Interview with Eric Taylor


Interview with Eric Taylor


Squadron Leader Eric Taylor joined the Royal Air Force in 1942 and served as a navigator. He served in North Africa and completed a tour of operations against targets in Italy before becoming an instructor in England. He describes the differences in instrumentation between the North African and English aircraft, such as the Gee navigational aid. He flew nuisance and diversion operations in Mosquitos over places such as Wurzburg, Erfurt and Berlin thirteen times. He was involved in the Berlin Airlift and then spent a couple of years serving in Aden and the Middle East, and remained in the Air Force until 1978 when he retired as a squadron leader.




Temporal Coverage




00:54:10 audio recording

Conforms To


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DK: So this is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre, interviewing Squadron Leader Eric Taylor at his home on the –
BT: Where are we?
DK: 28th of September 2017. So if I just put that there, put that that there –
ET: Yeah.
DK: Put that there. I’ll keep looking down, I’m just making sure that it’s working.
ET: Yes.
DK: That looks okay. So if we leave that, yeah that looks okay. Well, what I wanted to ask you first was what, what were you doing immediately before the war?
ET: School.
DK: Right, so you went straight from school to –
ET: I left school in the June forty-three –
DK: Mhm.
ET: Sorry, [pause] –
DK: It would be 1943 wouldn’t it?
ET: Yeah it is forty-three.
DK: Yeah, yeah. So you went straight from school, straight from school to the RAF?
ET: Yes.
DK: So what made you want to join the RAF then?
ET: Because I, I joined the, the LDV I think they called it –
DK: The Home Guard.
ET: The Local Defence Force.
DK: Mhm [BT laughs].
ET: And they put me through hours of drill [laughs], and I didn’t like that very much. I thought I’ll probably better join the Air Force, and you used to get all these magazines of course, you know, with all the things about the –
DK: Yeah.
ET: Battle of Britain and that type of thing. That’s what encouraged me to, to join. I went to Edinburgh for a testation [?] which was delayed for six months, so I actually went in, in the February –
DK: Is that on? Yeah, okay.
ET: Forty-three.
DK: Right. So –
ET: That was wrong, I told you –
DK: You’re right, it says forty-two in here.
ET: Must have been forty-two [emphasis].
DK: Right.
ET: Twenty, 1923 and something.
DK: That’s 1940 isn’t it? Okay, don’t worry, don’t worry.
ET: 1940.
DK: Yeah.
BT: 1940, you’d be seventeen.
DK: Yeah.
ET: Must have been forty-one then.
BT: Forty-one was it, okay.
ET: Left school.
BT: Yeah.
DK: So forty-one.
ET: Yeah, because it was forty-two –
DK: That you joined the Air Force.
ET: That I joined the Air Force.
DK: Yeah, yeah, okay.
ET: That’s right.
DK: You left school in 1941 and then joined the Air Force –
ET: Yeah.
DK: In 1942. So what, what was your first posting in the Air Force then? Where, where, can you remember where you went to?
ET: Well the first , well I went to London, and the – ooh we attended several lectures, you know, mainly about venereal disease [all laugh] and all the rest of the things.
DK: Yeah.
ET: And the, from then on I went up to, I trained at Staverton, Gloucestershire, Number Six AUS [?].
DK: Right.
ET: And that took about a year.
DK: So at this point you were already training as a navigator?
ET: Yeah, oh initially I did a small six hours course. I went in as a PNB.
DK: Right.
ET: Pilot, navigator or –
DK: Bomber aimer.
ET: Bomber aimer. Didn’t quite make the pilot stakes [?] so I became a navigator.
DK: Right.
ET: And then I went to the CUS [?]. That was the first straight navigator course, because before that they had the air observers, they called them.
DK: Yeah.
ET: Yeah, so we didn’t do any bombing aiming at that time. Course I went through them very quickly [emphasis], it only took about a year.
DK: Yeah.
ET: Then from there I went to Stratford-on-Avon to the OTU.
DK: Yeah.
ET: Operational training unit.
DK: Yeah. Just going, winding back a bit. What, what was the training as a, as a navigator? Were you actually flying [emphasis] at the time then?
ET: Yes, yes.
DK: So what sort of aircraft were you –
ET: Anson
DK: Ansons, right.
ET: Anson mainly. And then we came onto the Wellington when we came onto the OTU.
DK: The operational training unit.
ET: Yeah.
DK: Yeah, so that was Number 16 Operational Training Unit?
ET: That’s right.
DK: Yeah, and that was at RAF Upper Heyford?
ET: No.
DK: Oop, sorry.
ET: It’s at, it was at, it, just past Stratford-on-Avon.
DK: Stratford-on-Avon, right, okay.
ET: Yeah.
DK: So that’s 16 OTU at Stratford-on-Avon. And, and what aircraft were you training on there?
ET: Wellingtons.
DK: And is that where you met your, your crew then?
ET: Yeah. Well we all met [emphasis] –
DK: Mm.
ET: And just somebody would say, ‘would you like to fly with me?’ It was very, it wasn’t a rigid [?] thing at all, you know.
DK: No. So how did that work then? Were you all pushed into a hangar and you all had to work –
ET: Well we’re in a big hall, yeah, and the pilots were there and [laughs] –
DK: Right. How did you think that worked, ‘cause it’s quite unusual for the military. Normally you’re ordered to go somewhere.
ET: Well that’s right.
DK: This was quite an unusual way of where you –
ET: Yes.
DK: Picked your crew.
ET: Anyway, that’s how they did it and it seemed to work out there pretty well.
DK: And you found your, your pilot there then did you?
ET: Yes.
DK: And can you remember your pilot’s name?
ET: Yes, Cyril Pearce.
DK: Right.
ET: I think he’s no longer with us –
DK: Yeah.
ET: I don’t think any of the crew are with us now, you know.
DK: So you would have met your pilot?
ET: Yes.
DK: And –
ET: I met them all, the bomb aimer –
DK: Bomb aimer.
ET: And the wireless operator.
DK: Yeah.
ET: And the gunner.
DK: Mhm. And, and did you all get on well together when you –
ET: Yes, we seemed to, yeah.
DK: Yeah.
ET: Yeah. And I – the navigator didn’t do a lot of the pilot training on the aircraft, you know, the local flying circuits and mops and that.
DK: Yeah.
ET: But on the cross countries of course, we, we all went on those.
DK: Mm.
ET: Some had a dual instructor and others smaller [?].
DK: Yeah. What did you think of the Wellington as an aircraft?
ET: Actually quite good after the [laughs] – it was a bit bigger. The big thing I remember is – I think the model’s a 1-C that we trained on.
DK: Right.
ET: At the OTU, but then we got a mark three I think. ‘Cause we took an aeroplane out with us when we went to Tunisia.
DK: Right.
ET: And that was a long flight.
DK: Mm.
ET: We had to go miles out to sea to avoid the Bay of Biscay, you know, ‘cause all the Germans –
DK: Yeah, yeah.
ET: Were there, and we flew from Portreath to a place called Ras el Ma –
DK: Right.
ET: On the west coast of Africa. The big thing I remember there was there was always an enormous amount of flies [DK and ET laugh]. You had a plate of soup, had a quick swipe [DK laughs], put your spoon in quickly [laughs]. And from there we just, we went on through Blida and then ended up at the Kairouan.
DK: Right.
ET: With aircraft – 142 Squadron and 150 had both just gone there. There was nothing, there were no facilities at all. There wasn’t even a latrine initially [laughs].
DK: So, so out your training then, you’ve done the operational training unit and really cross country flights around England.
ET: That’s it.
DK: And then your posted to your squadron and you’re posted out to Africa.
ET: Yes [emphasis].
DK: Oh right.
ET: Actually we just cleared [?] Africa, North Africa. Well we arrived there –
DK: Right.
ET: And when I was, we were there, we had the invasion of Sicily of course.
DK: Mm.
ET: And Italy. And most of our bombing were, they were to, you know, targets in Sicily.
DK: Right.
ET: And several, going up the coast to Italy.
DK: Right, and this was with 142 Squadron?
ET: 142 Squadron.
DK: Yeah. So can you remember how many operations you did in the Middle East and Italy?
ET: Yes I, thirty.
DK: Thirty [emphasis]? Oh right.
ET: That was a tour then.
DK: Yeah.
ET: And I came back to UK. Oh I went with a journey from Tunis to Algiers –
DK: Mm.
ET: By train, and on the carriage I’ll always remember it said, ‘forty orm [?] or five [laughs], what were they, sivar [?] horses’ [ET and DK laugh]. Took five days, the journey, and then you got on a boat, came back to Liverpool.
DK: Right.
ET: This was at the end of forty-three –
DK: Uh-huh.
ET: And the – I thought I’d move to Scotland so I went all the way up to a place called Edsoff [?] where I used to live and the last bit I had to do by bus, you know, train then bus.
DK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
ET: Then I met this girl on the bus and she said, ‘what are you doing?’ And I said, I said ‘I’m going home [emphasis], what did you think?’ She says ‘I think they’ve moved’ [laughs]. Ah, I had then to go and search where they’d gone to.
DK: And this was your family?
ET: That’s my family –
DK: They’d moved while you were away [laughs].
ET: My parents – well I didn’t get the letter of course to say they were moving.
DK: Oh of course.
ET: And they’d moved to Woodhall Spa would you believe.
DK: Oh right.
ET: In Lincolnshire.
DK: Yeah, yeah, know it well [DK and ET laugh]. So when you were in Africa then, your parents moved from Scotland –
ET: Yes.
DK: To Woodhall Spa.
ET: Yeah.
DK: And you didn’t, you didn’t know [laughs].
ET: Didn’t know.
DK: No. If I could just go back a bit, your operations in the Middle East. Did you find navigating something that came to you easily or –
ET: Quite difficult.
DK: Difficult? Right, because –
ET: Actually, we did have one, one navigation error which a very lucky to get away with it in many respects because coming back from Italy, we hit this land [emphasis] and I thought it was the north coast of Africa –
DK: Right.
ET: It turned out to be the north coast of Sicily [emphasis], going along.
DK: Yeah.
ET: And, course there’s some very high mountains there. Our signaller, our wireless operator finally got a , what we’d call a QDM –
DK: Mm.
ET: You know, a course to steer.
DK: Yeah.
ET: So we turned on that. Of course we’re getting short of fuel and all sorts of things, and we threw out the guns onto the turret to make the aircraft lighter, and coasted at quite a low altitude –
DK: Mm.
ET: Thinking of the mountains there –
DK: Yeah.
ET: And landed , there was an emergency airfield right on the tip of, which we landed at.
DK: On Sicily?
ET: No, no, in North Africa.
DK: Oh North Africa was it, right.
ET: Right at the top there.
DK: Right, oh right.
ET: So that was a real bit of luck there.
DK: Did you, did you get into any trouble for navigating?
ET: Not really.
DK: No, good [DK and ET laugh].
ET: What I remember is my pilot got in trouble because there was a taxi accident.
DK: Right.
ET: That’s the worst thing that can be done, you know. I think the wing hit it [unclear] on one and knocked [?] it up and twice, and I remember the station [?] commander at briefing for an operational trip. He’d see [?] pilots in front of him and say, ‘look at these men, traitors to the cause.’ I always remember that.
DK: Yeah.
ET: Terrible thing to say really.
DK: Bit harsh isn’t it?
ET: They felt bad enough as it is.
DK: Yeah. And one of those, one of those was your pilot was it?
ET: Yes [emphasis].
DK: Stood up – so he had to stand in front of everybody and get told off?
ET: Well there was three of them.
DK: Three of them, right.
ET: Yes, two’s [?] being blamed for the trip, you know –
DK: Yeah.
ET: That night. And this came out.
DK: Oh dear. It’s not very good is it? [Laughs].
ET: Very unsympathetic.
DK: No. Were commanding officers like that then? Were they a bit tough?
ET: This is a copy, what’s it? [Papers shuffle]. Is there something in there called “Blida’s Bombers?” A book. Oh yeah, it’s about him.
DK: Oh right.
ET: There’s something in [papers shuffle, pause]. All this mail, that’s Kairouan [laughs].
DK: Right. Just for the recording, it’s a magazine or a pamphlet called “Blida’s Bombers.” B-L-I-D-A, Blida. That’s, that’s in Algiers isn’t it?
ET: That’s right.
DK: [Unclear].
ET: That was a big base, as the Army. We started going in with the first army –
DK: Right.
ET: [Unclear].
DK: I actually went there many years ago, to Blida in Algiers. And just for the recording, this is “Blida’s Bombers” by Eric M. Summers. Did you know Eric M. Summers?
ET: No.
DK: No, no.
ET: But there was a Group Captain Powel, his photograph was in there which I was trying to, to find.
DK: Right.
ET: He was a man that –
DK: Oh, Group Captain Powel –
ET: Yeah.
DK: Here he is.
ET: Yeah, but there’s a picture of him with his –
DK: That’s in there.
ET: Fly [?]. He always used to fly [laughs].
DK: So he was your commanding officer was he?
ET: He was the station commander actually –
DK: Station commander, right.
ET: Group captain, yeah.
DK: And was it him who told your –
ET: Yes.
DK: The three pilot off?
ET: Yeah.
DK: Well that’s for the recording then, Group Captain Powell [laughs]. Ah there he is, there is he is.
ET: That’s him.
DK: Yeah.
ET: That’s exactly with his – yeah.
DK: Oh, so just for the recording here. It’s Group Captain Powell, briefing for Radan Recina [?]. And it looks like he’s got a fly swat there.
ET: That’s right. He always used that as a pointer [DK and ET laugh].
DK: He looks like he must have been a bit of a character. Oh wow.
ET: Quite a forceful –
DK: Forceful, I can imagine [?].
ET: Yeah.
DK: So there’s the Wellingtons –
ET: Probably [unclear], that’s him, yeah.
DK: You were flying.
ET: Yes, yeah.
DK: So this is all – the book itself is about the Tunis campaign then?
ET: What I can remember is when we got later [?], the power, the whole, the whole instruments used to shake and [laughs].
DK: [Unclear] my phone’s on. Sorry about that. So you got Noel Coward’s poem [?] there, ‘lie in the dark and listen.’
ET: Yes.
DK: Yeah, ah. So while you were in North Africa then and you’re bombing targets in Italy, were you, was your aircraft ever hit at all or, can you recall?
ET: Er, not really. Should they call it sometimes [?], few peppered.
DK: Right.
ET: But nothing direct.
DK: Nothing serious.
ET: Direct hit.
DK: So you never got attacked by German aircraft –
ET: No.
DK: At all?
ET: No.
DK: Right. So what did you, what sort of targets were you hitting there in –
ET: Mostly airfields.
DK: Mostly airfields.
ET: There, [papers shuffle] here you are –
DK: Right.
ET: I don’t have the – oh [unclear]. That’s how we got there.
DK: Right okay, so that’s, for the recording here, that’s your logbook.
ET: That’s my logbook, yeah.
DK: So –
ET: Number one.
DK: Your pilot then is Pearce.
ET: Yes.
DK: Sergeant Pearce, and you’re the navigator down on here.
ET: We’re all sergeants –
DK: You’re all sergeants, right.
ET: At the time. There was very few, very few commissioned there on the squadron.
DK: Right, so the whole crew was sergeants then?
ET: Yeah.
DK: Yeah, so from the logbook then, so you’ve gone from Portreath to Ra –
ET: Ras el Ma.
DK: El Ma. Ras el Ma to Blida.
ET: That’s right.
DK: Then Blida to Kairouan.
ET: Kairouan.
DK: And I’ll spell that for the recording. It’s K-A-I-R-O-U-A-N. And so your base was Maison Blanche?
ET: No the base was Kairouan.
DK: Kairouan was it?
ET: Yeah.
DK: Right okay.
ET: It looks as though someone must have taken an aeroplane or something up there.
DK: Oh right [something pings in background].
ET: And I don’t know how we came back but it –
DK: Right. So you’ve done operations then to Nissena [?] –
ET: Yeah.
DK: And that’s in a Wellington, 19th of June 1943. So Nissena [?] seems to be a regular target, hmm. So Nissena [?], Italian airfield, Syracuse.
ET: Syracuse, yeah.
DK: Yeah.
ET: Masala [?].
DK: So quite a number of – so you said you did thirty operations there in North Africa?
ET: Yeah.
DK: Hmm, the Nissena beaches I noticed [page turns]. So what were the, what were the briefings like in North Africa? Were you sort of in a tent and – what were the facilities like?
ET: Yes, was all under canvas, the whole thing. The food was corned beef –
DK: Yeah.
ET: For everything. In fact, I got an attack of jaundice –
DK: Oh right.
ET: Through that. I went into hospital and they gave me tinned fruit –
DK: Rivht.
ET: And I thought this was a most wonderful thing to, to get. In fact, there was a big American camp near us and they – we used to trade whiskey [DK laughs] for tinned fruit –
DK: Yeah, yeah.
ET: You know, that they had.
DK: [Tape moved] I’m not sure that that’s such a good spot now [laughs].
BT: No.
ET: Not now [laughs].
DK: Not now, no. Oh right.
ET: I suppose thank goodness for corned beef otherwise the [laughs] –
DK: So at, at the briefings then, presumably you’re sort of sat down and told what the target – were you told what the targets were?
ET: Told what the target is, yes.
DK: Right. So in North Africa, were they mostly military targets, airfields and –
ET: Yes.
DK: I noticed here you’ve got here [reading from logbook]: ‘30th of September 1943, ops. Port engine caught fire on takeoff [emphasis].’ Do you remember that?
ET: Not really [both laugh].
DK: Well it says you landed okay after twenty-five minutes.
ET: Yeah we always – obviously we’d have just gone –
DK: Yeah.
ET: Round and there –
DK: And landed again.
ET: And landed again.
DK: So then you’ve had, got several places in Italy then. I noticed you’ve got Pisa is one, ops to Pisa.
ET: Yes.
DK: Yeah [paper turns].
ET: I remember the vehicles [?], I remember we were on that night, bobbing and the beaches, you know, before the army got in.
DK: So that’s 142 Squadron then, and you’ve done two hundred and forty-two hours, fifteen minutes operations then.
ET: Is that the end?
DK: Yeah that’s the end there, yeah.
ET: Yeah [page turns].
DK: So you’ve, you’ve come back to the UK then, you’ve come back to England. What, where –
ET: I was an instructor then.
DK: Right [laughs].
ET: Or so – we didn’t have half the instrumentation that the UK aircraft had.
DK: Right.
ET: So it was like an idiot teaching an idiot really [laughing], until we got used to –
DK: Right. So you, you went onto training then did you? You were –
ET: Yes.
DK: Right.
ET: It, I did a year –
DK: Right.
ET: Mainly at a place called Barford St. John –
DK: Right.
ET: Which is not far from Oxfordshire. Oh it’s about three miles away from, what’s the name of the town [pause], starts with a B I think.
DK: Bedford?
BT: Bicester?
DK: Bicester?
BT: Bicester, yeah?
ET: B – well down that way, yeah.
DK: Right. And that was in Oxfordshire was it?
ET: Yeah.
DK: Right.
ET: And then the –
DK: So what, what aircraft were you flying doing the training there?
ET: Wellingtons.
DK: Wellingtons again, and that, you said they were better equipped than the ones you were flying in the Middle East?
ET: Yes [DK laughs]. There’s a thing in navigation called G [emphasis] –
DK: Yes.
ET: Which we didn’t have out there, you know. It was a wonderful aid, very accurate –
DK: Mm.
ET: But I had to learn [laughs], I had to learn that, you see, when I came back .
DK: So although you were training people, you yourself didn’t know –
ET: Well [laughs].
DK: Oh right.
ET: You know radio, you know, out there, about thirty-five miles was the range of our radio. You know –
DK: Mm.
ET: If you did want to call our base [laughs] –
DK: Yeah.
ET: You had to be within thirty-five miles of it.
DK: So not very far then?
ET: Not very far at all, no.
BT: Banbury, it was.
DK: Banbury.
ET: Banbury [emphasis] was the place –
BT: I just looked it up.
ET: Yeah sorry, Banbury, Banbury’s where – it was just outside Banbury. And anyway, at the end of the year they changed from Wellingtons to Mosquitos.
DK: Right, okay.
ET: So I just stayed there and did the course, met the pilot. He was a very good pilot. He, when he finished training in Canada they kept him on as an instructor.
DK: Right. So you’ve come – I slightly misread this earlier and I want – for the benefit of the tape, your initial training was at Number Six Air Observation School at Staverton.
ET: That’s right.
DK: And then you went to 21 OTU, Morteon-in-the-Marsh.
ET: That’s correct.
DK: Then [emphasis] to North Africa.
ET: For operational training –
DK: Then to North Africa –
ET: North Africa.
DK: Sorry I misread this, with 142 Squadron.
ET: Yes.
DK: Which we’ve just covered.
ET: That’s correct.
DK: So you’ve come back then and you did a year’s training –
ET: Yes.
DK: Instructing, and that was at 16 OTU, Upper Heyford [?].
ET: Yes, that was the main base –
DK: Main base.
ET: But as I say, I spent it all at Barford –
DK: Right okay.
ET: St. John.
DK: Right. So then in early 1945 then, you’re now converted onto the Mosquito?
ET: That’s right.
DK: Can you remember your pilot’s name on the Mosquito?
ET: Yeah, Green, Dave Green.
DK: Dave Green.
ET: We didn’t have a – he was married, the chap in the, well obviously [unclear] he met a girl out there and married her, and so we didn’t spend a lot of social time together at all.
DK: Right.
ET: He didn’t drink at al so l [laughs].
DK: Was that quite unusual in the Air Force then? [Laughs].
ET: Well a bit. But yeah he was a good chap.
DK: Right. And would he have been a pilot officer or –
ET: He was a flight lieutenant.
DK: Flight lieutenant, right. So that’s Flight Lieutenant –
ET: I expect –
DK: Dave Green
ET: If you, if you finished top of your course –
DK: Yeah.
ET: You were normally commissioned, the top. So as he did well, kept him on as an instructor, I suspect he was –
DK: And you say he was an Australian?
ET: No, no, he was English.
DK: English, right okay. So, and you’re in the Mosquitos then. What did you think of the Mosquito as a aircraft?
ET: Oh it was great [laughs], with so much speed.
DK: Mm.
ET: Amazing aircraft because to carry that load, to carry one four thousand pound bomb, was like a big oil tank, you know.
DK: Mm, yeah.
ET: Oil drum, for the business. And course we’d overload tanks on the wings as well, so she was pretty heavy.
DK: Yeah.
ET: But it was wonderful. We used to bomb at twenty-five thousand feet.
DK: Right.
ET: And when the bomb went of course you shot up about three [DK and ET laugh], three hundred feet.
DK: And this was at 571 Squadron?
ET: 571, yeah.
DK: And –
ET: It was very short lived – each squadron, they were created [emphasis], you know, and of course the war, the war finished –
DK: Right.
ET: And they disappeared again.
DK: Can you remember, can you remember where you were based with 571?
ET: Yes, Oakington.
DK: Oakington, right okay.
ET: Which is a big –
DK: Housing estate now [BT laughs].
ET: Oh is it?
DK: Yeah, afraid so. It’s all been knocked down.
ET: But did it, did have all these refugee, I don’t know what they were, refugee centres?
DK: It was for while, yes.
ET: Yeah.
DK: It was a refugee centre –
ET: Yeah.
DK: After the war.
ET: Oh but, but I haven’t mentioned that I – when the war finished, they asked for volunteers to ferry the aircraft back from Canada.
DK: Oh right.
ET: SO I volunteered for that. I got out to Canada, went out by boat, and they said ‘oh you’re not wireless trained’ [laughs].
DK: Mm.
ET: ‘So you can’t do that.’ So I ended up doing about thirty hours in Dakotas.
DK: Oh right [DK and ET laugh].
ET: And I was there for about three months, and came back in a BUAC [?] Liberator.
DK: Right.
ET: [Laughs] to Prestwick, I remember that.
DK: Just, just going back a little bit to your time in the Mosquitos.
ET: Yes.
DK: Can you remember how many operations you did on Mosquitos?
ET: Yes, I did twenty.
DK: Right, so that was thirty operations, Wellingtons in North Africa –
ET: Yes.
DK: And another twenty –
ET: When we were operating on the Mosquito, we had sort of two nights on and one night off.
DK: So what was your role with the Mosquito, because you weren’t really flying with the main Bomber force were you? Were you separate to them?
ET: Well, it was diversionary [emphasis] normally. We went to targets to make them think that the –
DK: Right.
ET: Main force was going there. You had your sneaky little – I went to Berlin thirteen times [laughs].
DK: Right. What was it like flying over Berlin?
ET: Well it’s quite, quite intense. The flak was, you know, they had these predictions, the marshal [?] –
DK: Yeah.
ET: Predicting –
DK: Predicting flak –
ET: You’re very happy if you saw it bursting a bit beneath you, you know, thinking ‘oh they haven’t got it right.’
DK: Mm.
ET: And they had these incredible searchlights, and a marshal would come on you, and then all the sleeves [?] [unclear]. It’s a really lovely feeling [laughs] being all lit up at night.
DK: So when that happened, what did your pilot do? Did he –
ET: He couldn’t do much at all really –
DK: Right.
ET: For that. Because with that height, you know, it would take a long way to –
DK: To get out the searchlight. So you’re, you’re being fired on all the time while you’re in the searchlights?
ET: Well, you might be or you might not, you know. It didn’t – we had a little indicator on the aircraft, a light it was, which was supposed to switch on if you were being attacked.
DK: Yeah. So you, did you fly out with a number of other Mosquitos?
ET: Yes.
DK: And could you see them at night, or –
ET: Well that’s the amazing thing is, there’s all these aircraft together –
DK: Yeah.
ET: You suddenly see, if another one gets lit up by the searchlights you think, ‘I didn’t realise he was there,’ you know.
DK: Mm.
ET: You were like a loose formation I think, you weren’t in flying formation.
DK: Right, so you never saw other aircraft then?
ET: Not very often.
DK: So your role was then, the main force would go off to one target and you’d attack somewhere else to, to draw –
ET: Yes.
DK: Their defences there –
ET: Yes.
DK: Presumably.
ET: Of course, we had the Pathfinders.
DK: Yeah.
ET: Who would – now this, well a secret as it was at the time, called Oboe.
DK: Mhm.
ET: And they used to drop on that, and this thing was amazing. Two different aircraft flares go down, you go down one on top of the other. You’d think it was out of one aircraft, you know.
DK: Right.
ET: This was getting towards the end and –
DK: So when you saw these two flares go down, what was your, what did you have to do then?
ET: Well, I’d, it would tell you, or, if it was some apart [?] it would tell you which one to go for. Well, I had to get down into the bomb bay, and, well about ten, you had a ten minute run in when you had to stay rock steady, you know, and I had to get down into the front and set up the bomb, bomb site.
DK: Right.
ET: ‘Cause one night, an incident was that I got down there and I wasn’t making sense about it to my pilot, and he was very quick at knocking my oxygen off [laughs].
DK: Oh.
ET: And he quickly catched on what was wrong and put the switch –
DK: Right.
ET: Back on.
DK: So he switched the oxygen off then, right.
ET: Yeah just getting, getting down into the – I had a harness [?] on, you know –
DK: Yeah.
ET: Just to –
DK: So, so although you were navigating then, on the Mosquitos you actually acted as a bomb aimer as well then did you?
ET: Yes, I did both jobs.
DK: Right.
ET: Yes, I did a small bombing course with a Mosquito conversion. We did a course on –
DK: Right.
ET: With Oxfords [emphasis] it was this time, which was a training aircraft.
DK: Mm.
ET: Used to bomb in the Wash.
DK: Mm.
ET: You know, the target.
DK: Yeah.
ET: The Wash.
DK: Yeah, so, so you said you went to Berlin thirteen –
ET: I think it was about thirteen –
DK: Thirteen times.
ET: Times if you –
DK: So for the recording, I’m looking at the logbook again so, so 1st of March 1945, Mosquito. You’ve gone from ops to Erfurt, E-R-F-U-R-T.
ET: Erfurt, yeah.
DK: So you’ve got one four thousand pound bomb.
ET: That’s a bomb we carried, just one.
DK: And then 3rd of March forty-five, Wurzburg, one four thousand pound bomb again.
ET: Yeah.
DK: And then it says here Berlin on the 5th of March, the 7th of March, 9th of March, 11th of March, 13th of March. So every other day there for about a week, you were going to Berlin.
ET: Yeah.
DK: So each time it’s one four thousand pound bomb. So those trips to Berlin, can you recall, were those diversional then, or part of a, a main attack on Berlin?
ET: I, I don’t think it was a main attack because we didn’t see other aeroplanes there really.
DK: Right, so the main force has gone off somewhere else?
ET: It’s more a nuisance, you know, morale type thing I think –
DK: Right.
ET: On that.
DK: So you’re also going out there then to, not as diversions as such but to just keep the defences alert?
ET: Keep it going, yeah.
DK: So then 15th of March, Erfurt again [page turns]. [Laughs], and then here 21st of March, Berlin, 23rd of March, Berlin and the 24th of March, Berlin [page turns]. Think the people in Berlin must have got a bit fed up of you turning up [all laugh]. So your, and it says here, so the same pilot, Flight Lieutenant –
ET: Yes.
DK: Is it, was it Dave Green? Dave, Dave Green, was it? Green?
ET: Dave Green, yeah.
DK: Dave Green. And just reading for the recording here –
ET: Yes.
DK: So 4th of April, Magdeburg, and then 8th of April, Berlin, 10th of April, Berlin, 12th of April, Berlin [BT laughs], 13th of April, I’ll spell this out for the recording. It’s S-T-R-A-L-S-U-N-I, or S-U-N-D, Stralsund I think it is. 17th of April, Berlin, 20th of April, Berlin again, 23rd of April, Flensburg [page turns]. So the end must be coming to an end here then. And finally, 25th of April, a power station at Munich.
ET: That’s right, that was the last one.
DK: Mm.
ET: It, I had a son out there [laughs].
DK: Right.
ET: He worked with the, what’s it called, you know, the –
BT: Eurofighter.
ET: Eurofighter.
DK: Oh right, oh okay.
BT: After the war you want to add [DK and BT laugh].
ET: After the war, oh yes.
DK: Yes.
ET: But I said, ‘I probably passed this part,’ I said, ‘I probably bombed [emphasis] that part’ [all laugh].
BT: Yeah.
DK: So years later, your son was working on the Eurofighter in Europe?
ET: He was in the Eurofighter, yeah.
DK: So can I, if I just add those up [page turns]. Where are we, that’s Berlin. One, two, three, four, five [page turns], six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen. Yes as you say, thirteen.
ET: That was –
DK: So out of those twenty operations in Mosquitos, thirteen of them were to Berlin.
ET: Yeah.
DK: And your trips to Berlin, it’s obviously quite a long way. I mean, are you fired on all the way or is it mostly quite dark and quiet?
ET: Bits and pieces.
DK: Mm.
ET: Sometimes flak would come up, you know, you could see it at – you just hoped they hadn’t predicted you, your height.
DK: Hmm. But in a Mosquito you’re a lot higher than another aircraft.
ET: Twenty-five.
DK: Mm, twenty-five thousand feet.
ET: We were, and sometimes we used to get to thirty coming back, you know.
DK: And can you recall, were you ever attacked by German aircraft at all?
ET: Not that I know of.
DK: No.
ET: No.
DK: So as you’re, as you’re approaching the target then, you’ve got down into the –
ET: I get down into the, the bomb bay –
DK: So –
ET: And set up the wind and that –
DK: Yeah.
ET: On the – in fact, so that we could keep together more of the navigation, you’re trying to navigation –
DK: Yeah, yeah.
ET: The leading aircraft might pass back the wind, so as we’re all using the same wind to, to part [?] with our drift and that –
DK: Right.
ET: So as we’d keep –
DK: ‘Cause presumably wind change can really affect your navigation?
ET: Oh yeah, well effects your drift and everything you see, so if you get different winds you could be offsetting differently.
DK: Right, what was it like, if I can ask – you’d obviously have a briefing beforehand –
ET: Yes.
DK: And, and this is in the building at Oakham. What were your feelings like when you saw what your target was going to be?
ET: Well you think –
DK: Presumably they have curtains and they put it back and –
ET: Well they tell you where it is. Oh, the routine was, you take the aircraft up for an air test –
DK: Right.
ET: Up there about fifteen minutes, see it’s alright in the morning, and then, this being the morning, then the afternoon you would go to briefing. Told you where it was, you had to make charts up, you know –
DK: What was your thoughts when you saw Berlin again? Were you –
ET: [Laughs] yeah, ‘can’t you find somewhere else to’ –
DK: So you now know the target, so you’re now doing your charts presumably as the navigator?
ET: Yeah.
DK: So you’re, you’re told the winds and –
ET: Got to put a tracking of where we’re going and that, all these sort of things. Oh yeah, you get briefed by the MET officer of the winds and the weather.
DK: Mhm.
ET: And after that, you had a meal, and then you went back. The worst thing I found was you went back to your billet and then you’d devour [?] away these hours –
DK: Right.
ET: Until, ‘cause it’s always at night of course, you know, until you’re ready for takeoff.
DK: So it came as a bit of a relief then, when you got to the aircraft to takeoff?
ET: Oh yeah, once you get going, you’re too busy really to think about anything else, provided you didn’t swing. It was quite a nasty aircraft to swing in on takeoff –
DK: Mm.
ET: Mosquito, you know, the propellers going the same direction –
DK: Yeah.
ET: Until they got the tail up for a bit of –
DK: Yeah.
ET: Control.
DK: And your pilot then, Dave Green, was he a good pilot?
ET: Yes [emphasis]. But just as I say, he was a quiet chap so I didn’t really see much of him –
DK: Right.
ET: Apart from work which, which was fine [laughs].
DK: But did you – I’m presuming you’d have to work well [emphasis] together then.
ET: Oh yes.
DK: So you worked well together?
ET: Yeah.
DK: We’ve covered what you did over the targets, so you’ve come back after the operation and your landing. How did you feel then as you got back?
ET: Relieved once you got down but of course you’re coming back, you’re all coming back together aren’t you? In these airfield, the seconds [?] they overlapped.
DK: Yeah.
ET: So it was a bit dodgy at times. We landed once at the wrong airport [laughs].
DK: Really?
ET: You know, the wrong way, direction was the same.
DK: Yeah.
ET: We ended up at Wyton [laughs].
DK: Right.
ET: Anyway, they just briefed us and, and that was it. I think we took off in the morning to get back to base [DK and ET laugh].
DK: So you, once you’ve landed then, what’s the procedures then?
ET: Oh you go for a briefing.
DK: Right, a debriefing [emphasis].
ET: De –
DK: Yeah.
ET: Debriefing.
DK: And, and who would take that?
ET: Intelligence.
DK: Mm.
ET: Officers.
DK: Mm, and what sort of questions did they ask?
ET: Did you hit the target, did you think you hit the target?
DK: Right.
ET: We used to take a, a film [emphasis]. Some were better than others, you know –
DK: Mm.
ET: Of the target area and when it happened.
DK: So a photo would be taken when you –
ET: A photo when you pressed the plunger for, to release the bomb a photograph would be taken –
DK: Oh right.
ET: A little later.
DK: Right. So you’ve got back then and you’ve got feelings of relief. What happened then, you just went to bed?
ET: No.
DK: Ah.
ET: Went for a meal.
DK: Right, okay [DK and ET laugh].
ET: And a beer.
DK: Mm.
ET: And a few beers [DK laughs], otherwise I never slept really, you know.
DK: Right.
ET: It’s all night [?], but oh, it was a relief [emphasis] –
DK: Mm.
ET: Really. I mean we were very lucky in the Mosquito, we didn’t have near the number of losses –
DK: Mm.
ET: That the – the loss that I saw, well, the loss that I saw was at – one aircraft completed [?], he was up on his air test and of course he came and tried to beat up the, what we called the flight hock [?] [emphasis], you know, where our ground crew were.
DK: Yep.
ET: And these, these overload tanks in the wing. He hit a tree and knocked one tank off, and the aircraft just [unclear].
DK: Cartwheeled.
ET: I watched this –
DK: Yeah.
ET: Just rolling [emphasis].
DK: Yeah.
ET: And it went straight in the front of the, the sick quarters.
DK: Mm.
ET: That was a complete waste of lives. Another accident we had was at the – one chap lost an engine and he came roaring in far too fast. Oh no sorry, he spun [emphasis] in and of course, they were killed. It happened a second time to another person, and he thought ‘I’m not going to stall’ [laughs], so he came rolling in too fast and [taps four times] wasn’t able to stop at the far end. And then the disciplinary thing at Sheffield, so they sent them to Sheffield. [Unclear] fly –
DK: Right.
ET: But just for discipline [laughs].
DK: But at least he survived that one.
ET: He survived that one, yeah.
DK: But got into trouble for it, yeah. Okay that’s, that’s great. Just ask you, after all these years how do you look back at your time in, in Bomber Command? How do you look back on that?
ET: I don’t really look back on it all that much nowadays.
DK: Mm.
ET: I think – well I was occupied, of course seeing an Air Force and getting in transport we had the Berlin Airlift –
DK: Right.
ET: For a year.
DK: So you got involved with the Berlin Airlift then did you?
ET: Yeah.
DK: Yeah, so –
ET: I did three hundred lifts on that.
DK: Oh right. So you’ve, let, you’ve – so just reading here, that’s three hundred and two lifts –
ET: Yeah.
DK: To Berlin.
ET: That took a year.
DK: And, and what aircraft were you flying?
ET: York.
DK: Right, the Avro York. So what, what was Berlin like when you, you went there after the war?
ET: Oh they were very, very grateful that we’re keeping away from the Russians I think was a big thing, you know, there.
DK: Mm. ‘Cause it’s, it’s kind of strange ‘cause one moment you’re dropping bombs [BT laughs] and then the next –
ET: Three years later, yeah.
DK: You’re giving them food.
ET: That’s right. It’s amazing when people have nothing, you know. If anybody had a bar of soap or something like that –
DK: Mm.
ET: It was like a gold [emphasis] to them, you know.
DK: Yeah.
ET: Things like that.
DK: So what kind of stuff were you carrying in the Avro Yorks then?
ET: Oh you name it, everything.
DK: Food and –
ET: There was coal.
DK: Right.
ET: Actually the aircraft – I forget they were a lot heavier when they finished, it was all this coal dust.
DK: Mm.
ET: They erm, hay for horses, all the natural stuff that people eat.
DK: Right.
ET: Anything like that.
DK: So flying into Berlin then, did you have to stick to certain routes or –
ET: Yes –
DK: ‘Cause you’re flying over –
ET: The Northern – we used to go up north and then go down from a northern corridor, and come back at a centre corridor.
DK: Right.
ET: ‘Cause basically, Onsturfrun [?]
DK: So you went to Onsturfrun Gateaux [?].
ET: Onsturfrun [?] to Gateaux [?] yeah, yeah that’s right.
DK: Right.
ET: And –
DK: So they’re just continuous flights then, going –
ET: Yeah.
DK: In the northern route and coming out the southern route.
ET: Oh it was a shambles in this case. We had lots of different speed aircraft, you know. There was, there was Yorks, there was the Dakotas –
DK: Mm.
ET: Valettas, and what was happening, supposed to go off on waves but one wave was [laughs] overtaking the other wave, you know –
DK: Right.
ET: And things like that. It’s amazing there weren’t more accidents than there were, but after they got it settled it worked very well. You just went along, you got in. If you missed, if you couldn’t get in you came straight back, you didn’t, you couldn’t go round again, you know –
DK: Right.
ET: To Gateaux [?]I mean.
DK: So you, you had to land first time?
ET: You had to land, that’s right.
DK: Yeah.
ET: But it worked very well. And we went down to two lifts. Initially we had to do three lifts. It was a tremendously long day ‘cause you had to wait for the aircraft to get ready and complete your three lifts.
DK: Mm.
ET: That was it, but they put it down to two [emphasis] so we did a night shift or a day –
DK: Yeah.
ET: Day shift. It was well organised towards the end.
DK: Was it easier for you as a navigator, doing that then, because they –
ET: Oh I didn’t do very – there wasn’t very much navigation at all.
DK: Right.
ET: For – you just, it was a corridor, you know –
DK: Right.
ET: And took me an hour coming back ‘cause you flew over quite a bit of Russian territory coming in.
DK: Mm.
ET: The only, the odd fighter used to come and have a look at you [laughs]. Think ‘I hope you go away again,’ you know.
DK: Oh right [ET laughs]. So after that then, you’ve remained with transport and –
ET: Yes.
DK: Yeah. Just looking, so you were in Valettas, Varsitys, the Beverlys?
ET: Yes.
DK: So that was, you went out to Aden then, and –
ET: Yes.
DK: And Iran? Yes.
ET: Yeah, did two years in Aden.
DK: Was that during the conflict out there or –
ET: There, there was a bit of conflict –
DK: Yeah.
ET: But [coughs] there was a lot of trouble in – what do you call that country?
DK: Yemen?
ET: Yemen.
DK: Yemen, yeah and Aden, Aden is Yemen I think, isn’t it? Oman?
ET: There’s another one I think, further east.
DK: Right. So, so what were you doing there? Was it supplying –
ET: Oh just loads of [?] – it was wonderful, a place called Macierz [?] –
DK: Mm.
ET: Which was about eight thousand feet high, and from Aden was very steamy, you know [laughs], and you get up there, your stockings fall down because it’s so dry up there.
DK: Yeah.
ET: Byt they’ve got stuff in there you didn’t know if you could get before, you know.
DK: No.
ET: Like quite big trucks and that type of thing.
DK: So what was, what was the Beverley [emphasis] like as an aircraft then? They’re quite big, quite bulky things aren’t they?
ET: Oh dear [DK laughs]. It was slow [emphasis], it was noisy [emphasis]. In fact the navigator’s table used to be on an angle, you had to, you had to [tapping] flatten it and you had to [tapping], they tried to [?] bounce on it, you know [DK laughs]. And that had a fixed undercarriage, and if you got into icy conditions, these legs used to ice up which meant you even go slower [emphasis] than [DK and ET laugh]. But it had this great capability of short landing in –
DK: Yeah.
ET: In getting into these airfields, you know.
DK: So then you’ve gone onto the Britannia.
ET: That’s right.
DK: So what, what was the Britannia like?
ET: Oh it was lovely.
DK: Yeah
ET: Yeah, I did five years on.
DK: And what was that, mostly trooping flights was it? So whereabouts did you use to go to?
ET: All over the place [coughs]. Did a lot to Norway because the commander was a not [?] – always went there from January to March –
DK: Mm.
ET: They go for their winter training –
DK: Right.
ET: So we’d lots of flights there and back. That was an adventure [?]. We had a lot of flights out to Woomera –
DK: Right.
ET: You know, the atomic –
DK: Oh right, the atomic bomb tests.
ET: It was a little box.
DK: Oh.
ET: Didn’t know what it was [DK and ET laugh]. But we used to go down to Adelaide.
DK: Probably best not to ask [all laugh].
ET: Well, quite a lot.
DK: Yeah.
ET: When all these tests were going on.
DK: Yeah.
ET: And just [coughs] –
DK: You, you didn’t witness any of the tests then did you?
ET: Oh no.
DK: No, no.
ET: We used to use an Edinburgh field recorder, it was a RAAF base. That went on quite a lot. We did trips to Singapore and back –
DK: Mhm.
ET: But when it first started, you know, there was no slipping [emphasis] crews –
DK: Yeah.
ET: You just had a – everyday it took five [emphasis] days to get to Singapore, you had two days off there and five days to come back. And I think what a waste of aircraft it was really [DK laughs]. I suppose we had so many we didn’t bother. That was on the Yorks [emphasis] then.
DK: Yeah [ET laughs]. So finally you’ve become ATS navigator instructor.
ET: That was on Belfasts.
DK: So you’re, you’ve – and then 53 Squadron on the Belfasts?
ET: That’s right.
DK: So, so what was the Belfast like as an aircraft?
ET: Oh it was nice, nice. Well lovely, very palatial for the crew.
DK: Mm.
ET: Just the pilots could get in from the outside of the aircraft into the seat, you know, being a big aircraft –
DK: Right.
ET: It was very palatial for the crew.
DK: So what sort of loads would you have on the Belfasts?
ET: All sorts, helicopters.
DK: Yeah?
ET: Tanks, just stuff like that.
BT: You took the Concord engines didn’t you as well? Concord engines.
ET: Oh I had a big, yeah. Oh my big flight was I went – we carried an engine for Concord once. It went on a world tour.
DK: Oh right.
ET: Well, went to Far East sales pitch. It never needed the engine [laughs].
DK: Right, so it was just a spare –
ET: But it was a few pictures somewhere of that. Is it in there [shuffling].
BT: Yeah that’s the one, that’s the Concord.
DK: Ah.
ET: There’s one with the tours [?] on.
BT: I’ll have a look [ET laughs].
DK: That’s the original prototype isn’t it?
ET: Yeah.
ET: That’s right.
BT: Oh wow.
DK: Okay, so I’ll just finish this off. So you retired in 1978 as a squadron leader.
ET: That’s right.
DK: Ah.
ET: They eventually decided to promote me after [laughs] –
DK: So they promoted you just before you retired?
ET: Yes.
DK: Ah [laughs]. Okay, well I’ll stop that there because I’m conscious of you talking for a whole hour there, but thanks very much for that. I’ll switch that off now.
ET: Well –



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Eric Taylor,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 20, 2024,

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