Interview with Jeff Brown

Title

Interview with Jeff Brown

Description

Jeff Brown worked as an electrician until he joined the Royal Air Force. He flew with 576 Squadron from RAF Fiskerton.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2017-01-18

Contributor

Jackie Simpson

Rights

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 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

01:03:08 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ABrownJ170118
PBrownJ1721

Conforms To

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

SP: So this is Susanne Pescott I am interviewing Jeffrey Brown today for the International Bomber Command Centres Digital Archive, we are at Jeff’s home and it’s 18th January 2017, so first of all Jeff thank you for allowing us to talk to you today and also present is Yvonne O’Rourke Jeff’s daughter. So Jeff do you want to tell me about your early life before you joined the RAF.
JB: Well after school when I was fifteen I became an apprentice electrician in the local bus depot working on buses and trolley buses and then when the, I was always interested in aircraft model aircraft my neighbour friend and I used to make and fly model aircraft er we had a good place to fly them because across the way from where we lived was the Ashton Golf Course so when nobody was playing golf it was our flying area [laughs], so when the Air Training Corps started I think it was 1941 I joined that and er got interested and of course the war was on then and er there was the possibility of later after a year or two I might be called up to go in the services so er at that time if you waited until you were called up at eighteen every tenth conscriptee was sent to work down the coal mines, it was a scheme developed by a Government Minister called Ernest Bevan because they were short of miners, and if you were unlucky enough to be caught in that you had to go and work in the coal industry now I didn’t want that I wanted to join the air force so to be sure of going in the air force at seventeen and a half you could volunteer for the air force and you went and had a medical and aptitude test and if you were accepted for training as air crew you were given an air force number, you were paid for the days you were at this centre which was at Warrington, and you were in the air force but you were then sent home on what was called deferred service until you were eighteen and at eighteen you could be called at any time to start serving properly and this ensured that when you registered at eighteen they couldn’t send you down the coal mines because you were already in the air force that was one way of avoiding coal mining [laughs]. So I was accepted initially to train as a wireless operator air gunner and at about eighteen two three months I was finally called up to serve and er in those days air crew trainees the first place you reported to was Lords Cricket Ground in London which was rather [laughs] an unusual place to start service and er there you were kitted all your equipment had medicals and so on and then after a few weeks you were sent out to start your training properly, after about three months of this er which was largely basic air force training and learning to receive and send Morse Code er we were called to a meeting by a group captain and he said ‘I’m sorry to inform you that we have so many wireless operators under training we cannot cope with the numbers so we are going to have to suspend your training may be for six months possibly indefinitely’ but he said ‘we are at the moment of short of trainee air gunners anyone wishing to change can do so by leaving a name now’ so most of us being young and daft said ‘oh yes we want to be air gunners’ so we started training again as air gunners, er the basic training was done at Bridgnorth in Shropshire er after that we were sent to an Air Gunners School at RAF Dalcross near Inverness, we trained there for about three or four months and then we qualified as air gunners er the training was done in Ansom aircraft er we flew with another aircraft pulling a target which was a long canvas sleeve and you fired ammunition which had been dipped in paint, the nose of the bullets were dipped in paint, so if you hit this white canvas sleeve besides making a hole in it it left a little colour smear this way the scores could be counted afterwards and er we did this all types of different exercises out over the sea the Moray Firth er following that I was sent on leave and then posted to Operational Training Unit which was at um a place called Westcott and there you were crewed up in a crew, um it was a rather haphazard method all the different air crew categories were put into one large hall and told ‘find yourself a crew’ and I wandered round a bit lost and I was approached a a little chap an air gunner he said ‘have you got a crew yet?’ I said ‘no’ ‘well would you like to join ours?’ and I said ‘yes I would’ and that was how I was crewed up, er my pilot was a New Zealand lad flight sergeant and the rest of the crew were all English boys, so [coughs] we were flying in Wellington aircraft we did various exercises all kinds of things for the different trades, navigation training, bombing training, gunnery training and so on and um after this we were sent to er what was it called Heavy Conversion Unit this was at RAF Bottesford in Nottinghamshire where we were introduced to the Lancaster bomber and also another member joined the crew this was the flight engineer, er in our case our flight engineer was also a pilot this had happened because they had a large surplus of pilots and to give them something to do they trained some of them er as engineers so we had two pilots in the crew which was handy, er we did this training again doing all kinds of exercises including the dreaded corkscrew evasive manoeuvre which was quite horrendous, and from there we were posted to RAF Fiskerton to join 576 Squadron this was in April 1945 towards the end of the war, we did further er what you might call squadron training for a week or two before we were considered qualified to go on operations and the big thing at that moment was called Operation Manna this was dropping food supplies in Holland because it was an area which had been cut off by the advance of the armies and in the last six months or so of the war there had been dreadful food shortages and people were dying of starvation thousands and thousands of Dutchmen died through lack of food so we and the American Air Force were tasked to drop food supplies for them and the area was still under German occupation er a rather dodgy truce was organised with the Germans a kind of er ‘don’t shoot at us we won’t shoot at you’ but it was a little bit of a flimsy thing and several aircraft were shot at ours luckily wasn’t but one American aircraft was shot down and the crew killed by the German Occupation Forces, so I did five of these trips er mainly to Rotterdam and we dropped these food supplies er they were simply bundled into the bomb bay of the aircraft and they weren’t dropped on parachutes they just opened the bomb bay doors and everything fell out in a huge cloud tins and boxes and sacks and all kinds of food which were collected by the Dutch authorities and then distributed to the people who needed it, er we did the last flight on 8th May 1945 which was VE Day, the war ended on that day. After the war we continued flying doing various exercises er one thing we did was to fly to Brussels and bring home Army personnel who had been prisoners of war, another thing we did was to fly to Naples in Italy and bring home again Army personnel who were due for early release from the forces er we continued to do this for about I think four or five months and then the big run down of Bomber Command started the squadrons were disbanded and we were all thrown on the scrap heap not really knowing what would happen to us, but um eventually much against my wishes I was sent on a course to be an equipper demanding and issuing supplies and in this role I was finally posted to a small radar unit in Germany er initially in the British zone of Germany and then er eventually in the American zone and finally in the French occupation zone and er I was there for two and a half years something like that, during that time we had on this little unit when I say little there were a total of about thirty five personnel you could tell how small it was we required an interpreter somebody who spoke German and French because we had the contact with the French Occupation Forces and a young lady called Dorothy Bush who lived nearby she was the daughter of the local school teacher became our interpreter and er many well not many years several years later Dorothy and I were married [very emotional].
SP: Do you want to stop?
JB: Right after some time on this small radar station in Germany I found that you could er re-engage you could sign up for regular service and that would be as air crew to be flying again so I applied for this er I was sent to London to have a medical examinations and so on and I was accepted to fly again as an air gunner but before you could start the flying training er as gunners we had to be trained with er er sort of auxiliary trade and we did this at RAF Kirkham near Preston it was a school of armament trades we learned about all the armament equipment in use at that time in the RAF guns and mines and all the er ancillary equipment, and then we had to do a course at a place called Wellesbourne Mountford on aerial photography that took another couple of months or so so we were quite highly qualified in the trades by that time and then we were posted to RAF Marham in 1950 to join 149 Squadron which was reforming it was the first squadron in the RAF to be equipped with American B29 Super Fortress Bombers the type of bombers that the Americans had used in the Pacific to bomb Japan and drop the atom bomb with so we did this course at RAF Marham and then we had to move out and make room for the next squadron to come in and do the course and we were sent to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire which at that time was shut down and we arrived there but we didn’t have any aircraft because in the meantime the war in Korea had started and the Americans stopped the supply of B29’s to the RAF because they wanted them for themselves [laughs] so we sat at Coningsby fully trained squadron, air crew and ground crew, for six weeks and the only aircraft we had was an Oxford and a Tiger Moth [laughs] had the Russians known they could have walked in [laughs]. So finally one B29 arrived and our crew had the honour of making the first B29 flight from RAF Coningsby er in I think it was November 1950 er so eventually more aircraft came and the squadron got rolling and operating as it should do and er we were there for a couple of years doing all kinds of exercises, some very very long range flights lasting fifteen sometimes as long as eighteen, nineteen hours without landing or refuelling and then of course jet aircraft began to enter service and on these aircraft no requirement for air gunners so once again facing redundancy, several of the chaps applied to retrain and were accepted as navigators, pilots, so I thought I’m going to have a go at this so I applied and after the interviews and medicals I was accepted for pilot training but by this time the RAF had decided that if you were pilot or navigator you had to be commissioned not like in the old war time days where you could have sergeant pilots etcetera so we had do to a commissioning course which lasted about five months at Jurby in the Isle of Man, having qualified for that and gained a commission I was fortunate to be chosen with a small group of chaps to go and do our flying training in Canada under a NATO training scheme so we flew to Canada in er civilian aircraft and after some time in kind of transit units we eventually landed up in Alberta a place called Claresholm which was about sixty miles south of Calgary, this was a flying training school and unlike the British trainees who started their pilot training on a light aircraft like a Tiger Moth we went on day one on Harvard aircraft which for a trainee were quite a handful they were a sturdy little aircraft with a big five hundred and fifty horsepower engine and they took a bit of handling when you were a novice but er we coped with it and we did the all the necessary exercises day and night flying and er finally after I think it would be nine or ten months er we qualified but we were caught in a rather unusual situation previously at the end of flying school training they had a big parade and celebration and you were presented with your wings the Canadian authorities had decided they were not doing this any longer they were giving our chaps their wings when they’d done a further advanced flying training so what was going to happen to us we were due to come home then and nobody could really tell us what was going to happen when are we going to get our wings, so we flew home in a civilian aircraft we arrived in London airport and were taken in buses to the Air Ministry this was about half past six seven o’clock in the evening by then going dark and we were ushered into a dismal basement room where we met by a civilian clerk, who from the smell of his breath had been out and had a few pints whilst he was waiting for us so, he then issued er instructions of where we were to be posted to and in those days we were still on rations so he issued ration cards and as we were due to leave he said ‘before you go any questions?’ and one chap piped up he said ‘when do we get our wings?’ and this half drunken clerk said ‘oh it’s okay you can put them up now if you want to’ that’s was how we were awarded our wings I thought it was the most miserable bit of service time the whole of my air force career. So we were then posted to RAF Turnhill to do a course on instrument flying to get a qualification called the white card er instrument flying this and they wanted you to fly under various weather conditions, er the grades were white, green, and master green, if you were so experienced and qualified if you got a master green you could fly in any weather conditions whatsoever so we got the white card which had limitations and when we had arrived there some of the chaps not believing what this clerk at the Air Ministry had said arrived not wearing wings odd chaps who had previously been other air crew like a engineer or air gunners were still wearing their old air force air gunner engineer wings and the first day we were introduced er by a squadron leader to tell us what the course was all about and he started his speech and then after a moment he stopped and he pointed at the lad in the front row who was wearing the single wing of a flight engineer and he said ‘who are you what are you doing here?’ so the lad said ‘well I understand sir I’ve come to do an instrument rating course’ so he said ‘well are you a pilot?’ and the lad said ‘well I’ve done a pilot’s course’ and he said ‘why aren’t you wearing pilot’s wings?’ so the lad said truthfully ’because I’ve not been awarded them’ and the squadron leader took no notice of this at all he looked around the room and he said ‘well if you want to do this course you better get some wings up damn quick and that goes for all the rest of you not wearing them’ that was our introduction to being pilots. [Pause] So this business of the wings I thought was disgraceful and thinking about it years later I feel that about that time due to the way we had been treated I really began to lose interest it destroyed my enthusiasm for the RAF, and for flying, and for the whole bloomin thing, however, we did this um instrument training course and then we were posted on to er Meteor Jet Fighters a twin engine jet fighter of that day er and we did conversion on to those and er I did I did conversion I went on solo on them they were comparatively easy to fly engine wise because you didn’t have too many points to consider with a jet engine as you did with a piston engine aircraft and er we carried on with this course till we got to the stage where we started aerobatics and then I found that due to the violent manoeuvres with aerobatics er I started blacking out so I was removed from the course and after a while I was sent to the er er the School of Aviation Medicine School at Farnborough where they have flying doctors who took me up in a Meteor equipped with G measuring device and they flew the plane around and blacked me out all over the place and declared that I had a low G tolerance and I would be grounded so that was a big disappointment after all that I’d been through before, I I was then offered the choice of one or two ground trades which I didn’t fancy doing if I wasn’t flying I didn’t want to be in the air force so the other alternative was to leave so I was then discharged having been in the air force something like eleven years altogether, and um I came home and I started applying for jobs and I went for various interviews and er people asked me what I’d done and so on as usual the case ‘oh that’s very interesting but your no use to us’ so I got a bit despondent I was out of work for may be about six weeks and I was walking along one evening I bumped into an old school chum of mine and the conversation got around to jobs ‘what are you doing?’ I said ‘I’m looking for a job’ ‘what are you doing?’ he said ‘I’m on a management training course in Manchester for the CWS the Co-opertive Society’ er he said ‘come round to my house I’ll show you what we are doing’ so I went to his house and he showed me all these books and information and I thought oh how boring after flying [laughs] doing that didn’t appeal one one little bit, all this time his father had been sitting there quietly reading a newspaper and he chipped in he said ‘have you tried our place?’ so I said ‘well where is our place?’ he said ‘A V Roe’ and he gave me the address of the employment officer so I wrote in and er they called me in for an interview and I think they had it in mind that I would fit in to some kind of position in the works so they sent me home and said we’ll notify you and then a letter came sorry we can’t do anything for you so disappointment again and then almost immediately another letter came from them would I go for an interview with the chief draughtsman ‘cos at that time the Avro factory at Chadderton was the main design office for the company, so er I went for this interview it was a Friday afternoon and er I saw this gentleman the chief draughtsman and he asked me all about my service career and so on and then he said ‘I think we could find a place for you in here’ so he said er ‘when would you like to start Monday?’ [laughs] following just a weekend away [laughs] oh rather puzzled I said ‘oh yes that’d be fine’ so on Monday morning I turned up and I was placed in the middle of the design office and due to my armament work that I had done in the forces I was put onto what was called the armament section the design office was broken up into sections groups of about a dozen men each section did a different type of work some did air frames, some would do engines, some would be radio, and I was on the armament section and quite a lot of the work they were doing was stuff I already knew that I’d seen and worked on in the air force but of course there was a lot of new stuff because at that time they were just introducing the Vulcan Bomber so I fitted in very nicely and er got going steadily working on the Vulcan and the Shackleton and later on the Nimrod and er several aircraft we did er certain parts of those and er so I worked quite steadily and happily for several years I think about twelve years in the design office on armament equipment mainly of the different aircraft and then the company decided to have a huge reorganisation, er they moved the design office to the company airfield at Woodford and of course it was practically impossible for me to get there I didn’t have a car at the time it would have meant several bus trips a train journey and er it was just impossible so I joined a bunch of rebels who said ‘we’re not going’ [laughs] so we were kept for a while at Chadderton in the design office on a sort of queries section and I thought well this will just potter along until the company get fed up with it and then you’d be given the ultimatum either get to Woodford or get out [laughs] so I left and I got a job at a local firm building er commercial vehicles again in their design office which was quite different to what I had been doing before but it was in a way quite interesting. I did this for a year or two and eventually I bumped into a chap er who I’d worked with in the design office and er we got chatting and I said ‘I’m a little bit bored with this job I’m doing’ and he said ‘well we’re looking for people at Chadderton in the publications er department’ ‘cos each aircraft has a huge set of books for servicing and maintaining them er he gave me the address to write in to and er eventually after had an interview I was accepted there and I started back again on my beloved aircraft in the publications department and I worked in there for about twenty years [laughs] until I finally retired in 1989 [laughs] so that was the end of my life with aircraft more or less right through my whole working life [laughs] it had been aircraft one way or another.
SP: So Jeff you talked about when you first joined up you went to Lords Cricket Ground do you want to tell me a little bit more about that?
JB: Yes, oh for aircrew trainees during the war the place you reported to when you were called up was Lords Cricket Ground in London, rather unusual setting to think you are going in the air force er we were billeted in blocks of flats all around Regents Park and we were kitted out you got all your uniform and equipment and er you had your introduction to things like how to march and drill and so on, and one day we were taken back to a building on the side of er Regents Park which was a medical centre we were led into the backyard amongst piles of coke and coal [laughs] taken upstairs to about er the third floor on the way up you had to take your tunic off and roll both sleeves up when you stepped inside the door there was a duty airman on each side with a basin with some sort of disinfectant fluid in and a scrubbing brush and he scrubbed both your upper arms, you moved on into the next room and there were doctors in line and you were given various injections inoculations er oh what what was it something fever they had in those days, and then you were led out down some stairs onto a road at the side by the railings of Regents Park [laughs] it looked like a scene from a battlefield there were chaps hanging over the railings vomiting, there were others lying flat out on the pavement having fainted not being used to all this injections and inoculations [laughs], luckily it didn’t affect me although I did have a rather sore arm for a little while [laughs].
SP: So Jeff you were talking about during when you were on the plane the dreaded corkscrew.
JB: Yes
SP: Do you want to tell me a little bit about that?
JB: Yes er when we did the course er on er to train on the Lancaster er one of the exercises we had to do was to er learn er called an evasive tactic in case you were attacked by a fighter they had this manoeuvre called the corkscrew where the aircraft went into steep dives and turns and climbs in order to put the aim of the attacker off and you had certain drills to carry out er in order to aim your guns correctly and try and hit him whilst you were doing this, now the main people involved with this were the gunners and the pilot um you gave the instruction to the pilot when to start this manoeuvre and whilst he was doing it he told you what you were doing because you were thrown about so much you could hardly realise whether you were turning left, right, going up or down whatever it was very very violent and er you repeated back to the pilot so he understood that you knew and according to what he said you had to apply certain rules of sighting in order to hopefully hit the attacker, so the the manoeuvre would start like this, oh before I say anything more I should say that our first corkscrew was done by an instructor pilot an experienced fella, the manoeuvre went like this you as a gunner had a thing called a reflector sight you looked through a glass screen and it had a red ring with a dot in the middle you compared the size of this to the size of the attacking aircraft you had to learn the wing span of the groups of the attacking aircraft when he filled a certain amount of your ring and bead sight he was at six hundred yards that was the distance when you were to open fire ’cos it was the best range for the guns you were using, so you watched this attacker and make him he came in a curving dive which is called a curved pursuit and you raced him with your gun sight you warned the pilot he was coming in when he got to six hundred yards you said ‘corkscrew’ either port or starboard depending which side he was coming in from the pilot then we did the first one to port which is the left side he just simply stood the aircraft up on it’s port wing tip and we went down in a screaming dive after a few hundred feet he rolled and he went down on the other side the starboard side for a few more hundred feet and then he pulled up violently, on the way down you were virtually weightless you just floated up off your seat the only thing I was holding onto was the two control handles for the gun turret [laughs], all this time you were trying to apply these what we call sighting rules where you aimed your sight at the attacker you didn’t aim directly at him and then the pilot pulled up and he did the same manoeuvre going up and then the G Force came on you were slammed literally just slammed down into your seat became several times heavier than you normally are [laughs] and it was so severe you couldn’t raise your arms try as you may you couldn’t lift them and you had an oxygen mask on your face this pulled away on the straps and then you climbed up to your starting height and then you went down and started another corkscrew [laughs], all this time other members of the crew that weren’t involved with this as I said it was just the pilot and the gunner the other people such as the navigator and wireless operator were sitting there with their stomachs churning and quite a lot of them being airsick but due to the fact that you were so concentrating on what you were doing it didn’t make me airsick strangely enough so that was our introduction to the corkscrew [laughs].
SP: Jeff you also talked that you were at Fiskerton on VE Day do you want to talk me through what happened on VE Day what you did?
JB: Yes er VE Day 8th May 1945 we were scheduled to do the last Manna food drop in Holland [coughs] we got out of the aircraft and a photographer suddenly appeared and asked us the crew and the ground crew to pose in front of the aircraft and took our photographs which I still have, and then something happened that had never happened on any previous operation a car drew up and it was the station commander the group captain wishing us well [laughs] and hoping that we had a good trip of course we knew that it was the last day of the war [coughs], my pilot and two other pilots from our crew had made a secret arrangement that on the way back at one of the turning points on the route back was Cambridge that we were going to meet up formate and fly back from Cambridge to Fiskerton and beat up in the airfield in formation, so [laughs] we arrived at er at er Cambridge and [coughs] they’d arrange [coughs] not to use the radio so that it wouldn’t be identified [coughs] they arranged to fire off a coloured vary cartridges so these two planes were milling around at Cambridge when we arrived and they were shooting off these coloured vary cartridges I think they were green and we fired some off so we knew who we were and we all joined up together and headed off to Fiskerton, now we were flying a rather old Lancaster and we were slowly dropping behind these other two aircraft we couldn’t keep up with them ‘cos they were going flat out and our engineer told us he said they had er a sort of toggle which was called an emergency boost button to give the engines a little bit of extra power he said ‘I’ve pulled the emergency boost and we still can’t keep up with them’ and we were dropping more and more lagging behind them dropping away so eventually our pilot said ‘okay well we’ll forget it’ but because of all this extra power on this old aircraft was shuddering and shaking suddenly there was a loud bang and a whole sheet of metal fell off from underneath the starboard wing [laughs] we didn’t know what it was at the time [laughs] but I reported it to the pilot he said ‘well I don’t know what it is but we’re still flying okay so we carry on’ and we flew back to Fiskerton and of course this beat up had occurred by the time we got back and when we landed we found that this vibration had loosened some of the skin coverings on the outboard engine nacelle and it had ripped off with the airflow that’s what we saw some farmer would find a nice sheet of aluminium in one of his fields [laughs], so we then went to the debriefing and the station commander came up on the dais afterwards and he said ‘all pilots are to remain behind everyone else is dismissed’ he didn’t know he hadn’t identified who had done this beat up at the airfield so we scurried off to get our bacon and egg which was the meal you got after flying [laughs] whilst all the pilots got a tremendous bollocking from the station commander [laughs] that was VE Day [laughs].
SP: Jeff do you want to tell me about the time in the Wellington bomber that you were talking about?
JB: Yes um we were introduced to the Wellington at a unit called Operational Training Unit OTU this is where you joined a crew [coughs] and amongst various exercises you did of course there was quite a lot of practice bombing er you dropped small smoke bombs on er des designated targets where er how well or badly you had done there were staff there could record it and send the results back to your unit [coughs] now to do this exercise er we were based at this er place er Westcott near Aylesbury we had to fly er about thirty miles in a northerly direction to the area I think it was Northampton and back for the navigator to calculate the wind ‘cos this was a vital thing for the bomb aimer to know he set this into his equipment er the target we were to attack was on some moorland in the Oxford area, so we took off and we had to climb up to twelve thousand feet to fly this course to calculate the wind er on the way we flew through quite a few heaps of cloud it got a little bit bumpy and unknown to us behind all this cloud was a cumulus nimbus thunderstorm cloud and we flew straight into it and it was a fantastic all of sudden it went grey and then it went almost completely dark this is sort of ten o’clock in the morning and the turbulence we were thrown about up and down and in a flash then the the inside of the gun turret was painted matt black in a flash it just became white all over with hoarfrost and I made the aimless gesture of trying to scrape some of it off with my fingers [laughs] I don’t know why I did that [laughs] but we were thrown about we went up and down and the pilot said ‘we’re getting iced up I’m losing control’ he said ‘we’ll have to get out of this’ and he did the worst thing he could have done he tried to turn round to go back out of it, the rule was if you were in that position you flew straight through it, so he started this turn and he collected so much ice on the wings he lost control of it he called out ‘I can’t control it’ and he gave the order ‘fix parachutes and standby’ now you wore your parachute harness all the time in the aircraft but your parachute was in a pack in a stowage near to where you were sitting so we grabbed the er the parachute out of its stowage and it fell to the floor just at the moment we started to be lifted up at some tremendous speed and the G was so strong I couldn’t lift the parachute pack and I thought if this carries on I going to die pretty soon [laughs] ‘cos I’ve heard of stories of planes flying into thunderstorm clouds and coming out in bits in the bottom so we were flung up and down, up and down, and then eventually we came out of the clouds and we began to lose some of the ice that had got into all our and the pilot regained control so he said ‘stand down’ we didn’t need to put the parachute on to jump but we fell out of control iced up from twelve to four thousand feet totally out of control and the air speed indicator broke the the air speed indicator pointer the needle was just hanging down and swinging like a little pendulum so we’d no air speed however our pilot er was experienced enough to know that if he put certain power settings on the engine it would keep us flying [coughs], so we abandoned the exercise and flew back to Westcott where we were based told them what had happened they then divert, oh they asked how much fuel we still had so we had sufficient fuel, they then diverted to us to RAF Wittering which is in the Peterborough area and Peter and Wittering was a big pre-war airfield and across the fields from it was a smaller wartime airfield called Collyweston and there was a flat land flat fields between the two and they had laid what was called pierced steel planking between the two airfields to create an emergency landing strip was a bit longer than the normal landing strip so we were given instructions over the radio and we told them what had happened to us what power settings to set on the engine to make a faster than normal approach so there was no danger that we would stall and we all got down in what we call crash positions we were trained to do this and we landed on this pierced steel planking runway which made a hell of a noise [laughs] when you ran over it but we got down safely and then motored back to the Wittering side where we were interviewed as to what happened then we were taken for a meal whilst the aircraft was prepared and then later on that day we flew it back to Westcott, but that from that day on until we got on the Lancaster which was an all metal aircraft I was always a bit scared [laughs] when we flew into big heaped up clouds [laughs].
SP: So Jeff you talked about Operation Manna how did you feel about doing that?
JB: Well at times it was quite emotional because so many people had died twenty odd thousand in total I think in the last months of the war er and many people had suffered so greatly through this starvation and eating all sorts of weird food like the flower bulbs they used to fry flower bulbs and all kinds of stuff, they used to make from what we were told foraging trips the people in the big cities suffered the most because they could out may be on bicycle or walking ‘cos they’d no vehicles er into the country areas and barter for food with the farmers to get a few eggs or potatoes and give away their valuables and all kinds of thing and when you spoke with some of the people that had suffered with this er it’s quite er emotional, little old ladies would want to come and hug you [laughs] and that kind of thing, and er one boy I think about probably twelve years old came to me spoke very good English as most of them do and he said ‘I want to shake your hand and thank you’ so I said ‘well what do you want to thank me for you weren’t born at the time we did this’ he said no ‘you saved my grandparents lives’ and that was the kind of thing that er happened to you people come ‘thank you thank you’ and giving you gifts it was utterly amazing the gratitude that er they showed was just overwhelming at times.
SP: Okay thanks for that is there anything else at all that you feel you haven’t had a chance to say?
JB: Well one little amusing story er when we came back from Canada and we did this instrument flying course at Turnhill er the course included normal exercises besides instruments and navigation exercises and so on and er we were being briefed to do the first solo night cross country flight we we had a rather er broad spoken Yorkshire flight lieutenant flight commander who was giving this er briefing before the flight and er he told everything we were supposed to know the weather and everything and er at the end he said ‘just a word of advice before you go’ he said er ‘if’ in his broad Yorkshire accent he said ‘now if you get lost or owt bloody silly like that for god’s sake give us a call even if it’s only to say goodbye’ [laughs].
SP: [Laughs] That’s great Jeff so thanks for all the stories there [Laughs].

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Citation

Susanne Pescott, “Interview with Jeff Brown,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 14, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/3356.

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