Interview with Peter Woodard

Title

Interview with Peter Woodard

Description

Peter Woodard was a wireless operator and after training at RAF Yatesbury he flew operations with 192 Squadron.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-05-12

Contributor

Carron Moss

Rights

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

Format

01:09:35 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AWoodardP160512

Conforms To

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and I’m in St Alban’s today on the 12th May 2016 with Peter Woodard and his wife Irene and Peter was a wireless operator, signaller and I’m going to ask him to talk about his life starting with his earliest recollections that he has. Peter.
PW: As regards when, where I was born.
CB: Yeah.
PW: Well I was born of course in Banbury in Suffolk and had a twin, the youngest of twins, because my twin brother Howard he was always climbing in seniority by arriving twenty four, twenty minutes before I did [laughs] and then of course we went to the local Catholic school because my father was Catholic so and we were christened Catholics but my mother was Protestant, but she had agreed of course to bring us up in the Catholic faith. And from then on of course I went to the ordinary school at Banbury and then we moved to Beccles for a while and then from Beccles we moved back to Banbury and then on to Colchester. My father was a bit of a wanderer alright he was in the print trade and of course he became a printer’s leader and then he we moved from there to Tunbridge in Kent and from Tunbridge in Kent we moved to St Albans and then of course along came the war. My father was a, he was a bit of a wanderer anyway but he, he for some reason or other joined the army again, course he was in the signals regiment, signals corps in the first World War and of course he re-joined and it became the Royal Corps Signals then when he was in it. And being an old man, as he was, he got himself a nice cushy job at Eastern Command Headquarters that was at Luton Hoo and he has his hands, he was a wireless man, he had his own little wireless cabin at Luton Hoo and he stayed there until the war finished and other than that he was as I say in the print trade. And of course my mother was in the print trade too she was in the book binding department and that’s how I came to follow the print trade in a way, just successive and of course I was apprenticed at the, with the [inaudible] publishers and suppliers limited, Campfield Press in St Albans that’s how I became a book binder. Of course then I was in the air training corps and of course when the war was on I then went into the RAF and I was on deferred service for a while before I entered and then went up to Lords Cricket ground for air crew receiving centre, then from then on I went off to radio school and I was at Yatesbury number two radio school I think it was, Yatesbury in Wiltshire and then of course from there I went on to Dumfries, when did I first start flying, I’ve got my log book here so it’s easy enough to find, my first trip was in 1943, in September 1943 in Adomally doing radio transmitting tuning and receiving and all that sort of thing, that was in 1943 and then at the end of 1943 I then moved from Yatesbury to where are we, oh, air crew, operational auxiliary flying unit OAFU they called it at Dumfries and flew there in Andersons and that was in March, no April 1944 until the end of May 1944, no not the end of May, yes it was yes, then I moved to Edge Hill which was satellite which was OTU and part of Chipping Warden actually and that’s when I crewed up with Flight Lieutenant Fawkes who became my pilot and by then my flying hours had gone on to sixty nine to seventy hours day light and forty-five hours night time. Then of course from then on I went to, still at Chipping Warden with Flight Lieutenant Fawkes doing our OTU training and we finished there August 1944. Then we came Chipping Warden, by then we were crew you see, Wellington crew so that was pilot, navigator bomb aimer and wireless operator by then and we flew from [unclear] squadron at Fulsham until 1945 was it 1945, 1944 rather yes 1944 flying from Fulsham then all the time until we did our first special duty operation on October 1944 doing special duty ops up and down the Dutch coast and carried on doing that sort of thing the French/German border in 1944 October, still October yes. There we are and then we got, still doing special operations on the Dutch coast and the first one, that’s in 1944 too, our first one [pause] first operation was 18th of February 1945. By then my skipper was squadron leader and our first operation was to Rehiene a 3 30 trip three hours thirty night time and Dortmund the next one was Dortmund then Dortmund again on the Danish coast rather, and , like I said my skipper then was now OC of A flight 192 Squadron, and then of course he then started signing my log books as the squadron made the OCA flight, then in 1945 March 1945 we were special operation [unclear] Frankfurt, Hannover and stayed in Germany all in Germany until the end of March no, Heligavan was in April 1945 then the last one we did operation of the war, I think it was the last operation of the war too, special duty operation to Flensburg that was in north Germany wasn’t it, yes that’s right up in the north of Germany yes, and then it was certified that we completed a first tour of operations [unclear] signed by Wind Commander Donaldson and then 102 Squadron Pocklington. I was then left Foulsham and being that much younger than the rest of the crew I was sent up to Pocklington and so I left the crew and Ben, I always remember Ben saying when you get up there, don’t forget, when it’s all over and done with, we shall, I’m going to insist that we meet at least once a year and that was very good of him and he did, he made sure we did, we didn’t miss a year at all. One year we, he had business in France and we all went over to Paris on the strength of his company which was very good [laughs]. Anyway, Pocklington, that’s right, Pocklington, I was with a Flight Sergeant Sandham who was a pilot and the crew there and we did a real cross country taking the ground staff to see the havoc over in Germany. And then that was with Pilot Officer Sandham. Then we moved to [unclear] and transfer, 102 Squadron it was then and we transferred to Liberator’s, troop carrying and we did that training until October, the end of October, and then in November we were doing the conversion still on Liberator’s but the pilot I had then was Pilot Officer West who had come straight from America where he had done his training so he, in fact I was the only member of the crew in transport command I was , had a completed tour of ops, I had a real raw crew, 102 Squadron Leader [unclear] that’s right Pilot Officer West and then we used to go backwards and forwards to India, that was in December 1945. We used to go base to Castle Benito, Castle Benito and then on to India that was the short-term on Liberator’s. Castle Benito, Cairo West Cairo West, Shairo, Cairo West, Shairo, Maripau that was the route we used to take. We were taking personnel out to India and then bringing some back. The whole bomb bay was sealed and had seats in the middle and some of the Liberators I wasn’t up on the flight deck I had a cabin on my own halfway down the aircraft and so to get to it I had to go through the bomb bay where the guests were sitting you know and of course I used to threaten them if I get any trouble I’ll get them to pull a [unclear] to let you out [laughs] which tended to amuse them a bit. They were mostly army people. We had one officer there and he said “God”, he said ‘I’ve gone across Egypt and the desert in a tank and one thing and another’, he said ‘but I’ve never felt as bad as this I tell you’ and he was really ill, he got sickness alright. So that was, carried on with 53 Squadron unwards on the India routes yes, [inaudible] to upward Eastray, Eastray to Castro ,Benito Castro Benito to Cairo West to Maripau and back it was a really interesting time and that went on until 1946 then. Yes April 1946, Lidda, Maripau, [unclear] with 53 squadron upward. In fact I did more distances flying then than I’ve ever done before backwards and forwards to India, Maripau, Shariba seven hours. It was coming back that was the main thing and of course that was the finish of my flying with with the RAF I came out of the RAF then and of course started flying again in 1951 and 1946 when I was in the reserve had to do reserve flying in Panshanger, that was handy that, that was flying in Andersons then and the pilots were citizen pilots. Mr Stewart, Mr Brown and Mr Snowden, Mr Snow and so on [laughs] [pause] and that went on until oh I did a stint at the reserve flying school at Cambridge and of course I was just in reserve then you see [pause] 22 reserve flying school, that would finish my flying with the Air Force then, that was on the 24th January 1954 [pause] and then of course the skipper was true to his word and every year we used to go on to a in the end there were only three of us, the skipper, wireless operator and the navigator and that’s when we had our annual trips [laughs] when we all went out, this in in Ben’s house, at .

IW: Look it up, would it be on there?

PW: Yes I was sitting in Ben’s house there [laughs]. That’s the same one isn’t it yeah [pause] in the New Forest he had a place down in the New Forest [pause].

CB: So every year you got back together?

PW: We did.

CB: In different places?

PW: Oh no, we, we, we used to go the New Forest, well for start off the first reunion was at , on the East Coast [pause].

CB: Okay, well we can look that up.

PW: Yeah, I can’t remember that now, and then after that we had a reunion in Blackpool.

CB: Hmm.

PW: Yep had a reunion in Blackpool. It was the Butlins, the Butlins we went to on the Norfolk Coast, what the heck.
CB: Cromer was it or somewhere like that?
PW: Hmm.
CB: Was it Cromer or somewhere like that?
PW: No, before you get to Cromer.
CB: Hunstanton?
PW: No, no it was right on the coast it was a Butlin’s holiday camp.
CB: Anyway we’ll look that up.
PW: And from then of course we used to have a reunion every year and Ben made sure that we got, in the end there was Ben the Skipper, Jock, Jock Scot, the navigator and myself, even the rear gunner he couldn’t make it any more, course he’s, as I say they were all ten years older than me anyway.
CB: Yes.
AW: I was still the boy.
CB: Yeah.
AW: [laughs] They called me the boy all the time.
CB: So what was it like flying in a crew where you were that much younger than them because they on balance were much older than most crews anyway?
PW: Well yeah , because they’d both been instructors, Ben as skipper was a teaching pilot, it was in his log book.

CB: Yeah

PW: Down there where he was teaching people to fly and Ken Scott the navigator he was the same he was teaching navigation and I think they both decided they wanted to see something of some action before it all ended and of course that’s when they decided to join up and it was at the OTU that Ben approached me, he was tall a six foot chap, and he introduced himself as Flight Lieutenant Faulkes, ‘would you like to be my wireless operator’ so I looked and I liked the look of him and the way he approached and it was all good, because we all used to gather in a hangar you know for this selection crew, crew selection and it worked you know, it was marvellous there was group of signallers, air gunners or WOP AG’s as I used to call them navigators, rear gunners and bomb aimers, that’s all we did, not flying engineers then because we were still on.
CB: Still on Wellington’s.
PW: Twins, hmm. So he approached me and he said ‘would you like to move on to as a wireless operator’ so I said yes sure and we gelled straight away and when we crewed up and the bomb aimer was Canadian.
CB: What was his name?
PW: Morgan, and trying to think of his name.
IW: Danny Hutchings.
PW: Hmm?
IW: Danny Hutchings.
PW: No, no that wasn’t his name he was with transport command.
IW: Oh I beg your pardon.
PW: This was when we crewed up originally and that’s it of course we had a mid-upper gun turret on the Halifax’s and on the Wellington, was there one on the Wellington, I can’t remember now.
CB: Not normally, no front and .rear
PW: Yeah, hmm, so.
CB: So it was a crew of six?
PW: Yeah, Hmm.
CB: Right, so this interaction between you as a boy and the others they were constantly ribbing you were they?
PW: Oh no, not really, I just looked on the skipper as a father figure, I mean he was so, so good to me really, I just had complete faith in him and in the navigator, I never felt queasy about any trip I went on with them at all.
CB: No. That’s when you were at OTU, how did , did Ben Faulkes look out all the other members of the crew or how did that work? Was he the instigator of the crew?
PW: As an OTU at Wellington we’d just had the.
CB: But in this milling around in the hangar, how did he go around looking for people?
PW: He came to me when he had already got to know Ken Scott.
CB: Right.
PW: Who was a man from Edinburgh, in fact he was a customs and excise chap in a brewery
CB: [laughs]
PW: And he’d tell us some tales about that when we used to have or reunions. He used to bring a case full of what he called a case of wee heavies, it was that strong isle stuff [laughs] he used to bring that in a big case to wherever we were having a reunion, at Filey, Filey in Yorkshire.
CB: Yep.
PW: We had some great fun there and of course we had the flight engineer eventually.
CB: That was at the HCU so where was your heavy conversion unit?
PW: we did heavy conversion on squadron.
CB: Oh did you, right.
PW: Hmm, we didn’t go to a heavy conversion unit.
CB: Right, do you know why that was?
PW: We converted from.
CB: Straight onto what? Lancaster’s?
PW: Halifax.
CB: Halifax, ok.
PW: Yes the squadron was a flight of Wellington’s and then a flight of Halifax.
CB: Hmm.
PW: And then a Mosquito and then a single Lockead attachment from the American Air Force, that was the 192 Squadron and of course they done away with the Wellington in the end.
CB: Yeah.
PW: And we converted to the Halifax on the squadron.
CB: Right.
PW: So when Ben was first Flight Commander we were on Wellington’s.
CB: Oh were you.
PW: And he was Flight Commander on Halifax’s.
CB: Where did the Flight Engineer come from?
PW: I don’t know where he came from.
CB: What was his name?
PW: He was commissioned man when he first came.
CB: As was the pilot?
PW: Yeah and the navigator was of course was commissioned, and the rear gunner he became, he got commissioned as well and so I was the only NCR in the squad, in the crew in the end, but , of course I was ten years younger.
CB: In the Wellington, in the Wellington you’re talking about.
PW: Yeah and the Halifax.
CB: And the Halifax. Right.
PW: Hmm, yeah and the Halifax, of course I , they put me up for commission and I had the interview with the CO, Donaldson, remember Donaldson don’t you? And he considered I was too young for a commission [laughs] and so that was it, I didn’t get the commission.
CB: Strange.
PW: So I was, I was myself, I was the only non-commissioned officer in the crew.
CB: Where did the bomb aimer come from?
PW: I can’t think where Ted came from, no not Ted, , yes he was a Canadian fella, he was an officer he was commissioned, he was Canadian [pause]
CB: Okay.
PW: He lived in the, what’s the big waterfall in Canada?
CB: The big what?
PW: The waterfall.
CB: Niagra Falls.
PW: Niagra.
CB: Right
PW: Yes he came from the Canadian side of Niagra.
CB: Now going back to your earlier times.
PW: Yeah.
CB: You were a wireless operator air gunner, did you do gunnery training?
PW: Yes I did gunnery training.
CB: And where did you do that?
PW: That was at Walney Island.
CB: Walney Island. So you did that after Yatesbury?
PW: Yes, yes.
CB: Okay, at Walney Island.
PW: Yes we went to Walney Island at some radio school
CB: Right.
PW: To get the air gunners certificate
CB: And from there you went to Dumfries?
PW: Dumfries, yeah, operation, Auxilliary Flying Unit they called it.
CB: Yeah. So what were you doing in the Auxilliary flying unit?
PW: We were just flying Andersons.
CB: Yeah but as a signaller or as a gunner?
PW: Well both, I was a signaller and a gunner.
CB: So it had a turret did it?
PW: We had to go, we had an aircraft tow and a drove and we had to fire at the drove and that was the gunnery school, I didn’t do any gunning, what was is, let me find my log book, oh I forget now what it said there. [pause] Is it in here?
CB: Okay, well we can look in the log book in a minute.
PW: Oh yes that’s the wireless operator, that was the Liberator that was.
CB: Right, so when you were at the OTU, you’ve crewed up so what did you do while you were at the OTU then Peter?
PW: AFU?
CB: At the OTU, at the Operational Training /unit.
PW: OTU?
CB: What were you doing there mainly?
PW: Well, well.
CB: You were working as a signaller at the OUT?
PW: Yeah, yeah.
CB: Or as a gunner or both?
PW: I was , I was doing wireless operator.
CB: Yeah.
PW: Didn’t do any gunning. Chipping Warden that was.
CB: Yeah, so what were you doing at the OUT as a wireless operator, what was your task?
PW: Just operating the, the radio equipment.
CB: Yeah but why was the radio needing to be operated, what was happening?
PW: Nothing really, I was just on cross countries and that was all.
CB: So you were flying across country, are messages coming into you or are you sending them out, what is happening?
PW: Yes, in the main it was radio silence, if the navigator wanted a fix I’d give it on the loop system.
CB: Right.
PW: Three or four stations, I gave him the time and where it was coming from and he’d get his positions from that.
CB: Right, so just explaining that, you’re tuning into a radio station.
PW: Yeah.
CB: Having tuned in you are then taking a bearing from the radio station.
PW: That’s right, yeah.
CB: Then you go to another radio station and you take a bearing from that is that right?
PW: That’s right.
CB: And you do a third one at least and that gives you the triangulation as they call it, is that right.
PW: So the navigator could plot where he should be.
CB: So you have to be quite quick.
PW: Oh yeah, hmm.
CB: Do you log the time between each tuning in?
PW: Yes well I didn’t have a log of course I just passed to the navigator straight away. Well he’d be sitting quite close.
CB: So how long did it take to tune in and get a fix as it were?
PW: [pause] I can’t remember.
CB: The reason I ask the question is that if the plane is moving and so he has to take account of that.
PW: That’s right yeah, hmm.
CB: In time.
PW: The speed, air speed and the wind direction [laughs].
CB: And how did you decide which station to take the bearing from?
PW: Well, you had various stations en-route you know and they would radio and say can you get a fix from so and so.
CB: These were civilian radio stations that you were using were they or beacons?
PW: No, no, no I don’t, [pause] they, were automatic I think.
CB: Ah beacons that are set up. Right, okay.
PW: You didn’t have to speak to anybody or anything like that.
CB: No, no.
PW: [unclear]
CB: So in essence what we’re describing is that, you’re listening out with your loop on the top of the aircraft?
PW: Yeah.
CB: You tune into a radio transmission and you then plot the bearing of that from the aircraft?
PW: Yeah.
CB: You pass that to the navigator with the time at which you took it?
PW: Yeah.
CB: You then go to the next one and give him the bearing is that right? Of the next one and give him the time you took it, is that right?
PW: Yeah.
CB: Did you do more than 3? Or was 3 enough for him to get.
PW: 3 was enough as a rule.
CB: Right. So you were needed to do it quite quickly did you?
PW: I can’t remember how fast I was going anyway [laughs]. No it wasn’t too quick I just used to give him the bearing that’s all.
CB: So when you weren’t doing that you were listening in.
PW: Yeah.
CB: And what were you listening in for?
PW: Well there was an what do you call it, a special frequency.
CB: Yep.
PW: Just 2 initials it was, I can’t think of it now.
CB: Right.
PW: I can’t think of it now, and then pass that on to the navigator.
CB: So what were you listening for?
PW: Just a signal that sounds like a, it was usually two digits, dah-di-dah-di-dah or something like that, 2 initials. They were broadcasting all the time.
CB: That’s what I mean, what were they broadcasting? Are they just broadcasting dot dash Morse code in other words?
PW: Morse code, yes.
CB: Or are they sending you a message.
PW: No just Morse Code, just Morse code signals.
CB: So was that at particular interval or was it a regular transmission that they were making?
PW: I think it’s a regular thing.
CB: Right.
PW: Hmm.
CB: Ok.
PW: Because there was someone there all the time.
CB: Because some signallers have said to me that on the half hour they had to listen to something.
PW: Yeah.
CB: This is when they’re on ops.
PW: Yeah.
CB: Ok, so anyway when you’re doing the cross country you’re trying to help with the navigation?
PW: That’s right.
CB: So then you changed to the heavy conversion unit onto Halifax’s?
PW: Yeah.
CB: How different is your role on the Halifax from on the Wellington?
PW: More or less the same, in our Halifax the rest position was taken up with the secret equipment.
CB: Right.
PW: Well I didn’t know anything about because I was just a straight wireless operator but we had a special operator who was usually a commissioned type and he had all his gear in the rest position in the Halifax and we used to go and of course half the time recording and they’d be searching for a start while we were, we used to go out with the main force and then deviate from the main course and perhaps we’d send out some [unclear] the window, the bomb aimers job, that was to put the window out and then change route again back onto the route and then veer off again and do the same again and that confused the German radar of course.
CB: Hmm.
PW: That was all it was really and we had extra petrol tanks in the Halifax and of course in the Wellington’s so that , and they carried a small bomb to give the bomb aimer something to do, [laughs] it was only a small bomb because they had the extra petrol tanks of course, I can remember one time the bomb aimer’s job was to change the petrol cox and all of a sudden I can remember Ben saying ”did you change the tanks over cox“ and he went flying past me [laughs] to get to the cox to turn the thing on to a different the tank.
CB: What made him say that? The pilot.
PW: Oh I don’t know, just to make sure he had I think [laughs].
CB: Oh right the engines didn’t stop?
PW: The engine didn’t stop no [laughs].
CB: Now what about the special operator, did he link in with the crew or was he very stand offish?
PW: No, no he was the normal one who came with us but he never had anything to do with the crew at all.
CB: What did he do as a job?
PW: Oh as I say the equipment they had, I mean I’ve never seen anything. [unclear] were unknown at one time of course, what was the other name, navigating.
CB: So there was also H2S was there?
PW: H2S that’s right.
CB: Who operated the H2S?
PW: That the special operator who operated that.
CB: He did, did he? Okay.
PW: Yes, yes I didn’t have anything to do with that at all.
CB: So this is the eighth man on the aircraft is it?
PW: Hmm.
CB: You still had the mid-upper gunner did you?
PW: No.
CB: So you only had seven of you in the crew?
PW: If they wanted anybody as mid-upper gunner that was me [laughs] that was the idea being a WOP AG.
CB: Yeah.
PW: But I never did go up into the [unclear] at all.
CB: Right.
PW: I mean we didn’t see that much traffic and the rear gunner was, I know we had a corkscrew a couple of times, that frightens the life out of you that does, but Ben did it marvellously well.
CB: So just describe the corkscrew could you, what started the corkscrew?
PW: In the aircraft approaching.
CB: And who called that?
PW: That I don’t l know because.
CB: But normally?
PW: Normally it would be the navigator I would think, or the bomb aimer.
CB: I’d suggest that it might have been the rear gunner.
PW: [laughs] it might have been the rear gunner, yeah.
CB: Well if the attack was from the front.
PW: Yeah.
CB: Then the bomb aimer would see it wouldn’t he?
PW: Yes, yes.
PW: But the navigator can’t see anything because he’s shrouded up on his table at the side of me.
CB: So what happened with the corkscrew then, you said it was a bit disconcerting so?
PW: It is yeah, yeah, because you’re not strapped in you see.
CB: Right, right.
PW: I mean they are.
CB: But you’re not.
PW: The ones [unclear] are strapped in and the navigator’s strapped in but you’re not strapped in, it’s all of a sudden [makes plane like sound], yeah so it’s a frightening thing, I remember we were doing it once and you were sort of in a, you almost feel like you’re going to lift up.
CB: So can you describe how the aircraft reacts in a corkscrew, what happens, somebody calls to the captain what does he say?
PW: I wouldn’t know.
CB: Corkscrew, corkscrew left or corkscrew right does he? So then what, what does the pilot then do with the aircraft?
PW: Well just doing a quick back left or right.
CB: So he goes down to the left doesn’t he or down to the right and then.
PW: Yeah, roll, not rollover no wouldn’t be a rollover [laughs].
CB: No, no but roll out of it.
PW: Goes straight and then try and get back on whatever the course.
CB: And then back up to what the course was.
PW: Yeah, yeah.
CB: So the purpose of a corkscrew was to do what?
PW: Just to evade the fighter that was all.
CB: So did you get hit at all in the aircraft?
PW: Never.
CB: Flak or fighter?
PW: Seen plenty of flak.
CB: So what’s it like when you see a lot of flak?
PW: I can’t say I was ever really frightened but I didn’t like the look of it. Ben came and said to me 0nce “come and have a look at this” and of course it was, well you could touch the sky, I just went I’ll go back, I didn’t particularly want to look at it. [laughs] I can’t say I was frightened though, no, no.
CB: Okay, so what is the view of flak, the sky is full of flak but what are you looking at what is it?
PW: The sky’s full of full of white [unclear] it’s terrific really. You think to yourself how the hell are we going to get through that lot. But of course we used to have to leave the mainstream, left or right, leave the mainstream that’s why we had extra petrol tanks. We’d go with the mainstream perhaps as far as the bomb aimer said he released his little bomb we had, and then come back or go right the way round and make our way home you see.
CB: But on the way out are you going, are you saying that on the way out, you’re going in and out of the stream are you?
PW: Yes, hmm more or less.
CB: And that’s because.
PW: Well we’d go out from the stream and drop the.
CB: Window.
PW: Window, yeah. And of course in the meantime hoping that the the special operator found a frequency that the German’s were working on. Because they used to search for the, they’d got some idea which frequencies they were using and then we had equipment for jamming.
CB: Right.
PW: And as soon as he found that he put our equipment on to jam the German RT.
CB: And how did they jam, the German, the special operators?
PW: I. I’ve no idea really. It must have been sending a blast of something like that, I really didn’t know how they did it.
CB: Okay, so H2S was a bulge underneath the fuselage?
PW: Yeah, yeah.
CB: What identification was there that you were special operations with aerials on the top of the aircraft?
PW: Well I don’t know, I think that gave you, that gave the H2S a picture of the terrain.
CB: Yes, but what indication was there on the aircraft that there were special bits of equipment for the special operations man, was there an aerial on the roof or the side or where was it.
PW: There was one underneath, there was a couple on the top and of course there was the DF one on the top, the only one I needed and the only one I operated because I didn’t know what they were doing.
CB: No, no.
PW: Because it was considered secret.
CB: God.
PW: But see if you crash landed or landed and the aircraft was [unclear] the skipper would operate something and destroy the aircraft itself. Once we were all out hopefully [laughs].
CB: Hmm, so the special operator had explosives in his area to destroy the equipment in the event of something going wrong.
PW: Yeah, yeah that’s right.
CB: And to what extent do you think the German’s could identify that you were a special operations aircraft?
PW: [unclear] I have no idea, I don’t know how they could know really I apart from they might be able to feedback from the special aerials maybe, I don’t know.
CB: And later aircraft had a tail warning system for German night fighters to detect the transmissions of German night fighters, what did you have on your aircraft?
PW: Nothing that I know of.
CB: So you couldn’t detect that you were being, that there was somebody creeping up on you?
PW: [unclear the rear gunner.
CB: Like one eyeball.
PW: That’s right, yeah. Hmm.
CB: Okay, good.
PW: We did have to corkscrew one time because the rear gunner saw something and thought it was coming for us.
CB: Hmm, and he missed you?
PW: Hmm, and of course the bomb aimers business this tinsel out, wow that was just like a shoot.
CB: Oh was it, in the Bombay was it?
PW: No, it wasn’t in the Bombay, I know it was quite near the mid-upper turret.
CB: Right, in the floor?
PW: Hmm in the floor, yeah.
CB: How would you describe the performance and comfort of the Halifax?
PW: Well my position was A okay and of course Halifax, yeah, I was underneath the pilot
CB: You were?
PW: Yes.
CB: Right. Did you have any windows?
PW: There was a small one but you had it blacked out anyway.
CB: How high could you fly in the Halifax?
PW: I didn’t think we went much over 10,000.
CB: Oh, was that the, the bomber stream was running higher than that though wasn’t it?
PW: Yeah, but you’d have to have your oxygen on.
CB: Hmm.
PW: If you were over 10,000 anyway and I don’t remember having the oxygen mask on for considerable periods.
CB: Was that partly because you needed to be lower in order for the special operations man to be able to deal with the German night fighters and radar?
PW: Perhaps so, as I say what they did mid- aircraft I didn’t.
CB: No.
PW: We had the Cato air tube there, what do they call it?
CB: The screen for the H2S you mean?
PW: H2S, hmm.
CB: Who operated that?
PW: The special operator.
CB: Oh he did, right okay.
PW: Yes, yes, he was usually an officer or two tour man.
CB: Oh was he, and what sort of languages did he speak?
PW: [pause] I don’t know whether he spoke manually or we used to record send out messages in German from the aircraft.
CB: Hmm.
PW: Once they found a frequency that the fighters were working on, how the hell they did that I don’t know, they must have known what sort of range they were working on.
CB: Yes, well in the 101 squadron for instance, Lancaster’s then the special operators were all German speakers you see so that’s why I’m asking what the languages your special operator spoke.
PW: I wouldn’t know.
CB: I think it reinforces the point doesn’t it that the rest of the crew didn’t know anything about him.
PW: Well perhaps so yeah.
CB: But when, gradually the crew became commissioned is that right?
PW: Hmm.
CB: So where did the special operator live, stay where was he billeted, he was always an officer was he?
PW: Yes, I just presume he was somewhere, either in the officer’s mess or in the, if you were in a station like Foulsham then we had all sorts of, set out in huts, there was no sort of big building.
CB: What was your accommodation at Foulsham?
PW: just a hut.
CB: Nissan hut?
PW: Yes, type of Nissan hut yeah.
CB: With whom?
PW: With a big coke stove in the centre [laughs].
CB: In the middle yeah?
PW: But there was one, we got a little room on our own, the rear gunner and myself and so we were quite cosy there.
CB: I’m just going to stop this a moment. We’re talking about the accommodation you had, so how many other crew members were in the same accommodation as you?
PW: Well there was just the rear gunner and myself.
CB: Right.
PW: The others being commissioned.
CB: So what social life did you have as a crew?
PW: Oh well we always used to get, the whole crew used to go to Norwich, they used to have a truck take us all to Norwich and we all mixed in together. The place we used to go to in Norwich Samson and Hercules, that was a , well the only trouble was the Americans used to go in there as well. And that’s the time that.
IW: Yes.
PW: I could never understand.
CB: What?
PW: What it was all about.
CB: Why, how do you mean?
PW: Well when the Americans and the Samson and Hercules came in they had separate colours of squadrons and whatever.
CB: They segregated their people by colour?
PW: Yeah, yeah, when they got, they used to create hell, and of course the white caps, so in the end we decided we wouldn’t go in the Samson [laughs].
CB: You mean that they would take out the blacks so that they weren’t in with the white air crew is that what you mean?
PW: Well they sought them out, they would come into the dancefloor and then all of a sudden a coloured one would be with one of the white yank’s fancies and then they would start. We used to say, I don’t know [laughs] I don’t know who we’re supposed to be fighting for, [laughs] the whole place [unclear] and it was strange absolutely and of course the white caps used to lie about them with their truncheons like.
CB: These are the military police?
PW: Yeah, yeah and they didn’t spare any blushes.
CB: No, no. So where they American black ground crew or where there any American black air crew?
PW: Well no they had American, there was an American all black squadron.
CB: There was. Where was that based?
PW: I’ve no idea where it was based.
CB: No.
PW: It was in East Anglia.
CB: What were they flying, fighters?
PW: No Fortresses.
CB: Oh they were, right. Now in the RAF how often did you come across people from the West Indies or Africa or whatever, India?
PW: No we didn’t, we had one officer in the squad who was a West Indian, and I didn’t get to know him at all but he was a very nice fella, but as I say we didn’t have much to do with him really.
CB: What did he do, was he a pilot, navigator or what was he?
PW: He was pilot rank if I remember rightly.
CB: What rank?
PW: maybe a Flight Lieutenant [pause].
CB: On your squadron?
PW: Well I don’t know if he was on our squadron because we had a, we shared a place with 462 Squadron who were Australian. Yes it was 462 Squadron who shared a base with us.
CB: Oh right.
PW: So he might have been with them.
CB: So there was what one did you ever know or come across any other colonial, West Indian or African?
PW: No, not while on squadron, no.
CB: No, okay, Right. Now when you came to the end of the war, you’d already done your tour?
PW: Yes.
CB: How was it that you then did a second tour? Because people tended at the end of a tour to then go on ground jobs. So how did you change to a second tour?
PW: I didn’t go on to a second tour.
CB: Ah.
PW: No.
CB: So you did your thirty?
PW: Yes, that’s right.
CB: So which squadron were you with when you did that?
PW: That was with, with 192.
CB: Right. But then you went to 102 and then 53.
PW: 102 became 53
CB: Okay, and was the war still on when you changed to that?
PW: No, no.
CB: So it just happened that the end of your tour was also at the end of the war was it?
PW: Yes in fact we were on the last bomber command raid of the war to Flensburg.
CB: Yes which is what you said earlier to Flensburg.
PW: That’s right that was on the 2nd of May 1945.
CB: And did you do any ferrying of POWS’ after that in operation exodus?
PW: No, no we did, what ferrying we did then was taking Halifax’s up to the graveyard [laughs] up to Scotland and then come back with one of the others.
CB: They flew you back in some other plane?
PW: Yeah in one, one plane.
CB: Yeah. So the war ended in 1946 and you were de-mobbed, does it say there when you were de-mobbed?
PW: 1945 [pause]
CB: In 1946?
PW: In 1945 I was transferred to 102 Squadron Pocklington and that became 53 Squadron.
CB: Right.
PW: And that was , what was it Bassetlorn.
CB: Upward? You were at Upward as well?
PW: I was at Upward [pause]
CB: So you never did fly Lancasters?
PW: No. Never flew one.
CB: So you came to the end of the war then what did you do, you left the RAF when you were de-mobbed.
PW: Yeah.
CB: How did they kit you out?
PW: Oh well I went, they sent me up to , oh where was it, Yorkshire, I was doing on a sort of radar station, but that was only for a little while of course it wouldn’t be in my log book.
CB: Hmm, it’s in our pay book. Yeah. So then you went back to civilian life doing what?
PW: Well as an adult apprentice, I carried on in my apprenticeship and the Government paid Camphill Press the money to make my wages up to a German’s rate.
CB: Right.
PW: Although I was an adult apprentice.
CB: Right.
PW: I was supposed to do three years like that.
CB: But you did less did you?
PW: No I carried on doing that and and then of course we, to make up for the fact that I missed a few years apprenticeship, of course an apprenticeship was seven years in those days [laughs].
CB: Oh right.
PW: And so they used to pay the Salvation Army publishing supplies and the money to make up my, to a German’s rate. So I was still in an adult apprenticeship and I went up to London printing for quite a while.
CB: On day release was it?
PW: Yep. [pause]
CB: Where was that Camden Town?
PW: No, [pause].
CB: Regent Street Poly?
PW: [pause] No, no it’s, a London School of printing and bookbinders, Stamford street that was.
CB: Right, Okay.
PW: Before they moved of course, and then of course I then got a job with somebody I used to work with had started up on his own and I went to work for him.
CB: What was that called?
PW: Book binding.
CB: No, no the company.
PW: The company, what was it called?
IW: It was Mr Hicks.
PW: Hmm, yeah Mr Hicks, I forget what the book binding was called. Universal Booking Binding he called himself.
CB: And you stayed there how long?
PW: Oh, about a year if that.
CB: Then what?
PW: Then I was with a chap who I was an apprentice with, the name of Clark, he was an older chap and he was working for this fella so he got a deputy and there was three of us and he was a composter and we started our own book binding company.
CB: And what was that called?
PW: For what part of a better name, Reliance Book Binding Company [laughs]. And, well as I said I’m not going to work for somebody else, I’ll work for myself, and I did.
CB: With two others.
PW: With the help of two others, yes, partners. But of course that didn’t last, the partnership didn’t last in the end.
CB: How long did it run for?
PW: Because one of the chaps thought he’s now a boss he could please himself when he comes and goes [laughs].
CB: One of those.
PW: [laughs]. So that didn’t work very well did it , so I decided we’d end that so we ended that partnership so there was just Mr Clark and myself.
IW: [unclear]
PW: And we carried on as the Reliance Book Binding Company until I retired.
CB: Which was when?
PW: When did I retire?
IW: I don’t know because you still used to.
CB: What age?
PW: I wasn’t sixty even was I, fifty-five.
IW: Oh no, never fifty-five.
PW: It was when I retired from, when did I retire from working for myself then?
IW: I don’t know, but you certainly didn’t retire at fifty-five.
CB: Anyway you retired, after you retired did you then do another job or?
PW: No, no.
CB: Your pension was enough to keep going, or did you sell out or did you sell your part of the company?
PW: I did, Ron and myself sold the company to the chaps we worked with over a period of three year and.
IW: The chaps that worked for you, you didn’t just work with them they worked for you.
PW: That’s right yeah.
CB: Okay, and then you put your feet up?
PW: No, not really.
CB: What did you do, I started.
PW: What did I do after that?
IW: [unclear]
CB: I’ll just stop recording for a bit.
CB: We’re just picking up what happened after the war, so after the war you went back to civilian life but actually you returned to the RAF in the volunteer reserves so when did you do that and what did you do?
PW: Well it should be in there.
CB: So it’s 1951 to 1953. What were you doing?
PW: [pause]
CB: Because you said it was the reserve flying school, but what were you actually doing for them?
PW: Wireless operator on Anderson’s and I finished that in 1954.
CB: So what was the purpose of the?
IW: What was the purpose Peter?
CB: What was the purpose of this organisation the reserve flying school who were you teaching?
PW: Just to keep, keep your hand in really.
CB: Right.
PW: We used to have weekend flying and then an annual week at Cambridge.
CB: Right.
PW: And then I finished that and that’s when I finished the RAF altogether wasn’t it.
CB: Right. Ok.
PW: Hmm, so I was then just a sergeant.
CB: Oh they took you down to sergeant from warrant officer?
PW: So yeah, when I was back in reserve, that’s right wasn’t it, just had the three stripes again.
CB: Okay, thank you very much.

Collection

Citation

Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Peter Woodard,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 14, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/3522.

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