Interview with Ernest Groeger


Interview with Ernest Groeger
1025,1026-Groeger, Ernest


Ernie Groeger volunteered for the RAF in 1940 while working at a textile firm. He undertook training to be an armourer and was posted to 97 Squadron at RAF Woodhall Spa. Over time he developed ill health and he was discharged from the RAF on health grounds.



Temporal Coverage




00:14:41 audio recording


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Interviewer: This is an interview with Ernie who was in 97 Squadron, at Tattershall Thorpe Camp, visitor camp on the 17th of April 2011. Off you go Ernie.
EG: Right. I first approached the RAF at Kidbrooke in London to join in the RAF and they said that they didn’t really need anybody at the moment but if I would like to give them some details and that about my address and all the rest of it they would be in touch with me. And this was in 1940. I was working in the City of London in a textile firm and from there I then received a letter one day to report to Kidbrooke which they took all my details and told me that they would call me in due course and let me know where to go and all the rest of it and what to do. I then, this was on the two days before Christmas in 1940. I then received a letter to say to report to Cardington which was as you know one of the big RAF stations where they had the airships there and I can remember that as if it was now because I actually went in. When I went to Cardington I actually went in the airship to have a look around and I was amazed. I really was. But two, two days before Christmas I received this letter and my dear mother she says to me, ‘Look,’ she says, ‘Why don’t you ring the RAF up and tell them that you don’t want to go before Christmas but you will go after Christmas.’ And I then explained to her all about what, what goes on and all the rest of it and I should be there on the due date. So, she said, ‘Well, you can’t do anything about it.’ So I arrived at Cardington two days before Christmas and there I received a Christmas lunch which was entirely new to me because being a civilian having a lunch in London you know with turkey and all the rest of it. We had pork and there was one or two moans and groans but, at the time. But then I was then told about a week afterwards after they had given me all the tests and all the rest of it to go home and wait to hear from them. Well, this went on quite a time and I was wondering what was going on and so I phoned up Cardington and said, ‘You know my name and all the rest of it.’ And by this way I had a number then which was 1239, 1235939 and I put my number down and all the rest of it and they said, ‘Well, don’t worry, we will be in touch with you in due course.’ Lo and behold I was then called up and went to Cardington again and was told that I would be sent to Credenhill in a few days which was right up somewhere near Wales, you know. I can’t remember where it was and that and I went there and I was told that I was going to be an armourer. So, I said, ‘What the devil’s that?’ You know, business. I didn’t know what an armourer was and he said, ‘Well, you actually play about with guns.’ So I said, ‘Oh well, you know. That’s it.’ And so when I got to Cardington I then went on the armourers course which I passed out quite well you know. And from Cardington I was then shifted over to a place called Finningley near Doncaster. During the war this is, you know and I really enjoyed it there because in no time I’d risen from being AC2 which I passed out, I then got my LAC pretty quickly because the arming officer then said that I was quite good with my knowledge of guns and the working of them and all the rest of it. And I then, they shifted me over to a new station that was opened called Balderton which was not very far from Finningley. I think it was about ten miles or nine miles something like that and then from there I went to another new station called Bircotes which is near Doncaster which was fairly new opening and that and I was about the first or second one there because when I got there there was nobody on the station. There was no food being cooked or anything else. And we were then told to go down to Bawtry Hall which was then Group 1 and I used to have my food there for a time. And then everybody started coming there and they had the canteen there and the NAAFI and all the rest of it and we started having our food there and I stayed there. I was then called back to Finningley again and from Finningley I then went to Blackpool on a fitter armourer’s course that they thought that, you know he knows a bit about things now. And I went to there and I was there which I had a very enjoyable time. I won my first dance championship there with a young lady and I came back and I was then posted here.
Interviewer: To Woodhall Spa.
EG: To Woodhall Spa and had a wonderful time.
Interviewer: What would your duties have been?
EG: My duties then I was a corporal then and I used to because the actual squadron didn’t come there until a little while afterwards. This was, it was either in February or March. I’m not quite certain.
Interviewer: Of forty —
EG: 1942.
Interviewer: Right.
EG: You know.
Interviewer: Yes.
EG: And then they started coming here, and which was 97 Squadron. By this time I’d been over to Coningsby and introduced to the people of 97 and that, you know that was there and they all came over here, you know. And within a week, it was around about a week oh sorry we started ops and within a very short time we were the first daylight squadron to fly Lancasters over Germany with 44 Squadron. 44 Squadron put up six aircraft, we put up six aircraft. All our aircraft came back safely but they lost —
Interviewer: Was this, was this the Augsburg raid?
EG: This was the Augsburg raid, yeah. And we, we were quite famous, you know. Let me think some more. Then we went on and I then was sent back to Blackpool on Bofors guns. I had to learn about Bofors guns and the rest of it. The next thing I knew I’d heard that the squadron had gone to down the road. Not very far. In Cambridgeshire. Bourn. They’d gone to Bourn but I didn’t go to Bourn. I went to Wickenby in Lincoln, you know. But what annoyed me most of all I would have gone to the squadron but I was put in the station headquarters. I knew quite a bit about things and they wanted me if anything had happened and that you know I could be available and all the rest of it. And the rest of the war literally I wasted time. You know, it was a waste of good time. But somehow all of a sudden something happened and I got this trembling business come on me and I then went to Rauceby you know.
Interviewer: The hospital there.
EG: The hospital.
Interviewer: Yes.
EG: And saw a chappie there and that and literally I said to them, ‘I’m alright,’ you know. But he may have seen something that I didn’t see and so after about a few months or so they demobbed me and I was amazed.
Interviewer: Ah.
EG: But he must have seen something because after that I went back to London you know, my old job and I then started trembling. I had a period for many months you know and I went to Guy’s Hospital where the, where they used to give me tests and all the rest of it and so that’s the end of the story.
Interviewer: Did you meet Guy Gibson somewhere along the line?
EG: I met Guy Gibson and well really I don’t want to talk about him.
Interviewer: No?
EG: No.
Interviewer: Oh.
EG: It’s something that I want to forget because to me [pause] awful man. Awful man. But, but I don’t want to say anything else there if you don’t mind.
Interviewer: No, that’s quite alright Ernie.
EG: Because you know I, Guy Gibson and myself and I had a rough old bust up and he treated his pilots like dirt you know.
Interviewer: Yes, I know. Yes. So you came out of the RAF.
EG: Yes.
Interviewer: And was that the end then of your, of your war career as it were?
EG: It was the end of my war career. I went back to my old job in the City of London but I was off, on and off at work for a period of maybe two or three years. I even, I was amazed because they sent me in and said they would like to see me and there was about four people and about a month after that I received a pension.
Interviewer: Oh.
EG: I was amazed, you know. But then about three maybe four years afterwards they asked me to go there and they said, ‘We’re going to knock your pension down fifty percent.’ You know. So I thought to myself well that’s fair enough because I was feeling much better but I was still getting these shakes now and again. So the reason was I don’t know or mentally something had happened or something about me you know.
Interviewer: Were you attached to sort of one particular Lancaster that you would take care of guns for or was it –
EG: Yeah.
Interviewer: But you’d look after guns on a lot of the Lancasters.
EG: Well, no. When, when I first came here I went around with a chappie and he showed me, although I knew quite a bit about it he showed me the system. He called it the system. He was looking after three Lancasters. The guns, you know. The Brownings, .303s they were and I learned it all then. And then after a time I took over three Lancasters you know.
Interviewer: Yes.
EG: And then you had somebody else and you teach them what it’s all about you know. But lots of people say they hated the old RAF and they hated the Army and that but I loved it. And I would think, I’m certain that I would have stayed in.
Interviewer: Did you get attached to the crews that you came —
EG: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: Very. Yeah. And so you were here for how long?
EG: Sorry.


Claire Bennet and This Interview was recorded by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire., “Interview with Ernest Groeger,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 28, 2024,

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