Interview with Harvey Hayward Bawden


Interview with Harvey Hayward Bawden


Harvey Bawden, from Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942 at the age of eighteen. After initial training school and assessment as an air gunner, he was shipped to England via the United States. After crewing up and training on heavy bombers, his first posting was to 153 Squadron at RAF Scampton, from where he flew four operations. He was then posted to 150 Squadron at RAF Hemswell. On their 29th operation, they were hit by flak. Bawden’s leg was broken before he bailed out, and he describes the experience of bailing out, interrogation and treatment in a military hospital in some detail. Only he and one other crew member survived. He was rescued by advancing American forces clearing the Ruhr Pocket. Bawden pays tribute to his fellow crew members, buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, and the ground crew who supported them.




Temporal Coverage




01:05:55 audio recording


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JB: It's the 10th of August 2016, and the interview, my interviewee is Harvey Bawden from xxxxxx, Bendigo, Victoria. Harvey's squadron was 150, rank of warrant officer, and his crew position was mid upper, er, upper mid gunner. Um, so, the date you enlisted, and where did you enlist?
HB: I enlisted in Bendigo in 1942.
JB: And from the home town? Your home town?
HB: Er, from the hill where I lived. I came from the Pyramid Hill [?] of Bendigo to enlist, and then of course I had to go to Melbourne for induction and all those things.
JB: And you went, what school did you go to?
HB: I went to the Bendigo Technical College.
JB: And as a civilian, your job? You were a farmer.
HB: I was a wool grower, yes.
JB: What made you volunteer for Bomber Command? [pause] I suppose firstly, what made you volunteer in the war?
HB: Oh well, it wasn't a big decision to make, my father had been a serviceman in the First World War, as a light horseman. Er, stories of service life had been part of my growing up, I suppose, but I, when I became eighteen of age I automatically enlisted, er, I enlisted in aircrew because I was interested in flight [pause] and [pause], yes, I, I was looking forward to the time when I was able to enlist.
JB: Were you aware of the high casualty rates?
HB: Well, er, war stories were not new to me. I knew a little bit about the war, but also there was war all around us, and it was an inevitability that able-bodied people would be involved, and, no, I didn't give it a great amount of consideration, I must confess, no.
JB: What about your family? I mean how did they feel about it? Your mum.
HB: Oh well, I don't suppose they were happy to see me enlist, but as I said before, my father was an ex-serviceman, and I got plenty of encouragement from the family, yes.
JB: So, where did you, where did you train, once you'd enlisted?
HB: Ah well, very briefly, oh first I went to Summers, which was what they called initial training school, where we were given a lot of theory and [pause] grounding in aircrew things, but it was really assessing, I think, the young people, to see if they could cram a lot of subjects in a very short time, and had the ability to go on quickly. I can remember particularly at Summers there were some sheds were used for classrooms, and we didn't walk between those sheds, we had to, we had to, actually go at the double, because they were short of time, and we were very young and fit. But after spending the time at Summers initial training school, if we passed the course we were, we were [pause], we were assigned to different channels of aircrew training. We all, of course, would like to have been made pilot, young pilots, and I was very fortunate that I was categorised for pilot training, and I was sent then to initial, er, to elementary flying training school at the Nowra in Victoria, where we were trained to fly Tiger Moths. And it was a wonderful period of my life, I had an interesting and capable instructor, and we enjoyed very much the period of flying, from the time of first solo until we were practising aerobatics and doing solo cross countries, it was a very exhilarating period of a young person's life. At the end of that course we were again categorised for singles or multis, which meant going on to be a fighter pilot if you went on singles, or bomber pilot if you were multis. And again I obtained what I wanted to have, and that was fighter pilot training on singles, and I was sent then to Uranquinty in New South Wales, flying on Wirraways, and sadly during that course, and when I felt quite capable and comfortable with the course, nine of us were taken off the course and told that we were to be re-mustered to bomber crews, and of course this was a most disturbing and, er, disappointing thing to happen. However, we, we were sent to Bradfield Park in New South Wales, and given a choice of what we would like to do in bomber crews. And I chose to be a gunner. And I was sent to Sale and I did a gunneries course, and very quickly I was sent to England, er, via America, to join in Bomber Command, which was the ultimate, I imagine, at the time. We had a very uncomfortable trip to England, it was wartime of course, and we travelled from Brisbane to San Francisco in the United States of America, in a liberty ship, and they were terrible things. They were the first all-welded boats, made during the war for transport purposes. They weren't very large and they were certainly very uncomfortable. But after about three weeks we, one morning, saw, coming through the mist, er, one of the American airships they had patrolling their coastline, and coming through the fog we came into the, into the port of San Francisco. And after a bit of leave in San Francisco, we were put on [unclear], on a very comfortable Pullman train, and we travelled right across the States by train to New York. It took about a week, and that was a very interesting journey. And we had a short period of leave in New York whilst-
JB: S- sorry Harvey, there's a lovely story about the Afro-American on the train. I'd really like, 'cause it says a lot about the Aussies, so-
HB: Ah, well, I've just got to break into that somehow. Yes, well, on this train we, they were very comfortable old train carriages, they were Pullman carriages, they were sleepers, and, er, we had an African-American person in each carriage, looking after us. And some of us spent most of the day on a observation carriage type thing, talking to this, er, old gentleman who was our, looking after us. He was very, very interesting, he'd been on the route for a long time, and he could give us a lot of interesting information on the country we were passing through, and the cities we came in to. And, er, quite an old gentleman. At the end of our journey to New York we took up a collection, and gave to him in appreciation for his looking after us so well on the trip. And the old chap became quite emotional, and he said he'd been hauling American troops for years on the trains, but he'd never ever received the respect and attention that he had with the Australians, and he also said that the money we had given him would be sufficient to buy his son, who was about to go to a university, a new overcoat, and that was a very pleasant thing [unclear] to our trip across the States. In New York we had some leave whilst we awaited the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth, who was, of course she was doing a regular trip between America and Britain on, [pause], on eh as a troop ship. Eventually she arrived, and we were five hundred Australian aircrew, all Australians, and we didn't make much difference to the, the seventeen thousand, I think it was, on board the Queen Elizabeth. But it was a, after our experience on the liberty ship, it was a very luxurious journey on board the Queen Elizabeth. We aircrew fellas, I think we had to share, er, we had cabins, but only cut down slightly on normal accommodation. The Queen Elizabeth wasn't escorted, she was too fast to travel in convoy, she travelled on a zigzag course relying on speed and all the electronics and [pause] she had on board. We, we eventually pulled into the, the, into Glasgow, the port of Glasgow. The Queen Elizabeth never came right into port, she remained out in the straits and we came off by lighters, this was so she could be quickly manoeuvred about in emergencies from bombing. In Glasgow we [pause]
JB: -at all. As good as gold.
HB: We boarded a troop train, in Glasgow, and came down, all the way down through, er, through Britain, to Brighton, which was our destination, of course, and all the aircrew arrivals were billeted in one of two major hotels in Brighton. Er, quite a luxurious arrival actually. And we were very pleased to get to Brighton, we were all very weary after all our travel. But at Brighton which was a pool, and a place where all aircrew were sorted into groups suitable for training, we were given disembarkation leave. There was a great feeling of haste there about everything. This disembarkation leave was very, very brief, and we were very quickly put on course for operational training courses, and we could see the reason this was about, there were many losses, heavy losses in Bomber Command, and the war was at a very positive time, but after a very brief leave in London we were sent on operational, to operational training units, where we crewed up, and we were given a welcome by the commanding officer at our training station, and told that we would be given two or three days to crew-0p by choice [coughs]. The British had learned, I think from experience, that you don't allocate bomber crews, you allow them to crew-up as crews themselves. A bomber crew had to be compatible [coughs], and we crewed up.
JB: How did that actually, did you just walk round and meet each other, or-?
HB: Yeah, we did. We just talked around the bar, and chatted in the mess, and in real life, I think, you usually find that like-minded people do group together, and sort themselves out a little. But in our case, the first man I saw there, met, was my old friend Kevin Key, who I'd known at initial training school at Summers in Melbourne, I knew no one else, nor did he know anyone else, but we were delighted to meet, and we said well, whatever happened, we'll be on the same crew, and from there we just gradually melted into er, different groups, and, er, Jim Gillies was the next one that we met. We decided that we'd be a fairly good combination, and we ended up with our six members, crew members, all Australians. We crewed up only with six men for a seven-man crew because in England the flight engineers were all English, and they allocated. But as a crew we then began our training at -. And it was a very busy time, of course, we got into the elementary flying programmes, and finally we moved onto flying in Wellington bombers, training. The Wellington had been a front-line bomber at the beginning of the war, it was a twin-engined, quite serviceable, old aircraft. And it was still being used a little bit in coastal patrols and such things, but its major usage was in training bomber crews, and it was a twin-engine aircraft. And so we did quite a lot of flying in Wellingtons, and then we migrated to Halifaxes, which was a four-engined bomber, of course, and quite a big step for the pilots, and the crews. And after a course in Halifaxes we moved onto Lancasters, and the Lancaster, of course, was the outstanding heavy bomber of World War Two. It was said that, yes, it was the supreme heavy bomber. Er, it carried a crew of seven. It carried a much heavier bomb load than the American Flying Fortress. We had a crew only of seven, where the American Flying Fortress had a crew of eleven. It was an exciting aircraft. They could take enormous punishment in service. But anyway, we did a course on Lancasters, cross countries, and under all sorts of conditions and situations, until the time came that we were proficient, and we were allocated to a squadron. And we were fortunate we felt, we were sent to 153 Squadron at Scampton, which was a very famous squadron, not far out of Lincoln city. It had become famous in the fact that the Dambuster crews trained there, in fact they took off for the bomb raids from Scampton. It was the squadron where Guy Gibson did his flying. And it was a very interesting place, and a very comfortable billet, and we were very happy to go there. And we flew our first operation from there, and in fact we flew four operations from Scampton. And then we were told that we were being posted to 150 Squadron at Hemswell. Hemswell was a new squadron at a new wartime 'drome. A little bit further away from Lincoln. And we were a bit sad, of course, leaving the comforting billets that we'd become used to at Scampton, but we soon got used to 150 Squadron at Hemswell. The amenities weren't quite as comfortable, perhaps, but we joined in Hemswell a mixed body of young flyers. We were the only full Australian crew flying there. There were odd Australians in mixed crews, but there were Canadians, there were some Canadians, incidentally the Canadians and the Australians seemed to have a great rapport, they seemed to fall into step very easily. Our closest companions were Canadians, but there were British, and there were Canadians, and there were some, a few, New Zealanders. There were two squadrons at Hemswell, 170 Squadron and 150 Squadron. We [pause] we settled, we settled into flight from Hemswell, it was some distance back into Lincoln, of course, but any time we had free we drove back in to Lincoln for our relaxation. Hemswell was surrounded by farming land, very attractive farming land, but there was no township, or anything of that nature, there. From then on it was a matter of routine, the bombing missions all over Germany. Intermittently we were given leave, they were, the Air Force was, very generous, I believe, in its allocation of leave to aircrews, and we, we used to get well away from London and relax in those periods when we were given leave. We would go north to Scotland, or into the Lakes District in England, and generally enjoy and relax very well. But it was always sad, we found, coming back to the squadron after having been on leave because inevitably we found vacant places. And you even felt a little bit guilty [pause] that you'd been away while these boys had gone.
JB: Do you want me to stop it a minute?
HB: [Coughs]
JB: Sorry mate.
HB: That's alright.
JB: Um, yeah, let’s stop it and think. [Rustles and beep]. And away you go.
HB: When we arrived at the squadron, our crew was assigned to a brand new Lancaster. Her code number was PB 853 PB, and she was affectionately known as P-Peter. The ground crew painted a huge bee dressed in Australian battledress, and sitting astride a bomb, on the side of the fuselage. During the period we flew her, all of her engines were replaced, and many of her panels were patched due to flak damage. When flying on operations we carried escape aids to help if we had to bail out in neutral countryside with a chance of escape to the neutral country. It was a flat box, plastic box [pause] we wore inside our battledress, and contained a beautiful silk map of Europe, some German money, some phrases cards, in several languages, and some vitamin pills, for-, and also some pills for purifying water, a razor, and many little things likely to be useful. Each member of a bomber crew carried a secret compass. There were several kinds of these, my little compass was in the base of a, of a collar stud. When I became a prisoner of the Germans I was interrogated twice, once by the Luftwaffe, and once by civilians. They removed everything I had, but did not find my little compass, and I still have it. The Royal Air Force flew mostly at night. Our crew flew twenty nine operations before we were shot down. Twenty four of them were at night, and five were in daylight. Because we usually flew at night, high altitude we had [sneezes], we had to wear oxygen masks, and electric inner suits for the gunners, because in those days we did not have pressurised aircraft, and it was very cold. Flying could be up to ten hours, depending on the location of the target. We were briefed for our twenty ninth operation one morning to bomb synthetic oil refineries at Harpennig, near Dortmund in the Ruhr. The Ruhr is the industrial centre of Germany where most of the heavy steel industry is, is located, including the mighty Krupps armament works. It was known to bomber crews as Happy Valley, we had been to the Ruhr cities a number of times, and had always found them heavily defended. At four o’clock in the afternoon we were over the city, and the oil refineries underneath us. After seeing the target map on the brief, briefing room wall that morning, I believed that without being complacent we were quietly optimistic that we would complete our tour of thirty operations. There was only one more to go after this. We had survived twenty eight arduous operations, all of them on German targets. We were the senior crew on the squadron, with a reputation for reliability and efficiency. At four o’clock in the afternoon we were indeed over the city, flying at eighteen thousand feet. We were in the midst of a heavy anti-aircraft barrage, with flak bursting from fifteen thousand to twenty thousand feet. The target was clearly visible, not only from the target indicators, but from the smoke of exploding bombs. As we turned into our bombing run there was a target, there was a target, when we [long pause]. You right?
JB: Yeah!
HB: As we turned into our bombing run there was a great explosion, and the aircraft began to shudder violently. Flak bursting under us had put two of our engines on fire. We were out of control and going into a steep descent. When the order was given to abandon the aircraft the last words we heard from Phil were, 'I can't hold her any more'. Jim Gillies and I believe that Jim Griffin was killed by the flak. His body was found, thrown clear of the aircraft, in the woods some kilometres from the target area. There was no panic, and six of the seven of us were able to bail out. I was the last to leave. My turret hydraulics were supplied from one of the engines that was on fire, and it had stopped with the guns on the beam. With no hydraulics I had to manually wind the turret to the fore and aft position to get out of it. This operation took several seconds. As I disconnected my oxygen and intercom lead the aircraft began to lurch violently from side to side. I was having great difficulty leaving the turret, and suddenly found myself on the floor of the fuselage below. I was able to clip my parachute onto my harness before I realised that my left femur was broken up near the hip. I crawled upwards to the door and rolled out, counted to three, and pulled my rip cord. There was a sudden jolt and I found myself suspended at about sixteen thousand feet. My first reaction was of relief. The enormity of the situation took a moment to sink in. [Pause.] There were aircraft passing high above me with flak bursting under them, and I began to feel an incredible sense of isolation and loneliness as I watched those Lancasters disappearing into the distance, going home to England. As I descended in the parachute I had time to think of many things. I thought about the dreaded telegram my father would receive from the Air Ministry, advising them that we were missing. I remember the, I remember the RAF issue Smith and Wesson revolver I had underneath my Mae West. I realised it would be a liability in the situation that I was about to face, and I pulled it out and let it drop. The last few hundred feet arrived too soon. I could see I was drifting over a building [pause] and as I landed, further down under the cabbages I could see people coming. They were armed with shovels and garden tools. They hesitated for a moment, and then rushed over to me, and my flying boots were pulled off. Women were squabbling over my parachute silk, and others were trying to remove my harness in order to have my flying clothes. I could not move because they were standing on my hands, stretched above my head. I couldn’t see clearly because mud was running into my eyes. I was not having a very good time when an old soldier in uniform with a sub-machine gun moved through the crowd. He cocked his weapon, and they fell back. He then stood over me, undoubtedly saving my life. Another armed old soldier then arrived, pushing a large wheelbarrow with two wheels on the front. These soldiers were Volkssturm, or Home Guard. The first old fellow loaded me onto this conveyance, and then with the first of them walking in front with his weapon, clearing a pathway, the other pushed me over the cobblestones, and I was cursed and spat upon by the justifiably irate citizens as we approached a tin building which appeared to be a military barracks. I was deposited upon a concrete floor within this building, and as they left me I thanked these two old soldiers. They had saved my life, though I never saw them again.
JB: No. Just my wife [pause]. No, you're all right. Keep, still going. [Pause.]
HB: Lying on my back, with nothing under my head, I tried not to make the slightest movement because the tortured thigh was swelling rapidly, no doubt due to having been twisted about so much during the rough handling I had received in the vegetable field. Sometime during the evening I was interrogated by some military people, with a Luftwaffe officer in charge. He had an RAAF, rather, an RAF aircrew identification card with him, and he showed me those many identification cards, from obviously RAF personnel who had been shot down in the region [pause]. He, he went through these with me, and I showed no recognition, even though I saw Jim Gillies, our bomb aimer, I saw his card come up. Throughout the night [pause] a light in the ceiling above my head was something to focus on, and in a sense it gave me some company. I was very cold, and my leg was swollen, swelling enormously, and in the morning my trouser leg was stretched to the limit. At this time a soldier came in to me with a plate of porridge, before depositing it on the concrete beside me he put it to his mouth drinking the liquid from it [pause]. Later in the morning a rough splint was strapped over my leg. I was put on a stretcher and moved to a small prison cell. I had not had time to become fully acquainted with this [telephone rings] -
JB: - you go.
HB: And later in the morning a rough splint was strapped over my leg, and I was put on a stretcher and moved into a small prison cell. I had not had time to become fully acquainted with this superior accommodation, when the door opened, and guards escorting Jim Gillies arrived. We chose not to recognise each other, but I am sure that our body language would have indicated the relief we felt in knowing that the other was alive. Jim was wearing a paper bandage around his head, testimony of his inhospitable reception, er, on landing. The following morning Jim and I were taken to an open truck. There was no seating for a group of female soldiers and the two armed guards escorting us. We travelled through Dortmund into the countryside where we stopped to pick up the body of an RAF fellow from a field. His parachute had not opened, and he was probably blown out of an exploding aircraft. This incident caused Jim and me to be a little uneasy. The truck had stopped at the side of the road, and two, the two guards guarding us jumped out, ordering Jim to follow. He was then given a stretcher to carry, and the three of them marched out across a field, and from my position on the floor I soon lost sight of them. However, I heard no gunshot, and was relieved soon, later, to see them return with Jim and one of the guards carrying the stretcher. And as we continued our journey, Jim, who was very tired, sat on the body after saying, 'I'm sure he wouldn't mind'. We were then able to confer freely together. The road was in very poor condition, and I was relieved when we arrived at a Luftwaffe fighter base where Jim Gillies was placed in cells with a number of Canadian and American POWs. The following day Jim Gillies and the other airmen was moved by train and truck through Germany ending up at Fallingbostel POW camp. After a night in a cell alone, I was taken some distance to a place called Kirchlinde, a large town. The hospital was on three levels, and I was placed on the top storey. Two American soldiers, and a blind English soldier, and I, were the only English-speaking prisoners. The few orderlies were French, and the main function of the establishment seemed to be the patching up of injured Russian prisoners of war from the work parties that we could see filling in bomb craters and clearing roads. After so much time without any medical attention whatsoever I was given some surgery at this place. Since breaking my femur the muscles of my leg had contracted and the broken ends of the bones were overlapping, and my leg was shortened and not very straight. The doctor put on [unclear] my shin bone and attempted some traction, but after so much delay it was futile. It turned out that we were being held in what was to become known as the Ruhr Pocket, where the German, where a German army refused to surrender. There were, we were under constant attack from the RAF bombing throughout the region at night, and a tactical air force in daytime. The Germans had established an anti-aircraft battery quite close to the factory, and whenever the air raid siren began to moan, we would brace ourselves for the sound of the guns as they sent of a barrage of flak. Inevitably, eventually it happened, and the second floor, storey, was also replaced, er reduced to rubble and by the cannon fire. Again I was moved downstairs into what still remained of the building. By this time I was the only prisoner still confined to a bed. I remember an SS soldier coming into the ward, where I remained alone. He had a Luger in his hand, and I was given the strong impression that he would have liked to use it. I was after all a considerable inconvenience. I was relieved when he left after making his inspection. By this time most of the Russians had disappeared, street fighting had been going on around for some time, and eventually the first floor [pause] became shattered. And after a period the whole of the building was untenable, and we were moved down to the cellars underneath. I lost sign, I lost sight of the English soldier, the blind English soldier, and I think he could not have survived. I was lying on a concrete floor with a very, with a very young soldier, German soldier on my left. He was from a signal unit and had been wounded in the street fighting. He spoke very good English and we began to talk. He told me about his work in the army and said that he'd often heard English pilots on his listening set, talking and swearing at each other. He quoted 'tally-ho' [pause]. He, he spoke very good English, and his name was Helmut Liever, and he'd grown up in the confines of Hitler Youth Movement, where every aspect of life was regimented. He told me that the German people were very afraid of Royal Air Force bombing, especially at night. He said that he had received, he told me that he had relatives who had survived the classic raid on Dresden. He went on to describe in detail the sequences of the operation. I did not tell him I had seen it all from twenty thousand feet. In contract, in contrast to Helmut Liever on my right there was a German soldier who had a dagger that, that he pulled out several times in a threatening manner. Fortunately he was out of reach. Eventually the two Americans and I experienced a dramatic change in our situation. Four heavily-armed American soldiers burst into our cellar at about midday. They expected to find more than the three of us. It was a wonderful reunion for the two Americans. When they found out that I was an Australian airman they could not have been more supportive. They told us, however, that we couldn't be taken away for some time, as there was street fighting going on outside. Before leaving they left some cigarettes and a long black bottle of very old wine, and asked if, they came to ask if there was anything they could do for me. And I said, 'well, that old German with the dagger is annoying me, get that dagger', which they did, and I still have it with me. Early in the evening a jeep arrived for us. I was strapped across the bonnet on a stretcher. A padre sat beside me, steadying me on the, and holding a rifle with a Red Cross flag tied to the barrel. It was a rough ride, dodging bomb craters and wrecked vehicles and fallen cables. Before leaving the cellar, I quietly passed some cigarettes to Helmut Liever. We travelled through what seemed a considerable distance until we left the city and arrived at an American army field hospital. It was surrounded by wheat fields, and it was a mobile unit under canvas. I was something of a curiosity with the nursing staff. Most of them were female and knew very little about Australia. They could not be enough, do enough for me, and were very kind. I was told my femur should be re-broken and reset in England. They enveloped my knee in plaster for the trip to come home. Er, could you switch it off for a minute?
LB: Yeah.
HB: I just [unclear] it's getting pretty dreary now, what would like-
LB: I think just talk about the crew, what about when-
HB: Ah, yes.
LB: Um, hang on, hang on, hang on. Er pause, we can do that one [noise]. Um, Harvey, what can you tell me about your crew, or your team?
HB: Er, I would do that with great pleasure, er, in recollections of our team, and our [coughs], Philip Henry Morris was an accomplished pilot, trained in Canada, and we both looked forward to a life in farming after the war. In September 1944 we decided to buy a car. We found one that suited us, a Riley Nine, in Gainsborough. It was a very, in very good condition except that the tyres were very bad, and were difficult to attain. But I drove it back to the station, and whenever we had a day off, I proceeded to teach Phil, Phil to drive. It was an amazing fact that this man who had flown three types of heavy bombers, and many light aircraft, had never learned to drive a motor car. [Pause.] After a great deal of changing and slipping and gear grinding, we were able to go back to Gainsborough and secure his licence. When we arrived back to 150 Squadron at Hemswell, our ground crew took over the maintenance of the car. For special occasions we would let them have it out for a night. In a miraculous manner the worn and worn-out tyres that we couldn't replace, were replaced with new ones, and whenever we drove out of the station, there would be petrol in the tank. John Clement Jay Davis, the flight engineer, was English, of course, er, was assigned to us after OTU, and flew with us in training, and [pause] Jo Davis was a young Londoner, who grew up in Surbiton. He bonded with us very quickly. He was capable, courageous, and always cheerful. He was delighted to be part of an Australian crew, and often said that he would be emigrating to Australia after the war. One of his sayings after a pint or two in the sergeants’ mess was, 'we are not here today, and gone tomorrow, we are here today, and gone tonight'. Kevin Anthony Key came from Melbourne. He and I were old friends from Initial Training School at Summers, and were delighted to come together on Operational Training Unit at Lichfield. He was a [pause] he was an inveterate gambler, and a very successful gambler. I remember one, him one evening pushing a large Royal Enfield motor bike back to the billet, that he'd just won from Canadians, playing cards [pause]. He was an excellent navigator, and he kept us on track during all those black nights over Germany. Robert Lockyear Masters was a schoolteacher prior to enlistment as a wireless operator in Australia. He grew up in Tumut in New South Wales, and shared our interests in the appearance and style of a little old pubs and churches we found whenever we were on leave, in England. A stained glass window in the Tumut Anglican church commemorates his life and service to his country. James Noel Griffin, our rear gunner, was a Queenslander from Brisbane. Jim was more of a solo person when going on leave. A very handsome young airman, he seemed to have the ability to attract the girl, a girl at every [unclear] awaiting leave. James Henry Gillies, our bomb aimer, was a large amiable young man who had played rugby union after leaving school. He had trained as a bomb aimer in Canada. As the two surviving members of our crew of seven, Jim and I shared some extreme experiences, and after all these years we remained very close bond. He was, he was a retired dentist, living in Sydney with his wife Bettina, not far from numerous adoring grandchildren. Our ground crew were very important to us. The ground crew worked around the clock, often under the stress of extreme cold, to keep the aircraft flying. They were the engine mechanics, who served our engines. They were the electricians, who looked after our electrical systems. They were the armourers who loaded our bomb bays, and checked our turrets and machine guns. They were the WAAF drivers, who met us when we landed, day or night to take us to headquarters. All these people were a part of our team. They were always cheerful, and they would do anything for us. The aircrew, I will repeat their names: Phil Morris, pilot, from Sydney, New South Wales; Kevin Key, navigator, from Melbourne, Victoria; Joe Davis, flight engineer, from London, United Kingdom; Bob Masters, wireless operator, from Tumut, New South Wales; Jim Gillies, bomb aimer, from Sydney, New South Wales; Harvey Bawden, mid upper gunner, from Pyramid Hill, Victoria; Jim Griffin, rear gunner, from Brisbane, Queensland. Phil Morris, Kevin Key, John Davis, Bob Masters and Jim Griffin are buried in a war cemetery in the Reichswald Forest, near Kleve in Germany. A stone monument at the entrance to this cemetery carries this inscription 'The land on which this cemetery stands is the gift of the German people, who are [pause] for the perpetual resting place for the sailors, soldiers and airmen who are honoured here'. Harvey Bawden, Bendigo.


John Bowden, “Interview with Harvey Hayward Bawden,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 9, 2023,

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