Just Another Tailend Charlie



Just Another Tailend Charlie


A memoir written by Cliff Watson divided into 20 chapters.

The Earliest Years.
Born in Barnoldswick, then in Yorkshire, now in Lancashire in 1922. His father ran a wireless business until 1926. He describes his years at schools and a move to Norwich. The family then moved to London where he started an apprenticeship as an accountant.

Joining Up.
Cliff left the accountants to work in his father's radio business. Initially he was rejected by the RAF because he wore spectacles. He reapplied and passed various written, oral and medical examinations. Initial training was at Torquay then Newquay. Once training was complete he sailed from Greenock to South Africa.

Southern Rhodesia.
After acclimatisation in South Africa, Cliff and his colleagues were put on a sleeper train to Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Training commenced on Tiger Moths but he was 'scrubbed' or rejected. He was reselected as an air gunner and completed a course in Moffat, also in South Rhodesia. Hospitality in Rhodesia and South Africa was described as generous and excellent.

Cliff describes a run-in with a training corporal who took a dislike to him. Despite faked evidence he proved his points and emerged with a clean record and passed his exams.

Operational Training.
In August 1942 he sailed back to the UK. He was sent to Bournemouth for assessment, then on to RAF Finningley for training then RAF Bircotes for operations. Next was a move to RAF Hixon and its satellite airfield at Seighford. He married Hilda on 1st March 1943 during a week's leave.

Second Time to Africa.
He was then sent to West Kirby, Liverpool to join a ship sailing to Algiers, for further training. Their destination became Blida where they started operations on Tunis and Monserrato airfield. They then moved to a desert strip to the east by 250 kms. From there they continued operations into Italy. Later they moved to Kairouan and continued operations into Italy, mainly Sardinia and Sicily. Each operation is described in great detail.
He has included a letter in Arabic with instructions to take the bearer to British soldiers for a reward. At the end of his tour they sailed back to Greenock.

After some leave Cliff's next posting was at Operational Training Unit Desborough where he helped train new gunners. Due to an argument with an officer he was sent to RAF Norton for correctional training. On his return his case was reviewed and the severe reprimand was removed from his record.

Scampton was Cliff's next operational base then Winthorpe for its Heavy Conversion Unit on Stirlings, followed by Syerston on Lancasters then Bardney.

227 Squadron.
Cliff joined 227 squadron at Bardney. Again he covers in detail each operation. His flight was later transferred to Balderton. During this period he was awarded the DFC.

Final Leg.
His squadron was transferred to Gravely at the end of the war. He did a photography course and was transferred to Handforth. There was little work, some unpleasantness and eventually a period of extended leave, a spell at Poynton looking after prisoners then demob.

Back to Civvy Street.
Cliff returned to Whitehaven to revitalise a radio company. He gives great detail about the improvements made. Later he set up a similar enterprise at Maryport. Wired radio services were set to become less popular and financially worthwhile so seeing the writing on the wall he decided to emigrate.

Cliff and family flew to Nairobi, then bus to Kitale where his father was.

Hoteli King George.
Dissatisfied with life on his father's farm, Cliff took a job as a prison officer. He and his family moved to Nairobi. He relates several stories about prisoners and their better qualities but in the end he gets restless and leaves.

Civil Aviation.
Cliff joined the East African Directorate of Civil Aviation in April 1951 as a radio officer. He and his family were relocated to Mbeya, 900 miles from Nairobi. His skills as a radio engineer were well used in this remote location. After 2.5 years the family returned to UK on leave. On his return he was posted to Mwanza, also in Tanganyika. He describes in great detail a royal visit. They left on leave in June 1957 and collected a VW Beetle for transport to Kenya. Their next move was to Entebbe. This was not a happy posting and led to a transfer to Kisumu in Kenya. After three years they transferred to Nairobi to spend more time with their children, who were at boarding school there.

D.C.A. Headquarters.
His role here was Telecomms superintendent. He describes in detail the operations of his section. This was an unsettled period in Kenya with many Europeans returning home.

Dec' 61 on Leave.
Leave was spent at their house in Wales then in May 1962 Cliff returned alone to Nairobi. His family did return later. By this time his father had abandoned his farm and was building radios.

On Leave June 1964.
He bought another house in Wales and spent his leave restoring it. His wife's mother moved in. In November 1964 Cliff returned alone to Nairobi. he left within a year due to the worsening situation.

Job Hunting.
Several electronics firms were approached offering Cliff's services. He attended an interview with Pye who quickly offered him employment.

At Pye Telecommunications.
He found his colleagues unhelpful. A great deal of time was spent on a Turkish quotation that had been in progress for 10 years. A quotation to the Iranian Directorate of Civil Aviation contained complications leading to Cliff revising the quotation. Later there was a complicated installation job at the London Stock Exchange. Eventually Pye pulled out from the bid but a rival company won it, only to be taken over by Pye. At first the system was troubled but after a simple modification it worked perfectly.

Dresden 13-14 February 1945.
A one page description of the bombing of Dresden.

Curriculum Vitae.
Cliff Watson's CV, dated 1976.



Spatial Coverage



192 typewritten sheets and photographs


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.









JUNE 1989

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[underlined] SEQUENCE [/underlined]

[underlined] File [/underlined] [underlined] Page [/underlined] [underlined] Location [/underlined]

[underlined] GROUP O [/underlined]

D 3 Joining up [underlined] AC2 [/underlined]
4 Babbacombe - 11 ITW Newquay [underlined] LAC [/underlined]
8 Troopship HMT Mooltan - Freetown - Capetown
G 7 Southern Rhodesia - Bulawayo [underlined] LAC [/underlined]
8 EFTS Belvedere Scrubbed TIGER MOTHS [underlined] AC2 [/underlined]
10 A/G Course, Moffat ANSONS [underlined] LAC-Sgt [/underlined]
11 Polsmoor Transit Camp [underlined] Sgt [/underlined]
J25 14 HMT Monarch of Bermuda
15 West Kirby - Bournmouth
17 25 OTU Finningley - Bircotes - WELLINGTONS
18 30 OTU Hixon - Sieghford
19 Leaflets to Paris
J26 21 West Kirby - HMT Johan Van Vanderbilt
K1 23 Algiers - Blida - 150 Sqdn WELLINGTONS
K2 27 Fontaine Chaude (Batna) [underlined] FIt/Sgt [/underlined]
LT 32 Kairoaun
LU 35 On leave in Tunis, Chad in Jail
MT 46 End of First Tour - 47 raids
47 2 BPD Tunis - 500 mls. by lorry to Algiers
HXM Capetown Castle - Greenoch - West Kirby
NS 49 Screened 84 OTU Desborough
50 Norton, Sheffield Discip. course
53 W.O - 6th June D Day [underlined] W/O [/underlined]
OS 55 Aircrew Pool, Scampton - HCU Winthorpe STIRLING
56 Syerston Lanc. conversion LANCASTERS
P 57 227 Sqdn. Bardney – Balderton [underlined] P/O [/underlined]
60 DFC [underlined] F/O [/underlined]
63 End of Tour - VE Day
Q 67 Redundant - Photographic Officer, Farnborough
68 u/t Equipment Officer 61MU Handforth

[underlined] GROUP 4 [/underlined]
69 Lager Commandant, Poynton prison camp
2W 75 Civvy Street, Whitehaven Relay Service [underlined] MR [/underlined] .
79 Development Manager, Metropolitan Relays London
44 83 To Kenya, Kirksbridge Farm, Kiminini Kitale
48 85 HM Prison Service Asst. Supt. gr2
555 95 Civil Aviation Radio Officer
556 Mbeya Radio Supt.
557 103 UK leave PMG1 – Flt/RO lic. C. & G.
670 104 Eastleigh - Mwanza
107 Royal visit
680 113 UK leave
114 Entebbe Telecomm. Supt
115 Kisumu
700 123 Nairobi Comm. Centre Ast. Signals Officer
720 129 UK leave
750 134 Nairobi HQ & retirement
800 135 Laikipia Security Network
96 151 Pye Telecommunications, Cambridge Project Engineer

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[underlined] ILLUSTRATIONS [/underlined]
12A Air Gubber Coiurse 24 CAOS Moffat
15A Finningley Reg. Whellams
20A Bride & Groom 1/3/43
CW in flying kit
CW & HF at Richmond
26A Stan Rutherford with Hilda & Cliff at Richmond
Bill Willoughby (NAV) at Whimpey port gun position
Bill Willoughby & Stan Chatterton in their pits at Blinda
44A Pantelleria target photographs
48A CW with Mum, Barnoldswick
Skipper & B.A. with Hilda at Richmond
Skipper & Hilda at Richmond
48B Skipper& [sic] B.A. with Cliff at Richmond
Stan Rutherford in the snow, at Bircoates
Outside Chalet at Blida
Wimpey at Kaircan
48C At Richmond CW & Hilda
52A Warrant Officer parchment
54A three of Aircrew peeling spuds at Scampton incl. Frank Eaglestone
56A F/O Forster DFM 2nd tour Nav.
W/O Foolkes at rear of NJ-P
64A Crashed Remains of 9J – O
64B F/O Cheale, F/O. Bates
S/Ldr Chester DFA with F/O Cheale, W/O Foolkes & F/O Forster DFM
64C More of 9J – O
64D F/O Ted (Ace) Forster DFM, CW & W/O Pete Foolkes
64E CW with rear turret of 9J – O
CW with motor-byke
Sgt. Geoff (Doogan) Hampson, Flight Engineer
64F Newspaper cutting
Start of Second Tour – Frank Eaglestone, Ted Forster & Pete Foolkes
More of 9J – O
64G Ted Forster Ready for Gerry?
Lunchtime over Homberg [sic]
64H P/O Bates (My last tour Skipper)
Part of F/O Bates’ usual crew
64J F/LT. Maxted (Gunnery Ldr) Pete Foolkes and F/O Sandford (spare gunner or Sqdn Adj?)
More of 9J – O
64K Doogan again
More of 9J – O
64L DFC Citation
64M Apology from H.M.
64N F/O Croker’s Lanc. on Torpedo dump at Wyke
Christmas Dinner at Wyke
Reverse of Pete’s Xmas Card 1989
Part of F/L Croker’s letter with Xmas Card
66A-H Examples of Battle Orders

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[underlined] DEDICATION [/underlined]
The section dealing with my R.A.F. career is dedicated to Lady Luck who shows no compassion, is completely immoral and yet cannot be bought.

After a remarkable interview on television recently, Raymond Baxter asked of Tom Sopwith "To what do you attribute your tremendous and unparalelled [sic] success over such a long period?” In his 94th. year he replied “Luck, pure luck”. His reply was the same when asked again at his 100th. birthday party.

This must apply to every aspiring aviator, and I was no exception.

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[underlined] THE EARLIEST YEARS [/underlined]

My first ten year or so were spent in Yorkshire, having been born on the [deleted] 22nd [/deleted] [inserted] 11th [/inserted] of February 1922, at 45 Federation Street [inserted] the home of my paternal Gt Grandparents [/inserted], Barnoldswick almost opposite nr. 26 where my Grandparents lived, and about two years after my father was demobbed from the Kings Own Yorkshire Light lnfantry after the Great War. My sister Winifred Sofia was born almost two years later on the 2nd. of January 1924. About that time the family moved to a shop at 33 Rainhall Road where my father established a wireless business. I attended the infants school only 50 yards away, often joined by Winifred.

At the shop, my father built radio receivers of the "Tuned Radio Frequency" type, (TRF), a good 10 years ahead of the superhet. At the same time he held one of the first radio amateur licences in Yorkshire, with the callsign 2ZA. His aerial was a wire to the top of a 50 ft. pole in the back yard and starting with a spark transmitter his first radio contact was with another amateur in Colne, whose transmitter output was connected between the gas and water pipes, He had no means of measuring his frequency but thought it was somewhere around 300 KHz. (1000 metres) He soon progressed to using valves and gradually higher frequencies, though almost everything was really trial and error. When communication progressed to "working" other countries the prefix G was added to UK call-signs. He once told me that his first telephony transmission was achieved using a GPO carbon microphone in the aerial circuit. The only receivable broadcast wireless station at that time was the BBC's 2LO and when people heard it for the first tine there was indeed great wonderment and excitement

In 1926 came the general strike. Money was very scarce and people were hungry. There was no money coming in and the shop closed down. The family moved to a house in Rook Street, close to the railway bridge and opposite the cobler's [sic] wooden workshop. Most of us wore clogs in those days, with leather tops and laces, and iron-shod wooden soles.

Before going to war my father had served an engineering apprentiship [sic] , and worked with steam engines. With outstanding debts at the shop and a wife and two small children to support, he volunteered to work with L.M.S. railway company, and drove a train between Barnoldswick and I think Skipton. The engine was pelted with stones at some of the bridges and he was very unpopular with the strikers, althought [sic] many of them were quite happy to use the train. Thus the family was sustained and he received a letter of thanks and a medalion [sic] from the chairman of L.M.S.

When things returned to normal the family moved again, to nr. 14 School Terrace in Dam Head Road and Winifred and I attended the infants and Junior Schools across the back street. My mother was able to resume working at the mill as a cotton weaver with her sisters Molly and Annie. Their brother Jim -my uncle- was a 'twister', that is he connected the cotton threads on the warp to tails ready for applying to the loom for weaving. The noise. in the weaving sheds was deafening and weavers were quite adept at lip reading. This had a great influence on their broad northern accent. Most weavers operated six looms, loading manually the weft into the shuttles before changing them. My uncle Charlie -the brother of my paternal grandfather=- was a manufacturer employing about a hundred people running 500 or so looms. I remember the big warehouse doors and the lift which was operated by water pressure. To go up, just turn on this tap!. Going down transfered [sic] the water back into a holding

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tank. There were two offices, large wooden boxes, one on each side of the big doors and just under the ceiling. Accessed by ladders. One office was for uncle Charlie and his clerk, and the other for the more junior staff. When I called to see them in 1941 I noted the intercom. system between the offices. It comprised, at each terminal, two empty Lyle Golden Syrup tins one for speaking into and the other for receiving. they were connected by two lengths of taught string which vibrated the diaphragms being the bottoms of the tins. I was surprised at their effectiveness. There was also a loop of string pulled manually between the two places with a small box attched [sic] for transferring documents. I was impressed. Uncle Charlie said he would consider changing the strings after the war.

At School Terrace my father carried on building wireless sets in the attic and also helped his friend Tom Shorrock who owned the local radio relay service. This comprised a wireless receiver and amplifiers connecting some hundreds of houses with a pair of bare wires to loudspeakers at a cost of ninepence per week for each loudspeaker. The idea appealed to my father and he was able to instigate some technical improvements. By then the wireless manufacturing industry had become well established and radios became readily available. My father had paid off his debts and was discharged from bancrupsy [sic].

At this stage we moved into a new house at 25 Melville Avenue. which was nearer to Fernbank Mill for my mother but also had an inside toilet and bathroom. It also had electricity mains in place of the more customery [sic] gas lighting. An electric soldering iron must have seemed luxurious after heating a copper bit on a gas ring.

Our school was only a few minutes walk from home. Gisburn Road Council School. I remember it and the teachers very well, Mr Alfred Green Petty.the Headmaster, Miss Housen who tought [sic] music english and poetry, and above all Mr Heaton who tought [sic] arithmetic, citizanship [sic] and physics. Miss Housen did not think much of my efforts, I couldn’t sing and disliked poetry, but I got on fine with Mr. Heaton, who also tought [sic] my father over 20 years earlier. Over a fairly long period he gave me extra homework in arithmetic most nights, generally a problem or two and he checked the results next day. It was almost private tuition and thanks largely to him, I excelled in the subject. I think children’s attitudes' in the main were very different to those of the present day. Discipline was strict by consent, not fear. Reward was achieved by effort alone and there was friendly competition between us. Most of us got the cane for some minor offence like climbing over the school wall, in my case refusing to stand in the front of the class and recite ‘the wreck of the Hesperus’. We did respect our teachers.

About this time we moved to a house in Headingley for just a few weeks and then on to. Fence, which we knew as wheatley Lane. During that period my father was working in London at Stag Lane fitting the electrics in Rolls Royces. My mother worked at the cotton mill nearby and Winifred & I were looked after partly by Mrs. Ingham who had a sweet shop. Our stay in Fence was also [deleted] m [/deleted] of short duration.

Tom Shorrock was a friend of Mr. Ramsbottom who was struggling with a one programme radio relay system in Keighley. He already had thriving electrical business and Tom introduced my father to him. So we moved yet again, to Keighley, and my father became Engineer and Manager of Ramsbottoms Radio Relay Service in the centre of Keighley. From 33 Lister Street, the Receiving and Amplifying Station the wires branched

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out on the roof tops in all directions. By then there were two BBC programmes, Home Service on 342 mtrs, and the Light Programme on 1500 mtrs, so they converted to two pairs for two programmes. We were living at 25 Lawnswood Road but soon moved to a new house at 21 Whittley Road. I recall helping Leslie Wright – Dad’s foreman to erect a garage which cost £7.10.0 to house the new Austin 7 which cost £75 taxed and insured. The other personality I remember well was Walter Spurgeon, chief wireman.

Winifred and I attended Holycroft Council School. Some of the lessons were by listening to the radio, an innovation in those days, and it was my job to check the radio was working, each morning.

It was in Keighley that Mrs. Alice Kilham, my father’s secretary came on the scene. She lived in Oakworth with her daughter Mary, her husband being in a sanitorium being treated for TB. During very cold winter around 1933 the snow was six feet deep and they came to live with us at Wittley Road.

Winifred and I were in the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts respectively and we decided to take the Signaller badge which meant sending and receiving the morse code. We were told the speed required was 12. Having established a battery and buzzer, and a morse key and headphones by the beds in each bedroom, we soon memorised the code and communicated with each other, quickly reaching 12 words per minute. Eventually we progressed to 18 words per minute and then went to take the test. Only then did we find that the speed required was 12 LETTERS per minute, not words. 12 letters is only 2 words per minute. However this faux pas proved very useful about eight years hence.

After just a few years in Keighley, the system was working well and no longer presented a challenge. My father was approached by a group of businessmen from Norwich who were interested in the “wired wireless” system. They were owners of radio busineses [sic] who felt they shouId have a stake in the competition and bank managers hoping to earn a quick buck. All the bank managers were Yorkshiremen. So Norwich Relays Ltd. came into being with premises in St. John Maddermarket, and my father became Engineer and manager, taking with him his secretary and foreman Lesley Wright from Keighley. Allan Moulton joined the firm and was responsible for obtaining wayleaves, that is obtaining permission from owners to put wires on their property. He was a popular figure in Norwich, his main qualification for the job was that he played cricket for Norfolk and knew most people who mattered. Leslie died whilst in his thirties in Norwich.

Once again we moved house, to 119 Unthank Road, and Mrs. Kilham and Mary moved into a cottage in Blickling Court near Norwich Cathedral. Winifred I went to the Avenues Council School initially but not for long. I remember getting a prize for my ‘lecture' on how a TRF wireless worked, showing them the working radio I had made. Probably not very accurate but there was no-one present who could contradict me, fortunately.

At 13 I changed to the Norwich Junior Technical School in St. Andrews. Soon after we moved house yet again to a new house, “Wayside", in Plumstead Road, on the boundary of Norwich Aerodrome. Winifred then joined Mary at St. Monicas private school. On Saturday mornings I attended Art School on the top floor. I achieved very little there, the art master quite rightly concentrating on pupils who showed some potential. For an enjoyable two years we concentrated on technical

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subjects, woodwork, maths, physics, Chemistry, mechanics, technical drawing, metal and woodwork etc. The masters I remember well, ‘Chemi’ Reed the principle, Mr. Abigail, Mr. McCracken and Mr. Lishman. At the end of two-year course I transfered [sic] to Unthank College in Newmarket Road, joining the 5th. form. This was big change for me, the emphasis was on classical subjects, in English literature we spent a whole year studying Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream and Spencer's Fairy Queen. I couldn't: get interested in either but I later achieved a credit in the School Certificate by answering questions on A.G. Street’s Farmers Glory which I read in bed the night before the exam. Mr. Bertwhistle the English Lit. master was furious. For Physics and Mechanics I had tuition from Mr. Horace, the Principal's son and on Wednesday afternoons I visited “Chemi” Reed's house at 33 Britannia Rd. for tuition.

In early 1939 my father, Mr. Moulton and Mrs. Kilham acquired six run-down relay firms and the Nuvolion loudspeaker factory in South London from a Mr. Olivisi, a Frenchman. My father moved to Stretham to a flat in Pullman Court and Mrs. Kilham and Mary and to duCane Court in Balham where the Moultons also had a flat. My mother and Winifred moved to a house in West Norwood and I became a boarder at Unthank College. Soon after taking the School Certificate I joined my mother in London and we moved to a flat in New Southgate. I became articled to George Eric Titley, a Chartered Accountant in St Paul’s Churchyard, commuting to the city 6 days a week by underground. Rail fare was tenpence return per day and I was paid ten shillings per week. Fifty pence in 2004 currency The firm was Gladstone Titley and Co. at 61-63 St. Pauls Churchyard and I was the junior with qualified accountants Joe Oliver, Clarke and Jenkins, and Miss Miller the Secretary. It was amusing 6 years hence when I barged into a Board Meeting at 69 Lavender Hill, Sqdn/Ldr Jenkins still in uniform was sitting there when F/O Cliff Watson appearedstill [sic] in Battledress. Jenkins was called up in 1940 as an Account Squadron Leader.

On the 3rd. of September 1939 War was declared and any plans we all had for the future were kiboshed. During the blitz in 1940 to be nearer my father and to help out at Relays we moved home to Ascot Court in Acre Lane, Clapham.

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[underlined] JOINING UP [/underlined] .

The outbreak of war found me as a clerk articled to a Chartered Accountant in St. Paul's Yard. London. At the age of 17 1/2 it went without saying that within a year or two my occupation would be changed way or another. In the family Radio Relay business men were already leaving to join to Forces. My father was on an army reserve and expected to be called up at any time. I felt my best course was to abandon accountancy for the time being and try and help out; so I joined the firm as a General Factotum. During the Blitz on London my job was fault-finding and replacing the overhead lines, knocked down by Jerry bombers where buildings and whole streets were destroyed. The Radio Relay Service, a two programme four wire system in those days, linked the BBC with some tens of thousands of homes in South London, homes where the radio was never switched off. The system carried air raid warnings also. All too frequently the radio was interrupted by an announcer at Scotland Yard with “Attention please, here is an important announcement, an air raid warning has just been officially circulated". There were occasions when bombs were dropped before the sirens sounded, but never before the announcement was made on our Radio Relay System.

September, aged 18 1/2, I found my employers were trying hard to register me as being in a reserved occupation. The Manager, Allan Moulton, had already been successful in his own case, which was reasonable. Someone had to run the firm and my father had sailed off to Abbysinia [sic] in March. At the time I was working literally 18 hours per day and my fifty bob per week hardly paid for digs.

On a very rare afternoon-off I was walking down Kingsway and tried my luck at the R.A.F. Recruiting office. One look at an applicant for aircrew wearing glasses brought an instant decision from the man at the door. I walked along the Strand and down Whitehall, and having removed my spectacles tried the Royal Navy. I completed the application form and was told that I would be called for interview eventually, but there was a very long waiting list.

I tried the R.A.F. again about a week later having left-off my spectacles for several days, and an application form for training as a pilot was completed. Had I previous flying experience? Yes. Fortunately I was not asked for details, as a passenger with Alan Cobham's Flying Circus might not have carried much weight. - In 1936 we had lived at a house called "Wayside” in Plumsted Road, Norwich, on the Mousehold aerodrome boundary, with a panoramic view of the aerodrome, and I was fascinated by it all like most boys of my age. It was to be three months before I heard from the R.A.F. - the Navy had missed the boat – I was to report to the Aircrew Selection Board near Euston station, on the appointed day about a week hence, for 'medical and academic examinations'. The letter added that in the maths exam `log tables but not slide rules are permissable [sic] ’.

The great day arrived, and at 8.30 am. with about 80 other applicants we were told there would be three one hour written exams, Maths, English and General Knowledge, followed by a medical and a brief interview. Maths was a typical 5th. form end of term test, and English an essay with a wide choice of subjects. General knowledge was mainly common-sense. One of the questions I recall; "Is the distance from London to Warsaw nearer 100, 600 or 2000 miles?”. The Medical Exam was carried out by about 6 examiners, probably Doctors, on a production Iine basis.


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Then the interview after a delay of some hours. Three uniformed R.A.F. officers who had obviously been places in previous wars. "Why do you want to fly"? I have forgotten the particular piece of flannel I used, but it brought no comment and another member of the Board fired his shot, "Which is colder, minus 40 Centigrade or minus forty farenheit [sic] ? Instant answer to that, I'd hear. it before somewhere. The third member asked "that does your Father do" I replied "He is an officer in the R.A.S.C. fighting the Italians in Abbysinia [sic] ". This brought a chuckle from two of them for some reason and the interview was over. I would be advised by post of their decision after the exam. results had been studied.

A week later I was told to report to Euston for attestation, actual reporting for duty would follow after some weeks. There was a brief ceremony and I was given a document which stated that " AC2 Clifford Watson 1384956 has been accepted for training as a pilot in the R. A. F. and is to be prepared to report for duty of a few days notice". It went on to state further that his teeth should receive the earliest attention, one extraction and two fillings.

About three months later my call-up papers arrived, and meanwhile I had met two other local lads whose paths had converged with my own and were to stay parallel for the next six months or so. Raymond Colin Chislett, the son of a Battersea butcher, .and Tom King., of Wandsworth. The three of us reported to the R.T.O. at Paddington and joined a party bound for Babbacombe near Torquay.

During the week at Babbacombe we were issued with uniforms, introduced to drill and Service discipline, lectured on the history of the R.A.F. and told something of what the future held for us. We were made to feel that we really belonged and were indeed priveleged [sic] to be chosen to follow in the footsteps of 'The Few'. We were perhaps more than a little naive to think that we were all destined to become fighter pilots, but we were made to feel that the fate of England and the empire rested entirely with us. The Bombers were taken for granted and were not in the forefront of than news at that time. In any case we Londoners had seen our Fighters in action and - we admit it - imagined ourselves in their shoes. There was a tremendous urge to get on with it and to make a success of it. A great sense of urgency prevailed. I remember well that first day in the Royal Air Force. We were advised to write down our Service numbers so we wouldn't forget them, and above all, we had strawberries and cream for tea. The last I saw of strawberries and cream for about eight years, and as for forgetting one's Service number...! Perhaps it was intended as a joke, but we were taking everything very seriously. At the end of the week there was another Pep talk, very well delivered by a Squadron Leader - and equally well received. He remarked that about Babbacombe, people will say "Never in the History of human conflict, have so many been burgered [sic] about by so few". A misquotation of those immortal words. He went on to say that the two most important weeks in your R.A.F. careers are the first and last, and "you have already survived 50% of them, Good Luck chaps, and have a good trip". There was probably a lot more feeling and sincerity behind those words than we realised at the time. He had seen it all and been there 'in the last lot'. "Have a good trip” was to have real meaning in due course.

A short journey by train took us to no. 10 Initial Training Wing at Newquay for 8 weeks of ground training. We were accommodated in

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Trenance Hotel, one of many taken over by the R.A.F. Another hotel was used for lectures in Navigation, Airmanship, Aerodynamics, Engines, Aircraft Recognition, Signalling, R.A.F. Law and Administration, etc. etc. some drill and P.T., and swimming in the local baths. The sea and beach were out of bounds due to mines and other surprises awaiting the enemy. I had to concentrate hard in the classroom on everything, except signalling. The required speed for sending and receiving morse was 12 words per minute and I had been happy at 18 w.p.m. in the Boy Scouts.

The 18 w.p.m. came about through a misunderstanding. My sister Winifred (a Girl Guide) and I were learning morse for our Signaller badges and were told that a speed of 15 was required, so we practiced until we were competent at 18. It was only when we took the test that we learned the required speed was 15 letters and not words per minute. However this mistake was now serving me well.

The only part I did not enjoy was the cross-country runs, but someone had to be in the last three. After two weeks we were told now that we had smartened-up a bit we would wear white flashes in our caps so we would not be mistaken for real airmen.

There was great speculation as to where we would go for flying training. Maybe stay in Britain, or was it to be Canada, U.S.A., South Africa or Rhodesia, and was there not a possibility of it being Australia?. Meanwhile we must concentrate on passing the current hurdle, it could not by any means be taken for granted that we would all pass the course. In fact after only four weeks, four out of the original 50 were "scrubbed" - a new word to add to our rapidly 'increasing vocabulary.

After about 5 weeks we were issued with some flying kit, boots and Sidcot suits, goggles, helmet and a full issue of gloves - silk, wool, chamois and gauntlets. 4 pairs worn together, and a fifth, electricalIy heated, yet to came. We were not to know that it would be 15 months before we wore any of this. I doubt whether our destination was known to anyone at I.T.W. except that it was overseas somewhere. Seven days embarkation leave and the entire course was posted to West Kirby, no. 1 P.D.C., near Birkenhead on the Wirral. We were joined by about 300 other u/t Pilots from other I.T.W.s and it was just a matter of waiting for the draft. There were parades each morning and we were allowed out of camp at mid-day. It was here that Tom, Ray and I teamed up with John Heggarty, a u/t Pilot who had been at 11 I.T.W. in Scarborough. He was from Birkenhead, of Anglo/French parentage. The four of us visited Liverpool every evening, a place crowded with Navy, Army and Air Force types mostly in transit to somewhere or other. Scores of ships were loading in the Mersey, but after a couple of weeks it was a special train for us to Greenock on the Clyde for immediate embarkation on the "Mooltan", a merchant ship of same 30,000 tons. Our 350 were accomodated [sic] on "D" Deck, just above the water-line, where we spent most of our time, not by choice but by order. Some slept on the mess tables, others under them, with the top layer of bodies in hammocks, a crippling device. To realise that hammocks were the traditional sleeping arrangements for British sailors left me unimpressed and I felt that something far more superior could have been devised. However, navies of many countries seem to favour them. Once aboard, there was no going back. On the second day aboard we were tugged down the Clyde and next morning counted over 40 big ships steaming very slowly in a north-


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westerly direction out at sea. Obviously we were bound for Canada, hence the heavy flying kit .and four pairs of gloves. A week ought to see us in the St. Lawrence. How wrong we were. the convoy was shepherded by some very impressive naval ships, Cruisers, destroyers etc. and Sunderland flying boats were in constant attendance for the first few days. After three weeks of steaming in all directions, first into the freezing cold, then warmer and finally very hot indeed, at 0500 one day the engines slowed and finally stopped; a rattling of chains and then silence. All very dramatic but a buzz on the P. A. system told us we had arrived in Freetown. Portholes were to remain closed. We may go up on deck but on no account were we to remove our shirts nor buy anything from the natives. By mid-day the temperature below decks was almost unbearable and there was no respite from that for a further two weeks. Salt water showers were available at all times, it was just a matter of stripping and walking through the shower. No need for a towel, but in any case that was reserved for absorbing perspiration and we became accustomed to the salt water. Food on board was very good under the circumstances. Two orderlies from each "table" would collect it from the galley (vocabulary still improving) and dish up, and after the meal two more orderlies would clean the tables and wash up. The chores were shared on a roster basis at each table, and each had some duty to perform every few days. We were very fortunate in that we were cadets and not yet real airmen we spent some of our time attending lectures in the second class lounge. We estimated there were about 3000 troops aboard. There was lots of talent for the almost daily concerts. A daily newssheet called "DER TAG”, together with the P.A. system kept us up-to-date with the news. The 9 o-clock news was a must.

Five weeks out of Liverpool it who getting cold again, even below decks, and greatcoats were essential deckwear for the endless lifeboat drills. There were lifeboats but for most of us it was a matter of parading on deck near a stack of Carley floats. The subject was better not discussed, there was no satisfactory answer to abandoning ship.

The Mooltan carried one gun mound at the stern above the propellers, manned by a RoyaI Artillery crew in transit. It seemed to be of about 4" calibre but was not fired during our voyage. It was said the deck would cave in, but this might have been an exaggeration. There were also two ramps off the stern for depth charges of which there was a supply near the ramps. The sixth week was really cold and wet and we estimated our position as somewhere in Antarctica. We then turned more or less north and after a total of seven weeks dropped anchor late one afternoon a few miles out at sea, with much speculation about our location. At about 7 pm. the shore was like Blackpool illuminations. Wherever we are, don`t they know there's a war on? A buzz on the P.A. system told us we would be disembarking next day and our British currency would be of no use to us in this foreign country. We should hand-in all currency, and get a receipt which would be exchanged for local currency when we got ashore. Next morning we entered the docks and disembarked. It was only then we found we were in Durban and were taken straight to the Transit Camp at Clairwood. The army contingent remained on-board and were understood to be bound for action in the Middle
East. So we had arrived in South Africa, and a very congenial and pleasant place it turned out to be.

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[underlined] SOUTHERN RHODESIA [/underlined] .

Clairwood Camp was just a few miles from Durban and there we spent 7 days, very enjoyable, but for the first two days, stoney broke. We had handed in all our money aboard ship but it was to be 10 days before it was exchanged for local currency. However, we seemed to get into Durban every day and we were made very welcome in the Service canteens and clubs.

Before I left England, I was given a card which stated that LAC Cliff. Watson was the son of a respected member of the Battersea Rotary Club and any co-operation afforded to him would be greatly appreciated. I noticed the Rotary insignia at the doorway of a Barclays bank in Durban and asked to see the manager. Could I please borrow £5 and I would refund it as soon as I was paid. 45 years later I would certainly not undertake such a venture. It happened to be the first Friday in the month which was the day of the monthly Rotary luncheon. The three lads from Battersea were invited to lunch and each given £10 on condition that we did not refund it. This was hospitality indeed. Several times in Durban we were entertained by the local people, and of course the environment was completely strange to us, so were the bunches of bananas, pawpaws and other fruits.

After about a week to regain our land legs, we embarked on a train and steamed north. The train was a coal burner and we were aboard for 3 days bound for Bulawayo. Food on the train was really first-class. At one stage we were told to disembark for a spot of exercise [sic] and whilst this was in progress the train moved off. We were marched in a direction at right-angles to that of the train and met up with it about an hour later. This was my first experience of African trains, and the 4-berth cabins, rather superior to even today's "sleepers" in Britain. Looking back on it 35 years later when I was concerned with radio communications between trains and stations in the U.K., - my firm was trying to Introduce a communications system-, I recalled chatting with the Radio Officer in his Radio Cabin on the train whist he was on the morse key in contact with the station at Mafeking. It was many years later that communication with trains in Britain was established.

After a very pleasant three-day journey, we arrived in Bulawayo and buses took us to Hillside Camp, formerly the Agricultural Show Ground. We were accommodated literally in what had been the Pig Sties. These were merely wattle poles supporting corrugated iron roofs with hessian round the poles to represent walls. The whole structure was whitewashed and with plenty of fresh air the accommodation was ideal. There must have been about 600 trainee pilots at Hillside Camp, and we embarked on a second I.T.W. course of ground training. There was however a single Tiger Moth on which we learned to swing the prop. and start the engine. So at last we had sat in an aeroplane although it wasn't going anywhere. At least it was supposed to be anchored down, but an Australian did taxi it a hundred yards or so after an evening of celebration.

Our stay in Bulawayo was certainly very pleasant, we visited Cecil Rhodes grave at Matopas, the ancient ruins of Zimbabwe, spent weekends on farms, enjoyed the swimming and so on, but our minds were on the war of which we were not feeling a part. Pearl Harbour had brought the


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Americans into the fray, several Capital Ships had been lost and things were going badly 'up north'.

In January came a very welcome posting, to 25 E.F.T.S. (Elementary Flying Training School) at Belvedere, on the outskirts of Salisbury. Here the day started at 0400 and we enjoyed tea and toast of our own making before assembling at 0425 for two-mile march to the airfield. By 0500 half the course would be standing-by for flying and the other half lectures and more ground training. Breakfast was between 0900 and 1030 hrs. which included the 2 mile march each way, and after breakfast the two halves of the course changed over. Flying started on the sixth of Jan. with what was to be a typical day, with 30 minutes of flying instruction at 0515, and lectures after breakfast. Addresses by two ex-fighter pilots F/O Newton and a Flight Sergeant whose left leg was in plaster. The following day I managed to get in an hour’s flying with P/O Bentley, concentrating on turns, glides and climbing. From the outset the instructor frequently cut the throttle without warning sometimes deliberately putting the aircraft into a spin. then telling the pupil to get on with it. My next flying session was with Ft/Sgt Oates as P/O Bentley was on leave and in six weeks of flying instruction managed 12 hours with 7 different instructors. A final three hours was spent with F/O Newton in one hour sessions and I was full of confidence and looking forward to the C.F.I.'s test the following day.

Maybe in retrospect I was over confident, even though most of my friends had been "scrubbed", including Hancocks, Robinson, Morgan, King, Barlow, Vivian, Bolton, Friend, Britton, Jones and Fry. Having made what I thought were two acceptable circuits and landings, the C.F.I.'s final remarks were "Sorry old lad, but as a Service Pilot you make a bloody good rear gunner". I did not regard these as being the words of the Prophet, but so ended my career as a u/t Pilot after 9 months in the R.A.F.

All was not lost however, like all the others whose Personal file was stamped "wastage", I found myself at Disposals Depot, which also happened to be at Belvedere, and in good company. All of us were sadly disillusioned and disappointed at failing the Pilot's Course, and the reasons given for the apparent failure were seldom accepted. Where do we go from here in the long term was the main question, and the opportunity to influence this came at an interview at Group H.Q. in Salisbury. The only guidance came from others who had already had their interviews and were awaiting a posting. The alternatives appeared to be many, we could opt out completely and remuster to ACH GD, reduced to the lowest rank of Airman 2nd. Class and thence take pot luck with no trade and no personal ambition. But we had joined the R.A.F. with too much purpose for this to be acceptable. We could apply for training as Observer which at that time embraced both Navigator and Bomb Aimer duties, but we were meeting chaps just starting that course who had waited six months for it after failing the pilot's course, and this indicated that it could be a year more before we qualified. The most logical answer appeared to be the Air Gunner Course which lasted only six weeks, and apparently with hardly any waiting list, so in less than two months it seemed we could become a sergeant with half a wing, not quite what we set out to achieve, but a far cry from where we stood at the time.

At the interview at Group H.Q. I asked why I had failed and was shown the comments made by my instructors. With the exception of the

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C.F.I.’s comment they were all favourable and I became a little argumentative. For the first time I learned that on the C.F.I. test I had climbed at less than full throttle but at the correct air speed with the normal rate of climb. What I should have done apparently was give it full throttle, keeping the correct air speed and letting the rate of climb take care of itself. On the training aircraft the emphasis had been on speed and rate of climb whereas it should have been on speed only and full throttle.

I remarked that the C.F.I.'s aircraft was more like a Gladiator than a Tiger Moth. The alternative careers were as we had deduced amongst ourselves and I applied to remuster to u/t Wireless Operator/Air Gunner and to do the A/G course as soon as possible. This was approved on the spot, and my file was endorsed “Watson requests an A/G course merely for the quickness in getting onto ops." I was supposed to start the course the following week.

It was to be three months before I was actively posted to Moffat to do the Air Gunner Course, and the greater part of this was spent on leave, returning to camp periodically to check progress. We had only to walk along the road away from town to be offered a lift which generally meant spending the rest of the day with new friends, and quite often arranging to spend a week or so with them. It was on the 15th. of Feb. Tom King and I were spending 10 days leave with our hosts Mr. & Mrs. Bedford at Poltimore Farm, Marandellas that we listened to Churchill's speech, with the dreadful news of the fall of Singapore. This led to a general discussion on the likely future plans of the war and it was generally felt there would be an allied landing at Dakar with the assistance of the French, and the forces would move north and then east to catch Rommel in a pincer movement. Not too far out in our argument, only 2000 miles, but we had the general scheme and timing right. Later we were shown around the tobacco "barns" where 12,000 leaves were drying in each of 10 barns. My diary records that "one of the most interesting things we were shown was the castrating of 300 pigs" A rather messy business", perhaps I was less squeamish in those days. Later about 2000 head of cattle were dipped including 3 wicked looking bulls. The two children tried to keep us amused, and with great success. We repaired their bicycles, small car, swing and dolls' house furniture, the dolls house being about 20 feet square. We carved out the names Wendy (8) and Cliff (20) on a tree and really began to enjoy the Rhodesian way of life. We cycled over to Chakadenga Farm and had tea with Mrs. Nash and also met the local jailer. We tried to repay all this kindness by making ourselves generally useful, and I recall changing the oil in Mrs. Nash's Chevrolet and repairing the lights. We also refitted the long-wire aerial on the house radio and refurbished the engine house which accommodated the lighting plant and batteries.

We tried to spend.as much time away from camp as possible, our idea being 'out of sight, out of mind'. Occasionally the S.W.O caught up with us and we were detailed for guard duty on the aerodrome, a 12 hour guard working 2 hours on and four off. The complete guard comprised 6 airmen, 4 on standby in the guard room, one cycling around the aerodrome and one standing in a sentry box at the side of the double gates which were normally closed. There were neither fences-nor ditches linking the gate posts and it was easier to drive a car onto the airfield on the wrong side of the gate posts than to bother with the gate. Generally the Orderly Officer carried out his inspection about 7.pm. but on one


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occasion suddenly appeared about 3 am. from the direction of the airfield and drove up to the main gate on his way out, parking so near the gate it could not be opened. I turned out the guard, which took about 5minutes and we were treated to a tirade and lecture covering several subjects including how utterly futile the guard was. One of the chaps said “you are absolutely right Sir" which made matters worse and he stormed back into his car. The headlights had been left on and the car wouldn't start, so we leaned our rifles against the sentry box and pushed the car backwards so we could open the gates. Finally the entire guard pushed the car forward and it started without trouble, but headed back towards camp. We decided to remain at the open gate, and a few minutes later the car returned at great speed, and disappeared through the gate in a tremendous cloud of dust without further formality. We had good laugh but it did little for the morale of chaps whose ambitions had been thwarted and who felt they were wasting their time in the R.A.F. and, even more so in guarding a gate which had no real purpose with blank ammunition and rifles which it would be too dangerous to fire. By the end of March the aerodrome guard was taken more seriously and comprised 24 Europeans and about 60 Africans, which meant the remustering aircrew trainees were on guard every few nights. I was given the job running the Post Office and Stores which exempted me from guard duties but also curtailed my leave periods.

On the 3rd. April Tom King and 20 others were posted to 24 C.A.O.S. at Moffat, near Gwelo, about half-way between Salisbury and Bulawayo, for their Air Gunner Course. The intake was 50 per month and we wondered where the other 40 had come from. Meanwhile Ray Chislett the other member of the Battersea trio- was doing extremely well at Cranbourne flying Oxfords. Root and Robertson were killed the previous day in a Harvard whilst officially on practice instrument flying but actually beating up a tree and misjudging matters

On the 1st. of May, I was posted to Moffat and started the A-G course. Things seemed to be happening in our favour at long last; and had been delayed because of a large influx of remustered ground crews who had got out of Singapore just in time, and also another large influx of Aussies for Air Gunner training. It was good to see Tommy King pass out as a Sgt. A-G and for Cpl. Luck to receive his commission.

On Sun. the 10th. of May there was a church parade in best blues and khaki topee, held in Gwelo. Two days later L.A.C. Chick Henbest, u/t A-G ex u/t Pilot shot a large hole in his own aircraft's tail. When he as charged with the offence he brought an expert witness, the Station Armament Officer ! - to state that such a thing was technically impossible. The Air-Gunner training was partly intergrated [sic] with that of the Navigator's, and on the 13th. May on such an occasion 'Ace' Buchanan and another A-G, piloted by Sgt. Reed, force-landed near QueQue and were missing for 5 hours

In the four weeks at Moffat we carried out 9 hours of Air firing in Anson aircraft using a Vickers Gas Operated gun of .303 calibre. This was mounted on a Scarfe ring with the gunner standing and firing at a drogue towed by a Miles Master aircraft. 200 rounds were fired during each exercise [sic] , the 3 "pans" of ammo. having been filled by the gunner and then 'doctored' by an armourer with faulty rounds, and other simulated faults. The only turrets available were on the ground, and comprised an ancient Frazer Nash, Daimler and electrical Boulton & Paul. A total of 4 hours was spent in them. We were supposed to swing the

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turret aiming at moving light images on the wall but in practice the bulbs in the ring-sights were all faulty.

On the 29th. May we graduated and were presented with brevets and tapes. The course was posted to Capetown but I had to report to Salisbury to give evidence at Gooding's Court Martial. Gooding had stolen my Agfa Carat camera and scores of other items in Bulawayo. Meanwhile on the news, 1000 Bombers over the Rhur [sic] again and 37 missing. A few days previously the very first raid on this scale was made on Cologne with 44 aircraft missing. The Middle-East war was becoming more intensive and in Russia Jerry was in real trouble, but we seemed a very long way from it all.

One of my friends on the Pilots course was Ian Smith who lived in Salisbury and with whom I used to go looking for buck in the early mornings. Ian had failed the course like most of us but being a Rhodesian had obtained his discharge locally and joined the Southern Rhodesia Light Battery currently at the K.G. VI barracks. I went to the barracks in the afternoon and saw Norman, and was introduced to Solomon, Slim and other Rhodesians in the S.R. Army Medical Corps. After tea in the mess we went to the local bioscope to see 'East of the River'. On the 13th. of June I managed to get another 19 days leave which was spent with Mr. & Mrs. James at their farm at Gilston, about 16 miles south of Salisbury. With three Aussies we had a wonderful holiday, riding, cycling, tennis, swimming, all at the farm. We rode up to the bushman's caves in a copje 4 miles into the bundu and photographed them. To the Aussies it was like being home and I concluded there was no alternative to this sort of life.

On my return to Disposals Depot my stolen camera was returned to me and I found that Gooding was on yet another charge,- stealing a W/T Set - . A few more days leave to say cheerio to all my friends in Salisbury, and I returned to Gwelo to find that I was posted to Bulawayo to give evidence at the Court Martial. I stayed with Mr. & Mrs. Rose for a week or so and spent some time at the Cement works where Mr. Rose was Manager. I was offered a job there if I would return after the war and for a long time this formed the basis of my post-war plan, but a great deal was to happen before that time came. The Court Martial was a very formal affair, and Gooding was charged with theft on about 45 counts. He had not disposed of anything he had stolen for personal gain, and pleaded Kleptomania. He was sentenced to dismissal from the R.A.F. after immediate return to U.K., and recommended for psychiatric observation. He survived the war, certified unfit for Military service and resumed his career with a firm of solicitors in Surrey. The case was finished just in time for me to join the rest of the course on the 1st. of July at Bulawayo station. In Gwelo I had bought a tin trunk which was now nearly full of presents, pyjamas for Hilda, stockings for Mum, embroidering material, tobacco, cigarettes, jam and so on.

After a 55 hour train journey we arrived in Kapstaad and enjoyed Iunch with John Heggarty before joining another train to Retreat and the drive to Polsmoor Transit Camp by bus. It rained heavily for a couple of days and the activity was just one big reunion. I met friends I had not seen since Newquay. Dicky Aires and Jack Frost were there as Sgt. pilots, Howard Iliffe (1090111) and Bob Hildred also, having trained as pilots at George, in the Union. Arthur Brittain a Sgt. Observer and Stewart Evans who was in the Officers Mess at Kumalo. In the next four


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weeks we spent most of our time in Capetown, making a beeline for the Soldiers Club. The welcome we received from the South Africans was positively overwhelming, and people were literally queueing up to entertain us. On the 4th. of July a group of four of us including Ray Chislett and two Maltese soldiers met Mrs. Williams and had tea at her flat. After tea we motored out to a vineyard and got quite merry on four glasses of their own wine. On the way out one of the tyres was punctured and it took us less than three minutes to change the wheel. In the evening we went to the Odeon Bioscope at Seapoint with complimentary tickets which appeared from out of the blue. Howard. Iliffe, John Heggarty and I spent a great deal of time together in Capetown where Howard & I met two young ladies. One of them, introduced as Cheri de la Chene said she was French and had spent five years in Paris, but she could not understand my efforts at speaking French. John Heggarty had quite a brainwave and I introduced him as a member of the Free French Forces,-L'Aviation Francais Libre-. John was absolutely fluent in native French and soon discovered that Cheri was neither French nor a University student, but a schoolgirl of 14 at the Convent. Whilst in Capetown I met Binedall with whom I used to correspond before the war, and he gave me a large matchbox which I left with Mrs. Williams' mother to be collected after the war. I have left it rather too late. The climb up Table Mountain with Ray was very interesting and from the top we had a wonderful view of Muizeuburg. This reminds me of one night during a trial blackout at Muizenburg, Heggarty and I met Mrs. Macbeth who invited us to dinner on the following day. We gladly accepted and on arrival at the house next day referred to her as Mrs. Shakespeare. This was laughed off and we spent a very enjoyable evening. After dinner we went to a show in Muizenburg and met a lady who had lived near Battersea Park. In 1952 in Mbeya in Tanganyika I was talking to another 'Radio Ham' in Muizenburg arid mentioned my faux pas with Mrs. Macbeth's name. He said he was living in Mrs. Macbeth's guest house and she had related the story at dinner only a few days previously. Stuttafords of Adderley Street provided a very interesting experience for Heggarty and me. We wandered into a tea-room the likes of which we had never seen before, it seemed the ultimate in luxury. We asked mildly for just two cups of tea but up came the whole works of silver teaset with lots of pastries and cakes. We said no thankyou, really, just two cups of tea, but the lady was adamant. We said it was jolly nice but funds were limited and the cakes were beyond our means. She said she would be very cross if we didn't have at least half a dozen cakes and then gave us a bill -for 1/3d. Fixed charge for two, she said. Wonderful people, it was embarrassing at times. We called in a Milk Bar for a milkshake and they insisted it was on the house. We would buy a bunch of grapes for a 'ticky', -3d- and they refused payment. One Saturday Ray and I spent the day with the Brandt family who lived at Rosebank . We went for a run with them in the car in the afternoon, round Table Mountain and took some very good photographs. They also drove us to the Lion Match Company's factory in Capetown, where we were given a tour - and quite a lot of labels- a wonderful finale to my first trip to Africa.

After meeting up with our old friends whose paths had taken many different ways and finally converged, but not without the loss of several due to accidents, the resentment at failing the pilot's course had just about worn off. The original crowd of rookies at Newquay were still basically together and covering all aircrew 'trades'. Someone had

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[underlined] AIR GUNNER COURSE [/underlined]
[underlined] APRIL 1942 [/underlined] [underlined] 24 C.A.O.S. MOFFAT, GWELO. [/underlined] [underlined] S. RHODESIA [/underlined]

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[underlined] POSTSCRIPT [/underlined]

The A/G course was rather an anti-climax after the concentration and determined outlook on the pilots course. Most of us felt we had wasted our time and had been let down.

During a "lecture" on the Browning gun by Cpl. Paddy Gilligan he noticed correctly that my eyes were closed and pointing to me, yelled "You, what was I saying?", I replied "You were saying 'as the breach block moves to the rear the cam on the rear sear rides along that on the barrel extention [sic] . . . ' There followed a discussion on my detailed phraselogy [sic] and he wound up by shouting "Your problem Watson is you don't speak effing english". I replied that I try to speak the King's english Cpl! and that did it, he swore to fix me. Study of the Browning gun comprised learning parrot-fashion the sequence of events and other odd statistics such as effective range and rate of fire. There was a drawing on the wall which gave us some idea of what it looked like, but the Browning was something for the future, the R.A.F. currently uses the V.G.O. or so we were told. The following day Gilligan told me to go to the billet and make sure the African had cleaned all the lampshades, including the one in his little room. This I did and two hours later reported they were all clean. The next day with no preamble I was told to report to the Orderly Room immediately. I was marched in to the C.O. and charged with failing to carry out an order, and also making a false report. Gilligan gave evidence and said the lampshade in his billet was filthy, I could not have checked it. The C. O. accepted this and I was given a severe rep. and 7 days jankers. I went straight away to the billet and I asked the S.W.O. to accompany me. He delegated a Sgt. Clerk and together we checked the offending lampshade. Sure enough it was filthy. I found the african cleaner and he swore that he had cleaned the shade but the Cpl. had then made him change it for one in the next but where they were all dirty. We all trooped next door and saw that all were indeed filthy except one.

The Sgt. could see what Gilligan was up to and endorsed my written report addressed to the C.O. which also applied for redress of grievance. The result was that my Severe Rep. was cancelled and so was the balance of the jankers.

At the end of the course the exam. papers were marked by Gilligan and he gave me 61% in all subjects which was the absolute minimum for a pass. Again I wrote to the C.O. and he agreed that Gilligan was up to his tricks again. He changed the exam. results to an average of 93% If I had not been so argumentative I could very well have "failed the course"


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to fly the thing, but there was a lot of other work to be done also. A cutting from the Rhodesia Herald whilst at Moffat spelt it out:-

I wished to be a pilot,
And you, along with me;
But if we all were pilots,
Where would the Air Force be?

It takes guts to be a gunner,
To sit out in the tail,
When the Messerschmitts are coming,
And the slugs begin to wail.

The plot's just a chauffeur;
It's his job to fly the plane;
But it's we who do the fighting,
Though we may not get the fame.

If we must all be gunners,
Then let us make this bet;
We'll be the best damn gunners
That have left this station yet

Nearly half a century later it does seem somewhat corny.


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[underlined] OPERATIONAL TRAINING. [/underlined]

And so to the 2nd. August 1942; we boarded HMT J/6, The Monarch of Bermuda and were shown to our cabins, stowed our kit and were issued with passes to go ashore until 1500 hrs. A last look at Table Mountain and Kapstaad and at 1630 on the 3rd. we left South Africa, hoping and firmly intending one day to return. The 10 day voyage to Freetown was a very pleasant cruise, escorted by two Battle Cruisers and three Corvettes and accompanied by The Empress of Russia, we ploughed along at a steady 12 knots. Our favourite pastime was reading the inter-ship messages on the Aldis lamps. Among other things we learned that one of the Empress's boilers was u/s and shut down. Which limited the speed of the whole convoy. There were several U Boat warnings during daylight and these coincided with lifeboat drills, which were taken very seriously.

The accommodation was very good, all the R.A.F. NCOs being accommodated six in each cabin. The cabins were equipped as they had been for luxury cruising pre-war, each with a toilet room with saltwater shower. The portholes remained open the whole time, but this time we were on 'A' and not 'D' Deck. In the Sgts Mess Italian P.O.W.'s waited upon us, and make a very good job of it. All fatigues are carried out by them and they caused no trouble at all. The vigilance of the Polish guards probably influenced that, their bayonets being fixed ALL the time, and there were few words passing between the guards and prisoners, just a few gestures with the bayonet. The Poles had been in action since August 1939 and were a long way from home, first defending their country, evacuating to Yugoslavia, and then making their way to Abadan to join the British. There were 1800 Italian prisoners aboard, mostly captured in Bardia and Tobruk about two years previously. They were a meek and miserable-looking lot. One of our 'stewards' who we called 'Grandpa' was a Cpl Major, and had medals for the Bolshevist and Abbysinian [sic] wars. He spoke very little English, but excellent French, and in return for a few cigarettes made me a bracelet in which he put photos of my fiancee [sic] , Hilda, and me. The material was similar to duralumin and he claimed it was a piece from a shot-down British Bomber in Abbysinia [sic] , a most unlikely story. His only tools were a pen-knife, a razor blade and a 4” nail for engraving. The Italians were confident the Axis would win the war and were expecting Stukas, Fokker Wolfe Condors and 'U' Boats to appear at any time.

There were several hundred European civilians aboard, mostly evacuees from Alexandria and Cairo, who seemed to think they owned the ship. Many of them were ducked during the Crossing the Line ceremony, we claimed exemption, being old timers at that sort of thing!!

There was some form of entertainment almost every evening; mainly variety concerts organised by the troops. During one of these I recall a wounded ex 8th-Army Soldier impersonating Stanley Holloway in his Northern accent with a poem,

"The Reason Why"

The unity of Empire .is seen in ships galore,
As they plough in convoy fashion, to Britain's island shore,
Across the world's big oceans, around continents as well,
The Bulldog breed keeps up the creed that history will tell.
We've roughed it on this convoy, we've lived like herded sheep,
Yet all can see, it's got to be, if freedom's cause we'll keep
We're mixed like breeded cattle, the R. A. F. as well,

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That R.A:F. who two .years ago Just drove the 'uns to 'ell.
They say the good ship Monarch, J6 her tag, goes back to Afric [sic] shortly,
but always behind that Flag.

The Flag we're fighting Jerry for,
the Flag of which we're proud,
the Flag which may be a tattered rag,
but with honoured blood endowed.

In that environment and atmosphere this was pretty stirring stuff.

On the 14th. of August we dropped anchor in Freetown. Just as a year ago, it was very hot and humid, with an overcast sky. This time we were not restricted to below decks, but enjoyed the freedom of the ship and were able to trade with the natives. Sunderland seaplanes were seen patrolling out to sea, with Walrus amphibeans [sic] doing about 60. m.p.h., around the harbour. There was lots of signalling between ships and we could cope with the morse, but the semaphore was too advanced and clever for us.

Sunday the 16th at 0600 the Monarch and the Empress slipped out of Freetown and rejoined the Royal Navy out at sea. We were a little concerned for an hour or two, as the sun was rising on the port beam, but we eventually turned right and the sun returned to it's proper place, astern. We expected to reach England by thursday, but rumours of the invasion of France were rife and my diary actually records that this might delay us a little!. The general topic of conversation was what would it be like going through Customs. We were advised on the P.A. system to hand in any unauthorised arms and ammunition, including loot taken from the enemy. I had 3 kitbags, a tin trunk, suitcase and issue R.A.F. webbing and packs, and somewhere in that lot was 25 lbs. of sugar, 10 lbs of tea, 8 pairs of silk stockings, 2 dress lengths, 15lbs. of jam, lady's pyjamas, 2000 cigarettes and other dutiable material. I also had a very small .22 revolver in my pocket and decided to risk it. It was really a toy, hardly a weapon of war. In the very early hours of the 26th. of August we docked at Greenoch. An hour later our party of 240 or so assembled on deck with a mountain of kit, all newly trained sprog aircrew sergeants. The train pulled in to within 100 yards of the ship and in less than 30 minutes we were on our way by train to Glasgow, then on to London. Whilst changing stations in London, I telephoned the office, BATtersea 8485, at 0730 and was disappointed that Hilda was not yet at work!

We arrived at no. 3 P.D.C. Bournemouth and moved into luxury hotels, expecting to be sent on leave immediately, hardly worth unpacking, but this was not to be. We were interviewed several times, medically examined, kit reorganised and generally messed about for a week. According to my pay book, I was a Sgt. Air Gunner, u/t Wireless Operator, and at one interview I was told that this could not be so. Either I could stay as a Sgt. A-G or lose my tapes and become an AC2 u/t Wireless op., eventually doing a wireless op. course. It was emphasised that the whole business of training was highly organised into streams, and once in the main stream it was better to drift with it rather than to try and change course. Streams could not cross, but only merge. All very academic and enlightening so it was agreed that u/t wireless op. would be deleted from my paybook, and of course, having done a couple of tours as a rear gunner I could always apply for a wireless course.


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That's what the man said and I was in no position to argue, 'Just a couple of tours'.

A week later we were on leave, and Hilda met me at Waterloo after just over a year apart. We had a few hours in London before going up to Barnoldswick to take my mother by surprise. After five rather hectic days of visiting relatives and friends we returned to London and met Hilda's parents and relatives, for just one day before returning to Bournemouth.

We were billeted in an attic at Ocean Lodge and took our meals at the Vale Royal. The food was the most unappetising and uninteresting we had seen in the R.A.F. so far. Life in Bournemouth consisted entirely of parades, square bashing, P.T. drill, lectures and swimming, each activity taking place some miles away from the previous one.

Bournemouth was full of sprog air crews, 90% Sergeants, few realised what the future might hold, and; in retrospect, I don't recall even thinking about it.

We were clear of Bournemouth on the 2nd. of October, and posted to 25 O.T.U., Finningley. near Doncaster.

The first 14 days were spent in lectures, practical work on guns in the armoury, and in firing on various ranges. We were introduced to the FN20 rear turret and relieved to have the opportunity of stripping the .303 Browning guns. We who had trained in Rhodesia did not advertise the fact that we had never actually seen a real Browning gun, only a wooden model, all our air-firing having been carried out on V.G.O.'s [Vickers Gas Operated) guns. We had spent several hours in a turret on the ground in Rhodesia. A Boulton & Paul electrically operated mid-upper type as fitted to a Defiant but bearing no resemblance to the rear turrets of Wellingtons and Whitleys.

11th. November was relatively peaceful at Finningley. In the world outside the Allies had landed in North Africa and occupied the coastal strip from Casablanca, through Oran to 50 miles east of Algiers where the big build-up was taking place. Jerry was being pushed towards Tunisia and Rommel's Afrika Corps was in full retreat in Libya, having been pushed out of Egypt, The Huns marched into hitherto unoccupied France and hard fighting was still going on in Stalingrad. Madagascar was in British hands. My diary records that Jerry lost over 600 aircraft in two days, according to the B.B.C. Nearer home I also recorded that "I flew today for the first time with my pilot, Sgt. Rutherford, and with Sgt. Bishop, W/optr., on circuits and bumps. Our Navigator Allan Willoughby is at Bircotes doing cross-countries". For some of us the pace was slow, and some of the time was spent in 'Brains Trust' sessions. Here a team of experts would sit on the platform and questions on any subject would be asked by the rest of us. In reply to the question "How do you think we should deal with the Huns after the war?", the M.O. replied "Castrate the bloody lot, the R.A.M.C. could do that in only a couple of weeks". Most of the discussions however were in a more serious vain. Over this period the weather was not very good. No 14 Course crews have been helping the Landgirls digging up potatoes and 12 Course chaps were heaving coal, We then had coal and coke allocated and delivered to our billets, which eliminated the need to pinch it from the Officers' Mess. we were accomodated [sic] in the peace-time married quarters close to their Mess.

One of our Wimpies from Bircotes crashed into a Beaufighter near Caernarvon where my sister was stationed in the W.A.A.F. There were no

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[photograph] [underlined] REG WHELLAMS [/underlined]] 1333520
[underlined] AT 25 OTU FINNINGLEY [/underlined]



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survivors. A Defiant crashed near my home in Barnoldswick and we pressed on with the routine of local flying, stripping nothing more interesting than guns, and lectures and so on.

My diary records that on the 9th. December, after a little over two months we were taken by lorry to Bircotes to fly as a crew. Losses were high, on a Bullseye on London we lost three aircraft. One of them apparently ditched without trace near the French Coast, the only clue to this being their dinghy which would have been released automatically striking the water. A second crew headed by Ft/Lt. Anneckstein crashed into the watch office, killing the Bomb Aimer who was stretched out in the bombing position. A third crew crashed on landing at Bircotes, without fatality, but with the crew rather shaken-up. We were living Nissen huts about 2 miles from the 'hangars' and 3/4 mile from the in the other direction. The place was a sea of mud in parts and we generally washed AFTER breakfast for some reason which eludes me after 45 years

One point in favour of Bircotes, it was on the Great North Road and just before Christmas I enjoyed a 48 hr. leave with Hilda in London! I met Tommy King in Battersea who was a Rear Gunner on Halifaxes with three ops. to his credit, all to Italy. A brief respite and back to Bircotes. The flying aspect was proving more interesting now, I could see a little beyond my own situation and get involved to some extent in the general carry-on of working as a crew. We had a first-class Skipper, Sgt. Stan. Rutherford, a down-to-earth tough New Zealand sheep farmer. Our Navigator Allan Willoughby from the West country whom we regarded as the Academic member of the crew, but who suffered greatly from air sickness. On those occasions our Bomb Aimer Stan Chadderton from Liverpool took over the navigation without any problems. Stan trained as an Observer - which included both Bomb aiming and Navigating in the U.S.A. and we were thus very fortunate in having a standby navigator. Our Wireless Operator Harry Dyson was from Huddersfield possibly the socialite of the crew, and fancied his chances in the rear turret, giving me a welcome change on occasions.

I started the New Year well by having four runaway guns, over Missen, the bombing range, splattering a main road. The safety catches were 'off' and the guns ready for instant action almost all the time the air, and the reason the guns fired has not been fully explained. I vaguely put it down to a build-up of hydraulic pressure in the triggering system. This did not fool the Armourers who put it down finger trouble on my part - literally.

By the 7th. of Jan. we had completed all our day-flying details of cross-countries, bombing, air firing etc. and were suddenly posted to 30 O.T.U. Hixon, in Staffordshire to complete the night flying excercises [sic] . It took three days visiting various sections to obtain signatures on a Clearance Certificate before we were free of Finningly [sic] , and the after we arrived at Hixon, we were despatched to the satellite airfield at Seighford. A week later we were still without aircraft at Seighford and when the Skipper, Navigator and W/op went to Finningley to collect one, Stan Chadderton & I took French leave and shot off to see respective Hildas. It was on that leave that Hilda and I decided to get married and arranged for bans to be called in Seighford and Battersea.

On the 24th. Jan, our night-flying excercises [sic] almost completed we enjoyed a new experience. We were put on the battle order and briefed for an attack on Lorient. Everything was rushed and finally when


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boarding the aircraft -which was u/s-, the raid -or our part in it- was cancelled. We were to have dropped six 500 lb. bombs in 10/10ths cloud and were warned about the fighters and lots of flak. We found later that the Americans had bombed Lorient in the afternoon followed by 121 aircraft of Bomber Command that night. One Stirling was lost. In early Feb. we were doing a 6 hour cross-country operational excercise [sic] simulating a real trip and towards the end of it were joyfully bombing what was thought to be our target on the bombing range. After dropping two sticks of 11 1/2 lb. practice bombs the "target" lights were extinguished and although we remained over them for a further 20 minutes they did not come on again. Thirty minutes later "W" William landed at base amid great consternation. Apparently the O. C. Night Flying had thought we were lost and had been sending up rockets. These were seen by the Stafford Fire Brigade who came dashing out to Seighford expecting a major disaster. On reporting to the Watch Office the Skipper was congratulated upon a successful bombing attack on Hixon aerodrome.

A few nights previously Jock King and crew had crash-landed on the Yorkshire moors. They were over the North sea, badly iced up and losing height gradually until they ran out of it on the moor. The aircraft was a complete write-off and the Rear Gunner very badly injured by the Brownings crashing into his chest. On the 7th. Feb. the whole crew went to the local church and heard the Banns called. Two aircraft were lost from our unit the previous night, one piled straight in at Hixon, all killed, and Sgt. Browning bounced off the runway and finished upside down in the adjacent field. The 11th. Feb. was my 21st. Birthday and the Crew got absolutely sloshed in Eccleshall. It was a memorable party and the Skipper and Bomb Aimer got themselves lost on the way home and spent part of the night in a ditch. On the 14th. we completed the last of our cross-country details. The pages of my diary covering this trip are indistinct having been submerged in water in 1949, but there were problems. The first 4 hours were spent on accurately flown courses, but there was difficulty in keeping to specific heights. The aircraft seemed to climb and alternately lose height for no explicable reason and this distracted the Skipper from the required accuracy. Eventually with only 60 gallons of fuel indicated, the Skipper called "Darky Darky this is Nemo xx .....". Up came a 'gate' of two searchlights and signalled the direction of a friendly runway. 10 minutes later we all developed an instant inferiority complex, we had landed at Wyton, the home of 109 Squadron Pathfinders. One Wellington Mk.111 bombed up with four small practice bombs, was parked amid Lancasters, Mosquitoes and B17 Fortresses. However we were made very welcome and at 0400 hrs. thoroughly enjoyed the bacon, egg, fried sausages, toast and marmalade etc. Had I known then, that 40 years hence I would be retired and settled within 4 miles of Wyton I would have been a happier man. Aircraft on the first raid of the war had taken off from Wyton. The next two weeks were very active with little actually achieved. We were briefed almost every day for something which was cancelled every time but with one exception. We were told to do an air test on an aircraft which was parked near the perimeter fence. The rear turret was almost touching the fence at the other side of which was a haystack and chicken coop. The ground was muddy and rather more revs than usual were needed to free the wheels and move the aircraft forward. The hurricane strength wind created completely demolished the hen coop and the haystack, and many of the hens became airborne as never before. There

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was no time for recriminations however, on landing we went straight to the briefing room and learned we, were on a Nickel that night. The Oxford Dictionary gives a different meaning, but to Air Crews 'Nickel' is a generic term for a bum fodder or leaflet raid. It did imply that someone had some confidence in us, maybe. The target was Paris.

At last we were over enemy-occupied territory, still on our side of the Rhine, and still a long way from it, but we were getting nearer and there was no lack of confidence, at least initially. Problems developed, first my ring-sight ferrel broke off, so there was no hope of accurate aiming if attacked, then my intercom microphone ceased to function. The fault was later found in the Rotating Service Joint below the turret. We had a standby signalling system of push button and lamp, but that too was out of order for the same reason. I could hear the skipper calling me on a routine check but had no means of replying. Receiving no reply, Barry Dyson crawled back to the rear turret to check up, not knowing what to expect. He had overlooked the fact that we were at 15.000 feet - the highest we had been at that time- and almost passed out due to lack of oxygen. He reconnected his adapter to the system just in time. He was also inadequately clothed for a temperature of -18C but putting 1800 lbs of leaflets down the flare chute restored his circulation. Di banged on the turret door and we exchanged greetings. He returned to his office and reporting my situation to the Skipper. Meanwhile I was incommunicado for the rest of the trip, but I could hear the others conversing. Shortly after that I felt the rotation of the turret was becoming sluggish and I tried to fire a short burst. Three of the guns fired one round each and then stopped, but number one was working. I cocked and recocked the guns several times, tried firing them manually and eventually three were working. I fired a short burst and regained a little confidence. An hour after leaving Paris the turret rotation would not respond to the hydraulics so I ensured that manual operation was still possible. I knew that to bale out I would have to open the turret doors, then the aircraft bulkhead door, grab my parachute pack, drag it through both doors and into the turret, rotate the turret onto the beam, fit the 'chute, open the doors, disconnect the intercom and oxygen and go out backwards. I decided to give it a try except for actually bailing out - and decided it was probably not feasible in the time available, but I did get the parachute into the turret and tucked it down the side. I learned a lot that night, more had gone wrong in my department on that one trip than during all my training. Di learned the odd lesson too, to wear more clothing in case he had to move away from the hot air system under his table.

The following day we were advised that our O.T.U. course was completed and the Skipper was asked to state the crew's preference either to join a squadron bombing Germany or to go overseas. Our preference for Germany was unanimous; after all, I was getting married and most of us had already been overseas!. And so we went our separate ways on 7 days leave

March 1st, 1943 perhaps the most important day of my life, Hilda and I were married. Staying at Hilda's home I took my cousin Frank to Trafalgar Square and showed him the Lancaster bomber, then on to St. Pauls Churchyard where I used to work and showed him a Stirling Bomber. He was thrilled with London and with the aircraft in particular. At 1pm we met Mum and Topsy at duCane Court and lunched in Balham, and whilst Mum and the others went to meet Hilda's folks, I went on to the Church,


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St. Mary's in Battersea. Some years later when I saw the photographs I realised I was wearing a white shirt with my airman's uniform. Hilda joined me at the Alter [sic] and looked absolutely lovely in her white wedding dress. The service was grand and the organist played two hymns. The church bells remained silent, they were reserved for signalling a possible enemy invasion. We enjoyed a wonderful reception at Hilda's home and on Monday we went to Lancing on honeymoon, the guests of Mr. & Mrs. Pittock at 10 Orchard Avenue. After a few days at Lancing I returned to camp and somehow organised more leave. At 0300 on the 10th. however the police delivered a telegram-which stated "Report to Hixon immediately, posted overseas". I tried to convince them that it was a joke on the part of the crew, and I was not stationed at Hixon in any case. However, at 0700 Hilda accompanied me to Euston where we said goodbye on the platform for the last time for several months at least. One night spent at Hixon, and the following day we travelled by train with two other crews to no. 1 P.D.C. West Kirby.

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[photograph] [photograph]





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[underlined] SECOND TIME TO AFRICA [/underlined]

At West Kirby we handed in our blue uniforms and were issued with army Khaki battle dress and tropical flying bowlers and helmets. Within a few days we embarked on a Dutch Vessel, the Johan van Vanderbilt in the Mersey, and were allocated first and second class cabins still equipped to. peace-time standards. Service in the Dining Hall was fabulous, staffed by natives from the Nederlands [sic] East Indies. The cuisine was superb, there was white bread and butter and sugar on the tables. A full breakfast at 0800, a peacetime lunch at 1300, tea at 1630 and dinner at 1900. Coffee was available in the Snr. N.C.O's lounge at any time during the morning. The Army Privates' quarters were similar to those we had experienced on the Moultan, sleeping in the same place as they eat, scrubbing everything by 0830 and with lots of bull. They had to wear greatcoats at all times whilst on deck and carry their life-jackets and water bottles. They not only manned the guns but were also detailed for lots of guard duties. Everything seemed to be guarded, but the reason was generally obscure. The cabins were shared with the Army Snr. N.C.O.s and they felt it quite a change to enjoy such comfort. The main topic of conversation was speculation about our destination, North Africa, Middle East or Far East? At a lecture on the 20th. March a senior Army Officer gave us a talk in the big second-class lounge, a very interesting run-down on the state of the war in all theatres. He dealt at some length with the North African campaign and said that very shortly the 1st. and 8th. Armies would meet and a few days after that Jerry would be slung right out of Africa. He wanted to dispel all rumours that we were part of a force invading the south of France. I cannot recall whether we were actually told in so many words, but we expected our destination was either Algiers or Bone.

The armourment [sic] on the Johann was comparatively small. We had about 10 Lewis guns, .303 calibre, and a naval gun at the stern, all manned by the army. There were about 16 ships in the convoy, with troops and cargo, protected by 5 Cruisers and Destroyers, and 2 Corvettes. Not as impressive perhaps as in August 1941, but a more wartime environment.

It was a feeling not entirely new to us, we knew by calculation that it was the 21st. of March and we were sitting comfortably in the First Class Lounge enjoying a coffee, but whereabouts on the Atlantic ocean was the ship? We know we had been heading east all morning so the chances. were we are heading for Gibralter [sic] , it was not warm enough for Freetown to be our destination. Where we were bound was open to speculation like most other vital factors affecting us. What were we going to do when we get to wherever it was? We were a Wellington crew which did not rule out finding ourselves on a Boston or Mitchell doing close army support work. And what after we had completed a tour of ops.? Chad the Bomb Aimer and Di the Wireless op. were both keen to remuster and train as Pilots. Allan Willoughby said he was 'marlish' and quite happy to carry on navigating. I felt the war would be over before we had finished our first tour. The Skipper said little but probably thought we were a bunch of dreamers, comparing us with his sheep back in N.Z.. We were not in fact approaching Gibralter [sic] , we had passed through the Straits during the night.

At 0300 on the 22nd. we were approaching the minefield off Algiers and were attacked by a Ju88 torpedo bomber. We heard the Johan's guns open up


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and the Windsor Castle received a direct hit from a torpedo on her stern, three members of her crew being killed. She also lost her steering and means of propulsion. Efforts were made to tow her into Oran without success but she sank at 1700 the same day. The Service personnel and remainder of the crew were taken aboard destroyers. Hurricanes arrived within minutes of the attack, but just too late and not ideal aircraft for the job at 0300 hrs. My diary - written up a few days after the event,- refered [sic] originally to The Duchess of Windsor and this was changed a few years later to the Windsor Castle.

There was no longer any secrecy about our destination. Di said the R.A.F. had opened an O.T.U. in Algiers, and we were destined to do another course. There were lots of rumours, but one fact was established, we had been in the R.A.F. over two years and we felt it was high time we did something towards the war effort.

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At 0300hrs. on the 23rd. March we were paraded on deck thankful for our greatcoats, which we were still wearing with great discomfort when we disembarked at 1100. A brief stop at an Aircrew Reception Centre, a large hotel on the sea-front, before going to the Aircrew Pool at Surcouf, about 30 miles from Algiers. There was no great feeling of urgency here, the Allies had landed at Algiers on the 6th. of November and the Germans had already been driven some hundreds of miles, to the East.

It was just a matter of waiting, something that most servicemen became very good at. We could not take the initiative and start our own war, but could only make the best of it. Quoting from my diary, "Life at Surcouf is perfect, we share the officers' mess and enjoy typical French peacetime meals. Lots of Bully Beef but the Chef - a French Civilian - certainly knows how to camouflage it. Our chalet is literally on the beach and the sea never more than 20 yards away. We could swim all day long without the formality of swimming trunks, or walk around the village. Sometimes we hitch-hike Into Algiers". There was very little to do in the village, and I recorded that I found the French very unhelpful and generally impolite. We all carried side-arms of course. There was practically nothing to buy except strange local booze, the Americans had seen to all that when they passed through, and the bars seemed to be open all the time. Algeria was, politically, a part of Metropolitan France in the eyes of the French, it was home to many Frenchmen, and they probably realised it might never be quite the same again. After a three-week rest at Surcouf we reported to 150 Squadron at Blida, about 30 miles south of Algiers. This place was most certainly at war, there were Wellingtons, Hudsons, Hurricanes, Commandoes and Albacores for squadrons of Bomber, Coastal, Fighter and Transport Commands, and the Fleet Air Arm. With the exception of Transports and 142 and 150 Wellington Squadrons, all aircraft were controlled by Coastal Command. We were part of the North Africa Striking Force - so we were told. Life was good at Blida, most of the food was tinned and we enjoyed eggs and bully beef every day in the mess. Generally in the evenings we would have a fry-up of eggs and bread with more bully on the primus stove in the billet. The Mess Hall was used as both dining hall and lounge. The arabs wandered round the camp selling eggs and oranges but prefered [sic] to exchange them for food -- more bully beef.

The currency in use was the French Franc with an exchange rate of 200 to the £1 sterling in which we were paid. BMA (British Military Authority) notes were also in use but the most popular currency outside the town was the tin of bully. We were billeted in chalets formerly the peacetime living quarters of the French Air Force. Each chalet had four large rooms-and accommodated two Wellington crews. It was very pleasant to sit out on the verandah [sic] . My rather battered diary records that on the 28th. March 1943 we were discussing what we proposed to do on completion of our first tour. Rather naive, we would have little or no say in the matter. We had been allocated an aircraft, "F" for Freddie, but it was a case of one crew to one aircraft and its present owners had not quite finished their tour and were reluctant to part with it. For two days they had been bombing and straffing [sic] a large German convoy bound for Bizerta which was not left alone even when part of it had docked. We finally took over the aircraft and for five days were airborne for several hours each day. On the afternoon of the 5th. April we took off


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in "F" for Freddie for an hour's fighter affiliation excercise [sic] with two Hurricanes. Employing violent evasive action to make things difficult for the fighters, we crossed the coast about 10 miles east of Algiers at 3000 feet and passed directly over a British destroyer. The Navy was wide awake and saw a heavy bomber being chased by two Hurricanes, immediately opened fire on us with considerable light flak. The pilot of a third Hurricane which was on an operational patrol saw the mini-battle and joined in. When he saw that one of his chums was only 100 yards from my rear turret and happy to stay there, he realised that we were in a different ball game, peeled off and, carried on with his patrol, finally returning to Maison Blanche.

On the night of the 6th. April we bombed the Marshelling [sic] yards at TUNIS, with 3500 lb. and 54 30 lb. incendiaries. We bombed in one stick from 8000 ft. and surprisingly were held in searchlights which we lost at 3000 feet. Not a very good effort on our part, the bombs overshot the target but hit the aerodrome 3 miles north according to the timing point photograph. All 28 aircraft returned safely, two of them damaged There was little light flak but some heavy stuff said to be radar controlled. For an hour on the return journey I changed places with Harry Dyson, our Wireless op. On the 7th. we attacked troop concentrations at night making several bombing passes at low level and finally coming in very low firing 7 Brownings. Chad the bomb aimer used the two guns in the front turret, I had four in the rear and we carried beam guns on these occasions. Only the front gunner could see what he was firing at. One aircraft of 142 Squadron, G George was shot down by light flak. On the 10th. we raided MONSERRATO aerodrome in Sardinia, an aircraft was seen over the target with navigation lights on, visibility was good and we moved away hoping the runway lights would be switched in. The aerodrome remained in darkness and we dropped our bombs singly. There was no light flack from the aerodrome to worry us, and the aircraft with lights on was not seen again. After a further 30 minutes of stooging about we returned to Blida. There was a reasonable amount of heavy flak which we learned on return had downed one aircraft of 142 Squadron. - 2 in 2 nights-. On the way back a searchlight opened up a few miles ahead and the skipper put the nose down so we were at 2000 ft. when we passed directly over the searchlight. Stan Chadderton in the front turret opened fire and the Skipper told me when to open up, aiming straight down. The light stayed on after we had passed, pointing vertically, maybe we did a little damage, probably not. Inside the aircraft however, the dive had caused the Elsan lavatory to come loose and scatter it's contents over the floor.

The following morning, fearing the wrath of the ground crew when they saw the Elsan, we stayed in bed until noon and breakfasted in the billet. Eggs and fried potatoes, fried bread and tinned pears and fresh oranges, served by the wireless op. and rear gunner to the Skipper and the rest of the crew still in bed. In the afternoon we were stood down and Joe Shields (Sgt. Rimmer's Rear Gunner) and I went into Blida to try and find presents to take back to England. The bigger French shops were all closed - no stocks- and we scrounged around the Arab quarters, without success. I mentioned earlier that we always carried side-arms and several times we were crowded by the Arabs. Production of the revolver dispersed them but it could have been very tricky.

On the 14th. April we raided MONSERRATO for the second time, the first run-in at 8000 feet and then 6000 feet. Direct hits were seen on

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the aerodrome this time with 1000 and 250 pounders. No incendiaries were dropped but 10 minutes was spent 8 miles north of the town dropping leaflets. The leaflets were the "laissez-passer" type printed in German instead of the more usual Italian. An aircraft over the target area sporting an orange light seemed to be signalling to a searchlight. We assumed it was acting as a decoy for a night-fighter and the only one of us keeping an eye on it was the navigator standing at the astrodome.

The rest of us searched the allocated parts of the sky according to the book!. All our aircraft returned safely and reported good aiming. Photographs confirmed the success, but we had borrowed "M" Mother which was without a camera. The return journey was uneventful and crossing Mare Nostrum Di tuned in to the 9 o-clock news from London. The announcer Alvar Lidell read "Algiers reports that the R.A.F. Strategical Airforce in North Africa has continued to batter aerodromes in Tunisia and Sardinia, damaging runways and destroying aircraft on the ground, without loss to themselves". Someone remarked "That's one way of looking at it"!. Actually a few nights ago 142 Sqdn. had lost 2 in 2 nights. 150 Squadron had lost one but the crew bailed out. Four of the crew managed to get through the enemy lines but the Rear Gunner was wounded and there was no news of him for several weeks.

The docks at TUNIS received our attention on the night of the 17th. April, with very careful placing of 500 and 250 pounders. Direct hits were observed in the docks area and there was concentrated heavy flack. It didn't worry us, we were well below it at 6000 feet. There was lots of light flack mostly concentrated on an aircraft displaying red and green navigation lights. At one stage this aircraft came to within 600 yards on the starboard beam and we converged to about 300 yards. We clearly identified it as a Wellington and gave it a long inaccurate burst from the rear turret. On this occasion every fourth round was a tracer. The nav. lights were extinguished and the aircraft was not seen again. There was no satisfactory explanation as to the identity of this aircraft. A captured Wellington perhaps acting as a decoy but attracting most of the flak. Possibly one of ours with the lights switched on accidentally, one shall never know. Two aircraft are missing, piloted by Sgt. Chandler of 150 and Sgt. Lee of 142. One sent out an SOS and ditched but there was no signal from the other. On our return to Blida there was a blanket of cloud over the whole area and our 23 aircraft were diverted to Maison Blanche. One aircraft was known to have a damaged undercarriage, which collapsed on touch-down and was a write-off but there were no injuries. Road Transport was waiting to take us the 30 miles or so back to Blida and we finally got to bed at 6 am. We shared the lorry with Sgt. Leckie's crew who had bailed out over Tunisia on the 14th. The Squadron Leader had flown to Sousse and brought them back to Algeria. Leckie had himself crash-landed the aircraft with no hydraulics and only one engine, somewhere in Allied-occupied Tunisia.

On the 23rd. April my diary records a tedious week of activity which achieved very little. Every day we were briefed for a night op. and every day we did our Daily Inspections and air tests, but in the late afternoon the Sirocco came up suddenly and the trips were cancelled. During the week, two Albemarles crashed on the runway, both from Gibralter [sic] carrying supplies which included mail from U.K.

Our uniform since leaving West Kirby has been British Army Khaki but with shoes and no putees. Our R.A.F. blue shirts with collar and tie and also blue forage caps were not exchanged. We have no tropical


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kit and it is getting very warm here. Our aircraft "F" for Freddie, has been grounded all week with "G" George, both with a trimming box problem. The policy is still one crew to an aircraft, and we enjoyed a very easy week. On the 28th. we managed to borrow "D" Donald and bombed DECIMONANU again, this time with a 4000 lb. 'blockbuster’ and a few incendiaries for good measure. After bombing we stooged around for 30 minutes having a close look at fires on the ground. Searchlights waved about apparently aimlessly and the light flack with tracer seemed equally haphazard. At 3000 feet we were caught by one searchlight and within seconds were held in a cone of five. The lights were dazzling and the three of us manning guns all fired point blank, it being impossible to aim. In theory a combined rate of fire of over 8000 rounds per minute should have hit something worth while, but after a very short burst my four guns jammed, a problem seldom experienced. At only 3000 feet we were quickly out of range of the searchlights. We were over Blida at 0700 hours which was covered in fog and diverted again to Mason Blanche. We were not very popular at Maison B, everyone had-their own problems which were not always appreciated by others on different types of aircraft performing widely differing types of work. We were in bed at Maison B. by 1000 hrs. probably without the knowledge of the 'owners' of the beds who had spent the night in then; and there we stayed until 1700. The tinned steak pie for tea made a very welcome change. Our aircraft "F" for Freddie still had a faulty-trimming box.

It was only in the air we were able to listen to the Radio News from London, although we had a reasonable supply of current newspapers brought out by the steady stream of aircraft from U.K. On the 29th. we logged another trip to BIZERTA, this time in "T" Tommy with a 4000 pounder. Take-off was at 0005 hours and the weather the worst for flying we had yet experienced in Africa. The target was the docks and all was unusually quiet. The coast-line was visible through about 4/10ths cloud and on our first run over the docks we dropped incendiaries. Positive identification of the target, so round again to release the 4000 pounder which the press were refering [sic] to as 'cookies'. It seemed that over Germany the lads were dropping 8000 pounders. The flak and searchlights opened up simultaneously and was relatively intense. We found later that we were the first to bomb. Some had difficulty in finding the target due to cloud and the enemy was trying not to attract our attention. Again there was low cloud at Blida and we were diverted to Maison Blanche. Two aircraft were lost on the Bizerta raid, one landed at Bone (now renamed Annaba) with one engine u/s, and a 142 Sqdn. aircraft did a belly-landing on the grass at Maison B. On our return we found that Sgt. Leckie, operational again after being shot down in Tunisia, had crashed into the mountain immediately after take-off. Another 150 Sqdn aircraft crashed on take-off, barely getting airborne, and it was assumed that he had engine failure. Two of the crew actually survived the explosion. It had been a fateful night, we were briefed for take-off from west to east, with a left turn onto course. Just before take-off a strong wind developed from the west causing the duty runway to be changed from 09 to 27 and we took off from east to west. Sgt. Leckie turned left instead of right, straight into. the Atlas mountains, all killed instantly. Our own Bomb Aimer Stan had flown on a raid with Sgt. Leckie only two nights previously. When I revisited Blida on business in 1978 I was astonished to appreciate just how near those mountains were to Blida aerodrome..

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The following morning an aircraft of 142 was seen to be making a peculiar approach, and just before touchdown. one engine cut and the other was going flat out, resulting in a spectacular disintegration at the side of the runway, in which no-one was seriously hurt. By the end of April we had four aircraft all Wellington Mk.10s equipped for carrying 4000 pound bombs. Bomb doors had been removed and they were said to have a special main spar.

On the 5th. May it was farewell to Blida, the war was moving east. Each crew was issued with a First World War Bell tent and this together with official stores and personal effects was piled into the aircraft. I remember the Wireless Op. Di and I putting our (stolen) palliases [sic] aboard for our Ground-crew passengers to rest on during the flight. A very thoughtful act on our part said the Skipper. It was just that Di and I intended to sleep in the manner to which we were accustomed. Our destination was Fontaine Chaude, about 250 Kms. ESE of Blida. About half way in deference to our guests we opened a tin of spam and served slices of spam followed by stewed plums from a large tin we had been hoarding. Our destination was a stretch of desert near a tiny village. After landing we pitched our tent and organised our palliases [sic] into beds with the help of a dozen or so empty boxes. Meanwhile vehicles were arriving with our squadron personnel, more stores, aircraft and by late evening we had a small township. A small marquee served as a Sgts. Mess and on the first evening we enjoyed stew and green peas followed by pears and real cream. These had been provided by the Americans on an emergency basis. The following day was spent partly on an aerodrome inspection. The war had passed through Fontaine Chaude and it was possible the Arab scavengers had overlooked bits of war material which could do damage to aircraft, particularly the tyres. There were no runways, only sand with some coarse grass.

Back to war next day and Group Captain (Speedy) Powell briefed us for a raid on TRIPANI, a naval base in Sicily. We were 30 minutes late on take-off due to delays in bombing-up. We carried only six 500 pounders instead of eight, and some incendiaries. We were 20 minutes behind the bomber stream of 26 Wellingtons. 'The bomber stream'!. This was an expression used by a newly joined crew who were very displeased with having to finish their tour in North Africa after starting it over Europe. They treated our desert war with some contempt after their recent experiences over Germany, but were reported missing about three weeks after joining us. We were in cloud shortly after take-off and nearing the target came out of it at 12,000 feet. We moved over towards a concentration of heavy flak bursts and the bomb aimer thought he had found a pinpoint through breaks in the cloud. The bombs were dropped into the area of flashes and fires on the ground but it was not a satisfactory raid. We lost two aircraft. One was seen to go down in flames over the target having been coned by searchlights. Sgt. Pax Smith, a New Zealander and crew ran out of fuel in pitch darkness and had strayed too far to the west, over Algeria. My diary records "They bailed out in an airmanlike manner but the Bomb Aimer was concussed and the Rear Gunner broke both legs on hitting the ground and rolling down the side of a hill. Three of the crew are in the rest camp at Constantine and the two inured in hospital in Algiers".

The reader might be surprised at apparent navigation errors such as this, but the only nav. aid available was a QDM (course to steer) to reach in this case Algiers, which would not have helped. We had no M/F


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Beacons on which to take bearings. The Navigator worked on his dead reckoning plot backed up by a visual pinpoint from the bomb aimer map-reading if visibility was suitable. Quite often the only aid was the Rear Gunner taking a drift reading from his turret. Over the sea the Wireless op. would drop a flame-float down the flare chute, which would burst into flames on striking the sea. The Rear. gunner would rotate his turret and depress the guns, holding the flame in his ringsight for ten seconds, then read off the drift on the indicator by his side. There was sometimes a drift indicator in the 'Nav. Office' also. The same procedure was used over the desert during the day using a smoke bomb in place of a flamefloat.

We learned that Sgt. Leckie who was killed hitting the mountain was Commissioned two weeks before his death and had also been awarded a D.F.C. for his crash-landing in Tunisia. So Sgt. Leckie was really P/O Leckie D.F.C. and didn't know it, but the end result was the same. He and our own Skipper, Sgt. Rutherford 416170 R.N.Z.A.F. had been great buddies for a long time. (or what was regarded as a long time in those days)

May 10 my diary states, a Boomerang lastnight. We took-off with a 4500 pound payload for delivery to PALERMO, the Capital of Sicily. About 30 min. after take-off the petrol cover on the port fuel tank came open and the Skipper had great difficulty in keeping the left wing up. There was no option but to jettison half the bomb load in the sea and return to base. There was an enemy air-raid in progress at Bone and we kept a few miles to the east of it with the I.F.F. on. Our own night-fighters operating from Maison Blanche were known to be very active and we had great faith in our I.F.F. We were first back of course - not really having been anywhere!- and we waited for the others in the debriefing tent. To no avail, they had been diverted and returned the following afternoon. We enjoyed an afternoon and evening off, and went by lorry to Batna, a small town about 30 miles from our base. There was little to be seen and nothing to buy and no sign of any social activity. Conversation with the natives was difficult and they were not interested in the war.

On the night of the 12th. it was the turn of NAPLES again, 21 aircraft with 90,000 lbs. payload bombed within five minutes of each other. It was a lovely night, visibility 30 miles and not a cloud in the sky. As we approached Naples we could clearly see Mt. Vesuvius and convinced ourselves we could see the thin column of smoke drifting from it. Our last pinpoint on the way out was the Isle of Capri and we gave it a short burst of .303 for good measure. A futile act but the guns had to be fired occasionally. At NAPLES we went straight in, the target was clearly visible and the one stick straddled the railway yards and industrial area. My diary records that flak was intense and said to be some of the hottest in Europe, and reading that after a lapse of 45 years causes me to question the authority for such a statement. It was a small target compared to some of those in Central Europe, and the 40 searchlights at Napoli were quite effective, but would have been more so if it had been dark. All our aircraft returned safely after a 7 1/2 hour flight, not a bad effort for Wimpies with no overload tanks. As the W/op describes it, we climbed into our pits just as dawn was breaking. By 0900 we had the option of discarding our mosquito nets and being pestered by the insects, or enjoying a turkish bath due to the heat. Our 1916 vintage bell-tent was reasonable for our crew of five although in earlier times it accomodated [sic] , goodness knows how, 22 soldiers.

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At about 1400 we were happy to get airborne again on an air test where we could cool down, but at 1700 it was briefing again. A "maximum effort" - another phrase. imported from our colleagues bashing away in Central and Northern Europe, on CAGLIARI, a port and industrial town in Sardinia. All 26 aircraft were over the target area within minutes of each other, again visibility was near perfect. Bombing heights were staggered and we bombed from 6000 feet. Our 4000 pounder landed just north of the railway yards among some tall buildings and started a fire. Our W/op Harry Dyson claimed at debriefing that he could feel the heat from our own fire when we turned in again to see the damage. Di was prone to exaggeration by this time, perhaps due to frustration of monitoring broadcasts from Base and seldom touching the morse key. We came back over the target at 2000 feet and the flames were leaping high. We could still see the flames from 70 miles away at 8000 feet on our way home. Listening to the B.B.C. we learned that American bombers had raided Cagliari earlier that day, "wiping the place out". They also claimed they could still see fires burning when they reached the African coast. In daylight too; our W/op was not alone in the exaggeration stakes. However, it was a very satisfactory raid. We were in a shallow dive when the bomb was released and is thought to have scraped the fuselage under the aircraft where there was damage to the geodetics and six feet of fabric had been torn off.

On the 15th. our crew was stood down for 24 hours and I received four letters from Hilda, the first for many weeks. At this rate of completing ops I should be home in less than three months. It was very tiring night after night, particularly as is [sic] was not possible to sleep comfortably in the heat of the day. The target was PALERMO, and three of our 25 aircraft failed to return, including Sgt. Rimmer, and Sgt. Alazrachi, the latter a Free French pilot. It is not known what happened to any of them except that one aircraft was seen to go down in flames over the target. Rimer's Rear Gunner was Joe Shields, one of the best, and the crew had been with us since O.T.U. at Finningley. Polfrey the Navigator, Cave the Bombadier [sic] and Jack Waters the Wireless-op, all very keen types.

On the 16th. it was our turn to make a fragment of history. For the very first time, the R.A.F. bombed ROME. Rome, we were told was an open undefended city, and we were briefed to fly from the mouth of the River Tiber, over the city dropping leaflets, and return at 5000 feet dropping more leaflets, then bomb the LIDO DI ROMA near the mouth of the Tiber. Our first bomb went in the river and the last one in the sea, but the rest of the stick neatly straddled the buildings at the Seaplane Base. Over the city itself, there was considerable light flack with tracer, aiming point- blank without result. Not bad at all far an open undefended city, but we were forbidden to display any hostility except dropping leaflets. Even the lids of the Small Bomb Containers loaded with leaflets were secured with wire so as not to fall on the Romans. Later the B.B.C. claimed there was no flak over Rome.

An easier trip the following night which after the event gave me a slight suggestion of a guilty conscience for the the [sic] very first (and last) time.

"Your target" said the Group Captain, "is the German 'U' Boat refuelling Base at ALGHERO, in Sardinia, put paid to it". Our bomb load was 7 x 500 pounders, 4 S.B.C.'s of 30 lb. incendiaries and 2 x 250 pound bombs. We overflew the target at 4000 feet and first dropped several sacks of


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leaflets. These were in Italian and told the people of Alghera that when we very shortly occupied their country and liberated them from the beastly Germans, they would be treated better than ever before, provided with medical aid and food, and every other possible benefit. All we need is a little co-operation and understanding from them. Having spread the gospel, we made three bombing runs over Alghero, at 3000, 1500 and 700 feet, all perfect O.T.U. practice type runs. On the last bombing run, Allan Willoughby manned the port beam gun, Dyson the front turret and the [deleted] the [/deleted] three of us fired our 7 Brownings at point-blank range into the chaos below. The sole opposition comprised two small-calibre machine guns which were soon out of action. Maybe it was a U Boat refuelling base, but only in the sense that it was a small fishing village and happened to have a jetty where drums of oil could be trundled down to a U Boat at the end of it. Our vision of a Sardinian type Lorient or Brest was soon dispelled. The BBC reported 'our bombers based in North Africa attacked targets is Sardinia lastnight'.

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For a couple of days our conversation had centred around an incident over the Lido di Roma. A seaplane base consists mostly of water; on our first run over it we had difficulty in locating the buildings and were hoping to see a tidy straight line of parked seaplanes. The Skipper decided to drop a flare and asked the Wireless Op. to arm no. 1 of 4 already in position in the flarechute. As he removed the safety pin the flare ignited and the top part of it shot through the roof of the aircraft with flames pouring out of the lower end, streaking past the rear turret.

The blinding light startled Stan Chadderton at the Bombing panel and he instantly jettisoned all the flares, undoubtedly preventing a major disaster. How easy it was to be shot down by one's own flare.

According to Intellegence [sic] reports, there were 1,100 casualties in our raid on Cagliari on the 13th., most of them having been caught by a single bomb. This figure is highly suspect but it originated from an Italian report.

On the 21st. it was a stooge over Sicily with 18 250 lb. bombs.

A convoy was within range of the Ju88 Torpedo bombers based in Sicily and our task was to try and keep them on the ground, or if they did manage to take off, prevent them from making an airmanlike landing on return. Aircraft took off singly starting at 1700 hrs.; we were the 24th. at 2045 hrs., with two others to follow. A direct flight to Castelvetrano, identify the aerodrome and one bomb away, then set course for Ciacco, same procedure, and on to Borezzo. If a flare path is seen anywhere give it priority and stooge around in that area for a while. All the bombs were dropped on the three targets and no flarepaths were seen. We concluded there were no enemy landings or take-offs, but one aircraft was seen to go down in flames into the sea; probably Sgt. Williams of our squadron who was on his first mission from Africa, although he had done several over Germany. At Castelvetrano there was lots of light flak using tracer, and we felt the heavy flak in some areas was predicted. We were not experiencing the 'thick carpets' of flak ever-present over Germany, perhaps ours was more personal, just a few batteries carefully aiming at one or two Wimpies.

It was all go, and on the 23rd. we did an easy 3 1/2 hour trip. 2 hours of which was over Africa. We crossed the Tunisian coast and reached Pantelleria 20 minutes later, an island only 7 miles in length with an aerodrome on the western side. Visibility was poor, but we went straight in and dropped 4,500 lbs. in one stick. These were plotted later as just to the south of the aerodrome. We cruised around out at sea for 20 minutes at 7,000 feet, studying four barrage balloons clearly visible at 5000 feet. On our return however there was no support for this theory from anyone else and we were told it was only heavy flak. This was of course quite possible, in poor conditions and with tired eyes imagination can take over. Within a week however, it was generally accepted that the enemy were deploying barrage ballons [sic] although not in great numbers. Most of our aircraft were not fitted with cable cutters on the leading edge of the wings. Pantelleria was an easy trip and we were advised that it would count only as half a trip towards our 35. We had generally assumed the first tour was 30 trips but it did not seem to worry anyone. The day. after the Pantelleria trip, the Squadron mascot, Wompo, or Wimpy. a pedigree Heinz 69 was killed in action. Whilst he was


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merrily chasing some small creature he was accidentally hit by a jeep driven by F/O Langlois, a pilot of 150. He was so badly damaged that one of the lads put him down with his Smith & Wesson .38.

On the 24th. we staggered off the desert in "F" for Freddie heading for Sardinia carrying eight 500 pound bombs and some incendiaries and it seemed ages before we reached even 100 feet. I was not aware of the drama in the front office, both the Skipper and Bomb Air were struggling even to keep us airborne. At about 500 feet it was not possible to maintain height and the Skipper had no option but to lighten the load quickly. Two 500 pounders were released and seconds later there was a tremendous bang from down below, but the aircraft began to maintain height. We were just within sight of the Sardinian coast with the engines overheating when the Skipper jettisoned the remaining bombs and nursed the aircraft back to Fontain Chaude. That was our second boomerang. Had we been carrying a 4000 lb. cookie the episode would have had a very different ending. By the 2nd. of June we had completed 6 more trips and moved camp further east, to Kairouan. Our patch of desert was about 6 miles west of the walled City, said to be the fifth most holy in the Moslem world. The place was very dry, and the well 100 yards from our tent was out of bounds. The R.A.M.C. and the Afrika Korps had both marked it as poisoned by their repective [sic] enemies. It was said to contain human remains, but tests carried out just before we moved on showed the water had not been polluted and was 100% fit for drinking. Meanwhile our water was delivered by two water bowsers each of which travelled 30 miles east to Sousse several times each day. Many years later the record shows that neither the Germans nor the Allies polluted any water supplies. After all, both hoped to recapture them and put them back to their own use. On the first night from Kairouan we were credited with one more trip, having completed two halves! That is, two trips to PANTELLARIA.

We took off in waves of 3 or 4 throughout the night, arriving over the target 45 minutes later. Our aircraft was "C" Charlie which carried one 4000 pounder. On the first run in we overshot, but came round again and in a typical OTU practice run, Stan Chadderton placed the bomb neatly in the centre of the small town. A 45 minute flight back to base and an hour's respite whilst the aircraft was checked, refuelled and bombed up, then the mixture as before.

On the 27th. we were piling into a lorry to go out to the widely dispersed aircraft; the nightly German raid on Sousse was in full swing when a single Ju88 came over to look at our flare path. He was clearly visible and stooged around at will for about 10 minutes before making a run at about 1000 feet dropping 3 bombs in a salvo 300 yards from the Sgts. mess. Nothing was hurt except our feelings and there was no material damage. We had no A-A guns, so the Luftwaffe did not receive the same energetic welcome handed out to us. We relied on Beaufighter squadrons for defence. The R.A.F. policy was reasonable, as the aircraft were dispersed over a wide area and a single stick of bombs would be ineffective against a single aircraft as a target on the ground. We took-off half an hour later for a tour of Sardinia, again with a payload of eighteen 250 lb. bombs. Our only brief was to stooge around between aerodromes and generally make a nuisance of ourselves. There were no allied troops in Sardinia yet so no special care was called for. Our bombs were expected to be released on aerodromes, searchlights and guns. The

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main object was to keep the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica on the ground. These trips were not very popular and provided good practice for Ju88 night fighters. We were stood down on the 3rd. June after doing two ops the previous night. We slept all morning and in the afternoon crowded into a lorry and went to the seaside. Monastir, near Sousse and we had our first baths since leaving Blida. We were in good company and had Mare Nostrum to ourselves with tens of thousands of other Allied troops. I have been there several times since and always think of the mass of naked troops in the sea. A good target for the the [sic] German aircraft? Not really, the scores of light A-A guns made it a very dicey target. The Allies must have had well over a thousand aircraft of different types in the area. The Arab town of Monastir was out of bounds to the Army but not, for some probably invalid reason to the R.A.F. We had a 'shufti' and two of us invested in a sort of haircut. Most of the inhabitants seemed to be French, Monastir having been the fashionable part of the Sousse area,

The night of the 4th. June was an unlucky one for 150 Squadron. We lost three of our 16 aircraft on the ground without intervention from the enemy. The aircraft were bunched fairly close together, having been bombed-up and ready for take-off. During a final check, a Bombadier accidentally released a flare which lay on the ground. He dashed off to find an Armourer to make it safe but within minutes the flare ignited. Within 15 minutes the whole area was ablaze and three aircraft, M Mike, A Able and P Peter, each complete with over two tons of bombs and full petrol tanks blew up. Our aircraft which was to have taken us twice to Pantelleria that night 'N' Nuts, together with seven others, was severely damaged. About half the squadron went to Panteleria [sic] , 2 half-trips and in full moonlight reported a couple of Ju88's circling the island. One aircraft returned with about 40
square feet of fabric torn off.

The following night a new target was added to our growing list, SYRACUSE in eastern Sicily, only a little light flak was encountered, and it was just a matter of bombing the water front. Our main task was in fact to drop leaflets on several of the coastal towns, working our way anticlockwise round Sicily. We passed slightly to the west of Pantelleria on the return leg and saw the Wimpies from the Western Desert squadrons bombing the island.

The exact words written in my diary are "bashing hell out of the island".

Our own Group Captain - "Speedy" Powell also went to Pantelleria but complained that his bomb did not explode. We riled him that it went into the sea. We were now seeing a great deal more of the British army and the Americans and we were realising just what small cogs we were in all the activity. We had an American guest with us when he ran us over to the Ops. Room in his personal jeep to collect lastnight's aiming point photograph. He noticed in the caption at the bottom of the photograph "280 deg.T" and remarked "Geez, mighty hot up there aint [sic] it?". It refered [sic] to our course, not the temperature, but we did not add any further complication to trying to explain.


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in the next 12 days we carried out only two raids, the first an easy one to PANTALARIA [sic], which surrendered the following day, and the second to a new target, MESINA [sic], the straits between the toe of Italia and Sicile [sic] . on the way out we passed very close to our favourite island and across Sicily to the target. The target was already marked with 14 flares by the Western Desert squadrons, and for the first time in North Africa that part of the job was done for us. I noted at the time that "the A-A defences were baffled by the number of aircraft over the target at the same time. There were 34 aircraft and only F/Lt. Langlois ran into trouble. He was caught in the searchlights from both sides of the straits and dropped from 11,000 to 2,000 feet to escape them. In doing so he flew through the balloon barrage, but without further incident.

My diary has recently been opened for the first time in over 42 years, so I have not pondered over its accuracy. 34 aircraft simultaneously over the target probably did seem like a thousand bomber raid to us!. Our Bomb Aimer that night was Ft/Lt. Casky, our own being in jail in Tunis. After our last trip to 'the' island we went to Tunis on a 48 hr. verbal pass. The Skipper had the trots, which we all suffered from time to time, and he tried to rest in the tent nearest the toilet trench. Willoughby the Navigator, Stan Chadderton Bombadier [sic] , Harry Dyson the Wireless Op and myself, Rear Gunner. We were each issued with two boxes of American "K" rations, and hitch-hiked first to Sousse and then to Tunis. The first leg was in the back of an Army lorry and the main leg up the coast road by R.A.F. "Queen Mary" which carried about a hundred of us. The whole trip took only 6 hours. The town of Tunis had been in Allied hands for 4 days and there were still a few Germans in hiding. We had given no thought to accommodation which did not seem to be important. Leaving Stan and Di in a canteen abandoned by the Germans, Wally and I eventually found an hotel near the docks area where we were able to book two rooms. I cannot recall the name of the hotel, but the address was 49 Rue de Serbie. The hotel was in very poor condition, no water, all the windows had been blown out, doors smashed, walls cracked and so on. No catering but we had our 'K' rations. Opposite the hotel was a bombed church and all around the buildings were either destroyed or severely damaged. The docks had been our main target in Tunis, and they were destroyed, with all the warehouses practically levelled out. One cargo vessel was beached and two others rested on the bottom. The Arabs were mostly friendly and told us the bomb damage in town was done mainly by 4 engined bombers is daylight, which let us off the hook. The European French were not so friendly, possibly many of them having lost comfortable homes. Some were quite abusive verbally but to others we managed to explain that we flew Chasseurs, pas des bombardiers. In our minds we had liberated the people of Tunis - and the rest of North Africa - from the Germans. We did not fully appreciate that the Arabs saw it differently. The Inglisi and Americans were no different to the Germans and Italians, and they in turn did no less for them than the French. They lived for the day when they would be left to manage their own affairs. In our wanderings around town we met a Tommy who was a Prisoner of War on a ship which had. been bombed at night a few miles out of Tunis. The ship was Italian, homeward bound and had been straffed [sic] by Spitfires during the day. The ship was spotted by two Wellington crews during a night raid on the docks, and the ship was

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bombed, then straffed [sic] from a few hundred feet. The vessel came to a halt and the 20 or so Germans and Italians abandoned ship. Three of the several hundred British prisoners had been regrettably killed in the action and all the others managed to get ashore in lifeboats and floats in the final days of the Axis evacuation of North Africa. The ship was without lights which should have been carried. Another 8th. Army private told us he was a P.O.W. being transferred from a lorry onto a boat about a week ago when about 30 Spitfires and Kittyhawks arrived and caused chaos with their 20 and 40 mm. cannon. The guards were overpowered and most of the 500 or so P.O.W.’s managed to get away. He spoke highly of the fighter pilots, convinced the attack was a very well-planned sortie to release the P.O.W.'s., not just to blaze away at anything German that dared to move. He could very well have been correct,

On our last evening in Tunis the four of us shared a battle of wine with a meal at a roadside cafe. When we were paying the bill we found there was money left over and asked for another bottle of their excellent wine. As the wine was brought over, a Sgt. M.P. standing behind us shouted "no more wine for them", after which Stan told him to mind his own business. The M.P. then grabbed Stan's arm and held it to his back, but seeing threatening movements from the rest of us, released it. Stan then turned quickly and thumped the M.P. who promptly disappeared. Shortly afterwards two R.A.F. Sgt. S.P.'s came is and asked if we had had some trouble and if so would Stan like to put in a complaint to the Provost Marshal? This seemed like a good countermeasure to a possible charge made by the Sgt. M.P. and Stan accompanied the two R.A.F. S.P.’s to the Provost Marshal's office. In reality this was the jail and as they entered the door the Sgt. M.P. set about Stan who gave as good as he got. But this was inside the jail, Stan was at a big disadvantage and about to spend the first of three nights in it. The jail was is fact next door to our hotel is Rue de Serbie. Willy and I did not suspect that Stan was in trouble, we assumed our S.P.’s were just being helpful, so we sat down again with the bottle. Perhaps Di's conscience was not quite so clear, and when he saw the S.P.'s coming he made himself scarce. We caught up with him later asking an M.P. where he could pinch a Jeep. The M.P. humoured him and directed him to an American car park with lots of Jeeps, but Di had seen a tramcar and decided to pinch that instead. Fortunately the tramcar was off the rails, and he changed his attention to the French tricolour on top of a derelict building. He climbed the building and removed the flag, then Willy and I managed to get him back to the hotel. Di's condition was not due to a session of heavy drinking, we had seen very little of anything alcoholic for a long time and two glasses of local wine would have been more than enough to really get him going.

The three of us hitch-hiked back to Kairoaun and reported the loss of one Bomb Aimer to the Skipper. The following day Squadron Leader Miller D.F.C. flew to Tunis and demanded Stan's release from jail. He had a major row with the same Sgt. M.P. who started it all and who was asking what authority the Squadron Leader had. The Squadron Leader pointed to his 2 1/2 rings of rank and the D.F.C. and asked the M.P. whether he thought they were scotch mist. Stan was released and back at Kairoaun was charged with causing an affray, resulting in a Reprimand. The Sgt. M.P. was charged and given a Severe Reprimand and reduced to Corporal.


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By the 16th. of June we were operational again as a crew. the target was again NAPLES, a 6 hour 15 min. stooge and rather tiring. There was a full moon and visibility was 25 miles. We could clearly see Pantelaria [sic] to port, and later, north of Sicily, the small island of Maritimo, just the tip of a mountain sticking out of the sea. The Isle of Capri provided a good pin-point. Over the target area there was 9/10ths. cloud so we bombed from above the flares. Flak was moderate and widely spread. There was slight consternation when one of my turret doors fell off for no apparent reason. I wondered what else would fall off but everything else seemed to be intact so it was just a matter of strapping myself in - which according to the book should be so in any case. Just after "bombs gone" I reported a twin-engined aircraft starboard quarter up at 1000 yards. The Skipper started to weave gently. and Di went to the astrodome position to search above the horizontal whilst I -theoritically [sic] at least-- concentrated on below the horizontal. This is not an easy task when the rear gunner is expected to ignore one fighter leaving it to his colleague whilst searching for others. Di became somewhat emotional to say the least, said it was not a fighter but merely flak, and then went on to give a commentry [sic] on searchlight activity and flak at least - by then- five miles away, and of only historical interest. Whilst in a turn to port the other aircraft was directly astern and I identified it as twin engined and without the high tail fin of the Wellington. The Skipper did a diving turn to starboard and we lost the other aircraft. Di claimed it was another aircraft not to be confused with the one he identified as flak! Normally Di stayed at his radio position, it was better that way. On the return journey, either there was a raid on Trapani or someone had strayed off-course. On the 18th. it was again to SYRACUSE, an exceptionally clear night, almost no cloud and a full moon. We could have dispensed with the flarepath on take-off and we felt as if we were doing a day trip. Over the target there was tracered flak up to 7,000 feet and we were geared up to bomb from 5,000 feet. We expected night fighters, and even day fighters, so went straight in at 5000 feet, bombed and straight out again, down to 3,000 feet for a quick tour of several nearby small towns and villages where we dropped leaflets. We were glad to get home that night, such met. and lunar conditions were hazardous. SALERNO again on the 21st, a routine trip, but on the 24th. of June I got a message to call at the 'Orderly Room', which in reality was the bell tent next to the C.O.'s tent. There was great discussion on which particular crime had caught up with me, but it was all very innocent. I came out of the bell tent as a Flight Sargeant [sic] much to the annoyance of the Sgt. Skipper and the three other Sgts. in the crew. It didn't help very much when I told them they need not call me Flight Sgt. ALL the time, just once in the morning and again in the evening.

In the early hours of the 26th. June we bombed the naval base of BARI in S. E. Italy, and it was an almost complete fiasco. It was not possible to see the ground due to haze, and the Western Desert aircraft had dropped the marker flares in the wrong place. Fires were started over an area of about 60 square miles, maybe one or two on the target by sheer chance. The target was a small oil refinery built especially to deal with the crude oil from Albania. Important to the Axis because that particular oil needed special treatment which, we were advised, only Bari could provide. We were now spending more and more time over the Italian mainland, for the first time we were seeing concentrations of

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lights in the form of a triangle which were assumed to be Prison and Internment Camps. On the way out we saw Trapani being bombed by our colleagues from the Western desert. The following afternoon it was too hot to sleep and I flew with Sgt. Whitehouse, a new pilot from Britain, in a brand new aircraft, 'D' Donald. We traced the path of the 8th. Army to beyond the Mareth line, at about 2500 feet. There were few battle scars; It was hard to appreciate that this was a place of such dreadful carnage so recently.

Kairouan was placed out of bounds due to Typhus, and there was nothing in the walled city to tempt us to ignore the order. The Arabs were less friendly and our revolvers were not looked upon merely as a taken of authoriity [sic] . According to a report in a Daily Mirror which took a few weeks to arrive, the lads were reported to have been given a hearty welcome by the French people in the Holy City of Kairouan. Actually there were only a handful of French remaining. Another Daily Mirror headline we found amusing was "BLOCKBUSTERS ON BIZERTA". It went an to say that "Lastnight our Bombers based in North Africa again pounded Bizerta; During the entire raid, blockbusters were dropped at the rate of one every two minutes. Absolutely correct, it was a raid from Blida, but it did not say that the raid was of 2 minutes duration and that we had only two aircraft able to carry the blockbusters. However, we looked forward to reading even an old Daily Mirror and to listen to the B.B.C. when airborne. Some of the stock phrases brought a chuckle at times 'Fires were left burning..', "Rear Gunners straffed [sic] the target..." "All opposition was overcome.." "Many two ton blockbusters ...." etc. etc, It appeared far more impressive in print than in reality doing it. Generally all we saw were explosions and dull red glows, tracer coming up and curving away passed us, and being blinded sometimes by searchlights. We did not picture at the time the loss of life down below and the damage caused to factories and buildings of all descriptions, in any cases, mostly houses. Straffing [sic] was invigorating and served to let off steam, but the supporting arithmetic was disappointing. An aircraft travelling at 180 m.p.h. (264 feet per second) over a target 360 yards in length would take 4 seconds to traverse the target. A .303 Browning has a rate of fire of 1200 rounds per min., the four in the rear turret having a combined rate of 4800 per min., or 80 rounds per second. There is time only for a 4 second burst of 320 rounds - not a lot - The Reargunner sees nothing of the target until it is passed and needs to be told when to open fire by someone in the front office. On straffing [sic] details it is likely the front turret with two guns, and one beam gun would be in use, increasing fire power by 75%, Possibly even a four-second burst once experienced at the receiving end might cause the enemy to duck next time we come by. This was an acceptable technique along a straight road. The aircraft was often fitted with two beam guns, one on each side, but only one was manned. Vision was poor from the beam positions and normally we would pass to one side of the target with one wing low. The gun on the other beam would have been aiming upwards. On the 28th 150 Sqdn. was stood down for 24 hours, but the previous night we paid a visit to SANGIOVANI on the southern toe of the Italian mainland: This was a daylight trip with four squadrons of Wellingtons to the train ferry terminal, a dock or lock which the ferry would enter and the water level be adjusted such that the level of the rails on land and ferry coincided. The train would then be shunted an or off the ferry as required. Flack was intense for


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Italian targets and there were trains both on-the ferry in dock and onshore. The whole lot was successfully reduced to a shambles but 6 of our aircraft failed to return. Our heaviest loss yet in a single night.

The 30th. of June was Willie's birthday and we celebrated it over MESINA. According to the B.B.C. we are blitzing both sides of the straits, Mesina to the west in Sicily and Sangiovani on the Italian mainland. The straits are only 3 1/2 miles wide, and carry the greater part of all enemy traffic to Sicily, entirely in German control with concentrated light flack [sic] from both sides and from ships in the middle. A trip lasting 5 1/2 hours.

The whole crew is beginning to feel the strain of long periods of intense activity. Although most of the memories are of the actual bombing ops., that was only a part of it. Aircraft had to be inspected daily on the ground and also air tested ready for the next trip, before bombing up. The Navigator had to prepare his flight plan prior to take off and this was done also on the many occasions when trips were later cancelled. All of us spent at least some time in the Intellegence [sic] Section to keep up-to-date with the position of the front line and the general trend. It was perhaps in some ways easier for us than for our counterparts in Europe. We had fewer distractions. There was no looking forward to a pint in the local pub. nor getting home to the family for a day or two. Not even the local cinema. There was very little booze to be had, I seem to remember a ration of one bottle of beer per fortnight which I used to take up on an air test to cool it down, and then give to the Armourers after landing. The batman was not going to ask "which suit and shoes are you wearing tonight Sir? " as he did later at Spitalgate. Evening wear was the same as for the rest of the day, shorts, perhaps a shirt, certainly no socks, and sandals on the feet. On the few occasions when we went out of camp we generally wore khaki battledress which we wore also of course on ops. I was finding it increasingly difficult to keep my eyes open at night for long periods, and finding it very tempting to rest my head on the guns and have a doze, but to do so would be absolutely unforgiveable. The Skipper was under an even greater strain and a six hour trip was 6 hours of concentrated effort. On one or two occasions he dozed off for maybe just a few seconds, but fortunately by his side most of the time was Stan Chadderton the Bombardier who very quickly realised the position and watched points up front. The amount of nattering in the air was on the increase, also. It was standard procedure to use oxygen at night regardless of altitude, and the microphones with their electrical heaters were built-in to the mask. Everyone was connected to the intercom system all the time except for the Wireless op. who was able to switch out his own connection when using his radio. Microphones were switched as required by individual wearers. The Skipper's microphone was switched on all the time and so too was the Rear Gunner's in danger areas. Procedures were relaxed somewhat in our particular theatre of war; we could get along quite nicely without oxygen below 10,000 feet and I don't recollect flying much above that height. Whenever I reported anything Di dashed to the astradome [sic] and objected. If the rotation of my rear turret was not rythmical [sic] both the Skipper and Navigator objected. The turret and guns presented an assymetrical [sic] shape to the slipstream with a consequent rudder effect. If I kept the turret facing starboard for too long the aircraft would do a gentle flat turn to starboard. Meanwhile the Skipper was trying to maintain a course determined by the

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Navigator who was keeping a watchful eye on his compass, perhaps not appreciating that it was the rear gunner making things difficult. Although the sides of the turret were clad with perspex, it was difficult to see through it with the degree of clarity required. In fact the perspex in front of the turret had been removed to provide a clear vision panel. Even on the ground the whole crew was getting very irritable with each other. For almost a year we had lived worked, ate and near enough slept together almost without a break, the same endless routine, and anything to which we could look forward seemed an awful long way off. Whose turn to carry the water, became a very important issue at times and would lead to an argument [sic] . After some very harsh wards we would agree that it was stupid to argue about such a trivial issue, which in turn led to a bigger argument on who started the argument in the first place. I remember Chad the Bombardier putting paid to the row one day by getting off his bed - known as a pit - and announcing "Well, I've get to go for a **, anyone care to join me'? The loo comprised a trench, 20 feet long, several feet deep and about one foot wide over which one crouched. There was a choice of direction in which to face, and one or two of the bigger chaps preferred to straddle the trench. There was no need to interrupt a conversation in going to the toilet.

By the end of June the length of tour was clarified. First it was to have been 30 trips as in Britain, then it had been increased to 40 as some trips were not very hazardous, then some of the trips counted only as halves, and the tour was again changed to be 250 hours of operational flying. The Western Desert tour was said to be 40 trips or 250 hours, whichever was the less. However, there were other things to think about. Sgt. Lee and two other pilots were paraded before the whole squadron Air Crews and called "Saboteurs" by the Group Captain, having between them written off five aircraft in taxiing accidents. Group Captain 'Speedy' Powell was a very keen type and conducted all the briefings himself, was generally the first one off the ground and first back in time for debriefing. Whilst we were resting he would sometimes return to the target in an American twin boomed lightning to try and assess the damage - or find what we had actually bombed!

On the night of the 30th. June we were stood dawn and watched 142 Sqdn. take off for southern Italy. The starboard engine of one aircraft cut a few seconds before the aircraft should have get airborne. The aircraft swung and crashed into a jeep which was waiting to cross the 'runway', killing both American occupants and breaking it's back, a complete write-off. My diary makes no mention of the fate of the crew. We had just been issued with a new aircraft, 'B Beer' and I spent most of the day cleaning the guns and turret which were still all greased up as when they left England. Normally this work was carried out by the Armourers, but I was expected to take an active interest in the guns and turrets. The guns were removed, stripped, soaked in petrol, thoroughly cleaned and reassembled, replaced in the newly-cleaned turret and then harmonised. In Britain the harmonising of guns was carried out by placing a board at a predetermined distance in front of the turret and adjusting the ring-sight and guns to line up with specific paints or circles on the board. In North Africa we placed a can or any handy object on the ground 300 yards away and pointed the guns and ring-sight at it.


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Another day-off on the 2nd. July and Jumbo Cox, a Navigator on 150 Sqdn. and I hitch-hiked into Sousse and spent a few hours in the sea. After our dip we queued for 20 minutes at a huge marquee and enjoyed the most wonderful mug of tea of all time. I have thought many times in the last 40 years of that mug of tea.

The 4th. of July turned out to be the-hottest in temperature we had experienced for a long time. We had bombed TRAPANI in the very early morning. Intensive flack and searchlights with tracer up to 5000 feet. At 2000 feet the temperature was 95 Farenheit [sic] and not much lower at 9,000 feet, our bombing height. I was wearing only trousers and a shirt and was soaked in perspiration. Even the slipstream felt hot when I put one hand outside. Apart from the oppressive heat, it was a routine trip, and we managed to sleep most of the following afternoon, in 130 deg. in the shade. The wind was from the south-west, straight off the Sahara, and several airmen passed out with heatstroke. Metal parts of the aircraft were too hot to touch and a Wellington on the ground of 37 Squadron went up in flames. On the night of the 6th, we were briefed to attack aerodromes in Sardinia, and Sgt. Chandler piloted the first aircraft off. Both engines cut immediately after take-off whilst his undercarriage was still lowered. With full fuel and bomb load he somehow managed to avoid the inevitable and landed in a cultivated area at the end of the runway. Some of the crew suffered minor injuries, but it was 40 minutes before the rest of us were given a green to take-off. The wrecked aircraft was directly under the take-off path. Seven aircraft failed to get off the ground, including ours, all due to engines overheating after running for over 40 minutes on the ground. We had also lost air pressure for the brakes. Of the aircraft which did take off none was successful in finding the target, flouted by bad weather over Sardinia. Sgt. Valentine was above 10/10ths cloud with engines overheating and deemed it necessary to jettison his bombs "over the sea". We were not generally briefed with the positions of Allied shipping convoys, but were routed away from them without being given the reason. Sgt. Valentine decided to return by the shortest route and when has bombs whistled down on the convoy the Navies took a very poor view and let fly with everything they had. This was a well-established practice on the Navy's part, so there was no cause for complaint. In all, that night was a waste of 30 tons of bombs, 4000 gallons of petrol and over 150 flying hours.

On the 7th. we visited an aerodrome at COMISO in Southern Italy, delivering 4500 lbs, of bombs. It was a new target to the R.A.F., and apparently undefended, Only three of us managed to locate it and we were lucky in the timing of our 3 flares in obtaining a pinpoint. We obtained good aiming point photograph which showed our stick of bombs had straddled the dispersal area, with the last two landing in the olive groves.

Nearly half a century later I wonder why we did not use the radio for communicating with other aircraft in providing mutual assistance. We had no V.H.F. but the TR9 H.F. R/T would have been adequate. Observing Radio silence I feel was taken to extremes, our signals might indicate our presence to the enemy, but they were aware of that in any case. They might home onto us, but our transmissions would have been brief and on a frequency initially unknown to the enemy. They were not equipped to respond fast enough to information gleaned by monitoring, neither was the area covered with direction-finding

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stations. I feel this was one of the matters where a principle had been established and which was not reviewed often enough under changing circumstances.

On the evening of the tenth of July, just before briefing we heard aircraft engines and it was like being at a cinema show. Wave after wave of Dakota transports thundered overhead on their way to Sicily. It reminded me of the film "An Engishman`s Home" and the massive formations of German bombers, but these aircraft were American and British and were definitely not making a film. At briefing Groupie put us in the picture. "Accurate timing and accurate bombing, more so than ever before" was his opening phrase. We were briefed to bomb a specific part of SYRACUSE whilst paratroops were being dropped close by and other paras were already in position ready to capture our target immediately after the bombing. Flares were dropped accurately and the target successfully bombed, although some bombs went in the sea because of its close proximity. We noted a very large fire at Catania and "a number of queer lights which suggested fifth column activity" according to my diary. 45 years later I wonder how I reached that conclusion. Looking down from about 9,000 feet on the southern coast of Sicily on the return journey, we saw the Navy shelling the coast and several searchlights on shore began to sweep out to sea. One of the searchlights located a ship and held on to it, whilst the others went on sweeping. From another ship there were just three flashes of light, and seconds afterwards, three flashes on shore, one in front of the offending searchlight, one slap on it, and the third behind it. That was one searchlight out of action, and the others switched off in sympathy. The Navy carried on firing without further interruption. My panoramic view of the action from nearly two miles above gave no indication of the destruction and agony caused by those three shots.

The following, night it was the turn of MONTECORVlNO in western Italy, a new German aerodrome. Over the target we narrowly missed colliding with Jack Alazrachi in `Q' Queenie. His starboard wingtip scored our port wing and my diary records "a very shaky do". Our stick straddled the aircraft parking area and we took an excellent aiming point photograph of 15 aircraft an the ground. It was later confirmed officially that our two squadrons destroyed 40 aircraft and damaged many more.

On the 13th. at briefing, Group Captain Powell grinned and glanced down at his flying boots and said "Yes chaps, we are in for an interesting trip, Jerry is landing a massive convoy at MESINA and we are instructed to smash it." We went out at 6000 ft. above sea level which, over Sicily averaged about 2000 feet above ground. I found it difficult to concentrate on a formal rear-gunner type search, there was so much activity. Ground detail could be seen very easily and the Tactical Air Force was observed bombing all over the island. There were flares everywhere, bombs creating havoc, flak barrages and intensive shelling by the Navies. Over our target, the flak was intense but scattered. Sgt. "Pax" Smith's aircraft was holed, something went through his bombing panel and made two big holes in the front turret. This crew, like most did not include a full-time front gunner, the Bombardier occupied the turret as and when expedient and on this occasion had just returned to the second dickie seat when the aircraft was holed. One aircraft was seen to crash and another, in flames, exploded on hitting the ground. At debriefing we learned that one Wellington of 142 Squadron was missing,


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and this was manned by six officers, five of whom had completed one tour over Germany. The sixth, flying as 'second dickie' was on his very first trip.

Another new target to us, on the 15th, CROTONIA, an aerodrome on the east coast of the toe of Italy. A routine trip out, good visibility and straight in to the taget [sic] . There were four flak batteries, but Sgt, Mickie Mortimer was just ahead of us and his first stick silenced all four. Our single stick straddled the aerodrome and enlarged the existing fires among aircraft on the ground. We stooged around for a little while watching aircraft blowing up and more bombs adding to the havoc on the ground. When all was quiet we dropped to 250 feet and went in with guns blazing and between us fired about 4000 rounds into the fires, We must have hit something. There were dummy fires to the north and south-east of the aerodrome, very unreal and no-one was fooled by them. On the way out of the target area we were followed. by an aircraft sporting an orange light, and at one stage took light evasive action, but he did not attack. Several other rear gunners reported the same experience, non [sic] was actually engaged. We were routed back round northern Sicily, as usual Trapani was being attacked and other targets nearby were being bombed. We were hoping to see the 142 Sqdn. aircraft with the blue light which we nearly shot down returning from Salerno. The Bombardier in the second pilot's seat reported two aircraft ahead, one with a white light which we assumed to be a decoy. We expected the aircraft to allow us to overtake, and whilst the one with the light drew our attention his chum would sneak is from another dirction [sic] . We lost both the other aircraft for a minute or two, then the aircraft with the light - this time a blue one - reappeared on the starboard bow at about 500 yards. Meanwhile Chad had taken over the front turret, but held his fire. He identified it as a Wimpey. The Skipper altered course and we passed about 100 feet below the Wimpy. I got a plan view of him and confirmed the identification. As he fell behind I flashed dah dah dit, dit dit dit on my inspection lamp. There was no reply from the other aircraft but it landed 15 minutes after us and taxied towards 142 dispersal, On that same trip two of us saw an aircraft at 800 yards on our port quarter up which closed in to 500 yards. He was at too great a range for our .303s, but we were ready for an instant dive to port. He surprised us by turning away to port at about 400 yards, and again two of us identified it as a Wimpey.

Enemy aerodromes continued to take up most of our effort, and on the night of the 17th. it was three hours each way to POMIGLIANO near Naples, passing round Vesuvius with it's dull red glow. The target was initially very quiet and consequently not easy to locate. On our first run in at 6000 feet, we were a few minutes early, but dead on time at 4000 feet on our second run. We were caught and held in searchlights, and the light flak was point-blank. Allan Willoughby claimed he could smell it when the Skipper asked him for a course for home after the second run-in. When Stan the Bombardier announced that we still had nine 250 pound bombs aboard, someone suggested we should jettisson [sic] them on the town. Allan suggested we strike at a village a few miles ahead but Stan refused to drop them anywhere except the aerodrome at Pomigliano. The third run-in was at 5000 feet and the searchlights got us again as soon as the bomb doors were open. We were in a cone of eight and it seemed we had the aerodrome to ourselves. The bombing was accurate and we lost height to 2000 feet, all quiet again. My part in all this had

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really been that of a passenger listening to and witnessing the drama, and I was not popular when I suggested to the Skipper that we go back at low level and put a few lights out. Chad was in favour and had the front turret in mind, Allan was not keen and didn't like the smell of flak, and Dyson thought the idea was 'plain stupid'. Dyson was probably right for the wrong reason, but the Skipper was thinking we had got away with it for well over 30 trips so far, and there was no point in tempting providence. A three hour stooge back to Blida with nothing but silence on the intercom. Other aircraft were seen in the circuit and our TR9 radio was out of order. This was a very low power transmitter/receiver operating between 4 and 8 MHz. and used by the Skipper to contact Air Traffic Control at Base. If we still had an acceptable reserve of fuel we would have gone away and returned in 30 miniutes [sic] , but fuel was low and the Skipper decided to land without any formalities or delay. This aroused the wrath of the Flight Commander who tore a terrific strip off him next day. Our report at debriefing was very different to that of Sgt. Whitehouse and crew, who said it was a wizard O.T.U. run, bombs slap on the runway, no flak, no searchlights and the whole thing was 'a piece of cake'. He had in fact been to the wrong aerodrome, Crotone, which we had pranged on the 15th. where the defences stayed silent in order not to attract attention. - an old Italian custom -. The reason for the accuracy of the searchlights was a layer of cloud at 10,000 feet, a full moon and clear visibility. We were silhouetted against the cloud even without the searchlights.

Two nights later Sgt. Whitehouse, this time officially and with the rest of us, went again to CROTONE. We were all very tired and I found it difficult to keep awake. Visibility was 15 miles with a nearly full moon and on the way out for long periods we actually enjoyed the visible company of other Wimpies. On arrival at CROTONE we were surprised to see fires already started and spent a good five minutes in ensuring that it was indeed the target, Two bombing runs were made, at 3000 feet and 1500 feet, dropping nine 250 pounders each time. The bombs were seen bursting among aircraft on the ground, some of which were already ablaze. 400 yards from the burning aircraft was a small wood which had obviously been hit and was burning merrily. My diary records "from the ground it would have seemed like Nov. 5th.
Rockets were going up and verries by the score.
Someone had pranged a pyrotechnic store."

We made a third run at 200 feet and spent some 1500 rounds at the aircraft on the ground. Other gunners did the same. We were amazed to find everything so easy, and no opposition as far as we know, our raid on the 15th. should have given them a good idea of what to expect. There were no dummy fires and still they make no effort to disperse aircraft. The absence of fighters was strange; even day-fighters would have been very effective under those conditions. One crew reserved an odd bomb for the village south of the arodrome [sic] . It had a 36 hour delay and landed in the centre of the village. Not a very nice thing to do, and an act certainly not in accordance with our leaflets. Sgt. Pax Smith the intrepid Kiwi was on the last trip of his tour and elected to hit a railway bridge near the coast. It also had a' 36 hour delay fuse and missed the bridge by 50 yards. The British army was not at all happy with Smithy's effort, they planned to use the bridge within a week or two and were going to some considerable trouble to make sure the enemy


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didn't blow it up. They hadn’t counted on Smithy, but fortunately he wasn't quite up to scratch an that last trip.

One night off and then back try the 'Big City" , the capital of Italia, not to be confused with the really big one, the Capital city of Deutchland, with which there was absolutely no comparison. It was over two months since we had been to Rome, and it was still supposed to be an 'Open, undefended City'. Our specific target was PRACTICA DI MERE, an aerodrome just to the southwest of Rome. The Groupy had made it very clear at briefing, that nothing must be dropped on Rome itself. The target would be marked by flares positioned by W/O Coulson of 142 Squadron. We had no target map but the the [sic] aerodrome was plotted on the map of Central Italy - probably half million scale -. As we were passing the island of Maratimo, Chad was in the second dickie seat, map in hand and decided to get a clearer view of Maratimo by opening the sliding window at his side. The map disappeared out of the window, but with Allan's D. R. navigation we reached the target as Coulson's flares went down. Target marking at that stage of the war in Italy was in its infancy and was carried out with flares designed for lighting up the ground. These were very different from the coloured Target Indicators used to such great effect over Germany. Bombing was not particularly accurate, but well clear of Rome itself, where there was plenty of light flak and searchlight activity which exploded the myth about an undefended city. This activity extended down the Tiber to the Lido di Roma, where the Radio Station was still operating. The Vatican was blacked out very effectively

On the 25th. we started 8 days leave, taking an aircraft back to Blida for an engine change and major inspection. We took advantage of the stores at Blida and were issued with new uniforms, shoes and anything we wanted, just a matter of signing for it, it was two years before the system caught up with me and I was debited with the cost.

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[bearer document in English and arabic]

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The first three days were spent in Algiers with Harry Dyson at the Hotel Radio Grand but the inactivity - or something - was too much for Harry so we returned to Blida, only to find the rest of our party had adjourned to the rest camp at Surcouf. I spent most of my time in the next few days in Blida, partly with a French-Arab family Iloupcuse Moka Mourice Bijoutier, at 11 Rue Goly, Blida. 30 years later I was able to find the area but no-one recognised either the name or the address. Like most places, Blida had changed a lot in the intervening years. I remembered it as an almost typical French village, beautifully clean, tables and chairs outside the cafes, and a very pleasant atmosphere. After 20 years or so of independence it was a very different story, and I thought a rather sad one. I made several excursions into Algiers where the Yanks had become very well organised. They had-taken over and re-organised six cinemas, all with continuous shows for about 12 hours per day, and open house to Service personnel. I visited all six. The N.C.O.'s Club in Rue d'Isley was our base camp in Algiers, where we enjoyed endless cups of tea and cakes. The Malcolm Club, exclusive to R.A.F. personnel provided a good hot meat each evening. It was on this leave that I visited the local Match Factory at Caussemille, being an ardent Philumenist - collector of matchbox labels-. The factory was at that time owned and operated by the French and I was given a conducted tour of the factory. Most of the labels presented to me at the factory are in my collection to this day. My next visit to the factory was 37 years later, when I met with a very cool reception. The French had gone long ago, only their name remained. In that area of Algiers, all the street names were written on the street signs in Arabic except one, Caussemille. This was the name of an old French or Belgian family of match manufacturers possibly difficult to translate into Arabic. I met several of the chaps from the Rhodesia training days, one had joined Coastal Command and was detached from 'U.K. to Maison Blanche on White Wimpies. It had taken him six months to complete 100 hours and he was rather gloomy about the next four hundred to complete his tour. He was in fact rather nervous, his job being mine-sweeping; I asked him "what height do you fly at?" He replied that `it was a two-dimensional job, no such thing as height'. Causing magnetic mines to blow up by flying over them at very low level could not have been very pleasant. Maison Blanche is now known as El Beda, the International airport of Algeria, not so well organised as it was in 1943, and not half so busy! Blida aerodrome is the Headquarters of the Algerian Air Force and is a prohibited area to foreigners.

At the end of our 8 days in comparitive [sic] civilisation, we were glad to collect our newly serviced Wimpey and return to Kairouan. I was immediately recruited to fly with Sgt. Stone to MARINA DI PAOLA. We stooged over northern Sicily is daylight and very close to Trapani our old favourite which had been severely bashed about. During the invasion it was subjected also to heavy Naval shelling. Being with a different crew perhaps made things more interesting, seeing how they reacted to various aspects, and I thought they had a rather strange and formal appoach [sic] . We did not see our bombs burst and our photoflash failed to go off. There was none of the usual binding we experienced with our own crew, everyone was pleasant, courteous and cheerful. At debriefing Group Captain Powell said "Good Show chaps, I expect you are glad to get onto ops at last, and that's the first one done". I was speechless but thinking about their next 44, maybe they were also. I can see "Speedy Powell" very clearly making


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that statement, a memory revived recently in the film "Target for Tonight" in which he was the Flight Lieutenant taking the briefing; the same very distinctive and distinguished voice.

On the night of the 4th., the crew not feeling particularly refreshed after its leave, our target was BATTAPAGLIA. It was daylight almost to the Italian Coast and we arrived with 20 minutes to spare, circling the target area. 'Bang on time we dropped the flares, but there were no bright lights'. The twenty minutes of sight-seeing had upset the routine and the flares were dropped on 'safe', and therefore failed to go off. We still had two flares so went down to 3000 feet and dropped the bombs through 9/10ths cloud using individual flares. 90 seconds after bombing, Stan identified the target 4 miles ahead. We had neither bombs nor flares left, and were depressed at putting up such a rotten show on what turned out to be the last trip of our tour. We could have done a spot of straffing below cloud, but instead called it a day.

The following night we waved the boys off to MASINA, and we felt rather sad that we were no longer operational. Sqdn. Ldr Garrad and crew were also no longer operational, having failed to return from MASINA. Someone suggested staying and doing another tour, but Dyson thought the idea was "stupid" - like most other ideas - and with deep regrets we said cheerio to our friends on 150 and 142 Squadrons, and climbed in the back of a lorry bound for Tunis. Pax Smith and Mickey Mortimer and crews were with us and we sat back and enjoyed the scenery, some taking pot-shots at nothing in particular with their revolvers. We had in fact lots of unofficial ammunition of 9mm. calibre, captured from the enemy. This fitted nicely into our .38 Smith & Wessons and differed from the .38 ammo. only in that it had no ejection flange at the end of the cartridge. This had the effect that we could use captured enemy ammo. but they could not use ours because of the flange.

We arrived at no. 2BPD in Tunis just in time for dinner and a cold shower, the first shower for about nine months. During our week or so in the Transit Camp, we had a sort of parade each morning and then were free for the day. It was on one of these parades that our Skipper's name was called to approach the C.O. "Sir, 416170". With no prior warning, the citation was read out and he was presented with the D.F.M. Next it was the turn of Mickey Mortimer to march up and also receive a D.F.M. I seem to recall that he did a somersault before saluting in front of the C.O., or was it a back somersault after receiving the award? either of which today seems quite incredible. Pax Smith had already received a D.F.M for his earlier exploits. My one other recollection of the Transit Camp was an old Italian Water Tanker which was used as a static water tank. It held 10,000 gallons of water and must have weighed over 53 tons when full. All 24 wheels were firmly embedded in the sand up to their axles. It was when we departed from Tunis by lorry for Algiers that one of the Canadian officers decided to hitch-hike back to U.K. and to rejoin the party at the Reception Centre. I learned later that he flew first to Algiers with the R.A.F. and then flew to U.K. with the Yanks. He was an old hand at that sort of thing, having hitch-hiked from Blida to New York and back with a colleague in less than a week.

Meanwhile the rest of us travelled the 500 miles to Algiers by lorry along the coast road, and after a few days in the transit camp boarded a troopship, the Capetown Castle, a passenger liner of the Castle line. We were accommodated in 4-berth cabins with full peace-time fascilities [sic] .

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each cabin was allocated one Italian P.O.W. who slept outside the door, and attended to the cleaning, dhobi etc. We were not impressed by the Italians as fighting men, but had no complaints of their ability and willingness in the job they were then doing. It was a very comfortable voyage and we lived it up in a manner to which we were certainly not accustomed.

After a very pleasant and restful 10 days or so we disembarked at Greenoch and I recollect forming up on the key [sic] prior to joining a train for Liverpool and West Kirby. A rather pompous redcapped Military Policeman called us to attention, right turn, at the double, march! It was more astonishment than lack of discipline which caused everyone to stay put. He was told to get his knees brown and get a few other things too, and we walked to the train, deliberately out of step. Our first steps back in England were certainly not going to be at the double ordered by Red Caps.

This was my fourth visit to West Kirby, where we were rekitted, saying cheerio to our Khaki battledress and tropical kit, documents checked, medical exam. and then disembarkation leave. It was at West Kirby that our Crew was really disbanded, very sad after working as a team for so long, but another phase of our careers was completed.

Of the Crew? Stan Chadderton was commissioned on his second tour and we have met several times in the past 40 years, but I have no news of the Skipper and the rest of the crew. Stan met the Skipper, then a Flight Lieutenant at Brise [sic] Norton at the end of the war on his return from a German P.O.W. camp. We can only hope he returned safely to New Zealand and was able to return in the farm. Allan Willoughby is thought to have ended the war as a Squadron Leader.

My association with the Wimpy was not yet over, however, it was still in use in large numbers in the U.K. for operational training, and was to remain so until the end of the war. More "Wimpys" were built than any other operational. bomber.


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[document from C-in-C]

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[photograph] [underlined] WITH THE SKIPPER & BOMB AIMER – SECOND HONEYMOON SEPT. 1943 [/underlined]

[photograph] [photograph]
[underlined] AT OUR CHALET AT BLIDA [/underlined]

[underlined] OUR 150 SQDN. SKIPPER SGT. STAN RUTHERFORD 416170 RNZAF [/underlined] [underlined] A WIMPEY AT BLIDA [/underlined]


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[warrant officer parchment]


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[underlined] Screened [/underlined] .

September 1943 saw me at 84 O.T.U. Desborough, a Flight Sgt. with 43 ops under my belt, and that wonderful feeling of being ex-operational. For the next six months or so I was to be a "Course Shepherd", responsible for 12 Air Gunners. Desborough was a typical Operational Training Unit where, in the main, newly-trained aircrew were introduced to operational aircraft and the techniques of dealing with the opposition which was by no means limited to the Germans. There were three courses running simultaneously which gave ample scope to the Captains in making one of their most important decisions, that of selecting their crews.

For the first two weeks or so the training comprised mainly lectures and familiarisation with equipment. Air Gunners were generally able to make an early start with the flying where even on circuits and bumps an extra pair of eyes was to advantage.

The Course Shepherd ensured the smooth-running of the Air-Gunners training. There were specialist instructors for lectures on subjects such as guns, turrets and tactics, but the C.S. supervised their flying aspects and work on the range, in detail.

I particularly enjoyed the Fighter Affiliation sessions, where trainee gunners would take over the rear turret whilst being attacked by one or two Miles Masters or any other "Playmate" who could be cajoled officially to co-operate.

I would stand at the astrodome guiding the gunner with the timing of his advice and instructions to the Pilot. The standard evasive action (referred to later in 5 Group as "Combat Manouvre [sic] ") was the corkscrew, well known to, and anticipated by, the enemy, I might add that until I arrived at 84 OTU I had never even heard of the corkscrew. During the OTU excercises [sic] the fighter pilots were generally sporting enough not to press home their attacks with too much determination, but to allow the bomber sometimes to 'escape', thus giving the rear gunners - or some of them-- the false impression that they actually stood some chance of survival.

I felt quite at home in the "Wimpy" and encouraged the pilot to throw the aircraft around, and make the corkscrews rather more violent to simulate a real attack, where a quick getaway was the only solution to survival. For fighter affiliation excercises [sic] , the turret was equipped with an 8mm. Camera Gun, fitted in place of one of the four .303 Browning machine guns, the remaining three Brownings being de-armed. Each gunner plugged-in his own personal film cassette, and results were assessed the following day in the cinema.

Air firing excercises [sic] were supervised, where the speed of the Wellington was reduced, and a Miles Master would overtake about 3 or 400 yards abeam, towing a drogue. The gunner would be authorised to fire when the towing aircraft was outside his field of fire. He would then fire off about 200 rounds from each gun (five 2-second bursts), at the drogue. It was more than likely that air firing during his initial training had been carried out using a single gun not mounted in a turret. Air to ground firing was limited to a single exercise on a range near the coast, there being little scope for this type of work for heavy bombers over Deutchland.

Not very popular with the coming of Winter weather were the exercises at the firing butts or range. Six trainees would each be given a rear turret, together with four belts each of 200 rounds. He would


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mount the guns and fit the ammunition belts. Take-off procedure with safety catches 'on', then firing a few short bursts, landing procedure, clear the guns, etc. . Generally a few faulty rounds were deliberately built-in to create gun stoppages which the trainee had to clear. Finally he removed the guns from the turret and stripped and cleaned them ready for the next trainee.

All this took about three hours and it was on one of these sessions that unpleasantness developed with one of the trainees. Of the 12 Air Gunners in my little flock, eleven were Sergeants and one was an Acting Pilot Officer on probation. Like the others, his previous flying experience was limited to about 8 hours, and he had not yet been within 10 miles of an operational aircraft. He had been top of his course at Gunnery School and granted a Commission. I found that one of the Sergeants had fitted the guns in the turret and armed them with the belts of ammunition for him whilst I was busy with the others. He had managed to fire-off the rounds, and eventually, with some assistance the guns were removed. He flatly refused to clean the guns, claiming that it was an inappropriate task for an officer. I put it to him that although on a squadron the guns would be lovingly cared for by the armourers, he must still be fully au-fait with every aspect of guns and gunnery. He firmly refused to touch the guns and soil his hands and I told him that unless he gets on with it, we should be late for lunch. Four of the sgts. each took a gun and cleaned them. Some very cryptic comments were made by the Sergeants and I told the Ag. P. O. he was foolish. Later that day, to my absolute astonishment, I was marched in front of the C.O. and charged on a form 252 with insubordination. I was advised that an N.C.O. does not give orders to officers and I replied with something to the effect that I was the instructor and the officer the pupil, giving orders was an essential part of the job. Nevertheless, I was severely reprimanded. I had on several occasions applied for a posting back to operations, and the following day the Station W.O. told me my request had been granted and I was going to a squadron at Norton, near Sheffield in Yorkshire. Which squadron and with what type of aircraft was unimportant. I had never heard of Norton, bit hush-hush they had said. I should have realised that something was amiss, I was not being posted, but only detached. On arrival at Norton I found I was on an Aircrew Refresher Course which I was slow to realise was a correction or discipline course, a form of punishment. There were about 150 aircrew at Norton, from Flt/Lts to Sgts, almost all operational or ex-operational. At least I was among friends.

The day started with a call at 0600, on parade at 0630 , march to breakfast and an inspection at 0730 with greatcoats, followed almost immediately by a further inspection without greatcoats. This was followed until 1800 by sessions of drill, P.T. and lectures, with a break for lunch. Drill was just ordinary uninspiring square -bashing, wearing aircrew-issue shoes, and not boots. The instructor, said to be an L.A.C. Ag-Sgt. shouted commands and abuse, and was indeed very smart and probably efficient at his job, but utterly ignorant and useless off the barrack square. There was no rifle drill, and requests to introduce it were rejected. It was too easy for us to obtain .303 ammunition. P. T. was equally uninspiring and great emphasis was placed on recording improvement in performance as the training progressed. Lectures were farcical and covered most aircrew subjects, including navigation, gunnery, bombing techniques, target marking, etc. etc. There was not a

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flying badge among the instructors and obviously none had any flying experience in any capacity. No-one could possibly take the lectures seriously and there must have been some hair-raising answers in the written tests. The main problem was that at the slightest provocation one could be put on C.O.'s report. This was not a formal charge - which would have been on record - but an interview with the C.O. which would generally wind-up with an award of an extra 3 weeks at Sheffield. My policy was to keep my head down, or in modern parlance, to maintain a low profile. I generally managed to be near the back of the classroom and in the rear ranks on the drill square trying to be invisible. We were allowed out of camp after 1900, with an inspection at the gate, but lights out was at 2200, not allowing much scope. Most evenings were spent in the mess comparing notes and discussing our "crimes"; the instructors were conspicuous by their absence. I recall no-one admitting to flying or taxiing accidents, or misdemeanours whilst flying. Most of the reasons seem to have been absence without leave probably through boredom-, saying the wrong thing in an off-guarded moment or making someone more senior look silly. There was no connection between Norton and aircrew who were alledgedly [sic] L.M.F. or those who were reluctant to fly. Rather than charge a man formally with an offence, the easy way out was to send him on a "refresher course" with no reference to alleged crime or punishment. Operational aircrew discipline is often quoted as having been unique. All jobs were carried out with the same degree of dexterity, and responsibilities in the air within a trade were the same irrespective of rank. The Pilot was the Head Man, whether Squadron Leader or Sergeant. In the air, there were no formalities. The Pilot was 'Skipper' and no-one called anyone 'Sir'. This was generally so on the ground within the confines of the crew, but if it was a non-crew matter or there were V.I.P.'s about, a low-level type of formality might be introduced. Neither was there time for formality in the air where an attack may start and finish - one way or another - in seconds or less. On sighting a fighter at 300 yards a Rear Gunner in a film picked up a microphone and was beard to say "I say Skipper, I think we are being followed". A Guardsman might come up with "Permission to speak Sir", but life's not like that in the air.

Nearing the end of the 3-week course at Sheffield came the farcical final exams. I sailed through everything except P.T. where we were required to run 100 yards in 14 seconds. I was feeling fitter than I had for many years, but that 100 yards took me 17 seconds. Not good enough, try again. The second attempt took 19 seconds and the third attempt 24. I was told that "we would keep doing it all bloody night until I achieved it in 14 seconds". I merely said there was no point in attempting the impossible and I refused to carry out an unlawful order. So for me it was C.O.'s report next day. The C.O. said it was within his power to grant me an indefinite extension to the length of my course. I realised that to argue was probably futile and I recall being contradictory by saying something to the effect that "I have nothing to say except to remind everyone there is a real war going an out there and the sooner some of us get on with it the better". I don't know why I said it or thought what it might achieve, but I was easily provoked. I was awarded an extra 3 weeks at Sheffield, and was very surprised next morning when I was issued with a railway warrant to leave that morning with the others on my "course". I was convinced this was a mistake and succeeded in remaining invisible until I was well clear of Sheffield.


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Most of us felt the invasion of Europe was imminent and we had discussed our plans in the mess within earshot of the 'instructors'. When the balloon goes up, we return to base regardless of the opposition on the grounds that it was our duty to escape from captivity. In retrospect this was not entirely logical thinking but it might have influenced the C.O., I don't know. As far as I know there was no mass exodus and I have no idea how or when R.A.F. Norton was finally closed down. Suffice to say that it was a disgrace and an insult to aircrew, it would have been far more British to charge a man if he had allegedly done something wrong rather than take this easy way out. In general, training and lectures were taken very seriously by air crew and it could be claimed that the type and standard of lectures at Norton were in fact dangerous. Most of us realised it was just a load of absolute rubbish and did not take it seriously, and we had learned long ago to assess the value of the spoken word relative to the background and qualifications of the speaker.

The question of L.M.F. is an even more deplorable but entirely separate subject. Books have been written about it and it became a highly controversial issue. There were indeed some chaps who took such a bashing they felt they had had enough and to continue would increase the risk to the aircraft and crew or even crews. Most other operational aircrew have no less respect for them for admitting it and asking to be excused. L.M.F. and R.A.F. Norton were totally unconnected.

However, feeling very fit physically, and mentally ready to deal with the Ag. P. O. who knew all about the form 252 but couldn't strip even a Browning gun, I returned to 84 O.T.U. Desborough. A written request for an interview with the C.O. was given to the S.W.O. within minutes of arrival. I saw the Gunnery Leader and learned that I was to resume charge of the same course but less the sprog officer who was last seen on his way to Eastchurch as L.M.F and unsuitable for operations. I found later that he had been reduced to the ranks. It seems the other instructors had given him a very hard time all round, and particularly with combat manouvres where he was sick every time he flew. It was just not done to issue 252's but his chances of survival were improved. The C.O. agreed later that a mistake had been made and on paper my case had been reconsidered and the severe rep. withdrawn. Sheffield could not be undone and would have to be written off to experience, but he would see if he could hasten my promotion to W.O. and a posting to a real squadron.

At this time, the O.T.U. instructors were all crewed up and ready to back up the operational squadrons if necessary. Many of us were getting restless seeing a great increase in ground activity to the south and southeast. Lots of real aircraft, Lancasters, Halifaxes, Mosquitoes, Gliders etc. etc. and our status with the Wimpies as ex operational did little for our ego, making us feel like the 'has beens' we really were.

At about 0200 on the 6th. June, now a Warrant Officer, I was Orderly Officer and asleep in the duty room. The Duty Officer, a Ft/Lt. was flat out in the other bunk. A message was delivered marked "Top Secret" and I awakened the Duty Officer. He told me to open it. The message caused his to open a sealed envelope from his pocket and his exact words were "Christ, it’s started". 'It' was "Operation Overlord". Within a minute the Tannoy was blaring "All Duty Flight personnel to their flights immediately" 'All sreened aircrews to the Briefing Room


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at 0500," and so on. There followed a day of intense activity; air tests, bombing up, briefing, changing the bomb load, rebriefing, and the job of Orderly Officer went completely by the board.

In July, the great moment arrived, and our complete second tour crew of five was posted to Aircrew Pool at Scampton en route ultimately to a 5 Group Squadron.

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[underlined] SCAMPTON [/underlined]
For Wellingtons we were indeed a complete crew, but we were not destined for Wellingtons, but Lancasters, and we needed either a Navigator or Bomb-aimer and another Gunner. Our Pilot and Observer had already completed tours on Blenheims and were good material for Mosquitos. They said cheerio on our third day at Scampton and were posted to a Mosquito Conversion Unit. The remaining three of us had ceased to exist as a crew and had become “odd bods”. We began to feel like members of staff but eventually we went our individual ways. Indeed I was put in charge of the Night Vision Centre for two months, until I met a pilot who was a Flight Lieutenant with a tunic that had obviously seen some service, and he had over 3,000 flying hours to his credit. With him was a Flying Officer Observer plus DFM, obviously clued up and who looked the academic type, a cheerful Flying Officer Bomb aimer and a Pilot Officer Rear Gunner. Four clued-up characters forming the nucleus of a gen crew. Somehow or other I became their other gunner and we were joined by a second tour F/Sgt Wireless operator and a Sgt. Flight Engineer ex fitter. A few days later we were posted to Winthorpe to 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit and settled into a course on Stirlings, flying together for the first time as a crew.

Familiarisation with a four-engined aircraft was the main purpose of the course; important to the skipper F/Lt. Chester who had been a Flying Instructor on Tiger Moths in Canada for a long time. He was about 8 years older than the rest of us and we were happy with his rather more mature approach to the job. The Flight Engineer, Sgt. Hampson, whom we called Doogan for no apparent reason, had flown on Liberators over Burma and nothing seemed to worry him unduly. F/O Pete Cheale was successful on two or three practice bombing sessions, and to F/O Ted Foster DFM it was all just routine stuff. F/Sgt. Frank Eaglestone’s radio was the same as on his previous tour, the good old R1155 and T1154 (still in service in 1960). The Rear Gunner was P/O Harvey who nattered endlessly about a chunk of flack [sic] still embedded somewhere about his person, and his first tour in general. He knew it all, or thought he did, but it soon became apparent that his experience was very limited and he had yet to do his first trip against the enemy. Because of this I insisted that he should have the mid-upper turret, and as Senior gunner, pulling a negative seniority in rank, I would take over the rear turret. He didn’t like that at all, and he left the crew. What became of him I don’t know, but Flt/Sgt Foolkes appeared from somewhere and took his place. Pete was one to take everything in his stride and was welcome to either turret. He preferred the mid-upper, possibly finding it more comfortable, being much taller than the average rear gunner. As for me, one rear turret was very much like another, the same Frazer Nash FN120 we had used on the later Marks of Wellington. A few mod cons perhaps, such as Hot air central heating in the turret. I recall that when we touched down on the runway at Winthorpe, the rear turret was still over the graveyard on the other side of the main road.

Whilst at Winthorpe, I found that 150, my old squadron, was about 20 miles away at Hemswell. I paid them a visit, but their only real link with the 150 of North Africa was the squadron number. 150 Squadron had been disbanded in Algiers though it’s final station was Foggia in Italy. I left


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it at Kairouan just before the move to Italy. Later it was re-formed with Lancasters and in theory had been in action since the beginning of the war, having been at the forefront with Fairey Battles in 1939-40 in France.

After about three weeks of routine and not very demanding training we graduated to the “Lanc” Finishing School” at Syerston. There we converted to Lancasters with about 14 hours flying, circuits and bumps, the odd practice bombing exercises, fighter affiliation and a Bullseye over London, co-operating with searchlights. Just what the Londoners down below thought of this aerial activity without an air raid warning was probably misconstrued. We were still in one piece, feeling fit, very confident and ready to join a squadron.

Our next move was to Bardney, near Lincoln, about 160 bods, and judging by their ranks and gongs, a rather experienced bunch, mostly second tour types. Bardney was the home of 617 and 9 Squadrons, rumours were rife of course. Were we obvious replacements for 617, where prestige was high and directly proportionate to the losses, - the highest in the Command? Our luck held, we were to become a new squadron, 227, just an ordinary Lancaster Squadron to enhance the might of 5 Group. It transpired that we were to become “A” Flight, and the Skipper was promoted to Squadron Leader. Meanwhile “B” Flight was forming at Strubby.

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[underlined] 227 SQUADRON [/underlined]

The first op. by aircraft of the newly-formed 227 Squadron was on the 11th. of October 1944 and most of us at Bardney were not even aware of it. Only three aircraft of "B" Flight, forming up at Strubby, were involved, a short early afternoon trip to FLUSHING. Three nights later "A" Flight provided three aircraft and "B" Flight four aircraft on a more typical raid by 240 aircraft of 5 Group on BRUNSWICK. The Squadron was beginning to take shape and on the 17th., two aircraft of "B" Flight joined 47 others on a short excursion to breach the dyke at WESTKAPELL. Two nights later was a 5 Group effort to NUREMBURG, with "A" and "B" Flights providing seven and five aircraft respectively. This fourth raid by 227 aircraft was only "A' Flight's second involvement, the aircraft and crews really becoming attached for this purpose to 9 Squadron.

On the 21st. October we were transferred to Balderton, at the side of the A1 near Newark and joined the crews of "B" flight.

Our Skipper had been promoted to Sqdn/Ldr. in command of "A" Flight, and was very such absorbed in getting his half of the squadron organised and operational, with little time left for actual flying. Our crew was kept busy in their respective sections, particularly Navigation, Bombing and Wireless, but there was not a great deal to be done in the Gunnery office: The Gunnery Leader was Flt/Lt. Maxted who occupied a small office in a sectioned-off Nissen hut. It was barely furnished with a desk and a few chairs; posters on the wall amplifying the vital issues and a notice board. The state of readiness of each aircraft and gunner was displayed with a record of daily inspections completed. The D.I. 's were an important part of the routine, and the gunners generally took part in the air tests prior to bombing up.

Our first mission as a crew was to Bergen in Norway. It was also a personal first trip for the Skipper, Bomb aimer and Flight Engineer. It was my 46th. op. but also my first in the mighty Lancaster. The Navigator, Wireless op. and Mid-upper gunner were all veterans having carried out their first tours on Lancs.

Our flight out over the North Sea which used to be called the German Ocean by some was uneventful, and Bergen was approached from the east at 10,000 feet. With the target ahead and in sight to those in the front office, all was quiet except for engine noise through someones [sic] microphone which had been left switched on. Peace was shattered by an almighty bang and shudder, confirming we had been hit, and the nose of the aircaft [sic] went down. I was forced against the left side of the turret unable to move, and found later the speed had built-up to over 370 mph. The Skipper was shouting for assistance. Ace the Navigator somehow managed to crawl forward a few feet and found Doogan with his head in the observation blister admiring the view of Bergen above. The Skipper had both feet on the dash trying to pull the aircraft out of the dive. The only control Ace could reach was the trimming wheel on the right of the Skipper's seat and he turned this to make the aircraft tail heavy. The nose came up and so did the target. The Flight Engineer added his contribution by exclaiming "Coo, i'n' [sic] it wizard". That was his opinion, but we were heading straight up the fiord and Ace brought this to the attention of the Skipper very smartly. Our height was down to 1500 feet and Ace and the Skipper somehow managed to turn the aircraft through 180


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degrees without hitting either the sea or the hills. Still tail heavy, we gradually climbed away to the west, and for the first time I saw the target, dead astern, always a welcome sight, and I set about sorting myself out from the intercom. leads, electrical heating cable, oxygen pipe and also checking that the turret doors would still open. Silence was broken about 100 miles from Bergen by our brash young Canadian Bomb Aimer, Pete Chiele, "Skipper, we still have the bombs-aboard". I think It-was Ace, who pulled the jettison toggle. At least my turret seemed intact and I took the opportunity of the lull in the drama of opening the turret door with my elbows, leaning backwards into the fuselage and making sure I could reach my parachute pack. Then a quick reversal and I was again "on the job” after a break of less than ten seconds. On the Wimpey and Lanc. the Rear Gunner had a choice of exits, either through the rear escape hatch inside the fuselage, or direct from the rear turret. I was well rehearsed in the latter method, first to rotate the turret dead astern, using the manually operated handle if there was no hydaulic [sic] pressure, then to open the sliding doors. These never failed to open on practice sessions, but an axe was provided inside the turret just in case. Then to remove the parachute pack from its housing and drag it carefully into the turret, placing it above the control column. Off with the helmet complete with oxygen mask, intercom, 24 volt supply and associated pipes and cables and also the electrical heating cable connector. The parachute pack was then clipped on, the turret rotated onto either beam, lean backwards and push with the feet. The alternative exit gave one more room to manouvre [sic] , but the escape hatch itself was rather narrow for a Rear Gunner wearing his full flying kit, particularly the 1944 version of "Canary suit", so-called because of its colour. There was also the phsychological [sic] aspect of deliberately entering an aircraft which was probably on fire. On the Wellington Mk1C with an FN20 turret and only two guns, there was provision to stow the 'chute pack inside the turret. Also the doors were hinged, opening outwards and they could be jettisoned. Although I mentioned being well rehearsed, drill was carried out with the aircraft stationary and upright, not quite the same as in an anticipated emergency bale-out. My only excuse for claiming the checking of my 'chute as practice was that I felt I should be doing something more useful than just sitting there, whilst there seemed to be so much happening up front. There was even more drama unfolding, the Wireless op. had passed a coded message to the Navigator instructing us to divert to Holme on Spalding Moor in Yorkshire, but only the W/op was issued with the code-sheet of the day. The Skipper did not receive the message in plain language until we were in R/T contact with Balderton, which was closed due to thick fog or very low cloud. However, the Navigator knew our exact location and there was fuel in the tanks. Eventually we re-joined the tail-end of the gaggle and landed at Holme. I recall spending the rest of the night on the floor in the lounge of the Sgts. Mess. The following morning we took a walk around the hangars and Doogan chatted with some ground crews who were changing an engine on a Halifax. He actually told then they were not going about it properly and their reaction was quite startling and informative.

Our second trip as a crew was two days later, to WALCHEREN in daylight. This was more reminiscent of our raids from North Africa except that 110 aircraft, including 8 Mosquitoes, took part. From North Africa our "Maximum Effort" had been two squadrons, a total of 26 aircraft, which

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seemed a lot at the time!. 12 aircraft from 227 took part, each having its own specific target, ours being a gun battery which was already completely submerged in water when we arrived. Just ahead several aircaft [sic] were bombing the sea wall and the Skipper decided to back them up, bombing from 3500 feet. The wall was breached and the sea poured through, but our bombs were all fused for delayed action which would not have amused the natives. In fact too much damage was done which, according to a story in Readers Digest, took over six months to repair. However, the main object was to silence the German artillary [sic] and this was achieved. This particular trip had been our introduction to the "formation" known as the "5 Group Gaggle". Pilots were not very practiced at Straight and level flying, it had been seldom recommended, and it seemed to me as a Rear gunner that everyone weaved along in the same direction, taking great pains to stay as far away as possible from other aircraft, but remaining in the stream.

Two days later Ches. and Co. joined 16 other crews from 227 on an afternoon excusion [sic] to an oil plant at HOMBURG. The ground was mostly obscured by cloud and visibility at 17,000 feet was poor, about three miles. Approaching the target a Lancaster in front of us was hit by flak and one engine was on fire. The aircraft passed below us and the fire was extinguished, but its no. 2 engine was stopped. It remained just behind us until we were over the target. The target was marked by 8 Mosquitoes of 8 Group, but marking was scattered over a wide area and out of the 228 Lancasters only 159 bombed. Results were poor, a recce. next day showed that most of the bombs had hit the industrial and residential areas. One Lancaster was lost, due to flak.

The following night 15 aircraft of 227 joined a total force of 992 aircraft on DUSSELDORF. Our Skipper flew as Second Dickie to F/L Kilgour, and the rest of us kicked our heels. This was the last heavy raid on Dusseldorf by Bomber Command, and 18 aircraft were lost. F/O Croskell and crew failed to return, our first 227 Sqdn casualties, but news was received shortly afterward they were safe in Allied hands. They were operational with the squadron again in Feb.

On the 11th. of November, we surprisingly found ourselves on the Battle Order for an evening raid on the Rhenania-Ossag oil refinery at HARBURG, close to the battered Hamburg. This was a 5 Group effort with 237 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitoes. 7 Lancasters were lost, including 9J"S" with F/O Hooper and crew. F/O Bates' crew reported that "oil tanks were seen to explode at 1924 hrs". but German records make no reference to the oil tanks, only that 119 people were killed and 5205 others were bombed out. Flak was not intense and the bombing appeared to be mainly on target. There were fighters about but the return journey was uneventful for us. Once again we were beaten by the fog at Balderton, and as our new F.I.D.O. was not yet operational, we were diverted to Catfoss. The night was spent in the chairs in the Sgts. Mess, but the officers among us were luckier to find beds.

For most of the following four weeks we were without either a Skipper or a Navigator. The Skipper was detached "on a course" and then spent a couple of weeks on a Summary of Evidence. Ace the Navigator was detached to Newmarket racecourse to clue up on some new equipment or technique. For three days I was detatched [sic] to Waddington as a Witnessing Officer at a Court Martial, which I found depressing. It seemed that at Waddington there had been an old car which was used by anyone who could find some petrol to run it. It was the property of an unlucky aircrew


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member who failed to return one night. The car was very useful, but whilst having neither licence nor insurance it was eventually involved in a serious accident, and the R.A.F. took over where the civilian court left off.

0n the 6th. December I had a letter of complaint from my mother, enclosing a newspaper cutting from the Barnoldswick & Earby Pioneer, showing a photo of me and referring to my award of a D.F.C. Why had I not told her? I don't think she ever believed me when I claimed that her letter was the first I knew of it. On Dec. 11th., with Ace still at Newmarket, we became 'Dambusters' - of a sort - for the day. Bomber Command Diary states " "233 Lancasters of 5 Group and 5 Mosquitoes of 8 Group took part. Hits were scored on the dam but no breach was made. 1 Lancaster lost". The squadron diary reflects a successful sortie, in that direct hits on the dam wall were observed, but the 1000 lb. bombs were too small for the purpose. My own recollection of the raid was quite different. We were stooging along just above cloud in company with scores of other Lancasters when the others were seen to be doing a 180 degree turn. Within seconds the sky within my range of vision was empty and in all directions no-one could see another aircraft. The mid-upper and I advised the Skipper that we were now unaccompanied and for 20 minutes we tried to impress upon him that we were extremely vulneruble [sic] (or words to that effect). We were just a few hundred feet above and silhouetted against a layer of stratus and I asked him to fly just inside the cloud, or at least just to skim the tops, but he replied that it was too dangerous, too much risk of collision. The mid-upper gunner agreed, collision from Gerry fighters. Vocabulary worsened and finally the Skipper realised we were 40 minutes and over 200 miles from the rest of the gaggle, we turned round. It has been suggested that as Flight Commander he must display a press-on attitude, and we were all in favour of this, but there was no-one around to impress and it was pretty obvious to the gunners that either Frank had missed a diversion message or we were in the wrong gaggle. Bomber Command Diary disproves the latter, but there is still uncertainty in my mind about that particular operation. Both Pete in the mid-upper turret and I realised that if we were attacked by fighters the Skipper would not take the slightest notice of our requests or advice. We were not disputing that the Skipper was in charge and the one who makes the decissions [sic] , but in our situation he had no choice other than to take advantage of the cloud. We regarded this as an expression of no confidence in the gunners, and we made it very clear to him both then and later that it was no way to finish a tour.

It was 10 days before we flew again, our 6th. trip with 227 embarking on their 22nd. trip as a squadron. The target was the synthetic oil plant at POLITZ, in the Baltic. 207 Lancasters and 1 Mosquito were detailed, including 13 Lancasters of 227. Two from 227 experienced mechanical failure and aborted soon after take-off. This was a long stooge, and 3 Lancasters were lost, plus a further 5 which crash-landed in England. The raid was successful, the main chimneys having collapsed and other parts of the refinery being severely damaged. On return to eastern England we were again unable to land at Base due to weather, and were diverted to Milltown, in Scotland. Fuel gauges were reading zero or less when a weary Ches. and crew finally landed after a trip lasting 10 hrs. and 15 minutes. F/O Croker in 9J"K" wound up at Wick, in Morayshire, his aircraft being so badly shot-up it was declared

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a write-off. The following morning we flew to Wick to join F/O Croker and crew and give then a lift back to Balderton. Among others, there was a Met. Flight at Wick, equipped with B17s, Flying Fortresses. It was their job to climb to a great height, making Met. observations, and some of their trips exceeded 12 hours duration. I recall the armourers at Wick cleaned and polished our three turrets and 8 Browning guns without being asked, and making a very good job of it too. Everyone was provided with beds, and it seems the officers were so comfortable the Skipper decided to stay at Wick over Christmas. The town of Wick was "dry', no pubs, but among the N.C.O's, this made no difference, we had no money with us. Normally on a diversion we didn't need any money, but for a several day stop-over it was embarassing [sic] to be absolutely without. We would like to have taken our turn in paying for the drinks is the Mess. I seem to recall trying to obtain an advance from Pay accounts without success, accompanied by the other two W/Os in our crew. I was reminded of one incident at Wick by Ace, our Navigator; We were not like most other crews, sticking together as a crew. The Commissioned officers kept to themselves, the three Warrant Officers maintained their own little triangle, and Doogan prefered [sic] his own company despite the W/O's efforts to get him to join us. It seems that one night at Wick we carried him and his bed outside and he awoke next morning in the middle of the parade ground which was covered is snow. I have no personal recollection of this, but there it is in black and white in Ace's book, 'Just Another Flying Arsehole'. We returned to Balderton on the 27th., with 14 of us aboard, and did not see the ground until we actually touched down. For the first time we landed with the assistance of FIDO, which was probably very scary for the pilot. In the rear turret I just got an impression of landing in the middle of a fire.

The following night we missed a trip to OSLO, our squadron providing only 5 of the force of 67 Lancasters. On the afternoon of the 30th. we were briefed for an evening take-off to HOUFFALIZE, a total force of 154 Lancasters and 12 Mosquitoes. German Panzers had broken through the American lines in a desperate attempt to thwart the Allied advance, in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. The weather gave the Germans the advantage, low cloud and thick fog prevented the 2nd. Tactical Air Force from playing its part to the full. With almost 100% Allied air superiority in the area, Typhoons and other fighters operating on a cab-rank principle responding in seconds to detailed requests from the chaps below, Gerry was learning what it was like to be at the receiving end of the slaughter he started is 1939. But not for that few days at the end of 1944 in the Fallaise gap. The close proximity of Allied troops called for great accuracy in bombing and straffing [sic] , and this was not possible in the prevailing conditions. Because of the bad weather in the target area, take-off was postponed every few hours but we were eventually relieved to get airborne about 0230. Conditions over the target were quite impossible and the flares dropped into the murk below probably caused hearts on both sides to miss a few beats. Some crews did bomb, but Chas. quite rightly felt it was too risky. We had not been briefed for any secondary target so our bombs wound up in the Wash. Finally, we landed at about 0830 after 24 hours of effort of one sort or another. Nothing really achieved, but at least we had tried.

It was about this time that my father visited the Squadron for a few days. He was a Captain in the R.A.S.C. recently returned from East


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Africa and awaiting release on medical grounds. He was very impressed with what he saw but we could not obtain authority for him to actually fly with us. On the Sunday morning he watched our parade and later mentioned that as the W/O called out names, one Ft/Sgt responded to at least five of them. Also that some were in best blues, some in battledress, one or two with greatcoats and one even with a raincape. Two were actually standing on parade with bicycles ready to shoot off somewhere immediately after the parade. His thoughts at the time were how can such an undisciplined lot perform any serious task. Later that morning sitting in the Gunnery Office, gunners came in with more of a wave than a salute, a brief word from them and I would put a tick on the board against their aircraft. I explained to my father that this was their way of reporting that their turrets and guns had received and passed the daily inspection. After lunch in the mess he noticed a great deal of activity and movement, and a clear but quiet sense of urgency. He asked what was happening and I showed him the Battle Order.

The following day he said how wrong was his first impression. Everyone had a job to do, they know what was required of them and they got as with it without any shouting of orders or people stamping around. I was Duty Gunnery Leader that night, as was my lot quite often over that period, and was able to show my father what made a squadron tick. He thoroughly enjoyed his stay, but I don't think he met the Skipper. In fact I don't think we saw anything of our Skipper during the whole month of January, by the end of which 227 had completed 33 ops. "A” Flight Commander's crew had totted up only 7 as a crew and some of us were not at all happy with this performance. On the 2nd. Feb. F/O Bates was short of a Rear Gunner and I could have kissed him when he asked me to deputise for WO Bowman. This was an experienced and popular crew who had already completed 14 trips of their second tour. Bowman was in fact the only one outside our crew I had known a year ago. We had carried out our first tours together on 150 Sqdn. Wellingtons, and he was the only other 227 bod with an Africa Star. I cannot recollect why he was not available that night. Our target was KARLSRUHE, a 5 Group effort of 250 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitoes, of which 19 were from 227. Cloud up to 15000 feet and the consequent difficulty in marking caused the raid to be a failure. 14 Lancasters were lost, including 9J"D" with F/O Geddes and crew. The total effort of Bomber Command that night was 1252 sorties. Targets included Wiesbaden's only large raid of the war, and Wanne-Eickel, neither attack was regarded as a success. Very little was achieved that night for a loss of 21 aircraft.

On the night of the 7th. Feb., F/O Bates was airborne again with 11 others from Balderton in a total force of 188 aircraft, to the Dortmund-Ems Canal. All 227 Sqdn. a/c returned safely, but 3 were lost in all. I was not with him this time although W/O Bowman was not available. After about 5 hours sleep the Battle Order for the coming night showed 18 crews from 227 sqdn., including F/O Bates, with F/O Watson as Rear Gunner. It felt great to be doing something useful. The weather en route was clear and there were still fighters about, largely responsible for the loss of 12 Lancasters, but the bombing was extremely accurate. According to Speer, the German armaments minister, the oil refinery was kaput for the reminder of the war and a big setback to the German war effort. All 227 sqdn aircraft returned safely, one, F/O Edge's 9J"B" having aborted with problems on 2 engines and landed safely at a farm in Norfolk. It was in fact F/O Bates’ 18th. and final trip on

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227 sqdn., a very satisfactory finish. It was a satisfying night too for 'our own' Navigator, Ted Foster who flew as a 'spare Bod' Navigator with F//Lt [sic] Pond. On the 14th. Feb., 6 weeks into what surely must be the final year in the war against Germany, we were no doubt startled to see our Skipper and crew on the Battle Order. A 5 Group effort, the target was ROSITZ oil refinery near Leipsig [sic] , a force of 232 Lancasters and Mosquitoes, including 12 from Balderton. Our aircraft was 9J"H" and a couple of hours or so after take-off the Skipper found he could not come to terms with his magnetic compass, the performance of which was erratic. An hour or so later the Giro compass also started to play up and fortunately the Skipper did accept the advice of the Navigator and turned back, navigating solely on "Gee" back to base. It was not possible to carry-on navigating to the target on "Gee", we would have [inserted] 14/2/45 Rositz [/inserted] been out of range long before the target was reached. 9J"G" skippered by F/O Tate had engine trouble just after take-off and returned on three engines. We were the second aircraft to abort on that trip. There were some ribald comments next day when the Instrument Section reported there was nothing wrong with either compass. The comments were not facetious however, no-one would seriously accuse either the Skipper or an experienced Navigator like Ace of pulling a fast one. Both I am quite sure would have preferred to take part in the destruction of Rositz This was in fact the Skipper's final trip, although we did not realise it at the time and still regarded his as our Skipper for the next two months.

The record shows that in the following four weeks Ace did three spare bod trips whilst the rest of the crew passed the time somehow. The spell was broken for me when F/Lt Hodson asked me to take over his rear turret on the 14th. of March. Ace had already done his last bombing raid although he too might not have realised it at the time. His grand finale, quite fitting was a daylight 1000 plus Bomber raid on DORTMUND on the 12th. of March, as Wing Commander Millington's Navigator. It was also to be the Wingco's final trip before swapping his duralumin pilot's seat with a little steel armour plating at his back, for I think a wooden one in the House of Commons where his back was probably just as vulnerable.

Our target was another oil refinery, at LUTZKENDORF, a typical 5 Group effort of 244 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitoes, 15 of the former being from Balderton. We enjoyed the company of F/O Howard as 2nd. Pilot. In fact five aircraft from 227 Sqdn. carried 'Second Dickies' that night. Out of a total of 18 aircraft lost, two were from 227 Sqdn., both with Second pilots. It was feared by many that carrying a Second Pilot increased the risk, but I did not share this concern. The Second Pilot it is true would take the place of the Flight Engineer who would either stand between the two pilots or sit on the dickie-seat. Some drills had to be slightly modified for the occasion, but I would have thought the presence of an extra bod would tend to put the others more on their toes. The crew I was with were on their 18th. trip and had been with the Squadron from the outset. Nothing untoward happened to us, there was the usual flack and searchlights, maybe fighters but one saw none. Bombing seemed reasonable well concentrated and photo-reconnaissance next day showed that 'moderate damage' was caused.

On the 7th. of April the squadron completed its transfer to Strubby, and was detailed for action the same night. I was favoured to fly once more with F/Lt Hodson and crew, LEIPZIG again, this time to the


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Benzol plant at MOLBIS. 13 Lancasters of 227 joined 162 others and 11 Mosquitoes, all from 5 Group. The weather was good, bombing accurate, and the oil plant put completely out of action. No aircraft were lost and the raid was considered a 100% success.

After a few hours sleep we were briefed for an attack on LUTZKENDORF, the same target as on the 14th. March. It had been attacked the previous night by 272 aircraft from 1 and 8 Groups who caused only moderate damage. I was detailed to fly with W/O Clements and crew who were on the 5th. trip of their first tour, in 9J"Q". On take-off the starboard outer engine failed and Ace who waved us off said he saw the aircraft sink to within a few feet of the ground; but that few feet made all the difference and the Skipper was able to gain height gradually until it was safe to jettisson [sic] the bombs in the sea. The trip was aborted and a safe landing made at Strubby. Subsequent inspection showed a fuel leak from no.2 port tank and oil leaks from the two outer engines. 242 aircraft were on this raid, and 6 were lost, but another oil refinery was put out of action for the rest of the war. The 19 aircraft put up by 227 all returned safely and were diverted to the west because of weather.

Two nights later, on the 10th. I was again with W/O Clements, to the Wahren Railway yards at LEIPSIG. The force of 230 aircraft comprised 134 Lancasters, 90 Halifaxes, and 6 Mosquitoes, of which 1 Lancaster and 1 Halifax failed to return. Immediately prior to take off I had trouble with the turret sliding doors, they wouldn't close, but I rotated the turret onto the port beam as was general practice for take-off with the doors open. This was spotted from the ground and the Skipper was told on R/T soon after we were airborne. I had to get out of the turret and through the bulkhead door to fix them, but finally managed to get then to slide. If I had failed to fix then nothing would have made me admit it, it would just have been a little draughty. The trip went very well, the marking was accurate and the bombing concentrated. Some flak and plenty of fighter flares about but we saw no fighters. It was a quiet return trip and all 227 aircraft returned safely.

That was my last trip and also the last for W/O Clements and crew. It was the 57th. involvement by 227 Squadron which was to carry out 4 more bombing raids, terminating with BERCHTESGADEN itself, on the 25th. of April. The war in Europe was virtually over, but our impression was that 5 Group was to form the nucleus of Tiger Force to help finish the job in the Far East and we would be a part of it. It was with these thoughts that I went on leave on the 26th. April, a spare bod without a pilot, but still expecting to fly again with the squadron..

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[photograph] [photograph]


[photograph] [photograph]



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[photograph] F/O. TED FOSTER D.F.M.


[photograph] [photograph]


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[photograph] CLIFF’S OFFICE


[photograph] OUTSIDE OUR DES. RES.


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[newspaper cutting of D.F.C. award] [photograph]



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[photograph] [underlined] TED (ACE NAV) FOSTER D.F.M. BALDERTON NOV 44 [/underlined]

[photograph] [underlined] RUNNING UP ON HOMBERG 1/11/44 AT LUNCHTIME [indecipherable word] [/underlined]


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[photograph] [underlined] F/O. BATES [/underlined]

[photograph] [underlined] F/O BATES W/O JENNERY (NAV) SGT. WESTON (FLT. ENG) [/underlined]

FEB 45


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[DFC citation]


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[letter from HM George VI]


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[Sgt Mess Wick Christmas Menus 1944]



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[inside of christmas card]



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[letter of introduction to airfield manager in Iran]


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[photograph of 9J-O]

[photograph of 9J-O]


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[christmas card]



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[typewritten letter]

[underlined] PART OF F/L CROKER’S LETTER WITH XMAS 1990 CARD [/underlined]


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[location map for 1994 reunion]

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[underlined] FINAL LEG [/underlined]

Recollections of events in my final 15 months in the R.A.F. are reasonably clear but somewhat hazy of detail and of the order in which they took place.
I was still with the Squadron on VE Day, the 5th. April, on leave in London with Hilda. I recall going up to Leicester Square by tube train with my father, Alice and Hilda to join the celebrations and actually walking back the five miles to Lavender Hill in the early hours. This would explain why I had no knowledge of the Victory Parade at Strubby until I was shown a photograph of it many years later. I was on leave again in London in early August when the Americans dropped the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and suddenly the war was over. I was still in uniform and had to await my turn for demob.

I have no recollection of attending a Reselection Board when I was made redundant from flying, nor of actually leaving the Squadron. I think my first posting after the Squadron was to Gravely, as a Squadron adjutant. I had always thought that the Squadron was 106, but according to the Bomber Command War Diaries 106 was never at Gravely [sic] !. There is no mistaking the actual station, however, it is only 4 miles from my present home and parts of it are still recogniseable [sic] . I was astonished to find many years later that 227 Sqdn had transferred to Graveley about the 8th. of June and was disbanded there on the 5th. of September. I was there for about 6 weeks during which time we closed the Sargeants’ [sic] Mess and did a very little paper-work. We had neither aircrews nor aircraft, it was just a matter of holding office and very little else!. I probably spent most of it on leave.
I then became a Photographic Officer u/t and did a very interesting course at Farnborough which lasted 8 weeks. One of the instructors was a Sgt. Peter Clark, a leading Saville Row fashion photographer before the war and Hilda’s first employer. I went on leave yet again and was eventually told to report to 61 M.U. at Handforth in Cheshire as a u/t Equipment Officer. I duly reported to the Station Adjutant at Handforth feeling very much out of place. Of the hundreds of service types around only the ex-Air-Crew were in battle dress, the others were either in best blues or dungarees. I had always thought that battledress was the working uniform of the R.A.F., but it was not so at Handforth. I felt more as if I was in the Luftwaffe. The Station Adj. took me to see the Chief Equipment Officer, who was a Wing Commander and this feeling became even stronger. I reported formally and the C.E.O. said “And what the hell are you supposed to be?”. Those were his exact words and I did really wonder whether we were in the same air force. I replied that “I am here as a u/t equipment officer Sir”. “MM what’s your trade?” “Rear Gunner” – without waiting for the ‘Sir’, he exploded and almost shouted “That’s not a trade, it’s General Duties”. He was technically right but raising his voice unduly went on to add “You are supposed to be able to sit here and do my job, you’d feel a bloody fool doing my job, wouldn’t you!”. Fascinated by the smirk on his face and hypnotised by the Defence medal on his breast I just stood there in disbelief at this outburst and quietly laughed. “Well?” He wanted an answer and I said in a rather light vane “Yes Sir I would, but less of a bloody fool than some would have felt doing my job for the last three years”. That was it, he stood up and said “Right, come”. We went along the corridor and straight in to see the Station Commander, a Group Captain. The WingCo[sic] was very agitated and without preamble


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told the Groupie of my ‘gross insubordination’. He recited the dialogue in accurate detail and the Group Captain asked for my account. I agreed with the C.E.O.’s account but said that I was provoked, there was no reason for his outburst and I grinned only because I didn’t think he was being serious. Invited to comment the WingCo said he had been affronted by my being improperly dressed. I made no further comment and the Groupy told the WingCo that he would deal with the matter. The WingCo saluted and left, and I thought I was for the chop. The Group Captain sported R.F.C. wings and had obviously seen his share of action. He stood up and extended his right hand in friendship. “Sorry old chap, I didn’t get your name, do sit down”. I was back in the R.A.F. He asked “Where were you in Africa?” Not an idle question, followed by “Did you know Group Captain Powell?” Yes Sir, he was our Base Commander of 142 and 150 Squadrons, Speedy Powell of “F” for Freddie”. Speedy had been the Briefing officer in the film ‘Target for Tonight’. I mentioned some of his exploits and finally his loss, and the Group Captain was distressed. He told me that like the other 12 ex-Air Crew on the station, I was a square peg in a round hole, but to make the best of it and to go back to see him if I had a problem. In the mess that evening I met the others and soon found we were all on duty every day and every night. u/t Orderly Officer, then Orderly Officer, and through the whole range of Asst. Duty Officer, Duty Officer, Fire Picket, in-line Fire picket, Cyphers, Security, etc. etc. Only the ex Air-Crew Officers performed these tasks and after two weeks of this we agreed something must be done. One period of 24 hours I was Duty Cyphers Officer. This was just a title, there was neither Cyphers Section nor Intellegence[sic] Section and I found that for almost all the duties we were allocated there were no instructions. Several of us individually addressed the Station Adjutant in writing and one even enquired whether he should draw-up his own set of procedures for inclusion in Station Standing Orders. For reasons that could only have been sour grapes, there was a measure of ill-feeling between the ‘permanent’ equipment and Admin officers, and the air-crew types. Many of the former had spent the entire war at places like Handforth, and there is no doubt they did a vital job, and maybe were still doing it. In our case, the war for us was over, and after our experiences of the last few years there was a limit to the amount of being messed around that we were willing to accept. We discussed having fire drills with real fires and creating a few incidents for practice, but finally we drew lots and two of us applied through the C.E.O. to see the Group Captain. The C.E.O. refused permission so we made our request through the Station Adjutant. This was approved and we told the C.O. what was happening, we were being “imposed” upon from a great height. He called in the Station Adj. and told him that all Air Crew Officers would go on indefinite leave the following day. He told the two of us to ensure that all application forms were with the Station Adj. by 3 pm. And for me, it was straight to Whitehaven, in battledress.

I had applied for release from the Service under “Class B”, having an immediate job to take up which would in itself create work for 5 other ex-Servicemen. Hilda was in fact holding the fort in Whitehaven, and nothing came of the application.

It was about four months before I was recalled to Handforth, and immediately detached to no. 7 Site at Poynton to take over as Equipment Officer i/c and also as Officer i/c. the Prison Camp. There was an Equipment W/O running the Stores with about 200 Airmen and I agreed with him that it could

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stay that way. The Stores comprised 8 massive hangars full of equipment. I regarded my main job as O.C. the Stalag with its 1000 P.O.W.’s (750 Italian and 250 German) and my staff of 15 Air Crew N.C.O.s who had all been kriegsgefangener themselves. The Senior German prisoner was a Warrant Officer who spoke excellent English having studied it for 5 years in prison camps. Most of the prisoners, including the Italians, had been taken in the Western Desert. The Germans were very smart indeed, in contrast to the Italians, and the two axis partners had as little to do with each other as they could arrange. Gangs of prisoners were guarded by some of the 200 Airmen, supervised by ex-AirCrew NCO.s. The prisoners were not interested in escape, there would have been no point, but I put an immediate stop to their sneaking out of camp at night to try their luck. The German and Italian messes were separate from each other and staffed by R.A.F. cooks. The Germans asked if they could do their own cooking and I agreed but with nominal supervision of two airmen in case we had visitors. I made the same arrangement for the Italians but initially they refused. I appointed one of the Corporal Majors as Senior Iti [sic] and made him responsible. I threatened to fully-integrate them with the Germans if there was any nonsense, and with that some of them nearly burst into tears. They were a lazy shower. I had the Officers’ Mess all to myself, but that’s another story. It was a very cosy three months, with most long week-ends spent in Whitehaven where Hilda had taken-over the Relay system. It was also a tremendous anti-climax to the previous five years.

Eventually when the magic number 26 came up, I reported to R.A.F. Uxbridge for demob. and collected my pin-striped suit and a cardboard box to put it in. I realised then that my career in the R.A.F. was initially over. Straight to Whitehaven by train, still in battledress.

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[underlined] FIRST TOUR TARGETS [/underlined]

[table of targets and bomb loads]


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[table of targets and bomb loads continued]

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[underlined] 2nd TOUR [/underlined] [underlined] 227 SQUADRON [/underlined]

[table of targets and bomb loads with additions]

[underlined] 227 SQUADRON [/underlined]

After flying Beaufighters from Malta the Squadron folded in August 1944. The new Squadron was formed in 5 Group on 7/10/1944. Flying Lancasters from Bardney, Balderton and Strubby. Flew 815 sorties and lost 15 aircraft (1.8%) in 61 raids. 2 were also destroyed in crashes.


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[underlined] Back to Civvy Street [/underlined]

By early 1946 the great transition from War to Peace was taking place and many of us were gradually realising that we could now plan some years ahead with a very good possibility of surviving to carry them out. Of my colleagues at Metropolitan Relays, only Reg. Weller had paid with his life, having been killed in action in Italy, with the army. Allan Cutbush had been taken prisoner at Tobruk and spent some time in a prison camp in Italy. Eventually he escaped and spent a couple of years as an Italian farm worker. Soon after the invasion at Anzio he rejoined the Allies and had the greatest difficulty in convincing them that he really was a Private in the Royal Signals. Alan was first to be demobbed and rejoined the firm as manager of a newly aquired [sic] group of branches in the Mansfield and Retford areas. George Holah had left in 1939 to join the army, and spent the next six years in India, returning as a Major in the Indian army complete with an Anglo-Indian wife and family. George did not return to Relays, but joined the Metropolitan Police, and in 1975 was a Clerk in the Central Registry at New Scotland Yard. How he managed to transfer from being a private in the British army to a Commissioned Officer in the Indian army I don’t know, assuming it actually happened. I have not met George since 1939.

In June 1945, my father, Mrs. Kilham and Mr. Moulton bought privately another run-down radio relay system, West Cumberland Relay Services, Ltd., in Whitehaven, and I was invited to develop it. Although Germany had capitulated, the war was not yet over. Japan might have seemed a long way off but was still our Enemy and the job had to be finished. Meanwhile Hilda moved to Whitehaven and set-up home in the flat above the shop at 49 Lowther Street. Colin was then 9 months old and it was a further year before I was demobbed, but during that period I seemed to have spent most of my time in Whitehaven. Hilda kept the Relay ticking over, with very limited assistance from the staff, until March 1946 when I was given indefinite leave on compassionate grounds.

The relay was well and truly run down, with about 400 subscribers each paying 1/3d per week for two radio programmes. It was losing money fast, the entire network needed rewiring and the amplifiers and other equipment were just about a write-off. I had with me the name-plate from my office door at Poynton. One of the German prisoners had made it for me, a notice which proclaimed in Gothic characters

Obr. Lnt. Cliff. Watson D.F.C.,

I put this on my new office door, but drew a line through the bottom line.

Sorting out a fault on a 100 watt amplifier, I asked the engineer, Joe, for a soldering iron, and he said he never used one but preferred the special solder in a tube, which he handed to me. In that single sentence he had proved to me that his technical knowledge was just about zero. I demonstrated the solder’s futility by proving that it was not even an electrical conductor. Consequently all the equipment was full of dry joints and I spent a whole night in soldering connections. The stuff Joe was using out of a tube was for repairing small holes in pans and kettles. I was very disappointed in Joe, his technical


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knowledge was effectively less than zero. The next weekend he claimed to have worked all day Sunday clearing a line fault. He had deliberately caused this fault on the previous morning and I traced and corrected it myself within an hour of his doing so. He had shorted out two wires on our own roof and on Monday morning went straight onto the roof to remove the short. I was there waiting for him and sacked him on the spot for sabotage and dishonesty.

I thus took over the technical side but also looked closely at the system of collecting and keeping records of accounts and customers. The only record of payments was in the collector’s field book and there was no record of where the customers or relay installations actually were. I spent a week with the collector who was very reluctant to assist, and Hilda and I drew up a set of records and established a working system. In the next two weeks I found so many fiddles and had proof of so much skulduggery that I sacked the collector without notice. I found installations where the user claimed to have made one outright payment to the collector who had pocketed the money, a hundred or so loudspeakers recorded as being “on loan” which had in fact been paid for and all manner of other private arrangements. The collector was easily replaced, and Mr. Fee joined us. I was fortunate too in meeting Bert Wise, ex Royal Navy P.O. Telegraphist who had been on Submarines, and who took over the technical aspect including the outside lines. Bill Campbell, ex Royal Army Service Corps driver/mechanic was very quickly trained on installations and line work, assisted by John Milburn, a school leaver. John had a very broad Cumbrian accent and initially I found communication difficult, “As gan yam nar marra” meant “I am going home now chum”. I felt I ought to be replying in French or something other than English.

Bill Campbell’s first job was to take the train to London and bring back a vehicle. It was a new Hudson NAAFI wagon completely fitted out by Met. Relays and full of cable, bracket insulators etc. My first act was to buy a set of maps covering the area to a scale of 1:10,000, and display it on the wall. The idea was that if we could establish exactly where we were we stood a better chance of knowing where we were going. A basic plan for the overhead lines was derived and we worked as a team, stripping out old wiring, checking and replacing where necessary, and keeping a record of installations connected. When an installation was serviced and documentation complete we fitted a capacitor in the loudspeaker for technical reasons and a new programme selector switch. The capacitors were to prove very useful later. The service we had to offer at that time was poor, and although it was gradually improving, we were spending far too much time on fault-finding, diverting us from the main program. Within a month it was very clear that our top priority was to rewire and re-equip. I managed to convince the London Office of this and they sent me a team of 3 wiremen from London, led by Dennis Horton who was inherited as a foreman at Mansfield, complete with two Dodge trucks and tons of installation materials. For four months this team concentrated on rewiring for four programmes, gradually reducing and finally almost eliminating the line faults.

The receivers and amplifiers were at Harras Moor in a cottage, but this was at the end of a two mile line, too far from our main load. We ran a 6-pair cable the whole distance and used these as 600 ohm lines, to feed five 1 KW amplifiers at Lowther Street. A bank of 6 AR88 receivers was installed at Harras Moor and two “straight sets” on loop antennas for the BBC Home and Light programmes. In town we had 210v. DC mains and had to fit rotary

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invertors. We also installed a 9KVA petrol/paraffin engine-driven alternator for use during power cuts, which were all too frequent. I could never understand how the grid system could sustain power through seven winters of wartime industrial production and as soon as the war was over we had to live with power cuts. Harras Moor was providing us with four good radio channels, Home, Light and Third BBC, Radio Eirein, Luxembourg, Paris, New York and others from around the world. We were getting organised and I was able to concentrate on sales, keeping our own gang of three busy on new installations. Within two years we had 2,200 installations, including the two Music Halls, cinemas, and all the factories. In addition we were doing more than 90% of all the Public Address work in Cumberland, some of which were quite memorable. At Grasmere Sports the events included a Fell Race and the first year we gave a running commentary over our P.A. system. The runners were out of sight near the top of the fell, so for the following year we applied to the Post Office for permission to use an H/F radio link to cover the gap. This was refused, “you will have to apply for a telephone”! The following year Bert Wise and John Milburn climbed the fell with an Aldis Lamp and battery, and established themselves where they could see the runners at the top and the ‘ops room’ on the showground. I too had an Aldis lamp and Bert flashed me the numbers of the runners as they reached the top of the fell. This delighted the spectators but completely upset the bookies who alone had the complete information in previous years.

The Post Office were also upset, claiming they had a monopoly on signalling, but declining to put it to test in court. I suggested that to try and licence boy scouts to signal in morse code with torches was ludicrous. I enjoyed the atmosphere of these events and went to quite some lengths to obtain the appropriate marshal music. At a Conservative Party fete one particular rather rousing piece was played several times and I was asked by a retired General why the Hell I kept playing the Red Army March Past.!!

A month after taking over, Hilda and I went for a walk - with the pram - to Hensingham, about three miles inland, and I was surprised to see Relay wires between chimneys and lots of downleads. I had not expected to find another system so close and I checked at some of the houses, asking who provided the system! I was told it was owned by a builder called Leslie but it hadn’t worked for several years. Leslie was the fellow from whom the company had bought West Cumberland Relays, and on checking with him I found it was part of the ‘system’ we had taken over. Further search showed a line of poles stretching for about two miles across the fields which had originally linked the village to the lines in Whitehaven. It also showed that a whole area of Hensingham had no electricity, ideal for relay. There was already a big housing estate and this was being extended, and I decided there was adequate potential in the village, but to replace the trunk route to it would be too expensive. We compromised by obtaining four modified 50 watt Vortexion Amplifiers and four receivers from London. Fred Wright brought them by road in his small van, the logo on the side of which was “Radio Trouble-shooting Service”. I did my very best to put up a case for keeping the van, to no avail. The next day we installed the equipment in an air-raid shelter at Hensingham, as a temporary measure, and immediately started connecting subscribers. Within a few weeks the wiring reached the side of the village where the lines from Whitehaven went across the fields, and we began to replace one pair all the way to link with Whitehaven. With this in operation on the third channel we were able to switch


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off one of the Hensingham amplifiers. Later all four programmes were fed from Whitehaven and the station in the air-raid shelter dismantled. The amplifiers were put to use at Whitehaven Hospital and the Workhouse. Both places were wired for 4 programme relay, but at the flick of a switch microphones could be switched in for announcements, and in the case of the latter, to broadcast concerts from the stage.

It was at Hensingham that I found a row of about 30 terraced houses, all without electricity and all wired with three twin cables of different sizes. This rather intrigued me and I enquired further. Most of the houses had battery driven wireless sets which used a 75 volt dry battery for H.T., a 2 volt accumulator for L.T. and a 9 volt grid bias battery, and in one case I found one of these sets without batteries but connected to the 3 pair cable. The old lady owner said it had not worked for several years. I quickly found the man who recharged the accumulators and he confirmed that the cables I had seen were once used for providing power supplies to radios. I think the system must have been quite unique. Shortly afterwards, the houses were connected to the relay system. My only regret is that I didn’t buy up those radios and store them for 50 years. As more and more installations were connected on the Woodhouse estate, the load on the five mile line gradually became too heavy with a corresponding reduction in line voltage and therefore volume. To overcome this we rented an air-raid shelter from the British Legion on the estate and fitted 4 amplifiers to take the load. These were fed from the incoming line itself, but for emergency use we also fitted receivers. Later the receivers came in useful for about three months during reconstruction of an area over which our main line had been fitted. One of the radio dealers found that we were using local receivers and that they were subject to radio interference from vacuum cleaners, so he had a sales drive in the immediate area of our receiving station with rental vacuum cleaners at 1/- per week. Reception gradually deteriorated but after three months of emergency operation our main line was again complete and the receivers switched off. Reception then was near perfect on our system and dreadful for the rest when the vacuum cleaners were being used. He had put a lot of time and money into trying to wreck our system, and had a double-fronted shop in Lowther Street, but I was sorry to see his shop with a bicycle in one window and a Bible in the other when I left Whitehaven..

On a new housing estate where 5 new houses were commissioned each week, we took a gamble and wired them all. When the first tenants moved in the loudspeaker was playing and the tenant’s radio problems were resolved. After 3 or 4 weeks I would go along and generally sign them up. Some of them of course compared it to their own ‘wireless’ if any, which could not possibly reach our standard of reproduction and reception. There are very few places in and around Whitehaven where we had not fitted microphones and radio, and after reaching near saturation in two years there was little scope for further development.

Whitehaven had been a very satisfying experience, but was marred by the Williams Pit disaster where 160 miners were trapped underground and lost their lives. John Milburn’s father was among them. It was traditional for the eldest son to take over where the Dad left off, and we were very sorry indeed to lose John. Hilda had run the office and “showroom” assisted later by Connie Sim from St. Bees. Bill Campbell was still our mainstay on the lines.

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I handed over to Bert Wise, still wearing his Navy P.O.’s hat, and moved to Wandsworth as Development Manager for Metropolitan Relays. A flat was available for us above the shop at 111 Garratt Lane, but on arrival we found it occupied by squatters. For several weeks we lived with Hilda’s parents until the squatters moved to the second floor and we took over the first floor. They were a decent couple in their forties, and had been desperate for accommodation. Our shop had been empty so they moved in, knowing that when an eviction order was issued by the court, they would be allocated a council house or flat. It was a short-cut to the top of the housing list, and the firm had to go through the motions of demanding court action. The ground floor was established as a showroom, even with T.V. in the window, an impressive amplifier room and an office with the same old sign on the door, Lager Commandant!

The original plan was to develop the area working outwards from Garrett Lane and to use the linesman from H.Q. at Lavender Hill, but there was line work to be done from the very outset and it was this part of the job which would be the limiting factor in our rate of progress. I insisted that we employed our own gang of wiremen. Bill Cutler was my wayleave expert, and having planned the main basic routes of our main lines, it was Bill’s job to find out who the landlords were and to obtain their formal permission to fit our wires on or over their property, generally between chimneys. The easiest way was first to sell the relay service to the tenants and their order was used as the reason for our request to fit the wires. We started to run four main lines, no.1 along Garrett Lane to link up with the Lavender Hill system at West Hill. No 2 made a beeline west along Garrett Lane to a Council-owned housing estate which at the time had no electricity. No 3 went due south to Southfields and along Merton Road, over the Redifon buildings and on to Putney, and No. 4 went north towards Wandsworth Common. Everyone on the staff except me, but including Bill Cutler and the linesmen was given five shillings commission for each new customer they signed up. The average wage at that time was £7 per week (in London) and there were few days when the gang did not hand in the paper-work and deposits for customers they had signed up and probably already installed in addition to the day’s work allocated to them. Quite often we would have thousands of leaflets distributed to houses in a particular area which was proving difficult but which they needed to cross.

At about this time, my father retired and went to East Africa, settling at Kirksbridge Farm, Kiminini, 10 miles west of Kitale on the Kakemega Road, and about 260 miles from Nairobi.. He sold his controlling interest in Metropolitan Relays to Seletar Industrial Holdings, Ltd. and their representative, Colonel Slaughter, took over as Chairman. Mr. Moulton became Director & General Manager and I was Development Manager with sufficient shares to qualify for a seat on the board. At the time T.V. was still in its infancy, though beginning to catch on, but the main background entertainment would be the wireless for some time to come. Transistors were still in the experimental stage and Radio Relay provided an alternative to cumbersome and relatively expensive valve radios, with near perfect and trouble-free reception. As Development Manager I made sure I was not bogged down with routine day to day running, and at the outset established a reliable Manager at Garrett Lane, Jack Thompson, whose knowledge of the business was gleaned entirely from Bill Cutler and myself with on-the-job training. Bill had been with Radio Relay since about


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1930, except for during the war when he was a technician in the R.A.F. on Link Trainers.

I was asked to have a look at Yeovil in Somerset and see whether it appeared suitable to establish a relay system, and if I felt it so justified, to spend some time there making a detailed study. I spent a week studying the layout of the town, types of housing, probabilities of future development, the people and their attitudes and in discussion with the Borough Surveyor and Town Clerk’s office staff. I realised that Colonel Slaughter had been a senior army officer and also a senior civil servant for a long time, and that my future relationship with him depended to a large extent on the impression he gained from my first formal report. I recommended that it was a border-line proposition and included a financial budget for 5 years. It would be three years before the system was breaking even and this was too long. The Capital required was too high unless the system was subsidised by another well-established branch. I felt we could find better places to apply our efforts. The Colonel decided to have a look for himself and I went with him to Somerset a week later. Alone, he met the Council officials concerned and one of them agreed to support our application if a relative of his was given a seat on the board of the new company!. I had known of that before the meeting but thought it better not to be involved, nor to include thoughts of that nature in my report. The Yeovil proposal was dropped and I turned my attention to Maryport.

Whilst Bert Wise was on holiday Bill Cutler and I went to Whitehaven for two weeks to relieve him and also to investigate Maryport.

I had known Maryport for some years and I already knew that it would be a goer from the outset. With lots of Council houses (no wayleave problems on them), a working type population, even with an element of communism. It had known major unemployment and soup kitchens and was still a little Bolshie.

We had many friends in the area and a good popular working system in Whitehaven as an example. In that two weeks I produced the same type of report as for Yeovil, but recommended we should go ahead immediately. We saw the Council Officials and agreed a draft agreement with them, found suitable accommodation for a shop in town and a receiving station just out of town to which we could run our own lines. Two weeks later I returned with the Colonel and together we met the Council Committee and completed formalities. From then on it was all systems go. Bill Cutler asked if he could get it organised and he did a very thorough job, using the labour and resources from Whitehaven. He stayed on as Manager and a few years later took-over Whitehaven also when Bert Wise ran-off with his secretary, Connie Sim.

Meanwhile Garratt Lane was running smoothly, and number 1 line had reached East Hill. In a junction box on the wall of a block of flats we had two four-pair cables, one from Lavender Hill, and the other from Garratt Lane, and on an experimental basis we linked the two together, isolating the line at Garratt Lane. We were thus able to monitor the Lavender Hill system in our Control Room, providing their service to our installations on the way. The Garratt Lane amplifiers were fed by Post Office line from Lavender Hill, and each amplifier could provide 1 kilowatt of audio power, sufficient for 3000 loudspeakers. Most of the loudspeakers were switched to no. 2 channel, the Light Programme, still referred to as the Forces programme by the majority. Channels 3 and 4 were very lightly loaded and we were able to switch off the Garratt Lane amplifiers on these channels for most of the time. At that time my family

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home was the flat above the showroom at Garratt Lane, and was guarded by Rex, a huge Great Dane/Alsation [sic] hybrid. Only Hilda and the children could handle it, presumably because they fed it regularly, but everyone else - including me - had to be very cautious.

Eventually it took a bite out of the Manager’s wife and was returned to Battersea Dogs’ Home.

I was spending more time at Garratt Lane where progress was losing momentum, and extending our no. 3 line over West Hill to East Putney was proving difficult. Near Putney Bridge, still a mile from our lines was a highly suitable area of small houses and it was going to take a year to reach them at our current speed. Without much fuss we established a station in the basement of a shop in the middle of this area, using 4 receivers built by Fred Wright’s dept. and 4 small 50 watt Vortexion amplifiers. This station was identical to the one fitted at Hensingham. We then had a sales drive in that part of Putney with the emphasis towards West Hill, and in 4 months were able to link the two systems.

I was interested to recall that for monitoring our four programmes we used a modified aircraft type automatic bomb release mechanism. This was a uniselector type of relay unit which clunked round and changed programme every 30 seconds instead of releasing bombs.

All my staff were ex-Servicemen and there was a dynamic no-nonsence [sic] approach. In contrast to this, our General Manager Allan Moulton based at Lavender Hill, had a stock answer to any serious proposal for action put to him, of “Wait a little while and see what happens”. My attitude was that we know what we want to happen and it wont unless we make it. He didn’t like my Lager Commandant notice on the door either but there it stayed. In 1948 the war was not forgotten by most of us and many satisfactory business deals were made in that spirit of comradeship and trust.

In Feb. 1949 I found that someone called Fry had studied Belfast on our firm’s behalf and had strongly recommended starting a relay service there. The report came to me quite by accident and at the same time I found he was surveying Bath, introducing himself as Development Manager in Relay Association circles. I tackled Colonel Slaughter about it and he said it was news to him, but he took it up with Moulton to whom Fry was reporting. I found that Moulton resented the fact that I was responsible direct to the Chairman, and also that my contract detailed my renumeration including commission which was the £1500 per year, 4 times the average wage. To clear the air we had a formal meeting and I put forward my prediction for future development. I forecast that within 2 or 3 years a general rundown of the system would be inevitable with the increase of television; further that it would be prudent to reduce expenditure on “wired wireless” and to develop the rental side of both radio and T.V., but to reconsider with Fred Wright - who was not at the meeting - the policy of manufacturing T.V. sets. My prediction became factual and was influenced also by transistor radios of which we had no knowledge at that time. There was 33% Purchase Tax on most things including T.V. sets. This was payable at the point of sale and not on rentals. As our sets were never sold but remained the property of Met. Radio & T.V. Rentals Ltd. no Purchase Tax was payable. This loophole was soon to be closed, as forecast, and tax was payable on the rental itself. It became cheaper to buy sets from the big manufactures than to actually make them.


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The Colonel remarked that as Development Manager I was really saying we should stop developing, and I agreed. This set the scene for further discussion well outside the intended scope of the meeting. The Chairman asked Moulton for his views on likely technological advances, but Moulton had none and said we can only try and stay afloat, seeking support from Fry. The Colonel shot down Moulton completely and asked Fry to detail his relevant qualifications. After a silence Moulton was told to study the content of my prediction and not to go off at a tangent on development nor without reference to him. Fry was sent packing and the meeting was closed. I learned quite a lot from Colonel Slaughter, he had spent a long time in the Royal Engineers and one of his attributes was building a flat-bottomed boat on the Nile, one of the biggest in service. His personality was such that when he looked up and down disapprovingly at an obvious ex-Serviceman leaning over a bar, the man immediately took his hand out of his pocket and squared himself up. I actually saw this happen in Maryport, he had that effect on people. (That was in 1948, it might not be the same over 40 years later).

No more was heard of Fry, and I never did join the Board, I was too busy getting on with the job, but it was time for reflection. I realised that when my father was Chairman he had the engineering and technical aspects at his fingertips and he took care of them. He was succeeded by the Colonel who was a business-man but who had no backing on the engineering side. My brief was the Development of the Radio Relay Systems, I regarded technological changes as a matter for the General Manager, Moulton, but I was not responsible to him.

I met the Colonel again privately and I said it seemed that I was Development Manager in a firm which was not going to develop any further. Although there was plenty of routine work to be done I felt the Electrical Trades Union would soon start making things very difficult as it was doing in the Post Office. In view of the probable technological changes, I felt that Colonel Slaughter would rather sell-out than try to steer a ship without a rudder. I was being rather outspoken but straightforward and the Colonel approved of this. I told him I would like to call it a day and try my luck in Africa, Kenya was said to be a land of opportunity. If that failed there was always a job in Bulawayo 2500 miles further south of the Cement Works with Mr. Rose.

The Colonel agreed I could leave when convenient but if I wanted to return within 6 months, to drop him a line. It was four years since the war in Europe had ended. Britain was changing and so was the attitude of many people some of who were very disillusioned. Hilda and I agreed it was time to make a move.

And so in July 1949 I went to Africa for the third time, but with Hilda and the two children, not knowing what sort of a career I was seeking, but nevertheless full of confidence, and still with my Lager Commandant board.

The following year, Colonel Slaughter retired and Seletar’s controlling interest in Metropolitan Relays was sold to British Relay Wireless which later became Vision-Hire. Within a further 12 years the wired-wireless or Relay industry in the U.K. closed, being overtaken by technology.

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[underlined] KENYA [/underlined]

The flight to Nairobi was a very pleasant trip by Argonaut, calling at Rome, Benina, - which we had known as Bengazi [sic] -, Cairo, Khartoum and Entebbe. On the last leg of the flight we flew very low at times, quite unofficially to give us our first views of big game from the air. The flight was very enjoyable, in very easy stages, and in retrospect the Argonaut was about the most comfortable aircraft we were to fly in, in our many subsequent flights to Africa. It was I think the first and only time we travelled in first class.

We were met in Nairobi by Duncan Fletcher, a friend of my fathers, and spent the night at Torr’s Hotel, in Delamere Avenue, the leading hotel at that time. The Stanley Hotel across the road was being refurbished to become the New Stanley, and within a few years Torr’s was closed and became the Ottaman [sic] Bank. I recall the strawberry and cream cake for tea at Torr’s for which it had been famous for many years. The following day we journeyed the 260 miles by bus to Kitale. This was a road we would take many times in the years to come. The first half was tarmac, 100 miles of which from the top of the Nairobi escarpment, through Naivasha to Nakuru, having been built by Italian prisoners of war. From the top of the escarpment there was a wonderful view of the Rift Valley and Mount Longenot [sic], an extinct volcano, and to the west over the plains towards Mau Forest and Kisumu. The bus took us down the escarpment, dropping about 2000 feet to the floor of the Rift Valley, passed the little Italian church built by P.O.W.’s, and northwards past Lake Elementita and Nakuru, then the rough murram road to Kitale. The journey took about 10 hours, but was far from tedius [sic], there was so much to be seen.

Kitale seemed like a typical american western type of small town, the roads were not made up and the sidewalks were made of wood. Many of the buildings were made of timber clad with mabati - corrugated iron - and most europeans wore khaki drill. We were met at the bus station by my father and completed the remaining 9 miles of our journey to our new home, Kirksbridge Farm, Kiminini where a guest house had been built for us, about 100 yards from the main house. Colin and Wendy, aged 6 and 4 were introduced to the Ayah, the african nurse, called Nadudu, who spoke only Swahili and her tribal language, Kitoshi, but within a matter of days was communicating without difficulty with the children. Nadudu had her own rondavel, a thatched roundhouse on the lawn at the side of the guest house, and took care of all the children’s needs.


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[underlined] Hoteli King George [/underlined]

Life on the farm had provided a welcome anticlimax to just about everything that had gone before, but it could hardly be a long-term solution for a young couple with a growing family. We did not appreciate at the time the serious effects of the political unrest and changes which were beginning to take place. We thought that common sense would prevail and most of us felt we had a good working relationship with the Africans; only a misguided few claimed to really understand them! Neither Hilda nor I felt we were achieving a great deal on the farm and we agreed it was time to look further afield.

In April 1950, after almost a year in Kitale, I responded to an advert in our national newspaper, the East African Standard, for Prison Officers. Salary £550 per year, uniform and furnished accomodation [sic] provided, generous leave etc. Military experience advantageous, with the rank of Asst. Supt. of Prisons. One pip! At least the job would get us to Nairobi where most of the action was, and we would have an opportunity to look around, but it was also to give me an insight into a very different and often sordid aspect of life. My application was successful. Our family, Hilda and myself, Colin and Wendy, with Paddy and Jeep our two Alsations all crowded into the Austin A70 and once again made the now familiar safari to Nairobi. 150 miles of murram road, through the Transnzoia, and the plains around Eldoret settled almost entirely by South Africans from the Union, winding around ravines to Mau Summit, up and over the 11,500 ft. mountains at Timbarua to Nakuru then 100 miles of luxurious tarmac through Naivasha with its flamingoes [sic] , passed Elementita an extinct volcano, up the escarpment to Nairobi. The tarmac road was built by Italian prisoners of war in W.W.2, the best stretch of road in East Africa. We also took with us Edward Ekeke, an African driver who had been with my father in Abbysinia [sic] during the war. Although a Kikuyu he was a trusted servant, and if left alone by the politicians and other agitators would have stayed loyal, but tribal and other pressures on chaps like Ekeke were great, and in retrospect it was foolish of us to trust them. Ekeke returned to Kitale with the Austin for more personal effects and re-joined us after a few days. I think he must have finally returned to the farm by 'taxi', as the african buses were called.

As it claimed in the advert., accomodation [sic] was provided. It could have been described as a three-bedroomed chalet, the walls and roof being of mabati (corrugated iron), and was built on stilts about a foot off the ground. We learned that is [sic] was originally built at the other side of the prison and had been carried to its current location by 200 prisoners. As far as I remember, we moved straight into the 'house', and roughed it until Hilda made it comfortable. There was a bathroom, but the loo was a 'thunderbox' at the end of the back garden with a bucket which a gang of prisoners dealt with about 5 am. every day. The kitchen was a Colonial type near the back door, with a wood stove, and an adequate supply of kuni (firewood) provided by more prisoners.

The prison was totally enclosed within a high stone wall, designed to hold 700 prisoners, but with a prison population of about 1900 Africans, 180 Asians, 20 Somalis and 12 Europeans. Quite separate was a small compound for the Wamawaki, (women), with about 20 African and 1 Asian inmate (in for murder but only men were eligible for hanging, so she was serving life). The whole 2000 or so were in the care of about 9 European officers and 200 African Askari. The


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Officer i/c was 'Major' Martin M.C., W.W.1 Veteran,as [sic] Snr. Supt., his number 2 was Henry Thacker with 3 pips as a Supt. Henry spoke fluent Kikuyu in addition to Swahili, and in fact had a Kikuyu 'wife'. He had been in the Prisons service for 36 years at that time and sported one medal ribbon, on his right breast. Legend had it that it was awarded by the Royal Humane Society after he saved a cat from drowning, but Henry was on a totally different wavelength to other Europeans. Sid Swan with 2 pips was i/c the stores and accounts, having spent the war in the Kings African Rifles, and having been demobbed as a Major. Other junior officers like myself included Bunty Lewis, rather effiminate [sic] but nevertheless an ex Royal Artillery officer who had a Kenya-born wife; Paddy McKinney, a large hairy ex Irish Guards Sergeant; Jimmie Vant, ex Kings African Rifles, the son of a Keswick lawyer turned Kenya farmer. Jimmie and his wife Dulcie regarded themselves as Kenya settlers and claimed to spend most of their time at the ranch on the Kinankop, hence their landrover vehicle. Another officer, Whitehouse who joined about the same time as me seemed to spend most of his time off sick and did not stay with us very long. There were three other officers whose names elude me but they were all ex-service, and all lived just outside the wall of the main prison.

The Duty Officers i/c worked a shift system, 0600 to 1800, assisted by a "day-duties" officer during more or less office hours. The Duty Officer was responsible for the day to day activity in the main prison. We were each armed with an enormous ancient revolver of 0.45 calibre and six rounds of ammo., issued by Mr. Thacker. I objected to the rounds of ammo., pointing out they were dum-dums, the bullets having been filed down to within 1/8" of the cartridge cases., and they contravened the Geneva convention. I remember Henry saying "there is nothing in the Prisons Ordinance about the Geneva Convention, and that's all that matters"! We were ordered in writing to wear the revolver in its holster at all times when on duty, and I thought of my four Brownings of long ago to deal with one enemy, compared to a ridiculous revolver in a compound with nearly 2000 potential enemies. It was in fact general practice, strictly unofficial, to carry the revolver but to leave the ammunition in the safe, and the prisoners knew this. I did carry a loaded Czech. .25 automatic in my pocket of which the prisoners were not aware. Some months after I joined, the Snr. Supt. inspected Paddy's revolver and put him on a charge for not carrying ammunition, "contrary to station standing order number something or other". Paddy was eventually charged before the Commissioner of Prisons and pleaded not guilty, asking to see the written order. This was produced and the charge dismissed. The order refered [sic] to the revolver only, and not ammunition. All very childish, but Paddy of the Irish Guards was not one to be messed about. He produced his dum-dum bullets to the Commissioner who was astonished, and all the dumdums were withdrawn. Paddy also pointed out how ludicrous it was for a lone officer to carry firearms in a crowd of hundreds of prisoners, but the order remained. He was a likeable fellow and when the C.O. quoted the book of rules, Paddy made a detailed study of it. In addition to the Prisons Ordnance, we also had Station Standing Orders which gave Paddy ample scope for playing the barrack-room lawyer. He was seen one night at a party in the Military Police Snr. N.C.O.'s mess, and was put on [deleted] a [/deleted] two charges by Martin. Before the Commissioner he was charged with sleeping off the station and drinking whilst on duty. Again Paddy asked for the rule-book and pleaded not guilty. The book stated that an officer would not sleep off the station whilst

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on duty. Paddy agreed he had been at the dance all night and did not in fact sleep anywhere! case [sic] dismissed. Station standing orders also stated that an officer would not partake of alcoholic drink whilst on duty, but a further order stated that an "officer was deemed to be on duty at all times". It therefore followed that all Prisons Officers were required to be completely teetotal, and that was an unlawful order. Martin had met his match and was told to edit Station Standing Orders.

The day started at 0630 by unlocking the European cells and counting the inmates, whilst the Askari dealt with all the other prisoners. There was no point in an escape attempt by Europeans, they would not have got very far before being picked up, but for other races it was a different matter. They were guarded very closely. The four main racial groups were quartered separately for sleeping and eating, their customs and diet and indeed their whole culture differing considerably. Only the Europeans slept on beds, the others were not interested and prefered [sic] the floor, some with very thin mattresses. The Europeans wore shoes, the Somalis heavy boots, Asians wore flipflops and the Africans stuck to their bare feet which were generally tougher than any footwear. European food was probably similar to that in U.K. prisons, and with each race having its own traditional food, this was not a case of discrimination, each prefered [sic] its own. Each group also provided its own cooks. Some of the Asians in fact opted out of Prison food and had it sent in, but it was very thoroughly checked. Uniforms differed too, some compromise between standard prison garb and ordinary native dress. Europeans wore K.D. slacks and shirts with arrows printed on them. Africans wore white shirt and white shorts held up by string.

Two or three hours were spent in the early morning preparing prisoners for court, generally about 50 of them. Some were on remand, and others were convicted prisoners who were required to give evidence in cases where they were involved as witnesses. In the late afternoon all were returned to the prison possibly with changed status. The paper-work had to be watched very carefully, confusion could arise where one prisoner might have a conviction warrant on one case, a remand warrant on another and possibly a production order to appear as a witness in an entirely different case. It was not unknown for a prisoner to be involved in two cases under different names. Language sometimes presented a problem. The courts conducted the business in English and Kiswahili, but there were many tribal languages and quite often interpreters had to be employed. One such case was when 60 prisoners of the Suk tribe were charged with murder having massacred the District Commissioner and his staff of 12. The only interpreter who could cope with the Suk language translated into Kitoshi, and a second one translated from Kitoshi into Swahili. All 60 were hanged at the prison in due course. They seemed very young to me and I doubt if they really knew what it was all about. They were the ones rounded up by the Police after spears had been thrown at the D.C.'s party from a crowd of 2000 whilst he was reading the Riot Act -literally-.

Relationships between officers at the prison were generally very good, with the exception of Martin who thought he was playing soldiers and Thacker for whom we felt rather sorry. 36 years as a prisons officer must have warped his mind somewhat. After about two months I decided to be like the other officers and wear my medal ribbons, and that was when I first fell foul of Major Martin. He asked me what the first medal was and I told him. He said he


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had not authorised me to wear it and I laughed and said I didn't need his authority, the King's was good enough. Shortly after this I was on duty when 45 new African prisoners were admitted, but there were 50 warrants. Some were convicted on Capital Charges, (murder, manslaughter, rape etc). My Chief Warder had signed for 50 bodies and 50 warrants, but there were only 45 bodies. It was 5 pm and my obvious priority was to determine which 5 prisoners were missing. It took until 6.30 to sort it out, no-one was missing, the Court was at fault in issuing two warrants each to five prisoners, instead of one warrant and one production order each. Only then did I get around to locking up the European prisoners for the night, 30 minutes late, and I entered this in the log. The next day an Asian prisoner complained to an Asian Official Prison Visitor that the Europeans were not locked up until 6.30 whereas the Asian prisoners were locked up on time. This was racial discrimination and the official visitor reported the matter direct to the Commissioner. I was charged by Martin for failing to carry out a particular standing order in that I failed to lock up the Europeans at 6 pm. 'How do you plead?' saith [sic] the Commiss. 'I don't', I replied, 'I request the case be taken by the Member for Law & Order'. He was the member of Legislative Council equivalent to the U.K. Attorney General, and this was a genuine option available to an officer charged before the Commissioner, same sort of procedure as an Airman on a 252 asking for a Court Martial rather than take his C.O.'s verdict. The Commissioner suspended the charge for the time being and asked Martin why the charge was brought. I was then asked why I had failed and I said that I was the Officer responsible and in unusual circumstances I concentrated my action in what I considered the most important aspect, which was resolving the problem of the 5 apparently missing prisoners. I consider I acted correctly, regardless of Station Standing Orders. Martin said he had not known that and I suggested that he should read the duty log before signing it as seen, next time. I also suggested that an amendment be made to the standing orders to the effect that nothing contained therein would prohibit an officer from using his initiative when he felt it necessary. Anyhow, I went on, it is an unlawful order in any case, and that will be my alternative defence with the Member for Law & Order. The commissioner was intrigued and read out the order "You will lock-up the European prisoners at 6 pm.", looking to me for comment. I said it was an impossible order, locking-up people involves work which takes time, 6pm is a moment of time in which by definition no work can be done. I said the whole set-up is childish and the Commissioner asked Martin to withdraw the charge. It seemed I had joined Paddy in his war of attrition against Martin.

Our two alsations, Paddy and Jeep had settled-in very nicely, with only their hereditary training. Their self-appointed task of guarding Hilda and the children was unending. When the family was inside the house, one guard would remain with them whilst the other maintained watch on the verandah [sic] and patrolled outside in the garden. When the children were in the garden whilst prisoners were working in the area, either Paddy or Jeep would deploy themselves between the two groups. Only by instinct our dogs knew the prisoners were not to be trusted and were watched very carefully, but the African askari were regarded as allies. The prison was very close to the boundary of Nairobi National Park, and grew cabbages two feet in diameter in what must have been some of the most fertile land in Kenya, receiving all the effluent from the 2000 odd inmates. Late one afternoon an african prisoner in a work gang fancied his

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chances and made a run for it, sprinting along the road passed [sic] the house hotly pursued by about six askari. The askari were at a disadvantage wearing heavy boots and jerseys, but they were joined by Paddy and Jeep who caught up with the prisoner and arrested him in the Game Park. When the askari caught up with them they found the prisoner literally with his pants down, leaning exhausted against a post supporting a notice "Stay in Your Car, Beware of Lion".

It was essential but sometimes difficult not to become involved emotionally with the prisoners, almost all of whom had in their eyes suffered a grave injustice by winding-up in jail. One afternoon whilst I was on duty the Chief Immigration Officer, a Mr. Pierce, came to the prison and required me to serve a Deportation Order on a European Prisoner, Major Melbourn. I read the document first and found that Melbourn had been declared an 'undesireable [sic] immigrant' and was therefore to be deported within 5 days. Melbourn had in fact served about 12 months of a three year sentance [sic] for bigamy and would be required to complete the term in the U.K. He was 'undesireable [sic] ' because he had changed his job without permission. I remarked that this was a very lame excuse for such drastic action. After an exchange of views I said I had not sought his permission when I joined the Prisons Service and he advised me to do so without delay! A few days later I was detailed to escort the prisoner to Mombasa, and hand him over to the officer i/c of the prison at Fort Jesus. Meanwhile I had studied all the Melbourn files and they showed a good example of how a fellow could slip up over small technicalities which produced major consequences. Melbourn was a British Army officer serving overseas for almost the entire war. During the Blitz, his wife was in a Convalascent [sic] home in Liverpool which received a direct hit and she disappeared without trace like many others. He had been drawing a marriage allowance in the normal way and eventually reported to his C.O. that it should be discontinued because he believed his wife had been killed in an air-raid. He was advised that until he had proof of this the allowance would continue. He should have applied to the courts for it to be deemed that his wife had been killed but the environment of the Burmese jungle and other wartime pressures were not conducive to that sort of logic and he let the matter rest. After the war he made enquiries in Liverpool without result, and was eventually released from the Army having served for 30 years. Several years later he became engaged to the daughter of the French Consol [sic] in Nairobi, and when they were married he declared that he was a bachelor. They were Catholics and had he referred to himself as a widower, there could have been difficulties and the authorities would have required proof in any case, which he could not provide. Soon after the wedding someone who had been a clerk in the Pay Corps spotted the reference to 'Bachelor' and thought it rather odd that Melbourn had claimed a marriage allowance during the war. He reported this and the subsequent enquiry led to Melbourn being charged with bigamy and convicted. Whilst it was essential that justice must be seen to apply equally to all races, Europeans were the Bwana Mkubwas and were supposed to set an example. White men in jail were an embarassment [sic] to Government and wherever possible they were returned to the U.K. Melbourn had slipped-up on a second trechnicality. [sic] In the U.K. After [sic] demob. he and two ex-Army colleagues, all of whom had served in East Africa in 1945, decided to establish a business in Kenya, and the three applied for Entry permits, Employment passes, Dependants [sic] passes in two cases, and Residence permits. Complete with ambitious plans for the future and proper documentation


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the trio arrived in Nairobi and set about organising their new enterprise, one of the first acts being an application to register the name of their company. Whilst this was 'going through channels' problems came to light which could not have been foreseen and their plans had to be abandoned. Melbourn remained in Nairobi and obtained employment, and his two colleagues returned to U.K., disillusioned by the red tape. Whilst looking for a reason to declare Melbourn an undesireable [sic] immigrant the application for permission to work with a firm which did not exist came to light and provided the necessary ammunition.

On the night train to Mombasa Melbourn was very chatty, we were both in civvies, he was allowed to use his own money and I felt the best policy would be to let him have a few drinks and to sleep it off. He undertook to behave and understood that at the first sign of being unco-operative he would be handcuffed to his bunk. He told me his story which was the same as gleaned from the files, and added that he had made arrangements to escape at Suez and join the sister of one of the Somali inmates. I handed him over at Fort Jesus, wished him luck and had a look around Mombasa before returning to Nairobi on the night train. About two months later we learned that he had indeed jumped ship at Suez and was working as a Newsreader at Oomdemaan on Egyptian International Radio Broadcasts. I bought some brass plates from him in Nairobi which today are displayed at Wendy's home in Cherryhinton [sic] , and which remind me of the injustice metered out to one who served for 30 years in the British Army.

Another European prisoner, on remand, had been arrested for vagrancy. He was a British merchant seaman who felt like a change, had legally entered Kenya with proper documentation and had taken a job driving a native bus. The authorities deemed this was not a suitable job for a white man, declared him undesireable [sic] and deported him, by ship. He would have been quite happy to have joined a ship at Mombasa as crew-member or paid his own passage. He most certainly did not meet the definition of vagrancy, he had more than adequate means of support. I recall his bitterness when he said it was fair enough to drive a bloody army lorry for five years but not an african bus.

For nearly six months I relieved Ron Woods as officer i/c the Tailoring section of Prison workshops, whilst he was on home leave. In the workshop 200 prisoners beavered away sewing and stitching, 100 with sewing machines and the other half working by hand. We produced uniforms for all Government departments and also for prisoners and were allowed to undertake private work for anyone willing to provide their own material. One of the European prisoners had been a tailor in civvy street and he was very helpful. There was also a 'mechanical workshop' employing about 100, mostly producing articles in metal for Gov't departments, but also repairing and generally working on motor-cars. I took the opportunity of turning them loose on my father's Packard and they did a very good job. The Tailoring section even produced some seat covers for it without being asked. Shortly after the car was finished, a Salvation Army Major came to me and said that Johnson, a European prisoner who had worked on the car, had seen the light after several months of Bible study and was now determined to go straight. He was serving five years for armed robbery, having held up a taxi in Mombasa. The Major asked for my support for his application to the Parole Board and was in fact going to great lengths to secure the Prisoner's release. I declined my support, and told the Major he had been spoofed, Johnson would never go straight. However, the appeal

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was successful and Johnson suggested to me the night before his release that for a small fee he could arrange to 'steal' the car and drop it over Nairobi escarpment for me. Such were the people we were dealing it, [sic] [inserted] with [/inserted] but what finally became of him I don't know.

After several months we moved to a much nicer house in the prison officers' compound. Hilda was doing photographic retouching and finishing work in the city for Arthur Firmin, and life was without undue pressures. On saturday [sic] evenings we occasionally went to see our friends George and Iris Dent at the Oasis pub. George was an engineer with the Army Kinema Corporation and a very keen 'ham', VQ4DO, ex ZS6DO. At their parents' Pub George showed films which provided entertainment. This was before the days of television in Kenya. It was on the evening of one of our visits we were sitting in the Dent's home, Wendy was stretched out asleep on the couch and Iris's little boy was playing with his toy cap-gun. This reminded me that the pain in my rear was caused by my .25 automatic in my trouser pocket, so I moved the gun to my jacket pocket. Iris saw this move and said it looked a far nicer gun than her .38 and asked to see it. I handed it over, having checked there was no round up the spout and it was on safe. To our absolute astonishment, Iris cocked it, off with the safety catch and fired. The bullet demolished the leg of the couch less than a foot from Wendy's head. The song "Pistol-packing mamma" didn't seem at all funny any more. Colin was with us and had attended Nairobi Primary School for about two months. Wendy was looked after during the day by Nadudu, the Kitoshi ayah we had taken with us from Kitale. The children called her Bundudu.

With the withdrawal of the British Army from Kenya, George and Iris returned to South Africa, George taking up employment with the S.A. Broadcasting Corporation. Today the Oasis pub is thriving, still on the main Mombassa [sic] Road and close to Nairobi airport at Embakasi.

I was concerned only with Nairobi prison, but there were prisons in 8 or so towns, backed up by several camps. Later when Mau Mau really got under way, there were many more much bigger 'internment' camps. Some of them in my day were known as rather tough places. Hard Labour was still the prerogative of the courts; It meant exactly that, and was invariably stone breaking. A gang would be given a task of smashing up a number of very large boulders and feeding the fragments through a screen before putting them onto a lorry. Only when the task was complete would they be marched back to the living area. One of our camps was at Lokitong, about 450 miles north of Nairobi, and it frequently happened that prisoners had to be returned from there to Nairobi to attend court. There was no telephone, the only communication with the camp was was [sic] by a telegram to Kitale prison and thence a letter by bus and camel to the camp. It was generally a three-week process, so six weeks was needed to produce a prisoner from Lokitong to a court in Nairobi. I put up a written suggestion that in the absence of telephones we should establish a number of radio stations. I could undertake to establish the stations myself using ex-army 21 sets, maintain them and also to train the operators. The suggestion was submitted through Mr. Martin but addressed to the Commissioner, and according to the Chief Clerk went straight into Martin's waste paper basket. A few days later I delivered a copy direct to the Commissioner's office with a covering letter with my estimate of costs, about £100 per station plus my time and travelling.


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I promised instant communication with the camps but it was too revolutionary and there was no provision in the budget for it. About four years later the job was done for them by the Police at a cost of £700,000 with recurring annual expenditure of over £100,000. A lot of money in those days. Jimmie Vant became the Prisons Dept. Telecommunications Officer with no knowledge whatsoever of the subject. He didn't really need any, all the work was carried out by the Police which was staffed entirely by technicians on secondment from the U.K. Home Office. Such is the price of progress and sophisticated over-engineering. No doubt in the 1990s they will be able to spend even more millions and do the job via satelite [sic] .

Returning home one afternoon having collected Hilda and two other ladies from the city, and Colin from school, we found the prison surrounded by armoured cars and light tanks with hundreds of Police and Army personnel. Apparently there was a rumour of a pending mass breakout, but it was only a rumour. I regarded it as a show of strength for the benifit [sic] of the unruly.

The job in the Prisons Service was like no other I have held either before or since. It was work which started and finished according to the duty roster and activity was determined and limited by the various orders laid down. For every minor detail there had to be a written authority. The Prisons Service had become established about the turn of the century and the antiquated system did nothing to inspire enthusiasm. On one occasion Paddy Mc.Kinney and I were taking a five minute breather in the office and enjoying a coca-cola, when Martin came in and without preamble ordered us to put leg-irons on Mchegi, then stormed out again. Mchegi was a "casi kubwa", a 6'3" Kikuyu in a condemned cell. The leg-irons were a reprisal for Mchegi's offensive the previous day. Martin, on his round of inspection had moved aside the 6" square observation panel in the door of Mchegi's cell to look inside, and received the full force of the contents of the choo (night soil!) bucket in his face. Mchegi was awaiting hanging and had nothing to lose. He was a very dangerous individual who had already killed and because of his violance [sic] often remained in his cell during excercise [sic] periods. Putting leg-irons on this tough character was a formidable task and Martin knew that. Paddy startled me by suggesting that I should open the door of Mchegi's cell, and he would wait at the open end of the corridor where it entered the prison yard. I replied that I would rather he opened Mchegi's door and I would wait in the yard. However, Mchegi had no personal animosity towards me and Paddy's complete plan appeared rational. I opened the cell door with the greeting "Mjambo Mchegi", and he stepped out of the cell, seeing a clear passage to the prison yard and beyond to the open gate in the outside perimeter wall of the prison, with neither officer nor askari in sight. Mchegi recognised his chance to escape and made a dash for it. It was at the end of the corridor that Paddy stepped out hit him and simultaneously an askari tripped him up. Before Mchegi recovered four askari had rivetted on the leg-irons and dragged him back to his cell. A few minutes later Paddy and I were finishing our cokes in the office when Martin came in and remonstrated, "why haven't you carried out my order?" Paddy said we had done so and Martin exclaimed "impossible". When Martin was told just how it had been done we were both on a charge once more. The Commissioner reminded us that striking a prisoner was a very serious matter but when Paddy said it was the preferred alternative to shooting him, there was no answer, and the matter was dropped. Mchegi gave no more trouble and apologised to Martin for his indiscretion, and

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Paddy saw to it that Mchegi received his full ration of excercise [sic] time in the prison yard. It was about three weeks after the choo bucket incident that Paddy was in the yard and attacked from the rear by a prisoner with a pair of 12" scissors. Fortunately Mchegi was watching and although still in leg-irons tackled the assailant, overcoming him just in time. Paddy was still cut, but there was no doubt that Mchegi had saved his life. He took a great interest in Mchegi and asked why he had been a condemned prisoner for so long, just waiting for the death sentance [sic] to be carried out. Paddy saw to it that the stabbing incident received a great deal of publicity, and eventually Mchegi was released from jail. Some years later I found he was a Snr. Warder at the prison.

About the same time, a new recruit joined us, with the same rank, Asst. Supt. Gr.2, but we found his salary was in fact 2 increments (£120 per annum) higher than ours and we wanted to know the reason why. We were told that he had been in the armed services and was awarded two increments for war service. We, apparently, had been under the average age of entry for the Prisons service at the time of our war service. Our next move was to try and compare our respective efforts during the war, but the new recruit was very reticent about his service career, and somehow didn't seem to speak the language of the soldier. It was several weeks later we found he had been in the German Army and the rest of us felt this really was too much. Regulations on war service increments however did refer to the "armed services" and made no mention of which side a fellow was on. We were not still fighting the [deleted] a [/deleted] war, but we were a uniformed service after all. The Gerry could see he was not wanted and resigned.

After 12 months as a Prison Officer I was very disgruntled with the way of life and went to see the Commissioner and gave him one month's notice. This he accepted and on my return to the prison I was handed a letter terminating my appointment with immediate effect, signed by Martin.

I then set about thinking of another job, there was lots of scope and on the air next morning my father suggested I should go and see Joe Furness who was Director of Civil Aviation. Later that day, in prison uniform, I called to see the Personnel Officer of D.C.A., one Bert Leaman, and found there might be a possibility of joining the Telecommunications section, and arranged an interview for the following day.

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[underlined] CIVIL AVIATION [/underlined]

In April 1951 I joined the E.A. Directorate of Civil Aviation as a Radio Officer on a salary of £610 per year. I had no relevant qualifications for this job but I could cope with the morse code at 25 words per minute and had aquired[sic] a general background of aviation during the war years! The first two weeks were spent at R.A.F. Eastleigh studying the workings of the Telecommunications and Air Traffic Control systems, after which I was posted to Mbeya near the Tanganyika/Northern Rhodesia border at 6500 feet above sea level. The journey down to Mbeya was by road, 900 miles, and in the middle of the rainy season. Much advice was received, “all the hotels are closed”, “the roads are waterlogged and blocked”, “there is no petrol beyond Arusha” and so on. We decided to do the trip in four short stages of between 200 and 300 miles per day, with night stops at Arusha, Dodoma and Iringa.

Our 1949 Ford Prefect, KCC13, with 60,000 miles on the clock was reshod at a cost of £10. Recapped tyres were the vogue at that time, a practice which has since stopped, being said to be dangerous. However, those recaps. did 22,000 miles on some of the worst roads in the world, without problems, before being replaced, a better performance than the original new tyres. With the car loaded with household equipment, and with Colin and Wendy lying on blankets near the roof of the car we headed south down “the Great North Road”. The first 100 miles was tarmac and no problem in the pouring tropical rain. Always to the south of us -dead on track- were towering thunderheads of cumulo [sic] -nimbus, but nearing the end of the tarmac the rain stopped. Indeed for the next three days the rain stopped falling about twelve hours ahead of us, but also remained on our tail. On the second day, deep ruts in the road caused a broken rear spring near Dodoma, but this was repaired overnight at George’s Garage; very well equipped with spare springs was George. Crossing the hundreds of fords, or drifts was exciting and at times quite hilarious, many being over 100 years wide and comprising merely a strip of concrete 10 feet wide on the bed of the river. Most of them were covered by water, hiding the concrete and the only clue to its location was provided by the poles at each side of the drift. More often than not the river bed at the side of the concrete was worn away creating a drop of a foot or so. A piece of thick wire fixed to the front of the car together with a vertical line on the windscreen, could be lined up with the centre of the two distant poles. By ignoring everything else and having implicit faith in the navigational instrument, we always reached the other side without going over the edge. Without this blind faith there would have been a tendency to keep a little to the up-stream side of the drift. To go over the edge on the other side could have been disastrous. In two places on the second day we were really bogged down in mud but we quickly mastered the technique of driving in reverse over the worst parts, thus becoming front-wheel drive. The most interesting village we passed was Kondor Arangi, between Dodoma and Iringa, on the third day. A beautifully painted and spotlessly clean Arab village, probably unchanged for centuries and almost completely independent of the world outside. After over 35 years I can still recall the aroma of freshly-baked bread, and the welcoming atmosphere of the village. On through Iringa and the final leg of 250 miles of the beautiful scenery of Southern Highlands, completely unspoilt by development. After a night at the Iringa Hotel, we had made our usual early-morning start and reached Mbeya by mid-day. Straight to the Railway station in


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Mbeya, a typical East African Railways and Harbours station complete with platforms, but the nearest railway lines and trains were over 400 miles away. A search for Paddy and Jeep, our two alsations, which had been put on the train five days previously in Nairobi, was to no avail. It was to be a further three days before they reached Mbeya, very hungry and very thirsty. After a night in ‘Links’ Salter’s Mbeya Hotel we inspected our new home at the airport. Known as Wilson Airways Rest House, built in 1932 for use by British Airways – before the change of name to Imperial Airways, and B.O.A.C. – It was ‘U’ shaped with 2 kitchens and 10 bedrooms. No electricity of course but a dozen or so paraffin lamps took care of the lighting problem. An african [sic] was provided to carry water from a tap about four hundred yards away to keep our small tank topped-up. The house was very convenient at the side of the runway, actually the grass landing area. It was very pleasant to sit on the verandah[sic] where there was a wonderful view of Mbeya Peak. We had only two neighbours, the Claytons from Burnley who were ‘refugees’ from the groundnut scheme at Kongwa and now in charge of a tipper unit with the Public Works Dept., and Bwana Grigg, an old-timer who had been a prospector and was then a Weights and Measures Inspector.

Mbeya was our home for 2 1/2 years, the aerodrome had been up-graded from a one-man to two-man station open from 0600 to 1800 hrs. every day. My colleague was George Hanson, who originally hailed from Selby in Yorkshire, an ex-wireless operator in Royal Signals during the war who had joined E.A. Posts and Telegraphs as a Radio Officer in 1947. George had spent 3 years in Burma during the war and returned to Selby in 1946. To find his fiance [sic] in the arms of two Italian prisoners. According to George he gave the Italians a thrashing – which would have been very true to character – and left them with their heads jammed in the railings, to be released later by the fire-brigade. The Law caught up with him and George was given a dressing -down by the magistrate who said “We don’t want ruffians like you in this country”. George claims he told the magistrate to get some service in and his knees brown and the case was adjourned. At that time the Crown Agents were recruiting for East African Posts & Telegraphs Dept. and George felt it was time to emigrate. All aeronautical communications were handled by E.A.P. & T. until the end of 1950 when they were taken over by the Directorate of Civil Aviation. George and I had to cover 84 hours each week between us, thoeoretically[sic] a 42 hour week, but there was no provision for sickness, local leave, and the many chores which required both of us, like being in three places simultaneously. We were assisted by an african [sic] wireless operator, a Kikuyu 1200 miles from his home, a cleaner, a watchman, and a diesel mechanic, Kundan Singh Babra, all of whom lived on the station. George and I agreed our individual responsibilities, we would each carry out our 42 hours per week on watches, which included R/T to aircraft on HF and VHF, an aerodrome control function, W/T to Nairobi as required, originating meteorological reports each hour and coding them into Aero format, and customs duties. In addition, he would deal with all the admin., and I would see to the technical aspect of keeping the station on the air.

The station had been established in 1932 and the original Marconi M/F Beacon, a type TA4A was still in use and in immaculate condition. We had a stock of MT16 valves enough to last for another 30 years. We also had an ex-South African Air Force T1190 of 1933 vintage, fitted in 1940, and four ET4336 transmitters for working aircraft on R/T and Nairobi on W/T. Everything was in very good condition and gave me no problems. Our “office” was at the D/F

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(direction finding) station, and was fitted with one of the original DFG10 Marconi recieivers [sic] .

We could not see the runway from the office, which rather limited our scope in controlling it.

Each week, Mbeya had only 4 East African Airways scheduled Dakotas and Loadstars, on the Nairobi-Dar es Salaam route, plus a Beaver of Central African Airways from Blantyre in Nyasaland and one R.A.F. transport from Johannesburg to Nairobi. There were also up to a dozen or so charters which sometimes arrived with little or no notice. Our M/F Beacon was the only navigation aid for some hundreds of miles in all directions. The D/F Receiver was not in use and had a faulty power unit. This I serviced and used the receiver for monitoring Tabora’s M/F Beacon. We were operating also on 6440 KHz, the Salisbury F.I.C. channel, unofficially, to keep in touch with the Beaver aircraft which were not fitted with Nairobi F.I.C. channels. This proved very useful and also gave us a rapid link with Salisbury Ndola and Blantyre. One day and R.A.F. Anson called on [underlined] 6440 [/underlined] and reported his MF/DF receiver, - in his only [inserted in margin] NOT 6440 BUT 5190[?] [/inserted in margin] navigational aid – out of order. He was over mountains, - he hoped – in cloud, could we give him QDM’s, (courses to steer) on M/F ?. I told him to transmit on 333 KHz, the standard frequency for this purpose, and it took only a few seconds to retune the DFG10 to this frequency. For the next 2 1/2 hrs. I gave him a QDM every three minutes. The weather was bad and the aircraft eventually landed at Mbeya, staying overnight. The Navigator was visibly shaken, he did not know his position, only that if he acted on the QDM,’s he would eventually reach Mbeya. Only after landing could he calculate his ground speed, about 70 knots. On arrival over Mbeya the crew were able to see Mbeya Peak above cloud, This was five miles to the North of us and with a cloud base of 3000 feet above the aerodrome they were able to descent and land. All this would of course have been totally unacceptable to a civilian aircraft which would have possibly returned to it’s starting point. The R.A.F. aircraft without any Nav. Aids had really no option. Some weeks later we received a letter from the R.A.F. thanking us for the assistance we had given the Anson crew in providing M/F bearings thus preventing a possible disaster, etc. etc. Unfortunately this letter was also copied to D.C.A. H.Q. with another asking if the facility could be retained. The next mail brought a letter from our own boss, the Director of Civil Aviation.. “Whilst complimenting and thanking you for taking the initiative on this occasion…”. The letter went on to point out the legal significance of giving information to pilots and of undertaking to provide a direction-finding facility with 20-year old equipment and no spares. I made sure I could provide an alternative power supply of 2 and 130 volts which did not take much imagination and adapted some modern valves – type 6C4 – with bases to replace the original 1930 vintage triodes. There were not used in my 2 1/2 years in Mbeya and we continued to give bearings to the R.A.F. unofficially. About 2 years later a Pye VHF set was fitted together with a D/F antenna and also a modern Redifon M/F Beacon, both with an effective range no better than 25% of the 1932 equipment. This was not the fault of the manufacturers. In the case of the D/F the reason was the difference in propagation characteristics and with the M/F Beacon it would have been better to retain the original 1932 Marconi type antenna.

I have no notes of this period, but memories are many. I recall seeing a Cheetah on the grass landing area we called a runway, whilst carrying

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out a runway inspection. As I approached, the cheetah ran off. My foot was hard down doing 58 m.p.h. just behind it, but the cheetah gradually drew away. Daily inspection of the ‘runway’ was necessary. Ant-Bear holes appeared quite often, and just one of these was sufficient to wreck an aircraft. Africans had free access to the runway except when aircraft were actually using it. One evening a grass fire started and swept first along the windward side of the runway where the grass was long, and then crossed it in a line of flame and black smoke the whole length of the runway. Hilda and I were on foot at the other side of the runway and witnessed literally hundreds of snakes fleeing from the fire. There were lots of snakes and other creatures in that area which after all was open African bush. This was again highlighted at 6 am one morning when I drove to the D/F station and opened up the radio. It was still dark and there was a very pungent smell of pigs. I assumed there was a dead animal outside but within a few minutes it was daylight and having established contact with Nairobi on w/t and confirmed there were no overnight disasters requiring my attention, I went outside to investigate. There were elephants all over the place, standing there, and looking just as surprised as I was. I made a strategic withdrawal smartly into the D/F station and bolted the door. On my way to the office I had met the African nightwatchman who was waving his arms about and saying something about ‘tembo mningi sani”. The word Tembo was generally associated with Elephant Brand Beer, which was more a part of everyday life in our immediate area than the animal after which it was named. I assumed he had been drinking and thought no more of it. The africans too were soon awake and trying to chase the elephants out of the maize, throwing tin cans, stones and even pangas at them. Three africans were killed in the process. Meanwhile I telephoned the police who said it was not their shouri (affair), “tell the Game Warden”. It was then 6.15am. and the Game Warden would not take the matter seriously, claiming I was drinking too much, “see the M.O.”! There was a scheduled Dakota due at 7 am. and I asked the pilot to overfly the runway and make sure there were no elephants on it, and this he agreed to do. I gave him the surface wind and QNH and landing clearance, and he came straight in and landed, without checking. He too thought I was not being serious about the elephants. It was mid-day before the elephants left of their own accord and moved back towards the mountains to the south. The Africans said the elephant movement was a sure sign that Rungwe, our local dormant volcano was about to erupt, and the elephants had already received warning. They took me to the fire trench round the Shell petrol dump which was 10 feet deep, and showed me the alternate layers of volcanic ash and sandy soil, starting at the bottom with four inch layers. At the 5’ level about 8” layers, gradually thickening as compression decreased to a 12” layer of ash and finally, 18” of soil at the top. There was no record of the date of the last erruption,[sic] probably some hundreds of years ago. We did experience several earth tremmors [sic] in Mbeya, but it was a nice life and we decided to stick it out!

Colin and Wendy were attending Mrs. Maugham-Brown’s infants school in the town and were making very good progress. Hilda was doing retouching of photographs for Arthur Firmin which were sent to and from his Nairobi office by air mail. It was in Mbeya that I built my first amateur transmitter with bits and pieces from the junk box, and was soon in daily contact with the outside world on the morse key.

On the sixth of Feb. 1952 I called my chum in Liverpool as usual and he told me that all U.K. stations were closed for the day in deference to King

[inserted] G6YQ George [/inserted]

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George VI who had died during the night. Later that day Hilda and I went to Mbeya School to see Colin, expecting the football match to have been cancelled. I expressed my surprise to the Provincial Commissioner (the King’s direct representative) that the Union Jacks were not at half mast and the game still on. He told me not to spread rumours and he would deal with me after the game. Just after half-time a Police askari despatch rider drove onto the field and gave the P.C., who was referee, a message. The P.C. stopped the game and announced that the King was dead. He was very annoyed indeed that I had received the message direct from U.K., many hours ahead of the official channels. Mbeya had a local telephone service which did not connect with any other. It was also at one end of a single-wire line of about 1000 miles which was used for passing telegraph messages. This linked about 30 places ‘up-country’ with Dar es Salaam, the Capital. There was no other way officially of telecommunicating with Mbeya. It so happened that I had a pair of ex-military amplified telephones, which were battery powered, press-to-talk operation and which gave an amplification each of 20 dB (100 times). I sent one of these to Jimmie Waldron in Dar es Salaam and by arrangement he called me one morning at 0545 on this line. We had a first-class conversation which was truly remarkable. This was possible only because the operators at the 30 or so other stations were still asleep, and not interfering. I have no doubt this particular exploit would compare very favourably with the record longest telephone conversation over a single wire and earth, if indeed a record has been established.

George Hanson and I got on very well with each other, both being from Yorkshire and both being ex-Service, but eventually his tour of 2 1/2 years was completed and he was succeeded by Doug. Clifton, who was ex-PTT and R.A.F. ground wireless operator. We moved into the cottage vacated by George and family, near to the transmitting station, and I ran a mains cable underground between the two. This gave us 230 ac. Power for 12 hours a day and at night whenever the radio beacon was required for overflying aircraft.


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One quiet morning the Provincial Commisioner [sic] asked me to his home to discuss a problem, and on arrival I was told that the Governor, Sir Edward Twining was convalescing in Mbeya, having just arrived, but could stay only if he could speak regularly with the Chief Secretary in Dar es Salaam. The Police and Posts & Telegraphs Departments had already been approached and could not assist. I was authorised to cut clean across any rules and regulations in order to set up a communications channel. Back at the D/F Station I sent an official message on the Aeronautical W/T channel to CHF ZHTD (Officer i/c Airport Dar-es-Salaam) asking him to pass a message to Jimmie Waldron, P.T.T. Chief Engineer’s office. I told Jimmie of the Governors request and the powers bestowed upon us, and that I would call him on 7151 KHz which was just above the upper limit of the amateur 40 meter band. I would install a receiver at the P.C.’s house. Would he advise me of his transmitting frequency. Meanwhile I got the local P.T.T. to connect my second aerodrome telephone line to the second line to the P.C.’s house. This automatically provided a microphone for the P.C. and enabled me to make a simple connection to my amateur transmitter at the airport. Half an hour later I received a message on the aeronautical channel “Loud and clear on 7175, Dar es salaam calling you on 8775. A check on my local receiver and indeed there was Jimmie. I then drove to the P.C.’s house and retuned the receiver to 8775, and we had first class duplex communication. A lady’s voice came on “Is that you George?” “No Love, this is Cliff”. “Oh dear, this is Lady Twining, is my husband George there please?” I handed him the telephone and restrained myself from saying “It’s for you George, I thought your name was Edward”. For the next two weeks the link was in constant use and another letter of thanks was sent from D.C.A. in Nairobi.

Why the fuss one might say, but in 1952 it was the very first time [inserted] H E [/inserted] H.H. the Governor had spoken by private radio telephone to his Chief Secretary from outside Dar es Salaam. This was another ‘first’, also on an amateur basis.

At Mbeya Post Office I was introduced to the Manager of New Saza Gold Mine, which was about 100 miles north of Mbeya. He said his radio link with Mbeya had not worked for four years although experts from all over East Africa had tried to fix it. It was a simple w/t link to Mbeya Post Office where there was an operating position and transmitter set up on 3900 KHz which seemed to be a reasonable frequency for the job. “Fix it and you can name your price”, and I agreed to have a go on a ‘no pass, no fee basis’. I first set up a spare DCA transmitter keyed from the D/F station, rather than rely upon co-operation from the Post office. My own DCA operator would monitor. I called the local Post office from the aerodrome but there was no reply. This was the rainy season and it would be a three hour drive through the bush to New Saza, so I lost no time over the Post Office and set off in my Ford Prefect complete with two amateur transmitters and two receivers, any combination of which could do the job if all else failed. On arrival, their station appeared to be working and with adequate output, but I soon found the output stage was doubling to 7.8 MHz. and not amplifying straight through 3.9. A higher tapping on the coil fixed that and I called Mbeya Post office. No reply. Then I called ZEQ3, my own office at the D/F Station and my operator came up trumps. We were in contact with


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Mbeya. I asked my operator to ring the Postmaster asking him to kick his wireless operator. He found the transmitter had the wrong crystal in it and the receiver was also detuned. Having corrected this, all three stations were in contact. The station receiver at New Saza was a pre-war ‘straight set’, that is, not a superhet, and was not ideal, so I added one of my own receivers. In addition, I fitted a second operating position, with my own equipment and separate aerial, as a standby. The manager was delighted and I was rewarded handsomely. Only once in the next 18 months did I need to visit New Saza for a minor fault. Electrical and mechanical power for the mine was derived from a very old wood-burning steam engine of pre-1914 vintage and German manufacture.

On the road about half way to the mine, was Chunya, a typical American-type western one-horse town, the main street being unpaved and 200 feet wide. The place was almost derelict, a few prospectors still panned for gold in the stream, but in years gone by it had supported a population of over 2000. There was a Police post which sported a telephone connected to Mbeya Post office. The overhead line ran at the side of the ‘road’ and I had this in mind for emergency use. A field telephone was part of my standard safari equipment in the car. Later on I carried a transmitter on the aeronautical H/F channels in addition. Communications was often the key to survival.

One very hot day, about noon, George Blodgett, an American tourist, took off from Mbeya in his Cessna 180 with his wife and another passenger, continuing their round-the-world holiday. The aircraft carried the same load as when it took off from Dar es salaam without problem a week or so previously. But Dar was at sea level, and Mbeya at 6500 feet. Dar had a proper concrete runway with a clear flight path. Mbeya had a grass ‘runway’, much shorter and with a small hill at one end and a mountain within 4 miles at the other end. It was the slight banking to avoid the small hill which caused the aircraft to stall and plough along the ground, writing itself off. It took me several minutes to reach the wreck, to find a bewildered trio shaken-up, but physically unhurt. There was a strong smell of petrol which came from a 5 gallon can INSIDE the aircraft. The can had a hand pump and hose which fitted on the drain cock of a fuel tank inside the port wing. Transferring the petrol was achieved by opening a window and leaning out to fix the pipe. This rather surprised me as George was a very experienced pilot and was in fact the first to cross the Andes in Peru, solo, where some years later he went missing without trace. His life-story was written up in Time & Life and referring to his accident in Mbeya, it said he had crashed in the bush and the Despatcher from Mbeya trecked [sic] all night to reach the aircraft, to find George and his passengers surrounded by lions and tigers. Lions were a possibility but the only tigers in Africa are [deleted] a few imported ones in captivity. [/deleted] [inserted] in West Africa and are not tigers as we know them. [/inserted]

Mbeya was a peaceful place, and to a large extent we were able to plan our lives. Occasionally we became involved with the local tribesmen, particularly after one of their frequent skirmishes. Generally a small group would appear at the house bearing the injured on bicycles with blood all over the place, and asking me to take the casualties to hospital. The first time this happened I took them by car to the African Hospital and not really knowing the system, gave them my name. Some weeks later I received the bill. Subsequent deliveries were made in the name of Ramsey Macdonald!

Soon after joining DCA I noticed on one of many flight plans received the name of Iliffe as Captain of an incoming Dakota. When the First Officer


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called me on VHF I requested him to ask the Captain if the number 1090111 meant anything to him. Back came the reply, affirmative. I gave him my first service number 1384956 and after he had landed, went over to the Terminal Building to see him. There wasn’t much time for reminiscing but he marvelled that I had remembered his first service number. It was on a pay parade in Bulawayo that Howard’s name was not called with the others in alphabetical order. It was called at the very end when he gave his ‘last three’, somewhat disgruntled, as “Sir, One one bloody one”.

We had seen a great deal of each other on the troopship going to Durban and until our ways parted at Belvedere where Howard got his wings and my records were stamped ‘Wastage’. After his training at Belvedere, he completed S.F.T.S. on Oxfords and in U.K. converted to Dakotas. His war was on Transport Command, flying Dakotas. We met several times in the next 15 years, the last time being in 1965 when Howard was the Captain of a Comet of East African Airways returning to the U.K.

After 2 1/2 years in Tanganyika our tour was finished and we were due for 6 months leave in U.K.. We opted to travel by air rather than sea but did not realise when making the decision that this referred to trunk travel to U.K. from the International Airport of the territory in which we finished our tour. It was unlikely that we would return to Mbeya after leave, my successor expecting to stay for the full 2 1/2 years. All our effects were crated up whilst we spent the last week in Mbeya Hotel. The car was left with the Postmaster and Paddy our Alsation [sic] boarded with Mrs. Maugham-Brown. And so with four children, Christopher a baby of 4 months, we said farewell to Mbeya at the railway station, not by train but by diesel-powered bus - referred to as a ‘taxi’ by the Africans. The first leg took us the 250 miles through Southern Highlands to Iringa, where accommodation was reserved at Iringa Hotel. The next day was very similar, by another ‘taxi’ to Dodoma. The drivers were Africans, probably ex-Kings African Rifles, and their driving was of a very high standard considering the state of the road. There was some tarmac in the towns, but otherwise the road surface was graded murram, a well-packed reddish sand. This was apt to become corrugated after rain and scarred with deep wheel ruts. Ruts made by lorries could be quite deep and dangerous to cars with little clearance below. The ‘taxi’ took us direct to the railway station at Dodoma where we had been advised to request compartments as near to the engine as possible, where the sway is minimum. The first job was to wash all the nappies and as we had two compartments it was easy to sling a couple of lines and hang up the nappies to dry. It was very hot in Dodoma, and the carriage windows were all open because of the heat. In the evening the engine got up steam and the train moved off amid clouds of thick black smoke, most of which seemed to come in at the windows. For 18 hours we chugged across the plains with its tens of thousands of many different types of wild animals, gradually descending to the coast and becoming progressively hotter. Arriving in Dar es Salaam at about 4 pm., the temperature in the shade was 120 deg.f. and it was a great relief to flop onto the beds in the air-conditioned hotel. The evening was spent in trying to clean up our clothing and indeed ourselves, with Christopher’s nappies hanging on lines in the hotel room. The nappies dried within an hour but were still filthy. After a browse around the big stores in Dar, we handed in our 480 lbs. of baggage and placed ourselves in the capable hands of B.O.A.C.


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Our flight home was by Arganaut, [sic] 16 hours flying, stopping at Nairobi, Entebbe, Khartoum, Benghazi and Rome. Plenty of seat room, excellent food and a very comfortable flight. One engine developed trouble approaching Italy and we were delayed for 24 hours in Rome. The Romans were hostile to the British at that time, I cannot remember why this was so, but we enjoyed a conducted tour of Rome and first-class hotel accommodation. At breakfast next morning I thought I recognised a fellow at the next table. He was under the same impression and when he spoke to us there was instant recognition. He was the B.O.A.C. Rep. in Rome and we had seen a great deal of each other on the squadron in North Africa. He was then W/O Woolston, a pilot on 150 Sqdn. We arrived in London 24 hours late, but there were no complaints. B.O.A.C. had made the trip very enjoyable.

The greater part of our leave was spent in London with Hilda’s parents, and I took the opportunity of spending 12 weeks at the School of Telegraphy in Brixton, for an Intermediate C. & G. in Telecomms and a P.M.G 1st. Class licence. I was also on a course of Dexedrine to reduce my weight, eating very little and actually losing it at the rate of 1lb. per day, for 44 days. Peter Gunns, another D.C.A., Radio Officer had been at the school for 6 months and was doing the complete 12 month course for a P.M.G. second class licence. I decided to give it three months and take the first class ticket. The Principal at the school advised against it, almost everyone first obtained a second-class ticket before trying for a first. For three months I swatted hard, long into the night and then went to Post Office H.Q. in St. Martin-le-Grand and applied to take the P.M.G.1 licence. The Chief examiner asked to see my second-class licence and when I said I didn’t have one, he said “look son, try for a second class and if you pass, come back in a few years time and try for a first”. I replied that I was not interested in anything second-class and he shrugged his shoulders and booked me to take the exam. three days hence. The exam. took from 9 am to 5 pm., written and practical and was quite intensive. The final part was the morse test at 25 w.p.m. and the examiner was wearing an R.S.G.B. tie. I took a chance at the end of the test and sent, on the key ‘QRA? De VQ4BM’ and after an exchange of greetings he asked me if I was returning to Kenya. I replied “yes, but only if I pass this exam”. He sent QRX3 and left the room, returning with a smile and said “strictly off the record, you could book your ticket”. The next three days were taken up with City & Guilds exams, and I was delighted when my P.M.G. licence arrived by post. The following day, feeling on top line, Hilda and I went to M.C.A. Headquarters at Berkeley Square and I applied to take the Flight Radio Officer’s exam. I found this was held only twice yearly and by sheer coincidence the next one was the following day. I was told to just fill in the form, pay £3 and come back at 0830 the next day. I saw the Chief examiner and told him I wasn’t quite prepared for the exam. at such short notice, it was many years since I had studied the S.B.A. and Navigational aids. He told me not to worry about them and to check through the last 5 exam. papers, copies of which he lent me. They could be bought openly from the “shop” downstairs, but this was already closed. He also said “bear in mind that everything has its own natural frequency”. I spent until 5 am next morning making sure I could answer all the questions on those papers, and doubly sure of the compulsory questions. I noticed that


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year 4 had the same compulsory questions as year 1, and year 5 the same as year 2. Year 6 was to be my lot and if this was to be the same as year 3, on cathode ray tubes, all would be well, and I had a couple of hours sleep. It had taken me a long time to realise what the Chief Examiner had meant by “it’s own natural frequency”.

The exams were spread over a period of two days and I failed two of them. The first was a three-minute test writing down the phonetic alphabet and I wrote “Alpha bravo coca delta foxtrot golf hotel etc.” The examiner looked over my shoulder and remarked “what on earth have we here, have you never heard of able baker Charlie?”. I thought this was a catch and I said “yes but that went out three years ago when I.C.A.O. introduced this one”. It seemed that Britain was three years behind the rest of the world on this simple issue. I had however quite rightly failed on R/T procedure. All went well on a simulated flight from Manchester to Jersey when I received a chitty that both engines had stopped and we were on fire. There was already a M’iadez in force from another aircraft and I broke radio silence and put out my own “M’aidez” without the Captain’s authority and that was the end of the exam. FAILED! on two counts. I had passed two three hour written papers, a two hour practical exam., an hour’s morse at 25 w.p.m. and failed on two ridiculous details. I said I was sufficiently experienced to anticipate the Captain’s instruction to send out an SOS but the book does say that only the Captain has the authority. However, I paid another £3 which I could by then ill-afford and resat the two parts the following morning. The licence came by post a few days later. The R/T Procedure test was the same as before, and when we reached the point where I had put out my M’aidez I just sat tight. I heard the other aircraft transmit his SOS again and it was acknowledged by Jersey Approach. Without authority to transmit an SOS I could not break radio silence according to the regulations and I continued to sit tight. One minute of real time was equivalent to 10 minutes of ‘flying’ and after 30 minutes of theoretical flying time I removed my headphones and placed them on the table. The examiner did likewise and asked me what I thought I was doing.

I just said “swimming to the surface”. He laughed and said O.K. at least you didn’t originate a M’aidez. In the practical M.C.A. exam the equipment in use was the T1154 and R1155 and the main object of the examiner seemed to me to be one of getting me confused, argumentative and thoroughly rattled. Thanks maybe to the dexedrine I realised what his game was and remained very calm indeed. He admitted afterwards that he was trying to get me rattled, remaining calm and composed was all important in the air!. I cast my mind back 10 years but said nothing.

Meanwhile Peter Gunns was still plodding on and becoming very discouraged. I urged him to take the PMG2 the following week, there was little point in further delay. I spent a week with him going through every paper set for 5 years, and he was successful in the exam. A few weeks later we returned to Nairobi together. About 10 years later Peter died of a heart attack whilst on night duty in the Nairobi Communications Centre. He was taking a short break and read in the newspaper that Pinnocks had folded up. He had £15,000 invested with them, and the loss was too much to bear. After a few weeks at Eastleigh I was posted to Mwanza on the southern shores of Lake Victoria, again in Tanganyika.

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Our car, a Ford Prefect KCC13 (new price £400) and Paddy our alsatian, were nearly 1000 miles away in Mbeya and I was able to scrounge a flight as supernumery [sic] crew with East African Airways. The return journey by road with Paddy took 30 hours non-stop except for refuelling and for half an hour at dawn when driving was dangerous. The work in Nairobi was operating air/ground channels on R/T and W/T and also at the D/F station giving H/F bearings to aircraft on the Khartoum and Johannesburg sectors where navigation aids were few and far between. It transpired later that the D/F station was adjacent to the Mau Mau graveyard. I recall one day looking out of the door and seeing the police askari guard fast asleep with his loaded rifle on the ground beside him. More for security reasons than mischief I took the rifle inside the building and it was still there when I closed the station at 1830. But there was no sign of the askari, so I put the rifle in the loft of the small building, intending to do something about it next day. Somehow I forgot all about it for two weeks and then handed in the rifle at the R.A.F. guardroom and questioned why the police had taken no action. The askari had just disappeared without trace.

Once again our household effects were packed into crates, and despatched by ‘rail’ to Mwanza. We had exchanged our Ford Prefect for an Austin A70 and motored via Kitale (my father’s farm) to Kisumu where we boarded the M.V. Rusinga. The Rusinga ploughed clockwise round the lake shore calling at Musoma, Mwanza, Bukoba, Entebbe, Jinja and complete circle to Kisumu. Her sister ship the M.V. Usoga called at the same ports, but went anti-clockwise round the lake. A third ship, the M.V. Sybil was smaller and more or less a reserve vessel. Lake Victoria was the second largest inland sea in the world, and became the largest when its level rose 8 feet with the building of the dam at Jinja a few years later. The voyage of about 200 miles took a very pleasant 30 hours with one halt at Musoma. We were met at Mwanza Port by Johnny King who I was relieving. He said he expected to return to Mwanza in 6 months as it was his station and his wife’s father was Government entomologist permanently stationed there. His wife’s family were German, very domineering and forceful. I didn’t mind the mother’s clay pipe but took an instant dislike to her Bavarian-type husband. I insisted upon a proper formal take-over at the airport which was just as well, and the proper storage of King’s personal effects at P.W.D and not in the transmitter room. For a couple of weeks we stayed at Mwanza Hotel and then moved to a delightful house at Bwiru, facing north with a wonderful view over Lake Victoria. Palm trees in the foreground, paw paw trees in the garden and - we discovered much later - leopard in the hills at the back of the house. The water supply came from a storage tank half a mile up the hill via a metal pipe on the surface of the ground, and was always hot enough for a bath without further heating. The water had to remain in our roof storage tank for some time before we could regard it as being a cold water supply. Water and electricity could not be taken for granted in East Africa, but the house was connected to the town electricity supply.

The airport was a fairly new one about 10 miles east of town, by the lake shore, the single runway 18/36 being of grass. It was a neat little place, the transmitters being in the room below the Control Tower with two diesel engines and fire station being in a custom-built building 50 yards away. The


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transmitters were two RCA ET4336s, a G54 Redifon M/F Beacon and an ex-R.A.F. T1154. In the Control Tower was a Pye PTC704 VHF set with a direction-finding antenna. There were only 6 scheduled aircraft per week and an average of about 10 charters. This was a ‘one man’ station and my working hours were long. Perhaps the highlight of the tour was the four-day visit of H.R.H. Princess Margaret. The ten mile road to town was ‘tarmaced’ [sic] a few days before her arrival. The original murrum (red sand) surface was first graded and then covered by a quarter inch layer of chippings and sprayed with tar. The cost was £11,000 which was charged to my aerodrome maintenance vote. For the few days of the visit the road looked really superb, and then just a few days later it rained and the remains of the “tarmac surface” were cleared away by grader, the surface reverting to murram once more.

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Every effort was being made by the Administration to make the Royal Visit a success and the costs were covered somehow. The M.V. Sybil was in dock for 6 months at Kisumu being completely refitted so the Princess could spend just a few hours on the lake. An R.A.F. Shackleton flew down from Aden to provide an escort for the Sybil. Four radio stations were established on the boat, each with an operator, to contact the Police on H/F W/T, Aircraft on VHF, Mwanza Airport on H/F R/T, and E. A. Railways & Harbours. Just about every vessel afloat on Lake Victoria seemed to be milling around outside the harbour waiting for the Sybil and the Princess. A Widgeon aircraft, the only amphibean [sic] in E. Africa, was detailed to position itself at the end of the runway at instant readiness for take-off. The Shackleton took-off to patrol an hour before the Sybil was due to leave harbour, Captain Chris Treen positioned his Widgeon and stayed put with engines idling. All the Sybil's radios were tested and people were getting excited. We were then advised that it was a case of not tonight Josephine, H.R.H. had a headache, the trip was cancelled. The Shackleton, looking remarkably like a real Lancaster landed on my murrum runway, and the Widgeon had to be towed in backwards, the engines having over-heated.

In company with all the other Colonial officials I had been given six pages of foolscap telling me how to address the Princess and how to conduct myself in the Royal presence. There was also an application form for a Permit to be at the airport for her arrival and another application form regarding my being presented to the Princess. It was the two application forms which bugged me. I refused to apply for a permit to enter the airport where every aspect was my responsibility, if anyone denied me access, be it on their own head. "Before applying to be presented", the write-up stated, "You must qualify under at least one of the following headings:-

1. Be a Government Servant on a salary exceeding '£x'
2. Be a serving officer of H. M. forces,
3. Be a retired officer having held a rank above 'Y'
4. Hold a Civil Decoration equivalent or senior to an M.B.E.
5. Hold a military decoration.
6. Have already been presented to another member of the Royal Family.

There was virtually an order to apply if one qualified and this decided me to ignore the whole issue. I was not in favour of the pomp and circumstance and the relatively vast expenditure involved, and I was never any good at playing charades and other party games.

Just before the Royal Visit a gang of workmen turned up at the airport and were starting to fit a toilet suite in the 'Crew Room'. This was a small room where aircrews could relax and enjoy a little privacy between flights. Toilet facilities were quite adequate without specially converting the crew room for the Princess. I vetoed the plan, and finally the toilet wing, already with four Asian type and four European type loos was enhanced with one new and rather superior loo. The superloo did come in useful however; whilst the Princess was inspecting the guard of honour, the bare-chested Engineer of the Widgeon aircraft appeared inside the Terminal building,


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looking quite incongruous in his filthy shorts and sandals. I told him to keep out of sight until Princes Margaret had left. He did, and hid in the superloo. After the visit, someone fixed a royal coat of arms an the door to which I had the only key. I was tempted to replace the heraldry with a replica of the board made for me by one of the German prisoners at Poynton. written in Gothic characters "Lager Kommandant, Eintritt Verbotten".

The Royal Visit was the highlight of the decade for Mwanza, the road to the aerodrome was closed for three hours and all the Police were concerned only with the visit. It was during that three hours the villains broke into many European houses. We lost all our shoes which were not actually being worn at the time, some clothing, and all our clocks including a time-switch I had just repaired for someone.

There was one charter aircraft based at Mwanza, the Widgeon piloted by Chris Treen. It was a very busy aircraft, being an amphibean [sic] , going relatively short flights mostly around the lake shore. Chris had a full-time engineer who was not very co-operative, and the operation proved to be uneconomical although Chris tried very hard. He was on Transport Command during the war and later flew in the Berlin Air Lift, then flew the Widgeon from U.K., 6000 miles to Mwanza. The airline had its moments, on one occasion the Provincial Commissioner was climbing out of the aircraft at Ukerewe Island into a dingy which collapsed and he was nearly drowned. Submerged rack. and crocodiles added to the excitement

One of the busiest aircraft at Mwanza was a Miles Magister which, was owned privately and which has also been flown out from England by its owner, an official of the Lint & Seed Marketing Board, who also had an Aircraft Maintenance Engineers' licence. It became the main asset of the Mwanza Aeroclub and was very active at weekends.

The tribe an Ukerewe Island had it's own language, and the story goes that the District Officer studied the language and wrote a dictionary and grammar for it. Having done so he applied for the £60 per year "language competency allowance", and to qualify had first to pass the Official Colonial Office exam. in the subject. The Colonial Office department which organised such matters was duly asked to prepare an exam. and find an invigilator for it, but was not given the identity of the candidate. There was no record of anyone being able to speak the language, and they approached the obvious source, the District Officer Ukerewe. As a part of his normal chores he was pleased to prepare the two papers as 2 hours of translation each way between English and the native language of Ukerewe. On arrival in U. K. on leave, he received a letter from another Colonial Office department, addressing him by name and asking him to invigilate at as examination, giving the venue and date. Shortly after, yet another office wrote to him advising him that an examination had been arranged and wishing him luck in the exam. He hardly needed it, reporting as directed in his official capacities as both invigilator and examinee. Not only that, but he had also prepared the examination papers. He was the only European who knew the language and he got his £60. per annum. The common language with the natives was of course an up-country impure Swahili, as in all parts of East Africa.

I had studied Kiswahili in the Prisons Service and from books, but the grammatical version was spoken only at the coast and on the radio. The

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Africans in the Prison Service and those I worked with spoke the up-country version, almost completely ungrammaticaI. The further one went from the coast the more it became a matter of joining words together. Nevertheless, it was an interesting and descriptive Ianguage. Beautiful words like 'maradadi' which in fact is an adjective meaning 'beautiful', and 'tafadahali', said to mean 'please' , but I never actually heard an African use it. ' Asanti' meaning thankyou was frequently used. Calling someone a "shenzi" hardly needs translation.

The Caspair Lake Service operated daily. Based at Entebbe, a DeHavilland Rapide flew to Kisumu, Musoma, Mzanza, Bukoba and back to Entebbe. It called at Mwanza three times weekly and remained on the ground for 4 hours. Paddy O'Reilly was the most colourful of the pilots and on one occasion was missing when the aircraft was due to take-off. He had borrowed a native canoe and paddled out into the lake for some peace and quiet. He was very soon asleep and when he awoke he found he was two miles off-shore without a paddle. He was soon rescued and took off two hours late.

I had a very good African Assistant at Mwanza, Zepherino Shija, and he was a tremendous help in making things run smoothly. In fact my African staff were all good types, far from home, politicians and the trouble-makers to be influenced by them.

It was at Mwanza that I really became involved with radio repairs, and once I had repaired a few, word quickly spread and I was inundated with them. Many of the 'dukes' -shops- in town sold radios but hadn't the vaguest idea how they worked or how to repair them. Most of the radio owned by the Africans were powered by dry batteries, using a 4-pin plug on the power lead which was very often forced the wrong way into the socket on the battery. This instantly blew all four valves for which the shops charged 25 shillings each. I bought valves for 3 shillings each in quantity and sold them in sets of 4 for forty shillings, throwing in a new and better type plug. I must have repaired over a thousand radios in two years, plus many bigger sets for Europeans. Before very long I met Mr. Manning, the American Head of the African Inland Mission in the Province, and he showed me a room full of equipment, domestic radios, car radios, record players, tape recorders, transmitters, P.A. ampIifiers etc. etc. Every item was faulty. I was invited to repair what I could, keep what I wanted and throw out anything that was past it. Three trans-receivers were very attractive and they needed only setting up. Independent transmitter and receiver units powered from 115v a.c. but with rather limited frequency coverage of 5 to 8 MHz. I used them on the air for a couple of weeks and they were then taken by road to African Inland Mission stations in the Belgium Congo where they had a network on 7150 KHz. These sets were to prove very useful within a few years during the Congo rebellion which came with "Independence". It took me 6 months to empty the room, and all except three or four units were returned to use within the Mission organisation. Those three or four units caused a misunderstanding with Mr. Manning. I said "These units are U/S, best place for them is in the lake", and I could see that I had upset him. He associated my expression 'U.S' . with Uncle Sam, or the United States, but when I explained it meant ‘unservicable’ in English Service jargon a crisis was avoided.


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I met a fellow called Nawotsey, supposed to be a Belgian, who was making a fortune killing crocodiles for their skins. He had just about wiped them out on Lake Rukwa. His technique was to use an infra-red lamp and sniperscope at very close range, typically six feet. His equipment gave a lot of trouble and I charged him well over the odds for repairs. In reality he was German, and ex-German army. There were many of them in ex-German Tanganyika but few had the guts to admit it, and there was not a nazi among them, in theory.

Eventually one of the dukas offered me £50 per month cash if would stop doing radio repairs. This was not far short of my salary and quite a compliment, but not accepted.

We became very friendly with one German, Dr. Schupler, who had been a wartime Medical Officer in the Luftwaffe. He was serving in Dresden the night of the 13th. of February 1945 when it was attacked by over 800 R.A.F. bombers, followed by over 300 American Fortresses the next day, causing between them 137,000 casualties including an estimated 50,000 killed. A doctor somehow seemed to be in a different and acceptable category, but our talks had reminded one of a period I had almost forgotten, and about which I had stopped thinking. One good point in East Africa's favour, there was very little to remind us of the war. A row of ribbons perhaps on a police uniform, or a retired senior type using his old rank, but there were few occasions when we compared, notes on our respective war efforts. The Germans were supposed to be super-efficient, a myth already exploded, but in the main they were still mostly distrusted.

Mwanza was a peaceful place, there was only one murder during our 2 years residence, and that was committed by a mad african from Dodoma, 400 miles away. I could not have visualised at the time that within twentyseven years this nice little airport would be bombed by the Uganda Air Force. I can picture now the little bakery where the murder was committed. It was in same road just before we left that a hyena was running down the road to meet us. We were in the Austin A70 which already had a damaged right. wing and I put on full speed. We met the hyena head-on, relative speed about 70 and he was thrown completely over the car. He lay on the road for about two minutes, then picked himself up and loped off into the bush. We had ringside seats watching an interesting battle between hyena and baboon one evening. Our bungalow was on the hillside and the bedroom windows on one side were 15 feet above ground, and level with the tops of the pawpaw trees, heavily laden with fruit. The baboon were taking the fruit and being attacked by about a dozen hyena which were being thrown around by the baboon. The fight finished suddenly for reasons best known to the combatants. They might have sensed the presence of a leopard, which was very likely, but we were not aware of the leopards ourselves until a few weeks later. In the middle of one night we were awakened by a scuffling outside the window and there was the most obnoxious stench. There was the so-called laugh of the hyena and a deep sawing sound which we were told was a leopard. It seemed that a hyena had been dragging an old carcass along when it was disturbed by a leopard. The carcass was dropped outside our bedroom window and later one of them returned to collect it. Apparently baboon are the favourite diet of the leopard and everything including baboon and leopard dislikes the hyena. One of them cornered a neighbour’s dog in our garage and

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chewed off it’s vital parts before help arrived too late. Snakes too were in abundance around Mwanza, and a European girl had been crushed, but not fatally by a python near the lake shore. One of the houseboys hacked a monitor lizard to death, thinking it was a snake. Hilda recalls the occasion when I encountered a leopard on the driveway to the house and I got out of the car to tell her!. There was the occasion too when Paddy, our Alsatian was aware of a leopard outside the front door and Paddy's hair literally bristled. The leopard was probably aware of Paddy's presence also. I was away in Nairobi at the time

Some months before the end of our tour, we received a telegram from Les with the sad news that Hilda's father had died. At about the same time the Kenya Education authorities informed us that as we were no longer resident in Kenya, Colin and Wendy would have to leave Kitale School. The alternative was Kongwa, a school established at the time of the groundnut scheme, a British Government fiasco then almost fully wound up after wasting eighteen million pounds. Kongwa was about 400 miles away and difficult to reach from Mwanza, and as it would be only a temporary measure in any case, we felt it better that Colin and Wendy should return to U.K. We saw them off on the Dakota on an hour's flight to Entebbe where they were met by Flossy and Pi Reed. The following day they flew to London and stayed with Mum at Korella Rd., in Wandsworth.

In early June `57 it was time for home leave again and once more we packed all our household effects into huge crates ready for shipping to our next station which had not yet been decided. I had been promoted to Radio Superintendant [sic] in Mbeya and later to Telecommunications Supt. having passed departmental exams for the two lots of promotion. I was finally relieved by Sailor Seaman who immediately objected to the long working hours. The way of life on the outstations had a great deal to commend it. There was no television but we always had a good radio set. There was not the pressure we were to experience in later life and we made our own entertainment. It would be nice to go round again.


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Before leaving Mwanza I had ordered a VW Beetle on the home leave scheme stipulating the date and time that I would collect it in London. This resulted in a considerable saving. The cost was £330 delivered London whilst the price in East Africa was £1250. Colin and Wendy were already in Britain, only John and Chris were with us on this trip. From Mwanza we should have returned via the capital, Dar es Salaam, as we did from Mbeya, but for some weeks I had been pointing out the futility of the extra 1600 miles via Dar, when the the [sic] aircraft would go via Entebbe in any case. Sanity prevailed and we flew by DC3 to Entebbe, a nice lunch at the Lake Vic. and a 10 hour flight to the U.K. with one stop at Benghazi. I think that was our first trip by Jet aircraft, a Comet. I have flown in many jets since then, but none as comfortable and roomy as the Comet. The following day we went to Lower Regent Street and collected our new VW Beetle, which came into the showroom one minute ahead of schedule. I was very impressed by the German organisation. I was taken into a workshop and given some useful tips about the car which was to serve us well for over 200,00 miles most of which was on murrum, our reddish East African sandy soil.

In the following six months we made good use of the car, visiting my mother in Barnoldswick, the Yorkshire Dales, and whilst up north had a rendezvous avec Ace (Ted) and Mary Foster, Ace having been our second tour Navigator. Ted recalled this many years later and remembered an incident in a Southport restaurant. We were sharing two tables with Ted and Mary and their three children, making a party of 4 adults and 7 children. Ted alleges the waitress exclaimed “By gum are these all yours?” and claims I replied “No, they are from the local orphanage, we are just taking them out for the day”. She said that was right champion and gave us a discount! I went to Liverpool also and en-route noticed that a Police car had been right behind me for several miles. I slowed down to 30 for the next five miles and eventually the blue light came on and I was stopped. “What speed were you doing Sir?” An instant reply, “29.5 m.p.h. “The officer agreed with that and said “Why, it’s a lovely road and there’s no speed limit. When you slowed down from 80 to 30 we thought you had a problem, enjoy your visit Sir”. I had a “Visitor to Britain” sticker on the back which was supposed to help a little. In Liverpool I met Stan Chadderton, our First tour Bomb Aimer. I called at Stan’s house and his wife Hilda directed me to the Gladstone Dock where Stan was working, I seem to remember being introduced to his boss and Stan was given the rest of the day off. We adjourned to the Lord Nelson Pub and reminisced well into the night about our efforts in North Africa.

We had made another acquisition whilst in Mwanza. Clearly a base was needed in Britain even if my work was to be in East Africa. Les told us of a house in Glyn Neath called Glaslyn going for £1850 on the balance of a 999 year lease. I offered to buy it if the freehold was available. It was very quickly ours at a total cost £1910 and £25 solicitor’s fees. Hilda’s Mum moved into Glaslyn and Colin and Wendy had already joined her. Glaslyn was a comfortable and handy sort of place, only a few hundred yards from Aunt Doll’s cottage.

In early December I was told to report direct to Entebbe Airport to relieve Henry Day in charge of Telecommunications. I wrote to P.W.D. in Mwanza and asked them to send on our boxes and car by Lake Steamer to


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Entebbe, and completed other arrangements. Just before Christmas I handed over the new car to the A.A. near Tower Bridge and paid £75 for shipping it to Mombassa [sic]. Then with our four children and a mass of baggage we once again booked-in at Victoria Air Terminal and shortly afterwards we realised we had just been home for six months and were then in Entebbe. The Comet aircraft was flown by Howard Iliffe, 109011! but I discovered this too late to meet him.

At Entebbe we were met by Henry Day who had been in charge for six months in an acting capacity and he made it clear that as he was now demoted – with loss of acting pay – I could not expect any co-operation from him. For 10 days we stayed in the Lake Victoria Hotel, luxurious but not at all homely and with it’s population of some hundreds of cats living on the roof. We then moved into a house with a red mbati (corrugated iron) roof. Between the ceiling and the roof was a foot of sand and if the builders had been designing an oven it would have taken some beating. The red iron absorbed the heat from a tropical sun and it was retained by the sand. Entebbe was a pretentious place, not the capital of Uganda, which was Kampala 20 miles north, but where most of the senior Gov’t officials lived. The airport was a minor one to U.K. standards but trying very had [sic] to appear important. I found the whole place docile and yet offensive, “toffee-nosed” is the phrase which comes to mind. The job itself was not at all demanding, I had a team of about 8 Engineers including Frank Unstead and Gibby. Also three Radio Officers including Henry Day and several Africans to operate the teleprinters and radio links to Nairobi. There was little for me to do personally. Airport Management was taken care of by Uganda Government officers. The East Africa High Commission, of which the Directorate of Civil Aviation was a part, was responsible for Air Traffic Control and telecommunications. About six airlines had their own Station Managers and there was a great deal of empire building which led to over-manning and inefficiency. An individual’s importance was determined by the number of his subordinates and the extent of his warrant to incur expenditure. There was a great deal of ill-feeling too, between the officers of Government and those of the High Commission, later more appropriately renamed the East Africa Common Services Organisation. The latter was responsible for all communications in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, except for the actual maintenance of roads. It included E.A. Posts & Telegraphs, Railways & Harbours, Fisheries, Meteorlogical [sic] Depts., Civil Aviation and several Medical Research establishments. Politically, the scene was complex, Kenya was a “Colony & Protectorate” – some of each – Tanganyika was a Protectorate with a United Nations mandate and Uganda a combination of twelve Kingdoms formed into a ‘State’ with 12 Kings, a Prime Minister and also a President. It had its political problems but they were not mine. Dickie Dixon was Senior Air Traffic Controller and therefore Officer i/c Navigational Services in which capacity I was his deputy. As I was not at that time a qualified Air Traffic Controller, this led to friction, and as I have already implied, Entebbe was not a happy place. The crunch came when I was told by Dickie to compile all the Annual Confidential reports, including those for Air Traffic Controllers. I told him that I did not think it proper that I should report on officers whose qualifications I did not hold myself. He should do them himself and I would write them for all the Telecommom [sic].

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staff. The previous year he had reported on the Telecomms staff and I disagreed strongly with his findings in one case, that of Gibby who, he wrote, “was slow in carrying out a job”. He was indeed slower than most, but was also the most thorough engineer in the Department. When repairing an equipment he not only repaired the current fault but also brought it right up to the manufacturer’s specification. My personal relationship with Dickie deteriorated rapidly, and rather than speak to me he would write me memos. In one of his many memos he “required” a technical explanation of a particular problem, and I replied to the effect that “as the conductivity between the two points was less than half a mho, this was inadequate for proper operation”. He wrote to my Chief in Nairobi complaining that I was taking the Mickey, and this brought him a rude reply. I could have referred to “a resistance greater than 2 ohms” instead of “a conductivity less than half a mho”, which would have been more helpful, but I made my point.

One major problem at Entebbe was the absence of schools for European children, and Colin and Wendy had to go to Nairobi and Kericho respectively, as boarders. This would have cost little had I been stationed in Kenya and paid the statutary [sic] Education Tax, but as I was stationed outside Kenya and had not paid the Kenya tax I had to pay the full boarding fees. I was not alone in this of course, it was a problem for all families of the E.A. High Commission living in Uganda.

However, I learned that in June 1958 Dinger Bell was finishing his four year tour at Kisumu in Kenya, and I managed a transfer for myself, handing-over Entebbe to an officer returning from a U.K. leave. At that time we had two cars, and I remember taking the Austin A70 to Kampala and selling it in a bar to a consortium of five Africans for £25, each chipping in with a hundred shillings. We travelled to Kisumu by road, our effects going by lake steamer. It was an easy day’s drive round the north-east shores of Lake Victoria, through Jinja, with its crocodiles at the source of the Nile. This was in the days before the level of the Owen Falls dam was raised by eight feet. It was refreshing to arrive at Kisumu, and we were pleased with everything we saw. We spent the first week in the hotel, then moved in to Dinger Bell’s house at 55 Mohammed Kassim Road, near the African Broadcasting Service transmitting Station.

Kisumu Airport had been established about 1932, and had, like Mbeya been a scheduled stop on the Empire Air Route of (the original) British Airways. The lake was ideal for the Empire Flying Boats and our staff pilot, Capt. Casperuthus had many stories of flying Hannibal biplanes into Kisumu. During the Second World War it was taken over by the R.A.F. and used extensively by Catalina amphibeans [sic] and Sunderland seaplanes. R.A.F. aircraft of most long and medium range types were regular visitors, together with the 3-motor Junkers 52 transports of the South African Air Force. With two excellent murrum runways and four hangars, it had seen some service one way and another.

The Control Tower was a small two storey building of 1932 vintage, the ground floor being taken up completely by the transmitting room. The first floor comprised the Control “tower”, a small office, and store. Originally there had been a second floor with a glass top for good all-round vision but this had been removed at the end of the war and replaced with a tiled roof. The second floor became the loft and housed the VDF antenna. I


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found the transmitters had been sadly neglected for many years. Two RCA 4336 types were used on R/T., a third on W/T., and a new Redifon GR49 NDB. There was also a dual transmitter which was not on the inventory and which had in fact been ‘liberated’ from a Catalina, before it joined the other two scuttled in the lake at the end of the war. This set was the best of the lot, and certainly my favourite. It was complete with a 110v ac supply of 600 Hz, not 60 and within a month I had modified an old T1190 power unit to drive it. The M/F section was put into use in place of the Redifon beacon, and the H/F section performed wonderfully on the amateur bands.

Being a ‘one-man station’ my working hours were long, 7 days a week and seldom a whole day off, but I had a workshop and bench and put my waiting-for-aircraft hours to very good use, mostly repairing domestic radios. The transmitters were giving a lot of trouble. As an example, whilst tuning a rotary inductance on a 4336, a two inch nail providing an electrical contact dropped out and had to be bodged up again. The GR49, although nearly new, was using modulator valves at the rate of a pair every two weeks due to a missing relay and associated wiring which had actually been left out at the factory during production. Fortunately there was a good old T1154 which acted as a standby for all transmitters except VHF, so I was able to take each transmitter in turn out of use for as long as was necessary whilst I overhauled them. As this progressed I was enjoying the practical work and decided to make use of a three-foot cabinet which was not on charge. (I inherited quite a lot of useful ‘junk’ at Kisumu!). At the Fisheries office on the lake shore, also on the airport, I found that a vehicle had demolished a rondaval (a 12 ft. diameter building constructed of aluminium). I volunteered the services of my crash-tender crew to clear up the mess and to take away the wreckage. A few days was spent by the crash crew in cutting the best of the aluminium into 19” panels of standard sizes, and suitable chassis. One of the ET4336 transmitters was going to be off the air for several weeks waiting for spares, and in order not to delay my overhaul programme I built a two-stage transmitter on one of the 3 1/2” panels. This was a 6V6 crystal oscillator driving an 807 to a dipole antenna. The operator at Nairobi reported our signals as very good and better than they had been for a long time. 20 Watts in place of 400, but it was the dipole antenna in place of a random length of wire which made all the difference. Within three weeks the 3’ cabinet contained 4 transmitters and was providing all services except VHF and M/F Beacon. The overhauling programme was completed, the official transmitters finally tested and then switched off. For the next 18 months we operated almost trouble-free. My monthly engineering reports to H.Q. in Nairobi were mainly negative and referred to “routine preventative maintenance only”. However, Sid Worthy, Chief Telecomms. Engineer was not fooled, and in due course he wrote and asked why my monthly electricity bill was only a quarter of what it had been for many years. Before I had plucked up enough courage to reply, Sid arrived unannounced and went direct to the Transmitter room, finding the four big transmitters switched off. In the Control Tower he saw my all-purpose cabinet, and to put it lightly, he was not amused. I suggested to Sid that we should make our own single-purpose transmitters and dispense with the old uneconomical general-purpose types. He agreed there was no good technical or financial argument against this but what would he do with his army of 50

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or so engineers? He compromised and allowed me to leave my own equipment in use provided I removed it a month before I left Kisumu.

One of our friends at Kisumu, Jimmie Sanson was a very keen constructor of model aircraft and several he had made were lost in the lake. His final model was a rather superior type with six-foot wingspan and single engine using alcohol as fuel. The rudder was radio-controlled on 27MHz. and the aircraft made some very impressive flights at the airport. On one occasion it went up to about 2000 feet before it ran out of fuel and for almost an hour Jimmie kept it turning over the airport. The aircraft was trimmed slightly nose-heavy but apart from turns, he had no other control. Eventually it was so far down-wind that it was lost to sight and last seen heading for the mountains. After a period of calm, the wind changed in the early evening and Jimmie and I were standing outside the Control Tower lamenting his sad loss when one of the crash Crew shouted “Bwana, Ndegi ndogo narudi”. His eyesight was far superior to ours, we saw nothing until the aircraft appeared over the end of the runway and actually landed, after a record flight of over three hours. Up-dating the radio control was the next stage and two months and about £200 later an eight function system was completed, giving control of the engine, elevators, ailerons and rudder. The machine could then be made to taxi out, take off and carry out aerobatics. The engine was used in short bursts and as there appeared to be a permanent thermal over the runways during the warm days, thirty minute flights were quite routine. Eventually the aircraft was lost over Lake Victoria and probably joined the three Catalinas on the bottom. Perhaps one day a Catalina will be recovered from their fresh-water grave, but the Sanson special was lost for ever..

My official work ran quite smoothly, with a little excitement occasionally. At 3 am one night, Nairobi Flight Information Centre phoned and asked me to open up the VHF and call Alitalia 541 which was three hours overdue in Nairobi, from Khartoum, and with no radio contact for four hours. I sped through town doing over 70 m.p.h. to my Control Tower, switched on and called the aircraft. There was a weak signal in reply and I managed to get a class C bearing of 270 degrees. A second transmission confirmed this and I told the operator he was probably over the Congo, but certainly well to the west of Kisumu. I told him QDM Kisumu 090, but the pilot would not agree and said he was east of Kisumu, not west, and approaching Mombassa [sic]! His signals faded right out and I telephoned F.I.C. asking them to log the QDM of 090C that I had passed to the aircraft. After half an hour, whilst F.I.C was sending frantic messages to all points west, I heard the aircraft calling Kisumu and was soon in good contact giving QDM’s, his signals gradually improving. It was just 0530, 20 minutes before first light when I heard the aircraft and sent out the boys to light-up the gooseneck flares. Then he was overhead and decided to carry on to Nairobi. This was rather disappointing, and in fact the wrong decision, his endurance being insufficient for any further diversion. I was told much later that the Captain and Navigator had a row before take-off and were not on speaking terms. The aircraft was a DC8 and the Italian crew and passengers had been very lucky indeed. The police followed me through town and I was charged with speeding, but the fine of 60 shillings was refunded later by the court when the urgency became known.


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Some weeks later Nairobi F.I.C. phoned again, about 4 am., an Air Liban DC6 from Cairo was lost and was not within the scope of Nairobi VDF. The aircraft had made a brief contact on the area cover VHF through Lodwa, and another aircraft north-east of Kisumu had heard the DC6, but of course had no idea of range or direction. This time I went through town at a more reasonable speed, opened up the radio, and called Air Liban. The crash crew was called out and the boys started dispensing paraffin and setting out the flares right away. I called Nairobi on 5680 H/F R/T to establish my station was on the ball, and every two minutes called the Lebanese Airlines aircraft. About 20 minutes later the aircraft replied to my call and I gave him a QDM of 225, and was satisfied there was no risk of it being the reciprocal. Three minutes later I measured 230 and then 235. He said his Giro compass was u/s and his magnetic compass erratic, and that he would use a standby giro, set to my figure. He turned 10 degrees to port and the QDM increased, 10 degrees to starboard and the figure decreased, so he was heading for Kisumu, and not going away from it. The bearings were given every two minutes and were reasonably steady, and after about 25 minutes the pilot said he thought he could see the coast, meaning the shores of Lake Victoria. It was still very dark but a clear night (not a contradiction of terms) and the boys hurtled out to light up the goosenecks. I told the pilot the wind was north-easterly at 15 knots, he was down wind, duty runway 06. I reminded him of the very high ground 2 miles to the north of the airport and he replied “O.K. Bud, Thanks a lot, I’ll come straight in on 24, hope youv’e [sic] got some gas, we shure [sic] ain’t [sic]”. A few minutes later he made a good landing and parked outside the 1932 wooden terminal building. The Captain of the Air Liban DC6 was an American pre-war Veteran. I had completely forgotten to tell the East African Airways agent but did so at 0545. There was no catering at the airport so he found some buses and the passengers were taken to the hotel. I was also late in phoning the police who dealt with immigration, but they hadn’t a clue how to deal with 60 international transit passengers. Similarly, it was a new experience for Customs, so both departments decided to pretend it hadn’t happened.

The Captain asked me to tell the non-English-speaking African Shell Assistant to put 3000 gallons of 100 octane into the tanks. I translated to the startled assistant “Bwana Mkubwa anataka gallon elfu tatu, pipa sabini na tano”. That was 75 drums of petrol to be pumped by hand. Finally he compromised with 400 gallons, but it was still quite a task, even with only 10 drums.

The Captain was concerned about the limited fuel and lack of a reliable compass and we double-checked that the met. conditions to Nairobi were near perfect. A scheduled DC3 of East African Airways came in at 10am. And was taking off for Nairobi at 11 am. The two pilots talked together at length and studied the map. The DC6 took-off three minutes after the Dakota and the two remained in visual contact until Nairobi was in sight. Surprisingly, the DC6 did not carry a radio compass for M/F but relied entirely on VHF, which, in East and Central Africa was quite inadequate.

I was criticised by DCA for not informing them in detail of progress, and was conscious of this at the time, but had I done so, they would have confused the issue with lots of advice. A civilian airliner without a reliable compass would be a major issue. I operated an “aerodrome

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advisory service”, not being an Air Traffic Controller. F.I.C. would have tried to control my detailed activity, but with a bit of common sense, things worked out well.

The visit of Her Majesty the Queen Mother to Kisumu went off smoothly except that two European Police Inspectors on the airport main gate refused permission for me to enter without a permit. One of my passengers, an R.A.F. Wing Commander leaned out and said he was the Queen’s Pilot, better open the gate old chap. Police had been drafted in for this event from hundreds of miles. I remember little else about the Royal Visit, or it’s main purpose. On these occasions most of the senior officials climbed in on the act, establishing their own importance.

I do remember in detail the visit of Billy Graham. My brief from the organising committee was to provide the Public Address systems. The main system had to cope with an audience of 30,000 people, with three microphones for which I borrowed a 300 watt amplifier from Twenche Overseas Trading Co. in Nairobi and used my four 100 watt loudspeakers. In addition there were six other systems for separate areas where the audience spoke only their tribal languages. Each of the six would hear Billie Graham plus one interpreter translating into the appropriate tribal language for that particular group. There were nine microphones on the platform for the evagelist [sic] and 8 interpretors [sic]. In addition the Post Office ran a special line about a mile at the end of which they connected a candlestick type of telephone with a carbon microphone and place it with my nine microphones. This relayed the proceedings to another mass meeting in Nairobi. The microphone was ineffective until I connected the P.O. line direct to the main amplifier output via a suitable transformer. Billie Graham had a very efficient team. Harley and Bonnie Richardson are two I remember, both very hard working and leaving nothing to chance. They were backed-up by representatives from most church denominations.

The following Christmas, the missionaries approached me again, could I use my loudspeakers at the Church to simulate bells on Christmas morning. An interesting proposition, and someone had written to Bradford Cathedral to scrounge a tape of the Cathedral bells. I had to edit the tape considerably, as every two a rich Yorkshire-accented voice was superimposed with “You are listening to the bells of Bradford Cathedral”. I set-up the amplifier and loudspeakers at the Church at about 7 pm. On Christmas-eve and tested the system with a record of carols. Within minutes, people began to gather and joined in. The Vicar asked if I could connect a microphone and in no time at all he was conducting an impromptu carol service with a bigger congregation than he had enjoyed for a long time, well over 1500. At 7 am next morning I relayed the bells of Bradford Cathedral, but could not resist pre-empting them with a verse of ‘Christians awake’. The loudspeakers were in constant demand and were in use every day for two weeks during H.H. the Aga Khan’s visit. Events included H.E. the Governor’s barazas, opening a ginnery and so on, all official requests from the Provincial Commissioner. I was spending so much time away from the airport that I fitted a TCS12 Transmitter and a good H/F receiver in the car to work aircraft and keep in touch with the airport. At the African hospital I fitted a receiver and 50 Watt Vortexion amplifier imported by my father, and installed 30 loudspeakers round the wards. This was followed by a similar


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job at an American mission hospital about 30 miles from Kisumu, but more ambitious with microphones, tape recorder and record player. At the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Kisumu I fitted an amplifier and loudspeakers with microphones on the Altar and pulpit. Another system was fitted at the African Community Centre in Kisumu and one way and another I was kept very busy indeed.

The transmitter in the car was used also on the 40 metre amateur band to keep in touch with my father and amateur chums in Nairobi and other parts of East Africa. On one occasion Tom Mboya took an interest in it and was quite impressed. Tom was a Luo by tribe and a party leader of the Kenya African Democratic Union, a very nice chap with an attractive wife Pamella [sic], daughter of Mr. Odede, a Kisumu lawyer. Tom wanted to buy the transmitter but for me to sell it to him would not have been wise. Later Tom was shot and killed in Nairobi.

Kisumu was fairly well populated and within 10 miles or so of town we saw very few wild animals. The two exceptions were the protected herd of impala in Kisumu township and the hippo which abounded on the lake shore. They came ashore at night to graze and I encountered them on the aerodrome several times. One rather amusing occurrence, the airport was wide in area and Africans frequently trekked across the runway and even drove their cattle over it at most inappropriate times. On several occasions I impounded the cattle after due warnings and charged the owners with trespass under section 69 of the Colonial Air Navigation Act. When I found the offenders were getting six month’s imprisonment and losing their cattle, I stopped charging them and the Police insisted upon taking over this task. Finally they agreed to drop the practice, when I told them that I doubted whether the Colonial Air Navigation Act really applied in Kenya and in any case I had invented the content of section 69. However, the runways had to be watched carefully and checked every time there was an aircraft movement.

One morning at Kisumu a uniformed Prisons Askari I had known at Nairobi Prison in 1950 came to my Control Tower and after a smart salute handed me a note saying it was from Bwana Mkubwa ya Ndegi. It was from Commander Stacey-Colles R.N. Ret’d., my former boss and previous Director of Civil Aviation. He had arrived at Kisumu Prison only two hours earlier, and was serving a three year sentence. He had been found guilty of receiving money, a refund of an airline ticket issued by the High Commission and which he did not use. At the time he was in Britain having travelled home on a complimentary ticket from Air France. The official ticket was handed in to East African Airways and a refund obtained which was paid into his bank instead of the High Commission’s account. He claimed no knowledge of this and most of us believed him. He would not prejudice his career and Navy pension in this way, someone had fixed him. The note was a list of things he wanted, which I soon assembled and took to him at Kisumu prison, where I found I knew the Prisons Officer from 1950. A very embarrassing situation. I met Stacey and gave him the radio, writing materials, money, cigarettes and cakes from Hilda, on the first of many visits. Three days later the Askari was back with a long message in code for Muriel Pardoe, his former secretary in Nairobi. I sent this off straight away on the aeronautical W/T channel, addressed to HKNCHQPA, the ICAO address which would reach Miss Pardoe from any airport in the western world. HK was Kenya, NC Nairobi City, HQ DCA

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Headquarters and PA Personal Ast. To the Director. The code was in five letter groups with a double substitution of letters, a similar system to that used during the war.

The message was decoded by Muriel who obtained whatever it was Stacey was asking for and gave it to Capt. Casperuthus who was DCA pilot of the Avro Anson. Casper gave it to the Controller at Wilson airport who passed it to a pilot about to depart for Kisumu. The pilot handed it to me at Kisumu and I delivered it – whatever it was – to Stacey in prison the same day. Three days later the radio set came back to me with the askari, not working. Two of the valves had been swapped over, and I noticed a piece of paxeline had been fitted neatly inside the bottom of the set, forming a false bottom. Under it was a note asking me if I could fit a B.F.O. into it. This was a beat frequency oscillator and Stacey could want it for only one reason, to monitor morse, probably on the Prisons channel, to see what was happening. There were two spare holes for valve holders on the chassis and plenty of space for fitting a mains power supply, vacant in this case because it was a dry-battery receiver. I fitted the B.F.O. as requested, and also another valve as a flea-power transmitter, using just a channel freq. crystal about 6.5 MHz and a tuned circuit on the anode. Maybe 50 mW output, I had no means of measuring it, but I tested the set at a range of 2 miles using 3 feet of wire for an aerial it was received at the control tower. The morse key was just a matter of touching a wire to the chassis. I returned the set to Stacey personally and explained the switching of the B.F.O. and transmitter keying. He was delighted and agreed to be very careful, taking absolutely no-one into his confidence. About six weeks later I met my former colleague the Prisons Officer in town and he told me there was some concern over the prisoners getting confidential information before he received it himself. He quoted that a week ago a prisoner asked if he could change cells and share with a particular prisoner who would be transferred to Kisumu with three others on a date a week hence. He said the four arrived that day, how could the prisoner have known a week ago? It should have been obvious, there were many ex-service personnel who were good W/T operators and the Prisons Radio on 7 MHz could be monitored by anyone, the signals being in plain language morse. I said nothing. Stacey’s frequency was monitored at my office where I had a similar tiny transmitter. It was used at a specific time of day on only two occasions for test purposes, but he found it satisfying and consoling to have a personal and totally clandestine link to the outside world. It gave him a great deal of satisfaction and from my point of view did no real harm. Stacey was a great organiser and motivator.

The African Inland Mission in Mwanza had colleagues in the Sudan [author indicates with X and page footnote that it is Kisumu not Mwanza] who visited Kisumu frequently in their Cessna aircraft. They desperately needed two transmitters in the Sudan but were not able to obtain import permits. They could however get a permit to re-import a transmitter if it had been sent out of the country for repair. I suggested to them that they should send me a piece of otherwise useless equipment which might look like a transmitter to the uninitiated and send it to me as a transmitter for repair, together with the appropriate paper work. This was done and in an antenna tuning unit they brought me, I built a 10 Watt transmitter without changing it’s outward appearance in any way. A few weeks later a second one was built and the two did a very useful job in the Sudan for about six



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months until the African Inland Mission stations there were closed, and the missionaries withdrawn. The missions’ aircraft were also licenced on that frequency and I contacted them occasionally. It is most reassuring to be able to communicate with someone in times of trouble, and plenty of folks in Africa were in that situation.

But trouble was also brewing in the Belgian Congo, just across the Lake. Six months earlier, the Belgian Government had advised the missionaries and other settlers to leave, but many were dedicated to their work and some felt they were quite indespensible [sic]. The Belgiauns [sic] had handed over the reins of Government and administration hurriedly to a totally ill-equipped and unprepared Congolese. The consequences of withdrawal by the Belgians were clearly predictable but they succumbed to political pressures from all directions. There was human slaughter on a big scale, and the only information coming out of the Congo was on the frequency of 7150 operated by Mission stations, and also shared with East African amateurs. It was in Kisumu that I received a message from a mission at an Agricultural Station which read:-

“We are being menaced by 100,000 hostile savages. We have their chief as hostage and expect annihilation within one hour. We have ammunition but no guns, please advise Kamina”.

The amateurs among the DCA staff in Nairobi, of whom Viv Slight was one, had set up a W/T link to the Belgian Coast Station at Ostend, using a communications booth in the D.C.A. Communications centre and a powerful DCA transmitter at R.A.F. Eastleigh.. I relayed the message direct to them on the aeronautical W/T channel, and Nairobi passed it straight to Ostend, with a steady flow of other messages. Ostend relayed it to Brussels who passed it to the Military where it was relayed on it’s final leg back to Africa, to the Belgian Paratroop Base at Kamina. Within 20 minutes of my receiving the message at Kisumu, the paratroopers were airborne and the Agricultural Station was liberated. Hardly had I cleared the message when I received a correction to it which advised:

“Not one hundred thousand savages, only ten thousand”

When I passed this to Nairobi, the reply was “What’s the bloody difference”

There were many such stories during the evacuation of Europeans from the Congo. Uganda was the main escape route and DCA Nairobi asked that any aircraft available and pilots who could make it, should get to Entebbe and help in the evacuation regardless of Certificates of Airworthiness and Pilot’s licences. One of my ex-pilot friends evacuated about thirty people in several trips in a Rapide aircraft. The last aircraft he had flown was a Beaufighter during the war. Some thousands were got out from the Congo, one way or another, mostly via Kampala and Kisumu. The Kenya Girls’ High School in Nairobi (known as the Boma) was turned into a Medical Reception Centre the records of which show the dreadful experiences and medical remedial action taken. Wendy reminded me that she and all the other girls who were not taking G.C.E..s were sent home a week before the term was due to end, to maked [sic] room for the refugees. At Kisumu I met many who came out by road. Two middle-aged ladies came to my Control Tower and one phoned her parents in

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the United States with a terrible story of pillage and rape. A third, more elderly, who had three American Doctorate degrees – Medicine, Divinity and a PhD. – had devoted her entire working life to helping and teaching Africans, but she said a lifetime had made only a superficial advance from their savagery.

Most of our memories of Kisumu were of happier days. There was an excellent social club but we were not members due only to the lack of time. The children made good use of the swimming pool, the lake being too dangerous, not only with its hippo and crocs. but with Bilharzia and hook worm. Hilda enjoyed her painting and drawing and we even managed to take a few photographs.

After nearly three years at Kisumu, Colin was still at the Prince of Wales School in Nairobi and with Wendy at the ‘Boma’ we were not seeing very much of either. And so a transfer was arranged and we packed up our household once again and moved to Nairobi, to a lovely house in Nairne Road, near Wendy’s school.


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[underlined] D.C.A. HEADQUARTERS [/underlined]

It was then June 1960, the Mau Mau emergency was still with us, but 84 Squadron had finished their bombing of the Aberdares which had raised the eyebrows of a few ‘hasbeens’ like myself. I had talked with the crews of the R.A.F. Lincolns some time earlier at R.A.F. Eastleigh and it all seemed very unreal to me. Perfect weather, ceiling and visibility generally unlimited and no enemy opposition from either the air or ground. Bombing over the bush was a matter of a timed run at a specific speed from a firmly identified point on the ground. Hardly a challenge for the Chaddertons and Fosters of this world and I don’t know what comprised a tour. It reminded me of O.T.U. where I saw the log book of a fellow-instructor with 40 ops. to his credit. His first tour ops were shown in the normal way, Benghazi 0340, Benghazi 0345, Benghazi 0342, Benghazi 0350, about 6 pages of Benghazi and no other target. But then, there are those among us who never bombed B.G., so the song goes. I could visualise the log books with several pages of ‘Aberdares 0125…”. Some of the Africans reckoned it was “mzuri sana” (very good) for the terrorists, the bombing just laid on a supply of fresh meat without their having to hunt for it, but there was probably more to it than that.

My place of work was the Communications Centre in the High Commission Building, on the top floor, above the Inland Revenue office. My duties were those of Telecomms. Supt. i/c a watch, responsible for the operation of the telecommunications system. We were not really concerned with aeroplanes, only messages about their movements. We had Radio Teleprinter circuits with Johannesburg, Khartoum, Der es Salaam, Entebbe, and Gan, and teleprinters on line to R.A.F. Eastleigh, Wilson Airport, Nairobi (Embakasi) and the Flight Information Centre next door. Our internal communications, that is within East Africa, were mainly by W/T links, to Iringa, Songea, Mbeya, Mwanza, Tanga, Dodoma, Arusha, Kisumu etc. Every teleprinter link had a standby W/T channel and most of these were resorted to in the early mornings, about 4 to 6 am. Brazaville [sic] and Leopoldville in the Congo were only on W/T but there was little traffic to the west and none to the east except Gan. With Gan, we operated an emergency channel with a test message every twenty minutes, to supplement the R.A.F. network if required, but they seemed to manage quite well without us. We handled about 20,000 incoming messages per day in the Tape Relay Centre, and apart from one or two all had to be relayed out again and logged. We also had three ground to Air operating booths, two of which were always manned, working aircraft, one on HF/RT and the other HF/WT. The European Radio Officers preferred the latter, where often three messages per minute were handled for long periods.

As soon as an aircraft left, say, Khartoum, a message would be sent on the Fixed Service by RTTY to the Tape Relay centre which should reach F.I.C. within a few minutes of being originated, requiring two relays, at Khartoum and Nairobi Tape Relay Centres. The system was that the pilot would not need to call Nairobi until he reached the Flight Information Region Boundry [inserted] Boundary [/inserted] at 4 degrees North, as Nairobi F.I.C. should have already received all the information by teleprinter. However, this being Africa and therefore supposedly not very efficient, the pilot would call Nairobi as soon as he could after take-off, on HF/RT. On the older propeller jobs, (the real aeroplanes), this would have been


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carried out by the Radio Officer on W/T., where just a few groups in code meant a great deal, for example:-.

ZGU de VPKKL Nairobi this is VPKKL
QTN STKM 0201Z I departed Khartoum at 0201 GMT
QAH 24 TTT QBH My height is 24,000 ft. below cloud
QRE HKNA 0718 I am estimating Nairobi Airport at 0718
QRX FIR I will call you again at the Flight Information Boundary

The Radio Officer would write those 14 groups onto a pad and his Clerk would put two copies through the hatch to the Air Traffic Controller.

The Clerk would spend most of his time putting carbon paper between the pages, it was fast going during the busy periods, but was even faster before HF/RT was introduced.

The aircraft would remain in constant contact with Khartoum on VHF until it reached 4 deg. N. when Nairobi would become responsible. Many aircraft were still using W/T at the time. There was no really conscious use of code, it was as commonplace as plain language and to a radio operator the two were synonimous, [sic] as were the many technical and other abbreviations. One example which comes to mind was at a Board of Enquiry into an accident where an aircraft had crashed into Mt. Kilimanjaro. An elderly judge asked the Ground Radio Officer if there had been any radio message, and the R/O replied “Yes, I last worked the aircraft on C.W. at 0247” “What is C.W.?” asked the Judge, and the reply “C.W. is Charlie Whisky your worship” and the Judge nearly gave up, maybe thinking whether Irish or Scotch.

Some Radio Officers preferred to transcribe the morse and speech messages straight onto a teleprinter which produced a simultaneous page copy in front of the controller, but this method was not very popular. With several aircraft calling at the same time it was easy to make a mistake but too slow to correct it on the teleprinter. The F.I.C. Controller operated the VHF himself. The whole set-up was very well thought out and we were very well equipped. Communications were our line of business and we were highly organised.

The tour of duty was rather longer in Nairobi, where one had to work for 4 years to earn 6 month’s leave, compared to only 2 1/2 years in Tanganyika. I believe there was some reduction for the Kenya coastal strip. These were the rules established when East Africa was supposed to be an unhealthy and hostile place, and most of the Europeans were Administration officials. I always felt the home leave terms were over-generous, as we also enjoyed three weeks of “local leave” each year with railway warrants provided to any part of east Africa. Where there was no railway to our particular ‘holiday resort’ or we chose to travel by car we could claim car mileage costs. Most people preferred to go on leave by sea, depending upon the time of year, possibly home on a 10 day voyage via suez, returning on a 3 week cruise via the Cape of Good Hope, on Union Castle liners. Some preferred the long way round both ways, spending as much time at sea as possible and thus economising

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on accommodation costs in the U.K. My only experience of sea travel had been the four troop-ships and Hilda claimed she couldn’t swim; we wanted to spend as much time as possible with the folks back home so we chose to travel by air every time.

Within a year of our return to Nairobi, June 1961, political unrest was well to the fore and getting worse. Alice, my step-mother, was a Senior Secretary to an African Minister in the Secretariat, and felt it was getting too dangerous to remain. Luigi and Mary had already retired to Italy and Alice was preparing to join them. Most of us were expecting the balloon to go up at any moment and people were getting jittery. We had been close to the hiatus in the Congo and the more recent mutinies of the armies of Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda, and Europeans were beginning to leave. The weight of evidence of impending disaster was overwhelming and towards the end of June Hilda returned with the four youngest children to U.K., Colin remaining at the Prince of Wales School as a boarder. Alice and Brian returned to Italy shortly after and my father moved in with me at Nairne Road. My father and I had become very involved with emergency communications for the settlers up-country, which dominated our lives for the next few years, but this is a story unto itself and is dealt with in the chapter “Laikipia Security Network”. The mutinies referred to occurred soon after the British Forces had left Kenya, and the emergency was declared officially over. Some European Service personnel remained as advisers to the Kenya army - there was no Kenya Navy and the Kenya Air Force existed mainly on paper but with a few light aircraft. We awoke one morning to the news that the three separate armies many hundreds of miles apart, had thrown out their European officers and declared themselves independent of any authority. Within 48 hours and before they could organise themselves and cause any damage, very small forces of British troops appeared simultaneously near Nairobi, Jinja and Dar es Salaam, subdued and disarmed the lot, without any loss of life or limb. I recall a cartoon in the East African Standard, showing Jomo Kenyatta with both arms raised to paratroopers dropping from aircraft and the caption “How good it is to welcome old friends” - His arch-enemies for 10 years or so. I saw several hundred African soldiers sitting on the grass at Wilson Airport with three European soldiers guarding them with machine guns. There was a large pile of rifles and other weapons nearby, also guarded.

Life was not all traumatic, however, we had the occasional laugh. One of our officers, MacDonald, was on official leave of absence quite frequently and we understood he was masterminding a very hush-hush communications link direct to U.K. from Government House and even satellites had been mentioned furtively. This was before the days of the Sputnik when satellites were a part of science fiction. He was one of the [underlined] firt [sic] [/underlined] to retire and as he was leaving he let us into the secret. Mac. had indeed spent a great deal of time at Government House. He was a master baker and was responsible literally for the icing of the cake. He told us also that when he joined the Dept. he stated that his qualifications included a final City & Guilds Certificate. They did, he confided, as a Master Baker, but not in telecommunications.

One Sunday morning in October on duty at the Comm. Centre I found my African Supervisor was monitoring Reuter on teleprinter, and looking over his shoulder I read on the page copy that thousands of Africans armed to the teeth were surrounding the High Commission building and holding hostage the


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Europeans working inside. The report gave more detail of riots and demonstrations and gave the impression that we were really in trouble. I went out through a window and onto the flat roof of the High Commission building and gingerly looked over the parapet entitled to expect a hail of bullets. On the road was a police car with two officers watching a group of about 20 Africans, some of them supporting two banners on which was written “Wazungu Rudi Uliya” (Europeans return to Europe). That was the extent of the demonstration reported to the entire world in Reuter’s message. Had it occured [sic] in Cambridge it would not even have received a mention in the free local papers.

My tour of duty ended in December and I relinquished the house, my father moving into Plums Hotel. A nine hour flight to London, and I was home for Christmas.

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[underlined] Dec. ’61 ON LEAVE [/underlined]

Hilda and Anne came to London and I met them at Paddington. We intend to spend a week with Joan and enjoy a holiday in London, but Hilda had a rather worrying cold so we limited our stay to two days.

The next six months or so were spent on leave. With the exception of Colin who was in the R.A.F., the whole family was together in Wales at Glaslyn. My father was in Nairobi, and his regular letters referred to increasing unrest. He was working flat-out in building the ‘Watson Wonders’ and he asked me to take back 500 B7G valve holders and 150 modulation chokes

In May ’62 I said goodbye to the family and returned to Kenya. As I was unaccompanied, Sid Worthy the Chief Engineer asked me if I would housewarm for him whilst he was on his 6 months leave. This meant that he paid the rent but could just walk out without packing up his household and walk back into the same apartment on his return. There was a tendency for senior officers who were permanently based in Nairobi to try and retain the same house or apartment once they had found the right one. Rent was in fact 10% of salary and it was well worth it. My father moved in with me and together we carried on with the transmitters, having rented a workshop next to Stephen Ellis in Victoria Street. After only 3 months in the apartment I received a letter from Sid telling me he was returning immediately, could he please have his flat only a few days hence!. The following morning we were going up-country and I could see my father was a more than little depressed. He was driving like a madman down the Nairobi escarpment and I insisted that he let me do the driving. He told me he had to go to Mombassa [sic] next day, having received a telegram from Alice that she and Brian were returning on the Union Castle. This was supposed to be a surprise to him and I did not doubt that it was so, but Alice admitted later that she had in fact booked return tickets on the homeward trip. She had been totally dishonest in her statements about her intentions which had resulted in Hilda and the children staying in Wales. Our safari was cut short and we returned to Nairobi the same day, a 500 mile round trip. Alice’s return meant a complete change in plan; clearly she and my father expected to share my accommodation but with Sid’s return they had no option but to move into an hotel again. They were lucky in obtaining a couple of rooms at Plums, after only two nights in the flat. I moved into Woodlands Hotel, but applied for a housing allocation as my family had decided to return to Kenya. Hilda and the children rejoined [sic] me and we moved into a house at Likoni Lane, resuming a normal life except that it was dominated by the Laikipia network and work at the Comm. Centre. Within a year of my return I was promoted to Asst. Signals Officer and took over from Mike Harding As [sic] Officer in charge of the Communications Centre. This I had tried to avoid for a long time, not the responsibility, but the working hours. The new post meant working office hours and for the first time in my life I was working a five-day-week. On watches it had been a four-day cycle of say monday afternoon, tuesday morning and all tuesday night, then off duty until friday afternoon. The 2 1/2 days off within every 4 days had suited me very well and was a very popular roster with everyone. Office hours curtailed my visits up-country except at week-ends, but I did have every evening free. Very soon, each European Radio Supt. In charge of a watch had an African trainee assistant. Shortly afterwards one joined me. They were all supposedly bright boys from Secondary School and we delegated the routine work to them as much as possible. Their presence was resented by the old-timers among the


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wireless operators, who knew what they were doing and were very good operators, but their educational background was inadequate for the senior posts. Africanisation was the policy dictated to us and we bowed to the inevitable. I trusted most of my Africans, and there were about 180 of them working on the 4-day Watch roster at the Communications centre. Although many of them had served with the British Army both during and after the war, I could not completely lose sight of the fact that some had taken part in the Lare massacre when an African village was set ablaze and almost everyone slaughtered as they tried to escape. The majority of my staff were from the three main problem tribes, the Kikuyu, Meru and Embu, and a few of the Luo tribe from Nyanza.

My father’s farm had been abandoned long ago. It was not possible to obtain reliable labour during the Emergency, and the whole of the European settled areas was to be handed over to the Africans. There were already very few farmers left in the Trans-Nzoia and the Eldoret areas, the latter being mainly from South Africa. The Laikipia farmers were the last to hold out, except perhaps for the bigger ranches near Athi River.

Our next home leave was in June 1964 and the story of my activity over the three years leading up to it is synonymous with that of the Laikipia Security Network. The network seemed to priority over everything, but lives were at stake. Occasionally Hilda and the Children would go up-country with me, and one memorable week-end was spent with Tony Dyer and Family at their lovely home facing Mount Kenya. One afternoon Tony asked the children if they would like to go to a polo match and they took off in Tony’s Cessna from their own front door, landing at the side of the pitch. One of Tony’s sons was killed some months later whilst taking a gun out of the back of his vehicle. It was never discovered how the gun came to be loaded and with the safety catch off. Hilda and the children stayed too at the farm of Dr. Anne Spoerry, at Ol Kalau. Anne’s loo was a traditional type in the bushes down the garden, very comfortable and lined with bookshelves, full of the Lancet and other medical journals. Anne was a wonderful character. Only once did we go to the coast for a holiday, and this was two weeks spent at Likoni, near Mombassa [sic]. Unfortunately we chose to go in the rainy season but it was a welcome break. We took Chippy, our cockerel, and it followed us around everywhere, afraid of absolutely nothing. Chippy returned home one day in Nairobi with a broken beak and was unable to peck for food. Fortunately Jean and Dick Chalcroft came to stay overnight with us and Dick fitted a new lower section to the beak with the plastic resin we used in making dipole aerials.. It took an hour to cure, or set, and Jean and Dick held Chippy during that period, and again whilst they filed down the surplus plastic and polished the result. Chippy was ravenous and began to feed straight away, but was very aggressive towards humans, except for Jean and Dick, who took him back to their farm at Molo. I saw Chippy several times after that at the farm, lording it over the hens, and not another cockerel in sight.

One day I bought a petrol/paraffin engine-driven alternator and a bank of batteries, a complete 32 volt lighting set in fact, too good to miss for £25 in Nairobi. The dealer said the engine wouldn’t start although it had just been thoroughly overhauled. I knew that Jean and Dick were without power on their farm although their house was wired for a 32 volt DC system such as this. I knew too of Jean’s prowess with anything mechanical and I took the whole lot straight up to the farm at Molo. At 10pm. on the Saturday Jean started stripping down the engine whilst I was linking together the 26 alkaline cells

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and checking the house wiring connected to my car battery. Jean, assisted by Dick slogged on until 5am. in the light of an Alladin lamp, but she had discovered the trouble long before that. The timing was exactly 180 degrees out of phase. At 5am, just before dawn, the batteries being flat, Jean cranked the engine which roared into life, literally, we were deficient of a silencer for the exhaust. The batteries were taking a charge and we changed from petrol to paraffin and switched on a few lights in the house. The following evening the Chalcrofts were very proud of their lighting system. That sort of effort and co-operation did give one a great deal of satisfaction.

My recollections of work in D.C.A. over that period are very few.

We seldom talked of the war, but in the middle of one night I somehow got chatting to the F.I.C. Controller, Sqdn Ldr. Anderson DFC & Bar, who had also been in 5 Group on Lancasters. Andy said we were sometimes like a lot of sheep, he recalled one night having reached his ETA, all was very quiet except that markers had been dropped 20 miles to the south. Within minutes bombs were crashing down so Andie turned south for five minutes and joined in. Next day it was found that the target was 20 miles north of where most of the bombing had taken place. My reply was just “Politz”, we had done exactly the same thing, followed the flock. We talked together of flying during the war, several times, but my memories of the actual events are more vivid now, after 45 years, than they were 25 years ago. Perhaps because there was not a great deal in East Africa to remind me of it, compared to today, living 4 miles from Wyton on the approach to Alconbury. To see the Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight fly over gives me rather more than a lump in my throat at times. Pathfinder House is not what it was with Don Bennet, either, it is now the place where I pay my rates, but they at least have a picture of a Lancaster on the wall near the Cashier’s office. A couple of years ago I asked one of the cashiers why it was called Pathfinder House, she had no idea, I asked what the aeroplane was and the answer was the same. I let the matter drop.

I had taken over the comm. Centre from Mike Harding who had retired prematurely, and his immediate predecessor had been “Bing” Crosby, ex Royal Signals. Bing was in Headquarters just along the corridor and came into my office every day to inspect an object pickled in a sealed jar which he had left on the shelf when he was promoted. Although he urged us to take good care of it, he used to look at it and say to it “You useless ruddy thing”, or words to that effect. Finally, on retirement, he came and collected it and let us into the secret, with the parting words “Oh don’t worry, the other one’s fine, you only need one you know”.

Alice and my father had left in May for Italy, to stay with Mary and Luigi. My own feelings were that he should have stayed in Kenya, possibly up country with Jean or with one of his many other friends among the Settlers. He had worked unceasingly on the network for over 4 years, but Alice insisted upon their return to Europe. In June ’64 it was time for home leave again. We were reluctant this time because there was so much happening up country and we expected it to be our final tour in East Africa together, unless I returned and carried on with communications on a commercial basis. This was still an option, communications had kept me very busy and with lots of ‘job satisfaction’, but it was DCA who had paid my salary. I still had a family to support, and there was a great deal of uncertainty in Kenya. And so it was we flew to London yet again, and joined Hilda’s Mum at Glaslyn.


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[underlined] ON LEAVE June 1964 [/underlined]

Before leaving for Wales we bought a second-hand Vanguard from a dealer in Putney which was to prove very useful in the next few months. At the end of our leave it was sold to the local Policeman for the same price.

A month or two before we returned, the house next to Aunt Doll had become vacant and was put on the market for £500. It was small and in shocking state, but a real snip so we bought it. Five months was spent in refurbishing it, building a bathroom, kitchen, replastering, new fireplace, rewiring etc. I remember John mixing at least a ton of concrete manually, he was a tremendous help. Electricity at the house had not been used for many years, and what little wiring remained, mostly twin flex, we ripped out. Electrical contractors quoted £900 to rewire, which was totally ridiculous, and finally John and I did it in one day, having spent about £50 on materials through an advert in Exchange & Mart. We tried to buy the field - or even part of it - at the back - of the house, but our lawyer said it was quite impossible to find out who owned the land. Many years later it transpired that it had in fact been owned for at least a hundred years by members of his own family.

Visits were paid to my other in Barnoldswick and to Joan and Ken in London, but the greater part of my leave was spent on the ‘new house’.

At the end of April Hilda’s Mum moved into her new home and made comfortable. From the house there was a wonderful view of the mountain separating the Neath and Rhonda valleys, with the river within 25 yards in the foreground. Perhaps it is only fair to mention the road between the house and river, but when the bypass was built a few years later this road carried little traffic.

In November ’64 I returned to Kenya unaccompanied, and being so, moved into Woodlands Hotel. The following day I was in touch with Laikipia and also back at work. I relieved Mike Harding as Asst. Signals Officer in Headquarters, Deputy to ‘Spud’ Murphy who was Telecommunications Officer (Operations). The job was just a matter of dealing with the steady flow of paper-work. Every piece of paper coming in was registered in Central Registry and filed by the Clerk. If he couldn’t decide which file to put it, he would open a new one. The file was then delivered - and booked out - to the officer thought to be the one who should deal with it. The officer would either add his comments as a minute and pass on the file to someone he thought might not return it to him, or if he felt he was authorised to make a decision, draft a letter for his immediate superior. Very occasionally, on an external matter he might even sign the letter “for the Director of Civil Aviation”. I was expected to finalise all matters concerning the operational aspect of the Telecommunications side of DCA, including all staff problems, their examinations and promotions.

Europeans were leaving the Directorate almost every week and being replaced by Africans. Those with African proteges training to take over the senior posts were most vulnerable. The Africans thought it was easy to sit back and authorise someone to go on leave, or to promote or reprimand another. The newcomers could read the many returns and forms but whereas a European officer could do every job subordinate to his own, the assistant had neither the experience, qualifications nor ability to do those jobs. In some cases the African was promoted and his former boss remained as his assistant. It was

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obvious who did the actual work. I found the work uninteresting, mainly it seemed just a matter of going through the motions and staying out of trouble by being non-committal, which was completely out of character. My main thoughts were with the 5190 Network, something that really mattered.

Sqdn. Ldr. Anderson was still with us and when he went on two week’s leave to the coast he asked me to sleep at his house, which made a welcome change from staying at the hotel. At about 3am on the third night there was a hullabaloo outside and a pounding on the door. “Police, open up”. I opened up, 9mm. Mauser ready, to be greeted by an African Police Inspector and about 15 Askari with enough weaponry to start a rebellion. Andy had told the Police he would be away for two weeks and would they please keep an eye on the house? I told them he had asked me to sleep there but they were not convinced. All my documents were at the hotel and eventually the Inspector ‘phoned the Acting Director of Civil Aviation at his house - Dickie Dixon, my old antagonist from Entebbe. Dickie was not amused, he never was, with me, but the Inspector was satisfied. A few nights later, about 10pm. I was lying on the bed reading, the house in darkness except for a small reading lamp. I heard footsteps on the gravel outside and quickly extinguished the light. I heard a key turning in the lock of the pateo [sic] door. By this time I was off the bed and standing at the bedroom door, left hand on the hall light switch and my Mauser in the right, cocked and with the safety-catch off. When the outside door opened I switched on the light and was startled to identify the intruder as Jimmie Sanson, whom I had not seen since we were in Kisumu. If he had been carrying a gun I might have blown his head off before it became unrecognisable. Andy had done it again, asking Jimmie also to keep an eye on the house. That night my car had been in Andy’s garage. On the following nights I left the car in full view outside, and with the a few lights in the house switched on.

For several years I had held one of the very few Flight Radio Officer Licences in the Department and frequently flew as Radio Officer first on the Anson VPKKK and later on its replacement, the Heron. On my last trip on the Heron we did a “tour of inspection” with visiting officials from ICAO in Montreal. Whilst supposedly inspecting the runways here and the Met. Station there, a V.O.R., D.M.E. and other aids to Aviators, in reality we enjoyed a visit to Zanzibar, flew around inside the Ngoro-ngoro crater, an extinct volcano well stocked with wild life, witnessed a specially-staged lion kill in Tsavo West National Park, and entered into the spirit of a very expensive ‘Cook’s Tour’. A few weeks later I did another tour of airports, inspecting the Telecomm. aspect and also giving morse tests to operators who were otherwise already qualified for promotion. I knew most of the staff and the stations also. 16 years previously I had first visited Iringa, which was then run by ‘Blossom’, Mrs. Brown, the only lady Radio Officer in DCA. Blossom was an ex-WREN officer who had specialised during the war in Japanese morse. I think she told me there were about 120 characters in their morse alphabet, and she used to transcribe in Jap. characters for hours on end. It was someone else’s job to translate them into English. Blossom had left some years previously. The morse tests were interesting, first the candidate sent for 10 minutes at 25 w.p.m. of 5-letter and figure groups, which was recorded on tape. The second test was 10 minutes of plain language, and the third receiving for 10 minutes of automatic morse. The fourth test was for the candidate to receive the morse recorded in the first two tests, without telling them of it’s origin. Many complained that the


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fourth test was unfair, the morse being very poor and difficult to read. Some found it difficult to believe the poor morse was their own! In general, the morse was, in fact, very good, most of the old-timers having been British Army trained, during the war.

Soon after the invasion of Zanzibar I flew there in the DCA Anson piloted by Capt. Casperuthus. The two Air Traffic Controllers had been deported to Mombassa [sic] and almost all the Telecomms. equipment was faulty. The teleprinter on line to Dar es Salaam still worked, however, and this was taken over by an African from Tanganyika. Zanzibar and Tanganyika became known as Tanzania and for the very first time customs and immigration formalities were introduced between the two. I recall paying customs duty in Dar es Salaam on 200 cigarettes bought in Zanzibar, although the price was the same in both places, and duty had been paid already to the same authority, the new government of Tanzania. There was no rational explanation to some of the politics in East Africa. Rumours were rife that a huge Russian biplane bomber made secret trips at night without contacting DCA, the aviation authority, and the machine was said to be in a particular hangar. We were intrigued by this and taxied very close to the hangar, a ‘deliberate mistake’, and took photographs of the aircraft. It was a biplane about three times the wingspan of a Tiger Moth, but we were not able to find anyone who had actually seen it airborne.

By May 1965 I was recovering transmitters from Settlers who were leaving the country, and these sets were more than meeting the demand for new ones. I felt that by the end of the year there would be very few Europeans left, and in that atmosphere of intense anti-climax I gave 6 months notice of my retirement. The leave earned would take me to just over my 44th. birthday when compensation for loss of office would be at its peak. Looking at this in more detail, compensation would have been reduced by £2,000 per year of delay. There was really little choice but to go.

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[underlined] JOB HUNTING [/underlined]

I returned home finally on the 11th. of November 1965 and joined Hilda and the family at Glaslyn, except for Colin who was in the R.A.F. in Aden. My father and Alice were settled in Voghera in Northern Italy. There was plenty of time to look for a job, as I was on full pay for about six months and could not really afford to start work until April. Had I started before that, it would have meant paying income tax at the U.K. rate for the previous year on my world income, so I was advised, probably wrongly.

I wrote many letters, one offering my services to O’Dorian of Redeffusion [sic]. They were at that time considering establishing a Radio Relay system in the African areas of Nairobi. Other firms were also interested and the City Council was monitoring a pilot scheme which I.A.L. had fitted about a year previously. The pilot scheme had been put out to tender and my father had submitted a bid to provide for a four-program system. The contract went to I.A.L. on the grounds that they had shown confidence in Kenya by being established there for many years and were a reputable firm. My father was invited to comment and said I.A.L.’s presence was nothing to do with confidence, they were wholly-owned by B.O.A.C. and were there to do aircraft radio maintenance for E.A. Airways also owned by B.O.A.C. As for being a reputable company, so are Marks and Spencers but like I.A.L. they have no experience in Radio Relay. I had seen the pilot scheme at Kaloleni. Each house had a loudspeaker on the wall with volume control, and the system was wired in D8 cable and flex, with no protective devices. Reception was poor and quality was that of a typical bus station P.A. system. I gave O’dorian [sic] a detailed report of what I thought could be achieved in Nairobi and also the whole of Kenya, together with the engineering detail, resources required, budgets etc. The report was mainly the result of my father’s efforts of two years previously, updated. I included my report of I.A.L.’s one programme pilot scheme the performance of which could induce the Council to reach only one conclusion about Radio Relay. One of not to bother with it. Transistor radios were then on the market at 40 shillings giving good world-wide reception, Moscow being a necessity. I mentioned too the near to impossibility of collecting payment from individual subscribers. Payment would have to be made by the authorities. O’Dorian thanked me for my interest and appreciated the report and said he would be in touch. About a month later he wrote again and said they had decided not to pursue any interest in Kenya.

I also tried West London Telefusion who I knew at working level in 1947, and had an interview in Blackpool with their M.D., and Personnel Manager, for a new post as Development Manager in Taunton, Somerset. The job was to establish a cable T.V. system. I was offered the job after a prolonged interview and at a good salary. I accepted there and then and was advised to start looking for a house around Taunton. Only the starting date was uncertain, but they agreed to confirm the appointment in writing and provide a detailed Terms of Reference. I was very surprised indeed a few weeks later when a letter from Mr Wilkinson said he was very sorry but had decided not to proceed with the Taunton project and all development was under review. I realised that cable TV was popular in fringe areas but more and more repeaters were being provided and the need for cable was reducing all the time. I am writing this in 1993 and the concept of cable TV has developed from the 1966 “amplified aerial” to a single coaxial cable providing over 30 T.V. channels, radio and telephone, and


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most recently, scanned T.V. Security Systems. The technological advances in Relay since its inception in my father’s time, around 1928 have meant many fresh starts for the industry.

I had an interview with Aero Electronics at Crawley – to whom I had a letter of introduction, and was offered the job of Development Engineer & Manager! I felt this was aiming rather high. The interview took place in a large country house, alongside which was a fairly new factory with lots of activity, and a sketch of which appeared on Aero Electronics letter heading. I later found that the factory had no connection with Aero Electronics, which was in fact a one-man show. The job would have been responding to overseas enquiries received mainly via the Board of Trade, designing a system and providing equipment, winding up with a quotation. On the face of it a very interesting prospect, but with no back-up of any sort, and relying upon other firms’ equipment. I felt it to be somewhat dicey, particularly when I was asked if I could type! I had to say it was a job for a team, not one man.

From Crawley I went to see G.E.C. at Coventry for interview as a “Production Team Leader”. The job turned out to be the leader of a team of about 12 assemblers and wiremen constructing telephone exchanges – one at a time. I was shown one being assembled and spent an hour with the Team Leader on one particular exchange which comprised thirty 7’ racks of relay panels, counters uniselectors, jack fields etc. As far as I could see it was just a matter of ensuring each item was in the right place and wired-in correctly. Turning down the job was the right decission [sic] for the wrong reason. There seemed to be thousands of people around all moving at the same time, and the environment depressed me. Although I was only vaguely aware of it at the time, that type of system would be giving way to electronic exchanges within a year or two.

Next stop was Redifon in Wandsworth, who were advertising for Test and Installation engineers. The job was described accurately but was basically testing H/F and M/F equipment at the end of the production line, with very occasional trips into the field on installation and commissioning work. There was great competition for the field work. I was offered the job but the Personnel manager told me to think very carefully, Wandsworth was a terrible place to live in. I was given two weeks to think it over, and turned down the offer. I asked the Personnel Manager what happened to the job I was offered in 1957. The requirement was for an engineer who had a PMG1 licence to operate on ships and an MCA Flight Radio Officers Licence to operate on aircraft. He was to take equipment to sea and into the air to ensure there were no problems, and if there were, to resolve them. That job really appealed to me and could very well have become what I cared to make it. Maybe. He looked up my file and told me the vacancy was not filled and the post was withdrawn.

I saw a job advertised for a Telecommunications Engineer for Gambia, 18 month tour, £3500 per year + 25% gratuity, and applied for it. A week later I was called for interview. I didn’t think there was the slightest chance of this happening, having applied out of interest and an expences [sic] paid trip to London. The interview went well and soon after my return to Wales a letter arrived asking me to confirm my acceptance on a salary of £2500. I was in a quandry [sic], I didn’t really want to go to Zambia, but wrote to the Crown Agents and pointed out the discrepancy between the advert of £3500 and offer of £2500.

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They regretted their mistake in the advert, and on those grounds I was able to decline

I applied for an advertised post of Signals Officer at the Ministry of Aviation’s Communications Centre at Croydon for which my D.C.A. experience fitted me well. The interview went off very well and I found that in some respects E. Africa was more up to-date than was the practice at Croydon. At the end of the interview they said they would write to me. About a week later their letter arrived and advised that I had not been selected but only because a more senior post would shortly become available and I was already short-listed for it. Good news indeed, but having heard nothing further after four months by which time we had moved house to Cambridge, I wrote to them. In their reply I was told that the letter offering me the job had been returned to them marked “Gone away”. As Communications Officer in charge at Croydon life would have been rather different.

Becoming more and more disillusioned with U.K. I went to see the Overseas Services Resettlement Bureau at Eland House, Victoria. I saw a Mr. Williams who was ex-Malaysia P.& T and we chatted for a while about the prospects of settling down to a job in the U.K. I had to agree that after 18 years in East Africa I was not impressed with what I saw in Britain nor with the people who occupied it, it was a vastly different place to the one I had left in 1948. He was quite right in saying that I first had to decide whether I wanted to stay and if so to make the best of it. What job did I want? I told him I had hoped to join Pye Telecomm’s technical sales dept. I knew Pye aeronautical equipment and felt I could fit in there, but had written and been advised there were no vacancies. “Did I still want the job?”. Having replied yes please he picked up the phone, and said “get me Ernie Munns at Pye”. Moments later he greeted someone in what I assumed was Malay, then switched to English “look Ernie, I’ve another bloody Colonial here, thinks Pye’s the ultimate., When can you see him?” We agreed 2pm the following day at Pye Telecommunications, Newmarket Rd., Cambridge. More words in Malay between them and he wished me luck.

I liked the friendly environment at Pye and was interviewed by Ernie Munns, head of Systems Planning Dept. and his deputy, Cyril Foster. The interview was constantly interrupted by the telephone and people barging in for instant decisisons [sic]. I recall Ernie asking whether I would be prepared to write a paper for a semi-technical customer on the relative merits of conventional VHF links and Tropospheric scatter and I said “yes”! Fortunately the phone rang and both interviewers were involved, which gave me a few minutes to think about it. I had heard of Tropo-scatter, but that was about all. I awoke to the question of “how would you go about it?” I replied that I would read up the subject in the Pye library. It must have been written up many times, I would study it and probably be able to quote a learned authority. I agreed that I didn’t know all the answers, and Ernie said “Thank god for that, one or two around here think they do”. I was told that my application was opportune, if I joined them I would be in the Aeronautical team headed by Cyril, which was currently preparing a factory order for equipment to re-equip 22 airports and several other sites in Iran, plus a lot of other orders for aviation equipment. Basically the job was block-planning of systems to meet the customers’ operational requirement, prepare quotations, to engineer the job in detail and to project manage the order to its conclusion. This was the sort of job offered by


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Aero Electronics but at Pye there was full backing from experts in all fields. The second part of the interview was with Cyril and the Personnel manager who said he would write to me with the result. The letter arrived a few days later offering me the post at £1250 per year and to start preferably on the first of April. This was gladly accepted. Hilda and I went to Cambridge and after a week’s run around by Estate Agents we found a nice 4-bedroomed house at 14 Greystoke Rd. near Cherry Hinton which was to be ready by the end of March.

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[underlined] AT PYE TELECOMMUNICATIONS [/underlined]
The first two years at Pye were spent as a Project Engineer in Systems Planning Dept, not in the Aviation team as hoped, but in Duncan Kerr’s team doing general systems. Also in the team were Jim Bucknell, Ian Douglas, and Mike Bavistock who had also joined Pye on April first. Duncan was away most of the time drumming up contracts with the Scottish Police forces but on our first day Mike and I did meet him briefly and he gave us two pink files. ‘Take one each’ said Duncan. ‘Turkey 10th Slice is now an order and needs a flimsy, and the Libya quote needs revalidating’. Mike and I hadn’t a clue on Pye methods and we decided to work together, providing a mutual back-up. It quickly transpired that we had something in common, Mike had been in the Gambia for three tours whilst I was in East Africa. I told him of my experience with the Crown Agents for the Gambia job and he had seen the advert for what had in fact been his post. He was not amused when he saw his £2500 a year job advertised with a salary of £3500.

Of the 36 people in the department, no-one was particularly helpful, in retrospect mainly because they were themselves under great pressure and had problems of their own. I saw the Chief Clerk, - later known as the Admin Group Leader – and said ‘Duncan wants me to do a flimsy, what’s a flimsy?’ He was most unhelpful although he was responsible for the admin. aspect of many hundreds of them. His philosophy was that he wasn’t going to help anyone who was on a bigger salary than his own. I had to go to Export Sales to find out what a flimsy looked like. It turned out to be an all-singing and dancing instruction to every dept. detailing all the action required in designing, manufacturing inspecting packing shipping and invoicing and even installation of a customer’s order. All the information available was entered on the forms and circulated around the departments. The initial circulation was programmed to take six weeks. The system was designed in detail and all the engineering information added with ammendments. [sic] Eventually there were so many ammendments [sic] I had to completely rewrite the flimsy after six weeks, and finally there was an issue 4. The job was eventually engineered by Dickie Wainwright – ex East African P.& T., following a departmental re-organisation, and I picked it up again at the delivery stage having moved to the Systems Installation Dept.

My performance on my first task in Pye was not at all brilliant, and about 18 months later when the installation was finished I issued a memo entitled “Lessons Learned on Turkey 10th Slice”. I started with saying that a week of training in Pye methods would have saved a great deal of cost and misunderstanding and went on to discuss the contract itself. The contract stated that ‘The Turkish Version of the contract shall be deemed to be the official version’, and it seemed there were many anomalies all to the advantage of the Turks, in particular to our agent, a chap called Avidor, who in fact translated the Turkish contract into English!. The system originally quoted was for a microwave chain the length of Turkey with a dozen or so links carrying teleprinter and telephones. We were awarded only the links, the radio parts of which were main and standby. One rediculous [sic] requirement in the Turkish version was that they wanted the main link in one place and the standby in another. We were providing main and standby transmitters etc within a link, not a completely seperate [sic] standby link. The whole thing was quite rediculous, [sic] no


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wonder it was given to one of the new boys and everyone else steered clear. The title of the contract simply meant that it was the 10th slice – or part – of a multi-million dollar allocation of N.A.T.O. funds. I don’t know how many slices there were, but one was enough for us.

With Mike’s first job, revalidating a quotation might on the face of it seem more straight-forward. It is just a matter of extending the date on which the offer expires, or is it?! The engineers who did the quotation with many versions over a period of 10 years, and the half dozen salesmen involved over different periods had all either left or moved on somewhere. Now they were all out of picture, it was Mike’s job, and he was on his own. Revalidation implied that he must thoroughly understand the customer requirement. The quotation comprised 18 volumes of A4 size, each 2” thick, plus a mountain of minutes of meetings and correspondance [sic] over a period of 10 years. Undertakings made in good faith years ago could well be quite impossible to honour, requiring endless variations to the tender document. Every change required approval from others in Pye. Every aspect had to be checked. Equipment from other manufacturers was included and confirmation of availability and price had to be obtained, every move documented and absolutely every aspect of the tender was Mike’s direct responsibility. When I think back to those days, I remember how every letter and memo originated had to be written out in longhand for the team’s typist to action. I understand the office system did not change in the next 25 years although there is much less of it. Mike asked me to sit in at his very first meeting on this project, the main purpose of which was to put him in the picture and answer any queries he might have. One item in the quote was ‘2 years Bavister £2000’ What’s that asks Mike. The finance dept man said it’s an accountancy term, just leave it in but add 10%. Two others had totally different ideas and finally a fellow woke up and said “I’m Bavister, I’m supposed to go out there for two years to help the customer”. There followed a discussion on the price of whether it was 2 or should be 20 thousand and which department accepted the responsibility. Mike asked why we are using scramblers bought from Redifon at £1200 each when we can make them. It turned out they were actually ours, produced in Cambridge for T.M.C. who sold them to Redifon who in turn mounted them on a panel with their label, and sold them back to Pye at about 10 times the price.

The Libya communication system itself was very good, a policeman on a camel with a hand-held portable could talk through a local Base station and several UHF links and an HF SSB link to his HQ 3000 miles away if required. Mike Bavistock saw the project through two revalidations and the tender’s final acceptance, and the production stage, over a period of 4 years. He went on to do many other big projects before deciding to resign and return to Africa to try and regain his sanity.

When I joined the department, one half prepared quotations and everything else with the exception of the detailed engineering. The other half were responsible for engineering and nothing else. The system was sound, one person should not have to divert his thinking from conditions of sale to pricing to shipping to the specific connections on a 131 way socket. After a while the system was changed whereby one man did the lot, and with a dozen or more projects on hand at any one time constant re-orientation was getting me down and I asked for a transfer to Systems Installation Dept. Meanwhile I pressed on

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doing many quotations and made sure I did not get involved with detailed engineering design or anything else which could delay my transfer. In fact I feigned some excentricity [sic] and got away with it. The pressure however was high and there was a great deal of jeolousy [sic] and backbiting in the department.

At one stage I did a couple of Fireman’s callout schemes and these were done on the electric typewriter by a typist who normally did only the conditions of sale. The only difference was in the number of base stations and portables, and the finance. Together using the same basic tape we could rattle off a quotation in half an hour. We made about 20 spare copies and sent them to Home salesmen who were not already in the know, to help them secure orders from their local fire services. This was very rewarding to Pye.

One monday [sic] morning I was given the job of providing a quotation to meet a requirement for the Yugoslavian police, to be ready by 4 pm on friday [sic] . It was a big job and I would have three chaps to assist me but I was not to make a start until the go-ahead was received from International Marketing Dept. At 2.15 pm I was told to forget it, it would not be possible to complete it in time. On Wednesday at 10 am I was told the job was on and vital, top priority. Drop everything and get on wth [sic] it. I would not have any assistants and would have to complete it myself. So one man had two days and two nights to do a job which was too much for 4 men in 5 days and 4 nights. I worked almost non-stop, all day and all night, mostly at home, and on the thursday [sic] I asked for a typist to be available for friday [sic] night. By 5 pm on friday [sic] the document was ready for typing, a very long technical description and equipment schedules. The prices had not been agreed with the finance dept, so I used standard Export price with 15% mark-up for luck. No signatures of approval were obtained from Snr. Management although a quote for over £100,000 needed signatures from three Directors and finally the Company Secretary. I did ‘phone Bert Ship who was responsible for determining delivery time and I put 5 months instead of his 9. The typist did not materialise, and as a last resort I took an office typewriter to my daughter Wendy’s home and she typed it overnight.

At 7 am on the saturday [sic] I assembled a batch of relavant [sic] publicity material and technical leaflets, and made 10 copies of the whole document, four of which I signed and gave to the Salesman at 9 am. He translated the Technical Description and schedules into Italian on his way to London Airport by road and to Milan by air. It was retyped into Italian on the Sunday and presented to the client in Rome on the Monday [sic] , by Pye Italy. A month later the Salesman told me we had got the job and thanked me, but there was no other official recognition. I was amused to have signed it myself, having cut through all authorities and proceedures. [sic] One copy of the file was circulated around for approvals by Mike Loose and this was completed a few days before we got the contract. Not all jobs were like that.

One particular quotation was done for Frank Mills, a salesman responsible for dealing with government departments in Wales. I had first known Frank when he was Provincial Police Signals Officer at Mwanza in Tanganyika when I was in charge of the airport. Prior to that he had been a Radio Officer with D.C.A. in East Africa. Frank had told me of his lucky escape when he went to Musoma on a routine inspection. An african [sic] sold him a live snake in a sack for a shilling and Frank decided its skin would make a good present. An 8 foot python for a shilling. First the python had to be killed and whilst still in the sack was placed in an empty 40 gallon storage drum. A pipe was connected between his


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landrover [sic] exhaust and the drum, and the engine left running. After an hour the python was removed and made ready for skinning, but first let’s take a few photographs. Off came Frank’s bush jacket, and the python wound round his chest and neck, with Frank gripping the snake’s head and looking it square in the eyes. The photos were taken and the snake lowered to the ground. It was sweaty work and Frank sat on the back of the landrover [sic] drinking a cool beer. After a few minutes the python slid away into the bush. However, Frank had arranged to collect the quotation at 1.30 pm. and as the hour approached it was ready in triplicate except for the three front labels. All the typists and secretaries were enjoying their lunch break, most of them sitting at their desks knitting or reading. Not one of them would type the labels, so I used a spare manual machine and typed them myself. It was their right to stop work between 1 and 2 and they would excercise [sic] that right regardless of everything else. Most of them didn’t speak to me for weeks. This childish attitude was only too prevalant [sic] throughout the organisation and was completely foreign to me. However, Frank collected his quotation and we had a short chat about old times. Tragically he was killed in a road accident next day whilst on the way to see his customer with the quotation.

After my 2 years or so in Systems Planning, Bill Bainbridge one of the two Field Controllers in Systems resigned to start his own business, Cambridge Towers, and I was fortunate in succeeding him. At the same time Harry Langley Head of Systems Installation moved into Sales and D.A.D. Smith took over as Manager of Systems Installation Dept., (S.I.D.). I got on very well with Harry Langley, he had been with the Kenya Police as a Radio technician seconded from the Home Office. Howard (Jimmie) James was the other Field Controller and between us we managed all S.I.D. projects, mainly installing and commissioning systems in the field, about 60% being overseas. In theory we had a Project Engineer heading each Installation team but as each was involved in several jobs at any one time it was never possible just to sit back and let the P.E. get on with it. He was likely to be abroad when most required.

[underlined] IRAN [/underlined]

One of the first jobs allocated to me in S.I.D. was the Iranian Airports project, Pye being a member of a consortium with Marconi, C & S Antennas, Redifon, G.E.C. and S.T.C. All came together as the Irano-British Airports Consortium to re-equip the major airports and aviation facilities in Iran. This was the project mentioned to me at my interview when applying to join Pye and Cyril Foster and Allan Breeze had devoted their last two years entirely to it, and much of 5 years before that. Allan in fact eventually went to Iran to commission the F.I.C. console. I had a great respect for him when we went to Iran together and whilst I was struggling along in French he was talking in Farsi with the hotel staff. He had been quietly studying it in Cambridge and could even read it, which was a tremendous achievement.

I became suspicious when I received a memo from D.A.D. Smith the Departmental Manager enclosing a change-note and asking me to confirm that we could still carry out our installation committment [sic] in Iran for the £85,700 he had quoted. A change-note was a notification from a Lab. making a minor change in the design or manufacture of a piece of equipment. In this case it refered [sic] to a resistor which would make no difference to anything except the parts list.

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[photograph of the head and shoulders of a man]
[Arabic writing]
[Arabic writing] G. Watson [Arabic writing]
[Arabic writing] JSB/100/14/6/T [Arabic writing]


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Not “will the change-note make any difference?” His subtle phraseology was making me responsible for the whole installation amount, not just a possible minor differe [deleted r [/deleted] nce. His figure was derived by taking 5% of the factory transfer price of the equipment which had no real relationship to the cost of fitting it, and was totally unrealistic.

I studied the draft contract and drew up an installation plan, and after a few days replied to my manager that “if the work can be carried out in the 12 month time scale as in the contract my estimate of costs is not £87500 but £250,000. I believed the work would take at least 5 years, it would not be possible to co-ordinate the many scores of officials with their different loyalties and the organisations involved. The final cost could very well be double the £250K. The end customer was the Iranian Director General of Civil Aviation, represented by Aerodrome Development Consultants Ltd., (A.D.C.) apparently a private firm, but wholly-owned by the then British Board of Trade and staffed by their officials. They were more than loyal to their Iranian masters.

After a great deal of arguement [sic] with A.D.C. and other Consortium members about methods, division of responsibilies [sic] , consequential losses and costs etc., the quotation was accepted including my price of £250K, and the contract signed. I was to live with that contract for exactly 10 years and have been sorely tempted many times to record the frustrations, stupidities and almost impossible business of working with the Iranians whilst retaining any degree of sanity.

It was the custom in Pye at the time, and a very good one, that before work was started on a major quotation, the comments of people with recent similar experience were sought as to its desireability, [sic] and with the question “Do we want the job?”. The file, an informal one came to me and in answer to that question I wrote in a light-hearted moment, “pas avec un barge pole.” I didn’t know that our masters Philips in Holland were involved until a minute came from them asking ‘vos ist ein barge pole’? This surprised everyone as the Dutch generally have no sense of humour where money is concerned.

One year from the signing of the contract, bang on time, we airfreighted the 26 racks of equipment and a mass of other material for installation at Meherabad airport, a direct flight from Stansted to Teheran where it was to be fitted. The pilot spent 36 hours under armed guard first for not having a “Certificate of no objection” from Iranian Airlines and secondly for paying a parking fee for only a 12 hours stay. There were many problems with that first consignement [sic] which provided a good pointer to the difficulties to follow. It was 12 months before the equipment was released from Customs and then it was stored in the open air outside the Meherabad receiving station for 6 months. Soon after that first air shipment I returned to Iran and spent 6 weeks studying the first 12 airport installations, including Meherabad, and re-formulating detailed plans. Meherabad was the main International Airport and included the Flight Information Centre. One problem at the F.I.C. was how to fit a 24 ft control console manned by 6 people whilst maintaining a full service on the old console which occupied the same floor space. In addition the contract stated that 12 racks would be fitted in the old equipment room on the fourth floor and 14 in a new equipment room on the second floor. This really was quite impossible and I was keeping the problem to myself. When I was discussing with the Iranians the work involved in their own equiupment [sic] room,


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they became extremely worried because their wiring was an absolute shambles with hundreds of multipair cables actually threading their way in and out and through racks which we had to replace with no interuption [sic] in the service.

They finally startled me by laying down the law and insisting that we stay right out of their old equipment room, and they would knock down walls between six offices on the second floor to house all 26 racks. This area was very close to FIC and made our job not only possible, but easy. Also the change was their firm requirement and we charged them £17,500 extra for the priveledge [sic] .

On Kushi Nostrat mountain, Marconi were to fit a Radar scanner, which we were to link to Meherabad by a 7GHz link, but the only way to reach the site was by helicopter, unless one was a mountaineer. There were no civilian helicopters in Iran and it was only when I put the problem to A.D.C. that I found the Radar stn. was to be at Kushi Basm and not Kushi Nostrat, a totally different mountain. This had an access road and Meherabad was a line-of-sight path of 32 miles. At a critical distance was a salt pan and we were supposed to go round this desert on a dog leg using a microwave link repeater. There was no suitable location for the repeater because of the “change” in location of the Radar site. This resulted in another variation to contract for a frequency and space diversity single link, less equipment than in the original contract but we got away with charging £18,000 more. Some of the problems were pathetic, others amusing. When I checked the earthing and lightening arrestor system at Meherabad I found the one inch copper earth lead was terminated not with an earth mat in the ground but to a spike stuck in a concrete plantpot on the first floor verandah. That was and probably is still there and highly dangerous. Incredible but true.

At Bandar Abbas Airport I prepared a detailed installation plan which together with others was discussed later at a monthly progress meeting in London. It bore no resemblance to a plan prepared by Redifon two years previously and we realised that since Redifon’s visit a new airport had been built about 9 miles away. More variatons [sic] to contract. There were 260 of them finally. At Bandar Abbas, the port of which was the main base of the Iranian Navy, I was with the Provincial Governor, an Iranian Air Force General and the Airport Manager. All three agreed it was permissible for me to use my camera. Later when an army corporal confiscated the camera they all denied it and simultaneously lost their ability to speak fairly good english, resorting to french in discussion with me. I had already met the works manager in charge of the extensive building operations who spoke excellent english and was apparently all-powerful. He not only recovered my camera from the army but also gave me a fine selection of photographic prints together with detailed architect plans of all the buildings. I did not see the three senior chaps again but the works manager put a car and driver at my disposal. I think he must have been related to someone important, maybe the Shah-in-Shah, or maybe he was a member of the secret police, there is no knowing.

A consignment of Redifon transmitters was held up in Customs for over two years with a documentation problem, and even the fixer employed was quite ineffective. To clear through customs it was necessary to get 120 signatures and rubber stamp impressions on the release document and this had to be done in a single day. This was finally achieved after the Shah had decreed that the equipment must be released, but the chap on the gate seemed to resent this interferance [sic] and refused to release it. The document with the signatures was out

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of date the following day so the man’s boss supported him and the equipment remained a part of the scenery. A week or two later, another department came into the act and gave notice that if Redifon did not remove it within 7 days, it would be sold off by police auction. Redifon did not appreciate my suggestion that we should go to the auction. The problem had arisen because one small item of equipment was refered [sic] to as a “tone transmitter”, the word transmitter being anathma [sic] to Middle east types. It did not appear on the schedule [deleted] d [/deleted] of approved tranmitters [sic] and was regarded with grave suspicion.

It took four months to amend the contract to exclude the tone transmitter and substitute a tone oscillator, - the same thing -, but even then 36 copies of the invoice had to be changed and re-submitted.

The Consortium offices belonged to the G.E.C.O.S. agent who kindly trebbled [sic] the size of them at the Consortium’s expence [sic] . All the members’ staff in Iran moved in and made themselves comfortable. About three weeks later a gang of workmen with demolition equipment reduced the new buildings to rubble and said “sorry, no planning permission”. Two months later the lawyers proved that all the proper authority and permissions were completely in order. The gang returned and said “sorry, ok you build”.

Despite all the red tape in Iran it was generally possible to get results eventually, the main difficulty was often finding out just which palms had to be greased. Our man in Iran for three years was Mike Cherry and he was successful in getting an amateur radio licence, with the call-sign EP2MC. Mike fitted an SSB125 transceiver in the office in Teheran and I was in daily contact with him from both my house and the office in Cambridge. By using very carefull [sic] phraeseology [sic] I was kept right up to date with progress in the field.

I was talking with Mike from the office one evening on 14 MHz when Dr. Westhead the Chief Executive came in and asked who I was talking with. I replied “to Mike Cherry, our man in Teheran, Sir”. He grimaced and said “Ah well, ask a stupid question..” The public telephone system to Iran was diabolical most of the time. I used to book a call for 4.30 am the following day and take it from home, which saved a great deal of time in both places. Teheran time was 2 1/2 hours ahead of U.K. On most occasions the Post Office telephoned several times during the night to confirm the call or advise of delays, which was very tiresome.

Monthly progress meetings were held in London, and at one of them I was asked to quote for additional work at Esfahan during the 2500 year celebrations, which were to take place before the new equipment was fitted. They required to talk with aircraft and I suggested they should do so on a mobile set which would be quite adequate. Our team would already be on site with the mobiles so without any fuss I quoted £300 which was put forward. At a board meeting a week later this was confirmed and the Pye member of the Board, Pat Holden who was also our International Marketing Director promptly withdrew it as I had not gone through the proper channels. The next day he sent for me and instructed me to cancel my quotation, and with a great thumping of the table told me to increase it £3000. Then followed a lecture that “we are here to make money, add a nought”. I told him the job would take about an hour and £300 was more than adequate. £30,000 was utterly rediculous. [sic] I told him “I was doing no such thing, put it in writing through the head of my department and meanwhile you are clear to return to earth”. I then excused myself and left him


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to it. I returned to my own desk 20 minutes later to find a note asking me to go and see the boss, not surprisingly. I told him exactly what had happened and he laughed. I said I thought I had burned my boats with Pat Holden and David Smith my boss said “far from it, he admires you for standing up to him and asks you to forget it.” I took no further action in this and in the event there was no income at all, but the job took only 30 minutes for one engineer.

Another equally challenging job was the installation and commissio [deleted] m [/deleted] ning of a UHF system within the London Stock Exchange. This employed 520 adjascent [sic] channels. The Base Stations in the basement comprised a transmitter and receiver for each channel, all being combined into one “radiating feeder”. About 600 pocketphones on the Stock Exchange floor were used by dealers working into this system. An invitation to tender for this job had been received by Pye about two years previously and comments invited from all technical departments. It was unanimously agreed that the job was quite impossible and must not be attempted. Pye did not quote for it and the contract was awarded to S.T.C. Mobile division. Nearly two years later Pye or Philips aquired [sic] that organisation and half the installation had been fitted. About 60 channels were in use and very unsatisfactory. Dealers received messages intended for others and signals faded out at the crutial [sic] moment. Firms were receiving wrong messages and transfering [sic] and buying shares erroneously through these faults. The task of bringing the job to a conclusion was allocated to me and I chose my favourite team of Nick Fox, Aussie Peters and Jack Faulkener.

There was a local Service Dept. depot at the Stock Exchange of four engineers who were struggling to get the system working and we took over from them. On arrival there was a flap on, a dealer had acted on a false message and bought some tens of thousand shares for which he had no client and he was stuck with them. He said he was going to sue Pye for his loss. He dropped that idea next day when he sold them at a profit. The main problem was loss of signals into the pocketphones on the Stock Exchange floor but we were not allowed onto the floor during dealing times to make tests. Eventually we were given an ultimatum to either fix it or remove it and face an enormous claim for damages.

This was very serious indeed and I reported back to Cambridge. The Engineering Director, Frank Grimm showed me a copy of his comments of two years ago when he said the job was quite rediculous [sic] and impossible, and that was the end of it. No-one wanted to know, “It’s your problem Cliff, get on with it”. So it was back to the Stock Exchange, and I demanded permission to see for myself what was actually happening by being on the floor during dealing hours, otherwise there was nothing more we could do. The Chairman gave permission, quite unprecedented and we were then able to make a more scientific approach. We stayed on that evening and with Jack Faulkener in the basement at the transmitters we measured signal strengths which were astonishingly high and with no blind spots. Jack reduced the base station transmitter power at the input to the antenna system until even with the antenna completely isolated the signals were far more than adequate. This provide the mathematicians were all wrong and we were all barking up the wrong tree. We then carried out the most elementary test of all, whilst receiving properly on a pocketphone we transmitted on other pocketphones – on other channels – at a distance of ten feet. We had found the reason for the problem, simple R/F blocking which should have been checked in the Lab. at a very early stage. That evening we modified 6

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pocketfones [sic] , fitting a 2 pf. capacitor at the receiver input and completely bipassing [sic] the transmitter output stage. They worked perfectly, and with no blocking even at 2’ distance between portables. We had found the answer and the next day, friday, [sic] we recovered all the 160 pocketfones [sic] and over the weekend modified the lot. Everything worked as it should and the customers were delighted. We had received no co-operation from anyone in Cambridge but word soon reached Cambridge that all was well. We deliberately kept them in the dark until I issued a formal report. I had of course no authority to modify equipment but deliberately flouted this on the grounds that someone had to do something constructive or we would have been thrown out of the Stock Exchange. It did not improve my popularity with the people who could influence my career.

In 1979 after being responsible for some dozens of major projects three more Field Controllers were appointed, Dave Buller Mike Simpson and Clive Otley and I felt that a change was long overdue. Relationships with the Departmental Manager and his yes-man deputy Joe were deteriorating rapidly. I transfered [sic] back to Systems Planning Dept. and overnight became a specialist in Radio Frequency propagation. I was in a small team headed by Dave Warford, and including Lewis Wicker and John Ewbank, and a trainee. Our job was to plan Radio Links and area coverage systems, within the parameters laid down by D.T.I.

At the outset my knowledge of R/F propagation (or Electromagnetic Radiation) was limited to my practical experience of what had been achieved and what had failed to work. The theoretical aspect was highly mathematical but fortunatly [sic] the subject was well written up and the principles well established. Dave Warford and Lewis Wicker were a great help in getting me onto the right lines.

A typical job would be a request from a salesman asking whether a radio link on a particular frequency band would work between two specific sites and if so what aerial height would be required? The first step would be to study the Ordnance Survey maps of 1:50000 scale, and plotting all the contours on the direct line between the points. From this information a profile of the earth’s surface would be prepared including the earth’s curvature

[inserted] To be continued [/inserted]


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[underlined] Dresden 13 – 14 February 1945 [/underlined]

At the end of January 1945, the Royal Air Force and the USAF 8th Air Force were specifically requested by the Allied Joint Chiefs of Staff to carry out heavy raids on Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig. It was not a personal decision by Sir Arthur Harris. The campaign should have begun with an American daylight raid on Dresden on February 13th, but bad weather over Europe pre-vented [sic] any American operation. It thus fell to Bomber Command to carry out the first raid on the night of February 13th. 769 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitoes were dispatched in two separate attacks on Dresden and at the same time a further 368 R.A.F aircraft attacked the synthetic oil plant at Bohlen near Leipzig. A few hours after the RAF raids 311 bombers of the 8th US Air force attacked Dresden. The following day (15 February 1945) the USAF despatched 211 bombers to bomb Dresden and a further 406 bombers on the 2nd March.

As an economic centre, Dresden ranked sixth in importance in pre-war Germany. During the war several hundred industrial plants of various sizes worked full-time in Dresden for the German War machine, Among them were such industrial giants as the world famous Zeiss-Ikon AG (Optics and cameras). This plant alongside the plant in Jena was one of the principle centres of production of field glasses for the Armies, aiming sights for the Panzers and Artillery, periscopes for U-boats, bomb and gun sights f or the Luftwaffe. Dresden was also one of the key centres of the German postal and telegraphic system and a crucial East West transit point with its 7 bridges crossing the Elbe at its widest point.

In February 1945 the war was far from over. The Western Allies had not yet crossed the Rhine, Germany still controlled extensive territories, and Bomber Command lost more than 400 bombers after Dresden. The war was at its height, the Allies were preparing for the land battles which would follow their crossing the Rhine, the Russians were poised on the Oder. This destruction of Dresden meant a considerable reduction in the effectiveness of the German Armed forces.

The Germans followed Hitler even after the liberation of Auschwitz in January 1945 when its horrors were broadcast to the world. They continued to follow Hitler even after they watched the thousands of living skeletons from concentration camps being herded westward in early 1945.

A quote from former POW Col H E Cook (USAAF Rtd) "on 13/14 Feb 1945 we POWs were shunted into the Dresden marshalling yards where for nearly 12 hours German troops and equipment rolled in and out of Dresden. I saw with my own eyes that Dresden was an armed camp: thousands of German troops, tanks and artillery and miles of freight cars …. transporting German logistics towards the East to meet the Russians.”

[signed] Jim[?] Broom [/signed]

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[curriculum vitae page 1]

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[curriculum vitae page 2]

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[autographed photograph of Lancaster bomber]

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[history of Jack Railton and Emma Sharpe]

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[history of George Henry Watson]

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[history of Herbert Kilham]

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[history of Herbert Kilham continued]

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[photograph of male]

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[history of George Henry Watson]

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[history of Jack Railton and family]

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[history of Jack Railton and family continued]

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[history of Cliff Stark’s early years]

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[letter from LMS railway to C.W. Watson page 1]

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[letter from LMS Railway to C.W.Watson page 2]

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[letter from LMS Railway to C.W. Watson]



Cliff Watson DFC, “Just Another Tailend Charlie,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 24, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/18578.

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