Interview with John "Jack" Brown


Interview with John "Jack" Brown


Jack Brown was born and spent his early life in Australia, leaving school at fourteen doing odd jobs before joining the civil service and then the RAF. He talks about his initial training before travelling to England and joining 69 Squadron. Jack describes carrying out operations taking photographs in difficult circumstances and being awarded the DFC, as well as more relaxing times on leave. After the war Jack returned to Australia but did return to Europe as a tourist after his retirement.







01:00:12 audio recording


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JM: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Jean McCartney, the interviewee is John, or Jack as he is better known, Brown. The interview is taking place at Mr Brown’s home in Sylvania, New South Wales, on the 5th of April 2017. Also present is Mr Brown’s daughter, Jan. Okay Jack, let’s start at the beginning, you were born in July 1921 I believe.
JB: Right.
JM: At Carlingford. Now was that at a hospital or at a home?
JB: At home.
JM: At home. I thought it might have been. So how long did the family live around Carlingford for? Any rough idea?
JB: No.
JM: No, okay.
JB: They lived there a long while.
JM: A long while.
JB: Yeah.
JM: And is that where you grew up? Did you go to school round there?
JB: No, I went to school at Rose Bay.
JM: Oh, Rose Bay, right. So did you travel from Carlingford to Rose Bay?
JB: Oh, actually I grew up around Rose Bay.
JM: Oh, so you moved over.
JB: They, my parents moved.
JM: Moved, right.
JB: So I just was with them.
JM: Yes, that’s okay. So you moved to around Rose Bay and what primary school did you go to?
JB: The one at Rose Bay.
JM: Rose Bay, okay.
JB: They had the place opposite, and it was run by brothers. And so, I got, had a twin brother and so we went to school there.
JM: Right. And did that also have High School, or did you go somewhere different for High School?
JB: No, I went to school there, I remember going to school there and then I joined the Air Force when Japan came into the war.
JM: Yes. Did you finish school, erm, did you do your Intermediate Certificate?
JB: Did I do?
JM: Do your Intermediate Certificate, at high school.
Jan: High School.
JM: My what?
JB: I studied after I left school.
JM: No, no I’m asking you did you finish at school. And you left at fourteen did you?
JB: Yes.
JM: Okay, and when you were at school, did you do anything in particular there, you know, sort of sporting teams or get involved in anything?
JB: Tennis.
JM: Tennis?
JB: I was a very good tennis player and we, I won a championship there, but then I left there and went into the Air Force.
JM: Right, I think you actually did some work after you left school. I think you were in at, telegram boy. And then -
JB: Ah yes.
JM: And then that’s when you -
JB: Well you’ve got most of my history.
JM: I just want to hear your recollections to see what you have to say. It’s different hearing it from a person as opposed to reading about it. Because what we’re talking about here is that Jack’s life has been written up in a book called “The Sitting Duck Squadron” by Andy Larson, but as I say, it’s one thing to read about it, but it’s more –
JB: More intimate.
JM: More intimate if I can actually hear the words from you and what your recollections are. So, I mean there’s a couple of things about this time as well, is that you were living through the Depression years, and your parents obviously were having to cope with you.
JB: Yes. They weren’t well off.
JM: They weren’t well off. And you had one brother did you have any other?
JB: And three sisters.
JM: And three sisters. So you had a fairly -
JB: And the three sisters, actually they’re Gary’s daughters, and they’re now three owners here with me of this establishment and the one up in the top corner there.
Jan: That’s his daughters.
JB: That’s my granddaughter, she drew that.
JM: Goodness me!
Jan: No, she’s taking about whether you’ve got sisters and brothers, dad. You’ve got auntie Gloria, she was the only sister you had.
JM: Right. Okay.
JB: I’m finding it hard to remember.
JM: Yes, well it’s a long, long time ago. Okay. So what, after you left school, which I guess you left school early at fourteen because of the Depression.
JB: At fourteen.
JM: And everyone needed to try and get some work, so you went into, became a telegram boy, with the Post Office, and then you did some study and you went into the public service, you passed your public service exams, and became a public servant and you were, that’s when you first started with the Department of Interior.
JB: Right.
JM: Right? Yes, so and then after that is when you enlisted.
JB: In the Air Force.
JM: In the Air Force, and you had a gap between when you signed on.
JB: I had a what?
JM: A gap. You had to wait. You signed up in -
JB: Ah yes, I waited a few months.
JM: You signed up in December 1941 and.
JB: I think that, is that written in the book?
JM: Book, yes. And then you actually started your ITS in July 1942.
JB: What’s ITS?
JM: Your initial training.
JB: Ah yes.
JM: At Bradfield Park.
JB: Yes, that’s it. You’ve got it all. Well it’s in the book I think.
JM: Yes, and then after you did your initial training you went to Temora for your, when you started to fly, to do, start your pilot training.
JB: I did.
JM: So you were flying Tiger Moths at this point.
JB: Yes. You’ve got it all. I think it’s all in the book is it?
JM: Yes, but not everyone is going to be able to read the book.
JB: Oh, I see.
JM: So we need to have a little chat to be able to –
JB: To recognise.
JM: To have it available to other people because, as I say, it’s not possible for everyone to read the book.
JB: No, that’s right, I had to wait a few months. When I first joined, I joined the day Japan came into the war, but I didn’t get called up until a few months later and then I went to, I went to Temora.
JM: Yes. And do you remember anything, before you went to Temora, Sydney Harbour, the Japanese submarines in Sydney Harbour, do you remember anything about that?
JB: Ah yes, I do. We were living at Rose Bay then and so we were quite close to what was going on and I remember the fact that they got into the harbour and they sank the ship.
JM: The Kuttabul, yes.
JB: Yes.
JM: Did you, were you around at the like, did you hear, were you at home, did you hear any noises at any time? You can’t remember that.
JB: I can’t remember. Oh no. I remember them being there.
JM: Yes, yes. Well when you then went off to Temora and started your training, flying then on Tiger Moths, that was the first time you had been in a plane, I would assume. How did that feel?
JB: Well, the first time, they take you up and they put you through all these exercises and after that I thought oh, what am I doing here, like it was something that I hadn’t expected and I thought oh, I wasn’t happy. But I was tied up to the Air Force, so I just went through my course at Temora and then from there I went to Point Cook. I think that’s in the book.
JM: Yes, that’s right. And were there any scary experiences when you were flying around in the country there, or what?
JB: Oh it was no fun [much laughter].
JM: No? And why was it no fun?
JB: It was bloody dangerous! [Laughter] It was no fun, and you know, when I got my wings, I was kept back in Victoria for an extra, er, extra study for about a week or a fortnight, and then, I left then, I was going, I don’t know where I was going, I think I was going on leave and I got pulled up by the Commonwealth Police and, I had a jacket on, and they questioned me and blah, so that was no trouble and then I took my coat off and they saw that I was an officer and oh, they were horrified because they shouldn’t be interrogating me, as an officer. So they took me in hand and oh, they really looked after me and so, and then I finished up going to England. Went through, went through the United States.
JM: Yes, you went, you had an interesting trip, you went via the Panama Canal. Yes.
JB: Yeah. That’s right. You’ve got it all.
JM: Yes. But again it doesn’t really tell me about what you saw, what you, what sort of conditions were on the ship. Did you have to do any watches on the trip? Or anything like that?
JB: Oh no, it was just a holiday.
JM: Just a holiday. How many were in each cabin?
JB: It was packed with ex Army people, Americans, and they were being sent home because they were ill, or something, and it was twenty four hours a day, but I had a room to, I had an area to myself, which was very good, because I was an officer, and so that was a bit of a trip with me, but I had somebody with me. I think I had one of my family.
JM: No, you wouldn’t have a family member, no.
JB: Oh, I wouldn’t. Anyway.
JM: So what do you remember about going through the Panama Canal? Does that bring back any memories for you at all, or not?
JB: That was most interesting because you’d go along and then you’d stop, and then they’d have to fill the.
JM: The locks.
JB: [Door shutting] The lock again, to get through. So that happened and er, hang on, one time I had another person in the, in my room I think. Well no, I think that was when I went back and she fell out and hurt her head. That’s another occasion.
JM: Yes, now that’s another occasion, right. So then you went from, so did you have some leave in New York? Did you have some, after you arrived in New York did you have a little bit of leave to look around before you left again?
JB: Ah, they sent us out on leave to a particular area and there was a sergeant with me, and we went to this place, and he was a Colonel, and he was involved in some way with the Forces, and the chap who was with me wasn’t happy, so he left, but I stayed and they had a, they used to have a tennis competition. Did I mention this in the book?
JM: I don’t remember that bit, no.
JB: So they had this tennis organisation and I was a pretty good tennis player, and so I trounced them and they, they were shocked because they’d, they had a group that used to meet and play tennis and what have you, and they thought they were pretty good, but oh, they were no hope with me! So they got astounded at that. But I forget how long I was there. And then from there I went to Kidlington.
JM: Well went to Brighton to start with –
JB: Ah, Brighton, yeah, but then -
JW: And then after Brighton you did go to Kidlington, that’s right.
JB: That’s right. Alhough was it Kidlington that I was just talking about.
JW: Oh okay, right.
JB: Where I stayed.
JM: Right, right, okay. And so, and it was here that you were doing your advanced training, advanced flying training.
JB: At Moreton in the Marsh?
JM: That was when you got to OTU. So anything about Kidlington that stands out, any particular memory about Kidlington?
JB: About Kidlington? Oh, Kidlington was very interesting. The er, ah, what can I say? I was involved in an organisation at Oxford and the, Kidlington was just a training, er from Kidlington I went straight into the Air Force, into the battalion.
JM: From there you went to the OTU at Moreton on Marsh.
JB: From Moreton in the Marsh I went to Uxbridge.
JM: Yes, but let’s go back for a minute to Kidlington, ‘cause when you were there you had some leave at times, didn’t you, and you went up to Scotland, with a couple of other Scottish.
JB: Ah, well I did, you’re bringing back memories to me. I went up to Scotland and, actually, I met my wife there, only I didn’t marry her there, it was after the war.
JM: That’s right, but that’s where you first met, your wife Rita.
JB: Yes.
JM: Yes, in Edinburgh. What did you think of Edinburgh when you first got there, sort of?
JB: I liked Edinburgh.
JM: You liked Edinburgh?
JB: Yes, it was a fascinating place. It had, it’s got the castle up on the top and then they used to walk from there to, well barracks I call it, but it was a castle, Uxbridge Castle. And ah, I liked it.
KM: Yeah, Edinburgh. That’s good. Okay, well let’s go to, so then you got to OTU at Moreton on Marsh. And this was, I presume you did a conversion course to Wellingtons just before you went to OTU because you were flying Wellingtons when you got to OTU.
JB: We were flying Wellingtons at Kidlington.
JM: Ah, okay, alright, Wellingtons there as well, right.
JB: So from there I went to Moreton in the Marsh and then from Morton in the Marsh I was sent to Uxbridge and that’s where the Prime Minister operated, from there. We flew off from there on operations for a while and then I went over to Europe.
JM: Okay, well we’ll come to that in a moment. But just, the OTU is, where you crewed up, so, well at least I’m assuming that’s where you crewed up because that was the normal place for the crewing up to happen, so how did you choose your navigator and your bomb aimer and your gunners?
JB: There.
JM: There. How did you know any of these other chaps, or did they have friends, or?
JB: I did, I, they, queued people up and then I would select them.
JM: On what basis, what, you know, because you liked the look of them, or did you have a few words with them and wait to hear them speak, and then?
JB: I forget now.
JM: You forget now, right.
JB: I selected three people, and one of them, I think he was a sergeant, and he flew with me on one occasion and I thought I can’t, I’m not going to have this bloke, so I dumped him. I said I, ‘you can’t fly with me’ and so then they lined up other people and that’s, I finished up with three officers and oh, we became great pals.
JM: Great pals, that’s right.
JB: We survived the war and I got in, kept in touch with them afterwards. I still keep in touch with a couple of the sons of one of the.
JM: One of the chaps.
JB: One of chaps, yeah.
JM: Now I’m interested that you had fewer crew, that you didn’t seem to have a wireless operator in your crew, that seemed a little different to me, that you didn’t have a wireless operator.
JB: Well I think, I did have a wireless operator, but he didn’t operate as a wireless operator, he operated down below, as an observer.
JM: He was the observer was he, right?
JB: Yes, and he used to take the photographs. I think I explained in the book that we used to fly out about eight o’clock at night.
JM: Yes, well we’ll come to that in a mo. Well, in fact we will come to that now, because after you completed your training at OTU you went, you were posted to 69 Squadron. Now you said that you were posted straight off to this squadron which was flying Wellingtons, and didn’t go off to, posted off to a Lancaster Conversion Course which was what a lot of the chaps did, do you know why you were selected to go to 69 Squadron?
JB: No, I don’t.
JM: Or did you choose, did you put your hand up for it?
JB: No!
JM: You just got told you were going - Brown you’re going to 69.
JB: I was told I was going there and I didn’t know what it was or anything. And when I got there, I found that we operated from there, over, in connection with the invasion force. [Pause] And well, with the invasion forces, I never expected to survive the war. Most of the crew who I trained with down at, in Victoria, they were all killed, except one fellow who flew with me, and we used to get shot to pieces, and he got wounded and he went to hospital. He got wounded down below and his, and I saw him after the war. He came from Newcastle, but he, oh he never flew again, no. On our operations we’d get shot to pieces.
JM: Yes, and let’s, because it is a very different activity to what most other people were doing because they, 69 Squadron, wasn’t a very big squadron as I understand it.
JB: On no.
JM: No. And what 69 Squadron was doing was photographic reconnaissance, is that right? And to do that photographic reconnaissance you had to fly in very low?
JB: No.
JM: Drop flares?
JB: Oh, yeah. We used to fly about eight thousand feet, but when it was good weather I used to get down lower and then rise when I got to the target, then we’d drop flares, at eight thousand feet. Then we’d come down and photograph at a thousand feet and the activity, and you mentioned about, that church, at Lincoln was it?
JM: Lincoln, yes.
JB: Lincoln. I operated, I went through that church, and I operated from there. I was to photograph it later on, which I did, but it was a well known church and we, anyway I photographed that but, now where are we up to? Where I went to the squadron?
JM: Yes, so when you were in the squadron and we were just talking about what the squadron actually did in terms of having to drop the flares. The flares provided enough light for you then to do the photographing, because you were photographing troop movements mainly was it, or what else?
JB: I’ll tell you why it was established. The Wellington had a certain speed and it worked with the camera. They could, they knew what was going on during the day because they could see and they operated, but they didn’t know what was going on at night. So they established this squadron and, to establish the activities at night. And we used to fly out at eight thousand feet, drop flares, and it was just like daylight. Then we’d come down to a thousand feet and photographed what we saw and that’s how we operated. But I survived that war; nearly everybody on the squadron, they were all killed because it was, when you came down to a thousand feet, you were so well lit up.
Jan: Vulnerable.
JB: And we’d get hit, but the Wellington could take a lot of activity because of its construction, and I used to get hit many times and we got hit this time and he got wounded, this chap, and he never flew again. And I saw him after the war but he was a mess. But I survived the war.
JM: You did, that’s right. And in fact, to start with, you were based in England, but then, after about eight or so missions, you got moved over to Belgium and you were based in.
JB: Ah yes, we were stationed at Kidlington was it?
JM: Oh that was, that was for your earlier training. No, you were based at Northolt, near, where Heathrow is today.
JB: From Northolt, yeah, yeah, and from Northolt, well I left.
JM: The squadron was moved over to near Brussels, to Melsbroek.
JB: Yeah, that’s right, we went over on the continent. And then after the continent, I think I came back to England didn’t I?
JM: You did, after you finished your thirty five missions.
JB: You’ve got it all there.
JM: Yes, but again, I’m interested to hear you talk about it, and particularly as I say, that you had, you know, some very hairy experiences.
JB: Oh yeah. Well one night in particular we were flying over Germany or somewhere and I saw all this flak and what have you, oh, it was like daylight, and I thought oh, isn’t that good, we’re not going there [phone rings] next minute we turn right and we headed right over it and then up on top is an aircraft. It was hit by searchlights and we were way down below, it was way up, twenty thousand feet, and next thing, they all baled out, up there; they got hit and they all baled out. I don’t know what happened to them, but they would have landed, but the activity down below, oh, was really. And I was down below in all that activity, but I got out of that and survived.
JM: You survived, that’s right. And then on the tenth operation, your tenth trip was particularly hairy, wasn’t it?
JB: Was that the one I was just talking about?
JM: Well, it could be, because you ended up having -
JB: Most trips were very dicey because we dropped the flares and it was like daylight and we came down at a thousand feet, which is nothing. So we’d get a lot of activity, lot of ambushing, the plane would get hit but the Wellington construction was such that it could take it.
JM: It could take it, that’s right. But on the tenth flight you had a lot of, for some reason the camera didn’t want to be very cooperative and you ended up having to do three runs before you could actually get the -
JB: That’s the tenth trip was it.
JM: Well that’s what the book tells me, yes.
JB: But the book wouldn’t tell you much.
JM: No. It doesn’t that’s why I’m trying to get a few more little details of your personal memories of it.
JB: Well they were all dicey because it would be like daylight and we’d come down and a thousand feet is nothing so we would get hit, but the Wellington was a plane that could take a pasting.
JM: That’s right, so on this trip you had, you had to go round three times, and so you got hit every time you went through when you were, because the camera wasn’t taking the photos and then you, on the third run, you finally got there and then you had to go off to another area and you had exactly the same problem, the camera didn’t, still took a while.
JB: That’s recorded is it? Well that’s true.
JM: Yes, and then when you finally were able to turn for home you ended up only having one engine to fly on ultimately.
JB: [Laugh] That, what was in that book was correct. And that was one trip that I came back on one engine.
JM: Which with the Wellington only having two engines that doesn’t leave you with much, but yes!
JB: Well I wasn’t sure it would fly us on one engine, but it did.
JM: It did.
JB: And we got back home and I landed, but I landed at the wrong ‘drome! Did I mention that?
JM: Not really, no.
JB: Well when we came back, they had organised a strip that we [emphasis] knew and only the pilots that were operating knew that they could fly on this trip, and so I came back on that, but what had happened was another crew, they came in but they were followed by a German plane. And the German plane shot them down, they were all killed, and then he, the German plane was left over Brussels. And I was contacted, and it was ready to attack me, well it did, but it got shot down and the rear gunner, he got a decoration for that and er, but the plane, the German plane, couldn’t get out because it didn’t know the route out. It got in because it followed the plane, but once it got in was saddled, so we shot it, they said to me ‘what do we do with it?’ and I said ‘shoot it down!’ So we shot it down and he was killed; he was one of their best pilots. So I rang the, I got in touch with [indecipherable] and said ‘look, I’ll bring his body back’, and they said oh great. So I did. But I also had two young girls on it, who had said to me, ‘oh look we want to come on your trip as observers’, and I said ‘oh, I’m not happy about that.’ Anyway, they got on the plane, and so when I flew the German back to Germany, I dropped his body and two, the two girls came out too, but they were dead of course. And they got on the plane and they didn’t have any oxygen so, you know, they didn’t survive. So the two girls, I dropped the German and then the two girls’ bodies came out and they were returned to India – they were, they came from India.
JM: Goodness!
JB: And they were recognised as being very efficient, you know, but stupid, for sneaking on the plane, and anyway, that was an interesting story.
JM: Story, yes.
Jan: That’s wild!
JB: Hey?
Jan: That’s wild!
JM: So, the point is that, with that trip, that you ended up having to do three attempts to get the photographs, not once but twice and because the plane was so damaged and bringing it back on the one engine, meant that you ended up being awarded a DFC. For that particular trip.
JB: I forget exactly what I, was awarded the DFC for what trip.
JM: Well that, and everything, and all the other experiences.
JB: And afterwards the Queen, I got awarded the Victoria Cross.
JM: No, I’m not sure that you, that happened.
JB: No, it didn’t happen then.
JM: No.
JB: It happened later. The, what happened, my crew, or you know, were awarded not the Victoria Cross, the highest award that a civilian could get, although I wasn’t a civilian and I was awarded that and the Queen, she knew this, she said, I was getting some other award, and she said that I was the bravest sergeant in the Australian Army.
Jan: Air Force.
JM: Air Force, right.
JB: World War Two. And she said so I’m going to award him the Victoria Cross. So I’ve got that now. Did I mention that in the book?
JM: No. You’re confused.
Jan: You got the DFC, but you never got the VC.
JB: No, I’ve got a –
Jan: The DFC, Distinguished Flying Cross.
JB: Then I’ve got another award which was given to me by the British Army and then the Queen, she had read everything, and she gave me the Victoria.
Jan: No, dad, you didn’t get that one, you’ve got the DFC, and you’ve got a couple of other ones, but you don’t have the Victoria Cross.
JB: Not, I only got that recently, not recently, I mean you know.
JM: Anyway, after you finished your thirty five missions, um, or ops, you finished, that finished your tour and so you ended up having some leave, in Paris.
JB: Having to what -
JM: You had some leave.
JB: Ah, right.
JM: After you finished your thirty fifth op, [throat clear] pardon me, you took some leave in Paris and had a look around Paris, and went to quite a few shows there.
JB: Yeah, and I got involved with the girls, they used to put on a show, they would see these girls, and the girls used to strip off and [laughter] and I went on one of these trips and I saw the girls, and I, the couple of girls that I saw were Australians! And anyway I didn’t have sex with them or anything, no [laughter].
Jan: I’m glad! Thanks for that information dad! [Much laughter]
JB: I don’t know why I didn’t! But.
Jan: Too much information!
JM: So after your leave you got posted to Newcastle, to assist with some training up there. You became a trainer -
JB: Ah, yeah.
JM: Which didn’t impress you very much like that, no.
JB: I didn’t like that and I finished up there.
JM: Yes, you did. Well the only saving grace to that was you were near, much closer to Edinburgh and so could go and see Rita more often, or more easily I should say.
JB: I wasn’t married then.
JM: No, no, you weren’t married but you just were still just good friends and you would go and visit her and her mother.
JB: I did. I visited, yes.
JM: The two of them.
JB: Her mother, I forget now.
Jan: Nana Cullen, your favourite.
JB: Yeah. [Much laughter]
Jan: Don’t you say a word!
JB: You know more about it than I do!
JM: Anyway, let’s, you finished up there and you came back to Australia, and you were discharged in December 1945 and so you went, because you had been working with the Commonwealth Department of Interior, you went back into the Commonwealth Department of Interior. You at no stage contemplated going into private sector, you decided to always be a public servant?
JB: Ah, well I don’t know, but I thought oh well, I’ll just go back into the public, and I, the head of the, that department, he really [emphasis] liked me, and he was going, well he supported me to become the head of the whole department and then, but he got married again and his wife made him leave the government. So he left the government, so I was sort of left on my own.
JM: Yes. So you had a very long career with the Department of the Interior. You moved around: you went from Sydney to Canberra, for a very brief stint, and then back to Sydney, and in amongst all of that Rita came out and joined you and you got married and had a happy ending there after all there.
JB: You’ve got it all.
JM: And then you went ultimately back to Canberra for, in the late fifties and the early sixties and then down to Melbourne.
JB: And from Melbourne I was to become the head of, I was brought back to Canberra and I was to become head of the department, but it didn’t happen because the head of the department, he got married and his wife made him leave the Air Force so I didn’t have a supporter.
JM: Mmm. That’s right. So, but anyway you ended up back in Sydney and that’s where you retired from, in 1973, so then that gave you and Rita a chance to do a bit of travel. You went trotting around here and there did you?
JB: Yeah, went all round the world. Went to, back to Edinburgh, and to that place that you mentioned, and then on the continent, went to this place where, that the girls used to operate, you know.
JM: Into Paris, into.
JB: Over in Europe. Went there, went and saw the girls there, and it, I had a most interesting time.
JM: And it meant that you’ve ended up with a pretty full life one way and another.
JB: Oh, absolutely. Most interesting life, and I never really expected to survive the war, never [emphasis]. I was one of the few who survived, and now I’m, how old am I?
Jan: Ninety five.
JB: Ninety five now, and they reckon I will live to be a hundred and get a letter from the Queen if she’s still alive. [Chuckle]
JM: Well that would be good. And you mentioned that you did stay in touch with some of your crew members, after the war.
JB: Oh well they, my own crew, they’re dead, but one of them had two sons.
JM: Sons, yes. Were all of them - there were no other Australians, they were all English, Scottish chaps that were on your crew?
JB: Oh, they were all English, all English.
JM: Yes, yes.
JB: Although this chap that got wounded, he was an Australian. What happened was, we didn’t drop bombs or anything.
JM: No, that’s right.
JB: We used to just photograph. Then they decided that we would drop bombs, and I said ‘oh, I’m not going to drop any bombs, I‘ve nearly finished my tour and I’ll just do the normal thing’ and that is exactly what happened. I didn’t drop any bombs, but they did. I should [emphasis] have, because, oh, I could have caused havoc, but I went to that church that you’re talking about, and went through that and my operations were most interesting, but most dangerous.
JM: Most dangerous, that’s right, exactly. And the sons of that crew member, are they still in touch with you? Yes?
JB: Yes, yes. Every year I get a card - I think that might be one there. I get a card from them and I send them a card: the two sons. And one of them, his wife, I used to communicate with her, and when I went back in England, used to take her around, but she’s passed away.
JM: Right. Well, that’s certainly been -
JB: That’s about the end.
JM: Yes, it is about the end. It’s been a very, very full life and a very significant number of events occurred for you during your, particularly your war service, it was a very tough time.
JB: Well the war service was very difficult, and very dangerous.
JM: Very dangerous, that’s right.
JB: Very dangerous. I think, I think I was the only survivor of, of that area and it was most interesting, but you know, very dangerous, and I, one of my last trips, I flew out and I was, used to fly low [machine noise] if the weather was good, and I got fired on and I found the headquarters and said, told them that I’d got fired on, on the way out, and I said and ‘what I’m going to tell you is, that is where the bombs are.’ That’s, they had bombed the place and they hadn’t hit the target, and I said ‘that [emphasis] is where the target is.’ And so the next day when I’m flying, they had blown the place up, they’d hit the target and I was told and I was given a photograph. They had taken a photograph during the day, and it had been devastated and so that was most interesting. I got credit for that. Then, but, I came back from that, from the training flight and they.
Jan: It’s noisy.
JM: It's terrible!
JB: I got [indecipherable] injured on the training flight and I thought oh, I don’t think, I lost control of the ailerons, and I thought I don’t know that I can fly this plane home. So anyway, ah well, I’ll try, and I did and I landed at a terrific speed and you know, I survived and straight from that flight I was put on a special flight with the C, Commanding Officer and we went up in this plane and it was one of the jets that had just come out and he hadn’t flown that one before and he said ‘you’re the best pilot I’ve got’, nobody had ever told me that before, ha! And he said ‘so I’m taking you on this trip’ and he said ‘And I’ve never flown this plane before’ , it was one of the jets that had just come out, with the jet engines, so we come down in that and he said on the way down, he said, ‘now you’re my co-pilot, I’ve never landed this plane before but I want you right alongside!’ [Laugh] So I, jeez, what am I doing with this bloke? He’s never flown this plane before, he’s now going to land it and he’s never landed it and he says to me if something happens to me, you land it! [Laugh] I had a most interesting life.
JM: Mmm. That’s right.
JB: Anyway, he landed it all right.
JM: Well, he must have because you’re here to tell the tale today, so that’s all good.
JB: I know, I am!
Jan: He still is! You still have got an interesting life. [Laugh]
JM: Anyway, well I thank you very much for spending some time with me and sharing your stories, and I do appreciate it very much. So I thank you Jack, indeed.
JB: Oh no. That’s no problem. You’ve got one of those books have you? At home?
JM: No, I don’t have it at the moment, but we can sort that out shortly.
JB: I’ll give you one.
JM: Okay. Thank you very much, Jack, we’ll finish up there, thank you.
JB: Can you get one?
Jan: Yep.



Jean Macartney, “Interview with John "Jack" Brown,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 20, 2024,

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