Interview with Dennis Brader


Interview with Dennis Brader
1002,1003-Brader, Dennis


Dennis Brader worked at the site of RAF Wickenby where he did ground maintenance.





00:10:35 audio recording


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Interviewer: Good morning. Would you like to just give me your name please and your date of birth.
DB: Dennis Windsor Brader [unclear]
Interviewer: And your date of birth was?
DB: 20th of July 1927.
Interviewer: 1927. Right. Thanks very much Dennis. Right. We’re here this morning obviously to talk about your experiences as a young schoolboy when war broke out but also as well your time as the, one of the groundsmen at Wickenby. I’d like to start please do you have any memories then when you were at school of when war broke out and what the feeling was at school?
DB: Well just the same. Didn’t seem to bother anybody.
Interviewer: No.
DB: No.
Interviewer: There was no –
DB: I can’t remember being frightened or anything like that.
Interviewer: Did you have any practices for air raids?
DB: No, I can’t remember that. No. I could have had but I can’t remember. We had air raid shelters but I can’t, never remember going into it.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: Sorry about my voice.
Interviewer: Yeah. What, what was the village that you lived in at the time then?
DB: I lived here at East Barkwith.
Interviewer: So you’ve always lived here all your life.
DB: Yeah. Oh, I’ve been around a bit.
Interviewer: Yeah. Ok. So by the time then you got to the age of sixteen obviously it was time to find a job and so where did you first go?
DB: Yeah. I left school at fourteen.
Interviewer: So you left school at fourteen.
DB: Yes.
Interviewer: Where did you go looking for a job then?
DB: I went to Holmes Woodyard.
Interviewer: Which is in the village.
DB: No, it was at Wragby.
Interviewer: Ok.
DB: They’ve all gone. Woodyard’s are gone. There was a plastics factory there and it’s gone. I started working in the woodyard and finished working at the plastics factory in 1986. Something like that.
Interviewer: Ok. Right. So from there then obviously by 1943 you were looking then for another job.
DB: That’s correct.
Interviewer: And so how did you end up working then at Wickenby?
DB: Well, I’ll tell you. This [Elwick] company interviewed. Got me there and I got my job straightaway.
Interviewer: Ok. So when you arrived at Wickenby then what did you have to do?
DB: Well, I was often cutting. Cutting all the site, cutting the grass and all that. Sometimes with a hook and sometimes with a [hammer] and scythe.
Interviewer: Ok. Yeah.
DB: I can’t remember. Oh, I cleaned the dykes out. I can remember one night and in one of our offices there was more oil than water in it. They’d been, the ground crew had been dumping oil in the dyke.
Interviewer: Yeah. Were there a lot of aircraft at Wickenby then? What?
DB: There were two squadrons. 12 Squadron, 606.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: But I couldn’t tell you. When they were in the air they made a lot of noise.
Interviewer: What were the aircraft they had there?
DB: And there was one what special [bod] just to get to our offices like. Three each end. N for Nanna. Oh, we used to watch that nose but then as soon as it disappeared oh it’s gone. Anyway, it later came back and all needed refurbishing. All the bombs on it.
Interviewer: Right. And these were all Lancaster aircraft were they?
DB: Yes, that’s right.
Interviewer: Yeah. Ok. So when you were cutting the grass then obviously you must have been near to the aircrew as they were getting on and off the aircraft.
DB: Oh no. No. When I went around there were more ground crew than air crew and the same with the WAAFs. Didn’t see much of the aircrew. Only when they went to the breifing room and all that business.
Interviewer: Ok. Yeah. So do you have any memories of watching the crew get on to their aircraft then?
DB: Not, I see them going around in the bus. I saw the bus. I can’t say I could see them but when they were doing circuits and some bumps and that. They used to change crews at the end of the runway. Coming around [unclear] training like with that.
Interviewer: Oh, is it?
DB: Yeah.
Interviewer: Ok. Right.
DB: Called it circuits [pause]
Interviewer: Been, were things like aircraft returning from raids. Did you manage to see those in the morning? Were they badly damaged?
DB: No. no. They’d be back before we got there because I wonder how the fog and then aeroplanes were all over. Aircraft all over the place. And I arranged it and went to hospital site. It’s in a valley the hospital, [unclear] and outside the morgue I saw what looked like a dead sheep and of course I knew what it was later. It was flying aircrew that had been killed in their plane. I came back. Did I see that or didn’t I because they’d gone.
Interviewer: Right. Yeah.
DB: It wasn’t a very pretty sight.
Interviewer: No. No. I mean that’s, that’s really what we were looking for. Something, I mean we talk here about when you’re watching the Lancaster crash, well it nearly crashed didn’t it on take-off?
DB: That’s right. Oh yes. I remember that well.
Interviewer: Yeah. So what was that?
DB: Because we were at the end of the runway waiting for it to go past and I must have been near there helping arrangements myself. Peeked out and have a look and it just made it port if you see like and this [unclear] out there is the runway. Well, they shot. These people shot out like a lot of rats out of this runway. They had a warning. But it cleared it and its still standing today.
Interviewer: Really.
DB: Yeah. But it nearly got burned down because somebody what do you call it [pause] There’s a firm at Rasen. Race something. They’ve got lorries and all at Wickenby now. It got on fire one day when I was there and they still lived to tell the tale.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: But I can’t tell you what year that was.
Interviewer: Yeah. There was a famous Lancaster at Wickenby. It did a hundred missions.
DB: Yes. PH N. N for Nan. Of course, [unclear] I always thought it was N for Norman maybe but no. It was N for Nan.
Interviewer: N for Nan. Yeah. So you saw this aircraft.
DB: Oh, I definitely. It was like that house there except for when it went missing. I thought oh its gone. And it came back all refurbished. She wasn’t what do you call it?
Interviewer: Yeah.
DB: Looking like a brand new one.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: It finished the war and of course they broke it up.
Interviewer: They did. That’s right. It was a shame really.
DB: Yeah.
Interviewer: It was a famous aircraft. Yeah. Right. What I would then like to talk about is that it was time for you to join the Royal Air Force and would you like to tell me when you joined and —
DB: September the 3rd 1945.
Interviewer: Right. And what, you were conscripted into the Air Force.
DB: Oh aye. Yeah. Definitely.
Interviewer: Yeah. And what —
DB: Aye.
Interviewer: What trade did they put you into?
DB: Eight weeks training to start with. Square bashing at Padgate.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: And I remember that one. The first night out bed and the next night I was sleeping on three biscuits and lying on the floor but it was cold.
Interviewer: Yeah. So when you finished there then you went and did your training where?
DB: That’s right. At Padgate. Padgate. Yes.
Interviewer: You did all your training at Padgate?
DB: That’s correct. Yeah.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: Eight weeks training.
Interviewer: Yeah. And then where were you posted to?
DB: That was ‘42. I just said then the number. Locking at Weston Super Mare.
Interviewer: Right. Ok.
DB: ACAC [unclear]
Interviewer: Right.
DB: [unclear]
Interviewer: So what did you there then when you were at Locking?
DB: I was in the cookhouse peeling potatoes and all them sort of things. I used to see the aircrew. ‘Who are them.’ But I didn’t have a conversation with them.
Interviewer: Ok. Right. And then when were finally demobbed then? When did they finally let you leave the Air Force.
DB: May 1948.
Interviewer: Oh, so you were in for quite some time after the war.
DB: I had a couple with sick leave. I got a patch on my lungs. I don’t know whether it was smoking or what. I don’t know.
Interviewer: Right. Obviously, you were poorly for some time then.
DB: Yeah. Only a couple, I came home for a couple of weeks and had my treatments. Went back and I was alright.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: They did x-rays on me like.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: The first time I’d had an x-ray.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: 1948.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah. Ok. So, when we look back then on your time at Wickenby did you feel then that, could you feel what it was like? The urgency that was there with the ground crew and the —
DB: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: And the bomber crews. Did, did you see how they reacted with each other? You know, did you ever —
DB: You know, the ground crews were all about and they must have had a oh like a briefing because all of a sudden they come two of them on pushbikes wanting jobs doing. They wouldn’t go, they must have known where they were going wouldn’t they?
Interviewer: Right.
DB: Always on bikes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DB: But how come then at the end of the war they were marching. Or sort of —
Interviewer: Right. Yeah. Ok. Well, that’s, that’s great thanks very much Dennis. A wonderful small view of what your particular bit of the war was like there. Especially at Wickenby and thank you very much for helping us along.
DB: Very good.
[recording paused]
Interviewer: When it came to cutting the grass obviously we’ll talk about the type of equipment you’d got but it must have been a huge area.
DB: Yes.
Interviewer: Would you like to talk about that?
DB: It was definitely. Definitely a big area. I remember half an hour or three quarters cutting it like. I was better on my feet then than I am now. And then when I finished I’d go to another site but the rest of your gang had gone. [ ] and a chap for one he’s giving me a hand. [unclear] that’s the word I’m looking for and I’ve got a few of them myself.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: And while I was going the Americans were going over in formation. I couldn’t tell you whether they were Fortresses, Flying Fortresses or Liberators. It was obvious that someone was there like.
Interviewer: Yeah. We’ll just —
DB: Especially when you get to [unclear]
Interviewer: And what type of equipment was the lawn mower, was the mower then? What, what was it? A push one or did you sit on it?
DB: Oh different every. No. It was what’s the word, propelled drove you could get on and push it on.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: It was just van drived.
Interviewer: Right.
DB: If that’s the word. Self-propelled.
Interviewer: Self-propelled. Ok. Right. Thank you.
DB: Is all that lot on there?
Interviewer: So how many of you were there at the start?
DB: Oh, I can’t really tell you now.
Interviewer: At least a dozen.
DB: There was Harry Vaughan and Henry. Henry Hunter and I can’t remember his name.
Interviewer: Yeah. That’s ok.
DB: Harold [unclear] that’s five isn’t it?
Interviewer: So there was five of you anyway. Yeah.
DB: That’s right and of course there’s Tom, Tom Greenfield was our head groundsman.
Interviewer: Okey dokey. Right. Ok, that’s great. I mean thanks very much. That’s to be added to serial Number 1001 previous to this recording. That’s for your information Neil. Thanks very much.


Dave Harrigan and This Interview was recorded by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire., “Interview with Dennis Brader,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 27, 2024,

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