Interview with Ian Denver


Interview with Ian Denver


Ian Denver grew up in Australia and joined the Royal Australian Air Force as soon as he was old enough. After training he completed 60 operations with 625 Squadron and 156 Squadron. He met and married his wife, Pat who was an intelligence officer at 625 Squadron and returned to Australia after the war. He joined QANTAS and became the youngest international captain with the company.




Temporal Coverage




01:59:04 audio recording


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JP: We’ll just start the interview now. This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer — myself. Miss Jean MacCartney.
ID: Is this the one that they’re building out at Louth.
JP: Lincoln.
ID: Lincoln.
JP: Yes.
ID: Well — near Louth.
JP: Yes. That’s right. And the interviewee is Mr Ian Denver. The interview is taking place at Mr Denver’s home in Robina in Queensland on the 21st of February 2017.
ID: Yeah.
JP: Also present is Mr Denver’s daughter — Louise. Ok. Ian. We’ll start right back at the beginning. July 1923. And I believe you were born in Maitland.
ID: That’s right.
JP: And you spent most of your early years up until the intermediate certificate in Maitland. Is that right?
ID: I went to high school in Maitland ‘til I then did my leaving certificate.
JP: Leaving certificate.
ID: But then I finished early. Right.
JP: Yes.
ID: In [pause] I said finished early. I wasn’t allowed to go into the air force ‘til I was eighteen.
JP: No.
ID: And I did my leaving at seventeen.
JP: Seventeen. Yes. Well just tell me a little bit about your time in Maitland because without being too personal I believe you were actually born as Ian Deramore - Denver.
ID: That’s true.
JP: And you’ve, you’ve dropped the —
ID: Yeah.
JP: The first part of —
ID: I think my father just adopted the word Deramore because he liked it. Also, he, he was very badly wounded Gallipoli and he spent a lot of time in hospital in London and he met a lady who was very kind to him and she lived just off the edge of the estate that was Lord Deramore’s estate which is at a place called Acomb in York. Just out of York itself and [pause] well that was it. After the war of course he did all sorts of things. And he was, initially he was constantly in and out of hospital because he was hit here. Went in there and out the other side and his bleeding internally was very bad.
JP: Right. And so —
ID: Louise. Get me my hearing aids and I’ll see if —
LD: That would be a very good idea. Well done dad.
JP: Dad. Ok. Well we’ll pause for a minute while you —
ID: They should be in there.
[recording paused]
JP: Ok. We’re resuming now. Ian’s now got his hearing aids in so that makes it a little bit easier for him. So, we were just talking about your father and his war injuries and your time when you were at Maitland and I think I’ve seen something that when you, when you were a young boy or in your, at school and that you were involved in a lot of sports and competition. Would you like to tell me a little bit about those? You were in diving and —
ID: Well I did —
JP: Athletics.
ID: On the swimming, diving side there was a fellow named Ron Tubman whom was called —my son Michael that was killed in an accident. We named him after Ron Tubman. Ok. Who came from Maitland. Went to the same school same as me. The other pilot Geoff Jones who was called Michael Geoffrey then, but Geoff was from Pymble. Came out of Sydney. Nothing much to tell you about as far as sports are concerned.
JP: Did you compete in a lot of competitions?
ID: Well, yes and no. Yes, in that I competed a lot but I didn’t win that much, you know. I was a bit too small to compete for some of the things. But in the diving for example Ron and I were always competing against each other to see who would, well to see who would win the school diving championship. That sort of thing. As far as cricket and football was concerned rugby league it was. We played that. And I suppose my most exciting period was the last game I had with the school. We played the combined Newcastle High Schools. And, in the process I scored all the points which happened to be —I can’t to remember the numbers. Two tries and four, four goals and it came to about sixteen points or so. But the teacher didn’t like my dad so instead of covering it in the school magazine or anywhere he just ignored it. Bill Bates was his name.
JP: That’s unfortunate.
ID: Yeah. I thought so too because I didn’t really — I worked hard.
JP: Yes.
ID: And I tried hard and did well.
JP: That’s right and that’s an outstanding result
ID: Yeah.
JP: To beat the other team.
ID: And we won —
JP: That’s right. That’s right.
ID: The Newcastle area which in those days included [unclear ] and everywhere and we competed against them.
JP: Yes. And —
LD: And the reason that Ron is important is that dad went to the war with Ron.
JP: With Ron. Yes. I know. That’s right. Yes. And your father, I know he was not well but is —he was doing some editing of the local paper at that time as well. Is that right?
ID: Yes. He —he was the sports editor for the Maitland Mercury and was the editor of a magazine called Golfing Australia.
JP: Oh right.
ID: So, he did a fair amount of writing. He was a very good writer, my father. And I can see him today sitting at a butcher’s table we used to call it. He’d sit at the butchers table and rip of this bunch of paper and word after word and it was given to me. I would get it typed.
JP: That’s and and so did he write up that? Your match in the local paper then so that you at least had some coverage.
ID: Yeah. Well he would then send it to the local paper but then he would edit it himself too. So he wasn’t only writing it. He was editing it.
JP: Yes. That’s right.
ID: But a big problem was that his wounding. There was a hospital at Sydney, a slight royal, Randwick anyhow and it was a Repat hospital at Randwick.
JP: Yep.
ID: And we’d go down there and see him occasionally. But he’d often be two or three months at a time in hospital. So, we had a fair period without a father.
JP: Father.
ID: Supervising and [lying up?] so everything was left to my mother.
JP: Mother.
ID: And we had three boys and a girl.
JP: Goodness. And she, she wasn’t working, was she? She was —
ID: Well in those days women really didn’t work.
JP: Really didn’t work. No. That’s right.
ID: And she had four kids to look after anyway.
JP: Look after.
ID: And the only income a lot of the time was a pension that he got from his war wound. Which we lived on. Sometimes for years.
LD: So, we’re talking 1920s. The end of the twenties and early thirties here.
ID: About 1930 there.
JP: Yeah.
ID: I was seven then.
JP: Yes. That’s right. And then of course then the Depression came, years came along. So you had, you as a family had to go through that. So, you were still in Maitland during the Depression years.
ID: Well, my father and mother and my sister June —they all moved to Sydney. Mainly for dad to get a job. He was offered a good job down at Sydney. And because I had two years or so to go to do my leaving certificate I stayed on in Maitland. Living with my grandparents and went to school there.
JP: Right. And so, then they were living in Sydney. You were in Maitland. You finished your leaving certificate and then at the end of that I think you then went because you was too young to go in the air force at that stage.
ID: That’s right. Yeah.
JP: You went into the bank.
ID: You had to be eighteen.
JP: Eighteen. That’s right. But you also I think were in Air Training Corps. Had you joined the air training corps?
ID: Yes.
JP: Yes.
ID: The ATC.
JP: And what, what age did you join the Air Training Corps?
ID: Quite young. You know. Maybe I was only about thirteen or something like that. I was always interested in flying. The first time I saw a plane fly was a Lockheed Electra that came out to Australia and came up to Newcastle and was putting on exhibitions at Newcastle. And so, we went to Newcastle Airport and had a look at that.
JP: Good.
ID: But not my dad or my mum or anybody in the family didn’t particularly encouraged me to go into the services.
JP: No.
ID: My elder brother Peter had already been through the initial campaigns in Libya. In Benghazi. And fought the rear — guard action in Greece and Crete and so on. And then as soon as I turned eighteen the bank had been opposing it but as soon as I turned eighteen I said, ‘I’m going.’
JP: Going. And what, what did you learn? Any skills in the Air Training Corps that gave you, you felt an advantage of initial training for the air force when you came into that?
ID: I — when I [pause] when I was in the ATC.
JP: C .
ID: We went through things like the theory of flight at that time so that by the time I actually did get in to the air force I was fairly well off. You know, what went on in aeroplanes and engines and hydraulics and so on.
JP: And did you actually get taken up in a flight at all when you were in the ATC? Did you do any flights whatsoever? Or they just left you on the ground and got you to do all the theory.
ID: I did have a flight. But I think it was a Rapide or something. But it was, you know, as a passenger, it wasn’t –
JP: Oh yes. Yes. Just as a sort of a joy flight type thing. Yeah.
ID: Just to have a look and see what goes on.
LD: How old were you when you went up in the Rapide?
ID: How old was I? Well I’d been really keen when I was about sixteen.
JP: Right.
ID: And from then on it was just a matter of waiting ‘til I got eighteen because the war started and I wasn’t allowed to go into the war until I turned eighteen.
JP: Eighteen.
LD: So, this was 1941.
JP: Well he enlisted, he enlisted in May 1942. In Sydney. You went down to Sydney because obviously your parents were still there in Sydney so —
ID: Yeah, they went down to Sydney and stayed there.
JP: Yes. That’s right.
ID: And lived in Potts Point.
JP: Potts Point. Yes. Now, one thing one other thing before we move into what was your initial training were you — when the Japanese mini subs came into Sydney harbour were you in Sydney with your parents at that stage or were you up in Maitland still?
ID: When the submarines — the Japanese submarines came in?
JP: Yeah.
ID: No. As a matter of fact I was in Sydney.
JP: You were in Sydney.
ID: They went up and we lived only a hundred yards or so from where the bombing took place.
JP: So, did you, were you at home at the time? Did you feel the —any, you know. Reverberations.
ID: You didn’t give you any news in those days.
JP: No. But I just —
ID: You found out in the newspaper what happened.
JP: Yes. But you — but you didn’t feel, there was no vibration from the bombs.
ID: No.
JP: No. No. No. Or any noise. You didn’t hear any noise.
ID: No. It was night time.
JP: Night time.
ID: And also, I don’t, I don’t think they bombed as such.
JP: No.
ID: They just fired a few guns and went off. It was a submarine.
JP: Submarines.
ID: Japanese submarines.
JP: Yes. Yes. Yeah. Ok well we’ll move along now to your enlistment and you did your initial. Where did you do your initial training?
ID: In Bradfield Park.
JP: Bradfield Park. Right. And then when when did you start your flying?
ID: Not [pause] about three or four months later. What actually happened was that they enrolled too many people and they couldn’t place them all, so we had no choice but to — you either get out of the air force or you wait ‘til we can find room for you. And then I was made, as was quite a few other people who were with me, made an aircrew guards they were called. And I was placed in Richmond. So, I spent about four months or so out at Richmond. Which suited me because Richmond was, you know, in Sydney and I could get into town without any real trouble. But —
JP: So, if you —
ID: My father was very much involved in the war activities as such. He started, or helped to start the Gallipoli Legion of Anzacs which was a club that was formed under the Harbour Bridge at Milson’s Point there. That’s gone. Since gone. But he was the founding secretary.
JP: Secretary.
ID: And I think president. Ran about two or three jobs.
JP: Right.
ID: But he was a very good bloke my father.
JP: Sounds like it. To be so —
ID: And he was very very proud of any kind of service that we’d done.
JP: Done. Yes.
ID: And my elder brother had a very tough time, you know. And yet he got out and went up to Darwin and he was bombed in Darwin and then they sent him from there to train in Queensland and on to New Guinea.
JP: Gosh.
ID: And he fought hand to hand battles against the Japanese.
JP: Japanese. Up on Kokoda.
ID: Yeah and my younger brother joined the navy. And he was in the [pause] I don’t know [ASDE?] it was called. Anti—submarine warfare. He was in that section. He was an able seaman.
JP: Right.
ID: And he did a good job.
JP: Job.
ID: And they liked him, and he was earmarked for future promotion but the war ended before they got around to —
JP: Ended.
ID: He was younger than me.
JP: Ok. Let’s go back to your that your first flying and when you were getting your wings and that time. Were — you were doing some flying down around Urana. The Rock. And there was —
ID: The rock near Uranquinty.
JP: Uranquinty yes because you were doing your flying. That was where you were doing your —
ID: That was where I got my wings.
JP: Your wings. Yeah.
ID: In Nerrandera on Tiger Moths.
JP: Yes.
ID: And then when I did that initial flying training then switched to Uranquinty.
JP: Uranquinty.
ID: To Wirraways which —
JP: Wirraways. Yes.
ID: I used to land. That’s all we had as far as fighters, or fighter bombers were concerned.
JP: Yeah.
ID: So, I was getting ready to go on those and then all of a sudden there was a demand for pilots in England and so I was allowed to transfer and went across to the UK.
JP: Yeah. Did you have some little near miss at one time?
ID: Some bit of what?
JP: A bit of a near miss when you were doing one of your training flights down near The Rock.
ID: Well I had one experience which I’ve not forgotten was that The Rock sticks up. Not like Ayers Rock. Not nearly as big.
JP: Not as big but it still sticks up. That’s right.
ID: Sticks up and gets in the way and also a wind came across from the south west and it made a wave and I remember very well even to this day as you were climbing towards The Rock instead of going up you weren’t. You were coming down and you had no control. So, I was able to very luckily to well luckily and I suppose well trained and —
JP: Skilled.
ID: To do a hard turn and get away out of that wave.
JP: And so —
ID: That was one of the few experiences I had at the time in Australia. I had many more in the UK.
JP: In the UK. Which we’ll come to very shortly. In fact, yes, we’ll go then. We’ll start getting there. So, you then — you got — they said they needed pilots over in the UK so you went up to Brisbane and you sailed out of Brisbane. Is that right?
ID: Yes. We sailed out of Brisbane.
JP: When was — when?
ID: Through the Panama Canal.
JP: Yes. When did you leave Brisbane? Do you remember?
ID: Well not the day but —
JP: No. But roughly.
ID: Roughly it would have been I went in to the air force 1942.
JP: Two.
ID: I was being trained in 1943.
JP: So it was in —
ID: So somewhere around Christmas 1942.
JP: Ok. And so you went through to the, through the Panama which would have been an interesting experience.
ID: It was very exciting. I’ve never seen anything so green.
JP: Yeah.
ID: I remember it today. You look out there and it’s not this type of green which is tinges of brown. This was pure green. Jungle green. And it was very interesting. Very exciting. I enjoyed it. And then we sailed through steam through the Caribbean. We didn’t stop in any particular place but we did pull over outside Havana.
JP: Right.
ID: And for a very short period.
JP: Were you able to disembark at all or you had to stay on board all the time?
ID: On there we stayed on board. And then when we went up to New York and when I got to New York we were only supposed to be there about two weeks or so and what in actual fact happened was we instead of going straight across the Atlantic the ship we were supposed to be going on was sunk. So, we were told that you’d better stay here and —do you know New York at all?
JP: No. I’ve not, not been to New York.
ID: Yeah well —
JP: I’ve only been to the west coast. Not the east coast.
ID: North of New York was an HMS British navy base and they used that to house us until a ship would be available to take us across the Atlantic and then when that ship became available because I’d trained as a pilot, as a fighter pilot, they presumed that I had good eyesight and so we stood, we did a period all the way across the Atlantic on submarine watch.
JP: Up on the bridge.
ID: Up on the bridge.
JP: Oh, my goodness.
LD: Wow.
ID: It was very interesting. Very exciting. We landed in Glasgow. The Clyde. On the Clyde and then from Glasgow we hopped on a train.
JP: Train.
ID: The train took us. We were on our way to Bournemouth.
JP: Right.
ID: But Bournemouth was bombed.
JP: Bombed. Yeah.
ID: So instead of switching us, leaving us at Bournemouth they switched us across to Brighton.
JP: Brighton.
ID: And it was at Brighton then that I was chosen to do multi engine training. And I was good to go on Oxfords. Airspeed Oxfords. And the first place I went to was at [pause] I’m not sure if I can remember the names and getting them correct. Anyhow, we went up around the Doncaster area.
JP: Yeah.
ID: And Doncaster then. This was a satellite. A training satellite. And we were sent out to [unclear] and I was based at a satellite station called Snitterfield which was really only about ten miles from Shakespeare’s country.
JP: Oh, right yes.
ID: Near Stratford on Avon.
JP: Yes.
ID: So we were there and when this was — by now it was winter and it was very very hard to get any training done because of weather conditions.
JP: Weather conditions were —
ID: Weather conditions. And I had one or two frights there. Ran into barrage balloon there one time. found out how easy that was. I didn’t. Thank God.
JP: And so this is what? Only a two, this is a two engine plane at this stage or four?
ID: Two engine.
JP: Two engines. And how many crew were — you hadn’t, you were all just, were you just pilot and one other or —
ID: We were just training to be pilots.
JP: Pilots. Yeah. Pilot and instructor basically.
ID: I was, I would have been the trainee pilot.
JP: Pilot.
ID: And there would be an instructor. And he was a fully qualified pilot.
JP: Fully qualified. Yeah. Ok and was that what a couple or three or four weeks. A couple of months. What? Roughly. Just roughly what time frame do you think?
ID: Well I would say roughly about three to four months.
JP: Three or four months.
ID: Simply because it was so —
JP: Because the weather conditions were slowing the training down.
ID: It was bad. It wasn’t good for training.
LD: What was the flight? What was the plane?
ID: It was an Airspeed Oxford is was called.
JP: Oh the Oxford. Yeah. Yeah. And ok so from there where — is that when where did you go from that? Did you then go to 625 or did you do another — oh you probably did another conversion in between that.
ID: No I —
JP: Or an OTU. An OTU.
ID: We went from —this was initial training.
JP: Training yeah. So you had to go, you had to do an OTU.
JP: Yeah.
ID: And the OTU I went to was near Doncaster.
JP: Yeah.
ID: Finningley.
JP: Right.
ID: And then they put us into a base at Finningley just along the road from the Robin Hood’s trees.
JP: Trees [laughs] Shakespeare. Robin Hood. Yeah.
ID: So we did our training there with Wimpies we called them. Wellington was a difficult aircraft. It was a geotetic aircraft which was the design of the fuselage but it meant the control was hard. You know you put the flap down and you get power. Respond much more radically then you would think it would. Anyhow, the point is we went to OTU and I got through OTU ok. And went then, went from there to Halifaxes.
JP: Right.
ID: The Halifaxes were at the Doncaster area.
JP: Right.
ID: A place called Sandtoft. We called —
JP: Right. So this is like a conversion course then.
ID: Yeah. We called it Prangtoft.
JP: Oh I see. Right. Right. Obviously there’s a story or two here. Yes.
ID: The engines were underpowered for the aircraft so it wasn’t —
JP: Particularly the earlier. I assume this was an earlier Halifax. The later Halifaxes were a bit better but the early Halifaxes were, yeah.
ID: But the Halifax, later on Halifaxes with Hercules engines was a good aircraft. Very good aircraft.
JP: So what sort of little stories come to light at this time? When you’re doing this early Halifax training.
ID: You were really concentrating on your RAF training. What you wanted to do was be the best pilot in the air force so I spent all my spare time studying the aircraft. Getting to know it completely only to be posted away from them. Which was good because the Lancaster was unbeatable as an aircraft.
LD: But I thought you wanted to be a fighter pilot when you first started.
ID: Well I did. Yeah. But we all did and when we left Australia they told us, ‘Sorry, there’s no room for you. We don’t need you as a fighter pilot. There’s plenty of fighter pilots available in England. There are no bomber pilots. So we switched to bomber training. And then I went from there to what’s called a Lancaster Finishing School and I was at Hemswell which is just next to Lincoln. And [pause] what happened there was exciting.
LD: Were you with Ron and Geoffrey still?
JP: Were you with Ron and —?
ID: I was with Ron and Geoffrey until we finished Operational Training Unit and Heavy Conversion. But we separated from then. Ron, I believe, was killed on return from a flight. And Geoff was shot down on his sixth mission.
JP: Sixth mission.
ID: On the sixth. And it was at a place called Gelsenkirchen which, in German I think probably means many churches. The point was that we were there. We, we’d separated by this stage because they’d posted us to different directions.
JP: Directions. That’s right.
ID: They didn’t like us all to stick together. Form an Australian clique or something.
JP: Yeah.
ID: So we were switched around.
JP: Switched around. Yeah.
LD: You did tell me that you had done some, you had to do night flying and you heard there was good surf in Cornwall.
ID: Say that again.
LD: You told me once that you, being a few Aussies that you had to practice your training and your night flying and you heard there was some good surf in Cornwall.
ID: Well, I went down to Cornwall to surf but it was freezing. I’ll never forget going in. The first time I decided to put my toe on the water.
JP: Toe in the water.
ID: It went numb.
JP: Numb. That’s right. Yes. That’s, that’s exactly right. And so you finished this training and that’s when you went to 625. You were posted to 625.
ID: 625 yeah.
JP: And was that, when you went to 625 is that when you did your crewing up? Or did you do the crewing up before you went to 625?
ID: Most of it was done before we went. At the end of OTU.
ID: When we went to Wellingtons. We only had one pilot of course but we had our gunners..
JP: Yeah.
ID: We had a radio operator.
JP: Right.
ID: We had a navigator.
JP: Right. Ok. So that, so that, you got that crew together.
ID: Yeah.
JP: Back then. At OTU.
ID: I remember —
JP: Yeah. So who did you have then?
ID: By this time there was only one pilot at a time to plane.
JP: Right. Yeah.
ID: Geoff and Ron had gone off in their own directions.
JP: Direction. Yeah. So who was your navigator?
ID: His name was Carpenter. Stanley Carpenter.
JP: Stanley Carpenter. He was an Australian.
ID: He was a bank manager out of Durham.
JP: Oh an Englishman.
ID: Yeah.
JP: Right. Ok. What about the other chaps?
ID: Well, the radio operator I think I mentioned who came from Toowoomba.
JP: Yeah.
ID: And then I had a bomb aimer named Ron Jacobs who came from Sydney but he was quiet and quiet after. I never really got to him after the war. He just kept quiet. Disappeared.
JP: Ok. And he was your bomb aimer you said?
ID: They were called bomb aimer navigator.
JP: Right.
ID: And they were called an Observer.
JP: Yeah. Ok.
ID: And they would stand by in case something happened to the navigator. Also, I had, in my case, I gave mine special training so that if anything happened to me he’d be able to fly the aeroplane back.
JP: Plane. Yeah. Ok and what about your gunners? Did you have some gunners at that stage?
ID: One came from the Newcastle area. Do you know the northeast of England?
JP: Roughly. A bit further up around Aldwick and yeah.
ID: Yeah. Around. Well one of them came from the area that was known as —they have a special name for it and [unclear] anyhow it was near on Newcastle and the other gunner came from Scotland.
JP: Oh ok. Whereabouts? Do you remember roughly where in Scotland?
ID: No. And not only that there was no way to track him after the war.
JP: After right.
ID: He just disappeared.
JP: Ok. So the –
ID: But the mid upper gunner [McClowsky?] migrated to Australia and died only just recently at a, at a home down in the south coast at Sydney.
JP: Oh really.
ID: Yeah.
JP: Goodness. Ok. Ok so this is your crew and you’ve been together basically since OTU and so now you’ve been posted to 625.
ID: Yeah.
JP: And you start your ops. That’s right. So I think you did about eighteen ops with this crew at 625.
ID: That’s right.
JP: What particular, any –
ID: In actual fact nineteen.
JP: Nineteen yeah.
ID: You see the first, the first two you flew as what’s called second dickey and in my particular case one was an American pilot. The other was an English pilot. And they had I thought rather mild problems with it. Enough so turned back. So we didn’t really count them yet they were over German.
JP: Territory.
ID: Territory. So they really did count. But —
JP: So, what — what stands out in in those various ops? Any particular near misses or little events that, stories that you can tell me about from any of those ops?
ID: Well, they were particular times. I was I suppose you could say poetic. Sorry for what but I was fascinated by Robin Hood, England and, you know. The Sherwood Oaks. So I did lots of exploration.
JP: Yes, but in —
ID: Every chance I got.
JP: Yeah.
ID: I went and had a look at some new place.
JP: Ok.
LD: Did you fly there dad. Did you do extra training or did you go —
ID: No. No. I was fine in training.
JP: Yeah. But with, when you — with the op [pause] in the raids that you were doing when you were at 625 —those eighteen, nineteen, twenty raids.
ID: They were very scary raids.
JP: Scary raids. Why were they scary?
ID: That was a very rough time flying. We lost more aircraft at that particular period than at any other period. And it was just that, well the Germans had enough aircraft to put in the air.
JP: Yeah.
ID: To shoot you down.
JP: Yeah.
ID: So we were you trying to dodge them all the while.
JP: Were you flying always more or less to the same area? Were you flying in to the Ruhr? Was that the main or were you flying elsewhere?
ID: The Ruhr Valley as it was called or Happy Valley. We used to get it. Was our main target area because it was Germany’s main industrial area. So, most of our raids were on places like Dusseldorf, Duisburg, Cologne, Essen. And then on the edges of there. Places like Frankfurt and Stuttgart which wasn’t too far from the Ruhr.
JP: Ruhr. Yeah.
ID: But they were on the River Rhine.
JP: Yeah.
LD: How was it when you were flying dad. Was it very loud. How long did it take you? How many hours. Was it really cold?
ID: Well that depended on where. Which particular target you were on. But it could go from about four hours to about six hours. That’s the length. The duration of the flight.
JP: Yeah. But always you were dealing with a lot of German fighter planes.
ID: Yeah.
JP: Sort of up there creating trouble.
ID: I wasn’t. I wasn’t doing much dealing with them because it seemed somehow or other they dodged me and let me get on with the job of bombing [laughs]
JP: So, you were able to successfully drop quite a lot of bombs in those.
ID: Yeah. I always. I never turned back, and you know I did some very fine raids I thought at the time. Particularly some with winds that hadn’t been forecast. You turned around and come back and you had a howling headwind and you wondered if you were going to get back.
JP: Get back and have enough juice in the tank to get you home.
ID: This was, this was where I met Pat. When she — and what happened there was that we tried to get back into our base . The whole of the south of England was fogged in and we were given a diversionary. Numbers like three or four figures. That meant it was a certain base. I was given a base. And the navigator got the base and they said, ‘You’re going to Wymeswold.’ We got to Wymeswold and that was fogged in. We were running low on gas. There is only one other place for you to go to and that was Fort Ellen. Which was a little island off the coast of Scotland. And I said, ‘We’ve got no choice we’ve got to get in there.’ So, we waited will we landed at Fort Ellen. I was reported missing. Pat was at that stage we were starting to get fond of each other. So, we came back the next day and we carried on.
JP: And did they — the senior officers have anything to say about you having to divert so far or or –
ID: No. Not really.
JP: Not really.
ID: The closest I got, I got what? A DFC. And that was an award for fighting.
JP: Yeah. Well we’ll come, we’ll come back to that.
ID: I also was told by the wing commander I myself when the war ended we were going to go out to Japan. If I stayed and not get married that he would make sure I got the DSO. I’d done sixty missions by this time and some of the [unclear ] squadron leader but you know by that stage I think starry eyes take over and I was too fond of Pat to think of giving her up to go and fight. So —
JP: You didn’t.
ID: So, I thought about it for a while and then I decided, well, what am I going to do when I got back? I didn’t like the bank, but I worked in a bank so —
JP: Ok. Well we’ll come to that bit later because we need to go from 625 to 156.
ID: Yeah.
JP: To the Pathfinder. So how did you persuade your crew to —
ID: With great difficulty.
JP: With great difficulty. What special —
ID: No. No.
JP: Charms did you exert?
ID: None of them wanted to go.
JP: No.
ID: We’d done our tour and then they, you know, by rights they could then take at least six months without having to operate again. But in actual fact I said I’m going to stay on for forty five. Do forty five trips until ’45 at that stage and stay on until ‘45 and [unclear] put it to them. I said, ‘Well I’m going to go to Pathfinders. If you want to come with me you come. If you don’t want to come, I’ll go off on my own and pick up another crew,’ because there were crews available and places for good pilots like me if I wanted. So, every one of them volunteered to stay.
JP: Volunteered.
ID: So, the whole crew continued on and by the time I’d done nineteen operations and also it was a very difficult period as far as getting shot at was concerned. But well I think [unclear] Although we got [unclear] somewhere that there was two hundred and seventy two holes in the aircraft and it didn’t come down.
JP: Amazing.
ID: Yeah.
JP: So, when did you actually start with Bomber —Bomber Command — with Pathfinders? Do you remember roughly what month that you —?
ID: By this stage it was’44. In the, out in the middle of 1944.
JP: Right.
ID: I switched to Pathfinders.
JP: Yeah. Ok.
ID: And then we had to do further training.
JP: Right.
ID: It was called a Pathfinder night training unit where we had to do a lot of day time training and a lot of low level flying. We did all sorts of training.
JP: Yes. Because of training.
ID: The flying programme was specialised. In case you were called upon to do it.
JP: Do it.
LD: And all on Lancaster.
ID: We were lucky. We were lucky and we worked hard.
JP: Yes.
ID: We planned.
JP: Planned. Yes.
ID: And I think I would say that I was a good pilot and I was able to dodge incoming but I could still today do that [sniff] and still smell the cordite of shells exploding around the aeroplane.
JP: That’s right.
ID: So, I was very very close.
JP: Close. Yes.
ID: I think I was on the raid Geoff Jones was shot down.
JP: Right. And the raids, the ops that you did as part of the Pathfinders. What, what particular raids — do they stand out to you that you can tell me about?
ID: Raids.
JP: Yeah. What. You know— the missions that you did. Any. Any. I mean I know, I know there is a bit of —
ID: Well right at the end of the war when I was, I’d been made a Master Bomber.
JP: Right.
ID: Which meant you took control of the whole of the bomber force. But you do a period as deputy master first and I’d completed two of those and then I was given my call sign. That was not very romantic. Plate Rack it was called.
JP: Plate Racket.
ID: Plate Rack.
JP: Oh my goodness.
ID: I was Plate Rack 1.
JP: Plate Rack 1. Right. Ok.
ID: Plate Rack 1 would be telling the, you know, the main force on what they had to do.
Other: With his crew.
ID: Bomb forward and so on and so forth.
JP: And you say they were scary because of the amount of the combination of factors being low level flying, lots of German aircraft. What would you say was the most scary factor?
Other: [unclear]
ID: Being shot down by the fighters. Because they’d creep in from behind you and you didn’t know they were there. We had no way of establishing.
JP: Establishing.
Other: Yes. He’s not in this one.
ID: Am I in that picture?
JP: Yeah. That’s right.
Other: Eight of them.
ID: That’s me.
JP: Yeah. And the operation. When you were — you mentioned and I said I’d come back to. You were awarded the DFC. Can you tell me about which operation?
ID: It wasn’t anything —
JP: No one operation. It was an accumulation of —
ID: It was over a period of time.
JP: Time.
ID: A number of very hairy operations that I did but you know I had —
JP: Was this in Pathfinder? As part of the Pathfinder ops or —
ID: Well, I was in Pathfinders by this time.
JP: Yes, right, yeah.
ID: And what actually happened was that when I went down to Pathfinders they just said forget what you’ve done up till now. So, I had to start all over again. And it was a bit, well it wasn’t scary [unclear ] because I was well trained for it. It was frightening. And as long as you planned well and trained well you had as good a chance as anybody. You know, we lost at that particular stage, we lost about half the, half of the people that took place in the raids.
JP: Yes. That’s a very, a very significant loss ratio. It’s, it is quite amazing.
ID: The raids on the Ruhr were always difficult because every one of those places I’ve mentioned had their own particular ack-ack batteries of flak and they were constantly shooting at you. So, dodging that was always scary. I mean there’s nothing much you can do about it.
JP: Except stick together and follow and do —
ID: Yeah.
JP: Follow all your planning and make use of all your preparation.
ID: Yeah but you know you didn’t fly in formation like the Yanks did.
JP: Oh no. No. No.
ID: We went independently. Navigated independently.
JP: Independently.
ID: To the target and that way, we were able to adjust. And I think it’s probably one of the reasons why they accepted me in the Pathfinders. That I was able to make decisions. Life affecting decisions that always worked out right.
JP: And I mean, and the flying conditions were never easy anyway with, with your own squadron members because there, there were so many if you needed to take quick evasive action there was always one of your own planes not that far away that you were trying to avoid as well. Is the situation.
ID: Always was that fact. Normally was no problem.
JP: Right.
ID: But if you got weather fogged in which you can get. Particularly during that Christmas of 1944 was a very very difficult period weather wise.
JP: Wise.
ID: Yeah. Had to be able to get in. Get landed.
JP: Yes. And so —
LD: This photo is at the end of March 1944.
JP: ‘44. ok right. We’ll come back to that one then. That’s good. And so all of these forty two ops take you through to forty —
ID: Sixty if you count. If I counted those two as one.
JP: Yeah. One. Ah yes.
ID: Do you know what I mean?
JP: By the time you add in the 625 yeah. The sixty.
ID: Of which thirty nine were with Pathfinders.
JP: Path. Yeah. Yeah. And —
ID: And remember you worked your way through. I had a very good navigator so the navigator wanted him to be chosen to do what we called sky marking. It was operating, marking in the blind, in the cloud because his work on radar was good. He was able to give me directions which meant I always got through.
JP: So, your navigator was doing this blind sky marking.
ID: Yes.
JP: Yes.
ID: He was, he, you know you’d fly the aeroplane but as you got nearer the target was under his direction for ten miles to the left and so on and so forth because as we got further into the Ruhr there was nowhere to go, you know. Because when you went to Duisburg or Dusseldorf one flak battery was shooting at you. As was the other one.
JP: And were you taking photographs as well during the —
ID: No. I did have a camera which I got in New York which was stolen in Cornwall of all places. Newton Abbot. All my baggage disappeared.
JP: Oh dear. Right. And so —
ID: And I bought a leather jacket in New York. And a camera.
JP: Right.
ID: But I’ve never been like my younger brother. Spent his life taking pictures. I never bothered that much.
JP: No. Right.
ID: Still don’t. I can remember it pretty well.
JP: Yeah. You can. You can remember it very well. And with the — so the crew then. You mentioned your navigator, so your entire crew was still all the same. You hadn’t changed any of your personnel at this stage. So, all your crew —
ID: No. I never lost any crew members.
JP: No.
ID: They all stayed with me until —
JP: The end .
ID: The end of their tour.
JP: Stayed until the end of the operation. The end of that tour, that’s —
ID: With the exception of the rear gunner who stayed on.
JP: Who stayed on.
ID: And I stayed on to go on my third tour.
JP: Oh, my goodness.
ID: He stayed on with me.
JP: Right.
ID: So, we could have very easily been shot down but we weren’t.
JP: You weren’t. No.
ID: That’s the way it goes.
JP: Well as we say there’s, that’s —
ID: And when you do it sixty times you know, you get your frights from time to time.
JP: And what — obviously you had a very close crew at this point because you’d been together for so long.
ID: Yes.
JP: Did any of them have any particular good luck charms or anything like that? Or superstitions that they always —
ID: Well let me just say one thing here. That our crew — we stuck together as a group even though I was an officer and the others were all other ranks or flight sergeants more or less. We went out together. We went to the local pub together. That sort of thing. And we just didn’t separate out and go off in different directions. It was only when I definitely decided to get married that we started to spend a bit of time occasionally with ourselves.
JP: So, when you did —
ID: What I used to do, for instance, we used to go to Cambridge. We were based near Cambridge. And in Cambridge there was a swimming pool and you could practice your dinghy drop. So, we were, this was where we signed up. I’d sign and they’d provide a dinghy for me and then I’d take the whole crew along and we would do a dinghy drill which was good because if we got shot down we’d get some practice.
JP: Practice.
ID: We’d be in the water.
JP: Yeah.
ID: So, we did that and then after we’d done the dinghy drill Pat and I would go off to explore Cambridge for example.
JP: Right. So, when you had periods of leave you would have sort of gone your own separate ways a little bit then from the rest of your crew. Or even when you were on leave did you all stay together?
ID: No. When I met Pat — when we decided to become engaged after we’d done our training then we’d go our own way and then most of the crew accepted that I was with Pat so we did our own thing. And the pictures that you see of my wife in the canoe there. She — I’ve got a picture of her there.
JP: That’s good. And —
LD: Because my mother used to interpret the photos.
JP: Oh ok.
ID: So, she would debrief the crews.
JP: Debrief. That’s right.
LD: So dad got his crew to wait so that he could be specifically debriefed by Pat.
JP: Very good. Very well done. But this was while you were at 625 so I presume she stayed at — around with the 625 base to do the debrief. The intelligence work there. She didn’t —
ID: No. No.
JP: She moved did she? When you moved to Pathfinders.
ID: When I moved to Pathfinders.
JP: Did she move?
ID: She got —
JP: She got herself another job did she?
ID: She tried to get down. She was the senior female officer in intelligence. Female officer that is. And so she tried to pull a few strings.
JP: Pull a few strings.
ID: And get as close to me as she could. And she was fairly successful. She was based at Wing and she was based at Wratting Common. And when she was at Wratting Common I was able to take the Oxford on beam training and I’d called in to Ratting Common for tea.
LD: You told me you couldn’t drive a car, but you could fly a plane. Drove over for tea and took mum out on a bicycle made for two.
ID: That’s true. I was flying an aeroplane before I —
JP: Got your licence.
ID: Drove a car.
JP: Well that’s, that’s good. And —
ID: And of course, people like Pat, in those days they didn’t have cars. They were allowed to have cars.
JP: No. No. So what would you say your best experiences were from — what would you say were the best I mean there’s an awful lot of bad parts associated with all of those ops and all the rest of it. Are there any, would you say there were some good parts to come out of that? Can you identify any good parts?
ID: Well —
JP: Apart from Pat I mean. I’m not talking about your —
ID: No. No, I know that.
JP: Yeah.
ID: One thing I’ll still — I’ll often go to bed and fall asleep thinking about or reeling about it. And that’s when I was deputy master bomber. Right. That meant that I had to orbit the target the same as the master bomber in case he was shot down. I had to take over. And we were doing a raid on a place called Plauen which is a between Berlin and Leipzig. And I’ll never forget the next day. I suppose it were really a freighter carrying ammunition or something but we hit it and it jack-knifed and you could see in the air the train coming together. The front and the back and the rest of it up in the sky like that. That was a scary period.
LD: You mustn’t have been very high up.
JP: No. They were never high up.
ID: No. No. Not on that one. It was a strange one because the master bomber had said to me there was too much cloud there, ‘Go down and find a level we can bomb at.’ So, you did as you were told so I went eighteen thousand where I was at and had to get down to ten thousand and then eventually eight thousand. I was underneath the cloud base and able to direct the raid and saw this go on.
JM: Amazing. And so, when you decided not to go — go on with the flying and you got you then sort of went in to discharge mode. You got that you were married in England.
ID: Yeah.
JM: First in what about —?
ID: Well remember the first thing was the wing commander offered me a job.
JM: Yeah.
ID: As a flight commander with the Tiger Force which was coming out to fight the Japanese. I had that choice, or I could get married.
JM: And you chose to get married.
ID: Chose to get married.
JM: Yes.
ID: And Pat and I was quite close as far as bases were concerned at that particular time.
LD: You also helped drop some of the provisions in Holland didn’t you? I seem to remember.
ID: Yes. Well that was after that.
JM: After VE day. After —
ID: It wasn’t after the war so much. It was after the area where we were operating. And I know I had to mark the target.
JM: Target.
ID: That was a field. And we had a field that — in the middle. It was Rotterdam.
JM: Right.
ID: And we went to Rotterdam and you found the field and you put markers. These are very powerful lights that shine and allow the Pathfinders to see it. So, we did that, and I controlled that particular [unclear] it was done properly and we were very successful.
JM: So how?
ID: And the Dutch were very happy about it.
JM: Yes. How many trips did you do for that?
ID: Two. I think.
JM: Two. Ok. So, when did you and Pat get married?
ID: On June the [pause] June the 20th I think it was. 1944.
JM: ‘44 or ’45?
ID: ‘45 sorry.
JM: Yeah. And that was up in Scotland was it?
ID: We were married actually in Scotland but it was, was a bit unusual. The wing commander as I told you wanted to [pause] me to go and be his flight commander but I chose to stay and then I had to do something. But Pat had some influence and she introduced me to a wing commander in London that controlled the postings and I told him that QANTAS had just got Lancastrians and that if I wanted to get a job with a Lancastrian it would be a good idea to to do the initial training in England and go back to Australia with a licence. And so what happened — I did the pilot’s training initially and to do that I had to go special course on hydraulics and a special course on electrics because they were different on the Lancastrian than they were on the Lancaster.
JM: Right.
ID: So, what actually happened was that I went to — I’ll never forget it to this day. I went to — I think it was called Woodford. Woodford and Chatterton. I went to both of them. And he said, ‘What do you want?’ — the fellow in charge of security at the gate. And I said, I’ve come — ‘I want to see Roy Derbeau‘ ‘Who?’ ‘Roy Derbeau.’ I don’t think we have anybody named that but I’ll have a look. So, he had a look and then a message came down from headquarters. They sent him up to see me and so I went up to see him and then —
LD: Because, Do you mean Sir Roy.’
ID: Secretary that I saw and he said, ‘You couldn’t possibly mean Sir Roy [laughs] I’ll never forget it. ‘You couldn’t possibly mean Sir Roy.’ I said, ‘Is he the fellow in charge of Avro’s production?’ Which he was and he said, ‘Yeah. That’s the bloke.’ The next thing I knew they had provided me with a Humber car.
JM: Oh.
ID: And put me up in the Midland Hotel where they kept some spare room and I stayed in that room for three weeks doing these two courses.
JM: Marvellous.
ID: I showed that I had the necessary equipment now and knowledge to get a first class — first class licence.
JM: First class licence.
ID: Air transport licence.
JM: Licence. Yeah.
ID: And then because nothing was happening we didn’t really know whether Tiger Force was going to get away.
JM: Get away.
ID: So, what I did was go went down to Southampton University and told them what my problem was. They said, ‘Well, you’ll have to learn about the tides. And I said, ‘What do you mean the tides? I’m flying an aeroplane. Landing a plane.’ ‘It doesn’t matter. The rules say you’ve got to have a knowledge of the tides around the shores of England.’
JM: Right.
ID: So, they put me on a special course for that.
JM: Right.
ID: So I got out of that and I’d now a first class pilot’s licence. Now, I got a second class navigator’s licence and then a radio operator’s licence that I went and did in between.
JM: Goodness.
ID: So I thought that’s fine ,and that’s basically where I was.
JM: Basically was. Yes.
ID: Until I came back.
JM: Back to Australia.
ID: To Australia.
JM: Ok. Well we’ll —
ID: I convinced them that I’d done enough.
JM: You’d done enough. Ok. Well we’ll follow that up in a moment. We’ll pause there so you can have your pills. Ok.
[recording paused]
JM: I was obviously lucky because I got shot at many many times.
ID: Many times. That’s right. As somebody else said to me it’s the luck of the draw.
JM: Yeah.
ID: Yeah. If you were in the wrong position at the wrong time you got shot down.
JM: That’s right. Very hard. So, you’re doing this training. You’ve got married to Pat and so then you — what about your return to Australia at this point? When? Where? When did you leave?
ID: Well when I came back —
JM: When did you leave because you and Pat came back separately didn’t you?
ID: Yeah.
JM: Yeah so —
ID: I came back on the Aquitania via Cape Town.
JM: Right. When did you leave? What —
ID: When I got here about two months. Three months later Pat arrived. Very, very pregnant at this stage. But she was — everything was above board.
JM: Yeah.
ID: We were brought up, well I was brought up the old fashioned way. You didn’t go flirting around with your wife to be. You waited. In our case we waited and we got married. We got married in Ely.
JM: In —
ID: Ely Cathedral.
JM: Ely. Oh right.
ID: Yeah.
JM: Right. Lovely.
ID: And the thing with that was that the crew that was supposed to be bringing up the best man. You know, my close friend —
JM: Yes. I was going to say were most of your crew at the wedding?
ID: Yeah and they didn’t come.
JM: They couldn’t come.
ID: No. They couldn’t come. Couldn’t.
JM: They had to go off and —
ID: Well I think what actually happened was that they, they’d been on a raid and they’d got back and they didn’t have enough time.
JM: Time.
ID: To get ready to come up to Glasgow. It was a bit of distance to do that so I remember walking along. I didn’t know because I had a phone call. I was staying at a hotel that and it was Pat’s mother saying, ‘Where are you?’ I said, ‘I’m having a shower.’ And she said, ‘You’re supposed to be getting married in a few minutes.’ ‘Don’t be silly our wedding’s at 11 o’clock and its only about half past eight.’ She said, ‘The priest changed the time.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Oh he wanted a bottle of whisky.’ So, I had to find this bottle of whisky for him and then he put the wedding off.
JM: Oh dear.
ID: Fella on the street that I got and there was a sergeant in the RAF. ‘Sergeant. You’re under orders. You are to attend this church.’ It was about twenty minutes by then. ‘In about twenty minutes you are to be the best man at my wedding.’ He said, ‘I don’t know you.’ What does that matter?’ I said, ‘I’m going off in a different direction.’ So that’s what happened.
JM: That’s what happened.
ID: I never, I never even knew his name.
JM: Name. So, Pat’s mother was there at the wedding. Was there any other family there or not?
ID: Yes. Pat’s sister. Sister [pause] And this was us just leaving on our honeymoon.
JM: Right. Ok. And where did you go for your honeymoon?
ID: A place called the Trossachs.
JM: Oh yes up in the middle there —
ID: In Scotland.
JM: Yes. There’s an old castle with — yes, I know the Trossachs very well.
ID: Do you?
JM: Yes. Yes, I do.
ID: Well, in those days that hotel was put aside especially for people who had had a very risky life in the war and particularly submarines. They seemed to go there. Anyhow, somehow or other I got through Pat. We got a room at this hotel. I’ll never forget to this day because we decided to go for a swim in that area. And there’s three lakes. Loch Venachar, Loch Katrine and Loch Achray. And there’s a great song that goes, “The copsewood grey that swept the banks of Loch Achray.” And we went for a swim and so I was last to go. And it was second last, she dived in and she didn’t really have a proper bathing suit. She’d tied some sort of bandage around her top and of course she came over the top of the water, I saw her and I thought oh God she’s drowning so I dived in. I’ll never forget it. I got her out of the water and we went in to — we had separate rooms at this stage and a basement and we warmed ourselves up there.
JM: So I guess Pat then went back and finished up work when you were on the boat coming out to Australia. Is that right?
ID: I didn’t work coming back to Australia. No.
JM: Sorry?
ID: I was just a passenger.
JM: No. No. Yes. I said Pat finished work.
ID: Yeah. Pat
JM: Finished work.
ID: What she did was she spent whatever time she had as near to me as she could.
JM: Could. Yeah. Yeah.
ID: But you very quickly ran out of money in those days.
JM: No.
ID: I had the paybook and didn’t have too much in it.
JM: No.
ID: Then we ended up at the, it was called the Abbot or something hotel at Brighton and we between us had about four or five pounds left and had about two weeks leave left to use up at that time as well. So I said, ‘Let’s go up and watch the races at Palace Court.’ And there was a horse there called The Reel and we put the whole our money on The Reel that won and we got fifty pounds out of that.
JM: Wow. Oh, that was good.
ID: For fifty pounds then we had a lovely last week or so in England.
JM: Yeah.
ID: And then of course I came home.
JM: Yeah.
ID: From Southampton.
JM: Southampton and you came back. Did you come back to Sydney or Brisbane? Where did you — or did you have to —
ID: On the way back, we came back through Cape Town. Stopped over in Cape Town for a couple of days and then we just dropped off troops in Perth and then the train. I think the plane or a train The ship stopped in Melbourne.
JM: Melbourne. And you had to come up by train from Melbourne.
ID: Up by train. I’ll never forget it because Pat had made herself a dress and it was big polka dots and she [unclear ] the polka dots. it looked really quite weird and out of place and she was pregnant by this time.
JM: But you, but she didn’t come out, but she came out after you didn’t she?
ID: Yeah.
JM: So, you came in to Melbourne, came up to Sydney. Met up —
ID: We came up together.
JM: Oh. You oh she was not that far behind you. You stayed in Melbourne did you, till she came?
ID: I was lucky in that things were and still are, you know, I’m ninety three, ninety four now they fall my way and this was what actually happened. We were able to get tickets on the Spirit of Progress, and it was [unclear] black something or other the temperature was about a hundred and ten at Melbourne. And we came up through the heat and then the air conditioning broke down. We had to change train at Wagga. Not Wagga.
JM: At Wagga Aubrey wasn’t it?
ID: Aubrey.
LD: So, dad you actually came before mum though didn’t you?
ID: Yes. Sure.
LD: How long before mum did you arrive?
ID: About two months.
LD: Yeah.
JM: Two months. Yeah. So you came up to Sydney but then you went back down, and you caught up with your parents in Sydney. And then —
ID: No, I came straight back, and I was staying at my parents’ house.
JM: Yeah. Ok. So, you were staying at your parent’s house and then Pat landed in Melbourne so you went back down to Melbourne to meet her.
ID: We came back by train.
JM: Yeah. Yeah.
ID: And then we both stayed.
JM: Yeah.
ID: And it was at that stage my sister was just about to get married or had just got married and Jack, it was, had won the military medal in the Solomons. He moved out and June moved out to make sure there was a nice big room for Pat and I.
JM: That’s good. So, so now we’re in to right, right. Ok so this is, which into January ‘46 by this stage. So you then set about getting into your working life I guess. At this point.
ID: Well, what happened was obviously after I’d done this study in England, to get a licence so I could get a job with QANTAS. I went to see the QANTAS people and they said, ‘No way. We’ve got twenty thousand pilots all looking for jobs.
JM: Jobs.
ID: All of them wing commanders. and I said, ‘Well I’ve got licences they don’t have.’ ‘Well sorry.’ When I went down to Melbourne strangely enough and I managed to get a flight out with the air force and I went to see the A&A people ‘cause they were —
JM: Yes.
ID: And they offered me a job straightaway. So when I went home again I had a call from QANTAS to say we’re still a little bit interested in. Yeah. And I said well interested back. And I said well interested had better harden straightaway because I’ve just accepted an offer for a job for A&A. Within an hour they phoned me and asked, ‘If you’re here at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning we’ll put you in your uniform.’
LD: Pretty good. There’s the Aquitania arriving in Woolloomooloo.
JM: Right.
LD: In 1945.
JM: Oh ok.
LD: And that’s taken from your mum dad’s, parent’s house. Flat.
JM: Oh, my goodness. Goodness. Right. Right. Ok. So, so, then you actually started with QUANTAS then and how many years were you with QANTAS?
ID: I joined QUANTAS on the [pause] January 19 –
JM: 1946.
ID: ’46, it was back then.
JM: Yeah.
ID: And I stayed with them until the April 1st 1954.
JM: Right. Ok. So, eight years. A bit over eight years. Yeah.
ID: Yeah. I — at the age of twenty four I was a captain with QANTAS.
JM: Gosh.
ID: And I think the youngest international captain in Australia.
JM: Youngest. Australia. So, you were doing international flights then. You –
ID: Yeah. Oh yes. Straight away.
JM: Did you do the Kangaroo Route or —
ID: Straight into international flying.
JM: Flying.
ID: On the Lancastrians.
JM: Yeah.
ID: And true to this day, and main reason was that they didn’t have anybody to fly in an aircraft. And there was a Liberator had lost an engine. They had to get an engine across to Learmonth of all places.
JM: Right.
ID: So I now had a licence. It was easier in those days just to switch it over and have — endorsed to fly Liberators. They took me up in an afternoon. Put me through like four hours flying. They said right you go and fly the Lancaster. So didn’t go as captain of course but as first officer.
JM: No but at least that meant they then had a crew to be able to solve their engine problem.
ID: They did.
JM The replacement engine problem
ID: Of course, they had the Lanc engine fixed up and that took off, going to the Cocos Island I think it was.
JM: Right. Right.
ID: And left me abandoned if you like at Port [unclear], they used to call it.
JM: Right. So, any particular experiences that stand out for you during your time at QANTAS? Your eight years at QANTAS? Any particular trips or particular important people that you might have carried.
ID: Well, one thing but I don’t want to put it in print. One of the first officers, you see, we only had two pilots and a flight time of nine to ten hours and we were coming back from Hong Kong. Trying to get in to Darwin and then there was a cyclone. And the cyclone forced us to dodge trying to land in Darwin. So we were sent to Cloncurry and I couldn’t get the plane down on the ground it was so hot. It started fluttering along there. That was one scary time.
JM: That must have been one scary experience. So, what did you do? Did you get it. Did you have to give up and go somewhere else. Or where else did you go?
ID: There was nowhere else to go.
JM: There was nowhere else, you just had to get it down.
ID: What actually happened to it was [unclear] Cloncurry I went back to Darwin. I was still on the outskirts. [unclear] We couldn’t land at Darwin, so we went back to a place called [unclear]
JM: Right.
ID: We went on to and the [unclear] I loaded up with gas. Headed back towards Darwin. By this time I was getting pretty tired so I thought I’d have a rest. I had to have a rest. Anyhow, I got up after my very brief rest to look out and see mountain peaks just there. By that house. As close as that. And it was all part of the ranges that went through. [unclear] Papua New Guinea. And the first officer who was supposed to fly in the aircraft had fallen asleep and they had a special recording compass which would — you put the thing in George and George followed the thing around on one, and I looked up and we seemed to be heading in the wrong direction. And I looked again and sure enough we were. We were very very lucky. We could have gone straight into that mountain. He quit inside a week.
LD: Golly gosh. You also told me that you helped to open up the air route to Christchurch.
ID: Yes. I did a lot of flights.
JM: Yeah.
ID: I did the [pause] Melbourne to Christchurch. That was on DC4s.
JM: Right. And so, moving along. Just summarising after you finished up at QANTAS you decided — did you have an approach to move to your next job or did you decide you wanted to give up QANTAS.
ID: Firstly, QANTAS paid very poorly in those days and I had a bunch of kids at home always looking for Christmas presents. Anyhow, I had the opportunity. I was in Singapore. I was introduced to the head of Caltex in Singapore and he said, ‘We’re looking for a chief pilot who’ll take on the job of training the Indonesians and then hand over to them.’ And they were willing to pay more than twice what I was getting.
JM: Gosh.
ID: So I said yes please. I went back and on the 1st of April 1954 I left QANTAS and joined Caltex.
JM: Caltex.
ID: And it was Caltex Pacific Petroleum it was called. And I’ll never forget it. Because when I got there, you know they put all this panic on, ‘You’ve got to be there tomorrow.’ So and so [pause] when I got there, they put me up in the Captain’s Room in the Raffles Hotel where I stayed for six weeks. Doing nothing.
JM: How nice.
ID: Except playing golf.
JM: Oh, my goodness me. Oh goodness. That must have been a tough life. But still, I mean, apart from the fact that your away from your family or had any of your family come up at that point or you were up there by yourself at that —
LD: When did we all go to Indonesia dad?
JM: In that six weeks at — when you were in Raffles Hotel were you by yourself?
ID: I was by myself.
JM: Self. Right. Yeah.
ID: I was staying at the Raffles.
JM: Yeah.
ID: But Pat and Louise and Mary came up by ship.
JM: Right.
ID: Norwegian ship. And they flew them in and then I had two or three days staying in a place not far from the actual airport itself in Singapore [unclear] The fact we were being based in Jakarta.
JM: Right.
ID: Because they reckoned that would be the best place to do their training from.
JM: Right.
ID: So I went to Jakarta to pick them up. One thing mind you was though I had no training on DC3 at this stage. I hadn’t really flown the aircraft at all and all of a sudden I’m the chief pilot.
JM: Pilot.
ID: I’m the chief training captain.
JM: Right. So, you had some, had to do some reading up quick smart then I guess to just be able to do the bit of pick up the bits and pieces you needed for the different plane.
ID: Well, flying is like riding a bicycle. You don’t forget how to do it.
JM: No but there would have been. Each plane has its own idiosyncrasies doesn’t it?
ID: As long as everything goes alright you have no trouble.
JM: Yeah.
ID: If something goes wrong then you’re in trouble.
JM: Yeah. That’s true.
ID: So I flew off and picked them up and went to Jakarta and we stayed in a place called [unclear] and then we moved out to [unclear] which a very nice house actually we had. Had up to eleven servants.
JM: Gosh.
ID: What actually happened was I was a pretty good golfer and the president of the golf club was the British Ambassador.
JM: Oh ok.
ID: And the club captain was an Australian. The Australian ambassador and when they said to me, ‘You fly pretty well. Do you want a job?’ I told them what I was doing. You leave tomorrow. Tomorrow I was on the way to Jakarta.
JM: Gosh.
ID: In those days it was, you know, who you knew.
JM: That’s right.
ID: [unclear]
JM: Well I don’t know as it’s all that different today quite frankly but yes, so you had six, six years in Indonesia.
ID: Well I was.
JM: Roundabout.
ID: I was there from April 1st again. 19—
JM: 1960.
ID: 1960.
JM: Yeah. And then from there you had a big change of scenery. You went off to Bahrain.
ID: I went there. What actually happened was that I decided that once I was going to go away from QUANTAS. I mean I was already doing very very well in QANTAS. I’d better get something worthwhile. So I was offered this job as chief training captain which I took up but then part of the job was to train the Indonesians to take over. And it took six years, but remember we had full crews and needed pilots or radio operators and whatnot, so I stayed there as supervisor. So that was done and then I got Type B Hepatitis and I remember I was pretty ill. Down in Melbourne. Royal Prince Albert Hospital.
JM: Hospital. That would have knocked you around a bit.
ID: Yes. It was a bit scary because I was in constant fever there for a while. But whatever.
LD: We used to go and visit him in hospital and there was the man next to him and he was always [flailing about?] for water.
ID: And the deputy chief of Caltex Petroleum was [unclear] who came down to Melbourne to see me. [unclear] coming to visit me. [unclear] and he said what do you want? And I said well I left QANTAS to try and further myself. I wish to go at marketing. I wish I did have, probably still have, to a degree. Anyway, the point is that they decided that they’d send me to Bahrain to do some brief training in marketing because in Bahrain we had marketing as shipping producing exploration and a full gamut of the oil business and they thought that was a good place for me to learn. So, I was sent there. Well basically to be there for six weeks. But the chap was superintendent of transport operations and remember we had a big transport operation was [pause] he was, I forget his name. A British major. You know One of the old fashioned types.
JM: Right. Right.
ID: So, I went in there and met [unclear] and he said, ‘Sorry. There’s no place for you.’
JM: Oh yeah.
ID: And I said, ‘Come on.’ Anyhow, a couple of days later HH Arnold Junior descended on them. He was President of them, and he said, ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘I’m playing golf.’ He said, ‘Why aren’t you learning?’ And I said, ‘What’s to learn’ Not that I know anything immediately. So he said, ‘Leave it with me.’ And within an hour I’d had a call to say to come up to the President’s office. The local president’s office saying that, ‘We want you to go to Bahrain and to train in Bahrain for six weeks and then we’ll see where we’ll place you. We have in mind the head of marketing in Beirut.’ But in actual fact the fella that was in charge of transport got there ahead of me, being British and being very pompous. He took advantage and they sent him off to Beirut and left me. And I had to fight my way through.
JM: Through.
ID: But I did every job I could get. Every time they gave me a job they said you take this fella and you learn about it. So everybody they gave me I learned his job. Could do it in a week or so because it was fairly simple jobs basically. It was just a matter of following up.
JM: Well, being used to organising yourself as a pilot and being responsible and organising others I mean, you know, you’ve got the basic skills there for any management role that you would need to do so I mean.
ID: Yeah. It came quite easily to me to be a manager. And so I was, apparently, I had and still have at ninety four a gift for working with people and I was able to [noise on microphone] oh I wondered what that was —
Others: Just loosening them up.
JM: So, you ended up with ten years all up.
ID: Ten years in Bahrain.
JM: Bahrain.
ID: And then in Bahrain I did all kinds of jobs but most were with maintenance planning of major shut downs. Many millions of dollars being spent and I was in planning. That was well before the days of computers and laptops.
JM: Yeah. That’s right. A very different work environment.
ID: You had to be able to do it. Worked out this is what will happen if you do this. So —
JM: Yeah. So then from Bahrain you went to New York. You had fifteen years in America.
ID: Hang on. I went to New York. I was in Bahrain for ten years.
JM: Ten years and then from there to —
ID: From there I’m sure I went to [pause] oh I know what happened. I won the first two Bahrain Opens at golf.
JM: You won the —
ID: What’s called the Bahrain Open it was then.
JM: Oh ok.
ID: That was the Bahrain open golf champion.
JM: Oh yeah. Yeah.
ID: And because I won them I think I got to know the president better.
JM: Yeah.
ID: And he called me up and said, ‘What are your plans?’ And I said, here it is what I’d done so far, ‘And really, I expected to be long since to be marketing somewhere.’ And then you know in a matter of days the call came forward to ask would I like to be head of training and development for Caltex Worldwide.
JM: Right. Gosh.
ID: Based in New York.
JM: New York.
ID: And I was there in New York for I think it was about ten years. Give or take six months or so. In which time I did a lot of travelling for Caltex. And I ran maintenance courses. Management training. Mostly as a organiser really and doing it but in many cases the organisation ones I liked. I used to do them myself.
JM: Yes, well that —
ID: That was just a small part. Right. Then they came with up a — when I was in New York I decided to come away with a golden handshake to cut back on everyone and I said I’ll take that and they said, ‘No we don’t mean you.’
JM: Oh ok.
ID: I said, ‘Well this is what it says. It’s all written down there anybody and everybody is allowed to apply.’ So that’s what actually happened, I applied and they said, ‘Well, you can’t go.’ And I said, ‘Well you shouldn’t have put it on paper like that.’
JM: Yeah.
ID: Because everybody else sees that I was turned down for being too good rather than I’d got a right.’ So, I did that.
JM: You did that and as you say you did a lot of travelling and a lot of courses.
ID: I’d done quite a few organisational development programmes as such.
JM: Yeah. Yeah.
ID: Training enroute in different countries.
JM: Countries yeah.
ID: And I ended up going to Kenya for the best part of a year.
JM: Yeah.
ID: And I was at Nairobi.
JM: That would have been a very different experience because I mean.
ID: It was indeed.
JM: We’re talking about you know mid to late [pause] mid–eighties. I mean it was a very different.
ID: Well it was most unusual in the firstly I was in the jungles in Sumatra and then I was in the desert of Bahrain and then I went to New York and then from New York. Well I obviously did well, or I wouldn’t have been selected to —
JM: To go to Kenya to –. Do, to run the.
LD: I remember as a little girl flying with you in the DC3 to Sumatra dad. Along the line. And then we went down into the oil caps high in Sumatra. Down that, on a small punt through the river and then there had been this — because you guys had gone shooting tigers.
ID: We had to go by boat from the airport where the plane landed to a terminal along the river. Siak River it was called. Along the Siak. I’ll never forget it because the river was the same colour as tea.
JM: Oh, my goodness.
ID: Funny that. That was stained. The water was stained.
JM: Stained.
ID: Run off the mountains and that. Anyhow, the point was I was trying to make that after that I was offered this, not offered. I took this golden handshake. Wasn’t much money in those days but I took it and I hadn’t been away from there for more than six weeks and I was down here in Sydney. And a phone call came and they said they want you to go to Indonesia for a year.’ I said how long?’ A year. What will they want for a year? Oh you’ll find out there. You’ll go there for a year. Your job is basically to train the Indonesians to take over completely. So, it took me six years, but I got it done. And [pause]
JM: So that was in Malaysia. Indonesia. Then from there you got another call and had to go off to Oman for twelve — for about a year. Is that right?
ID: Yeah. Well what actually happened was we were going to go and build a refinery in Bangkok. But if you remember back there was a big fire in a place called Bhopal in India.
JM: Oh yes. Yes. Yes.
ID: Ok. And the insurers withdrew the money that they’d put up for us to build that refinery.
JM: Yeah.
ID: So, I was suddenly without a job.
JM: Right.
ID: So, they said they were establishing a Tiger Force and would I be part of the Tiger Force? And the first place to go would be Oman for six months.
JM: Two months.
ID: Which turned out to be two and a half years. Which turned out to be very nice. I enjoyed Oman. We both liked it.
JM: Right. Right. Because I guess at this stage it would just be you and Pat. The children would be off doing their own things well and truly by this stage.
ID: Yeah.
JM: And then so you had the time in Oman and then a short break again and then Thailand.
ID: Well a short break. I can’t remember the exact time but certainly I’d already done the job.
JM: Yeah.
ID: In Oman and I’d come home. I think I was home for about six months and the phone goes. New York. New York wants you.
JM: Yeah.
ID: What for [unclear] and I’ll tell you and then they turned around and said we want you to go to Thailand to open up training manager.
JM: Right.
ID: Whilst in charge of development. All levels of people who wanted, who knew, and it was what we called a star petroleum refining company.
JM: Right.
ID: And the actual — the actual running of the place was done by a couple of engineers, a managing director and his vice president but I was responsible for human aspects of it.
JM: Right. Right. And then finally you went to Japan.
ID: In between I did quite a few.
JM: A few bits. Yes.
ID: Specialised trips.
JM: Specialised short trips. Yeah.
ID: Trained on.
JM: Sort something out.
ID: We were the first people who engineered simulated management programme and because it was so successful they decided I could stay on doing that and I had one computer specialist who was very good and myself and we were the mainstays behind this Tiger Force and somewhere between Oman and Thailand. Yeah. Oman to Thailand. And then Thailand we built a new refinery completely and I had the responsibility of manpower training and providing the man power and basically trying to stop Shell who had been there for quite a bit longer from stealing the only trained people in the country. And we did, and I got that job done and went home and I thought it was all over because by this time I was about seventy six or so. And —
JM: Amazing.
ID: I got a call again and, ‘We want you to go to Japan.’ And I said, because I liked Japan, and I looked forward to that, ‘Can my wife come?’ ‘Cause I took Pat out to all these places.
JM: Places. Yeah.
ID: Yeah. Well, they said, ‘Yeah. Alright.’ I said, ‘When do we go?’ ‘Tomorrow.’
JM: Nothing like a bit of notice.
ID: Yeah. So, I went off with — with [pause]
LD: [unclear]
ID: Having done the job in Thailand I then was involved in this Tiger Force group and was busy trying to downsize the way the Japanese run their refineries and what was happening was they were buying you know twice as much as they should have done and they had far too, far too many people for what work there was. And the men would stay back till 8 o’clock at night shuffling paperwork from one to the other. But Pat and I were there for — oh I don’t know — fourteen months. Something like that. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We like japan very much.
JM: That’s good.
ID: Of course the men aren’t nearly as nice as the women. And the women helped Pat a lot.
JM: You’ve had an incredible life and it’s just amazing to think you continued to work in such influential positions for so long. it’s just a tribute to your whole —
ID: Well an attitude to work. And of course —
JM: Well attitude to work but it’s the skills. It’s the ability to relate to people. It’s the ability to deliver. It’s the ability to manage. It’s all of those things and I think that comes back.
ID: Well they all —
JM: And explains why you survived. You know, I mean, it’s the people —
ID: They came all together again and well I was successful was I wouldn’t have been working till I was seventy eight.
JM: That’s right. Amazing. So there’s just one other thing that I would ask out of an interest in your golf. So, you when did you first start to play golf? When you were a boy back in Maitland or —?
ID: My father was a very good golfer.
JM: Right. So —
ID: Played [off scratch?]. ]
JM: Right.
ID: Back in Maitland
JM: Right.
ID: But he wouldn’t let us you know play because he didn’t want us around when he was having his booze and God knows what. But the point was I did get a few hits in so I knew which end of the club to hold kind of thing.
JM: Yeah. Did you caddy for him at any time? Did you caddy for him at any time?
ID: No. I don’t think so.
JM: So, you didn’t get a chance to see him.
ID: I played with him.
JM: You played with him but —
ID: But not against him.
JM: Not against him. Yeah. Yeah.
ID: The last time we played together was in Avalon in Sydney.
JM: Oh ok.
ID: A course there.
JM: Yeah. A little public course yeah. Yeah. Because again being a good golfer often works very well in the corporate world. And I think that’s evidenced by the fact that –
ID: That corporate role as such but the fact that you could go to a place and then meet with the managing director of the company.
JM: That’s right. Yes.
ID: And talk about golf.
JM: That’s right.
ID: And not about anything else.
JM: Exactly.
ID: That was enough to get you through the front door. Put it that way.
JM: That’s right. Well as I say and the perfect example is when you were saying about Bahrain.
ID: Yeah.
JM: That’s right.
ID: You kind of soon found that you were capable. What you were capable of.
JM: Yes.
ID: And you concentrated on that.
JM: That’s right. Well I think we’ve covered an enormous amount of territory today and I appreciate so much the effort that you’ve made because I know you’ve not been well. And it’s just to put –
ID: My main problem is just sitting down.
JM: To sit down for too long. That’s right. That’s why I want you to be able to have a little time —
ID: They tell me I’ve got –
JM: To finish up. So, I think we’ll conclude there and as I say thank you very very much Ian for all.
ID: Jean. It’s been a pleasure to have you here.
JM: Thank you.
ID: And feel welcome to call by any time.
JM: Thank you very much.
ID: And ask any questions you want and I’ll give the right answer.
JM: I appreciate that. I appreciate that. Thank you. So, we’ll finish it off there now. Ok.
ID: Ok.



Jean Macartney, “Interview with Ian Denver,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 14, 2024,

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