Interview with John Usher about Bob Burns

Title

Interview with John Usher about Bob Burns

Description

Bob Burns trained as a navigator and was posted to 106 Squadron at RAF Metheringham. His aircraft came under attack from a night fighter and the centrifugal force pinned the crew down and making escape impossible.
Suddenly the aircraft broke in to two and Bob was blown out of the aircraft. He managed to activate his parachute and land but had injured his leg. He was caught and became a prisoner of war.
He narrowly avoided losing his life to an angry crowd of locals at a train station as the German guard gave him his rifle and he was able to hold the crowd at bay, until they were able to catch the train. He gave the rifle back to the guard.
Bob was a musician and played the saxophone and clarinet. One day the Red Cross delivered a selection of musical instruments to Stalag Luft 7 where he was being held, and amongst the instruments there was a saxophone and clarinet, both of which he played. He wrote arrangements for the camp bands and orchestra playing both instruments. He took part in the long march taking his saxophone with him.
After the war he worked as a civil engineer and continued to play his saxophone.

Creator

Date

2022-04-28

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:48:26 Audio Recording

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.

Identifier

AUsherJ220428, PBurnsDR1806

Transcription

BW: This is Brian Wright interviewing John Usher at his home in Morecambe Lancashire. It’s quarter past two in the afternoon on Thursday the 28th of April 2022. We’re here to talk about Bob Burns’ story. Bob was a flight sergeant in the RAF but if you could just start off John, please with giving us a little summary of how you knew Bob. What your relation was to him.
JU: Well, I’m John Usher. My, my wife, my wife’s sister was married to Bob so in all the years we went on holidays a lot together most years. So we had quite a close relationship with Bob and his family.
BW: And he had quite a story to tell from his experiences in the RAF in the Second World War. Can you elaborate for us a little bit more about Bob’s background before we go on to his RAF service. Do you know when and where he was born? What his family life was like?
JU: Well, as I understand Bob was born in Sheffield. Went to Sheffield, well a grammar school in Sheffield and he then worked. He had one or two jobs before volunteering for the RAF. One was in a factory in Sheffield. But following that he had, he played, he was a semi-professional musician and played in a local dance band so I think that was his, one of his main sources of income before joining the RAF.
BW: Do you know what instrument he played?
JU: He played the saxophone and the clarinet.
BW: And you say he would go into the dance halls with the band and earn some money playing.
JU: He had, he had a regular, a regular job with one of the local dance bands.
BW: And did he ever talk about why he was interested in joining the RAF? What prompted him to join at all?
JU: Well, I think like a lot of young people in those days he was very keen to do his bit so to speak so he had always been keen on flying. I think he’d, whilst he hadn’t been a cadet he’d been to various shows and anything to do with flying. He seemed to have got himself involved.
BW: So he’d had an interest through his youth and childhood perhaps in aeroplanes and flying and that.
JU: He was very much so. Yes.
BW: And he went in to training at Padgate in Warrington when he joined the RAF. Did, did he tell you much about the training he went through at all?
JU: Not a lot. I just know that part of his training, when he first enlisted the initial aircrew tests were done at Lord’s I think it was. Lord’s Cricket Ground which, he was very interested in cricket. Probably, being a Yorkshireman you have to be interested in cricket I would think. But I don’t know if from a playing point of view. Mainly from a watching point of view but he was, he knew a lot about cricket. Whatever he was interested in he always tended to know a lot about it. He was one of those sort of people.
BW: Do you know roughly when he joined up? Would it be ’41? ‘42?
JU: It was [pause] just bear with me [pause] 1940 he joined up.
BW: So that’s —
JU: I don’t know what date in ’40.
BW: So that’s quite early on.
JU: That, well I say it was called deferred service. He applied to join up and then he had to sit back and wait before they called. They called you. In fact, he didn’t start doing any real training until 1942.
BW: Okay.
JU: And then it was basic training. Once he’d been accepted for aircrew he did training out in Canada 1942 to ‘43 which a lot of aircrew did of course because you weren’t likely to be shot down by anyone in Canada I don’t think [laughs] and it was a good environment for training.
BW: When did he join the squadron because he went on —
JU: He came back home for flying training. The full squadron training in 1943. And then he was posted then to Number 5 Group in ’44 which was where his story really begins.
BW: And he was by this stage a flight sergeant navigator wasn’t he? And —
JU: He was. By [pause] yes.
BW: And he joined 106 Squadron based at Metheringham.
JU: That’s right.
BW: Did he mention any of the guys that he trained with or how he’d come to crew up at all with with the guys he started flying with?
JU: Yes. There was. As aircrews did in those days they seemed to appear, go to a station to select. The aircrew selected their own crews basically. The pilot would see someone he liked and, or who he probably met in the mess over one or two days and liked him so they would get together. They would talk about if there was anyone available that could be selected. And through that process they finished up, finished up with between them selecting their bomb aimer, two, a mid-upper and a rear gunner and the radio operator. Two of the crew were Canadians. I’m not sure of their names now.
BW: One was Harold Brad.
JU: Harold Brad. That’s right.
BW: Another, Bill Stevens.
JU: Bill. That’s right. The crew themselves had quite mixed experiences. One of them, I’m not sure which one had been a gardener on a royal estate somewhere. I don’t know which one it was. Which was quite interesting.
BW: Well, from what I can see Percy Dore was the wireless operator and he was from Sandringham so it’s quite possible.
JU: That’s right. I think he was the one who’d been —
BW: He was the royal gardener.
JU: Who’d been the gardener.
BW: Did Bob ever mention what it had been like in the early days before his fateful flight? Did he mention any of the early raids that he’d been on or —
JU: Not a lot. Not a lot about them because before he was shot down he’d been on, the invasion had started in France by that I think and there were more or less a lot of the early raids were in France but he did have one or two over Germany.
BW: Did he ever say much about those? Did he say how they were?
JU: They were pretty well, the raid before he was shot down over Schweinfurt he’d been on a raid to [pause] I’ll look at my notes. No. The ones I’d done I think [pause] Right. On the 25th of April which was just the day before I think he went to Schweinfurt he’d just returned from a ten hour bombing raid over Munich. But to get there he’d gone over, over via Italy and across. That’s why it was such a long raid. And on the return back they were running out of fuel and had to land at an airfield on the south coast having been down the south as well because of fuel and then fly back. Came back to Metheringham the following morning to be told they were on another raid that following evening. The same evening. So there was very little time between the two raids.
BW: And 106 Squadron had been Guy Gibson’s former squadron before he left to form the Dambusters. Did Bob mention any influences within the squadron from Gibson’s time? Were any guys still around from that time?
JU: Well, he’d made that very very strict was Gibson and so it was. Bob was very surprised how strict it was because Bomber Command was said to be a little bit relaxed because of the of the job they were doing. So they were given a bit more free time but Bob found he was in the first oh forty eight hours he was in the air for nearly thirty of it and when they weren’t flying they were still doing dinghy drill, parachute training, all sorts of flying drills on the ground. And he reckons it was because of these drills that later in life it probably saved his life. His quick reaction to certain, to the circumstances which he met with later.
BW: So you mentioned that his fateful trip was to Schweinfurt on the 26th and 27th of April which is almost exactly seventy four years to the day I think. Is that right? Eighty four. Have I got that right? No. We’re very nearly on the, on the anniversary of that particular raid in ’44.
JU: Yes. Yeah.
BW: Seventy eight. My maths is there now. Seventy eight years. The raid itself was quite disastrous in a way for the, for the squadron. There were a number of losses but just talk us through what Bob’s experiences were. What Bob’s experiences of that was. What he’d, what he’d told you. What, what happened?
JU: Well, I got the impression from Bob that it was one of those raids that I wouldn’t say it went wrong but there were problems from the start in that they were taken on a route which supposed, was supposed to be clear which it was clear of ack ack and that sort of thing but it took them, took them very close to German fighter squadrons on the ground. So they had one or two interceptions en route with with fighters. Not that they were hit or anything but that was one aspect. The main aspect I think was that the forecast winds were entirely the opposite direction to the ones that they came across so that they were delayed. They were about an hour late arriving at Schweinfurt which apart from the obvious problems like that are that the, it was quite a large bomber raid. There was quite a lot of bombers on this raid from other squadrons and you were all supposed to be going obviously going on different heights and if you’re not spot on time you run the risk of being bombed from above by other ones who were on time releasing their bombs. So I think that that was one of the main problems. Bob referred to it that when he finally arrived it was like flying in to hell. There was fires down below. There was smoke being released now we know by the Germans as a camouflage. There were flares going off to identify the particular bombing targets and so all in all as I say he referred it to as like flying into hell. It was one of those experiences that it’s hard to imagine in our everyday civilian life now.
BW: And this was only his seventh operation wasn’t it?
JU: It was, yes.
BW: Not long into his tour and you mentioned the night fighter units that they, or the airfields that they flew past to get to the target and it was a night fighter that shot them down wasn’t it?
JU: It was. Yes.
BW: Did he talk about what had happened in the aircraft at that, at that point?
JU: Well, when they, when they released their bombs over Schweinfurt almost instantly after that they were, they were hit by a night fighter and at the same time the rear gunner shouted out, ‘I’ve got the bastard. He’s going down.’ So he, it was a tit for tat or appeared to be a tit for tat situation. So following, following that almost immediately after that because they were hit the pilot told them to, the aircrew all to bale out because they were going down. So they started to make their way to the various exits. Either the front ones for the front crew or the rear door. Now, Bob had always been told by this navigator training although the RAF recommended that the navigator goes out of the front he was advised if he can get over the main spar which is an obstacle in itself. Bob said you had to be a trained athlete to get over the main spar if you got over the main spar. He got over there and he was making his way towards the rear door when the plane went into a spin and the centrifugal force pinned virtually all the aircrew to the floor and I think Bob had resigned himself to, you know how could he possibly get out of this so that’s the end of it when there was sudden enormous an explosion and he was blown up through the roof of the aircraft. The aircraft must have just cut in half. So he went up through the roof which knocked him unconscious but this was he reckoned at three thousand feet and but the cold night air soon brought him around and this is where all the training which you referred to earlier kicked into practice because he was he automatically pushed the ‘chute away from him, pulled the rip cord and he drifted gently down in to a ploughed field in in Germany.
BW: And was he alright on landing? Did he injure himself at all or —
JU: Well, he’d gone out through the roof of the aircraft which he knew had given him a nasty bang on his, on his thigh. Inside his thigh. But when he felt around when he’d landed in the airfield he didn’t feel any pain but he could feel there was a lot of blood in his thigh. And so what happened really at that stage was he, you’re trained or told you must bury your parachute. Bury it or hide it. Hide the parachute so that the enemy don’t know that you have landed et cetera and were still alive. So that’s what he proceeded to do. He buried his parachute and then took stock of himself. He did make one comment about it. He said he looked up into the air just to see the last of the bombers heading back to England and then he just said out quite loudly, he said, ‘Lucky buggers. They’re going home now and I’m stuck in this bloody ploughed field in Germany.’ So that was his reaction on landing in the ploughed field.
BW: Did he know at that stage whether anybody else had got out from the aircraft?
JU: No. He’d no idea. He hadn’t a clue at that stage. In fact, he didn’t find out until the end. Until the end when he came back. When he was released from a prisoner of war camp what had happened.
BW: So Bob’s on his own in the, in this field in Germany in the middle of the night and he’s bleeding from his leg. What happens then?
JU: Well, as I say, he said he didn’t, he didn’t feel any pain and he could hear this, this clanking of engine, railway engines in the nearby well, marshalling yard as we know them as and they were always taught in the, back home that if there was any, if if you want to escape try and get away by train if at all possible. So Bob thought well obviously he is here now to follow the noise and make for this marshalling yard and see if I can find a train and get away from the, from the site as soon as possible. So that was his objectives but it didn’t quite turn out how the training back in England had said it would because he was making his way across the marshalling yard amongst the trains when suddenly all the lights went on and he found himself looking at about I don’t know ten or a dozen rifles pointed at him because in England apparently railway stations weren’t guarded. Certainly not. Whereas in Germany every station and depending on how, what priority it was, depending on how many guards there were so this must have been quite an important one because as I say he was looking down at ten rifles pointing at him.
BW: So he’s then obviously captured. Did he go straight to a camp or was he taken to hospital? What? What happened?
JU: Well, once the guards realised that it had turned out that his wound was obviously bleeding a lot so it was becoming more obvious and a bit of pain so the guards took him to a local hospital which was run by nuns oddly enough. And they more or less patched him up and he spent a couple of days while they sorted him out and following that he was taken to a military hospital and I don’t think, well it was while he was there or en route that he was then taken for interrogation by the German [pause] the German Army or security people which apparently one member was part of the SSS but asking the usual questions about what were the squadron numbers and one thing and another.
BW: So he was interrogated.
JU: He was.
BW: First.
JU: He was for quite a few days. In fact, he was, he was in a solitary cell for quite a few days during his interrogation.
BW: Did he say what that sort of experience was like?
JU: Well, not very good because he did, he didn’t shave and there was very little facility to wash so at the end of his spell there he was quite dishevelled and in fact some of the photographs we have of him tend to show him as being not the Bob Burns that we know anyway.
BW: So, from solitary what happened to him then? Was he presumably he was taken then to his first imprisonment camp.
JU: No. He went, after the solitary he went to a major hospital. He was, he was there for a few months really while his leg recovered and when it had recovered sufficiently for him to go to, then to a prisoner of war camp they made the necessary arrangements and he was to go to Stalag Luft 7. The Luft being ones which were run by the German Air Force really where he seemed apparently to get better treatment than the general prisoner of war camps. So he was, along with three other prisoners, three of them were taken by two guards but en route they had to change. Change stations. I’m not sure of the place but where they changed stations was that particular town had been bombed the night before. So the local people on hearing that there was some RAF prisoners of war in the local station being transported to a prisoner of war camp all as you can understand headed for the station to register what they thought about that at all. Now, it was quite an interesting situation here because the station was probably about oh fifty, a hundred feet up in the air from the road and at the back of the station it was quite open dropping down to the road below. Now while they stood on the station with the three guards a lot of the local people suddenly arrived on the scene knowing they were there and they were shuffling along the platform obviously with the objective of trying to force the prisoners of war off, off the platform down on to the road below. And the guards seemed to have no control over this so one of the guards quite quick thinking in a way suddenly handed his rifle to Bob because Bob was about six foot four I think so he was quite a towering bloke. And the German propaganda was that the British flyers were horrendous people really. They would, you know murder their own mothers if they had to. So they had quite a reputation so as soon as Bob was handed the rifle the crowd shuffling down the platform they all, they disappeared. So they could carry on with their journey. Also the guards, what reason you think , why would the guard possibly hand the rifle to Bob. One of the theories was that if, it was obviously frowned upon if guards didn’t deliver their prisoners intact and if not one of the punishments was that they would be sent to the front line. They were sent to fight the Russians which none of the German guards wanted to find themselves in that situation. So you can understand why he did this. And then of course Bob handed him back the rifle and things carried on as normal.
BW: So literally a lucky escape for him at that point.
JU: Yeah.
BW: And his first camp I think was at Stalag Luft 7 as you say in Silesia. Did he talk much about what life was like in the camp there? Did he describe any conditions there?
JU: The conditions as I gather were, were quite good. There was a lot of sport. A lot of games played a lot of cards, things like that. But Bob hadn’t been there long when one day there was this delivery. These crates arrived from the Red Cross and amongst them was quite a lot of musical instruments. They were all very good quality musical instruments and going through them Bob found that there was a saxophone and clarinet which were his speciality if you like. They were the instruments he used to play back home in the, in the brass bands. So Bob acquired the saxophone and the clarinet and then there was no sheet music or anything of course but he then trawled around to find out how, what musicians were also in the camp and he set up his own orchestra if you like. I think it was about a ten or twelve piece orchestra I understand. In fact, there is a photograph that will show that. So a lot of Bob’s time was spent writing music for the different musical instruments to play in the dance band. And I don’t think really they hadn’t been there many weeks I don’t think before they had to break camp so to speak.
BW: The, the only other member of the crew to survive was Jack Pickstone. Did Bob come across him in the same camp or did he find out what happened to him?
JU: He never ever saw Pickstone again. Never came across him even when he, when he was demobbed back into civvy street. Pickstone did survive and, but he never ever came across him even though he tried to find him he never, he never, never met up with him again. And the rest of the crew of course were all killed. There was only Bob and Pickstone. He didn’t and he didn’t discover that until he was demobbed. What had, what had happened.
BW: I believe Stalag Luft 7 was quite a large camp for American airmen too. Did Bob mention any interaction with the Americans at the time? Did he —
JU: No. No. The only [pause] not that I can —
BW: They kept to themselves.
JU: No. I don’t think he mentioned anything about the Americans. The only thing he mentioned about the Americans was when, from the camp near Berlin when they were finally released by the Russians. The Russians handed them over to the Americans. That was his main contact with the Americans.
BW: So just going back to his time in Stalag Luft 7 he’s got to that stage where he’s I suppose settled to life in the camp and he’s writing and performing music for and with the band and then at the turn of 1945 the camps as you say were broken in that the Germans decided to move prisoners west and north in his case to retreat from the Russians.
JU: Yes. Yeah.
BW: And this involved a, quite an arduous journey for him. Did, did Bob talk much about that and what did you learn about that?
JU: Oh, it was an horrendous journey because on a particular date they were all paraded at about 5 o’clock in the morning because the Russians were advancing and quite quickly. It was decided they would move the prisoners from Stalag Luft 7 to a camp near, near to Berlin which was oh something like a hundred and, about a hundred and fifty miles. Something like that. And because there was no transport all the transport was required to move German troops to the Russian Front it was decided they would have to walk. At this as I understand was the most horrendous journey imaginable. The day they set off was the middle of the hardest winter they’d had on record. So it was hard frost, snowing and around fifteen hundred prisoners were moved out of camp. This the first one started moving out about I think three or 4 o’clock in the morning and the last ones didn’t leave the camp until mid-afternoon so the line of prisoners moving out must have been well, amazing when you think of the time period taken to move them with enough rations for about two weeks which the Germans had on trolleys or trucks, what have you. But the prisoners were just marching with what they could carry and in Bob’s case having acquired this saxophone and clarinet which he said was very good quality, he said better quality then the one he had at home he said he decided he was going to keep this whatever happened. So he carried this through this horrendous weather across [unclear] into Germany. By the time they got to, well they used to sleep in barns or whatever the Germans could acquire during the, during the journey. I suppose they would have an advanced party go ahead and select a farm or buildings where they could accommodate this crowd. One or two prisoners would disappear on the route but they were mainly people like the Pole, ex-Polish aircrew who had been prisoners of war because they were travelling through their own countryside so to speak. So they could disappear and they could find people to talk to and hide them or look after them. That sort of thing. So one interesting anecdote about the journey was there is always a humorous aspect to these sort of things I expect was that on this particular time every now and again they would stop for one or two nights at these farms whatever they’d taken over. They had taken over, and this was on a two night stay and the German commander paraded them the following morning to say that the previous night the farmer reported that half of his chickens had disappeared from the hen house and if anyone was caught they would be shot. No messing. Just couldn’t do things like that. So that was said. So they then stayed on as I say another night and the commander paraded them again the following morning to say that the farmer now reported all of his chickens had disappeared [laughs] and the hen house where they were housed obviously being used for fuel on the fires. So nothing more was said and on they went. But the journey because of the weather conditions and very little food apparently was horrendous and by the time they progressed more and more they had dysentery, frostbite and by the time they moved on things were getting worse and worse. And finally they ground to a halt after roughly about a hundred miles and still about forty or fifty miles from their destination and were then taken the rest. Those who were still able to stand while they were taken by train to Luckenwalde I think it was. A prisoner of war camp near to the edge of Berlin. Any of the prisoners that obviously a lot were taken ill en route and it would appear that they were dropped off at local hospitals or somewhere where they could be taken to a local hospital if their injuries were considered serious enough. But very few, I haven’t seen a record of how many died but how many did die en route but they were in a terrible condition by the time they arrived at the other end. But Bob was still hanging on to this saxophone and clarinet which apparently had dropped from his fingers many times on the route because of the cold and but good for him he finally brought his saxophone and clarinet back home to the UK and he used it again. Well for the rest of his, for the rest of his life really.
BW: And it’s testament to his resilience really because going back to his experience in the Lancaster. He’d been shot down and the aircraft had exploded. He ended up with a bad wound to his right leg.
JU: He did.
BW: And then although he’s recovered it was still giving him pain wasn’t it so he —
JU: Well, right ‘til, right ‘til he died he still had problems with his leg.
BW: And he’d undertaken that walk while still in effect in recovery.
JU: Oh yes. It hadn’t healed. It still reared a bit. Reared a little bit occasionally, I think.
BW: So when they get to Luckenwalde what happened then? This was the camp you mentioned near Berlin. How long were they there do you think?
JU: I think two or three weeks because it was, the conditions there as Bob said, he said, they weren’t much better than on the walk. There was very, there was hardly any food and it was grossly overcrowded because there were prisoners coming in from all over the place. So the Russians finally arrived when they were in there and well the German guards had disappeared overnight and the Russians moved in. Took over. And then the Russians finally handed them over to the Americans and arrangements were made to send them back home to the UK.
BW: That seems fairly straightforward. Did [pause] did Bob have any issues returning to this country. Was it a quite a straightforward process when he got with the Americans?
JU: I think the process of getting out of Germany as far as I know seemed to be reasonably straightforward. It was a case of getting on planes and getting them to where the different prisoners of war were wanting to head for.
BW: So he would have arrived back in England in probably mid-1945 then. Presumably just as the war is about to end or possibly had ended. What happened to him from there? Did he talk about, you mentioned that he had gone on to any [pause] work again in the UK.
JU: I think he was sent on two, they were all sent on two weeks leave and then I don’t think they did a lot of serious, well serious flying after that. At the end of the 1946 Bob and I had been promoted to warrant officer and at the end of 1946 he returned home. He returned back to his musical career. But it wasn’t what he wanted to do long term I don’t think so he then retrained as a civil engineer. A job that he continued to do until his final retirement in South Devon along with his wife Ann and two sons Peter and Tim. He carried on playing his treasured saxophone. Not so much the clarinet but certainly the saxophone with all its memories. He used to play for families and friends and on special occasions really until he died aged ninety-five in 2015. But —
BW: But he'd been back to Germany hadn’t he? And he’d had a couple of meetings at least with people involved with his, with his own personal experience because he I think he met the pilot who shot him down didn’t he?
JU: No, not the pilot. What happened in 1990 I think it was Bob returned to the site at Arnstein. Arnstein, where he’d been shot down and he met with the residents who had been children at the time of his crash so could tell him a bit about it. And strangely enough he received a very warm welcome and was treated to official lunches by the mayors of Arnstein and Schweinfurt which he found quite embarrassing. Now when the Lancaster crashed the local pastor arranged for the dead crew to be buried in the local church which was very brave of the pastor because Hitler’s decree oh Hitler said that Allied airmen should not have a Christian burial and yet we have photographs showing the flowers and everything on his grave in the German town that he’d just been bombing so to speak. After the war the graves, the crew were reburied in a military cemetery at Durnbach. Now on this same visit to meet with the families who’d been bombed so to speak he met with a German researcher who was seeking information about a German Junkers or a JU88 night fighter pilot called Hauptman Walter Bernschein who had been shot down over Arnhem, over Arnstein sorry during the raid and he thought was probably the pilot who had shot down Bob’s Lancaster. Now, this pilot of course was also killed so it’s supposition but he seems reasonably certain from the fighter pilots that were shot down that he was the one that had shot down Bob’s Lancaster. But that’s meeting with the family who had been witness to the event.
BW: Yeah. As you say the other crew members were all, were all killed with the exception of Jack Pickstone. Did Bob ever get to meet any of the family related to any of the other crew members? Did he get to know them at all or was it just those return trips that he’d made to Germany where he’d met the people from the —
JU: No, he met with [pause] he met up with Bishop the pilot quite a lot. And later, later on when they started to form squadron reunions and what have you but I think Bishop was the only one that I can recall. He might have met up with others that I don’t know about but he was a big man in going to the squadron reunions and he went on to one big reunion in Canada in one year and it was very well organised. Almost a national reunion of for such a lot of aircrew were trained in Canada of course weren’t they?
BW: And he was, he was surprised to have been met by the mayors of this, of the towns that he’d actually been attacking or well Arnstein where he’d crashed but also —
JU: Yeah.
BW: Schweinfurt. That must have been quite a surprise to be received favourably let’s say in those terms.
JU: Yeah. I think we’ve got to appreciate that a lot of people and also Germans had lost their families hadn’t they on bombing raids over England and I think that to one extent is probably why the Luftwaffe set up their own prisoner of war camps. As a, to reciprocate what was going on with their crew hopefully over in England. So I think, I don’t know I can only assume that the feeling wasn’t so much against the aircrew as by then as against Hitler and the, and the Nazis so there probably was a little a little bit of sympathy towards the Allies.
BW: I think that’s, that’s all the questions I have. You’ve summarised Bob’s career and experiences very well. I don’t think there are any other questions unless there’s anything else that you may have recalled during the [pause] our discussion that you wanted to add about.
JU: No.
BW: No.
JU: I think that’s pretty well, well covered it. No. I think in Bob’s case it was almost out of the frying pan into the fire wasn’t it? Having been shot down he then after a few months he finds he has to do a hundred mile walk in the middle of the worst winter on record which —
BW: I guess, I guess he must have been pleased that although it took a number of years for the Bomber Command servicemen to be remembered did he mention anything about the Memorial or the plans to commemorate Bomber Command veterans?
JU: Well, I think, I think he was like most Bomber Command. He felt that Churchill and Bomber Harris, more Bomber Harris I think seemed to abandon them in a way. I think what I find is disappointing is that I’ve been to the Memorial in London to Bomber Command which shows the crew and the inscription of Churchill’s speech which fair enough speaks about how the fighter pilots saved the country but nobody goes on to the rest of the speech which says that it was the bomber crew who enabled us to win the war. And that, that bit of it seems to have disappeared from a lot of with all that goes on now I know people talk about you know how especially with the Ukraine business and the civilians being killed and the number that we killed when we were bombing German cities but I think you’ll agree that was a completely different situation. But no I think like the bomber crews I think they were disappointed in what recognition that they got after the war and I think it’s still there that really. I think it’s still felt whatever. You know there was no war medal for people and that sort of thing as I understand it.
BW: Yeah. It was just a clasp.
JU: Just a Memorial was put up.
BW: Great. Thank you very much.
JU: Okay.

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Citation

Brian Wright, “Interview with John Usher about Bob Burns,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 22, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/39609.

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