Interview with David Griffin


Interview with David Griffin


David Griffin was a Halifax navigator. He was shot down, baled out and became a prisoner of war.


IBCC Digital Archive




Julie Williams


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01:19:39 audio recording





Conforms To

Spatial Coverage


RG: Oh Hanover. Of course. Yes.
DAJG: At Hanover and we were, and we were coming back and we were attacked simultaneously by two Messerschmitts. We survived that. Unbelievable. But it was the death knell of [?]
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And everybody was killed except me. I came down in Holland and this is what I mean sort of looking through now I’ve got bits and pieces everywhere.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: For this little boy who is coming over tomorrow and I’ve got a tremendous association with the Dutch and I have been back and forward.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Over there and what not. So I spent, first of all I came down in Holland and oh God, I’ll show you this again, it’s all a mess. I’ll get it. Hang on a minute.
RG: This is a recording with David Griffin in Orange on the 8th of July 2016. Interviewees are Rob Gray and Lucy Davidson and David was a Halifax navigator shot down, taken prisoner of war in Holland.
DAJG: I came down in Holland and my flying boots came off.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: They were just like wellingtons in those days and I came down in bare feet, bare foot like f’ing kid but I was rather lucky I went into a big fence and held there for a while and then I dropped.
RG: Right.
DADG: And on the other side of the fence was a bull and of course he was having his nocturnal sleep and he didn’t rather like me. I was very fortunate.
RG: Yes.
DAJG: I walked, not very far, came to a farmhouse, knocked at the door. There was no reply. And I knocked on the door and no reply but finally they opened the door and they were wonderful to me but nevertheless and thank God they did this, they handed me over. They were very, my shoes came off and about twenty or thirty years ago I was over there and they said, ‘Your shoes came off. We’re going to buy you a pair.’ I’ve never worn them.
RG: They look the most dreadfully uncomfortable things don’t they?
DAJG: The police took me, the Dutch police and kept me in. Then they were very wonderful to me.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Absolutely wonderful. They gave me the freedom of the jail really. I could walk about but I wasn’t there very long. And then they heard from the grapevine that the Germans were coming to pick me up so they locked me up and then I came out and I had to examine the crew, they were all dead.
RG: Oh no.
DAJG: Six of them, five of them were incinerated.
RG: Right.
DAJG: And two of us got out. In those days on the Halifax I was in charge of bailing out and later on they changed it to the bomb aimer. Yes. The bomb aimer. Anyway, first of all I was taken to a Dutch aerodrome which of course was –
RG: In German hands.
DAJG: In the hands of the Germans.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And you know they treated me very well.
RG: Was that the Luftwaffe or the –
DAJG: Pardon?
RG: Was that the Luftwaffe?
DAJG: Yeah. The Luftwaffe.
RG: Yes.
DAJG: Then they took me by train. No. Yes. I was there for one night. Took me into Amsterdam and I was imprisoned there, only for about two days and there I met two wonderful Canadians who were, what was the name of the, they were marauders, they’d go along, ‘Shoot that enemy.’
RG: Oh Mosquitos were they?
DAJG: I forget the name. It’s in the book anyway.
RG: Yeah. Beaufighters or -
DAJG: And they were absolutely wonderful and then one day I had to go out and have a piddle and I met one of them. Canadian. He was badly burned and what not. Tremendous courage. My guard just had, I mean he didn’t know anything but his guard had a pistol and you know what he said then, ‘F… off,’ he said to them. ‘You dirty bastard,’ he said. Oh he was a -
RG: This was the Canadian to the German. Yeah.
DAJG: So the three of us were taken from there by train to Amsterdam. Not Amsterdam. We were in Amsterdam.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: For interrogation. Into Germany. There are two, it’s all in the book.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
DAJG: Anyway and I was interrogated. And they said, of course, they said to me, it was an American who did the talking. He was American.
RG: American German. Yeah.
DAJG: Dutchman who worked in America.
RG: Oh Ok.
DAJG: And he said to me, you know, that I wasn’t, I was an undercover man and what and unfortunately for me, that night or the night before or something the Halifaxes had, I didn’t know this, but apparently there was a squadron of, aided the underground, dropping –
LD: Oh.
RG: Yes.
LD: Right. Yes.
RG: Yeah. The clandestine -
DAJG: And that’s what, you’re not really air force. Royal Air Force. You belong to that -
RG: This particular –
DAJG: Sneaky squadron. So he had whatnot. Well after about ten days I got out and I joined the Canadians again and lots of others who had been shot down and they were all waiting to be taken. And then I was taken by train, not by train, by trucks. It was either on, in French it said, forty eight, forty eight men or six horses. Or something like that.
LD: Yes. Yes.
DAJG: You know.
LD: Yeah. Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: It belonged to France.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And they sort of -
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Taken everything there and I finished up in -
RG: East Prussia.
DAJG: Anyway, in East Prussia. Tthey took me to East Prussia, I’ve got it in the book and whatnot and there I spent quite a time there. I was shot down in ’43.
RG: When?
DAJG: September.
RG: September.
DAJG: September the 28th
RG: Right.
DAJG: 1943 I was shot down. And I -
RG: And you were, sorry you were with 428 squadron. 428 squadron was that?
DAJG: 428.
RG: Yes. It was a Canadian squadron wasn’t it?
DAJG: We were all British.
RG: All of you.
DAJG: Every one of us.
RG: Really.
DAJG: Every one of us.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Yes. How did I, there were two, two Irishmen, a Welshman and four Englishmen.
RG: In a Canadian squadron.
DAJG: We were 428 squadron.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
DAJG: I’ll tell you something I think it’s today. I’m not sure. Hang on.
RG: [?]
LD: God yes. Yeah. I need to pee though. You might have to take this.
RG: Ok.
DAJG: That’s the crew. I, I -
RG: Oh this is your -
DAJG: [Radioman?] and my crew. Wait a minute. Oh there we are. There’s the rest of them and there’s, they are mine.
RG: Oh right. Ok. Wow.
DAJG: Now I’ve got a very close sort of liaison with, oh this is my trips to -
RG: To Holland.
DAJG: Holland you see. This is a long time ago.
LD: Oh.
RG: This is your crew’s graves.
DAJG: [Don’t worry?]
RG: Yeah. I’ll have a quick root -
DAJG: Where did I put that?
LD: I need to go to the toilet.
DAJG: [?]
LD: Yes that’s -
DAJG: Down the end there somewhere.
LD: Oh right.
DAJG: I’ll be with you [?] this mess now.
[long pause]
DAJG: There’s something, I think, if you look. I think it’s in here. I gave them a swing.
RG: Yeah. So the graves. Yeah.
DAJG: Here we are.
RG: Oh. Yes ok.
DAJG: The swing.
RG: Yes.
DAJG: I haven’t looked at it for so many years and there I with, I’m there with my, I’m there somewhere.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: [?]
RG: Yeah. [?]
DAJG: Tells you -
RG: Ok.
DAJG: Something about it.
RG: Wonderful. So you went from, you were in East Prussia -
DAJG: What was that?
RG: You were in East Prussia. I mean –
DAJG: Oh right. I was in East Prussia and what an education I received there.
LD: Yes.
DAJG: Wonderful. You know it sort of fixed me up for, sort of, life and then the Russians came on and some of them went by train from the Baltic. East Prussia is almost in the Baltic.
RG: Just about, yeah. Yeah.
DAJG: And I think that first, it was lager 6. Prison camp 6.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: It’s all there.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And I had until the Russians started to come on and then they took us. Some of them went by boat and had a hell of a time. From one of the Baltic States but I went by truck and I went down to Poland. I’ve got, and it was great in Poland because there didn’t seem to be any boundaries for the, and most of the blokes had been taken, they were soldiers that were taken at Dunkirk.
RG: Oh yes. Yes. Yeah.
DAJG: And we had so much freedom to walk you know. Walk to -
RG: Truly.
DAJG: Then the Russians came on, not the Russians, yeah the Russians came.
RG: The Russians, yeah, went through Poland.
DAJG: And they were outside Warsaw and we used to, everybody was so clever we had, you know we had a radio in the teapot and whatnot and they were outside Russia, outside -
RG: Warsaw. Warsaw. Warsaw.
RG: Warsaw.
DAJG: Warsaw. And we couldn’t get over it because they could walk in and we were all saying, ‘Come on, let’s go.’ We weren’t far from Warsaw but some wisdom maker bastards you know but they told the underground to get up and fight the Germans we’ll get there but they didn’t move and the Germans decimated the Poles.
LD: Oh.
DAJG: Because they paid, they, because they were going to take it over and let the Germans get rid of all the tough guys that they were going to meet you know. The people who were going to cause the trouble.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: So I was in, I was in in Warsaw, in Poland. Then because the Russians were coming on like this, we were taken into Germany and then I stayed the winter of ‘45 in that place and finally we had to take to the road and walk and they gave us one loaf of bread between two and said we didn’t know when the next one was so, ‘You and I are sharing this bread.’
RG: So was that under guard or were you just turned out and told to go west.
DAJG: Under guard but they couldn’t stay with it because we took all the highways and byways you know. Through the forests etcetera.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And a lot of them could hardly walk. The longer the walk they done the farther it stretched out.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
DAJG: And my friend and I got away from them and finally we were recaptured thank God I was and then I was put, went to one of these big, I was put in near Belsen. I wasn’t in Belsen.
RG: No. No but -
DAJG: Just outside. Wonderful, wonderful story I had there and I then, they took me out and they were going to put me with some American prisoners but when we got there they’d gone. They’d gone walking, hiking you know and the bloke who was with us, the German who was with us he just said -
RG: Go.
DAJG: It was shocking. And we went along and met a bloke with a wheelbarrow. A Pole. Slave worker. He said he was a doctor. Prisoner of war. And he said, ‘Why don’t you come and live with us?’ So I went there and I did. We both did. We, we lived in a little beautiful farm you know. The Germans had it.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And we were just there but I didn’t have to work, I would, I would get the wheelbarrow every day.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And with the young kids who thought I was marvellous we’d wheel down to get the bread ration.
LD: Oh.
DAJG: See. And I’d wheel it back.
RG: So the German family were –
DAJG: What?
RG: The German family was still -
DAJG: No. No. It was, it was a German farm. They, you know, in Poland or wherever it was, in Germany.
RG: In Germany, yeah.
DAJG: In Germany but -
RG: So the family was still there.
DAJG: The kind of people they had were Slavs, Poles.
RG: All the slave workers.
DAJG: They were all workers and while I was there who should come along? I’ve got his name in the book and they found a [?] crack about him and I met him. I was free.
RG: Ok. Yeah. So what, so from there you just went straight back to the UK or -
DAJG: No. [?] When this bloke came along [with his arm like this] he only stayed there for a half an hour. They had to go on.
RG: Had to move on.
DAJG: [?] he said take me, show me what, I went there, I said, ‘If you go further on you might meet a tank which is dug in. Thanks very much. So I went back to the -
RG: To the farm.
DAJG: Back to the farm and I think they were about thirty miles from the main British thing and I couldn’t drive a car or anything like that. I could ride a bike so we purloined a bike each and we set off. Tried to. We were stopped after we had done about twenty odd miles on the road. We were stopped by a British army jeep. They thought we were, you know, held us up with guns and then I got a bollocking from the boss. The commander -
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Whoever it was, for being such a bloody fool. He said the mainstream of the Germans [?] bastards you know. They said if they caught you they’d cut [?] off. They were in retreat and then I went, I nearly had the word but anyway when I, then I met the 6th Airborne and they were getting ready to go and be the last ones of the, and they said, ‘Come and live with us.’ So I went there and they said, ‘Let’s all go swimming.’ And this is April.
RG: Cold.
DAJG: Finished in May. I said, ‘I’ll come. I’ll come,’ and I lay on the bed and I slept. I slept. And the next morning they said, ‘We had a good game of rugger you know when we came back,’ he said, ‘And you didn’t move.’
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And so they wished us all the best. They had to go on. They were going to take, I don’t think they took the Germans because the war had finished. And I was home on April the 18th I came home before the war was finished.
RG: Just before the war ended. Yeah. Yeah. So were you on leave at home when the war ended or, were you on leave when the war ended then?
DAJG: Yeah. I was still in the air force [I don’t know where I was?] but they gave me six weeks or seven weeks holiday then and -
DAJG: Which is fair enough. You hadn’t been paid in two years.
DAJG: I was a warrant officer and I was getting nineteen and nine pence a day.
RG: Oh.
LD: Oh.
RG: That’s big money wasn’t it?
DAJG: Nineteen and nine pence. I was a rich man.
RG: And all that back pay. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.
DAJG: But anyway we were, we came home with transport planes you know. First of all there were so many people. Not only British but also, you know, Poles, etcetera in this place where we were and we had to line up with a cup, a tin cup they gave you. Drink of, drink of tea and stuff like that. And when this, when this bloke who was in charge [for a meal?] and whatnot.
RG: Oh yes.
DAJG: When we got back he bollocked this bloke. He said –
RG: Yeah. So David you were a school teacher before you joined up weren’t you?
DAJG: I hadn’t taught.
LD: Oh.
DAJG: No. I hadn’t taught.
RG: Right.
DAJG: I’m [nearly ninety six]
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And what happened was I got my higher, I went to, I got a scholarship to Trowbridge Grammar School and to, you know, to board.
LD: Yes. Yes.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Very awful place but they gave you work. You know what I mean. I was nineteen when I got my Oxford Senior Certificate and my brother was a wonderful bloke. He was a [?] bloke and he said, ‘Dai,’ that was my Welsh name, he said, ‘Dai,’ he said, ‘You know if you go to university you won’t finish the course. They’re going to get you -’ you know what I mean, I was due to be picked up. I was nineteen see.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: I was born on the 6th of September. War broke out on the 3rd of September. So I was left with the choice of either going to university and I wouldn’t finish the course or go to a teacher’s college.
LD: So was that just twelve months was it? Was that just -
DAJG: No. Two years.
LD: Right. Ok.
DAJG: It was pretty hard. And he said they might leave you there for a bit you know. So I went to Trinity College Carmarthen and then they I was called up in about May or June of ‘41 and I pleaded with them to let me go later in July because I wanted to sit the final exams. And they did that.
RG: Right. Ok.
DAJG: They let me go but then I got in on the understanding that I would April. I was briefed, you know briefed plane goes off five minutes, ten minutes or however long and you know all this, they do it now [?] all this. Don’t do that now. Anyway. I went there and then when I came out of the air force I was a trained teacher and I taught in a secondary modern school in England. I didn’t teach in Wales because I couldn’t speak Welsh fluently.
RG: Ah ok.
DAJG: Barriers. So anyway I said I’d go and join the Royal Air Force and all that so I joined the Royal Air Force and finally I made 428 squadron and we were all as I said we were two Irish, one Welsh and four Englishmen.
RG: Yeah. So David did you do all your training in the UK? Did you do all your training in the UK or did they send you overseas?
DAJG: You see I didn’t come to Australia until 1953.
RG: Yes. Yes. Yes.
DAJG: You see I got married when I came home and we had three little children and I was working, what I thought to myself I don’t know how to teach a kid to read. I was in a secondary modern school. I must learn this this so I transferred from a secondary to a primary.
RG: Primary.
DAJG: School and I thought to myself I’ve got to bloody well stay here because things were so tough in England.
RG: Yes. I can imagine.
DAJG: And of course my wife didn’t want to come. And you can understand that. Leaving all -
RG: Leaving the family and -
DAJG: And we came here and I was sent out in the jungle whatnot but then I did a university degree here and I then I said I wanted to transfer from because they sent me to a primary school or whatever when I came out here. I wanted to become secondary so I asked for permission and I went to Orange High. I had my degree and whatnot and the boss called me in and he said David he said. I can’t put you with the seniors because Owen Jones –
RG: [?]
DAJG: The boss man down in Sydney said, ‘Griffin will do what he’s told and he’ll stay in primary,’ ‘cause he was the primary boss but anyway he lasted one year and he died of something or other and then I was free to go.
RG: That was lucky wasn’t it?
DAJG: And then I went, I went secondary.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And I was the English master at Orange High School. Now, first of all, yes when I went there they had two, you could be an English master or a history master, you know. A physics master or whatever it was.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
DAJG: And the boss said to me he said, ‘David,’ he said, ‘You’re going to have English and you’re going to have history.’ And I said, ‘Do I get two pays for that?’
RG: Yeah. [laughs]
DAJG: So anyway I worked there and I lived here and I had the job of English master at Bathurst High School so I used to travel every day.
LD: Oh how far -
RG: How far is it to Bathurst?
DAJG: A fair way.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: A hundred and forty miles as far, I don’t know. I can’t remember.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
LD: Yeah.
RG: That’s a good travel every day though.
DAJG: It was good travel. So I did that and then I became deputy principal at [Dorrygong?]. Then I became principal of, what was the place, called Barron [on the?] and then I came back here and became principal of Orange High.
LD: You must have been glad to get back closer to home.
DAJG: Yeah. I wanted to get back here and settle down and what not you know so that was that.
RG: So when, David when you joined the air -
DAJG: What?
RG: When you joined the air force where did you do your basic, your navigational training and your basic training?
DAJG: Did so much in the UK and in Canada.
RG: You were in –
LD: Oh.
RG: Canada.
LD: Right.
DAJG: Ok. Yeah.
RG: So you did the basic sort of air force stuff in the UK and then got -
DAJG: Yeah.
RG: Sent to Canada.
DAJG: Yeah.
RG: Ok. So that would have been ‘41 wasn’t it?
DAJG: Something like that.
RG: ‘41 yeah. Yeah. Ok. Yeah. Whereabouts in Canada were you?
[long pause]
DAJG: In Manitoba. I don’t know.
RG: It’s in the book though isn’t it?
DAJG: It’s in there, yeah.
LD: Is that right?
RG: Yeah. That’s ok. Manitoba is close enough.
DAJG: What I was thinking, now look, I’ve been thinking of publishing for a long time. Now could you as I say I’d give it to this [?]. Now -
LD: It looks like you have some changes that need to be made to it. There’s some writing and so on in it.
RG: Yes there’s some [?]
DAJG: There’s my introduction. Just read that. That’s -
RG: That’s, yeah.
LD: Come straight from –
RG: Yeah. I studied that one at school under an English master just like you. [laughs]
[long pause]
DAJG: I wrote that book thirty years ago.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Now what I was thinking of? Don’t worry about that –
RG: No. What I was thinking though was where you’ve got the changes.
DAJG: What’s happened is this. Listen. All the names I use in the, I wrote it.
LD: Yes.
DAJG: Were in here. My daughter read it and she said you use the proper names and one book has got the proper names.
LD: Yeah.
DAJG: I think it’s in that.
RG: I see.
DAJG: It was a bloody nuisance going through it and just -
RG: Yeah. You’ve got yourself down as Dai.
DAJG: Yeah. Dai.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Do you have like other copies of this this bound thing?
DAJG: Yes. Yes. I think I have but what I want is this -
RG: Yes.
DAJG: I’ve been thinking, now honestly you’re doing this for [?] isn’t it.
RG: We’re doing this for the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln.
DAJG: Now look, I was thinking of this if you could publish that or something I’d give half to this thing you gave me the other day. You know –
[long pause]
DAJG: I thought, oh my, [?] I’d and I’d like to give, what I was wanting to do, the Dutch are very friendly with me.
RG: Yes.
DAJG: They were wonderful to me and originally I wanted to give, if I publish that book, I think it’s good but of course I don’t know.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Now, I was wanting, I could half to the Dutch because I go there a lot on whatnot and something or other.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: I’d give half to my family.
RG: Yes. Of course. Yeah.
DAJG: [?] But -
RG: David. I don’t know if we could get it published but what we could do with your permission is to get a copy of this into the National Library so there would be a copy of the book in the National Library. Yeah. We can definitely do that. Would you be prepared to do that?
LD: It doesn’t have to be this copy. We can, I mean you know this is obviously your copy, we could get it in to another -
RG: You see -
LD: Another physical form but the thing is if it’s with the national library then you know it’s not, it’s not getting lost. It’s there for anybody in Australia who wants to read it.
DAJG: I deleted that because I thought it was a bit hard on the people who rescued me in the first place. Do you know what I mean and whatnot? I was thinking of this business when you came to me.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: It was -
RG: The [perspective?] yeah.
DAJG: This movement in Lincoln.
RG: Yeah. The International Bomber Command Centre. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’m not sure what they could do in that regard but -
DAJG: I’m sure it could be part of their database.
RG: They’d be happy to take it as part of their database I’m sure.
DAJG: What’s that?
RG: Well, I think the people in the UK, in Lincoln would be happy to have it as part of their database but we can make enquiries and see about that if you want but we can certainly, as I say, we can certainly get it into the National Library so it’s at least a copy that’s not, it’s not going to get lost. It’s going to be there, protected and looked after and could be, and it’s still copyright so no one can reproduce it or anything without, it would still be a copyright. Still yours. But it’s just that there would be a copy there so it wouldn’t get lost. I don’t know what you think about that.
[long pause]
DAJG: I don’t know. It’s been here, it’s been with me so long.
RG: Yeah.
[long pause]
RG: You don’t have to make any decisions David. You can think about it and let us know. That’s no problem at all but it’s -
LD: But we can get a physical copy made of that.
DAJG: What?
LD: We can get a physical copy made of that so that you get to keep that original.
DAJG: Yeah.
RG: Do you only have one, one copy?
LD: That’s what -
DAJG: No. I’ve got another one, I think, in there. My grandson, one of my sons
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: One of them did something to it. I don’t know. But -
[long pause].
DAJG: I’m going to show you a couple of photographs I think.
RG: Yeah. Sure, sure.
DAJG: I’ll be back.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Do you have your camera? If you would -
RG: I have that yeah.
LF: Yeah maybe.
RG: To take photos of the photos.
LD: Yeah maybe if you want to. They look so young.
RG: Yeah. Just boys. And this one. This is their graves now and those are the wartime ones.
LD: We should do something cheerful tonight.
RG: I think we should.
LD: Very sad.
RG: Yeah.
RG: Boys aren’t they?
[long pause]
RG: There’s the captain. Look at him. He looks about twelve.
DAJG: [I left them on the desk.] I’d like you to read this. We, we had to attack a [pause] a Dunlop factory. Dunlop Germany, Dunlop Australia, Dunlop and they were not making tyres. They were making heavy tanks. Much stronger.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And we were picked out, well picked out, to do this and do it so we went and we got shot up to buggery and we struggled home and I remember the captain saying to me, ‘Give me the shortest, quick as you can.’
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: ‘To steer home.’ Now, we were stationed up in the north of England. In Durham.
RG: Oh yes.
DAJG: And we got back but we had to land in Sussex.
RG: Oh ok a long way away.
DAJG: But we were in such a bloody mess.
RG: Yes. Yes.
DAJG: In such a mess and the first thing when I got out of the plane and what not I met a bloke who had done some work with me, he was a navigator and he used to call me Taff, because I’m a Welshman you see, and I used to, his name was Appleyard and I said, ‘Oh yeah apples how do you go?’ ‘Bloody terrible,’ he said. I said, ‘Why what happened?’ He said, ‘We had to hose out the rear gunner and two others are dead.’ He said, ‘You’re looking a mess. You won’t be using that brain anymore. So the next morning we had to see the boss of the aerodrome, you know, and we were given passes on the train to get.
RG: Yeah. Back to Durham.
DAJG: So we had to go to London first to catch this train from Kings Cross. Kings Cross services the eastern side of the country.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: So we went to the railway station. Put everything away that I had, my bag of tricks and you know, everything there and I thought to myself thank God for that, I’ll have one beer and that would be enough for me and then the flight engineer said to me, ‘Dave,’ he said, ‘I want you to meet my mother,’ and we [?] went there. Now, we saw the mother and ten days later he was dead. They were all dead. And the mother wrote to her daughter about the two of us coming there. Just myself and her –
LD: Yeah. Yeah.
DAJG: Oldest son.
LD: Yeah.
DAJG: I found this yesterday. Look at the date. This is the mother, but read that.
RG: Yes. Thank you.
[long pause]
DAJG: She had one son and he’s dead. Just read it.
[long pause]
LD: “They were in their flying kit with those big fur, they were in their flying kit with those big fur boots. Two great big giants they seemed, Olive. The size of them. I soon got them plenty of food to eat.”
RG: “A shave and a smoke.”
LD: “And tea. They had a shave and a smoke and with ten minutes rest then they were off again. They had been on a night raid and a day raid but told me –
RG: “Nothing.”
LD: “Nothing. All his friends and him kept saying was” -
RG: Something “unknown”
LD: Something “unknown.” “We can’t say,” when I ask questions so I shut up but what a lovely chap he was. Pleasant and bright about the same kind as John and when they went up the street they were shouting to me ta ta all the way. I think they woke everybody up [laughs] “Daddy” -
[long pause]
DAJG: She never saw him again.
LD: “I must tell you” -
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Was dead.
LD: That when I kissed John I kissed his navigator too. Didn’t I have a [pause]
RG: Can’t read that. “He did not care. I told him it was for luck.”
LD: “Well so much for that.” Well it was lucky for you wasn’t it? The kiss was lucky for you wasn’t it?
DAJG: [?] I met her and I met her daughter. She’s dead now.
LD: Yes.
DAJG: Her daughter and she often referred to that you know. She did and she said that her mother would never believe that her son was lost. [?] Did I give you – [?]
RG: Oh that’s the envelope.
DAJG: And this is the funniest thing I’ve ever known. [?] story about this. You know I told you I lived in Wales etcetera.
LD: Yeah.
DAJG: And this is I had this, I’ll show you how it finally turned up. You’ve had this one.
LD: No. That one’s dropped on the -
DAJG: Has that one gone?
RG: Yeah that just dropped out of there.
DAJG: She had no idea what’s happening or – She put this [pause]
LD: Oh it’s a newspaper advertisement. “I’m trying to find a Mr David Albert John Griffin who was a survivor of an aircraft in which my father was killed.’
DAJG: Read that.
LD: “He had the rank of sergeant with the RAF and his aircraft was a Halifax.”
RG: “His service number was 1497289. He was captured on 28th of September 1943. My father’s name was William [Musson Sevvy?] of 428 RCAF.”
DAJG: Now what happened was this is the rear gunner, the Irishman.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: I didn’t know very much. He never told me anything about anything. He was a wonderful bloke [?]
RG: A quiet man.
DAJG: Now, he wasn’t married. I didn’t even know he had a child. I don’t suppose he did either.
RG: No.
DAJG: Quite obviously. Not in those days.
LD: Yes.
DAJG: Because you could be here today and posted to Timbuktu tomorrow.
LD: Yes. Yes.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And what happened, apparently this woman, his daughter put this in the paper, just above the [whole of the family?] looking for me and when I was a kid in primary school I had a big friend called Ron Richards and when I went over there one day I went to Ron’s house and met his daughter. Now, his daughter lived in Pontypridd in South Wales and she was looking in the local paper which is published every day for cheap towels, or cheap curtains.
RG: Cheap curtains yeah
DAJG: She wanted cheap curtains and she saw this in the paper, ‘cause she never used to buy the paper except when they were advertising for cheap stuff and she saw it. Isn’t that amazing?
RG: Yeah. It is actually.
DAJG: [?]
RG: And then there was a response was there or -
DAJG: What’s that?
RG: There was a response to that. You got in touch with this.
DAJG: Yeah. [?] I have never met her. This happened about two or three years ago. And my daughter’s had and I wrote to her and I told her that she’s one of the family.
RG: That’s nice. Yeah.
DAJG: Isn’t it amazing?
RG: It is isn’t it? Yeah. All that time.
DAJG: Anyway.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: I’ve got a little boy coming tomorrow. Apparently, he’s seven. I don’t do this, I never talked to anyone about this or whatever and they got a project going and who’s got the best project and he wanted to do pilots. How do they, how do fly their planes?
RG: Yes.
DAJG: Planes. Etcetera.
LD: Yes. Well you can tell him how, how to tell the pilot where to send the plane can’t you?
DAJG: Yeah. He wanted, so he wanted to, so he rang me. Apparently things have got, oh that’s right his mother rang me up and said look would you talk to him etcetera. I said I don’t know anything about flying the plane, you see. So she said ok and he’s so happy and he’s coming tomorrow and I said but I must have a sort of an adult here with me. You know what I mean. With me.
RG: Oh course. Yeah.
DAJG: I’ll tell you the reason for that because being a teacher things can go so wrong.
LD: Oh yes.
DAJG: You know what I mean?
LD: Yes. Yes.
DAJG: So wrong.
LD: Yes.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: So I’ve got him coming tomorrow and I think perhaps his father or his mother will come with him.
RG: Will come with him. Yes I should say so.
DAJG: I’m trying to prepare. That’s the thing.
RG: David would you mind if I took some photos of those photos. Would you mind?
DAJG: No. I’ve got lots of, wait a minute, wait a minute I’ll tell you, I think I’ve got some in here. I hope I have anyway.
LD: There’s something under there. It’s amazing isn’t it how these towns can adopt him.
RG: Yeah. Just dropped in.
LD: Literally. Without ever meaning to –
RG: Oh yes those ones. Yes. Yeah.
LD: Thank you.
RG: Yeah. Would you mind then David if I just take some photos.
DAJG: No. I don’t mind at all.
RG: Thank you. Just put them on top. I’ll put them up on the table there.
DAJG: There’s, I’ll put them away afterwards. I’ll put these back in here. Did you have two?
LD: Yes.
RG: Yes two.
DAJG: And there’s, do you know what’s annoying me most of all? You know the symbol you used to wear like?
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: I don’t know what’s happened to that. I love that.
RG: It’s gone. Yeah.
DAJG: I have [got it there?] look.
RG: Yeah. The O for Observer.
LD: Yes.
RG: They changed that to N didn’t they for -
DAJG: Now, what happened was this. That was the one we had and the, there were so many people failed the navigation effort and they couldn’t afford to waste them so they created the bomb aimer.
RG: Oh ok.
DAJG: They created the, and the bomb aimer had the same, he wore the same as we did but then of course to separate everybody I had an N.
RG: And I had the B.
DAJG: And I don’t know where it is.
RG: We spoke to another navigator down in Canberra and his, his photo had the circle with the ringlet and he explained that the -
DAJG: Yeah. Yeah.
RG: The bomb aimer.
DAJG: Yes. Yeah.
RG: Yeah. So the bomb aimer has also got the observer.
DAJG: They’ve got the same as I’ve, I’ve got.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: He was the bomb aimer.
RG: I’ll just, I’ll just put these up on the table to photograph.
LD: Yeah.
RG: That’s alright. Just put them on the top.
LD: You’d have seen a lot of changes in the, you’d have seen a lot of changes in the equipment that you used as a navigator. From what I’ve read you know they just got just kind of kept developing more and more techniques you know starting -
DAJG: Well the Germans –
LD: With pure observation and dead reckoning to things like Oboe and so on. Did you find the new things difficult to get used to? Did they give you enough training in those?
DAJG: [?] I had training.
LD: Yeah.
DAJG: Which I passed, obviously.
LD: So did you use any of those things you know like Monica and Oboe and Gee and so on?
DAJG: You’ve seen that haven’t you?
LD: Yes. Yeah.
DAJG: Yeah. That emblem with the N should be there should be. Look I’ll be here forever.
[long pause]
DAJG: [?] I’ve got this boy coming tomorrow. There’s so many things I have to, oh God, I’ve got so many things everywhere. This is, this is in Holland. You see.
RG: Yes.
DAJG: I went to, and there’s -
RG: This is –
DAJG: Oh and I also was made an honorary member of the Royal Dutch Marines.
LD: Oh.
RG: Oh. Ok. We were just saying that you know that we saw Alex Jenkins and his association with a town in Belgium when he was shot down.
DAJG: Yes.
RG: And he was saying it was amazing about his connections with some of those places.
DAJG: Yes. Yes.
LD: Did you get one of those little golden caterpillars?
DAJG: Yes I have.
LD: Oh wow.
DAJG: Now I tell you what. When I first went to Holland.
LD: Yes.
DAJG: I gave, listen to this, I gave, I’ve still got one.
LD: Yeah.
DAJG: I gave, I had to get another one. I gave it to the son of the place where I stayed.
LD: Oh that’s lovely.
DAJG: And I’ve got one and do you know how much it’s worth? You know on the, you have a programme -
LD: I wouldn’t like to think what they’re worth.
DAJG: Five thousand dollars.
LD: Wow.
DAJG: That’s the [smallest].
LD: They’re very special aren’t they?
DAJG: I’ve got one.
LD: Yeah very –
DAJG: I think it’s in, on one of these things with me. Well, I don’t know where the -
LD: Well you’re probably very lucky not to get a goldfish I should think.
RG: It’s come up alright don’t you think?
LD: Oh did you get the -
RG: The name. Yeah.
LD: Oh good. Yeah. No, they’ve come up well. ‘Cause they may not have, you know, some of these are on websites, you know, things like that. AW -
RG: Yeah.
LD: Website and some aren’t.
RG: See how it goes.
LD: It’s kind of important they aren’t lost is it?
RG: There’s a reflection of the plastic but -
LD: Yeah.
RG: I didn’t want to take that it out because
LD: No.
RG: We would lose the -
LD: No. No. I wouldn’t.
RG: Names.
LD: No. It’s really remarkable how he still has them isn’t it?
RG: Yeah. It is. [?]
[long pause]
RG: [?] those David.
[long pause]
DAJG: I’ll put them all back next.
[long pause]
LD: That’s beautiful.
RG: Let’s take a photograph of that one David? That’s a bit special that one, isn’t it?
[long pause]
LD: Pen. Got your pen?
[long pause]
RG: Thanks.
DAJG: There it is. Do you want to take it out? See it. The caterpillar.
RG: Oh yes.
LD: Oh my. Oh isn’t that wonderful?
RG: We’ve heard about these. We’ve never actually seen one though.
DAJG: Pardon?
RG: I said we’ve heard about these but never seen one.
DAJG: You haven’t.
RG: No. Now I have.
LD: And it has your name on it.
DAJG: The first one I had I was, had my name on it and when I went to Holland the first time the young boy I was staying with [?] I gave it to him and he replaced it for me. I’d better put it away otherwise I’ll -
RG: Yeah. I’ll just, if you don’t mind I’ll just take a quick photo of it, David. This one in particular is very special.
DAJG: I have so many of these things. I won’t open those. I’ll have to put them all back. I’ll put it away.
RG: Just a second. I’ll just -
DAJG: Where’s the little thing.
LD: There’s the wee box.
RG: Sorry -
DAJG: You see it there.
LD: Just give me a second David. I just want to take a quick photo of it.
DAJG: But you’ve those before though haven’t you?
RG: I haven’t. No.
LD: I’ve seen one. They have one at the war memorial.
RG: Here you go. There’s the caterpillar.
DAJG: Thank you.
[long pause]
RG: It’s very special that one.
[long pause]
DAJG: Thank you.
RG: Ok.
DAJG: Aren’t those little things, you know about, in the paper looking for someone.
RG: Yes. You, you often see those. I’m ex-navy so I get the veterans affairs papers and newsletters, and you often see those in there, a young woman from Vietnam saying I’m looking for my father who served in the Australian army in Vietnam and didn’t know who he was. Her mother just said he was an Australian soldier.
DAJG: Yeah.
RG: Things like that. You hope sometimes and they come off.
DAJG: I don’t know what this is.
RG: Right. So -
DAJG: Now, what, what I want, what I wanted [pause] what I wanted was money for my family. They’re all pretty well off but I wanted to leave them something. There. Have you seen those before?
RG: Prisoner of war badge.
LD: Oh. I’ve never seen one of those.
RG: The prisoner of war badge.
LD: Prisoner of War Association.
RG: Yeah. I’ve never seen a prisoner of war one before.
LD: I think if nothing else, you know the most important thing that you leave to your family is really that you’ve lived an extraordinary life.
DAJG: Pardon?
LD: The most important thing that you leave to your family is that you’ve lived an extraordinary life.
DAJG: You think I have?
LD: Oh yes. And you know the role that you played and men -
DAJG: Yeah I said -
LD: Like you played is so important -
DAJG: I tell you what. I’ve got two girls and a son and my, the first born is a daughter and she’s seventy on the 10th of August.
RG: Right.
DAJG: And I’ve got nine great-grandchildren and my other daughter said, ‘Dad you must come down to Canberra.’ She doesn’t live in Canberra but she’s throwing a party in Canberra so we don’t all have to travel so far.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And I said to my daughter, the other one I’m too tired to come. I feel very very tired and yesterday my, the daughter whose throwing the party said, ‘You’re coming dad,’ so that’s that [laughs]
RG: That’s a good thing.
DAJG: Isn’t it lovely?
RG: Yeah it is. It is.
DAJG: I don’t know where I’ll be putting all these, once you, if you don’t put them back they’re gone.
RG: Oh absolutely.
LD: Yes.
RG: Absolutely.
DAJG: Such a mess.
RG: [?] That came out of somewhere.
DAJG: Anyway, let’s get back to business. What I want, this is what I want, is I’d like to leave some money. I’d like to leave some money to Holland because and my original thing was I wanted to have half of the family not for me but for my kids and half for Holland. That’s what I wanted. Now you came up there now I’m quite prepared, providing it’s published, I’d give half towards that, what do you think, half of the stuff for that new thing in England. And a quarter to them and a quarter to my family.
RG: That’s up to you David. It’s up to, if that’s your -
DAJG: [?]
RG: Yeah. Yeah. No. No. David can we at least take a copy, the other copy of the book perhaps down to the, to have a read, can we do that?
DAJG: Have a read.
RG: Yeah. Could we do that?
DAJG: Now look I think this is the one. Now, yes you can have a read. I don’t know what all that is. Page eighty. You see, when I wrote it originally I made up, I didn’t have the proper names. Ok. Now it looks, and had to change it.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Now my daughter, my elder daughter said, ‘David you use the proper names,’ and I wish I hadn’t. One is this and one is that.
LD: Yes.
DAJG: You can read it and you can take it and you can read it but you see if I keep those pages there because I thought that I was pretty hard on because you see where [I’ll tell you what I know?] yes you can read that. But what do you think? What do you suggest?
LD: Well -
DAJG: Quite honestly I think it’s terrific.
LD: Yeah. Publishing -
DAJG: It’s a terrific book. It’s full, full of vitality.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: I mean part of the thing I meet an old bloke, who’s soldiered all over the world. He’s in the prison camp. He was a soldier but he was in this camp.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: In Poland.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And he solely and he was sex everything, He said he’d been there and done that when food disappeared he got hungrier and hungrier he just and you mentioned [sex to him?] just listen to him, funny you know and he was holding court sitting there. He sat there and he told us about all the brothels he used to live in-
RG: All over the world. Ok. David. It could be really good. To be completely honest with you publishing is a really, really hard game.
DAJG: What?
RG: It’s a really hard game publishing. It’s difficult to get stuff published so I couldn’t, couldn’t say whether it could be or not. I don’t know. It’s really hard to get stuff published but with a starting point.
DAJG: Now is that mine?
LD: No. No. That one’s mine.
DAJG: [That one’s yours?]
LD: Yeah. But what we could do for you if you wished is have it accepted. What we could do for you if you wished and you might, you will need to talk to your family about it is have it accepted by the National Library. The Australian National Library and they will keep it there and they’ll have a copy forever. So -
RG: At least it’s preserved. Even if it never gets published it’s preserved and not lost.
LD: Yeah.
RG: And the copyright is always yours. You don’t give up the copyright.
DAJG: But you can’t help me with the copyright or whatever. That’s what I’m thinking of.
RG: I don’t know.
DAJG: When you came here the first time I thought to myself that I’m quite prepared to give half to that. I might be too generous. I don’t know.
RG: I think it might be. I think they’re probably doing ok. I think if you could find, I mean as you say the Dutch town you said you wanted to give them something.
LD: Yeah I do.
RG: I don’t know. We do this as volunteers. We’re not intimately associated with the IBCC but are doing this on behalf of them but we don’t know much about it but, you know.
DAJG: [I hope to put?] it’s so many things happened there. I mean when I was, when I was taken to Holland and I was in the place where the queen used to live. She’d gone to Canada or somewhere like, you know in, what’s the name, the capital of Holland.
RG: Oh Amsterdam.
LD: Amsterdam.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Amsterdam. That’s the one. I was in the dungeon there.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Then before that, when I came down and they picked me up and took me to an aerodrome. A Dutch aerodrome but Germans, everything was German.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
DAJG: And I was walking around with two left boots. As you know my flying boots flew off.
RG: Came off, yeah.
LD: Yeah.
DAJG: And they gave me a pair of shoes but they were both -
RG: Both left.
DAJG: Both left.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And they and one of the [?] flyers they started to laugh so much and he called me Charlie Chaplin. Yeah. So but I mean and then the next day they put me, I was taken by train to, it was a train that you could walk up the middle. You know what I mean?
RG: Yeah. A corridor train.
DAJG: And they were all going to work and I was going to a prison camp in Amsterdam. I was going to Amsterdam.
LD: That would have been strange.
DAJG: And they were all making a fuss. They all wanted to give me cigarettes and everything else and whatnot and then finally to come out and have a piddle and I meet those, one of the Canadians and then I met the other Canadian and they were it’s in the book anyway, and we were all then went to, trying to, oh I’ll have to get the map out. We were taken into Germany and we still had to stop at a place in the Ruhr. That’s where we were bombing there.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yes. Yeah.
DAJG: And the guards there were two guards. Took us outside sort of thing you know waiting for the new train to come in and they got word of it to somebody and they wanted to take us but the train came in and they all had to go and then to be taken into Germany and to be incarcerated in the dungeon. You know.
RG: Prison camp.
DAJG: Taken off and asked this, they were trying to pin me and said that I was belonging to the, what do they call it? That sneaky squadron.
RG: Sneaky squadron. Yeah. Yeah.
DAJG: And then the trip seven or eight day trip in a -
RG: Cattle car.
DAJG: Where the horses -
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Forty eight horses or six men.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Or six men, forty eight men and six horses.
RG: Forty eight men and six horses yeah.
DAJG: And you know the repertoire that was spoken in that thing and both these things I missed the roll call I can’t remember, he was very cheerful, ‘Missed the Saturday dance.” I couldn’t do it without you. Remember that one but then to have a year or whatever it is up in the Baltic states in East Prussia.
RG: David you said earlier on you said that you learned a lot in the prison camp and it set you up for life. What did you mean by that?
DAJG: Learned a lot. I learned a lot.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: Don’t grumble.
RG: Sorry?
LD: Don’t grumble.
RG: Oh don’t grumble. Right. Ok. Yeah.
DAJG: It was a wonderful experience.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And one morning in the camp we were waiting there about five in the morning. The gestapo had moved in and they took us out on the field and it was bitter cold and they left us there from 5 o’clock in the morning and they set up the machine guns and God knows, everything else. They were really [nasty?] and we weren’t allowed to move and around about 11 o’clock in the -
RG: In the morning.
DAJG: The boss came on and the Germans -
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And he said that Montgomery had taken the same amount of prisoners in the desert and they had to sleep in the sand and so one for one. Do you know what I mean? One for one.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And then suddenly after all these things someone starts to shout out, ‘Let’s give three cheers for the Germans.’ [laughs]
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: What, what an education.
RG: Yes.
LD: Yes.
DAJG: What an education.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yes.
DAJG: And then when we went back all the palliasses had gone. [?] All the blokes who worked there, you know, Germans, we had to do without palliasses and this is cold.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And the only thing you had was planks.
RG: Yeah.
DAJG: And there was nothing to hold them. They’d skid, you know.
RG: Oh.
DAJG: And on top of that you’d have, you’re like a snake you know. Your legs would be up there. Your bottom would be down there and your head would be there and a big gap. And I can remember I had two Russian blankets and I’d sort of sewn them together you know and I wrapped it around me and I said, ‘I’ll be warm,’ and then I couldn’t get out [laughs] It’s so funny now you look back at it.
RG: Yes. Yes.
DAJG: But what an experience. What a life and we were without palliasses for about, and all you had was a greatcoat and I had, I had a Royal Air Force great coat from the Red Cross you see and the dilemma was when we were taken out of that prison camp it was so damned hot you thought oh I’ll throw that bloody thing away. I can’t carry it. I’d rather carry a few cigarettes.
RG: But then winter would come on.
DAJG: I kept it.
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yes. Yes, indeed.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
DAJG: I thought we’d be out by –
RG: Yeah.
LD: Yeah.
DAJG: Anyway, if you’d like to take it, yes, and bring it back.
RG: Yes. We will definitely.
DAJG: You can have.
LD: We’ll give you our address as well. We’ll give you our address.
DAJG: Yes.
LD: As well.
DAJG: You can see.
[long pause]
RG: Ok.
LD: Yeah.
RG: 176559 isn’t it?
LD: Yeah.
RG: I had a mental block there for a second.
[long pause]
LD: I’ve just marked on here where he needs to sign everything.
RG: Yes.
LD: And just confirm all the bits and bobs afterwards. You know. Our details and stuff afterwards. His address and so on.
RG: Pop over there and just -
LD: Could give them a call, yeah.
RG: Would you mind just signing, you know, pre-filled in, post it out there.
LD: Sorry.
RG: Post it out there.
LD: We’re about done.
RG: Yeah I think so. Yeah. I think so.


Rob Gray and Lucy Davidson, “Interview with David Griffin,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 20, 2019,

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