Interview with Roy White


Interview with Roy White


Roy White was born in Perth, Scotland but grew up in London. He joined the Air Training Corps, went on as a volunteer reserve and then served as an air gunner in the RAF. Tells of his brother serving in Coastal Command and surviving an aircraft crash. Gives some insight in aircrew roles such as radio operator and air gunner. Mentions various episodes of his service life: training in England and Egypt; an aircraft crash in which a friend got killed; flying with a South African crew; being assigned to submarine watching and manning the guns on his journey to Egypt; towards the end of the war, being posted to the communications unit at Aden. He served as a wireless operator in Egypt post war.




Temporal Coverage




00:53:22 audio recording


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today I am doing an interview with Roy White and we’re at [redacted] Haunton near Banbury and we are going to talk about his days in the RAF, about how he got to that position and what he did afterwards. So, over to you Roy, if you’d like to gives us your history please.
RW: Right, I was born in Perth, Scotland 1925. I lived there till I was nine years old, then I came to take a recital in London to join a London choir in Margaret Street in London. So I did join the choir at the age of nine and I continued there until I was fifteen. I managed to get into the coronation choir during my experiences there and it was a marvellous experience in actual fact then. When I left the choir I went to the Mercers’ school for a couple of years but I left there and joined a firm that was making fabrics and I was there until I joined up in 1943. I joined up and went to St John’s Wood, Lord’s Cricket Ground on the hallowed turf, we were actually allowed to go across there and we were billeted out in the flats at St John’s Wood from there and kitted out and all the rest. After we’d done all our initial pieces we then went on to Bridgnorth for our initial training wing, which was drill, which didn’t come as a great surprise ‘cause I’ve been in the ATC and we’d done it all before, you know, but the Morse code was alright because we were supposed to do twelve words a minute when we left there but in actual fact I could do twelve when I started, ‘cause I done there, but I found it more difficult with the, with the gunnery in actual fact taking 303s to pieces and what not there because used to have, undo the breechblock with a blindfold on and put it back together which sounds stupid but in actual fact the lighting was very poor on aircraft so in actual fact if something goes wrong it was quite difficult to see so, in actual fact it made quite a lot of sense. So we were there till about the end of the year 1943 and then went to the radio school at Yatesbury and we were supposed to get up from twelve to eighteen words a minute on there and we also did training in arms, we rifles, Sten guns, we did hand grenades as well, what not there to, general training, what not there and my best pal, Billy Wilson and I, when it came to the exams we both failed the same thing on [unclear] and so we had to drop back a week and join the next unit, which came as a big surprise for us because that unit had been marked down for overseas unit, they sent us home on leave again for a fortnight but we joined the unit there. During our period waiting for embarkation we spent a couple of nights at [unclear] hospital, portering the wounded coming back from France, the convoys and we worked all night during operations helping out which was quite an experience ‘cause it really brought it home to you what it was all about when you saw the condition of some of these people who were there, you know, quite difficult, but it was a good experience and we embarked on the ship and we, I’ve never been sailing before, I’ve been across the Isle of Wight, that was my total knowledge of sailing, we thought, oh, lovely, easy trip on there and we saw the sailors loading up shells and wondered what on earth they were for, the first officer came on board, was just walking past us and he said, ‘you gunners?’ And we said, ‘well, air gunners’, and he said, ‘oh good, you can be the [unclear] gunners for this ship.’ And we all looked at each other as if to say what’s he talking about? He said, ‘let me explain, we are classified as an armed merchant cruiser’, he said, ‘that destroyer over there will be looking after one side of the convoy and we should be looking after the other side.’ He said, ‘we’ve got two 4.6 guns on the end of this ship’, he said, ‘you will be firing them at some time’ and whatnot [laughs] ‘but in the meantime you’ll be submarine watching as well on four hour shifts’ [laughs]. So we started our voyage doing submarine watching shifts from midnight till four in the morning on the, dead man’s watch I think, we called it in actual fact [laughs]. So we did that there and we did actually fire the guns so [laughs] much to the amusement of the rest of the people on board the ship but so, yes so that was the voyage. Then we went to Aqir we were from Cairo, we were based there for about a week or so and then went through Aqir just started our training there and from there we went to the gunnery school at Ballah, then came back and did our OTU at Aqir and then finishing that we went down to a Heavy Conversion Unit down Abu Suweir onto Liberators after that, we were flying Wellingtons at Aqir but Liberators down to [unclear] and then after that we, came the end of the war in the Far East ‘cause we were due to go out there on our next trip but the atom bomb dropping, we then faced with nothing to do so, we got posted out to Aden then, to a communications unit there where we flew all over the Middle East, all over the Arabian continent what not, did quite a lot of flying there and did a year there and from there we went to 26 ACU army operation, cooperation unit and that was helping the army in Egypt, we were target towing to, for there so we did that for about nine months. And then we came home in 1947, and I got demobbed up in, on the coast, up north. And came back to my job in London after that.
CB: Ok, so when you returned to your job in London, what did you actually do?
RW: Oh, we were inspecting, we used to make rolls of cloth, and when we, they came back to London we used to inspect them all to make sure that the quality was good and what not, and then
CB: Then what?
RW: And then the firm split up, I went with one director and went with another and I eventually became the director of the firm on, you know, in London.
CB: So what were you supplying? You -
RW: We were supplying the wholesale trade, dress making trade, the fashion trade in other words.
CB: And so becoming a director, what were your responsibilities when you were the director?
RW: Well, re the stock and travelling as well, I used to go and see customers and we used to do the buying and what not you know for each year, ‘cause you are working six months in advance all the time, picking the next seasons, materials, fabrics and all the rest of it, you know, so.
CB: Sounds good.
RW: Quite a good job. Very interesting.
CB: When did that come to an end?
RW: About 1973 or 4 I think, something like that.
CB: Ok, so you were only fifty then, so what did you do next?
RW: Yes. We went into antiques then, you know. My wife had a hat shop and when she left that, we started doing antiques.
CB: Ok. And you did that till when?
RW: We were still doing antiques I mean we came here so till about, I suppose, twenty five years ago, something like that, you know.
CB: Then what?
RW: So we retired then [laughs]. We’d had enough [laughs].
CB: Ok. And did your wife keep busy after that?
RW: Yes, she, she enjoyed her hat shop and she was an extremely good French polisher, which very handy in antiques trade.
CB: For antiques.
RW: And she was very clever, extremely good needle woman, ‘cause her grandmother had been a court dressmaker, you know, so.
CB: Ok. Thank you very much, so now going back to the early days. How did you come to join the RAF rather than the army or the navy?
RW: Well, I’d been in the ACC [sic], my idea was to join, ‘cause my brother was in the RAF as well, he was in Coastal Command.
CB: What did he do?
RW: He was navigator.
CB: Ok. And is he still about, is he?
RW: No, he died unfortunately when he was about fifty odd. He had a heart condition and those days unfortunately there was nothing they could do for them, you know. Today could probably just put a stent on again.
[Other]: It was a different matter.
CB: Quite different.
RW: Unfortunately then he died but he was also very lucky because he was in a crash as well, in a Mosquito went up with a strange pilot because the aircraft had been in for an electrical fault and then this pilot said, would you come up with me because you weren’t allowed to go out without a wireless operator so they went up and after about twenty minutes or so went totally out of control and wouldn’t recognize any of the signals and what not and they just crashed on the runway and while I saw the pictures of it, all you could see was the radio, that was all that was left there and luckily, say luckily, he broke his thigh quite badly. And so reduced him to grade three and so he had to give up flying, you know, after that but the pilot was lucky, he just got nick out of his ear, that was all [unclear].
CB: Right. What happened, what was, did they find out what was wrong with it?
RW: No, as I say, it had been, I think, for an electrical fault so whether it was still there or what not, you know, is hard to know.
CB: We are going back to your situation.
RW: Yeah.
CB: So you’ve been in the Air Training Corps at school.
RW: Yeah.
CB: And you left school at fifteen.
RW: Yeah.
CB: So you stayed with the Air Training Corps throughout that period.
RW: That’s right.
CB: When you were doing what? You were at -
RW: Well, I joined the textiles when I was about sixteen, you know, so I’ve been with them about a couple of years.
CB: That was a company.
RW: Yeah.
CB: Ok. So, you volunteered, you were being called up at eighteen.
RW: Yeah, I was in the RAF for, you know, [unclear]
CB: Yeah, ok, so how did that go? So, they called you up or you just said, I am joining, I want to join up?
RW: No, they called me up when I was eight, after eighteen, you know, because as conscription after you were eighteen.
CB: Yeah. Ok, so what happened then? ‘Cause you talked earlier about grading, so at what point did you undertake the grading system for aircrew, because they could have put you on the ground you see?
RW: Oh, when I went to Cardington.
CB: Right.
RW: That was it, I just got the notice to stay and we were there two days, most of the first day was medicals and what not and then the second day was all the various testing and then we had a board interview with the wing commander I think who went through all our details and said, yes or no, you were suitable.
CB: And what sort of testing did they do to decide whether first of all you’d be aircrew rather than ground crew and secondly which type of aircrew?
RW: They’d give you some educational test and for wireless operators they’d just give the difference between different sounds, you know, to pick it out as to say whether you could tell the difference [unclear]
CB: Yeah, sure.
RW: But that was the basics of it.
CB: Right, because they had the PNB system, pilot, navigator, bomb aimer
RW: That’s right, yes, and I think they had different things for each of them, you know
CB: Yeah. And had you volunteered to be a wireless operator air gunner?
RW: Yeah, because they said, why do you want to be a wireless operator? I said, well, I’ve been in the ATC, I enjoyed [unclear] I want to be a wireless operator, you know [laughs].
CB: Ok, good. So then you went on to do gunnery.
RW: Yeah.
CB: And how did that go? So,
RW: It was quite good, the training was quite good but it was fairly short course ‘cause they knew we were going onto Liberators and because different guns, instead of the 303s you’re on the point five, so there wasn’t a lot of training for that because they knew you’d be going over to the other ones afterwards.
CB: But how did they train people to be an air gunner? What was the first thing they did, because you hadn’t been in the air before so what was the process that you went through?
RW: Well, just mainly the basics of the 303 machine gun, you know, to learn all the bits and pieces of it, that took the most of the time.
CB: And when you start, when did you start shooting with an aerial?
RW: Well, we only did a little bit of shooting there.
CB: Was that, clay pigeon or initially, or how did they do it?
RW: Yeah, we did clay pigeon shooting and what not at Yatesbury as well as Ross rifles, what not, we did all that sort of thing.
CB: What rifles?
RW: Ross rifles, Canadian rifles they were.
CB: Oh, right, that was shooting at targets.
RW: Yeah, that’s right.
CB: Ok. So they didn’t put you in any turret at that stage.
RW: No, not at that stage, no.
CB: Ok. Good. So the point you were making earlier about the Liberator is that it is an American aircraft so it’s got different guns and they are .5 machine guns
RW: That’s right.
CB: And a completely different setup.
RW: Yeah.
CB: But when you got to the end of the course they recoursed you because you and Billy Wilson didn’t get through, what caused you to fail?
RW: It was a radio test, what you did, you tuned up the transmitter to get the maximum aerial, and you had, you were supposed to retest it, to make sure that you were on the right one and not on the reverse signal there and it was one of the few tests that if you failed that was it, you had to, the other things you could fail but it didn’t matter quite so much.
CB: Ok.
RW: But this particular one we both failed on the same thing so all we did was just retrain for a week and retake it all again, you know.
CB: Ok. The reason why we’re asking the questions is of course people have absolutely no concept of what is involved in the individual trade specialities.
RW: Yeah.
CB: So when you came to do radio training how did that work? They started you said earlier with the Morse code.
RW: Yeah.
CB: But then you got on to using radio, so could you describe please what was the process of training to be a wireless operator?
RW: Well, you had to learn all the innards of the various sets, all the various valves and what they did and they went through all the theories of what radios waves were and how they worked, all of the rest of it, you know, it was, quite involved learning all of that you know, something new completely to me at the time and of course in those days with the big old valves and what not not like the modern things now, and it was quite a complicated business fault finding ‘cause they used to do testing, putting faults in the system and find out where they were, all that sort of thing, and it was quite complicated you know to do it all but -
CB: So there was a lot of theory?
RW: Yeah, a lot of theory.
CB: And then there was practical, so how did that work?
RW: Practical. Very good in actual fact I enjoyed you know Morse code for my sins the instructor used to let me take the class when he was getting tired, usually [unclear], used to start a bit of a riot with all the class, they said, don’t you go too fast now! [laughs] Oh no, so, I used to take the class occasionally [unclear] but I enjoyed Morse code.
CB: So, Morse code you needed to know because of the signals coming in.
RW: Yes, that’s right.
CB: And going out but what was actually the job of the air signaller, the radio operator?
RW: Well, on half hour used to get the messages from coming in, I mean it might say return to base or weather bad or whatever, the rest of the time you could use the radio compass to find out the way back to base and stuff like that you know and you could find your position by contacting two different stations and asking them to verify what your position was [unclear]
CB: So in practical terms you were helping the navigator, were you, in position and indication?
RW: Yes, in an actual fact, you could pass it over to him, say what it was [unclear]
CB: And did the navigator ask you to do that?
RW: Not that, not that I remember.
CB: Later on.
RW: But I used to pass it on to him anyway, you know, see whether there was any commonality [laughs]
CB: So you were teacher’s pet in this business of the training for being a wireless operator?
RW: I don’t know about that! [laughs]
CB: But -
RW: No, he was, mainly, he was on an American, he worked for Wells Fargo, he was absolutely fabulous operator, quite incredible.
CB: And he had operational experience, had he?
RW: Yeah, I think he could do about forty words a minute actually on there which was absolutely incredible and he could send messages and receive them at the same time, you know.
CB: But had he got aircrew experience?
RW: No.
CB: Oh, he hadn’t. Oh, ok. So what about the other people who were on the course, so they were barracking you not to go too fast, so what were the people and what were they like? What sort of people?
RW: Oh, they were great bunch of fellows, as in actual fact you know, wonderful sense of humour, all pulling the leg if they had to [laughs] but oh yeah, great bunch of blokes in actual fact.
CB: And presumably they had some kind of aptitude, did they, to do this work because.
RW: Oh yes, they did, in actual fact, you know, we all [unclear] in different ways, they all come from different backgrounds, all sorts of things.
CB: Had any of them got radio experience before?
RW: I don’t think so, oh yeah, one chap had, I think he worked for Marconi or something like that but most of the others never had, you know so [unclear]
CB: So you and Billy Wilson were recoursed.
RW: Yeah.
CB: What happened to the other members of the course? I mean, where did they go?
RW: Oh, I think they must have gone straight on over here to OTU gunnery school and probably onto a squadron you know [unclear] left behind, you know.
CB: So you kept in touch did you, with some of the people so -
RW: No, I didn’t, actually, in actual fact, you know [unclear], so I don’t know quite where they all finished up, but I have no doubt they finished up in a squadron somewhere round about.
CB: It’s interesting that you then being recoursed, you went to a different unit.
RW: Yeah.
CB: That meant you had to go in the convoy system.
RW: Yeah.
CB: Out to the Middle East.
RW: Yeah.
CB: Did you go around the Cape, did you?
RW: No, went straight, went straight through Gibraltar, a long way to Port Said [unclear]
CB: Right. Ok. So when you then got to Egypt, what was the routine then because you’d done your basic training including gunnery but you hadn’t done .5 machine guns, so what did you do as soon as you got to Port Said?
RW: I think we went to Cairo, as I say, for about a week or ten days, something like that and then straight to Aqir, to the base I think there, and then from there to Ballah, you know, to the gunnery school after that, they did that first to get that out of the way before the OTU, you know.
CB: So how was the training, how did they do the training in those two places, at Aqir and Ballah?
RW: It was mostly paper work, you know for the biggest part of the time, you know, in actual fact, fill in all the different bits and pieces that were there.
CB: And the gunnery, how did they do that?
RW: I’m not sure we did a lot of that because I think what they were thinking, we were going on to Liberators anyway so wasn’t gonna make a lot of difference to do that, you know, so in actual fact I think we curtailed it.
CB: So at what stage did you crew up and where?
RW: Well, what they did when we went to Aqir, they marched us all up into a big hangar, said, ‘right, we are going now, we are locking the doors, we’ll come back in twenty minutes, sort yourself out a crew’ and that was it [laughs], that’s exactly what you did, you all talked to each other and finished up going on to a crew.
CB: So this is crewing up for Wellingtons?
RW: Yeah.
CB: So you don’t have an air engineer, you don’t have a flight engineer.
RW: No.
CB: So, how did you -
RW: We had a second pilot.
CB: Oh did you? Who took the initiative in making the crew up?
RW: Well, you just sort of walked into people and said, ‘well, can I be with you’ [laughs] and they said, ‘oh yes, why not?’ You know, my name is Roy, you know [unclear]
CB: ‘Cause you all got brevet so you knew what your specialities were.
RW: Of course, some of them I knew but others most of them I didn’t know at all you know so because our crew was, there were four South Africans in it, you know, it’s unusual, you know [unclear]
CB: So tell us about who were the people there then, in the, individual, the pilot, who was the captain, the pilot, who was he?
RW: The pilot was a Lieutenant Van Sale.
CB: South African.
RW: And there was Lieutenant Erasmus was the co-pilot and there was a front gunner and a rear gunner, they were both South Africans.
CB: Right. The navigator?
RW: Two Scots, and then one Englishman, [laughs] that made up -
CB: So, did you class yourself as a Scotsman or an Englishman in that?
RW: Well, as a Scotsman, you know.
CBN: Right, ok. So, how did the others go then? Who was the navigator?
RW: Navigator was the Englishman. Yeah, he was an officer as well [unclear]
CB: And what was his experience?
RW: I don’t know really, in actual fact where he’d come from, in fact. I think like everybody else he just arrived at Aqir you know, [laughs] sorry I don’t know where from in actual fact but -
CB: The reason -
RW: We were all a great bunch anyway.
CB: Yes. And so you crewed up and you did your, you did then gunnery training when you were in the Wellington, did you?
RW: No, I did radio, just radio, that’s all.
CB: Ok, right. So you didn’t do gunnery normally, it was just a secondary -
RW: No, no, I was just filling in.
CB: Right. Ok. And then how long were you there at the OTU?
RW: A sheet somewhere.
CB: Because it took a little while to do all the training on the Wellington presumably.
RW: Yes, it did, in actual fact.
CB: Just looking at the form.
RW: We finished in June ’45 at Aqir OTU and then we went to Abu Suweyr and finished up in September ’45 there, just one day after they dropped the atom bomb, you know, so.
CB: Yeah, but by then you went to Abu Suweyr because of the Liberator?
RW: Yeah.
CB: So, that took more crew, so how did that work?
RW: Yeah, we made up, because, I don’t think I said but [unclear] the aircraft, as far as we know, a bomb exploded on board, I think it got caught up in the release mechanism and they were all killed.
CB: On the ground or in the air?
RW: In the air, you know and about three days later our pilot was told to switch over tanks, he switched over to an empty one, cut both the engines and -
CB: This is in the Wellington?
RW: In the Wellington, that’s right.
CB: Yeah.
RW: And so we finished up in a field on that, how he managed to control it I don’t know but -
CB: This was without an instructor?
RW: We had an instructor with us, thank God.
CB: Oh you did?
RW: So, yeah, so we finished up in the field and the laugh was I didn’t know anything about it because I’ve been on my radio ‘cause I cut myself off from the rest and the first thing I knew was my going straight into the radio thing front there and I was livid because I thought, what kind of a landing is that? [laughs] but it was a fantastic piece of work, in actual fact, how he did it, and I mean, we were just lucky to be over some fields, if we’d been over a built up area we, you know, there’d be no way out, but just lucky that was a field there.
CB: What did they do with the pilot?
RW: I think, he left us after that, yes, that’s right, got a new pilot as a matter of fact, so.
CB: As a captain.
RW: Yeah, captain.
CB: Another South African.
RW: Another South African, yeah, that’s right, slightly older so, so we got a different instructor, we had a squadron leader, the chief instructor then so.
CB: Interesting, so how did the crew gel together?
RW: Oh, very well really, considering they come from all different backgrounds, you know.
CB: Did they South Africans, because of their names, it sound as if they were Afrikaans? Did they?
RW: Yeah, they spoke to each other in Afrikaans because it was better for them, I mean they speak English very well but they tended to speak to each other in Afrikaans some of the time.
CB: But you didn’t mind.
RW: No.
CB: But you knew a bit of it after a bit.
RW: Not really [laughs], I had enough trouble trying to learn Arabic! [laughs]
CB: Did they give you courses in Arabic?
RW: No, just picked it up, you know, from bits and pieces during the day.
CB: Right, right. So you finish on the OTU,
RW: Yeah.
CB: You go to the HCU,
RW: Yeah.
CB: To go to change to heavies and you’re going onto Liberators.
RW: Yeah.
CB: So what was the process there?
RW: Going on to Liberators, just getting used to, ‘cause they were quite complicated the American sets, they were very good, the Bendicks was a marvellous transmitter, they used to ask us not to transmit over the station because it used to drown all [laughs] communications in actual fact but it was very good, in actual fact.
CB: So now, you were just allocated other aircrew because for instance there was no engineer on the -
RW: Yes, I think one of them was off, Billy my friend’s crew that got killed ‘cause unfortunately they had to drop one out when the instructor was with them so there was one crew member left, one poor gunner left on his own so we took him on as one of our spare ones, on there.
CB: How many crew were there on a Liberator?
RW: Eight on there.
CB: Ok. Where did the engineer come from? Was he a South African as well?
RW: Well, he was second pilot, you know, Lieutenant Erasmus [unclear]
CB: Ah right. Ok. Good. Now some of the difficult things in the circumstances were obvious in Britain but in some cases they were also abroad. One of them is LMF, lacking moral fibre.
RW: Yeah.
CB: So, did you come across that at all?
RW: No, there was a slight bit of it because when we had our crash, the rear gunner got stuck in his and couldn’t get the turret to move, you know, I think he was scared [laughs] it was gonna go up, you know, without him, so there was some talk at the time that he was going to give it up but in actual fact he didn’t, he went back again but I think there were odd cases of people who did give up.
CB: And what did they do with them?
RW: I don’t know what they did, I presume they put them down in the ground staff job, but I don’t really know.
CB: ‘Cause in Britain they had a very firm way of dealing with them.
RW: Yeah, they didn’t like it you know ‘cause obviously it wasn’t good for morale.
CB: No.
RW: No.
CB: The other is the STDs, the sexually transmitted diseases. So how did that get dealt with?
RW: I remember that they had somewhat horrific films they showed you at St John’s Wood when we first went there [laughs] but I think that was their method of dealing with it mainly you know, in actual fact, but it was really all the confrontation we had with it, you know.
CB: Ok. Good, I’m gonna stop there for a mo. We are restarting now just to talk about some extra items.
RW: Yeah.
CB: So what about accommodation?
RW: Accommodation was quite good, you had your own space and locker where you keep all your own private bits and pieces, you know, photographs and letters from home all the rest of it you know and the food generally was very good, you know, we enjoyed it and what not, nothing really to complain about, it was really, really quite good.
CB: Did you get better food because you were aircrew?
RW: Yes, I think so.
CB: Even in training?
RW: Yeah, I think so, yes, on there. ‘Cause at a sergeant’s mess you know and what not there, so used on your own, quite decent but we reckoned it was better than the officer’s mess [laughs] so we didn’t know.
CB: So you had lockable lockers but were you in Nissen huts or what sort of accommodation did you have?
RW: Yes, sort of Nissen huts, you know, there, and yes in Aqir.
CB: So, were they insulated?
RW: Not really, because it was very hot, you know, all the rest of it, the climate was quite hot out there so, don’t really [unclear] much from there,
CB: No.
RW: But they were quite comfortable, I must say.
CB: Right. And in the UK, what about the accommodation there?
RW: No, fairly basic there, I remember polishing the floor [laughs] so corporal used to come and dump a great load of polish on the floor and say, ‘polish that’ and it took about an hour to get it [laughs]
CB: With a bumper and a liner.
RW: That’s right, a bumper up and down and one sitting on it and going up and down but yes [unclear]
CB: Now you started as an AC2.
RW: Yeah.
CB: How did the promotion system work?
RW: Well, when you finished your course at Yatesbury, you got your promotion to sergeant, used to be quite funny actually because what we used to do is borrow somebody else’s uniform for the parade that day and get the WAAFs to sew all our stuff on there so the minute we came out for our parade we could put our new jackets on with all the rest of us so we were all in borrowed, borrowed gear [laughs] when we went on parade then.
CB: And your brevet was what?
RW: Pardon?
CB: What was the brevet?
RW: The brevet, that originally it was air gunner and then it went to signaller later on they changed after about a year to signaller.
CB: And so you are now a sergeant, how long were you a sergeant?
RW: Till, till I was down in Aden when we took a board from there, got flight sergeant.
CB: And how did the pay change?
RW: It was more, I can’t remember what it was [laughs] wasn’t a fortune but it was better than it was before, you know.
CB: You knew where you were going to go when you left the RAF. Were you waiting to get out waiting for demob or did you just say, I want to be demobbed now? [emphasis]
RW: No, we just got sent home, that was all afterwards, no sort of forecast or anything, we just, we were 26 AACU, they just said, right, you are posted home you know and that was it, little or no warning [unclear]
CB: And where did they send you?
RW: To Lytham St Annes.
CB: And what was the process there?
RW: Just got all your civvies which we hadn’t seen for donkey’s years [laughs], you know and all the bits and pieces, got your vouchers and your travel warrants and all those [unclear] and I was due about six or seven weeks leave I think something like that, you know, so I didn’t take it up [unclear] but yes that was the end of that you know.
CB: So, the war’s ended, you’ve been demobbed two years later.
RW: Yeah.
CB: You then go into civilian life, having been in the ATC and joined as a volunteer reserve person, what was your commitment for future years?
RW: Well, I quite liked the job that I went to, you know, so I decided I’ve been toying with the idea I might stop in the RAF but I decided, no, I’d sooner go back to the textiles so, in a way I’m glad you know that I did, because I enjoyed textiles so it’s very good you know.
CB: But you were required, as a VR man, you were required to remain in the VR,
RW: Yes.
CB: That’s what I meant. Till what age?
RW: I got my release, release thing, I think all the dates and what not are back there, how many years I’m on reserve ‘cause they said [unclear], you might be eligible for call up in an emergency and what not.
CB: And did you join any air force associations afterwards?
RW: I was in the RAFA for a while not long after, played cricket for them, while, I enjoyed that in actual fact [laughs]
CB: Did you do much cricket when you were in the RAF?
RW: When we were down at Aden I played cricket down there you know, we’d to play the officer’s mess, we used to like beating them [laughs]
CB: Good, Ok, thank you very much, I’m going to stop there for a mo. Right, you mentioned earlier about the aircraft that was downed because of a hang-up.
RW: Yeah.
CB: And the bomb, were you in formation with that or was it a separate and what happened?
RW: No, we weren’t flying that day, we were between lectures and I just came back at lunchtime and as I say next door were just empty bedsprings, nothing on the locker nothing I said you know, where’s Billy’s stuff, and he said, haven’t you heard? No, and he said, oh, you know he’s gone and got killed, you know, I was shattered you know.
CB: This is your friend Billy Wilson.
RW: Yeah, that’s right, so as I say, we never got an official report, you never did with these things, but that was what we heard, and it sort of ties up with the fact that nobody got out, it was an experienced pilot on board, an instructor, you know, there were no survivors, nobody parachuted out or what not there so must have been something disastrous that happened you know, so that was it.
CB: So how did you all feel as a crew after that?
RW: Oh, a bit shattered, especially when we had our own one a couple of days after [laughs], wasn’t a very good week in actual fact.
CB: So when you had your own engine failure because of fuel starvation, that was, what height was that?
RW: I’m not really sure but all I can think was that the pilot had to keep the nose down because they daren’t let the nose go up, go out of control so if we were flying, say six thousand feet, take what, two, three minutes with the nose down, something like that so he had to find somewhere in about two or three minutes.
CB: And he wasn’t able to switch, he wasn’t able to switch the fuel correctly and restart.
RW: No, there wasn’t time because I mean he had more than his job, ‘cause it was a heavy aircraft the Wellington but to keep control of it with no engines it must have been a heck of a job, you know, to do that, just to try and keep it level and what not there and at the same time try and find somewhere you could put it down, you know, so.
CB: What did he say to the crew on the intercom?
RW: I don’t really know ‘cause I wasn’t on it, you see, I didn’t know anything about it, you know.
CB: You were listening out, were you, on the radio?
RW: I was listening out, ‘cause it was more than your life’s worth, to miss the messages on the half hour, then, you know, if you came back and your logbook had got no messages, so, what goes on, you know,
CB: So that’s an important point as you’re, now you’re flying, your role is to listen out to signals.
RW: Yeah.
CB: What did you actually have to do? You were listening to signals but how did that work?
RW: Well, as I say, it might be just trial messages that you think on there but as I say occasionally would be something like return to base, weather bad or something else like that which you of course you would then pass on them back to them on there so that was why they absolutely insisted that you got the half hour messages, you know, didn’t miss them.
CB: Because they would send particular messages on the half hour.
RW: Yes, they did on Bomber Command I think, if they had anything there had a registered time to send the messages and you had to make sure you got them.
CB: So we are talking about this crash, how, who else was hurt in the crash?
RW: The front gunner broke his ankle but that was the worst of the injuries, which is absolutely incredible really.
CB: And was the bomb aimer also a gunner?
RW: No. No.
CB: He simply was the air bomber.
RW: Yeah, yeah.
CB: Ok. So, thinking of your flying experiences in total, what would you say were the best times and what were the worst?
RW: I think, flying in the communications unit down at Aden was the best time in actual fact ‘cause it was so varied, you know, all sorts of things, we actually took an air vice marshal round on a tour of the thing, the CO called us up one day and he got a letter in front of him and said, ‘I’ve just had a note from the Air Ministry to say that they are sending Air Vice Marshal Sir Charles’ - I can’t remember what his surname was – ‘on a tour of inspection and we’ve been given the job of taking him round, so I don’t want anything to go wrong understood?’ [laughs] So he says [unclear] so we’ve, I’ve never seen so much top brass in my life ‘cause they all appeared, the Governor’s car turned up, his Rolls Royce and they were all involved.
CB: This is in the Liberator?
RW: No, so, no, it was a Wellington converted on [unclear] so, yes so, and a very nice lady officer with him as well there, which cheered everybody up but yes so we took him round, we actually had dinner together the evening which surprised me [unclear]
CB: He was a flying man, I take it?
RW: Yes, I think he was one of the top handful of people in the end, the chief of technical training command I think he was something like that you know, so.
CB: What was the worst experience you had?
RW: Let me think now, I should think probably the day Billy’s crash I think it was probably about the worst day of it all really, rest of it, you know, was bad, that was the sort of low point from the time but get over it, you know.
CB: Had you known his parents, before you went out?
RW: No, unfortunately not, no, and the worst thing was I wanted to go on his funeral parade but we were all on sick leave you know, they wouldn’t let us go on parade you know so I didn’t get the chance to, well you know, say goodbye.
CB: You were on sick leave. What sort of sickness did you get?
RW: Ah, well, I had a sore head [laughs] for about a week afterwards but you know apart from that it wasn’t bad you know.
CB: Yeah. From the crash. Yeah.
RW: Yeah, but they obviously decided, you know, to give us some days off.
CB: Yeah. Right. We’ve had a good interview now so we are looking at pictures and various things and we’ll wrap things up.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Roy White,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 21, 2024,

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