Interview with Alexander Lamb. One


Interview with Alexander Lamb. One


Alexander Lamb grew up in Scotland and worked in the civil service before he joined the Royal Air Force. He flew five operations as an air gunner with 15 Squadron.







00:47:13 audio recording


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BB: Good morning Alistair, and thank you for letting me come into your home. I am representing the International Bomber Command Centre at Lincoln and we’re doing an oral history of Bomber Command veterans. So this interview is being held with Mr Alexander McPherson Lamb in his home in Stirling. Would you like to tell us your story? Thank you.
AML: Well, I joined the RAF in — I think it was March. I’m not quite sure now unclear] I think it was March. And I volunteered for aircrew. I was a junior clerk in the civil service. War Department. And I joined the RAF in, I think it was March. March ’44 I think it would be. I can’t remember.
[background chat]
BB: Sorry Alistair.
AML: That’s alright. You start again? Or is it alright?
BB: No. Just carry on.
AML: You’ve stopped it.
BB: Yeah. Just carry on. Yeah.
AML: And I think it was March ’44. And I volunteered as an air gunner. Had my attestation and medical and whatnot initially in Edinburgh prior to that. And I think I actually joined in March ’44. Yeah. March ’44 was when I actually joined. Went down to London to Aircrew Reception Centre in London where we were sort of needles stuck in us and examined and —
BB: Was that the one in St John’s Wood?
AML: Pardon?
BB: St John’s Wood.
AML: St John’s Wood. Yes. St John’s Wood. Then we went from there overnight by train to Bridgnorth.
BB: In Wales.
AML: I can’t remember the number of the OTU. Of the thing it was. Bridgnorth anyway. I can’t remember where, what it was actually called. It would be RAF. I can’t remember what Bridgnorth was. I’ve got it somewhere. Maybe get it in my logbook.
BB: Ok. We’ll look at that later.
AML: And then did our initial training there. March, gunnery, various things. Air force law. The usual jazz that you get when you join up first of all. And after that we were then [pause] I can’t remember how long we were there. I’d need to look up my logbook again. We then went to gunnery school which was at Stormy Down in Wales.
BB: Right.
AML: Number 7.
BB: That’s right. Number 7 Air Gunner’s School.
AML: At Stormy Down’s in Wales. Near, near Porthcawl. A lovely — it was a good station and I enjoyed it very much. We flew in Ansons there.
BB: Yeah.
AML: We did our gunnery in Ansons there. We passed out. It would be in 28th I think. 28th of July or June, I’m not quite sure, ’44. And then came home on leave. From that we went back to Market Harborough. OTU. 14 OTU Market Harborough.
BB: Yeah.
AML: Where we spent the first three weeks more or less meeting people. Knowing about, meeting guys. All the crews that were there. And you were allowed a month, a fortnight or three weeks to what was called crew up. There was no compunction. You picked your own crew over a period of time and that. Then you went in a huge hangar and I don’t know who it would be, the CO or somebody said, ‘Who are the people who have got full crews?’ And they all went to one side. The last of us were left. If you didn’t have a full crew you were then left and there would be other spare people left as well.
BB: Right.
AML: And they would then say, ‘Well here’s a spare pilot.’ ‘Here’s a spare navigator.’ ‘Here’s a spare gunner.’ Would you all like to, ‘Would you like to crew up?’ And basically that’s how you crewed up.
BB: Which was all very sensible really because you got to know people that you could trust and you liked and you got on well with.
AML: That’s right. That’s right.
BB: So there was method in their madness.
AML: Oh there was. The usual thing as you do in all these things when you join up first. There’s always somebody who knows something about everything. And they said, ‘Oh look for a warrant officer pilot because he’ll have a lot of flying experience. Don’t look for a young flying officer who’s got none.’ Or a young sergeant pilot. A general thing.
BB: Very sensible.
AML: It didn’t matter. You just picked who you found. You took a like to somebody even before you know their qualifications. If you liked them you liked them you know.
BB: Yes.
AML: We picked a warrant officer pilot and when we went in to be crewed up we were told well he’s been posted somewhere else. We were then left standing until this lone sergeant pilot arrived. We didn’t know he was French and they said, ‘Well here’s a pilot needing somebody. What about a crew?’ And I must have been looked at and he said, ‘What would you like to ask?’ I said, ‘Well we’ll take up then.’ So that’s how we got crewed up.
BB: So you had this French, a French airman.
AML: Very very much French actually.
BB: French pilot.
AML: Yeah.
BB: Who was kind of left.
AML: That’s right.
BB: Was he in the French Air Force or was he in the RAF?
AML: He was in the French Air Force initially I think.
BB: Right.
AML: He came from — maybe this is more or less rubbish to you.
BB: No. No. Carry on.
AML: He came from France when the Germans invaded. I forget where it was. It was down in the south of France. Not as far as they were but it was quite far down. Near Bordeaux I think he was.
BB: Right. Southern France. In Vichy France.
AML: Aye. And he escaped and came back to this country and because he had very little English at that time he was put in a reserved occupation building aircraft. He was punching wing ribs out for an Auster aircraft in Leicester.
BB: Oh I see. Right.
AML: That’s where he was sent to. And he got so fed up with it he said the only way you could get out of a reserved occupation during the war was if you were volunteered for submarines or aircrew.
BB: I see. Right. They were so short on both.
AML: So he volunteered for aircrew and did his training, I understand with the French Air Force and the French training him. Probably the RAF but under the auspices of the French.
BB: Yeah. Yeah.
AML: And then in the usual way the wheels worked somebody said, ‘What’s this guy with a Scottish, with an English name doing in the French Air Force?’ Jack was then humped out of one into the other and we got him at OTU. His language was quite a problem for a while but we got to know about it. We then went on to Wellingtons at OTU at Market Harborough. And, I don’t know, I can’t remember the dates at Market Harborough. I need to look up my logbook.
BB: That’s ok.
AML: But you can fill them in after. I think we went to Market Harborough in ’44 some time. I can’t remember when. August ’44. I need to look at my logbook. You’ll see it in the logbook.
BB: Yes.
AML: ’44. Market Harborough I think. And we left there and when we did our stint we did a hundred and ten, about a hundred and ten hours on Wellingtons at Market Harborough. The reason we did so many is another story I wouldn’t bore you with. Anyway, and we then went home on leave and came back as a crew to — what did I say it was? Heavy conversion. 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit.
BB: 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit at Wigsley.
AML: Wigsley. Wiglsey.
BB: Yes.
AML: Flying Stirlings.
BB: Yes. How did you find the Stirling?
AML: I liked the Stirling very much indeed. I was very taken with the Stirling. Very very strong aircraft. Very robust aircraft. Plenty of room in it. Because you know how tremendous.
BB: Yes.
AML: I got extra flying time. We used to carry on till the [unclear] you see.
BB: It was a long way off the ground. I remember. And I see you have a model here too which shows the size of it.
AML: That’s right.
BB: Compared to the same scale.
AML: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: That you have a Wellington or a Lancaster.
AML: Aye. It was wingspan. You know the story. The wingspans were reduced to get it in to the hangar.
BB: Yes. That’s right.
AML: Which didn’t do it any good at all.
BB: No. Not good at all. No.
AML: It was literally a Sunderland wing.
BB: Yeah. Oh I see.
AML: You see.
BB: Made by Short’s of course.
AML: But ninety nine feet which made it very manoeuvrable but it couldn’t get much higher than —
BB: Couldn’t get the height.
AML: Sixteen thousand and there.
BB: Which made it very vulnerable to flak and fighters.
AML: Very vulnerable to flak. Yeah. Yeah. Same types of turret I had in the Lanc of course. Exactly the same. Anyway —
BB: Yes. Frazer and Nash turret.
AML: Went from there to the same OTU, same conversion. We went to, joined Lancs at that unit. We were then, we went over to Lancs at the same place. 14 OTU.
BB: 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit.
AML: Conversion Unit.
BB: Yeah.
AML: We went on to —
BB: 15 Squadron.
AML: No. Not at that time.
BB: Ok.
AML: We were then posted when we finished that course. I forget how long. I don’t remember how long. It wasn’t terribly long. We then went to 15 Squadron at Mildenhall in March ’45.
BB: That’s right.
AML: More or less a year after we joined. March. I joined a year ’45. And the first thing we did when we got there we were sent to Feltwell to do a GH bombing course.
BB: Gosh that must have been interesting.
AML: It was only about a fortnight’s course I think. A beautiful little airfield. I think it was Harvards they had there. It was a fighter. I think. I can’t remember.
BB: Yeah.
AML: But it was a very nice peacetime ‘drome. A lovely place. I liked Feltwell for the short time we were there.
BB: So that was fighter affiliation.
AML: No. We simply did GH bombing training.
BB: Just bombing training. Ok.
AML: For the navigator’s really.
BB: Yeah.
AML: The navigators and bomb aimers. This type of GH bombing. I can’t remember.
BB: Yes. That would meant that you would have two yellow stripes on your tail when you qualified to be a bombing leader.
AML: Aye. GH leader. Some of —
BB: Yeah.
AML: Some of the aircraft had yellow striped on the tail.
BB: Yeah. That’s right.
AML: Some hadn’t. It was a means of identification.
BB: Yes. Yes.
AML: Then we came back from there just more or less overnight to RAF Mildenhall itself. Where we were originally. And we were there at RAF Mildenhall until we left in — when would it be? When did we leave Mildenhall?
BB: Mildenhall.
AML: ’46 I think we left Mildenhall.
BB: 20th of August ’46 I think you mentioned before.
AML: Yeah. They moved. They moved to Wyton. The squadron moved to Wyton.
BB: Did you go with them to Wyton?
AML: We went to Wyton. Yeah.
BB: Yeah. Ok.
AML: And the crew, the whole crew went to it. That was the last trip my skipper did. He was then posted as an instructor.
BB: Right. He was screened.
AML: Aye.
BB: And went off to an OTU.
AML: Aye and of course by that time everybody was getting broken up because ’46 the demobbing was taking its toll and people were coming and going. And new people were coming in and sort of general get togethers what was disappearing quickly because you were losing people left, right and middle. And as I say I was fortunate. I stayed flying until I was demobbed which was quite lucky for me.
BB: Yes. Yes. That’s right.
AML: Because 15 was a peacetime squadron. So that’s why I think.
BB: Yes. So with that pretty well organised.
AML: Pre-war squadron.
BB: Yes.
AML: That’s why we were probably kept as such. 44 and 15 and some of the others, 7 were all peacetime squadrons.
BB: All the wartime squadrons were disbanded.
AML: That’s right. Yeah. Were all disbanded.
BB: The peacetime squadrons were re-kept.
AML: Yeah.
BB: And some of the wartime ones were re-kept.
AML: Yeah well —
BB: Like 617 for example.
AML: We had Tuddenham. We talked about Tuddenham.
BB: Tuddenham. Yes.
AML: Just across the road from us.
BB: Yeah. Yes.
AML: A case of wheels up, wheels down, landing.
BB: Yes.
AML: Then we stayed there until we were posted. As I say we were posted to Wyton. Wyton, a beautiful station. A peacetime.
BB: Yes. I’ve been to Wyton. Yes.
AML: A very modern peacetime station.
BB: Yes.
AML: A lovely station. And I was there until I was demobbed.
BB: Yes.
AML: We did a lot of stuff after the war. Immediately after the war, before the war actually ended in Japan. We brought liberated prisoners of war back. We did supply dropping to the Dutch.
BB: Yes.
AML: I got a medal from the Dutch government for that. We did three trips of supply dropping to the Dutch and I think we did three trips for bringing prisoners of war back but I think we came in to —
BB: Yeah.
AML: Westcott.
BB: Westcott. Yes.
AML: I think so.
BB: In Bucks.
AML: Oh my memory’s not as good as it used to be I’m afraid.
BB: So — that’s ok. So how many actual operations did you do? You came in late in the war.
AML: I came in very late. I didn’t join —
BB: Did you do six or five or —?
AML: I did, I did, the crew did six and I did five.
BB: Ok.
AML: I took food poisoning.
BB: Oh right. So you did your five ops. And —
AML: Four daylights and one. Four daylights and one night.
BB: Ok.
AML: Kiel was a night op. And I understand that the war was still on this time — these supply drops trips and prisoner of war would have been turn ups. I don’t think they were actually given as that.
BB: No.
AML: And somebody said to us, ‘Oh you could, in a push, count them as ops,’ but I never ever did that.
BB: No. No.
AML: I didn’t do. But that was —
BB: No.
AML: That was on.
BB: But in terms of bombing German or French targets. Yes. Yes.
AML: Actual bombing Germany itself.
BB: Yes. As target. Yes. Yes.
AML: I did four daylights.
BB: Four daylights.
AML: Munster, Bocholt, Heligoland, Kiel and Bremen.
BB: And Bremen. And Bremen was your last one.
AML: Last one we did.
BB: Yeah. And did you, did you drop — did you have a chance to drop those big bombs?
AML: No. Not at that time.
BB: The Tallboys. No.
AML: 15 Squadron wasn’t doing that.
BB: No. No.
AML: It was a specialised.
BB: Yes. 617. Yeah. Yeah.
AML: 617.
BB: Yes.
AML: Was a specialised squadron for that.
BB: So you dropped the normal, you had a normal cookie and the normal other ones. Yeah.
AML: That’s right. A normal cookie.
BB: Normal load. Yeah.
AML: Or an eight thousand pounder double cookie sometimes.
BB: Right.
AML: And I’ve got to know, I think about a fourteen thousand pounds was about the standard bomb load we had.
BB: Bomb load. Right.
AML: Sixteen hundred gallons of gas. Fuel.
BB: Yeah.
AML: It’s in my logbook. You’ll see it there. Yes. Then 15 Squadron became a sort of — well we were doing a lot of training. Long range navigation exercises. Things like that. Then we started to convert to get the Lancaster ones, the ones they were using for the ten ton bomb.
BB: Yes.
AML: I forget why it was. Like B1 specials I think they were called.
BB: B1 specials. They took the nose turret off and —
AML: The top turret off.
BB: Yeah.
AML: And bomb doors off.
BB: And the bomb doors off to take the Tallboys.
AML: That’s right.
BB: Yes.
AML: We dropped those. We called it Operation Farge I think it was called. We did the dropping of these bombs on the U-boat pens at Farge.
BB: Yeah. Ok.
AML: Because they didn’t know when the war ended exactly what damage was being done with the Halifax that did this. Then we did — oh what was the operation? There was a point but I can’t remember. Where we bombed [pause] ships in the English Channel to see what would happen to bombs.
BB: Oh to see what the damage —
AML: Yeah.
BB: Yeah. Would be —
AML: We flew then at a certain height and we dropped a stick of bombs. I think they were five hundred pounders. And then if and when we went to hit a boat [laughs] It was HMS Firefly. I think it was. It was an ex-mine sweeper. They then stopped the bombing and the navy went aboard the board and put a real bomb in where our bomb had struck or where somebody’s bomb had struck.
BB: Yes.
AML: And then detonated that bomb from a launch so they could then say that an aircraft at eighteen thousand feet dropped a five hundred pound bomb going into number two engine room would do X amount of damage.
BB: X amount of damage. Yes.
AML: This is what we did. We did some research on that.
BB: It was to see what the actual damage was.
AML: That’s right. That’s right.
BB: To a vessel being hit by a bomb of that kind.
AML: That’s right. That was to give them —
BB: So they could either improve the munition.
AML: Yeah.
BB: Or just to see the damage.
AML: It was to give them a general – they didn’t physically know, you know, but now they could actually do it. So we did quite a bit of that.
BB: Right.
AML: And then we got, we were lucky enough to get a trip to Italy.
BB: You went to Italy to bring back POWs.
AML: No. To bring back guys on leave as well.
BB: Oh ok. Right.
AML: I think it was a reward. The squadron got a reward. The squadrons got a reward.
BB: A chance to go and get some oranges and stuff like that.
AML: That’s right.
BB: From Italy. Yes.
AML: Yeah.
BB: And some wine no doubt.
AML: Yeah.
BB: Excellent.
AML: I think we landed at Blackbushe.
BB: Blackbushe right.
AML: Coming back. Aye.
BB: And did your crew all survive the war?
AML: Yes. Yes.
BB: Do you keep in touch with them at all?
No. They’re all away now. My skipper died. I’ve been to see my skipper. My navigator and I went to see my skipper in Australia. I went on my own once and he came with me the next time.
BB: Right.
AML: And he’d been over here. Funnily enough I’ve just had a phone call from Australia saying they’re coming across for my eightieth — for my ninetieth birthday.
BB: Oh that’s nice. That’s good. That’s very nice. Now just to remind me. When were born again. What’s your date of birth?
AML: 1925.
BB: Pardon?
AML: 5.9 ’25.
BB: 5.9 ’25. And that was in Stirling.
AML: Stirling.
BB: Yeah.
AML: In this house.
BB: In this house. Right. Ok.
AML: I’ve lived here ever since.
BB: So you’ve lived in here.
AML: Ever since.
BB: Ever since.
AML: No desire to move.
BB: No. And you were with the civil service before you —
AML: Yeah.
BB: Before you went and when you came back from the war that’s what you did.
AML: I was —what do you call that? I worked in the War Department as a boy messenger initially.
BB: Ok.
AML: For a few months until I then got a junior clerks job. And when I left I was a clerk. What they called temporary clerks because there was no establishment at that time, I understand. During the war.
BB: And that was in —
AML: Stirling.
BB: In Stirling.
AML: [unclear] in Stirling.
BB: Oh in the military side of it there.
AML: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: Ok. Ok. And so they didn’t [pause] was that a reserved occupation in that sense?
AML: Probably it might have been. I don’t think so. Anyway —
BB: Because you volunteered for air crew.
AML: Aye.
BB: Yeah.
AML: But what happened then I understand. I don’t know maybe you shouldn’t quote this but I think, I think the people who had gone out had to get their jobs back. You know, after the war.
BB: Yes. They had to be kept for them yeah.
AML: And I went back in. And realise there would be no things like that. I then transferred to what were called the Department of Health and Social Security I think we called it.
BB: Ok.
AML: National Insurance, I think. In Stirling. I was still a temporary clerk.
BB: After, after the war.
AML: Yeah. After the war.
BB: Ok.
AML: And I was there when I had to sit the civil service exam.
BB: Right.
AML: If I wanted to become established. That was the only way you could keep it.
BB: Yeah.
AML: So I sat the civil service exam, passed it and was posted on a permanent, as a permanent civil servant to Elgin.
BB: Elgin. Right.
AML: Elgin. And I was in Elgin for seven — nine months. Then I got back to Stirling. Well I got back to Alloa.
BB: Yes.
AML: And then I got from Alloa to Stirling.
BB: Right.
AML: I was in Stirling until I was demobbed.
BB: Right.
AML: And became a HEO, acting HEO and I was that until I came out. Where did I come out? ’48. Would it have been 1984 ’85 ’86? I can’t remember.
BB: That’s when you retired.
AML: When I was sixty.
BB: Sixty.
AML: In my grade, at that time, you had to go. At your age.
BB: Right. You couldn’t, you couldn’t negotiate.
AML: You couldn’t stay on. Now you can go on forever I understand.
BB: Right. Ok. And you went to school in Stirling.
AML: Went to school.
BB: What? The High school?
AML: Riverside.
BB: Riverside. And that’s where you, did you get your school certificate there?
AML: Yeah. Well I got — I left at fourteen.
BB: Yeah.
AML: As most people did in those days. .
BB: Yeah.
AML: I think I got what they called was it a day school or—? I can’t remember actually.
BB: Yeah. But you had, but you had enough to qualify for aircrew.
AML: Well, I don’t think it really mattered what scholastic abilities you had if you passed.
BB: Passed their test.
AML: The sort of general assessment test.
BB: Yeah. Yeah. Well there were –
AML: Yeah — there were quite a few lads, that’s the wrong word, who were plumbers or joiners who had, you know.
BB: Done apprenticeships the same.
AML: That’s right.
BB: Yeah.
AML: And they went too. Yeah.
BB: Right. Ok. And your mother. Your parents lived in this house.
AML: Yeah.
BB: And obviously that was a great worry to your mother. Going off flying bombers.
AML: Yeah. Yeah. My father died.
BB: Rear gunners position in the bomber at that. The most dangerous position in the aircraft.
AML: My father died. I think in ’40. 1940.
BB: Oh right. Ok.
AML: He was a regular serving soldier prior to that.
BB: What? In the army.
AML: Yeah.
BB: Ok.
AML: A twenty eight year man I think he was.
BB: Did he die in the war? Or did he —?
AML: No. No. He was out of the war. He came out the forces in 1924.
BB: Oh. Ok. So must have been a boy soldier and worked his way up and all that.
AML: Yeah. He joined the Seaforth Highlanders when he was eighteen.
BB: Ok.
AML: I think.
BB: Ok. And these are his medals on the wall.
AML: That’s right. Then after, after the Sudan campaign. Kitchener’s Sudan campaign.
BB: Yeah.
AML: He came back to Egypt.
BB: Right.
AML: In fact I’ve got a letter there written when he was in Egypt. He lost a sister during the terrible flu epidemic. I remember that was in the letter.
BB: I see he’s got the Egyptian Medal.
AML: That’s right.
BB: And the First World War.
AML: Yeah.
BB: War and Victory Medal and looks like —
AML: He’s got a Long Service Meritorious Medal.
BB: Long Service Medals and Meritorious Medal. Yes.
AML: He also has the Russian Order of Saint Stanislaus as well.
BB: Oh right. Ok. Interesting. So he served in the first, he had been a combat soldier.
AML: A regular serving soldier.
BB: In those campaigns.
AML: He was —
BB: How much did his military service influence you in, you know in going into the RAF?
AML: No. I don’t think so. Terribly much.
BB: No. No.
AML: I was never really army orientated.
BB: No. I didn’t mean the army. Just the whole military culture was in the family.
AML: Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye.
BB: Yeah. That’s good.
AML: My cousin was killed at Dunkirk.
BB: Was he? Yes. What was he in?
AML: He was in the Royal Artillery.
BB: Royal Artillery. So he’s buried in France.
AML: Somewhere in France.
BB: Yes. Yes.
AML: I don’t know where.
BB: Exactly where. No. Oh dear. Ok.
AML: Research to that.
BB: Right.
AML: And all my other cousins were in the forces during the war.
BB: Yes.
AML: You know. In various bits.
BB: Yes. But no brothers and sisters.
AML: No.
BB: No.
BB: But you remember your cousins were in the armed forces during the war. Did you ever meet up in Stirling? On leave and things.
AML: No.
BB: No.
AML: I never met them at all.
BB: Never met them at all.
AML: No. It just so happened that, you know —
BB: What was leave like? Did you get regular leave or did it — haphazard? Or —
AML: When you were flying on operations you got I think every seventh week was a leave week. I can’t really remember.
BB: Right.
AML: You got quite a bit of leave. We were quite fortunate. I think, I think it was every seventh week. I can’t remember to be quite —
BB: Yeah. But you did get regular leave.
AML: We got regular leave. Better than most people.
BB: Yes.
AML: Better than most people. Yes.
BB: Yes. Yes.
AML: Yes we did. Aye. Aye.
BB: I’ve heard that before from other veterans.
AML: Yeah. And we always got our [unclear], you know. Of course. I’m talking from an NCO point of view.
BB: Yes. Yes.
AML: I don’t know remember what the officers got. They would get the same as us.
BB: Right.
AML: But that’s, that’s their —
BB: Were you made up to flight sergeant before?
AML: After a year I was —
BB: You were a warrant officer weren’t you?
AML: I was, after a year I got my flight sergeant.
BB: Yeah. You went in as a, sorry, you must have joined as an LAC.
AML: Oh I think I was an AC2. I don’t know —
BB: Sorry, AC2.
AML: An AC2 I think.
BB: And then gone through your training.
AML: Training.
BB: And then you would have got your sergeant’s stripes.
AML: Sergeant. That’s right and then I got my flight sergeant.
BB: Now, was that before you went to OUT? Sergeant. To be sergeant.
AML: Yes.
BB: Yeah.
AML: Ah huh. When everybody went to OTU they were all aircrew by that.
BB: Yes.
AML: They were all qualified aircrew.
BB: Ok. Ok. So once you got your wings you made a sergeant.
AML: That’s right.
BB: And then you got your flight sergeant.
AML: Yes.
BB: And then you got your warrant officer.
AML: Warrant yeah.
BB: That’s very good.
AML: I got my warrant officer last. I told you. After nine months.
BB: Yes.
AML: You could take, you could take your flight sergeant after nine months.
BB: Yes.
AML: And your W after a year.
BB: Yes.
AML: But Tom said, ‘Oh no you should do it the other way around. You get more money.’ But you don’t get it you know.
BB: And was that was that on a selection basis or a board?
AML: No. It was automatic.
BB: Was it automatic?
AML: Yeah.
BB: Oh I see.
AML: Unless you really had been a bad boy or something.
BB: A bad boy. That’s right.
AML: As far as I can understand it virtually just came through on station, a station order, you know.
BB: Routine orders. Yes. That’s it.
AML: Follow through on flight sergeants.
BB: Right.
AML: In fact I’ve got the papers of my father.
BB: Right.
AML: The same way.
BB: Yes.
AML: In the army way back.
BB: So it was, it was on a good record and on time.
AML: That’s right. Yeah.
BB: Ok. That’s fine.
AML: And I got my warrant officer the same way.
BB: Yes.
AML: The warrant officer was slightly different. I can remember. I think you went in front of the CO.
BB: Yes.
AML: Or your squadron CO.
BB: Yeah.
AML: And he asked you a few questions. Blah blah blah. He knew of you. He knew of you of course by this time anyway.
BB: Yes, of course he did.
AML: And he would say ok.
BB: And he would have had your flight commander’s report and all the rest of it. Yeah.
AML: Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye.
BB: And so you got your Tate and Lyle’s on your, on your sleeve.
AML: Aye. I’ve got a picture. Over there.
BB: Yes.
AML: Over there.
BB: Yes. Yeah. Got your Tate and Lyle’s.
AML: My Tate and Lyle’s. Yeah.
BB: Yeah.
AML: Yeah.
BB: That’s great. Now tell me about, tell me about, I’m going to ask you certain aspects of Bomber Command and you can say well did you know about these things or not. There was a lot of, there was a lot of problem with venereal disease in Bomber Command. So much so that the Bomber Command chief medical officer went to see Bomber Harris and —
AML: In his book yes. It’s in the book. Aye.
BB: Was there any instances of that on your squadron that you knew? I mean it’s not something that somebody would brag, talk about.
AML: No. No. I don’t think, I don’t remember.
BB: No.
AML: I don’t remember.
BB: The medical officer didn’t give the talks and all that kind of thing.
AML: No.
BB: No.
AML: No. We got a very terrible talk. A horrible talk at ITW. At —
BB: Initial Training Wing. Right.
AML: At Aircrew Reception Centre.
BB: Oh right.
AML: Most of us didn’t know the first thing they were talking about. That’s how innocent we all were.
BB: So naive and young then.
AML: Oh absolutely. People don’t believe it. We were really.
BB: Yes.
AML: You got an odd guy who’d been a bit of a man of the world sort of style.
BB: Aye. No.
AML: But the rest of us we knew what women were and all the rest of it.
BB: Ok.
AML: But that was it.
BB: Alright. That’s fine.
AML: No it was —
BB: No. It was fine.
AML: It was a sort of movie. I mean they actually, you know.
BB: You grew up very quickly no doubt.
AML: Yeah. It was an American made movie.
BB: Right.
AML: About how they met and this guy goes with this lassie and all the rest of it.
BB: Right.
AML: And then graphic pictures of your [laughs]
BB: Yes. Yes.
AML: Thingummy.
BB: All the aftermath of all of that yeah.
AML: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: But to scare you as well and to give you information.
AML: Aye. It did. I never ever met anyone to my knowledge.
BB: No. No. Ok. Well as I said it’s nothing you would sort of say, hey. You know. But the other thing I want to talk about is LMF. Lack of moral fibre. Did you have any knowledge or —
AML: I never met anybody of LMF.
BB: No. Anybody on your squadron or the station that —
AML: Our first navigator.
BB: That you know.
AML: Our first navigator. We’d had a long protracted training at OTU because we kept losing people.
BB: Right.
AML: We lost two navigators at OTU.
BB: What? They were scrubbed?
AML: Aye. Scrubbed.
BB: Yeah.
AML: The first one just suddenly packed up his nav bag one night and said, ‘I’m not having any more of this.’ And disappeared. That’s the last we saw of him.
BB: Right.
AML: I don’t think it was LMF. It was just a case of —
BB: Just got out of it.
AML: I mean he was fully qualified to be a navigator.
BB: Yeah. Yeah.
AML: And then the next thing what happened to me was much the same. Two navigators on the trot and of course —
BB: That would have delayed you graduating from OTU.
AML: Yeah. Of course the pundits said to us, ‘Oh you’ll get a lot of hours in Wellingtons you’ll finish up in the Far East in Wellingtons.’ This sort of thing. You know. That’s what happened to us. That’s why we were held up first of all.
BB: Right. Ok. And the other and the other issue was morale generally. Because at your time with, in Bomber Command it was towards the end. Was morale fairly high?
AML: Oh aye. Very high. Yeah. Yeah.
BB: Yeah. I mean the losses had, the losses in Bomber Command were horrendous.
AML: Oh aye I’d be the first to admit that. It was unfortunate of course. People getting killed the last day of the war.
BB: Yes.
AML: That happened.
BB: Yes.
AML: But we didn’t have the colossal losses they had in —
BB: 1943.
AML: 1943/44.
BB: 1944. Early ’44. Yeah.
AML: Oh No. No. No.
BB: The Battle of the Ruhr. The Battle of Berlin.
AML: That’s right. That’s right. That’s when the chop rate—
BB: Were more or less gone
AML: That’s when the chop rate were really something to —
BB: But German night fighters were still flying.
AML: Oh yeah.
BB: When they got the fuel.
AML: Yeah.
BB: And the flak was just –
AML: Yeah. Flak was, your biggest worry was flak.
BB: Did you ever get to see any of the German jets?
AML: Yes.
BB: The Luftwaffe jets.
AML: Yes. I saw a 163 in actual action. It’s all in my logbook.
BB: Yeah. Yeah.
AML: And we went to [pause] the last raid of the war we did. I saw a 163 way below us [schwoooo noise]
BB: That was the Bremen. Bremen.
AML: Bremen.
BB: Yes.
AML: Aye. Aye. Aye. But no —
BB: It didn’t, it didn’t attack or —
AML: No. It had come up — I think 5 Group went to Hamburg the same day.
BB: Right.
AML: And —
BB: Of course you were in 4 Group.
AML: I was in 3 Group.
BB: Sorry. 3 Group.
AML: Some of the things I’m telling you now is on reflection. I mean I would need to really, you know think what exactly it was what it was on reflection I can remember.
BB: Right.
AML: Because I don’t want to line shoot to you under any circumstance. No. That was, that was, I saw a 16. I saw, I saw 262s in Germany after the war.
BB: After the war. On the ground.
AML: We were over in France.
BB: Yeah.
AML: And I saw them there.
BB: Yeah.
AML: They were certainly a very terrible aeroplane. Wonderful.
BB: Right. Now. Dropping the food parcels and other things to the Dutch. That must have been very rewarding.
AML: Oh very. Great. Great.
BB: Because the Dutch were starving at that stage.
AML: The great thing about it was you were allowed to fly low.
BB: Yes.
AML: Down to two hundred or less. Three hundred feet. In fact lower. My skipper took us down to about twenty eight feet some of the time. We were so low. Because he wanted to low fly and I used to say I’m getting water in to the tail turret [laughs] We flew low over —
BB: You did three of those you said.
AML: Pardon?
BB: You did three trips.
AML: We did three trips.
BB: Yeah.
AML: Yeah. Yeah
BB: And then the other humanitarian thing was bringing the POWs back.
AML: That’s correct. Bringing prisoners of war back. Yeah.
BB: From Italy and Germany.
AML: Yeah. The Americans were flying them from either lower or upper Silesia and we were picking them up at Juvincourt.
BB: Right.
AML: And I can remember I think the station was run by Germans as far as I can remember. Nearly all the German people seemed to be able to do the menial tasks there.
BB: Yes. Right.
AML: And then we, the Japanese war was still on of course.
BB: Yes. Of course.
AML: We were bringing them back from Germany at that time. Yeah.
BB: And they, they were obviously very pleased to get, be getting home.
AML: Oh yeah. Yeah.
BB: How many could you get in a Lancaster?
AML: I think I can remember off hand. It was either thirty or twenty six. I can’t honestly remember.
BB: And they all sat on the floor.
AML: Yeah.
BB: Or wherever they could.
AML: Yeah. They used to say in the air force you know this is a rubbish and that’s rubbish. I never saw organisation so wonderful as supply dropping and the prisoners of war. When we, when we went out to bring the prisoners of war back I can remember I was given a bag and in it was discs. And on the disc was a stencilled number one, two, three, four, five, six.
BB: Yeah. Whatever yeah.
AML: And on the fuselage someone had stencilled numbers inside the fuselage. And the idea was that I gave you a number five disc and you went in and the other gunner would say, ‘There’s number five. Sit there.’ And he sat on the floor.
BB: Yeah. Ok.
AML: At number five.
BB: So it was like a boarding, a boarding pass today.
AML: It was really.
BB: Yes.
AML: A very highly organised.
BB: Everybody had their place they had to sit.
AML: That’s right.
BB: And this would have been worked on a centre of gravity basis in the aircraft presumably.
AML: It must have been. Although it was some of the, some of the crew wanted to see land and of course they moved about, you know.
BB: Right.
AML: And I said, ‘Now don’t move about.’ You know.
BB: And did you ever go on any Cook’s Tours as well to look at the German cities that had been bombed.
AML: Yes. I did the Cook’s Tours as well. Yeah.
BB: Yeah.
AML: You’ll see the places we went to.
BB: Yes. That must have been quite sobering.
AML: We took, we took ground crew with us.
BB: Yes. Yes. Ground crew and the ground crew and the people from ops and the WAAFs.
AML: That’s right. Aye.
BB: And so on. Yeah.
AML: Took them with us. Aye.
BB: Yes. Yes.
AML: I forget where we went.
BB: Ok.
AML: You’ll see it.
BB: Did bomber Harris ever come to see you at the station?
AML: I think he did. As I told you, I think, yesterday.
BB: Yes.
AML: I can’t honestly remember but I’m almost certain somebody told me he did — I can’t, I would be wrong to tell you.
BB: No. No. He did go around.
AML: I’d be wrong to tell you. Yeah.
BB: How was he perceived by the guys on the squadron? Was he just, was he just Harris and that was it or –
AML: Oh aye. He was —
BB: Or did they actually —
AML: He was a good leader.
BB: Yeah.
AML: He did a lot for aircrew. He, again this is all —
BB: Yes.
AML: Sort of —
BB: Your own opinion. Yes.
AML: General talk.
BB: Right. Right.
AML: I don’t know how true or how bad it is.
BB: Right.
AML: But I understand he was the person who wanted every aircrew be commissioned. Or everybody LACs.
BB: Right.
AML: And I mean no different. He wanted all crews to be the same because they were all taking the same risks.
BB: Right.
AML: It couldn’t have worked that way.
BB: No.
AML: But that was the idea.
BB: Yeah.
AML: Most pilots of four engine aircraft were commissioned.
BB: Yeah. Or warrant officers.
AML: Or some —
BB: Yeah.
AML: We had two ome sergeant pilots.
BB: Yeah. A lot of sergeant pilots.
AML: They blotted their copy book but were so good they stayed as they were.
BB: Yeah.
AML: If you came on a squadron it was possible to be still a sergeant. Might have been a flight sergeant by the time he got to bomber, to thingummybob.
BB: Yeah.
AML: But there was. You’ll see on the crew list there.
BB: Yeah. Sergeants.
AML: Sergeants. Aye.
BB: And and and then you came out – what in ’47.
AML: I came out in ’47. I think it was ’47.
BB: ’47. You know the war had been finished a while so you had all that civilian.
AML: Flying.
BB: Flying. And you had obviously bringing back prisoners of war still at that time.
AML: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: Some weren’t being released until late.
AML: Yeah. Yeah. We converted on to Lincolns before I came out.
BB: That’s right. Because they were —
AML: Tiger Force.
BB: Tiger Force. That’s right, they’re the ones that were going to go to Japan but didn’t happen because they dropped the atomic bomb.
AML: No. Just as well.
BB: Yes. And so you didn’t consider staying in as a regular? Transferring to the regular air force after the war.
AML: Yes and no. But then somebody said, ‘Well, ok you stay in.’ Who the hell wants a gunner when the war’s finished? I’d have to re-muster probably.
BB: Well it had them in the Lincolns so you would have been a very experienced air gunner if you’d stayed on the Lincolns.
AML: Ah. No. I mean they were on the Lincolns. Ok
BB: They’d probably give you a job on ops or something like that.
AML: I didn’t – Unless I was flying I wasn’t interested.
BB: No. Ok. So you weren’t tempted. One because you had this very good job in Civvy Street which was being held for you.
AML: Well that’s right.
BB: Yeah.
AML: At that time it wasn’t such a good job. Just a normal clerk’s job.
BB: But it was a regular job.
AML: But I had a job to come back to.
BB: It was a regular job.
AML: Plus the fact my mother was living alone.
BB: Yes. Exactly. Here.
AML: Here.
BB: Right.
AML: And I thought well what am I going to do?
BB: Yeah. That’s right.
AML: Funnily enough I met quite a few chaps who I’d served with in the squadron who had stayed on and signed on and finished up at Lossiemouth.
BB: Oh yes.
AML: And when I went to Elgin. My first posting with the civil service at Elgin.
BB: That’s very close to Lossiemouth.
AML: I met one of these guys, one or two guys in the pub. They said, ‘You should go back in again. The money’s good.’ And I half thought of going back.
BB: Yeah. Because you could have re-mustered.
AML: Oh well.
BB: Because they, you were, once they awarded your brevet.
AML: Yeah.
BB: You wore it forever.
AML: You wore it. Yeah.
BB: Unless you did something really wrong.
AML: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: And they took it away from you.
AML: Yeah. Oh no.
BB: But you know I —
AML: They couldn’t take your brevet off you.
BB: But when I was a reservist I was one for thirty three years. When I first joined as APO, acting pilot officer up at Kinloss and other stations you had these old hairies as we used to call them. Who still had their —
AML: That’s right.
BB: You know, wartime brevets on.
AML: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
BB: But they’d been re-mustered as ops clerks.
AML: Did you never, did you never fly at all Bruce?
BB: In Nimrods.
AML: Oh Nimrods.
BB: I used to fly in the Nimrods.
AML: What as? Not as aircrew though.
BB: No. I was —
AML: I thought you said the technical. Aye.
BB: Well I was in intelligence so I was there to look at things. Yeah. Yeah.
AML: No. I never thought much about that.
BB: No. No. But they were a great bunch. And of course the Nimrod is a multi crew aircraft.
AML: That’s right.
BB: So it had kinships to Bomber Command.
AML: Oh yeah. Yeah. That’s right.
BB: You know. You had your crew.
AML: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: And you know everybody stuck together and —
AML: Oh you could read each other like a book.
BB: Oh yes. And of course we had to brief those crews much the same. And it hasn’t changed. You know, they’d all come to briefing. They’d sit down. The wing commander would stand up. Or the group captain would stand up. The curtains would be drawn.
AML: That’s it.
BB: Just like that.
AML: Aye.
BB: And they would either go [groan] another Atlantic trip or another Mediterranean trip or wherever it was. And all the plot would be up there. Where everything was.
AML: Isn’t it funny that you found out about your crew in many ways? Our wireless operator thought he was the greatest wireless operator in the world.
BB: And was he?
AML: I don’t know. But anyway we had an exercise we did occasionally to go out to the North Sea or out to the Atlantic to — navigation really .
BB: Yeah. Nav ex.
AML: To find a weather ship.
BB: A weather ship.
AML: Or a destroyer. Or something.
BB: Yeah.
AML: I can’t remember all the details. And you had to signal and of course he was in the astrodome and of course aldis they had in the Navy you see —
BB: The aldis lamp.
AML: Aye.
BB: Yeah.
AML: And I always remember he couldn’t read so he said to send up, ‘Please send slowly.’ [laughs] He couldn’t read the navy. You know, they were, they were tremendous. You know.
BB: Yeah, that’s right.
AML: I’ll always remember that.
BB: That’s right.
AML: And my skipper. He hated, he didn’t like landing in the half light and it used to annoy my navigator furiously because you were coming back and I’ m talking about, this is basically after the war. Of course during the war you were restricted what you could and couldn’t do. A long cross country you know.
BB: Yeah.
AML: Our navigator was a great one for food. He was desperate for food. And he would say, ‘I’ve packed up my nav bag. You’re alright. You’ll be over the fields in ten minutes.’ And Jack would say, ‘I want a dog leg.’ And he would get a fury, ‘What the hell are you on about?’
BB: I want to eat my sandwiches.
AML: ‘I want to land in the dark.’ And I said why do you like landing in the dark?’ He said, ‘What I can’t see doesn’t bother me.’ [laughs]
BB: Yeah. Well that’s very true.
AML: Yeah. That was him.
BB: Yeah.
AML: He liked to land in the dark. Yeah.
BB: That’s good. That’s right. And then of course when they came back from their trips in the Nimrod, just like in Bomber Command, we would sit down and debrief them.
AML: That’s right.
BB: And they used to hate that.
AML: Aye. Aye.
BB: Because they wanted to get away to their bed or get their breakfast.
AML: That’s right.
BB: Or whatever.
AML: The trouble with that was with your egg. We got an egg with everything.
BB: Yeah. But you really had to be very strict with them and say, ‘No. Let’s get this done and then you can go.’
AML: You had to get an egg with everything.
BB: Yeah.
AML: And the favourite was, ‘I’ll have his egg if he’s not coming back’
BB: if you’re not coming back.
AML: This sort of thing.
BB: And of course you must have seen even even at that late stage of the war, bomber offensive, you must have seen vacant chairs at breakfast and —
AML: Aye well —
BB: Guys that didn’t, that went out and didn’t come back.
AML: Funny. We were very fortunate on 15. I don’t think the time I was on it we had a very heavy —
BB: Casualty rate.
AML: Casualty rate. Funnily enough one of the chaps in the Aircrew Association was on 15. A hell of a nice bloke. He was shot down in France. I didn’t know him in the squadron but he was shot down in France. Had quite a rough time getting out. Eventually captured and became a prisoner of war.
BB: Right.
AML: And was on The Long March.
BB: Right. Ok.
AML: He was on the same squadron as I was. 15.
BB: Right. That must have been.
AML: Quite a lucky squadron. 15.
BB: That wasn’t great.
AML: I don’t think we had colossal losses on 15. I don’t know why or how. I don’t remember saying oh —
BB: What about, what about losses at OTU? HCU. There must have been crashes there.
AML: They were quite high. Yeah. Those. Somebody said to me after, of course, please understand I’m talking fifty sixty years ago.
BB: Yeah. I understand.
AML: Somebody said there was almost a crash every day at OTU. Now, I couldn’t ascertain that or confirm that. I don’t know.
BB: Well —
AML: But there were certainly one or two crashes when we were at OTU.
BB: I know that my late uncle was killed as an OTU. Instructing.
AML: Yeah.
BB: At Westcott. Number 11 OTU.
AML: Yeah. And we had one or two hairy do’s at OTU.
BB: And we paid, we paid tribute to him a couple years ago and all the guys at OTUs. And I did my research and something like eight thousand aircrew killed at OTU in Bomber Command. And just in Bomber Command.
AML: Probably would be. Well the chop —
BB: From collisions or bad landings.
AML: The chop rate on Wellingtons was quite high.
BB: Yeah. One in ten.
AML: They were second hand aircraft at OTU.
BB: Yeah. Yeah.
AML: I mean they weren’t, aircraft had been sent to OTU. You know.
BB: Yes.
AML: So we understand. I don’t know.
BB: And they went didn’t they? Yeah. Well there were, yeah. Well you take the Whitleys. They were front line aircraft.
AML: That’s right.
They were relegated to the OTUs.
AML: That’s right. Yeah.
BB: You know you went on the Whitleys.
AML: Well, they certainly were.
BB: And the Wellingtons as well.
AML: Wellingtons at OTU.
BB: And the Stirlings of course at the Heavy Conversion Unit.
AML: Aye. Heavy Conversion. Stirlings. Aye. Aye.
BB: Because they didn’t, they —
AML: They took them off.
BB: You either went to a Heavy Conversion and then on to a Lancaster Finishing School but you —
AML: I don’t know why we did that.
BB: Didn’t do that.
AML: This is the thing. Quite a lot of people — had to believe, hard to believe I was on Stirlings. Most of them went from OTU to Lanc Finishing School.
BB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
AML: And that was it. I don’t know why we went on. I don’t know. Just the way the system worked.
BB: The system worked. Yeah.
AML: We went, they went on to to that and we weren’t really long on Stirlings.
BB: No.
AML: But we were on Stirlings anyway.
BB: But it gave the heavy, it gave you the heavy, it gave the crew the sort of heavy experience that they needed.
AML: Aye. I liked the Stirling very much indeed.
BB: It looked a very roomy aircraft.
AML: It was a very roomy aircraft. Just like a big Sunderland.
BB: Yes. Yes.
AML: Really is.
BB: Yes.
AML: And I liked it.
BB: A Sunderland with wheels.
AML: Yeah. I didn’t care much for the Lincoln.
BB: Well it was a kind of a hybrid wasn’t it? You know.
AML: A hybrid. I didn’t care much for Lincolns.
BB: We’ll add a bit of this and add a bit of that.
AML: We had a twenty millimetre cannon on a Lincoln.
BB: Yes. Yes.
AML: And a lot of trouble with them and a lot of trouble —
BB: They used them in, against the terrorists in Malaysia.
AML: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: The Australian Lincolns anyway.
AML: We never did that and I think latterly the two turrets that took the twenty millimetres out the turrets. I can’t remember honestly but I flew in the tail of a Lincoln all the time. I flew first, initially I flew as an air gunner instructor and for a while the rule was flying that when we first got Lincolns they were nearly all ex-instructors that were in the top turrets.
BB: Yeah. Yeah.
AML: Because the bloody cannon recoiled across your head. If you moved out the road the, rotated, you could get your head taken off easily.
BB: Right. Right.
AML: These are things you remember yet you couldn’t put down on paper and say this is the God’s truth. You know.
BB: No. No. No. No. I know.
AML: It’s just the things I remember. It’s difficult.
BB: Well Alistair thank you very much for for telling us your story and we do appreciate it very much. And I’ll now terminate the interview. And I’ll have a look at your logbooks and other bits and pieces if I may.
AML: Aye. Aye. Sure. Sure.
BB: Yeah. Thank you.
AML: A lot of that stuff of course you’ll probably be able to edit out. You won’t use it all will you?
BB: No. No I don’t think so.
AML: No.
BB: And also thank you for signing the sheets and the other forms that I’ve asked you to sign. Thank you very much. So —
AML: Aye. Aye. Aye.
BB: So —
AML: I think you’ll find that most aircrew don’t really talk very much about it to other people unless it’s aircrew people.
BB: Right.
AML: And you can always find out somebody immediately they start saying, for example that I was told to bale out, and the crew – the nineteen crew baled out, you know someone makes a mistake.
BB: Yeah.
AML: You know right away that they’re actually line shooters. Ahat they said, you know.
BB: Yeah.
AML: You can’t really.
BB: No.
AML: Well we never did that, you know. Like on our squadrons, we cleaned our guns, well a lot – we didn’t do that on our squadron. I depended on the gunnery.
BB: The armourers used to do that.
AML: Yeah.
BB: But mind you had to be able to clear blockages in the aircraft.
AML: Oh yeah. Sit down, blindfold, sit down blindfold.
BB: Yeah. Yeah.
AML: And all that sort of thing.
BB: Right.
AML: But each squadron had its own different thing that depended how the CO looked at a particular item.
BB: Right.
AML: He might say, ‘Well I want you to do this,’ and you did it.
BB: What about dinghy drills and things like that.
AML: We did that as well. Yeah.
BB: Was that a regular thing?
AML: I don’t think so. No. We went to [pause] now where did we go? When we were at OTU we went to the Leicester Baths.
BB: Yes.
AML: And the baths were blacked out.
BB: Sure.
AML: And you got in first of all and they said, ‘Right this is your dinghy drill.’ There were RAF instructors I’m sure there. We all went up in one of these big huge big gareys. These big trucks they had with maybe four or five crews. Or three crews anyway. And we wondered why these guys were all dashing to go in such a hurry, you and saying, ‘You’re bloody keen,’ but we didn’t realise that if you went in first you got dry flying kit. If you went in second you put a dirty, you put a wet flying kit on.
BB: Ok right.
AML: You put the flying kit on you see.
BB: Yeah.
AML: And you had to use this and you had to jump in the dinghy with the lights out.
BB: Yeah.
AML: That’s why you had a whistle.
BB: Sure. Because it was dark. Simulating Bomber Command.
AML: The whistle was supposed to, aye. That’s why the aircrew used whistles.
BB: Whistles.
AML: Every aircrew whistled you know.
BB: Yeah.
AML: And you did this. Then they turned the dinghy upside down.
BB: You had to right it.
AML: You’ve got to right the dinghy again.
BB: Right.
AML: Exactly.
BB: And it was a five man dinghy. Or a seven man dinghy.
AML: Five man dinghy. Something like that.
BB: Yeah. Yeah.
AML: These are the sort of things you remember. That was one of the things. Why were they in such a hurry to get in? Because that was —
BB: What about using the parachute? Did you have any training?
AML: No.
BB: On how to do that?
AML: No. Never had any training on the parachute training at all.
BB: It was just there it is. Count. One. Two. Three. And pull the string.
AML: That’s right. That’s right. I think basically the reason would be that if you had to do a parachute jump and something had happened you wouldn’t jump in an emergency.
BB: No.
AML: You know you may be frightened to do that.
BB: Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. And that’s very good wisdom. Yes. Because —
AML: I think probably. I don’t know.
BB: If it’s your first time to go anyway.
AML: These are things that have come up in reflection when you were talking to a pupil.
BB: Yeah.
AML: Maybe that’s the reason why we didn’t do that.
BB: Yeah.
AML: You know.
BB: Ok.
AML: I don’t think there was any sort of written down about that. But we did do a bit of, of what I can remember now, we were in a hangar and we seemed to get a harness on.
BB: Oh yeah and swing a bit.
AML: And you jumped and you swung down and landed.
BB: Yeah. Just tell you how to land.
AML: Close your knees and this sort of thing, you know.
BB: Yeah. And what about parades and drills? Did you do squadron parades?
AML: Air crew are notorious for not wanting drills you know.
BB: Yeah.
AML: We really were a rough shower. I mean we were really were. I mean we got away with murder. I mean I must admit.
BB: Well I can assure you they haven’t changed.
AML: Yeah. If we could get away with it we got away with it.
BB: Yeah.
AML: I’m not going to bore you to tears of course, I hope.
BB: No.
AML: One of the great things you would probably know — after the war things changed of course dramatically as you can well imagine. And they had, I think it was a Friday. I can’t remember. The whole airfield shut down. And you had to participate in organised games.
BB: Oh yes.
AML: The whole station. WAAF. Everybody had to go on organised games. And it was organised in as much as they came around the gunnery section and said, ‘Right. Who’s all going to be play football?’ ‘Who’s all going to play rugby?’ ‘Who’s all going to play netball?’ You know. This sort of thing. It was all down. Your name was put down.
BB: Yeah.
AML: And I, when you’re out in your —
BB: Your PT kit.
AML: Your PT kit and your fancy [unclear] You went down to the front of the hangars and somebody would, I can’t remember, maybe the station would detail all the crews. Who’s going to be?’ And I hated sport. I hated sport. I never was fit. My father was a football referee and all that. I had no time for sport. I still don’t have time for sport. Anyway, I thought well this is bloody terrible.
BB: So what did you do? How did you get out of that?
AML: Well —
BB: Stay in the goal and hope nobody came near it.
AML: No. Well it was quite regular. You had to be back at a certain time. And I thought how can I bloody get out of this thing and I happened to hear one day to hear oh he said there’s flying. I said how do you get in to Waddington, or how do you get to so and so. Oh we’re flying. And I thought so I said to skipper, ‘Did you hear that?’ Because he hated sport too. And I said, ‘Can you no volunteer us to fly crews up?’ And he always wanted somebody in the tail, we all, so that would be a good idea. We got away with that for, however, we didn’t get away, they said right. I said, ‘Well what’s the least supervised job you could get?’ Cross country running.
BB: Go away and hide somewhere.
AML: So we used to run in to the pub [laughs] we used to put a pound note in our shoe.
BB: Yeah.
AML: And around the nearest pub and sit in the pub and then come running back.
BB: Running back. I see.
AML: We got caught out because when the squadron sports came on.
BB: Yeah.
AML: They couldn’t get relay through. The three mile relay run. They couldn’t get, the skipper said, well the CO said, ‘All those who did cross country running can do it.’ We nearly got killed doing this ruddy thing after. You know.
BB: Never mind. Ok.
AML: We were found out, you know.
BB: Right.



Bruce Blanche, “Interview with Alexander Lamb. One,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 29, 2023,

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