Interview with the family of John Edward Ayres


Interview with the family of John Edward Ayres


The interview is with John’s wife, daughter and grandson.
John was a flight engineer with 427 Squadron. He was born at Westcliff-on-Sea and volunteered for the Royal Air Force when he received a letter from Bomber Command. He had joined the Air Training Corps and had an interest in aircraft. After finishing operations, he trained men when they transferred to Lancasters. He also flew Halifaxes. John demobilised in June 1947 and became a refrigeration engineer.
John’s wife describes how the Canadian crew attended their wedding and helped organise their honeymoon nine days before the war ended.
The family observe that John rarely discussed his wartime experiences; he did what had to be done.
John’s grandson recalls John’s love of model aircraft and shares his own research on 427 Squadron. He notes how the station records became more serious as the war progressed and losses grew. He recounts some of the stories John told him and how John was shocked by a photograph in a book, which recorded an incident he had experienced. He comments on the dangers they faced outside and during operations.
The family visited Yorkshire Air Museum for John’s 90th birthday and went in a Halifax, which is described as narrow and uncomfortable.
The family expresses their views about Bomber Command and the role it played.




Temporal Coverage




00:49:59 audio recording


This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit and




JM: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Julian Maslin, the interviewees are members of the family of Mr John Edward Ayres, ex flight engineer with Bomber Command. I have asked Mr Ayres family members to give their names when they make a contribution. The interview is taking place at Mr Ayres home in Hazel Grove, Stockport on the third of April two thousand and seventeen. Judy would you like to start us please
JW: Okay, my name is Judith Elizabeth Wood, I was born Ayres, and erm, my father was born in Westcliff-on-Sea. His mother came from a well to do family and his father was a bricklayer, and they met and fell in love and married within two weeks. They didn’t have any children for a long time, they weren’t sure if they would be able to have any, erm, and then Dad came along in nineteen twenty-five and followed five years later with a sister. And Dad grew up in Westcliffe, but his mother had three houses, she also had one in London and she had one in Folkestone, and also, his mother’s sister had a house in Shoeburyness near Westcliffe, and he used to spend his summers there. Now, his mother lost a younger brother at the end of the first World War at just nineteen, so when the second World War broke out, she had Dad go and work for his uncle who had a market garden, to keep him safe as you can imagine. Her mother had lost three sons in her life, so she didn’t want the same to happen to her. So, he went and worked for his uncle and he was treated just the same as anybody else who worked there, he lived in lodgings. He joined the ATC, very interested in aircraft, when they were working, he used to see, once the war had started, he used to see the aircraft flying, fly out on a mission and fly back again, and they used to count them out and count them in, er, he was very interested in it, aircraft, he knew what they all were, each make and you know, it was something he really enjoyed. While he was working for his uncle he became, eight, no seventeen, he got a letter from Bomber Command, and they said, would you like to volunteer for Bomber Command?
JA: They said what?
JW: Would you like to volunteer for Bomber Command?
JA: Oh, yes
JW: And, he went to his uncle and showed him the letter and said, ‘what do you think’, and his uncle said, ‘well you’re going, aren’t you?’ [laughter] so, that was it, off he went, off to the war. [pause] While he was working for Uncle Bert he was sent to pin out lines for fishing and he was with another lad and they saw a downed Dornier in a field, so they went rushing over to have a look, very excited, and went in the aircraft, sat in it and messed about like boys do, and as they were walking away, a RAF fighter flew over and strafed the Dornier with bullets
JA: Yes
JW: They were using it as target practice, and had it been a couple of minutes earlier they would have been killed
JA: Yes, that’s right
JW: So, can you take over from where you met Dad, to talk about from when you met Dad, and how old he was, and about him coming home for leave, and also your wedding? Do you want the wedding?
JM: Yes
JW: A little bit because their aircrew paid for their honeymoon [inaudible]
[unknown] State you name, state your name
EA: What now? I’m Edith Grace Ayres. [pause] Oh, I first met John Edward Ayres, when he was, I was sixteen and he was seventeen. I met him through his best friend because he was my previous boyfriend and er, I just took one look at him and thought, oh yes [laughs] so from then on, we became inseparable until he was called up, actually he wasn’t called up, he volunteered didn’t he
JA: yes
EA: And, erm so, he went into the RAF and on his first leave we decided to get engaged, that made me about seventeen and a quarter, John eighteen and a quarter. We were engaged for about two, two and a half years before we actually married and that was all during the war you see, and John said he wanted the war to be over before we got married. However, it was nine days before the end of the war that we were married, the twenty-eighth of April, and war ended on VE Day, it was the eighth of May. And, he’d just gone back off leave from our honeymoon, which incidentally, we spent in London, mainly, because you couldn’t go away to celebrate in seaside places because of the war. And, John was in a Canadian squad, so his Canadian officers, they took us to London and they belonged to a club and they signed us in, which was very nice because we had free drinks and everything, erm, and then John, ‘the wolf’, they called him, because he liked, he was a bit of a womaniser, [laughter] not my John, this John, and he got us tickets for Ingrid Bergman in, oh, what was that film called? Can’t remember the film, but it was very popular, so, we were lucky because he got tickets for us, and that was one of the days of our honeymoon. And then, er, another day we spent in Southall Park, where we lived, south of Middlesex, where they had a big fair going due to the celebrations which were marvellous, and we had a mayor living down our road
JA: That’s right
EA: So, he could get all the lights in the road and a big bonfire going, and then we had games and all sorts of things, enjoyment, but unfortunately, John had gone back off leave from our honeymoon, and then when war was finished, they sent him home for two or three days. Well, in the meantime, my, his sister Janet and I were in Southall Park enjoying all the festivities, so we missed him. We were on our way back down the road and people at their gate said, ‘have you seen your John?’ ‘no’, ‘he’s home you know’, ‘oh’, so we got back to Mums and she said, ‘well go and see if he’s in any of the pubs’, [laughter] because that’s what people were doing in the celebration
JA: I remember the pubs
EA: So, we went, Janet and I, we went to as many pubs that we could think of, and a lot of people were saying, oh you’ve just missed him, he’s just gone, so he’d just gone somewhere else. We never found him, but we had to go back and I was almost in tears by then, at this time. However, the festivities were still going on in the street, twelve o’clock, midnight came, no John, so everybody by then were going home, dispersed, so, I couldn’t settle, so I kept standing at the gate looking down the road for, if he was coming. Eventually, I saw these two figures coming up the road in the distance [laughter] got nearer, and one was John and one was his Dad, but the only thing was, his Dad had John’s hat on, RAF cap
JA: RAF cap
EA: And John had his Dad’s trilby on, and they were holding each other up, and my goodness me, it was such a sight. However, I wasn’t very pleased with him for a little while and he knelt down and he said, ‘please forgive me’, and I said, ‘all my friends had their boyfriends there, and you weren’t there’, however I forgave him, I forgave him in the end and erm, lots of hugs and kisses wasn’t it
JA: Yep, [laughs]
EA: And, that was like VE Day celebrations. But the day we got married, this was ten days prior, all the Canadian crew came to our wedding, and I had a photo taken amongst all these lovely men, you know, and I’ve shown people photos since then, and they say, ‘weren’t they lovely, weren’t you lucky, with all those men’, [laughter] and John was so handsome, ah, it was lovely, a lovely time, although we’d suffered a lot, with doodlebugs and everything, it was a lovely time, and people were polite, they got married earlier than they do these days and erm, it was a different world, completely but it was a lovely world. Everybody looked out for each other, we were on rationings so we learnt to do with food, so nobody was fat and er, it was a lovely time. And then, ooh, it was two years before John was demobbed after the war, and erm, [pause] oh, twenty-eighth of June it was, I can’t remember the year, but it was a couple of years after, must have been nineteen forty-seven, yeh, and they gave him this horrible demob suit [laughter] it was horrible [laughs] and they just sort of, you know like in prison you collect all these suits, in, everybody lines up, well they had to do that and they collected these, they just sort of looked at him and oh yeh you’ll be small, so they gave him a small outfit [inaudible] he didn’t wear it much
JA: No
EA: And it was a little while, it wasn’t, no it wasn’t too long before he got a job with Wall’s ice cream. He had an interview and with his past, and as he was an officer, that stood him in good stead, so he had a good job which he held for forty-two years, until he retired at sixty-three and a bit, wasn’t it, when you retired? Erm, and then he became a works manager in refrigeration, so he was quite important. He put a lot of his ideas on paper, like he designed a log cabin for ice cream er, with his work, he ran the whole work shop, erm
JM: Mrs Ayres, you’ve painted a lovely picture, particularly, particularly of the end of the war, but could I just take you back and ask you a couple of questions? First of all, can you tell me what was it like to be the fiancé of a man on operations, did you worry, did you know what was going on at all?
EA: That’s right, we only knew from the radio when they said some of our aircraft are missing, and when we heard that, John’s Mum said,’ John is not in that, he’s alright’, and it eased me a bit, but I felt sick, you know, how you do if you are going to the dentist or something, butterflies. Every time they announced it before they said so many of our aircraft, we didn’t know, we wouldn’t have known, you know, until a later date, if anything had happened to them, erm, so it was a very worrying time
JM: And, did John talk to you privately about his flying experiences, or did he just keep quiet about it?
EA: He didn’t tell me much, I don’t think he wanted to worry me, erm, he didn’t enforce on, any of the actions, what they did, the things that like he did say was, ‘ooh, I’ve been inoculated’
JA: [laughs]
EA: ‘Don’t touch my arm’, that sort of thing, and he introduced me to one or two of his officers at, he bought home with him at times, erm, which was very nice, I think we went to a hotel once with the, I can’t remember his name, but they were a lovely couple, he was a squadron leader eventually, he stayed in after the war but, John came, he retired, he wanted to come out because we were newly married, we’d only seen each other so many weeks, in that two years you see, and that was a very worrying time but, once he came when he was retired, it was so much easier
JM: Now that you know that the, the, er standing of the men of Bomber Command has changed over the years hasn’t it, because at one time they weren’t very popular for political reasons, now as you’ve done all the family research, has this changed your view of what it was like to be married to a Bomber Command airman?
EA: What do you mean, erm?
JM: Do you think more of them; do you admire them or do you wish that it had never happened? What are your views on the war that Bomber Command was waging on behalf of Britain?
EA: Erm, I didn’t have a lot of thoughts about that really, erm, [pause] as long as he was safe that’s the main thing that was, concerned me a lot, and I knew they were very, very young when they were called up mainly, unless they were in a reserved occupation, so, I didn’t, being young myself and not having, it was a new experience, having the war like, erm, I just took each day at a time and tried to, you know, and think positive like about things
JM: The way in which Bomber Command has been treated by the politicians
EA: What now?
JM: Well, over the years, over the years, particularly with no campaign medal, have you a view on that at all?
EA: Have I?
JM: A view, an opinion on that?
EA: Not really, I erm, I’m afraid I’m not too keen on learning about politics and that, in that respect I’m sort of live and let live, so I didn’t really have a lot of thoughts about it, not really
JM: Okay, thank you very much, that’s very, very helpful, very good thank you
AO: Anthony Oldham and the grandson of John Ayres, and growing up erm, I think initially as a very young lad, you knew that Grandad had been in the war, and we knew that he’d been in the RAF, when you were very young you didn’t know what exactly he’d done. As you, Grandad was always very keen on aircraft and model making, of all things, and before the war started he told me he used to make and fly model aircraft, a sort of rubber band powered aircraft and there was, he told me occasions where they had gone over fences and disappeared into the distance [laughs] etcetera, etcetera. Now, that was before, that was while the war was on, and while he was, he was working in his reserved occupation, erm, [pause] After that, when I was growing up, you know, he used to make these models and very often they would be of the aircraft that he flew in, he built a Halifax bomber, he built a Lancaster bomber and that in turn made me very interested in making models etcetera, but I was by no means as good as Grandad [laughs] at making them or painting them etcetera. So, erm, I was fascinated sort of from an early age, in what he’d done, er, what have you, but the age of the internet, it’s become a lot easier to find out more, and over, let’s say the last five years or so, I’ve managed to track down the station records of when 427 Squadron was formed, the fact that it was named Lion Squadron, it was sponsored by Metro Goldwyn Mayer, which is MGM, and they got certain benefits by being sponsored by MGM, in that they got free cinema admittance during the war. Going on from that I, I always admired Gramps, in that he was always able to build and make things and what have you, and I think a lot of that came from his training in the RAF as an engineer. He could, he then retrained after the war as a refrigeration engineer and in his later life, designed fridges and all sorts of different things. As a child, he made models for us, I remember at a very early age he made a garage for me etcetera, and so that was, that was very nice to experience as a child. Going back to his war time experiences, Gramps didn’t really talk a lot about it, he’s a quiet person and would sort of, wouldn’t like to be boastful or, or glamorise what was done during the war, but he did tell me several stories along the way. One of which was when he first joined the squadron, 427 Squadron, and, very keen to help out when he first got there, do anything he could, and when the, he wasn’t on this particular op, but he returned, er, the other returning aircraft, where coming in, and one burst into flames on the runway, and my Grandad John went to help and saw a burning body, which, when a body burns, it pulls up into the foetal position and it made him very sick and he regretted ever going to help, which, you know, seeing that sort of thing you can imagine. So, that was one memory that he told us about. Another was actually flying on ops over Germany or France, I’m not sure which, and he was stood up in the astrodome of the Halifax bomber and there was very heavy flak coming in, and the aircraft in front of them exploded and broke up in air, mid-air, and the wing of the Halifax in front of them, flew very quickly, up and over, and was, he said, just feet above my head in the aircraft, and he said he didn’t have even the time to react and warn the skipper to dive or make any manoeuvre, because it literally took his breath away, it was like [intake of breath] you know, erm, so, that was another memory that he had that he passed on to me. Another was, but when they, when they had breakfast in the morning, they knew they were going on ops because they got, I don’t know whether it was an extra egg or an egg, in the morning before they went on ops, which is a bit, you can imagine, once you saw your egg and knew you were going on ops, perhaps you didn’t want to eat it [laughs] He also, er, in later life, I remember him sat in the chair, where he is today and reading a book on Bomber Command, and in turning a pretty pasty white colour, because there was a picture in the book, and the Canadian crews were quite well off, they had, all had cameras and what have you, and took photographs a lot, and, one of the photographs in the book was looking downwards from another Halifax bomber, down onto another Halifax bomber, and the bombs from one Halifax bomber dropping through the wings of the bomber below, and, I could see the shock in his face, and he wondered if it was one of his crew had taken the photograph, because he remembers that happening, so that was another story. Erm, [pause] for myself, personally, erm, I have done quite a lot of research as I mentioned before, and I managed to find the station records for 427 Squadron, its inception in November of nineteen forty-two at Croft. The station records make fascinating reading for anybody, they’re very light hearted when they initially start and there is quite a lot of humour in them, they even describe initiation ceremonies when people became officers, they used to turn the officer upside down, put coal on his boots and stick his feet on the ceiling of the officer’s mess [laughter]
JA: Until one day we turned them upside down and put their backside up on the roof [laughter] that was in the officer’s mess
AO: Yes, that’s right, and this is mentioned in the station records. So, they are quite amusing, but steadily as time passed, they become more and more serious, and I certainly felt while reading them, [pause] the sense of sadness, erm, at the loss of all the men [upset]
[interview paused]
AO: Anthony Oldham, grandson of John Edward Ayres. Another thing that occurred while we were looking into the history of 427 Squadron, er, was that my Mother was contacted by [phone rings]
[interview paused]
AO: Anthony Oldham, grandson of John Edward Ayres During, investigating about how 427 Squadron, I became a member of a number of Facebook groups that cover both 6 Group Bomber Command and 427 Squadron, and my Mother was contacted by a chap called Dennis McCauley, a Canadian who lives in America, in the United States, and er, Dennis, sorry, he contacted my Mother asking about 427 Squadron, if she knew anything about a John Ayres. As it appeared, in his Father’s, what’s the book called?
JM: Logbook?
AO: Logbook, the logbook, and Dennis and I have remained friends to this day. We’ve chatted about various aspects of 427 Squadron, erm, and also, the reasons as to why they were in the same aircraft, and it appears that Grandad was on a, just a test flight basically within that aircraft, but it’s been nice to sort of keep in touch with Dennis over the last, it must be over five years now, erm, and er, he still has a keen interest in RAF and RCAF, and that’s been quite special to me
[interview paused]
AO: Anthony Oldham, grandson of John Edward Ayres. The thing that struck me that Grandad mentioned as well, that even after he had finished ops, he was training other men, erm, when 427 Squadron especially when they’ve transferred to Lancasters, he was training other young men, he said, to die by flying in those aircraft. I think people don’t realise, what struck me during conversations with Grandad, was that, just the operation of the aircraft was so dangerous, you have to remember that they were cutting edge technology then and that things went wrong, and Grandad had a few close calls where he nearly died and he wasn’t even on a bombing raid. There was one occasion where they came into land and overshot the runway and they nearly hit the trees that were well beyond the end of the runway
JA: [laughs]
AO: Only just coming to a standstill just before the trees. On another occasion they was coming in to land, and what used to happen is, while the undercarriage in it up position, they used to put pins in to make sure they didn’t drop and they came into land and because he was with a different pilot, they did things in slightly different ways, and the pilot selected, undercarriage down, and it locked the pins effectively in position, so the aircraft undercarriage wasn’t coming down, so he had to quickly tell the pilot to select up, pull the pins out and then ask him to select down again, and they just came down into a locked position just before they touched the runway. So, again, so many, many accidents and deaths happened and when they weren’t flying ops. My Nan’s cousin died in exactly the same way, in Scotland, during the war, and I think that’s, we did some research into that and exactly where the aircraft went down in Scotland. So, I think just the business of flying bombers in a wartime scenario was dangerous enough without flying over foreign territory and being shot at as well. One thing I missed out during discussing flying over Germany, was that their biggest fear was from night fighters, Messerschmitt 110’s, coming up and underneath Halifax’s where the blind spot was, where they couldn’t see them, although what they said was, that you could just see the glow of the engines occasionally, so going out on those ops was frightening and, there were, there was, many things to be frightened of. The aircraft itself, would it perform? [pause] The flak, seeing the traces come up, the night fighters, and then, if they were damaged were they going to get home, and if they got home were they still going to survive after the crash landing. A very difficult thing, a very difficult thing. After the war, one thing that Grandad mentioned to me was, it was particularly poignant, that you go from being a very respected member of society, you go from being a flying officer, you know, a hero who saves the day, after being demobbed you go back to being just a member of the public, and I think there was a sense from many especially in Bomber Command that they, they’ve never been appreciated and, once they were back in society that everything had just been forgotten, their part and their role, and their sacrifice, and their struggle to survive was forgotten and everything just moved on
JA: Moved on
AO: And I think for a long, long time that was the case and I think still to a degree with Bomber Command that is the case, erm, the fact that there is only a clasp round the campaign medal, was something that they could have done and sorted very easily, but wasn’t, and I think there is much of a fear with politicians that after the campaign, especially the bombing of Dresden and places like that, that it was something to be brushed under the carpet, but what they’re brushing under the carpet is the memory of the people who died. Bomber Commands attrition rate is fifty-five percent
[background noise]
AO: Anthony Oldham, grandson of John Edward Ayres. For part of my Grandad’s ninetieth birthday celebrations we travelled up to Elvington Air museum in Yorkshire, to take Gramps to see the Halifax bomber there, as part of that, ten of the family travelled up to Yorkshire and spent the day at Elvington, visiting it, looking round, and the main part was that, as a family, we got to go on board the Halifax and, see what it was like, and for both myself and my brother, we were shocked at how small the aircraft was in comparison to modern day jets for example, which are very large, very wide bodied. The Halifax bomber was very narrow we thought, how uncomfortable it was and how even from getting from one end of the aircraft to another was difficult. Climbing over the main wing spars in the centre, even getting in the aircraft. My Mother, particularly, found that getting into the aircraft and going up to the front was particularly hair raising. [pause] It was nice to see Grandad in the position that he would have flown in, and I got to stand in the astrodome that he talked about on many missions, and the reason why he was chosen as a member of the crew was because he was shorter, and could stand up clearly in the astrodome to shoot the stars for the navigator if they ever needed to do so, it never apparently happened. The aircraft was [pause] tight, it felt claustrophobic and I can only imagine the hours and hours spent in it were not very pleasurable, just from the point of view of sitting in it, it wasn’t comfy, it was awkward and utilitarian, it was, there was no creature comforts, you know, bearing in mind these guys, spent long periods of time flying to Germany, flying over southern France and back in one hit, you know, we go on aircraft to Spain or the Costa del Sol, and we spend two or three hours in a very comfy aircraft in comparison, and we are only going one way and we moan about it, but these guys flew long distances over enemy territory, gunfire, flak, fighter aircraft and it wasn’t exactly a pleasurable journey, both mentally or physically. The aircraft was, erm, interesting inside, the long ammunition racks down to the rear turret were a particular surprise for me. I was amazed how they were fed into the rear turret, er, it was an interesting visit, it was, it was good to see my Grandad there [inaudible]
JM: How did he react to the?
EA: I think that was one of our reasons
JM: How did he react to being in the Halifax?
AO: As an old hand really, I suppose they spent that much time in it, that they knew it back to front. Even though he was ninety he, you know, he knew exactly where everything was and I suppose that comes with being trained and spending so much time init.
JM: And did the experience trigger any memories or emotions in your Grandad?
AO: Grandad’s always been, erm, not one to show his emotions very much, always very quiet and slightly introverted, so it’s difficult, and I don’t think for people of that time that’s it the thing to do, to show emotion, it was the keep calm and carry on scenario, er, very much so, even when he discussed what happened during the war, there wasn’t a lot of emotion behind it, it was just what you needed to do to carry on and survive, and this seeing it again was just the same really, I think it was just a very manner of fact way of dealing with life and I don’t think it was any different to when he visited it really, again, it’s just what we did, so
JA: [laughs]
JM: And, have these researches altered in any way your perception of your Grandfather, as a man, as a person?
AO: I think, I think, to know and experience how difficult [emphasis] it was probably on a day to day basis, you know, I joked for about having an egg in the morning, but you can imagine that when you got your egg you probably didn’t want to eat it because you thought, oh God, I’m going to have to fly off to Germany or where ever this evening, that pit of the stomach feeling that you get and the anticipation is almost worse than doing it, your there and having to do what you do, its, you know, a, you just have to get on with it and do it, whereas, I think the shock and the horror of it only comes back after. You know, seeing Grandad see a picture in a book and going white forty years later
JM: I get the impression that you admire the self-control that you Grandfather showed, at overcoming fear, the devotion to duty as they say, would you say that, that was something you knew about before the research which has increased, or were you always aware of it?
AO: No, I think, I think it grows as a bigger picture doesn’t it, you get a small part of the story and then you put yourself in those shoes and you think hang on, you know, but until you get a bigger part of the picture, you can’t put yourself in that situation, you, they’re models on a shelf or they’re pictures in a book and they don’t mean anything to you until you think about the day to dayness of it. They’re getting up in the morning and having an egg given to you and thinking, ‘err’, right, I’m off to, off to, where ever tonight and then thinking about how you would feel at that time and I think it’s only when you have the full, a fuller picture, that, that picture builds up and makes you think, that was, that must have just been terrible to think about each day. The fact that, as my Grandad said a long time ago, that was you didn’t get close to other crews, you only got close to your own crew because if you did, they might be gone tomorrow
JA: Yeh
AO: So, the admiration of having to deal with the day to day unpleasantness of it, I think some parts of it were probably very boring, the waiting to go, they’re sat on the airfield waiting for the all clear to go, the flying home, relieved that your flying home, but the boredom of it on the way home, I suppose there was tasks to do wasn’t it, flight engineers, gunner’s etcetera, but, it’s in the dullness, it’s the fear
JA: Yeh
AO: Its being aware of the fear, of doing it
JM: I think that’s a very good point, but I’d just like to just widen it a little bit. Have your researches in anyway affected your view of the air war, the role that Bomber Command played in defeating Nazi Germany?
AO: It was necessary, It was necessary and this is what modern society doesn’t seem to appreciate it, they see, camera guided missiles zooming in on targets with pinpoint accuracy and that just wasn’t the case during the war you know, it was area bombing, it was indiscriminate both, on both sides, but what people fail to remember and think about is the men who were sent to do it, it wasn’t their choice, they’d have rather been sat at home with their families. They did it because that was what was required of them, whereas the people who make decisions on the targeting, they’re, it was they’re responsibility, and that lies ultimately with the politicians, and that is a very, again a, it doesn’t matter if it is modern times or then, politicians make the decisions, and it’s the ordinary people who are left to suffer and not be appreciated, and I think that’s throughout the ages, you know, it’s very convenient for politicians to sweep things under the carpet and forget because it’s not affecting them personally
JM: Thank you. You’ve led this family research and this aspect of your Grandfather’s life, have you given any thoughts to what you would like to see happen to the material which you’ve collected and the information that you’ve garnered?
AO: It should always be there for people to access, for them to find out. Many people won’t because as time moves on people forget things, things become, you know, by the passage of time, people become less close to it, but for those who are interested and want to know, it should be there for them to find
JM: Thank you very much. Judy, could I come back to you for a moment? From a woman’s perspective, could you tell us a little about how these researches have influenced your life?
JW: Erm, its, when we were young it was just part of what we grew up with, the knowledge that Dad had been in the war and everything, but you didn’t think a lot about it because that was how it was, erm, but as I’ve got older and found out more, talking with Anthony over certain things, I can see the unfairness of how it has been sort of blamed on them, the men of Bomber Command and all the bombings and everything, and how the politicians have tried to sort of not talk about it or appreciate the men who took a chance with their lives and went out there, erm, but they weren’t appreciated. We sent off for the medal for Dad recently
AO: The clasp
JW: Yeh, the clasp, and I was shocked at how awful it was and, you know, it was just a horrible little piece of ribbon and it was nothing to show any appreciation of what they’d actually done. And, when Anthony and I went to the Green Park and saw the memorial, and some of the facts that people have attached to the memorial about how many people of Bomber Command have died, just under fifty percent I believe, you know
[unknown] Over
JW: The toss of the dice whether they lived or died and came out of the war, none of that seems to have been appreciated, to me, nobody really in the general public seems to know about it, and to my mind I think it, it would be a good idea if perhaps a little bit of this what happened, was taught in school. Too, youngsters now, say juniors, that kind of age, just to touch on it and make them realise that these men made a sacrifice, the fifty percent that never came back
JA: No
JW: They made the ultimate sacrifice, and then, maybe the youngsters today would know and appreciate just what they did. I’ve heard they’re calling them the golden generation and I think that’s what they were
JM: Thank you Judy. Could I come back finally to you please Mrs Ayres. I would just like to ask you one more, you must be very of the, of the work that your family have done to make sense of your father, er, of your husband’s war service?
EA: Oh, I am, I’ve sat here with my eyes glued to young Anthony here, with his knowledge, how he’s been interested in finding all these facts and knowledge about the past and what his Grandad, you know, had a part of it, erm, he’s always looked up and admired him and he’s always sat there and listened to all his stories. Both the boys, Richard as well, Judy’s other boy, they’ve sat there, opened mouths for hours listening to his stories, which amazed me with the memories that he had of them, he went from one thing to the other, he was such a wonderful brave and you realise how brave, how brave these airmen were. A lot of them, lack of moral fibre, could not take it, but the ones that did were very, very brave and I think this generation should be made aware of what they did for the future generations. Why they here today, how they here today, because of what the men did, in the war, not enough people, there’s not enough said about it I don’t think, I think it should come into school’s history especially, about the three services, not only the army, not only the navy but the aircraft as well, ‘cos I think sometimes the army takes precedence over a lot of the other services. The young services, the RAF is the young service, but, to make a boy interested and perhaps go into the RAF, they should make everything more clear to them of what the men suffered, what the future held for them in the RAF, because it’s amazing, it’s an amazing place because they teach you a lot. John said he learnt more in the RAF than he did at school. I know we were the wrong years, I was thirteen, John was fourteen when war broke out, we missed quite a few years of education, therefore we’re not quite as clever because we missed those years and you never get them back, but not our fault of course, John, he was in the RAF, whereas he could have been in education [unclear] become some professional person, but he couldn’t, but the RAF knowledge he got there did help towards his work and he became a very good engineer as well, he learnt a lot, he told me he learnt more there than at school
JM: On that note, can I on behalf of the International Bomber Command centre, thank you all, Judy, Anthony, Mrs Ayres, you’ve given a very useful and very interesting interview. Thank you very much.



Julian Maslin, “Interview with the family of John Edward Ayres,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 1, 2024,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.