Interview with Colin Wood

Title

Interview with Colin Wood

Description

Colin Wood grew up in Sheffield and worked as a plumber until he volunteered for the RAF. He trained in Canada and flew operations as a navigator with 106 Squadron from RAF Metheringham. On arrival at the station his pilot and three others made their flight with an experienced crew but only the pilot returned. Colin and his crew were later posted to 83 Squadron Pathfinders.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-03-25

Contributor

Julie Williams

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

00:35:06 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AWoodC160325

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

GR: Right. This is Gary Rushbrooke for the International Bomber Command Centre. I’m with Warrant Officer Colin Wood, a navigator on 106 and 83 Squadrons and we’re at his home in Sheffield on Friday the 25th of March. Colin, I know we’re in Sheffield. Are you from Sheffield originally?
CW: Oh yes.
GR: Yeah. Born, born locally.
CW: Born and bred.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Brothers. Sisters.
CW: Yeah. Brother. He was in the air force. He was down as a pilot, to train as a pilot and then they were short of coppersmiths and they commandeered him to be a coppersmith. So, but he finished up on training as a pilot in South Africa. So he got something. By the time he’d done he’d more or less run out of time.
GR: Right. Yeah.
CW: Too late.
GR: Any other brothers or sisters or just that?
CW: No.
GR: And what did, what did your mum and dad do? Were they —
CW: They were, they worked in the steelworks. Well, not my mother [laughs]
GR: No. Yeah.
CW: And, yeah.
GR: So, yeah. So you went to school in Sheffield.
CW: Yes.
GR: And I think you were telling me earlier on before we switched the recorder on that when you decided to join the RAF or volunteered was it, was there five? Five members of your class.
CW: Yes. Yes. The local school. Sharrow Lane School. And we had the top boy in Sheffield. I should mention that.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And he became a pilot and unfortunately he was the only who was [pause] didn’t manage it.
GR: He didn’t get back. Did you decide, did you know all the, did you know each other?
CW: Oh yeah. Yeah.
GR: And had you all got together and said —
CW: No. No. Everybody was diff, everybody by themselves decided. Well, you was either the army or navy and I didn’t fancy. I used to play as a kid at being a wounded soldier. After the First World War.
GR: Right.
CW: And so I thought I don’t fancy that very much. I think if, if I happen to be lucky and a natural pilot I could take, I could take my turn as a natural pilot.
GR: Yeah.
CW: So I thought I’ll have a go at that. And that more or less decided that.
GR: Right. So what year would this be?
CW: Eh?
GR: When your class.
CW: When I, when I went to volunteer in the local Sheffield reception area it would be ’41.
GR: 19 yeah and —
CW: And then I went somewhere down south and met up again with some officers who quizzed me and all that. Then they gave me two shilling. Which was the king’s two shilling which in the First World War was one shilling.
GR: Was the king’s shilling. Yeah.
CW: And we got a rise to two shilling and, and then I was sent home then and I was [pause] they said they’d nowhere to train us. So that was it. I just had to wait ‘til, ‘til there was room to train us.
GR: Yeah. How long did you spend at home?
CW: I was, well probably six months while they found somewhere to train us.
GR: And what, what would you have been doing? Did you go back to school or —
CW: No. I went back to work.
GR: You went back, oh right. So we’ll backtrack. So when you said there’s five members of your class.
CW: Oh yes.
GR: They’d all left the class.
CW: Oh yeah.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
CW: It was just that we were all together and as it happened we all joined up separately.
GR: Yeah. So what work was you doing?
CW: Plumbing.
GR: Plumbing.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Oh so you weren’t in Sheffield’s steel industry like your dad.
CW: No. No.
GR: No.
CW: I didn’t fancy being inside like that. No.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Sooner be outside somewhere.
GR: Because what age would you have left school?
CW: Fourteen.
GR: Fourteen. And then gone into a plumbing apprenticeship or —
CW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Exactly.
GR: And then as war broke out would you have been eighteen to volunteer or — ?
CW: The call up age when I was eighteen was nineteen. So at nineteen I would have been called up anyway.
GR: Yes.
CW: So I was eighteen and I knew I could take my pick and and choice. So that’s why I volunteered. Well, other things. But I decided to. To join up. Yeah.
GR: So at eighteen you could volunteer.
CW: Yes.
GR: And if you’d have said, and if this is just something just to clarify actually for a lot of people. So at eighteen obviously the Royal Air Force and I think the Submarine Service were voluntary.
CW: Yeah. Yeah.
GR: So, at the age of eighteen you could have volunteered for any of them two. Plus —
CW: Yeah.
GR: The army.
CW: Yeah.
GR: So if you wanted to go into the army at eighteen you could have said, ‘I want to go,’ and if you hadn’t have volunteered at the age of eighteen when you got to nineteen, on your nineteenth birthday you would have been called up. Is that right?
CW: No. Because the air force at the time said you belong to us.
GR: Yeah.
CW: You can’t go in the Merchant Navy.
GR: No. What I mean is if you hadn’t have volunteered.
CW: Yeah.
GR: For the RAF.
CW: Oh, I’d have been —
GR: So if you’d have done nothing.
CW: Yeah. Yeah.
GR: At the age of nineteen.
CW: I’d have been called up.
GR: Conscription.
CW: Yeah.
GR: In World War Two.
CW: Yeah.
GR: And you would have been said, right.
CW: Yeah.
GR: You’re off to the army. You’re off to the navy. Or whatever.
CW: Exactly. Yeah.
GR: I’ve got it. Yeah. So, volunteered for the Royal Air Force.
CW: Yeah.
GR: But then you waited six months. Went back and did some work.
CW: Yeah.
GR: And then what happened? What was, what —?
CW: Well –
GR: When you were finally called up for training.
CW: Yes. I was sent to, with a railway warrant to Lord’s Cricket Ground where I think the others, everybody went there.
GR: That’s right.
CW: To London.
GR: Yes. Yeah.
CW: Yeah. And lived in a big posh house there.
GR: Very nice. Wouldn’t do that these days would we down there?
CW: No.
GR: And I think, was it like two weeks of square bashing and something or —
CW: We were there about a month.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And then I went to south coast. ITW.
GR: Yeah.
CW: I remember it now.
GR: Yeah. Training centre. And did you know at the time where you was going to be doing your training?
CW: No. No. No. I didn’t know what I was going to be. There were like four or five trades.
GR: Yeah.
CW: That, we were never in any way directed to one or the other. We all did the same training at ITW.
GR: Right. Yeah. Initial. Yeah. Initial training.
CW: Yeah.
GR: What, what did you want to be? Had you got — pilot?
CW: Yes.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: So after ITW did they then come to you and say —
CW: No. They estimated what kind of — I did fly a plane after I’d done ITW. I went to learn to fly a plane.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Which was a Tiger Moth. Which was the only way to travel really. It’s wonderful.
GR: I bet.
CW: And loop the loop and falling leaf and all that. It was lovely. And, you know at that age.
GR: Yeah.
CW: To just do that. And anyway after, they assessed us I suppose at that time. What I was like handling a plane and taking off and landing.
GR: Yeah.
CW: I suppose they put a mark down to what I was doing. How I was doing. And then I went back just [pause] I forget, I went to a holding unit in Manchester. A park there. Heaton Park.
GR: Heaton Park. Yeah.
CW: And I stayed there. Then I was sent to another place near Birmingham and playing at football and somebody broke my leg [laughs] So that put me in hospital for a while. And then, but then I got three weeks sick leave which was the usual and then, and then I still had to hang about until, until I was sent off to Canada. I went back to Heaton Park and from Heaton Park, Liverpool.
GR: Yeah.
CW: In the world’s worst boat. French ship called the Louis Pasteur, which pitched and tossed and never went flat.
GR: Oh dear.
CW: And everybody on board, including the captain I think, was sick.
GR: How did you feel about the fact that you would be doing your training in Canada?
CW: Well. We didn’t get to Canada because they’d got some, not a disease but some ailment in the camp we should have gone to so that, so the Americans in three or four days we got time arranged for us to go to one of their camps in Massachusetts. So we landed at New York and then disembarked from the Louis Pasteur, went across the river in a, in a ferry for some reason to get ready to go to north of, in America.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And somebody started singing there, “On Ilkley Moor bar t’at,” and everybody joined in. They were Welsh and Irish.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And everything. So I don’t know what Americans thought when they heard all the Yorkshire language being spoke. So then we went to near Massachusetts. Camp Myles Standish, who was a famous, was he an Indian fighter or something?
GR: Don’t know.
CW: Yeah.
GR: I don’t know.
CW: Yeah. And they called this camp after him.
GR: After him. Yeah.
CW: And so we spent three or four weeks there. And then we moved then onto the place we should have gone to in Canada. I can’t, I can’t remember where it was now.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And then I went out to Rivers. Canadian Number 1 Navigation School. Just about a hundred mile west of Winnipeg.
GR: Yeah. I’m just looking in Colin’s logbook and it’s number, yeah Number 1 Canadian Navigation School, Rivers, Manitoba. And I think your first flight there was on July the 8th 1943.
CW: Was it?
GR: Yeah. Duty — first navigator. Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: So obviously you settled in Canada and from what I’ve spoke to other gentleman obviously training in Canada with no food shortages and —
CW: Exactly. Yeah.
GR: Was good.
CW: Yes. Good.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: How long did training last?
CW: Five months.
GR: Yeah.
CW: So —
GR: As, as, yeah navigation.
CW: I must say the last day was the best of all because some wise guy said while we’re going to be here five months. Every month payday, every payday we should all put money in a kitty and have a big booze up when it, when it’s all over and have a big meal.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Which we did.
GR: Well, I presume there was no shortages.
CW: No.
GR: No. No.
CW: No.
GR: So freshly qualified as a navigator when did you actually return to the UK?
CW: I’ll tell you when. It was, the middle day was the 28th of November across the, seven days across the Atlantic because it was my twenty first birthday [laughs]
GR: I see.
CW: And I was in this hammock.
GR: So you spent, spent your twenty first birthday.
CW: Yeah. In —
GR: On the North Atlantic
CW: Exactly. In the middle of the Atlantic. Hoping there were no submarines about.
GR: What ship were you on? Do you remember the ship coming back?
CW: Yeah. The Mauritania.
GR: Oh. The Mauritania.
CW: Yeah. Beautiful.
GR: Famous ship. Yes. Yeah.
CW: Yeah. Nobody sick there.
GR: No.
CW: Beautiful. Yeah.
GR: Because I think at one time that held a record for crossing the Atlantic. It was quite a fast ship wasn’t it?
CW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Big ship.
CW: Yes.
GR: Yeah. So I was going to say. So back to England and I’m just looking in your logbook and around February 1944 you were in Scotland.
CW: Yes.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah. Near Stranraer.
GR: Yeah.
CW: I forget what —
GR: Yeah.
CW: I don’t know what you called it now.
GR: Can’t pronounce it to be honest. West Freugh.
CW: West Freugh. Freugh.
GR: West Freugh.
CW: West Freugh.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: So this was for further training.
CW: Yes.
GR: Yeah.
CW: We were flying still on [pause] bloody hell I’ve forgotten was what plane it was.
GR: Ansons.
CW: Ansons. That’s right. Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: You hadn’t crewed up by then had you?
CW: No.
GR: This was all.
CW: No. No.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
CW: No. No.
GR: Just further training. And progressing into April you were then at 29 OTU.
CW: Yeah. I’m not sure where that was. Oh. Bitteswell.
GR: Bitteswell.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
CW: And there were about four. Four different places. Why they didn’t do it there. We kept moving on to other places.
GR: Yes.
CW: But there we are.
GR: And with a regular crew by then or —
CW: No.
GR: No. You were still —
CW: No. No. We, we’d never seen anybody who wasn’t training as a navigator at that time.
GR: Right.
CW: And then eventually we were taken in to a big hangar. Which happened to everybody. And they said they were, I don’t remember the number now but same number of pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, rear gunners, wireless ops.
GR: And just told you to get on with it.
CW: And they said, ‘When you come out you’ll all be in a crew.’
GR: Tell me a bit about that then.
CW: Well, I don’t know. I finished up with an Australian pilot. A super, super guy.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Well they all were actually.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Aussies. I liked them.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And yes. And we picked up as I say a wireless op.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And rear gunner.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And bomb aimer.
GR: Bomb aimer. Mid-upper.
CW: He was a Scot.
GR: Yeah. Can you remember all the nationalities then? How many Australians were there? Just the pilot or —
CW: Just the pilot. Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah. Yes. He was a super bloke really.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: And that was, was that Flying Officer Anderson?
CW: Well, he was sergeant. A flight sergeant then.
GR: Flight sergeant then.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Yes. So crewed up.
CW: Yeah.
GR: What happened next?
CW: And then we went training. Still training.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Still training. Can’t remember where we went to really.
GR: Would it have been Heavy Conversion Unit?
CW: Yeah.
GR: To convert on to the four-engine bombers. Syerston.
CW: No. I think we went somewhere before that.
GR: Yeah.
CW: That was to go on to Stirlings.
GR: Winthorpe.
CW: Winthorpe was still training on —
GR: Yeah.
CW: Ansons I think.
GR: Yeah. Just checking the logbook.
CW: Oh Halifax.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Halifaxes.
GR: Stirlings.
CW: Oh. Was it?
GR: Yeah.
CW: But first was Halifaxes.
GR: Right.
CW: Which were still twin-engine for the pilot so he didn’t need the other two crew members.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
CW: The flight engineer. He didn’t really need him because he was quite used to two engines anyway.
GR: Yeah.
CW: But when he stepped up to the next.
GR: That.
CW: Four engine.
GR: Yeah.
CW: He needed help to look after feeding in of petrol.
GR: And obviously that’s what Winthorpe would have been.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Because you were on Stirlings by then.
CW: Yes. That’s right. Yeah.
GR: And Flight Sergeant Anderson was a pilot officer by then.
CW: Yes. Yeah. He stepped up. Yeah. Deserved it. Yeah.
GR: And then obviously after, yeah Heavy Conversion Unit, you did I think it’s about a week at 5 LFS at Syerston.
CW: Oh.
GR: Just a week there. On Lancasters.
CW: Oh yeah.
GR: At Number 5 Lancaster Finishing School.
CW: That’s right.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: When did you find out which operational base you would go to? How did that come about?
CW: They just said, ‘You’re going to 106 at Metheringham.’
GR: Yeah. So —
CW: And we went and there were two other crews landed at about the same day I think.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And we were all put in the same Nissen hut.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And we wondered, I wondered how we were all going to go on. If we were going to be as lucky as them or what. And then both, all three pilots made a flight with an experienced crew.
GR: Yes.
CW: And one of them, one of the other two pilots did not come back. So then we expected a new pilot to arrive to take over this old crew but they didn’t. They just took them and the disappeared. Took them off the station altogether.
GR: Right.
CW: Which, it was a bit surprising but I suppose that’s how they did it.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And then we thought well who’d be first because our pilot was Albert Andrew Anderson and duly first on anything but he wasn’t.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And this other crew went and they never came back.
GR: So they went on the first operation.
CW: Yes.
GR: And didn’t come back.
CW: Yeah. The pilot came back from his original flight.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And he took his own crew and then we never heard again.
GR: So, of the three crews that landed.
CW: Yeah before a month was out we were —
GR: Just you.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Just you. Ok. And I am looking at your logbook again. You, you did your first training flight at Metheringham on the 12th of September and within two weeks you were flying on your first operation.
CW: Well, I’ve not really looked into that.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. I’m just looking at the logbook again.
CW: Oh. Ok.
GR: 12th of September.
CW: Yeah.
GR: You’d arrived at Metheringham. Well, less than two weeks. The 23rd of September.
CW: Yeah.
GR: You were off to the Dortmund Ems Canal.
CW: Yeah.
GR: So what was the first operation like if you don’t mind me asking? You know, you’d done your training.
CW: Yes. Well we knew what we were in for because we’d experienced what had happened to others.
GR: Yeah.
CW: So we just hoped and prayed. Yeah.
GR: Because as a navigator did you go to a pre-op meeting?
CW: No.
GR: You didn’t have to plan the route out or anything like that?
CW: No.
GR: No.
CW: No.
GR: Right.
CW: No. I think everyone was, it’s wherever in Bomber Command I think the same happened. A briefing.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And a big screen across the, a big atlas or a map.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Or a chart probably. And a red line zigzagging across. Zigzagged because they didn’t want Germans to dead reckon ahead on our first track and say oh they must be going in that direction.
GR: Sounds like it. Yeah.
CW: So we dodged.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Dodged different. It made a bit more hard work.
GR: Yeah.
CW: But not much.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And so that’s how we set off on each flight.
GR: Yeah. And what was the first one like? You said, yeah you just prayed and hoped.
CW: Well.
GR: And did it go off alright at the Dortmund Ems because obviously the Dortmund ems canal over the years was a well-known target.
CW: Well I went five times in all. So, yeah but but I don’t think we ever did any damage to be honest. It was such a massive.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Thing. And I think 617 Squadron eventually dropped one of theirs.
GR: Big Tallboy.
CW: Yes
GR: Grand Slam
CW: Yeah.
GR: Bombs.
CW: Down. Just where it wanted to be. Right alongside it.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Which uprooted everything. Which was a big route for everything made in the Ruhr to get to the north coast.
GR: Yeah.
CW: To go on this canal.
GR: On the canal. Yeah.
CW: So if we could knock it out then they would be sending things by road.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And rail. Which took longer and cost more.
GR: I think Bomber Command first started bombing the Dortmund Ems Canal in 1940.
CW: Yeah. Well, there wasn’t, that meant they weren’t able to damage.
GR: No.
CW: That concrete was such that, you know, one bomb.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Just wouldn’t matter.
GR: And then you’d done within four days you’d done two more ops to Karlsruhe and Kaiserslautern.
CW: Yeah.
GR: And then —
CW: Yeah.
GR: Running into October 1944 I notice you went to the submarine pens at Bergen.
CW: Yeah. In Norway. Yes.
GR: Yeah.
CW: To try and help the navy really.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Damage the submarines if possible.
GR: Yeah. And I think again that was another one that 617 with their big bombs —
CW: Yeah.
GR: Went to —
CW: Were able to do.
GR: After you. Yeah. So how did the operations go? Oh yeah. I’m just looking again. Dortmund Ems. Dortmund Ems.
CW: Yeah. Well, actually apart from being there it was quite a good one for, for us because it was a short one.
GR: Yeah.
CW: It was just, only just the other side of Holland.
GR: Yes.
CW: And so you weren’t shattered or anything.
GR: Yeah.
CW: By a long distance or anything.
GR: Yeah. Yes. Because I’m looking again in the logbook and the Dortmund Ems Canal Roundtrip was four hours fifteen minutes.
CW: Yeah. That’s pretty good.
GR: Unlike on the 22nd of November you went to Trondheim and you were in the air eleven hours twenty five minutes.
CW: Yeah. Trondheim. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. So —
CW: Well that’s, on saying that well I think that I told you that the Met men got the wind velocity wrong. Totally wrong. It turned out to be, on my first check after ten minutes when you take a radar fix you could work out a wind velocity which to me, it was to me a hundred mile an hour and I think they had forecast twenty or twenty five or something like that. And we were a bit, a little bit worried and we then realised our wireless operator got a message saying the time to be there had been brought forward because they’d heard, someone must have phoned, called them up. Breaking radio silence really which I’d never heard of and to tell them that we were going to be there maybe an hour too soon. With the wind velocity being so high and we were not accounting for it. We were thinking we were going to be in twenty mile an hour.
GR: And you were in —
CW: And we were in a hundred so, so they brought it forward so it didn’t make any difference of getting there.
GR: So in theory, I don’t know, the cruising speed of a Lancaster.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Normally two hundred miles an hour.
CW: I think somebody went wrong totally because the main bomb aimer eventually you couldn’t mark the target. The Germans set up smoke flares.
GR: Yes.
CW: And, and I think that when they tried to mark the target the wind was so much that these were carried away and they were never left long enough on the ground to be able to say come in and bomb.
GR: Yeah.
CW: So they said, ‘Sorry,’ but he said, ‘Sorry boys, just return to base. Return to base.’
GR: Right.
CW: So on the way back we, we were travelling at eighty mile an hour instead of our usual one eighty because of the head wind.
GR: Yeah. So you got, you got to the target quickly but it took a long time to get back home.
CW: Exactly. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. So —
CW: Yeah. But we went, we were then because I think petrol was going very low and we were detailed to go to Lossiemouth.
GR: Right. Diverted on the way back.
CW: Yes.
GR: Yeah. Yeah. I’m just checking again. Yeah. So moving on into early, early 1945 you were called up for Pathfinder duty.
CW: Yeah.
GR: How did that come about if you don’t mind asking?
CW: I think we got lucky.
GR: You got lucky. Taken off operations.
CW: No. I mean, no, I mean we got lucky by getting to the targets on time which was vital really.
GR: Yeah.
CW: So to start with the bomber when dropping bombs we got I think a three or four minute allowance but Pathfinders was one minute.
GR: Yeah.
CW: So you’d sort of got to work a bit harder to get there.
GR: Yeah.
CW: On time.
GR: So, I know they did a bit of extra training didn’t they?
CW: Yes.
GR: Which you had. Yeah.
CW: We went to [pause] I forget.
GR: Yeah. And it doesn’t make a note. Oh Coningsby. 83 Squadron, Pathfinder Force, Coningsby.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. So a couple of months and then you were back on operations and it looks as though you went to Leipzig on your first Pathfinder trip.
CW: Oh.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: So did you find the two squadrons different or, I mean I presume you’ve still got the same crew.
CW: Oh yeah.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
CW: Same crew. Yeah.
GR: So just flying the same plane.
CW: Yeah.
GR: But from a different base.
CW: Yeah. Just —
GR: Yeah.
CW: Different base. Well, we linked with 97 Squadron. So we were like one squadron really I think.
GR: Yeah.
CW: We both went into the briefing. Both squadrons. And however many, however many planes that were sent.
GR: Yeah.
CW: So we were like one big squadron but but no we weren’t.
GR: Yeah.
CW: We were two separate squadrons but we worked as one.
GR: As a — yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Any extra pressure being the Pathfinder navigator?
CW: No. I just did —
GR: Because the Pathfinders, I presume the Pathfinders went in first to mark.
CW: Yeah.
GR: The target.
CW: No.
GR: Then bomb.
CW: We dropped flares —
GR: Yeah.
CW: That hung in the sky whilst Mosquitoes guys who didn’t have as much radar didn’t, I don’t think they had any radar so they weren’t sure to get there because they didn’t have room for radar I think. And so if they saw our flares going down they could be, they could easily get within like ten mile of the target. So they’d soon see the flares and they could be on the job straight away and marking out for the main force coming probably nine minutes later.
GR: Yeah. That’s good. And then that’s going towards the end of the war. Where were you? Where were you when the war finished?
CW: Still at Coningsby.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: And I think you’d flown your last operation on the, or your last bombing operation on the 18th of April.
CW: Was it?
GR: Yeah.
CW: Oh.
GR: Yeah. So and then in May you did a couple of prisoner of war pickups. Operation Exodus.
CW: Yes. Yeah. We were glad to be able to do that.
GR: Yeah. A lot of crews have said that.
CW: It was the first time they said you can’t take your parachutes with you. Not that we were bothered about that.
GR: Yeah.
CW: But no parachutes for them. Prisoners of war just released. Probably I think there were sixteen came in and sat just down the fuselage. Anywhere they could really.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
CW: And then the pilot would ask them up and we were like over the sea, or the North Sea or whatever and just had a look.
GR: Yeah.
CW: What it was like. And then they would just sit down there. Back in the fuselage.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And we’d land them at some place.
GR: Dunsford.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Dunsford. Yeah.
CW: And —
GR: My father in law who’d been a prisoner of war for five years. He flew back on a Lancaster.
CW: Oh.
GR: It could have been you.
CW: It well could have been. Aye. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. He’d been captured at Dunkirk. And flew back.
CW: Oh blimey. That was early enough wasn’t it?
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
CW: To be captured.
GR: So, and then the last entry in the logbook in May which is absolutely fantastic. 31st of May. A tour of German cities.
CW: Yeah. We took a guy with a camera.
GR: Right.
CW: And he took photographs and he gave us some. One or two each.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And they were [pause] oh it was just shocking to look down really and thought we’d done all that.
GR: Yes. Because obviously I’m looking and it was obviously in daylight. Yeah.
CW: Yeah.
GR: So no. Proof of, proof of what Bomber Command did and the success of Bomber Command.
CW: Yes.
GR: And so —
CW: Yeah.
GR: So, how else did, how long did you stay in the RAF for Colin?
CW: I think it were about five years in all.
GR: Oh yeah. So you weren’t —
CW: I didn’t stay on. No.
GR: Well, most of them, most people would have come out 1946 but if you stayed a bit longer. I’m looking. So [pause] so demobbed. Back home to Sheffield.
CW: That’s right.
GR: And what did you do with the rest of your life?
CW: Well, I can, I can put it on camera now that one of the flights in there.
GR: Yeah.
CW: Was a cross country flight and my wife and I had got married. I was only twenty one and we got married and she came to Coningsby. She went to the cobblers and he put her up to sleep in his house and his shop, and then one day I said, ‘Well I shan’t be seeing you tonight because we’ve got this flight on.’ And she said, ‘Well, why can’t I come? [laughs] I said, ‘Not really.’ But anyway, she did. So we smuggled.
GR: You smuggled your wife on to a Lancaster.
CW: Yeah. And then she, and then we took off. Yeah. And then she said, Andy, said to her, the pilot said when we were coming back when the exercise was over kind of, he said, ‘What, was it, what did you think? Was it —’ She said, ‘Well it wasn’t very exciting was it?’ So he said to the gunner, he said, ‘Give me a corkscrew.’ Which he did. And she just went aaaahhh. So I switched the microphone on and they all heard her.
GR: Yeah.
CW: And then when we came back and we got in the van to come back and there was one, well what can I say? A typical, ‘Hello there, how are you and all that darling,’ and he saw her get in the van, and he said ‘Oh. And where have you come from?’ So she said, ‘Oh I’ve been flying.’ He said, ‘Oh jolly good show. Jolly good show.’ He really thought, yeah.
GR: Yeah.
CW: So —
GR: So you were demobbed from the RAF. You and your wife back to Sheffield.
CW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Did you go back to plumbing or —
CW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. And that was the end of the wartime experiences.
CW: Yeah. That’s the war. Yeah.
GR: Ok. Thank you. Thank you Colin.
CW: Ok.

Collection

Citation

Gary Rushbrooke, “Interview with Colin Wood,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 29, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/3632.

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