Interview with George William Taplin

Title

Interview with George William Taplin
1004-Taplin, George William

Description

George Taplin volunteered for the RAF in 1940 and trained as an armourer. He served with 349, 342 and 226 Squadrons.

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00:27:24 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.

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Identifier

SHarriganD[Ser#-DoB]v10

Transcription

Interviewer: Right. Ok. So here we are then, George just beginning to talk about your career etcetera and I’d like you just to take you back to the start really of your military service.
GT: Yeah.
Interviewer: If you could just talk us through how all that panned out.
GT: Well, I joined up in I think it was April 1940. 1940 volunteered. Volunteered in 1940 as I was seventeen and three quarters. I wanted to join what I thought was, I knew I’d be called up so I thought I’d better join what I want to join and I joined the RAF as a VR. I went to, I was called up for service in ’41. I went to Penarth, had a medical and I finished up in Skegness on my square bashing. I went from Skegness to RAF Credenhill to train as an armourer and I was the first civvy lad to pass LAC eighty two and a half percent on a course straightaway. They’d never had a civvy do it over sixty percent. I was the first one to pass that amount. Then I went to Long Marston in Warwickshire on a training where the aircrew finished the lot. They did their first ops from there. It was generally what they called a paperchase. You know, dropping leaflets in, on Whitleys and Hampdens. And from then I went to West Kirby on draft. But I didn’t go. I didn’t go overseas. I, well I passed out on the square actually dressed as, dressed for Russia. I was destined for Russia. I got an overcoat on with about eight linings on it [laughs] Lord knows what in it and a temperature of eighty odd and I keeled over and they refused to take me on the boat. So I was sent back and I then went to the Belgian Squadron, 349 Belgian Squadron. I was posted to them but it took us five weeks travelling around Britain, two of us, to find them. But nobody wanted them. They wanted to go on ops and they were anxious to be on ops they were. They had just been re, remade up. They hadn’t had, they’d got armourers but they, they weren’t efficient so they’d got, well another chap called Percy Redding and he was the chap with me. We were just the two and we travelled from, well from West Kirby to Wittering. From Wittering everywhere else. All around Digby, Wellingore, Digby [laughs] Wittering back to Digby, back to somewhere else. I don’t know where we didn’t go. We went to loads of places and finished up in Newcastle and then we found out they were, this squadron was supposed to be at Acklington. RAF Acklington. So we went, we got put there to go to Morpeth and we went to Morpeth. We got to Morpeth and got to Acklington RAF station. They didn’t know anything about them and so we were three weeks in RAF Acklington as strays [laughs] proper strays doing anything. Mainly armoury work and I was attached to a Polish squadron. They were the laziest blokes I’d ever met. Not like they are today. They were lazy then and I tipped a tray of oil over them. They wouldn’t work. All they did was play cards all day long.
Interviewer: Right.
GT: One of them shot at me with a revolver. I was locked up in the guardroom for my own safety [laughs] And well, I then went, still at Acklington I started doing a gas course and we, we had an episode on one Saturday morning and we had to, we were laying gas because of the staff, well the crews were not using the gas masks properly so the CO decided to lay smoke and gas. You know, just ordinary make you sick and tear gas really and we laid this on a Saturday morning and the wind changed and the miners coming up from [Redrow] Colliery were the poor buggers that got it. They were the victims. And in relation to that two year ago I met a chap on Newark Air Showground from Acklington way, well Washington. [unclear] and he was with the lifeboat people and he he said they still talk about when they were gassed [laughs] And I said, ‘Well, you’ve met the bloke who did it.’ And he was quite excited with it but as I say after that I, we went to RAF Friston near, on top of Beachy Head and we were on ops then and of course we got a lot, we were a reception from the Germans as you may guess because they didn’t like us and we, I mean we were Belgian and I used to have Belgium on my shoulder and that’s where I had my photograph taken to go on leaflets. I was on leaflets dropped over the other side with the CO. My CO which was the Count Du Monceau de Bergendal. He was the CO of the squadron. He was a son of the royal family and as I say I got on well there. Did very well. Met several people, influential people in that way. But I then got posted to RAF Blackbushe, or RAF Hartford Bridge where I joined 2nd Tactical Air Force and I was attached to the French squadron then. 342 French Squadron. That’s where I met De Gaulle and the King. Well, the King came first and he did a, he did a investiture to the French Squadron and of all the squadron there there were three big squadrons on the ‘drome and well we, before he came I mean I was six foot like and so I was you know always one of the big lads in the reception. The parade party as they called them and I was the marker. Well, this drill sergeant, he got on my nerves so much. He used to come along. ‘I’m the King. Now I will sort you —’ blah blah blah. We used to think oh piss off [laughs] you know. That was our attitude. We’d got the work to do and I used to give him some funny answers [laughs] My sense of humour got me into trouble all my life. He knew. He knew what sort of got as I gave him.
Interviewer: Can I just ask you, I mean this is all, this is wonderful stuff George what I want you to do really is just to give me just for the tape so we can —
GT: Yeah.
Interviewer: Cut it in is that obviously your service number. Can you remember your service number?
GT: Yeah. 0160, 1650535.
Interviewer: And your full rank was?
GT: LAC.
Interviewer: And your full name was?
GT: George William Taplin.
Interviewer: Yeah. And what year were you born in?
GT: 1922.
Interviewer: 1922. So as you say you were just eighteen then.
GT: Yeah, I was just eighteen you see.
Interviewer: You were coming up for service—
GT: Then I, well we [pause] the King came first. He came for this investiture and I was banned from the parade. I was banned from the parade. I didn’t want to go on the parade. I thought bah but I always said I joined up to fight Hitler. Not to, not to have a lot of bullshit and that was me. And I was in the armoury cleaning barrels and straight, I was straightening gun barrels actually. That’s the job I was doing because I was, I was a top armourer and it was one of, one of the few jobs, I was one of the few. I was one of the few people who could do that job. And well, at the investiture the armoury was not on the King’s tour but he made it. He came straight in the door. First it was just outside the armoury on my lawn here where the parade had been and the investiture had taken place and he came straight in the armoury door with two [pause] well gentlemen in gold braid. That’s all you could call them. Short fat men. I was just about to go with air marshall or something. I don’t know. I didn’t know the rank. And he spoke to me and I spoke to him. Well, I was called up to attention. I was smoking my pipe. Illegal [laughs] you know I shouldn’t be smoking in the armoury. I’d got my pipe on, we’d got a big four foot cleaning rod because we were on .5 Brownings you see. This attention. I thought bloody hell. I grabbed my [unclear] and stood there with it to attention and I got this steel rod pointing at the King [laughs] it looked like a bayonet. Well, a spear sticking towards him and I sort of corrected that and he came over. He said, he stuttered like he said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m straightening barrels, sir.’ So he said, ‘What, what do you use for that?’ Well, we use a rubber hammer and I thought oh bloody hell if I say a rubber hammer I’m in trouble here. As I said that I held this rubber hammer up like that. That’s all. I was alert enough to realise if I said a rubber hammer it’s like an insult isn’t it? It’s the last thing people think but that’s a thing we used because you vibrated them straight.
Interviewer: Were these Brownings off aircraft then?
GT: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: So what aircraft? What —
GT: The machine guns out the, out the turrets.
Interviewer: So what aircraft were you servicing at the time?
GT: Bostons.
Interviewer: The Bostons. Oh, because that was the Belgians were flying the Bostons?
GT: No, the French. The French.
Interviewer: The French were buying the Bostons.
GT: We were on Spits with the Belgians.
Interviewer: Right.
GT: On Spitfires and as I say he [pause] he asked me what I was doing and I said, ‘I’m straightening barrels.’ And he said, ‘Oh yes? How do you do it?’ And I showed him. I didn’t answer I just showed him it and it finished up he said, ‘Can I help?’ So [laughs] so we were back to being like me and you. ‘Clout it there,’ sort of style, you know. Well, his hits were little taps they were. I said, ‘No. Harder. Harder. Harder.’ And he belted it as hard as he could and he knocked the thing out of my hand and after about five or six throws this barrel was straight and I said, ‘Got it.’ And he, you know these white gloves that he wore? His white kid gloves. He grabbed this barrel which was full of all [carbide] and all the bloody muck and oil and everything and he grabbed that in his white glove. Well, his gloves looked like your trousers. Oh dear. And he held them up and, ‘Oh dear,’ because you put, you put a mark on a window and you held a barrel and you could see by the curve how, where you had to hit it. It was simple. A simple thing but it worked and he grabbed this bloody barrel. I said, ‘Oh God,’ I said, ‘Look at your gloves.’
Interviewer: So the King spent some time with you then.
GT: Oh, twenty five minutes he was with me.
Interviewer: Really? That’s, that’s quite something.
GT: A full twenty five minutes. He wasn’t supposed to be there but he had two minutes but he spent and these two blokes didn’t dare alter him because he was the boss. He was the boss wasn’t he? He was so interested and I finished up I took his gloves and I washed them in wood alcohol. Brought them back out, they, they were not black but they were grey looking but they were passable and I said to him, ‘You don’t smoke do you, sir?’ ‘Yes,’ he said in his stuttering way. I said, ‘Oh God, I said, ‘For Christ’s sake don’t. Don’t light them up, use them, have them on when you light up.’ He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Well, they —’ I said, ‘We shall have a cooked King.’ He said, ‘I wonder what I’d taste like?’ He had a sense of humour. He said, ‘I wonder what I’d taste like as cooked.’ He said [laughs] and that was the end of that. Anyway, he went out. I saluted him. I put my hat on and saluted him and that and they went. Well, the next thing is I’ve got the warrant officer who’s in charge of the armoury and all everybody, every all the big bloody paraphernalia, ‘What did he say then?’ [laughs] ‘I’m not telling you.’
Interviewer: Can you remember the date when this took place or the month?
GT: I can’t quite remember the date but it was around about April time.
Interviewer: Right.
GT: ’43.
Interviewer: Nineteen, right.
GT: And ’43. No. ’44.
Interviewer: ’44.
GT: No. No.
Interviewer: So leading up to D-Day then.
GT: Yeah, ’44. That’s right. It would be ’44.
Interviewer: Ok.
GT: I was with the Belgians in ’43 and, and so I just refused to tell them. I told my warrant officer because Warrant Officer, Warrant Officer not Bridal. What was his [pause] Powers was his air gunner in India before the war in 1936. So he knew the King and he’d had a long service medal. He was fifty five and he was retiring from the RAF then and as I say he had his long service medal given him and he took it from the King. And the King he, when the King was flying as a pilot in India in ’36 or before he was his air gunner. And that’s how they knew each other.
Interviewer: Right.
GT: I told, told the warrant officer what had happened and he said, ‘Oh,’ he said, he said, ‘Yes. I knew he had a sense of humour.’ And that was it. And then what a month later we had De Gaulle then because I was still with the French squadron and we were just changing over then from Bostons to Mitchells then. The Mitchell aircraft, the bigger one and we were just changing over and De Gaulle came. Well, no one liked him. None of the French wanted him. They didn’t like him at all and he was an utter pig of a man you know. Six foot seven, four inch heels, two inch soles, a nine inch hat. It was like looking up at the bloody ceiling when [unclear] And we were on parade but when we were on parade with the French the admiral in charge of us used to as a courtesy to the English he’d call the French up to attention in French then he’d turn smartly and call us up in English and as he said that that was a courtesy to us. He accepted the work we did was important and it was only in the armoury where we were, the English were. They weren’t in any other part of the French, the fitters and riggers and that. They’d got them but they had no armourers and there were about thirty seven of us armourers and so in respect he sort of respected us like. We, we thought that was good and he was a nice gentleman. And De Gaulle came. Well, De Gaulle took a parade. Snapped up in French. Well, we didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Hadn’t a clue. Of course, we still stood to at ease and he came across and he started. He picked on me and I was the right marker and the, but he, because when he got excited he spit and I was covered in spit and I told him where to go. That was my end. My last day in the French squadron. I was put up before the admiral and he said, he apologised to me. He said, ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I’m sorry for what you —’ I mean, I was straight in to the admiral looking spit all over me. All on my face and that. And oh, But with de Gaulle he was a pig of a man. He wasn’t, he wasn’t what they printed him in history as —
Interviewer: [unclear]
GT: He was a pig of a bloke. No one liked him.
Interviewer: The admiral then was he French or was he English?
GT: French. Everyone else was French there. Oh, it was a Cross of Lorraine Squadron. 342 Cross of Lorraine Squadron I was with and they were part of the 226 echelon. We were preparing. We were 2nd Tactical Air Force then and there was 342, 88 and 226 Squadrons. Three big squadrons on in this echelon. About four thousand five hundred men. And I got then sent to, well I had a couple of days with 88 and then I got sent to 226 which was just further up the ‘drome and that’s where I stayed, with 226 Squadron as an armourer and I stayed with them right through. All the way ‘til I got demobbed.
Interviewer: What were they flying at the time?
GT: The same. Mitchells.
Interviewer: The same aircraft. The same.
GT: Mitchells.
Interviewer: Ok.
GT: We were all on Mitchells then and as I say it was a, well one of those things. I I used to do a lot of, I used to be recruited by the our CO, Group Captain [unclear]. He was a South African German and he was with us. He was in charge of the, this 226 echelon. We were the biggest. The biggest unit of all in the whole of the Second Front set up of one unit and we were, we didn’t do bombing like night bombing. We did day bombing to the Army and we bombed at Caen on seventy foot.
Interviewer: Wow.
GT: That’s close. In other words, the width of the bloody road more or less.
Interviewer: So you travelled over to France then.
GT: No, I landed in France in Day 17 and I came out, back out in Day 17 but that was the day when, when the Americans bombed the wrong hillside. They blew the bloody Canadians away and the Germans just came back and retook the hillside and then we were back in range of the 88s you see and they see us coming and they gave us a right reception and we took off straightaway and came back to England. Then I finished up at RAF, well RAF I suppose RAF [Vitry] in France. That was where we went to and went from [Vitry] then to [unclear].
Interviewer: So this would have been the summer of ’44.
GT: ’44 yeah. When half the second front —
Interviewer: Yeah.
GT: Went to [unclear] and we that was our six miles off of so we were right on the front line because the first time we took off the Jerries gave us a reception and we went back and gave them a reception. I don’t know whether you know much about bombing but we used to have clusters of anti-personnel bombs. Forty eight in a cluster, six clusters to a plane and we loaded up with them and went back and opened the bomb doors and let them take the lot. They didn’t, after that they never, when we took off they never shot at us.
Interviewer: Yes.
GT: They learned their lesson. Yeah, we were on the second front all that time.
Interviewer: So coming towards the end then obviously getting into late 1944.
GT: Yeah. Late 1944.
Interviewer: Did you move up towards the German border then?
GT: ’45 this was as well.
Interviewer: Yeah.
GT: Well, we were up there, we were in [unclear] at that [pause] ’45. Early ’45 and I’ll say well it was one of those things I I suppose I got I’d been when I passed out I was offered a commission. I turned it down. And I know on my record it said no ambition [laughs] When we were at [unclear] we were preparing to go to Burma to fight the Japs. We were close Army Support Unit so therefore that was our next job. And I I sort of well I didn’t fancy going to Burma. Not for the Japs. The snakes. Because if I see a snake I’m paralysed. I can do nothing. I can’t. I can’t run. I can’t walk. I can’t shout. I’m stuck.
Interviewer: Well, whilst you were up at Germany then you bumped into another famous personality didn’t you?
GT: Yeah.
Interviewer: Would you like to talk about him?
GT: Who was that then?
Interviewer: You met Mr Goering.
GT: What?
Interviewer: Goering.
GT: Oh. Yeah. Oh well, yes. Well, when what happened because we were so close to the front line where we were, we were in a big drome they flew all these just after the war. They captured and they flew them back to us because they wouldn’t keep them in Germany because they were frightened because people would get at that them because the Germans were ready to shoot them you see. And they were going to put them on trial so they brought them back into our place and we had a ring of RAF Regiment around this little set of huts in the middle of the ‘drome. That’s actually where they let the V bombs off from, V-1s from and there was two looking out and only one looking in over the ring. Three rings of them. But it was one of those things and I see him with the CO. I was his, one of his personal bodyguards and you know what Victor Stallone looked like in the films that’s how I used to look. I wasn’t allowed to speak. I wasn’t allowed to touch them. But I’d got stun grenades, smoke grenades, real grenades, two rifles, two revolvers and umpteen guys all around me. I was that way to set up. Everything I could do if my job was to say save the CO and he was a nice gentleman he was. A real nice gentleman. And that was my job. And he said he didn’t fancy the chief, the sergeant, the police he said, ‘He’s a coward. He’d run.’ He said, ‘I don’t think you’ll run.’ I said, ‘I can’t.’ I got on well with my CO until I got when we were lined up to go to Burma and he was going to make me his armament officer then. He was going to put me on the field of battle as they described it and that’s a rank they can’t take away from you when it’s made in the field of battle and make me his armament officer. And I’d already volunteered to only a week before to join the, come back home to rebuild Britain on a B Class release and did I get a rollicking. Oh, he really sorted me out. That was the only time he took to me. Really sorted me out and he really hammered me.
Interviewer: So I take it by then then the war was finished obviously.
GT: Oh, the war was over.
Interviewer: You were coming back to the, to England.
GT: The fact, before I got I volunteered for this B Class release and then the Japs packed in just after. So we were going then to Burma but it was one of those things. It’s just how coincidence took it. I, I thought well I was a bricklayer by profession. I was trained as an apprentice bricklayer and so when the Ministry came out they recruited people like me and they taught me and they more or less talked me into joining, to come back home and rebuild Britain which I did. And —
Interviewer: Right. So that brings us really to the end of your story.
GT: Yeah.
Interviewer: Doesn’t it George? It’s been absolutely fascinating to understand how you started off just going in as an armourer.
GT: Yeah.
Interviewer: And then your experiences through working with foreign Air Forces really.
GT: Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah.
Interviewer: Which is something that a lot of RAF personnel didn’t get the opportunity to do.
GT: Oh, I was in three Air Forces. The Belgian Air Force, Free French and The Royal Air Force and I’m the only one. I know that. I’m the only one that was in the three.
Interviewer: That’s quite a record to hold, isn’t it?
GT: Yeah. But I’ve never sent for my medals. I don’t believe in medals.
Interviewer: Well, thank you very much George.
GT: Well, that’s about —
Interviewer: Absolutely —
GT: That’s about my story. There’s lots of other bits I could tell you but [laughs] —
Interviewer: We’ll leave those for another day.
GT: Then in the day.
Interviewer: Right. Thank you ever so much. Thank you, George Taplin.

Citation

Dave Harrigan and This Interview was recorded by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire., “Interview with George William Taplin,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 27, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/46441.

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