Interview with Allen Geoffrey Gould


Interview with Allen Geoffrey Gould


Allen Gould grew up in Bournemouth and worked for the Danish Bacon company until volunteering for the Royal Air Force. He completed 32 operations as a flight engineer with 620 Squadron from RAF Fairford. Post war, he married his wife, who was training as a mechanic at St Athan when he met her. He returned to the Danish Bacon company and worked there for another forty years.




Temporal Coverage




01:10:32 audio recording


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the eighth of July two thousand and sixteen, we’re in Oxford talking to Allen Gould about his experiences flying Stirling’s in the war. Allen what are your first recollections of life with the family?
AG: Well I went to school at Winton and Moordown council boys school in Bournemouth, erm, left when I was fourteen, which irritated my father, ‘cos he hadn’t got the money to pay for me to go to grammar school, there were only two seats allocated to our school, after the erm, eleven plus, and, erm, everybody there failed except for the doctor’s son and the councillor’s son, who both got a grammar school seat, which I would have loved but there you are, because in those days that was the only way you could get to university, grammar school first and then go, [pause] and I left school at fourteen, got a job with the Danish Bacon Company, [pause] a shit house firm right from the start, I was there for, getting on for forty years, after the war I came back there and erm, and then I, my nerves got back to normal when I was, after I had been away from the air force for, ten or twelve years, and erm, I got another job, which I was quite pleased about but they wouldn’t let me take my pension with me which my new firm offered to do and treat it as though I had been there all that time, but they didn’t, they made me take the whole thing out, not the part they paid in, all I’d been paid in, they made me take that out as part of my last week’s wages there, ‘cos the income tax that week would frighten anybody, [laughs] and that was it, and I was there until I got called up, with erm, three other fellas, I was the only one that came back without any damage, two of ‘em got killed, one of them finished up with one leg about three inches shorter than the other, I was the only one that was alright when I came back, and then went on the road and did commercial travelling, up and down the country, and I did that with a new firm I joined, Patrick Grainger and Hutleys, nice firm based in Fordingbridge, [pause] so I was up at half past five in the morning going to work, driving up to Fordingbridge, and picking up one of my drivers along the way [pause]
CB: Ok, so, you started with the bacon company, how did you come to join the RAF?
AG: Well, I rather fancied it you know I mean when I was called up my father had done four years in the trenches and he said ‘no way are you going into the army, my cocker’ so I said ‘ Oh alright I’ll take your advice on that’, so I put my name down for the RAF, and when it came to a choice between this and that and I thought flying, oh wow, let’s have a go at that.So, er, I, finished up in Blackpool getting my uniform and one thing and another, and then erm, posted from there down to St Athans, on this first directory, first direct [emphasis], flight engineers course, because they were losing so many flight engineers who’d taken a long time, a really [emphasis] long time in training and they couldn’t afford it any longer. So we were pushed through, erm, six months and I was out on the squadron, at erm, Stradishall and then in the finish we wound up at Fairford and we were there for years, [pause] the only other aerodrome we flew from during that time was from Hurn, just outside Bournemouth
CB: So, you did your training at St Athan, what was the training that you did there?
AG: Direct entry flight engineer
CB: Yeh, but, what was involved in that?
AG: Well, really all it boiled down to was, looking at pictures of engines and exploring the airframes, and one thing and another, so when we were flying I was always on the move, bouncing up and down on me toes for up to twelve hours if we went down as far as Switzerland, ‘cos flight engineers don’t have a seat [pause]
CB: Ok, so on the training though there’s a lot of aspects of the aircraft?
AG: Yeh
CB: So, what aspects were you dealing with, you talked briefly about airframe, but what else were they focussing on?
AG: Oh, erm, the engines and erm, more particularly the amount of fuel they would be using and heights we were going to, how it objected on the fuel take up and er all that sort of thing
CB: So, on an aircraft the size of the four engine planes, how many tanks would there be on those planes?
AG: Err
CB: Fuel tanks
AG: Numbers two and four, and one, two and three in each wing
CB: So, what was the flight engineer’s job in that?
AG: Well. I had to control that, when the pilot was fiddling about with the controls, I was watching the dials and making sure that everything was as it should be, erm, we only got into real trouble on one flight, erm, when we were still sort of, an inexperienced crew, we had to, erm, join bombers going to Mannheim Ludwigshafen and we were bombing the Ludwigshafen, and being a sprog crew, ‘cos we got there ten minutes late all the others had gone through, so we were going over on our own and we were really getting bashed. Our pilot was doing mad dives and turns to get us out of it, the only thing that we lost was the number four tank in the starboard wing, so I had to run all the engines off that to make sure we used everything we possibly could, and, we did, just save enough to get back to an emergency aerodrome on the south coast, whose name I’ve forgotten to be honest, and we were just going into land and they turned all the lights off, and the pilot said ‘I’ll do another circuit’ and I said ‘ you can’t, you haven’t got enough fuel’, I’m afraid that became a funny word to them because every time he saw me in future he said ‘We can’t, we haven’t got enough fuel!’. So, he did a sweep to the left up on one wing and came straight back in and landed, lights or no lights, he was going in, and we did, I said to the bomb aimer, who was also the second pilot afterwards ‘how did you, er, cope with that ‘? He said ‘well’, he said ‘you know when the undercarriage is down you get a green light’ he said, ‘and if it’s not you get a red light’ So, he said ‘we were as bouncing down the runway and it was going red, green, red, green, red, green, red, green’, [laughs] I said, ‘Oh, thanks very much, cheered me up no end that has’
CB: But, it stayed down?
AG: Oh, yeh, we got down no bother, we just got enough. The pilot came out the following morning and said ‘Look, if we’ve got any fuel left, I’m gonna kick your arse all round this aerodrome’, so I dipped every tank, he and I walked across the wings and I dipped every tank, and it was just enough left in one of them to damp the end of the dipstick, so he shut up after that [laughs]
CB: So, it was reassuring that the gauges were accurate
AG: Well, I wondered if that was what finished up with that MiD of mine, ‘cos they must have made a note of it because we had to abandon the aircraft there and get a lift back to our aerodrome at Fairford, we just left them on this, at this other aerodrome, whose name I don’t remember unfortunately
CB: So, MiD is, mentioned in despatches?
AG: Yeh
CB: Right
AG: Yeh, so somebody must have made a note of it, I expect my pilot went back and said, ‘he was right you know, we didn’t have any fuel’ [laughs]
CB: Saved the crew, effectively
AG: Well, there you are, yeh, so, perhaps that’s what I got it for
CB: So, the reason I asked you about the training is, because clearly, it was focussed on, what in those days was state of the art aircraft, the first of the heavy bombers was the Stirling,
AG: Hmm
CB: but it was different from the other bombers, in that it had electrical circuits for so many things where others would use hydraulics
AG: Oh, yes
CB: In your basic training, what emphasis, was there, on hydraulics and electrics, in the training at St Athan?
AG: Well, skimming over it, as it was a direct entry course they didn’t waste a lot of time, I’ll tell you
CB: How did you come to do flight engineering, because you, had you, when you were working for the bacon company, had you been involved in technical matters then?
AG: No, no
CB: So, how did you come to be selected to train as a flight engineer?
AG: Well, I think they wanted when we were in Blackpool, they wanted flight engineers more than anything because they’d lost so many, and erm, I was automatically put onto that, you know, I’d erm, I think I put my name down to start with for navigation, but never got to that [pause]
CB: So, you finished the training after six months and how did you feel at the end of the training about your knowledge of engineering and aircraft?
AG: Well, I thought at the time that it wasn’t up to scratch, really, I mean, when I thought of the work that previous flight engineers had, had to do, different courses and out on a squadron for six months and then come back and do another course, I mean what we, what they went through to get us out was quick and easy, you know, and that sort of thing.
CB: So, the process for crewing up aircrew, was that at the operational training unit the crew got together, the flight engineer didn’t join until the heavy conversion unit?
AG: That’s right
CB: So, what was the crew like when you, how did you come to join an existing crew that had been on Wellingtons?
AG: Well, they were a bit iffy about having a direct entry flight engineer
CB: Were they?
AG: Because they were told I was one, and they’d never heard of anybody like that, you know, and they thought they were going to get somebody who had been out working on aircraft, on the flights, on the aerodromes, but they didn’t they got me and er, until this second trip, when I got away with this fuel business, after that we were, they relied on me, really, and er, were extremely friendly
CB: As a crew, what were the ranks, was the pilot always commissioned or was he only
AG: Oh yes
CB: Commissioned later?
AG: Yes, the pilot and the navigator and the rear gunner were all commissioned, [pause] and the wireless operator was a sergeant like me when we started flying together [pause]
CB: Ok, so you joined at the heavy conversion unit, where was that?
AG: Stradishall
CB: Right
AG: I do remember that name
CB: And how long where you at Stradishall?
AG: Oh, only about a week [pause], then we went up to Fairford and started ops
CB: Right
AG: Our first one was erm, minelaying, off erm, [unclear] Byrum [?] I think I got the name right, other side of Denmark, going down towards where the Germans were
CB: The far side of Denmark?
AG: Yeh
CB: The Swedish side?
AG: That’s right, yeh, yes, I remember coming back from there, we were flying along and you could see all the Swedish coast, all lit up, the pears, the piers and everything, all the lights
CB: Didn’t do you any good from a silhouette point of view, did it?
AG: No, it didn’t, no that’s true, yes, the only other place, that er, we were worried about the silhouette was erm, we did erm, three or four trips to Norway, supplying free Norwegians, who were up in the mountains, we had to look out for them and then drop stuff to them, funny enough, I see in the paper, that it was only last year, that they found some of the stuff that had been dropped for these people, that they never found and it was still in the snow, but when we were flying over there, we only went up there on a really full moon at night, and we could see our shadow going across the snow, well if anybody had been up, all they had to do was to look at the, moon and our shadow and they knew exactly where we were, and of course the only thing we had to worry about there, was the right up in the north of Denmark was this big German fighter unit, they used to cover the North Sea and out in the Atlantic and all over
CB: So, you were supplying the SOE, the Special Operations Executive in that case, weren’t you?
AG: Yeh, that’s right
CB: So, are you saying that the squadron, 620, had a variety of roles?
AG: Oh yes, we erm, D Day, we dropped parachutes on Caen bridge, and then we had to go back and come over again in the afternoon with gliders, with heavier equipment, down in the same place
CB: So, on gliders, where did you train for towing gliders?
AG: At Fairford
CB: What was the main activity at Fairford then?
AG: Well, the main activity there, was putting us out on raids or supply trips, which went on for years
CB: Rather than bombing you were supplying agents
AG: Yeh, oh yeh
CB: Right
AG: We did bombing raids as well, because I remember we, that, our troops on the ground had got this, surrounded this wood which had got the Germans in it, and we had to go over and bomb these German troops in this wood, and we had a plane going over there about every ten minutes so they wouldn’t get any rest or peace and we just had to keep on bombing this wood
CB: And the effect?
AG: Well, it seemed to work alright, but erm, [pause]
CB: And what about the bombing then, other bombing, what other tasks were there? So, you talked about mine laying
AG: Yeh
CB: Well, let’s just cover minelaying for a bit, mine laying was at a low level wasn’t it
AG: Oh yes
CB: What height were you doing the mine laying?
AG: About five hundred feet
CB: Right
AG: And erm, after that I think, we were mainly doing supplies, down over France, to anyone who needed it, and we did take some paratroops over there, Occasionally we had some odd characters, there was a bloke arrived there, put his parachute on, and he’d got a very smart suit on and a bowler hat, and he was, we were dropping him outside some village, where he had to get in by himself after he landed, and pretend to be the mayor, which is why he was so smartly dressed [laughs]
CB: This was after D Day, was it?
AG: Oh, yeh, yeh, well after, yeh, and then we were sent down, a little while after that, we were sent down to Italy, ‘cos I think they had some idea of us towing gliders from Italy with heavy equipment across to Greece, but it didn’t come to anything, we been there about four or five days, and the whole thing in Greece, came to a grinding halt, so they just said, no we don’t need you and we came back to England. That picture there, is erm, when we were in Italy, Pomigliano, I think it’s a little aerodrome, not far outside Naples, [pause]. Not that we were looking forward to trying to get off there with gliders, because they’ve got these great big heavy power lines right across the end of the runways, we couldn’t see how the hell we were going to get high enough to get the glider over those
CB: Well, it’s the wrong side
AG: Fortunately, we never had to try
CB: Right, it was the
AG: We were a bit worried about that [laughs]
CB: It was the wrong side of Italy to go to Greece anyway wasn’t it?
AG: Oh yeh, yeh
CB: But, the gliders were on this airfield as, well, were they?
AG: Well, no, we didn’t get as far as that
CB: Right
AG: They would have been coming from somewhere else
CB: Yeh
AG: But they stopped it in the end, said it wasn’t necessary, Greece was in a hell of a mess at the time anyway and our troops were in there, so they didn’t need the gliders, so, go on home, so we went, back to England
CB: What was the balance between supplying, agents, in activity and doing bombing raids?
AG: Very few bombing raids, it was mainly, either supply, or erm, taking people over there. I remember we had to go to an American aerodrome and pick up some American paratroops, I was very sorry for them, ‘cos the sergeant in charge said ‘have you got a gun’ I said ‘well yes, of course I’ve got my usual forty five issue’. He said ‘right, well if the first bloke refuses to jump shoot him, I shall be pushing from the back and you go out anyway’ and I thought well that’s a fine way, and I didn’t even unholster the gun ‘cos I had no intention of doing it, but erm, I’m afraid with some of these Americans I was very sorry for them, they were shit scared and badly trained, still
CB: In what way were they badly trained?
AG: Well, they’d never done a jump before, this is why he thought the bloke in front might stick his toes in and refuse to jump out, ‘cos in the Stirling, it was a big hole in the floor and you went out that way, you didn’t go out the door, ‘cos there was always the danger of being caught by the wing, by the tail, plane as it came by, so, the Stirling had a hole in the floor, and erm, these people hadn’t done any jumps at all
CB: How extraordinary
AG: Yeh well this is it, you know, they got in and clipped on
CB: They had a static line to clip on?
AG: Yeh, that’s right, yeh
CB: But, they all went?
AG: Oh yes, they all went out, no bother at all, but erm, I won’t going to shoot anybody anyway, I was very sorry for them
CB: Now, on the supply raids and when your’e dropping, trips, when your’e dropping material and people, this is largely low level is it?
AG: Oh yeh, yeh,
CB: What sort of height?
AC: Particularly with people because you had to drop them from a reasonable low height, it’s no good chucking a parachute out you know, at eighteen thousand or something like that, and hoping he’s gonna get down to where he should, because if there’s any wind blowing he would land miles away
CB: So, what height were they being dropped?
AG: Oh, between five and six hundred most of them I think, as far as I remember
CB: And most of this is in the dark, is it?
AG: Oh yes, yeh of course
CB: How did the navigator find the target for this, because you’re on your own when you do this?
AG: Oh yes, yes, oh yeh. Well, he was told, you know, where to go and miles from wherever, and er, we just had to find it, or he did
CB: Were there electronic devices used to help?
AG: No, no, we didn’t have anything like that, we had an, erm, sort of a semi radar thing, in the plane which was the start of that sort of thing, but erm
CB: Was that H2S or different?
AG: I have no idea
CB: Or other words, a mapping radar, was it?
AG: Yeh, well, it showed up, you know, things like mountains and things like that, but that was all, I mean it was fairly beginning things
CB: So, when did you start, flying with 620 Squadron?
AG: Erm, [pause], oh dear, [pause], well, it was after I’d done my six months at St Athans, so that would be
CB: So, when did you go to St Athan?
AG: Erm, so that would be erm, [pause] when I were called up, I went to Blackpool, so it would be, erm, [pause] beginning of forty-three, I suppose
CB: For six months?
AG: Yeh [pause], or was it forty-two for six months? and then on, [pause] difficult to remember because
CB: So, when in forty-one did you join, what time of year?
AG: Oh, in the September
CB: Ok, so then you went to Blackpool?
AG: When I was called up, yeh
CB: Yeh
AG: I developed scarlet fever, the week I was called up, so the doctor said I’d got to stay there, I was in bed, with a blanket over the door, which had been sprayed by my mother, to keep the germs in the bedroom [laughs] and then so when I got to Blackpool, I had to report sick with scarlet fever, and the bloke said, ‘how long have you had it’? and I told him, and he said ‘no, that’s alright, you can carry on’ [laughs.] Yes, I remember that, I was sitting there and the nurse came round and said ‘why have you come’ and I said ‘’cos, I’ve got scarlet fever’ and I could see these two blokes, either side, go like that [laughter]
CB: Amazing, [pause] so, how long were you at Blackpool?
AG: Erm, oh, must have been about, I was there quite a long time
CB: You did your square bashing there, did you?
AG: Yeh, must have been, what, three months, oh, we were not only square bashing, I was, out digging in some place where they were putting in, erm, assault courses for people to practice on, we were out digging that, while I was there, they didn’t waste us.
CB: So, that would take you to Christmas?
AG: Yeh
CB: So, you went from Blackpool to St Athan?
AG: Yeh, well, I couldn’t tell you when
CB: So, that sounds like the beginning of forty-two, we’ll check it out anyway
AG: Yeh
CB: And you were there six months, so you would have joined the squadron
AG: Yeh
CB: When?
AG: I went from there, straight to Stradishall and joined up with the crew and then we finished up in Fairford
CB: But, you were involved in operations in D Day?
AG: Oh yeh, yeh
CB: How many tours did you do?
AG: Only the one
CB: Right, and how many ops did you do?
AG: Oh, thirty-two, something like that, just over thirty, a fraction over thirty
CB: I’m going to stop just for a mo.
AG: Yeh, right
CB: We are just going to talk a little bit about the crew, we’ve talked earlier about, when Allen sorted out the fuel distribution arrangements and how they were short of fuel, and that got him accepted, but how did the crew gel?
AG: Oh, very well, erm, our pilot had a car, I don’t know where he got it from, but he had a car at Fairford, and erm, we used to go out at night, to one of the local pubs, all of us
CB: All seven of you?
AG: Yeh, oh yeh, I think we meshed very well actually
CB: Right, and how well equipped were the pubs for supplying thirsty air crew?
AG: Oh, very well, particularly the one we used to go to which had a lot of really nice-looking girls serving there, which always started my pilot, [laughs] away [laughs] if he got half the chance [laughs]
CB: Yeh, and did they ever run out of beer?
AG: No, never, never, yeh
CB: So, part of the crew was commissioned, and part of it was NCO?
AG: Yeh
CB: So, what were your quarters like as an NCO?
AG: What were my what?
CB: Quarters, where were you?
AG: Oh, I was just in a billet with, twelve other people
CB: Right, so, what was the billet, a Nissan hut?
AG: Yeh, a Nissan hut, yeh, and at Fairford, we were right down the bottom of the hill, by the stream, where we could go fishing for trout, very naughty, and we knew what time the bailiff used to come round, and make sure there was nobody fishing in this trout stream, and so, we always used to make sure we weren’t down there when he came by [laughs]. No, I used to like trout, done on a coke stove
CB: Is that the coke stove in the Nissan hut?
AG: Yeh, yeh, that’s all the heat we had in there, was just one of these big coke stoves
CB: So, what was the recipe then, how did you deal with it, so you got the trout?
AG: Oh, put it in a tin on the top, after gutting it and chopping it, putting it on, and just standing it on the stove until it was cooked, knowing what the food was like, you know, we was always trying to add to it [laughs], one way or the other
CB: Were you normally hungry or was the normal amount adequate?
AG: Well, it was for me but I don’t think it was for some of them, but er, no, I always, I always, seemed to get on fairly well. The only funny thing that happened down at that Nissan hut that we were in, eh, one of the blokes had gone into town on his bicycle, when he came back, he’d thrown the bicycle over the fence, not realising, that he’d thrown it into a sewerage pit, so he climbed up and jumped in after it he turned up at the back door of the hut covered in green muck, and we threw things at him until he went away and got in the shower with all his clothes on [laughs] we weren’t going to let him in [laughs] Yeh, I can see that bloke standing there now
CB: How many uniforms did you have? He had to dry it out, first did he?
AG: Er, well, you really had one and a spare which you kept, you kept one, you know, for parades and one thing and another, and a spare, and of course when I became a warrant officer, then I was never short of clothes and it was all extremely smart, and I had more spares than I could cope with
CB: At what stage did you become a warrant officer?
AG: Oh, in my third year, because you went up one rank every year, this is why we had flight lieutenant rear gunner, he’d gone [laughs] gradually up [laughs] anyway
CB: So, you, worked well as a crew?
AG: Oh, yeh, really well
CB: And, erm, how did the food come, if you were flying at night, before you
AG: Well, we had to eat before we went
CB: Right, so what was that
AG: If it was a night flight
CB: Ok, what did you get?
AG: Well, anything that was going, you know, I seem to remember a lot of sausages in those days, I suppose they were easy to come by and easy to make so, they were alright, yeh
CB: Did they keep pigs on the station?
AG: No, not that I ever saw
CB: And, when you landed after an op, what did you get for food?
AG: Eh, well roughly the same thing again, whatever was available, you know, but erm,
CB: Bacon and egg?
AG: Oh yes, yes, we always had that, the only thing that I remember about coming back late one night, before we’d taken off, I’d gone out to the aircraft with a bicycle and had a look round like, as I usually did, and er, when we landed I got on the bike and whizzed off back, and, in the meantime they’d put a barbed wire fence across the bloody path and I rode straight into that and went flying, pitch down, and I got barbed wire cuts all up one arm, and of course, we hadn’t been debriefed or anything, so in between take off and being debriefed, I’d been wounded, I was entitled to a wound stripe, and I thought I shall never have the cheek to wear it, so I didn’t, ‘cos it wasn’t my fault they’d put a barbed wire fence up there
CB: Now, you’ve raised an interesting point there, the wound stripe, how was that allocated and then shown on the uniform?
AG: Well, you had an upside down v, a little red v on the bottom of your left-hand sleeve, I mean I’ve seen
CB: On the wrist?
AG: I saw a bloke once, he’d got fifteen of these all up this arm, so I thought, he must be ruddy unlucky [laughs]
CB: So, this will come as a result of aerial combat of some kind, would it?
AG: Oh yeh, oh yeh
CB: So, how often were you hit and by what?
AG: Well, the only time we were hit, hit badly, was when we were so short of fuel, because they’d absolutely peppered the aircraft, it was full of holes all over, up in, down, and underneath, under the tanks in the wings and everywhere. It was our own fault because we’d arrived ten minutes too late, we blamed the navigator, the rest of the bomber crews had gone on by, so we were flying over Ludwigshafen on our own, we were getting pasted
CB: No fire?
AG: No, fortunately
CB: And er, so that’s flak, so what about fighter attack, how often did you have those?
AG: No, we were lucky, we never had one, ever, [emphasis] although our gunners were ready, but we were lucky to get away with it, particularly when we were doing those Norway trips, ‘cos we’d got no cover there at all, and everything was wide open, you could see our shadow moving across the snow, and this German fighter place up in the north of Denmark, was huge, God knows how many fighters they had there, but we were lucky, we got away with it every time we went to Norway we got away with it without seeing one. The only time we got shot at in Norway, going up the creek to Oslo, and we had to go over Oslo and up into the mountains, to drop this stuff, and in the creek was three islands, one there, one there and one there, and they all had German flak guns on, fortunately, we came in so low that we were leaving a wake up this creek, I looked out and I could see it
CB: On the water?
AG: On the water, and this island was firing at us and hitting the other island, which we thought was quite good [laughs] but when we got to the third one of course, we were just taking a chance, round and round and out quick and after that it was just up over Oslo and into the mountains [pause] interesting, it was only last year that it was in the paper that they found some of this stuff up there that had been dropped, and the people up there never found it
CB: Where they able to find out who had, which aircraft had dropped it?
AG: No, no, they couldn’t find out anything about it at all
CB: So, you said, earlier, that the, Stirling was grossly under-rated, and you thought it was a brilliant aeroplane, what was so special about the Stirling in your perception?
AG: Well, the fact that it was solid metal, you know, it would stand up to practically anything, and only get minor damage, and of course the engines were superb, far better than anything on any of the other aircraft
CB: So, what engines were on the Stirling?
AG: Oh, those Bristol Radials
CB: Hercules
AG: Yeh, I know that we started off with two, two banks of pots and finished up with three, and erm, they were really good, far better than these Merlin engines, ‘cos these would take punishment, the others wouldn’t
CB: Going back to your training, looking at your training manuals, books you filled in, erm, exercise books, when you were training, there, there’s a section on everything but, the significance of the Stirling was it was, it had so much electrics on it, so how well were you prepared at St Athan, for going onto an aircraft that had such a large amount of electrics?
AG: Oh, pretty well, I think I never had any trouble with any of it, the only thing I nearly did one night, was to cook the pigeon, they gave us, in case we came down in the North Sea, and we were sat in a dinghy, there you know, waiting to be rescued, they gave us a pigeon that we could put on out last position and send it off, and I put this pigeon on the floor and I didn’t realise until I got back, that I’d stood it up against this heating pipe that was coming through from one of the engines, I thought the bloody thing will be cooked, but it was perfectly alright, thank goodness [laughs]
CB: Just gone deaf
AG: Well, it must have been warm, which was more than the rest of us were on some of these flights
CB: Where was the warmest part on the aircraft?
AG: At the end of this pipe that was coming through from the inner starboard engine
CB: That was the heater for the fuselage, was it?
AG: Yeh, that’s right, yeh
CB: So, what were the things that were electric, driven electrically, on the Stirling?
AG: Well, practically everything, I mean, I’d got a bank of dials in front of me where I was, which were, erm, you know, gave you an indication of how much fuel was in each tank, ‘cos you had one for each tank, starboard and port, and that was all run by electrics, I mean, if you lost your electrics, you’d got no guides at all, that sort of thing, but we never did, fortunately
CB: And, were any of the flying controls electric?
AG: Ah, the only thing that I knew about, that was my job, was the undercarriage, which was electric, down and up, but, erm, if that had failed I could do that by hand take me about half an hour I should think [laughs] ‘cos it was really hard work, but er, that you could do
CB: And, what about the trimmer? so, in the flying controls, were the trimmers electric?
AG: Erm, yes, but that was done either by the co-pilot, the bomb aimer or the pilot, I never had anything to do with that
CB: You said earlier that you had to stand up all the time, but did you have a seat for take-off and landing?
AG: Well, I had to sit on the parachute
CB: Where?
AG: The type of the parachute was the cushion type, with the two, rings at the back, which you just clicked onto your harness, which was there at the front, you just clicked on, yeh that’s right, on the front, [pause] and as it was that sort of thick, and that big, we used to sit on it
CB: Now, thinking now, about the take-off and landing, as the engineer, to what extent, were you involved in helping with the take-off with the throttles?
AG: Not at all, the pilot did it all and I used to watch the dials and make sure that there was nothing I had to tell him
CB: So, were you sitting next to him at that point, or
AG: No, no I was
CB: You were standing?
AG: No, I was either standing, bouncing up and down on me toes or, sat on the parachute looking at all this, wall of dials in front of me
CB: And erm, with most flight engineer tasks, positions, er, logs had to be taken, so,
AG: Oh yeh
CB: What logging did you do and how often?
AG: Well, you had to do one for every flight
CB: But, during the flight, what did you have to record?
AG: Well, if anything went wrong or, we needed something that wasn’t there or whatever, you had to put it in the log, you know, but erm, I never seemed to have any trouble with that, we were lucky really, we really were lucky
CB: From what you have said, fuel management is a key matter, so, of the tanks, in what sequence did you, use for fuel, you’d have one for take-off and then how did you distribute the fuel?
AG: Well, there was two big tanks, number two and number four, in each wing, and you used those for take-off particularly if you were towing a glider because you used a lot of it, and er, once you were up and on a long, fairly longish flight, because we did, we had to go twelve hours sometimes, which took us nearly down to the Swiss border, to supply, Free French that were in the hills there, in the foothills, and erm, as I said, it was, by the time we got back to base again, we’d been out twelve hours
CB: And erm, in terms of the next range of tanks, how did you switch, in what sequence did you use the fuel?
[background noise]
AG: Well, you used the little ones, number one and number two
CB: Which are on the wing tips?
AG: Number one and number three, out, at the far end, you use those first, on both wings, and you tried to keep them going to the engines, you got [pause] like two engines there, and two engines there and you had to keep them going, from the same tanks, pretty well for the same length of time, so you’d know exactly what type of tank was going to be empty, you didn’t have to look at your dial until it went empty, I mean, you had to do it by time, and er, whatever revs were on the engines
CB: And, setting the revs on the engines, and the pitch of the screws, who dealt, did that?
AG: Oh, that was the pilot, did that
CB: Right
AG: And if you didn’t like what he was doing, you had to tell him and he had to alter it
CB: And to what extent was it necessary to synchronise the engines in flight?
AG: Er, not a lot really, we had an extremely good ground crew and normally we found that they’d adjust, perfectly, [pause] because we really relied on our ground crew a lot and we had four really good blokes
CB: And did they come out with you, in the evenings sometimes or did they?
AG: Oh yeh, yeh, oh yeh, we thought a lot of those fellas, in fact I gave one of them my bike, when I left, when I was posted away from the squadron, erm, I gave him my bicycle, which I was sad about, but, he deserved it
CB: So, you come to the end of your tour, and you did thirty, thirty-two operations, what did you do after that?
AG: Well, we only had one flight after that because the officer’s mess had run out of beer, we had to fly over to Northern Ireland and bring back a load of beer for them [laughs]
CB: Must have been an arduous trip!
AG: Oh yeh, [laughs] because we’d have liked to have gone on over there and done something, really naughty, because at that time the IRA were building bonfires in the shape of arrows, pointing, to where the aerodrome was
CB: Oh, for German bombers?
AG: That’s right, yeh, bastards [emphasis]
CB: And, how long had they been doing that for?
AG: Practically, since the war started
CB: And how were they dealt with?
AG: Well, they should have been bloody shot, but we never got around to it! It’s like that bloke McGuiness, I mean he’s in the Irish government now, he was the one that started that Bloody Sunday, he was the one on top with the rifle, firing at our troops what did they think, that we weren’t going to fire back? I don’t know, that bastard should have been shot, and you can write that down and put my name on it [laughs]
CB: So, the arrows bit is interesting, how long did that go on for?
AG: Oh, quite a long time during the war, [pause] yeh, swines
CB: And, what did the beer taste like when you got it back
AG: Oh, that weren’t for us, that was for the officer’s mess, we weren’t allowed to touch it
CB: Didn’t you sample it to make sure it was ok?
AG: No
CB: So, your last flight was keeping them topped up, then what did you do? So, you’ve left the squadron now
AG: Oh, well, I was erm, posted away then, and er, [pause] and finished up at a place called Burnham Beeches
CB: In Buckinghamshire?
AG: Yeh, and erm
CB: What happened there?
AG: Well, nothing really, I don’t think they knew what to do with us, I mean that was where I learnt how to play tennis, one of the blokes there, he’d been champion of Yorkshire for two or three years, and he gave me one of his racquets, and I’ve still got it, I’d still use it, if I played tennis, which I thought was very nice of him, and er, we went rowing on the river there and all sorts of things. As I said they didn’t know what to do with us, we were just keeping out the way
CB: So, we’re after Arnhem now aren’t we, so
AG: Oh yeh
CB: So, what sort of time are we talking about? In the autumn or are we later?
AG: Oh erm, [pause] now, I think I went there if I remember rightly, I went there in er, January, February somewhere like that, fairly early
CB: Forty-five
AG: At Burnham Beeches and we were erm, we’d taken over this big country house that was there, and erm, they just kept the top floor, to live in, and we had the offices all down below, and er, working in there
CB: Doing what?
AG: Well, I was sat in the office there, and it was a most peculiar effort, if they, had a man posted from Edinburgh to Glasgow, an RAF policeman, he had to come all the way down to us, be booked into my office and booked out again, and given travel warrants and away he went, most peculiar efforts, still there you are, you wondered who was running these things sometimes
CB: And then after, how long did that go on for?
AG: Oh, I think I was there for about erm, three or four months [background noise] and then I was posted to Leicester
CB: Leicester East? The airfield, Leicester East?
AG: Oh no, no, no, no, just somewhere in Leicester, erm, and erm, I was there for about a fortnight or so I think, and then I went back to Burnham Beeches and got discharged, and went to London and picked up my civvies
CB: Then what? So, you’re discharged, demobbed, what did you do then?
AG: Well, I went home and had a week off and then I went back to work for the Danish Bacon company, shit house firm
[background laughter]
CB: Would you like to explain why they were like that? What was it that was so upsetting about the Danish Bacon
AG: Well, because I’d
CB: Company
AG: Been here for nearly forty years, until I got another job and I wanted to take my pension and money, put it into this new firm and they were going to treat it as though I’d been there all the time, so I’d have had a really good pension when I did eventually retire, but they wouldn’t do it, they made me take all the money out and it was only what I’d paid in, nothing of theirs, and I had to take it out as my last week’s wages and the income tax was unbelievable, not a nice firm, fortunately, they went out of business after that
CB: Right, so
AG: It went broke
CB: When did you leave them?
AG: Ah, [pause] I’m scratching for the year, [pause] I can’t remember to be honest
CB: So, you left the RAF in forty-five
AG: Yeh
CB: How long did you stay with the Danish Bacon people?
AG: Er, oh another [pause] eight or nine years
CB: Then what?
AG: Then I got this offer of this new job
CB: At?
AG: Patrick Grainger and Hutley’s, at Fordingbridge
CB: What were you doing there?
AG: I was assistant manager and I was also travelling round, seeing some of their customers, and building up trade of course
CB: Ok, we’ll just have a break there, thank you
CB: So, you kept staying, kept with Patrick Grainger, who’d then been taken over by Danish Bacon until you retired after forty years. We are now going back to flying, so when you were flying Allen, as the engineer, you had to log various things because it was important to see how the plane was performing. What were you logging?
AG: Well, if you have a look at this, its erm, oil pressure, oil temperatures and cylinder temperatures
CB: Right, ok, and how often were you doing that? Did you have to do it at a particular time? Every hour?
AG: Yeh, well, this, if you look at the times down the left-hand side, its roughly about every fifteen minutes, I think
CB: Right
AG: But, I had another line, right the way across
CB: Yeh, so, when you got back, you, the aircraft lands, we didn’t get on to debrief, but, you’re the engineer, when you get out of the aircraft, who’s the first person you speak to, is that the Chiefy?
AG: Erm
CB: Your ground engineer?
AG: No, I wouldn’t see anybody until I got back into the debriefing hut
CB: Ok, so at debriefing, what would you be doing?
AG: Well, I had to hand my log in
CB: Right
AG: And erm,
CB: That you’d been completing in the flight?
AG: That’s right, yeh this one
CB: Yeh, ok, and then what, who was the person that looked at that?
AG: Well, they used to take them all away, and erm, if I remember rightly, it was the chap who was in charge of all the, erm, maintenance and all that stuff, he’d go through it, and any anomalies he’d then probably come, and ask you what happened then and [unclear]
CB: This would be the station engineering officer?
AG: Yeh
CB: Who would be dealing with all of that or one of his erm, people?
AG: Well, it was a bloke in charge of erm, all the ground crews
CB: Yeh, yeh
AG: He’d want to see that
CB: Now, would you then join the rest of the crew for the crew debriefing, what would happen?
AG: Oh yeh, yeh, we would all go and sit down together
CB: Where would that be and who would you see?
AG: Well, the CO would be there and a couple of his underlings and erm, they’d just go through the whole thing, right from the take off and erm, and talk to the pilot about what happened here and what happened there, and did he have any trouble, and went right through and made sure that we’d put either the bombs in the right place or erm, or supplied the people that were in the exact same spot that they were supposed to be in, because sometimes all you would get was one bloke flashing a morse letter on his torchP particularly if we were on one of those Norway trips, we used to go miles over the snow, and there would be some poor bugger right up in the mountains, with his torch, and then we would drop all these containers down there, so, what they did with them after that I don’t know, whether they towed them away or what
CB: So, the debrief, covers all the aspects of the flight?
AG: Yeh, oh yeh
CB: And, bearing in mind in many cases, your, you were a special duties squadron, so you were supplying SOE, to what extent were there SOE people there, during the debrief?
AG: Well, we assumed that, you know, there would be one or two officers there that we didn’t know where they come from, so it would have been them
CB: They were the air force officers?
AG: Yeh, it was either SOE or SAS
CB: Right
AG: Yeh
CB: What was the most memorable thing about your operational career, on operations?
AG: Oh, that one when we just got back with hardly any fuel, [laughs] the only thing that stands out in my mind
CB: Now, the aircraft had been peppered, pretty badly, why was it, it didn’t catch fire?
AG: Well, it was the way they were built, this is why we like the Stirling’s, there was nothing there to catch fire
CB: Did you have self-sealing fuel tanks?
AG: Well, up to a certain point but, that time we got caught with it, I mean, it had blown a hole about that big and of course that self-sealing didn’t work, over that size
CB: But the tank was empty anyway?
AG: Well, yeh, I ran all four engines on it, until I could see there was nothing left, and just went switching from one to another, then eking it out as well as I could, until we got back, right [hand clap] good
CB: Finally, where did you meet your wife?
AG: Ah, when I was at St Athans
CB: And what was she doing there?
AG: Well, she was doing this erm, mechanics training course, which she finished up doing, erm, I don’t think she was ever on, erm, an operating squadron, er, she was at this aerodrome down by Exeter, I went down there to see her once or twice, and erm, you know, that was it
CB: Was she on the flight line looking after the aircraft, or in the hangar?
AG: Oh, both, because erm, the only thing she ever moaned about it was the fact that they were working out in the rain, with no cover and erm, the only way they could get dry was to go in and stand with all their clothes on by this coke stove, get it red hot and stand there and hope their clothes dried, which is why she finished up with really bad arthritis in her legs, I reckon, because of that
CB: So, when did you meet her, oh you met her when you were at St Athan
AG: Yeh
CB: When did you marry?
AG: Oh, about er, about ten years later [pause] I can’t remember what year it was that we got married, no idea
CB: Sounds like about nineteen fifty-three?
AG: Hmm, probably, somewhere around there [background talking] yeh, one thing I should remember and I don’t
CB: Thank you very much
AG: Oh, it’s alright sir
CB: On the minelaying, you were talking about, so this is, the other side, having to fly the other side of Denmark
AG: Yeh
CB: How did that raid go, were you high up and then went down or, and how did you do the mining run
AG: Well, it was our first op that was, erm, well it was just a question of relying on the navigator, ‘cos I didn’t know where we were going, and erm, anyway, we had to come down really low, off this island I think it was called [unclear] Byrum [?] and er, drop these mines right across the erm, entrance to the harbour. If anything had come in there, they would have gone off, so, and then we came back, and flew up between the other side of Denmark and Sweden, and watched all Sweden being lit up, lights on the piers and all the way along the sea front, looked beautiful, we ain’t seen anything like that for years
CB: And then you were, we’ve got a picture here, of your, aircraft, on the flight line ready for take-off for Arnhem, so, could you talk us through that one?
AG: Well, erm
CB: What were you carrying?
AG: Well, the first day was alright, we were just carrying supplies, the only thing that buggered up Arnhem was the Americans, again, as usual. Erm, our troops took the first bridge, the Americans were supposed to take the second one, and we dropped our troops on the third one, and they’re the ones we were supplying, and erm, of course the Americans made a cock of it and couldn’t take theirs, which left our blokes on the third bridge sticking out on their own, and unfortunately, the intelligence was so bad, that nobody realised that, just a little way, away from there, there was, a big mass of Germans, who had taken back for a rest from the Russian front, and they had got their tanks and everything there, and our blokes on the third bridge didn’t stand a chance. They were gradually surrounded, erm, we went over there again and dropped more supplies, but the third day when we went over there, we didn’t realise but we were dropping to the Germans, and that we were sitting ducks at that height, fortunately, our pilot decided not to climb away and leave us vulnerable, he went down even further, and went in between the two milk factory chimneys and came out over the sea, clever bloke
CB: At what height were you dropping?
AG: Oh, about five hundred feet
CB: And how much stuff did you drop, it was in containers with parachutes, was it?
AG: No, it was all in, yeh, it was all in containers with parachutes, because we were, the first and second time actually dropping to our troops, it was the third time when we weren’t and didn’t realise it
CB: What was in the containers?
AG: Oh, small arms and food and supplies, and all that sort of thing
CB: Right, anything else? Good, thank you
AG: And we were erm, the planes were being loaded up, for supplies to the French, in some area, and er, we were walking out and one of the containers fell out the plane, and hit the ground, so we all went flat, so we thought knowing what was likely to be in them. Anyway, when the dust had settled and they hadn’t gone off, we walked over and had a look in this container, half of it was full of socks and the other half was full of durex, and I thought the French don’t need those [laughter] and they don’t use them anyway, [laughter] and I thought well, that’s a bloody fine thing, we are risking our necks taking over socks [emphasis] and anyway [laughter] that’s what wars all about I suppose
CB: They’d say that’s what they put in them before they chucked it
AG: Yeh, I’d forgotten, yeh, I’d forgotten about that, and I suddenly thought about this thing dropping down, and we all dived flat, because we reckoned it was going to blow up, but it didn’t, and we walked over to have a look, and that what was in it, socks and durex [laughs]
[Other] That’s the first time I’d heard Dad be angry about the Americans
AG: They were normally shit scared and badly trained
CB: The Americans?
AG: Yeh
CB: Right, erm, thank you.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Allen Geoffrey Gould,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 17, 2024,

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