Interview with Ronald Rodgers


Interview with Ronald Rodgers


Ronald Rodgers joined the Royal Australian Air Force aged seventeen, having previously been in the Air Training Corps. He trained as an air gunner and was posted to 460 Squadron at RAF Binbrook but did not fly operationally. On discharge in 1946 Roy worked in banking, retiring in 1970.




Temporal Coverage




01:07:56 audio recording


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JM: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Jean MacCartney, the interviewee is Ron Rodgers. The interview is taking place at Mr Rodgers home in Southport, Queensland on the 20th of February 2017. Ron lets –
RR: And the spelling of it is R,O,D.
JM: R,O,D. Yes, we’ve got that yes, yes. Now we’ll start at the beginning Ron.
JM: Back in 1924, and you were born in Cowra?
RR: Yep.
JM: And did that mean that you spent some time in Cowra or your early years?
RR: I grew, I went to school in Cowra. And then I joined the, it was in those days the Union Bank, which became the ANZ afterwards.
JM: Um.
RR: And then I was seventeen by this stage and I was transferred to Caloundra, which was a town twenty miles away. And I worked there until I went into the air force. Well actually I got called up for the military first and I reported to the military area zone at [unclear]. And as soon as I told them that I had an application in for the air force and I was just sort of waiting on the reply, they discharged me in two days, and I went back.
JM: Right. Well just before we go a little bit further there, let’s just go back a little bit. So, your time in Cowra. You did primary school and high school? Did you finish at the Intermediate Certificate or did you go through to the Leaving Certificate?
RR: Yes, finished at the Leaving Certificate.
JM: Leaving Certificate, you did your Leaving Certificate?
RR: Did the leaving certificate, yes.
JM: Right, OK. And your parents, were both, were they in town or?
RR: Yes. my Father was a local builder.
JM: Right.
RR: And he was, he’d been building there for, since the early 1900’s.
JM: Um.
RR: Had built a lot of homes in Cowra over the years. And he died a couple of years after this period. When I, by this stage the bank had appointed me to – oh that’s right, no I was going into the air force.
JM: Right.
RR: So, I went straight into the air force.
JM: Um.
RR: And I was in the air force until I came back.
JM: Um.
RR: After the war.
JM: Yeah, but in terms of the, you finished your Leaving Certificate and then from having done that you went into the bank at the local branch of the bank there and then?
RR: Yes.
JM: You did?
RR: Had a few months there.
JM: Had a few there and then they put you off to Coonamble?
RR: Yep. Caloundra.
JM: Caloundra, sorry my apologies. And then you had the call up but you had, you’d sent off your application for the air force. Why did you choose the air force, why did you want to go into the air force?
RR: Well I’d been involved in the ATC.
JM: Right. The Air Training Corps, what from?
RR: From about when I was about fourteen.
JM: Right.
RR: And I had my heart set on being a flyer.
JM: Um.
RR: I finished up I didn’t fly much. I started Tiger Moths.
JM: Um.
RR: But each instructor had about five pupils and so they were looking to get you out very quickly. And I can always remember I’d had one flight out to the satellite drome and they came and said ‘The chief scrub inspector wants you to fly him back to Malanda’. And I said ‘OK’ and I can always remember this, as I was coming into land there wasn’t a Tiger Moth in the sky. And suddenly I looked at this area, part of the landing area, and there were nine Tiger Moth’s all coming in at once. And the instructor said to me, he said ‘If you land in a white pegged area you’re scrubbed’. And sure enough, there was ‘planes coming in, I moved over and I landed in a white pegged area. That was the last time until Margaret took me on my birthday a few years ago on a Tiger Moth flight. That was the last time I’d flown a Tiger Moth.
JM: Um. And this is when then you were in the Air Training Corps?
RR: Yes, I’d signed up.
JM: Yeah, for the air force yeah.
RR: For the air force yeah. And it was only a matter of a couple of weeks and I went to Lindfield in Sydney, in Bradfield Park.
JM: Um.
RR: Which was the induction area for aircrew.
JM: Um.
RR: I did training there and then I was sent out as a prospective pilot.
JM: Um.
RR: Because this one error that fixed me. And then I said ‘What happens now?’ They said ‘You’re being transferred to No2 Wireless School at, what was the name?
JM: Parks?
RR: Yeah, Parks.
JM: Um.
RR: Yeah. To do a wireless course. I’d studied Morse ‘cause my bank manager had been a first World War guy. And they did Morse and he sort of got me going on Morse and I’d obviously topped the course in Bradfield Park. And so, out of seventeen who were scrubbed out of, there were about fifty in the course, we all volunteered for straight gunners. And everyone except me was posted. I was down posted, you know I had to do a wireless air gunners course at the Parks. And I was the only one. I went to Parks, and the other seventeen I think there were of them. And I did the gunnery course with them and then went back to Parks, and I did the course, which took six months. And amazingly enough, my closest friend there, he’d been in the next bunk to me at Bradfield Park, and I got to know him well. And we became close friends and he was my closest friend and today I’ve just read an article, he got killed in a crash and he’d written – and he’d done twenty ops and every op that he did he wrote a full story. And Bomber Command have been printing his story for the last flight he did and the one today in that flight magazine, it’s his sixth trip. So he’s, there’s still fourteen –
JM: To go.
RR: To go. And they’re putting in one a month.
JM: Um.
RR: But it was amazing the pilot, how, we got split up once we got to England. And I picked up the paper one day, and there’s a photo of this pilot who escaped without a parachute. And it turns out he was the skipper of the crew that Mac was flying in.
JM: Um.
RR: And suddenly the, I forget what the aircraft was, an Anson or something, it exploded and blew this guy, the pilot, out into the air without a parachute.
MM: Parachute.
RR: At twenty thousand feet and amazingly enough as he was falling through the air he hit something in the air. ‘Cause some of the them had got out. And grabbed onto it and it was the mid upper gunner who was coming down in a parachute. So, he came down with him in his parachute. And it’s amazing, my doctor treated him after he came back, after the war for the injury to his legs.
JM: Legs.
RR: And he died only about a year ago. And of course, Mac came down and his parachute was on fire.
JM: Oh dear.
RR: And it, he was killed when he hit the ground.
JM: When he hit the ground, on impact?
RR: But that’s just a side issue.
JM: A side yeah. Well I mean the point is you were just saying about how you had been doing your training with him. Yeah, so having done your training at Parks, you then more or less went to preparation for departure and went up to Brisbane?
RR: Yeah. I went to No2 wireless air gunners course at Parks.
JM: Yes, but after that.
RR: For six months. After that I know they just moved us out of a tent.
JM: Um.
RR: And I can always remember the mud and stuff. Onto a liberty ship which was [telephone ringing], had brought some American troops to Australia on its first, its maiden voyage.
JM: Um.
RR: And we were loaded onto that ship. And there were about eighty of us I think we were. And we went, we got let off at Alcatraz.
JM: Um. And –
RR: I didn’t go in the prison.
JM: No.
RR: We were in a, there was a camp right opposite on the other side of the bay.
JM: Um.
RR: And I’d volunteered to fly as a straight air gunner, although I’d done my wireless course and had got my wags, wings and all that sort of thing. But I still decided to carry on as a straight air gunner. And I finished up, I’d been to 460 the Australian squadron.
JM: Um.
RR: I did a Morse, Reuters Morse course at Yatesbury and then I went, volunteered, went to Yatesbury in Wiltshire and volunteered again to fly as a straight air gunner.
JM: Um.
RR: And I’d been at Binbrook for three months or something, that’s with the Australian squadron.
JM: Yeah, that’s when you in the 460, so when you got to Binbrook was when you were posted to 460 Squadron? Yes?
RR: Yes. That was 460.
JM: Um.
RR: And then I got wings, I went to Yatesbury, which is Reuters wireless school.
JM: Yep, yep.
RR: And I did fairly well in that. And I still volunteered to fly as a straight air gunner ‘cause we wanted to get it over and done with and get home.
JM: Home, that’s right yeah. So that’s OK, so you got to, you did all your, you did –
RR: Conversion.
JM: You got to Binbrook as 460?
RR: I went from Binbrook to Winthorpe where we converted onto Lancasters.
JM: Yep, um. So, you didn’t do any operational work at Binbrook? Didn’t run any, didn’t do any operational flights?
RR: No.
JM: Ok, so.
RR: Only, I was flying one flight from Binbrook. One morning the call woke me up at seven o’clock in the morning, and said ‘Get straight up to the Adjutant’s office, there’s a Lancaster waiting outside to take you to….’ And I’ve forgotten the name of the squadron which up was up at, which was up near Newcastle.
JM: Um.
RR: And, Newcastle upon Tyne, and they flew me up. ‘Cause they’d picked me because of my Morse knowledge.
JM: Yep.
RR: And I was going to be. I was interviewed and I looked at all the equipment in the Halifax. There was sort of special equipment, and the last thing that the guy said to me, he said ‘Right, there’s a Lancaster waiting to take you back to Binbrook, and we’ll contact you within seven days. ‘Cause you qualify for this job handling the electronics on the –
JM: The Halifax?
RR: On the Lancaster, no Halifax, Halifax.
JM: Yep.
RR: It was ‘cause I think there were only three Halifax’s with this equipment in them. But in that week they had a couple of crashes and lost the whole crew. And so the next thing I heard, I’m posted to Morton in the Marsh.
JM: Um.
RR: Which was Wellington.
JM: Right. So you had to do –
RR: OTU Squadron.
JM: Right, yeah.
RR: So I was [unclear] Morton in the Marsh. And we, and from there, we moved to, at the end of the course, we were moved to –
JM: To Winthorpe?
RR: To Winthorpe.
JM: For Lancaster conversion is that right?
RR: To Lancaster conversion yeah.
JM: Yep, so that’s in –
RR: And we did the Lancaster conversion, and we got a report that we were a real good crew and they were going to recommend us for Pathfinders.
JM: Um.
RR: Anyhow suddenly the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
JM: Um.
RR: And we’d moved only a few weeks before to Skellingthorpe.
JM: Um.
RR: And to, oh what were they called? I keep forgetting the name of it.
JM: Tiger Force?
RR: Tiger Force.
JM. Yeah.
RR: Yeah we were moved to Tiger Force.
JM: Um.
RR: In fact there’s a photo out in the office there of our course. ‘Cause there were, there were, sixty squadrons of Lancasters going to bomb Tokyo. And we were due to leave in two days time to fly to Tokyo up by the Arctic Circle, and the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, and that’s –
JM: And that was the end of that?
RR: And that stopped it all. But we’d done about five months flying in Tiger Force.
JM: Right, yeah.
RR: And within six weeks we were on our way home.
JM: Home. So basically you just – it was all training as such. You didn’t actually then do any operational missions –
RR: Oh, when we were doing at the conversion unit, which put us onto Lancasters –
JM: Yep.
RR: We did our, I’ve got the logbook down here.
JM: Um.
RR: And between Morton in the Marsh and Skellingthorpe –
JM: Yeah.
RR: We’d done about eight hundred hours flying. And we were flying every day.
JM: Um. Flying every day.
RR: And we were doing diversions.
JM: Um.
RR: And it’s amazing, just been looking into it. [unclear] getting the letter from Bomber Command. And there was one operation that we did, which was a, it was a bogus operation on Tokyo.
JM: Um.
RR: It was the diversion, and we were mainly flying diversions all over the Atlantic but no bombing.
JM: No.
RR: It was all this sort of flying. And so that’s my history really.
JM: Yeah, no. And of course you didn’t, with the way that all turned out you didn’t then have to do any of the pick ups and returns of the servicemen from Europe back to the UK? That, others did that?
RR: Oh, we did that.
JM: You did do that?
RR: We did that. We were put on a ship, and there was about a hundred of us. Australians, all Australians, about a hundred or so. They put us onto a ship, and the Chief of the Air Force in England was on the wharf. And all these blokes were coming off the ship and shouting and performing and. Anyhow they rounded us up and got us all back on the ship. You wouldn’t believe it and down this [unclear] of Spain it broke down completely. And we had to come back and they sent another ship down to pick us up to take us back and we were another six weeks in England. And then we came via Suez Canal and Taranto, Italy. We went around Italy and ‘cause they were picking up a few New Zealanders there. But yes well it was a very interesting exercise. And actually within two days of the Americans dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki the Japanese surrendered. And so suddenly everything had stopped and we were still flying for another month or so. We were just, we were flying over Europe, doing reconnaissance because they were worried that the Germans were going to start again.
JM: Um. Was there also a concern about the Russians at all at that point, or?
RR: Yeah, the Russians. The Russians came in, in fact the Russians released quite a lot of Australians that were, or Jews I think they were, that were in jail there. But that’s all the Russians. The Russians soon got out of the action there they wiped the Germans out. But that finished up being a very interesting period. And of the crew there’s only –
JM: When did you, because you’d had a lot of changes, once you were crewed up, when did you?
RR: Crewed up.
JM: Crewed up. Was it when you were at the Wellington OTU, was that when you were crewed up?
RR: Yes, yes.
JM: Right. And so who did you have in your crew? All Australians in your [unclear] yeah?
RR: All Australians.
JM: A mix of sort of west and east or?
RR: No, they were all Australians and we had a excellent pilot and the only Englishman in the crew was the engineer.
JM: Right.
RR: You’ll see in those photos, only seven of them in photo. Although I think there was one with only six. But yes so, we did a tremendous amount of flying.
JM: Flying um.
RR: Amazing.
JM: You said eight hundred hours I think didn’t you?
RR: The two together. I’ve got a copy of the logbook, pilot’s logbook.
JM: Right, yeah.
RR: And there’s about eight hundred. We did about eight hundred hours flying between OTU and the conversion. CSF.
JM: Going into the Lancasters?
RR: Yeah, Lancasters. But we did, I think we did, about three hundred hours I think in Wellingtons. There’s a note on the, in the logbook there, that the total was round about eight hundred flying hours.
JM: Um, gosh. And so, this pilot, well your crew, the whole crew that you were on. Did you stay together as a crew and then return home as a crew?
RR: Yes, yes.
JM: Yes, OK. And did –
RR: Out of that crew there’s only the pilot and myself left alive.
JM: And who’s the, is the pilot, was the pilot?
RR: The pilot was Wal Goodwin.
JM: Goodwin, yeah right.
RR: And we think there’s only the two of us out of the crew, others have died.
JM: Yes.
RR: ‘Cause the navigator and the bomb aimer were both, I think ten years at least older.
JM: Yep.
RR: The rest of the crew. And the pilot he’s just turned forty, sorry, ninety-four.
JM: Yep.
RR: And I’ll be ninety-three in August.
JM: August, yeah. And how, what, even though you were doing all this flying as training, were there any particular events, or sequence of events, that sort of perhaps stood out for you? That stay with you more than others? Couple of things, anything to mention?
RR: One of our flights over the North Sea we lost an engine and went into a dive and the pilot was getting ready to bail out. And we were out in the middle of the North Sea and there was no way of getting the dinghy out or anything. That was probably the worst experience.
JM: So, what did the pilot manage to recover at the last minute or?
RR: Yes. It got into a steep dive and the pressure on the jets, or the propellers, started the engine up again. And we were OK. We had one other –
JM: In the Wellington or the Lancaster?
RR: No, in the Lancaster.
JM: In the Lancaster, um.
RR: ‘Cause they used us in training for patrolling the North Sea, we did everything except drop bombs really.
JM: Um. ‘Cause I presume you were monitoring ship movements and that sort of thing were you?
RR: Yeah, yeah. In fact, I’m just reading a book about the, what’s it called, [unclear] I just bought it home. Guy that lent it to me, is our gardener lent it to me. It’s about eight hundred pages but it’s all about Bomber Command and their attacks on the Turbots. And thinking of the Turbots I went back a second time and found that it had a great hole in the side and the Turbot was sunk. Was sunk there and that was the end of it.
JM: So that was one when you lost that engine. Anything else that stays with you more than any other?
RR: No. We had a couple of tricky landings you know? They lost power and we came in round on the strip a couple of times. Only a couple of times, but in fact he was such a good pilot that one of the flights we came back, and it was in the daytime. We landed and we went into the briefing room and suddenly a person run in the briefing room and said ‘Is the pilot called Goodwin here?’ and we said ‘Oh yeah, Wal.’ And Wal stood up and he said ‘You’re wanted in the tower, some top-ranking officer wants to talk to you.’ And what it was, this guy was the top, one of the top half dozen in the air force. And he called him into the tower and said ‘Right’ he said ‘I just want to congratulate you,’ he said ‘That is the best landing I’ve ever seen made by a Lancaster.’
JM: Goodness.
RR: And from that we were recommended for Pathfinders. We were lucky we were a top crew and if the Tiger Force hadn’t suddenly happened we would have been posted to, to do, I’ve forgotten, I’ve lost track of what I was talking about now.
JM: You would have gone off to Pathfinders.
RR: Pathfinders.
JM: Yeah.
RR: Yeah. As a crew we would have been –
JM: Moved on.
RR: To Pathfinders.
JM: Yeah. And what about your leave times? You probably had various, quite often you would have had patches of leave, what sort of things did you do while you were on leave? Did you go anywhere? Did you end up with a particular place that you enjoyed going to or did you go to many different places, or?
RR: Well mainly we went on short breaks, somewhere the – there was one when we first got to England. We’d been there about three weeks I think it was and they said ‘ You’ve got five days leave.’ And a group of us, four or five of us, went off and stayed in a hotel in London, and that night was the most V1’s and V2’s they had over London in the whole time, London was very bombed.
JM: Bombed.
RR: And it was quite amazing. And we were there for two nights watching them.
JM: Um, um. And presumably the hotel you were staying in didn’t get any damage?
RR: No, no, no. ‘Cause they were going for certain targets and it was all round central London. But the other thing which happened to myself and I think three or four of us, the first night we were in Brighton, we were in two old hotels. Something and the ‘The Grand’ was the name of them. And that’s where we were living and this first night, and there was an air raid on London. And we all went down and got in the air raid shelter and when it was over we came back and went to bed. And next thing there’s a guy shouting at us. And he said ‘Get your uniform on, I’ve got a job for you.’ And there were four or five of us and I don’t know whether you know Brighton but the cemetery’s in very close. And he said ‘I want you to pick up a German who’s in the cemetery’ and we walked round, about eleven o’clock at night. And when we got into the cemetery there was this German in a parachute stuck in way up in the tree –
JM: Was he alive still?
RR: He was dead.
JM: He was dead.
RR: Obviously his ‘chute hadn’t opened properly and we had to get him down and have him taken away, yeah.
JM: Gosh, that’s a bit of an introduction to –
RR: Yeah, well we’d only been there –
JM: What two days in Brighton? Gosh –
RR: The other thing that I haven’t told you about, which is, and I’ve talked on this at luncheons and this sort of thing. Oh yes, yeah the Queen Elizabeth, when we came to get on the Queen Elizabeth, there were about eighty Australians and there was a band with about sixty or eighty in it and they played. And we marched down the side of this ship, and all we could see was a great hole in the side. And when we got in we found out it was the Queen Elizabeth. And the Queen Elizabeth, I’ve got all the records there somewhere. There were twenty thousand American troops on it. And they’d all loaded before us. And we came in and went into the area that was the, had been the middle stage, never been finished properly. And we were in a double cabin, and there were seventeen of us in the cabin. We slept on the floor with palisses, OK? So that night suddenly all the doors close, this sort of thing and we sailed off. And we’re out at sea two days and suddenly there was a great clanging of bells and this sort of thing. And they said ‘Everyone wherever you are on the ship.’ ‘Cause it was all colours, say if they wanted to use yellow that line down there would be yellow.
JM: Um.
RR: And that one over there would be red something. And we’d been picked out because we were all in gunnery and we were given a badge with a big ‘G’ on it. And so they said ‘Everyone stay where you are on the ship don’t move.’ And next thing all the guns on the grilles have opened up firing and unbeknown to us at the time ‘cause the gunnery on the Queen Elizabeth, there were three or four fat guns. And there was the gunnery crew, who were military, was over eight hundred. And all these opened up and there was a German Condor aircraft which had been tracking us since we’d pulled out from the wharf, and he was working in with a submarine group of eight or ten subs. And they were out in the North Sea, and we were only two days out, waiting for us. ‘Cause they were on the attack straight away out of the Condor aircraft. Took off because there was that much firing of flak and this sort of thing. It disappeared and they put a warning over the loudspeaker ‘Everyone, where you are stay there and hang on.’ And the boat did a ninety degree turn. Found out, I’ve since, met up with a guy who was pulled into the bridge whilst this was going on, and he said they’d got up to thirty-five knots and did this right angle turn and we went to Greenland. And we had a day aboard in Greenland. Then we went to Greenock in Scotland [unclear] day or couple of days. But Queen Elizabeth could have been sunk, it was quite amazing.
JM: It would have been an incredible number of lives lost.
RR: Oh God.
JM: You said there were twenty thousand Yanks on board, and then.
RR: Yeah, yeah.
JM: All the Australians and everyone else, and then all the gunnery guys.
RR: Yeah. I can always remember, another guy and myself were in the corridor kinda the mall, and this giant black guy pulled us up and for some reason or another, I don’t know why. And it was the bloke who was world heavyweight boxing champion. Trying to think of his name, I can’t think of his name. I knew it well, but he was on the ship for the whole trip. Can’t think of his name, memory is going a bit. But he was patrolling.
JM: Right.
RR: He said to us ‘Stay there, don’t move’.
JM: And you wouldn’t be arguing with him. [laughs]
RR: No. And they hunted off this Condor.
JM: Condor yeah.
RR: Which is a big aircraft. But we were just lucky. And what happened after we got to England. The Americans had sent several destroyers out after the subs, and they broke up the sub pack. And they captured a hundred I think. A couple of crews and it’s amazing that it could quite easily happen to someone like him, he was the world heavyweight boxing champion.
JM: Um, yeah.
RR: Oh, I know his name as well as anything.
JM: Oh well it’ll come back. So, when you were flying were you aware of anyone in the crew that carried a particular good luck charm or had any particular suspicions that they sort of?
RR: No, funny none of ‘em.
JM: None of them?
RR: No.
JM: So, they’re all pretty laid back and –
RR: Yeah they were all –
JM: Happy, confident in each other abilities all the time so didn’t have any need for?
RR: Yes it’s amazing. Of course out of the lot of them. Lot of German aircraft in the area but I think once they saw what ship it was and they would know they had flak guns they just backed off.
JM: Yeah. But as I say when you were flying, in all the hours of flying that you did you didn’t have any of your crew members had any good luck charms with them?
RR: No.
JM: No. And we were talking about when you did your leave and you talked about the time that you went to London and there was that heavy bombing.
RR: Yes.
JM: Any other times that you were on leave that stand out for any reason? Where you did something special or something funny happened to you?
RR: We got a group of us, about thirty of us I suppose, all Australians out of this intake. We got sent to Whitley Bay.
JM: Um.
RR: To a, like a, it was a military course.
JM: This was in June 1944?
RR: That would have been June ’44.
JM: Yeah.
RR: And, oh, can’t think about it.
JM: You went to Whitley, a group of you went to Whitley Bay?
RR: Oh yes. Whitley Bay and did this course. It was a, it had a name for it, I’ve forgotten the name. And the last day in it, I can always remember I had conjunctivitis in one of my eyes and so I went sick. And of course in the group of six or eight that we were in was a fella named Lenny Richards. Always remember his name. And we knew it was grenade throwing today and I said ‘I thnk I’ll be sick’ this conjunctivitis so I didn’t go. So, of course they were all having a joke that Lenny would drop a grenade or something, but he didn’t kill anyone. Anyhow I run into him one day years later, just off Martin Place, he was working for one of the typewriter companies –
JM: Um. That was a coincidence. And so when you were sent, eventually got going and got back to –
RR: Australia.
JM: Australia, you were discharged then?
RR: Yeah, and –
JM: In March 19 –
RR: Posted to Newcastle in the ANZ Bank.
JM: Yeah. So you discharged in the March of ’46?
RR: Yeah, that’d be right.
JM: Yeah, so then you what, went straight back into the bank?
RR: I went back into the bank at Newcastle.
JM: Um.
RR: In fact, I finished up marrying, my wife was a Newcastle girl.
JM: Um, so you met at Newcastle?
RR: Yeah, yeah. And then I was transferred to Oxford Street in Sydney in ANZ Bank. And then I got moved back from there to Head Office in Martin Place and I was Personnel Officer for New South Wales. Then after I’d done that for twelve months or so I became Methods Officer and was just driving round all the branches checking up on their equipment and this sort of thing, did that for [unclear]. Ran into several years, yes.
JM: So then did you retire from the bank or did you?
RR: I retired from the bank.
JM: Um.
RR: I retired from the bank in um, hard to think, around nineteen, about 1970 I think it was. I’d been to Newcastle staying with people that we’d known for years. I didn’t know that he was an alcoholic and he had a real estate business at Burley Heads. I finished up buying a half interest in it, and I did that for a couple of years. And Hookers had one office in Surfers’ Paradise and they wanted to get rid of the manager and they approached me from Hookers in Sydney. They flew me down and talked to various top guys and by the time I got back they’d offered me the job of managing the Hooker office in Surfers’ which had about ten or twelve staff. And I did that for several years and then resigned and came to the Gold Coast. I had this half interest business with this other guy, I found that he did all the drinking I did all the work.
JM: Work.
RR: But oh yes, pretty good life really.
JM: Um.
RR: And when I eventually sold out of here I had a job offer running Hookers. I’m trying, I’ve forgotten, years get away, so had a pretty good life really.
JM: Um, well that’s good. And it means that you’ve been able to do quite a lot. You mentioned that your pilot’s still alive. So, have you maintained, when you first came back did you maintain contact with the crew?
RR: Yes.
JM: All of the crew sort of?
RR: Yes. In fact, actually the rear gunner, his son had a job in the war memorial.
JM: Oh right.
RR: And he’d been there quite a few years.
JM: Um.
RR: So, he said ‘Well G-George is going to be refurbished, reconditioned and they’ll be taking it out. Why don’t you as a crew organise a couple of days? Come down to Canberra,’ he says ‘I’ll organise you an inspection on G-George and getting in,’ we finished up having two or three hours early in the morning, climbing all over G-George. Quite amazing.
JM: Would have brought back some memories to see George?
RR: Yeah.
JM: Not that it was in your unit, your squadron I should say. But that’s, well George was in 460.
RR: Yes. 460.
JM: So, there’s a relation. Like when, so you were in 460 briefly but so was George flying, being flown then when you were in 460?
RR: Yeah, when I was at 460 G-George was in that period. Was a period, three or four months I think it was I was there as specialist operator studying, it was to study the equipment that they were using then. But G-George had flown out to Australia by then it was just on display.
JM: Yeah, that’s right. And so as you say all the rest of the chaps have now passed away?
RR: Oh yes.
JM: But you still, where’s Wal Goodwin, is he?
RR: He’s in Melbourne.
JM: He’s in Melbourne is he?
RR: Yes, he’s two years older than I am. He’ll be ninety-four, he’s probably turned ninety-four now. And he’s fit and well. And it’s –
JM: Do you know if he’s been a member of Bomber Command or Odd Bods or anything?
RR: Him?
JM: Yeah.
RR: I would think he would, he seems to have a close contact in the veterans’ affairs. He occasionally used to get things that veterans’ affairs were sort of handing out, that sort of thing. But I talk to him at least every two or three months.
JM: Right.
RR: Particularly on birthdays and that sort of thing.
JM: Um.
RR: But the bomb aimer and the navigator were both at least ten years older than us. And the rear gunner just died he was the same age as myself, and he died only three or four months ago. And the, we had an Australian guy, brought into the crew as the engineer and he came from Adelaide and we’ve never heard a word from him or, he only sort of came in at the last bit.
JM: Last bit um.
RR: Last few months. So, I don’t know what’s happened to him.
JM: And he didn’t, did he travel home with you at the same time? In the same group?
RR: Came home in the same group.
JM: Yeah. But he didn’t sort of maintain any contact?
RR: Maintain any contact, no, it’s amazing really that we’ve lost track. Well we know that the navigator’s dead, the bomb aimer’s dead, the pilot’s alive and so that leaves us three gunners and one other the engineer who was an Australian, an Australian pilot, who they gave him an engineers course and he flew with us a couple of months or so.
JM: Months yeah.
RR: Yeah.
JM: So, you mentioned you do talks, have done talks in the past? Is there anything else that you would perhaps mention in those talks we haven’t covered now?
RR: No, I don’t think so. I think I’ve pretty well covered everything.
JM: Yeah, and maybe a bit more?
RR: Um?
JM: And maybe a bit more?
RR: Yeah, yeah. I got those couple of forms here.
JM: Of yes, well we’ll do those in a minute but –
Unknown: Coming down the stairs, I heard that you forgot Shorty.
RR: Huh?
Unknown: You forgot Shorty. Your wireless operator.
RR: Oh, Shorty died.
Unknown: Didn’t mention him.
RR: Yeah, Shorty died. [garbled mixture of voices] that was the other one I couldn’t think of.
JM: Yeah, right. So that’s all good.
RR: Yeah.
JM: Alright well if there’s nothing else that you –
Unknown: Would you like a cup of tea or cup of coffee?
JM: Well we’ll just finish the record. We’ll sort out the paperwork and that.
Unknown: You haven’t finished recording? I thought you might have done.
JM: That’s OK, no, no it’s alright we’re just wrapping up now. So, I’ll just formally thank you Ron very much for sharing all those memories with us. It’s very much appreciated and it’s just wonderful that you could give us the time and make the effort to do so.
RR: Good, no problem.
JM: Thank you.



Jean Macartney, “Interview with Ronald Rodgers,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 15, 2024,

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