Interview with John McCredie


Interview with John McCredie


John McCredie grew up in Australia and served in the Militia before he volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force. He flew two operations as a pilot over France during training and was later posted to India. He later returned to Australia to continue his university education and went on to join the Australian Foreign Service




Temporal Coverage




01:45:19 audio recording


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AP: So this interview for the International Bomber Command Centre’s Digital Archive is with John McCredie who was a pilot during the Second World War. The interview is taking place at John’s home in Hawthorn in Victoria. My name is Adam Purcell and it is the 12th of October 2015. So John we might start from the beginning. Can you tell me something of your early life growing up? [unclear] That sort of thing.
JM: Well I was born in Princes Hill. I should say that my military career was a bit frustrated by having a mother whose brother had been shot. Had his face shot away in World War One. And she didn’t want me to have anything to do with the military. So I went through school being unable to join the cadets. But on my eighteenth birthday I took the liberty of enrolling in the militia. My piece of resistance. I joined the Melbourne University Rifles. War broke out three weeks later. I did my first military camp at Mount Martha with the MUR. I did another camp at Mount Martha with the MUR in which I was promoted to sergeant and was sent on to an officer’s training course in the militia in Seymour in June I think, 1941. It was there that I ran into these fellas back from the Middle East who had rather a scorn for chockos getting commissions and I thought my God what has happened now is if I take a commission I will not be allowed to join the AIF. I can’t, in any case I’d been pressing my parents to join the air force for a long while. So, on my eighteenth birth I wrote from Seymour and demanded that I be allowed to enrol in the air force which seemed my way of avoiding the inability to transfer. I also, I think it’s a bit of history that everyone in my generation was pretty influenced by Kingsford Smith, Hinkler, Amy Johnson, The Centenary Air Race and then the Battle of Britain.
AP: Of course.
JM: So that flying seemed to be very much the way to finish the war. I got my parent’s permission. Got on the air force reserve — I think in August ’41. Came the Japanese and all service transfers were put at a stop. You weren’t allowed to transfer from the militia. And so I had the good luck of having my old battalion commander Colonel Ralph in charge of — Colonel Balfour I should say. Being in charge of a unit called, Lines of Communication, which dealt with inter-service transfers. So I went along to see the colonel and we had a chat about old days. And then I explained my dilemma. That I had qualified for a commission. I didn’t want to take it because I wanted to get into a voluntary service and I wanted to join the air force. And he said, ‘Well, you’ve just done a commando course at Wilson’s Promontory.’ Which I had. He said, ‘We’re enrolling the 6th Independent Company next month,’ I think he said, ‘And I can have you commissioned in that.’ And this was a Friday and I said, ‘Do you mind if I think of it over the weekend, Colonel?’ He said, ‘No. My boy.’ So I thought of it over the weekend. I didn’t really need to think. I’d got the idea at Wilson’s Promontory that if you took a commission in the commandos it tended to be considered a one way ticket. And I’d like to think that I had a return ticket. The possibility of a return ticket at least. And so I came back on the Monday and confirmed to him that I wanted to go into the air force. And that’s how I got transferred. I not only got transferred I got an accelerator transfer. So that I got in ahead of an old school mate who had agreed that we’d both joined up together and then had gone in ahead of me. So that was rather satisfactory. Anyway, I did my training. We all probably wanted to be fighter pilots but you had to show that aptitude and I don’t think I quite had it as a flyer. So I was put on twins and I went through training in Australia. Temora, and Point Cook. From there half of our course at Point Cook was transferred to England because there was a shortage of, supposed shortage of air crew in England and a shortage of aircraft in Australia. So that was all. I got to England. Spent three months enjoying myself rather than [laughs] I should say rather than doing nothing we spent time in Bournemouth, Whitley Bay, Brighton and then I was sent to a place called South Cerney for familiarisation. Did this on Oxfords. The same aircraft I’d flown in Australia. Had the good fortune and this is the vital thing in war — to have good fortune. I had an instructor who saw the crash coming before I did and dived. We just missed a crash at night in midair and that was a lesson in alertness. We did a night flying course at a place called Cranage where I met up with a lot of interesting people. A chap who’d been in the French Foreign Legion. Two Dutchmen. And a couple of people. An American I think. A strange way that Americans somehow got into the RAF. Anyway, after that I went to Harwell which was the Heavy Conversion Unit. Sorry. Not Heavy Conversion Unit. The OTU. And at this time of the war Churchill and Roosevelt had met at Casablanca and there this other question of supply and need came up because Churchill obviously went well briefed on what aircrews were doing nothing in England. And Roosevelt went well briefed on what aircraft didn’t have crews to fly them in the Indian theatre. So Harwell was turned into an OTU. More or less for sending people to the Far East. And it was my good fortune to be sent there at that time of the war because it was close to a one way ticket on Bomber Command in early 1944. So that is roughly the story of my relationship with Bomber Command. On, if you want to ask questions about that.
AP: Yeah. That’s alright. Well, I think we will definitely. It’s a nice overview of everything. This happened in my last interview too. I asked one question and ten minutes later he said, ‘And that’s how I got on a boat to come home.’ Like, well, we’re finished. Anyway, so yeah a little bit more detail I suppose. You were accepted in to the air force. You were still in the militia at this stage.
JM: Yeah.
AP: I think. Was there a time difference between saying, ‘Yeah you’re in the air force,’ and actually showing up at the ITS? Was there? Like how long did that take?
JM: Well, what happened was you applied for the air force which I did, I think in about, well it was after my eighteenth birthday. After my twentieth birthday which was on the 13th of August. They put you through a few tests like holding your breath under water or something and then made you breathe in and out. And did a couple of other things. Touch your toes perhaps. And then said, ‘Oh, you were on the air force reserve so you’ve got to do —’ and I was working in the National Bank at that time. So after I finished the officer’s training course which went for about two months I went back to the bank and then there would be this business of going in to a place on Flinders Street and learning the Morse code. What else? Aircraft recognition. Perhaps we, we were given something on that. Did they have link trainers there? I didn’t think they did. No they can’t have.
AP: So just your basic. Your basic. So you did that at sort of night school, sort of, sort of thing.
JM: Yes. Yes.
AP: Rather than, rather than they sent you something and you worked through it at home.
JM: No. No. I frankly forget how often. I think it was once a week.
AP: Something like that.
JM: I trotted in there and then I was called up again in the militia on the 7th of [pause] No. Sometime in November. And the bank fought too.
AP: Oh really.
JM: They said, ‘This man’s on the air force reserve. You can’t have him in the militia.’ And the militia insisted on having me and so I went back into camp and that was an interesting time because the MUR at that time was a polyglot unit taking in chaps AIF people and all that sort of thing. And I found myself having refused a commission they made me a wing sergeant major which was very funny. I had a little man as my orderly room corporal who later became my boss in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
AP: Connections.
JM: Such is life.
AP: Yeah.
JM: The – so that was a funny episode in my life.
AP: What, what memories, if any, do you have of your Initial Training School. So we’re talking air force now.
JM: Well we did all these things that some of which were of interest and some weren’t. I think we got sorted out into the sheep and the goats. Whoever were the goats I don’t know. You did these aptitude tests of various sorts. They somehow decided some people ought to be pilots. Some people ought to be air gunners. Some people ought to be wireless operators. Some people ought to be navigators. The eggheads seemed to get the navigation job. The [pause] I think most hoped to be a pilot ‘cause it’s, being a pilot is like being the driver of a car.
AP: Very much so.
JM: You’re the person who doesn’t have to worry about other people. The way that passengers might have to worry at the way you drive.
AP: Certain, certain control, control freak, you could say. Yeah [laughs] I understand. Where was your ITS. Was that at Somers?
JM: I went from Somers.
AP: Yeah.
JM: I did the ITS there. Oppy incidentally was my flight commander. He took us for drill. Oppy wasn’t considered a good class master but he was a good drill master.
AP: Oppy being the cyclist.
JM: [Procurement?] officer.
AP: Yes. That’s right. That’s what I thought.
JM: Later became a minister in the government in Canberra.
AP: Yeah.
JM: Again the oddities of coincidence — I once sold a car to him in Canberra [laughs] when I was on posting to somewhere. I advertised the car and Oppy came along and ‘opped into it.
AP: Alright. So you’re, I forget what you said, you were at Point Cook which was Service Flying Training School.
JM: Yes.
AP: I think. The other one was — where did you do your initial training?
JM: Elementary Flying Training.
AP: Yes.
JM: Was at Temora?
AP: Temora, that’s right. Temora, ah yes. Ok. I have to ask every pilot. Tell me about your first solo.
JM: What’s that?
AP: Tell me about your first solo.
JM: It took a long while. It took me ten hours and fifty minutes if I remember and a couple of my mates, Chumley and Ingalls, did it in about six hours. That frustrated me a bit. But before I went I can tell you a story that I think is of interest. I had an instructor called Lionel Watters and he’d been a Broken Hill coal miner. Led miner I suppose. He was a rough diamond I think you could say. A huge man and he was a very good flyer. He’d been an amateur flyer before the war and had taken to instructing. He wanted you to do things. He told you how to do them and came down like a ton of bricks if you didn’t do them properly. So we were doing stall turns on one occasion and well that story is one I’ll leave for a non-recordable [laughs] I’ll tell you another story however. That we were practicing emergency landings. What you do in a Tiger Moth for an emergency landing is select a nice field. The instructor turns the petrol off and says, ‘Now you go and show me how you’d land it.’ And before doing that he had said, ‘Now when you descend in gliding fashion the engine cools and every five hundred feet you should warm the engine.’ And so we’re about three thousand feet and he tells me, ‘Ok. Land it in that field, McCredie.’ So I start gliding and I glide and I glide and I glide and he said, ‘It’s rather cold up here today don’t you think McCredie?’ I said, ‘Oh not too bad.’ He said, [stress] ‘No. But your bloody engine’s feeling the cold.’ And he rammed the throttle on and flew away. And I suppose I can safely tell this tale about that he had a girlfriend nearby living on a farm and every day he’d like to convey a message to them that he was flying around. And this time he dove to about five feet [laughs] and that was the end of my lesson for the day.
AP: Beautiful. That’s, yeah there’s a number of stories of that sort of shenanigans, shall we say, in Tiger Moths.
JM: Yes. So from there my friends Chumley and Ingalls went on to singles and I went on to twins at Point Cook.
AP: Point Cook. So you’re flying Oxfords at Point Cook.
JM: Pardon?
AP: You were flying Oxfords at Point Cook you said or Ansons.
JM: Oxfords. Airspeed Oxfords.
AP: Airspeed Oxfords.
JM: Yes.
AP: What did you think of those after the Tiger Moth? What did you think of those after the Tiger?
JM: Well, no fun at all. We did make fun. From, from Point Cook we flew at satellites. The first two months were at Werribee, the third month was at Lyra, I think and the fourth month was at Little River. Now by the time we got to Little River we had become bored with Oxfords but we were sent on cross countrys’ and it became the norm when you were sent on a cross country to try a bit of low flying. So this is strictly illegal.
AP: Of course.
JM: Having been influenced by Watters and his girlfriend I had found a little driveway near, I think, a place called Lethbridge. It was very nice to drive along and frighten the occupants. And I was not alone in doing this and I was lucky enough not to be the one who came home with a bit of a tree in his undercarriage. Sticking out of the fuselage or something. But that was [pause] so we had — it’s funny how those training memories are not as evident as later memories.
AP: [They might?]
JM: I carry, I had a, you flew with a pair and I had this fella who I think was more inept than me as a pilot as my pair. And some of his landings were quite hair raising. But that poor fellow was killed in training in Europe sometime later. In England sometime later. And one can say that without being surprised he probably should have been scrubbed.
AP: That was actually going to be my next question. With all of these. Particularly with all of these antics going on. Low flying and mucking around because let’s face it you were twenty years old and you’ve got an aeroplane so you’re going to go and fly it. Were there accidents and things that you saw?
JM: Well that one of the person hitting the tree at Point Cook it’s the only one I remember in training. In Harwell somebody came in and crashed on landing. But, and certainly at Harwell we had these ancient aircraft because we were going to India, or most of us, we had one of the last two units flying Wellington 1Cs. Those going on to ops in Europe had the, went through OTUs on Wellington 10s which were very much upgraded and could fly at the proper height. But the 1C could only — well in icing conditions I did two what are called, what the [pause] two little flights over France which were called training flights. And on the second one we iced up. The aircraft couldn’t climb above eight thousand feet. My navigator, bless his heart, took us back over a place called [unclear]. And [unclear] happened to be quite heavily defended so we had the sound, I don’t know if as a small boy you ever ran along a picket fence with a stick making a noise.
AP: Many times. Many times.
JM: Yeah. So you know that noise. Well that’s exactly what it’s like listening to the flak hitting a canvas covered aircraft like the Wellington. And we came home with a couple of holes but fortunately they didn’t hit or injure somebody. But I did have another incident at Harwell where again it was luck. Because I’d given some cheek to my flight commander which he got back to me in briefing when he decided he’d take people through fire drill. He said, ‘McCredie. You tell us what you’d do in fire drill.’ And McCredie got up and stuttered and stammered. Anyway, he made me repeat the words after him. And there was the luck of the game because about not very long later I did have a fire and that meant landing on, calling, ‘Darkie. Darkie. Darkie. Mayday. Mayday. Mayday.’ And finding Silverstone answer and having to go down there at night on one engine which was, you know, was something. I had to bail my crew out. The same navigator who took me over [unclear] I found crouching behind me when I landed.
AP: Oh really.
JM: So when I caught up with him again and we were forming crews on Liberators in India and he wanted to join up with me I said, ‘I’m sorry Tom.’ But, but that was, I had similar luck again in, when we were in India. Things were a bit dicey. The Japs had got right up to the border. The second Imphal line which was the border with Burma. The Indian National Army which comprised deserters from the British forces in Singapore were with the Japanese. There was this fear in India that things could erupt internally in spite of Ghandi’s passive resistance thing with the influence of the Indian National Army. And the four Liberator squadrons were sent on this around India show of force. In formation over Madras, Nagpur, Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta. Just to show the natives what they would be up against if we decided to have some sort of armed resistance. So on the first of these I had what was called a runaway prop.
AP: Oh dear.
JM: And with a runaway prop you just can’t go on flying. You know the, you know the problem?
AP: It’s the pitch. The pitch changes and yeah —
JM: Yeah. So I had to fly around with four hours on three engines but I’d noticed all the emergency things you do when you have anything like an engine misfunction. I had the, I suppose you could say good luck to survive an assault on an armed boat and so on. That was on the 1st of January 1945. We’d bombed the bridge in Burma. We’d been told Japanese were supplying their forces by sea and if you come across any shipping it’s likely to be doing this. Attack it. So we had a rendevous at a place called Kalegauk Island after the raid on the bridge. And so I saw someone going in on this boat and I went in and followed him. The first chap got shot down and I lost an engine but I had this totally new experience of losing an engine and it, well it was the luck of the game. We moved quickly enough to [pause] we had a fire. My boys reported the fire to me and I boldly told them to put it out.
AP: Do something.
JM: That’s right. [laughs] it’s funny in the way. The thing that’s reported they don’t put it out until they were told to [laughs]
AP: Initiative boys. Initiative. Alright.
JM: Anyway. I’m sorry if that’s —
AP: No. Listen, it’s all, it’s all part of your story and that’s still very valuable to get anyway. I can, I can assure you. I’m sitting here rapt. So getting to the UK. I suppose you finished at Point Cook. You have your wings ceremony at Point Cook so you’ve got your wings.
JM: Yeah.
AP: At that point. Then you go to the UK. How do you get from A to B?
JM: Yes. We got on the Nieuw Amsterdam on the 6th of March 1943. We crossed to San Francisco. The Nieuw Amsterdam was, had brought troops back from the Middle East before picking us up and I must say those troops didn’t do a favour by the wildlife they brought into the bedding.
AP: Oh dear.
JM: So I was travelling with my friend Ingalls who was on singles, I mentioned earlier but he was going to Europe too. Both of said enough is enough. We slept on deck for the rest of that voyage. We, we had a commander called [pause] a troop commander called Major Crennan. He was the son, I believe of Archbishop Crennan who was a catholic prelate somewhere. And Crennan later became part of the Royal Commission into Petrov. Part of the council for it. I think. Which was interesting. But he had no idea of discipline and he thought it would be a good idea if air force trips needed to be exercised so he would order us to march around the decks in military order and this sort of thing and there’s always a minstrel associated with military units and we had a minstrel on board who wrote a little verse. And what I remember of the verse went something like, in part, went something like, “Oh tell me quick what lunatic, what fiend of devilish notion, marched us thrice like bloody mice around the bloody ocean.” And this was distributed in a pamphlet that they’d brought out on board the ship which had some very witty things in it. And Crennan, I must say, to do him justice stopped behaving like a bloody lunatic [laughs]
AP: So you got to San Francisco.
JM: We got to San Francisco. We then had this devious crossing of America by train from Oakland to a place called [pause] oh dear. The name is going to elude me. But somewhere in Connecticut. And this was an American army base. And the trip across had taught us a few lessons I suppose. Such as don’t leave watches in your tunic pocket which you hang up in a Pullman carriage overnight because the Pullman porters seem to have very adhesive fingers. We got taken for Austrians and told what good English we spoke. People still do.
AP: They do.
JM: In America I’m told. Yes. We read books and I remember being introduced to Ogden Nash. Have you ever read Ogden Nash?
AP: I’ve never read Ogden Nash but the name rings a bell somewhere.
JM: Yeah. Well, you should look up on the internet a ballad of Ogden Nash’s called “Four prominent bastards are we.” “Your banker, your broker, your Washington Joker.” Four prominent bastards.
AP: Fair enough.
JM: Poor fellow who got taken down by them ended up saying he was a self appointed bastard and he was out to get it back. So that was part of my education.
AP: On your way across the US.
JM: On my way across. Apart from, no it was interesting to see America for the first time in its vastness and its variety.
AP: You didn’t have a chance to go on leave at all during that trip or it was straight across and get going?
JM: Well I had the misfortune to develop a carbuncle on the back of my neck so I spent the ten days we were at — Miles Standish was the name of the station.
AP: Rings a bell.
JM: At Miles Standish. I spent ten days in hospital there and had to fight to get out to join me fellows on the Louis Pasteur which we used to cross the Atlantic. And so apart from my first night there at which we attended the American mess and saw them doing all their modern antics which they were into. Not rock but whatever the dancing style of the time was. A bit ahead of us. So they had women in the mess and that sort of thing. So that was interesting insight. In hospital I had the interesting experience of having fellows who were very much against the Roosevelt government alongside me. They were southerners who felt that Roosevelt didn’t represent them. And —
AP: Fairly, fairly eye opening for a twenty year old I imagine.
JM: Yeah. And the interesting thing was I remember this fella saying, ‘And you’ve never had a hamburger?’ And I said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘We eat meat pies in Australia.’ To which he replied, ‘What’s a [accent] meight pie?’ [laughs] So, so I had that experience of America that —
AP: Fair enough.
JM: Perhaps some of my fellows didn’t have. Then the crossing in the Pasteur was not luxury. Pasteur was shaped a bit like a canoe and it had latrines at each end. And the movement of the ship was like that. So that there would be an overflow from the latrines right through the mess decks. Mess deck comprising people in hammocks above tables. And our mess deck was right in the centre.
AP: That’s often the case.
JM: So we would be wading somewhat.
AP: So when was —
JM: And I won’t tell you what we were wading through.
AP: It was quite literally a mess deck.
JM: Yeah.
AP: Yeah. I suppose a fair few more people on there like more crowded conditions as well than crossing The Pacific.
JM: Yeah. Yeah.
AP: On that one as well.
JM: Yeah. So your hammocks your head lay between two pairs of feet. As people have probably told you.
AP: Lovely. And that took what a week or two weeks or something.
JM: Oh about five or six days.
AP: Five or six days.
JM: It was the height of the submarine campaign. Early ‘43. And we were on the alert and my friend Ingalls and I did regular eight hours on — four hours on, four hours off duty on the port. Rear port. Twelve pounder. So that was I thought I should have qualified for an Atlantic Star for it [laughs]
AP: That’s probably reasonable [laughs] What time of year was that?
JM: That was [pause] that was April.
AP: April. So that’s —
JM: Yeah.
AP: So it wasn’t too cold. It wasn’t like the middle of winter or anything so it wasn’t too —
JM: No. No.
AP: Too cold in the North Atlantic.
JM: No. But we saw a bit of the middle of winter in places like Utah. Yeah.
AP: Yeah. I imagine. Not much fun. So your ship would have come in Liverpool or Scotland or something like that.
JM: Liverpool.
AP: Liverpool.
JM: Yes. And then we did this trip to Bournemouth by train and I remember writing home to my parents. Remember I had just picked up the card I had sent a few days ago and I wrote and said when you make your post-war journey to England which they had planned or they’d hoped for I said do it in April because, “Oh to be in England now that April’s there.” Because a magnificent sight. You looked in wonder at scenes you’d never see in Australia of little villages tucked away behind green fields and church spires coming up. It was very exciting for a generation brought up on English literature.
AP: And that was, that funnily enough was going to be my next question. Your first impressions of England as a, presumably this is the first time you’d travelled overseas.
JM: Yes.
AP: So, so for a yeah a young bloke to be travelling.
JM: Yeah.
AP: In places that you’d only ever read about.
JM: No.
AP: That would have been —
JM: No. No.
AP: An experience, I imagine
JM: What I, my mother was a very keen reader and one of the books I had remembered reading was, “In Search of England,” by HV Morton if you’ve ever heard of it but that took you around all the memorable places in England. So, yeah. Brian Ingalls and I spent a lot time visiting some places on HV Morton’s recommendation.
AP: Excellent. So you were in Bournemouth for some time. I’ve heard, I’ve heard a fair bit about Bournemouth because pretty well every Australian went to either Bournemouth or Brighton.
JM: Yes.
AP: Depending on what time they went there. At some time that unit moved to Brighton.
JM: Yes.
AP: I can’t remember exactly when that was but impressions it sort of depends on when you arrived and how long you were there as to what happened but a lot of not much seems to have happened. It was a sort of holding point.
JM: Well yes you were wondering why you’d been sent to England. And we did odd parades. Church parades which one did one’s best to avoid. I remember we were put up at a place called Durley Dean which — strange memory but my first residence in England and Brian Ingalls and I, I remember from there visited Salisbury to see the cathedral. And we visited Oxford. And I can remember going to see the “Maid of the Mountains.” And a pianist called Solomon gave a concert which the only thing I remember about it was his name. But one, neither Brian nor I drank at that stage so we were more interested in — oh we went to a place called Poole. I remember that particularly because of our train trip home. We had two young girls in the train apartment with us and we’d got chatting with them on the way and the train, the train went into a tunnel. As we came out I looked at Ingalls doing exactly the thing that I was doing.
AP: Excellent. Subtle. No [laughs] Lovely. Did you, did you have any impression of wartime England? Like what was your first sort of thought?
JM: My favourite story is, again it was Ingalls, we were at Whitley Bay. We were spent to an RAF commando course and had a corporal trying to control these air crew. Australian aircrew. Which he wasn’t very, well he was cooperative. We would say, ‘Look corp, we’ll march in proper order of parade and you just take us to someplace where we won’t be seen and we’ll all have a smoke.’ And that was our commando course. But from Whitley Bay Ingalls and I went in to have a look at Newcastle. And I think it was a Sunday and we were looking in this window and there was a bun in the window. And it, we must have been looking longingly at it because this old lady came up to us and said, ‘You boys look hungry.’ We said, ‘You don’t do to well on air force ma’am.’ She said, ‘You come home with me.’ She took us home and boiled eggs for us and there was an egg rationing in England and she gave us her week’s ration of eggs. That’s a story I’ve never forgotten. So it, I also, we had family friends the sister of whom lived in a place called Cawsand in Cornwall and she ran a boarding house there. So when we had leave instead of joining the Ryder Scheme which a lot of people did I would go and visit her then. I’d get to know something of the Cornish people. Met this family that rejoiced in singing the [pause] what is it? The Cornish, Cornish Floral Dance. Is that it?
AP: Doesn’t ring a bell. I’ve been to Cornwall once but it was about —
JM: Yeah.
AP: About twenty years ago. So I was quite young.
JM: Cawsand was a delightful place. The bus doesn’t take you there. You have to walk across fields with your kit bag over your shoulder. To get there on one occasion I I had to stay in the Salvation Army place in Bristol and I have to say that was the most uncomfortable night I have ever had to stay in my life and that includes sleeping in bedbug chapoys in India. No. No. Very unpleasant.
AP: So you’ve, you’ve been sitting there at Bournemouth for a while. Travelling around.
JM: Yeah.
AP: Next step I guess, oh next step was —
JM: The next step we went to Whitley Bay.
AP: Whitley Bay. That’s right.
JM: And we were there when the Fokke Wolves shot up Bournemouth.
AP: Bournemouth.
JM: If you’ve heard about that tale.
AP: I’ve heard about it. I’m aware of it but if you know anything about it.
JM: Yes. Well —
AP: Sorry. You were at Bournemouth or you were at Whitley Bay? You were actually at Bournemouth did you say or were you at Whitley Bay?
JM: We were, we’d been sent from Bournemouth to Whitley Bay to do this commando course.
AP: Another one of those.
JM: We heard all about it when we got back.
AP: It’s another one of those lucky things
JM: Yes. So but from Whitley Bay we visited Edinburgh. That was lovely except it was still British double time. It was still daylight when you took the girl home —
AP: Yes [laughs]
JM: From the local dance.
AP: I have heard a number of people lamenting that fact. Yes.
JM: Yes. That must have been practically, we must have been there about June the 21st I think.
AP: The longest day. Yes.
JM: And then from Whitley Bay I don’t remember [pause] yes we did go back to Bournemouth because we learned about the air raid then. And then we were moved to Brighton and Brighton was a place that one was very easy to dodge church parade. We were put up at the Metropole Hotel which was right next to the Grand Hotel which was the hotel that Maggie Thatcher was in when the terrorists attack on it. And the Metropole was a sort of twin hotel. We were on the fifth floor and had to go up to five floors of stairs.
AP: Stairs [laughs]
JM: And it was a Victorian, a Victorian hotel without lifts if I remember rightly. But no, Bournemouth was an enjoyable experience because plenty of entertainment and I remember seeing, “No. No Nanette.” That’s the only thing. We got up to London on leave and I saw a lot of plays in London which were very [pause] of course and went to places that weren’t plays like seeing Phyllis Dixie who was the strip woman and who noticed it when you moved from the back row to the front rows after the interval. And then after that there was the — they were great, great times times in Brighton. One had got used to being in England by then and knew one’s way about. Church parade was easy to dodge because we marched from the Majestic to a church through with about seven changes of direction so every time the platoon or whatever it was, turned a corner, the last three would drop off and head for, head for somewhere to have a cup of awful wartime coffee. Which was preferable to listening to sermon.
AP: Excellent. Now acclimatisation I think you said was next.
JM: Hmmn?
AP: You said after, after you’d been to Brighton for a little while.
JM: Yes.
AP: Your next unit was Advanced Flying Unit I think.
JM: Well one took leave and I think we took leave in from Bournemouth and from Brighton because there was nothing to do. You might as well have a couple of days off.
AP: Any — apart from seeing plays and things in London what else did you, did you get up to there. General impressions of wartime London I think is what I’m interested in.
JM: Yes. Well I didn’t drink so I I was more interested in seeing what I could of the entertainment side. My friend, Newman, this was from OTU that Newman excelled himself. He went to a place called the Gremlin Club in London and they started playing a tune called, “You’ll never know.”Do you know the tune?
AP: I don’t know the tune. No.
JM: “You’ll never know just how much I love you. You’ll never know just how much I care.”
AP: Ah yes.
JM: And so on which Newman sang beautifully. And he got up and sang it at the Gremlin Club and sang it and was invited to come back anytime and perform for them [laughs] but I never had that distinction in my visits to London.
AP: Fair enough. Where was your next posting? Where was your next posting after?
JM: South Cerney, near Cirencester in Gloucestershire. And that was where I mentioned I had the good luck to have this New Zealand instructor who was so quick.
AP: Oh yes.
JM: That he saw what was coming in time. What else do I remember of that? We — I got into a bit of trouble for deciding to shoot up the flight club because the CO of the place had annoyed me once which was [laughs] I don’t know why I was so stupid when I was young but one does things. So I got put on a charge for that.
AP: But was that —
JM: It didn’t do me any good.
AP: So I imagine flying in wartime England there would have been aeroplanes everywhere.
JM: Well that was the problem, you see.
AP: Very congested. Yeah.
JM: South Cerney. Moreton in the Marsh. Other places all doing the same thing quite close to one another. All inexperienced pilots learning about the hazards of flying in England.
AP: It would have been a bit different as well when and I know from my own flying, you know, you’re doing navigation in Australia. You take off. There’s one town. And you, you know, you write that time down.
JM: Yeah.
AP: And then you fly and then the other town, the next town appears.
JM: Yeah.
AP: Whereas in England there’s a town there, and there’s one there and there’s one there and they all look the same.
JM: Yes.
AP: How was that to adjust too?
JM: Well, I [pause] yes I, you had your wireless contact of course which was only good when you were within five miles of base. It was not high frequency. So mostly you learned to identify the surroundings but the RAF had a wonderful TM. Have you heard about TM?
AP: I have heard of TM. Yes.
JM: So —
AP: Pilot Officer Prune.
JM: Every month it would come out and they would award the Most Highly Derogatory Order of the Irremovable Finger. The MHDO. If you’ve heard of that. I remember one of their stories of the CO of a training unit who was caught looking — had landed at the wrong airport and was caught looking at the notice board of the of the, in the officer’s mess to try and find out where it was. So he was awarded the MHDOIF.
AP: Yeah. It was not, not an unusual thing I imagine. Getting lost. I do —
JM: I don’t think I ever heard of anyone who did that. As I say I landed once at Silverstone purposefully.
AP: So you, when you went to OTU did you know before you got there that India was the ultimate destination or did it sort of happen after you got there?
JM: Well the funny thing is I, I went through life until five years ago when I read my letters home for the first time that I had written in May 1943 that we’d been given the option of volunteering to go to India and I had opted to do so. So I’d reassured my parents that being overseas didn’t mean I wasn’t going to fight the Japs. And I’d put my name down to do it. Now, for something like forty years they laboured under the illusion that I’d only found out when I got to Harwell. But that’s memory.
AP: So that, that letter was written before you got there.
JM: That letter was written in May 1943.
AP: And when did you —
JM: And I only read it about five years — my sister gave me my letters that I’d sent home.
AP: Fantastic. Ok and so then you went to OTU just after that was that. Was that the idea?
JM: I went to OTU in, I suppose, September ’43.
AP: Ok. So, so that, that was the process?
JM: Yeah.
AP: Ok. So you already knew when you got there.
JM: Yeah.
AP: So I suppose for you the OTU process for you would have been a bit different to the — let’s call it the standard.
JM: There was, there was no certainty.
AP: Of course not.
JM: That when you got to Harwell that one would go to, I think that was the point too. Because some of them were sent to a place called Melbourne, Yorkshire. On, I think, Halifaxes.
AP: Yorkshire probably was. Yes.
JM: From Harwell. Anyway, I went to India.
AP: How. What happened at OTU? What sort of training did you do on the ground? What sort of stuff?
JM: Well the flying was just getting familiar with operational flying conditions. Doing a lot night flying. Doing two nickels over France as I mentioned. Doing low level flying over water. Doing, I suppose, cross countrys’. I don’t just — but a lot of night flying. That was the emphasis. And then by this time I had found the delights of alcohol. So a typical night would be after supper we’d have a beer at the mess and then someone would say, ‘I think I’ll go along and see what is on at the New Inn.’ This was in Hampstead Norris which was a satellite of Harwell. So we’d trot along to the New Inn. And someone would say oh there’s a dance on so we’d find our way to a dance hall somewhere in the wilds of England. And so that, yeah I found myself deceived very badly by a beautiful English girl called Bridget Belinda Barnes. I remember it to this day because we had danced and I asked her for her name and she told me and I said, ‘That’s a mouthful.’ And she said, ‘Well my friends call me BB.’ I said, ‘Well do you mind if I just call you B?’ So we got on sportingly and then she got on a bus to go to Newbury where she lived. But she said, ‘You must come and see me tomorrow,’ and she gave me her address. And I thought this was terrific. To get to Newbury you had to bicycle so I got found of these English monstrosities that was, you know, to go push them on the level seemed like climbing a one in ten gradient. And the trip to Newbury is over the Berkshire downs. It was December. My gloves were quite inefficient so one would get down to the downhill business and put ones hands in ones pockets and go down. No hands. And then have to push up the next hill. So I got to Newbury which was about eight miles away and reported to the — and of all things Bridget Belinda Barnes had invited all her boyfriends to help in a bazaar [laughs]
AP: Very good. That was a long cold ride home.
JM: It was a long cold ride home. And I didn’t even go to the mess for a drink with my humiliation heart.
AP: Can’t trust them. So you said you started drinking by this stage. Was there anything particular that brought that on?
JM: I got sick of writing letters home, I thought, well someone told me that cider was a reasonable thing to drink if I didn’t like beer. And Gloucester is near Somerset. Full of Bulmer’s cider and so I went to the mess and drank cider. Pint of cider per pint of beer with my friends. And they wouldn’t come near me for days afterwards. It could have quite an explosive effect.
AP: Fair enough. Was that OTU?
JM: No that was at AFU.
AP: AFU. Right. Oh of course.
JM: Yeah. And so I I decided that beer couldn’t be as distasteful as that. And had no problems thereafter.
AP: It’s the English wartime beer. Did you, did you do the, I guess, familiar crewing up thing at OTU? Was that? How did that happen?
JM: I think, I think they were bestowed on us at OTU. In India we selected our crew and that’s where I came not to select my former navigator.
AP: That was. Yeah. So that’s I guess that’s a very significant difference from Bomber Command.
JM: Yeah.
AP: In a lot of cases. Obviously at OTU it’s I guess, you could say, it’s the tradition put you in a hangar and sort yourself out boys.
JM: Yeah.
AP: So ok but bestowed on you. That’s a bit different. Well we might as well go on to India while we’re here and enjoying having a chat. You’re at OTU. You finished the course. How did you get to India?
JM: Well we were sent to Blackpool awaiting a ship. And that was a piece of entertainment too. Yes. One used to go to the Blackpool tower of a night and you’d have a table there to which everyone had to supply a drink and by the time you became the last person probably propping the bar having to buy about a dozen drinks. But I hoped to meet some gorgeous woman there and don’t think I ever had any. No I never had any success that way but on my last night I decided I’d escort this damsel home and I suggested she might like to go into an air raid shelter with me and she said, ‘In there with you. You must be daft.’ [laughs] That was my last night in England [laughs]
AP: Fair enough.
JM: So the ship, this is where the ship to India. This is where my good friend Newman did the dirt on me. Because Newman at this time was a warrant officer and I was only a flight sergeant. And he should have been in charge of the mess deck but he somehow manoeuvred it so that I was put in charge of the mess deck. And the problem with that was that when you hit a storm in the Mediterranean if you were in charge of the mess deck you were responsible for its orderliness inspection time. And as half the occupants vomited during a storm in the Mediterranean I had the problem of ordering people to clean it up which nobody would accept my orders [laughs]
AP: Oh dear.
JM: No. No. But it did have its advantages. We travelled to India and there was a commando unit on the ship also which challenged us to a boxing match. And as nominations were being made for who’d represent the air force I was able to nominate my friend Clem Walker instead of me to undertake our appropriate weight. The opponent promptly laid Clem Walker out. So that was a bit bad. We got off the ship at Bombay. Learned that our air force issue uniforms — pipe stem trousers were just not worn by anyone in India so promptly re-equipped ourselves at our own expense. Found places like Worli where there’s wonderful swimming pools where we were allowed entry. And that was great fun. We were entertained, being non-commissioned by a very kindly group of people. I don’t know whether they were YWCA or who but they brought some little Anglo-Indian girls into the afternoon tea to meet us. This is one of these occasions of being unable to make contact. The shyness was on both sides I suppose. We’d have had this somewhat racial attitude. And the little girls would have been so hesitant and lacking in self confidence that it was just, just hopeless. But if you were officer class you had an opportunity I think to meet the upper class Indian women in a way that British non-commissioned people, British other ranks we were called, BORs, and you just never had the opportunity of meeting the more companionable I suppose, more self confident Indian females. So what else in Bombay did I see? There was a racecourse. I never went to the racecourse, but some of my friends would come home and say, ‘Oh you should have been.’ Edgar Britt just gave us a tip for all the races of these Australian jockeys. Edgar Britt and a fellow called Roberts. And another fellow called Scarlet there. All the races were fixed apparently because the jockeys knew who was going to win [laughs] yeah.
AP: So you flew Liberators operationally. Am I correct?
JM: Hmmn?
AP: You flew Liberators operationally.
JM: Yes. Well from Bombay we went across to Calcutta at the height of the Bengal famine. That was unbelievable. Stepping off the train in Worli. Step over bodies. There were beggars with Elephantiasis. Do you know what Elephantiasis is? Our mess was, in the open air and after things had been cleaned up you would see these old women come along picking through our rubbish picking bones. Just [pause] and India’s population then was about four million then. The population of the same subcontinent now is about a billion and a half. So imagine —
AP: My sister —
JM: What problems they have.
AP: My sister actually lives in India. She’s in New Delhi now.
JM: Who’s that?
AP: My sister.
JM: Yeah.
AP: And she, yeah, founded and runs an NGO to develop education in certain parts of India so yeah I hear stories like that quite, quite frequently. Yeah. I think it’s a very different world. So tell me what you first thought of the Liberator the first time you saw one.
JM: Well I first went on as a second pilot to a man called Joe Morphett who was a flight commander. It’s one thing that convinced me that I was lucky to be an NCO because when I got my own crew we all slept in the same basha together. We became absolutely a glued team. But Joe Morphett — I never saw him except when we flew. The same with the navigators of that crew. The navigator rather. And I think there was another officer in the crew. Never got to see them outside the aircraft and it just convinced me that NCO, all NCO crews were a good thing. But I did seven or eight ops with Joe. On the last one Joe had [pause] Joe was an interesting man. I learned afterwards researching things that he’d been a schoolteacher. He had a degree in engineering and he had given this — we had a CO on 355 Squadron a man called Dobson who was a no-hoper in my opinion. He was, again like Crannon, a man who liked to discipline people if they fell out of line. So he, we had two aircraft blow up on the squadron on landing and this was considered a shameful thing. We had a situation where he was only getting about four of the aircraft of the unit’s twelve aircraft — how many aircraft did we have on the squadron? We must have had sixteen aircraft I think. And twenty four crews. And we’d get about four or five up on an operation because the rest weren’t serviceable. And he decided to apply discipline. So this didn’t work. We had the squadron minstrel like the one on Crannon’s ship come out with a rhyme that went to the tune of “St Cecilia, the squadron is a shambles. There’s no ops any more. Eighteen NCO lined up outside the CO’s door. They’re handing out the 252s and reprimands galore. On 355 old Barney” and it went on. And Dobson disappeared for a while and Joe Morphett took over the squadron. And Joe got up and gave a pep talk to the whole squadron on what they should be doing. He said. ‘Your petrol consumption is dreadful. We are having aircraft land at other posts because they’ve run out of petrol on the way back. Now this is unacceptable. There are ways of flying when you come back from a target if you fly the right way you will use much less petrol. And the right way to fly is to fly on the step.’ And what, “On the step,” means is you start off at the target at ten thousand feet and you very gradually lose height at cruising speed so that by the time you are near home post you have minimised your fuel consumption at the appropriate cruising speed and are ready to land. And so that was that. The next op we fly out with Joe Morphett. We were flying. We were bombing a place called Maymyo which is a bit of a hill station on the Burma route. The Burma road route to Chonqing and on, in our briefing we’d been warned that Mount Victoria which I think is one of the higher peaks in Burma had to be avoided. Somehow, coming home, Joe said, ‘Jesus we’re going to fly in to a bloody mountain.’ And you have a thing called the gate on a Liberator. If you go through the gate you increase your flying speed and your power and Joe went through the gate to get over this place. So we get back over the Sundarbans which, the delta at the mouth of the Ganges Bhramaputra system and an engine goes. Quick as a flash I said, ‘Perhaps it’s a pump Joe,’ and I put on the emergency pump and the engine came good again. Then the rest of the engines went. I put on all the emergency posts. To cut a long story short Joe said, told the crew to abandon. Somewhere into Bengal by this time. And he said to me, ‘This goes for you too Mac.’ So I released myself and kept going. There I find a blockage. The wireless operator, my friend Ron Vine is there and there is someone in front of him who won’t move. So I went back to Joe and said, ‘Anything I can do to help, skip?’ He said, ‘Get out.’ [laughs] So I went back and by this time Vine had booted Melville, the flight engineer in the bum, and Melville had descended. Subsequently breaking his leg we learned. Vine and I got out at God knows what height because we were within very short walking distance of Joe’s crashed aircraft. The man who’d been so determined that people wouldn’t run out of [pause] it was one of those ironies that you. Anyway, that was, I did one more op at Phulbani and then was sent to HCU. Heavy Conversion Unit at Kolar which is near Bangalore. Lovely climate but not much else to recommend it. Bangalore’s an interesting town but, you know.
AP: So ok so you parachuted from an aircraft?
JM: Pardon?
AP: You jumped out of an aeroplane you said.
JM: Yes. Yes.
AP: Where did you land and how did you get back?
JM: Well yes, that’s interesting because Vine and I, of course, landed within feet of [pause] this was about 4 o’clock in the morning. Vine and I landed within sight of one another. Must have been moonlight because Joe had seen the mountain and it was the 1st of April of all dates. And so we found our way to the village. It was the second village from where we — we went to the first village nearest. We knew roughly where the aircraft would be. The first village we woke everybody up and finally found someone who was able to direct us, who knew where the aircraft had crashed. So we walked over about another four or five hundred yards of paddy. We got to the next place and there found Joe had been taken out of the aircraft by the local people. Put under a tree. A mango tree. I couldn’t eat mangos for years after that but there was Joe with a great triangular piece rolled back across his scalp and a great chunk taken out of his thigh and after painkillers so we found the medical kit from the aircraft and tried to inject morphine without much success. Anyway, Joe said take it out and finally we persuaded someone to go and get help. And so we —eventually help came at about I suppose about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. And on April the 1st in Bengal. That’s not very — May the 1st it was. May the 1st and that was that’s a hot season in Bengal and if you’re inland in Bengal you get the worst of things because you get the humidity and you get the continental heat before the monsoon hits it the heat becomes absolutely unbearable. But there it was [pause] I suppose it was by 3 o’clock we got help. Someone came with a wheeled the [unclear] which Joe was put on to and the medico was able to give him an injection which helped. And so we wheeled to, the squadron transport had somehow been invoked in the meantime. Or some military transport had been invoked and it was waiting for us about two miles along this track that we walked, behind Joe. The medico had bought some supplies for us because Vine and I had not taken food or drink from them. We were afraid. When you arrived in India you were warned never to eat anything or drink water because dysentery and cholera were such a threat. So we were absolutely parched. And the medico, Indian medico had brought along water and he brought some boiled eggs. Well I wouldn’t take even his water. I tried to eat the boiled, hardboiled egg. And have you ever tried to eat anything when you have no saliva?
AP: Very difficult. Yes.
JM: Anyway, we got to the end of this trail. Joe was to be put into the ambulance or whatever it was. He turns to the medico and says, ‘Can I bale out now doc?’ which I think is one of the wonderful heroic remarks.
AP: Indeed.
JM: So Joe Morphett was his name. He got the DFC in the Middle East and he got a bar too. His DFC on that occasion. And Vine and I were put into hospital with heat exhaustion. We came out in a few days. We were, Vine was a wireless operator. He’d been my W/op in Harwell actually. So we came out of that and then I did one more op with a man called John or Johns. WO Johns and I learned more about flying Liberators from him. Sorry Joe but I did. Than I did in eight ops with you. Anyway, after that we were posted to, or a few of us and my friends by that stage, you change friendships in the air force. You move, made new friends and Clem Walker who I’d given the job of representing us in boxing on the ship, and Butch Smith, a Londoner with a cockney accent and I were sent to HCU at Kolar where were we converted on to Liberators as captains in our own right. And it was there we chose our crews but I was a bit slow in getting around to a crew because I had to find a navigator and dodge the one I didn’t want to find. And I landed up with this Australian. A real rough diamond. Old Greg. He was considerably older than I was. He’d been on Wellingtons on air sea rescue in Madras for a while. And Greg reckoned he should have been first pilot but he got lined up with me as first pilot. So that, that was a bit tricky to start off with but we managed to find a modus vivendi eventually. He was a rough diamond as they say. My last meeting with Greg was in Calcutta. I was having a forty eight hour leave and learned he was about to depart for Australia on a banana boat having finished his own tour and I went to see him off. And he paid me a compliment of saying, ‘McCredie if it had been any other bastard I wouldn’t have stuck it out.’ [laughs]
AP: Fair enough.
JM: That was a funny relationship with Greg.
AP: Do, do any of your subsequent ops stand out in your memory at all? Any of your —
JM: Hmmn?
AP: Do any of your subsequent operations stand out?
JM: Well, the time, the time I was shot up stands out of course. I mentioned that earlier so we did long operations. Fifteen hours and forty five minutes took place. Called [unclear] on the isthmus of [unclear] . Quite a long way down. The name eludes me for a moment.
AP: That’s, that’s a lot longer than most Bomber Command operations.
JM: Hmmn?
AP: That’s a lot longer than most Bomber Command operations.
JM: Yes. Well —
AP: Fifteen hours.
JM: The Liberator was designed for that. We carried six thousand pounds [coughs] Pardon me. I’d better have a drink [pause] We carried six thousand pounds to this place. The Lancaster for instance had a maximum bomb load of twenty thousand pounds. The Liberator’s maximum bomb load was twelve thousand pounds. But where we, when we flew at six thousand we could have two bomb bay tanks of fuel.
AP: Bomb bay tanks. Yeah.
JM: In place of the bombs so that would carry us comfortably for a sixteen hour flight. But if you went with no bombs as some people did on reconnaissance. My friend, my CO, Killarney later became a Pathfinder in South East Asia and he did one flight, I believe of twenty one hours in a Liberator.
AP: Nuts.
JM: A reconnaissance flight but —
AP: When you’re, when you’re flying as a pilot for fifteen odd hours you pretty much can’t leave your seat can you?
JM: Yes. Well you have a co-pilot.
AP: Of course.
JM: So it, it’s when you’re young it seemed to me, for instance my logbook inferred that within three— or two days or three days I I did two flights to Bangkok from from Bengal which were both over thirteen hours. Taking off on each occasion in daylight and landing in daylight. You made up for the sleep in the afternoons. Indeed the siesta was the common practice and then somehow about 5 o’clock you’d head, if you weren’t flying the next you’d head for the mess.
AP: Very good. What was, what was a tour? How long was a tour in India?
JM: Three hundred hours.
AP: Three hundred hours. So it’s an hour’s based thing.
JM: Three hundred hours or a year’s service. A year on the squadron active service.
AP: Yeah. Go on.
JM: So, what — my two nickels counted as operational service. The seventy odd hours I did at Phulbani counted as operation service. So by the time I reached three hundred my crew was not finished. So Clem Walker and I and Butch all said we’ll fly on. It was that stage of the war and we didn’t see much to stop us flying. And so I ended up with three hundred and seventy odd hours.
AP: Of operational flying.
JM: Yes.
AP: Wow. So what happened at the end of your tour? What’s next?
JM: I was sent on to Transport Squadron. Clem Walker and I were sent on transports to New Delhi where we, 232 Squadron — it was 99 Squadron in Dhubalia which was where I did the bulk of my ops. I don’t think I mentioned that squadron. 232 was the transport squadron I flew on for six months and we did milk runs to Bombay, Colombo, Calcutta. I went to Pegu in Burma on one occasion. Cocos Island and then I did one trip back to Australia as a second pilot. When I went to the transport squadron I was a second pilot for a couple of months. That’s when I did the trip home to Australia.
AP: What aircraft was this?
JM: Hmmn?
AP: What aircraft? What aircraft?
JM: Liberators.
AP: Liberators as well. Yeah. Ok.
JM: So managed to get home to see my parents. And [pause] but Cocos Island was the first time you had to fly there you wondered if the navigator was on the ball because there was a point of no return. But we did a few trips there and my old squadron, 99 Squadron was posted there after the end of the Jap war because it was participating in the Javanese campaign. We were helping the Dutch get back into Indonesia so when I visited Cocos Island I’d meet up with old mates from the squadron. That wasn’t very good for the passengers on the way back the next day [laughs] But Cocos Island was interesting. Huge crabs would come on shore at night. But transport flying was something that I must say never appealed to me. You felt like you had a purpose when you went on a bombing raid but and you got back to base if you were lucky but if you —
AP: Did you, did you fly at all after the war? No. Not at all.
JM: No I went back to — I took up the government’s offer of a university education and I’d worked out that Australia was going to need a Foreign Service. My sister had written to me and said Dr Everett had introduced this. ‘You should try and qualify for it.’ I managed to get myself into an honours arts degree at the university and applied for the cadet course in my first year. Didn’t even get an interview. Applied for it again in my second year. And then I had the thought I would go and talk to my professor who — Professor Crawford had worked in the Foreign Service. He’d been First Secretary in Moscow during the war. And I went along and saw him and said I’m just wondering if it was a better idea to write and tell them I’ll apply again when I finished my degree. He said, ‘That’s a very good idea.’ So I, I’d laid the foundation for his giving me a good recommendation the next year and managed to get into the Foreign Service which was an infant service in those days.
AP: I guess, summing it all up, what were your thoughts on your wartime service. How did it affect you? How did it affect your subsequent life?
JM: It well the first year at university was very difficult because I had all sorts of unfulfilled ambitions such as I wanted to play football again. And I managed to get into the university blues which were the B grade amateur team in those days and got myself injured in a way that upset my studies for a while. And it was a very much a party year. First year back so I had a bit of trouble settling down and it wasn’t until I saw myself being on the brink of being thrown off the course that I could really get down to, and apply myself, full time, to study.
AP: Sure.
JM: Which was essential.
AP: I suppose that’s, that’s pretty well the end of my list of questions. So we’ve been talking for an hour and three quarters now, believe it or not. And that’s absolutely fine.
JM: I hope your ears haven’t suffered too much from the bashing.
AP: Oh my ears. No. Not at all. I mean I have been watching the clock but it’s, yeah, it’s gone. Gone very quickly so thank you for very much. Really.
JM: Well I hope that’s helpful anyway.
AP: I think it will be.
JM: What are you going to do with all this?
[recording paused]
AP: We’ll be able to fix it later. Alright. Carry on.
JM: Yes. Well as an after, this shouldn’t be an afterthought because my squadron commander on 99 Squadron Lucian Killarney was an outstanding man by any classification. His idea of running a squadron was that everybody had to work together. The first thing he did was bring the ground crew together to explain that he understood perfectly the conditions which were very difficult in the Bengal climate. He understood there were problems with catering. We couldn’t always get what we wanted, ‘But what every squadron needed was to have serviceable aircraft and that’s on you people on which we all depend. We can’t do our job without you.’ Now I’d like to pay this compliment to Killarney as a leader as so distinct from the man Dobson on 355 squadron. Killarney managed to get twelve aircraft in the air on almost every operation and he did that by leadership. By explaining and getting the ground crew onside and it’s been my privilege to see something of him after the war and to know that he ran his furniture company with the same diligence and consideration and the quality of his furniture reflects that.
AP: Excellent. Excellent.



Adam Purcell, “Interview with John McCredie,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 14, 2024,

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