Interview with Clarence Keith Bruhn

Title

Interview with Clarence Keith Bruhn

Description

Clarence Keith Bruhn's parents were of German descent. He grew up in Australia and joined the Royal Australian Air Force. After training, he flew operations as a navigator with 463 Squadron. On one operation his aircraft was hit by friendly fire from another Lancaster and by a Me 210 with upward firing guns. He navigated the captain to Juvincourt and baled out over liberated territory.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-04-30

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

01:48:55 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ABruhnCK160430
PBruhnKC1601

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

AP: This interview for the International Bomber Command Centre is with Keith Bruhn who was a 463 Squadron navigator during the Second World War. It’s the 30th of April 2016. My name’s Adam Purcell. We’re in Novar Gardens in the suburbs of Adelaide. That’s, that’s the spiel. Let’s begin. Can you tell me something Keith of your early life? What you were doing growing up and how you came to join the air force?
CKB: Well, I attended Unley High School and quite a few, the other, you know in older classes had been joining the air force. So when the, when I turned eighteen, I left high school at seventeen and studied accountancy for the interim before joining up and then having turned eighteen they sent you a letter that you had to report to so and so and so. So I thought — oh I will. There was quite a few of the blokes I knew were joining the air force so I decided that rather than join the army they were supposed to travel on their stomachs weren’t they? The army or something. And the navy had a girlfriend in every port and I didn’t think I could handle that [laughs]. Anyway, and also a few of the people in our area we lived at Hawthorn and you’re a Melbournite are you?
AP: I am.
CKB: Yeah. So you wouldn’t know our Hawthorn. You’d know your Hawthorn. Anyway, I decided to join the air force. I think I was about seventeen and a half then. I applied and we did, went along to the [pause] you know went along at night school to study a bit in preparation. And then the call up came and we, I was picked to go to Somers. You know Somers? Down there on the Mornington Peninsula is it?. Yeah. That’s where we did our ITS. From then we, well at the selection committee I sort of thought everyone wanted to be a pilot so I thought if you were refused that you sort of automatically became a air gunner or, or a wireless operator perhaps. And I was pretty good at maths so I decided I think I’d like to be a navigator. So I mentioned that to the selection committee and I was made a navigator. So that worked out all right. [laughs] From ITS at Somers we went down to the Air Observer’s School at Mount Gambier. That would have been probably three or four months. You don’t really want to know what happened at some of these? It might take —
AP: Oh definitely — tell me everything. Tell me the whole story.
CKB: Anyway. Oh nothing much. Yeah. Well, well actually I can remember one thing at Mount Gambier. The staff pilots at a lot of these places were a bit [pause] what did they used to call it? Well, they were daredevils anyway. Some of them. Anyway, we were on a navigation trip somewhere up to Northern Victoria there where we had a do, write down what we saw, you know. And coming home this pilot decided he’d give, there were three or four navigators. There was an Avro Anson and he decided to give us all a bit of a thrill. So we came back via the Glenelg River and he came down to below tree top height. I can still remember there were ducks flying all over the place and I thought [laughs] and anyway that was — I can still remember that because I think that would have been our probably first or second flight in a — and we thought ooohh you know.
AP: First or second flight ever you mean?
CKB: Well, yes in the air force anyway. I had been. That’s another story I won’t —
AP: That’s alright.
CKB: We won’t go into —
AP: I’ll ask about that later.
CKB: I had flown before and yeah it would have been probably — I can’t exactly remember. First, second or third flight. So that was a story at Mount Gambier. From there we went to — there was a Bombing and Gunnery School at Port Pirie and that’s where we got our wings. That was [pause] oh end of ’43. Yeah. 1943. From there we ended up, we went over to Melbourne and we were stationed on the MCG. Now, I’m going to brag here. That was sort of a holding place where you moved on from and the curator there decided he’d prepare a pitch for us and we got a bit of sort of scratch team together. I think we, everyone bowled one over and batted one over. And I thought well the cricket pitch was a crossways on the MCG. As you probably know. And that’s the shortest boundary. And I thought I reckon I can hit a six on this. So first ball I had a swing and missed, I think. And I think it was the second ball I managed to collect. It just cleared the fence. So I can brag and say I hit a six on the MCG.
AP: Excellent.
CKB: Anyway, the next ball I had another swing and got clean bowled I think. So that was a bit of fun there.
AP: Where at the MCG did you actually stay?
CKB: Yes.
AP: [unclear]
CKB: That was a staging camp before you moved on. You know.
AP: So while you were, while you were at this staging camp where did you sleep? Like where was your accommodation?
CKB: [laughs] Under the grandstand. Yeah. They had you know a big open area as you went up through the, yeah, and they just had stretchers there and I don’t know how many. It would have been a hundred. A hundred, I suppose, of us. And the, and the bars we all had. Where the bars were set up that was our mess and I think we were there probably a fortnight. And then we had entrained we had no, oh the funny part about it was we were issued with tropical gear. Uniforms. As well as a normal winter uniform. And then we were entrained and headed north. So we thought oh we were issued with tropical uniforms so we thought we were going up somewhere up New Guinea or somewhere. Or the islands or somewhere. So we ended up in Sydney and once again went to the staging area camp. At Bradfield Park I think it was. For probably a week again and hopped on a train up, further up north and ended up in Brisbane at Indooroopilly I think it was. There was a camp. A tented camp there. Stayed there a week and still wondering. We didn’t know any idea where we were going. No one told you anything. So there, we were there for probably a week and the next minute we were told that we’d get all our gear together. We were heading for a boat. So we ended up down, I can’t remember whether it was a victory ship or a [pause] what was the other ships they made? Anyway it was a Yankee. American boat. And there were a lot of Americans, injured Americans were going back to the US. So about a hundred of us logged on there with about a few hundred American servicemen who had been injured. And a story — we took off. The story about that. There was one bloke. An American. I remember this. He couldn’t go down to the mess. He had, he was missing both legs and one arm. So the whole journey they set him up on the deck and he sat there the whole journey. They brought food to him and he played [pause] what are they? Craps I think they call it. And he just sat there with the dice and that’s what he did the whole journey. The poor beggar. And I can still remember that. Anyway, so we ended up, we still didn’t know, well we sort of knew, because each day they had a map on the side of the boat and we could guess how many miles, daily miles they did. They showed us where we were going so that would have taken, I don’t know, probably about a week or a fortnight. So we ended up in San Francisco. And then over there we went to another staging camp where all the Americans went before they were choofed off to the Pacific. Angel Island I think it was called. In the San Francisco Bay. And an interesting thing there, Angel Island was there and as we caught the ferry in to San Francisco we passed Alcatraz. That was a bit of an interesting point. So we were there about a week and then entrained. Headed off [pause] well we knew we were going eastwards. You can’t go westwards. Yeah. Well, that was Pullman carriages. This was all knew to us, you know. The negroes were, they’d pull our beds down at night and I mean these sort of things didn’t happen in Australia. That was all new to eighteen year olds, you know. And that was quite enjoyable I suppose because these negroes attendants were happy blokes. They were very, you know, laughing all the time and carry on. So eventually we went, well on the way I woke up one morning and looked out the window of the train and, ‘You are now passing,’ — it was all snow outside, ‘You are now passing the highest railway point in America.’ I think it was fourteen thousand feet. I think it was. Over the Rockies. That was just a thing you notice. And we ended up in Chicago, in these cattle yards because there were trains going all over America during the war and you had to stop sometimes. We’d stop overnight, and it we could hardly sleep because the cattle bellowed all night. You could hear this bellowing of cattle right in the middle of the stockyards. So then we eventually ended up in New York. Crossed the river to another staging camp I suppose it was. And we stayed there another week and had a few days in New York. We were looked after. I think they were Jewish people. We stayed a few nights and had breakfast. And that was the first time I’d ever heard of, ‘How would you like your eggs? Sunny side up?’ [laughs] That’s the first time, the first time I’d ever heard that expression. So we were there a couple of nights and then went back to the camp a few more nights and then back again. And we were, I can remember looking across the other side of the river where the liners were and there were big boats everywhere. We still didn’t know what boat we were going on. Anyway, it turned out to be the Queen Elizabeth so — I don’t know whether you know the story. When that was built it was never fixed out as a liner. The war came so they made it, turned it into a troop ship virtually. So there were about a hundred of us and seventeen thousand Americans got on board. And, you know on the trip over to England we never saw one American. We saw where they slept. You know, like the decks. And on the side of the decks — one, two, three, I think there were about four layers of stretchers and I don’t know how many decks would have been on there. There would have been six or seven and you know, there was about two hundred yards. So they were up and gone and they had their stations to go to during the day. By the time we, we were camped in, I don’t know there were rooms. What they would have been I don’t know, and there were about a dozen of us in each of these. In sort of decks too. And the meal times were twenty four hour meal times. You had your time to go down to the meal. It was just twenty four hours of serving meals to serve everyone. So eventually we ended up in [pause] Gourock. That’s the Glasgow port and got off the boat there and a bit of a story there. We all lined up on the railway station and there were Scottish — I think they were church, some church ladies. Guild or whatever they were called were serving morning tea or whatever it was. They were asking us what we’d like, and we couldn’t understand a word they were saying in their broad [laughs] Scotch accent. Like, you know, ‘Do you want milk in your tea?’ Or things like that. It took a while. Mind you going back, going through or go back to San Francisco it was almost the same story. Their accents were, I can remember we went into a restaurant, had a meal and there were three or four of us and this gum chewing waitress came along. ‘Where are you all from?’ And we said, ‘Australia.’ She stood there. It was ticking over. ‘Oh where’s that state?’ As much as to say, you know what, in America, what? That’s just a side thing. Yeah. Well I’m back to Glasgow and the next minute we’re down at Brighton. Well, originally, before us they used to go to Bournemouth but that got a bit dangerous apparently. They were bombing that before we got there. So we went to Brighton for about a week or two. Then we, by this time we got over there the attrition rate had dropped fairly well and there was a bit of a backlog of, you know, so they chooked us off to an aerodrome just outside Guildford. A grass aerodrome for the pilots and navigators to get used to the countryside. We flew Tiger Moths. Map reading and all this sort of thing in Tiger Moths. And I even learned, being a navigator, to fly a Tiger Moth because there were English pilots learning to be instructors they, so I got to take off and land, but I didn’t do solo or anything like that. That was a bit of fun. We used to take off, you know a couple of hour journeys every now and then and that was for another week or two I guess that was. Now, where did we go next? Oh we went up to Navigation School up in Scotland. Can’t think what that was called. Anyway, up on the west side of, west coast of Scotland and when we went on leave we could catch a bus up the west coast up, and we used to do a pub crawl. We’d drop off at every town, have a couple of drinks and then catch the next bus up to the next [laughs] and there were about six towns, so I think we had a pint or two in each. Not that that was much because English beer wasn’t like our beer, so. I mean they’re the sort of things, I mean, oh I’ll get back to the fun side of it before we got in to the nitty gritty. You know, you, well you had to have a lot of fun. At this stage we didn’t know what was ahead of us anyway. So that’s what we used to do up there. And then we went to the Operational Training Unit at Lichfield. That’s right. Yeah. We were getting nearer and nearer now to operations on Wellington bombers. And while we’re there we did quite a few, dropping Window raids, to get us used to, you know the Window. Yeah. We’d go out over the English Channel and into France a bit and drop these before the other bombers. To confuse the enemy I suppose. We did quite a few of those and then later on we did a few in Wellingtons. A few decoy raids further into France to get us all used to it. And finally we did our OTU and finished that. Then we were posted to a Conversion Unit for pilots. A lot of the pilots had only been flying twin engines, so they had to convert to four engines. So we converted there to Lancasters then, and I don’t know how long we were there. Probably a month but that was mostly for the pilots anyway and the navigators didn’t do much really there. So eventually from there we got posted to Waddington. This is early February ’45 so we were getting, you know, within three months to the end of the war virtually. That’s how long. It took us almost a year by the time we arrived in England to get to a squadron. So we were there a while before. Then we did our first op. And then the last op which was the third to last op that the squadron did on April, oh it must have been April the 16th I think it was — we were shot down over Stuttgart I think it was. Anyway, I’ve got the report of that raid here. That’s the [pause] that’s our report. That great big report there. I’ve looked through all the reports and we got the biggest mention. I don’t know whether that means anything. But we — this was after D Day so the emergency ‘drome that night was Juvincourt. That was just north east of Paris a bit. Or near Reims. So we headed for there and we had trouble maintaining height so we dropped all the bombs. Everything we could drop. We still couldn’t actually — we were shot at twice and the first time we were shot at as far as the powers can be can — would all what we said and what clues they had they worked out that an aircraft from Skellingthorpe was the ones that had shot at us. So we were virtually, well they suggested that we were probably shot at from friendly fire and that put an engine out. But about another quarter of an hour later we were shot at with one of those upward firing ME210s, I think they were. Anyway, that was a quarter of an hour later. That put another engine out. We were down to two engines at this stage. So we were on, we were going to bomb a roller bearing works at Pilsen in Czechoslovakia. So we only really got to Stuttgart. And that’s where we were shot at. So the pilot was down to two engines and he couldn’t maintain height so he decided we’d turn around and head for Juvincourt. So all the navigation aids were gone so all we were back to was the P6. The pilot’s P6 compass. That was the only aids we had as far as [unclear] I thought I’d look approximately where we were, and I thought I’d get the directions to Juvincourt and I looked at my star maps and I found a star that was approximately on the course we were supposed to take. So I said to the pilot, ‘Well head for that star and get your course on the compass.’ And I had my fingers crossed. Anyway, blow me down, about, oh I don’t know how long it took us but we eventually got to Juvincourt. They said they could see. This was about 6 o’clock in the morning I think. ‘We can see the lights. The lights of the runway.’ So I thought thank goodness for that because there was no way we would have made even the English Channel. We were losing height all the time. Anyway, we were down to about seventeen hundred feet at this time and the pilot, he had his left rudder roped up because he couldn’t, something had broken, you know. Had broken. But he had to do a right hand turn in order to land, I think it was and he found he couldn’t do it. And according to, I’ve just read it before but I’ve forgotten a lot of it. I can’t remember which— the right wing, or [pause] was still on fire. And near where one of the tanks and the pilot, there was flames, and he said, ‘She’s going to go up any minute. The whole thing.’ So we all, he told us to get out smartly. So we all managed to jump out. I’m the last one out. I looked at the pilot. I said, ‘Are you ok?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m ok.’ So I went. And he got out and busted his leg a bit. Eventually we all, we all ended up headed for the [pause] most of us landed within oh, I don’t know, 5ks of the Juvincourt I think. And I remember coming down. We were, I looked down, I could see, oh before this we were supposed to count to three before we pulled our rip cord. I counted to one and a half I think and pulled mine and anyway my chute opened and I was floating down. I looked down and there was a canal and I thought this will be good I’m going to land right in the middle of the canal. And we were told that if we want to move we pull on something. I’ve forgotten what you do but I pulled the rip cord somehow and managed to miss the canal by about fifty yards anyway. But in the meantime I’m doing this there was a bit of ground mist and you couldn’t really see the ground and I’m sort of doing this. And the next minute whoop we’d hit the I’d hit the ground [laughs] and being no wind that’s the worst, that’s the worst landing you can make. If there’s a breeze you can almost run with the [laughs] anyway I remember my kneecaps went past my ears I think. So we got down and eventually everyone dribbled, dribbled in. The pilot — he’d done his leg in. The flight engineer — he was a nervous wreck I think. They had to sedate him. He ended up in hospital. I can remember going to see him. They’d sedated him because he was a shaking mess. It affected him a fair bit apparently. Oh, what happened we were about five Ks from the aerodrome and this was 6 o’clock in the morning and they were all warming up to go and do their strafing or whatever they did and I headed for the noise and I’m walking along. Out of the corner of my eye I see a negro standing there. About six foot six tall with a carbine in his hand. He was on guard duty you know. There was an American transport company on the outskirts of the aerodrome. And I thought I’d better go over to him otherwise I might get a [unclear]. So I went over and introduced myself, ‘I’ve just been shot down. I’m an Australian.’ And he looked at me. I think he thought now is it Austrian or what? Anyway, I said, ‘Oh will you take me to someone in charge?’ Yeah. So we walked along and I noticed he kept walking a bit behind me. He wasn’t quite sure who I was, and he had this carbine sort of [pause] Anyway, he eventually got back to the camp, where they were all camped and he took me to the officers where they were having breakfast and here they were. You know they hadn’t that long gone, probably a few months they’d taken over the airfield and here were all these Americans sitting down to bacon and eggs. You have it. Where probably the English were having bully beef or something. And he said, ‘Oh you’d like some breakfast.’ And I said, ‘No.’ I was a bit churned up myself, you know with all this going on, and I said, ‘No, I’m not —' And eventually they took us to this aerodrome. There was an RAF representative there. Like I said all the crew eventually dribbled in from wherever they’d landed. I think one of— the mid upper gunner had landed in a tree I think, so he’d had a bit of fun. But most of us were not too badly hurt. So we were there a couple of days and there was a flight sergeant in charge of whatever — for the RAF there and he took us, drove us to where the aircraft had crashed. And apparently it had come down reasonably level like this, right across a Frenchman’s potato patch. And apparently, according to this flight sergeant he wasn’t very happy. There was a great swathe of, you know, he’d only, he’d probably only just planted it all. No it was up. What I remember they were up about that high. But there were bits and pieces lying everywhere. Bits of my maps lying everywhere. And there was no sign of any engines or anything. They’d apparently dug in to the ground because it was fairly soft, the ground I think. So that was alright. So the next the next thing this bloke took us on a Cook’s Tour around the area and there was a village, I forget the name of it and he was, he had a girlfriend whose father owned one of the — what do they call these drinking places. Bars. The French call their bars. I don’t know. I forget. Anyway, he took us there. The French owner was very happy to see us and he went down the stairs and came up with a clay pot of Cognac. Cognac. And he said, ‘Oh we kept this down here especially, you know for when the war was over,’ sort of thing. I thought, I remember afterwards saying to myself I bet the Germans had a bit of that too. Who knows? You don’t know. But I think but this flight sergeant was on with the daughter. Oh and another thing that happened. Parachutes. I hope the powers that be aren’t listening. I’ll be up for a charge or something. He went around to collect all the parachutes and we were supposed to bring them [pause] well supposed to bring them back. Anyway, we eventually found ours and this flight sergeant, he was on a good thing. He knew all the [lerks?] he was, he said, ‘Leave it with me. I can —,’ You don’t have to, you know, I forget the words he said but he ended up with it but what he was doing was making money out of. They were making shirts or whatever out of these. So I had to claim that I couldn’t find my parachute. Which some of the others did too and they couldn’t find their parachutes so that was all right. But he was on this, he was on a good thing this bloke. And another thing he took us down to, we were about twenty k’s from Reims which was Eisenhower’s headquarters. General Eisenhower’s headquarters. So we went for a trip down there. And that that’s where I first came into contact with their, what we call them [unclear] They were just toilets, you know, in a park. All they were, were for men, all they were sort of a grill sort of thing. You could see their feet underneath and a bit of a trough and [laughs] in the middle. We’d never struck anything like that before. So eventually we ended back at the aerodrome and I think it was about three days later they came and came and got us from a squadron in a Lancaster. Took us back home. And by the time we’d reported all the accident and all the, whatever went on we went on leave for about ten days I think it was. By this time the war was nearly over so we didn’t do any more trips. The war finished. And all those who’d done their tours, probably they were alright. All those who hadn’t finished a tour — we went on to Tiger Force. Changed from 463 to 467 Squadron. So we were there. We shifted to Metheringham which was only about ten k’s from Waddington. One thing about that — I had a photo. I don’t know what happened to it. When we shifted all the ground staff had bicycles that they used to drive around and there were about twenty of them. So when we shifted they put all their bikes in the bomb bay. And I had a photo of the bomb bay full of bicycles. And it was only a five minute trip virtually. By the time you’d taken off you were there. So we shifted our Tiger Force training there for — by that we were on so called embarkation leave in August. In August. I think they knew the war was going to end. We went down to Newquay in, in Devon I think it is. Newquay. The Australians, it was good surf down there. All the Australians used to go down there to surf. So we ended up down there and the war with Japan finished so we did the town over that night. I can remember one chap had a motor vehicle and we were, there was about a dozen of us hanging from a motor vehicle screaming up and down the main street of Newquay. And the locals must have thought we were all nuts because their war had been over for six months and they thought what’s going on here? I can still remember that. But we were due to transfer — what they called them — long range Lancasters. That was the pre-runner of the, I forget the name. Lincoln bomber. That’ right. Yeah. And we were due to fly them out to Okinawa. Or not Okinawa. There was an island fifty miles, fifty k’s east of Okinawa that the RAF were going to operate from and the Americans were going to operate from Okinawa. That was the story anyway. I think that’s right. But thankfully that never happen. I wasn’t looking forward to bombing Japan. I think it would have been a different story to bombing Germany if you’d baled out. I don’t think that would have been much fun. So that’s probably my story in the air force I suppose. Eventually we went back down to Brighton waiting for the boats. Which boat to. This was about October ’45. I can remember there was one bloke. He liked to do seances. He liked to get us all together to work out what boat we were going to go home on. So we had the seance. There were only about four boats I think, operating, and he knew the names of them all. So here we were with this and he’d been putting our hands towards whichever side [laughs] if you believe in seance. But he was dinkum about them. He sort of — but no. We had a quite I think we were there for about a month waiting for a boat and we used to go up and play a few golf links up east of Brighton. We used to go up there and play golf. That was good fun for about a month. And eventually we got on the Athlone Castle which was a South African boat, headed off through the Mediterranean. Through the Suez. Ended up in Bombay where we picked up [pause] there was quite a few, you know servicemen coming in from Burma and all around. One of them was Vic Richardson. Do you know Vic Richardson? Vic Richardson the cricketer.
AP: Yeah.
CKB: The Chappell brothers’ uncle.
AP: Oh.
CKB: [laughs] Yeah. He was one of them. We knew Vic very well reasonably well. We lived near him at Hawthorn. He was one bloke who came on board. An interesting thing in Bombay those days all the beggars from I don’t know how far around in India knew that all these boats were coming in with servicemen. And they’d apparently come into Bombay, and anyway we had a day to go and look around Bombay. But we had to walk of course, and it was about a two kilometre walk I suppose, and I reckon it took us two or three hours to walk through this wall to wall beggars that were lining the road with their hands out like this. But eventually we got back to I suppose was the main part of Bombay. But we had an hour or two there and then we decided we’d go back a different way. So we took some back streets and I can remember the bloke’s everywhere you went there were these little droppings everywhere apparently. All over the — there was a park area and apparently, they just used to go over to the park area. Do their business. In various stages of the dryness, some were quite dry [laughs] and that was another shock that you know, you don’t see that every day of the year. So that was an interesting little episode there. Eventually we got back to Perth. This was about December the [pause] about four days before Christmas I think we arrived in Perth. And a few of the, got rid of a few of the chaps, were offloaded in Perth. We had Christmas Day in the great Australian Bight heading for Melbourne. We didn’t call in to Adelaide. There weren’t enough getting off I don’t think. Called in to Melbourne and we were home. Then I had to catch the Melbourne Express back here. So virtually when you think about I had an around the world trip. Went, went that way and came home that way. So, you know, you think about it we were eighteen year olds who probably hadn’t been out of the state or, you know. It was all, sort of, you know, something to do. It was an experience. And I mean it had its moments but I often think three years in the air force I reckon I aged ten years. You know. With that experience. So in the end went on leave when we got back. Eventually we were called in to find out what was going to happen. Wanted to keep in the air force. ‘Do you want to stay in the air force?’ ‘No. No I don’t want to stay in the air force,’ [laughs] and then we were demobbed so, and that was the end. Oh going back to when the war ended over in England it’s a funny feeling that there was a mixture of [pause] a mixture of relief and disappointment if you know what I mean. You’re doing something and all of a sudden you’re not doing it. And I can remember, I suppose all the others were the same but at least we had, we continued on in the Tiger Force so it wasn’t so bad. But I can remember even when we got in to the Tiger Force I thought do we have to be doing this. Everything was dropped. But it was an interesting time doing Tiger Force because it was very relaxed and most of the time we played cricket or, or football. I can remember we’d got one football match arranged but they didn’t get enough for AFL type football so there were probably a third of them were rugby players. I can still remember going for the ball and the next minute whoosh [laughs] these blokes came at you and you’re flat on the ground [laughs]. That was, that was, I mean you can imagine a game of football. A mixture of rugby and Australian rules. Crazy. Oh dear. Yeah. And then we played quite a few cricket matches. What’s the name of the RAF station? Their headquarters virtually. Down there. I forget the name of it now. Two or three times we went down there and played matches. But in between we went on training. Mostly the training was, all they did was, navigation wise because we were going to go overseas. Mostly away from where we were to be stationed. We took off from Metheringham. Went straight out the Bay of Biscay for approximately the same time it would have taken us from the island to Japan. About four hours I think it was. Only using dead reckoning navigation and you had to fly back doing the same thing and hope that you were near where your base was because that’s what it was going to be like where we were going. So that’s all our training consisted of virtually and [pause] but that’s about it I think.
AP: Alright. We might go and fill in a few gaps.
CKB: Yeah.
AP: If you’re alright with that.
CKB: Yeah.
AP: Going back to the beginning where were you when you first heard the war had been declared and what did you think at that time?
CKB: 1939, I was in [pause] ’37 — third year at high school, Unley High School. Yeah. I can remember it. When was that? September wasn’t it? Was it September?
AP: Yes, September the 3rd
CKB: Yeah. I can remember it. I can even remember sort of discussing, you know, discussing it with your fellow pupils, but I don’t know. I think it’s sort of we might have said, ‘Oh well,’ and the funny thing about that was, leading up to the war, just going back with my name. I can remember the history teacher. I got praise for being a very good speller. And he said, ‘Oh you’ll, where did your parents come from?’ And I’m sitting there and war’s imminent. My mother I think came from East Prussia somewhere. My father’s, no, not he. They didn’t come but their parents came. And my father’s parents came from somewhere in North Berlin. Mecklenburg. There I am sitting in this class where [pause] but, you know there were a lot of people of German, German names in the war. When you think of it half the Americans were of German descent. So I mean I could have been, we could have been bombing some of my people I’m related to or something way back or something. But I mean that’s war. I mean I had no compunction in joining up. You’re living here. I was Australian. My parents were Australian. So I mean you’re that. Yeah as far, as far as that goes, at school, I can’t remember. We just talked about it I suppose. But I can’t ever remember like the teachers saying much about it. You just went on with school. That was ’39. ’40. I was leaving. ’41 leaving honours. Yeah. Life just seemed to go on when we were kids. But I knew then, you know, as I said the ones ahead of us like David Lester was two years. He went to Unley High too. He was two years ahead of me. We knew he’d joined up and there were a few others that were already joined up in the air force. Yes. One of those things.
AP: Can you remember much about the actual process of enlisting?
CKB: Sorry?
AP: Can you remember much about the actual process of enlisting? So where you had to go to do the interviews or to sign up. Or the actual process.
CKB: Oh well that’s a bit of a story. When I, you had a form to fill out when I enlisted, and I listed — I knew my mother had diabetes. Somehow I’d written down that both parents had had diabetes and when I went for my medical without even — they just, because both parents I’d put down. They didn’t even carry on with the interview. And then I thought [pause] no. No. No that’s not right. I think they, I think I did take a urine sample. Gave them a urine sample. But they didn’t even bother with it, they just, because I’d put down both parents and I was rejected. Course I was a bit disappointed so I complained about it. They said, but they said both your parents. ‘No,’ I said, ‘No.’ There was only my mother. I had to talk a bit, fairly well out of that. I eventually talked them into having a urine sample and that was clear. So I was alright. So I nearly didn’t make it because of that. But like I said I was only about seventeen and a half then I think. And then a couple of nights a weeks we had to go to the teacher’s college to these lectures and the funny thing about it one of the lecturers was our physics teacher at Unley High. So we just carried on, you know. Virtually they were just talking about what flying was about and the navigation side of it and I mean it wasn’t — but there were a lot of, probably lads who weren’t as educated as I was perhaps or had probably had only done kind of intermediate grade or something like that. So I suppose they just had to, probably needed more [pause] you know a little bit more training but that was for about six months. I can remember we used to go in, I used to go in with — I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard of Bonds tours. No. You wouldn’t. He was on the air board actually Bert Bond. And they lived just up the road from us and Max Bond who joined up with me he, he his father was Bert Bond who owned this, and he was on the Air Board and he — I’m getting back to my first flight now. While we were waiting to be called up there was, on South Road there was what they called Castle Plaza Shopping Centre. It was named after, there was a castle, a castle like residence there and a bit up the road was a box thorn covered paddock and Bert had carved out a bit of an airstrip there and he had a Fairchild. He’d imported a Fairchild plane out. And so when we used to, every weekend when the first trip, Max said, ‘Oh come on, we’ll, my father’s going to go up for a bit. He’s going to shoot up some friends we know in the Adelaide Hills.’ I thought oh, shoot up? That’s a bit of a worry this shooting up business. So anyway, we hopped in and away we went, and I’m a bit apprehensive about the shooting up business. And anyway all he did was a few tight circles and waggled his wings and that’s all it was [laughs] I sort of imagined that he was going to go down and that sort of carry on. So we did that two or three times. That was my first trip in an aircraft. So I had been in an aircraft before I actually joined up. But I’ve even got a photo of that aircraft. It’s now over in Temora.
AP: Oh fantastic.
CKB: It had been kept here for quite a few years. And then it was a bit of a wreck I think apparently. And this bloke [pause] Temora is a [pause] what is it? It’s a sort of, I think they have — I’m not sure. Anyway, it ended up over there and they put a new engine in it and it’s flying. So that after how long? Seventy years. Yeah. I can show you if you’re interested.
AP: Oh yeah.
CKB: I can show you that. I think it’s, I think it’s in here somewhere.
AP: I’d like to have a look at that.
[pause]
CKB: It’s the first time I’ve looked at some of this stuff for a while.
[pause]
CKB: This is some of the stuff that happened while we were over in London for that Memorial a couple of years ago.
[pause]
AP: You can have a closer search through it in a little while perhaps.
[pause]
KB: Hey? I’m sure it was in.
[pause]
CKB: Oh well maybe it wasn’t. No. Can’t see it.
AP: That’s alright.
[pause]
CKB: Yeah. Oh well. Yeah. I’ve got all this stuff about that Memorial. That Annette had sent over.
AP: Oh yes. Yeah. That’s what this whole project’s for.
CKB: Yeah.
AP: Yeah. She’s making the initial approach to people.
CKB: Yeah.
AP: So can you tell me something of, as an Australian in England, particularly a young Australian in England, what did you think of wartime restrictions of the civilian population of just generally life in England?
CKB: Well, it took us, yeah well see the point is there were no restrictions on us like there were the local population. We were eating food that they wouldn’t, wouldn’t see so much of especially when we were flying on ops. We used to get, you know, like fresh eggs and things like that which the local population — but I mean there were restrictions here when we left so that side of it, you know like meat rationing and whatever, but I don’t know we seemed to take it. Going into London you’d see all the buildings sandbagged up. I mean by the time we’d sort of got over there anyway all the mess from the blitz had virtually been cleaned up. There were, there were like empty blocks overgrown with grass and things like that. But I know when we first arrived in Brighton there were still a few odd raids coming over. We could hear the crump crump of the bombs in London from down at Brighton. And occasionally an odd plane or two would fly over. A German plane and things like that but most times we were on, on the camps you know, and we, it’s only when we were on leave that you’d mix with the — apart from going to the local pub perhaps wherever we were stationed. I don’t know. We just sort of took it all in our stride I suppose. I can’t [pause] I think we were [pause] we as far as I was concerned what I liked most wherever we were was just hopping on a bike and going to a local pub or something and having a pint or two or something like that. And we were, we were only eighteen. When we were at home we weren’t allowed to drink so I mean these things were all, you know, that’s what I’m saying. Aging, you know from eighteen you’re doing all these worldly things sort of that you wouldn’t have done if you were at home and there wasn’t a war on and things like that. So, no, there was part of growing up during wartime I suppose. No. In a sense it was all, you know, exciting. I suppose it was to other, you know, eighteen, nineteen, twenty year olds but like I said once you got to the squadron you sort of [pause] you knew that there was always a few who didn’t get back. But by the time we got there it was a lot better than whereas they were losing perhaps anything from five to ten percent a raid they’d only lose the odd plane occasionally towards the end of the war. But we were unlucky. I mean the last weeks of the war, you know but I don’t know how far, with all this going on that we mightn’t have made it. It was pretty iffy there for a while. But it was over my head to a certain extent because I was too busy navigating if you know, that was one reason why I even picked being a navigator. I thought well at least you had, you were working all the time and you’re not, you know, whereas if you’re an air gunner you’re sitting there and you’re looking around you. You’re doing your job but you know. And the wireless operator — the same thing. He had his job, but it wasn’t all the time but a pilot was. His job was, you know, full on. And my job was to, head down and make sure you’re, you’re getting there alright and you but even the navigation later on was totally different to the navigation earlier in the war. What they used to do they’d just say you’re going to bomb somewhere and the navigators or each individual plane used to work out how they were going to get there. You know, they just, but in my time, it was all, you know you had your times were strictly put down that you took off at a certain time. You timed that point was you had to reach by a certain time over target was that time. Not that you could always do it dead on time, but it was all strict because there were that many planes in the air. You could take anything from five hundred to six hundred planes flying to the one target it had to be regulated to a certain extent. But early in the war it was just Rafferty’s rules. They had no idea and the navigation aids weren’t available like they had later on.
AP: Apart from the last one that you’ve already told me about do any of your other operations stick out in your memory in particular?
CKB: Now, we [pause] when we before we did this raid our only operations were virtually limited to even leaflet dropping raids over Holland to get used to — this raid was virtually our first.
AP: Was it? Wow.
CKB: Yeah [laughs] Well, first full raid. Yeah. But we’d, even at OTU we’d done quite a few. We were lucky we didn’t have to do it when they called a thousand bombing raid earlier. They brought them in from training just to build the numbers up. But we didn’t take part in any of those, thankfully. We took part in Window dropping raids to get you used to get you flying in to France and that. No. We were, I was lucky. Who knows if I’d got there another month or two earlier I mightn’t be here now. I mightn’t have got back. So I mean that was what the war — we had a bloke who, I forget his name [pause] put it all on computer. Every raid that 463 and 467 did and there were some, some did their full thirty trips without one incident. You know, they went over, didn’t strike any fighters they, you know they went through the searchlights. A bit of anti-aircraft fire and but they didn’t report in these, didn’t report. They just went, came back, nothing happened. And yet you get someone else. See, what happened — I think once the, once, by the time we’d flown much of France had been, so all the fighters that the Germans had spread over France were concentrated in a smaller area. So even though they might have been a smaller, smaller lot but they were more concentrated so in effect it wasn’t getting any easier I would imagine and they were starting to get desperate I suppose. So that’s what happened. But I mean that was all experience. And even that, when I think back of it you know I — you did everything automatically. You’d think just jumping out of the plane like that. I mean you just, don’t — no panic. We’d been trained what to do so I mean you just do it. But I mean just how close you were to I can remember looking down when the upward firing things came up. There was a big hole in there and there was a big hole up there. Well that hole was only that far from [pause] sort of thing. And I also remember looking down when the pilot was trying to land the floor of the aircraft was awash with glycol fuel which was the fuel for the hydraulics. And I sort of thought then well, even with the you can probably put the wheels down, but would they lock properly, or —? So I mean all these things. If he tried to land and the undercarriage might have collapsed and who knows what. So you don’t sort of think. We did the best thing by jumping out of the aircraft because a lot of things [pause] as a matter of fact in my own mind I thought we should have jumped earlier. What was being fed to me. What was going on I thought well I think we should be [laughs] —
AP: Getting out.
CKB: Getting out. Now I mean, my biggest fear was what if we get to the — we’re losing height and what if we get to the English Channel. That was my biggest fear was crossing the English Channel. I didn’t want to [laughs] even ditching is not a nice thing but having to bale out over water I thought, I think we were better off. But anyway, but I mean the pilot, that’s their decision as to what to do so —
AP: How far inside the allied lines was Juvincourt?
CKB: Sorry?
AP: How far inside the allied lines was Juvincourt? Like how far away was the front line at this point. Or were you already well and truly over nominally friendly territory for like for a while before the aircraft crashed?
CKB: Probably — I’m just trying to think. Juvincourt. I think they’d got to the Rhine. So virtually nearly all of France was [pause] by this, oh yeah well it would have been I think. Yeah. I think [pause] I can’t — I don’t really know. You see the Americans were mostly down south. The British were doing the push mostly up north. I know, Montgomery, he wanted to, he got to the Rhine and he wanted to push into Northern Germany. He wanted to but the Americans held him back. They said no. But they were doing mostly their push. You see what, I think what happened they were trying to beat the Russians, or do.
AP: Right.
CKB: Trying to get as much territory before the Russians. I mean that — there was a lot of funny business went on behind closed doors when you think of it which has come out after the war that you didn’t know then. You knew nothing then about what was going on. But you get the feeling that it was all to do with they knew Russia was, you know, coming over. Yeah it was it’s like the bombing of [pause] you know that last raid they did in February.
AP: Dresden.
CKB: Dresden yeah. Apparently, that was only because Russia, they were forced into it because Russia wanting it to happen apparently. I mean really when you think in hindsight but you don’t know. They could have stopped bombing months before the end of the war. But you don’t know do you? It’s easy in hindsight to work these things out but, and even the good that the bombing did there’s big arguments over that. Whether they did any, shortened the war or what it did. You know, killed so many civilians and all this going, you know but they forget that the Germans did the same to England. So I mean they started out by bombing the wharves but then it gradually [pause] It’s like the, when we used to go on leave in London there was a place in Gloucester Road that was for the Australians to go and stay. It was about a four storey building I think. Anyway, in the event of air raids you’re supposed to go down. There were cellars down below. We used to go out on to the roof to watch when the V1s were coming across. The doodlebugs. And we’d have bets as to where, where they were going to land. You’d see the flash. You’d hear the sound of like chaff cutters coming over, you know. And it would be probably half a dozen a night you’d see. And we’d have bets. Is it going to go there? Is it going to there? And we’d sit up there. That was the poor beggars are underneath the when we dropped. That would be a frightening thing. You’d hear this noise coming over and then they’d cut off and you’d think where was that going to land? But yeah, I never saw any damage from those because they were very – it wasn’t like a bombing raid. They were spread out all over the, you know. It wasn’t sort of like a very accurate sort of —
AP: Fairly, fairly localised as well because there was only one. One sort of small bomb load dropped in one spot. That’s it.
CKB: Yeah.
AP: You could be in the next street and not know.
CKB: Could have been. Yeah. I mean the accuracy of it wasn’t very, very great. I mean they couldn’t pinpoint a target in any way. They just put enough fuel in to cover a certain distance and then it cut out.
AP: Did you encounter any V2s that you know of?
CKB: No. No. No, we were, I don’t think I was ever in London when, they were sort of, after the V1s weren’t they? I can’t [pause] no I don’t think we, I don’t think we went down to London on leave when they were I don’t think they were that many of them anyway. They’d attack there fairly heavy and the fighter bombers they really got stuck into the you know where they took off from. They knew quite a few of the places. They could pick them out where they were, but they didn’t do anywhere near the damage that they thought they were going to do. Thankfully. But I know they had thousands of them ready to go. I mean Hitler thought he could win the war with those.
AP: We’re talking about London. What sort of things did you do on leave in London. What did you do to relax I guess?
CKB: Well, it was, as far as I was concerned we used to, two or three of us always used to get together and it depended who you went with. What their ideas were. Mostly it was just taking in the sights of London and like I suppose we — there was a lot of, you know, we’d call in to a pub and have a few beers. By this time a lot of the places were opening too. Like places, you know, there were cinemas. Cinemas. More of them were opening. I can remember going to a few shows. I can’t quite remember what they were now. But I remember one thing in England. They were allowed to smoke inside their cinemas and I can remember we went somewhere — you could hardly see what was going on. Getting back to that — when we landed in Fremantle in Perth coming home. That night a lot of them went to the pictures. As soon as they got in they lit up. I wasn’t smoking at this time. I used to smoke a bit. Only because we were issued, virtually issued with them. They lit up and they were smartly told to put their cigarettes out. Yeah. I can remember they used to smoke. Well everyone in those days over in England used to smoke. It was, it was, I don’t know, like I said, I remember trying. We used to get issued with so many cigarettes. They were mostly American origin, you know. Lucky Strikes or whatever they were. And I thought — I got one of these cheroots. These big cigars. I thought I’d try those, and I forget where we were. Anyway, I lit up and laid down on the bunk and smoked for about, smoked half of it I think for about ten minutes and I thought it’s alright so I stubbed it out. Went to get up off the bunk and fell over. They were, you know these great, they were about that thick these, you know these big cheroots that the Yanks used to suck on. Because I wasn’t, I didn’t, no I didn’t used to smoke before I joined the air force at all. It was only the fact that I occasionally I’d [pause] even when we were issued with them. I used to have, when we were on leave mostly I used to take a packet of cigarettes with me. It never got to me.
AP: So if you didn’t smoke them what did you do with them?
CKB: Pardon?
AP: What did you do with them if you didn’t smoke them?
CKB: Gave them to someone else I suppose.
AP: I’ve heard, I’ve heard about other people using them as a sort of a currency.
CKB: Yes. Yes. I believe that. Oh yeah. That would have happened I’m sure.
AP: Put a packet on the bar and the drink would for free all night.
CKB: Yeah. Yes. That would happen. But there were a lot of things I didn’t get into. Like that. I mean, I remember when we went on leave there would always be a packet of contraceptive on your bed before you went out. Half the blokes used to blow them up on the train and hang them out the window [laughs] and let them go. But some of them, it’s a funny thing what I can remember. It was always the unmarried ones who used to brag about what they used to do and it was the married ones that kept very silent. So, I don’t know what they got up to. I don’t know [laughs] The married ones were married back home not the ones that were married [laughs]
AP: Yeah.
CKB: No. I wasn’t, I wasn’t in the least interested in the female side of things. I was more interested in being over there in England and you know, taking in the, you know the country itself. Yeah. And when we’d go on leave we’d go all over the shop. I think we saw more of England than most the locals would have seen.
AP: In the same way that when they come over here and see more of Australia than I’ve ever seen.
CKB: Yeah. Yeah.
AP: [unclear] years. Very much so.
CKB: Yeah.
AP: Alright. Getting towards the end of my list here how did you find re-adjusting to civilian life after three years of being in the air force?
CKB: Yeah. I think I found it a bit hard. Mainly because I hadn’t thought about it much if you know what I mean. I thought, ‘What am I going to do now?’ So what I did was — nothing. You know, I had a, we got back in January. New Year’s Eve pretty well. And I just relaxed for a couple of weeks and then two or three weeks and sat about not thinking about much and then my sister was working in the office of Yalumba Wines and they needed — I was studying accountancy and I was going to three nights a week that’s what I was studying at the School of Mines or whatever it is. And, you know relaxing. That was at night time study. And my sister said, oh we need a office, or virtually an accountant, to keep the girls in check. There were about four typists and receptionists. So I thought oh well I’ll go there. So, I ended up there for about four years. In Yalumba Wines. And my wife, Margaret was the receptionist so that’s where I met her. So we got married and then yeah, I got into that job and still kept studying accountancy. And I gave that job up. I thought couldn’t see much future there so I thought I’d give the banks a go so, to get a bit of experience in banking. So I joined the Commercial Bank for about three or four years I think I was there and anyway in this meantime we had farming property up, just up north at Saddleworth and it had share farmers on it. So the share farming agreement had finished so in the end I decided I would go up there and do the farm, on the farm because I would have been involved in it anyway once dad, he got to old so we decided to go up there and we were up there for thirty years. Retired. We’ve been down, retired for thirty years now. My years have been in thirty years. Thirty years living in the city. Had the war. Thirty years up in the farm. And thirty years retired virtually so that’s I’ve had a fairly varied life I suppose which I enjoy. And I can’t envision working in one job. I was probably after the war you were, I think a lot were like that. A bit unsettled. They probably couldn’t settle down to one, you know. Your whole lifetime doing one jobs. I like to vary things. Even on the farm when we were up there I liked to do things in a different way just to find out if they worked better. You know, it’s something like that. Try something different. Didn’t always work out but it was —
AP: So you’ve told me that the three years that you spent in Bomber Command you felt you aged almost ten years. What’s the legacy, do you think, of Bomber Command? For you personally and overall. And how do you want to see it remembered?
CKB: So [pause] what was that again?
AP: So what, what’s the legacy of Bomber Command, both for your personally and overall?.
CKB: Well I know it’s going to — see even I can remember when there used to be I’m going to talk about Adelaide there used to be Bomber Command dinners besides squadron dinners. As a matter of fact I went to Bomber Command dinners before I went to squadron dinners but then we moved to the country and that sort of stopped but the — I can remember at one of the Bomber Command dinners there was someone, they got someone from the air force to talk about like there’s no longer Bomber Command. It’s, you know, that’s gone. That’s finished. ‘There’s no longer bombers that are, you know doing what you chaps did,’ but I think it’s like as we all pass on what will happen to it? It’ll all just go won’t it? It’ll disappear.
AP: I hope it doesn’t disappear entirely which is one reason why we’re here collecting these interviews now, I can assure you.
CKB: Yeah. I’m just thinking that it’s a good thing that Annette and that lot. She does a good job I think to keep it running over in New South Wales isn’t it? Is she’s in Sydney.
AP: Yeah.
CKB: So I think, you see it’s a bit like the RSL. I know that the Vietnam lot it’s all the Vietnam war now rather than the Second World War of course but it would be nice to, you know, as far as I’m concerned get involved in it as much as we can but like I said age but if it’s going to keep going in any form it’s up to younger people though isn’t it? Like you, you know. So if that’s the case — good. Yeah. I’d like to see it you know kept in front of peoples. You take Anzac Day there. They’re thrashing that and that was a mistake. And I don’t know whether Bomber Command was a mistake like some like to say it shouldn’t have happened the way it did but it would be interesting to know what the outcome of the Second World War would have been in Europe if it hadn’t been for Bomber Command. I mean Fighter Command they probably saved Britain in 1940 sort of thing. The fighters. Oh well it’s, c’est la guerre. It’s part of the war. No. I’d like to see it carry on in some form and I’m sort of on the younger edge of [pause] there will be a lot more gone before I’m, I’m the younger group of them and the majority of them will be in their middle nineties now. I’m only ninety one.
AP: Only ninety one.
CKB: Yeah [laughs] and I consider myself reasonably fit but I have my problems. My old legs give out occasionally. My back gives out occasionally. But I, you know, getting back to the war like I said how luck played a part in Bomber Command. Like I said there were blokes did a whole tour without one incident and I can’t understand why that can happen. We, we’ve got in 463 Squadron Peter Giles used to come along to our meetings and, I forget — oh it was a Berlin raid. That’s right. And they were I don’t know whether it was flak or what happened, but the plane exploded, and he was blown out of the rear gun [pause] he can’t even remember putting his parachute on. Anyway, he, he ended up on the ground. His parachute had opened. He ended up in a snowdrift. It was in January or February I think. He was the only one who got out of that and he just died a couple of years ago. He was in one of the Stalags out east and they were released when the Russians were coming. And he, he would have a story to tell because even when they were released and there were hordes of them were moving west and in the middle of winter. And they were even strafed by our own planes because they thought that they were all the enemy sort of, you know. And he would have had a story to tell. And they hardly had anything to eat. They started off with guards with them. Eventually they, as the Russians kept coming and they just disappeared, and they were on their own. Just eventually made it back to [pause] I don’t know whether it was the American lines or somewhere. I know of quite a few instances where planes had blown up and they had no idea what happened. You know.
AP: Yeah. Luck is —
CKB: Luck comes into it an awful lot.
AP: One of my interview subjects wrote a book about his war service. He was actually a liberator pilot, but he called it the survival of the fortunate.
CKB: Oh yeah.
AP: For exactly that reason. He managed to avoid Bomber Command. That was one piece of good luck. There were a couple of others that happened. So, yeah, very much.
CKB: Yeah.
AP: And there was joy that people in the same raid, same operation who had completely different experiences on that raid.
CKB: Yeah. Yeah.
AP: Some ran into heavy flak and fighters and some floated through.
CKB: Yeah. Yeah.
AP: So –
CKB: Yeah, it’s got nothing to do with how a good a crew you are or what —
AP: Might have something to do with that. But –
CKB: It’s just, yeah. Oh there’s lots of stories of, you know the books I read that spare crews had gone and one chap’s even done two tours so he was a high ranking bloke thought he’d like to do one more trip or something and that’s the end of him. I mean how long do you test your luck anyway?
AP: Yeah.
CKB: If I’d one tour I don’t think I’d be worried too much about volunteering to another. I’d think my luck had swung my way for long enough.
AP: Yeah [laughs]
CKB: Yeah. Oh I can remember even at OTU we had a few close calls that weren’t that bad but, you know. I was surprised. I was reading somewhere where how many were killed in training. It was tens of thousands in aircrew. I mean your luck’s there all the time but once you start flying but when you think it’s an unusual thing to be doing anyway up there, and you’re reliant on your ground crew as well. How good they do their job with the aircraft and all that. As a matter of fact they’ve got probably they should be complemented more probably than the people who flew the planes. I don’t know. The ground crew. The jobs they did to keep the planes flying. When you consider the state that some of the planes used to come back in. They’d fix them up. Keep going. I know there would have been a lot of accidents through, you know, people killed through bad things that happened on the ground. Ground staff. Ground crew. But that’s just part of it. That’s another thing where luck comes into it I guess. It’s all. I suppose it’s the same with any, whether you’re in the army or the navy. The same thing. Luck comes into it. You take the navy. The Atlantic. Coming over where the U-boats were, or [pause] luck came in there a fair bit too. Yeah. It was all — luck came into it. I mean you go back and whatever happened previously your time frame of what you were doing where you were determined what happened in the future doesn’t it? If this hadn’t happened or that hadn’t happened, what would have happened? It would have been totally different. So that’s — yeah.
AP: Very nice. Alright. Do we have any, any final thoughts?
CKB: I don’t know. I think. I just hope oh one thing I think is that they go on about the atomic bomb but I’m sure if it wasn’t for the atomic bomb there would have been another world war with Russia or whoever. I think that’s the only thing that stopped it. The threat of the atomic bomb. I know it’s a bad thing but I think it stopped, you know, a world wide war. I mean who’d want to start an atomic bomb war or an atomic war. The whole world would be wiped out. I think they’re used, countries only use it for their own to stop, you know they used it as a blackmail threat, ‘If you do this I’ll do that,’ or something like that and stop these little things from growing into big things I guess. And that’s my thought on the atomic bomb anyway. Well, what is it now? Hydrogen bombs is it or —? I mean who wants to load themselves up. In that you know that’d be a stupid thing to do I mean. Any country now that — the only trouble with that is if it gets into the hands of a crazy person that’s where a threat could be that they don’t care what they do. They just go ahead and — don’t know [laughs]
AP: Absolutely. Certainly saved you guys from Tiger Force as well.
CKB: Sorry?
AP: Certainly saved you guys from Tiger Force.
CKB: Yeah.
AP: Right.
CKB: Yeah. I think it is I don’t often talk that much about it at all but it’s good to talk about it I suppose.
AP: I’m very glad you have for the benefit.
CKB: I was a bit worried about whether I’d have anything interesting to say.
AP: Plenty of interesting. I think we’d got about five minutes in and I went oh that’s interesting already.
CKB: Yeah [laughs] but as far as the war goes you’ll find David Lester’s a lot more probably interesting. I don’t know what he state of health is now. I think he’d probably still alright. He can remember most things. Frank as I said he’s his eyesight’s his main worry.
[background chat with visitor]
AP: I think we’re just about to finish off here with the recording so thank you very much.
CKB: Yeah. No. That’s fine. Yeah.
AP: It’s been an absolute pleasure.
CKB: Yeah. Good yeah.

Citation

Adam Purcell, “Interview with Clarence Keith Bruhn,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 27, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/3358.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.

Can you help improve this description?