Interview with Rupert Noye


Interview with Rupert Noye


Rupert Noye completed two tours of operations as a rear gunner with 166 and 156 Squadrons.







00:12:40 audio recording


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RN: My name is Rupert Noye. I was born in February 1923. When the war started I was, er, sixteen and in 1940, when Churchill formed the LDV, I volunteered for that. We were renamed later Home Guard and it came in useful when I eventually went into the Air Force because we had learned a lot of rifle drill, marching, things like that. And in, after just a few days after my eighteenth birthday I volunteered for the Air Force as a wireless operator air gunner. I was accepted in April ‘41 but then put on deferred service and eventually called up in September ‘41 and, er, went to Blackpool on a s— a radio course, failed it miserably and re-mustered to air gunner. We were posted to Hendon then and at Hendon for about six months and then I was posted onto Scotland to take the gunnery course. After gunnery course we did OTU on Whitleys at Abingdon. When that course was finished we were posted to St [unclear] attached to Coastal Command, where we were doing sweeps over the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay, and one day we did actually see a submarine and attacked it but we never knew of any definite result. After that we were posted on to Wellingtons, went to Harwell to convert from Whitleys, and we were then to posted 166 Squadron at Kirmington and our pilot disappeared one day and we had another pilot, an Australian, starting his second tour. He was very, very good and, er, we finished our first tour at Kirmington when they converted to Lancasters in September ‘43 and I was posted to Operational Training Unit as an instructor. I was recalled in April ’44 to 12 Squadron at Wickenby to replace a rear gunner who had been injured and they, the crew, had already volunteered to join the Pathfinder Force so I went along with them. We went to Upwood and started operating with Pathfinder Force. You had to do so many marker trips before you got your Pathfinder badge and, er, but due to an incident of — we, the crew was broken up. I stayed at Upwood as a spare gunner and during that time I flew with quite a few different pilots and eventually finished up, er, in about September ‘44 with, er, Tony Hiscock. He was what we called a blind marker. He bombed on radar or dropped the flares on radar and we did quite a few, well we did about nineteen trips together, and the last one was over Hamburg, a big daylight raid just before the end of the — 31st March actually, 1945. After that we were all made redundant, went to various stations and different jobs and I volunteered to stay in the Air Force for another three years and eventually was posted back to Upwood on 148 squadron, again on Lancasters, and I stayed there until I was demobbed in 1949. That’s about it. I was very lucky during my time in Bomber Command. I did three tours of ops and was only once was attacked by a fighter. That was on the 5th of January 1945. We were coming back from Hanover and I saw [bell rings] a fighter, a single engine fighter, approaching from starboard side. I told the skipper and he started to corkscrew but the aircraft did fire at us and we were damaged in the tailplane and the wing. The damage to the wing disabled my turret completely because of the hydraulics were damaged and the — but there was no real serious damage. We got back to base quite happily but we did lose about three hundred-odd gallons of petrol. Then in March ‘45 I was again rather lucky and I was awarded the DFC and Tony Hiscock, the pilot I flew with, he was awarded a bar to his and, er, he was a very good pilot and we got on very well together as a crew, which was one of the biggest things you needed, to be a happy crew. I think that’s about enough. When you flew with Bomber Command you were in a crew and the crew — you were trained as crew and you got, generally speaking, you got on very well together and at times, er, when me as a rear gunner would have given instructions to the pilot, having seen possibly an enemy aircraft, instruct the pilot to dive or corkscrew and he would do that without any hesitatation, although I must say we were — that I was lucky in my time that we didn’t have many times when that was necessary but the crew, the crewing up system was a bit haphazard. When you reported to OTU you were all at one time, a varying number of pilots, wireless operators, navigators, bomb aimers and gunners were put in a big hangar or big room and told to crew up, which seemed very haphazard, but the system seemed to work. Later on, if you went on heavies as a crew, you went to a Heavy, Heavy Conversion Unit and got a mid-upper gunner and a flight engineer and, er, I never had that because as I joined from a place of rest to a place as a rear gunner. I think that’s about it. We got up to about to, er, on our training and we went into these Defiants and the — firstly you couldn’t, not allowed to work the turret until the pilot says so, and so he said, ‘OK.’ So, I turned the turret round and you have to raise the guns first, turn round and looked at the tailplane and there’s this little tiny tailplane behind you and you think, ‘That’s all that’s holding us up.’ [slight laugh] But it wasn’t, we had wings built the right way round and a good engine [slight laugh] but it was funny really because I mean that was the first time the vast majority of us had ever flown when we were on training because, I mean, you didn’t fly much in those days unless you paid five bob ride with Jack Cobham when he came round to a local airfield and you could go and have a short trip for five bob or seven and six or something. Alan Cobham that was. He started off doing refuelling in mid-air didn’t he, er, down in Dorset? But funny ‘cause when we were at Blackpool we went to the Pleasure Gardens there had they had what they used to call in those days the scenic railway and got on this thing and then down in almost vertical swoops and up the other side. And I think that was designed to put you off flying. [laugh]
MJ: Did it?
RN: It didn’t. No, Not really. Not when you got on a bit on bigger aircraft with the rest of the crew, you were alight, you were quite happy because you couldn’t do much with a Whitley [slight laugh]. It was quite good fun.
MJ: People don’t realise it was good fun.
RN: Well, it was as you steadily, as you, after you crewed up and got steadily got to know a bit more about the rest of the crew because, er, that pilot we lost when we got on the squadron because I think he went LMF. And — but he was married and had a young daughter. He was a Welshman and later on the wireless operator went LMF. There must have been something wrong with us because the navigator and the bomb aimer and myself finished the tour eventually on, on Wellingtons. But we had a nice picture of the Queen, didn’t we, for our 60th wedding anniversary? And I must get a frame for that. Put it up. But it’s a nice picture.
MJ: That’s the point. It’s — that’s how it works. That’s how you remember things.
RN: On Pathfinders, um, they were all volunteers from various squadrons but we used to have talks on the squadrons from, er, Hamish Mahaddie who was one of Don Bennett’s leading men and he used to come round trying to talk people into joining PFF and, um, he must have been very successful because they were never short of volunteers.
MJ: Did — what sort of training did you have to do for that?
RN: Well, when we went to PFF you went to Warboys because Warboys was the Navigation Training Unit for Pathfinders and you went there and you did so much, about a week or ten days’ course there, training, mainly training for navigators and then you were sent to the squadron and did the ops and marking as the time came [background noises]. You didn’t mark straight away because you were, weren’t considered experienced enough or trained up to the, the standard that they wanted.
MJ: Did you have to go with another crew then?
RN: No, you had instructor pilots that went with you mainly but, of course, all the navigators’ logs were sort of checked by the navigation officers after you came back from every trip whether it was training or an actual operation. [background noises throughout sentence]
MJ: On behalf of the International Bomber Command I’d like to thank Rupert Noye DFC for his recording on the date of — I forget what it is now, 26th? 27th, ah —
RN: 31st is Saturday.
MJ: I’ve got — I’ll see this is on and stays on. 27th of October 2015. Once again, I thank you again and even though I got the date wrong. Thank you.



Mick Jeffery, “Interview with Rupert Noye,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 12, 2024,

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