Interview with James Calman


Interview with James Calman


Jim was born in New Zealand but grew up in Australia. He enlisted in Woolloomooloo under the Empire Air Training Scheme. He was sent to the Initial Training School in Somers and then went to the Elementary Flying Training School on Tiger Moths at the Mascot aerodrome. Jim then went on to the Service Flying Training School on Ansons at Bundaberg and became a pilot.
Jim arrived at a personnel reception centre in Bournemouth. He was sent to become a pilot instructor at a single engine aerodrome on Tiger Moths. They had started a grading scheme for pilots who would do 80 flying hours, as an alternative to going to Canada. He spent time in Southam, Ansty and Perth. They wanted to train crews to become Pathfinders. Jim was sent to RAF Bruntingthorpe, an Operational Training Unit, on Wellingtons, followed by a heavy conversion course at RAF Swinderby on Stirlings. He went to the Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Syerston. For the last six months, Jim was posted to 106 Squadron at RAF Metheringham to train as a Pathfinder pilot. He did operations to Rheinau; Tønsberg, Oslofjord; and, Lutzkendorf. Jim describes how and where he spent his leave and discusses the Drem Lighting System at RAF Metheringham.







00:47:04 audio recording


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JM: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Jean MaCartney and the interviewee is James, or Jim Calman. The interview is taking place at Mr Calman’s home here in Arncliffe on the 15th of September 2016. Okay, Jim let’s start at the beginning. Julie mentioned that you were born in 1922, um let’s just find out a little bit about your family.
JC: Well, I was one of five children —
JM: One of five children right —
JC: I was born in New Zealand —
JM: Oh, okay.
JC: And my mother was New Zealand and my father was Australian.
JM: Ah, ha.
JC: And er, he went to New Zealand and married her and had five children, I was one of them, the youngest. Er —
JM: Ah ha. When did you come to Australia?
JC: I was five years old, yeah, I was five years old —
JM: Mm hmm.
JC: What year would that be? 1927, 27, yes.
JM: And did you come to Sydney or New South Wales?
JC: Yes, came to Sydney. And we lived in Waller [?] Street, Kingsford. Um, I don’t know what else to say what er —
JM: That’s all right. You were there, and that’s where you enlisted, from was it?
JC: What’s that?
JM: Was that were you enlisted, joined up from?
JC: No, I joined, enlisted in err, Woolloomooloo, Woolloomooloo, under the Empire Air Training Scheme.
JM: Right.
JC: Menzies started it, the Empire Air Training Scheme, and that was in August 1941.
JM: Right.
JC: And I was discharged in April 1946. I had four years and eight months service and I was in England for three and a half years and I was er — when we arrived in England at a personnel reception centre called Bournemouth, they assembled us all in a big room and asked us what we wanted to do. And, I, I was an above average pilot and, and I wanted to go on to single engines, on the Spitfires, they were the gunners of the day and I said I wanted to go on the single engines and they put, sent me to a single engine aerodrome, as a, as a trainee to learn to be a pilot instructor and they left me there all the war, until the last six months, when they posted me to a squadron, 106 Squadron at Metheringham, to, to, do my Operational Training Unit and, and, get trained for combat duty. There you are.
JC: Let’s just back track a little bit there, um, you were — where, did you do some initial training in Australia before you went to —
JM: Yes, yes, I got my wings —
JC: You got your wings —
JM: Yes, at Service Flying Training School, at Bundaberg, number eight SFTS. I was an above average pilot there, and that’s why I wanted to go, you know, to get on to single engines, I fancied myself and I had Spitfires in mind, because they were the go at that time, but, but—
JM: Just interrupting you there, just a minute, just to back track a little bit further, you — was it the thought of the Spitfire what made you want to join the air force instead of say, the army or the navy?
JC: I wasn’t aware of it at that time, I don’t think, of the Spitfire. I wasn’t aware of it.
JM: What led you the air force other than say the army or the navy?
JC: I went, I went down to Woolloomooloo to join the navy. but they wouldn’t accept me, they weren’t recruiting.
JM: [laughs]
JC: So, so I bailed out and got into the Empire Air Training Scheme, and they sent me to Summers {?} Initial Training School and then they sent me to Elementary Flying Training School, on Tiger Moths at Mascot Aerodrome and then they sent me to Bundaberg, on Ansons to my service flying training, and I got my wings there, and I was above average and that gave me the desire to get with the select bomber crews, you know, because I was above average and err, they were forming the Pathfinder force. You’ve heard of the Pathfinder force?
JM: I certainly have.
JC: They would lead the bombers to the targets. What was happening, is the bombers were going in and, and they would see the target there and they would drop their bombs a little bit short to get home, out safely, and then the next one would see their fires from the bombs and they would drop theirs, and they kept getting shorter and shorter and they didn’t get to the targets. So, they introduced a scheme where you had to photograph the target when you dropped your bombs to, to prove that you went there, instead of just flying up and down the North Sea and spending petrol and time, you know?
Err, so that was err —
JM: So, when you were in the Spitfire pilot training —
JC: No, no, I was, I, I, they didn’t send me to Spitfires.
JM: Oh, okay, sorry.
JC: They sent me to Tiger Moths, to teach me to be a pilot instructor.
JM: Right.
JC: Then they left me there for three and a half years. And I spent a lot of hours there. {Stutters}, what happened was, they were sending air crew to Canada for, for elementary training, er, and, a lot of them were getting scrubbed, they weren’t good enough to be pilots, and to save the expense, they stopped that method of sending them to Canada, they started what they call a grading scheme. That meant that every member of air crew got eight hours flying, to see if they had pilot ability, and that’s where they sent me, and I was there all the war until the last six months.
JM: And where, which —
JC: Southam, Southam and Anstey. I don’t know if you know them.
JM: Um, they’re not ringing any bells with me at the moment, but that doesn’t matter.
JC: And, and I did most of my time at Perth, up in Scotland.
JM: I know Perth.
JC: You know Perth?
JM: Yes, yes.
JC: It was a lovely aerodrome. It was beautiful food, lovely food.
JM: Yeah, yeah.
JC: And um –
JM: You would have had a nice time up in Perth.
JC: Yes, I did. Yes, the girls were good, and I was young, and in uniform {laughs}.
JM: That’s exactly right.
JC: So, they just left me there, right up until the last six months of the war and then they sent me to 106 Squadron at Metheringham, and, and because I was an above average pilot, they would train me to, to, become a Pathfinder. Metheringham were training Pathfinders, so training crews to be Pathfinders, because they were the pick of the crew. You know? And err, I just stayed there until the last six months, when they posted me to 106 Squadron Metheringham. They sent me to Bruntingthorpe, which was an Operational Training Unit, and then they sent me to, that was on Wellingtons. And then they sent me to do a course at Swinderby on Short Stirlings. That was what they called the heavy conversions. Four engines, instead of two in the Wellington. And then they sent me to a place called Syerston, which was a Lancaster finishing school. I did twelve hours there, err, to get doctrined to the Lancaster, and then they sent me to Metheringham, operations. Now I only did three operations, because my navigator was a barrister in real life and he was engaged a lot of time in defending aircraftmen who were involved in misdemeanours. He was defending them, and he wasn’t available as our navigator, to join the crew, and we just sat by and we only did three trips and we should have done seven, or eight, or nine. You know? So, so, that’s the story.
JM: And of those three trips, that was over Germany or France?
JC: Yeah, Germany and France. One of them was a place called, [?} Rheinau, where the Germans were on that side of the Rhine river and the allies were on this side and they were fighting each other across the river. And that was me first trip. And, what happened there as that they were fighting so close together, they didn’t use any flares, they kept it all in darkness, so they wouldn’t expose each other, and when I did, err, my next trip, we used flares and it lit everything up and as a result I kept holding back, thinking I was too close to the target and, um, eventually they called the raid off. The Pathfinders called the raid off and I still had me bombs on board. I thought, I’m not taking these home, so I dropped them after the raid was called off, because I was so close with the flares, that I wasn’t used to it, and that’s it. And then then next trip we went up to the err, Oslofjords up in Norway where the Germans were refuelling submarines, and we dropped our bombs there at sixteen thousand feet. That was in Tonsberg, Oslofjords in Norway. And I applied for the Atlantic Star, a campaign medal, because that was in the Atlantic Ocean, and they knocked me back. Have we still got the record of that Elizabeth [?}
Other: Keep talking about what you did, and your trips and we will continue….
JC: We’ve still got that? That’s good. And the third trip was a place called Lutzkendorf [?} or something. Did you tell the lady about my er, log books getting burned?
Other: Yes.
JC: I had two. I was doing that much flying at this grading school, teaching air crew to be pilots that I filled up my first log book and was well into the second one. I had a business at Tempe, I come in one morning and me workshop was a place of ashes. I don’t know what caused the fire, whether it was spontaneous combustion. I had a lot of paint and thinners there you know, or whether someone purposely lit it. I never found out. But I lost everything —
JM: You lost everything.
JC: Yeah, yeah. Me log books, and me wife’s sewing machine, and all my personal possessions, and I just haven’t got me log books.
JM: Very frustrating. Especially as you did so much flying. Those logs you get a lot of detail, there’s a lot of pages in those log books.
JC: I was well into the second one.
JM: Well you certainly did a lot of flying.
JC: I was flying about eight hours a day teaching —
JC: Yeah.
JM: Teaching air crew to be pilots, yeah. They adopted a grading scheme, I think I mentioned it, where every air crew got a chance to fly eighty hours, instead of going all the way to Canada and getting scrubbed and wasting all that money.
JM: Did you meet any um, air crew that um, that, what shall we say, went on to become famous, or notable, were you every aware of any —
JC: No, all my crew were English except the navigator —
JM: Right.
JC: And I had no contact with them after the war. The wireless operator came out and he looked up the phone book and he Calman isn’t a very common name, and he struck it, and he rang up a cousin of mine who was called Calman and he said ‘try this number and you’ll probably get him’ and he rang me up and he said ‘this is Des Bibby, your wireless operator’ and he came out to visit me, and we had a few outings, we went to South Sydney Juniors for lunch and, you know, we had a reconciliation. It was very nice. I don’t know whether he got the Atlantic Star for going to Tonsberg in Norway. Do you think he might of?
JM: I have, you know, I have no idea, I would have to look that through. But no, that was, so um, — other flights that you did besides — we did two, we didn’t do the third one, what was your third one?
JC: It was to Lutzkendorf [?}
JM: Oh, Lutzkendorf [?} my apologies.
JC: That was where we stayed over the target, the raid was called off.
JM: Yes. that’s right, my apologies, yes. Now that, um, with events after the war, you didn’t — were like a lot of other Australians that you were the only one or two members of the crews, so that when you all came back you really didn’t have an association or a —
JC: No.
JM: Or a squadron to relate to.
JC: No, I only saw Bibby the wireless operator because he came out as I just told you,
JM: Mmm, so you didn’t maintain, you didn’t hear from any other Australians when you, from all the other pilots that went through, you said they were all English, you didn’t have any Australians or any other overseas crew, urm, that were doing training, that, that you were doing?
JC: I wasn’t aware of them. —
JM: Were they all English?
JC: I was at Perth for about three years, or two and a half years. Yeah.
JM: Well that’s urm, means that you had quite a different experience to quite a lot of other people.
JC: I did yeah. Yes, yes. I think the fact that my navigator was engaged with legal duties kept me alive. We weren’t doing the —
[Someone enters the room.]
JC: She’s there for sing along. Don’t want to sing along.
JM: So, so your navigator was he was an Australian, did you ever —
JC: He got killed. He hit a tree, and he got — my carer David Levenham [?} traced him through and found out that he, he, drove into a tree and got killed. We were trying to track him down, you know, and that was the result we got.
JM: How, that was what, how long —
JC: After the war, yes.
JM: What, he had been back to Australia and —
JC: Yes. Yes, he was resuming his duties as a barrister.
JM: So, let me think, you were um, twenty-two, so forty-two, twenty-two, so you were twenty-two, twenty-three when you were —
JC: I was twenty-four when I got discharged, yes. So, had those experiences when I was twenty-one, twenty-two. I had my twenty-first birthday in England at Bournmouth.
JM: How — did you go by ship, did you?
JC: Yes.
JM: So {indistinct}
JC: Yes, we went via the Suez Canal —
JM: The Suez Canal.
JC: No, we went around the Cape, the Cape, yeah. To Durban, we went to Durban and then to Capetown, and then up to Freetown, near Casablanca —
JM: Yeah —
JC: And then on to England by boat.
JM: By boat, yes. That would have been a nice experience —
JC: Yes.
JM: A bit of a holiday, in a way.
JC: Took a couple of months to do I think.
JM: Yeah, yeah. So, what about the return journey. Was that similar?
JC: We came back through the Suez Canal and we went to Bombay.
JM: Right.
JC: And er, and er, Freemantle and then they sent us up by train from Melbourne. And I met me parents met me off the train. That was in forty-six.
JM: And that would have been, you would have been happy to be home again.
JC: Yes, yes. I was, yeah. I didn’t know quite what to do with me self, having been in the Air Force for so long, and all the decisions were made for me.
JM: Yeah. So, what –
JC: What I should have done, I had all this flying experience as instructor, I should have gone out to Mascot, to Bankstown, where they had flying schools, and I should have employed by one of them as a pilot instructor, because I was very good at it.
JM: And you didn’t — maybe you felt that you could have done that, but what did you do instead?
JC: I got, got into the car business. I had a thing about MG’s, sports cars, and started a sports car yard and I had that for quite a while until the fire burnt the bloody place down.
JM: That’s very, very, very sad, very sad. Do you want to —
Other: You mentioned that you were sick of being in the planes, once you got back from the Air Force.
JC: Well, I didn’t enjoy flying much. You had oxygen at about fifteen thousand feet, you had this on and you had earphones. And you know, it was a bit uncomfortable. It wasn’t like a ride in a Sunday afternoon motor car.
JM: No, it was very, I mean, you only have to have a look at a lot of the pictures, to see with them, they had the big um —
JC: {Someone else comes into the room}. Thank you love.
JM: Jackets, and the big boots —
JC: Yeah, err, yeah. Jilly’s {?} got it there, haven’t you?
JM: The gear that you had that was needed to sort of —
JC: To keep warm —
JM: To keep warm, that’s right, very different situation.
JC: We had special flying boots —
JM: That’s right —
JC: They had a zipper there, so if you got into enemy territory, you just undid the zipper and they became ordinary shoes, so the Germans wouldn’t know who you were. Yeah.
JM: Right.
JC: Escape boots they called them.

JM: Well, fortunately, you didn’t have to —
JC: No, I did not.
JM: [?]
JC: I think due to the navigator being engaged with his legal duties, we didn’t do as many operations as we should have, that kept me alive, I think [laughs].
JM: Well, that’s the other side of it, because there was an enormous amount of loss of life —
JC: Oh, wasn’t there. Fifty percent wasn’t it?
JM: Injury and all the rest of it. In fact, the Australians ended up, some of the highest —
JC: Yes —
JM: Proportionally was the highest rate of injury and death.
JC: I used to go to London on leave, and I’d see aircrew with no nose, just two nostrils, like a pig, been burnt by fire. Bloody terrible.
JM: So, when, when you, how did — how many times would you have gone to London?
JC: Oh, quite a while. I was in favour of, of the manager of the Strand Palace Hotel, and where ordinary people were restricted to five days there because of the congestion, he let me stay on, you know, and er, and the girls used to come down from Nottingham and Doncaster, where they worked in factories and they’d leave in five days and new batch would come in you know. It was very convenient [laughs].
JM: So, the manager of the Strand Hotel was, became a good friend?
JC: Yes, he did, I forget his name, but he gave me privileges there yeah.
JM: Did you keep any contact with him after the war?
JC: No, no I did not, I did not. I was a lousy letter writer. My mum had to write to Fairburn, the minister for air, to find out if I was still alive, because I didn’t correspond with her. I was just bad at letter writing. I er. Just didn’t have any desire to do it.
JM: Oh, well. Each, each person has their own little —
JC: {laughs} and idiosyncrasies {laughs}
JM: And interests, and interest, that, that, err. So, how did you find London, did you have lots to do, when you — did you have any official—
JC: I used to go to the show, you know, err, they had the ‘Dancing Year’ on, I forget the actor that was in it. And they had the Windmill Theatre which never closed. You had the girls that were naked on stage. They were allowed to be naked if they didn’t move, you know. And we used to get in there and jump across the seats to get the front row view [laughs]. The Windmill Theatre.
JM: Many —
JC: Have you heard of it?
JM: I have heard of it. Many happy times, I think probably, were spent, by many service men that were there —
JC: Yeah.
JM: I’m sure. And what other sights did you used to —
JC: Well, well er, they used to take Australian air crew to visit people you know. To accommodate them in their homes, and I was sent to a place called Lyme Regis, near Cornwall to a Doctor Cook’s residence. He used to go out doing his daily chores, and he would come back with something good like a chicken or a pheasant, you know, it was very good there, I was there for about a fortnight, yes. Lyme Regis was the name of the place. South of England, near Cornwall yeah.
JM: Very good. That would have shown you a bit of country life.
JC: Yes, and I also, also put me uniform in dock and went to Ireland for five days, as a civilian, because they were neutral, as you know, and you weren’t allowed to be in uniform in Ireland. And er, I went over there, and I, I met quite, few people, one particular fellow, Bill Willis, was his name, he was, he stayed there after the first world war, and er, he opened a restaurant called the Green Rooster, and I went in there one day to have something to eat, and he came up and he said, ‘there’s a smell of Australians about here’, he recognised my Australian accent and he made a friend of me. He took me home to his place, and taught me to drink Irish Whiskey and he, he took me to Beldoyle race course, where the held the Irish sweepstakes, you know. He befriended me very much did Bill Willis. Yeah. I haven’t seen him. I didn’t contact him, no.
JM: Well, that’s a bit of a variety of experiences.
JC: Yeah, they used to burn peat there to keep warm. In winter, peat, P E A T.
JM: That’s right. Absolutely. What other sorts of places did you go to?
JC: Mostly London. Mostly London.

JM: Mostly London. Always staying at the Strand?
JC: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Always stayed at the Strand cos’ I was okay with this manager. He used to play golf, and I was a golfer, and err, you know, we got on well together.
JM: So, did you have a few rounds somewhere?
JC: Er, I think so. I can’t remember, vaguely. There used to be a place called Chingwood, Chinkwood, and I used to go out there and practice, you know, practice. You weren’t allowed, er, there were wheat fields, besides the course, and er, they wanted them protected, you weren’t allowed to go in there, but I used to jump the bloody fence and go in there and find balls, golf balls, yeah. Chingwood, yeah.
JM: I’m sure there would have been a few balls in the —
JC- Yeah, yeah —
JM: Wheat paddock.
JC: You weren’t allowed to go in there.
JM: Alright, interesting. Perhaps we stop a minute, while you have your cup of coffee there.
JC: Are you going to have something?
JM: No, I’m fine, fine. {recording ceases], Okay, so we’ll pick up now —
JC: Well, I was a flying instructor, a pilot instructor at Southam, Southam, in Warwickshire and I was teaching er, air crew to be pilots, and on this occasion, I was a bit bored, you know, taking off and landing, and I lost a bit of concentration, and the aircraft took off and it didn’t get airborne, instead of the air flow going around the wings, it was all jumbled and they called it an incipient spin off the deck and the bloody thing landed, and the exhaust pipe was a long one and it was red hot, being an exhaust pipe and the plane caught on fire. The pupil and I scrambled out of it with a few blisters through the heat, and that was the only injury that we had, and er, the bloody aircraft was damaged, completely burnt out.
JM: I was going to say —
JC: Er, I got bored, and lost concentration. I shouldn’t have done it, I was responsible, I was the instructor and he was the pupil, and he agreed to keep flying with me after all, you know, he might have said ‘I don’t want to go with him anymore’, but he agreed to keep flying with me. That’s the story, is that the one you want?
JM: Uh huh. Good, that’s very good.
JC: I think I was very lucky to, to, not to get hurt, you know, with the aircraft catching on fire.
JM: Yes, indeed. And what, um, — when you came back to Australia and you err, um, had your MG’s and all the rest of it, where you selling them or?
JC: Yes, I had a car yard, MG’s and Austin Healeys, all sports cars, Jaguars, yeah.
JM: How, how long did you have that?
JC: For about five years I think? Yes.
JM: And after that?
JC: Well then, then, I, I, moved up the road a bit, that was at 600 Prince’s Highway. I had another car yard, just up the road at 614. The Good Guys have bought the land now, and they’re going to start a store there although I see they’re going to be taken over the Good Guys, by err, someone else.
JM: [?] hi fi.
JC: Yeah, hi fi, yeah. Err, what am I getting at?
Other: So, what did you do after the car yard?
JM: So, you had the second car yard. How long did you have the second car yard for?
JC: About four years, five years. I built a shed there. I built a great big workshop. Forty feet by twenty feet. I built it meself.
JM: Goodness.
JC: And I rented it from the council for twenty dollars a week, and I was there there until the fire came and destroyed it all.
JM: And what, what did you do after that?
JC: I, I went to TAFE and I did a course on spray painting and panel beating. And, er, I was pretty good there, they made me a part time instructor, on er, colour matching, and spray painting. I forget his name now, the boss man that got me the job, Jim, Jim Devlin, that was his name, Devlin. He was the boss of the spray painting joint, and I was casual instructor there, you know. Yeah.
JM: How long did you do that for?
JC: Er [pause], was that, er, did I, just escapes me at the minute, escapes me. I think I did that until I got called up from pilot instructing to operational training. I think, yeah.
JM: Right, so um, you mentioned, when we weren’t recording there, about your great interest in golf, when did you start playing golf?

JC: When I was ten I was a caddy.
JM: Ten?
JC: Yes, I was a caddy. Yes, I used to caddy at the Australian Golf Club.
JM: Oh, okay.
JC: We used to get forty er, four shillings a round we used to get four shillings a round. Two shillings, they’d give you a ticket, a caddy’s ticket for two shillings, and then you’d get a tip off the, off the golfer you were caddying for, for another two shillings, you used to get four shillings. And I used to do four rounds at the weekend, and I’d get sixteen shillings, and I’d help me mother, you know, with it, with her problems, her financial problems, and I was self-dependant, you know.
JM: That was sixteen shillings for a weekends work, would have been very good money.
JC: Yes, it was, yeah, it was yeah. And you’d find the odd golf ball, and you’d probably get a shilling for that, yeah, [laughs].
JM: How long, did you keep that up all the way through until you went off to the war, or did you only do that for a, until —
JC: I, I got a job, I got a job, at er, at er, Johnson and Johnson.
JM: Oh yes.
JC: Out at Botany. They gave me a job there in the speciality department where they used to make band aids. and cotton wool and all that stuff that Johnson and Johnson made, and I left from there to the war, that’s right. They gave me a send-off there. And then I, I went to er, and then I went to Bruntingthorpe on Wellingtons, and then I carried on my, my, war service, to Heavy Conversion Unit, on Short Stirlings,, they had four engines. We picked up our navigator there, we didn’t have a navigator until we got there. And, er we picked him up, he used to be helpful. He used to help you take the aircraft off you know. You used to have four throttles in the Lancaster. They had them like that, and you’d steer, you’d steer the aircraft by, by the throttles. If you wanted to go that way, you’d give it a bit of that throttle you see, and if you wanted to go that way, you give it a bit of that throttle, until, you’d be kicking the rudders all the time to get speed up, and after a while the rudders became effective, and then you didn’t have to steer it by the throttles any more, you steered it by the rudder, to keep it straight, and the —
JM: That’s a lot of coordination of hands and feet —
JC: Yeah.
JM: No wonder you’re good at golf.
JC: That’s right, yeah. I did a coordination test, when I was at er, Initial Training School. They put you in a seat, a cockpit seat and they gave you a green light, and they had a red light, and they used to move the light about and you used to have to chase it with the green light, to test your coordination. I did that at OTU and I think that helped me be categorised as a pilot. That was a great thing, you know. They could have made me a rear gunner or a ruddy, mid upper gunner. I wouldn’t have liked that at all. And er, and, they made me a pilot and I went to Mascot then, because it was close to home, I lived at Paddington at the time. Yeah.
JM: That means that you had a lot of different experiences, what with one thing and another.
JC: Yeah, yeah. I was lucky to escape the fire without getting burnt.
JM: Yes, and I guess probably, I guess when you were at 106 Squadron, you there would have been a fair few crews that went away and never came back to, even though you only did three actual flights yourself —
JC: Combat flights, yeah, I did many other flights, training flights on Lancasters.
JM: Yes, that’s right yes, but um —
JC: Three combatant flights —
JM: In the six months that you were there though, there would have been crews that went off and didn’t —
JC: Come back. Yeah, there were, yeah.
JM: And did you meet any other Australians there, not on your own crew, but did you have much contact with any other um —
JC: Er, no, I was never much of a socialiser. I don’t think so no.
JM: No, that’s okay. That’s fine.
JC: We had a runway there, err, called the err, Drem. It was powered by petrol. They used to burn petrol to warm up the air and lift off the fog. Drem, Drem.
JM: I heard about that. It was a very foggy place apparently.
JC: We had that at Metheringham. I got to know the bloke that controlled the petrol that burnt it. And I had a little motor car, a little er, eight horse power Ford, and I used to get petrol off him you know.
JM: Right.
JC: Because you weren’t allowed to have petrol then. You’d be driving along the street and the authorities would pull you up and they would put a litmus test in your tank to test if you were using government petrol or, or, or your own, you know, and you had to be aware of that.
JM: And, what, what happened if they didn’t like what they found?
JC: Well, well, they never found that with me, because I, I had this petrol that I got off the bloke that ran the Drem. Er, flight path.
JM: You didn’t have any problems, that was good, but er, having the car would have made life —
JC: Yeah, we used to go everywhere in that car.
JM: Yeah.
JC: When we became redundant because the boats were loaded with bringing home prisoners of war, and they got the priority for the shipping space, and we were made redundant for about three months. I was hanging around er, England, you know, until about April, after the war, and in that time, I managed to go around and visit all the good golf courses, Carnoustie, and Gleneagles and St Andrews, in this little Ford motor car.
JM: Did you actually play?
JC: I met a New Zealand navigator and he went with me. We went as a twosome, you know. He used to play golf also, yeah.
JM: And did you play any of those courses?
JC: Yeah. I played, yes, St Andrews, Gleneagles, Carnoustie, Rosemount, yeah, all those good courses.
JM: So, did you manage to get some sticks, or did you just hire the sticks at the clubs when you were playing?
JC: Er, I think I had a set of sticks. Henry Cotton, have you heard of Henry Cotton?
JM: A long time ago.
JC: Yeah, yeah, I think I had a set of those, and er, yeah. Oh, I played at Hoylake, Hoylake, that’s Royal Liverpool, that’s quite and, oh, and Waltham Heath, that’s an A grade course there, yeah. All the time we were redundant waiting for the prisoners of war to get out of the way so that we’d get a ship to come home, yeah.
JM: Well, er, that was a big bonus for you.
JC: Yeah. It was, it was, yeah.
JM: And of courses those courses are very different to playing back here.
JC: Yes, they are, they have beautiful, natural grass.
JM: Yes, indeed. That’s er a terrific um set of memories that you’ve got that we’ve been able to have the —
JC: You’d think they will be able to recognise my pilot instruction time for three years and hundreds of flying hours and give me an award do you think?
JM: I’m not completely across all of the requirements so I can’t really comment,
JC: Well, the AFC the Air Force Cross is an administrative award, it’s not a combat award. It’s not like the
DFC, the distinguished flying cross, it’s for administration, for non-combat activity that’s what I —
JM: I’m sorry, I’m not across that, but I can certainly make some enquiries, and see, what, there are others who are more familiar with that sort of stuff that can point us in the right direction in that regard.
JC: Okay, yeah. Good, thank you love.
JM: [Talking to someone else in the room}. Before I go, to get that medal.
JC: It’s a decoration, its not a campaign medal, the AFC, it’s a decoration.
JM: Well, I will talk to certain people, that we can um, um, see what we can find out.
JC: Okay, right oh, love.
JM: As I say, I’m sorry —
JC: Because I was three years instructing, you know, they ought to give me some recognition for that I think.
JC: That’s a long time to be, there must have been an awful lot of pilots that would have gone through
your —
JC: Yeah.
JM: Your instructions —
JC: That’s right yes. I filled almost a second log book.
JM: Right, that’s exactly right so err, we can err, I’ll, as I say I’ll speak to some people who I know will know more about that sort of thing than I certainly do.
JC: Right, okay, thank you.
JM: Is there any other areas that come to mind that we haven’t come across, that, that we haven’t covered that you wanted to mention?
JC: Er.
JM: I guess not having had any real contact with any real service personnel you probably um, probably haven’t talked a lot in the past about your time —
JC: No, even on Anzac Day. I used to go there and march with the Pathfinders, because I was trained to support the Pathfinders, to mark that targets and I had an affiliation with them, I thought, and I er, I only marched a couple of times. We used to have a reunion at the err, at the Imperial Services Club. It was taken over by er that club, err, the Royal Automobile Club yeah.
JM: Yes.
JC: I was a member there yes.
Other: Now Dad goes to {?} and marches there. You know [?}. I would love him to meet up with someone else who is doing similar but there doesn’t seem to be anybody —
JM: No, but on the er in the broader picture there is Bomber Command, especially with Pathfinder and sort of 106. 106 is part and parcel of Bomber Command.
JC: Yes.
JM: So that overall Bomber Command is that overarching link there.
JC: Yeah.
Other: And do they have gatherings?
JM: Yes, they do, Annette is the lady you spoke to. She is the secretary of the group.
Other: I would love to know if there was a function I could take him to.
JM: There will be something coming up.
Other: Yeah.
JM: Well, indeed. As I said, I will certainly mention —
Other: Yeah, okay.
JM: Well, I think we have covered a lot of ground. Thank you very much for your time Jim.
JC: You have been very patient Jenny,
JM: No, not at all. We are very happy to get your memories.
JC: I hope I’ve made the picture clear.
JM: Absolutely, your level of recall of detail has been very impressive.
JC: Good.



Jean Macartney, “Interview with James Calman,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 18, 2024,

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