Interview with Stanley Ernest Jeffrey


Interview with Stanley Ernest Jeffrey


Stan Jeffrey was a flight mechanic at RAF Pocklington. He discusses the camaraderie between the ground and air crews. He would stick chewing gum to the undercarriage as a good luck charm. Shortly after the end of the war, the ground crew were taken on a flight over Germany to see the bomb damage. He worked for Imperial Typewriters before and after the war.



IBCC Digital Archive




Tina James


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00:40:43 audio recording





Temporal Coverage


HB: This is an interview between Harry Bartlett on behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre and Mr Stanley Ernest Jeffrey, a former Flight Mechanic in the Royal Air Force, 102 Ceylon Squadron from 1941 to — 1946. Interview is taking place on the 13th of June at xxxxx Oadby.
HB: That’s the introduction, Stan.
IJ: Yeah. That’s the introduction.
HJ: Yeah.
HB: One of the things we’re interested in Stan, is before the war, I mean obviously you were born somewhere, where — you know, what was your family life before the war?
SJ: Well, I lived in King Street in Oadby and Cross Street in Oadby and I worked at the Imperial Typewriter Company from the last day of the old year 1940 —
IJ: No. 1930 something. Would it’ve been 1934?
SJ: 1934. I left school 1934 of course. Sorry.
HB: Which school was that Stan?
SJ: Oadby School, there was only two schools in Oadby then, the Senior and the Junior. So in the Junior School, in the — when I started school at Junior School in Oadby and then moved to the Senior School in nineteen, [laughs] I get mixed up with the dates — [laughter].
HB: Thirties.
IJ: Thirty-four.
HB: That would be about in the thirties, yeah. What did you do at school? What were your main interests at school?
SJ: Well we did — more or less all schools — the usual school, you know, nothing in particular, that was, what can I say, well we just started school at four, started school in the Junior School at four, from the Junior School we went to the Senior School, that’s on the Leicester Road, Oadby.
IJ: Did you have any interests at school?
SJ: Well not really. We just —
HB: What, what did you enjoy most at school Stan?
SJ: I think I had the schooling really, the teachers were very good to us you know ‘cause we weren’t well off you know, all the kids at school the majority of the time. Yes it was quite nice at school, I enjoyed my schooling really.
HB: So what, what family did you come from Stan?
SJ: There was my mum, dad, I had a brother Aubrey, he died recently.
HB: Oh.
IJ: Ten years ago.
SJ: Ten years ago he died.
IJ: And Aub wanted to go in the Air Force but he had to go down the mines.
SJ: Yes, my brother was very disappointed because he had to go down the mines instead of being in, what he called ‘being in the war’.
HB: What did mum and dad do, what did dad do?
SJ: Dad was — worked in shoes, pressman in shoes.
HB: Was that local or in Leicester?
SJ: Er, it — he was local for a start and he was also at Leicester and mum, she was in the hosiery, and the boots and shoes. [laughter] They both had different jobs, they got work where they could you see.
HB: Yes. So as we get to your leaving school, how did you come to work for Imperial Typewriters?
SJ: Oh, there was a fella, he was the printer at, at the cartwrighter’s, he were a printer and he got me the job.
HB: Oh right.
SJ: He got me the job. He knew me. Me mum went to see him and he got me the job. So I did start school at the last of the old year, 1934 at the Imperial. I worked there until I got called up in — yes, I worked there ‘till I got called up in nine — when were it? I’m getting mixed up with —
IJ: Nineteen forty-one, was it?
SJ: Yeah, in nineteen thirty-four until I got called up in nineteen — oh God.
HB: I think it says on your Service Record early, something like, February 1941, something like that. About February 1941.
SJ: Ah. Yes I think it was about 1941.
HB: Where was, where was Imperial Typewriters at that time?
SJ: At the East Park Road.
IJ: In Leicester.
SJ: In Leicester, East Park Road in Leicester, yeah.
HB: And did er, and did you just go into it or did you go into some sort of apprenticeship?
SJ: I went in as a runabout, I, I were fourteen you see. You started as a runabout and you worked your way through various jobs til I become a foreman.
IJ: Well you did later on,
SJ: Manager yeah,
IJ: Not long before you went into the Air Force.
SJ: That’s right I worked up myself to be a manager at the Imperial —
IJ: But that were after you come out the Forces Stan.
HB: I was just, yeah, I was gonna say, so Imperial Typewriters was an important
SJ: Yes
HB: part of your life before the war.
SJ: Yes
HB: Um, what interests, what interests did you have outside of school before the war Stan?
SJ: Well I didn’t have very little interests.
IJ: Did you go night school Stan?
SJ: I went night school, night school but apart from that there well, there was nothing much in the village then. We had the picture house built, I remember that being built you see and that livened us up a bit, [laughter] somewhere to go at night time. Ahh, but that even closed down, that didn’t last, it lasted a while.
IJ: It were going when the war were on weren’t it?
SJ: Oh yes, yeah.
IJ: So it was after the war when it closed.
SJ: Yes it closed in about, ooh, well after I’d met you and that.
IJ: Oh yeah, yeah, because I mean it was till open when Jan were little, cos we used to take her pictures. So I mean, I think it might have been the sixties when it closed.
SJ: Yeah, as I say it was there for a short while really because as I said, it closed down and it were a shame really because we had do nothing else in the village, there were nothing until the pictures were built in Oadby.
HB: You were doing a bit, you were doing a bit with the Scouts weren’t you?
SJ: You what?
HB: You were in the Scouts weren’t you?
SJ: Yes, yes for a short time. That’s where I met that fella again, who got err, who crashed.
IJ: Hmm —
HB: Yeah, yeah in the, in the, in the accident.
SJ: Yes I met him again. That were funny that was meeting him because you see well when err, when you were detailed to a certain aeroplane and that, perhaps sometimes it had to go in the hangar for a major inspection and perhaps you used to have to follow it in and work on it in there and that’s where I met this fella who, you know, who got shot down yeah.
HB: Yeah, yeah the crash at the um, where the memorial is now yeah. The,so that, that you know, you’ve obviously been called up, when you’ve done, when you’ve done all your training, and you were you know, what was the process, what was, how did they sort of send you out? Did they just —?
SJ: No, well you see, you went to what were called to the school do you see? You went there from errr, I know I come away from there September 1941,
HB: Aha
SJ: yeah September. You had about seventeen, seventeen or eighteen weeks training and then you moved out to a squadron and that’s when I was posted to 102 Squadron in September 1941, I do remember that yeah. And I was with them all through the war years.
HB: So when, when you were posted out, how, how did you feel, how did you feel about going to, you know being posted to 102 Squadron?
SJ: Well it was great really because you felt as though you were doing something towards the war you see? You looked after the engines from you know, and you were, it were nice when we was made, in the latter, that latter part of the war, they made the Ground Crews the same as the Air Crew. The Ground Crew was to a certain aircraft, I was on EEs then, in the latter part of the war.
HB: And from that you formed friendships —
SJ: That’s right
HB: Through that?
SJ: That’s right yes, you went, you were posted to any aircraft to look at in A Flight, I was in A Flight. There was A, B and C Flights with about eight aircraft in each, in each Flight and I was posted to A Flight and I was with A Flight all the while.
HB: Yes. When, when you were working on the aircraft you obviously, you know, you’ve, you’ve done the work, you’ve got to get them ready for the operation. What was that process, getting them ready for the operation?
SJ: Well for a start the aircraft was always out on the dispersal point and you, you were detailed to this one aircraft, EEs towards the latter part of the war, so you went, you went out 8 o’clock in the morning you’re out there doing your inspection. It really [unclear] and sometimes it was about perhaps a 16 hour inspection, a 32 hour inspection [unclear] so the bigger the inspection were the aircraft.
HB: Yes.
SJ: You see, so you had a detailed inspection to do every day and err that, well then sometimes the Air Crew used to come out and they used to have a look over the aircraft and you know, have a chat with us and such like. That were quite nice, quite interesting really that were.
HB: And that, and this is where the bond, the friendship grew?
SJ: That’s right yeah yes, yes we formed quite a lot of friendships with the air air, you didn’t call them sergeants and such like, they were mates of yours really yeah, on our Squadron anyway. I mean you used to come out, perhaps have a fag with them, and a chat, and when they went on operations you always used to have to sign the form 700 which was my work form to, to say I’d done the engines you see and you’d go in when all the Air Crew were ready for Ops, they’d run the engines up, the pilot would, they’d sign to say they were satisfied with the engines and then I’d come out and shut the door and then you’d see, see ‘em off on the Ops. You used to have to sit there at night waiting for ‘em coming back which was quite, it were nice, all the EEs and them in the circuit you know they’re OK, we’d know we’d got ours back you see. And as each one come in we saw each aircraft in.
HB: So did you actually manage the aircraft as they left and as they came back, when they came down onto the ground?
SJ: Yes, seen, seen, seen ‘em off and seen ‘em back, oh yeah. And sometimes, well, well I used to stick a bit of chewing gum on the undercarriage for ‘em, it got a habit, yes I used to [unclear] , that were the good luck charm for ‘em.
IJ: Oh crikey.
HB: On the EEs?
SJ: Yeah on the EEs, yeah and I used to get a bit of chocolate for that [laughter] , from the aircrew and that yeah.
HB: And did, obviously you were there for a long time you know, from 41 through to 46 um.
SJ: That’s all right, it’s only —
HB: It’s all right I can pause —
HB: That’s just a short break in the interview ahh while a friendly neighbour delivers one or two bits and bobs to Stan. Um, we’ll just go back Stan to obviously the length of time you were at Pocklington and er what not. You you had the same aircraft?
SJ: Yeah.
HB: Umm, what was —
SJ: We didn’t from the start we didn’t from the start. You see, what at one time the the Flight Sergeant used to ‘right so and so Stan, Jack you’re on E today, you’re on A ’ he said. And then suddenly it got to it that the same aircraft, the same aircraft and the same ground crew which was, it were more interesting, better for you, you felt as though you were part and parcel of the —
HB: It, it strikes me, from the way you’ve spoken previously that it must have been, quite, umm I won’t say emotional, I would say difficult, to —. You’re looking after the aircraft, you’ve formed these friendships with some of the Air Crew and you’re watching them disappear,
SJ: Hmm.
HB: and obviously there was a possibility that they weren’t going to come back?
SJ: Yeah, yeah. Well we never thought about that, we always thought about them coming back. I never lost an E, in all my, no I never lost an E, not err, not in the latter part. For a start I’d say when you were on any aircraft you see, I did, one aircraft, E, I did lose one aircraft that, he come down shot up with a hundred, hundred holes in.
HB: Phew.
SJ: Yes, he managed to land it. I forget his name now, but he rose in the ranks to Squadron Leader, I forget his name you see. And er, and er of course you saw a lot of that really, you know, crashes and. You used to be fetched out to crashes you know. I mean one crash I did [unclear] , there were seventeen on it, they took the ground crew up and they crashed you see. So we had to sort that out and I didn’t know at the time, it were night time, I didn’t know at the time but the pilot was still in there. When they come in the morning they had to report the pilot still sitting there you see. Yeah, they’d missed him yeah. But anyway, yes we and we also, it was one time perhaps we were stationed in the farmhouse and the farmers and that and the family looked after us through the, oh yeah, perhaps had breakfast with him or something. Oh yes, they were big on breakfasts and that with the, on crash duty yeah.
HB: Hmm. Difficult.
SJ: It were nice, I enjoyed the time there. You see I’d been there all the while with the same fellas and it were quite nice ‘cos you, you formed a bond with them you see and also the Air Crew, and as soon as they’d finished operations of thirty ops they’d take the Ground, they’d take us out for a meal.
HB: Mmm.
SJ: Yeah, I’ve been on one or two [laughter]. As I said I never lost an aircraft in my time. So, yes, before, yes they’d take us out, take us down in the car to Pocklington to the pub and have a meal, come back and sitting on top of the car roof coming back, [laughter] had a good time, all singing and shouting the ground crew and that, we were all one yeah. I think I had about four, four meals. Yeah yeah, I didn’t lose a ground crew, it were quite nice up there for me
HB: Hmm.
SJ: thinking back. It was, it were Hank and Tom and all this lot. One were a tailor, one were a tailor in, err somewhere you know. One were You got to know what they did you know.
HB: 102 Squadron had a range of nationalities in the air crews. Um, was that reflected in the Ground Crew as well, or just —
SJ: No there were some, we did have a group that’d come one time come, perhaps about half a dozen engine and aircraftmen, yeah. We did have that at one time, but normally we had, it were just the lads, you know, the lads who‘d been there on the same aircraft and that and you see you formed this er loyalty and that to the aircrew you see.
HB: So you had, you had four dinners, that’s four crews,
SJ: Yes we had four —
HB: How long, how long would it have, would the aircraft —?
SJ: We had thirty ops
HB: taken the aircraft have taken to do thirty ops?
SJ: They’d done the thirty ops, they’d done the thirty ops and they took us to the local pub yeah. They didn’t err, as I say I never lost a ground crew in the latter part, which was quite chuff really. We all got er, we formed that bond [unclear] for thirty ops and that and seeing them off and back, yeah.
HB: So as you’re coming to the end of your time at Pocklington and then you moved to um err, where did you go after Pocklington?
SJ: Bassingbourn.
HB: Bassingbourn. So you’re coming up to the end of the war, what did you, how did you feel about, at what point did you think this, this ain’t going to last much longer?
HB: Well when the war were over, we were only too pleased it were over and it weren’t the same, it weren’t the same in the Air Force after the, after the war had finished. Well we’ve done it, let’s get out, you know. That’s kind of how it was yeah. Because it, as I say, you formed a bondship with the Air Crew, each Air Crew you see after their first two or three ops you know and that, yeah.
HB: Hmmm. Cos, I mean, in what, about the early part of 1945 you know they were moving towards D Day and all that sort of thing you know. Did you know much about that on the airfield?
SJ: No, no we just carried on you know, every day you did, did the same thing,
HB: Yeah.
SJ: look at the aircraft, see it’s OK but it wasn’t the same as before. You’d think it’s finished, it’s over and done with.
HB: And when when did you and your Ground Crew sort of think to yourselves, or find out. that you were coming towards the end of it?
SJ: Well I think in the latter part, you see and they took, they took us about the second, the second week after the war finished, they took, they took us for a trip over Germany to look at all the bomb damage so we had, we had a quite a good trip out to show us all the bomb damage, yeah. What we’d done. That’s when you started knowing it were over, you know, you’d done your bit, let’s get out.
HB: Hmm, yeah.
SJ: You understand what I mean.
HB: So they, so you were actually in an aircraft, was that your own aircraft?
SJ: Yeah, that’s right it were your aircraft. EEs were our aircraft, we looked after that.
HB: And they, the pilot flew you out over Germany. What was you, what was you f —That must have been a bit of a strange feeling Stan?
SJ: It were nice though.
HB: You see —
SJ: It were nice the way, ‘cos they flew low. Matter of fact I looked up at wotsit Cathedral, cos it were that low going on and all the people were waving to you, you could see all that.
HB: How did, how did you feel when you actually saw what they’d done, the effect of the bombing?
SJ: Yeah, I thought, well I mean when I went out I were in the rear turret, so I had a good view I did. Cos it, it weren’t you know, they were all in their positions, some were sitting in the wotsit, but they gave me the rear turret seat so I was first off and last on ha ha.
HB: [laughter] Was that because of the chewing gum on the aeroplane?
SJ: [laughter] Yeah, I had a good view you see of what happened. All the bomb damage you see.
HB: Hmmm. When, when when you came to actually coming out of the RAF um how did you feel about the sort of attitudes towards Bomber Command, that sort of thing?
SJ: Well, it was, to me, to me I never bothered with me medals because I was that disappointed with how we were treated, you know, Bomber Command, I never bothered. I didn’t get a medal and that. I were in five and a half years and I never got a medal.
HB: And yeah, did you? You say you were disappointed, um what?
SJ: With the attitude of the higher ups, how Churchill treated us, you know. He done nothing, he done nothing really. They did too much damage. What, what killed Churchill was when the last bombing raid on Essen, is it Essen? Where, where they killed, they killed a lot of people and they said it weren’t defended, but it was, it was. Because, err how was it, [pause] they said it, they hadn’t ought to bomb that because it wasn’t a proper bombing raid or something like that.
HB: Hmm right.
SJ: Yeah. They shouldn’t have bombed it, like that. But it was, ‘cos there was, there was a, err they were still using, they were still bombing err us as well as them you see. I won’t say it were tit for tat but we we thought we did a good job you know, to end the war, really.
HB: And that and that feeling towards, you know, as you said, Churchill and the higher ups, um did that affect, did that affect how you looked at the country after, when you came out of the RAF, did that did that affect how you looked at things?
SJ: I don’t think I gave that a thought you know, I’d been, I’d done my bit and I was satisfied what we’d done and that was that.HB: Hmm.
SJ: Yeah.
HB: Hmm. At what point in this, in this time at what point did you meet Iris?
SJ: Did?
HB: Did you meet Iris?
IJ: Yes.
SJ: That was nineteen forty —
IJ: I was sixteen weren’t I,
SJ: Yeah [laughter]
IJ: When you met me and?
SJ: Yes. I met Iris about, oh after I’d been in the Air Force
IJ: Yes.
SJ: for a couple of years or more.
IJ: Yeah that’s right.
SJ: Came home on leave once and I was introduced to Iris at the De Montfort, the De Montfort Hall.
HB: Aaahh.
IJ: Yeah, so that’s when we got together, we had a dance and that were it weren’t it?
SJ: Yeah, yeah. We got married two years after. But it weren’t —
IJ: 1944 we were married.
SJ: 1944 we got married, 1944 yeah.
HB: So you’ve met Iris, you’ve got married, you’ve come to the end of it, you’re coming out of the RAF. Um I think you said earlier that you went back to back to —
SJ: Imperial.
HB: Imperial Typewriters?
SJ: Yes because your jobs, your jobs was er spoken for, you were reserved yes. If you went back, you went back to the same job and everything yes and that’s when we err
IJ: What?
SJ: I had about six weeks leave. I didn’t want to go back to work for six weeks, I thought, well you know, and then I went back, went back after six weeks leave and err I think was it, weren’t it Iris?
HB: Did you, did you just pick up where you left off or did you —? Was your engineering stuff in the RAF useful?
SJ: Yes it seemed a bit tame after, seemed a bit tame after being with the lads.
HB: Hmm.
SJ: I missed the lads when they come out of the forces, yeah. Well you’re bound to after all them years, ain’t you with them?
IJ: Well It’s like the college lads and girls, I’ll bet when they come out they miss all their mates unless they keep in touch with them.
HB: So your, when you actually got back to Imperial Typewriters, um you’ve got your job that’s been reserved for you, you know you sort of start work, the lads that you’ve been with, particularly the ground crew, um how did you, how did you feel about keeping in contact with them?
SJ: Well we kept in touch with one, Eric.
IJ: Yes Eric.
SJ: I kept in touch with him ‘cos he lived near, where were it? Where did he live?
HB: Kettering?
IJ: No.
SJ: About er twenty five mile away.
IJ: I forget where.
HB: I kept in touch with him for quite some time.
IJ: We used to go and see them, haven’t we?
SJ: Yes we used to go and see them, yeah.
HB: Was he the one from Northampton?
SJ: That’s it Northampton.
HB:Right yes I think we mentioned him last time.
SJ: Yes from Northampton, kept in touch with him but he died didn’t he, he died.
IJ: He died yeah.
SJ: I went to see his wife afterwards didn’t I but that’s — when he died —
Iris: She kept in touch for a bit, she sent us Christmas cards and that didn’t she? Then the daughter rang to say that she’d died.
SJ: Yeah.
HB: Did you ever, did you ever get any messages you know about reunions or getting back together or anything like that?
SJ: No, no there was nothing, I’ve never heard of a 102 Squadron reunion at all. Since I’ve been in touch with them they’ve been talking about them now but you see I can’t get up to them at the present time. I’d love to get to one, you know. I mean I’ve been invited ain’t I to —?
IJ: Yeah, oh yes you’ve —
SJ: I’ve been invited, they’ve been in touch, they say I can go to the home at Pocklington.
HB: Hmm yeah.
IJ: We’ll perhaps be able to do that if it —
SJ: I hope to be able to do that one of these days, I might see if I can get back there.
IJ: Well if we can get that wet room done, I mean hopefully if we can get in, we can go there while they’re doing it, you know for at least a week.
SJ: That’s what we’re thinking because they’re going to do the wet room for us you see. They say there’s going to be a bit of a noise for a week and I’m hoping to try, if possible to go for a week whenever they start. It could be six months or more.
Iris: That’s if we can get in.
SJ: Yeah.
HB: That would be really nice.
SJ: They tell me I can because I was on that Squadron for a long while.
HB: Well, yeah I mean, 1941 to ’46 it’s —.
IJ: You were there.
SJ: Yeah.
HB: That’s why, I mean I’m, I come from an era where you know we didn’t have that situation, so it’s hard to think that guys who were together as a team, as a group working every day, you know in war time conditions, um it comes to an end and there doesn’t seem to be much happening afterwards.
SJ: No there was nothing, you think, it were funny really. It took a little while to get used to being back in Civvy Street, as they say, it took a while yeah really. I mean yeah [laughter] you felt like, at one time that I’d like to get back to the lads you know, no disrespect, no disrespect to the wife of course but you miss the lads.
HB: How long, how long before that sort of faded away?
SJ: [pause] Oh I think it took a year or two before it finally, you know because well, you were back in Civvy Street then, which is entirely different to being in the Forces really.
HB: What did you think were the biggest differences at the end of the war when you when you came back to work?
SJ: Well there were the lads and you were, you were all together you know even when you were bombed and that you know.
HB: You got bombed did you?
EJ: Oh yeah, yeah we all went running down the shelter, it were that full of water and we got wet through.
IJ: Where were that Stan?
SJ: Pocklington.
IJ: Was it in Pocklington?
HB: Three foot, three foot deep in water?
SJ: Yeah, yeah [unclear] were full of water yeah. We got err once or twice, as a matter of fact when we got married, that were 1942 when we got married, 1944 sorry, when we got married, and err one aircraft bombed and it took err it damaged another aircraft right at Barnby Moor yeah right at — oh yes, it it bombed this aircraft, I were on leave at the time, come back yeah.
HB: So, so you were [cough] excuse me, actually on the airfield when you got, when it was bombed?
SJ: Yeah, yeah.
HB: Err obviously by the enemy, [laughter] um, so yeah that, hmm yeah so that’s, is that when they were out on operations or had they followed them back or was it just an opportunity?
SJ: Ah well, sometimes they followed ‘em back you know.
HB: Hmm.
SJ: Sometimes they followed them back and one time there were quite a bit of damage done because all the lights were lit up and the aircraft were bombing the airfield.
HB: How many times do you reckon that happened to you?
SJ: Not many times.
HB: Right.
SJ: No not many times it were only about once or twice that were but we had plenty of air raid warnings you know as they were after all airfields you see.
HB: Hmm. Well bearing in mind the time and you need to get something to eat Stan, I think we’ll call it a day and I’ll, I’ll pass this over to the guys at Lincoln but thanks ever so much you know for what you’ve said before and all the photos, it’s absolutely brilliant really because as I say —
SJ: Even so I don’t feel as though I’ve done much.
IJ: Stan can’t quite remember, it’s changed a little bit this last month or two, he can’t he can’t remember quite so much now.
HB: Stan what you can remember is is remarkable and as I say it’s an aspect, that you know the Ground Crews and the way the air stations worked,
SJ: Oh yeah,
HB: And all that. These are things that —
SJ: We did appreciate the grounds crews and they appreciated us.
HB: Yeah.
SJ: They appreciated —
HB: I’m going to turn the tape off now, or the recording, it’s not a tape any more.


Harry Bartlett, “Interview with Stanley Ernest Jeffrey,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 20, 2019,

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