Interview with Roy Berrill


Interview with Roy Berrill


Roy was born in Northampton and was evacuated from Becontree in London to Weston-super-Mare. He gained his degree from Queen Mary College, London, which was evacuated to Cambridge.

After the Air Training Corps, Roy was called up to be a meteorological officer. Roy trained in Kilburn, and went as a forecaster to RAF Warboys in Cambridge before RAF Wyton and then RAF North Creake.

Roy recounts the death of Canadian “Tiny” Thurlow, brought down by friendly fire in Northern France. There were three meteorological officers at RAF North Creake, working shifts. The information recorded was sent to the regional meteorological office whose forecast could not be amended. He attended the aircrew briefing and de-briefing sessions. The 100 Group dropped Window radar countermeasure. Its aircraft were prone to icing.

Roy contrasts weather forecasting then and now, particularly with reference to the jet stream. He talks about weather balloons and the readings they took. RAF Docking sent up Hurricanes or Spitfires, fitted with new equipment, to take readings.

In 1945 Roy set sail from Tilbury on RMS Strathaird to Bombay, Singapore (RAF Seletar) and then spent nearly two years for the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces at RAF Iwakuni in Japan, passing through Hiroshima. A Japanese man committed Hari-kari and there were three arson attempts by the Japanese.

On his return, Roy was promoted to flight lieutenant. After discharge, Roy taught mathematics, and subsequently became a school inspector and senior further education adviser.




Temporal Coverage




00:53:53 Audio Recording


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ABerrillR220223, PBerrillR2022023


DE: Just check it’s recording. So, this is an interview with Roy Berrill for the IBCC Digital Archive. I’m Dan Ellin. It is the 21st of February 2022 and we’re in Easingwold in Yorkshire. I’ll put that there.
RB: Well, actually it’s the twenty, yeah the 23rd.
DE: Yes.
RB: Right. Are you alright there?
DE: Yeah. I’m just, I’m just, I want to just check that this is recording.
RB: Yes. Ok.
DE: So, Roy could you first of all tell me a little bit about your early life and I believe you were evacuated.
RB: Yes. I was born in Northampton and I stayed in Northampton until I was, I think it was twelve or thirteen when we moved. Had to move to London for various reasons and at which time I lived in Becontree and went to school in Barking Abbey Grammar School which was, wasn’t a mixed school. It was a school where the boys and girls were separated. Now, is that ok?
DE: Yeah. That’s fine.
RB: Is it working alright?
DE: It’s going fine. Yeah.
RB: Righto. My homelife was rather restrictive. My mother came from a strict Baptist family so I was really, well we were all very restricted as children but I was particularly restricted because I was a relatively weak child. I was always fainting and this sort of thing and I was no good at sports so there we are. But when I moved, when we moved to Becontree in Essex as I say I went to Barking Abbey School, Grammar School there and on the 1st of September 1939 I became an evacuee. I left home with my gas mask and a few changes of clothes and we went to school and then we were told at 10 o’clock in the morning we had to walk to Rainham Underground Station where we travelled right across London to Ealing Broadway where we caught a steam train which went to Bristol. We got to Bristol about the middle of the day. We had no food or nothing to drink and we still stuck out just outside Bristol Station not knowing what was happening. Eventually the train went on to Weston-Super-Mare and for the next three years I was an evacuee in Weston-Super-Mare where I lived in six different places as an evacuee. I took my, the equivalent of O Levels or what was then called School Certificate and I passed every subject including Latin but I failed at one subject and that was woodwork. I then stayed on at school to take my Higher School Certificate but the snag was that during that time the school was bombed and so the part of the school which we were sharing with the local people from Weston-Super-Mare half of the school got burned down. And there was another school then dumped on the same school so there were three schools in the same building and the night when they, the school, that part of the school got burned down I was supposed to be taking my Higher School Cert and we hadn’t got any exam papers. So they had to collect all the exam papers from the other school which was from London and then sit the exam. I seem to have passed that subject [laughs] and then at the suggestion of one of my brothers I applied to go to Queen Mary College, London which is now Queen Mary University I understand. I never set foot, I have still never set foot in Queen Mary College yet [laughs] But the college was actually evacuated to Cambridge where I was allowed two years to do a three year general degree and at the same time I had to do two afternoons a week with the other Cadet Force to train to be an officer. After one year I decided I didn’t like the Army so I transferred to the ATC, Air Training Corps and that’s how I got into the Air Force. While we were at university as I say we had to do these two afternoons a week and we also had to do fire watching and I spent the odd night on the top of King’s College, Cambridge actually looking for fires. It was a platform with no handrail of any kind right on the apex of King’s College Chapel. So that was an experience. However, I seemed to have passed my degree by the skin of my teeth and I had no sooner finished my exams than the Air Force called me up to see what I was going to do. And I said I wanted to be a Met officer because I was very interested in Met work at the time and they said, ‘Oh, that’s just what we want. Some more Met officers.’ So they allowed me to go and train as a Met officer at Kilburn in London. I did my training there and having completed the training and passed I was then sent to Warboys in Cambridgeshire as a forecaster to see how it was done and what happened. So I had a few weeks at Warboys and then I was moved to the next station at Wyton where I dropped a major clanger at the time. The point being I was supposed to be doing the observations for one night while I let the assistant go and have a bit of a snooze and I didn’t know anything about how you worked out visibility at night in the blackout and thick fog so I assumed that it was still foggy. I got a telephone call later on. He said, ‘Why are you the only station in the area that’s got fog? All the other stations around you are as clear as can be.’ Well, I couldn’t talk myself out of that one because I didn’t know how to do visibility at night. So there we are. But eventually I got transferred to North Creake and I’ve written a piece of paper which tells you about my, what happened at North Creake.
DE: Yeah.
RB: Do you wish me to read that out or —
DE: No. That’s, that’s fine if I can take a copy of that that will be good.
RB: Yeah. That’s your copy.
DE: Yeah. So, so how do you tell the visibility at night?
RB: You have to go outside and let your eyes adjust and you have to be sure you know where things are and you look in that direction. And very gradually your eyes do adjust to the dark and you can just make out what is going on. But it’s a very hit and miss sort of process.
DE: So you look for landmarks that you know are a certain distance away.
RB: That’s right. Yes. Yes.
DE: Right.
RB: So I got to North Creake and a very interesting time while I was there. And one of the interesting things as far as I was concerned was I flew one morning on an air test with a, in a Stirling bomber and the pilot took me up just to have a look around while he was doing his air test and we came back down. And that night he went out with his crew and he was killed over North France by friendly fire. The Americans. His name was Tiny Thurlow. He was a Canadian and he was six foot odd and that’s why he was called Tiny. A nice chap. All his crew from his aircraft managed to get out. He told them to get out but before he [emphasis] could get out the plane blew up. So there we are. One or two other little stories which are of interest to me at least was after VE Day there was a tannoy over North Creake that said, ‘Is there anybody here who can speak German?’ And one chap said, ‘Yes. I can speak German.’ ‘Oh. How well can you speak German?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I have a First Class Honours degree from Cambridge in German.’ ‘Oh, you’re just the sort of chap that we want. What are you doing here?’ He said, ‘I have to paint the edges of the coals around the station to stop people tripping over it at night.’ I thought that was an excellent example [laughs] of how to use manpower. The other little thing is that is not recorded on that sheet is there’s, in a photograph there is a what looks like a long sort of covered affair and that is where we used to store the gas to blow up balloons. We had balloons which were supposed to ascend at a certain rate and you fuelled it up to a particular size which was measured with a piece of wire and you released it and it’s supposed to go up at a certain rate and you timed it and there was, you know. Thereby you could tell where the base of the cloud was. So that’s my basic experience of, of North Creake and subsequently after VE Day and VJ Day I eventually got a, this is after the war of course I got posted to [pause] Tilbury and they sent me up to Lancashire to get kitted out for the Far East. I went back to Tilbury, caught the ship, the Strathaird which set sail and we were told we were going to India. We got as far as Gibraltar, dropped the anchor and literally dropped the anchor down a pothole. So we lost an anchor and the ship can’t go through Suez Canal with one anchor. It has to have two. So we waited a week in Gibraltar for a second anchor to be brought out. Eventually we went through Suez Canal and while in the Red Sea I had Vaccine Fever which wasn’t very good in that temperature. And we got to Bombay and when we got to Bombay they said to me, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve been sent here.’ ‘Oh, well we’ve got nothing for you to do here. You’d better go to Singapore.’ I said, ‘Well, how do I do that?’ ‘Oh, your ship is being diverted to Singapore.’ ‘Oh, righto.’ But they filled, there were about twelve of us on a ship with only twelve officers on. It was a forty thousand tonne ship and you think what happened to the rest of the ship. ‘Oh, we’re taking people to return home to Singapore.’ So we were filled up with Malays and Indians and goodness knows what. And within a matter of minutes the decks were red where they were spitting all their stuff having chewed betel nuts and what have you and, but as soon as we got out of Bombay it happened to be monsoon season so the ship started to pitch and roll and that sent all these, these people returning to Singapore below. We never saw them again. And I got to Singapore and they said, ‘Who the hell are you? Where have you come from and what are you doing here?’ And I said, I told them and I said I’d been sent here and they said, ‘Oh, well we’d better find something for you to do.’ So they said, ‘Oh, we’ll send you on to Japan.’ ‘Oh, thank you very much. How do I get there?’ ‘Oh, you’ll have to wait for a ship to come in.’ I said, ‘Well, when is that going to be?’ ‘We’ve no idea.’ So they said, ‘’Well, and while you’re here you might as well, we might as well make use of you. You’d better go to Seletar.’ Which is on the north side of Singapore Island and it was basically a Flying Boat base. Well, A, I knew nothing about the weather in Singapore so I didn’t know much about forecasting and I knew nothing about Flying Boats either. Anyway, one day I decided when I was off duty I would go back in to Singapore and down to the docks. Having got to the docks I saw a ship there and a bloke standing on the gang plank swaying, so I said to him, ‘Hello. Are you a British ship?’ He said, ‘Of course we are.’ I said, ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Japan.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s what I need.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘If you want to get on you’d better go and get your stuff pretty quickly. We’re going this evening.’ So I dashed back to Seletar, collected all my gear which was at the laundry so wet or not I packed it all in and dashed back to the ship and got on it. Told nobody.
DE: Oh.
RB: Nobody cared. Nobody seemed to know. I got on this ship and we went, we got, we went to Japan via Hong Kong and we got to Kure and we were then taken by train to our station which was a place called Iwakuni. But you had to go through Hiroshima and I got to Hiroshima one year exactly after the atomic bomb. We then went on to where I was stationed at Iwakuni and I was there for just short of two years during which time we had, we had [pause] we were called the British Commonwealth Occupation err Occupying Forces. And on the station where I was were English, well British really and New Zealanders, Kiwis and flying mostly Dakotas and things of that kind. There was, there were two other British stations. One further down the line, one for Australians and then one on the north side of the island which was for Indian Air Force. While we were there I met Lord Tedder who came and he was going to the trials in Tokyo. Also while I was there there was a Japanese being taken to Tokyo to give his record of what happened and he was to be prosecuted. Well, the forecasting place where I was based was next door to a kitchen which was to provide food for people passing through and this chappie had a few minutes left to himself so he picked up a butcher’s knife and committed Hara-kiri actually in that kitchen. So he never got to Tokyo. Later on because all buildings were wooden we had an arson attack and the whole of the officer’s mess got burned to the ground and we lost two people there. I managed to get out in the smoke and we then had to be rehoused in another building which was really basically for the erks as it were. We hadn’t got any clothing and so we went to the stores and they said, ‘Well, here you are. Here’s some shirts for you and some trousers.’ We put the shirts on and they came down to our waist. They were intended for the WAAFs [laughs] So we eventually got kitted out and as I say we were stuck there for the rest of the time. And eventually one of the chaps who was a forecaster at North Creake. He happened to be at the same place Iwakuni so I knew him. He wasn’t a very nice chap but never mind. He went. He was demobbed, sent home and the other forecaster he was sent home. So there was a period for me when they did get another forecaster out when there were only two of us so it was twenty four hours on and twenty four hours off which was a bit of a trial but never mind. I found all sorts of things to do and I met up with a New Zealander who said, ‘You should come and live in New Zealand.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to come and live in New Zealand at the moment. I want to go home and get married to my [laughs] my fiancé,’ who I’d met in Cambridge. And then on one occasion as I say Lord Tedder came. Lord Tedder went on to Tokyo by train and his aircraft was going back to the UK so I got a hitch in Lord Tedder’s Dakota down to Hong Kong and had two or three days in Hong Kong which was an interesting exercise. But of course, how the hell did I get back? ‘Oh, well there’s a Flying Boat going back up to Iwakuni’ So I jumped aboard that. A huge Sunderland aircraft which I got in. I was the only passenger. So it was a very pleasant ride.
DE: Yeah.
RB: And as I say we, all our stuff came via Sunderlands from the UK eventually. While we were there for the first about six months all our food was tinned and then suddenly one day we got an aircraft that came up from New Zealand bringing fresh celery and we went absolutely berserk eating celery which was a wonderful change. However, as I say eventually of course I was demobbed but before I was demobbed they said, ‘Well, you’ve been in the Air Force a fair while. We think you might have promotion. But before you have promotion what else do you do besides weather forecasting?’ Well, as it happened I was interested in teaching other people who were illiterate and I didn’t know anything about illiteracy at the time so I started to teach them about numeracy. So they accepted that as a good reason to get promotion. So I was actually promoted to flight lieutenant when I came home. When I got on board ship to come back I was made troops catering officer. Of course, I knew such a lot about catering [laughs] Anyway, that was my job while I was on board ship. But the ship on the way back was constantly being diverted to places they hadn’t intended to go. For example, having got to Singapore we were supposed to come on home but we got diverted to Colombo first, then to Aden, then to a place called [Misawa] and some other funny place. Port something or other. Then through the Suez Canal and having got through the Suez Canal it was Christmas so as an officer I had to serve the troops with their chicken for Christmas dinner [laughs] Then we got diverted again to Algiers and eventually after, I think it was well over nine weeks I arrived home. I got, got got to the UK on the 5th of January and got married on the 10th of January.
DE: Oh wow.
RB: And I think that’s more or less my story.
DE: Yeah.
RB: For the time being.
DE: Yeah.
RB: Is that enough?
DE: That’s, that’s a brilliant start. I’d love to go back and ask you a couple more questions if that’s all right.
RB: By all means.
DE: Do you want to have a, have a drink —
RB: Yes.
DE: Of your coffee.
RB: Good idea.
RB: You may understand of course that I live on my own. Although I have a number of people who come in and help me considerably.
DE: Yeah.
RB: So anyway. What were your questions?
DE: Well, it’s a little bit more about your, your role as the Met officer and forecasting. So you said here that when you were at North Creake —
RB: Yeah.
DE: You had, there were three other officers there with you and you worked shifts.
RB: Well, well, there were three. Three Met officers.
DE: Yeah.
RB: Including myself. Yes.
DE: And you worked shifts. One ‘til ten and then the next day eight ‘til one.
RB: Yeah.
DE: And then 10pm ‘til 8pm and then the third day you were, you were off.
RB: That’s it.
DE: What, and you’ve also mentioned setting the balloons and trying to check the visibility at night.
RB: Yes.
DE: What, what other, what other jobs did you have to do as a Met officer?
RB: Well, we had an assistant of course and it was their job, a WAAF to record all this information. And that information was sent to the [pause] I’ve forgotten what he was called. Sort of the local Regional Met Office and it was they who were required to produce the forecast for the flight. Wherever the Group was being sent. We were not allowed to alter that in any way even if we disagreed with it and I think I have explained in there on one occasion there was a significant difference where they didn’t realise there was a thunderstorm around which we did know and that stopped the flight for that night. I always went. I did the forecast with all the crew there and the officers who were also telling what the target was and all this sort of thing and I also attended the debriefing afterwards just to find out how accurate the forecast was. So does that answer your —?
DE: Yeah. Yeah. What was the atmosphere like at the briefings when you were telling them the weather?
RB: Well, of course, being 100 Group they didn’t do bombing. They were concerned with dropping radar interference. Most of. Window it was called and they were going for them at that time they would go and stooge around for about eight hours, dropping this Window. And of course, flying at the height at which they were which was anything between ten and twenty thousand feet they were very prone to the weather itself including icing which I’ve mentioned in there. So, whereas modern aircraft of course flying at thirty thousand feet and the other interesting thing to me is because I still follow the weather our forecasting was done at two thousand feet. We drew up a synoptic chart on a regular basis every three hours and every six hours for the country as a whole and, but nowadays of course the forecasting is done at thirty thousand feet with a Jetstream. Well, we knew about the Jetstream but we didn’t know anything about what it did or how it worked and we had no idea what it was all about. And we had a wonderful piece of instrument. It was on a pole and it was like a garden rake but with the prongs sticking upwards and you had to estimate what the height of the cloud was in this Jetstream and then you had to time it between each of the prongs. And you then had to calculate how fast that Jetstream was. But having done that nobody knew what to do with it. It was a ridiculous arrangement because you were looking at cloud at anything from thirty to thirty five thousand feet and this made the accuracy pretty hopeless. So there we are. Does that answer your question?
DE: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. So did you get, did you get intelligence from, from the aircraft as well? I know they had Meteorological flights and some of the crews reported back wind speeds and directions and things.
RB: Yes. There were, I think it was four places that would send up balloons much bigger than the cloud thing and that had a series of each instruments dangling below the balloon which would record air pressure from which you could calculate the height, temperature, humidity, and the drift would tell you the windspeed. So that was, that was useful and mostly they just eventually the balloon would burst and we would lose that apparatus but occasionally they would be found perhaps in Norway or Sweden. So there we are. That was that. What else? One of them incidentally was fairly close to a docking we sent up from there. The other thing was some places at Docking I think it was they would send up either a Hurricane or a Spitfire suitably adapted with a, with a gadget on it that would tell you the height and the biometric pressure and they too would record humidity, temperature and they could calculate the direction and speed of the wind and what have you. So they just circled a way above the station to a certain height and that was it. And that was very useful because being in Norfolk you had that wretched North Sea stratas or haar or whatever you’d like to call it which was absolutely deadly from the point of view of forecasting. We couldn’t, we didn’t know anything about it to be honest and they still don’t know. They still get them. So anyway, does that answer your question?
DE: Yes. Yeah. That’s wonderful.
RB: Anything else?
DE: I can probably, I can probably look through and find something else. Yeah. So you mentioned the pilot, Tiny. How well did you know him?
RB: Oh, only, only socially in the mess. Not, not very well. I didn’t get close to many of the aircrew to be honest because they came and went. I was more interested with my colleagues in the Met office and in the air traffic control because that was all relevant as far as I was concerned, you know. Giving them QFE and QFC and what have you. And so I didn’t get close to aircraft crew. I did one or two of the ground crew. The maintenance people. I got to know one or two of them but I have no contact with them. Not now.
DE: No. No. Have you been involved in the, in the Memorial at North Creake?
RB: Not yet.
DE: Right.
RB: No. I think that’s one of the things that they want me to do. I have joined. I joined this 100 Group Memorial Group but unfortunately of course that’s all based in Norwich and I can’t get. I have no car now. I’ve only got a little electric buggy. I can’t go more than fifteen miles away from here. Anything else?
DE: Let’s have a look, see. Could you tell me a little bit more about your time when you were evacuated and your time at Cambridge? Where were you staying? Where were you living?
RB: Well, as an evacuee in Weston-Super-Mare as I say I had six places that I lived and the last one I lived in was a hotel which had many of the recruits that were being trained doing square bashing on the front. And the hotel was a crummy place. It really was disastrous. Eventually it had to be closed because the conditions that were there were really beyond anything that anybody ought to live with. I was there. There were two of us that lived in the attic but the rest were all Air Force trainees so, and that was it. The other places that I lived in as an evacuee varied enormously. One was where there were two ladies who used to be in charge of some sort of school or other. Very doctrinaire and didn’t think much of us [laughs] Anyway, but you want Cambridge as well?
DE: Yeah. Yeah. Please.
RB: Well, I lived the whole time in King’s College, Cambridge. For the first year I was in rooms right next door to the Chapel so I could hear the organ playing and that was wonderful. And it was wonderful too when I had to do fire watching because you could hear the organ coming up through the roof. So that was very good but the conditions were not very [pause] There were three of us in two rooms. We had to share the rooms. We had one little gas fire and we were absolutely frozen the whole time. And, and as far as lectures were concerned for mathematics we had mostly lecturers from London University. For physics we had almost entirely people from Cambridge and those lectures were pretty useless in as much they didn’t tell you about what you should be learning. They were just entertainment as much as anything. For example, we were talking about sound and he had a block of concrete on the front desk and he picked up a piece of wood and dropped it on it. He said, ‘There you are. Noise.’ And then he picked up a series of these wooden blocks and he proceeded to play a tune to demonstrate that in fact noise in fact had got a note to it. Well all very interesting but not much help from the point of view of learning the physics of sound. And the other thing we had to do we were all compelled to do early, early computing.
DE: Oh really? Ok.
RB: We were forced to do one session a week to learn about cathode-ray tubes and what have you which nobody explained and I didn’t understand a word of it. But there we are. We had to do it. And then we had tutorials also in physics which again were quite useless. For geography I had tutors from my own college and they were good. Very helpful. We did a lot of interesting work including experimental survey work and that kind of thing. So that was good. Anything else you want?
DE: I suppose I should ask you what the living arrangements were like at North Creake. I mean you’ve spoken a bit about your time in Japan and on board ship. What was it like at North Creake?
RB: Well, I can’t remember the mess very much but the food was good in as much a lot of it was of course related to rationing as what things of that kind. We hadn’t very little butter or things. Stuff of that kind. So when we got on board ship eventually which had got loads of food from other countries one or two people just went stupid and were eating butter and all sorts of things and they made themselves ill. But what was the other thing? Food and —?
DE: Well, you know what, you know —
RB: The conditions we were —
DE: Yeah.
RB: Actually living. Well apart from being the Met office which was below the traffic control in a brick built place so it was relatively warm but the actual living area which was a Nissen hut which was, there was nothing there. You just had your bed and your washing kit and that was it. So it was very very basic. Oh, one thing I did do while I was there I got very friendly with the chap who did, I’ve forgotten what it was called but it was a gadget which you simulated flying.
DE: Mm Mm?
RB: So I’ve forgotten what it was called and I’ve got a —
DE: Link trainer.
RB: That’s it.
DE: Yeah.
RB: Well done. Thank you. And so I did have a go on that once or twice and which was interesting because I’d also while I was at university did have a flight in a Tiger Moth and that was great fun. We looped the loop and that sort of thing so I enjoyed that. Anything else?
DE: Well, did you fancy becoming aircrew?
RB: Sorry?
DE: Did you —
RB: No. I didn’t. They decided actually that physically I wasn’t really quite fit enough for that. Why I don’t know but there we are.
DE: So a couple more questions I jotted down when you were talking earlier.
RB: Yes.
DE: You said you had Vaccine Fever. I mean in today’s climate I should probably ask you what that was.
RB: Well, at the time when I was a kid all my brothers and sister were vaccinated. You know it was a vaccination against flu or whatever. I didn’t have it as a child so they decided I needed to be vaccinated if I was going out into the Far East. So they vaccinated me on board ship and that produced Vaccine Fever. And boy was I hot because the Red Sea was hot enough and I was sweating it out on my own in the, on board ship. So anyway, yes?
DE: And the other thing that I’ve jotted down you said you travelled through Hiroshima.
RB: Yes.
DE: Could you tell me a little bit about what that was like?
RB: Well, when I eventually I was stationed in Iwakuni it wasn’t all that far from Hiroshima and I went there two or three times. We were given tins of cigarettes. Fifty cigarettes in a tin. I didn’t smoke but boy did the Japanese smoke. They loved them and so I could barter without any money. Barter these tins of cigarettes for whatever I wanted. As a result I had enough tins of cigarettes to buy the material for my wife’s wedding dress and that was great because it was Japanese silk which was embroidered. And it was things of that kind but the actual town or the city itself was in a very very poor state. There were trams but they had managed to get to work but they went across bridges and you thought God that bridge is never going to support this tram but it did. It rocked and what have you and we got through. The people themselves were quite good. They weren’t, weren’t objecting to us particularly but of course there were a group of people who had been caught by the radiation and they’d collected together and isolated themselves on a little island in, in the inland sea. Oh, and one other thing too while I was there I think it was three earthquakes. One while I was in my officer’s mess, one while I was up in Osaka and another one which took place on the island to the south of us. And that was an interesting experience too. The one in Osaka —
[voice calling from distance]
DE: There’s someone, I’ll just press the pause because someone has arrived.
[recording paused]
DE: There was a visitor so I’ve started recording again. Yeah. You were talking about Hiroshima.
RB: Yes. As I say there was a group of people who had been caught by this radiation and had isolated themselves and they weren’t pretty to look at either. One day on my off day I was talking to a group and they said, ‘We’re going fishing.’ ‘Oh, I’ll come with you.’ So I went fishing with them and they complained about other fishermen. Fishermen from another island encroaching on their land, on their territory and so we caught them and we took them back and they were, they were sent to jail for for fishing in the wrong area. So that was quite interesting too. Anything else?
DE: Well, you said that there was an arson attack and the quarters were burned down. Who? Who was responsible for that?
RB: We know that it was Japanese but we have no idea actually who it was. There were actually three arson attacks. One where the fuel for the aircraft used to come in enormous metal barrels they stored there. And there was a whole storage there and somebody set light to that and blew the lot for God knows how long. I mean barrels were shooting up in the air. And there was another attempt to burn down the officer’s mess but that was caught in time to stop it. But it was the second attempt that burned the place down.
DE: So this was some resistance to the, to the base.
RB: Oh, there were one or two people who did object to our being there undoubtedly. The other interesting little sideline, if you can forgive me for this but when the arson attack took place there were certain of the WAAFs who suddenly disappeared from the officer’s mess back to their own quarters at night [laughs]
DE: I quite understand. Yeah.
RB: Yes.
DE: Yeah.
RB: Anything else?
DE: I don’t think so. I mean one of my final questions I normally ask is, is what do you think, what’s your opinion on the way the Second World War and the bombing campaigns have been remembered?
RB: Been remembered? [pause] Well, I hesitate to say this. There was a programme on the box the other day, I’ve forgotten what it was called but it followed an American aircraft, it was an American film needless to say who’d gone bombing over Germany and got shot up and all sorts of things and just managed to stagger back. There’s no such film for the British. And I find that you know it was the Americans won the war. It’s that sort of attitude.
DE: Yeah.
RB: And I find that very sad because the number of British people and I include the Australians and the Kiwis and what have you I think that’s a great shame that there’s no appreciation of what went on. I mean we lost a hell of a lot of aircraft. And the design of aircraft too was an interesting issue. I mean the Stirling bomber was a shocker. A terrible thing to land whereas the Lancasters and those they were great.
DE: Is there anything else at all that you can think of that you’d like to, to tell me?
RB: I shall do when you’ve gone.
DE: Of course. Well, I can press pause. If you think of anything else that you’d like to add.
RB: No. I can’t at the moment but little snippets keep coming back but I suppose one thing that did bother me quite a bit at North Creake was the maintenance of the aircraft was always done in the open air and the poor devils who had to service the aircraft must have been frozen stiff at times. How they managed it I do not know.
DE: But you were there ’44 to ’45 and that winter was really really bad. Yeah.
RB: It was a bit grim.
DE: Yeah.
RB: Yeah. Yeah. But there we are.
DE: I suppose as a Met officer you saw that coming and knew quite how bad it was going to be.
RB: We didn’t know how bad it was going to be but there we are. So [pause] No. I really, off hand I can’t remember much more. Oh I remember one occasion as that I was going on leave to see my fiancé and of course at that time there was a railway went right through to Wells.
DE: Yes.
RB: And I got from Wells to the camp of course by van. But I went down to Wells and caught the train to get back to London and I think we got about five miles out of Wells and ran into a snowdrift and the train could not move so we had to get out and walk over the top of the snowdrift to the next station and try and catch a train from there.
DE: Oh wow.
RB: Which we did and the curious thing is we got to Kings Lynn and when we got to Kings Lynn and travelled south there was no snow.
DE: Wow. Ok.
RB: Which relates in a way to something that happened long after the war when I was actually teaching in Guisborough.
DE: Oh right. Ok.
RB: And the staff used to play the Sixth Form at cricket for a day. It snowed in July in the middle of the cricket match.
DE: Wow.
RB: It’s something peculiar to that area. You know, stuck off the North Sea. So there we are.
DE: So you, so you were a teacher after.
RB: I came back home and I didn’t want to stay in the Air Force, in the Met Office because at the time you had to move every three years and I think it was about every ten or fifteen years you had to go overseas and I didn’t want my children if I had any to be constantly changing school. So I decided I’d opt out. I went to London Institute and trained as a teacher. I taught mathematics for nearly twenty years and then I became an inspector of schools for a time and I finished up as the senior advisor for further education, adult education, youth service. You name it. Jack of all trades and master of nothing [laughs].
DE: Yeah. Smashing.
RB: So there we are.
DE: Yeah. That’s marvellous. I’m going to press pause. If you think of anything else you’d like to tell me —
RB: Yes. Righto.
DE: Just give me a nod.
RB: Yes.
DE: And I can start recording again but that’s absolutely fantastic. Thank you.
[recording paused]
DE: So I’ve just started recording again. Yes.
RB: There was one occasion when the group from North Creake was required to fly to North Italy to drop Window to prevent any radar or what have you from the Germans as they were coming back north after the invasion of Italy and Sicily. Well of course that meant flying over the Alps which was a very difficult thing for Stirlings and, but they all got there with one exception and he was a squadron leader. He turned back. He couldn’t face it. I quite understand why because the height they were flying the danger of icing was extremely bad but they made it and they did their job. Ok?
DE: Yeah. Yeah. Smashing. Thank you.



Dan Ellin, “Interview with Roy Berrill,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 8, 2023,

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