Interview with Angas Hughes


Interview with Angas Hughes


Angas Hughes was born in Australia and served as a bomb aimer with 467 Squadron based at RAF Waddington. He describes initial training in Australia as a reserve and after call-up in 1942. He was transported by ship to Scotland via the USA and Canada. He flew all the operations on Lancasters and was shot down over Germany on the thirty-second operation. After about three nights he was captured near the Rhine and spent his twenty-first birthday in a German jail before being transferred to an interrogation camp near Frankfurt and eventually to Stalag Luft VII. After about three months the camp was evacuated and the long march to Luckenwalde began. He gives a detailed description of what the long march entailed, arriving at Luckenwalde, after about three weeks. He describes hearing and seeing signs of the Russian advance before the camp was liberated. However, it was the Americans who took them away. On returning to Australia Angas took accountancy exams and set up his own practice in Adelaide.




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CB: This is an interview being carried out at the Riseholme College for the International Bomber Command memorial. The interviewer is Clare Bennett and the interviewee is Mr Angas Hughes, who was with 467 Squadron, and it is the 1st of October 2015. Well Angas, um, an Australian who, um, joined the war at the age of eighteen. But what was your home life like in Australia? What did you do as a youngster?

AH: Oh, as a youngster, I naturally I went to school but in the beginning we were partly brought up in the first of the — or last of the big depression but fortunately I came from a family that, er, didn’t suffer that much during that time. I after, after leaving the primary school I went to a college and I passed my examinations there and, er, for a short time I worked at the Imperial Chemical Industries that led eventually, on my eighteenth birthday, I joined the Air Force Reserve.

CB: What year would that be?

AH: It was 1941 and I was then — eventually I was called up on I think it was 12th of June 1942 but in the meantime between ‘41 and ‘42 we were on the reserve. We went to, um, a high school under the RWAF and doing navigation. We did exercises on, on maps etcetera until we joined up in, er, until we were called up in 18— 1942.

CB: What were your feelings about joining up? You know, was it adventure? Was it because everyone else was doing it. What, what inspired you to join?

AH: Well I think times then were a little bit different to what they are now and it was all king and country in those days. And, er, my father was in the, er, First World War and, er, I thought it was my duty to, er, join up and I was a little bit, er, dubious [?] with Biggles at that time and the Air Force was the one for me.

CB: And your family were happy for you to join or did they discourage you in any way?

AH: Oh, they tried to discourage me but, er, at the age of eighteen we had the option to volunteer so I did. They weren’t too happy about it which I think all parents were the same.

CB: So you embarked at eighteen on a ship and — for England, is that right?

AH: Yeah, we trained in Australia. We flew in a — navigation school was down at Bowen [?], the original ATS was at Victor Harbour, and from there we went to the navigation school at Mount Gambier flying in Ansons. And then we went to the bombing and air gunnery school in Port Pirie flying Fairey Battles. And the last one was at the Aeradio [?] School in Nhill, Victoria, flying Ansons there. And by that time we, we had finished our training in Australia and eventually we were posted overseas. We were on our way to Canada but when we got to — we went across the, er, Pacific. It took about six weeks to get across there. We landed at San Francisco. We went by Pullman up to Camp Myles Standish at Taunton, Massachusetts. We stopped there for about six weeks and eventually we caught the, er, Queen Elizabeth from New York to Greenock in Scotland which took about six days to get across.

CB: Were you worried at that time on that crossing, U-boats etcetera or was it just youth and —

AH: I think it was just youth and also it was such a fast ship that that was fairly safe. We had no escort or anything. And from there we went to, er, Brighton, down on the south c— down on the coast. We were there for a few weeks and eventually we finished up at Whitby Bay doing a six weeks commando course with the RAF Regiment and from there we were posted to, er, West Freugh Scotland for bombing, and then to an OTU at Lichfield where we were crewed up. From there we went to — we were there for three months at, er, Lichfield. Then we went to Swinderby, Scampton for a month training on Lancs, eventually to, er, 467 Squadron at Waddington.

CB: And your other crew members, were they Australians?

AH: Six, there were six Australians and the flight engineer was an English— Englishman or Welshman, his name was Taffy [slight laugh], Taffy Barnes [?]. I don’t know what his Christian name was. [laugh]

CB: So you started on what amounted to thirty-two ops so what were the sort of raids that you did?

AH: The first one we was with S for Sugar. We went to a place called to Portiers down in the south of France and, er, from there on I did Germany, ops on Germany and also on various places in France, mainly flying-bomb sites in France, and marshalling yards.

CB: And you were a bomb aimer at this time?

AH: I was the bomb aimer all of the time, yes.

CB: And you were happy with that or did you —

AH: Oh yes. I was there. I had no choice then. [laugh]

CB: Didn’t you yearn to be a pilot or anything?

AH: No. No, I wanted to be a navigator right from the beginning so bomb aimer was, was fairly close to — well we were navigators as well as bomb aimers so, er, I used to always plot the course myself as far as — to know where we were anyway, plus the navigator, I was able to assist him along the line.

CB: Was this in, er, Lancasters?

AH: This was in Lancasters, yes.

CB: Did you fly in anything else on the bombing raids or —

AH: No, I only flew with Lancs on bombing raids. On training we flew on Wellingtons and St— and Stirlings for training plus the original Oxfords and, and Ansons.

CB: So you, you flew in, er, Stirlings?

AH: Yes.

CB: Because they were notorious. What did you feel about them?

AH: I never like them myself. The pilot didn’t like them. None of the crew liked them but fortunately we were only there for a month. [laugh]

CB: So it was a relief to get on to Lancasters.

AH: Oh yes. They were a beautiful plane. Plenty of — they were fairly easy to fly apparently or the pilot said that they were fairly easy to fly. He had done flying before the war. He was much older than what I was. He was the oldest of the crew.

CB: How was old was he? Do you remember ‘cause you was what about twenty at this time?

AH: I was nineteen, twenty, yes I was twenty ‘cause I had my twenty-first birthday after I was shot down. Dusty would have been twenty-nine to thirty.

CB: He was the pilot?

AH: He was the pilot yeah. And, er, on our thirty-second trip we got shot down on the way to Karlsruhe. We were at eighteen thousand feet. That was out last trip actually I believe. We had the gunnery — the gunnery leader of A Flight of 467 squadron on board. I think Clarkson [?] had done sixty-two missions.

CB: As the bomb aimer, um, it’s obviously your responsibility to drop the bomb where it should be dropped and you have to take over the plane, not flying obviously, but you have to give the pilot the orders to drop.

AH: I gave the pilot instructions where I [unclear]. Also the, er, bomb aimer right from the beginning he would assist the navigator by map reading where he could and giving points and also the direction of searchlights over, over various, er, targets and that, dodging the searchlights, which, er, stopped the flak getting too close to us.

CB: ‘Cause you would have to fly straight and level for the target point wouldn’t you? What, what did you feel when you saw the flak coming and, you know, the lights and —

AH: Well your, your mind was mainly on the target and bomb site. It was — I suppose the fear was there but, er, you didn’t actually feel it. You had a job to do and if you didn’t do it probably that, er, that might have been the end.

CB: You obviously had confidence in your — Dusty the pilot. You were a good crew together?

AH: Ah, yes. We had a terrific — the seven of us were, were all great friends. When we went out we all went out together and we were very — all just like a group together all the time.

CB: A band of brothers if I can pinch an Americanism?

AH: Mm?

CB: Band of brothers?

AH: Yeah that could be the term to use, yes.

CB: Do you remember before you were — the flak got you, do you remember near misses or the — you know, any —

AH: Ah yes. We had — I remember once at — we went to a — it was about our seventh op I think — it was an oil place at Gelsenkirchen in Germany. We nearly got the chop there that night and with the fighters but fortunately we were lucky to get out of it.

CB: Did the gunners have to fire or was it manoeuvres or —

AH: I think it was mainly manoeuvres we got out with the rear gunner. He could tell where — or he would have instructed the pilot as he, as he tried to knock him out of the air.

CB: So we come up to the, the operation, your thirty-second, how come you did an extra two? Do you know ‘cause the usual —

AH: I don’t know. It’s just that we — well, I always thought with the tour was thirty but they must have made it longer or — I’m not sure, but I knew that was gonna be our last, that to have the gunnery leader on board.

CB: Mm. So as you neared your thirtieth operation you didn’t think, ‘Oh this is it, this is our last one,’ and then you’re given two more?

AH: No they hadn’t told us.

CB: Right.

AH: They didn’t tell us that it was on the thirtieth trip it was our last. They may have even extended the length, the number of flights for the tour. I’m not sure.

CB: So what happened on this, on this fateful thirty-second operation?

AH: Well we were just flying at 1800 feet. Everything was very quiet.

CB: And Karlsruhe, I believe, was your target?

AH: Karlsruhe. That’s it. Just out of the blue one of the engines got hit and the wing was on fire. I had no idea that there was flak around or anything. We couldn’t even see the — I didn’t even see the flak from the front. So we just had to, er, get ready and bail out. It was at mid— about midnight I think from memory. And eventually I — I didn’t meet any of the other crew. I was on the loose for about approximately three nights I think from memory.

CB: So your, your parachute deployed with no problems?

AH: Oh no. The parachute opened alright and, er, I eventually got down to the Rhine and there I was caught walking along the Rhine by one of the, er, German’s equivalent of the home guard in England. And from there on I was caught in jails and I had my twenty-first birthday in a German jail.

CB: In a Stalagluft?

AH: Er, no. It was a kind of a jail.

CB: Oh right.

AH: And then eventually we went to the interrogation camp up at Frankfurt. I think everyone went there. And then I got posted to Stalagluft VIIB which was over near Poland. I think it was in — I’m not sure if it was in Poland or on the Polish border. And from there — we were there until January and then we moved on the long march to, er, south of Berlin to a place called Lucken— Luckenwalde.

CB: How long were you in the Stalag?

AH: We were there from — well I was shot down on the 27th September I think it was and then we moved out of Bankau in, er, January and we got liberated by the Russians in April then. I think it was April.

CB: What was life like in the Stalag? Were you with any of your crew mates?

AH: There were a couple, a couple in there but where I was just in with some Canadians and some English and even some of the boys from — pilots or the glider pilots from Arnhem were there.

CB: What was life like?

AH: Oh, it wasn’t rosy but, er, it was nothing like “Hogan’s Heroes”. [slight laugh]

CB: Did you know of any attempts to escape by — you know, tunnels, or was there talk of escape or —

AH: There was talk of tunnels and — but, er, where we were there was no point of escaping because the Russians were coming one way and —

CB: How did you know they were coming? Was it —

AH: There was a wireless on in the camp.

CB: So you knew that they were on their way and —

AH: Yeah, we were told that and eventually you could, you could hear them. Or you could see them in the distance, many miles, there were flashes and that but I [unclear] good night.

CB: So on this January day the Germans come and say, ‘Get your things, you’re going lads.’

AH: ‘Pack up. You’re on your way.’ And we just left.

CB: Were you expecting this march? Or what were you expecting?

AH: Yeah we were expecting it but we didn’t know when. We were told one day and we were told another day and then bang! It happened. Well it’s a lot — several of the boys got a — tried to escape on the way. There was no point escaping through the snow and the ice. You had nowhere to go. A lot of them were killed and a lot of them died.

CB: What did you do for food? Did you find any of the population giving food or anything?

AH: No, no, they had no — very little food. I’ve got a, I’ve got a map which shows the amount of food that we, that we had. Occasionally we’d have, have a — some bread and some, er, kind of a porridge mix. Very little really.

CB: And how long was it that you were walking, do you think?

AH: It was about three weeks roughly.

CB: Where did you sleep?

AH: Well we slept in barns and in with the cows and the pigs and they — anyway it was quite warm actually in there with the cattle but, er, we were mainly in the barns, as they call them, cow sheds or — I don’t know what they called them in Germany.

CB: The guards were obviously have to walk with you. What was their attitude to this and —

AH: The older guards were quite good. The younger ones were the, er, were the ones you had to watch. I think the younger ones were ruthless while the older ones were the — out of the German army. I don’t think they were touched with the Nazis as much as the younger ones.

CB: Did you know where you were walking?

AH: We didn’t have the faintest idea. We crossed the, er, Oder at a place called Breslau, or near Breslau. I think it’s called something else now. It might be called Wrocław I think now. I might be wrong there. And then we eventually finished up in this place called Luckenwalde. I don’t know if I pronounced that right but —

CB: I think Luckenwalde is about right, yes. So you walked all the way? There were no trains or —

AH: We walked. The last — I don’t know how long it would be but we were on a train in the, in the end. That was the — I don’t know how long that would have been, we were in it about a day, I suppose. We were, we were just in carriages, we were in carriages just like a cattle truck, all closed up each side.

CB: Food and water provided?

AH: Oh no, just, er, just space.

CB: So you got to Luckenwalde and then, um, it was another camp I presume?

AH: Oh, it was a big camp?

CB: And had the other marchers, marchers, or the men had they joined and everyone arrived at Luckenwalde. Was that it or did you join the other people?

AH: There was, I think there was every nationality in the world at this Luckenwalde. It was a huge camp. A lot of Russians were there. There were French. There were Americans and a lot of Australians and a lot of the other Air Force people too, English people.

CB: And how long were you there?

AH: We got there — oh heavens — it would have been about February, about the beginning of February, and we were there for — ‘till April when the Russians liberated the camp and just after that the Americans came to take us so they must have broken through there. But the Russians wouldn’t let us go and eventually the Americans took us in, took us away in, er, June. That would be ‘45, June ’45. So we were there approximately a month under the Russians.

CB: How did you feel at this point? Were you frustrated with the —

AH: It didn’t matter that much because we used to go out of the camp. I went through the records what the Germans had left there. I kept — I’ve got my records and a few of the other boys got theirs too.

CB: So from, from there the —

AH: We just woke up one morning and there was no, no Germans there. They’d all gone. [laugh]

CB: And the Americans just — what did the Americans do with you then? Was transport arranged?

AH: Well, the Russians wouldn’t let us go originally and then, er, when we were actually liberated by the Americans the second time we went to a place called Halle Leipzig by truck and then we caught planes to Belgium. We had a night in Belgium. They supplied us with some money. The only things we went to was the pubs and, er, the next day we flew back to England. Then we went to — under the auspices of the Australian Government, the RAF there, and we went to down to Brighton and I eventually got back to Aus— to Australia in December.

CB: A long time. A long time after being liberated.

AH: Well they looked after us quite well for a while there. Anything we wanted we could have virtually. [slight laugh]

CB: So you’re back home in Australia and what did you do after the war?

AH: Oh I went back and did — finished my accountancy and I, er, got registered by the Australian Government as a tax agent and I had my own practice in Adelaide and I finished up in — I retired in ‘83.

CB: What do you think of the war and the aftermath? Did it affect you?

AH: It was hard. I found it hard to settle down. Some could settle down quite easy and I found it hard to settle down and — but eventually I overcome that I think.

CB: What is your, what is your attitude to how Bomber Command was treated after the war?

AH: Oh, nobody knew much about Bomber Command, especially in Australia because we were Australians in England and it was mainly — and Australia was mainly Japan.

CB: Do you think people didn’t understand what you’d been through?

AH: I’m certain they didn’t. I don’t even think the Australian Government knew. I think they do now but at that time, er, I don’t think they realised what the, er, what it was like in England in those days.

CB: How did that make you feel?

AH: I just had to take it. I couldn’t do much about it in those days.

CB: And your Bomber Command medal. Would you have liked a medal?

AH: Well, looking back I think there should have been a Bomber Command medal but after, after seventy years we got a clasp. [slight laugh]

CB: Do you think that was, you know, better than nothing or was it just too late?

AH: Well, it was too late for a lot of them unfortunately because, er, I was one of the younger ones but a lot them would have been over thirty —



Clare Bennett, “Interview with Angas Hughes,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 24, 2024,

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