Samuel Guyan comments and memoirs

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Samuel Guyan comments and memoirs

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'Jock' Guyan comments on his operations. the recording includes audio clips from a documentary including excerpts of Arthur Harris, engine noises and interviews.
Samuel Guyan flew an operational tour with 90 Squadron and a second tour with 115 Squadron where he manned a .5 calibre gun beneath the aircraft. In all he flew fifty one operations. Including one where his crew thought he was just going for his breakfast but found himself flying that night with another crew as a spare gunner.
He sings several songs including 'Ops on a Stirling' to the tune of Waltzing Matilda, 'The old red flannels drawers that Maggie wore' and 'No more ops for me'.

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01:28:55 audio recording

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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.

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AGuyanS[Date]-01

Transcription

Jock here. After listening to George reading about our ops from the official records I realised how bare they were so I thought I’d say a few words about our ops as in the mid-upper turret I saw most of what went on. [radio recording commences] “While US bombers mass raided Germany by day, RAF Bomber Command pounded it by night.” “It was the point of entry in to Germany where the German fighters were under full control in their boxes and by their ground controllers and that’s where they had a sort of first exact knowledge of which way they were coming in and how many were coming.” [pause] “The Germans were waiting with their night fighters and anti-aircraft guns. Prepared for the allied planes coming and going [sounds of gunfire] The crews of Bomber Command flew in darkness to names on maps illuminated by the Pathfinders to drop their bombs. They flew through walls of flak waiting to be attacked by an enemy they could not see. Nowhere else over Europe were such desperate air battles fought [sounds of gunfire] Some would reach home again and some would not.” That was just the sound of the action to set the old adrenaline flowing. Butch Harris was one of the speakers there. I’ll start with that mining op at Bordeaux. Coming in from the sea we weren’t sure where we were so we came down low. Five hundred feet Bill said when we met. When we met at the reunion. We came down low to pinpoint some lakes. That was when the light flak guns opened fire at us. Bill lying in the bomb aimers compartment shouted to Gordon and Gordon reacted immediately. ‘Dive to the starboard.’ Yes, Bill and Gordon, you saved our lives that night. I’ll never forget the tracer whizzing by my turret and bursting just above us. I made the joke at the time that I swallowed my chewing gum. I can’t remember whether I did or not. Probably just said it to hide my fear. As I said to Jack, I remembered looking at the side of the aircraft by my turret the next day up at the dispersal looking to see if there were any burn marks. It was that close. If we’d dived a second later I would have been split in two. You needn’t laugh about it Jack because your head would probably have been blown off as you were just up the gangway from me.
[recording paused]
I think that that flak battery probably shot down a few bombers who were doing the same as we were. That op, funnily enough was our first from Wratting Common and our next one was also a nasty one. Dusseldorf. This was the one where we were caught in the searchlights. Twenty four I have down in my logbook and for sixteen minutes. I remember Gordon saying that he was sorry he looped the loop that night. I wouldn’t be surprised Gordon. John and I in our turrets had three or four upside down views of the searchlights that night. By the way that was our first op in P-Peter. A few nights later we went to Krefeld in the Ruhr. I mention this op because this is the op that Peters went missing. He was a pilot I always remember. Tall, red headed. He was very commanding in his Aussie blue uniform. I suppose you knew him most of all, Gordon. I remember walking in to the debriefing room and a voice saying, ‘Peters is missing.’ I can still hear that voice. Later on walking up that narrow concrete path to our Nissen hut I thought somebody would be saying one morning that, ‘Appleby is missing.’ Wuppertal was a good op. We hammered that one and we weren’t flying all that much above the smoke that night. I’ll talk now about the op when our lives depended on the whim of a Luftwaffe pilot. The pilot of that ME110 when he was faced with the choice of which Stirling he would shoot down. It certainly was a case of eeny meeny miney mo. I am not sure which op this was but I’ve an idea it was Cologne. It was one of the blackest nights ever. Suddenly the sky was lit up by this Stirling catching fire. It was less than two hundred yards in our port beam. The same height and no more than ten yards behind us. I saw this ME110 breaking away to port and then he was lost in the dark. This 110 must have opened fire at very short range and he was less than fifty yards from the Stirling when he broke away. As I said it was a very black night and I doubt that John and I could see more than forty or fifty yards. The pilot in the ME110 of course had us on his radar screen. He had two blips to pick from. Why didn’t he pick us? Was that ten yards that we were in front of the other vital? Or was it because the pilot of a plane was always sat on the port side and breaking away to the port was easiest. We’ll never know.
[recording paused]
I didn’t see anybody bale out of the Stirling which crashed behind a farmhouse. We lost two crews that night so there’s possible that that Stirling could have been from 90 Squadron. Same height, same course. I couldn’t pick up the marking because the flames spread all the way along the fuselage.
[recording paused]
Hamburg. Four ops in nine nights plus a Remscheid in between when we had to turn back because the starboard outer went u/s. The first op on Hamburg of course was when they first used Window. The sight over the target that night was unbelievable. Searchlights were flapping all over the place but also were just straight up in the air. They were completely confused. That was the night that we were diverted to Newmarket when we got back because a plane had blocked our runway. I remember we had to sleep in an empty hut that night. Even had to wait for a van to bring the bedding and make our own beds.
[recording paused]
Our second op on Hamburg of course was the big one. This they say was Bomber Command's most successful raid. Up to forty thousand people were killed that night. I’ll never forget the smoke which was rising away above us. A fourth Hamburg was another nasty one for us. Flying through thunderstorms all the way. The plane covered in a blue light. George said he remembered the ice crashing on to my turret. Most of the crews turned back that night. Why didn’t we? Now Len, never mind that joke you made at the reunion when you said that that sod wouldn’t come back with us meaning Gordon. Good laugh. I don’t know whether Jack picked anything up on the wireless about other crews turning back. He didn’t say anything. In fact, turning back was never mentioned by any one of us. We just pressed on.
[recording paused]
Turin. Crossing the Alps in moonlight. One of my finest memories. We were coned over there but that wasn’t too bad, was it? This was the op when after we just crossed the Alps John and I saw this Wimpy flying the other way. A few seconds later there was an almighty flash. Did he crash in the Alps or did he collide with another plane? We don’t know.
[recording paused]
Peenemunde. Another moonlight op. This was when that unidentified plane buzzed around us. Gordon had thought it was a 110. I thought it might have been a Beaufighter. As I remember it he came out of the moon and flashed across the front of us from starboard to port. He then flew around us and came up behind. I was just going to say to John, ‘Fire a short burst to let him know we’ve seen him,’ when Gordon asked what he was doing. And just then the aircraft turned away to port and we never saw him again. Mind you he wasn’t more than a thousand yards away. Very funny that was. I remember flying over Denmark and somebody flashing the V sign. Peenemunde. We just got clear in time didn’t we before the fighters came into the bomber stream? Remember all these fires in the sky behind us John? Mannheim, when a piece of flak hit me on the head. I suppose breaking through the Perspex took some sting out of it. It left me with just the tiniest bump. My second op on Mannheim was our last op but we still had a rather shaky do to come, hadn’t we? Farnborough. After a very enjoyable week there doing the experimental flights with that captured JU88 with the old Spitfire hanging around we took off from Farnborough to fly back to Wratting Common and minutes later bad weather set in. It was so bad that Gordon was really hedge hopping. We skimmed through a tree. John remembers his turret crashing through the branches. When George came to see me he said he remembers this as one of our bad ones. I must tell the story. He said he was sat down by his dials when he realised that the dialogue on the intercom was getting a bit frantic so he thought he’d go and have a look through the astrodome and he said, ‘There we were just flying over the traffic lights in Reading.’ We were alright though because I think the lights were on green at the time.
[recording paused]
Make no mistake it was a tremendous tour in Stirlings 1943. The Battle of the Ruhr, Hamburg, Peenemunde. When people talk about Bomber Command these are the ops they talk about. You have no doubt read that book by Len Deighton called, “Bomber.” He said that one of the reasons he wrote it was because one of his boyhood friends was a flight engineer on Lancs and he told him that during the briefing the Lanc crews had cheered when they heard that the more vulnerable Stirlings would be flying below them. I’d like to mention that I went to a do at the RAF Officer’s Club in Piccadilly in 1975. The Air Gunner’s Association thirtieth anniversary of VE Day dinner. I managed to get a couple of words with Butch Harris of all people and I was saying that I had done two tours. One in Stirlings and one on Lancs. He lifted his eyebrows and said, ‘Stirlings eh? Well done.’ I can understand that more now after reading the book by Max Hastings called, “Bomber Command,” when he quotes Harris saying to Churchill, ‘I want more Lancasters because it is cold blooded murder to send my crews on ops in Stirlings.’
[recording paused]
When I listened to George reading our briefing reports on the Ruhr and bombing from eleven thousand feet some of them that made me wonder. There was I on my second tour, in a Lanc bombing the same targets from twenty one thousand feet. According to George’s missing crew sheet twenty four crews went missing during our stay at 90 Squadron. John, that’s forty eight air gunners. Remember Nobby Clark. He went missing. You swapped his best blue and I swapped a couple of shirts and socks etcetera. It was all part of the game. We told him we’d see him off, didn’t we? He would have done the same to us if we’d got the chop.
[recording paused]
We were talking about lucky mascots at the reunion. [Jack Sherry] made sure he took the same pen every time. Bruce said he had something and somebody mentioned that John took a silk hankie. And I had a scarf. I remember that. And I don’t laugh, this tune which I used to sing. I’m telling this to John really because I mentioned this at the reunion to the rest of you so bear with me. On our second op just as we were crossing the English coast Bill said, as he always did, ‘We’re crossing the English coast.’ I realised that when he said that the previous op I was quietly singing to myself the tune called, “Dearly Beloved,” which was one of the pop tunes at the time. So, I sang it again. Eventually when he said we were crossing the English coast I made sure my mike was switched off and I used to sing it. “Dearly beloved, how clearly I see. Somewhere in heaven you were fashioned for me.” Yes, Jack, you were right it’s a good job my mike was switched off. You may all laugh but it was silly things like that that helped us to cling to survival. By the way I sang it all the way through my second tour as well. Another twenty eight times.
[recording paused]
Bob [Meadows] said that George was always checking and double checking things. This is what survival was all about. We all agree that Gordon did a super job but I would also like to say that we landed lucky in having George as our flight engineer. Thinking back now I realise that he was the best flight engineer in the squadron.
[recording paused]
It’s unbelievable that there wasn’t a Bomber Command campaign medal. I’m thinking of the ground crews as well who worked all hours to keep the aircraft serviceable and they got nothing to show for it. There was a Battle of Britain campaign medal. Bomber Command lost more aircrew in one week than was lost in the whole of the Battle of Britain. Looking through the Stirling bomber book I noticed that Stirling losses were around ten percent on some of the ops. Krefeld, a hundred and fifteen Stirlings — nine were lost. Mülheim, a hundred and three Stirlings — nine were lost. Wuppertal, ninety eight Stirlings — ten were lost. Gelsenkirchen, seventy Stirlings — ten were lost. Cologne, seventy five Stirlings — seven lost. Remscheid, seventy six — and eight were lost.
[recording paused]
I think that Geordie Young going missing on his thirtieth op probably saved our lives as well. If they’d asked us to go on to thirty ops I don’t think we would have made it. We were all feeling the strain by that time.
[recording paused]
[radio recording begins] “Sergeant Brian Bacon was one who did not. He was navigator on a Stirling bomber shot down on May the 13th 1943. His sister Beryl remembers her reactions when told her brother’s remains had finally been found by the Dutch Air Force.” “It was stunned silence at first quite honestly but after that I was very relieved. I can’t say I was happy. That’s not the word I want but I was pleased that at last he had got a, a resting place. We knew where he was and we knew that he’d obviously died instantaneously and that he hadn’t suffered. He hadn’t been a prisoner. He hadn’t wandered the countryside even, you know.”
[recording paused]
That was Wesley Morey’s navigator they were talking about, Len. I suppose you knew him. They had dug the plane out of the Ijsselmeer three or four years ago. I believe the tail wheel and other parts of the Stirling are in the basement of the RAF Museum at Hendon.
[recording paused]
[radio recording begins] “Missing. That’s a very big horrible word. It’s, from the point of view of your family it’s worse than being dead I would say.” “You never hardly ever saw anybody die, unless somebody in your own crew were killed. It was just a face there in the morning eating breakfast with you and in the evening he’s not there. And of course, Bomber Command were so efficient that if you lost three or four crews of your squadron you got back at 6 o’clock in the morning, you went to bed. When you got up at lunchtime and went in the mess their replacements were there.”
[recording paused]
“On British airfields they counted the bombers as they returned. Some unscathed, others with wings or tails shot away and inside many the dead, the wounded and the shocked. It was just another day. Another mission.” “Any commander is distressed by losses but of course in any war losses were bound to happen and the heavier they are the more commanders concerned are distressed by them but there’s little that one can do about it.”
[recording paused]
That was Butch Harris saying a few words again.
[recording paused]
We were never attacked by fighters so how John and I would have coped we don’t know. One thing is for sure we were prepared to die for you. As Bill was saying, in the end it was a team effort that counted.
[recording paused]
This is part of a letter which Butch Harris sent to a newspaper in 1949. “To the men and women of Bomber Command, my greetings to the ground staff who kept them flying regardless of the miseries of wet and winter, my salams to the instructors who kept their necks stuck out, to lessen odds on other necks. But above all my admiration to those too few survivors of our devoted air crews. Happy landings even if the wheels are up. My respect and affection to you all. Butch Harris.”
[recording paused]
I’m quoting Butch Harris again from his book, “Bomber Offensive.” “There are no words with which I can do justice to the aircrew who fought under my command. There is no parallel in warfare to such courage and determination in the face of danger over so prolonged a period of danger which at times was so great that scarcely one man in three could expect to survive his tour of operations. It was moreover a clear and highly conscious courage by which the risk was taken with calm forethought. The aircrew were all highly skilled men, above the average in education who had to understand every aspect and detail of the task. It was furthermore the courage of the small hours of men virtually alone. For at his battle station the airman is virtually alone. It was the courage of men with long drawn apprehensions of nightly going over the top. They were without exception volunteers for no man who was trained for aircrew with the RAF who did not volunteer for this. Such devotion must never be forgotten. It is unforgettable by anyone whose contacts gave them knowledge and understanding of what these young men experienced and faced.”
[recording paused]
Flying over the Ruhr, Happy Valley we called it, one night and then going to the pictures the next night. Killing nearly forty thousand people over Hamburg one night and then having a quiet drink in the Red Lion at Brinkley the night after. Crazy, wasn’t it?
[recording paused]
Gordon, Len, George, Bill, Jack, John. Well done each of you. I’m proud to have been a member of such a fine crew. Thank you for those unforgettable memories of 1943, on 90 Squadron and good old P-Peter. 90 Squadron. Remember we flew on 90 Squadron when it was at its mightiest and it’s bloodiest. Is there anything stronger than love? No. I don’t think so. But next in line must be this bond. This wonderful comradeship of a bomber crew. People think we’re silly and knock us down a bit but they don’t understand. We do, don’t we?
[recording paused]
[singing] Ops in a Stirling. Ops in Stirling. Who’d come on ops in a Stirling with me? They laughed and they sang as they pranged all over Germany. Who’ll come on ops in a Stirling with me?
[recording paused]
When I finished my tour with 90 Squadron I was sent to Number 12 Operational Training Unit at Edgehill as an instructor gunner flying Wellingtons. The old Wimpy as we called it. I remember a pilot there called Flight Lieutenant Pettit. He was very short on patience. We set off with two or three gunners, fired our air to air firing which is firing at a drogue plus cine camera gun firing. Firing at a fighter who would do a few dummy attacks on us. His patience was very very short. Every trip the guns used to jam and I used to go in the turret and put them right again and then the gunner would go back and finish his work. This used to happen two or three times a trip. One day Pettit said, ‘When the guns jam again, Jock,’ he said, ‘You stop in the turret, fix the guns and fire all the ammunition yourself,’ which was the cine gun camera ammunition. Of course, after a trip or two like this somebody told the gunnery leader and he had me in his office. As I went in I noticed that flight lieutenant Pettit was hanging about outside but he needn’t have bothered. I took the blame. I think that Pettit had a good word to say about all Scotsmen after that. Funny thing he went missing on D-Day on his second tour. They posted me to Dalcross near Inverness. Number 2 Air Gunnery School, Dalcross doing the same sort of thing. This time flying in Ansons. I always asked a new gunner if they wanted to sit by the pilot. Their faces beamed. But it wasn’t until we got airborne when they realised that whoever sat there beside the pilot had the job of winding the undercarriage up and down and it was hard work in the old Anson. They weren’t so keen then. Dalcross sometimes four or five, six trips a day flying up and down the Moray Firth with the Scottish Highlands in the background. It was a beautiful war then.
[recording paused]
I think that when the RAF found that you were happy on a station they had you posted. They sent me down to South Wales. Carew Cheriton in Aberporth, near Pembroke. Took me a day and a half to get there. This time I was flying in Martinets and Henleys as a winch operator. It made a change winching over the rocket and gun sight at Manorbier. I let a drogue out and they would fire at it with the flak guns. Or else we would just go up and fly up and down and they’d check the radar. They always said if they hit us with any flak they’d give us a bottle of whisky but I wasn’t that lucky. Or was I?
[recording paused]
The 9th of June 1944. A day I’ll never forget. I was flying with a Polish pilot, Pilot Officer [ Zadonka ] All the pilots seemed to be Polish on Training Units. We were on a silent op in a Martinet flying over the sea. I was taking my flying very casually then sitting at the back of the pilot, reading a book as a matter of fact when the engine cut. I looked forward in to the pilot’s cockpit. He didn’t seem too concerned. Then he started fiddling about and when he put his hands in the air I knew we were in trouble. The pilot looked around at me. I could see he was sweating. I was standing up by now. Thoughts flashed through my mind. Bale out. But the pilot hasn’t said anything yet. He’s not jumping. Clip your parachute on anyway. I realised then it was too late. We were too near the sea. I think I was just about to start screaming when the engine picked up again and we gained some height. The pilot turned around and smiled. Smile of an angel. Later on my room mate Fred who lives in West Bromwich said that when he went in to the sergeant’s mess that day the chap behind the bar had said, ‘Go and have a look at Jock. He’s just come in and he doesn’t look too well. He’s had a double whisky but he’s gone off to his room.’ Well, looking at the face of death when you weren’t prepared for it was rather uncomfortable. I never did like flying over the sea. Given the choice I’d rather have crashed on land and gone up in a ball of smoke than have gone into the sea and drowned. I imagine much of aircrew must have gone to their deaths screaming their heads off when they couldn’t get out of a diving spinning crashing bomber.
[recording paused]
Talking about air to air firing at a drogue reminds me of my gunnery course at Penrhos. Three of us would go up in a Blenheim and we’d fire at a drogue with two hundred yards at our starboard beam. We’d each have about two hundred rounds, different tipped bullets in different colours. It was great to see the tracer going into it. We thought it would be full of holes. When we landed we checked the drogue laid flat out on the ground. It would be about thirty foot long and five foot wide I suppose. You’d be amazed. We only found four, five or six little holes of each colour. Amazing. We all expected to find about fifty. I think my highest percentage on that was eleven point one. Wasn’t too bad really. I noticed the remarks at the end of the course. The course officer says, “A good sound air gunner. Has done well in theoretical subjects. Will make a very worthy member of an operational aircrew.” He should have said will make a very lucky member of an operational aircrew.
[recording paused]
On the first part of my air gunner’s course which was at Llandwrog, North Wales our billets were five or six miles from the mess. Yeah. Five or six miles. And we used to get transport back every night and in the morning in the RAF crew bus. If you missed the bus at night at 6 o’clock you had to walk. There was one chap there, I hope he came through alright. He used to amuse us. He used to sing umpteen verses of this song. We used to sing the last line. Here are some of the cleaner ones — [singing] When she got them they were fluffy, now they’re faded and they’re scruffy. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. When she sent them to the laundry they were seen by all and sundry. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. We sometimes laughed and grinned when they came up to her chin. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. She daren’t try to sneeze, they’d fall down to her knees. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. She’d say stop it, that’s enough when we tried to take them off. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. She’d be sometimes sick with fright if the elastic was too tight on the old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. She’d run and she would kick us when we’d say, ‘Show us your knickers.’ The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. They were patched with a piece of rag where someone had dropped his fag on the old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. She went out with a second dickie but he tried to take the mickey out of the old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. She liked the band of Harry James, she sewed all their names to the old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. She went out with the soldier, they came back a little bit moldier. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. The night she went with Taffy they were found behind the NAAFI. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. On the line we knew them. You could almost see right through them. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. One day in her vest she stood. They were wrapped around the Christmas pud. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. She wouldn’t go with groupie ‘cause he said they were too droopy. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. They were tattered, they were torn around the bleep hole they were worn. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. One day for a prank someone tied them to a Lanc. The old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore. They went off on an op and they all got the chop with the old red flannel drawers that Maggie wore.
[recording paused]
Now, one or two stories about my second tour in Lancasters with 115 Squadron. In my first few ops there I was a mid-under gunner with a .5 Browning machine gun. They fitted this mid-under gun as they had learned that some German fighters were fitted with guns that fired straight up and they were shooting down a lot of bombers without the bomber crew seeing them at all. Then the rest of my ops were as a rear gunner. I had a busy start. Two ops in one day. Duisburg in the Happy Valley again. We took off at twenty to seven in the morning and we got back about eleven in the morning as well. We were looking forward to a nice lazy afternoon and a bit of fun in the mess that night but they said, ‘Get to bed. You’re on ops again tonight.’ We took off at 11 o’clock and got back about half past three in the morning. Plenty of flak both times. We did two ops on Essen. In the Ruhr again. One day off and one night off within three days. I think that finally knocked out the big Krupps factories there. Our next two ops were on Cologne. In the Ruhr again. Yeah. One day and one night. I did six ops on Cologne and on nearly every one got hammered by the flak. I’ll talk about the daylight op first. One thing about daylight raids there were no searchlights to fly through but the flak was more accurate. ‘Bomb doors open,’ said the pilot on the run up to the target. Always a terrifying moment this. A little piece of flak hitting the naked bombs in the bomb bay would have been the end of all of us. ‘Steady. Steady [pause] Bombs gone,’ said the bomb aimer. But they hadn’t. There were still a few stuck in the bomb bay. ‘We’ll go around again,’ said the pilot. This time some more bombs were dropped but still one or two hadn’t. ‘We’ll go around once more,’ said the pilot. I thought he’s mad, as we were being caught by the flak. The third time the flight engineer put his hand through the slots in the floor to release the mechanism by hand. When they got clear of the target we realised that one bomb was still with us.
[recording paused]
The pilot tried all sorts of tricks to shake it loose. I remember I jumped up and down on the gangway above it but it still wouldn’t go. When we got back to base at Witchford he said, ‘We just have to land with it.’ We were all a bit apprehensive. As soon as we touched the runway there was one almighty bang. Our hearts did turn over. Somebody shouted, ‘The bomb has fallen off and is jammed in the bomb doors.’ When we got to the end of the runway the pilot told the control tower and they said, ‘Taxi clear of the runway and abandon aircraft.’ Which we did. Very quickly. It was left to the armourers to sort everything out in the end. Two nights later Cologne again. Another hammering. The pilot got a DFC for these ops. I’ll read part of his citation. “In October 1944 he was captain and pilot of an aircraft. He failed to attack Cologne. On his first time over the target the bomb release mechanism became defective and the bombs failed to drop. In spite of considerable anti-aircraft fire Flying Officer Andrewartha made a second and yet a third run over the target from which the bombs were dropped manually. Some days later he made another attack on the same target. Although his aircraft sustained extensive damage when hit by anti-aircraft fire he completed the mission successfully.” I enjoyed a reasonably low level daylight op in a place called Heinsberg. This town was supposed to be full of German soldiers. I fired a few rounds off with my .5 but the place had just vanished in the smoke and fires. I was rear gunner on the raid on Dresden. This was Bomber Command’s most murderous raid. They say that more than fifty thousand people were killed. It was an undefended city. No flak. No searchlights. It didn’t half burn.
[recording paused]
Five days later another real frightener. A daylight op on Wessel. We were belting along the runway on take-off. I was sat in the rear turret when suddenly smoke and flames came by me. They were shouting on the intercom, ‘The starboard inner has caught fire.’ ‘Too late,’ shouted the pilot, ‘Can’t stop. Must take off.’ And we did. Scraping a few hedges we crawled up in to the air somehow and the engine fire extinguisher was switched on and the fire went out. We couldn’t get any height on three engines with a bomb load. The pilot contacted the control tower and they said, ‘Drop your bombs in the North Sea.’ When we got back he was later reprimanded for breaking radio silence and was stopped two weeks pay. He didn’t buy a round in the pubs and we were all glad when the two weeks were up. It was a very hazy day that day. The fire engine and the ambulance, the blood wagon we called it said they were out scouring the countryside for us as they thought we had crashed.
[recording paused]
Next op. Osterfeld. Another hammering from the flak. We had just bombed and were a bit slow getting back in to the safety of the bomber stream. They were all dropping this aluminium foil called Window which upset the flak gun’s radar. We were out on our however when this heavy flak hit us. We went into a dive and I thought we’d had it. ‘It’s ok, boys. I’ve got it.’ Lovely words from the pilot. We came back on three engines. [pause] One day, on our day off I got up and started to get dressed. The lads in the hut said, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘Down to the mess to get some breakfast. I’m hungry.’ They said, ‘You’re too late. It's gone 9 o’clock.’ I said, ‘Oh, I’ll try anyway.’ So, I went down and they did say that breakfast was finished. It was flying meals only as there was ops on that day. So, I said very cleverly that I was down as a spare gunner. So, I had my breakfast. I was enjoying it immensely when this WAAF came over and said, ‘Are you an air gunner?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Will you answer the phone then, please.’ It was the gunnery leader. He said, ‘Who’s that?’ I said, ‘It’s me. Jock.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘You’re off today, aren’t you?’ He said, ‘Your crew’s on a stand down.’ I said, ‘Yeah. That’s right.’ ‘Go and see if there’s any more gunners in the mess will you?’ I looked around. I said, ‘No. There’s only me. There’s just me in the mess. Mealtime.’ He then said he was in a jam as a couple of gunners had gone sick at the last minute and he was one gunner short for a crew. So, he said to me, ‘How’s about it? Will you help me out?’ So, I said, ‘Ok.’ And he said, ‘Thanks. Come up to the briefing room as soon as you can.’ I got a bit of a shock when I found the target was Cologne again. And that one to pick for my fiftieth op but this was an easy one for a change. My own crew wondered where I’d got to. They were amazed when they found out I’d gone on ops with another crew. All because I went out for breakfast.
[recording paused]
On one daylight raid we were on the way to the target and there were two Lancs ahead of us. I was in the front turret that day as we had engine trouble on E-Easy and had to use a spare aircraft which didn’t have a mid-under gun so I went to the front turret. I don’t know which op this was but I seem to have put down E-Easy in my logbook. Force of habit, I suppose. Anyway, about these two Lancs ahead of us. The pilot said, ‘I’ll try and catch them up and we’ll fly in formation.’ A minute or two later instead of two Lancs there was a small ball of fire and one Lanc. And then a large ball of fire and a small ball of fire. Then two huge balls of fire. Then smoke. Then nothing. And that was it. One Lanc had blown up and the explosion had blown the other one up. It’s a good job we didn’t catch up with them or we would have been just some more crosses in the sky.
[recording paused]
I remember an air gunner called Bob [Hogman] He was in our hut. I was sat in the mess one night when he came in, just back off leave. I said, ‘Hello Bob, did you have a good leave?’ He said he hadn’t. He said he was very fed up and didn’t feel like flying any more. ‘It’s just not worth it.’ he said. ‘And I see by the battle order I’m on ops tomorrow.’ So, I said, ‘What’s up, Bob?’ He said his wife was six months pregnant so he took her to hospital for a check up. They went on the bus, he said and it was standing room only both ways and nobody would give his wife a seat. He was quite upset. The next day he was flying beside us over the target when his plane got hit by flak, caught fire and dived straight in. As I was in the mid-under I didn’t see it, thank heaven. The other two gunners did and were rather shaken by it.
[recording paused]
On that trip my mid-upper was wounded. Got some flak in his ear. Bob [ Hogman’s ] rear gunner used to have some records. One of them used to give us a laugh when we played it in the billet because one of the lines was, ‘Chop, chop, chop and his head came off.’ I played it once more. Then threw it in the dustbin.
[recording pause]
There were two brothers in the squadron. Two Canadians named Flood flying in the same aircraft. One was a mid-upper gunner and the other one was a rear gunner. Another Canadian named Brown used to waken us many times in the billet by grinding his teeth in his sleep. It was terrible. The brothers went missing. The grinder survived. I wouldn’t be surprised if he and his wife sleep in different rooms.
[recording pause]
On one daylight op about twenty ME109s attacked the bomber stream and shot down about seven Lancasters before the fighter escort sorted them out. That was just in front of us so we escaped once again. I remember one time I had a month off flying as I had damaged my ear drums. Had a week in hospital. On another daylight raid the target was covered by cloud. We were told in that case that if we couldn’t see the target to bomb targets of opportunity so we flew around a bit and then noticed this bridge over the Rhine. So we bombed it and missed. The bombs going each side of it. I’ve often wondered if this was the famous Remagen Bridge which the Germans failed to blow up and that the American Army crossed over. It was around about this time. In films and books about it they said the bridge was bombed but it was still standing. Yes. It could have been us. Another time we bombed a small town. Five hundred pounders went straight up the Main Street and the Cookie hit the big building at the end. The Town Hall I suppose. I hope it wasn’t a church. Or a school.
[recording paused]
Dortmund. Happy Valley again. This daylight raid was the one where I realised that my nerves were getting the better of me and I had done enough. I could have finished flying two or three ops before this as I had done twenty ops with 115 Squadron and that was the amount you had to do for your second tour. This op was my forty seventh. We were flying in cloud when suddenly heavy flak burst all around us. I couldn’t see it but I could hear it. And when you could hear it it was close. We flew on but the flak kept with us. I realised the flak batteries had got us on radar on and were after us. This lasted quite a while. I said a few words to God that day and made all sorts of promises. When we landed I thought well I’ll do three more to make it a round fifty. And then I did one for luck. Fifty one. Eight more than I should have done really.
[recording paused]
[singing] No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more dicey targets. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more Jerry fighters. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more Jerry flak guns. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more Jerry searchlights. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more P for Peter. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more Peenemunde. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more missing room mates. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more flak for breakfast. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more E for Easy. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more frozen fingers. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more flying heroes. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more Happy Valley. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more tail end Charlie. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. No more ops for me. I’ll live to be a hundred. No more ops for me.
[recording paused]
It used to get rather cold in the rear turret. On top of everything else I used to wear a couple of blankets over my head and shoulders. Sometimes I used to take a bottle of good Scotch specimen and throw it out from the rear turret. I painted a bottle yellow one day so that I could see it better go all the way down on a daylight raid and would you believe it? It landed in the river. I was quite attached to an old cap I used to wear until the folks at home said, ‘For Pete’s sake why don’t you lose that old cap.’ So, I chucked that overboard as well.
[recording paused]
A bicycle was always handy at the airfield but at 115 they’d all been issued out so I carried on without one. Did quite a bit of walking. Then one day I noticed one outside the sergeant’s mess. It would be covered up at dinnertime and teatime by fifty or so more bicycles and then it would be left standing on its own again. So I kept my eye on it for a day or two and realised it must have belonged to someone who had got the chop so I claimed it and became the new owner.
[recording paused]
I’ve been asked what was it like over the target. Well, going in to a main German target was like walking through the gates of hell naked. We always felt naked once the bomb doors were opened. Searchlights everywhere and plenty of flak. Lots of smoke where the flak had been. I half expected them to burst back into life again when we flew near them. Sometimes we’d see a plane caught in the searchlights and being hammered by the flak. This was handy because we used to creep over the target unnoticed then. Bombs bursting on the ground everywhere. Huge fires. Now and then a huge explosion and smoke. Always smoke. Photoflashes turning night into day for a split second. The Pathfinder flares horrifyingly beautiful. Sometimes hanging in the sky for sky marking like chandeliers and falling to the ground like huge Christmas trees. Lying there till they were bombed out of existence and a fresh lot were dropped. Gorgeous colours they were. Especially the reds and greens. Sometimes we’d hear a master bomber, ‘Bomb the reds. Bomb the reds. Leave the greens.’ Whichever was the nearest to the aiming point. It was comforting to hear another voice. It made us all feel we weren’t alone. Our mouths were very dry after leaving the target area and had a nice cup of coffee out of the flask. Nearly as nice as the mug of coffee and rum we had when we got back.
[recording paused]
There seemed to have been more incidents on my second tour but I think the first one in Stirlings was the hardest. The most fearful. Probably doing some daylights on my second tour helped a bit. It’s a good job they weren’t vice versa. The other way around. I wouldn’t have fancied doing a tour on Stirlings after a tour on Lancs.
[recording paused]
I was waiting for a train at the local station to take me home on leave one day. We had six days leave every six weeks while on ops but I did enjoy them. I never knew which one would be my last. I got talking to another air gunner who happened to be waiting for transport to the squadron. He was a Scots lad. Nice chap. When I got back off leave I couldn’t see him about. He’d gone missing on his first op. The war was still being cruel.
[recording pause]
Remember this. The BBC news at 1 o’clock three or four times a week. “This is the BBC in London. Here is the news. In the early hours of this morning RAF Bomber Command launched a major raid on Berlin. Of the five hundred and eighty six aircraft which took part in the raid forty six are missing.” It must have been terrible for the wives and mothers and sweethearts of aircrew to hear that. Then waiting for a phone call or a letter which sometimes never came. We often lost a lot more bombers. The worst one of course was Nuremberg. Ninety three missing.
[recording paused]
On 90 Squadron one day we all had to report to the briefing room. An aircrew chap was telling his story of how his Stirling was shot down and he had to bale out. He managed to get back to England with the help of the Dutch and the French Resistance. One thing he said stuck in my mind. ‘If you have to bale out through the escape hatch don’t just fall out. You must jump out.’ He said, ‘A member of my crew baled out just before me. He just fell through the hatch and scattered his brains all over my flying boots.’
[recording paused]
I finished second on my air gunner’s course. Just a half a point behind another chap. They offered us both a commission but we turned it down. We were too young then to know what it was all about. But that was another stroke of luck. If I’d taken a commission I would probably have gone to a different squadron with a different crew and its practically certain I wouldn’t have survived.
[recording paused]
When I was at Benson Aerodrome just after I’d finished my second tour somebody in the mess said the station adjutant wanted to see me. When I went in to his office he said, ‘Warrant Officer Guyan, when I came around inspecting your hut this morning with the CO you were asleep in bed.’ I said, ‘That’s right. It was my day off.’ He said, ‘That makes no difference. On a CO’s inspection you are supposed to be dressed and standing by your bed.’ So for punishment he made me orderly officer twice a week for three months. Whenever anybody else had to do it for the first time they were told, ‘Go and see Jock. He’ll tell you all about it.’ A day or two later I was told the adjutant wanted to see me again. I thought what now? I went in to his office and he said, ‘Warrant Officer Guyan, I wish to inform you that you have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. You can wear the ribbon as from today.’ Back in the mess there was cheers all round until somebody said, ‘What about the money?’ I said, ‘What money?’ He said, ‘You’re supposed to get some money with the DFC. Didn’t the adj mention it?’ I said, ‘No.’ Anyway, I went down to see him again. He must have been sick of the sight of me by now. So, I asked him if there was any financial award with the DFC and he said, ‘Yes. Twenty pounds. But officers usually give it the RAF Benevolent Fund.’ So I said, ‘But I’m just a non-commissioned warrant officer and twenty pounds is more than six weeks pay.’ So he said, ‘Alright. I’ll see you get it at the next pay parade.’ When I did get it we had a nice party in the mess that weekend.
[recording paused]
All this might not have happened if my name had not been Guyan. I’m going back to my air gunner’s course. The big day had arrived, we were going to fly for the first time. We’d been issued with our flying gear weeks before and now at last we put it on ready to fly. Now we were kings of the air. We were going up in a Blenheim for twenty minutes or so to check that we could, that we wouldn’t be too sick. I never was. The instructor shouted, ‘Form up outside the hangar.’ And we all rushed out and started to queue. ‘Come on’ he said ‘Come on, sort yourselves out. Let’s have alphabetical order.’ Which we did. We enviously watched the first three get in the Blenheim. One was a chap called Anderson, I remember. We watched it speed along the runway and take off. Then it suddenly turned over and crashed. They were all killed. So, all the flying these three air gunners did was less than ten seconds. So, Guyan you say. Funny name. Now, Guyan, lovely name.
[recording paused]
I’ve often wondered why I stayed alive when so many other men, better men around me were killed. What have I done to justify it? I haven’t done much with my life. I’ve been good to my dear wife, Helen. My two smashing sons, Andrew, Rob. Will that be enough? I suppose one day I’ll know the answer.
[recording paused]
It’s probably true that if you gave a chap who flew during the war one hour to talk about his life he’d spend fifty minutes talking about his flying days. So, I’ll finish with a touch of the Len [Howards] I suppose and the help of Jimmy Shand.
[recording paused]
[singing] We fly, you and I, in the sky, laddies to fight for liberty. We’d fight day and night in the sky, laddies so that people would be safe and free. We hoped we’d come back over the sea, laddies. For some it was never meant to be. I sighed when they died in the sky, laddies but they still live in my memory. We hoped we’d come back o’er the sea, laddies. For some it was never meant to be. I cried when you died in the sky, laddies. You still live in my memories.

Collection

Citation

Samuel Guyan, “Samuel Guyan comments and memoirs,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 5, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/35487.

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