Interview with Geoff Golledge

Title

Interview with Geoff Golledge

Description

Geoff Golledge volunteered for the Royal Air Force and trained as a wireless operator / air gunner. For a time he served as ground personnel with 44 Squadron at RAF Waddington, on the flare path. One night he brought thirty five aircraft safely in to land, on another occasion he found himself stuck in mud right in the path of a landing Lancaster. He then completed air gunnery training in County Down, Northern Ireland. He served in the Middle East, flying Wellingtons, until he was invalided out due to severe illness. After a time in civilian life, he rejoined the Royal Air Force as a warrant officer on a cadet squadron, where he spent the rest of his career. He also discusses the memorial work in which he has participated in the United Kingdom and in the Netherlands.

RAF Waddington, Middle East, County Down, Wellington, flare path, gooseneck flare, 44 Squadron, Broomfield Hospital, Operation Manna, Vaassen, 15 Squadron, Stirling, 12 Squadron, RAF Wickenby

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2015-05-11

Contributor

Julie Williams

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

1:00:00 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AGolledgeG150511

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

DE: And that should be recording. So, this is an interview with Geoff Golledge by Daniel Ellin. It’s the 11th of May 2015 and it’s in Lincoln. Geoff if I can just start with some really sensible, silly questions like where were you born and brought up?
GG: I was born in Walthamstow.
DE: Ahum.
GG: In London.
DE: Yes.
GG: I lived a fairly ordinary life. Went to the local Church of England school and, I left school at fourteen and went into a factory doing engineering. There main job was supposed to be shop fronts and that all that sort of thing but I’d have been only about a year in business when the war broke out. So at fifteen immediately I was on war work. They started making parts of a tail plane of an aircraft that was supposed to be a super new bomber but in actual fact turned out to be a complete flop called the Albemarle and er I was sent round to a parent factory round the corner from the one I was working in and I became an AID inspector. I had to inspect parts, see they were ok and then get a hammer and er something and banged on a number on it to say that it had been inspected and the part number and everything and I did that. And er at seventeen and a quarter I volunteered for the Royal Air Force. Went for the test in Euston, was accepted as wireless operator / air gunner. At eighteen, or just after eighteen, I was called up, went to Blackpool and I did my preliminary training. All the usual stuff. Teach you how to use a rifle and drill and all the rest of it and giving public displays of drill in front of holiday makers who stood there clapping and cheering while we were learning to do drill. And er I got on quite well until I got to the wireless and like so many people there I got up to about twelve words a minute and that was about as fast as I could go. Well at that time the RAF wanted sixteen words a minute before you could go on to stage two of wireless training. Later on, after I’d turned off on to something else they brought it back to twelve but by that time I had been refused wireless so I was then put forward for a straight air gunner and of course there was a long waiting list for a gunnery training school so I was put on to RAF Waddington on the ground staff. That was at the beginning of 1943. Ah, my, I was allocated to 44 Rhodesia Squadron and I was put on the flare path. I was in a crew of four and our job was to look after the flare path, which in those days Waddington had grass runways not, they didn’t have the concrete runways of today and the lighting was gooseneck flares which is like a sort of low on the ground type watering can. It didn’t stand any height at all and there was a long piece of wick in it and some spirit, that was lit and you had a line, two lines of them and that was your runway lights.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And that was my job on a crew of four and I did that until about the end of March when they finally decided to open up the new aerodromes at Dunholme Lodge where my squadron went to and Bardney where 9 Squadron went to. They was the two squadrons at Waddington at the time and as I was waiting to go on a gunnery course they didn’t bother with sending me to Dunholme Lodge with the 44. So I was kept there to keep an eye on the Wimpey men who were the Irish labourers who were doing the runway. Waiting till they picked a few wild mushrooms and then I had to go out, confiscate them and bring them back so the squadron leader could have them for his tea [laughs]. And I stayed there until about the end of June when eventually of course I was posted on a gunnery course which meant going a couple of weeks at Bridlington.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And a couple of weeks at Bridgwater.
DE: Ok.
GG: [unclear] And um, then I went to County Down, Northern Ireland for my flying training and eventually I passed out and became a fully-fledged sergeant, air gunner after which of course I was sent home on leave for a week and then up to Morecambe where I had my yellow fever jabs and all the other jabs they wanted to give you and of course got all my tropical kit. Up to Glasgow on a troop ship and out to the Middle East.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: And I went out to Egypt first of all and eventually went to Palestine to Jerusalem where I was kept there for couple of weeks until finally we got posted to an airfield near the Egyptian border at a place called Aqir.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And we flew from there. We crewed up and that’s where I flew from.
DE: What were you flying?
GG: Wellingtons.
DE: Ok.
GG: Wellingtons Mark 1Cs
DE: Ahum.
GG: I had quite a good time there for a few weeks and um then we got posted to Italy to 205 Group which was part of the Central Mediterranean Air Force but we were given a week’s leave so the whole crew went to Alexandria for a week and er I didn’t feel too well towards the end of the week and in fact coming back to Cairo to the point where we were going to be informed about going to Italy and where we were sent off from there um, I didn’t feel too well and people had to carry some of my cases and, 'cause we had something like three kit bags, one for ordinary kit, one for flying kit and one for tropical kit. And I couldn’t carry anything, I felt so ill. The next morning we got there late at night um went into the tent and had a sleep and the next morning I was on parade there very early because the sun used to get up and get very hot and um I could feel myself swaying there while I was on parade so as soon as the parade finished and we’d been told what to do I went sick.
DE: Ahum.
GG: I went and saw the MOD, the MO rather, and um he immediately sent me off to the sick bay where I spent twenty four hours. They pushed M&B [?] I think it was. They said it had done wonders for Churchill. It was a new drug but unfortunately as fast as they put it in me it came out again. They tried it all ways and in the end, the next day, I was rushed to Number One RAF hospital in Cairo where I spent the next six weeks.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: And then from there of course eventually they said there’s a hospital ship coming in and so, to Port Said, so they took me on a hospital train down to Port Said, put me on a lovely hospital ship and we were brought back to England and eventually of course, after some months hanging about, um, I was discharged in February ’45.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: From the RAF. That was it.
DE: So you were demobbed before the end of the war in effect.
GG: Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
GG: And on VE Day of course I was actually working and I was in working at a job. We were doing er, burglar alarm just off er, Oxford Street.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And so we saw all the celebrations going on.
DE: But you didn’t get involved yourself?
GG: No I didn’t get involved myself because, you know I wasn’t a well man and of course eventually thanks to the inefficiency of a doctor at the chest clinic I was suddenly, the doctor suddenly realised I was dying and he rushed me into a sanatorium. In fact it's the same one that Jimmy Greaves has just been put into.
DE: Oh.
GG: Broomfield Hospital.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: It was a sanatorium in those days and I spent two and a quarter years there. I lost a lung as a result of it, had an operation, and er, eventually I came out and got back to normal life after about, I had what five years I wasn’t allowed to work.
DE: I see.
GG: They wouldn’t let me work.
DE: Ahum.
GG: So, eventually I did get to work and carried on civvy [?] life until I was in me forties when I found that I could get back into the RAF in a training branch where I became squadron warrant officer on a cadet squadron where I used to teach lads how to fly and everything and did a lot of flying myself of course.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And um, until I got to fifty eight when they said you’re too old. There’s your cap, go [laughter]. So I had to get out.
DE: I see.
GG: So unfortunately I didn’t want to go but I had to leave the RAF at fifty eight.
DE: What was it that made you want to get back in the RAF when you discovered that you could?
GG: Well I loved the RAF. I liked, I’m a service, I mean some people like service life.
DE: Ahum.
GG: All the ordering and all the rest of it. I, I’m not one of those that dislike it. I love it. You know, on parades and all that sort of thing. And of course as you see from the photograph up there on the desk, I’ll show it to you – under the birthday cards. Er, I was er, standard bearer for about thirty five years. This is my thirty fifth year as a standard bearer. I retired last Christmas but I’ve come out of retirement to do one or two jobs. So, I still wear a uniform of sorts.
DE: That’s smashing. And you still get involved in events like Where Were We.
GG: Yes.
DE: And that.
GG: I’ve, I've agreed. I’ve just come back from the Netherlands where I did, I went into training to make sure I could do the march 'cause I have to lead a parade in the Netherlands for their Liberation Day.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And I lead the parade you know. I were determined to do it one more time [laughter].
DE: Smashing.
GG: So I did it. And er, there’s 50/61 Squadron, they have a memorial service in June. I shall do that and if they want me for the ceremony of the memorial for Bomber Command I’ll be prepared to do that. I will also, if they would like it, to do what I’ve done for the last about four years do the Priory Academy. They have a ceremony on the 11th of December in the school hall.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And I have provided a standard to do the dip so I shall do that and after that of course we will probably lay out the standard in the school at Welton.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And that will be it.
DE: I see. Ok. So you think it’s important that, that stories like these are remembered then?
GG: Yeah, yeah, yeah I mean it's I think it’s extremely important because if you look at the way the Dutch look it, it’s hammered in to the children in Holland because we Brits are their liberators.
DE: Ahum.
GG: You know, because it was the Dutch, err it was the British Army and also the Canadians who cleared the Germans out of Holland and of course every night there was the RAF going over and of course there was Manna where we dropped food on them and they never forget.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And so they hammer it into the children, make sure the children don’t forget it. In fact, one ceremony we used to do, we've stopped doing it er, recently, er, in a wood in, um, near a town called er, or village called Vaassen where it was one of the first places involved in the war. There was, in the woods nearby there was an aircraft T Tommy of 15 Squadron, a Stirling bomber, crashed and all but one were killed and they have a memorial there, little pile of stones with a cross on it and that is looked after by the local children.
DE: Ahum.
GG: Yeah it's eh, they do this sort of thing and of course the children get involved in Drompton [?] where I go every year which is literally my second home now I’ve been going there so long. Um, there are various organisations, embassies and people like that as well as the services they all lay wreaths at the memorial in Drompton [?].
DE: Ahum.
GG: Which happens to be the propeller off of, or one of the propellers off of F for Freddie 12th Squadron stationed at Wickenby and that that’s been recovered, cleaned up.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And it’s in reasonable condition and that’s been stuck into the wall with some inscription and there’s er, one of these Olympic type flame bowls on one end and they have flag staffs everywhere and the children, there's a whole load of boy scouts and that, carry the wreaths and then when somebody is due to go forward to lay a wreath the scouts go up to it and then wait for the, whoever's going to lay it comes along, they hand it to them and they lay it.
DE: Ahum.
GG: So the children get involved in that way and it’s very, very good.
DE: Why do you think it’s different in this country?
GG: Well I don’t know. I suppose it’s the fact that we Brits don’t look at things in quite the same way as the Dutch do because you know we weren’t invaded. We didn’t suffer. Alright, we got bombed I know but we didn’t suffer the way the Dutch did. I mean, it’s a different thing.
DE: Ahum.
GG: To not be bombed but to be imprisoned the way they were. Starved and they were starving.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And they remember it all.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And they want the children to remember.
DE: Ahum. Smashing thank you. If we can, can I go back and ask a few more questions about your time when you were working on the flare path at Waddington.
GG: Yeah that was um, quite a good job. You had to lay out the flames, flame, well er, I suppose really they were like a watering can. That’s all they were. Virtually a watering can.
DE: Ahum.
GG: One of these low ones you know with the long spout and um, we used to have to lay them out and light them and of course sometimes you got a Dornier long range fighter would drone overhead waiting for the bombers to come back. When they were coming in to land and their speed had got down to about a hundred mile an hour, coming into land, they would shoot them up.
DE: Ahum.
GG: They never ever did while I was there fortunately although we had Dorniers buzzing around because it meant that we had a Bedford thirty [?] hundred weight truck with a canvas over the back and another chap and myself used to hang on the back, go down the middle of the runway, stop at each light, one would go one way one would go the other way just tip the thing and then put it in the lorry.
DE: Ahum.
GG: Well we went down doing this well of course when you tip it the spirit comes down and knocks the flame out. Not all the time though [laughter]. So it wasn’t long before we had swimming in, the back of the lorry was swimming in turps or paraffin whatever it was and you know one of these things on there caught light and we were in our old flying suits and welly boots and we used to have to try and stamp the flames out and there’s a Dornier circling and here you are trying to put out all the flames. Eventually we used to do it and manage it alright. And er, we got over it. But of course the worst one was er, one night we did what we’d always done which wasn’t strictly according the rules. The whole crew should have been in the chequered caravan at the end of the runway but what they’d done they took off[?]. We don’t need four of us so three used to go back downstairs in the control room and go to sleep in their beds and leave one in the caravan. Well this particular night they'd ordered a maximum effort and I, there was eighteen aircraft on 9 and eighteen on 44. Well I think that night there were about thirty five aircraft went off. They all came back and I was there[unclear]. It was my turn to be Joe Soap out there with a great big flagon of cocoa and some bread and sard — I think it was sardines or something you know and um about two o’clock in the morning when I knew they’d be coming back, I’m sitting there in the caravan when suddenly the, we had a — outside on the tractor we had a box. I don’t know what they call it. It was both microphone and loudspeaker combined and suddenly it woke up and said that they wanted to talk to me and so I went out there and apparently an aircraft had crossed the coast, the first one back had crossed the coast near Grimsby. It was G George 44 Squadron I think and he called up and asked for permission to join the circuit at Waddington. Well when the girl pressed the key to answer, the radio just died. They tried and couldn’t get it back so they called me up and said would I talk to him because we had a very ancient radio in the corner of this caravan which nobody had ever, we all knew how it worked but we'd never ever tried it. So, I went in there, fingers crossed and I tried, did the necessary and you know spoke to the G George 44 and to my utter amazement, 'cause I didn’t expect it, as though he was standing beside me I got this pilot calling me back and I, got over my surprise and told him to join the circuit at fifteen hundred feet. Well no sooner had he called back and I nipped outside and told them I’d put him on the circuit then somebody else came over the coast and called up and so I was in and out and, ‘cause with thirty five aircraft as it turned out they all came back that night. We didn’t lose one. We got a piece of paper, a pencilled column down there and a pencilled column down there with ABC.....XY and you know whatever aircraft had gone off and all I had time to do when one landed was to run a pencil through A 44 or B 9 Squadron you know whatever and er, you had no time then 'cause they were coming in thick and fast. The radio was going. I had to give them a running commentary and just to add to it all I had to take the coloured light off the Aldis lamp and do a cinema usherettes job and you know point them which way they had got to taxi to go to their dispersal. Well I’m running in and out, here [unclear] everywhere doing about five jobs all at once, I somehow, I managed at eighteen years old. I managed to bring in thirty five aircraft, put them all to bed and nobody ever found out that all their lives had been hanging on the reliance of an eighteen year old. How I did it I don’t know and I, somebody must have been sitting up there I think, on my shoulder and um, you know I often think about it and my blood runs cold when I think what could have happened because if I’d have made a mistake and brought the wrong, I had, ‘cause when an aircraft is at fifteen hundred feet when it’s clear you tell them to land. You’ve then got to bring the aircraft at two thousand feet down to fifteen hundred, the one at two and a half thousands got to come down to two thousand, and you’ve got to remember who is where and you’ve got two squadrons.
DE: Ahum.
GG: You know two As, two Bs, two Cs. I somehow got it all right. They all finished up in the right place and there was no accidents. You know my blood runs cold when I think about it, what could have happened. I mean if anybody had made a mistake.
DE: Ahum. But it did happen didn’t it? Yeah.
GG: Yeah because you don’t realise what it's like. To give you some idea. At night when they took off if it was still light and you could just see the light of the sky you’d look up and you know when you get these flocks of birds that go around you know. A whole, multitude of them just suddenly go off one way or another, well it’s like that looking at all these aircraft. There’s dozens of them. Well there’s hundreds of them up there all circling round and you think how on earth are they managing not to hit one another, you know. And you see all that going on you realise how easy it is you know with — 'cause there’s aerodromes all round Lincoln, you know. It could quite easily have an accident. Quite easy. And the fact that I got them all down and 'course I daren’t say anything because they’d have been court martials right, left and centre.
DE: Because you should have had three other people helping?
GG: There should have been four of us out there not one. I daren’t say anything ‘cause once I accepted the 44 G George that was it. I was — I was committed then.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: I couldn’t go back and.
DE: How long did it take do you think?
GG: I don’t know. It didn’t take long because they all came back fairly quickly. I mean you didn’t have time to look at the watch and see what the time was. You were too busy in and out, in and out, you know.
DE: So, so the, the tannoy thing to, for you to talk to the control tower was outside in a box and the radio for you.....
GG: Yeah.
DE: .... to talk to the aircraft was inside.
GG: Was inside in the caravan so I’m running in and out, in and out like a lunatic and then you had to get the light and you know you had to know which one went where you know ‘cause one lot were parked there and another lot were parked here. 44 were here and 9 were over there.
DE: So they had their separate dispersals?
GG: Yeah.
DE: Was there somebody waiting to meet them at their [unclear]?
GG: Oh yeah you could see men with little hand torches and they just used to go round and round and guide them, on to their spots, but I had to show them which way to, which road to take as it were.
DE: I see.
GG: And once they get on that road of course there's the airmen there to guide them.
DE: So correct me if I’m wrong where was the chequered caravan? It was at the end of the runway?
GG: Always at the end of the run — at the beginning.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: Yeah.
DE: Ok thank you.
GG: I did.
DE: Sorry?
GG: I did have one other incident there. It was funny. One night they were due to come back and they were circling and they were ready, the first one to come in and suddenly we noticed the leading light had gone out so the corporal said to me 'Oh nip over and get that one lit again'. So I ran across, got it alight. I came back the shortest way between the two lights. I got about halfway across the runway or the grass there, that served as a runway, and I got stuck in the mud. I couldn’t, and there was a plane coming in at me and I couldn’t get me feet out. Now these wellies we used to wear old flying suits and then the wellies on top and the only way you could get the wellies off was to sit on a bed, hang on to the frame and somebody grabbed two hands and pull it off, that's the only way you could get it off. And I’m there and there’s this Lanc coming in and fortunately he'd made a mistake. He was coming in too low and he’s coming straight at me at about a hundred odd mile an hour and I’m, can’t get my feet out and my pals are all going [unclear] like that, and um, there’s a little light at the side of the runway just before the lights start. It’s like a tool box. About that long and about that high but it’s, it’s not set level it’s set at an angle for aircraft coming in and in the end there’s a glass. Now if you’re coming in at the right height all you see is a little green light. It’s only a little green light, not very big, 'bout that — 'bout that round.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And if you’re coming in too low it shows red, if you’re coming in too high it’s white and this plane was coming in and the old Merlins were all spitting and coughing as they shut down and at the, what must have been literally the last second the pilot suddenly spotted the red light, realised he was too low, suddenly the four Merlins burst into life, the nose of the Lanc went up and it went over my head and the tailplane, which obviously came down, missed me by about ten feet I suppose and he went over the top of me and he went round. Course my pals all ran out and pulled me out the mud. So that, that’s another thing that could happen.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: So, you got a bit of life and excitement doing that.
DE: Yeah wow. So was it really very, very muddy or, or it must have been if you got stuck?
GG: No it wasn’t muddy. It was just an odd spot, just an odd spot where there was no grass.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: And it was muddy there and course you can’t get your feet out the wellies and you can’t get the welly out the mud you know. Just holding me.
DE: Crikey. You said when you were telling me the story about talking down the aircraft. The two squadrons. You called yourself something. You called yourself Joe Soap. Can you explain that?
GG: Oh I was the, it’s an old saying you know. You, you’re the mug.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: You’re the one that’s got lumbered with it. You know it could have been Cyril or Fred you know. It was me that night. I was Joe Soap.
DE: So it's a nickname.
GG: Yeah it’s a nickname. You’re the mug.
DE: Right.
GG: And the other thing of course after the two squadrons moved we built these four, well the builders put four towers up, scaffolding.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And a red light was hung on it. Well these lights they weren’t modern things they were old fashioned. They weighed half a ton. And these heavy things, and I used to have to, how — how my belt on my uniform stood the weight I don’t know, it’s a wonder it didn’t rip the belt off. Used to have to tie one on my belt, a fresh one and I used to have to go all the way up these scaffolding and it was you know you had gaps like that between bars and you had to somehow get up.
DE: Three or four foot gaps yeah.
GG: I had to climb all the way up the top, take the old one off, hang it up somewhere, get the other one off, hang the new one on, switch the light on and put the other one on my belt and then climb down and I had four of these things to do.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: And I had to do it morning and night.
DE: What were the towers for?
GG: Well you have to have to have a red light on any tall tower, you know.
DE: Yes.
GG: For aircraft.
DE: Yes.
GG: And any tall tower or a church steeple, anything got to have a red light on it.
DE: Ahum.
GG: So.
DE: Well the scaffolding you say they were scaffolding towers. What were the scaffolding, what was the scaffolding for?
GG: Well the scaffolding really was just to put the lights up really. They didn’t serve any other purpose.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: Because you couldn’t land on the airfield. You see if you got those four red lights people knew that the airfield wasn’t in use. Also of course there is a recognition, station recognition.
DE: Ahum.
GG: There’s a light in one corner of the airfield which flashes a letter. Every airfield's got its own letter and it kept flashing S or R or J or whatever, whatever the station one was.
DE: Yes. Oh so, so the towers with the lights on were to tell aircrew not to land because –
GG: Yes.
DE: New runways were being put in.
GG: Yeah.
DE: I see. Ok.
GG: That’s to warn them off.
DE: Yeah.
GG: And I used to have to go up there morning and night.
DE: So you were Joe Soap again.
GG: Talk about feeling like a mountaineer.
DE: How long did it take them to put the runways in?
GG: I don’t know because they were halfway through. Well I say halfway through. They were a fair way through before I got my posting and I went off to Bridgnorth for a couple of weeks then Bridlington for a couple of weeks and then off to Ireland for my flying training.
DE: So this was your air gunning, air gunnery posting?
GG: Air gunnery training yeah. We learned to fly you know went on the planes out there. Oh used to have fun out there you know. We used to go round 'cause all the pilots were all pilots who'd done a tour of ops. A lot of them were gun happy to be honest and they used to do the daftest things and we used to be flying around just off the coast where we were there was a lighthouse. And I’m in it one day, in the plane, and er we're flying around, round this lighthouse and the pilot said, ‘go on pepper ‘em’. And we were blazing away with the machine gun in the sea all around the lighthouse and the old lighthouse keeper was on the phone [laughs] mad. Then another time one of the planes — the local village had a very wide high street and down one side of it was a sort of big store with a bit of a tower in the middle with a clock in it and the pilot flew that low, it was so wide he could fly low just to see what the time was [laughs]. The phone [laughs]. Oh dear. They were mad as march hares. It was really funny. But um, I remember when we passed out we stood out there and we'd all got our stripes and our wings and the station commander made a speech. He called us all the showers he could name and we were the, we were the pits. We all standing there smiling. We couldn’t have cared less. Oh it was hilarious but I enjoyed the time in Ireland. It was good. Yeah lovely. And then of course we all went out to the Middle East.
DE: Ahuh yeah.
GG: Yeah.
DE: You mentioned before when we were talking just before the interview that you got your driving licence. Did they use you as a driver as well then?
GG: Well I used to drive ‘cause um, I did, I don’t think I had my driving licence with me but I, they expect you to drive. I used to have to drive a tractor pulling a four wheeled caravan, pulling a light, a great big like search light thing.
DE: Ahum.
GG: Which stood up on this trailer and then behind that was a flat trailer which we put our lamps and that on, so I used to have to drive this train around. I hadn’t got a licence, only this temporary thing. And then sometimes I’d have the van, we had a little Hillman ten hundred weight and I used to perhaps drive the CO down to the station if he was going on leave, you know and drive around the camp, you know.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: It was fun.
DE: Did you have a close group of friends at Waddington then?
GG: Well I didn’t have many friends there because I had a second home there. Some friends of mine, well some people I knew, they were related to people who lived a few doors from me in London, they had a newspaper shop in Bracebridge. Down in the town there.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And their son had gone in the army and he was their only son. Got nobody and they missed him and they said, 'Oh come and stay here when you’re off duty'. Well I used to do twenty four hours on. Twenty four hours off, so on my off time I had my bike there.
DE: Ahum.
GG: I used to ride down into Bracebridge, I used to stay at there so I spent a lot of time there so, and course being out in the airfield I never saw anybody much on the camp. Only my own crew.
DE: Right.
GG: So I didn’t have many friends there really in that respect.
DE: So you didn’t associate much with anyone else there?
GG: No ‘cause soon as I was off duty I was down to Bracebridge.
DE: Did you get into Lincoln much?
GG: Not a lot really because as I say it was Bracebridge and that was it.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: I went in a few times but not a lot. I didn’t really get to know Lincoln until I moved here.
DE: Ahuh ok. I’m just slightly curious about the three people who were asleep when you were doing your, your deeds and talking down the aircraft. Was it a thing you took in turns to do or um.
GG: Well we had, there’s a flying control tower up on the top obviously. There’s the officers and the girls with the radio. Down below was our restroom and that’s where we were, down there. We had half of it and the rescue squad, whose garage was just a few yards away, they had the other half of the thing.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: So, upstairs, they never ever came downstairs which is just as well [laughs] ‘cause they’d have been court martials right, left and centre.
DE: So the three people were actually in the control tower and it was just you on your own in the caravan.
GG: Yeah.
DE: Yeah. I see. Ok.
GG: It was alright if, if things went well, you know.
DE: Ahum.
GG: Had no problems. Occasionally, you, you’d see somebody making a mistake and you'd, you'd have to flash a red light at him, you know. You could see he was coming down too low. Keep up your, not your turn.
DE: Ahum.
GG: But otherwise it was fairly easy thing to do and all we did was to stand there and say G George landing, clear of runway and then, you know, wait for the next one to come in. That’s um, it was a fairly easy job it was just that, that one night it all went pear shaped.
DE: Yeah. Did they have, did you have any other duties that you had to do or was it just that job?
GG: Well that was your job. Flare path. And that's what, all you did was the flare path.
DE: And how long were you at Waddington doing that for?
GG: Er, six months from January to June in ’43.
DE: Ahuh. Did you ever get into trouble for anything? You say you got away with that, that night but did you ever get into trouble for –.
GG: No. No. I never got in any trouble. No. The only time I ever got in trouble I got my name taken in London by a SP, that’s the station police in the RAF, coming out of a tube station. I shouldn’t have been there. I got my name taken.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: But by the time it got to the office I’d moved. I’d been posted from London back up to, I think, Waddington or somewhere, so I never got into any [unclear].
DE: Oh that’s ok then. Yeah. Smashing. I think, I think that’s ok for me unless you have any other, other stories that suddenly spring to mind?
GG: Yeah a couple that, when we were flying out of Aqir in Palestine. We’re on a, we did a couple of air tests while I was there. Both of 'em turned out to be near disasters. On one, the first one we’re circling around and of course the first time I’d seen the place in daylight I’d only been flying at night so I’m looking all round and having a good look and I thought well that’s it we’ll be landing in a minute so I turned my turret on the beam which you do for landing.
DE: Ahum.
GG: So you can get out the back, you see. And I turned it on the beam and I crossed my arms and I leant back. I was going to rest on the doors behind me. What I didn’t know was there’s like a hook thing on the door and with the vibration it was loose and eventually it come up and so the doors had gone.
DE: It opened.
GG: I lean back and the next minute this from here to here is hanging out the aircraft.
DE: Oh.
GG: And of course parachute, you haven’t got a parachute. That’s inside the aircraft. So I’m hanging out there. I managed to get hold of the gun toggles[?] and pull myself back in.
DE: Crikey.
GG: But of course at that age, nineteen, it’s not danger. You laugh. You laugh at it ‘cause you don’t see danger when you’re nineteen you know. It’s all a laugh. And the next time I did an airlift err air test the plane had just come out from the workshops and the armourers hadn’t had time to put any guns in it so I thought well [unclear], so I grabbed hold of a couple of guns which were lying on top of the oil drums, they used to oil them and leave them on top of these oil drum to dry in the sun, so I grabbed a couple, just shoved them in, you know. For the look of the thing. Not for any, ’cause I just chucked them in, I didn’t even look to see what they were. It just looked two guns poking out.
DE: Ahum
GG: Fair enough. We took off and er, we’re circling around and I could see Haifa in the distance and there were a little black dot circling round and I thought I wonder what that aircraft is. And as I thought that, over the microphone, earphones came 'Bandit over Haifa'. I knew what it was, it was a Junkers 88 ‘cause there was a squadron of them on Rhodes which is not far away.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: So I knew what it was. I looked at the guns. Horror upon horror I’d got a left hand gun in a right hand hole and a right hand gun in the left hand hole. I thought, oh no, so I had to straighten the turret up, open the doors, get hold of the left hand one and of course a machine gun is a very heavy thing when you’re cramped in a turret it makes it heavier. You can’t, you haven’t got the strength to move it and there I am struggling to get the gun out of the hole to put it in the other side ’cause they sit in a flat tray with like a lip all round and there’s a bolt goes through one side.
DE: Ahum.
GG: So you’ve got to have a right hand gun in a right hand hole and a left in the left hand hole. Otherwise you can’t put the bolt through.
DE: I see, yes.
GG: There I’m struggling with one eye on what I’m doing and one eye on the black dot but fortunately I think the German pilot must have gone, ‘hmmn, time we were back to the mess for lunch lads’, 'cause he suddenly beetled off in the direction of Rhodes.
DE: That was fortunate.
GG: Phew hah. And then the other time, when you used to take off we were only what ten miles from the coast so you had no sooner took off then you were over the Med. And you always had to take a wind drift.
DE: Yes.
GG: The gunner has to, the rear gunner has to take a wind drift. So you pass it to the navigator so the navigator can set his course according to the drift of the wind. What degree of strength it is and whether it's starboard or port. Well I, you could guarantee, you could literally guarantee every penny you got it would be three degrees either starboard or port. Occasionally, very rarely it would go down to two or go up to four but it was nearly always three. Well I get up. We got in the plane and I’m sitting there waiting for the engine to start so I can test me guns. You know, the turret works. The engine started and immediately it shut down again and the pilot said, 'All out. Aircraft US'. So we all clambered out so the ground crew said well take the one next to it 'cause there was always more aircraft than there were crews.
DE: Yeah.
GG: So we got in this next aircraft and I’m, sitting there waiting. Eventually the first engine started so immediately I try and — ‘cause that operates the hydraulic system for the turret. Nothing. I knew what had happened. We’d got a hydraulic leak, so immediately I called up and said, 'Aircraft US' and we all pile out again. So the ground crew said oh well there’s one over there left. The only one left. Take that. So we walked across the dispersal to the other one and we got in and it worked alright. Well we took off a quarter of an hour or so after everybody else and as soon as we got airborne, we passed over the coast, so immediately I got out the turret and dropped a flame float down, got like a chute there.
DE: Ahuh.
GG: Hopped back in the turret to take. You see a little light bobbing about in the sea and I got my gun sight on it, took my first test. I looked down. Ten degrees. I thought - ten degrees? It can’t be. Not if I’ve done it right. So I did it again and I was ultra careful.
DE: Ahum.
GG: Nine. Did a third one ‘cause you have to do three and take the average and that was nine so I thought well I know it’s crazy but I’d done my job properly and I know what it is so I gave the navigator nine degrees. And you do what's known as a dog leg. You don’t go from there to there. You go - and then there.
DE: Yes.
GG: And you do the same coming back. So when we got to the dog leg, that’s what it’s known as, I took another one. Got an average of eight. When we got up to the Italian coast and coming back took another one - seven. And then halfway dogleg - six. Gradually getting down, down. And when we came back the light, a big light like a big searchlight it was. Like a lighthouse type of thing on the north end of the Gaza strip known as the Gaza light and it should have been dead in front of us and there it was dead in front of us. So we were absolutely –
DE: Ahuh spot on.
GG: – spot on. So it was Heathrow navigation. Heathrow, Heath Robinson rather.
DE: Yes.
GG: Navigation but it got us there.
DE: It worked. Yeah
GG: And we landed. We were the quarter of an hour after everybody taking off but we were the first ones back.
DE: Because you’d got the wind, wind.
GG: We’d got it right. I later found out when the others came back the gunners had all gone - can’t be that. No. And they squeezed it and squeezed it got the lowest figure they could and squeezed it all the time. Result was they were a few miles out.
DE: Ahum.
GG: And they had to keep changing course and that’s why they were all late. In fact one didn’t come back at all. That, from radio messages they got we reckon he crashed in the Qattara Depression which was the salt marsh on the Egyptian / Libyan border and they went in there. If you go in there, disappear. You’re never seen again. So we lost that one. But um, it was amazing. But when we taxied, when we taxied in incidentally, as we taxied in the two engines just cut.
DE: Really?
GG: They were dead. There weren’t a drop of petrol in them.
DE: Phew. Someone was looking after you that night.
GG: Apparently the thing should have been filled up.
DE: Topped up yeah.
GG: You're supposed to have about twenty five percent extra fuel to what you need well this one hadn’t been topped up so the fact that we got back really depended on my navigation with the navigator. So if I’d had made a mistake like the other gunners did and squeezed it, we’d have finished up in the Med.
DE: Yeah.
GG: And that would have been our lot but um, so that was a near squeak but that’s the sort of thing that could happen you know 'cause we used to have a saying in wartime - "we flew by the seat of our pants" which meant it was all hit and miss. That’s what it meant.
DE: Yeah.
GG: And we did and I mean you talk to anybody who flew during the war and they'll all tell you the same. You flew by the seat of your pants because you never knew what was going to happen 'cause aircraft weren’t as well serviced as they are today and of course they're not as perfect as they are today, you know so you never knew so you, you, to some extent you took your life in your hands a bit.
DE: Yeah.
GG: You didn’t think about it. You just got on with it you had a war to fight and that was it.
DE: So you didn’t feel particularly brave or?
GG: No, no, no, no I was just doing my job the same as everybody else. I didn’t feel I was being brave or anything. No bravery concerned. You were just doing your job.
DE: Smashing. That’s wonderful. Thank you ever so much.
GG: I think that’s about all I can tell you.
DE: No that’s great. Thank you very much. That’s bang on an hour.
GG: Oh. [laughs]

Collection

Citation

Dan Ellin, “Interview with Geoff Golledge,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 17, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/3409.

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