Water under the bridge



Water under the bridge


Part 1. "By the Seat of his Pants". Covers from Alan Gamble's years as a schoolboy in Worthing in the late 1930's, up to joining the RAF in 1943, where he trained as a wireless operator in Blackpool. He joined 620 Squadron, which was equipped mainly with Stirlings and based initially at Leicester East, then Chedburgh, before it moved to Fairford in 1944. He flew 29 bombing and mine laying sorties over Germany and elsewhere. At Fairford '620' also supported SOE and participated in the Horsa glider operation at Arnhem.

Part 2, "No Problem Sport".Covers Alan Gamble's short flying history over France in 1945 before being shot down, and his experiences as a POW in southern Germany and subsequent liberation. The manuscript of Part 2 appears to be complete except for one or more pages missing about two thirds of the way through. This is at the beginning or the end of a fragment bound by metal clips, and could easily have become detached as the outside pages of some fragments' in Part 3 were also lost. It is therefore possible that only one page is missing.

Part 3. "Nil Desperandum".Covers Alan Gamble's post war experiences up to about 1963. This has not been read.

The manuscript of Part 3 is missing pages 24-86, 120 and 170, the latter two being the outside pages of bound fragments. (Page numbering here has assisted in reconstruction).

Additional information about this item was kindly provided by the donor.




Multipage printed document


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[underlined] WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE [/underlined]



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[underlined] PART ONE [/underlined]

[underlined] “BY THE SEAT OF HIS PANTS” [/underlined]

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[underlined] PART TWO [/underlined]

[underlined] “NO PROBLEM SPORT” [/underlined]

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[underlined] FORWARD [/underlined]

Like most impressionable youngsters I had ambitions; notwithstanding the fact that ambition is one thing and the chance of achieving it is something quite different.

In those early days I was not aware that there were so many factors involved. The only one that seemed obvious to me then was opportunity, or the lack of it, but on reflection it is obvious that both ability and motivation were most certainly lacking.

With the most important ingredients that one needed to guide one's path in life missing. I was stuck in a rut which seemed to be the normal lot of an average child from an average working family, although there may well have been a spark of a Walter Mitty trying to get out.

I had developed an interest in all things mechanical from bicycles to motor bikes then cars and aeroplanes. As far as aeroplanes were concerned I could not get enough of them. I read everything I could lay my hands on. I made models. I went to air shows to be thrilled by Alan Cobhams Flying Circus at Shoreham and to Tangmere for Air Days. On one occasion my hand built bicycle took me as far as Hendon for the Air Pageant and more thrills.

I once watched one of the giant German airships, the Hindenburg, cruise in from the Channel between Worthing and Lancing on it's way to Cardington, never suspecting that in a few years time there would be more lethal visitors following the same path.

Those early days were full of the exploits of aviators. Scott and Black and the original Comet. Amy Johnstone and Jim Mollison. The Schneider Trophy attempts and new records being made all the time by intrepid aviators on transatlantic and round the world flights from places like Hendon and other mysterious outposts of civilisation such as Mildenhall!.

For me to ever come into close contact with aeroplanes looked like remaining a schoolboy dream forever.

My schooling was not spectacular. I reached no academic heights. I could not even qualify for High School. I don't think I ever

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had a school leaving certificate but if there was one perhaps the kindest comment that could ever have been made on it would have been "goodbye"!.

On leaving school I had taken up an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker/polisher and the years passed by as the world lurched from one crisis to another until the prospect of another war loomed on the horizon.

Eventually the day came when ultimatums were given and promises were broken which resulted in the Prime Minister broadcasting the declaration of war against the German Nazi State over the radio on 3rd September 1939.

I had already made tentative enquiries about joining the RAF which attracted me like a magnet. Perhaps that is when I should have joined but I didn't; and the story that unfolds is the result.

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It is difficult to describe one's feelings at the time of a declaration of full scale war in the knowledge that is was likely to be a very messy business.

For myself I could only recall all the stories that my father and my uncles had related of all the horrors that they had experienced or that they knew of and it was only 21 years since the last terrible conflict had ended with all of the human debris and suffering still evident in everyday life.

Even the Sunday walks along the prom. at Worthing were not without their reminders, with the war wounded from a nearby base being taken out in their basket chairs. They were the blinded and the limbless and those with such disfiguring injuries that they had so be covered with netting to avoid upsetting the kids or the sensibilities of some people whose war had only meant a few shortages and would rather that such unfortunates were kept out of sight.

There seemed hardly a family that had not lost a loved one, some having disappeared from the face of the earth with no resting place, and it looked as if we were going to have to go through it all again.

I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach as I made my way to the front garden gate with my friends after we had heard the broadcast by the Prime Minister; “....we are at war with Germany .....”. We were very quiet for a while as we contemplated what it was going to mean to us all and were each busy with our own thoughts when the wailing of the air raid siren jolted us back to reality.

As is turned out it was a false alarm but it certainly go things moving. Almost before the siren whined down an Air Raid Warden dashed by on his bike frantically ringing his hand bell and shouting to us to take cover which made very little impression on us except to shout back and tell him what to do with his bell. After that initial jolt the conversation turned to what we were going to do about it as there was little doubt to our minds, at our age, we were bound to be involved and would be likely to join a lot of our other friends who had already joined the services.

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I had made up my mind that it was going to be the Air Force for me but it was a long time before it was possible to get anything near what I wanted.

Every time I went to the recruiting office I found that their priorities did not coincide with mine and in the end I left it in the lap of the Gods.

Shortly before my 20th birthday I was called up!.

A great deal had already happened. Norway and Denmark had been lost to German domination and most of the continent of Europe was under the NAZI jackboot.

We had suffered serious setbacks all over the world and our resources were stretched to the limit. We had fought the Battle of Britian [sic] and only won it by the skin of our teeth. The threat of invasion of our shores still hung over us, which I and a good many others, as civilians, had been prepared to defend in the uniform of the LDV. (Local Defence Volunteers), later to be renamed 'The Home Guard' or more affectionately known later as 'Dads Army'.

I still wanted to change my kharki [sic] uniform for a blue one so when the time came it was 'in for a penny-in for a pound', I volunteered for aircrew; and much to my surprise, was accepted. There were still hurdles to be overcome like the medical examination and that was a tough one but when it case to deciding the aircrew category that I wanted the selection board and I had a little problem.

With so many young men joining, mostly with ambitions to become a pilot like myself, there was little chance for me with my educational qualifications; or lack of them!

They said No to pilot, No to Navigator, and No to Flight Engineer, which was actually my second choice, but they finally agreed that I might make the grade as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner. That was good enough for me, especially as there were a lot of other things that I did not want to be!.

That was it, and I still had a chance of getting into the air but it took a long time. Nearly two years; and not without a few ups and downs along the way and a lot of hard work to make up for my mis-spent youth.

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With a great deal of excitement I followed the instructions that I had been given and found my way to Cardington in February 1941 for 'induction', which seemed to me to be a new word for a monstrous machine that devoured humans but had none of the glamour that I had expected of the place that I had previously known from news reels and books. The home of the airship.

Anyone that went through that routine will recall that as soon as the gates were behind you and you got a number that is all you were.

Most areas were out of bounds and we were confined to camp. No longer was our life our own so I suppose it is not surprising that I only saw the airship sheds close up on one occasion whilst I was there.

I saw more of a highly polished floor under my nose, and of the plumbing of the latrines, and the mess kitchens on fatigue detail and of uniform beds and uniform lockers and contents until I was utterly sick of the sight and smell of boot polish, floor polish, metal polish, stained porcelain and disinfectant and stacks of greasy tins.

It did not take long to learn that everything was best done by numbers if I was going to survive without getting into too much trouble.

There was the one time that I made the mistake of allowing myself some original thought when I forget that airman were not supposed to think and that the order of the day was still "yours is not to reason why, yours is but to do and die". The very backbone of blind discipline, in that terrible place.

One wet day the hut sprung a leak allowing a steady drip of water to splash onto our brightly polished stove in it's immaculately whitened surround next to a highly burnished coal bin which contained a load of rubbish under a carefully placed top layer of dusted and polished coal.

I would go as far as to suggest that the coal was kept just for inspection time and was otherwise locked away, whilst we did our best to burn the rubbish and the dust. With very little success of course.

The net result was that the leak was threatening to destroy all of our hard work just before an inspection by an officer was due.

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It seemed that the easiest thing to do was just to place a fire bucket on the stove until the last moment but the Sergeant in charge had different ideas when he came in for his final look around.

I was left speechless after a good dressing down for mis-use of fire fighting equipment when the offending bucket had been removed from the hot stove and the guilty person identified.

He roared; as only Sergeants can, "you, can't put out a fire with 'ot water you stupid airman: what are you?". By that time I had also learned in a very short space of time that the safest thing to do was agree with anyone with stripes on his arm, and admit sheepishly,to the accusation.

After that it was just a case of keeping the head down and only doing what I was told to do in that soul destroying place and hope that my turn would come later.

Most of my off duty time; and there was not such of that, was spent resting or sleeping. I was too damn tired to do such else after being on the go for about 14 hours a day.

It was obviously more than some people could take and it was not unusual at night to hear a little weeping going on in the darkness by someone who was finding it particularly hard going. Our civilian clothes and most of our personal posessions [sic] were sent home in a cardboard box at the RAF's expense and then we belonged to the Air Force body and soul. After that it was just a matter of settling down and running around like headless chickens.

We learned all the basic things that were expected of us. Who and who not to salute and how. Great chunks of Air Force Law and the Air Force Act were thrust down our throats, including the riot act; to leave us in no doubt what-so-ever as to the very meaning of the word 'discipline' as applied to the forces of the Crown.

It was definitely "yours is not to reason why" etc,...and after three weeks of agony, having been confined to camp all of that time, we were considered fit to go out in public with our bright new uniforms and partially shaven heads.

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Going out in public did not mean that we were free. We went in a large party by train, more or less under escort of several NCO's and were delivered to a unit at Skegness for more 'square bashing'.

After being herded and marched about we eventually finished up being allocated billets in what had previously been holiday boarding houses, but there was a difference. Air Force beds and the three 'biscuit' sections of mattress had taken the place of the more comfortable Slumberlands that pre-war paying guests had enjoyed, and as many as possible had been packed into each room.

We were rounded up every morning and marched about and drilled first without rifles and than with, and drilled some more, and then some more until at times I wondered if my feet still belonged to me. They finished up a mass of blisters on top of blisters until a visit to the MO determined that synthetic soled boots did not agree with me and the inflamation [sic] subsided after changing to leather. How glad I was that I had not gone into the Army. I wondered if they would have been as sympathetic?.

At last we were moulded by our drill instructors into regimented lumps of humanity and with the passing out parade in sight there was considerable competition to be the best flight on parade.

Well; among the instructors anyway.

My efforts made sure that we were not!.

It was still common practice in those days to wear such things as sock suspenders as socks were not made to stay up on their own any more than trousers were, so it was not unusual for me to be wearing them.

Unfortunately one of mine came adrift on the march as we pounded our way towards the saluting base with rifles and fixed bayonets. It was causing a bit of a problem as the chap behind me kept crashing his No.9's down on the trailing bit and although it was a bit of a lurching job as it twanged it's way back I am sure we could have got away with it.

Nevertheless, a young officer on the flank worked his way across and came alongside me as I was in the outside file, and hissed out of the corner of his mouth, "step out of line and fix that quickly", so I did.

I stepped smartly out of line by half a pace and bent down to

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rip off the offending article but half a pace was not enough. Four others tumbled over the top of me in a tangle of arms legs and rifles.

We managed to recover sufficiently, minus a sock suspender, to get back in line before we marched past the saluting base but it goes without saying that there were some very red faces. I was of course carpeted by the flight commander and threatened with all sorts of punishments and it was the first time that I had been on a charge of any sort. I'm not sure what the charge was though but I was beginning to get the hang of things by that time. I do remember that with tongue in cheek I stated in my defence that I had only done what I had been told to do like a good airman and the fact that it went wrong was hardly my fault……there were a lot more red faces and a great deal of spluttering. The case was dismissed and I was told that I should go a long way in the Air Force. The further the better…..like TIMBUKTOO!.

As far as postings were concerned I kept my fingers crossed for a few days and was agreeably suprised [sic] to find that I was going to Mildenhall in Suffolk, instead of some isolated outpost, to continue the process of turning me into aircrew.

Sometimes I have thought that Mildenhall might have been better off without me!.

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At Mildenhall my 'on the job training' started off in 'A flight office of 149 Squadron and there I started, to familiarise myself with the workings of a flying unit and aeroplanes.

I sort of bumbled along quite happily as the work of the unit grew on me.

It was one big thrill to be soaking up the atmosphere of this very famous RAF station that had been the scene of numerous departures of record breaking flights before the war and had at one time even been inspected by representatives of the German Air Force High Command.

Currently it was flying almost nightly operations against targets in Germany and German occupied territory, particularly ports and invasion barge concentrations.

I was moved out to the flights after a certain incident which was the result of been asked for assistance by the flight commander. It seemed that he had mis-laid his safe key and as he was 'ops' that night "could I help by getting his pistol out of the safe”?.

It was yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir. That request was as good as an order from such an exalted person and it certainly never occurred to me to refer the matter to the Flight Sergeant in charge.

Many years later I was to find out the correct procedure to achieve access to a safe when the key had been mislaid, but then; if the officer did not seem to know what to do why should a 'bloggs' with only a few months in the service be any better informed!.

'Sir' was quite happy to find his pistol, all oiled and cleaned, with ammunition, laying on his desk when be returned from briefing and with many other things on his mind he did not have time to ask questions.

It was two days later when the subject came up again as he still could not get into his safe so I was obliged to show him how. All I had to do was pull it away from the wall diclosing [sic] the hole in the back created by a circle of holes done with the aid of a Wolf electric drill. He seemed very upset and reckoned with a bit of luck that he would become a casualty before anyone found out. I must confess that…………………

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in my ignorance I could not understand his concern.

People and aircraft were being lost and damaged right left and centre but 'slight' damage to a safe seemed to be a much more serious problem.

I am not too sure of it but I do believe, that he was the great P.C.Pickard and that somehow he overcome the case of his damaged safe.

As for me, I was dispatched to the flight line and actually let loose with a tractor and refuellers. I don’t remember anyone asking me if I could drive but as it happened the only thing that I had been behind the wheel of before had been a Bren gun carrier,(in the Home Guard-days), when training with local regular units; but no-one seemed unduly concerned and I was soon charging about happily with petrol and oil refuellers as well as towing aircraft about.

It did not take long for the administration to find out that I did not hold a driving licence for my various sorties onto the public highway when I thought it was about time I tried to qualify for a full service licence. Not only was no-one interested but I found myself restricted to camp boundries [sic] only. No harm in trying anyway!.

In due course I found myself having to undertake a different sort of training.

Everyone was required to do a short local course of field training to ensure that they were proficient in the use of certain basic weapons, and as a relatively new arrival I was detailed to report.

I had handled enough weaponry in the Home Guard to know my way around most of what the RAF could produce and I had been awarded a marksmans proficiency in basic training apart from handling all sorts of non-standard stuff.

We had been issued with Canadian Ross .300 rifles of 1916 vintage that had never seen the light of day since they had been manufactured. They had hastily been taken out of storage as the result of an appeal made by Churchill for assistance after Dunkirk,and had been shipped to us urgently with millions of rounds of ammunition in a special convoy. Along the other items were more hand grenades, some Browning automatic .303 rifles and perhaps the most potent of all; the Boys .5ins anti-tank

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rifle which looked like a king sized rifle which fired armour piercing shot.

This latter item was looked at very suspiciously by the 1914/1918 veterans who were 90% of our ranks and when it had arrived and been degreased along with everything else there had been a lot of dicussion [sic] as to who was going to do the test firing of the thing. The net result was that they; and that included my father, encouraged me to do it, so off we trooped to the range up in the Downs to try and prove something.

Having given the Brownings a satifactory [sic] work-out the time case for the Big-one!

Despite the fact that it was on a bipod and it's heavily padded butt was pulled tightly into my shoulder, and I was in the classical prone position; when it went off I thought the heavens had fallen in. I was forced back several inches but despite the painful process the shot went where it was intended and everyone was satisfied. I promtly [sic] became No.1. on the gun.

The idea was to have a crew of four but it was questionable whether I would have the rest of the crew with me to spot and load when we were confronted by an enemy vehicle, despite the fact that in those desperate days we were expected to stand and fight to the last.

What we lacked in experience then we made up for by our determination to defend our homeland. The order of the day when things were at their worst was 'take one with you' which spelled out some very nasty goings on both for our unit and any Germans that got further than the units manning the beach defences.

Among the assortment of weapons were the 'Molotov Cocktails';bottles of mixed petrol, oil, and parafin [sic] to back up the lavish use of hand grenades.

Part of our defensive plan was to throw then all out of the upper windows to saturate the road junctions with splinters and flame; so my attitude towards that course was one of mild amusement. And a certain amount of smuggness [sic] .

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It therefore presented no problem when, at a certain part of the course we were in the weapons pit and the Flight Sergeant was calling us in one at a time and going through the procedure of throwing a hand grenade. After a series of bangs I was next in line, so it was "next one, step forward" etc and it was my turn to turn the corner into the active part of the pit.

I think that the Flight Sergeant had probably had one or two nasty experiences with the highly sensitive and nervous types as he seemed very tense when I arrived on the scene.

We had all done a dry run in practice so the rest was done in time honoured fashion as I was handed the grenade.

It was "by numbers-one, pull the grenade off of the safety pin, holding down the lever" ...."Two, throw the grenade overarm...and get down". The lever would fly off as it was thrown and then it would go off in either four or seven seconds from the time of throwing according to the fuse that had been inserted, and I doubt if many people hung about after the pin was out.

In the Home Guard we had practiced a short count after releasing the lever so that an air burst would result but what we were doing was not quite as sophisticated so I thought I would show off a bit. After pulling the pin and holding down the lever I enquired of the F/Sgt "now?".

He went a strange puce colour and kept shouting "now, now, now" as I continued to hold down the lever in the throwing position. Then he changed his cry to "everyone out" which was followed by a mad scramble as the trench was cleared in record time.

I contemplated putting the pin back in and handing it back to him but figured that was pushing my luck so I lobbed it down range where it went off with a satisfying bang.

I soon found myself facing a very irate 'chiefy' who suprisingly [sic] enough just sent me back to my place of work instead of escorting me to the Guard Room on a charge of some sort. But not without my ears burning.

He hurled several unkind remarks after me as I departed about "clever s...." and expressed the hope that the nest time I tried anything like that I would blow my f…… head off!!. Charming!.

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I soon found that there were plenty of other explosive articles about the place that one had to be very suspicious of in the absence of adequate instruction.

On my introduction to the innards of a Wellington I was told that the 'magic box' with a loose red cover on it in the navigators compartment had a demolition charge inside it and could make a nasty mess of things if interfered with. The same applied to the red cover over the firing switch on the table.

Other nasty devices were the explosive cable cutters set in the leading edges of the wings. It was good bye fingers if they were accidentally triggered and a short 12 bore type cartridge fired a chisel head into a plate.

A job that I did not particularly care for was towing a fully fuelled and armed Wellington about when repositioning was necessary.

It was a very rare job which I did very gently in case anything fell off despite being assured by many people that it was perfectly safe. After all; it was argued, the pilots had to taxy then around and fly them in that condition.

So they might have done but that did not make me feel any happier about the task.

Too many things just seemed to be taken for granted such as the incident out near 'A' Flight dispersals, no more than 100 yards from the 'Bird in Hand' and less than that from a fuel dump.

I came across an armourer sitting astride one of the new 4000lb. 'cookie' bombs on a bomb trolley. He was carefully chipping away a groove around it's middle with a hammer and a cold chisel as they had a tendency to slip out of the bomb hoist sling when arming up!.

The expression on my face must have been one of absolute horror if it reflected what was in my heart but once again I was assured that it was perfectly safe. Nevertheless, I took off at a high rate of knots to the other side of the airfield until he had finished.

I was to learn later that activities such as that really were quite safe. It was just a question of learning about what made things tick but I always remained a little suspicious ever since the occasion when a Cpl fitter had climbed into a Wellington

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undercarriage wheel wall to investigate the malfunction of an indicator micro switch. I had been shown such things when the safety locks had been in but on this occasion he had said "perfectly safe"…….but it wasn't. The undercarriage collapsed and he was crushed into a very small space and that, unfortunately was the end of his waiting for a pilots course to come through. It was a very unpleasant and messy business for everyone involved.

I generally tried to steer clear of trouble but it was not easy. I once got a loaded petrol bowser stuck in the sand on the way out to 'B' Flight. The Flight Sergeant was called to sort everything out, and me!.

Everyone stood around making various suggestions and I foolishly put in my pennyworth but got told to "belt up” for my suggestion so I just stood back and watched the fun. But I had a feeling that attaching a tow [underlined] above [/underlined] the tractor axle was not a good idea. There were lots of strong words when the tractor and the F/Sgt finished up on their backs but it eventually came out, I finished refuelling. and the aircraft went on ops. despite my efforts.

I still remained on towing and refuelling, even after I was left to refuel a Wellington on my own but I did not secure the filler caps correctly; mainly because as far as I can recall no-one had ever shown us how they should have been done.

It was a very alarmed pilot who landed immediately after take-off with petrol pouring from his wings, and the aircraft was unserviceable for some time whilst drying out. Even then I only had a dressing down and some belated instruction but perhaps the final effort was when I tried to put 'F' Freddie into dispersal on my own.

I had marshalled it in onto the taxyway opposite the dispersal pan and the Sgt. pilot airily told me to put it away; so I tried, but not very successfully.

Although I was fairly adept at hitching up the tow bar and operating the air brakes from the cockpit and I got nicely lined up going into the dispersal I had overlooked the fact that it was a bit of a down hill gradient and the brakes of a Fordson agricultural were not designed to hold a ten ton aircraft in such circumstances....and neither did it!.

Not only did the brakes not hold but the aircraft pushed the

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tractor, and me, through the hedge sideways resulting in a bent tractor and bent rear guns as well.

Eventually someone realised that perhaps a lot of responsibility was being placed upon 'Bloggs' from time to time, inexperienced as he was, and however willing he might be. From then on, although I still towed things about the fitters and mechanics, who were after all the responsible tradesmen, did the jobs that they were qualified and paid for....and more importantly, signed the Form.700 accordingly.

There were still some dirty and unpleasant jobs to be done from time to time; such as cleaning out the remains of a rear gunner from a battle damaged Wellington. A very unpleasant memory to carry with me when I subsequently set off for aircrew training. Despite the banishment to the more mundane jobs I did some-how get dragged in as an 'extra' in the film 'Target for Tonight', by being allowed on the mainplane and going through the motions of refuelling.

It was a great dissapointment [sic] when I saw the film after the editors had been at it. I appeared in a two second flash out of what I recall was at least a two minute take.

There is always the possibility that when they saw the proofs and noticed this leering airman on the wing trying to look like Errol Flynn they were obliged to do more drastic cutting rather than re-take it. We will never know as the film was also darkened by filters to give a night effect although it was taken in daylight!

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Piece by piece the vast programme of aircrew training which involved thousands of people was inexorably sucking me, and others, into it's system as it churned out the crews to man the thousands of aircraft that were pouring off of the production lines. My name came up to the top of the list and I was off on my travels again.

This time it was to Blackpool for the beginning of Wireless Operator training; which turned out to be just another production line although it was not nuts and bolts coming off of the end. Blackpool by that time was a sea of blue. Even Reginald Dixon the well known organist at the Tower Ballroom was in uniform as a Corporal drill instructor and his duties seemed to leave him a lot of time to continue to play the organ.

It was a welcome break to go along to the ballroom to enjoy his recitals. 'Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside' always seemed to be booming out some time of the day, but it was no holiday for us.

The boarding houses had been taken over in the same way as they had been at Skegness and they had crammed even more double bunks in so that there were about ten times the number of "guests" that would have normally have been accommodated in peace time.

It was a new experience to eat in our billets which was a change from the mass catering that I had been getting used to but although the landladies did their best with the ration allowances they did seem to dish up some strange things at times. Nevertheless, my taste buds had already undergone a change and I recall that I was eating a lot of dishes that I would have previously turned up my nose at. It was either that or go hungry!.

Our days were divided between morse training and drill with weekly visits to the swimming pool for our bath. The bath arrangement killed two birds with one stone as all the boarding house bathrooms were either locked up or otherwise out of bounds to us. We used the bedroom washbasins. The alternative to a [underlined] real [/underlined] bath was to partially heat a swimming pool.

The tram-car sheds had been converted for signals training and had been fitted with long tables equipped with headsets and morse keys, and stony faced civilian instructors seated at the

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end of each table.

Half the day was taken up in this environment getting used to the incessant dit,dit,dit,dah,dah,dah, at increasing speeds until the bell went to give us a break or when someone cracked up under the pressure and had to be carried away screaming or crying. It was not only the WAAFS that were affected that way!. No-one who ever went out that way ever came back but there were other ways of being withdrawn from training. It very nearly happened to me when I got 'stuck' at one speed and it was only after pleading with the chief instructor that I finally made the breakthrough.

Then one reached the stage where there was a progress test undertaken in the most nerve racking place. It was in the upper floor cutting rooms of Burtons, 'The Fifty Shilling Tailors', which had also been requisitioned.

The room was set out in a semi circle of tables facing a raised dais upon which there was one table with an elaborate brass morse sending key and a headset. All of the other tables just had headsets.

As we progressed through the course we were tested at an appropriate speed with no re-test if we could not meet the requirements, until the final test came up.

If anyone failed at that point they were washed out, finished, ceased training, call it what you like; and were sent off somewhere else to be something else.

The tension started to mount when the Warrant Officer who was conducting the test, appeared in his white dust coat and issued a dire warning about cheating. After that he set a metronome going to monitor the speed, and by the time he made his first signals check to ensure that everyone was hearing satisfactorily every nerve in the body was jangling.

By the time the opening dit,dit,dit,dah,dit, had come across some people had already gone to pieces but the remainder squared up their papers, checked that their half a dozen pencils were at the ready in case of breakages, and with one more deep breath just ploughed on hoping to get the test piece down with no more than the permitted number of mistakes.

It was inevitable that a good many people 'went for a Burton' in that place. 'Going for a Burton' was a phrase among aircrew

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when referring to those who for obvious reasons had disappeared from active service. That was the signals side of Blackpool apart from the fact that we even tried to read everything in dots and dashes. The paper, the hoardings, even our letters from home. The locals must have thought we were all daft but as in most skills it was a case of practice making things perfect or at least proficient, but I recall that we used to get some strange looks.

A lot of our time was spent in Stanley Park, the Tower Ballroom, and the public baths where we had our weekly bath; (unless one was rich enough to bribe a landlady). and that weekly bath in our case was combined with dinghy drill.

It is indellibly [sic] imprinted on my mind.

Stanley Park was bad enough with incessant marching up and down doing rifle and bayonet drill with a crazy old F/Sgt who worked us up to a pitch where we could have quite cheerfully put one through him. I'm sure old Freddie Fox knew that too.

The baths were something quite different.

Few people had swimwear and in fact it was considered 'cissy' to wear it anyway so several hundred blokes in their birthday suit's were quite a sight and there was a great deal of speculation as to the sight when they were replaced by WAAFS in the same state of undress. The mind boggled!.

To my knowledge no-one ever found out although there were a few bets taken. but security was very strict and WAAF Police replaced RAF Police when the switch was made and a roll call confirmed before the actual change over was made.

Despite the fact that I had been brought up by the seaside I was not a good swimmer, probably due to the fact that I had been pushed in at the deep end at an early learning stage. Being a slow learner I had swallowed a lot of water before being dragged out and pumped dry. It is hardly surprising that thereafter I was not attracted to deep water. Especially the cold variety.

Nevertheless, I did manage to swim the required width across the deep end to qualify as proficient but it was only the preliminary to the so called 'dinghy drill'.

I always seemed to go straight into a state of shock when it came to donning an icy cold, wet and heavy Sidcot

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flying suit, plus parachute harness and 'Mae West' life jacket which was inflated by the mouth after being thrown in. In practice the inflation was done by operating a pressure cylinder toggle but we had to do it the hard way.

There was an awful lot of floundering around after entering the water without swallowing too much especially with all the weight one was carrying, and suffering from the others making waves and generally simulating heavy seas before getting into the dinghy. It made things very difficult and I did not even enjoy doing the aggravation bit to others either.

There were times I could have cheerfully packed it in and remustered to a less demanding ground job but somehow I stuck it out.

[line of stars]

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The day finally dawned when the agony was over and with others I was off to Yatesbury in Wiltshire to learn all about procedures and equipment.

At last I was doing something tangible and I sailed through the course to be awarded the 'sparks' badge at the end plus a few more pennies in my pocket.

I certainly needed the latter as at Mildenhall I had for some reason been overpaid to the extent of being some £5 in the red at one time so deductions had been savagely made until the debt had been paid off. I could have settled it in cash at the time but I was told that the accounts section did not have a procedure for it so for a long time I had only been receiving 5/- five shillings, (25p) every two weeks and in a place like Blackpool my cash balance did not last long. It was no fun at all.

I was very glad when it had been finally settled and I no longer had to rely on the kindness of others for the odd cigarette, cups of tea and buns as well as the odd postal order from home. I'm sure a lot of others were pleased about it too.

I did manage to make up for the lack of certain 'home comforts', namely food, on one occasion though.

On a physical training run at Yatesbury one afternoon I decided that I had had enough and dodged the column by peeling off between some huts followed by a shout from a Cpl. who had seen me go. With that I put on a spurt with the intention of rejoining the party further down the route but did not reckon on the ability of the PTI.(Physical Training Instructor). He caught up with me first and that was me on a charge.

Later, when asked by the officer why I had not stopped when told to do so I simply told the truth and said that I thought that I could run faster than the PTI and that I had hoped to beat him back to the group. My award for failing to do so was three days C.C. (confined to camp), full marching kit parades twice a day at the guard room and kitchen fatigues to go with it. I didn't mind one bit!. I had nowhere to go anyway and I finished up being one of the few people in that place who was getting [underlined] four [/underlined] meals a day for a while.

It was worth peeling buckets of spuds and cleaning a mountain of dirty dishes and pans. The cooks were sympathetic and served up generous helpings as they would for themselves. I do not

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ever recall seeing a skinny cook!.

Someone had got hold of the idea that if you were particularly good at morse beyond the basic standard required then there would be a chance of being earmarked for Coastal Command so with others I put in the extra effort and time and achieved the extra speed almost up to Navy Telegraphist standard.

In principal it seemed a good idea when Bomber Command losses were reaching somewhat frightening proportions but it did not do me or anyone else any good at all as far as I can recall.

As soon as the course was over we were dispersed all over the place; mainly in Bomber Command, to consolidate the training doing all the things that Wireless Operators did and still wondering if it was all worth while.

I went to Marham in Norfolk.

[line of stars]




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I covered a lot of ground whilst I was at Marham but I still had to get airborne and there was a long way to go.

I suppose that being aircrew under training had a lot to do with the fact that I was given a wide experience of different jobs in a very short space of time. That is what I thought at the time anyway!.

I started out on the flight line doing daily inspections and ground tests on Wellington and Stirling radio equipments and was later transferred to what was then called Flying Control; as the R/T (Radio Telephone) operator.

Theoretically my job was to relay the controllers instructions to aircraft but everything seemed so incredibly slap-happy during daylight hours that I often found myself doing the actual control whilst the controller kept an ear open in the background.

I found myself particularly attracted to the two Thompson machine guns that were kept in boxes in the control tower. So much so that I was permitted to clean and polish then regularly; provided that I did not put the magazines on!. One particular controller seemed pleased to have someone around that was familiar with then as he certainly was not. My Hone Guard experience again. We only had one in the platoon but everyone knew how to use it!.

On one occasion during a quiet lunchtime with no movements notified I was on my own in the control tower when a Stirling arrived in the circuit and the pilot asked for landing instructions, but the pilot would not circle whilst I got in touch with the controller so I finally gave landing permission. Having given taxying and parking instructions I dashed out of the tower to marshall [sic] it in next to the tower. I was amazed to find that the pilot was a very small lady of the ATA. (Air Transport Auxillary [sic] ) and her only crew was a flight engineer.

I did not have such choice after that but to sign for the aircraft and then had another surprise when an Anson landed and taxied in without any warning at all. The pilot was non other than Jim Mollison who was doing the taxi driving to take the Stirling crew out.

The controller who had seen the activity from the Mess soon came dashing along after he had seen the aircraft in the.......

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circuit and were very surprised to find a brand new Stirling neatly parked but I got a hell of a rollicking for my efforts.

Things got tightened up eventually when another aircraft arrived that no-one seemed to know about. As R/T operator I also performed the duties of 'airmen of the watch' and although I had registered the notification signal in the log and written the details on the movements board it would appear that the controller had not placed a great deal of importance on the movement. As a result he was unaware of the visit of a VIP, (Very Important Person). None other than the Under secretary of State for Air!. Phew!, that caused a stir when he did realise what the score was. The Station Commander was not too pleased either!.

I suppose someone's head had to roll and it was possibly mine as I started a series of detachments to widen my scope of knowledge; unless it was to keep me out of the way!.

I did the rounds of Honington and East Wretham and numerous jobs and being of an inquisitive nature soon found out how things ticked.

At one time I was surprised to find that elements of the Czeck [sic] . Air Force were making a great deal of fuss over what they considered to be their low pay (they were paid RAF rates, Sgt's about £4.50 a week) then the unit moved and things went quiet.

Although I was expecting to be recalled to Marham it was still a shock when it happened. Even more so when I was required to draw flying clothing and prepare to go back to Yatesbury for the air training course. After that everything happened so fast that I wondered what had hit me. It was already mid 1942 and as our activities increased so were our aircraft losses increasing. It was with some apprehension that I embarked on this part of my training. My feelings were not improved when on the morning of departure; waiting for transport at the Guard Room. I was detailed off by the SWO (Station Warrant Officer), to help collect a coffin from the morgue and load it on the transport where it was draped with the Union flag.

I don't know if the SWO had remembered me from another incident which surely should have stuck in his mind, but whether he did or not I have reason to remember it as I was taught another lesson.

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It so happened that I snored; even in those days, which was not a good thing in amongst a crowd of people. In the barracks where we were jammed in with hardly room to move between the beds it was a considerable source of annoyance to my neighbours; if not the whole room although I was not the only one with the problem. It was just worse when I had put a few pints under the belt.

It was not unusual to wake up in the morning to find myself surrounded by a selection of footwear that had been hurled in my direction during the night. Whether any found it's target I would not know. I was usually too far gone.

There was one night that the others in the room could no longer put up with it even when well aimed No. 9's did not do the job and suffice to say that when the SWO marched onto the parade ground is the morning for the colour hoisting parade there I was, still fast asleep in my bed at the foot of the flag pole.

It was a hell of a situation as I struggled back to the billet with my bed and bedding with the SWO hurling dire threats after me. Good job I wore singlet and PT shorts in bed!.

However. it had not resulted in direct punishment. I was still on the mat of course but in my defence I stated that as I had known absolutely nothing about it by virtue of being asleep throughout the whole episode I could not be held responsible.

You can't tell SWO's things like that and get away with it even if the case was dismissed. It was not surprising that after the incident I found myself on guard duty every other night for two weeks, and that included the evening parade as well as the morning colour hoisting parade that the duty people did. It was very uncomfortable being under the eagle eye of the SWO all the time so my turnout and drill had to be impeccable to avoid further punishment. Somehow I got away with it. When detailed off for the loading up I was foolish enough to ask what had happened to the poor chap in the box; only to be told by the man, with a glint in his eye, that it was a Sgt. Air Gunner who had 'copped a packet' a few night [sic] previously. After that I was only too glad to see the coffin subsequently placed in the guards van and draped with the union flag in the care.....

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of the escorts whilst I took off to another part of the train and tried to forget about it.

Back at Yatesbury there were some familiar faces among the entry and we were in a different part of the camp; more or less segregated from the 'sprog' wireless operators, but otherwise there was little difference.

It was not long before many of us were sporting Leading Aircraftsman 'props', and a few more pennies came in useful as well. There was no such thing as a flying pay supplement in those days.

As usual the day was split between job training and other activities, and I was looking forward to the air experience part of it. At last I was going to get airborne and I was all set to enjoy it. It was the beginning of many occasions when I was to feel somewhat disillusioned about taking to the air.

Our initial flying was done in the De.Haviland Dominie as the RAF called them. Many were in fact ex. civilian Rapide's that had been requisitioned and as a result had had a name change and were flown by a mixture of civilian and service pilots.

They were fitted out with several radio positions at which we carried out exercises under the supervision of a Cpl. Instructor with a similar set-up on the ground where we also worked in rotation.

There was of course no toilet compartment, and not even the paper bag that is standard in today's aircraft. There was just an open square biscuit tin of the type that the ancient 'hard tack' biscuit came in, (circa 1917), and there were plenty of those.

That type of biscuit was being substituted for bread several times a week in most units as a great deal of our flour was being sent to the bottom of the Atlantic by the U.Boats, and the civilian population had preference when what limited flour supplies were being distributed. Hence the endless supply of tins. We were obliged to use them instead of paper bags but it was all very crude. It was loose on the floor for anyone to use as necessary. Ugh!!!.

It was a most nauseating experience as most of us were getting airborne for the first time so we were a bit queasy, and more!. It was all part of the elimination process. Anyone who spent

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more time at the 'throw-up' tin was threatened with withdrawal from training and remustered to ground wireless operator.

It was very difficult to force one's self to overcome the discomfort sufficiently to get back to work but the process was motivated by the fact that the rule was that the last one to use the tin was the one that had to dispose of it after landing. Yuk!. I made sure that it was not me.

I was not sorry to progress from that stage to the single engined Proctor for solo exercises. Then I only had myself to worry about…….and the pilot!.

By that time I was getting increasingly aware of the varying abilities of pilots. Not that I had had any alarming experiences, but the seat of my pants was always a very sensitive indicator of how a machine was handled.

It is difficult to explain but I had always had the same sensitivity either in a car or on the back of a motor-bike and that feeling was beginning to develops in respect of pilots. I had come to the conclusion that there were pilots and 'drivers airframe' to use a stores nomenclature description of an item, and it was always to be the same. I knew whether I was comfortable or not.


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On completion of the course the next move was to an Advanced Flying Unit at Penrhos, North Wales, on the Lleyn peninsular.

I fell in love with that area right from the start and still have a soft spot for it. The years have changed it very little. It was only a small airfield operating Ansons in which Wireless Operators and Navigators carried out more advanced exercises which covered a lot more countryside and took us almost up to the level where oxygen was needed. Just one more thing to contend with.

The pilots were all service types doing a stint as taxy driver to get more hours and experience as they progressed in their training but I had hardly settled in when I picked up a 'buzz' that was going around concerning a certain pilot who apparently was putting the wind up a lot of people.

He had gained a reputation for doing some crazy things and until quite recently had made a habit of flying under the Menai bridge which is the magnificent old bridge built by Thomas Telford across the straits between the mainland and Anglesey.

The practice had just been strictly forbidden under threat of the most severe punishment because someone else had tried it but had killed himself and a few others in the process.

Most people seemed to be keeping their fingers crossed hoping that they could avoid flying with him so I faced the future with some apprehension when I found myself on a flight detail with him as pilot.

My first impression of Sergeant. Francis, Cadell, Macdonald was that he did not look the sort that could put the wind up anyone. I had expected a 'jolly hockey stick' type such as the Pilot Officer Prune, (the accident prone cartoon twit), who featured in an Air Force Magazine, but as he did not fit that category I was forced to the conclusion that he must be downright ham-fisted.

It was a surprise to find that he was a little older than the average pilot, certainly on the wrong side of thirty, and it was many, many years before I was to find out exactly how old he was.

First impressions were of a strangely rugged character with rusty fuze wire type of hair with a heavy drooping moustache to match who seemed strangely out of proportion.

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It took a second look to find the real reason for that impression. His torso was that of a six footer, with well developed chest, arms like the branches of a tree but he had short stocky legs giving him an overall height of no more than 5ft 7ins.

In standard battledress which was designed to be purely functional he looked as if he was suffering from a severe case of 'ducks disease'.

We climbed aboard the aircraft after a briefing that was brief and to the point. "If we get into trouble I will tell you what to do, whether you jump or not, and you only jump when I tell you to. Got that?”. Then he started up, taxied out and took off and although I had my eyes shut during the first part of the routine I opened when there were no unusual sensations and wondered what all the fuss had been about. My sensitive parts had given out no alert signals and it all seemed pretty normal to me.

As the exercise progressed I virtually forgot that I was in an aeroplane despite what he was doing with the machine although it was impossible not to notice that he seemed to be trying to turn it inside out in the gentlest possible way.

The main issue was that I did feel any discomfort at all although a few hill sheep might have done so as we steamed up one side of Snowdon and down the other and we seemed to balanced on one wingtip as we went around the Great Orme on Anglesey with Puffins and other sea birds getting somewhat agitated by the disturbance. My insides took no longer to settle down after that flight than they normally did so I decided that I could cope with that sort of treatment at any time and it certainly made life interesting. My companions still had different ideas though as the stories of his various escapades became more and more exagerated [sic].

Before I left Penrhos I learned a little more about him whilst he was still scaring the daylights out of others.

He was reputed to have previously been Chief Engineer to Gar Wood the racing driver of pre-war years and although I have never found the need to verify the story I have never had reason

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to doubt it either.

As far as I was concerned he certainly knew what he was doing and that was good enough for me.

The operator training became more and more demanding as time went on and I had reached a point where there was a great deal of satisfaction in being able to transmit and receive messages in morse, juggle with frequencies and identify my control station through a cacophany [sic] of background noise. It was gratifying to be able to code and encode messages efficiently but as usual it was not all work and no play. I think we would have gone daft under the pressure if it had been. The pattern was the same as before with the days split between training and exercising.

There were invariably some high jinks in Pwllheli where the Royal Navy had taken over the nearby Butlins as a training establishment and in the traditional Navy way had named it HMS something or other.

There were all sorts of derisive remarks about Nary terminoligy [sic] as they called the bus the 'liberty boat' and they had to salute the 'quarter deck' on leaving and boarding their 'ship'. We called it the main gate!.

Of course we countered with suitable remarks about our 'wizard prangs', 'bombs away' and 'chocks away', but some they resented their 'ship' being called HMS Bullshit, all of which resulted in some good nattered rowdy exchanges in the local pubs.

There was a lot of ale sloshed around. and a great many fried eggs consumed in the basement kitchen of a sea front hotel after chuckout time at 6d, (2 1/2 new pence) each.

The 'end of course' party was a great success and I recall putting in a great deal of effort into assisting one member of the course with some conjuring tricks. He was a member of the Magic Circle and why he picked me I haven't the slightest idea. Little did he know what that did for my confidence which was being somewhat undermined by the realisation that I seemed to be accident prone. As it happened, the, programme went without a hitch and that little exercise did me a great deal of good.

I only vaguely remember the return to camp after that party. It was somewhat hilarious as we came back via the beach where several of us had to be rescued from the sand dunes where we

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had capsised [sic] and ploughed up a lot of sand.

I finally collected my flying log book that recorded the entry of the flight with one Sgt.F.C.Macdonald and normally it would have been just one more entry without much significance as I continued on my travels once more.

[underlined] Fate decreed that we would meet up again!!. [/underlined]

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Page 30 And there’s more!

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I continued the process of going up and down the countryside like a yo-yo which was quite an experience for someone like me who had never ventured very far from the home town before the war and I was certainly getting to know my way around.

My next journey was to a gunnery school on Walney Island just off Barrow-in-Furness, flying old hacks such as Blackburn Botha's and Bolton Paul Defiants which seemed to be a very chancy business.

Most of the time the direction of take-off was straight towards a hill and if that was not bad enough the Botha was a death trap on one engine. If there was an engine failure it could not maintain height on one and the emergency exit was straight into the propellor. Turning or not it was dicey.

The Defiant was not so bad although it had a nasty habit of flopping onto it's side in the air if the gunner failed to inform the pilot that he was rotating and firing on the beam. The pilot needed that information so that he could counteract his controls and it was not all that easy to get out of either if in trouble. I have the greatest admiration for the chaps that went into battle in those things.

Somehow I struggled through that period in the depths of winter and at one stage I was very close to being put back in training when I went down with a severe cold and only just avoided going sick, especially as we had strict orders about flying whilst suffering from a cold which resulted in bunged up nose and ears. I felt so bad one evening that I doped myself with whisky and asprin and retired to bed early after a hot shower even though it meant going to and from the ablutions through several inches of snow.

By the time the others came back to the hut later in the evening my condition had them so worried that they woke me up.

There was a considerable cloud of steam rising from me but once they were assured that I was not on fire the threw more blankets on me to continue sweating it out.

Despite the fact that I was a bit wobbly in the morning I still managed to fly my last detail and in fact even get a good score but the rest of the time there is a blurr [sic] .

I have vague recollections of Northen [sic] ale which appeared to be a lot stronger than average and of an hilarious evening at


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a vaudeville in Borrow where most of the course occupied the front row of the stalls, booing and cheering the acts as seemed appropriate.

There were often rowdy exchanges with the conciencious [sic] objectors who were formed into non-combatant pioneer units to man things like smoke generators to mask the docks from air raids, and some energetic clashes with strong minded and well muscled WAAFS who manned a lot of the searchlights and barrage balloons. All good clean fun!.

Eventually, in the end came the passing out parade and the award of the cherished Air Gunners brevet with promotion to Sergeant, and although that was only the outward sign of qualified aircrew it did at least take the place of what had by that time a very grubby white cap flash.


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There was still a lot of training to do, and more travelling as well.

The travelling was not so easy by that time as most of us had gathered more flying kit so everywhere we went it meant struggling with two kit bags.

The next port of call was a Wellington Operational Training Unit at Turweston, which was a satelight [sic] unit of No.12 OUT Chipping Warden, both near Banbury. Oxford. 'A' and 'B' Flights were at Chipping Warden and 'C' and 'D' Flights were at Turweston.

It was there that crews were put together more or less by mutual agreement.

In the first 24 hours everyone just browsed around gathering more paperwork, dealing with arrival procedures and generally making one's self known.

I had hardly settled in when the 'jungle telegraph' was sending out the news that a certain Scotsmen had also turned up. The notorious F.C. Macdonald!.

There were frantic efforts being made by people to find themselves another pilot of their choice. Anyone but him!.

I was not fussy, or for that matter as quick off the mark as some. I had met a Navigator who had also been at Penrhos and had not yet found himself a pilot and although he could not remember Macdonald he found him and introduced himself.

By the next day Macdonald had made up his mind and the crew lists went up on the notice board.

I was looking them over when he came up with a group and announced rather ungraciously, “so we have got you have we?".

A remark that was not designed to inspire confidence although I must confess that I felt a lot happier with someone of known qualities so I was not unduly concerned.

That was the way that the crew came together. I don't think any of us were very special.

Macdonalds background was still vague and was always remain so although I gathered that he was married but separated.

Peter Hobbs, the navigator, was an ex Cpl. accounts clerk who


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had been in the Voluntary Reserve. Both he and Macdonald were a little older than the average and were newly commissioned Pilot Officers.

We actually started with a commissioned Observer/Bomb Aimer but he did not last long.

It transpired that he had already flunked a pilots course, and a navigators coarse so they made him a Bomb/Aimer before they found out that he was too tall for the front turret so off he went to retrain once more.

He might well have been doing courses later on in the war to qualify for some-thing although it is just as likely that he may well have distinguished himself somehow.

He had certainly been been [sic] determined to be aircrew anyway but I must admit that his case was the result of a policy that I was never able to come to terms with.

To commission someone first and then go to considerable lengths to see if he was any good at anything was odd to say the least. However, that is another story!.


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In the place of 'mastermind' we got 'Hoppy’ Hill, so named because he bounced and rolled on the balls of his feet when he walked around invariably with a novel of some sort tucked under his arm. I never did find out what he had been doing before he joined the RAF.

Then we had another Mac. McIlroy, a Canadian Rear Gunner who had been at Walney Island at the same time as myself although I could not recall him. He had been with the Canadian Pacific Railway in some capacity although in his own words he had spent most of his time doing trying to do nothing.

Then there was me. A cabinet maker/polisher who had finished up doing almost anything to remain employed; and I mean anything. My last civilian employment had bees as a milk roundsman!.

Nevertheless, whatever we had been doing we were all in the same boat (or aeroplane) and we all had one thing to common. That was to get on with it and hope to come out of it is one piece.

We were a fairly wild bunch in our off duty periods but I would not think that we were any worse than any other crew.

It was from that point onward that living, working and playing as a crew started. It was for me anyway. Almost to the exclusion of everything else.

Suddenly it seemed that my youthful ambitions had been fullfilled [sic] although it was a pity it had come about under such circumstances.

The most important thing was that we got on well together and we concentrated on getting moulded into a crew which involved an airborne discipline that few people could understand considering our peculiar life style.

Although our crew seemed to be the ideal balance of officers and NCO's with commissioned Pilot and Navigator some crews had formed up with some very odd mixtures with Sgt. pilots and commissioned gunners but which ever way they were mixed the pilot was always the captain is the air.

This arrangement was incomprehensible to some Army and Navy types and even the USAAF. It did not seem compatable [sic] with the normal chain of command yet it worked satisfactorily within the RAF.

Mac, as he was always to be knows, still looked as lumpy in


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his new uniform as he did when we had first met despite a change of rank insignia and a fancy cap but there were more important things to concern ourselves with than how people looked.

We had far more serious things on our minds.

Flying had become a very serious business and if we were going to be together for any length of time we would be relying on each other a great deal for survival and it was to that end that Mac went about his part of the programme as if he had been born with wings.

As far as I was concerned he was an absolute natural and on more than one occasion I was asked by wireless operators in other crews how I got on with him.

I think some of then may well have been regretting their choice of pilot and were looking for a way out but I usually pointed out that I was in no way considering a change. Particularly as no-one saw us overshooting from missed approaches to the runway or had seen us swinging about all over the place on landing or take-off as I had often seen others doing, so what more could I ask?.

On more then one occasion I was told that I would be sorry, (as if I had made the choice): But I never was....Not once!.

I got the distinct impression that for some reason Mac was not very impressed with wireless operators, although from his occasional remark he seemed more interested in having a spare gunner aboard, and I was beginning to feel very spare until one night I had the opportunity to exercise some of my training. We were flying is the local area of Chipping Warden one night when the voltage regulator down by my left foot went haywire and burst into flames.

The voltage shot up and batteries started to cook immediately so I had to work very fast to tell Mac what I was going to do before switching the Ground/Flight switch to ground which cut us off of the engine driven generators, then go rapidly through the fire drill whilst Mac called control for an emergency landing on what little internal battery power we had left.

He did happen to mention afterwards that perhaps a wireless op. might have some use in a crew after all. Only perhaps!.

As time went on we did get to know him a little better although he was one of those chaps you could never get really close to.


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He was not actually unsociable but uncommunicative. More often then not when asked a question on a subject which was not directly related to what we were currently doing his answer would be a knowing wink, a tap on the side of his nose with his forfinger [sic] which could be taken to mean anything; like, "I don't know", or, " leave it to me” or," mind your own bloody business!".

No doubt some people would call it the attitude of a dour, canny Scot but I did get a satisfactory answer on one occasion when I asked him about flying under the Menie [sic] Bridge. His words for once were encouraging.

"Only a bloody fool would attempt that without the wind on the nose, at low tide and through the widest span'", and then I knew that he was not as crazy as some people would like to think.

That in my book added up to a calculated risk, and there were some more to come.

As we ploughed on through the course a great deal of time was spent in the 'Harwell Box' which was a compartmented type of simulator in which we practiced all of the airborne procedures for a bombing sortie, [underlined] only at twice normal speed!. [/underlined]


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All the clock faces had been altered to achieve the time factor and we had to work frantically to keep up with all of the information that was being fed to us from umpteen different sources: It certainly kept us on the ball, particularly the navigator.

That was not the only simulation. For the first time our operating heights were soon to be up in the rarified [sic] air above 10,000ft for lengthy periods. Above that height the use of oxygen was essential and mandatory, and just to wake sure that no-one treated the matter lightly we were introduced to the decompression chamber.

Eight at a time with a medical orderly, we entered the tank which was fitted with inter-comm and after it was sealed the pumps started to reduce the pressure as one would experience in flight.

When 10,000ft was reached on the internal altimeter we fitted our oxygen masks and then the pressure was progressivly [sic] reduced until the altimeter read first 15,000ft, then 20,000 and finally 25,000ft by which time various parts of our internal plumbing were beginning to respond to the pressure change.

We had been provided with note pads and pencils and were than told to start writing our names on the pads as the oxygen supply was turned off.

I was no different from the others when the voice on the inter comm said that the oxygen was back on and we were called by our names and asked to describe any sensations that we had experienced and the answer was unanimous. Nothing!. But the shock came when we were told to look at our pads.

Our signatures had tailed off into an unintellible [sic] scribble and then re-appeared at the bottom of the page.

The realisation hit us all. Although most of us had experienced some light headedness as the pressure lowered we had not been aware that that was the warning that could lead to oblivion and possible death. It was frightening to think that the process was so insidious that it was possible to be unaware of it.


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After that little demonstration no-one needed any further warning on how to recognise the early effects of the lack of oxygen and I was later to find that my tolerance was quite low and I usually needed oxygen at 8,000ft, and that if I needed to move about I had to be fairly quick when going from a main point to a portable bottle especially later on when I was often sitting next to a damned great hole at the back end of the aircraft where there was no main outlet.

The training got more and more realistic both in the air and on the ground. We had got used to the parachute harness and packs by that time and the short briefing on it's use such as "after you have jumped, count ten and pull that", but suddenly it got serious now that we were going to have to face all sorts of unknown difficulties whilst we were defying the laws of gravity.

We started more intensive training off a rig. First without 'chutes just jumping off of a 12ft platform onto coco mats and then right up in the eaves of a hanger with harness and weighted cable system.

The landings were the same spine jarring thump either way as we made contact with the ground with feet together, knees slightly bent, slight angle to the direction of landing to roll over shoulder and hip on contact.

That was the classical way of doing it if you had the opportunity!. A very good friend was not so lucky when his turn came. He had already received a smashed arm when the aircraft was hit but although some of the crew put his 'chute on and threw him out he lost consciousness on the way down and busted a leg is several places on landing. But he fared better than the others. They all went down with the aeroplane!

Perhaps I was fortunate in my approach to the training and found no great difficulty but others were not so lucky and were required to do it again and again until they had improved their technique but not without a few sprains and bruises as one ploughed on through the course.

We finally completed it with a better than average crew assessment and then we were all on our travels again, but for the first time as a crew.


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Our next destination was to a Stirling Conversion Unit at Stradishall, near Bury St Edmunds. Back in-Bomber country again!. We had known that we were destined for "heavies' long before we left OTU. In fact, I had known before I left gunnery school as I had only done the short course for wireless operators and bomb-aimers, and my log book had been annotated accordingly.

Nevertheless, I had hoped that I would finish up on Lancasters or Halifax's as I already knew enough about Stirlings to be very wary of them.

When I had marshalled in a new one on delivery to Mareham [sic] I had been amazed that the pilot of the monster had been a very small lady of the ATA.

The Stirling was impressive. Although it looked very big it’s dimensions were not much more than the other 'heavies'. It was just that it looked so incredibly bulky.

It stood high on an undercarriage that looked more like some scaffolding around a building, placing the pilot's eye some 22 1/2 ft above the ground which was very high for those days and did not make the assessment of the distance between the wheels and the runway any easier whom landing the thing.

I was also well aware that they had been causing all sorts of problems when the Marham Squadrons were converting to them resulting in all sorts of hair raising incidents and bent aeroplanes.

At least I was familiar with it, and the radio compartment but the fact that I was going to finish up as a crew member on one was a thought that I had not entertained.

Soon after arrival the crew was made up to seven by the addition of a Flight Engineer and a Mid-Upper Gunner.

'Paddy', the flight engineer was of course from the emerald isle and was no stranger to the Stirling having been a ground engineer on them at Waterbeach until he had remustered. He was several weeks into his conversion training and it was a long time afterwards that I learned that he had never flown before he got airborne with us. He must have wondered what he had let himself in for.

Certainly he had a nasty shock when instead of finding his pilot to be another fresh faced youngster he got this 'gnarled old man' as someone described his.


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It was suggested that his main task would be to help the poor old bloke in and out of the driving seat!.

It did not take him long to find out that Mac was something different.

The mid-upper was at the other end of the age scale. Ralph was a fresh faced youngster who had just about changed his Air Cadets uniform for RAF uniform although of course he had done the gunners course since joining and had been at Stradishall for a few weeks on a familaristion [sic] course. But he had not long been out of school.

The crew was now complete. although for a while there was a little doubt about us staying together as Mac found out that he was not exactly built for the Stirling; or visa versa.

The lady ATA pilot had been small but she had seemed to cope but I suppose it was a matter of proportion, and Mac's proportions were somewhat different.

With the controls and the seat adjusted to their limits he still needed some special padding made up to improve things. and the seat of his pants took a terrific beating as he wrestled, wriggled and sqirmed [sic] to handle the thing.

The take-off and landing characteristics of the machine did not help such either. An uncontrollable swing to starboard could develop very easily and the tall undercarriage would be incapable of standing the strain and 'crunch', another one would bite the dust adding to the numbers that ended up damaged by that sort of accident which was already in excess of the numbers lost by enemy action.

It usually depended on how fast you were going at the time whether you walked away or were carried away from the wreckage. Not a pleasant prospect!.

In theory the idea was that the engines were opened up on a staggered basis having due regard to any cross wind. until a speed was reached when the rudder would give effective control, then all engines could be taken to full power.

The snag was that with a full load there was never a lot of runway to spare so it was usually a choice of two evils. You either took a chance of running out of runway if you did not get the power on soon enough or you slammed it on at the beginning of the take off run and took your chance with a


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Mac seemed to have it down to a fine art.

Whatever the length of the runway. Whatever the load, the strength and direction of the wind. Whether the runway was uphill, downhill, or both, with bump or a hollow in the middle, his computer brain had it worked out. Whatever the circumstances and however tired he was we always seemed to make a perfect take-off and landing. So far I had not experienced a bad one with his at the controls.

Nevertheless, he was wearing out his pants at an alarming rate in the process.

So much so that the instructors were having serious doubts as to whether Mac and the Stirling were quite right for each other.

Then something happened that removed all the doubts.

On the night of 13th June 1943 we were doing night circuits and bumps in preparation for his first night solo.

After several circuits the check pilot gave Mac the thumbs up after another satisfactory landing and vacated the aircraft the aircraft in the vicinity of the control tower before we taxied around again for the next take-off.

After the usual pause for the routine cockpit check we entered the runway and were soon thundering along gathering speed; when it happened.

At the most critical point, almost half way down the runway, with about 90mph. on the clock, the port outer seized with a crunch that could be felt throughout the aircraft despite all the other sensations, and 30 tons of Stirling started to swing to port.

It was a wonder that the prop did not sheer off which would have been normal but the reflex action that went on in the cockpit was fast and furious. It had to be to prevent us from becoming another statistic.

Paddy closed down the dead engine by stabbing buttons and switches that cut the ignition to the engine, cut off the fuel, operated the bulkhead fire extinguishers and 'feathered' the propellor as Mac called for maximum power on the inboard engines as obviously his hands were very busy with the controls.

As Paddy took over the throttles and the propeller pitch controls the power came on with a bellow as he shoved the inboard


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We were just at the 'unstick' point and almost at take-off speed as the swing to port became more pronounced with Mac struggling desperately.

At least we were almost airborne which was better than being splattered all over the airfield and his efforts were being rewarded as we then started to go slowly into a starboard turn with only just enough speed on to keep us flying.

Standard procedures dictated that we had to go into a right hand circuit as it was invariably neccessary [sic] to turn away from the dead engine. There was so little margin of control if you went the other way that a nasty mess was the likely result.

Still close to the ground with wheels and flaps still down Mac was straining every muscle to maintain control but slowly and surely we increased our speed still swinging to starboard.

From my position in the astro dome I could see the hangars and the control tower dead ahead!.

If that wasn't out of the frying pan and into the fire!.

It looked as if it was going to be decidedly messy and certainly it was going to do me no good at all if I dived for my crash position…...and then we started to climb and bank as the speed had built up sufficiently.

With wings almost vertical we went between No's. 1 and 2 hangers, taking a telephone line with us. I had a very unusual view of the water tower as we went around it straight into a very low level emergency right hand circuit for a landing that was just like all the others. As smooth as silk. Even under those circumstances.

It was shortly after we had landed that I became aware of the fact that I seemed to have been holding my breath for a very long time and I had been very close to ceasing to breath altogether.

We taxied around to the control tower to pick up the instuctor [sic] pilot and when he came aboard he was still very much out of breath as like most of the staff in the tower, he had abandoned it rapidly as we headed straight for it.

He just managed to gasp "you'll' do" before we taxied back to dispersal.

There was so doubt in our minds anyway. He had tamed the beast and there congratulations all round.


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Mac's reaction was normal. A wink and a tap on the side of his nose. No comment!.

After that there was very little let up as the training including flying intensified. Mac continued to wear out his trousers in his efforts to maintain control and that’s what it was all about as far as he was concerned. Total perfection, and he never, ever, let the machine take over. We had absolute confidence in him.

The only other incident of any note throughout the course occurred shortly after we had landed one night and had got back to the billet. A Ju.88 intruder who had followed someone in tried to shoot him up on the runway without success. He sprayed lead all over the place and I think the most damage was done to a window above my bed in the barrack block. I was under it!. There was no one hurt although my bed was showered with glass.

That sort of effort did not impress us very much if that was the best they could do. It all seemed a bit panic stricken and I had seen plenty of similar activity on the South Coast where air raids on Worthing had been mainly of the hit and run type.

I had been close to several attacks as they came blasting along the railway line and the shunting yards but they never hit the gas works which was opposite the hospital; which was just as well as my father was invariably fire watching on top during a raid.

Not one bomb fell on the railway line or the signal boxes in the local area but there was a fair amount of damage to civilian property and loss of life. The flat in which I had spent the first few years of my life was one that collected a direct hit although mostly the bombs fell in open ground.

There is still evidence to this day of the occasion when an Me.110 straffed [sic] along the line. The metal footbridge between East Worthing and Worthing Central still has the canon shell holes in it and my wife remembers it well.

She was walking along the road parallel to the railway when this chap came blasting in firing both front and rear guns and she was obliged to make a hasty dive over a low wall into someone's garden for safety.

Even then I thought it was a bit panic stricken and not very effective.


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It was whilst I was at Stradishall that I saw the half scale Stirling in one of the hangars. A very interesting little machine. It was about the size of a Wellington with a cockpit just big enough for two in tandem, and four little two blade props on Pobjoy engines. It had been built for test purposes early on, whilst the full size machine was still in the design stage. Even then it was-fall of snags but they pressed on.

No-one sees to know what happened to it eventually. It had been pranged and was not airworthy but it just seems to have dissapeared [sic] . Perhaps it will turn up at the back of a barn one days!.


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[underlined] THE SHORT BROS. S.29."STIRLING" [/underlined]

Built by Short Brothers, Rochester & Belfast and Austins, Longbridge.

First flight (Mk.I) 14th May 1939. Followed by Mk's II, III, IV & V.

Began with daylight operations in 1941 before switching to night operations until the end of 1943. Later used as glider tugs. paratroop and supply dropping and finally transports.

2,374 of all types manufactured but none remained in flying service after the early 1950's.

[line of stars]

[underlined] Model B.Mklll [/underlined]

Span...................99ft 1in.

Length………………87ft 3in.

Max. all-up weight…………70,000lb.

Max. speed…………270 mph. (Economical cruising 180mph. fully loaded)

Range……………….Max. 2010mls. (According to load).

Service ceiling………17,000ft.(14-15,000ft with max. load)

Engines………Four 1,650bhp. Bristol Hercules Mk.XVl
2 stage, supercharged, sleeve valve, 14 cylinder radials.

Defensive armament…….8 .303in. Browning m/g. 2 in dorsal and front turrets. 4 in rear turret. All power operated.

Max. bomb load………..14,000lb. (Max. bomb size 2000lb.

[line of stars]


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[deleted] 44 [/deleted]


Pilot………………………..………..who was always the captain.

Navigator……………………..…..who was also trained as a bomb aimer.

Observer/bomb aimer…..….who was also trained in navigation and was front gunner.

Flight Engineer………..………...was responsible for monitoring the engines and other systems. Often acted as co-pilot.

Wireless operator/gunner….communications, radio direction finding and trained reserve gunner.

Mid-upper gunner……………..)were interchangable [sic] between positions

Rear Gunner……………….…….)but generally preferred one position.

Note:- On occasions another pilot was allocated to the basic crew for operational familiarisation and became the co-pilot.

[line of stars]


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[deleted] 45 [/deleted]

It was the middle of June when we left Stradishall and it was a pleasant change not to have to travel too far to our new unit. We moved by truck just a few miles up the road to Chedburgh, a satelite [sic] station of Stradishall.

Most Stirling units were concentrated in East Anglia and we were to join a new Squadron being formed on the day we arrived. The Squadron had been numbered 620 and we would be the partner to 214 Squadron which had been in residence for some time. It had been formed by the standard procedure of hiving off 'C' flights from established Squadrons. In this case 'C' flights from both 214 Squadron and 149 from Mildenhall; by coincidence the same Squadron that I had been with at Mildenhall previously. To assist the rapid build-up new crews direct from training were being added so with virtually a snap of the fingers the new Squadron was born on the 17th June 1943.

Chedburgh was just another war-time airfield that like so many had just mushroomed all over the countryside by the hundred. A tremendous achievement both in planning and engineering considering the enormous amount of material and man-power each one absorbed. It was not surprising that Britian [sic] was often referred to as an unsinkable aircraft carrier. There were over 100 airfields in East Anglia alone!.

They were all built to the same basic pattern with Nissen huts all over the place with dispersed accomodation [sic] tucked away in woods and down country lanes that ensured that everyone had plenty of exercise in the process of getting to and from their place of work.

The airfield was situated alongside the A143 Bury St Edmunds to Haverhill road and the set up was much the same as any other unit.

The Station support services comprised an Administrative Wing, a Technical Wing and a Flying Wing and within the latter were the flying units, the Squadrons, which were independant [sic] units.

Altogether the station was manned by between 1800 and 2000 people including Squadron personnel, with an establishment of 16 air-craft per Squadron. plus 4 reserves. Theorhetically [sic] that should have given the station a total of 40 aircraft but we were rarely up to even the basic strength and then not for very


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All the arrival formalities that we had done so often were soon completed with introductions to the Squadron and Flight Commander as well as the specialist leaders, in my case the Signals Leader, who was an operational Wireless Operator filling the position by virtue of his previous experience and seniority.

With all that attended to Mac had received his instructions from 'B' Flight Commander and we boarded the bus that continually circled the outer edge of the airfield where the aircraft were dispersed.

On the way we passed many Stirlings poised like great vultures, except for the odd one that looked as if the vultures had been at them and had gangs of men working on them.

When we stopped at one dispersal pan Mac said "this is it". 'This' was a pleasant surprise. We had become so used to flying old hacks that had seen better days that to be looking at what appeared to be a new one was unique. Even more of a surprise was to be told that this one was 'ours'.

This particular Stirling was serial No.EF433, built by Shorts at Belfast, and was still new enough to have a new smell about it.

The Squadron identification letters of QS and aircraft letter 'W' had been freshly painted on it's sides over some other lettering that turned out to have been 214 Squadron's identification, with whom it had apparently done three operations before being transferred on the formation of the Squadron.

We were concerned with getting to know that piece of machinery more intimately than anything else we had had dealings with in the past.

We spent hours going over it with the ground crew; testing and adjusting until we had it ticking over like a well oiled sewing machine. We air tested it and put it through it's paces again and again. The gunners tested their guns over the sea. Pete checked his box of tricks. Hoppy put the bomb release mechanism through it's sequences and tested the front guns. I tuned my radio and made contact with the control stations as well as testing the radio direction finding system. Mac and Paddy did everything they could to ensure that the engines and controls gave the right responses by throwing it around at height including a landing procedure with first one then two engines


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feathered and everything throttled back just to see how she stalled as well as a maximum height climb until they were at last satisfied that if anything went wrong with it it [sic] would not be our fault.

When all that was done we were ready for anything and both crew and aeroplane were in a partnership which we hoped would be for some time. As it turned out it was longer than than [sic] the average!.

We were soon to find out what we had let ourselves in for on a series of night operations that were not without a little excitement.

[line of stars]

Four days after leaving Stradishall we found ourselves on the Battle Order for the night of the 22nd June and from the moment the order went on the board everything started clicking into place as we started a procedure that hundreds of other crews were doing up and down the country in order to deliver thousands of tons of bombs and incendiaries to the enemy.

Mac had already been through it the night before, flying as second pilot with a crew to Krefeld, but the only thing he would say about it was that we would find out soon enough, accompanied of course by that tap on the nose.

I was naturally apprehensive at the prospect of flying over enemy territory now that we were finally committed and not unaware of the losses that had already occurred in 214 Squadron in the short time we had been on the base. Fortunately there was plenty to do to take our minds off of the inevitable as the procedure had become standard for major exercises and operations and we knew precicely [sic] what to do.

The first thing was to ground test and then air test the aeroplane and with [deleted] that [/deleted] over to try and get some sleep before the briefing and all the other business whilst the ground crew prepared it for the flight with bombs, fuel, flares, ammunition, oxygen, first aid packs and safety equipment such as the dinghy, inclusive of the distress radio and a multitude of other individual items to be checked over or stowed.

Our next step was to change into clean underwear of the aircrew type. The pure wool and silk mixture. Not only for warmth in the sub zero conditions we were likely to


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encounter at altitude but just as important to reduce the risk of infection if injured. That was the general idea anyway, but at the rate we were soon to be flying we very often had to wear underclothes a week or more before the laundry caught up with us.

'Night Flying supper' was always something to look forward to at whatever time it was scheduled. The rare operational egg and bacon special. That meal was not just a 'perk' but possibly the last one that one would get for some time depending on the circumstances, and then we were off to the operations block.

Once we got there we were cut off from the outside world. All the outside telephone lines had either been disconnected or were at least monitored and even the local telephone boxes had been disconnected or secured as soon as the teleprinters had started clacking away earlier to advise that the operations order was following.

Within that environment there was a lot of activity and the amount of stuff we had to get together was quite extraordinary.

There was basic stuff such as parachute harness and pack. Life jacket, (the Mae West), helmet complete with earphones, microphone and oxygen mask, all to be tested on the rig in the safety equipment section. Then to change into sea boot socks and flying boots. Then to empty pockets into the locker and don the heavy fishermans roll neck sweater. The next step was to draw rations and escape and evasion packs that all had to be stowed into the numerous pockets of the life jacket and as if that was not enough we then gathered up our specialist equipment.

The navigator and wireless operator carried the most and it was quite a pile of stuff. Maps, charts, rulers, pencils, computer, (of the Dalton circlar type for wind calculations etc) , sextant, star tables, code books, lists of call-signs, frequencies, identification beacons. colours of the day information etc. Some of the secret stuff was typed on rice paper for the purpose of disposing of it by eating it if if [sic] the need arose.

It was hardly surprising that we needed large canvas flight bags for all of the odds and ends apart from having to carry all of the other gear.


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After assembling all that there was a short briefing by the specialist leaders before the main briefing took place, and it was at this point that the pilot, navigator and bomb-aimer were given advance knowledge of the target so that they could make their special studies of route, and target photographs before everyone else trooped into the main briefing room where the whole thing was put together so that everyone knew what was going on.

The teleprinters had been spewing out stuff for a long time after the planners at Command and Group HQ had held their planning meetings and sometimes the Operations Order was yards long. The operations order contained details of take-off times, route, turning points, target data, ack-ack defences, possible fighter activities, heights to fly and speeds, winds and weather en-route and return, fuel and bomb loads, pathfinder marking, alternative and emergency airfields, radio procedures, radio beacons, frequencies and callsigns, etc, etc. and even details of any POW camps if they were near the target.

The complex mass of stuff had been sorted out and the whole station was in top gear as we at last struggled into the main hall to assemble around our own table where there was a great deal of chat with clouds of tobacco smoke floating about by the time the whole assembly was called to order by the senior briefing officer. That was always a dramatic moment and the climax of all the activity that invariably seemed to be a race against the clock. Heaven help a crew that was late!.

The windows had been shuttered as soon as preparations had commenced and the 'fug' must have been murder for non-smokers.

As soon as everyone was in and accounted for the main doors were closed and two RAF Policemen took up position outside. Everyone settled down within the chaos of equipment all strewn around the floor and on the tables as the briefing got under way as soon as the big wall map was uncovered.

The briefing officers included the Flying Control and Met.Officers. The Armament and Engineering Officers, The Wing and the Squadron and Flight Commanders, and very often the Station Commander


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who took no part in the proceedings although he occasional took part in the operation with a 'scratch' crew but he invariably had a few words of encouragement at the end of the briefing.

When the curtains were drawn back from the wall map there was a bit of a gasp as eyes followed the coloured tapes across to the target..Mulheim, and then with such waving about of an old billiard cue that had been 'liberated' from one of the messes the show got under way.

It was a source of relief to find that we were not part of the main force. Our detail was 'Gardening'. The code name for mining, which we would be doing by flying part of the route with the main force and then dropping out to sow our 'veg' as we approached the Frisian Islands. I was glad of that and would not have cared for a trip to Mulheim first time out.

Mac would still say nothing about his trip to Krefeld. In fact very few people would. When asked, the usual answer was, "you will find out soon enough", and as far as Mulheim was concerned Mac would only say that we should think ourselves lucky that we were not going there. No-one argued with that!.

As soon as briefing was over there was a mad scramble for the crew bus to take us out to dispersal and to load all the gear into the aeroplane.

Having stowed everything where it should be there was time for a tour around the outside to make sure that all protective covers and control locks had been removed.

When all was ready it was just a matter of waiting for start up time with a few minutes quiet contemplation, a pee on a wheel, and a cigarette.

Any chatter there was at that stage was about anything other then the operation ahead of us.

Although the start up and taxy times had been given at briefing there was usually a signal from the control tower as back up bearing in mind that radio silence was strictly imposed from the time that the operation had been notified.

The signals were yellow/green verey flare for start up or a double red for cancellation so when the yellow/green went up the game was on. Some game!. Suddenly it was all deadly serious.


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My only consolation was that it was my own choice. I could have been blown to bits in the infantry, or roasted in a tank, or faced several different ways of drowning in the navy so it seemed as good a way as any of taking my chance.

With the start up everything in the aircraft seemed accentuated. The smell of paint, leather and fuel brat was all mixed up to create the odour that was peculiar to an aeroplane.

There was the additional smell of the rubber oxygen mask that was attached to the now sticky leather helmet and would be stuck to my head for the next few hours.

There was no way around that as the earphones and microphone were an integral part of the helmet.

Then there were the atmospherics on the otherwise silent radio receivers that mingled with all the other muffled noises as the aeroplane case to life in the hands of Mac and Paddy.

Starter motors whined. Engines coughed and spluttered and the airframe vibrated from end to end with the initial rough running in rich mixture. Flaps were operated, bomb doors were closed and brakes released with hissing air and sighing hydraulic systems after the wheel chocks were waived away, followed by the rolling motion of the heavily laden aircraft as we taxied to the marshalling point near the runway threshold. Depending where the dispersal was in relation to the runway in use determined the length of time taxying, and the order of take off, but normally by the time we reached the threshold the oil temperatures and pressures, and cylinder head temperatures had risen sufficiently for the engines to be run at near full power against the brakes to test the magnetoes [sic] .

As was usual in aero engines there were two magneto's to each engine, each serving one of the two sets of plugs per cylinder. That added up to 112 spark plugs altogether and it was neccessary [sic] that every one was doing it's bit when full power was called for. Then the superchargers were tested, and the variable pitch propellors, with the aircraft shaking and rattling until all four engines had been tested after which they were throttled back to a nice healthy tick over.


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That was the decision point of 'go,no-go'. The engines had to give power within certain tolerances before a full load take-off could be attempted, and a decision that we would have to 'abort' if all was not well would here been an anti climax at that stage.

It would have meant entering the runway at the allotted time, rolling down and turning off at the intersection or the end, and then justifying it to the engineering officer and the flight commander. It was not a decision to be taken lightly.

That first time, with a live load and everything checked out satisfactorily, a green aldis lamp signal flashed from the caravan in acknowledgement of the aircraft's letter signalled on the downward identification light and we were ready to go.

We entered the runway with the one hundred and one checks complete and the adrenelin [sic] started to flow as we went through the familiar procedure.

Line up, brakes on, one third flap, engine cooling gills set, superchargers in low gear, props in fine pitch, mixture rich, engines wound up, a momentary pause for a final check of revs and boost with the aircraft straining against the brakes....brakes off; and a surge of acceleration as we started down the runway. Then the continuing acceleration and the tail coming up followed by a final bellow from the engines as the throttles were shoved to the stops.

The runway lights flashed by at ever increasing speed. The aircraft gave a little sideways fidget as the line was corrected and we were soon approaching the critical speed.

Very mindful of several tons of high explosive and a great deal of high octane fuel surrounding us we continued to thunder down the runway until those of us not in the cockpit knew by all the familiar sounds and sensations that all was well up front. The flight engineer who had followed the pilots hand on the throttles up to the stops had now taken them over and applied the friction locks as Mac devoted all his attention to controlling the aircraft as at the same time the engineer was calling out the increasing air speed.

The rumbling stopped; the attitude changed and we knew we were airborne. The next call was "undercarriage up" and as soon as they were showing up the next call was "flaps in" and another


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change of attitude as the aircraft was 'cleaned up' before there was a final change of engine note as they were throttled back after reaching a safe height and speed.

At that point we all started to breath [sic] a little easier.

All the time the intercom between the pilot and enginneer [sic] was lively as the action and subsequent indicator response was called out and acknowledged.

With so such to do and so such depending on it being done correctly it was a rigid discipline, and very soon we were climbing on the first heading to the rendezvous position before climbing further to our operating height.

On that first occasion we set off at medium level under cover of the main force and once more we were on our way. This time with a difference……it was for real!..

[line of stars]


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As soon as we got clear of the coast the gunners tested their guns with a couple of bursts and the smell of cordite drifted around for a while, after which they settled down to their long spell of sky searching.

It was a lonely and demanding job but very neccessary [sic] as they methodically scanned up and down and left and right with the turrets following their search.

You could not see them out there but there were a lot of aircraft milling about with between 600 and 700 hundred converging on the main rendezvous position from East Anglia, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire to make up a solid stream. Even in good night conditions you were lucky to be able to see further than 700 yards so that if anything did show up there was not a lot of time to take action.

Some separation was provided by the various waves being at predetermined heights, and by time separation between the waves going through a check point or turning position, but nevertheless there were still a large number of aircraft packed into a relatively small area of sky at any one time.

When I was not in the radio compartment my position was in the Astro dome. That was the clear vision dome on top where the navigator took his star shots from and where I could assist in the search.

From there I could still remain plugged into the communication system and listen for routine broadcasts from the Group control station every half hour. These included up-dated forcasts [sic] of the weather in the target area and a common barometric pressure setting for the altimeter to ensure that we were all flying on the same datum.

Any message received was rapidly de-coded and passed to the navigator or the pilot although it was more common that only the station identification would be transmitted, (no message). It did not do to miss anything like a recall though, and to find that you were the only one over the target and getting a great deal of attention.

On occasions I would be required to release a flare over the sea for assessment of the wind drift. It was released down the flare chute and ignited after entering the water and then the rear gunner kept his sights on it to read off the drift angle.


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whilst the navigator did the timing and his sums which was very crude by modern standards but the results were a very useful check against the Met. forecast which with the best will in the world was often well out and navigators needed everything they could get to keep us on track. Pete was forever beavering away with his rulers, dividers and computer to cross check everything and did not rely on any one specific facility. The best I could do for his were radio bearings from the UK using the direction finder equipment.

Unfortunately that became suspect as we got deeper and deeper into enemy airspace. The Germans sent out false signals on the same frequency to confuse things and the continental broadcasting stations were suspect as well due to them being made on linked geographically located transmitters. [underlined] The same as we did for UK broadcasts. [/underlined] It was impossible to get bearings on that network. One equipment that they found difficult to interfere with was 'GEE', which was our most important navigational aid up to a certain distance imposed by range and height. That was the 'Magic Box' which used Information from a number of special high frequency transmissions which were received and displayed on an oscillascope [sic] . When the information had been transcribed to some special lattice charts positions could be fixed with considerable accuracy, and from running fixes it was possible to assess wind speed and direction for the purpose of correcting headings. It did not do to stray far off track.

The flight engineer continually monitored the engines, and all the vital functions that kept us going including fuel flow and fuel remaining as well as transferring fuel from the smaller tanks to keep the main one's topped up. There was very close co-operation between Mac and Paddy as Mac was meticulous in his handling of the engines.

The bomb-aimer/observer whose main function occupied very little time often spent time as co-pilot or assisted in map reading when conditions were favourable, so everyone had their job to do and a little bit more. It was team work all the way.

Positioning for mine dropping was meticulous. The Navy provided the charts and told us where they wanted them dropped, and the charts went back to the Navy.


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The mines went down in their specified area on their parachutes which softened the blow of them entering the water after which they submerged to do their evil business at a later date.

I was glad to see those go. Their explosive content of Torpex was far more devastating than that in our bombs; not that the outcome would be any different if we had a direct hit in the bomb bay!.

It all seemed too easy. We saw a little sparkling flak in the distance that someone had stirred up, possibly a flak ship.

Those were the blighters that could crop up anywhere so every sighted had to be logged so that some might be done about them later; if only to give instructions to avoid the area. The trouble was that it was easy for them to more from one anchorage to another before the next day!.

As we droned back to base I found it difficult to reconcile the fact that it really was me going through it all. It all seemed so unreal like a dream.


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I had moved on.

Someone else now had the refuelling job.

If ever I needed to call the W/T (morse) fixer service I knew what was at the other end of the facility and how they could help us.

I had worked in one of Bomber Command's transmitting stations at Honington, (mainly polishing the wretched floor), but as a qualified wireless operator I had often been allowed to plug into the transmitter side-tone as it squawked away and take down the transmission for practice.

Mostly of course at that time it was incomprehensible as it was in code, but now I had found out what it was all about being one of the recipients within a collective call sign.

There were facilities available on the shorter range R/T (radio telephone) service usually need directly by the pilot and although I had means of using it from my compartment it was very rarely necessary [sic] .

Apart from air to air and normal air to ground control there were some very useful services to be obtained such as the D/F (direction finder) cabins which I had also spent time in.

These were the strange tepee like wooden cabins stuck out in some field near the airfield with their double walls filled with fine shingle for protection against shot and shell and an aerial array sticking out of the top. I [sic] was from there that a highly experienced operator was able to give pilots a course to steer for base, or a bearing, and in dire emergency, assistance with a descent through cloud procedure.

I had spent more time in the teleprinter communication cabins and had done duty as the R/T operator in what was then called Flying Control as well as doing daily inspections on aircraft radio equipments.

I had time to reflect on what it all added up to as we droned steadily towards base. There was little else to do except listen out on the control frequency, load the colours of the day into the verey pistol and switch an the IFF (radar identification signal), make up the log etc as we approached the coast, descended and identified the flashing beacons that pin-pointed airfields and other geographical locations by their code. (I had even


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been part of the operating team on one of those at one time); until we identified Chedburgh's among the dozens that were winking through the night.

With navigation lights on and gunners still keeping a good look out for intruders we called the tower and got our joining instructions; joined the circuit, landed and taxied around to our dispersal.

The ground crew were waiting and marshalled us into position and finally when the chocks were in place everything was shut off and at last the dull roar that had been going on in our ears for hours finally subsided.

It took some time to adjust and we found that we still shouting at each other for a long time afterwards.

Apart from that and to get the tacky helmet off perhaps the most relief was gained by being able to slacken the lower straps of the parachute harness that if properly adjusted made life very uncomfortable, and then to have a good pee on a wheel and light a cigarette. What a blessed relief that was!. It became almost a ceremony!.

There were a few minutes to wait whilst the skipper had a few words with the crew chief to pass on any information relative to defects or malfunctions and then finally the crew bus arrived and we boarded on route to operations still drawing hungrily on our cigarettes, that as I recall, tasted pretty horrible at the time.

On arrival at the ops. room for debriefing there were excited exchanges with other crews all milling about after we checked in our parachutes. The room was still thick with tobacco smoke as the windows had remained closed since the briefing and would remain so until until [sic] the end of the de-briefing or to the time when all was quiet. The time when all aircraft had landed back at base or had been notified as landing elsewhere or endurance times had been reached. After that time aircraft that had failed to turn up were chalked up on the state board as FTR. (Failed to return).

We then spent a little more time answering questions put by the Intelligence Officers and their assistants as they probed for information, and completed combat reports as appropriate as they pushed more cigarette across the table.


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Finally came the specialist debrief when we handed in our logs and code books. Returning all equipment. Changing out of our flying clothing and at last making our way to the mess hall for our eggs and bacon, and to top it all off, a nice long walk back to our tin hut where others were already asleep or just tumbling into bed.

That is when it hit. When you were winding down. When it was all over and you felt completely drained. I know I did. Apart from anything else I was never very good at being up half of the night.

It might have been a routine trip for us but later as we found that [underlined] Eleven [/underlined] out [sic] 96 Stirlings had failed to return from the Mulheim raid and one of them had been from our Squadron. The casualty procedure was already under way and we had not even been there long enough to know the unfortunates concerned!.

That was the pattern of our lives. We usually reported to the flight office at 1400 hours the next afternoon whatever time we had landed, to see what was in store for us and a special effort was made for more than one reason.

If we had slept late and had to make a dash for it it [sic] was easy to miss lunch and we would have to go through to tea time before eating again. There was no other way of finding something edible unless one happened to find a mobile NAAFI wagon doing it's rounds. Even the so called 'sausage rolls' or the inevitable currant bun was welcome then. We very soon got around to keeping a tuck box of some sort to tide us over by hoarding some of our flying rations.

If there was no flying there was a serious attempt to be the first in the queue for supper. We always seemed to be hungry in those days. Or perhaps it was just me!


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On the 25th we were detailed for another mining job. This time in the Bay of Biscay, off the estuary the Geronde [sic] and in the approaches to the Atlantic U.boat bases.

Again it was hours of concentrated low flying over moonlit waters that could be so very, very deceptive. It placed a great deal of strain on Mac but that is where he seemed to be in his element and we were glad to get home again after a flight of 5 hours 45 minutes.

The mines had been placed with the same meticulous care as before and everyone seemed of the opinion that mining was 'a piece of cake' although not everyone was happy about spending so much time near the wave tops, especially as on one occasion Mac was close enough to cause the rear gunner to complain about the spray drenching his turret!.

There was some speculation about whether Mac was volunteering for mining but we never found out. What went on in the confines of the Flight Commanders office only ever translated itself into what went on the Battle Order and the Flight Authorisation Book.

That night others were not so lucky and another aircraft and crew from the Squadron failed to return.

We were all beginning to feel a little jaded by that time and we were hoping for some free time, if only to catch up on some sleep; but we had to wait for that.

[line of stars]


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We dragged ourselves down to the flight office in the afternoon hoping to hear the magic words "stand down", only to find that we were on the Battle Order again for another operation that night, and later on, in the briefing room, I was to experience a very strange feeling in my innards, somewhere between my heart and my stomach when the target was announced as Gelsenkirchen, in the Ruhr, or 'Happy Valley' as it was commonly dubbed by aircrew. It had to happen sometime!.

For Mac, it was already his fourth operation in five nights so it was not surprising that he was tight lipped about it. He knew what we were in for!.

For the rest of us it was to be our first time over the enemy coast to face all the perils that went with it. Since no-one would talk about it it [sic] had to be imagined although it not do to dwell on it.

I do know that as we approached the target that I was glad that I was not a pilot after all. How I would have reacted in those circumstances I am really not sure. Perhaps I would have coped but since my responsibilities towards the crew at that moment in time were limited I decided that on looking at that scene as we approached I would rather not know. I promptly retired to the protection of my armour plated seat. As if that made any difference!.

It did not seem possible that anything could fly through that unscathed. There were a lot of explosions and steel splinters out there but it soon occurred to me that the armour plating was only psychological protection. The others had a lot less protection so I went back to keeping a look-out and to hell with it.

As we started the bombing run the sight of the destruction being wrought upon a town by hundreds of tons of high explosive and incendiaries was bad enough but there was also evidence of life or death struggles going on around us as there had been on the run in. The searchlights probed and flak peppered the sky and through it all, flying more or less straight and level, Hoppy guided Mac to the aiming point chanting his left's, steadie's . and right a bit as the target slid up the sight wires.

In the initial stages of the approach the flak had been scattered as the guns went for individual aircraft but as the 'stream'


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Page ‘63’ is missing


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Mac had laid down his own ground rules about what was expected of us when we were away from home shores.

In any case he strictly limited the use of the IFF. This was the device that sent out an identification signal to our radar stations, but which some people were known to use over enemy territory in an attempt to confuse the enemy radar. We most certainly did not!, and On/Off entries were made in both the signals and the nav. logs accordingly.

He would not permit the use of the infra-red rear facing fighter warning system which was just as well as we were to find out later that their fighter A.I. (airborne intercept) radar could home on it.

He was insistant [sic] that there should be the absolute minimum use of any radio equipment, and if it was not needed it was to be switched off. (He even used to switch off his R/T set unless there was a very good reason for having it on!.)

The ban even included navigational equipment if there was any chance of an emmission [sic] from it.


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Perhaps he knew something that we didn't but he was never one for explanations and since he was the boss what he said was never questioned. Not openly anyway!.

Like most pilots he carried a mini route map to help him keep orientated and the navigator was kept hard at it to keep us on track and on time as well as keeping in the middle of the stream rather than being a sitting duck waffling around on the fringe where we could be picked off by a roaming night fighter.

My duties had become very restricted by the limitations imposed by Mac. I could not even use the main transmitter without his permission and he was even reluctant to have it switched into the stand-by position which kept it warm and ready for use.

Only the main receiver plus it's associated direction finding equipment were available to me so I was not able to do much to assist in the navigation although there were plenty of other jobs to keep me occupied.

The results of people straying off track had already been obvious when sparkling exchanges of fire between aircraft were seen, or a sudden concentration of ack-ack and the probing fingers of a cone of searchlights and occasionally an orange ball of fire in the sky that would fall to earth and disintregate [sic] . Having no wish to be part of that scene it was 'softly softly catchee monkey'.

One job I often did was chucking leaflets out of the lower rear escape hatch but generally in the final stages of the bombing run I had another job that was another of Mac's specific requirements.

In order to take a photograph of the bomb strike a photo flash was released automatically down the flare chute and a barometric capsule activated it's 'chute and ignited it. Some photo flash!. It contained about 25lbs of magnesium mixture that produced a 3,000,000 candle power flash but the release mechanism of this thing had been known to fail with disastrous results. If it went off inside the chute or failed to clear the aircraft if it malfunctioned the results were as spectacular as getting a direct hit with an ack-ack shell.

It was usually assisted on it's way by a shove from me when I was not otherwise engaged. Just another safety measure that Mac had very quickly picked up from somewhere,


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and I imagine that the rest of the crew were somewhat relieved to hear the call "flash away---chute clear" call on the intercom before I went back to my other duties.

Once more we had run the gauntlet without problems and although the homeward journey was tedious we were eventually back over base and once more flopping into our beds an hour later when it was all over. Even then sleep did not come easily.

There were some more mines to be dropped in the Bay of Biscay on the 25th; again in the approaches to the Atlantic ports and U.boat bases and once more they went down bang on the button.

There was a special technique for accurate positioning but as usual Mac had his own variation. The brief was to transit at medium height and then down to the dropping height after a 'GEE' fix. Our way was to go down to the wave tops after the fix and then climb to dropping height after which we went down to the wave tops again to avoid being picked up by the Coastal radar stations.

It was not only the position in which they were dropped that was important but [underlined] how [/underlined] they were dropped. Too high and they could be out of position and possibly break up on impact. Too low and they were still likely to go up on impact by hitting the water before the 'chute deployed. Either of those results made the effort a waste of time....and there is no fun being blown up by your own mines!.

As soon as they were gone we were racing home again with the taps wide open to avoid the attentions of any prowling Ju.88's in the area….and then we climbed back up to above 2000ft. On that occasion our flight time was 5hrs 35mins.

By that time I was finding it difficult to reconcile our efforts with all the experiences that I had had on operational stations and of other lurid stories told by others of combats, fires, crashes, injuries and deaths. I knew it was not a myth and that it could and did happen so perhaps some people were just unlucky as the BBC news bulletins were regularly giving out that "XXXXX of our aircraft are missing". Just a cold statement of fact but often they were crewed by people we knew. The figure was frighteningly high on occasions, especially among the Stirling force, and there were not only operational losses. On the 2nd July two of the Squadron's aircraft collided in the Chedburgh


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circuit and crashed nearby with the loss of 15 lives. There was only one survivor from that tragic accident which included some ground crew getting some air experience.

We had a few days break before the next operation and like the I others I managed to catch up on some sleep and letter writing as well as sinking a few jars in the Mess but it was not all fun and games.

Hoppy and I took time off to go to Ely for a look around the Cathedral which we had so often seen from the air or the train and of course there were other activities laid on if there was no flying.

There was the often repeated talk about our conduct should we be unfortunate enough to become POW's and it was sometimes made all the more interesting when the talks were from people who had already escaped or evaded to make a home run. There talks on first aid and sea survival and how to make the most of all the equipment that was available to us if we got into trouble. There were not many idle moments but on those days we achieved some sort of normality. One could not be in the front line all the time, and it was too good to last. On the 3rd July we were on the Battle Order again to find that at briefing targets at Cologne were detailed so off we went again.

The defences were even more lively than I had ever seen before. There was evidence of a lot of fighter activity around the City and some very nasty sights as aircraft were hit in their vitals. There must have been some desperate situations as people fought for their lives if they had not already been blasted into eternity. How we went through that inferno I will never know and we were very relieved when we came out into the clear again and were heading for home, still keeping a good look-out for a long time.

It took time after slipping between the sheets before that scene finally faded from the mind. The brain needed time to wind down allowing the need for sleep to take over.

There were [underlined] seven [/underlined] Stirlings lost that time, again about 10% of the Stirling force among the total losses for the operation. It did not bear thinking about for too long and it was rarely the subject of conversation. At that rate according to the law of averages it would not be long before our number came up but


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people normally kept such thoughts to themselves, or shared their fears with their Chaplains.

For me, I soon gave up the struggle of concience [sic] . If people were getting killed or maimed on both side fighting for God and country then any rational person was bound to have doubts at some time. Possibly most people, like me, tried to push such thoughts to the back of the mind and just concentrated on eliminating the enemy, trusting that a forgiving God would understand.

I suppose it was a sort of psychological con. trick that one played on one's self.

It couldn't happen to us!!!!!

[line of stars]


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On one break between operations and sleeping there was flying practice of the kind that I found the most-enjoyable.

Fighter affiliation was the one exercise that involved us all except the navigator. He could get his head out of the 'office' and enjoy the fun. It allowed Mac to demonstrate his skill by causing more than a few Thunderbolt, Hurricane and Spitfire pilots to have to work very hard to get a bead on us, with a very good chance of getting them in our sights first, which Mac insisted was the object of the exercise.

It required complete team work between gunners and pilot and they had a fine old time giving their running commentaries and instructions which were interpreted by Mac into evasive action. The inter-comm was alive. A team of acrobats could not have put a routine together any better as we skidded and banked and slithered this way and that way to the frustration of the fighter pilots.

My place was in the Astro-dome as usual looking for any attacks that the gunners were not concentrating on....just in case!. I never had the opportunity to get into the turrets. The only way that I was ever going to do that was if one of the gunners became a casualty and although I was not over anxious for that experience I still had to keep in practice.

It was inevitable that Mac would get the opportunity to show off to our American friends one day.

We had recently had a liaison visit from USAAF crews and we had shown off our aeroplane only to be left smarting from some tactless remarks about our 'pop-guns' and the lack of them in certain parts, and "where did we stow the pool table", etc, etc. Certainly the fusulage [sic] of the Stirling was big enough for one, but they were more subdued when we told them that we could carry some three times the weight of bombs that they could!. We kept quiet about the fact that they could fly more than twice as high as we could, and very often did.

On one particular occasion we had just completed our exercise and the fighter was orbitting [sic] out of range somewhere when a B.17. (Flying Fortress), came stooging in looking for all the world like a porcupine with guns sticking out of everywhere.

We were a little above him so Mac shoved the nose down, piled on the power to build up the speed quickly, then stopped and


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'feathered'; (turned the propellor blades edge on to the slip stream) both outboard engines before coming up alongside him. After a little hand waving came the big surprise. We then slid up, over the top of him, came down the other side, then underneath and back into the original position before waiving [sic] goodbye to the astonished, and possibly alarmed B.17. pilot and then peeling off like a fighter. All that on two engines!!!!. Very good for morale!.

It has to be said that although the Stirling could not get to a decent altitude it could be thrown about in a very lively fashion and Mac's handling of it had to be experienced to be believed. We might have done some strange things at times and he threatened on several occasions that he would loop it but one thing I do not ever remember him doing was a heavy landing of the sort that some people seemed to make a habit of.

One measure of the quality of successive landings could always be taken from what was known as 'creep' marks on the tyres and wheels.

When a tyre was fitted on one of those enormous wheels a line was painted across wheel rim and tyre so that after a number of landings with the wheel being jerked into motion by the impact with the runway it was possible to see how far the tyre was creeping around the rim. It was only allowed to go so far otherwise the inner tube could distort and fail.

In most cases tyres needed re-fitting about every seven landings but I do know that our aircraft did not have a refitting as often as that.

As for looping, we never did, although we were never very far from it on the occasion when he did attempt it. He had several tries but the result was the same every time. We started running out of air-speed long before we got up to the top and he was obliged to roll out of it with dust, fluff and debris of all sorts floating about loosely in a brief spell of weightlessness. He gave it up after a while having calculated that he needed at least 300mph on the clock before the pull up to make sure of getting over the top but one thing he would not do was to push 'Willie' to that extent,

Someone else's aircraft maybe, but not ours!.

It goes without saying that such fun and games were never


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attempted without a lot of airspace under us. At least 7000ft. of it to make sure that to make sure of recovery if anything did go wrong, and I loved every minute of it.

On the 9th we were back to mining in the Frisian [sic] Islands this time, in the approaches to Wilhelmshaven and Bremerhaven. There was a lot of flak going up from the islands or ships but we had gone in on track fairly low and as soon as the mines had gone down we went again, skimming the wave tops and once more we skirted all the defences finally arriving back at base with no more problems other than just feeling tired even if it was one of the shorter trips.

Someone did mention to Mac that he was likely to slam into the side of a flak ship one night but he reckoned he would always jink around it before they could bring any guns to bear.

[line of stars]

Among the odd jobs that cropped up between operations were trips to pick up a crew or part of one that had diverted or pranged somewhere, or taking a crew to pick up an aeroplane after it had been repaired. Every day it was something different, and some nights as well with a mass exercise to test some procedure or just to keep the enemy guessing. Spoof exercises were boring but very worthwhile as it put the German defences on the alert only to find that the force had turned away half way across the North Sea.

Mac still went out of his way to practice low flying and I recall with shame the number of sailing boats all over the Broads that we capsized with our slipstream as we steamed along with about 200mph on the clock.

It seemed funny at the time anyway. Especially the poor bloke on a bike who was wobbling all over the place as he was looking over his shoulder at a massive Stirling at about 30ft bearing down on him, to be finally flung, bike and all, into the dyke.

None of it was authorised of course but Mac always used to say that if the flight authorisation book was annotated 'local flying' it looked suprisingly [sic] like 'low flying' and that is what he would be doing for as long as he could get away with it.


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On the 24th we were briefed for a raid on the docks and the U.Boat construction plants at Hamburg with a maximum effort being called for.

Every available aircraft was put on; many with 'scratch' crews drawn from the operations staff. This was one with a difference!. The briefing was long and detailed as we were going to drop 'Window' for the first time.

'Window' was the code name for the bundles of foil strips that were to be discharged from aircraft at a steady rate from a given position en route and as every aircraft in the force was contributing it was expected to cause such a smother of signals on the enemy radar that it would be quite impossible to track individual aircraft. It sounded like a good idea to me and I was quite content to spend a lot of time shoving that stuff down the flare chute if it was going to keep us out of trouble.

It did work and losses were cut considerably despite the fact that three of the Stirling force failed to return out of a total of 791 aircraft dispatched. Nine others were also missing.

It was a fairly long flight of 6 hours 55 mins. but was without incident until we were over base on return. Someone ahead of us had done a 'swinger' and blocked the runway so we were diverted to Mildenhall and it was a strange bed for the night for us. The arrangements for diverted crews were a bit rough and ready. After debriefing we were given bedding and then had to hump it, with all of our other gear, around the camp, through the main gate to the pre-war airmens married quarters which were being used as barracks, and we finally flopped into hastily made beds in the kitchen of one of them, dead beat. I'm sure we could have slept the clock around but it was not to be.

We were hauled out of our beds at mid-day by the RAF Police as there was a panic to get back to base. We had no time to have a drink or a meal or clean our teeth or wash or shave. It was a mad scramble to get out to the aircraft as quickly as possible after returning the bedding. That basically is what caused my problem. It was not until we had got airborne that I realised that in the 'flap' I had left my flight bag in the billet and that was


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serious. Among the contents of that bag were secret code books but Mac was adament [sic] when I asked for a turn round. His comment was simply "hard luck". so when I reported the loss on return to base the cat really was among the pigeons.

It was a long time before the enquiry was concluded.

I could have shortened the period, and certainly Mac was soon wishing he had turned-back but he would not take me over later in his car, or lend it to me (not that I had a driving licence), so we had to put up with a Squadron Leader chasing us all around for statements. It must have been time consuming and frustrating for him when we kept disappearing into the protection of the briefing room which were 'off-limits' to him.

The bag was eventually recovered from where I said it was. It was in one of the cupboards in the kitchen where we spent the night. (I had put it there for safety!), and later I got a formal reprimand for my sins. It did not make a lot of difference in the long run.

[line of stars]


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Nevertheless, I was feeling very apprehensive about the outcome of the oversight as we set course for base, air testing the aircraft on the way, and once the loss was reported I was issued with a new kit before we dashed off to try and get a few hours more sleep and a clean up. There was not much time to spare as we were on the Battle Order again. Hence the panic to get us back!.

Even then none of us felt particularly wide awake as we dragged ourselves into the briefing room once more. This time to be briefed for a raid on the Krupps complex at Essen.

Essen was considered to be one of the hottest targets in the Ruhr, being right in the middle with some fairly formidable defences to work our way through.

It was a case of running the gauntlet for a long time with a big of a wiggle here and there to dodge the ack-ack and the searchlights that someone else had stirred up but nevertheless, around Essen itself it was pretty fearsome.

Somehow we got through it and were homeward bound just wanting our beds but it was not to be. Routine W/T (Wireless Telegraphy-morse) broadcasts from Group HQ confirmed that the weather had indeed taken a turn for the worse, as we had been warned about at briefing.

Fog was forming all over East Anglia and we did not have a lot of reserve fuel. We had carried a maximum bomb load instead so someone at Group HQ planning must have been keeping his fingers crossed. The problem was that there were a lot of pilots wanting to get on the ground quickly as the low swirling fog was thickening up rapidly.

The countryside was covered in almost 100% cotton wool with church spires and masts sticking up through it and it did not make it easy to find a runway underneath it.

Our diversion was to Waterbeach and by the time we arrived on the scene it was going full blast. Aircraft were milling around over the top burning up precious fuel and others who had been called in had made missed approaches and rejoined those circling so when we were called in without too much delay Mac pulled out all the stops and made it first time on the BABS (Blind Approach Beam System), much to the relief of all concerned.

There was a lot of nail biting and it did not improve matters


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when we actually passed over one flaming wreck on the final approach. We had made it but some others holding off near the coast ran out of fuel and had to abandon with the inevitable loss of life due to parachute failures, crash landings and drownings.

At least we were home and dry once more even if it was going to be another cold and somewhat damp bed for the night, which was more than could be said for some poor blokes. Nothing at all was heard from another six Stirlings, Three of then from our Squadron. There was another large gap in the ranks that would need filling!.

The weather had cleared up by mid-morning and we were hauled out of our beds again feeling more dead than alive, with another panic to get back to base as we were on the Battle Order yet again!.

I must confess that at the time I felt that we were really pushing our luck.

"Willie' did not come up to scratch as we airtested it on the way back. We had actually taken off with what would normally have been an unacceptable 'mag' drop being unladen but it really did not make a lot of difference so we handed it over to the ground crew to sort out and once again we went through the same procedure as before. Grabbing some sleep, cleaning ourselves up etc. but when it came to briefing time 'W' still had not become serviceable despite Mac's rantings and ravings. He and Paddy had spent quite a lot of time out at the dispersal with their sleeves rolled up. We were allocated EF492 which someone else had air tested.

It finally resolved itself as the operation was cancelled almost immediately after the briefing. That was one time I was very relieved when the 'op. scrubbed' message came through considering the diabolical weather that had been forecast.

Despite the extra time that was available 'W' still failed to give satisfactory engine responses even after they changed all the plugs, ignition leads and magneto's on the troublesome engine so we were still down for EF492 when we were briefed on the following day for Hamburg yet again.

'Windowing' was the routine once more starting long before we entered the flak and fighter belt.


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The only break in that routine was when the flare was loaded as we once again approached the target in the midst of the docklands complex.

There was a lot of chatter and excitement from those up front as we got nearer. I went forward to join Pete who had virtually abandoned his charts about fifty miles from the city. There was absolutely no doubt where the target was. No spoof target fire could have possibly looked like that.

There was a damn great fire up ahead that, obliterated any aiming point so we jostled ourselves into the stream and Hoppy aimed for the middle.

The scene was almost beyond description, with a carpet of fires delineated by the waterways and streets with bursting bombs and other erupting areas of fire with photo flashes and flak tracers climbing lazily into the sky. Probing fingers of searchlights and cascading chandeliers of red and green Pyrotechnic markers.

It was an obsolutely [sic] apalling [sic] inferno down below us. It was sea of flame with smoke reaching up almost to our height to even penetrate the aircraft which bounced and bucked in the updraft.

I had never seen anything like it before and it was a long time before the flames faded into the distance as we left it all behind us. The rear gunner reckoned that he could still see them nearly 100 miles away and everyone was wondering what could have caused such a conflagration. We were to find out later that a combination of freak conditions had caused what was to be known as the 'firestorm’ but it was with some relief that we eventually arrived back at Chedburgh, into a hut now full of new people and to flop into our own untidy beds ready to sleep for a week.

[line of stars]


[page break]

We had another free day before the next operation was scheduled.

A day of rest and an opportunity to write to my parents, who, although they never showed their feelings in their letters about the family must have dreaded each day for what news it might bring them, knowing what I was doing. But the following day we were on the Battle Order once again.

We had a shock when we found that the target was Hamburg once more, and there seemed something sinister in going for the place so soon after the last attack that surely must have torn the heart out of the place.

EF433 was back in business as they had sorted it out at last and we had a rough time weaving in and out of a multi searchlight cone and concentrations of flak as we approached the target area. Once again it was a combination of Mac's skill in weaving about and a fair slice of luck. It was not surprising that our gunners were getting a bit 'twitchy' by this time, and so would I have been in their situation. One moment of slackening concentration on their part and we could easily be one of the 'flamers' we saw all too often so when Ralph blasted away at a shadow that swept across the top of us without warning the very fact that he identified it as a Halifax almost immediately was taken for granted. We learned later that Ralph's fire had been accurate enough to have wounded the Halifax engineer in the foot!. It was unfortunate but it really was a case of shoot first and ask questions afterwards. A split second hesitation and there was no second chance if it had been a roaming night fighter trying to drop something nasty on us. We had been warned about that possibility.

Worst things could happen in the 'stream' with hundreds of aircraft converging on one spot with a night visibility of 500 to 600 yds. at best. Collisions were always a possibilty [sic] despite the attempts to achieve separation in the planning, but if someone was out is his timing, and at the wrong height that was it. What the Halifax was doing at our height and mixed up with the Stirlings is anyone's guess. Pete was adament [sic] that we were on time but a total of six Stirlings were lost that night despite the protection of 'Window' and other methods that were being used to give us some cover.

The Special Duties Force had all sorts of tricks up their sleeve


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to confuse and jamb the German fighter control system including German speaking operators on board to imitate their controllers and transmit spurious instructions.

They played merry hell with the system causing Luftwaffe pilots to continuously change channels and in the general confusion they were soon forced to make some drastic changes and then the main force joined in as soon as they entered the fighter belt. Every aircraft transmitted noise on a selection of frequencies which overlapped and were manipulated in such a way as to produce a solid spread of noise across their operating band.

It caused a buzz of excitement when this was detailed at briefing but was Mac was still reluctant to have our main transmitter in use. It produced a typical comment, "It's all very well these clever sods deciding that we will do this and that and the other, but I'm not having a fighter home on our transmissions right up our chuff".

Nevertheless, I had my orders and I could appreciate the value of it. He was finally convinced when I asked him try to listen into the din that was going out on the airways. There was a solid spread of noise from hundreds of aircraft using a microphone in an engine housing feeding to the transmitter. It blotted out everything else so I was allowed to add my bit. Operation 'Tinsel' was good value as far as I was concerned.

Once more the journey was made over the North Sea which always looked so angry and inhospitable when there was sight of it. The very thought of finishing up in the 'oggin' filled me with dread but that was the way so many went following an emergency signal going out at frantic speed to the fixer service. If the sender was lucky it would be followed by a long transmission when the key was clamped down before he dived for his crash position and the transmission ceased when the inevitable occurred.

Everyone who heard those transmissions logged whatever they heard and a D/F bearing if they managed to get one although the transmission would be acknowledged smartly by the base operator for the benefit of all those that might be listening.

The sender would no longer be listening. He would have far more important things to occupy his mind; if he had been lucky!.


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It was not always easy to ditch copy-book style, with the tail down, along the bottom of the swell, exactly at the right speed, at night, and with the aircraft flying like a brick lavatory. Maybe without even a qualified pilot at the controls. But some made it just the same and the rescue services did the rest.

For us once more there were the dulcet tones of the WRAF in the control tower when Mac called for landing instructions, and eventually after all the paraphinalia [sic] had been attended to; to climb into a cold and untidy bed, for most of us, in the same state as we had got out of it!.

The next night we were off to Remchiede [sic] in the Ruhr and marking was carried out to the ultimate. Something different was being tried. There were route markers, turning point markers, target markers, back up markers and shifters, but it was not to Mac's liking. It might have helped to place more bombs in the right place but it also seemed to be an invitation to the night fighters to concentrate their efforts in a nicely defined corridor.

That was the night I did something that I only ever did the once. We were carrying a second pilot on his first operational trip. Paddy spent most of his time in the astro dome, the flare was loaded and there was no window to throw out so I was virtually 'spare'. I retired to my armour plated seat, receiver volume turned right up so that I would be alerted at the first signs of a transmission; and then I dozed off!. At that point in time I decided that if I was going to get killed I did not want to know about it.

It is not possible to go right off in such circumstances so I was still conscious of thumps, bounces and weaving sensations but we still sailed right through it all although eight other Stirling were not so lucky. Two of them from our Squadron!.

[line of stars]


[page break]

There was hardly time to get our breath back before we were at it again. We went through the old familiar routine and there were a few gasps when we found that the target was Hamburg once more.

In the meantime a story had gone around in respect of an NCO crew who had turned up for a briefing in their best uniforms, having told their commissioned captain in advance that they were refusing to go, but when they announced that fact to all and sundry that they really had had enough after their last rough trip there was one hell of a commotion. They had all been placed under close arrest and were stripped of their rank and aircrew insignia after which they finished up in the ‘glasshouse'. Subsequently, when they had completed their term they were employed in the Sgt's Mess of another operational station with the glaring signs of removed badges for all to see………and lesson to everyone!.

How much truth there was in that story is anyone's guess but it did show up the anomaly in the aircrew set up that everyone was well aware of.

Despite the fact that all aircrew were volunteers once you were in that was it. There was no going back and staying that you did not like it or you did not want to do it, on moral or any other grounds. You were stuck with it.

Failure or refusal to carry out your duty in the air was classified as LMF. (Lack of Moral Fibre) and led immediately to a Courts Martial. The action was swift although there was a subtle difference between that charge and 'cowardice in the face of the enemy'.

I am sure that a lot of people who were justifiably scared out of their wits still pressed on rather than give way and be labelled with that stigma. In many cases the condition was recognised by other crew members and the individual often 'rested' on medical. grounds which eventually sorted the chap out one way or the other.

In this particular case where there was more than one person involved it was much more serious and no doubt could have been construed as mutiny rather than LMF. It begs the question of how a similar problem would have been dealt with in either of the other services. I have a fairly good idea...but this was


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the Air Force way!!!!!!!.

The briefing was well under way and everyone did their little bit until it finally came to the Met. man's turn.

He commenced to put up a chart such as I had never seen before; or since.

It was smothered in the usual blue and-red symbols of high and low pressure systems. Warm fronts. Cold fronts. Occluded fronts, and the craziest pattern of isobars that looked as if they had been put on by a demented spider.

There was a buzz of anticipation as he finished pinning up his chart, then he turned around, coughed nervously and confessed that he had not got a clue.

What a brave chap!.

The announcement was greeted with good natured hoots, howls, and whistles accompanied by the stamping of feet until, he had an opportunity to explain that the situation was very complex and that it was impossible to draw up really accurate forecast. This was the best that he could do.

His forecast was absolutely grim. We were to expect anything and everything. There were no soft options.

He probably did not realise at the time that all the noise we had made was little more than a cover for the twinges we nearly all had in our guts.

His chart may have been a joke but the weather was not. There were umpteen layers of cloud with heaped up cumulous and dirty great Cumulo [sic] Nimbus embedded in the layers with the most incredible wind sheers in them that was a navigators nightmare quite apart from the fact that if you did happen to be unfortunate enough to blunder into the worst of that it was enough to tear your wings off with updrafts and downdrafts of around 100mph adjacent to each other!.

We encountered ice, snow, hail, rain, thunder and lightning and even that rare phenomenae [sic] 'St Elmo's fire' that lit up the aircraft with a silvery blue glow of discharged static electricity around all of it's extremeties [sic] including the propellors that were turned into enormous catherine wheels.

Mac fought the elements and that aeroplane for hours as it bucked, bounced, and groaned with every lurch. We couldn't get above it so there was only one way....onward!


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Hail about the size of marbles hammered us until we thought that every piece of perspex must give way under the onslaught but somehow we got through although we had to bomb under the parachute sky markers that the Pathfinders had been forced to drop above the diffused glow of the doomed city below us.

It must have been too much for some. It was a shocking night all round. For us as well as Hamburg. We lost thirty aircraft altogether and another 50 were badly damaged, without a doubt as much by the elements than by enemy action and on the whole it is not suprising [sic] that the bombing was scattered all over the place.

We were all utterly exhausted after that. None more so than Mac, and were very relieved to get back to base and flop into our beds again. We were very lucky. A lot of good blokes went to a more permanent resting place that night without achieving a lot on that ill fated mission.

There were some angry mutterings directed at the commanders who had made the decision to go out an such a night.

There is a story told of one Aussie pilot who was so incensed at the debriefing he insisted on phoning Group HQ and when he was connected fired a real Aussie broadside down the line. The story goes that when he had finished the person at the other end said "do you know who you are talking to?", "No" said our Aussie. "This is the C in C, Air Chief Marshall Harris" (short pause), the next question was from our Aussie friend, "do you knew who this is?" to which the C in C said "No". "Thank Christ far that" was the answer to that before the phone was promptly replaced!.

[underlined] Noel [/underlined]

Happy reading


and there are another 70 pages to ‘Water under the Bridge’ Part 1

[underlined] Alan [/underlined]


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On the lighter side there were a few evenings out together in Bury St Edmunds where someone had found a pub that was just right for us.

It was a back street 'spit and sawdust' place with the very apt name of 'The King William', and give us a common meeting place that we were otherwise denied as we were split between two Messes.

Mac used to get a small recreational petrol allowance for his car but it didn't go far. One or two sorties had proved fruitless as everywhere we went we seemed to be up to our armpits in aircrew and allied troops of all nations, and despite various reports about a certain pub having some beer we would be lucky to get in the door before they sold out. In others it was not unusual to get a watered pint. With war-time beer being limited to 2 1/2% alcohol to start with who wanted a watered pint! We most certainly didn't so once we found the 'King Willie' we kept very quiet about it.

The landlord and his wife had recently heard of a service bereavement in the family and when we turned up they virtually adopted us. We were treated like family and we could not have asked for more. In those days such a place that never ran out of beer, eggs and bacon, or time was the nearest thing to home. We probably spent more time in the private rooms than in the bar.

After 50 years that old `pub` no longer dispenses jars of ale. It has been converted into a private dwelling but the old pub sign boarding across the front that used to bear the name has been painted over, but it will always be the 'King Willie' as far as I am concerned.

I will always have a soft spot for that place and 'mine hosts'. There must have been times when Mac's elderly but mechanically perfect Triumph Dolomite was on auto pilot when we were on our way back from Bury after an excursion but it always did it without fuss even if it was grossly overloaded. Anyway, Mac was quite used to nursing a grossly overloaded machine and under the circumstances I never had any worries.

There was the consolation that of course if anything did go wrong; and one day it did when I was not with then, we would not have far to fall, and on occasions we were past caring.


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After a short break we were on the Battle Order again on the 10th August and that night we had a very close shave.

The targets were at Nuremburg, and everything was as normal as it could have been under such circumstances until we were in the final stages of the bombing run when Ralph suddenly snapped out "go port--go-go-go", and Mac threw the aircraft over without hesitation.

I searched around frantically to see what it was all about because I was as usual looking in the opposite direction to where Ralphs turret was pointing.

My heart nearly stopped when I saw a Lancaster no move than 100 feet above us, sliding diagonaly [sic] across, with a 'cookie'. 4000lb blast bomb just leaving it's bomb bay!.

That instant `jink' undoubtedly saved us as we actually felt the displacement of air buffet us as it passed within a few feet of us between the mainplane and tailplane....and then it was gone. So was the Lanc!

Whether we were late on target or the Lanc. was early, or why the Lanc. was at our height, or why the bomb aimer had not seen us goodness only knows. There were lots of theories put forward and Mac had a lot to say about it for a change.

Our own theory was that a new Lanc. crew had done a panic stricken dive to the target and were more intent on getting rid of their load and out of it, and we were well aware that such things did happen from the whispers that did the rounds.

Hoppy was more concerned that the manoeuvre had spoiled his bombing run and he had lost his initial aiming paint so all he could do was to dump the bombs into the inferno that was Nuremberg below us but we were still sweating over that incident for some time afterwards.

It certainly had the affect of increasing our vigilance in the future and we were not going to be caught out like that again if we could avoid it. Things were dangerous enough as it was without being 'bombed' by our own aircraft.

Sixteen aircraft failed to return that night and three of them were Stirlings out of the 119 Stirlings sent out!.

Despite the savage losses within the Stirling force we were


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off again on the 12th but from all around the briefing room there were sharp intakes of breath when we saw just how far the tapes stretched across the wall map, right down to Turin, Italy, and everyone knew immediately that it was going to be a 'hairy' one. Mainly because every Stirling crew member was only too well aware of just how high a Stirling would go. Even the Wellington and some of the 'oldies' could do better than us so we knew that there was no way we would be flying over the Alps...it had to be through them!. As the plan unfolded we soon learned that that was exactly what we were going to do. The bolt hole if in trouble was North Africa!. Our Stirlings were a standing joke in Bomber Command. Even WWI aircraft could get to greater altitudes. We were lucky in normal circumstances to get above 15,000ft fully loaded despite the fact that the Operations Order often called for heights that were unobtainable. There were occasions when we managed to 'claw' a bit more at the expense of high fuel consumption by using more revs and boost and with a bit of luck, climbing at a ridiculous 200 feet per minute with 5deg. of flap when it was possible to gain another 1000 to 1500ft before starting the run in to the target but it was not always a good idea as it reduced the airspeed at the most vulnerable time. It did of course produce an increase in airspeed in a nose down approach to the target but it was a 'swings and roundabout' situation. It was certainly a waste of time gaining height that way for any other reason as having achieved it it [sic] could not be held in level flight and would slowly sink back to it's own level like a waterlogged hippo. The net result was that we got the full treatment from both the medium and the heavy flak as well as being bombed by our own aircraft!. The die was cast and we were stuck with it and it seems appropriate to relate an incident as I recall it.

A New Zealand pilot of 214 Squadron received a replacement rebuilt machine and to his delight he found that it out-performed any other Stirling that he had ever flown and kept singing it's praises until the news got around and an investigation was started to try and find out all about this 'Super' Stirling.


[page break]

All sorts of people flew it and sure enough it went up to around 20,000ft feet just like a Lanc. and there was much scratching of heads. Then they brought the jigs in from the repair depot, (SEBRO), at Cambridge and the matter was solved. They found out that the tailplane was out of incidence, so they promptly put it back to the 'correct' specification and 'presto', it was back to what a Stirling should be.

It might have solved the technical problem but it did not help the pilot much. He was so peeved about that he refused to fly it until it was changed back and he was threatened with disciplinary action but it was overcome by allocating him another 'normal' aircraft so he had to fly that or face the consequences. My recollection of the final verdict is that the powers that be decided that an incorrectly rigged tailplane could cause a structural failure in flight and that was the last word as far as I am aware. Stirlings continued to be produced to the same specification and displayed the same problem right to the end of it's days, even when many were converted or built as Mk.lV and Mk.V transports that were subsequently to be found littered around airfields all over the world.

I think most of us at that time would have been prepared to have taken a chance if there had been a choice of the two evils and Mac summed it up in his own inimitable way. "Bloody stupid sods", but since there was no choice through the Alps it was.

At the other end of the spectrum there was another `rogue' aircraft that arrived on the Squadron after a rebuild but it must have had a very limited test flight prior to delivery. Rogue is hardly the word that it's crew called it after air testing It. It creaked and groaned. The wing tips fluttered and it could not be trimmed from a lop-sided attitude in flight. Despite the most careful handling it showed great reluctance to exceed 9,000ft and was finally landed very delicately as it seemed that it was about to fall apart. It still took another independent short air test to confirm it's condition before it was promptly grounded and handed back to engineering!.

Despite the problems with the aircraft and the conditions encountered in flying right down to the South of France, skirting around Switzerland and heading through the mountains the Fiat factory......


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in Turin received our calling card but Mac was not at all happy with the return journey.

We had used a lot of fuel as a result of the engine settings that he had insisted on as we had weaved in and out of the mountain tops and to make matters worse it seemed to be getting light much earlier than anticipated.

The planned route was given up in favour of a straight line course for home shores and in the improving light Mac went down to deck level to get under radar cover and to make sure that no-one could get underneath us.

There was little I could do. Radio communication was out of the question even if it had been needed. We were far to low for reeling out the trailing aerial without loosing it so I went into the front turret as all of the others up front concentrated on map reading and safety look-out.

We were scudding along and were about 30 to 40 miles South of Paris when Mac let out a yell, "all gunners stand-by.....open bomb doors". He had spotted something that looked like a good place to jettison the incendiary containers. That 'something' appeared to be a German troops early morning parade forming up in a barrack square and we blasted into the parade ground leaving a very nasty mess behind us from front and rear guns as well as the containers.

That got rid of a bit of weight and we continued to steam along until we came to the shores of the Normandy coast where we spotted what looked like another troop assembly for morning bathing which we blasted into as well leaving that area rather messed up as well.

It did seem as if Mac's apptitude [sic] for low level flying was paying off as we had no-one chasing us so we stayed down low until half way across the Channel by which time I had vacated the front turret then it was back up to height, IFF on for radar identification, and on to base.

Mac had his own reasons for imposing a discreet silence about that episode despite what might have been a considerable contribution to the war effort. As far as anyone else was concerned we had dumped the containers and fired off the ammunition in the Channel to lose weight but having run for home more or less in in a straight line we got it........


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in the neck for arriving home early, a little earlier than others. There was even an accusation that we might not have even been to Turin and Pete's charts were impounded, but the target photo proved that we had. What they thought we had been doing for 7hrs 25mins. I really do not know but it was not very pleasant until we were proved to be in the clear but our unauthorised activities were [underlined] never [/underlined] reported.

The relief of crossing home shores again on the return journey was always an anti-climax as there were many hidden dangers on the home run with most of the crew drained by the physical and mental concentration of picking a safe pasage [sic] through enemy defences.

It was too easy to relax too soon with the gunners fighting the overwhelming desire to close their eyes, and even up front it was just as easy to be lulled by the steady throb of carefully synchronised engines with the aircraft flying itself on auto-pilot, particularly during the dark hours.

It was not unknown for the occasional Luftwaffe fighter bomber to infiltrate the home going bomber screen [sic] with a chance of shooting one down or following it through the radar screen to his base to shoot him down when he was most vulnerable during the landing and to give the base a plastering as well.

There was one occasion that I thought Mac had gone barmy when we were homeward bound over the sea and he called me up to take over his seat whilst he went down the rear. The night was as black as a coal cellar otherwise I am quite sure that I would never have had that opportunity but I dread to think of what might have happened if we had been bounced.

Of course, Paddy, in the right hand seat was quite capable of flying the aircraft within certain limits should an emergency arise, that was part of the job. So could Hoppy and although I had done several hours in the Link trainer (Flight simulator) my own efforts were very limited. My best effort was when I had an outside horizon but I was not very good on instruments alone and with the hood down. Under those circumstances I invariably 'pranged' it by losing control so when on that occasion I sat there gingerly making adjustments to the controls; as I thought, Paddy said after a few minutes "easy isn't it?", and when I nodded he added, "especially on auto-pilot"!. Rotten


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swine, and I thought that I had been doing so well to keep it straight and level.

After that I just sat there until it was time to return to my radio compartment to take a routine broadcast. Then I knew why I had been afforded the privilege of a front seat.

There was Mac, comfortably seated on the Elsan toilet down the back end, smoking a cigar, seemingly without a care in the world. Skippers privilege; no-one else was allowed to smoke!.

After the last operation we learned that three Stirlings had failed to return and one of them was from our Squadron.

The briefing on the 16th was for the long haul down to Turin again but we had an engine pack up 1 1/2 hours out and we were forced to return. With obstacles like the Alps to contend with it was no time to invite trouble but it seemed a terrible thing to do to jettison about 1000 gallons of precious fuel over the bombing range at Thetford followed by the bombs. It all had to go to get the aircraft down to landing weight but not all of the bombs went down safe. They never did. If the arming links did not release from their clips the pins were pulled and they went down live.

I remember only too well the occasions when as an airman on the very range, looking after the flashing beacon that there were some hair raising incidents. I have always maintained that the safest place was the target area. Being 2000 yards from it was no guarantee that you would not get earth thrown in your face,.....even when the Lufwaffe [sic] had a go at knocking out the light. At least on those occasions it gave me a bit of fun then with the Bren gun!.

We were certainly more rested than those who had done the full round trip when we found out that there was another operation planned for the 17th.


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Excitement mounted when the Battle Order was posted calling for a maximum effort and every available aircraft and crew was on the board to start with although it was whittled down for various reasons as time went on. We were allocated a 2nd pilot as EF433 was still undergoing an engine change so we were down for EE945 but it seemed a struggle to get many serviceable.

There were gasps and whistles as the wall map was uncovered. The tapes went right out across Demark and jinked about all over the place before they ultimately took up a course for Berlin from a turning point on the German Baltic coast very close to the Polish border. That was the crafty bit. We had been going on that route with variations for some time but that time we were not going to Berlin but to some place by the name of PEENEMUNDE.

The briefing was lengthy and very detailed. We were going in at medium height in bright moonlight to attack an experimental radar establishment (so we were told) and there was an order of the day from the man himself, 'Bomber Harris' to the effect that we were expected to press home the attack with the utmost vigour, and that if we did not knock the place out the first time we would be going back again the next night to finish it off.

Apparently Peenemunde was very special and I did not like the sound of that any more than the rest of our brief.

The aiming point for our wave was the quarters of the technical staff with the intention of killing as many as possible and the other waves would deal with the research and manufacturing plant. There was a lot of quiet whistling through clenched teeth at that announcement. It had a particularly dirty feeling about it to set out to deliberately kill people although we were not so naive not to be aware that the type of bombing that we were engaged in invariably took it's toll of innocent civilians including women and children. Somehow this felt different.

The Pathfinder technique was something new too. We had a 'Master of Ceremony's', who would be flying around the target broadcasting target and marker information to keep the bombing concentrated in the right place. A very dodgy process at low level and under a lot of falling bombs so Mac had to keep his R/T set on whether he liked the idea or not.


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Despite the maximum effort called for all the Squadron could muster was four serviceable aircraft and in fact only a total of 54 Stirlings were committed so we were not the only unit having difficulty in keeping aircraft flying but we got off and were under way without any trouble.

It was a long trip taking a Northerly route across the North Sea with many feint turns to keep the enemy guessing until we eventually turned South to cross the Island of Rugen with the head of the stream pointing to Berlin but in that case using the island as a final navigational check point to line us up with Peenemunde.

In such a bright moonlight night dozens of aircraft could be seen lining up but the rear gunner spotted one that seemed to be lining Itself up on us and it was not one of ours!. He kept an eye on it until he was sure of it's intentions and then there was a sharp warning, "fighter low, corscrew [sic] starboard, go" and opened fire as he spoke.

There was a lot of firing from both gunners as banked and dived followed by a yell from the rear gunner "got him" as the would be attacker went diving earthwards with smoke and flame pouring from him.

We soon levelled out again with the target area now clearly lit up ahead by markers, exploding bombs and fires. The Flak was very light and the target stuck out like a 'sore thumb' although there was a little confusion about the precise aiming point. The MC had been a bit late in giving corrections to bomb upwind and to one side of the markers but Hoppy had already locked on to his target and it was too late to do anything about it once the button was pressed, He always maintained that he went for the correct target anyway as it was obvious that the markers were out of place but there was a lot happening around us and there was more excitement to come.

The bomb bay doors had just closed when Mac suddenly ordered "guns stand-by-fighter dead ahead" and I swung around in the astro-dome to see an Me.110 about 200 yds ahead going from left to right with the crew plainly silhouetted in the cockpit by the light of the moon.

In the time that it had taken me to turn around Mac had already


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rammed on full power, banking right and Hoppy was scrambling into his turret. Ralph was rapidly rotating forward but it was a forlorn hope that we might do something effective. There was no way a thirty tonner was going to produce the sort of urge [sic] that was necessary and we soon lost him as he went into the dark side. I don't suppose the German crew even saw us.

The intercom was a bit lively after that as we cleared the target area and finally headed for home. The fighters were showing signs of getting very busy and there was evidence of combats all around us so it was not surprising that Mac did his usual and to hell with orders to climb away from the target. I heard him explaining to our co-pilot that he did not think it was a good idea to reduce his airspeed to about 150mph in those conditions and our co-pilot was learning a few things too. It must have paid off for him anyway. He stayed with the Squadron to the end advancing from Sgt to Sqdn.Ldr. and with a DFC.!.

Mac did the very opposite to the briefed instructions by shoving the throttles right forward with the nose down and 'high-tailed' it out of there like a scalded cat and kept it going until we were down to about 2000ft which we maintained over Denmark before climbing again.

We got home without any more trouble. The rear gunner had his claim of a `kill' of a Do.217 confirmed by other sightings although it was never acknowledged in the record books and fortunately we didn't have to go there again. We had well and truly put the place out of business and the Yanks made sure that it was unlikely to recover.

It was long afterwards that we learned that the so called 'radar delelopements [sic] ' at Peenemunde were in fact the V1 and V2 rocket research and developement [sic] that had received top priority, but at a terrible cost.


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The raid had cost us 41 aircraft including one Mosquito over Berlin where a diversionary attack was-going in. Of the two Stirlings lost one was from our Squadron and we lost not only the 'A' Flight Commander and another 'freshman' pilot who was down as second pilot.

Altogether there were nearly 300 casualties of which 131 had a been consigned to watery graves; never to be found!.

Later on some more interesting facts emerged. Apparently the Luftwaffe had dispatched their night fighters to Berlin at first due to the Mosquito's stirring things up and in the excitement they had a fine old time shooting each other up; and down, before it became obvious that the main raid was-somewhere else. Then the fighters were diverted to the Peenemunde area and other units were alerted.

The net result was that when the whole flock descended to land, very short of fuel, on diversionary airfields it was every man for himself and quite a number were lost in mid-air collisions and taxying accidents.

One significant loss that could be attributed to that episode was that the senior General of the Peenemunde production staff was among the many casualties and production was put back sufficiently to gain time for the introduction of countermeasures when they did finally launch them.

[line of stars]

I was not sorry when we found ourselves free for a few days as we waited for the nights to get darker and for nearly 300 air-crew and 40 aircraft to be replaced; but it was only a few days.

On the 23rd August EF433 was back in business again and we were off once more. The target was Berlin; the 'Big City' as it was known to aircrew. It no longer gave us any cause for concern when the target was announced....we had been well and truly blooded, so off we went again although it was not without a spot of bother.


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It seemed that there were battles going on all around us with intense activity for a long time. There were 'flamers' going down in all directions and we were all keeping a very sharp look-out whilst Mac weaved about so that at times we could see below us but we were lucky again even when Mac had to take some very lively action to duck out of a searchlight cone that definitely had our number.

The pale blue high intensity radar controlled master light locked onto us first and then a number of others joined in and chased us around all around the sky.

We had seen that situation often enough to know that once you were trapped in that lot there would be a fighter not far away waiting to finish us off if the concentration of flak did not get us first; and the flak got [underlined] very [/underlined] concentrated.

That was no time to just 'corkscrew'. Throttles forward, fine pitch, nose down to increase speed and then Mac more or less played tag with them as they chased us but he used some very rapid changes of direction before they could reverse.

That night was perhaps the most desperate searchlight situation we had ever been in. On occasions the whole interior of the aircraft was illuminated as plain as day and it was like being a fly caught in a spiders web but eventually Mac's tactics paid off as we broke free. We were very glad to get home again after that.

It was becoming increasingly obvious that the relatively quiet earlier missions were a stroke of luck as we were now having to fight our way through almost every time. The odds in favour of us completing a tour were shortening considerably, and to make matters worse the flying time was getting longer. The last three ops. had all been over seven hours and Berlin was nearer eight, and 56 aircraft had been lost on that raid, 16 of them Stirlings!. The beds in our hut were getting new occupants before we even got to know the previous one's!.


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No-one seemed to be getting posted away or 'tour expired'. There was always someone from the 'committee of adjustment' gathering up the possessions of those who would have no further use for them unless they had been particularly lucky.

As far as we were concerned it was still not a subject of conversation although we were a little superstitious about the situation. Despite the fact that our beds were scattered about the hut none of us ever moved from the beds that we first flopped into so that we could be grouped together, although it would have got some of us away from draughty doors and windows.

We just stayed put as the occupants of the others changed regularly and I learned later that Mac and Pete had adopted exactly the same procedure!. Among the most recent casualties that brought things rather sharply into focus was the loss of another McDonald, (slightly different spelling), ex 214 Squadron, on the last operation. We had got to know him and his crew quite well as they were the most experienced, and we had wished them 'Good Luck' as they left the briefing room.

It was his 30th and final operation before being rested and it was a long time later that I learned that only his W/Op. had survived as a POW. Apparently, at the last moment, on leaving the briefing room, he had been offered the chance to stand down and finish his tour there and then but the crew voted to turn it down!. It did not help to reflect on the fact that when the Squadron had been formed there was a McDonald, a MacDonald and a Macdonald. One, Sgt MacDonald had already goes missing on the 25th July, so we were the only one left!.

As usual, despite the long trip the night before, we reported to the flight office in the early afternoon where we learned of the Squadron's loss, hoping as usual, that we would be 'stood down'. Some were but for Mac and I it was a different story.

For us there was a flight detail with some S/Ldr Staff Officer from Group HQ who for some reason wanted to demonstrate the 'corkscrew'.

I don't know why it was us. Perhaps Mac had volunteered again


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as we suspected he did an occasions, but as it only required a minimum crew of three for such details the others were sent off. There was no Battle Order on the board so they did not need a second telling. They were off like scalded cats!.

It was no real problem with two pilots up front so I was down as 'gunner' for the flight and there was a chance that we might learn something new although we had certainly done our share of 'corkscrewing'; and a bit more the previous night when Mac had got into an energetic but still smooth manoeuvre in such a way that it did not communicate the extent of the motion to the back-side. The evidence of that was that Pete, sitting in his darkened 'office' doing his sums, was only half aware of what was going on apart from the occasional interior illumination, came on the intercomm [sic] and nervously suggested to Mac that he "chuck it about a bit"!. That was a bit of a surprise to the rest of the crew. I knew that we were being 'chucked about,' quite a lot. How else was it that I was in my seat and often getting glimpses of the ground through the the [sic] Astro dome on [inserted] the [/inserted] [underlined] top [/inserted] of the aircraft.

When we got out to EF433 I was more concerned with the pre-flight checks of both mid-upper and rear gun turrets in case I had to make a dive for one of them in the event of an intruder chancing his luck, and then basically I was a passenger.

I was a little surprised to see Mac in the right hand seat as I took up my position on the flight deck between the two pilots as we started up and taxied out…..even then I was getting alarm signals in my sensitive parts as I was subjected to an G experience that was rare since flying with Mac.

The brakes squeeled [sic] and shrieked and the aircraft rocked and a lurched about until finally it was heaved off of the runway in about the clumsiest take-off I could ever remember and into a climbing turn that seemed to strain every rivet. And that was before we corkscrewed!.

After climbing to about 5000ft with the engines bellowing I was listening to this chap explaining to Mac how it should be done but it still caught me by suprise [sic] when he went into the most violent, wildest manoeuvre that I had ever thought possible. The wing tips must have flexed by about 6ft although I did not know for sure as I was brought to my knees by the 'G' forces


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one minute and was floating to the roof the next desperately trying to hang onto something to avoid being thrown around the cockpit and possibly finishing up in someone's laps. Even so I could not avoid noticing a purple tinge developing around Mac's neck that had nothing to do with 'G' forces. As it went on he was obviously getting very angry and not learning a lot!.

Eventually he got very emotional as he turned to the other pilot and the intercom [deleted] n [/deleted] fairly sizzled with an outburst that contained phrases like, "how dare you treat my aeroplane like this" and "what the bloody hell do you think we were doing over Berlin last night" and "what the bloody hell do you think the gunners are supposed to be doing whilst all this is going on" and a lot more besides which is unprintable. An argument ensued, the outcome of which was that Mac finished by telling the other pilot to relinquish control by his "I have control....now sit back and you might bloody well learn something". I crept away somewhat embarrassed and took up my position in the mid-upper turret reporting in when I was established and I soon knew how Ralph felt as Mac put us through the same manoeuvres as we had done the night before, (and he was driving from the right hand seat), with no further comment from the visitor.

At least, being in a gunner situation for a change I learned the value of keeping my eyeballs in their sockets which is more than I would have done if the other chap had been driving!.

Having got that off of his chest we headed straight back to base and landed with the Squadron Leader still fuming at the indignity of being lambasted by a Flying Officer, so he stamped away from the aircraft with a flea in his ear!.

Mac left him to his own arrangements to get back to the flight office whilst we spent a long time looking around the aircraft for signs of sprung rivets and other signs of over stressing like wrinkled skin.

Mac was muttering darkly all the time about "ham fisted buggers" and other uncomplementary [sic] remarks that are unprintable.

He was more vocal than I had ever heard him and definitely not impressed that 'Sir' had not done as many ops as we had!.

No doubt the demonstration was well intentioned even if it was a case of 'teaching grandma to suck eggs'.


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On the 27th we were in the briefing room again to find that targets in Nurnburg [sic] were to receive our attention so off we went in the company of another 673 aircraft.

My recollections are that the flak was the worst I had ever seen so far. There seemed to be a solid wall of shell bursts in front of us as we closed in on the city, and 'flamers' were going down right left and centre.

At briefing it had been mentioned that the night fighters were likely to be repeating some new tactics that had already had some success; as far as they were concerned anyway.

It confirmed our suspicions that something different was going on.

Previously the fighters had kept clear of the ack-ack and waited until they saw someone in trouble before going in for the kill but they had started getting in among us and having a go at anything they saw regardless of the possibility of being hit by their own stuff. Between those operating those tactics and others using AI (Airborne Interception Radar) they were beginning to knock us down like clay pigeons.

The searchlight/flak/fighter combination was lethal under those conditions and between them accounted for the loss of 33 aircraft, 11 of them Stirlings from a force of 104. [underlined] Three [/underlined] of them were from our Squadron detail of seven that had ultimately got under way. The loss of nearly 50% really knocked the stuffing out of us. None of them had been with us for more than a few weeks and one of the pilots had flown with us as co-pilot recently.

At this point I was hoping that a spot of leave would help to prolong things but it was not be.

After a brief rest the next place to receive our attention was Munchen-Gladbach [sic] on the 30th and this one started off on the wrong foot.

All was well until start-up when the starboard outer starter motor stripped when engaged.

It was not unnatural that most of the crew immediately started planning the evenings entertainment to occupy a bonus night off as we knew that there was no spare aircraft. I must confess that I had no knowledge of the starting handle!.

There was no reason why a wireless operator should I suppose


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although it was in our own interests of survival that we should know quite a lot about everyone else's [inserted] job [/inserted] . But that was some starting handle!.

Nearly 20 feet long, shoved through a hole in the engine casing to engage it, and with a large double. crank at the bottom designed for two people to turn it.

With Paddy in the cockpit juggling with throttles and mixture controls, and Mac jumping up and down shouting unprintable words of encouragement to the owners of [underlined] four [/underlined] pairs of arms, mine included, we cranked that engine until at last it spluttered into life and then we all piled aboard and got under way.

We soon made up for lost time by taking a few short cuts to catch up the force as there was no way that we were going to be a loner over enemy territory but I doubt it very much if many aircraft had been started that way to go on ops.

We had a bit of a skirmish later as we approached the target. The rear end Mac hollered and fired as we jinked away from an Me.109 which spun away pouring smoke and flame although we did not see what finally happened to him. We were far to busy searching for others as it was obvious that the fighters were very active all around us. McIlroy was only credited with a possible for that engagement.

There was no doubt that our two gunners were really on the ball as once again they had fired first but others were not so lucky and for one reason or another six Stirlings failed to return.

[line of stars]

We were briefed for Berlin on the 31st although there was some doubt about W becoming serviceable although they were half way through the starter motor change. In the event it was not rectified in time and at the last minute we were allocated EF117, but Mac was very peeved about it. It had not even been air tested!.

We did not get very far in it before we found that the rear guns would not fire and then the intercom went dead on us.


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Mac was fuming and we pressed on for a while desperately trying to rectify the faults without any success but he decided that we would not waste the trip or the bombs as we turned away from the enemy coast and diverted to overfly a place that most people tried to keep clear of; Texel, in the Frisian Islands. They started firing as we approached so it was taps open, speed up with a bit of a weave on and Hoppy planted the bombs as close as he could to the batteries and the searchlights. Their effort was certainly reduced as we turned away so perhaps we had done a bit of damage in the process. It was counted as an operation as we had been over enemy territory but there was one a hell of a row as the brief was to dump the bombs in the sea or jettison them on the Thetford range.

In addition there were even accusations of possible sabotage and collusion from higher up until the faults were proven to have been electrical malfunctions that could not have been fixed in the air. Mac was furious about the whole business but it did not help. One can only speculate on what the outcome might have been if we had not been forced to 'abort' the mission. There were 16 Stirlings lost that night out of the 57 dispatched. One of them from our Squadron!.

The gaps around the mess tables were getting noticeable again and if the absence of any entries in my log book is anything to go by we were sent on leave whilst the Stirling Force was being put together again.

I do vaguely remember one leave that started with a fair old session at the King Willie and I must have forgotten where I was as we pulled out of Bury. St. Edmunds station. Apparently I had to be restrained from dispensing leaflets out of the window!. Despite my indiscretion I still managed to retain some of them.

There were a few mining operations undertaken by new crews whilst we were away and on our return we were to find that one new crew had arrived and had already been lost in that short period. It was not long before we were back in the briefing room again to find that the target was the Dunlop factory at Montlucon, Italy, but it was another washout. We never even left home shores.

An engine seized shortly after getting airborne and we were


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obliged to jettison bombs and fuel on the range before landing. We were in 'W' and it had only done a few hours local flying whilst we had been away but sleeve valve Hercules engines really made a thorough job of it when they seized, so of course Mac was hopping mad.

We ail got blamed for the various things that had gone wrong and a lot of accusations were flung around in the heat of the moment. The frustration was understandable as we all knew that he was driving himself, and us, as hard as he could to get the tour over as quickly as possible but eventually he calmed down and we renewed our efforts.

[line of stars]

It was during our last leave that Mcllroy spent a few days with me and the family as we had a welcome break from the East Anglian scene.

We walked miles over the Downs at the back of Worthing where I had spent all my earlier days, and past the spot where in 1940 I had gazed in awe at a shot down Heinkel 111. although it was an area now that was not so regularly visited by the German Air Force.

It had been different then, when the invasion was imminent although they had been forced by their losses and other commitments to limit their efforts in our direction.

I can still recall vividly the occasion when I found myself right under a scrap over Worthing, between three Spitfires and a Heinkel 111. that had dared to venture in the direction of London.

The Air raid siren had sounded and I had seen him going over very high, leaving vapour trails but he had obviously been forced to turn tail and he was in a shallow glide going very fast as he came over the hospital and the gas works. Then those Spits gave him a real hammering.

With hot empty cartridge cases and links cascading down all around me I had watched mesmerised as the top gunner had winged two of them, one going off East towards Shoreham staggering a bit and the other in the direction of Ford and Tangmere trailing smoke. Then the third one went in for the kill if the


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way that the guns suddenly went askew was anything to go by. That was it. He continued out to sea and plunged in about a mile off of the pier. He had put up a good fight but it had not done him much good.

Now the skies were relatively clear but that did not mean that the area was safe. There were elements of the Canadian Army en-camped in the area and they often imposed a threat to life and limb.

I was glad of McIlroy's company in a bar one evening when some of his countrymen who were somewhat 'tanked' up started making derisive remarks about Brylcream boys and a scrap was imminent.

It all looked very ugly for a while and of course those chaps had been trained to the peak of fighting efficiency and no doubt still had a bee in their bonnet about the Dieppe affair.

Just in time Mac defused the situation. He pushed me out of the way, took of his raincoat to reveal his Canada shoulder flashes, gunners brevet and stripes, and drawing himself up to his full height of 6ft plus asked who was going to be first. There were no takers and we moved to another bar to continue drinking in peace.

No doubt that lot had more than their share of fighting later on, on 'D' Day and after.

[line of stars]


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That was all behind us as we finished our leave and got back to the task of taking the fight to the enemy.

On the 16th we found ourselves on the Battle Order for an operation that turned out to be a very dodgy one.

There were the usual mutterings, quiet whistling through clenched teeth plus a few caustic comments from the assembly when we found that we were off to do some damage to a railway station and tunnel at Modane, a mountain pass between France and Italy. What caused most of the comment was the unusual method of attack. Modane was at the Northen [sic] end of the Tunnel-de-frejus, deep in the Alps!.

As it was in a valley, the floor of which was 3,467ft above sea level, with the tops of the valley at about 11.000ft and only three miles across the tops it was impossible (so they said), to approach the tunnel mouth direct due to the sheer rock face above it.

The plan was to approach from a valley at 90° to the tunnel mouth, plant the bombs in the valley wall to bring down a large amount of debris before doing a smart left hand turn into the main valley.

The task was a risky one, bearing in mind that it was at night. Anyone who failed to get it in one was to initiate the left turn and take the station and yards at Modane as the secondary target.

One way or the other it would make it difficult for the German military traffic that was plying between France and Italy through the remote pass.

Fortunately the Met got it right that time. The weather was perfect. It was beautiful moonlit night and we entered the mountain region between the peaks bang on track and worked our way through until the target area loomed up ahead. We rushed towards the rock face at around 200mph and Hoppy did his lefts and rights and steadies and then he goofed it!. !

What happened next caused my heart to miss a beat. Calm as you like as if he was on the bombing range Hoppy said "missed it-round again"!.

I think that is what upset Mac more than anything else as we banked over into the valley expecting him to give Hoppy some verbal about the secondary target but what came next caused


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my heart to miss a few more beats.

We were all alarmed to hear Mac say, 'that is just what we will do too, and get it right this time or you go out next, we are going back to the tunnel"!.

By now we had got to know Mac well enough to know that when he had set his mind on something there was very little that we could do about it. I got the distinct impression that I was riding a runaway roller-coaster as I braced myself in the isle [sic] between the pilots positions.

The horizon went haywire as we banked over into the initial turn and started to descend. We had not quite got to the station yards when we went into a tight 180deg. turn to head back underneath the rest of the force that was still hurling bombs all the way down the railway line.

I don't know how serious Mac was about chucking Hoppy out but he gave it to him straight, "no more messing about" as we charged at the tunnel mouth and when the "bombs away" call came we did not hang around to see the results although I don't see how we could have avoided hitting something. Our greatest concern was getting out of the situation.

All I could see was a kalidascope [sic] of nasty looking rocks as there was only seconds to make the turn, no room to turn back, no chance to climb with aircraft still coming in over the top of us. All we could do was wriggle and twist along the valley floor hoping to God we would not go the wrong way and find ourselves in a cul-de-sac.

It was very uncomfortable for a while as Pete and Hoppy had consulted their maps and assured Mac that all was well. And so it was as suddenly we came out into a wider valley and were able to climb.


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Obviously we had not done the exact reciprocal of our inbound route and it did not matter a lot as we all breathed a little easier until Mac let out a whoop with an "all gunners stand by" and we were all on the alert again. Then he told us what it was all about as the gunners reported "ready".

He throttled back and in rich mixture we were soon whispering along without even a flicker of flame from the exhausts, and then we all saw clearly what he had seen as we went into a turn. We were able to pick out dim convoy lights on a road halfway up the mountainside, so it seemed likely that it was the Southern end of the tunnel that we had just bombed. Mac said "if that is not a military convoy I will eat my socks" and followed it up almost immediately with a gentle turn onto a Northerly heading to within a few hundred yards of the mountainside. All gunners blazed away in turn and there was all hell let loose before we turned away.

The results were spectacular and certainly not quite what we had expected.

There were explosions, scattering lights, and liquid fire pouring down the mountainside with more explosions in the waterfall of fire and after about 20secs. we turned about and repeated the performance.

It was an appalling sight as obviously vehicles including fuel and ammunition trucks had been hit but turning away with most of our ammunition gone and somewhat shocked, we made our way home, low down across the tip of Switzerland and across France just as fast as we could.

Mac's orders were specific. Not a word about it, and he swore each one of us to absolute secrecy as we had not been ordered to do it, or whether we had done the right thing even though we might have contributed considerably to the war effort.

It was never reported and has remained under wraps until Mac can no longer answer for whatever damage was done. With more operations still to do if we were lucky it was best to forget the episode although some explanations were called for as our target photo showed a very messy tunnel mouth and the expenditure of several thousand rounds of ammunition was explained as an attempt to supress some ground fire in the valley. [underlined] And a ticking off for attacking in the wrong direction [/underlined] !!.


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I did not do another operation until the 3rd October as I went on the sick list for a few days.

I received an injury not from enemy action but from one of my own crew, although the outcome showed the sort of crew spirit that there was even if I had to be the 'dogs-body' to prove the point in respect of my own particular crew.

Macdonald and I had been into Bury St Edmunds to the King Willie for a couple of quiet drinks and on return we went to the Sgt's Mess where there was a dance in progress.

As soon as we entered the Mess we found ourselves in the middle of a group of people, Station Commander included, who were being treated to a drunken comedy act by Paddy who seemed to be doing his damndest [sic] to climb a wall by making repeated runs at it.

He must have been in the bar as soon as it had opened and obviously had had far more than his share.

The affair had just reached the stage where the Group Captain had already ordered the RAF Police to be brought in so Mac stepped in to sort things out his way. Exercising his right as 'Skipper' he ordered me to get Paddy out of the Mess and out of trouble. I wish he hadn't!.

With the assistance of another Flight Engineer from the Squadron Paddy was talked out of the building but we had not got very far when the other chap slipped and went down and a very confused Paddy decided that I was responsible.

I was still trying to hold him up but he turned on me and belted me one!, and I tumbled into an open trench.

I could have coped with that but grabbing a large paint drum half filled with solidified paint he heaved it at me and I remember nothing after it bounced off of my head.

I woke up in the sick bay the next morning with the great grandaddy of all headaches and adorned by large pieces of sticky plaster.

In the meantime wheels had been in motion as it had been decided that disciplinary action would be taken against Paddy for the rumpus that he had caused in the Mess. As far as my condition was concerned it was a different case so it looked as if Mac was going to have to do without his favourite engineer for a while if that reached it's logical conclusion…..until Mac did a deal with someone. That is, in addition to me!.


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He came to see me in the sick bay with a proposal that he said would satisfy all concerned.

The deal was that I would be charged with being responsible for the whole affair and as I was hardly in a state to argue I went along with it. The net result was-that Paddy was in the clear, I was fined five shillings (25p) for being 'drunk and disorderly', a scar on my forehead, and an entry on my documents as well as a few days off; but I had an opportunity to even the score sometime later.

Whilst I was on the sick list and grounded the crew did another two operations with a relief W/Op, going to Hanover on the 22nd and Mannheim on the 24th without incident. and each of those two nights I spent in the control tower biting my nails until they were back. One of our Squadron failed to return from the Hannover raid…..and it was nearly a turning point for me.

There was a limit on how long you could remain out of a crew without being, permanently replaced and the relief W/Op was sufficiently impressed with the rest of the crew to ask if he could stay with them. Mac must have pulled a few more strings and the MO signed me off despite the sticky plaster so I was back in the crew instead of becoming spare man.

The other chap had previous been spare because his crew had gone missing whilst he was sick so he went back to being spare.

Unfortunately, when he did get crewed up again the following month he was killed in a flying accident. That's fate! and it was being tempted far too often for my liking.

Eventually Mac did get around to thanking me in an embarrassed sort of way for my involvement but I think that when I weighed up the final outcome I was the one that was most thankful, so despite a sore head and some red ink remarks in the records, we just pressed on as if nothing had ever happened.

[line of stars]


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The operation we were briefed for on the 3rd October was for aircraft factory targets at Kassel and as 'W' had been unserviceable on air test we were allocated EE971. After air-testing that one Mac and Paddy agreed that 'it would do'. Not quite like our 'W' but they could accept it.

A few things had changed by that time. The Luftwaffe hit and run raids were almost a thing of the past as they were well and truly on the defensive and East Anglia now bristled with AA sites which very rarely permitted a raider to get very far.

We had got bold enough to assemble all the aircraft for the night's operation on the runway in front of the main camp area and in sight of the main road, and on this occasion there must have been as many as 28, possibly 30 aircraft lined up, and very impressive it looked too.

I have always thought that one lone raider bold enough (and lucky enough) to have got through the defences to shoot up that line would have done an awful lot of damage, but fortunately no-one ever did. The resultant mess would have wiped out half the camp and the Marquis of Cornwallis pub at the same time.

Nevertheless it was a great morale booster for the locals who were crowding up to the other side of the fence to watch procedings [sic] , many with pints of ale held aloft in salute. It did restrict activities a bit when many crew members were saying goodnight to their favourite WRAF under the mainplane, but the less said about that the better.

Off went both Squadrons in grand style and we were just approaching the coast outbound when the port outer packed up with a great deal of spluttering and backfiring so it didn't look as if we were going to get very far.

Mac and Paddy juggled with the engine controls but the engine steadfastly refused to do much more than 1000revs without protesting so they shut it down and feathered the prop.

By that time Mac was keen to get another op. under the belt and apart from calling me a 'jinx' he decided to 'press on'. We were not keen but he didn't ask us so we went all the way on three engines, bombed the target and headed home with Paddy biting his nails with concern at the high fuel consumption and the strain of the extra power being extracted from the other


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three engines. I do not think he would have put 'W' under so much strain but this one was not ours and that was that.

As soon as we cleared the enemy coast wee started to economise on fuel with a change of engine settings, firing off ammunition into the sea. Flares, incendiary containers and all sorts of stuff being dumped to lighten the load with Paddy getting more and more agitated as he endeavoured to work out our fuel state which was not made any easier by Mac's persistent nagging.

My request to make an emergency call was refused as was a further request to call the emergency services for the state of Tangmere, although we did change course in that direction. I was further refused permission to switch the IFF to the emergency code, in fact he was downright bloody minded.

Nevertheless, I was all ready to go straight into all my emergency procedures with IFF, radio and verey [sic] signals if the need arose, without permission, as we approached home shores.

We were just about overflying Tangmere when Paddy and Pete come up with the results of their combined calculations.

When I heard that on the intercomm [sic] I thought immediately, 'Tangmere, here we come', with one hour to base and one hour five minutes fuel, so we were not amused when Mac said, "what the hell are you worrying about then. Navigator, a direct course to base please".

A direct course for Chedburgh was made in defiance of standing orders that forbade us to overfly London and hoped to God that we would not lose too much height and find ourselves tangled up in the London balloon barrage.

It was bad enough when the banshee wailing of the balloon barrage warning came in on the radio. That in itself was a bit unnerving but we were all in Mac's hands and I was hoping that he would be prudent enough to settle for any airfield whilst we still had a limited reserve of fuel. And it was limited. Paddy had made it quite clear that he had calculated to the last drop of [underlined] usable [/underlined] fuel on the evidence of gauges that he was doubtful of. He could not do more other than protest further to Mac as we cleared the London area, in fact everyone protested that what we were doing was unnecessary, although perhaps not in such mild terms.

His only answer was to request that I open all of the fuel tank


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cocks on the bulkhead behind me and he started to rack the aircraft from side to side to drain every last drop into the main tanks.

That was enough for me. On went my 'chute and it would not have taken much more for me to be heading for the rear hatch which I had left open after jettisoning equipment over the sea earlier. It was just at that time that Paddy decided that he had definitely had enough. As far as he was concerned Mac had gone 'bonkers' and he was getting out whilst he still had a chance. He struggled out of his seat, clipped on his 'chute and had just got by Pete, and I was seriously. contemplating joining him when I received an order from Mac to "restrain him".

That upset any plans, so he was 'restrained', if that is what you would call tripping him up and sitting on him, although it was not for long as Mac had decided that we were serious and he agreed to go for the nearest airfield if Paddy would go back to his seat.

No sooner had he done so the port outer spluttered and died so they started up the port inner for the first time in hours and although it would not run at any speed without backfiring it was kept going as we desperately searched around for an airfield.

Mac was very busy struggling with the controls when one was sighted and we immediately headed for it. I fired off the colours of the day as fast as I could load and fire and when they were gone I fired off all the reds and then everything else in the rack, greens, yellows, star shells and even smoke puffs in the hope that the control staff would be suitably alerted to an emergency. Mac was far too busy to even use his radio and it was all very tense in the cockpit. I was half hoping that Mac would still give the order to abandon, and I was still ready, but instead he instructed Paddy to select wheels and flaps only when he asked for them and that's when the starboard outer spluttered and died. It was in those desperate moments that Paddy 'goofed' and we lost about five thousand feet rapidly after he feathered the starboard inner by mistake, and although he promptly rectified the error we were by that time descending like the proverbial brick lavatory. Not surprising as we were for a time flying; if you could call it that, on between one


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and one and a half engines.

I was back in the astro dome by that time as we aimed at the threshold of the runway at an alarming angle to keep the speed up. My legs and fingers were crossed as I looked hypnotically at where I was quite sure that we were going to make a large sized hole and then the nose came up …….."full flap" was Mac's breathless request over the intercomm [sic] and we were flaring out above the runway with the speed falling off as all power was taken off with another almost whispered request ...."wheels down" and then we floated whilst Mac held her off, to kiss the runway within seconds of the undercarriage 'green lights' coming on with warning horns blasting our ears.

Another perfect landing!!!! even if the approach had been a bit abnormal.

Mac established contact with the control tower to find that we were at Wratting Common, another Stirling base and we managed to stagger to the end of the runway and turn off before everything stopped with a splutter as we ran completely out of fuel!. We subsequently had to be towed away but not before we had managed to compose ourselves.

It was really an amazing piece of flying that had made the best out of a very bad decision that so easily could have ended in disaster…..and we all knew it.

Why else would Paddy come rushing past me towards the rear door, ashen faced, then jump out and spend a lot of time throwing up and kissing mother earth!

As for me. I stayed in the semi-darkness of the doorway until my colour came back and my knees stopped knocking before I ventured out...and I needed the ladder!. I don't think the others were much better.

After a few hours sleep we were back out to the aircraft which had been repaired and refuelled. The problem had only been burned out ignition leads which was something that Hercules engines quite often suffered from and we were soon on our way back to base still feeling as if we had experienced a very dream [sic] but we were still better off than some. Another five Stirlings failed to return that night.

Not another word was said about the incident. No apologies....nothing! Perhaps it was best left that way if we


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expected to continue as a crew…..and we did, although Mac was somewhat subdued afterwards -and was suffering from strained back and shoulder muscles for several days.

[line of stars]


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We had a few days break before we were detailed for another operation on the 8th. It was my birthday on the 9th so I planned a celebration if all went well but that night, as the 8th turned into the 9th we got the sort of party I could have done without. The main target was Hannover although-we were part of the secondary force within the main force with everyone heading for Bremen and at a certain position the main force turned towards Hannover leaving us virtually as decoys.

The fighters had been scrambled to intercept the track to Bremen and I was half way through a large bale of leaflets that I was dispensing out of the rear escape hatch when the rear gunner suddenly yelled "fighter--port quarter--corkscrew port--go" and over we went straight into evasive action as the fighter opened up. The rear gunner opened up at the same time and the interior of the aircraft was lit up by flashes as we were hit and bits and pieces were flying around in all directions. There was not a lot that I could do although I instinctively started to throw out leaflets as fast as I could without bothering to cut the string on some as I came up to the standing position to kick some bundles out. As I was to find out later, a good move. Mac was throwing the aircraft around all over the sky and the firing seemed to go on for a long time with smoke, flashes and a great deal of noise as something stung me in the face, and then it stopped as quickly as it had started. Immediately the rear gunner was back on intercom to report that his rear turret was damaged and had jammed solid when he had resorted to turning it manually.

He also reported a hell of a lot of debris from us had smothered the attacker before he had broken away suggesting that we had lost a few bits of aeroplane.

It was later on when we were piecing together details of the attack that we figured that it must have been my leaflets in the slip-stream, and he also reported that the fighter appeared to have two glowing tails; which is what I had also seen in a brief moment through the hatch.

There was a hell of a lot to do. We were in no doubt that we had collected a considerable amount of damage yet everyone checked in OK and unharmed which was a relief.


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I made my way back to the radio compartment to find Paddy curled up behind the armour plating of my seat which he had dived for after seeing me hopping about in the illumination of tracer that was flying about.

I asked him to check me over as there was a lot of wet and warm stuff running down my face and producing his torch very soon re-assured me that "it's hydraulic oil you bloody twit" before he was off down the back end to make some repairs.

Everyone was checking around thoroughly at that time but there were no fires or fuel leaks and all engines were turning without fuss. All other indications were normal….and we were still flying, complete with bomb load so we pressed on somewhat gingerly at that point in time.

There was another very good reason why I had dashed up front so rapidly after the action. Despite the fact that I had been standing on the edge of quite a large hole to dispense the leaflets, my 'chute had still been in it's stowage a long way from me; and I never ever did that again that's for sure!.

Everyone eased their parachutes in the stowages. Paddy put his on as he had to negotiate the open hatch which we had decided to leave open under the circumstances and as we continued to Bremen we checked and re-checked all our vital functions.

Paddy used a fire axe to clear the rear bulkhead and turret doors before the turret became operational again with a healthy short burst. But Mcllroy was in a very draughty situation as most of his perspex had gone and there were holes all around him, after which he made some first aid repairs to the hydraulic piping in the area of the position where the ventral turret would have been; if it had been fitted. First aid was the operative word; he used the medical first aid kit!. More to stop slippery oil sloshing about than anything else.

The intercomm [sic] was lively and as we had a freshman second pilot with us he was learning very fast. For a change Mac was not telling anyone to quit the chatter as he usually did so bit by bit everything was satisfactorily cross checked and it was reassuring to find that all the essentials were working despite the fact that there was a lot of internal damage: There were holes in the main bulkhead up front near my position and


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even some of the instruments in the cockpit had lost their glass. With everything giving the right responses it was no time to pull out of the stream and becoming a sitting duck for another enterprising night fighter so we stayed with it, bombed and stuck to the route for the return journey still regularly checking and cross checking.

I really thought that that was the one time Mac was going to have to use his "angle of dangle" equipment as he called it; to help him fly the aeroplane. It was in fact a weighted Scots doll suspended by a cord in line with his nose that he always set up for use. He always said that he could fly on that if all else failed but fortunately it was not needed and stayed up on the scuttle.

Eventually Paddy and I replaced the rear hatch and things returned to near normal but I could not help reflecting that I could have been a lot more effective with a pair of .303's sticking out of the bottom instead of dispensing a pile of paper which no doubt the German population used for the same purpose as we would have done in those days of paper shortage.

As it was, we had nothing protecting the underside and the Luftwaffe knew it well enough. After all, they had a fair sized scrap business going in recovering crashed Allied aircraft and re-cycling them into fighters for the defence of the Fatherland, and it was costing us dearly.

Although the attack on us had been from the rear so many losses of the period were being caused by something that for some reason or other our intelligence people did not know about, or if they did it was not made common knowledge.

It could have been that the Luftwaffe system was so effective that few, if any, aircrews ever got back to tell the tail [sic] .

They had developed a weapon along the lines of a British invention of WW1, the COW (Coventry Ordinance Works) gun, originally intended for shooting down airships.

They had put together a pair of 20mm cannon with periscope sights on an upward firing mounting in several types of aircraft, including the Me.110. and codenamed it 'Schrage Music' as part of their 'Battle Opera' control system.

With or without radar they were getting into the bomber stream, picking a target and positioning themselves underneath in the


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blind spot out of sight of the gunners, even to the point of following through a 'corkscrew' so that the gunners never got contact, or the Wireless Operator through his infra-red 'Fishpond' equipment, (if he had got it on) for that matter.

All they had to do was to keep up the shadowing until they got their aiming point 'spot on' then hit the button.

The aiming point was usually the starboard wing root where there was a concentration of fuel lines, fuel tanks, control lines and crew. It was very adjacent to the bombs, one engine, flares, oxygen bottles and other things that go bang in the night.

One short burst in that vital area was usually enough and the aircraft invariably exploded within seconds of the strike giving the occupants very little chance to escape. No wonder that we had seen-so many aircraft just explode and dissapear [sic] in a fireball.

It is on record that one of their night fighters fitted with the system was credited with [underlined] Five [/underlined] Lancasters in a 30 minute sortie so it was hardly suprising [sic] that there was very little feed back of intelligence information.

As we got nearer home we were very careful how we prepared the aircraft for landing. Fortunately the bomb doors had operated satisfactorily and Hoppy had made sure that there were no hangups. That was the last thing we wanted as a primed hang-up was a very sensitive beast.

Finally there was more to do before joining the circuit. Air pressures, hydraulic pressures and electrics were all normal. Mac did a mock landing procedure at height to test the responses at landing speed. There was no way that he was going to have the aircraft fall out of his hands at same vital stage of our final approach, but flaps, undercarriage and control services all gave the right reaction so it was on to base for a landing. Even then he was not entirely satisfied. Our first touchdown as a bumper to see if the green lights stayed an indicating that the undercarriage has locked down and to check that the tyres were not perforated.

Only then did we make an approach for a normal landing which was, as ever, as smooth as silk.

We gave ourselves a bit more time that morning to look around the aircraft after we had parked in dispersal and what we saw


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in the morning half-light made us gasp.

It did not seem possible that nothing had been seriously damaged yet there was hardly a square foot without a hole in it.

There were holes in the undercarriage doors, the flaps, bomb doors, control surfaces, engine cowlings and nicks out of the propellor blades. The rear turret had suffered most of all with 80% of the perspex gone and there were dozens of holes around the foot well.

A count showed that there were 96 groups of damage altogether but what brought me out in a cold sweat was to find a nice group of five holes through the rear step of the bomb bay where I had been sitting when the attack started. It was just as well that I had jumped up when I did or I would never have subsequently raised a family!.

I would not have been surprised if McIlroy had not been in a similar sweat. Not only was his turret a mess but his flying suit was nicked all over and ruined. There were tufts of fur sticking out under his arms and around his waist and even his flying boots had been chipped.

His turret doors had been ripped open like a tin can and the bulkhead doors had been badly holed as well. His parachute in it's stowage between the doors was later found to have quite a lot of lead embedded in it. When they opened it up it was like a colander and it is doubtful if it would have been much use if he had been forced to use its but he had not got a scratch on him!. I will never understand it.

As far as EF433 was concerned, although she had served us well she was done for. She just sort of sat there drooping and creaking so it was just as well that Mac had treated her gently. She was taken apart and sent to Cambridge for repair.

We learned later that when they stripped her down further and further they were still uncovering signs of damage including a cracked main spar, so she was very close to falling apart.

I have often wandered whether all that internal damage was battle damage or the result of the terrible handling she got on the corkscrew demonstration. I am incline [inserted] d [/inserted] to think the latter and it would not surprise me if that particular pilot had not ultimately torn the wings off of something.

However, the repair depot did their remarkable jig-saw puzzle


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repair job with so big an aircraft and there must here been sufficient of EF433 left for it to retain it's identity as it later went back to the Squadron after it had moved to Fairford. Eventually it was transferred to 1665 CU as OG-N until the following February when a mishap with a 'swinger' wrote her off at the end of the month.

In the meantime EF189 had been produced and painted up as the new 'W' so within the period of quiet that seemed to have descended on us that also received the attention that we had previous lavished on EF433. Stirling operations were slowing down a bit and few operations were undertaken. Rumours regarding our future were rife and Mac was very busy checking out new pilots as they came in to bring us up to strength. Several operations were scheduled but cancelled although there was still a bit of mining to do from time to time.

We did not mind a bit. The Bremen affair was not easy to forget and although our last flight in EF433 may not have been all that significant we had get quite attached to her. Some poor chaps had never got any further than their first trip and we had always considered ourselves very lucky that the attack on us had been made with small calibre ammunition. If we had been hit by cannon fire it would have been an entirely different matter.

[underlined] Thirteen years later I found out why there had been no cannon. [/underlined]

As an Air Traffic Controller at Amman in Jordan I was swapping yarns with an ex Luftwaffe pilot, then senior captain of the resident airline, Air Jordan, and an honourary [sic] member of our Mess, when the incident was recalled.

We had got so far with reconstructing the episode that we both went for our log books as the whole thing had reached the proportions of a gigantic 'line-shoot', Nevertheless, there were the details of date, time. and place to match those in my log book.

Apparently he had been a test pilot on jets and had been called in to try out the aircraft in operational conditions.

I don't know who was the most surprised but he had claimed us so badly damaged that we most likely finished up in the sea, and even if we hadn't then we must have had casualties on board. The burning question was "why only small calibre ammunition?",


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It transpired that he had used up all of his cannon ammunition in knocking down two other Stirlings already, so he would have been responsible for two of the three Stirlings lost an that raid. His name is not important in this narrative but it is significant that our combat report of the episode (which has never come to light) had put special emphasis an the aircraft with the fiery tails and it may well have been one of the first reports that identified jet night fighters to the intelligence people. Nothing: was ever mentioned about it so it may well have been kept quiet for good reasons.

Nevertheless, the Messerschmitt aircraft factories continued to be pounded regularly.

[line of stars]


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It was the 3rd of November before we had the opportunity to take our new 'W' on ops. We were briefed for mining in the Kattegat between occupied Denmark and neutral Sweden.

It should have been a 'doddle'. It was a lovely moonlit night and we had to overfly Denmark at medium height before going low level to the dropping area.

All went smoothly until just after the drop when we were engaged by a flak ship with a stream of sparkling tracers squirting at us which started Mac wriggling around all over the place with the taps wide open and down to the wave tops until we put him behind us. We were just beginning to breath easy again when there was a yell from the rear gunner as he spotted an Me.109 on our tail. We must have come in for some very special treatment as a loner crossing Denmark and it was as well that Mac had kept us as low as possible until the drop. Once we got back down there again that's just where we stayed as the intercom between the gunners and pilot got very lively.

It was the fighter affiliation stuff all over again as we slithered and twisted and turned, only this chap was not using a camera.

He sent several bursts after us but they all went wide as the gunners assessed the point at which he was coming into the right position for a deflection shot and then we side slipped and banked out of his sights once more.

We never fired a single shot as Mac had said only to let him have it when the gunners were absolutely sure of a hit so we played tag for a long time.

In the later stages we came to a rugged shore line and still the 109 could not get at us.

In and out and round and round we went across country where the landscape showed up in great detail. We could see people in gardens and lights blinked from friendly windows and open doors. We went around chimney stacks, over power lines and we must have given that enemy pilot a real run for his money until eventually he broke off and disappeared. He either did not care for the low level stuff or he was getting low on fuel but we were glad to see him go after a very hectic 30 minutes. We continued to stay low just in case he had a partner somewhere


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and we were still skudding along weaving about for some time before it was considered safe to gain some height and sort out the navigation.

It was hardly surprising that Pete had lost track of where we were. The number of tight 360° turns had been sufficient to upset both the magnetic and gyro compass's. We were too low for 'Gee' to be effective and I was still refused permission to break radio silence for a D/F fix so we staggered around somewhat blindly for a while trying to sort ourselves out.

At one time we saw an illuminated coastline some miles ahead which puzzled us a bit until the penny dropped...whoops..Sweden!. That gave us a clue as to which way we were going...the wrong way, so it was a smart about turn and back to low level again trying to stabilise the compasses as we picked up the Danish coastline again and crossed the country as quickly as possible before finding some higher cloud to hide in and set a rough course for home.

Pete still could not make a lot of his plot. 'G' was not helping a lot. D/F bearings that I was able to obtain from UK beacons only seemed to confuse the issue and when I looked over his shoulder at his chart it was a mass of hastily pencilled in headings and speeds until it looked like one of those kids dot puzzles that produced a picture when the dots were joined up. Only his picture looked like a bundle of loose knitting wool!.

All we could do was press on in a rough direction, picking our way in and out of convenient clouds whilst Pete gathered as much information as he could. It did not help much that Mac would not fly a steady course but even when he had satisfied himself that we were just off the Dutch coast Mac still had his doubts until Hoppy reckoned he had got a good visual pin-point. He estimated that we were over the Zuider Zee and would be able to confirm it when the Western side came into sight. Sure enough it did, but it was not the sort of confirmation he had been looking for!.

Just as we crossed the coastline, in and out of cloud at about 7,000ft, a number of searchlights switched on as one, in a perfect cone, smack on us, and it seemed several dozen ack-ack guns let loose at the same time.


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The salvo must have gone off about 50ft below us with the sound of gravel being sprayed all over us and we bounced up with Mac piling on the power, banking and balling [sic] "that's Dover you bloody fools".

There was all hell let loose as we wound into a corkscrew followed by the lights and a lot more flak. Mac was hollering "Darkie-Darkie" on the R/T to identify ourselves. I slammed on the IFF (radar identification) switch and fired off the colours of the day as fast as I could fire and reload the pistol and then as if by magic it all fizzled out.

The guns stopped firing, the lights wavered and flickered out and the violent evasive action slowed as Mac asked if everyone was OK. By the grace of God we were and then we immediately started checking around the aircraft which seemed to have taken a bit of a battering.

Despite the presence of several shrapnel holes everything seemed to be working satisfactorily so we set course for base with a lot of discussion as to how we had found ourselves over Dover.

The general opinion was that we must have done a zig-zag course right down the Danish, Dutch, Belgium and French coasts without interception. Perhaps our course had been so erratic that the German fighter controllers had just held back waiting for us to make a navigational error that would have put us within their grasp, or some other problem we had on board manifested itself and did the job for them.

As it was the Dover defences had done us far more damage and we were very thankful for either a slight error in the guns predictor or perhaps a little aiming off just in case we were a friendly aircraft with a spot of bother.

We would not have been the first RAF aircraft that the Dover guns had put on their score board though. They had to be very wary of unidentified aircraft. The Luftwaffe's equivilent [sic] of Farnborough; Rechlin, was known to have quite a comprehensive selection of airworthy Allied aircraft that they played all sorts of tricks with. In such circumstances it was more often a case of shooting first and asking questions afterwards and a risk we had to take if there was any doubt about the position at which the IFF was switched on.

During the final part of the flight back to base we had to go


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over the aircraft with a fine tooth comb to test everything before attempting a landing in the same way as we had done for our previous operation and it was a relief to find that everything worked and ended with a perfect final landing.

I have often wondered how many of the others felt as I did as we prepared for that final landing. Legs, fingers and toes crossed as we took up our crash positions, until we were safely on terra firma again.

I was beginning to wonder how much longer we could keep up that sort of escapade without coming unstuck somewhere.

After we had taxied into dispersal and shut down, the ground crew seemed somewhat concerned as we clambered out. I distinctly remember one of them saying "oh no, not again. You chaps must have a guardian angel somewhere". I could appreciate the sentiment when we looked around the aircraft with them.

The underside was like a pepperpot with slivers of metal hanging loosely from everywhere yet nothing vital had been hit.

We did not fly it again as it was withdrawn for repair and subsequently relegated to the training role' as yet another 'W' was prepared for service.

We were very lucky that night. [underlined] Four other mine laying Stirlings failed to return. [/underlined] Mining was no milk run!.


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[underlined] Picture page. [/underlined]

Macdonalds crew


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We were reprieved after a decision was finally made to withdraw Stirlings from the main Bomber Force and start preparing them for another task.

620 was once of the first to go and crews that were close to the end of their tour were not being retained. That meant us...and it was a great relief when we were told. There was only one other crew made 'tour expired' with fewer operations than ourselves although they had originaly [sic] come from 214 Squadron when the Squadron had been formed.

Certainly it was a relief not to have to fly the two ops that I was short of for the full tour. I had already seen what happened to 'spare' people but it placed our crew in a unique position. We were the [underlined] only [/underlined] crew to have actually started and finished a 'tour' on the Squadron since it had come into being.

The credit really belongs to Mac of course but in that short time we had lost 17 aircraft on ops and 9 in accidents. [underlined] More than the whole Squadron establishment strength, plus six!. [/underlined]

Our gunners had accounted for two enemy fighters. We had carried seven 'freshmen' pilots to introduce them to ops and two of them had not survived Chedburgh.

We had lost 147 aircrew killed or missing of which 47 were known to have become POW's. It was a sad tally.

In the same period of time the Command had lost nearly 1000 bombers with their crews in an air war that showed little sign of abating.

The Squadron distinquished [sic] itself later by towing gliders and dropping parachute troops and supplies into the invasion of Europe, Arnham [sic] and the Rhine crossing, as well as numerous SAS and SOE operations into enemy occupied territory with some very severe casualties.

[line of stars]

We were more concerned with the present at that time. We celebrated with a wild night at the King Willie and a few more nights in the Mess as the strain began to fall away with the added bonus of some special leave.

On our return there were, a lot of new faces but we were more concerned with clearing the station and preparing for our next posting. There was trouble of a different sort on the horizon!.


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As soon as we had returned from leave, refreshed, we found ourselves; that is, the five NCO's lined up outside the flight office with Mac demanding an answer to a very delicate question. It was not very delicately put.

Apparently a certain WAAF who had been fairly liberal with her favours; to say the least, was beginning to show signs of motherhood, and since [underlined] some [/underlined] of us were known to have been in her company at times we were all suspect. Of course, it did not help her case a lot when she was only able to claim that it was one of the Macdonald crew!, and why that did not include Mac and Pete the two commissioned officers I do not know, but Mac's question was blunt and straight to the point. "Which one of you buggers was it", which rather stunned us and for a moment we just shuffled our feet as we studied each other.

I forget who stepped out first followed by another until all five of us had stepped forward. I know for certain that we had not all sampled those favours but a crew is a crew through thick and thin. 'All for one and one for all' and all that stuff. There was not much that could be done under those circumstances so whilst they were trying to pin it on someone else (and there were plenty of others), we were only too pleased to pack our bags and sneak off quietly to our new unit.

[line of stars]


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We had been posted to No.3. Lancaster Finishing School at Feltwell as a complete crew, for instructional duties as strange as it may seem. The unit was just setting up to convert the Stirling Squadrons that were not moving out of the Command and Mac and Paddy went off to a Lancaster OTU in Yorkshire for a couple of weeks whilst the rest of us just familiarised ourselves with the Lancaster. The ground school was just getting going so we soon learned our way around. Apart from the Pilot and Engineer's speciality it was not difficult as most of the equipment was the same or similar and a nice little challenge to convert to a different type.

As soon as Mac and Paddy returned we flew intensively as a crew and within a matter of weeks we were into the training programme and open for business.


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Actually the unit was a bit of a hybrid. Part Operational Training Unit, part Conversion Unit and part Holding Unit for despite the savage losses the Command was still building up it's strength as fewer demands were being made in other theatres of the war, and the station was soon packed to the gills.

Crews started to come in from all over. The Stirling Conversion Units were still in the business of converting people from Wellingtons and then they came to us for changing to the Lancaster until the Stirling CU's were run down. After that they came direct from the Wellington OTU's as well as those Stirling Squadrons that sent detachments for conversion as their aircraft were being replaced by Lancasters.

We became very busy with the flow of people through the unit. Some of them knew the Lancaster better than we did as they were refreshing for their second tour, and very rarely for their a third. They had come off all manner of aircraft and had been 'resting' as we were now doing. There was a great deal of experience to draw on which I was only too willing to put to practical use. There did not appear to be any 'instructors' courses as such. You just threw yourself into it and you just turned out to be good, bad or indifferent at it. In all modesty, I seemed to cope satisfactorily.

After a few months Paddy got fed up with it and eventually got himself crewed up with a pilot of 115 Squadron that was converting and went back on ops. with him. Pete found himself in a spot of bother as a reult [sic] of a little over exuberance at a party and was given an option that he could not refuse....so he went off to a Mosquito Squadron at Downham Market, but not until most of the old crew, with the exception of Hoppy and Mac, attended my wedding in the March.

The bells of St.Mary's Broadwater, Worthing, were rung for the first time since the threat of invasion had silenced them in 1940. That was a traffic stopper if ever there was one and in the ensueing [sic] celebrations the rest of Macdonald's crew left it's mark on the local area. [underlined] I think the marks are still there!!. [/underlined]

I don't mind admitting that for the first time in my life I was smitten with the uncontrollable shakes when standing before the alter [sic] . Call it what you like, fear……………..


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apprehension, whatever, it got hold of me and I shook. My eldest brother, in navy uniform, survivor of numerous sea actions and two lost ships and my best man, came in close and propped me up. All that happened was that I transmitted my shakes to him and we both stood there like jellies and did not settle down until the ceremony was nearly over. Not a pretty sight!. Nevertheless, I married my childhood sweetheart despite the circumstances; something I never thought I would ever have the opportunity to do, and the marriage has stood the test of time.

Eventually Feltwell became so busy that we opened a non-flying ground school at Methwold a few miles away and having already been promoted to Flight Sergeant I got the job of setting up that part of the school for Wireless Operators.

Rather than lose my comfortable room in the pre-war Mess at Feltwell I cycled to and fro' daily and I am sure that it did me a lot of good as far as keeping fit was concerned. I enjoyed cycling anyway having been a founder member of the 'Worthing Wheelers' cycling club and a regular cyclist...even in my job.

To have to peddle a loaded tricycle from one end of Worthing to the other twice a day was quite an accomplishment which I had done for nearly two years and prior to that I had had a job with a builder and cycled 16 miles each way daily; so what was 5 miles.

Getting my bike out from the shed in Worthing where it had been tied up in the roof was no easy task. I have vague recollections of peddling half the distance from Worthing to Feltwell, including across London to save a few pence when some station staffs insisted on there being a ticket for the bike when it was placed in the guards van..to finally arrive in the rain.

The time passed and I only flew occasionaly [sic] to keep my hand in as momentous events occurred on the battle fronts that we, or at least I, felt at times that we were missing out on. I didn't push things though....I wasn't that daft!. There was enough going on at Feltwell and Methwold to keep me busy.

Even the odd operation turned up and that is how we lost a crew and our Chief Flying Instructor. He had opted for a mining job, got together a crew and it did not present any problem in arming up and self briefing. I'm glad he didn't pick me as his Wireless Operator. He took off at the appointed time and was seen clearing


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the immediate area, climbing, and shortly after he disappeared from view there was an almighty explosion as his load blew up and the aircraft disintregrated [sic] , scattering the landscape with a thousand pieces of man and machine. What a hell of a useless way to go for another seven young people. It was a sobering thought that it could have been any one of us that might have drawn the short straw for the privilege of making up the crew.

Life was anything but dull. When the Tannoy started blaring out one evening calling all sorts of people to report here there and everywhere a few of us went up to the airfield to see what it was all about.

It was quite a circus when three B.24's, (Liberators) charged in one after the other.

Apparently these three had not only lost their formation but had also lost their way to such an extent that they had been as much as 100 miles off track and an hour late in getting back to their base arriving at the time it was getting dark.

Just as they were getting into the circuit in a bit of a panic as they were not very experienced at night flying Flying Control yelled 'bandits' as there were Luftwaffe intruders suspected to be in the area, and promptly snuffed out the airfield lights.

[underlined] Panic stations!! [/underlined]

They had been given a course and distance to fly to Feltwell but bandits or no bandits they set off with all their navigation and anti-collision and formation lights on. The bandit scare was obviously false as they arrived in the Feltwell circuit looking like Christmas trees and firing verey signals all over the place. No self respecting Luftwaffe intruder would have passed up that invitation to do a bit of damage. As it happened, they did it to themselves.

The Feltwell controller told them to spread themselves out a bit for landing but they were not having any of that as it was dark by that time. There was no way they were going to lose each other having get that far so in they came, landing lights on. No. 1 got down and was told to go to the end of the runway and follow the 'follow me' illuminated van but got disorientated so slammed on the brakes to come to a juddering halt on the runway. No.2 piled right up the back of him, his props chewing at the……………………


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fusulage [sic] , and No.3, seeing what had happened flung his aircraft into a turn and belly flopped when the undercarriage collapsed. What a mess!, but they were lucky. There was not a single casualty although it took a lot of cleaning up.

We entertained the NCO's in our Mess afterwards and it was a source of amazement at the attitude those blokes had to the whole business. They were not in the least concerned that they had written off three aircraft but it was the manner in which they entertained us to a show that was straight off a Hollywood film set.

They were mostly unshaven, cigar chewing, gum chewing, with side arms and knives slung all around them who seemed hell bent on emulating the six gun cowboys of the wild west films and on the whole it was a lot of fun listening, to their wildly exagerated [sic] stories of 'combat over Germany' totally ignoring the fact that many of us had already done complete tours of night operations over enemy territory. They were not interested but it was better than going to the cinema. Most of them had been in the UK long enough to have sampled 'Limey' beer and were not slow in telling us what rubbish it was so we plied them with it until it was running out of their ears. In the end they weren't so tough. Most of than had to be put to bed!.

As time went by and crews continued to pour through the unit it was obvious to me that my time for moving on could be getting close so I started making the appropriate noises to ensure that I would get something different next time and would not have been surprised at anything that turned up. Nevertheless, there was one big surprise; my appointment to a commission which I had been quite convinced would have been turned down somewhere along the line.

When the appointment was promulgated I did not tell Dorothy but took a few days off having arranged to meet her in Oxted in Surrey, and on the way stopped off at Moss.Bros. in Covent Garden to get fitted out. It felt good. I went in as a Flt.Sgt. and came out an hour later as sprog Pilot Officer, no doubt looking like a tailors dummy, all bright and shining, including my cap, hot foot for Oxted.

Dorothy was not at the station so I set off across the field to meet her half way.


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When we did meet there were expressions of surprise and elation and in the excitement I threw my new, expensive cap into the air. That's how it became 'operational'. It landed in a cow cake and took a hell of a lot of cleaning; in between the laughter.

Later on we continued our journey to Worthing and I was suitably 'shown off' by my proud parents but it was a very odd situation when I met one of my old school pals who was a ground wireless operator.

He was one of those who I had always kept in touch with and had been one of the group at the garden gate on the day war had been declared. He had been totally brainwashed!. The poor bloke kept calling me 'Sir' and the only way I could break him of the habit was to get out of uniform to have a drink together without embarrassment on both sides.

Shortly after leave I found myself detailed for a short course at Fighter Command HQ, Bentley Priory, Stanmore.

There was about a dozen of us and we were told that the course was to train Wireless Operators in the use of R/T broadcasts and relay work of the type that the Pathfinder Force was developing. There was also a suggestion that after the training which was part of the Fighter Controllers course we would be assessed for our suitability for broadcasting airborne fighter control as well.

The first day was spent being shown all the fighter control systems as well as seeing them in practice in the famous fighter control/plotting operations rooms and then we were in business.

The next three days were highly amusing as we worked 'aircraft' from a mock control room with the plotters moving radar plots around the table to set up interceptions as the information from the filter room created the picture. It was the 'aircraft' that caused most of the fun. They were in fact Wall's ice cream tricycles with radar reflectors stuck to a pole on the side with low power battery operated transmitter/receivers in the body of the thing. The 'pilots' of the ice cream carts provided the motive power of course and wore the usual headset plus the restrictive..................


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headgear that pilots wore when they were practicing instrument flying.

As a result we could only see a compass and our feet whilst we were in a world of our own either peddling like the 'clappers' and making turns, or in the control room.

It was a highly amusing sight to see a couple of dozen demented ice cream carts cavorting blindly about a strangely marked out rugby pitch, and the occasional crunch as hunter and hunted came together in a perfect interception. Such crude simulation did not have the advantage of vertical seperation!!!!!. It was enlightening, interesting; and amusing but nothing ever came of it.

[line of stars]

It was getting increasingly difficult to get down to the South coast at that time. It was only by virtue of wearing uniform that I got through the security screen whether it was to Worthing or Oxted. There were troops jam-packed in every nook and cranny and there was hardly a bed to spare in any house or hotel. The streets and wooded areas were gigantic vehicle parks with acres of camouflage netting in some open areas disguising the enormous build up. Both my parents and my in-laws were billeting Commando's and the nights were filled with the rumbling of tanks, guns and other vehicles.

Once or twice whilst I was down that way the Luftwaffe had a go at night reconnaissance of the area but got a hot reception every time. During the day there were standing patrols of fighters that discouraged their attentions and I remember one that tried it one night that found himself facing a daunting barrage of fire that I would not like to have faced. Everything and the kitchen sink was thrown at him as he came through East to West at about 2000ft. Every piece of ack-ack, light and heavy, and hundreds of machine guns let loose from the hills, street corners and vehicle parks with a tremendous racket. It was just too dangerous to stay out in with shrapnel and spent rounds falling like rain. If that intruder got his picture and got back home that night then I reckon he was a very lucky chap.


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As we got towards the end of May it was impossible to meet my wife or get in touch with her. She was in the depths of Montgomer's [sic] HQ scheduling convoys down from the North into the Southern assembly areas although I did not know precicely [sic] what she was doing at the time. It was not until after the HQ had been disbanded that I learned about the restrictions that had been imposed. It was little wonder that I had not been able to get in touch when 'Q' Movements staff were under guard for days and were ever escorted to the toilet!.

[line of stars]


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Back at Feltwell the training programme slowed down and everyone was crewed up into a reserve Squadron. Orders of the day were published imposing all sorts of restrictions.

Crew members were on a two hour stand-by and not allowed off of the station. I was crewed with the remainder of the old crew as Pete and Paddy had already moved on and two others joined us. We regularly ground tested and air tested aircraft to operational standard although our efforts were not always successful. There were always problems with the wicked little 'Gremlins' that attached themselves to aeroplanes. 'Gremlins' were the imaginary demons that were blamed for the many problems that aircraft suffered from.

One of them had a real go at us one night before Paddy had left us. We had landed from a night flying detail and had hardly settled on the flare-path when Mac started giving Paddy a verbal broadside for not having fixed the slow running on the starboard outer engine as it had just cut out when he throttled back. With some surprise Paddy looked at his instrument panel, borrowed my signal lamp to light up the wing and calmly announced that there was no need to worry, it would not need fixing as it had just fallen off!.

That caused a bit of a stir in Flying Control when they were told on the R/T and then something else went wrong and we could no longer communicate with them. There was a lot of choice language from the whole crew and muttering from Mac about "cheap bloody meccano sets" and "it couldn't happen to a Stirling" and other appropriate caustic things as we taxied in.

Before we got to dispersal we were met by one of the controllers on a motor bike who signalled us to stop and then he climbed aboard to tell us to switch the blasted R/T set off. Then we knew why we could not hear the tower. We were stuck on transmit...and in the meantime they had evacuated all the female staff from the control room!!!. Nevertheless, it was quite a programme to get the maximum number of aircraft fully serviceable and operationally ready.

When the big day dawned....'D' Day, 6th June, I found out at breakfast as the majority of us did. The two hour stand-by was


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changed to a one hour and we waited with our ears glued to the radio for the minute by minute news of the events of that day. There was no doubt in our minds that this was the 'big one' that we had been waiting for.

It was incredible that nothing had leaked out although the aircraft had all been tested the previous day, and had been painted with white bands around the wings and the fusulage [sic] . In addition they had all been fuelled and bombed up the night before plus there were two more bomb loads stock piled in each dispersal. All we had to do was to sit around and wait for the signal to report for briefing and we would be off, so we sat around and waited and waited, with nothing to do except go out to dispersal from time to time to move aircraft a few feet as it was not good for them to be in one position for too long with a full load on.

As it happened we were not required. The Luftwaffe were caught napping and by the time they got themselves organised they were very much on the defence. The Allies committed so many aircraft that thousands and thousands of sorties were flown. Even the Bomber Command effort had to be flown on a race-track pattern in and out of the target area for safety and there was no room for us; fortunately!. After three days we were stood down and we went back to the training programme. The rest is now history.

Bomber losses were still heavy at times as the Command reverted to strategic bombing to disrupt enemy communications, supply and fuel resources and there was always the dread thought of the possibility of a repetition of the losses that we had suffered in the attack on Nuremburg the previous March. That had been an absolute disaster when [underlined] 95 [/underlined] of our aircraft were lost. Many of them were crews that had passed through our hands a short while before. It had been a reminder that we were not out of the woods yet and from time to time the Luftwaffe were still a force to be reckoned with.

With the invasion well under way my wife was posted to Newmarket as a result of her Surrey HQ being run down. That was a very convenient arrangement when a sympathetic C.O. arranged for me to be detached to Newmarket airfield as detachment commander for a couple of weeks. Very cosy…..our messes virtually backed


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on to one another!.

It was about that time that Macdonald got himself Courts Marshalled for unauthorised low flying….it had to happen some time. He was returning from an investiture at another airfield, including I believe for his own DFC, but landed on three engines and one bent propellor as a result of low flying over Thetford Forest, and it had taken a bit of explaining.

I was not with him at the time but I remember enough of the case to know the prosecution was badly prepared and could not produce the prop. or bits of tree or photographic evidence and the case was dismissed. I also recall that although Mac was in the left hand seat it was in fact in the hands of Mcllroy in the right hand seat. A piece of evidence that got overlooked, but he was still sailing close to the wind. It was probably similar doubtfull [sic] factors that caused him to prang his car with some of the others on board somewhere out in the Fens when the road did something unexpected. Only Mac was damaged and wore a patch over one eye for a time making him look like a pirate. What hurt him most of all was that in those days before the National Health Service, even in war-time, his accident was treated as self inflicted and he had to pay hospital fees. Even in the RAF hospital at Ely.

By the end of the year the work of the unit was almost complete. Reserves were being built up and replacements could be made by other conversion units so No.3. LFS. started running down with Methwold being cleared first. That kept me busy for a while dismantling all the systems that I had put in and returning stuff to stores, and in the meantime I was pulling strings to get the sort of posting that I wanted.

By the end of January 1945 nearly everything was cleared up and to my delight my posting came in for No.9 (Special Duties) Squadron, sister Squadron of the famous 617 (Dam Busters) Squadron which was more than I had dared to hope for.

Unfortunately a change in circumstances caused the postings staff at No.3. Group HQ. to have a re-think within 24hours of issuing the posting notice.


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My posting to No.9.Squadron was cancelled before I finished packing!.

Instead, after more days of delay I was crewed with some of the remaining chaps at Feltwell and posted to XV Squadron, Mildenhall so it was back on ops. again to fill the gaps that were still decimating units.

'Gaps' was the operative word as in my period of 'rest' at Feltwell the Command had lost a mind boggling figure of around 2000 aircraft.

It would have been nice if the old crew had managed to get back together again but things did not normally work out that way. Pete was already half way through his tour on Mosquito's at Downham Market. Paddy was getting on with his second tour with 115 Squadron. The others had been crewed up and departed. Squadron Leader. F.C.Macdonald.DFC. had been appointed as Flight Commander of 622 Squadron; also at Mildenhall, and it was a whole new ball game.

I only had the opportunity of socialising with Mac once in the very short period that I was there. The hand of fate caught up with me at last.

Our first operation was the last that XV Squadron's new, all officer, all second tour, all ex instructor crew was to do and it was late June before I got back to Mildenhall again, mainly to thank the parachute section for packing my parachute correctly!.

By the most amazing coincidence when the WAAF in the parachute section went through the books to find the serial number of my 'chute it turned out that she had also been the packer!

The poor girl got a sloppy impulsive kiss and a donation to their social fund but when I went to look for Mac I could not find him. There was very little interest; no-one wanted to know as he was away somewhere and although I tried several different ways of communicating with him later I had no direct contact again until 1954.

My search eventually led me to a scruffy motor engineers workshop on the outskirts of Wisbech where he seemed to be both the proprietor and chief mechanic; there was no-one else!.

He was the same old Mac. Uncommicative [sic] and shabby, like the shabby old Triumph Dolomite that stood next to a shabby old


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caravan that appeared to be both his office and his home.

There was not much left of the old sparkle and fire in his eyes although at the time it might have had something to do with the fact that the mid afternoon refreshment served in a dirty cracked cup came from a whisky bottle rather than the tea pot, but he was just as dammed uncommunicative as ever. Never a word when a nod and a wink would do. About the only thing I can remember him saying was "I thought you had got the chop and I was going to write to your wife" but of course, he never had. He did confess to being a bit surprised that I was by that time a Flight Lieutenant and the Operations Wing Adjutant at Mareham but his comment was typical. "I never thought you had it in you". He never was complementary....just a dour Scot.

He really looked as if he could here done with some assistance but there was no way that I could do anything without offending him although I did find out that he had done another 15 ops. and had ditched a damaged Lanc. before his wings had been well and truly clipped.

Shortly after that meeting I was off to foreign parts and on my return to the area about three years later nothing had changed although shortly afterwards he did another disappearing act and it took many years to track him down again. The trail eventually led to Troon and then to Dunoon before it fizzled out once more and it was many more years before he surfaced again with the assistance of the RAF Association and the Mildenhall Register. He was in very poor circumstances in Glasgow where Paddy found him and there was every indication that he would rather not have been found. He was content to be a survivor and the past was over and done with; what he could remember of it at the ripe old age of 82!.

We had not been far out in our estimates in 1943. He must have been one of the oldest Squadron pilots in the Air Force at the time at the age of 38!.

He disappeared again for a short time but following the trail left by Paddy I made a visit to Glasgow and finally tracked him down in a home for the elderly but he was no longer the Macdonald we had known. I don't think he knew who I was. He died six years later!.

I have never regretted my 'choice' of the pilot in which I placed


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my trust and my life and those sentiments are shared by the surviving members of the crew. We look back on those days and wonder how we ever came out of it unscathed considering that in our subsequent flying after the war we nearly all had the experience of climbing out of 'bent' aeroplanes.

Pete flew in a civilian capacity with Freddie Laker as both Navigator and Flight Engineer. They were lucky to walk away from a wrecked aircraft on the Berlin Air Lift. Paddy walked away from a wrecked passenger Mk.V. Stirling in the Middle East and I climbed out of a Proctor upside down on Oakington's runway.

For the record, Mac, Pete, Paddy and Ralph were all awarded DFC's for their efforts, Mac and Pete with bars, but sadly we are no longer a complete crew.

For me, those years were the most traumatic of any life and I will never forget those occasions when we were so close to each other in that short period that seemed like a lifetime.




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[underlined] OLD….BOLD PILOTS [/underlined]


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[row of circles]

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[underlined] ACKNOWLEDGMENTS [/underlined]

To Michael.J.F.Boyer……. whose research and detail in his excellent books:- [underlined] Action Stations--Part-One [/underlined]

[underlined] and [/underlined]

[underlined] The [/underlined] [underlined] Stirling [/underlined] [underlined] Bomber [/underlined]

were valuable sources of information.

To Martin Middlebrook & Chris Everitt for research details made available in the [underlined] Bomber Command War Diaries [/underlined] .

To Jock Whitehouse & Spencer Adams whose energy and enthusiasm helped to correct the many inacuracies [sic] in my early drafts.


TO MY DEAR WIFE DOROTHY who was obliged to tolerate the many years of typing and interuption [sic] of more important matters.

not forgetting



[underlined] COULD NEVER HAVE BEEN TOLD!!. [/underlined]

[line of stars]


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[underlined] PREFACE [/underlined]

On the 3rd February 1945 seven aircrew were posted to XV Squadron, Mildenhall, to form the crew of a Lancaster.

The pilot was Australian, the rear gunner was an American in the RAF. The navigator and mid-upper gunner were Scots and the remainder of the crew were from the counties of Sussex, Nottingham and Warwickshire.

They had all completed a previous tour of operations and had been resting for varying periods as instructors at No.3. Lancaster Finishing School at Feltwell in Norfolk.

The school was closing down and as the staff were being dispersed one pilot had been given the option of forming his own crew prior to posting back to an operational Squadron. That is how we all came together.

Some of the new crew had flown together whilst at the school and the pilot and flight engineer had previously flown together on Manchesters and Lancasters in operational Squadrons.

The time had come for them to get back into the fray as the bombing campaign was being stepped up to an awesome number of aircraft being employed to deliver thousands of tons of bombs to the enemy as the war was rapidly drawing to a close.

The Third Reich was reeling from savage attacks from both East and West. Their Navy was just about bottled up and had lost most of their capital ships. Her Army was being lost in great chunks and the German Air Force was being severely restricted by fuel shortages and although they fought on desperately the final blows were not far off. Anyone with half an eye could see that; except Hitler. If he had not been so crazy he would have given in a long time before we had reached the critical stage, but since he would not, and the Allies would accept nothing but unconditional surrender, Germany and it's long suffering population had to bludgeoned into submission.

I was the Wireless operator/air gunner of the crew and we were part of that final effort although there was an awful lot of killing still going on in all theatres of the war.

At the time it seemed that we had a good chance of being in at the finish so on arrival at Mildenhall we got stuck into refresher training and emergency drills against the stop watch


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until it did not seem possible to trim any more time off of the procedures and the 'Skipper' was satisfied that we were now moulded into a crew and ready for anything.

For me it was quite an experience being back at Mildenhall again having been there as an 'erk' in 1941, and now I was back again as a commissioned officer and experienced crew member although I did not have a lot of time to dwell on the fact.

A lot of water had passed under the bridge and we were perhaps somewhat unique in that we were an all commissioned crew starting a second tour of operations.

That was a very rare combination and as I thought at the time we might make a name for ourselves.



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On the 7th of February we found ourselves on the Battle Order for an operation and subsequently the old familiar pattern of activity fell into place as we trooped into the briefing room.

The target was detailed as the oil refinery at Wanne Eikel, at the eastern end of the Ruhr industrial complex, which, suprisingly [sic] was still trying to produce something despite the hundreds of tons of bombs that had been dumped on and around it over the years.

Our job, within a force of 100 Lancasters of No.3.Bomber Group, was to try and put it out of business and further disrupt the already desperate fuel situation that was severely limiting the activities of the German War Machine.

As far as I was concerned it was going to be a change to be on a daylight raid. I figured that at last I would be able to see what was going on and that I might even get a chance to assist in doing something really useful from the astro dome. Even the prospect of flying higher and faster than I had done on my previous tour in Stirlings was something I was certainly looking forward to.

I had polished up my gunnery in the various turrets on the firing range including stoppage clearance although inwardly hoping that the occasion would never arise when I would have to put the practice into use as it would mean taking over from one of the other gunners who had become a casualty.

Even so, there was no way that I was going to be caught out in such an emergency----not when the end of my war was in sight!. After briefing and collection of all the usual paraphernalia we all trooped out to the airfield in the crew bus to get on with the pre-flight checks until the time came for us to start up and taxy out for take-off.

With the usual heart stopping lurch Lancaster ME434...coded LS(XV Squadron) D for 'Dog'; the 12th that had carried that identification, (not all Lancasters); took to the air as the end of the runway came into sight with everything straining to get up to a safe height with it's heavy load of bombs and fuel.

The load was around 2000 gallons of petrol with 1 x 4000lb blast bomb and 12 x 500 pounders. Not the maximum that a Lanc. could take but enough to require some delicacy-in handling.


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Everything was normal as we gained height and climbed on course following a route that took us over Newmarket where my wife was.

I was wondering what she was thinking as the thunder of up to 100 aircraft filled the air. I had only seen her the night before and had told her that I was going to be busy so she knew that something was going on.

We were soon changing course for a point on the South Coast near Beachy Head and as it came up on track my home town of Worthing was in sight, to the West as we crossed the coast with the sky clear and bright as we continued to climb to our operating height.

The rest of the force closed around us as we formed up into the usual 'gaggle' as we approached another turning point on time.

Unlike the USAAF, we did not fly in a tight defensive formation as the RAF preferred to present any attackers with a loose, weaving, inconsistent mass of aircraft with a less restrictive field of fire. The exception was underneath, which is why some of XV Squadron's aircraft that took up position at the bottom of the pack had been locally fitted with a pair of ventral guns to cover what would normally be a blind spot.

We were not one of those but a 'Gee-H' leader, carrying some special homing and bombing equipment with which to pin-point the target through cloud. The yellow bars on the tail fins identified us as such.

We crossed the French coast which was no longer as hostile as I had last encountered it and in fact it was an inspiring sight to look down from over 20,000ft in such brilliant conditions on an area that only a few months before had been wrested from German domination.

It all looked very peaceful down there but there was always that false impression of things outside the aircraft and one could easily be lulled into a false sense of security by it.

Despite the impression of a bright summers day out there and the warmth of the sun falling on my shoulders in the astro dome it was, nevertheless minus 12° out there.

It was uncomfortably hot for me so I discarded my 'Mae West' life jacket as we changed course once more to head across Belgium


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towards the Ruhr.

It soon became obvious that the bad weather that we had been warned about at briefing was not far ahead. In the distance a huge wall of angry black cloud appeared; from just about deck level right up to the heavens, stretching from North to South as far as-we could see.

It was a typical squall line associated with frontal conditions and the nearer we got to it the more obvious it was that the Met. people had underestimated it's severity.

The formatiom [sic] leaders still did not break radio silence with instructions and as it was obvious there was no way around it we were soon doing what everyone else was doing as the force started spreading out with maximum climbing power until we plunged into it, in an attempt to get out of the top.

At 23,000ft we were still in it and ploughing on yet there were still no instructions to change our plans but with the first of the Ruhr defences ahead of us, and the aircraft icing up to the extent that she was getting very sluggish, Geoff Hammond, the pilot, was getting concerned that we could not possibly go much higher without the risk of losing control plus the chance of carburettor icing as well.

With the sun obscured it had turned very cold inside the aircraft as the heating system was fighting a losing battle and I thought that perhaps it was time that I put my life jacket back on. I thought better of it for the very reason that I would have to take my parachute harness off to do it but with the aircraft waffling around like a drunken duck it perhaps not the best time to do it.

We were all somewhat relieved when Geoff announced that we were turning back and descending to try and find better conditions although it was some time before there was even the slightest improvement.

We could not get out of cloud completely and the ice was still not clearing although it was no longer building up so we set course for our secondary target; Duisburg, from where we could have made a dash for clearer areas. However, Dave Howell, the navigator, although he was able to place us over the target area on radar, was not satisfied that he could pin point a target so we just kept on going and descending as the cloud started


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to thin into layers. As the conditions improved ice started to strip off and clatter about with a great deal of noise although it was no problem and certainly better than being loaded with half a ton of ice in the wrong places.

Even-the Lancaster had very limited de-icing equipment. It was only installed on the leading edges of the wings inboard of the inner engines, and therefore not all that effective. It was policy to increase the-bomb carrying capacity by reducing such [underlined] unneccessary [/underlined] [sic] frills.!!!!!.

It seemed that it was going to be an abortive sortie and that we would be taking our bombs back home and dumping them on the range but after a short conference on the intercomm [sic] Geoff decided that our best bet would be to go back to Krefeld in a final attempt to plant the bombs on the enemy side of the 'bomb line' so we turned around again and headed East for Krefeld.

We were still in and out of cloud at about 8,500ft by the time our new target came up by which time Dave and Jim Murphy the bomb-aimer had decided on a target reference and between them the bombs were dropped in one salvo.

As soon as they had gone we started into a port turn to make for home when Jim reported that the bomb doors would not close, probably due to icing…..; [underlined] when it happened!!!! [/underlined]

The aircraft gave a violent lurch and being in the astro dome I was horrified to see the starboard wing just rear up as if it was going to wrap itself around us.

With my heart in my mouth I went scrambling towards my parachute stowage but before I got there I was brought to my knees alongside the radio compartment as the aircraft rolled right over and the next few moments were rather desperate.

We went into a spin; which way up I shall never know, but to the accompaniment of the sound track from some old aviation film we, were descending at an alarming rate as Geoff yelled "prepare to abandon" on the intercomm [sic] although no-one really needed telling. The trouble was that there was little that we could do about it.

Geoff and Des Cook the flight engineer were fighting the controls together with linked arms as the altimeter unwound rapidly but the spin had locked everyone into their respective positions.

Dave and I were both desperately trying to get to our side by


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side parachute stowages without much success and although our heads were probably only a couple of feet apart I swear that our eyeballs; out on stalks-must have nearly touched.

It has often been said that when one is faced with death one's whole life flashes before you but I do not recall any such images.

The only thing that flashed into my brain-box was "Dear God; this is it-I hope it doesn't hurt too much", and then suddenly the aircraft righted, or at least stopped spinning and we were released from the centrifugal forces that had kept us locked allowing us to get the 'chutes out of the racks as at the same time the order came from Geoff to "abandon...abandon...abandon”. Reaction to that order was automatic after the amount of time that we had spent practising the procedure in the previous three days.

Helmets with oxygen and intercomm [sic] connections were torn off. Dave and I grabbed our parachute packs on the run and slammed them onto our chest clips by the time Jim Murphy had jettisoned the front hatch and had virtually gone out with. Dave went next, feet first and I followed so closely behind, head first, that there could not have been a foot between us.

Archie Macintosh, the mid-upper gunner, was hot on my heels even though he had had to negotiate the main spar to get up front and then the way was clear for Des.

Des had already released Geoff's sutton harness and removed his helmet and connections as well as his own whilst Geoff was still struggling with the controls and he was ready to go the same way as the rest of us.

We had all thumped Geoff's arm as we passed so he got another thump from Des prior to his departure after which Geoff was able to make a dash for the exit before the aircraft went out of control again. As usual, the rear gunner had made his own arrangements by rotating on the beam and jettisoning the turret doors then throwing himself out backwards.

From the word 'go' there was a lot to be done and it says a great deal for a well practiced drill because we figured out afterwards that we were all out in 12 secs. flat, and not suprisingly [sic] , even faster than we had achieved in practice only the day before when Geoff had insisted that we do it again and


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again until he was satisfied.

It was with the same mechanical process that I counted to ten before I pulled the rip cord although I have to confess that I cheated a bit. It was more like 2,4,6,8,10 and after I had done it my heart was in my mouth as nothing seemed to happen.

I had felt some urgency to get the 'chute open as quickly as possible as we had been in cloud all the time and I had no idea of our height at the time of going out. I was just hoping that it would open before I dived into something solid; like the side of a house before it did.

I had made sure that I had put the 'chute pack on with the 'D' ring under my right hand which had been on it from the time I had clipped up. I had heard too many stories of people who had gone out in a panic only to be found later at the bottom of a hole with the right hand side of the pack half torn away by bleeding fingers; yet as sure as I was that I had done everything correctly it seemed like a lifetime before anything happened.

There was a violent jolt and I was swinging under a rustling canopy, still in cloud and preparing rapidly for a heavy landing. For a brief moment there was a tremendous sense of relief as I found myself looking down at the 'D' ring clutched in my right hand. Then the thought struck me that I had better hang onto it as there was a five shilling fine for opening a parachute; but only by mistake. What a bloody silly thought!...so I tossed it away smartly just before I broke cloud.

I estimated that I was about 1500ft and on looking around I found that I was much too close to a turbulent river for my liking, especially as I was a poor swimmer and I had no life jacket on, so I started hauling on the shroud lines to do something about it. With not a lot of time to spare I concentrated on the landing.

I was agreeably suprised [sic] that crossing hands on the lines and pulling them in opposite directions worked like the instructors said it would and with a little more heaving and hauling I soon got a fair idea of where I was going to land in an open field!.

I need not have worried about going into the river as a strong wind was carrying me away from it but if it was not bad enough that landing by parachute was the equivilent [sic] to the rate of


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descent of jumping off of a 12ft wall I seemed to be doing about 30mph on the level so I was not keen to get a busted leg at that stage.

When I was just a few feet above the ground I turned the release buckle to unlock the harness and a fraction of a second before touching terra firma I banged the release buckle and Presto!. I came out of the harness, into a forward roll over the shoulder and hip and immediately up on my feet to grab the lower lines of the canopy and collapse it. It was a classic landing-I was down safely and I could only hope at the time that the others had been as successful.

I had seen no sign of them during the descent but I was to find out all about that later. The most important thing was-where the blazes was I?. The time was 3.30pm and as we had crossed and re-crossed the 'bomb line' there was every chance that I might be on the Allied side.

The terrain gave no indication of where I was and there was not the activity that one would expect of a battlefield area but with those thoughts running around inside my head I gathered up my parachute and shoved it under the base of a tree among some roots as I decided to get away from the immediate area.

[line of stars]


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Continuation of “Water under the Bridge – Part II. by A.T.GAMBLE.

I could faintly hear shouts and whistles coming from one area so I scrambled off on my hands and knees in the opposite direction into an area of 4ft nursury [sic] pines towards a road that I had seen on the way down. By the time I got there the shouts and whistles had become considerably louder.

Within a few seconds of reaching the edge of plantation the road was in sight but I stayed under cover until I spotted a Jeep coming along displaying the American white circle with a star in so with great relief I broke cover, stood up and waived [sic] . I immediately regretted it.

The chap standing up front next to the driver let loose with a sub-machine gun so I promptly went to ground again.

I just had time to notice that his uniform, although a sort of blue, was not quite the familiar RAF colour and pattern, Then I knew which side of the line I was on; the wrong side. !!

I was only half aware of the sounds of ZZZtz’s as lead cut into the area around me as I did a reasonable imitation of a rabbit on my hands and knees heading for the middle of the trees wondering how the blazes I was going to get out of this situation, until l was finally forced to stop, exhusted.

I buried my identity card which I should not have been carrying anyway, plus two £1 notes, and drew my pistol which had been tucked in my tunic, cocked it and laid down trying to be very, very small.

A siren was wailing in the distance and the shouts and whistles got even louder with sounds of more local movement that was just audible above the hammering of my heart.

I did not know what to expect but what happened was very sudden. A heavy boot came down on my gun hand. The pistol went off and I was hauled to my feet facing the business end of a nasty looking machine pistol and about half a dozen grinning chaps of my own age; in Luftwaffe blue!.

There were some others behind me and one of them relieved me of my Smith & Wesson .38 and with my hands now free it seemed the most logical thing to do was to put them well above my head. With as cheerful a grin as I could muster I said "good afternoon", to which the bloke behind the pistol said, "gooten abend, fur sie das krieg ist fertig". (good afternoon, for you the war is finished) and although my German was not good enough

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to interpret, the inference in the manner in which it was said was sufficient. I was without any doubt a Prisoner of War!.

In the middle of the group, with a prod and a push I was ushered to a large house, past a battery of heavy looking anti-aircraft guns and the thought struck me that they might have been responsible for my present predicament as there was no doubt in my mind that it was ack-ack that had got us, but I didn't ask. I was not going to give them the satisfaction of an affirmative reply as they already seemed pretty smug about the whole business.

I was led into the house, and up the stairs from the baronial hall of heavy oak panelling and flying staircase and into a room being used as an office.

An officer behind a huge antique desk greeted me with a broad grin, so with very little to lose I gave him a parade ground salute which he smartly returned. So far so good….but what was running around inside my head at the time was the irony that it was just my luck to have come down in the middle of the Luftwaffe flak unit that had shot us down!.

The proceedings that followed were all conducted in German and a lot of sign language apart from one question directed to the single ribbon on my tunic. It was only the 1939/43 star as it was then, but the officer pointed to it and enquired "DFC”?. Well, a DFC was about the equivalent of their Iron Cross, whatever class, and I thought it might influence the treatment so "ja” it was. As it happened it might as well have been a VC for all the difference it made.

Everything was turned out of my pockets. Collar studs were taken from out of my shirt. (They obviously knew that we often had special one's with compasses in them). Then the cufflinks, (they often had the same use). Then all of the buttons from my jacket and trousers. (Again some buttons could be used as a matching pair with one balanced on the other to produce a crude compass). Then the stitching that secured the tops of my flying boots was cut to deprive me of the tops as they were obviously aware that often money and maps were built into the layers of fleece and silk.

A polished metal mirror that I always kept in my left breast pocket was also removed before I was handed a piece of paper

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and pencil, and it was not difficult to understand the next request. Number, Rank, Name, although it was difficult to comply right away until I had secured my trousers with my tie.

Among my possessions now laying on the table was a nearly new pack of 20 cigarettes, so I indicated a request for one but the crafty blighters handed them round first leaving just one in the pack for me. Even then they did not light theirs. They probably pulled them to pieces later to see if there was anything other than tobacco in them. I knew there was not. I had only got them from the Mess bar the night before.

Now those in the escape and evasion pack that had gone down with my life jacket were an entirely different matter but it was no good bemoaning the loss of that stuff.

It seemed that the initial procedures were finished when the officer made a few calls on a field telephone after which I was ushered outside to take my place between two armed escorts on bicycles and with a boot up the backside and "Schnell" off we went with me at the trot.

I found out later that I had come down between Veirson and Alderkirk, about 10mls West of Krefeld but we were soon away from there as was persistently prodded and booted to keep me on the run which was no easy task in sloppy shoes which used to be flying boots, and trousers without adequate support but they seemed in a great hurry and obviously 'I was of no consequence.

There were regular encouraging shouts of "rouse" and "schnell" accompanied by more kicks in the rear so there was no alternative to keeping on the move.

What surprised me was the fact chat the area we went through was devoid of all civilian population. Villages, shops, farms and houses were deserted. There was no sign of life at all. Derelict filling stations had rusty 'Shell' signs hanging lop-sided. Shops with tatty Coca-Cola signs were all boarded up. It was more like a no-man's land that I jogged through with little evidence of all the troops that I expected to see considering how close to the front line that I was. It was even more surprising since in the early hours of the next morning one of the biggest offensive's of the war was launched by the Allies

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on the Northen [sic] battle front in an attempt to break through and reach the Rhine. They must have been known that something big was about to break.

The very fact that we did not achieve immediate success is a matter of history but with great armies lined up and about to be locked in battle less than 30mls to the West I can only assume that if there was any strength of German troops in the rear they were very well hidden. The only traffic that I saw was the occasional military vehicle travelling very slowly hugging the edge of the tracks through wooded areas.

I was just about done in when we finally arrived at the Luftwaffe airfield at Krefeld around dusk.

I was duly handed over and signed for at the guard room with my two escorts still showing signs of being in a hurry to get back to their relatively isolated unit before the RAF or the USAAF started chucking stuff at what was a prime target.

Perhaps they figured they would have more chance against our ground forces but whatever; they were off as fast as they could go with their hand generating flashlights whirring away.

My first impression of the place was the similarity between their buildings and our pre-war bases at home. It all looked so familiar that they might have been built to the same plans….perhaps they were!. Even the cell block behind the guard room was identical as was the exercise yard behind it, but I was not impressed when I was shown to my room.

In the cell was the same sort of wooden dais that served as a bed, (no comfort for the wrong doers), and of course no pillow or mattress. Just a single thin blanket.

It was not long after I had been locked in and I had taken stock of the situation that I realised that it was some time since I had eaten or had a drink, about eight hours actually, so I started making a fuss to attract the attention of a guard and demanding to be fed.

The sign language conveyed the message alright but the only reaction was a great deal of laughter and sign language from them which simply meant "you have had it mate"!.

I have no doubt it was due to a typical military process which ensured

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that there would be no issue of food to a prisoner until he came on ration strength in the morning!.

Everything that I had been provided with for such emergencies (had I been allowed to keep it) had gone down in my life jacket.

I finally went into an uncomfortable and restless sleep with visions of that egg and bacon that would have been waiting for me back at Mildenhall, and grumblings in the tummy. I was also very concerned at the sort of reaction that there would-be when the inevitable telegrams arrived. There was no way, that anyone back home would know what had happened to us. We would just be 'missing' until something was sorted out.

In the morning the routine was simple. An early visit to the ablutions under guard with no means or opportunity of washing, other than splashing a little water on the face and return to the cell to find that 'breakfast' had been served.

It had been placed on the floor outside the cell door. I could have eaten a horse, harness and all but all that 'breakfast' consisted of was one slice of sticky black bread with a smear of bright yellow grease on it and a mug of some brown stuff that they called coffee.

I did not dare laugh at their reference to "cafe' and brot und butter" as there was no was of knowing when I would get anything else particularly as my insides were already protesting at not being fed for nearly 24 hours. Nevertheless, I nibbled and sipped any way through it having never ever tasted anything quite like it before.

Had I gulped it down I have no doubt that I would not have kept it down for long. It was absolutely ghastly.

There was no activity at all until mid-day and after a visit to the ablutions a meal was provided on a small folding table in the passageway and I had company.

My companion was a young Luftwaffe airman of about 17 who spoke quite good English and although he could have been a plant I very much doubt it.

Over the meal which was about a handful of turnip stew. a tablespoon of sourcraut [sic] and a thin slice of black bread without any scrape, plus a mug of the brown stuff we managed to communicate sufficiently for him to tell me his story.

Apparently he had wanted to be a pilot but his eyes were not

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up to the standard required so he had become ground crew of some sort which he had been a bit peeved about. He was in the cooler for striking an officer and what's more he did not seem too worried.

I found it embarrassing when after he had made enquiries about the various insigna [sic] on my uniform and found that I was an officer. It was he who suggested that the scar on my forehead was a duelling scar so I want along with it. After that disclosure he jumped to his feet, clicking his heels and bobbing up and down in typical German fashion until I suggested that we had better get on with our food, what there was of it, before it got cold. Especially as we were using the same utensils...his!. Then we were locked up again and for my part still hungry.

I have often wondered how that lad got on. After all, striking an officer was, and still is a serious offence, especially on active service. He was probably sent to the Russian front in a penal battalion to fight for his beloved Furher [sic] . They might as well have shot him outright. Whilst I was having visions of egg and bacon I was disappointed when supper turned up. It was a mug of a different shade of brown stuff of indefinable flavour and so to bed. It was the same routine the next day and my insides were still trying to come to terms with the 'snacks' that arrived three times a day and even the Luftwaffe airman had disappeared but things livened up the next day.

There was a terrific rattle of light ack-ack when the airfield was straffed [sic] by USAF P.51's, (Mustangs). They did a hell of a good job from what I could see through a small peep-hole in the top corner of the window, only just accessible .by climbing on the bed stood on it's end.

There were quite a few fires and explosions and a hell of a racket from the defences but I was forced to abandon my grandstand view very quickly when lead started splattering all over the outside of the building. It was too close for comfort and the window finished up with a larger hole in it that it had had before causing a bit of a draught.

Archie Macintosh had been brought in the night before but apart from one brief meeting we had been unable to communicate as


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he had been put in a cell at the other end of the block and we were fed at different times.

I was beginning to get a bit fed up with my own company when on the afternoon of the 10th I had plenty of company.

The entire crew of a B.17. (Flying Fortress) were brought in and distributed among the cells so two of them joined me.

They were a bit suspicious at first but were soon convinced that I was genuine as I was sharing their discomfort. Despite the increase in numbers we were not provided with any more blankets and only a small increase in total food, although we were being fed in the cells at that stage. Fortunately my new cell mates had only recently been well fed back at their UK base and were quite willing to forego the "Kraut junk food" so I had my fill. I am sure they changed their minds about it later on.

At least there was someone to talk to relieve the utter boredom of my four walls and I must confess that I was astonished when I heard their story.

Apparently they had lost an engine and could not keep up with their formation so before the fighters could get at them they had just force landed, fired the aircraft and that was that.

I found it difficult to reconcile such an action with what we might have done in similar circumstances but their orders were not to risk lives at that stage for the sake of an aeroplane. There were plenty of them!. Even so I thought that it would not have been difficult to have done some hedgehopping to our own lines rather than finish up in the situation they now found themselves in.

The next day we were all mustered outside the Guardroom after our morning drink and with one guard per prisoner we set off to Dusseldorf by the process of alternatively walking or hitchhiking on military transport. Archie and I were at last able to compare notes.

He had gone out just behind me but had not been able to execute as neat a landing.

He had landed in some fairly tall pine trees and after he had finished crashing through branches he finished up swinging about 20 feet from the ground somewhat winded.

He had a lot to think about once he had recovered and certainly

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did not fancy getting a busted leg by releasing himself from that height, although that is what the Luftwaffe wanted him to do as soon as they arrived on the scene.

There was a lot of shouting and a few shots to give him encouragement so he eventually got a good swing going until he was able to grab the branch of another tree, release himself and clamber down. The rest was routine so that was two of us that were OK anyway.

As we plodded along we took in all that was revealed by the countryside and the signs of the desperate shortages in Germany were even more obvious.

All the things that made up the daily life back home that we took for granted; the butcher, the baker, people, transport and tradesmen were just not there. The area was desolate apart from the odd military vehicle that picked us up and saved our legs for a few miles.

It took a long time to cover the 16 miles by those means and there was no refreshment at all-not for us prisoners anyway!, but we duly arrived at the Luftwaffe airfield at Dusseldorf to be handed over and signed for as usual at the guard room.

Then our escorts came up with an extraordinary gesture that took us completely by surprise They came down the line and shook us all very politely by the hand, with of course the inevitable heel clicking, and then we were led away to our cells. There was four in mine, including Archie.

We were not fed or watered. Only water was available when it was possible to visit the toilets although the guards were very reluctant to let us use the wash basins--but we managed.

By that time I was used to being hungry and our American friends were getting aclimatized [sic] --but getting very vocal about it. It was a total waste of time, even when we were ushered outside at 4.30 the next morning.

Naturally we were hoping that we were going to be fed but all we got was a pack of three dry sandwiches, containing some garlic smelling sausage and being told that they had to last several days. Some only lasted a few minutes as about 20 of us were packed into a bus which took us to what was left of Dusseldorf station and whilst we were waiting around for something to happen we found that Jim was among us. That made three of us accounted

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Jim's descent had been perfectly normal. There had been a reception committee waiting for him and he had gone straight to Dusseldorf where he had waited several days for something to happen. At last it had.

We spent all day on that train, and the next as it clanked and groaned it's way across country. It was a painfully slow journey, and sometimes we were shunted into sidings for long periods, and on others we were just held up by the signals.

The guards were touchy and there was one outside each of the compartments all the time. The only time we were allowed out into the corridor was for the occasional visit to the toilet, still under escort, and the facilities were a bit primitive to say the least.

Drinking water was limited and was only made available twice a day from a bucket with a ladle which we all had to use, so it was not surprising that we were getting thirsty, dirty and hungry. Three sandwiches do not go far---mine went on the first day and nothing else had turned up.

Sleeping was another big problem although we dozed quite a lot as there was-nothing else to do, but ten in a compartment brought it's own problems, especially at night. We took turns for a few hours at a time up on the luggage racks but without any heating on the train it did not take long for the body to get chilled right through so it was necessary to get back into the sweaty and rather smelly huddle of bodies to warm up again.

We had to disembark several times as the train went forward slowly on it's own over either weak or hurriedly laid sections of track or where unexploded or delayed action bombs were suspected and it was all very tedious.

The next night we stopped at one station to change the train crew, I think it was Siegen, and it was another of those rare occasions to get out of the compartment.

The German equivalent of the WVS were on the platform and the ladies of the tea urn were approached by our guards with a proposal to dispense some in our direction and with a great show of reluctance they eventually obliged.

Of course, we had to take it in turn to use the tin cups provided as we had nothing and the news was relayed that the hot drink

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was 'chocolate'. I saw some strange expressions from the others that were ahead of me in the queue when they got theirs and I don't suppose mine was any different when I got my measure.

As chocolate it was more like dirty washing up water and that the average German had long forgotten what chocolate really tasted like.

It was more like the sort of brew that you would get if you dissolved a Horlicks tablet in five gallons of hot water!.

It was welcome just the same and we dare not make any disparaging remarks about for fear of being deprived of it.

I was just wondering if I should finish my ration by washing in it when the air raid sirens started wailing and there was immediate panic everywhere as we set off for the shelters.

We were herded down some steps into caves which had been hewn out of the natural rock alongside the station and some of us helped the guards with their packs. Someone else 'accidentally' knocked over the abandoned drinks trolley in the general rush and we eventually finished up in a dimly lit shelter where we were pushed well to the back as bombs started crashing down outside causing the lights to flicker and dust to start filtering from the roof onto everyone. [The raid was short but the bombs were heavy one's and are thought to have been Mosquito's on a 'siren tour'].

The rest of the occupants of the shelter, mostly civilians including children were terrified and apart from one old bloke, stayed huddled up in the corners. He shuffled across to our group and peered at us through the shield of guards for a while until it dawned on him who we were and then he went frantic.

He lunged and spat, yelling "terror fleiger" doing his damnedest to get through to us but the guards closed ranks into a solid wall in front of us and he shoved off when the all clear sounded. The guard commander was taking no chances that any further demonstration might get out of hand and we left last!.

I doubt if they would have been so protective If they had known what we had been up to. It was some time later after we had re-embarked and were clanking along once more when they found out. First one went to his pack and then another, to find the cupboard bare. Even the: wine bottles were empty!.

They got very upset about it and there were all sorts of threats

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of punishment for stealing but we just laughed it off and it came to nothing.

Their rations were not all that good anyway but by that time we were past caring. I do not remember anyone saying that they did not like garlic sausage or black bread but in that situation you soon forget about any fads and fancies you might have had.

We finally arrived at Frankfurt on the morning of the 15th and I was surprised to see so such of the station still standing. It was not until I took a second look that I realised that the broken framework of the roof had no glass and the only solid thing seemed to be the platforms, and there was a lot of those missing.

It was even worse outside!.

The roads were just avenues between piles of rubble that had once been houses, shops and businesses. What a mess. I had seen some of Coventry after they had done some clearing up in the areas that had been devastated, and a great deal of London's East End but this lot was not in any way isolated. It spread as far as the eye could see. We had seen signs of it from the train as we were pulling in but when we were actually in it was obvious that anything still standing was little more than a blackened shell.

It was not surprising that the population were showing signs of hostility as we were herded out of the station and we were surrounded by the guards almost shoulder to shoulder. It was with some relief that we were all shoved into the relative safety of an old electric tram which eventually rattled and whined it's way up the hill in the direction of the infamous interrogation camp; Dulag Luft, at Ober-Orsal, the place that most of us knew about from the talks that we had from either repatriates or escapees. We had a pretty good idea of what to expect, and were prepared for it.

The tram ran out of line after about two miles and then we were on foot again until we reached the camp at about 2pm.

This time the guards did not shake hands when we were handed over. They were probably still sore about their stolen rations and were as anxious as we were to get a meal. Nevertheless, I was glad that it was policy for the Luftwaffe to look after Air Force prisoners. They seemed reasonable enough under the

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Perhaps they were being particularly nice now that the stuffing was being knocked out of them and although they would not have admitted it many of them must have known that the end was near.

We queued for a long time as forms were filled in and cross checked with other papers and then finally it was time to have our photographs taken.

Most of the staff seemed to be Luftwaffe aircrew who were either grounded by the shortage of fuel or were convalescing but either way they were not very good with a camera. They had been clicking away merrily for some time with the lens cap still on and a buzz passed down the line not to tell them until they got near the end. I was only a couple from the end and it gave me great satisfaction to point it out to them. Much to their embarrassment Everyone fell about hooting with laughter and there were a few derisory remarks made in German about the efficiency of the Luftwaffe. It did mean of course that we had to do it all over again which involved getting colder and hungrier but it was all part of the scheme of things that almost everyone was engaged in. Crudely put, it was 'goon baiting', and something that they failed to see the point of.

After hours of standing around and being herded to and fro' I was eventually ushered into a room that might easily have been one of our own flight offices. It was a cleverly laid out stage set that was a perfect replica using RAF furniture, carpets and fittings that had been captured and put to use. In addition there was even one of our own Marconi TR1154/55 radio equipments sitting on top of one of our filing cabinets with an RAF flying helmet, goggles and oxygen mask draped casually over an open drawer, plus a gunners Irvin fur flying jacket on the door hook to create the right effect. In addition there was a wall map with pins and tapes showing routes and other areas exactly the same as the one in our briefing room.

I could not help wondering how many of these stage sets they had got for the various aircrew categories both RAF and USAF but it was so obvious I was immediately on my guard.

When the officer, or the chap that was dressed as one spoke from behind the desk it was in perfect English, without any accent, that it might easily have been an interview by a flight

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commander on posting; except that he was in the wrong sort of uniform!.

He asked all sorts of questions relative to target and route, the call signs, equipment, and frequencies as well as the codes, all of which I refused to answer. I stuck to number, rank, and name.

After a while he pushed over a packet of Players cigarettes and then launched into some searching questions about the Bomber Codes that we used and even showed me some copies that they had obviously recovered from pranged aircraft. Naturally he wanted to know about the sequence of use and although I told him that it was a random sequence and just issued for an operation he really did not believe it, but it was true and so simple that it was unbelievable. As a result he was not convinced and suggested that as an officer I must know more than that (which I did of course), but it seemed that the best way was to act ignorant, and I doubt if they were ever able to decode anything from any one transmission. It was that simple yet very discreet.

He started off again about the target and why we had been around Krefeld but eventually got fed up asking the same questions over and over again, and getting a blank stare for an answer.

All the time he had been questioning me he had been referring to a folder on the desk in front of him and eventually with a sigh he held it up and showed me the front cover. As plain as the nose on your face the wording was '15 Squadron, Mildenhall'.

It had obviously been put together over the years from snippets of information plus a good deal of intelligence gathering through spies and the like and they may have managed to find sufficient evidence from the wreckage of 'D' Dog to tell them where we had come from. After all, 4ft lettering on each side of the fusulage [sic] would be enough. Nevertheless, he displayed a certain amount of smugness at the disclosure and when I said "well, if you know all that why do you persist in asking damn silly questions" he went one better. He said he knew Mildenhall quite well, and that included 'The Bird in Hand', which was a local favoured pub. Then he trotted out some more local knowledge and rounded it all off with the fact that I would be pleased

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to know that all the crew had been captured uninjured which was a great relief, although it was a sprat to catch a mackerel. He started off right away again about Bomber Codes. No way. Two could play that-game so it was back to number, rank, name again.

All the time the interrogation was going on, in addition to the guard by the door there were two electricians in white overalls working on a side wall putting in electrical conduit and I was doing my damndest to show more interest in what they were doing than my interrogator and especially the materials that they were working with.

The conduit seemed to be rolled up paper' tubing with a foil coating and a crimping tool rather like a large pair of pliers was being used to shape the curves and the corners.

The electricians looked at me with puzzled interest and I grinned back at them much to the consternation of the interrogator. It all seemed a bit daft to me. With Allied ground forces approaching the Rhine for the final big blow and their country being blasted to bits and their armies in the East and the West retreating from overwhelming forces. With death and destruction everywhere wasn't it typically German to be putting in electrical modifications?. I suppose they could have been wiring demolition charges just in case but surely they would not have bothered with conduit---or would they?.

I was dragged back from my meditations when asked to complete a small white card with personal details and when he saw my home address he asked how I managed to get across London with the mess that it was in with the VI's and V2's still a pouring down the question took me by surprise The damage from those weapons had been very isolated however devastating it might have been in the precise spot of impact. At the worst we had learned to live with the things even when one had taken the end off of the London hotel in which my wife and I had been staying and another had blown up a cow in a field just across the road from where we had been staying in Surrey but life went on just the same so I told him. "No trouble".

That was not good enough and he still persisted that London was in a terrible mess so I let his have it straight. I told his that I could still cross London any way I wanted. By taxi,

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bus, underground or on foot as I had done only three weeks previously...or stay in the city if it suited, and certainly a lot easier than he could get across Frankfurt from what I had seen of the place. That was it. End of interview! Could it have been that he had heard all that before and he was soon going to have to believe it?.

I was promptly dismissed and escorted to my 'private' room. It was three paces by one and a half most of which was taken up by a bed, and of course, the radiator!.

The window was shuttered and this type of room was commonly known as the sweat-box and considered by many to be the means of extracting information from people.

Although we had been told about this I am still more inclined to think that since the Germans were generally more advanced in their use of central heating systems than we were they were also inclined to overdo it a bit; even in those days.

I had been locked up for about an hour when the rattling of keys alerted me to the possibility of food arriving but no such luck.

When the door opened it was to admit a tubby, faded civilian, in a faded shapeless suit. He looked like something out of 'Scrooge'` in his cock-eyed steel rimmed glasses, and announced himself as a representative of the German Red Cross as he produced a foolscap sized questionnaire. We had been warned about this one too!.

Red Cross he might have been but the requirements of the questionnaire seemed to be bending the rules a bit and he seemed somewhat upset when I only entered the same basic details that had gone on the white card.

We had been warned that anyone who had been careless in their disclosures would be dealt with later and I was taking no chances.

It would not be the first time that 'Lord Haw-Haw' (William Joyce) had made use of such information and mentioned the names of people that had recently become guests of the Third Reich in his propaganda broadcasts.

Another significant factor was that William Joyce knew Worthing well enough to have made the most of it having been in lodgings just around the corner from home before the war. I was very

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The little grey man got quite angry and made dire threats about not getting any food if I did not co-operate. Big deal...that was nothing new. No food had past my lips for at least 36hours!. Not long after his departure clatterings at the door suggested food again but instead an elderly guard brought in a dirty metal bowl with some lukewarm water in it and a razor with a blade that had definitely seen better days. One thing was for sure, there was no way a desperate POW was likely to cut his throat with it!.

The rest of the equipment was a dirty damp towel and a piece of 'soap' more like pumice stone which had no intention of producing a lather. It made very little impression on my seven days growth of beard or the 'tide marks' on various parts of my anatomy that had not been exposed for the same amount of time.

I felt better for it anyway even though I still had no opportunity to clean my teeth and it was probably just as well that I had not got my steel mirror to assist in those ablutions. I would probably had a fit.

Some time after that the clatter at the door was followed by the same guard with my meal. Not very much and not very nice but even a dollop of turnip stew in a tin bowl was welcome at that time which was probably nearer 48hrs since my last bite of anything.

It did not take long to figure out the routine. There was a lever by the door which when turned allowed a piece of red painted angle iron to drop on the outside indicating that a visit to the toilet was required.

On my first visit I was going down the corridor and was horrified to see an ashen faced Flight Lieutenant, his arm in blood soaked bandages, just painfully stumbling along, using the wall for support, and I instinctively went to give assistance although he feebly protested that I would get into trouble. I did!.

I got a rifle butt smack between the shoulder blades and down I went. When I struggled to my feet the guard was screeching his head off about "sprachen verbotten" and "schnell" as I was prodded along to the ablutions where another chap was able to tell me about the set-up.

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Apparently the Flt.Lt. was the pilot of a Tempest which was a type fairly near to the battle scene and as they wanted information from him they were withholding medical treatment until they did. His arm was already gangrenous and he smelt awful but there was nothing I could do for him when came back out of the toilets. He had just managed to make a little more painful progress down the corridor and that episode most certainly put all of my problems to the background. I was definitely not amused at the procedings [sic] .

I spent the rest of the night doing what everyone else seemed to be doing. Making sure there was a signal bar going down every few minutes of the night just to annoy the guard. It did!.

On one occasion when he got around to me he was very angry and protested to some considerable length in his pigeon English that "alles ist pissen unt shitzen" so it seemed worth while going without sleep. It was too hot for sleeping anyway with the radiators pinging away.

At 5 o'clock they next morning, after a drink, an untidy collection of prisoners were assembled outside with the usual shouting and shoving and then we were marched the five miles down to Frankfurt station to await a train. The weather was cold and miserable, we were cold and hungry as we staggered along in no particular order and then I was thumped on the back by Des which cheered things up a bit. He had already found some of the others are although I did not feel much like walking it certainly helped to swap experiences and pass the time.

Des had a very good story try tell.

Despite the fact that in his haste he had only secured his 'chute by one side clip and had made a very dodgy descent with every chance of the canopy 'candleing' [sic] and dropping him like a stone he still made a reasonable landing without injury. What was more important, his landing was undetected so he made some very positive arrangements to evade capture.

For two days and nights he worked his way Westward and had made considerable progress towards the front line to the point of having to dodge German patrols and guards.

In the early hours of the second morning there was gunfire all around him and he even heard American voices in the distance when he got a bit too bold.

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He had already fooled a guard earlier by grunting "gooten morgan" after the guard had shown his presence by lighting a cigarette, then strolled by him whistling Lillie Marlene but shortly afterwards made a lot of noise by falling in a ditch and was challenged. There was no way that he could bluff his way out of that and he was promptly bundled off to the rear to spend the night in a village hall before being handed over to the Luftwaffe, so here he was after all that.

It was after mid-day before a train was finally shunted in by which time most of us were just about asleep on our feet but were eventually embarked with more pushing, shoving and shouting accompanied by the liberal use of rifle butts.

The guards must have thought we were all daft by the way we kept bursting into song from time to time. We did our best with that fine old marching song 'Colonel Bogey' which cheered us up considerably. The Air Force had it's own words to that particular piece so we managed to tell them just what we thought of them without them knowing it!.

We finally arrived at Wetzlar later in the day having recovered from our earlier exertions but we were very, very hungry.

When we disembarked we were once more jostled about until the whole party, about a hundred, were ready to move off.

Then Dave turned up, although why we had not bumped into him before was a bit puzzling. Des had already met him and lost him again but it appeared that he had been at the other end of the column and this was our first chance to mingle since we had left Frankfurt.

There was a great deal of chat and it seemed that Dave had been picked up even quicker than me. He had come down in the open and the German Air Force was there to welcome him with open arms. He had been a bit concerned that the reception committee gathering below him were going to use him for target practice and was relieved when he finally touched down and rapidly divested himself of his 'chute and harness before doing basically what I had done. There was no other choice!.

We were chatting away as we trugged up the hill away from the station and eventually the boundary wire of a camp came into view looking somewhat ominous on the skyline but before the front of the column got to the main gate there was a flurry

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of activity.

Suddenly there were a couple of shots and the sounds of whistles as half a dozen guards with dogs came rushing out of the gate and we all came to a halt as they broke though our ranks and raced around the perimeter wire.

They raced out of sight and there was a lot of shouting and dogs barking for a few minutes before another shot was heard and shortly afterwards the party came back dragging a body unceremoniously by the legs along the whole length of the column. The body was that of a young American Air Force Sergeant who had a leg and a body wound in addition to a neat hole in his forehead!.

We soon found out what it had all been about when we got into camp but not until we were fed; this time with a difference.

For a start it was a well run POW transit camp run by the Americans and it seemed to have everything. It was a long time since any of us had been in a dining hall like that one. As traumatic as our arrival had been food was still uppermost in the minds of most people.

Surrounded as we had been by drab ugliness for so long to find ourselves in a clean cheery place with larger than life Disney cartoons and other such characters painted everywhere I half expected to see a Coca-Cola dispenser in the corner but what was on the tables was mind boggling.

There was Spam, beans, sausages, potato, bacon, bread, biscuits, butter, cheese, tinned fruit, dried fruit, chocolate, you name it, it was all there. All the things that came in Red Cross parcels. There was real coffee with reconstituted milk with real sugar on tap, or tea, and we hardly needed a second telling to "get stuck in". It was magnificent.

I can't remember how long we sat there just stuffing ourselves like kids at a Christmas party but eventually when we had had enough we were off to the showers, to be told that an issue of clothing would be made when we had cleaned up and for a start there was a new towel and real soap.

We all needed a good scrubbing before we were all pink and glowing once more and all the gear we had been wearing had been well and truly soaped and trampled on before we went on to the clothing store where most of us needed a complete change to

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bring us up to a acceptable standard.

Like most aircrew I had gone into the bag with just the flying gear that was being worn at the time but like any clothing it was bound to suffer from being worn day and night in all conditions for ten days. Gunners were probably better off than most if they had managed to hang on to their furs, but being military equipment most of them had had it taken from them.

There were other things that came out of the Alladins [sic] cave.

In addition to new underclothes, socks, boots, shirt, a greatcoat and a blanket there were cigaretts [sic] , pipe and tobacco, razor, shaving brush and soap. Toothbrush and paste. A comb and what military folk called a ‘hussif’, (housewife or sewing kit) which was very useful for keeping things in repair and of course for putting buttons back on things.

It was nearly all American Red Cross clothing and the like, mostly olive drab kharki [sic] but that did not make it any less welcome.

The camp seemed to have lavish supplies of everything and the fact that there were no guards patrolling the perimeter suggested that the administration had been bribed with goods to keep it that way with only the towers manned. It was certainly not beyond the realms of possibility knowing the capacity of our American friends to organise such things.

We were soon off to the barrack blocks with arms full of 'goodies' and to finish drying off those items of clothing that we wanted to keep and it was there that I finally heard the full story of the lad that had just got himself killed.

Apparently the poor chap had become very depressed since his capture mainly because as a waist gunner in a B.17. (Flying Fortress) when his aircraft had been damaged, he had panicked and failed to help the ball turret gunner out of his position. (Gunners in this very cramped turret needed assistance to both get in and out) but he himself had baled out and his buddy had gone to his death in the crippled aircraft.

It was hardly surprising that it had affected him very badly and he had been threatening to do something drastic which he had eventually done by going over the wire.

He had had the usual shouted warning when he went over the trip wire but kept going and started to climb the fence. On the way

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over he was hit by the first shot but still struggled on until the next shot brought him down outside but still crawling. There was very little doubt about the third shot that we had heard. That had been a pistol.

Whether he had begged the guards or whether they had needed no encouragement no one seemed to know although he must have been in view from the opposite side of the compound. Either way he was very dead and it was very sad to think that another young life had been needlessly thrown away.

We were not all that happy about our introduction to the POW cage but however much we had been shaken by the episode creature comforts were still uppermost in our minds and I spent the rest of the day sorting myself out and puffing away on my new pipe.

It was just as well that we had got away from Wetzlar station when we had.

I had no sooner made up my bed and was contemplating the luxury of spending the night in it when a racket started in the town as it got a pasting from USAF Thunderbolts and we had a grandstand seat as bits of the town and the station went flying in all directions accompanied by shouts and cheers from the 'grandstand'.

Nevertheless, I did get that night's exhausted, dreamless sleep in a real bed and not troubled by hunger pains. It was sheer ecstacy [sic] and I must confess that I was no longer so worried about how my wife and my family must have been feeling about my disappearance. The way things were going I was confident of getting home in the not too distant future so it was just a case of surviving until that day.

After a leisurely and handsome meal the following morning, the 18th, the whole camp apart from the permanent staff assembled with all their personal possessions and with a Red Crass parcel between two prisoners we were herded; (we refused to march), down the hill.

The station was in a bit of a mess but we were packed into a train on a side line and then left there waiting for something to happen.

What we did not want to happen was for a return of the Thunderbolts to finish off the job that they had started the day before. We had noticed that the carriages had got large

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lettering--P O W in white along the top but there was a lot of muttering about the potential dangers from roving Allied train and tank busters.

An impromptu committee was soon formed from some of the more senior prisoners and it was decided to 'encourage' someone to move the train to a relatively safer place. A collection of cigarettes was quickly organised and for the sum of several hundred cigarettes the guards, station staff and train crew were bribed accordingly. We only moved a few hundred yards into another siding, but It was certainly safer than being in the station notwithstanding the fact that we had an anti aircraft flak car at the front and the rear of the train!

Once again we were packed into compartments, twelve at a time and once more we were obliged to adopt the same procedure as before. Up on the luggage racks for a period. Limited visits to the toilet. Limited drinking water and no distribution of food at all. Fortunately we had all fed well and with the contents of our Red Cross parcels we could last several days.

W were still clanking along on the 19th and perhaps it was just as well that the POW had been plastered along the top after all.

We were buzzed several times by Allied aircraft including one cheeky chap in a Thunderbolt who braved the fire from the flak cars to fly parallel to us waggling his wings and waving from his open cockpit. It was very encouraging even if a little foolhardy but it provided for some more light entertainment.

Although we could not open the windows or the doors we crowded as many as we could into the them [sic] all waving as hard as we could go which caused immediate reaction from the guard in the corridor.

In he came and pulled down the blinds and then the game started.

As soon as he left to pull down those in the next compartment up went ours with a clatter and back he came again. It did not last long---he gave up first!.

At one time we passed through some absolutely devastated areas including some marshalling yards that looked as if a giant had trampled through them.

On one occasion we were on one of the few complete through lines, and everywhere else was a mass of bomb craters, smashed rolling

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stock and rails that were twisted into the most fantastic shapes like so much spagetti [sic] .

Repairs of sorts were being carried out by what looked like Russian or Polish women in headscarves, quilted jackets, sacking and string boots and who were wielding long handled shovels. They looked such a sorry dejected bunch that we put up a cheer but the only response were vacant stares.

One of the most incredible sights among all the mess was that of a huge circle of locomotive sheds surrounding a turntable locomotive roundhouse like the spokes of a wheel which had copped a real packet.

There were several 100 ton loco's reared up on their ends and wrapped around each other like so many discarded Hornby model trains. I don't know where it was. It could have been Frankfurt as it was not far away and we could have come back in that direction, or Wurzburg, but the effectiveness of that yard had been reduced to zero, making it even more difficult to move things about, including us. It did not seem logical to take all that trouble with POW's who were a definite liability.

We found out later what it was all about!.

Apparently Hitler had ordered that all POW's were to be brought down into the area surrounding Birchtegarten [sic] to be used as hostages and I would not have given much for our chances with Hitler in residence backed up by his SS fanatics.

Fortunately Hitler did not get out of Berlin anyway and a lot of his Generals were only going through the motions of obeying orders.

It was a dodgy situation all round and several of his Generals had already come to a sticky end in the hands of the SS.

Meanwhile we were being transported with great difficulty and at one time we passed through a hilly wooded area, still deep in snow which made it all look like a Christmas card scene. It was probably in the Steigerwald area; but at the top of one climb, with the locomotive chuffing and clanking we noticed that there were numerous little sidings among the trees with tanker wagons by the dozen stowed in them. We were to remember those later!.

It was about that time when the young guard positioned in the corridor by our compartment got himself into serious trouble

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with his Oberfeldwebel.

He was armed with an old French rifle of 1914/1918 vintage and we had been working on him for some time about his chances of defending himself when our troops caught up with him considering the numerous automatic weapons that our front line troops were armed with.

He eventually took the bait after some disparaging remarks about his antique rifle and proceeded to show us what a good weapon g it was; by taking it to pieces!.

We had got to the point where one of us had the magazine, another had the rounds and the bolt, another the bayonet until his rifle parts had been well distributed among us and with the train going slow enough to make jumping possible, he was within seconds of being clouted when the NCO on his rounds could not see him in the corridor and burst in on us.

He was blue in the face, waiving his pistol about and of course, shouting.

The guard got a great grand-daddy of a dressing down as he stood stiff as a ramrod and then, sheepishly re-assembled his rifle as the bits were handed back.

After some shouting, with the assembled rifle at the high port the NCO, having said his piece stomped away to a fair bit of tittering from us which turned to laughter as the guard had the last word.

As soon as the NCO was out of earshot, he said, out of the corner of his mouth, "oxen scheissen", which needed no interpretation so we finished up having a damn good laugh with him. For him it probably ended alright but little did he know how close he had been to getting his head bashed in.

In the early hours of the 20th we arrived at a suburban station on the outskirts of Nuremberg. ‘Lagerwasser’ was a dreary little wooden platformed affair and immediately the old routine started. Shouting, shoving and pushing to keep us all grouped together in the darkness we eventually walked about three miles to the camp. Then we walked back again as they were not ready for us!. That episode caused a bit of an argument as we did not know how long we were going to have to wait and it was damn cold. In fact it was actually freezing and eventually we were allowed back into the relative warmth of the train but those negotiations

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cost us almost all the remainder of our precious cigarettes.

Eventually detrained again when it was light enough and we moved down the road in small parties, strung out, until we were well away from the station and with a lot more slow, slow, quick, quick, slow stuff we were all inside the camp at full light.

In the dark and confusion I had lost Archie but had picked up Jim again but the most important thing was that we were more or less in the same group, and that was the only satisfaction that we got out of entering a grim looking place that did not get any better as we took stock of our surroundings.

The board over the main gate said Stalag X111d, and what a dump it was after our experience at Wetzlar.

Apparently it had been recently cleared and was filling up again although at that time we had no idea where the previous inmates had gone. Wherever it was they appeared to have stripped the
place before leaving.

We were counted off, 150 to a barrack room which was actually a very largo hut. Barrack Nr.69 was no different from the others. The bunks were triple stacked and by the state of them most of the wooden slats; (no spring beds or mattresses in those places), had been used for fuel which was the only type of fuel available for the two empty stoves.

We found ourselves places to sleep; and that included the floor as very few of the top bunks could be used after the available slats had been re-distributed to make up as many of the lower bunks as possible. There was not much point in having more gaps than slats up top and doing a balancing act all night with good chance of crashing down on the chap below so everyone co-operated without any fuss.

It goes without saying that the floor was favourite at that time although later on the rats made a bit of a nuisance of themselves. We were obliged to secure our rations very carefully in something they had difficulty getting into.

Shortly after 'settling in' we were called to a room at the end of the hut for a check to be made on our identities by some of the permanent POW camp staff and I was amazed at being interrogated by our own people but these boys knew what it was all about.

They had been in the 'bag' a lot longer than us and knew all

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about 'ferrets' and 'moles'.

Some had come from Stalag Luft.3. in Upper Selesia [sic] and had had the most awful experiences marching through the countryside in the depths of the Winter leaving many of their comrades frozen solid on the road-sides where they had dropped through sickness, starvation and fatigue, many of them having been shot as stragglers.

As 'sproggs' we were very fortunate to have the benefit of their experience but I was suprised [sic] to see a map of Europe spread out on the table and to be asked if there was anything we had seen en route' that might be of any use to our advancing armies.

I got Archie called in and we gave them enough information on the fuel tanker wagons that we had seen up in the mountains for a plot to be put on the map. I still do not recall exactly where it was though.

It was heartening to think that somehow we were actually able to pass on that information and the tankers might go up in smoke. It was not beyond the realms of possibility.

There was a radio somewhere among us. There had to be as we got regular BBC news bulletins after we got settled in. But to imagine that there was a transmitter as well was mind boggling. It must have been a remarkable piece of equipment with it's numerous components concealed in all manner of things with wiring connections and aerial secreted in belts, braces and tin cans. It is worth bearing in mind that a lot of earlier Air Force prisoners were highly trained technicians who could build such equipment out of basics.

I was never privileged to see anything of it. That was the province of the veteran POW brigade and the fewer people that knew about it the better.

It was still freezing and we did not dare use any more bed slats to get fires going as there was always the chance that some might be needed to line a tunnel.

That was only a thought at the time but I found out later that there really was a tunnel linking us with the next compound.

Of course, the toilets were frozen although still in use, and other parts of the ablutions were also locked in deep freeze.

The only running water available was in the compound kitchen where it was used sparingly for producing hot drinks and later

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on some sort of food.

It is understandable that creature comforts were still our primary consideration in such primitive conditions so the first cup of 'hot stuff' that was dished up was very welcome even if many of us had to go to the end of the line and wait until the owner of a drinking utensil was prepared to lend it.

We had been in the camp several hours, when an air raid hit the city, starting with the wailing of sirens in the distance and then the camp sirens.

Then the roar of hundreds of B.24's, (Liberators) reverberated and shook everything as they came in from the South with mass formations glittering in the weak sunshine but they were surrounded by enemy fighters like a swarm of bees around a jam pot.

The fighters must just about have met them head on and they wheeled in and out of the formation. Flak peppered the sky and they still droned on as one fell out of the sky with flames pouring from it. Then the smoke markers and streams of bombs from the lead aircraft was followed by clouds of bombs from the rest of the formation with the most spine chilling whistling rushing sound as they descended followed by the steady roar of explosions they plastered the city in great swathes.

Some went wide, perhaps jettisoned as aircraft got into trouble, and the station that we had only recently vacated collected one or two!.

What was most vividly imprinted on my mind were the numbers of crippled aircraft falling out of the sky at one time. There must have been at least a dozen. Some breaking up, others on fire or exploding with bits and pieces raining down and all the time the continuous roar of the battle with the crackle of machine guns, the thud-thud of cannon mingling with the heavy crack of anti-aircraft guns. It was a savage battle.

There was an awful lot of killing going on up there as well as down below and there were a lot of parachutes too.

The luckier one's fell clear of the city, and I would not have given much for their chances if they had come down in it.

We added to our numbers by one that day and he did not go on the ration strength. He came right down in camp and was promptly hidden before the guards came out of their 'funk' holes where

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they invariably dived with their tin hats over their back-sides.

We learned later that the B.24's had come from Italy and were going though to UK bases, hence they had run into the defences instead of having to fight an extended battle right across the country.

The fires in the city burned all of the rest of the day with the occasional explosion of delayed action bombs which made it very difficult for the fire fighters as well as the inhabitants.

When that bit of excitement was over the rest of my day was spent sorting myself out. I was lucky enough to salvage an old tin can from a rubbish dump and as soon as it was cleaned and polished with sandy soil I was able to join the drinks queue a bit nearer the front.

I had also found a piece of barrel hoop that looked as if it might be turned into something useful so I started working on it. It took two days of hammering and grinding with stones and lumps of concrete before it eventually finished up as a combined cutting tool and shallow spoon to make me more independent.

Ever the optimist, there was never any need for a knife for a long time as most of the food we were getting was easily dealt with a spoon; or the fingers!.

The first night was cold and rough, but we managed to get through it, as usual, fully dressed, rolled up in a blanket and anything else that was available. Even wrapping paper and cardboard was useful; either as cover or to provide some sort of insulation underneath. It was a noisy night too as a few Mossie's turned up and stoked up the city with cookie's.

It did not take long to finish off the Red Cross parcels that we had left Wetzlar with and the food provided during the next few days was very basic.

The day usually started with the ersatz 'coffee', without milk or sugar of course. There was a slice of black bread at midday and the thickness varied according to the number of people sharing a loaf. Sometimes there was a pat of ersatz margarine about the size of a ten pence piece, or a bowl of vegetable stew was a luxurious alternative; if you had a bowl to put it in, otherwise it was handful. In the evening there was a mug of ersatz 'chocolate'. No milk or sugar of course, and that

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was the basic ration when there was no supplement from the Red Cross parcel.

The mid-day 'meal' was quite a performance as there was no mess hall. When the rations came in there was a whole crowd of 'observers' who followed it's progress to the cookhouse and the division and supply to the huts to ensure that there was no pilfering along the way. Considering that we were a mixed bunch of RAF and USAAF, Officers and NCO's it was all done quite amicably. The final division of the bread was usually done by the chap with the sharpest knife under the eagle eye of more 'observers'. He had to be very careful when it had to divided between nine or nineteen people!.

The next day brought another devastating attack on the city. Again they were B.24’s but this time coming from UK bases on their way back to Italy but the concentration was not the same.

They would have spent a lot longer running the gauntlet as attack after attack had been met and probably many losses had been incurred. This time we went for cover as a lot more bombs went very wide of the target and in our direction. They were not quite in the camp but when one or two holes erupted within a few hundred yards of the wire in open ground only the foolhardy would have stayed to watch.

The next day was just another cold and miserable day. The city banged and burned but there was no heat for us. Not that we expected it after what had happened just a few miles away.

It was well below freezing at night and Jim and I found it warmer to do what others were doing by just wrapping ourselves up together to utilise a bit of animal warmth. It was either that or freeze.

I shall never understand what rats found to scavenge for in that place but they were always busy at night and could often be heard in the vicinity. Perhaps they were cold and hungry too and were looking for a warm place but we very soon learned that it was not a good idea to take one's footwear off at night unless you wanted something gnawing at the toenails!.

On the 25th the city was still burning and another batch of prisoners came in. Some more huts were opened up and as we stood there looking for familiar faces among the new arrivals we found one. Lynn Clark, the rear gunner. We soon had him billeted in

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our hut and it was not long before his story came out. After the order to abandon came he had already managed to put his 'chute on and rotated his turret on the beam so all he had to do was jettison the doors and chuck himself out backwards. The snag was that his bulky flying boots got stuck between his seat and the guns as he had not depressed them sufficiently so he found himself hanging out of the back watching us go one by one underneath him and disappear into the cloud.

It was no time to mess about so he pulled the 'rip'; the 'chute deployed and yanked him straight out of his boots. It's a wonder that he didn't break his legs considering that it was all happening at speeds somewhere between 150 and 250 mph but he was lucky and made a good landing, albeit without any footwear!. Unfortunately he too was soon picked up after he had spent some time improvising some foot covering out of his parachute that had served him so well. Later on he was provided with some well worn second-hand boots but certainly better than lashings of parachute silk/nylon. Nevertheless, he had not seen Geoff either and we were beginning to wonder if he had been able to get away somehow and that what we had been told at Ober-Orsal was all 'bull'.

The city still continued to burn all the next day with the occasional crump of a delayed action bomb going off but the highlight of the day was the mid-day meal when real potatoes were dished up.

We knew they were real as there was still a great deal of earth attached to them that had not come off in the boiling. At least it showed that none of the goodness had been lost in the cooking!.

There was even a smear of evil smelling semi-liquid French cheese in lieu of the coal based margarine that in better days would have been condemned for human consumption....and possibly animal consumption!. But we eat it just the same!.

The RAF stoked up the city again that night with a few more 'cookies': Those 4000 pounders certainly did go off with a crump that shook the dust off of everything and that was from three to four miles away!.

Another day dawned and with it good news. A large consignment of Red Cross parcels had come in with more people and lots more

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rumours. Even the rumours were a heartening charge from the daily dose of 'bull' that we were getting from the OKW (German High Command) news bulletin which was always good for a laugh when it was read out by an English speaking guard. I wonder if he ever listened to the BBC London news broadcast.

Every evening now we were getting a summary of that compiled by our own sources, inclusive of information from new arrivals that were not being processed by Dulag Luft. There was a great deal of difference between the two bulletins.

We even got another blanket issued on the 28th so that at last we could manage to keep warm without going into a huddle at night but the most important issue was the distribution of four Red Cross parcels between [underlined] five [/underlined] people. There was a lot of good stuff in those....including cigarettes!. I don't think I was the only one going around puffing happily and blowing smoke all over the guards as if to say "that's real tobacco".

I got real satisfaction out of that as a couple of days before I had traded some soap for a couple of their's and an enamel spoon; but only once.

Theirs tasted like a mixture of dried oak leaves. old tea leaves and pulverised straw-perhaps they were, but like a lot of other things in Germany at the time it was ersatz, (substitute), and tasted like it.

The pattern of each day did not vary much. A bit of a thaw during the day allowed a little more water to come through although it all froze up solid again at night.

The food issue was still the same old rubbish but it was safest to eat it first and then top up with something from the parcel. It would have been so easy to have gone for one big blow out and be done with it and it exercised one's self control to the utmost. It did not always work!. Scrounging and bartering with the contents of the parcel was an occupation undertaken by some with the mental agility of the street trader but it was not for me. Some went around trading in such a way that they doubled their stock but I confess that I was one of those who helped them do it as my stock diminished. It takes all sorts and I soon packed it in when I found that I was being outsmarted. If we all had that sort of ability for success we would probably all be in the stock exchange.

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We did get a little light entertainment on the Ist March that also gave an insight into the plight of the Luftwaffe.

We had often noticed activity at an airfield a few miles away to the North East and on this particular day we observed a couple of FW.190's tail chasing which was the standard procedure for a fledgling to learn new tricks but it was obvious that it was a very inexperienced pilot that was doing the chasing by the way he teetered around every turn at about 3000ft not far from the camp.

We watched them for a while as they went through some very basic manoeuvres. The trainee wobbled around every turn very gingerly and after a short break they had another go. They went on to some more advanced stuff and at one point when the turns got tighter and tighter I think we must have all been willing the outcome when he wobbled and side slipped, wobbled some more and then lost it.

He stalled, flipped, and dived earthwards out of control and wallop, in he went with a plume of smoke to mark his grave.

A great cheer went up from the camp but the guards were most upset about it and we were confined to barracks for two hours. As far as we were concerned that was one FW.190 that would not have to be shot down so we indulged in a little community singing, bawling at the top of our voices everything from 'Abide with me'. 'Colonel Bogey' and 'Lillie Marlene' liberally sprinkled with RAF words, much to the bewilderment of the guards who had been stationed in the doorways of the huts.

On the 2nd March the day dawned much the same as any other until some more prisoners came in and as our compound had filled up the next one became active. We were soon at the wire making shouted enquiries about this that and the other when Geoff appeared; looking a bit pale but otherwise fit and well.

It transpired that he had made a reasonable descent but he also had landed slap into the arms of a reception committee although that did not explain his late arrival at Nuremberg, but that was soon explained.

He really was at Dulag Luft at the same time as us but he had been out of circulation for seven days after his interrogation.

It seemed that towards the end of the interrogation, when presented with the little white card and pencil he told the

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interrogator precisely what he could do with it...in Aussie terms,....sideways; so he got seven days solitary confinement for insulting a German Officer!.

According to Geoff, "Ve haff vays of delink vis you" is not so funny when you are the one being dealt with. But now we were all accounted for. Years later, as a solicitor, practising in Australia, I am sure that he was more careful in his selection of words in difficult circumstances.

As a matter of interest it was the small white card that triggered off the Red Cross reporting procedure that notified all and sundry that so and so was a POW so he could have saved himself a lot of trouble.

Between the 3rd and 7th there was not a lot going on. It did start to get a little warmer during daylight hours on occasions and it soon became neccessary [sic] to find ways and means of filling in the time.

There were a few scruffy packs of playing cards about but unless one was good at poker there was no point in taking a hand unless you were prepared to lose your shirt. The stakes were usually items in short supply and our American friends seemed to have the manopoly [sic] of the schools.

I was of the opinion that I had lived rough enough already to risk my meager [sic] stocks which had already suffered from my attempts at wheeling and dealing especially as I saw a few who got the bug and were going down the drain fast for promissory dollars or pounds in the form of I0U's to be redeamed [sic] later.

Draughts,(or checkers) was favourite with most people, using home made boards and pieces made from cardboard and soot from the still empty stoves to distinguish black from white and it did not take long for regular afternoon and evening classes to get going on all manner of subjects in one hour sessions. It certainly filled in the time with subjects as diverse as music, fishing, maths and agriculture.

I found considerable interest in the German classes which were given by a Flt.Lt. who I suspect was one of the Luft.3. boys and he was as interesting as he was fluent. It is highly probable that he had been partly educated in Germany before the war and apart from the introduction to the language he told us a great deal about their history, the people and their culture.

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There were rumours that he was a 'mole' or a 'stooge' but if he had been I am sure that we would have known about it and not tolerated him for long, but then we thrived on rumour at that time.

Later events were to prove his credibility but there was always a little suspicion about who was who so we generally stuck to people that we did know and bit by bit accepted others on recommendation and found oneself accepted. I even found a Flt.Lt. who came from my home town and who's home was no further to the West of my local pub than mine was to the East. He had been in Wg/Cdr. 'Willie' Tait's crew on 617 Squadron at one time and had helped to make a mess of the battleship Tirpitz before he too had run out of luck.

The days just went by with very little to mark one from another and although I had started keeping a diary using cigarette packs there is a long gap without note after the eighth as things became rather desperate.

The Red Cross supplies were running out. The bread allowance became less and less. At one time twenty two people shared a loaf and sometimes we only got one ancient hard tack biscuit instead.

The days and nights just blurred into each other and there was a general feeling of helplesness [sic] as we became weaker and weaker. People had got into the state where they were falling all over the place especially when going from the horizontal to the vertical. One had to be very careful to let the world stop spinning before attempting too much.

On the night of the 11th RAF Mosquito's made another noisy attack on the city but most of us were too far gone to get very excited. More than half the hut had gone down with the flu' and the limited supply of Asprin did very little in the way of relief. They were only dispensed to the most seriously ill who had complications and the only way was to try and keep warm relying on friends to bring a little nourishment as it became available.

Certain things happened during the period that I cannot put a date to but I know they happened.

Some Red Cross officials toured the camp and the Camp Commandant lost his dog.

The Commandant, in elderly silver grey haired Hauptman, always

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smartly dressed, used to walk around with his staff and his Dacshund [sic] until one day it disappeared around the corner of a hut on his own personal inspection for something to cock his leg up against; [underlined] and did not come back!. [/underlined]

He was very upset over the loss of his little 'Fritz' but he had underestimated the skill and determination of our cooks so our stew that day had a little more 'body' in it. I’m glad I did not know at the time!.

In the same period the civilian contractor who used to bring the rations in by horse and cart was distracted long enough for his horse to disappear in the same way as little Fritz and he made a terrible fuss. Not so much about the horse but the harness and the blanket!.

He eventually stopped hollering when the items were returned plus an additional blanket but there was a lot more fuss when the cart was towed back to the gate by hand and then a search party was sent in to find the horse. All they found were a few nasty bits and pieces down the toilet pit. Everything edible had gone into the pot and was stewed and diluted for several days before it ran out.

As a result of this latest escapade all starts of reprisals were threatened with Courts Martial for theft and with shooting; the lot....but it all fizzled out. It might have come to that if things had been normal but they were anything but normal.

Towards the end of the period I was getting over the worst of my ills and I eased myself from my bed in stages into the vertical position for my daily constitutional and tottered out of the hut.

I had not gone far when I started a nose bleed so I was staggering along, head back, my one and only handkerchief in use to stem the flow when there was a blinding flash, a searing pain in the back of the neck and the next thing that I remember was that I was face down In the dirt.

When I climbed to my feet blinking in pain with a few angry words welling up inside me I was facing a full blown inspecting party comprising of an SS General and his staff which included two giant sized troopers, one of whom had bopped me with his rifle butt.

I think it was astonishment that stopped what might have been

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some ungentlemanly language but was halted in my tracks when the Generals Adjutant or his ADC stepped forward and barked "you must salute a superior German officer".

I was in no condition to argue so he got his salute. It wasn't the parade ground sort though. It was a very sloppy afair [sic] in which two fingers were more prominent than the others and I was shoved out of the way whilst they continued their inspection. After that I staggered back to my bed feeling worse than when I had got up.

The days and nights continued to blurr [sic] into one another and then ran the 13th came the devastating news that President Roosevelt had died the day before and an impromptu memorial service was laid on.

It was difficult to take it in and the guards crowed a bit as if they had somehow been responsible and suggested that it could mean the end of the war without appreciating that that was not the way a democracy worked. It seemed such a tragedy that the great man had not survived long enough to see the end of the war than was obviously not far away.

The following day we were still feeling a bit numb but there were some rumours of parcels coming in that cheered us up a bit but it was very difficult to show a bold front when we were all so cold and hungry....but we tried.

It was not until the 15th that things showed real signs of improvement. The toilets at last came out of deep freeze and then some fuel came in so the boilers were stoked up for the first time in a long while. We had hot showers and made full use of the water that was available and washed some clothes.

Drying them was the problem so there were a lot of people just wearing a blanket for a while, not that anyone cared about that when Red Cross parcels were distributed. One between two!.

Apparently they had come in by truck the night before and during the day some more arrived. Thank God for the Red Cross. What sort of a shape we would have been in without them I dread to think and at the time few people, including myself had any idea of the vast operation that the International Red Cross had going.

The RAF had another go at the city on the night of the 16th yet despite it all some more fuel came in and there was more hot water for a while to continue the cleaning up process. The

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place was turned into a laundry, and like most laundries things got 'lost' but no-one cared much. The most important thing was that we could clean up and that there had been no sign of lice. On the 17th there was another surprise. I suppose it had something to do with the recent inspections that some of our deficiencies were being made up. We were issued with new enamelled spoons and bowls and by way of payment the city got another pounding during the night.

It was followed by some excitement the following day when long columns of prisoners arrived at the main gate. They had all come from Wetzlar...new POW's and the old permanent staff as they evacuated the place and brought all of their accumulated stores that they could manage.

It seemed as if Nuremberg was becoming an assembly point for POW's but it was getting very difficult to absorb the numbers. It did not seem possible that any more could be crammed into the place, but somehow they were.

There were over 200 in our hut by that time and all of the top bunks had to be brought into use by re-distributing the bed boards plus the clever use of all sorts of materials such as string, strips of fabric, and cardboard plaited and replaited and finally criss-crossed to serve as webbing. It was suprisingly [sic] strong especially as some of it had a centre core of fine wire that had been stripped after some of the lighting had been re-routed!.

The new arrivals had brought a large quantity of food parcels so there was a generous issue which led to a bit of a party later in the evening which was rounded off with some community singing. It was all going quite noisely [sic] until the sirens started to wail and the lights went out as another raid fell on the city.

The days started flying by as things improved; especially the weather. There was no longer that bite in the air that seemed to cut right through you, made worse by the fact that you were not getting adequate food.

The showers were no longer permanently frozen so when there was water it was at least possible to have a drink or to have a wash.

Rumours were rife but usually the jungle telegraph managed to

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pick up something from the outside and one rumour of even more food parcels coming in raised our spirits some more. So did the sound of heavy gunfire in the distance on the 25th. That really was a good sign.

There were some French parcels distributed on the 25th but most of us thought that the contents were very inferior although welcome. It was hardly likely that they could have been anything else considering the conditions that the French had been living in for years. They were the bulk version similar to the British ones we got sometimes and were divided between 13 men or went straight to the cookhouse.

The American pack was the most favoured as it was based on the 'K' rations that were liberally distributed to their troops, and were made up of several packs about the size of a 200 cigarette pack. They came in three variations. Breakfast, dinner and supper, and were complete with cigaretts [sic] , matches, can opener and that most civilised item; toilet paper!. Nevertheless, the Americans were not all that keen on them. Too much Spam and coffee powder!. They should be so lucky!.

I got to wondering if the German POW's in our hands got Red Cross parcels and what they would to like. Not that they would need them as desperately as we did, but at that stage of the war with transportation in Germany at breaking point food supplies were probably worse than they had been for years and everyone suffered accordingly.

We were more keen to get out of the wretched place but with the end so near there was no point in trying all the normal escape methods. We had in fact been told by our own administration not to do anything risky. It was only a matter of time.

There was a lot more speculation when definite news reached us that 30,000 food parcels had somehow arrived by train which was possibly just as well as not even basic rations had come in for days. Supplies had been very spasmodic since the dog and the horse had disappeared.

Even more important was the news that Allied forces were less than 100 miles from Nuremberg but what put a slight damper on that was that we received instructions to prepare for a long march so with an issue of parcels was advice on how we should

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turn the contents into 'marching rations'. There being a limit on how much we could carry.

The veterans soon passed the ward around and everyone was soon busy, and trying to avoid the temptation to have what POW's referred to as a 'bash'. A real feast. It was not practicable. The idea was to process as much as we could into convenient and lightweight food. Everything other than the tinned goods had to be considered. Tinned food was to be consumed first but the biscuit, fruit, (raisins and prunes), peanut butter. powdered milk, flaked chocolate, coffee and sugar was all to be pounded together with as little moisture as possible so that when it dried out it could be cut into bars about the size of Mars bars and then wrapped in anything suitable. It made good sense and on the basis of one bar per meal, three times a day there was more nourishment in that than we had been coping with for same time.

Then there was the problem of carrying it all along with blankets and other personal bits and pieces. Trying to carry a parcel as some people seemed prepared to do would have been back breaking so I set myself the task of making a rucksack from the lining of my US. army greatcoat with the aid of my 'hussif'. I put a lot of time in on that and as far as I was concerned it was a masterpiece and copies were being made by others.

It had padded shoulder straps, waist straps, draw string, blanket roll straps on top and other ties on the bottom. I washed and darned my socks ready for the off but I was not in all that much of a hurry. My mind was concentrated on other things.

Every night I dreamed of a shoot out down the road so that we could all get out and go home. But it was not to be.

The 28th came and even more prisoners arrived and were squeezed in. Tents were put up on the spare ground between the huts and the latest news was that armoured forces were only 70 miles from us. So near, and yet so far!.

The longer we hang about the nearer our forces got to us and in the meantime it was just a case of hanging on to our marching rations and eating up any surpluses from regular issues of parcels which everyone was getting. No other food was coming in.

On the 29th more prisoners were squeezed it somehow The place

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was bulging at the seams.

Some of them had come from an Army camp at Hammelburg, 170km. North West of Nuremberg and same very interesting stories came out of that lot.

Apparently an American armoured column had blasted through the German lines with the express intention of releasing the prisoners of Hammelburg but it had all gone disastrously wrong. Although some had been released the Germans reacted very quickly to block their escape route to a safe area and there was all hell let loose. A lot of casualties had occurred and some of the escapees found safety back in their barracks but the Germans took more prisoners and only remnants of the raiding force got back to our lines. So the story went although it seemed too far fetched to be credible.

Each time the story was told it became more and more lurid until we treated it as what the Americans would call "scuttlebuck' or we would call 'bull' despite the protestations of "on my Mother's life' etc.

Eventually it turned out that basically the story was true although officially not a lot was said about it but it did tie up with an OKW news bulletin that a couple of days previous had reported an American armoured column approaching Wursburg was counter attacked and had suffered very badly. Certainly some of the new prisoners had been taken on that raid so it was not all 'bull'.

April 1st brought more parcels and as by that time most of us had our marching rations set aside so we really did have a 'bash'.

With parcels had come another suprise [sic] in the form of even more prisoners. Thirty two members of the Serbian General Staff, also from Hammelburg!, although the normal compounds were by that time so chock-a-block that a temporary compound was set up with tents alongside ours. Then things changed dramatically.

The guards no longer patrolled the compound from the inside but only the outside of the perimeter fence which had been extended, so down came the trip wire and the inner fence which normally we were forbidden to approach at the risk of being shot. Even a stand-pipe was set up to provide then with running water so it was a free for all as ours was still limited. Of

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course there were protests from the guards as it seemed that just about everything was 'verboten'. They just could not understand why we would not obey the rules and it made them very angry.

The very fact that the internal fence on one side had come down saved us from the daily ‘apel' (role call) which had become an obsolute [sic] farce. The guards never got it right anyway.

If a head count did not produce the right answer they tried all sorts of methods but we had all sorts of ways of adding and subtracting people. What gave them most trouble we found was having more people than they should have done so then they would try an identity check which was a bit daft anyway. It always worked out simply because our own administration drew up the nominal rolls anyway. As long as it tallied they had been happy. Now they had given up the whole charade, and left it to us.

A strange phenomena occurred whilst I was attending an open air Easter Sunday religious service. Just at the end of the closing hymn and with many people kneeling in private prayer, there appeared, it seemed, just to the North and very high, an enormous V shaped cloud in an otherwise clear blue sky. I have no idea what caused it but many theories were put forward.

The most popular one was that it was a very high flying aircraft doing a photo recce' of the battlefield but we could see no sign of the aircraft itself. The cloud hung there a long time before dissipating like a cigarette smoke ring. To me. and others no doubt, it was another sign of hope, and so unusual that I just hoped that a little miracle would happen and that somehow we could just walk out of the main gate and go home, but no such luck. Such thoughts were becoming an obsession it seemed.

The next day we were warned to be ready to move out at 7am the following day so there was feverish activity to get everything prepared.

One of the veterans who had already had experience of one of these marches tipped me off that cigarettes, soap, and chocolate were the most useful currency for bartering with the guards and the German population and I had already observed that soap was being thrown away wholesale down the toilet pit.

There was so much of it, still packaged, under the twenty seater

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'thunderbox' that It was not difficult to recover several dozen unspoiled packages of soap. As much as I wanted to carry anyway. The following morning we were up bright and early and the dream came true as we started to evacuate on time.

It was just after eight o'clock when our compound started to file out of the gate and it was a wonderful feeling. Even the air smelt different.

In all there was about 9000 of us with several hundred guards, many with bicycles, and in a long snake column about four abreast we were on our way. Naturally there was a lot of speculation as to the prospects of getting away if and when the opportunity presented itself; it would not have been difficult but our own administration had thought of it first and issued orders that we were not to attempt any chancy breakaways as the escape committees had everything under control.

That order absolved the officers at any rate from their duty to resist and/or escape so there was nothing more to do but to go along with it however frustrating it was.

I knew what it was all about as we had filed through the gate when I saw the Flight Lieutenant who used to give the German lessons, in civilian clothes, and carrying a small suitcase tucked up very tightly in the middle of a group so I tried to keep my eye on him as it was very suspicious.

In the melee I never saw him go and I never saw him again but I'll bet he was home long before I was, with a great deal of information which would help the advancing Allies.


TO BE CONTINUED..........................

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party went for cover.

There was no cover so everyone scattered as the parties started laying out the markings after the first burst of firing and by the time the Thunderbolts came back for a second pass we had been identified. It was too late for some though. Our casualties were one killed and two injured and for a long time after that everyone spent a lot of time looking over their shoulder. The casualties were sorted out by a small party that was left behind with a guard and the rest of us just ploughed on, and on, and on, and although most people had made some attempt to get fitter by walking around the compound for an hour or so a day we had not reckoned on doing mile after mile without a break.

It was not surprising that by mid afternoon there were lots of complaints about blisters and aching bodies but we were just prodded on by the equally disgruntled guards.

By late evening we were still going; albeit slower than when we had started and finally after it had got dark it started to rain. Nevertheless it was about 10pm before a break was finally called.

I was absolutely shattered as were most people and I took shelter under a railway wagon on the temporary railroad that had been laid at the side of the road and then gorged myself on a large can of stewed steak from my ‘heavy’ rations.

We were not allowed to rest for long. Before there was time for a nap and with the rain still coming down in buckets we were the move again but not before I had investigated the wagons with a view to hiding in one for a few days but found that they were all full of coal and had no covers so that was
that. Nevertheless, a liberal handful of fine ballast from the track into the axle grease boxes made sure that they would not move it very far without finding the odd problem.

Finally, soon after midnight the word came down the line to stop for the night and most of us just flopped where we were. We had done some 22mls, it was still pouring down and as there was very little cover not many had the energy to go any further to look for any.

All I did was to dispose of another can of something, curled up in my already wet blankets at the foot off a tree and went

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out like a light.

It was dawn then I woke, to a clear steamy morning and like most people I was soaked through. I had been sleeping in a puddle several inches deep which had accumulated from the steady downpour, and the prospects were not good until we saw signs of a cheery blaze a bit further up the line.

The whole column had virtually collapsed where they were when the halt had come and some more fortunate characters had been near a saw mill where there was a mountain of off-cuts which they used for shelter. That was until someone set fire to them!

It had of going nicely and it did not take long for us to take full advantage of the situation. The sight of hundreds of naked bodies dancing around getting warm and drying out their clothes whooping away like a tribe of Red Indians was more than the guards could cope with.

They tried very hard to put out the fire and get us to assist but it seemed that we were pulling in opposite directions, and they were losing the battle. We were stoking it up!.

They had not a hope in hell, not even after threatening to start shooting someone after loosing off a few into the air. Right from the start every one was marked by half-a-dozen prisoners and they would have been flat on their backs immediately they had pointed a rifle at anyone:

We kept the fire going as long as we could and most people got dried out and comfortable again as the enormous pile of glowing embers was reduced to little more than charcoal; then we were ready to leave!.

We understood that the mill owner was still going on about compensation as we left and how the poor old Hauptman dealt with it we would never know but he was looking very grim about it having wined and dined at the mill owners home for the night. Once we got ourselves sorted out and got going again we plodded on through the day for another 16mls before a halt was called for the night.

That time, to avoid a repetition of the previous night we were all to be billeted in large enclosed buildings such as churches, church halls, village halls, barns, etc. I was in a party of about 300 who were packed into a small village church around

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which they placed a guard. No doubt they had noticed a thinning of our ranks since the previous night but they would not let anyone out for any reason whatsoever.

It was not surprising that the place was defiled. I was not proud of the fact that someone had used the pulpit as toilet but it was the one place that no-one could sleep and they were lucky that the altar was respected.

The guards made a terrible fuss naturally and I was glad that I was not among the cleaning up party that was left behind, but that was the last time they bothered to confine us at night.

The main party had started to move out at about 9.30 and the pace was steady although slow before we got to Birching about mid-day to find a great deal of activity.

There were dumps of Red Cross parcels along the main street in front of the Town Hall and they were being distributed as we passed through...one each!. Even the guards were getting them but I suppose there was a good deal of sense in that, if only to keep them off our backs.

There were Red Cross trucks, (American and British Army types) and a couple of ambulances going up and down the column, and beyond, picking up stragglers and bringing them back to the fold. Some of them should have been to hospital and were really in poor shape but they had cleared all the hospitals of the walking wounded as well and everyone that could stand on two feet was having to hike it. The Red Cross took some of the worse cases further along the line of march so that they could rest up before we caught up with them.

Nothing else was provided and water had to be scavenged from where it was available in order to have a drink of something. I even got used to instant coffee being made up cold...it was wet!.

We moved off later in the afternoon and stopped for the night at Belingries where Jim and I found a warm corner in a stable where we spent all the next day and night before we were on the move again. I suppose we could not really complain about our conditions as there were two guards in the next stall sharing the same facilities and making the most of the contents of their food parcel.

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It must have been like a Christmas present for them the way they were going on and like us the only thing they had on their minds was survival, food and shelter. They were only Grade 3 troops and were looking for an end to all the discomfort and misery just as much as we were That's what made it all so damn silly!.

Things got better and better as we plodded into Bavaria. The countryside looked lush and green with well tended fields and the early signs of crops was heartening The weather was fine and most of the civilian population treated our progress kindly. We treated it like a Sunday School outing, waiving, smiling and cheering the population. No doubt they thought we were daft but we were not downhearted.

On rare occasions Allied aircraft flew along our line of march waggling their wings so it seemed that they were monitoring our progress.

Some of us eased out of the column from time to time to do a little trading and on one occasion I was able to add some fresh bread and garlic sausage to the stores of our little group comprising most of the crew and I occupied myself happily after being elected cook.

We picked another barn for the night and found a good supply of mauve dyed potatoes of the sort we had at home for animal feed. The farmer was a bit concerned when he found us with them. He made it quite clear that they were for 'swine' only and that it was a criminal offence to use them for human consumption. It was a continual source of amazement to me that whilst their country was being torn apart with the utmost disregard for human life and property there was still so much regard for common law but I suppose that they had been conditioned by years of shortages and regulations.

I had first noticed the tendency at Nuremberg when we did have fuel for the stove and we were toasting the black pumpernikal [sic] by sticking slices on the side of the store and in came a guard who became very angry when he saw what we were doing.

Toasting bread was ‘verboten’ by law as it destroyed the nutritional value of the bread and we were breaking the law!

As prisoners we were well aware that they could impose civil

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as well as military law if necessary. They had made the same threats for the same reason when we had our bonfire but as there was no time for that sort of nonsense there was precious little that they could do about it. In any case, a few gifts of cigaretts [sic], soon overcame the problem.

We finally got on the more again the next day about mid-day but by now we were doing little more than just strolling along enjoying the freedom and the weather. I had the opportunity of selling a spare blanket to a Polish farm worker for 6 eggs but he could not understand that we were mixed British, American and Commonwealth POW's. Nevertheless, there were a few more exchanges after a lot of sign language and I was better off by 30 Reichmarks which caused a spot of bother as the transactions had been witnessed by a straggling guard who wanted to confiscate the goods. Again it was 'verboten' to sell German military equipment. It was easily resolved. He got 10 marks and was told to "getten ze stuffed" so he wandered off somewhat bewildered.

There was a distribution of Belgian Red Cross parcels, and a large wedge from a round Bavarian loaf at one point and eventually we caught up with the main column again to find a comfy spot in another barn and a good night's sleep with a handsome meal tucked under the belt.

I suppose that now we had put a fair distance between us and the battle front there was no longer the urgency to force us along so we continued to stroll through open farm lands and cross a lot of main roads and the Danube; which was not blue. In fact it was quite mucky.

At one point shortly after crossing the river we crossed a bridge over a closed off section of either dual carriageway or autobahn and there was some interesting activity in the road through a deep cutting which had been closed off to traffic near Seiganburg.

To our amazement the road had been turned into a temporary airstrip with Focke-Wolf 190's lined up and being serviced under a great deal of cables and camouflage netting. I wondered how long it would be before our chaps identified it as camouflage and gave it a good pasting even though we did not see so much of them quite so often as we had previously.

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There was plenty of evidence that they were still busy not too far away though.

We continued to plod on past decorative Bavarian farm houses which, with their high pitched roofs and fancy gables looked very attractive. We were close enough to some of them to see into their fine big kitchens in pine and stainless steel where women in crisp pinafores seemed to be up to their arms in tubs and flour. We did not get more than a passing glance though. The guards were catered for with steaming hot canteens of soup and hunks of home made bread cut from big flat round loaves, supplemented by thick slices of farmhouse cheese. It is understandable that all we got were dirty looks!.

We found accomodation [sic] that night in a barn at Swienbach and once again contemplated the possibility of doing a runner but when we made enquiries we also found out why the column was thinning out!.

It appeared that our administration had been organising parties of 25, each with two guards, to do an about turn during the hours of darkness to find a route to our own lines.

How the selection was made I do not know but it was understandable that those who had been in the bag the longest had first choice and if anyone deserved priority it was them. It was also interesting to learn that the guards were being provided with safe conduct passes which would ensure that they would get preferential treatment when they were finally picked up.

We were still told not to go it alone as there would still be many pockets of fanatical resistance and it was just not worth the risk. Geoff had already tried it once and he had a close shave. He had only got a little way beyond the fringe on a daylight attempt when he was apprehended by a couple of trigger happy SS field police. He had been sent back with a warning, but there was a very good chance that those blokes did not send any of their own back to the line if there was any chance of them being deserters. A little on the spot summary punishment was likely to be meted out without having to justify the action. With our guards it was different. Things were so slack that on one occasion one of them sat on the roof and placed his rifle between us. I just could not

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resist the temptation when a hare appeared in the field and I grabbed his rifle that I had been eyeing anyway, quickly worked the bolt to 'put one up the spout', aimed and fired, but missed, so I hurriedly handed the gun back to it 's owner as the Oberfeldwebel came running up to see what the shooting was about. That turned out to be another big laugh. What else was he to think when he found the guard with a smoking rifle in his hands?. The guard must have figured that he would be in less trouble if he admitted to the use of his rifle for sporting purposes than to admit to allowing a POW to get the better of him so he got a good dressing down for wasting ammunition and I got a dirty look. It all helped to pass the time and keep up morale.

The next day we received the news that we were heading for a camp at Mooseburg but although we started off fairly early we soon got the message that Mooseburg was not ready for us. That immediately started the 'go-slow' process again.

At one time we were lounging around at the side of a track that led across the fields when we heard the skirl of pipes and from over a rise to one side of the main column came a small formation of Scots troops in full marching order with a piper in the lead. What a glorious sight they were with kilts swinging, brasses glittering. It looked damned silly to see half a dozen guards marching with them!.

The sight was enough to inspire some of us to drag ourselves to our feet as they converged on us. Some of us even saluted but they just ploughed on ignoring the Air Force rabble. Good luck to them. They were still going strong as they disappeared from view over another rise. Good luck to them. It looked good and it no doubt made them feel good but there was no doubt that they would be back behind barbed wire long before we were.

We just flopped a bit farther along the track and found ourselves a comfortable billet for another night of relative freedom.

The next day I got organised with another group for scavenging and the like.

Things had been going so well that like others I had already got through my marching rations and generally had lightened my load. No-one was hungry any more but I was approached with an offer that I could not refuse.

The offer was made by a Captain of the US. Infantry who wanted

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fourth to complete his team. The others were two American Air Force Sergeants so I left the crew to join his outfit. It was hard luck on the crew though-they lost their cook!.

The Captain was very interesting and enterprising character. It was his third time as POW, having escaped on two previous occasions, but this time he was no longer going to stick his neck out as there was a state-side ticket waiting for him as soon as he was out of his present situation. He was a very shrewd and tough bloke and it did not take us long to decide just how we were going to operate.

At the first opportunity we scavenged some bits and pieces from some farmyard pumping machinery and rebuilt a broken down 'dog-cart' on which we dumped all our kit and went into action immediately.

Two did the pulling whilst the other two went off scavenging. Within the first half day we had done so well at the butchers, bakers and farms a few km. each side of the column that to were soon re-trading among the others at a 'profit'. My carefully hoarded stock of soap was proving to be most useful currency although coffee and cigaretts [sic] were sill the most valuable.

It was too good to be true. We had not gone far with our cart getting piled higher and higher when the owner of the bit’s and pieces that the cart had been built from discovered they were missing. He rapidly caught up with us on a broken down horse and demanded the return of it.

There were more dire threats of punishment for stealing which of course never came to anything but it left us with having to carry, eat or trade the fruits of our transactions, and the two with the column just had to carry that much more. It was worth it though.

Part of the plan was that it was this pair that staked out a comfy site for four when we made camp and generally the scheme worked well.

The Red Cross trucks were still going to and fro’ but with a difference. They were coming from the South East, loaded, and discharging their loads at various places, loading up the sick and lame and actually [underlined] backtracking our route to the Allied lines [/underlined] to deliver them to safety before loading up again and refuelling for the return journey to us, mainly with ‘K’

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It still was a source of amazement that the Red Cross trucks were nearly all British or American types that had been re-painted accordingly, loaded, and transported from Italy through Switzerland with neutral drivers under the International Red Cross Organisation.

We were told that some 2000 of them had set out and split up near Munich, one column going in our direction and the other North Westerly to meet other POW's converging on us from the North.

If that produced a farcical situation then it was no more farcical than the latest method of communication that had been adopted between our administration and the rest of the Germans to keep us informed of what was going on.

A sort of HQ. unit had been set up by the more senior officers and their selected staffs who were up front and they never missed a chance to harass the guards....and that included their CO!.

Right from the outset the guards bicycles had come in for a lot of attention.

With monotonous regularity they had lost tyre valves, and chains. Tyres had been slashed until constant canabalisation [sic] of what was left had reduced the original number to only a couple of serviceable bikes, and we had reached the ideal solution where they no longer had a pump between them. We had!.

It was not suprising [sic] therefore, that the last bikes were allocated to the Commandant and his Adjutant....but on conditions imposed by us!.

It was agreed that if we had equal share of them there was a good chance that they would no longer be vandalized but the daftest thing of all was when our own Adjutant went up and down the line on one to pass information it still had a machine pistol on the handlebar clips!.

On the 6th we only moved a few km. and there were more food parcels distributed The awful French one's again but anything was welcome in the food line, if only for bartering.

One of the team and I slipped away one one occasion and crossed a railway line to a group of cottages where we made enquiries for eggs.

At one cottage we called at we were received by an obvious

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1914/18 veteran who was minus one leg but who was quite philosophical as we discussed the terms of the deal in a mixture of broken English and German and he seemed friendly enough. When the terms were agreed he shrugged his shoulders and indicated in the direction of the chicken house and then left us alone with two teen-age girls, possibly his grand-daughters, to collect the eggs.

He was either very trusting, or taking no chances and possibly very relieved to find the eggs were all we had helped ourselves to even offered to give them a four minute boil before we departed. Again, after the difficulties of conversation it was the shrugg [sic] of the shoulders and the well worn phrase, “you soldat-me soldat”.

These eggs went down very well with Spam, beans and fresh bread that someone else had aquired [sic] .

Every day brought the sound of gunfire and battle closer well as Allied aircraft sweeping over us on occasions as they plotted the movement of the long snake of people. There was no doubt that that is what they were doing as our identification process had not been needed for a long time.

That evening we were quite close to Mooseberg and we made camp in a sheltered part of a farm with beds of hay and camp fire was set up with bricks and ironmongery that we had accumulated.

As usual as soon we were all together I planned the menu around the spoils of the day, particularly as our team leader, Capt. Dunkleburg, (a good old American name), had just knocked over a plump farmyard hen.

I don't know if he had been a horseshoe throwing champion back home but he was adept at throwing a short length of wood up to twenty feet with deadly accuracy and he had brought the chicken down by catching it across the neck and it was ready for the pot in a few minutes.

After that it was my responsibility as I had been the team cook on joining, and had been able to make all sorts of dishes from anything that became available including nettles and turnip greens, wild berries and even watercress from the streams where most of our water was drawn from.

Everyone seemed to be happy with this arrangement and our chicken supper was simplicity itself. I must admit that I felt a little

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guilty when others drifted around our site sniffing the aroma like Bisto kids but it was a matter of survival, although I did feel a little sorry for those who could not cope with looking after themselves.

Lashings of coffee was consumed and dispensed to others who wanted to make use of our fire and we were off to sleep like babies.

The morning of the 17th started with a leisurly [sic] breakfast which was still in progress long after the time we had been told to be ready. Then the farmer and a guard arrived making a lot of fuss and accusing us of stealing again. I suspect that more than one chicken was missing but nevertheless we pleaded innocence. They threatened us with all sorts of consequences for our actions as we started to clear up bones, feathers and damp down our fire so they eventually called in the Hauptman.

When he arrived on the scene he let rip with a very good immitation [sic] of Hitler and as we took very little notice he worked himself up into a fine old state until he was just about purple with rage. We didn't understand much of it, but Dunkleburg did, and he knew what he was getting at before he got a little calmer and reverted to English. Then he gave us an ultimatum. He was going to count ten and then he was going to shoot someone if we did not get moving.

By that time the situation had got decidedly dodgy but we took our cue from Capt.D, and started to spread ourselves out as the count started.

Ien...drie...swie...by which time he was spluttering again and by the time he had got to ten he was clawing at his pistol holster which was a beautifully polished leather affair with a fancy-lanyard disapearing [sic] into it.

Capt.D. had gathered himself into a crouch like some old gun fighter from a Western, poised as if to try and beat him to the draw..although of course totally unarmed. The guards looked alarmed and backed off as the pistol was withdrawn seemingly in slow motion as Capt.D. prepared to charge.

On the other end of the lanyard appeared a fancy pearl handled ladies handbag model of a .22 which was pointed skywards and fired.

Putt, putt, putt, and everyone relaxed immediately and rolled

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about laughing as we carried on clearing up. The old boy's face was contorted in anger and embarrassment as he stomped away. I think that was the last I ever saw of him.

I imagine that as he was just about to hand us over he was getting the wind up and was going to have to do a lot of explaining about how he lost 2000 prisoners and half of his guards on the way from Nuremberg!. That is always presuming that anyone else was still worried about such things.

We finally reached the camp, Stalag V11a, Mooseburg, by mid-day and then began the process of sorting ourselves out. Eventually we had a hot shower and a meal of sorts and then sat around most of the afternoon whilst the administration figured out what to do with the 1700 strong RAF contingent now that we all been segregated. It was goodbye to all the friends we had made outside RAF circles so I was back with the crew again.

The time spent lounging around was not boring anyway. There were Yanks all over the sky around us, knocking hell out of anything anything [sic] that moved now that we were within the safety of the camp.

We had news that Prauge [sic] had fallen. The Yanks were reported to be only 20 mls from Berlin and the Russians virtually had the city surrounded, so what was there to worry about.

All we had to do was sit tight and survive and eventually we were given an area of huts for the night although they provided little more than just a roof over our heads.

The 19th started with a roll call, with promises of hot water and food which did not materialise. All that happened was that we got moved to another compound with huts in the same condition as those we had just vacated, lacking everything except the bed frames.

I got very fed up with the whole deal. My shaving gear was just about used up. Like others I had over two months growth of hair falling all over the place. My boots were falling off of my feet....they had not worn at all well. There was a long queue at a single tap and no ablutions. There was no heating and precious little fuel for cooking fires. The remaining bed boards were carefully guarded by those who had managed to get a few together. Issued rations were a couple of potatoes, a hunk of

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bread and some mouldy cheese. I went into a nasty fit of depression so I turned in to sleep it off.

The floor was the best place with the shortage of bed boards so it was a matter of just curling up in a corner wrapped up in anything to keep warm.

Over twelve hours sleep cleared the air a bit and the next day I felt a lot better. All the crew except Jim had got together again for parcels and food share out as for some reason Jim had gone in with another group but the waiting game was not improved by a change in the weather so any cooking or brewing up had to be done in the hut. At times it was like 'smokey Joe's'.

The change in the weather did not stop the air activity all around us but fortunately it was mostly ours. The Luftwaffe was rarely seen.

The next day was the same but supplies were improving a little and carefully hoarded stores were opened up. I got a replacement pair of boots; not new but at least the soles were not flapping and I was able to replenish the shaving gear.

The following day looked like being a repetition until an order came through to prepare to march again. The burning question was "where the hell can we go from here?.

The Russians were already through Poland into Czechoslovakia to the East and the North of us, and were coming up through Austria to the South and not all that far away. Even Italy was suggested although the only obvious way was back and perhaps that was not a bad idea as I was not partial to the idea of the Russians over-running us.

There had been lots of stories already concerning the Russian way of life and from what I had seen and heard of the Ruskie POW's on the far side of the camp there was no doubt that they were a strange lot.

Of course they had had it very rough and had no protection under the Geneva Convention as non-signatories which had a lot to do with it. They were very badly treated and their food rations were even worse than ours….and they had to work for it, officers and all.

As a result they had become a desperate band of brigands with little more than survival in their minds and they were up to

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all kinds of mischief.

Only the day before they had been bearing a coffin out of the camp for burial and the German gate guards made sure it was a corpse that went out. They plunged a bayonet through the flimsy coffin and the corpse screamed!. They had buried the original in the compound and although it might have been interesting to have got mixed up with them I don't think it would have been exactly pleasant.

We got back to using the bunks again after a load of rough boards had been dumped in the compound for the purpose of making them up although a number got sidetracked for fuel, mainly for brewing up.

Brewing up was something of a ritual and when fuel was short it was foolish to be extravagant with resources. The most economic were the tin can arrangements that had come down from Luft.3, although some copies had been made.

Usually mounted on a small board they consisted of hand wheel driving a metal fan in a perforated lower chamber with a fuel chamber on top. All driven with a string or bootlace drive. It sounds very crude but the gearing was such that it worked like the bellows of a forge furness [sic] . They were very economical and would burn anything from a handfull [sic] of twiggs [sic] to lumps of tar off of the road. There was always a great deal of whirring going on at brewing time. i

The owners of these masterpieces would usually brew up a can of water for others if a handfull [sic] of fuel was produced and it was amazing how bits of fire was transferred from one to the other rather than use a seperate [sic]match for each start up.

The 25th April dawned a beautiful day and there was considerable relief when we were told that we would not be marching after all as it could only be a few days before we would be free.

The sky was getting thick with aircraft at times, mostly ours, but the odd German Air Force fighter was seen invariably high tailing it for safety to their temporary landing strips, often trailing smoke, with a swarm of stars and stripes after them.

These were exciting times and the guns seemed even nearer as the excitement increased when we had a news flash that Augsburg, about 45mls to the West of us had fallen into our hands.

It seemed to us, and it proved to be the case, that it was a

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race between the Americans and the Russians as to where the gap would be closed, whatever may have been previously agreed. The thrust between us and Munich, and onward to where they finally did join forces did solve one very important point.

It prevented what might have been the fulfilment of Hitler's original plans to surround Birtchesgarten [sic] with his SS fanatics and at least 40,000 POW hostages for a fight to the finish.

Everything was going so well that we were no longer bothered about keeping a reserve of food or conserving fuel supplies. Part of Geoff's bed went into preparing lunch and some of mine went at supper time.

The 26th was another beautiful day. We had a bit of a surprise when a large party of guards marched through the camp to the boundary wire at the edge of the compound, then downed arms, cut the wire and rapidly filed through leaving their rifles behind. It is quite possible that they just went off to somewhere quiet and then sat down waiting to be picked up.

They got out of sight rapidly after I dashed out and picked up one of their rifles to send a couple of shots after them but I only fired over their heads.

That's all there was time for as our administration collected all of the rifles and took them back to camp HQ.

It was not long after that news came through that we were taking over the running of the camp and we were one more step nearer home.

A bread ration came up. The interior fences were torn down. Where the guards had cut the wire we strolled out into the open as if it was a Sunday afternoon along the prom. Along the river bank, chatting to a couple of pig-tailed giggling teenage fraulines and even picked up some firewood which had been our main purpose for going outside.

It was not long after our return that the PA system instructed us not to stray too far if we were outside and although there was a tremendous sense of freedom in doing so it really was not neccessary [sic] for obtaining fuel.

Warning notices, air raid shelters, fence posts and the like were all available to us by that time. It was a change not to hear the PA blasting out 'Achtung' and OKW rubbish but we were being kept informed almost hourly by

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relaying BBC and AFN programms [sic] .

There was an announcement that our documents and personal possesions [sic] were available for collection from the admin office if we wanted them.

After all that had gone on since 7th February I actually got back my mirror and cuff-links that had been confiscated but it would seem that someone had aquired [sic] a very nice white silk scarf that I had been wearing at the time. Perhaps it had been considered service property, which was fair game. I was just surprised that anything was returned under the circumstances.

News came later that Regensburg had fallen and our forces were encircling Munich, and although the weather turned very nasty in the night and the hut leaked like a seive [sic] no-one was concerned about such minor discomforts.

Even the, following day when there was no let up in the downpour we did not worry about it. Even the natural water supply was a luxury!, and a visit to the clothing store gave us the opportunity to change some more of our tatty clothes.

On the 29th P47 Thunderbolts buzzed the camp and then did a bit of straffing [sic] in the local area. Perhaps it was just as well that the cut wire had been repaired and we had been confined to camp until further notice!.

By 11 o'clock there were all the signs of a battle starting to the North so there was another good reason for staying under cover.

Geoff and I had taken cover under our hut and in fact I was brewing up whilst the battle was going on and one or two people who were foolish enough to still be wandering around were hit by stray bullets but fortunately not seriously.

By 11 o'clock the sounds of battle had gone right round the camp to the South of us, giving us a chance to venture outside.

There was still a lot going on almost on our doorstep. Some big guns were firing over the camp from the hills and shells could be heard rushing overhead followed by a 'crump' as they landed between us and the town.

Then one found it's mark when the church steeple and a sniper with it disappeared in a cloud of dust and debris.

News in those conditions travelled as fast as a bush fire and

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we next heard that the senior Allied POW officer and the local German Commander had been out the previous evening under a white flag to confer with the American Commander, but the German was adamant in his response to the ultimatum. He refused to surrender the area without some sort of fight so that was why it had all started up again but it did not last long.

There seemed to be a bit of a lull and then on the top of the hill, along the ridge, dozens of tanks appeared and just took up position menacingly. About mid-day another party went up the hill under a white flag to parley once more and I can only assume that enough people had died to satisfy honour and to find terms on which to end the slaughter especially when faced with that threat.

By 1 o'clock all firing in and around the area ceased. The Stars and Stripes flew in the town and in the various compounds national flags of all kinds were flying.

Those flags had been hidden for a long time at great risk and at last they could be proudly displayed. As far as we were concerned it was all over, and we could look forward to going home.

We were nearly all bursting with excitement wondering what to expect when later on in the afternoon a convoy that was a sight to behold came in through the main gate.

The lead Jeep had a General saluting all over the place. Some said it was Patton as it was the US. 7th Army that had relieved us but there was so much going on with the bustle and the noise it was difficult to take everything in.

Behind the Jeep came a Sherman tank and a whole convoy of armed troops who toured the camp as we shouted and cheered, and cheered some more, and cried a bit too until we were just about drained of emotion.

The PA system belted out cheerful music and then the circus was in town.

Another convoy came in and news reel camera crews set themselves up as Red Cross trucks, ambulances, mobile hospital, mobile bakery, mobile laundry and trucks with mountains of goodies followed.

There was everything from chewing gum to fruit juices and even fresh fruit that some of us had not seen for months and in some,

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cases, years.

Everything was eventually set up in the central compound and we marvelled at quantity of the goods and the generosity with which it was all being dispensed. There was even a Padre' tossing packets of chewing gum into the crowd.

It was announced over the PA system that we could go outside again but only through the main gate, and then only after we had been processed by the general office and provided with a repatriated POW document. It was worth it, although at that particular time I found plenty to occupy myself in camp and did not venture out.

Although we thought that the fighting was over it started up again not far from our compound as dusk fell. No doubt some brave German still trying to defend his Fatherland but it did not last long.

We had already been warned not to try and make for home on our own as some had attempted. There were still some fanatical pockets of resistance in areas that had been encircled and had yet to be secured.

The most noise that night came from the Russian compound. Although they had had their share of all that was coming into camp they had been conditioned [deleted] but [/deleted] [inserted] to [/inserted] such hardships that they were still out for anything they could get and went on the rampage. They raided the camp bakery and having carted off all the bread and the flour that they could carry they finished up by smashing all of the equipment. It took some time to round them up and try to convince them that there was no need for it. It didn't work.

It all flared up again the following morning. They had their freedom, as we all did and got into town but it was not long before they were smashing the place up, pillaging and looting and generally being a damned nuisance until something happened that I though I would never see.

The limited number of Military Police in the area had to be backed up by deputies drawn from the POW ranks and included Officers and NCO's They were armed with the rifles that had been left behind by the departing guards and were needed to guard German shops, homes and the population against rape and downright vandalism.

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As one Welshman who was involved said to me at the time, "There's daft for you. Yesterday the Germans were our enemies and today we are protecting them from certain elements of our Allies". There's no answer to that but I think the Ruskies eventually got the message.

Some of the excitement had died down by the next day until the circus got going again.

The camp had another visit from some top brass and there were more news reel camera crews shooting just about everything in sight.

American Forces Air Mail blanks were distributed and collected again but that is one area where the Yanks did not get top marks. Mine never got home. Probably they were shipped to the States first and then they were dumped on the assumption that we would have got home first.

The mobile bakery was going full blast now that the camp bakery had been ruined but some of the veteran POW's were having problems with the fluffy white American bread. One chap was stuffing great lumps of the stuff into his mouth and complaining that the 'cake' did not fill him up like pumpernikal [sic] . There was plenty of everything else anyway and no doubt by the end of the day he would have tried everything that was on offer and like me, the pains in his tummy would be from eating too much!.

The camp PA system continued to broadcast AFN and BBC relays. The BBC gave news of 32,000 liberated POW's in the drive for Munich and that had to include us. That would be good news for the folks back home who would be getting the same news and were no doubt feeling very relieved that they would soon be hearing from their loved one's.

It was not all good news though. What the army found in places like Dachau, between us and Munich was a very different story, and the world was soon reeling in shock and horror at the scenes of the almost indescribable conditions that were found there.

By comparison our situation was a picnic.

Those that did venture into town could not be stopped entirely from a little 'souvenir' hunting.

They came back with bicycles, radios, weapons, motor bikes, and all manner of household goods but although it was a free

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for all I do not remember that it got too far out of control as it did at the time of the Ruskie's excursion.

One group near us came back from a hunting expedition with a deer that was soon given the treatment. It was barbicued [sic] on a spit over a pit that used to be an air raid shelter and there was everything that one could wish for.

It was open house and became a communal feast. People just contributed anything that they had. There were chickens, eggs, rabbits, ducks, fish, you name it. It was the biggest, most hilarious barbicue [sic] that I have ever been to or ever likely to go to, and of course some alcoholic beverage found it's way into the camp as well.

During the proceedings one American came back from visiting a nearby tank unit and he was absolutely plastered.

He was teetering all-over the place, hanging on to half a case of Champagne on his shoulder and every time he looked like capsizing and people went to help he he [sic] , fought them off. He was very protective of that 'champers'. Even when he fell into an old air raid shelter it could not be prized from him so we left him with a happy smile on his face. There was plenty more.

Although we were getting a little restless at the delay in moving us it was understandable....there was still a war going on!. But on May 3rd. parties started moving out and leaving their surplus goods behind and we spent a lot of time walking around the area inspecting the staggering amount of transport, troops and armour that we came across. We only had to show our identity slips and everywhere we went we got first class treatment with the utmost generosity, but there was the inevitable sad story to remind us that for some people the war was not yet over.

One of the tank crews was suffering from a traumatic experience, the memory of which was still fresh in their minds.

Apparently, when they had been confronted, not far from the camp, by armed school kids in cadet uniform they had tried to discourage them by firing over their heads but it had not been successful. The youngsters still showed defiance and continued firing. The tank crew had no choice but to fire on them for the benefit of their own infantry who were just behind them, and of course some of them had been injured before they gave up.

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In it's way it was very sad but it just showed that it was no picnic out there.

When the next piece of news came it was difficult to take it it [sic] in.

Berlin had fallen to the Russians and Hitler had killed himself in his Berlin bunker. The German High Command had collapsed and a cease fire was imminent.

The excitement reached a new high when that news had sunk in.

The call forward of people for evacuation was speeded up and those called were taking messages for us as well so I was looking forward to being home for my wife's birthday on the 8th, but the days were slipping by rapidly.

We were bathed and de-loused, (the first of many de-lousings) on the 6th for moving out on the 7th only to be frustrated by another deferment.

We were interviewed by an American female War Correspondent and were photographed charging around on bicyles [sic] and yet another frustrating day went by. Some people had got totally fed up by that time and were having a go on their own despite the regular warning being given. I played it safe and was rewarded on the 8th when our party was called forward.

All of the parties were of 28 people and Geoff was in charge of ours when we finally moved out at 5.30am. when we boarded a convoy of trucks, that set off for an ex Luftwaffe base at Straubing to the North of us.

It was a rough and dusty journey, but eventually we rolled into the place and again I was struck by the resemblance to our own pre-war airfields. I could have found my way around there as easily as Marham, Mildenhall or Stradishall but we did not have chance to go far. It was not worth it anyway as we were likely to be called forward at any time.

We were off-loaded on the road leading through the camp with the hangars dead ahead and told to stay put.

There was very little sign of damage so either the Luftwaffe had evacuated smartly or surrendered, but there we were, at the side of a tree lined avenue waiting….and …waiting!

Des and Lynn had been left behind at Mooseburg but they turned up in a later convoy and were not far from us as evening came. Still stuck on the road!.

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Fortunately the weather remained fine and although there was a NAAFI type building on the opposite side of the road none of us wanted to be confined. We had had enough of that.

We relieved the NAAFI place of a small stage about 8ft by 8ft and about a foot high which we set up between some trees. Several parachutes from the stores were used for bedding and a canopy and we had a neat little camp site that was the envy of many.

A metal grid was set up on some bricks to serve as a fireplace and we were able to dispense hot water and coffee to all and sundry as well as being a meeting point. I

We were just about to settle down for the night when the bomb shell came. Germany had capitulated…the war was over at last! As if there had not been enough excitement for one day.

There was still a little light left when there was a flurry of activity up at the airfield and troops were charging in that direction from all over. Curiosity got the better of us and no sooner had we got to edge of the airfield than a half dozen Ju.52's approached from the North East firing red verey signals
as they went into line astern for landing.

As soon as they had landed they were surrounded by armed troops and then the doors opened.

The occupants were mainly women and children, obviously families of Luftwaffe personnel being evacuated from Chechoslovakia [sic] out of the path of the advancing Russian forces. They looked very frightened as they were hustled away but I am sure that they would have been taken care of by the local population even if the military got different treatment.

We were not allowed to get too close but the airfield attracted us like a magnet and we soon found it to be a very busy place. No wonder they did not want us in the way.

There were mountains of stores dumped all around the perimeter.

There were dozens of Mustangs and Thunderbolts in another area and the remnants of dozens of German aircraft of all types piled up in another area.

Then came the next surprise when about twenty Me.109's and Fw.190's appeared in the circuit...all flying white streamers from their wingtips in the act of surrender. The sight of those brought just about everyone up to the airfield as they circled and landed, finally taxying into a neat line in front of the

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The pilots hardly had time to switch off before the 'reception commitee' was up on the wing and the elegantly turned out pilots in their No.1. uniforms were unceremoniously whipped out of their cockpits, frisked and relieved of any Iron Crosses around their necks, and watches, binoculars, pistols and holsters were removed before they were lined up and marched away.

I suppose they did try to surrender with some dignity but they were not allowed to do so and neither was the next group that came in.

We had had the families, then the Staffel, and the next arrival was a Ju.52. carrying the unit commander and his staff. It included his female secretary, filing cabinets and all....plus...the pig!.

The latter was no doubt the product of the unit pig farm and an insurance against going hungry at a later date. So here was an almost complete unit apart from the poor old ground staff who were probably having to hike their way back from somewhere just inside the Chech [sic] border about 60 miles away.

The volume of gold braid on the senior officer did not save him from going the same way as the others, so he was bundled off one way, no doubt protesting about his rough handling....and the pig went the other. To the cookhouse!.

One of the last to land in the fading light was a Feisler Storch light communications and spotting plane and the pilot demonstrated it's capability by virtually stalling it into a very short landing run and …..plonk, stopped.

The pilot got out, like an entertainer in the circus, grinning, as if to say "who's a clever boy then", until a huge coloured American airman grabbed him by the collar and he was put through the mincer like the others.

We loved every minute of it and wandered back to our camp site very happily not expecting anything to climax that but the finale came shortly after daylight went completely.

The day was finished off with a giant pyrotechnic display that must have used up everything that could be mustered from all of the combined stores plus stuff from wrecked or surrendered aircraft.

The way some of the stuff had been put together to blast off

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some 200ft into the air must have made the excercise [sic] near lethal but I am sure that there was no shortage of the necessary explosive and technical skills to put on such a show at such short notice.

The night sky was filled with star shells and flares of all colours and enormous explosions for well over an hour before we retired to our communal bed with stars in our eyes, and hope for what the next day would bring.

When May 9th dawned we were up early, washed, shaved, breakfasted and the site tidied up in case anyone else wanted to make use of it after we had gone, all ready standing by long before 7.30 as we had been told to be.

About 8.30 a flock of DC3's (Dakota's to the RAF) started pouring in, landing and taxying into the park directly ahead of the road we were on.

We had seen these depart on the previous day and it was a well drilled procedure by which they took up position in five ranks of ten nose to tail so all we had to do was to was [sic] for the call forward. It did not come!. Instead, truckloads of GI's came rumbling into camp straight past us and out to the aircraft which taxied out as soon as loading was complete and away they went…..all 50 of them!

We did not know whether they were front line troops who were in need of a rest or even walking wounded but it got us a bit steamed up to think that someone seemed to be jumping the queue but we knew that they would be in again in the afternoon so we continued to wait impatiently.

By mid afternoon the flock were back again and after landing formed up with the same precision and then another convoy of Americans arrived, again going straight out to the airfield. Fortunately it was a smaller party and some of our groups ahead of us were called forward but leaving us still sweating it out.

There was nothing more to but to open up our site again and brouse [sic] around the rest of the camp to occupy the time.

There was another firework display but we could not work up much enthusiasm for it. All of our thoughts were concentrated on what might happen the next day.

Again we were on call to be with some of the first away so once more we prepared ourselves and then watched in dismay as another

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convoy came sweeping in and went straight out to the airfield. When the aircraft came in they were promptly loaded and were away again leaving us still stuck on the side of the road. There were some angry mutterings.

Eventually the group leaders had a conference to elect a spokesman who went forward to speak to the load masters and whether it was that that did the trick or whether it was the luck of the draw I would not know but all of the RAF roadside gipsies were moved up to the airfield for the afternoon shuttle.

In came the aircraft as before and as soon as they were parked each party was allocated a specific aeroplane from which they unloaded jerrycans of petrol and other stores which included 'K' rations from which we got an issue and then we boarded....at last.

Like a well oiled machine the 50 aircraft started up, rolled out in sections of ten, took off and in loose formation headed West at about 4000ft.

The precision of that operation made a lasting impression on me as it was shifting about 300 tons of fuel and suplies [sic] in and about 2800 people out each day. With over 40,000 repatriates to get out of the area it was understandable that it was going to take time however frustrated we might have felt at times.

We landed at an airfield near Rheims, France, and were trucked to a huge tented encampment in the grounds of some Chateaux. We got de-loused again, had a label tied on and were then provided with vouchers to exchange for cash, shown the accomodation [sic] and told to be ready by daylight next day..

To someone like myself who, had only been in the 'bag' a short time it was a short step back to reality but for those who had been behind the wire for years it was the start of a long period of adjustment.

The bright lights, the incessant broadcasting of AFN (American Forces Network) and the delights of the tented city with it's cafateria [sic] tents, beer tents, cinema, magazine stalls and one-arm bandits was a different world. Obviously American servicemen (and women) did not expect to be cut off from their home comforts just because they were fighting a war in foriegn [sic] parts, whether they were in our [sic] out of the line. i

Whilst I was having difficulty in deciding what to spend my

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money on…and a beer was one of the first things, others were very reluctant to spend at all. I found that those who had hoarded for years in order to survive could not easily break the habit but we all mucked in together until eventually we had had our share of everything that was going and then it was early to bed, a real one, in preparation for an early start on the next lap.

We were up at 5 o'clock the next morning, piled onto trucks and commenced another bumpy, noisy and tiring drive, seemingly in the wrong direction, to an airfield at Juvencourt, which I found out later was between Troyes and Chaumont. I did not hear any complaints. If everyone was like me they were too pre-occupied with their own thoughts at the prospect of getting home soon to be concerned about a such a journey. Even if it was about 100 miles!.

We expected to be going into another camp but there was great excitement when, on arrival, we found a flock of waiting Lancasters on the airfield and we loaded 25 to each aircraft ready for the off.

The Lancaster was not built for passengers so we were distributed all along the fusulage [sic] and my diary records that I was in one of 514 Squadron's aircraft, from Waterbeach, Pilot, Flying Officer Tasker. His W/Op turned out to be one of my old mates from training days, Tommy Gookie.

There was no opportunity for chat though. Anyone who who [sic] has ever flown in a Lanc. without a helmet will know just how noisy they were but it was a terrible racket when those four beautiful Merlins started up and we taxied out and took off, setting course in a bit of a gaggle, heading West. I did have the opportunity of a few minutes in the top turret but there was quite a queue for it.

I lapped it up but it was a bit nerve racking for some of those who's flying had been cut short when they had been flying 1939 vintage fighters and bombers. Those chaps were going to need quite a lot of rehabilitation that was for sure.

After about an hour's flying all the changes in engine note and attitude suggested that we were preparing for landing and after touching down and taxying in we scrambled out of the door to find ourselves on the tarmac at, of all places, Tangmere.

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Just 18 miles from my home town!. Then the inevitable occurred. First we had to go through a very rudimentary customs check and then we were deloused again. There was no way that anything illegal or catching was going to be allowed into the country but I was beginning to get a bit fed up with having a hose stuffed up trouser legs, sleeves, down the trouser front and back and in the hair dispensing clouds of strange smelling itchy powder. Then it was tea and sandwiches in the hanger served by WAAF's who for some reason seemed to treat us as if we were something from outer space. I did not realise it at the time but that is probably what we looked like.

For the next part of the programme we were bussed to Barnham railway station to board a train that was sitting in a siding, but not before I had attended to one most important matter.

I was sorely tempted to slip away but thought better of it. Instead, I dived into a phone box, called the operator, but before I could tell her that I wanted a reverse charge call she asked if I was a returning POW, so obviously I was not the first she had had on the line.

Having been assured that I was she said that there was no charge and got a number for me in Worthing. In a flash I was talking to a local Chemist who I had been in the Home Guard with. He took a message to my parents, just up the road and on the way met my father-in-law so the whole jungle telegraph got going to spread the news.

Quite a few used that phone but eventually the locomotive whistle brought them back on board and we were off.

The trip was a long one and at times very slow as we wound our way all round London making occasional stops at stations for the ladies of the WVS and the 'Sally Ann' to dispense tea and sandwiches, whatever the hour, until eventually, somewhere around midnight we arrived at the reception centre at RAF Cosford, near Wolverhampton.

The train ran right into the camp which had it's own internal railway system being a storage area and maintenance unit and we dissembarked [sic] almost directly into a well lit hangar.

There were lines and lines of tables creating avenues which were alphabetically indexed; and from then on it was every man for himself for a while.

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The first part of the process was an identification check. There were boxes of Records Office duplicate I.D. cards with photograph after which there were a few questions and once past that check we were back in the Air Force. Some who had not worn too well in the 'bag' took a bit longer but all were eventually filtered through perhaps after calling an officer to verify or a Doctor to advise on suitability for immediate clearance or a spot of R & R. (Rest .and Recuperation) first. Cosford also had a very large hospital so it was ideally suited.

After that we were provided with a temporary I.D. card and authorisation chits for this, that and the other. Leave warrant, ration card, advance of pay, clothes coupons, petrol coupons, cigarette and confectionary coupons…..all taking time as we worked our way down the line of tables until we were further directed towards another hangar which was a monster clothing store for an issue that would at least allow us to change out of the odds and ends that we had been wearing for so long. Half of mine by that time was American drab olive so it was back to blue.

The clothing issue was very basic. Airmans battle-dress and cap. Underclothes, socks and boots. Shirt, collar and tie.......separate of course, and nothing to hold them together, and finally a. piece of braid or a set of stripes appropriate to rank and..........the sewing kit!, plus a new kit bag to put surplus stuff into. Goodness knows what time it was before the process was complete and then we were off to a barrack block, a steaming hot bath and to bed.

We had been told that the Mess dining room was providing a 24 hour service and very few people overslept. We were up and about gathering everything together and I forget how many peices [sic] of braid and collars I sewed on for others before the need for breakfast was calling.

I felt a bit like a fish in a bowl wandering around the Officers Mess again among others dressed much the same as myself. The permanent staff were very helpful and the stewards could not do enough but there had to be a limit to how much one could eat in one go. There was only one thing on the minds of most people, and that was to get home as soon as possible. One of us had already gone. Jim only lived at Coventry and I was told

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that he had ordered a taxi and was off…..and to hell with the expense!.

Buses had been scheduled to run to Wolverhamptan [sic] for main line connections for those who were cleared to go and other nationalities, including Commonwealth personnel were being assembled to go to clearing depots that had been set up in various parts of the country to prepare them for repatriation. For me it was a quick call to Newmarket and I was on my way.

I must have got quite used to the scruffy character reflected in the shaving mirror without realising that there was a lot more of me that I had just taken for granted. When I first looked in a full length mirror it took some time to realise that the wild man from outer space was in fact me. If clothes maketh the man then I really looked like a rag-bag…..but a clean one!.

Clean I might have been but I had over three months head of unruly hair which was almost white from the liberal use of de-lousing powder that would not wash out. My ill fitting serge battle-dress had come straight from the stores and looked like it and although I could have delayed my departure to make myself more presentable I didn't. And I do not know anyone who did!, but as soon as I was back in the public eye it not surprising that I was getting some funny looks.

There were a few more to come before I finished my journey but one incident imprinted itself on my mind.

I have no idea where it was exactly but after changing trains and we got under way, I was lost in thought and the other person in the compartment; a member of the bowler hat and brolly brigade, went to some length to point out that it was a First Class compartment and that I appeared to have made a mistake.

Normally I would have treated it lightly but as his expression suggested that he had a nasty smell under his nose I'm afraid I was in no mood for that sort of nonsense. I cannot recall exactly what I said, but it certainly was not complimentary, I do remember that it was he that moved out and not me....after all, I did have a First Class ticket!

I finally arrived at Newmarket where it seemed that half my wife's HQ had turned out to greet me but why they were on the down-line platform when I arrived on the up-line platform I

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don't know and there was an awful lot of running about before we fell into each others arms. Then it was back to her office for a whirlwind of activity and excitement as a leave pass was arranged.

There was of course a very lively party in the evening before we finally retired to our room with some people that we had often stayed with on previous occasions. It was ironic that the lady of the house was the German wife of an old jockey of some repute.

Old "Willie" Warne had been the Kaisers jockey prior to the 1914/18 war and had been too late to get out of the country when that war started. The result was that he had been interned in Germany throughout the conflict. We had a lot to talk about!.

The following morning we were off to Worthing for a reunion with my parents and the rest of the family with the exception of two of my brothers who were still away in the forces.

My uniform and other clothes were waiting for me, all cleaned and pressed; although a little on the loose side and eventually, after lots more soaking in the bath most of the signs of the de-lousing powder disappeared. Nevertheless, a haircut was necessary, before I could get my cap on. The old barber that I had used for years nearly had a fit when he saw the state of my hair until I told him how it had got that way. That was the only free hair-cut I ever had out of him!. After that it more or less resumed it's natural colour and I was reconciled to a more civilised routine even though a touch of jaundice limited activities for a while. Something was bound to happen when the diet was undergoing that sort of change.

It was another twenty six years before I left the Air Force. I will never know why I was one of the lucky one's and it never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes I have thought that I have lived on borrowed time since those days.

If I had been a cat I would have run out of my nine lives a long time ago and I have always considered myself very fortunate to have enjoyed a longer period of relative peace than the older generation had experienced between two dreadful wars.

My youthful ambition to fly had been fullfilled [sic] ; even if it had been the hard and dangerous way. The war had finished and our country and our society seemed safe and secure at last.

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It had been achieved at the most dreadful cost in human lives and suffering. There were a lot of my old school friends and others that I would never see again.

Historians have since put forward many academic arguments on the conduct of the war as they have done throughout the years over long and bloody conflicts to try and prove points and discredit theories as well as personalities which is easy enough to do in hindsight.

The fact remains. Hitlers evil Third Reich was destroyed, and only just in time before the introduction of a new generation of weapons might have prolonged the war or even given Germany the chance of recovery. Then the pages of history would have been written somewhat differently and I doubt if todays armchair strategists would be in a position to express themselves quite so freely.

The overall number of casualties was appalling and the Royal Air Force had it's share as it wielded one of the most powerful and flexible weapons ever forged.

Bomber Command alone lost 47,293 aircrew killed or missing on operations over Europe, and another 8000 were killed in training and non-operational flights between 1939 and 1945.

A staggering 9000 bombers of all types were lost in the same period and at the peak of the air war 40% of Britains [sic] war production was concentrated in the manufacture of aircraft and supporting services.

Between them the Allied Air Forces devestated [sic] 70 cities and manufacturing centres severely curtailing production.

The Hamburg raids of 1943 disrupted U-boat building and caused the terrible fire-storm that resulted in more than 40,000 deaths. Altogether 3,600,000 homes were destroyed. 7,500,000,people were made homeless and there were 1,000,000 casualties caused by the bombing on the European front alone.

The costly raid on Peenemunde in the Baltic gave us breathing time to develope [sic] a defence against what could have been devestating [sic] damage from the V1's and V2's.

Sea and Air co-operation effectively swung the balance of the U.Boat war and a steady flow of war materials and food was assured from the vast resources of the USA.

The German Navy got bottled up and was no longer an effective

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force. The Luftwaffe was being depleted as their bomber force declined in favour of fighter production. Although in 1943 their production of fighters actually increased they were faced with the fact that experienced pilots cannot be produced, at the same rate as machines and the bombing was starving them of fuel.

Once Germany was forced onto the defensive as was Japan the writing was on the wall.

Towards the end of the war Germany had committed enormous quantities of some 20,000 anti-aircraft guns and vast quantities of ammunition to the defence of the Third Reich, tying up 1,000,000 troops and another 1,500,000 people in fire fighting, clearing up bomb damage and re-housing.

The destruction caused by Allied air raids affected German war production to such an extent that it was estimated by German sources that in 1943 alone, it cost, in terms of production, the [underlined] equivalent [/underlined] of 10,000 heavy guns and approximately 6000 heavy tanks. If the resources that those figures represent had reached the battle fronts the outcome of many a campaign might well have different.

Those figures are just some of the grim statistics on the balance sheet of a war that need not have happened if Hitler could have been prevented from embarking on his plans of world domination.

The overwhelming Allied air power was a major contribution which helped to reduce the casualty figures of the ground forces who eventually squeezed the discredited leaders of the German nation into surrender, giving Europe a chance to sort itself out and lay plans for a more peaceful future.

History will show that the transition into an uneasy 'peace' and the rebuilding of shattered countries and communities was not easily achieved but I am proud to have been part of it.


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[underlined] PREFACE [/underlined]

My war came to an end with Victory in Europe, when, after returning from German POW camp I was sent on leave to await further instructions.

For some time I expected to be called for duty in one of the areas of either Europe, the Middle East, India or the Far East where there was still a great deal of conflict going on, but it seemed that there were still plenty of people around to cope and it was many weeks before something was found for me to do.

I was content as long as my pay and allowances were being credited to my account, so I sat back waiting for something to happen and enjoyed being with the family again. My wife Dorothy was still in the Army and soon used up her leave entitlement to be home with me at Worthing although I managed several periods up at Newmarket where she was still stationed which was not too far away so I had a comfortable time rehabilitating myself until a telegram from the Air Ministry requested my presence at Whitehall to determine my future.

Meanwhile I had had plenty of time to contemplate both the past, present and the future. At least I still had a future of sorts which was a lot more than some of my old school friends whose short lives were about to be recorded on the memorial tablets.

My youthful past had been humdrum until joining the Royal Air Force and I could not see it getting any better by doing what so many were doing by getting `demobbed' and back into `civvy street' as soon as possible to pick up the threads of their previous occupation. Apart from anything else I was not even sure that I wanted to resume my previous occupation.

I had made the grade from the ranks to commissioned officer more by luck than anything else and despite some bad moments I had been introduced to a different sort of life; and it attracted me.

I had asked myself time and time again; should I throw it all away or capitalize on it? The answer always came out the same, whichever way I looked at the situation. I really had nothing to lose as I had very little to start with, so I approached the postings department at Air Ministry with an open mind and tongue in cheek.

I was kept waiting for a long time after I had presented myself, and bit by bit I progressed from the main reception to the clerks office then to an outer office until finally being called into the inner sanctum to be asked by a chap who simply asked what I would like to do.

It was such a surprise that I was barely able to splutter out "anything you like" and no doubt if I had not already given some thought to my future I could easily have blurted out "civvy street" and that would have been the road that I would have gone down. Nevertheless, my remark produced a contemplative "hm" and a lot of paper shuffling. I just looked at the ceiling and shuffled my feet!

The next question was "what about administrative work?" and I recall that my reply was something to the effect that "if that is what you would like me to do I will have a go" although my insides were churning. Me! administrative work! What the hell did I know about that, but the die was cast and I was sent off for a few more days leave to await further instructions, which took the form of a telegram instructing me to report to No. 47 Group. HQ, Hendon, for disposal.

I duly reported to the HQ which was in a group of huts, which is still there behind barbed wire in front of the Restaurant of the RAF Museum and by adopting the philosophy of leaving my destiny in someone else's hands the cards were shuffled once more. I was earmarked for administrative duties and sent home, once more to await further instructions.


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It was not long before, they arrived and then I was en route to Lyneham, in Wiltshire, all shiny, new and refreshed for the beginning of a new era.

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[underlined] CHAPTER ONE [/underlined]

Lynham [sic] was a flying station of No. 47 Group, Transport Command so it made a change for me to be outside Bomber Command but I did not have a lot of time to contemplate the Yorks and Stirlings that were being flogged to and from many parts of the world. The arrival preliminaries were soon over and I found myself being employed as assistant to the Adjutant of 511 Squadron and was soon up to my ears in routine paper work, a lot of which was processing claims for campaign medals but it seemed an easy way to earn a crust for the ten days that I did the job and I learned a lot more about the running of, a unit like a flying Squadron which had not changed a lot since I had been a 'sprog' airman at Mildenhall in 1941 where I had started my first stint of admin in the orderly room. There was something else that had not changed. Stirlings being Stirlings, whatever the mark, could still get into an uncontrollable swing on take off and landing as I found out from the signals that were coming in reporting aircraft all the way down the route to India having swung and busted the undercarriage in some God forsaken place and I had not been flying a desk very long before one did the same thing at Lyneham which finished up careering into the operations block causing a number of casualties among ground staff.

It had previously entered my mind that if I could keep away from flying for a while it would not do me any harm but after that episode it did not seem to make any difference. I think that I would have been most upset at being pranged by a runaway Stirling whilst sitting at a desk; especially after successfully completing a tour in Bomber Command on them without damage to myself.

However, I was whisked out of that job overnight and flung straight into a properly established job in Station HQ. That of Station Assistant Adjutant although the job title of the appointment was a mis-nomer as far as I was concerned. It really was personnel administration and I inherited a staff of twenty headed by a Flight Sergeant Chief Clerk. All of a sudden I was an Admin Officer!

The reason for the sudden move requires a little explanation as I did not physically take over from the previous encumbant [sic] , a WAAF officer who apparently had got herself and the job into one hell of a mess and had been moved out smartly before things could get any worse. My brief from the Senior Admin Officer was to get stuck in and sort things out as quickly and as quietly as possible so I took over everything completely blind. Office, staff, ledgers, account books, cash and inventories. It was difficult to know just where to start so I familiarised myself first with the orderly room procedures and the staff who handled the details of some 2000 airmen and airwomen and then came the process of sorting my own office. It did not take long to find out that things were far worse than they appeared on the surface.

I started checking the inventories as I had signed for them subject to check and although some small one's were fairly easy but when it came to the bedding store, oh dear, oh dear. My heart missed a beat. It showed up a flaw in the system that been exploited for a long time by people quite prepared to make a few bob out of surplus blankets, only they were not surplus! Even in the stock room half blankets suitably folded had been counted as complete blankets to deceive the checkers for a long time. I had to have a long think about that one. There seemed no point in enquiries and chucking charges about. I had a feeling that it would bounce right back into my court. Quickly and quietly the boss had said, so I did it my way and worked at it steadily over a period of several weeks whilst dealing with other day to day matters.


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I had the station scoured for blankets that were being misused as curtains, table covers etc. and a few billet inspections with the aid of the Station Warrant Officer produced a considerable number that were in excess of entitlement and more than a few exchanges were made at the main stores until I was satisfied that the deficiencies had been reduced to a modest number that I could subsequently declare for write-off. War time methods of writing off losses were no longer in force so I was aiming for the minimum possible before asking for an independent check to be made with me in attendance. Such matters absorb a great deal of time and at the same time I introduced a completely new system of accounting for the issue, receipt„ storage and stock control of bedding without adding extra staff although there was a change of staff. The Corporal in charge of the bedding store! who I am sure was very pleased to go without a fuss. I found a place for him in the sanitary squad! In the long run quicker and quieter than the more formal way of doing things. I followed it up with a multi page paper on the subject, with recommendations for the changes that I had already made and submitted it through channels to Air Ministry, as I was sure that there were considerable savings to be made if my scheme was implemented officially. I can only assume that someone, somewhere along the line put his own name to it and nearly two years later an Air Ministry Order appeared almost word for word so it must have had some merit. It was still in force 40 years later!

I did get something out of though!. Nearly six months later after I had moved on and after an enquiry into the deficiencies that had been disclosed, a Board of Enquiry found me responsible for the losses and invited me to pay £5 toward the value of the losses. One learns the hard way and so it seemed that everyone was covering their backs, and they had to have their pound of flesh. £5 was a lot of money in 1945. About 25% of a weeks pay for a Flying Officer!

Had that backhander arrived whilst I had still been at Lyneham I might well have decided that Air Force Admin. was not for me but by then I was engaged in numerous other problems and learning to cope with them without compromising myself. It did not always work but I was getting better at it. In the meanwhile Dorothy had left the Army and was back with her parents in Worthing awaiting the arrival of an addition to the family.

Among other things that were under my jurisdiction were the issue of clothing coupons, tobacco and confectionery and petrol coupons and it did not take long to find out that the system of accounting for those items were far from satisfactory. Of course, they were all issued, or were supposed to have been issued according to entitlement as laid down in the relevant orders but I found it impossible to reconcile the stocks and book balances. I burned the midnight oil balancing, (or to be truthful, cooking them) until I had resolved the petrol and clothing coupons sufficiently to satisfy a snap audit which was always a possibility although obviously no such audit had been done for a long time.

In hindsight it would probably have been to my advantage to have asked for an independent audit when taking over, if it had occurred to me, but I was new to the business and without formal training it could still have gone against me in the same way as the blankets episode. I doubt that it would have gone against the departed WAAF officer who no doubt had left the service very smartly which was the normal practice for someone in her condition. There did not seem any point in making waves so in my ignorance I just pressed on.

The tobacco and confectionery coupons were a bit of a headache although I had not placed any priority on them but the first time I attended a Station Commanders conference the subject came up as the local and area NAAFI managers had apparently been tearing their hair out for some time as their monthly stocks were all being taken up in the first few days of the month and supplementary stocks were having to be put up to supply the demand for the rest of the month. I came directly into the firing line although my predecessor had previously been


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instructed to do something about it and of course the inevitable occurred. The finger was pointed at me with an instruction to "fix it ....and quickly". It did not take long to find an answer.

The blank coupons were initially issued by the NAAFI to units for distribution and generally coupons issued by one unit were valid at another and therein lay the problem. At Lyneham everyone other than the Officers and Sgt's messes seemed have about four times as many coupons as they should have but the work involved was not easy and I burned a lot of midnight oil personally setting up a system to get it right first time. I made all old coupons invalid as new coupons became valid from a certain date. They were all serial numbered and distributed to internal units and departments against nominal rolls There was no leeway or overlap. Any cases that would have previously been arbitrated by the Naafi staff were referred to me and only coupons bearing the Lyneham stamp were valid. All new arrivals got a new issue on surrender of their old one's with a limitation of only two weeks back issue. I did get it right first time!. The rot was stopped dead in it's tracks within the first few days of it's introduction. The Naafi managers were happy and despite the success of the operation that was the only area from which any compliment came and I was presented with an enormous box of chocolates for my wife with their compliments. At least I had the satisfaction of knowing that I had some aptitude for the work that I had been thrown into and had so far I seemed to have done it a bit better than someone with formal training.

There were other matters that needed a nudge in the right direction from time to time to bring them into line but eventually all the serious problems had been attended to and I was able to relax slightly as the job ticked over as it should have done in the first place. I even managed a few more week-ends at home instead of working right through but at that time people were still revelling in the euphoria of the cessation of the war and there was a lot of partying going on, and that of course meant too much drinking as an outlet for pent up emotions. There was one rip-roaring party to which I invited my Petty Officer Naval brother, (with temporary promotion to Lieutenant. RN. For the occasion) and it was the great granddaddy of all binges. We were in a very sorry state the next morning when we went down to the flight office as I had arranged a trip in a York for him. He had never flown before, and it had been no trouble to lay it on although it was in a freighter on air test that we found ourselves in. No seats. Just a load of loose covers on the floor with a few straps to hang onto.

I suppose it's something you are trained for and you grow up with so it was second nature to me. My poor brother felt differently about it with the thunder of the engines, the unfamiliar smells and a skyline that would not stay in place, and neither would his stomach as he was obliged to make use of the paper bag supplied!

His final thoughts on the matter were that he would sooner take his chance in the bowels of a ship than fly or have to chuck himself out of an aeroplane if it got into trouble although I am sure that when he was later obliged to fly back to the UK on compassionate leave on the death of his daughter he had more things on his mind than his own personal discomfort.

Bit by bit I attacked all of the accumulated problems and new one's as they arose and life began to jogg [sic] along quite nicely. I was able to spend time studying the activities and the rules and regulations of the personnel department for which I was responsible, although it was run very efficiently by a Flight Sergeant Waaf. Even so, I began to take more notice of what I was invariably signing for. At that point in time I seemed to have been launched in a career in Admin so it seemed logical that I should learn all that I could about it.

It was too much to expect that I would be left to settle for long. In early Spring of 1946 I received the reward for my efforts when I was notified that I was posted to Holmsley South in the New Forest, Hampshire, for Admin duties, so a quick hand over followed a handshake from the C.O. and to my surprise a "well done" and I was ready to go. One of my


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first thoughts was that I would be a lot nearer Worthing and things seemed to be working in my favour especially as Holmsley was another Transport command station with a Stirling squadron. The prospects were good and I had no reason to make any preliminary enquiries so off I went and waved goodbye to Lyneham.


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[underlined] Chapter Two [/underlined]

I completed the arrival formalities by eventually arriving at the C.O's office and that's when I received a nasty shock to be told that he was very pleased to see me as a very special job had been reserved for me. I was to take charge of 50 German POW's who would be arriving by train [underlined] the following day [/underlined] and the Senior Admin Officer would tell me all about it!

He did. A dispersed Nissen hutted site had been allocated. Beds and bedding had been set aside at the stores and an inventory opened ready for my signature. Cooking facilities had also been arranged on site "so off you go and the best of luck and keep them out of my hair" was the brief.

[underlined] Dispersed [/underlined] was the operative word. Typical of war time airfields it was well spread out and I was to find that the site that I had been allocated was nearly two miles from the main camp area but I was thinking very hard about the prospects and wondering if my reputation had preceeded [sic] me as they must have decided at the last moment to appoint an officer in charge. I must confess too that I rather liked the idea of being a POW Camp Commandant which was the title that I gave myself. After my recent experiences as a POW in Germany it would be interesting to have the role's reversed.

Most of my first day was spent checking out the site and supplies. The electricity was on, the plumbing was working and coal had already been dumped on site but it was the `cooking facilities' that intrigued me. It was no more than an old soya boiler and a Spitfire packing case but I was not going to worry too much about that. One thing was for sure. At the very worst the conditions could never be described as rough by comparison with the way we had been treated as prisoners so after reading up the limited amount of information that been handed over to me and making a few arrangements for the reception of the POW's I settled in the Mess and turned in that night with a clear conscience. The next day could take care of itself!

I duly met the motley crowd at Brockenhurst railway station the following day without too much ceremony having mustered a couple of hefty, armed Service policemen to make an impression and there I was handed a package of `bumph' by one of the two RAF (aircrew) Warrant Officers who were going to be my total staff for the indefinite period that they were going to be with us. As soon as we got back to the main camp I was able to dispense with the policemen and the POW's did a lot of waiting about whilst I poured over the documents with the Senior Admin Officer (who really didn't want to know), but I was determined to keep him in the picture before being told once more "get on with it". By that time I had got the impression that as far as I was concerned I was on my own!.

The POW's were all ex Africa Corp and had been incarcerated in working camps in Canada. They had been well fed and documented and were in the pipeline for repatriation, and they knew it and the best part was that they were to be reminded regularly with the added threat that if any one of them absconded, or even attempted to, then the whole lot would be put back to the end of a very long list.

That solved a lot of my fears and it was with a much lighter heart that I paraded the lot, read the riot act through their senior NCO `interpreter' although most of them knew enough English to understand and then we were off to the site where I paraded them again and explained that it was to be their home until further notice. I also explained that any comforts that they might enjoy would be achieved mainly by their own efforts which soon put a stop to any complaints that they might have thought of voicing. There was the inevitable roll call and familiarisation of faces having formally introduced myself and then we got down to work setting things up.


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The next few days were hectic as I scrounged, scavenged and borrowed all the necessary equipment to make life tolerable and there was a lot of earth moving, hammering, sawing and considerable industry as the days went by. The kitchen and mess room layout was built from the Spitfire packing case and sited in a partitioned end of a hut adjacent to the ablutions block to make use of the plumbing, and the remainder of the hut was turned into sleeping quarters for the duty officer and the site office.

There were few restrictions. By the very nature of our staffing arrangements it was an open camp apart from morning and night roll calls with one of the Warrant Officers or myself on camp throughout each 24 hour period. The daily routine was soon established. I was allowed a small cash ration allowance to supplement the daily ration issue and the prisoners were allowed a small basic pay in script as they were not allowed real money. They spent their script in the small canteen that we set up and it's value was converted into real money under my control (more book-keeping), for purchases from the Naafi main distribution centre in Southampton.

I was also allowed to employ them on the station in a variety of trades that they were suitable for and give small pay increments accordingly, so it was not long before some of them were being employed as drivers, fitters, cooks and butchers, cleaners and baggage handlers with a pool of refuse collectors. My message to them was very simple. "Screw up a good job and you go straight to the garbage detail". (There was no extra pay for that job!)

A bout of very wet weather made life very difficult as the entrance to the site was uphill and impossible for motor transport so that supplies had to be man-handled in but in my travels I had spotted a considerable supply of used and new PSP, (Perforated Steel Planking) of the type that many war time hard standings and even temporary runways were built with which had been more or less abandoned by the Americans, who had used Holmsley for the invasion of Normandy so several tons were transported to the site in the next spell of good weather and we got cracking. There was a lot more earth moving as the surface was prepared and we worked it out as we went along. I got my shirt off too which raised a few eyebrows among the troops.

Like any other body of men there will always be those who will hang about on the fringe of activity trying to look as if they are busy. Germans are no different! But I felt that if I could demonstrate that I could work as well as any of them then I would be justified in putting my boot behind anyone who seemed reluctant to flex his muscles so we toiled like an army of ants the whole of one week-end when I was the duty officer. At the end of the day we straightened our backs with the satisfaction of having done a good job in record time with a firm driveway leading up to a level turning area at the top.

I had a few crates of beer brought in later on and had the additional satisfaction of being told by one of them that it was most unlikely that a German officer would have applied himself in the same way. By that time I had bathed and was back in uniform and once more and `The Commandant' was feeling rather pleased with himself, so the reply that came from me, almost without thinking was....."possibly, and you lost"! Touche!.

After that things began to tick along quite nicely which was just as well as I was beginning to be drawn more and more into the routine work of the station. Nevertheless, the POW's took up most of my time and I had to argue my way out of doing station duties like Orderly Officer on the grounds that I was spending every third night and every, third week-end in the POW compound. I was excused station duties...but not for long!

I had to take fairly swifty [sic] action on one occasion when I had a report from the civilian accountant officer who came to work on his scooter that he just passed one of our two tonner's being driven by one of my POW's on the Southampton road, and he did not appear to have a load! I was off like a shot on my recently aquired [sic] motor cycle and chased after him.


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I was flat out for several miles before I caught him up and flagged him down. The driver was the one that I thought he might be. He was reputed to have been a pre-war racing driver mechanic and it appeared that he had been doing some unauthorised tuning of the truck's V8 engine as well. His argument that he was road testing the vehicle cut no ice as he had no authorisation to do either that or his journey so it was about turn and back to camp with me tailing him. I think he knew what to expect when I had him on the mat. Like everyone else he knew that Southampton was not many miles down the road and my own view was that he was making a dash for freedom although there was no way I could prove it. For him it was the loss of his trade pay and on the back of the refuse lorry instead of driving it! They had been warned!.

My motor cycle was a great help to me and allowed me to get between camp and Worthing in less than two hours giving me much more time with my family especially as I would normally have caught an early Sunday evening train to get back. With the bike I was usually driving into the compound on the dot of eight o'clock on the Monday morning to be received by one of the Warrant Officers and the Feldweibel. The bike was then taken to be cleaned up as I changed and had breakfast before going through the reports and morning inspection. The bike was then taken to be cleaned as I changed and had breakfast, before going through the reports and my morning inspection. [sic]

I had learned enough about Germans to know that they understood and respected that sort of routine so there was some satisfaction in having the bike cleaned and polished, very often by the chap who I had suspended from driving after his misdemeanour but I was too trusting. I should have remembered that once you give a "creegie", (an abbreviation of the German word for POW); an inch, he would take a mile. We used to!

On one fine day I decided to take run to Bournemouth and on the spur of the moment took the head man with me on the pillion but we had barely done a couple of miles when the bike went into a violent, almost uncontrollable wriggle on a bend which resulted in us being thrown onto the verge, on the wrong side of the road, somewhat shaken, when the back wheel locked up!

When had got our breath back it did not take long to find the cause of the trouble. A loose back wheel which had caused the wheel to go out of alignment and the chain to jump the sprocket! That had also upset the brake control but it was soon put right and the outing was abandoned. There was some more sorting out to do. I was quite adament [sic] that wheel nuts do not loosen themselves and I had already decided that the bike would no longer be cleaned by a particular prisoner and the same person found that he never did get back driving, or for that matter on any other job that might have restored his trade pay. There were no direct accusations but I think everyone was aware just how close `Sir' had been to a very nasty prang. It was just one of the many problems to be sorted out where my charges were concerned and it was not unusual for the local village policeman to be hauling one of my `boys' back into the compound in the early hours of the morning having found him sneaking around the village. It was an open camp after all and my staff was not large enough for anything else. Neither would the administration consider giving me a guard patrol at night so all sorts of things were known to be going on after roll call and lights out and I was obliged to turn a blind eye to such goings on provided that nothing desperate occurred. It was impossible to stop the forces of nature and if some of the local lasses preferred the company of German prisoners then that was their affair.

Another problem concerning the motor-bike nearly deprived me of it when I received a letter from an H.P. company advising me that the machine was the subject of an H.P. agreement between them and a third party and as Dorothy had opened the letter at home it really caused a storm in a tea cup!. The bike was costing me about four months pay on an


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H.P. agreement with another company! In the end it was not difficult to sort out. I threatened to sue the dealer that I had got the bike from and told the first H.P. company that the bike theoretically belonged to another HP company and then let them sort it out so in the end the bike remained in my possession.

It very nearly got bent on another occasion when a group of about five of us who had motor-bikes, (including the medical officer), went out for an evening's tour of the local area which included a few stops for [underlined] light [/underlined] refreshment. Perhaps that was what caused a little excess speed as we swept into a bend, line astern, with the Doc. in the lead, but he couldn't quite make it round the bend. Off the road he went whilst the rest of us made our own arrangements to keep control and come to a stop as the Doc. disappeared up someone's garden path. When we had turned around and investigated there was the Doc. bike and all, extracting himself from a flower bed. There was no real damage done except for the loss of an area of skin from his knee and a hole in his best trousers.

The lady of the house had just come out to see what all the commotion was about and seeing a pranged person discharging a quantity of blood on her path asked if she should get a doctor and with great solemnity the Doc. said, “thank you madam, I am a Doctor but I would very much like a cup of tea", so we all got tea and patched him up althoughfor [sic] some reason we did not indulge in that sort of escapade again.

Our little camp matured and blossomed and I thought that it was enterprising of the inmates to have achieved some colour in the place when flower borders appeared. I put it down to the generosity of the locals until I had a telephone call from a retired Colonel living in a pleasant old Victorian house next to the compound. It didn't take long to find out from a visit and a couple of sherry's that as our our flower beds blossomed his had thinned out. Actually he was very reasonable about it for a man with a name like his. It was BASTARD, so I naturally pronounced it Bas-tard, to be put well and truly in my place when he insisted that it was BASTARD by name and BASTARD by nature; but his bark was worse than his bite.

It was all simply resolved by the return and replanting of most of his plants and by the allocation of a regular POW gardener to him for two half days a week. Couldn't be fairer than that! We benefited from the deal as there was no further need to raid his garden. We apparently just appropriated surplus plants from his greenhouse!

I had a few days leave after our first daughter was born only to find on return that there had been a near mutiny among the prisoners when someone had upset their comfortable routine.

I had made arrangements that whilst I was away the Duty Officer would include certain daily checks that would normally have been done only at week-ends when I was not there. It had all been resolved by the time I got back but it had resulted from the actions of one officer, himself an ex POW, deciding that they should have a taste of what he had been subjected to resulting in numerous restrictions, parades and roll calls. Nothing too drastic but quite unnecessary in the circumstances when they were safe in the knowledge that all they had to do was behave themselves and repatriation was certain. The net result was that they had refused to go to work until the status quo had been restored. Just to show them that they were not going to get it all their own way I imposed a fine of one week's pay for everyone although it really need not have happened. It subsequently turned out that the officer concerned had been in Stalag X111b and V11a with me and we continually bumped into each other at various units over the following years but that's another story.

One highlight was our camp concert. News had been filtering through of the closing down of the whole station so I thought we should do something special without thinking too much about what the implications were for me, like what, when, where? so after a tentative enquiry the repatriation authorities suggested that if it did happen then my lot might well be


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moved up the repatriation schedule rather than re-locate them. I thought it wise to leek [sic] this information to them to act as an incentive to good behaviour and it did not take long to get things going. I did very little except to beg, borrow and scrounge stuff for them, including instruments and did not even vet scripts or attend rehearsals. I left that to my two Warrant Officers. It would have been a useless exercise anyway.

When the show was finally presented, the CO. and other Senior officers who had been invited seemed to enjoy themselves anyway although I suspect that many of the jokes were at our expense. Nevertheless, they all laughed in the right places; as I did, even if we did not fully understand what was being said. It was an interesting experience and there were no repercussions although their [sic] was an air of excitement creeping into our daily lives as this particular element of the vanquished Africa Corp. considered the pending return to their homes, or what was left of them, and as for me. What next?

About that period I was in the Mess one lunch-time when a noisy visiting aircrew were attracting a great deal of attention in the foyer and my eyes lighted on one of them. None other than Macdonalds Flight Engineer of my Stirling days, 'Paddy' Martin, now in the rank of Fg.Off, but we only managed a few minutes chat before they were all boarding a crew coach with I suspect, a little more than just their lunch on board, going out to their aircraft which was a Mk.V. Stirling no less.

When we met up again umpteen years later he swore that we had never met on such an occasion; but then he also swore that he had never attended my wedding in 1944 until I produced a photograph to prove that he did. The last information that he could recall of me was that `Tommy' Gamble had got the "chop" early in 1945. Close--very close, but not quite.

One very interesting event took place just about that time. A Courts Martial came up. That of a case of alleged rape of a WAAF by an aircrew Warrant Officer, and I found myself sitting with the court as one of the officers under instruction. All part of the training scheme.

The WO had engaged the services of a K.C. barrister whilst the prosecution had produced a relatively inexperienced officer, not of the legal profession, who had just been detailed for the job and the case lasted two days during which time I studied the form very carefully as it customary for anyone to be detailed for such jobs; either for defence or prosecution and my only experience of court procedure was in my youth when I had appeared before the magistrates for some minor cycling offence and this was very different.

We were in fact treated to some of the finest court arguments that it has ever been my privilege to witness as the barrister ripped the evidence of the prosecution to shreds in the most expert fashion and the case was not proven. It made me feel very uncomfortable to think that one day I might be detailed for such a job and find myself in the same invidious position as that unfortunate prosecuting officer so at that point I made two resolutions. One, to keep my head down when they were looking for someone to make a fool of himself in a court room, and Two, to dissuade anyone from accepting my services should I be so detailed. Needless to say, after it was all wrapped up I think we were all rather pleased to put our medals back into storage.

I then became heavily involved in the arrangements for the Squadron's move to Lyneham and followed the normal procedure of working with the RTO (Military Rail Transport Office) to move the remainder of the personnel that were not flying or going by road but when I submitted my part of the planned move of the movement order to the Station Commander he was not impressed and instructed me to cancel them and arrange for a fleet of coaches so that the move could be accomplished, taking a third of the time and with the bonus that the Squadrons would be non-operational for only a very short period. It made sense and having cancelled the RTO arrangements they were no longer concerned so I duly hired the coaches through a Christchurch firm and all went well. Shortly after the aircraft departed the


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transport baggage train convoy followed and a silence descended as the airfield was closed to active flying.

In due course the bill arrived for several hundred pounds and I passed it through accounts for payment thinking no more about it until an irate Group Accountant Officer came on the phone demanding to know why we had not used the RTO for transport and who had arranged it all. My insides went into a turmoil of panic as I thought of the consequences and the effect that it would have on my already overstrained finances particularly after he said that it was all very irregular and that he would send the bill personally to me for payment. That's when I dug my heels in and pointed out in no uncertain terms that it was the Group Captain's (who was no longer in command); decision and I had only carried out his instructions then the line cooled a little when he said he ought to send it to him instead.

In hindsight I suspect that he felt that he had to make a fuss under the circumstances but I think I chewed my fingernails down to nothing whilst I waited for the outcome. Thankfully I never did hear any more.

Meanwhile there was the problem of the shrinking station. I had been absorbed into the station HQ for all manner of duties and then in a twinkling of an eye I was unit Adjutant with a Squadron Leader CO. With all that on my shoulders it was time to place the full responsibility for the POW's onto the WO's. The senior was placed in charge and as the camp medical centre had already been closed I re-opened it and transferred the prisoners to it from the dispersed site which was closed. As far as their conditions were concerned they were now positively luxurious with all that a complete medical centre had to offer including constant hot water and a superb kitchen. That got them off of my back whilst I tackled the deluge of responsibilities that came my way.

We soon compressed the unit administration into one HQ building as bit by bit activities closed down and brought their own problems and although certain posts were disestablished there were some that had to remain and most of them fell into my lap. Almost every day another crop of posting notices arrived and more people were on there way leaving behind various duties for which they had been responsible and the one quick way was to concentrate that responsibility into the hands of some-one who would discharge the final act to terminate the job. With only a few officers left and with myself being one of the nominated seven to stay I would go so far as to suggest that I got more than my share being the junior officer.

All non-public accounts were concentrated under one control; mine, and although the monies were at the bank by the time I had collected seven accounts to the value of several thousand pounds I was beginning to feel somewhat uneasy particularly as I was delving into the mysteries of double entry book-keeping. There was more burning the midnight oil to study to try and work it all out and I tried desperately to take it in my stride without admitting that I knew very little about it in the first place. Now what would a Secondary schoolboy trained as a carpenter and subsequently a Wireless Operator/Gunner know about such things? Fortunately there was only one active account and although they all had to be audited by the accountant officer monthly who certified the balances I must have done it correctly as there were never any problems.

It was inevitable that among the various hats I was wearing I became the M.T. officer but only as the nominal head of the section which was as usual ably run by an experienced senior NCO. But the Air Force had this thing that only a commissioned officer could take the can back for anything that went wrong and I barely had time to sign for everything that I had become responsible for as it was so most of it was done tounge [sic] in cheek and fingers crossed. I had already crossed that bridge when I was at Lyneham so it was nothing new.


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One of the jobs for early elimination was that of Entertainments Officer as it was not an on-going thing but then it occurred to me that one of the accounts that I was managing was the PSI fund which was particularly healthy. The PSI fund is the equivalent of a Regimental Fund which when all was finally wound up would have any balance transferred to Group accounts. But it could be used for financing other projects-provided that it was not drained and I could not think of anything better than the concentration of the best of our remaining local talents into a final farewell party. It didn't take long to find someone to mastermind the production side and I developed it into a two hour music hall programme with some very accomplished and enthusiastic people. The hall was laid out along the lines of a German beer cellar with barrels of free beer being dispensed by real German waiters (my POW's) in white aprons in the time honoured fashion with free food laid on as well.

Maybe I pushed my luck a little but as I was also in charge of the few remaining service policemen I issued instructions to keep it cool with further orders to the POW's to the effect that none of them were to fall down until they had completed their jobs as barmen, cleaners and general handymen. As far as I know none of them did but no doubt because I was so heavily involved I could not have seen to everything and towards the end I was not far from falling down myself. I do know that when I did my rounds in the morning everything was back in place and cleaned up. If there had been any bad behaviour or punch-ups there was no evidence of it and the cells were empty. All I had to do after that was pay the bills but that was one hell of a party'

As the unit continued to thin out even more business came my way including the dreaded inventories and by that time I had already received the outcome of the Lyneham enquiry so although I was a bit peeved about it I felt safe in the knowledge that having started up my POW inventory from scratch it was a model of correctness from the time I opened it up. Nevertheless I was more than peeved when I found that I was required to take over dozens of depleted inventories from departing people and transfer the stocks to one holding inventory.

A job like that can only be done with a mountain of vouchers and although I tried to get the hard pressed storemen to do it internally I found myself stuck with it but it involved a lot of work including stock taking before taking some of them over. I had learned my lesson!

Numerous problems arose of course. Like the occasion when a bicycle found in the village pond was brought in by the local policeman. Identified by it's [sic] serial number the books showed that it had already been written off so no more paperwork was required. It was consigned to the scrap dump which was yet another of my responsibilities.

Naturally there was a lot of useful scrap in the yard as well as the rubbish and it was my job to see that a contract was let to a local merchant whose outgoing loads had to be inspected and approved by me at the Guard room and the price agreed on a signed invoice which went to the accountant officer who subsequently collected the money. It was all done according to the regulations so it was with some surprise that on one of my tours of the airfield I investigated the contents of a large packing case in the area of the old bomb dump. I found that it contained a brand new, still sealed, Wright Cyclone aero engine with American markings that had obviously been left behind by the USAAF prior to `D' Day.

Perhaps it was too innocent but at that time it seemed that my biggest problem was how to get rid of it as it was definitely not on charge. It was a completely surplus item until enquiries through the supply people resolved it. You simply took such an item on charge by filling in the appropriate vouchers and once it's on the books that's it. You can then transfer it so Engine, Aero, Wright Cyclone, Mk. ?, serial no. ? Port, One, was dealt with and I thought that was the end of it. Within an hour of having it picked up and conveyed to stores the scrap contractor was knocking at my door. He claimed that he had `discovered' same, but had not said anything to me whilst he was looking for a home for it, which he had only just done.


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I have often wondered if [sic] would really have known-anything about it's departure as according to him he had found someone running a one man airline with a Dakota who could have done with a spare engine and £500 was the price he was going to put to me but it was too late. (and hard luck Freddie Laker!). I certainly could have made use of that sort of money at that time and I might have been tempted but as the RAF was still using Dakota's it no doubt found it's way into one of them at a later date. There was never such another lucrative opportunity but there was no time to cry over spilt milk either. I was up to my ears in stores vouchers and posting notices as I had become the Personnel Officer again as the unit got smaller by the day and we got nearer our dead-line date. Then the time came when the POW's were warned to be ready.

When the day finally came there was no ceremony. All the hand shaking had been done before they were paraded. There was just a quick salute and "goodbye and good luck". That was that. Some of them had been receiving mail via the Red Cross and they had had access to UK newspapers so they knew what to expect. Those who had lost touch with family for various reasons did not have a lot to celebrate knowing that they were going back to a land that had been ravaged by a war that had destroyed so much. I knew what it was like; I had seen it, so there was no cheering and I was glad to see the back of them. As they marched off there was one thought that struck me that the WO's had not mentioned; the radio that I had been permitted to purchase on their behalf had not been handed back and I had to account for it. It was "Halt, about turn" and it didn't take long to find it when I told them that it had to be returned, even if they missed their train. One of them had it under his greatcoat!!!

It didn't take long to clear up the paper work after they had left then it was nose to the grindstone again as the next major job had to be attended to. That was the disposal of all non-public assets, mainly PSI funded, that had already been collected and an inventory drawn up which I then had to dispose of by public auction for which I engaged a firm of auctioneers. In all the book value was just over a thousand pounds and shortly before the sale which had been advertised I had a visit from a retired Air Commodore representing the Bournmouth [sic] Branch of the Royal Air Force Association who was prepared to make a cash offer for the whole lot at half the book value. I managed to negotiate the addition of the auctioneers fee if it was acceptable. It seemed a good deal to me but when I put the idea to the Group Accountant he was horrified. Oh dear no! It was most irregular and the regulations stated quite plainly that it had to go to auction so despite considerable pleading and argument he had the final word. Whilst my sympathies were with the Air Commodore and the RAFA there was nothing I could do about except apologise to him and let the sale go ahead.

I did not attend the auction and was quite happy to leave it in the capable hands of the experts but subsequently when I got the proceeds, less commission and handling fees it did not amount to much more than £100 for the lot! I was hot foot down to their offices for explanation but it was all above board although the receipts showed that most items had been knocked down at quite ridiculously low prices but I did find out that a certain Air Commodore had been in attendance and he and his cronies had done most of the bidding. As far as I was concerned the RAFA had got the stuff much cheaper than they would have done by private sale although I had a sneaking feeling that a certain Group Accountant was not going to be very happy so I obtained a complete breakdown of the sale prices and the purchasers before I left their office. Just as well. When the Group Accountant did spot it it really did 'hit the fan'. The line was red hot as we discussed the pro's and cons and it was perhaps my suggestion that in hindsight we should have accepted the cash offer in the first place. That brought forth accusations of collusion and conspiracy. That did it. I was on a short fuse anyway flogging my guts out and with more than my fair share of responsibility and there he was, up in his ivory tower counting paper money so I let him have facts and figures, not forgetting to point out that I was after all a lowly GD(General Duties) Flying Officer doing my best in a job that


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I had received absolutely no training for. Then he simmered down, huffing and puffing, "it's still all very irregular". I began to get somewhat fed up with Admin duties that was for sure but had no option but to "press on".

Fortunately the unit accountant had been the Accountant Officer at Chedburgh when I was there in 1943 and only dealt with the day to day financial matters at Holmsley but knew enough of our experiences there at the time was very sympathetic and supportive and assured me that the Group A.O. was only making waves in case anything went seriously wrong and he got the blame for it so I learned a few more lessons about human nature. He was very helpful in many ways.

On one occasion he arrived at the office from Lyndhurst on his scooter and related the story of how he had just seen a pig clouted by a car down the road and how it had finished up head first in a ditch looking very dead. The driver had not stopped and obviously would not be reporting it as the bye-laws of the New Forest gave right of way to animals. But `headfirst' sounded good to me. I don't know if it was the 'creegie' still in me or just the thought of all that good meat going to waste but in no time at all I had a two ton truck and two kitchen hands with carving knives on board scorching down the road where we spotted the animal, still headfirst and no longer bleeding. Many people must have passed it and there no doubt in my mind that if it was left a great deal of fresh meat would go to waste even if the owner of the animal were to be found within the next few hours so we cruised pat [sic] the corpse and cruised back again keeping a good look-out in both directions. As we came up to it there was nothing in sight arid within a matter of seconds it was on board and we were off. It certainly supplemented our rations for a few days and I had no qualms about my action which were quite illegal and would have caused a few embarrassing headlines if the law had been tested.
Fortunately for me it never was.

The unit finally dwindled to three officers and a handful of airmen and we all finished up in a large house that had been the CO's official residence. I claimed an enormous room, en-suite, as I was the only one living in so I had a little luxury that compensated to a degree for the enormous amount of paperwork that was involved. Even moving has it's problems like decommissioning this that and the other, re-arranging the staff, and getting phones transferred as we no longer needed a switchboard. I was still doing about 16 hours a day to keep on top of the work so that I could have my week-ends free to get through to Worthing when a bombshell arrived in the form of a posting notice detaching me to Hereford, on an [underlined] Admin course!!!! [/underlined]

At the time I thought that perhaps my career was being advanced by that development so I didn't make a fuss although the duration of the course was three weeks. I [sic] would mean nearly a month without visiting home as it was too far on the bike and too expensive by train. My fellow officers thought it would do me good to take the course so I was off.

Perhaps I would have benefited from it if it had not been a course specifically designed for young aircrew officers to teach them the inner workings of the Air Force although at first I decided to go along with it. Within a few days I came to the conclusion that it was not for the likes of me who was actually doing such work. It seemed more of a disciplinary course to occupy idle hands and mine had been far from idle for a long time. I became more and more resentful as the days went by as I was shown how to use a rifle and a pistol and a Sten gun and engage in all manner of field craft including escape and evasion techniques which involved crawling around in long wet grass which at one point I strongly objected to only to be told that I might find the experience useful one day! What does one say to that? Matey, I've done it, and a fat lot of good it was when in the end I was surrounded and had a Schmeisser stuck up my nose. It didn't cut any ice. Then there was all the drill and parade procedures which were not entirely new to me either although I can understand the needs of some who for some reason didn't know one end of a rifle from the other and were


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somewhat unwilling to pull triggers and throw grenades. I wondered what they had been doing in their very limited careers!

The classroom work was mainly forms, forms and more forms and their use therof [sic] as well as stores procedures and of other things like how to write letters, command structure and a lot of other stuff that was old hat. By the end of the first week I was fuming I was not learning anything new and there was a lot of work piling up at Holmsley just waiting for me to deal with. Only the most essential would be dealt with by the others and I could visualise many hours of binding graft before I was likely to have broken the back of it.

I must confess that my attitude toward the course as we started the second week was not going unnoticed by the course commander who quite naturally took me aside to point out the error of my ways. That is when the real reason for the course was confirmed. Not only was it intended for surplus aircrew officers to find something for them to do but it definitely was a disciplinary course as well so I was being assessed accordingly--------and I was not doing very well! It seemed that we had gone back in time to "Yours is not to reason why etc" and I had had enough of that as an airman. For a start I wondered why I had been sent on such a course anyway so I promptly made a request to phone my parent Group HQ `P' Staff which brought forth howls of indignant protest. Despite the fact that I was normally in touch with the chap on an almost daily basis I was told in no uncertain terms that such lowly types as myself were not allowed to communicate direct with the higher echelons. It was only the prerogative of senior officers to the `top brass' and that is what I was on the course to learn about. As far as I was concerned it was utter nonsense and I had serious doubts regarding the background experience of this Flight Lieutenant of the A & SD (Admin & Special Duties) Branch who seemed unaware that the `top brass' were only people like ourselves holding staff appointments. Not only that, a lot of them were like myself of the GD (General Duties-Flying) Branch. Expected to do anything that was thrown at them------including flying!

Suitably chastised I was dismissed with threats of extra orderly officer duties and the inclusion of some appropriate remarks on my course and confidential report so I simmered down a bit as I waited for an opportunity to use his phone whilst he was out of his office a few days later. There all hell let loose when he suddenly burst in, very angry and rightfully indignant at the audacity etc, etc, at performing, in his eyes, an almost criminal act. Not that I was unduly worried as by that time I had already done what I set out to do and the threats went over my head.

Within four hours a signal arrived from Transport Command HQ. recalling me to my unit urgently and naturally I was called to his office immediately to have the signal waived under my nose. "Explain this!!!! So I did, in detail that he had not been prepared to listen to previously and I think he understood my action even if he could not approve of the manner in which I had dealt with it. As far as I was concerned I was off the damn silly course and I was on my way.

As soon as I returned to base I plunged into a mountain of paper work and after two days and nights of frenzied activity I came out on top ready for a long week-end at home.

During that burst of activity there was an unannounced staff visit from Group HQ and all the visitors could find was one junior officer slaving away, whilst the others were out hunting, shooting and fishing around the area and that put the cat among the pigeons. That and my absence for nearly two weeks seemed to solve the problem of the numerous delays that occurred in the closing down procedure. Hence a snap visit! And although I could only explain the absence of the others by saying they were on tours of inspection, when they did turn up there was a lot of muttering behind closed doors and I was only too happy to bury myself in paper again.


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A few more weeks went by until at last we were run right down to a C & M (Care & Maintenance) party. At last I had got my head above water and I could relax a little-----but not for long.

A telephone call from Group, followed by a posting notice gave me advance warning of my posting to Oakington in Cambridgeshire for --------Admin duties, to report in a few days time, but as far as I was concerned, not before I had another long week-end at home. After just thirty months I was a bit of a stranger at home, especially to the baby but I felt that something had to be sacrificed if there was any chance that I could make a career out of the Air Force. At least, I thought, Oakington is a well established station so I should slip into the same sort of job that I had done at Lyneham without any hassle. I had had enough challenges for a while-------but I had overlooked the fact that so had Lyneham been well established and what a mess that had been in. There was more to come.

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[underlined] CHAPTER THREE [/underlined]

The journey up to Oakington was nearly a disaster. After a few days at home I set off on the motor bike on a cold and frosty morning, Loaded to the hilt, wearing full flying kit over my uniform and greatcoat which included a bright yellow immersion suit and flying boots, helmet, goggles and gloves, looking like something from outer space but warm and well protected I had just cleared the London area when the front of a blizzard caught up with me and my speed was drastically reduced to a few miles an hour with my feet stuck out like out-riggers to prevent me sliding all over the place and in those conditions I pressed on until I got to Baldock.

By that time there was between three and four inches of virgin snow covering everything and every sensible traveller had got off of the road. There was very little other traffic so I ventured down the hill very slowly with my aching legs still propping up the bike and found myself gaining on the only other vehicle in sight which was a fairly high standing two ton truck, and I was desperately trying to slow down when suddenly the truck driver braked and slithered along fishtailing to a stop. I knew that my brakes were not going to stop me as I slid gently towards the back-end of the truck and when it quite obvious that the tailboard hinges were going to spread my face I took the only option open to me. I flipped the bike on it's side and went underneath. It was just as well the truck had a good ground clearance as I went right underneath the back axle and came out between the front and rear wheels with my tail in the gutter. The driver had obviously been completely unaware of the incident as within seconds of my coming to rest he started to move off, with my front wheel right underneath his rear wheel so I reached out and pushed on the truck wheel and the bike and I slid out just enough to avoid serious damage to the bike. The truck wheel just squashed over the front number plate and mudguard and then he was gone before I could get my breath back. There was not another vehicle in sight and the only other person around was an elderly lady, who might well have been the cause of the drivers urgent braking; who, observing the situation, was concerned enough to ask if I had had an accident!! What she thought I was doing there, laying in the gutter with a motor-bike I don't know but I think that I said something suitably facetious as she tottered off and I started to sort myself out.

I was very glad that I was wearing so much gear rather than having tried to pack it. I was not even bruised and apart from a slightly bent number plate and tip of the mudguard there was no other damage to the bike but it took a while before I recovered sufficiently to get going again getting more than a little concerned as it had started to snow quite heavily. However, with traffic clear roads I was able to make progress and eventually outran the weather front, coming out completely in the clear and completing the last ten miles completely free of snow. Oh, blessed relief…..until I ran out of petrol just in sight of the camp!! I had overlooked the fact that I had been using it up at a much higher rate than normal doing so many miles in low gears. Fortunately an Air Ministry Works Dept truck came along and with the aid of a length of rope I was gently towed the rest of the way. After an eight hour journey I had at made it to Oakington and I was only too glad to book into the Mess and leave the arrival formalities until the following day. A bath, a change of clothes and a meal and early to bed made all the difference.

I soon found that the job was to be the same as Lyneham and I was looking forward to free-wheeling for a while until I met the C.O. I could hardly believe my ears after the introduction. "Ah" he said, "you are the very man I have been waiting far. My Central Registry and internal communications are in a bit of a mess and I'm told that you the man to fix things. The last chap couldn't sort things out and I've got rid of him so off you go and get stuck in". Oh no........not again!


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The only consolation was that my previous efforts seem to have been recognised and that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to find a career in the Secretarial Branch ultimately as I always seemed to be sorting out jobs that Secretarial types had made a cock-up of; so off I went and "got stuck in". There was no-one to take over from so once again I started from scratch: At least there was not the panic to get things squared up and the routine work went smoothly enough whilst I conducted a searching enquiry into the main problem that I had been instructed to sort out.

At that time my own personal problems needed sorting out as well. Now that I was a family man the household at Worthing was getting a bit crowded particularly since Dorothy's brother-in-law had at last been de-mobbed after being abroad with the 8th Army for four years and there was family expected in that direction. I was frantically looking around for suitable accommodation and although official quarters for married personnel was beginning to come back on the scene the points system that determined one's entitlement suggested that it was going to be a long time before I qualified for one. I was just one of millions of people who were desperately trying to re-settle and in need of accommodation. The story was invariably the same when one enquired. "Sorry, no children" and it all added to the frustration.

Eventually I did find a place just to the North of Cambridge on the Huntingdon road and plans were made although I must confess that I did not tell Dorothy the exact arrangement of the accommodation. The kitchen was in the basement. The living room was on the ground floor. The bathroom was on the second floor and the bedroom on the third floor! I didn't dare, but I hired a car and drove down to Worthing in a clear gap in the weather pattern that the Met. Man assured me would last a couple of days.

Apart from the occasional sortie in the Flight pick-up van when I had been at Newmarket two years previously I had never taken a car on the public highway before but I don't think that I gave it a second thought. The family needed something picked up from near Leighton Buzzard `on the way' which created a fair sized `dog-leg' but did give me a few more miles to come to terms with my lack of experience, and it avoided London so somehow I made it to Worthing.

Travelling by car those days was generally a fairly slow business as there were few major roads that allowed high speed cruising and one just plodded on but there was no time to mess about as we loaded up the car the following morning and off we went, having arranged that the pram, fully loaded, was to follow by rail. There were tears on our departure and I think that perhaps the most ironic thing was the remark from my sister-in-law that there was no need to worry as "Alan was a good driver" and that we would be OK. I don't know what gave her that impression. Little did they know, but I had managed 200 miles without any problem......so what was another 140! The journey was not uneventful! That would have been too much to ask for.

The hire car had been a reluctant starter at the very outset but we had got as far as Kingston when in the dip under the railway by the station the engine packed up and so did the battery. Not the best place to fizzle out but eventually we were pulled clear and towed to a garage a little further up where I purchased a new battery and we were an our way again. The fact that the cost of the battery had to come off the hire fee did not please the hire firm when the car was returned but a compromise was eventually reached. The main thing was that we had taken up residence in a place of our own for the very first time and much to my surprise Dorothy accepted the arrangement of the flat although we soon made alternative plans to avoid going right to the top of the house to a cold bedroom as I had already installed a convertible settee in the living room. That was soon put to use.

The met. Man's forecast was absolutely spot on. The day after we arrived the weather that had been expected hit us with a vengeance when about a foot of snow fell. The basement back door was unusable with a drift of snow filling the door well right to the top and massive


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drifts along the road due to cross winds were up to six feet-high. Cars were already stuck. It was impossible to get the bike out from the bottom of the garden and a colleague who lived in the same building joined me in walking to camp across country. It was a long way and our situation was not improved when we came to the edge of the airfield and in making a direct approach to a gate he disappeared through the snow cover up to his neck in a ditch but we made it in the end. I'm glad it was him in the lead as he was nearly a foot taller than me. I would have completely disappeared!

We struggled back home in the late afternoon as life on the station virtually came to a standstill. There was no flying and with more snow forecast the whole airfield was blanketed although an energetic but useless snow clearing operation was initiated which at least kept us warm. There was a slight spell of thawing when some areas of the road went a bit slushy but then a `deep freeze' hit the whole area and everything was locked up solid. People got to and from work the best way they could. The main Cambridge to Huntingdon road was impassable due to buried frozen in vehicles. The C.O. issued an order of the day allowing any type of clothing to be worn to cope with the extreme weather and we just battled on from day to day. At home of course there was no central heating but fires just had to be kept going on the fuel supplies I had stocked up although it was difficult to get at and it was supplemented with anything else that was to hand but it thawed and froze alternatively for weeks before a general thaw finally set in and vehicles could be released from their icy cocoons, many totally ruined. The A604 (now the A14) was still difficult to negotiate through ridges and ruts of ice well into March.

Meanwhile I had had all the time I needed to complete my survey and draw up my plans accordingly. I placed a brief outline of my proposals before the C.O. and although he gave me cart-blanche to get on with an added word of warning such as "cock it up and you will follow the last chap" so I worked my way right through the plan once more to look for problems before drafting the final order. Meanwhile, I had collected two more responsibilities. The Post Office as Postmaster and that of Mess Secretary which meant that more of my precious time would be used up but the day came when the plan that I had circulated to all users was put into effect and on that day there was absolutely no problem with it's introduction. I had expected some hick-ups but it all worked like a charm.

I decentralised the Registry to cut down the appalling wasteful duplication of just about everything that was going in and out. That in itself was causing delays and was a self generated work load. New index cards and registers were brought into use and the system updated to ensure that files were booked back in as well as out! As daft as it may seem that had not been the case so files could wander around between people and departments and the Registry had no knowledge of the whereabouts of a file if it was not in it's cabinet. I have often wondered what 'mastermind' had set all that up in the first place as it certainly did not conform to the Manual of Office Administration. However, new index cards and registers were brought into use and when it got under way the staff had no difficulty in handling the new system so within days a few sub-registry's became redundant and number of active filing cabinets was reduced from twenty to four, all cross referenced to the old registry. The bumbling circulation of paper was at last reduced to manageable proportions. The C.O. spent less time than he had done previously handling his daily correspondence and when I found that too many people were now sitting around doing little more than making tea a quick establishment review reduced the number of Registry clerks from ten to four. It made my life a little easier too as long as I didn't collect too many other jobs on the strength of my success.

I was certain by this time that it could only do me good as far as my confidential report was concerned. I had already applied for and been granted two extentions [sic] of service that had taken me beyond my normal discharge date and that's, as far as I was concerned, was what it was all about if I was going to be noticed. Any ambitions that I had at that time were


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mainly concerned with holding on to a relatively well paid job as a lot of my school chums were not finding 'civvy street' all that easy. I had no other qualifications other that of cabinet maker/polisher, [underlined] lapsed, [/underlined] and wireless operator, almost lapsed, so I just hung on to what I had got.

Like a good many of my age group and background, politics were not my strong point but it was not long before there was an awareness. Some very odd things were happening. The first post-war elections had shaken a lot of people when our remarkable war-time leader's party had been rejected for a different administration with an overwhelming majority. It did not make sense to me but the daily routine had to go just the same although some very subtle changes were taking place. Naturally I was shielded from a lot of it by being in the Armed Forces but it was difficult not to notice what was going an as the main effort was being channelled into `Nationalisation'! That meant roads, rail, steel coal, electricity, road transport, health care and a lot more that was in the pipeline. It was one of the great bloodless revolutions of the age. It was of course jobs for the `boys', the party members, who were often elevated to manage their previous employers businesses for the benefit of the state. History will show whether it worked or not but a lot of new ideas were filtering into the Forces.

One of those was the formation of a Station Committee made up representatives of all ranks from all departments, elected by ballot and not by appointment, which was to sit weekly to air grievances, discuss working arrangements and conditions and in fact anything other than pay, appointments and promotion. The unit Commander chaired the committee but thank God he had the power of veto and most commanders voiced their indignation at having their time wasted with such nonsense. Like mine did when he was on his way to such a meeting at which I was to take the minutes. "Come on Gamble; lets get along to this bloody silly union meeting". What a funny way to run a military establishment. It was a complete turnaround from the normal well established command structure and had all the ingredients to undermine discipline. It did little more than waste time but I had the distinct feeling that the tail was beginning to wag the dog!

I ran into a union problem sooner than I expected when we had two steward posts in the Mess disestablished. The disestablishment notice came straight out of the blue and the Mess Manager and I agreed that we would could [sic] do without the two least useful members of the staff who were duly served notice. Immediately there was a great deal of protest about being contrary to trades union practice etc, and that their representatives would be taking up the policy of disestablishing jobs without union consultation as well as giving notice to people to terminate their employment without the same consultation.

I turned a blind eye to it all but within a few hours I had a trade union rep. From Cambridge breathing heavily in my ear and telling me that I couldn't do it. That was red rag to a bull so I dismissed him with a flea in his ear but it was not over. A few hours later a chap from an Air Ministry department for civil relations or something was on the phone telling me that I couldn't do it, and quoted chapter and verse from the newly drawn up trade union rule book so I had no choice but to bow to that although I insisted that I had it in writing. Meanwhile the two men were re-instated as we were forced to apply the last in first out rule. As far as I was concerned it still was not over. Two could play that game.

I got hold of a copy of the union rule book and studied it at great length with the Mess Manager before we took our next step. Within a few days two people got their cards by reason of incompetence. (They had had plenty of verbal warnings over a period of time, and a written one as soon as they had been re-employed)......and immediately afterwards the two men that we wanted to keep were re-instated. Of course, there were immediate screams of protest from the union officials so I invited them to a face to face confrontation with both the Mess Manager and myself where they used every argument they could accusing us of `collusion',


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`unfair treatment' and `victimisation', but what they couldn't say was that it was illegal. It was right out of their own rule book but I was never entirely comfortable about the incident but I was damned if I was going to be told who and who not I could employ in certain circumstances. I quickly briefed the C.O. in case of repercussions but nothing further came of it.

It was about that time another incredibly wasteful practice came to light more or less by accident.

We were continually being exhorted to use less stationary and in particular duplicating paper and I had already done quite a lot to reduce the consumption by the registry arrangements. I had followed it up by reducing the supply to sub units and at the same time allocating more to the central registry for printing on behalf of the sub units although every job had to be vetted by my chief clerk. That had helped but we were still going through our allocation rather quickly and as H.M. Stationary Office were not always prepared to meet supplementary demands WE had to do something about it. WE equals ME in those circumstances as it fell into my lap once more as unit commanders complained to the Senior Admin Officer that they were being starved of certain stationary items. It was just about that time that Bourne, on the Cambridge to St.Neots road, for-which we were the parent unit, was in the late stages of closing down so I went over to see if they had anything in the stationary line that would be of any use to us. What I found was an Alladins cave as the stationary store was opened for me!.

There was an assortment of exotic stuff like the pale blue embossed pre-war paper for the exclusive use of unit commanders. Beautifully bound ledgers, some indexed. Note books, log books and all kinds of stuff that must have accumulated over a long period. It was stuff that if you were to order any of it in the present conditions you would be very lucky to have got any of it without putting up a special case. I was bugg eyed and it did not take long to transfer that lot to a three tonner and convey it to Oakington. Our stationary cupboard had to be re-arranged with the assistance of most of my staff and re-stocked until it was virtually bulging at the seams... ...and I held the key and a newly drawn up stock book!!

I think that I know how it was all accumulated. The same half yearly demand must have gone in as regular as clockwork irrespective of stocks but times were changing and so were the figures that showed that the Air Force was using even more paper per flying hour than ever before but no-one could say Oakington was not doing it's bit although there were still some items that we were short of so I phoned H.M. Stationary Office and did a deal. I don't think such a thing had ever happened before. There was a lot of huffing and puffing and expressions of "highly irregular" but they went along with it. We sent them a large packing case of what I considered was surplus to our requirements in exchange for a supplementary issue of items we were in urgent need of and everyone was happy but I just wondered how often that sort of wastefulness had been repeated by the hundreds of other units up and down the country during the war when every commodity was so precious to us and had often cost lives to import the raw materials. It was mind boggling.

Bit by bit life became a little more regulated although it was never without it's share of excitement and on occasions I even managed to tour around various other parts of the station including the airfield and the aircraft; Dakota's no less! It was not long after the snow and ice cleared and things started to warm up that the unsettled conditions usually associated with the end of April brought some savage weather including the most violent thunderstorms that I have only ever seen on one other occasion since.

In the late morning the sky darkened by degrees until it became as black as night and the wind increased by the minute to the point where it started to howl with the most savage gusts.....and then the rain came! It slashed and swirled and in no time all the roads were like rivers as the drains overloaded and I stood in my office window at the front of the HQ


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building thinking how lucky I was that I was not out in it. Anyone with any sense had taken cover and as I contemplated the violence of the storm I was astonished to see the striped pole barrier in front of the Guard Room suddenly whip into the vertical, snap off like a matchstick and disappear over the building. It occurred to me that that would be a job I would have to see to when the storm abated when the little Austin Seven which was parked outside and had been rocking about as each gust hit it; suddenly flipped on it's side. Oh well, I thought that can wait too.......then the phone rang.

Above a great deal of noise on the line an almost hysterical WAAF in the Post Office blurted out "please come at once sir, the roof has blown off”. My first reaction was "S..." but I had no choice so out I went, splashing my way through about four inches of water and was soaked in a matter of seconds. The Post Office looked a sorry sight minus it's roof which lay, completely wrecked, not far away but the poor girls were more concerned with the fact that as they had just set up the counter for business the contents of their trays had been sucked up, following the roof, and had been deposited far and wide. I don't remember having any lunch that day.

The clerks gathered up all the rest of their Post Office stocks and set up a temporary post room in the WAAF quarters and then I locked the place up! That was a laugh. I felt that I had to do that as only a week before I had had new mortice locks fitted and the safe securely embedded in brickwork. All that and now the place was roofless!

Although the clerks had set up the post room just inside the WAAF quarters they initially used the laundry room for sorting out their stock. A few telephone calls got some search parties organised as well as a broadcast on the PA system and before long some very soggy money and postal orders started coming in. It was rinsed, dried and ironed much to the amusement of all concerned but the amazing thing was that when I called off the search there was only one ten shilling (50p) postal order missing. When the inspectors arrived from Cambridge GPO (General Post Office) towards the end of the day they were agreeably surprised that that was all they had to write off after seeing the state of the Post Office. We were all somewhat relieved at that. I made may report to the C.O. later and followed up with a load of repair work including the barrier pole in front of the Guard Room.

I thought that was enough for one day until I got home. Dorothy had had her share as well. The downpour had filled up a balcony outside a full length window of one of the other flats and she had spent a lot of time baling out the balcony to stop the flow into the room whilst the storm was raging. We were both very relieved when that day was over.

Eventually things settled down as the year wore on and we experienced a most beautiful summer. Life in Cambridge with it's wonderful buildings and activities made life very interesting. Even the baby indulged us by winning first prize in a baby competition but as far as the job was concerned with most of the problems ironed out it was almost boring, but a great opportunity to develope [sic] family life to the full. Again it was too good to last!

I was asked to report to Transport Command HQ at Teddington, Middlesex for a job I [sic] interview and I was sure that the business was opening up for me. Out of the four candidates for the job I was offered it and I accepted. It was in the "P" Staff (Personnel) dept of the HQ so before long I was wrapping up and making the necessary arrangements to move the family. Although Teddington was not too far away Dorothy felt that she did not want to be on her own and preferred to go back to Worthing with her parents; [underlined] particularly as we had just found out that there was another addition to the family on the way! [/underlined] In hindsight it was a pity that we gave up the flat. I'm sure that we could have coped but Teddington was also convenient for Worthing but we settled for that.

The C.O. gave me the opportunity of nominating a suitable relief so a friend who was the Operation Wing Adjutant was acceptable and so it was goodbye Oakington. Here we go again!


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One or more pages is missing, apparently pages 24 – 86

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[underlined] NIL DESPERANUM…… [/underlined] OR
[underlined] BY [/underlined]
[underlined] A. GAMBLE [/underlined]

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knock. Pay awards had for some time been based on a flat rate rather than a percentage increase and the differential between ranks had closed up considerably. I now found that a Warrant Officer aircrew was in fact was in fact better off than a Flight Lieutenant!, which did not make a lot of sense. My situation was not improved by the Wolsley's rather extravagant use of oil and petrol and it eventually ran a big-end on the A5 just North of Birmingham on the way home one week-end so I didn't make it. Fortunately I had relatives at West Bromwich so I was able to stay with them until I could pick the car up in sufficient time to get back Sunday evening. That made another nasty hole in the accounts!.

That little episode put paid to a few week-ends at home. There was no-one at that time living anywhere around or on route that I could share with so I was obliged to stay in the mess with others in a similar state, although we often filled up a car and toured into Wales for a day to fill in the time.

A friend kindly offered me the use of his motor bike to go home one week-end and although it was only a clapped out 250cc side valve BSA I thought it was worth a try. That was a laugh and a half.

I dressed up in a selection of flying gear that I had with me and I was off into the wide blue yonder. I mounted the thing and kicked it into life and the first thing that was obviously wrong was the throttle which had a mind of it's own. I was not the sort of chap who could tolerate sloppy machinery so a quick investigation soon found that the top of the carburettor needed screwing back on and with a few other adjustments I set off. Before I had got to the main gate I was obliged to totter down to the MT yard to have the tyres inflated by as much as 20lbs both front and rear and then I was under way. Even then I was not feeling too happy about the machine. There were unpleasant noises from the engine and the first few bends caused the most peculiar sensations so another pit stop to tighten the head and forks dampers was taken. They had been very very loose and being forks with dampers gives some indication of it's great age. I was still feeling my way with it when I had to put the brakes on rather briskly when the lights went against me in Wellington and the back wheel locked up throwing me into

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gutter. Another pit stop to adjust primary and main chains and brake linkage was necessary before I could head East again. I very nearly threw my hand in then but surprisingly I found myself jogging along quite comfortably at between 45 and 50 but with still an ear tuned to the knocking from the engine until a convenient garage came in sight and it seemed an appropriate time to stop as there were signs of overheating. This is a bit of an understatement as she was almost red hot 'pinging' with excess heat. Whilst it was cooling down I dipped the oil tank and couldn't find a level so it took nearly two pints to top it up, then it was cool enough to change the spark plug and reset the points before the final test. I had so far done about 60 miles in three hours and it was decision time as I gingerly started up and carefully took off once more.

After a few more miles all was well so I decided to go for broke and head for home at speeds between 50 and 60 and finally arrived at Marham some 7 hours after departure much to the surprise of the rest of the family.

The return journey on Sunday took less than 4 hours so at breakfast on Monday morning I was able to tell the owner of the bike that all was well and I hope he didn’t mind that I had found it necessary to make a few adjustments which he was quite happy about.

He did not seem quite so happy later on that evening when he came into the bar with plasters on his face and a bandage on his hand. Before I could [inserted] say [/inserted] anything he hurled at me "you and your bloody adjustments", but laughed as he said it before telling that me what it was all about. Apparently, being so used to the machine that he had allowed to get so sloppy and gutless he had attempted to drive off in his usual way but it reared up, tore across a rose bed and threw him in another one!. Nevertheless, he was very impressed with the way it performed when he had got used to it so when the word got around I finished up with a few more machines to tinker with to keep me occupied.

The fastest I ever did that journey one way was 30 minutes. In a Canberra!. I was being 'dined out' at Marham and the aircraft was laid on for me one Friday afternoon. The pilot was the co-pilot of my last 90 Squadron crew and he showed Shawbury a few thing…and me. It was the: first time I had

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ever done a 'rotation' take-off although I had seen one or two demonstrated....I think I left my stomach on the runway when shortly after the kick up the backside by the tremendous acceleration he pulled it up almost vertical like a rocket and kept going until we got to around 10,000ft before levelling out and setting course for Marham. I was very impressed with that for an old bomber man who was more used to 500ft a minute climb hanging on the props with everything shaking and thundering. The return journey was done on the Monday morning a little more gently in an Oxford.

By that time a second course was running and another friend who had been an instructor on the Marham training Squadron had joined the course on transfer. He lived at Feltwell and was prepared to divert through Marham for a share of the running costs so until the end of the course that eased the burden a bit but as the course was nearing it's end like everyone else I was concerned to know about my posting. There was nothing notified so I was still hoping for a return to Marham but when the course results were made known after the final exams I was not pleased. Never mind about Marham...what what about Egypt?.

There was no point in making a fuss, one just had to accept those things so most of my embarkation leave was taken up settling the family back in Worthing as there was no way that I would be getting quarters out there in the 61 days after my effective posting to the Middle East and they would be obliged to move after that anyway.

I sailed on the RAF troopship Empire Ken out of Southampton in the Summer of 1954 and there were times that I wished I had taken up one of the jobs that I had been offered in Shell distribution.

I was the only one that had got an overseas posting and apparently it was almost unheard of. Overseas units usually wanted controllers with a bit of experience behind them but there I was, posted to the main terminal for the Canal Zone; Fayed. The only consolation was that it would be more or less in the centre of things and not stuck half way up a Wadi.

I soon found my sea legs and how to cope with bar prices which in today's money was less than 5p a double but it was the heat that took a lot of handling. The ship had canvas ducting to

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direct air down to the lower troop decks but it was ghastly even then and the troops, including Waafs used to have to come up on deck in shifts for a breather but it was one of those situations that could only be enjoyed for that period of time. With temperatures well over 100deg. the minute you went down below you started oozing again and just had to wait for the next turn on deck. The ship had never been built for that sort of climate anyway otherwise it might have had a more sophisticated ventilation system. The Empire Ken was a German ship built in the Blomm and Voss yards at Hamburg which we had taken as part of the war reparations and was more suited to the Baltic or the North Sea. I had had enough of it by the time the journey was finished anyway. We stopped at Algiers and subsequently arrived at Port Said to exchange sweaty discomfort for smelly and sweaty discomfort. It took a bit of getting used to. After disembarkation and sorting out of paperwork I was on my way by bus down the canal road wondering if I would ever get used to it with persperation [sic] pouring off me from top to bottom and to experience the further delights of the dust, flies, heat and smells of the Land of the Pharoes [sic] . Two minutes of that and I was quite willing to let them have it back!. At last I understood why my father used to get so incenced [sic] about flies. He had done it all both in India and Egypt many years before. My main concern was that I was entering a new phase of my career with a difference; as a Branch Officer, ie, Air Traffic Control, and no longer General Duties(Aircrew) and a dogsbody for a multitude of other jobs. It had been my experience that it had always been very difficult to detail such Branch Officers for extra duties, especially when they were so often shift workers and there were many units that maintained a 24 hour Air Traffic Control service. Fayed was one of them!.

Some of the most serious of local troubles in the Canal Zone had simmered down a bit and it was a lot safer than it had been a year earlier with the political unrest, mainly caused by the fact that there were elements in Egypt that wanted us out and Egypt for the Egyptions [sic] . They were talking, we were talking with an eye on the security of our oil supplies and trade routes through the Suez Canal. It was obvious that we were not going to give that up without favourable agreements after what it

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had cost us during the war in terms of blood sweat and tears.

So there I was. Arrival one day and to work the next although it was three weeks before I went on a solo watch after 'on the job training'; testing and certification. It was relatively simple and so was the set up. It was all very crude and temporary and had not changed a lot since the war but surprisingly enough it all worked efficiently albeit with the need for considerable local knowledge which was to be expected.

Fayed was the terminal for the Canal Zone with fighter airfields and other units to the North and the South and operated 24 hours a day with four short range Transport Squadrons that went out on scheduled flights in all directions, calling at Khartoum, Aden, Habbanyia (Iraq), Cyprus, Malta etc, with staging posts in between. It was a busy place. Fayed even supplied the neccesary [sic] control for the Great Bitter Lake for any flying boat that happened to be coming through although those services were nominal. In addition it was a staging post for the long haul types on the routes to and from the Far East. Our facilities were limited to VHF (Very High Frequency) and HF (High Frequency) direction finders and radio beacons and the airfield lighting was all lashed up stuff that had been modified to signal an alarm if any part became disconnected which had become necessary to discourage the natives from stealing the wire for it's copper content. Another discouragement was an anti-aircraft searchlight and a Bren gun on the roof of the control tower!.

The domestic and technical sites were separated from the airfield by being totally ringed in barbed wire and the access tracks leading from the airfield had wheeled barbed wire fences drawn across from sunset to sunrise as aircraft went in and out. It needed a small army to man the wire as well as an armed, mobile lighting repair squad standing by.

Air Traffic Control staff manned our searchlight and the gun and the searchlight generator was run at all times during the hours of darkness and I recall the night we used them with a vengeance.

The look-out reported movement on the airfield but I could not see much more than moving shadows through the glasses so it was "searchlight on" and on it came with a sizzling crackle as the switch was thrown. I could still see only vague shapes

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about 300 yards out from the tower in the reflection of the intense reflecting blaze of light, the man on the gun had already cocked it so I gave the order to fire. He loosed off a complete clip [inserted] s [/inserted] after which things seemed to have changed a bit so everything was put back to stand-by as the mobile patrol was ready to go out through the wire.

They very soon reported that we now had a dead camel on the airfield although it was clear of the runway and the question was; what to do next?. The Air Traffic Control course had not covered situations like that!. A quick call to the duty Engineering Officer produced a bulldozer and a working party to bury the thing but the problem did not go away for a long time. Every night for the next week the wild dogs uncovered it, and every day we covered it up again until eventually nature took it's normal course and there was no longer a meal to be had for the scavengers.

Although Married Quarters were available I went on to a very long list so I just settled down to sweating it out. In more ways than one. The Control Tower did not have the luxury of air conditioning and at the height of the day it was stifling with a shade temperature well over 100deg. One of the great delights of the night shift was to be able to sit outside on the roof of the Met. Office at about 3 o'clock in the morning when the temperature was down to about 70deg!, but that only lasted for about an hour before the sun zoomed up over the horizon.

Just as I thought that I could concentrate on being an Air Traffic Controller I was appointed Station Fire Officer and no sooner than I had mastered that I got loaded with another job but it all helped to pass the time anyway. Somehow I found time to qualify as a Desert Rescue Land Rover driver and then I figured that was enough as I devoted any other spare time to photography and accumulated my own processing equipment and soon found that my services were in great demand as the local processing was ghastly.

The photo processing did not start until I moved out of tented accommodation which was three months of absolute misery. Trying to sleep in a tent during the heat of the day after a night shift was virtually impossible.

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The permanent accommodation was limited so it was into a tent first and then wait your turn but sand seemed to get into everything despite the cat-walks laid on the sand. The bed feet stood in the usual pools of paraffin in boot polish tins to stop the creepy crawlies from invading the bed and mosquito nets, were hung from the ridge. I don't think I ever slept more than three hours at a time in those conditions before waking up absolutely soaked in persperation [sic] . The only thing to do then was to get up and shower; not that that did much good.

The water tanks were on the roof of the ablution block so they heated up well during the course of the day and never really cooled down but the best time to get a cold shower was normally between 4 & 5 in the morning!.

At least it was a happy unit. The rest of the controllers and staff made the best of it. Some of the controllers I already knew as well as some of the aircrew who I had met previously either at Marham or other units. One delightful character was a Czech who had been war-time RAF and had returned to his homeland to reach the rank of Air Commodore in the Czech Air Force until the political climate of the country had forced him to leave it. As a result he had rejoined the RAF as an Air Traffic Controller and was back to Flying Officer!. Nevertheless we all got on well and I found that copying his routine provided some limited relief from the heat.

Having completed the first few hours of sleep it was off to the Officers Club on the edge of Lake Timsa by bus equipped among other things with a sheet. At least it was possible to emerse [sic] one's-self in water even if it was in the eighties, wrap up in a wet sheet in the shade of a rush 'basha' and achieve a few more hours sleep until the evaporation process was complete and the 'cooking' process started again. Then it was back to camp to get ready for the night shift again. That was just part of the routine. It was all that happened within the routine that made life interesting.

I had been there a few months when I had two aircraft inbound from the UK. One a Hastings, the other a Canberra and just before their arrival a violent dust storm blew up. These could happen at any time given certain conditions and rising sand can make flying very dodgy. I just managed to get the Canberra in before

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visibility dropped to near zero and then the VHF direction finder went on the blink so I had to pull out a few stops after suggesting an indefinite holding or a diversion to Cyprus. The pilot was not keen on either and finally opted for a non-standard let-down using the H/F direction finder co-operating with his Wireless Op. and pilot together. It worked and he got down just about the time that the pilot of the Canberra had worked his way though Ops. and came up to the control room to find out what had happened to his baggage aircraft!

There were very few people that could have fixed up that sort of thing and it was of course the one and only 'Black Mac-The China Bull', on his way to take over command of Habbanyia, (Iraq). When we came face to face in the control room he was his usual bad mannered self. His comment of "I might have bloody well known it" was no more than one would have expected from him. As if it was my fault that a sand storm had blown up!. Had it occurred to me from the details on the flight plan that it was him I would definitely diverted him to Cyprus!. As it happened he only refuelled and fed and was off again after I had gone off duty. I thought that would be the last I would see of him but I was wrong.

Then we had a very interesting fire. Some damn fool army signals bloke exploded a primus stove by using the wrong fuel when brewing up so off went the fire party supplimented [sic] by the Army fire service and between them threw enough water at the signals hut to put out the fire but a lot of it drained away down the conduits in which the whole of the zone's land lines were trunked and out went the lot.

I could not get to the scene as I was duty controller and as all our mains facilities had failed all the stops had to be pulled out again to keep things moving. Going on to standby battery operated equipment I handled Approach control as best I could with no D/F facilities and the Senior Controller handled local traffic from the cockpit of a Valetta aircraft sitting on the tarmac not far from the control tower. Fortunately the weather was fine and all worked well with co-operation of the pilots who were able to carry out visual procedures.

The outcome of the enquiry was typical. The Fire Service, and that meant me; got half of the blame for the failure of all

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the radio, teleprinter, telephone and land lines!.

I got all the blame as the result of another enquiry that had taken place at Marham after I had left and I was kindly sent a copy of the findings. Shortly after leaving they could not find a Secret file although I know of no reason why it had not been in the cabinet if it had not been booked out. After my experience with registries I had been punctilious with the Secret Registry that had been under my direct control as well as the handling of the Top Secret files that always went in and out of the Wingco's office under sealed cover, and as far I recall everything had been handed over according to the laid down procedures. Nevertheless they could not find the handing over certificate, (I wish I had kept a copy), and I had to take responsibilty [sic] for the loss. I was a bit peeved at that. I had not been asked to give evidence even though the certificate would have been in the files now under the control of the bloke I had handed over to it seemed that the only avenue left was to appeal. After some thought I decided just to acknowledge receipt of the findings but with a very strong protest. After all, they couldn't shoot me for it!.

By this time the political infiltration into service life had almost died out and most things had returned to near normal as far as there is any normality in the forces. One just pressed on but at times one's shoulders had to be very broad to carry the load and it helped to have a thick skin as well!. At least there was the satisfaction that it would not last for ever. A lot of control was being passed back to the Egyptians and customs officials were getting very busy at Port Said placing import and export duty on almost all personal goods plus insistance [sic] on area Air Traffic Control by their services with a suggestion of imposing the same controls at Fayed. So far they had not been given access to Fayed but when they were we were very likely to have been deprived of one of our most advantages 'perks'.

We had a weekly 'training flight' to Malta locally known as the Whisky run which picked up supplies from a bonded warehouse and Fayed then acted as distribution agent for other units. The net result of that was that, as an example, a bottle of Whisky was 8s. 6d. in old money in the Mess. 42 pencel and

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cheaper than the Naafi who were obliged to make some declaration and payment to the Egyptian Government.

As a result of my involvement with the fire service I requested a Fire Officers course in the UK which I thought would kill two birds with one stone. It did not work so I took my accumulated [underlined] local [/underlined] leave with an itinerary of a round robin tour of the Middle East and hopped on the Whisky run to Malta and thence BEA to the UK. returning by the same process. At least I had 10 days at home with the family and then the misery started all over again.

There was still little hope of Married quarters but I kept a very close eye on the comings and goings.

Among the names that appeared on the list was that of the chap who had been the Station Adjutant at Marham, just one position below me, stationed somewhere in the zone at a Maintenance Unit. We met up on one occasion at Ismalia as I did with a number of people who had been at Marham with me. At one time there seven of us at Fayed. I had even met up with a long lost cousin who was in the Army at another unit so in one way and another occupied myself as time went by. What it must have been for my army cousin before the war I dread to think. He was in the ranks then when a tour of overseas duty was five years without family or home leave. I don't think I could have even contemplated it, but then perhaps neither did he when he signed on. After pre-war service in the Middle East and also a survivor of the Dunkirk withdrawal he was certainly earning his pension the hard way.

Being a shift worker gave me the opportunity to get away from the place on numerous 'flying' visits. Trips to Khartoum and Cyprus were fairly easy to arrange and I planned to go further East sometime when the opportunity arose.

Another advantage of Fayed was that it was the centre of all entertainment schedules. All visiting shows started off in our open air theatre/cinema and they could be sure of a critical audience too. It was usually packed to capacity and I enjoyed some of the very best shows on the circuit and had the priviledge [sic] of meeting many of the stars of those days when they were entertained in the Mess. Many are still around today. There was Harry Secombe, Lena Horne, Arthur English, Tommy Trinder

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(who got himself lost out on Lake Timsa in a small sailing boat), Ted Ray, Terry Thomas, to name but a few and it was there that Tesse O'Shea got one of her biggest laughs ever. The stage really did collapse and Two Ton Tesse had to be dragged out from underneath, still laughing. On the other hand there were turns that were not received so well. If Fayed didn't like them they knew it but it would be unkind to mention names. They tried and some of them are no longer with us.

In due course the Egyptian Air Force took over some of the zone fighter bases having been trained by British instructors at other airfields near Cairo and I began to wonder what sort of fun and games those instructors must have had in the process if the sort of flying that they were doing was anything to go by.

They seemed to put a great deal of effort into their flying but there never seemed to be such practical value in it if the commotion that went on at their nearest airfield was anything to go by.

I was on duty on one occasion when it became obvious that they were expecting an aircraft when all the ground radio checks started and in due course we heard the pilot calling Almaza (near Cairo), for back bearings every two or three minutes until he was obviously about half way when he started calling his destination.

The result was dead silence as the pilot called again and again with mounting urgency in his voice. He seemed so desperate that I chipped in and offered assistance as my D/F operator had been passing me his bearings anyway. The offer was accepted although it took some time before he was able to identify who was calling him and the rest was simple. He was homed to overhead us, descended to a lower height with instructions to steer a given heading for a number of minutes and he would find his destination which he did and despite his frantic calls to his destination we never did hear their control. Not even when he asked for landing clearance or when he reported landed!.

What all the fuss was about I do not know. It was only a 70 mile flight and a few minutes in what we identified as a Meteor when he came overhead. The sky was 100% blue with the Suez canal right under his nose a few miles from his destination so I can

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only think that he was a bit worried at missing it and getting lost in the Sinai desert. Later on we had a liaison visit from some of their controllers who had in fact been trained by International Air Radio and they were not backward in boasting about all the sophisticated equipment that they had. It was met with a diplomatic h'm, no comment. It was a pity that they did not know how to use it!. A lot of their questions were directed to where our radar unit was, suggesting that we had hidden it prior to their visit. That was time for some discreet tapping on the side of the nose. Radar!, we should be so lucky. I found out later that before I had arrived there had been a small final approach radar for evaluation but it had moved on somewhere. Despite the fact that there was liaison it was only one way and we could not get a visit to their unit. They were very mysterious and conspirital [sic] . They said that their bases were secret and it was very difficult to keep a straight face at that. We had even built them!.

Eventually they worked up their fighter units to the North and South of us and one day they decided to do a mass formation flight of about 30 aircaft [sic] up and down the canal. I wish I had recorded that R/T pantomime somehow although I suppose they were ding [sic] their best with limited training and experience.

The two formations never did get together as one. There was total confusion about heights, and everyone tried to talk at the same time when at one time they found that the two sub formations were on a collision course at the same height and then it was "break, break, break", and every man for himself. It was absolute pandemonium. All that in bright blue skies without a cloud in sight and the line of the canal and the lakes to navigate by. It was something to think about!.

No doubt they improved later on with practice and experience but I have often wondered how the Russians got on with them when they decided to re-arm with Russian equipment and of course, Russian instructors as well. They could not have found it easy by any standards.

Another serious Air Traffic matter came to light purely by chance shortly after had [sic] been appointed as Deputy Senior Controller. A lot of our inbound flights from the UK were chartered company aircraft, although at Malta the company livery was painted out

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and the crew changed uniforms and aircraft call-signs to become RAF. All very clever!. So we had a selection of those, RAF Yorks, Beverly's, Viscounts etc, both inbound and outbound. They were normally cleared by Cairo Delta control from Alexandria, descending and transferred to us but I was a bit concerned when more than one pilot reckoned they should report a confliction after they had been transferred, and even more so when I asked what traffic information they had been given. The answer was always nil so for about a week I asked all pilots to complete a questionaire [sic] relative to the hand over procedure and when it was complete the results of my investigation went through the Senior Controller and Operations. It resulted in some discreet enquiries with the Egyptian Ministry of aviation and a liaison visit by the Senior Controller and some rapid changes in prcedure [sic] . Many a pilot complained subsequently about the extra Easterly drag from Alex. to Port Said under airways control before being cleared to descend on the final leg to us. Little did they know that previously they had been descending blindly across three air routes out of Cairo. Phew.!.

There was an interesting situation early one evening when dust storms blew up unexpectedly around Cairo. I was only aware of it by listening to the one-sided R/T conversation but it was obvious that Cairo's controllers were getting in a bit of a 'tizzy' and some BOAC pilots were getting angry. They did not seem to be able to get an accurate weather report or saisfactory [sic] holding instructions and there was mention of diverting to Nicosia until one ex RAF BOAC pilot remembered us and gave us a call. Having checked our weather he then requested diversion facilities which Operations approved he was on his way, followed by another and another until we had accepted six until Ops. said "enough" before we were swamped.

It was a lovely collection. Constellations. Super Connie's, DC4's and Argonauts of BOAC, Air India, Air Italia, and SAA came swooping in and discharged about 300 passengers into the passenger lounge. They were not too happy about being limited to the reception area with an obvious presence of Service Police but the pilots were pleased enough when they came up to the control later to file their flight plans when Cairo had cleared.

It was just as well that I had had time to look up the

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regulations for charging landing fees, a subject that had not received much attention on the ATC course. Nevertheless, we got it sorted out and charged the grand total of £300. I could not repeat what some of the pilots said about Cairo control but it seemed to be about the same standard as Niarobi [sic] was at that time from what I was told.

In similar circumstances about that time a BOAC pilot had stood off at Nairobi and had taken control from the air to let down five others and himself when the controllers had actually lost control of the situation. I thought our training had been a bit rough and ready but I suppose that the fact that most of our controllers were ex aircrew was in our favour. We had grown up with it whilst other emerging nations were just finding their feet.

I had been in Egypt about nine months before I was allocated Married Quarters. It was a hiring on the canal road close to the officers club, and then the process of calling forward the family started.

The day after it was allocated it was reallocated to the chap who was just below me on the list on the strength of two extra points he had claimed by virtue of detachments overseas from Marham. (Returning B.29's to America he claimed). No way; I knew those regulations inside out and it didn't count so the 'phone lines were red hot before that got sorted out. There was no way that I was going to lose the [underlined] last [/underlined] allocation in the zone by default, not to that chap. (He was the one that knocked me off the greasy pole at Marham). He was not amused.

Everything was eventually worked out for the transportation of my family except for the date and then there was a dock strike at home which put thing back for several more agonising weeks. Meanwhile the quarter was being officially sub-let to another officer who in fact spent the best part of three months in it before my family eventually arrived at Port Said on an Army troopship, the S.S. Lancashire from Liverpool. There was only one snag. When they were half way across the Med. I got posted!. I think someone was using his influence-and putting the boot in.

I was stunned as I was required go to Amman in Jordan as soon as possible. When I protested pointing out that my family were

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half way across the Med. the answer was that they could easily wait in transit in the zone until I was-settled or they could take the next troopship back to the UK!. I really was getting the treatment!. I did eventually get a few days deferment by virtue of going sick, to hold me over until they arrived.

That put paid to any idea I had of taking them all on a visit to Cairo and the Pyramids. I had waited a year for the opportunity and it had slipped through my fingers.

There was great excitement when I met my wife and two daughters at Port Said and after the arrival formalities were completed we boarded the bus for Fayid via Ismalia down the canal road to be dropped off at the bungalow which was complete with a native servant who understood practically no English but understood the requirement and had been recommended. He was a glossy black Sudanese resplendent in galabere and tarboosh and displayed a permanent broad smile. He was a treasure. The girls did not quite know what to make of him at first but he was efficient as was unobtrusive. He made it plain the kitchen was his domain and Madam was not allowed in it. That suited us alright as there was not a lot time to get used to paraffin cooker, lamps and even paraffin fridge.

Of course my wife did not know just how much time she had until we had all settled in and I asked her if she knew where Amman was. Of course she did; in Jordan, but it wiped the smile off of everyone's face, including Abdul when they were told that we were off there in less than a week. Abdul cheered up a bit when I gave him a full month's pay and a reference and he looked after us well whilst I was busy about arranging passage to Amman. Of couse [sic] , it was too much to ask that it would be straightforward.. First of all my wife said she didn't want to fly but since the only alternative was camel she did not have much choice. Then all the deep sea baggage had to be chased up with some urgency from Port Said and then Air Movements insisted that it all be repacked as the size of the boxes were in excess of Air Freight dimensions. It was a good thing that I knew a few people in the right places and a compromise was reached where it could stay as it was. We finally went on a mixed freighter passenger flight in a Valetta. The Gamble special only had one other airman passenger on board and had to go via

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Aquaba and in fact overflew Amman to another of our bases at Mafraq.

Prior to our departure signals had been going to and fro' asking when I would arrive and in answer to one inquiry one confirmed that suitable accommodation was available and eventually when all of our baggage and boxes were unloaded we were bussed to Amman, about 35 mls away to make another new home. On arrival and after refreshments I reported to the Adjutant.

I was optimistic about what had been provided for us but knowing my luck I was not really surprised either when contrary to my expectations I found there was absolutely nothing. True they knew I was coming, but not with a family. There were no quarters available or accomodation [sic] other than by private arrangement plus the fact that as it was Friday and it was a Bank Holiday week-end nothing could be done until Tuesday. I nearly went spare. What had all the rush been about, etc, so I went to see the Accountant Officer, changed some money, drew some more and decided that I would have the Bank Holiday off as well since I could claim three days in transit at the expense of the Air Force so off we went to a hotel in the city and we had a good weekend familiarising ourselves with the area and a new currency. All I had done on the day of arrival was sign in so on the first working day I reported in and started the arrival procedure. All went well until I reported to the Senior Controller who actually accused me of being absent without leave when he found out that I had arrived on Friday. He was under the impression that I should have reported to him in the first place as he could have put me to work. It is not the best way to start a new job with a flaming great row with the boss but a flaming great row there was.

Obviously they had coped despite the alledged [sic] shortage of staff because he had not even known when I was due to arrive and I could not have just slipped into the routine without some preliminary training and certification. No allowance was made for my domestic circumstances and then whilst I started to absorb the local set-up another bombshell arrived. Air Headquarters Middle East at Habbanyia having received confirmation of my arrival signalled to the effect that I should have reported to that HQ for posting as required as they wanted me down in

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the Persian Gulf, and I was instructed to proceed accordingly. Then I really did blow my top!.

I had already found alternative accomodation [sic] ; more or less in the native quarter on Jebel Hashiem as the hotel was straining the finances somewhat, but at least it-was convenient for the base and the girls were about to start school. In [sic] was still scouting around for something better. I was not in a very good mood by the time I had worked my way through the Adjutant, Senior Admin. Officer and Wing Cdr. Admin. to the Station Commander for a showdown. At least he was sympathetic enough to listen to my greivance [sic] which I followed up with threats of resigning my commission there and then. Pretty strong stuff but a lengthy signal to AHQ produced the desired answer and I was at last allowed to get down to work with a bit more security than I had had for a long time. I don't think I was ever forgiven though for stirring things up for a change instead of accepting what was thrown in my direction. I was beginning to wish that I had transferred to the Secretarial Branch after all if that was a fore-taste of what could be expected in the future. Little did I know.

I found Amman very interesting. It was a joint Military and Civil International Airport with control exercised by the RAF. That included a locally based RAF fighter Squadron with Venoms, communication aircraft and Search and Rescue helicopter. The Royal Jordanian Air Force with Vampires. RAF transit traffic, two resident civil airlines and scheduled BOAC Argonaughts from London to Barhrein [sic] via Beruit [sic] on Monday's returning later in the week. Somehow that seemed more civilised as the crew always brought UK Sunday newspapers in for us when they brought their flight plans in. We had three parking aprons. One civil, one Jordanian Air Force and one RAF. Our facilities were the basics that I had been used to at Fayed plus; the Radar!. The very one that had been at Fayed, had gone to Cyprus and thence to Amman. It was a non standard equipment for the RAF which had received little more than a mention on the ATC course and on which in due course all Amman controllers were to be locally trained. And before you could say 'Bingo' I was appointed the Station Fire Officer as well!.

Within a matter of weeks I had found a more desirable residence

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on Jebel Taj nearer the city and things started to settle down. We soon got used to the amplified sounds from the mezzine calling the faithful to prayer....at 6 am!. it was better than an alarm clock. One could not possibly have slept through it. Not even on a day off and as I was still shift working it was inconvenient at times. However, we were comfortable and happy in our new accomodation [sic] and there were English families living around us so we did not feel as cut off as we had been before.

The new landlord was a Palestinian originally from Haifa and he and his family were very kind. They all spoke very good English and helped us with learning enough Arabic to get by on the buses and in the shops. In fact it was too easy to get lazy in learning Arabic as most people could speak English. It was the second language in all the schools.

The camp swimming pool was one of our main attractions and it was situated near the control tower. In fact when on duty I could look down on it which made it a little frustrating on those steaming days when the temperature in the 'glasshouse' was well over 100deg. and the family had come in by bus to make the most of those cooling waters.

A lot of people had written home to the tourist departments of their town halls to get posters of their favourite sea-side resort so it was not long before Worthing was also advertised on the fence. A little bit of home and of course that usually designated one's favourite spot in the area around the pool.

It was quite a small pool so sessions had to be allocated to prevent overcrowding and it was not unusual for members of the Jordanian Royal family to be mixed up with the officers families. When King Hussein flew as he did often being a pilot in his own right he insisted on going through the motions like any other pilot. He climbed the steps and presented his own flight plan for approval. and he was of course very pro-British. His army was to a great extent British financed and controlled through General Glub. His air force was similarly controlled and they were very good too having had their basic training in the UK and then finished off locally on Harvards before jet training. His senior Air Force Officer was a seconded Wing Commander and in fact there were quite a lot of secondments

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both Army and Air Force. His stable of racing cars was looked after by an ex Flight Sergeant and several- of his ponies were stabled in our pony club and looked after by us. It all seemed an innocent and comfortable arrangement. It was not always quite so comfortable on occasions when certain factions in his own country and those of neighbouring states would rather that the strongly pro-British monarch was deposed. After all, Jordan was in a peculiar geographical position. The Hashimite [sic] Kingdom of Jordan had been carved out of what used to be Palestine and some of the old Palestine was now Isreal [sic] which had produced something like a million refugees who were virtually stateless persons. The mandate that the British had had for many years had been repealed by the United Nations due to pressure to create the new state of Isreal [sic] after the war. The Arab/Jew conflict had not neccesarily [sic] been made any less of a problem and it was all tied up with the American owned IPC (Iraqi Petroleum Company) oil pipeline between Haifa and the Persian Cuff that dominated military and political thinking. Not that the pipe-line had delivered oil for a long time, but we still had an interest in it.

The King had a very close shave on one occasion when he was returning from Damascus whilst I was on duty. The Wing Cdr. was with him in the Royal De Haviland Dove and they found that they had a couple of Syrian jets on their tail. They produced some very spectacular low flying by all accounts until they were able to make contact with us for back up from anything we had flying in Jordanian air space before they were safe. It was the sort of chance he had to take in those days, even when he only used to fly half-way down the pipe-line towards Bagdad to meet his cousin King Feisal of Iraq at an air-strip on the border. Neither used to file flight plans for that. Both of them used to keep in touch through their own private shortwave radio link.

It was obvious that the senior captain of one of the resident airlines was ex-Luftwaffe by the cut of his coat and the set of his cap. Only the insignia had changed and he was an honourary [sic] member of our Mess!. We swapped a few yarns which ultimately led to the production of our respective log books which confirmed that he was the bloke that had shot up our Stirling very badly

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in October 1943 when we were on our way into Bremen. Our conversation after that provided answers to questions that we both had. Yes, he was flying a jet. An early prototype Me262, and had been scrambled for evaluation, but why had we only received small calibre shots?. The answer to that was sobering. He had used up all his cannon shooting down two other Stirlings...and the records show that three Stirlings of the force had indeed been lost that night, two of them to his guns. I can only thank my lucky stars that he had not been using cannon on us that night!. It did explain the tails of fire we had seen from his back end too. He was somewhat surprised that we had not incurred casualties and that we had in fact returned to base after all the stuff that had flowed back from us after the engagement which had obviously been the leaflets I had thrown out in a great hurry, especially as he had claimed us so badly damaged that we must have finished up in the North Sea as there had been no other crash report.

I was still negotiating for other accommodation as official quarters were still a long way off but before either came up Dorothy had to be hospitalised. She could have gone to Habbanyia or Cyprus to either of the military hospitals but she opted for an operation to be done locally at the RAF's expense in the Italian Hospital in Amman so in she went.

It was all very different from one's normal concept of hospitalisation. It was a private hospital and she did have a private ward. The head surgeon was Italian and the staff were mainly Italian nuns with some Arab cleaning staff. Catering was not normally provided but on this occasion two meals a day were provided under the terms of the contract, mainly rice and eggs. There was only one nun who spoke very limited English and with her very limited Arabic it was a bit of a pantomime. Altogether it was hardly conducive to rapid recovery.

The occupant of another adjacent private ward, a Sheik, spent most of the daylight hours out on the flat roof outside her window with all the accompaniment of a scene from the Arabian Nights. I don't know what was wrong with him but he seemed to end a lot of time trying to cough his lungs up, not that it stopped him smoking his hooka [sic] pipe.

he was well looked after by several retainers who brought him


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various kinds of food, including great bunches of grapes with which he was fed and when this circus was added to by his personal musician with his one string fiddle it was enough to drive anyone mad. That and visiting times in the afternoon for those in the dormitory wards where the sounds and smells of on the spot cooking on primus stoves wafted up were enough to have her out of there as soon as the M.O. would allow, to continue her convalescence at home.

When she was fit enough we moved house again and the process of the final negotiations for the tenancy was yet another pantomime; never to be forgotten.

Some of the locals, particularly the Sheiks, had made a packet out of the British a few years earlier when room was needed for the expansion of the airfield and other areas that were needed for the building of the Married Quarters. I suppose it was just another way of putting money into the country really but it seemed. that the criteria for receiving payment of £1000 for any sort of building on the land purchased was that it should have a door. As a result there had been a brisk trade with carpenters fitting a door to just about anything, and those that could not afford it naturally borrowed the money from the Sheiks at a premium or were forced to sell their property to the Sheiks. One way or another they were the blokes that finished up getting most of the 'ackers' which they had reinvested in properties that they let to the military. It was the process of bargaining and negotiating with these chaps that created another scene out of Arabian Nights. One must understand that bargaining is a way of life out in those parts and that to do business it was common courtesy to respect the fact that when in Rome you do as the Romans do.

One did not do business through agents as such. The only agents were the multitude of small boys who were always wandering about looking for opportunities of exercising their light fingered efforts to pick up something for nothing. A word in the ear of one of those suggesting that you were interested and an appointment would be very quickly fixed up and he would get his reward of a few fils for his trouble from both parties.

It was not the first time that I had gone through the procedure but that particular occasion sticks in my mind. At the appointed

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time we presented ourselves at the flats and were escorted to a plain unfurnished room with just cushions and a low table and then the 'person' arrived resplendent in robes of gold on black over white, with jewelled belt and sash and jewelled knife scabbard plus the butt of a pistol showing from an equally elaborate holster, and greetings were exchanged. With that over he clapped his hands and the glasses of tea appeared and the performance was on. I had been asked to bring my wife with me by one of the boys who turned out to be one of the Sheiks sons who was also acting as interpreter but it was obvious that the request had come from the Sheik. I had already been warned about him. Now the scene was set and his number one wife squatted in the dirt on the other side of the road from the flat. Women did [inserted] not [/inserted] pay [sic] a particularly important part in the routine except to keep an eye on things. No.1 wife's responsibility was managing the household and the other junior wives. So she had taken up her position.

I don't know that Dorothy was particularly happy with the situation as she sat opposite that imposing figure with the classical hooked nose and piercing eyes of the Bedouin. Pleasantries were exchanged with the first glass of tea; revolting stuff to our standards, then the second glass came up and by this time Dorothy was squirming a bit as the Sheik was not slow in examining what he seemed to be part of the deal. He played a bit of footy footy and proceeded to pinch the fleshy parts of her arm that were exposed under her shawl which she was obliged to wear in such circumstances. Their own women were covered in black from head to toe as well as wearing a yashmak. Nevertheless he examined her as if she was a chicken in the market and she winced a bit but stuck it out until the third glass of tea arrived. That was the one you did not finish and it was time to talk business. It was the way things were done and we were obliged to go along with it for about half an hour until we gave him our promise of a decision before the sun had set. We had made the decision before we made our escape from him with the eagle eye. Dorothy did not care to become part of a Hareem as part of the deal or having him inspecting his property too often with an eye to another 'wife' so the message was passed. "No thank you" and we looked elsewhere.

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We eventually rented a flat not far from the camp main gate and I suppose it could be said that it good views. It looked down on the Hadj railway station on the famous line from Damascus through Amman to a point where it fizzled out way down South towards Aquaba. A line that Lawrence of Arabia had played havoc with many years before when the Turks had control of the area. It also looked down on the main Damascus/Amman road and the prison but at least it was convenient. The landlord was the local butcher an [sic] he eventually brought along a young married chap who we were only to willing to take on as 'bearer'. He had never worked anywhere by virtue of being caught up in the net of the homeless refugees in the North but he was willing and learned fast and took no liberties. He found local accomodation [sic] and moved his family for the first ever now that he had a job which allowed him to face the world with a little more dignity instead of being dependent upon United Nations hand-outs.

He was an Abdul and replaced another Abdul who was reputed to have worked for the British Army but we were glad to see the back of him and his dirty habits plus the fact that I had found him drying out his tobacco in the gas oven on one occasion with only one side burner lit to save gas!. His English was also punctuated by a great deal of barrack room language and his final efforts in the kitchen seemed to be designed to feed his family on our left overs made sure that there was plenty for all!. Now the catering was firmly back in Dorothy's hands and Abdul looked after the rest. He needed a bit of training but it was well worth it.

My cousin that had been in Egypt was now down in Aquaba and an arrangement with the Jordanian Air Force brought him up to to [sic] spend a Christmas with us and some time later we flew down to Aquaba in the Kings personal aircraft for a couple of weeks holiday and that was a very interesting period.

Our accommodation was a holiday bungalow on the sea shore that had belonged to General Peake who had given it to the RAF for recreational purposes. It gave me an opportunity of spending more time with my cousin who I had not seen all that often in the past and to visit our limited Air Traffic Control staff and the firemen who manned the landing strip on rotational basis

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from Amman resources. The landing area was just a rolled strip in the wadi that led down almost to the waters edge and even the control cabin was only the cockpit of a Dakota that had crashed there many years before. It was no more than just another link in the chain of landing grounds that served the Army garrison tasked with keeping the peace in the area which they had been trying to do for years.

The geography was historical and had become even-more important since the creation of the State of Isreal[sic] . The Gulf of Aquaba was only three miles wide at the head and the town of Eilat in Isreal [sic] sat on one corner and the border with Egypt only a little further down. Three miles down the other side was the border with Saudi Arabia so it was quite a crossroads.

I suppose it was just my misfortune that a couple of my firemen went on a sight seeing tour whilst I was there and were absent two days as a result of straying into Isreal [sic] . No big diplomatic incident really but the Army did have to exert a little diplomacy to get them back and they were both charged for contravening standing orders. Still, one could laugh off seven days C.C. (confined to camp) in that place; there were few places to go. Anyway, the army dealt with it and I got on with my holiday. I wanted no part of. The weather was supurb [sic] , the bunglalow [sic] was on the waters edge and there was no tide to speak of. Unfortunately the glass bottomed boat that usually provided interesting views of the coral reefs had been damaged and was awaiting repair so we were not able to enjoy that experience.

Some people relate to being on holiday with being able to sleep in late but it was very rare that we were able to do that with the fishermen out in the early morning. Their fishing was accompanied by a succession of bangs resounding across the water. Lazy fishing that; with sticks of dynamite!. Then they netted the stunned fish afterwards. The girls were warned to keep well out of the way when they were close to the shore as obviously they were not all that clever. The dynamite thrower in one boat only had one arm and the girls had learned earlier on in Amman that when told to do things like that it was for a very good reason and they had to react without question. On that previous occasion in Amman we had gone into town on a little shopping expedition and had just reached the main shopping area where

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there seemed to be a lot of people and suddenly the whole crowd erupted as shots rang out, followed by a lot of panic stricken people running in our direction. When I grabbed them and said "run" they did. Hot foot down the road, into the Hotel Continental where we stayed until things had gone quiet before taking a taxi back home. I understood later that day that an order had been issued on camp putting the city out of bounds but then I had not been into camp and knew nothing about the possibility of trouble.

We managed to enjoy ourselves though, just lazing about, swimming, playing board games, reading, listening to London on the short wave overseas service but generally resting up wondering what was going to happen next. Something always did!. One morning we were having coffee out in front of the bungalow when we noticed that a Royal Navy destroyer had dropped anchor about half a mile out and it was not long before a boat with four ratings and a Petty Officer was rowed ashore. They tied up just few yards from us and were loaded with some metal trunking that they started to chip paint from so I figured that they were defaulters given a dirty job to do. Hard luck on the Petty Officer!.

I would have left them to it but there was a geat [sic] deal of lower deck language that was enough to blister the paint off without the use of elbow grease so two little girls had to be hauled out of earshot whilst I ambled across and asked them if they would like some refreshment. They nearly fell over with shock but the P.O. jumped at the opportunity. Beer for him please, anything but beer for the others and what the blue blazes were we doing in such a God forsaken hole and where the hell was he anyway?. He was quite happy to sit in the shade and chat for some time whilst the others chipped away until a winking light from the ship signalled that it was time to return. It had made his day and in the time we had spent chatting I had found out that he knew my brother from his days at HMS Vernon, the torpedo establishment at Portsmouth. It's a small world.

Later on as darkness fell the ship was dressed overall with lights and was an imposing sight out in the Gulf as small craft pIied to and fro' with the garrison Commander and his party to a social function on board. I think they may have stayed

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most of the night if what happened to us is anything to go by.

We had been invited by some Arab neighbours to coffee, cakes and social chat and there had been no mention of conditions outside when darkness fell. We found out as soon as we got outside. Everything was blacked out by rising sand. Not the sort of sand storm with horizontal wind but the sort in which sand is just lifted straight up and deposited somewhere else. We could hardly see our hand in front of our face. If it had not been for our hosts being more familiar with the area I doubt if we could have negotiated the fifty yards between the houses.

We put the shutters up as soon as we got back but it was too late and it took ages to clear the heavy layer of sand that had been deposited over and inside everything which included the beds and the pantry. Just something else to put down to experience. We were well rested by the time we flew back to Amman in an RAF Valetta and as I knew the pilot from Fayed days he kindly circled the ancient and amazing city of Petra virtually hidden in the desert which we would otherwise never have seen, and then it was back to the old routine. Not a dull one by any means. Among my activities I had a taste of some limited radar control on which I was locally trained. I found the process fairly easy to pick up as this was a 'one man band' and the initial pick up was assisted by a built in direction finder system. To an ex aircrew wireless op. it was no problem. It did not take long to become proficient and as the only other qualified controller was leaving I finished up being in charge of the thing and training others, not without some dissapointments [sic] . The Senior Controller, an ex navigator, couldn't cope with it and neither could another, an ex pilot, but enough did become proficient to ensure that there were sufficient people to rotate. It was not all that comfortable stuck out in a metal box at the end of the runway.

That particular radar unit was the one that had done the rounds. At one time it had been at Nicosia before it had been transferred to Fayed and then Amman and the original operator had travelled with it but it could only provide a very limited service and as far as the RAF was concerned it was a 'one-off'. It gave me some useful experience anyway that I made use of later on.

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By that time we had given up the idea of getting back to Egypt for a holiday. Fayed was just about handed over to the Egyptians so we could not get a passage that way and since holidays had to be planned well ahead it didn't seem worth the effort to go the long way around via Cyprus so that was ruled out. Haifa or some similar place was considered before we found that it was again impossible to go direct particularly as we would need a second passport to visit Arab countries and Israel. The tension was very real out there at the time. Even the Naafi could not import any goods that may have been a product of Israel and postings to a place like Amman ruled out anyone of Jewish name or origin.

It was the only place that I had come across where a parade commander was to say "Roman Catholics may fall out" before prayers. That order was usually "Roman Catholics and Jews....". In the end we figured that we would do better just to make the most of our immediate surroundings but we never got to Beruit [sic] or Damascus. Every time we made plans for a long break between shifts or a week-end those places were declared out of bounds.

It did seem as if we were hemmed in although we were in regular contact with neighbouring countries. Even our daily radio checks gave us two way communication with Nicosia and strangely enough Lod in Israel. We thought nothing of it, or of giving bearings to any Israeli aircraft that called us but the Jordanian Air Ministry were very sensitive and suspicious about it so we had to discontinue any contact with Israel.

We had a very interesting experience one afternoon when we were having tea in the flat when there was a shivering shaking sensation. The tea in my cup rippled an [sic] I immediately recalled something that my father had mentioned about his time in India. If in doubt look at the ceiling light, and there it was swinging gently to and fro' and then I knew that what I had felt was an earthquake tremor Dorothy looked at me and asked "why did you kick my chair?" and then nearly fell out of hers when I told her to look at the swinging lamp and the significance of it. It was a very light tremour [sic] really and we understood later that the centre had been around Damascus but there had been no damage.

One real highlight of Amman was my flight in a Venom jet trainer.

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Since my first jet experience in a Canberra I had been itching to have another go. It was not difficult to arrange and away we went into the wide blue yonder. It was the most exhilarating experience. The sky was bright blue well laced with towering cumulus cloud and at 25,000ft I was in my element when control was handed to me in the side by side trainer as I went cloud hopping. I was in my element and I always knew that I had an aptitude for it. I performed all the standard manoeuvres successfully which rather surprised the pilot. Wireless Ops. don't do things like that!, but he changed his mind when I attempted a roll. Then my old problem of disorientation reared it's head again and he had to take control to prevent us hurtling earthwards out of control. He reckoned that with formal training I would have had no real difficulty in becoming a pilot but it was too late for me to change direction at that time.

Our flat overlooked the prison just beyond the main road and an incident there created a lasting impression on Dorothy. I could understand that if conditions in the prison were as crude as those in the hospital then a lot of people went hungry most of the time if family and friends did not bring in food regularly or the inmates had not got the money to pay for it but that's the way it worked. Prison out there was real punishment and the ultimate was to be publicly hung in the city's amptheatre [sic] which were other occasions when the city was out of bounds.

The incident really upset her when some noisy activity started as protests were voiced and then the whole thing escalated rapidly.

There were hundreds of prisoners milling around the courtyard and the guards manning the walls were reinforced by the army. What sparked it off I could not say but there was a sudden crackle of rifle fire and prisoners went down like nine-pins for several minutes. When it stopped the army entered the courtyard and hearded [sic] the frantic mob to one side as dozens of bodies were dragged away and she could no longer watch the scene of such callus [sic] slaughter. She had some very bad dreams for a long while after that.

At last a married quarter became available after some ten months of waiting and moving around and we moved into a very large

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converted hut which many years before had been the Education Section. The original lettering on the doors was still visable [sic] under fresh paintwork. A friend of mind remembers the building from when he was out there in 1937!. However, it was spacious, convenient and comfortable. Just a stone's throw from the Mess and almost overlooking the flat that we had just left. In addition to our own servant who successfully passed his medical we were allocated an official one, shared with another family, so life took on a whole new style.

Typical of course was the fact that very British fire places had been installed but the cooker was still the parafin [sic] job so took our rented gas one with us. The water heater was the most diabolical hazard that I had ever come across. It was oil fired; with a difference!. We had got used to parafin [sic] fridges and cookers so one took such things in one's stride. To fire up the boiler you turned on the fuel to drip onto a metal plate, then set light to it. By turning the fuel tap on and off the plate eventually got hot enough to explode the drips as they fell on the plate and then it could be adjusted to give a series of continuous explosions and presto!, hot water!. A damn dangerous device though and as fire officer I made sure that everyone was reminded regularly of it's dangers. At least it was more civilised than what we had been recently used to. In our first place on Jebel Hasheem we had a bath that had to be filled with buckets of water that had to be heated by other means and the drain hole was positioned above nothing more than a hole in the floor. It was alright until the bath slipped off of the supporting bricks and flooded the floor. Perhaps it was better that way as it slowed down the activities of the toads, whacking great spiders and scorpians [sic] that tended to investigate the invasion of what they considered to be their territory. In the last flat, although new, we had always had trouble with the drains. The worst part being that when there was a blockage in the system. When we flushed everything came up in the next door neighbours bath!. Small problem….well, to us anyway. When the sanitory [sic] people were called in they pin-pointed the problem of blockages right away. Apparently toilet paper should not be flushed into 2" drains!. The alternative was most unhygenic [sic] to European standards.

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Now it seemed that we were home and dry. There was a bit of a garden which was overgrown so after I set my photo dark-room up I got to work terracing the garden so that we were able to grow tomatoes and sweet corn within a matter of months. The trouble was that it disturbed the habitat of several dangerous species of snakes and other creepy crawlies of which there were plenty. One had to be forever on the alert for them, checking footwear and clothing, and particularly bedding.

One of the strangest creatures was the sand beetle. This chap was about 1/2 ins. long and lived in the sand with the entrance to it's complex protected by a trap door. It had the most incredible technique of building a hinged trap door which was a perfect watertight fit. To see this thing nip down it's hole and pull the trap door down after him was quite amazing.

Another insect that surprised us one evening when we were having drinks on the veranda were the fireflies. For a moment I thought that I had made the drinks a little too strong when little bright lights started jumping around the table but then a little more light was produced they turned out to be little flying insects with little light bulbs in their tails.

Lizards of between four and five inches were common and quite harmless. We had one or two resident one's that had been given names and at one time we had a Chameleon that I had found in the garden but it died on us. Probably due to the rapid changes of colour that was expected of it when we put it on a multi coloured carpet. The poor thing probably got into a state of utter confusion and died of a heart attack.

Tortoises were common and I have never seen so many in a natural habitat as there were around the old Roman city of Jarash, and Jarash it'self [sic] was another incredible place that was right out of biblical times. It had been uncovered in the preceeding [sic] 20 years and I swear that if you just stood there and listened you could hear the ghosts of the past all around and the sounds of chariot wheels on the old Roman roads that still bore the marks of those wheels.

We paid a visit to the Dead Sea and it was well worth the frightening drive. The native taxy driver seemed quite oblivious to his surroundings as we swept along high mountain unmade roads that twisted and turned with sometimes as much as a sheer 1500ft

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drop on one side into a moonscape like valley. Mix that up with the dust, the heat and five fractous [sic] kids as we were sharing the journey with another family, the driver with only one hand on the wheel and the radio blasting native music at 99 decibals [sic] and you have all the ingredients for a very exciting time. It was. Our route took us through Jericoh [sic] and close to the old courthouse, where according to the scriptures Christ was tried and sentenced, until we eventually got to the banks of the Dead Sea, over 500ft [underlined] below [/underlined] sea level and where I subsequently was flown down to in a Jordanian Air Force aircraft. A most interesting experience.

After the journey the sight of so much water was a great temptation and in we all went but within minutes we were in trouble. The adults knew that it was impossible to sink in that sea due to it's high salt content but no-one had told us that it was just like acid if you got it in the eyes. The kids thrashed around screaming in pain and it was just as well that we had a plentiful supply of water in bottles that we were able to pour over their faces until all was well again. After the initial discomfort we were all very careful as we experimented in the very dense water. It was quite incredible. Even just walking into it, before one was waist deep it was impossible to keep your feet on the bottom. You couldn't swim in it either. There was just not enough of the body in water to be able to go through the normal motions. Arms and legs just thrashed around in the air and it really was possible just to float in the sitting position with head and shoulders out of the water.

That was alright until we came out and there was no-where we could rinse off as most of our precious bottles of water had been used up. Within minutes we dried off and were covered in a layer of salt crystals and that was the way we set off back via a different route.

On the way we came across a place by the name of Salt. Just a nameplace where the road crossed a small tumbling stream so we made a stop there to wash off the salt and freshen up. There was an old rusted cannon and a lot of other ironmongery in the stream left from battles of long ago but we did not have a lot time to investigate further. A Jordanian soldier appeared and warned us off by the process of pointing his rifle at us

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so one does not argue in a situation like that. We did a bit more splashing about after I had put my camera way [sic] whilst the driver and the soldier communicated. Some folding money changed hands and we were on our way. The driver told us that the small wooden bridge was guarded because of it's strategic importance and I suspect that it had been guarded ever since General Allenby had passed that way during the first World War. Rather like the Allenby bridge across the River Jordan that we also visited on another occasion. That was still guarded so we did not think it worth while trying to obtain a bottle of water that we had planned to do. I suppose that if we had approached the soldiers with a fistful of notes we could have done it as that is what seemed to smooth the way generally if you wanted to get things done as a friend of mine found out when he imported a car from the UK!.

God knows how long the preliminaries had taken to even order it but in due course it arrived at Beruit [sic] after months of waiting.

Then came the business of getting it into Jordan. First of all he could not do it himself and pay the fees. That was much too easy. It had to be imported by a recognised import/export firm and then negotiations were started with the appropriate Government department although he was entitled to it's import without tax, under current diplomatic arrangements. So it laid at Beruit [sic] for many months as palms were greased until it duly arrived in Amman. Having accumulated more fees by that time there were even more to pay. Several more months of negotiations had followed as the documentation kept getting held up until fistfull [sic] of Dinars smothed [sic] the way and it was finally HIS car. Not that he was able to tax and insure it and drive it away. Despite the fact that it was new it had to go through all the mechanical checks that all vehicles were required to go through before being given a registration. It was a sort of MOT test but set annually, and annually got a different registration number which also meant a new set of plates. More Dinars changed hands at each of the four stages of testing, shuffling and mis-laying of papers, passing the papers to the department that made the plates, (right next door to the registration office), more mis-laid papers, and at last, when


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the plates were ready, the production of the insurance documents before those plates could be fixed and sealed by the department. Plus of course the final bakshees before he could actually take the car on the road. In all it took just over a year. He never took it for a second test. Things happened that forced him to subsequently drive it across the desert nearly 500 miles to Habbanyia where it was eventually taken to Basra under service arrangements and it came back to the UK on the Ark Royal minus wing mirrors, screen wipers, wheel trims, slightly dented and rusted. Fortunately there was enough documentation with it to ensure that it was not subject to import duty....provided that he kept it for a year!. At that point in time he would rather have got rid of it when he eventually got back to the UK himself but despite all the hassle he made full use of it. That was a car with a history.

I eventually got my opportunity to go further East. Just far enough. I was detailed to go to Habbanyia in Iraq for Courts Martial duties as a member of the Court. Anything except defence or prosecution, but it was not quite the 'perk' that I thought it was going to be.

After flying in I reported to the Adjutant who I knew and had a been the Signals Leader of 138 Squadron at Wyton and subsequently 90 Squadron at Marham, (at the same time as the chap who had fun with the car had been there); only to find that the President of the Court was none other than 'Black Mac' himself.

Being the junior member I was the 'scribe' and Mac was his same old self. His Adjutant was having as rough a time with him as I had had at Coningsby. Anyway, the case was over in a day and sentance [sic] was pronounced so I immediately set about putting some distance between Black Mac and myself.

It took three days with the flight priority that I had and more than one argument with the Senior Air Traffic Controller at Habbanyia who wanted to put me to work there. No way!. I wasn't there for that and it was a good thing that I knew a few people, not the least the Adjutant, who kept me on a four hour stand-by for a seat on an aircraft back to Amman. Apart from anything else I wanted to see Habbanyia, the RAF's jewel in the desert.

There was plenty of it with the old plateau airfield and the new one that had been laid out on the plain; the former being

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used for the training of the Iraqi Air Force. The relatively new base on the plain was surrounded by masses of buildings, three swimming pools, a profusion of lawns and gardens that turned the place into a glittering oasis. I walked miles and miles around that place and marvelled at the engineering that had made full use of the waters of the Euphrates and numerous artisan wells. There was even a large lodgement compound for the hundreds of native workers and their families who seemed to enjoy quite reasonable amenities, and eventually a seat became available and I was on my way back to Amman. I was to go back there again in due course.

Meanwhile it was back to work. I was duty controller and the airfield had been shut for a couple of hours one evening as no traffic had been notified when one of the ATC assistants phoned from the duty but to tell me that there was an aircraft overhead flashing it's lights. There was a rapid call out for duty crews and I was off to the control tower. The aircraft was still circling when I went on the air and asked the pilot to identify himself. It turned out to be an Eagle Airlines York freighter on his way to India which had been routed to us but the signals office still had nothing so he had to circle until we lit the place up, inspected the runway and alerted all the other services before we let him in. Then there were a few more surprises as the pilot and the navigator turned out to be ex 207 Squadron, Marham, who I had known there.

It did not take long to find out why they had arrived before the notification. They had actually been routed via Cyprus and Beruit [sic] but had done a short cut across the Med. and smack across Isreal [sic] . It might have seemed logical at the time but with no diplomatic clearance such an unauthorised route could have had unpleasant results from a trigger happy Ack-Ack gunner.

There was never a dull moment although some of the things that happened were quite serious.

Our helicopter with the Station Commander and Station Warrant Officer on board went down the line of the old Hadj railway of Lawrence of Arabia fame; to a point where it petered out about half way to Aquaba. For some reason or other the SWO, contrary to standing orders relative to the safe areas around a helicopter made the mistake of backing into the tail rotor,

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and a military funeral was the order of the day and a few months afterwards the helicopter pilot's wife who had shared our taxi to Gerash died of natural causes and there was more sadness in our tightly knit community.

There was a snippet of information from Habbanyia that did me the world of good when I heard of it and had a little 'chortle' at Black Mac's expense. He had given orders for an enormous banquet to be laid on. Typical, it had to be big!, but to lay that on for around a thousand people was no mean task. I definitely would not have cared to be in his Adjutants shoes about that time. As usual he had a hand in everything, including the menu and I can imagine the raised eyebrows when he decided that among the many courses served to two Kings, Ambassadors and dignatories [sic] from all over the Middle East was; maise!,(corn on the cob). That's what they feed the chickens on out there! but that was not the end of his indiscretions.

There was King Feisal of Iraq and his cousin King Husein [sic] of Jordan so it didn't help matters when he proposed a toast to King Feisal of Jordan!. I could just imagine the diplomatic huffing and puffing that went on. I had been on the mat in front of him often enough. I would like to have been a fly on the wall when he was on the mat in front of the C in C later.

In the political turmoil of the area we still managed to carry on with a small degree of normallity [sic] .

We managed a sports day with inter service competition between the RAF, the Army and the Jordanian services finishing up with a flying display from both Air Forces and on more than one occasion we closed the airfield to suit the Kings convenience by turning it into a motor racing circuit. That was a bit of fun on one occasion when he wanted to try out his latest Mercedes sports car. I can't remember the model but I do remember that it had gull wing doors. I even had the privilege of belting it around in company with the rest of his fleet.

It was a dreadful shock when we heard later that there had been a political uprising in Iraq, something that seemed to be spreading right through the Middle East, and as a result of that particular incident King Feisal of Iraq and most of the Royal family has been massacred, and a republic had been declared.

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There was definitely a rot setting in and there was no doubt that there was a lot of outside influence behind it all. You didn't have to be a genious [sic] to work out the fact that oil and a power politics was still the key to the whole business in Egypt, the Suez Canal, Jordan, Iraq and as it was to turn out later, Aden, the Persian Gulf and Iran and all points East. It seemed that that area of the British Empire's influence was crumbling around us.

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Nevertheless, Air Traffic Control was the job and there were few occasions when a shift did not produce something out of the ordinary.

It was all quiet one sultry afternoon when I heard a very faint 'May-Day' call on the common frequency and immediately responded but found it difficult to achieve satisfactory contact. The direction finder bearing showed the aircraft to be to the North of us and although it was possible to pick out a call-sign the rest of the message seemed to be in German. After giving courses to steer to reach us the aircraft's transmissions were getting louder and the pilot was calming down although it was obvious that his English was very limited, as was our German and then one of the assistants came to the rescue. I was not aware that he was a Channel Islander but he asked me to find out if the pilot 'parlies vous francious [sic] '?. That brought forth a stream of French so I put the assistant on the radio and it did not take long to find out what it was all about. At least he was steering the headings he had been given and was getting louder which was the most important thing but he turned out be a Swiss. in a light aircraft en. route from Cyprus to Bagdad but had encountered head winds, was lost and getting low on fuel. Certainly he had done the right thing by declaring an emergency over that inhospitable terrain that looked like the surface of the moon and getting into a bit of a panic that caused him to lapse into non-standard procedure. The rest was easy. He followed our instructions until he found us after which he was directed to the civilian reception area for the rest of the

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formalities. By the time he came over later to file a flight plan he had calmed down and able to communicate in good English and certainly happy enough that he had finished up with the RAF in Jordan instead of being lost in the mountains. Another satisfied customer even if we did extract a small landing fee from him.

I had to respond very rapidly to another emergency situation one evening shortly before our normal shut-down time. One of the Venoms was still airborne and the C.O. was on his way back from Aquaba in a Pembroke. The helicoptor [sic] pilot had just put his chopper away in the hangar almost opposite the control tower and had given me a wave as he started to walk off when the Venom pilot came on the air reporting his position and the fact that he had just flamed out and would be ejecting in five seconds ...4..3...2...1 and he was gone. There was a quick shout to the chopper pilot and hand signals to wind it up, another quick call on the radio to the C.O. who was on a different frequency almost overhead, to tell him that we had 'one down about 25 mls to the North East of us, please investigate...chopper on the way' and everything swung into action from there. Suffice to say that the downed pilot was back on the airfield within 30 minutes of his first call. Not bad going. The same 'downed' pilot was the one that subsequently took the first Harrier on a non-stop transatlantic flight to New York.

There was another occurance [sic] one late afternoon when a Valetta had a burst tyre and ran off of the runway to get well and truly bogged down but things like that were only slight hic-ups in a day's routine and I must admit that I was getting a lot more out of life than if I had continued to push paper around in the Secretarial Branch. Not that there wasn't any paperwork but it was different.

I had not been in Quarters on camp for very long and I had an off-duty morning closeted in my dark room when I heard the fire alarm faintly in the distance but with all the stuff I had in the trays I decided to ignore it. There was a highly qualified

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Flight/Sergeant RAF Regiment fireman on duty and quite capable of handling any situation without me. I found out what it had all been about when I went on duty for the afternoon shift and in hind-sight figured that it might have been better if I had turned out.

The fire had been in a ventilation canopy over the airmens mess kitchen right next to the school, so the firemen and police had cleared the school and were tackling the fire quite successfully until the Wg/Cdr. Admin turned up and instructed then to lay foam on the roof. They did as they were told and the resultant mess took days to clear up as the foam slid off into the school. My daughters were delighted at the fun and a few days off but the kitchens and the mess and the school were in a hell of a state. Ox blood based foam is very sticky stuff but I found a bit of a problem in writing up the fire report. First of all I was in trouble for not being there and then because foam had been used. I think it took three drafts of the report before the Wg/Cdr found it acceptable to pass on without laying the blame for the mess at anyone's door.

Following the report were his own recommendation that I, as fire officer should be on the phone so a phone was installed,(not that it would be any good if I was in the control tower or off camp as anyone else was entitled to be when off duty, but that caused another storm in a tea cup.

Some time later I got the bill for the telephone installation and was hot foot down to see the Wg/Cdr. As far as he was concerned I had the facility and I should pay for it but there was one quick way out of that. I insisted that as it was a strictly a service requirement on his own recommendation it should be restricted for incoming calls only and the Air Force could pay for it...and that was that. As far as I was concerned it was a matter of principle but I was beginning to wonder if other people had the same sort of hassle over almost everything. I certainly seemed to be getting more than my share anyway.

We had another unfortunate incident one night when an aircraft of the local air line inbound from Jedda lost an engine on final approach and piled in about three miles out. There were no other aircraft scheduled so with all the alarms going we were straight

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into the crash procedure and I jumped aboard one of the back up water tenders to get to the scene. It was a very rough ride but all we had to do was to head straight for the fire and by the time we got there the aircraft was well alight. The first rescue crews on the scene had put water spray on the exits where the passengers had been scrambling out virtually being pushed along by the crew and the last of them had just got out a few minutes before I got there and the fire finally beat the water and the foam and was rapidly consuming the aircraft.

Nevertheless, the crew were uninjured and there were no serious injuries among the passengers no doubt due to the fact that the the [sic] pilot had whipped the undercarriage up smartly and had done a successful belly flop in the lights of his landing lights. I found the rather shaken Captain who told me that at least everyone was out until there was some hysterical screaming from one of the native passengers who had been assembled in a group to one side and ultimately some-one conveyed the message that she had left her baby an the luggage rack…..too late!. The aircraft was melting down and there was nothing that could be done until things cooled off. Meanwhile we started loading the passengers into an RAF bus and ambulance as well as some of the back-up fire vehicles that were no longer needed and they set off back to the medical centre. My problem was that due to the terrain our radio to the tower was virtually useless and produced little more than buzzes and crackles so no-one on the airfield knew what was going on. I did something that was a bit hit and miss but it worked. I got the Rescue Landrover up to the highest point I could looking down on the airfield and broadcast the information and in addition I used the headlights to morse a message to the tower. They got both and the medical centre was ready to receive them and attend to the injured. Typical of the way they did things out there was one of the final acts. The pilot was promptly placed under arrest by the civil authority even though he was still in a state of shock. Out there you were often guilty until you could prove your innocence. It was the way things were done and one got used to things that would have been outrageous at home. It was very similar to the manner in which I saw the public treat a taxi driver in Amman city after he had knocked over

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a small boy in the main street. The taxi had come to a screeching stop after the lad had nipped in front of him and got clipped. A howling mob descended upon the taxi driver and hauled him out of the vehicle and pulled, punched and kicked him in the direction of the nearest police post whilst in the meantime the small boy, who had only been bumped and had rolled into the gutter, got up, dusted himself off and scurried down a side ally. No doubt the taxi driver got thumped for his part in the incident and it seemed that no-ne [sic] was particularly interested in a slightly grazed little boy!.

The unit library was a place that most people used and contributed to quite regularly but most books had become dog-eared and certain types, mainly 'whodunits' very often had their story line ruined by the attentions of a certain elderly lady.

The lady was an ex school mistress who had taught in the local missionary schools since the days of Queen Victoria if her appearance was anything to go by. She wore Victorian type clothing that elderly ladies of that era would have worn. Voluminous skirt and blouse with tweed jacket, the whole ensemble, half moon steel rimmed glasses and all, topped off by a white brolly. She lived locally although retired, and had stayed on, greatly respected by the local population and permitted the privilege of an honourary [sic]membership of our mess. That was how she came to use the library but the margins of nearly every book contained some comment, like an Agatha Christie Miss Marples, in her unmistakable shaky scrawl such as, 'now I know who it is', or 'so and so did it', or 'it cannot be……' or 'I knew it was' etc, etc. but she was a great character and after a spot of bother on one occasion with some of the locals when she needed rescuing from an excitable crowd she was heard giving them some suitable comment in arabic about their behaviour whilst still retaining her dignity.

At one point in the late summer we got the first rains of the season and a most wonderful sight met our eyes when we looked p down the hill from the bungalow. The whole hillside was covered in a solid carpet of crocus in all shades of mauve. They had

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just popped up, and by the end of the day they had all gone again. Surprising what a bit of moisture will do in that part of the world where it did not usually rain between March and September.

As the weather became cooler we decided to have a fire lit in the lounge one evening. Coal was available in the outside storage bin supplied on payment through the stores and very expensive. As it was a most unlikely commodity in that part of the world I asked the storeman how the devil we got it to find that apparently it was supplied under a local contract and came from South Africa by boat to Aquaba and then was brought up by camel train. Very precious stuff that!. However, Abdul was instructed to light a fire. I suppose I should have shown him how to do it the first time but it never occurred to me that he would never have seen coal before so when he queried the method he was told, paper and wood with the coal on top and the black rock will burn. So he did as he was told but he had experimented somewhat. He mixed the lot up with about a pint of parafin [sic] , set light to it outside and then brought it all in in a bucket. There was certainly some pandemonium when he came staggering in with a bucket of fire on the end of a pole!. The Station Fire Officer had visions of his quarters going up in smoke but we did eventually manage to transfer it to the fireplace where he sat watching it for a long time before being convinced that the black rock really did burn.

Their usual method of producing heat was by some parafin [sic] appliance or charcoal or even scrub wood which further diminished what timber there was on the sparse hillsides.

There was always plenty of social activity with dances, parties, horse riding, tennis, swimming gala's, motor racing etc, etc but I will always remember one particular function that we attended. A reception at the British Embassy was about the dullest affair that I have ever been to. The drinks were so watered that even if you asked for a straight Whisky you still couldn't taste it, or the Gin or the Brandy for that matter. One thing was for sure, no-one was likely to have more than was good for him and let the side down. What other foreign

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nationals from other Embassies thought about I wouldn't know but I imagine that giving a Russian a Vodka similarly diluted would have raised an eyebrow, and precious little else!. However, as is so often said, it was all part of life's rich tapestry.

As a part time untrained fire officer I was certainly getting my share of 'on the job training' from the experiences of attending some quite spectacular fires.

Shortly after having the phone put in I had a call-out and had no option but to turn out since the call came direct from the C.O. The first one was in the Souk (market), in the city, and I mustered the maximum that was available, leaving the bare minimum for the airfield so we set off with four vehicles and when we arrived the area was an inferno. The source of the fire was right in the centre where there was a great deal of timber used by a small factory producing boxes for fruit and vegetable packing and although the native population were very agitated not a lot seemed to be happening. The municipal fire services were no-where to be seen and as my F/Sgt was on leave the two corporals soon assessed the situation and started to deploy the vehicles whilst I went in search of a person of some authority and to find a source of water replenishment. I was unfortunate in both respects and when I returned to the scene it was obvious that we were in trouble. A hord [sic] of uncontrollable natives were helping out in their own way by manhandling one hose and had pulled the pump off of the jacks and the suction hose out of the water bowser to such an extent that there was water everywhere except where we wanted it. It was a fine old mess until I managed to find a policeman with stripes on his arm and asked him to muster sufficient troops to protect the operation whilst my firemen were instructed to recover everything, stop pumping and to stand-by until we had control. Not easy as some people were absolutely frantic as it appeared that at least four people had been caught in the blaze. As I saw it they would have been well and truly roasted by that time and my main concern was to stop the fire from spreading and we started to pump water again as far as our tankerage would allow although we had found a supply source of our own at an ice factory back along the road and started

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a shuttle and that kept things going.

In due course the municipal fire brigade arrived and positioned themselves on the downwind side of the fire…..and the best of luck, then the Jordanian Air Force arrived with their pump but no water tender but very soon packed up as their hoses were perished and leaking but it didn't matter much as they then ran out of petrol!. At least we were putting on water..until the King arrived!.

The police lost control of the crowd again, everyone was bowing and scraping. We lost control of the pump for a while and stopped pumping which upset the King a little when he came to watch progress but was satisfied that we had a water problem and as the fire was almost under control we might as well allow the centre to burn out unless the city fire services still required us. That being established we wrapped it up and set off home in convoy with a salute to the King and clapping from the locals....but we were minus one brass hose nozzle; which had been stolen!.

The next fire I attended some time later was to a cinema up on Jebel Ammman overlooking the city. That time we took the big fire tender with back-up pump and tanker. I went with the big Mk.V. and half a dozen firemen and air traffic control assistants but we did not have the best of drivers for a job like that. There were some very steep hills to negotiate and that particular model as fas [sic] I was concerned had some built in design faults. Not the least of which was it's hill climbing capability with a full load of water and foam compound plus a few people. In the excitement the driver did not react properly to the possibility of an extended hill climb when he should have selected auxiliary low gear at the bottom of the hill, but instead he stuffed it at the hill until he ran out of steam and then muffed a gear change. That was a recipe for disaster.

We started to roll back. Neither footbrake or handbrake would hold it and with the prospect of a nasty situation arising I hollered to all the men on the back to bale out, crashed the gear lever into a forward gear and wrenched the wheel out of the drivers grasp so that our downhill run was stopped by our back end ramming a low wall. I got some stick for it of course but I am convinced that it saved the day. It saved the troops

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but it bent the tender and the wall but at least we did take off again and got to the scene of the fire. Unfortunately the pump outlets had been damaged and we could only use it as a back-up water tender to our trailer pump that got to work immediately on arrival. The cinema was nearly gutted anyway and the shell of the building itself had prevented any spread of fire to surrounding buildings so there was little that we could do. The city fire services were spraying water on the side wall, aiming for one small window quite high up, with very little success until one local fireman climbed an extending ladder with his 1 1/2 inch hose to put water directly into the window. I didn't think it was good idea as it was all very close to overhead power lines and the like so I went inside through the foyer with the city fire chief to asses the possibility of taking our hoses in through that way and promptly retreated. The fire had got a good hold so I immediately withdrew all of our appliances out of the roadway from below the wall of the building to the space under the inside balcony. The main wall was as hot as the side of a brick kiln and all that cooling water in my estimation was likely to cause a blow-out and collapse the wall. Despite putting this suggestion to the fire chief that his man up the ladder was in considerable danger he left him up there whilst we concentrated on the fire at the base of the inside wall.

Of course, in retrospect there is always another way of dealing with a situation although my report emphasised the need to keep my firemen out of the danger of a collapsing wall so as usual I got 'stick' for it. That is what officers in charge were for!!.

That's what the recently appointed C.O. thought anyway as for some reason he did not have a lot of time for Air Traffic Controllers, even though we were all ex aircrew. To him we were 'rock-apes', a term of endearment usually reserved for the RAF Regiment. There was very little that any of us could do right according to him, so there was the usual enquiry and a lot more caustic comment thrown around. I was used to it by that time so it was all water off of a ducks back.

I was paying a number of liaison visits to the civil airport

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by that time as parts of the civil terminal building were being up-dated with an Air Traffic Control facility although it was very basic. Almost every time I went there the man in charge was comfortably dressed in pyjamas and rather like the Egyptians had very limited knowledge and even less experience but most of their questions were answered. We never saw them in our Air Traffic Control tower though. They always declined the invitation as apparently they monitored all of our radio channels anyway!.

I have very good reason to remember the occasion that the terminal was officially opened by King Hussien [sic] . I had an official invitation to attend with a place on the viewing balcony so of course I had my camera at the ready when the King advanced along the red carpet towards the entrance just below and a perfect shot was presented....then my lens hood fell off and landed at the feet of P.M. with a gentle tinkle. There was instant reaction. H.M. stepped back smartly, surrounded by his escort whilst about ten weapons were aimed straight at me. Phew!. Fortunately I was immediately recognised by the King as the chap he saw quite regularly in the control tower when he presented his flight plan and with a wave the procession carried on. One thing I did not expect was a soldier clattering up the steps to hand me back my lens hood with the compliments of the King. Alright to laugh at later but a bit tense at the time.

The political situation in Jordan seemed to changing in a way that was very similar to that which had caused Britain to give up their protective role in Egypt under the mandate given to us by the United Nations. We had been obliged to get out of Egypt and our troops had been withdrawn from the Canal Zone. Now the power struggle had centred on Jordan and King Hussien [sic] being pro. British was having a spot of bother keeping control of the situation and on one occasion when I paid a liaison visit to the civil 'Air Traffic Control Centre' I had an extraordinary proposal put to me. Although one had to be very careful not to discuss sensitive political matters a mention was made of Colonel Nasser who was the current 'fly in the ointment' in Egypt. It was suggested that if I could arrange for the British Government to put up £1,000,000 in gold Nasser could easily

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be put out of business!.

Having done my best to confirm that it was not a joke I lost no time in passing the message along a discreet channel which dealt with such things and naturally heard no more about it.

It was not long after that incident that I was on duty in the control tower and soon after we had opened up in the morning a great deal of activity was observed over at the civil terminal building as well as in the Jordanian Air Force dispersals. Through the binoculars I was able to determine the figure of General Glub, C in C of the Jordanian Forces, (and controller of the purse strings for the British money that kept that force going), in amongst a large crowd of military people.

It all looked very excitable and not the usual situation that one expected to see the General in so I immediately opened the line to our intelligence officer to give him a running commentary on the activities as far as I could see. One of the Jordanian Air Force's De Haviland Dove's was run up and then started taxying as the pilot called for take-off clearance whilst on the move. He would not give his destination although he advised that his flight was diplomatically cleared and he duly took off heading North. So was the General and his Lady as we found out later!. There had been a coup. Out went the General and the Jordanians controlled their own purse military purse strings. The results of that were soon very obvious as the supply of British money was cut off.

The British seconded personnel were OK for their pay as they were seconded from their respective forces but pay for Jordanian Forces soon became unreliable. So did the supply and re-supply of military stores. Their uniforms became tatty. Their boots were wearing out and we were to find out later that the troops were selling their equipment to make both ends meet although the shortage of one commodity did not come to light for some time.

It was after attending another fire that we were able to put two and two together. The fire was in one of the typical concrete blockhouse native dwellings out in the scrub and there was a hell of a bang one night when it erupted in smoke and flame. When we got there it was obvious that there was little need

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for our services. For myself I had long given up trying to put out fires. The priority was to save lives, stop the spread of fire and last of all saving of property. What we were faced with was a blackened ruptured mess that had been a home but with very little combustable [sic] material left but the worst part of, it was that there were half a dozen pink, bloated, naked bodies spread around it, plus one on what was left of the roof. We dowsed the place well and truly with water and the locals recovered the body but it was even more terrible to find that most of the casualties were women. They all had to be very carefully handled so we left the clearing up job to the Jordanians.

The subsequent Investigations showed that the explosion was caused by the careless handling of some high grade cordite, from some .303ins. cartridge cases complete with percussion caps, all in the same area. A recipe for disaster.

Apparently cartridges were being emptied and the bullets replaced making a nice little earner for someone. But it did mean that most soldiers probably had only one in five usable rounds for his rifle!. It was just part of the corruption that was beginning to undermine the once proud and efficient Jordan Arab Army. It was going into decline rapidly after it's finance had been cut off.

From that point on we found ourselves facing more and more restrictions in our daily life. NAAFI supplies became limited as certain items which were produced by firms having any connection with Isreal [sic] were banned imports. That included of course Jaffa orange juice that had gone all the way to the UK and back again to their next door neighbours but we coped. The NAAFI bottling plant stepped up production of orange and lemon drinks from essence that came from Cyprus. Well, so the management said!.

Nothing that happened surprised me any more. We had some very unusual flight plans signalled in one day which immediately aroused suspicion so Intelligence was advised. I decided to go out to the radar truck situated at the edge of the runway to get the closest possible view of these four 'Egyptian Air

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Lines DC.3's when they came in. They came charging into the circuit totally ignoring all Air Traffic instructions, did a low level circuit in a 'gaggle' and then crunched onto the runway. I was watching carefully from a small ventilator in the van as they slowed down at my end of the runway and they were quite a sight. In the first place they were not DC.3's. They were Russian Ilushan [sic] 14's and not in very good condition either. They were very tatty with lop-sided undercarriage suspensions and their general appearance was not improved by the rough flaking paintwork only partially covered Egyptian Air Force markings by crudely painted civilian registration letters.

I kept in touch with the control tower and all of our observations were passed to Intelligence and of course as they were ostensibly civil aircraft they went to the civilian terminal.

There was a great deal of activity on their arrival and there was a fleet of lorries awaiting them but the unloading process was difficult to follow even from the control tower, although I have no doubt there were many pairs of eyes on these from various vantage points as there must have been from the moment they touched down.

As soon as the unloading was complete they were requesting taxy clearance, destination not notified and no flight plans filed. All very suspicious.

All the information that we had been passing back had filtered through to the right people, possibly through the Embassy to the King but someone was very quick off the mark. Jordanian military police forces intercepted the convoy of trucks on the main road out of the airfield and the cargoes were found to be arms and ammunition looted from the huge depots in Egypt that we had left in the care of the Egyptians. It was obvious that something really dodgy was going on and subsequently some very rough justice was meted out. There were more public hangings in the city which was becoming quite a regular event.

The daily routine still went on but there was an air of apprehension creeping in. It was not unfounded. The next thing that happened was that families were warned to get ready for

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repatriation to the UK, and not very much time was given. There were lots of tears and frenzied packing until eventually the airlift by Hastings aircraft out of Cyprus began. Every day there were more goodbye's. Some people had to go by 'casevac' aircraft as the medical centre was emptied. Mothers and one day old babies were included until eventually it was the turn of the Gamble family. Abdul cried and beat his chest in anguish and when they had gone and the married quarter had to be prepared for handing back as I took up residence in single quarters. What an end that was to what had been initially descibed [sic] as an accompanied posting!. [inserted] I [/inserted] was not amused, but work had to go on just the same.

Living out privileges were withdrawn and everyone moved into camp as our activities became more and more restricted by local events. We were confined to camp for days at a time and mess life became a very hectic round with little else to do. Even the cinema only opened two or three nights a week with the difficulty of getting new films in. I managed to get Abdul taken on by the mess as a steward and he was only too glad to have a reasonably well paid job having moved his family into the area to work for me he had considerable overheads.

On one of the numerous occasions that the city had erupted once again in political termoil [sic] the C.O. sent for me to do a nice little job for him. I was to be a courier to take a message to the British Embassy, which was virtually under siege, and our communications were no longer as discreet as they might have been. I was to go in civilian clothes by taxi. My answer to that was "thanks a lot, do I have any options" to which the answer was "no". Thanks again, although I did wring one concession from him, I was allowed to draw a pistol, with a full chamber, which I kept in my hand, in my brief case, all the way there and back. There was no way I was going to be at the mercy of a howling frenzied mob without being able to do a bit of damage first. Right or wrong, that's the way I felt about the situation at the time. After all the tight spots I had been in in my life I reckoned I was owed a chance but it went off without any fuss and I breathed easy again.

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One evening about six weeks after the families had gone there was a strange atmosphere permeating the normal activities. The cinema was closed. The Sgt's mess bar, and ours, as well as the Naafi canteen were ordered to close early and everyone was warned to be ready for an early start the following day.

Few of us thought that it would be as early as it was though At 5am the sirens started wailing. The PA system was busy giving orders for everyone to report to their normal places of work by 6am, phones were ringing madly and the whole station got into gear very quickly. At 6am roll-calls were made and instructions were passed for everyone to get back to quarters, pack personal belongings and back to the messes for breakfast. Breakfast was tea coffee, toast and boiled eggs...taken on the run as it would finish at 7pm precicely [sic] after which we were to report back to our sections. At 7pm the PA system was announcing the almost unbelievable news that we were evacuating the station. Today!...just like that!. We were going to Mafraq which was a few miles to the North and we had 12 hours to do it in, and the PA system was going almost non-stop. There was no written distributed plan to work to. It was all done on the PA from Ops. and on the telephone. Motor transport was allocated to all sections who provided their own drivers. Those sections that had no drivers had them allocated with the vehicles and every qualified driver was pressed into service. Workshops were emptied. Vehicles were put together, and those that could not be put on the road were loaded on the backs of others or prepared for towing.

The direction finder vehicle that had been up on the hill without wheels for years was fitted with wheels and brought down. Fuel tankers were filled from the storage tanks and vehicles were filled to the brim. Aircraft tanks were topped up to maximum. A Meteor that had been under repair in the hangar was hastily prepared and in fact took off later with almost flat tyres and was wheels down all the way with the locks in just to be safe.

The messes, offices, stores, the Naafi, the library and armoury were emptied. The armoury in particular was cleared by the simple expedient of issueing [sic] arms to everyone to save transport space so we all finished up with a selection of rifles, pistols, Sten guns, Bren guns, you name it, and as much ammunition as we could

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carry. Work pressed on at an incredible rate. The only refreshment was what one managed to cobble up in the departments and sections…..lunch was not even mentioned, although we were told that meals would be available at Mafraq where a skeleton crew had always provided minimum facilities there as a relief landing ground; even before a new runway had been built on a new site.

Everything that was not bolted down was packed…and some things were unbolted, and as each section was ready to move it was off to the Guard Room where convoys of a minimum of ten vehicles were put together and dispatched by the Service Police. The Squadron Venoms were being flown out followed by the chopper as soon as the Squadron was gone. The fighter control unit that had always operated from a remote site was wrapped up and that was on it's way independantly [sic] as were the British Military personnel on secondment to the Jordanian Government. The RAF Regiment airfield defence units just packed up and went, Bofors guns and all, everyone armed to the teeth and in many cases parties left a certain amount of damage and disruption behind them. Handsfull [sic] of salt and sand did guns and engines considerable damage. The Jordanian Air Force Vampires had all their guns de-harmonised so that they were likely to spray lead all over the place instead of in a concentrated pattern and the Kings personal Tiger Moth was tipped up on it's nose busting it's prop.

The Station thinned out fast. Air Traffic Control, the fire services and the signals cabin were the last to wrap up but the dead-line was met although aircraft were still going in and out with very limited services which pilots were advised of and as we approached the dead-line we lost control of the airfield.

The last civilian aircraft was the BOAC Argonaught from U.K. to Bahrain and although the captain accepted the limitation he had to be sent around again as half a dozen vehicles of the Jordan Arab Army appeared on the airfield weaving about all over the runway and he was obliged to circle whilst we tried to keep them off. The pilot landed eventually under his own responsibility, disembarked and embarked his passengers in double quick time and was off again without a flight plan.

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Our last action was to signal the airfield's closure and change of operating authority before the signals cabin was dismantled and the Pembroke flew out with as many as could be piled in leaving the remaining Air Traffic staff (including me) and the fire services to go by road as soon as the keys were deposited in the Guard Room, so off we set with RAF Police Landrover in the rear. Amman was no longer an RAF base!!!.

Our new home was the new Mafraq airfield being built as part of the NATO plan. It was on the North side of the old oil pipeline on the main route from Damascus to Bagdad opposite the old Mafraq (Dawsons Field), but it was in no way complete.

At least it had a long new runway, some new buildings which had in fact been built as married quarters although there were no barracks as such. Needless to say, they were allocated as barracks even though they lacked lighting, running water or toilet facilities. In fact, water was a very scarce commodity as there was no bore hole, and no water tower so water had to be brought in by a dubious civilian source which could not even be used for cooking until a filtration system was devised. But all these problems were only part of the getting sorted out plan. Later on we found that as we were not far from the foothills of the mountains of southern Syria a water diviner was expected from the UK to pin-point a source. That was put on hold although it should not have been difficult considering that 20 miles to the East there was a large area of marshland and vegetation which was fed by the flood waters from the mountains and some of that found it's way through the middle of the airfield. They had built a large conduit under the runway to take it away in the rainy season!.

However, limited water there was and that was a start. At least once a day we could draw a ration for washing and shaving. Drainage was a different matter. There were no drains so we resorted to the desert encampment method of doing things and the shovels had been at work allready [sic] . Everyone got 'stuck in' and were working like beavers.

The Officers Mess had been set up in an area of bungalows. The Sgts Mess was similarly set up in a clutch of houses and the airmen spread around the incomplete estate. A large wooden building with a kitchen, which had originally been provided

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for the contractors workers was turned into the main mess hall.

As with our departure from Amman there were very few questions asked. Then we had been told to pack up and go. At Mafraq we were just allocated space and it was up to us to set it up. It says a lot for the character of the British serviceman in the way it was done. There was no lack of initiative.

Air Traffic Control had already been set up in a suitable place about half way down the runway in a desert mobile office and our old runway control van. Emergency short range radios took very little time to fit and aerials were promtly [sic] rigged by the signals section as was the direction finder and radar truck although it was only as a radio back-up and even the homing beacon was tied to the side of it on with a lash-up of a mast. As the ATC services were outside the main camp area and main power supply we had our own mobile generator.

The Royal Signals Corp who were [deleted] a [/deleted] our telephone people out there were frantically running lines between departments in the main compound, linking everything through a small PBX in the hub of the whole system, the Ops. room but had saved a lot of cable by actually using the runway lighting cables as phone lines to the ATC centre. There were no lighting units installed anyway just the cables. It would be back to the old parafin [sic] goose-neck flares for a flare-path.

The RAF Regiment were whacking in stakes and spreading coils of barbed wire by the ton to surround the main area of activity which did not include ATC. It was an isolated outpost, but armed to the teeth as was everyone else. Representations had already been made to the CO to turn us in a defensive compound surrounded by wire as we were going to have to maintain a 24 hour watch but we had been given a low priority on that.

Within the stores area was another fleet of vehicles including workshops which had [deleted] previously [/deleted] been part of the Egyptian stores depot that I had previously known nothing about and that played it's part later. Then there was a complete [inserted] mobile [/inserted] fighter control unit but it was not sited or deployed so there were a lot of people without jobs that ops deployed as manpower to wherever it was needed.

Work had been going on at a furious pace and a lot had been done before we arrived in the late evening. To uproot about

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1400 people with all their goods and chatels [sic] , equipment of all kinds, transport, arms andammunition [sic] , fuel, food and cooking facilities plus communications equipment, and set it all up again was quite an achievement and must have given the CO and his senior officers more than a few headaches in planning it in secret the night before.

Work that first day did not stop at five o'clock. It just continued until most things were in place and reported operational before the troops staggered back to the mess hall for soup and sandwiches before drawing bedding and making up beds to finally flop into them; exhausted. What a day it had been although it should be pointed out that it did not all happen on the first day. It was an on going thing and a matter of priorities.

There were two items of private transport parked in the officers mess area. One, the car that had caused a colleague so much trouble to get into the country, and the other, a neat little bright red MG.B. belonging to the Station Commander, or to be precise, his wife. Some months previously King Hussein had made a present of it to the CO. but no sooner that the Embassy heard of it they invoked Queens Rules and Regulations about the acceptance of gifts by serving officers and it was 'no can do'. I do not know who squared it all up, but the King took it back and then presented it to Mrs.C.O. There was no argument with that!.

After a few hours sleep the second day was a memorable one as far as some of us were concerned. There was no need to push anyone and after a quick breakfast the hustle and bustle started again. I had not even had time to go to the airfield for the day shift although we were down to six controllers by that time with postings out and no replacements and having left ATC problems to another controller I had hardly had time to check out the fire services deployment when a message direct from the CO was delivered. It required two controllers, six firemen, two radio mechanics and two other technical trades to muster with tool kits as appropriate, small kit, (essential personal belongings), plus one major fire tender, to return immediately to Amman to put the services back on the air again. It had not taken long for everything to fizzle out and the King had made

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a personal appeal to the Group Captain for assistance. I had no problem in nominating my No.2. A New Zealander, an ex POW like myself who would know how to take care of himself. I went with the fire tender and the others went by air arriving more or less at the same time. I had been delayed a few minutes before setting off as I transferred a couple of cases of Brandy from the Mess stocks to the fire tender…..just in case of emergencies!!!!.

My colleague had already taken stock of the situation and was waiting at the foot of Air Traffic Control when we arrived and we quickly sorted out a plan. A young Jordanian pilot was 'in control' in the tower and was doing his best with a verey pistol and a stock of cartridges which was about to run out as there had been a total breakdown of communications despite, as I had understood, that the civilian terminal facilities were all in place if needed. A bit of 'know how' would have helped, but civil aircraft were still scheduled and something had to be done so everyone went about their business. Within two hours everything was ticking over again. The main generators were started up. Power was back on, batteries were being charged, verey cartridge stocks were replaced by scavenging among the Jordanian Air Force aircraft, tuning had been carried out and crash and rescue services were operational, with limitations, although the Jordanian Air Force appliances would not join ours on the hard-standing but 'control' remained in the hands of the Jordanians. We flatly refused to have anything to do with it....it was their airfield and that was that.

By late afternoon our activities slowed down as intercomms [sic] and radio communications were all back on line so we waited around for something to happen.

Eventually we were rounded up and taken to a mess hail in the Jordanian Air force compound where we were fed. We certainly needed it. We had had nothing for ten hours other than perhaps a small share of a bar of chocolate that someone had thoughtfully put in his kit.

After that we were taken to our accommodation. I could hardly believe it was happening. The keys of two married quarters had been produced from the Guard Room. One was my old quarter and the other the Station Commander's.

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My colleague and I took rooms in my old quarter and we put the men in the CO's residence as it was the larger building but after a good look around we decided that there was plenty of room for all of us in the big house and that we would move in the following day. There was room for us at one end and for the men the other with the lounge designated as a common room. Our stock of drink was added to what we found in the main house. The CO had lived in it right up to the moment we had moved out and hence his wine stocks were still there in his store and side-board. It was an Alladins [sic] cave!. Exactly as he had left it. Nice of him. We promptly appointed one of the Corporals as barman with the responsibilty [sic] of keeping it all secure and out of bounds during the working day. That way we could make it last so after a couple of rounds on the CO we retired for the night.

I must confess that it did seem strange sleeping .in my old quarter again especially as there remained a memento of the previous occupants. A jig-saw puzzle that one of my girls had left was still on the top of a wardrobe!.

We had been warned to be ready for a pick-up at 7:30 the following morning for an 8 o'clock breakfast so we were all formed up in a mini parade when the transport arrived on the dot and were duly conveyed to the same mess hall, where we had had supper the night before.

Most of us were hanging on to the little bit of kit that we had taken with us and had added a few eating and drinking utensils along the way. The quarters were still as they had been left by the last occupant, as per inventory; down to the last pepper pot... but who cared!. There were two ex POW's who had been obliged to eat with the fingers before, and were not taking any more chances.

We had a good breakfast and at 8:30 we were asked to wait for instructions as there was a great deal of activity ouside [sic] and we did not have to wait long before we found out what we were going to do next.

The mess hall was totally encircled by armed troops standing shoulder to shoulder and an officer told us that we were to stay put until things were sorted out. We were under house arrest!.

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By mid-morning the sorting out had been done as we just sat around twiddling our thumbs until we were asked to assemble outside as we were going to the airfield...but not before being asked for the keys to the fire tender!. There was no point in arguing so I reluctantly handed them over and then we were escorted to the airfield where we waited a little longer before our Pembroke came in so we all piled in. The pilot, who happened to be the Group Captain did not bother to shut down the engines. It was certainly not built to carry that many so it was a bit of a squeeze and it was even more of a squeeze to get it off the runway too. We used every bit of it and every bit of power that was available. We used all of the runway and just lifted off with everything straining all the way to land at Mafraq a few minutes later with some very hot engines. So much for that little expedition!!.

The CO did not say a lot apart from suggesting that there would have to be an enquiry into the loss of my fire engine and I think [deleted] g [/deleted] my answer was something to the effect that it might as well be done by the same board that would do the enquiry into the loss of his airfield!, but it was only a formality really in order to get it struck off and replaced.

In the meantime things had really been going on apace at our new base. The barbed wire had been strengthened. Trenches and gun pits had been dug. Sand bags were piled up all over the place including the fuel dump, the aircraft dispersals and other vulnerable places....including Air Traffic Control. That was at least no longer stuck out on a limb but a whole new pattern of life had emerged.

The station was on Red Alert permanently which was a rare situation for peace-time. Everyone was still armed to the teeth and the Amman party had reclaimed their weapons from the armoury. On reflection it was as well that we had not been armed when we had gone back otherwise I am sure that it would have meant another enquiry into the loss of our weapons.

The old Mafraq desert airfield had been completely deserted and everyone was confined to the new camp area. Aircraft had been shuttling to and from Cyprus and Habbanyia. Essential supplies were coming in and non-essential personnel were being flown out as a lot of adjustment was taking place.

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Air Traffic Control was still being maintained on a 24 hour shift system so the few that had been doing the job were only too pleased to spread the job out a bit. We all had secondary duties to perform as well so we were kept busy.

The Army had opened the Post Office again and some mail was already beginning to filter through from the UK but we had been advised that outgoing mail was being censored at Nicosia so there would be delays in that direction.

I was desperate for news of my wife who had not been well prior to leaving Amman and had had a dreadful time going through Cyprus, Stansted and subsequently through Hendon before being able to catch the first train out of Victoria in the cold early dawn of an English winter. She had caught a chill. Her nerves were shot to pieces and it was just as well that she had opted to go back to her parents home in Worthing where she could be looked after much better than if she had gone to a transit camp at Blackpool which had been one of the options.

From her most recent letters it was obvious that she was still unwell and was not being helped by the disruption of the mail from our part of the world either.

All our goods and chatels [sic] which had been flown out of Amman was somewhere en-route so a lot of new clothing had to be purchased and it was not easy but somehow she was coping. For the girls it had all been quite an experience although even they were glad to settle down in the local school once more.

Our daily routine developed into something like normality once more. There was plenty of ammunition and we could spend as much time as we wanted on the range which had been quickly set up but in a very short space of time we set up our own on the airfield with aid of a borrowed bulldozer. I had qualified as a range safety officer at Mareham [sic] so we soon got clearance to do our own thing. The targets were of the tin and bottle kind and there is nothing like practice to improve marksmanship!.

One also learns considerable respect in the handling of firearms provided that the basic rules are observed, and they were. No fooling about. A gun should always be handled as if it was loaded so loading and unloading and cleaning, going on and off duty never produced one incident of mis-handling...fortunately!.

Aircraft continued to go in and out, and in most instances we

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had notification as soon as our communication with the outside world had been re-established. It was all radio and radio teleprinters of course so with all the coding and de-coding that was required the signals cabin was going flat out.

We were very surprised one morning we we [sic] went off-duty after a busy night with Hasting's coming and going to find that we had several heavy artillery peices [sic] already dug in, sandbagged and manned by the R. A. ready for use. The question was, against who?.

We were not left in doubt for very long. Within 24 hours of their arrival the news hit us that combined French and British forces had invaded Egypt and the Suez Canal Zone and then we were immediately on a war readyness [sic] state.

News was limited to the personal radios that many still had but the fresh restrictions under which we were then placed gave us more to worry about.

Diplomatic relations with other Arab countries were broken off and we could no longer use the air route across Syria to Cyprus and all traffic had to be routed via Habbanyia(Iraq) and Turkey. Isreal [sic] was at war with Egypt and Jordan. Iraq was making protests in respect of our presence and Cyprus was suffering some internal unrest from a regigious [sic] rebel. And we were sitting in the middle!.

That particular episode is but another chapter of history, so it might as well be left to the historians to write it down. All I was aware of at the time was that it was another fine mess I was in.

The daily routine went on but perhaps the biggest headache of all was the acute shortage of water. Tanks, water carriers and bowsers of every sort were pressed into service for storage. There were no laundry facilities and it soon became neccesary [sic] to institute bathing parades for about twenty people at a time to strip wash at a water bowser and then dunk clothes at the same time. It was not very well received by some of the more sensitive youngsters, many of them national servicemen but thank goodness the weather was still fairly warm with the odd shower from time to time. At least when it did rain Air Traffic Control had a plentiful supply with the benefit of the stream that ran under the runway. More than enough on one occasion after a really

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heavy downpour when a great deal of rubbish was carried along in the flood which blocked the grating and then diverted the stream over the runway!. A useful job for the fire services.

The rain did bring some other problem though as the airfield had been built right across an age old camel route from the North right down into Saudi Arabia. Camel trains naturally followed the water supply and took years to go each way with many young being born en-route.

The older animals knew the route instinctively and invariably travelled in the cool of the night with the herders fast asleep in the saddle but it played merry hell when they blundered into barbed wire and other things like an airfield across their path. There was a great deal of growling, bellowing and other noises that camels make as some of them got tangled up.

Some wire had been strung out earlier to divert them from their route but it was a waste of time. You only had to look at a camel to realise that going around it was very far from their minds. The easiest way was to remove it and thoroughly inspect the runway at night before it was. I think it save a lot in compensation too!.

I had one piece of good news anyway. The two cases of Brandy that I had diverted from the bar stocks were written off and did not get charged to my mess bill, the paperwork for which had all been brought from Amman. It would not have cost much anyway. At approximately 50p a bottle it would not have been more than £12 in total in those days!.

Since we had moved to Mafraq our rations had been fairly basic although with the air supply we had been topped up and were adequate for several weeks if we had been completely bottled up. Nevertheless. the NAAFI manager, who was a member of our mess and in fact shared a room with me, decided that he would do something really special for one week-end and set to work with some 'surplus' stocks to make an enormous pie. In a bath tub!.

In went four chickens, obtained locally, followed by several pounds of bacon. The contents of several tins of pork and sausage meat. Corned beef, spices, all suitably spiced and sloshed into the tub with several dozen halves of boiled eggs. The pastry took umpteen pounds of flour and fat to make the lining and

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the lid and when finally decorated was a near masterpiece as the 60lb. pie was hoisted into the oven.

After hours of cooking and cooling it was finally brought ceremoniously into the dining room with all the solemnity usually reserved for a royal haggis. It really did look good with it's pastry leaves and rosettes all glistening with the overall glazing. It cut beautifully and tasted gorgoeus [sic] . Certainly it seemed worth all the effort that had been put into it….until the following day!.

Some people said it was due to a richness that we had not been used to, others reckoned it was over indulgence but the medical officer decided that as the medical centre was inundated with officers going sick that perhaps the ingredients were not as fresh as they might have been. The local chickens were suspect even though they had been bought live. (You did not normally buy anything of that sort out there unless it was on the hoof or still clucking). So the MO had the last word and condemned it to be consigned to the fire. I thought it was a great shame. I had had a double portion and I was OK, and so was the NAAFI manager who took out a large chunk before disposal. And we still did not come to any harm. Need one say more!.

There was one weekly event that many people turned out to see. It was the 'train' that went through from Damascus to Bagdad a few miles from us, usually on the far side of the old Dawsons Field, only it was not on rails. It was a huge Mercedes locomotive/coach with a trailer coach like a gigantic silver caterpillar. It's wheels were between 7 and 8 feet in height with great balloon tyres that looked as if they had come off of a Stirling. With a crew of drivers, engineers, radio operators navigators and stewards it just bored majestically along like the proverbial ship of the desert in a plume of exhaust smoke and a cloud of sand. It really was an impressive sight as it went through. Unfortunately I was never in a position to photograph it as zoom and telephoto lenses were not so readily available as they are today.

After [sic] while the rigid restrictions were eased a little although we were required to wear uniform all the time. Everything to the West of us and that included the town of Zerqua was still out of bounds but we could go in small parties Eastwards to

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the marshes where there was some wildfowl and some remnants of an ancient civilisation.

Among them were the ruins of an old Bysantine [sic] town which still bore the marks of the progress of the Crusaders that had passed that way hundreds of years before. The most amazing thing was the size of the building blocks. Something like 4ft square and there was still a lot of it standing. Mostly it was being used as a shelter for camels which were being looked after by a motley collection of very ragged boys who surprised us by having a smattering of broken English. In fact they even looked a little European and I will say no more about that other than to note that the British had been in those parts for a long time!.

The method of construction was to remain a mystery as we could find no books on the subject in our limited library but generally it must have followed the same ancient techniques used by the Romans and the Pharoes [sic] , who seemed to be able to move huge quantities of stone with only crude equipment…..and a lot of expendable manpower. In one wall there was a door of solid stone 18ins. thick, some 4ft by 5ft hung by 3ins. pegs, hewn out of the solid, which was perfect fit and capable of being swung to and fro' in balance by a finger touch. Quite remarkable, and a welcome outing in a place like that provided some relief from our normal routine.

I took the opportunity to fly down to Aquaba on one accasion [sic] . The firemen down there were on detachment originally from Amman on a rotational basis and some of them had been there overlong. I had been badgering the CO. for a long time and eventually got clearance to go down and swap three of them over, as well as taking what mail there was. Mail had been very spasmodic as the lines of communication kept changing.

When we were in Egypt the run out of Fayid to Amman used to parachute the mail into Aquaba and aircraft landed infrequently. When Egypt packed up some went by sea and some went via Amman and then it all got held up until it went via Cyprus and Amman and then the routing was changed to Cyprus/Habbanyia/Mafraq with the inevitable delays. With only limited communications between Mafraq and Aquaba three firemen had a nice surprise when they found that they were being relieved. I tried to find my cousin but learned that he had already returned to the UK.

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At his age he was due to end his long service with the army and at last get the sand out of his shoes. I could understand how he felt after all the years he had spent in Mesopotamia [sic] before the war and he was no doubt relieved to get out of another of many tight spots including the evacuation from Dunkirk.

We had a very nice surprise one day when a couple of young English nurses in an old banger presented themselves at the main gate asking for shelter for the night.

They were en-route from the UK to India the hard way. Right across the continent, a hop from Turkey to Cyprus. Another to Beruit [sic] and Damascus, then following the route of the old Hadj railway to Zerkqa before setting off across the desert for Bagdad they found an out-post of the British Empire on their route so it changed their plans a little.

Room and board was found for them. They were fed and rested and their old banger, which was actually in better condition than it looked, was serviced by the MT. section who were only too pleased to have something different to do. After spending a couple of nights with us they were given a resounding send off and good luck to them. There was still some spirit of adventure left that was for sure. They were not the only women to undertake such a daunting journey.

When the families were being evacuated from Amman there was one lady who decided to drive the family car back to the UK. If they had had as much trouble in getting the car into the country as my colleague then there some logic in it, but she took two youngsters as well.

We heard that she had made it after many weeks on the road and her route had taken her out of Jordan into Syria. Then further on into Turkey, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Austria, Germany and Belgium before it became neccesary [sic] to cross the last ditch...the Channel!. Some journey. Nearly 3000 miles. Who said that women were the weaker sex.

We were still losing controllers without replacement. The next one to go was the same chap who had imported the car and the NAAFI manager was being posted back home as well so they went together. They filled up the car with their kit, fuel and supplies and they set off for the 500 mile plus journey to Habbanyia following the pipe-line towards Bagdad and Basra.

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The pipe-line was the best possible navigational feature for crossing the desert as there was no road then. Just the pipe-line and a string of desert air-strips that were generally American oil company manned with their own system of communication. All that for a pipe-line that had not pumped oil for years!.

My wife was continuing to have a rough time of it and for some reason was not getting all of my letters. Her nerves were still bad and she was having a lot of treatment whilst I was still stuck in that place. True, we had the facilities of mess life and the Squadron pilots who were not doing much flying had set themselves the task of starting up a cinema in a marquee. The RAF Film Service had fallen down on the job and nothing was coming in other than privately arranged 16mm films from Habbanyia and using the 16mm projectors that were supplied for training films we managed some form of entertainment. Our original 35mm equipment in our cinema had been left behind in Amman but we coped even though we had to stop the programme to change reels and it very often went out of synchronization...accompanied by hoots of laughter.

A games night in the mess on one occasion provided a little distraction but it was a night that I fear I became a little unpopular with the organisers, The Squadron pilots of course. It was a games night with a difference as it was turned into a gambling den despite the fact that normal mess rules forbad the playing of games for money. Anyway, our conditions were far from normal and I recall that the bank was holding it's own at most tables but the roulette wheel favoured me to the extent that I broke the bank. The first time was not so bad and after they had raised more funds I broke it again!. They said it was only for fun so I gave all my winning back and retired but I am sure that I would not have got my shirt back if I had lost it....but it was still a lot of fun despite the fact that the CO made some very disapproving remarks. He and I were not on very good terms by that time.

Our relationship had not been improved by another incident when I was Duty officer one night and one of the patrols called in to report that there were suspicious noises on one section of the perimeter according to the Guard Sgt, like tank track noises. I was just a link in the chain and passed the report on to OPs.

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centre. The CO decided to go out with the Guard Commander and found that it was only echoes from a generator exhaust and I got the stick for it. Still, I would have got a lot more if it had been a tank probing our defences and I had not reported it. As usual it was a 'no-win' situation for me.

We still did not know quite what to expect or from where. The Suez invasion was all but over. We had driven a wedge between the Egyptians and the Isrealies [sic] and they had agreed to pull back. Our troops were withdrawing and it was a very tricky situation not improved by the recriminations and world opinion on our role in the whole affair, and all was not quite what it seemed on the surface.

We had been warned that the odd Canberra might be making a dash for us from Cyprus but we had a bit of a shock to learn that on one occasion an RAF Canberra out on a high photographic recce' over Syria had something on his tail that he had not quite expected. A Syrian, (Russian made.), SAM 7 heat seeking missile!, and unfortunately it found him. As far as I recall one member of the crew was killed, the other was captured and was returned some time later when the situation had eased a bit. Not a lot was said about it.

Christmas 1956 came and a great time was had by all. The Officers and NCO's served the men in time honoured fashion. There was too much to drink and rationing was forgotten for that day. Unknown talents emerged with a station concert and a station song with many bawdy verses was produced along with one or two daft acts on stage. I am not sure what time lunch finished that afternoon but I reckoned we owed ourselves that.

My tour of duty, 2 1/2 years, was coming to an end and like most people I cherished the date which was bodly [sic] marked on my calender [sic] . In the old days it would have been "roll on that bloody boat" as the song goes although in the circumstances it was roll on any form of transport when I reported to the Adjutant for confirmation that the repatriation procedure would soon be be [sic] put in motion. I was devestated [sic] when I was told that I was being deferred as they could no longer afford to lose people without replacement. It did not take long to arrange for an appointment to see the CO only to be told that there was no appeal, the decision had been made although after we had been

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closeted for a while with some man to man talking and the production of some letters from my wife and her Doctors he accepted the fact that I might have a good case so he would see what he could do. He owed me that at least after one incident that ocurred [sic] between us that needs no airing so I was left sweating it out for a while.

Fortunately it did not take too long and I was soon involved in the paperwork to clear the unit, obtain an air priority and wait for another week before, I at last found myself on an aircraft for Habbanyia.

As soon as I got into the transit mess there was my colleague who had driven there in his car still trying to get it down to Basra but otherwise enjoying himself.

I found it very difficult to enjoy myself even when every day was virtually a holiday whilst I waited for a seat on an aircraft when I was so desperate to get home. My priority rating was still the basic, the bottom of the list!, so all I had to do was wait.

Fortunately I knew a lot of people at Habbanyia and was invited out quite a lot. I also saw a lot more of Habbanyia and on one occasion a party of us got together for a day trip to Bagdad.

That was a forty mile taxi journey each way across the desert as there did not appear to be a road and the return journey was of course done at night. I can only think that those drivers navigated by the various clumps of rocks that loomed up from time to time as there was nothing else to indicate which way to go except the stars.

In Bagdad we broused [sic] around, up the street of the goldsmiths, down the street of the silversmiths and up the street of the ivory carvers and in an about sampling the sights.

It was not possible to photograph all that I would have liked to as it seemed that the Iraqi army was guarding almost every street corner. Photographs had to be taken very discreetly after the first occasion that a threatening rifle was pointed in our direction, but it was a good day just the same.

I was still kicking my heels after a week without having been called forward so I buttonholed a Valetta captain that I had known at Fayid who was flying a freighter to Cyprus the following day and he agreed to take me as supernumarary [sic] crew. Air Movements

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staff agreed and I was out on the airfield, baggage, hangover and all by 7am, after very little sleep. I wish I had had the good sense to have abstained but it had all developed into another fairwell [sic] party and I don't think I have ever felt so bad before. I almost signed the pledge [underlined] again!. [/underlined]

The thunder of the take-off just about scrambled every nerve in the brain-box but that was only half of it. We were of course taking the roundabout route going North-West to cross the Turkish border then West over the mountains and the Valetta thundered it's way up to 16,000ft with the crew on oxygen, all except the supernumary [sic] crew member who did not have an oxygen mask so I cupped a spare outlet hose in my hands with it on full flow I gulped and and [sic] gulped until the hammering in my head became a little more bearable. I was very glad when we turned South and started letting down clear of the mountains on the last leg to Cyprus. What a blessed relief it was to touch down at Nicosia and sample that first cup of coffee in the transit lounge.

With thanks to the pilot for the completion of one more leg of the journey behind me I reported for documentation and when that was done found myself signing for a Smith & Wesson .38 with six rounds and a printed set of instructions before being transported to a hotel in a quiet area of Nicosia. Basically the istructions [sic] were to the effect that if I was out in public I had to be prepared to defend myself although the natives seemed friendly enough on the surface there was still an undercurrent of dissent. Most of the troops that had invaded Egypt who had used Cyprus as a jumping off point had been withdrawn and I certainly had no intention of going very far on my first day in Cyprus. I was in need of a lot of sleep.

The following day, fully refreshed, I was off to re-visit Nicosia city centre and I was dammed if I wanted to take a pistol stuck in my belt like some bandit as all my webbing had been packed away in my 'deep-sea' kit so I left it in my room.

I was wandering along quite happily taking in the sights down a main street when a car pulled up alonside [sic] with a screech of brakes and my immediate thought was...'whoops-here is trouble' and I turned quickly to asses [sic] the situation only to see a chap that I had known in Amman who said with some urgency "Tom Gamble,

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get in you bloody fool", so I did.

It turned out that I had been strolling down 'murder mile' where more than one bloke had bitten the dust in recent months. He was more concerned afterwards that I was not armed but who knows, perhaps it was because I was not that I did not become a target. He lived in a bungalow not far from the Hotel so that's where we finished up for tea, dinner and drinks on more than one occasion.

He was a useful chap to know being one of the Air Movements and despite the fact that I had been told that I would be called forward when a flight became available I didn't think a daily visit to Air Movements would do me any harm, if only to be sure that I-was not overlooked. Not that he could expedite my passage. That was determined by my priority and a long waiting list but we chatted about this that and the other and he told me there was a compound in the freight area with all the Amman baggage in it so we went to have a look. Under a large tarpaulin was a huge pile of boxes and on investigation we found all the Gamble's unmistakable boxes on the edge of the pile. I couldn't mistake those boxes. One of them had been my father-in-law's tool chest and another had belonged to an Uncle who I had never known, who had been killed in France during WW1. He had had it made in India so it was certainly well travelled. Anyway, they had already been there three months and whether he exercised his perogotive [sic] or not they were back in the UK two weeks later.

I had many a pleasant time with his family for odd meals and parties as well as a couple of runs out into the country and to the coastal resorts of Limosol [sic] and Lanarca as the days went by.

Despite the fact that I checked daily with Air Movements the answer was getting monotonous, "sorry, not today" was not what I wanted to hear and seriously thought of using the knowledge of my wife's condition to 'up' the priority although I had already sent a cable to her to let her know I was in Cyprus and still waiting when, at last, after a week I was told that I was allocated for the following day so all the paperwork was done. I sent another cable to say I would be on my way and duly reported with baggage, ready to go. I actually got as far as the steps to the aircraft when a Service Policeman came rushing

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up with an Air Movements Cpl and a harassed looking airman with a suitcase. Papers were waived and I was taken off of the manifest to go back into transit. The airman had compassionate grounds for getting home in a hurry and that's the way it worked. He had a higher priority than I did and unless you were very senior it was usually an officer who had to give way. It cost me another cable to say I was further delayed.

Air Movements confirmed that I would be away the following day and I think I went to bed that night with everything crossed but it all went according to plan. There was another emergency boarding but that time it did not effect me as my priority had gone up one as a result of the previous day's cancellation, so I was off at last in a chartered Eagle Air Lines Viking stopping; at Nice for refuelling and thence to Stansted and finally to Hendon for disposal. After that I was on my way to Worthing, home and family.

That was the end of my Middle East tour. All that packed into two years and seven months!. By that time it was the beginning of February 1957 and I was not thinking too much about my next appointment. I would know all about that when I reported to the Air Ministry within the customary 48 hours of my arrival in the UK. Family business was of the highest priority as it was obvious that Dorothy was far from well with a nervous disorder so before I reported to Air Ministry I got a letter from her doctor and was prepared for any problems that might arise.

I need not have worried. The Personnel Staff could not have been more sympathetic and sorted out a posting for one that was beyond any wildest dreams. Tangmere, just 18 miles from Worthing so off I went with two weeks dis-embarkation leave to sort things out.

It did not take long to get a small car and we visited Tangmere to take a look at what was to be our new home and to complete an application for Married Quarters which we were told, would be available soon and another visit to the Senior Controller soon put me in the picture. There was one small problem. It was another 24 hour shift working Air Traffic Control situation. Another of the many geographically placed units that provided an emergency service although that would not present much of

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a problem once I was in quarters. I was used to sleeping away from home....although that did not mean that I liked it.

The two weeks went very quickly but at least we made the most of it. We got out and about visiting family as part of the process of rehabilitating my wife until it was time to report for duty and once again after the arrival formalities I was up in the control tower ready to start local training to bring me up to the very high standard required on such a busy unit.

There were two resident Squadrons. One of Meteor night fighters and the other of Hunter day fighters and their activities ensured that Tangmere was not going to be dull. A controllers handling capability had to be brought up to being able to cope with up to eight aircraft at a time....and that was pushing it!. What took a little time to get used to was the fact that every time I was up in the tower I was looking down on an area of tarmac where only 12 years previously I had been de-loused on repatriation from a German POW camp, but it was the general atmosphere of the place that I found so fascinating. To me it was like being on hallowed ground and all rather pleasant after my recent experiences and somewhat comforting to find that I had served previously with three of the controllers.

Within a matter of weeks I was put to the final test required by the Senior Controller and was certificated for solo watchkeeping and bit by bit I was also creeping up the married quarters waiting list until one day I was allocated a quarter.

Unfortunately it all went sour the following day when I was told that it had been re-allocated to the Medical Officer!. It was not very well received at home although I was told that another would be allocated in a few days so I was reluctant to have made the protest that I could have done. My knowledge of the regulations told me that as a National Serviceman the M.O. did not qualify for quarters!, but it was politic to let it ride.

Within a matter of days I was allocated a quarter for the second time and there was considerable excitement in the family when they were told that we would be moving soon.

It was either the next day or the following one when I went on duty that I was told, yet again, that it was being re-allocated. I could not believe it. If I had done that sort

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of thing when I had been looking after quarters at Coningsby I think I would have been lynched but that time I did not take it laying down. It did not take long to find out that it had been allocated to the new O.C Flying Wing, (my boss, two steps up) on ex officio grounds, meaning that the quarter goes with the post irrespective of the waiting list. That was the regulation and as such it was acceptable, apart from the fact that the out going Wing Commander was still occupying a Quarter!. As far as I was concerned that was not on and if I was go home and tell Dorothy once more that we were further delayed the next thing that I would be doing was resigning my commission. I had just about had enough too but after more consideration than I would have given most problems I asked to see the Station Commander, Group Captain Hughie Edwards.VC, among many other decorations, and with tounge [sic] in cheek put my case as succinctly as I could. A change from my usual bull at a gate tactic. Out came the relevant order, in came the OC Admin, and the S/Ldr Admin and the Station Adjutant, the order was taken apart with a decision in my favour and apologies for the cock-up. After that it was my turn to apologise for having the temerity to make such a protest and it all ended up without anyone being upset and within a week we were in quarters. I can think of one or two CO's who would not have reached a similar decision whatever the regulations but enough said about that.

Before we moved our boxes had at last been delivered to Worthing and we didn't know whether to laugh or cry when they were opened up. Customs had already been through some of them and they had been badly repacked. Crockery, glass and ornaments had been broken. Clothes had gone mouldy and had to be thrown away. Linen that we thought was white when we packed it was a nice shade of brown as a result of a couple of pounds of Jordanian and Cypriot sand in each box a lot of which had filtered into the sewing machine box requiring a complete overhaul of that to avoid further damage. Nevertheless, most of it was usable. Just one of the snags of living out of a suitcase and boxes for years but we settled into our new home and a comfortable routine was soon established. The girls were soon back to school and there was continual family movement to and from Worthing as we picked up the threads of a more settled life and Dorothy's

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health began to improve. It really was turning out to be a very a happy unit too, and I had become the Station Fire Officer again!. It was suggested that I should go on the Fire Officers short course at one time but I cast that one aside. "No thanks, Iv'e[sic] had enough on the job experience" and left it at that. I didn't protest when the phone was put in though. Being out of my bed every fourth night I could cope with but I was trying to avoid being away from home any longer than that for a while.

It was shortly after we had settled into the routine that I heard the sequel to the Mafraq situation. Not a lot was mentioned by the media and I got most of the information from my correspondence with friends but apparently within a few weeks of my departure we abandoned the place. It was quite an operation. Again, everything was made mobile. Vehicles got armour plating and Bren gun mountings. Some 400 vehicles that had been in the Maintenance Unit were made ready and loaded with all the other stores, preparations for which were going on before I left as that many vehicles require a lot of batteries but the distilation [sic] plant did not have the capacity to produce the required amount of distilled water. Even at that point a decision had been made to use any sort of water and throw the batteries away after a short life. All had been put together in a very large convoy of 600 vehicles were fuelled and provisioned for the 500 mile journey, armed to the teeth still, the aircraft were flown out so off they set off with air cover and air supply all the way to Habbanyia.

Quite an experience for a 'peace-time' operation. There was no real problem and eventually it all finished up at Basra for shipment.

I eventually heard from the chap who had had all the problem with his car. It did eventually get to Basra and subsequently back to the UK, as deck cargo on the Ark Royal, very scratched and bent with a lot of bits missing. There was a car with a history!,.

One of the biggest surprises that I got one day was a bill from the accounts department; for1s & 7d, (7 1/2 pence in today's money) for 'barrack damages' on the occasion of leaving my quarter in Amman. It was for the deficiency of one wash basin plug!. Absolutlely [sic] incredible after all the millions of pounds that

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the evacuations had cost the Government. And I get a bill for 7 1/2 pence!. When I approached the Accountant Officer with a suggestion that it ought to have been written off he was adament [sic] . It had to be cleared from the books and although it cost me more than 7 1/2 p in stamp duty I paid it by cheque just to make a point. How bloody silly!.

Secondary duties were always coming the way of Air Traffic Controllers and one that fell in my lap was an audit of the bedding store inventory. I had a full briefing for that one and the appropriate Air Ministry Order thrust under my nose to reinforce the importance of checking thoroughly. It was the first time that I seen the order and it was almost word for word of the paper that I had put forward years previously so obviously it was an successful system. I wonder who got a pat on the back for that?. Certainly not me.

On one fine day up in the top tower doing airfield control with a few Hunters flashing around the circuit I knew by the clatter of footsteps on the stairs behind me that the party of .Air Cadets that I had was expecting were about to descent upon me and on turning to meet them was astonished to find that Peter Hobbs who had been the Navigator in the same crew as myself on Stirlings in 1943 was the officer in charge. I don't know who was the most surprised and for a while I was far too busy for any conversation although later on when it was quieter we really did get down to business. I picked him up later in the day to come home for tea and later for a drink in the Mess and we had a lot to chat about but the extraordinary thing was that when we met umpteen years later he had no recollections of the meeting at all, although at least he could remember coming to my wedding. That is more than Paddy Martin the Flight Engineer could!.

As we got into the Summer I had a feeling that all was going too well to last. In July I was dispatched to Shawbury for an eight week Radar course. Just as the kids school holidays were coming up. Nevertheless, I took some local accommodation at Wem and managed to live out for nearly a month. That gave everyone a change and a chance to tour new areas and a great deal of Wales as well. It actually made a very nice break for us all and although it was my second visit try Shawbury it was not to be my last.

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I passed out of that course with possibly the best mark that I had ever achieved despite it's intensity and in due course reported back to Tangmere for duty.

There was of course the usual period under instruction but I was certificated after ten days and back on watchkeeping duties with the ability to be rotated anywhere in the control system.

Ground Controlled Approach as the radar system was called was most satisfying and there were many occasions when I was required to pull out all the stops. It was very demanding but rewarding nevertheless. Some of the highlights of my experiences in GCA are firmly imprinted on my mind.

One occasion that I remember well, and I think my younger brother will as well, was when I was on stand-by on the end of the telephone at home and he was staying with us as he was also recovering from a nervous disorder following a matrimonial problem. I took him with me when I was called out.

The alerting system had already brought the equipment up from the stand-by mode to full power as we raced for the operations truck and I made contact with the tower as I slid into my seat. I put him on a spare headset and was pointing out the significant blobs on the radar screen and after that concentrated on the job in had [sic] , showing him the progress of the blob from time to time. The customer was a diverted Hastings from abroad and although our weather was bad elsewhere was even worse so with 600 yards visibility and a 200ft cloud base I got stuck into my very first operational talk-down. I had been on the other end often enough and knew that it was not easy to handle an aeroplane completely on instruments, boring into the murk, descending at around 130mph. That was probably why I always projected myself into the cockpit when doing talk-downs and felt as if I was virtually holding hands with the pilot and everything went smoothly. The pilot had a full instrument rating and the rest was up to me. When we came to the critical bit, just in the bottom of the cloud at half a mile from the runway threshold he was as steady as a rock, still doing around 120mph, in contact with the approach lights through the murk to the point of touch-down when I flicked the transmitter switch off to hear the pilot report "on the runway" as I turned to where my brother should have been to as I said "I'll open the door

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and you will see him go by"....he was not there. The strain had been too much. He was flat out on the floor and although he did not take long to recover he vowed that would never place himself in that siuation [sic] again and was very glad to get back to the house where a drop of the hard stuff restored him. I don't know if it was the shock treatment but he made good progress after that and got his feet firmly on the ground again.

Another visitor to the tower one day sent a few people into a panic as the sight of a policeman' uniform will often do. Even if you have done nothing wrong. Nothing you can remember anyway!. It was my wife's cousin, a local police patrol Sgt who was making a courtesy call, and in the course of our conversation he conveyed his Inspectors compliments. It had come out during a chat that he was none other than the chap who had been in the same hut as me in Stalag 11d, Nuremburg POW camp. It certainly was a small world!.

Our Senior Controller had a unique talent. He was in great demand to perform party tricks with cards and the like but his best performance was as a Hynotist [sic] .

Like most-people I was sceptical even when I saw people doing quite remarkable things, under the 'influence' I was still not convinced. Not until I was included in a group session. When the preliminary process of selection and conditioning had been done and I was told that my right arm was heavy and I could not lift it I said to myself "rubbish', I will show him. But I couln't [sic] , or my leg when we got round to that any more than I could stop the daft answers to questions coming out of any mouth when I tried not to say them. After that I was convinced and knew that people who were. getting drunk on a glass of, water, acting like chickens and other animals were not just part of the act. I submitted myself to several sessions and it was to be the same every time. He really did have control and was very good but the CO. put a stop to group sessions particularly if any of the pilots were involved. He reckoned that pilots were too vulnerable and did not want any talked into the ground!. Although it was most unlikely as one has to submit oneself to hypnosis it was perhaps a wise move.

We were getting into the Autumn of that year when I collected another secondary duty, that of taking charge of the Corporals

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Club, and on the face of it it seemed easy enough. Like a lot of other things that had come my way!. I soon found out that picking up the takings every morning, and checking the books and cash in hand and stock-taking once a week was a job that I could do without. The takings were very small. There seemed to be no more than half-a-dozen people making use of the place on any night and as far as I was concerned it hardly justified the services of two part time volunteer barmen and yours truly putting in two hours every week when over a hundred Corporals never even bothered to stick their noses in the place. That's the bit that peeved me most and I was 'piggy in the middle' again. For all that if anything that went wrong I was the fall guy.

A survey showed that for the year that it had been operating the takings had never reached what I would call reasonable proportions, albeit it was a non-profit making set-up, and the NAAFI manager confirmed that when the Cpl's bar had been run by them it had not needed any extra staff. That was enough for me and called a general meeting of the club with only two items on the agenda. One, "do you regularly make use of the club facilities;" and two, "would it make any difference to you if it was to revert to NAAFI management", The vote was a unanimous NO to each item and armed with the results of my survey and the minutes of the meeting I presented my case to the CO. When he realised that an officer was spending more time on Cpl's club business than most of the Cpls made of the facilities he agreed immediately to it's disbandment. He did make the observation though that as I had not appeared to be keen on taking the job anyway was my action the easy way out. A straight "yes" surficed [sic] !.

We were still making the most of Tangmere and the area, there was always something going on. On one occasion the Mess laid on a Battle of Britain garden party with invitations to all and sundry including of course many of the 'Few' who had fought from Tangmere. The invitation list was very impressive and I was awed by the prospect of being in such illustrious company. It was a schoolboy's dream come true.

Douglas Bader was there doing his usual stomping around and chatting with his old chums and gold braid seemed to be dripping

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everywhere. I spotted one of the 'Few', a Group Captain who had been my boss when I had been at Transport Command HQ. If ever I am asked about my most embarressing [sic] incident what happened next is certainly one of many.

I tried several times to catch his eye if only to make my presence known so when he eventually looked in my direction and approached I thought it would be an opportunity to make small talk for a while. He never seemed to notice although I had my hand stuck out to grasp his he went right by and gabbed the hand of an elderly steward who was behind me. As I looked in amazement at him pumping the arm of the steward he looked around at me and said "sorry Gamble, I couldn't let this bloke go, d 'you know, he was my batman in 1940". Then I understood and I knew that he had got his priorities right so I retired to the refreshment tent.

With the winter approaching the GCA became more and more important to our activities. On one occasion we had a flight of three Hunters of the Royal Netherlands Air Force notified but our weather deteriorated very quickly as they were on there way and when they did arrive they only had a very limited fit of frequencies which were already cluttered up by other traffic using Ford and Hayling Island. They were also quite low on fuel and on that day I think I created a precedence in Air Traffic Control by declaring an emergency 'Mayday' on the frequency requesting all other users to clear the channel. Needless to say it worked and with the GCA operator monitoring their progress they poured down from the overhead and landed without a hitch in what were still very poor conditions but a quite oblivious to the fact that the situation could have been much more serious. Another less successful incident was the talk-down of a diverted Valetta from overseas. His destination was below his limits and ours were marginal but three times I talked him down to the half mile decision point but he would not go that little bit further and overshot each time. After the third time he asked for a further diversion and was sent to Manston. I felt very sad about the end result of that. I know he was in the right place to make a touch-down but either he was sticking to the rules or he was lacking confidence in me. We will never know. The runway at Manston was icy, he braked and slid after

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landing, dipped a wing and pranged in a ball of fire and all of the crew were killed.

On another occasion I was on duty on a dirty Saturday morning in what was our published availability time for the Radar. We had not been warned of any traffic, the equipment was in the stand-by mode and I was in the crew van with my feet up sipping a cup of coffee when the tower controller came on the intercom. He only said two words, "urgent...in" and I was off to the operations vehicle with the mechanic at the double.

The mechanic started building up to full power as fast as was permissable [sic] as I contacted the tower to be told that we were taking on a Sea Vixen from Ford as there [sic] radar had just packed up as they were recovering aircraft from the Victorious in the Channel. The tower controller was positioning the aircraft into the pattern on time and bearings as my picture was filling in and I had already been told that he was short of fuel. Why the Fleet Air Arm had to fly to such tight limits I do not know but as soon as I had him in contact and he had changed to my frequency I asked him to confirm his fuel state and he quite calmly said "I can't overshoot if that's what you mean", so it was going to have to be a first timer.

I suppose my voice was calm enough, my directions accurate enough and his flying precise enough for him to ignore any limitations to make a perfect touch-down and then he promptly ran out of fuel on the runway as he was saying his 'thank you's'. I wonder though, if he was anything like me absolutely saturated in persperation [sic] !. All part of a day's work.

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Page 170 is missing

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Part of ‘Nil Desperandum’

Wyton 1962. Dot had become paralized [sic] from the waist down.

we were managing; just!.

After Dorothy had been in Addenbrooks for three weeks her condition had deteriorated further with almost no control over the lower part of her body as they carried out test after test whilst we continued our prayers in our own way. There was no time to spare to attend church for formal services. We were much too busy. Then the ultimate test came up on a new machine that Addenbrooks had just installed. Dorothy was the first person to have ever been strapped into it. Normal X-Rays had failed to show anything but that machine was the very latest. The patient was strapped to the bench which was set in double gymbals [sic] which rotated the body in every possible angle to a number of X-Ray cameras. The contraption looped, rolled and twisted and turned until she was dizzy but when they interpreted the results they did at least find the problem, which was all that they told me at the time apart from the fact that are operation was necessary and everything had been arranged for it to be done at The London Hospital in Whitechapel which specialised in neurosurgery so I managed some more time off to go with her in the ambulance to see her settled in. That is all I could do....and pray some more!.

The operation was scheduled for a week later and the surgeon wanted to see me first so I knew the time had come. I had to find out sometime but when I was told I was just about bowled over. When you are told that an operation has a fifty fifty chance of success you draw your own conclusions as I did but although Dorothy had been told the same I was given some more priviledged [sic] information. The 50/50 chance was that, one she would die, or two, she would be a cripple for the rest of her life.

I have made a few decisions in any life but to give approval for an operation that could have such consequences was perhaps the most difficult I have ever had to make. That was my Dorothy they were talking about. The little schoolgirl that I had known since I was seven and who had never subsequently questioned my career decisions and had always supported everything I had done. I hoped and prayed that I would not let her down.

As far as I was concerned at that time that the end of my service career. There was no way that I would be able to carry on, my


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work was suffering too much already; and I signed on the dotted line. Dorothy never knew about that 50/50 chance for years and neither did the family. I left everyone to draw their own conclusions and not everyone realised the seriousness of the situation, and never have. As for me I was back to work, looking after the kids and trusting in the Lord.

Eventually the operation took place, all eleven hours of it in the hands of a most celebrated surgeon and as it was a teaching hospital it was all recorded by colour cine' camera's under the eyes of dozens of students in the galleries. I found it very difficult to concentrate on work but eventually I phoned to find that she was out of surgery, confortable [sic] , stable and all the normal things that the nursing staff are trained to say but it was a couple of days before I could get down to see her.

To aovoid [sic] upsetting the system too much I could only visit between shifts without landing myself in more trouble by asking for more time off. She looked pale, she had had three blood transfusions during the operation which had been to the area of the inside and around the back of the spinal column between the shoulders to remove a tumor [sic] . A very delicate job, and touch and go.

It would be three weeks before we would know whether it had been successful and in the meantime she was told not to move a muscle or even think about it. Every movement she wanted to make had to be assisted. About the only thing she could more without assistance were her eyes and mouth. Not easy.

Whilst she was in that state she developed some side effects like a sort of bronchitis that had everone [sic] baffled although it eventually got sorted. That was one time that we were able to do something for the hospital, they had done so much for us and she was not the only one suffering from the same congestion in the bronchial tubes. They had tried everything and Dorothy suggested that one of Grandma's cures might help so they went along with it. Off they went to the fruit and veg. market on the opposite side of the road to the hospital to buy lemons and then produced Grandma's mixture. Hot pure lemon juice and honey!. Two doses and a cough and up came the offending obstruction with a great deal of relief. It went down to the


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path. lab immediately and funds were promptly allocated to buy more lemons and honey from the market and everone [sic] received the 'cure'. That made some considerable improvement in Dorothy's condition and she began to get stronger. Family visits were allowed, all except the baby and after two weeks, although she was not supposed to move, came the moment we had both been praying for. She reckoned she had been static long enough and had experimented a little. It may not seem a lot, but when I made my next visit she said to watch the foot end of the bed. The bed clothes rippled. She could wriggle the toes of both feet so that was a good sign but we could do no more than hold hands in our excitement. We coudn't [sic] even embrace due to all the dressing and padding around her but that was the beginning of her recovery.

Within a couple of days she had experimented a little more to find that she could move her legs and there was feeling in them, a fact that she was able to tell the surgeon on his rounds. He and his staff were excited too and she had the all-clear to try, very gently, other movements, in a closely controlled situation, and what she was able to do caused even more excitement. Of course, she was prodded, pricked and scraped to test all the reflexes that had previously packed up and all the right signs were there.

At the end of the third week she was allowed off of the bed into the vertical position and most people will know what that is like, even if they have only taken to their bed for a few days. After fighting the nausea and using a walking frame for a few days she decided to go solo. No walking frame crutches or sticks and she did the length of the ward from bed to bed with a lot of encouragement from everyone in the ward.

Day by day she improved, doing a little more each time and getting her sea legs. Her wound had healed well and she could do most things by herself including turning over in bed. Even her vericose [sic] veins had improved due to the bed rest and the end of another week she was transferred back to Addenbrooks Hospital on a stretcher by train with private compartment!.

After a further week the hospital authorities were making arrangements for her to be transferred to Huntingdon hospital which would make it easier to visit when, out of the blue they


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changed their mind. She could come home for convalescence!. The relief was indescribable. It was an emotional time for all of us, and I can barely recall what went on apart from the fact that I was totally overcame when the strain of the last few months manifested itself and I had to go and lie down in a darkened room for a while to wait for my brain to simmer down. Eventually I was able to get myself together and bit by bit we were able to tackle the daily routine once more and re-establish the family unit that had been so disrupted.

Every day brought improvement and by the time she had been home a month Dorothy had not only managed to walk comfortably with the pram and to a certain extent unaided, after another few weeks she even managed to ride a bicycle again. That was quite an achievement and when she went back to Whitechapel to see the surgeon he and his colleagues could hardly believe that it was possible and were justifiably highly delighted. Dorothy turned down an invitation to appear in person to back up the film for a presentation at a later date. It would have been very good for the moral of the team but we had more important things to attend to by then.

Fortunately the tumor [sic] had been non-malignant and was in a place of honour in a pickle jar and we were only too happy to say our 'thank you’s' to all the ward staff and doctors who had made it possible, including a letter to Peterborough hospital staff who had started it off. But who had really made it all possible!?.

By what stroke of fate was it that she went to Peterborough hospital on that day when a particular nurse was there. What caused the surgeon to express such surprise at the supple state of Dorothy's spine if it had not been the dedicated work of the Chiropractor, and what guided his hand in a most hazardous operation which they considered to be a near miracle?. Who knows. When we wrote to the faith healing organisation telling them of the outcome we received a most beautiful letter and so we went on from there.

Not everything was as it had been before. The bits that they had taken out of Dorothy's spinal column to get at the tumor [sic] had left her a little shorter than she had been. She had to walk fairly fast to maintain her balance and her ankles were


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turned over slightly inwards. Small things really and as time went on they became less and less of a problem.

For me it was back to the routine again to try and make up lost ground. No more time off, full shiftworking again including night shift although we had lost the emergency service requirement we manned for 24 hours to cover USAF traffic. All throughout those months of anquish [sic] there had been a lot going on that I had still been involved in. We had got rid of our museum piece of radar and taken the new equipment into service and were beginning to shake it down as we were developing new, safer and more sophisticated systems of traffic handling. In such an environment everything was ongoing as problems were confronted and solved almost daily. It all directly involved me one way or another as at the same time I was working my way through the system to refresh my proficiency certificates until it all finally settled down and was running efficiently. At least, during that period I had not collected any secondary duties like Fire Officer!. The only certification I lacked was that of supervisor and no doubt if I stayed there a little longer I would have made but before you could say "Christmas 1962" my next posting was notified. To Laarbruch, Germany, effective from the following February!. I was a bit peeved as I had regularly requested to be trained for area radar which would have widened my scope but at the same time limit the units at which I could serve but it didn't work out that way. I found it somewhat frustrating at times that whilst I was bouncing around like the proverbial yo-yo every 2 1/2 years (or less), there were people around me in different professions who had been in the area for ten years and more. They had done the rounds of Wyton, Upwood and Brampton, bought houses and raised families all in the one area. I should be so lucky!!!.

At least we had plenty of time to organise ourselves. I knew a few people out there so I set the wheels in motion for renting a some private accomodation [sic] to hold us for a while until quarters came up and finished with a place in the town of Goch, about eight miles from the airfield and where the RAF had some married quarters. The two eldest girls were going to have to go to boarding school at Hamm in the Ruhr which was not entirely to our liking but local military schools only went up to junior


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grades, after which it was off to boarding school, either in the UK or Germany. to. A very limited choice so Hamm it was.

After some careful planning we made the move as painlessly as possible. I went privately two weeks in advance with the car loaded up to the hilt almost 16 years to the day that I had baled out of a crippled Lancaster over that country.

The car really was loaded. I only had a little cockpit left that was not stuffed with something and it wallowed somewhat, but I was not rushing anywhere. A gentle jog would get me there if the suspension held out and I got perhaps the best advice that I could have had from A NAAFI manager who was returning to Gutersloh, on what to look out for when driving with UK number plates out there.

We were on the Harwich to Hook route so I had the advantage of following him for a while as I settled in to driving on the opposite side of the road. In the first large town that we came across the very thing happened that he warned me about.

The rule of the road is such that you give way to traffic on the right, therefore if you are on the left of any conflict between two vehicles you are in the wrong and penalised accordingly. Cut and dried in Dutch and German law. So if you are a Dutchman driving a beat up banger that needs a new engine, and replacement panels what do you do?. You bounce an English registered car that you know has got to have good insurance cover and that's what very nearly happened!.

A couple of youths in an old Merc. made a bee-line for me from my right hand side and I had to work very smartly on two occasions to brake and weave away from his obvious intentions. Then he must have got angry and tried it a third time but I got out it by jinking around the wrong side of a tram which he promptly collided with so I had no further problem with him. Trams in Holland have absolute right of way so he was the one to finish up having to do a lot of explaining and no doubt a hefty repair bill.

I was even more wary after that but there was no further trouble after waiving [sic] goodbye to my 'pathfinder' friend and in due course crossed into Germany at Nijmegen. The loaded car caused considerable amusement among the German customs officers. I don't think that they had seen a vehicle quite so well packed,

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roof rack and all. The only room for any cigarettes was on top of the blankets that covered everything up to the sill line, but they got the message when they realised that it was all mainly household goods and I was away again without any hassle.

I was relieved when I finally arrived at my destination and although I had planned the route very carefully I made sure that I stayed on track by calling at numerous bars on the way. That had resulted in an intake of several beers which caused the interval between stops to become shorter and shorter. At the last port of call, in a bar just off of the market square in Goch I tried out my well rehearsed little bit of German on the lady behind the bar "Bitte, vo ist drei unt vierzig Weeze Strasse"?. It must have sounded alright as I had already asked for an "eine kleiner beer, bitte", but she came out with a torrent of German and then was amazed to be told "langsam, ich sprechen kliene Deutsch" and that was almost the limit of my German. It didn't matter a lot. After a good laugh, another beer and a lot of arm waving I only had a few hundred yards to go and there was 53 Weeze Street, a tall terrace house that looked a little battered with other houses each side still shored up or boarded up with panels of wood and galvanised sheeting. It was no palace but it was going to have to do.

The landlady was a charming elderly lady, almost Victorian, who managed only a few words of English but magically produced a cup of tea and over that I found that her husband had been a merchant sea captain and had been lost at sea but all was quite friendly when I told her that I had been more fortunate after being shot down not so far from where we were sitting. After that I started to unload the car with the tool box being one of the first things and then places were found for everything with shelves, brackets, hooks and the like with her permission. I wanted it to be as homely as possible, and it certainly needed the personal touch. There was basically only two rooms and nothing that could be called a kitchen, only a long passage off of the living room. It had a wash basin and a cold tap and at the far end was the toilet....unscreened and frozen up anyway!.

I could have done a lot with emulsion paint but I did not have time for that. I worked on it with what I had in terms of covers,


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screens, tacks and nails, pictures and plaques and it soon looked considerably brighter which rather surprised Frau Van Cooke who had kept me supplied with tea and cakes throughout the unloading and conversion process. The last last [sic] thing to install were various electric and gas cooking appliances and it was all done. It would not be too much of a shock to the family on first sight at least and then I was off to Laarbruch to stay the night with friends who had been at Tangmere with us before going down to Wildenwrath for the homeward journey.

I had arranged to leave the car at Wildenwrath in the care of friends who had fixed me up with a flight to Northolt in a Pembroke and it all clicked into place. Later that day I trained to Huntingdon and home. So far so good and a couple of days later we gave up the quarter and travelled as a family to Manston via a night stop in London where several of the family had congregated from Worthing, and then by air direct to Wildenwrath. The air movements staff were somewhat surprised when; as a family we by-passed all the normal transportation facilities, but all I had to do was pick up the car and set off for our new home. It was not much but we were together and we made the best of it. Frau van Cooke was a little concerned as she had obviously mis-understood that we were five in family until the eldest girls were off to boarding school but after some adjustment to the rent she made another small room available and we were fairly comfortable. Fortunately the weather had turned a little warmer and the toilet had thawed but the thing that seemed to bother Frau van Cooke most was that as the rating system in Germany was based on a poll tax the appropriate authorities had to be informed of changes as they occurred. We overcame it as we did most things. The day after arrival I was reporting for duty. The girls were enrolled at the camp school temporarily before their places at Hamm had been confirmed and we were very soon into a routine. It was different though. It was a long time since we had lived in anything but an Air Force community and in it's way it was very interesting. We soon integrated into the local environment and we had no problems in adapting. Frau van Cooke and our neighbours were kind and helpful [sic] . The local garage housed the car overnight for a modest fee when I was not on duty rather than park it in the main road and we


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soon got used to the the [sic] German way of doing things. First and foremost, the cleanliness of the area in front of a building was the reponsibility [sic] of the occupant so it seemed that there was competition to be the smartest although they were very reluctant to allow grass to grow on the verges. They were all raked and scratched into patterns. Bicycles were ridden on the footpath but always according to the direction of the road traffic and the bicycle bell was mandatory. Cars could be parked in the roads but only in the direction of the traffic but not both sides of the road at the same time. It was a very practical arrangement. Parking was relative to the date and the house numbering. Odd dates on odd numbers and visa versa. Cars were not washed in the street on Sundays and neither was washing hung on the line. Sundays was a day for visiting the family in Sunday best clothes and for church. How much that routine has changed over the years I would not know but at that time it seemed to be a comfortable arrangement. Another practical method of designating where speed restrictions started and stopped was by applying the standard 50k limit at the signpost at the town limits on the way in and at the signpost on the way outwhich [sic] gave the name of the next town or village on route. Very simple, economical and effective.

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The town of Goch was a market town very close to the Dutch border and more or less on the line of what had been at one time the old Seigfried line. It had suffered badly from savage fighting when the big push was launched on the 8th February 1945, the day after I failed to return, when the Allies attempted to reach the Rhine all along the front. The Canadians had forced a passage by the most bloody hand to hand fighting along the very road in which we were living after they had taken Weeze and most of the houses still bore the marks of the battles as did many places in the town centre. The houses adjacent to us were not the only one's that were boarded up skeletons and the Town Hall was still pock-marked with scars from shell and morter [sic] splinters as well as anti-tank and canon fire but despite it all life went on as near normal as one would have expected at home.

The attic rooms above us were not part of our let but we investigated at one time and I immediately regretted it as it upset the girls. The flimsy doors at the bottom and the top of the narrow winding stairs were both splintered with bullet holes and the walls were well and truly peppered with holes and some very nasty stains which obviously would not wash off. The attic itself was no better and there were still remnents [sic] of uniform scattered about and it would appear that nothing had been done other than to clear the casualties of the battle. It was not difficult to imagine the desperate and bloody fighting that had gone on in that place and we only ever went up there that one time.

Despite it all, the Germans had built a memorial to a British officer who had been appointed as Town Major to manage the civilian administration which was standard procedure after the battle had passed through. It was neccessary [sic] to get public facilities running properly as soon as possible and tie up the minimum number of fighting personnel. His job was to help to get things going again as smoothly as possible and to that end he applied himself in such a way that he became highly respected by the locals for his ability to be hard working, fair and just. Unfortunately, it had to be a memorial plaque as, once the town was capable of running itself again he had rejoined his unit up at the front and had been killed in action. It was something to think about that their appreciation was so recorded which


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was more than could be said for some of the German military whose presence in the area still showed…but in a different way. In the town of Kevelaer, which was renowned for it's manufacture of religious artifacts, there was a tall wall alongside a church absolutely riddled with bullet holes where a large number of the population had been lined up and shot..by the SS!, as apparently the battle raged to and fro they had been evacuated several times for their own safety until finally they refused to be moved. They were prepared to stay and take their chance and after seeing that terrible sight I could understand that the population of some German towns were prepared to show their appreciation for their deliverance from the yoke of Nazizm [sic] .

Eventually the time came for the two eldest girls to start at Hamm when the new term started and they set off by train with others who they had met between terms. It seemed better that way and probably allowed them to settle a bit quicker...but they did not like it that was for sure. Boarding school discipline was not to their liking and the school buildings were a bit grim. They were converted SS barracks and most of the pupils were quite certain that the matron had been left behind by the SS when they evacuated all those years ago!, but they coped.

We went to Hamm whenever the opportunity arose. Week-ends when they were allowed out and half-term so we took them about as much as we could to places of interest but there was invariably tears when we were obliged to leave.

Fortunately the journey through to Hamm was only just over two hours but it was an interesting route whether by autobahn or the 'scenic' route. The autobahn route was right through the 'Happy Valley' Ruhr industrial complex that had received such a pounding from Bomber Command and still showed it and the scenic route to the North was through some very badly damaged towns, including Wanne Eikle when we diverted to have a look at the place. Nevertheless, it was surprising how quickly the economy was recovering. When we first arrived a great deal of our transport and services were provided from local resources under the reperations [sic] agreement but as industry recovered that was was coming to an end and British products were taking over.


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We had plenty of friends in and around Laarbruch and at other RAF units in the area. There were plenty of places to visit and Arnhem and Nigmegen [sic] were near enough for shopping expeditions
as well as paying our respects at the military cemetary's [sic] both at Arnhem and the Reichwald. Despite the fact that the camp had very comprehensive facilities we got out and about as much as we could. If we were going to be stationed in Germany we were going to see it, particularly when the eldest girls were home from Hamm or we visited then there. I remember once asking the technical F/Sgt in charge of the radar how he liked the place and was surprised to find that he did not think much of it but after a little more discussion found that he had not been outside the main gate since he had arrived!. Even by the end of his tour he had only been 'outside' twice and his wife not at all. It seemed a bit 'head in the sand' to me as most people we knew got about as much as possible.

There was one place we found, a little different from when I first encountered it, and that was the spot where I had landed safely in 1945 and nearly got shot by the side of the road. The house where I was first interrogated was as it was imprinted on my mind. Only 22 miles from Laarbruch. I even entertained the thought when I scouted around the area that I might recover two soggy one pound notes and my old I.D. card. Some hope!. The area of small nursery pines had grown to some 50 to 60 feet high and although I looked around the area I could find no sign of the whacking great hole that 'D' Dog would have made if that was where she came down. I never have found the crash site. It was years later that I made a serious attempt to find it but MOD Historical Records could not help other than to say that they had information that they could not disclose. Possibly a cover up for the fact that they knew nothing although they were interested to know where we baled out and why. 'D' Dog was the only aircraft Bomber Command lost that day and the crash site is still listed………………..


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as 'unknown'. That local tour was one of many that we made to places that were engraved on my memory and noted in my diary. At Krefeld I couldn't even find the airfield!. At Dusseldorf the old airfield had been swallowed up or otherwise expanded although the ghosts of the past were swirling around when I surveyed the area on more than one occasion from the terminal buildings.

At Frankfurt although I followed the road out towards Ober-Orsal I could find no sign of what had once been the infamous interrogation centre of Dulag-Luft. Throughout the next two and a half years there were not many areas that we did not visit as we ranged far and wide with the benefit duty free pre-paid petrol coupons that were more than enough for our requirements. Shortly after starting the daily routine of setting off for the airfield one morning I picked up a Warrant Officer who was heading the same way. He too had only just arrived and lived not far from us. He was the Technical Wing Adjutant and his son was destined for Hamm school the same as our girls. That was the start of a long and deep seated friendship of the sort that one rarely made in the service as most friendships were like the ripples made by a stone in a puddle. They tended to dissipate when one or the other moved on but we are still in touch after 35 years.

I was soon certificated and operational. The work at Laarbruch was slightly different although it was not a continuous 24 hour shift system that I had become used to but we kept a skeleton crew on standby outside normal working hours to fulfill [sic] the requirements of 2nd Tactical Air Force. The aircraft were Canberra bombers and the more modern delta wing Javelin night fighter. A touch of both Bomber Command and Fighter Command which made for some very interesting procedures. Other than that the rest of the set-up was fairly standard. The GCA radar was the same type that I had used at Tangmere and I was promptly placed in charge of it for it's operation proficiency which included checking out other controllers and to train to a high standard of re-positioning and setting up of the equipment when the runway in use was changed. The requirement was to do it within an hour which was a tall order considering that there was the operations trailer, the power supply trailer and rest


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caravan weighing in all about 40 tons to be moved with great care considering that it contained some quite delicate equipment and cost around £250,000!. Bend that little lot and someone's head would roll........mine!.

The route to Hamm took us down to the new bridge at Vesel, slightly up river from the remnants of the ends of the-old bridge that had been destroyed during the war in that hottest of all hotspots. It was from that very area that massive armies had gathered to force a crossing of the river and where Churchill had fired one of the first shots of the assault by pulling the lanyard of a very big gun and where the biggest Airborne landing of 22,000 men had been landed by glider and parachute on the East side of the town. A very historical place militarily and a slightly battered one having been given a terrible pounding by Bomber Command prior to the attack by ground forces. Nevertheless, a lot had been rebuilt and the new system had taken advantage of a lot of open space and vast quantities of rubble. We usually swept through and in a few miles had linked up with the autobahn.

I got my first taste of motorway driving out there when they were were [sic] still building the M1 in the UK although the southern end was usable I had not used it but it was like a battlefield. 90% of the autobahn traffic seemed to be VW Beetles and the like with a top speed of a little over 70mph, about the same as mine, but it was the way they were driven that put the wind up me.

There was no speed limit and drivers just hurled themselves along at maximum possible speed with foot flat on the floor all the time, come what may. Nose to tail, bit between the teeth, no leeway whatsoever and no margin for error, just going like the clappers all the time. I really felt as if I was back in the Battle of the Ruhr and found it decidedly uncomfortable. I don't think that there was ever one journey that we did that we didn't see the results of what appeared to be suicidal driving so I started to try and prove that the MT instructors at the base were not going to include me when they quoted the statistics of 90% of drivers [underlined] will [/underlined] have an accident whilst in Germany. [underlined] They were right though [/underlined] !. I came unstuck eventually. In the meantime I just battled on. On one occasion we had just cleared the Ruhr


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area on the autobahn heading for Hamm with particularly heavy traffic developing into two solid streams doing around 60 to 70mph and I felt concerned enough to do as I still do today under such circumstances....get into the 'slow' lane where there was at least room to duck onto the hard shoulder if there was trouble. I was suddenly aware that way ahead stop lights were coming on like strobing airfield approach lights and was immediately on the alert. I suppose other drivers concentrating on the vehicles directly in front were not aware that the stop lights were coming on were getting closer and closer and then as it was obvious to me what was going to happen I jinked out onto the hard shoulder. I must have done it with split second to spare as some 200 vehicles shunted each other with the screeching of brakes, bangs, thumps and the sound of tearing metal and breaking glass. It was followed immediately by the cries of the injured when all other noises had stopped.

No-one in our immediate area was badly hurt although there were numerous head injuries and the odd broken limb with a fair bit of blood splashed around so it was out with the first aid kit and to the rescue. Fortunately, in addition to the mandatory first aid kit I had for years kept a large package of war-time wound packs in the car and they came in very useful although I what some people thought when they found that they were British Military packs dated 1943 I couldn't say. They did the job despite the fact that in most cases the safety pin was rusted!. Small matter. I had found them in an abandoned store in a pill box at Oakington in 1947…..I was not the sort of a bloke to waste things!. They lasted many years. In that instance we were luckier than the majority and it took an hour and a half before the autobahn ahead was cleared sufficienty [sic] for us to proceed past piles of smashed up vehicles, and then we came to the root cause of the pile-up. Unbelievable!. There were [underlined] two [/underlined] white police cars mangled together more or less standing on end up against a bridge support. We subsequently learned that they had been heading the long snake of cars to keep the speed down but had been playing 'tag' and had obviously not-been very clever.

I felt at the time that 'someone' was definitely out to get me having so far escaped all other intentions of the Germans to eliminate me and it did not improve Dorothy's attitude to


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sitting in what was often classified as the suicide seat, ie, the passenger seat of a right hand drive vehicle being driven on the right hand side of the road. There was even more apprehension by the time that particular week-end was over. We had just got into Hamm and rounding a corner had to duck to miss the car ahead that had lurched around the corner, bounced off of one of the large concrete cylinder things that were liberaly [sic] sprinkled around their street corners and then finished up with the front wheels over a small garden wall. It was a British Forces registered vehicle also heading for Hamm school but no-one was hurt and the driver declared that he needed no assistance so we pressed on. Nevertheless it was a great weekend with the girls who enjoyed their visit to Munster zoo we thought no more about driving and it's associated problems until we were on the return journey.

I was gaining slightly on a VW Beetle but held back for a while as it was lurching about over both lanes in very light traffic. It was some time before I ventured alongside and was somewhat shocked to find that all of the windows were closed and steamed up and all four occupants were asleep, including the driver, hunched over the wheel. I gave the horn as much as I could for as long as I could to rouse everyone, making signs to wind down the windows until it was safe to pass and felt after that that I had done my good deed for the day as that bloke was very close to running off of the road. He would not have known much about it though as he was doing what most beetle drivers did. Foot still flat on the floor regardless.

As always there was continual movement of personnel, most people having settled into a 2 1/2 year tour. We had with us people that we had known at many units including Amman and Egypt as well as Mareham [sic] and Wyton so of course the usual thing was happening with the married quarter waiting list as we went up and down like a yo-yo. There was one movement that had occurred just before we arrived although would not have made any difference to our quarters list, that of the Station Commander whose Adjutant I had been at Marham but he had gone on with more promotion. After that apparently almost every move he made was with further promotion until he eventually retired as an Air Marshall with a Knighthood and a handsome string of awards and


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decorations including; GCB, KCB, CB, CBE, OBE, DSO, DFC, AFC, and I must confess that I am proud to have received a great deal of instruction from him in the three years that I was his Adjutant.

The eventual allocation of married quarters at Laabruch could not have come at a better time. 53 Weeze Strasse was not the most suitable of places but it had enabled us to recover our finances to the satisfaction of both the bank manager and our-selves, and I hope, Frau van Cooke, so we moved into our comfortable centrally heated house shortly before the winter set in and had a damn good house warming party to celebrate.

Everything sailed along quite happily despite the girls dislike of boarding school and our youngest was soon into her third year but we were outgrowing the little Ford Popular and it's three speed gear box was a bit tedious at times. It was time for a change and we considered all the options. In the end I ordered the new Ford Classic (tax free) from a firm in Chichester in Sussex with a part exchange deal and it was all done when we went back to the UK for a holiday covering the school term break.

That was going to be the car that would see me through for the maximum number of miles before another change became neccessary [sic] . I ran it in carefully and the engine was treated with all the right things to achieve longevity and when our leave was up it was fully prepared to do anything asked of it, nevertheless, no sooner than we were back into Holland on the way back one of the first things we came across was a car upside down in a ditch at the side of the road with arms and legs hanging out of broken windows. I only stopped for a quick look and decided that there was little I could do that would not involve and upset the family so I pressed on for about half a mile until I saw a house with the sign outside denoting that they had a phone, nipped in and asked them to telephone ambulance and police to get to the scene, and then continued my journey. I've sometimes thought that I might have been able to do more at the scene but the inside of the car was like a butchers shop with not a lot of hope for the occupants.

The Classic was soon re-registered with British Forces plates and as it was a new model it always attracted a great deal of interest wherever we went. There was usually a crowd around


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it wherever it was parked.

There was one place just over the border in Holland that we visited regularly. The village of Well was an interesting little place and one of it's most comfortable establishments was a little restaurant and bar on the side of the River Maas. 'Auntie' Nellie was mine host and she was a remarkable person. She was well known for her resistance work and had been responsible for numerous evaders to pass along another link in the chain back to the safety of their own lines. It had obviously needed someone like that who was handy to assist in the river crossing. The Maas was quite wide and fast flowing at that point and the nearby bridge was a war-time Bailey built especially to carry military traffic from Eindhoven; still carrying heavy traffic. Our free week-ends were often spent there for shopping and for refreshments in the restaurant, watching the barges chugging by with all manner of goods piled on them and the bargees washing, bicyles [sic] , dogs, or watching a UK football match on the tele. but there was a bit of a problem with that. The football commentary was usually in Dutch so a radio was set up alongside and we had a commentary in English for the same match that suited the Dutch, English and German patrons who all gravitated to that place. Great fun greatly assisted by good strong Dutch beer, or possibly something hotter and stronger on cold days.

We visited the area many years later and it had not changed much and one of the girls plus her own family visited many years after that and it was still pretty much the same. We had a lot of time for the Dutch people and found no difficulty in integrating. In fact, we could quite happily have taken up residence there.

Crossing the Dutch/German border just North of Goch a few months after getting the new car the windscreen disintegrated in my lap and of course being a new model not yet on sale on the continent it took a week before a Dutch Ford agent could fit another but that was nothing to what happened later. With a new car I thought that I had overcome the love/hate relationship that I had always had with motor vehicles, but I was always


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to be in trouble with them one way or another.

Something else cropped out that I was not overjoyed about. The 'cold war' that was the very reason that we were out there demanded emergency establishment manning in the event of going to 'Red Alert' and on that deployment I would have been immediately on my way to my war establishment post. To Gatow, Berlin!!!, right in the middle of the contested Russian Zone. Just my luck. I would much rather have been going in the opposite direction!, away from any conflict but due to it's security classification I had to keep that possibility under wraps.

Life was anything but dull. The job of Station Fire Officer landed in my lap again almost as soon as I moved into quarters although it was the usual arrangement. A senior fireman did the work and 'Sir' was the dogsbody who took the flak if anything went wrong but it still helped to know as much as possible about the job. I had learned the hard way but the crash/rescue element was always under the operational control of Air Traffic Control and I thought that having got that job it would be enough---wrong again!.

There was plenty to occupy my mind and my hands. There were liaison visits of all sorts on a two way basis. The local German and Dutch fire services were entertained and visa versa (but not both at the same time). At one time I had two Luftwaffe NCO's for several weeks to polish off their GCA training although their initial training had been with the Americans and we all used the same procedures. Even our GCA was of standard American design. All very interesting!. A very daft situation arose with them on one occasion as naturally they were billeted with us and it seemed natural for them to use their camera's. It is true that we did have one very secure area in the vicinity of the Canberra dispersals on the far side of the airfield but the Service Police were I think a little over security concious [sic] when they pounced on them in the domestic area and ripped the film out of the camera's. Typical. I did have a word with the senior policeman but it was a waste of time. He reckoned that he was not having Germans photographing our installations. Bloody daft!. They had built the station for us in the first place!


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My interest in photography had developed further to the extent that I joined the unit photographic club, a move that I was to regret later and although the facilities were a bit run down I was able to widen the scope of my activities in that field as I had sold all my processing gear back at Wyton when finances were taking a bit of a hammering. What happened next was just waiting to happen. The current Officer I/C (in-charge) was posted and they did not look very far for his replacement. There were no terms of reference so I was instructed to write my own for approval and then my brief was simple. "It's a mess, put it back on it's feet". I knew it was a mess, the trouble was that I had told too many people. In the main it was used by people for standard processing at a profit, and who were not very interested in cleaning up. It did not take long to find out that there was about twice the number of people booking out the keys as there was on the register so it was a matter of going back to 'square one' to lock the place up and out of bounds to all but a selected few who were formed into a committee until a new system was set up I had the place refurbished with all the enlargers overhauled by a local German photographic supplier, new black-outs and racking resulting in four good booths. Eventually we agreed the maximum number of people that we could have on the register, all old membership cards were invalidated and new cards issued against the subscription register which was to be renewed annually and 'bingo'. With new rules, a studio and lecture room we opened up and it flourished. One feature I introduced was processing on certain nights only and a weekly 'beginners night' series of talks for the benefit of those, schoolchildren, wives and all, who wanted to know the basics. I well remember my own first efforts when every other word the 'experts' said was 'double dutch' to me so I was determined that each of the four talks was pitched as low as possible and repeated every month. It worked well and it was popular.

As we went into the first Winter we were glad of the design of the married quarters. Airmen's and Officers were all built along the same lines albeit to a different standard. The typical concrete box built on top a cellar and around the plumbing. There was no piping showing inside or outside. The cellar was


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the utility area, with concrete wash tubs, floor drainage and other mod. cons. and a store room. It all looked rather like the inside of a submarine with huge pipes and turn cocks along the passage…..but there was no boiler!. Hot water was provided by a huge boiler system to the whole station along deep insulated piping on a communal basis, the only base in Germany to have such a system and it made everything very comfortable and convenient. Especially when an Officers wife went 'down below' to see how the plumber was getting on with a job only to find that he was sitting in one of the wash tubs, in the buff, happily blowing bubbles in oodles of hot water. Now that's what I call initiative and it caused a bit of a giggle when the story got around.

Later on our store room became the 'Den' where the girls and their friends congrgated [sic] to get away from the 'oldies' but at least they had their own space. Goodness knows how many there were down there at times after we got fed up answering the door and fixed up a string and a bell system through the outside grating.

Being a house of concrete the attic had a concrete floor as well and all the roof beams had built in hooks for what I assumed to be hammocks if ever they were needed as barracks providing a very useful sleeping area particularly if anyone was overwhelmed with visiting friends and relations from the UK.

As it happened we never were and although my father-in-law expressed an interest to visit us and take the opportunity do the tour of the WW1 battlefields he found it more than he could bring himself to do and could not set foot on German soil; and he never did. The memories of his brother being blasted into eternity at his side, and his own wounds were too strong for him ever to forget that episode in his life.

Before the winter was out we skated and tobogganed. Everyone enjoyed themselves in the light fluffy snow of the kind that one did not normally see back home until at last Spring broke through and work and play took over the scene again. The Winter was a bit hard although nowhere near as bad as the one to follow but a lot happened in between.


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One tour we put together for the early Summer holidays came unstuck. It was planned as a round robin right down through Central and Southern Germany, into Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland, France and back home over at-out ten days. It did not quite work out like that although we were making the most of it until it went wrong.

We went to Nuremburg and found the site of Stalag X111b but there were no huts left, only a police Guard Post and we were allowed to browse around. Then on to Stalag V11a Mooseburg and back to Munich for a night stop. The memory plays funny tricks though. Despite my notes I found it very difficult to locate some places and even when I did positively identify places from the notes they were sometimes unrecognisable. We had already found the same problem around the UK!. However, our navigation went a bit haywire down in Austria when we took a wrong road up in the mountains and instead of going into Switzerland we found ourselves back in Germany again. Not that it mattered much. All of the scenery was absolutely splendid and eventually we were into and out of France crossing the border into Germany again near Strasburg. We were ahead of our schedule so we decided that we would head for home rather than go for another night stop and were about ten miles South of Heidleburg when some idiot driver pulled a stunt that upset a few people; us included and so we finished up with a night stop anyway.

I was the tail ender of seven or eight vehicles in convoy doing near enough 70mph in the 'fast' lane with no traffic in the other lane when a light truck going like a bat out of hell came up behind making angry signals with his lights for us to get out of the way, which I did and then I resumed the tail end position. I did not stay behind him long as obviously no-one else was going to move over for him so he pulled out and went through on the wrong side. No doubt he had worked himself into a frenzy of agressive [sic] behaviour, (what is called road rage today is nothing new) and as soon as he got to the head of the column he did something quite unexpected. I could see the whole thing happening as if in slow motion as he literally hurled his vehicle across the bows of the leaders and them stood on the brakes. What happened next was anything but slow motion but long before


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anything happened directly I was on the brakes and everyone on board slid up against something solid before each and everyone of the cars shunted one another with a series of thuds until despite my heavy breaking we slammed into the one in front with such a wallop that it shot forward again into the one in front and our roof rack landed in the road between us. It was very fortunate that I was 'tall end charlie' as I am quite sure that we would have had one in the back of us as well.

After a quick check to see if we had any injuries, to be very relieved to find that only the eldest had had a scratch from a broken Coke bottle I dispatched her immediately to about fifty yards back along the centre section to start waving her white cardigan like mad, and got everyone else out onto the central reservation in case some damn fool back-ended us. It was not difficult to get out of as the impact had given us a 'droop snoot' and the doors had sprung with an overlap of some four inches. One could see at a glance that that we were not going anywhere in that car for a long time.

Checking on the vehicle in front and recovering the roof rack disclosed that the middle aged couple in the BMW that I had hit were badly shaken but otherwise unhurt although their car was quite badly damaged. The front end was bent, the back end was scrunched, the boot lid had sprung, and the exhaust had fallen off. They were both in tears though as the car was absolutely brand new, direct from the factory on delivery with only 22km on the clock but that was the least of my worries.

Between listening to their tales of woe, refixing the roof rack and repacking some of our spilled goods with a very watchfull [sic] eye on the traffic that was still hurtling by I still had time to take a few photographs before the police arrived and my daughter could retire from her rather exposed position to the relative safety of the central reservation where all the damaged cars had been pushed once the police were satisfied with explanations and that the exchanges of insurance details had been attended to. That's the way German traffic law worked; 'he who does the bumping does the paying', so you dealt with the one in front and the law is satisfied.

Breakdown vehicles appeared as if by magic but we had to wait a lot longer than most to get cleared as I, being a member of


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the military, had to be dealt with by the appropriate military authority, in that area, the U.S. Army, who could not have been more sympathetic and helpfull [sic] . The car was eventually winched onto a civilian break-down vehicle, (which I subsequently had to pay for) and off it went with us following up in a staff car to see it settled in a field full of other wrecks. Our surplus goods were left in the care of the driver of the breakdown-truck before we were finally deposited at the steps of a very nice Hotel in Heidelburg.

In normal circumstances we would have enjoyed that visit to the beautiful city of Heidelburg but not that time. We were just about broke. I had a Hotel bill to consider as well as the train fare back to base. I did not have a German bank account and there were limits that one could do then with a UK chequebook. Nevertheless, we dredged up every mark and phenig [sic] that we could, including the kid's pocket money but it didn't allow for a meal so we just had to picnic on the bits and pieces that we had recovered from the car and ultimately went to bed very tired if not a little hungry. It still took a long time before sleep came to me. Here I was again, virtually stranded in Germany wondering what was going to happen next. Every piece of the day’s action kept floating in frost of my eyes. Of all the damn silly things. All those occasions of war-time flying over enemy territory escaping injury by the skin of my teeth, to finish up in Germany with a pranged car and very nearly a damaged family as well.

I made myself a promise before I want to sleep, to never, ever again put myself or my family in such a situation again. There had to be a way to adjust one’s driving technique to reduce the risks, so I was going to have to swallow my pride. Meanwhile I had become one of 2nd TAF's motoring statistics having been told that nine out of ten drivers would have an accident I had scoffed at the idea...but they were not wrong.

The following day after paying our bill and buying tickets there was not much left in the kitty so it was rolls, butter, sausage and fizzy drinks bought locally for breakfast and for the journey, then we were off.

That part of the journey was a tour to remember for it's sheer


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beauty but I think that I was the only one to remember it in detail. The weather was perfect. The scenery along the Rhine was picture postcard stuff of vinyards [sic] and castles perched high up on hillsides especially the area around Koblenz was too good to miss particularly as I had run out of film and could not even afford to buy another. I kept waking the family up to look at, it but at that stage of the game they were not too impressed although I was out to make the most of it. To hell with the car, insurance would take care of that and the most important thing was that we were all together and all in one piece. That's all that mattered. We eventually arrived back at Goch, a colleague picked us up and that was the end of that holiday and touring for a while. There were letters to write and reports to make as we eventually settled down to life without a car. I tried to negotiate for the car to be transferred to Holland for repair as it was a new model not yet available in Germany although it was filtering onto the Dutch market but the agents for the UK insurers who were based in Hamburg would not entertain the idea and weeks went by as they deliberated. In the meantime my neighbour who had just bought a new car agreed to run it in by driving me down to Heidelburg to pick up all the stuff that we had been obliged to leave behind. It had all been prepared and packed and even lunch was provided for us. He and his Frau earned our gratitude and their remuneration for their thoughtfulness. It helped me overcome my dismay when I went to see the car sitting forlornly among the wrecks. It had already been vandalised, possibly on the assumtion [sic] that it would be a write-off. All the wheel trims and the front wheels had gone as well as the wing mirrors. The battery had gone and the petrol had been drained off all ten gallons of it as we had only just fuelled up for the home run. I had been relying on some of that to help us to do the 300 mile round trip but someone had beaten me to it. Of course no-one knew anything about it. The yard did not belong to the recovery chap and there were notices around in German disclaiming responsibility for any losses etc. It was to be expected!.

The months went by and were particularly frustrating. Having looked the car over carefully on that visit I figured that it ought to be classified as a write-off but the insurance company


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disagreed. I tried to get it taken to Cologne, the German manufacturing centre for Fords but eventually it was transferred to Mannheim for repair. I found out later that the front was completely cut off and replaced, something that would not be acceptable today but that was it and they had the last say. I was without it for six months and a lot of annoyance which did little for my blood pressure.

I busied myself in work of one sort and another. We did not go out of camp much and the girls had settled themselves into local employment so it was the photographic club that received most of my attention which was soon flourishing financially and with a lot of enthusiastic new members. So much so that Laarbruch was selected as the venue for the Command Photographic Competition. It all went well with the cooperation of the Education Flight and the fact that I won two awards had nothing to do with the fact that one of the judges had been my neighbour at Wyton. All entries were coded which was standard practice.

Air Traffic Control was more or less routine. By that time I was convinced that I had covered just about every aspect and I was still making it known annually, that I wanted area radar training for the future. Nevertheless, I had one experience which I thought might have influenced a decision but it didn't.

I was doing stand-by shift in the radar track after I had been informed of a large formation practice of aircraft from 2nd TAP units to the South-East of us and I had been monitoring their progress when I was asked to take control of an aircraft being flown by the C in C who wanted see how the formation was shaping up.

It was really difficult after taking him on. I found out from the formation Ieader the detail's of the altimeter setting and then working him on a different frequency did a perfect fighter interception placing him just above and 100yds behind the formation. He even asked if I was a Fighter Controller and was somewhat surprised to find that he was being controlled by an airfield radar. He did say "as good as any fighter control interception" but he didn't bother to find out who I was!.

Our GCA was not without it's troubles though. There was one


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expensive internal item absolutely vital to it's operation that was costing dollars to replace and contracts had-been let to produce them in the UK under licence but they didn't always last for the expected running time but at least we had replacements. Our headphones were a different matter. Some of then were the original issue with the radar unit and were always in need of repair which was common in almost every similar equipment in the RAF. I found that intolerable. Aircrew helmets and associated communications equipment cost hundreds of pounds to ensure absolute reliability and safety and I was sometimes sweating a bit when we were obliged to operate in marginal conditions with our own equipment that could fail at any time. I indented for new head-sets to be told that they were too expensive and were to be repaired locally. I made a fuss and some were taken away by Command signals workshops for repair but very few people knew that I had got something else up my sleeve.

My contacts with my opposite number in the Dutch Air Force at Vokel was very helpful in finding out that their Bell helicoptors [sic] used the same sort of headset and were replaceable under a NATO agreement. A liaison visit exchanged three of them but I kept that quiet. The only time they came out was when we were operating in marginal conditions; and I kept up the pressure for total replacement much to the annoyance of the technical staff particularly when the refurbished sets proved to be unreliable. Eventually, wondering how long it would take to get something done before the next winter set in I really put the cat among the pigeons. I did a 'Douglas Bader' and signalled 2nd TAF HQ that the radar was declared 'non operational-training in visual conditions only due to technical problems'. Phew!, that really did get things moving. I knew through the 'grapevine' that new UK produced headsets were becoming available and that the C in C of Coastal Command had authorised the local purchase of replacements for his radars...that was good enough for me and was part of my argument and I flatly refused to change the status of our radar until something similar was done. As with Douglas Bader the result was dramatic. Within a week all the stops had been pulled out and I received replacements direct from the manufacturers completely by passing the normal stores


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procedure. All I had to do was to pass the invoices back through stores to confirm that I had got them and turn in the old one's for write off. We were operational immediately but I got a hell of a lot of 'stick' for it. Bader might have got away with it but I didn't. I had upset too many people along the line by taking a short cut and there were no thanks for my achievment [sic] .

In the late summer I did another liaison visit that was most interesting; to our Fighter Control Centre at Udem....in the war-time bunker that the Luftwaffe had used to track our bomber streams and direct their fighters although of course it had been modified to our sytem [sic] . It was similar to our UK fighter Control Centres that I had been in although it just felt different but what was interesting was the fact that there were a lot of Luftwaffe personnel around as a new generation was being trained by us. It led to to [sic] another liaison visit later when a few of us went to a radar controlled Luftwaffe ack-ack unit somewhere towards Wesel. Now that was interesting; less than ten miles from where a similar unit had shot us down in 1945 and very enlightening.

The winter was nearly upon us when I eventually received notice that the car was ready for collection so off I went to Mannheim only to find that as far as I was concerned it was not. It was lacking all sorts of bits and some parts were still unpainted so I returned without it. There was an angry exchange of letters between myself and Hamburg and claims for costs until I was eventually told it was positively ready so off I went again. Then the s……hit the fan. Hardly anything more had been done and although I phoned the Hamburg office and got the OK to take it subject to a settlement the repairers would not release it until it was paid for. Oh boy oh boy!, what fun and games. More phoning, Hamburg making arrangements to transfer money via banks, a night stop for me and eventually it was released so off set for the 230 mile return journey, and not before time. It was a good job that I had fuelled to the brim as the weather did not look at all promising. I soon connected with the Autobahn and had not gone more than 30 miles when I ran into a snowstorm that turned into a blizzard, just what I wanted!, although it


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slowed things down considerably and the traffic thinned out as snow came down in about the heaviest fall I had ever encountered. It was very soon some two or three inches deep and going was getting difficult although mostly I was in virgin snow and still getting a grip. I pressed on nevertheless having in mind that it looked as if I was going to have to make another night stop somewhere but then found that in the confusion of the poor visibility in the ten lane junction near Frankfurt I had picked up the wrong lane and was on my way North-East, towards Wuppertal!. There was only one thing to do and that was backtrack. Although the snow had stopped leaving a depth of about 4ins. it would have been quite impossible to go across country so it was back 20 miles and then find my way through the network of the ten lane junction again until I was on track for Cologne once more. By that time it had got dark and I was somewhat relieved to be heading in the right direction at last and was working out my ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) when there was a hold up. It took some time for the traffic to creep forward and over the brow of a hill before I could see what had caused it all. There was a large articulated lorry on it's side blocking most of the carriageway and the police were only allowing one vehicle at a time down the hill past it as by now the snow had become impacted and it was a bit like an ice rink. When my turn came to make the descent I was amazed to find that the firemen and the 'wreckers' were actually cutting the lorry to pieces with blow torches to remove it in sections and was very relieved when I was finally in the clear again and heading for home. It took a total of twelve hours to do the journey. I had left in daylight and arrived with the dawn feeling hungry and very very tired. It was just "Hello, don't ask qestions [sic] and Goodnight”.

I finally came too, refreshed, reported that I was back and started the negotiations with Hamburg to restore the car to it's new state which I estimated would cost another £300 and they paid up in full. That was not the end of it though....

Winter soon descended with a vengance [sic] . It got cold and then colder. The bottom fell out of the thermometer and one morning, in common with many others I found the car locks frozen. Possibly


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like others I poured almost boiling water on in an attempt to unlock it but it froze as it hit the car and it was several days before the temperature went up a little to allow everything to release. then a great deal of the new paintwork came away with the defrosting!. I was very cross to say the least but I had it all renewed within the allowance that had been made by the insurance company. That still was not the end of it………but then the winter really set in.

Even the underground pipes froze in places and the works department produced a device that had not been used for years. It was a mobile motor driven generator producing a low voltage high amperage current that was attached to the fire hydrants and when the power was switched on it virtually heated the pipes up and they thawed. I had never seen anything like it before but at least the Fire service was kept in business. Even in the readiness areas the immersion heaters in the fire vehicles were needed to avoid freezing up. I put the fire dept to work to flood and freeze a fairly large depression of grassed area which produced an ice rink for several weeks. The centre of it was nearly two feet of solid ice and it was so cold that even the moat around Well castle in Holland was frozen to a depth of over two feet. Nevertheless we were still in business until it snowed again. We had been waiting for it and all the snow clearing machinery had been brought out and made ready but when it did start it made what I had been through when I brought the car back look like a little flurry. It snowed and snowed continually until there was a good ten to twelve inches over the whole airfield; and not the sort that would go away!.

With no flying possible we started to tackle it with everything we could muster to get the airfield clear. One machine had flame heaters for melting an icy surface, a hopper with finely graded sand with a worm feed which distributed the sand on the melted surface before it froze again. Result; a sandpaper type surface that was ideal for braking on at the upwind end of the runway. That's the way I figured it but everyone had different ideas particularly among those who had taken charge of the operation. It was attempted on snow, it was overworked and eventually it had a major breakdown. The various teams pushed and shoved snow all over the place with the snow ploughs and one crew even


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managed to put a twelve foot bank right in the runway threshold!. The equipment was the best with four wheel drive MAM diesel trucks with chains, and the blades could be swung either way for a left or a right cut, two splendid 'Snow-go’s' with flail intakes and plume blowers but the whole lot was being used piecemeal. Some ploughs had been used as bulldozers and a lot of snow was just being shifted from one place to another without opening up areas. After 24 hours of quite useless effort I stuck my neck out and produced a sketch plan of my own and there was very little argument. Obviously I couldn't make a bigger cock-up than had already been made and it was accepted. I assembled six ploughs in echelon with a half blade overlap followed by the two Snow-go’s and working on a plan to shift the snow [underlined] away [/underlined] from the taxyways [sic] we were off. It worked like a charm and mountains of snow was being cleared without blocking up other access points. At the end of the first cut I took the whole lot into a dispersal to swing the blades for the next run in the opposite direction when the CO turned up and 'suggested' that I would be better employed clearing snow instead of messing about changing the angle of the blades. He was not amused when I 'suggested' that "I was doing it my way" but really, there was no basis for any argument. I had already cleared half of a mile long taxyway [sic] in one sweep which was more than anyone else had done in the last 24 hours so with his permission I would like to carry on and prove a point, and perhaps he should judge my efforts by the result, particularly as others had not achieved much. How to get on and influence people!!!!, but I was cold and tired and past caring.

However, it did work as I expected and we were the first 2nd TAF airfield to be declared 'open' despite the fact that after I had left a colleague in charge whilst I went for a meal on my return found that he had managed to put 200 tons of snow back where I had just cleared it from. At least I had justified my plan and we were invariably the first 2nd TAF airfield to be declared clear after subsequent falls of snow. There was only one way to do it and I spent hours out on the airfield in -15 to-20 degrees. I followed it up with a written 'Snow Clearing Plan' with sketches and techniques to show how the basic plan could be adapted for any airfield and it turned up


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in print later. There were no thanks, just hard work and chilblains although there was a certain amount of satisfaction in having done something practical and useful. It was a relief when the deep freeze gave way to the first signs of Spring though and thoughts turned to planning the last holiday we were likely to get in that area. Before that happened an urgent problem put Dorothy into the Military Hospital at Vegberg near Rhiendalen for about ten days and we very nearly did not get the holiday but the planning was well advanced so we decided to go for it.

We had been fortunate in purchasing a slightly used but almost complete camping outfit so the destination was the Costa Brava in Spain. There were several dummy run exercises in the garden for putting up the tent until everyone knew what they had to do and the day came when all was assembled, loaded on the car and off we went.

Up to that point in time we had done no long distance travelling since the car had been repaired although there had been no problems. They started when we reached the area around Frankfurt when we were on long hill climbs when there were signs of overheating in the clutch and the most terrible noises from the gear box. With a little experimentation I found that the heat and the noise could be reduced by holding the highest gear for as long as possible which was not easy as the car was so heavily loaded. Eventually the decision was made after our first night stop at Frieburg that we would press on to the half way point at Geneva and that if it did not improve we would turn about. Strangely enough it was only lower gear hill climbs that produced the problem and in fact when we tried the odd run unloaded it was OK. We pressed on although I still had no idea what was causing it. I just wanted to be on holiday.

Actually we nearly abandoned it for other reasons. Dorothy did not like camping!. Not after our first night stop anyway. It was the way we had pitched the tent on a very slight slope in the semi-darkness and the natural movement in our sleep that found us up against the sides of the tent. That and the noises of the frogs at the lakeside did not exactly induce sleep.

Somehow we managed to retain some sense of humour even when in the early hours of the morning Dorothy had twisted herself up in her sleeping bag and I was awoken by gurgling noises and


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"get this b……zip out of my mouth"!!!!. That and the fact that it had started to rain heavily did not improve matters. It did not stop us moving out though. With a wet tent on top that then weighed twice as much as when we started!.

The next stop was Geneva where we were aiming for a camp site on the banks of Lake Lemon and it rained nearly all the way. What fun!. We had to put up a wet tent and I very nearly turned about at that point. Nevertheless, there was a pleasant little restaurant not far from the site and we indulged ourselves to the point of feeling a lot more comfortable by the time we turned in.

It had at least stopped raining but everywhere was clinging cold mist and these were the conditions when we packed up and moved out again, heading for Orange in the south of France where we were planning to stay with friends. We just ploughed on and on and on in those conditions through the Swiss mountains not seeing much more than the road is front of us until we got into France and the weather cleared up at last. We had a comfortable night stop in real beds and managed to get the tent up to dry out. We had arrived just in time for the May Day celebrations and had a great time dancing and drinking in the square on the fringe of the ampthitheatre [sic] . I think somehow that managed to bring us back to some sort of normallity [sic] .

Rested, well fed and with a dry tent packed off we went the following day heading for Spain and for a long time the weather was fine until shortly after we stopped for a break in Perpignan. Then it started to rain again. That was just what I wanted through the Pyrenees! and there was still a long way to go.

By the time we got to the border we were enjoying a full blown thunderstorm with lightning, thunder and lashing rain but the French customs just waived us on and we only made a short stop at the Spanish customs. Just long enough for the customs officer to determine that we were a British family on a camping holiday. That brought forth peals of laughter and he brought all his mates out to join in the fun. What's the Spanish for "blood silly British"??!!!!. We just laughed with them and pressed on but I was getting very very tired by that time and we had another good laugh before we finally stopped for the night.

Some time after we had left the border post we were being........


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followed by a German registered mini-bus and the damn fool driver made several dangerous attempts to overtake. Why he could not have been satisfied in following someone who was doing the 'pathfinding' for him I do not know so when we came to the edge of a town I thought that I would give him the opportunity to pass as I groped my way through a left and a right turn and several inches of water which almost obscured the line of the road. The mini-bus driver thought his chance had come as he surged past on what he thought was the road straight ahead and finished up along a shopping boulevard and came to a grinding halt mixed up with cafe’ tables and chairs!. He certainly paid for his impatience but enough was enough. If we got to Tossa-de-Mar that night we would still have put the tent up so with about 60 mls to go we decided that a comfortable night stop in a Hotel in Gerona would be a good idea. It was!. A meal, a drink and I crashed out.

The weather had cleared up by the morning and it was only about 30 mls to our destination through the winding roads of the area lined with carbuncled cork oaks. We were on site, tent up, and prepared to stay for at least ten days.

I think it was worth the effort. With a family of five I don't think we could have done it any other way even though there had been a few problems on our 1062 mile journey. We were not the only people ever to have had problems. One of our neighbours in the previous year had undertaken a motoring holiday to the North through Hamburg and on to Denmark and Sweden but had lost most of their baggage when their roof rack had seperated [sic] from the car and was very nearly pulped. There is no guarantee that all will go according to plan even with the more modern form of air transport to exciting places; not when several days may be lost sitting around an airport lounge or the hotel has been double booked. We had ten supurb [sic] days bathing, taking in the sights, and cruising around. The strange thing was that the car behaved itself so it didn't seem worth doing anything about. Perhaps one of the most interesting roads that we took was the coastal mountainous route from Tossa de Mar to San Feli'u. Only about twelve miles as the crow fly's but with most spectacular scenery and [underlined] 365 [/underlined] hairpin bends which actually doubled the road miles but it was interesting to say the least. We cruised the


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Costa Brava taking in the sights, eating and relaxing where it took our fancy, had a day in Barcelona and the scenic route through the Sierra de Montseny area to return stopping at numerous unspoiled villages where we were welcomed with open arms. Today there is always the tendency to want to dash from place to place along the new coastal motorway system and miss a great deal of the real Spain but we lapped it up. We even got used to the Spanish style of driving!. especially in the wrigly [sic] mountain areas. The locals had a tendency to maintain the maximum speed come what may, with the result that they approached blind corners at high speed, on the wrong side of the road, blasting away on the horn. The theory was that if there was no answering blast from anyone approaching from the opposite direction then it was safe to continue fast; and on the wrong side!!!. A bit dodgy nevertheless.

We have many recollections of that holiday, like the first time one of the girls took to the water in her new bikini only to find that as soon as it got wet it went transparent. A bit embarrassing for a sixteen year old, and we found that there were quite a few British on holiday there including one RAF couple who actually lived in Gogh. We made the most of it anyway and the day finally came when we had to be homeward bound.

The weather had generally improved and after getting back into France we took a different and very scenic route through the foothills of the Cevennes to Lyon and on to Bescancon and Belfort to finally pick up the motorway system northbound and home only making two stops en route. I was glad to get home. Being the only driver on a journey like that does impose a certain amount of strain but I was soon back to work and an opportunity to find out what had caused the heat and the noise but everything seemed OK until I checked the gear box oil level. Absolutely empty!!. I cross checked the detailed worksheet that the workshop had provided (in German of course) which showed that they had for some reason stripped both the engine and the gearbox and meticulously recorded every nut and bolt removed and/or replaced.....except the replacement of the gearbox oil. I think that possibly the only reason the gear box survived some 6000 miles without lubricant was because I had treated all the original lubricant with a propriety molybdenum after it's running


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in but to say I was annoyed is an understatement. It resulted in an absolutely stinking letter to the insurance company, who typically, would not accept the complaint without comment from the workshop.....and the workshop made every excuse in the book to avoid the issue. I gave it up in the end as I had just been notified of my next posting with nearly six months notice. Unheard of for me. I was going to Valley in North Wales so there was not much more time to finish our touring. We did the area towards Berlin to visit friends at Gutersloh who had visited us previously. That was the chap that had also been a POW with me, and at Wyton, and Marham, who had visited the Reichwald War Cemetery with me and whilst walking around was telling me how he was the only survivor of his crew when they had been shot down a year earlier than myself in a Halifax, near Krefeld. Naturally he wondered where his crew had been buried as we viewed some of the 5000 aircrew graves when he stopped with a gasp. There they were, all six of them in one row!!. Talk about "There but for the Grace of God go I"!. I retired to a respectful distance to allow him to compose himself. Whilst we were that way we visited the Mohne Dam and the Sorp and back at Laarbruch we visited Amsterdam and did the tourist thing by canal bus. We visited the amazing scenic park of De Efteling and another place in Holland which was an inland sort of water park. Probably the for-runner of Centre Parks, Bad Boekelo. Inland but just like the sea-side with fine sand and lots and lots of safe water fun. The first time we had come across the wave making machine but it will always stick in my mind for one incident. Everyone was lolling about and Dorothy was returning with some ice-cream with her sandles [sic] producing spurts of sand as she walked. Just as she approached a young Dutchmen in a reclining position who was inspecting the inside of a sandwitch [sic] , one of the spurts of sand left the toe of her sandles [sic] and joined the mustard, splat!!!. He looked up in amazement and then burst into laughter as we all did. So much the easier way of dealing with it and he shared our sandwiches!. We finally found the area of the windmills. There is only one area where they are plentiful and that is in the canal area east of Rotterdam. Kinderdyke. One of the few areas where national dress is often worn and very photogenic. About the last interesting event that I recall


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in Air Traffic Control matters was at the commencement of a flying excerise [sic] when our Javelins were sitting on the Operational Readiness platforms at the end of the runway hooked up to the Fighter Control network as we were so that we were able to listen out on the net but I was not prepared for what came out of the box…….. “Achtung……. Achtung……. XXXXXX(callsigns) shcramble [sic] ……shcramble [sic] ."…followed by the interception instructions. It was the first time the Luftwaffe controllers had been placed in the 'hot seat' and I must confess that it raised a few eyebrows among among [sic] a few of Bomber Harris's 'old lags" who formed about 50% of our controllers. As ironic as it was we had no option but to move with the times.

We were coming to the end of our visits to our favourite cafe at Nijmegen. A delightful family run establishment where no order was too much trouble for the somewhat rotund proprietor. We invariably topped off our shopping expeditions there and it was one place where I saw muscles [sic] served up as a meal on their own....in a large enamelled washing up bowl!. I like muscles [sic] but enough to fill a kit-bag in one go would be bit too much for me but one of the national dishes I believe. I wouldn't like to cope with that if any of then was a bit 'off'.

With plenty of time to sort things out and having been told that quarters would not be immediately available I managed to arrange a rental at Amlwych [sic] on the North side of Anglesey and our friends who were also posted to Valley more or less at the same tine arranged a rental in Holyhead. Of course there was packing to arrange. Goods in store in St.Ives to be transported to Amlwych [sic] , travel arrangements to be made etc, etc. The process was no longer a daunting prospect, we had done it often enough!, and eventually we cleared the station and we were on our way.

Dorothy and the girls went under service arrangements and flew from Wildenwrath on their way to Worthing and I set off with the car loaded to the hilt via the Hook and Harwich. It was an absolutely dreadful crossing in a Force 9 gale. People were being sick all over the place, and it was virtually impossible to sleep. All the berths had been booked and a good good [sic] many others and myself were making the best of deck chairs lashed to the decks. The usual seats and benches offered very little comfort as people were being thrown off of them all over the


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place and the bar and kitchens shut early as it was so difficult to cope with the pitching and the tossing. There were some very unhappy looking passengers around when we docked in the morning and I must confess that at times during the night it would not have worried me if we had foundered....I think I just wanted to die!. Nevertheless we started to dissembark [sic] and I was not in a hurry but one Army Officer who had obviously been well ahead of me had allowed his discomfort and his haste to get the better of him. It does not pay to get 'stroppy' with Custom Officials!.

He was standing by his car, tearing his hair out as they were removing absolutely everything from it which had been as loaded as mine. And I mean everything!. They had removed the seats, emptied every compartment and opened every package. It was strewn all around the car. I felt bad enough as it was so I declared every cigarette, gram of tobacco, and drop of booze and when they had deducted my allowance only asked for a nominal payment on the excess!: There was a little fuss over the car which I had already re-registered and re-placed the UK plates. They reckoned that I had jumped the gun but the documentation was all in order although there was some other documentation that was not quite right that at least we had a laugh about. I was bringing back our Budgie and [inserted] I [/inserted] had pinned it's import licence to the cage. Trouble was there was only half a licence, the other half was in the Budgie!. There was enough of to get by with and I was off to Worthing.




A T Gamble, “Water under the bridge,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 16, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/30375.

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