Interview with David Fellowes. Two


Interview with David Fellowes. Two


David Fellowes tells of how he used to build model airplanes and fly them in the fields when he was a boy. The son of an engineer, he first joined the Air Training Corps and then volunteered for the Royal Air Force at the age of 17. Describes his training at various stations and converting onto Halifaxes at 1656 Heavy Conversion Unit and then onto Lancasters. Remembers being posted to 460 Squadron at RAF Binbrook, from where he flew his first operation as an air gunner, when they were targeted by friendly fire on their way to Freiburg. Emphasizes the sense of comradeship arisen between the air crew and the ground crew.




Temporal Coverage




00:13:55 audio recording


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AFellowesD160830, PFellowesD1501


AP: Ok.
DF: Why did I join the Royal Air Force? Well, we’ve got to go back in time. As a young lad my interest, or one of my main interests was in fact aeroplanes, my father was an engineer and he and I used to build model aeroplanes and fly them in the local fields. So I had this interest in aeroplanes, later I got, I had a bicycle, and when I had a bicycle I was able to ride out to various airfields, places like Brooklands, White Waltham, Cobham and see aeroplanes take off and land and I used to be this happy, happy little boy, well later on as I grew older the ATC was formed and I thought to myself, this is for me, so I joined the Air Training Corps and whilst I was in the Air Training Corps I did pass the air crew certificate of training and when I was seventeen I nipped up to the recruiting office and volunteered for the Royal Air Force. After a very short space of time I was sent off to a centre where I was given various tests and I was passed out as on a PNB course, they said, go home, oh and they gave me a VR badge and a number and that was it, I went home until the time I got called up.
AP: Right, so, when you were called up, can you go through the next bit?
DF: After having been called up I had this railway warrant, to send me to London to report to Lord’s Cricket Ground or somewhere very similar, to ACRC that’s the Air Crew Receiving Centre which were in fact large blocks of flats in the St John Wood area and also of course quite adjacent to London Zoo and it was here that we first got kitted out into uniform and one of the things I can remember about this uniform being kitted out, we went to Lords and we got our greatcoats and we were all standing in a long line with our greatcoats on and a corporal with a yardstick came along the back to make sure that every greatcoat was the same, bottom of the greatcoat was the same distance from the ground, this caused a little bit of a laugh really among some of us but anyhow we did it and then from there of course whilst we were at ACRC so we did various tests, night vision tests, various medical little tests to make sure that we were fit for aircrew.
AP: How about the next bit when you went to Crewe Station, how you managed to get into the RR, RAAF, Australian side?
DF: After I had passed out I was on, first of all let me go back, I was posted to an ITW down in Newquay and it was here that we did all our basic ground training for pilot, navigator, bomb aimer training, things like meteorology, how an aeroplane flies, everything appertaining to the Royal Air Force and aircrew. We learnt the Morse code, but not very well I might say. After ITW you passed out, you were sent then to a grading school and I went to number 15 flying Tiger Moths up at Longtown and it was there that I passed out and I went to Heaton Park outside Manchester, it was winter time, it was a horrible place, it was full horrible corporals, and we did nothing, there was a hold up on convoys going across the Atlantic or down to South Africa and whilst I was there a notice went up on a board and said, you can be an air gunner in four weeks or something like that, and I thought, that’s for me, if I want to get into this war, that’s what I’ll do so I did. I went to the orderly room, remustered and then I got sent down to number one AGS and it was here that I passed out and after passing out, sent home on leave, there I was, a sprog sergeant air gunner and I had a posting then down to 30 OTU at Hixon in Staffordshire. One of the places where we had to change trains was Crewe, to go then, go into Stafford, put on the train and in tumbled three Australian flight sergeant pilots, we got talking as one would and I said to one, whereabouts do you come from in Australia? And he said Sydney. I said, oh, I said, that’s a bit of a coincidence, but I have an aunt and uncle in Sydney they went out after the First World War, they have a sport shop. So he said, well, whereabouts do you know? I said, yes, they live in the district called Marrickville and the road is called Illawarra Road. Mh, he said, this is good, he said, what’s the name of your aunt? So I said, Mrs. Ivy Evans. Mh, he said, you wouldn’t like this, he says, my mother’s a chapel friend. So we had something in common, so he said to me, would I fly with him? And I said, yes, no problem, so there we were in a 30 OTU at Hixon, I was in his crew, the first one, then we set about looking for somebody else, we picked up an Australian wireless operator, Jack Wilson. We also picked up our bomb aimer, he was a Scot, from Glasgow, he was an apprentice telephone engineer, he was a handy lad cause they had a method of back dialling so we got cheap telephone calls, which was pretty good and our navigator, we looked for a studious looking lad, he was, he had a blonde hair, bushy eyebrows and he was a damn good trombone player, which was something else that we had in the crew. Then we found another gunner, after OTU, well, OTU lasted in two sections, first of all there is ground school and daytime flying, you go on leave for a week, come back and then we did night flying and more ground school. We did get into a bit of trouble there, I don’t think we were the best behaved crew, I know the worst case was our wireless operator, we were sitting in the Wellington waiting to take off and he was fooling around with his radio and he managed to pick up Glenn Miller playing In the Mood and of course he put it through to all our crew stations so we could hear it but alas also the authorities picked it up and oh well, we was in trouble for that but we got over it. And then from there we were posted up to 1656 I think it was, Heavy Conversion Unit on Halifaxes and there we converted onto Halifaxes and then from Halifaxes the skipper was told he was going to go onto Lancasters, so we did a three day course, I think it was the same place, could have been Finningley on the Lanc finishing and it was there that our skipper said, you boys had you like to come to an Australian squadron? And we all said, oh yes, that’s a good idea, why not? And so we were fortunate and we got posted to 460 Squadron at Binbrook. Now this was good because Binbrook was a pre-war station and had married quarters, all lying empty because you weren’t allowed to have your wives or families with you, so each crew was allocated a married quarter and ours was number 13, well, we weren’t superstitious so we settled in, you got a coal and coke ration, you went to the mess for your meals and otherwise you were just left to your own desert. The normal procedure when one joined a squadron was in fact that first of all the crew would be allocated to a flight, in our case we went to B Flight, Bob Henderson was the Flight Commander, he was a very nice chap, he then sent us on a, a nav-ex I suppose you could call it, we went on a long training trip, when we came back, what normally happened would be the captain, your skipper would go with a qualified crew on his Op to see what it was all about, but that didn’t happen to us, the Station Commander was a gentleman by the name of Group Captain Hughie Edwards VC DSO DFC and quite a character, and he turned round and said, oh, take Whitmarsh and his crew on their first trip on block, well, he did, the trip in fact that day was to Freiburg, down in South West, yes, South West Germany and away we went, it was very good, he was very good, he just called us by our Christian names and away we went, and we got just past the bombline, this was in 1944, and we were passing over an American sector, apparently, when all of a sudden we got hit by flak from the Americans, well somehow in those days there wasn’t such a very good feeling between the Americans and the Australians and also it upset us Brits too at the time [laughs], anyhow he did talk about dropping a bomb on them, keep them quiet but he didn’t. On we went to Freiburg but were warned that of course when we got there, you’d most likely do his usual trick, go down and have a look to see how main force were getting on. This he did and then of course, after he’d done what he wanted to do, we climbed back up and flew home. And that was my first introduction to operations. On 460 Squadron after you had kind of settled down, proved that you were up to the work and up to the job and you’ve done about five or six ops, you were given your own aeroplane. In our case our aeroplane was O-Oboe. Now the crew that flew Oboe previously came to see us off and we took it over on our first op in Oboe, when we got out there of course one of the things we were introduced to was the ground staff of which there were four, there was an Australian sergeant, he had lovely black, curly hair, he looked more like an Australian gypsy than anything else but he was in charge of the aeroplane, we also had an armourer, engine fitters and airframe fitter, now those boys were always there before we took off, they were always there when we got back and we were part of the team. They used to call themselves the dayshift, we called ourselves if you like the nightshift and it worked very well and of course the sergeant we used to see in the mess, no problem at all but the others, airmen, we used to take out, oh, every ten days or so, we used to take them down to the village pub and have a few beers together, we were part of a team.



Andrew Panton, “Interview with David Fellowes. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 1, 2023,

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