Marion Clarke Interview


Marion Clarke Interview


Marion Clarke served as an MT driver during the Second World War, her main duties were on Bomber Command stations primarily driving crew buses. She talks about the conditions she experienced such as her accommodation, uniform, leave and dances. Marion recalls some of the people she knew including those who did not survive the war whilst looking at her photographs of the time as well as being in a film which was made about night bombing. She was also interested to hear about RAF Ingham and what is still there.

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Temporal Coverage




01:14:25 audio recording


IBCC Digital Archive


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MC: The American President’s daughters, and I used to have to go and get his car and take it to be serviced and whatnot.
Int: So he was a Polish prince then was he?
MC: Prince, yes, Prince Razduvu, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing quite right but yes, and he was there, cause he spoke -
Int: So he was a pilot then was he?
MC: I’m not sure, he was a commander, he had, in charge of one of the squadrons, and he married the American President’s, one of the daughters.
Int: Oh crikey!
MC: I used to go and get his car and do you know, it reeked of cigarettes, oh it was dreadful inside! [Laugh] Oh yes.
Int: So Marion, obviously as we have a chat I’ll ask you a few questions, but obviously you, you remember quite clearly all the you know, the various incidents and things that happened there. I’m hoping that from -
MC: In fact one of the things and I, the standard van that I was driving at the time was going round the flights, caught fire under the nose of one of these bombers that was loaded up for the night’s mission! [Laugh] People, the men round the aircraft, cause there was always someone fiddling around and putting it through its paces and whatnot, they threw their jackets on it, on the engine.
Int: This was your engine of your vehicle?
MC: Yes, of my vehicle, I was sitting in it and you know, it caught fire! And it was under the nose of this bomber loaded with bombs, [laugh] so there was great consternation and throwing of coats and things. Yes.
Int: Was Hemswell your first, your first posting?
MC: Yes, it was, yes, well you know you have to go to a Training Depot.
Int: Yes, to do your training.
MC: Norwich or somewhere, and then I was posted, they asked you where you’d like to go, which county, and they said oh, don’t put where you really want to go because you won’t get there, you know, they’ll cross it out. Well I thought that’s stupid, I’ll put Lincolnshire, there’s plenty of aerodromes there and I got to Hemswell.
Int: To Hemswell. Did you, when you got there, had you already got your uniform?
MC: No, I think it was delivered to, to me there, you know, everything. I was a volunteer, I wasn’t, you know, subjected to regulation that makes you go.
Int: Conscription or anything like that.
MC: I wore my VR very proudly!
Int: Oh right! So you got your VR.
MC: Volunteer.
Int: Even though you were, it was during the war years, you were still classed as a volunteer if you, rather then civilian conscription.
MC: Well I don’t know what sort of difference it made, whether it made a difference to the uniform, because I thought somehow it was a nicer cloth, my uniform, you know, smoother cloth, so I don’t know whether that was why I got it, I don’t know.
Int: Did you always decide you wanted to be, you know, an MT driver or did you try to get in to a different trade?
MC: No! They tried to, when I went for my first interview, to get me to go to signals.
Int: Oh right.
MC: Yes, they tried to push me to signals and I thought no, I want to be outside, being a country girl.
Int: Yes. Where were you actually born then? Where were you born?
MC: I was born in Leeds actually, in Yorkshire.
Int: Oh right. But outside Leeds when you say you were a country girl.
MC: And then my father’s parents farmed at Swayfield, I don’t know whether you know it do you? No, and they farmed there and that’s how I suppose, and my mother was brought up at Little Bytham which is a little village, not far away.
Int: So the idea of being out in the open in the fresh air suited you really well.
MC: Yes, I didn’t want to be cooped up, and I couldn’t, you know, if you’re pushing those things around like they do in signals and your friend had got killed or was shot down, I thought it must have been too awful.
Int: But obviously your job, obviously, did you have different jobs within the driving, within the MT Section?
MC: You had to be able to drive anything: tractors, crew buses, anything.
Int: Right, so even the bigger lorries they had?
MC: Oh yes, one of my worst moments was down, I was down Gainsborough with this six-wheeled vehicle and I had to back it alongside the canal where there was a sheer drop into the River Trent so I was very nervous about that one!
Int: Did you have to have somebody marshalling you back, somebody standing there?
MC: Yes, yes I did! [Laughter]
Int: I’m not surprised.
MC: I mean, well, one of the WAAF drivers down near London, Richmond way I think, or somewhere down there, actually did drown; she went into the river in her motor car.
Int: Really, oh.
MC: So I got this in, at the back of my mind I think [laugh] and I got a six wheel lorry.
Int: Did you, when you, especially at Hemswell first of all, was it, did you always work like eight in the morning till kind of like tea time or did you work evenings and nights and things?
MC: That’s an interesting thing, we used to do a sort of day duty for about two weeks and then we had to do a night duty and the hours there were so long, you went on at lunchtime, worked all through the afternoon and all through the night, and coming off you did it the opposite way round, was hours and hours. They wouldn’t to do it today, would they. I’d gone to sleep at the wheel driving down to Gainsborough to get the morning mail, [laugh] I bumped over the side of the road and thought oh!
Int: And woke up! Did most of your driving just take place on the base though did it, at Hemswell?
MC: A lot of it, oh yes.
Int: Little kind of –
MC: Yes, I went to Waddington and different aerodromes round about. Swinderby was a bomb dump and so you went there if you were collecting.
Int: Oh, was it really? Oh that’s interesting.
MC: Oh yes, bomb dump there, at Swinderby.
Int: And obviously there was the big bomb dump over at Faldingworth as well, wasn’t there.
MC: Yes. And there was one outside Castle Bytham actually, Stockhenhall Wood.
Int: Right. But there would have been a bomb dump on Hemswell obviously.
MC: Oh yes, the bombs were down at the side, yes.
Int: So did you do that? Because I have a, I’ll show you a picture later, which I’ve got, which shows a WAAF riding one of the tractors pulling the bomb trailer where you had perhaps five, six, seven trollies.
MC: Oh yes, they used these sort of trailers, they used to take them out by tractor and take them round to the different dispersals where the aircraft were.
Int: And that was one of your jobs as well, was it?
MC: No, I never did that, no.
Int: Oh right.
MC: I never pulled the bombs, it was a man usually.
Int: Oh right, okay, probably through the armourers. Right.
MC: Yes, yes, exactly.
Int: So you did mention in your earlier interview that obviously one of your jobs that you had to do was to pick the crews up.
MC: Oh yes.
Int: Cause obviously most of it was night bombing and looking at the er, the flying records from Ingham in particular, they often took off at either ten or eleven in the evening and got then got back at about three or four in the morning depending on how long the raid was.
MC: Oh yes. Yes, and there were no heaters in the vehicles!
Int: Really! Not even in the cab?
MC: No, when you got out of the cab, put your feet to the ground it really hurt; we were so cold! No, the only thing was, when we got the Bedford QL lorry, the engine was inside and so it was a little bit warmer.
Int: Gave off a little more warmth.
MC: There was no heaters in vehicles, no, in fact sometimes there were no windows in the vehicles.
Int: Did they allow you to wear trousers instead of skirts then, to keep you warm, or not?
MC: Oh yes, I got it trousers, and yes, oh no, it was very primitive. Fancy having no heaters, you know, in the winter time when it was so cold. Oh, poor little things, we were frozen.
Int: Exactly, living, living as I do in up that part of the country!
MC: And washing in cold water at Ingham, in the morning!
Int: Really!
MC: Yes!
Int: Well that was what I was going to ask you about now, obviously you went to Ingham just for one stretch, didn’t you.
MC: Yes, I can’t remember, but it was months I think, possibly about nine months or about a year, something like that.
Int: So I wonder if that, if it was 1942 or 1943?
MC: Oh, I was there in ’42.
Int: So it would probably be ’42 then maybe, because they went, 300 -
MC: When I say I was there, I was at Hemswell.
Int: But you used to come, used to –
MC: But I went to Ingham, yes.
Int: Right. Did you actually, so you didn’t actually live at any point, you didn’t live at Ingham, and on the base.
MC: Oh, yes I did. Oh yes, I lived there. We lived in nissen huts, did I not tell you?
Int: Right. You did, you mentioned that.
MC: Put pigs in there in Norfolk, and the condensation used to drop from the sort of tin plate or whatever, and it used to freeze on your blanket! When you woke up in the morning those little icicles on the cloth.
Int: I’ve seen some pictures where you had a like a little pot bellied stove in the middle of the room with all the beds round the side Is that how it was for you cause I’m only guessing?
MC: Yes, oh yes, and if you weren’t there when they brought the coal or coke or whatever it was they were putting in the things, if you weren’t there you just didn’t get any and so you probably were a few days without any fuel. You see being MT you’re often out, not on the station, when the coals arrived and everyone rushed with buckets and boxes and of course you were probably sitting in a vehicle round Lincoln somewhere.
Int: Was, was your accommodation, was it a big room with lots of beds or did you have small rooms?
Mc: At Ingham they were sort of, I should think, probably four, five or six people in one of these nissen huts.
Int: Right, okay.
MC: It was better at Hemswell because you had a sort of construction with a corridor down the middle and rooms off each side and there were two WAAFs in each room, that was better – and hot water. [Chuckle] I mean you had to wash your smalls and things you see.
Int: Of course yes, cause you wouldn’t have had a laundry or anything, no! So how did you get everything dry, that’s?
MC: I know, it was a nightmare!
Int: Were there lots of little clothes lines around the um, around the big heater or boiler?
MC: You did the best you could.
Int: Best you could. My goodness me.
MC: I wouldn’t like to go through that part of it again.
Int: No, and obviously you had, when you were at, when you were working at Ingham, you had your meals in the airmen’s mess. Now this is the building that we are obviously, we’re renovating at the moment.
MC: Well, I’ll tell you what.
Int: What do you remember of that?
MC: Our little, where the living quarters were, and where we slept, was quite a long way away away from the station, and you know, we didn’t bother with breakfast because it was such a thing getting up and getting washed and everything and we had, when the NAAFI van came round at ten o’clock, we had hot scones and er, coffee and things like that which was our breakfast really. We just stood up eating these lovely warm scones [chuckle] and having a hot sweet drink, you know.
Int: Was that something that was provided or did you have to actually pay for that at the NAAFI van?
MC: We had to pay for that, yes, and do you know much we got a week?
Int: Oh go on then, this would be like your wages would it? Yes, go one then.
MC: Ten shillings.
Int: Ten shillings!
MC: Ten shillings.
Int: But what would ten shillings have bought you in those days, per week?
MC: Well, we had to get brasso for the buttons, buy soap, buy shampoos for your hair, buy newspapers, buy your mugs of tea in the NAAFI, buy your bus fare home, you know; I mean it soon disappeared. And of course we were ultra smart, we were, at Hemswell. We had lisle stockings which were provided by the Air Force, they were much finer, you know, and several things like that. What else did we buy? Well I bought Van Heusen collars because they were smarter and stiffer and better than the ones provided, and of course we had, we bought our best shoes because they weren’t clodhoppers like those provided, and if you wanted to go to a dance or some function, you wanted your best shoes on.
Int: Best shoes.
MC: I had a Squadron Leader’s wife used to borrow mine if she was going dancing, Spottiswood, and I think he came to Cranwell not very long ago, because there was something in the local newspaper and I thought well I don’t think there could be, I think he’s Wing Commander now, I don’t think there could be two of them like that, and his wife was a great friend of mine, but anyway he got her posted to be near him, so I had to say goodbye to her.
Int: Ah, that’s nice, isn’t it, when you could actually provide. So when you went to the dances did you, did you wear a nice dress?
MC: Oh yes, I had a best uniform.
Int: Oh, so you still had to go to the dances in uniform? You couldn’t go in what you think of as civvies, a nice colourful dress then.
MC: No. Do you know, that’s one of the things, when the war was over, that I most wanted, a lovely summer dresses made of pure cotton.
Int: That wasn’t uniform.
MC: You couldn’t get it during the war.
Int: So when you were, when you were at Ingham then, and obviously you’ve mentioned about your accommodation was quite a way up from the station.
MC: Oh yes. And it was shielded by trees and I thought well that’s because they wanted, any daytime raids, they wanted to sort of have a, there were quite a few trees round where the WAAF quarters were, and I thought it was you know, just shielding it from the enemy.
Int: Ah, yes. Because obviously you were fairly near to Fillingham Castle as well, weren’t you.
MC: Yes, yes.
Int: That was just, was the other side of the trees.
MC: I have lovely memories of that because when I organised a dance for the MT Section and I was anxious to have flyers everywhere and they let us go for the whole day, several friends of mine, some from the MT, and we collected daffodils and made the place all beautiful, for the dance.
Int: Ahh. If you, if you get a chance, at some point, perhaps later in the summer, I don’t know whether your sister, does your sister drive at all?
MC: Yes.
Int: It would be lovely to –
MC: I drive!
Int: Oh, do you.
MC: My car’s sitting there, and it’s taxed and insured and everything but I’ve got a cataract coming in my left eye so they won’t allow me to drive.
Int: So it’s, well maybe if your sister, maybe later in the summer, cause I’m away, we’d love you to, like to invite you up there, not only from your benefit to see what’s there now, and there are still a couple of the old WAAF nissen huts there.
MC: Oh lovely!
Int: They’re in poor condition I must say.
MC: [Laugh] I’m not surprised!
Int: Because the farmer uses them now, the rest, unfortunately all the rest of the huts have gone. Were they, were all the WAAF huts, were they all metal or were there some wooden ones as well?
MC: Oh no, they were metal, like the ones in Norfolk they put the pigs in!
Int: In that case they’ve all gone bar two of them, but the airmens’ mess is still there and that’s obviously, you had the two dining rooms either side and the kitchen in the middle and you used to come up to the servery basically, and get your food. Do you have any kind of, do you have any recollections? You must have had some lunch.
MC: I think where the food was served was in the main station, wasn’t it, the main part of the station, that’s why we had such a long walk for breakfast.
Int: Yes, it’s just to the north of the actual airfield, but it’s between where you were billeted, and the actual airfield, it’s a bit to the north, it certainly is the only airmens’ mess that was there so I think that probably is the building but it’s across several fields to get from where you were sleeping.
MC: Well it was quite a distance, that’s why we didn’t bother in the end.
Int: Bother with breakfast, no.
MC: We went to the NAAFI van that came at half past ten, with everything warm and nice.
Int: Where was your erm, at Ingham, where was the MT yard or where you had all your vehicles at Ingham? Can you?
MC: Well [sigh] there was the main entrance, a sort of gateway, you know, and then I think it was on the right hand side. I think it was on the right hand side. I can remember that entrance going in through the, where they used to lift up the gate and things but I can’t remember which side it was on. No. 199 Squadron I can remember quite well being there. They had a lot of bicycles round the place, you know, used to cycle from one place to another.
Int: They were certainly there from February to June of 1943, so that kind of, that pins the time.
MC: Well I went to Hemswell in ’42.
Int: Right, and obviously 300 Squadron.
MC: And then from Hemswell I only was a short time at Ingham, and then I went back to Hemswell again.
Int: Right, but the fact that you remember 199 Squadron means you must have been going to Ingham between February and June of 1940 because that’s the only time they were at Ingham, between that period.
MC: Yes, I can remember that, yes.
Int: So the Poles weren’t actually at Ingham at that point, it was just purely 199.
MC: It seems to me they came later.
Int: Right.
MC: That’s what I think. But I can remember 199 Squadron, and we had a Medical Officer, and if they were going on a long mission, a ten hour, he used to go round to each aircraft and give the men pills which would keep them awake because it was a long mission. And there was a pub backing on to the perimeter of the airfield. Did you know that?
Int: The Windmill pub? Was it call the Windmill pub?
MC: When we, when they had all gone, when we had all done, the medical officer and I used to nip in to the back of the pub when the back of the pub used to come right up to the perimeter. Have a quick drink. [Laugh]
Int: Did you, um, I think you were saying before that you used to, one of your jobs, fortunately or unfortunately, was to go and collect the crews before they flew, and take them.
MC: Yes it was, most of the time, yes.
Int: Can you tell me a little bit about that?
MC: Only about six of us used to do the crew duty and I was one of them and then they had two others, yes. One was a very pretty girl, blonde and everything, but in the end some of the crews wouldn’t go, didn’t want her taking them out, because they thought she was unlucky; she lost such a lot of crews that never came back.
Int: Oh dear.
MC: But I never had that problem, you know, so they used to come and go out with me. [Chuckle]
Int: So what, can you talk me through what used to happen then, from you, for you picking them up, cause obviously you picked them up, there must have been set routines that they did and set places they had to go to.
MC: Oh yes, we had to go round the perimeter to the dispersal and you know, pick them up when they came in. Of course we were in, sitting underneath the control tower, or up in the Control Tower sometimes, and then when they were calling up permission to land and you know, and wanting any news about the weather or runway or anything, we then used to set in motion, we’d to go scampering downstairs and go out and pick them up, so overjoyed to see them back again. There was only one thing, when the Poles came they used to relieve themselves when they got out of the aircraft and I’d be sitting there with my lights on and they used to come round the front so I used pick up my book and pretend I was reading. [Laughter] English people didn’t do that, it was only the Poles. Strange that, wasn’t it.
Int: How did you know, because at Ingham there were about thirty different aircraft dispersals, you know, what we call the frying pans, the concrete pan where each of the, we’ve looked on maps and things and we can’t see any numbering system or letters. How did you know what, in those days was there a different number for each kind of aircraft dispersal, or was it a letter, or something?
MC: Oh yes, they all knew their dispersal because they’d been working, and the engineers would be working on during the day and they had the same crew sort of in six months time, still working.
Int: I was just wondering from your point of view when you came down from air traffic control to drive to the dispersal, did air traffic, did they have a numbering system so you know, you’re going to dispersal number twenty three or seventeen or something?
MC: No, they didn’t have a number, not that I’m aware of.
Int: Not at all, no. Just pointed you, he’s going over to that one, or you just watched to see.
MC: Yes, yes. Well you knew by the name of the crew.
Int: Ah right, okay.
MC: You see, you knew where you were going because unless something happened they usually flew the same aircraft, so they you know, A for Able. Do you know, one of the funniest things, they had a large Humber Snipe, they were beautiful motor car, and this was all yellow and I had to drive out.
Int: Yellow!
MC: Drive round the dispersal, come out again and the aircraft was following me all the time, I was taking them out to the dispersal and I don’t, it really was a bit frightening when you first do it, because you’re aware of this coming up behind you and you think they’re doing it on purpose, to make you feel nervous, but they’re not that because that was the accelerator they were pushing you see, so they were coming along in jerks and you were driving this yellow Humber Snipe with ‘Follow Me’ up here!
Int: Oh, so they had it on in those did it? I’ve seen the Americans have it – so it actually said ‘Follow Me’ on the roof did it? Oh my goodness me!
MC: Yes. It was a great joke, yes.
Int: So this thing stood out a little bit, being painted yellow then!
MC: Yes, we thought it was funny, and of course they were sniggering when the aircrew came out of the aircraft – ‘Follow Me’, [laugh] that was the new thing when I went back to Hemswell from Ingham.
Int: Oh right, but did they have them at Ingham, the ‘Follow Me’?
MC: No, they didn’t. That was the only one I ever saw.
Int: They just had the yellow vehicle.
MC: ‘Follow Me’, and of course it’s a bit frightening because they’ve got a huge roar, those Merlin engines.
Int: The engine behind you, yes.
MC: Brr, and then there’d be a pause and then brr, another pause, yes.
Int: So this yellow car, was the yellow car at Ingham then, or just at Hemswell.
MC: Hemswell. Used to call it the yellow peril.
Int: The yellow peril!
MC: And you used to drive up to dispersal point, circle the dispersal point with the yellow peril and then come out again and then the aircraft.
Int: Do the same, do the same thing. Crikey. But then did you have to then rush back, to come back with the lorry or the bus for them?
MC: Oh yes, once they were in, once they were in, yes. Back to the Control Tower.
Int: To pick up the other vehicle, to then come straight back out to pick them up from the aircraft?
MC: Well that was when I was doing the, driving the yellow peril, other times, when you were just driving the ordinary crew bus, you just went out to the dispersal and waited for them to get in.
Int: Oh I see, somebody else was doing the crew bus while you were doing the yellow peril then.
MC: Yes, and they didn’t have it all the time. It was a new invention while we were there: it was the newest, you know.
Int: The latest idea.
MC: Yes. We didn’t have it all the time, when I first went there, we didn’t have it, we just used to say A-Able landed, well you were waiting, watching it land and then you had to go out and pick them up.
Int: When you were at Ingham, driving at Ingham, did you have to go up the Control Tower then for waiting for the crews to come back?
MC: No, no, as far as I know, it was you know, very sort of laid back, I mean you never used to do that at Ingham, no. No, I don’t know how they managed to, I can’t remember. I used to be helping the sergeant out at the Control Tower if there was an aircraft coming back early, you know, they’d all, as they were flying over the coast one developed trouble or something and came back early, cause we had to be on stand-by in case that happened. And this sergeant from the Control Tower seemed to be doing most of the work then. Yes. But at Ingham, erm, at Hemswell of course they had a Squadron Leader up in the Control Tower there and it was all very different.
Int: Yes, very much a bigger station wasn’t it, yes, certainly. I mean obviously the station, for Ingham, the Station Headquarters was down in the village. I don’t know whether you remember that? Perhaps didn’t go down into the village much.
MC: No, I don’t. I never went down into the village, no.
Int: It’s interesting that you were housed, or billeted, up on the, just to the north of the airfield at RAF Ingham, when you were so close to Hemswell. You’d think they’d have kept you at Hemswell.
MC: Yes. It was on the way to Hemswell.
Int: Indeed! Yes.
MC: Yes, it was on the way to Hemswell. I remember there was a sort of a spinney, and I thought oh well they’ve picked the right place because the nissen huts are sort of probably covered partly, you know, from above, by the trees.
Int: I think so, and the spinney is still there, if it’s the same one I’m thinking of.
MC: Oh it’s still there is it?
Int: Yes, along the front and down the side as well. Very much so.
MC: Yes. So you can see what a long way we had to walk for breakfast!
Int: You can now. The fields, the fields are very much open now, but it’s still a long, you know, it’s a good five or ten minutes trek to get to the airmens’ mess.
MC: Would you say about a quarter of a mile?
Int: I think so, possibly yes.
MC: That’s what I thought.
Int: And you probably wouldn’t have gone straight across the ploughed field, would you, you’d have gone along the road or something, and that’s where the airmen’s mess is. It’s on the edge of another little wood, or a small spinney, a bit further down.
MC: Yes.
Int: We found, when we were digging around, we found a few of the old mugs.
MC: Oh did you!
Int: Because you had the white mugs, but on the bottom of it, it was by people like Wedgewood and some of the main pottery makers, but it says: ‘For the Air Ministry’ 1942 or ‘43. We’ve not found a complete one yet, we’ve found lots of broken pieces.
MC: Oh, what a shame.
Int: And one or two knives and forks with NAAFI written on them, where people, for whatever reason, had thrown them out the windows or just got rid of them. So we have found quite a few little artefacts around, so.
MC: Oh, that’s nice.
Int: So when you come for the visit, it would be lovely to show you round and to show you what we’ve actually done.
MC: That would be great. Yes.
Int: So did you, obviously you must have had, did you get just like one or two days off a week? Did they give you days off or not?
MC: Do you know I really can’t remember. I remember going down into Lincoln on some days, when there was transport, but er, I can’t, I can remember coming home and er, but it wasn’t more than a, one day a week. I think you had to work until your leave came up. I think it was just about one day a week.
Int: And then you just used to catch, was it service transport, was it the military transport, or was it like the normal bus that ran into Lincoln?
MC: No, they provided transport down into Lincoln.
Int: And that’s where you caught the train I presume did you, when you wanted to go home to Leeds, or not?
MC: No, I caught the bus actually, because at that time my mother was living in Castle Bytham. Which is difficult to get to when there’s no train going. Well, there used to be trains running through there but there’s not any more, after Beeching, you know.
Int: Yes, indeed.
MC: We had a wonderful train service, even got an evening paper in the village and it came from Leicester, the train, and went through to Spalding and right to the coast.
Int: Oh right!
MC: Yes. And it was Beeching that cut that out. Yes, we used to get an evening paper.
Int: So what would you say, what are the memorable things about working at Hemswell and Ingham? I mean there must be some day-to-day funny situations that occurred that you remember to this day?
MC: Well I always remember the buzz that you knew when operations were on. No, no one had to come and tell you because everyone was rushing around and you know, doing things. They used to issue a Battle Order in the morning and if it was brandy we were operating, if it was lemonade they were standing down. But, I think that, it really impressed me, that did, how everyone sprang into a quicker pace, and you know, you knew if you were on the station, oh yes they would be operating tonight.
Int: Operating tonight.
MC: And another thing is, it was so nice, that when the war was just finishing, they flew over to Holland a lot to drop food, for all those people that were starving you know.
Int: Operation Manna.
MC: Yes.
Int: Was it called Operation Manna?
MC: Yes. They were going to allow so many people to go and they had to volunteer. Well I volunteered but unfortunately the day it was my turn and they came for me, I was at home on leave, so was sorry about that, cause they said they were waving tablecloths and you know.
Int: Ah, that’s tremendous.
MC: They were so pleased to see the British Air Force.
Int: We’ve looked at the operational records and it shows that right at the end of the war, RAF Ingham was used with the big hangars that they’d got to store a lot of the food for Operation Manna so I presume that yourself and other people that were on the MT Section, the transport, would have probably come down to pick up the food to take it back to Hemswell to put it on the aircraft did you, or were the aircraft drops from Hemswell or from other?
MC: Oh, well I think they went from other stations but I know Hemswell sent quite a bit.
Int: Sent some stuff on Operation Manna, cause we found records.
MC: I’m so sorry that I missed it, you know. I thought oh that would have been lovely.
Int: That was your one opportunity you had a chance to go in the aircraft then.
MC: Well I had been in a Wellington bomber, I think told you before, and I did go in a Lancaster when he was evening exercises, it was in the summer time, what we used to call circuits and bumps, you know, and we got a, did a circuit and we landed and got going again and the tyre burst so the aircraft sort of went over sideways a bit, [laugh] but er, no, yes, I’ve been in a Lancaster and I went in a Wellington as well.
Int: Oh, I am so envious that you’ve actually flown in a Wellington, because of course there are no airworthy Wellingtons, there’s only two, two Wellingtons in existence now: one’s down at the Hendon, the RAF Museum at Hendon, and the other one is at Brooklands, where they were originally made.
MC: Oh really!
Int: By obviously Vickers Armstrong at the time.
MC: How lovely, yes. It was lovely, because we flew, it was a training exercise obviously, for the aircrew, otherwise I wouldn’t have been on it; they were just sort of giving me a free, you know, taste. We flew all around Lincoln Cathedral, all round there and do you know, it looked so beautiful, it looked like the tooth fairy in those original advert for toothpaste I thought how beautiful it was, it was really lovely. I told you the groundcrew were saying oh I wouldn’t go in that, it’s got a hole in the canvas or something! No, it was lovely aircraft, yes.
Int: Oh, that’s tremendous, yes.
MC: I was quite attached to the Wellingtons, a sort of tail coming up.
Int: I know. Not perhaps the prettiest of aircraft but certainly very much the robust, and they made more of those than they did of Lancasters during the war, so, but it’s just that the Lancaster I think because it’s, it looks a more, I don’t know, pretty’s not the right word to use, but.
MC: Bit more aggressive, isn’t it.
Int: Yes, and maybe a little bit more graceful. The Wellington always looked a bit short and chunky didn’t it, but a very, very good bomber and that’s why they kept going for so long I think.
MC: I can remember a crew saying to me, my boyfriend’s crew actually, and he said we’ve got the newest and fastest bombers and they’d just had a delivery of the Lancasters and I thought well a big step up from the Wellingtons, weren’t they.
Int; Very much so, power wise and the amount they could carry. Did you stay as a WAAF right to the end of the war, did you?
MC: Well no, when they finished operating and dropping bombs, I was sent down to Air Ministry in London.
Int: Oh right.
MC: And at that time they were bringing a lot of sensitive stuff back from Germany and I was taking um, high ranking officers out to, Hendon is it?
INT: Hendon, yes.
MC: RAF thing, and they were bringing all this fibreglass things and all sorts of things back and, it was MI5 really, work, [laughter] so I can understand a bit of your setup! And they were bringing this stuff back and this Wing Commander used to want to go out and have a look at this stuff and check it I suppose and do things like that and I had to drive him round there.
Int: So you did a lot of driving round London then really.
MC: What a change from driving round Hemswell to Lincoln! I was terrified the first few days.
Int: I’m not surprised.
MC: Because you got round the, I can’t remember the name of the place in London, round that corner, some corner in London, and the traffic, they used to come up right almost scraping the paint off your car - course it wasn’t my car, I didn’t have to worry about the expense.
Int: No!
MC: I still didn’t want to crash and they were dreadful, round Hyde Park Corner, any time from three thirty, was a nightmare, after coming from the lovely ribbon like roads of Lincolnshire.
Int: Indeed yes. And you occasionally met another vehicle coming the other way and that was about it.
MC: Well the taxi drivers used to push in in front of you and I got as bad as they were in the end, you know, pushing in.
Int: You get used to it, don’t you, yes.
MC: But er, no, I wouldn’t like to have to do it today!
Int: So, just going back a little bit to when you were talking about when you were at Ingham, did you make many good friends at Ingham, did you have?
MC: Oh yes, yes, it was nice.
Int: I suppose all the girls that were in your -
MC: Oh yes, I was going to show you some photographs. Shall I put the kettle on?
Int: Please. I’ll just turn this off for a moment as well.
MC: If you want to use the bathroom it’s upstairs.
Int: Thank you. It’s still not the same, looking at anything, looking at a picture or something that’s written down, is almost two dimensional, the minute I talk to you or anybody like yourself that were there as veterans, it makes it three dimensional, it’s so, so different. Please, if you care to take a seat and then I’ll sit next to you have a look at the photographs.
MC: Yes. We’ll have tea.
Int: Oh yes, we drink tea first. Oof. [Crockery sounds]
MC: Oh yes, it’s, there was a spirit about, everyone seemed to be willing to help everyone else, you know, you’ll never get that again, I think, quite like that.
Int: I don’t think you do these days, with most young people these days, they’re out for themselves rather than the collective spirit.
MC: Yes. Exactly. Yes, it was a wonderful time to be alive, really. You know the awful things were happening but at least you could help and do something about it.
Int: You felt what you were doing, as you said, very long hours through the night.
MC: Oh yes.
Int: But you felt at least you were doing your part on the ground whereas the aircrew were doing their part in the air.
MC: You now, Air Commodore Cousins that made that film, I’ve got a copy of it: ‘The Night Bomber’, have you seen it?
Int: The one from Hemswell? Yes, it’s like twenty four hours in the day, yes.
MC: Yes. Exactly. Well Air Commodore Cousins was a Group Captain in charge of Hemswell, at one time, and then he was promoted and left it, but he made the film after he left Hemswell, but he was able to go and have the hangars done and everything organised for him – for the film. But he came in, I was on night duty actually, in MT Section, and he came in, had a look round, about two in the morning, and you know what it was like, there was no one there to have tea cloths or dish cloths or any washing up things, there was just a tiny little basin with cold water and you had to put water on the stove, you know the sort of stoves they had, to make the tea, so I made him some tea and I said I’m sorry, I must apologise for the washing up; there’s no tea cloths and no washing up at all, [chuckle] you just put the water in the cup and swished round and hoped for the best!
Int: Did you get on to the film yourself? Were you seen on the film driving at all?
MC: Oh, the film he made? Yes. Oh yes! I’m on the film.
Int: You’re on the film are you? Oh, tremendous!
MC: Yes. Only for a second, if you close, blink, you miss me, but when they were coming out of the briefing, they come all, coming out of the briefing and coming to get in my, well it was the lorry I was driving that night. The corporal driving the van, he wanted to be in the film you see. He sat in the office every day, never came out, but for the film he did!
Int: For the film he had to come out.
MC: You just see me at the bottom, the trousers on and jacket just as they’re coming out cause some of them were coming to get in my lorry, they used to hang onto the thing in the back of the lorry, if no crew was available. We only had two crew buses, and you did, if you blink you might miss me, but when they’re coming out, if you see it, look for me when they’re coming out of the briefing, from the locker room, got in the Mae West and everything, and they’re coming to get in the transport and I just appeared at the back, for a few moments.
Int: And that’s it is it?
MC: I’ve been told this corporal, when they were making the film in another part of the aerodrome, I drove up saying where’s Joan, I thought she was driving the crew bus today and they said get out of the way, get out of the way we’re making a film! [Laughter] So I thought on the second occasion I’d better sort of not be around.
Int: Oh, well that’s good.
MC: You just see me for a brief few minutes.
Int: I’ll have to have a look now.
MC: In my trousers.
Int: My goodness me. Well once I’ve seen you on some of these, the photographs you’re going to show me, it’ll be, it should be easy to spot you, anyway, on the Hemswell thing. Now I do remember I think at the time, he was a Group Captain Cousins, and he definitely flew some of the missions, not many, from Ingham.
MC: Oh he did, yes.
Int: Cause from the flight records that was either with 199 or it was with 305 Polish, it wasn’t 300, so it may well have been 199 that he flew with, maybe it was just to keep his um, flying hours up or something because I did think at the time it was strange to have a Group Captain flying in an aircraft, but that was probably why. That was to keep his hours up.
MC: He was ever such a good chap. You know I mean how many Group Captains go around at two in the morning see if everything’s running all right?
Int: That’s tremendous, yes. I’ll have to, I’ll see if I have a photograph of him.
MC: Oh my God, you know! He was Station Commander, Group Captain at that time and he’s sitting in the rest room there. [Laugh] Such a surprise!
Int: But then you do get a mix, even this day and age, you get a mix of people who are Station Commanders. some of them are nice and very approachable and some are very kind of awkward and standoffish. I suppose that’s just individual personalities isn’t it.
MC: Well I tell you what, I was invited to an Officers Mess dance, somewhere in the Wolds, I can’t remember the place now, and this Squadron Leader came and picked me up, it was a friend of a friend, he came with his car and picked me up and took me there and I was there, and of course really, although it was a dance, we hadn’t got enough clothes with us in the WAAF to have long evening gowns and all the stuff they have today, we just didn’t have it and I was there and suddenly I saw him approaching the door the same time as me! Oh my god I thought, here I am at the Officer’s Mess dance and the Group Captain from my station’s here!
Int: And he’s gonna wonder why you’re there!
MC: And do you know what he did? He just winked at me and went on! [Laugh] I thought oh, that’s nice!
Int: But did he recognise you do you think? You think he recognised you?
MC: Yes, yes. I’m sure he did, otherwise he wouldn’t have winked, would he.
Int: No. That’s probably true, what a pretty young lady, you know [laughter]!
MC: He just looked round and smiled and winked at me so I thought oh, perhaps he’s not going to say I’m doing something I shouldn’t. Cause I was only an ordinary LAC you see.
Int: Of course yes, almost, almost to them the lowest of the low really! [Laugh] Did you ever have any, were there any dances at Ingham while you were there at all?
MC: Oh yes, oh yes we did. Cause I remember one night and the atmosphere changed so suddenly because three of our aircraft hadn’t got back; we lost three in one night.
Int: Oh dear, so.
MC: The whole atmosphere of the place changed.
Int: That was during the dance itself?
MC: Yes, during the dance when the news came back that three of our aircraft hadn’t returned; cause we all knew the crews you see.
Int: Indeed.
MC: Yes, oh yes. It was awful really, when they didn’t come back.
Int: Where did they hold the dances at Ingham then?
MC: Well they must have held it in the nissen hut I think.
Int: Right, okay.
MC: As far as I can remember. [Laugh]
Int; Because just past the airmens mess, where you would have had your, where you had your lunch and your dinner, there was what they used to call The Institute. You probably remember the NAAFI Institute, which was like the club, in the evening where, it was another big building.
MC: It wasn’t the NAAFI was it?
Int: It was the NAAFI, yes, that’s what they were called, the NAAFI. Where you had different rooms in there, and that’s why I was thinking did they hold the dances in there, and things.
MC: No, not in the NAAFI.
Int: No, they were up in the nissen hut near the WAAF, near the WAAF quarters.
MC: I’m not sure, and I can’t, I couldn’t pinpoint where we had the dancing, but I think it was, er, really where the, um, not far from the Control Tower I don’t think. Is the Control Tower still there?
Int: The Control Tower is still there, but the gentleman, because obviously the Control Tower, there was a big house next to it, in the middle of the airfield, it’s called Cliff House. I think some of the officers used it to live in, so it was literally about twenty yards from the Control Tower and that has been, that’s been quite derelict, and the owner of the house in the middle now, he’s a doctor, [crockery sounds] and he decided rather than knock it down, he’s rebuilt part of it so it’s still got that square shape to it.
MC: Oh really, do you know I don’t remember that.
Int: But er, it’s a, he’s turned it into like a gymnasium, so he’s, it’s still got the same shape, but unfortunately -
MC: Shape, you can recognise it.
Int: Yes, yes.
MC: Is the pub still there, where we used to go and have a quick drink?
Int: The pub? Yes. It’s called the Windmill now [emphasis], because there used to be a windmill opposite it, on the other side of the road. The landlord and lady, landlady have been there since about 1964. They’ve retired a couple of times but just keep it open for fun I think! But obviously I don’t know whether it was called The Windmill a long, long time ago.
MC: No, I can’t remember what it was called. I know we used to have a quick sort of drink there and, but it was so obvious, such a temptation. It backed on to the perimeter you see.
Int: Indeed, yes, and we’ve walked around the back and there are still several of the old buildings left there. There used to be three hangars on the airfield: one to the north, one near where the pub was, and there used to be one over on the A15 itself, right next to the A15; it’s on three sides of the airfield.
MC: I can’t remember that.
Int: No. But then again, if you didn’t have to drive round there you probably wouldn’t have noticed those. Did it seem a very strange place, RAF Ingham, from what you can remember, because it was very, it wasn’t like Hemswell, it was.
MC: Oh no, nothing like that, no.
Int: Just an old grass airfield.
MC: Yes. Did I tell you? I perhaps, I don’t know whether I told you or not, when we used to put goosenecks out? If an aircraft was, got to the coast and was returning early, the sergeant from the Control Tower and I had a little standard van with a cloth covering over, can you, I don’t know if you ever saw one?
Int: Yes.
MC: It had a sort of irons over like that, and a cloth, and the back was open, and they used to take him round and they used to put, made a sort of runway, lit it up with these goosenecks. It was paraffin inside, and they set the paraffin alight and just put these down on the ground.
Int: Just a, like a kind of runway lights.
MC: One night, I was timing it, I could see through the back because the canvas thing was here you see and this was all bare and putting the goosenecks in and out, the sergeant from the Control Tower.
Int: Oh, so he didn’t just light them, they were already, he actually put them out and then lit them.
MC: Oh yes, yes.
Int; I didn’t know they were already out. Put them all out.
MC: We had to manhandle them and put them out, yes. And I happened to look round at the back and there was great big Wellington lumbering along behind there and I thought my god, get off the runway quick! [Laughter].
Int: Oh dear!
MC: Yes. That was a, cause I probably realised that he might have been in such difficulties that he couldn’t control it as he would like and here was I sitting on the edge of the runway, so I got off quick. Yes, it used to be quite exciting.
Int: Did you have any, to your recollection, did you have any where the aircraft actually kind of crashed on landing when they came back? Did you ever see any of that?
MC: Not, no, not while I was around and out there. We had, well we had two crashes on the station while I was there. One of them was, there used to be a big green in the, at Hemswell, [horn sounding] separating the men on that side, the housing, the men were billeted in houses and the same on that side, and the aircraft sort of got back to base but crashed on this huge piece of green grass and the gunner was dead in the back of the turret. It was awful, you know, to see him there, but I mean they didn’t stand much of a chance to get out did they.
Int: No, not if it came down like that, no. The problem with the gunner, the rear gunner, of course is that he’s in a little capsule bubble.
MC: Yes.
Int: And if the, because the whole turret, as you probably remember, rotated.
MC: Rotate round.
Int: You had the little doors at the back, behind him.
MC: And then they’ve got their parachute and things on.
Int: And if it was jammed round at a strange angle he would not have physically been able to get out, so that was pretty er, pretty horrendous.
MC: And then there was another time there was a Flight Lieutenant and he was due, he’d done his two tours of ops and he was looking forward to sort of a fairly normal life, and someone was sick and they couldn’t go so he took their place and they crashed into the hangar, edge of the hangar; they were all killed. And then there was an ATA, I always remember her, brought in a new aircraft, beautiful new aircraft, and I thought uh, wouldn’t I love to be doing that, you know. And anyway, they took off and there was a Squadron Leader with her, and whether he was going through the controls or not I don’t know, because the ATA didn’t have much time to study the controls, did they.
Int: No, no that was it.
MC: On those things.
Int: They flew all different kinds of aircraft as well.
MC: They took off and I had to go somewhere and I came back and they said do you know, that aircraft that took off, and this beautiful ATA girl, lovely she was, so pretty, and they said it’s just crashed, they’re all killed. Yes, and they were just sort of trying it out I think. But yes, it was very sad in many ways. [Pause] There you are. I wouldn’t have missed it, you know, the experience of being in the services. Lots of trying times when I put sort of old, crisp bread on a toaster, I’d come in hungry and the cookhouse was closed. [Laugh] They give you those straw things to put your head on you know, it’s not a pillow, when you go in, I thought oh, I can’t do with this, I had to take a down pillow from home. [Laugh] I couldn’t go to sleep well with one of those. And the irritating thing used to be kit inspection.
Int: Oh, you still had those through the war did you, kit inspection?
MC: Oh yes! [emphasis] Had to be polished and laid out and woe betide you if it wasn’t as it should be.
Int: Who did the inspection? Was it the Station Warrant Officer, or?
MC: No, WAAF, WAAF officer.
Int: Oh, the WAAF officer.
MC: And do you know I was put on a charge, everybody thought it was a huge joke, because I’d got a silk scarf on my battledress thing, collars were a bit stiff, particularly at two in the morning and you were nearly nodding off. So I used to wear a silk scarf and the WAAF officer came down, round, one evening and I was put on a charge for being improperly dressed. And the thing was, what did they give me to do for my charge? Was to go up the Officers Mess cookhouse, peeling onions. [Chuckle] And they kept opening the door and looking in and saying what are you doing there Marion, [laugh] cause they knew me so well taking them out to the aircraft.
Int: Tears streaming down! You must have smelt of onions for days afterwards.
MC: [Laugh] Oh dear, that was my punishment.
Int: Oh, dear me.
MC: You wouldn’t think they would bother about not wearing a -
Int: No, think more important things to do, you know. Gosh.
MC: Yes, and I thought I was much more comfortable with the silk scarf round my neck than the tight collar. However, it all went off quite well and was a huge joke really – or they thought it was.
Int: So you were saying earlier that you had to wash, obviously there’s no laundry, you had to wash your own clothes. I presume they obviously, [clink of china] whoops, they provided you with an iron and an ironing board to iron your clothes with, that was in the -
MC: No, I don’t know, I just can’t remember what we did. I think we saved it up, I sent mine home by post I think! We saved it up and did it when we could. If we were going home on a day off or something you’d do it then.
Int: That’s when do all your ironing and things.
MC: Yes. It was difficult times, yes.
Int: Yes, yes. And certainly if you were working from early afternoon right the way through to the middle of the night –
MC: Oh yes. That was awful really, the night duty.
Int: You try and sleep during the day time as well. That’s not always the easiest of jobs is it.
MC: No, no. Oh yes, it was a long stretch that was. I suppose it was the only way they could do it because you know, there weren’t so many drivers you see.
Int: No, indeed. If the vast majority were female, were WAAF drivers, then the small number of you have to keep doing all the different jobs you had to do.
MC: Yes.
Int: So did you have like a sergeant in charge of you, or a corporal, or somebody?
MC: There was a corporal in the MT office. Yes.
Int: MT office. And thing is all the vehicles that you drove in those days are probably sitting in museums somewhere now aren’t they. Everything from like the little, was it Austin 9, or Hillman 9? They were little cars, weren’t they.
MC: Do you know, I did my training, they made us, even though we could drive, well I could drive anyway, they sent us up to Wales and we had sort of um, like a Hillman, only it was a van. That’s what we started, we had to be trained, RAF way, and then we went out the following week and there was all these big lorries lined up, so we looked and thought good gracious they’re not expecting us to drive those are they! [Laughter]
Int: And they were!
MC: They were. And the thing was, I thought my instructor seemed very nervous and itchy and you know, watching what you were doing every moment. Someone told me, we were driving in Wales at this time, someone told me that he’d had a previous pupil and she’d taken him down one of these ravines; they’d gone over the edge. So no wonder he was nervous!
Int: I’m surprised he was still doing the job, yes.
MC: So no wonder he was nervous, I thought, oh gosh this man is very nervous.
Int: Could we have a look at your, your album.
MC: Oh yes, he used to -
Int: I tell you what, you sit down, I’ll pass it over. There we are.
MC: Thank you very much, I can.
Int: I’ll kneel down next to you if that’s all right.
MC: Oh yes, do. Pass it over.
Int: Just leave that.
MC: Most of my family -
Int: Is that you is it?
MC: No, that’s my sister Pat, this is the one that’s just lost her husband; he died last week, yes.
Int: Oh right.
MC: There’s one of my co-drivers, at home with her mother. And that’s another one, she was in the MT. Oh, there’s me as a child! [Laugh] Oh.
Int: Either of those you? No?
MC: Oh. Which one? That’s my sister again. That’s me, yes; that’s me, that’s me there.
Int: Very nice.
MC: That was our paddock, a two acre paddock behind the house there and that was in to the back street at Swayfield.
Int: So these were taken before the war were they, or just at the very beginning.
MC: During the war, yes.
Int: Just during the war.
MC: Now wait a minute, give you the right ones.
Int: Now can you remember, can you remember your service number, cause most people?
MC: 2053210.
Int: There we go, isn’t it amazing, it sticks with you all, all through your years.
MC: Here you are, there’s the first one.
Int: Some pictures of the coast. Oh look, there’s your crew bus.
MC: Yes, there we are, there’s a friend of mine there, that’s Joan, she was, there’s another one. I don’t know what aircraft that is? That’s me in uniform.
Int: There’s a picture in the distance there, is that Hemswell? Or is that? No, that looks more like a cricket ground.
MC: Lords. That was my rest room when I went down to London, to Air Ministry.
Int: Oh right.
MC: Yes. Oh here we are, we’re getting to it.
Int: Yes. That’s, that looks like a Lancaster cause it’s got the twin parts.
MC: It is, yes, and this is the skipper there, that’s him.
Int: And is that you in the middle then?
MC: This is me, here. Must have been a windy day, my tie.
Int: Would that have been at Hemswell then?
MC: Oh yes, Hemswell, yes. That’s Bob something his name was, oh yes here, Bob, you see we knew them all so well.
Int: Which was this?
MC: Hemswell.
Int: I’m just thinking which squadron would that have been then?
MC: That’s a Lancaster, isn’t it.
Int: Yes.
MC: [Pause] This is more.
Int: Oh yes, more pictures of you. Is that you with your friends?
MC: Yes. And then there’s, that’s a friend of mine, yes.
Int: That’s you with the ambulance.
MC: This is, they’re all crew bus drivers, those girls are. She’d lived down south and a beautiful wooded area, I can’t remember the name of it though, and that’s Joan. This is a friend of mine. Oh, and you can look, we were, I was volunteered to shovel snow off the runway there.
Int: Oh! Next to the aircraft!
MC: Because the Ardennes offensive was on and they were suffering over there and we couldn’t get aircraft off the ground, because of the snow. So I volunteered to go and clear the runway. There was about four women, all the rest were men.
Int: Are you one of these?
MC: That’s me.
Int: Oh, the furthest one, yeah?
MC: That, we were on our way out to the pub at the village near, and that’s a great friend of mine, Pat.
Int: Was this Ingham or was this Hemswell?
MC: This: Hemswell.
Int: I’m just intrigued with the bridge. That’s a lovely kind of stone bridge, that should be easy to spot these days; that must be around somewhere.
MC: That’s not at Hemswell though.
Int: That’s not at Hemswell, oh, no.
MC: That was taken, we’d all gone out to the pub, on the Market Rasen road.
Int: Ah right.
MC: This is a, I’m not sure, this is a Wellington bomber, isn’t it, in the snow.
Int: Um, it looks Wellington yes, because it tends to sit up. Was that you as well?
MC: No. That’s a friend of mine. That’s me there.
Int: Yes.
MC: Yup, and that’s me there.
MC: Definitely you. With your big grey coat on. Oh! And that’s definitely you cause of your - that’s a lovely one that, isn’t it. Did one of the aircrew give you this?
MC: Yes. One of the, yes, they did it actually. Oh here we are, clearing the snow off the runway! You see how thick it was.
Int: They got everybody doing that did they? Everybody was doing that, or just MT?
MC: Well a lot of the men were, but not many of the WAAF. But er, and here, this is a Polish pilot that one.
Int: Yes, and this is a Polish aircraft because you can’t see the B on it, but H. BH was 300 Squadron, so.
MC: And the thing was that the chappie taking the photographs said get close together, get close together! And I thought [laughter].
Int: Oh yes, you’ve got it down there: 300 Squadron. Just read that now, yes.
MC: Oh yes.
Int: And are you on this one? Oh, sick quarters staff.
MC: Yes. No, I’m not on that one but I spent a night doing my MT duty down at sick quarters on a stretcher. Gone to sleep as well! Wait a moment, there’s some more here. Oh this is a, we all went out to the pub.
Int: It’s that, the same bridge you’re on there, yes.
MC: And here you are, these are mostly MT girls. Am I on this one? I’m not sure whether I am on this one. What do I say here? Can you read it?
Int: Er, let me have a little look. Um, somebody Kay and Peg, going off to, oh, going off to be demobbed it says. Somebody else at first, is it Joan? Or a name like that. Somebody else, Kay and Peg going off to be demobbed.
MC: Oh yes. Is that the back, is that the crew bus there?
Int: It looks it. What does this say here? It says WAAF NAAFI, something.
MC: Hemswell.
Int: Is it outwards, or outbounds, at Hemswell. Let me just have a little look.
MC: Yes, you can probably see better than I can.
Int: You have lovely um [pause].
MC: Is that the crew bus then?
Int: It says something and then it says W A A F, the WAAF NAAFI, but I can’t. Let me just have a look in the light. Just one second, [Pause]
MC: Do you know in those days I was offered a little Austin 7, for five pounds! [Laughter]
Int: Did you take it? I can’t work out what that word is, but it definitely says WAAF NAAFI, Hemswell, so whether that’s the NAAFI bus, or you’re just going out to the NAAFI, I don’t know.
MC: WAAF NAAFI Hemswell. I can’t read that. Outside!
Int: Oh, outside!
MC: Yes, outside the WAAF NAAFI.
Int: Oh, so you had a separate NAAFI did you? One for the WAAFs and one for the men then did you?
MC: No, not really. I don’t know, and they used to use that as a crew bus. I don’t know what I’ve got down there. That’s one of the Canadian pilots.
Int: That’s a Lancaster.
MC: That’s a Lancaster.
Int: What does this say? The beautiful old thing was my crew bus.
MC: Oh yes, that was before the lorry.
Int: This, yes it says this beautiful old thing was my crew bus. And that’s you obviously, there.
MC: That’s me in front there. Oh yes.
Int: Let’s have a look up here. You on that one? I can’t see. Again, it looks like Joan or something.
MC: Yes, that is Joan, yes.
Int: Peg, Bill, is it Enid? Possibly. And something else.
MC: Do you know, I can’t see it.
Int: No, nor can I!
MC: This white ink is getting further and further away from it.
Int: Yes.
MC: He was a Canadian pilot.
Int: Right, so that would –
MC: And he was quite friendly with my friend. And these I can’t see. Can you see their faces? I haven’t written under that one have I? Oh yes, I’ve written under that one there.
Int: You’ve written at the side. Erm, [pause] no, I’ll have to have to get a magnifying glass myself to have a look at that.
MC: There we are.
Int: Ah, some other photographs, again.
MC: That’s groundcrew isn’t it. This is the aircrew, I don’t know which crew it is, and there’s me again here look, I’ve got the Mae West on! [Laugh] I don’t know what I was doing there, with the Mae West on!
Int: Would it be possible, for us to borrow this and to, to duplicate some of the photographs?
MC: Yes, that would be a good idea.
Int: And then obviously you’ve still got the original ones, but it would be lovely, because what we can do is, we’ll either photograph them with a really good high powered camera that they’ve got at RAF Cranwell, which we’ve used before, or we can get them scanned where you put them onto a glass plate and it scans them at very high resolution then you can actually reproduce the photograph as good as it originally was.
MC: And can you get them all back to me in one piece?
Int: We certainly can. No, no, it would, we just borrow them to actually get them.
MC: That’s me there, that’s Peggy. That’s Joan. Oh, that’s Lamby we used to call her, I don’t know why it was Lamby. And there’s with the ground crew again.
Int: Flight Boys of something 10. P10 or T10 squadron, oh no, 170 Squadron, sorry.
MC: Oh yes, 170 Squadron.
Int: 170 Squadron, er December ’44 it says there.
MC: There, I’m afraid he was, he was killed, yes.
Int: But I presume when you say flight boys, I think they were the ground crew, weren’t they, because some of them have got the -
MC: Oh yes, on B Flight or A Flight, yes.
Int: They’ve got the leather jerkin on that they used to wear.
MC: Oh yes, oh yes, they’re definitely ground crew. They used to be very important people, you know.
Int: And then this one says –
MC: That’s outside the pub at Caenby Corner.
Int: Oh right, yes!
MC: You know Caenby Corner?
Int: Yes! Now that, that has been empty for about fifteen years now. They’re trying to sell it, and nobody, in fact Max, who I told you about – there was a Polish officer in Nottingham - he asked about the pub, he couldn’t remember the name of it but remembered they always used to have lockins, you know, you could go in there and they closed the doors and shut the curtains and they’d be drinking all night in there you see.
MC: Oh yes, fascinating. We used to go and we used to play that and we’d drink to the Health of Cardinal Puff Puff, [laughter] I don’t think you know that game?
Int: No, but I can imagine it’s um, yes!
MC: Oh yes, there’s the ground crew, yes, and some of the drivers.
Int: That one says. Yes. I’ll have to get my magnifying glass to look at this, cause you, obviously your writing was very, very beautifully written but you write very small don’t you, obviously when you wrote these, yes.
MC: Yes. But interesting to you I suppose.
Int: Oh very much so, yes! [Emphasis]
MC: But if they’d been taken at Ingham you’d have been more interested.
Int: No, but Hemswell as well, because of your connection with it and its [indecipherable].
MC: Some of these people would recognise themselves.
Int: Yes.
MC: What do I say here? Something, so small, isn’t it.
Int: I know, yes. My something crew, R for Roger, er, it was the groundcrew, it says here, groundcrew, R for Roger, er, my something or other. I can’t quite make it out.
MC: What does it say here? Can you read that? No I can’t. 1945 I’ve got. Or is it 1943?
Int: No, that’s actually ‘46.
MC: Oh is it! [Laugh]
Int: Or at least I think so. 22nd of April 1946. It says, I think it says Bremen there. Would they have been going to Bremen?
MC: Oh yes, they went to Bremen, yes. We never realised when, what awful things they’d got to go through when we took them out to their aircraft, and the groundcrew were pretty good. Oh that, he’d a pilot: he’s a Canadian. I remember him, he used to go off to Doncaster for weekends with dubious girls! [Laughter] I kept out of his way! Yes. Well I suppose they only lived once don’t they.
Int: Indeed and -
MC: Well, the time was so short for them.
Int: With everything that was going on, yes they probably felt it more than anybody else, didn’t they, that they had to live life while they had -
MC: While they could.
Int: Yes, while they could.
MC: What’s that? Country Kerry. Oh, that was when I was in Ireland. That’s my sister when she was a tiny girl, and my mother.
Int: That’s Dorothy is it?
MC: Yes. That’s Dorothy, and my parents had the Royal Oak at Swayfield at that time and that was in the pub garden. Oh, that’s the back of the pub. There’s a doorway there now, that must have been very old. Course it is a very old pub but the doorway is now there.
Int; That’s probably kind of late thirties.
MC: The door was there when we were living there, but that must have been before they, that time, yes.
Int: Knocked it through. Oh gosh.
MC: That’s shovelling the snow.
Int: Again! [Laughter] There’s a theme building here, shovelling snow, isn’t there, but!
MC: That was when I was in Ireland I suppose. Can’t pronounce that word, Country Kerry, passenger from. Hmm. That’s my brother who’s, died in September. That’s my dog, just see the little nose, there.
Int: Oh yes, yes.
MC: And that’s my girlfriend’s, the back of her house. She’s gone also. They’ve gone. That’s in Surrey, visiting a friend. Right, well. I don’t know, can you guarantee I’ll have them all back?
Int: Oh yes, I can.
MC: Why don’t you sit on this?
Int: No, no, it’s easier to kneel. Yes, oh yes, and we’d only borrow them a short time, just to get them, to get them duplicated.
MC: And that’s my brother, yes. Sort of mark off the ones you wanted. You see the first few, that’s me as a little girl, [laugh] with the basket, I was a bridesmaid, and that’s my sister.
Int: Oh gosh. Yes, it’s the RAF ones onwards that obviously we’re interested in, and we’d come back to get you to talk us through them. Cause what we’ll probably do with each of them, when they scan them, because they scan them at such high resolution, we can actually make the pictures bigger, so we can give you a set of copies that are a lot bigger so they’re easier for you to see the photographs as well, because that’s what we did for -
MC: Yes. Well, you can see, that was the crew bus they used, and if they weren’t available we would take them out in a lorry. That’s the crew bus.
Int: Who is that?
MC: Oh yes, he was a Flight Lieutenant, but I think he was on Wellingtons, I think he was, and his father was managing director of Kleeneze Brush Company. [laugh] and I remember when I was poorly once he brought me a little flask full of whiskey, you know, to get me better quick! Oh dear. He was nice. But you see they were moved on after a certain time. They didn’t er -
Int: Indeed. But some of these photographs here, especially ones where you’ve got all the crew around you, they’re -
MC: I mean Bob Hartley’s family would probably love to have something like that.
Int: They’re superb.
MC: He’s the skipper: there. These are the members of his crew. [Indecipherable] No wonder they asked us to clear the snow that time.
Int: Yes. But just, the nice thing is, they’re just natural pictures aren’t they, of people.
MC: Yes. She’s strangling him, you see?
Int: Going about their, going about their kind of their work, through the war years but just getting on with it and seeing the funny side at all, of things which is [indecipherable].
MC: We enjoyed yourselves.
Int: That’s lovely itself because it’s got you, it’s got your vehicle in it, which is tremendous. We’re, we are trying to find some of these old vehicles, and see if we can buy one to renovate up, get it running.
MC: Oh really!
Int: They do have classic old ones around.
MC: What about that? It’s a pity that’s not clearer, isn’t it.
Int: You can probably get it clearer though. I mean each one of these we can blow them up a lot bigger.
MC: What do I say there?
Int: Let’s just have a little look.
MC: Hare’s Hound is it?
Int: Yes, it could be Hare’s Hound.
MC: That’s the aircraft name.
Int: Ah, right. I think so, yes.
MC: The name of the aircraft, yes. There’s the crew, you can’t see them very well can you. I think I’m there. There’s the rest of the crew, cause it’s in darkness, isn’t it. What would they do if they had a photography of today?
Int: Well you know, you see so many pictures these days, where they’re colour, cause they’re all colour, and they never, they don’t look as, it makes it look too real, and I think if this day and age if we took more black and white photographs, there’s a lot more contrast in a black and white photograph. I have some photographs of my father when he was in his early, let’s see, must have probably been the late forties, early fifties, and he’s got some, well he’s just sitting at the table, he looks sideways and somebody’s taken a photograph, and they’re black and white and the difference in contrast of everything: you don’t need [emphasis] the colour to make it a beautiful photograph, so. Whereas colour, I think, sometimes detracts away from what you’re actually talking the photograph of.
MC: Yes, yes. And would you sort of tell me when you want it and have it back within a certain time? It’s precious this, to me.
Int: I fully understand that. Now what I’m thinking is, perhaps, because I said to you that I’m going away to Afghanistan next week.
MC: Oh yes, you brave man.
Int: Everything has been a little bit rushed.
MC: Brave but foolish! [Laugh]
Int: Well, you know as well as I do, when you take, in your case it was the King’s Shilling, in my case it was the Queen’s Shilling, when you take the Queen’s Shilling, then you’re in the RAF and if they want you to go somewhere, you go somewhere.
MC: You’re actually in the RAF?
Int: Yes, I’m just finishing, thirty years, that’s, next year’s thirty years. So I’ve had a complete career in the RAF. Tell you what, I’ll just switch this off now.


Geoff Burton, “Marion Clarke Interview,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 21, 2023,

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