Interview with Keith Ganney


Interview with Keith Ganney


Keith was called up in February 1942 and after basic training learned to fly in the Tiger Moth and then sent to Davidson in Canada for further training in Cornells and Cranes. He failed a flying test and was remustered as a bomb aimer and sent back to England to 9 AFU at RAF Penrhos and then to RAF Silverstone to carry out crew training on Wellington and Stirling aircraft.
After attending the Lancaster finishing school at RAF Syerston, Keith and his crew were posted to RAF East Kirby. Their first operation was to Konigsberg, an eleven-hour trip but had to divert to Scotland because of bad weather. Several ‘bullseye’ feint operations were next before a raid on Bremen Docks was a failure due to navigator error.
Another operation was to Dusseldorf, carried out on a perfect moonlit night. An attack by a Me109, left the rear gunner severely wounded and the mid upper turret out of action. After fifteen minutes of corkscrew evasive action, the enemy fighter flew alongside, waggled his wings and flew off. Keith comforted the rear gunner until they made an emergency landing in England. Examination of the damaged aircraft revealed the emergency whistle of the mid upper gunner had deflected a bullet and saved his life. On an operation to Trondheim, the crew were unable to bomb so returned but had a lucky escape when they flew too low and hit the sea, tearing off the tail wheel and causing a crash landing for which the pilot received a red endorsement
Their last operation was to Siegen and in mid flight the navigator wanted to turn back so the pilot ordered Keith to map read the route from the nose of the aircraft and so he finished his first tour on 1st February 1945.
After time as a bombing instructor at RAF Swinderby, Keith was posted to Sudan as an air traffic controller from where he was demobbed.
He worked as a salesman until 1984, during which time he joined 57/630 Squadron association.
Keith feels angry at the treatment of Arthur Harris and considers the aircrew clasp as a pathetic gesture.




Temporal Coverage




01:05:18 audio recording


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HB: This is an interview with Keith Ganney, flying officer with 57 squadron whose date of birth is 10th of November 1922. His service number was 1324929. Interview is taking place at ****. Interviewer is Harry Bartlett, a volunteer with the International Bomber Command Centre. Good morning Mr Ganney.
KG: Good morning.
HB: Perhaps you could just give us an idea of what you were doing prior to the war starting.
KG: Yes, well, are we recording now?
HB: Yes. Yes. We are on recording.
KG: Do what Max Bygraves used to say, ‘I’m going to tell you a story.’
HB: You carry on.
KG: I’m going to start at the beginning. I met my wife when she was not quite seventeen in 19, early 1942. Her birthday is the 6th of February 1942 and I’d met her through going on a fairly regular basis to a bank on behalf of the company I worked for and I then decided I ought to take her out to lunch because I really fancied her. Is this all right?
HB: Yeah. This is your interview.
KG: I really fancied her so I took her out to lunch and it cost me a small fortune in so far as she said she wasn’t hungry and she had a bowl of soup which would cost about one and a half pence in today’s money. I don’t know what I had. And then a week or so after that I took her to the pictures and we saw a film called, “Ships with Wings,” and she was most impressed with me because I had been given a nice wallet by my parents when I was nineteen in the previous November, November 1941 and I pulled out a shiny, five, a pound note and that seemed to impress her. So obviously at that time she was after my money.
HB: [laughs] A man of substance.
KG: Yeah. Anyhow, we dated then for a few weeks until I joined and I’d already enlisted in the December 1941, the RAF and I was called up in, I think it was February ’42 and we went to St John ’s Wood and crossed Abbey Road long before the Beatles were even born. So we we went there for kitting out and whatever. Make sure we were still alive I guess. From there we went down to Brighton for marching and learning how to salute which is obviously a pre-requisite if you’re flying on Lancasters. So we stayed at Brighton for about a few weeks at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton and from there we moved to Scarborough and at Scarborough, in Scarborough one afternoon I was called out with about four others, my name was first on the list, to be guard commander for the officer, officer inspecting because we were guarding the Grand Hotel in Scarborough which is a grand hotel or was and I said, ‘Well I know nothing about rifles or anything like that,’ and this sergeant, I should think he was the 1914/18 sergeant, he said, ‘Weren’t you in the ATC?’ So I said, ‘No.’ ‘Or the air training corps or cadet corps?’ So I said, ‘No. I don’t even know which side of the shoulder you put your rifle on.’ So he said, ‘Oh God,’ he said, ‘Well in that case, number two you’d better be guard commander. You’d better be guard commander until the inspection and then you can take over as guard commander,’ which is what we did. I think there were about four or five of us. There wasn’t a bullet amongst us. If a German had come up we would have surrendered Scarborough plus the Grand Hotel without any trouble at all. So that was a little escapade in Scarborough. From Scarborough we moved to Brough just outside Hull for initial training on flying Tiger Moths and I qualified for flying Tiger Moths after, I think about ten hours and from then on we got shuttled off to Canada. We went out on the Queen Mary, the old Queen Mary and eventually when we came back we came back on the old Queen Elizabeth. And then we went to New York. From New York we went by train to New Brunswick to a town called Moncton where, I don’t know what we did there, we just festered around I think until such time as we were allotted to various places around Canada. It so happened that myself together with I think three or four other blokes were sent to Saskatchewan. A little place called Davidson of about five hundred people right in the middle of the prairies. Nice flat area for flying in and it was lovely going from Moncton out to Saskatchewan by train, one of these big Canadian type trains. I think it took us about two or three nights to get there. Am I doing to much?
HB: Absolutely spot on.
KG: Is it?
HB: Yeah. Absolutely super.
KG: We then went, got to Davidson. There were only about five hundred people, as far as I can remember, in this town, inverted commas and the girls there had never seen an English person because it was way out in the, in the sticks. The thing was, ‘Say something. We think you’re cute.’ So we, I started to fly Cornells there. A two seater aeroplane. A little bit up from a Tiger Moth. A single, single plane and during one of those escapades I was sitting in the parachute room and an instructor came in, I didn’t know who he was, and he said, ‘Where’s your instructor?’ I said, ‘He’s got the day off.’ So he said, ‘Have you, have you done aerobatics?’ So I said, ‘No.’ ‘Well get your chute on. We’ll do some aerobatics.’ Well it so happened that I’d been gorging myself on peanuts so you can imagine what happened when I, when we were doing loops and God knows what and he said when I coughed up, he said ‘Tastes better the first time doesn’t it?’ So anyhow I spent Christmas of 1942 it would be because at this time of year it was around about December and the Christmas 1942 with some people who had asked to take on a couple of RAF people and eventually I went solo on Cornells and did quite a lot of trips on them as my logbook will show you. From there we went to a place called Dauphin, D A U P H I N. Dauphin in Manitoba to fly on Cessna Cranes, twin engines Cessna Cranes. Like a downmarket version of an Anson. So I flew those and, sorry, my train of thought’s going. So after, after that they tested me after I’d done a lot of flying. My log book will tell you how many hours I did there but did a lot of flying, they tested me and found me wanting.
HB: Oh dear.
KG: Which I was, on hindsight I was very, very pleased about. I was kicked off the pilot’s course and because they didn’t think I’d make a very good pilot although I’d done a lot of cross countries by myself and if if they hadn’t had kicked me, if they had kept me going it’s almost certain I would be dead because I would have entered flying a lot earlier than I ultimately did. So I then had to re-muster and I decided well the quickest way to get back home was a short course as opposed to navigation which was a bit of a longer course, I enrolled as a bomb aimer and I went to a place called Paulsen I think it was. Paulsen. And qualified as a bomb aimer there in about 19, early 1943. Perhaps you can tell.
HB: I’ve just come to, in your Canadian logbook.
KG: Yeah.
HB: April 1943 you’re flying a Crane and it’s a progress check.
KG: Yeah.
HB: And then this -
KG: That was in April.
HB: Yeah. And this, this logbook then finishes. I’m sure. Yes. There’s no other entries in there and we move to your smaller A5 size Canadian logbook and that starts May 29th 1943 and you’re on an Anson.
KG: Yes, that’s right.
HB: 8603
KG: We -
HB: With Sergeant Sagar.
KG: We came, we came back, as I say on the Queen Elizabeth and we were posted to Penrhos in North Wales where we did further training at AFU, Advanced Flying Unit practicing bomb aiming with twenty two pound smoke bombs and things like that and the pilots were also practicing. From there we went, from there where did we go?
HB: Well that was, that was, the AFU was number 9 AFU at Penrhos.
KG: Penrhos that’s right.
HB: Penrhos. And so you then went to the 17 OTU at Silverstone.
HB: March.
KG: Operational Training Unit and we -
HB: March 1944.
KG: I think it was before that. We flew on, we got allocated to the various crews and there again your life depended on who chose you. It was just like picking up a football team in the playground when you were about ten years old. I’ll have him, I’ll have him and there was no question of what were your abilities or anything. It was just by chance.
HB: Where did you do that Keith? Was that in a sort of like a big hangar or -
KG: I can’t remember where we actually did the selection but it was just a very much of a random selection of a whole swarm of people saying, ‘Well I’ll have him and I’ll have him,’ until you’ve got the seven bods that you need. Then we flew there. I think it, wasn’t it the Advanced Flying Unit? AFU, as I say.
HB: I’m just looking at your logbook here and it’s got you, you’re at the AFU until mid-February
KG: Yeah.
HB: ‘43, sorry ’44.
KG: Yeah on the AFU we, we were flying Wellingtons, this was for the pilot’s benefit, Wellingtons and Stirlings.
HB: Oh right.
KG: Until we, from there we graduated on flying the bigger stuff until we went to the OTU and Operational Training Unit and eventually we went on to what they called the LFS. Lancaster Finishing School.
HB: Yeah.
KG: So by that time I think we were in 1944, early 1944 maybe the end of ‘43.
HB: I’ve got, I’ve got in your logbook here if it helps June the 16th 1944. Conversion Unit Wigsley.
KG: Wigsley yeah.
HB: And it starts, that starts off with Stirlings.
KG: Yeah. That was June ’44 was it?
HB: That was in June ’44.
KG: Then you go on to the LFS I think.
HB: Yeah and then we’ve the LFS up the road at Nottingham at Syerston there.
KG: Syerston, yeah.
HB: July 28th
KG: So that’s where we went first on to Lancasters. Then we got posted. Then we got posted to East Kirkby, to the squadron.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And the skipper was a Geordie lad from around the Houghton le Spring area of Durham and he seemed very keen to get on to operations. I wasn’t all that keen ’cause I thought you could be killed.
HB: Yeah.
KG: So eventually he kept on going to the squadron leader and the squadron leader, ‘No. You can’t go on this one. You haven’t done any daylight trips yet. You can’t go on that one because it’s too far. And it was typical RAF one of the first two trips that we went on Konigsberg.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Which was about eleven.
HB: Eleven hours.
KG: Eleven hours, eleven and a quarter hours and we got caught in the searchlights there. We weaved our way out of them and we had to divert when we got back to the UK. I think we landed somewhere up in Scotland somewhere and had to stay there the night because of bad weather and the next day which was a Sunday we took off to go back to our own base and he was determined to fly over his house because he was more or less enroute so he flew over his house and revved up these four Lancaster engines vroom vroom so you can imagine the noise.
HB: Yeah.
KG: They make and eventually of course his family came out and he did some sneak turns and he could see his family house and his parents apparently. So that was Konigsberg. First trip. Then the following Saturday we went to Konigsberg again.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
KG: We obviously hadn’t done a very good job.
HB: Oh dear.
KG: Not done a very good job. So that was two very long trips.
HB: Can I just ask you something Keith? I’m just looking at your logbook here and you’ve got two night time operations 16th and 18th of August. One is called bullseye.
KG: Oh well those are -
HB: The Hague.
KG: Yeah.
HB: And bullseye. What were the bullseye operations?
KG: Bullseye was a sort of a training flight.
HB: Right.
KG: A pseudo operation. And sometimes when you went on a bullseye you’d, you know, a crowd of you, various aircraft from other squadrons or other parts of 5 group would go out in to the North Sea and whatever as if it was going to be a raid so that was a bullseye.
HB: Right.
KG: But it wasn’t an operation as such.
HB: Yeah.
KG: I think, I think after that what have we got as the next one?
HB: Yeah. You’ve done the two Konigsberg and then you do a daytime raid.
KG: Yeah. That’s right.
HB: To Burgainsville.
KG: Yeah. That was for, that was for these flying bomb sites.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
KG: All the night flights are in red.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And the green flights are day flights. We then carried on. I don’t think there was anything particularly exciting.
HB: Well you did, well you did Boulogne. That, that could be a bit hairy I think.
KG: Yeah.
HB: I’ve been told.
KG: Boulogne. I don’t remember -
HB: Bremerhaven.
KG: Bremerhaven. Yeah, we went to Bremerhaven. I mean we got shot at obviously and, just turn off the tape a minute will you.
HB: Yeah. No problem.
KG: Please. Just a second.
[machine paused]
HB: Interview recommenced just while Mr Ganney had a little cough. Well you had number 6 operation was Bremerhaven.
KG: Yeah.
HB: But then number twelve which would make you fairly experienced then because you’d done quite a few daytime ops, that was Bremen.
KG: I think it was probably Bremen.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Anyhow, when, shall I repeat - ?
HB: Yes. Yes please. Yeah.
KG: We were instructed bomb Bremen docks I suppose and the town and we were told to run up on a single marker on the ground laid by the master bomber and each aircraft was given a different angle to come in at and a different time delay. So the thing was that you do saturate the bombing and because we were an experienced crew at that time we had, I think it was a twenty eight seconds delay and as bomb aimer I lined everything up and I had to shout out, ‘Now,’ when we got exactly on the marker and the navigator was supposed to count twenty eight seconds and tell me when effectively to release the bombs. So after flying through loads of flak and God knows what, the fighters as well I suppose he, I said, ‘Isn’t it that time?’ ‘Oh my God,’ he said, ‘I’ve forgotten to count.’ So immediately I let the bombs go. Where they finished up I don’t know and the, when I went for a commission this matter was raised with the commanding officer as to why my picture, ‘cause you always took photographs, why my picture was so far away from the centre so I had to tell him what had happened. So that was a silly situation. So -
HB: It obviously didn’t affect the, the inevitable promotion.
KG: Well no. I mean getting a commission in those days was like going up for a NAAFI ration.
HB: Oh
KG: You know.
HB: Yeah.
KG: If your face fitted you’d be in.
HB: Yeah.
KG: So that was Bremen I think.
HB: You’ve got an entry in here for November. November the 1st, daytime operation against Homberg which was oil.
KG: That was oil.
HB: And all you’ve written in your log, this is what amazes me about these log books, you’ve just written flak hold and then brackets sixteen.
KG: I can’t remember that.
HB: Yeah.
KG: I can’t remember.
HB: But the next one was a night one at Dusseldorf.
KG: Dusseldorf is, is a story in itself.
HB: Yeah.
KG: We went out to bomb Dusseldorf on an absolutely perfect moonlight night. Not a cloud in the sky. We bombed Dusseldorf as an experienced crew for a fairly low level. That was thirteen thousand feet if I remember rightly and we went through the target area, bombed and immediately we came out of the target area we were attacked by an ME109 and with his first burst he wounded, severely wounded the rear gunner so we hadn’t got him firing back and then the mid-upper gunner’s guns weren’t operating correctly and all we had was the mid-upper gunner on the top of the aircraft telling us where this fighter was. Now when you are being attacked by a fighter the thing is to do is what they call corkscrews and it’s up to the mid-upper gunner to tell the pilot when to corkscrew because you know he comes in the rear and you turn and he turns and he’s got to turn a lot more and then you roll and then he comes back in again and this went on. I think it’s somewhere in the archives it was about fifteen minutes ‘cause this bloke obviously knew he wasn’t going to get anybody firing back at him and I couldn’t fire anything from the front turret because I never even saw the chap ‘cause he came in, dived away, came around again and eventually this, according to the mid-upper gunner and I’ve got no support for this thing, he said the ME109 came in quite close, he said, ‘I could see the bloke and he waggled his wings and dived away.’ That was the end of the attack. Possibly he was out of range for operations or he’d run out of ammunition. I don’t know. So we flew on and I think by this time we were down to about five thousand feet and the mid-upper gunner called out, ‘Somebody had better come back and see if Vic’s alright because we can’t get him on the intercom.’ So being the most useless person in the aircraft I was told to go back and climb over everything, over the main spar and whatever. Go back and see what was happening and the mid-upper gunner also gave me great confidence because he said, ‘You’d better put your parachute on because there’s a bloody great hole in the side of this aircraft somewhere,’ and so I said, ‘Well perhaps somebody had better come with me.’ So the flight engineer, all he does really is sit alongside the pilot and look at the instruments so he came with me and he was a nineteen year old lad and he came back with me ‘cause I was, what shall we say, a coward. Right. I didn’t want to go back by myself in case anything happened and when we got back over the main spar there was the rear gunner lying in what I thought was a load of blood. It turned out it was sort of a pinky oil but you know, in the light there you can’t tell which was which. So we tried to give him some morphia which I don’t think we succeeded in doing because I don’t think we did it properly and we actually gave him a cigarette and I was told to stay with him all the way back to base so I sat there and of course when I’m sitting there you could look out the side of the aircraft. There was a big big hole. You could practically walk through it.
HB: Right.
KG: And you could see the tail fins waving a bit in the breeze and so we flew back. We flew back to Woodbridge. American. Do you know Woodbridge?
HB: I’ve heard of Woodbridge. Yeah.
KG: Well Woodbridge was an American base basically and just had one very long runway and all these flying fortress and it they had trouble they just came in depended which way the wind was blown they just came in and landed so we came in to Woodbridge and we’d obviously radioed ahead and the, my memory’s going, so when we landed, just were running down the runway the starboard tyre burst and we tipped over a bit on to one wing. Anyhow, the blood wagon and the fire engine and the doctor and God knows who came out and took us into the medical bay and gave us tots of rum. Well I don’t drink and I can’t stand the taste of rum and I just took one sip of this rum and I said, ‘Oh God I can’t drink that,’ and the wireless operator was a nineteen, twenty year old, again a Geordie who liked his booze. He said, ‘Wahay man,’ he said, ‘I’ll have it.’ So he he took this thing and we were obviously there for the night. The next morning, the next morning we went out to have a look at the aircraft which was semi riddled with holes. Why it hadn’t burst into flames God only knows and there was the tail fin all flapping in the breeze. Just walking around there and I said to the mid-upper gunner, ‘Have you seen your whistle George?’ Well there’s a picture of it in there. There was a big indent in this whistle where I imagine it was the shape of a bullet.
HB: Right.
KG: And of course you wear it around your throat.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And George Hillier realised what that meant. That if it hadn’t hit the whistle he would have been a goner even if it was only a piece of shrapnel it was certainly you could see the picture in there and when he eventually came to leave the RAF at the end of his flying career they had to hand in all their gear, boots and everything they charged him threepence for his whistle ‘cause he kept it. Charged him threepence for his whistle. So that was, that was Dusseldorf and we went a week, or two or three weeks later to the hospital where the chap was and saw him there but if, the thing is, if he, if the mid-upper gunner had been killed and if that whistle hadn’t, shall we say, effectively saved his life then we would never have known where this fighter was and we would have been dead as mutton.
HB: Oh dear.
KG: Anyhow, the skipper, he got the DFC and the mid-upper gunner, because of his commentary he got the DFM and people say to me, ‘What did you get?’ I said I got the screaming abdabs. Yeah so –
HB: Absolutely. Your rear gunner. Did you say his name was Vic?
KG: Vic. Vic Lewell.
HB: Yeah. And did he, did he recover?
KG: He recovered and he died some, oh many years later really but he showed us all the shrapnel they’d taken out of him. There was the nose of a canon shell in amongst his souvenirs.
HB: Blimey.
KG: Yeah.
HB: So, but obviously to carry on you would have had another rear gunner join you.
KG: No. Yes. We did. We had another rear, rear gunner. The other, the other thing is it comes on to the next story. Am I doing too much?
HB: No. No. You’re doing great.
KG: The next story. We went to Trondheim. You’ll see it in there.
HB: I’ve got, I’ve got one marked Trondheim abortive.
KG: That’s right.
HB: That’s 22nd of November.
KG: 22nd of November. Anyhow, we went to Trondheim to bomb the U-boat pens and docks and God knows what and we were then told to abort the raid because the master bomber couldn’t mark the target accurately enough to avoid killing a load of Norwegians so we were instructed to fly back home. I don’t know how many aircraft, we often used to have a hundred, two hundred from 5 Group. So, as I said in that thing there, coming back over the North Sea at the end of November there aint a lot to see. You don’t see any lights. You’re not going to get any fighters around there. There was no flak. So I don’t know whether I dozed off or not, I don’t know but we were flying quite steadily and all of a sudden George Hillier who was the mid-upper gunner called out, ‘For Christ’s sake pull up Jack. We’re hitting the sea,’ and we were literally hitting the sea. You know how when you’re a kid you skim a stone -
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
KG: Over the sea. Well we must have been doing that without, without knowing it so we must have been flying a couple of inches I should think.
HB: Blimey.
KG: So he immediately pulls up and flew up to about five thousand feet and as the bomb aimer I said to the skipper, ‘You ought to jettison these bombs.’ You know you don’t normally want to land with a load of bombs on board or it might not be loads. So he said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘At the briefing we were told that if we didn’t bomb we were to bring them back ‘cause they were getting scarce,’ and I said to him at the time, ‘And so are people like me getting scarce.’ So we, we flew back, we flew back and I said, ‘I bet you’ve lost your tail wheel’. I don’t know what he said to that and so we flew, flew back and as we landed of course, with a Lanc you, or with a lot of aircraft you land on the front two wheels and slow down and the back drops down doesn’t it?
HB: Yes. Yeah.
KG: Well, we slowed down on the runway and of course the rear turret gets dragged along the runway. We had a Canadian rear gunner at that time because, because -
HB: Do you want me, do you want me to just give you a break a minute?
[machine paused]
HB: Right. We’ve all had a cough and we’ve ordered our coffees.
KG: We’ve got the new rear gunner because ours had been wounded a few weeks previously and we had a Canadian at the time and I remember this Canadian calling out, ‘What the hell goes on here? My goddamn ass is on fire,’ because his rear turret was being dragged along the runway, the fins of the aircraft had been cut down to ground level I suppose.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And he’d got all these sparks coming up the aircraft. So we pulled on to the grass and stepped out of the aircraft ‘cause you didn’t have to get the ladder out. You were on the, practically on the ground already.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And the skipper calls down to his drinking partner from the Durham area, George called, ‘Is there much damage George?’ ‘Away man,’ he said, ‘You’ll hardly notice it.’ And of course the instrument bulge underneath, that had gone. The fins had cut down to sort of ground level, the rear turret was a bit of a mess and he said you’d hardly notice it. Well a few days, two or three days later he was told to report to the CO with his logbook and he thought he was going to get a brownie point.
HB: This was the pilot.
KG: The pilot. Yeah.
HB: Yeah.
KG: He thought he was going to get a brownie point for bringing the aircraft back after hitting the sea. Instead of that he got a red endorsement. It’s in there, in that folder somewhere, the actual endorsement.
HB: Blimey.
KG: You can, you can have those.
HB: Yeah.
KG: If you’d like to take them with you you can.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Have a look through them if you want to. So where was I?
HB: He’d just had his red endorsement.
KG: Yeah, he -
HB: He was -
KG: He’d got this red endorsement and he got a red endorsement for not flying at the correct height, disobeying, was it disobeying instruction? Not flying at the correct height. Hitting, allowing his aircraft to hit the sea. So it’s not me making up my mind or making a story.
HB: No.
KG: It’s there in sort of, I was going to say black and white, it’s in red and white.
HB: Yeah.
KG: So that was, that was a bit hair raising.
HB: I can imagine. I can imagine. But that, but that, that pilot what was his name? Vasey.
KG: Vasey.
HB: That, that pilot at that time he’s already got the DFC, he’s on his, you’re on your twenty first, twenty second -
KG: Yeah.
HB: Mission. Operation, sorry and he’s got a red endorsement.
KG: Yeah, doesn’t affect him. Didn’t sort of say, in that case you can’t fly.
HB: No. No.
KG: Not like a driving licence if you get a red endorsement they might ban you from driving. They can’t ban you from flying really.
HB: Yeah.
KG: So -
HB: I notice in here you’ve got one of the operations, Keith is December the 8th and it’s Heimbach Dam.
KG: Yeah. I don’t remember much about it. It was -
HB: Oh right.
KG: A standard raid as far as I can remember.
HB: Oh right it’s nothing, nothing special.
KG: Nothing exciting.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
KG: The next thing that happened I think was on our last trip which was to a place called Siegen I think you’ll find.
HB: Yes. I’ve got Siegen that was February the 1st 1945.
KG: That’s right. And we were flying across something like Holland or somewhere like that and this, the navigator, he was pretty old, he was twenty eight. The rest of us were all twenty two and under and we, he said, ‘We’ll have to go back to base because my navigation things have gone haywire,’ so Jack Vasey said, ‘I’m not bloody going back to base,’ he said, ‘We haven’t returned to base yet on any trip,’ he said, ‘I’m not going to do this on our last trip,’ and he said -
HB: Just pausing the tape.
[machine paused]
HB: Right. Coffee having arrived we can restart.
KG: I think it was what they called the Gee and something else, the H2S, I’m not quite sure and he said, ‘Well give it a kick.’ Whether he did give it a kick or not I don’t know but anyhow he said, ‘Keith can map read us from the front turret, from the front nose. Keith can map read us until the, until it gets dark and then we’ll follow the search lights.’ That just shows you how navigation has changed.
HB: Yeah. Just a bit.
KG: Well today you could put a bomb up a bloke’s exhaust pipe practically.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And blow him up. Yeah. So, we we bombed [Seagan?] and that was our last trip.
HB: Yeah. I’ve just noticed, I’ve just noticed on this one, that’s six hours twenty minutes to [Seagan?].
KG: Yeah.
HB: But you had, you had some very long flights didn’t you? Eleven hours, ten hours.
KG: Yeah.
HB: Munich was ten and a half hours.
KG: Munich. Yeah.
HB: Yeah.
KG: We bombed, we did bomb Munich. It was lovely going over the mountains just inside Switzerland.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Really. They didn’t fire at us.
HB: Didn’t they?
KG: No. I don’t suppose they have a gun in Switzerland did they? So we bombed bombed Munich. It was very awe inspiring to see the Alps. I mean we were flying at about seventeen thousand I suppose, the Alps were about eighteen thousand.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Or thereabouts.
HB: Yeah. Not something you want to bump into. So that’s, you’ve got in your book here, finished first tour February 1st 1944. Sorry 1945.
KG: Yeah.
HB: And you’d flown -
KG: I don’t know that.
HB: Two hundred and fifty eighty hours and forty minutes daytime flying.
KG: Yeah.
HB: And two hundred and sixty six hours fifteen minutes night flying.
KG: Oh right. I didn’t know that.
HB: That’s quite a few, quite a few hours that is and then you only get, you must have only, I suppose you had a little bit of leave and then you went off to Swinderby.
KG: That’s right. I went as a so called bombing instructor at Swinderby.
HB: Right.
KG: And that was fine because I got my commission so I was in the posh mess and I festered around Swinderby for some little while I guess and then it all finished and they more or less said, ‘Well where would you like to go?’ So I thought to myself Australia. I think I’ll go to Australia. It’s a nice long way away and I’m not likely to go there again so of course typical RAF where did I finish up? In the Sudan. Khartoum. But that was -
HB: That’s when you left Swinderby.
KG: That’s when I left Swinderby.
HB: Just looking in your logbook here Keith you’ve got one 24th of March 1945 you’ve got an entry here X VX 9 which I presume is exercise and it’s got France X C T Y and H L B I presume that’s -
KG: High level bombing.
HB: That’s high level bombing yeah.
KG: High level bombing.
HB: Yeah.
KG: That would be practice.
HB: Oh right. Right. And then on the next page in July this is just something I don’t know if you can remember about it, the 24th of July 1945 you got yourself with, the pilot is somebody called Daggett, you’re in a Lancaster and you’re going on a Cook’s Tour.
KG: Oh yeah. A Cook’s Tour. At the end of the war they took you around to show you what damage you’d done, you know. Have a look at the mess you made. So we flew around the Ruhr just having a look, a Cook’s Tour of -
HB: Yeah.
KG: Of the damage.
HB: You’ve even written down what you flew over. You flew over [Valkerin?].
KG: [Valkerin?] Yeah.
HB: Krefeld, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Essen, Dortmund, Ham and then etcetera. Blimey. Oh that’s a bit cutting. [laughs].
KG: What’s that?
HB: You’ve got August 23rd with a pilot called Enoch.
KG: Oh yeah.
HB: And you’ve got your duties as air bomber and it just says, Eric brackets waste of time.
KG: Most likely a code name for a practice flight I should think. I don’t know what Eric -
HB: Yeah. Yeah. I just wondered, just wondered if you could remember what X C T Y meant? Is that -
KG: Cross country.
HB: Oh right. Cross country. Right. That makes sense now.
KG: We often did that.
HB: Yeah.
KG: When we got nothing better to do we often do a cross country.
HB: So, so when did you go to the Sudan?
KG: Oh hell. Latish 1945 I suppose.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And I was out there for about six months swimming and playing tennis and I was supposed to be the air traffic officer.
HB: Right.
KG: But it was a little bit of a relaxation and a bit of a jolly really.
HB: Right. So that -
KG: A good experience to go somewhere like the Sudan.
HB: Yeah. So you sort of came to the Sudan and then you’re obviously on the down slope.
KG: Yeah.
HB: Heading towards -
KG: Demob.
HB: Demob. What, what was that sort of process like Keith?
KG: I don’t remember much about the demob process. I must have come back here and reported somewhere. They give you a suit and that’s you out of the air force so to speak and I went back to my old job which was, you see when I enlisted I was nineteen.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Nineteen. Well I wasn’t frightfully academic at the best of times but I did quite well with what nouse that I’d got and sorry my train of thoughts gone, and so I went back and having been a somebody -
HB: Yeah.
KG: I went back to this company where I was, in the eyes of the managing director, a nobody and I stayed with them until such time as the company was taken over by Plessey. Remember Plessey.
HB: Yes. Yes I do.
KG: They took us over and the, instead of us taking them over they took us over and they wanted me to go to Nottingham and offered me more money to go to Nottingham and I didn’t want to go because the kids were in grammar school in Enfield at the time so I then decided to make myself redundant and I was paid redundancy money because they were moving the company.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And I had already been invited by some people that I knew in STC to go and join them.
HB: Right. This is, this is all in the electronics industry.
KG: Well the telephone industry.
HB: Telephone industry. Yeah.
KG: I wasn’t a telephone engineer. I mean I wouldn’t, I know how to pick up a telephone and that’s about all but I became sales manager of a division where they sold the earpieces and mouthpieces, the microphone and the ear piece you know and I did quite well at that and I then retired from there in 1984. Yeah, about ‘84 on the grounds that I didn’t like the set up. It had all changed because people had been coming in and taking over this, taking over that and I thought to myself I don’t really want to stay here so I’ll take redundancy money and I left them.
HB: When did, when did you actually get married then Keith?
KG: 1947
HB: Right.
KG: So -
HB: And that was to your wife obviously.
KG: Peggy.
HB: Peggy
KG: Yeah.
HB: Yeah.
KG: So but if you asked her now who she married she most likely wouldn’t know.
HB: No.
KG: Wouldn’t know when she was married. As I say she’s upstairs in bed I imagine.
HB: So how, and how many children did you have?
KG: Two. Jane.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Who’s around here somewhere.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And Ian who was a solicitor and then he set up his own business in the holiday world. Timeshare. Made a lot of money and he now plays a lot of golf.
HB: Right.
KG: Does odd jobs up in London for a company but hasn’t got to work.
HB: No.
KG: He come up here last Wednesday and he said, ‘Oh I’ve told you I’m going to America haven’t I?’ So I said, ‘No.’ I mean he’s like that. ‘I told you.’ ‘No.’ I said, ‘What are you going to America for? Because I can afford it,’ he said.
HB: Lovely.
KG: And for the last –
HB: Lovely.
KG: And for the last three years he’s been with his wife, who’s a West Indian girl, pleasant girl and they go, they fly to Florida, get on a ship, one of these bloody great ships.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And they do a seven days, ten days or whatever it is. I said, ‘Which islands are you going to?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he said, ‘They’re all the bloody same these islands.’ He said, ‘They’re all full of people trying to flog you things,’ you know.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I can imagine. I can imagine. Keith can I just, can I just ask you, can I just something that’s comes to my mind while we’ve been, you know we’ve been chatting and what not I don’t think, I’m just going back over your log. I don’t think we actually know who your crew were. We know the pilot was Vasey.
KG: Oh yeah. I can tell you who the crew were. I’ve got a, I’ve got a lovely big photo, painting and you’ve, if you’d like to take those papers with you -
HB: Well we, what I’m, what I’m thinking we’ll do because there’s some in there, yes I can but what I just wanted to make some enquiries about some of the bits and pieces ‘cause I mean like you’ve got the usual things we all do. You’ve got some photographs but there’s nothing written on the back.
KG: Yeah.
HB: So we don’t quite know who’s who.
KG: Yeah.
HB: But having said that that’s that’s something we can address but no it was just, it was just the names of the crew.
KG: I’ll go through them for you if you’d like to jot them down.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Jack Vasey.
HB: That’s the pilot.
KG: V A S E Y.
HB: Ray Miller, flight engineer.
KG: So he’s the FE. Ray Miller.
HB: Oh dear. I’ll have to think a bit.
KG: That’s alright.
HB: George. George, God, George Hillier, mid-upper gunner.
KG: George Hillier.
HB: Vic Lewell L E W E L L.
KG: Hang on he was rear gunner. Sorry Vic Lewell.
HB: L E W E L L.
KG: Who haven’t, we haven’t got the –
HB: Navigator.
KG: I always remember he said, ‘It’s Edward to my better class friends.’
HB: Yeah.
KG: I’ll have to, I’ll have to look in there.
HB: That’s alright. That’s alright. That’s Edward.
KG: Crowley. I think he name was Crowley. Ted Crowley. C R O W L E Y.
HB: That’s brilliant. So that’s the pilot, the flight engineer, the navigator and can you remember who your wireless op was?
KG: George Hardy.
HB: George Hardy.
KG: From, from Houghton le Spring.
HB: Right. George Hardy, wireless op. That’s great. Yeah. It’s, it’s, did you after, after the war did you keep in contact with your crew.
KG: Well that’s something I’ve forgotten to tell you. We didn’t keep in touch with each other but about -, This is my daughter.
JT: Hello Harry, you must be Harry. Hi I’m Jane.
KG: Right. Just bear with me a second.
[machine pause]
HB: Right. Just turned the tape back on.
KG: About twenty five years after we had been demobbed I don’t know the exact date my wife had a phone call and the person said, ‘Is that Mrs Ganney?’ ‘Yes.’ Was your husband in 57 squadron?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘My name is George Hillier,’ the chap I was telling you about here, he said, ‘We’ve found out that the skipper, Jack Vasey is seriously ill,’ and George Hillier and Vic Lewell were going up to Newcastle or in that area to see him. Would we like to go as well? So we all trooped off to Newcastle or wherever it was and went in to see Jack Vasey and he was so thin. So he was in his dressing gown. It was one Sunday lunchtime and he was so thin and I was talking to him and I said to him, ‘What were you doing the night we hit the sea Jack?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know man but not many people have done it.’
HB: Yeah. That’s true.
KG: Yeah. And he died. He died a week later.
HB: Oh.
KG: With cancer.
HB: Yeah.
KG: But his family were so thrilled that we’d gone up there.
HB: Yeah.
KG: But other than that we haven’t been in touch with each other.
HB: So had you, had you, had you been in contact through perhaps associations reunions or -
KG: No. We hadn’t.
HB: You didn’t do much of that.
KG: No. We weren’t, we didn’t get involved in reunions at that time.
HB: Yeah.
KG: But then I joined the 57/630 Squadron Association because 57 squadron and 630 squadron shared East Kirkby.
HB: Yeah.
KG: They were both on the, on the aerodrome and we joined the Association. We did attend one or two dinners and reunions. We may manage to get to the next one which is something like the 3rd of July at East Kirkby.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Have you ever been there?
HB: I’ve been to Kirkby, East Kirkby, yeah.
KG: And have you seen the aircraft there haven’t you?
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
KG: Because it’s called Just Jane.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And so we may try and make it there depending on how I feel and how everybody else feels.
HB: Yeah.
KG: You know, just to go over there for the, for the day.
HB: Yeah.
KG: With my wife, as you see getting her up in the morning is difficult.
HB: Yeah.
KG: You know, she’ll be alright -
HB: What was, what was, I mean I’ve spoken to one or two people who were at east Kirby but what was your abiding memory of being at East Kirby cause there’s -
KG: East Kirkby.
HB: Sorry yeah.
KG: East Kirkby.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Abiding memory. Well let me just explain it. We joined the squadron and started flying August.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And we’d finished by February.
HB: Yeah.
KG: So we weren’t there for very, I wouldn’t be able to tell you the name of any member of East Kirkby at that time because people regrettably used to come and go. They would come in one day and two or three days later on a trip they’ve been shot down or whatever so you didn’t, you didn’t have any friends in other crews.
HB: Sorry about this. I thought I’d turned it off. I have now. That’s it. Sorry I do apologise for that.
KG: That’s all right.
Jane: Nice bit of music though.
KG: You didn’t, you didn’t make friends outside of your own crew because you know, it was a bit without being over dramatic it was here today gone tomorrow.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
KG: So the, we were in nissen huts with a stove in the middle and a pipe going up through the roof but it wasn’t the most ideal place to stay.
HB: I’ve heard it, I’ve heard it described as cold and windy and draughty.
KG: That’s it. That’s it. Yeah.
HB: It seems to be a recurring theme.
KG: But as I say we weren’t there all that long.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Came in something like July. We’d be gone by February.
HB: Yeah. The, at the end of the war obviously a lot of people have got views on how Bomber Command were treated or viewed at the end of the war.
KG: Yeah.
HB: I just wondered if you’d got a view on that yourself.
KG: Yes. I have really. I can to a degree understand it in so far as fighter planes were there to shoot down the enemy planes and it was very flamboyant and they were quite rightly famous for what they, what they did whereas we were there to bomb them into submission effectively.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And I think at the end of the war Montgomery, Alexander, various other people in charge were all made lords and what’s the name was not offered a peerage.
HB: Harris.
KG: Butch. What’s his name? Butch Harris. So I think Bomber Command got treated very badly but of course they, as it was then we were at peace they didn’t want to upset the Germans any more.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And say, you know well we came and bombed all your places.
HB: Yeah.
KG: But I’m sure in my own mind that Bomber Command were, it was very significant of bombing Germany into submission.
HB: Yeah.
KG: I’m not saying the army wouldn’t, they would have to have done it eventually but no I think they got the thin edge of the wedge.
HB: Yeah.
KG: The only medals I got and I couldn’t care less about bloody medals, they’re surplus and stuck indoors. If I’d have stabbed myself with a pen in Whitehall I would have got the same medals.
HB: Yeah.
KG: As I got on Bomber Command.
HB: Yeah. What medals did you get Keith? Do you know?
KG: Oh. The usual Naafi lot. I think it was the victory medal you’d get.
HB: Yeah.
KG: They defence medal.
HB: Yeah.
KG: I honestly -
HB: Aircrew?
KG: No. No. We didn’t get aircrew medals. I mean I wouldn’t have minded an aircrew medal. If you’d flown before D-Day you would have got the air crew Europe.
HB: Yeah.
KG: After D-Day you all had the same medal which was, I don’t know, was it called the European star? I don’t know.
HB: Yeah.
KG: So all all they gave us eventually after kicking up a stink and of course the person who kicked up a lot of the stink was one of the Bee Gees.
HB: Oh right.
KG: Did you know that?
HB: No. No, I didn’t know that.
KG: You look it up. The Bee Gees. He’s died now. He was instrumental in putting the muck up. I’m not on tape am I? For putting the muck in the fan and stirring it all up.
HB: Yeah.
KG: And got that lovely memorial down at Piccadilly.
HB: Yeah. At Green Park. Yeah.
KG: Yeah. You’ve you seen it have you?
HB: Yes. I’ve been there.
KG: Yeah. It’s a good memorial.
HB: Yeah.
KG: So he was one of the main people getting involved with with that. But all we got was the soppy little clasp.
HB: Yeah.
KG: They call it the air crew clasp or something.
HB: Yeah.
KG: Well, I mean it’s like somebody’s put a little mark on your arm thing.
HB: Yeah.
KG: It’s a pretty pathetic sort of a gesture.
HB: Well I think, I think what we’ll do Keith is, I thank you for very much for that. It’s really, really interesting history of what you did. If we can I’ll turn the tape off. It’s a quarter to twelve now.
KG: Yeah.
HB: So you, I think, I think you’ve done marvellously to get, to get through all that. What we’ll do if you like I’ll turn the tape off. We’ll go through some of this paperwork and I’ll just make a few notes about some of the photographs.
KG: Yeah. If you go through -
HB: And then I’m just down the road so what I can I’ll I can do the copying so I’m going to terminate the interview at 11.45.
KG: Ok. We’re going into South Lodge.



Harry Bartlett, “Interview with Keith Ganney,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 24, 2024,

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