Interview with Pat Hickton


Interview with Pat Hickton


Pat Hickton was born in New Zealand. His mother passed away when he was young and he spent his childhood in a number of foster and children’s homes until he started working on the railway. He volunteered for the RAF and began training as a rear gunner. His aircraft was shot down and he and his crew evaded for a time with the help of the resistance until they were captured and became a prisoner of war. He managed to escape and make a home run withe the help of the Pat O’Leary Line.




Temporal Coverage




02:10:38 audio recording

Conforms To


IBCC Digital Archive


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MS: This is Miriam Sharland and I’m interviewing Henry Hickton today. Also known as Pat Hickton. This is for the International Bomber Command Centre’s Digital Archive. We are at Henry’s — Pat’s home in Palmerston North and it’s Friday the 13th of January 2017.
HH: It’s my daughter’s birthday today.
MS: Oh happy birthday to her. Thank you very much Pat for agreeing to talk to us.
HH: Yeah.
MS: Also present is Glenn Turner from the 75 Squadron Association. Pat can you tell us a little bit about your early life? Did you grow up in Palmerston North?
HH: No. I was born in Taumarunui in the 26th of January 1921. And we were, lived at Owhango. That’s this side of Taumarunui and that. Yeah. We used to have a hotel and east of that hotel on a little dairy that was there was the Owhango School, butcher’s shop etcetera. And that, and that’s where we were for five years with our father and mother. They worked. And my father worked with all the butchers around there at that time of the year. And my mother died from a haemorrhage in 1925. So I was taken from there to an uncle of mine who looked after me at Mercer, up north by Hamilton, until I could go into a home. Then I moved from there into the home in Palmerston North on the corner of Ada Street and Ferguson Street. And there was about, boys and girls and everything were in there. And then in 1928, that was in the Anglican Boy’s Home they called it then we moved to the one that has just been pulled down in Pascal Street in 1929/30. We went there and from there we went to Central School. And we had the earthquake boys and that that came from Napier. And in ’31 I was moved to Foxton Beach by the, by the, what would I say it was? The seaside resort. And from there I went to Anglican Boy’s Home, Lower Hutt. And I was there right up until nineteen thirty — late 1931. And from there I went to the boys home in Marston at Sedgley. And from there that same year I went back to the Anglican Boy’s Home in Masterton. And from there, when I was thirteen I went out to work northeast on a farm. Out from Masterton. From there I worked for a little while and then there was no jobs. I came back to one or two jobs around Palmerston and then I got my last job down at Cape Rivers down by White Rock. Down below Martinborough. And then I had already applied when I was here to join the railways as an engine driver. Or it was a cleaner, fireman and engineer. And then I got a reply from them in 1938 and I joined the railways. And I went in there as a cleaner. Then the war broke out and then in 1940, with the war going a whole lot of railwaymen — drivers and firemen and everything like that all joined what they called at that time the Railway Operating Unit, New Zealand. One that went to Egypt. And then they stopped anyone from the railway from going overseas because it was an essential industry. So the only way I could get away was write to the general manager. The general manager at that time was Mr Macklink. And he wrote back to me and saw me when I told him why I wanted to go and he says, ‘Yes. You can go with my recommendation. We’ll pay your union fee. And we’ll have a job here when you come back. So whatever you want to do and here’s a pass for going around on the New Zealand railways while you’re in New Zealand.’ And I did that. I went to, as I said down to Kimberley below Levin. Done twenty seven days there on health and done a lot about armoury and everything like that and how, or supposed to be how to shoot and how to get on to your target and everything like that. And from, I had to go to the high school to learn a little more about trigonometry. And I went there for three months and then I, and then I went in to sort of Kimberley then. But from Kimberley we were all, seventy two of us that were in there all went up to Auckland. And we went on the RMS Aorangi on the red route. Sailing boat. Boat. Seventy two Australians and seventy two new Zealanders. We went to Canada, and we, from Canada we went to Vancouver and then by the Canadian Pacific Railway to Calgary and there we went in to the camp. Number Two Wireless Camp there. And twelve of us that were left they went to Montreal. From there we did all our, in New Zealand we had to, before we left here we had to do at least Morse Code twelve words a minute. By the time we finished we had to do about twenty. And then we went to Saskatchewan to Macdonald to do our air, our air training on guns. Lewis guns, Browning guns and Vickers guns. From there, when we passed that and we came out we were given our sergeant’s stripes and we went to Halifax. And from Halifax we went on board a ship called the HMS California. It had a big gun on the back but I don’t know whether it could fire or not but it looked alright. This was just after The Hood was sunk. So away we went from Halifax to Liverpool. Had no trouble. From Liverpool we went down to Uxbridge just west of London. From there after a week or two we went up to Lossiemouth on the Lossiemouth side, in Scotland to do our Operational Training Unit. We did that for three weeks and from there we were posted to squadrons. I was posted, Jack Menzies Smith who was the other joker up there at Lossiemouth with me from New Zealand, well he went somewhere else but I went to 101 Squadron. An RAF squadron down just at Oakington. Just out of Cambridge. And there was where I stopped ‘til I could be put into a crew. From there we’d done our special training etcetera while we were in the squadron. Wing Commander Biggs was our CO. One of the best [unclear] I’ve ever met. And in the end he said to me, ‘You haven’t been on a trip yet Pat, have you?’ And I says, ‘No.’ ‘Well,’ he says, ‘I’ll tell you what. You’re going on, you’ll be on one shortly he says and you’ll be with Pilot Officer Allen.’ Oh, I didn’t know who Pilot Officer Allen was, ‘And you’re on these Wellington bombers.’ With the Peggy motor. And those motors on the Wimpies you couldn’t feather them to cool them down. Not like you do today. When they got to the red mark well that was the finish. The propellers just fell off. No matter what height you were at. So at the first I went into the briefing, ‘All those not on briefing out you go.’ I went to go out and Wing Commander Biggs said, ‘Not you Sergeant Hickton. Sit down. You are with pilot officer Allen.’ And just as I went to sit down he said, ‘Well boys, we’ve all been waiting for this. It’s Berlin tonight.’ Well I froze. I just stood with my arms on the back of the chair. And the joker next to me held me and he gradually started to pull me down. I think I just about turned to ice. And then he said, ‘It’s the big city tonight. We’ve been waiting for this one. So when you come in, we’ll let you know at 5 o’clock.’ We went in for the last briefing at 5 and when we went in there he said, ‘I’m sorry boys. You’re not going to Berlin tonight. There’s ten tenths cloud. You’re going to the Kiel Canal.’ Where the warships are. So we did that trip. That was my first trip. And then I done trips to around Germany. Bremner and Karlsruhe and down in to the Ruhr. All the searchlights you get in these places — some of them went up to about thirty thousand feet or twenty five thousand feet and they all kept at that. And when one picked you up all the searchlights would come on you. But we were lucky and the pilot used to say to me, ‘Can you see anything?’ And I said, ‘Yes, there is.’ And when we were going around Berlin. He said, ‘Can you see anything Hickie?’ And I says, ‘Yeah. There’s a big searchlight following us and it’s gradually getting a bit close.’ ‘Well, he says, ‘We’ll go in and drop our bombs and we’ll get out of it.’ And that’s what we did and we got back to England. The next ones I did down the Ruhr and everything and then in the end the crew itself had just done twenty eight trips over Germany. And this was in early September. Then they decided that they were going to do a trip to Turin in Italy. To the Royal Armouries up there in Turin and the CO said to Mickey Allen, ‘You are on twenty eight trips,’ and you had a briefing. After that you had a holiday. But he said, going to Turin, Mickey said, ‘Where are you going?’ He said, ‘To Turin.’ So he says, ‘Oh that’s a piece of cake. Straight down France. No. We’re going to go on that too.’ So he says, ‘Righto.’ So that’s where we went. Down to Turin. Six hundred miles. Berlin was six hundred miles also. But when we went down there we went down — everything was alright. We went all the way down. One or two Stirlings also went because they came on to our squadron in late August. So when we went on this trip on the 10th of September 1941 and we got down there. Did the good run. We could see all the fires and everything was burning. And then we turned around to come out and one, the only shell in the whole of the war from Italy that hit anything hit our right propeller. We got back over Mont Blanc on the one motor at twenty thousand feet and when we came down the valley we headed on and then Mickey Allen said, ‘This right hand motor is not too good. It’s getting around to the red mark.’ So he said, ‘We might make England. We might not,’ because a Wellington bomber can float a long, long way. So he said, ‘Right,’ and we went on. We crossed over Vichy France into occupied France. We were still going along and then the next minute the propeller fell off. And when it fell off we went down ten to twelve thousand feet. By the time we pulled out and we were going in occupied France there we, Mickey Allen says, ‘We’re not going to make it because the left hand motor is starting to get near the red mark also.’ The old Peggy motor you could put about sixty bullets in it and it would still turn over but you put one bullet in to a Rolls Royce engine it would stop. So we went on and Mickey Allen says, ‘Well we’ve got to crash land somewhere. We won’t be making,’ he said all the crew in to throw the oxygen bottles and all that out and everything and they did that. And then all of a sudden we were turning around and Mickey Allen said, ‘Look for a big area where we can crash land.’ And he’s looking around and one of them said looking through the astrodome, he said, ‘There’s a big area over there to the north. Hundreds of acres look like.’ And he said, ‘It looks like it’s just been a big paddocks that had been cut.’ Of hay or rice or something like that. Because in August, in September, that is autumn in France. So we were going along there and just as we was going along there — a JU88. I spotted him while I was still in the turret and looking around the back and I spotted the exhaust as he was turning. Someone must have seen us or noticed us or something like that. Or noticed our one motor from the back. Anything it could have been but he started to turn and when he turned I fired a few shots at him. He still continued to turn. Then I lost him. And then Mickey Allen said to me, said to all of us, ‘Righto boys. We’re going to go in to land. I’m going to put down the undercarriage.’ So, just as he said that the JU88 came back again. I fired at him again but I never saw him again. Never came back. Never saw him. And Mickey Allen then at that moment we must have been down to about three thousand feet or less. He says, ‘Here we go boys.’ We went down and the last words I heard him say, I couldn’t get out of the turret, I was not supposed to be in the turret so the only thing I could do, he said, ‘We’re going in to land,’ and I heard him say, ‘Oh shit.’ And we didn’t know what that was but we knew in a minute. In where we went where all these trees had all autumn leaves on them. And it looked like a big area where they cut hay. And when we went in there was these big trunks of the trees that were all on an angle. And our undercarriage hit it. That’s the only thing that saved all of us. I had already turned my turret around and lowered the guns and I was just ready when we hit. I don’t know any more after that until I heard someone say, ‘Oh, look what we’ve found.’ And behind the nuclear of the right motor, where they have a blow up boat and fallen out of that was a bottle of brandy. So one of the jokers that got it says, ‘Gee we’ll have a drink out of this.’ And I sort of woke up and I put my hand up and I sort of had my head cut open. All right around here etcetera and everything. And they all took a drink out of this bottle and then one of them says, ‘Where’s Hickie? Pat’s not around, there’s only five of us here.’ And just then I sort of realised when I heard the voices. So I just pulled the pins on the back of the turret. They fell off and I fell out and I was eight feet off the ground. I fell to the ground. I never got hurt any more and the joker says, ‘Look at all the blood and everything.’ They got a big bandage that was there and put it on and the joker says, ‘Are you alright?’ I says, ‘Yeah. Yeah. I think so,’ and everything. So he said, ‘We’ve all had a drink of this brandy.’ It was still over half full. So he says, ‘Have a drink.’ So I took it. I gave them back the bottle empty. And they says, ‘You’ve emptied it.’ And I said, ‘Well, why did you give it to me?’ And from then on we had to, that was at that time when we crashed was 1:30am in the morning. The moon was up and you could see everything quite nicely. So we decided to chew up all our secret papers etcetera. Smash the, on the guns where they had these sights, the electrified ones. Smashed them up and one or two other things. And then we had to get out of it. So we left about 2 o’clock. I don’t know what time. It would be about 2, I expect. And we headed south to go down to Vichy France. The first night we went, as soon as it became daylight we got into an area where we covered ourselves in slap during the day. All of us. Six of us. Then that night we went off again. And the next night we got in to a little bit of a gravel pit and we slept there. But between the first night and the second night when we were up on the top of the hills where our plane crashed at the La Riche and when you looked down you could see all the German troops looking for us. The third day when we came down there after the second night in the gravel pit we walked around. And all your flying boots were not meant to walk in and we all had blisters and parts of them were falling off. So we decided to go into a little place down there. And we had eaten all the chocolate and everything that we had had on the plane so we decided, we tried one or two places but they shooed us out of it. And then we came to this little place and at the back of the place there was a garden. A big two storey building and there was a garden at the back and there was tomatoes in it. So we went in and had a feed of tomatoes. And then a little girl came along, six years old and was looking at us. She had gone out to get the cows for milking. So then she went and then her father arrived. And when the father arrived he came around and he took us in. There was about eighty people in this little village of village Les Moines. So he took us around there, around all the people and that and all the children and that were there. And then while he was talking to us and everything they heard a motorbike. And he says to one of the jokers in a bit of broken French and he said to them, ‘Around behind the two storey building and get out of it. They’re Germans.’ So we went behind there and the German came in and he was a captain of the SS. German army. And he had a sergeant in the pavilion and they had a machine gun. And he said to them, spoke perfect English, and he said to them all around there about it. Then he spoke perfect German and French to them and he said, ‘Anybody seen six airmen?’ And they all said, ‘No.’ This little girl, the Germans got her, the little girl and one or two others and said to them in French, ‘Have you seen six British airmen? Or six people in uniform?’ And they all shook their head. And he says, ‘Right. If ever I come back and I find out that you had helped them or seen them and hadn’t told us we’re going to shoot the lot of you.’ And away they went. He took us in and he gave us a meal and then we went over to a little place just about two miles over further to Chenaud. And the farmer there, he decided to, we stopped there for a couple of nights. He used to take us into his house and give us breakfast, dinner and tea and we had, also had wine for breakfast. And then we went out and we go up into a hayloft. His house was there. And along side he had the driveway and there was this big two storey building that went back. In the top was the hayloft. And there was the steps you went up the hayloft to get into the top. But alongside of it, that high off it was a tap that was leaning out there and it was dripping. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. And we went up there. Never thought anything of it at the time. So we went up there and as we were in there Mickey Allen our captain said, ‘Well. What are we going to do?’ and I says, ‘Well, you ought to know Mickey.’ He says, ‘Why?’ ‘Do you remember the other day, about three days ago, we were in Cambridge and you said, ‘That barmaid that I know there. She wants to know where I’ve been lately.’ And he says, ‘I can’t tell her because I was going out with another girlfriend.’ So he says, ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll tell her that I have just come back from France.’ So he told her that and oh she was all over him and everything. ‘Oh, I’m sorry that happened Mickey’ and everything like that. And then we came up eventually, this trip and we get, I said to Mickey when we were in the hayloft I said, ‘It won’t be bad Mickey.’ And he said, ‘What?’ I says, ‘Well you’ve just come back from France, you told that girl in Cambridge. So you’ll know the way back.’ Before you go on to a trip they always tell you that before you crash or wherever you go look where you are. You’ve got a compass. You’ve got a bit of a torch. You’ve got one or two other things that are all secret and everything. You take them all with you and you use them. Well, in this case we were getting around down here with this, these different issues and they says, ‘And when you in to there, if you get down to Marseille go down and see the joker that’s the major that’s in charge of the Resistance movement in the south of France.’ He was an officer that was at Dunkirk and he never got back to England. MI9 took over with him and he worked with them. Then we, after two or three weeks with these people they moved us in to the bush ‘cause the Germans were getting a bit near and there was hundreds of them getting near and in this heavy bush there was a two storey building that wouldn’t be much bigger than what that, and a bit on the top and a chimney that went up. It was an old, a bit of an old house. It must have been hundreds of years ago. Well, that’s where they took us. They’d take us in for tea at night and instead of taking us straight back out they said, ‘No. You wait here. We’ve kept our cows here. Now, when we take you back we’ll run the cows back over where you walked. They won’t know where you are.’ So that’s what they did. And then we met a young joker. He was twelve years old. [Pointson?] was his name and he was learning English in Paris and these people at village Les Moines and at [unclear] Chenaud they were relations of his. So he came out and he could speak English. So he says, ‘Well, we’ll work something out here. Well, I’m going back to Paris and I know a joker up there that was in the French army. He’s now with the Resistance movement with the new joker that’s in charge. Patrick O’Leary.’ The Belgian joker. Major General Guerisse he was and he worked for MI9 as well. So he said, ‘I’ll go back to Paris and I’ll come back.’ So he went back and he came back and he says, ‘Right. We’re taking two at a time,’ and they’re going there. And the young lad that was twelve, he took two of them. Mickey Allen and Saxon the navigator. He took them up to Paris. Then when this joker and other people came in and they took the other two. That was the second pilot and the front gunner. And that left the second pilot and me. That left only two to go. This young lad [Pointson?] came back and he had with him a joker. His name was [pause] it’ll come to me in a minute, and he turned around and he said, ‘I’m in the French army. I’ve brought you some clothes.’ Now, we didn’t know any name of any of these people at that time. We only found out these about twenty or thirty years later. But when he came down he said, ‘I’ve got some clothes here for you. Now, put them on.’ We said, ‘Yeah. Righto.’ We put them on and he said, ‘You look alright.’ And the shoes were half a size too small for me. He said, ‘We’re going to bike to the first station, get the train and go to, and we are going up to Paris. Have any of you jokers been to Paris?’ We said, ‘No. We’ve flown over it.’ So he said, ‘Right. Anybody that’s been in France has got to see Paris on the ground so we are taking you to Paris.’ So that was a surprise for us because we were still in occupied France which was halfway, you may as well say between Paris and Dijon and La Riche is just there. We were down there at village Les Moines. So he said to me, ‘Are you ready?’ I said, ‘Well these trousers are not much good.’ Oh listen all the fly and everything was all shredded and everything like that. I said, ‘Well they’re not much good.’ And everything. He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. You look a true Frenchman,’ [laughs] so there was a lot of humour that comes out at serious times. And he took us on the train. Took us up to Paris and he took us around the corner and then we went to a duke’s place. The duke had been caught by the Germans in the First World War and he had been badly injured with his hand. It was in a sling. And when we were there he said you’re all, gave us dinner. We sat down at 12 o’clock and we didn’t get up until 3 o’clock. And then he said, ‘You’re all going to go to someone else’s place.’ So he said — in twos, ‘There will be some people walk in. You won’t know who they are. And when they come in that door, that door or that door whichever one comes in and you’re near it you go with those people.’ So Mickey Allen went with the first one and the front gunner he went with the other and of course the Aussie who was our second pilot and I, we were over here. And that was the White Mouse we learned later on. That was her that took us to a joker who was in the government Henri Rolet and I’ve got his number 69 Rue [unclear] in Paris. Just over from what they called the painter’s area. So I went. We were there two days and after we left, after two days they said you’ve got to get out of it because Henri Rolet has a young son that’s two years old. And with people around and anybody come in then the lad would most likely say, ‘Yes. They did have someone here,’ and everything. So they decided to move us. The same joker that took us, the same joker that brought us up from village Les Moines. He took us across the Champs Elyse and there was the Arc de Triomphe standing up right in front of us. There was this big hotel and the Aussie said to me in a quiet voice, ‘Take short steps. You look like a Frenchman then.’ And I didn’t take any notice of him and just when we got there Andre Postel-Vinay is the joker that brought us up from village Les Moines. He was the joker in the army working in the Resistance movement of Patrick O’Leary. So André was across the road, about thirty yards in front of us and just then a big Limousine pulled up. All the soldiers came out both sides with all their guns. And the soldiers, I was standing right next door to them and the Aussie joker was here. And they all came out and out came that Kesselring. Major General. He came out, got into the limousine and off he went. And then all the soldiers went back in. Andre was waiting over there. We walked over with him and he says, ‘Right.’ We went around, over to an elderly lady’s place. She was about seventy. Couldn’t speak English. So she said, and she said to André, ‘I’ll give them these.’ One each. A package of cotton wool. And a great big bottle each of eau de cologne. Gave them that and she said to Andre she has no bath, she has no shower and she has never had one in her whole life. This was all she has washed with all her life. Now you’ve got to do the same. So for two days we stopped there. Then he came in, Andre, and says, ‘We’re going on the electric train from Paris down to Vierzon on the border of Vichy.’ We had our passports. And when we went out I says to André, ‘I don’t think we should go today.’ ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Well we can leave it for a couple of days because I smell like one of the Geordie boys with all this eau de cologne.’ So he said, ‘You’re going.’ So we went on the train that came in. He took our passports. Everything like that. Got down to Vierzon. Came off. Met a Mr Clerique who worked for the Resistance movement of Patrick O’Leary and he also took us out to watch the bridge. The river that ran right through the bottom of Vierzon. The south of Vierzon. All the German boats were on it. It was, had the German soldiers marking it and when they came down there they got one lad that came up, only about eight or nine and he took the Aussie joker first. Took him across at a quarter to 4. Took him over and that lad came back. Then the guards changed. When the guards changed he brought the Aussie joker’s passport back, ripped his photo off and put our other one on it. Now, all those photos that they had they had worked out it didn’t matter whether you ripped them off and put another one on. Where the bottom part of the stamp came into ordinary paper they had worked everything out that they fitted perfectly. And my photo went on and the Aussie’s photo. Went over to an elderly couple and we sat in there, went in with them. Went in the back door and the whole house was door to door and all the rooms went straight across it. They were people in their seventies and they fed us and said if anybody comes — that front window. Use them and go down the back. Well, there was one other thing that we did. We wanted to go to the toilet so they took us down the back and it was about, say about twenty feet down the back. And it was painted red. When we opened the door they closed the door and shut it. No light. And there was no toilet bowl. There was only a hole in the ground. Now, they told us later that that had been done right over the area. They started when Napoleon was around. And they just moved it over over the years. And so we did that and went in and then the next day or two days later they came back for a charabanc that was, went on charcoal and we went east. Right over towards Dijon. And from there this André Postel-Vinay took us on the train. All Germans in it and everything. And we were, on our passport, deaf and dumb commercial travellers and we only could speak sign language. I only know that, that’s schnell. So we had to be careful what we did. Andre took us in to get a meal. We were on our way to Marseille and while we were in there we never spoke. We just did a bit of sign language. I don’t even know any of it now. And we had German captains and colonels sitting at the same table with us with André Postel- Vinay. He was talking to them. And he told them who we were etcetera and everything you know. We were those people that are unlucky in life. So we went down to Paris. Down to Marseilles. And when we got to Marseilles we were taken from there over to a place that was run by a doctor, a Greek doctor and his name was Dr Rodocanachi. He had married an English woman and he was one of the best surgeons and doctors in the whole of France. You must remember that France was, had about sixty or seventy different states all through it. Not like it is today. And they all run their own little areas and provinces. That’s why they were fighting all those years with different other countries. And of course all those little areas that they ran was run by the cardinals. They were the big chiefs. So, and there was about thirty or forty different languages in France at that time. Not like it is today. That’s why I always say they’re a bit of an enigma. France. Even today at times, when you hear things about them. So when we went there we went to his place. We stopped in there and then they said, ‘Right you’ve got to go down now. Where we went to this Dr Rodocanachi,’ he says, ‘You’ve got to go over to North West of Marseilles. There’s a place called Nimes. Just out of Nimes there’s a prison camp called St Hippolyte du Fort. We didn’t know that at the time but we went there and this Negre, he was a Frenchman and he was a multi millionaire grocery joker and the Germans thought he was one of them but he worked for Patrick O’Leary. And he looked after us for about three days and he took us to their circus where all the Frenchmen were and everything and told them who we were. And we were drinking sweet and dry vermouth. Then we went from his place. They took us down to Perpignan. And from Perpignan we went down to the beach like going from Palmerston down to Foxton Beach. There, in the house we were in there was no, nothing or anything in it that anybody was using it. When we wanted to have a wash or something like that we used to have to go down to the sea and have a swim. And that’s what we did. Did our business and everything. That’s the only thing we could do at that time. Then we did that. We were there for about seven days. A lot of the people from between Canet Plage and Perpignan they’d would come in a roundabout way and bring us down tucker. And from there they decided that Patrick O’Leary had told them that we are going to go by train from Canet Plage, Perpignan and down to Andorra. The little principality at the Pyrenees. And when we got on the train we had to stand and seat ourselves outside the carriages because there was no room and they stopped at every station. And when we got down so far, three quarters of the way, we got some seats on these three cars and we were in the back car. And when they came into there. Right. They stopped and in came the Germans. In came the gendarmes. And they said, ‘Passports.’ And we all had our passport. Handed them over and as they came up the other four of them were back a bit further in this carriage than us. Saxon was the other joker that was sitting next to me. And they looked at the photos. And they looked at Sax and then they looked at me. And then they had another look. And they says, ‘Come with us.’ So rather than argue or anything like that because you still had four jokers in there we decided we’d go with them. And we’d already been told that if ever we got caught before we went on a trip to bomb we would have to be especially near the Pyrenees. We would have to try and keep the gendarmes from finding out too much. So they said, ‘See if you can keep them occupied for three or four hours.’ So we said, ‘Righto.’ We did. Any rate we were taken out. Went to the outside, to the gendarmerie and they kept us there. They gave us what I thought was lamb but I learned later on it wasn’t. It was goat. But it was nice and we were still deaf and dumb and then after three and three quarter hours these two gendarmes decided, the captain of one of them says, ‘You take that joker in that room and write something down and give it to him. I’ll take this joker in this room and I’ll write something down and get him to answer it.’ So they took it in to Sax. They wrote it down and Sax said, ‘Oh that’ll be easy. That’ll be no.’ He just wrote “No.” They wrote it down for me in the other room and they wrote it down and I looked at it and I said, ‘Oh, that’ll be easy. That’ll be oui oui.’ So I said, do you know what I wrote? “W E E. W E E,” [laughs] ‘Ahh English,’ they said. So from then we were prisoners of war and went up to Nimes by train with three guards. And went into St Hippolyte du Fort. We were in there for a while and then my friend who had escaped from Stalag 13 in West Poland came right across Germany, Holland, Belgium, and you had to have two red passes to get out of Belgium into France. And he got through that with a friend and got down to the demarcation line and he thought right, I’ll be right now. And he, the fog came down and he followed the track. And as he followed the track it winded all over the place. Next minute there was a rifle poked into his stomach. It was a German. The German says, and Derry [Naburrow?] he could speak good French. And the German could speak good French. So they got talking and he says, ‘You’re trying to get in to occupied France. Now, I’m taking you back and putting you in unoccupied France.’ So they put him in Vichy France where he was trying to get. And when he got down so far he got caught. I don’t know why. It would surprise you the number people came into Vichy France because in there even though there was plenty of Germans there was commissions. And there was a lot of people that were all around there that were divided but a lot of them were for the Germans. So that’s where we were and when we went we were in there for a while and we were looking for a place to escape. Inner courtyard and an outer courtyard. Went into the outer courtyard there was a young lad there and he was about six foot six. Well dressed. He was about eighteen or nineteen or sixteen or something. So we were looking him over while we were looking around for some place that could help us. And Derry said to this, ‘By Jove, he’s a fine looking soldier isn’t he?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, he is,’ I said, ‘I wish I was his build,’ I said. And we were looking up and then this soldier called out. And the next minute the guards arrived and we were arrested. And we went in to the room upstairs and a German general arrived from the commission in Vichy France. Our joker, who was in charge of the camp, he was at the, he was at our hearing and this German general could speak perfect English and he said to us, he listened to the soldier. We didn’t know what he was saying. Derry did but any rate I, we just got there and then the Germans said to him, ‘What did you say to him?’ We told him what we said, ‘What a fine joker he was and we wished we were the same build and everything and then he yelled out and we were arrested.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘That’s not what he was saying. And normally what we do when people do that to our friends we shoot them.’ So Derry looked at me and I looked at Derry. So we got up and we walked over to the door. Got hold of the handle, it was opening and this German general says, ‘Where do you jokers think you’re going?’ And we both said at the same time, ‘Well, if you’re going to shoot us get it over with.’ He says, ‘Get back.’ We got back over there and we got twenty five days in the cooler. But before we finished that time they decided at this time in, by the time we got to January, early January of ’42 that we were going to be moved to a new fort right up on the Italian French border. And they said they’d done it up, spent a few million and you’d like it. So they put us on a train and Derry and I we didn’t do anything. We weren’t going to escape off the train because there was that many gendarmes and special gendarmes all the way ‘til we got to Nice. And when we got to Nice there was the buses there for all the army and everything. They put us on it and away we went. And when you go up from Nice you go up what they call a high corniche road. There’s a bottom corniche road, there’s a middle corniche road, and there’s a top corniche road that’s up by this new fort they had on the border. When we got up there all the lights were on. We were on the road right outside and as we looked out the window there was a big broad bridge that went across and when we looked over and down there there was a moat. Eighteen feet by eighteen feet deep. No water in it. And this was the only bridge from the road into the camp. We didn’t know until they got us in and fed us that everything else is all underground. Except in the centre. That was the big parade ground where you had your meetings in the morning with the CO. That’s where we went for timey and we were in there and they said to us, ‘Well, nobody escapes from here,’ and the new CO they’d put in for us was a joker that was in charge of the French Foreign Legion from Africa. And he had a walking stick and every time he used to twirl he’d say vous and he’d be about that couple of inches off your nose and he says, ‘Nobody ever escapes from here. You’re like flies in a Chianti bottle with the cork hard on. So that’s what it is. Now then, I know you’ve got to escape. That’s your job and everything but you won’t get out of this camp.’ So as soon as we got up of our first morning there we had our breakfast and soon as they opened it up and we went out. And then over the other side there was a big concrete wall that went up over the parade ground and at the end of it there would be about from there to there wide where it went into a sort of a tunnel. You could drive a car into it. And then it went down. Right down the bottom and then it went along and then it came back out on to the parade ground the other side. So Derry and I, we said, ‘We’ll go down and have a look.’ Went down. Had a look. Right down the bottom. Got right down the bottom and then we turned the corner. Derry said, ‘I wonder what that is over there.’ Then I had a look this side and there was three steps. One, two, three. And there was a door. I says, ‘Derry, I wonder what’s there. There’s a door there.’ So when we got up it had a key in the lock. Turned it and opened it and I can show you a photo. That — in those places and all those underground things they have ventilator shafts to let the air in and they’re about, I can tell you, from there to there wide. So we got the key, went in, had a look and then we all came out and we got the other jokers, airmen that we were there and we all had a bit of a talk. Made sure there was no one else around. So we decided that we’d make a ladder and we would also get the Red Cross box things. Red Cross string and then tie the knots right and make it so as it would go up sixteen feet at least. Someone had to go up there to do it so we didn’t know what. So we had a look at it. I was one of the lightest. And we went along there and Derry, Gary, I mean Derry, my cobber, he says, ‘Someone will have to go up there.’ So I said, ‘Well, I’ve got a bit of rubber on my shoe and everything. I shall go.’ So we got a big board and put it there and they all helped me up and I put my backside there and my feet there and I went up these sixteen feet like this. When we got to the top there was the bars. So I hung the ladder but I hung it right in the corner of the bars so no one could see it because that side the guard went on. This side was too sloped down so we didn’t want him to see it. So the next day after we’d done all that and got it we went back in and with the wind blowing badly — better for us. We could cut the bar that was there and we cut the, and also with doing that we also had some chewing gum and we used the chewing gum and made it the same colour as what the bars were. The bars wouldn’t be much thicker than that. So we had two of them and we just put the chewing gum in it and it just looked ok. We were there practically, that was on, as I say we were there on the Monday and on the Thursday Derry says, ‘Well there’s seven of us. What are we going to do?’ I says, ‘Well I know,’ I says, ‘We’ll draw lots. Someone has to stop behind and pick this up and take the key again and use it again later on.’ So he says, ‘Oh well we know whose –’ ‘No. We put it all in. Whoever gets the shortest straw stops behind.’ So we all agreed with that. Went around and went around. I was the second to last one to take. I got the shortest straw. So Derry says, ‘Oh crikey.’ I said, ‘No. It’s alright. I know everything and what’s required.’ So I said, ‘No. It’ll be alright. We’ll come out later on. After another week or two.’ So he said, ‘Righto then.’ So I says, ‘Right.’ We fixed it all up for the lads and when they, we had to be in at 7 o’clock at night, we got the lads all dressed and ready and we took them over. Put them in there and locked them in and left them there. They had the chocolate and everything we’d got from the Red Cross parcels and everything. So the six of them were in there and then I went to bed and we duffled up their beds for them and everything. And the guards came around and had a look and everything like that and everything was alright and away they went. Then the next day we got up, I had breakfast and I had to get into the room and I had to get this ladder and everything because on top of this big ventilation shaft there was a big piece of glass that covered the top. And that had to be shifted by the jokers escaping. Well they did that. Never made a noise. And yet about twenty feet away was a guard but he was facing the other way. So the jokers were there and when they went over the top, went over the other side and down in to the moat the other side. It was all covered by the barbed wire. Porteous was a New Zealander. He was the six that got out and he hurt his ankle and he couldn’t walk. So he said to the other five, ‘Away you go. I’ll be alright. I’m not going to hold you up. Off you go. Get out of it. I’ll get back up.’ Well he got back up. He got back in to that little room that we found. Got down the ladder and he lay there and I had breakfast and I went over. I took the key out and opened the door and I got in. And I said, ‘What are you doing here Doug?’ And he said, ‘My ankle is crook.’ So I says, ‘Crikey, I’d better get that ladder and everything.’ So I got that. Rolled it up and I had a coat on because the weather wasn’t too good. The coat on and I stuffed it under. And I said, ‘Come on. I’ll take you.’ He was limping a bit and when we went to go over the courtyard where we had our meetings there was one joker there who was a corporal and he had an Alsatian dog. And he was a joker that was turning everybody in. And I saw him there and he looked at me as I was going across the courtyard. And I thought I’d better get rid of this as quick as I can because this joker looked interested. So I went in to my dormitory, the big dormitory we had. I went out onto it and I opened the doors and on the parapet outside and then into the, into the moat. I took the ladders out and I threw it right up on the right hand side. Went back and lay down on the bed. I lay down and he came in. And he says, ‘What have you got on?’ ‘Nothing,’ I said. I’m keeping warm.’ I’d stuffed a pillow up here. And Porteous was just laying on the bed as though nothing had happened. So he went out and he never said any more. And we didn’t do any more. We never heard any more. And Derry and them others must have got away. Then on the second day we had always been told that you’re in France. You can go to the nunneries or you can go to where the prostitutes work and they’ll all help you. So these jokers had got down and got into Monte Carlo. And when they got around there they couldn’t find anybody to find them. They couldn’t find this British cafe that was in there and they were walking around and they run into one or two prostitutes and they took them in to their place. But while they were asleep the prostitutes came out and told the police. So three days later they were back in prison. And we, and they knew they had gone because when we went the day after they escaped we had to fill in when we had the numbers were all set in eight, six and someone in charge of you. That’s how they did it. But we couldn’t cover six and of course the guard up there saw it and he would point down and tell the joker that was in charge doing the counting — six missing. And that’s how they knew that six jokers had escaped. After four days. So everything was cut down. Left there. When they came back they got thirty days solitary confinement and they all did that and we still stopped there and then we were always told to cause as much trouble as we could because they would have to keep the majority of guards with you and everything. So when Derry and I went around one of us would go one way and one would go the other and they would turn around and they’d say, ‘There’s Naburrow. Where’s Hickton?’ And they’d go looking for me. And the next time they would look around, they’d see me and they’d say, ‘Where’s Naburrow?’ And some one always came and looked. Then this little corporal after a bit we got down to about and we had to go somewhere. We had to do something. We tried other places to escape but no. It was solid concrete etcetera etcetera etcetera. So we decided one day they wanted us to give them a hand to cart a lot of stuff over the bridge and put it in the kitchen. The kitchen was below our dormitories so we took it in there and we had a look around and looking out the big window over there, a huge window like that with concrete and it had these big steel vertical and horizontal bars on it but at the top they only had [pause] went up that far. That part was clear. But down to the horizontal bar there was quite a gap. So Derry and I had been reading a book about Winston Churchill and how he did the BBC news when he was in South Africa. And when he got caught and the way he got out — these bars in South Africa were the same. So what he did he got a magnet and on that magnet you could put it over the top because it was dirt metal. That stuff they put there. And you’ve only got to put it over the top if you got it set right in a bit of wood and everything. You’ve only got to move it back two or three times and they come off right at that horizontal. So we thought, right, we’ve got to get a magnet. And we had a guard that was fairly good. He had some children that were sick and we were giving him some Red Cross stuff. And we asked him and he said, ‘What do you want the magnet for?’ ‘Oh we want to go around and see if we can pick up any nails and everything.’ So he says, ‘Yeah. I’ve got one up there about that long. Yeah. Yeah.’ So he brought it hidden under his jacket and he gave it to us and we just had a look at it and said oh yeah and we tried it on one or two other bars and one or two others the same size. So we made the string from the Red Cross box. Thin string so we had to put two or three of them together and tie knots so that you didn’t slip down. You had to go from this room, we’d have to go down about fifteen or sixteen feet into the moat. And right up by the moat and this window that was down here that was the bridge. The only entrance into the camp. And it had a railing along the top. And there was always three or four guards. Always on there. So Derry and I we says, ‘Well, what are we going to do?’ Well, he says, ‘Let’s have a go on Monday eh?’ And I said, ‘Yeah. Righto.’ So we told the jokers, and where our dormitory was, the passageway that went right up by the dormitories and over the wall from the kitchen, apparently, at some time they must have made meals down in the kitchen and they used to send them up this. It was about that wide and it had a grille on it and of course the key that we had from the other door we managed to make that to open this grille door. So we thought, right. Had a bit of barbed wire in it but we weren’t worried about that so we said, ‘Right. Monday we go.’ He said, ‘ Yeah. Right.’ That was on the Thursday. On Friday the officers that were in there they were all gone under army names like captain etcetera etcetera when they were wing commanders and squadron leaders and nobody knew any different. So as one of them was missing, the top one, Higginson who was a squadron leader. He was in charge at the time and he called us in to see him. And he agreed with us that we were going to do this escape. Then he says, ‘Read this.’ They’d given him a notice that on Monday or Tuesday they’ll all, the officers all, they’ll all be moved to Germany. They were taking them all out of there and taking them to Germany. Because they’d practically, the Germans had practically taken over Vichy France. Even from the beginning. So he said, ‘We’ve got to go. What about can we come with you?’ And Derry said, ‘Just you?’ He said, ‘No. Two others.’ So Derry looked at me and I looked at Derry. We thought it was tough enough just for two. And over from this only entrance with the guards on it. And Derry said, ‘Oh gee. Well if they’re going to Germany well ok.’ So he said to him, ‘Ok Taffy. Who are the other three?’ And one was a Pilot Officer Pyggott and there was a New Zealander that was a flight lieutenant and there was Higginson and he was a squadron leader. So we says, ‘Well, we’ll have a go.’ But we said to them, ‘Whatever you do you must do exactly what we tell you. Nothing else. Because it’s pretty dangerous,’ and we told them where the bridge went across where we were going to go out at the road where the bridge went into it. There was a big steel thin there and about two feet off the ground. So we said, ‘We’re going to try through there and see what’s what.’ We don’t know what’s what there because we weren’t allowed out to work. So we got there and we got it. We said, ‘Now, put another jersey on top. Put socks on your boots.’ They put that on and everything and something on their hands. When we went down through the ’chute the first jersey came off with the barbed wire there. It wasn’t much but we all got down there and with the concrete floors and that there that’s why we wore the socks on our boots. When we got over there we saw the guards but prior to this, the day before, we decided that it would be a lot better if we could get — all the army was on the south end of the fort. All the air force was on the north end of the fort and that is one was south of the bridge and we were north of the bridge. ‘What say we get the army jokers — Sergeant Hargraves and one or two others from Scottish Highlanders.’ They were good. ‘Put a concert on and come out on the parapet and put it on and these guards would go on and watch them. It would give us a chance.’ So we saw them and they says yes. So they went out there and they said to one of the guards that were up there. They said, ‘We’re going to have a concert. Do you mind?’ They said, ‘No. We don’t mind or anything,’ So we said, ‘Right.’ We got in there and they were all over there while the concert was going on and they were all over that side of the bridge and if I walked from here to that building that’s where the bridge went across. And that’s where all the army jokers were. So we said, ‘Right.’ We got, got the three off. Didn’t make any noise and put them down. Derry went first. And I went down. Then Higginson came down and then Bennett came err what do you call it came down. And the other joker, the pilot officer he came. We all got down there and they were still all watching the concert. We got over. Went under this big steel frame. We didn’t know what was behind it. And we went underneath it and we went up a bit. And when we went up a bit we went over and we were in a sewer above our shins. And there was rats in it and everything. But that didn’t bother us. We went there and we walked and we walked and walked along there to the other side of the road and then it turned around that way. And when we got there there was another lot of concrete and bars. So Derry says, ‘Oh crikey, what are we going to do?’ Well we went in there at 7 o’clock. 7pm. And when we got around there we had to get out of it. We were already told that if we got out we had to go so far below the fort on the road and there’s a little side road there. Go in there and the joker that’ll pick you up will be the Australian that’s in charge of the Monaco police. And he’ll take you to Monaco and give them to Patrick O’Leary. So we said, right. We got all that sorted out and everything. And we had everything all ready and we worked and worked and in the end the bottom part gave. Why I don’t know but all of a sudden it gave and that went out and the top one just fell off. We walked out. That was quarter to 12 at night. All the lights came on. And we looked at all the lights. We could see the guards and the sirens were going. There’s been an escape. So, the only thing we could do was go straight down the hill to the Mediterranean. And that’s what we did. Must be about ten or twelve miles. While on the way down there we got down and we could see the soldiers, see the cars all going up the long road up to the fort. But we still kept on and we went down and we got down at the bottom and when we got to the bottom there was a tunnel on the road. And we were going to go across and I was going to go across. I said, ‘Wait a minute,’ and I had a look right up at the other end. There was a joker smoking a cigarette. I can still see it today, you know. Smoking a cigarette. I said, ‘No. We can’t go. There’s a guard down there.’ Then a car arrived. The guard got in it and he went right past us and went up to the fort. So we went across the tunnel, in to the little stream and then up a little bit of a hill there and there was a railway station and there was this big tunnel. And on top of the tunnel there was a cave. So we got into the cave and we slept there during the night. We stunk to high heaven. The next morning we had a look at it. We said, ‘Well who’s the best looking one of the lot?’ So we said, ‘The pilot officer there. That RAF man.’ And we said, Derry said, ‘Yeah. Well you’ve got a good job to do.’ And this joker says, ‘What?’ ‘You’ve got to walk from this station along the railway line into Monaco and go to the cafe in the town that is run by the English couple. They work for the Resistance movement.’ So that’s what he did. He got them and they got around. The next day Patrick O’Leary was in Monaco. He came back with all clothes and everything like that and he came up into the tunnel. We changed. Left all the clothes, our old clothes that were in there, in the tunnel. And then he got tickets and we got tickets and got on the train from Nice into Monte Carlo. And in Monte Carlo we went to the cafe run by the British people and they, we had a meal etcetera and everything. Then I went very very crook. I got the flu bad. I had sores all around here and everything and I could hardly stand up. So next day the other four went with Patrick O’Leary with passports to Marseilles on the train. He came back three days later and I was a lot better by that time. So he picked me up, gave me my passport. We got on the train and as we were going down to Nice and Marseilles they had a lot of these cattle trucks and everything around. And they had men one side. Women and children the other side and they were loading them into these trucks to take them to Buchenwald. And yet the guards would come on and come around, look at our pass and hand them back and on they would go. When we got down to Marseilles Patrick says, ‘Come with me,’ and a joker came up to me and said, ‘Hello Pat. How are you?’ I looked. I didn’t even know him from a bar of soap. I thought I didn’t. Then we went up about fifty yards and Patrick went in the back where the Resistance movement had a special room. That was the day that Patrick O’Leary, we listened to the English news and he was presented with the DSO. I’ll always remember that part and then from the next day we stopped there. The next day we went up to the doctor’s — Dr Rodocanachi’s place. And from there we stopped for three or four days and we were just watching everything that’s going. Had to be a bit careful when you went out and when you come in. Nobody in Dr Rodocanachi’s house wore shoes. As soon as you went in you took your shoes off and put slippers on. You weren’t allowed to look out the window because the Germans were all over across from his building. And the Germans used to come in because he was their doctor. They wouldn’t, they didn’t think that he was a Resistance man. So all that went on and then they said, ‘Righto.’ He came up and after we were there, and his wife, she was very good. Fanny. She was an excellent woman. And then Patrick arrived and he says, ‘Tomorrow night. Tomorrow we’re all going down at different times and we’re going down to the Pepignan to Canet Plage.’ And I thought we must be going down to the Pyrenees. Any rate that’s what we did. We went down there. And when I was, when we were down there and it was still a bit light I see a lot of people coming in and I saw a joker with crutches. And I got hold of him. I got hold of Derry and I said, ‘I know that joker.’ And he was bent over and everything and I thought, well I’m pretty certain that’s André Postel-Vinay. The joker that helped me right up to Paris and everything. So I said, ‘Right.’ Patrick O’Leary went out. Shone a torch and got nothing. So we stopped the night. The next night he went out and a trawler came in. And on this trawler we all were taken on that trawler. I’ve never been so sick in all my life. You’re only about that high of the water and we went for two days and then I saw it was Patrick O’Leary. When he left me in Marseilles when I was going down to Canet Plage the first time he went back up north and when he got back up north he got caught and they put him in a two storey building on the top with about seven or eight acres of grass all around except below the window where they, he was, he couldn’t walk. He was just about done for and he said, ‘Well, I’m not going to give any names of anyone. I’ll jump out that window.’ They hadn’t tied him up or anything. I’ll go out the window because there’s concrete down below and I’ll kill myself.’ Well, he fell out of it but two days previously they’d cut the grass and then that’s where they piled the grass. Anyway they got him back in and they left him in that room and then there was a big disturbance in Paris and a German doctor from the First World War came in and he said to Andre, ‘See those white coats there? Put one on and go out. They’re all out. There’s a big disturbance in town. Put it on and go.’ That’s what he did and he went around to André Rolet’s place where we first went. And Henri said to him, ‘Come in my man.’ He said, ‘No. Give me some money. I’ve got to get out. My feet are crook,’ and everything like that. And Henri said, and Henri said, ‘No, I’ve only got one bottle of champagne left and we’re going to have it.’ So from there we went for two days on a British destroyer and then to Gibraltar. And when we went to Gibraltar we waited two or three days there and then HMS Malaya, the battleship was there. And those jokers were there and they said, ‘Where are you jokers going?’ And we said, ‘Oh we’re going to England.’ ‘Oh well we haven’t been home for two years,’ they said. The next day we were told that we were going aboard HMS Malaya and we’re going to Greenock. Up by Glasgow. And that’s what we did. We went on there and they said, ‘If we go up there you can have our rum.’ Well, that’s the worst thing they ever said. That rum was strong too. And when we got off the boat at Greenock the squadron leader taking us says you or Patrick O’Leary when we left Canet Plage. He gave Derry and I a whole lot of information to take with us. He wouldn’t give it to the officers. He gave it to us. ‘And give that, when you get to London, give them those papers and give them to no one else.’ So when we got up there and everything was alright. We got off the boat and we were going along Greenock and going along and I said to the squadron leader, ‘That’s a pub there. Gee I’d like a drink.’ And he said, ‘No one’s allowed to talk to you.’ No one’s allowed to do this and no one’s allowed to do that. ‘You’re going in and you’re going to be imprisoned in here.’ ‘Oh.’ So, Derry and I went along. We got past the guard. Went inside. Walked about ten paces and there was another wall that went along. A solid wall that went along but it didn’t go up to the roof. And when we went around that there was two guards standing there and they said, ‘That’s where you’re going in. You’ll be in there for at least one or two days. Then you go by train to London.’ Derry said, ‘Oh righto then.’ So we went in. The door opened that way and we were in there and here was the squadron leader. He was talking to the two guards telling them this, that, that and that. The bottom of the door didn’t have glass in it. It was solid. So Derry and I looked at one another and we got on our hands and knees and we crawled along the floor and we crawled around here and they couldn’t see us. Crawled around there and then we got up. Walked around this wall. Went to the first guard we had passed when we came in and said, ‘Where’s the nearest pub?’ He said, That’s it over there.’ So we went over there and what we did was I asked for two handles of scotch ale. We drank them and Derry said, ‘Two more handles of scotch ale.’ We had just about finished them when a hand fell on each of our shoulders and said, ‘You’re under arrest.’ [laughs] and that was and that’s when I sort of came under Air Commodore [Issot] when I should have come under, actually my CO that was on 101. But 101 had moved south. And the Stirling squadron that was 101 — they had taken it over. So I didn’t know where the 101 Squadron was but he took over and he said, ‘Right. You’re going to do this and do that. Now then, you go over to Sutton Bridge in Anglia and you do a gunnery leader’s course.’ So I did that. Done it. And we came out and after I came out he says, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I want to go on those Fiat where they’ve got those electric guns and everything on. I’d like to go on to them and night fighters and everything.’ He says, ‘You’ll do what I tell you. I’m running the show.’ And I said, ‘Oh well, ok if you’re running the show that’s ok.’ He said, ‘You’re going back to New,’ he says, ‘You’re going back to New Zealand.’ I said, ‘No I’m not. I’m not going back.’ He said, ‘You’ll do as you’re told.’ And I said, ‘Am I?’ ‘Cause we were always told no matter who the officers were always in the prison you always cause trouble.’ Well I caused trouble with him because he said to me, ‘We were going to give you a medal but we’re not going to give it to you now. ’So I said, ‘Shove it up your backside.’ And that’s what happened there. Derry, he got for his escape all of that and from Germany, he got the Distinguished Conduct Medal. One of the highest medals you could get. He died in 1993 in [unclear] a car accident. He took a heart attack. Even when I got back to England I went with him. We went to see his father and mother and everything and it’s the only time in my life I was playing cards with them and I got a royal flush of hearts and I wouldn’t bet with them because I said, ‘You can’t beat me.’ But no, all the different things that happened in Britain and everywhere you went. Even in New Zealand House or Australia House and yet when you go in there and want to go to the toilet at Australia House they used to be up at the top and when you wanted to go to the toilet you used to go out there in to the passage and the toilets, there were the stairs that led right to the toilet down there. And sitting on the top of the stairs was a notice, “Is your journey really necessary?” So when you look at a lot of the issues that come up there’s a lot of humour come around with it. And I saw one joker who I saw before the war and this joker was talking about — he was a squadron leader and he was talking. Doing a lot of jokes and telling them all the bomb raids he’d been on and everything like that. And Angus said to us, ‘We don’t want to listen to that.’ He was an instructor for all gunners and everything that came in to New Zealand. He was over there right at the beginning of the war. He was only a sergeant then but any rate him and I got on well together. When I got back to England he came and looked me up and he said, ‘Yeah, I heard that you were here so I’ve come to see you.’ He said, ‘I want to tell you this.’ I said, ‘Yeah. What’s that?’ ‘You know that squadron leader that was over there telling us all about all the bomb trips and everything he went in. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I went back to my squadron and I was in charge of instructing everybody on gunnery and everything like that. And sitting in the front seat was this squadron leader.’ He says, ‘After morning tea he sat at the back of the crowd,’ [laughs] he said, ‘He had never been on a trip.’ So when you look at a lot of them, I had another joker that I was brought up in the home with in Palmerston here and he had curly hair and everything like that. He came over in the second lot and I saw him later on and he says, ‘Yes.’ And the other couple with him, he came in a bit later and I said, ‘Where’s Curly?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘Haven’t you heard?’ I said, ‘No.’ ‘Well,’ he says, ‘He went over there as a wireless operator gunner and a cannon shell came through and blew his head off on his first trip.’ So you never know what’s coming. Even on a raid you don’t worry about what you can see. It’s what you can’t see. Because they just look like, you know how you dry onions and you lift it up and you’ve got the bulb up there and you got all this. That’s exactly what they look like, all around. When you don’t hear anything you know you’re not going to live very long. But yes in many cases, yes you’re frightened. You worry. You’ve got a job to do and that’s all it is at that juncture. You’re there to save the crew and the other members of the crew are there to save you. And that’s how you work together. It’s a, it’s a sort of scheme that when you go into it then you all stick together. You’ve got to. Even if a sergeant is in charge of the plane and you have flight lieutenants and squadron leaders in the other part of it they’re still got to abide by the sergeant pilot because he’s the man that knows everything. And as one thing we had, one joker that was there he had to go and when we were going on this Berlin raid on our fourth trip we had this Aussie joker, second pilot and Mickey Allen said to me one day, ‘Pat.’ ‘What Mickey?’ ‘Can you see that bloody Aussie?’ And I turned my turret. I said, ‘Yes I can see him.’ ‘Oh,’ he says, ‘Can you?’ I say, ‘Yes I can see.’ ‘Where is he?’ I said, ‘He’s below the stretcher.’ In the Wellington bomber there and where the astrodome is, and there’s a galvanised pipe that goes down there and there’s your toilet. The toilet is chemical and the seat’s on the top but inside it there’s also when you sit on it the two wooden pieces are there. When you press down on there those two open up. So Mickey said, ‘What’s he doing?’ I said, ‘He’s just undoing his belt.’ ‘Oh,’ he says, ‘Right. You know don’t you?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ Anyhow, I waited there and he got down there and he took his trousers down and he got on there and he hung on to this galvanised bar that was there and he just, when he just started to smile I said, ‘Now Mickey,’ and Mickey threw the plane three hundred feet, four hundred feet and of course the Aussie grabbed this near enough. One part was below and the other part was above and Mickey says, ‘How’s he doing?’ And I said, ‘Oh he’s not enjoying it. Oh it’s alright now,’ I said, ‘He’s getting up,’ [laughs] So when you look at a lot of the things it doesn’t make any difference. It’s the war. They’re terrible things and what happens in them but in this case there is always one thing that you do. If you’re in an aircraft, if you’re in there to do that you work in with the crew because any minute you could be shot down. And you had to work together to be a crew. You also, in a lot of cases all went drinking together. It didn’t make any difference where you went to drink etcetera. Everything like that. But yes I enjoyed, if I had to do it again, yes I would do it again. It was one of those things that at that time all things were totally different. Even in France when the Germans walked into Paris to take over, the number of Frenchmen that came out in their SS uniforms. Andre Postel-Vinay told me that. But I didn’t know his name until about 1965/70 when Jack Warboys, our operator/gunner, when he went over and visited him. That’s when we started to find out. And then a lot of people used to write to us and want to know, ‘Do you know these people that helped us? Can you find out?’ This and that and that’s what we did. Quite a few other jokers that I had there. They all, that’s what they did to find out there to help those people do it. Then on top of it as soon as the war finished [pause] they decided that the RAF would do something for all the Belgians, Dutch, Norwegians, Greek, French, some Germans, Italians etcetera who all got injured and badly injured etcetera and everything. That they would do something to help them in their new life. So in 1948 we formed the Royal Air Force Escaping Society. And what we did we all paid a day’s wages a year. The RAF went around all the stations in England and Scotland and Wales and everywhere and they charged an extra shilling for the dances on the Friday and the Saturday and all that money went into the RAFES to pay for all these people. And they used to write to us and let us know. They got a Christmas parcel hamper. They also got birthday presents etcetera etcetera. They also were sent to hospital and fixed up as well as they can. What they could. And then about 1970/75. They had that much money in there that they turned around and they told the people of these that were injured and everything with their family they’ll pay for their sons and daughters to go to university. And that never finished until 1995. Now then to top the other part off with what you said I went over and I saw Michel [unclear] in Village Les Moines. And he told me that if ever he had time he would cut the throat of the Aussie joker because when he went over to Paris as a trip to see him he called monsieur [unclear] there was only five in the Wellington bomber that crashed here. He was the pilot. And they gave him a big write up, and everything. So Mr [ ] said that and when I got back this joker Christianson he rung me up and wanted to find out what was what and he said, ‘I’m going over to see him.’ Well, I says, ‘You go over to see him.’
[recording paused for a visitor]
MS: Pat, can you tell us about your, the Bomber Command clasp and your medals?
HH: I had — about medals. Rather strange for a lot of people who came back from the war because all those of ‘39/45 never had their name or number printed on them because Peter Fraser the prime minister said in 1945 he was not going to print all them on all their medals because it was going to cost too much money. All the 1914/18 war, yes. And if anybody like that joker we had here, you heard about him didn’t you? He was the president of the Otaki RSA and he had medals and everything and he hadn’t been away to the war. And he had those medals and they had no numbers on them. So if you lose your medals, I’ve had a lot of medals given to me by different people that have a number and that on them and I send them to the RSA etcetera etcetera and they find out who are the people that own them. And some of them that they have they’re living in England now. And that’s what happened. A lot of our people that came back from the Second World War would not apply for their medals. And a lot of them still haven’t applied for their medals. And when the Minister of Defence here, Mr Coleman at the time he put something in the house and he said about it and everything. I wrote him a letter and I said, Mr Coleman you don’t go back far enough. 1914/18 medals were presented to each man that came off the ship by the minister of defence and it had their name and number on them. When all the people came back from overseas in the ‘39/45 war Peter Fraser says they apply for them. And I’m not going to put their numbers and names on them because it’ll cost too much money. And that’s what happens today with a lot of them. So, I see a lot of people around who have got medals and they’re sort of getting them put on themselves. So with a lot of them that I applied for I was sort of turned down. I just mentioned something, even down at Wellington when I was sent to Upper Hutt somewhere and when I sent down they said, no. That’s your medals. That’s all there is. So, I’ve never sort of applied. I go to the high school here. I do the Anzac parade here. Every May we do it. And a lot of them over there always say, ‘You haven’t got your Bomber Command medal. You haven’t got your other medals. You’re supposed to have them.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, but I’ve applied for them and that’s been it. No. I’ve heard nothing.’ And I wrote when I was given a Wellington bomber photo of the old days I gave it to a joker who was going to do it up and photo it up and it was going to go into the RSA here. Well he lost it. And I wrote to England to the Royal Air Force in command to see if I could get a photo. And I had the letter returned. It’s still back in there somewhere. So, there’s a, there’s a lot of things you know around that sort of happened that you just say, ‘Right. I’m not going to muck around with that.’ etcetera etcetera etcetera. So I just let it go. But other than that, yes. There is certain ones that you get and like I say, like this plate that they give and they did that through the Royal Air Force Escaping Society. And Elizabeth Harrison, you’ve heard of her? She used to be in charge of this for years. She just died recently and she was ninety three, I believe. And she always used to write to me and say this person wants you to cover them etcetera etcetera etcetera and they write to me and I write to them and they let them know. And they, all of them, and one of them from Belgium wrote to me and said — you know a joker who’s a New Zealander. I was in the SAS with him. Do you know where he is? And I said well the only thing that I know his parents are in Church Street here. So I went and saw them and they said no. He’s in Vienna. So I wrote to the University in Vienna and they wrote to me and said no he is now in Wellington. So I wrote to Wellington and Wellington wrote to me and told me he is now at Massey University. So I saw him and we had a talk etcetera etcetera. And that was about what they were talking because this New Zealander was in the SAS. And they always knew that there was something crook abut Three Gun Patton and Eisenhower and he wanted to know, with the accident that Patton had that it was jacked up. At a certain place where they were supposed to stop with these special trucks and let his car go through and they didn’t stop and they smashed it and killed him. Because Three Gun ‘Patton had a lot of arguments with Eisenhower. He was a man that when he went out he did it. I know he used to push everybody into it who was going to go ahead. He always beat everybody wherever he wanted to go and everything but there was one thing about him. When he went to do anything he’d even be there with his men, and that’s how. A bit like Montgomery to a certain degree. But yes, it’s when you look at a lot of the issues and everything that happened I always look at the one thing that I think is the most loyal to me, and I think to a hell of a lot of people who don’t know anything about it, is the Resistance movement who are the unsung heroes. And there’s hundreds of them that were shot. And that joker that said to me in Paris, in Marseilles when we escaped from Fort de la Revere and he says, ‘Hello Pat,’ and when I went around and went in there he was a joker, Davidson. And he was an Australian. Later on I learned that he was helping a priest and a, two nuns etcetera and everything and they got caught. And when they got caught they got the orders from Hitler that there was too much of this had been going on and they sent them to Buchenwald and put them over a chair and chopped their heads off. And that’s that’s jokers name was Davidson. So when you look at a lot, and those men no matter where you go or what you do they’re there every minute when they’re with you and they make sure that you do exactly what they, is it, you take that, “’Allo. ‘Allo.” You know that French that went on. A lot of that stuff that you look in there and it looks like a lot of its tripe. A lot of its true. And a lot of it is done by a lot of our people. You take the legless pilot. Now he done a lot of harm to a lot of people and when he got caught and he went in and then he escaped with his boots didn’t he? And they got him right through the German lines in occupied France, through the Germans and got him through and got him right around there and put him in to a little village and said to him, ‘Stop here. Don’t go out for a week.’ After a couple of days he decided to go for a walk and he got caught. All those people in that village were shot. And that’s when he went back into the camp again they took his legs away. So when you look at it it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are when those jokers are doing it they are working twenty four hours a day, every second of the day and everything to help you. And when you, they tell you to do something you do it because they know what is what. And they know, and in many cases we were in Vierzon. We went in to Vierzon. One part of it. And when we went into Vierzon they had a toilet. That toilet was there and it had six in. Nothing at the back. And it was only from here up to here and there was a Frenchman in there with his girlfriend and she was leaning on the top talking to him. When we went in André Postal-Vinay, went there, I went here and the Aussie joker he was here. And the Aussie joker turned around and said this French girl instead of being this way she turned around and went this way you see. And when she went around the Aussie said to me, he said, ‘She’s not going to see what I’ve got,’ and instead of going like that he went like that [laughs] So, when you think a lot of things that happened etcetera its quite humorous and when you think of it, but it could be serious. But that’s what I was saying. Even in Marseilles. Even when they pulled the curtains back when we were at Dr Rodocanachi there was young girls going to school and when they were going down there opposite where the Germans were living she stopped and we could see out this window view it over there. And she opened her bag that she had and she took a brown paper bag out of it and she split it right open. I can still see her doing it. And then she got into the gutter, lifted her dress, took her pants down and done a poo. And when she got up she got the brown paper bag, put it over the top and pressed down the edges. So when you, and I’ve seen others even in Marseilles where a girlfriend’s with her boyfriend and they go around the corner. He wants to go to the toilet he just swings around the corner, takes it out and just wees on the wall. So in a lot of cases it’s surprising what really happens when you don’t know much about it. So when you’re in that position then you’ve, whoever’s taking you it’s their life at stake not yours. Because if they get caught and you get caught you only go as a prisoner of war. They get shot, or. And some of them with some of the books they had. The lady in America. She wrote to me and did it and some of those jokers that were caught they tortured them with chains. Those small chains like that and that’s what they lashed them with. And not with whips. So when you look at a lot of the things. Even their fingernails and everything like that you know, eh. It’s, you can’t really understand. The only thing I really understand from my time, previous times until the present and with human beings. The human begins have done nothing but kill one another. Even when you get back to Alexander the Great. So, yes that’s the sort of issues that I look at and I cover but I always look at those people that helped me. They couldn’t have done a better job and yet they lost their lives. And a lot of them even if they got caught even their wives and children were taken and shot. So, yes — and Cole he was one joker that was there with the Patrick O’Leary Line well he was of them that turned jokers in. And Roger Legionaire. He was another. He turned them in. He turned Patrick O’Leary in in 1943 and that’s when the Resistance Line started to fold up. And the little old lady that used to live in Toulouse who used to be his helper the Germans wouldn’t have anything to do with her because they reckoned she was a cranky old lady but she took over running the line after Patrick O’Leary was caught and the Germans didn’t even know. So when you look at it it’s all that help that you get from all those. Even the joker, the Tartan Pimpernel from Scotland. He had a church outside Paris and when the Germans came in he locked the church up, took the key out and gave the key to the people next door to him. And he says, ‘I’ll be back after the war to open the church again.’ And that’s what, you know when you see those jokers and what — he used to come in with us and he’d bring, he used to be our minister for the faith and he used to bring different things in for us. That’s how we used to got a lot of the issues. And he’d bring something special in for one or two of the guards that he would know and I would see him give him that and the guard would let him in. So it all works on faith and what you know. And you still end up the best of friends. Yes. And yes I’ve — no I’ve only been back once to France by them. And when I got back to Monsieur [unclear] that time I was in in 1995 I went back there for the government because they said there was no Resistance movement in France during the war. And when I got to, in there he came over and he said to me, ‘You know that German that came in and spoke perfect English with machine guns and that if he finds out he’s only going to shoot us all. Well,’ he said another joker came back three months later. He was an older German and he had a machine gun and a sergeant with him and he said to these people in village Les Moines and Monsieur [unclear] ‘Have you see those six airmen or anything?’ And he says, ‘No.’ And then he was looking down at their shoes and the other bits that were around. And what they had in their shoes was the laces off our parachutes. So it just shows you what can happen which could get you into a lot of trouble if you don’t know much about, etcetera or anything. But this joker said, ‘You won’t be hearing from me again. That’s the finish of it. We won’t be coming back.’ So it just depends who it comes back and who it is. A lot of Germans that were in there in the First World War quite a few of them were very, very good with a lot of people that they were. Doctors and everything like that. They helped a lot of people get away and it’s those jokers when they look at what was going on. Even when you look at the White Mouse, even when they married and her husband and when they married in Marseilles etcetera and everything and they were in Czechoslovakia. And they were having, I believe it was their honeymoon. I’m not quite certain but they turned around and when the Germans went into Czechoslovakia they had pregnant women there and were taking the foetuses out. That’s what made her as tough as what anybody could be and yet you couldn’t meet a better lady. She did everything that went around and everything you know. Nothing was too much trouble. She was caught a couple of times but got out of it. Patrick O’Leary helped her once when she was in Vichy France and the gendarmes had her. And Patrick O’Leary went in and said that’s his wife. Prove it. Showed, you know what he had so they gave him to her and she got out. And she’d been in there two days and they were going to send her away. He took her out as his wife and she went back to doing the job she’d originally done. And all the other things that she did when her husband was caught in 1942. He was only a vegetable in the end when they tried to find out where she was. And lived but he never let on. And on the 18th of October 1943 they shot him. So they sent her, Patrick O’Leary sent her back to England urgently in case she did something silly after hearing he’d been killed. So they sent her back to England and she went on a special course and then they sent her back in charge of the Maquis — south east of France. And when they went down there there’s one thing about the Frenchmen they don’t like a woman to be in charge. So when she went down there and they met her. They’d done anything, yes. And they said alright, and she said, ‘Oh yes,’ and she said, you have a joker around here that has been turning some of our men in from the Maquis and we don’t like them.’ They said, ‘Yes he’s married and he’s got a young son.’ He’s quite a nice joker. And they said, well. And she said, you, you and you are going out to see him. And they went out where they were holding him and when she went in she said are you Mr so and so and so and so and he says yes and she pulled out the gun and went bang bang bang bang. Shot him dead. The Maquis then said they would follow her wherever she went and that’s exactly what they’d done. They did. She would go in and do them from Grenoble and all down through that area. Down to Nice and down that area. She would take two or three hundred men or might be four hundred men but she would go against a German garrison of four or five thousand and they’d go in, just about shoot them all up and then they’d vanish. They’d be gone. Thirty, forty, fifty mile away, or a hundred mile away. And then they’d go into another. And that’s what the Germans didn’t like because she was killing more of them and she was hardly, and they were hardly killing any of her men. But she was a woman that didn’t like anyone to be cruel. And yet when you look at her and what she did to some of them it was either him or her and as a lot of people say, when you go to war, a joker would say to you, ‘I couldn’t shoot that German.’ And I would say to them, ‘Well if you didn’t shoot him he’d shoot you. So what’s the difference? It’s war.’ There’s a difference between war and peace. You can get away sometimes with murder in war but you won’t get away with it in peace. So when you look at all these things and war, even now, even in war with everything that happens look at all that comes out eventually from war that’s present day. Look at all those people that got burned and that New Zealander turned around where they could do those skin grafts and everything like that. Because some of those people right at the beginning, you know and you saw it and everything it was it was just scarred. They looked terrible you know, when you. Especially when you get some of that excess fuel burning. Yes. So, other than that no. I’ve, well —
MS: What do you think about the way Bomber Command got treated after the war, Pat?
HH: Got?
MS: The way Bomber Command was treated after the war. Do you have —
HH: Terrible. Especially what Bomber Harris and what he had done and then even king George the VI’s was one of them that was against when they bombed Bremner, well not, yeah and they blew that city to pieces. And it had more objects of the past etcetera than anywhere in Germany. But it didn’t make any difference when you look at it. Because look what Germany did to Britain. Look what the Germans would have done to us if, if Hitler hadn’t had changed his methods of the war with his different planes with the different bombs and everything that he had. Or that he didn’t completely try to control everyone. It’s something I don’t think we’ll ever know but I will say this. If it hadn’t have been for Bomber Harris then yes he should have, after the war he should have been recognised for it. Yeah. I’ve always done that and when they did that one in 2012 I was going to go see if could get over to that service for him even though he came after me. Why? I was crook [laughs] Yes. But I thought if ever anything else sort of came up and I could and it was possible then I would apply because all my crew are dead now. All the people that I knew in the camp are all passed on. All the people, the majority of them that I knew in the Resistance movements and that, of Patrick O’Leary and all those others. They’ve all passed on to this day and when you look, you know, at what, and then Patrick O’Leary he went over to Korea afterward. Yet looking at the joker he doesn’t look like he would be able to do anything. The way he just walks along, etcetera etcetera etcetera. Yeah. No, I’ve looked back at it and I look at a lot of issues. I see a lot of people that even I’d had some time in camps that you couldn’t even trust. You’d have to be careful or otherwise you’d be shot yourself. It’s one of those things that it doesn’t matter what country you belong to or what country you’re in, or If there’s a war on or anything then there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to save their own necks if they can get away with it. So I’m just pleased that I’ve been through what I have been through and I’m still sort of going on. Although this Christmas hasn’t been the best was it? You didn’t hear about Christmas did you? I have a pacemaker. And I had to get it checked on the 30th of December this year. I’d had it since the 13th of June 2013. My daughter said, ‘Take this stuff up to George for Christmas,’ the next day. And I said, ‘Oh yeah I’ll do that, and then I went in. So I picked up my doctor’s prescription for pills. Put it in my pocket and I went here, went up, went in [unclear] Street. I went up Victoria Avenue and there was Newton Street over on the right. I went over there and I completely blacked out and I went across the left hand lane. I was lucky. No cars, no people, no lorries, no buses or anything were there. I hit the fence. I don’t know that. I had blacked out. Went along that and stopped in a little alleyway and then I woke up and this was right up here. That’s the only injury I got. My car is a complete write off. You wouldn’t believe it. And I’ve been down to Wellington here. They flew me down there. I got a new pacemaker so, and they found my old pacemaker had packed up. Just went wrong and I didn’t know it and that just shows you that if you’re completely blacked out and got your belt on you won’t get hurt.
MS: Pat, can I just ask you do you still have your logbook?
HH: No. I haven’t got my, no, I never got my logbook. No. Well, I haven’t got it because I never got it back from England. I got all other things. Flying boots and suits and that, but, and personal things and photos and a lot of photos were not even mine. So [pause] What about the —
MS: Do you still have all those things, Pat?
HH: Hmmn?
MS: Do you still have all those items? Have you still got them, your boots?
HH: No. They’ve all gone but I had my uniforms and everything and they eventually went. I gave them to the joker that was a squadron leader here and he was in charge of the museum out at Ohakea. And he had a plumbing business in [unclear] Street. And he was in charge of the brevet. Oh I just can’t think of his name at the present, yes.
Other: Tony [Pirod]
HH: Oh that’s it. Tony [Pirod]
MS: Ok.
HH: Yes. And he said to me why haven’t you joined it? When I went in one day ’48. I had some letters given me by Nancy Wake, she was an Australian in Newcastle, and she’d asked me to give them to the special New Zealander coming out in the air force from England. To give them to the Brevet Club to give to him because they were having a meeting. So I went up and I gave them to him and he said to me, ‘Ah yes. Oh that’s alright.’ He says, ‘Ok I’ll do that. I’ll give them to him.’ Now then, he says when [unclear] was in an insurance company now he says, ‘When you come in here and talk to me again you call me sir.’ I said, ‘I beg your pardon?’ He says, ‘You call me sir,’ he said, ‘I was an officer in the air force.’ I said, ‘I beg your pardon?’ I says, ‘The war’s over.’ And he said, ‘That’s what I’m telling you. Oh by the way,’ he said, ‘You haven’t joined the Brevet Club. The Air Force Club.’ I said, ‘No.’ ‘When are you going to join it?’ And I put my hand in my pocket. I took it out. I said, ‘Have a read of that.’ And that was the one for the Royal Air Force Escaping Society, to join it in 1948. I said, I’m going to join that because it’s something to do for people that have helped us and we can help them. And for you at the present you can stick it. I’ve been to Christchurch and down there quite a few others already. I’m not a member of the Brevet. But I’m a voluntary member down there. They joined us up. And they had one joker that came in when we were down there. I always remembered he was a squadron leader and he came in. I was talking to the president and everything down there and he said, yes, and the president of the club says, ‘No ranks or anything down here. We don’t have any of them.’ The joker said, ‘Well I was a squadron leader and I like to be called sir.’ And he had a handle in front of him and we all had a handle and outside this office which was on the south east corner of the Christchurch Aerodrome they says, ‘Do you? You like that?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘Yeah I do and I want to keep it too.’ They said, ‘Have you finished?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ They said, ‘Come with us will you. Bring your beer.’ And we went out and around the back they had a round thing around and there was a big pond that was about that deep. They went out there etcetera and everything and while we were all out there the president said to the joker, you and you and you. ‘You know what to do don’t you?’ One grabbed one leg, one the other, one the other arm and one the other and they chucked him in to the centre of this pond. And when the joker came out he said, ‘I see what you mean,’ [laughs] But that’s what I say in many cases when you get a lot of them in that it’s, it’s friendship really that you’re going about. I don’t care if I care if I go in to a place and etcetera etcetera something like that and someone comes along and says this or that or something else. I say oh yes that’s alright. But I go out to Ohakea now and again and when I go out there I have a talk to them and everything. But what surprised me at Ohakea when I did go out there when they had the air force nationals on and we went into the sergeant’s mess, the number of women and the number of men who were warrant officers and flight sergeants. In our day when we were there we had only to say, ‘bloody,’ and we were out for a week. They were using every swear word going. Even the women that were serving the beer. And I just looked at it and the other joker with me, he said, ‘Well, I’ve just about heard everything. Things have changed.’ So I expect we have to put up with the change. Sergeant. Flight sergeant. Yes, I was a sergeant all my trips until I got back to England and I was made a flight sergeant from then on. And I was a flight sergeant when I came back here and when I got back here the Venturas arrived and Squadron Leader Hogg wanted me to be his gunner because we were going up to the islands. And the warrant officer was going to be his navigator so he says we’re going up there Pat and when we used to go in he wouldn’t let me salute him and we would sit and have a cup of tea and everything with him, you know. And we were getting on. And then he said well, then it came through. Everybody going to the islands in 1943 had to have a medical examination to see if they were fit. So many were coming back and hadn’t done anything. So he said to me, ‘You’ve been for your medical yet Pat?’ I said, ‘No. I’ll go later on.’ He said, ‘Righto then.’ So I said, I went out and saw him one day and when I came in all of a sudden this pilot officer that come in that was going to be the navigator he, he came out and he said, and the doctor said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you sir he won’t be going with you. He’s not allowed to fly.’ So he says, ‘Oh Pat’s here,’ he says, ‘Give him, take him in and check him will you because he’s going with me to the islands.’ I went in. I wasn’t in there very long and he came out and said, ‘You’re grade ten. You’re not allowed to fly.’ And I was flying around with drogues and everything going when I was out here and in the armoury. And that finished that so when that happened then there was a whole lot of people then coming back from England that had been over there for a while as instructors etcetera and everything. And so I went to Wellington and they said right, I was essential industry and I went back on to the railways. So yes when you look at all the different things that went on at different things like that it’s, it takes you a while to get used to war years. It takes you a hell of a lot longer to get used to peace time because in wartime even and more particularly if you’ve been a prisoner of war you’ve got to be a trouble maker all the time. You’ve got to do something even if you go into solitary confinement. It upsets them. They think their job, guards are not doing their job right and everything. Yes, it’s a — I had one joker who was, when I was in Fort de la Revere, he came in and he said to me you and you, and Derry was lying on his bed and he said to me, ‘And you. You’re the biggest trouble makers around,’ and this was this corporal. The joker with the Alsatian dog. And he said, ‘I’ve had enough of you and I’ve got into a lot of trouble through you two and everything,’ and he spat at me. So I gave him a good New Zealand spat and he went and told his commanding officer and the commanding officer came in and I went under arrest. And he said he never spat at me and Derry went into the hearing and Derry says, ‘Yes he did spit at Pat.’ And the CO says, ‘Well if he says he didn’t spit at you he didn’t.’ Sixty days solitary confinement I got. I went in at eleven stone six and I came out at six stone eight. But the only thing that keeps you going from going mad I’d look back on my life when I was a kid. And the jokers used to work around. They used to get big books like that, about that thick and they’d to cut the inside out of it and they’d put tucker in it. And where the guard was above the prison outside they would run up the stairs run around and come around and everything. They’d do that three or four times. When they came up the third time and do it they’d open the book and chuck some tucker in. And that’s how you worked in with each other. And yes I’d look at a lot of those jokers and what they did. And we all, we still had a laugh even right to the end. Yes.
MS: Can we just confirm Pat so you were in 101 Squadron?
HH: Hmmn?
MS: You were in 101 Squadron?
HH: 101 yeah.
MS: 101 and you were a flight sergeant?
HH: Yes.
MS: And you did nine ops?
HH: Nine ops. Yeah.
MS: Nine ops. Where did you go on those operations?
HH: Well at Kiel Canal, at Kiel Canal, Karlsruhe, Bremner was one. It was only a short one we had for there. And then we went down through the Ruhr and when you went down through the Ruhr it was as bright as going down the Ruhr in the middle of the night than it is here. And they had all the searchlights and everything for miles and miles and miles, you know. So, yes and all those other ones down south and around there that I went to. The nearest ones I went when we went was down the Ruhr. And then all the others were down towards the south east or the south west of Germany itself there. I got all the names up somewhere in there but other than that — no. I, and the last one of course I wouldn’t have forgotten that one [laughs] and yes and the crew you couldn’t have got a better crew. With the English jokers I was with they were exceptional. The only one that I had the bit of trouble with was the Aussie second pilot. He wanted to be the boss of everything. And he died the year before last over in Aussie. Yes. He’s [pause] so when you look at it and Mickey Allen. The other four after we went to St Hippolyte as a prisoner of war the others went and that four hours that we were deaf and dumb and they were trying to find out this and that that gave them the four hours to get with their joker over the Pyrenees and then into Barcelona. And those four got right over to there. But the unusual part about it is I tried to get Mickey Allen. Saxon that came back with me I tried to get him later on and he lived at Stoke on Trent. But never heard of him again and all the others that were in it that were in our crew they never heard of Mickey Allen and that again. So whether it was just too much in the end or whatever happened or whether he went on night fighters and was killed I don’t know. And now I’m, when I look I think of that time. The way the world was going. That’s why we, a lot of people joined up. Being in New Zealand we, freedom to us, freedom of speech and everything is a big issue. We like to do a lot. I know today that a lot of the issues that we did years ago they pass laws today to stop it. But in those days when you got it and the populations weren’t that big everybody sort of worked in to help one another. There wasn’t a lot of money around and when I went back on to the railways, when I first went on to the railways before I went overseas my wages at that time was one and a penny farthing an hour. So that’s only about fifteen pennies. So yes it was big money to us at that time because everything was quite reasonable. It’s only since we’ve seemed to have got into dollars and cents that we seem to sort of, and I should add to it the little card. The fantastic — that you can book everything to. That has a big bearing on life today. Because you’ve only got to look at your TV and see how many sales all the big companies have practically every week. So when you look at it you’ve got to change with the times. You’ve got to go with the times because a lot of the issues that you did in your day are irrelevant today. And with the issue that changes a lot to me was when I asked a young lad a while back, ‘Isn’t it marvellous that they can send something into space and they can land it on Jupiter or they can land it on a rock in space. Don’t you reckon that’s marvellous?’ And this nine year old kiddie said, ‘What’s marvellous about that?’ So things have changed appreciably. Yes. So as it is I just go along and I do what I did in the air and what we did for those people who were injured during the war for us. That’s why I do a lot for a lot of people around here and they gave me a citation through the mayor here for helping people etcetera etcetera. And he gave me a big copy of it. I’ve got it hanging in the room there and I was one of six that got it. And that’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter who it is or what it is you’ve got to help. You might not get anything back but you’re not looking for anything. You never had anything much when you first started. And when you wanted to get anything for yourself years ago you used to save up and then get it. Today you don’t have to if you don’t want to because then they’ll turn around and they’ll take the twelve and a half percent off. So, yes it’s one thing I think and something that you’ve got to do. You’ve got to go along with the times and it’s also working that way that we got a lot of people in the governments that are a lot younger than in our day. So I just believe what they say goes in one ear and out the other.
MS: We’re about to run out of recording time so we’re going to wrap the interview up now.
HH: Ok.
MS: I just want to say thank you very much indeed.
HH: That’s ok. Yeah.
MS: It’s been a real pleasure talking to you today.
HH: Yeah.
MS: And the interview concludes here.



Miriam Sharland, “Interview with Pat Hickton,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 23, 2023,

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