Interview with Thomas Jordan


Interview with Thomas Jordan


Thomas Jordan was born and raised in Hornsea, East Yorkshire, learning to fly privately at Hedon Aerodrome RAF Hull) and joined the RAF wanting to be a pilot. However, after failing the eyesight requirements, he trained as an armourer, dealing with transporting, arming and loading the bombs on to the aircraft. On one occasion, moving several not live bombs through Lincoln, one fell off the transport, rolled down the hill, scattering people, although no-one was injured. Thomas also undertook bomb disposal, travelling to crashed aircraft and making the bombload safe. He worked at RAF Cosford in Shropshire, RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and also spent time in Aden. Thomas worked on several different aircraft, including Lancaster, Halifax and Mosquito bombers. While he felt that working closely with explosives was mostly safe, he did lose several friends to accidents.







00:52:55 Audio Recording


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DJ: Do you want me to sit around that side?
DE: No. You’re fine. So, this is an interview for the International Bomber Command Centre Digital Archive. My name is Dan Ellin. I’m here to interview Thomas Jordan. Also present is his son, David Jordan. It is the 22nd of September 2021 and we are in Hornsea. Mr Jordan, thank you for agreeing to see me.
TJ: Yeah.
DE: I wondered if we could start, if you could tell a little about your early life and where you grew up.
TJ: Where I grew up?
DE: Yes. Please.
TJ: Hornsea, I think.
DE: What was it like there?
TJ: Eh?
DE: What was it like as a child?
TJ: I think it was quite good actually. I think it was better than [unclear] No. I had a good childhood. I was very lucky. Swimming in the sea and, you know.
DE: What did, what did your parents do?
TJ: Dad was a tailor. Mum was just a housewife.
DE: Where, and whereabouts did you live in Hornsea?
TJ: Well, we lived up Atwick Road but the shop was in Southgate, Hornsea. A tailor’s shop. Dad and his brother were in business together.
DE: Right. And how, why, why did you end up in the RAF, rather than becoming a tailor and following the family?
TJ: Why did — ?
DE: Why did you end up in the RAF? How did you join the RAF?
TJ: I didn’t want to go in the tailor’s business. That was the main thing. They had it all laid for me on a plate but I didn’t want it so that’s why I went in the RAF.
DE: When, when did you join?
TJ: Oh God, now [pause] I haven’t a clue. During the war. I think it was during the war. I can’t remember whether the war had started. I’m not sure. I, I, I, think I joined before. Before the war started. In the Air Force. I feel as though I did. How would I know?
DE: It’s, we’ve, we’ve got your record. That’s fine.
DJ: You worked after school dad didn’t you on a chicken farm? Did you work on a chicken farm after school?
TJ: Sorry?
DJ: Did you work on a chicken farm after school?
TJ: In Hornsea. Yes.
DJ: And then you left that to go in the RAF.
TJ: No. And then I went down the road. I think I joined the Air Force from there.
DJ: Yeah. That’s, yeah that’s what—
TJ: Yeah.
DJ: That’s what I thought. Yeah.
DE: What was it like on the chicken farm?
TJ: Eh?
DE: What was the chicken farm like?
TJ: It was alright. It was a good life. But it was a bit, if anything a bit, not quite a farm. It was, it was, it was interesting and a good outdoor life.
DE: But you fancied the, you fancied a change and you joined the RAF.
TJ: That was it. Right. Yeah.
DE: Did you want, did you want to fly?
TJ: Yes. Well, I could fly like private but my eyes weren’t good enough for the RAF. I wanted to fly. That’s why I went in. Yeah. But I had an air licence. I could go and borrow a plane now.
DE: Oh ok.
TJ: Yeah.
DE: When did learn to fly?
TJ: Hedon. Hedon Aerodrome just outside Hull.
DE: Right.
DJ: Hedon. Near here.
DE: Yeah.
DJ: You know that.
DE: Yeah. Was that expensive?
TJ: I don’t know really. I think it would have done it if I’d stayed there a long while but it, it wasn’t, wasn’t too bad for a start. If you [unclear] and just wanted to go for an hour’s flight it was pricey.
DE: So, you, you always felt, you were always drawn to the RAF then.
TJ: Yeah.
DE: You wouldn’t have joined the Army or the Navy.
TJ: Well, you know I liked flying, you know. I think I had an air licence. I’m not sure. At one stage I could have gone and borrowed a plane if I’d wanted. For me I couldn’t have taken you. I think I could have borrowed one for me.
DE: So, were you a bit disappointed when they wouldn’t let you be a pilot in the RAF?
TJ: Well, my eyes weren’t good enough. No, I wanted to fly. Yeah.
DE: So, what was, what was your trade?
TJ: Sorry?
DE: What was your trade? Instead of being a pilot what happened?
TJ: I went as a, well somebody told me if you go as an armourer later on when you’ve passed your test you can have another test and sometimes your eyes improve enough to get pilot. So, I went as an armourer in the RAF but it didn’t work. No. I was still a bit potty.
DE: So, what was, what was the training like for that?
TJ: Very good. Very, very good. Yes. [pause] I had a good time in the RAF. I was alright.
DE: So, were you working with bombs or bullets or both?
TJ: Sorry?
DE: Were you, were you working with bombs or bullets or both?
TJ: I was in as an armourer. I was on bomb disposal. That’s what I used to work on. You know, if a plane had come down and crashed I used to go and make the bombs safe before they took them away and that sort of thing. Cushy job.
DE: Really? Unexploded bombs a cushy job.
TJ: Yeah.
DE: Did you, did you ever have to dispose of any, any German bombs?
TJ: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. At Cosford. Yeah. They were alright. They weren’t, they weren’t dangerous. Well, if you did the wrong thing they would have been but no, they weren’t.
DE: So, how did —
TJ: One rolled down the hill in Lincoln. Right to the bottom of the hill in Lincoln. If you’d seen people scatter. But there was, there’s no detonator in. It couldn’t have gone off. It couldn’t have gone off but there were people getting out of wheelchairs and everything.
DE: Was that, was that one of theirs or one of ours?
TJ: No. We’d just been to fetch them from the station and one happened to roll off. It rolled off. One of the, it was my fault really. We were in such a bloody hurry. It rolled down the hill. People leaping out of wheelchairs and all sorts to get out of the way. It wouldn’t have gone off.
DE: So, they’re safe unless they’re fused then basically.
TJ: Yeah.
DE: Yeah. So, you mentioned you were stationed at Cosford.
TJ: Sorry?
DE: You were at Cosford.
TJ: Yes. Yeah.
DE: What was that like there?
TJ: Well, it was quite good you see, but we were needed at Birmingham where, a bomb disposal there because Birmingham was always getting quite a lot of bombing. So, I was on there, and then I was at [unclear]. No discipline much. It was very good. You did your own thing within reason as long you did your job.
DE: So as long as you stopped the bombs going bang you were —
TJ: Sorry?
DE: As long as you stopped the bombs exploding you could do what you wanted.
TJ: It was alright. A good life.
DE: Was there, was there many of you there?
TJ: When, when I first went to Cosford I think there was, there was an NCO, another one, myself, and then there was an armament officer just used to come and not, not do anything. Just sign the thing and see you were doing things properly.
DE: So, did you, did you do any of the, of the digging the bombs out or did somebody else do that?
TJ: Did what?
DE: Did you have to dig bombs out where they’d landed or did —
TJ: Oh yeah.
DE: Yeah.
TJ: Yeah. Well, planes were always crashing anyhow. In orchards and all sorts of things. Somebody had to make them safe but it was no big deal.
DE: But later on in the war some of these bombs were, you know huge. Really heavy to —
TJ: I can’t quite remember. I think I went in to Lincolnshire. I’m not sure. I’m sure I did. There was a bomb disposal place at Cosford. I think I was there for a bit. I’m trying to think.
DJ: When Steve was over.
TJ: Sorry?
DJ: When Steve was over here, when Steve was over he took you around didn’t he? And one of the places you —
TJ: I can’t hear what David’s saying.
DJ: One place you went to was Scampton.
TJ: When I went to Scampton.
DJ: You were based at Scampton, weren’t you for part —
TJ: Yeah. I was at Scampton. I’m just trying to think. No. I think I was in charge of the bomb dump at Scampton on Bomber Command. I was with 5 Group then at Scampton. But Scampton itself then was a little satellite, and they used to send us out to these to bomb them up rather than do them in Scampton itself. Satellite places. I think it was in case we got bombed, you see they weren’t all together at Scampton area. Happy days.
DE: So, what, what was a typical day like working at the bomb dump at Scampton?
TJ: It varied you see. If you was, if you was in charge and just dishing stuff out that was not so bad but if you were pushed for men and doing the jobs yourself it was hard work. You never had a minute to spare and you know, things had to be right. You couldn’t just leave them. That was at Cosford. And there was a big dump outside Lincoln itself. I’m just trying to think where that was. Something to do with 5 Group but I can’t remember what the 5 was.
DE: I’m trying to think where it was as well. It’s, I think it was, I think it was up near Brigg wasn’t it? Or there was one up there and they moved. They used to move the bombs by train, didn’t they?
TJ: Sorry?
DE: They used to move the bombs by train.
TJ: Oh, not always. Some were taken from the station just on trailers, you know. A trailer with about probably a dozen bombs on. You go trundling through the town and [laughs] and one rolled off in Lincoln down the hill. If you’d seen people bloody scatter. It wouldn’t have gone off.
DE: No.
TJ: It rolled off a lorry at Lincoln station. Do you know Lincoln?
DE: I’m from, I’m from Lincoln.
TJ: Well, you know the hill outside there.
DE: Yeah.
TJ: It rolled all the way down that hill.
DE: It’s a big hill.
TJ: I know people [laughs] people scattered. They wouldn’t have gone off. They were alright.
DE: So, when, when you were working at the bomb dump was it, did, who did, who did the fusing and putting the fins on the bombs?
TJ: I’m sorry I’m just a bit deaf.
DE: Who, who, who put the fuses in and who put the fins on the bombs?
TJ: Was what?
DE: Who, whose job was it to put the fuses in the bombs?
TJ: Well, whoever was in charge at the bomb dump at the time, you see. If it was me, my time I mean, I would do it. I’d do the fusing. Whoever was in charge. Then you had to sign, you know. But against all the bombs you’d made ok.
DE: You see quite a lot. You see films of WAAFs driving the tractors with the trailers with all the bombs on.
TJ: Oh yeah. Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
TJ: Well, men. There was no, no spare men to be driving tractors. Nearly always WAAFs.
DE: So, did, when, when you were loading the aircraft up —
TJ: Sorry?
DE: When you were loading the aircraft with bombs —
TJ: Yeah.
DE: Did you send out all the high explosive bombs and then the incendiaries or did you send one load to one aircraft?
TJ: You get to know what your bomb load was. Generally, incendiaries were on their own. Odd times you’d get incendiaries and others, but in general incendiaries, they were different lighter bombs. They were just sent on their own.
DE: Did you have to, did you have to pack those in the cases?
TJ: Sorry?
DE: Did you have to pack those in the cases? In the bomb cases?
TJ: The incendiaries? Well, that was most of them were like hexagonal and they fit rotated together in like a box. There was probably about ten incendiaries. They weren’t shaped like bombs. They were hexagonal. The long ones. The bigger incendiary bombs, there was probably one or two 250s, but generally incendiary bombs were hexagonal. No tails on them or anything.
DE: No.
TJ: And they just flopped about all over when they went down.
DE: What, what were the biggest ones? The biggest bombs that you, you had to work with?
TJ: I’m just trying to think. I know there was a few 250s but I think odd one 500 but not many. Nearly. They were 250s.
DE: You didn’t get —
TJ: But they weren’t incendiaries. They were HE.
DE: Yeah.
TJ: Incendiaries were only about that big and they weren’t like bombs. They were, hexagonal. They were a funny shape. Most of them anyway.
DE: So, did you not, did you not work with the cookies? The really big bombs.
TJ: Did what?
DE: Did you work with the cookies?
TJ: With?
DE: With the cookies. The, the big four thousand pounders, and eight thousand pounders.
TJ: I was once. Once. They were big bloody things with them as well. Yeah. No. I was on once. It was just how I were telling your fella it was nothing special. You just went two armourers out the bombs and there was half a dozen bombs to load up, and whatever the way you do it. With the [pause] the really big cookies, they were, I think they were more frightening than what they did damage.
DE: Were there ever, were there ever any accidents?
TJ: Oh yeah. Yeah. Not that often but at, on Lincolnshire, on the main road just outside the camp there was a field. It was almost devastated. About three or four bombs had gone off and killed everybody there. The bomb dump at [pause] outside Lincoln. It was about five miles from Lincoln, and the one field it just cleared everything that was on the field. Yeah. HEs and stuff to play about with.
DE: So, did you, did you have to deal with, with any hang ups?
TJ: Any?
DE: Hang ups.
TJ: Hang ups? What do you mean? What? Taking them off the plane again?
DE: Yeah.
TJ: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Used to have to change the load half way through before they got off the ground sometimes. Yeah. You were always taking them on and off. You’d get all bombed up, and then you’d have to take them all off and put something else on.
DE: How did that make you feel?
TJ: Eh?
DE: How did you feel about doing the same job twice?
TJ: How did I feel?
DE: Yeah.
TJ: Not happy at all. When they used to go there was probably about twenty bombs which I’d put the detonators in and I knew it was made for killing probably hundreds of people maybe but that was part of it but I wasn’t happy at all. It was your job. You did it, didn’t you? Oh dear. Because you know, the bomb dropping wasn’t that accurate. You know, they dropped on civvies as well as. The main thing was to drop the bombs and get the hell out of it [pause] No future in war is there? Whatever side you’re on.
DE: What was it, what was it like then living on, on a station? Did you have good close friendships with people?
TJ: Well, you get that, where there’s a bit of danger friendships form, you know. They do automatically, I think. Worst job were when planes didn’t get off. Probably crashed on going off and you had probably half a dozen bombs on board. And they were bloody dangerous, you know. If they hadn’t gone off them was the worst thing because anything could happen. Loads of people got killed like that.
DE: Was that people you knew that happened to?
TJ: Sorry?
DE: Was that people you knew that that happened to?
TJ: I can’t, I’m a bit potty and deaf.
DE: I say, you know when planes didn’t get off and they’d got a load of bombs on did any, did any of your friends get hurt trying to take them off the trolley?
TJ: Oh yeah. Yeah. A few got killed. Yeah. Well, sometimes four of you working on a plane and somebody hands a spanner to somebody and they shouldn’t have done. They were magnetic and blew the lot of them up, you know. Four or five. Working against the clock as well you do daft things.
DE: So, it was, it was hard work. It was dangerous work.
TJ: No. It wasn’t particularly hard work but we, you had to watch what you were doing and as long as your mate knew what you were doing it was all right. But when you were working against the clock that’s when accidents happened. Yeah. A few of them, you know went off in Lincolnshire at the bomb dump. It would be all over the world I would imagine.
DE: But you, you worked quite well as a team and you trusted each other.
TJ: Sorry?
DE: You worked as a team and you trusted each other.
TJ: In general, but there would be the armourer who was in charge I mean of putting the last detonator in or put the switch over to make it live. Anybody could mess about and shove the things in within reason. But there was only one who signed their death warrant who was responsible for, you know, just connecting the detonators up. Until they were in there was no, you could, you could kick them along the ground. The bombs.
DJ: I remember a photograph you used to have, dad. You had a photograph of you sitting on a bomb. On a —
TJ: Sorry?
DJ: We had a photograph of you sitting on a bomb on a trolley.
TJ: Yeah.
DJ: With a load of other people. It looked like a big bomb to me.
TJ: Oh, they were.
DJ: And what was that? Did they, did they load them with chains and things?
TJ: I could imagine it being a whatsit. Was it a big bomb? A big bulky one.
DJ: Yeah. Very.
TJ: Yeah.
DJ: Very bulky. Yeah.
TJ: Maybe a long load. Maybe a long load. Only one bomb on the plane maybe.
DJ: Looked like it.
TJ: Going a long way.
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: Was that in Lincolnshire?
DJ: I don’t know.
TJ: I would imagine so. Yeah.
DJ: No. It was a photograph. I just remember it as a kid. Seeing it. Yeah.
TJ: They were, in an old bomb they were like —
DJ: Landmines.
TJ: On the phone we used to call them veg. So, we used to say what we’d need. So many veg. So many sprouts and that thing. You didn’t talk bombs. It was all veg for secrecy but —
DE: Well, the vegetables, were mines weren’t they? For shipping.
TJ: It was all, most men had the name of veg. You said, ‘What’s the veg situation today?’ And you’d tell them, you know.
DJ: Oh right.
TJ: You just, you didn’t talk about bombs, you know.
DE: So —
TJ: Happy days.
DE: Aye. What, what aircraft were there that you were — ?
TJ: Lancies and Halifaxes. Then a few [pause] them fast little planes.
DE: Mosquitoes?
TJ: No. One like the Mosquito. They’re very I wouldn’t say light planes but they used to go just across the Channel.
DE: Oh.
TJ: Yeah. [pause] Happy days.
DE: Did you have, did you, did you have to load them by hand or did you have powered winches?
TJ: What was that?
DE: Did you have to load them by hand or did you have powered winches?
TJ: Well, there was both. You had, you had trollies which you could yank them up but if it was a light plane just taking a few you could do it by hand. But a Lancie like a big plane they were too heavy for, to manhandle.
DE: And they’re quite high up as well, aren’t they?
TJ: Sorry?
DE: They’re quite high up as well, aren’t they?
TJ: Oh yeah. Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
TJ: But they had winches. It was, it wasn’t particularly heavy. Where there were winches you could winch them up.
DE: Did you, did you ever get to associate with the aircrew?
TJ: Well, at night time you’d share the mess you see. You know them all by, like I shared a bedroom with one sergeant [bang noise] Sorry.
DJ: Don’t worry about that.
TJ: That’s how close we were. Yeah. Happy days.
DJ: Did you socialise much with the —
TJ: Eh?
DJ: Did you socialise much with the aircrew?
TJ: Well, you see there was four bunks and there was two of us in each bunk. Most of them were aircrew but I happened to be the armourer on that section, you see. No. You didn’t. When you were done you feel too bloody tired. There wasn’t much socialising. There was a bit but not a lot. You’d have to get to bed.
DE: What, what about the WAAFs?
TJ: Sorry?
DE: What about the WAAFs?
TJ: What? Did they liked to get to bed [laughs] Same as everywhere throughout the world. There were saucy beggars and there were those that weren’t. No. But they were good workers were the WAAFs. They were really. I’d have rather have done a plane with WAAFs than blokes, because blokes were always messing about with the girls. They don’t concentrate on what they’re doing. No. I had a good life. It’s funny. Odd stations. One station the food and everything would be marvellous, and on another absolute rubbish, you know. If you got one with good food you could put up with anything. We used to do silly things, you know. Not blow the mess up, you know. Ever so careless. You see, if you were working with armaments all the time it gets ordinary. You know, it’s dangerous but it doesn’t seem to you because you were working with it all the time.
DE: What sort of things did you get up to when you went on leave?
TJ: Eh?
DE: What did you do when you went on leave?
TJ: Well, I was married. I mean some of the blokes were a bit wild and had some wild nights out. If you were going on a bombing raid on Friday night and you had a chance of a bit of high jinks you had it didn’t you, you know. But I wasn’t aircrew. I flew. I wasn’t, I wasn’t aircrew. I used to go on odd raids because I had to report on what had happened but I never went on a raid as such. It must have been hairy.
DJ: Did you know where the, did you know where they were going? If you loaded a plane —
TJ: Sorry?
DJ: If you loaded a plane did you know where it was going?
TJ: Not always.
DJ: Sometimes you did.
TJ: Sometimes you’d go into the room and he’d take three of you into a room and he’d tell those three but the rest of the people didn’t know.
DJ: Didn’t know.
TJ: Yeah.
DE: Was that out of secrecy?
TJ: Well, it could have frightened them a bit [laughs] No. It was a good life. It really was.
DJ: All of it?
TJ: Most of it. Got some sloppy runs but no. I’ve nothing to grumble about. More to grumble about at home. Yeah.
DJ: What do you mean?
TJ: Well, the discipline, and you know. You’ll be working all night maybe ‘til three in the morning, and then he’d come you’d got a bloody button undone and the SP would do you. That sort of thing.
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: Yeah. Oh, it was a good life.
DJ: So, you’d get into trouble for that.
TJ: Sorry?
DJ: Did you get into trouble then?
TJ: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Because half the time people had been working overnight, an SP would spot him and he’d get thumped, you know.
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: But when you’d been working all night and somebody in the, SP in the guard room you’ve got a button undone or something. But generally it was alright.
DE: There’s a couple of times, I’ve seen on your record there’s a couple of times you were in hospital.
TJ: Sorry?
DE: There’s a couple of times on your record you were in hospital.
TJ: I’m not hearing very good.
DE: There’s a couple of times on your record that you were in hospital.
DJ: Hospital dad. You were in hospital.
TJ: Was I?
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: What had I done?
DJ: I was hoping you’d tell us.
DE: Yeah.
DJ: Just a minute [unclear] he did say.
TJ: No. I don’t think it was anything exciting. Well, when I was on bomb disposal[unclear] it probably was a bit exciting but as such —
DJ: You used to get nose bleeds, didn’t you?
TJ: Eh?
DJ: You used to get really bad nose bleeds when you were younger.
TJ: Well, bombing up you see you bend down. You bend down while you were working and by the time you finished and then you stand up and then your nose starts to bleed but it wasn’t, it didn’t bother me. It’s messy but —
DJ: Yeah. Cosford you were in hospital dad. A couple of times.
TJ: I think I was on bomb disposal at Cosford wasn’t I?
DJ: I don’t know dad, from this.
TJ: No.
DJ: I’m not used to reading.
TJ: Yeah. I was there for about a year.
DJ: Reading this stuff.
TJ: Yeah. Get all sorts of perks.
DE: Ok. Tell me some.
TJ: Oh yeah. Yeah.
DJ: Go on.
DE: Tell us. Tell us what the perks were?
TJ: Eh?
DE: What were the perks?
TJ: No. I can’t go in to any details.
DJ: It might be interesting. I’ll leave the room if you want, dad. Do you want me to leave the room if you want, if you want to tell the —
TJ: What was that?
DE: He’s saying if you don’t want to tell him you can just tell me.
TJ: Is he? No. I’m just trying to think [pause] On bomb disposal I used to get about ten times the leave other people got. Yeah. That was one thing. You’d probably do two weeks of bomb disposal and get three weeks leave. No. It was ever so good was that.
DJ: What, what about unofficial leave?
TJ: Eh?
DJ: What about unofficial leave?
TJ: What was that?
DE: Was there any unofficial leave?
TJ: Was there what?
DE: Unofficial leave. Did you —
TJ: Oh no. Well, people would work it so that [pause] I think we got three months leave, but on top of that if you were on bomb disposal and that sort of thing they could work out all sorts of leave for you. Yeah. I bet I, I bet I got three months leave a year. It was nice. It was a good life. I’ve got no complaints.
DE: And you were married so you used to go home.
TJ: Eh?
DE: You were married so you used to go home.
TJ: I got married during the war, didn’t I?
DJ: Yeah. I think you did, dad.
TJ: I wasn’t married when I went in the RAF.
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: But I got married during the war.
DJ: You did.
TJ: I think.
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: Or when I came back. I don’t know.
DJ: It was during the war. I think you went to, you lived in Wolverhampton, didn’t you?
TJ: Very possibly. Yeah.
DJ: Mum moved.
TJ: Yeah. A good life in the RAF. It was a good life. Good food. Plenty. More leave than most people.
DE: And when did, when did you come out?
TJ: After the war, I think. Did I? After the war I believe. I can’t remember. I had a good little number somewhere. I don’t remember where it was. Like on bomb disposal. I got all sorts of perks and leave. I mean the bomb disposal, if a bomb had dropped on your place well, they’re ever so easy to handle. No danger. Well, not much danger anyway. Every bomb disposer had about a weeks leave, you know. There was no danger.
DE: Did you experience any of the, any of the bombing then?
TJ: Did what?
DE: Were you, were bombed at all?
TJ: Did what?
DE: Were you bombed?
TJ: No. I was on bomb disposal.
DE: Did the Germans drop bombs on you? Were you —
TJ: Odd times, yeah. But, nothing very near. They did sometimes at night when you were in bed. You’d go to sleep, and, I don’t say there’d be a bomb next to you in bed. In the building next door maybe. You didn’t know where it had come down. It was whistling until you couldn’t put lights on you see. Pitch dark. And then you’d find a bomb not next to your bed, but in the cookhouse and that sort of thing that hadn’t gone off. Thems the worst ones. You didn’t know about. Oh dear.
DJ: You went to Aden, dad. At the end.
TJ: Eh?
DJ: You, had, you were in Aden for a while.
TJ: What was that?
DJ: Aden. Do you remember? You went to Aden.
TJ: Aden.
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: Oh yeah. Yeah.
DJ: What was that about?
TJ: I’m just trying to think. It was dangerous down there but it was dangerous with the Arabs coming in and sneaking in to the camp and blowing your stuff up. The Arabs were the trouble when I was at Aden. Yeah. That was the biggest problem. They were all getting blown up in the bomb dump. Sneak in, or even throw something in the bomb dump. They didn’t like us very much. That was, but they didn’t treat them very well. When you’d been bombing up you’d give them a sandwich and then tell them it was meat, you know and they’d go and try to be sick.
DJ: Oh.
TJ: Happy days.
DJ: So, were you loading bombs then in Aden, was —
TJ: What?
DJ: Were you on an air base?
TJ: Was I?
DJ: Was it an air base in Aden or were you doing bomb disposal?
TJ: Oh no. It was an air base. It was operational was Aden.
DJ: It was what?
TJ: Yeah.
DE: Operational.
DJ: Oh right. Yeah. Yeah.
TJ: They used to fly over, and on rainy days they would drop a bomb with a detonator in which hadn’t gone off and let them sort it out, you know. They would always blow themselves up. That was the tribesmen. Just ordinary bomb with a detonator in. Then you’d hear a bloody great bang. Probably killed about twenty people. We, we weren’t very popular when I were at Aden.
DE: And then I guess you came back to England.
TJ: Sorry?
DE: Then you came back to England and I suppose you were demobbed.
TJ: Yeah.
DE: What was, what was that like?
TJ: Have I been demobbed?
DJ: Yeah. You’ve been demobbed dad. Yeah.
TJ: Have I?
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: I don’t know. I had some good friends in, in the RAF. You know, you make good friends. Lifetime friends really. Probably don’t see somebody for about eight month, nine month and then everybody was so pleased to see each other. No. It was a good life but I was with Bomber Command most of the time. In Lincolnshire. Happy times.
DE: What did you do after the war?
TJ: Sorry?
DE: What did you do after the war?
TJ: I’m damned if I know. I can’t remember.
DJ: Well, mum was at Hornsea. Weren’t you living in Hornsea when I was little?
TJ: Where was I?
DJ: Well, at the farm.
TJ: The poultry farm.
DJ: For a while.
TJ: I seem to remember something about a poultry job.
DE: No. No.
TJ: Up at, up [unclear]
DE: But that, that was before the war dad. After the war you were living at Desmond Avenue.
TJ: Where?
DE: Desmond Avenue in Hornsea.
TJ: Yes.
DE: You got your own flat there or something with mum, and then you bought the house in Withernsea.
TJ: Yeah. I’m trying to think about Desmond Avenue. Was I in the RAF then?
DJ: I think it was after you’d been demobbed. Mum was living on the farm because she was from a farming family, my mum, in Hornsea and you came back from the RAF so you’d been demobbed and things.
TJ: Yeah.
DJ: And then you, you did you went and learned to be a bricklayer.
TJ: Yeah.
DJ: Didn’t you? You went to train.
TJ: Oh, I did that training course, didn’t I?
DJ: I don’t, I know it was a course in —
TJ: I think so. I’m not sure where I went. Where I went after that.
DJ: Kettlewell’s.
TJ: Eh?
DJ: Kettlewells. Kettle. A company called Kettlewell’s, a big builders.
TJ: Pardon?
DJ: That’s where you were worked for many years.
TJ: Yes. Yes. I worked, I worked for them in Hull.
DJ: Yeah. That’s right.
TJ: Yeah. Kettlewells.
DJ: That’s right.
TJ: I know something about them as well.
DJ: Weren’t they involved in building the RAF —
TJ: Eh?
DJ: Weren’t they involved in building the RAF radar facility at Holmpton.
TJ: Maybe. I know something about it. About the radar place.
DJ: It was —
TJ: Weren’t I in Catfoss a bit?
DJ: You were in Catfoss during the war.
TJ: Yeah.
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: I’m getting mixed up.
DE: So, do I.
DJ: Well, when you went to Withernsea.
TJ: Eh?
DJ: You lived at Withernsea quite a while.
TJ: Yeah.
DJ: You were working with the building trade, weren’t you?
TJ: Yeah. Yeah.
DJ: And then you bought a house.
TJ: Weren’t there an RAF camp at Patrington wasn’t there?
DJ: Yes. There was but you, yeah there was. It was nearby.
TJ: I knew something about that. I knew something about the bombs, you know. But that was at the aerodrome.
DJ: But the Patrington wasn’t an operational —
TJ: Yeah.
DJ: It wasn’t flying, was it? It was like an administrative base and they serviced this radar station at Holmpton I think.
TJ: I’m getting mixed up a bit.
DJ: That’s all right.
TJ: But being on bomb disposal they often used to fetch us out to Patrington if there were, didn’t know about the bombs. I used to know about the old ones. Happy days. [pause] Where would Patrington come in to it?
DJ: Well, you lived, when we left —
TJ: We’ve been there, I suppose.
DJ: No. You bought a house at Winestead, an old semi derelict —
TJ: Oh yes. Yeah.
DJ: House and rebuilt it didn’t you? That was his life work at one point.
DE: Right. Ok.
TJ: But we had some bombs at Catfoss which nobody knew anything about. They weren’t German. They weren’t. They just had codes on them and nobody knew what they were. I remember blowing them up.
DE: So that’s how, that’s how you used to make some bombs safe then. You’d take them away and then blow them up.
TJ: Sorry?
DE: You’d make some bombs safe by taking them away and blowing them up.
TJ: No. We just used to take the detonator out. You didn’t blow them up.
DE: Oh ok.
TJ: You took the detonators out. It was easy enough. Just pin and pick them up. It was when you couldn’t get at them and you had to roll them over. Most you could, you know get the detonators out and then kick them like a football.
DE: So, what, how did you treat the ones that you couldn’t get the detonator out of?
TJ: Well, just outside the aerodrome. We used to take them out and there would be a gunnery range and some big pits of sand. We used to put it in the sand and then blow them up. Some were too dangerous. You daren’t take them to the beach. You had to blow them up but if you could, in the sand and that they were alright from the range. From the firing range. Happy days. And I don’t know why but the range at Catfoss, the back of it got blown out altogether. I don’t know whether I was responsible. Somebody had done something wrong and it blew the back of the range out. It was probably me. I don’t know. Happy days.
DJ: During the war did you go into Lincoln? Did you go into Lincoln much?
TJ: Did what?
DJ: During the war —
TJ: Yeah.
DJ: Did you go in to Lincoln much? Did you visit Lincoln?
TJ: No. Did I do what during the war, Dave?
DJ: Go to Lincoln.
TJ: Yes.
DJ: In to Lincoln on a night or —
TJ: Oh yeah.
DJ: On your days off.
TJ: Yeah. No. Not a good night but there were nice pubs in Lincoln. They were all good. And if you were in uniform it wasn’t often you paid for beer, you know.
DJ: Oh right.
TJ: We had bomb disposal badges on, you see. Show them. It was —
DJ: Oh, that was worthwhile was it?
TJ: Free booze.
DE: Ok.
TJ: Happy days.
DE: I think, I think I will stop the interview unless have you got, have you got any other stories you’d like to tell me?
TJ: Offhand? [pause] Maybe. I was trying to think of some [pause] I think we had a bomb dump outside of camp at, in Lincolnshire. Just outside Lincoln. And there was six of us got blown up there. I was lucky. I’d just got out, but on bomb disposal there and I’d been. I’d done mine, and I went and let Fred, he had six to do. This was in Lincoln itself. He got blown up and killed. So, you get a second chance, you know. But most, most bombs were quite safe really. You’d go to the station and you’d bring about twenty, five hundred pounders back on the lorry. They’d sometimes roll off on the street. People in the street galloped for miles. But they wouldn’t go off on their own. That was from the station and they’d rolled down the hill in Lincoln. People galloping for bloody miles.
DJ: Who, who trained you?
TJ: Eh?
DJ: Who, what training did you get to start bomb disposal?
TJ: I was an armourer, you see. If you were an armourer, you did the lot.
DJ: And was that part of your armoury training then? How to dismantle bombs.
TJ: Yeah. Yeah.
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: You did guns and bombs but if, when you went on something special you had to go on a special course.
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: Because there were so many different machine guns and bombs and that.
DJ: Right.
TJ: You got your basic bomb training.
DJ: And that was it.
TJ: It covered most things but not everything. Bombs aren’t very nice things.
DJ: No.
TJ: You don’t get a second warning.
DJ: Did people ever refuse?
TJ: Eh?
DJ: Did people ever refuse to load bombs?
TJ: No. No.
DE: No.
TJ: No. A part of the job, you know. You did it. There might have been something dodgy. They would have been sort of, not gone off but semi, semi detonated.
DJ: So —
TJ: And people were scared.
DJ: So —
TJ: Yeah.
DJ: For safety reasons. Yeah.
TJ: You never sent anybody into that. You’d do it remote, you know. Blow it up. Because you couldn’t see how dangerous a detonator was. It was there, but you know. You didn’t take any chances. Blew it up away from the camp and away from the bombs. Explosives aren’t very nice.
DE: I think I’m going to, going to press pause now and we’ll stop. Ok. Are there any questions?
DJ: Not really. No. Not really.
DE: Ok. I’ll just say thank you very much for, for talking to me.
TJ: Sorry I’ve not much to tell you. I’ll probably remember something when you’ve gone.
DE: Oh, of course you will. Yeah.
DJ: Did you have a skirmish with the law? Did you have a skirmish with the law when you —
TJ: A what?
DJ: In Lincoln, did you have problems with the law? The police or the —
DE: Not really.
DJ: Authorities. There’s something in your record that I thought oh.
TJ: No. No, I had a good war down in Lincoln, you know.
DJ: Yeah.
TJ: I mean the bomb disposal we did it was like every day work after one day.
DJ: Yeah. Right. Ok.
DJ: Happy times.



Dan Ellin, “Interview with Thomas Jordan,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 24, 2024,

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