Interview with Peter Offord Davies. Part Two

Title

Interview with Peter Offord Davies. Part Two

Description

Peter volunteered in 1942 and was accepted early in 1943. He outlines the combat training they received. Talks of the rations he received early in the war and on the RAF station. He describes the autonomy of his anti-aircraft unit. Reflecting on bombing raids, he feels civilians suffered more than he did. He never belonged to a big unit.
Peter describes his daily routine, flight training at the Elementary Flying Training School and glider training at RAF Stoke Orchard. He flew every military glider: Hotspur, Horsa, Hadrian, Waco and Hamilcar. Peter recounts his first solo and sneaking flights with aircrews carrying out night flying tests at RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth. He also describes his first glider flight and the interior of a Hamilcar.
They met tug crews prior to operations, sharing the mess, but living separately. The Halifax towed them on the Rhine crossing when they carried a 17-pounder anti-tank gun.
As a heavy lift squadron, they lifted both the 1st Airborne Division and 6th Airborne Division, lifting Royal Artillery or Royal Armoured Corps.
During his time with the United States 9th Airforce with Troop Carrier Command, Peter went to more than one mass drop prior to D-Day. He saw “Windy” Gale, Browning and Eisenhower.

Creator

Date

2022-11-06

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

01:08:45 audio recording

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This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Identifier

ADaviesPO221106-AV

Transcription

TO: So, you know how last time you told me how you’d seen the, was it the R100 airship when you were younger?
PO: Oh yes. The R100. Yeah.
TO: Did you, were you interested in other airships in the world like the Hindenburg?
PO: Not, not really. No. I mean what age would I [pause] I would only have been eight or nine you know, sort of thing. The Hindenburg. No. No. I mean I think I’d probably be aware of it but you know, we had the R100 and the R101, you know. We had two airships but as for the German aviation no. I think the first thing I ever became aware of of German aviation other than sort of First World War sort of aircraft were the Junkers 52 which of course it was a triplane and unusual and was you know sort of the leading aircraft at the time I think, you know. We hadn’t anything comparable with it as far as I know. No. No, it, I mean I heard about the Zeppelins in the First World War from my mother you know and that sort of thing but yeah my own, my interest in aviation was such as we saw of it and heard of it. That was it. No, no great depth of, you know I must look into this or I must look in to that sort of thing.
TO: And did you think that airships had a future for travelling?
PO: I don’t know. I mean you know we were very naïve I think in those days you know. A bit early in my life really to have an opinion as such I think. Yes. I was just a, I mean what you’ve got to remember is that I mean the children I deal with in school they’re five and six years old. Boy they’re so up to date and with it. We were very naïve you know. I mean it was almost sort of well I mean my early life was horse and cart sort of you know. That was the method of transport. And buses with solid tyres and stuff like this, you know. Yeah. Oh yes. Very different childhood to today. So when you look at today’s children they’re very streetwise in some cases. They’re well-travelled. I mean kids I deal with you know they’ve been to South America. They’ve been here, they’ve been there, all over the world and they think nothing of it. It’s their world. A totally different world to my childhood world. Totally different.
TO: And what rations did you have in the Army?
PO: Well, it depends where you were. I was never ever in a big camp so our rations were brought to us generally once a week and it was down to I mean a lot of my, at the early part of the war well the very early part of the war of course we were living on basically on stew. It was the breakfast was porridge which invariably was burned and the main course in our mess tins we had two. A mess tin with, a deep mess tin and a shallow one and the lid went on, you know. Not the square ones they have today. These were half round and you’d get tinned tomato and bacon and that was with bread and that was your breakfast. Lunch was stew. Teatime would be bread, butter and jam and tea of course. And that was it. But when I was in charge of my twelve fourteen guys and our gun and computer our rations were brought once a week and it was down to our cook whoever the cook was as to what you what you got. But generally speaking we were never hungry. Never hungry. Never hungry. No. I mean you know we used to forage at times or even steal potatoes out of a field or something but we weren’t beyond, we were typical soldiery I suppose. You know, when the devil drives the needs are must. Yeah. Oh yes. No. No. The rations, the only shortage I ever remember was sugar. Sugar and onions. Onions were in, were like gold. God knows why. I suppose we imported so many and they weren’t high on the list of freight to be carried across the state, from the States or wherever.
TO: And what do you remember about the blackouts?
PO: The blackout [pause] That’s a good question. What did I think about the blackouts? I mean it really it is never really dark. It’s amazing. I mean it depends on the cloud cover I suppose as to whether you got light from the stars or the moon. I mean we used to hate the moon because it was like daylight so you were more likely to be bombed as it were in in the the moonlight than on a black night. But I think, I think the civilians suffered more. There were more probably more casualties in the civilian population then there were in the, certainly in the Army population through people getting knocked over by vehicles or walking into things that weren’t there sort of thing, you know. Falling down holes. God only knows. No. The blackout. We used to sing a song about the blackout and the moon but no no but I don’t think the blackout bothered us. No. It certainly didn’t seem to bother me from recollection.
TO: And did you meet or see any evacuees?
PO: No. No. The only thing that I ever saw was the people sleeping in the Tube in London and that really did shake me when, I don’t know where it was but I remember getting out of the Tube somewhere in London and there were people all still sleeping on the platforms and stuff like that. I believe during the night when trains weren’t running they were sleeping down where the tracks were but they were certainly on the surface of the, you know of the platforms and stuff like this. And they weren’t just females and children either. They were adult males. Yeah.
TO: And are there any bombing raids that you remember?
PO: Raids? No. What do you mean by raids?
TO: Well —
PO: I mean if you talk about sort of a Fokker Wulf coming screaming down at zero feet and dropping a bomb and firing its cannon at the same time I remember that. I remember, I mean we were, I was in, at the time I was in a light anti-aircraft, a mobile light anti-aircraft unit and we got sent from Derby to Hull. To a place called Paull and we had there we found there were two three inch 1940, 1914 ack ack guns. Real old things and we knew nothing about them. It was a question of getting the book out and learn. And one day on a pleasant afternoon we were standing to, there was a raid forecast and along came a single Heinkel 111 and we stood and looked at it and did nothing to it and it shot down a couple of balloons and went safely on its way and you know we never fired a shot. Then another day we had a raid and the weather was clamped down like billy-o and we couldn’t see a darned thing. But one night I remember there was a raid on and it was night time and the bombs were coming closer and closer and closer to us and as he let his bombs go sort of and it was approaching where we were the bombs were coming down close and they stopped just before they got to our position else we would have been the recipients of maybe his last bomb. I don’t know. But no, I mean another time an aircraft came up in northern Scotland actually and very very low down, dropped his single bomb and it skidded along the ground and bounced over our hut and lay there inert in the field for about a week before the Royal Engineers came and took it away. But as for bombing raids again as I say I mean the night my hometown was being blitzed I was in, we were guarding a radio location station in Lincolnshire. Quiet as anything. My parents were at risk and I was safe as houses. The civilians caught more of the Blitz as it were than well than I did anyhow. Yeah.
TO: And what else do you remember about being in anti-aircraft units?
PO: Well, we were as I say I had you know sort of fourteen guys and a gun and that was our little world and we ran it. I ran it and you know the officers would come maybe once a week or an officer if only to give us our pay and go away, you know. We were very autonomous in that respect. As long as the work was being done and when they came you know we were all sort of proved to be efficient that was it. Again, you see I didn’t belong to, I’ve never belonged to a big unit ever. I mean after the war I certainly didn’t belong to a big unit. You know. The work I was doing was very specialist in one way and another. No. It’s, I mean even on the squadron you know I really only knew the people in my flight you know. But it, it was we were just doing a job. I mean it sounds silly doesn’t it? Fighting a war but my war was very different to somebody in the infantry who was plodding through mud and eating when they could and all this sort of thing. I had an easy war. I really did. Looking back it was very easy.
TO: And did the Army ever interact with the Home Guard?
PO: No. No. I mean when in ’40 when invasion because of course one night we did get Cromwell was the code word. In fact, I’ve got some papers here that say all about it in one way or another. Original documents I’ve got here believe you me. But we used to regularly see the Home Guard putting horse, putting carts and things across the road as roadblocks in the distance where we were but we never saw anything or had anything to do with the Home Guard at all. No.
TO: And can you tell me about when you were stationed at RAF bases?
PO: Yes. The food was good. We had, we were on aircrew rations of course which was different to other people’s rations. I mean the one thing we used to get was we used to get milk which wasn’t available to the normal RAF guys you know. Engineers or whatever. Plotters or whatever they were. And we used to get a ration of, a weekly ration of raisins or you know dried fruit and we certainly had a ration of eggs so you know it sounds [laughs] but the food was good. That was the great thing and of course we, we slept in beds and we didn’t have sheets there. We only, the only time I ever had sheets in the Army was when I was at EFTS. Elementary Flying Training School and there we did nothing. I mean we used to have civilian women would come in and clean the billet and lay the fire and you know we were cosseted like nobody’s business at EFTS. But other than that on squadron we just used to troop along to the mess and get our meals and you know night flying suppers and stuff like that. It was good. Yeah. I’ll tell you [laughs] I had a good war. Yeah.
TO: What was your everyday routine at these bases?
PO: Well, we used to parade and basically find out more or less what we were doing that day. I mean you know we spent our time in the main flying, you know and that was sort of we’d, doing circuits and bumps and stuff like that. I mean we didn’t have many lectures. I’m sure we did do. I mean we learned or were taught all about booby traps and stuff like that you know and different sorts of warfare I suppose. No. It was just almost a 9 till 5 job to us really. Very uninteresting.
TO: And can you tell me about your flight training please?
PO: Yeah. My first flight was the same for everybody I suppose in that I was taken on a flight in an aircraft, in a Tiger Moth and shown where the controls were and one thing and another. As I say I was at Elementary Flying Training School there and then one day the, my instructor we landed and he got out of the cockpit and did his straps up and I thought what’s he doing? And he just said to me, ‘Right. Off you go.’ And that was it because we had to solo. If we didn’t solo within ten hours then you were out and in actual fact I soloed at about eight hours twenty minutes or some damned thing that seems to lodge in my mind. Yeah. I mean some people just couldn’t, couldn’t do that so of course they left. I mean you know they really were very gung-ho on who they kept and who they didn’t. I mean, but at Elementary Flying Training School I mean we used to do run marches. You know, i.e. could be ten miles in an hour and forty minutes in full kit once a week. You know. We were, we were fit and reasonably tough I suppose. On one occasion a guy called Geoff Higgins and I decided it was, it was bitterly cold and I think we’d come out of a lecture and we were going back to our huts to get all our kit on to go on a run march and he and I decided it was too miserable and cold. We weren’t going to go so we sneaked off into a hangar where there were men in aircraft and one thing and another and had a cup of tea with the people who were there. And then eventually of course we got caught out. We weren’t on parade and we got hauled before the camp comm and put on a charge actually. The only time I’d ever been put on a charge and we got away with it. The guy thought that we were very near the end of our training so he said, ‘Well, report to the police at extra times for the next seven days.’ And that’s what we did but that was flying training was good. I mean we did it. Yeah, we did all the things that one would do at Flying Training School including aerobatics and stuff like this to make you into something that was more or less a pilot. But and then left there as I say and went to glider training at Stoke Orchard and flew Hotspurs. I’ve flown in every military, every military glider there is. I’ve flown Hotspur, Horsa, Hadrian or Waco and Hamilcar. Yeah. So I’ve quite, quite a few memories of different places and different things you know but I didn’t like the Wacos. They were cheap and cheerful. I wasn’t happy with them I must admit.
TO: So, do you remember your first solo flight?
PO: Yes. I did. I took off and I was talking to myself like nobody’s business and the only thing that I do remember is that as I came into land because the instructor’s weight wasn’t in the aircraft the aircraft was a lot lighter. I mean that was a bit [laughs] I landed first time at least so I taxied back to where we came from. But the following day I had a CFI, Chief Flying Instructor test and that day I took off with him and as we came in to land I thought right I’m going to land just at the edge of that the airfield. It was a grassed airfield. I thought, yeah I’m alright here. And I was on the glide path and there was a cottage at the end of my approach and as I got lower and lower I thought I’m just going to miss the top of that cottage. And I thought no. This sounds daft, I thought no, I’m going to hit the chimney. And it got to where I thought no I’m going to hit the, hit the cottage and the chief flying instructor said, ‘I’ve got it.’ And you know put full power on it and climbed away and went around again and I thought oh I’ve really, I’ve shot it there. I’m, you know, I’m for the chop now. But no, it didn’t happen. But that was funny. It was almost as if I was transfixed by this cottage. You know the cottage was safe on the ground and I wanted to be on the ground safe. It sounds silly doesn’t it? But yeah. God knows what I was thinking really. Other than that I remember once hitting an air pocket in oh it was in [pause] it was in a Waco. Yeah. We hit an air pocket and must have dropped about fifty feet and all the muck and everything was flying through the air there. You know, the bottom dropped out of the world on that one but we recovered in the normal way you know. Yeah. It was just flying. Just flying.
TO: So had you, when did you volunteer to be in the airborne?
PO: In 1942. The end of 1942 was when I volunteered and at the beginning of ’43 was when I went for my aircrew medical and you know, all the theory. All the maths and you know common sense questions that these people asked one way or another but so it would be, I mean I wasn’t accepted until the beginning of ’43 so it was fairly early days you know. And then I went from there to depot as I say. We lost people at, out of all the volunteers you know on the initial thing we lost people. Then I went to depot where there were a hundred of us and only thirty of us left there to be in the airborne forces. And then to Flying School where we lost other people who couldn’t fly or hadn’t got the wherewithal or couldn’t stand the discipline and you know so we were being, our numbers were decreasing. Well, you could almost draw a graph of the numbers of us left. It was just pure luck I think. I was just bloody minded and you know tried to keep my nose clean and be the grey man as it were. Yeah. Yeah.
TO: And can you tell me about the combat training for airborne troops?
PO: Well, I think that I suppose it almost broke into two. I mean we carried, the glider pilot regiment carried more troops into battle than parachuted in. There’s no two ways about that. Their training would be very different to ours I suppose. I mean we, we were almost like just delivery drivers in a way. I mean okay we were you know on the ground we became basically infantry so I mean but there wasn’t, I don’t think there was many weapons that we couldn’t, you know we were taught enemy weapons as well as our own weapons you know. So you know if you lost, if you lost your canon you could go and pick up somebody else’s canon and know how to use it sort of thing. But tactics and stuff like that I don’t recall. We did do urban fighting in one of the derelict areas of London where we did [pause] I think putting [mouseholes] through walls and stuff like this so you could get from one place to another without exposing yourself and street fighting sort of thing. You know. Tactics. But never had to use them. But I suppose it was just building our knowledge up and our confidence in ourselves and the system. Yeah.
TO: And what do you remember about the street fighting?
PO: It was good fun [laughs] It was good fun. Okay, we got dirty a lot of running around and one thing and another. I don’t remember any debriefings or anything like that. I really don’t. It was we just went up to London for a day and a half and, you know and got stuck in. Yeah.
TO: And do you remember the first time you fired a weapon in training?
PO: That would have been before the war. Yeah. Yeah. Yes. They made darned certain that you had your rifle stuck well into your shoulder because it was the kick of it and that was it. Yeah. I would be about nineteen, I suppose the first time I fired a weapon. Would be ’39. In 1939. Yeah. Yeah. I never fired a weapon as a boy soldier so it must have been 1939. Yeah. And that would be on a rifle range, you know. At Wedgnock in Warwickshire. Yeah. That’s where it would have been. I mean I can’t say I honestly remember it you know bang on but that must have been the first time I ever fired a weapon. But as I said you know the weapon of my choice was a Bren gun because you could fire that from the hip or anywhere else. I mean it’s the same with the Thompson sub-machine gun. That was quite a cumbersome weapon but you could you know aim it or you could just squirt it as it were from the hip. It was quite a, quite a weapon that. Yeah. But I never did fire well we had in the battalion we had an anti-tank platoon and they had what was known as the boy’s anti-tank rifle. That had got a hell of a kick on it I believe but I never fired that at all either. I wasn’t in that platoon anyhow. No. But yeah. You know, as I say it was just how life was I’m afraid. You know. I mean it must be boring for you in a way and well [pause]
TO: Can you tell me more about when you were at RAF bases and went on flying the bombers?
PO: Well, again I, I was a little subunit in a big unit and around an airfield would be you know probably four or five guns. Where my canon was was on the almost on the perimeter track outside the airfield actually but almost on the perimeter track. And you know that’s when I used to sort of sneak away and scrounge flights. I mean I don’t know how many other people that ever did it but I certainly did. I mean the one flight I remember we were coming in to land. It was in a Whitley bomber and as we approached the airfield around the perimeter track was somebody on a bicycle and the pilot said to me watch this and we were coming down to land and this guy was on his bike and he looked up and looked at us and saw us coming in to land below and of course he was cycling along and we edged along with him [laughs] So the next time he looked we were still aiming virtually at him. And in the end when we flew over him I’m damned certain he fell off his bicycle because believe you me we were only probably ten feet above his head when we, when we actually crossed on to, on to the grass airfield you know. If there had been a runway there would have been a certain length of time when he would have been at risk but because it was a grass runway as he was cycling along we were drifting with him. So that was funny that. Yeah. Yeah. Oh dear oh dear. Yeah. Yeah. It was, it was just life I suppose you know. I mean good God. I mean I’ve had a tremendous life. My wartime life and post wartime you know. Good God. I’ve done everything from dining with royalty to I’m a Freeman of the city of Coventry. I’m an honorary alderman of Cheshire and I’ve got I’ve had a great life. I really have. Yeah. Yeah. As I say the Army Air Corps have turned up trumps one way and another. Yeah.
TO: And the crews you flew with were they just doing training flights?
PO: What? When I was flying in the Whitley’s and that? No, it was all night flying tests. You know, the aircraft were being prepped for, for night flying for these are Operational Training Units. One was at Kinloss and one was at Lossiemouth. I think it was 19 and 20 OTUs. I seem to recall the numbers but you know, I mean they were clapped out aircraft in the main you know. They were ex-operational aircraft that had been downgraded because I mean the number of crashes and malfunctions that took place we seemed to have funerals every week of people who had either flown into a hillside or had crashed or the aircraft had let them down or they made pilot error nonsense. It was when I think back it was a bit dicey really. I mean they’d all got parachutes. I hadn’t got a parachute and I just would have gone kneel out between the two pilots and look at what was going on and enjoy the ride. Yeah.
TO: Did any crews object to you being on board the planes?
PO: Oh no. I mean I think anybody who would have objected would have said no to my request you know. ‘Can I come along with you?’ Sort of thing. ‘No.’ They’d be very definite I think. Whereas the others would say, ‘Well, yeah. Okay. Get in.’ That sort of thing. Very casual. Very casual you know. Not like today. Good God today you couldn’t get near the aircraft today I reckon.
TO: So where did you sit when you were in these bombers?
PO: I didn’t. I knelt or stood between the pilots or knelt between them and whatnot. I didn’t just sit in the fuselage. I wanted to see where we were going. You know. Oh yes. Yeah. Oh yes. It’s, I mean it wasn’t a lot of room and it wasn’t exactly comfortable but you know I was flying. I was, you know I was getting this free ride sort of thing out over the sea and then over parts of Scotland here and there sort of thing you know. Over the mountains. Yeah. Oh yes. It was good fun. Good fun.
TO: And do you remember any other times when you were in the bombers or any other stories from there?
PO: Not really. No. Not really. No. No. No. I think as I say I did it so often one way and another. But as for incidents. No. As I say the funny one was being in the Whitley and drifting along with this cyclist. He was a sergeant actually because I could see the badges of rank on his, on his uniform you know. It was just so amusing and obviously the pilot whether he was a sergeant or an officer I don’t know but the first pilot as I say he said to me, ‘Just watch this.’ [laughs] Yeah. Mischievous. Mischievous.
TO: And can you tell me about the first time you flew a glider?
PO: Well, the first time I flew a glider would be a Hotspur and the only thing I really recall about it was that the amount of noise on tow and the silence when we came off tow where we were no longer being dragged along by this Miles Master aircraft. We were in free flight and it was just so quiet and then sort of that was, that was it. That was my first recollection of flying in a military glider. Yeah. Yeah.
TO: And how did the flying a glider compare to powered aircraft?
PO: The only difference is if you make a mistake with a powered aircraft you can open the taps and go around again. With a, with a glider you’re committed. The minute you come off tow whether you like it or not you’re committed. It’s a question of sort of well you, how can I put it? You know where your landing zone is and it’s a question of getting into it. How you do, how you do it is down to you but there’s no, no ooops I made a mistake here or, I could do with a bit more height because you ain’t going to get no more height. It’s you’re on your way down. You really are. Oh yes. Yeah.
TO: How much room did a glider need to land?
PO: Well, I mean at one stage we were flying the Hamilcar and the, at the end of the runway there was like a bit of a cliff and we were flying over the cliff you know to land and that was the direction of the landing and there were probably five or six Hamilcars you know. We weren’t the only one flying that day and at the side of the runway was a caravan that controlled the take offs with an Aldis lamp and we started, I don’t know how it started but we started to see who could land in the shortest possible time and we got to the stage where we were banned because we were almost landing right on the end of the runway at Fairford. Yeah. Was it Fairford? No. It wasn’t Fairford. That must have been Tarrant. Yeah. So I mean we would land and put the brakes on and as I say we finished up being coming to a halt before we got to the caravan which was controlling the runway. It got it was, it got dangerous shall I say I mean because we were beginning to drop down. Get as much speed as we could and drop down below the level of the airfield and then just pop up and plonk it down. But normal landing I don’t know. A hundred and fifty yards maybe and that was it you’d come to a grinding halt and of course you’d got brakes. You got brakes on you know on both the Horsa and the Hamilcar. They’d got brakes so you know you could slow yourself down as it were.
TO: When you were flying a glider during the Rhine crossing was it possible to steer away from anti-aircraft fire or did you just have to keep going?
PO: Well, on, on tows you’d no choice. It’s down to tug aircraft and your attitude towards where you are on the end of the rope as it were. So there was no choice. In free flight yeah. You could I suppose go left or right or you know try to avoid anything but frankly there was so much of it anyhow that you know you could go from the frying pan in to the fire if you started trying to get clever I think. We were, we were more interested in trying to get down onto our proper landing zone which we’d identified you know and get down and get the load out of the aircraft. But it didn’t happen of course because then we got clobbered.
TO: So during the Rhine crossing was it an anti-tank gun your aircraft was carrying?
PO: It’s the seventeen pounder, yeah anti-tank basically anti-tank. It was a quite a weapon. It was a big weapon. Yeah. A big weapon. Yeah.
TO: And did you meet the tug crews before you took off?
PO: We, yes, oh yes we’d meet them at both the briefing and you know just immediately prior to the op you know. We wished one another all the best sort of thing and you know, ‘We’ll see you back at the airfield in a few days time.’ Sort of thing you know. But that didn’t particularly happen. But yeah. I mean but we didn’t live with the aircrews. We lived totally separate from the RAF. We were, we were under a different sort of discipline almost you could say where the RAF guys were both officers, warrant officers and sergeants and whatnot, the aircrews and they lived their lives. The only time we’d come up against them really other than you know hooking onto their aircraft would be at meal times and you know in the RAF mess as it were where we ate of course. We weren’t segregated for eating or anything. We used all the RAF facilities but we lived separately from the RAF. I supposed that way we were almost like an attached unit as it were. We were bolted on to the aerodrome as it were. I mean we could have lived anywhere really but we lived on the RAF station in Nissen huts and the usual facilities as it were.
TO: And were you towed by a Halifax during the Rhine crossing?
PO: Yeah. Yes. That was the only thing that would pull us off the ground. Yeah. I mean a Dakota couldn’t possibly manage it. It hadn’t got enough power by any manner of means. I mean, as I said to you earlier we never flew with less than nine thousand pounds of ballast but I think take-off weight was about thirty seven thousand pounds when, when we were loaded. It was you know quite a heavy load. Yeah. We were. We were overloaded. There’s no two ways about it. You know. People would pop in extra ammunition or you know half a cookhouse if they could sort of thing you know. So our weight was in excess really of permitted weight but you know, it was the aircraft was strong enough. I mean it was well built. My God they were well built. Well, the floor was well built. Let’s put it that way. Yeah.
TO: Did you enjoy flying gliders?
PO: Yeah. It was. Yeah. It was a good job. You know. It was a good job and you know we were young and we had a lot of life. We were alive and life was good. And I suppose in a way we almost worked on the principle of you know tomorrow you may die sort of thing so you know we’d do things you wouldn’t. We’d enjoy life to the maximum in the position that we were in. Flying was that’s what we got paid five bob a day for. So you know keep flying and keep taking the money sort of thing. Oh yeah. Yeah. Enjoy? I don’t know if that’s a word I would use. It was just something we did and you know that was it, you know. No. It might sound strange to you that but yeah.
TO: Did you ever wish you were doing a different role?
PO: Oh no. No. No. No. I can’t ever say that that ever, that has ever happened to me in military or civilian life. I’m a great believer in if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing get out. I wouldn’t wish I would do something about it which in my civilian life I have done. You know, I’ve just told my superiors in one place I wasn’t going to work for them anymore and I just walked out. No. My desk was left and I just walked. Completely walked out. Yeah. Oh no. I didn’t hanker to do anything else. What I was doing was what I wanted to do and as long as I was happy doing it that was me. Yeah. Oh yes.
TO: And what, what regiments and division were you in?
PO: Well, we were because we were a heavy lift squadron I mean there was a 1st Airborne Division and the 6th Airborne Division. We lifted both. So we were that way we weren’t in either the 1st or the 6th. I don’t know frankly where we fitted in to that you know. Sort of we lifted whatever. Whether they were Poles or what. I mean you know I mean [pause] what was the question sorry?
TO: Which regiments and divisions were you in?
PO: Oh well, I mean as I say we lifted Royal Artillery guys. So others would lift Royal Engineers or whatnot you know but we lifted as I say Royal Artillery or an armoured regiment you know. Tank. So that would be Royal Armoured Corps but I never flew a tank so I wouldn’t know.
TO: And what did you think of the tanks that would have gone in the Hamilcars?
PO: Well, they were made, they were sort of modified so they could get them into the thing. Getting them out operationally was you were supposed to come to a halt. I mean this is only what I know now. You’d come to a halt. Open the nose, lower the, lower the oleo legs and let it drive out. In actual fact what did happen was the minute they were on the floor they drove straight through the nose anyhow. They didn’t bother to hang about sort of thing. Yeah. But as I say I never flew, never flew a tank. I never came in to contact with the Armoured Corps at all. Never.
TO: I think you mentioned yesterday you were, were you something like interacting with Americans at some points.
PO: Yeah. Oh yeah. I was with the 9th Air Force. Yeah. With Troop Carrier Command 9th Air Force. That was, that was quite a jolly that. There were five. Five of us and I mean I went to more than one mass drop prior to D-Day. I mean I can’t say I was in, had knowledge of secret stuff but there was so much the Americans would leave papers about that we would covet or we weren’t supposed to see and their security at times was pretty grim or pretty poor. I mean the day that we got a whole delivery of Purple Hearts and you’d think I mean and I’m talking about a box about four foot by four foot by four foot full of Purple Heart medals. Who’s going to, who’s going to be the recipients of these because every American who got wounded of course got a Purple Heart medal. That sort of thing. But, yeah. It was, it was good. Yeah. Yes. I mean I flew all over the place. To Greenham Common. Oh God. You name an airfield that the US troops were on and I’ve been there. I really have. I mean if we couldn’t get, if we couldn’t get there by jeep in, I mean we would say to somebody ‘Where are you?’ And they’d say thirty or forty miles away from where you are now and we’d think well forty miles. We could do that in an hour because we used to thrash our jeeps. We really did. There was only one speed with a jeep and that was flat out. They were great fun to drive. But yeah, and then as I say Gale came, Windy Gale and Browning came at one time. But as I say Eisenhower was at one of the big drops just prior to D-Day. But life with the Americans was, that was a real sort of, well I mean we just seemed to do things. You know. Nothing particularly outlandish. We seemed to do more travelling than anything else. That was good and the food was good.
TO: And can you describe the inside of a Hamilcar?
PO: Well, to get into the cockpit you went into the, into a door I’ll call it on the port side. You went across the cargo hold which would be about nine feet I suppose. Ten feet wide I suppose. Up a wooden ladder that was on the wall opposite you on the, on the starboard side. Get out on to the top of the fuselage. Walk along the top of the fuselage and get in the cockpit and it was a tandem cockpit so you know one pilot and then another one with both with the same controls and instruments such as they were and that was it. They were cavernous. They really were quite big. I mean they were big. I mean I don’t know if you know the dimensions of them but oh yeah. I mean the cockpit was about nineteen feet above the ground. Well, you know people think of gliders, you say, ‘I flew gliders.’ And they see sail planes. Nothing like it. Nothing like it at all. They were huge. They were a huge beast. They really were. They were the biggest military, British military glider. The Americans had nothing like it and the Germans I think at one time produced one that was about twice the size but it never was used. It was, you know just a dream I suppose almost. I mean I suppose we could have carried a hundred odd soldiers quite happily in a Hamilcar if it had been designated troop carrying but it wasn’t meant for troops. It was meant for bulldozers and tanks and guns and heavy heavy kit as it were. As I say it was the only heavy lift squadron we’d got.
TO: And did you hear about other events of the war like Pearl Harbour?
PO: No. No. No. No. We’d got enough to do with our own war I think. The war in the Far East didn’t certainly with me didn’t register at all. That didn’t register until after the European war had finished. Then we started getting worried about going to the Far East with what we were being told one way and another and as I say at that time we were then converting onto these Waco gliders which of course were out in the Far East. Yeah.
TO: And did you hear about the Battle of El Alamein?
PO: All that I remember about Alamein was that that was probably the first battle that we seem to have won. And that’s where you, like the question you asked yesterday that’s where sort of Montgomery came to the fore. You know. We’d actually won something, you know. Before that it was I mean the war in the desert used to go up and down the coast of Africa like nobody’s business you know. We’d win a load and then we’d retreat. Go back again and retreat. Oh dear oh dear. I mean we were aware of Tobruk and stuff like that and I met the odd guy who came home on leave from Africa but no. The war, I mean the only involvement that the regiment got was of course was invading Sicily and that was a debacle. That really was. I mean some of the guys were in the water for hours. Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. Right. Well, you’ve got another five minutes so make the most of it.
TO: Okay. Did you hear about battles happening in Russia?
PO: No. No. No. No, the only, I had two [pause] I had what was it? I was in Edinburgh and the Usher Hall at an orchestral concert and a load of Russians came in there as guests. Those were the first Russians I ever saw. And then I was in Goch in Germany and I met a Russian female. She was the size of a brick toilet. She really was. She was massive. She’d been a slave labourer but the Russians, no, had no, I mean everybody was aware of Stalingrad and stuff like that you know but it was somehow that wasn’t our war, you know. The Russians were fighting the Germans over there. We’d got them on our doorsteps so to speak you know. The Germans. The Germans were enough for us let alone fighting the Russians. Although it looked like we were going to fight the Russians after the war finished I must admit. That didn’t go off thank God. No.
TO: What’s your best memory of the war?
PO: I suppose looking back I was very very privileged to meet some very brave men. Just ordinary guys who were really [pause] you know I’m a mere shadow of those guys. It was a privilege to have lived and served alongside some really super guys. They weren’t warriors but boy when the dice were thrown they were there to pick up the bits. No. They were great. They really were. Yeah. I was, I was privileged to know these people and to say that they were friends of mine sort of thing you know. Or compatriots at least, I mean. And so many of them went on in civilian street to make real names for themselves too you know. I mean one became the chief of the Thames Valley Police Force. Another one, Potts he was a professor of, he worked for one of the massive companies you know. Another one became the COE, CEO of another multinational you know. They were great guys. But as far as the soldiery was concerned they were all friends, friends shall I say but yeah. I was just privileged to even rub along shoulders with them and that’s really my biggest memory I suppose. Nothing specific as it were. No particular point.
TO: And what’s your worst memory of the war?
PO: I don’t have one. I don’t have one. No. No, I mean I know people they’re dead now I must admit but I’ve known people who have flashbacks to incidents and things like that and you know disturbed nights of and I’ve never had any of that you know. It just washed over me. I’m either too thick or my pain threshold is just so high that I don’t recognise anything. No. I’ve no, no terrible memories. My memories are of meeting some lovely people and you know you tend I suppose in life you tend to put the horrible things into a separate box in total you know and we’ve got enough problems of today without harping on yesterday’s problems anyhow. Yeah. So there you go. Right. Well, you’ve had your time so is there anything else you really want?
TO: Just one last question. What do you think of war films?
PO: Of war films? Well, there’s a thing on telly at the moment called, “Who Dares Wins,” and I saw the first bit of it and I thought what a load of rubbish. Because the SAS, I only know two guys who were in the Special Air Service and it’s very very different. What do I think of these war films? Okay, I certainly [pause] there are some. I mean. “A Bridge Too Far,” which was the story of Arnhem basically. That was very very true to life without a shadow of a doubt with the exception that you know there was an American influence which didn’t happen in actual fact. But that’s so they could sell it to America of course. But some of the war films are, they are just so gung-ho and impossible. Impossible some of them. They make money for somebody I suppose.
TO: Is there anything you want to add about your experiences that you feel is very important?
PO: No. No. As I say I’m, I’m just one of thousands who I’ll say survived the war. I never got wounded. I never got hospitalised or anything like that. I just was the same as thousands of others. I was just very lucky in the units I went to and in my own little world I was happy and I look back and think how lucky. Well, I am. I’m an extremely lucky guy. But in total, in total I really am a very lucky guy. If I were to die tomorrow I couldn’t grumble. I would because I’ve got too much to do but, no. Life has just been very kind to me and I’ve survived. I’ve met some lovely people. The world is full of lovely people. It really is. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve met some super folk. That’s been a privilege. Yeah. So there you go sir.
TO: Thank you so much. Thank
PO: Not at all.

Citation

Tom Ozel, “Interview with Peter Offord Davies. Part Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 14, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/40603.

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