Interview with Peter Scoley

Title

Interview with Peter Scoley
1008-Scoley, E Peter G

Description

Peter Scoley was born on a farm which became RAF Metheringham during the war. After the war Peter and his wife were fundamental in creating a museum on the site.

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:23:19 audio recording

Rights

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.

Contributor

Identifier

SHarriganD[Ser#-DoB]v18

Transcription

Interviewer: We’ll start again.
PS: Right.
Interviewer: It’s the 25th of January and I’m here at Westmoor Farm and I’m talking to Peter Scoley who is the sort of founder and landlord of the friends of Metheringham Airfield. Peter, you’ve been in this area for a very long time. Like all your life. Is that right?
PS: More or less. We came to Martin Moor in 1937.
Interviewer: Gosh.
PS: And, but we had to leave of course when the aerodrome was built. That was in 1943. And then Zena and I came back here to live in 1968 so most of my life with a little chunk in the 40s and 50s.
Interviewer: And a bit missing. When you had to leave where did you go to?
PS: We went to another farm at Bracebridge Heath at the north end of Waddington aerodrome a quarter of a mile or so, between a quarter and a half a mile from the end of the northern end of the main runway. And so we were entertained nightly by Lancasters taking off and landing at Waddington.
Interviewer: Right. So, so I mean you wouldn’t have been very old then. About eight years old.
PS: Ahum.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: Yeah.
Interviewer: So would you have seen action from Metheringham itself or didn’t you get down as far as here?
PS: No, I never saw Metheringham operations. I only saw it built but not operational. Though on occasion because we had this barn here still operational during the war.
Other: As a farm.
PS: As a farm. Father visited weekly because my uncle really looked after it but my father came here every week and it was on some of those occasions when I was on holiday from school that we saw things like the FIDO operating and the odd aeroplane going in the circuit and so on. But —
Interviewer: Were you allowed to stay up late enough to [laughs] —
PS: [laughs] No.
Interviewer: To see FIDO operating.
PS: The FIDO that I saw operating was actually during the daylight hours. One very foggy day, I can’t remember now whether it was the Christmas holidays or the April holidays. I think it might have been Christmas holidays actually in 1944 it was operating during the day.
Interviewer: Was that a test run or did they actually need it?
PS: I don’t think so. I think it was, I think it was operating because air ambulances were coming in from Europe with American wounded on.
Interviewer: Peter, excuse me.
PS: For Nocton Hospital.
Interviewer: It’s absolutely stone cold. Can you get the girls to come back collect it and warmed up for us.
PS: Righto, duck.
Interviewer: Shall we?
PS: Can you, can you pause?
Interviewer: Yes.
[recording paused]
Interviewer: Stopped it so [pause] So they were running FIDO during the day.
PS: Are we on now?
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: Oh right. Yes. I can remember. I can remember it very clearly because on that particular day father was bringing a battery to Smalley’s, the motor engineers of Martin for recharging. In those days if you, if you remember the wireless sets we had weren’t plugged in to the electrics because we didn’t have any but there were on big glass batteries filled with acid that was re, that were recharged every week. And we were coming down to Martin to have this battery charged. To get there of course we had to come through Metheringham Aerodrome. Now, the road was closed but because father had this farm here he had a pass to come through so we came up to the main gate and he showed the pass and we were waved through. But he was warned at the sentry post, guardroom that the FIDO was running and there was a guard on the road, to take directions from him. So further up the road we came across this guard with a 303 rifle and a fixed bayonet and in front of us we’d seen a lorry disappearing into the fog past this chap with a bayonet and father stopped and said, ‘Is it safe to go through?’ And so the guard said, ‘Well,’ he said, ‘That lorry has just gone through,’ he said, ‘So I think you can.’ So off we went and the roar as we went through was terrific and the flames as I recall were not the same as you see on the films and pictures of FIDO working which tend to show a very low flame.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: Very close to the ground. The flames that I remember, don’t forget I was eight, nine years old were much higher than that. They were more like eight to ten feet high and they were blue and with a yellowish tinge.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: And the roar was fantastic and the heat terrific. But anyway —
[recording paused]
PS: Switch on then. So we drove through and went off down to Martin to get the batteries recharged. Mission successful.
Interviewer: Yes. It is interesting what you say because all the pictures or almost all the pictures of FIDO are taken at night so the only bit you see is the yellow part of the of the flame and no one every talks about the noise. They only talk about the flames and the fumes and everything like that.
PS: That is my recollection of it.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: Don’t forget as I say I was eight nine years old.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: And that is my memory.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: Fickle though it might but with a picture that I have of FIDO is quite different from that shown in the books.
Interviewer: Yes. Well, that’s, that’s quite amazing. So what was going on at Waddington? I presume that you had a much closer view of, of events there.
PS: Not really. I suppose because one was only at home during school holidays though obviously during those weeks you got the aircraft flying overhead every night taking off on operations. And being only half a mile or so from the end of the north, north south runway at Waddington fully loaded Lancasters coming over twenty or thirty at a time and skimming the house by about sixty to a hundred feet the noise was rather shattering and if you were trying to get to sleep a fairly, you were given a fairly impossible job.
Interviewer: Did you ever get used to it?
PS: No. Never really got used to it. But you counted them out and you counted them back. The other thing that I recall from my bedroom window there was an air raid siren two hundred yards away on the AV Roe aircraft factory roof end and every now and again it would go off. And I don’t know whether anybody remembers air raid sirens these days but believe me in those days if it went off the heart raced a bit.
Interviewer: It is frightening.
PS: We, I was ill with measles at the time but in March of 1945 Bomber Command suffered the last intruder raids of the Luftwaffe when various night fighters flew over aerodromes in the UK and shot the place up and on two occasions that happened at Waddington. On one occasion the bomb dump was set on fire and we had shell cases littering through the trees. You could hear them hitting the trees and bullets whistling through the air. That was rather frightening and then they did in fact manage to set the Waddington bomb dump on fire one night. And the —
Interviewer: What were the bombs, were they exploding?
PS: No, they weren’t. No. Fortunately not.
Interviewer: Because they weren’t fused, were they?
PS: No, they hadn’t got that far.
Interviewer: No.
PS: But something was burning there.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: And various people from RAF Waddington came around to all the outlying houses, farms and everyone telling everyone to get out quick because if the bomb dump went off it would level a fair, it would level a fair area of land.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: And so mother explained that we couldn’t because my brother and I were in bed with measles and my father was in bed with flu. ‘Righto,’ said the officer. He said, ‘We’ll lay an ambulance on.’ As it turned out before the ambulance arrived they got the fire under control so it was all cancelled but it was a little bit of a hairy old do for an hour until things got under control.
Interviewer: Yes, I can imagine.
PS: Well, that was the nearest I got to the war.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: Because most of the time with being away at school, in the latter half of the war at anyrate, in Yorkshire we very rarely saw any aircraft up there and German aircraft in particular. But further south of course things were rather different.
Interviewer: Yes, I can imagine. Well, I grew up in London but I’m not quite old enough. It’s strange because I have a memory of getting out of bed and lifting the edge of a blackout curtain and looking out and seeing searchlights panning the sky. Now, it couldn’t have been the Blitz because I wasn’t around in the Blitz.
PS: No.
Interviewer: So I’m not quite sure what this memory was.
PS: Well, don’t forget there was a little Blitz in 1944.
Interviewer: Ah, well it could have been something like that. Yes. Yes. I didn’t think much about it. It just looked like all pretty lights in the sky you know.
PS: Yeah.
Interviewer: Obviously, obviously very young. Now, you are now with your connections to the Metheringham Airfield and considered by lots of us as, as a chief archivist.
PS: God. Yeah.
Interviewer: You must have the odd story to tell. Things that were related to you or, or something like that.
PS: Oh God. Now, my mind’s gone a blank.
Interviewer: Of the —
PS: Yeah.
[recording paused]
PS: Yeah. Yeah, well perhaps for a start we could talk about the origins of the, of the Visitor Centre because they were not simple. Zena and I had thought, had been wondering for a long time about a Memorial to the Bomber Command people here during the war but we could never really think of anything that we could do. We didn’t particularly want, just want to put a Memorial slab or stone. We wanted something a bit different but nothing occurred. In any case at that time we were both busy with our own lives. Me in farming and Zena with local government. But it just so happened one day that Zena was at a meeting with North Kesteven District Council officials at a time when — [beeping noise] I think I can —
Interviewer: Ok.
[recording paused]
PS: So anyway, Zena was at this meeting with the North Kesteven District Council at a time when they were having to rethink the financial aspects of local government because agriculture which up ‘til then had been the mainstay of rural life was ceasing because of the end of the Cold War was ceasing to be as important as it had been hitherto. And so the local authorities were having to reassess businesses and tourism and all sorts of other things that were happening in their areas in order to get revenue for the county. One of the things that the Tourism Department at Sleaford was concerned with was the wartime aviation and they were creating what became known as the Airfield Trail which it was hoped would attract tourists into the area to go around and visit all these old aerodromes which by then were becoming of national interest. So during the conversation Zena happened to mention that we had got some old wartime, World War Two buildings on the farm and would they be interested. They said they would. They’d come and have a look which eventually they did and it was decided that one of the buildings in particular would be a good place to have what at that time was going to be known as a Memorial Room. The council would renovate part of it in which the exhibition would be and then the place would be open for people to visit when they were in the area. At that time nothing more was planned. It, coincidentally one of our neighbours on the other side of the airfield had built a Memorial to 106 Squadron which in 1992 was dedicated at a squadron reunion.
Interviewer: Was this the one that is actually on the airfield site?
PS: Yes.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: When it was dedicated and we talked to the squadron about our plans they showed interest and asked to be invited to the dedication of the Memorial Room when it was opened. And we said yes. In the meantime, John Pye who had done the other Memorial said would it be appropriate for him to build another Memorial outside the Memorial Room? So we thought it was a good idea and which he did. That was in 1993 and in July of ’93 at the squadron reunion they came here for the dedication of the new Memorial and —
Interviewer: Partial opening.
PS: Yeah [pause] Ok? Yeah. So anyway, the squadron arrived in July of 1993 for the dedication of the second Memorial.
Interviewer: When you say the squadron you mean the Squadron Association?
PS: The Squadron Association.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: Yeah. And had a look at the half-finished Memorial Room and there was a preliminary suggestion that it mightn’t be a bad idea if we were willing for it to be also the Squadron Museum. So anyway, we all went away and thought about that. We had to think about this. They, and they came back again in October of that year when the Memorial Room was finished and opened for a month for local people to come and have a look and we had an official opening with the chairman of the North Kesteven District Council and a little ceremony and we closed again for the winter at the end of the month. During the winter we had a general meeting when the Friends of Metheringham Airfield was set up. The title was, as I recall was suggested by our number one member who has only just died a week or two back. Ron Mitchell. And we’ve been the Friends of Metheringham Airfield ever since and the committee was formed and it went on from there. The following summer in July when the squadron came down for their reunion, or the Association came down for their reunion they of course visited the Centre and we had a little party there. And one of the squadron members had a quiet think and thought it would be a good idea if we renovated the end room. Well, we hadn’t got any money to do that at the time so nothing much happened. But it just so happened that the poor chap died that winter. Then we found out that he had left us two hundred pounds in his will for to help with renovations at the Centre. And so we renovated the end rooms and they’re now called the Carey Powell Room.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: In memory of our benefactor who’d in fact had been a rear gunner here. He was a two tour rear gunner which was a very rare bird indeed.
Interviewer: Yes.
PS: In World War Two.
Interviewer: It certainly was.
PS: And a very nice man and a great supporter. So we were very pleased to, to name the room after him and to keep his name alive. So the, the museum has sort of developed from the there. The next job we did was to clear out the old gymnasium which had become redundant as far as the farm buildings were concerned and so, we cleaned it out and freshened it up. And since then we’ve had all our meetings and things in there. The lectures we started in the Centre in 1994 as it happened. I think Jim Shortland gave the first one and I believe we had about seventy people in there at the time. But gradually as time went on numbers increased and the centre wasn’t big enough and so we moved across to the school room, what is now the school room and a gymnasium until that became too small when we started having the lectures and things in the main room in the gymnasium. And that basically is an outline in how we first started and has carried on to this day with under the guidance of a group of very dedicated volunteers. We are now a charity and which has been helpful with the financial aspects of the friends and we hope that interest will survive because we believe that the memory of Bomber Command people deserves it. There may be controversy over what Bomber Command did during the world war but one can’t get away from the fact that fifty five thousand men, young men, young boys lost their lives serving their country and that is the main thing as far as we’re concerned in preserving the memory of 106 Squadron.
Interviewer: That’s, that’s really the core purpose of the organisation, isn’t it? That it’s totally wrong and mercifully I think the country is now decades too late beginning to realise it totally wrong to blame brave volunteer —
PS: Yes.
Interviewer: Service personnel.
PS: Yes.
Interviewer: For the mistakes, perceived or real of their political masters.
PS: Absolutely. It’s been most unfair and again well we’ll not mention any politics in this but we know the guilty ones.
Interviewer: I’ll not mention any names. Well, Peter, I think we’ve come to the end of the session now and thank you ever so much for talking to us and I’m sure that your name won’t exactly be in lights but your voice might well be coming out of peoples computers. Thank you.
PS: [laughs] Right.

Citation

Jeff Williams and This Interview was recorded by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire., “Interview with Peter Scoley,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 28, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/46447.

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