Interview with Jim Wright. Two

Title

Interview with Jim Wright. Two

Description

John Wright was born in 1932. He was evacuated from West Ham during the War along with his Mother and two Brothers. Johns’ Father joined the Royal Air Force as an Observer Bomb Aimer with 207 Squadron. His aircraft was shot down over Switzerland on their fourth operation. John completed 22 years in the Royal Air Force and always had an interest into what had happened to his father. His wife Maureen wrote to the Air Ministry requesting information which started a forty five year research. John located his Father and crew who are interred in St Martins, Lille, Switzerland. In total there are forty eight Bomber Command Aircrew buried in the cemetery. John, through his research has worked with six Squadron Associations and helped to fill in slots of their history. Thanks to John a parade is held at Lille every Remembrance Sunday attended by Swiss, French, Australian and other dignitaries.

Creator

Date

2017-11-27

Temporal Coverage

Coverage

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Type

Format

00:50:26 audio recording

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

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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.

Contributor

Identifier

AWrightJR171128

Transcription

JW: If you’re lucky.
SW: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Sue Walters. The Interviewee is Jim Wright. The Interview is taking place at Mr Wright’s home in Corby, Northamptonshire on the 27th of November 2017.
JW: Ok. Nice to meet with you. As Sue has said I’m Jim Wright. I was born in London in 1932 which makes me now eighty four going on eighty five. Until I was seven I was living in London quite happily in Upton Park, West Ham and war broke out in 1939 and I, my elder brother, my mother, my younger brother who was a babe in arms were evacuated under the scheme of Operation Pied Piper on September the 1st 1939. All I know about that is I went south, I think. Not much memory of it because it didn’t last long. It was known as the Phoney War and in a few weeks we all went back home to London. Nothing happened except we had drills of air raids, we had drills with being issued with gas masks etcetera. Everything was issued. Identity cards, ration books but I was only a youngster. June 14th 1940 my elder brother Jack and I were evacuated again, only this time we went to South Wales. A place called Llanhilleth, a mining village where we lived at 16 Caefelin Street with a Mr and Mrs Jim Carter, now both gone who were the two of the best foster parents one could ever wish for and I am still in contact with some of my, I laughingly call them my foster brothers but they’re not. They are more or less my brothers and my sisters. And we lived there right through the war. We didn’t go back home to London because we got, my house was badly damaged and my mother and younger brother came down in 1941, closely followed by my father early ’42 because he’d been called up and he’d volunteered for the Royal Air Force and had volunteered for bomber, for aircrew duties if acceptable. We stayed in Wales until I joined the Air Force in 1951. We never went back to London. I have been back to London. I couldn’t go back to London to live. I couldn’t live there. Impossible. Impossible task. I went back to my home town and totally lost. So, evacuation is an entirely different story. If you want that then you’ll need around about a month or something like that because I’m also, I also was the researcher for the Evacuees Association so I know about evacuation. How it started, who started it etcetera. You want to know? Make contact. Then I had one ambition and one ambition alone and that was to join the Royal Air Force. How did that come about? Simple. As I said my dad was called up. He was sent to South Africa to train as a pilot. Didn’t get his full wings but ended up as a navigator bomb aimer. He came back in 1942 from South Africa. The last time I saw him was late 1942 standing on Llanhilleth Station in South Wales as he finished his disembarkation leave to go and join his squadron which was number 207 based at Langar, in Notts. Bomber Command. Lancasters. That’s the last time I saw my dad. He was killed in action in July 1943 and rests with his crew in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Switzerland in a place called Vevey. And if you want to follow that then his story along with his crew and the other folk who rest at Bomber Command, all thirty three is somewhere within the archives now held in Lincoln and I’m sure they could prove of great help. A lot of paperwork. A lot of photographs. That is when I decided I was going to join the RAF, age of nine and believe it or not I never changed my mind. My mother stopped me from being a boy entrant. She stopped me from being an apprentice and so I did a variety of jobs because we lived in South Wales. I was a shop boy. I delivered newspapers. I’ve been an errand boy. I worked in a steel foundry. An iron foundry. I [pause] believe it or not I became an apprentice stone mason in a quarry. Don’t ask me to go in that. It was terrible. And then I ended up as a coal miner and after being under two falls in two, in the same colliery I’d had enough and I just said to my mother, ‘I’m off to Cardiff, to the Recruiting Office.’ And there I joined the Royal Air Force, initially for five years and I joined, I took the oath on the 11th of August 1951 at a place called Cardington. You must know what Cardington is. It’s where they have the two big hangars, the R101, and that’s where I went to be tested to see if I was fit enough and I was so I ended up as, in those days 4077085 Wright, James Roy. Later on in life, in Service life for some unknown reason the Air Force decided to change that all the way around and I suddenly became F4077085 JR Wright. I never worked out why but they changed it around. Officers got called Mr. I got called Sprog [laughs] So, I spent a couple of weeks there at Cardington where we got kitted out and I initially went in as an ab initio wireless op which meant I had to learn Morse code amongst other things. And on the 7th of August [pause] no, I beg your pardon on the 17th of August I was sent to Number 11 School of Recruit Training at RAF Hednesford up in Staffordshire. No longer there. And that was recruit training. Eight weeks where you got chased from pillar to post but I’ve always looked back on that as probably the best part of service life in a way because it changed you from being a civilian into somebody who knew what they had to do, how to do it, when to do it. I never found out why you had to do it but you did it and that’s where I spent the first eight weeks of my service life as a recruit. As an AC2. From there I went to Number 3 Radio School at RAF Compton Bassett in Wiltshire, not far from Calne where the Harris’ used to make their sausages and their pies. As far as I know they still do. And I was at number 3 RS training to be a wireless operator which took five months training before you earned the coveted sparks badge. And the day you put your sparks badge up you were twelve feet tall and any ex teleg’ Royal Air Force, doesn’t matter, Army or Navy will tell you that’s your proudest day when you got your trade badge and I wore that with pride for twenty two years. From there I went to 41 Group, Andover, Hampshire and stayed there believe it for not for two years nine months. Small grass field. Been there for donkey’s years. My first commanding officer was wing commander Corkery and if you couldn’t find him, if you didn’t want, if you had a signal for him and you couldn’t find him you just looked out the window of the comms, out of the Communications Centre and if the Tiger Moth was not on the ground it meant the old man was up in the air flying which he did quite often. He was a good, a good CO. I stayed there for two years nine months but in that time I did a number of detachments. I ended up in Norway on a NATO operation. I didn’t know where we were going but off we went and a little story to tell about that we ended up at a place called Sola Air Base. Big NATO operation. Operation Main Brace, and we were in an underground cell where the Communication Centre was and we didn’t arrive there until nightfall and we were just taken off to somewhere to sleep. We were all given straw palliasse and we slept under canvas and everybody in those days was smoking because on the boat going over you could buy cigarettes quite cheap, which we did. So we were all smoking our heads off. The following morning we found out what we were sleeping on top of. A gas dump. Aviation fuel. Highly inflammable and there we were all smoking away happily until we got told to put the cigarettes out. So, we never smoked anymore on top of there. And I also did, where else did I go from? Oh yes, I know. I have to think now. I went up to RAF High Ercall, to an MU on detachment which was civilian, which was nice. I sent four messages a day. By then I’d become, I’d been back to Compton Bassett to train as a telegraphist 2 which meant I did my teleprinter operator training and I had little or no Morse work to do in in my first couple of years of service because I was never at, I was at Andover which didn’t, which didn’t have a Morse facility. It was all teleprinters and the detachments I did was as a tel 2. As a teleprinter operator. And whilst I was at Andover I went to Norway as I said, to Sola Air Base. And on my way out to Norway I had to go via, we all went via Aldergrove in Northern Ireland which meant that we had to travel by boat. The boat was called the Ulster Monarch which went from Liverpool to Belfast and on that night crossing I met a young lady who was going home to Ireland and she is the girl I married. Love at first sight. Her name was Maureen. She lived in Bangor in County Down and I met her and four months later we got married on Boxing Day which was wonderful and I was married to her for fifty nine years. Then I lost her. But that’s another story. I also did detachments to Gosport. And the RAF in it’s good, why I’ve never worked this out but I ended up on the Scilly Isles in the height of the British summer. It wasn’t a holiday. I went down, believe it or not as a standby wireless operator because they were doing torpedo drop, torpedo trials dropping from Swordfish aircraft and that’s the first time I ever flew in the RAF. First time I flew in my life was from Gosport down to the Scilly Isles in a Swordfish open cockpit. Frightened the life out of me but I still remember it to this day. We were in the Scilly Isles for a month in the height of the summer as a standby wireless op because the Royal Navy, in its wisdom they had a minesweeper out in the, on on the Channel and they were controlling everything by WTO. I was on standby in case their wireless sets packed up which they didn’t. Which I suppose in a sense was fair enough. They wanted to do the job. Get on with it. I set up in, on a place on one of the islands in the Scilly Isles in the sun and had a wonderful time [laughs]and I got paid to do it. Heaven knows what it would cost you to do it today. As I say went to High Ercall. That was an MU. Norway. I went for, I detached to Amport House which was the Chaplain School and then I went back to Andover and there I stayed until I’d got married. And my wife was still living in Ireland and had no chance in those days in early 50s of getting a married quarter so, my boss, my warrant officer said, ‘Why not apply for a posting?’ Because another warrant officer I’d worked with, Warrant Officer Riddell, telegraphist had gone to West Freugh in Scotland which was not far from Stranraer and he wanted an NCO. By then I was an NCO and, no, I wasn’t. I beg your pardon. I wasn’t an NCO then. I was an SAC and he was looking for a telegraphist to come and look after or run their small Comm Cen up there and I applied for it and I got it. So, I went to West Freugh which was the back of nowhere but not a bad little unit. And there I stayed until I got posted to [pause] where did I go from there? Oh, West Freugh. Yeah. We went to Germany. But prior to that I did my tel 2 conversion as I said. I’m trying to catch up on this now. In ‘54 to ‘55 I went to West Freugh. I was only there from October until the January and from there I went to, in ’55 I went to RAF Rheindahlen which was then HQ 2nd ATAF in Germany. And there I took over the WT station where I got back in to Morse and then from there I got promoted and I was up to the Comm Cen at RAF Rheindahlen and we stayed there in married quarters until 1957. From then I got posted back to the UK in the seventh month of ’57 and I ended up at North West Comm Cen, RAF Haydock. Now, those folk who may have heard of North West it was underneath the slagheap in Haydock and it was a good posting. The CO there was Squadron Leader Ron Brickwood, a first class CO. A wonderful man. We got married quarters, Maureen, myself and the family. We got married quarters there and I stayed there until they put me on the boat again fairly quickly and I said no, I’ll do my tel 1 and I went back to Compton Bassett to do my tel 1 conversion and I finished that in 1960. I went back to RAF Haydock and they promptly put me back on the boat. And so I ended up from going from there to Singapore where I spent a happy nigh on three years at Singapore airport at Paya Lebar. At JATCC, Joint Air Traffic Control Centre where I worked alongside the Singapore and Malay air traffic controllers in the civilian world and we controlled the RAF, they controlled the civil flights into, into the airfield, into Paya Lebar and it was a good posting. We got a hiring in place not far from the city of Singapore. Serangoon Garden Estate. Some of you may know it if anybody served there and I served there ‘til August 1962 and my boss there was Squadron Leader Dave [Cutts.] Again, I’ve been very very fortunate in my life, my service life to have good commanding officers going way way back which I forgot to mention to Hednesford which was Group Captain Jamie Rankin who was of Battle of Britain fame. And alongside Squadron Leader [Cutts] I served there as trouble shooter for [unclear] at one time and had a few fun and games there. Was there when, on duty when a Hastings went in and we lost I think it was thirteen or fourteen men in one go. I remember that. And that that was, that was an evening shift I’ll never forget. When we knew there was an inbound Britannia from the UK coming in with families to meet up with their husbands and then we found out that some of the wives of the children on board were now widows because their dads had been killed in this rather tragic accident. The Hastings took off and for some unknown reason, they took off from Seletar ok but for some unknown reason ended up in a paddy field and quite a number of folk were killed. I’ll never forget that one. That was one of the, shall we say a bad time. And, but the time in Singapore itself well, that was great fun. My kids enjoyed it. They schooled. We had two hirings. I’d never been to a married quarter onto any of the bases which actually was affiliated to Seletar being a civilian airport and Changi being HQ Far East Command. That was up at Changi. We used to visit but we had friends there but that was as far as that went but the life in Singapore was a good life. We thoroughly enjoyed it and my kids enjoyed it. So, we were there until August ’62. And August ’62 I got posted back and this time I ended up at Royal Air Force Aldergrove in Northern Ireland in charge of the Comm Cen. Aldergrove was a good unit. 23 MU was also based there. That was good. That was a very very good unit. It was up in the Antrim Hills. I was fortunate because we got a married quarter straightaway and my wife was from Bangor in County Down so having purchased a car, taken my driving test and purchased a car, we were able to travel from Aldergrove to Bangor and my wife and, and children could spend time with, with my mother and law and father in law and in laws and so that was quite good. I had a good warrant officer there. Teleprinters. We also had the Met Squadron which flew off Hastings over the Met, over the Atlantic doing the aviation run looking for weather and it was there that we had as telegs had a chance to go flying on a Saturday as second wireless op which was great fun. You were up early, you took off, you went out, first leg was fifteen hundred feet, down to five hundred feet twice. Then up to eighteen thousand on the back leg and then back down to fifteen hundred feet with another two five hundred sea levels on the run home. Great fun. Excitement one day. We came out of the cloud to come down to the, down to do the sea levels and what we pop over but a couple of elint trawlers of the Soviet Navy. I was also on duty on a Saturday, not flying unfortunately but out with the Comm Cen on Saturday and we got this flash message from, from one of the Hastings that the Hastings that was up on the Met Flight on the business flight saying they popped down, the self same thing, had popped down, come down to sea levels and what did they come over but a Soviet submarine. So, the chappy on board who had a camera was having a ball and there was flash messages flying all over the place. It was great fun. And I was also in Aldergrove at the time of the Cuban Crisis where I got called out. I never found out what for. I got called out to open up the Comm Cen so we did. I called my staff in and we were sitting up there, and we sat there for hours. Nothing happened. And then we all went back home. The other time, the other good thing about Aldergrove was that twice or three times I got called out of my married quarter by the duty officer. Told to get a car, well the car was sitting there waiting and in one case it was the COs staff car. It didn’t make any difference. ‘Pack your bag. Get in to it. You’re going to Ballykelly.’ And you’ve got to get there and you’ve got to meet four Vulcans. So, if you’re away on a QRA [laughs] QRA exercise. I did that twice I think. The first time I got three hours sleep in seventy two hours and the second time I got four hours sleep in seventy two hours and that was excitement personified. If you’ve never heard four Vulcans go screaming down a runway one after the other you have never lived. That is a sound that you never ever forget. And to see the way those aircrews come out when they the got the call for a scramble. Well, if you got in their way as their CO told me, he said, ‘You’re in their way they’ll run over you. They’ll say sorry as you’re run over but they’ll keep going. They’re not going to stop to pick you up.’ Their job was to get that aircraft airborne and you took, four of them went off literally like the bats out of hell. All the world shook. And from Aldergrove and I was there until January ’64. Then the fun began. In January ’64 I got posted on a one year unaccompanied tour and I ended up at RAF Labuan in Borneo now known as Sabah and I was there for a year. Now, if I remember rightly the terms were if you did an unaccompanied tour that counted as a full tour. Two and a half years. So is that alright you’re going to be clear when you come back. So I said to my wife, ‘I’m off to Borneo.’ So off I went and I was out there nine thousand miles from, away from home and you’ve all heard of the radio programme, “Desert Island Discs,” I’ve got news for you. I spent nine thousand miles away on a desert island and I didn’t have my favourite eight records with me either. But it wasn’t a bad posting after all. I got to know with a group of others the local missionary who was English, Reverend Arthur Tubble, who was the station chaplain to us and we helped build a church on the Unit and we also helped renovate his own church on the island of Labuan. Labuan now is a thriving community. In our day it was not much. The RAF was there. But nowadays I’ve watched, I’ve looked online and I didn’t recognise Labuan. It's got skyscrapers and heaven knows what else and a business world. Not in my day. But that was for one year. And when I came back from there I asked if I could go to apply back to Northern Ireland because my wife and family was still in Aldergrove in quarters and I got posted to RAF Bishops Court Ulster Radar in Downpatrick and that’s where I did the Vulcan QRAs. To get from Bishops Court to Ballykelly like the bats out of hell. And so I did. And I got there in February 1965 and I stayed there until February 1966 which is one year. I’d just come back from a one year unaccompanied tour and I then got put back on the boat for another one year tour and this time, in ’66 I ended up at Steamer Point Aden. In the last year of Aden. Aden, I didn’t like. I don’t think anybody in the last year of Aden liked, liked being there because you were always looking over your shoulder. You had, you were not sure whose side anybody was on. I seem to remember vaguely that some politician saying that we were there as police trying to keep the warring factions apart. Well, if we did, perhaps we did. I don’t know. But I was in Aden at Steamer Point when the rains came and the [laughs] nearly sank. Pity it didn’t but it didn’t and I was always there when Mad Mitch went in to create a city with his merry men and that was great fun. I spent Aden doing a particular job which I can’t go in to for obvious reasons. Not even today I can’t go in to a particular job I did but I did it along with a group of other telegraphists and wireless ops. I don’t know, I can’t speak for them. I didn’t mind the job but it was no fun as far as I’m concerned and I’ve never been back to Aden since and I never want to go back to Aden. I was once asked by the Duke of Gloucester when I met him in London at a function I was at, he liked Aden and would I, he said would I go back? I said, ‘No.’ Then I changed my mind. I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Oh good. Why?’ I said, ‘To find the plug and pull it out and laugh as it sank into the middle of the Red Sea.’ I’m afraid that was [laughs] I must give the duke his credit, full credit he did laugh. But he could see my point. I didn’t like Aden quite honestly about it. Then I got posted back. Oh, whilst I was in Aden I did a, I managed to get away for a week on a detachment to Kenya which wasn’t too bad. It was a break but as soon as you got back in to Aden you got off the aircraft you were back in to looking over your shoulder. Then I got posted out of Aden because the job I was doing I was posted there to take and I was to do, I was, came to an end and then I got posted back up to JCC Bahrain not far from Muharraq and I finished the tour there which wasn’t too bad. I worked with the Army and the Navy at the JCC. It was a great. A great posting. We got billeted with the Army at Jufair and the Army when we moved there from Muharraq couldn’t have been better. The way they made us welcome. Made us welcome anyway. I had to meet with the garrison sergeant major and everybody was frightened the life out of him. I wasn’t. I went and met him. He was a charmer and he was very polite. Anything he could do to make our stay on the Unit happy he did and he went out of his way. He was a great man. I can’t remember his name but he frightened the life out of the Army fellas because when I was waiting outside to go in to meet with him as a, at the request of my CO he was rollocking the right daylights out of some poor Army lad in there and I thought, ‘Well, don’t try it with me mate. I’m not in your mob. I’m in the RAF.’ But he was courtesy personified. Lovely man. So, I spent the remainder of the tour there until November ’67 and then I was fortunate I got posted back to Ulster Radar in ’67 where they left me alone until January ’69. I went back to Ulster Radar, RAF Bishops Court. Thoroughly enjoyed it. My family were still there. And then they put me on the boat again in ’69 and I ended up at RAF Rheindahlen again for the second time. Had a good full tour there. Worked in the Communication Centre. Served under Air Chief Marshall Sir Foxley-Norris, ex-Fighter Command and ex-Battle of Britain. And after that was, he came, was Martin, Harold Martin. 617 Dambuster. And it was a good time so we thoroughly enjoyed it. And then I was due to come back because I was coming to the end towards the end of my service and you get your final wish for your final posting. Where do you want to go? And like a lot of telegraphists we all, I put down I wanted to go to the Madhouse. RAF Stanbridge. Comm Cen Central. And I went there in 7th [pause] 7th month of ’72 and I stayed there until the 10th of August 1973 when I retired after twenty two years. I had a good time. I had places I’d never been to. I saw places I’ve always remembered. I went to some places I didn’t want to go. I’ve got a load of memories. Good. I’ve got a load of memories I don’t particularly want to remember but I’ve got them. I did a lot of jobs. I met a lot of people. But the one thing I can say is I, as a youngster at the age of nine eventually was very very fortunate to fulfil a dream. To follow my dad, who was a sergeant who was killed in action. I followed him and my elder brother and my uncles in to the Royal Air Force. Never looked back. Never wished I never did it and I would do it all over again if and only if I could join the RAF as it was in my day. End of story.
[recording paused]
It’s easy for me, difficult for other people because I know evacuation. I know how it started. Why it started. But if I talk about just myself what was, what was it all about? Well, the aim was that the government of the day felt rightly or wrongly that if war broke out the sky was going to be full of enemy aircraft and this country was going to be blitzed and bombed to nothing. That’s what they thought because a politician by the name of Balfour had said back in the ‘20s that the bomber will always get through. And so you had evacuation plans drawn up, and the aim was in the first instance that children with mothers, children of school age, the aged, the ill, the infirm were to be evacuated. To be evacuated to places of what the government decided would be safety. So they divided the country up in to three. You had the danger areas, you had the neutral areas and you had the safe areas. The safe areas was where the government decreed that children would go or people could go and they would be safe. Nothing would happen. Neutral areas where the government had decided in its wisdom that nothing would ever happen. What a load of rubbish. What an absolute load of rubbish. If anybody got it wrong Mr Chamberlain and his bunch did get that wrong. The danger areas obviously London, the Metropolis, things like that, Manchester, would also happen. But we ended up in South Wales, Jack and myself in South Wales. A mining village. It’s main industry obviously was one coal mine. We were in the Sirhowy Valley from Newport up to Brynmawr and further up to the head of the valley. We left Elmhurst school. There were sixty six of us and I think there was four teachers. We didn’t know where we were going. Our parents didn’t know where we were going. Nobody knew where we were going as far as I know and I will to my dying day say that the only three people that knew we were going was the engine driver, the fireman and the guard because our teachers didn’t know. Everything was kept quiet. All that was stuck on the front of an engine was a number and they knew where we were going. We ended up in Llanhilleth in South Wales. Jack and I were billeted with Jim and Laura Carter who were down to take one evacuee but when, when the billeting officer said, ‘We’ve got two brothers here.’ Without fear or favour or any arguments said, ‘We’ll take both,’ and Jack and I then went in to 16 Caefelin Street. I can see it now. It’s a terrace house. It’s made of stone carved from quarries. They are mining, rows of mining houses and in the place that we were evacuated was known as The Fields where you had Railway Street, Meadow Street, Caefelin Street, Partridge Road and Central Road. Central Road was under, at the foot of the mountain because we had the river dividing the other four. We lived in Caefelin Street and one of the memories I have about my evacuation there was day one. That when Laura and Jim took us into the house you couldn’t see, it was only a small passageway with the front door but you couldn’t see out because all the kids in the street all yelling, ‘Could they come out to play. Could they come out to play.’ We’d only just arrived. Never forgot it. And we made friendships there. Unfortunately, now when I go back to Wales most of those folk are resting permanently. So it’s very rare I meet anybody. I still meet one or two. Sixty six of us stayed there. At the end of the war there were only five of us left and one teacher. All the rest had gone back. The three girls from the same street, Upton Park Road, they lived in Partridge Road and Jack and I lived in Caefelin Street and we backed on each other. Now Jack and I had a reasonable evacuation. The three girls didn’t but that’s another story and to, if you want to know about that you’ve got to then start talking to ex-evacuees. We had, everything was rationed. It didn’t matter. But Jack and I learned an awful lot of things. For a start I didn’t know coal came out of a hole in the ground [laughs] Coal in London was delivered by a man who carried it on his back and emptied it in the coal hole. I didn’t know it came out of a hole in the ground. Not in a million years. Mountains. What were they? The biggest mountain I’d ever seen was the sandhills. I’d never seen anything bigger than that. Ferns? What were they? These things that grew in the spring and the summer. Great big green things, great fun to play around in up up the mountain. Go cob nut foraging. Picking blackberries. Picking wimberries. Picking daffodils. I’m from London for heaven’s sake. I’d never done anything like that. Never knew it existed. So we learned a lot. Made a lot of good friends. And schooling, well, the start we all ended up in the same school called the Old School which was at the top of the mountain which was great fun because we were told that if the sirens went, and they were up in the valleys you know. And if the sirens went which they did we were supposed to leave school, come down to the mountain to the billet for safety. And if you’re half way down there and the all clear went you had to turn around and go all the way back which seemed a bit daft. Then eventually they suddenly decided no you don’t do that. We’ll open up the basement of the old school. That school is no longer there. From there I moved up to another school at Ty’r Graig where I became, and the only claim to fame as an evacuee that I have ever claimed in my life I think I was the first non-Welsh boy to become head prefect of that particular school and I’m proud of that. And I still remember my teachers with great love. Mr Rogers was the headmaster, Smudger Smith was the first form teacher I had. Mr Fox was the next one. And dear Miss Birch was in the top, took the top class because I jumped a couple of classes because I found that even at that age my education even at my young age was nearly a third ahead of my Welsh friends. They were on, they were just finishing HTU and I’d already finished fractions. So, you know I was pretty good but good times. Made a lot of friends. Then I moved from there to Brynhyfryd which was the senior school and there I went into form 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A. That’s where I finished at the age of fourteen when I left school and the teachers there great love, great respect. Mr Arthur Harris, headmaster. Wonderful man. Mr Bosher, tall, seemed to go up forever, science and biology. Fred Carpenter, maths and art. Fred Plummer, woodwork. And other, other names. I can see their faces, I can’t remember their names. But you have to remember this was during the war so one teacher would cover numerous. And of course, the greatest teacher of them all in my book, Mr Perriman who stayed with us. He was from London. Elmhurst. And he stayed with us right through the war. Great man. Became in a sense a surrogate father because my dad was killed in action in 1943 on a Turin raid. The same night that Wing Commander Nettleton VC lost his life. Same raid. But as I said earlier if you want to follow that then look for 207 Squadron in the archives and the full story is in there. Left school at fourteen. Did various jobs as I said and then eventually joined the Air Force but all in all evacuation was, and I’ve often I’ve been asked this when I’ve lecturing on evacuation, what did it do to me? What did evacuation do to me? And the first time I was asked that about a nine year old at school, at a school, an eight year old at a school at Silverstone when I was lecturing there. And it was the last question because the headmaster said, ‘Now, any questions?’ ‘What did it to me?’ And it set me back on my heels. I had to think straight off. Think. Well, it taught, when I lost my dad we had to grow up. Grow up fast because your mother’s left with three boys growing up and if you like, in a foreign country and you’ve got no dad. So, you had to grow up fairly fast. So childhood, as such, stops. Taught you the value of money. Still does. Taught you the value of friendship, still does. Taught you the value of love and of care and it still does. And it taught me to be who I am. I’m afraid of nobody. I won’t be talked down to and I will not talk down to anybody I meet. On your ground you meet on my ground. I’ve been raised to be polite. Try to be. Still doff my hat to the ladies. Still step back and open the door for the ladies. Still get looked at rather weirdly when one does it but that’s the way I was brought out and I don’t see, I don’t see any problem with that. I was married fifty nine years. I have children. I have grandchildren. I have great grandchildren who I absolutely adore and it’s coming up to Christmas and I keep getting told, ‘Dad, don’t buy any more.’ I keep telling them, ‘Don’t tell dad, grandad or great grandad what to do and what he can’t do.’ Which is one of those things of being a great-grandad. But to be an evacuee is something I’m proud of. I was fortunate to be on parade in Westminster, in Whitehall a few times with the evacuees. There’s still a lot of us left. There was just over three million of us so there’s a hell of a lot of stories there. The thing you have to remember about evacuation is that there’s the good, there’s the bad, there’s the downright ugly. A lot happened to a lot of kids and that’s what people have to remember. We were kids. It’s as simple as that. We didn’t go away as grown ups. If you think about it if you’re aged six, seven and you’re evacuated and you’re away for five years how old are you when you go back home? If you go back home. And are you the same child? No. Where did you come? I was raised, born and bred London and I’m raised in South Wales. The differences between, the difference between chalk and cheese and anything else you can think of because and that’s what changes. That’s what changes the person. I’m not going to sit here and speak into a microphone and say that yeah, all evacuees were good. That’s rubbish. That would be telling a downright lie but we get, we get plastered with the same old story. We were all dirty. We were all lice ridden. We didn’t have manners. We didn’t know how to use a toilet. We didn’t know how to use a knife and fork. We ate out of, our favourite dish was a hunk of bread on the curb side with a glass of beer. Come on. They’re in books. I’m not talking rubbish. It’s in books. People still write books about evacuees. All I would I say people for God’s sake get it right and the only way you’ll ever get it right is you talk to people who lived it because if you haven’t lived it you don’t know what you’re talking about. You can be a social worker. There were a lot of social workers. There were many of them. Billeting officers. But a lot of kids slipped through the net. Literally slipped through the net. I’ve got stories I could tell you that would make your hair curl but I’m not going to relate them because their confidential. They were relayed to me when I was doing research from ex-evacuees. And I’m the sort of person, fine, I lived it. I came out the other end. And that’s what I say to other evacuees, ‘You lived it. You went through it. You come out the other end. Nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing.’ There are evacuees that still suffer today a great deal. But me I look back on evacuation and say, ‘Well, it’s one hell of an experience.’ But would I do it again? I was asked that question once at a lady’s meeting I was at. At the end of it, I was invited to give a talk on evacuation and one lady stood up and said, would I do it again and I said without hesitation, pardon the French [laughs] ‘Not bloody likely. I’d send, I’d send the politicians. Let them have a go.’ End of story.

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Citation

Sue Walters, “Interview with Jim Wright. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 27, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/3530.

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