Interview with Alfred Marshall


Interview with Alfred Marshall


Alfred Marshall volunteered for the Royal Air Force and was called up to serve with two others from his home town of Birtley, neither of whom survived the war. He flew operations as a navigator with 192 Squadron from RAF Foulsham including Special Operations. He discusses the use of navigational aids including Gee, H2S and Loran and describes flying through and being hit by anti aircraft fire. He also speaks of the strategic aims of the bombing of areas including Dresden and how this has been perceived. He finished his service in India and later worked in the off shore and nuclear energy industries.




Temporal Coverage




00:51:47 audio recording


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Hello. My name is Pam Locker and I’m in the home of Mr Alfred Higgins Marshall of [redacted] on Wednesday the 12th of October 2016. And Fred, can I just say first of all thank you very much indeed on behalf of everybody for agreeing to share your memories with us.
AM: You’re welcome.
PL: So, if we start by just maybe perhaps you’d like to just talk a little bit about your, your young life and how you got to be in Bomber Command.
AM: Well, initially I’ve no idea. I mean, I took the what they called the school leaving certificates in those days and the schools didn’t open and I went to see the headmaster and he said, ‘You will be coming back to school won’t you?’ I said, ‘No. I’ve got, it’s about time I contributed something to the family because in two years’ time I’ll be in the forces.’ So that was how it started. And as I say, you know war broke out. My Dad and I joined the LDV et cetera and we stayed in that. After that I went to, it was an air force training place, thing which was about navigation. And I think that was the first inkling that I had. But also in 1938 seven of us went on, went camping at Middleton in Teesdale. And four of us went into the RAF, two went into the navy and one became a doctor, he went to university. And that had a bearing on me as well. And out of those four I was the only survivor. And the two lads that went in the navy one was shipwrecked. Well, he was, his boat was sunk in the Mediterranean. He was a prisoner of war until he was liberated in 1942 when the, you know, in the North African campaign. And I had lots of other friends who went into the Bomber Command or went into the air force as it was then and unfortunately most of those died. I mean, I left and I went to, when I joined up that was in, my dad took me to Newcastle. Of course initially what I wanted to do I wanted to go into the Merchant Navy. My parents wouldn’t agree. So I stayed on and I went to Newcastle with my dad and he said, ‘Do you want to volunteer for the air force?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ So I went and volunteered for the air force, told my mother and she went berserk. And I mean really he was thinking of the war being the same as the First World War. Because he went right through from 1915 to 1918. And he, I mean the conditions that they had were horrendous. So he didn’t want me to have that so he took me to volunteer for the air, for the air force. And I was, that was on December the 13th [laughs] On January the 1st I was enlisted in to the air force. And then I was on, they sent me home for about a few months and then I was called up. And as I say I went away with from Birtley with two lads. Two other lads. Neither of them survived. I was the only one. And from there on it just took off and I drifted into Bomber Command. That’s how I got there. In Bomber Command we had, well actually I did part of the first tour on Wellingtons. And then we tried, we converted on to Halifaxes and picked up a mid-upper gunner and an engineer and then continued. Finished the first tour. Then continued, because we’d picked two boys up, five of us were entitled to nine months rest period which we didn’t do. We discussed it over a few pints of beer and we agreed that we would carry on for the sake of the other two lads. So we carried on with the second tour consecutively. And that’s it really. I mean I can give you the details of what we did et cetera. I mean on the first tour, as I say the first part of the first tour was on Wellingtons. And what we, 100 Group were on Special Duties and 192 Squadron were investigating enemy radar. And B Flight was Wellingtons — A flight was Wellingtons, B Flight was Halifaxes and C Flight was Mosquitoes. And we also had on our squadron an American reconnaissance unit. So it was all, it was all very hush hush. All our correspondence was vetted before it went off so what the family got at home I don’t know because you weren’t allowed to tell anybody anything about what we were doing. It was so secret. And the logbook shows SD Operations. Full stop. And as I said the first part of the tour on Wellingtons was immediately off the Dutch coast and maybe about five ten mile off the Dutch coast and the idea, the rear of the aircraft was packed with special equipment and we had a special operator interpreting whatever we found. If he found a signal we phoned it inland and I mean it was, it was seemed to be quite easy to us because that area was where the German night fighters were based and it’s strangely enough we went through it completely. Never saw a night fighter. But there were two of us flying from each end and the other crew always were attacked by night fighters. So, well the book that was issued at Lincoln, you know when we went down to the erection of this there was a chap called Donaldson there. Wing Commander Donaldson. Well, he was our wing commander so he flew on the opposite leg to us. And this was all night flying. And they were attacked by night fighters. We weren’t. So they put us on daylight and we flew daylight with a Spitfire cover. And then after that we converted on to Halifaxes and because of their longer range we were then involved in most of Germany. I mean actually we were supposed to be the last Bomber Command Wellington to operate. And I’ve got a photograph to prove that. But we weren’t because the crew, the last crew to operate on our flight the skipper was cashiered because he came back, couldn’t get his undercart down and pancaked on the runway which was forbidden. So he was cashiered and they were the last crew that flew on Wellingtons. So that’s it. It’s a long story that.
PL: Can we just clarify this because it’s a fascinating, it’s a fascinating story. The role of your crew. So you would navigate in —
AM: Yes.
PL: And the, all this kit, this electronic kit that was at the back of the plane.
AM: Yes.
PL: Were they finding out where radar was operating from?
AM: It was mainly radar but it was, it was mainly the V-1s that, which were starting at that time and we wanted to locate where they were being fired from. We were also, when we were flying in daylight there was a V-2 went up from The Hague and we, we witnessed that and it was, it was unbelievable. I don’t know whether we were the first crew to see a V-2 or not. But when we were on the, on the station there was a terrific bang and it was one of these V-2s which had exploded at a place called Dereham in Norfolk, and then we heard it coming because it was travelling faster than the speed of sound. So you heard the bang and then you heard the thing coming. It was weird. You couldn’t understand it at the time but that’s, that’s what it was.
PL: So then you would take that information back or —
AM: We took the information back.
PL: And that was your role.
AM: Every trip we went back. Every crew was interviewed or interrogated by the intelligence people.
PL: And so presumably you could be sent anywhere where they thought —
AM: Well, I mean we were mainly on the, on the Dutch coast. The northern, off the Frisian Islands. Down. Up to Denmark and places like that. But you were limited in the time you could fly in a Wellington, you know. I mean I’ve got to say a strange story but the nearest thing that we took that we had, we took a WAAF officer on leave to Cambridge. And we landed at this ‘drome at Cambridge and immediately the engines cut out because the bomb aimer was supposed to check that the nacelle tanks were full and we were switched on to the nacelle tanks for landing and he didn’t do it because the ground crew always did it. And we landed, just landed and both engines cut out because there was no petrol. [laughs] So that was the nearest escape we had.
PL: So that was just, so you were already landed and stopped.
AM: We, the wheels just touched down and both engines cut. Which could have been disastrous if it [pause] but we laughed about it.
PL: Was there a bit of an exchange in the aircraft with that?
AM: Yeah. So —
PL: A little bit of an exchange in the aircraft over that incident.
AM: Well, we had a good laugh about it. I mean of course you didn’t really criticise each other. I mean you were flying as a team. I mean there was never any animosity or anything like that.
PL: So, so what year was this that you started?
AM: Well, it was 1941 that I volunteered. That was, and that was, and this is January the 1st 1942. And then from there I went to ITW. Elementary Flying School. Then we were transferred to Canada to do our training. Came back and did the, we went on to, from there you went on Advanced Training Wing which was in Llandwrog in North Wales. And then we went from there to Wing which is an Operational Training Unit. And from there you would normally go and convert on to either Lancasters but we were transferred straight from the squadron, from the ITW straight to the squadron. So we missed that course out and we eventually had to go and convert later on that year on to the Halifaxes. Which we did at Marston Moor.
PL: So how old were you when you first joined Bomber Command?
AM: Twenty, well I was eighteen when I first joined up. And then when you went into Bomber Command it was maybe nineteen forty — end of ’42.
PL: And this, this particular squadron, were you, did you volunteer for that squadron?
AM: No.
PL: Or were you chosen in a particular way? Was it just random?
AM: You were selected mainly on the, on the operations that you did at the Operational Training Unit. And they selected the best crews there because it was all Special Duties and it had to be so accurate. Because on one of the operations if you had to, well, we dropped you heard about dropping silver paper. You know. And we used to carry out spoof raids because you might be, you might be going to a target down here and so the main force would go there but they’d send a spoof raid which was mainly 192 Squadron, well 100 Group and you used to throw silver paper out which when they picked it up they thought it was a pukka raid because these strips of silver paper were half the wavelength of the [pause] It was all clever stuff. And if you were a minute early or two minutes late on your datum point you had to write an explanation. I don’t know how that happens so it was really, you know you had to be we were chosen to go to that squadron because of our ability at OTU. I mean, my skipper I mean he used to volunteer to fly with the main force and go just as a passenger. He was an Australian and he did that just for experience.
PL: So did you stay with that squadron for the whole of the war?
AM: Yes. Until, until the war against Germany finished and then we were transferred to — actually what we, what we had to do then, I mean we could, I could have volunteered for Transport Command or something like that. But we’d done our tour. We were entitled to a rest period. And so we took the rest period and then eventually we ended up as, in Canada. No. I beg your pardon. I’m ahead of myself now. We were — they sent, they sort of give you a ground trade. So although I was a warrant officer navigator I was an AC 2 equipment accounts. And all I did was write my name on the top of the paper and passed out [laughs] I didn’t answer any of the questions. Just passed. And from there I was sent to India. Of course they, they couldn’t get, they couldn’t find employment for all the people who were being demobbed so they sent them to India. And I was out there for eleven months and I did nothing except draw my pay.
PL: So quite an experience.
AM: So it was. It was quite it was quite interesting out there. I mean it was an experience which I would never had otherwise but, otherwise. But in general, I mean you know I’ve attended lectures about, from historians about what Bomber Command did and how ineffective they were and how barbaric it was. Well, I accept that in the early days it was like tally-ho. And they used to go off. They were given the target. Many of them didn’t find it because they didn’t have the electronic equipment or radar equipment to navigate properly. It was all on DR and maybe didn’t find the targets. With their resources they got shot down and their losses were tremendous in the early days. They were flying Blenheims and Wellingtons and things like that. But, and Arthur Harris, I mean, I mean I think really he did an awful lot towards the war. I mean a lot of people said it was barbaric. Well, not once were we, when we were briefed when we were going was it said, ‘You’re going to bomb civilians.’ It was always a strategic target and the one, the thing that comes to mind is Dresden. I mean at that time Dresden was already twenty miles from the Russian border. And we bombed Dresden during the night. The Americans did it too. But after Stalingrad, the Battle of Stalingrad the Germans retreated and were regrouping in that area. And as I said this New Zealand crew went to Dresden and it was a fire attack. But what we, our brief was that we were to disrupt the reorganisation. That was the brief. It wasn’t that we had to destroy Dresden. And it was really these fire bombs there. You see Harris’s idea was instead of just haphazardly one aircraft followed by another aircraft flying in a stream the ground forces ARP could cope with it. He said you’ve got to fly in a stream and you’ve got to be through that target in ten minutes so that the concentration was too much for the ground forces. And the only thing that comes to my mind in, I mean they changed the method of bombing. And that was if you had a conventional bomb it went into the ground and it dug a hole and that was it. I mean there was a terrific explosion. But they then developed these four thousand pound bombs which were tin cans really, strapped together. One thousand pounds each strapped together to make up and I mean and they hit the ground, blasted and demolished the property so therefore civilians must have been killed. Also, I mean I listened to a lecture in Newcastle by a chap from Exeter University and he’s written several books on this and he castigated Bomber Command for being inaccurate et cetera. Well, when you were bombing you didn’t bomb the target you bombed the flares which the Pathfinders put down. And there was one raid at Essen where Germans put dummy path, dummy flares down and all the bombs of our thousand bomber raid went in to that field. So after that they developed what they called the master bomber technique. And the master bomber used to fly lower than the main force and identify the target. So when the Pathfinders came along he could tell them where they’d gone wrong. So where you had red, green and yellow so if the red ones were the wrong ones you’d tell them where to put the green. And so you then really bombed the target. And I think that was more precise then what the Americans did because the Americans flew in daylight and they flew in formation. And I did go on to, when I was at Marston Moor went on to the B12s and the equipment that they had for navigation was abysmal. I mean it couldn’t be compared with what we had. But the armament that they had was terrific. And they, when I was working actually I worked with a chap who was a colonel in the American Air Force and he said ‘we carpet bombed.’ And they went through the target and dropped their bombs to make sure that they hit something. Whereas we were bombing specific things. And that’s the, that’s the thing which never came through from any of these historians. So —
PL: So, talking, talking about the way Bomber Command has been treated since the war do you think that that was a political decision?
AM: Well, it was political as far as Churchill was concerned in so much that he was all in favour. I mean the thing that you’ve got to remember that German civilians did not know there was a war on. I mean because Hitler controlled the whole of Europe and the people in Germany, there was no blackout or anything. And it was only the air force who let them know that there was a war on. And we flew all those years, long before the D-Day landings without any back up from anybody. And it was just to keep the war, keep the people, in the German’s minds that there was a war. And they got the biggest shock of their life when Berlin was bombed. And they started it and we finished it. And that’s my view of the of the air force because they were really, what was written about them was so far from the truth it was unbelievable really. Otherwise you wouldn’t have done it.
PL: It’s taken a long time to get recognition.
AM: A long time to — ?
PL: Get recognition.
AM: Oh it has, I mean, I don’t know how it came about but for years I mean you used to read the papers and they used to say it was a waste of time, the German people were as strong as ever but they weren’t. They couldn’t have been once the bombing came because we were doing it at night time and the Americans were doing it during the daylight because all they were doing was map reading. And it took, an example is that in 100 Group the main force was stood down because of some leakage of information. So they had an operation just to keep them on their toes and the American Air Force, 8th Air Force acted as Pathfinders. And as I said before they had no navigational equipment and they marked the whole of Northern Germany [laughs] And we just bombed, because with, there was a system called Gee which was, you had two stations — one in North Africa and one somewhere up in Iceland. And they sent out beams and where they intersected you could navigate. You could set them up and you could navigate within four hundred yards which was amazing really. And a lot of people did drop their bombs on Gee. And that was amazingly put on our aircraft on 192 Squadron. We had Gee. We had H2S which is your own transmitter which sends out transmissions and you can really see and it shows you rivers, coastlines, towns et cetera. But the German night fighters could home in on this and shoot you down so there was generally H2S silence, you know from four degrees east. So you couldn’t do that. But H2S was great. You could, because it was just like map reading like the American’s did. And then we also had another system called Loran which was like the, it was for Transport Command really. And it took, you took two position lines. In DR navigation you’re flying along a path and to find out where you are you take a reading or a compass reading on a certain point, wait a few minutes and take another reading and then you transfer this line and where those two lines crossed that’s where you are. But that was only accurate within, you know, because the aircraft flies like that and it was accurate within about twelve miles or something like that. But as I say Gee you could navigate within, well say four hundred metres. Which, I developed a system with my bomb aimer and we could get further west, further east than the majority of crews because the Gee system, it sent up signals and when you, what they called strobed them it became like a, like a hillock and the others on the other side so if you kept those two together you could navigate further. Because Germany were no idiots. They were clever as well. I mean they used to jam the radar and the Gee by putting up what they called Grass or Railings. And if you lost that signal you couldn’t find it again. So, I mean but we were too clever for our own good and we went to Potsdam. And the winds were two seventy five mile an hour. And that’s, and then the Met men said, ‘When you pass through this point you’ll pass through a front and the winds will veer to three forty at forty.’ But I got to the point and I was getting readings of two seventy. So I had to alter my flight plan and waste eight minutes. So we wasted eight minutes. As a result we ended up ten minutes late on the target. And strangely enough the chap that I worked with when I was at BOC he lived in Low Fell, he was over the target at the same time. There were two, two of us over the target. We got coned by the blue searchlights and we put the nose down and the speed went off the clock and the gyro compass toppled. So we just flew on the P6 compass and ended up, well I thought it was Lisle but the wireless operator read what they called a pundit, which is a flashing light and he gave me that and I said, ‘Well that’s near Paris.’ So we didn’t know what to do so we just flew on until I thought well we’ve got to get rid of H2S. I’ll switch it on and I’d altered course north because we were about to hit the coastline. And the skipper said, ‘Oh. That’s the Thames Estuary.’ ‘That’s — sorry but you’re wrong. It’s le Havre.’ It’s going the other way. So we map read back there, back from there on Gee. But they were the sort of —
PL: So did you have a gunner with you? Were you, were you able to defend yourselves? Did you have a gunner with you?
AM: I had two gunners. I had a mid-upper gunner and a rear gunner. And, in that sort of thing [laughs] I mean they could be looking at a Perspex screen and you could see a dot on it, the odd dirt. Is that an enemy aircraft? And there was only once that we ever had to take evasive action from night fighters. But another thing not known is that a lot of, I mean you’re supposed to fly at a certain height within a stream five miles wide but a lot of people flew just above that to avoid the flak. We never did that. We always went through the flak because if you flew above the flak you were liable to be attacked by night fighters who could home on to you. And we lost more aircraft through night fighters than what we did through flak. So we took the option. And I can remember we, there was a chap flew with us. We went to Dortmund and we went through the flak. We got hit, turned on our backs and we came back and although you thought the aircraft had been blown apart there were three tiny holes in the aircraft. One took the top off the skipper’s knuckle. One came in beside the wireless operator’s leg. Another just missed the rear gunner. But they were only three tiny holes and you’d thought the plane had been blown apart. And I mean that was the sort of, that was one of the few times that we had any, that we got involved in anything like that. We were more than fortunate but I think it was a lot of good management as well because we never had any speech on the aircraft other than commands. Others they used to have Joe Loss playing the music. I flew with one, one crew as a passenger and they were, they had Joe Loss on and it was like, it was terrible. I couldn’t, I couldn’t bear it really. But we only spoke, you know, on commands. When we had to. So that’s the story.
PL: So you were obviously a very tight crew. Did you fly with the same crew throughout?
AM: We flew with the same crew throughout. And you lived as a crew. I mean we had, both the Canadians got promoted. They got commissions. I was recommended for a commission twice. And on the first time I refused to go forward because there was a superstition that you don’t accept a commission while you’re on operational duty. So I was, when we finished the tour I was recommended to go forward again. And I got turned down which, what they was said was that it was because they were over staffed on officers in the navigation section. A lad that was flying with us who refused to fly with us again because we went through the flak got a commission. But that was just the luck of the draw.
PL: So, tell me about your last, your last flight.
AM: The last flight was on —
PL: You knew that was going to be your last flight did you?
AM: Not really. It was in April. I think it was April the 24th and the war finished on May the 8th. I can tell you where I went to [pause] April the 24th to Dortmund. That was the last flight that we did. I’ve got Donald’s signature so many times in there. He was quite a good bloke actually. I mean he’d gone right through from the Battle of Britain. Right through the war and survived. Lovely bloke though.
PL: So tell me a little bit about what happened next.
AM: Well, we were sent on an indefinite leave after the war. And then as I said you know we were regraded to a ground force then on equipment accounts. I ended up in a place called Kankinara which is in India. Which was like an old jute station. Oh the pong was terrible. I mean we were living in absolute luxury. But outside, I mean there were just hovels. There were people living in, about forty people living in a room this size and I mean they had meat hanging up, you know. It was covered in flies. And bowls of currants — you went like that [clap] and it was flour. And that was the sort of conditions that they Indians were living under yet we were living in these palatial places which obviously the people of the East India Company had lived in. But I mean it’s strange in Calcutta. I mean the temperature used to get up to about eighty but in the morning there would be a white frost. So we were wearing blues, you know and then you’d change in to khaki.
PL: So, did you experience any of the, any of partition of India?
AM: Yes. I was in Bombay at the time when they were fighting for independence. And as I say I was in fact I was trained as, in. I worked in the services thing. But I went to, I went to Bombay I was in pay accounts. And all, all I did was go through a list of things which had thumbprints on it and stamp them and say yes. But we were then, because we had been in aircrew we knew because of all the riots in Bombay et cetera of course they used to throw stones from vehicles et cetera. And we were, used to go, what they called garrey guards and we used to have sten guns and we’d go back and we were going along this road and we got through. And when we couldn’t get through because the streets were absolutely jammed full of people we turned to come back and there was a tree being felled across the road. So we jumped out and all of about forty of them were trying to get through a door about this size [laughs] and they were saying, ‘Sahib,’ but I mean so we did that. We sort of transported the civilians back to their place where they were living and that’s the, that’s the only involvement we’d got in that. But it was definitely there and I mean they had to bring tanks in eventually. But eventually they did get their independence.
PL: So then you went home. So then you went home.
AM: I did.
PL: And what happened then?
AM: When I came home, well I got married in 1945 and while I was out there could have gone on to British Overseas Airways but I promised not to fly again [laughs] And I came home and it would, it’s a pity because I enjoyed flying. But I came home and they were bound to give you your job back. Well, I went back to BOC and I worked there. Eventually went in to the purchasing side. Became purchase, I was there for, including your war service, thirty years. Got my watch to prove it [laughs] And then, but our eldest son who was taking his what they call O levels now, and it meant that I was going to have to transfer down to the London area. Nobody was very happy so stayed in this area. And eventually I went to Hartlepool and my daughter wouldn’t move down to Hartlepool because she said, ‘You didn’t move for our Neil.’ [laughs] So that’s right I was going to move to Shotton Village, a nice estate, and you wouldn’t. You said, ‘I’m not moving.’ [laughs] So, and that was it. So I stayed with BOC and then eventually they moved me to London which wasn’t a particularly good move. And from there I went from BOC to Foster Wheeler. I then transferred. I got into the off shore industry. Then I went to Charlton-Leslie which was, it was a part of the BT Group and they were in to the offshore and that was just about collapsing. So I transferred and went to NEI and I was working in the nuclear industry. And then I retired at sixty five. So I’ve been retired now twenty eight years.
PL: So did you keep in touch with the rest of your crew?
AM: We used to meet. Well, actually rather strange. I mean when we picked up an engineer he was Geordie. He came from Newcastle. I thought great another Geordie in the crew. But he was the strangest lad. I mean I can remember him, we were at the, we used to report to the flights and the NAAFI wagon used to come around. And he said to me, he said, ‘Can you buy me a cup of tea and a wad.’ I said, ‘Oh that’s ok. I have some.’ So I bought him a cup of tea and then at lunchtime he says, ‘Can you lend me a half a crown to get a packet of cigarettes?’ I said, ‘But you’ve got a pound note in your wallet.’ He said, ‘I don’t want to break into it.’ [laughs] And we used to go out for a drink and there were eight of us with pints of beer. And Taff, Welshman he used to drink rough cider and after he’d had two he was legless [laughs] And, but Green who was the engineer, we got wise to him and said, ‘Right. You’re first shout.’ So he stopped coming out with us. So we lived as a, not as a seven man crew but as a six man crew. It’s unfortunate because he missed an awful lot. And unfortunately I think they’re all dead now. I’m the only survivor. But you asked about meeting. Well, the two Australians went back to Australia obviously. But the bomb aimer, the mid-upper gunner and the rear gunner and myself used to meet down in Tring because my eldest son lived in Tring and the, Taff was a Welshman. Came from Newport. Chas the bomb aimer came from Cheltenham. And Pete from Leicester. And that so that’s it. When we went down to visit Neil we always got together. And we did that for years didn’t we? We used to meet every year and it was good to meet up again. And we used to have a meal together and then just disburse. And then after that well Chas died. Lung cancer actually. And then we were, we had another meeting and Taff, he bought, he always had a desire to buy one of these luxurious cars. He bought it and within ten minutes of where we were meeting he had an accident. And he damaged his chest et cetera. Well, he died subsequently and then there was only Pete and I and as I say we used to meet and we went to Elvington to see this Halifax. And then after that it just died but as far as I’m concerned I think the, well Laurie Mottler was about ten years older than what we were. So he would be a hundred and something if he was here. And Gibby was older than us so I think they all must be dead now. And that brings us up to date really.
PL: Well, Fred, that’s an amazing story. Thank you very much indeed.
AM: I don’t think you’ll print all that.
PL: Is there, is there anything else that you’d like to talk about?
AM: I don’t know. Not really. Except that I was appalled by some of the stuff that was put in the newspapers about Bomber Command. I mean we were portrayed as being sadists, didn’t care but it wasn’t like that at all.
PL: Well thank you very much indeed for your interview.
AM: That’s the first time I’ve told that story for a long, long time.
PL: It’s a wonderful story. Thank you very much indeed.
[recording paused]
PL: So we’re recommencing the tape and Fred you were just telling me about —
AM: Well the raids on Dresden and Chemnitz, in that area they were tactical because the German army was regrouping after the defeat at Stalingrad. And to avoid them regrouping we bombed them and it was for that reason that we were briefed. It was nothing to do with scaring the population or killing civilians or anything. And because it was so near, it was only twenty miles from the Russian Front they gave us a Union Jack.
PL: But this was, where was it you bombed? It wasn’t Dresden.
AM: We went to Chemnitz.
PL: Yeah.
AM: And I mean we only carried a token bomb just for the cover up to show that we were in Bomber Command. They didn’t want people to know that we were on Special Duties. And that was one of the things that we did. I mean we only carried maybe five hundred pounds or a thousand pounds of conventional bombs or these aluminium fire bombs. But —
PL: But you wore —
AM: But that was interesting that.
PL: A Union Jack badge.
AM: Yes. Well you hung it around your neck.
PL: And you hung it around your neck.
AM: Yeah. And that was it.
PL: And that was in case —
AM: Well, it was sufficient to show that you were British. To get through the Russian lines. So —
PL: And you were telling me about the New Zealand crew. Some New Zealanders.
AM: The New Zealand. Well, they were only in our billet for a short while. I mean, for example I mean there was seventeen. Was there fifteen or seventeen in our billet? And there was, the only people who survived were the C Flight crew. There was a navigator and a special operator in our billet. There was a lad called Tommy Campbell which was sad really. He was a Canadian and he flew as a spare bod as we called them and he used to throw Window out. And he’d done twenty nine operations and they put the number up to thirty three for a tour. And he did thirty two and they put it up to thirty six. And on his thirty fourth operation, well they got hit by flak. And the chap who was one of the special operators asked him to jump and he wouldn’t and he had to push him out of the road and jump. And Tommy stayed and he was killed. But he was afraid to jump. And that was at a place called Rheinau. So there was those were missing and this New Zealand crew, so and out of the fifty or something there were only five of us left. So that was the odds that were, you know. They said there was fifty percent loss in aircrew in Bomber Command. And it comes always back to that figure. I mean I went, we had three lads from Birtley. I was the only one that survived. The lads that I went camping with I was the only one. But it always came back to this tremendous figure of the loss of people who actually operated. Because I think there was only a hundred and ten thousand operated but there were about three hundred thousand trained and they didn’t operate at all. These are facts which don’t come to light really.
PL: Thank you Fred. Thank you for that additional piece of information.
AM: What?
PL: Thank you very much for that additional information.
AM: Oh, you’re welcome.



Pam Locker, “Interview with Alfred Marshall,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 17, 2024,

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