Fabulous, so Betty, she was, what did she do when you came to New Zealand?
JG: She was a dress maker, machinist, and in the end she had, we had a big machine up in that garage there, we made it into a, like a workshop for her.
GT: Fabulous. Now, at the, when you demobbed from the RAF, you went back as an engineer and then into the fishing tackle game, selling in London there. So you became a store owner, was that right?
JG: See, in England fishing tackle is a lot different to New Zealand. In New Zealand, I hate to say this, but all they think about is trout. Trout, trout. Can you eat it? If you can’t eat it they don’t want to catch it! Whereas the poms, we do it for the fun of catching the fish.
GT: You do the coarse fishing.
JG: Coarse fishing. And course, so therefore, the shop in England was selling ten times the amount of stuff than what they do in New Zealand, cause there’s so much, such a bigger range.
GT: And where was your shop?
JG: Down, opposite, opposite Penge Police Station funnily enough.
GT: And you sold that up to come out to New Zealand in the early seventies.
JG: Yes.
GT: You’ve already said you didn’t want to go back. Did you get homesick for England?
JG: I didn’t. The wife’s been back, twice, but I didn’t. Never been homesick and wanted to go back. And I told me son, when he left here and went back home, I said that’s the second time, don’t expect me to follow you, I won’t be following you, which I didn’t do, I didn’t want to chase after him. He’s happy enough, he’s married a Russian woman, got divorced. His wife was one of these moaning types, always got something to moan about! [Chuckle]
GT: Fabulous. So you’ve managed to keep your home that you purchased as soon as you arrived here. And so, when did you lose Betty?
JG: Eleven years ago.
GT: You’ve been very active here with the New Zealand Bomber Command Association.
JG: Yeah, I used to go there every Wednesday.
GT: So you were part of the, now in New Zealand we have a Lancaster that’s been rebuilt and is on display at the MOTET, which is the Museum of Transport and Technology.
JG: That’s right. We used to clean that.
GT: Right, so you were part of the Wednesday Bomber Boys. Was a group of you veterans over the years.
JG: Every Wednesday up there, and why I stopped in the end, driving here to there took nearly an hour, driving back was under half hour and driving on that motorway with all that, everybody going into Auckland, I couldn’t take it any longer and I had to pack it in. The Wednesday Boys.
GT: So for those who are unaware of our Lancaster here in New Zealand, it was donated by the French Navy and it was not an aircraft that had served during World War Two but was just after. But it sat for many years here and finally a group was put together to get it back to display status, and it’s a magnificent aircraft at the Museum of Transport Technology and at the current time it has 75 Squadron markings on it. But for your factor John, did you spend much time inside the aircraft when you were fixing it up?
JG: No, we, one of the jobs I had was, every week., four of us used to sit round the table with all log books, reading out what this one done, oh this one he flew so and so, so and so, and somebody like yourself is making a note of it, and all that was reduced to a disc, so that if you wanted, if you had a father or grandfather who was one of the aircrew got lost, you wanted to know what happened. Instead of you searching through all the records: it’s on the disc.
GT: Under that guy’s name.
JG: Under that guy’s name, and that would tell you everything. And that’s what we done. We used to sit there for hour, or couple of hours then it was tea time, cup of tea and a bun, and then some of us used to have a duster and clean the aircraft up. We, I took me mates up there once and they were, they had to pay to get in! [Laugh] They said no lads, sorry, but. I said they’re my mates, and he said yeah I know, he said but if we let them in then others will want it. I mean I didn’t have to pay, I could go in there any time: One of the Wednesday Boys.
GT: How many Wednesday boys were there all together? A dozen?
JG: Oh, couple of dozen. Yeah.
GT: Any left, besides yourself?
JG: Yeah, oh yeah, there’s still, still two or three left – like Peter Wheeler, I’m sure he was one of the Wednesday Boys.
GT: Peter’s not a veteran though, but he’s the executive of the New Zealand Bomber Command Association. He looks after the aircraft for MOTET, the aircraft’s not the MOTET particularly, it’s part of the Bomber Command Association.
JG: The last time, which is years ago, they had a Sunderland flying boat, outside.
GT: It’s inside now.
JG: That’s inside is it.
GT: It’s all been painted up.
JG: I know they were doing this Lancaster up, somebody said these two brothers got together and paying it out, paying for it out their pocket.
GT: You’re talking about the Panton brothers at East Kirkby, Lincoln. It’s Just Jane.
JG: They reckon there’ll be a couple of Lancasters flying.
GT: They’re looking at that. And this is where the International Bomber Command Centre has come about, now it’s not far, and this is where this recording will end up, with them in their archives and it’s been fascinating. Now what you have on your wall here is a huge framed effort with your rank slides, your medals and some photographs, and some badges of the squadrons you flew with, which is fascinating. Your son built that for you?
JG: No, he had it built by the chap owns the bed and breakfast at Russell, you know Russell? He owns the bed and breakfast [cough] right on the front of Russell. I don’t know, I think it cost a couple of thousand to do that. What he was charging.
GT: Awesome. That’s pretty neat there.
JG: Paul paid for all that.
GT: To have your information up on the wall.
JG: And then trouble is, one of the cards has slipped down and it’s too much bother to undo the back, because it’s sealed, so we just left it.
GT: So we see that you managed to secure the Bomber Command Clasp at least. So that’s good to see. Now John, you’re now coming up, in September it was your birthday, you were ninety -
JG: Seven.
GT: Ninety seven. You’re feeling good about yourself?
JG: Well, I’ve got all this problem now what’s going to happen about when they start knocking down my wall and pulling up me carpets.
GT: Bit of a flood in the laundry yesterday.
JG: I don’t.
GT: But the other thing too, John, you’ve just survived an accident on the road! Gosh, what happened there?
JG: Well that, on that mobility scooter, I’ll show you if you like before you go. Well coming down Buckman’s beach road you’re supposed to stay on the pavement, well I’ve been using the road, but on this particular time there was a lot of traffic so I went on the pavement. Coming down Buckman’s each but you know the houses’ driveways are slanted up like that, going along and we got to house and it was quite steep so I went to move over to the right to get nearer the wall of the house, and what I didn’t know, in front of me, the pavement ended, it was mud. And the wheel, ruddy wheel went down and threw me over the top.
GT: Were you hurt?
JG: I’ve done all this, out gardening more or less stopped now.
GTL And you also attend a lot of the Bomber Command services.
JG: Well I shall, I’m going this one June 9th at ten thirty. I’m going to phone up Kerry and Don, Paul said he would take the four of us there, you know, to the service. Well if he does, if they come, and we stop in the restaurant there, I’ll tell ‘em I’ll treat ‘em to breakfast. I know Carrie and Don won’t eat much - Paul will! [Laughter]
GT: So, the service is all about the Bomber Command stuff, right.
JG: Yeah.
GT: So, and you’ve been doing this every year?
JG: Every year, yeah, and Peter met, Peter said I haven’t seen you, was last year you saw me, cause he came here, Peter, to interview me over something. I will have to find his phone number and phone him up.
GT: The other thing John you mentioned to me, was that during your operational tours, you had a white scarf.
JG: Yeah, a white silk scarf.
GT: Tell me about that please.
JG: It was about eighteen inches wide and over six foot long, and every op when I come back, I used to take it with me on ops, when I come back, I had this WAAF used to embroider the name of the town we’d been to bomb. Even when we shot down that Ju 88, she embroidered a swastika on it. So I had sixteen names at the top and fifteen names, and fifteen names at the bottom with a swastika and I gave them to John Bannon to put on show.
GT: Well we’ll find out more about that.
JG: See if you can.
GT: It’s fascinating that you actually had that done.
JG: He died. When he suddenly died, I thought meself I wonder what happened to my scarf?
GT: We’ll have a look for that. So have you been up to see the Lancaster lately?
JG: No I don’t get out there now. You know, I mean I’ve got the address, 9th of June, Paul’s already, I can make a note, yeah, we’ll take you dad, him and his partner and I’m going to phone up Carrie or she’ll come over, and Don, see if they want come with us.
GT: Well you have got a amazing amount of your historical documents here: your log book is safe and is being scanned and copied. You have a folder full of all of the New Zealand Bomber Command Association newsletters for quite some years, you have some from the 100 Squadron in England.
JG: There’s two there.
GT: There’s two that you have managed to secure, and see what they have been doing and been up to, I have now given you have some IBCC material I brought back from England last year with me so you have some material there to check on, and when I arrived here to visit you today you were looking at your photographs on your big tv which is fascinating to see.
JG: I fetched the flying, the Lancaster flying with it, with it the Hurricane and Spitfire flying along there and then I fetch them flying over, practicing on that dam, all on my, but I’m not so good now with the computer, getting it, you know, cause I play poker a bit on it, on the computer.
GT: What did you do when you came to New Zealand? What was your career, job? What did you get up to?
JG: Er, [pause] I had a job with Shatlocks. You know, Shatlocks, I worked for them.
GT: The company that made stoves.
JG: They made all the stoves down Dunedin. All the electric ones and that, and Fisher and Paykel got their name on one of them.
GT: Fischer and Paykel are a very famous brand here in New Zealand aren’t they, John, making cooker tops and such.
JG: Well they done, well they didn’t actually make the cook tops, it was Jack Shatlock, Shatlocks made ‘em, made all the cookers.
GT: And you were a technician or a salesman?
JG: Technician. I’ve got, actually, see that red tin there, up there, there’s a red tin up the garden, there’s about twelve up there, that was what they used to enclose the dishwashers in and all the aluminium sheets up there, was all part of the plate what came out your cooker.
GT: You’re in a very large house here, with a large back yard which is not the same as what many English households have.
JG: I used to do a lot [emphasis] of gardening, but now, half hour and that’s me lot. I’ve realised now, when I start getting tired, I just come and sit down, read.
GT: And you’re the last man of your crew that you know of, John?
JG: Yeah, Jack was the, Jack was, he died a year ago now, and some of the others have been dead a few years you know, slowly getting less and less.
GT: You were involved with two different crews though. Did you keep in contact much with any of the other chaps?
JG: No, none at all.
GT: Once you demobbed.
JG: No, none at all, not even.
GT: Other than Jack of course.
JG: Jack and, talking to Podge cause he used to come over from Australia to stay at Jack’s place and he invited me, I spoke to him on the phone one day when he was visiting England, he said John, if you’d like to come to Australia and pay for half the petrol, I’ll take you all around Australia, flying, he had is own aircraft, type like Tiger Moth. And I never did go, but I could have flown all the way round Australia.
GT: You stlll can.
JG: All you got to do he said was pay for half the petrol.
GT: That’s amazing. You are amazing for the New Zealand Bomber Command Association to be one of the few left here in New Zealand, so, John, I am very honoured to be able to interview you today for the IBCC especially. You and I have crossed paths for many years at the services, this is my first time to sit and chat to you so I’m quite honoured to spend time with you today. I think is there anything else you would like to speak to with your interview here?
JG: No not really I think I’m quite surprised, you know that, I’m glad Peter Wheeler’s still there. I can have a chat with him, when I go. I will phone him up though.
GT: But this is your story, this is about your -
JG: If you remember, try and have a look for that scarf.
GT: I can do that too. But for your history and your remembrance of your time, serving with the Bomber Command itself, long before you were in New Zealand. I know I certainly can be proud to thank you for your service and you obviously served with distinction and pride.
JG: Thank you.
GT: And memories of those days: good, bad?
JG: Yes. Some good, some bad. I can think to myself, I must have been bloody mad volunteering for this when I was up there flying at times, when we was in trouble, you know, but then I realise, now, how lucky I was to be one [emphasis] of the men who got back. Like all, evidently, all [emphasis] that crew who you saw there, every one of them, survived. I don’t know how many ops Jack done, but I know he done a lot less than me, cause he done six food, no seven food drops, he told me, he done seven there so, if he done seven of them he didn’t do many, that’d been seven ops left. Can’t get, I’m lucky to have a son like Paul over there.
GT: Well John, I’m going to finish our interview here now, sadly, because I’d love to keep talking with you, but thank you very much for your time here, and I’ll make sure the IBCC have the recording from this, sent to them and I hope you enjoy reading their cards I’ve left with you.
JG: I will read all that. I’ll sort it all out and read it.
GT: They will have now your contact details and I’ll make sure they’ll send some to you. From me, from Glen Turner, of 75 Squadron Association, the secretary of the Association and my friendship with the Bomber Command gentlemen, I thank you and I thank you on behalf of the IBCC.
JG: I think thank you for taking the trouble to, you know, do this sort of thing. There.
GT: My pleasure for you. Thank you, John. Goodbye.
JG: Bye-by.

Collection

Citation

Glen Turner, “Interview with John Green,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 17, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/17898.

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