Interview with Douglas Reed


Interview with Douglas Reed


Douglas Reed was working in the Town Clerk's Department at Goole when he volunteered to serve in the RAF. After completing operational training at RAF Peplow he was posted to 166 Squadron at RAF Kirmington. He flew operations over Germany before joining Pathfinders, 156 Squadron and completed his tours with them before being stood down from operational flying. He describes the role and actions of the Pathfinder force and the difficulties they encountered, resulting in them on occasion returning their aircraft to the ground crew in a very sorry state. He remembers a post operation encounter with Air Vice Marshall Donald Bennet. He discusses his crew, the German air defence tactics and encountering an early V-1 flying bomb.

His wife Margaret (from 59:41) speaks of living in Goole and experiencing a returning plane crash into the garden of their bungalow. They were unharmed and they had seen the crew bale out prior to the crash, but the family had to move out and the animals kept in the garden (including chinchillas raised as food) were lost.







01:08:23 audio recording


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HD: This is an interview being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Hugh Donnelly and the interviewee is, is Doug Reed. The interview is taking place at his home at [redacted] Wolverhampton on the 15th of October. Interview commenced.
DR: Yes. When I left school, like many of my school mates I was going to be apprenticed in Goole Shipyard. Because apprentices from the shipyard would go on to Trinity House in Hull to be trained as Merchant Navy officers. So, if you were apprenticed in the joinery shop in the shipyard you went off to Trinity House to be trained as a Merchant Navy deck officer. If you went in to the coppersmith’s shop as an apprentice in the shipyard you went off to Trinity House to be trained as an engineering Merchant Navy officer. And so that was my planned movement until, out of the blue my history master sent, ‘Would you please come and see me?’ So I trotted off to see the history master and he said, ‘There’s a vacancy in the Town Clerk’s Department at Goole and I want you to apply for it.’ So I’m saying to him, ‘Sorry. No can do. I’m going to be apprenticed in the shipyard to be a deck officer in the Merchant Navy,’ and so on. ‘Just to please me,’ he said, ‘Go and apply for it.’ So all nonchalantly and uncaring I go in to the Town Clerk’s department and say to them, ‘I understand you’ve got a vacancy. I’ve come along to apply for it,’ in a couldn’t care less attitude. And so they sit me down and they give me a few maths to work on and write, write a letter applying for the job. Being fresh from school that didn’t take very long. And they saw me sitting there and said, ‘Are you stuck?’ I said, ‘No. I’ve finished.’ So they gathered up the papers and the next thing I know I’m ushered into a large room with a big bay window and walls lined with all kinds of books. A big open fire. And, to me, was an old gentleman wearing pince nez spectacles sitting behind this desk who I later found out was the town clerk. He looked at the papers and said, ‘Very pleased with these. I want you to start in my office.’ So I said, ‘No can do I’m afraid.’ And told him the story. All about being apprenticed et cetera. And he says, ‘Well, I understand what you say but I want you to start in my office on Monday. So go home and speak to your parents about it.’ So, I did that and my parents listened to me and didn’t say anything and said, ‘Well, it’s up to you. You want to go into the shipyard or do you want to go into the Town Hall?’ Neither of them offered anything. But I looked closely at my mum and I thought I could detect a sort of a look that she didn’t fancy the idea of her son eventually going off to sea. And she didn’t, couldn’t look into the future of course because this was about ’37, ’38 and of course the war broke out in ‘39. And a lot of my school friends who had been apprenticed and gone off into the Merchant Navy they were killed and lost through enemy action. But she wasn’t to know that. And I thought I detected she didn’t like the idea of her son going to sea. So in the end my father said, ‘Look, if you want to take up the Town Hall job I will square the apprentice thing with the shipyard.’ So, in the end I decided yes, that’s what I would do. And therefore I started working in the Town Clerk’s Department at Goole. And so time wore on and war was declared in September ’39 . And I just carried on working but I realised I was of the age when I would have to go into one of the services as soon as I was old enough. And I worked it out in my mind that I didn’t fancy the army. I’d taken my father as an example of that. He’d been badly wounded in the First World War through his army service. I wasn’t too keen on the navy. And by process of elimination I decided that yes I would like to go into the air force. Particularly if I was flying at least I would get a parachute to look after myself with. So, off I went to the Hull Recruiting Office in Jameson Street in Hull. And there a rather beefy flight sergeant says to me, ‘So you want to join the air force.’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Hmmn hmmn. So you want to fly do you?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Right. You want to fly and fight in the air.’ I said, ‘Oh I don’t know so much about that.’ [laughs] He didn’t say much but in the fullness of time I was called up to go to the, the, not the Aircrew Reception Centre but where they give you a three day examination and so on and so forth before you’re accepted for the aircrew training. And after the three days yes, I was. I was going to be aircrew. And that’s how come I, I started. Eventually I was called up and went off to Initial Training Wing et cetera like most air crew had to do. And that’s how eventually I finished up as aircrew doing flying duties. But in, in those days it all seemed to be very adventurous and perhaps even satisfying but it’s because people like me were naïve really. Just had a vague idea that flying, especially the operational flying something might happen to you. You might get killed. But that’s all it meant really. You didn’t know any details. We had no experience. And so it transpired that having been through all my training and finished up with a good pal of mine Pete le Guard and one or two others. We were all in the same crew and off we went doing our bits and pieces. We went to Operational Training Unit at RAF Peplow in Shropshire. And after OTU we went off and converted off twin-engine Wellingtons on to four-engined Halifaxes. And then having converted we went off to Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Hemswell. And having completed that we were ready to be assigned to a squadron. And I looked at my RAF records afterwards, at the end of the war and I saw that we were being posted to 12 Squadron, and I’d no idea where 12 Squadron was. I knew it was in Lincolnshire somewhere. But then they said, ‘Sorry. Not 12 Squadron. You’re going to 166 Squadron at RAF Kirmington.’ So, off we went and we arrived at Kirmington on the 30th of March 1944. And we’d hardly booked ourselves in when they said to Pete, who was my pilot, that he was going to go as second dickie on a, on an operation that night. That operation proved to be Nuremberg where we lost eighty or ninety aircraft. And unfortunately Pete, as second dickie with a so-called experienced crew who had done at least five ops — they never came back. And so the first day on a squadron I needed another crew. And eventually yes, I was. I joined another crew skippered by Bill Biddell who was a bit of a character himself. Having been in the Kings Royal Rifles and been evacuated from Dunkirk he’d remustered in to the Air Force and become a pilot. So I was to fly with Bill. By the time I’d done three ops with Bill he’d done about seven. And it was quite, quite an educational, if that’s the right word, experience. He began to fill in some of the details that you hadn’t been aware of when you were glorifying what it would be like to be aircrew. I, in my first op from Kirmington, which I think from memory was [unclear] somewhere in Germany there I bombed my first target Turned for home and away on the starboard side there was a, a sudden explosion which drilled into my mind what it was like seeing an aircraft explode. But just accepted it as one of those things that happens. And that was my first op. The, the second op was on my twenty first birthday. And I spent the evening of my twenty first birthday bombing Essen in the Ruhr. Which I found out subsequently was the most heavily defended place in the Ruhr. So, and then my third op from 166 Squadron was to Frederikshavn on Lake Constance. And as we were, I think we were the fourth to take off and as we took off the fifth one behind us blew up on the runway. It swerved off the runway and blew up. Anyway, we carried on with our task and went to the target which was on the shore of Lake Constance. And having got there it was ablaze. But one had to be careful to locate the target because half of the blaze was reflected in the water of the lake and it would have been so easy to bomb the edge of the lake. And so we, we did that target and when we came back to Kirmington a WAAF — we called up, we were flying L-Love as, as it was called then. We were flying that and we called up to land and this female voice said. ‘Hello Love. Land left.’ And we’d never had an instruction like that before. We said, ‘What does land left mean?’ Do they want us to land left of the runway? Could be a bit dodgy on a grassy airfield in a Lancaster. But if that’s what they want us to do we will do. Perhaps the runway got damaged in that aircraft that blew up as we took off. Anyway, we lined up to land left of the runway which triggered off all kinds of sort of red Very lights from the caravan and from the control tower. So we realised that wasn’t correct. So we called them up again. We said, ‘What’s this land left?’ And she said, ‘I want you to land on the runway and turn left at the end.’ And we thought to ourselves why the hell didn’t she say so? And, however, having gone around again and landed safely we turned left at the end and said, ‘L-Love clear.’ And this female voice said, ‘Goodnight Love.’ And all the crew in chorus, not, not wireless protocol at all, in chorus we said sarcastically, ‘Good night, darling.’ And that was that. And that proved to be my last op at Kirmington. And I was rather sorry because the funny thing about Kirmington it was such a spread out large aerodrome that everybody but everybody was issued with a bicycle so you could get from A to B quicker than walking. That’s an outstanding memory I have. Anyway, Bill, having done seven trips by then, the squadron commander called us into his office and sort of invited us to think that we might like to go on Pathfinders. And sort of, if you know what those invitations were like [laughs] they were coupled with the idea of — pick up your travel warrant as you go out of the door. And that’s how we came to be eventually on 156 Pathfinder Squadron at 8 Group. Having attended the Pathfinder Training Unit in the first instance. And it was with 156 Squadron that I did the rest of, of my operational flying duties and which I, I’d completed and I was still twenty one. But having done my tours with the Pathfinder force I was, I was quite unceremoniously [pause] well, stood down I suppose. But nobody ever said that to me. I was just getting on with the job as usual and someone said, ‘I think you’re posted.’ So I said, ‘What?’ And they said, ‘Yes. We think you are.’ So I thought I’d better go and find out. So I go up to station headquarters at Upwood and I say, ‘Am I posted?’ And they looked it up and said, ‘Yes. I’m afraid you are.’ Which was the unceremonious way of saying you’ve been stood down. And I said, ‘What’s the posting?’ And they said, ‘Oh, it’s an Air Ministry posting.’ Which shattered me because if it was a squadron or a station posting it left room for you to negotiate a little bit but with an Air Ministry posting no negotiation. You just had to do it. And that’s how my operational flying came to an end. As I say you couldn’t argue with an Air Ministry posting. But during that time the initial experience that I’d picked up at Kirmington developed with the Pathfinder squadron. And if people didn’t know about what we did at Pathfinders it’s because Air Vice Marshall Don Bennett who was the CO of 8 Group — he didn’t like publicity. In fact, he refused to appoint a public relations officer. So we just used to get on with the job. It’s only afterwards when you’d finished operational flying that the realisation of what might have happened to you through the experience you’ve gained on the way more than suggested that you had been very lucky indeed to get through a couple of tours with the Pathfinders. We did some very long trips. When I first started flying with 156 I didn’t do many German trips before it was D-Day. That was kept very secret. We as aircrew had no idea it was D-Day but we were out at the dispersal point. We’d already been briefed to bomb a coastal battery and we thought this was an unusual target but okay if that was what they wanted us to do we’d do it. And we were out there at the dispersal point long before midnight. Time went by and it got around to 3 am in the morning. We’d never taken off so late for a night operation. Anyway, we, they let us go at about 3 am. And we located Fougeres where the coastal battery was and did our stuff. And as we climbed to come away, flying home, through a break in the clouds I saw dozens of ships heading in the direction from which we were coming. And it suddenly dawned on me this is, this is the invasion of Europe. It, it’s D-Day. But that’s the first indication we had of D-Day. And then after that we got several trips backing up the army. Strategic bombing trips. If the army had got bogged down somewhere we had to go and, I think they used to be called totalised targets. And on one of the occasions because the Germany forces and our forces were so close together that they wanted the German forces loosened up a bit we asked them to fire from their Bofors guns red star shells over the position that they wanted us to bomb. And this they did. We were able to pick out these red star shells bursting and we, we bombed accordingly. I hope we did a bit of good but that was a, an unusual Pathfinder job. And it brought home to you that although in the briefing you were given a route to follow sometimes a deviation route to throw off the enemy defences and leaving until the last minute almost for you to line up on your target. To fool the enemy defences. Oh incidentally that’s one of the things that didn’t happen on the Nuremberg raid. I learned afterwards that AVM Bennett argued with the people who’d set the course, which was direct to Nuremberg. He wanted a variation but he was overruled and hence I’m afraid we paid the price. But anyway, we used to follow the route that we’d asked to. But it was up to you how you got to the target and indeed how you got back because you might be diverted because of the enemy defences or you might be chased by a fighter or the, you might meet headwind which was slowing you down. You might have a wind up your tail which was making you early. So you had to alter course to suit your own navigation. That’s what I mean by saying it was up to you how you got there. And as long as you got there on time to do the Pathfinder job you’d been given to do because there were several different jobs that you could do with the Pathfinder force. You started with the easiest and you worked your way through to finish up as master bomber. You probably start off as an, as an illuminator. Dropping about twenty, twenty odd flares straight and level every eight seconds. And you’d work your way through the more advanced jobs until you finished up as the top job which, which involved supervising. Staying in the target area all the time and supervising how the raid was going. And principally we were, you could either be a visual marker or a blind marker. Blind marker was on radar but if you got to the target and it was visual okay the visual markers marked it and you backed them up. If it was obscured you, as blind marker marked it and the visual boys backed you up. And then somewhere halfway during the raid you could pick up a job as a visual centerer where you would go and see how the raid was going and perhaps in conjunction with the master bomber you decided that the, the target needed centering which you would mark and then tell main force or VHF for example to ignore reds and bomb greens. And as I say you did these different jobs and you picked up some, some long targets. And eventually, well in no time at all, perhaps cheekily we were doing more daylight bombing then night bombing and that’s on German targets too. Cheekily going into the Ruhr in daylight. And one time we did this, I think the target again was Essen and main force, we were there on time, main force was late. There was no sign of them. So there was about five, five Pathfinder aircraft circling in daylight over the Ruhr. And I think all the towns in the Ruhr were saying, ‘We’ll pick him. You pick him. You pick up.’ And we were getting flak all around us. Right, left and centre. And then on the distance main force came into view. Straggling along towards us. And when they were near enough we marked the target. It’s no good doing it too early because the flares would probably wear away before they got there. Anyway, we marked correctly. By which time our aeroplane was in a bit of a sorry state. We’d had one right close to the nose which had blown the front off the aeroplane and made it extremely cool with a two hundred plus knot wind whistling through, apart from other damage. We used to pick up quite a bit of damage. Flying home on three engines instead of four. One time when we limped home that way our ground crew, God bless them it was their aeroplane really. They only lent us the aeroplane so we could do the operation. But we used to return it them to them sometimes in a very sorry state. But God bless those aircrew they did us, those ground crew, they did us a good job. But one time we got back there and they told us afterwards they’d had to patch up forty four holes in the aeroplane and that there was a piece of shrapnel about the size of half a beaker if you know what a beaker is. A mug. About a half split down the middle. A piece of flak about half that size lodged in the petrol tank. On the, on the starboard wing. And they’d said if that had come loose we would have lost all the fuel out of the tank. But it acted as a cork for which I was duly thankful. Another time was unusual. We were ordered, a daylight job as well, way down ooh in sight of the Pyrenees. But this was an oil refinery. So we were ordered, as I say it was daylight, we had to be down at five hundred feet and we flew out over Looe in Cornwall. You could see people on the beach enjoying themselves at five hundred feet. And we were down there crossing Biscay at five hundred feet and lo and behold we came across a German mine sweeping flotilla doing its stuff. So lat and long was radioed back to base and afterwards when we got back we, we were told that they’d notified Coastal Command and Coastal Command had gone out and, and dealt with the mine sweeping flotilla. Anyway, at five hundred feet we were over Biscay and then we had to climb to bombing height. Up to about eighteen thousand. And it were pretty cold after that. Most of us were just in shirt sleeves and it was a bit cool. Anyway, we did our stuff on the oil refinery and just in the bargain there had been a tanker alongside the refinery at the time. And as we cleared the target and looked back through the smoke and what not I don’t know what we’d done to the oil refinery but we couldn’t see the tanker any more. And so that’s how we, we came back. But we got quite a few, quite a few jobs of a different kind of nature as I say. Most cheekily in Germany in daylight. And, as I say, we, we copped it once or twice. I do remember an early morning daylight on Duisburg. The same night, Duisburg again. And we lost an engine to come home. And then again Wilhelmshaven. We did three German trips in thirty six hours. So we got very little time for a kip but we made sure that the aeroplane was serviceable and so on to do its stuff and we managed even to get something to eat in between times as well. Oh incidentally I do remember that when you were going off on an operation the mess always dished up egg and chips. This was your aircrew meal before you went off. But egg and chips was a godsend in those days. It was another manna from heaven job because eggs were scarce, if not rationed. But to us that was a good meal. And also for a sweet [laughs] we had, week after week, day in day out stewed prunes. And oh dear. You got so tired of stewed prunes. So we said we’ll alter this. So we go in to the kitchen. We said, ‘Have you got some bread? A slice of bread?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Have you got some jam?’ ‘Yes.’ Put the jam on the bread. ‘Now, have you got some batter that you use when you’re doing the chips?’ They’d got some batter. So you dipped your jammed bread in the batter, put it in the, in to the deep fryer and lo and behold you’ve got another sweet. A lot, a lot better than the stewed prunes [laughs]
MR: Apricots. Were they apricots? Not prunes.
DR: Oh, I beg your pardon. Yeah. Apricots. Stewed apricots. Yes. Yes. Stewed apricots. Yeah. Yes. And as I say Bennett appeared to be a hard man. And indeed he was only hard because he’d got a job to do and he was to make sure that you helped him to do that job. And I’m sure that when he was losing his crews he was as heartfelt as anybody else. But as I say he had a job to do and he gave all the appearance of being strict. Which of course he was. If you couldn’t do your job there were examples where people had been told, ‘You’re not Pathfinders,’ and sent back to wherever they’d came from. So he used to make sure that we knew what we were doing. But there was one incident where a German target, we must have been going in mid-way in the raid because the target was well ablaze. Lots of fires, lots of smoke, lots of flak. And on the, our bombing run I always used to make sure that there was none of our boys up above us dropping his load. And so it was that in the target area I was searching up above as well as below and there was a Junkers 88 about a couple of thousand feet below us flying on a reciprocal. But it wasn’t bothering us so didn’t bother the rest of the crew. Just let them get on with the job. However, when we got back to Upwood, whenever we came back from an op on the table waiting for us in the debriefing room there used to be Walters’ cigarettes, navy rum and hot coffee. So you sat back there with hot coffee and rum to thaw the chill out of your bones and, and a Walters’ fag. And there was a delay in debriefing during which time leisurely we’d consumed three rum and coffees. Sank back and enjoyed them. So, anyway, when we were called in for the debriefing we told the intelligence officer all he wanted to know. And as we finished he said, ‘Was there enemy fighter activity in the target area?’ And I said, ‘Yeah. I saw a Junkers 88.’ And a voice behind me, over my shoulder said, ‘How do you know it was a Junkers 88?’ And the rum answered, ‘I know a bloody Junkers 88 when I see one.’ And looking over my shoulder there’s the two steely eyes of Air Vice Marshall Bennett looking at me. Oh dear. I thought that’s it. And he looked at me and he said, ‘That’s alright lad,’ he said, ‘But we had Mosquitoes on that target tonight.’ And the rum wanted to say, ‘I know a bloody Mosquito when I see one.’ But I restrained. But as I say AVM Bennett often used to be around in, in the debriefing. Many a time. But I thought I was going to get the chop then for being rude [laughs] Anyway, as I say probably if I flicked through my logbook I could see other, other things that had happened to us. But it was quite a full, a full time because in addition to operational flying you were airborne every day without fail. Sometimes two or three times a day. If not operational you were on air tests or practice bombing raids. Fighter affiliation. Navigation cross country trip. You were kept on tip toe all the time. So that you were, you were aware of course that you were part of Bomber Command but not impressively so. You were more impressed with the fact that you were on 156 Squadron. But more so with your own crew because you, you slept, you ate, you flew, you went on leave with the same people. The crew. So that you built up this strong bond and you hoped that they relied on you as much as you relied on them. And you were vaguely aware that there were other crews on the squadron doing the same job more or less as you were doing. But life was so busy that — and sometimes unfortunately because crews went missing you didn’t get any time to make friends or acquaintances. As I say you just, you just knew one or two here and there. Possibly because you’d been at OTU with one or two of them. But otherwise you were so busy. But there were two other, two gunners who had been at Operational Training Unit with me and they’d both, they’d both [pause] Barclay Felgate was a Rhodesian and he was in my first crew. And he appeared at 156 Squadron, Pathfinder Squadron with another crew. And Bob Heatrick, an Irishman, he also flew with me and he was on 156 Squadron Pathfinders. And I’d known them previously from OTUs so you did pick these up. But you did get a giggle from time to time. It depends how things struck you. Sometimes and seriously some people were stricken religiously almost. And there was one pilot who was like that but he was conscientious. And the guys used to call him Dinghy Dan because sometimes when it was reasonable he used to have the crew practicing dinghy ditching positions. Which of course was, was a good idea in case you needed it for real. But on one particular occasion they had a chap, another Irishman with a hell of a sense of humour and they were getting knocked about a bit in the target area and this Irishman said, ‘Come on skip. Let’s get out of here.’ And Dinghy Dan said, ‘It’s alright. The stick is in the hands of the Lord.’ And quick as a flash the Irishman says, ‘Well give him a hand then. He can’t do it all by himself.’ [laughs] As I say we used to pick up the odd, the odd giggle now and again. And my flight engineer Baz, Baz Butterfield, bless him. We were twenty, twenty one as I say. I’d finished operational flying and I was still twenty one. He’d got a son twelve years of age and we used to look at Baz as Uncle Baz and we used to go out to the aeroplane ready for an op and climbing on board Baz, usually he used to say, ‘We’re going to have a good trip tonight.’ ‘Oh do you reckon so Baz?’ ‘Yeah. I’ve got a feeling in my water,’ he used to say [laughs] He was a good lad was Baz. Nearly lost him as I say when we, when we lost the nose of the aeroplane that time. He was very close. Yes. As I say if I were to fish out my logbook I’d probably think of other incidents. But mostly the German trips. But as you got experience you were trained to do, do your job in the air. You were given an aeroplane that was the best that could be provided. You were trained but they couldn’t give you operational experience. You had to earn that the hard way. And it was a hard way. Sometimes it was quite devastating. It brought home reality. Not only what could happen to you in a flash but what might happen to you. For example if you baled out. You only had what you stood up in. If you’d landed in a German urban area God knows what might happen to you. There were stories of aircrew being lynched. And certainly you wouldn’t have been received very kindly once they found out you were RAF aircrew. You could have landed by parachute in the water, in the sea and hope to God you could rescue yourself. Or the aeroplane itself might have to ditch. All these realities came home to you through realisation after. Afterwards. It was afterthoughts really. And made, made you realise that as good as your training had been and as good as your equipment had been you had been very lucky. Because people of the same experience of you and higher rank than you, rank didn’t count for anything. The chopper chopped when it needed to be. That’s at RAF Kirmington. There was a pub there called the Hand and Cleaver and to the aircrew it was called The Chopper. Hence a crew that didn’t come back had got the chop. Yes. Yes, they, you didn’t write off the German defences. The urban targets were well defended. Flak and fighters. You’d got to watch out for fighters. They knew what they were doing. They got very wise. Operating in pairs at times. One would fly on a beam and deliberately show a light and hoped you would focus on him so the other one could come in from the blind side and knock spots off you. But fortunately we were wise to that little trick. Sometimes they would follow you home to your home aerodrome and as you were coming in to land, in the most vulnerable situation, flaps and undercarriage down they would nip in behind you and shoot you down over your own airfield. So you didn’t write them off lightly. Indeed I remember coming back one evening. Well, it was still dark coming back. And as we came across the English coast there was a light. And I thought it was an aircraft showing a light. And we immediately thought it was the German fighters trying the old duo trick. But this light seemed in a steady position and I watched it go astern of us. Anyway, in the debriefing I mentioned this. That it was an apparent fighter showing. And the intelligence officer was highly interested in this. Wanted to know all about it. Where, where we’d seen it first of all and that. How we’d lost sight of it and was it a steady light? Yeah. And in no time at all, within a day or two we’d seen one of the first of the buzz bombs coming across. And that, that was the flames from its tail that we’d seen. And, and then afterwards they were coming over frequently and everybody knew about the buzz bombs. But we therefore got the job of trying to put paid to some of the buzz bomb sites. And later on the V-2 rocket sights. We got the job of trying to put paid to them. And the job was twelve Lancasters flying in pairs. Two, two — six pairs flying astern with the wing, tucked in wing. As close as we could. And we had a Mosquito who was on the Oboe beam or supposed to be on the Oboe beam flying ahead of us and when he picked up the beam and picked the target up he would open his bomb doors and drop a red, a red flare and then we twelve would open our bomb doors and twelve lots of bomb loads used to go down. Hopefully in the one position. But more often than not the Oboe beam wasn’t working so the Mossie was no good. So we had to do it ourselves and as I said drop twelve bomb loads all together. And we did this several times on the buzz bomb or rocket sites. So some of our daylight flying at home was tucking a wing in to the wing space of another Lancaster. So, we got some pretty interesting jobs to do. I’m running out of things to tell you. As I say without picking up a logbook [laughs]
HD: Lovely. Thank you Doug. We’ll call that an end to the interview. Thank you very much.
[recording paused]
HD: Doug’s wife Margaret would like to tell you a little story of what happened in Goole. Here you are Margaret.
MR: [unclear] This is Margaret Reed. I have known Doug since we were three and a half. We went right through school together. And he went away in to the air force. I went away to college. And we got married when we were both free. I don’t mean, mean free. When we were both able to get together and be in the same part of the country. I was sitting with my parents on the outskirts of Goole. In the bungalow that we had there with my two brothers and my mother and father. And we were sitting in the evening, a beautiful evening. It was April. And just one of those evenings you get sometimes. And we had deckchairs. The old striped deckchairs. And in the back garden we had chickens. I had white doves. One of my brothers had guinea pigs and my mother had chinchilla rabbits which we ate. One a week. So we kept having, on having young ones to make sure we had enough for one rabbit a week and they are fairly big. So she, after the war she had the most beautiful chinchilla coat made.
DR: Say Goole was surrounded by airfields.
MR: Goole was surrounded by airfields. And as we sat there we watched the planes going out on a raid. All the same way. And quite close together. And suddenly my father said, ‘Oh. One’s touched wings with another.’ And we said, ‘Where?’ And we stood up and in the distance there were like two very very small aeroplanes circling down. One coming towards Goole and us and the other going in the opposite direction. And we watched and we watched as it circled around. And we counted out seven crew so we knew there was nobody in it but it was coming in our direction. And suddenly my father said, ‘It’s getting too close. Run in the house.’ We all ran in the house and dropped under the kitchen table. We all scrambled in there. And then there was the most terrific bang and everything shuddered and peculiar noises. And we rushed around into the back garden again and there was a hole where the lawn had been and water filling up in this massive hole. It was the width of the garden. And there wasn’t a feather from the chickens, my doves had gone. Everything had gone. The chinchillas. And we, we then wondered what would happen next. And an RAF kind of lorry with men in it were there within ten minutes and told us to get out of the house. The bungalow. The bungalow at the back was covered with mud out of this hole. There was about six inches of mud over the brickwork. The roof. Really it was just a grand mess at the back. And these men came and shoved us out of the way. They said they didn’t know whether there would be any other bombs that had gone off. And the one near the back, towards the back door was the tail fin, was just across the door. We had to step over it. And I went back in to the bungalow because I knew in my bedroom I’d got a bag of those tiny little silver threepenny bits and I’d got a bit of jewellery. Nothing, I mean at that age you don’t have jewellery but an aunt had left me a pair of diamond earrings and they were in the, in the paper bag with the threepenny bits. And as I climbed over this bomb, the tail of the bomb near the back door so of course the bag, the paper bag burst and they were all over the drive. And they wouldn’t give me any time to pick them up. They just said, ‘Get out. Get out.’ And we went down to our grandma‘s. And instead of her little two bedroomed, well not a town house even, a small house. We had to live with her for a week. You can imagine what it was like. Five of us going to live with her. Anyway, the funny story about it was my mother had had new false teeth that, that she’d collected them the day before and of course they were on the, what was the bathroom window ledge. But the glass had blown out and the teeth, the new teeth, top and bottom were on the floor. But the next day we retrieved them. So her Yorkshire instinct of not having to pay a penny more than she should and collecting them well she won in the end.
HD: Lovely. Thank you Margaret.
MR: Well that was that.
HD: That was absolutely super. Thank you very much.



Hugh Donnelly, “Interview with Douglas Reed,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 19, 2024,

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