Interview with Brian Hutson


Interview with Brian Hutson


Brian Hutson was a child during the war. He remembers his father, who worked on building airfields and delivering air raid shelters. He also recalls his childhood, sleeping in a shelter and listening to aircraft, air raids, blackouts, playing with friends, helping in the village and watching men train for combat. He was on the farm when it was attacked by an enemy aircraft, and remembers times working with prisoners of war, who his mother treated fairly. Brian also recalls anti-personnel bombs dropped on Grimsby and their devastation.




Temporal Coverage





00:18:48 audio recording


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HD: Right, I’m Hugh Donnelly for the International Bomber Command Centre, interviewing Mr Brian Hutson at his home in [redacted] Waltham. The date is the 30th of October 2017 and present at the interview is a Mr Barry Wallace who is also with the International Bomber Command Centre.
BH: Hi folks, you must bear in mind that I was only a boy at the time. I was born in 1935 and war started in ‘39 so I was only about four and a half years old when it started. But I can remember being out, staying outside the house and waiting for eleven o’clock for the Prime Minister to announce that the war had started. What my parents must have thought then: we had three children and they must have looked at us in wonderment, see what was going to happen. We as children, of course, soon as the war started we were, there was Germans and English, and we had made our own guns and bayonets and so on, to play Germans and English with our, the rest of our pals. I used to go with my father, when he was working on the airfield, helping to carry bricks and rubble to make the runways, et cetera and it was interesting to see the airfield develop and I can remember taking out air raid shelters around the village and so on, with the horse and carts and delivering these air raid shelters to the houses, which, looking back, it must have been quite a big effort on their part. When the airfield became operational, we as children would lie in bed [clearing throat] and would count the aeroplanes going out and then would count them coming back again. At that time we had two families living in a two bedroomed cottage, so space was not very available. So we had to sleep in the air raid shelter, four of us children, two at the top and two at the bottom, you know, and then we thought we were safe in there, but how safe we were we don’t know, and then the rest of the people were spread around the two bedroomed cottage. Night time you could hear the planes going out as I said, and you had to have, all the lights had to be out, curtains drawn, not a speck of light and the warden used to come round shouting, ‘Lights Out!’ at a certain time and then he would go right round the village, searching round the village and seeing, seeing if he could see any light. That was a worrying time. As far as I can recall, when the planes was coming back in, as far as I remember there was a red light on a hill, on a house on top of the hill, and that was the only marker there was for the planes that was situated at the end of the runway, and that was the only marker the planes had as far as I can remember. I, when I left school at the evening, I would call at my auntie’s house and she would save me the crust from the end of the loaf and she’d spread home made jam on it - that was delicious. And then I would go to the blacksmith shop and get warm, by the fire, by his fire and at the back of the shop there was a pan with a Lancaster bomber on it and we were able to stand at the back of the plane and watch the airmen getting it ready for the night-time raid. In those days we only had short trousers so when the plane tested the engines the grit from the pan would cut into your legs. Eventually there was, they had balloons, erected out on the shore, I believe they were on, out like Humberston, about that places, and one day one came over, must have been a storm in the night or something, and it came down not far from us, and we as children, being children, managed to cut some of it up and we made kites, and to fly in the sky, but that was a no-no, and my father panicked, and he always used to get up about five o’clock in the morning and he lit the fire and put this barrage balloon on the fire, this barrage balloon material, on the fire, which was like putting petrol on the fire really and it just set fire to the chimney stack, and the soot and everything, and the smoke and this was at lights out as well, five o’clock in the morning, and the soot was coming out the chimney and the flames was coming next and massive, massive big panic going on, you know. [Throat clear] Anyway, that’s how that, and he tried to get rid of the evidence, but he didn’t do it in a very nice way really, or the sensible way. And then of course along came the Home Guard. Well, if you watch “Dad’s Army” today that’s just how it was, just how it was, perfect, they couldn’t have done it better. And my father, [throat clear] when they were on exercises in the, at Grainsby Park, about five mile away, he used to cycle there, the others used to go on the lorry but my father used to cycle there, and then at four o’clock the war had to end, because me father had to cycle back to milk the cows. [Laugh] Oh we had to laugh. He did, and that was the end of the war until he returned back again about six o’clock at night, and then we used to watch the Home Guard practicing drilling, shooting, throwing hand grenades, on a Sunday morning, and that was interesting. And then also, there was an old ambulance there, in the implement shed, the old, what did they call it, Blue Cross or something, anyway this ambulance, we used to play in there, we made it our den. Also remember there was, all the driver had a little tiny slit to look through, about nine inches by two inches, that’s all he had to look through to, driving. We used to wonder how on earth he saw where he was going really. And then eventually along came the KOYLIs, the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. They were based on, opposite the Public House now, which is now Holton Mount. I remember the big shelters there, the big billets there, the wooden ones, they had a big stove in the middle, big round stove in the middle, and they were in there and we used to watch them practicing bayonet practice and there was sacks on stakes, stuffed with straw, and they was charging, all “grrr”, and charge, and stick the bayonets in the sack, you know, and practice. It was frightening really, for children, but we never used to watch it. And then just by us there was a searchlight, on the brow of a hill, just behind where the red light were, where the planes used to come over, and just below there was a big searchlight and it used to swing round, had a swivel chair and they could swing round looking for, looking for planes in the sky - the enemy in the sky - and that was manned by soldiers. And then I used to go to visit soldiers, bearing in mind I’d only be about five or six, seven, and they used to get me on this swivel chair and whizz me round and round and round, until I, when I got off I was dizzy, you know. Of course they were only young children, only young kids then, eighteen, nineteen, and they used to be laughing their heads off, cause I went dizzy, my legs had gone, you know, and then they used to give me, the NAAFI wagon used to come round and they used to give me a cup of tea and a biscuit, I think that’s why I went really, and that was that, you know. But then one night, one night my father worked on the farm and they were harvesting, we were playing in the farmyard, you know, and the soldier, it was a lovely summer’s night, and the soldier came running across the field, I can see him now, coming, and he was: ‘Get down, get down, get down!’, and there was an enemy airplane had come under the radar, about two hundred yards, about two hundred foot up in the air, and you could see these tracer bullets going, firing the plane, and we had to hide in the barn, you know, as children, get in undercover until it we got the all clear, and yeah, that was a frightener, that was a lovely summer’s evening and he came under the radar. I think they shot him down in the end like, but. That was something I shall always remember, seeing this soldier, he must have been brave, to walk across, you know, run across, he had about two hundred yards to run across this open field, he did, and the enemy plane and then also I can remember there was two barriers, one was placed just around what they called Clay Lane corner out at Holton le Clay, one was there and the other one was the other side the village prior to the runway coming in and they would, obviously they would stop traffic when planes was coming down. I remember that and I remember a big convoy of bren gun carriers coming through, one day, must have been about fifty, sixty bren gun carriers coming through, and it, yeah, they were coming through. Now they was all interesting. And bombing raids, we used to listen to the bombing raids in Hull and Grimsby, and then one night, one night there was this big raid on and they tried to bomb the Grimsby to Louth railway line, and they missed by about fifty yards, the plane must, must have been coming straight down, it missed by about fifty yards or so. Bombs were dropped, there was one at New Waltham, one at North Thoresby and I remember that night my mother was hanging her coat up on a hanger, on the door, and boom! It blew her right across the air raid shelter, you know. Luckily she didn’t get too hurt like, but the blast was, it was that close. That was close. It was, and then we actually moved then from where, from that cottage, to about five miles down the road near to the old to the station at Holton le Clay, on the old Chetney rail station and so we moved away from that really, but then, coming on to that, towards the end of the war we used to, the prisoners used to come. We used to have three prisoners come, to work on the farm, and they would, it was hard work and they would come with maybe two cheese sandwiches or something and my mother used to have tea and sugar and milk to make them a cup of tea at break times, and bearing in mind they were only young nineteen year olds, and we got, we got plenty of food then, unofficially I suppose, off you know the farm, potatoes and turnips and eggs and things like this and my mother used to bring them, ask them in, we used to sit round the table she used to say ‘they’re all somebody’s children’, you know what I mean. They were only eighteen nineteen and yeah, and they used to work really, really hard, but course they knew they got well tret so, they used to come on the bus and drop so many off at each farm and when we used to have same three drop off, they knew they was on a good thing, you know. [Laugh] We used to look after them. And then of course there was the end of the war and I remember that, my uncle, he was a prisoner of war, he got captured in Crete, when Crete fell, so he was a prisoner of war with the Germans for about five years and he came home and you know, it was the best thing he thought he’d done, getting caught like. He was out of it, but anyway the Germans apparently looked after him really well, so it works both ways, don’t it. The airfield closed down, we managed to get to that, to a hangar. Oh yeah, the existing hangar what’s there now, when we became teenagers then, a few years later, it all closed down but that one hangar, what’s standing now, we used to just, we could get the door open about two foot and sneak in, there used to be about thirty of us in there on Sunday afternoon playing football, massive big undercover pitch, you know, now that was, that was good. But as I say that’s all I can remember really, ‘cause I was only a boy at the time. But, well, other things I can remember about existing on the airfield now is like the board outside telling you how many members, how many people flew from there and never came back and then there’s the site’s still there of the CO’s house, where the air raid shelter is still there, the Flying Control still there, and some of the runways are still there, the main runway’s still there, which is used now for training learner drivers. So that’s more or less all I can remember as a boy. But if there’s any questions, please ask them.
HD: That’s absolutely super, Brian, thank you very much indeed. Did you ever keep in touch with these prisoners after the war?
BH: No, no we didn’t, I know.
HD: You didn’t, nothing like that.
BH: No, we didn’t actually, but, they was close like, you know, they would say they became family, but you know they were prisoners at the end of the day. They were from Donna Nook, you know, to bring them from Donna Nook, North Somercotes there, but some weren’t so good. When some of the eyeties came, they weren’t so good. Because I mean when you think about it some of them was office workers, you know, and then come, brought on the farm, I mean in those days it was catching the corn sacks, weighed sixteen, eighteen stone, you know, I mean now you’re not allowed to lift more than four! And they were doing it all day. Well they couldn’t do it, I mean they used to get about three stone in the bottom of the sack and put it on and were running to try and keep up and they couldn’t do it because they had to carry the sack, on their shoulders, normally our farm workers, my father and so on, about, I don’t know, twenty, forty yards and then up about fourteen steps to the granary, you know. Can you imagine doing that all day long!
HD: Hard work.
BH: That’s how, how much work, how hard work it was, but they were good, yeah. We survived anyway, we survived to tell the tale.
BH: Lovely Brian, thanks. That gives us an insight into sort of village life and what happened, especially so close to an airfield. How did you get involved, did you get involved at all with the airmen?
HD: Well, they used to, they were only obviously on the airfield there was football pitches and things like this. We used to go and watch them playing football, they used to let us, sneak us in, you know. I remember going past the guardroom on this guy’s handlebars and he stopped at the guardroom and had a few words, and he was actually refereeing, this bloke was, this soldier was, airman, airman, he was refereeing that day. [laughs] We used to watch them. Of course then there were dances and that in the village, you know. We’d get a lot of the airmen and soldiers at the dancing, you know, things like that, but as I say we were only boys. [laughs]
BH: That’s great, thank you very much indeed. Right, we’ve just got another little addition that Brian’s going to add, about the air raids over Hull et cetera, and the butterfly bombs. Sorry, Grimsby, I do apologise. Grimsby that is.
HD: Right, yes well, what I can remember is waking up one morning and there was all this commotion going on and, because what they called butterfly bombs had been dropped at Grimsby, anti personnel bombs, and they were in the shape of pens and pencils and lighters and things like this, and people would obviously pick them up and they would blow their arm off and blow their leg off and there was you know quite a lot of damage done. In fact I had a friend who was going to school and one went off near him and for years and years and years the marks was on the wall where this bomb, this anti-personnel bomb had gone off, so it was very, very frightening and Grimsby was maybe the only place to have these anti-personnel bombs and if you look on Google now you can bring it up and it will tell you all about it.
BH: That’s great, once again, thank you very much.



Hugh Donnelly, “Interview with Brian Hutson,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 15, 2024,

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