interview with Derrick Allen's family


interview with Derrick Allen's family


Derrick Allen was the mid-upper gunner on a Lancaster that crashed near Spa in Belgium. He had been making his way to bale out when the pilot asked him to help the rear gunner who was trapped in his turret. He managed to do this but the plane broke apart giving them no time to escape. Three members of the crew had already successfully baled out, the pilot and rear gunner died but Derrick Allen fell into a tree and survived. He went on to marry and have a family but only told his daughter about this incident in the 1970s. He later visited the site of the crash and found that the local people had created a memorial and he became close friends with many locals. His family describe the quality of his post-war life and praise their father for his courage.




Temporal Coverage




01:47:44 audio recording

Conforms To


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JA: Just say Lavinia Allen. My name -
JA: My name is -
MH: Ok. Good afternoon to the persons listening to the tape. The tape today is going to be an interesting one for everybody to listen to. The date today is the 30th of August 2015. I’m Mark Hunt. I’m one of the volunteers that works for the International Bomber Command Centre at Lincoln. I’m here interviewing a family. I’m going to get them in a second to introduce themselves but just for the tape’s purpose the time now is 1408 hours. And that’s my bit done so I’m going to hand it over to the family now.
LA: Right. My name is Lavinia Allen. I am the wife of Derrick Allen and I first met him when I worked in Timothy Whites and Taylors at Peterborough. He was in the RAF. He called in at the shop and that was when I first met him and then every six weeks he had leave and then he used to come in and always buy toothbrush, toothpaste, and a shaving cream and of course it was quite a joke because the girls, the rest of the girls all used to have a good laugh and say, ‘Here he comes,’ but anyway that was how I first met him and then later on I used to go to the village dance at Stilton and I went to this particular dance not knowing but he arrived at the dance and he was very chatty with some other girl that was there but I happened to be there as well and that was our first meeting and from then on, well, it was a case of we just carried on meeting each other and gradually we got engaged and then we were married and then we had our family.
MH: And for the tape’s purpose now the children from that marriage are going to all introduce themselves. I’m going to walk this around just to make sure that we can pick up the signal.
JA: Sandra Allen. Derrick Allen’s daughter.
JA: I’m Judith Allen and I’m his youngest daughter.
DA: This is David Allen. Dad’s son and the oldest child in the family.
MH: Great. Thank you very much. I’m going to turn the tape on over now to the family to give their recollections of Mr Derrick Allen.
JA: Yeah I was just thinking about when you were saying about obviously you met dad but at the time the war was going on so I was just thinking of what happened then as well.
LA: Yeah well when, when my husband came on leave he then said when he went back he would write to me but I did not receive a letter and I, at the time I thought, ‘Oh another one of them,’ ‘cause that’s what young men used to say, ‘I’ll write to you when I go back,’ but unfortunately that is when the plane crashed and so I didn’t hear from him because he had crashed and he was out in Belton. Eventually he came back and of course he had, I can’t remember how long but he had a small leave and then he went back again and he went flying again but that’s all I can remember.
MH: Ok. Ok.
JA: And also the story that he would have told you at the time of what might have happened at the crash. Why it happened. With his -
LA: Well -
JA: Colleagues in Spa.
DA: When did you get married? When did you get married mother? Was that during the war or it was after the war, wasn’t it?
LA: Yeah.
JA: Yeah. 1946 wasn’t it? September the 26th
LA: Yes we were married in 1946. But -
JA: And he didn’t really talk -
LA: But –
JA: Did he? About -
LA: He did not -
JA: Certainly not to us as children.
LA: Talk about that crash to anyone really and for quite a number of years he did not talk about it at all.
DA: Wasn’t the story printed in the papers at that time ‘cause you did, it did go, you did go, he did receive the CGM because of his actions at that time.
LA: He was awarded -
DA: We knew about that so -
LA: He was awarded CGM, yes.
DA: And when did he go for -
LA: Which is -
DA: The investiture.
LA: Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.
DA: Yeah. What year was that? He went to Buckingham palace.
JA: It was March ‘46.
DA: Before you were married.
LA: Yes. I wasn’t married but I did go to the palace with him.
DA: Yeah.
LA: To receive it.
DA: Yeah.
LA: And –
DA: And his brother.
LA: Him and his brother yes. And -
JA: All three.
LA: Of course it wasn’t like going to the palace now. It was a very very cold day in November that we went and I always remember how cold it was and when we came out there was only a few people that had been decorated. It wasn’t like the decoration now.
DA: And that was the medal was given by the King.
LA: King George the fifth, the Queen’s father, presented him with the medal and I sat in the audience.
DA: Yeah.
LA: And watched the whole ceremony.
DA: Fantastic.
LA: That’s all.
JA: And we didn’t know about that as children. I mean I don’t, didn’t know, growing up.
LA: Not many people even knew about it.
JA: No.
DA: And from then on we went to the musters in London and we used to spend the weekend up in London because each year they had a muster at different places and we went to the Chelsea Barracks and different places.
But he didn’t actually stay in the RAF after the war at all. He was demobbed and -
LA: Well he was later demobbed and that was when we got married. That September.
SA: He became a carpenter.
LA: Hmmn?
SA: He became a carpenter.
JA: His first work after that.
SA: Carpentry was it?
DA: He came back to his building trade.
SA: Yeah.
LA: Yeah. Which he loved and we are now living in the house, I am living in the house which we have been in sixty, over sixty years.
DA: Which he had a hand in building didn’t he?
LA: He did help.
DA: As a young man.
LA: He did help.
DA: You told me as a young man, this row of properties that we’re in now he was, he built the rooves on these properties. He did the timber work. He was a carpenter and joiner.
LA: Yeah.
DA: And his skills were tremendous in building rooves and he did that -
LA: He loves housebuilding.
DA: Yeah.
LA: Yeah.
DA: And that was in the days before electricity and no pre-constructed roofing joists. He just had planks of, planks of timber on site and your hand tools, your hand saws and bradawls and braces and bits and you had to go up on top of the brick work and build a roof out of timbers so he spent a lot of his life balancing on nine inch brick work. Hopping about.
LA: And -
SA: He did fall through didn’t he?
LA: He carried on -
SA: He did fall through didn’t he?
LA: Building work.
DA: Yeah.
LA: And in the end he went and retired. He was working for the NHBC.
SA: Yeah.
JA: That was before he retired. Yeah, he worked for the NHBC but he also when he was working he was obviously bringing up three young children and he worked, I remember having to go back out to work in the evenings and he then set up, with a group of other likeminded men of the village they set up an ex-servicemen’s club which was, he was a founder member which you obviously had a lot to do with mum didn’t you?
DA: That was about ‘63 I think. ‘62/’63?
JA: ’64 it was.
SA: ’64.
JA: When it first opened anyway.
SA: It was fifty years last year. Since it opened.
JA: And you had a lot to do with that didn’t you?
DA: From what I remember of him.
SA: [There was twelve men?]
DA: He was a man of duty. He considered his duty to his family first and then his duty to his work which supported his family and then to the community within the village where he lived and then to ex-servicemen and also to supporting the RAF which he was instrumental in becoming a member of the Royal Observer Corps in the ‘50s until I think the Royal Observer Corps was disbanded and from then on he went to -
LA: ATs.
DA: On to become a leader in the village for the Air Training Corps. Now that lasted several years. But he was always involved in community work.
LA: It was always voluntary. It was always -
DA: It was voluntary. Yeah.
SA: Yeah. It wasn’t paid.
DA: Yeah.
LA: He was a standard bearer for the -
DA: For the British Legion.
LA: British Legion.
DA: Standard bearer. Yes. Yeah.
JA: For many years.
SA: He also helped people in the village through the British Legion. He would go and help them. He helped a gentleman get a phone who was in dire straits financially didn’t he?
DA: Yeah.
SA: He was always helping people.
JA: And also he did the, you know over the years and when he was getting older he was actually in voluntary services. He was on doorsteps.
SA: Yeah.
JA: You know service, Meals on Wheels.
SA: Yeah.
JA: He always was having to help somebody you know and obviously once the family had grown up and he didn’t have, you know, wasn’t have so much I suppose to do with them then he was always looking for other things to do to help people really.
SA: Once his grandchildren had grown up. I mean when he had his grandchildren small he was too be found outside in the paddling pool with them or whatever was necessary. My son particularly loved to mow the grass with him and he was only about two and he would hold on to the motor mower and we would watch as dad would go down to the bottom of the garden, turn and lift the mower and my son used to go up with it ‘cause he would never let go and then come down when he put it back down again. We used to be hysterical because wasn’t it funny to watch? They all loved grandad.
JA: The first time that I ever heard anything about his exploits really was in 1977 by which time I was married with a two year old and I think he probably, he used to pop in as a, as a grandparent on his way around from work and come and see his grandson but I think he probably did feel then that, you know it all came back to him really I think just from what he had got not just from myself but by being saved and that sadly his pilot and rear gunner tragically died in the crash in 1944 and he always, obviously it was always carried with him that –
DA: Yeah.
JA: Yeah, memory and the gratitude he had and I think it was at a point when both my brother and sister had got grandchildren. I was the last one to have, you know, a grandchild for him and I think he really started to think about just what he had got and what these men had lost at that time and on that particular day he, he came around for his cup of tea and we sat and chatted and really I don’t know how we got around to it but suddenly he was telling me about what happened and how on that particular fateful night when he came back from the raid that they got shot down. The pilot was saying, ‘Get the crew out.’ You know, ‘You can all go, get out,’ sort of thing and so they all did but at that point dad, who was the mid upper gunner was actually getting down to get his parachute on because of the position you couldn’t wear it so he found in fact there was a gaping hole and it was just teetering on the edge of that so that was obviously pretty horrific I’m sure, at the time, but he did get his parachute on and then he heard, he actually he told me, which he found very sad, that he heard the rear gunner screaming that he was stuck and so, so dad, the pilot sorry, the pilot said to dad, you know, ‘Help him, you go back and help him,’ which he obviously did and he did get the rear gunner out and at that point they were like, ‘Oh gosh,’ you know, ‘I think, I think we’re going to be ok,’ but sadly the plane went into a spin so they were all caught and they thought that’s it, we’ve had it now. And then miraculously that plane did break apart and they all fell to the ground as such, pulling their, obviously pulling their cords and they were really so close to the ground that in effect they all really didn’t have a chance and by some, you know, miracle, fate, whatever it was he, his parachute got caught in a tree and it saved his life and obviously the two, other two there was, you know, it was just straight down to the ground and that, that was it. They died sadly and it’s always been obviously I didn’t know up until that point but I knew from the telling of it how much it meant and how sad he was for the lives that these, these young boys haven’t had which actually inspired me to write a poem at that, on that occasion. Can I just read it for you? So, because it was in Belgium and we didn’t really know where, well which, a tree you know something saved his life but we know it was near to Spa. It was in the [Laride?] area and I called it A Tree Somewhere in Belgium. So it goes -
‘There were many fine airmen of the war
Many were lost forever more
But one in particular concerns me
A survivor because of the Belgian tree
A young lad he was, aged seventeen
Tall, and handsome smart and keen
To do service for his country, like many more
He joined the air force and so the war
That fateful night with a start he awoke
Time to scramble, no time to smoke
The sirens were blaring, the battle was on
Just five seconds more and his squadron was gone.
They were flying high and flying fast
Soon land and trees, all were passed
And over the sea to foreign land
They were a brave and courageous band.
The shout went out, ‘enemy ahead,’
A sudden flash, the sky went red
Relief shone through on every face,
For they had scored another ace
But high above at 12 o’clock
The enemy prepared to give them a shock
The plane was spotted but it was too late
They had been hit, it was their fate
The plane lost height, they were knocked about
All but three of the crew baled out
While the pilot fought to keep the plane steady
Our lad rescued his mate and got ready
To jump.
But suddenly the plane began to spin
They couldn’t move, the force kept them in
Then miraculously the plane broke apart
They pulled their ripcords fear in every heart.
They fell to the ground, there was a loud thud
Two laid dead where they fell in the mud
But our lad was lucky, he was caught in a tree
And lived to tell his tale to me
Oh where would I be were it not for that tree?’
Signed his daughter.
DA: And if I could add to that on a subsequent visit of eighty years to visit this part of the Ardennes near Spa we, we found the Memorial which was placed above the spot where one of them died and with the gathering of people from the area they asked father, having known his, heard this story where, which tree is it that saved you and I remember him, we walked across this field, this pasture, towards a group of trees and he’d got his walking stick with him at the time and and he said to me quietly he said, he said, ‘When I came down it was midnight. I don’t know what tree I hit,’ he says, ‘Because all I heard was what I thought loud running footsteps of the enemy coming for me, which I subsequently heard or realised that were a herd of cattle running away from the burning Lancaster in the meadow,’ and so he said, ‘I don’t know which tree it is.’ I said, ‘Look. Just pick a big one,’ I said. He said right and he picked his walking stick up, looked knowingly across the woods and said, ‘That’s the tree,’ and everybody was satisfied that we’d got a tree there and on that now is a plaque commemorating where the incident happened and it’s, it’s there as a Memorial too. That time of the crash and the landing, his landing, he ran away in the woods and hid in a building and that, after a few minutes lights and noise were heard coming across towards the aeroplane that was burning and he heard American voices which told him that he’d landed on the allied side and so he kind of pronounced himself there and there from there they took him back into Spa and in Spa he was kept overnight and checked out medically and then he was then transported to Brussels and back to England. This being November. And he was given some leave as mother said earlier. He was given some leave and then he had to go and join another crew because he hadn’t finished his operations and he joined another crew and then continued flying to finish his sortie.
JA: Actually the only other thing I can think well subsequent to that having in later years found his logbook then obviously he, as you say had to keep flying but it came to a particular date in the book and he has just written in, “No more war.” Which was, you know -
DA: Yeah.
JA: Said so much. It was, you know something that they went out and had to do but -
DA: Yeah. I know in conversations subsequently I said to father, ‘Look why don’t you, do you want to go on holiday abroad? Do you want to fly somewhere?’ He said, ‘I never want to get in an aeroplane ever again.’
JA: No. Never.
SA: He didn’t.
LA: He never did.
DA: He never did. He never set foot in an aeroplane again. It was so, so traumatic for him and just as an aside I often wondered where in his day to day work when I was with him on building sites when he may have, something may have unexpectedly happened and he was never a person who swore. He did not use bad language ever. The strongest term I ever heard him use was strewth and I thought well that’s not Lincolnshire or Cambridgeshire and I realised that’s an Australian slang word and it took me a little while to figure that out but I figured it out now and so, so -
JA: He flew with the Australians.
DA: As he was an aviator with the Royal Australian Air Force that’s where it all come from.
LA: We ended up going to Belgium.
JA: Yes, I mean we, we’ve been back.
LA: We all went to Belgium.
JA: Yes.
LA: And -
DA: I think father’s interest or his ability to recall the past and be more open came about maybe when he was in to his sixties because it was beginning, the trauma had subsided but the history of it was, began to take on an importance to him that what he’d been through and what his colleagues had been through it became important and it coincided with a letter he received from a young Belgian man who was interested in surveying, researching allied aircraft crashes in Belgium and he had found details of this, father’s plane that had crashed in the Ardennes and wrote to father to say are you, you know, ‘Are you one the crew?’ That was the start of his, his resurgent interest in the history and from then on that was back in the nineteen -
JA: 1990 wasn’t it?
1990 roughly.
JA: Yeah. Yeah.
DA: And that was the start of many visits we’ve had as a family to Spa and the site where the monument is. We, we’ve been totally surprised over the years to receive warm welcomes from the people of Belgium and particularly that area. We’ve been overwhelmed with kindness and their fondness for, you know, the British aviators. They suffered a lot and they have Memorials to their own resistance fighters throughout the Ardennes and they understand, you know the terror of being occupied and the work and the lives that were lost by the allies in saving them and every visit is quite heart-warming.
JA: It’s so appreciated. Yeah.
DA: And he was appreciated and his memory is still appreciated.
JA: But mum you actually went over didn’t you that first time?
LA: Yeah.
JA: Because you, again with obviously yourself and dad you’ve never flown. It had been something that dad had never wanted to do and you, so it just never happened but obviously with the ferries but then with the channel tunnel it all actually improved didn’t it and again meant you could travel over there and you were there, it would have been the, well you were certainly out there in 2004 weren’t you which was the sixty year anniversary and we all went as a family didn’t we?
LA: Yeah.
JA: Do you remember that?
LA: Yes.
SA: We had a lovely meal they gave us didn’t they? And they presented dad with a -
LA: Gave us a great reception, yeah.
JA: Do you remember that they -
LA: And the school children.
JA: Made the Lancaster.
LA: If you remember, all made aeroplanes, you know.
SA: The Lancaster.
JA: Lancasters.
SA: Made Lancasters.
LA: Lancasters.
JA: Yeah.
LA: And dad had to pick one.
JA: Yeah, that’s right.
DA: That he liked out of all these children’s -
JA: And they were so grateful.
DA: The whole school.
LA: And all the whole school went to the monument.
JA: They did yeah.
LA: Didn’t they?
JA: Yeah they were part of that.
LA: And then it was -
JA: And it was filmed as well wasn’t it?
LA: Oh yeah.
JA: By Australian, the Australian TV were there weren’t they?
SA: Yeah.
JA: On that particular occasion because -
LA: Yes. Yes.
DA: The embassy attaché, the Australian Embassy attaché.
JA: He come from Brussels, was there.
DA: From Brussels.
LA: He had a meal with us didn’t he?
DA: Came because it was the sixtieth anniversary of father’s crash and as it was a memory of the Royal Australian Air Force it was deemed appropriate.
JA: We were there on the day weren’t we? Which was lovely. Very good and of course we, another person we had who became a very close friends was François [Barotte?] and his family and you had -
DA: [?]
JA: Over the years you know he was somebody who also was interested in the history of the, through the wars and everything.
SA: Well he was an architect anyway -
JA: Yes, that’s right.
SA: Wasn’t he?
JA: But that was his sort of hobby and we even had, well you had didn’t you, what about when you had [Valerie?].
LA: The children came over here.
JA: Yeah. Yeah.
LA: I had their children over here.
DA: Come to stay here.
LA: For a fortnight’s holiday and we have become good friends and you all went over -
JA: Yes.
LA: For your dad’s ninetieth birthday.
JA: Yes what would have been his ninetieth birthday?
LA: It would have been his ninetieth birthday.
JA: Last year we -
LA: And -
JA: Us, yeah the children went again didn’t they and yes every time we go over we always make sure we see them.
LA: Always make sure, I mean obviously like us they’re all getting older.
DA: There was one thing that puzzled me was why father who was an Englishman was in the Royal Australian Air Force. I couldn’t understand that until one day he explained that I said, ‘How did this happen?’ He said, well when you were selected, at that time when you selected a crew you all, all the various crew members mixed in a big hangar at Waddington for instance and they all got, had a drink of beer with them, you know, a glass of beer and they would all talk among themselves and they knew, you know, they all had their different trades you call it air gunners, navigators, pilots, bomb aimers, engineers and it would seem to me that a pilot would probably start this ball rolling and say talk to different members and they would form their crews out of just socialising, you know, maybe of an evening within this environment.
LA: Yes.
DA: Which I thought was quite strange but that’s how it was so you know, after father’s crash and his return to Waddington that would, he would have gone through this same route again in that he would be, they were all pushed, they all met together in a large group and make another, make another flight crew in that way.
JA: But you and you do see that they actually ended up with two or three same names again because they obviously had a bond.
DA: Yeah.
JA: And so.
DA: Yeah.
JA: There was that started to happen obviously over the different sorties that -
DA: Yeah.
JA: You know there’d be three or four -
DA: Yeah.
JA: Were, had been together at the last one.
DA: Yeah.
JA: And they kept on.
DA: He said you lived together in a nissen hut as a group but you were friends but you couldn’t be too friendly because too many times coming back after a raid you would go back to your quarters and find that one or two of the beds were empty and it was someone who you’d been speaking to the night before and they were no longer there and then new faces arrived so there was a certain amount of friend, there was a friendliness and bonding but not too strong. They daren’t become too strong in their bonding.
JA: He did have one very good friend didn’t he, who you would have known at the time, Bob Harvey.
LA: Bob Harvey.
JA: And they both, obviously Bob did survive the war as well and -
LA: He did. Yeah.
JA: You -
LA: And we visited Bob who lived next, near Blackpool and we went to the house and visited him and his wife and he had two children as well but many years later, I can’t remember what Derrick was reading, some paper or some book, and he said, ‘Oh my goodness.’ What was his name? Up the road -
SA: Terry.
DA: Terry.
LA: No.
SA: Are we talking about Richardson?
LA: Oh dear.
SA: You found someone else. Bob. No. No, not Bob? What was it?
LA: The one who went to Belgium with you.
SA: Oh we’ve all got to think now. This is what age does to you.
DA: Jack.
SA: Jack. Yes.
LA: Jack Halstead.
DA: Jack Halstead.
LA: Yes.
DA: He was his colleague.
LA: And he had been flying with that man.
DA: On that mission yeah. Jack was with father on that particular mission.
LA: Yes. Yeah.
JA: On the crash.
DA: He was a engineer I believe.
LA: Yeah.
DA: And he was told to bale out before the plane got into serious difficulty.
LA: And he went. Yeah.
DA: Yeah.
LA: He was ok.
DA: Yeah.
LA: But he only lived near Grantham.
DA: Yeah.
LA: And Derrick, I can’t remember what he read it in but anyway he got in touch with him and we all went up near Grantham and met at a pub.
DA: Yeah.
LA: And that was.
DA: He reunited with his old comrade wasn’t he?
LA: Yeah.
JA: And Jack came over at one point on one of the trips.
LA: Yes.
JA: With myself and my brother with dad and he actually came and saw, to the site which was the first time.
LA: But he –
He had seen it since obviously been over since then.
DA: Yeah, he left the air force. When he was demobbed he joined the police and he was in the Metropolitan Police in London for most of his career.
LA: That’s right. Yeah.
DA: I think he was a detective but -
LA: He died before dad.
JA: But it was lovely that he actually and also, I can’t remember, what was his first name? Richardson.
LA: Yeah.
JA: He was also one on the crew wasn’t he?
LA: No.
JA: No. He wasn’t on that crew.
LA: He wasn’t on the crew.
JA: Not his one.
LA: And Terry Bradley.
JA: Terry Bradley was.
LA: He was.
DA: The second crew.
LA: He was in the RAF.
JA: Yeah that’s right.
LA: He wasn’t with dad but they all knew each other and he was the mayor of Grantham.
JA: So I mean in later years you know you all were meeting up. You were having reunions regularly weren’t you?
LA: We, yes because every year they have Anzac day he’d go to –
SA: RAF Waddington.
LA: Waddington. They fly the Lancaster which Judith has carried on doing. And they fly the Lancaster over the monument in Waddington.
JA: But we used to go didn’t we and go to the sergeants mess and he’d go on the camp and -
LA: Yeah we used to do all that.
JA: It was nice. That’s right. You did it for as long as you could didn’t you and that was part of it as well.
DA: After the war, father, as we say became a carpenter and joiner didn’t he and worked for building companies in -
JA: Fryman’s.
DA: In Peterborough for his life and -
LA: Fryman’s
JA: That’s what I said.
DA: For most of his life until he became a site foreman and there’s many, there are many properties and schools that have built in Cambridgeshire. St Peter’s school in Huntingdon was one that he was site foreman for and assorted schools.
LA: St Peter’s, yeah.
DA: And he did one or two private jobs for the local headmaster.
LA: He built a bungalow.
JA: In Glatton.
LA: Well he didn’t build it but he got -
DA: The site. The project.
LA: He organised it.
DA: Yeah.
LA: At Glatton and he was always interested. He used to go to work all day, come home, have his -
DA: Tea.
LA: Meal and then he’d go to Glatton to work but then those days he needed the money.
JA: And then in later years you, Sandra were part of the club weren’t you?
SA: Yeah.
JA: That dad founded in 1964.
SA: Yeah. I did seventeen years as a stewardess in the club and because it was my interest as well as his.
DA: His name’s up there isn’t it?
SA: Yes, yeah my name’s up there on the wall as well.
JA: And dad was the president wasn’t he?
SA: Yes, he was. Yeah.
JA: For many years.
SA: Yeah he did everything there through the years right down to the last time he was able to work there was my first time there and he did all the building control maintenance. Every time anything happened a bulb or anything I would say to him so and so and he would deal with it. He always -
LA: But in those days you did it voluntary.
SA: Yes it was all voluntary, yeah.
LA: But I think that’s -
JA: Then another thing that obviously happened and luckily it was talked about before dad passed away that he because of the connection obviously with Spa and the men he had put his wishes down that he wanted his ashes to be taken to that Memorial site. And so -
SA: And we did.
JA: And we actually did that.
SA: We all went.
LA: They all went and I didn’t go ‘cause I, well I can’t walk.
JA: The journey would have been a bit much wasn’t it? That was 2009 wasn’t it?
LA: They all went onto there and I’ve got the picture.
JA: Yeah. Yes, and again -
SA: [Took him?] back.
JA: The [Barottes] you know François and Rudy who was the historian.
SA: Yeah.
JA: And researcher and all these people came yet again.
LA: Yeah.
JA: Because they so respected -
LA: It was very nice really.
JA: They respected very much, you know, what he and all the men did over those years and then obviously as I say last year we went again just in a memory on actually on dads birthday that time because he would have been -
SA: Ninety
JA: Ninety on the 13th of October and it was just something that as a family that we, but again these people came and showed their respect as well didn’t they? So -
LA: Yeah. It’s marvellous really.
JA: But it’s also opened up such a lot, brought so much also into his life because of that tragedy but these, all these people he would never have known. He wouldn’t, you know, there wouldn’t have been a connection with someone in Belgium when dad anyway was no going to get on a plane again you know. So, but it just brought it all, it brought a lot of people into his life and he did a lot for a lot of people didn’t he, so -
SA: I think I’m one of the few people that’s been up a Belgian motorway the wrong way.
JA: Yes I remember that.
SA: Yes. With a Frenchman driving. It was -
JA: A Belgian.
SA: Yes with a Belgian. It was very scary because he suddenly decided to, that he’d gone the wrong way so he turned around and went back up the same motorway. Luckily we didn’t meet any traffic. We were very lucky to live that but they all said the look on my face was quite something as I drove past, went past them all with horror on my face. They were all, they all stopped they didn’t follow us thankfully but -
JA: He was leading the way originally.
SA: He was leading the way so they could have done but they didn’t luckily and they suddenly realised what he’d done and he turned around again. It was quite hairy though. It was a motorway. It wasn’t just a little country lane. It was -
JA: And that was [Adelaine?] was driving who was -
SA: Yeah.
JA: The young man, had been the young boy who had seen the plane come down.
SA: From the farmhouse that he lived in. He was hiding in the cellar.
JA: And so again he was another, another contact there.
SA: It was quite hairy.
JA: Yeah so but again he was lovely because he actually gave us parts.
DA: Memorabilia.
JA: Yeah, to bring home from the plane. Things that we could get, you know in our cases or whatever so we’ve obviously got those now and -
DA: Yeah on one trip [Adelaine?] showed us in Belgium in the farm buildings. Near the farm buildings near the Memorial site in some rough ground of nettles, laying amongst the nettles were two of the original Lancaster suspension legs, oleo legs I think they’re called and we were amazed to see them there and they’re very long and very heavy and, but he was willing to offer them to us as mementoes to take to bring back with us in our car to England. This was a kind gesture but totally impractical because we only had a small car and there was already four people in that car. Subsequently, they’ve been cleaned and preserved and mounted next to the original monument wearing the brass plate on each suspension leg with the names of the two aviators who died. It’s -
JA: It’s Bill Lemin.
DA: Bill Lemin.
JA: And Les. Les Landridge.
DA: Les Landridge. Sorry, I don’t remember what their title is.
JA: Well the pilot and -
DA: Yeah, pilot.
JA: And one was the rear gunner basically, wasn’t it?
DA: Pilot and rear gunner. Yeah.
SA: But the rear gunner shouldn’t have been there that day because he was a replacement -
JA: Yeah.
SA: For the man who was, should have been, who was off sick.
DA: That’s right.
SA: And he died. So, very sad.
JA: And in fact we’ve had a letter in or obviously dad did and I hadn’t actually seen that in fairness you know until after he died but we’ve come across a letter from another one of the Australians who in fact said when the rear gunner had gone, the one they were going to have, had gone sick there were actually two Australians and one, I can’t remember his name, Don, I can’t remember his surname but he was a rear gunner and the rear gunner that they had, they got, they had chosen in the end he was actually a mid-upper gunner and they said in this letter it sort of says that although Don was the obvious person to have it was something to do with the crew and the newness of the crew, I don’t quite understand, you know, the background of that but he in fact then was also spared if you like because in fact the mid upper gunner took that position because he wasn’t able to so also, you know that’s somebody else who was sort of saved on that day, in a sense, by fate really.
MH: What’s nice is though through one tragic spot of history families, connections etcetera have all flourished.
JA: Absolutely. Yes.
MH: Which is lovely.
JA: Yes. Yeah. That’s it. I mean, you know, there were, there were letters from, was it Bill Lemin’s sister or Les?
LA: Yes yeah she was [eighty] -
JA: That’s right you know so -
LA: And she wrote to Derrick because she’d found out he was on the crash and she wanted him would he tell her exactly what happened to her brother and so he answered it. I’ve still got that letter.
JA: That’s right.
LA: And he did. He answered it.
JA: ‘Cause he -
LA: But I mean she was eighty years ago so -
JA: But I remember in the letter it was saying because that was way back when that first one was sent and she was concerned that she had got the girlfriend there of the, you know, Australian and they were just like well has he really died because you can imagine all those miles and thousands of miles away it’s like hopefully they’re wrong you know so they actually said, would you tell us? You know, did you see this happen or do you really know this has happened or, which he obviously did and they were again just very grateful for the information and put their minds at rest that sadly it, you know had happened.
MH: That was posted that if you if you couldn’t be accounted for that you’d be put on the missing list, presumed killed in action or whatever for three months. Then after that brief short period you were declared dead. If, because you had the British Red Cross, sorry not the British Red Cross but the European Swiss Red Cross.
JA: Right.
MH: Used to go to the prisoner of war camps noting down who had been taken prisoner of war and of course with dog tags on and everything of the air crew.
JA: Yes.
MH: That they were able to name who you know if they found guys in the wreckage and whatnot. So they were able to complete a fairly good list of who, you know and who but because of wartime it took time of course because you were in a non-computerised age and everything was recorded paper wise and everything and letters not emails and that sort of thing.
LA: Yeah.
MH: But he was a young man when he met you then. Seventeen. A very young dapper chap.
JA: Yes, yes about, I think he was probably eighteen to nineteen wasn’t he by the time you met him. I think he was about nineteen when he met you. Dad. About nineteen.
JA: Yeah.
JA: Yeah, I think he was because then he -
LA: Yeah ‘cause we were, I got married on the Saturday. I was nineteen on the Wednesday. I was twenty on the Wednesday.
JA: Oh right.
LA: I was twenty.
JA: Just twenty. And you managed to get a wedding dress.
SA: Yes she did. Yeah
JA: So close after the war you had a lovely wedding dress, yeah, didn’t you? Beautiful.
LA: Down the arcade at Peterborough. No fuss. No.
SA: Borrowed the veil.
LA: And he was wearing his demob suit because the suit he was having wasn’t ready so he was wearing his demob suit.
DA: How did he afford that car? ‘Cause I know I know was born in 1948 and I remember you had an Austin Ruby and I remember him telling me, I said, ‘Did you have lessons?’ or did, have you, ‘Did you get a license?’ and he said, ‘No. We didn’t have driving licences.’
LA: No. Didn’t then.
DA: No. That’s it. He just went out. So did he use his demob money to buy this Ruby.
LA: Yes. You’re right.
DA: Austin Ruby.
LA: You’re right.
DA: Yeah now there’s another, there’s another story there. I remember you telling me, or us.
SA: All of us, yeah, I heard that story.
DA: In Peterborough, in Bridge Street
LA: Yeah.
SA: Yeah I know.
DA: In this Austin Ruby. Now the Austin Ruby motor car has forward opening front doors and the handles, the door handles.
LA: The handles.
DA: Point forward and I remember him telling us that -
LA: He did [?]
DA: That he was at the traffic lights.
LA: Yeah. A chap -
DA: Looking at the traffic lights.
LA: Yeah.
DA: And then, and then while he was at the lights two people, two men were having a conversation on the nearside pavement and chattering away and as the lights turned to green he went to move off. They finished their conversation. One of the gentlemen stepped off the pavement and the handle of the door, the passenger door, slid into his trouser pocket.
LA: It did.
DA: And took off one whole leg of his trousers as he, as father moved away.
LA: It don’t sound possible but it happened.
DA: And that’s a true story.
SA: And the policeman stood there in shock.
DA: And there’s a one of his work colleagues at the time did a sketch of this story and I think that’s gone now. Another incident I remember is that he told me that, again in Peterborough is turning right and the wheel fell off and as a carpenter he didn’t really have a lot of mechanical knowledge but when he looked under the wing he noticed a pin had dropped out, a king pin, and he looked at it and he thought I know what and he got a punch, a big punch and he used this punch to substitute for the king pin and he whacked it into place in the stub axel and carried on.
LA: But the point was -
DA: And one more story, one more story about the Ruby, down on grandfather’s farm. They needed -
LA: Yeah.
DA: To move, my grandfather at the time had a pig, his own pig and as a young pig that needed to be moved and I don’t remember to where but the only means of transport was the Austin Ruby to move this pig.
JA: Were you in it then mum? Were you in it?
LA: No.
JA: You weren’t in it.
DA: And I remember, I remember.
LA: I know about it.
DA: That pig was put on the back seat and held in held steady in the back street while they moved it from one farm to another. So they were very resourceful in those days.
LA: Our Tilly.
DA: Yeah. Father never had a driving lesson did he? And he never, I don’t think he ever had a licence.
SA: He didn’t have to. No.
LA: Well you didn’t have driving licence.
DA: You didn’t have to have a driving licence in those days. It was that period of time that it didn’t matter.
LA: I drove around during that wartime when you could drive anyway. Then I had to go back and have lessons and –
DA: Yeah.
JA: And you well late thirties I think when you passed your test weren’t you?
SA: I remember you taking the test.
DA: How long did you keep your Austin Ruby for then? Was it till the 1950s?
LA: I can’t remember.
DA: Yeah. Well I don’t you know I remember that but it must have been after the 1953 Queen’s coronation because -
Oh we had some -
DA: Because I remember that in the High Street in our village when you hung out the Union Jack and strung it between the two top bedroom windows on a piece of string and decorated the house and in the, there was lots of these cardboard cut-outs of the royal coach and horses and we were busy making all those things. As a five year old I was busy making these little coaches out of cardboard and I remember the coronation. That’s about my biggest most vivid memory really.
JA: But you remember don’t you. Your first home up the street.
LA: Yes.
JA: What was that like?
LA: Well when we first, that’s how we got a home because the baker offered it and -
DA: In the high street.
LA: A little cottage in the high street but it wanted doing up and he said to Derrick, ‘If you do it up you can have it.’ So that’s how we got our first home.
SA: But what was it like inside though? What about the toilet? That’s -
LA: Oh don’t. The drain was right near the back door. We had a good flood and it went straight through the house and out the front door.
SA: At least it didn’t stop it did it?
JA: And the thunder box in the back garden.
DA: It had been -
JA: Yes. Of course it had. That’s what they were.
LA: Oh don’t.
JA: Well that’s what it was in those days wasn’t it? Zinc baths.
LA: Anyway, we managed to get through to our diamond wedding
JA: Yeah.
LA: So it couldn’t have been too bad could it?
SA: And you told us about when dad was young. How he used to ride a bike and deliver and because he wasn’t a very big person the wheel used to [laughs] used to -
JA: Once it was loaded.
SA: Loaded the back wheel used to go up in the air because it wasn’t heavy.
LA: He worked for Mander Brothers of Peterborough.
DA: This is, this is as a young teenager just out of school at fourteen wasn’t he?
LA: Yeah.
DA: He had a delivery round in Peterborough.
SA: Not a very big person.
DA: From a paint and decorating company.
SA: Yeah.
DA: And his job was to deliver paint and wallpaper to -
LA: Yeah.
DA: Customers around the village, around Peterborough and he was very light and the basket on the front when it was loaded.
SA: It was so heavy.
DA: Was very heavy and it would tip up unless he sat up on the saddle and he had to keep on the saddle all the time otherwise the paint fell off. So his knowledge of Peterborough was very thorough.
LA: So that’s -
MH: I’ve seen in the collection that you’ve lent the Memorial etcetera there’s a picture. I think it might be by the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham palace with three -
JA: Yeah that’s the one. That’s the coronation isn’t it?
MH: What day was that? Do you remember that being taken?
DA: The investiture.
MH: ‘Cause, there were three, yeah. There were three of you.
JA: Yeah, there was you, dad -
DA: The medal.
SA: You, dad and Aubrey.
DA: Dad’s brother.
JA: Do you remember mum? Do you remember that? Going.
LA: Yes.
JA: Do you remember that picture?
LA: Yes.
MH: Was that something that the palace organised or was that something that just ad hoc as such?
LA: Oh no it’s not organised. Not the photography part. No. Well the photographers are there. They know it’s going on and obviously they’re outside taking people ‘cause obviously he wasn’t the only one to be decorated but we just came out and they just took you. I mean it wasn’t like it is -
MH: It’s a very fine photo. It’s a lovely photograph.
JA: Yes it is.
LA: I think I was eighteen there.
MH: Standing in the middle.
JA: Yeah.
LA: Saying something.
MH: Well you had two men on your arm.
JA: Yeah.
MH: So you had your pick.
DA: Can you imagine at eighteen. Did you go by train?
LA: I had, I had an aunt who lived in Croydon.
DA: Yeah.
LA: And we stayed, I stayed there.
DA: Yeah.
LA: I do remember going from Croydon to, Kings Cross I presume. I don’t know now.
DA: Yeah.
LA: I’ve forgotten. And he was at one, wherever it was, he was at one station and I was at another and he was supposed to be meeting me so we didn’t meet and I thought well what do I do now ‘cause I mean we didn’t travel about like they do now and I got on the bus, rode all the way back to Croydon because I didn’t know what else to do.
He had to come to find you, did he?
LA: He came to Croydon and found -
SA: Well I suppose he was resilient. It shows he wanted to you to be there and he was determined wasn’t he?
LA: Oh dear.
DA: You weren’t late then for the -
LA: No. No.
DA: Meeting at the palace.
LA: The next day I think.
DA: Yeah. Good.
LA: But that’s so long ago I really -
DA: Yeah.
LA: Can’t remember.
MH: I gain the impression from the memories of your dad and your husband that he was a very committed individual and what I mean by that is through riding his bike and doing wheelies if he didn’t sit on it correctly, through to his time in the air force, through to his time when he became a joiner and then moved on to become eventually a foreman and then through his retirement where he became club work and the observation and everything he strikes me as a very devoted man as you rightly pointed out right at the start. Very committed and devoted man.
DA: He had, he had clear views on life and I think it was reinforced with his war experiences that he had a strong sense of morality and help for people worse off than himself and but it was all done in a very quiet and unassuming way.
LA: Oh you never heard him shout about.
DA: No. I mean I worked, when I was sixteen, out of school, in holidays working with him on school holidays working with him on building sites where he’s been the site foreman he’s had, he’s been able to handle all kinds of building trades which includes lots of big strong angry, sometimes angry men.
LA: Irishmen.
DA: And he could handle all those, all those kinds of personalities very very comfortably and he didn’t have an ego in such a way that he was trying to be top dog. What he did was he let, he allowed, he was so, he had such a self-confidence, self-belief that he would allow others to be in the limelight knowing that he knew the answers as it were. I’ve seen it demonstrated. He knew the answers to the problem but he would get the other, he would drop hints so that the other person would find the answer and say and then would shout from the rooftops how clever they were and he would know that it was his word helped them and then the magical thing is those, those, especially on those building sites those tough guys would realise after maybe a few hours or two days what had happened and they would look at him with respect because they’d realise that he’d helped them and they’d been shouting, you know and they’d done their job successfully because of him and they turned and they found him, they relied on father and so it has happened all through his life.
SA: Well he’s always had respect hasn’t he?
DA: People have relied on him.
JA: Respected him.
DA: After knowing him. The initial meeting, you know well this is a very quiet chap but later on when people really knew him.
LA: He was strong.
SA: Yeah.
LA: Very strong.
SA: I can say that the Sawtry Club Committee definitely knew he was there. He -
LA: Yeah.
SA: He definitely ruled.
LA: He, but he was quiet.
SA: But he was quiet.
LA: He never, he never what I would call shouted the odds, you know.
JA: No. He was very fair so he -
SA: Oh yeah.
JA: And he would see both sides and he wouldn’t influence that if it was a situation where he didn’t need to he would actually, he could always listen to both sides.
SA: Oh yeah and put them straight.
JA: He wouldn’t fall out with anyone but if he had to be strong and if he had to be, ‘Well sorry it has to be like this or,’ you know he would be firm but I really don’t think anyone ever actually fell out with him. They -
DA: No.
JA: They –
SA: No.
JA: Respected him at the end. So he could, he could tell them if he needed to.
DA: Well mother you always had knocks on the front door when situations arose at the club or in the village, or buildings, ‘Is Derrick there? I need his guidance,’ you know but that would happen quite regularly over the years asking for his guidance and he’d just take them in to the other room and listen and say, well, he’d never say, ‘You will do this,’ or, ‘You will do that,’ he would just say, ‘I think maybe if you try this it might help.’ It was all couched in gentle words so that you would take that advice because it wasn’t pushed at you. You would listen and I’ve learnt from that personally and I’ve used that in my life in situations in my workplace and I found it, you know.
JA: Well he had [?] didn’t he?
DA: My father’s with me all the time in recent times when I’ve done renovation work on my own property I’ve come up against situations at making some people decide something and I just think look at it and I think, ‘How would dad tackle that?’ And then I’d think oh yeah he’d probably do it like this and that’s what I do. I do that now. I think I try to think how he would think because he always got it right, you know.
JA: Because he was so helpful the thing that he always would do, you could always rely on him to help you and of course because of his carpentry skills and things he was always the person to turn to to get your door hanged, you know, hang the doors. All these little things.
SA: I was going to say about that.
JA: And he just revelled in it. So he loved it so he wanted always to help. I mean he and he did for as long as he could.
SA: We all got him in for doors.
JA: As long as he was able.
JA: Yeah.
SA: Swollen doors was his thing. Definitely. You’d fetch him in.
DA: Chelsea.
JA: Oh yes that was something he did as well. We, my husband was part of the Chelsea Flower Show and working for them and he had a design of designing a garden and they had, you know a particular it was a verandah was it?
DA: Yeah, the design of -
JA: It was a greenhouse and a verandah and it was a big construction anyway and so it was all designed but then they needed someone to make it.
DA: [?]
JA: And, of course what they, what they did, Ian said, ‘My father in law’s good at carpentry,’ etcetera etcetera and he literally did make it here.
LA: Made it out the back.
JA: Out here at this house out at the back and he built it up into sections ‘cause it was really massive. I mean I don’t know what the length of it is it’s -
DA: Thirty foot.
JA: Thirty odd feet yeah you know so I mean we had big big lorries coming in with just pieces of wood and he made that into this absolutely and it was at the Chelsea Flower Show and it was produced wasn’t it, taken -
DA: Yeah.
JA: There, put up and it was -
DA: Yeah, well again.
JA: But he loved it.
DA: Father built it in the back garden so it could be knocked down. It was bolted together, all this timber construction and come the day, the week before the show a lorry arrived to take all the parts away and deliver it to site and then father and I went down on the Monday, I took a day off work and we went down and found the location for the site for our construction and we spent the day putting it together and it was amazing because there was father, a retired carpenter, his eyesight was going a little bit and myself not a carpenter, let’s leave it at that and near us were famous names. Garden centre names and newspaper names were there.
JA: [?]
DA: With the construction workers in matching uniforms and jumpers and things and just father and I doing ours and we spent all day building this and then when we drove away at night I thought, ‘No, this isn’t smart,’ you know, ‘This doesn’t look right,’ and, you know, ‘It’s not as smart as those people over there,’ you know this is but it was designed to be an old verandah that had been that was supposed to have been an old tin with a corrugated tin roof that was supposed to have been there for fifty, sixty years and it kind of looked like that but then when we went back, I went back a week later just to help with some planting and finishing touches I actually drove past it because I didn’t recognise it because it was so fabulous. The designer’s work with the planting and the finish painted finish it was an absolutely a brilliant exhibition.
JA: It’s just wonderful that it all started here and –
DA: Yeah.
JA: His enthusiasm and he’s able to put his, into practice what he had done all his life. You know the carpentry and everything so and again all his own time. He just, you know he would help everyone.
DA: He did get the silver gilt medal. It didn’t get gold.
JA: No it didn’t get gold.
DA: It got the silver gilt and the royal family were on that verandah.
JA: Yes.
DA: Briefly.
JA: Dad was really proud of it. I mean he really felt and again it was an achievement. It was something again that he had done and so there were little things through life that you know, he enjoyed doing it didn’t he? Always helping.
MH: What did he think of the way Bomber Command were treated after the war? The way the veterans were treated. Did he have any views on it?
LA: Well it’s quite good isn’t it really? I mean they’re constantly doing things aren’t they?
JA: Oh that’s, I don’t think he actually, I don’t remember ever hearing anything about what he thought about -
DA: I think he kept those thoughts quiet, I think, you know. I think, you know I know that we now know that there are there are some thoughts about how terrible it might have been that we, we carried out this bombing but we can’t talk because we are not in the context of the time.
LA: No.
DA: And when you’re trying to second guess that we’re out of context now. It’s only those -
JA: But he was a man doing, he was just a man doing his job.
DA: It was only those during the environment of that time can answer that and, you know.
JA: I don’t think, I don’t think, you know, I don’t know because he hasn’t said but from how he was to me it was there was a job to be done. He went and did it and they had to do, you know, what they did and whatever the environment they were in was was it at that time. And I think, I think it’s the only thing I probably, I do vaguely think, remember him sort of talking a bit about the fact that of them not having the recognition so I think that was something and yet now that is starting to be sort of redressed and I’m trying to think when did they do the London?
DA: Well I know that if he was here now -
JA: Memorial.
DA: He’d be very pleased.
JA: He’d be -
DA: With what’s going on.
JA: Yeah.
DA: With the Memorial.
JA: Yeah, he would.
DA: Absolutely chuffed to bits.
JA: Definitely. Yeah.
DA: He was very proud of
SA: What they did.
LA: He was real
DA: His colleagues. Very proud.
JA: Really proud.
LA: Yeah he was a real RAF man really.
DA: Personally very proud. Yeah.
MH: Good.
JA: Definitely.
DA: Good. I’m pleased.
JA: Yeah, he would love, and I mean he went to the, well I took him a couple of times I think to that, The Arboretum. You know the one over -
MH: Oh the one over at Staffordshire.
JA: Yeah.
MH: Yeah.
JA: And we went over to there and I mean all of that always meant an awful lot to him so although he obviously didn’t know about this.
LA: That was when they started it wasn’t it?
JA: Well we went right at the start yeah but he, so you know that anything anyone is doing to sort of you know say what these men did and he would have approved.
MH: Good.
JA: A hundred fold.
DA: I think.
JA: You know.
DA: You can point it up by the number of visits we subsequently made to Belgium to the people of Belgium and their welcoming and their recognition because they were in the middle of a terrible situation and because of their recognition he found that their respect for him was the answer to it all. That was -
LA: When -
DA: That gave him, that gave him, you know some kind of peace to know that, that what we suffered, what my colleagues did was worth it, it which is not looked for or even had in the UK because he didn’t look for it because he wouldn’t but no one ever since 1945 has come to, come and said and done things that they do in, they do in Europe for you. I’ve heard stories about the Dutch were the same. Those who were really really at the wrong end of the stick appreciate what we did. I mean we’ve had terrible times in England of course during the World War 2 but we probably, we probably haven’t, well we haven’t suffered, well we haven’t suffered as much as the Europeans.
LA: We haven’t, we didn’t suffer.
DA: No.
LA: As much as -
DA: Yeah.
LA: The [Barotte’s] suffered.
DA: Yeah.
JA: No. [The Belgians there?].
LA: No way.
SA: [Mr Barotte].
LA: You wouldn’t have thought, when we went over there, you wouldn’t have thought anybody else was in the RAF. Only us.
JA: Dad, dad actually won it all didn’t he? Dad won the war.
LA: He’d done the lot.
JA: He did. Yes, he was singlehandedly.
LA: By the way, their reaction.
DA: Their appreciation.
LA: To him I mean.
JA: Yeah.
MH: Sure.
LA: I mean you wouldn’t have thought anybody else was in it. But -
JA: But Mr [Barotte’s], so that -
DA: Which was a big surprise to us all wasn’t it?
JA: Yeah. It was.
DA: It was marvellous, you know.
LA: Yeah.
SA: It must have been very pleasing and obviously was for dad, you know so -
MH: That he’d had due recognition.
SA: Yes. Definitely.
MH: From the very people.
LA: It really was, yeah.
SA: And in fact it was more important because it was from the people in the sense that you know you can have too much celebrity can’t you.
MH: There was no, there was no twist on it. As such.
DA: It was just wholehearted.
SA: Pure and honest and it was.
DA: Even to the point -
SA: Respect what you do.
DA: Do you remember in that restaurant after one visit we were having a meal and there was a young teenage lad who was waiting on us and he realised that we were a group of English people and he said what are you here for because their English is no problem and we said well father here has come back to see, to the cemetery where his two airmen had died.
LA: Yeah.
DA: And were buried and he said, you know, we said you know we said he was in the RAF and the young Belgian knew the history immediately and his attitude changed and he was only maybe fifteen, sixteen his attitude and respect went up a couple of notches and I thought that’s quite significant the way that the history is taught and understood and passed down and that was, that was a nice moment. Yeah. A very low key moment but a very nice moment which we noticed.
MH: Whose idea was the Memorial at the site? The lovely Memorial that has been. Whose idea was that?
DA: Theirs. The people in Belgium. In Spar.
JA: Yeah what was there originally was the site was where, this is where the pilot landed. This is well -
LA: [all over Belgium?]
JA: It’s about the size of this room -.
MH: Right.
JA: Really isn’t it?
DA: Yeah.
JA: And there’s a tree at the back and, but it was all, it was just really there wasn’t a lot there at all when we first were going over there.
DA: No but do you remember seeing the photograph [the Barottes] whether the [Barottes] got it or someone. I’ve seen a photograph and in, in of that moment just after the next few days after that crash there is -
JA: Yeah but -
DA: An imprint -
JA: Yes. That’s in -
DA: Of a body in the ground.
JA: Yes.
MH: Right.
DA: And it’s that spot that’s been chosen for the -
As I say that’s the pilot’s, that’s where he -
DA: I don’t know, was it the gunner?
JA: No. it was the pilot.
DA: Ok.
JA: Where he landed.
DA: So there’s an imprint and literally on that spot.
But they’ve now put those, what I call -
DA: Yeah.
JA: The legs on that, you know.
MH: Right. Yeah.
And they had a tree. I think they did ask dad about the tree didn’t they and anyway they’ve got the tree growing there.
LA: I mean it’s all planted. Well on that picture it is isn’t it?
DA: Yeah.
JA: Yes I mean well obviously when we go back we usually are taking some wreaths from the Legion.
LA: I know we take our wreaths and things like that.
SA: We did last year.
LA: But it’s planted.
SA: With the Legion.
LA: I mean it’s all in the middle of a meadow.
MH: Right. Yeah.
LA: But I mean and it’s looked after.
JA: They put that piece of stone there originally.
MH: Right. Oh wow. Oh that’s lovely.
JA: So of course, so it’s sort of built up from that slightly but it’s still, it’s still very sort of basic. It’s not fussy and fancy it is just -
LA: Yeah.
MH: I will say one thing about your dad in this one. He never put on any weight did he?
JA: No. No. Not at all.
SA: No he didn’t.
MH: ‘Cause I’ve seen the photographs of when he was young.
SA: Yes. Yeah.
MH: He’s very slim.
JA: Yes.
MH: Very slender built.
JA: Yeah definitely.
MH: He’s carried that for -
JA: Yes, yeah.
MH: I wish I could say the same I must admit.
JA: Yes exactly. And that’s actually the site where his ashes were.
SA: Yeah. He’s scattered around the back.
JA: Actually on -
MH: Well it’s lovely.
DA: He insisted that his ashes were laid there which we did in 2009.
MH: But what’s interesting in that photograph is that he’s stood by the Memorial but he’s not there. If you look at his face. His thoughts -
JA: Oh yes.
MH: In the photograph.
JA: Yeah.
MH: Are back -
JA: Absolutely.
MH: Back to nineteen -
SA: Yes.
MH: That’s what that photograph -
SA: Yes. Yes.
MH: Conveys to me. That his thoughts -
SA: Oh yeah.
MH: You know.
JA: It always meant -
MH: Which is lovely.
JA: Yeah. Meant that to him.
MH: And there’s his -
SA: Tree.
MH: Duly pointed out tree.
SA: Yeah.
MH: With the target on it. That’s a bit –
SA: Yeah
JA: Oh right, yeah.
MH: Someone’s put a RAF roundel above it.
JA: They did didn’t they? And then we -
MH: It’s lovely that they all come out.
JA: Yes they did. It was lovely.
LA: Oh it’s unbelievable.
MH: And young children there as well.
LA: Oh yeah.
MH: Which is good.
JA: The whole school.
LA: The whole school.
MH: Which is right.
JA: Yeah and of course we always when we go then we like to go across to the cemetery where the two are laid to rest so there’s you know where the pilot and rear gunner are. That’s at Hotton, Hotton Cemetery.
SA: And they’re mainly all twenty year olds. There were very few that are older.
JA: Well that’s it. We walk up and down.
SA: Very few. Occasionally there’s the odd one in his thirties or something but mainly twenties.
JA: That’s right.
MH: And the gentlemen are laid side by side which is nice.
DA: Yeah. Yeah.
MH: ‘Cause I did a personal trip earlier in the year as I said, going across to visit the dams and where the dams crews are laid and some of the dams crews aren’t laid together.
JA: Oh.
MH: There’s you know some of them are [it’s a picked spot?]
JA: Yeah.
MH: As such in a cemetery but it’s nice when I think the Commonwealth War Graves haven’t done that deliberately. That’s just what’s occurred.
JA: Yes. Yeah.
MH: When the bodies have come from other cemeteries and whatnot and that’s where the thing -
DA: [?]
MH: Has occurred there.
JA: They’ve actually -
MH: But it’s nice where they do have -
JA: Absolutely. Yes.
MH: The crews together ‘cause they lived each other’s lives as you rightly pointed out and they were in nissen huts, you know, normally nine times out of ten two crews per hut living side by side as you rightly pointed out so that you know one day they could come back and effects would be being loaded up by the warrant officer and you could have had a conversation with, you know, whoever, the day before and it’s just I don’t think it’s a fact that a lot of young people today could grasp. I think they would struggle to grasp that fact that you could have a conversation with somebody because if you said to them, ‘Ah, you know, your friend, tomorrow is going to, you know, not going to be there.’
JA: Yeah, they can’t really.
MH: They’d go well, no, you know
JA: No.
MH: They wouldn’t comprehend that.
JA: Not at all.
MH: That the people you lived -
JA: That was every day.
MH: Lived side by side.
MH: It happened didn’t it?
LA: Yes.
MH: Side by side.
JA: It was –
MH: You socialised side by side.
LA: Yeah. Yeah.
MH: You were literally -
JA: It was going to happen.
MH: You were hand in glove the whole time.
JA: That’s right.
MH: And I don’t think today that that it’s only sort of corresponding -
MH: Sort of scenario really.
LA: I think that’s what he found. He was one of their, the group and when they had a leave I mean before my time they’d go to London but they’d all go together.
JA: Did he do anything naughty at all?
LA: Well I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.
MH: Not naughty in that way. Naughty as in have a few jars and get up to some hijinks as such.
LA: Well, I don’t know. They used to go to the palladium I think but that’s all.
DA: Am I right in thinking that when he was being demobbed he had to go, he went for training as a telephonist. He went -
LA: No I -
JA: That was before, before the -
DA: When he went to London.
JA: Wasn’t it?
DA: On a skills training course to learn how to use -
LA: To be a telephonist.
DA: The switchboard system.
LA: They did all them sort of things but -
DA: What, what I always found must have been a tough thing to do for him and for well all air crews in that you’re in, at home you could be off base celebrating and in perfect safety and in a few hours you were in maximum danger. Now that is unique. Other armed forces had their terrible times too so that’s not to decry any other out of the armed forces ‘cause it’s each had their own horrors but to actually be safe psychologically to be safe and then have to step forward and get in to a machine that’s going to take you somewhere unknown and you probably won’t come back. That takes a heck of a kind of bravery to do that. To accept that you know and to not just turn away and say sorry I can’t do it, you know.
LA: You have to go.
DA: It’s a unique -
LA: Whether you wanted to go or not.
DA: Yeah it’s a unique bravery to go from safety to certain, well not certain death but it’s there and then back again and that’s now, we’ve completed that journey. Once is enough. We got away with it we’ve got to go back again. You do that. Oh got away with it and got to go back again and keep repeating that night after night weather permitting.
MH: I think, I think you’re right in saying that the RAF were unique.
DA: I find that very difficult.
MH: In that position with both with Fighter Command and with Bomber Command in that you could, he could have been visiting you and getting his toothpaste and his shaving stick but then said that he had to be back -
LA: No he have to have Morny cream.
MH: Oh. Oh. Sorry.
LA: You don’t have an ordinary shaving stick. Not when you’re in the RAF.
MH: But you could go from that, you could go from that and go back to base.
LA: Yeah.
MH: Done briefing.
DA: Yeah.
MH: Had his egg and bacon.
DA: Yeah.
MH: And as you rightly say, within a few hours, be flying -
DA: Yeah.
MH: Above Germany.
DA: Yeah.
MH: With the unknown knowledge of course -
DA: Yeah.
MH: Whether -
LA: You don’t know.
If you’d be returning.
MH: Whereas with the navy etcetera the wives and sweethearts used to say most probably, goodbye to them at the docks.
DA: Yeah for -
MH: And the vessel would, after a day or so depart.
DA: Yeah.
MH: And with the army you were either away or you were home.
DA: Yeah. Yeah.
MH: But the RAF, I think, in those
DA: Yeah.
MH: In those sort of circumstance was quite unique.
DA: Well I think that’s a maximum stress you could get isn’t to be safe, not safe -
MH: To go from a peaceful life into ultimate stress.
DA: Yeah.
MH: And have to flick between the two.
DA: I think it’s been underestimated.
LA: Yeah but what you’re not working out you’re young -
DA: Yeah.
LA: Seventeen, eighteen you don’t think like you are thinking today.
DA: Yeah.
JA: That’s true. It’s just -
MH: But having, I must admit I have spoken to a number of people. I know a number of people -
LA: Yeah.
MH: That are of that age group that we’re talking about. Late teens to early twenties and if you said to them by the way seven of you are going to go in a plane tomorrow and you’re going to fly it technically over Germany and they’re going to be throwing eighty eight millimetre flak shells up at you where if one absolutely you know gets a good shot and comes through –
JA: That’s it –
MH: Your bomb bay -
JA: Game over.
MH: And you’ve got a four thousand bomb cookie on board, sorry that’s, sorry, kiss you’re backside goodbye.
JA: That’s exactly, yeah.
MH: You know if you said that to your average late teen, twenty year old he’d say, no thanks, I’m not doing that.
No. No.
JA: That’s right. They would.
MH: You know I think that’s what makes the people of your generation a different, totally different breed.
DA: Oh yeah.
MH: To today. You had ethics, morality, courage -
DA: Yeah.
MH: By the spade load.
DA: Yeah.
MH: Today. Nah. Do it on a video game where I can’t get hurt.
DA: Yeah.
MH: I can do that.
That’s right.
MH: But if you actually asked them to put, I think to put -
SA: Put themselves on the line.
SA: No.
MH: They wouldn’t do it.
SA: No.
MH: So that I’d take my hat off if I was wearing one.
DA: Yeah.
MH: I’d take my hat off to your generation because that’s what you went through.
DA: You see father’s birthday is October the 13th and he was nine, he went from nineteen to twenty on October the 13th, November the 2nd he was shot down.
MH: Yeah.
DA: So that’s just into his twenties.
MH: Yeah.
DA: And the pilot was twenty one, twenty two.
MH: He was twenty.
SA: Yeah. Twenty one then.
MH: He was twenty.
LA: They were -
JA: They all were weren’t they?
LA: They were all that age weren’t they?
MH: Yeah.
DA: Can you imagine the skills needed to actually fly, how about the navigating, the skills needed to navigate?
MH: They went through lot. A phenomenal amount.
LA: Have we had our three hours?
SA: No, I wouldn’t, no.
MH: I hope I haven’t bored you.
SA: Not at all. I’ll get you another cup of tea.
MH: If you would wish anything. If, say this was a normal project to specifically define your husband and your dad what do you think he would want you to say about him? What do you think? How would you sum him up?
LA: I think he’d be really quite honoured really to think so much was being done now after all those years. I mean it’s all so long ago isn’t it?
MH: In some ways, my personal feeling, it’s too long ago as in it it should have been done a lot earlier.
LA: Yeah.
MH: Because then the very people we are commemorating.
LA: I would have like him to have been here today.
MH: I’d have loved it.
JA: Oh yes.
MH: If I could have met him, I really would -
LA: Yeah.
MH: And I know he is here. He is here because the building that we are sat in he he had, you know, so, and you three, you are him.
SA: Oh yeah.
MH: So, you know, you are part made up from your mum but you’re part made up from your dad as well so you know you are him. So he is here.
SA: Oh yeah.
JA: Always.
MH: He is here with you because –
LA: Yeah.
MH: You had all that time with him.
LA: Oh yeah.
MH: So -
LA: Yeah.
MH: And, you know, I think it’s lovely. I do really.
DA: I think -
MH: Because I think this is important. People should how know families etcetera, you know.
LA: Well life is incompletely different isn’t it I mean I’m [I’m?] aren’t I?
JA: Yeah.
LA: Oh -
MH: No.
JA: Carry on.
MH: One thing I forgot to say to you, ok, is these are non PC interviews, ok. If you say something and you want it to be on there it stays on there because this is, you know -
DA: Yeah. Our -
MH: We’re not up to airy fairy -
DA: Yeah.
MH: Up and down sort of politics etcetera because this was this was one thing I asked right at the start when I was being taught, you know, how to do the oral histories, how PC did we have to be? And I said -
DA: How correct.
MH: I hope, I hope it’s not that way because -
DA: Yeah.
MH: People will say things on tape and they’ll call a spade a spade and they’ll call a banana a banana, you know. Let them just talk. Sorry. And I interrupted you there.
LA: No it’s alright. I was going to say life is completely, well I can see life completely different and the friends I’ve got that are my age, there’s only a few of us left but we think the way the young ones are going on now -
SA: They have no respect.
LA: Is terrible. The children from the playschool which is over here. They only live around the village but they’re coming in great big cars where I used to I don’t know whether along the road there is a garage.
[distant voice?]
LA: I lived at a farm just beyond that and I used to bike to Peterborough every day.
MH: Of course.
LA: To work, work all day and bike home again but I mean now they have to have a car to get them from just up the road.
SA: Well I worked obviously in an environment where I had to deal with -
LA: Oh you -
SA: Drink and young people and -
MH: Don’t mix.
SA: And their behaviour is disgraceful but I always saw myself as a headmistress they never had and they got it and I got great respect because I had boundaries and they weren’t allowed to cross them and they didn’t because -
MH: Comes from your dad.
SA: Yeah I’m very much like him.
MH: That’s one thing he very much instilled in you then.
SA: Very much. Yeah.
DA: Yeah.
SA: When, I mean, I mean what I say and he did and -
DA: I think father’s influence travelled far. I think he’d be proud that his influence has travelled far and wide in the family and in the community. His thinking –
MH: And overseas.
SA: Yeah.
MH: And overseas.
SA: Yeah.
MH: And overseas.
DA: Yeah, his influence and it’s been a settling -
LA: Well he didn’t have to make a fuss.
DA: No. No. I mean.
SA: No.
LA: He would give a look.
SA: I know
MH: Yeah. By his -
SA: I’ve had that look.
MH: And you knew about it.
SA: I’ve had it lots of times.
LA: No, but the look was enough. He didn’t have to -
SA: No he didn’t have to do anything. He just used to look at me and I used to, I used to be like behave but now they don’t.
MH: No.
SA: The young ones don’t have any respect.
LA: It’s terrible. Schools are terrible.
MH: Thank you very much. Thank you.
SA: The language and -
LA: I think schools are terrible but -
DA: Yeah. I think his legacy is his influence. His, his definite morality. Knowing right from wrong and we get to much fuzziness nowadays about what’s right and wrong, what’s wrong and this is we’ve not talked about it but he was not a religious person in the sense that we know religion as in a church goer but I know from the work he did with people he was totally committed to helping people in a no fuss way which would, could put him amongst the best of any religious genuine Christian person.
MH: Help they neighbour.
DA: Could have put him there but he chose not to go there. His selflessness you know was, was there.
MH: Didn’t need to be a practicing person to actually just hold those thoughts.
DA: Yeah.
MH: And those moralities.
DA: Yeah. He kept those thoughts to himself about his religion. Religious beliefs.
SA: But I don’t think any of us are but we’re very respectful of others and so we’re very like him in that way. We all know how to behave. Unfortunately, most of them don’t now.
MH: The generations continue.
LA: But now I mean children run riot don’t they?
DA: Oh I don’t know I think you find that teenagers always have. You know. To a certain extent. You know there’s always a wild moment in any young person’s life otherwise they’re not pushing the boundaries.
JA: Oh but -
SA: No. It’s worse.
DA: You get to the stage where we all pushed the boundaries.
SA: It’s worse now. Sorry.
DA: Which was another thing about -
JA: You know as a policeman don’t you? It’s worse.
SA: It’s worse. I mean how many drugs did we used to push down our throats? I’ve never taken one in my life. Not that kind of thing. You know, I mean paracetamols.
JA: The worst of that is that they don’t mind -
LA: Oh I’ve got piles there.
JA: Doing things. They don’t respect. Now, I wouldn’t have done things because I would think oh if my dad saw me doing that.
SA: Yeah, exactly. Or the village policeman.
JA: They don’t think that anymore because we’ve seen all these things on telly where the parents see these children brought their children doing things home or whatever.
SA: Exactly.
JA: And there’s no respect anymore for themselves.
DA: Yeah you’re right, you’re right because as a teenager.
SA: Wouldn’t have dared. Wouldn’t dare.
JA: You still wouldn’t want your dad to know.
DA: I had many temptations.
JA: That, you know, right if you -
DA: Yeah.
JA: Went off and you were drinking and you shouldn’t be or whatever, you know -
SA: I would not have dared.
MH: Your dad’s influence is conveyed through you.
JA: Absolutely.
SA: Yeah.
JA: Yeah.
MH: And through you -
JA: Yeah. Yeah.
MH: To your children.
JA: We have yeah, yeah.
MH: So his influence is just like the ripple on the pond.
DA: Yeah.
MH: It will reach out and out and out and will continue.
JA: Yes.
DA: Like I said early when I’m doing DIY stuff and I’m working with wood and I think, what do I do now? He’s my reference point but that applies to some of the morality questions and some of the logical thinking that I’ve had to do in my life.
MH: Yeah.
DA: With my family and have him included in those thoughts because I know that I can’t go too far wrong. It’s like a back stop. You know -
LA: That’s why -
DA: It’s a safe rock to come back to, well, ‘What would dad do?’ Well I’ll default to that. You know, maybe we’ll use that as a rock and spread out and do something more exciting but that’s always a backstop.
LA: That’s why when your dad died you bought him a saw. I haven’t forgotten that.
DA: What? The wreath?
JA: The wreath.
LA: A wreath was made in a saw and you said, ‘I’ve got a saw of my own now, dad,’ because dad’s saw was important and he didn’t let him mess around with it.
SA: No. No. None of us touched any of his tools. They were precious weren’t they?
DA: I’ve kept them. I’ve got them all.
JA: Yeah.
DA: I’ve kept them.
SA: I’m no good anyway I can’t DIY. Well I have just wall papered for the first time but only my bedroom so nobody knows.
DA: Sometimes I look, I kept his tool roll with his tool roll with his brace and bit and sometimes I look at it and I think, ‘How on earth did you,’ like you say he’s not a terribly big person, ‘How on earth did you use this, balancing.’ you know on somewhere on some brickwork to build a roof, you know, manually using a drill. No electricity and get some momentum, you know to –
MH: He must have had a good sense of balance.
DA: Except for once.
MH: Because of his position in the aircraft he was in.
DA: Yeah.
MH: Where he was sat in the aircraft wouldn’t have been, I mean, yeah, you would have been sat there on a [slung?] seat.
DA: Yeah.
MH: But he’d have still been, he’d have been like a [?]
DA: Yeah.
MH: He would have been like a baby’s rattle.
DA: Yeah.
MH: Because -
DA: All the movement.
MH: I mean even with his flying kit on.
DA: Yeah.
MH: Due to his build being slight he’d have still been able to be moved around in the turret.
DA: Yeah.
MH: As such.
DA: Yeah.
MH: So -
SA: It was very cold. Very cold. Even with the suits on.
LA: Very cold.
SA: He used to say how cold.
LA: He said how the icicles used to hang down his face, you know.
DA: There was, there is a rule.
SA: Very cold.
LA: Well he was up in that -
MH: Yeah.
LA: Top.
MH: Yeah.
DA: Yeah if you remember mother that there’s a rule he said there’s a notice somewhere in the aircraft or it’s in their rulebook, it was in their rulebook that it’s a punishable offence to grow icicles on the oxygen mask through the hours that you flew without any action an icicle from your breath will start to form.
LA: Yeah.
DA: And they were tempted to have a competition, you know, to grow a long icicle. He said there is an actual a rule you shouldn’t do that, you know. You’ll be punished, you know, should you be found.
LA: Snap it off.
DA: Yeah.
MH: Well it’s understandable.
DA: Yeah.
MH: As I said I had the good fortune to talking with Syd Marshall the other day who was a flight engineer on Lancasters and he was explaining that up at high altitudes twenty, twenty five thousand feet certain bits used to freeze and things like that.
DA: Yeah.
MH: You know and I’ve certainly read about, from the air gunner’s side of things when they were chipping ice off the inside of the Perspex.
DA: Yeah.
MH: You know, and try and see the enemy fighter let alone shoot it down. To try and see it first.
DA: Yeah.
MH: You know, and it was a very cold period of time.
DA: Yeah. Always night flying.
MH: Especially during the winter ops as well and things like that as well.
DA: Yeah. Always night flying there’s no there’s no sun, heat from the sun.
MH: No. No, you’ve got no thermal heat as such but, no. But I will ask anybody now.
LA: Is that Judy?
DA: Yeah.
MH: Is there anything else anybody would like to add regarding your late husband and your late dad that you’d like people to know about him?
DA: Well I think it would be useful if we all were to say that we owe, we owe him a big debt for our lives. There’s a certain tree in Belgium that we owe our lives to. Without that we wouldn’t be here.
JA: No, that’s for sure.
DA: And he was, you know a very sincere, quiet, strong, brave man.
LA: He was certainly strong.
SA: A very special man.
LA: But not, he wasn’t -
SA: In a quiet way.
LA: [an ebullient person?].
SA: No. He was quiet.
LA: He was quiet but he was strong but we’re both strong.
MH: Yeah.
SA: And so are we.
JA: I think we -
LA: And they’re strong.
JA: I think we he lived his life the way he wanted to live it.
LA: Yeah.
JA: I think he lived it to the full. He did all the things that he wanted to do.
LA: Yeah.
JA: You know he had his own limitation on flying.
SA: Yeah he didn’t like -
JA: But that was from an experience, obviously that was the experience during the war.
SA: That is, we can’t -
JA: But I think he, you know, did good.
SA: Yeah. Yeah.
JA: Really.
MH: He seems to have lived life to the full.
SA: Yeah.
MH: Following the second chance with the tree.
JA: Absolutely.
SA: That’s right.
JA: And that was -
MH: The tree.
SA: The tree saved his life.
MH: That’s when the tree said –
SA: Yeah.
MH: I’m giving you your life back.
SA: Yeah.
JA: Exactly.
SA: Oh yeah.
MH: Go and, you know, do -
JA: He had to do something with it because, you know -
MH: I think he gained strength from that tree. You know, you know so trees -
JA: Yeah.
MH: Trees are invariably strong but -
SA: Yeah.
JA: Yeah.
MH: You know, possibly that you could say, you know, in that tree saving him -
LA: Well, it definitely -
JA: It gave him another sixty three years of life.
MH: Yeah.
LA: I mean you just wonder, why did his parachute catch in the tree, don’t you?
SA: Well, it was just fate.
LA: Yeah.
JA: All down to the, literally, timing.
MH: Somebody rolled the dice.
SA: Yeah.
JA: Exactly.
MH: And the dice came up for him that day.
SA: One lived. Two died.
MH: Yeah.
LA: But he certainly didn’t get over that.
SA: No.
LA: Well you have to live on don’t you?
JA: That’s it and it coloured his life and it made him probably a better person.
SA: Yeah.
MH: Made him. Yeah he gained strength from it.
JA: Exactly, you know.
MH: Albeit, as I say, in that photograph, where he stood.
JA: Yeah.
MH: You can clearly see he’s not there.
JA: No.
MH: He’s physically there as I say but -
JA: Yeah but -
MH: His mind, his mind is elsewhere -
JA: He’s back with the boys.
MH: He’s back with his boys.
JA: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
MH: Yeah.
JA: And that’s the pinnacle of all of it really.
LA: Well he made that decision that he wanted to go back there didn’t he?
SA: Yeah.
JA: Oh yes with his ashes.
SA: Ashes, yeah.
MH: I think, yeah.
LA: Which -
JA: He had to, yeah.
MH: I think that, yeah.
JA: Yeah.
SA: He wanted to be there with them again. That’s really, he wanted to be back with them.
LA: Yeah. Which again -
SA: The only way he could.
JA: ‘Cause he would always have felt really sad that they didn’t get that life that he’s had, you know.
SA: Yeah.
JA: But they’re the things you have to live I suppose on those sorts of occasions aren’t they?
SA: Yeah.
JA: Those things that happen.
SA: Many, many did.
MH: In some ways you could say as well that in him being saved he then lived a life for them.
JA: Yeah. Oh yes. Yeah.
MH: And in memory of them as well you know it happens quite often where you’ve got crew members they lose crew members and things like that because the many times and unfortunately your dad’s position in the aircraft was right above where the roundel was so it was like giving the German night fighter a target to aim at.
SA: Oh yeah.
JA: Absolutely.
MH: Just aim for the roundel.
JA: I’m here.
MH: ‘Cause there’s a man there.
JA: Yeah. Absolutely.
MH: And tail end Charlies of course, you know -
JA: Gosh.
MH: Being lonely at the back and, you know, detached.
LA: Oh yeah.
MH: From, you know, from the rest of the crew.
LA: You are.
MH: Connected by intercom you know and having to sit in the turret.
LA: Yeah.
MH: Open the back doors behind you to extricate your parachute from there and then re-shut and turn it around and open them again.
JA: Yeah. That’s right. And then when they don’t open.
MH: The aircraft doing, you know, did an almighty spin because a lot of them used to spin because of the damage etcetera but -
LA: You’re clearly on your own aren’t you?
MH: Very isolated. But you -
LA: But I think when you went up in the top, not knowing but I think you were alone really and you’re very in line of a shot.
SA: I’ve watched all the old war films and –
MH: Yeah.
LA: Someone else.
SA: It’s really, I mean I know they’re only films but they are very good and they show you, you know what happened and I -
MH: What I would recommend to you if you haven’t seen it is basically Bomber Command station commander at RAF Hemswell videoed, not video, they didn’t have video then but he cinecamera’d.
SA: Yeah.
It’s the only colour film they have of Bomber Command during the war and it’s, as I say, RAF Hemswell prior to them doing a raid and it takes you through all the stages where the briefing and the pilot comes in. He’s got his little dog there and everything.
SA: Yeah.
And it takes you all the way through but it’s the only documentary that you can see and that’s on YouTube so it’s well worth having a look at because it really will put you in the seat you know because this particular crew ended up completing their raid but they were late out and then late back and by the time they were coming back fog had descended on their home airfield.
SA: Oh no and they –
MH: So they then had to try and find another one because they’d had some damage caused to the aircraft and then they had to find one with what they used to call FIDO which was of course the burning off of all the petrol to try and lift the fog.
SA: Oh right.
MH: And they ended up landing on a FIDO field as such but it’s well worth, well worth having a look, you know and it will give you an insight.
JA: Yeah.
MH: To what, you know your dad had gone through and everything.
JA: That’s right. He did actually go back in a Lancaster fifteen years ago.
MH: Right.
JA: Where it goes from. Is it East Kirkby?
MH: Oh he went for a taxi ride.
JA: Down the taxi -
MH: Yeah.
JA: Because I -
MH: Yeah.
JA: It happened to be my son’s, it was his twenty fifth birthday and we all went for that so that is myself and my husband and dad and, but anyway we, you know got him in there. He was in there and he went right through to the front and sat in the pilot’s seat and everything and, I mean, you know, like he said from when he was a young lad in there I mean there isn’t much room in them.
MH: No.
JA: They are so tiny.
MH: Very tiny. Yeah.
SA: He didn’t want to be a big person.
JA: He didn’t at all, you know and I stayed in the mid upper gunner position, sort of thing because there’s nothing there but you just stand and you can look out, sort of thing. I think my daughter was the rear gunner, you know. We just, yeah taxied up and down. That was the first time he’d gone back in.
MH: How did he feel when he came out?
JA: He was -
LA: He also wanted -
JA: Thrilled. He loved it. He was absolutely, yeah, just really pleased that he’d done it. He also spoke to the pilot. They obviously, you know ‘cause it was a very special day for dad and everything and they, he’s got a picture somewhere with him and he was yeah he couldn’t believe in a way I think how it had sort of shrunk because of course you know that sort of happens doesn’t it? When you -
MH: Yeah.
JA: You forget how small it -
MH: I always relate -
JA: How tight it all is.
MH: Relate things to Wagon Wheels.
Yeah [laughs] Yes, they’ve shrunk haven’t they?
MH: They were bigger. I’m sure they were bigger.
JA: Yeah they have.
MH: They’ve definitely gone in for a shrink but you were going to say sorry.
JA: Yes.
MH: You were going to say.
JA: What were you going to say?
LA: Well I was going to say his picture and bits and pieces went to Elvington. Do you know Elvington?
MH: Yes. Yes.
LA: In Yorkshire. We used to go there because we had a good friend who was in charge of the gunnery room. I’ve forgotten now what but he put some things in there and he put some things in -
JA: East Kirkby.
LA: East Kirkby. Bits and pieces.
JA: Yeah the air gunners room. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
LA: Yeah.
JA: In the air gunner’s room.
LA: That right.
JA: But, yeah there’s some artefacts there really as well which -
LA: Yeah but I mean that’s we’re going back -
JA: Years ago.
LA: A long way. Anyway -
MH: Right. Got this. Ok. Before I turn this tape off then is there anything anybody would like to add?
JA: No.
SA: No.
LA: No.
MH: Ok the time is now 1555 and I’m going to turn the tape off.



Mark Hunt, “interview with Derrick Allen's family,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 14, 2024,

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