Interview with Bill Moore. Three


Interview with Bill Moore. Three


Bill Moore grew up in Scotland and volunteered for the Royal Air Force. He completed 36 operations as a navigator with 138 and 161 Squadrons.

Please note: The veracity of this interview has been called into question. We advise that corroborative research is undertaken to establish the accuracy of some of the details mentioned and events witnessed.







02:50:38 audio recording

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TO: Right, good morning, good afternoon or good evening, whatever the case may be. This interview is being filmed for the International Bomber Command Centre. The gentleman I’m interviewing is Mr Bill Moore. My name is Thomas Ozel and we’re recording this interview on the 3rd of July 2016. Now, could you please tell me what year you were born?
WM: 1924.
TO: Mhm. And when you were a child, were you interested in aircraft?
WM: The first time I was introduced to the aircraft was when I was taken to Guyun [?] Southern Highlander’s annual camp and that was when I came in contact with my, my first aircraft. And at that time, I was a drummer [?] boy in a band [?], and at that time my father had made me eighteen month older and I was supposed to be because otherwise I would have been too young to have went to the camp with men. As a matter of fact, that eighteen months stood by me for the rest of my life.
TO: And whereabouts did you grow up?
WM: I grew up in a town called Dunoon which is on the Firth of Clyde in Argyllshire in Scotland.
TO: And were your parents involved in the First World War?
WM: My father was, yes. As a matter of fact I just told somebody the other day, that I knew where my father was a hundred years ago. In other words, he was right through the whole of the First World War. He was a great battles, the Battles of Boulogne [?], first and the second one, and also the one that was also celebrated this week. And then he was actually taken prisoner by German forces and he was taken to Poland, and he worked in Poland there and that was, and that was until the armistice came along. In other words, he had about, he about between six and nine months as a prisoner of war, mm.
TO: And what was your first job?
WM: My first job, all depends how you mean your first job. If you mean your first job when you started doing [emphasis] something and getting paid for it, well I was delivering milk and newspapers in the morning. Later on I delivered butcher, butcher meats and I delivered the evening papers, and among one of the most famous characters I delivered to was Sir Harry Lauder, who was a very famous Scottish singer and comedian. And every time I went there I got a farthing [emphasis] each time, which meant that I got a fully penny in one day, but that was four farthings. And I did that from, from Monday to Saturday. And anyway, after that of course I left school, but I left school when I was thirteen. The reason I left school when I was thirteen was because it was during the Great Depression years and every penny my family could earn was to be encouraged because people needed it to survive [emphasis], although my father was always in work, but that was about it because I used to come in. And that was what my mother saved the money so that I could have my school books paid for, instead of, instead of waiting for someone to pass on second hand books to me.
TO: And in the 1930s, did you hear about Hitler’s aggressive behaviour?
WM: Well yes. As a matter of fact, of course I did, but it was quite, quite strange. Go back further than that, when I was a young boy, I was in what we called the Boys Brigade, which was just an organisation but it was started, it started way back in 1883 by a chap called William Smith, and the uniform they had then [emphasis] was, was taken more or less from the Third Lanark Rifle Volunteers in Scotland. It wasn’t military but the idea was for discipline, because in those days Scotland, Scotland and discipline was two things that people wanted, although with me, that was many years later. I did not meet Sir William Smith himself but I knew both of his sons who carried on the Boys Brigade after him, and also I met Mrs McVicker in Belfast in Northern Ireland when I used to take the Boys Brigade myself [emphasis] over there, and that, that was, she was the, she was the wife of the founder of the Boys Brigade in Northern Ireland. When I joined the Boys Brigade it was through the Life Boys, which was a genuine organisation. I went through there and I went right through the Boys Brigade, and at my age, I’m still a member of the Boys Brigade Greater World Fellowship.
TO: Would you mind if I just closed the window?
WM: No, carry on, yeah.
TO: Is that okay?
WM: Oh, you might get the traffic, yeah.
TO: Yeah, is that okay?
WM: Yeah, carry on [pause while window is closed]. That’s okay.
TO: Okay, thank you. And what did you think, what did you think of Chamberlain?
WM: Well first of all, going back before Chamberlain’s time and before he was making speeches, what I was saying is we used to look at news reels and we used to see about all the equipment that the German boys and girls were getting, and at times we were quite envious of it, because there was gymnastics, there was gymnastics, I was swimming, I was hiking, I was doing all these same things as, as a, the German Youth were there. Maybe not so severely [emphasis], but that was where the Boys Brigade, as I’ve just said.
TO: Mhm. Sorry, there’s a noise coming from the kitchen. Is it okay if I shut the door to there as well?
WM: Yes, yes, yes –
TO: Sorry [door closes].
WM: Can you stick that through?
TO: Sorry.
WM: You could get a nickel [?].
TO: Yeah [pause during continued background noise]. Sorry about this, sorry. And what did you think of the Munich Agreement?
WM: Well, put it, put it this way. What did happen was that I think growing up at that particular time, we weren’t really interested too much in politics, but then we began to gather that things were getting rather serious. And the big thing that was going around at that time was, was people sincere? And there’d been so many promises broken that, and I’m talking about Scotland now, was the people in Scotland at that time just said, ‘well if, if these people keep on breaking promises, what’s, what’s the Prime Minister going to do? Is he going to be leaving it [could be believing it].’ And of course, it seems, it seemed to us at that particular time that he was being foreborstered [?], brainwashed and as if he was being used as, as they all were in those days was, is a patsy.
TO: And what did you think of Churchill?
WM: Well, Churchill in the early days was quite a hero [emphasis] because he was a type of fellow who had been through the Boer War, he’d been through the, through the First World War and of course he was still a fiery rebel as far as politics were going as, at that time in the UK.
TO: And do you remember the preparations that were being made for war?
WM: Well, it all depends on who’s side you mean, because the big thing that we noticed, and that was that where, where the German forces were going over [?], taking over different places. Some of them were, were considered to be German lands of former times, but, but even when they came to Austria and they were welcomed into Austria, at times we wondered whether there were other people there who weren’t quite happy about it, with this, you know? But it wasn’t ‘til, it wasn’t ‘til as we say, clouds [?] are going that, and horizon, as if the, all the promises that were given, made were just null and void. The reason we said that was at that particular time was because the fact was that even, even being with Chamberlain, trying to negotiate [emphasis], and of course France as well were negotiations to see if they could actually bring about a more sensible [emphasis] approach, ‘cause people like my father said that the terms of various things that had been laid in after [emphasis] the First World War were so severe that it was almost impossible for the, for the German people not [emphasis] to revolt against these conditions, and of course this is what people were thinking in the UK at that particular time, was that that’s what they were trying to do was just to regain what had been lost. But of course later on when it came into the, these negotiations that they had, nobody was very sure [emphasis] whether that Chamberlain was playing for time or not. It could have been, it could have been a great strategy on his [emphasis] part. Many people think it was, many people think that he was quite gullible. But if one reads on the history of the Royal Air Force, well the Royal Air Force was starting an amalgamation between the, the Fleet Air Arm, or the Naval Services. The Naval Service became the Royal Air Force and that was 1918. Now, with that coming on, we noticed as young people, we noticed that there was different things happening [emphasis], and also, I remember at one time I noticed that the, the talk was about different types of aircraft, ‘cause that was through the magazine I used to subscribe to. And then of course what happened, I was in the school cadets in my grammar school in Dunoon and we, we were the Army cadets, and of course we wore the kilt et cetera, the same as the local Hern [?] Division, and the Guyun [?] Southern Highlanders. Anyway, I, I started thinking about aeroplanes and there was an organisation just started up which was called the Air Defence Cadet Corps. Well this Air Defence Corps, Cadet Corps, the nearest place to Dunoon where I was, was at what is now Glasgow Airport, and I had to find a handout, to find the money for to go in the boat and train and go up there and attend the lectures et cetera what was necessary to do to be a member of the Air Defence Cadet Corps. Anyway, of course along came different aircraft that we saw, and the, the first of the new [emphasis] ones that I saw and touched was the Wellington Bombers, and that Wellington Bomber came up to me, to Abbotsinch, which is, as I said, Glasgow Airport. Abbotsinch I managed to walk through it and I was absolutely taken with it. As a matter of fact I felt as if I’d fallen in love with it. And then of course what happened, things went from one to another, and then of course along came, along came the Polish incident and with that Polish incident of course it was followed very closely in Scotland because the people of Scotland, people of Poland were always very close [emphasis]. A lot of people don’t realise [emphasis] that but it was a fact, because I always remember that they used to send boxes of eggs from Poland and what we used to do, we used to buy these boxes, these crates, and we’d turn them into canoes that we, that we lined with canvas, and we used to sail in the Clyde. But that, you know, that was, that was our knowledge of in Poland on that day, apart from what I’d been told by my father. Anyway, what happened was along came, along came, as I say, with the trouble in Poland, and of course, then of course the First World, the Second World War started and at that time, being in the Boys Brigade and being in the Air Cadet Defence Corps, I was nominated as a member of the ARP, the Air Raids Precautions people, as a messenger. Then that was fine, that was alright but I still had to go to my lessons with the Cadets, but that was alright, everybody carried on. That carried on and then of course along came, along came 1941 [emphasis] and that was when the Air Training Corps started, and I, I went along. I had to say I was finished with the Air Defence Cadet Corps which everybody else [emphasis] was, and we signed up for the Air Training Corps. That was quite strange, that was on a Monday night, and I went back along on the Friday [emphasis] night at the first official meeting, and we fell in and we fell in ranks according to sizes et cetera, et cetera, and I was made a flight sergeant. And the reason was that, I asked them and said ‘oh no, you’ve had training [emphasis] in the Air Defence Cadet Corps, so you know probably more about it than instructors do,’ because they were all school teachers who had volunteered to do that cadet work, and of course being made a flight sergeant, without uniform of course, it took a wee while to get uniforms, but that was it, and that was, that was me well and truly a part of the Royal Air Force. Anyway, that went down very well and I passed all the examinations. My aim was to become a member of aircrew. I fancied that, not just the glamour of it but there was a practical side. Anyway the, along came a day when I went along to Edinburgh and I took all my papers, exam papers and everything else, and bearing in mind that I was a year and a half older than I was on paper than I was supposed to be, and when I got into Edinburgh the chap says to me, ‘are you sure [emphasis]?’ I said ‘yes.’ He said ‘what you were doing?’ So I told him, he says ‘oh, that seems alright,’ he says ‘alright,’ he says ‘we want you to go along to this hotel and you stay there and you come back here in the morning, and you go there and you find that you’ll be registered and et cetera, et cetera.’ So I did that, go back there the next day and there were one or two other chaps around that I knew, and we, we went in again [emphasis] and we had exams to take and tests to take and, a by the time the day was finished I was a member of the Royal Air Force, and what they did to us was that they gave us a little silver badge that we, we had to wear at all times. And that was to show that we were a fully fledged member of the Royal Air Force, and all we had to do then was just wait until they were ready to take us in [emphasis]. And it wasn’t, it wasn’t being called up for National Service, we were all volunteers of course, which is a big difference because we were already members, voluntary members, and of course the, joining the Air Force like that you volunteered. But as I say, after that, once you’re in, you didn’t get to volunteer again [laughs]. You, you’re then volunteered [emphasis, laughs].
TO: And do you remember what you were doing on the day the war started?
WM: The day the war started, yes [tape beeps]. It was a Sunday morning and I was at a bible class in Dunoon, and shortly after that the sirens went and we all had to go to a post. And with us at that particular time, as I say, I was with the ARP. So we had to go there and be ready for to, for to be messengers. That was what, that was what my job was then, to be a messenger [emphasis], so I had to go to my post, which we all knew where we had to go to, and that was it. But after the all clear went then we stood down again, no, mm. But of course there was, was times when there were raids on the Clyde and all the rest of it later on, and my compatriots had a lot of hair raising activities. Most of that by that time I was, I was in the Royal Air Force.
TO: And was there much bomb damage or bombing around where you lived?
WM: Well, not so much on my [emphasis] side of the Clyde but across the water on the Firth, right from Greenock and Glasgow, Greenock and Port Glasgow, right up the Clyde, right up to Clydebank into Glasgow itself. Oh yes, all the industrial areas. There was quite a lot of very heavy damage, yes.
TO: And when the war started, were you, were you expecting that German bombers would be coming on the first day?
WM: Oh yes, well that was, that was it. It wasn’t, it wasn’t long after that there was a couple of raids that was, that was, that came across Scotland before there was even, even them in England, yes.
TO: And how did you actually feel when you heard the war had started?
WM: Well, put it this way, with having quite a knowledge from my father about his experiences, and what we had, what we had actually seen on the news reels about Poland, and I really mean about Poland, that was when we realised what could happen, yeah.
TO: And did you watch news reels a lot at the cinema?
WM: Oh yes, oh yes. Yeah, when you went to the, when you went to the cinemas there was always, always a portion for the news reels at the beginning of every performance, and that was very good. The news reels were very good, they, they brought everything to you, mm [papers shuffle].
TO: And so when you volunteered for aircrew, what kind of medical tests did they give you?
WM: Well, you had, you had a full medical. You know, you had blood, heart, you had all sorts of things done and then, you even had a type, a place where it was called up [?] on night vision. We never knew about night vision in those days and we were told, told about that and you had a test to see whether you could, you could see and come back again and your vision – you had, you were taken into a darkened room and they had various sort of tests they gave you in there, including different things and different numbers and the results was in different colours [emphasis], and if you, if you, if you could identify these things through these different colours then that meant that your, that your night vision was quite good, and you passed and you could identify then, then you’re dropped out. ‘Cause that was one of the main things at that particular time, was night vision.
TO: And what role did you train for aboard, in aircrew?
WM: Sorry?
TO: What, what position, as in, were you trained for?
WM: Well you see, when I went to Edinburgh I was classified PNB, pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, you know, the idea being that you selected for that term [?]. Anyway, what happened then was that I was called, called to the colours, not called up, I was called to the colours which once again, as I say, was different from being called up for National Service, very proud of that of course. Anyway, I, I got a notification to go to London and there I went to, to Lords Cricket Ground and, with many other people. There was one or two people that I’d met on the train, met down there before, went inside and some of these fellows I still know today, which is quite amazing. Anyway, what happened there in, in, at Lourdes, you – and there is a big plaque there today, big black plaque indicating that was where the aircrew was at that particular time. Going back to that, we had further [emphasis] tests and, I suppose to see whether anything had happened in between times, and then we, we got all the usual jabs for left and right, two arms up together and that one and that one going along r at the same time and, and then you had FFIs and things like that, and then of course you came along to another [emphasis] big room and that’s where you started getting your uniform. And there was a system [?] what you’re gonna get, when you’re gonna get, and by the time you got to the end you wonder if you’re able to carry everything, you know. Anyway, we all managed to get there, and at the end of that we were introduced to a corporal, two stripes. Now, we thought that was a high rank [phone rings], oh –
TO: Is that a phone call?
WM: I’d better take it. Sorry about that [tape beeps]. It’s a bummer [?] –
TO: Hmm, anyway –
WM: Anyway.
TO: So you spoke to her [unclear] –
WM: So anyway, as I was saying, we, we were then under this corporal [laughs]. He, he told us that he would be looking after us in more ways than one [emphasis] for the, for the next few days. Anyway, we went along in London to a place called Avenue Close which was a new block of flats in St. John’s Wood which had been built and never been occupied, and the Royal Air Force used that for all their new recruits, and, but there’s no, there’s no canteen facilities there, no mess hall, and we went across to Regent Park’s zoo where we dined. The animals had been evacuated and we were there in place of the animals [laughs].
TO: And did you train to be a navigator?
WM: Put it, put it this way, what happens, all depends how deep you want me to go into this, I don’t know. Anyway, what happened was that we had to, we had to pass more, several tests there. They were very strenuous, very strenuous, extremely strenuous, you know. And then of course we were there for about a week, and we were all setting off to different places and the group that I went with was up into the north east of England, to a town called Scarborough where they had quite a number of initial training wings. And what they were, they were just like boarding schools [laughs], certainly a little bit different but that’s what we took them to be. It was just like going back to school or college and starting all over again, and my one was number seventeen, and I was in what we called the Odelpha [?] Hotel, which is a hotel right opposite the Italian gardens in Scarborough. Now, there we studied navigation, theories of flight, engines, just about everything, even how to use a knife and fork in the mess, and that is quite true [laughs]. That seems quite a thing but that was quite true [laughs]. But that was a little on the side [?] there. But we actually studied all of these things, and at the same time we had to do guard duties and various other things like that, and there was two or three times when we were there, there were air raids go on and even a time when there was suspected that we might have had a German couple of U-boats in, about eight boats coming along and they expected them to come up and be looking for certain people that were there on that shore [?] there, people who had been at a conference and we were all turned out for that. They didn’t tell us very much about it but later on we heard it was Churchill and the cabinet members in the Retreat as they call it nowadays. Anyway, but that was, we didn’t know anything, why it was [unclear]. Anyway, what happened was that we had to sit the final exams and everybody in there was doing the same exams, you know? Anyway, what happened after, I passed, I pass through that quite successfully and I was waiting a posting. My posting then was a place called Scone [pronounced Scun], not Scone, Scone [pronounce Scun, emphasis], which is just, just outside of Perth in Scotland and that was where you got to learn to fly on Tiger Moths. Now, when you flew in Tiger Moths up there, we had already been classified from ACs to AC1s and when we, we went up to Scone, actually passed Scone in the Tiger Moths and we thought we could be trusted to do a couple of circuits and you came back down. They didn’t give you wings in those days, they gave you a propeller, always a propeller on your left sleeve, and then we became a leading aircraftsman, which was your first step up. Anyway, what happened after that, I, I was sent from there all the, all the kit bags and everything, and I was sent to a place called Broughton-in-Furness. Broughton-in-Furness, it was like a commander course, only the Royal Air Force calls it an escape course, and you did everything on there that you could possibly do if you were trying to escape. It was always put down to you in the Air Force that you had to try and escape if you were taken prisoner. That was, that was a thing. It was always drilled into you, if you could get back, so much the better. Anyway, that was, that was all about. When that was finished I went to a place called Heaton Park in Manchester. Now, Heaton Park in Manchester, it was mostly Nissan huts, the old corrugated iron ones, you know? And sometimes you also got billeted out with the local people, sometimes you’re lucky and you did both. Well we, we were quite lucky. We were billeted out, and just within a stone’s throw off Heaton Park [laughs], and we, we were with a landlady whose husband was in the Middle East at that time, and we used to pay her half a crown, was two shillings and sixpence in those days and that was for, to leave the snub [?] off the window so that we could lift the window sash up and crawl in after half past ten at night. Well she used to make, she used to make a cup of bronzer [?] up for that [laughs], because she had let out two rooms and that was eight of us in her house, yeah. Anyway, the, everybody knew it happened, but you’re [unclear] to be in by eleven. It was just in case you had trouble getting back you know. Anyway, if you were in the main camp, you had to make sure you were in at half ten at night [laughs]. Anyway, after that we were, we were taken back into the camp, and this was a big camp. There was hundreds of people in there and guesses – we didn’t do a lot of paperwork there but we did a lot of physical training, marching, all that sort of thing, and every time the, every time the Royal Air Force tunes went up you had to march to attention. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you had to march to attention. Anyway, what happened after that, you got your uniform. Now, if you were going to, to South Africa, we, we began to learn these things, you went to South Africa you get tropical kit but long [emphasis] trousers. If you were going to Rhodesia, you get tropical kits with short [emphasis] trousers. If you’re going to America, you more or less get issued with civvies, as we called them, and if you were going to Canada then you were alright. Anyway, what happened to us was that we got issued with short trousers and we said ‘oh no, we know what we are [?], we’re going to Rhodesia. That’s pilot training,’ et cetera, et cetera. Good, anyway, we got shipped out, we were on a ship called The Andes [emphasis]. You’ll see a little thing there –
TO: Oh yes.
WM: Andes, you know, ship.
TO: Oh right.
WM: And I’ll show you it afterwards.
TO: Yeah, show me it afterwards.
WM: But what it was, was this ship, The Andes was brand new in the Clyde in nineteen, 1939, and it disappeared then came back again all painted grey, but where we [emphasis] met it, we met her in Liverpool. And this friend of mine, Alec Care, we must have joined up, helped each other, and we were on the ship and we said ‘bye-bye’ to Liverpool. There’s the – ‘bye-bye, bye-bye,’ you know, and we sailed down the Mersey. Anyway, a while after that we, I judged that we had been round the head of Northern Ireland, go down the west coast, and now they could, well according to roughly the speed of the ship and that, and we’d be near the Bay of Biscay. All of a sudden night fell and I said to my friend, ‘Alec, this boat’s going the wrong way.’ He said ‘you and your Clyde navigation.’ I said, ‘this boat’s going the wrong way [emphasis], we’re now going back north.’ So we ended back up in the Mersey again. Then what happened, we got in there because I suppose they got word there was a pack of U-boats around, you know, and that’s why they changed us. Anyway, we got up into the Mersey and looked across and I said to Alec, I said, ‘there’s the five-three-four over there.’ He says, ‘what’s a five-three-four?’ I say, ‘I’m not telling you, you might be a spy.’ He says, ‘euch.’ I says ‘oh, that’s a five-three-four.’ He says, ‘come on Bill, what is it?’ And I say, ‘that’s the Queen Mary.’ ‘Oh.’ Anyway, we admired this big ship because, well I knew her from the Clyde right from when one of my great uncles was helping to build here. Anyway, there she was. Anyway, we, we had a meal there, and the next thing we heard was the whistle went, ‘all RAF personnel so and so and so and so,’ went ‘oh that’s us, what’s happened now? Oh.’ ‘Get all your kit together, assemble here in, in fifteen minutes.’ ‘Oh boy that was, that was quick.’ ‘Cause you hadn’t, hadn’t taken in any kit bag, was just us, you stood up so it was just a matter of taking your kit bags and going to deck. We were then taken across onto the Queen Mary, and we were weighed [?] down so far in I thought we were going to go to New Zealand or somewhere, and [laughs] – anyway, the Queen Mary set off and a few days later we were in New York [emphasis]. We didn’t see a lot of New York, we had a bit of leave time on the promise that we wouldn’t be late coming back, so that was good, and we got on a train and we went up to Moncton, New Brunswick. All the way up to Canada by train which was a great experience for us, ‘cause the first thing we noticed was the food. Now, there was nothing rationed, this was American trains and we were getting the best of everything. Anyway, we got to Moncton, New Brunswick and the, and we were not given any winter clothing because we were still in this kit that we thought we were going to Rhodesia, so anyway [laughs], for two or three days we walked about up there and they used to call us ‘Scors’ because we were walking around with blankets on us to keep us warm, mm [laughs]. Anyway, that was, that was all part of the trials and tribulations. Then of course was, we were told to fall in and you, you, you’re told that you’re now going to a training station. They didn’t tell you where you were going, they just told you’re going to a training station. So we got on a train, and this was the Canadian national railways and we said, ‘well, Canadian pacific goes that side and nation [?] is that side, mm, oh well, fair enough.’ So we landed up in Winnipeg, went all the way through to Winnipeg, then we got off that [emphasis] train and we went up to another [emphasis] one, up past Portage la Prairie and then the railway finished so we got, we got on we’ll call it a bus [emphasis], and this took us up to Dauphin, Manitoba and then we, we were at Paulson and Dauphin and there we did bombing and gunnery training. We did all these sort of elements again that, that everyone had to go through the same things, and then the next round of course we did, we did flying training and, and then of course we did the navigation, another step up. That was fine and we were still all together, no deviations. Then of course we passed all that and I had a, I had an excellent, I had an excellent bombing record, really excellent one if I say so myself, you know. Anyway, next thing we knew, we graduated from there. You had to pass, it was a hundred percent pass, you know, there was always people dropping out and, but we carried on and we went, we went down, down [emphasis] the line to Portage la Prairie. Portage on the Prairie, that was – now that there [emphasis] was the school for air observers, you know? That was number seventeen air observer school, Portage la Prairie, and there of course we, we got changed around a bit. I was told that I was a good candidate for, to be air observer. I said, ‘how about piloting?’ ‘Oh,’ he says, ‘if you’re an observer you’ll get to fly as well. You’ll get to pilot as well,’ you know. I said ‘well that’s okay.’ He did really ‘cause you were told [emphasis], you know? Anyway, I graduated from there. I got my wings there, and eventually, eventually ‘cause we [coughs], we went back to Moncton, New Brunswick and we got on a ship to come back to the UK and that ship I recognised as [laughs] the Empress of Japan. I said to my friend, I said ‘I don’t like that name, Empress of Japan,’ you know. We got up beside it and it’s now called the Empress of Scotland [laughs]. They had changed its name. Now this was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, so we come back, we come back across the Atlantic, the North Atlantic, and we sailed up the Clyde and eventually we went to a place called Harrogate. So Harrogate we were more or less brought back to earth again. Rations of course still, instead of the food we’d been having in Canada and that, you know, America. And we, we then – well the [laughs]. It was quite strange, they gave us another FFI to see if we’re alright and we’re okay that way, and another medicals to see if we’re alright, you know? And the next thing I knew, I was, I was in a detour [?], so my friend went that way and I went that way, so that was it. Anyway, I landed up at a place which is just outside of Wolverhampton, and this was an advanced navigation and low flying school called Halfpenny Green. Now, quite a number of years ago they made a film there and then called it “Halfpenny Field,” but it was Halfpenny Green [emphasis], and today it’s been nominated to be Wolverhampton Airport. Anyway, what we were doing there is that we were taught low lying pass flying, landing on beaches, landing on small areas and we wondered why this was all about, you know? But anyway, we didn’t ask any questions, you just did as you’re told and [laughs], ‘cause you’ve already volunteered [laughs]. Anyway, that was it and we [unclear] was successful, it was, it was excellent. We [tape beeps] treetops. We were making bomb, making, making bomb attacks on the railway bridges across the Severn and even, even the RAF stations that knew we were coming but of course they weren’t open up at us ‘cause they knew it was an exercise, and all various target like that. And also as I say, we were learning to land on short, short runways or grass and beaches and all sorts of fancy things like that. Anyway, this was all preparation because what you didn’t realise that you were, you were being selected there, and that was, that was when I was, I felt as if there was something, something strange [emphasis] about all of this because everybody was going to do different things, and that was where, where, where we were taken aside one day and told out where we were going to, you know? And some of the, some of the chaps went one way and I went another way and I landed up in this aerodrome which the first thing I had to do was sign the Secrets Act all over [emphasis] again, because you’d always, everybody signed it but this was what they called a double one, extremely secret, you know? Now, with that all I could see around this place was a multitude of different types of aircraft [laughs]. So we wondered what this was all about. Normally you went to an air station there would be two different types or something like that but on this particular one there was several, you know? And, and of course [laughs, pause] what we, erm, I’ll bring it back [pause], hmm.
TO: Was this for the SOE?
WM: Yeah, this is, this is, this is really the beginning of the training for that, you know? Well the, we had been doing the training, you know, and of course, as I say, when we were, what we were doing this sort of thing, you see, the secrecy that was coming up, we really wondered what we were, what we were doing [emphasis], you know? Anyway, we were told then that we had joined 138 Squadron, you know? Now, just like everything else, nobody ever knew what 138 Squadron was doing or any other squadron, but we soon began to find out what it was. And it always seemed strange at the beginning that no one would tell us much and we began to wonder what we were doing there, and we were, we were confined to the station. We were confined to the station for at least two weeks [laughs]. Anyway, that’s what we, what we were doing then was we were, we were learning to fly once again low level at night time. We had to do all sorts of things and [pause] we just – oh we were introduced, we were introduced to people who were pilots and, and aircrew and to us, you know, they were a bit rag tag and bob tailed by the looks of them, they were, they weren’t exactly all spick and span like we expected us to be, you know [laughs]. Anyway, excuse me a minute.
TO: It’s okay [tape paused and restarted].
WM: We were introduced to groups of people and we were told that ‘you’ll fly with this one and fly with that one, but you might fly in two different ones on the same night.’ ‘Oh, that’s alright.’ ‘So what we’re going to do is, we’re going to introduce everybody, but just remember that when you do get introduced is that, remember what you’re signed [?].’ ‘Cause there was a secret come out, we were at Tempsford. That was the home of the flights for the SOE, and of course there again that was the reason why all these different odd aircraft was lined [?] up, was that they were used for different purposes. Later on what we used to say, we used to say that Bomber Harris used to send over there all the old junk that he didn’t want on Bomber Command [laughs]. Anyway, what happened then was as I say, you got to know the different colours ‘cause by that time, as I, as I, as I say, I was, I was classified and reclassified into what I was doing and this was observer, and that was what I graduated as, and of course I still kept up my flying skills. That’s another story, I’ll come back to that. But anyway, there we were and we, we had one or two short flights with different pilots [phone rings] and we got to know – [tape beeps].
TO: No problem.
WM: No, when we, when we flew with these different chaps, they got to know us, we got to know them and each had their own specialities, and what used to happen then was once, once the powers that be realised that you could do [emphasis] what you’re supposed to be able to do on paper, then they would trust you with an operation. The reason being was that we were using the fields or pieces of, strips of roads or even, even old glider fields, we had to land, and it wasn’t always the best of territory ‘cause we did this with Lysanders which was the single engine one, you know? I got lots of pictures of Lysanders over there somewhere, mm, and the idea being there’s, is that when – you were given a map reference, and you had to study that map reference very carefully. And we never [emphasis] tried to find out how our passengers were, and they didn’t try and find out who we were. There was no communication. The reason being is if we got shot down, or either of us got taken prisoners you couldn’t, you couldn’t tell them about the other ones, alright? ‘Cause the ACA [?] people were considered to be a different category from what, even what we were, and we were a different category from them entirely, and we were a different category from normal aircrew, and even – that was known in Germany, that was known. Don’t tell me how they got to know but that’s another story. Anyway, we did, we did several of these operations. We were taking people out and sometimes it was a matter of taking two people or three people about. Squash, it was a bit of a squeeze in the, in the Lysander but we weren’t [?] gonna enjoy the ride, and all I could say was all the trips that I made was very successful, and I flew with certainly [?] different pilots from time to time on that. Then of course likewise they had different observers, you know? But we had great faith in each other, and the navigation aids that we had was elementary map reading, night flying et cetera. We didn’t have the joy of T and all the other things that came up later on. We were actually doing it like the old time pilot, many, many years before.
TO: I don’t know how much detail you can tell me about this, but when you brought these agents over from Britain to Europe, did you have a certain, were you, did you have an arranged landing field?
WM: Oh yes, when we, you know, same thing [?] we left, we left Tempsford. Well, I knew where we were going [emphasis], I had to know where we were going, and the pilot knew where he was going but I took him there, you know? I took him there, passengers there. Well these passengers were known to be coming. There would be a reception committee ready for them to whisk them away as soon as they were on the ground, oh yes. There was a good communications, yes.
TO: And did you ever see any German aircraft when you were flying on these missions?
WM: Oh yes, yes. There’s – oh we, well, put it this way. In those days we were flying low [emphasis], very low, and we weren’t too bothered about it. Now and again you run into a bit of trouble, but the night fighters was mostly come to different bits, I’ll tell you more about that, alright? But the, even, even by all the secrets that we had, there was a terrible tragedy that happened through the London office where somebody infiltrated into the London office SOE, and they, they gave away people on the ground, and they were just massacred. But you know, that was one of those terrible things about that, and that was country man to country man, and I’m sorry to say that was in Holland, mm. But we, we, we never knew exactly how our people got on, alright, or if we were picking somebody up and taking them back to the UK, as soon as we landed back at Tempsford they were taken away and we never saw them again, but they were taken away to their different places like that. Quite strange to say there was a big house just quite near here where, where they used to go back you, you know? Did –
TO: Did you, sorry.
WM: No.
TO: Did you – it’s an odd question, but did you get a sense of pride knowing you were helping secret agents?
WM: Oh yes [emphasis], yes. Well as a matter of fact, we, we felt we were doing a good job that way, because the thing was nobody, nobody heard about it, but we knew what was going on, sometimes by results. We got, you know, we got to know back, back on the station how well the people that we had delivered had reacted to what was going on, ‘cause there was just a matter of them infiltrating back into populations and we never heard anything, but if it was a special operation they were going to do, someone would say well, ‘well done chaps,’ or something like that, you know?
TO: So what, what, do you know what year it was that you started helping SOE with this?
WM: 1942.
TO: And was it just western Europe you went to?
WM: Well, well put it this way, what happened after, after a while, we started getting different aircraft, ‘cause in our station we used all the old stuff, Whitleys and things like that and various other ones like that, vintage. Then of course we got, we got one or two of the American ones come in, you know? And there was one time that we were delivering stuff to the Maquis. Now the Maquis was different from SOE, Maquis’s French. So what we were doing, we were delivering guns and ammunition, there was a full load in a Hudson. Now the Hudson was an American aircraft that was designed to land in the prairies, naturally [?] on good tarmac runways, but anywhere a farmer would put up a windsock, that’s where they were designed to for, and one particular time we, we had this load of stuff, full load, and we had to land on this area and it turned out to be, it was an old glider drone where people used to learn to fly gliders [emphasis] in France, you know? ‘Cause where we were [?] about a hundred and eighty kilometres north east of Colonia [?], you know? As near as I can tell you about that one, ‘cause a lot of stuff’s still secret. Now that is fact.
TO: Mm.
WM: Anyway, what happened was that we, we landed safely, we turned around and as we turned around to face to go out again, we began to sink. Anyway, I said to Nobby who was the skipper, I said ‘Nobby I don’t like this.’ He said ‘aye, you’ll be alright Bill, we’ll get rid of all this rubbish, we’ll be alright.’ So anyway, the Maquis came out the bush, as I call it, took all this stuff away. They disappeared and then the, the lady who’s in charge of that section, she came and she says, ‘what’s troubling you?’ I says ‘I don’t think we’re going to get out of here.’ So we got the sticky bombs ready for, to stick it to the aircraft and blow it up, and she said ‘ah, I’ll see if I can get the villagers up, push you out,’ you know, just like that. Anyway, she went back to the village. Now, normally we were aware on the ground about fifteen, twenty minutes at the most ‘cause anything after than that was dangerous, yeah, you know? She went down and she got the villagers up and it was quite a way away, but anyway, I asked [?] too many questions about that. Up she comes with the villagers, but on their way back they met the general sergeant who was in charge of the village, and he turns round and says to them, ‘now, all you people, you’ll be in trouble. You’re out here, it’s after curfew, you’re supposed to be in the village.’ And of course the idea was that she turned round and said to them, ‘but your big black aircraft is stuck in the mud and we’ve got to push it out, and the Gestapo says if we don’t push it out they’re going to shoot us all and you.’ So he says, ‘I’ll go and look after the village, you go and push the aircraft out.’ So in the end they got us out. We didn’t need to blow it up.
TO: So just to clarify, were you stuck in the mud [emphasis]?
WM: Aye, just going down, like that.
TO: And how big was this aircraft?
WM: Hudson.
TO: And how –
WM: Twin engine aircraft, hmm.
TO: Were you ever scared during these missions?
WM: Of course, yeah. But they, you don’t go like that you, you, gung ho, you know what I mean by gung ho? We weren’t gung ho. We prided ourselves on being professional.
TO: And is there, are there any other occasions from your time with SOE that you are allowed to tell me about which you recall, a lot?
WM: Oh yes, lots of things that we – as a matter of fact, during, we didn’t bring them all [emphasis] back, but during the time that we were there [emphasis] we brought back four chaps, four men, Frenchmen, who actually in later years turned out to become prime ministers, prime ministers of France, hmm.
TO: And sorry, did – when you, what happened when you left SOE and started back on standard bombing missions?
WM: Well anyway, what, what happened was we were always alternately from time to rime on different missions. It wasn’t as if we, we just jumped from one back into that one, but we were always, was always in the, always doing the missions. Sometimes it was only a few aircraft going out for a special mission, or sometimes, sometimes we joined up with the, a bomber stream. It all depends on how, how we were required, and we, a lot of our chaps became leading lights on the Pathfinders, because of our highly successful rates in navigating to targets.
TO: And do you remember your first bombing mission?
WM: Yeah, first, my first bombing mission was to Kiel, Kiel Canal, mm. And that, that, that was also for – the idea there was to try to block the canal from time to time. We, in the early days there wasn’t anything that we had big enough that could do [emphasis] it, but the idea used to be that if you could bomb something, you know, bomb ships or something like that, that would make traps in the canal, you know, then of course that, that would be a help on keeping stuff from going through it, you know, hmm. But, no we covered a high variety of trips, you know, oh yes.
TO: And what aircraft were you in for these bombing missions?
WM: Well first of all I was in, I was in Wellingtons, you know? We did a lot of Wellingtons and then of course we were onto Lancasters. We converted [?] onto Lancasters, mm.
TO: And could you please describe the conditions inside a Wellington?
WM: Well in the Wellington there was, it was rather cramped but we still considered it a good aircraft. And by that time we had six in the crew, and we, we had crewed up and we were flying together, but you know, it was just, it was just, there was no comfort, there was no comfort. Each person had their own little cubby hole or section [coughs] but that was all. But once you got up over ten thousand feet, then of course, then it gets a bit uncomfortable, you know? You’re always [?] trying to keep warm was the thing, you know? Then of course you’d all sorts of wires for – you had your air com [?], you had your oxygen masks, you had all these sorts of things, you know? And as I, as I say, it was, it was a lot, a lot colder than it was later on in the Lancasters and even the Halifaxes and Stirlings, mm.
TO: And as an observer, what were you duties for the mission?
WM: My duties – we were highly skilled navigators then. We were, we were a step above the, we were a step above the normal navigators, mm, yeah, because we did, we did everything. We did the whole job. It was the same thing as – at one time, what happened was that the, every aircraft had two pilots. Anyway, there came a time when they took one pilot away and then it was the observer that was the backup pilot, you know? Anyway, after that, after that when the big four engine jobs come out, the, they brought in the role of flight engineer, and the flight engineer was supposed to be able to fly, but the way I’d seen it right from very beginning was that I reckoned that I knew enough about flying, and I told people ‘as long as I can take her home and land it, that’s good enough for me’ [laughs].
TO: Slight side story, a few weeks ago I interviewed a man who was a flight engineer for Lancasters, and he said he was taught how to fly the plane but not how to land it.
WM: Yeah well [laughs], well that’s the – my, my big thing was I was taught how to land them, yeah. And I had a good, had a good background in flying and piloting in the lighter aircraft, but then of course between the Wellingtons and the Lancasters and the, we had a – well we did it quite often. We did it as part of an air, sometimes, sometimes you went up for, to test your engines. You did that, you did that pretty often, or to see the rest of the aircraft, and I always took the opportunity to be able to land the aircraft.
TO: And can you tell me a bit about Halifaxes?
WM: Not a great deal. I didn’t do a lot of trips on Halifaxes but you know, she was also a good aircraft, but I know there’s, there’s friends of mine who, if you have an argument they say ‘ooh, it’s far better than a Lancaster’ and blah, blah, blah, but that’s only, the Halifax was a good aircraft. It couldn’t fly as high [emphasis] as a Lancaster and it wasn’t as fast as Lancaster but that was just about it, mm.
TO: And what’s your take on Halifax versus Lancaster?
WM: Oh [laughs] to me it was the Lancaster [laughs].
TO: And was the interior of a Lancaster different from that of a Halifax?
WM: No, much the same, mm, much the same. It’s just the skin.
TO: Mhm.
WM: Just the skin, you know? You know, you know, everything was for bomb loads.
TO: Mhm. And you mentioned something about Stirlings earlier.
WM: Yeah.
TO: What’s your take on them?
WM: The Stirling was, she was the first of the heavies, and she was, she was quite slow [emphasis] and didn’t have a high ceiling rate, you know, but she did a good job in her day [?], oh yes. There was many, many a crew that did great work in Stirlings, oh.
TO: There’s a D-Day veteran I spoke to a couple of years ago, his glider for D-Day was towed by a Stirling.
WM: Oh yes [emphasis]. Well there was a lot of that. Halifaxes and Stirlings did a lot of glider towing, yeah, oh yes.
TO: And what bombing mission of the war do you remember the most?
WM: Er [pause]. Just, just before, just before the war finished we [tape beeps] there were two big ones, and that particular night our wing commander, Wing Commander Murray, who I’d known from Tempsford days, you know? He, he came along and he said he wanted to fly with us that night and be the captain, and he said, and I said ‘no, you can bugger off.’ It’s not we wanted [?] coming into aircrew, you know, taking over. ‘Cause I could say that to him because we’d flown together a lot. Anyway, he says ‘what happens if I don’t sit in the pilot’s seat.’ I said ‘alright then you can come along, that’s my seat’ [laughs]. I mean it was my seat when I was needed, yeah. I said ‘no you can come along and be second pilot,’ you know? But it was, it was, it was quite a thing. It was a place called Magdeburg, it was of the big ones that we were on, but several other big ones as well of course. I could, just hold that a minute? [Pause, tape beeps]. Now there was several big ones but the last, the last big one was Potsdam. That was a real big one, yeah. As a matter, matter of fact, that one was in the, in the fourteenth, fourteenth, 14th of April, so that was one of the last big ones, you know? And that was a night one, and there was another was on the 13th [emphasis] of April was another time we went to Kiel, and what had happened was the night before we went to Kiel, and we put this battleship and we sunk it, we turned it over, mm. And it came back but they wanted us to go back again, but one of the retorts was that night, one of the crews was, ‘I hear you don’t want us to put it back up again’ [laughs]. But that was a, and that actually blocked a canal, that actually blocked a canal, you know, ‘cause then of course one of the, one of the last of the big ones we did was to Bremen on the 20th and 22nd of April, you know, yeah. And course there was places like Merseburg and various other ones like that, you know? But this is something I keep to myself.
TO: Okay.
WM: You know? Because I got, you know, I’ve got – the way I look at it is, it’s not, not a thing we brag about, you know? It’s, it was wartime and that was it. And today I’ve got, I’ve got, I’ve got many friends across Europe and across Africa and they come from all sorts of walks of life and all sorts of countries.
TO: Sorry, can I ask what happened to the wing commander who wanted to be on the flight?
WM: Oh yes, oh well he came in the flight with us there and that was it, Wing Commander Murray. We were flying F for Freddie, yeah, and of course, well anyway, he was in charge of the squadron, you know?
TO: Mhm.
WM: And he stayed on the Air Force for a while, you know, and I lost touch with him, you know?
TO: Mhm.
WM: Because we’d been, we’d been quite good friends there, mm. But after the war, after the war was, you didn’t really go out of your way [emphasis] to keep in touch, although with my own crew [emphasis] in the Lancaster we have done. As a matter of fact even, even now [emphasis] one of my chaps in aircrew, a fellow called Jimmy Dagg, a New Zealander, his great grandson plays rugby for the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. His name is Israel Dagg, mm.
TO: And are, just in raids in Germany in general, how much anti-aircraft fire was there?
WM: Oh plenty. As a, as a matter of fact, what a lot of people don’t realise was that the amount, the amount of German troops, and specialised German troops that had to be contained within Germany because of what the, the Bomber Command was doing. Now as a matter of fact, that was, it was, it was a surprising, there must have thousands upon thousands had to be retrained in Germany who could have been going somewhere else, and they were all very highly trained people, mm.
TO: And did you ever encounter night fighters?
WM: Oh yes a couple of times, but we were quite lucky. We, we managed to corkscrew away, but the night fighters, what you had to watch even more carefully than over, over a target area or on the way back was just before you landed, because there used to be quite a few of them that used to prowl round about aerodromes and airfields in this country, and waiting for people to come in ‘cause that’s when you’re, you’re, you’re most vulnerable, when everything was shut down. And there was quite a number of people that got shot down just before they landed.
TO: And could you please tell me how this corkscrew evasive manoeuvre worked?
WM: Well that’s, that’s just what it was, a corkscrew. You might have been flying more or less level or up and down a bit, and then the corkscrew was like that. That was a corkscrew, yeah. They got away, yeah, mm.
TO: Did anyone in the crew ever get sick when that happened?
WM: Oh yeah [emphasis], my mid upper gunner used to get sick as soon as he put his foot inside the aircraft [laughs]. Once we were still fly, still take off he was alright.
TO: Mm. And did you ever, during the, did you ever find out how much, whether you’d hit the targets during the raids?
WM: I know we did [emphasis]. As I say, one of my specialities was, was bombing.
TO: But could you see photographs of it later?
WM: Oh yes, yeah, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, mm, yeah.
TO: And were you ever on raids to Berlin?
WM: Yeah, mm. Oh yes, as I say, that was, that was, that was one that would come up quite often, mm [pause]. Hell [?], mm.
TO: Sorry, you still okay for me to ask questions?
WM: What?
TO: Are you okay for me to ask questions?
WM: Yes, yes.
TO: ‘Cause just let me know if you want to stop.
WM: No, no.
TO: Okay. And what did you think of the German aircraft of the war?
WM: Oh very good, excellent, yeah, excellent yeah. As a matter, as a matter, as a matter of fact, at the end of the war there was one, one German one, you know? And I thought, I thought at first it was a shooting star, you know? And it wasn’t, it was a jet, and it flew past me just as if it was a shooting star and when I went back to report on this, and they said ‘ah, it probably was a shooting star you saw.’ I said ‘no, no, no, no, this is an aeroplane.’ That was one of the areas [?] ones that we’d seen [?] and spotted, yeah, ‘cause, you know, you got debriefed after every, every trip.
TO: Was there any ever occasions where you had to turn back from the target because of bad weather?
WM: No, I was, we were alright. No, we didn’t, we never, we never turned back. Ground crew were every bit as good as our aircrew.
TO: Mm.
WM: They kept our aircraft in excellent [emphasis] condition. We never had any [emphasis] complaints about our ground crew, mm.
TO: And you explain to me how the briefings worked for the missions?
WM: Right, well what, what happened was that when, when you landed, when you landed you’re taken from the aircraft back into wing on, it was trucks, we used to call them crew trucks. So in other words you didn’t split up, you’re taken in, in a crew truck, and there you’re integrated and say how the trip went. And of course you had your version of what went on and then of course your cameras that you had in your aircraft also their versions, and we always seemed to marry, marry up on tours exactly the same, no. But we had a, we had an excellent [emphasis] crew. We had two New Zealanders, two Scotsmen, two Englishmen and one Londoner [laughs].
TO: And what about the briefings that you had before [emphasis] you went on a mission?
WM: Well the briefing was, what happened, they assembled. Now first of all they had an all-in briefing where the, every member of the aircrew was there, and then after that was, that briefing was done and that was more or less told you where you were going and et cetera, et cetera, and you split off into different sections. The gunners was going to see about their guns and talk to their gunnery officers and the flight engineers, they went to see the air officers. The air observers and navigators would go in together and the pilots and the, and the observers were together, you know? That’s, that’s how it went ‘cause you know, we, we had to make sure we were exactly correct at all times between the pilots and observer, the pilot and the navigator, mm.
TO: And when you, were you sitting in the cockpit during the mission?
WM: Yeah.
TO: Could you, could you actually see anything below you during the mission?
WM: From time to time you could, yes, mm. From time to time you could, yes, mm.
TO: And what sort of things could you see?
WM: Well it all depends. The more water about the place the better it was, better reflections and things like that.
TO: And could you see what the Pathfinders had left?
WM: Oh yes, it all depends – well that was to be able to recognise, make sure that you had taken the right targets.
TO: Mhm.
WM: Because the Germans were, were quite sophisticated because they could try to imitate your Pathfinder’s TIs, what they put down, no.
TO: And were you involved in raids to other cities like Hamburg?
WM: Oh yes, mm.
TO: And what do you remember from those missions?
WM: Well a lot of them, well the big, the big one in Hamburg was a big fire raiser. But that happened to be that the wind conditions, everything was just right or wrong [emphasis] as regards which way you’re looking at it. As far as we concerned that was right, as far as the Germans were concerned, it was a big disaster because at that time a lot of the buildings in Hamburg were wooden, mm.
TO: And were you surprised when you heard how successful the raid had been?
WM: Not surprised, ‘cause that’s what we went for. Most successful it was, well, the better the raid was, mm.
TO: And was, were you involved in the raid on Dresden?
WM: No I wasn’t, but we were on standby, but I wasn’t involved in that one, no.
TO: Mhm.
WM: The, some, some people on the 90 Squadron were, ‘cause at Tuddenham 90 Squadron and 138 Squadron ran alongside each other, you know?
TO: Mhm.
WM: No.
TO: And when did you, when did you react, or how did you feel when Churchill announced that they would start bombing Germany?
WM: Start [emphasis] bombing?
TO: Yeah.
WM: Oh that was right at the beginning.
TO: Yes but how did you feel?
WM: That was [sigh], well put it this way, we had already had casualties our side, so it was just war, no. It was war, yeah.
TO: Mhm. And was your aircraft ever damaged by anti-aircraft flak?
WM: Oh we had, we had, but we had nothing really serious, mm. No, we had holes all over the place from time to time. Some very close to the occupants was [laughs] but –
TO: Mhm.
WM: No, we always managed to get back.
TO: And were you ever given, did you get new bombs as the war went on?
WM: Oh yes, yes. We, we dropped just about everything that was going, yes. Oh yes, no.
TO: Did you ever, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. Did you ever get any of the massive bombs that Barnes Wallis had developed?
WM: Well, there were different ones yes, yeah we did. We went on a couple of trips to Bordeaux and things like that, yes –
TO: Might be –
WM: But, I know for a fact that even Barnes Wallis’ bombs, and the big ones, big ones that were dropping there, the German’s fortification of the submarine pens was, was terrific. Now they even today you can have a walk through them and see what it’s like, oh yes. But there [emphasis] is what I say, is that the – sorry I, there’s what happens is what – the amount of German personnel that had to be employed because [emphasis] of the Bomber Command raids was tremendous, tremendous [emphasis]. It wasn’t just one or two round the village or something like that. The number of people they kept back within Germany itself was properly, oh it must have been millions.
TO: And what do you think was the most important battle of the war?
WM: Well it all depends what you mean battle. Do you mean aircrew or land or –
TO: Any, anything.
WM: Or the ships.
TO: Well most important campaign then.
WM: Well, they’re all different, all different. You know it all depends, you know, if you say that – well the thing that lead up to the retention and taking back over Europe, and that was D-Day.
TO: Mm. And were you involved in that?
WM: Oh yes, yes.
TO: Can you tell me about any of the missions you went on?
WM: What, what we were doing, we were, we were, we were on the mock, one of the mock raids further up the coast. And a lot of the stuff that we were dropping that night was, was like aluminium foil, and that was showing them, well came up on the radar where there was massive amount of aircraft flying around, you know? And [laughs] of course at the same time we carried a lot of bombs, but we tried as much as possible to use them away, away from where we’d be flying over, as if it was again going further afield in. But at that time what we were trying to do was trying to keep away from human habitation because that was, that was just something that we were asked to do, because keep it away from the towns and cities and northern France, mm.
TO: Mm. And on, in bombing missions in general, what kind of targets were you actually given at the briefings?
WM: Well it all depends, you know, because no two briefings were the same, no. Yeah, you had factory towns, all sorts of things that you’re going after. You know even, I wasn’t, as I say, I wasn’t in on Dresden but there is a book called “Dresden,” and if you want to know anything about Dresden, get hold of that book. Now, it’s about that thick, and it goes back into the old days of Saxony, and it goes all the way through from the different things all the way, right through, right up until modern times. But that explains exactly what happened in that city. It’s very [emphasis], very complicated. It’s, but it tells the whole story of Dresden, not just one side of the, it’s the whole story, mm.
TO: And, I’m sorry to ask this but did you suffer heavy losses on your missions?
WM: Oh, well, from time to time we had losses, but we never, we never had what we considered a heavy loss, mm.
TO: And what did you think of Arthur Harris?
WM: Oh, we supported him. He was, he was our, our chief. We looked up to [could be after] him, yeah, we did.
TO: And what do you think of his tactics and strategy?
WM: Well I thought they were alright, because if you go back, go back in time that was his instructions that he was getting from the Air Ministry. That, that what a lot of people forget about, was that he [emphasis] was getting told by the Air Ministry what they wanted [emphasis], and that came from the cabinet meetings.
TO: Mhm. And do you think Bomber Command was treated unfairly after the war?
WM: No [emphasis]. They were not treated fairly. It was completely unfairly. As far as I’m concerned, even, even it took, it took for recognition, it took over seventy years [emphasis]. Now, on my, my medal bar, I’ve got the ‘39-‘45 Star, but also I wear [tape beeps] a little brass mounting [?] which says ‘Bomber Command,’ you know? That took seventy years for them to give it to us. Have you seen it?
TO: I think I saw it briefly when I met you last Sunday.
WM: It was in the middle.
TO: Yeah [paper shuffles]. And could you ever see fires below you on the ground?
WM: Oh yes, oh yes, definitely.
TO: Mhm, were they large or small?
WM: All depends, all depends what area and what you were doing. Some time you knew, you knew, you know, you had raging fires. Sometimes, sometime, see it all depends what the target was.
TO: And do you remember seeing fires when Hamburg was bombed in 1943?
WM: Well that’s what I said to you, I said to you already that that was a big one, you know.
TO: Mhm.
WM: But that was – then again, you’ve got to read the story about Hamburg, because what happened was that all the conditions for a bombing raid was right. The wind and the target and the structures of the building and everything, it all came into it.
TO: Mhm. And what did you think of the thousand bomber raid on Cologne?
WM: Well that, that was one of the best adverts that Harris could have. I won’t tell you what the thousand bombers were because nobody knows, but what he did was he got all the aircraft that could fly and return from there and used that. You know, right down to, there were some of the Blenheims [emphasis] that were in there to make up a thousand bombers, you know? That was a big propaganda one. And not only that, you say something about Harris and doing that, but there again, all of these things came from the War Cabinet. You know, this is what people forget or don’t know, there’s War Cabinet and then you come down to the Air Ministry, and the Air Ministry would then passed it onto Harris. And Harris was, alright at times Harris was dogmatic about what we were doing, but you think of Dresden. The Russians were fighting like hell coming our way, and at the same time the amount of German troops and everything else that was passing through, through Dresden, and what was happening in Dresden, what they were actually manufacturing [emphasis] for the, for the German, erm –
TO: War effort?
WM: Well, the German war effort [emphasis] was terrific. There was everything from stuff for the U-boats and aircraft and everything like that, it was all over the place. And this is admitted in this book, this book is, is called “Dresden” and it tells you street by street what they were doing, mm.
TO: And do you remember hearing about the attack on the Ruhr damns?
WM: Oh yes. Oh we were also, we were also on standby for that mission. We were sat, you know – the idea was that if it didn’t work that night, we were going to go the next night. There was, there was another three squadrons ready to go the next night –
TO: And –
WM: But it actually came through.
TO: And did that improve morale a lot?
WM: Oh yes, definitely.
TO: This is going to be –
WM: Scampton, were the, were the, were the Dambusters squadron was, we were also stationed at Scampton for a while, mm.
TO: This is probably going to be an odd question, but what was your least favourite aircraft to fly in?
WM: A Bolingbroke.
TO: Mm.
WM: A Bolingbroke was the American Canadian version of a Blenheim. She was underpowered and if you lost one engine, you had trouble trying to make it back to your base. But in Canada, a lot of chaps were lost over the lakes in the wintertime when they lost one engine, they went down through the ice.
TO: Mm.
WM: But that was, that was my one, a Bolingbroke. But as I say, I flew them and we were alright.
TO: And what was your favourite aircraft?
WM: Well I started off, I had a love for the Wellington but of course, later on it was the, it was the Lancaster. But old Lizzy, she never let us down and Lizzy was the Lysander. But the other thing, there’s one that’s hardly ever mentioned and that was the Anson, and of course the, the amount trainees that was through on the Lysanders was amazing. Everybody praises the Lysander, the Anson, mm.
TO: Mm. We’re actually out of battery on the camera, so is it okay if we have a break while I charge it up?
WM: Yeah, yeah, sure [tape paused and restarted].
TO: Okay so, can you tell me a bit about how you came to be involved in Operation Manna?
WM: We, we were stationed at RAF Tuddenham and we, we’d actually been on ops and we were called forward to stay and we thought ‘oh, well it’s another op,’ and this was on a Sunday.
TO: Mhm.
WM: And we were told that we were going to have stuff loaded on and we were to drop it, but it wasn’t bombs. It was in our containers, the containers that we’d used for dropping the stuff into the, into the Maquis as well, when we used to drop stuff. And that, that was alright. And when we got in the air, of course we didn’t know the whole [emphasis] story but it’s like a very good friend of mine says, her grandmother told her to hide under the table because she thought this was a message [?] they were gonna come and do some bombing [emphasis] round about there. Instead of that of course we were dropping the food. Well that was, that was the plus the operation started, but I suppose you know the story about that, about the two Canadians who went – can I tell you that one? Well what happened was Operation Manna came about because there was two young Canadian officers who had permission to go over to the German lines and speak to the German commander if it was possible and advise them that they could arrange for, to have food dropped into Holland because all the people there were starving, and that included the German troops that was there. Anyway, after negotiations, they had managed to get to them and they managed through the negotiations, the fact that we would be flying in Lancasters [emphasis] and dropping the food and we would not be dropping bombs. And of course the Germans advised that their anti-aircraft guns wouldn’t be firing at us, but they forgot to tell a lot of people with a rifle that what was happening, so it wasn’t impossible for us to get a few pot shots aimed at us with people on the ground with rifle fire. But anyway, we landed, we didn’t land [emphasis] of course, we just went in and we dropped it and certain food dropped and that was it, but later on, on the second or third day, by that time they’d got a bit organised and we were dropping food into, into football grounds. And what had happened, they got the local people to put big white crosses on the football grounds and that’s where we had to drop into. And one of the, one of the trips we were doing was at, we were flying in, and this, all the Lancasters said ‘ooh, a sprog crew.’ And this came, become across us and we had to veer quickly and let him come in, and when we were dropping our stuff, one of them went outside and landed on the railway line. Anyway, I could see lots of people round about it ‘cause it was taking quite a while to get into it of course, but by this time they’d realised it was, it was food in it and not bombs. Anyway, many years later in Africa when we were reopening a new rugby field, and in the pavilion later on I was telling the story, and I said ‘yes, it was, we were dropping the food to Holland’ and there was one of these things, a fellow, and I said ‘it was just like a lot of little ants round a sugar lump.’ And all of a sudden, somebody put his hand on my shoulder and I looked round, there’s this big fellow, a youngster, must have been in his early twenties, and he said to me, ‘you nearly killed me.’ And I said, ‘what do you mean I nearly killed you, I’ve never seen you in my life before.’ He says, ‘I was the first of these little black ants to get there’ he says, ‘because I saw it falling outside and I rushed to it, and all the other people came and dived on top of me’ [laughs]. So you see, it’s a small world there. But also I’ve got, I’ve got a large number of friends in this area, Dutch people, who actually received the food and they also still have services where, where they bless Manna, and there’s one particular family who come here into our court here, our Debbie’s [?] court and one, one Wednesday a month, and she was five years old when we dropped our first lot of food, and she’s always been thankful, thankful all the time, and she does tell people that ‘oh, Mr Moore, Uncle Bill here, he saved my country from starvation’ [laughs]. So you see that that was a real pleasure to do that, and I was actually awarded the Dutch Medal on that one, and very earnestly I consider that one of the finest medals and for the finest properties [?] that I received during the war.
TO: So would you say that’s the mission you’re most proud of?
WM: Yes.
TO: And when you first learned about Operation Manna, were you surprised that you’d be dropping food and not bombs?
WM: Oh yes, no, no.
TO: And could you, what do you remember most about Operation Manna?
WM: Well, the amount of aircraft. Well after, after the first Sunday, after the first Sunday it was well organised, ‘cause the first Sunday and Monday it was a trial run to see what happened really, but after that we, we had several squadrons that was dropping the food, and of course even, even some of the Americans were dropping food as well. But there were dropping food further afield than what we were, you know.
TO: And –
WM: At the beginning the war was still, the fighting was go on. It wasn’t, you know, it carried on afterwards but the first, the first few days of it that was still when the war was going on, you know.
TO: And what about, could you see if any Dutch civilians on the ground were waving British flags?
WM: Oh yes, well you could see them waving [emphasis]. You’re not always sure what they were waving but they were waving and clothes and waving anything at all when I realised on the second wave what we were doing, ‘cause it wasn’t, wasn’t bombs we were dropping.
TO: Mm. Well Bernie, the veteran, other Manna veteran whose number I gave you, he told me that flying so low he could see a Dutch boy waving a Union Jack.
WM: Yeah well, he must, he must have been very lucky to have – ‘cause it maybe that someone dropped the Union flag –
TO: Mhm.
WM: And then he got it, but not a Union Jack [emphasis].
TO: Mhm.
WM: It’s a Union flag. Do you know the difference?
TO: No, please explain.
WM: Well the Union Jack [emphasis] is flown in the brow of a ship –
TO: Mhm.
WM: The Union Jack is the one that’s – Union flag [emphasis] is the one that’s flown everywhere else.
TO: Oh right, I didn’t know that. Thank you.
WM: Mm, the Union Jack is the small staff in the front of a ship.
TO: Mhm [pause]. What kind of, when you were sat in the cockpit, what kind of equipment did you have in front of you?
WM: I know, I know that this is [?] navigational equipment that we could use. We had, we had G, we had Oboe, we had all sorts of different ones, yeah, mm.
TO: And how did G work?
WM: Well G was, G was in two, two, two beams, and where these two beams crossed, that’s where you were. It’s as simple as that.
TO: And did that improve navigation?
WM: Oh yes, yeah, mm. Well the H2S was a different story entirely. The H2S was you were beaming down and the more [?] water that was around the clearer the river [?] became, but your only trouble about that was the German fighters used to vector onto the, what we were, we were projecting. Sometimes that could become a hazard.
TO: And how many occasions do you think you deployed Window?
WM: Oh quite a number, even, even when we were doing training operations we were dropping Window, which we never counted, it didn’t count as operations as such. But we, we were dropping Window many a time, yeah, during training flights, mm.
TO: And when bombs were dropped from an aircraft, did the plane become noticeably lighter?
WM: Oh it came, you rose, you rose slightly yes, mm. All depends on how much, how much stuff you’re actually carrying or dropping.
TO: And could you please explain what the procedure would be for, in terms of what the crew would do, each crew member would do and say when you got over the target?
WM: Well each person had their own to do. The pilot, he was taking instructions from whoever was doing the, the lead onto the target. Sometimes we did that with myself, quite a number of times of course, and sometimes, sometimes it was the wireless operator, sometimes it was another, we had a radar operator as well, they used to use that over the targets ‘cause as I say, we were, we were still on special duties. Of course your gunners were always on the left and as I say, engineer, he had to be very careful then making sure everything was alright on his side, yeah. But everybody was active.
TO: Mhm. And were there ever any times on a mission when you could more or less relax?
WM: No [emphasis]. If you relaxed you, it was wrong. There’s many, many a time, many a time – what happened with us was that, and I’ve said this before, we never really relaxed until we were home. Can we give that a break for a minute? I’ll show you something.
TO: Yes, certainly [tape beeps]. Mhm. And did you or anyone else in the crew have a special name for your own aircraft?
WM: Yes, well we, we called our one after the Loch Ness Monster, that was it, yeah, mm [laughs]. It was, it was a favourite of ours you know, especially with two Scottish men was there [?] and we adopted, we adopted the rest of them, you know? Mm.
TO: [Paper turns] and when you were on missions, could you, or rather night missions, were there other British planes flying near you?
WM: All depends, all depends on what type of mission you were on.
TO: Mhm.
WM: Now, if you’re in the stream, well – at the beginning the squadron took off but you had a rendezvous point. A lot of rendezvous points were like Beachy Head, you know, and they used to assemble in that area and then they took off. And of course the thing about that was that the Germans also knew we were assembling at different places, and they could actually send out their night fighters if, if they did, you know? But there was, there were umpteen different places and they couldn’t, they couldn’t get to them all [emphasis] because often there was more than one raid on one night, on the same night. And that was deviations to keep away from maybe the real big one of that occasion, you know.
TO: And how many times a week would you go on a mission?
WM: Well sometimes it was night after night, three nights in one week [emphasis]. Sometimes according to the weather, it might be about eight days, maybe a week.
TO: Mhm.
WM: The weather had a lot to do with it you know?
TO: And were you ever escorted by fighters?
WM: We, well we, we were escorted ‘cause we did quite a few daytime raids, yes, we were. But we, we were quite, we were quite happy with that, mm. ‘Cause we used to see them, we used to see them on the verges of the, of the streams, you know, mm.
TO: And do you remember what kind of fighters they were?
WM: Well the ones that we saw was Mustangs, mm. All depends on how far in you were going. If you were going a long way in that was, that was a Mustang. Sometimes, sometimes it was a Hurricane, sometimes it was a Spitfire, mm. But they were only used as short flights, mm, whereas a Mustang was built for long range, mm.
TO: And was it cold aboard the planes?
WM: Oh it was never pleasant [laughs]. At one time everyone used to have a different [?] suit. It was like a fur jacket and things like that. But once we got onto the heavies they took all that stuff away from us, saying we didn’t need it. Well that was alright for these [emphasis] people, they weren’t flying [laughs], mm.
TO: And did you ever carry food with you aboard the plane?
WM: Ever carry?
TO: Food with you?
WM: No, all I carried, used to carry was five, five barley sugars, sweets.
TO: And what sort of entertainment did you have back at the airfields?
WM: Well all depends on what the, if it was, if it was one of the pre war stations there was generally a building that was used for dances and things like that, and concerts. If it was the war time ones then sometimes all you did was make sure there, there was an empty hangar and you had something in there. But, you know, that was how it was done, no. But that, that, that was the main thing of entertainment, you know, ‘cause the picture shows and things like that within the camp always started off as I say with propaganda [laughs], mm.
TO: When you saw those propaganda things, did you ever wonder whether they were being truthful?
WM: Well, the things we used to say ‘woah, woah, woah, woah’ [emphasis] and things like that, you know, the British sense of humour, you know, mm. And that’s a fact, mm.
TO: And were there any particularly popular songs?
WM: Oh yes there was all the, all the, I’ve got, I’ve still got all the tapes here of all the popular songs, mm, oh yes, I have all them, yeah. All of the artists at that time, yeah, and these artists I have, I have run [?] many a concert here and had the same ones come performing for me.
TO: And was there anyone that you knew of who refused to go on bombing missions?
WM: I never met anybody who refused to go on a mission, but I always remember there was two people who graduated and got their wings and then they, then they refused to go on ops. But that’s the nearest I ever came to it. But they never did any ops, they never were in, they weren’t even on a bombing station. And I’m sorry to say that we heard later on that they’d transferred to the Pioneer Corps and both of them got killed [pause].
TO: You mentioned that there was a raid where you had to attack a German warship in Kiel.
WM: That’s right.
TO: Do you remember its name?
WM: Not off hand, no.
TO: Would it be the Hipper?
WM: Oh it’s quite possible, it’s quite possible it was, yeah. I’ve got the date there, I told you the dates of it the other –
TO: Mhm.
WM: Yeah.
TO: I think I remember, I remember the sinking of the Hipper though because it was sunk on the 9th of April which coincidently is my birthday.
WM: Oh [emphasis].
TO: So –
WM: Oh [emphasis], 9th of April?
TO: I think I kind of have a selfish reason for remembering that if you see what I mean. Or maybe it was the Cher [WM laughs], I’m not sure. I do know though that –
WM: No, no, no. 9th of April [pause], 13th, 13th of April.
TO: What does it say was the target, or –
WM: That was in Kiel, mm, yeah. That was the 13 of April.
TO: Mhm.
WM: That’s what that was, that was the target.
TO: Mhm.
WM: That was the one that I told you that we, that we we bombed it that night and knocked it down and we had to go back again and make sure, one of [?] the chaps said ‘are you sure you don’t want us to put it back up again?’ [TO laughs]. ‘Cause you’d obviously got somebody –
TO: Mhm.
WM: Who [laughs] would give you an answer for something [laughs], mm.
TO: And were there ever any occasions were you could, where you ever flew over neutral territory and could see the cities all illuminated?
WM: There was one night we were, we were coming back from a trip, and the next thing I saw was these lights, and I thought ‘well what the hell is going on?’ And what had happened was that the [laughs], we were almost sent to Dublin, and what that was, was that the wind speed was ferocious and what we thought we’d found out was that we were nothing near [emphasis], we were nothing near the wind speed, what the actual wind speed was, and of course as soon as we saw that we turned round and we were on the way back.
TO: Mm.
WM: But that was the nearest I’ve been to being on neutral territory, you know.
TO: Mm.
WM: From that point of view, mm.
TO: Mm, and were there ever any occasions where you were accidently fired at by allied anti-aircraft guns?
WM: Well, what we, what we had was that we had the Junkers 52-53 aircraft, and we used to do special missions on that and we used to fly low [emphasis]. And what had happened was that that one had been liberated in the desert and we were using it on special duties, but there was no esigners [?], painted black, and going out was fine. Coming back [emphasis], it wasn’t until we got into our own territory that we used to get a few pot-shots at us, you know? Probably because [laughs] we were flying without the proper identification and things like that, that’s why we get into trouble. But we never actually, never actually had anything serious happen to us.
TO: Mhm.
WM: But that was under secret risk [?].
TO: Mhm. So was it, so you were trying to use, you were using German aircraft for the missions over France?
WM: Yeah.
TO: For the SOE.
WM: Yeah, SOE, yeah.
TO: So it wasn’t always Lysanders then?
WM: No we, we used many, you know, the Lysander was for the agents.
TO: Mhm.
WM: But as I said before we used to use other aircraft for taking other stuff in, for Maquis and things like that, you know.
TO: Mhm.
WM: Oh yes, mm.
TO: And did you ever meet any senior commanders during the war?
WM: Well every now and again you had a parade where we didn’t actually, we didn’t actually get to meet [emphasis] them as such. Not like, not like last Sunday, no.
TO: Mm. And were some missions much more dangerous than others or were they more or less the same?
WM: Well, what we used to do, we used to classify every mission as dangerous, because if you didn’t and you dropped your guard, that’s when you would have been in trouble. I don’t say they weren’t, but we never loaded [?] to be.
TO: And were there ever any times where you, where your missions were just taking photographs of areas?
WM: Oh yes, we had that [emphasis] from time to time, yes, mm.
TO: Could you tell me about any of those?
WM: Well they were, they were done by 138 Squadron and that was, you know, the idea behind that was sometimes it was targets, that they had been bombed, and sometimes they might have been targets that we flew past. We passed them as if we were going somewhere else and we might have been taking them then. But we got a lot of practice in that, because that’s another story I can give you, mm.
TO: And did you hear how other events of the war were going?
WM: Oh yes, we were kept up to date, we were kept up to date. As I say, between the news reels and bulletins, you were kept up to date, mm.
TO: Were you ever worried that Germany might win?
WM: Well, we, I would never say that, that I was frightened of them winning [?][emphasis], but we always worried every now and again where it might have been something that was going the wrong way, but not, not for an all out win no. No, no, no.
TO: And what was the most feared German night fighter?
WM: The Junkers-88, ‘cause she’d a cannon on her, and she, she actually fitted onto her guns that would fly, fire upwards and try and get under the bellies of the Lancasters. And that’s where we lost quite a number of Lancasters, firing guns from the, from the JU28, JU88s, yeah, mhm [pause].
TO: And did you ever feel any animosity towards Germany?
WM: Well, that’s a difficult one because, you know, there was people who lost friends, relations and all the rest of it. Some of them got quite bitter but on the whole people just took it as war.
TO: And how do you feel today?
WM: Ah, what I can say is that I have been involved in promoting rugby, football all over Europe and all over Africa, that’s my answer to that.
TO: And how do you feel today about your wartime service?
WM: It was something – when I had to something and that’s what I did, mm.
TO: And do you think the war was worth the price?
WM: I think yes. I think yes, because that’s another story I can tell you, that you haven’t asked me about.
TO: Yes, tell me, yeah.
WM: Well after, after the war finished, we still had special duties to do, and one of the first was to bring, bring back prisoners of war which were British, well there was all sorts involved but most of the ones we brought back were British, and a lot of the stories that they related to me including two of my uncles who were prisoners of war since 1940. Some of the stories they had to say was horrific. Anyway, when we finished that job bringing back the prisoners of war, we, we then went onto ferrying people from parts of Germany down into a place called Eastridge [?] in France and we had camps there where we took the refugees into, and a lot of these people thought that we were going to lock them up, same as they’d been before. But it was trying to tell them that it was to help them and that the, the camp was just secured so that the local people wouldn’t be coming in to try and get what they were getting, ‘cause this was to try and build them up again, you know. But then of course after that, the next big thing after that, we, we were put on photograph and the whole of Europe. We started off with photographing the likes of London from about two thousand feet, and then towns like [unclear] Woking here, from about four thousand feet and then the countryside was from, anything from ten to twenty thousand feet. We did that for the whole of Europe, mm. And that was 138, 138 Squadron again, because what we did, we’d started doing it at Tuddenham and then when they realised that we were quite successful, they transferred us over to RAF Benson and we did that over at Benson. And then of course we, we had several substations, substations in Norway, substations in France, we had substations around the country here at different places where we would load [?] to land and fuel up, and we had special signal recognition that we could, we could use and that went on for quite some, quite some time, ‘cause that photographing Europe was one of Churchill’s ideas that he left behind after he was out of office.
TO: And during those photography missions, could you see the damage from the bombing?
WM: Oh yes that was the idea, mm. Anyway you done it at two thousand feet you could see right down, no [unclear] of course, mhm, mm. That’s where we, well that’s where we started [emphasis] photographing, mm, but it was the while, the whole area was done, mm.
TO: Are there any other missions of the war that stand out a lot to you which you’d like to tell me about?
WM: Personal ones?
TO: Well any, any ones you were on from, that were missions that, but only if you’re willing to talk about, don’t if you –
WM: No.
TO: If you don’t want to talk about it it’s fine.
WM: No, as I say in general, in general we, we carried out what we had to do, and as I say, 138 Squadron of special duties, we were doing all sorts of things and there’s lots of things that, that we still should not talk about, because we are sworn to secrecy about them, because that was in conjecture [?] with SOE, ‘cause there was lots of people who maybe still, maybe not in favour of some of these operations.
TO: Mhm. What about some of the other bombing missions? Are there any others that you’d like, any others that stand out that you’d like to tell me about?
WM: You know, you know, the big, a big, a big thing was that there was missions we knew [emphasis] –about and there was other missions that people were on that we got to know about and [tape beeps] I can assure you that once the reason, these missions – people said ‘oh that could have been us,’ you know? ‘Cause even the Dambusters, ones we were a back up squadron for that. It wasn’t a method, it wasn’t just a method of a few fellows doing that, there was back up squadrons as well.
TO: And when did you hear about the Holocaust?
WM: Well that, that’s hard to say because we, we, we got, we got to know in bits and pieces. As I say, I started to learn a lot of that from our own prisoners of war that we were bringing home, and then of course we found out from other people who, who had been there in the camps. And, course the big thing about it was you didn’t realise just how widespread it was. I don’t think anybody did at that particular time. I know there was some friends of mine who visited Belson and visited the other ones in person and as I say, they were horrified how the treatment that people was getting. But that’s a different category all together you know, that was someone away from, away from a normal war. That was, that wasn’t the same.
TO: Were there ever any times when you were tasked with dropping leaflets?
WM: Oh yes we had that from time to time, mm, we had that, mm. We were never sure whether the leaflets were doing any good or not.
TO: Arthur Harris said after the war that never engaged in those leaflet dropping exercises because it only accomplished two things. One, it gave the German defenders practice in getting ready for the real thing and two, it supplied a substantial quantity of toilet paper for –
WM: That’s right.
TO: The Germans.
WM: That’s more or less correct, yes, mm.
TO: Mm [page turns]. Did you ever wish you’d been in something other than the Royal Air Force?
WM: I had been in the Guyun [?] Southern Highlanders –
TO: Mhm.
WM: But not, not an active service, no. But I never, never felt as if I should have been there, no.
TO: And did you ever wish that you hadn’t been an observer or a navigator? Did you ever wish that you’d been a different position on board the aircraft?
WM: Well we did, on aircrew we went around the different jobs in case anything happened to one of us up there. We actually flew in different positions [emphasis] from time to time [emphasis].
TO: So did you ever fly the Lancaster yourself?
WM: Oh yes, yes. Oh yes.
TO: But the pilot would always do the takeoff and landing?
WM: Well that was the idea, although we had to do, I had to be able to land the aircraft.
TO: Mhm. So would you consider yourself a flight engineer as well as an observer?
WM: No, observer, my observer, my observer – I covered all these courses –
TO: Mhm.
WM: As an observer, mm. The flight engineer came into his own with the four engine bombers, mm.
TO: And you mentioned you were on Wellingtons for a while.
WM: Mm.
TO: Were they generally reliable?
WM: Oh course [emphasis]. They were the most reliable bomber that we had.
TO: And did you hear about the, how the early bombing of the war was progressing?
WM: Well the thing is, everybody hoped that it was for the best because there’s everything else. There’s, the accuracy improved. Obviously the saturation bombing was started by the Germans. They started saturation bombing. Our people tried to go for individual targets and alright, after that there was [emphasis] saturation bombing, you know.
TO: And were your airfields ever attacked by German fighters?
WM: Not to my knowledge no.
TO: Mm. And I’m sorry to ask this, but were any of your friends killed during the war?
WM: Yes. A lot of school friends, school friends and friends from the Boys Brigade, oh yes, mm. School friends were the younger ones but the older friends were the ones I’d made through the Boys Brigade, and they were, most of them was on aircrew [emphasis], different categories.
TO: How, how was morale in Bomber Command throughout the war would you say?
WM: Good, it was good. It was excellent.
TO: And why do you think it stayed so high despite the losses?
WM: It was the camaraderie of sticking together, yeah, oh yes, mm. We were all volunteers, and we’re still volunteers [laughs].
TO: And you know after Dunkirk, was there a general fear of invasion?
WM: Not fear [emphasis] of invasion. There was, what did I say, there was – people didn’t think it was imminent but [phone rings] it could happen, you know? Hello?
Caller on the phone: Hello.
WM: Hello dear.
Caller on the phone: How are you?
WM: I’m very, very [tape beeps].
TO: And what did you think of the atomic bombs that were used against Japan?
WM: Well the big thing about that is that it could have happened to us, because as we know from hindsight, that the Germans had been working on that, and that could have been us. And of course, if the development of the V2s had come, could have come, come all the way across the Atlantic into America [emphasis]. As far as I’m concerned it’s, it’s one of these weapons that it could, it could obliterate mankind if it went on too long. And of course we noticed what happened with the aftermath of these things, but our war was nothing compared with that. I also, also think that if it hadn’t been for the, for the ones dropped in Japan that millions of troops would have been massacred, and it doesn’t say how far on everything else would have went if they hadn’t been dropped because that may have gone on for years and years and years, so it may have been at the time was a good thing.
TO: And, just going back to the crew that you were good friends with –
WM: Mm.
TO: Did, did they talk much about their lives before they joined the Air Force?
WM: Yeah, we all had that, but yeah. The pilot, pilot was a sheep farmer in New Zealand, our radar [?] man was an accountant in New Zealand, our wireless operator, his father had a joinery business across in Lanes [?] Bay, across the water from where I come from. The, the rear gunner was an, a surveyor for the [unclear] down the water here and the mid upper gunner his, his family had got a hotel in Canterbury in Kent, and that’s quite strange was that I got married on a Friday night in Scotland, and we had another party in the Fleur-de-Lis Hotel in Canterbury on the Wednesday following, because the crew was all going home to New Zealand and places like that. But no, we did, and as I say, Jimmy Dagg, his great-grandson is playing rugby as Israel Dagg for the All Blacks, [unclear] rugby, mm.
TO: And did you ever actually, I know you could see them from the sky, but after the war did you ever go through any of the cities like Berlin or?
WM: No I didn’t. All I did was flew, flew over them you know, mm.
TO: Mhm. And what’s your opinion on Britain’s involvement in recent wars like Afghanistan?
WM: Well there, there again the – that’s an entirely different thing. It all depends how far back you get. It’s always been said that, that nobody ever wins a war in Afghanistan, ‘cause even going back to even before Christ [emphasis] there’s been, been wars and people trying to take over and trying to settle Afghanistan region. But some, some of the other, some of the other wars that goes on, you just wonder why, no, because – on the other hand you don’t really get down to it, you know. The likes of Korea was quite a war, and also the McArthur at the time, he was right up to the Chinese border and he was, he wasn’t defeated or anything but the American government told him to come back, and of course that was reintruded when the, when the two states were formed, Northern and South of Korea. Now, if you talk about Sing, Malaysia. Now in Malaysia there was thousands of troops and everything in there, and where I was from in Africa, there was African regiments in there from, from Rhodesia, from Kenya, from Tanganyika. They were called the King’s African Rifles and they Rhodesians, the Rhodesian regiment, they were all involved in there, no. And then of course you got these other skirmishes up, was up in Europe and there again, they all seemed to arise from either petty politics or religions. If you, if you go into some of these other ones where there’s still fighting today, and you turn around and you say to Syria, but what is it? It’s one against one, it’s a civil war. That’s really what it is, but why can’t they get together on it? You know, there was a civil war in Spain pre-1938. Now that was a vicious war as well, but 1938, thirty-nine it came to a close and a person who took over Franco and the nation was brought together again. Before Franco died, he brought back the king and that was, that was brought back and that settled both people, both lots of the people in Spain. Now you see all these other ones that’s gone on, skirmishes and even in the South American countries, that’s all about drugs, that’s not really about people, it’s about drugs and things like that which is entirely [emphasis] different thing entirely [emphasis]. Now holy wars as I call them can never be settled, ‘cause one, one against the other they will never, never change [emphasis]. What happens with these things is they just goes on and on and on, and that, and that’s been going on for centuries, or one country wants to take over the other one and it’s through, it’s though their, their type of religions it happens, which is wrong.
TO: And one of my last questions now, what’s your best memory of your time in the war?
WM: When I met my wife [both laugh]. I came, I came back from a raid, a raid on Bordeaux and I was given three days leave. Instead of that I got it made up to ten days and I, I went home and I got a lift in fish truck. I was never sure if it was real fish or scrap fish for [laughs] for to go for manures or something like that. But anyway, I got there and the first thing my mother did was put all my clothes in the boiler and she’d have put me into the boiler if I hadn’t got into the bath. Anyway, that night I, I went along to the local dance, the big pavilion, the big high balcony and all the people up there spectating, and I was dancing with this young lady, and my friend wanted to dance with her. ‘Come on, come on, this is my one, you go and pinch your own lady,’ you know, ‘your own girl,’ you know? Anyway, what I didn’t know was that her mother and father, two sisters and sister-in-law and some kids were all up on the balcony, and every time I danced, being in the Air Force they were shouting ‘hooray,’ because their son Walter was in the Air Force in India, and my friend Vann Muir [?] was in the Navy, so I was winning according to them, and I did [laughs]. That was my happiest [emphasis] that was my happiest [emphasis] occasion in the whole war, mm.
TO: Mhm. Well that’s all of my questions –
WM: Alright.
TO: Do you have anything at all that you want to add?
WM: No, it’s just [unclear] want to say this, I’ve had another two of these interviews, there might be a little discrepancies or differences but –
TO: That’s fine.
WM: It’s all going from in here you know.
TO: That’s fine, your memory’s been great –
WM: Oh.
TO: And I’ve really enjoyed what you’ve told me.
WM: Oh, no.
TO: So thank you so much for telling me.
WM: Oh okay, thank you, welcome, thank you very much.
TO: Thank you so much for your wartime service as well.
WM: I must see you from time to time somewhere –
TO: Yeah.
WM: Along the line. You come to some of these gatherings from the Royal Air Force, I’ll be there.
TO: Mhm, thank you.
WM: Yeah.
TO: It would be great to see you.
WM: Thank you very much indeed.
TO: Thank you.
WM: Anyway –



Tom Ozel, “Interview with Bill Moore. Three,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 23, 2024,

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