Interview with Geoff Bibby


Interview with Geoff Bibby


Squadron Leader Geoff Bibby grew up in New Zealand and transferred from the army into the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1943. After training in New Zealand and Canada, he flew operations as a navigator with 101 Squadron from RAF Ludford Magna.




Temporal Coverage




00:25:15 audio recording

Conforms To


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NB: This is Nicky Barr. It’s the 2nd of January 2015 (different date on audio). We’re recording in the house of Geoffrey Bibby — veteran from 101 Squadron. Its 10 past 6 in the evening local time and we’ll start the recording now. Thank you, first of all, for agreeing to do this. I just wondered if you’d like to give me some background as to how you came to be in Bomber Command.
GB: Originally, I was in the army. New Zealand army. And — but when the Japanese were stopped on Guadalcanal by the Americans they had a whole lot of New Zealand troops in New Zealand and they didn’t know what to do with them. So they gave us the option of either going back into Civvy Street or transferring into the air force if we wanted to. And I always wanted to be in the air force and in particular, as I was reasonably, reasonably ok with mathematics I thought that perhaps a navigator’s job would be quite interesting. And that’s what I found it was.
NB: And what sort of year was — when did that all happen?
GB: 1943. Beginning of ’43.
NB: Ok. And were you put in to Bomber Command or did you select to go in?
GB: No. I did my initial training in Rotorua in New Zealand and then a party of about twenty of us went through to Canada to train in Canada. And all of us, a whole lot of us went to Winnipeg, or Portage la Prairie which is about a eighty miles west of Winnipeg. And we trained there as navigators.
NB: Right.
GB: And so from that moment on I was destined really for Bomber Command.
NB: Ok. And so when did you come over to the UK?
GB: We came over at the end of ’44 and did our initial training. First of all in Wales.
NB: Right.
GB: And then after that in various other airfields until we did our — we went to Blyton.
NB: Right.
GB: And from Blyton to Husbands Bosworth. No. To [pause] from Blyton to [pause] what was our base?
Other: Ludford.
GB: Ludford Magna [laughs] you can see I’m getting old.
NB: How long were you stationed at Ludford? In total.
GB: Probably about a year. Yes. About a year because by the time we got there and then we did a few ops and, but our last op, believe it or not was on Berchtesgaden on April the 25th which is Anzac Day. Which is the real Memorial Day for New Zealanders and it happened to be the last operation that Bomber Command took. Which was bombing Hitler’s headquarters.
NB: Do you remember your first op? How you felt and where was it? Can you —
GB: Well my first op [pause] I think I’ll leave that one [laughs]
NB: Ok.
GB: It’s embarrassing because I’d been out to see my girlfriend the night before.
NB: Right.
GB: And I had to get a taxi back to do my first op [laughs]
NB: An auspicious start.
GB: It was. Yes. Especially if you had to get a taxi and get police permission for the petrol, you see.
NB: Oh dear.
GB: And so but I did get back and I had had a couple of hours sleep before we went out on our first op. But much to our sorrow but delight it was scrubbed about halfway across the North Sea.
NB: Right. And was, was that the whole op or —
GB: Yes. The whole.
NB: Right.
GB: We were ordered to turn around. Drop our cookie into the North Sea.
NB: Right.
GB: And then come back home.
NB: Ok. So are there any ops in that period that are particularly memorable for you? Stick out?
GB: Quite a lot. We did Heligoland and Potsdam. Hanover and all sorts of places like this. But at that stage of course, being the end of the war there wasn’t very much opposition. And I won’t say it was pleasurable, and it wasn’t because there were plenty of night fighters around still. But it was not nearly the bad conditions that Bomber Command had had in 1943 and ’44.
NB: No. No. And what about your, your crew? Can you tell me some of, something about your crew?
GB: The crew were four New Zealanders and the four main crew members were New Zealanders. The pilot, navigator, the wireless operator and the bomb aimer all New Zealanders. We became naturally great friends. There are only two of us left now. And three RAF boys — the two gunners and the engineer. And they’ve all gone as well. So out of those seven there are only two survivors now.
NB: How did you crew up?
GB: We went to a place fairly close to Leicester and a whole lot of navigators were pushed there. Pilots. Every, every crew. There were a lot of navigators. A lot of pilots and this type of thing and we met there, and they said, ‘Right, we’re giving you a week to crew up.’ And there were two commissioned new Zealanders in the mess. So naturally we got together. And then he, the pilot, knew the wireless operator because he’d already been decorated for pulling out a, a chap out of a burning plane in Canada and got a BEM for it. So we thought if he could do it once he could maybe do it again [laughs] So he got it. And then he had a great friend who later became our bomb aimer. So there were four new Zealanders sort of naturally graduated. But we didn’t know anybody in the, on the RAF side. So after five or six days we were actually allocated the two gunners and the engineer. Or not the engineer. He joined us later.
NB: And then straight back to Ludford Magna?
GB: No. We did all sorts of places.
[Repeats 7:28 — 14:46]
GB: About two other airfields before we went to Ludford.
NB: And what were the conditions like on the ground at Ludford because I’ve heard it described as something else?
GB: It was a strange one. The village was right in the middle of the airfield. And all the billets were on one side of the village and the airfield was on the other. So for us to go from our billets to, to, say where we were going to be flying. We had to go right across the village and meet all the people and so on.
NB: And did you, did you find the reception when you got into camp from the villagers was —?
GB: Superb
NB: Really?
GB: Ah yes. They were. I cannot speak. They hadn’t, more hardy about that because they’d do anything for us, you know. And of course the girls were superb.
NB: Was there, was there a lot of romance on —?
GB: A lot. A lot of romance. Yes.
NB: Yes. And social life because obviously —
GB: A lot of us of course, we went away. I found my social life was at a place called Gainsborough.
NB: Right.
GB: And so I used to go there quite a bit. I don’t know why. But later on it was great because she became my wife and we had three lovely kids.
NB: Good. And when did you first meet? Soon after you arrived at Ludford Magna or had you been there a while?
GB: Oh not very long after I’d been arrived at Ludford. I think probably a couple of days.
NB: That quick. Well it was obviously meant to be.
GB: [laughs]It was meant to be.
NB: And so do you know, I know you kept in touch with some of your crew afterwards, but do you know what they went on to do?
GB: Yes. The pilot, strangely enough became a qualified plumber.
NB: Right.
GB: I was very surprised to hear that he was working for Air New Zealand.
NB: Right.
GB: You see. So I thought, oh flying one of these big jets or something around the place. And I came, and I was very surprised to find that he was a pen pusher making sure that everybody had the right number of bog papers [laughs]
NB: Oh dear.
GB: But he was a marvellous bloke.
NB: Yeah.
GB: And oh gosh, and we could not have had a nicer bloke or, and not only a nice bloke but an extremely competent and very — well, he never panicked at all. He was just the perfect pilot to have.
NB: Right. And I know you were involved in Operation Manna.
GB: Yeah.
NB: When we spoke before.
GB: Yeah.
NB: And you said that that stuck very clearly in your mind.
GB: Yes well I did four trips on that. And it was marvellous because the boys, especially the pilots had a wonderful time flying over from England over to Holland. Because they were at last given full permission to fly as low as possible so they flew as low as possible. They were swell hopping.
NB: Right.
GB: Going up like this and swell hopping it. And one chap actually hit the water and broke his prop but we all had to back him up and say that that was done because an aircraft had dropped a bag of supplies on top of the aircraft as he was going in to land.
NB: Is that what they call an honesty of thieves? [laughs]
GB: He was an Englishman by the way. The New Zealanders wouldn’t have done that [laughs]
NB: No.
GB: No. No. No [laughs]
NB: And so do you know what were in the food parcels that you were dropping? Were there any —
GB: Yes. Because our bomb aimer, there was an little peephole going between his position and the bomb bay where all these parcels were. So he thought, I’d better see what these people are getting. So he opened one of the bags but of course he put them all back.
NB: Ok. Yeah.
GB: Yes.
NB: I’m getting a feeling of the naughty side a bit.
GB: No, but you mustn’t. You must remember flying on ops was on occasions hellish. There was no question about it. You know there was aircraft going down. You could see them going down or blowing up. The shells exploding all around you and everything like this. But you had to, to get over that you had to accept that. But to get over that you had to — sometimes you made it a little bit naughty.
NB: Do you remember —
GB: In all sorts of ways.
NB: Somehow, I don’t find that difficult to believe.
GB: Yes.
NB: Do you, do you remember when you were on the other ops? Feeling fearful? Feeling scared? Or did you feel it wouldn’t happen to you?
GB: I think we all felt it would not happen to us. If we thought that we were going to be bumped off or shot down or anything like this we wouldn’t have gone. We all felt that we were bulletproof and that we’d automatically come through. And everybody felt that. Including the ones who were actually shot down.
NB: Yeah.
GB: Otherwise we would never have done it.
NB: No. Did you have any feelings about the results of what you were doing with the campaign? So, I mean, generally amongst the crews.
GB: We had no qualms whatsoever. Because we all remembered Coventry. We all remembered London. We all remembered the Germans had started the war anyway. And we all felt though that what we were doing was shortening the war and therefore we could all go home again.
NB: And after the war? I mean obviously there was, there was some blame laid at Bomber Command’s door.
GB: I personally feel that that was completely and, very strongly say that was completely out of order because it was war. And we had to win the war. And the only way that we could win the war was knocking the Germans out. And this to me was summarised with Chemnitz and what was the other one? The Dresden.
NB: Yeah.
GB: And I personally wasn’t on. My pilot was on Dresden but I wasn’t. But Dresden became the epitome of our almost war crimes and that has hurt every single member of people who have been in Bomber Command. Because, for one thing we found later on that that raid had been organised or requested by the Russians. They wanted, they did not want all those Germans escaping from Russia to get away and form up another army to fight the Russians again. They wanted as many of them to be killed as we could possibly do. And not only that we all at that stage feared that the Germans were not going to, even though they had agreed to sort of finish the war in mainland Germany there was a huge feeling that they were going to set up a gorilla type of war in the Bavarian Alps. And again all of these people should have been stopped from getting down to the Alps and so we had no compunction in going over there and doing what the Germans had done to Coventry and places like that. Doing it to Dresden.
NB: Ok. Obviously there are some highlights in that you met your wife while you were there and you travelled but what would you have said was your lowest moment whilst you served?
GB: The lowest moment? [pause] I don’t think we had any low moments. Obviously, we all knew we had to do the job. We all were keen as mustard to do the job as quickly and professional as we possibly could. Obviously, some of the raids were worse —



Nicky Barr, “Interview with Geoff Bibby,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 24, 2024,

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