Interview with Richard Moore


Interview with Richard Moore
1004-Moore, Richard


Richard Moore served as ground crew at RAF Locking, RAF Squires Gate and RAF Wickenby.





00:16:49 audio recording


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Interviewer: This is an interview with Mr Richard Moore at his home in Lincoln talking about his wartime career as ground crew in the Lincoln area.
RM: Ok. We’ll go from there. Well, I joined up when I was eighteen and my first port of call was Weston Super Mare which as you know is not very far from home and I did six weeks square bashing there. We lived in private houses and we were well looked after. When that six weeks was up I was posted to Locking which is just outside of Weston and I was there for seven months learning my course. After we passed out, some of us passed out, some didn’t and my first squadron was Squires Gate at Blackpool. Boulton Paul Defiants they were. Something new to the Germans because not only did they have a pilot they had a mid-upper turret as well, a gunner so it could fire front and back. But Jerry soon got, soon got wise to it. A very clever race the Germans. I went on leave and when I came back we’d moved to Woodvale in Southport and those planes were call Beaufighters. They were twin engine light bomber. And one day our chief came to us and said, ‘I’ve got to post six of you to a place called Swinderby.’ Oh, we were going to Sicily. The squadron was going to Sicily. I said, ‘Well, I know where Sicily is but where’s Swinderby?’ He said, ‘I believe it’s in Lincolnshire.’ ‘Alright,’ I said, ‘I’ll be one to go to Swinderby then.’ Good job I did. They took a pasting in Sicily. And we get to Swinderby and it was, ‘Oh, we don’t want you here. You’ve got to go to Wigsley.’ So we go to Wigsley. ‘Oh, we don’t want you here.’ Back to Swinderby. In the end, in the finish we were at Wigsley and we were working with AV Roe men doing crossed aircraft and our chiefy turns up and says, ‘Drop everything. Get all your toolboxes and kit. We’ve got a bit of a job on.’ He didn’t say where but he took us back to Scampton and I see these Lancs. There was one in a hangar. No bomb doors just two arms down you see. I thought these are queer Lancasters.
Interviewer: This would be early 1943.
RM: Yes. Yes. And so, a chap and I worked all night on one of them. God, it was damned cold in that hangar. It was in May, wasn’t it? It was May time and all of them had been flying low over the water and all the plates underneath towards the rear gunner were all mashed in. We had to change all them. And I lived in Saxilby at the time. I could live out because my wife in Saxilby and I wasn’t far away and as I was cycling down Tillbridge Lane they were taking off on this raid. Didn’t know anything about it. I know the chap’s dog had got killed. Nigger. It was killed the day before they went and Gibson said, ‘Bury it at 12 o’clock. That’s when we’ll be over the target.’
Interviewer: Did you see anything of Guy Gibson or —
RM: Oh, I saw him in the distance. I’ve met Micky Martin.
Interviewer: Oh yes.
RM: He was a nice bloke. Australian he was. He was a good pilot. So and off I went home and the next day we knew all about it.
Interviewer: So you saw these aircraft obviously different to the normal Lancasters.
RM: There were no bomb doors you see.
Interviewer: Did you wonder what was, you know happening?
RM: No. Nobody said anything. I said, ‘Well their just two arms now. Then we realised it was for the swimming, the swimming bomb you see. Yeah. And we lost what seven did we? Or was their eight I think we lost.
Interviewer: Yes. It was eight. Yes.
RM: Fifty six men. And Martin and Gibson, they kept flying each side of the dam to give the other chaps to get in and draw the flak off. But it took the last bomber to break the dam.
Interviewer: That’s right. Les Knight.
RM: And then they went to the other one but they couldn’t get to the third one. That was impossible I think. They’d run out of time. Yes, it was quite a great occasion. But as I say within a few days we were off. We went to Bardney.
Interviewer: How many of you were there working on the —
RM: Well, there would be about maybe a group of us. About fourteen I should think because there was fitters, engine men, riggers. There were air frames, wireless operators, electricians and what else did we have? We wouldn’t have the bomb people because people, special people put the bombs on the planes. But you know —
Interviewer: Did you actually see the bombs that were going to be put on these?
RM: No. I did not see them.
Interviewer: They were all —
RM: No. Because once we finished at night we went to bed. Us two, then the rest took over in the morning. And then they said, ‘You can’t go out of camp.’ And I wanted to go home you see. Anyway, they let me out. I got on my bike and I said I was going down Tillbridge Lane as they were taking off. A wonderful sight.
Interviewer: Three of them together in waves weren’t there?
RM: Yeah. Yeah. Yes. A bit of a noise but it was great.
Interviewer: And you saw the bombs. The different bombs.
RM: No.
Interviewer: Rather than the —
RM: Yes.
Interviewer: The usual. Hanging below —
RM: That’s right.
Interviewer: Below the –
RM: These sort of bombs and then of course the next thing was the Tallboys. weren’t they?
Interviewer: Yes.
RM: Terrific they were sized. Yeah, so when I came back the next day he said. ‘We’re off again.’ So we went to Bardney. M for Mother had crashed and we wanted to get it up in the air again.
Interviewer: So you were repairing the crashed aircraft.
RM: Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: And getting them ready for —
RM: Yeah.
Interviewer: Flying again.
RM: That’s right. Got them in the air because we were losing a lot of planes you see.
Interviewer: Right.
RM: And also, when a plane had done a big, we had to do a major inspection on them and when they had done so many flying hours just to make sure they were alright for because I mean it’s like a car isn’t it you do so many miles and you have an MOT or whatever they call it. And so we worked on M for Mother. First night on ops she never came back.
Interviewer: Oh dear.
RM: That was a bad job that was. Then blimey the lorry rolls up again. ‘Come on. Get in.’ Syerston in Nottingham. Just at the border that was and we had twelve major inspections to do on Lancs there. And after that then we were disbanded because the war was nearly over.
Interviewer: Right.
RM: So, 5 Group, Bomber Command was disbanded and we ended up, some of us on a BABs flight testing this new radar on a Oxford, Airspeed Oxfords two engine planes. Sent down somewhere in the south. I can’t tell you the name of the place and I met Micky Martin. We had a good old chat about the old days and —
Interviewer: Did he talk about the Dams raid?
RM: Yeah. He didn’t say a lot. He just, you know sort of, ‘Lucky to be alive,’ sort of thing. But he was a good pilot.
Interviewer: He was a bit on the eccentric side, wasn’t he?
RM: Oh yes. Yes. He didn’t say a lot I don’t think. But Australians are either or. You know. Got plenty to say for themselves.
Interviewer: They usually have. Yes.
RM: But yes. It was, it was good years. We, oh we went off. We went, before that I missed something out. We went to East Kirkby to do some jobs there and as our bombers came into land one, early one morning the German fighters followed them in and shot the camp up. There were cannon shells all over the place. We were diving for cover everywhere. One poor WAAF got killed.
Interviewer: Oh dear.
RM: But I don’t know what was the matter with our radar to let the Jerries get in so close to our bombers as they were landing. And there was one took off one night when they were going on a raid and it blew up. Went down the runway and the only man who survived was the rear gunner. He was blown out so he survived. He was lucky. I don’t know why it blew up like that.
Interviewer: No. What were your feelings during this time? I mean, did you, did you realise you know the important job you were doing?
RM: Oh yes. Yes.
Interviewer: And —
RM: It was a really worthwhile job. I mean I know we were only ground crew but they couldn’t have done without us could they?
Interviewer: Couldn’t have got off the ground without you.
RM: No.
Interviewer: Literally.
RM: I mean sometimes we had to refuel the planes you know. It was good.
Interviewer: And it was good camaraderie between you.
RM: Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: You all.
RM: Oh yes. We never —
Interviewer: Did you get to know many of the aircrew?
RM: Not a lot. No. Because I mean I didn’t [pause] when we did an inspection every morning, you’d do a DI every morning on the planes, a Daily Inspection in other words that was about all you saw of them. It was you know the only time perhaps you saw them, when they got an eye on you and you pulled the chocs away. That was it you know. They didn’t sort of mix a lot with ground crew.
Interviewer: No. Did you, you worked on Lancasters?
RM: Oh, I started off as I told you on Boulton Paul Defiants.
Interviewer: Yes.
RM: Beaufighters.
Interviewer: Manchesters.
RM: Yes, I —
Interviewer: Did you work on those?
RM: To be honest, yeah. I flew a Manchester.
Interviewer: Oh really.
RM: Not very far mind you.
Interviewer: No. No. I think —
RM: I was —
Interviewer: That was the trouble with them.
RM: We were at Swinderby and I went up with this pilot and he said, ‘Would you like to fly it?’ I said, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ He said, ‘Go on. Take the controls but I’ll keep my feet on the rudders. But don’t turn it left or that way or we’ll flip over and we’ll be gonners.’ I didn’t do it for long but it was, it was an experience.
Interviewer: How fantastic.
RM: Yeah.
Interviewer: They were.
RM: Oh, those engines were too big for those planes. Vulcan engines. I knew one crossed up near the tree in Saxilby village one day. My misses said, ‘I thought you might have been on that.’ I said, ‘No. I wasn’t.’ But she did play hell with me one day because when we were at, when I was at Swinderby before all this we [pause] I was picked to go with this group we had a little section as you turn off the Newark Road to go to Swinderby camp there’s a bit of a corner of a field. We had a little section in there we had a Spitfire in. We were working on an Halifax bomber and all that sort of thing and one day chiefy said, ‘I want a rigger and an engine man to go down to the Percival Gull works in Luton. I said, ‘Oh, I’ll go.’ Daft like. And my friend, a chap called Saul he said, ‘I’ll go as well.’ So we gets on this Airspeed Oxford and off we set off and we were going over London and nearly run into a barrage balloon because we were flying into the sun. He saw it at the last minute and we got down there. Landed in a field and came back safely. When I told her about it she went bananas. She said, ‘You stupid idiot.’ Sort of thing. ‘Because you have a daughter,’ she said, ‘Remember.’ I said, ‘Well, there you are.’
Interviewer: You’re here to tell the tale anyway.
RM: Yeah. Yes. And then as I say we got on this radar business at [unclear] and then well we kept flying different places. Dakotas we used a lot to fly about in. And then we went down to St Mawgan in Newquay and worked a bit on there. Different planes because a lot of them were obsolete then, weren’t they? The Wellington and the Hampden and the Stirling they’d all got, well they weren’t much cop really were they? To be honest. They did their job but they were very vulnerable.
Interviewer: Yes.
RM: Especially the Wellington because it was only fabric. And I was going to be a flight engineer but my wife said, ‘No, you’re not.’ Because they used to get their head shot off you know, the poor old flight engineers because they stood beside the pilot watching all the dials.
Interviewer: That’s right.
RM: So I didn’t do that. I said, ‘Well, I survived the war so I should have been alright.’ Anyway, as I said as we went down and we stayed down at Newquay for a bit at St Mawgan and then they come to me one day and said, ‘You’re going to Leconfield.’ I said, ‘Leconfield? Where’s that?’ he said, ‘In Yorkshire.’ I said, ‘That’s a hell of a long way to go to be demobbed.’ I was going to get demobbed you see and so I get to Leconfield and we stopped there working on Wellingtons of all things. And then a load of RAF, these young ATC cadets turned up and were going for a flight on one of these Wellies. That crashed.
Interviewer: Oh dear.
RM: Terrible. Lost. Lost all these kids. Just couldn’t understand it because I mean they were, we all thought they were in tip top condition. Anyway, I got on a charge there because what was he called? He was a mad man our engineering officer. He came around and he found some water on the bed in the, in the Wellington and he asked me, ‘Why didn’t you see that?’ I said, ‘Well, it wasn’t there when I did the DI.’ But he wouldn’t have it so he put me on a charge.
Interviewer: And what was the outcome of that?
RM: Oh, I got seven days, I think. Confined to barracks. That’s all.
Interviewer: Right.
RM: Nothing, it wasn’t serious.
Interviewer: And what, what had been the problem?
RM: Well, there was —
Interviewer: Did you find out? Was there a leak.
RM: Well, there was a hatch.
Interviewer: Yes.
RM: There was a leak and it must have rained or something and dropped through on to the bed.
Interviewer: Right.
RM: Because it wasn’t there when I did it or I’d have mopped it up. But these things happen, don’t they?
Interviewer: Yes.
RM: Got to find a scapegoat you know for some, some of these jobs. Yes. So when I was at Leconfield and then we were on the bus next morning to Uxbridge getting your demob suit and then home.
Interviewer: Right.
RM: My daughter didn’t, didn’t want nothing to do with me. Didn’t know who I was.
Interviewer: What do you feel about your war years?
RM: Very good. Very good. A lot of camaraderie. Whatever you call that word. Camaraderie is it? I can’t remember.
Interviewer: Camaraderie.
RM: That’s the word. Yeah. Yes. Everybody looking our for each other. That was one thing about it. And the NAAFI were good. They came around every morning. Tea and a wad you know. Great.
Interviewer: You didn’t get a chance to have a flight in a Lancaster.
RM: No.
Interviewer: No. Would you have liked one?
RM: Yes. I could have done but I don’t know why I turned it down. I don’t know why. And I wish I had now. I missed that. You never know. I might get a chance.
Interviewer: Yes, indeed.
RM: Go to Coningsby and say, ‘I want to come up with you, mate.’ Yeah. So there we are. But very good years. Good crowd. I don’t think we had many troublemakers you know. You do get some but not a lot. I only ended up LAC so I was nothing. Leading aircraftsman. That’s all. I didn’t get my stripes.
Interviewer: Well, you were doing a wonderful job like all the ground crew.
RM: Yeah. All these different aircraft. I can’t believe how they started from a Boulton Paul Defiant and ended up on a Lancaster. The Halifax wasn’t a bad bomber either.
Interviewer: No.
RM: That was quite good. The Halifax.
Interviewer: I think each crew was very fond of its own aircraft.
RM: Oh yes. Oh yes. Yes.
Interviewer: Anybody who flew in the Halifax.
RM: With this Just Jane. Who was that? Which was that? Was that a Lancaster?
Interviewer: That’s a Lancaster.
RM: Yeah.
Interviewer: That’s the Lanc well it’s a Lancaster that’s at —
RM: Coningsby.
Interviewer: East Kirkby now.
RM: East Kirkby. That goes up and down.
Interviewer: Yes.
RM: Up and down the runways.
Interviewer: That’s right.
RM: You can taxi in it. Yeah.
Interviewer: Yes.
RM: Well that that did a lot of raids didn’t it? A lot of raids, Just Jane, I think. They’ve all got their bombs on the side of the cockpit.
Interviewer: That’s right. Yes.
RM: Yeah. Happy days. But really. Was it worthwhile?
Interviewer: I think, I think we’ve got to think that it was.
RM: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: We don’t want to think that fifty five thousand lost.
RM: Men plus.
Interviewer: Died for nothing. I mean.
RM: No. That’s what I think. Sometimes I wonder was it worth it and then I think well we had to keep them away, didn’t we?
Interviewer: We did indeed. Yes.
RM: We were alone, weren’t we? I mean the Americans wouldn’t have come into it if it hadn’t been for Pearl Harbour.
Interviewer: No. No.
RM: They were selling fuel to the Japs. Then the Japs go and bomb Pearl Harbour just to say thank you. Oh dear. Oh dear. I don’t know. It’s [pause] I don’t know what to make of this. What’s going to happen, do you?
Interviewer: I don’t. It’s been absolutely fascinating, Mr Moore.
RM: Was that alright?
Interviewer: That’s fine.
RM: That’s about as much as I can tell you.
Interviewer: Yes, that’s —
RM: There’s bits I’ve missed out because I lost my memory a bit you know.
Interviewer: No, it’s been really interesting. Thank you very much.


Claire Bennett and This Interview was recorded by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire., “Interview with Richard Moore,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 24, 2024,

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