Interview with Richard Murray Allen


Interview with Richard Murray Allen


Richard Murray Allen was born in Queensland, Australia. He joined the Air Training Corps and later volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force on his eighteenth birthday. He trained as a wireless operator in Australia, before being posted to England, where after further training, he flew one operation with 101 Squadron from RAF Ludford Magna. He went home to Australia in October 1945, before being discharged in the December that year.




Temporal Coverage




00:28:57 audio recording

Conforms To


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DG: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre; my name is Donald Gould, and I'm interviewing Richard Allen at his home in Pymble, a suburb of Sydney in New Souith Wales, Australia. How old are you, Richard?
RA: Ninety one.
DG: And where were you born?
RA: In Brisbane in Queensland (pause).
DG: Where did you go to school?
RA: Well, actually I went to primary school in Mount Iza because my father went there during the depression, he was an engineer in the power house there. We spent eight years there. I did my primary schooling there, and I did my secondary schooling, two years of it in those days, which would be the equivelent of about year ten now, I did that at the State Commercial High School in Brisbane.
DG: And er, Mount Isa's a mining town, isn't it?
RA: That's correct.
DG: What was your father doing there?
RA: He was an engineer in the power house.
DG: Oh, I'm sorry, yeah (chuckles). When war broke out can you remember where you were, what you were doing, how old you were?
RA: Yes, I was fourteen. Nineteen thirty nine it was, and I was still at school.
DG: And when you were at, when you were at school did you have any thought that you might end up in the war?
RA: Yes. I joined the Air Training Corps as soon as it was formed. From memory that would have been about nineteen forty one, and I joined the Air Training Corps, and we were given, apart from marching and drilling, and all that sort of thing, we were given certain instructions in morse code, sending and receiving of course, and meteor-, meteorological education, and other things relative to the Air Force. And I was in the Air Training Corps until April nineteen forty three, and on the tenth of April, which is my birthday, I er was actually accepted by the Air Force and ten days later I was in camp at the initial training school.
DG: Now you left, you finished school in forty three?
RA: No, I finished school actually in nineteen thirty nine.
DG: Oh, I beg your pardon. Oh you, oh you had finished then?
RA: Oh yes.
DG: Oh I see. Right, right. Okay then.
RA: I finished school at fourteen, which was a bit young in those days. Most kids would have finished high school at fifteen or sixteen, but I'd had primary school, because it was a small country town I'd done two years in one, which meant I could finish school a bit younger than most people. So, I joined the Air Training Corps which was formed during the war, about nineteen forty one. Because I always wanted to get into the Air Force rather than the Army, and I knew that when I turned eighteen I would be put into either the Air Force or the Army because there was conscription for home service, but I thought I might as well volunteer and go wherever they told me to go.
DG: Why the Air Force and not the Army?
RA: Oh, I suppose because (chuckles) it appealed to me more. I can't think of any other reason.
DG: No? And did you erm, when you, when you then, when you then joined the er, the Air Force did you have any, any idea as to what you, what you wanted to do?
RA: Oh yes. Everybody wanted to be a pilot (both laugh). But on initial training course there were about a hundred and eighty on the course. Courses were going in about once a month in those days, and there were about a hunudred and eighty of us. I think there were about ten pilots and about, picked from the course, and about er perhaps ten or fifteen navigators, and the rest, the rest were, were appointed as wireless air gunners for further training. Well wireless was easy to me because I could send and receive, er twenty five, thirty words a minute because of my training in the Air Training Corps. Ah. So the wireless course, which was six months, was pretty easy, actually. The gunnery course only lasted a month, then our training was completed in Victoria, and within a month we were on a troop ship to England.
DG: So what place you, you, was all your training in Victoria?
RA: No. The initial training and the wireless training, which was a total of, initial training was one month, wireless course about six months, that was all done in Queensland. The wireless course, the initial training course, my pardon, was at Kingeroy, a country town in Queensland, and Merriburra in Queensland was the wireless course, and then in Victoria was the gunnery course, which was at West Sale. There was an Air Force station at East Sale, that's why I distinguish one from the other.
DG: So, you were then in the Air Force and receiving this training. Did you have any idea where you might end up? Did you know you might go to Europe, or-
RA: Oh yes, almost certainly, almost certainly. Actually, I was selected as a navigator on the initial training course, and then the next day they sent for me and said, 'look, I'm sorry, you were selected as a navigator but we find that you can't go overseas until you're nineteen. That's against the law. So you're going to have to be a wireless operator.' So, I was a bit peeved by that, but, you know, you have to accept your fate from these people.
DG: Yes. And so, when, when did you-
RA: Actually, I got to England before I was nineteen. I reached England in April, I beg your pardon, in March nineteen forty four, before I was nineteen. It didn't seem to matter then.
DG: No. So, you went from Victoria. Where did you go from -
RA: I went on leave for a few weeks, and then got on the troop ship. I came on leave back to Bradfield Park, Sydney, which you'd know well, and we were there for about three days.
DG: Right.
RA: And then on to the troop ship.
DG: And where did you, where did you, where did you disembark?
RA: In England?
DG: Are you- You didn't go, you didn't have training in Canada?
RA: No.
DG: No?
RA: No navigators -
DG: Ah, of course yes, yes. That's right. Yes. (DG talking across RA throughout this exchange)
RA: Navigators went there, and I think the odd pilot, but mostly the navigators. I guess because it was pretty flat.
DG: And what, and what places did you do further training in the UK?
RA: Well, when I got to UK I was given a staff job, at a Pilot's Advanced Flying Unit, up in the Cotswolds, a place called erm, Windrush, and our job up there was to fly at night time with pilots who were converting from single engined to multi engined aircraft. They were actually converting on Oxfords, which weren't a very pleasant aircraft, but we used to fly with the trainee pilots at night time, so if they got lost we could get them a bearing on the wireless to get them back to, to Windrush. I was there for a couple of months and back to Brighton, which was the RAAF holding unit, and then I was posted to operational training at a place called Kinloss in Scotland, and er, just near Fin- which was the aeordrome, just near Findhorne Bay, I believe there's a permanent base there now, and from there we went to Bottesford for operational training, and converting from, from Wellingtons which we'd flown in at operational training, and er (pause) we then went to heavy conversion unit at Bottesford. Perhaps that's not what I said originally, but it was a heavy conversion unit where we converted onto Lancasters, and then we went to, we were there I guess for about a month, maybe a bit more, then over to 101 Squadron, Ludford Magna.
DG: When you arrived -, and what er, you were a wireless operator, what rank were you at that stage?
RA: I landed in England as a Sergeant, and I, after six months you were automatically promoted to Flight Sergeant, and after tweve months automatically promoted to Warrant Officer, unless you'd kicked a Squadron Commander in the shins, or something. (pause)
DG: And er, 101, and that was at Ludford Magna?
RA: That's correct.
DG: And what type of aircraft were you flying there?
RA: Lancasters
DG: Can you tell me just a little bit about your dialy life at the base? What, what did you do?
RA: Not a lot. I'm blowed if I know. I often think about that. (DG laughs) I don't think we did much at all. Unless the, the, the unit was shut down because there was going to be an operation on, and the mess was closed twelve hours before that, I believe it was twelve hours, I think we used to hang about the hut, or talk, or play cards. Occassionally, if we weren't wanted, we'd go into Louth, er, for a few drinks. But, I can't remember what we did normally, other than that.
DG: The rest of your crew, were they, er what nationalities were they?
RA: An English captain, English engineer, I had an Australian navigator, me wireless operator, a Canadian bomb aimer, and two Scottish gunners, mid upper and rear.
DG: I believe that Ludford Magna wasn't, the airfield, wasn't very well drained.
RA: I don't remember, the strip itself was bitumen, I know that, but off the- I think it was commonly called Mudford Magna. Mudford Magna, because it was pretty sloppy, I clearly remember that.
DG: What sort of problems did that cause?
RA: The same problems as slopping about in muddy circumstances normally.
DG: And I understand that there was a fog dispersal system that was initiated there, or trialed.
RA: Yeah. They were still testing it. After May the eighth when the war was finished in Europe, I recall that aircrew was called upon, I think more than one day, to do circuits and bumps and testing this FIDO thing, Fog Intesnsive Dispersal Of, um FIDO, and it was a system where there were two pipelines, one on each side of the runway, and at intervals, at least, the pipelines had oil in them, I presume, wouldn't have been petrol, would have been oil, and they were lit, and the idea was so that if there was a fog the heat would disperse the fog. But I remember that on a couple of foggy days we were given the task of trying this thing, or testing it, or anyway, it hasn't, it couldn't have been a great success because I don't remember ever hearing of it being used anywhere else.
DG: So how, there were lines along the side of the airfield.
RA: Two pipes along the strip.
DG: And, obviously outlets for the oil. How did, how was that lit?
RA: No idea. No idea, I was concerned with, you know, getting set up to do my part on the aircraft while somebody else did that. Some of the ground staff, no doubt, were handling that while we did what we had to do.
DG: If it was a day where you were going to fly a mission, presumably that night, what was that day like, what, what was your routine then?
RA: Well, I can't clearly remember then because, you know, I only did, according to the log book, which is long since list because I, we've moved, according to my log book I only officially did one operation.
DG: Ah, right.
RA: And, er although there was some discussion about that, they wouldn't let us count a couple which we did (pause) which the Flight Commander or Squadron Leader said, no, they didn't count, but anyway. So I have very little memory of what we did, what the day was like. I remember that we had to be at the briefing at a certain time, I remember that we had to pick up our parachutes, I remember being driven out to the aircraft, I remember that we would have been er, you know, I remember putting on my harness, the parachute harness, I can remember putting on my Mae West, and I can remember standing up when the officer came in to brief us, and lots of funny little things, but er, what I clearly remember though on coming back, that was the important, well perhaps before, the important part for me was that we got a little, a ration to take with us on the aircraft for when we were flying, so we had something to nibble, you know, something to eat, whether it was a sandwich, or also Mars bar, and of course I'd never seen a Mars bar, because we didn't have Mars bars in Australia pre-war, that I ever saw, and as a kid I knew a lot about lollies, and so the Mars bar became very important, and that was where I was introduced to them.
DG: Can you remember what the target was?
RA: Yeah, Rotterdam. We were dropping food at Rotterdam.
DG: Ah, right. At what, well what, what, do you remember the date? Or month, year, whatever?
RA: Yeah, it was May the seventh, nineteen forty five.
DG: Ah right. So yes, that would have been very near-
RA: I can clearly remember part of the briefing was that if you fired, er if you were fired on you're not to return the fire, the gunners were not to return the fire, because we were only at five hundred feet, or thereabout, five hundred seems to stick in my mind, which seems pretty low. But I clearly remember as we crossed the Dutch coast, I was standing in the astrodome and shortly after that, and I could see the German light arm placements along the top of a dyke. They were looking at us, and we were looking back at them, sort of thing, but we'd been instructed that we wouldn't be fired on, but in the event that we were the gunners were not to return fire, which er, you know, I didn't approve of much, and nor did the gunners, but nobody fired on us anyway.
DG: Oh that was just as well, it would have made things a bit difficult under those circumstances. There were some, some people who, who had bad nerves, did you ever, and they, they were, they might have said they couldn't, didn't want to fly a mission, or something, and they were accused of having a lack of moral fibre. Did you come across any of that?
RA: When we, when we were at operational training in Scotland we had initially an Irish bomb aimer, and suddenly he seemed to disappear and he was replaced by a Canadian, a Canadian bloke, and it was always a mystery to me because it all, all happened so quickly, and I have since reflected on it and thought well, maybe he did turn it in then because we were constantly asked, or told, that if we didn't want to go on, now was the time to stop. 'Cause later on, you know, would be no good. You'd be letting the other fellows down.
DG: Yes. Yes. Did you, did you? So you didn't have any real first hand knowledge of that?
RA: No.
DG: No. Did you hear about, hear any stories about -?
RA: Ah, we heard stories about it, yes.
DG: How were they treated?
RA: Oh, pretty badly, you know, they weren't shot, but, you know, they were, lost their rank, and were sort of drummed out of the, out of the service, well out of sight anyway. Yes it was well known that if you went LMF you were in big trouble. Yeah.
DG: So, you didn't er, your mission was (pause) pretty uneventful, nothing -
RA: Pretty uneventful except that we were dropping, amongst other things, bags of flour, which was very exciting, but no, we were pretty low, and as we, they, they weren't too sure that when the bomb aimer released flour as he would release the bombs, they didn't seem to be too sure it would release properly, and my job that day, I'd been given a sort of a toggle. I had to lie on the floor of the aircraft as we approached the field that we were dropping the stuff in, and if they thought, if it held up, I was to work this toggle somehow to make it release, and I remember lying on the floor and when the bags of flour hit the airstream the, the, the flour all, well you know what flour's like, it went everywhere and I was covered in flour from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.
DG: Presumably some of the bags got out alright.
RA: They all got out, but it was the rush of air, you know, flour goes everywhere, you can imagine dropping a bag a flour, it hitting a gale.
DG: They weren't in some sort of canisters or anything?
RA: No, just hessian.
DG: But-
RA: We were very low. We were very low, we were right down below the five hundred feet.
DG: Oh, right. Ok.
RA: We were down below the height of the spires and the buildings.
DG: Oh, I see. But still, you know, a bag of flour hitting the ground, even from that height- (unclear, talking over one another)
RA: But when it hit the flip, the slipstream, I can tell you, it went, (chuckles) didn't burst a bag but-
DG: Oh, I see, the bag, yeah, oh, right, because some gets through the hessian. Yes, of course, I see. It's not the (unclear) it's not airtight, I see. Did you drop anything else, or was it just-
RA: No. Well, there may have been, but it was the flour that got me.
DG: Did you see people out coming to-
RA: Oh the field, the edge of the field was stacked with people. Crowds, of people. So certainly saw people, yes. Apart from the Germans we'd seen, we saw.
DG: Were Germans still at their post?
RA: Yes, yes.
DG: They'd just been told to stop firing? They hadn't been-
RA: The armistice hadn't been settled, you see.
DG: Yes, so they hadn't actually been officially captured or under control of-
RA: No, they were debating, they were debating the terms, I suppose.
DG: And it was just a ceasefire.
RA: They were debating what was to happen and there was a ceasefire.
DG: Yes.
RA: Which was a good thing, I suppose, from my point of view.
DG: Oh yes, you'd have been, you'd have really been a sitting duck.
RA: Well, we probably wouldn't have been doing it, at that height, anyway.
DG: Yes, yes. So ah, did, did you, when you were, do, on that mi, on that flight, on that mission, did you know that, that would be the last one you'd fly?
RA: No, no. No.
DG: You didn't know?
RA: No, we got out of the aircraft when we got back in the afternoon, and the groundcrew said, 'the war's over'. It had by then been announced. The armistice was-
DG: You had flown some other missions? That weren't counted? What were they?
RA: Well, we don't know, we were told, we just flew down over France somewhere. I think they were diversions of some sort.
DG: Oh, I see.
RA: You know, making the Germans think there was going to be an attack there, or an attack here. But anyway, they didn't let us count those.
DG: And did anything happen on those?
RA: Ah, no, we saw other aircraft, other Lancasters, which at one stage I remember we were tri- we were having our first experience of a thing called Fishpond, which I was operating, which was a screen which, with wiping, there was sort of a wiper going round at all times. It was supposed to pick up any other aircraft, beneath you, of course, wouldn't do it above, and I remember operating that. It wasn't very efficient. I remember saying to the gunners, 'look I can see something that looks to be suspicious'. I've forgotten whether it was below us or off to one side. But they said, 'ah, yes, it's another Lancaster. We've been watching it for ten minutes', so, you know, I was pretty slow on the Fishpond (chuckles). Anyway.
DG: But of course in those days that sort of technology was all very new, and it wasn't terribly easy to operate, or accurate or, I don't suppose.
RA: No. I seemed to be seeing things all the time, you know (chuckles) I suppose being a bit nervous.
DG: So when, when you'd flown your last mission, erm, what happened to you after that?
RA: Erm, some weeks later we were, we officially came out, see we'd been testing FIDO, we'd, I think we'd ferried an aircraft up to Lossiemouth, er, for, we'd taken an aircraft up to Lossiemouth, and then we brought it back with a couple of other crews that had also taken a couple of aircraft up there. And the RAAF announced, we were told that Australian, all the Australian air force, or air crew, were to be grounded, and they were calling for volunteers to form an Australian squadron to go to Burma. And you could volunteer for that squadron, or you could wait and get the troop ship home, and then go North, because the Japanese war, the Pacific war was still on. So I though, no, I been away from home now for, you know, sort of, eighteen months, more or less, I thought well I'll go home first and then let them do what they want to do with me.
DG: One fellow told me that some people in Bomber Command had received white feathers from the people in Australia. Did you ever hear about that?
RA: No.
DG: No. When you, when did you come back to Australia?
RA: October nineteen forty five.
DG: And what, what happened to you then?
RA: I was sent, I was given leave, told to report after about two or three weeks to Sandgate, RAAF Sandgate holding unit, and I was discharged. December nineteen forty five.
DG: And what did you do then? What did you do for work?
RA: I went back to work.
DG: Right.
RA: We were offered a rehab course, I took a rehab course, in accounting, so, and that was by correspondence so that took me, that was forty five, that took me another five years to complete that, night time, part time, an so on.
DG: Right. And where did you meet your wife?
RA: At work.
DG: Ah, right. What, what, so you, you an accountant or?
RA:Well, I was doing my accountancy, but I was working for a company that sold machines that did accounting, you know, they were accounting machines. Machinery that could handle ledgers, and most accounting is a ledger, so I was working for them, and she was working for them, and there we are (chuckles).
DG: And do you keep in touch with any people from Bomber Command?
RA: They're all gone, they're all gone, as far as I can see. The only had one, the only one in Australia was the navigator, he did, I probably shouln't mention his name, he did law, he'd been a policeman, he did law, and I picked up the paper one day, The Australian, and here his name was, he'd, he'd tickled the trust fund, I believe, so I think he finished in gaol.
DG: Oh dear. How did you, how were you treated after the war? As being with Bomber Command
RA: Alright. No problems.
DG: Yeah, yeah, right. Well thank you very much. That's much appreciated.
RA: Oh, pretty easy, pretty painless.
DG: Thank you.
RA: Not very interesting.
DG: Always interesting. Finish.


Donald Gould, “Interview with Richard Murray Allen,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 19, 2024,

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