Interview with Raymond Moore


Interview with Raymond Moore


Raymond Moore flew 31 operations as a flight engineer with 408 Squadron. He describes initial training at Skegness and then further training at Cosford, Halton and St Athan. He describes the crewing-up procedure at Eastmoor and describes the accommodation at various RAF stations including Linton, where he was billeted at Beningbrough Hall, and at Lindholme. He also gives vivid accounts of difficult trips, including high winds on a Berlin operation on the 24th of March 1944 and being coned by searchlights in the Rostock and Bremen areas and being thrown about as the pilot did a corkscrew manoeuvre.




Temporal Coverage




02:49:26 audio recording

Conforms To


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IL: Ian Locker. I’m interviewing Ray Moore at his home in Sowerby, Thirsk. Right, so Ray, um, tell us a little bit about your early life.
RM: Early life — where, where from?
IL: From you, you, you were born in Sussex?
RM: Yes.
IL: Tell us a little bit about your family and how, how you came to join the RAF.
RM: Well, I’ll only repeat what I said.
IL: Absolutely.
RM: Exactly what — again, I wasn’t thrilled by the war. I remember it very distinctly because my father and two brothers — my two brothers were in the — they called it the —
Sarah: Home Guard? No?
RM: Well, my father got — had been recalled for the covers [?] in other words, he’d done about fourteen years’ service in India and then he went to, he was posted to Gallipoli. He was wounded in 1915 and came back to England and he was in hospital, hospital in Esher, in Esher. That’s in Surrey and that’s where he me my mother but that was just at the beginning. And then he went in the Territorials. They joined in 1938 so they were the first up and the last picture, the last thing I remember of them, I was — they were all at home this particular day, and the last thing I remember I went into the dining room and they were all stood with their arms around one other. It was very moving, was that. And, um, then — so that passed and you didn’t — there was no reality to it even then. And then on the Sunday morning at 11 o’clock on — when Chamberlain said — it still didn’t ring a bell. I still wasn’t — it, it didn’t mean anything. I remember that Sunday morning and hearing Chamberlain and my mother was sat weeping, as they did in them days I suppose, I don’t know, but she was, I remember she was, she was crying and I thought, ‘Well, it’s a war.’ You know and, and honestly at that age, and I was fifteen, at that age you didn’t, you didn’t say, ‘Oh, there’s a war.’ It’s Hitler. It’s Germany. It’s Nazi Germany and I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that we were at war but my father and brothers had already gone but it didn’t ring a bell until about, let’s see that’s 1940. I’m trying to think of the dates. In 1941 there were three of them gone and in 1941 my, er, brother that was older than me — no. A sister that was older than me, Joan, she decided to join the WAAFS. Because at some period of time, you know, women had to sign on as well and she was eligible. She was about twenty-two, twenty-three and so she was the next one to go and to me it was, ‘Ta-ta Joan.’ You know, that was — and then life set again. You started to — some of the things that happened. Because we never had a daily paper because I think the Daily Herald was on the go in those days and so, um, and being a mixed family of, of politics — my father was a conservative and my brothers when they came out, two of them had turned and flying the red flag. That was hilarious was that after the war. But — and so, er, and then it went on and then a brother went and I sort of looked round and instead of eleven of us sat down at that, in that, you know — and it was a fairly big dining room Sarah, wasn’t it? And the dining table, instead of there on a Sunday it was suddenly, suddenly empty and that was when it struck me that something was wrong and that was the time when I really thought about joining up but the age was eighteen and I was damn sure I wasn’t going in the Army or the Navy and I, I’d made up my mind. But as I say there was something by the Government that if you had — you know, there were a lot of big families but if you had so many in that were in the Services you, you were exempt and I should have been exempt. And that rattled my mother more than anything and so that was, you know, I joined up like and that’s when it started. All of it started. I have to admit I was leaving home and the Army didn’t appeal to me in as much as that I’d lost brothers and sisters and my father were all in the services. Because we had a good family life.
Sarah: None of them were killed.
RM: Never lost one of them, no.
IL: Remarkable isn’t it. So had you left school?
RM: Oh, I’d left school.
IL: So did you leave school at fifteen or —
RM: Fourteen.
IL: Right. So, so were you working on the family farm? Or —
RM: No, no, no. I did that, er, I did —
Sarah: What was your first job?
RM: First job, riding a bicycle, pushing — I worked for a butcher, just delivering, just an ordinary menial job. And that was the first, yeah, that was the first year and going to work then nine to five. [cough] I’m trying to think how old I was as well. And about a year or it might have been —
IL: I’m going to move that a little bit nearer to you.
RM: Sorry.
IL: No, it’s OK. [unclear]
RM: It might have been, um, [unclear] I think with there being, when the war was on, 1939, and there was, er, Joan was at home and Frank and so there were those at home so really I hadn’t much care, no idea. I was a good scholar as well. I was a good scholar, even if I say myself.
Sarah: And that’s where your engineering background —
RM: It was. It was really because, um, when I was in, when I joined up, and I was mixing with engines and airframes and things it seemed to — it was something that I wanted to do, wasn’t it? And to come top of the class at the end of thirty-six weeks I thought it was pretty good going. Anyway, er, fifteen and I got to know one or two. I, in that respect I was a bit of a loner, in respect of mixing and things like that and not bothering to look for the future, and I say I couldn’t have cared less and my father was in the Army so he couldn’t boot my backside and tell me to get a job. There, was there and then I went to a Jim Feasts [?]. I even remember his name and they were a greengrocers and all I was doing there was delivering green groceries, groceries and whatever you’re talking about. No, it was greengrocery wasn’t it? That was Jim Feast and that was awful but I suppose I was mixing with different people and Worthing’s a very snobbish place, you know.
IL: I’ve been.
RM: Pardon?
IL: I’ve been.
RM: Oh, you know Worthing.
IL: Not well.
RM: I finished there. I shouldn’t be — and then I worked for Jim Feast until, well, I think he told me to beggar off and, um, they were menial things, weren’t they? And then across The Broadway there was, they called them Fletchers [sound of aircraft]. Now that can go down. They called them Fletchers, the butcher, and so I was riding around then. And I became very friendly with a chap and he was the same as I was. We were the same age and doing the same jobs, riding around and delivering errands, and he said to me one day, he said — and it was time to come up when we were coming up to seventeen and then around that area and he said, ‘By the way.’ He said, ‘I’m going to join, I’m going to join the Navy.’ He said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t join the Navy if you paid me.’ I said, I said, ‘I don’t want to go.’ He said, ‘Oh, I’m going to join the Navy.’ And just up here they call it Teville Road. He said, ‘Up here are the Naval Cadets.’ But it’s ridiculous isn’t it? Because when he said Naval Cadets I thought to myself, ‘What do you do?’ He said, ‘Well, we learn the Morse code and with your arms and hands.’ And I thought — ‘And march and do things like that.’ And bearing in mind there was also a junior Air Cadets but I didn’t even think about the Air Cadets because — and then he was telling me, he said, ‘Why don’t you come up?’ I said, ‘I don’t want to join the Navy.’ He said, ‘Oh, come on.’ He said, ‘It will just be a bit of fun.’ So, I said, ‘Oh, right.’ So, I went up this particular time and went into this hall and I saw these, er, do you know what I mean? There was all these things to learn the Morse code, with di, di, di, da, dat. And I looked at them and I thought — because a friend of mine had joined the air crew and he’d gone as a wireless op and I thought, ‘That’s not a bad thing. There’s a place here I can learn the Morse code and be one in front.’ So, he said — anyway, I thought it would be interesting, sat down and they had about six in a line. I sat down and I got interested, listening to it, and I thought, ‘This will do.’ But this mate of mine, he kept saying, ‘Join.’ He wanted me to join the Naval Cadets and I didn’t want to join and that was when really that I made up my mind. That was about the time that I’d gone down to the recruiting office to join the, to join the Air Force and that was really at the beginning where I made up my mind that I wanted to be air crew and that, that was the last job I think, driving around. They called him Fletcher, that butcher, and that’s, that’s all I did but I think if my dad had been home he would have pushed me because, as I say, I was fairly good, I was fairly good at school. I was. I can wrap anything up, you know, and it seems a shame really. You know, I don’t I mean that I was wasted or anything like that but I know that had I’d gone on I would have gone on to Worthing High School but nothing appealed to me. There was a war on and honestly, that’s the honest truth, there was nothing appealed to me. Nothing at all appealed to me in — accept when it came for the service time to join the Services. That’s all it was.
IL: OK. So when you joined you were seventeen but there was problems because you had to have your mother’s permission I understand.
RM: That’s right.
IL: So, what happened?
RM: What happened?
IL: Yeah. What happened?
RM: Well, I did tell you.
Sarah: But you’re being recorded now dad.
RM: Oh, I see. Oh, well. Well, we didn’t fall out of course not. You can look at that. That’s my family. Oh well, we had a few words of course but nothing, there was nothing dramatic. There was nothing dramatic about it because my mother was a loving woman wasn’t she? I mean, it was her family, her life, but to — but I don’t think even to this day, looking back, that she ever thought that, um, it would come to me signing up. I don’t think she ever thought that I would join up until I left and I got on the train from West Worthing to Victoria. I mean, to be out of, to get out, to go out of Worthing was when I played football. I used to play schoolboy international, um, yeah, I played schoolboy international. We lost —
Sarah: Where did you do your final?
RM: West Ham. No, we didn’t play. We got knocked out, Sarah. West Ham beat us in the semis at — where? What’s the name of their ground?
IL: Upton Park.
RM: Yes. That’s it and it was an absolute sensation because to play schoolboy international was actually a very good thing because when you ran on the pitch and there was six thousand boys there and we ran on the pitch at Upton Park and these boys — you get six thousand boys, six thousand boys there and I can understand — it was absolutely wonderful. Anyway I was thirteen at the time. But going on to where, talking about my mother, it was, it was very disturbing but on, not from my point of view because I knew what I was going to do. It was something. It was something. There was a blooming war on but the papers and you could hear them give the news out. It, it didn’t strike me as being anything. All I wanted to do then was be in the Air Force and to fly. That was my only ambition was to fly and I failed the first time. What did they call it? I failed. I put in for a pilot and I failed as a pilot. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t just good enough. That was all there was to it. I know that looking back. I think if I’d genned up on it a bit more and waited maybe a couple of months.
Sarah: How did they sort out who was going to be a flight engineer and who was going to be a wireless operator?
RM: By what I had to do. By what you had to do. And you talk about square pegs and round holes, Sarah, and that was what you had to do. I went up to, ah, North London. It’s where they, where the Lord’s Cricket Ground is, somewhere up there, and you go before the — oh, I forgot to tell you that. That’s what happened when I was called up, before I was called up rather, that’s what happened, and you sit down. You go into this classroom and that as well, I had a medical, of course. I mustn’t miss that out, of course you did, and you sat down and it was sort of noughts and crosses, you know. I can’t remember a lot, but you sat down and with a — now I’ve got to just try and think. Anyway I failed as a pilot and so the next best thing —
IL: But at this time you were still only seventeen? This was —
RM: Pardon?
IL: This was between signing up and being called up you had this, like, kind of selection.
RM: That’s right, exactly. I’d forgotten, yeah, of course I did. And as far as I think now I was just put down as air crew. I can’t seem to think that I was classified then because as an air gunner — I knew I wasn’t going to be an air gunner because the air gunners were in and out. They had a six month course. They were up in — they had a very short course, did an air gunner, a rear gunner and a mid-upper gunner. They had a very short — you know, it was awful really. They just learned how to shoot and they put them in, put them in a bomber. And honestly, it was as simple as that.
IL: You also, you also had this thing with your mother, um, she had to sign something, I understand?
RM: Oh yes, yes. She did, oh yeah. Well, I got this paper from — I went down to the recruiting office — and I thought — there again, I knew nothing about it. And I thought you could just sign on the line and they took you but when they came to the ages bit, um, it struck me as not being right, but you, you could not get into the Services. You could get in [emphasis] into the Services, before you were eighteen, but not flying. You could not get into air crew unless you signed up. That’s what it was with me anyway. And to get her to — she just said, ‘You’re not going.’ And that was it. And in practice she’d made her mind up that I wasn’t going to join the aircrew. But my mother then at that time I don’t really think that she knew what air crew was. Honestly I do. I believe that. She didn’t know what air crew was in that respect.
IL: So, how did you get round your mum not signing?
RM: Um, oh, oh well, I waited for a bit, oh yeah, when she wouldn’t sign it. I mean, she was my mother and what could I do? I can’t, even in those days, I mean, well, in those days you had to do what your mother and father said, as far as I was concerned anyway, and she was, um, she was up in arms. I knew she held it — she sort of realised that I’d made my mind up. That’s, that’s what it was all about. And I wanted to, I wanted to join and I she — I can’t tell you what the paper was. It was a sheet of paper with — that you had to sign and I, I forged her signature. Yeah, I did. I practiced writing Clare Moore and, um, I don’t think to this day that she knew what I’d done except when my papers came. I mean, I don’t think she was aware that, I don’t think she was aware because I didn’t turn round to her and say I’d done it. I wouldn’t have done that. Well, I wouldn’t Sarah. And, er, as I say I took it back to that, down Chapel Road, that recruiting office there and just handed it in and, ‘We’ll let you know.’ Sort of thing.
IL: So, what happened when you eventually got called up and had to leave?
RM: And had to leave?
IL: Had, had to leave home. What did your mum do?
RM: Oh, well, that — well, my sister Dorothy, we were good friends, as brother and sister, and she still does to this day. She thinks I’m marvellous. You know, that sort of, her brother, and, um, well, I packed a little suitcase and all I packed in was probably a razor and whatever, you know, things you need, I suppose. I know at that time my mother was very reluctant to pack anything in. You didn’t need anything. You just had, I just had this little case and I guess she packed in soap, a flannel and things like that. That’s all there was, you know. Said, ‘Cheerio.’ And she said, ‘You can beggar off home.’ I remember that. And then when I got to the bottom of the road I looked back. Waving. And I got on a train and went to Victoria, Victoria across to — no, the RTO met us at, um, at Victoria Station. You went into the, what they called, the RTO, that’s the Railroad Transport Offices, the RTO, and I went in there and told them, like, and they took us by coach then to Cardington. And from Cardington — was there two days. That was awful really at Cardington because there were thou— there seemed hundreds, hundreds of airmen milling around in civvies, you know, and it was a funny carry on and it really surprised me, in as much as, over the Tannoy (they had a Tannoy) and it was like a homing thing and it called out on, on the microphone, ‘Is there a,’ and I’ll never forget this, ‘Is there a Raymond Moore here?’ And amongst all the hubbub, you know, I didn’t take a lot of notice and I hadn’t met anybody but I heard it again and again and I thought, ‘That’s me.’ Anyway, er, I found out where it was coming from and what it was — I can’t explain to you how they found out — but what it was somebody more knowledgeable than me and up to date and what it was you could go to and find, there was a list of some sort you, you could go and find and look down this list, like, anybody from Worthing? With their names on it and my name was on it and what — and they called in — oh, I can’t think of it. No good, can’t think, and what happened was, he called in. He was calling, ‘Raymond Moore.’ And I found him and found him and of course he came up and he said, ‘Oh, good. Thank God. There’s somebody here from Worthing.’ And he was a horror. I never liked him because, well, because it weren’t so much — I’d met him through the football and he came from a school called Sussex Road and I came from St Andrews and so there was a bit of competition of the boys from St Andrews and the boys from Sussex Road and I never liked him. And he said, oh, he said, ‘Oh, what school?’ I said, ‘I was at St Andrews.’ And, you know, St Andrews was a bit of a snobbish school. Well, it was a bit of a snobbish school, it was honestly. St Andrews it was. We thought we were a cut above Sussex Road and it was true and, um, but I didn’t want to be with him somehow and I sort of edged away from him and I never met him again. He was posted somewhere else you see. I was posted to Skegness to do — I was there about eight weeks — square bashing and that was good. There again, it was something new wasn’t it, you know? Marching up and down. I even remember the corporal’s name, Corporal Passant, P A S S A N T, Corporal Passant. And we were billeted in houses on the seafront. It was marvellous, weren’t it? Home from home. And he was a very nice corporal, marched us up and down then and I then — we was just thrilled. We didn’t — there was no rifle drill or anything like that. We just had to learn. Well, I knew how to march but he was a professional and he taught us how to march properly. I’ll tell you this instance. I don’t know whether it matters, whether it goes on there or not, but it’s an incident and it struck me because, being brought up Church of England and fairly religious, church parade on a Sunday morning. There was a great big, seemed to me dozens of us, and each one was a platoon with thirty two men in and so this corporal then, as it come down the line, and you had to stand to attention but he’d call out then, ‘Fall out all Roman, fall out all Roman Catholics and Jews and other denominations.’ [slight laugh] Honestly, that’s the gospel truth, as true as I sit here. So I’m stood there and I thought — and of course, all those that were Roman Catholics and Jews and other denominations (what the other denomination was would be Methodist I suppose or something like that) and I’m stood there like and one or two — I saw one or two — falling out and I thought, ‘What’s goes on here?’ I thought there was only one religion, or two at the most. That would be Roman Catholics and Church of England.’ And that’s the honest truth. That’s how, that’s how I was educated, although that the school I went to, St Andrews, they called it a higher — there’s a name for it.
Sarah: Church School? Or a —
RM: Yes, they called it — and it was high church. It was between Roman Catholic and Jews [?]. It was in between but that didn’t make any difference to religion but you know what puzzled me? Every Sunday morning that corporal used to say — and it was a common thing and it caught on. Suddenly all the Church of England suddenly became Roman Catholics or Jews, whatever. It was a peculiar carry on and that is the truth.
Sarah: So they could fall out.
IL: Yes. So, they didn’t have to go to church parade?
RM: Yeah and they just wandered off and that, that is true that, and from — of course when I finished at square bashing I was sent to Cosford and that was eighteen months’ course on engines and that was hard. That was really hard. That was a hard course because when you’re — it’s like, taking maths. If you take maths at school it’s hard if you don’t concentrate and, taking the course on Merlin engines and Hercules engines, it struck me as being — seeing a massive engine there — and you had to learn the theory of it. I knew nothing. I didn’t even know what it looked like and to be thrown into something like that it was hard and I had to work hard if I wanted to — I did. I worked very hard, very, very hard.
IL: So, was that classroom and practical based?
RM: Yes, it was. It’s true. The practice, I was absolutely useless. Even now, right throughout my married life, and I was married for sixty-six years, and I’m telling you, I couldn’t knock a nail in without hitting my thumb. Now, it’s a standing joke in the family. Sarah knows. Don’t you Sarah?
Sarah: My mum was very good at decorating.
RM: The girls decorated and the lads. I could never ever learn anything in the house. It didn’t matter. Now, I don’t, I think it wasn’t, I think I lacked the knowledge of even knocking a nail in. I could never and of course my wife was the opposite. She was marvellous, you know. She had to be.
IL: I have a similar arrangement. [slight laugh]
Sarah: Very capable, was my mum.
RM: Yes, she was. And then from Cosford, I did eighteen weeks there and was posted to Halton, which was, it was the — from going from a lower form of AC1, AC2, LAC you went up then a bit higher because at Halton you had to finish off what you did at Cosford, you know, you know what I mean? It was a bit higher class if you got through and Halton’s in Buckinghamshire and Halton was the sound, it was the grounding for the regular Air Force. RAF Halton it was and that was nice there. We got marched about to a band there. They had their own band. Marched up for our dinners, from classrooms, marched back down again. It was quite good actually.
IL: How long were you there for?
RM: How long? So that was eighteen weeks, so four and a half months. How long was I? Oh, sixteen weeks.
IL: Right.
RM: Sixteen weeks at Halton, yeah, and that was another grind. It was, because, as I say it was a bit, it was harder.
IL: And did you get any leisure time in these places?
RM: No. It was just — well, only if you put in — well, just as an example was, we were billeted in huts and the — it was quite good really. It kept you on your toes. I was never lazy in doing them things but there was about — how many would there be? About fourteen beds in the hut and every Friday night it was bull [?] night and you had to dust your, all around your bed, and I seemed to get a lot of fluff round my bed [slight laugh] you know and then you had to polish the floor and that [emphasis] was the main thing. And you had to polish the floor because you got marks and the sergeant, the flight sergeant, would come round and he’d come round and look and if your, if your hut was good you got a mark of, I don’t know how they worked it, nine out of ten or something, and so after a couple of months your hut — and you worked hard and polished and all the bull you put in to it, and if you came top of the class you could put in for a weekend pass but they weren’t daft were they? You imagine thirty-six hours. Forty-eight hours from Friday until 23.00 hours on the Sunday night and they called that forty-eight hours. In the meantime — and you had to pay your own fare. So, I was living in Worthing and to get to Wolverhampton you had to do an awful lot. It was awfully quick because when my dad used to come home on leave and my mother would say, in a letter, she’d say your father will be coming on leave on such and such a day and he was billeted not far away up at Balcombe Tunnel [?] and, um, he was — so, I got information then so the idea was then if our hut was up on the list and a lot of them, bearing in mind, they lived farther away than that and so you couldn’t afford it. You couldn’t afford it. Your, your pay, you got three shillings a day or something like that, and so if you wanted to go on a weekend you had to save up to get your train fare. And so I would then write a letter and it was a dodge with me because when I wrote a letter to, to which you just had to write a note, ‘Dear Sir.’ Your commanding officer, ‘Dear Sir, I may request, can I request a pass because my father is coming home?’ It was a, it was a squid [?] wasn’t it? And put it in and to put a letter into the orderly room, ‘Dear Sir.’ I, I used to have it off pat saying that I was, um, how did I put it? Dear, Sir, Dear Sir. Oh, it was, it was a mushy letter and I always used to put in as my father is coming home on leave, and that was it, and because if you had a relative like that, you know what I mean? And so, any, any leave that I got that was the letter that I used to put in to the commanding officer, ‘Dear Sir, please may I put forward an application for a forty-eight hour pass to see my father who’s home on leave.’ And I used to put he’s a sergeant major in the eighth battalion of the Royal Fusiliers or something and I it went off pat, of course you did, and I got a forty-eight hour pass and it was the only time I screwed them [laugh] well, I did, you know. It was that little bit that — it was good was that.
IL: It’s not bad to get some time off.
RM: And then — but after I finished a Halton, that course there, I went down to St Athan and that was my final course and of course that was, that was a hard one there because for six weeks or eight weeks you had to write down the theory. It got down to the theory part of flying, the theory of flight, your engine power, and you didn’t even know what you were going to fly actually in them days. And there was another interesting thing that is worth putting down that I, I came top, or we’ll say I came nearly top. I know I was, I know, but at that time of course I was going to be a flight engineer and that was all there was to it. I was going to fly and that meant to finish it off I was going to be good and I intended, that was what I intended. Anyway, we were waiting, I’d got my tapes and braiding [?] that was good sewed it on and it came through then, we were in the billets one night and a corporal it was, the corporal came round and he said, he read four names out and my name was among them and where, where I was at St Athan, um, he said, he read four names out and he said, ‘Now then.’ He said, ‘This is optional.’ Have you ever heard of a Sunderland Flying Boat? No? Have you?
IL: I have, yes.
RM: Well, you know, well — and four of us were picked out then and this was a bit of excitement and they took us down to the, er, Solent on the Southampton waters to give us a trip in a Sunderland Flying Boat to see whether we liked it or not. And, oh boy that, you know, and to fly for the first time. But they were massive. To me they were massive. To be inside one of these things and they carried a crew of thirteen, you know. And, anyway they ferried us out to this Sunderland and, um, we climbed aboard and all the time, you know, I was very nearly messing myself because of the size of it and going up the ladder to get inside it and it was sort of going — it was a lovely gentle — on the Solent, you know, and I thought, ‘There’s something wrong. I don’t know what I’m doing here.’ And I could have refused. It was just something that being in the first four that it was a little present for those that were doing it and, er, I admit, I must admit I didn’t want to go then. And anyway we get inside and it was massive. I’ll never forget it. I mean, where they cooked they had a stove and everything and where they cooked it was as wide as this was. It was massive inside it. I was lost. I remember sitting there. We didn’t have a harness. They didn’t give us a harness. I was just sitting there and I was looking round. And they started the engines up. They were Hercules, no, no, Pegasus, they were Pegasus 16s and, er, then they started up and we were rolling forward and, do you know? I’m not kidding you, bump, bump, bump, and, and I couldn’t see out. All I could see, like, the pilot was up here but the, the feeling of going on, on the water in this blooming great flying boat. And, er anyway there were four of us there and none of us were very — I think all of us looking a bit green. Anyway, we took off and we just circled Southampton and Portsmouth, down there, and we come into land. Well, coming into land was the same as taking off virtually that was but, of course, if you got used to it like everything else — and we landed, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump. Anyway when we went, they took us back to, um, we got back to St Athan and well, straight away, like, and we had to sort of say in front of those that were in charge of us down there, they had to say then, ‘Did you like it?’ And I said, I remember saying like, I said, ‘Is that what we’ve got to fly on?’ I said, ‘I don’t want to fly.’ Because honestly the take-off and landing on a Sunderland, honestly you could not understand, and when you look at Southampton, you know, when you look at the, look at the water. It all looks lovely and calm, you know, and you think — but by Jove I’ll tell you it did frighten me. Anyway, we got back and then we got back we were posted and posted then up to Yorkshire. That’s the first I saw of it. Posted to Eastmoor and there we landed at York and we got a truck there and there was thirteen of us. Thirteen flight engineers. And that was the hard bit. Do you know, out of those thirteen there was only about four of us finished. That was, that was hard.
IL: So, did you get to know those people?
RM: Well, when we went to the squadron we — well, Eastmoor was where they put all the crews in a hangar and there was a pilot, and he’d have his navigator, and the pilot would walk round and if you liked, er, like, if, if you liked a fella or you saw him and he saw [unclear] the pilot would go up to them and he’d say, ‘Have you got a crew?’ And this is gospel truth. They were — and some of the Canadians of course they knew one another from school, coming from Canada and things, so they weren’t so bad and I — and of course, when I was, went there it was awful. Well, those billets up there, the blankets were wet. We broke a table up to light the fire. It, it was about midnight when we got there from York and we spilt up and there was about six of us into this hut. It was awful. There, there was no fire. The blankets were wet. Anyway, um, it was awful to move in there. Well, in the daytime, as I say, we went into this big hangar where we were crewed up. And I remember I was sat there and I thought, ‘Nobody wants me.’ And it’s true. I was sat on a table. I was just sat there swinging my legs like. I was looking round, and I thought, I was hoping somebody would come up to me and say, ‘Have you got a crew?’ Or something. Anyway, I sat there and I saw them keep disappearing and I felt very lonely and I thought ‘Nobody wants me.’ Anyway, this, this pilot officer comes up to me and he tapped me on the shoulder and he said, ‘Have you got a crew?’ And I thought — I could have embraced him. I said, ‘No, I haven’t.’ He said, ‘Would you like to join my crew?’ I said, ‘Yes, I would.’ Well, he said, ‘I’m Pilot Officer Bryson.’ And he said, ‘Come with me and I’ll introduce you.’ And he introduced me. And I was the last one in the crew and he said, ‘This is Peter Lewinsky, navigator, Alex Trench was the bomb aimer (he was the Yank that did that book), Peter Lewinsky, er, Alex Trench was the bomb aimer, er, Reg Galloway was the wireless operator. Mid-upper gunner was Ralph Revlin [?] and the rear gunner was Harold Bowles.’ And that was how I was introduced to them.
IL: And so were they all, were they all, were they all British or —
RM: No, they were Canadian.
IL: They were all Canadian? Were you the only non-Canadian?
RM: Yes.
IL: Right.
RM: Yeah, they, they sort of — well, I was the youngest in the crew. The rest were twenty-one. The navigator was twenty-five and the wireless op was twenty-five. They were two of the eldest. The rest of them were twenty-one and I was just nineteen but they, they were marvellous really. They very nearly fostered me, you know. It was true. It was. Well, it was marvellous really accept I wasn’t their friend. When we were coming back they all smoked and so, when we were coming back and when I —
Sarah: Do you mean when you were setting out, when you were doing a, a return flight when you dropped bombs? When you say when you were coming back —
RM: Oh, we were coming back from — yeah, well that’s another story. They — what is was I was in charge of the oxygen and I didn’t smoke at the time (I did on occasion) and the skipper didn’t smoke but all the rest of them, it was like being in a factory. When we were flying, when we were — funnily enough they used to shout out. The rear gunner used to shout out and we’d be at eleven thousand feet and I used to take — and so I’d turn the oxygen off at ten thousand feet, you see, but I was in charge. But we’d be coming down, coming back, that was the worst bit because those that smoked needed a fag. That’s all there was so all they needed was a cig and so, we’d be at eleven thousand feet and then it started, the rear gunner, ‘Ray, Ray. How about turning the oxygen off.’ And we’d be at eleven thousand feet and it was the law but a flying law that you didn’t turn the oxygen off until you were down to ten thousand feet. That was the oxygen height, about twelve thousand feet, ten thousand feet, and so I used to turn to the skipper and I used to tap him because he would hear on, you see, and I used to tap him on the shoulder and he just used to sit there and he used to do just this and so I never answered them because, well, it was silly and then you would hear another one and the wireless operator, he was real — he was like a father, and he used to say, a bit subtler, ’Ray.’ [sound of aircraft] You know, and we’d be down then, coming down then, ‘Ray, Raymond, Raymond.’ And more sympathetic, ‘Turn the oxygen off Ray, Raymond. Turn the oxygen off.’ And so I used, used to turn to the skipper and I used tap him on the shoulder, and he was a bugger was old Bryson, the skipper. He was really stuck to it. At ten thousand feet turn the oxygen off, like, and they can — and it was like a furnace in there, you know, the cigarette smoke. They all smoked.
Sarah: Did they not swear at you occasionally?
RM: Oh, oh yeah. Yeah, it come to being not being pleasant, you know, ‘Turn that — turn that oxygen off. Turn.’ And, er, yeah, it was good fun.
IL: So, once you were crewed up you went to Linton?
RM: Yes.
IL: OK. So was this — so what was Linton?
RM: Linton was the — there were two squadrons at Linton: 408 and 426. That’s about it. There was sixteen to a squadron there so there was about thirty, thirty-two, thirty-two bombers all to take off and land.
Sarah: And you used to stay at Beningbrough didn’t you?
RM: Ah, well we were, we were billeted. We weren’t billeted at Linton. We were billeted at Beningham.
Sarah: Beningham.
IL: Oh, Beningham Hall. Very posh.
RM: Ah, well —
Sarah: We went there a couple of years ago didn’t we? Had a re-visit.
RM: Yes. Sarah took me there. There it is, look. That was when we were — yeah, there were six of us there. That was when we were old. 1987.
Sarah: It was a reunion.
RM: And it was a reunion, yes. They came all the way from Canada. 1987 that was. Oh yeah, they came over two or three times didn’t they, Sarah?
IL: So, when you, so you when you moved, when you first went to — so what, what year was it and what, when did you first start operations?
RM: Linton, we were at Linton in the November ‘43. I did my first trip on — to Berlin. That was a Berlin and I did my first trip to Berlin with Flight Lieutenant Brice. I flew spare. One of the — his engineer — on the 28th of January. That was my first trip to Berlin. That was one of the most unpleasant I had because they all the crew were new, weren’t they? And his engineer, he’d gone, you know, LMF. You know what I’m saying?
IL: Yep.
RM: And his engineer was Australian and poor chap he’d gone. He’d done seven trips and he just, he just packed it in, like, and so me, being clever, I had more flying hours in than any other flight engineer, being clever and the CO, Squadron — no, er, Jacobs at that time, said, Wing Commander Jacobs and said (you didn’t have a choice), ‘You’re flying tonight with Flight Lieutenant Brice.’ And that was my first trip.
IL: So, between November and January what were you actually — was this sort of — you were training as a crew?
RM: Yes. Oh, yes. We did a lot of flying. Well, we only flew if weather was on. I mean, between November and December that year, um, we didn’t do a lot of flying. It wasn’t until after Christmas, into January, that we concentrated on flying. Flying — I don’t mean operational because well, we weren’t, just weren’t on the list to operate and then that was January the 28th. That was my first Berlin with a new crew. That was not very pleasant because I was new to the crew. Mind, he give me a good recommendation. He told my skipper that I was a very good flight engineer and that, that meant a lot to me, er, and so, and then a couple of days later, couple of nights later, all the crew went. That was their — it was my second but their first. It was the 30th of January and we all flew as a crew. That was our first and that was another Berlin, another biggie, the big city, and from then on, you know, every other night, whenever they decided to fly us operationally, you know.
IL: So, so how many, how many operations? Was it a tour of thirty or —
RM: Thirty-one. I did thirty one because I put in that — I should have been screened at thirty but the rest of the crew had to do an extra one so I flew, I, I said I would fly the last one. That was to Cannes I think it was. That was —
IL: Did you have any, um, did you have any, um, interesting experiences or narrow escapes when you were over Germany on, on operations?
RM: Did we ever?
IL: Did you have any, um, narrow escapes? Did you have any, anything you’d like to tell us?
RM: Oh, I’d have to look in there because when you — like the first op I did with Flight Lieutenant Brice. We were both strangers to one another but every movement in that cockpit he relied on me. I’m not bragging. Every movement that that pilot had to do to that plane he had to do it through me, operationally, whatever it was. I don’t mean flying. To do appertaining to the air force, aircraft but flying, when we were flying, and you’re cruising along and you have to be prepared, especially when you fly, you get over the coast and you’re flying to France, flying over France. And the first Berlin that we did, I could never understand it because when you went into briefing there was a map that big, and then the CO used to come in, and there was a curtain and he used to pull the curtain, and you knew by the tone of the crew — there’d be all the crews in the briefing room — and you could hear them, ‘Oh, God. Another, another big city.’ You know. And of course, I was still a sprog wasn’t I? Going in with the crew, this new crew, and so when the curtain was drawn back all you heard was the moans, you know, ‘Oh, God. The big city.’ And I was sat there. I remember sitting there with the crew that I was with and they’d had seven operations between them so I was just a sprog but and so — but I knew my job. That’s what I was going to say. I knew my job as a flight engineer. I knew that I knew my job. That’s what I’m trying to say. I did know so that when we were, when we first started up and things like that I knew how to start everything up, I knew what tanks to be on before take-off, I knew what flaps to put down, the undercarriage and everything like that before we took off and, and so all he did was fly. But don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that with any belittling sense because they were, they were magnificent machines and they needed good men to fly. That’s what I’m saying and they did and that’s how the crew, that’s how, that’s how you, that’s where the camaraderie came from, no doubt about that. And so when we, we taxied round the perimeter and then we were ready for take-off and you had to do pre-flight preparations before he opened the throttle and the take-off the same. He never said a word, didn’t the pilot, because I did everything for him in that respect accept he flew it. He was, he was the man. He flew it and he was a blooming good pilot as well.
Sarah: Were you excited on your first trip?
RM: Pardon?
Sarah: Were you excited on your first trip?
RM: Yes, I was [cough]. Well, there’s not much you can do, you know. We took off and at a thousand feet the pilot would say to the navigator, ‘Can you give me a course?’ That was just first course out and the first course — and what puzzled me was, what I was going to say was, what puzzled me was, looking at the map, I thought, ‘That’s funny. We’re going to Germany. We should be going to Germany.’ And Berlin is, Berlin was down there and I thought, ‘That’s funny. We’re going up here.’ And we flew over Norway and Den— and, and Sweden. That was how we went, up there, went up there like that and across there, and I thought, ‘What the hell are we flying up there? Why can’t we fly straight to Berlin and back again.’ But you’d blooming soon find out why they did it because you avoided all these little — I can show them to you on there, like, um, Bremen, one or two hot spots just, just inside there, all the big German ports there, and they were hot. They could shoot you down like a, you know, if — so the idea was to take us across to Norway and Sweden and you went, we went across like that and we turned, we took a turn to starboard. So, I suppose we’d be flying east, 2.40 or something like that, and then come down to Berlin, come down like that, and bomb Berlin and then another. All the routes are in there, you know, going to and from the target, and — but that first trip, the first excitement I got really that was excitement because you were looking out for fighters weren’t you and things like that. You were, and the fire over Berlin that fascinated you, there’s no doubt about it. You couldn’t, you weren’t supposed to look, you see. All the aircrew, once you got used to it you weren’t, you weren’t, you weren’t forced to, you couldn’t help, you saw this massive area that was alight and you couldn’t — in my blister (there was a blister in the Lanc) and I used to — I was looking down like that and my skipper give me a punch on the shoulder. He said, ‘You don’t really want to be looking down there.’ He said, ‘You ought to be looking up there for fighters.’ And just, just, the fire in the front of us, it could have been — I could never estimate up there how near we were and all of a sudden there was a massive explosion and a Lancaster or Halifax I think, I don’t know what it was, had been blown up in front of us. Now that brought me to realise that I was we were in the middle of the war, you know what I mean? There was nothing on the way and all of a sudden before the target this, this aircraft blew up and I knew, I realised then, you know, that that was war and we lost thirty-five aircraft that night. And so we lost four on the way so when you got back to briefing, um, that was the hardest part, when you got back to briefing. I’m not saying so much on that trip. And then there was a big board up and it said ‘late’ er, whoever it was, name Frank or any, any one of them down there, ‘late’, ‘arrival’, ‘depart’, ‘arrival’ and, and the time to put down and if you knew who your mate, we’d call him, was flying with you you looked for his pilot. His pilot’s name would be on the board, missing, and so you’d wait. If, if one of them, they called him Rodman [?] and he was — Harry Gilbert was his flight engineer and he should never have been flying because this is what happens and when he used, he used to come up to me because we were good friends. And I’d been through a course with him and I’m not saying I wasn’t frightened, it was ridiculous, but when I met him and he come in and his skipper was Flight Lieutenant Rodman and he used to come up to me and he used to say, ‘How are you Ray?’ And he’d light a fag and he was like this and I thought to myself — and he did, he got the chop, after he done about ten, but he was like this and, ‘How are you Ray?’ You know, ‘You alright?’ And I said, ‘For Christ’s sake Harry, give up.’ And I, I used to do, ‘For Christ’s sake.’ I said, ‘I did have a rough trip but I’m here and so are you.’ And it was the only way you could talk to Harry. He should never have flown, never have flown. Every time he come back and he used to make for me in the briefing room and, I mean it wasn’t as I was brave or anything, but I knew him and he was like this. He come from — he was a Lancashire lad, old Harry Gilbert but he was like this, lighting a fag.
IL: So what’s your definition of a rough trip?
RM: A rough trip?
IL: Yeah. A rough trip. What would have happened on a rough trip?
RM: Right. It was called “The Tale of Strong Winds”. I can go right through that with you because it was the worst trip I ever, it was [emphasis] the worst trip that was. I can talk to you right from there until we came back. Berlin, it was the last one, 24th of March 1944, and the take-off time would be in there. It might have been 4 o’clock in the afternoon. [sound of aircraft] Yeah, it would have been about 4 o’clock. It was March so, yeah, so we go to briefing [sound of aircraft] and, as I say, look at the map and hear the groans, big city again, and it’s a long way. It was an eight hour trip there and back and that’s a long time.
Sarah: Eight hours there?
RM: No, eight hours. Oh, no Sarah. There and back. And we took off, and Met, Met hadn’t said anything about anything. It was just an ordinary. We took off and on that route up there, we went over, going over the North Sea, and it was fine but we had a tail wind going over the North Sea and we did nothing. At that time of the year you did often get what they call a, a southern wind. It was like a south wind and the, the way we were taking off on that runway, we had nearly a tail wind. It was north and south runway as we called it and we took off. It was all fine. Settled down. What I noticed was we were going over Norway and Sweden again but that meant to say it was fairly — and we had a nice tail wind and our ground speed was about hundred and fifty which was pretty fast when you’re on climbing power and it was pretty fast was that and I thought, ‘That’s funny.’ And the skipper said to me, he said, ‘Jesus. We’ve got a tail wind.’ Well, the wireless operator had what they called an aerial and you let out an aerial and it gave us the wind. [background noise] It was like a wind sock and it told you the wind and he, he come back and he said, ‘That’s funny.’ He said, ‘The wind was about fifty or sixty.’ Which was a bit above average. When we got up to the top and turned to Norway, turned over to Norway — I mean, they were all, all these clever fellas in the crew, were talking about winds. You know, I wasn’t a bit interested to be honest. All I was only interested in was the aircraft we were flying [loud background noise] and so, you know, the winds increased, the wireless operator called, ‘The winds increased up to eighty.’ And, oh Jeez, you know, I heard them go round, the pilot, it was [emphasis] fast at eighty miles an hour and as we turned round and, and come down to Berlin I heard the navigator shout in that funny language, ‘Jesus Christ.’ The winds had blown on a what they called a reciprocal so that when we’d reached there and all of a sudden — you can see them on the maps — and the wind had blown literally where we were right up in the north there and turned down to Berlin and the wind had blown us, so instead of — and we had a tail wind. We had a tail wind to take-off and a tail wind going down to the target, Berlin. Our, our ground speed was something like three hundred and odd miles an hour. That was what our ground speed was and that, believe you me — and we had that tail wind up our backside — and what had happened was it blew us past Berlin, about fifty miles. We’d no control. And winds, as I heard some of them bragging about winds being a hundred and fifty miles an hour, and I, I think ours was, we recorded about a hundred and twenty-five, hundred and thirty and it blew us straight past Berlin. So, you can imagine, nearly all the bomber force being blown past Berlin and we had to turn round then, in the face of all these aircraft coming down, and we had to turn round then to go back and bomb Berlin. In other words, it, it sounds ridiculous, but that’s what happened and so when we turned round — and we lost seventy-five that night — and so when we turned round and, and air ground speed had dropped down to forty. That’s how heavy the wind was and it was horrendous really, because when you come to think, you turned round and you had a head wind and it was like standing still, and the pilot kept saying to me — now as an engineer I did know that much, that we were flying [ringing sound] we were flying at engine speeds of climbing speeds and, and flying into a wind, so I knew then — and our maximum power, we could only put maximum power on at about twenty-eight fifty revs plus eight and a quarter pounds of boost so we could only put that power on. I knew that and he kept saying to me, ‘We want more power.’ And it’s a wonder he didn’t strike me and I wouldn’t do it because at that power you could only do it for five minutes otherwise you’d have burnt, you’d have burnt — you know what I’m saying and it was elementary that. But — and air ground speed had been reduced to about forty miles an hour but that wasn’t the point doing that job. Can you imagine half the bomber force coming up and half of it coming down? I mean the aircraft, you could see them. You didn’t know what to do. It was horrendous, it really was, and you just stood there, and poor old Brice, the skipper, he just had to fly straight and level unless you saw something coming towards you. To turn round — well, we would have been blown down and so, and us flying back up and we bombed Berlin. Right, we bombed Berlin and glad to get away and we turned — the navigator gave us a course and it would be, well, I’ll make a figure. I think it was about 090, which was west, flying west, and was fine. We turned round and came back. Now, briefing, they said keep away from Roscos, Roscop —
Sarah: Rostock.
RM: Rostock, Rostock and Bremen, which were — we knew you had to miss them on the way out so you had to miss them on the way down. But with all the excitement that had gone on, and it wasn’t the navigator’s fault because all the wind up there, and we got a bit blown a bit off course. But we were cruising along nicely and all of a sudden bang! And they had then, they were clever you know, were Jerry, they knew we were bombing and they had their defences [clears throat] and it was, what they called a ‘blue searchlight’, and it was a master searchlight, and it hit us like that and what had happened was we had drifted to Rostock and Bremen and that nasty bit of an area down in that quarter there, and that searchlight, he cooked us and he hit us, and it was a blue, it was a blue, and within five minutes, maybe less than that, and there was about twenty searchlights coned us like that. Now, it, it was one of those experiences where you couldn’t see, you couldn’t see nothing, you just had to — he was there and all of a sudden he, he started to what we called ‘corkscrew’ and he shoved it, shoved the nose down, of course as he did it, he didn’t tell anybody he was doing it. He was the pilot and he stuck the nose down and, of course, gravity and as he stuck the nose down like that we went down about five thousand feet in a flash and he stuck the nose down. He screwed it round and stuck the nose down. I went straight up. I went straight up and the, and the bombardier, like, in front he was laid down. He was laid on his back and he was laid down and the language because he wondered what was up because he was in mid-air and that was the first time and navigator was cursing. He was on, he had one of those wheelie seats, he could move around in that little bit of space and, of course, he had his knees underneath the, his desk and his papers, er, as I say, as I went up and all of his nav papers and bits of his machinery was, was flying up in the air. The wireless operator was the only one of us who had any sense. Of course, poor rear gun— gunners, you know, were really thrown about because you can imagine what it was like to be thrown about like that and not knowing where you were and, and the audio was over the intercom, bad language and what was happening? And where are we? And that went on. I mean, for a pilot, and we, we both weighed the same. He weighed nine and a half stone and so did I so you imagine he was skinny, he wasn’t very big. Did you ever meet him Sarah?
Sarah: No. I didn’t.
RM: He wasn’t very big. He was about nine stone and he was five seven and a half in height so there was nothing and that was a big aircraft to throw about, something like twenty-two tonnes, even though it was tear [?] weight and, and anyway that was on the way down. On the way back that was when you felt G. Come back up from five thousand feet, pulling up, and he shouted out to me and I was all scattered brained and he shouted out to me, ‘Ray, Ray, Ray. Give us a hand.’ And so I went and got hold of the stick with him and we were like this and put me feet against that to pull. There was two of us pulling, pulled it out, but that wasn’t it. The searchlights were still on us. They would not let go and we were like that and then down the other side. I bet we were like that. He was flying up and down and trying to get loose from them, lose, lose them, and they were there. But they were there, that master searchlight, and it was an awful experience. It was a dreadful, dreadful experience and, anyway, just in the distance our, our rear gunner called out — they’d, what they done was, as we’d been flying and corkscrewing all over they copped onto another Lancaster and you could see it in the distance, this Lancaster. But they, they’d turned, they’d got hold of him. We just managed to get out of that because what happened after that was fighters. As soon as they, as soon as they — what used to happen was they would suddenly stop and so you were in complete darkness and that’s when the fighter boys used to come in. I think it says there we were attacked by fighters and anyway that wasn’t the end of the story. We were just levelled out and, and he grabbed hold of me, did the pilot, and he got hold of my intercom and he pulled out my intercom and he plugged my intercom into his intercom and he said, and he, he stood up and he said, you know, ‘Get into my seat.’ And, er, he sort of half dragged me, plugged it in. Well, as I passed him, as we were passing the seats, I saw him and he looked, even in the light that there was there, the sweat was literally pouring out of him. I never realised and never thinking like what he’d done and he’d been doing this for about twenty minutes, and that’s a lot in a Lancaster, going up and down and trying to — and, and so there I am, I’m sat in the cockpit. Well, bloody Lancaster, halfway across Germany and I’m sat there and the navigator said, ‘Alter course.’ And I just leaned forward and set the compass [cough] the old — and just set it and just set a bit of rudder, that was all, just to turn it on to whatever it was (I’ve forgotten) and flew it and not a sound, nobody spoke, nobody said anything and poor old Brice, he’d literally had it. And there I am, all quiet there, flying along there. Nothing to flying an aircraft, you know, it’s like driving a car up the M1. You just have to just sit there and hope that there’s no fighters and then it occurred to me I thought, ‘Christ what happens if, if we get attacked? What am I going to do? How am I going to corkscrew out of this?’ And Brice was just stood at the side of me and he kept patting me on the shoulder [slight laugh] and I thought, ‘There’s no good patting me on the shoulder if anything happens brother.’ Anyway, we was flying along. We must have been flying for about half an hour and nothing happened and that is — you, you couldn’t believe really, honestly, after all those experiences that I should be allowed to fly and I flew halfway across Germany. We weren’t far off the French coast and that’s how far I — I didn’t fly the thing. It just flew on its own. All I did was steering it. That’s the honest truth but nobody spoke and the only thing that upset me was nobody else in the crew knew what had happened, that I flew that aircraft. I thought he would have mentioned it, that when we sat down at briefing, ‘My flight engineer did this.’ And he never said, he never told none of those crew and from that day to this that I flew that aircraft back except when we were— well, they didn’t know and when we were coming up you know and the navigator, I think it was the navigator at that time, he tapped me on the shoulder and I got out. But I’d flown but that was the worst experience, one of the worst, and we hadn’t see anything really but —
IL: And that was your last —
RM: No, no.
IL: Sorry, I thought you said it was your last, sorry.
RM: No, no, no, no, no, that was Berlin. That was 24th of March and they called that the “Night of the Winds”. We lost seventy-five that night.
IL: My goodness.
Sarah: On, on a little lighter note do I, do I remember something about bomb doors not opening?
RM: No, I can’t — not bomb doors.
Sarah: No?
RM: No. Oh, we were attacked by night fighters, we got hit by flak, attacked by night fighters. That was the things that happened.
Sarah: Did you not have to come back once because you couldn’t drop some bombs? On a lighter note.
RM: Oh, right. This trip was Dortmund. Dortmund – Emms Canal they called it.
Sarah: There. We got it there.
RM: Dortmund, Dortmund Emms Canal. Right, and that was another, that was a hot spot, Dortmund but, um, experience, yes. We got into B-Baker and I started, I started the engines up, routine, er, before we left, before we left — what do you call it? Well, before we left where they were parked, like, we got in. The idea was to start the engines up, rev them up a bit, and I started the, the starboard engine up, one of them, and I just checked them, what they called a mag drop because, er, luckily it had two mag and what you had to do was run them up to a fifteen hundred and switch one of these mag drops. If you got a mag drop over three or four hundred revs there’s something wrong, you got a — anyway, I was testing them and called, I said to the skipper, I said, ‘It’s not right.’ I said, ‘This starboard inner. There’s too big a mag drop.’ And he said, ‘Oh.’ I said, ‘I’ll open it up again.’ Anyway, I reckoned to open it up to clear anything and give it a good boost, like, and, and no, it didn’t work. So, we stopped the engines, called up control, starboard inner US. Fine, we thought. Every— everybody in the crew thought we’re going to have a night off. Come over from control, um, ‘Bryson, Flight Lieutenant, Flying Officer Bryson there’ll be transport. They’re going to take, they’ll take you to C-Charlie.’ Oh, so we’ll have to go after all. Transport comes along. And imagine having to getting in and out of a Lancaster, across the old spar there and it was hard work. You’d have to take off all your, your, um, parachute like and your harness and things like that. So the transport comes, broom, broom, across to C-Charlie and it was cold and it didn’t feel like your aircraft and straight away there’s a bit of, ‘Who did this aircraft belong to?’ ‘Oh. It belongs to —.’ ‘Oh Christ, its cold.’ And you heard them moaning like and as to what each department they got into, they’d say, ‘Oh, it’s a dirty place.’ You know, the gunners were saying. And anyway we get in, starts the engines up, everything’s fine and navigator — and this is navigation equipment I’m going to tell you and it was called GEE and H2S. Anyway, he’s fiddling about and there’s Bryson and I up front giving it some boost to clear the oil and do all this sort of thing before take-off. We hadn’t left dispersal and navigator calls up, ‘Jesus Christ,’ he says. He said, ‘The GEE’s not working and H2S.’ So we sat there waiting. ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Oh.’ We knew then we were going to have a night off. That was the second aircraft. Not on your Nelly. So, they send somebody over and well, to repair anything like that — they were fantastic machines, you know, you’re able to navigate a lot easier, let’s put it that way, with these machines, like, they were operating. Called up control. We thought for sure we were going to have a night off, um, ‘Flying Officer Bryson within C-Charlie. We’re sending out transport that’s going take you to Z-Zebra.’ So, you can imagine us, like, us and that belonged to Flight Lieutenant Franklin. So, transport comes along. What date was that Sarah? Dortmund?
Sarah: Dortmund? 22nd of Feb ’44.
RM: Feb? February?
Sarah: Oh, It says at the side, ‘abort, ice’.
RM: Right, so, we then had to be carted, miserable, returned to miserable then, the crew, ‘Jesus. What the — what are we doing? We should be in York by now.’ Gets into Z-Zebra, same procedure, and we knew the skipper of this aircraft. He wasn’t flying that night. Get into it. This is the third time and tempers were really flaring because, because they were all taking off. Didn’t wait for us, and so they were all taking off, and so I was following to see if we could get in and Bryson, my skipper, and me we never had a wrong word. I did everything he said. All he had to do was fly. And I mean, that’s the way we were. You had to work like that. And anyway, everything was fine and we starts off, and by that time we had to get a move on. It was half an hour since the rest of them had gone and that was bad. That was bad. That was really bad because you wanted to be with the main group, you see. You get over Germany and there’s one of you, you’ve had it. You’ve had it. There’s no doubt about that. [sound of aircraft] Anyway, we took off and we had to get a move on. There was a front, what they called a ‘front’, moving over the North Sea and I was giving him all the power that we could and we weren’t climbing, we were climbing about a hundred and sixty, I suppose, hundred and seventy or something, and the old Hercules engines there, they powered us up there. We were climbing and this front. We got a, what was it? A QDM or QFE saying this front was in and we had to climb above it because it was, excuse me, we was up at ten thousand feet and we had to climb above it. It was forty miles into the North Sea and he knew, did the skipper that I wasn’t going to push it anymore, because there’s always something at the other end of it, in my opinion. That’s how I worked it out. If we’d had pushed it we would have gone up to maximum power and it wouldn’t have done the engines any good. And we were trying to climb and all of a sudden I looked out and there was ice on the main plane like this and you could hear it, the props, straining again the plane, you know, and I looked out and I thought, ‘Oh dear.’ I really thought that we’d had it because we were struggling to move and I, I think our air speed, our air speed [emphasis] had been reduced to hundred and thirty, hundred and forty, and stalling was about ninety, ninety-five, something like that, and — but we plodded on and he called up did Bryson and he said, ‘Well, what are we going to do fellas? Are we going to turn back or are we going to press on, press on regardless?’ And all of a sudden as he said that the old Lanc give, gave a lurch because the ice on the, on the main plane, I’m not kidding, it was about six inches. It was that thick and we could never — we were struggling and all of a sudden it gave a lurch and he had the common sense did Bryson (well, he was a good pilot) and he, he all of a sudden, he stuffed the nose down and give it some starboard twists and we were going straight down. And all, then all of a sudden, as we got down a bit normal, like we were going down, and our air speed is about three hundred and fifty I think going down, but we were at ten thousand feet, eleven thousand feet, and, as I say, stuck the nose down and we just had to hope and all of a sudden as we hit warmer air, warm, warmer air, it flew off and it was a marvellous sight to see, because it flew off the plane did the ice and rubbish, you know, and also you couldn’t see because all the windows had, had, er, snowed-up. We couldn’t see out, couldn’t see where we going, and — but fortunately I had a little bit of knowledge and I remembered that in all those — never had to experience it — and there was a little what they called an alca— what did it contain? That fluid that we used to, they put in engines to stop them — coolant.
IL: Anti-freeze?
RM: Pardon?
IL: Anti-freeze.
RM: Anti-freeze.
IL: Ethylene glycol.
RM: And I was fiddling down as we were going down and I was fiddling down, around. It was down near his bloody rudder, and I remember I said, ‘Get your leg out of the way.’ Because it wasn’t a pump like that and what had happened was if you released the spring it pumped as it came up, not as you went down, and all of a sudden it cleared. The windows went just like that and it cleared but it didn’t make any difference. We were going down and then it started and then of course the weight. We had — it will tell you in there how much, how many bombs we, what we had and we’d have about fourteen thousand pounds of bombs on going straight down. I think we had a cookie that night. It will tell you there somewhere Sarah. Dortmund. Look down the left hand side.
Sarah: Yeah. I’ve got Dortmund there.
RM: And look across. No.
Sarah: I’m not sure. You know where to look. I don’t, dad.
RM: Well, here look. Where’s Dortmund?
Sarah: There.
RM: Right.
Sarah: There.
RM: Right, here look. What number is it? Seventeen.
Sarah: Yeah. Oh, there. Sorry, I’m with you.
RM: Eleven one hundred pounders and five five hundreds. And that’s a lot of bombs.
IL: A big load, yeah.
RM: That’s a lot of bombs. We could carry fifteen one thousand pounders, eight thousand pounders, twelve, twenty-two. Anyway, he says, as we were going down, he called out to the — he said to the bomb aimer, he said, ‘I’m opening the bomb doors.’ Talking to the bomb aimer, he said, ‘Trench. Drop the, drop the bombs.’ Now, protocol. You weren’t allowed to drop your bombs less than forty miles out to sea in the North Sea. Now that was law [emphasis]. That was what they told you to do and you had to be forty miles. Well, can you imagine? We’re out in the North Sea and I remember he called up and he said to the navigator, ‘Where are we nav?’ Or something like that and the navigator says, ‘How the bloody hell do I know if we’re forty miles out to sea.’ Because we’d gone through all this procedure and he called out to the bomb aimer, ‘Trench, I’m opening the bomb doors.’ And when he — well, that’s what I must have said to you Sarah about the bomb doors and he, he selected the bomb doors to be opened and they, with all the frost and they jammed and we were still going down you see and, and he kept pumping up and he said to me, ‘What do I do Ray?’ I said, ‘I haven’t a clue. I have nothing to do with the bomb doors.’ And he’s here, this side like, and all of a sudden they opened and we were going down and that was a nasty [emphasis] experience because you didn’t know what was going to happen. You were hoping then, and a wing and a prayer, and all of a sudden the bomb doors opened. You felt them jar because of the drag and all of a sudden we slowed down a bit, down to — I don’t know and old Trench called out, ‘Bombs gone.’ And we dropped all those [slight laugh] dropped all those bombs into the North Sea and that was a great relief. And so, back to base. When we got back to base, instead of taking us back to briefing, there was no debriefing, and instead the CO told us that he had to see the CO did the skipper so we drove round in this, er, in the wagon. We were inside the wagon and he stopped outside flight control, where the skipper was, where the CO was, and you wouldn’t believe it but our skipper got a rocket because we, we’d, um —
Sarah: You returned safely but you’d not done —
IL: Jettisoned.
Sarah: You’d not done your job.
RM: What did we call it? You wrote it out.
IL: Aborted.
Sarah: Aborted.
RM: Aborted, yes, and we’d aborted, and he got a right rocket did our skipper. He should have done this. He should have done that. And we couldn’t fly. You were literally came to a standstill. I mean, I was up there with him and it was impossible. You know, I really thought we’d had it. When I looked out and saw I really did. I thought — and you know he give it up as a bad job because you, he couldn’t do anything. There was no control. We were just flying forward, like, as slow as we could possibly could and fancy, and so out of spite, and if you look in there, out of spite the following night they sent us to Stuttgart and that, that was another eight hours and we always said he’d taken it out on us, the skipper, because we’d gone, we’d aborted, and that was an awful experience. There’d be, there’d be another one. There were lots of things that happened. I dare say, apart from three or four, you know, do you want me to go on talking? Because I could tell you of an experience, it wouldn’t take long, but of an experience more spiritual.
IL: Please.
RM: It’s interesting but it’s something, this, I’d done twenty-eight trips and that was coming to the end of it, this tour, and I’d done twenty-eight, and we were all a happy crew except this particular morning. I was always the first up in Beningbrough Hall. I was always the first up. There was only one wash basin, out of all those men there, wasn’t there Sarah? There was, well, there may have been more like but there was one on our floor and I was always first up. I was one of those who was embarrassed because I only shaved about twice a week [laugh] I did and so I was always first there and washed and this particular morning, and this is true, this particular morning I woke up and I laid there and it was always half past seven and I laid there and laid there and old Bowles, the rear gunner, he always followed me and he came over and he’d been to the ablutions, ablutions and he come and stood by the bed and he said, ‘Come on Ray.’ He said, ‘What’s up?’ And I looked up at him and said, ‘Oh, I’m alright.’ He said, ‘Well, what’s up?’ I said, ‘Nothing.’ And he said, ‘Oh.’ In between times, the while crew was billeted in this one room (they’d lock us in) Beningbrough Hall. And he said, ‘What’s up?’ Anyway, by the time I’d I just closed my eyes and all I wanted to do was — I can’t tell you what it was like. It was awful. I felt awful and I thought, ‘This is it. We’re going to get the chop.’ That’s all that went through my mind. It was — I was so desperate. I thought, ‘We’re, we’re going, we’re going to get the chop.’ And it was 8 o’clock when I got up and I thought — and these buses used to come, you see, and take us to Linton for breakfast to the sergeants’ mess and they came at regular intervals and I remember and I thought, ‘Oh, I feel awful.’ I felt dreadful and I knew that night if we were flying at some time we were going to get the chop. I had that feeling and it was an awful feeling. Anyway they’d all gone and I caught a bus, caught the bus and ended up — and, er, but I couldn’t, I still couldn’t do anything. I didn’t even go to breakfast and I went down to the hangar where the engineers were and I couldn’t, I didn’t seem to want to do anything. All I wanted to do — and I thought, ‘Shall I tell the crew?’ This is true, Ian, it’s true what I’m telling you. I didn’t know whether to tell the crew that not to fly that night. I hadn’t — I wanted to tell them that this was going to be our last trip. That was the feeling I had in me and, oh it must have been getting on, and I thought, ‘I’ll have to get something to eat.’ And I went down to the mess and I had my breakfast and then, from then, I had a walk. I walked, I started to walk to flights and on the way down we passed their chapel (we had a chapel at Linton) and we were going — I’ve got to stop [pause] I had a job. I’ll stop.
Sarah: You want to stop?
RM: Well, it’s a story, so I’ll have to carry on and tell you what happened. I’ll have to carry on.
IL: It’s up to you. I don’t want to make you —
RM: No, no, no. It’s alright. I’ll get over it.
IL: I don’t want to upset you.
RM: No, I’ll get over it. I promise you. I went into church and I said the Lord’s Prayer. It came out and I thought I’d feel better. That’s what I’d done it for, hadn’t I? And I thought I’d feel better and I went back to the, the crewing room, and it was all better then. It did seem better but at the back of my mind there was still this thing and, anyway, the skipper came round and he said, ‘We’re flying tonight.’ And he said, ‘I’ll pick you up Ray.’ As he did every time. He said, ‘I’ll pick you up Ray.’ And he came round with the jeep and, of course, that was what we did every morn— every morning before a flight and we went out to the aircraft and it seemed alright. You know, you run it, I did the checks, you went round and checked everything, and run the engines up, and it was in the back of my mind and it seemed to — it was there and I still I couldn’t tell you why but it was there and, um, anyway — but I still wanted to tell the crew that it was going to be our last one. I had it. Anyway, er, and we got out to flights and we get into the aircraft, and pilot always went first and I followed him, and I was going up the ladder and our old Bowles, he bumped me up the backside going up the ladder. He said, ‘Come on Ray.’ And as I got to the steps my knees gave way and they were trembling, they was literally shaking, and I thought, ‘I’m mad. Why don’t I tell them I’m not going?’ And I thought that, that was there on the twenty-ninth, Sarah. Look on twenty-nine. You’ll see. It was a duff target. I don’t think we lost any of them.
Sarah: Was it Criel?
RM: That’s it. Criel. And, er, he bumped me up the backside. He said, ‘Come on Ray. What’s up?’ And with that I thought, ‘That’s it. Got to go. Got to go now. I’m inside and it’s everything.’ And as, as we were walking up, even the last minute, I was touching things, the old dinghy, the dinghy handle, and I looking round and I knew I’d done it before in the morning and, anyway, we gets off like but all the time I couldn’t — it was there whatever I did, you know. I set the petrol pumps and turned on the right tanks to be on and I had to do something to be — and I remember getting my log, my log, my log card and sort of wanting to do something. Anyway, we took off and everything but I was waiting all the time. I was waiting, waiting for something to happen and anyway we flew out. It was Criel and it was, it was nothing. So we flew out there and I don’t, I don’t think — we didn’t see a fighter, there was hardly any ak-ak fire, I don’t think there was hardly — there was nothing. We turned round and come back and do you know all the time we were coming back I had it in my mind, landing, when we were landing I was waiting [pause] waiting. We landed. Nothing happened and it were really interesting, looking back, it was the best trip I’ve ever been on. I wouldn’t have got back and I thought that I’d been, and what I’m trying to say is had I not been to church, do you understand that?
IL: I do.
RM: Had I not been to church or what would have happened? Was the good Lord on, on our side? But, believe it or not, I would sooner have gone on a trip and been shot at than gone through that experience again. You can’t understand. I couldn’t describe to anybody really and that was on my 29th trip and that was — and I never mentioned it to anybody but I do remember coming out of briefing, um, old, our Bowles, the rear gunner, he put his hand on my shoulder and he said, ‘We done it Ray.’ I don’t think — I think it was about the thirtieth wasn’t it Sarah, Criel?
Sarah: It was your twenty-ninth.
RM: That, that’s what I say, it was the twenty-ninth.
Sarah: How did you feel for your thirtieth then?
RM: Pardon?
Sarah: How did you feel going for your thirtieth?
RM: Nothing.
Sarah: No?
RM: It had gone Sarah. No, no. I was happy as Larry. No, that didn’t even occur to me. All, all of it suddenly when old Bowles came out of the briefing and old Bowles he put his arm on my shoulder and said, ‘You know Ray we done it.’ But what he meant was we were so near to completing and, I mean, one trip there and it says losses and we didn’t lose an aircraft. I mean, it was probably an easy target but that, but that particular time it was awful. It was awful. I had this feeling. But the other thing, of course, you had to have faith. You had to have faith in the rest of your crew and they were a wonderful crew, they really were, and you had to have faith in what they did and, and it was being selfish, thinking of myself, thinking it was me I was worried about and not thinking about them, except I wanted to tell them, and didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to go. And that was awful. I would have been LMF. No I wouldn’t. They wouldn’t chance me going. They would screen me. But it was awful you know, I can’t — so I say, I’d rather go to Berlin any time than go through that experience again. It was dreadful and, I mean, you can think what you like about it.
Sarah: How old were you then?
RM: Twenty, nineteen, nineteen.
Sarah: Nineteen. Wow.
RM: Yeah, I was nineteen Sarah, yeah.
Sarah: I think you had every right to have a wobble in your knees. [slight laugh]
IL: Absolutely. So, you finished your, you finished your thirty, thirty-one in your case, and then you — did you keep in touch with your crew after that?
RM: No. That was another thing, um, because something happened when I was at Lindholme. Here, I’ll tell you who I flew — I flew with Pat Moore, you know, the astronomer.
IL: Oh, right.
RM: Yeah. I was billeted with him.
IL: And where was that?
RM: At Lindholme.
IL: Right.
RM: I’ll have to tell you this. This is, this is the brighter side. I was posted to Lindholme. This was from Transport Command.
IL: Right.
RM: And, er, this is a little bit in between. Patrick Moore, tell ‘em, Patrick Moore posted to, er, Lindholme and we formed — what it was I was at it again. We formed a squadron, 716 Squadron, and we were to fly to Manila to bomb Japan. I never heard such rubbish, rubbish. That was what it was but of course Ray Moore put his name down in the orderly room, oh, I’ll volunteer. Yes, I’ll volunteer. Where’s Milan? Where’s —
Sarah: Manila.
RM: Manila. I didn’t even know where it was. My geography wasn’t that bad but I didn’t know where Manila was. It’s true. So we get posted there and the—
Sarah: A bit south of Worthing?
RM: Pardon?
Sarah: A bit south of Worthing.
RM: yeah. So the jeep drops me off and there was houses at Lindholme and all the pilot officers and flying officers were upstairs and all the flight lieutenants were downstairs. That was snobbery wasn’t it? Honestly, truthfully. That’s how it was. Anyway, I get my kit bag and walking up the stairs, and they were big houses, and the front room, there was two of us in the front room upstairs and two in the back room. Anyway, ‘The one on the left is yours.’ Right, and the door was part open, and I walked in, and there was this chap sat on his bed, and I walked in and I turned round and I said, ‘Oh, hello.’ I was feeling good I suppose and I said, ‘Oh, hello.’ And he, he stood up and he said, um, ‘Flying Officer Patrick Moore.’ And I looked at him and said, ‘Flying Officer Raymond Moore.’ And do you know and he had a quizzical look, you know, his eyebrows.
IL: He was famous for those.
RM: Pardon?
IL: He was famous for those.
RM: Yes, that’s it? Well, he gave me this look and he said, and he thought I was pulling, pulling his leg. I know that when I looked at him and I said, ‘Oh, hello.’ Especially when I said, ‘Flying Officer Raymond Moore.’ And I went and slung my kit bag on my bed. And he stood up and he said, ‘Are you from, areyou Irish?’ I said, ‘No I’m not.’ I thought, ‘I’ve got a queer one here.’ You know. I said, ‘No. My parents came from Norwich, Norfolk.’ ‘Oh. Oh, righto.’ And we came very good friends and we visited him down at the Farthings down at —
Sarah: Billericay.
RM: Pardon?
Sarah: Was it Billericay?
RM: No, no. Down on the south coast, um, down on the south coast, Sarah. That lovely big house. Oh yeah, we visited him and he was, he was quite an eccentric, you know, but —
IL: He did have a bit of a reputation.
RM: He did and, um, he did, but we got on fine, famous, we did really. We went and visited him and he was always angry at me because when he started to talk about astronomy — and all I knew was there was a lot of stars up there, and there was the sun and the moon, and I wasn’t a bit interested. He taught me how to use the, um, what did they call it? Sextant. He taught me how to use that on the road that was, at Lindholme. Hehe showed me how to — and afterwards he was absolutely disgusted because after he’d shown me how to use it and I wasn’t a bit interested and he said to me after he, he’d worked out his shot he called it, after he worked out the shot, I was about a hundred miles off target, and he didn’t like it one bit. And that’s a letter, look, he wrote to me after we’d got, after I’d — I wasn’t really a bit interested in. We had family and family life, that’s all, that’s all I wanted was family life so anything in between. And we finished, we retired at sixty, June 28th it was, and he says, ‘Great to hear from you.’ Now, this is all those years after, this was 1987, but, um, we used to play, Bet and myself and another girl called Joan Walters (she was our bridesmaid) and we used to play a foursome at badminton, and he was a keen sportsman, and we got on well together, and I could have kicked his backside because we were stood outside Flying Control after the war was over and he said to me, well we were talking, and he said — but I still had a year’s service to do and after I finished flying — I packed in flying. I did that for moral reasons. That was another thing. I said, ‘I don’t know I’m going to do.’ He said, ‘I’ll tell you what you should do Raymond.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you go in Flying Control?’ He said, ‘It would suit you down to the ground.’ I said, ‘Flying Control?’ I said, ‘No. I don’t want to be [clears throat] associated with aircraft Pat.’ He said, ‘Well what about as— what about —.’ What do they call weather, you know?
IL: Metrologist.
RM: Metrology. He said, ‘Why don’t you take up metrology?’ I said, ‘I never thought much about it.’ I said, ‘No.’ And I took admin and I became an adjutant, for Christ’s sake, after all that. Worst thing I ever did. They were what I call — I’ll repeat it on there — I called them, ‘Hooray Henrys.’ Because that’s what they were, ground crew, what I considered they were. It was an armaments depot and I’ve never had such twelve miserable months in all my life in the service, with all the fact that I’d been aircrew, I was a — they treated me like dirt. They never even thought — and I’m not — it’s the honest truth. I know where they put me, right at the bottom of the list, and I could have fought them. I know I could in the mess, in the officers’ mess. I could have had many a row with them when they talked about air crew and how they — they snubbed me. I was the only member of the air crew there, you see, and I was the assistant adjutant and I couldn’t have cared less. I lost a lot of interest but, er, but I always said that old Pat Moore, although he was trying to do — and I should have done what he did. I should have gone in Flying Control or, er, he says, ‘It’s great to hear from you.’ You can read it.
IL: I’d love to.
RM: Yes. He did. Yes.
IL: Just, just because I’m conscious of that we actually and I don’t want to tire you out but I would like to hear what, what you were telling me earlier about when you went to Dalton and you had sort of an interesting time leaving Dalton. [slight laugh]
RM: Oh that. Oh yeah. Well, I mean, first and foremost, what I must tell you is, when I was sent there as an instructor, I mean, I remember there with old Scot. He finished a tour. Squadron Leader was his skipper, Hailes [?] I think it was, and but we were, we were like buddy buddies you know all the time we were flying and, you know, what are they called? Those two comedians. They’ve both died. The other one —
Sarah: Morecambe and Wise.
RM: No, the other, one was fat and the other a little chubby fella. They died.
Sarah: Oh Oliver Hardy and —
RM: No, no.
Sarah: No?
RM: No. It’s goodnight to him and it’s goodnight to him.
IL: Oh, the two Ronnies.
RM: Two Ronnies.
IL: Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbet.
RM: Well, Ronnie, the shortest one and he looked, he was his twin brother and he was, he was, um, well, Scottie to me. I called him Scottie, but he was very short and when he wore his cap, when he wore his cap he was only about five foot six and he was, he didn’t look right, you know, somehow. He was thin and didn’t look right and [clears throat] we both got posted to Dalton as instructors. Well, you know, it was a joke, I mean for me to be an instructor and when I went into this hut it was about twenty-eight foot long it was. I remember it distinctly and there were two engines in there and they’d been cut in half and all the component parts had been painted different colours. And anyway when I looked in through the door old scot, old scot, he took the air frames and I took the engines. So he was in another part of the building. But we were sent there to be in charge. They’d been opened up as a depot, you know, for training purposes to teach pilots. The airframe and engine of a Lancaster, that was what it was and we’d both been sent there to be in charge to open it up as a training centre, you know, and I’ll never forget I walked inside the door there and I saw this Lanc there, and this Lanc, you can imagine the size of it. It’s a massive thing like this, and all of its components, like red — I can’t tell you, the different colours they painted it, and all you had to do really, apart from the instructing part, which was a major part, you know, what happened to this and what happened to that but I was good. I knew every part of the engine, er, originally but when it came to standing up there and there was a blackboard at the back there and I thought, ‘This is not for me. This is not for me.’ And I hadn’t a clue and what it meant was that I was saying this, that and the other, blackboard, a bit of this, a bit of that. There were six of them, six pilots. Anyway, I got to know them and I told them exactly I was useless as an instructor. I was useless because — and I couldn’t really have cared less. I’d finished flying. I’d done my bit. Anyway Scottie got on fine. He was a crawler, like. He wanted to be in charge and I couldn’t have cared less. He could have run it for me. They could have promoted him. They did do but — and so that’s how it was and so what happened was there was a bit of friction between us. He wanted to, he wanted to be in charge and if he’d have said to me, you know, if he’d have shook his fists and said to me, ‘I’m going to be in charge.’ I would have said to him, ‘Help yourself.’ Anyway, it started off with me instructing, um, and I wasn’t very good. I wasn’t very good at conveying anything. I knew everything that was there, every part of the engine and what it did but when it came to what I — the theory and what happened — so, of a morning, this was my idea, found out that this little café in Topcliffe, you see, which is — you know where Topcliffe is?
IL: I do.
RM: Right, and up one of the sideways there, where it says no entry coming down, and on the right hand side there in them days there was a little old bicycle shop. And they were a lovely couple. They were elderly and we got to know of it and we all had bikes. Everybody had a bike there and every morning I got to find out and just across, as you went through the gates, just across there, there was a NAAFI wagon, er, for a wad and a cup of tea as they called it, a wad and a cup of tea, and it was just across there and all you had to do was walk across there and it used to be there half past nine every morning but I thought, ‘A cup of tea and a wad.’ It was alright but it didn’t seem — it wasn’t up my street. I was a bit more adventurous. We found out this little café in Topcliffe, you see, so the idea was — there was just four of us (there was a couple of them who didn’t go) — and the idea was to get through the gate and I knew them couple on the gate, those red caps, you know, and they in them days — I wasn’t an official man. I was one of them and so I got to know these. There were two of them and [clears throat] go through the gate, pedal to Topcliffe. True, they used to have it very nearly ready for us, a lovely cup or mug of sweet tea and gobble your old spam sandwich. They were beautiful those spam because that spam used to come from America and it was the best spam I’ve ever tasted. So, anyway, then bike back again and Scottie didn’t like this. It wasn’t to his liking because I should have been instructing, you see, and when it struck 10 o’clock I should have been back there. Well, we only, we had half an hour to get there and half an hour back again. It didn’t seem far to me but we used to be late going or late coming back. It never used to bother me. This particular morning, gets the old bike ready, going out, and all of a sudden Scottie appears and he stood in front of this bike. He, he’s just stood in front of me with, with my bike in and grabbed me and, ‘Morning Scott. Morning Scottie, how are you?’ He said, ‘Mr Moore, Mr Moore.’ He said, ‘I’m forbidding you to go.’ He was only a pilot officer same as me but he was trying to throw rank, and he said, ‘Mr Moore.’ He said, ‘I forbid you to go.’ I looked and said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I forbid you to go.’ He knew that we were going you see. He said, ‘It isn’t right.’ He said, ‘You’re not. It’s not right.’ He said, ‘You shouldn’t be going out.’ All this stuff and I said, ‘Get out of the way Scottie.’ He said, ‘I forbid you to go.’ So, and all I did was, I had the handle bars, and I was like this with the handle bars, I said, ‘Get out of the way.’ And he was stood there and what happened was he, he sort of, the bike wheel as it was, and he sort of stumbled on his back-side. I wasn’t even bothered. I just said, ‘Come on fellers. We’ll go back to Topcliffe.’ And I get back. I still, well, that’s how it was. Went back in to the instructing part of it and all of a sudden over the Tannoy, ‘Will Flying officer, would pilot officer Moore report to the orderly office at 12 o’clock.’ I thought, ‘What the hell do they want me for?’ And anyway I didn’t bother. I went on like. At 12 o’clock I wandered over to the orderly room just up the road inside the camp and I went in and there were two, two MPs there, red caps ‘Hello.’ I thought what’s up. Anyway, they stood to one side and, er, I never thought any more about it. I went inside and in fact the squadron leader, I knew him, not as a friend but I knew him as, you know, sort of, not so much this but, um, squadron leader and in the mess and anyway when I went inside like he had a stern looking face on and he had all my folders in front of him with all, all my bumph. ‘Now then.’ He said, ‘You’re in real trouble.’ I said, ‘Why? What have I done?’ He said, ‘You struck a fellow officer.’ I said, ‘I didn’t strike anybody.’ He said, ‘Oh, yes you did.’ He said, ‘You were seen by two members of the military police.’ I said, ‘I didn’t strike him.’ I said, ‘I pushed him.’ I said, ‘I pushed him.’ I said, ‘That’s all I did and said ‘Get out of the way.’’ He said, ‘What? What was it all about?’ [cough] ‘What was it all about?’ I said. ‘You must know, Sir, that bicycles were disappearing of a morning and biking up to Topcliffe.’ I said — he said, ‘Well, you must have known you were in the wrong. You were breaking out of camp.’ I thought, ‘Oh dear.’ And I thought what? The first thing that went through my mind was, what would my dad say if I’m, um, if I’m —
Sarah: Discharged.
RM: Discharged. Well, what it meant was I wouldn’t be discharged. They would have stripped me —
Sarah: Well, yeah.
RM: And put me on — anyway he said, ‘What did you think you were doing?’ He said, ‘Look at your record.’ I said, ‘Honestly.’ I said. He said, ‘I believe you.’ You see on record he said you did strike a fellow officer I said, ‘Sire, there’s no, there’s nothing?’ He said, ‘I’m sorry.’ So, I said, ‘What’s the score?’ He said like, ‘I wanted him to go down to see the MO.’ And I thought, you know, ‘What have I done? What have I done?’ All I did was a friendly get out of the way, you know. If I’d — I couldn’t have hit him. He was about two inches shorter. He was only a little chap and a breath of wind like me, he was — and anyway, he said, ‘I want you to go down to the MO.’ And a very friendly chap, a Flight Lewie [?] and I went down to see him and he said, ‘I’ve just had a phone call from the squadron leader CO.’ And he said, he said, ‘What it is, you’re being posted to Brackla.’ I said, ‘Brackla.’ He said, ‘It’s a joke.’ He said, ‘It’s, they call it the ‘demented air crew’ of Brackla.’ And he said, ‘That is where you’re going.’ He said, ‘I’m going to put you on venal barbital.’ And he said, ‘You have to take these. Here’s a packet.’ And I don’t know if it was in a bottle or what it was and he said, ‘I want you to take one of these in the morning.’ And I thought — I couldn’t believe it. I might have been a bit screwy if you know what I mean, finishing ops. I’m not saying I wasn’t — I’m not saying I was perfect or anything like that. I, I was a bit erratic. I do remember that. I remember getting drunk at the Jim Crack in York, you know, and that was after we’d I finished flying, and where I went — years ago Sarah.
Sarah: Betty’s?
RM: It was something Arms.
Sarah: Oh, I don’t know.
RM: And I remember getting drunk there like but —
Sarah: I know you used to go to Betty’s when —
RM: Oh, Betty’s Bar in York. Oh, well. Betty’s dive. Oh, yeah. A few times back —
Sarah: My, how things have changed.
IL: Yeah.
RM: Where what?
IL: I said ‘My. How things have changed.’ It’s not Betty’s dive any more is it?
RM: Oh, no.
Sarah: No. You pay twenty pounds for afternoon tea.
IL: It’s very up market, Betty’s.
RM: When you went downstairs there you couldn’t see above the smoke. But, um, yes.
Sarah: That’s where you scratched your name.
RM: [cough] The — oh, down inside there. If ever you go inside you want to go downstairs and as you just look round the corner there’s mirrors there and all of — my name’s on there.
IL: Oh, I’ll look.
RM: Scratched, scratched with a diamond ring and there there’s book there with all the names that’s on the glass, on the mirrors.
IL: Oh right.
RM: Yeah. And if you want to and actually if you wanted to see it and you, you’re met at the top of the stairs where they queue for their tea and cakes. If you met up the top of the stairs and you met any one of those girls they would take you down there and they — and you say, ‘Excuse me. I don’t want anything to eat. I just want to look at the glass and the mirrors.’ There’s hundreds of them down there and then there’s a little book. There used to be a little book. Yeah, my name’s on there. The whole crew’s on there, yeah.
IL: Fantastic. So —
RM: Anyway, going back to Brackla, demented air crew, and he said — and it, and was a joke but I thought, ‘Oh to hell with it. I’ve finished flying. They can do what they like with me.’ And it didn’t bother me. It honestly didn’t bother me. I didn’t say — I wasn’t belligerent or anything and I accepted it and he said — our billet’s were further down — he said, ‘Be outside your billet.’ And, yeah, in the morning he said — now I could have gone — there was a station at Dalton and he said — this jeep. That was the beauty of it, wasn’t it? ‘This jeep and it will take you to York, like, and from York you change for Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Inverness, Inverness.’ And look at that, look what I did then. I stayed at that big hotel at Inverness. It’s a beautiful hotel, you know, attached to the station and that’s where I spent the night there. It was marvellous and after the war [cough] there was a cheap trip going up to inverness by train and I took my wife there. And I said to Bet, I said, I said, er, ‘We’ll go to Inverness.’ It was a two day or three day trip to Inverness and it was a cheap one or whatever. [background noise] And — oh, it’s her phone and I think she’ll get fed up with it — and I said, ‘We’ll go back up there Bet and it’ll be an experience. We’ll go up all the way up by train and we’ll stay at this hotel.’ Anyway, fair enough, we get up there, carrying our suitcase, I went up to the desk all — I was feeling on top of the world to treat my wife, to go back to recovery, to this spot. [cough] I went up to the desk and I said, ‘I’d like to book a double room for two, three nights.’ Whatever, and she said, ‘Oh right.’ And I said, ‘How much is it?’ She said, ‘It’s a hundred pound a night.’ This was in 1960, 1975. [clears throat] I’d retired but it was one of those retirement things, wasn’t it? You know, to treat my wife and I said, ‘How much?’ She said, ‘A hundred pound a night.’ I said, ‘I was here in 1944.’ I thought I was going to flannel her, you know, try to get a bit out of it, like, try to get it a bit cheaper, and I said, ‘Excuse me.’ I said, ‘Is there? Haven’t you got any?’ I said, ‘I’ve seen brochures. My wife—.’ She said, ‘It’s a hundred pounds a night.’ I can’t mimic, and she said, she says, ‘It’s a hundred pounds a night.’ I said, ‘So, a hundred pound a night.’ So, I said, ‘From Monday to Wednesday.’ She said, ‘It’s a hundred pound a night.’ I said, ‘Forget it.’ I didn’t know what I was saying because we’d, we’d gone up there by train. It was a cheap train ride up there. So we went outside the hotel and, of course, in them days, like, [unclear] there was always a policeman — did you know that? — at a railway station, nine times out of ten. Are you alright Sarah?
Sarah: Yes. I’m fine dad. Yeah.
RM: Have you got to go?
Sarah: No. It’s alright. Don’t worry.
So went outside and there’s this policeman there. He says, ‘Are you alright?’ Nice and friendly. He says, ‘Are you alright?’ I said, ‘No.’ I explained to him what happened. ‘We’ve come up here.’ He said, ‘Oh, [unclear].’ I said, ‘We can’t afford it.’ I guess we could have if we’d pushed it, don’t you?
Sarah: I think you could have, father.
RM: And, er, anyway I went outside and your mum was outside and I said, ‘It’s a hundred.’ She said, ‘We aren’t staying here.’ So, this policeman, he said, ‘Oh, don’t worry.’ And there was a taxi rank outside and this he said, like, ‘Fred, here.’ So this chap come over and he said, ‘I’ve two wanderers here.’ He said, ‘Can you find them digs for the night?’ ‘Oh, aye.’ He said, ‘Get in the car.’ He drove, we went straight round to this, this lady, bed and breakfast. We went in and it was marvellous. Three night’s bed and breakfast. I, I don’t know how much it was but it was marvellous and we had a lovely three days up there and I didn’t have to spend a hundred pound a night. It was a colossal amount. But it is a beautiful hotel, it is honestly, it is a beautiful hotel.
IL: I don’t know if it’s still there actually.
RM: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I know somebody that — yes it is. And so that was it. That was the hotel I was posted to and I thought it’s be nice to go back. And the following morning there was a jeep. What the devil did they call it that place? It was Brackla. Anyway he knew where to go. It was an RAF jeep and we drove across country and it’s all, all cross country, you know, from Inverness to the other side. I wish I could remember the name. It, it’s fairly popular but, um, that was on the coast and then gets sent to this demented aircrew. It was a joke. I wasn’t, I was no more demented — I might have been, I might have been scratching the door, as I say, I might have been [unclear].
Sarah: Who wouldn’t have been?
RM: I might have been — I was under a psychiatrist when I come out. Pardon?
Sarah: Who wouldn’t have been after that?
RM: What?
Sarah: Scratching the door. I said, ‘Who wouldn’t have been?’
RM: Oh, yes Sarah. Yeah, I realise that.
IL: And all the time and you were there for six months and just sort of —
RM: Oh no, no, no. After I’d seen what was going on and I saw the sergeants’ mess —
IL: Oh, I see. Sorry. I was getting a bit confused, sorry.
Sarah: [unclear] six months.
RM: I tend to go from one thing to another. No, no. I should have gone there for six months. It was a rest camp for demented aircrew. It was very popular. Nobody thought anything about it.
IL: How long were you there for?
RM: No more than two months.
IL: A couple for months.
RM: It might have been — do you what Sarah?
Sarah: You asked to leave didn’t you?
RM: Oh yeah, yeah. I saw the, as I say, I laid in bed and watched the sergeant’s mess burn, watched it burn. Well, I couldn’t understand. I laid in bed and saw these flames and I took no notice until the following day. They burnt it down to the ground. It was burnt to the ground. They were wooden you see.
IL: And all the time you were there you were taking the venal barbital, so did you have to have medical clearance to leave or did you —
RM: Now you’re asking me a question. I would say [clears throat] don’t forget when I went — when you got posted to another station I would say that my medical records would have followed me. That’s what I, I — I shall be honest, I cannot put it to mind. I don’t think, I think I stopped taking them when I got to Ireland. I think I thought what do I — I’m sure I did, I don’t want to take these things any more. I didn’t feel like taking them. That was, that was probably what I thought, you know, but I couldn’t help thinking about them. It was —
IL: Because it would have been an interesting, you know, as a doctor, um, you would think you wouldn’t want people flying who were taking them. But if there was no, if there was no, you know, medical, you know — I think people thought they weren’t particularly — I think people thought they were fairly innocuous drugs in those days, barbiturates.
RM: No. When I came out and we came back to you, we came back to Yo—, we came back to York, came back to Thirsk, came back to live at my mother in laws. Now then —
Sarah: Were you married to my mum then?
RM: Where?
Sarah: When you were in Scotland?
RM: Yeah. Oh no, not during the war.
Sarah: I didn’t think so.
RM: Oh, no, no, no.
Sarah: Then you went to Ireland.
RM: I went to Ireland on Transport Command via — oh gosh, I hated it.
Sarah: But then what, where did you go from Ireland?
RM: I went back on Bomber Command. I told him — well, I won’t tell you about that. That was really truly self-inflicted. Something happened. I went without leave. I buggered off with old Darkie Thorne, my very dear friend, and we went down to Belfast and stayed at the — it wasn’t very — this friend of mine, he got shot down and he walked back, and I met him in Ireland. We were like brothers. We were, and he was a beggar, and he come back and I remember him. And he saw me and we ran to one another. Oh, he said, ‘We’ll have a good time.’ And of course, it was Darkie Thorne and me and it was on the squadron. He said, ‘Look at this.’ And in those days, of course, you got paid in cash and he’d been a prisoner. He had been a prisoner of war and he’d been shot down but he’d was rescued by a French family and he, what we called, walked back. He’d got the caterpillar and it was what we called — he’d walked back. And we met him in Northern Ireland and he said [laugh], and, ‘Look.’ He said, ‘We’re going to spend this.’ I mean he’d been gone about six months and when come back like he’d been to get paid and they didn’t have a bank. You took your money as you were paid and he said, ‘Look. We’re going to have some fun. We’re going to have some fun with this in Belfast.’ And we were, it was about ten miles from Belfast, isn’t it? That international airport?
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. It will be.
RM: Yeah, and, er, I thought, ‘Well, I daren’t get into any more trouble.’ I’d been de-commissioned once. I’d lost six months seniority with, you know, getting into a bit of trouble like and I said, I thought, ‘I’d better slow down here.’ Anyway, we were snowbound over there. It snowed from — I was over there in the October I suppose and it snowed and snowed and snowed. We didn’t do a lot of flying and so we were grounded. And when you were grounded you were at school. You went to school. And, anyway, it was one of those times when you got — you couldn’t get bored on the squadron but being there with all this snow and this time he come at me and said, ‘Do you fancy a trip down to Dublin?’ And I said, ‘We can’t Darkie. We can’t. We’ll be interned.’ And, he said, ‘I’ll fix it all up.’ He was a wide boy. He was a Cockney [laugh] and his mum and dad and his sister had been killed in an air raid in London so he was one of those. He, he didn’t just hate the Germans, he detested them. He would have shot every one of them if he could have done and that was his attitude. But he was, he was a Cockney, he says, ‘Would you like to go down to Dublin?’ I said, ‘We can’t Darkie.’ I said, ‘We can’t. We’ll be interned.’ He said, ‘Leave it with me.’ He said, ‘I’ve been looking around.’ He said, ‘There’s a second hand shop in Belfast and we’ll get some civvy suits and we’ll have a rag round and I’ll get, I’ll get two passports.’ And he was going on and I said, ‘Forget it.’ I said, ‘I haven’t got a very good name Darkie.’ And he said, ‘Well you’re alright. You’ve got a commission.’ And poor old Darkie hadn’t even got his flight sergeant. He was still a sergeant he said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ll fix it up.’ And I wasn’t really keen to go to Dublin because the Irish are a different people and there was a lot of, as you know as I do, the IRA were still floating around at that time. [clears throat] Anyway, time went by [clears throat] he said, ‘I’ve got your suit.’ I said, ‘You’re joking.’ He said, ‘No. I’ve got your suit.’ He says, ‘A nice brown suit.’ [laugh] He said, ‘I’ve got your suit.’ He said, ‘A nice brown suit.’ I said, ‘What about passports?’ ‘I got them.’ He said, ‘Yes. There’s a place in Belfast where I’ve gone.’ I said, ‘You must be joking.’ ‘No.’ He said, ‘Money and I’ve plenty of it.’ And he has I’m not kidding you. He had a roll. And he said, ‘You don’t pay for a thing so don’t question it.’ [unclear] and the snow in them days, it seemed to stay. We seemed to get snow over there from October right through to February and we did. Very rarely we take off and so you seemed to be in the same spot. Anyway, went to Belfast, got on a train, about halfway down — I don’t know how far we were — and the gendarmes got on, whatever you called them, checked out passports. Have you been to Dublin, Sarah?
Sarah: I have.
RM: Have you? You know the big bridge there then and, and the hotel Ma— it has a Canadian name, Ma—
IL: Montreal?
RM: [unclear] So we go, go and stays at this hotel, books in at this hotel. Well, for four days I can hardly remember, honestly, and I’m not a, I was never an alcoholic, but we drank Guinness chasers. That was Guinness and whisky. And we were drunk from — the only thing we thought about was an evening meal and that’s the honest true. We’d have breakfast. Anyway, it comes to about four days and I says, ‘We’ll have to be back.’ The weather seemed to be lifting and I said, ‘We’ll have to be back Darkie.’ ‘No, no, no, no.’ He said, ‘We’re all right.’ And I gave in and said, ‘Just one more night then.’ He said, ‘Yeah. It will be alright. Went back to camp, walks into the camp, first thing, ‘Flying Officer Moore report to the orderly room. I thought, ‘Oh Jesus.’ I said, ‘This is it, Darkie.’ He said, ‘Oh, tell them to — off.’ But I was commissioned and I respected that commission. Don’t get me wrong, I did, I respected it and, anyway, I went down to the orderly room. I thought they were going to put me in irons, honestly. Went before the CO. There again, the old documents come out and he says, ‘I don’t understand it. I’ve been looking at your documents.’ And he said, ‘How do you feel?’ And I thought ‘Christ. I’m not going back to — no way am I ever going back to — no way am I going back to that camp.’ I said, ‘I feel fine.’ And he said, ‘What are you doing?’ And what had happened was, my crew had crewed up and flown to Karachi with Transport Command and he said, ‘Well, your crew went without you. We had to find another flight engineer, didn’t we?’ And I said, ‘Oh.’ You know, I expected it. No good saying I didn’t and he said, ‘I don’t really know.’ He said, ‘But you see we don’t want fellas like you in Transport Command.’ He said, ‘We don’t want officers like you in Transport Command.’ And all of a sudden I thought, ‘Bugger yer.’ And I turned round to him and I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you something. I don’t want to be in Transport Command.’ And he stood back and I said, ‘I don’t want to be in Transport Command.’ And he got hold of my papers and hit the desk and he said, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I want to go back to Bomber Command.’ He said, ‘Idiot.’ I said, ‘I want to go back.’ I said, ‘That’s where the camaraderie is.’ And he said, ‘Right.’ He said, ‘Be outside your billet at eight.’ Again, you know, he said, ‘Be outside your billet.’ And he said, ‘There’ll be a jeep to take you to Belfast.’ He said, ‘You’ll get on a train.’ He said, ‘You’ll get on a train.’ He said, ‘You’re posted to Lindholme.’ So that’s when I got back to Lindholme to Bomber Command.
IL: So, did you fly any more operations from Lindholme?
RM: Not from Lindholme. We were non-operational. Well, we weren’t non-operational because we were flying and we — they flew the backsides off us. I told your mum. She was always playing hell because my wife was a WAAF on the same station and I was courting her, you know, and fortunately I caught her, didn’t it? And what happened was the — as I say I put my name down, 617, 67, 76 Squadron and that was where I went back. And I said to him, I said, ‘I don’t want to be with Transport Command.’ And he stood back, you know, one of those stiff upper lip chaps and he said, ‘Be outside your billet at 8 or 9 o’clock.’ And said, ‘They’ll take you to Belfast Station and you’re posted to Lindholme. Idiot.’ And I just walked out. I didn’t even turn round and salute him. I thought, ‘Beggar yer.’ But it was another experience wasn’t it, you know?
IL: Oh, absolutely.
RM: Yeah, it was. Another court martial. Dear, oh dear, but —
IL: Were you actually court martialled for that?
RM: Pardon?
IL: Were you court martialled for that?
RM: Oh, no, no, no.
IL: No?
RM: Oh, no, no, no. That’s was how, really and truthfully, I’ll be honest with you, I know I got away with it because I’d done thirty-one trips. I was a hero and they knew it. I’d done my bit, hadn’t I? That was it in a nutshell, I can tell you that now. That was why when he turned to me and, you know, he said that, and I knew he meant it, but at that time I thought, ‘Why should I lick his backside and pretend?’ It was no good pretending. I hated Transport Command. I hated it while I was there and for him to turn round to me and tell me he didn’t want my type. He didn’t want my type in Transport Command and I was as good as any of them. In fact, I was better than them because I’d come from Bomber Command.
IL: Absolutely, absolutely. I’m going to switch this off now, Ray.



Ian Locker, “Interview with Raymond Moore,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 22, 2024,

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