Interview with Jimmy Graham


Interview with Jimmy Graham


Jimmy Graham was employed in a Reserved Occupation but volunteered with the RAF as potential aircrew. He began his training in Northern Ireland and was eventually qualified as an air gunner. He was posted to RAF Elsham Wolds. He took part in the operation to Mailly le Camp which he considered to be the worst raid of the war. After the war he met a former German night fighter and became good friends. After his tour of operations, he was posted to flying control.



Temporal Coverage





01:00:17 audio recording

Conforms To


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AGrahamJ170927, PGrahamJ1701


JG: The job I had —
AM: I just, I just have to say a wee bit at the beginning.
JG: Yeah.
AM: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is —
JG: Yeah.
AM: Alistair Montgomery. Monty. And the interviewee is Warrant Officer Jimmy Graham. The interview is taking place at Mr Graham’s home in Kilwinning, Ayrshire and his daughter Alison, is present. Jimmy, just to start could you tell me a little bit about your family background and where you lived before you joined the Royal Air Force.
JG: Yeah. I was born in Irvine, and I went to school in Irvine. And there I got myself a job there when I grew up. The job was a Reserved Occupation. The war itself had now [pause] the war, the job that I was after it was a Reserved Occupation. To get in to the Air Force along the line I went up to Glasgow to volunteer and told a pack of lies. Yeah. Because, well the reason for that is none of us wanting to join the Royal Scots Fusiliers. That’s where, that’s the one you got shoved into, and so in the end I was taken on in to the Air Force and I got posted once I’d joined joining up side, I got posted up to Leuchars. And that was the start. And then I left Leuchars and went to Ireland.
AM: Right.
JG: RAF there. I had a job there, what was it. I was working in flying control there as well. And —
AM: So, you went to Ireland with the Royal Air Force.
JG: Aye.
AM: Right.
JG: And so in the Royal Air Force in there I volunteered for aircrew and I got all the medical side done in Ireland.
AM: Whereabouts in Ireland?
JG: What?
AM: Whereabouts in Ireland?
JG: Oh, it would be about [pause] about seven mile out of Belfast.
AM: Right.
JG: There.
AM: Ballykelly or something like that.
JG: What?
AM: Ballykelly.
JG: Nutts, Nutts Corner.
AM: Right.
JG: That’s it. Nutts Corner. Yeah. And well, I volunteered for aircrew and I got posted. I did some training, believe it or not in Lord’s Cricket Ground.
AM: Right.
JG: But all the Air Force took it over and some of the big houses. We got put in the houses until we got timed to get in to the big stuff. The next things. What’s the possible thing, Finningley? I went to Finningley, and I got all the training you need to get there to start off, and you, you graduated a wee bit higher up, and I went there and then I went off.
AM: And were you flying at Finningley or was it all on the ground?
JG: Oh no I was flying there.
AM: Right.
JG: Yeah, I learned away from, I think I was in to, I was at Leuchars and I left Leuchars and then I started flying from Leuchars, and so it was a case of training, training, training until you go on to a squadron and that was you away.
AM: Right. And did you want to be an air gunner or were you told?
JG: I was told.
AM: Told you were going to be an air gunner.
JG: I was told. I had no option.
AM: Right.
JG: Yeah. I think they were losing too many.
AM: Right. What, what episode stands out the most during your training period? Was there anything that was really memorable? Or —
JG: And on the training side [pause] I think that went pretty well. That period there. Everything was good about Finningley in all that time, the whole time we was there, and then we moved on after that on to the next one.
Other: After Finningley.
JG: Aye.
Other: Blyton.
JG: Blyton. That’s it. Yeah.
AM: At what stage did you join a crew? An operational crew.
JG: Oh, that comes at, once I left those two places. I went down to, down to, into Scotland. I got posted down to, I think it was, where that was, but what happened there was that they had a good method of crewing up people. Let’s say there’s a hundred altogether and a, it’s in a big hangar.
AM: Right.
JG: And they kept moving about and moving about, and they were, let’s say there’s a hundred pilots, and a hundred navigators around the same and that’s how the pilot there he’s looking around for someone to make up his crew, and that goes on and on, and on sand on until you’ve got seven there. That’s a good system that, and it worked.
AM: And once you had crewed up did you stay with that crew?
JG: Oh aye.
AM: Right. Tell me just a little bit about the very first time that you flew an operational sortie.
JG: The first time. I think it was intentional you got one that teach you just in to France and no more. Just in and out.
AM: Right.
JG: And that was the pattern.
AM: AM: Right.
JG: But the first operation I did. The big one. The Capital.
AM: To Berlin.
JG: Berlin. Aye. It was the. It was big. Well, they learned then that there was, a thousand aircraft at a time [unclear] yeah. A thousand. Yeah. The reason for the thousand is that Harris, who was the boss of the RAF. He had the same approach as America had when America dropped an atom bomb. The reason for dropping the atom bomb was to stop the war, and they did. Harris tried the same with the RAF, and the hundred at a time to be sitting there in the air, but then, again the, the average, no not the average, it was two to three hundred at a time used to go and do ops. There was about a thousand for Berlin. That was his idea. In fact, I’ll show you ahead now. The war is finished, and Churchill has now gone on to see things you see and he saw the mess of the big city, and he were very cunning. He didn’t want anything to do with that. It wasn’t me that did that. And that’s how the RAF don’t like Churchill because all the bosses of the Army and the Navy and that they were all [unclear] and the Air Force boys got nothing, and that. So that took me into the big stuff.
AM: Just Tell me a little bit about this. About how you felt about going on your very first mission to berlin. You know, from, from, from meeting in the operations room, getting to the aeroplane.
JG: Yeah. There was never any sign of dozing off. You were, you were alive all the time, oh aye. Oh, very much. Oh no. It was even towards the end I was very much alive all the way.
AM: Right.
JG: Oh aye.
AM: And what sort of flying clothing did you wear?
JG: I I was a rear gunner so I could connect up electricity and get warm. I had a complete suit.
AM: This is an electrically heated suit.
JG: Yeah.
AM: Right. And did it work?
JG: Oh aye.
Other: It was interesting the time we saw the Lancasters down at Prestwick, and, and the crew were out and being very supportive of the veterans and he said of course we didn’t have that when they had the Perspex bubble, and we said that was taken away very immediately, because the discovered that in the sky you got oil slicks on there so the gunners couldn’t see anything. That’s why that was taken away.
JG: Yeah.
Other: So, you were basically sitting out in fresh air.
JG: Aye.
Other: Hence the need for the electric suit.
JG: Aye.
AM: Tell me about the, the first time you saw flak coming up at your aeroplane.
JG: It may sound daft, you know, but you saw these things coming up at the side, and I had, I think [unclear] but, you know at that altitude, ‘Oh he’s missed. He’s missed me. He’s missed me.’ but, no the thing was that I forget the thing that we got. We’d got a tablet before. It was to make you, you know, there was no sign of sleeping or anything like that. You got a wee tablet for that.
Other: Do you have any idea what the tablet was?
JG: I forgot, Alison that side of it, but we got a tablet about nearly half an hour before you had to the big one.
AM: Right. Was this Benzedrine or —
JG: I forgot the name of it.
AM: Right.
JG: But we definitely, we all got the tablet. I don’t know about the pilot but I know all the gunners we got a pill.
AM: And did it work.
JG: Oh aye.
AM: Right. Right. And what was it actually like seeing flak for the first time?
JG: It, it was queer to begin with in terms, to me the fact for the first time is, I found the result together. The feeling now, that we’re safe enough now, because of the, the volume of, of Lancasters and that. To the picture that town with that up there, a thousand. Churchill, meant that Berlin was hammered. It was in a big mess, and Churchill was very cunning, it was down to him.
AM: Tell me a little about this manoeuvre called the corkscrew.
JG: Oh.
AM: Did you ever have to do that?
JG: Aye. At the [pause] Certainly, anyway, I’d better put it this way as well, on our way back from doing a job I, I was the gaffer. The reason for that is the pilot cannot see in front. He cannot see. So, I tell him what to do because I can see and do everything. He’s flying. I’m just defending. And everything the boss called Murray? come to a raid that we did, but we just had left having got to bomb and head for home when two Germans got behind me and they were flying this way on that trip. So, I, I said to Charles, ‘Hold it. Hold it, just now.’ I said, ‘We’ve got company now,’ for some time, and it went on and on. And I said to Charlie, ‘Charlie, I want to get down and fly on the roofs of all the houses.’ And he wouldn’t have it but I bawled at him and made him do it, and my attitude is that they’re not going to come down and fire on me. They’ll maybe hit Germans.
AM: And was this a day sortie or a night sortie?
JG: Oh no, mostly the night.
AM: Right.
JG: Oh aye. Yeah.
AM: And —
JG: Then when I got him to fly right down all the way to, to, in to, in to France, and then we, when we flew along the North Sea side, we had only two engines. He’d shot two off and we landed West Malling in Kent.
AM: Tell me a wee bit more of this attack that shot out two of your engines then. What exactly happened?
JG: When, when we were shot.
AM: Aye.
JG: That was, there was two of them firing away like hell. My turret got jammed, on, when I was out, and I was stuck that way, and what had happened they, they had hit all, the boys had hit the hydraulics and I couldn’t move it. So, I was able to talk to him but, the, the pilot and me got along great. Aye. And as I say we landed at West Malling in Kent, and we saw the aircraft the following morning and it was riddled, and there wasn’t a bullet that hit any seven of us, up to it finished.
AM: Had you thought at any time you might have to bale out?
JG: Did we what?
Did you think at any time you would have to bale out?
JG: I’m not so sure I can answer that rightly. I never thought about baling out. I was, as I said early on, I was dreading I would bale out, and the reason I was dreading it was that, the inside of a Lancaster, let’s see, it’s the length of the house here, and I’m the rear turret, but to get out the aircraft, I had to go halfway along, you see. Now, yeah, and then there was a, there was part of the strength of the, the aircraft, there’s a kind of, a kind of metal that height. You had to jump over it.
AM: So, it was the main spar.
JG: That’s it. Aye.
AM: Right.
JG: And then that were my biggest fear is that I had to, I had to get out of there and put it this way they’ve now made a parachute for a rear gunner and you can sit on it.
AM: Right.
JG: And —
AM: But your parachute was at the front.
JG: No. It was hanging, I took it out into the middle of the aircraft, and it was hanging up. I had to take it there.
AM: Right. Was that in a Mark 1 Lancaster?
JG: We each had the they were all in one. It was the outside of that metal bit inside.
AM: Right.
JG: To go to get through the plane. Yeah. Yeah.
AM: And was there any trip that you flew that you really thought you would have to abandon the aircraft a lot.
JG: Oh, we got, there was no question about that, you know. Let’s face it. You can go and do a trip to Germany and France and nothing happen. That can happen. And as I say you’re locked in, but I thought many a time that, what the hell do I do here now. The, the main thing is with me is that, and my life even now, don’t panic, don’t panic at all, you give that up, and. So put it this way if I had to, I could cope. Oh aye.
AM: What did you think when you saw another Lancaster in the stream being shot down?
JG: In what way?
AM: Well, I mean
AM: I’ll just put it off a second.
[recording paused]
JG: But that, there’s no question about it, you’re lucky if you miss the flak, because it’s coming all the time. Yeah. That, and, it could be curtains then if you’re hit then, but no I certainly didn’t panic.
AM: No.
JG: No.
AM: And of all the many missions that you undertook were there any that really stood out from the others?
JG: In what way?
AM: Well, in terms of being more dangerous or extremely long or very difficult.
No. As I said earlier that I was quite calm in, in the turret. You know that, I was moving about, moving about, and I was quite calm.
Other: Dad, of all the different things you did is there one particular mission that you remember most vividly?
JG: Oh aye. I was touching on it a wee while ago there. It was in Germany. These two aircraft fastened on to us. I had a hell of job on now, and that’s when I said to the skipper. Get down on the top of the roof, and we’ll see all the way and flew all the way across the continent down that level all the way. That was the one time that. Well, there was one or two. Let me think.
Other: What about Mailly?
JG: Eh?
Other: What about Mailly? You know, which one of the many things you did stands out most strongly in your mind?
JG: Oh, wait a minute. I’ll come to it. Well, have you heard of Mailly le Camp?
AM: Yes.
JG: I see. I thought that. To begin with whoever thought up that he should be bloody shot. The reason is that, you’re a sitting duck just doing that. The, the ideal thing was that they should have made a triangle, fly A, B, C, actual flying, on the raid, but we were all set up for the fighters, the night fighters. I mean, I was in amongst it. There were, I was seeing two Lancasters flashing each other. Oh aye. But I think there’s a wee bit in there, it was fierce fighting in the whole war. Mailly. It was the worst in the whole war. Mailly.
AM: And do you know why you were sent to that target?
JG: Oh aye. Well, the Germans had brought all the big tanks, from let’s say in France to, to that part. It was like an invasion now to get all these big super tanks and they had many of the men there who were Russians, aye, but they were prisoners and the Germans used them for maintenance on, on the, and most of them got killed and, but that, that was at, what, what. There was the Free French who kept phoning us to say that’s another ten there, that’s, and they kept saying you have to do something. That’s what it was built up to. They were going to try to stop us coming.
AM: And why do you think you were sent in to an orbit?
JG: I don’t know. Now, the guy, I mean in this in a way, the guy that thought it out should have got shot. I mean, the fact that you were doing that you’re stuck the one the area. Fighters can come from everywhere to that one bit and that’s what happened. Well, I’d have said, ‘Right. You got Kilmarnock. You go to Ayr. And you go to Girvin.’ And if we had kept doing that that would have worked but that was that. It was mad.
AM: How long were you over the target for?
JG: Well, wait a minute. Time. Oh, a hell of a time, sat. You see one of, one of the things, we were circling around because we had what we call they sent the people to find the actual target, so they were to go and they’re circling round, and when they find it, they’ll drop colours there.
AM: A marker.
JG: Aye. A marker. That’s right, and, but we certainly weren’t an hour away from that bit, but that was it. We were told it should be one of the things that happened there as well is the Germans, the Germans arrived, and they cut off our connection. So, the only thing we got was American dance music.
AM: So, so—
JG: That was the way to dance.
AM: The Gee beacon was cut out. Is that it? Right.
JG: No, the Germans did that themselves. They did change it to the national stuff and we couldn’t we couldn’t contact each other.
AM: So, the radio was jammed.
JG: That was done to begin with. Aye. Yeah. Yeah. Towards the end at the tape that they put on or something changed, and we got back, but that was the worst time. I heard, and the feeling was then was, ‘To hell with this. I’m going in.’ And so, the whole lot of us went in, didn’t wait on the colours, you could see that a lower column we went into that spot and then did our jobs. Aye.
AM: Gosh.
JG: But that, at that time, but at that time, it was frightening that one. It was incredible watching two Lancs. Yeah. I think earlier, but when I was on at that, the young German pilot, he shot three down right away, and he noticed, and he was on his own aircraft that he needed fuel, so what he would, when was near his own airport, he went down and topped up and came back up and got another two. He got five. What a mess. But all doing this. And I say that’s when I heard, I can remember that voice saying, ‘Oh to hell with this I’m going in.’ [thumping noise] And we all went, and that was that, yeah. It’s the worst, I might be able to read into it a bit, bit in there, but that was the worst in the whole war, the whole war. That one.
AM: Tell me a little bit about, about your crew. Tell me about the rest of your crew. Those that you can remember, and what were they like.
JG: I can —
AM: How you got on with them.
JG: I got on all right with them. The system was, the operation on, so you all met in this big hangar and it was full, all the place and you’re inside, and when you’re in there on the wall is that, that that, you’re going there. And if you were away a certain distance my bomb aimer took diarrhoea. That’s true. He couldn’t go, that he couldn’t go, so they had to get somebody to take his place, aye. Even now as I say you bastard, oh aye, that was that. But no. Mailly —
Other: You kept quite good contact with your crew.
JG: Oh aye.
Other: Over the years after the war.
Oh aye. The pilot. [unclear] We were going to, to Lincolnshire once a year to commemorate the Mailly thing, and my bomber he lived in Gainsborough which was next to the aerodrome, but as I say, I got along alright with him, but certainly when he saw where were going to land, he took diarrhoea, and the mid-upper gunner, was very slow, he didn’t see a thing at all and he was up there and I never did anything. And that was that. But I got on with the pilot very well and even I was offered to do a second tour and I turned it down. So, he crewed up, and I went on a second tour but when the war was all finished, he phoned me to go down and visit him. Anyway, he lived in [unclear] not far from Carlisle, and so I saw him quite often. The navigator, sorry for him, he an excellent navigator, super. But he was Canadian but the family had two houses. One in America and one in Canada, and he was in the, he was in America he got an [unclear], and when he finished flying with us, he volunteered and joined the pilot and the American war with Japan. Yeah. So I went to visit him and he was completely shattered. Oh aye. That was two wars. Aye. He was in a mess.
AM: Gosh.
JG: Ah huh. Yeah. And not the same man. But, and the pilot, I saw him very often, but the navigator. The wireless operator. A hell of a good lad. A great bloke. He had a job on the railway at one time and, but that was the only reason for him and his diarrhoea.
AM: Now, as a crew did you, did you go out socialising at all?
JG: Oh aye.
AM: And was that in to Lincoln or —
JG: Oh, no. We had for example you had your own fitter looking after your aircraft and you took them out but they were doing a good job for you all the time but —
Other: So where did you all go? Where?
JG: We went Doncaster.
Other: Doncaster.
JG: Aye.
AM: Was that when you were at Elsham Wolds? Was that when you were at Elsham. Right.
JG: Maybe sound daft, but come the time when the you, you crack so you go down there, and it’s all aircrew, it’s in there now, the whole lot, and all with. Wilson had a hell of a dram, and in fact I went to a funeral and I met with another fella, navigator, and when I was leaving him, I said I’ll get you in the [unclear] Thursday, that’s where all the [pause] In fact, I thought the other day I’ll get a card from him, and I tried to say I’ll see you on Thursday in the [unclear] but they were there to get drunk. Oh aye.
AM: Was that the best the pub in Doncaster then?
JG: In that area. That’s right.
AM: Right. Right. You mentioned the, the ground crew.
JG: The —
AM: The ground crew that looked after the aircraft.
JG: Oh aye.
AM: I mean apart from going out to the pub did you see a lot of them?
JG: Oh aye. Yeah. Aye. Ah huh. Oh, and of course there was what you call the NAAFI.
AM: Right.
You know you would get them in the NAAFI, and they would sit there [unclear], and they were quite good.
AM: And what was, what was the social life like in the, in the sergeant and the warrant officer’s mess?
JG: I thought it was ok. No. as I say, I got to WAM: O, and I was quite happy there. What were you when you, what did you finish up as?
AM: I was a pilot.
JG: Aye, but were you a warrant officer.
AM: A group captain.
JG: Were you a group?
AM: Hmmn.
JG: By golly. I should be standing.
AM: [laughs] Jimmy what was your, what was your favourite airfield?
JG: Elsham Wolds. It was a, everything was good about it, it had everything that I needed there, it was quite good. But we the other crew that was on with us the fact on 103 that’s what they were at. And —
AM: So, there were two squadrons there.
JG: There were two there and we used to take the mickey out of each other at the NAAFI, and we I’ll do it while we’re here, is that, 103 [sings] ‘103, they aint what they used to be. 576 are the best.’
AM: And how did 103 take that?
JG: Not very good.
AM: No. I can imagine that.
JG: Now, believe it or not, it seemed daft but, let me see if I can say it, but, you were both of you have been out, and places, and come back in and two of their [unclear] come back, things like that, that’s the thing, and you certainly, you feel, you know, what, what you normally do then is that maybe they get caught, maybe, maybe things are in their favour. Maybe get back. But, but no, they got on pretty well, the two squadrons but all that was the bit we used to sing to them.
AM: Tell me during your tour of operations when you had some leave did, did you go home?
JG: When I left when I left home. Yes, I did aye, because I wasn’t too far away.
AM: Right.
JG: I was down at Wigan. Down there.
AM: Is that where your parents were?
JG: That’s where, I was staying, I stayed at Irvine at the time.
AM: Oh right.
JG: So when, when I got into aircrew I got a posting, it was deliberate I think it was, nearer home and I made good use of that, you know that, because a firm [unclear] did all the washing. Laundered stuff. And [unclear] I got home then.
AM: Right.
JG: And things like that.
AM: There’s quite a big difference between your life in the air and then coming to visit family.
JG: Oh aye.
AM: How did you feel with that? Was it difficult or —
JG: No. It wasn’t difficult. No. No.
AM: How did your parents feel about the fact that you were aircrew?
JG: Well, they were quite happy. They looked at it as their boy was a lot bigger now than their little boys, or something like that, and they had wings on, or something on, thing up there.
AM: Right.
JG: Same as you with your four-ring belt, [unclear] too many steps there, I’d have got the uniform.
Other: Dad, did you ever go to spend time with one of your crew who lived near Lincolnshire?
JG: What?
Other: Was it the Carters?
JG: No, no. I think I mentioned it. [Tug] the navigator. He, he settled all together with one another. The navigator was [unclear] but and on top of that, the fact that they lived half and half in America he was accepted in to the American Air Force. And he went in there was the pilot and he had a rough time. But, but the thing with that was two, two lots of fighting here and in Japan, it was on out there. He had a rough time, could tell, he went inside the house what he was like but, he was, he was a very smart looking boy, so he was [unclear] but, and then his wife was the same. And the pilot and myself went to visit him.
Other: Who was it in your crew who lived in Lincolnshire? Was it the bomber?
JG: Left us altogether —
Other: No. Who lived in Lincolnshire? Was it —
JG: Nick Carter.
Other: Nick Carter. Right.
JG: Aye. Aye.
Other: And what did he do?
JG: He was the bomb aimer
Other: He was the bomb aimer.
JG: Aye. He was.
Other: So sometimes when you had leave, you went to stay with him and his family.
JG: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah.
Other: Yes.
AM: Jimmy, when was your last operational sortie? Can you remember it?
JG: My last one. I’ll tell, you you’ve got me beat.
AM: I’ll just.
JG: Thats’s right.
AM: Where was it to?
JG: Hmmn?
AM: Where did it go to?
JG: Stettin.
AM: Right. Right.
JG: That’s the, that’s the town, isn’t it?
AM: Yes.
JG: That’s it.
AM: So how did you feel when you —
JG: In Germany, but knowing, leaving and [pause] you’re optimistic, you know. It was my last one and I went to a few but all in all it I enjoyed the whole of the Air Force. I really did enjoy my time there.
AM: After you, after you finished flying at the end of 1944.
JG: Yeah.
AM: What did you do between then and the end of the war?
JG: I got the air traffic control at Wigan.
AM: Right.
JG: I finished up there, and I could get home in, in minutes.
AM: Right.
JG: Yeah.
AM: So how did you feel when the war was finally over?
JG: Well, what I was feeling about that for some time I was at Prestwick. I think I said earlier that I thought Prestwick had a future. And the reason at the time was that there was no RAF at Glasgow, and we thought it was all be taken to, to Prestwick. And then I, I realised early on that Prestwick would never take off again, and I never changed my mind about it.
AM: Jimmy, is there anything about your, your time in the air as a Lancaster air gunner that you’d like to tell me that I haven’t asked you, or you’d like to share with me?
JG: That I haven’t what?
AM: Is there anything we haven’t talked about you’d like to add?
JG: Let me think now, [pause] no, put it this way. When, when I went on the aircrew side of things that was my life. It was at, give you an idea. It’s been on TV an awful lot. Sorry I’ll get the name. Group captain, and so on. What the hell, Sir John, wait a minute.
AM: Just pick that up.
JG: I was at Mailly, [unclear] he got the VC. Then later on I found out there were two or three of them got the VC. I’ve got one gripe about this one here, is that I, all, all the crew, all the crew were decorated to DFM, and all that [unclear] I couldn’t find out for you coming, but they were all out showing the medal, you see. And, why the dam, I thought it was disgusting because they all got medals, I doubt that [unclear] my last, I’ll tell you that was the worst one. Mailly le Camp. We didn’t all get medals for that, yeah. But you see the Dambusters, there was a film made, so it was a different atmosphere to the country about that. And I thought it was totally unfair that there were medals and medals, and we didn’t get medals. That didn’t happen at other places. That was my one gripe at the time about that. The other thing about it is that, I wasn’t flying that day but I knew it was on. I think there were about twenty of us hanging about that day. They said it, we all said it, the damage they did to the dams would last about three weeks yeah, yeah. But they started the film to give you this, to get the bomb to bounce and bounce and that all, and do it again. But in the actual bombing the Germans repaired it in three weeks. Yeah. I think the four of them got VCs. That’s, the Germans were very clever. And that’s what we said right away. That they would repair that in no time, and did.
AM: Any other stories you’d like to, you’d like to add or —
AM: Any other stories you’d like to add?
JG: Any other stories?
AM: Right.
JG: I’m trying to think now.
Other: I think one of the things which I think is quite funny is that all these years after the war, it must be now about ten years ago my late husband engineered a meeting between my father and a German night fighter. Do you remember meeting Werner in Spain?
JG: That’s right.
Other: And after the initial discomfort of the meeting they settled down to chat.
JG: Ah ha. I took him in there. Ok we’re, he was a German night fighter, and the War finished, and they were having a hotel built.
Other: In Spain.
JG: Aye. And then, I got word from David that he knew him so I’ll get an introduction to him, and right away I go, I had to go and have dinner with him and his crew. Yeah. I think that’s the beauty about aircrew everywhere, that there’s a kind of feeling, that he’s a pal.
Other: Fencing, and then you were starting to say where were you? Where were you? Were you there? Were you there?
AM: Do you think you ever shared the same piece of sky?
JG: Aye. Oh aye.
AM: Yes. They did.
JG: Aye, yeah. Now, I, I was on that night, yeah [unclear] now as I say there was a feeling that there was no bad feeling between us. That’s all I’ll say. Come and have a meal. That’s the subtle difference. We both took it that way.
Other: Then his own history was quite interesting, because he said he was shot down three times in the war and he said the first twice, he was unlucky because he was shot down over the Channel and the Germans picked him back up, put him in a plane, and sent him off. And it was only the third time that he was picked up by the allies and shipped off to Canada.
AM: I didn’t ask you do you think you ever shot down a German fighter.
JG: Did I think what?
AM: Did you think you ever shot down a German fighter?
JG: Oh aye.
AM: Tell me about that then.
JG: No, I shot. I shot down, I shot two down.
AM: Right.
JG: I shot one down, this is quite a good one. It was Russia. There was a bit of a problem with the, their Navy all sitting waiting to get out, they couldn’t get out, before the Germans what do you call the water, you know where the coastline goes like that, in and out, [pause] the name for it, German name for it, no not a German name. A Norwegian name. Fjord, yeah, Fjord, yeah. So, the Russians went in there, but they want out, and the Germans come along and they plant their, their Navy in there, the big one. And Russia asked us is there was anything we could do to shift him, and then we took that one on.
AM: Was this the Tirpitz?
JG: Eh?
AM: Was this the Tirpitz?
JG: Well, that leaf, that level. Yes. You’ve got it there have you? It will be in there, I think.
AM: I’ll just —
JG: The German [unclear] done away with them so they asked us to help out and they, what we did was [unclear] when the Russians asked us we’ll help. I can’t remember, about three of us hundred went. We took mines with us, and there was only two can fit the, the bay and we were told that you don’t drop them in, you have to fly them in at, because they might explode if you drop them so, this is the. For me, I always admired them, how good a fliers they were going there, they can fly away down there, [unclear] and they did it. Now, to me they were hard to beat. Oh aye, and anyway we, we did that, and we dropped our mines in there, so you can imagine it was almost a thousand mines that the Germans have got to clear to get out, and so we left them and came back home, and I went down through Poland and to France and in France I said to Charlie, Charlie, hold it. We’ve got company, and a 109 it was. So I shot it down, fatally. The place where we are. That was in France.
AM: Right.
JG: From Russia. That was it. To try and get the Russians out of the water.
AM: Was that the first time you’d shot another aircraft down?
JG: No. No. No. No. That was the first one. The other one, one of them things. I know it sounds daft now. Turn it off.
AM: Right.
JG: But I couldn’t claim it. You know there’s a drill they have, if you, if you shoot an aircraft down when you come back from an operation you get interrogated and if you say you shot an aircraft down they will not log it because if the three hundred have left to go there, so three hundred have got to come back. So, and you say that you shot down one there, and then, so, all he’d done is put down the time and the place. And he gets confirmation from other ones that all the ones that are flying back that cannot see them. So, they’ve all been trained, if you see a light, or if you see anything record it. So maybe about twenty of them saw the lights of mine, and I shot him down. That’s how it was done. That’s why at Mailly le Camp, I did one there, but the point was that, what was going on at Mailly. You know, you say what the hell can I do, the aircraft coming. Aircraft. I mean, it’s all happening, between out here and here, it’s all happened. So, but nobody has got time to write that they saw that at the time. Yeah.
AM: Jimmy, Warrant Officer Graham, Legion D’honneur. Thank you very much.
JG: I’m pleased to meet you.
AM: And you. I’m honoured to meet you. No, please.
[recording paused]
Other: I rather thought that would be the case.
AM: Jimmy, you didn’t tell me you had a Distinguished Flying Medal. Perhaps you’d like to tell me why you’ve got a distinguished, why you’ve got a DFM.
JG: Well, it wasn’t because I’d, I’d shot down two. Yeah.
AM: There you are. Sit down.
JG: I shot down two. Yeah.
AM: And who awarded your medal?
JG: What, what they did they stopped royalty doing it because they felt they were doing too much of there, and that and that sort of thing, and it was well one of the big chief. What do you call them?
AM: An air marshall.
JG: Air marshall’s, aye.
AM: And where was that done in?
JG: That was done in, the Doncaster one.
AM: Elsham Wolds.
JG: Elsham Wolds.
AM: Right.
JG: Was that, and they came to do that, before they were, obviously their job was taken them everywhere.
AM: You must have been very, very proud.
JG: Oh, I was. When I came in [unclear] yeah.
AM: Superb.
JG: I felt good. That’s another of me there. Wireless operator, up, mid-upper gunner, who was that? Anyway, there was me, there’s me and Mick, he, he was the flight engineer, and the bomb aimer[unclear], and I used to pull his leg because —
AM: Jimmy, tell me about you’ve just showed a photograph. Tell me what the bomb aimer did.
JG: The bomb aimer did next to nothing. He doesn’t even help to put a bomb onto the plane, and the rear gunner on our way to the target is lying doing nothing. And then we were getting other players, he’s on our run now to where he was going to drop his bombs. ‘Left. Left. Left. Left. Left. Left. Bombs away.’ And then he lies down, and did nothing. He lies down until he gets home. Aye.
AM: Well, I’ll say this again. Jimmy Graham, Distinguished Flying Medal, Legion D’honneur, thank you. That was brilliant.



Alastair Montgomery, “Interview with Jimmy Graham,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 5, 2024,

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