Interview with Simson Reid

Title

Interview with Simson Reid

Description

Simson Reid was born in Scotland and was able to have a flight with Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus which although short, fostered an interest in aviation. He volunteered for the Royal Air Force and was posted to flying Hampdens as an air gunner. As they were taking off from RAF Scampton his aircraft crashed and he suffered terrible burns and damage to his leg. He then spent three and a half years under the care of Rauceby Hospital.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2017-03-18

Contributor

Julie Williams

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

02:41:38 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AReidS170318
PReidS1701

Conforms To

Transcription

SR: My name is Simson Reid and I normally was called, during my service career, Jock Reid and
DM: I guess because you were Scots.
SR: That’s right. Because I was, I was Scots. And originally, I got first attracted to aircraft was when the — in one week we had the Graf Zeppelin over from Germany and we had Fighter Command fighters from Donibristle. And they were looking after the Forth Bridge, these fighters. And the others were looking after the Tay Bridge. So we were exposed all the time to the movement of aeroplanes.
DM: Ok.
SR: That was the, oh and the other thing — for ten shillings, which was about [pause] for ten shillings at that time when the average wage was fifty shillings a week you could go for a flight with Alan Cobham and that brought in the [pause] the first experience of of flying was in a, in an Alan Cobham flight and the and that was a trigger that led to other things.
DM: What year was that? Do you remember?
SR: That year would be [pause] I wasn’t at high school so that would be about — when I was about, I’d be ten years old. Eight to ten years old and I had this flight but it was all too short. But at the time I was sharing with my grandfather and and my own father had been gassed during the war and he coughed and various other things. To cut a long story short I became a teetotaller. I didn’t touch alcohol at all although I lived in a small village where Earl Haig who was the commander in the First World War, had a distillery.
DM: Oh right. Temptation. Yeah.
SR: So that was — now, at the same time I was very keen on radio. Just as kids today like to build computers I used to build radio sets and the radio — we got the valves from Philips in Holland and what was, something else. Oh, we made the coils and we made the — [pause] batteries were expensive so we would make an eliminator to run from the mains and the, and the — it was the easier on the pocket. So, but my first attraction was always on radio.
DM: Ok. So, did you do any flying between the age of ten and when you joined up?
SR: I — no. It was just, it was just too expensive.
DM: Right.
SR: It was just too expensive and it was only when you get these. They come for a couple of days, you pay your ten shillings and that was that. But my father he was always conscious that there would be another war.
DM: Right.
SR: And he, as I said, he — he had been gassed at Ypres during the war and he coughed in the morning by putting a cigarette. He then, he then had a drink of whisky and then he would be ready to go about his business. But without these three things, and that turned me into a teetotaller. I didn’t take any alcohol and I never have done.
DM: So even through your service through the war there was no alcohol.
SR: Pardon?
DM: So even in the mess in the, on the squadrons you never drank. No alcohol.
SR: No. I I kept alcohol for people who wanted it.
DM: Right.
SR: And because, during the war money was useless. You had to have a skill and you could, you could, with that skill you could get practically anything you liked. If you had the skill that somebody wanted.
DM: Ok.
SR: So, it was very important to to for the small village. I lived, was born in was Kennoway and Windygates. Now, Windygates had a distillery for Haig. Haig’s whisky.
DM: Oh yeah. Yeah.
SR: So, I was always looking what will I get to do? And the answer always came up is [pause] the job in the whisky world. In the whisky works didn’t pay anything.
DM: Right.
SR: It was, it was, it was now it’s very skilful to make a barrel that doesn’t leak water or leak whisky and and when a man, a young man finishes his first barrel and it doesn’t leak they dump him in the barrel and that’s it.
DM: Right.
SR: So, I had experiences of planes coming to defend the Forth Bridge from Donibristle and the other way was the Tay Bridge to the north and that was planes. So I was subject to planes all the time but at the same time my real hobby was building.
BR: Radios.
SR: Building little receivers to get, to get [pause] what’s the name of the place again? Luxembourg.
DM: Ah Radio Luxembourg.
SR: To pick up Radio Luxembourg on your home made set you were doing very well.
DM: Right. So, when you joined the air force — when was that? When did you join up for the Second World War?
SR: I joined up because I was at high school in Buckhaven and from my room looking over the sea I could see the German ships that had been sunk in Scapa Flow. They floated them up and towed them down past Buckhaven High School and it went on to a place that I — Inverkeithny where the, where they extracted all the metal.
DM: Right.
SR: From the, from the battleships and most people drew the conclusion that there was a war coming because to get that metal was much easier to raise the fallen ship than dig it up from there and start again.
DM: Yeah.
SR: So, it was a time when, when [pause] now my father was very keen on radio because of politics. And this is —so he coughed up money for me to get, to get an eliminator so that I could not need to buy batteries because batteries were expensive.
DM: Yeah.
SR: And I would say that period of time was from a massive time when you are about nine to ten and and provided the [pause] there’s been much talk about Scots education but Scots education was only free if you did what the government wanted.
DM: Right.
SR: And no matter how much money your father had you got everything free if you —one passed the exam and two — you did your best for the country.
DM: Ok.
SR: It was, so it was a case of doing what they want, the country, the Scots country wanted.
DM: Right.
SR: That was the important part. It was. You were in Scotland. Therefore, you had to do what they wanted.
DM: Very good. That’s a good, that’s a good reason to join up because I guess it’s a social responsibility. Nothing else. Yeah.
SR: Well this was the big point. Is — is responsibility and I well remember when I finished my training I [pause] now the air force always tried to give you what you wanted to do. That was always on the cards. So, the [pause] I was very keen on, I was very keen on flying boats.
DM: Ok.
SR: And I felt like I would like to get on a flying boat but what I didn’t know at the time but I found out later that to be a wireless operator on a flying boat you had to be a wireless operator mechanic.
DM: Right.
SR: So that if you were in the middle of the Atlantic and you were going to break radio silence you had to be able to repair the set if it went faulty.
DM: Right.
SR: So, I I realised you need to be a WO/M AG. Wireless operator mechanic. AG. Now, in the, in the outbreak I got sent from, from — when you finish your training.
DM: The basic training.
SR: They sent me to Abbottsinch. Abbotsinch was an airport outside Glasgow and when I went there they told me they’d moved to Wick and I was taken aback by Wick so I was given a warrant by the police, the military police, and I went off to Wick. This time I didn’t know what I was going to do because what they did they just moved. They took over a high school. They just got rid of all the people. The pupils. And they’d take over the headquarters. And, and the — Wick was a dry town.
DM: Oh right.
SR: It didn’t have any alcohol and that even today, in Australia, you have to apply to get a licence. It is like, like inheriting something. They didn’t know what they were doing. But when I got to Wick they stuck me in a plane and gave me an ancient Lewis gun with all the stoppages that go with a Lewis gun and, and —but you see my grandfather had taught me to shoot.
DM: Ok.
SR: When I was about nine or eight or something like that. We shot probably for the food.
DM: Right.
SR: Because we made up our own ammunition ramming in it was a shotgun, not a rifle, a shotgun. And we lived off his, his gun so I was used to a gun.
DM: Right.
SR: And careful when you’re going through a fence or a hedge. You break the gun so it’s, you break the gun so you don’t kill yourself or somebody else. So, it was a funny time because in the Scouts I had learned Morse code and signalling with flags. That was all, that was all a bit of entertainment. And we used to get — if you could wind your coil and things like that and get Radio Luxembourg you were doing very well. It but when I got to Wick I got quite a shock because I felt that the war hadn’t really started. The first thing I had to do as a wireless operator gunner they put me in an old plane with a, with a moveable [pause] — it was an Anson.
DM: Oh yeah.
SR: An Anson. And the first thing they wanted I had to take on charge, as a wireless operator, I had to take on charge all the parts of the radio equipment in the plane and be held responsible if there was something missing.
DM: Right.
SR: And then, and then my job was enlarged to take in the bomb release gear. Somebody had to check it to make sure it was serviceable. They didn’t have anybody and I was just arrived and I got the job of not only, not only taking all the radio equipment on charge but sometimes the tail light would be missing. Now, the Avro Anson was a wooden plane and this tail light was screwed on. But you had to, somebody had to put in to get a new tail light and that was going to be too bloody difficult so all you did is pinch the tail light from somebody else.
DM: Right.
SR: Unscrew it. And then, and then we presented, in the morning, we presented for duty and we had an inspection to make sure our buttons were shiny and everything like that and and one day the Germans dropped, oh it was a dry town, no alcohol whatsoever and if you had a success with a submarine you had to go to Thurso which wasn’t a dry town to get alcohol.
DM: Right.
SR: Another reason for being teetotal. So, when the Germans dropped a bomb in to Wick harbour it wiped out the illegal shipping that was down there and everybody said, ‘There you are. God willing whether or not you choose alcohol.’
DM: Fate. Yeah.
SR: So, for some time I [pause] Oh and the wireless operator came in for, an Anson you had to wind up the engine.
DM: Oh yeah. I see.
SR: You wind it up and it was like a spring back of wind thing. You wind up a spring, press it and the spring had this stored up energy which allowed the thing to fire.
DM: Right.
SR: And if the pilot was a bit ham handed and missed it you had to do it all over again. So that was my — oh and the other thing it was very religious town and they kept their daughters well and truly locked up away from the airmen.
BR: Probably just as well.
DM: Yeah. Good idea. Yeah.
SR: So, after a time they [pause] they and this is why I ended up on Coastal Command, no, I started off at Coastal Command. I, and this is a theory because if you’re with an Avro Anson you’re not, you’re looking for submarines. You’re hoping. You’re no good going very high because he can see you and you and he has plenty of time if you’re high up to see you. So, what happens you had to take everything as it came and you flew low. You flew low and when you flew low the short-wave radio doesn’t operate.
DM: Right.
SR: So, you have about two or three minutes in the cold water and then you’re dead. So, what happened next was the navigator — we’d got a carrier pigeon.
DM: Right.
SR: And we took a carrier pigeon from a house near the aerodrome and the navigator then tied this note giving our position to this, to this carrier pigeon and let it go and all our prayers were on that because if you go in the water with your flying suit on and boots and things like that you were dead in a few minutes.
DM: Yeah. Very quick.
SR: So, by and large they, they got better. They stopped parading every morning when the Germans sank —when they bombed the harbour and and I got posted back because I didn’t realise only the best trained youngsters could go on a flying boat.
DM: Right.
SR: I didn’t realise that. You had to be a wireless op mechanic.
DM: So, the mechanic bit was –
SR: It’s –
BR: He’d no training at Wick.
SR: So, what they then did because I had no gunnery training at all so I went on the way south to West Freugh and then I did some real training there and after West Freugh I went, I went south again and and I was ready to go to, to France with Fairey Battles.
DM: Oh right.
SR: Now, the Fairey Battles were pretty useless machines. They would look like a Spitfire but they had a, they had a pilot and they had a navigator and a wireless operator and they were out-manoeuvred. The Germans knocked off about a hundred in a week. So, I was left. What am I going to do next?
DM: Right.
SR: And and what happened is the [pause] I got Tonsillitis. So I had Tonsillitis and they couldn’t do anything with me for a bit. So, when the Tonsillitis went they said he’s got to have his tonsils out. So I then, I then, what the hell did I do now? Tonsils out [pause] oh I’ve forgotten. But for a time now I I was not a great lover of pigeons because I’d left pigeons and pigeons fly very quickly but sometimes they sit on the roof for a day or two.
DM: Oh right.
SR: Before they’ll go into the coop. And, and I knew this and when I used to rest my pigeons I would make sure that they [pause] you took a male who was having — his mate was having a nest. Laying eggs. And when you used a male like that he just flew straight there and straight in.
DM: Straight in. Yeah.
SR: And that was it. So, having the, having the tonsils I then went so I passed West Freugh so when I went after this and I had my tonsils out I [pause] I have to think for a moment now. That’s when I got sent to Scampton.
DM: Oh right.
SR: Now, at Scampton it was very much different. It was all precision and it meant to be precision. So [pause] and I was still clinging to the idea that I would like to live on a flying boat but what happened is I I [pause] oh I’ve forgotten now what happened but I missed going to France so on occasions I had been very lucky. Now, I’ve got to try and link on the next thing at Lincoln.
BR: Was it about not volunteering?
SR: Pardon?
BR: Was it about not volunteering? You wanted to become a pilot didn’t you?
SR: Oh I. Oh yeah. That came later.
BR: Oh, that’s later.
SR: That came later. So first and foremost I went, I went into a [pause] ah yes, I went to 14 OTU. Wait a moment. I have to get this right. I’m getting mixed up again. One second. I went to West Freugh and did some proper gunnery training.
DM: Yeah.
SR: And, and that was at West Freugh. Yes. Now, bomber [paused] Bomber Command was a, was a different kettle of fish. It was very efficient. It was very efficient and I am getting lost a moment. I’ll get it a moment. It just takes time. I — and that’s when I did some real training at West Freugh and I then went down to, I think it was then I went to Scampton. Now, at Scampton the [pause] and I met my wife in Scampton. She was in the WAAF.
DM: Ok.
SR: And she was ninety seven and died a couple of months ago. So, I’m a bit lost. But coming back to Scampton was a, was a –
BR: Is that when you joined the squadron? At Scampton.
SR: Pardon?
BR: That’s when you joined the squadron at Scampton isn’t it? your squadron.
SR: I joined the squadron. Yes.
BR: Yeah
SR: I have been very lucky. Very lucky. So, the next, and I think Napoleon once said this to his guards, ‘You’re all brave men but the lucky ones — you should be lucky.’ You should be lucky. Anyhow, we [pause] when I went, oh yes, it’s coming now. When I joined 49 Squadron I’d done Latin at school and it was, “Cave canum.” “Beware of the dog.”
DM: Right.
SR: And that was at Scampton.
BR: Motto.
SR: So, so it’s, it’s [pause] so I had, the next problem is, what next? Now, at the 14 SR: OTU I was going through a proper Bomber Command training.
DM: Right.
SR: That was a big thing. Before it was a mishmash. So, what I did was, its coming back, it’s slowly. Bomber Command. Ah yes, we had, I had some proper [pause] I had some proper training in the air but then it started on what we called for short the ally ally at Doncaster. Now, Doncaster was marvellous training because this, the guy in charge hadn’t reached air marshall. He was building up with these Lancasters.
DM: Right.
SR: Hampdens. Hampdens. Now, the Hampdens is a different plane from all other. The British normally would — they [pause] dispersed the crew around so that anti-aircraft didn’t wipe the whole lot off.
DM: Yeah.
SR: Whereas the Hampden, which I ended up with, was a really built on German style. It did not, to begin with, it didn’t have a toilet.
DM: Right.
SR: That was important. It also looked like a German plane because it had two fins.
DM: Right.
SR: And it was — as a wireless operator gunner there was only four people on. There was the wireless operator gun, gunner and a man underneath with a gun pointing downwards and then there was the pilot. And underneath him because it was two storey but —
DM: Ok.
SR: It was a second pilot. But in emergency to get, say the second pilot, who was also the navigator, you had to pull him up if the pilot got killed with shrapnel or something like that. You had to pull up and get him, get his body off the cockpit. So, the Hampden had some shortcomings. It was difficult to get into. It was difficult to get out of. And, and the — it’s a model of one that my, Barbara’s husband he looked at it and drew, and drew in metal.
DM: Ok. So, this one.
SR: Yeah. That was it. You so, you see had only twin tail.
DM: Yeah.
SR: There was no gun turret in there. No gun turret in the front. And the crew were not dispersed. They were all in the front here.
DM: Right. All together.
SR: So, what happened was I went to Scampton and [pause] and oh I was telling you about this ally ally first. Before. This was in Doncaster and Gillingham. And what they did I’m trying to illustrate the training.
DM: Yeah.
SR: That we got. You would go into a hangar and there was Hampdens sitting on the ground. And what happened then the lights would gradually go because you only bombed at night. So, what happened then was underneath this plane they had a roll like canvas or something and it denoted the countryside that you were flying over.
DM: Oh. Ok. Yeah.
SR: Over the sea or what. And then you would have — have strung up in the dark, it was all dark, it was night. Because it was simulating a night raid and this was after the Operational Training Unit. You would then, you would then simulate the fighters coming at that and they reduce the power of your radio because it was a long way away.
DM: Yeah.
SR: So, it was all, so when you had done the ally ally and you you had some freedom because that was really formally the end of your training.
DM: Right.
SR: And then you then got posted to wherever you had been and I went to to Scampton and there in Scampton I met my wife. She was the WAAF stenographer to the group captain in charge. I think it was Whitworth but I’m not sure.
BR: It was.
SR: My memory’s starting to play up a bit. So, now I had done at OTU some leaflet dropping. Dropping leaflets. She was a WAAF. Dropping leaflets.
DM: I can see why you got married.
SR: Yes. She, she dropped leaflets and tea bags. There was propaganda all the time because when Lord Haw Haw the British Irishman who was broadcasting for the Germans they tried to discourage him by saying, when he said we were short of tea we would drop tea bags. And then we would drop leaflets asking them to give up. And there was another tea bag. What it was. What the hell was it now? Takes time. Oh yeah, a favourite spot you see was the tactics that the British adopted and I remember being very upset because they decided to raid Danzig. Danzig. And the, and that is the home of the Prussians to the north. And what they did is they flew — normally you flew over the over the sea to about to approach Germany. You were approaching the Frisian islands and then, now and then what you would normally do was then go up to your operational height where you would, your bombs were primed to drop from, from say eight thousand to ten thousand feet. It would be because you didn’t want to be above the cloud. A fighter will get you. If you’re underneath the cloud the ground people could kill you so you got a bumpy ride in the cloud.
DM: Right.
SR: Now where did I get now? Well we did leaflets. We did leaflets.
DM: You were talking about Danzig.
SR: Danzig. Ah yes. Ah yes. Now, that’s it. And I remember being very upset that what they did —normally they picked a plane. And the plane. But they picked the men this time. Individual.
DM: Ok.
SR: So, I I was really upset because another Scots fellow got, got picked to go. Well, he went but as was to be expected he got there alright because he took them totally by surprise and this is what Bomber Command was about. They did not — you couldn’t read today and tomorrow they will do exactly the same.
DM: Yeah.
SR: It was not like that at all. So, what they did they skimmed low but instead of rising to their operational height they flew straight away and they took the Germans completely by surprise.
DM: Right.
SR: So, they bombed Danzig. But when they turned to come home the Germans knew exactly what they were going to do. So, a lot of them tried to get via Sweden and and Norway. They tried everything but by and large most of them ended up as prisoners of war.
DM: Right.
SR: And the, I think [pause] anyhow I am back again and back now at Scampton and at Scampton is an old Roman road called Watling Street.
DM: Ah. Yeah.
SR: And you wouldn’t believe it. On one side it’s a very deep, deep drop and on the other side it’s nothing but there’s a deep [unclear] and it had been used in the First World War. So I then got my first bombing trip other than the leaflets and the [pause] It brings back memories of people. And one guy was so protective of his, of his, what do you call it? His sexual organs.
DM: Right.
BR: Family jewels. Yeah.
SR: He, he brought along a piece of armour plate which he put underneath the wireless operator’s seat.
DM: Right.
SR: And that would be alright. Now, there was another guy who never flew anywhere with a parachute. He just wouldn’t.
DM: Right.
SR: And that’s it. So — so coming back now to me I was, I was picked to go to Kiel. To Kiel. To bomb Kiel Harbour.
DM: Ok.
SR: Now, at that time the Germans were really being plastered by, by Bomber Command on say the station master at Ham. They bombed the station.
DM: Right.
SR: In Germany and tried and disrupt it as much as possible. Then the Germans did [pause] now before we took off the Germans were leaking like a sieve with all the guest workers they had.
DM: Right. Yeah.
SR: And we’d given, on rice paper, the position of this. You see, the Germans had many radio stations and they used to switch them so we didn’t know where they were. They would be on the same frequency but use a different call sign. And that was very confusing for, for people, but we were given, on rice paper but only what was right and we had to swallow that in case we were taken a prisoner.
DM: Yeah.
SR: So, all was said and the, and the Hampdens coming back got shot up sometimes because they looked like a German plane. Which they did.
DM: Yeah.
SR: Their twin tails and no gun turrets and things like that. So, so, when we, when [pause] now when we took off the pilot now each pilot had his own way of doing things. The first one was you’re supposed to check up your engines and check and wait on a green light.
DM: Yeah.
SR: And then you’ve got the green light then you go out to the take-off point. And then you, you rev up again and check up to make sure everything’s all right and then you take off. Now, some pilots, you were always very conscious of running out of fuel over the North Sea because you were cutting down fuel to increase the bomb load and so each pilot had his own way of doing things. Now, we were taking off in thick fog. It was unbelievable that anybody would. Would take off in such weather. But the whole idea was to —it started to get nasty. Before it was bombing ships and metal and roofs and things. Then it got nasty and you identified people. Now, the Germans did something very very clever but in the end it proved dumb. What they did, what they did was the British, the British always went with dead reckoning.
DM: Yeah.
SR: And things like that. And you went as an individual and you bombed as an individual and you came home as an individual. And you were hoping that the Spitfires wouldn’t mistake the Hampden. Well what happened then is — where the hell did I get to?
BR: Taking off in the fog.
SR: Pardon?
BR: You were taking off in the fog and then you started talking about the smart German plan that was really dumb.
SR: Wait a moment. Let me. It’ll come in a minute.
DM: I think you were comparing the British strategy with the German strategy. As being Individual and I think the Germans were in squadrons. In formation.
SR: Yeah. You see it will come in a minute. It will come in a minute. I’ve got to Scampton. I’ve got to Scampton and we were being briefed and the Germans —ah yes, it’s coming now. The Germans something very cunning but stupid in the end. They put a radio beam — I’ve got it now. We had standard landing approach and this was developed in America. And it meant that you would land in in bad weather and miss mountains.
DM: Right.
SR: So, what you had was a radio beam which went out a long long way and when you’re not at war now. You’re at home. And you pick up this beam and your frightened of Snaefell and Skiddaw and all the mountains and when you approach that you get a beam.
DM: Right.
SR: And on one side there’s a dot or a dash.
DM: Yeah.
SR: Now, that is a dot or a dash by by swinging the transmitter on the ground backwards and forwards.
DM: Ok.
SR: You then get to what’s called the outer marker. And at the outer marker — which is a sound coming up from the ground. There’s a transmitter down there and then you proceed. And you proceed and then you get to an inner marker and when you get the inner marker you know exactly you are at the end of the runway and you just let down. You’ve got to have the nerve to let down. In the thick fog you don’t see anything.
DM: Yeah.
SR: So, what the Germans did they used standard Lorenz landing gear like that and so did the British. They both were having identical equipment.
DM: Right.
SR: Now, the next thing that happened is the German radio engineer had a bright idea which proved fatal for him in the end. He, he laid a beam right across from Germany over —over Coventry.
DM: Right.
SR: Over Coventry. Then, in France they also laid a beam from France right across Coventry. And when the two met, beams met, they were over Coventry and automatically the bombs were released.
DM: Yeah.
SR: So, they bombed Coventry without seeing the ground. That shook the British no end. And it shook everybody else because round the bit of Coventry were all the factories.
DM: Yeah.
SR: Making planes and things like that but all the workers were dead in Coventry centre. So that shook the British and it was the end of of bombing [pause] the end of bombing indiscriminately.
DM: Yeah.
SR: It was human beings and that’s why the British started killing the people who were preparing these V1 and V2s and things like that.
DM: Yeah.
SR: It was a complete change. A complete change. And, and now I, in the meantime I had, I had didn’t get to do my trip to to Kiel because the pilot crashed.
DM: Oh right.
SR: Now, he did — he did the [pause] it was pitch dark and, and he took off in fog. No wind at all to help you up and what he did was he clipped the one and only bloody tree that was there because there was no lift. There’s no lift when there’s no wind.
DM: Yeah.
SR: And, and we knew we were going to crash because he, he hit the tree and there was a bump and then he said, ‘Prepare to crash.’ And, and so we did but I believe it’s stupid and you get told to do it all the time — brace yourself. Well, if you brace yourself what happens? But I didn’t know it. You see I was surrounded with ammunition. I was surrounded with ammunition and there — there was a, your two guns with pans to fill and you [pause] you so in a way you were protected by the pans but in the end when we hit the ground everything — everything happens so fast that you can hardly remember it. I can hardly remember that the guy down below, between my legs, he wasn’t there. He got wiped off.
DM: Right.
SR: And then I couldn’t get out because the metal — they’d used a very light metal. I think it had a lot of magnesium in it and when it gets hot it goes on fire. Now, I knew I was burning because you can smell yourself burning and I thought I had had it. Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, the two — the pilot and the navigator came around and risked their lives to get me out. So, what they did they just, they just tore everything away and managed to get me out of this heavy flying outfit because bear in mind you had, you had a silken thing. This plane was not meant for comfort. It didn’t have a toilet. It didn’t have anything. It didn’t have any heating so you heated yourself with silk and underclothes. Everything was built for speed and it was quite fast. But what happened then — I got up, they got me out and then I knew there was something wrong with me. I had given myself up for dead and then it’s remarkable how when you think you’re free you’re not dead. So, we got out and each, the pair of them grabbed me by a hand and they pulled me in to the nearest ditch. Ditch. And we went in to the ditch and it was, it was cold and wet. Don’t forget it was November. November can be bloody cold. So –and then we waited because the bombs were going to go off with the burning. It burned. It burnt like a cigarette lighter and then we hid in the ditch until the bombs exploded and went off and then we were really shaken. Then, from sometime later people from the squadron came and got on our shelter. The other two were alright. The pilot. The underground guy, I never saw him again. And all I knew is I was conscious of there was something wrong with my leg. I didn’t know what was wrong and I tried to get up and run. And then the crew, the station people came and got me. The doctor on the station. He came and gave me a shot of some pain killer and then I was taken to Rauceby. To Rauceby Hospital and there was [pause] there was a doctor there and he worked so hard. I’ve never seen anybody work so hard but my arm was burned, my face was burned. Left the shelter. I lost two teeth and I I and this guy set to work on me and they — they put a saline solution on my burns because at one time they used to put tannin something on and it was all shrink and wrinkle and things like that. But I was very lucky because the RAF had their own doctors and I’d never seen doctors work so hard in my life as I did then. Then after a time, they got rid of my, they got rid of the saline solution but my ankle was a different proposition. I was in, I was in [pause] I was having hot wax baths because my, my ankle was in a bad way and my burns were better but my ankle was the biggest trouble. And then, and then I ended up in hospital in Rauceby and I was there for three and a half years.
DM: Wow.
SR: Three and a half years I never got out of bed. I never got out of bed. I was in wax. Wax. And then one day they said to me, ‘We don’t think we can do anything more for you except take bones from your hip and make pegs out of the bone.’ And they pegged up my right leg. It burned up my right leg so that I couldn’t do that. Up and down. I could do that. I couldn’t walk on grass. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t dance. Your mother was a good dancer. And so, I just had to live with it. I had to live with this. Then I had, what can always be said, is a piece of luck. A piece of luck. Because, and this is where my training in the air force was very good —they just said to me, ‘We don’t know what to do with you,’ So they did this operation. I think it’s illegal now but they did it. but at least it saved my leg otherwise my leg would have been off.
DM: Right.
SR: So, what happened [pause] is a captain [pause] it’s coming in a minute. It’s coming in a minute. A captain. I’ve forgotten his name. They offered me a job despite having my, my burns had gone.
DM: Yeah.
SR: My nose. I still get a bit of problem with my nose and one day they said, ‘Look. You can still fly.’ I said, ‘I know that. What would you like me to do?’ He then said to me, ‘We want you to go outside.’ I said, ‘What do you mean by outside?’ He said, ‘Anything in the world. You go where I ask you to go.’ He said, ‘What kind of a man are you? Do you want to get back to your wife every night?’ I said, ‘No, but I’d like to know what I’m going to do.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘This is what we’re going to do if you’re willing. We are going to, when we get a big contract for communications.’ Now, bear in mind I was more keen on engineering. Keen than that.
DM: Yeah.
SR: He said, ‘Would you go with the contract?’ Will you learn Arabic?’ I said, ‘Yes. Yes, I’ll learn Arabic.’ So, he then said, ‘When we get a contract you will go along. You’ll fly there. You don’t need to walk anywhere. You’ll fly there and I’ll fly first class all the time.’ So off we went and the first time I went was to Libya. And I went to Libya and I showed them how to — to I showed them how. How to build but they were crafty because [pause] it will come in a minute. So, I I went to Libya and then I went to Turkey and all the time I was, was, as somebody once said to me, ‘Walking like a ruptured crab.’ But the fact is I couldn’t walk on grass. I couldn’t do anything except I could talk and tell them what to do with the equipment and it was many millions of dollars or pounds that.
BR: Is this still with the air force though dad?
SR: Pardon?
BR: Is this still with the air force when you went to Libya?
SR: No. I had left the air force because they told me they couldn’t do anything for me.
BR: No. You were training people.
SR: Pardon?
BR: You were training people at Scampton. Weren’t you? After the, after you got better weren’t you training people at Scampton?
SR: Oh no. No. I missed a bit. I missed a bit. This is —I missed a bit out.
BR: You did.
SR: At Scampton.
BR: Yeah.
SR: They didn’t know what to do with me so what they came up with there’d been a lot of people who had wanted to be aircrew and they and they were accepted and immediately sent overseas to Rhodesia and Canada and when they came back [pause] and when they came back they they then saw the chances of living was very slim so they then started failing in Morse and failing this and failing that. So, it was a waste of money. So, for what they then did is, I was still at Scampton and that’s where I was told I was walking like a ruptured crab. But they had an idea that I would do Morse training to youngsters before they were sent to Canada or Rhodesia.
DM: Ok.
SR: So they could be on a bomber station and see the carnage at night because it was every dark night. Every dark night it was carnage. So, its [pause] so it was a, now I’ve got, I missed that. I missed that. But then this guy in Coventry took me and said you will go outside and you will go first class and you will, when we get a big contract you will tell them how to, how to do it.
DM: And this was after the air force.
SR: Eh?
DM: This was after you left the air force. Was it?
SR: This was after the air force.
DM: Yeah.
SR: The air force said, ‘We don’t know what to do with you,’ And that’s when they stiffened me up. Nevertheless, I and they had told me a little bit about getting on with people. Getting on with people. So, when the [pause] this fellow in Coventry — he started to get me to do Arabic and and then he would send me out to with senior people and a lot of the people were Muslims who came to, to Coventry to get the skills and things like that.
DM: Ok.
SR: So, all was going reasonably well because I — wait a moment. It’ll come in a second. I haven’t been to Finland yet have I?
DM: No. Not Finland.
SR: Well, the first thing is I went to Finland. I was out of the air force then. I went to Finland but you see I never felt the cold.
DM: Right.
SR: And one day the Fins are pretty [pause] I was in Coventry working with GEC. GEC. General Electric Company. And I went to Finland because I had skills which, if you take the curvature of the earth and then you look to see on the curvature of the earth what obstructions are in the way like trees and things like that. And buildings. So, I had to sit in Coventry in a planning section and plan this, this — allow for the curvature of the earth and then allow for the length of the feature and then it comes up with how high your towers are. Now, the higher you go the more expensive it is so you have to keep it low. So, I went to Coventry — to Finland and I was up in the Gulf of Oulu.
DM: Oh yes.
SR: That’s a little place at the top and I was out. Out. It was dry. A dry cold and I didn’t feel it and I didn’t have I hat on and this policeman thought I was a drunk.
DM: Right.
SR: So, they took me to the contractor. They knew what I was doing and then, and then I got the message. I can’t go around without a hat. I got a hat and a fur [unclear] to come down and touch your ears otherwise you’ll going to get frostbite.
DM: Yeah.
SR: So that was Oulu. Then I found out that the, the — then I found out that the crooks were getting very smart and they were pinching the copper from a power line.
DM: Yeah.
SR: With a power line. Now, in my dealings with with GEC they developed what was called a power line carrier. In other words over say a 400kb line they would put over a communication signal.
DM: Yeah. Ok. Yeah.
SR: Now, and I was, I was very fortunate then because they sent me to Haiti in the West Indies.
DM: You’ve been everywhere.
SR: And I’ve been evacuated. And now, now I didn’t know what came next except I got a phone call in Haiti and it was a tough country, Haiti. Papa Doc Duvalier. So, I was worried that I would have to stay and do a complete look after the project because it was from, from everything the company had. Well, it wasn’t to be because in all these trips I had been tearing around the world and my wife was at home.
DM: Yeah.
SR: And she didn’t like it. Then she asked, they asked me to go. To come home and, ‘We want you to go to Australia for three years.’
DM: Right.
SR: But first, we want you to go to Northern Ireland and then Eire, Southern Ireland. Now, what happens is Northern Ireland? The Shannon. The river rises but when it gets down south that’s where they take the power from it to make electricity and this is what they were doing. They were going to do with. So I came. I came home and, and I had to be pretty careful with this. With walking. I was walking, as the guy said —like a ruptured crab. And then and then they sprung their surprise, ‘We want you to go to Australia for three years.’ Now, my wife had a sister in Sydney.
DM: Ok.
SR: So, it didn’t mean a thing to me except I had problems with driving a car. When I was flying everywhere I wasn’t using my [pause]
DM: Yeah.
SR: So we I went to Ireland and saw this new form of communications where you inject a communications into the power of the high voltage line.
DM: Right.
SR: Now, it’s not without its danger.
DM: I can imagine. Yeah.
SR: Because if you do it exactly as the book said you hadn’t got a problem but if you don’t behave it you will. You will be in trouble. So, I came here and to my amazement to my amazement they [pause] they, it took off here because it was a snowy mountain scheme.
DM: Ok.
SR: And there was a power line carrier. It was taking the water and nobody can pinch the communications. The military liked it here as well.
DM: Ok.
SR: The military liked it here and so I had about three years here and they then — and they then called me home.
DM: Right.
SR: And when my call, when my wife went home she didn’t like the cold weather. She didn’t like the cold weather.
DM: I can imagine that. Yeah.
SR: So, what happened next is she persuaded me to give up this good job I had because I was well paid. Wherever I went I was well paid. And we had got married so when we got here —oh when she went home she didn’t like it. It was too cold. Too cold. So, she persuaded me to give up the job which had paid me very well and we we soldiered on. So, at the end of the time she said, ‘Look. I’m not happy here. Let’s go back. Let’s go back.’ So, for the first time in my life I paid out to come out on a ship.
DM: Ok.
SR: And I got here and I then approached Philips for a job. I approached numerous people for a job and I couldn’t get a job. So, I said, ‘Now we’ve made a mess of this.’ You see, my wife, she, she had rescued me when I was really low when I didn’t think anybody would marry me.
DM: Right.
SR: Anyway, we got married but when it came here the snowy mountain scheme was going to come to an end and it came to an end and then I had to start looking for a job. And the only place I could get a job —you wouldn’t believe this —was Siemens the German company. So, I found out that I was a better communication engineer than the Germans were.
DM: Right.
SR: The Germans were not very good engineers at all. They may have good engineers in metal but electronics is a completely different ball game. So, what happened then? I [pause] they offered me then a job. They offered me a job. So, but I was very windy that they would get rid of me the next day.
DM: Right.
SR: Things like that. So, nevertheless, I’ve always been like this if you’ve got to do something do it and get on with it. So, what happened next? They said to me, ‘We would like you to go to a German language school?’
DM: Ok.
SR: And I said yes. Yes. Yes. ‘But we want you to go to Germany to do the language school and it will take six months. You will be well looked after but we have assessed you and you can do the job but you have to learn German.’
DM: Right.
SR: So, I went off to Germany and and the went to a little —a little school in the country outside Munich and in this outside Munich for six days for six months I ate, ate in this small school. I ate together, worked together with a group from all over the world.
DM: Right.
SR: And I was very careful not to speak too much to Spaniards and things like that because their speech was hopeless. Whereas I had done French and my Scots accent came right through the French.
DM: Right.
SR: But with German I could handle it. I could handle it.
DM: I could imagine the Scots and German.
SR: Yeah.
DM: Easy. Yeah.
SR: So, I found I found that the Germans had —they didn’t like to lose money either. They didn’t like to lose money and I and I was in this village completely on my own and the [pause] so when the time now I was so green at the time I was learning German and then you come to a time when you think you know and I thought I knew everything. But then I found I didn’t know everything. Especially I never heard children speaking German and things like that.
DM: Ok.
SR: But you had to read a newspaper as part of the exam. There’s always an exam with Germans.
DM: Yeah.
SR: So, I had to take this exam and you read the newspaper and then you’ve got to condense it. Make it smaller.
DM: Ok. Yeah. Precis.
SR: And then I found out words that I would never come across in this newspaper. It says — “This woman is looking for a husband,” and he has to be so tall and have so much money and do this and do that. I couldn’t believe it but then you had to do a [unclear] I but then you had to repeat it again and I was aghast at how much. Then after that I worked up to, after the, after I’d had my sixth months training you think you know everything then and then you realise you’re only just beginning. So, I went to Switzerland and the Swiss want you to speak German but like –
DM: Like the Swiss.
SR: Like the Swiss speak German.
DM: Very different.
SR: Yeah. And then I went to Italy because Siemens were working with Italy and the Italians [pause] Milano. And I drove from Munich to Milano by car and I then had the confidence to some driving again. I was getting. I was getting better but I was getting well paid. They were paying well. So what happened then is I came back here and this new power line — the military were very interested because you can’t tap a line.
DM: Yeah.
SR: On a 400kb [unclear] so I then, I then but all the time my leg was protesting. The whole bloody time it was protesting and I was in pain. The more I walked the worse it was. Then this. And then this [pause] when they put this this piece of hip into my right ankle.
DM: Yeah.
SR: It never really took. It never really took. And I used to see the doctor here, Dr Spencer, he has looked after my leg all the time I’ve been here in Australia and then I came to the conclusion that if Siemens were going to get rid of me they wouldn’t do it after they’d spent so much money.
DM: Right.
SR: So, when they came back. When I came back I built this house and I built it with no stairs, no lift. One floor only. But I still have trouble with my leg.
DM: Yeah.
SR: And if you look at the leg it’s all swollen up.
DM: Yeah.
SR: And it’s all swollen up all the time. And I then, they asked me, they asked me when you get to a certain level they didn’t like my weight.
DM: Right.
SR: And, and they were very conscious of your health all the time and they had me dipping fingers in chalk and then standing up and trying to jump, leap up and put a mark how high I could go. And I — then they wanted to know, they wanted to send me to Germany for training before I got promotion.
DM: Yeah.
SR: And I, they had for two days they had me because I was overweight and then they investigated my family. What they had died of. How long they had lived for. My father, my mother and my grandmother and if didn’t know but I did know my grandmother. What she had died of and they but I learned something if you leave a question unanswered it comes back regularly. It comes back regularly. So, in the end they said we [pause] now I had to assess my staff.
DM: Yeah.
SR: I had about two hundred engineers here. Radio engineers of different, different nationalities. They were, they were not all north Germans. They were all people who didn’t want Germany but they had been in Germany. So I, when they told me they wanted to send me to Germany I went to see my local, my doctor here. He said, ‘Look. They’re doing this for their benefit not for yours.’ So, I kept that in mind. So it’s, it’s been a — they paid well. Siemens paid very well but they demand a lot.
DM: Very Germanic.
SR: They demand. So, what I was doing I was flying to New Zealand and up to Papua New Guinea and flying all around Australia. Tasmania.
DM: Yeah.
SR: And I found that I was doing more traveling here than I had been in the UK so there Germans want it their way but I also wanted it my way. And, and they held up, now, you get promotion if you’ve been successful but there is a price you have to pay for that promotion. You have to be slim.
DM: Right.
SR: And I was never a slim person. I was a football player in Scotland when I was young and I, unfortunately when you come to the exercise you put on weight. But there’s another thing. When I joined Siemens I used my military training. Now, this is a big country and they have one failing. They don’t make anything themselves. They buy everything. They buy a power supply or test instruments or that but what happens — the six states, the six states send in roughly about three months in advance of the orders being placed to a central office here and if you use your brains you fly to these six states and talk to the people and you find out what they’re going to order.
DM: Right.
SR: It costs you money. It costs you money but you make you don’t make errors. You don’t make errors. So, what happens is my expense bill would be high.
DM: Yeah.
SR: But by the same token I didn’t drink alcohol of any kind so they knew I wasn’t alcoholic or anything like that but I pointed out is by wanting to be sure of meeting my budget, my budget and the Germans give you a budget and they mean it.
DM: Yeah.
SR: It’s not their — they don’t like a hockey stick budget that’s like that, then goes up like that. You have to. So by and large I had to do a lot of travelling here and in New Zealand because the new Zealanders are very pro-Europe. Pro UK. I mean not [UT?] so I knew pretty well what to do in New Zealand. So, they would ask me to go to New Zealand and I would go to New Zealand and even when I was retiring when I was seventy two they said, ‘Keep in New Zealand.’ And I said I may as well have stayed in Scotland. It is bloody well cold in southern New Zealand. And they agreed with me but the said, ‘We’ll bring you home every week. Just get the business.’ You see the Germans have a philosophy that it’s better to pay a bribe than lose staff that you’ve trained for years.
DM: Yeah.
SR: That’s one of their golden mottos.
DM: Hang on to people.
SR: But they have another rule and I notice that Britain has that as well. If a senior German has sex with a youngster the senior gets the sack.
DM: Right.
SR: Now, recently in England — in England there was a woman who became a captain of a ship. She had sex with a young, a young man. She got the sack.
DM: She got the sack.
SR: The senior got the sack. And the Germans are exactly the same.
DM: Right.
SR: Now, there’s another similarity. Another similarity. The English came from lower Saxony, Dresden. They like a front door and a back door. The tradesman go to the back door. The ordinary person goes to the front door but tradesman go to the back.
DM: Yeah. Much the same.
SR: And there’s similarity. I’ve had opportunity to watch all this.
DM: Yeah. Tell me. Did you ever have another operation on your leg? Or was it?
SR: I, I had a, I had a the ankle joint was destroyed completely.
DM: Yeah. So, you had the operation in the air force and then afterwards did you have another operation or has it always been the same?
SR: No. It’s always been the same.
DM: Right.
SR: Nobody else has touched it. it was the, it was the —if I will show you what the problem is. I’ll just put that down. [pause] I’ve always caused amazement when I go into a hospital and I’ve been in here, in lots of hospitals. And I met, one second —oh yeah that’s my glasses. I’ll put my glasses up here.
DM: Right.
SR: And then I’ll put that down if I may.
DM: Right.
SR: Then I’ll show you. This has always caused, whenever I go into a hospital and I’ve been into a few and a few English doctors were out here. I’m desperately [unclear] stuck otherwise I’ll knock it.
[pause]
DM: It’s obviously difficult.
SR: Can you just take my, take it off?
DM: Oh right.
SR: It’s all swollen.
BR: [unclear] have you seen Dr Spencer. You went down there for a while.
SR: This is all the time and I’ve had to take pills.
DM: Continuously. Yeah.
SR: Pardon?
DM: Continuously since it happened.
SR: Pardon?
DM: Continuously. Pills.
SR: Continuously. Look, I’ve had pain all my life since this happened.
DM: Yeah.
SR: I used to be a football player. I used to be a dancer. Scottish reels and things like that. My wife, she married when me — when I was like this.
BR: What did you do with your friends?
SR: Pardon?
BR: When you and mum went dancing what did you do with friends? Do you remember that story?
SR: I’ve forgotten.
BR: Well mum liked dancing. Dad would have one dance with her even though it was too much and he lined up his friends. You got your friends to dance with mum.
SR: Oh yes. I think I told you, you see, my wife was a WAAF at the station to the — stenographer to the station commander and she [pause] she. Oh dear.
BR: She was rather taken by you, dad.
SR: What?
BR: She was rather taken by you.
SR: Yeah.
BR: Right.
SR: I was taken by her. Now, this is the point. I’ll start again. There used to be a saying that aircrew married their nurses.
DM: Right.
SR: Well, it was almost true for me because I had been so long in Rauceby Hospital and you’re plastered up to here sometimes and it can be most uncomfortable because in the summer time a fly can get in and cause you — in the plaster can cause irritation or if there’s been bleeding it stinks. So, what happened is I couldn’t dance and Bett was a good dancer. Now, when she and I at Scampton got together she made it very clear she wouldn’t carry on with me if I had any kind of connection with a nurse.
BR: [unclear]
SR: You know it’s a long time in hospital I can tell you. Anyway, what happened is she gave an ultimatum cut out this and that’s that. So when she decided to, to get serious she, there was night when I couldn’t dance. I couldn’t dance and there was a night do on in the mess and what she did, what I did — at that time the air force didn’t know what to do with me and that’s when they gave me the job of teaching Morse code before they went overseas as a bomber station. So she had contact. So, what happened? So I was teaching all these pupils Morse and because I couldn’t dance and she liked dancing all the pupils that were doing this — they kept her dancing and I just looked on. I looked on.
DM: A good way to do it.
BR: A good way to do it.
DM: I’d better wind up here I think. Stop taking all your time and go back and see my wife.
SR: Now this is the whole point I wanted to tell you. Yes. In Siemens I had a problem which I pointed out to them what I had to do and I said, ‘You’re penalising me because I am doing what you want. And you want me to entertain people. Well that makes me fatter and you can’t have it both ways.’ So that’s when the [unclear ] started. ‘Shall we send you to Germany?’ Because to get to this stage now I was the Germans rank employees just the same as they do their military and the reason for this is they can militarise the population as quickly as possible. They can because their education. They can put just in the right spot. Now I’ll just show you something.

Collection

Citation

Donald McNaughton, “Interview with Simson Reid,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 6, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/3479.

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