Interview with Lawrence Penn


Interview with Lawrence Penn


Lawrence Penn grew up in Australia and worked as a bank clerk before he volunteered for the Air Force. He flew 40 operations as a pilot with 226 Squadron. After the war he had his own air taxi company and also flew for Qantas.




Temporal Coverage




01:48:11 audio recording


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JM: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Jean MaCartney, the interviewee is Lawrence or Lorrie Penn. The interview is taking place at Mr Penn’s home in Mosman, New South Wales, on the 22nd of June 2017. Also present is Mister Penn’s wife June. Ok, Lorrie, I’ve look at some details on your background and I see you were born in Cremorne.
LP: Yes, I do.
JM: And indeed as we were having a little chat to start with before we started the interview, you mentioned you were born in Cremorne,
LP: Cremorne, yes.
JM: In Murdock Street,
LP; In Murdock Street.
JM: In what street, yes, so that was obviously at home
LP: It was a proper hospital in those days but not now of course
JM: A proper hospital back then, was it? Right. No, ok, and that was in December 1922?
LP: That’s right. 27th, two days after Christmas, it was a dreadful time to be born.
JM: Indeed, indeed. And, did the family live round here so that you then went to school around here?
LP: Yes, I did at Cremorne initially then we, after about six years of age we went to Adelaide and then we went up to Cairns and then down to Coffs Harbour so I had, it was after I came back from Coffs Harbour that I had a couple of years at Trinity College and then went to Shore for three or four years,
JM: Right.
LP: And finished my education there.
JM: Finished at Shore, ok. In moving around, quite a bit of the countryside there in just what you’ve said, how did you find different parts of Australia? Do you have any particular memories that stand out for you in your early years of going around the countryside at all?
LP: Oh, I enjoyed it all, perhaps that’s where I gave them my interest in overseas, finding out what was going on overseas.
JM: And did you keep any friends at all down the track from those early years or?
LP: No, probably, as a country down from the other states but from Shore School lifelong.
JM: Right, yes.
LP: Just about, I outlasted them all I was [unclear]
JM: Yes, I guess that would be getting almost to the case now and so you did your intermediate at Shore.
LP: Yes, I did.
JM: And then
LP: And then left Shore and went into a bank as a bank clerk there until the war began.
JM: Right. Did you do leaving certificate as well?
LP: No, no.
JM: Just intermediate.
LP: Just intermediate.
JM: Intermediate, right, ok. And so you left, well before we go into your banking role, were you involved in sports or?
LP: Usual things.
JM: School.
LP: Yeah. Football and cricket. The main, think I did a bit of tennis.
JM: Bit of tennis, yeah. And around where were you living with you going to Shore were you sort of in this area or?
LP: Yeah, yes.
JM: Yes.
LP: Still Cremorne, Southern Street. Cremorne.
JM: Cremorne, ok. And so, did you then go to scouts or Air League or anything?
LP: In the school cadets, school cadets and after I left school I didn’t join, I just did tennis club after school.
JM: Tennis club, right, ok. And then into, let me think, so then you would have been probably started work being then in the Depression years.
LP: It’s been about 1938, ’37, ’38 when I left school and went straight into getting a job with the bank.
JM: Ah, yes, that’s true, that’s true, yes, so you were still at school in the Depression years potentially.
LP: I was in Coffs Harbour I think during [unclear].
JM: Coffs Harbour, right. Ok.
LP: My father was a theatre manager.
JM: Oh, ok, so.
LP: That’s why we went from state to state virtually and then when he retired, he finished up writing The picture show man, his experience because his father was also started off producing, not producing films, but showing films all around the rural areas up the North Coast there.
JM: Right, right.
LP: And my dad wrote a résumé of what happened to his youth and so forth and they made a movie out of it, they called The Picture Show Man.
JM: That’s right, that’s right, indeed. Uhm, so that would have been, picture shows would have been very much a discretionary expenditure so with the Depression that would have been quite a tough going for your father.
LP: It was tough going, yes. He was educated mainly in Tamworth there, in Tamworth, lovely town up the North Coast.
JM: Indeed. So, then when you, the family, your father retired, then is that when you came back to Sydney?
LP: Yes, well, Dad entered the army when the war started out, entered the army as a private and finished up as a Major, going through Lieutenant Colonel when he was finally discharged and Dad had a bit of trouble, just trouble and he had, he was medically discharged then.
JM: Ok. And, so then you went into the bank when you left school?
LP: Yes.
JM: And which bank was that?
LP: It was called the English Scottish and Australian Bank then,
JM: Yes.
LP: But it’s the ANZ now.
JM: ANZ, yes, the Esanda, wasn’t it its original name, the Esanda?
LP: That’s right.
JM: Yes.
LP: Yes.
JM: Yes, that’s right. Ok, so, you were, whereabouts were you based in the bank? Were you in the city or just?
LP: The first job was at the Spit Junction.
JM: Spit Junction?
LP: Yes [laughs] Very handy.
JM: Oh, ok, very handy, very handy.
LP: And then I went to the hill office after a year and a bit, to King George Street in the city of Sydney and did a little bit of relieving going to different banks when they were on holiday, the South was on holidays. I wasn’t very high up in the bank at all.
JM: Oh, you were only fairly young at this stage, I mean, Goodness gracious!
LP: [laughs] But, no, it is a dreadful thing to say but it was a fortunate thing for me was that the war started really because it made such a, I wouldn’t have met June.
JP: No. [laughs]
JM: Well, I think there are a lot of
LP: Because I met June in New York in, June was a child evacuee from England and she was only seventeen when I met her and I was nineteen and I just got my wings in Canada and we went to New York on leave
JM: On leave, yes.
LP: And met her there. Well, she met me really, because she picked me out a crowd of
JP: I was having lunch in this Hotel Edison and they asked me, the management, who would I like from that group of airmen over there, who could just come and have lunch with us. And I looked at all the faces and I picked Lorrie.
JM: Oh my Goodness gracious!
JP: He was invited over to have lunch with us
JM: Oh my goodness!
JP: We were both [unclear] management.
LP: We had only about a week to leave in New York. Then I went over across to England on the Queen Elizabeth then and of course won the war [?] over there but of course we didn’t have any correspondence between us for two years. It was just by accident that I met June when they, [unclear] girls were brought back to England after being evacuated.
JM: Right. We will come to a bit more detail about that shortly let’s just, you’ve got a little bit of to, we’ve got to go from your, when you were with the bank and then the war started and so then you enlisted, in September ’41, I see,
LP: That’s right.
JM: So, where, at Bradfield Park, I can see this, so that’s the normal enlisting place for most people there?
LP: Yes.
JM: So, and you did nearly three months at Bradfield Park.
LP: That’s right.
JM: But perhaps before I go a bit further, what made, was there any particular factor that caused you to actually go into the, choose the Air Force to enlist into or?
LP: I was always interested in flying. I remember Dad showed me a free joyride trip to an aircraft that was doing some pleasure flights around Manly and we went up there and that
JM: Sparked your interest.
LP: Sparked my interest.
JM: So that would have been what, do you remember how old you were when that was? Fifteen or so? Maybe earlier?
LP: It would have been earlier than that.
JM: Earlier than that?
LP: It would be about ten, I would say.
JM: Oh my goodness! So that didn’t prompt you to join the Air League at all?
LP: No, because I was still in Shore, at the Shore Grammar School and in the cadets, the cadets were mainly interested in the uniforms and these rifles, they would take their rifles home and all that sort of thing.
JM: And did you do any sort of like officer training in the cadets or?
LP: Yes, but I didn’t advance [unclear], no.
JM: You didn’t advance. Ok. And so, you had, so when came time to join up, then obviously Air Force was going to be the one that you were going to.
LP: Yes, I was going, definitely wanted to join the Air Force.
JM: Right, ok. And so, off to Bradfield Park and then off to
LP: Narromine.
JM: Narromine for your Elementary Flying Training.
LP: That’s right. Went solo there.
JM: Yes.
LP: Twenty courses and there were fifty of us on twenty course and there was only two of us left.
JM: My goodness me, yes.
LP: And this, do you know Tony Vine at all?
JM: No, I don’t know Tony.
LP: Anyhow, he is an ex naval submarine commander actually and he does a lot of commentating on Anzac Day for the ABC over the year and he took an interest in me and he rounded up and got all the stories of the whole twenty, I will show you the book afterwards that he’s written, released that only a couple of months ago.
JM: Right, right.
LP: Down in Canberra.
JM: Right, very interesting, I’ll have a look at it afterwards, yeah. So, Narromine, then back to Bradfield Park for
LP: The Japanese just came in then.
JM: Ah, about 40, yes
LP: We were all ready to hop on the ship and go to San Francisco, the war came in, they didn’t know what to do with us at the time so we went back to Narromine.
JM: Narromine.
LP: Where we refreshed the course. Things got straight and out what was going to happen and we went back and joined the ship and went to San Francisco, as First Class passengers, wonderful [laughs].
JM: Yes. And you were actually in Sydney then when the Japanese came into the harbour?
LP: I think I was still in Narromine.
JM: Still in Narromine, right, ok.
LP: Yes, still in Narromine waiting the war, so.
JM: Right.
LP: With the Japanese.
JM: But when the submarines came into the harbour at [unclear], you weren’t in Sydney.
LP: I wasn’t here, still in Narromine, pretty sure, yes.
JM: Ok, so off you went to, uhm, to San Francisco and.
LP: Yes, and we went by train up to Vancouver, a lovely, quite an eye-opener how lovely it was that trip and then from Vancouver to Edmonton.
JM: Yes.
LP: And we were held there for oh, four to five weeks I think in Edmonton, Canada.
JM: Ah yes, about four weeks looking at the dates here in your logbook, here at the record of service, yes, it was 9th of May until the 6th of June.
LP: That’ll be right, yes, that’ll be right.
JM: So, so what were you doing, any training there in?
LP: No, no, we were just being held there to. We had the medical, the Canadians were very keen to get the medical condition of whatever arriving there so we had dental and all sort of things, x-rays and things like that. Sports.
JM: Yes, a bit of sports to keep you active, I suppose.
LP: Keep us fit, yes. Waiting on a posting to a service training school.
JM: Right.
LP: Which was Dauphin, Manitoba.
JM: Whereabouts?
LP: Dauphin was just north, northwest of Winnipeg.
JM: Right. And how, was that another train trip?
LP: Yes, it was. Over the Rockies and a wonderful trip.
JM: And that would have been quite an experience then to see some of that scenery.
LP: Oh, it was. It was then.
JM: Yeah.
LP: Jasper and up very, many thousand of feet we had to go through the Rockies to and then down on the plains, from then on east of there of course it was flatter than a pancake until you got to the East Coast of Canada pretty well.
JM: Yes, yes, and what training did you do at Dauphin?
LP: At Dauphin? That was a service training school, and that’s where I got my wings, we had to, we were there for [unclear] several months and it was quite hot in Canada in summer.
JM: Yes, that’s right, June through to almost the end of September, so, you’ve got peak summer conditions, so, I guess therefore it was not dissimilar to Australia in that regard.
LP: Yes, in that regard it was.
JM: And how, how did the training go over there, was there?
LP: Oh yes, It went very well,
JM: And there were Canadian instructors presumably [unclear]
LP: Yes, I had Canadian instructors, we were training on the [unclear] aircraft, twin-engine aircraft and very nice aircraft.
JM: Right, and so, you did, you were flying with the instructor and then finally I presume you did your solo flight to get your wings?
LP: Yes. That’s right.
JM: Yeah. And how was that experience? What was your?
LP: Ah, it was wonderful, it went very well, went very well.
JM: Good. And that completely confirmed for you then that you were doing what you wanted to do.
LP: Oh, just, they wanted to because I topped the flying amongst our group. Then they wanted to send me to Prince Edward Island to go onto Sunderland flying boats and I, cause I wanted to get onto Spitfires and I went and saw the CO and set my foot and he more or less agreed that, alright, we’ll take away the Prince Edward Island job and commission went with that too but when I went to the other, when I went to the other service training school, the commission didn’t go with that posting [unclear] but we were posted to the Saint John, to a near field, Pennfield Ridge it was called and that was near Saint John, near the East Coast of Canada onto Venturas.
JM: Right.
LP: Now, these Venturas were twin-engine, like a big Hudson aircraft.
JM: Right.
LP: And, they were a bit heavy handed [laughs], heavy to handle but did alright but in the meantime they were, can I go on to what happened to Venturas?
JM: Yes, you can.
LP: Because they started off on, in England they were sent across, on operations and the first sortie over the English Channel into France that was then [unclear] two boxes of six and one Ventura came back out of the tour. Now, what really happened was normally was daylight bombing and normally bombing between ten and fifteen thousand feet because we were after the V1 sites mainly then [unclear] hours but normally we had a fighter escort Spitfires and Hurricanes which would be up about twenty thousand, twenty five thousand feet looking after us but they, the escort didn’t turn up, so the German fighters had a pretty good
JM: Picnic.
LP: Pretty good go at the Venturas.
JM: Venturas
LP: And that’s why after we got to England we did a conversion onto Mitchells, B-25s,
JM: Right. Ok, so.
LP: We’re getting ahead of.
JM: We just try, I find it easier if we can sort of keep it in sequence in that way, bearing in mind sort of when other people are listening, you know, at other times, it makes it a little bit simpler for them. But that’s not say that if you suddenly think of something we can’t accommodate that because it’s better to get it all. But, so, the Venturas, so you were training on these Venturas and at Pennfield Ridge, and then, as well as that, you followed that on with some about a month and a bit at Yarmouth.
LP: That’s right, at Yarmouth, in, we had to cross the Bay of Fundy to go down to, Yarmouth was still in Canada. There is a Yarmouth in England too.
JM: Yes, that’s why
LP: That’s why my parents thought that’s we’re gone to.
JM: Yes, that’s why a bit, wanting to just clarify what that, yeah, so, there’s Yarmouth in Canada and so, what did you do down in Yarmouth, more Ventura training or?
LP: Yes, more Ventura training.
JM: Ventura training. So, did you actually crew up at this point?
LP: Yes, when we got to Pennfield Ridge we crewed up.
JM: You crewed up there. So, how many because I’m totally unfamiliar with the Ventura, how many were on your crew on a Ventura?
LP: I had to choose a pilot and an observer who was not a pilot, a navigator and bomb aimer. And wireless air gunner and straight gunner.
JM: So, in terms of a Ventura, is it like, did they have, was it like a mid-upper gunner or rear gunner or?
LP: Mid-upper gunner.
JM: A mid-upper gunner. Right, ok. And
LP: Oh, sorry, it was only the straight air gunner was on the Mitchell and he was on one of those gun positions [unclear] down below
JM: Oh, like, down below
LP: Down below and underneath
JM: A lower, right
LP: The Ventura didn’t, it only had the top turret.
JM: Top turret, right. So what did wireless operator run that as well as the radio?
LP: As a gunner
JM: As a gunner
LP: As a gunner, and
JM: Wireless
LP: Wireless man, too.
JM: Wireless, right, ok. So, you had one, two, three, four, five crew on your Ventura.
LP: Ehm, one, two, three, four, actually, three, four because we didn’t have the straight air gunner.
JM: So you had a pilot, observer, navigator
LP: Who was all, observer, navigator was all, all one
JM: All the one, ok. So, pilot, navigator, observer, bomb aimer and wireless air gunner.
LP: Yes.
JM: Yes. Ok. And so, how did you go about your selection of your crew? Did
LP: They were all brought into the hall and we’d just say, would you like to come with me and you’d pick somebody if they were agreeable and that was it.
JM: And were they all, what nationalities were they?
LP: My observer, who was also the
JM: Navigator
LP: Navigator, was a New Zealander.
JM: Right.
LP: There’s with him and the straight air gunner, no, not the straight air gunner, the wireless air gunner
JM: Wireless.
LP: Was a Canadian
JM: Right. And bomb aimer?
LP: That was the observer’s job also. The observer was a navigator and bomb aimer.
JM: And what was he? Ah, he was New Zealander.
LP: He was a New Zealander and the wireless air gunner was a Canadian.
JM: And, so, that was your crew, you went then as a crew to Yarmouth.
LP: To Yarmouth.
JM: And did your additional training
LP: Yes.
JM: In Yarmouth.
LP: Yes.
JM: So then you got after that, any particular memories that, any particular experiences any of these training flights that stand out, any near misses or any interesting visit, interesting side trips as a result of [laughs]?
LP: Not really. I was lucky, the Venturas had the most powerful engine going at the time in the Air Force at two thousand horse power, a radial engine, and had a habit of catching on fire. Luckily I didn’t have that experience myself but we did a lot of formation flying at Yarmouth too, and we’d go out, ehm, select one doing the [unclear] for about half an hour and then change over so. The [unclear] Grant-Suttie was the captain of the leading aircraft I was formating on him and he had an engine failure and we were on a steep turn at the time and I, because he reduced speed because of the engine failure, I pulled off, I suppose I could so but our, my left wingtip hit his tail plane and my left wingtip came up like that, bent right up
JM: Bent right up
LP: Bent right up and of course when I landed and they asked about the other aircraft, the other aircraft, alright, I said, as far as I know, yes, Captain, I’m [unclear], he’s still ok, and I saw him land then and never got into any trouble, I don’t know whether he got into any trouble enough but
JM: But still the engine failed, I mean.
LP: The engine failed and it was down that they weren’t very good engines.
JM: Gosh, well that was an experience to
LP: Yeah, that was an experience.
JM: And again sort of required your resources to manage your way out of it, so.
LP: When you’re in a [unclear] like that and he wants to bank further because the engine fails
JM: So, probably more than forty-five degrees you’re talking about, judging by the position of your hands there, yes.
LP: Is very, I couldn’t do anything except try and sort of get my speed behind his, and we were very lucky that all this more or less still kept together and my wingtip hit his tail plane and, well, it squeezed up against, you say, because there wasn’t any big collision, we were so close anyhow.
JM: Close anyhow.
LP: So.
JM: Gosh! So, that was that experience and that was probably about the only one that you had.
LP: That’s the only one I had.
JP: Bird strike. The bird strike.
LP: Oh no. That’s way.
JM: That’s further down the track, is it? Ok.
LP: Way down the track. This is in the Air Force, I’m still training in the Air Force [laughs]
JM: We’re still, we’re back in Canada here. But whereabouts to sort of go to Halifax and uhm, I presume that’s probably but some of your experiences that’s at Yarmouth and then. So you moved both to Halifax and [unclear] and that was
LP: That was like a holding.
JM: Holding.
LP: Holding spot there and then we actually went by train down to New York
JM: Yes.
LP: To get on board the Queen Elizabeth. Right next door was the French one that was caught on fire.
JM: Fire.
LP: What was the name?
JP: Oh, that French ship. Yes, I remember that.
LP: About the same size as the Queen Elizabeth. Huge French.
JP: It wasn’t the Normandy?
LP: Normandy. That’s it! Good one! Is the Normandy, yes.
JM: Yes.
LP: It spend quite a long time in the New York wharf area.
JM: But when you went down to New York is when you had a week’s leave and when you.
LP: We had the weeks’ leave from Dauphin. That was where I did the [unclear]
JM: Oh, from Dauphin, ok, so whilst you were in Dauphin that had you the week’s leave, right.
LP: That’s right, isn’t it?
JP: Yes.
LP: From Dauphin.
JM: Dauphin, so
LP: [unclear] I got my wings, it wasn’t [unclear], no, because we didn’t have leave and we came before we went on board the Queen Elisabeth. Some memory?
JP: I can’t remember.
LP: You can’t remember, I can’t remember.
JM: No, that’s alright, well that’s
LP: Got in touch with you when I went to New York. No.
JM: No, so was probably around August or something that you had your leave in ’42, went down from Dauphin down to New York so
LP: I don’t think we were allowed so when we were embarking or anything like that.
JM: Right, ok, so that and how did you find your week in New York?
LP: Well, initially.
JM: Yes, that initial.
LP: With June.
JM: Yes, with June.
LP: Oh, we had a lovely time. We saw
JM: So, you met June at the beginning of the leave as opposed to
LP: Yes
JM: So, you had the whole week together basically
JP: I was just having lunch and he was the guest of management and I was guest of management.
JM: Guest of management, yes, no, but it was basically towards the, more as at the start of his leave so you then had a week, more or less a week together. Oh, that was wonderful.
LP: No, not all the time. But I went down to this hotel called [unclear] and the other one, he got his wings too, and we both went to this hotel Edison in New York because we could have two meals for the price of one [laughs]. And, oh, we were looking forward to it, we weren’t flush then.
JM: Oh, that’s right. Exactly, you were payed.
LP: And that’s when June sorted a group of airmen and said, oh, I’ll pick him.
JP: Pick him [laughs].
LP: So it’s all her fault.
JM: It’s all her fault, that’s right. And so, I guess, how long had you been in New York at that stage? June, you had some idea?
JP: Oh, I’d only been in New York probably about a year.
JM: A Year. But still at least you had some knowledge, say you were able to take
LP: You were fifteen, didn’t you?
JP: Fifteen, going, closer to sixteen.
LP: Ah, were you?
JP: Much closer to sixteen. Yes.
LP: June was about the, she was more of us in charge of the other girls going over
JP: That’s right.
LP: And she did three years, they been and she’s been living in New York about a year.
JM: A levels, you did your A levels.
JP: I did the leaving that took everybody four years, I did it in fifteen months.
JM: My Goodness me!
JP: And how I did it was that, where I was as a like a primary school but we had, the older ones, we had a separate cottage and this cottage, these lovely ladies would come and
LP: The Gool [?] Foundation
JP: The Gool [?] Foundation and they’d come and you know they talked me up when I wanted to do my homework for night now where was I? Uhm, what was I about to tell you?
JM: Well, we were just saying that you had, you’d been there about twelve months so that you had some idea about, you know, where to take Lorrie and
JP: Where to take Lorrie and everything and they just sort of got somehow round that we got in touch with each other
LP: When? After.
JP: I don’t know how we did it, whether it’s through my mother.
LP: No, no, no, I happened to be, this is after a two year period after I got to England.
JM: England.
LP: When we first left each other, I think I wrote one letter saying how lovely
JM: [unclear]
LP: I got one letter back, nothing for two years, I happened to be on leave in London and [unclear] officer by then and reading the paper and there was a little part in the paper that said, a lot of these girls were returning as they had been evacuated and gave the address of the headquarters there and I thought, oh, I might go, see if June [unclear] maybe and maybe I might pop in and see and she happened to be there at the headquarters when I popped in.
JM: At that particular time that you went and visited. How a coincidence.
JP: I was getting my papers to get on entertaining the troops had to join ENSO, which was Entertainments National Service Association.
LP: Join the straight, part of a straight play.
JP: Part of a straight play. And, you know I just had this, getting all this information and when Lorrie walked into the building and here you go.
JM: Well, there you go!
JP: Meant to be.
JM: Meant to be, that’s right. And so you became part of the entertainment, troop entertainment.
JP: Yes, I was always in, so, I went to a theatre school as a child through [unclear] and then we went to New York and then I had a very good, I had the best drama teacher in the world at that time called Frances Robinson-Duff and she gave me a free scholarship to attend her school and from there, well, I went back to England, the best way for me to use what I knew in theatre was to join the Entertainment National Service Association, which was a group that entertained troops in straight plays and things like that all over England and Scotland.
LP: You went up to the Orkneys at that time.
JM: Gosh! Yeah, so you, well.
JP: Unfortunately everybody would have been in the newspaper and I would have been in the [unclear] but Noel Coward who was like in charge of us, he was very conscious of keeping our privacy, he didn’t want that for us so he stopped that otherwise I would have had, you know, newspapers galore on what I was doing. It’s a shame.
LP: If June had stayed on , Noel Coward would have made sure that she had a good part.
JM: Gosh!
JP: No, he was like a father to me. Was fabulous.
JM: Amazing, yeah. Ok, we’ll come back to that because that obviously fits in with the story a bit further down the track, uhm, at the moment we just got you into England [laughs]
LP: Queen Elisabeth [unclear], because no escort at all
JM: You had no escort for [unclear], no.
LP: And one night, the Queen did a very quick, one hundred and eighty, three hundred and sixty degree turn because they knew there was a submarine, they were told there was a submarine after them, so I’m glad they had plenty of speed.
JM: Yes, that’s right. So you just did a massive turn around, you didn’t go by, there was one, I must check that, yes, there was one trip that actually went via Greenland. But because again a submarine concerns so did you either on this, on the Elisabeth did you meet, some of the chaps did watchers, did you do any, bridge watches or?
LP: Not on the Queen Elisabeth. But going from Australia to San Francisco, they loaded up guns and [unclear] as well because the war, looked like the Japanese could have come down from there on our way.
JM: But you didn’t do any bridge watch, some of the chaps did bridge watchers from the bridge. But no, so you just did some gunnery work, gunnery preparations on that over to San Fran, right, ok. So you ended up, from Halifax you ended Myles Standish, Bournemouth.
LP: Myles Standish, wasn’t that?
JM: That’s the departure before you went to
LP: Boston, wasn’t it?
JM: That be Boston, yeah, when you got onto the Elisabeth.
LP: Boston, we were held there for a few days and then went to New York onto the Queen Elisabeth.
JM: Yes, just, and so then into Bournemouth.
LP: Yes, held there for quite a while.
JM: About nearly two months basically in Bournemouth, so what sort of things were you doing in Bournemouth?
LP: Mainly parade and get a sport but we were bombed here.
JM: Really?
LP: We were bombed from the low level Focke Wulf, they got under the radar, they just fly over the water and it was a Sunday. If it hadn’t been a Sunday, half of us wouldn’t have been here because the parade ground was bombed. [unclear] my friend there, he got, [unclear] damaged, one thing or another, quite a few killed, civilians were killed at Bournemouth. Sunday the hotel was bombed, they couldn’t, they didn’t rescue anybody out there for a couple of days or two but they were having a great old time down the cellars [laughs].
JM: Down the cellars, well, at least they were safe, I suppose. And so, did your crew that you had been with, your New Zealander, your Canadian, they were all, they came across with you together on the plane, on the boat to Europe? And you’re at Bournemouth together?
LP: Yes, yes, no, I may have, my memory, I’m not too sure now whether it was just my observer and myself together and the wireless air gunner and the straight air gunner, we might have got together after the conversion onto Mitchells, I can’t quite remember that now.
JM: That’s alright, that’s ok. And.
LP: So, after we went after to Bicester.
JM: Towards had, no had two western first?
LP: Sorry?
JM: Tour western? Two western?
LP: Yeah, that’s right.
JM: Two western?
LP: Close to Bicester.
JM: Yeah well, in your entry you had two western then Bicester.
LP: Conversion onto the Mitchells [unclear].
JM: Mitchells.
LP: Two Western.
JM: And how did you find the difference between the Mitchell and the Ventura?
LP: Ah, beautiful aircraft, compared to the Ventura there’s no, hard to compare, the Mitchell was a beautiful aircraft.
JM: It was.
LP: I got a good one too, no, the aircraft varied but mine
JM: There were still two engine, weren’t they?
LP: Still two engines, yes.
JM: Yes. And what, you say they were beautiful aircraft, in what way?
LP: Well, we did a lot of formation flying again there and they were very responsive, very steady, fully aerobatic, not that we did any aerobatics with a bomber but they were capable of doing it. And Liberator, do you know the Liberator at all?
JM: No, not really, no.
LP: That’s a four engine.
JM: Four engine. Had another American one.
LP: The same that made the Liberator
JM: That made the Liberator
LP: Made the Mitchell
JM: Mitchell.
LP: And they are very similar, very similar. Matter of fact, those that went on to Liberators first went on to Mitchells to get the feel. Must show you, there probably a bit out of order but.
JM: Well how about we come back to that later on.
LP: Yeah, we’ll getting a bit thirsty
JM: Oh, ok, we will have a little bit of a.
LP: I mean, you, you must.
JM: No, no, I’m fine but we will just pause while you. We shall just continue on now with Lorrie has just shown me the book that Tony Vine has written on the history of the group of
LP: Group 20
JM: 20 course at Narromine.
LP: There were 50 of us.
JM: 50, so I’ll come, so I’ve seen the chapter on Lorrie which I will come back to afterwards. So, you were at
LP: [unclear]
JM: At Bournemouth.
LP: Yes.
JM: Sorry, then you went to Two Western and you were onto your Mitchell training here now.
LP: Yes, conversion onto.
JM: Yes, so, do you remember your crew there?
LP: Same.
JM: Same. Did you pick up an extra chap now?
LP: That’s where I think where I got the straight gunner, which was Starkey, he was another Canadian.
JM: Another Canadian.
LP: So I finished up with a New Zealander and two Canadians.
JM: Yeah, right, ok, and so from there, any particular experiences that come to mind when you were doing your conversion to your Mitchells?
LP: No, I think they, just the instructors started climbing up to twenty thousand feet and he wanted to demonstrate without our oxygen masks on and most of the chaps sort of passed out but I was very whizzy but I didn’t actually pass out. But, that’s one of, just off the top of my head, [laughs] not worth mentioning really.
JM: Right. Still showed you what would happen if you
LP: If you didn’t have your oxygen mask.
JM: If you didn’t have your oxygen mask, that’s right. So from there, uhm, off to Fulsome
LP: Swanton Morley?
JM: No, Folsom, briefly to start only three days, so, it was just a transit by the looks of the dates and from there Swanton Morley, so, Swanton Morley was you first posting, that was your when you were posted to 226 Squadron.
LP: That’s right.
JM: Yeah, so this was.
LP: Which is an RAF Squadron.
JM: An RAF Squadron, yes, that’s right. And so from, so you arrived at 226 in August ’43.
LP: That’d be right.
JM: August ’43, August ’43, ok and that’s when you started your operational activities?
LP: Yes, from Swanton Morley.
JM: Yes, ok and so, uhm, so mostly your ops were over Northern France, sort of?
LP: Yes, northern France, Holland and, mainly on the V1 sites, we didn’t know, they didn’t tell us what we were actually bombing, cause a big secret at the time. It just what they called a V1 bombing and nothing else, other things too but because these launching sites were right on the coast, crossing over, the flak was very heavy, just hop in and hop out as quickly as you could, drop your bombs.
JM: And so here you had, how many, need to go back to your, we go to the
LP: Operations?
JM: Operations, here, what sort of missions, ops?
LP: Well, as I was saying, they were mainly V1 we were
JM: V1.
LP: We were doing daylight bombings.
JM: Daylight bombings, yes, good, ok, so, any, how many times, do you have?
LP: Thirty ops was a tour.
JM: A tour, yes, that’s alright.
LP: A tour and at the end of the thirty ops I was asked to, would I do another ten ops, which I volunteered to do.
JM: Yes. So, that’s your assessments there, September, yes, so your first ops, your first ops started on the 19th of September basically by the looks of that and through there, lots of flights in between time affiliation flying and then November you really started doing, you really started into the ops, that’s 20th, 23rd, 25th, 26th, yep, 40th operation cooling [?]. So, what’s, any particular ops stand out in terms of, uhm, where, you know, little bit of flak here, we see in January, cloud over target did not bomb, so, French coast, cloud, what sort of, what sort of memories do you have of those ops there?
LP: There, only the amount of flak that was put up to just like the black cloud [unclear]
JM: Black cloud.
LP: And I got hit quite, my observer got shrapnel in his knee from the flak and my straight air gunner, he was up in the top turret and he, quite a big thing hit him behind but luckily it was the flat end that hit him, if it would have been the sharp end the side of, he probably would have been
JM: He probably would have been into trouble.
LP: Yes. Luckily the captain’s seat had armoured plating about that thick [unclear] at the back
JM: Right, so you were reasonably protected from.
LP: Yes, and we always wore a normal helmet, not helmet, see, metal hat, you know, we called it, we didn’t wear a cap so
JM: No, no.
LP: But, the ordinary ground soldiers a metal thing because of the flak, it might help us if a bit of metal came in.
JM: That’s right, and the injuries of those two chaps sustained, were they?
LP: They were in hospital
JM: They were in hospital, I say, it didn’t cause them to miss any ops or one or two ops that you had a substitute crew for or?
LP: No. [unclear]
JM: No, they didn’t miss
LP: We kept the same crew all the way through.
JM: All the way through, right, ok. And, did you have escorts? You said there was lots of flak, so did you still have escorts to provide you a bit of protection or?
LP: Well, as I said, the escorts were [unclear] fighters up to twenty thousand feet, we were bombing between ten thousand and fifteen thousand feet. Daylight bombing and so the escorts could see us from, but that be about ten or fifteen thousand feet
JM: Between you
LP: Between us and if any German fighters showed up they, with the height advantage,
JM: They would be able to come in down over the top of them and try to pick them off
LP: Yes. Keep them. They were herding us along quite nicely. But unlucky with that first Venturas when they didn’t show up and they eleven out of twelve were shot down.
JM: That’s right. So, how bigger Squadron was 226?
LP: It was quite a big squadron and there were about three or four at different stations, airfields, and for instance this called Halliday, was when I met June at the hotel, he was at another airfield, I can’t remember the name of it now, about three or four, there was even a Polish squadron, they made part of our wing, what they called our wing, and they were dreadful in that, they didn’t believe in, they flew straight in and low [laughs] all the time, because, you know, we were told, and it’s pretty true, that if you kept on a straight level flight for ten seconds or a little bit more than ten seconds, without changing your course or your height, you‘re bound to be knocked down. So we did a lot of course changing and height changing.
JM: That’s right. And whilst you were at the base there, uhm, what, at Swanton Morley, you would have some leave, what sort of things did you do whilst you were on leave at Swanton Morley?
LP: We were lucky that there was an organisation that, I’m trying to think of the organisation there that offered to take you into different homes in different parts of England and myself and a good friend of mine, Jack Barrel [?], who is another pilot, we both decided on going up to the Lake District and we loved it, we met a magnificent family up there, he was a soldier from World War I and he at the Battle of the Somme he had a leg shot off and his wife was a lovely Hewardson missy, Hewardson.
JP: They were lovely people.
LP: And that’s where we went up for our honeymoon, up to Kendal, Lake District, and we went and visited them, we just stayed at that hotel at Kendal in Lake District.
JM: Right. Gosh! And did you get back to them a couple of times?
LP: Yes, yes.
JM: So whilst you were at Swanton Morley, so having made the contact with this family, the Hewardsons, did you say it was?
LP: Hewardsons.
JM: Hewardsons, yes. And they, so you then went back.
LP: Very much [unclear] like part of the family up there. Made us very welcome, looked after us magnificently.
JM: Yes, yes, it’s interesting how these bonds did form and how much someone else has commented to me that you know how what an unknown contribution those families really made because of the support and the care that they gave, the service chaps was.
JP: It was amazing.
LP: Of course, something like Miss Macdonald and something about [unclear] and somewhere on the [unclear], was quite nice people, didn’t know them at all but that’s what the organisation was called.
JM: Right, so then you continued to
LP: We left Swanton Morley and went down to Camberley in tents. We were just about to go, D-Day was just about to come up.
JM: Yes, that’s what I’m going to say. What about D-Day, yes?
LP: Well, actually I just finished my tour, they called it, there’s a tour and a half but they called two tours tour because it went on to the extra ten ones, so I was on leave on D-Day.
JM: Right.
LP: In London I think.
JM: Right.
LP: But I then went on to the second [unclear] communication Squadron from there.
JM: Right. Right. So, so you finished your tour at, in beginning of June, before June basically, wasn’t it? It’s the tour the eleventh, that’s May 23, was basically the last op you did there? That when you and then you had your, you’ve been given your assessment on the 11th of June, which of course is after D-Day, so that’s why you were on leave for, well, on D-Day, so, yeah. So, you went, where did you have your leave? Were you down in London or were you up, up north?
LP: London, London on D-Day.
JM: Right, right. And were you in London at that point, June, or?
JP: I think so.
LP: Must have been.
JP: I must have been, yeah. Yes, I must have been, yes. We must have been together.
LP: I don’t know whether you had come back from America at that stage, do you remember what month it was that you came back? It wasn’t, I think it was after June that we met up again.
JP: We had a patch of two years so we didn’t see each other.
LP: Yes.
JM: Right, right, ok. So, could have been as part of that time there. Yes.
LP: Because I know what I mean, we got married on January the 4th, I remember that.
JP: 1945.
JM: Right.
LP: 1945.
JM: January 4th 1945 we were married.
LP: And we weren’t, it took a while before I [unclear] enough courage to ask her to marry me [laughs].
JP: Yes. And we were [unclear] together like three months before that. And before that I was in, I must have been in America.
JM: Yes, yes, yes.
LP: And I was at, based at Northolt.
JM: Yes. Because you, in June you switched to Ansons so did you do a conversion course to the Ansons or was it similar to, from the?
LP: No, hardly necessary. Just another [unclear], the two on the Ansons, the Anson was twin engine, but is only used as a communication aircraft really.
JM: Right, ok, so this was the start of your other Squadron posting, was it?
LP: Yes.
JM: And what was that Squadron called?
LP: 2nd TAF communications squadron.
JM: Right, and so that was Northolt.
LP: They had [unclear]
JM: Yeah, ok. So, that was. So actually you were at 226 moved to Hartford Bridge from Swanton Morley.
LP: Yes, that’s right, yes, that’s right.
JM: So, you’re still flying there, you’re still flying ops at that stage.
LP: Yeah.
JM: It’s just that you change bases there.
LP: Yes.
JM: Yeah, ok. So, with the TAF on communication, what was that involving?
LP: Mainly, flying quite higher people from on aerodrome to the other. Ten days after D-Day I was flying across the Channel with generals and
JM: You were attached to Montgomery’s headquarters.
LP: Yeah, but [unclear] you’re getting too far ahead, June.
JP: Am I? Ah, but that’s what you were doing.
LP: But we were doing a lot of work based in Northolt, flying to different airfields in England, mainly carrying VIPs from one place to the other, carrying some mail from one place to the other, but I think I ran about the tenth, ten days after D-Day which would be, what, 16th? I was flying across the Channel with VIPs.
JM: Right.
LP: And then shortly after the whole communication squadron went across [unclear] and we were based in the beachhead, close to the beachhead, beachhead.
JM: Right. So, that was, yeah, so you were in France and then Belgium. So, from, in August, you had one month in France.
LP: Yeah.
JM: And then three months in Belgium.
LP: That’s right. Yeah. And during that three months, a part of, got three or four weeks, myself and two other pilots were attached to Montgomery’s headquarters and do take his majors up to frontline and get information back and bring that back too.
JM: Right, so. That, August, yes, so, looking at your logbook again, yes it doesn’t quite give us the details it, just tells that you went like in August you went to a whole pile of interesting, Elson [?], Chartres and in another flight you had Reims, Saint Mo [?] and return, so you were obviously visiting forward posts in there to pick up information and then drop staff and that sort of thing there, so, yes, how was that as an experience compared to your fighting operation shall we call?
LP: It is virtually called a rest period, rest period really but we were open to enemy attack at any time.
JM: Did you have any escorts at that time? How many of you were, you just a single plane?
LP: A single plane.
JM: A single plane, so didn’t have any escort or anything like that. You and your rescue were on your own resources in terms of keeping watch for anything.
LP: Yes, well, I didn’t have a crew then.
JM: Oh, ok, you were only.
LP: When I left the squadron, finished the operations, that was the end of the crew.
JM: Right, ok.
LP: So, it was just you.
LP: And other pilots, they were all.
JM: Just a mix of second pilots, just like a two, two men crew running.
LP: Well, wasn’t even a two men crew. We were flying lighter aircraft and it was the one crew flying the passengers virtually.
JM: Oh, ok, so you didn’t actually even have like a second pilot or anything, was just you as the pilot and the passengers that you were ferrying.
LP: Even the Anson which was twin engine thing, you just flew that by yourself. I even accepted that the time I had Prince Bernard [?] in Canada he, we were in Brussels at the time, and he wanted to go to Eindhoven and I was chosen to fly him there in the Anson and he and his couple of aids there and general, a couple of generals there and they sat down in the back and he wanted to sit up alongside of me and Prince Bernard [?] and took off and the old Anson in those days, you had to wind the undercarriage up and it took off and he said, oh, I’ll do that and he wound the undercarriage up for me [laughs]. Very nice chap.
JM: And did you ever meet Montgomery?
LP: I can’t say that I actually met him. No, it’s a wonder I didn’t because as I say there were three of us with these light aircraft attached to his headquarters and one Sunday morning, it must have been a Sunday morning and the English Townsend, Johnny Townsend, were having a bit of a rivalry amongst us and we went up, and we had a bit of a dogfight, you know, [unclear] treetop level and we were doing [unclear] and having a real good older, I won by the way because I and he admitted that I was coming inside him on the turns [unclear], we landed and very shortly after there was a VIP attached to Montgomery that came up and said: ‘What have [unclear] I had a lot of trouble, you’re in a lot of trouble because there was, Montgomery was very religious type of chap and he was carrying out the church parade and of course we were flying [laughs].
JM: The church creating a racket.
LP: And disturbed his church service and we weren’t very popular then [laughs].
JM: Oh dear, oh dear.
LP: So, that’s one incident that happened.
JM: And so, it was quite a different experience than for you to be doing.
LP: We [unclear] as a rest period, weren’t nearly in so much danger really, except we often had to keep our eyes open all the time because we were as far as the aircraft went, we were very much on top of the Germans, from D-Day on the German Air Force didn’t trouble us very much.
JM: So, what, you had quite a number of flights in that capacity. So you went through until December ’44 was the end of Belgium and then from there you were down to Brighton and obviously you had some leave at that point because if you then went and got married in January, beginning of January ’45, your time in Brighton was December ’44 to February ’45 so you had some leave and you got married. Where were you married, in London?
LP: Yes. West Hampstead, wasn’t it?
JP: West Hampstead.
JM: Right. Right. Very good.
LP: And then we had the honeymoon up in Kendal, in the Lake District [laughs].
JM: Back with the Hewardsons again.
JP: Yes.
LP: That’s right.
JM: Yes, so that [unclear] marvellous and so, then you came back on the Rangitiki.
LP: Rangitiki, New Zealand ship.
JM: And did you come, you wouldn’t have come as well?
JP: [unclear] travelled.
JM: Travelled together.
JP: It was terrible because English [unclear] was good. But not the Australians. It was terrible.
JM: No.
LP; A well, I can tell you something about that. The Australians they couldn’t take their wireless back with them, but the New Zealanders did and when we got on board, and the New Zealanders were there [unclear] I was very hurt about that. Yes, would have made a big difference.
JP: [unclear] went first, it was several months before I was pregnant which he didn’t know about.
LP: I didn’t know about [unclear].
JP: Until I saw him again and it was terrible for me cause I had to wait in England for months.
LP: And June was very lucky to be allowed to travel being pregnant.
JM: Yes, well, there was a cut-off time before they.
JP: I got
LP: June had the influence of her grandfather.
JP: My grandfather he was head of the [unclear] shipping company.
JM: Oh, ok.
JP: And only through him did a get a birth I mean cause they’d never allow somebody expecting a baby on the ship anyway during the war.
JP: There were a couple of others that I know of that came through as pregnant, when they were pregnant but yes.
LP: But June was, Richard was born in October.
JP: Several months when I came.
LP: By the time we landed in Sydney, you were what? Seven months pregnant?
JP: Yes, seven months pregnant.
JM: Yes, seven months. And so then you were finally discharged, so you came through on the Rangitiki and then you were discharged
LP: October.
JM: October ’45. Yes. Just saying a bit of note here that is going to sort of jump out of sequence here which but when you were in 226, so you finished up in June, June ’44 we said, wasn’t it? That was your last op, yes, that was last op ’44, so were you, which plane were you on one plane only when you were in 226 or did you fly two or three different planes?
LP: No, only Mitchells, I only flew the Mitchells there and I had my own aircraft.
JM: You had your own aircraft, yes. No, it’s just that I noticed when I was looking up 226 to try and find out a little bit about 226 because I’d never come across 226 previously and one of the notes there said that there was a P for Peter, was a distinguished plane in 226 because it was the only Mitchell that completed one hundred ops. And I didn’t know whether you had ever flown on P for Peter or whether you would, if you’d happen to remember any one who might have flown on P for Peter.
LP: I can’t quite remember either. Does it tell you the aircraft?
JM: It probably does if I actually go back and have a look.
LP: When I was on leave towards the end in my tour, while you are on leave somebody else couldn’t fly your aircraft.
JM: Yes.
LP: And somebody did and the undercarriage didn’t come down when it went in to land, so he landed without a nose wheel, because Mitchells had nose wheels, he did a, he got his crew to go down the back and he finished his landing alone and he kept the nose off the ground all the time, got the ground crew to come out to pull the nose wheel struck down and they did but they didn’t [unclear] and when they were towing it away it came down
JM: Collapsed.
LP: It crashed. Oh, I was so annoyed. I did get another aircraft, a newer aircraft with newer engines, but it wasn’t nearly as nice to fly as the, H for Harry, I’ll bet you’ll find those.
JM: Well actually no, you, all you got is numbers so, I haven’t got any letters unfortunately.
LP: I’m sure there’s H for Harry anyhow.
JM: H for Harry, was it, there you go, no, there’s no letters, there’s just numbers, so. But anyway that’s alright.
LP: H, I’m sure there’s H, wasn’t Peter.
JM: Wasn’t Peter, right. So, back in, you were discharged as we said in December.
LP: October.
JM: October ’45, sorry, and because you arrived, which is a long time after you arrived back, cause you arrived back in March ’45 so.
LP: Yes, we refreshed the course [unclear]
JM: Oh, did you?
LP: Yes, on Oxford and then we went down to East Sale to do a pre endorsement on Beauforts.
JM: Right, because I suppose at that stage they were concerned about, you might have been going off to Asia, were you? For
JP: Yes.
LP: Yes, but before that I was going to go from the Beauforts on to Mosquitos at Williamtown.
JM: Right.
LP: And then the war ended.
JM: Ended.
LP: I wanted to get on to Mosquitos to [laughs]
JP: Yes. That was his love.
JM: Right.
LP: Yes, well I, yes, initially it was Spitfires but at the end, towards the end Mosquitos were lovely aircraft.
JM: Right, right. So did you actually fly?
LP: Mosquitos?
JM: No.
LP: I didn’t even get the posting to Williamtown.
JM: No, no.
LP: East Sale, you know where East Sale is?
JM: Yes, down Victoria.
LP: Victoria. That’s where the beau fighters were.
JM: Beau fighters were.
LP: No, not beau fighters, Beauforts, Beauforts.
JM: Beauforts, Beauforts. Right.
LP: And I did finish the course there and as I say the war ended then. [phone ringing] Thanks June.
JM: So, yes, so, well, that’s interesting that you had all that extra training [unclear]
LP: Excuse me, I gotta, he’s gonna call me back.
JM: Go back, so, then having done all these extra bits of training it never came to anything as such and the war ended so you were finally discharged in October ’45.
LP: Yes.
JM: And by which time June had arrived I assume, yes, yes.
LP: Yes, produced our son.
JM: Yes, your son.
JP: I had him at October 9th 1945.
JM: Right, right, so that was just before you were discharged, ok, uhm, and you were in Sydney here at that point.
JP: Yes.
LP: No, no, you were up at Burrell.
JP: Up at Burrell? Oh, sorry, I, when you said Sydney I meant Australia. Yes, I was up at Burrell.
LP: No, my parents were retired in a place up at Burrell, near [unclear], Gloucester Way.
JM: Ok, right, so there.
JP: So basically I was when I had the baby.
JM: Right, right, ok, so, that would have been a bit of a shock to the system and the whole country town there.
LP: It was, no telephone,
JP: I got on the phone and said to people in England and New York, I said, well look I’m up here, there’s no phone, no electricity, no toilet inside [unclear] [laughs].
JM: Dunny is down the back.
LP: Was a bit of a shock.
JP: [unclear]
LP: But I had told her what to expect.
JP: Oh yes, I wasn’t, you know, [unclear], I did it with fun.
JM: Yes, yes.
LP: Was lovely, June settled in there beautifully.
JP: Oh yes, no, they were lovely to me. When I first arrived, of course being a little English girl, I was all white,
JM: White, that’s right.
JP: And just, they went, ah, [laughs], who’s this? Where does she come from? [laughs]
LP: And June could make up beautifully and she looked lovely anyhow but all the local girls [unclear]
JP: Who’s this? [laughs] Where did she come from?
JM: That’s right, yes.
JP: What planet? [laughs]
JM: Yes, exactly. And so, when did you start your chartered business? You showed
LP: The air taxi.
JM: Air taxi out of Bankstown.
LP: Yes.
JM: Was that the first thing you did after the war?
LP: The first job that I went into, organized setting up the air taxi. I met a chap, a country chap that he and his wife looking for something of interest, they were pretty well off and we got on very well together and we went down to Canberra and saw Dragford [?], who is a politician and he managed to get two light aircraft from the RAAF at Richmond. So we got hold of [unclear], picked one up, all [unclear] up nicely and start to operate from then.
JM: So did you, whereabouts in Sydney were you living at this point? Were you out near Bankstown or were you travelling out there?
LP: Yes, yes, there was another airport chap that I got to know, at Dauphin quite well, and his parents were living at Bankstown at the time
JM: Right.
LP: And they put us up there until their daughter was born and then
JM: Yeah, right.
JP: [unclear] was born.
JM: Right, right.
LP: Yes, very kind of them.
JM: Yes, yes. So, and you, I think you said three or four years did you have your charter business for?
LP: Ah, about a year and a half.
JM: Year and a half was it? Right.
LP: It was all, because before we went broke.
JM: Right.
JP: Did the guard man threaten to put out some cost, which would put us out of business?
LP: Yes, I said we’re gonna charge [unclear] in air mile
JP: And then they were gonna put it up. And that would have put us out of business. So we had to give it away.
LP: I interviewed [unclear] and Mr Butler, whose Butler Airlines at that stage, he thought we could combine quite well but as [unclear] couldn’t carry on. I even took a couple just to keep this going in, even took a couple of jobs with [unclear] I think it was and the other place, in George Street down the hill.
JM: Down the hill?
LP: Down the hill from George Street near central.
JM: Oh, Mark Foyes?
LP: No, in George Street.
JM: Oh, George Street.
LP: George Street, was a well known
JM: Hordens?
JP: Hordens? Anthony Hordens?
JM: Anthony Hordens?
LP: Anthony Hordens? Yes, I was in, I didn’t smoke, so I got a job in the smoking factory.
JM: Oh, in the tobacco section.
LP: Selling cigarettes and so. Because they always had their battered up tins of cigarettes, fifty, used to be the old fifty tins in those days. And any ones that got battered, they virtually sold them and at this stage I was keen to get into Qantas so I used to do, every week go down to the recruitment place in Qantas and with my tins, battered tins of cigarettes and the recruitment officer, he was a smoker and he bought these battered tins from me every week which is quite [unclear]
JM: Had a little bit of a discount.
LP: Yes, a big discount. So, I think that helped me get into Qantas.
JM: Nothing like a little bit of encouragement.
LP: Exactly, exactly.
JM: For favourable, to view your credentials favourably.
LP: Yes.
JM: Well I mean, you did have the right credentials, let’s face it, so, I mean, that, yes.
LP: There were so many ex Air Force men who wanted to get in
JM: Yes, but they had the pick of the whole field, really.
LP: They did, they did.
JM: So, yes, yes. So, you joined up into Qantas in?
LP: Yes, 28th of March I think it was, 1948.
JM: Right, ok. So, then you started, you were doing domestic or international?
LP: No, international. At the same I was applying to TAA at the same time and they both came and said, come and see us. But the idea of just flying up Sydney, Melbourne, Sydney, Melbourne didn’t really appeal to me.
JM: Taxi run.
LP: And Qantas sounded a lot nicer to me. Don’t say good for June I suppose. Because overseas
JM: Because overseas, periods of absence, yes.
LP: We got two, sometimes three up to Japan because the Korean War had started then. And we took on the Skymaster DC4 we used to fly up to there and the troops landed there and their air force up there, [unclear], and you’d be up to three weeks away, probably because you had to wait for [unclear] ex-service people.
JM: Right. And so how long were you with Qantas for?
LP: Thirty years.
JM: Thirty years. Gosh!
LP: Yes. Thirty years with Qantas.
JM: So, you would have seen quite a number of changes in that time. Obviously, with different planes and
LP: Start off on the DC3 and then went on to the Skymaster DC4, the Superconny, Super Constellation, wasn’t very long and then went on to the 707, Boeing 707 and then the last five years I was on the Jumbo 747.
JM: 747, yes. And have you flown on the A380s at all?
LP: Yes. I have, as passenger.
JM: As passenger. Yes, yes, well that would have been a change again. From the 747.
LP: Like going to [unclear] on the [unclear]. Amazing.
JM: That’s right. And so, once you retired from Qantas in ’78, anything, did you do anything in particular after?
LP: Oh yes, I bought a farm. [laughs]
JM: Bought a farm, right.
LP: Yes, that’s why we just sold, that’s why everything in the dining room down there is chock-a-block. My son also owns another property out in the country and he’s had a big shed that with nothing in there and that’s chock-a-block.
JP: That’s chock-a-block. We’ve got stuff out there that [unclear] what we’re gonna do.
LP: And my son also has a place at [unclear] that’s painting off
JP: That’s his [unclear]
JM: Oh, it’s beautiful.
LP: Two people there during the night.
JM: Oh my goodness!
LP: Great grandchildren.
JP: The artist just did that for us.
JM: Lovely!
JP: That’s the back of the house.
LP: We’ve got the others to go down there and paint it.
JM: Paint it, gosh!
LP: Oh, he’s got a beautiful place!
JP: Oh, it’s beautiful.
JM: And whereabouts is your farm?
LP: At Burrell, near [unclear].
JM: Oh, back in, family, back in where your parents were, so, right.
LP: What happened was in about 1977 [unclear], no ’74, was that Dad came, he said, why don’t you buy the land around us, it was off the sale but 160 acers all together and buy that and when we go, it looks like they were going to go fairly soon, we will leave you the little house and leave you, make a nice little property for you when we go. So that’s what we did. I’m just about to buy a lovely home at Lake Macquarie.
JM: Oh, ok.
LP: Wangi Wangi.
JM: Wangi Wangi, yes, yes.
LP: It’s a waterfront [unclear] a little pathway.
JM: Yes, yes.
LP: People like to use the pathway on the other side of this bay and Dad came up with this offer and I can see we could help them at the same time and we changed over.
JM: Lovely. Oh, that’s a beautiful area up there I mean.
LP: It is.
JP: Magnificent.
LP: My mother came from this little township called Burrell, [unclear] Newcastle.
JM: Yes, that’s right. So, you had a very varied and interesting life.
LP: Very much so.
JM: And during, from your wartime experiences would you say there’s any one sequence of events that stays with you perhaps more than others or? One event or?
LP: Can’t say, can’t say. No, can’t say anything. I, we, the CO just before at the end of the tour recommended me for a DFC and then when he left the new CO came in, he called me and he said: ‘Oh, look, here’s this recommendation for a DFC, he said, well, I don’t know anything about you, but can you tell me what you did so we can write up a citation with, I said, I couldn’t think of anything, really [laughs]. And he said: ‘You write what you think might be the best thing in [unclear] the DFC, I said, oh, I thought is not a war to go on yet and I said, just leave it. And he wrote in and I got mentioned a special [unclear] left at then. But an AFC, an Air Force Cross I could have written down something and then because, you know, in formation with head boxers and six, I don’t know if you had, one leading aircraft had one formation on this side and then another one over there and then another one down here with two chaps, you’d have six aircraft all in one box of six, you’d re following me there?
JM: Yes, I am.
LP: And if you went up through cloud then, the idea was everybody to alter course 30 degrees for [unclear] and then climb up through the cloud and break through the clouds up and open it all the aircraft all over the place there and form one again [?]. Well, we had one chap, a fairly high air force official came to our squadron, he said, you know, the fighters, they four made up the fighters coming a lot closer and they form up and they go through the cloud in formation so the CO heard about that and he got a flight Lieutenant and said, give it a try and I’d hear about this and so the next time this went up through the cloud and I stuck in and kept formation all the way up through there and the other chap, that, this flight Lieutenant, he couldn’t do at the end the breakaway so I came up, oh, I was the only one that kept in formation. Well, [unclear] I could have written up something about that, an AFC. That’s the only other experience I can pass on to you.
JM: And what about down the years, did you manage to stay in touch with your New Zealand and Canadian crew chaps or?
LP: Not the Canadians, the, we went to a holiday, a bit of a holiday over in New Zealand and I met up with my observer then. Oh, by the way that business of flying through the clouds, after they found out that it could be done, after that all the operations, that they went up through cloud, we all formed up and went through in formation.
JM: You stayed in formation.
LP: After [unclear]
JM: So you brought about a change of procedure so to speak.
LP: Yes.
JM: And so the chap, Dennis, Dennis
LP: Lez Witham.
JM: Lez Witham.
LP: Lez Witham was my observer.
JM: Right.
LP: He was at Duneaton [?].
JM: And so you managed to keep in contact with him a little bit.
LP: A little bit.
JM: Post war.
LP: He became a, bonds, he was a
JM: Stock broker.
LP: Stock broker, yes, he became a stock broker.
JM: Right. Interesting.
LP: [unclear] when you get old, you can’t remember names [unclear].
JM: We’re talking about so long ago and so many thing have happened in the years [unclear] that’s quite, But the fact is that, you know, those experiences, the nitty gritties of the experiences stay with you and while some of the finer details may not necessarily be there, the whole overall experience is very much still part and parcel of you.
LP: But names of people [unclear] I mean you can’t and June is even worse than I am, terribly [unclear]. I told you about five times I don’t take milk in tea and I like milk in my coffee and but she asks me every time [unclear]
JM: Ah well, she is always planning for a change of taste, that’s what it is. [unclear] And did you keep in touch with any of, like training type people that you were trained with or did you make up, come because of being in Qantas you would have met up with a lot of service personnel, did?
LP: Not Air Force,
JM: Not Air Force.
LP: But of course, except my wireless air gunner, he married and we had a few [unclear] from her and sometime years ago now and she used to correspond a bit [unclear] and as I say, the observer, New Zealand observer we but the straight air gunner, no, he didn’t, didn’t hear anything from him. He was a character, he was only a short stocky Canadian, he was a real toughy [unclear], he was a good air gunner, [unclear] I liked the chap, I liked him.
JM: Well, that’s what you want, you want someone who is good at, everyone had to be good at their own jobs. That was part and parcel of the survival of the crew, I think, wasn’t it?
LP: Yes.
JM: Yes, so, and that you may not necessarily be best of buddies but you were able to work together and have that cohesion that was required to be a good team, to survive.
LP: I never had any trouble with my crew at all so very good, very good.
JM: I know it’s hard work so I do appreciate you were sharing some memory, many memories with me.
LP: It’s hard work trying to remember [unclear] no, I enjoyed it because it brings to day sort of [unclear] quite a few [unclear].
JP: Lovely memories.
LP: I wish I had this Mitchell, we had the whole squadron in front of a Mitchell and where that photo is.
JM: It’s in one of your boxes. You’ll find it one day, it will turn.
LP: Tony Vine has got, he took a lot of photos
JM: Photos
JP: We’ve got a lot of boxes in there.
LP: Yes, but he took a lot of photos to
JM: To put into the book.
LP: Yes, to put into the book.
JM: Well, if nothing else, we might wrap up then if there is anything else, unless there’s anything else that you can think of, that you want to mention.
LP: Can you think of anything else, June?
JP: No, no.
JM: So, we’ll wrap it up as I say and I.
LP: June wants to bring up the bird strike business with the Qantas of course but.
JP: Oh, not really. We’ll leave it.
LP: Ok. You brought it up, you brought it up.
JP: I know, but, definitely yes.
LP: We had a bird strike on a Jumbo Jet taking off from Sydney and it looked like we lost two engines on one side, during take-off. Luckily, number 4 engine came good again, otherwise it looked we were going to ditch in Botany Bay.
JM: Interesting.
LP: We came good [unclear] jettison, we were going to Singapore at the time, with about 300 passengers on board. So, we dumped our fuel and while we were dumping our fuel, of course that takes some time, [unclear] on the ground and engineering and they prepared another aircraft while we were dumping to go on to London eventually and Philip, Prince Philip, he’s been a night.
JM: Have you been sick?
JP: Yes, he’s been in hospital. For two days.
LP: And actually in 1963 we had a basing with Qantas, a four year basing in London to fly from London to New York and in 1963 the Commonwealth Games were on and he opened them, but I flew from London to New York.
JM: Oh good!
LP: And there’s a photograph over there that he gave to me heading up on the flight deck landing into New York.
JM: Into New York, he was like that,
LP: Yes.
JM: Even though he was a naval man. But he, I think he was very interested in
LP: He had a helicopter, so I [unclear] fly a helicopter, I asked him, when I first saw him, was I asked him, how as it like to fly a helicopter, he said it was like rubbing your head in [unclear] or vice versa. He was very down to earth, very down to earth, Prince Philip.
JM: That’s interesting, yeah, so, obviously you landed successfully back in Sydney and by which time the plane, the new, the replacement plane was ready so you just walked off and did you then crew that, fly or did they say that you’d done enough hours, that you had exceeded your hours by the time?
LP: I’d flown him from, you’re right, I’d run out of flight time. Actually we’d flown from London to New York and then [unclear] arrival on the minute and they reported right back to the CO to London, couldn’t imagine, can’t imagine how I came from London to New York and arriving on schedule to the very minute.
JM: A feather in your cap then for managing to do that, yes, that was wonderful.
LP: So there’s one of the things that come to mind.
JM: Mind, yes, so, four years in London would have been an interesting experience, so you
JP: Ah, it was wonderful. It was really possibly one of the best times of our life, with young children [unclear] growing up.
LP: We had a lovely double story home in [unclear] Water,
JP: [unclear] Water.
LP: Near the park.
JP: Pardon?
LP: Near the park.
JP: Yes.
LP: What’s the name? Buckingham, not Buckingham.
JM: St James?
LP: Windsor Park.
JM: Windsor Park. Right.
JP: Near Windsor Park. Ah, it was absolutely beautiful. We had the most wonderful four year posting, and the kids were the right age, weren’t they?
LP: Yes.
JP: Just entering their teens.
LP: And we would take them on holiday, over to, over to Europe.
JM: Over to the continent. And around and they gave you a chance to see your family again, I presume.
JP: Oh yes. No, it was absolutely fantastic. Couldn’t have asked for a better posting than that. No, we loved that.
JM: Would have been a lovely time for four years.
LP: I could have extended that posting for another two years except that our son and daughter, our son was eighteen and our daughter was
JP: Sixteen or something.
LP: Sixteen or seventeen. I thought that if we stayed another two years, they’ve never gone back to Australia.
JP: Back to Australia. You know, they would have got [unclear]
JM: Yes.
LP: So we came back and of course my parents weren’t very well.
JM: Very well by that stage, so [unclear]
JP: We did the right thing because it was for your parents mainly. Yes, no, it was the right thing to do.
LP: Yes, so, all. No, could we offer you a bit of afternoon tea now?
JM: Thank you, we will just wrap up here though, and just formally say once again thank you Lorrie very much and June for your contributions, it’s been so thank you indeed.
LP: It’s lovely talking to somebody that’s interested.



Jean Macartney, “Interview with Lawrence Penn,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 1, 2024,

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