Interview with Alan George Buxton


Interview with Alan George Buxton


Alan was born in Parramatta, Sydney, in Australia. After going to the Middle East with the army, he returned to Australia, when Japan entered the war, and transferred to the RAF in November 1942.
Alan was posted to Bradfield Park for training and then to No. 2 Air Observers’ School in Edmonton, Canada. He was given a commission as a pilot officer and went to the Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Wigtown in Scotland, followed by the Operational Training Unit at RAF Lichfield. Alan describes the process of crewing up. He trained on Wellingtons and then went to the Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Winthorpe. Alan describes the night they had to parachute from their Stirling after a trip to the coast of Holland.
After Lancaster Finishing School, Alan was posted to 617 Squadron where the Commanding Officer was J B “Willie” Tait. His first operation in November 1944 was to bomb the Urft Dam in Germany but it was too cloudy to release the 12,000 lb Tallboy bomb on board. A second attempt was also unsuccessful. Alan then refers to two operations in the Netherlands where U-boat pens were bombed. Bergen was another operation. On 25 April 1945, their target was Berchtesgaden, their last operation leading a Main Force Group of 400 aircraft.

Alan then went to 467 Squadron at RAF Metheringham. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were no longer required to go to Okanawa. Alan returned to Australia in February 1946 and joined Shell company in Sidney.







01:06:36 Audio Recording


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JH: Hello. This is John Horsburgh. I’m here today in Northern Sydney. It’s the 23rd of August 2022 and I have the pleasure of interviewing Alan Buxton here for the IBCC Archives. Good afternoon, Alan.
AB: Good afternoon, John.
JH: Thanks. Thanks for making the time and we’ve just had a brief chat and I think we’re in for an interesting interview here. Why don’t we start off Alan by telling me where you hail from, a bit about your childhood and maybe a bit about your parents?
AB: Yes.
JH: Let’s start. Let’s start there.
AB: I was born in Parramatta on the 4th of December 1920.
JH: You’re an Eels supporter then, are you? Parramatta Eels.
AB: Well, I should be but I —
JH: Yeah.
AB: I’m not all that, you know feisty about different teams you know.
JH: Yes.
AB: Having a favourite team and that sort of thing.
JH: Yes. So did you grow up in Parramatta?
AB: I grew up, yeah my, my, my grandfather owned the Royal Hotel on the corner of Church Street and the Great Western Highway and my father worked in the hotel when he left school. He went to King’s School at Parramatta and he worked for his dad and we lived in Campbell Street, Parramatta. That wasn’t that far away from the —
JH: Yeah.
AB: From the hotel. And my other grandfather, my mother’s father he was the, he was close by at the hotel and he was a produce merchant.
JH: Yes.
AB: His name was William Walter Webb. I, I attended when I was five years of age Parramatta Public School. A little primary school and when I did start there the custom was in those days you had to write with your right hand. If you didn’t write with your right, if you picked up the pen or your slate pencil thing with your left hand teachers would come along and rap you over your knuckles with a ruler. But my mother was a bit sharp and she got a doctor’s letter to stay that I was a left hander and I wasn’t to be made to write right handed. And she produced that to the headmaster and I never ever got a hit on the knuckles because of that letter that my mother submitted to the Head. Lived in Parramatta until I was about six years of age and my dad, we moved to central Concord when my dad got a job as a vacuum salesman. The Electrolux. And he used to go around to the various houses selling Electrolux machines to, you know the various housewives which was pretty good. He was doing very well. It was quite a, you know it was an innovation and he made, he was quite comfortable. He decided he would open up a [unclear] shop.
JH: What’s that?
AB: Well, it’s now they call them a delicatessen.
JH: Oh yes, okay.
AB: And that, this was in Concord West.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And —
JH: Which is now Homebush I think.
AB: Hmmn?
JH: Near Homebush.
AB: Yeah. That’s right.
JH: Yes. I know.
AB: We were going quite, it was going quite well until the depression started and when people then didn’t have the money to be able to buy delicacies from a [unclear] shop or to have afternoon tea or morning teas at the tables because money was so tight and he went broke. And that was when in 1930 and we had a tough time during the depression years. Dad didn’t have, have a job and eventually the war started and then my dad joined up as soon as war started. Joined up the Army again after having served in the First World War.
JH: In the First World War. Yes.
AB: And he put his age back. He was, in 1939 he was forty two.
JH: Yes.
AB: And he said he was thirty four because you had, in those days you had to be over eighteen and under thirty five to get into the Army. When my dad joined up I thought to myself well I’ll join up too. So I, I went and oh prior to that I had seen an advertisement in the paper that the RAF were requiring volunteers for aircrew and there was a five year training course. So I applied for that and I got interviewed. I did tests. English, maths and I managed to pass all those subjects but when I got to the medical they knocked me back. They said, ‘You’re not fit for flying duties.’ Which was the requirement in those days.
JH: Not because you were left handed I hope.
AB: It wasn’t because I was left-handed. They told me that I, my depth perception wasn’t good enough. I wouldn’t be able to land the aircraft safely. So that was before the war started. It was around about, around about the, towards the end of 1938, early ’39. And then when war started I got a call up by the RAAF and I went through the same rigmarole. Did the tests and the result was I wasn’t fit for flying duties.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Which was the requirement in those days. In the early days. So I said to them, they said, ‘Well, you can come in as ground crew and you might be able to remuster.’ And I said, ‘Oh no. I won’t do that.’ I said, ‘I’ll join the Army instead.’
JH: Yes.
AB: So I went in to the Army.
JH: So Alan what did your father say when he, he found out that you’d joined the Army? Did he know about it?
AB: Well, I I put my age up from nineteen to twenty one and of course you didn’t have to produce your father’s mother’s written permission to join you see. So —
JH: Yeah.
AB: So, he was a bit upset about that but he said, ‘Well, what am I going to do with you son?’ He said, ‘If they put you in the infantry I’m going to tell them how old you are.’ He’s remembering the infantry of the —
JH: First World War.
AB : First World War. How crook it was. Anyhow, when I was inducted into the Survey Regiment he thought well that’s a good idea.
JH: Yes.
AB: You’re not going to be stuck in the in the trenches. He was thinking that’s what it was going to be like. And I, I trained in various camps in Australia. Eventually we went to the Middle East.
JH: By ship I presume.
AB: Hmmn?
JH: By ship.
AB: Oh yes. We —
JH: Yes.
AB: I went [laughs] by yeah by, we went to the Middle East by the first trip that the Queen Elizabeth had done as a troop ship.
JH: Yes.
AB: And when we entered, when, as you enter the ship’s doorway on the side of the ship we were handed a card. Each person got a card and on the card was where you were to be quartered and I got a card which says A deck and then a cabin number.
JH: Yes.
AB: When we eventually found out where this was we went up and got in to, inside this cabin and we had this magnificent cabin my mate, Alan [Sear] and myself and it was a luxurious cabin. We had beds. We had our own toilets and showers, a bathroom in this lovely, this lovely cabin. Anyhow, we went in there and started to unload our our kitbags et cetera and a door opened and in comes Captain Reynolds. Our captain. He said, ‘Oh, you two chaps,’ he said, ‘Repack your goods.’ He said, ‘I’m taking over this cabin.’ So —
JH: It sounded too good to be true in other words.
AB: Hmmn?
JH: It sounded too good to be true.
AB: True. Yeah, he was going to take over.
JH: JH: Yeah.
AB: So we talked amongst ourselves and said, ‘We don’t like the idea of that.’ I said, ‘Why does he get to do that?’ So we went up and found the, the ship’s purser and we told the purser who [pause] what had happened and he, he got upset. He said, ‘I decide where you go. You were given that that cabin.’ He said, ‘You’re going to stay in that cabin.’ And he, he over the loudspeaker he called Captain Reynolds into his office and told Captain Reynolds off and Captain Reynolds he was called along with a lot of other officers down to the bowels of the ship and we were in this lovely cabin on A deck. We were a bit fortunate there on our trip to the Middle East.
JH: So did that involve going up through the Suez Canal?
AB: Yes. We went up —
JH: Yes.
AB: Went up through the Suez Canal and then we, when we got to Port Tewfik we got off the ship and transferred to, to rail and we went by train into Palestine and at a campsite called Hill 95 not very far away from Gaza.
JH: Yes.
AB: We did more training there which was tough because it was so hot during the daytime and we had to do all these route marches all over the place. You know all over the sand and hills.
JH: In the footsteps of the Light Horse.
AB: All that lot. Yes. Like that.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And it was tough going but we as I said we had to [fatten our [unclear] stick our legs up] et cetera and build ourselves up and and then when the, it was in July 1941 they started the problem of going in and fighting the Vichy French. Clearing them out of Lebanon and Syria.
JH: Yes.
AB: And we joined that push and we stayed there up around the top of Syria near near the Turkish border around Homs and Aleppo and those places. We stayed up there until we were, we had to come back to Australia because the Japanese came into the war.
JH: Yes.
AB: And we got we left the Middle East in February and we got back to Australia in April.
JH: Was that ’42?
AB: ’42.
JH: 1942. Or ’41.
AB: Yeah. ’42 that was.
JH: ’42. Yeah.
AB: Then we trained in, went up to Queensland and trained to go to the jungles area up to Papua New Guinea and at that particular time the Air Force was interviewing people from the returned soldiers from the Middle East to ask them whether they’d like to transfer to the Air Force into aircrew.
JH: From what you said before I think you jumped at that didn’t you?
AB: Anyhow, a couple of us were down in Brisbane on leave and we found out all about this so we, we went to one of those offices where there were recruiting the people like [unclear] airmen and we were, went in and did the exams and then again to see whether we were good enough to get into the Air Force as aircrew and they knocked me back. I passed all the exams but when it came to the medical then I was, it was the doctors were checking me over and they, he said, ‘Well, we can’t take you. You’ve got a hernia.’ I said, ‘What’s a hernia?’ He said, ‘Well, you see that lump down there.’ He pointed to a lump down in the groin area. He said, ‘That’s a hernia and we could not have you flying with a hernia.’ So I said, I said, ‘How the hell am I to get into the Air Force? I want to get in, get in there in the early days.’ And so the chap said to me there, he said, ‘Well, the best thing you could do is when you get back to camp you go to the RAP.’ That’s the Regimental Aid Post, ‘Bend yourself over, clutch your groin and tell them you’re in awful pain.’ So I did a bit of good acting. I did that and they whipped me straight in to the hospital. Ipswich. At Ipswich.
JH: Ipswich. Yeah.
AB: The place there. And they operated on me and fixed me up. And when I came out of hospital I was sent down to a convalescent hospital down in Brisbane. And then once I got myself fit fit again I went down to the Air Force people again in Brisbane and I said, ‘Here I am. I haven’t got a hernia anymore.’ So they inspected me. He said, ‘Right,’ he says, ‘We’ll drag you out of the Army.’ So I went out of the Army on the 24th of November ’42 and I went to the Air Force on the 25th of November ’42. I was happy as a larry then.
JH: I bet you were.
AB: I was happy to get into the Air Force and we trained at, at Bradfield Park. That’s where I went to.
JH: Yes.
AB: We were posted to Bradfield Park. We had to do a rookie’s course, you know doing marching around the parade ground and rifle drill, you know with shoulder arms and all this sort of business. Slow arms you know. Blokes roaring out at us. Of course, we were being an ex-soldier we didn’t like this at all you know. Pretty grim. Anyway, we had to put up with it and eventually we were posted to Bradfield Park. We were there, we were already there. We were transferred across to the aircrew section and we were straightaway did our exams there. Once we passed those we then went to, they sent us to Canada and we went to a town in Canada called Edmonton which was number 2 AOS. Air Observer’s School. We, we did our training there and we, when we passed out I was fortunate enough along with four other chaps to be given a commission off course and I became a pilot officer after finishing that course. Then we went. They sent us across to England.
JH: Yes.
AB: And then again there was more training. Sextant training at an AFU, Advanced Flying Unit at Wigtown.
JH: Wigtown in Scotland.
AB: In Scotland.
JH: Yeah.
AB: That was a funny old place because we didn’t understand the people in the town and they didn’t understand us.
JH: Yeah. So, Alan when, when did you arrive in in Scotland? This would be I’m guessing the end of —
AB: Let me think.
JH: During early ’43.
AB: Yeah. It was, it was in [pause] No. ’43. No, I was still training in Canada then.
JH: Okay.
AB: Til, til we got, we got to England early ’44.
JH: Early ’44.
AB: It would be January ’44.
JH: Yeah. Yeah. And you had to run the gauntlet of the U-boats.
AB: Oh yeah.
JH: From Canada.
AB: Yeah. Yeah.
JH: To Scotland. Yeah.
AB: Yeah. They were, you know luckily we were, got through okay.
JH: Yes.
AB: By the time we got to Southampton it was a great sigh of relief that we were still around and they sent us up to, over to Brighton where we stayed for a short while. We were given our vouchers to go to, up to London to get measured up for our officer’s uniforms. And then we got posted to AFU at Wigtown in Scotland.
JH: Yes.
AB: After that we came down and went to our Operational Training Unit at Lichfield and that is where we crewed up.
JH: Yes. I’m always interested in, on how the crewing up happened.
AB: It was very surprising. We were, the whole of the intake with all these trainees and we had to go down to to a big hangar. We went in there and there were all these blokes in there. All these fellas getting around. Sergeants and pilot officers and et cetera and other blokes you know. Flight lieutenants. And we were then, we were told we had to crew up and that was a bit of a sort of sort of a thing. How are we going to do that? You know. So anyhow, a fellow came out. A pilot came across to me. Saw me standing there and he said, ‘My name’s Howard Gavin.’ He said, ‘How would you like to be my navigator?’ I looked him over and I said, ‘I certainly would.’ It turned out that he had already done his first tour of operations in the Middle East on on an Australian squadron, you know. Flying Wellingtons. And I imagined we were going to train on Wellingtons I thought well, this is a good idea. I’ll say yes. So then we went around and he went up looking for his bomb aimer and then at each bloke you know. That’s how we crewed up. It was fine.
JH: So, tell me were you looking for the badge they wore?
AB: Oh yes. The pilot. We were looking for —
JH: Yeah.
AB: We were looking to see you know if you were a navigator or whether you were —
JH: Yeah.
AB: A wireless air gunner.
JH: Yes.
AB: Or a tail gunner. A gunner.
JH: Okay. So how long did this, this process take? This crewing up.
AB: Oh, about an hour.
JH: Okay. I had the impression it kind of lasted for half a day [laughs]
AB: Oh, it didn’t take that long.
JH: Okay. Yeah.
AB: Well, my, no.
JH: Yeah.
AB: It might have happened like that for some people.
JH: Yes. Yeah.
AB: We were just a bit, a bit lucky.
JH: Yeah. So once you’d crewed up, you got your crew you then left the hangar.
AB: That’s right.
JH: To go and get a cup of coffee or something.
AB: We went.
JH: And get to know each other. Yeah.
AB: Have afternoon tea.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And you went to the, went to the mess hall of course and had a beer.
JH: Yes.
AB: And the, for our bomb aimer he couldn’t come with us because we were where the officers were and he was, he was a sergeant. So he went, he went off to the sergeant’s mess.
JH: Yes.
AB: So it was a bit, you know. A bit cruel.
JH: Yes. So, then you, then you, so you had your crew and then you were waiting to see where you were going to be posted. To which squadron.
AB: No, not then. That would be at at that place at the OTU.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And you trained there and you did your training.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And then you, in Wellingtons. Then when you finished that training course you went to the Heavy Conversion Unit.
JH: Yeah.
AB: At Winthorpe. That’s where I had all the problem with the with the aircraft. One of our final trips under the instruction of an English flying instructor.
JH: Tell me what happened.
AB: And that’s where, well we went across, this was in 24th of September, forty⸻, ’44. We were doing our, we did many trips night flying, daylight flying in the, in the Stirling and we’d been over to the coast of Holland and we came, this was actually night time.
JH: In a Stirling.
AB: In a Stirling. And we had to fly this course and eventually we, as we came back towards base in England which was at, at Winthorpe.
JH: Winthorpe.
AB: The engine started to catch on fire. So they feathered one and then another one would go out.
JH: This was over the North Sea still.
AB: Over the North Sea. Yeah.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And we were proceeding along there and then the next one went. So we had one engine and the skipper, the instructor, he was a flight lieutenant he said, ‘We’re going to have to ditch.’ Well, we knew what ditching meant. It wasn’t too pleasant because the chances were pretty slim of you surviving. The North Sea’s pretty cold and you had to make sure you got out and your lifeboat pumped up. You know. They pumped them up.
JH: If you were going to ditch was the wireless operator able to give their position or were they not allowed to give your position if you were going to ditch?
AB: Well, I’d already told the skipper.
JH: Yeah.
AB: That where we were when he —
JH: Yeah.
AB: Gave the instruction and I said to him, ‘We’re not that far away from the coast of England.’
JH: Yes.
AB: ‘And I think we’ll be able to get there, be able to land, turn around and aim the plane out towards the sea.’
JH: Yes.
AB: And we were able to do it ourselves. I looked at where we were at the time. I took a fix and we were on the Gee box and you could get a very accurate fix.
JH: Yeah. Because you wouldn’t want to —
AB: He did.
JH: Want to land on a beach would you? Yeah.
AB: He took notice of what I said.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And we, he took it back over the coast. We made the coast of England. Went for a little while, a few minutes and then turned around a hundred and eighty degrees and gave the order to bale out.
JH: What height were you then?
AB: Two thousand feet.
JH: Yeah.
AB: That was where we had trouble deciding how to get out of the hatch [laughs] both the bomb aimer and myself and eventually I talked the bomb aimer into going first. Which he did do and he was unable to tumble out because of the hatch way and he went out feet first, dropped down and went facing, facing the front of the aircraft and the slipstream got him and smashed his head into the hatchway.
JH: He recovered enough to pull his rip cord.
AB: Yeah. Yeah.
JH: Yeah.
AB: He did do.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And then I decided because he went forward and split the front of his head open.
JH: Yeah. He went out feet first.
AB: He went out feet first.
JH: Yeah.
AB: So I decided I’m not going to get my head smashed like that when I bale. I’ll face the back of the plane to drop out.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Feet first. And of course, the slipstream got me as well and knocked me out in the back of the head. The back of my head was split open and I was unconscious until I heard a voice telling me to open the rip, pull the rip cord. The D ring. The D ring. Pull the D ring which I did do and I had the parachute opened up and I had two swings and I got laid down beautifully right into a potato patch.
JH: How high do you think you were when you, when you jumped out?
AB: About a thousand feet.
JH: Yeah, and but this voice you heard. Tell me about that.
AB: It’s, I heard this voice telling me to [pause] and later on I was, I was on leave down in Okehampton at a couple’s place, an elderly couple and she was a Medium. And we decided to be entertained by joining in the using you know the glass for the table.
JH: A séance. Yeah.
AB: A, yeah.
JH: Yeah.
AB: They were playing around with that glass on the table which was incredible. You could feel the electricity current there. It was a very strange feeling. Powerful it was. And we were sending messages and then we sent a message to ask my grandfather whether he was around. And eventually we had, a couple of days later we had a séance where she went into a trance and when she went into the trance she changed her position. She she spread her legs like that, put her hands on her knees like that and that’s how my grandfather always sat and I asked him to speak. I wanted to talk to him.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And he told me that he was with me a short while ago when I got out of the aircraft. Now, they didn’t know that. They had no knowledge of anything of that nature of what happened.
JH: Yeah. Was she speaking in his voice?
AB: She changed her voice. She changed her voice into a different tone tone altogether. Yeah.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Yeah, she she sort of changed her voice into a man’s voice.
JH: Yes. Yeah. So it, yeah so it was his voice you heard.
AB: Yeah. Yeah. It was amazing. It was absolutely amazing.
JH: Yeah.
AB: That was incredible.
JH: I bet you’ve thought about that a lot.
AB: I have.
JH: Yeah.
AB: I did. I’ve told a lot of people about it too.
JH: Yes.
AB: Whether it, whether they think I’m stupid or not I don’t know.
JH: Yeah.
AB: But I, I was I was impressed by it.
JH: I know my father he, he really believed in that. That kind of thing.
AB: Yeah.
JH: Wow. So let’s, let’s wind forward Alan. Tell me about your first operation. What was that like?
AB: The first operation. Yes. Well, we, when we finally finished with our Lancaster Finishing School we got posted to 617 Squadron.
JH: A famous squadron.
AB: That’s the one. Yeah. We were very lucky. We were the only ones posted there.
JH: Yes.
AB: And we managed to do very well in our flying. We all got high marks as I said so they sent us to this.
JH: The elite.
AB: Yeah. Sent us to this this squadron and at the time Willie Tait, JB Tait, they used to call him Willie. He was the CO.
JH: Yeah.
AB: A very famous man.
JH: Yes. Of course.
AB: He had four DSOs, two DFCs and a mention in despatches. That was his first award in, and that was when he was in a Fairey Battle. Who would want to be in one of those? Our first operation was very early in in November ’44.
JH: ’44. Yes. Got that.
AB: And it was to the, bomb the Urft Dam. The Urft, U R F T I think it was.
JH: Oh.
AB: U R F T. Urft.
JH: Yeah. Where was that located?
AB: That’s in Germany.
JH: Yeah.
AB: We were, when we got there it was ten tenths cloud. We couldn’t see the target. These, these were daylights and of course we couldn’t see the target. We weren’t allowed to drop our bomb. We had a Tallboy on board, the twelve thousand pound Tallboy and we had to bring that back to base.
JH: So you didn’t have a bouncing type bomb.
AB: No, it was a Tallboy.
JH: Yeah. Okay.
AB: A Tallboy was a terrific machine. It, it used to spin around and had tail fins on it. It would turn around and keep straight and keep keep at an angle you know when it left the aircraft and go, it was a concrete piercing bomb. It would go through the concrete and then explode as it got through. It was a brilliant bomb designed by Barnes Wallis.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And so then we went back and did the Urft Dam again. Again it was ten tenths cloud. So we weren’t too happy because we hadn’t had to drop that bomb. Had to bring it back again.
JH: So you —
AB: And no.
JH: Could you still log it as an operation even though —
AB: Oh yes. Yes.
JH: Yes. It did count. Yeah.
AB: It counted.
JH: Yeah. Yeah.
AB: Each time you took off and made the trip it would be counted. Yeah.
JH: And let me ask how many aircraft in that operation?
AB: We had about twenty two.
JH: Twenty two. Yeah. Any support?
AB: No.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Just on our own.
JH: Yeah.
AB: We never had any support.
JH: Yeah.
AB: 617 was, sometimes you’d fly with 9 Squadron.
JH: Yeah.
AB: That would have made a bigger target but a few times they went with a bit, we went after the Tirpitz. 9 going with 617 up there.
JH: Did they link up with the Pathfinders on that sort of raid?
AB: We never had Pathfinders.
JH: Yeah.
AB: We were we were our own Pathfinders.
JH: Yeah.
AB: We didn’t need, didn’t have them.
JH: Yeah.
AB: A Pathfinder.
JH: So did you go back a third time?
AB: No.
JH: Yeah.
AB: They decided that they wouldn’t waste our time.
JH: Okay. What about your next operation?
AB: Oh dear.
JH: Can you remember that?
AB: No. Oh.
JH: That would have been a bombing. Another bombing run.
AB: Yeah. Where yes ah that’s right. We went to Ijmuiden.
JH: Oh.
AB: In Holland.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Ijmuiden. And we, we attacked E-boat pens and submarine pens there.
JH: God. Successful?
AB: Yes. Very.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Yeah. Oh, the bombs were good.
JH: Yeah.
AB: They went through the concrete supports.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And blew up inside you know.
JH: Yeah.
AB: But then, then we went to another one in Holland the same sort of thing. Poortershaven.
JH: Poortershaven.
JH: Poortershaven.
AB: In Holland. Yeah.
AB: Another one.
JH: Another, another port. Yeah.
AB: The same sort of thing.
JH: Yeah.
AB: E-boat pens and submarine pens. Later on, many years later it was in the ‘90s I got a letter from an historian who was at, he was at Poortershaven and he he told us you know in the letter he said there had been intelligence that told them to get the Dutch out of out of the way and warned them. Get the Dutch out of the way as they were going to come over and bomb.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Yeah. And this bloke said, and he said, ‘We commend you. Not one Dutchman got killed.’
JH: That’s amazing.
AB: Yeah. Yeah.
JH: Yeah. That’s incredible attacking those pens because they were real fortresses weren’t they?
AB: Oh yeah. Yeah. They were.
JH: Yeah.
AB: We went up to Bergen as well. Before we went to Bergen they, a group of commandos, Englishmen, red beret blokes came out to our squadron and they were, they trained with us. We were going to drop them. Drop them in the fjord and they had these fabled boats and then they were supposed to be going ashore and attacking the heavy water plants. You know the heavy water plants they had built outside Bergen?
JH: Yes.
AB: The Germans had that.
JH: Yes.
AB: But they decided it was just too risky. They didn’t go ahead with that but we went up and bombed the E-boat submarine pens up there as well. The Germans had them up there as well.
JH: Was this daylight or at night time?
AB: No, we we always left at night time.
JH: Yes.
AB: To get there in the daytime.
JH: Okay.
AB: Because we had to visually sight our target.
JH: Well, you were flying up the fjords I guess towards the target.
AB: But, we, we went up to Lossiemouth to refuel up there.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And then we went off to, flew out to Bergen. We flew just above the deck low flying to get under the radar.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And we then when we got up near Bergen we made height and dropped our bombs on the E-boat —
JH: Yeah.
AB: And submarine pens up there.
JH: By then it was morning. You could see.
AB: Oh yeah.
JH: Yeah. Yeah.
AB: Yeah.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Yeah. You always, you were trying to get to your target in daylight.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Yeah, because you had to sight your target and take your photographs.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And if you, if you, if you didn’t drop your bombs where you should do you when you, it meant that when you the next day or when you got back you’d be up doing practice bombing in the Wash.
JH: Yeah. Good incentive.
AB: Hmmn?
JH: Good incentive to be on target.
AB: Yeah, oh yes.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Good. They were very [pause] and we we we did another one which was quite interesting.
JH: Yes.
AB: Berchtesgaden.
JH: I know that place. I’ve been there.
AB: Been there. Yeah. I know, I’ve been there too. I’ve been there on the ground as well. The, that was on ANZAC Day ’45 and our target was the the big shaft. The air shaft.
JH: Yes. Where the lift is going up.
AB: There wasn’t any lift then. That’s where they put it. And we would put our bomb down that shaft. Well, we flew around that for about twenty five minutes and could not find the shaft. And later on, years later when I went to Berchtesgaden.
JH: Yeah.
AB: I walked up beyond the, out to go up in the lift.
JH: You go up in the lift.
AB: Yeah.
JH: And then you can walk.
AB: And then I walked —
JH: Yeah.
AB: Up the hill a bit. Up the mountain.
JH: Yes.
AB: Looked back on where it was all snowy. All snow. And I said no wonder we couldn’t see it because they had, they had camouflage nets and a cover over the top of the shaft. That’s why we couldn’t find it. So we had to bring our bomb back to England again.
JH: Yeah.
AB: On that occasion.
JH: Yes.
AB: That was the last operation that that was done by 617 in Europe.
JH: That was the last. I believe that was the last Bomber Command operation in the second world war. I’m not too quite sure but that may be so. I read that somewhere.
AB: We led, we led, 617 Squadron led a big main force group. Main force. And about four hundred planes came after us. We had the honour of being the first there to⸻
JH: To Berchtesgaden. Yeah.
AB: Different crews had different targets and they were all targeting where these Nazis had their, a resource they used to go down on.
JH: Yeah.
AB: To spend leave in. Yeah. And then main force followed after we we got there and dropped a few more bombs.
JH: Yeah.
AB: On Berchtesgaden. It’s a beautiful town. But later on when I went and saw it.
JH: Yes.
AB: In 1980 it was, you wouldn’t have known it had been, it had been bombed at all.
JH: Yes.
AB: That was happening all around you. I went back to different places where we, where the place had been bombed heavily and they’d reconstructed it so good.
JH: Yes.
AB: Amazing. They did did a remarkable job of reconstructing.
JH: I was there maybe four years ago and I noticed there was absolutely no Nazi insignia anywhere. Even when they were carved in stone. It’s all been removed.
AB: it’s been removed.
JH: Yes.
AB: Yeah.
JH: Yeah. Okay. Well, last operation. So what happened then? You stayed on in the UK.
AB: What they were doing then the Australian, the RAAF people over there decided they would send a squadron out to Okinawa to bomb Japan. So myself and a couple of other members of our crew volunteered to go, to go out to to Okinawa and the squadron was 467 Squadron and that was, that was located in in Metheringham. And that was an enormous contrast to our location in Woodhall Spa while we were on 617 Squadron. The officer’s mess was the magnificent Petwood Hotel.
JH: I’ve been there. The Guy Gibson Bar.
AB: Yeah. That’s right.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Yeah, that was, we were upstairs. Our quarters were upstairs and they had a not not far from the bar was a billiard room. Is that still there?
JH: I’m not quite sure.
AB: They had a billiard room and my wireless operator and myself we were we didn’t drink but we played snooker in there in our spare time between when we went flying.
JH: Yes.
AB: The rest of the crew would get on at the grog but we, being teetotallers we we played snooker all the time and we got quite good at it actually.
JH: And you cleaned them up.
AB: You see when we got there we got good. Yeah. I took to it quite well.
JH: What a lovely place that is.
AB: It’s a beautiful spot isn’t it?
JH: Yeah.
AB: Yeah. They were I’ve got pictures of it on the computer.
JH: I’d like to go back there.
AB: When I went back to England in ’91 and did did a tour of England. Hired a car and drove all over England and Scotland and Wales. I did not go back to Woodhall Spa. I don’t know why I didn’t go back to show Marie, my wife.
JH: You didn’t want to go back or —
AB: I just for some reason or other it didn’t occur to me.
JH: Yeah.
AB: To go back and have a look at it. I can remember it quite clearly. I remember where we slept and who was in the room with us. We had, there were six of us. Six of us in a very big big room. It had a big balcony and there was a couple of blokes slept out on the balcony. It had a roof over it of course. And there were my pilot and myself and there were four English. Well, English men there.
JH: So, so in your crew in 617 how many Australians in the crew?
AB: Six.
JH: Six. One English.
AB: And one English.
JH: Yeah.
AB: An English flight engineer.
JH: Now, Alan so did you get to Japan in the end?
AB: Ah now.
JH: Yes, sorry.
AB: We we we again trained heavily.
JH: Yeah.
AB: On 467 Squadron and incidentally we were quartered in Nissen huts which was quite a contrast [laughs] to the Petwood Hotel. We didn’t have any, didn’t have any priority about good quarters whether you were an officer or not. We were and we had our final embarkation leave and they dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Then they dropped the next one on Nagasaki. We were, then we were stood down and that was, that’s what was in, that was in —
JH: That was a shock for you.
AB: That was in August I think.
JH: Just as well you weren’t over in that area.
AB: Well, in a way yes because probably might not have been here to tell the tale. It was, it was quite in a way we were a little bit sad but then also overjoyed.
JH: Yes.
AB: You know, we were sort of really keen to go and do something to those Japs.
JH: Yeah.
AB: We’d been reading and hearing a lot about what the Japs were doing.
JH: But that meant starting about going home.
AB: Yeah. Well, we left. We came home on the Athlone Castle and we got home around about February ’46. During the war when I came out of the Middle East I got married. I married my sweetheart and, and while I was away in Canada she gave birth to a son. [unclear] it was quite a, I didn’t realise at the time that when I got married that I was going to have a son.
JH: Yes.
AB: While the war was still on.
JH: When you were in [pause] when you were in Canada.
AB: I was in Canada. Yeah.
JH: Yes.
AB: Edmonton. That was on the 3rd of November ’43.
JH: So you hadn’t seen much of him at all.
AB: Hadn’t seen him at all until he was, until February ’46.
JH: Yes.
AB: He didn’t know who I was.
JH: Gosh. Yeah.
AB: I was a stranger. Took a while to get for him to know who I was, you know.
JH: Yes.
AB: Took a long long while.
JH: Yes.
AB: It was a real bad period really.
JH: Yeah.
AB: I I used to get quite annoyed about it, you know.
JH: Yes.
AB: He’d go to his grandfather all the time.
JH: Yes. Yeah.
AB: He wouldn’t come near me.
JH: Yes.
AB: Yeah. But anyhow after the war the war ended we ended up having another three children. Another son in 1948. Then a daughter in ’49.
JH: Yes.
AB: And then another daughter in ’52. So we had —
JH: Four in the family.
AB: Four in the family.
JH: Yeah.
AB: Two boys and two girls and one of the boys is, both boys, the eldest boy when he was about nineteen he joined the the Army.
JH: Yeah.
AB: And he did twenty one years in the Army. He was in Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam and he was, the youngest boy when he turned, I don’t know what it was he had his name pulled out the barrel to go to Vietnam. They had a —
JH: Yes, I know.
AB: Birthday barrel.
JH: Yes.
AB: Yeah. He went to Vietnam and unfortunately he he passed away when he was sixty three. He had cancer.
JH: Oh.
AB: Caused by his term in Vietnam. The Agent Orange. The Yanks dropped all this.
JH: Yes, I know.
AB: You know, Agent Orange and he he eventually he got this cancer and passed away in 2011. And the other boy and he was actually in the infantry. A young fella.
JH: Yes.
AB: The eldest boy had been in there for twenty one years. He was in the signals. So quite a bit of difference. He was mainly around the base area.
JH: Yes. So he wasn’t exposed.
AB: He wasn’t exposed.
JH: To the Agent Orange. Yeah.
AB: He wasn’t exposed as much as his brother was.
JH: Yeah. Well, that’s amazing that this you’ve got three generations in your family in the Army.
AB: Yes. Dad. Dad in both wars. The two boys. My sisters. Both sisters in the Women’s Army. Both my sisters.
JH: The Buxton’s have done their bit. More than done their bit, Alan.
AB: We’ve had a lot of experience in the Services. Yeah.
JH: You must be very proud of them all. Yeah.
AB: Very much so.
JH: Yeah. Yes. And you were telling me before eventually you found your feet career wise and joined Shell.
AB: That’s right and I worked there.
JH: And was that in Sydney or did you have to go —
AB: No. Sydney.
JH: To Melbourne.
AB: I was in the head, in the Sydney office. And then when they decided to build, or enlarge the refinery that John Fell owned in the Clyde. Clyde Refinery —
JH: Yes.
AB: I was transferred out to Clyde Refinery in ‘19⸻ I moved up. I was living at Narrabeen at the time.
JH: Yes.
AB: And I moved up to Eastwick and I got a transfer, a company transfer which was good.
JH: Were you with Shell all your, all your working career.
AB: No, before, before the war I was with Australian [Soaps] for a living.
JH: Yes. Okay.
AB: We can still see it’s Alexandria.
JH: Alexandria. Yes. You see, I know Alexandria well. Yeah.
AB: Well, I was with them until [laughs] and I was I was actually had the honour of being the first bloke to join the Services and when, when I was going out the gate the managing director Mr Harrison, a lovely old Scotsman he came out to me and he handed me an envelope. He said and wished me good luck and when I opened that envelope up he’d given me a ten pound note. I mean I was only getting one pound seventeen and sixpence a week and I ended up with a ten pound note. I thought I was made [laughs] Ten pound.
AB: It would have seemed like the lottery. Yeah.
JH: At the time because when, you know.
AB: Yeah.
JH: My pay was six pence a week.
AB: What a gesture.
JH: Hmmn?
AB: What a gesture.
JH: Oh, I thought it was wonderful. Yeah.
AB: Yeah. Have you still got the ten pound note?
JH: No.
AB: Okay [laughs]
JH: I spent that.
AB: Of course.
JH: I needed it. I didn’t have any —
JH: Yeah.
AB: Any money. Any money much in those days.
JH: Yeah. Well, Alan I can’t get over this interview. It’s really amazing. It’s quite a story. I need to have a lie down, a cup of tea and digest it all.
AB: Do you want a cup of tea now?
JH: Oh, now that sounds a great idea. I didn’t say that [laughs]
AB: Oh, I’ll see what I can.
JH: But yeah, I wouldn’t mind a cup.
AB: I’ll see if I can —
JH: So shall we, shall we wind it up and —
AB: Okay. Go on.
JH: So, I really would like to thank you for, for doing the interview. So, this is for the IBCC.
AB: Yeah.
JH: Veterans Interview Project and I think that that so that interview your your family can, can go in and listen to it or if anyone visits Lincolnshire they can go and listen to it.
AB: Oh right.
JH: The Bomber Command Centre there is quite something. I was there at the opening. And so Alan thanks very much.
AB: I get the information. You know these lads that found the plane, Stuart [McRory] and his brother Bruce on the work that has been done to restoring the Lancaster Just Jane.
JH: Yes.
AB: You know.
JH: Yes. Yeah.
JH: I’ve seen it.
AB: You’ve seen it.
JH: Yeah.
AB: They’re doing that restoration. It’s going on. It’s been going for years with this restoration.
JH: Yeah. Yeah.
AB: They use it. Normally it’s only used for taxi runs.
JH: Yes.
AB: Stuart, Stuart and his brother Bruce they’ve done the taxi ride. They charge fifty pounds to do the taxi ride up and down the runway.
JH: Fantastic. Yeah.
AB: Yeah. And —
JH: Well, on that note Alan I’m going to wind up here. Thanks very much.



John Horsburgh, “Interview with Alan George Buxton,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 22, 2024,

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