Interview with Syd Cooper. One


Interview with Syd Cooper. One


Sidney Cooper was born in Blackpool and joined the Royal Air Force in 1941. He first served as an engine fitter in Fighter Command before remustering as aircrew. He flew operations as a flight engineer with 427 Squadron from RAF Leeming. He later served as ground crew with 514 Squadron. On leaving the Royal Air Force in 1946 he worked for Standard Telephones and British Airways.




Temporal Coverage




00:47:48 audio recording

Conforms To


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GR: This is Gary Rushbrooke for the International Bomber Command Centre. I am with Sidney Cooper at his home in Pointon near Manchester and it is the 27th of October. Sid, if you can just tell me a little bit where you were born and ‒.
SC: I was born in Blackpool.
GR: Born in Blackpool.
SC: Born in Blackpool 15th‒, 15th of October I921. I’ve always been a worker. I started work when I was ten. We used to go in singing halls. And in those days people used to walk down the prom singing away, you know, mill girls and that. And they come to us and said, ‘Hey, you lads, do you know “When the love birds leave their nest?”’ So I says, ‘Yeah, we know that’. So they said, ‘Can you sing it for us?’ So me and Metcalf (pal of mine) we sang it. Yeah, right. ‘Can you stand there?’ ‘Yes’. People walking by, looked in, seen those kids singing and after we’d got a few people there we’d buzz off. They’d give us tuppence and then we’d go to another one, and we did that.
GR: And that was at ten years old.
SC: Oh yeah, I’ve done all sorts of ‒. I’ve sold black puddings on Blackpool Prom for threepence apiece and gone to Chester, run errands for stallholders and this that and other. It was a past time of mine and er, I did that oh ‘til I was fourteen.
GR: Brothers and sisters?
SC: Brothers and sisters, yes. I had two sisters and ‒, two sisters and four boys, and our Jack ‒, he’s here somewhere, here he is, there’s me brother. He joined ‒, he joined, the bloody Fleet Air Arm.
GR: Was you the oldest or youngest?
SC: I’m the eldest boy.
GR: You’re the eldest boy, yeah.
SC: He’s three years younger than me or two years younger than me. He went in the Fleet Air Arm.
GR: He went in the Fleet Air Arm. So that was in Blackpool?
SC: So I tried to get in the Air Force when I was about twelve or fourteen and wrote to them and they sent me a form back to fill in. I filled it in to the best of my abilities and sent it off and they wouldn’t accept me. I wasn’t of the accepted standard required by the RAF. I only weighed about four stone, four or five stone and small, and so I never get in, but I got my own back and joined up and became an engineer.
GR: So you tried to join the RAF, what when you were, what, fourteen years old?
SC: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
GR: Which was a bit young.
SC: Yeah, yeah, well you see, because I wanted to go in as an apprentice, you see, and they’d go to school. They’d march down with a piped band, and walk back with a piped band all the time. I knew quite a bit about it, you know, found out about things but anyway it wasn’t to be.
GR: So you were turned down initially.
SC: Oh yeah, turned down. Well after that ‒ [unclear].
GR: Right so when was that? How did that happen?
SC: That was 1941. 1941 I joined the Air Force.
GR: And they sent you for training?
GR: Sent me for training as a flight engineer, which I passed and came away with a first class and went to er, ‒, posted to Blackpool. That’s where I come from. And you’re posted in The Progress Hotel. I thought, ‘I know her, I know her, I know the owner’. It’s just gone out of my bloody mind now, I thought ‘Smashing!’ I walked in there, walked in there, bloody queer you know. Holmes, Mrs Holmes. Bloody place, we were just in one room, just beds, nothing else. Electric light, yes. Heating, no. And this was 1941, Christmas. So, anyway, I was posted ‒. I was going on to 256 Squadron then at Squires Gate, which I knew, and we had to walk there and have meals, and then walk right across the airport to where we were. I had A for alpha er, to look after from a flight engineer’s, from an engineer’s point of view
GR: So you were a fitter engineer.
SC: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I never had a fly in one. There was an accident there with a Blackburn Botha, Blackburn Botha, and a flood and one of our aircraft, it was a Defiant, Defiant and that was a bad aircraft and over Central Station it crashed, but of course I didn’t know much about it because I was in the Air Force at the time. Anyway, I left there ‒.
GR: Just going back, 256 Squadron where you was an engineer fitter. Was it Hurricanes and Defiants?
SC: Pardon?
GR: Hurricanes and Defiants?
SC: That’s right, yeah.
GR: And what did that encompass? Was you an engine fitter?
SC: Engine fitter. Yes. Engine fitter and, of course, they had the same engines in them anyway. And I got posted then to Stradishall and there was no aircraft there or anything. We were waiting for it to commence and I was on Air Speed Oxfords ‒,
GR: Still as a fitter?
SC: Oh yeah, yeah and sort them. Oh, Stradishall was a queer place. There was 214 Squadron were there on Wellingtons and er ‒.
GR: Stirlings I think?
SC: Stirlings, yes there were, 3 Group and oh, I don’t know who I was with but there was another squadron on the station, 138 Squadron. They had Whitleys.
GR: Sid’s putting his fingers to be silent. I think 138 was a special duties squadron.
SC: They had Whitleys, Manchesters and ‒, oh, it’s just gone out of my head, and you know ‒.
GR: You said Manchesters. Halifax, Stirlings?
SC: No, no, no.
GR: Lysanders?
SC: Lysanders, Westland Lysanders [emphasis]. They had Whitleys and Lysanders and er, I have seen people [unclear] taking secret people to France. I see them get up the rope. Anyway, there was one incident that I saw, a Stirling, sorry a Lysander, skid and go in the back of a wagon, just pulled the canvas off, nobody hurt, nobody killed, but we went when it was terrible weather, terrible weather. We didn’t have an aircraft at all but we were employed clearing the runways. My address was number 35, Married Quarters, an empty, empty house. There was nothing there, just three beds in there, no lockers, anything at all, just three beds then usual blankets for to cover us, two blankets apiece, and in the morning we had to get out there, no fire, no hot water and we got all wet through. We had to put our wet trousers on and go out again ‘cause there was nowhere to dry ‘em. Anyway, there was no flying for about eight days it was that bad, 1942 this and ‒, I’m trying to think of where ‒. Oh, I was keen, as I say, always after the money, so I heard they were forming the RAF Regiment so I jumped down and wanted to join the RAF Regiment. They says, ‘Who are yer?’ I says ‘I’m here, I’m there’, anyway he says, ‘You can’t’. You see, because in the Air Force there was six groups of money.
GR: That’s right.
SC: All the people could be of the same rank but all on different money dependent on training. There was group one engineers, group two, group three, group four, group five, and six was ‘M’ [unclear] medical . You can only re-muster upwards and you’re at the top and there’s nowhere you could go. So I says ‘Oh, right, so’.
GR: Probably, as an engineer fitter you was more needed as that.
SC: That was the best job they had in the RAF for people of my age. Anyway, I decided I’d go in as a flight engineer.
GR: So you volunteered for aircrew.
SC: Yes, volunteered for air crew. So they says, ‘Yes, medical, this, that and the other, yes. You’re just the type we want’, so I went as aircrew.
GR: ‘Cause I believe in 1942 as Bomber Command was moving into four engine bombers ‒
SC: That’s right.
GR: Stirlings, Lancs, Hallifax.
SC: Exactly.
GR: So, the extra crew member they needed was the flight engineer.
SC: And a gunner, mid upper gunner.
GR: With your background obviously ‒. So did you do training then? More training?
SC: This will amuse you. Jack Campbell [?], he joined together with me. We even started school together he and I. He joined, he was going as a gunner, wireless operator air gunner, WOP AGs they called them. So of course, being volunteers we were tested, you weren’t tested if you were brought, you was summoned in, so we went into a little room, not much bigger than my lounge and there was queues in there so we go in the queues and was given a bible apiece, a bible apiece, so we were there he recited something and we’d repeat it you know, obeying all the laws and kings and queens and that bloody rubbish. So, we said, ‘Yes, so where’s this bloody shilling coming in?’ The King’s shilling I’d heard of, anyway we came out of there with no shilling. Well, I thought he’s had about 50 shillings that should have been ours, or not. But apparently it’s a myth I think [unclear]. So, that was it. Anyway, so I was in, so I went from there to er, I’ll go and try and find it the name ‒ but it was the head place, the main headquarters, where the boy entrants were and all that ‒ .
GR: Alton?
SC: Alton. Correct, correct. We went there to new entrant headquarters. We were there for a fortnight. Of course, we were hierarchy you see, so that was fair enough, altogether we were off on our way, marched up, and they decided so many people, and we all got a corporal in charge of us and we went to Cardiff, yes Cardiff. ‘Where we going now?’ Goes up the road, another train, we end up in Llanelly, I don’t know, it was always called ‘Slash’ to airmen. We went to Number 1 SDF air crew training, gunnery school, Pembray and that’s me at Pembray. You can see me, the good looking one.
GP: We’re just looking at the photograph of the good looking one on the front row?
SC: Yeah, and he was the instructor, Flight Sergeant Marley.
GR: RAF Rembray, Number 1 Air Gunnery School
SC: That’s right.
GR: January 1943. Wonderful photograph.
SC: Yeah, right. So then came the good news in the morning. He said ‘You lads go out and enjoy yourselves’. Out we went, you see, we’d just arrived, come back, then in the morning we were told what we were going to do. We were under this gentleman. He says, ‘Well this is a very interesting course that you’re going on and of course you’re going to learn a lot. And that’s the good news. Now the bad news, you are not allowed out all week’. Couldn’t get out of the camp, couldn’t go for a drive, so we started about half past eight in the morning to about eight o’clock at night learning about these guns, trying to fit a nice [unclear] on ball turret , different things and armour piercing bullets, and tracer bullets and Christ knows what. Anyway we learned about them SGO Vickers gas operated guns, Tommy guns and oh we left there, all of us one morning, we’re off again. This is after about eight days. We got on this train and went to Cardiff, to Cardiff and then we went from Cardiff to ‒.
GR: It doesn’t matter if you can’t remember.
SC: Gillston, Gillston, all off there and then we were marched to St Athan.
GR: St Athan.
SC: That was a big place and we went there and we, of course, were greeted as we usually were with ‘Who are you? We didn’t know you were coming’. [Laughs]. Anyway, we went in the airmen, went in the airmen’s mess and got bedded down and the next morning we were all marched together, there’s more than this, this was just part of it, and righto, fall out, fall out there and he said ‘So-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so’ calling out our last three hundred names, ‘All here’, and ‘So-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so go they were there and so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so go they were there.’ So, they say right, ‘You are training to be a flight engineer on Halifaxes. You are going on Lancasters and you’re going on the big ones.’ Well the big ones was like going up in the air, like going up a mountain. So we were trained on Halifaxes and, so anyway, after we finished the course, passed out, in a puffer train again and we went to er ‒ oh I don’t know what they called it? Went somewhere to a con unit.
GR: Heavy conversion unit.
SC: Yeah, yeah, yeah, heavy conversion unit and this was in Yorkshire, anyway went there, and we were going to be crewed up there. The crewing is remarkable because this ‒ the crews which were there, they’d come off Wellingtons you see, of course they’re only a five man crew. They want a rear gunner and engineer and you mixed among yourselves and you sort yourselves out.
GR: And you’re in a big room.
SC: Yeah, well it’s nice. You go for a drink, this, that and another and they say, I suppose, ‘Well, he’s not so bad is he?’ you know and that’s how you crewed up. You’re not detailed. So, you’re going in with welcome arms. So, we joined, we joined up with this lot. [Background noise]. Oh, you’ve got that. I was trying to remember their names. That’s the crew that I was with.
GR: So, this is 427 Squadron.
SC: Yeah, that’s right.
GR: And the pilot, Sergeant Hank Henry.
SC: Aye, Henry, Hank Henry.
GR: Hank Henry and he was with the Royal Canadian Air Force and so were two of the other crew members.
SC: Yeah, that’s right but one, the navigator was a foreign officer.
GR: Yes.
SC: In the Canadian Air Force. Anyway, and there was no rubbish. Everyone was the same, you know, when we were out, on board, and so ‒
GR: And so was this the summer of 1943 or ‒
SC: No, winter ’43, early.
GR: Early winter 1943.
SC: Early ‘43.
GR: You crewed up at 427 Squadron.
SC: Yes, you see, they’d been on Wellingtons. They’d already got some ops in so we went over to er ‒ and we were taken to er, Leeming.
GR: Leeming.
SC: Leeming in Yorkshire. Well, that was 6 Group. That was the first group being formed with Canadians, so it was Canadian governed from start to finish and that was OK. So we did a few ops there. I can’t remember how many, about twelve, something like that.
GR: Can you remember your first operation that you flew on?
SC: Yeah, Bochum, yeah, I’ll never forget that, Bochum, and the navigator says to me, ‘This is where we’re going’ and oh I was dead keen, you know, up for it, dead keen, and Christ it looked as if you could put your hand in it, for flak. I thought, ‘ This is good’. Anyway ‒
GR: So, just before the first operation you had your briefing. Was you frightened? Was you looking forward to it? Or did you just take it in your stride?
SC: Well, well, I mean I didn’t know anything about it. You know, it was all completely new to you. We did a few cross countries, high and low tests, and one thing and another but we were all keen on things you see. No, well, a Halifax is a difficult, I hasten to add, ‘cause there’s twelve tanks, six in each main plane and ‒
GR: And they’re your responsibility.
SC: Oh yeah, well we had good, good skins. I mean you didn’t ask anything, I just said to Hank, I said, ‘I’m just going to switch over’, ‘Aye, OK’, he said, you see. So, anyway ‒.
GR: Did it make you feel a bit easier when you did your first operation that some of the other crew had already done ops?
SC: Well, well, yeah, I mean, you know, they were old hands, you know. Well, they were very, very, very good, you know, we got on marvellous. And people say to me, ‘Well, what did the bomb aimer do? And I’d say, ‘I don’t know’. Well, I was that busy myself ‘cause I got a panel there with all the instruments that the pilot had and I’m watching them for pressure, pressure, temperature and this, that and the other. Very, very keen ‒ and I had [unclear]
GR: Careful with your chair Sid, you’re about to go over some of your photos. Now, that’s alright, leave it there. So, Bochum was a bad one, the first one, lots of flak.
SC: Pardon? Well, yeah, well, I mean there’s not much difference to them but I mean before that I’d had nothing to compare it with. Because I remember one ‒, one place I think ‒, and I’ve got a bad memory, I think it was Wuppertal we went to. We went up there and I’d been looking through the little dome that I had, little dome, and ‘Christ there’s something coming towards us!’ And I just says, ‘Duck!’ and we went under it and it went over and this was absolutely forbidden to go over the target the wrong way, so we’d gone over and you should go right round and have another go but er, anyway, we managed that and we got on very well, very well, anyway it had become probably September, September, September they formed 427 Squadron at Leeming. They were all Canadian there and they decided, the powers that be, decided to form another squadron, namely 514 Squadron, 3 Group. 514 Squadron 3 Group and of course they were getting short, well I hadn’t been told but it appeared that they were getting short of technical staff ‘cause they had nothing, just can’t get them. [unclear]. So ‒, so we went there and it was a place called Foulsham, went to this place.
GR: So is that your whole crew?
SC: No, no just me.
GR: Just you.
SC: Just me. Engineer. So, I finished me flying, I hadn’t done a tour but they decided because where’d they get all the fitters from? See, you know, you need what? One hundred and fifty or two hundred men of different types. So anyway we goes there and they didn’t have an aircraft, they hadn’t even got an aircraft but they were forming the people. I’d overstepped it. Who should ‒, who should be the only sergeant? But Giles, who I knew at Stradishall. He was bent and he was a corporal. He had an accident where he got a screwdriver in his eye, lost his eye, and requested he stopped in the Air Force and he stopped on in the Air force until he was demobbed in ‘46 and he died when he was about 96 or 98. I used to go and see him.
GR: How did you feel about going from ground crew down to obviously air crew and back down to ground crew again?
SC: Yeah, well, I was promoted to Sergeant as a tradesman.
GR: But did you not want to keep on flying?
SC: Well, well not really. It was a relief to some extent but I missed the camaraderie that existed. It was absolutely marvellous. There was one occasion and I forget where we were going, on ops and my ‒, say this is the aircraft, my seat was here, here’s the bulkhead with my instruments on, well I couldn’t see ‘em from there, so I got my parachute and I used to sit on it, sit on this parachute and underneath was a lot of oxygen bottles, yep, and I could look up at them like this or stand up. Anyway, on one occasion I’m going to the back, going to the toilet actually, going to the back there and I grabbed my parachute. The parachute was what they called the observer type that you clipped on. The pilot sat on his, that was the pilot’s parachute. Get this, I picked up the wrong handle, I got the metal handle. [whooshing noise] bloody parachute right down to the bottom before you could say ‒, bottom of the aircraft.
GR: So, the parachute exploded in the plane?
SC: Oh, aye, well, it’s held together with bungee cables, you know, [unclear] there’s no explosion down there. When I was there the other side of it was the wireless operator and I says ‘Christ, that’s me, if we’re in trouble that’s me’. He said, ‘It won’t make much difference, if it comes to it we’ll go together you and me’, and you know I nearly bloody cried when he said that, and I believe him. People, [coughs] pardon me, if we’re talking people many think I’m telling lies but I’m not, I was really upset, and I was crying with pleasure because I know [unclear] he would, I’m bloody certain he would. So, anyway that was one unfortunate bloody thing that happened.
GR: So you are now with 514 Squadron? Obviously back to being a fitter, a fitter engineer.
SC: Yes, yes, then we were receiving aircraft to make the squadron up you see and give them what they called an acceptance examination. You can’t just use it and some required some modifications, you don’t hold the system up because they put it in a different flare chute in, you have to put it in when you get to mace [?]. So we formed up and then in December 1943 this is, December 1943. The last operation they did, I forget where it was, but they went to ‒, went from Foulsham and landed at Waterbeach, which was new station, nicely built place etcetera was there, so we were there ‒, I think over ‒, I think it was the second Christmas we had the misfortune on sea [?] flight. They say that a bomb dropped off an aircraft and there was about twenty three killed, killed on sea [?] flight, but well, we don’t know what happened really. Anyone with any information was dead and it was a [unclear]. Mind you it was mixed, a lot of old, er, chaps who were on pension and had been called in you see. And I mixed with people who were much older than me. We’d got Charlie George, Charlie George and Ginger Leadbetter. They’d wouldn’t have nought to do with women. If you went on holiday, and it wasn’t payday, you could go on a casual and take a few quid to go with. So, I was there and Ginger Leadbetter came away, Ginger Leadbetter, aye, and Charlie George says to him ‘Have you got your money?’ These two were old friends. They’d be forty-odd. ‘No’ he says, ‘I haven’t got it’, ‘Well, wouldn’t they give it to you?’ ‘Oh aye’, he says, ’It was a woman!’ So he says, ‘Where?’ He says, ‘The officer, a woman!’ He wouldn’t take the money. [Laughs].
GR: I bet you [emphasis] did.
SC: Oh, I would have done but lots of people didn’t, not because of the women so much, but anyway it was ‒. I really enjoyed myself there, and the CTO, Chief Technical Officer was er, a ‒, oh Christ, smashing bloke. He knew everything that went on. Anyway, the war’s over Christmas 1945, that’s right ‘45, just before Christmas ’45. Only my eldest daughter was born at August towards ‒. I got no leave, not like today. Can’t get [unclear]. So, he says ‘Right, post you to Italy’. Italy, Christ! So, we went to Italy. Well, this was rumoured again, it wasn’t publicised but it’s rumoured and I really want to emphasise this is rumour, that there was a chance of a war breaking out between Yugoslavia and Italy ‘cause Italy was on our side then.
GR: Yes.
SC: They changed, you see, and this was to show force and round about fifteen bombers, Lancasters, used to come out every day, land at Pomigliano, which is Naples, which I was at at that time, or Bari, which is on the Adriatic side, along there, go backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. I don’t think they [unclear] on there [unclear] in their quarters. ‘Cause we were stable there, we had our own places in which to live, but that’s what happened and there was no bullshit there, nothing, and someone said ‒, you’ll laugh, you won’t believe this but it’s true, ‘A parade in the morning’, a parade [emphasis], ‘Get out’, ‘There is’, and anyway we all formed and don’t forget we got German prisoners of war in tents on camp. Somebody says ‘There’s something going on’, he says, ‘Cause Latchthorne[?] has had a bloody haircut’. He was the [unclear] officer, had a haircut. Anyway, a strike had broken out in the Far East, an RAF strike, and they were frightened it would go right through ‘cause we were, what you’d call, Middle East, Middle East Mediterranean Forces, and that was funny.
GR: How long did you stay in Italy for?
SC: Well, came back from Italy and this will amuse you, come back, I think it would be June when, this is testing my memory, when apparently political things had settled down a bit, we were withdrawn and we came back from there and then ‒
GR: So about June 1946?
SC: Yes, yes,
GR: Came back to the UK?
SC: Yeah, came back. Didn’t know where we’d go. We see all these go backwards and forwards, go back on a train six in a carriage, six senior COs in a carriage, in a compartment, and eight for the others and we’re there and I said, ‘We ain’t gonna get any bloody sleep here’, took us four or five days to get home. So I says, I says, ‘Aye, this is awkward. I’ve sorted it out. What do you reckon?’ So, I says, ‘Right, seats, one man on each. Right, luggage rack, one man on each’, so he says, ‘That’s alright, well ‒’, he says, ‘There’s six of us’, I says, ’Well, I’m coming to that, one fella lies on the floor between the two benches’, he says, ’That’s five ways, what about the last one?’ I says, ’ That’s me. I’m gonna make a bloody hammock over the top with the bloody kit bag ropes’. Of course it was alright for about three quarters of an hour but the rope broke [laughs] and I fell [unclear] so anyway that’s what happened. So we, we, we, eventually got to England across [unclear]. I don’t fancy the water. I says, ’I don’t fancy the weather, the weather’s supposed to be bad.’ So he says, ‘It’s not so bad, it’s alright’. [Unclear] you silly bloody dope. We came back on the very day lots of ships got sank on the race around England. Anyway, we er, managed and then early morning parade, calling names out this, that and the other, well this, that and the other, over there. And he says, ‘Right, you’re going to Church Lawford’. Oh, right. ‘Church Lawford, you’, and I was going to Church Lawford. That was the AFTS, Advanced Flying Training School, with Harvards (American aircraft). Well I knew the bloody engine’s just the same. So Ginger and I went and unfortunately ‒, Ginger, he was a rigger, on air frames on the other side, and we went to this place. Well, in the Air force when you go from station to station to station you have to have an arrival chit and it has to be endorsed by the person to say that they know that you’re here, you see, and there’s about a dozen, at least a dozen places, what with a medical here, there and everywhere. So anyway, different ones. Well of course it takes you some time to go to these people to introduce yourself. Well the first place you go, pay accounts, another payroll, so I goes there and signs in. So we went to the doctors and dentist, goodness knows what. The last one, where’s that? Where you’re gonna work. That’s two days you’ve been doing now. So we goes, and some NCOs seem to have a certain amount of freedom with the officers because quite often they knew more than the bloody officers above your engineers and that. You’d get engineer graduates from college and well they knew nought about aeroplanes. Anyway, goes there and when I was there you could tap on the door and then put your head round and he’d say ‘Come in’, or ‘I’ll send someone out in a minute’, you see, so he had that licence. So Wing Commander Perry (never came across a wing commander before in the engineering, very queer), anyway, him and I stand there outside, smarten up, you know, no answer ‒ . So anyway [laughs], so Ginger says ‘Come on, let’s go and get a coffee’. I say, ‘There’s someone in here’. He says ‘There isn’t. There’s nobody in there is there?’ I says, ‘I can hear him writing’. He said, ‘Writing?’ Of course, biros hadn’t been invented. I could hear him scratching, you see, ‘cause I had bloody good ears then, which I haven’t now. I said, ‘There’s somebody in there.’ So, he says, ‘Oh right’. So anyway taps on the door and walks in, stood in front of him, he’s still writing, Ginger is still next to me. This is true to the letter. He says, ‘Did you hear me say ‘Come in Sergeant’?’ He said, ‘No Sir’. So he says, ‘Did you hear me say ‘Come in Sergeant’’, I says ‘No, Sir’. He said, ‘Well f‒ off out then!’ [laughs]. I’d never came across language like that from a bloody wing commander so we bloody goes out. Anyway, we’re in the bloody s‒ here with him. Anyway, a girl comes in, calls in and says ‘Welcome’ and then that and the other. He must have been about forty five years of age, must have been by the looks of him. So anyway, we went over and there was two men that we were relieving. There should have been about five senior NCOs and rumour had it, somehow, it has just dawned on me that one of them, that I relieved, had been a prisoner of war and they still wouldn’t let him go ‘til they’d got a replacement, and they got a bloody replacement and that was me! I never seen him again, he’d gone, but I really enjoyed myself in the Air force to some extent, well to a large extent.
GR: When was you demobbed?
SC: Demobbed on 16th August 1946.
GR: And what did you do next?
SC: Well foolishly I did nothing, just hung about and that. ‘Cause I went to Blackpool, took the wife and kids to Blackpool and then I couldn’t get a job.
GR: Now, you’ve mentioned it, was you married?
SC: Pardon?
GR: Was you married during the war?
SC: Yeah, I was married in 1946, 1946. No, no. no, married in 19‒.
GR: ‘Cause you mentioned your wife a couple of times.
GR: Before the war started?
SC: Oh no, no.
GR: During the war? It doesn’t matter exactly when.
SC: Married in May ‘44, May 1944 ‘cause I wouldn’t get married while I was flying.
GR: While you was flying.
SC: My wife wanted to get married earlier but I wouldn’t, not while I was flying, so we married in the April next year, er, ’44.
GR: So after you’re demobbed, back in Blackpool.
SC: Back in Blackpool. I couldn’t get jobs and that was a terrible place for employment.
GR: Unless you was singing on the pier.
SC: [Laughs] That’s right but my voice had gone so I couldn’t and I got some contacts in Blackpool but it wasn’t to be and I went to Standard Telephones and er, in the model shop, gets out of there, goes back to Blackpool, went to the accounts department. I had a good job there ‘cause there was two of us in my place, a big place was Standard Telephones. Chap next to me, he was first class, he went on holiday, [unclear] I got a lot less. Anyway I must have suited them ‘cause I got a £2 pay rise. They used to come in and put it face down in case anybody had a look. Oh Christ, £2! So I got a job there then. Well, when I was at Church Lawford I was dealing direct with a company where the ‒, a motor company, that was agents, main agents for Pratt and Whitney you see, I’d lend them stuff and they knew me by name. Anyway, ‘course I know [unclear] ‘cause there was no one above me, I was the gaffer, and I left there and joined British Airways, British Airways. My brother said to me, ’Oh, you want to get with British Airways, they’re good in aircraft despatch and that’, because you got to work out the balance before it went in the air. You know when you’re a kid and you’re on a seesaw you’re going one way, ‘hey there, get further back and get so and so’. Well you can’t do that with an aeroplane. It’s got to be balanced before it’s up. You can’t do it once it’s up.
GR: So you joined British Airways as a ‒?
SC: As a clerk, as a clerk on five pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence. And I lost twelve quid. I was bloody annoyed. Anyway I went up and eventually there was a new system coming out and I don’t know how it got about but I became top of Europe, you know, ‘cause I said to my boss, I says, ‘Are you trying to make a bloody fool of me on that bloody thing?’ ‘No, no, no’ he says ‘You must go’. Anyway I came top, and it was only British Airways of course. So I was promoted to the hierarchy and I stayed there until I left when I was sixty, ‘cause my wife was very poorly so I had to leave there. In fact I got a letter here ‒
GR: So you finished your working career with British Airways?
SC: No, I got a letter here to say that one of 427 Squadron had crashed on BA property and they were holding a meeting, I got it here somewhere, the meeting. Yeah, that’s it, that’s the letter they sent me. Because I belonged ‒.
GR: British Airways have dedicated a memorial to 427 Squadron for a crashed aircraft and did you attend the unveiling?
SC: No, well I couldn’t leave the wife and she wasn’t fit to fly so I never went.
Gr: So, I’ll switch off.


Gary Rushbrooke, “Interview with Syd Cooper. One,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 17, 2024,

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