Interview with Herbert Adams


Interview with Herbert Adams


Herbert Adams grew up in New South Wales Australia and joined the Air Training Corps as soon as it was established. He later joined the Royal Australian Air Force and after training, he completed a tour of operations as a navigator with 467 Squadron. He describes crewing up, flying operations in Lancasters and his experience of avoiding aerial attack. He recalls the use of navigational aids including Gee, API and H2S. He then became an instructor at RAF Wigsley. He discusses an occasion when Me 110s attacked the airfield. He talks of a Cook's Tour over Germany when others photographed the after effects of the war. He was demobilised back to New South Wales and later taught for the RAAF.




Temporal Coverage




01:53:42 audio recording


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RG: This is an interview with Herbert Adams for the International Bomber Command Centre on Wednesday the 15th of February 2017 at his home in Kooringal, Wagga, New South Wales, Australia.
LD: The name of the interviewers.
RG: Interviewers are Rob Gray and Lucie Davison.
LD: Alright. All good. Ok.
RG: Off you go.
LD: So, you were born near Gulgong.
HA: That’s right.
LD: New South Wales.
HA: Yeah.
LD: Were you born in town or on a farm? Or where?
HA: No.
LD: What kind of area did you grow up in?
HA: My father had a stock and station agency and carrying business in Birriwa.
LD: Yeah.
HA: Very small. You wouldn’t see it now if you went through it [laughs] but it was a prosperous little district. I went to primary school there. One teacher school.
LD: And did you work there or did you leave?
HA: No.
LD: Leave home to go to work before you signed up?
HA: When I was old enough I went to high school at Mudgee for five years — where I boarded. And in 1938 dad sold the agency and bought a farm at Mendooran.
LD: Oh yes.
HA: And that’s where I reckoned I lived for a while because after I came back from the war they were still on the farm. And in fact, they sold the farm at the end of the 1946 drought and moved into town. And my brother and I took up share farming at Mendooran.
LD: Right.
RG: That town being Mudgee or —? That town being Mudgee or —?
HA: Not Mudgee. It was Mendooran, sort of east of Dubbo. South of Coonabarabran.
RG: Right. Ok. Yeah.
HA: We did that for three years and then I took on carrying for about a year and a half. Carting cement from Kandos to Sydney.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And then I bought a sports store in Mudgee.
LD: Oh right.
RG: Ok.
HA: Where I strung tennis rackets and fixed cricket bats, sold toys and stuff like that for seven or eight years. Got married and had three kids there. Didn’t know what to do with myself when I sold the sports store so I went to teacher’s college in Sydney for a year.
LD: Oh. Wow.
RG: Ok.
HA: Boarded with me sister. Left my family at Mudgee and got appointed to Mudgee to teach.
LD: Well that was handy wasn’t it?
HA: Well [laughs] we were asked to give preferences of where we wanted to teach and I said ‘Mudgee. Mudgee. Mudgee.’ And they said, ‘Well you’re married and an ex-serviceman and you live there. If necessary we’ll move someone.’ Which they did.
LD: Oh.
RG: Oh. yeah. Very good.
HA: They moved a first year out. A young fella.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Our From Mudgee to Muswellbrook or Maitland or somewhere over there.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And I taught junior maths and, senior and junior biology for five years.
RG: Right. Ok.
HA: At the same time, I did a degree from Armidale by correspondence.
RG: A degree in —?
HA: Just a BA degree with a major in maths and education. Tried to get a science degree out of them but they wouldn’t agree to an external student.
RG: Oh for science.
HA: Getting a science degree even though I could have had more science units.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Than what they could provide from Armidale.
RG: It’s odd isn’t it? Perhaps it required laboratory work or something at Armidale or something like that.
HA: I don’t know, just one of those regulations.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Regulations you can’t undo.
RG: Yeah. I was going to say with your service background to put down Mudgee, Mudgee Mudgee you were liable to be sent to Coonabarabran or somewhere. Anyway.
HA: Yeah. So, I taught at Mudgee there for five years and then I resigned and joined the air force a second time. Came to Wagga.
RG: Oh. Ok.
LD: Oh right.
HA: As an education officer out here at Forest Hill.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: Oh excellent.
HA: Which I did for just on three years.
RG: What were you teaching in the air force?
HA: First two years — adult trainees.
RG: Yeah.
HA: It was basic maths, physics and [Electrical] tech.
RG: Yeah.
HA: In the second year I was teaching fellas who didn’t want to be instructors to be instructors [laughs]
RG: Yeah. I was one of those. Yeah.
HA: It was an experience.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And I learnt more about teaching in that year than I did at teacher college. For sure.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: Yeah.
HA: And then —
LD: That must have been most interesting. Going back into the air force again after all that time.
HA: It was, yeah, because I was straight away a flight lieutenant.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And I did Anzac Day addresses and things like that.
RG: When was that? When did you go back into the air force?
HA: ’65 ‘66. ’67.
RG: Right. So, twenty years after you left.
HA: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
LD: That would have been fascinating.
RG: Have we got — sorry. Have we got Bert’s date of birth? Anywhere?
LD: Oh. No. What’s your date of birth, Bert?
HA: 23rd of the 2nd ’24.
LD: Ok.
HA: So, I’ll be ninety three next week.
LD: Wow. So, did you work before joining the air force the first time?
HA: Yes. I worked in Sydney for a year and a half. The local government department in Bridge Street.
LD: Oh yes. Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Didn’t like it much. Didn’t get much money.
RG: This was as a clerk or —
HA: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Junior clerk. And when they brought in compulsory service for the army I was very keen to get in because six shillings a day was big money.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Like, I was paying board in Sydney and train fares and had nothing left. I couldn’t even play hockey because I didn’t have enough money to go and play hockey every weekend.
RG: Right. Yeah. So that, what year was that that you —?
HA: 1941 and 1942.
RG: So, so you were called up in —
HA: ’42.
RG: ’42.
HA: Yeah.
LD: So, you were called up in to the army initially.
HA: Yeah. Yeah.
RG: Where did you go to?
HA: Went to Dubbo and did the infantry training for a month and then was invited, if you could drive a truck, to go to Moorebank near Liverpool and do a motor-school for a month.
RG: Right.
HA: A lot of stuff with Bren gun carriers.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And internal, whatever you call it. A written exam at the end of it. We had lectures at night and that sort of thing. Some of the fellas could barely read and write and they were in the army. I’d finished High School with good passes.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yes.
HA: I came top of the course.
LD: Yeah.
HA: I was invited to go to Sydney Tech College for six months and come out as a warrant officer instructor.
RG: Right.
HA: At aged eighteen.
RG: Ok. That was advanced promotion.
HA: I thought about it very seriously.
RG: You would have done. We’re talking about six shillings being good money.
HA: Anyway, I was already on the reserve for aircrew so when that came up I got out of the army.
LD: Oh right.
RG: So, did you volunteer for the reserve for the aircrew? Did you do that before you joined up? Or —
HA: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
HA: As a matter of fact, when Air Training Corps first formed, late in 1941 I think it was.
RG: Yeah.
HA: I was one of the first in.
RG: Right.
HA: And that was supposed to get you a month or two precedence on the, on the waiting list. There was a big waiting list for aircrew.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Eight months. Something like that.
RG: So did you do — we’ve read Andy, sorry, Adrian Child, sorry Ray child — Charlwood sorry.
HA: I’ve read two of his books.
RG: Yeah. And his way, he did it he came in through the ATS got assessed, got accepted, sent home and then came back later and did some training and then got sent home again and then went and did his specialist — his navigator’s training was it? Did something similar happen to you? Did you like get accepted and sent home again?
HA: No. Air Training Corps was only part time stuff up at Ashfield. Never got any uniform.
RG: Oh. This is not the ATS —this is Air Training Corps. Yeah. Ok. Sorry. Yeah. Different.
HA: Sorry. Wrong thing.
RG: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I was thinking of the ATS. Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Yeah. Where we were up to?
RG: So, Ashfield.
HA: Ashfield.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Yeah.
LD: So, which ITS did you end up going to?
HA: Bradfield.
LD: Oh right.
HA: Number 2.
LD: Oh my God. That’s where Ken was.
RG: That’s where Ken was. Yeah.
LD: I have a relative who was there.
HA: Yeah.
LD: Ken Glover.
HA: I’ve got an idea as I can remember that name. I was in 32 course for a start.
LD: I’m not sure what course he was in.
RG: No. He —
LD: I haven’t been able to find that out.
RG: He became a rear gunner. He was in 463. And he was killed on Christmas Eve ‘43 over Berlin.
LD: He started out in 207 Squadron.
RG: Yeah. He started out in 207 RAF.
HA: Yeah. He was a bit earlier at Bradfield than me if he was on Berlin raids.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yeah. He left [pause] he left Australia like January ’42.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Yeah.
RG: ‘43. He was killed at the end of ’43.
LD: Oh, I’m getting mixed up.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. Anyway.
HA: Yeah. There may have been another Glover that I met somewhere along the way.
RG: I’m sure there were scads of them really. Yeah.
LD: Yeah.
HA: I actually had a time. I got the mumps while I was there and went out to Prince Henry Hospital. Came back and I found myself in 33 course. And then they said, ‘They need more fellas at the training places. We’re going to do a rushed course so that you can go out with 32 course again.’
RG: Yeah.
HA: ‘Providing you’re quick enough at Morse.’
RG: Yeah.
HA: And because I’d been in the Air Training Corps I was fast enough at Morse.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yeah.
HA: So, I ended up with 32 course at Bradfield. And then came to Cootamundra.
LD: Yes.
HA: 1 AOS. I didn’t even get inside the gate. We were throwing kit bags up on to a truck and I collapsed and found myself in hospital.
RG: As a result of the mumps?
HA: Woke up the next day with terrible trouble with appendicitis.
RG: Oh, ok. Yeah.
HA: I was delirious for a few days and a bit lucky to survive I think because penicillin was, luckily, available.
LD: Yeah.
HA: In those days.
RG: Yeah. And only just available too. Yeah.
LD: Yes.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And so, I was in the hospital for a month with a hole with a rubber tube gushing out rubbish. Finally sent home, I think for Christmas, still with a hole in my belly. And —
RG: So, this is Christmas ‘41
HA: ‘42
RG: ‘42.
HA: ‘42. Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And they said, ‘By the way you will have to come back to hospital next year and have your appendix out.’
LD: What?
RG: They hadn’t done it.
HA: They didn’t take it out. All they’d done was drain all the muck out of it to treat it.
LD: Oh of course. They needed to drain everything ‘cause if they tried to operate with —
RG: The poison would have got into the bloodstream. Yeah.
LD: Yes. Yes.
RG: Lucie is an ex-nurse so.
HA: Yeah.
HA: My wife’s an ex-nurse too.
LD: We’re good people [laughs]
HA: So, I came out of hospital and did some time with 35 course and helped in the sick quarters for a while.
RG: This is filling in time before the next observers course.
HA: Yeah. Then I came down to Wagga.
RG: So, you didn’t actually get to Cootamundra at all. You were posted there but didn’t get there.
HA: Oh yes. When I come out of hospital I was put on to 35 course.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And I went to lectures and did one flight with them. And then they said but you’ve got to go and get your appendix out so I came to the RAAF hospital out here at Forest Hill which hadn’t long been opened and had my appendix out. And went back and fooled around until 38 course started.
LD: [laughs] They must have been wondering if they were ever going to get rid of you.
RG: Yeah. So instead of three months it was nine months.
LD: Oh right.
HA: At Cootamundra.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Mind you that kept you out of the worst of it.
HA: It may have kept me out of going to the islands or somewhere like that, you know.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: Yes. Yeah.
RG: Or the Battle of Berlin as well. Yeah.
LD: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Anyway —
LD: Did you end up doing any of your training overseas or was it all done in Australia?
HA: Up to the wing stage — in Australia.
LD: Right.
HA: I did bomb aiming and gunnery at Evans Head for two months and then astro nav at Parkes for a month. And then after a bit of leave we got on a boat and went to San Francisco.
LD: Do you remember the name of the ship?
HA: The Mount Vernon. I think.
LD: Ok. Yeah. Did you go via New Zealand?
HA: No. Non-stop.
LD: Oh. Ok.
HA: And we got our sea legs I think because it was calm for the first week or so and then there was a big storm.
LD: Yeah.
HA: There were logs floating around in San Francisco harbour.
LD: Right.
RG: Did you leave from Sydney or Melbourne?
HA: From Sydney.
RG: Sydney. Yeah. By the way when you said you did one flight with 38 course.
HA: 35.
RG: 35. What sort of aircraft?
HA: Ansons.
RG: Ansons. Yeah. Ok.
HA: It was Fairey Battles at Evans Head and it was Ansons again at Parkes.
RG: Right. Yeah.
HA: Astro.
RG: Yeah.
LD: So were you happy to be a navigator or would you have preferred some other role? Because you said you did the gunnery course as well. Did you have any choice in this or —
HA: While we were at Bradfield park they asked us towards the end of the business which you’d like to be and nearly everybody wanted to be a pilot of course. The day that they did the coordination test I was at the dentist and so I missed that.
RG: [laughs] You had bad medical trouble there didn’t you [laughs]
HA: I had a lot of trouble with my teeth.
RG: Oh dear.
HA: And the test was to sit in a seat with rudder pedals and a joystick with a screen where somebody made a dot move around the screen at random and you had to chase it with your feet.
RG: Yeah.
HA: I knew I’d made a terrible mess of it. Partly because when I was a kid I had a flivver which you steered with your feet. If you wanted to go to the right you did that which is just the opposite.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: To what you want to do in an aeroplane.
RG: Sorry a flivver.
HA: A flivver.
RG: What’s a flivver? What —
HA: Well it had a handle on it like the trikes that they had on the railway.
RG: The ones that you cranked. Yes.
HA: Yes.
RG: Oh ok. I didn’t know they were called flivvers.
HA: Yeah. Anyway, so, I knew I made a mess of it so when they came to ask me what I wanted to do I said navigator. They said, ‘Why don’t you want to be a pilot?’ And I said, ‘Well I made a mess of the coordination test and I’m pretty good at maths and stuff.’ I didn’t tell them that a lot of fellas say, ‘I want to be a pilot,’ and they say, ‘Oh well. You can be a rear gunner.’
RG: Yeah. [laughs] Ok.
LD: Yes.
HA: So, I got in first.
RG: That was a smart move.
LD: Yes. Yeah. They were getting to be short of rear gunners, weren’t they? Very sadly.
HA: So, we got on a, oh there was only six hundred of us on the ship. Most of the people were American servicemen who were either ill or wounded. Coming back from the Pacific.
LD: Yeah.
HA: And so, when we got to San Francisco they said, ‘There’s sixty of you navigators,’ or observers as we were then. We had an O wing, ‘Who thought you were going to Canada to do a six months reconnaissance course. That’s been scrubbed. You are now going across to Britain for Bomber Command.’ So, we had to —
RG: Oh. So you might have ended up doing reconnaissance flights in Mosquitos, I presume. Or something of that nature.
HA: Probably in Liberators across the Atlantic I would think.
RG: Oh ok. Ok.
LD: Right.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Anyhow.
RG: Yeah.
HA: That was scrubbed and we got on a troop train and went across America to New York and got on a ship called the Isle de France.
RG: Ah yes. Famous vessel.
HA: On Christmas Eve.
RG: That’s Christmas Eve forty.
HA: ’43.
RG: ‘43 yeah.
LD: Oh right. Yeah.
RG: That was the night Ken was killed.
LD: Yes. Yeah.
HA: It got as far as the Statue of Liberty and broke down.
RG: [laughs] That was the French.
HA: And we thought thank goodness because we were right down below the waterline at the stern with the sides coming down like that.
RG: Oh yes. Yeah.
HA: And had to climb through round portholes all around.
RG: Hatches. Yeah.
HA: Vertical ladders to get up to the next deck.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Anyhow, they kept us there overnight. They gave us some sandwiches I think and then the next morning they said, ‘You can wait until we give you some more sandwiches and some pay. Or you can do without that. Go straight into New York where there’s likely to be people taking you home for Christmas dinner.’
LD: Well there’s an option isn’t there?
HA: So, three of us went out to a very nice double decker house in Mount Vernon for lunch. We thought Christmas lunch, you know. Christmas lunch came time and there were plenty of little nibbles and plenty of drinks. This went on all the whole afternoon until about 7 o’clock at night and they brought out the turkey. Us three all said, ‘Well yes, we wouldn’t mind a second helping,’ [laughs]. He took us to his factory the next day. He had a factory that made, amongst other things, handkerchiefs. He gave us some handkerchiefs each.
RG: You don’t happen to remember the family name by any chance, do you? A big ask I know but —
HA: Richie, I think. Richie.
RG: Richie. Ok.
HA: And took us to his club. We offered to buy a drink after he’d bought us one. Everything’s done with chips.
RG: So, you can’t possibly. That’s a polite way to do it isn’t it?
HA: Took us back to our camp at Fort McDowell or Fort Slocum or something. I’ve forgotten the name and we had a few more days in New York. Went to Madison Square Garden and saw an ice hockey match for the first time.
LD: Oh wow.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Went to Jack Dempsey’s Spaghetti Bar.
RG: Ok. Yes. Sorry. Sorry Bert, I was just going to say, I know you said it was a camp. Fort Slocum or wherever it was. Was that like a transit camp for Commonwealth personnel or was it a US army camp or —?
HA: I can’t remember.
RG: Ok.
HA: I can’t remember. It seemed to be a useful sort of a camp.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Could have been [unclear] or that sort of thing.
RG: Yeah.
LD: I have read that Australian servicemen in the States, because there were a lot of people like you who were, you know, kind of in between places who ended up staying there for a couple of weeks or something were very welcome and, you know, never had to buy a drink and so on. Is that — is that your experience?
HA: They were very generous. The Americans.
LD: Yeah.
HA: Yeah. We didn’t buy a drink the time that we were with him of course. I can’t remember other Americans shouting us drinks while we were in New York but in Denver one day, we had a couple of hours in Denver and a fellow came up to us and said, ‘You’ve strange uniforms.’ We had Australia across here. ‘I didn’t know Austria was on our side.’ [laughs]
RG: [laughs] Did you point out that Hitler was an Austrian [laughs] Anyway, yeah.
HA: So, we talked to him a bit about Australia then and [pause]
LD: I have, I’ve also read about the Australians being mistaken for German POWs. Did you, did you have that experience?
HA: I think that could happen. I got mistaken for a policeman a couple of times in London. In the blue uniform.
RG: The blue uniform, yeah. Of course.
LD: Oh of course. The darker blue.
HA: Yeah.
LD: Yes.
HA: And because we’d been to London a few times and used the Underground I knew my way around London fairly well as far as the Underground was concerned. So if somebody said, ‘How do I get to —,’ such and such. I was able to say, ‘That way.’ [laughs] Didn’t let on I wasn’t a policeman.
LD: Fair enough.
HA: Yeah.
LD: So, did you have a safe trip across to Britain after all that. Did you have any problems?
HA: No. No. On New Year’s Eve we boarded the Queen Elizabeth.
LD: Oh. Right.
HA: And it had, it had been partly furnished for passengers before the war but it hadn’t been finished.
RG: No.
HA: There were parts of it were still open hold.
RG: Yeah.
HA: With stacks of —
RG: She came straight from the shipyard. Straight in as a troopship. Yeah.
HA: We got a cabin and there was —
LD: Lucky you.
HA: Eighteen of us, I think, in a cabin, with a little toilet corner in it. Most everywhere there was six feet on a wall with three bunks.
RG: Three bunks. Yeah.
LD: Ah yes.
HA: There were six walls altogether including the corner of it.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yeah.
HA: We had a great time there. Used to sit on the floor and play cards.
LD: Did you have to — did you have to act as lookouts on the Queen Elizabeth?
HA: No.
LD: Right.
HA: No. We did boat drill which was a bit of a hassle because there was over twenty thousand troops on it. Two or three of the top decks that were open to the weather had three bunks up the wall. Bolted on.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Americans took twelve hours on, twelve hours off on those bunks.
RG: Wow.
HA: So they could fit more people in.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: Oh my goodness. Yeah. I’ve read about the hot-bunking. I didn’t realise it was to that extent.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Two meals a day because it took four hours to feed them all.
LD: Yes. Yeah.
HA: Four hours to clean up and then another one.
LD: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
LD: I also read that the meals were more than a bit basic.
HA: They were, they were alright.
RG: This was a British, this was a British ship. Not an American one. Different. Yeah.
HA: Yeah. We had good meals on the boat. On the trains across America too. It was a bit strange. They’d ask for volunteers to go and count the stuff through the corridor sort of thing. I never had to do that. But they’d arrive with a stainless streel tray, plate, with five compartments on it. You’d put meat there and vegetables there, vegetables there, vegetables there, fruit salad there. And then they’d get a ladle and put what we reckoned was plum jam and put it all over the plate [laughs]
LD: Oh.
HA: It may have been chutney I don’t know.
LD: It sounds awful.
RG: You’re right to separate everything and then join it up with — yeah.
LD: So, did you have the Pullman carriages?
HA: Yes.
LD: Yeah.
HA: Yes. A little compartment with enough people for four. And yet they only put three in it because at night time they had a negro porter came in and made up a double bed at the bottom.
LD: Yeah.
HA: And pulled down —
LD: Yeah.
HA: One at the top which I got in. Being wintertime, each morning I’d find icicles hanging down from the ceiling where the fellas underneath would be warm because they were steam heated.
RG: Yeah. Oh right. Yeah. Yeah.
LD: Yeah. So did you get to see snow on that trip as well?
HA: Yes. For the first time. We pulled up in marshalling yards at Chicago for about an hour and a half, I suppose. Nowhere near the platform but there was railway lines forever.
RG: Yeah.
HA: We saw it was snow on the ground so, ‘Oh, we’ll get out and have a snow fight.’ So, we got out and had the snow fight for about five minutes and it was minus thirty.
RG: Yeah. Chicago in the winter.
HA: We got back in again pretty quick.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yeah. No. That’s, that’s my relative’s experience as well. Was seeing the snow for the first time.
HA: Yeah. It was the first time I’d seen snow.
LD: Yeah.
HA: Going across the Atlantic in the Queen Elizabeth after about three days they said, ‘There’s reputed to be a U-boat pack waiting out there somewhere so we’re going to go up near Iceland somewhere and we’re going to go flat out.
RG: Yeah.
HA: So, put your warm clothes on.’ We’re not going to — we’re going to turn the heating off and go as fast as we can.’
RG: Yeah.
HA: We met some of the crew in Glasgow. Greenock. They took us for a tour of the ship later and said that they got over forty knots.
RG: Wow.
HA: That night going up.
RG: She was fast. I didn’t realise she was that fast though.
HA: Yeah.
RG: Wow.
LD: So, did you, did you land in Greenock?
HA: Yeah.
LD: Yeah. Ok. Yeah.
RG: Yes, I suppose if you’ve got the threat of U-boats you’ll find the, you’ll find the extra knots.
HA: Yeah, they put all the steam they could get in to it.
LD: So, once you arrived in the UK where did you go to then?
HA: By train to Brighton.
LD: Brighton. Ok. And were you there for long?
HA: I think about three weeks.
LD: Right. Yeah.
HA: We did a little bit of training. I think the main thing we did was learn the stars of the northern hemisphere.
RG: Oh course. Yeah.
LD: Of course. Absolutely. Yeah.
RG: They didn’t teach you that while you were here?
HA: No. No.
RG: I mean even theoretically. That’s funny. I suppose a lot of you would have ended up in the Pacific theatre so, yeah.
HA: There’s enough to learn one lot at a time.
RG: Yeah. True enough. Yeah.
LD: Yeah. No. I remember the first time I went to Europe, you know, looking up at the sky and going —
RG: It’s all different.
LD: All the bases of my life were gone. It’s quite strange and it would have been even more so for you because that’s —
RG: Your trade.
LD: Yeah . That would have been really interesting for you.
HA: At Brighton there was two big hotels. The Metropole and The Grand that were taken over by the RAAF as a holding centre. And again, when we left to come home. Same place.
LD: Oh right.
RG: They’re both on the seafront aren’t they?
HA: Yeah.
RG: Yeah. I can remember the Metropole.
HA: When I went back to Europe in ‘94 and took a trip down to Brighton and had a look at them and they’ve dolled them up. They’re both nice looking hotels.
RG: Yeah. They’re both there though. Yeah.
HA: They were very basic then.
RG: Yeah.
LD: And was Brighton all — ‘cause I know Bournemouth had all the razor wire on the beaches and things like that. Was the same sort of protections there in Brighton?
HA: Yes. One of the, I think both of the piers had a hole cut in the middle of them so that they couldn’t —
RG: Couldn’t land on the end.
HA: Get on to one end and come ashore sort of thing.
LD: Were there any air raids or anything while you were there?
HA: Yes. There were air raids while we were there.
LD: Yeah.
HA: For a start we used to go down to the basement and they didn’t seem to do much harm so after that we didn’t bother. We just stayed in our bedroom.
RG: That would have been also around the time of the V1s and V2s.
HA: Yes.
RG: Did you have any experience of those? Or —
HA: Once or twice when I was in London on leave we heard one or two come over and we actually heard one stop one night and thought oh, this is going to be a bang.
RG: Oh dear.
HA: And sure, enough there was a bang not far away.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard people, Londoner’s I’ve met, who said that they were far more frightened of the V1s than the V2s because of that. You’d hear. In the buildings you couldn’t see them. You could hear them and when they stopped it was, ‘Where is it going to fall?’
HA: Yeah.
RG: Whereas the V2 was the crash and if you heard the crash — well you were still alive. So that was —
HA: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
HA: I don’t think there was any V2s ever landed when I was in London. They were frightening.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: Yeah.
HA: And I don’t think there was any of the London guns landed in London when I was there either. You’ve heard about the London guns. The V3.
RG: That’s the V3. Yeah. Yeah. Yes. I have heard about it. I didn’t know they actually fired on —
HA: Yeah. They fired a few.
RG: Oh ok.
HA: But nowhere near what they wanted to.
RG: No.
HA: They were going to finish Britain off with the V2s and V3s.
RG: Well by that point they were disappearing back away from the French coast weren’t they?
HA: Yeah. That’s right.
RG: Yeah. You’re talking January ‘45.
HA: Yeah. So the London gun got bypassed.
RG: Shuffled back. Yeah. Became a Calais gun or something [laughs] as far as you could reach.
LD: So which OTU did you end up being sent to?
HA: Lichfield.
LD: Yeah.
HA: Before that we went to an AFU At Llandwrog. In North Wales.
RG: Wales.
LD: What was an AFU?
HA: They called it an Advanced Flying Unit.
LD: Oh right. Yeah.
HA: Avro Ansons again. That was mainly to familiarise navigators and bomb aimers I think with map reading in Britain.
LD: Oh right.
HA: Which was altogether different to the Riverina
LD: Just a little [laughs]
RG: [unclear]
LD: Not to mention the stars.
RG: Yeah. And at Lichfield — that was an OTU.
HA: Lichfield it was a fairly popular OTU where we crewed up and —
LD: Yeah.
HA: Flew Wellingtons.
LD: Right.
RG: For training.
HA: For training.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Yeah.
LD: So how did they crew you guys up? It seems to have been a little different in different places.
HA: They gave us two days to hang around in the hangar and hang around in the mess drinking beer and find ourselves a crew.
LD: Right.
RG: Right. But that was a five man crew wasn’t it?
HA: Six.
RG: Six. In a Wellington.
HA: Six I think.
RG: Six. Yeah. Ok.
HA: Yeah. Even though Wellingtons only had five in the crew.
RG: Yeah.
HA: You crewed up with six and the rear gunner and the mid-upper gunner took turns in the rear turret to practice.
RG: Oh ok.
LD: Oh right. Ok. Yeah.
RG: But you’re still one down from a Lancaster though ‘cause that was seven.
HA: Yeah. No engineer.
RG: No engineer. Right.
HA: So, Syd Payne and I who’d done our training in Australia together as observers and he had been a — started off as a pilot. Did Tiger Moths at Narromine and got scrubbed on Wirraways at Uranquinty I think. So, he looked like a valuable bloke to have in a crew. Somebody who could fly.
RG: Fly. Yes. Of course.
HA: And we were both navigator — bomb aimer, sort of thing and he trained.
RG: Tossed a coin to see who did what.
HA: He trained as a bomb aimer just across Anglesey from where Llandwrog was. So, we’re looking around for a pilot.
RG: Sorry. Did you two decide between yourselves who was going to be the bomb aimer and who was going to be the navigator?
HA: Before we’d even got there because he trained as a bomb aimer AFU.
RG: Yeah.
HA: I trained as a navigator AFU.
RG: Yes. Oh of course. That was before Lichfield yes. Of course. Yeah.
HA: Before Lichfield.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: So we got together and we found a pilot with a wireless op attached. And they were both Queenslanders. Both same age as us. All twenty years old. And after looking at a few others, sort of thing, I think the pilot decided that, yes, we would do him sort of thing and so we were thinking about a rear gunner. And a pair of gunners. Looking around and then a pair of gunners came and found us [emphasis] They turned out to be fellas who came first and second in their gunnery course.
RG: Nice.
HA: So, they, they had the pick of the mob sort of thing. So they picked us luckily. We got on well with them so —
RG: Both Australians. So —
HA: Yes. All Australians.
RG: Yeah.
HA: The rear gunner was from Sydney. In fact, we had a connection. I don’t know whether he’d married already a girl that I knew in Mudgee.
RG: Oh. Ok.
HA: Or married her after.
RG: After the war.
HA: One or the other. And the other fella was a farm worker from Western Australia who was elderly. He was twenty five.
RG: Oh gosh.
LD: Oh. Poor old man. You’d have to help him on with a stick.
HA: And they were both teetotallers.
RG: Oh. Ok. Ok. Maybe that’s why they came first and second in their gunnery course.
HA: And they were good shots. The bloke from Western Australia had done a bit of clay pigeon shooting, well live pigeon shooting against kangaroos and stuff.
RG: Yeah.
HA: You know. So, he knew about leading.
RG: Yeah. And they used clay pigeons to the train the gunners. Yeah.
HA: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. So, they were good shots by the time we got together and of course we did a lot more training. One of the things we did at Lichfield in our training was do a bullseye.
RG: Yes.
HA: Several reckoned it counted as an operation. Others reckoned it counted as half an operation. Yeah. They got all the training planes together. Not only from Lichfield but a heap of them and flew up as if you were going to Wilhelmshaven or something like that. Up in the Baltic. When you got nearly there you turned around and came back while the rest of Bomber Command went to Munich or somewhere.
RG: Oh, you were the decoy force.
HA: Diversion decoy. Yeah.
RG: Diversion. Of course. Yeah.
LD: This is the first time I’ve actually been able to confirm what a command bullseye was.
RG: Yeah. Lucie’s relative, Ken mentions in his logbook about a command bullseye but they did these over London.
LD: But they did these over London. Yes.
RG: But and he just says command bullseye and we’ve asked the other veterans and none of them have known what it was. They didn’t do it. So —
LD: I’ve only found one reference to it in the research.
RG: Yeah.
LD: That’s really good. I’m really pleased [laughs]
HA: We did another one when we were on Stirlings. We did another bullseye.
RG: Oh that was still on Wellingtons wasn’t it?
HA: This was still on Wellingtons. Yeah.
RG: Yeah. And then you went over to Stirlings did you?
HA: Yes. Our next move after Lichfield was Swinderby.
RG: Oh yes.
HA: Near Lincoln. And I was on Stirlings.
RG: Yeah. Where you found an engineer at that point.
HA: Yeah. That’s where we got our engineer.
RG: Was he appointed or did you find him?
HA: He was just appointed to us and he was a man of forty four.
RG: Wow.
LD: Really.
HA: He’d been a policeman for years.
RG: Yeah.
HA: In Birmingham and Coventry.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And those sorts of places.
RG: So he was RAF.
HA: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: I didn’t realise.
HA: He was born in Scotland. His parents lived in Ireland. When we went on leave he had to change in to civvies to go over to Ireland.
RG: To go to Ireland [laughs]
HA: Yeah.
RG: Yes.
LD: So, did you do anything other than kind of like a spoof raid on the bullseye. Did you drop leaflets?
HA: No.
LD: Or anything like that?
HA: No. We just stayed over the sea all the time.
LD: Right. Ok.
RG: Ok.
HA: And the other one we did in the Stirlings I think we only went about as far as the Dutch coast. It was quite a short trip compared with the one that went nearly to Wilhelmshaven.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yeah.
RG: So how long were you on Stirlings for? And again, this is just training isn’t it? On the Stirlings.
HA: Training. Yeah. We trained there for about a month I think.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: It was mainly circuits and bumps and that sort of thing for the pilot more than —
RG: Get used to the four engines.
HA: Probably did about a couple of cross country’s and that sort of thing.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Some bombing. Fighter affiliation for the gunners.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: So, the bullseyes. Were they both at night?
HA: Yes.
LD: Yeah. So that would have been training for you as a navigator as well wouldn’t it?
HA: Oh yeah.
LD: Sort of doing the real thing. Yeah.
HA: Oh yeah. Had to find our way there and back. But when we got to Lichfield I think, on OTU, on the Wellingtons we first had Gee.
LD: Yes.
HA: Which was a tremendous help for navigators. You could get accurate fixes whenever you wanted them.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Up as far as the enemy frontier sort of thing. They jammed it after that. If we could get an hour or two when we were on an operations of good fixes before Gee gave up. And they also had APIs which you don’t seem to be in the literature much. Air Position Indicators.
RG: No.
HA: They were the best thing going for —
RG: How did that work?
HA: When we were at Cootamundra or AFU we were expected to keep a manual air plot. Every change of direction or speed or height made a difference to the air plot each time.
LD: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Then if you found a fix you could find a wind.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And that depended on the pilot sticking to the course that he was told to be on.
RG: Yeah.
HA: The speed he was told to be on and the height he was supposed —
RG: So pilot’s actually —
LD: Pilots don’t always do that.
HA: Navigation was very much a — perhaps. But with API they had a distance reading compass down the back that was half gyro and half magnetic.
RG: Yeah. Gyro magnetic compass. I know those. Yeah.
HA: And that came via the nav table through a control called a Variation Setting Control so you could set the variation on that.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And change it as you went across Europe.
RG: Yeah.
HA: From 11 around Lincoln to about 3 at Berlin or something like that.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
HA: And deviations.
RG: Yeah.
HA: They’d swing the compass every now and again on the ground. Give you a deviation card.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Generally only one or two degrees.
RG: Yeah.
HA: So the true directions would come out on the repeater compasses for the navigator and the pilot.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And the bomb aimer.
LD: Right.
HA: And the API had true directions going to it and then from the air speed indicator which didn’t give true airspeed by any means when you, as you went higher. The indicated air speed might be a hundred and sixty mile an hour and the true air speed be two hundred miles an hour.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. Thinner air. That’s going to —
HA: Thinner air. So that was accounted for as well.
RG: Wow. That’s —
HA: So the API had got true directions and true speed.
RG: Yeah. And altitude to make that variation. Yeah.
HA: Just had two knobs on it.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Two little windows.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And the normal thing we did for a start was to set the latitude and longitude of the airfield and as you flew along any time you wanted to find out where your air position was it was there. You just wrote it down. Latitude and longitude. Popped it down on your chart.
RG: And that was quite accurate.
HA: Yeah.
RG: Wow. Ok. So that were, that were in Lancs and Stirlings obviously. And Wellingtons.
HA: Yeah.
RG: Ok. So was this must have been, was this something that sort of came along later in the war? Do you know?
HA: I think it probably came in in late ’43.
RG: Yeah.
HA: I would imagine.
RG: Ok. Yeah. You’re right. I haven’t come across that either, but, yeah.
LD: Did you get — because from what I’ve read there was a lot of technology happening there around all sorts of things but, you know, including navigation.
HA: Yeah.
LD: Did you find there was a lot of changes in the equipment that you used and were you actually trained in those changes?
HA: Yes.
LD: Or did you just kind of wake up one morning and get on the aircraft and find it was new.
HA: We had — Lancasters were fitted with H2S when we got to Waddington.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And we used them in training on [pause] between — between the Stirlings and going in to the squadron we did a Lanc Finishing School. I think that’s where we first saw H2S on the planes.
RG: Yeah.
HA: All the planes had H2S at Waddington. And we used them for training exercises but we were forbidden to use them on operations because the Germans could home in on them with their fighters.
RG: Yes. Yes. Yeah.
HA: And so the only time we ever used H2S over Germany was on a daylight trip to Wilhelmshaven when they expected to have a lot of cloud over the target and so for the first time we ever got directions like this — ‘If you can’t see the target you can use H2S or you can drop your bombs when you see another one drop their bombs.’ [laughs]
RG: [laughs] Gosh.
LD: That’s precision bombing.
RG: Yeah.
LD: So you’re all sitting there going can any of us see the target? Who’s going to drop a bomb first?
HA: In our training with H2S the bomb aimer used to come and sit alongside the navigator. Both fiddled with H2S and so he came up and we were deliberating about where we were going to aim at sort of thing and we finally said, ‘Oh well, that’ll do.’ When we pressed the bombing tit two other Lancs dropped theirs.
RG: [laughs] Not sort of what you’d expect is it?
HA: We don’t know what harm we did.
LD: Might have killed a couple of sheep.
HA: Anyway, that was H2S. Gee didn’t change except as, as the allies crept up through France and so forth.
RG: Went further out.
HA: They opened up two more Gee chains besides the ones that were based in England.
RG: Yeah.
HA: One was called the Reims. One was called the Ruhr. And the other thing was after about two months, I think, Loran was fitted to the Lancs.
LD: Sorry. What was that?
RG: Loran.
HA: L O R A N long range air navigation.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Which related to Gee in that it measured time differences between the emitter and the plane. And that chart with curved lines in different colours. Same as Gee. But apparently it was only effective at night time because instead of getting direct radio signals they were bounced off the ionosphere at night time.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: It had an extremely long range. Covered all of Europe. And when they came out to the Pacific it covered all the Pacific area.
RG: Really important in the Pacific. Yeah.
HA: So we trained with Loran while we were on the squadron and actually used it about halfway through our tour. Used Loran when Gee ran out.
RG: But was it as accurate as Gee?
HA: Not as accurate.
RG: No.
HA: And a bit more cumbersome to use because you tuned into one station and got one partition line at a time and then you had to tune into a second one.
RG: Get the second position line.
HA: Get the different and then transfer further along.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Parallel ruler and muck around. So it was a bit slower. I think it was accurate enough. Good enough to find the target anyway.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. Were you mostly on, at 467, on daylight operations at that point or still mostly night time? Night operations?
HA: We got back to mostly back to night time by that time. This was September when we started and D-day was back in June.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Sorry that was September. What year?
HA: ‘44.
LD: Thank you. Just to –
HA: We finished in January ’45.
LD: Right. Yeah.
HA: So we did a few daylight trips. The first and third ones were fairly big raids on le Havre and Boulogne in daylight. Big armies.
RG: Army support. Yeah.
HA: In both those places and they had side-tracked or bypassed them with the Canadians and British armies.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And finally, they decided it was about time they cleaned them out, sort of thing. So dropped a lot of bombs on various parts.
RG: Yeah.
HA: It wasn’t area bombing like there was on towns in Britain, in Germany. It was specific things.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Like oil dumps, E-boat pens. Stuff like this.
RG: Transport links and stuff like that. Yeah. Tactical. More tactical.
HA: Tactical stuff.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: They didn’t want to kill too many Frenchmen.
RG: No. No. Exactly.
LD: No. One doesn’t.
HA: So, we did that in daylight.
LD: That’s right.
RG: So that was on your first and third trip.
HA: First and third trips. Yeah.
LD: How many ops did you complete?
HA: Twenty nine.
LD: That’s a good number.
HA: Pardon?
LD: That’s a very good number.
HA: Yeah. Well I think the bullseyes might have counted to make it thirty.
RG: I was going to say, Bert, it varied over time we noticed that the number of ops you had to do to do a, you know, to do a tour.
HA: A tour varied.
RG: Yeah. In your period it was how many?
HA: Thirty to finish.
RG: It was thirty still. Yeah. Ok.
HA: When we started it was thirty six because it had been made thirty six around D-day.
RG: Ok.
HA: With so many short trips.
RG: Of course. Yeah. Yes.
HA: And then a month or two after D-day they broke it back to thirty three.
RG: ‘Cause you were going back on the raids on Germany then.
HA: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And then after we’d done about fifteen or twenty trips or something like that they said you only have to do thirty from now on.
RG: That was a bit of a relief.
HA: Yeah. But there was some longer trips coming up.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: We did one long trip to Trondheim in Norway.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Wow.
HA: Almost eleven hours.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And they put a smokescreen over the target and so the master bomber said, ‘Well, you can take your bombs home.’ So we did almost eleven hours with a full bomb load.
RG: Wow.
LD: Did that count as an op for you?
HA: That counted as an op. Yeah.
LD: Because you didn’t drop any bombs.
HA: You’d only to go to the target and be on the op. Yeah. We did a couple of —
RG: You said you brought the bombs home.
LD: Yeah.
RG: You didn’t land with them did you?
LD: Yes. That’s what I was thinking.
HA: Yeah.
RG: You did.
LD: Wow.
RG: I thought the standard practice was to ditch them in the sea if you were —
HA: Only if you had too much weight.
RG: So —
HA: I think earlier in the war they might have ditched them but we brought our bombs back three times I think.
RG: Ok.
LD: Oh my goodness.
RG: So when you say too much weight you had too much fuel still in and there was like a maximum weight that a Lanc could land with.
HA: Yeah. Yeah.
RG: Oh. I see.
LD: Well, you wouldn’t have had much fuel left after a trip to Norway. Would you?
RG: No. That’s right. It would have been light enough I suppose.
HA: I wrote a bit about this later one time. We were the only one to get back to Waddington with our bombs on. The others either landed in Scotland or ditched their bombs in the Atlantic.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And then got back to Waddington. But we didn’t bother. We came all the way back and had eighty gallons left.
RG: Eighty gallons. Don’t go around the circuit once or twice [laughs]
HA: It’s not really enough to go around again.
RG: No.
LD: Yeah.
RG: Wow. Ok.
LD: It doesn’t kind of sound very safe landing with the bombs but —
RG: No. No.
LD: But obviously you managed it.
HA: Yes. I believe —
LD: And the big one would have only been a cookie in that case wouldn’t it? You wouldn’t have had —
HA: Yeah. I don’t think we had a cookie even then. I think we only had about eight or ten one thousand pounders. I could find out in the logbook.
RG: Yeah for that range you would have only had a small one. You’d need more fuel and less bombs for that range.
HA: They actually, like, we were two squadrons taking off from Waddington. So there would have been about forty planes. As you turned at the end of the runway, on the perimeter track to get on to the runway they had a petrol tanker there to top up the tanks.
RG: [laughs] Fair dinkum.
LD: Oh my goodness.
HA: They knew it was going to be touch and go you see.
RG: Wow.
LD: Wow.
RG: That must have been close to one of the longest return — one of the longest return raids of the war surely.
HA: For ordinary squadrons.
RG: Yeah.
HA: But the fellas who did the Tirpitz raids —
RG: Yeah.
HA: They did thirteen, fourteen hour trips.
RG: Yeah. They had modified aircraft though too didn’t they? Yeah.
HA: They threw out the turrets.
RG: Yeah. Yes. Yeah.
LD: Because that’s what I was going to ask with these raids was the crew or the aircraft modified in any way for those, for that long trip.
HA: No. No.
RG: The standard. Still must have come close. I mean there were some squadrons, some raids I believe where they flew across, dropped their bombs in east bloc Poland and then went on and landed at Russian airfields, refuelled and came back out.
HA: Yeah. They did the same with some of the Italians targets early in the war I think.
RG: Yeah. Flew down to North Africa. Yeah. Yeah.
LD: So did you guys know, well no, you didn’t know in advance did you? About where you were going? But how did you feel when you realised you were going to Norway?
HA: We feel pretty happy about it because we thought that’s going to be a safe target.
RG: Yeah.
HA: There’s not going to be anybody shooting at you all the way.
LD: Fair enough.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Actually it was a nasty trip for navigation. There was what they called an occlusion up in the North Sea where a cold front and a warm front got together.
RG: Yeah.
HA: It was raining. And the wind was variable and we were supposed to find our way up there after Gee ran out. For about another two or three hours flying after that. The bomb aimer gave what we thought was a pinpoint crossing the coast of Norway that turned out to be wrong. And he gave another one later on and he thinks it was right. But anyway we finally found the target. Then we had to fly for two or three hours without any aids coming back because it was ten tenths cloud. Still raining.
RG: And you were over the sea the whole way.
HA: When I finally got the first Gee fix we were fifty miles north west of where we should have been.
RG: That’s not bad.
HA: The wind had changed that much.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: In four or five hours.
RG: Yeah. But you’re over the sea almost the whole way too.
HA: Over the sea most of the time.
RG: So if you ditched —
LD: You’ve got no points of reference have you?
RG: No. And if you ditched, you had to ditch you were in deep trouble.
HA: Yeah. Anyhow. We were heading, had a slight headwind at that stage which had been pushing us up that way. We increased the speed a bit because of the headwind and then after about an hour of finding Gee fixes I found the wind had changed to almost the opposite. Anyway, we said, ‘Skipper you can slow the plane down a bit now. We’ve got a bit of a tailwind.’ And so he and I and the engineer did some calculations. We’d already decided we’d land at Lossiemouth or Leuchars or somewhere. In Scotland. But after we did the calculations the skipper said, ‘I think we can give it a go to get back to base because of the tailwind.’ Maybe the other fellas didn’t do that workings. But anyhow we cut it fine.
RG: Yeah. So you started ops with 467 in September.
HA: Yeah.
RG: First and third raid. On your second raid. Where was that to?
HA: Stuttgart. Night raid. In between the skipper did a second dickie to Pforzheim. I forgotten where he went. Somewhere like Stuttgart I think.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And then the next night he went.
RG: Went out on a —
HA: Stuttgart on his own with us.
RG: What was your, how did you, what was your experience of the first raid? You know. The first German raid really. First. Stuttgart. How did you —?
HA: No problem much. The navigator stayed in his blackout curtained room with the light on and I seldom went out and looked at the target.
RG: Ok.
HA: So I left it to the rest of them to do all the looking out and so forth. Our gunners, bomb aimer and engineer all were very good at keeping a lookout.
RG: Good lookout. Yeah. I suppose the resistance from fighters and so forth was slowing down a bit by then wasn’t it? It was still there but —
HA: You’ve heard about Schrage musik.
RG: Schrage musik. Yes. Yes.
HA: That was something that took a great toll of bombers.
RG: Bombers. Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Right up to the end of the war I think. When we finished our tour. In the next two months Waddington lost both their COs and one of their flight commanders. All experienced fellas on second tours.
RG: Ok.
HA: Sort of thing and, we think, all to night fighters with their upward firing guns.
RG: The guns. Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Some of the some of the German aces were reputed to have shot down over a hundred, sort of thing.
RG: There were a few who got — yeah. Yeah.
HA: It was pretty dangerous.
RG: Yes. Yeah.
LD: I have seen — I think it was a Lanc with, there were modifications, not official ones but just ones that were done in particular squadrons with like, an observation point underneath. I remember seeing the ones with like the little round dome underneath.
RG: Yeah. Like an astrodome.
LD: Yes.
RG: But on the bottom of the fuselage.
LD: Yes, but underneath. So, I have read about you know some aircraft that had these unofficial modifications to watch out for Schrage musik. Did you have anything like that in your — ?
HA: No. We weren’t even told about it.
LD: Ah. That’s what I was wondering as well.
HA: You know, I’m sure the authorities knew about it. Probably months, maybe more, before we flew. They didn’t tell us about it. I think it was probably to keep the morale up.
RG: Morale. Yeah. Yeah.
HA: What they did tell us to do was to do banking searches and —
LD: Banking searches?
HA: Banking searches.
LD: Yes.
HA: Like earlier in the war, before Window, the searchlights and ack-ack were mostly radar controlled and so if you flew straight they would drop onto you and so the technique was to —
RG: Swerve.
HA: Just weave. Go a few — half a minute this way.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Half a minute that way. Sort of thing.
RG: So, predictors couldn’t predict in curves.
HA: Window came in and their radar wasn’t able to lock onto planes. The technique was to put up a barrage of flak and in daytime it looked pretty horrible with all these black puffs in the air. They’d hang in the air for a long time so it looked —
RG: Looked worse than it probably was. Yeah.
HA: So anyway, the technique was to straight, go straight. Don’t weave. Get through it as quick as you can. And all the time we were over enemy territory our pilot was quite religious about the banking searches. They could make the plane do that. Without it changing direction.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yes.
HA: He’d say, ‘Down port.’ The gunners would have a good look underneath and say, ‘All clear port.’ Roll it over.
LD: Right. Yeah.
HA: ‘All clear starboard.’
RG: Ah ok.
HA: We would do that for hours.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
HA: And we never got shot at by a fighter.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: A couple or three times a gunner saw a fighter and we started corkscrewing and we weren’t chased on any of those occasions.
RG: Yeah.
HA: The general opinion was that if a German fighter saw you doing a corkscrew they’d give up and look for somebody else.
RG: Someone easier. So, you never actually got attacked by a fighter.
HA: Never. No.
LD: Were you ever hit by flak?
HA: Oh yeah. Lots and lots of times. Sometimes a lot of holes. A couple of daylight lowish level ones we got holes from machine guns from the ground.
RG: Wow. Ok.
HA: Walcheren Island. We bombed Walcheren Island three times. Short daylight raids.
RG: Sorry? Whereabout?
HA: Walcheren Island.
RG: Oh sorry. Yeah.
HA: Scheldt Estuary. The first time this was what I was going to tell you about. 617 Squadron landing with their bombs on. I think they did there. We went. 5 Group sent about a hundred planes to Walcheren Island and the aim was to break the sea wall and flood the island and we did a run at about, I think about six thousand feet or something like that and drop seven bombs in a close stick and come around again and did another seven. In the same place. Hopefully.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And a hundred planes did that and they opened it up, the front of the island. Got a picture in The Sun and the next day, sort of thing, “The RAF floods an island.” Apparently 617 Squadron was standing by with tallboy bombs.
RG: Yeah.
HA: In case.
RG: Just in case you didn’t manage it.
HA: And they brought them home.
RG: Wow.
LD: They brought home Tallboys.
HA: Twelve thousand pounds.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Wow.
RG: I’d be terrified landing with a bloody Tallboy underneath.
HA: Yeah. Well, I don’t know if they brought them home and landed with them or whether they junked them somewhere else, you know but they didn’t need to use them on Walcheren Island.
RG: Actually sorry, one of the first chaps we interviewed — Arthur. He was, he did, he finished his tour in ‘45 and then was posted to an experimental unit experimenting with a blind landing aid which he told us a bit about and he said it was very very effective. He was there when the war ended.
HA: Yeah.
RG: But he, before he left his squadron he went down to the intelligence officer’s hut and nicked some of the photographs that he had taken himself on one of those raids and he gave us the photos and you could see the bombs striking the seawall. That was in Holland though. There was another one trying to break a dyke in Holland but at low level and — yeah. Arthur’s photos. Yeah. I forget what squadron he was with now but —
HA: The next two raids we did on Walcheren Island, they were both daylight, were on the big guns that were stopping the Canadians from going along the bank.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And stopping the navy probably from coming in as well although the estuary was mined and the navy had one go at it before and said, ‘No. It’s too dangerous.’
RG: Yeah.
HA: So, we were trying to bomb these big guns and they were pretty impervious to bombs I think but it ended up being a fairly hairy sort of a thing because we would go over and they’d say, ‘Oh yes, well the weather’s not too good. You might have to fly at six thousand,’ and you’d get there and have to fly at four thousand or something like that. And so, there was a lot of anti-aircraft fire.
RG: A lot of flak. Yeah.
HA: Small arms stuff even.
RG: Yeah. Four thousand feet. You’re not very high are you?
LD: I’ve read about bomb aimers keeping some of the Window and putting the Window on the bottom of their aircraft and lying on the Window to stop —
RG: A bit of armour.
LD: Yeah.
RG: Using the Window.
LD: To protect them from the flak.
HA: I’ve never heard of that.
LD: I I guess these were kind of individual things that people —
RG: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah
LD: Systems that people developed themselves.
RG: Did you have a mascot or a, you know, a token or anything.
HA: On the side of the plane.
RG: No. A personal one. A personal one.
HA: That one of us carried? No. None of us seem to have been too superstitious.
RG: Ok.
HA: A lot of them were but —
RG: Do you know of all the chaps we’ve spoken to most of them have said that? That they didn’t do it.
HA: No.
RG: Yeah.
LD: And yet you read such a lot about it don’t you?
RG: Yeah.
HA: About the only superstitious thing we did was we’d all pee on the tail wheel before we took off.
RG: [laughs] Yeah. I believe that was a common one.
LD: Was that very easy? In those flying suits.
HA: It was not. No. I can’t, I can’t ever remember using the toilet down the back of the plane during any of our trips.
RG: The Elsan.
HA: The pilot did it once.
LD: From the sound of things, you wouldn’t have wanted to use it if you could avoid it.
HA: Yeah. Yeah. Well, if you were above ten thousand feet you’d have your oxygen on for a start. So, you’d have to disconnect that. Get a hold of a portable oxygen bottle, go down, climb over the main spar which was about this high.
RG: Yeah.
HA: The pilot went down once on a daylight trip. I forget where it was to. So, I got to fly the plane for half an hour.
RG: Oh right.
HA: Straight and level.
RG: Yeah.
LD: And what kind of, we’ve heard about the — that the meal you’d had before an op. Was that still happening for you?
HA: Yes. Yes. But one of the early things you find out about being on an op on a night somebody would have said 2154 and that would be the number of gallons that a plane would hold and you’d say, ‘Oh well, it’s a long trip.’ And then the next thing they’d announce that the flying meal would be on at 3 o’clock. Something like that. And then a briefing at about 5 o’clock. That sort of thing. It would all lead up to actually take off time.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. It was quite a long period.
LD: So how far ahead would they kind of lock down the station? You know, set the security measures in place.
HA: I’m not too sure. I think it would probably be twelve, fifteen hours. Something like that.
LD: Right.
HA: Maybe a bit longer.
LD: Yeah. Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
LD: And did you guys get the wakey wakey pills too?
HA: Yeah. They gave them to us and I never used them once I don’t think. I don’t know if anybody else in the crew ever used them. Maybe the gunners did because they’d be tested on some of the long trips for staying awake.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: In the dark.
RG: Yeah.
LD: How did they do that? Test them,
HA: They’d be stressed.
RG: And tested as in stressed.
LD: Oh right. Ok. Not examined.
HA: I used the wrong word.
LD: No. No. That’s fine. I just took it the wrong way. Yeah. Yeah. Examined. Yeah. That’s what I meant.
RG: So, your crew. You had the same crew throughout all twenty nine?
HA: Throughout. Yeah. No replacements. No.
RG: Yeah. Have you got their names and so forth?
HA: Yeah.
RG: I mean you probably almost certainly remember them.
LD: Yeah. But it’s got all this. Maybe it’s written in there.
HA: Our pilot was Peter Gray-Buchannan. With a hyphen. His elder brother had done two tours as a rear gunner earlier.
RG: Wow.
HA: Over there.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Gosh. He was a lucky man wasn’t he?
HA: Have you heard of Doubleday and Brill?
RG: No.
HA: From Ganmain. They’re both fairly famous men. They both enlisted from Ganmain early in the war. Both went over there and did at least two tours. Maybe three. Both were wing commanders with the DSO and a couple of DFCs. That sort of thing. Billy Brill was CO of our squadron when we arrived. And I’ll tell you about the DFC now.
RG: Yes. I was just about to come to that eventually.
LD: Yes, it’s on my list.
HA: When we got to the squadron Bill called all eight of the new crews that had arrived from training into his office and amongst other things said, because we were all, nearly all flight sergeants, ‘All you flight sergeants who were thinking of applying for a commission don’t bother until you’ve done twenty trips. And then if you keep your nose clean you get recommended.’ He didn’t say, ‘Most of you won’t make twenty.’ [laughs] But anyway, that was his — so when I had done twenty trips I applied for a commission and Bill — Bill had been moved on and we had a new younger CO called Douglas. And he took it upon himself to sort of decide who was officer material and who wasn’t, sort of thing. One of the questions he asked me was, ‘Are you going to be any more use to the air force with a commission?’ And I said, ‘No. I can’t say that I will.’ I didn’t give him the right answers anyway and he didn’t recommend me.
RG: Yeah.
HA: So —
RG: That’s a fair answer though Bert. I’ve got to say. I have to say.
HA: When we got towards the end of our tour. I think probably only with one trip to go. It may have been two. The group captain called me in one day and said, ‘I’ve a bit of a problem. I’ve got one CO who recommends you fellas when you’ve done twenty trips and you’ve looked after yourself. And the other fella says yes or no to some of them.’ And he said, ‘The RAAF hierarchy requires that even if the CO says no it has to come to me. It’s not final.’
RG: Yeah.
HA: ‘So that’s my problem. Are you a good navigator?’ ‘Oh, I think so. I’ve lasted this long.’
LD: You’d done at least twenty trips.
RG: Yeah.
LD: You must be good.
HA: That was the end of the interview. So apparently on that day he approved me for a commission and so sometime later I got, in the mail, a letter saying that I’d got a DFC and I was a pilot officer.
LD: Oh.
RG: So, you didn’t make pilot officer or —
HA: Yeah.
RG: Oh. Ok
HA: Yeah. So I was a pilot officer dated from the day that I saw the group captain.
RG: Because as an airman you would have got the DFM wouldn’t you?
HA: Yeah.
RG: So, maybe they were going to give you the DFM and they went, ‘Oh God, he’s a pilot officer, we have to — [laughs] Did you get the DFM DFC for any particular —
HA: No.
RG: Just —
HA: I could show you the citation but it’s just a standard one that they gave to most people. The pilot got one with the same wording apparently.
RG: Right.
HA: That’s fairly standard I think. There’d be hundreds of those. Came in a nice little case.
LD: Oh, it’s not there anymore though.
HA: It’s there.
RG: It’s on there.
LD: Oh, it’s a beautiful box isn’t it? It’s lovely.
HA: Yeah.
RG: You’ve got the Bomber Command clasp.
HA: Yes. I only got that one last year.
RG: It’s recent isn’t it? Yeah. Yeah.
HA: It was a bit of a hassle because I filled in all the forms and so forth. Sent it to England. And they sent it back, they sent back word, ‘No. You don’t apply there. You apply at Canberra.’ So, I had to go through it all again. Copies of stuff from the logbook and all that.
LD: So how, how was it presented to you?
HA: It was just sent in the mail. It wasn’t. There was no, no ceremony at all.
LD: Right.
RG: There’s an interesting thing on the back of it I’ve just noticed. It’s got on it that it was obviously first issued in 1918 and it’s got George Rex on it and then 1945 is just stamped in at the bottom.
HA: Yeah.
RG: That’s you know, that’s interesting that they keep — yeah.
HA: Yeah.
RG: I suppose originally when they did they first design they didn’t think they’d need it again.
HA: Yeah.
HA: A local federal MP gave out those sort of things at one stage.
RG: Oh, the sixtieth. Yeah.
HA: Yeah. Just a medal .
RG: Yeah. World War Two. Yeah.
HA: And I was sitting with some other fellas that day and they had a Bomber Command medal on their chest. And I said, I asked them, I said, ‘Where did you get that?’ And they said, ‘We bought it.’ You can’t get a Bomber Command medal. They haggled with the government over there for years about getting one and they were never approved. The best they could do was a clasp. But apparently —
RG: Did Fighter Command get one? They got one, didn’t they? Fighter Command.
HA: I don’t know. Battle of Britain got one I think.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: Yeah. The Bomber Command one. That sort of — there were problems with that with the political ramifications of Bomber Command. After the war.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: That became quite unpleasant.
HA: Yeah.
LD: To say the least.
HA: Yeah.
LD: I just checked out the squadron before we came.
HA: Yeah.
LD: And — yeah. So, you talked about the support of ground operations during the D-day landings at that time and so on. It said that 467 participated in the raids on Peenemunde.
HA: Yeah.
LD: Were you there then?
HA: No.
LD: Ok.
HA: It was a research station for the V2s and V1s.
RG: And V1s. Yeah.
LD: Yes. It was a fascinating raid. I’ve read a book about it. it’s pretty amazing. And were you involved in Operation Manna and bringing the POWs back from Europe?
HA: No.
LD: And dropping supplies and so on.
RG: No. You’d finished by then, hadn’t you? You finished in January.
HA: I’ll tell you why I wasn’t. As soon as I finished my tour our pilot got transferred to Transport Command and I got transferred to Training Command. And I was an instructor at a Con Unit.
RG: Whereabouts?
HA: At Wigsley. Near Waddington.
RG: Yeah. Ok.
HA: And we were getting crews ready to go to squadrons that were going to be in Tiger Force.
RG: Tiger Force. Yeah.
LD: Right. That’s what else I was going to ask about because it said 467 was involved in that.
RG: Yeah.
HA: So, I was an instructor right up until they dropped the atom bomb.
LD: Right. Right. Fair enough.
HA: Yeah.
RG: And were you still at Wigsley right to the end?
HA: Still at Wigsley.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And I stayed on at Wigsley for another couple of months after that and did a bit of ferrying. We ferried some Stirlings over to Northern Ireland and some Lancasters down to Southern Britain. Did a Cook’s Tour over some of the targets we’d been in Germany. But generally sort of loafed around.
RG: Cook’s tour.
HA: Alex talked about that. Yeah.
RG: Yeah. With a Cook’s Tour? Was that. Ok. Yeah. Well Alex was going over, he was a pilot. He’s living up at Orange. He was going over specifically to photograph the damage. Is that the same thing? Yeah.
HA: No. No. They just put a heap — a heap of interested fellas.
RG: It was literally a sightseeing tour.
HA: Like a real Cook’s Tour. I don’t know how many. A dozen or something like that in a Lancaster. I took my box brownie and took a few photographs.
RG: But did you land anywhere on the continent or just went out and came back or —?
HA: Somewhere I’ve got where we went. I think it’s probably in the logbook where we went.
RG: Oh. Bound to be. Yeah. Yeah. No. Alex said they were photographing the damage for analysis purposes. Cook’s tour. Base — Brentwood. [unclear] [ Cape Gris Nez, [ unclear] Aachen. Turin. Cologne. Krefeld, Duisberg — it was a tour wasn’t it? Ham. Munster. Wesel. Eindhoven.
LD: Ray, can you read them out loudly for the tape?
RG: Oh yes. Ok.
HA: Start at the with the ones inside Europe.
RG: Yeah. Well, Cape Gris Nez, [unclear] Maastricht. Aachen. Turin. Cologne. Krefeld. Duisburg. Essen. Ham. Munster. Wesel. Eindhoven. Turnhout. Ostende. [unclear] Calais. Cap Gris Nez,
LD: Wow.
RG: Yeah.
LD: That’s comprehensive.
HA: Yeah. It was good. Yeah.
RG: It must have been an odd feeling flying over and knowing that no one was going to shoot at you.
HA: Yeah. Oh yeah. We had a look at the Dortmund Ems Canal. I don’t know if that’s even mentioned there but —
RG: Dortmund. Not the canal itself is mentioned but no.
HA: The Dortmund Ems Canal was a place where Bomber Command did a lot of damage. I think we might have been one of the first raids where they actually breached the canal walls and let the water out and stranded the barges but there was ten attempts at it I think. Altogether. Some of them didn’t work. We did two on the Dortmund Ems Canal itself and another one the Ems Wesel Canal which was nearby. Both night-time raids. And because of its importance it was a very dangerous target to go to. The ack-ack was fierce. Had plenty of searchlights and usually we seemed to have to, for one reason or another, do orbits when we got to the target. Either because cloud was too — we had to come down through cloud to find it or one time they had trouble with the marking and so, they said, ‘Do an orbit until we can get it properly marked.’ ‘Do another orbit.’ ‘Now you can come and do it,’ sort of thing. That sort of business happened.
RG: Yeah.
HA: So, and we did, finally did a daylight one on New Year’s Day to the Dortmund Ems Canal. And I met a fella after the war, playing golf, who’d been in our same squadron and was on the same raid and they got one engine on fire for a start and I wrote in my logbook, log and chart of the day, not the logbook, I’ve got a lot of logs and charts.
RG: Oh ok.
LD: Wow.
HA: “Aircraft on the starboard beam going down on fire. “ Dot dot dot. “Gone.” That was them.
RG: Oh right. Ok.
HA: They didn’t go down. They got down to about four thousand feet and got control of the plane and started off staggering back. Then it got another engine on the same side on fire and kept going. This fella was the bomb aimer and he said he put a piece of rope around the rudder pedal to help the pilot try and keep it straight. They staggered along and got fired at repeatedly because they were on fire but they got as far as the front line. To where the Americans were. And all bailed out successfully.
RG: Wow. Ok.
HA: The pilot was last out and he managed to get out apparently and got a DSO for it. Straightaway.
RG: Well, it sounds like he deserved it too. Yeah. You also did a raid here on the Lützow the battleship?
HA: Oh yes that was probably something special.
RG: Yeah [unclear] special target.
[LD excuses herself]
RG: Well there’s a daytime raid. Bergen as well.
HA: Yeah. Bergen was an interesting one. That was one of the ones where they said, ‘Bert, you ought to come out and have a look at it.’ This target. Most targets I didn’t want to come out of my blackout curtains. But Bergen there was four thousand feet mountains.
RG: On either side.
HA: And in between there was a valley where I, as navigator, was able to get on a Gee position line and keep between the two mountains and come down because we were supposed to bomb at twelve thousand or something but they said come down to the cloud base. Four thousand. We came down to three thousand eight hundred I think before we got out of the clouds. And then we snuck up a little bit. Just skimming under the clouds to the target and they’re shooting from downstairs. They’re shooting —
RG: From above. Yeah. Wow.
HA: He said, ‘You ought to come and see this. We’re being shot at from above as well as below.’
RG: God. Return from Marston Moor. So yeah, I was going to ask that. On any of your trips did you come down somewhere else?
HA: Yeah.
RG: Come back
HA: Quite a few times. I don’t know how many. Two or three perhaps. You come back from Europe and Waddington and all the inland bases would be covered with fog.
RG: Ah ok.
HA: So, they send you somewhere on the coast to land there.
RG: Yeah.
HA: I remember one time we got in a tender then and they drove us back and got lost. And so, we wondered around. It was a really cold night. Looking for, looking for Waddington.
LD: That’s just what you need I imagine.
HA: No signs up anywhere, you know.
RG: I can just imagine some of the conversations you guys would have with the drivers of the tenders, you know. We got all the way back from Germany and you can’t find bloody [laughs] Waddington.
HA: I think one of the navigators finally got in the front with him [laughs] I remember there was a town with a five way intersection where he didn’t know which one to take and he went backwards and bumped into a lamppost and about two hours later he bumped into the same lamp post [laughs] So, we were lost.
LD: Oh dear. Might have been easier to leave it ‘til daytime.
HA: Other times you’d stay. We stayed the night at one of those places too and then just flew back the next day.
RG: Yeah. I had a friend in Canberra. He’s dead now. He was a pilot in Stirlings and then — he was a flight sergeant and his navigator was a sergeant and he said there was a notice up one day saying volunteers for special operations. Instant promotion. Up one rank and he thought, ‘This is a good idea. What do you reckon?’ It was Pathfinder force.
HA: Yeah.
RG: So he converted over to Lancs for that. But he said when he was on Stirlings they were doing a navigation exercise. And it was a daytime one and they flew over another field and one of the, one of the crew was an RAF guy. He lived in the village nearby and he said, ‘Skipper can you put us down there?’ He said. So, they did. They put him down at the airfield. Went and had lunch in the mess and went back out. Ducked off home to see his mum, you know. Came back. And he said it would have been all perfect. He said, ‘I was taxiing up the runway, got to the end to turn on to the runway and clipped his wingtip and broke the navigational knob at the end on a post at the end of the runway. So, when he got back he had to explain how he managed to break it in the air.
HA: Yeah. He was in big trouble.
RG: Did you ever do anything like that? Your —
HA: No.
RG: No.
HA: We came back from a trip one time. I forget which one it was but when we got back to Waddington you couldn’t see the circuit lights. You could see the runway. It was very bad visibility and so the pilot said, ‘I’ve got to land this like a Tiger Moth. We’ll just get around the runway and then come in like that.’
RG: Side.
HA: And the fella that was in the caravan with the green and red light, sort of thing, at the end of the runway. He said afterwards, he said, ‘You fellas almost took my caravan off. Coming down like that.’ And then they closed the, they closed the place down. After that everybody else had to go over to the coast.
RG: Bert could you explain, sorry. The circuit lights. Can you explain how that, that worked?
HA: Yeah. They would have the runway with the runway lights and then they’d have circuit lights going. I don’t know. Half a mile. A mile around or something like that.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Almost touching somebody else’s.
LD: Right.
HA: ‘Cause there were so many of them.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And when you came back wanting to land you’d come in on the right hand side, sort of thing. And you’d call up the girl on the microphone. Tell them who you were. “Mozart dog to slagwort.” They’d say, ‘Go to channel two,’ or something like that. She’d tell you to stay at four thousand. So you’d go around again. Then she’d say, ‘Prepare to land.’ You’d go around. You’d have to say, ‘Wheels,’ at a certain place and come around and then lining up with the runway. You’d say, ‘Funnel.’
RG: Funnel.
HA: Yeah. And if you got the green light from the bloke in the caravan you could land.
RG: Right. Ok. Ok. So with the circuit it was the same diameter with the aircraft stacked in the altitude?
HA: Yeah. Yeah.
RG: So, you had a whole bunch of aircraft circling.
HA: She used to stack you up at four thousand or three thousand. Something like that.
RG: Ok.
HA: So, you wouldn’t run into one other.
RG: And you were all going anti clockwise, I guess.
HA: Yeah.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: Well it’s a very responsible position isn’t it?
RG: Yeah.
HA: Yeah. All done by WAAFs.
RG: Yeah. ‘Cause you would have had aircraft coming back and straggling back really wouldn’t you? All over the place.
HA: Yeah. Sometimes.
LD: And she would potentially be triaging to see who’s going to land before others because of problems.
HA: If somebody had damage they would get priority and they’d leave you stacked up there.
RG: Yeah. I heard, I heard, sorry, it was earlier in the war. I think it was about ‘42 that the Germans were using intruders raids. They tried to get in to the circuits. Get an intruder in to the circuit. A night fighter. Was that happening later in the —?
HA: Yes. When I was at Wigsley. I was duty navigator up in the tower one night and some ME110s came in with the bomber stream coming back and got across the coast without —
RG: Without being detected because they were in the stream. Yeah.
HA: And they came to Wigsley and a couple of the other Con Units. They shot down two training planes at Wigsley.
RG: Yeah.
HA: I don’t know how many they shot down altogether. Five or six I think. They went to Waddington and machine gunned the mess. Had a go at the bomb dump without [laughs] without any damage. Bomb dumps are hard to —
RG: Yeah. They’re well protected.
HA: That was some experience.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Because the people in the control tower — it was probably a duty pilot and a duty wireless op as well as a duty navigator and somebody in charge of it. A bit of a flap on. You know, what do you do with planes being shot down?
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Turn the runway lights off for a start.
RG: Yeah. And then what do you do with the stacked aircraft in the air. Redirect them?
HA: Tell them to look out.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Yeah. That was, that was a strange one.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. ‘Cause I thought later in the war I wondered whether that still happened because the Germans had lost so many aircraft.
HA: Yeah. That would have been, that would have been probably March or something like that. 1945.
RG: Yeah. It was between January and May so, yeah. Wow. So still that late.
LD: So were they using FIDO for you to land with at night?
HA: Only on certain ‘dromes. We didn’t have it on every drome.
LD: Oh right.
HA: There was only a few FIDO ‘dromes.
LD: Yeah.
HA: It was terribly expensive.
LD: Oh, that’s, that’s what I thought. Looking at it it must have been just in terms of fuel.
RG: Did Waddington? Did Waddington have it?
HA: Used up hundreds of gallons of petrol.
RG: Waddington didn’t have it?
HA: No.
RG: No.
LD: No. I sort of wondered how effective it was too. With all that petrol burning there’d be smoke and everything as well as well as, as well as the lights.
HA: Probably turbulence. I should think it’s probably very difficult for pilots to land in.
LD: Yeah.
RG: Hence what, hence what Arthur was doing. Yeah. [unclear] he said it was very accurate by the way.
LD: Yeah.
RG: He said you could land a Lancaster almost hands off at night without any trouble whatsoever.
HA: Oh well.
RG: Then the war ended.
HA: Good planes to fly apparently.
RG: I’ve heard that. Yes. The pilot. A couple of pilots we’ve spoken to have said that. Yeah. They really liked them. Arthur all this stuff. This is obviously very precious. Have they got copies in Evans Head or anywhere else? Or are there any copies of it?
LD: I think there’s a book here too Rob.
RG: Oh. Ok.
LD: Yeah.
RG: Because what I was going to say was if we can manage to get copies of all this stuff — if you’re happy to do that. Put them in the archive as well.
HA: I’ve got the other logbook here somewhere I think. Yeah. I might have it down here. I have another logbook that you could take perhaps. It’s got all the stuff in it for the operations. I copied them out. I’ll find it for you. Probably downstairs somewhere.
RG: If we could copy them. I mean we could copy them here before we go and bring them back to you today.
HA: Well you’re welcome. Yeah.
RG: Yeah. Thank you. I guess we could go to the library or somewhere.
LD: Office Works. If they’re open.
HA: That book right there.
LD: This would be fabulous.
HA: I was telling you about the crew that got shot, well they caught on fire.
RG: Yes.
HA: Their navigator produced this book afterwards about their experiences.
LD: Oh. It’s not yours. I just saw it was from a navigator. I didn’t realise it wasn’t yours.
HA: No. It’s not mine. It’s about their crew’s experience and so forth.
RG: [unclear]
LD: Oh, is this is what you were talking about?
HA: It’s got little bits. See. That’s some of —
LD: A copy of the logbook.
HA: Some stuff out of my log and charts of the day. I lent it to him and he got it put it into the book.
LD: Is that what you were talking about with the copy of the logbook?
HA: No.
LD: Ok.
HA: No. That was just to emphasise that our tour — I think twenty four out of our twenty nine trips were just with 5 Group. We only did about five trips with, big trips with seven or eight hundred of Bomber Command.
LD: Oh yes. Oh you weren’t part of those really huge bomber streams then.
HA: Not as, not as a rule. Mostly we were just 5 Group.
LD: Yeah.
HA: And on some of those little daylight trips only half of 5 Group, you know, about a hundred planes.
LD: Right. That’s a big change from earlier in the war, isn’t it?
HA: Yeah. Yes.
LD: Yeah. Arthur. Sorry Bert. That’s Rob getting the names mixed up when we arrived.
RG: Yeah. Sorry. And I just called you Arthur a minute ago. Sorry about that.
LD: Very bad of me. What sort of experience did you have with the Committee of Adjustment. Did you, within —
HA: Were they the fellas that decided on LMF and that sort of thing?
LD: Yes. Yeah.
HA: Never had any experience of it. No. I heard about it.
RG: Oh, Committee of Adjustment were the guys who cleared the crews who were missing. Cleared their possessions and stuff out.
HA: Oh yes. Yeah. We had another crew in the same room as us. Sixty on one side and sixty on the other side. Both about the same time. And the navigator of the other crew was a good friend of mine because he came from Tooraweenah and he said I’m the only fella that’s ever, he’d ever met in the air force that had ever heard of Tooraweenah let alone been there and had a drink in his father’s pub. And they got shot down on their twentieth trip. So, we got woken up a couple of hours after we went to bed by the service police coming in and asking us if we would just mind looking on when they were sorting out their belongings.
RG: Witnessing that. Yeah.
HA: If there was anything that we particularly wanted to do something with to send to their parents or something like that. But we didn’t find anything that we wanted to. They just took the lot.
RG: Ok. So they just bundled everything together and took it.
HA: In the middle of the night sort of thing. It would have been 4 o’clock in the morning or something it was.
RG: Right. Ok. ‘Cause we’ve heard different — different stations seemed to do it very differently.
HA: Yeah. They were Air Force Military Police.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. ‘Cause other stations they used just airmen and —
LD: Sometimes the chaplain.
RG: Sometimes the chaplain. Yeah. Alex Jenkins, the pilot from Orange. He got shot down and he was the sole survivor. He was in a German military hospital, a Luftwaffe military hospital. Only for a few weeks actually before the British army overran the place in Holland and so he was sent back and he said when he got back all his kit was gone and he had to go down to London.
LD: At the dead meat factory, he described it as.
RG: Yeah. The dead meat factory with all these steel boxes with all the kit in it. He said there were just thousands of them in this warehouse. He had to go in and say, ‘That’s mine. Get it out.’ Yeah.
HA: There’s a few things that I’ve put aside that might be worth your while copying if you want to.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Because you could maybe photograph.
RG: Photograph these but — yeah.
LD: Those. Yeah.
RG: [what I could do with it] actually, we will take copies of those. Thanks. Bert, this chap because this is his book not yours is he still around or is he —
HA: No. He was four or five years older than me. I played golf with him for a few years here at Wagga.
RG: Right.
HA: But he’s gone now. He’d be a hundred, I think, nearly, now. Sam Nelson.
RG: Is there family around or anybody because what would be good is if we could get a copy of the book for the archive but the other thing too for books like this and we did it for another chap at Orange who was a navigator. An RAF guy. He’d written a book about his time in a prison camp and we’re trying to get these things into the National Library because they’ll take them just like that.
HA: You can take that as long as you like.
RG: Would it be alright though ‘cause it’s not you know.
HA: I’ve read it.
RG: No. I was thinking like, if the family might object. I don’t know. Should we notify the family that it’s? Is there any way to contact?
HA: The navigator himself. I think he’s probably gone.
RG: Yeah. He’s gone but — the family —
HA: I could tell you one little snippet about them. His crew were part RAF and part Australian.
RG: Yeah.
HA: At one time they had a reunion in Australia. Went over to Canberra. At the time that the G for George had just been refurbished.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Put back in to the museum and was all roped off. And they went up and I think Sam himself said to one of the attendants, ‘This is our crew that flew in Lancasters and we’ve just had a reunion. How about letting us get in?’ And they held it up and let them get in.
RG: Yeah. Actually, this chap from, Alex from Orange. He did the same thing. It was only – we spoke to him last year and only a month or so before he’d been down to the war memorial. It was the last time he could go down because he was getting a bit frail and he got down there and they put on a lift thing to get him up to the door. He got into the fuselage and he got up to the main spar and the two young guys were in attendance, and they said, ‘Do you want to go any further?’ And he said, ‘Yeah. I want to get over that main spar just one more time.’ And he said, ‘It took quite a while,’ he said, ‘But I got over the damned thing and he got up to the cockpit.’ [And he got the gun ] in the cockpit and he stood on it but on his way out he was coming down. He looked through one of the windows on the side and there’s an ME262 over in the corner. And that was the aircraft that shot him down. Not the same aircraft obviously but yeah and he said that was a bit of an odd feeling. But he said that anybody who had ever flown in Lancasters would understand that. That he just wanted to get over the main spar just once more. They had to help him back across but if he could only get over one way. You know. Yeah.
HA: I can remember — one thing I didn’t mention before. You asked me about damage to the plane. Quite a lot of holes sometimes. If they weren’t too big they just patched them over, you know, But down where the rear gunner slid in to his turret there was a piece of, probably a piece of plywood or something like that that he sat on and then slid in to his turret. One time we came back there was a hole the size of your fist through that. It would have missed the rear gunner by that much. And another time the pilot put his ‘chute in and they inspected it. I don’t know if they always inspected it. Probably they did but anyway there was a lump of shrapnel.
RG: Wedged in the parachute.
HA: In his seat parachute.
RG: And he was sitting on that.
HA: He was sitting on it. It didn’t get through the parachute [laughs]
RG: So none of your crew was ever wounded?
HA: No.
RG: No.
HA: No.
RG: Lucky.
HA: We were lucky.
RG: Yeah. So, with your time at Training Command — because the training losses were really high weren’t they? Guys killed in training. But in, was that with, was there a squadron that you were with at Wigsley or was it a training squadron that was, or just an ATU?
HA: I don’t think they called them a squadron. It was just a unit.
RG: Yeah. Ok. But did you lose any aircraft or any people under training? Apart from the ones shot down by the ME110s?
HA: I don’t think so. When we were on Stirlings we had a hairy experience. There had been a lot of rain and dirt alongsides of the runway was soft and there was a Stirling came in trying to land in a crosswind. Put one wheel off the runway, skidded out into the mud and we went out and helped to dig the bomb aimer out of his turret which he shouldn’t have been in because the mud had pushed him up over the guns.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Like a bulldozer.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Not much space in there at the best of times is there?
HA: No. So the next day we’re doing a three engine practice landing in a Stirling with, obviously no bombs and not much petrol sort of thing. So you can understand what happened. You’re not supposed to come, once you get below a thousand feet for a three engine landing you should land. So our skipper’s coming in. Same cross wind. Knows about what happened the day before. Got down almost to the deck and said, ‘I’m going around again.’ Pushed the three throttles forward. Told the engineer to start the other engine. The navigator’s doing his usual job calling out the airspeed so he doesn’t have to worry about that.
RG: Yeah.
HA: The stalling speed is about eighty apparently and I’m calling out, ‘Sixty five.’ [laughs] ‘Sixty five.’ ‘Sixty five.’ The pilot’s hanging on.
RG: [laughs] Jesus.
HA: By the time I got to the end of the runway the other engine had started up and because we had flaps down too it took a while to get up in to the air again.
RG: To get the speed up. Yeah. Yeah.
HA: That was touch and go.
RG: Yes. I should say so. So, what about when you were — the other time in the UK between ops. On leave. Did you have any leave as such while you were there?
HA: Oh yes.
RG: On your squadron
HA: Yes. You normally got six days leave every six weeks while you were on ops.
RG: Oh ok. Yeah. Yeah.
HA: A bit less if a few others got killed because they had a waiting list, you know. It was your turn.
RG: Oh yes. I heard about that. Yes. Yes.
HA: So it might be only five weeks.
RG: Yeah. I’ve heard about that. So where did you do on your leaves? You went in to London obviously a few times.
HA: Oh I’ve been to London. Yeah. I went up to Edinburgh one time. Took a girl to the pictures one time in the middle of summer. I was thinking I might have a kiss afterwards. It was still bloody sunny. The sun was up at 9 o’clock 10 o’clock at night. They had double summer time on.
RG: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So, you’re not trying to photograph that logbook are you?
LD: Yeah.
RG: Oh it’ll take forever.
LD: No. It wouldn’t take that long but I can’t, the shadow of the camera keeps, the shadow of the phone keeps going over it.
RG: Bert, if we could borrow this stuff.
HA: Yeah sure.
RG: We’ll photograph it and or copy it and then bring it all back to you today.
HA: Ok. That’s fine. Yeah.
RG: We can do that. That’s cool.
HA: I was going to say about leave.
RG: Leave. Yeah. Sorry. Yeah.
HA: I think after about our twenty trips we had leave and by that time I had a car and the skipper had a car. His was twenty pounds. Mine, I think, was thirty or something like that.
RG: What was yours?
HA: A Morris. Morris Minor. No. A bit bigger than a Morris Minor. It was a little narrow thing but a sedan with high windows.
RG: Oh yeah. Yeah.
HA: Morris something or other.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: A Morris Ten I think it was called. He had a Ford. And we decided we would do some touring down towards Devon and that sort of thing. Together. So we found somebody. I think the engineer might have put us on to an aunt or a niece or something like that and an address we could give down there. Where you couldn’t get to it by train.
RG: Yeah.
HA: And so you could petrol coupons to go.
RG: Oh ok. I was wondering. I was going to ask you about that. Yeah.
HA: Yeah. So we took off and we stayed at places like Stow in the Wold.
LD: They have such funny names some of them don’t they?
HA: Yeah. So we had a nice tour down that way.
LD: Did you have any family in the UK or anything? That you were able to visit?
HA: No. No. Some people did. Like Charlwood.
RG: Charlwood. Yeah. He went to the town of Charlwood to look up his ancestors. Yeah.
HA: When we first got to Brighton the first lot of leave we had there from there they had a scheme called the Lady Ryder Scheme.
LD: Oh yes. I’ve heard of that.
HA: Where they would send you for a week to somebody just to let you settle in to Britain, sort of thing and so I was sent up to a place not far from Windsor to a lady’s who was Mrs Adams.
RG: There you go.
HA: That’s probably why they picked her.
RG: Yeah.
HA: When I got there she’s got this lovely two storey house and she said, ‘I’ll just show you around the house and you can look after yourself. I’ll give you the key because my daughter’s having a daughter or a son or something and I won’t be here. Just help yourself.’ I never saw her again sort of thing.
RG: A bit pointless wasn’t it really. Not helping you to settle you in but still.
HA: But she said, ‘If you go to this little village. I think it was Taplow or somewhere there’s a woman here who likes seeing Australians. Margaret Vyner. Was that the name of the, yeah that’s right. Margaret Vyner was this Australian actress who liked seeing Australians.
RG: Ah ok.
HA: So she gave me her address and I went around there and was made welcome and she was married to an English actor called Hugh Marlowe who was a big handsome fella who’d played The Saint in one of the movies.
RG: Oh ok. Yeah. Yeah.
HA: I hadn’t been there very long and in comes an army captain with a case of brandy that they knew. I can’t just pick his name out from memory now but he was a very famous English actor.
RG: Not David Niven.
HA: David Niven.
RG: You’re kidding.
LD: Oh really.
HA: Yeah.
RG: Right.
HA: Back from North Africa.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: Handsomest man in the universe I think.
HA: Yeah. A big name. So they got stuck in to the brandy and started talking about acting and all this sort of stuff and I said, you know, like, you don’t want me in the way. I snuck off back to Mrs Adam’s place.
RG: Oh well. You could say you met David Niven anyway.
HA: Yeah. And then the next day I decided to go to London. Got into a carriage. David Niven and a heap of others were in the same carriage. And he was there — [laughs] I said, ‘G’day,’ and he said, ‘G’day.’ And that was it [laughs}
LD: He’d had a big night had he?
RG: Yeah.
HA: Yeah.
RG: What about demob? What happened with demob? So you were there for a couple of months. You were there right up to VJ Day you said. In Training Command.
HA: Yeah. Finally we, we got sent to Brighton to spend some time waiting for a ship to come home. Got in a game of hockey at one stage which was the first time I had a game of hockey over there. I was very keen on hockey at high school. We played at Bournemouth in snow. Sago snow or something. They used a red ball instead of a white one [laughs] But yeah we put in some time at Brighton and then finally got on the Aquitania.
RG: Oh yes. Ok.
HA: Came home around South Africa.
RG: So that was what September or something? Or October. In 1945 still though.
HA: Late 1945.
RG: Yeah.
HA: About November or December ’45 or something like that I think.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Fair bit of waiting around for a ship.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. They were pretty busy. A lot of people to move.
HA: I went home to Mendooran and somewhere on the demob business in Sydney they did aptitude tests and that sort of thing. IQ tests I suppose and said — [pause] It’s lunchtime.
Other: Yes.
HA: In a bit I suppose. Well these people are going to leave very shortly.
RG: We’ll finish this off very quickly and you can have your lunch. We’ll just finish it off very quickly now.
Other: Ok.
RG: We’ve got to the end now.
Other: That’s alright.
RG: Five — ten minutes.
RG: Yeah.
Other: He can talk.
HA: I’ve got a pretty good memory.
RG: You do actually. Yeah.
HA: Where were we up to?
RG: Aptitude tests and IQ tests.
HA: ‘Oh yes,’ they said, ‘You can go to university and do virtually what you want to. Whatever you like.’ I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go back to the public service. That’s one thing. So I elected to do Ag Science. Which I did. And I think only forty of the one hundred or so people who lined up for it passed because half of them were ex-servicemen and the place was overcrowded and they weren’t — didn’t have the facilities for big numbers that they should have had.
RG: Whereabouts was that? Sorry. That was at —?
HA: Sydney Uni.
RG: Sydney Uni. You said you only did a year of that.
HA: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
HA: I thought to myself it’s a four year course. I’d used up nearly all the money I’d kept from the end of the war. What am I going to do for the next three years? Talked to a couple of fellas who had just finished fourth year Ag Science. They said, ‘The best we seem to be able to do is get a job with the Agricultural Department at about eight pounds a week.’ I said, ‘No.’ Dad had just sold the farm because of the drought and he had a bit of spare money. He said, ‘I could stake you some the money to start share farming.’
RG: That’s you and your brother did that.
HA: So we went share farming and made some money.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. And that was it.
HA: That was it. I did a bit of truck driving and had a sports store and then went back to, oh, went back to uni by correspondence while I was teaching at Mudgee.
RG: Yeah.
HA: Yeah.
RG: Is there anything else you’d like to add or any questions for us?
HA: If you’d like to read through those you’ll find some interesting stuff. I’ve written some three pages in the last couple of days of things that I’ve sort of —
RG: Ok.
HA: Thought were important.
RG: Yeah. Well we’ll definitely, we’ll take copies of those definitely. But we’ll let you have your lunch now.
HA: Yeah.
RG: Thank you very much for that.
LD: Can you just sign this here. This is just to say that —



Rob Gray, “Interview with Herbert Adams,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 29, 2023,

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