Interview with Dougie Marsh

Title

Interview with Dougie Marsh

Description

Interview in three parts.

Part 1.
Doug Marsh was the son of a Royal Navy officer and moved around quite a bit as a child between Kent and Lincolnshire. When his father retired from the Navy his parents bought a fish and chip shop in Grimsby but shortages meant that the business could not succeed and Doug had to find other work. He had secured a place as a trainee with the local authority but the start of the war cancelled the scheme he would have joined. He worked for the Prudential Insurance Company until he volunteered for the RAF aircrew and began training as a navigator in the UK and then in South Africa. Following training in South Africa Doug returned to the UK to continue his training. During part of this training a German plane dropped a bomb on the local railway station and on the hotel where recruits were billeted. He was posted to RAF Bruntingthorpe for his OTU where he joined up with his crew and the trained together after training flights on Manchesters and on to the Lancaster.

Part 2.
Doug Marsh continued his training on H2S at RAF Scampton before being posted to 57 Squadron for operational flying. During that time the flight engineer on the crew had gone up on an operation and failed to return. On the day of their last operation the wireless operator was in hospital and so received the news there that his crew had crashed. On the morning of the last flight the ground crew told the pilot to remember not to land at their usual dispersal because the aircraft was due for an overhaul. In the air the crew heard a bang and the plane was soon on fire. The crew baled out. Doug was knocked unconscious and came to in a field with the parachute in a tree. He hid until he was discovered by French prisoners of war who hid him in the expectation of him finalising his escape plans. He was caught and assumes his capture was due to betrayal by one of the French.

Part 3.
Doug Marsh was was captured and taken to Frankfurt on Oder where he was treated well. One night his German cell mate alerted him to the red glow outside of the window which Doug recognised as Pathfinder flares followed by a single explosion as a bomb fell. Doug just went back to sleep much to the surprise of the youth with him. On his journey to Stalag Luft 6 he passed the towns where he had hidden before his capture. Doug remained a prisoner of war until the POWs were moved away from the Russian advance. On one occasion during the march they came under attack from Allied fighters. Dougie was a small distance from a POW who was killed outright who had been a prisoner from the beginning of the war.

Language

Type

Format

00:47:14 audio recording
00:47:33 audio recording
00:47:35 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]v610006, SHarriganD[Ser#-DoB]v610007, SHarriganD[Ser#-DoB]v610008

Transcription

Part 1.
Interviewer: Interviewing Mr Doug Marsh of Cleethorpes about his experiences with 57 Squadron as a navigator. Right, Mr Marsh, where were you born?
DM: At East Halton here in Lincolnshire.
Interviewer: What year?
DM: 1922.
Interviewer: And what did your father do?
DM: He was in the Royal Navy.
Interviewer: And did that give you an inclination to join the Navy when the war came?
DM: Well, I did, I thought about it but I was sort of persuaded myself I was going to be a lot better off financially as aircrew.
Interviewer: Right. So where did you go to school?
DM: Well, I went initially at East Halton. Then this is all whilst I’m under ten. Well, up to ten, eleven and I had two periods when I went to school down in Gillingham because my father was at Chatham and he was on twenty two years service you see and we didn’t really see much of him during my early years because he was in New Zealand with the Navy there for two and a half years at one time and another two or so in Shanghai. However, the next schooling was when I came sort of eleven. I went to St James which is a church school here in Grimsby.
Interviewer: So was that because your father had been moved base or —
DM: Well, no it was just that we, my mother and I came back here to Lincolnshire because she owned the house here and my grandmother lived in it and also her aged brother. It was quite a big house you know, four bedroomed and they in fact looked after it when we were down at Chatham. Well, we lived in Gillingham actually but —
Interviewer: So you came back to Grimsby.
DM: No.
Interviewer: Sorry?
DM: We didn’t have any connection with Grimsby at that stage at all.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: The, when my father came out of the Navy at the end of his twenty two years service he had decided they wanted a business and they actually finished up, it was a toss up between the Post Office and a fish and chip shop and so being a, he was a cook, a chief petty officer cook and so they chose the fish shop at Immingham. And it was from there that I went to school in Grimsby.
Interviewer: Right. When did you leave school?
DM: Now then [pause] It would have been [pause] in 1938 I think.
Interviewer: And what did you, what did you do when you left school?
DM: Well, I initially helped with the fish and chip shop doing the spuds and whatnot [laughs] but that was only temporary because I had before leaving school I’d been lucky enough to get a place at the Grimsby Corporation Electricity Works which was owned by the council. The authority. They took on two boys each year but I couldn’t join, I couldn’t start I should say until the January. January 1940. The war broke out in about ’31 was it? September ’39.
Interviewer: 1939. Yeah. Yes.
DM: So then, so I was sort of killing time as it were for a year or so. However, of course the war came up and it wasn’t long before I got a letter just saying that due to the circumstances they were not continuing presently with this scheme, these two boys on a five year training course which was very nearly as good as a degree in that particular field. So the next thing was that the fish shop wasn’t doing really very well because it was firstly difficult to get fish which got gradually worse. Potatoes were plentiful but oil, my father always used ground nut oil not dripping and he couldn’t get it, you know. That was the thing that killed it off so, and then they agreed to close it down. And at that point I wanted something still to do and the Prudential man called one day and my mother said, ‘Have you got any jobs for lads like these?’ You see. He said, ‘Aye we have.’ Because all his agents were being called up and replaced by young people or women’ And so I went into that and enjoyed it quite a lot. I was with the Prudential for about probably eighteen months. Starting salary fifteen shillings but after only three months they increased it to twenty five shillings a week. And then —
[recording cuts]
DM: And then of course it came time to be called up anyway. Do you want to know about that?
Interviewer: Yeah. Yes. So yeah, so you were facing call up. You then decided —
DM: Well, not really. I volunteered.
Interviewer: Volunteered.
DM: They were advertising.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: In every paper you picked up, for aircrew.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: But you couldn’t volunteer until you were nineteen and a quarter
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And that was in the June of [pause] the fourteenth.
Interviewer: So, June the 14th you volunteered.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: And —
DM: Is that right? 1922.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: It should be.
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: So what happened? Did you get, once you’d volunteered did you get called to an ITW straight away or —
DM: No. No. Oh no. I don’t think. We were, the first thing was to, I went to somewhere in town in Grimsby where they did a bit of a medical on you and they asked you a few questions but nothing very serious and then the next one were to report to the barracks in Lincoln. When I got there there was quite a few and they interviewed us and [pause] I don’t think that’s actually correct. I think we got the information. They said if you go to Lincoln and then a party of us would be taken down to — ’
Interviewer: Lord’s.
DM: No. No. No. Where they used to have the zeppelins.
Interviewer: Oh yes. Yes. Sorry. Yes.
DM: I think I told you.
Interviewer: Yeah. Near Bedford.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Yes. Yes. I know where you are I general.
DM: You know. I told you last time. I’m sure I did.
Interviewer: Yes. Yes.
DM: I can’t think of its name now.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And had an overnight stay there. And the next morning we went and had various tests. A few written tests and then interviews were the main thing and they said at the end of it, ‘Right, you’re accepted as a navigator for training. Or navigator training.’
Interviewer: So how did they assess you to be a navigator? Did you [unclear]
DM: Well, I was coming to that.
Interviewer: Oh sorry.
DM: Well, everybody there wanted to be a pilot of course but it turned out that they were only recruiting navigators that day. I think it was true in all those spheres, you know. They just said, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter who they are.’ And the next thing as you said about reporting to, well first of all they gave us a badge and said, ‘You are on three months deferred service.’ So that took us to December and then got a long foolscap sheet of telegram telling us what to do and how to do it.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Travel passes and all the rest of it to report to Lord’s Cricket Ground.
Interviewer: The Aircrew Reception Centre.
DM: That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: And we sat there in the seats, in the stands as it were. There was quite a few there of course. I should say maybe up to maybe two hundred and eventually a corporal came along and he said, ‘Right. From here to the end of the row you follow me.’ And if you’d sat somewhere else funnily enough [laughs] this is the gospel truth you would have been a pilot.
Interviewer: So this intro to ACRC was the posh end. Navigators, pilots, bomb aimers.
DM: Yeah. Well, it was just that.
Interviewer: Observers.
DM: Well, they weren’t bomb aimers.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: We were, I was an observer.
Interviewer: That’s right. Ok.
DM: That’s right. Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah. So off you marched then.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: In your group.
DM: And it didn’t, it could have happened as simple as that. Other people missed out the other way around [laughs] probably.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Anyway —
Interviewer: So what happened at ACRC then? I assume you were —
DM: This is at large?
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: Yes. Well, we were taken to, I can’t remember the preliminaries but we were taken to a huge block of flats in St Johns Wood. They were sort of quite close to the park. What do you call it?
Interviewer: Regent’s Park.
DM: Regent’s Park. That’s right. And we used to use, like there had been a big restaurant in Regent’s Park itself to eat. So we went and we did a bit of square bashing on the streets. We got kitted out naturally. We had about three injections and the thing that leaves a mark, you know.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: My memory is not so good on these things now.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: But that all was done and then they said, that was in the morning, late morning and they said, ‘Right, well we’ll march you back to your billets.’ Because of course the flats were empty. All you got was three biscuits and a blanket or two and nothing else. That was how it, there was no furniture left in the place. Not even [unclear] chair. And then they had [prizes]. They said, ‘The best thing you can do is get into your pyjamas and go to bed and stay there until tomorrow morning.’ And you did feel a bit groggy. No doubt about it with these, all these drugs and but the next morning I felt as right as rain. I think one or two I remember had trouble but it didn’t bother me. Where are we?
Interviewer: How long did they put you at Lord’s for?
DM: Well, not more I wouldn’t think than about a month and I managed to wangle leave. My father put me up to this of course. He said, ‘You tell them I’m coming home on leave and you would like to see me.’ It worked.
Interviewer: Was your father back in the Navy by the end of the war?
DM: Oh, well, he was in before it even started.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Back in and he was at Shotley near Harwich and he stayed there right through as it happened. If you want to know a little bit more he was originally sent with some ratings to Butlins at Skegness to reorganise the catering. But he phoned them after a couple of days and said, ‘We’re doing nothing here because the Butlins staff insist on doing the catering.’ So they said, ‘Right. Back to Chatham then.’ And a fortnight or so later he was sent to Shotley and he stayed there as I say.
Interviewer: Now, when you first joined the RAF why did you join the RAF rather than the Navy?
DM: Well, I fancied joining the Navy but I think you know on the other hand was the fact that I didn’t fancy [pause] well I thought it was probably a better bet from the point of view of survival because I mean when you are sunk, well —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: That’s what you are isn’t it?
Interviewer: Had you any interest in the, in the Air Force or flying before that?
DM: No. Not really.
Interviewer: So it was just the thought —
DM: I think my father was pleased in a way, you know that I had chosen not to go in the Navy. He was thinking I would probably me more at risk of something.
Interviewer: So you left Lord’s and where did you go to next? Did you come home for a while?
DM: No.
Interviewer: Oh, you were straight on to ITW were you?
DM: That’s right. At Hullavington.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: And what were you doing there?
DM: Well, the normal. Initial training. We did ordinary maths and English and bits and bobs.
Interviewer: So you started —
DM: And signals came into it. Aldis lamp and learning the Morse Code and that sort of thing.
Interviewer: It was like your preliminary navigational training.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: At that stage. Yeah.
DM: So we had a sort of connection with navigation but it was still pretty basic stuff you know.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Just to say that you had worked to it on the educational level because even at that stage I’m not sure how many of us there were, probably about twenty five to thirty in a class and three of them were thrown out at that stage.
Interviewer: And there would be exams to pass or tests to pass.
DM: Oh yes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yes, you had to do tests at the end. I can’t remember really.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: How many it was now but it couldn’t have been more than about maybe six weeks I would think.
Interviewer: Then from Hullavington you went to where? Where was next?
DM: Well, I think that was when I had the time at Brighton and Eastbourne.
Interviewer: Right. Yeah.
DM: Mainly.
Interviewer: What was that?
DM: Well, we were using the schools because all the children had been evacuated and again it was more navigation rather than the other stuff we’d done at ITW.
Interviewer: So you got through the initial RAF stuff at Hullavington.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: And you now had proper navigational training.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Gradually advancing.
DM: That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: What you, what you were doing.
DM: And I think you got your LAC didn’t you at the end of that?
Interviewer: When you were down there did you see any sort of air raids or any action by the German Luftwaffe?
DM: Well, I did. Yes. On one occasion because I can’t remember which day but one afternoon a week was sports afternoon and most people just went running but there was about six of us who played golf and so we went up on the Downs and it wasn’t necessarily the first time but one of the times somebody said, ‘Hey, there’s sirens are going down there and so we looked and then an aircraft appeared so we got in some bushes thinking you never know [laughs] However, they came in and they dropped one on the Railway Station which put it out of action for a few days.
Interviewer: Where was this? In Brighton?
DM: No, this was in, now which [pause] I’m not sure which.
Interviewer: Oh right. Yeah.
DM: But it was either Eastbourne or Brighton.
Interviewer: Yeah. So they dropped one bomb on the station, yeah and then —
DM: Yes. And then another in a gas holder. We were watching. It just folded and then a cloud went up the same shape as the —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: To —
Interviewer: The bomb.
DM: Gasometer. Yeah. [laughs] Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yeah. Anyway, they did a couple of runs and a couple of bombs each probably was all they dropped. But nevertheless they were pretty good on the targets and, sorry the other one, another one was that they dropped one, well, we started playing golf again when they’d gone but within about half an hour somebody come running across the golf course saying, ‘You’ve got to report back. There’s been a bomb dropped on your hotel,’ which did I say Cavendish or something like that?
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
DM: I think it was probably. Yeah. And it had been dropped just on the side. There was a woman apparently got killed because the wall fell on her. She had a bike. She was just leaning her bike against a wall. But the bulk of the living area was not touched but of course, they wouldn’t let us go in straight away. So we were hanging about until later in the day, evening even and they said, ‘Oh we’re satisfied now.’ They thought there might be an unexploded bomb. But they said, ‘Well, you’ll be alright to go and get your stuff.’ And we did. And they moved us into one of the other hotels. I think I’m pretty sure whether that was Eastbourne I think.
[recording paused]
Interviewer: Right. So you continued training at Eastbourne. Where was your next posting?
DM: I feel sure we went from there to the Wirral.
Interviewer: Which was to, was that to 10 AFU?
DM: Well, it was to go abroad, you know.
Interviewer: Oh right. Right. Right.
DM: What did they call those places?
Interviewer: Yeah. Yes.
DM: You see.
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: I remembered the last time you were here but I can’t bring them to mind now. You know the port out in the —
Interviewer: Yes. Oh, the Mersey.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: Do you know?
Interviewer: Yes, I know where you’re talking about. Yeah.
DM: You know what it is. Yeah. It was the collection point for us all RAF people anyway going abroad on boats.
Interviewer: So, you were held there for a short while and then —
DM: Yeah. Only a matter of days. I mean the only thing I can remember we got a kit bag with stuff in and you could also have a case and we had a pith helmet [laughs] and khaki shirt and shorts. So I think probably two sets.
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: And we did wear them because —
[recording cuts]
DM: We were lucky enough to go to South Africa our lot. We went first into Liverpool and then I think we went on board the ship there but it didn’t set off like. A day or two later it went up to Gourock.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: On the Clyde. And we eventually set off from there.
Interviewer: Do you know what the ship was called?
DM: I did but I can’t remember now.
Interviewer: Right. So you get —
DM: But what I can tell you about it was a converted Australian meat boat [laughs] which with all the pipes for the refrigeration everywhere, weren’t on of course but nevertheless it was unfortunate in a way because it was like a cork on top of the water. It was. It was, I mean the few troops didn’t make any difference as regards to cargo as in comparison with cargo did it and so it was pretty bad for seasickness. However, I did manage, there was three options. You could sleep on the deck steel, you could sleep on the tables which were fixed or you could have a hammock if you were very lucky. And as soon as I heard the word hammock I thought right, that’s for me. And I did get one.
Interviewer: So you knew how to use it from your father did you?
DM: Well, yes. I had been in a hammock you know before. I don’t quite remember the circumstances but I know that’s what you wanted for a good nights sleep [laughs] Not sliding on the deck. However, I was very seasick for about fourteen days and did really nothing during the day and another chap sort of looked after me because he kept going and getting fruit and crisps and things and we spent the days outside on the deck despite the weather. But it was all rather unpleasant but as soon as I was able to get in the hammock I was fine and I had an excellent nights sleep. Well, I never woke at all you know. I just, it was just the fact that the hammock gives you so much more.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Stability.
Interviewer: So you went from Gourock. Where did you stop? Did you stop at Freetown on the way down?
DM: Yes. Well, we, they told us or somebody did that we’d been across almost to America and come back again to Freetown. It would have been, as I say fourteen days. That’s a long time to get to Freetown if you went directly wasn’t it?
Interviewer: Did you see any submarine activity or —
DM: No. No. No, there was one or two scares but we, no we didn’t see any action whatsoever fortunately.
Interviewer: When you got to Freetown were you allowed off the ship at all in Freetown?
DM: No. No. A few were but I wasn’t. The vast majority weren’t. But the natives came alongside. They called them, in their [unclear] boats I think it was. Something like that. Selling fruit and whatnot. A basket you know. Throw a rope up and you could haul it up and put the money in and then get your fruit. That was interesting but we didn’t see anything of the place.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: No.
Interviewer: So you then moved out from Freetown to where was your next port of call?
DM: Durban.
Interviewer: Durban.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Yes. And you got off at Durban did you?
DM: Yes, Durban. We stayed on the ship overnight and then the next morning we were off and put on the train which was to go all the way to Queenstown. Well, Queenstown didn’t have a station but Johannesburg say, and that took us about three days if I remember rightly because you was travelling a long way. But the trains weren’t sort of going all the time express. So they took us down but they were very comfortable and that in itself was enjoyable. Saw all the scenery to be seen at different stages.
Interviewer: So you then get to Queenstown and that’s your, basically for your —
DM: Well, initially no. No, it was just a sort of, just a holding camp really. We did a little bit of work in lessons but very very little. Played tennis a lot and dug trenches but it was just, the trench wasn’t needed, you just did it for something to do.
Interviewer: Did you have a lot of contact with locals in Queenstown?
DM: Well, only shopkeepers.
Interviewer: Well, [unclear] so you were held at Queenstown. Then you moved to where? Where was your next posting?
DM: Well, Queenstown was the main one where you did navigation and bombing. It was ok because it was a good climate of course and there was a golf course right next to the field and also when you were on flying which was two or three mornings a week all aircraft had to be grounded by 1 o’clock because of the thermals and what not.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: It was even dangerous because these were Ansons and —
Interviewer: I see, so this was after your training, proper training that was.
DM: That was. Oh yes.
Interviewer: In Queenstown.
DM: At Queenstown. Yes.
Interviewer: What aircraft were they using?
DM: Ansons and Oxfords. Yeah.
Interviewer: So you were doing some classwork were you?
DM: Oh yes.
Interviewer: And then —
DM: That’s right and then —
Interviewer: Flying work.
DM: Two or three days a week flying. Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: So you were navigating the aircraft.
DM: They were all South African pilots. Air Force pilots.
Interviewer: So did you all take a turn to navigate the aircraft?
DM: Oh, no. Mostly you went just the one navigator in the aircraft.
Interviewer: Oh right. So you were just observing.
DM: I think there were maybe odd times when two or three went up and did part, at least did part of it but mostly and the same for the bombing you know. It was just a matter of one aircraft one student.
Interviewer: You went up with your pilot and did —
DM: Well, it was a different pilot every time.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah. But you were practicing something you’d learned in the classroom or whatever.
DM: Oh yes.
Interviewer: On your own.
DM: We’d done charts and just basic navigation.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Because you know all you’d got was the [pause] well you wouldn’t call them a computer thing did they?
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: There was nothing electrical about it
Yeah
It was just you did it.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: I can’t remember what the name —
Interviewer: The navigators. Yeah. Yeah
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: That’s right.
Interviewer: So you —
DM: And a chart.
Interviewer: Yeah.
[recording paused]
DM: We came and got back here.
Interviewer: Right. So you worked on your navigation at Queenstown.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: How long were you at Queenstown for?
DM: Oh, I don’t know. [pause] I should think it could have been something around two to three months.
Interviewer: Right. So by that time you were a sort of fundamentally qualified navigator.
DM: Well, yes.
Interviewer: Bomb aimer.
DM: We didn’t get stripes then.
Interviewer: No. No, but —
DM: We were moved down to a Gunnery School on the south coast. Where the heck did they [pause] Would that be in the —
Interviewer: Yes.
[recording paused]
DM: Still on Ansons. One block there. Ansons. It doesn’t say where it is.
Interviewer: Oh right. So you were at 43 Air School.
DM: Yes. Yes, that’s down on the south coast.
Interviewer: Yeah. Doing gunnery. Yeah.
DM: Yes. That’s right. In a turret. Flying at drogues. That’s all it was really and, and it looks as if there was a bit of bombing mixed up with that but I don’t remember. It was one of the photography and sim, simulated bombing I guess that would be.
Interviewer: So you left that station. Did you come back to the UK then?
DM: Yes. Yeah.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: I got the stripes there.
Interviewer: So you were passed out. You’re now a fully trained observer.
DM: That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: So back on the ship.
DM: Yes. Well, we went from this camp to Cape Town. We’d landed at Durban when we arrived and of course [that would be mine] of course. Then at, we were going back via Cape Town which was again sort of a long journey. We slept overnight I remember and we went across the Karoo Desert, I think, partly. Anyway, got down to Cape Town and that was quite a good set up and as it turned out we had to wait nearly a fortnight for the ship.
Interviewer: Was that in Cape Town [laughs] Nice.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: In the time that you were in South Africa perhaps at your holding camp at Queenstown did you have much contact with the locals at all?
DM: Well, not a lot. While we were at the first place near sort of between Jo’burg and Pretoria we used to go into Johannesburg. We weren’t too popular in Pretoria. A lot of the [unclear] as they called themselves they were very anti. Pro-German.
Interviewer: This was the Boers.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: The Dutch.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: So Johannesburg was the place to go and there was the Jewish group and, who I don’t know now but there was about four parties who were falling over themselves to give us hospitality [laughs] and they each had a floor of a big building and it was with single, full of single beds. Not too close together but they were, and they were only too pleased if you chose then to stay. And if I remember rightly it was sixpence a night. So there we are.
Interviewer: So you went into Johannesburg on your leaves with your friends.
DM: Well, weekends and that sort of thing
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: Went in to Joburg and also through the [unclear] It was put around that you could actually have a holiday on a farm or something like that and a friend and I we went together. Oh dear [pause]. I can’t tell you that but it was a fair little journey on a, on the train of course and we were met by the people and you see I can’t even bring their name to mind now. But they were English and they had a couple of daughters. One was away permanently at the time. The other was at school and she came home the last day before we left. So we did just meet her and she was in her sort of mid-teens I suppose. And whilst we were there well they met us with a huge great Buick car and this sort of thing and it was very pleasant and they did us proud.
Interviewer: So it was a great contrast to get to South Africa where there was plenty of food.
DM: Oh yes. Absolutely.
Interviewer: There were no blackouts.
DM: No. No shortage of anything.
Interviewer: Life’s normal.
DM: Yes. Absolutely.
Interviewer: So you get back to Cape Town and you get, you’re held there for a couple of weeks, back on your ship.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Any problems on the way?
DM: Which was, no. It was the Orion which was a pleasure cruiser which I’d seen previously because it used to come into Immingham and go on midnight sailing trips [laughs] And also the, we had all the first class cabins because they had, as somebody said I think it was four thousand Italian POWs down below and they were taking them, bringing them here to England. And we had, there was a certain amount of guard duty to do, you know but they were very friendly. Didn’t want any trouble because we had a rifle you see but we didn’t have the ammunition in the gun but you did have it in a pocket. But it was all a bit of a joke but I don’t think, I mean all they wanted to do was get off the ship. I don’t think they wanted any other sort of trouble. Didn’t want to take over or anything like that. And so it was a very pleasant trip back. No sickness. Magnificent. It was a different type of ship. Built for that sort of thing where this other thing as I say a transport vessel. I mean it was just not the right thing to travel in.
Interviewer: Did you stop at Freetown again on the way back?
DM: No.
Interviewer: You went straight.
DM: All the way.
Interviewer: Straight home.
DM: Straight home. Yeah.
Interviewer: Cape Town.
DM: No convoy. No nothing.
Interviewer: On your own.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: Right.
[recording cut]
Interviewer: So you arrived back in England.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: I think the next place you go to is 10 AFU, is it?
DM: That’s right. Yes. Just a little thing. I arrived. We arrived back, I think at Gourock where we’d gone from and I got home the day before my twenty first birthday funnily enough. Anyway, yes then we went to [pause] Well, no. No. We had a spell at Harrogate. I think everybody did, didn’t they?
Interviewer: So to the holding. The holding camp at Harrogate.
DM: Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: Yes, during which —
Interviewer: Where did you stay in Harrogate?
DM: In the hotels. One of the best hotels. Yes, and, you know we used to march around the streets a bit but I mean there was, we weren’t, you didn’t. You walked around [laughs] We weren’t in the mood for a lot of flash marching. But then they said, well, you know you can’t just stay here and they sent us on leave twice. Just because there was, well literally I suppose thousands of —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: People had been trained in Canada and America. South Africa. Even Australia, I think. A few. And they were all coming to Harrogate and they couldn’t accommodate them you see. So anyway, they said, ‘Right, you’re going on an assault course.’ And this was up near Newcastle and gave you a khaki outfit and a gun and hard hat and all the rest of it we played at that you know for maybe a fortnight. It was interesting anyway.
Interviewer: Do you know whereabouts that camp was especially when you —
DM: No. All I remember it was in the vicinity of Newcastle but I’m not sure where.
Interviewer: Right. So they entertained you for a fortnight.
DM: We were on the seaside.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: At the seaside.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: That was another thing and it was good weather because this by this time it would be about maybe May. April May certainly because my birthday in March.
Interviewer: So that’s May of 1943.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Right. Right.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: So after you’ve been playing at the seaside where did you next go?
DM: Is that right? [pause] I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it really.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: I came back from south Africa and I was twenty one in the March. And well it, that would be obviously ’43. Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: From ’40. Yes.
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: So where did you go after your assault course?
DM: Back to Harrogate. Did the same thing.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Over again.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: But only for a few weeks and then they sent us on leave or sent me on leave and got to go ‘cause it meant, they said you know the plan is that you would get a telegram telling you where to report. And the next thing I did was they sent up to Dumfries on another short course of bomb aiming and whatnot in a Botha would you believe because they were death traps apparently [laughs] However, survived that and then —
Interviewer: Was that a bombing and gunnery school was it? Dumfries.
DM: It was. Yes. That’s right.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yes. And I think maybe back to Harrogate but I’m not sure about that. But in any case —
[recording cuts]
DM: The next stage was we got the telegram which said to report to Bruntingthorpe.
Interviewer: Which is 29 OTU.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: Right. So you’re up there in what you’d call a proper career move really —
DM: Oh yes. We were getting into —
Interviewer: So when you arrived at Bruntingthorpe were you allocated a crew or did you pick a crew up when you —
DM: No. No. We were all mixed up together you know. Not sure how many but I would thought maybe something like twenty of each trade. Five trades.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Involved there. The pilot and I got together. I can’t remember exactly how —
Interviewer: So that’s —
DM: I liked him, he liked me and we sort of went from there to pick the other members of the crew.
Interviewer: So that’s, is that Tony Wright?
DM: Tony Wright. Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah. Right. So you two got together originally and then you picked the other three.
DM: We did. Yes.
Interviewer: To make the crew up.
DM: Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: Which would be —
DM: I think the first chap we got was the wireless operator George Allen.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And we were attracted to him because of his whole demeanour and the fact that he was at least ten years older than us and we thought well he’d only come in late because he was in the building business. No. Not building but building materials. Imports and that sort of thing in London. So —
Interviewer: So that, that’s your wireless operator.
DM: Yes. And then next was the [pause] you see I don’t think they had —
Interviewer: You had a bomb aimer wouldn’t you?
DM: Oh yeah. Bomb aimer and rear gunner.
Interviewer: Right so —
DM: That was it.
Interviewer: Was your original bomb aimer a chap called Rennie?
DM: Yes. Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: That’s right. Canadian.
Interviewer: Canadian.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah. And who was your original air gunner?
DM: The Australian.
Interviewer: Oh, Cook.
DM: Cook. Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Tony Cook.
Interviewer: Right. So that’s, that’s, your that’s the five who set off from the OTU.
DM: That’s right. Yes. Yeah.
Interviewer: And is that crew formed very early on then at OTU?
DM: Well, it’s the first thing to do really.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: Was to get crewed up. Yeah.
Interviewer: Right. You arrived there, you formed into a crew.
DM: Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: Now was that done in the apocryphal way in the hangar you had to find yourself five people?
DM: No.
Interviewer: Or did you just accumulate —
DM: No. It was more in the Mess I think then. We were all sergeants at the time and you know just talked to as many people as you could really and see what you thought to them and some of them were sort of possibles but others were sort of discarded thinking no, we don’t want that. I had one offer myself. There was a squadron leader who had only just himself qualified as a pilot or fairly recently. He’d obviously been in the Air Force and he asked me if I would be his navigator but I sort of mulled it over and thought I don’t know. I don’t think so.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: I’ll stay with the boys.
Interviewer: Right. The fact that you’d get together.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: At Bruntingthorpe and what were you flying there? Wellingtons? Wellingtons?
DM: Wellingtons yes.
Interviewer: Wellingtons. So you start off.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: Working as a crew.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: On Wellingtons.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: And what sort of things do you do at OTU?
DM: Well
Interviewer: Cross country, night flying
That’s right. Yes. A whole range of things I suppose. Where are we? [pause pages turning] Is that? No, it’s South Africa isn’t it? AFU. That’s not much. [unclear] That was —
Interviewer: Yes. There we are.
DM: [unclear]
Interviewer: Here we are.
DM: Oh, from here. August. That’s right. Yes. Well, cross country’s there and again I think is the red for night time?
Interviewer: I think so.
DM: Yeah. But they weren’t with our own pilots. There’s sergeant right there, number thirteen but the others is Warrant Officer James, Flying Officer Heath, right, right, right, right, right. Flight Lieutenant Perry.
Interviewer: So occasionally you were taken by another pilot but generally speaking —
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: You were working as a crew.
DM: That’s right. Odd things you know you went even as a second navigator.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Without actually doing any desk work but sort of looking out and saying, because I went on one of those and they were completely lost and I was looking out of the dome and I’d been keeping following it map reading. So I came on the intercom. I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you that’s — ’whatever it was, I can’t remember that now you see but I said, ‘That down there is —’ so and so. ‘So start from there.’
Interviewer: So the navigator got completely lost.
DM: Yeah. He hadn’t a clue and his pilot hadn’t either.
Interviewer: So your basic navigation skills at this stage are dead reckoning.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Which is —
DM: We did get Gee.
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: We did get gee there but not H2S or whatever it was.
Interviewer: So at OTU you had trained on Gee.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: But your basic fundamentals are dead reckoning.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Which was trying to lay a track.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: According to the wind basically.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: So you go A to B at a certain speed.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Apart of the wind and that tells you hopefully where you are.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: You had done astro navigation.
DM: Yes. Yeah.
Interviewer: But was it ever practical to use it?
DM: If it was it was probably only once. I really don’t remember.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: But —
Interviewer: And then on your calculation of wind drift how was that done? Was that done by flairs dropped from the aircraft by the gunner or —
DM: Well, I don’t know. It was [pause] I don’t know. I can’t remember. Sorry.
Interviewer: Yeah. Ok. So you get at OTU you are introduced to Gee.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: So you are getting more modern.
DM: Yes. That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: Was it easy to understand Gee and work?
DM: I didn’t find it difficult. No. Pretty easy.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Maths and that sort of thing was my strong subject. I wasn’t all that good at anything else [laughs] but algebra, geometry and arithmetic I was always from the age of probably fourteen I was always the top of the class.
Interviewer: Goodo. Did you get picked up by the RAF somewhere and that’s why you became a navigator? Or was it entirely —
DM: No. It may have been. It may have been the school certificate showed that. I was also good at religion funnily enough [laughs] I don’t know why. Go on. Anyway —
Interviewer: Yes. Yes. So when you went at OTU at Bruntingthorpe were there many accidents?
DM: Well, I don’t think so. I don’t. I can’t remember anything.
Interviewer: Ok. Life went, so you’re evolving as a crew.
DM: Yes
Interviewer: Getting used to the job.
DM: Used to it.
Interviewer: Getting on.
DM: Going on the intercom with other people or having them on board with us even. That sort of thing. But that was all but at the we then went to Winthorpe near Newark.
Interviewer: Yeah, which is —
DM: The heavy, the Conversion Unit
Interviewer: Unit. Yeah.
DM: And you got the other two members of the crew.
Interviewer: Right. So your new members of the crew would be then Richard Anderson was the air gunner. Is that right?
DM: Was he?
Interviewer: He was when you were lost it was that Anderson was it?
DM: Oh yes. Yeah. That’s right. It would be Andy. Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah. And your flight engineer.
DM: Yes. Of course. Yeah.
Interviewer: Who is?
DM: English.
Interviewer: English.
DM: He wasn’t our own engineer. That was —
Interviewer: Oh no, it wasn’t. It wasn’t. So who was your flight engineer? Can you remember?
DM: Oh, he was a Welsh lad [pause] No. I can’t remember. I’m sorry.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: I haven’t had much contact with him. Not even straight afterwards. Not like the others.
Interviewer: So at Heavy Conversion Unit you were flying —
DM: Yes. Excuse me he wasn’t with us at the time because he was shot down a week or so before we were.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: With another crew you know as a spare bod.
Interviewer: Oh right. So he’d gone as spare bod.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: Ok.
DM: That’s why English came and joined us. Because he was the engineer for the ones who got lost.
Interviewer: Right [laughs] They swapped over.
DM: They, you know he was spare because the rest of his crew had —
Interviewer: Gone down. Yeah. At Heavy Conversion Unit what were you flying? Halifaxes?
DM: Well, we did fly once in a Halifax without any great enthusiasm.
Interviewer: Not on Stirlings
DM: Would it be just the two engines was it?
Interviewer: No. Halifax was four.
DM: I know the Halifax well we did have one going on the Halifax because there was also one where they only had two engines. Was that the forerunner of the Halifax.
Interviewer: Oh, Manchester. Manchester.
DM: Manchester.
Interviewer: Manchester. So, you flew Manchesters did you?
DM: Just once [laughs] yes.
Interviewer: And you weren’t too happy with it.
DM: Well, no. Well, you know we were alert.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: That was about it.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: It hadn’t got the right sort of power.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And this sort of thing.
Interviewer: Yeah. So did you fly Lancs at all at Heavy Conversion Unit?
DM: Yeah. Oh yes. We did go onto Lancs mainly.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: I feel sure. Where wouldn’t that be in here. It doesn’t show me.
Interviewer: Yes, it will I think. Yeah, it’s the next —
DM: 29 OTU.
Interviewer: OTU. Here we are. Lancs. Manchester. That’s right.
DM: Oh, there we are. Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah. You were flying yeah in Manchesters.
DM: Right.
Interviewer: Oh actually. You did one trip in a Wellington.
DM: Oh Wellington. Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: But you did two trips, three trips in a Manchester.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: And then you went on to Lancasters.
DM: That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: How did you feel about flying in a Lancaster?
DM: Well, looked forward to it really thinking this is the aircraft of the day.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: So there was nothing there. But as I say, that, are we at Winthorpe now?
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: Yes. Well, fortunately we came out top crew. And they sent us a bonus sort of thing. You can go to Scampton on a month course concentrating on H2S.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: Because we’d not, we’d sort of seen it but we hadn’t really used it at OTU.
Interviewer: Who usually operated the H2S set? The navigator?
DM: Oh yes. Yes.
Interviewer: So was it by him.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: In your cubicle.
DM: That’s right. Yes. It was there like the Gee thing used to be.
Interviewer: Gee box. Yeah. Right so you’re sat in a Lancaster. You’ve got pilot in the left-hand seat. The flight engineer in the dickie seat and you’re behind.
DM: Behind the pilot. Sitting.
Interviewer: Facing the fuselage.
DM: Facing port. Right.
Interviewer: Right. So you’ve got your desk in front of you.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Where’s your Gee box?
DM: There.
Interviewer: On the right.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: And where’s your H2S set?
DM: Same as far as I remember.
Interviewer: Right. So they’re both on the right.
DM: Oh no. We didn’t need, we didn’t have a Gee box when you’d got the H2S.
Interviewer: Oh, I see so you’d either have Gee —
DM: Yes. Oh yes.
Interviewer: Or H2S.
DM: We would say goodbye to that.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: And H2S which was much more.
Interviewer: Now, what else did you have? Did you have an airspeed indicator in your —
DM: No.

Part 2.
DM: Every three minutes was obviously the plan which was good in a way because it kept you very busy and the time went quickly whereas for other members of the crew I imagine it seemed a long time.
Interviewer: Now, was that the fix you got from your H2S set?
DM: Yes. It was. Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: So before your flight then when you had the flight route —
DM: Oh yes.
Interviewer: Marked on your map.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: And then you worked out where you were on that preferred route.
DM: Yes. Yeah. So it was more or less a case of giving adjustments to see if we weren’t off tracked.
Interviewer: Off Route. Yeah. Ok. Right. So you got your Gee box or H2S set.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Your desk. And you’ve got your protractor, pencils, Phillips computer they called it.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Yes. Yeah. And your maps.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Right. And that’s [unclear] was going. And you’re in quite a good position I hear because isn’t that the warmest place in the aircraft. the navigator’s position.
DM: I suppose it was yes. We didn’t, but none of us wore anything except battledress.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: With, well we did have some long johns and vests with sleeves to wear on operations and then just your battle dress.
Interviewer: What about the gunners? Did they have anything? You can’t remember.
DM: Could have but I can’t remember.
Interviewer: Right. Ok. So you get to Scampton to do H2S. To do an H2S course.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: And then you went. You had other duties.
DM: We were designated to ’57 Squadron before we started that course.
Interviewer: Oh right. Ok.
DM: You go into the room. They have you at Scampton for a month before you actually joined the squadron.
Interviewer: Now, that’s something —
DM: Officially, we —
Interviewer: At some point you lost your wireless operator didn’t you?
DM: Well, no. Not [pause] what happened there was that George Allen —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: This chap older than the rest of us he had a carbuncle came up on his hand. He couldn’t operate the key so he went into the sickbay. They wanted him in bed for a day or two.
Interviewer: Oh right.
DM: So they could take him.
Interviewer: So he missed the operation when you were lost.
DM: Absolutely. And —
Interviewer: So you’ve got a flight engineer who went with another crew and went missing.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: And your wireless operator was away.
DM: He is.
Interviewer: Having an operation.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: So the crew that went on the final operation was five of the originals plus —
DM: Two.
Interviewer: A strange wireless operator and a strange flight engineer.
DM: Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: Right. Ok. Right.



DM: Just you a bit about George Allen, he was such a nice bloke and when we were all friends we spent hours and hours, days, weeks to Spain. Spain with the caravans and all sorts with him. He’s dead of course now because he was that much older but he, he said that the corporal came to see him in the sick bay and he said, ‘I knew what he was coming for.’
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And you know he knew we had not come back.
Interviewer: So —
DM: However —
Interviewer: George Allen then was put with another crew and he survived.
DM: No. Oddly enough he did quite a bit more flying but he being older I think I don’t know maybe he talked to somebody or somebody took pity on him. I don’t know it if it was pity but they commissioned him and he became signals leader on the squadron and he did spare bod trips when required.
Interviewer: Oh right. So he, he became [pause] right. He became the [pause] right —
DM: So he actually got in more.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Proper trips than we ever did of course.
Interviewer: Now, your original flight engineer.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: What happened to him? The one that was lost with another crew? Was he captured or was it did he —
DM: No. No. He was a POW.
Interviewer: He was a POW.
DM: Yes. Yeah.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: Not with, not in my, not the same camp as me.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Or we’d have made contact.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: But no.
Interviewer: Right.
[recording cut]
Interviewer: Ok. So, you do your course. You arrive at 57 Squadron which is based at —
DM: East Kirkby.
Interviewer: East Kirkby. Right. Now, did your [pause] Oh yea. Yes. That’s right. The CO was Fisher. Did you ever meet the CO? [Little Knock?]
DM: I can’t remember. No.
Interviewer: Or your flight commander?
DM: Well, I expect so. Yes. Actually, I did have the first of the preliminary interviews for commissioning but that’s as far as it went. You had to survive [laughs] a bit longer.
Interviewer: Can you remember who your navigation leader was?
DM: I can’t.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: No.
Interviewer: Ok. Ok. Right, so presumably Tony Wright went on an operation on his own with another crew as second dickie.
DM: Yeah. I think you might be right.
Interviewer: You can’t remember.
DM: I’m not sure.
Interviewer: Right. So your first operation is Hagen.
DM: No. No. Frankfurt.
Interviewer: Frankfurt. Oh right. So on the, that’s, that’s the 4th and 5th of October 1943.
[pause]
DM: What day?
Interviewer: October ’43.
DM: October.
Interviewer: Oh no. No. That’s —
DM: November.
Interviewer: Here we are. 57 Squadron.
DM: Oh, I see.
Interviewer: A cross country. Cross country. Here we are. Frankfurt.
DM: Oh, that’s right. Yeah.
Interviewer: So that is the 20th of December, sorry.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: So the 20th of December was your first operation.
DM: That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: Right. To Frankfurt.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: And how did things go?
DM: Well, it was quite nothing to speak of really. It all went according to plan and we had no problems. And —
Interviewer: No aircraft —
DM: Took six hours, five minutes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: By the look of it.
Interviewer: So, you had no problems at all. Right.
DM: No. No. Nothing amiss there.
Interviewer: So your next operation is 2nd and the 3rd of January ’44.
DM: That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: When you go to Berlin.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Presumably, had you done the, anything happen? Was the weather bad or something in 1943 or you just weren’t on the list.
DM: Well no. The only thing [pause] I’m not sure now regrettably whether it was Frankfurt or Berlin but on one of those there were two incidents. The bomb aimer came up from down below and what for I didn’t understand and so did the wireless operator and they’d both lost their oxygen by then. Anyway, I grabbed a couple of portable ones and fixed them both up with them and that was it. They came back to normal [laughs] but it was like they were semi drunk.
Interviewer: Yeah. [laughs] That’s oxygen narcosis.
DM: It’s something.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: It’s shortage of oxygen.
Interviewer: Oxygen.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yeah. Quite. Now also I’m not sure. I think that’s probably the Berlin one where we came back and we were circling East Kirkby and I got my bag, all my stuff in my bag and I’D finished sort of thing. We’re here. And we landed and got out of the aircraft and into a truck driven by a girl which we weren’t used to. I mean we hadn’t been used to anything never mind the girls but anyway she stopped and two or three of them all said, ‘We don’t want to be here. We’re 57 Squadron.’
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: They said, well there’s or 630 Squadron also —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: At East Kirkby.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: She said, ‘There’s no 57 Squadron here.’ [laughs] And we’d landed at Strubby. So we were all for getting back in and going home like. Going.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: They wouldn’t wear that of course.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: So they took us in a lorry and we did our debriefing, went to bed and so on and then later the next day we went and got the aircraft.
Interviewer: And you went back to [pause] yes.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: East Kirkby.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: Right. So —
[recording cuts]
Interviewer: Your next operation and the final operation is the 27th and the 28th of January.
DM: Yeah, which is —
Interviewer: When you go to Berlin.
DM: That’s right. Yeah.
Interviewer: Right. Ok.
[recording paused]
Interviewer: Right. Now, on your, on your last operation just generally did your crew have any particular habits, mascots, things you did before you go to an operation?
DM: Not as far as I’m aware. No.
Interviewer: Right. So this was the final operation. You go to briefing.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Now, the navigators that were briefed independently to start with, weren’t they?
DM: Oh yes. We used to do. Complete the maps and things.
Interviewer: The navigation leader would show you whatever.
DM: Go through the route.
Interviewer: Go through the route.
DM: Absolutely. Yes.
Interviewer: Did they tell you about the flak positions or things like that to avoid?
DM: I can’t remember.
Interviewer: Right. So basically, you’re given —
DM: Possibly they did but I can’t remember.
Interviewer: They gave you the route to follow.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: You put it on your maps.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: You then go, the next thing is is the full crew briefing isn’t it?
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Right and then they, everyone talks about the mets and —
DM: That’s a bit later in the day and then you go from that straight to the dispersal.
Interviewer: Right. So you had your aircrew breakfast hopefully. A meal.
DM: Oh yes. Yes.
Interviewer: Yes. So you had your final briefing. You then put on your kit. Off to your aircraft.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Right. Now, when you get to the aircraft what’s, what’s the navigator’s job? Just get in the aircraft. That’s it.
DM: Well, yes. Yes. It is. To go up the ladder and get the stuff out on the table ready to go. There wasn’t really anything else wants to do.
Interviewer: So, the pilot and the flight engineer have to check the aircraft externally.
DM: Yes, that’s right.
Interviewer: And sign for it.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Ok.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: So did anything particularly happen on this night that you’re —
DM: Well, as I said —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: We went to dispersal from about 4:30 and took off at 5:40 apparently. Well, as we went on to the dispersal before we ever got a step on the ladder a corporal came up and he said, ‘Now, we don’t want it here when you come back because it’s due for a major overhaul. So we want it up there by the hangar.’ And anyway, he kept on about this. ‘Don’t bring it back here.’ And even when we started to taxi he was still shouting to the wind. ‘Don’t bring it back here.’ [laughs] So that [laughs] was a bit odd but nevertheless we, the bombing was ok. There were no incidents on the way out. Stuck to the route and —
Interviewer: Was there a lot of dog legs on the route to the meeting point?
DM: No, not really. We went south before we went over to the coast but then from then on it was not far from straight to Berlin. There were kinks maybe here and there.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Having dropped the bombs we went straight on again I would think for at least twenty thirty miles. Then we turned just west of south and it was before we got to the end of that leg about fifty or sixty miles along it that we started with the fire and so on.
Interviewer: What, what happened?
DM: Well, the thing was that in the, in the event it was a case of there was a bang. Not [unclear] but it was obviously some sort of explosion and somebody said, ‘Oh, the starboard inner is on fire.’
Interviewer: So, it was a mechanical problem.
DM: Possibly. Yes. Of course.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And so I just pulled the curtain back and had a look and it didn’t amount to much and the engineer feathered the propeller so that it stopped and the pilot said, ‘Right. You’d better find your parachutes. You never know.’ [laughs] And I entered, I was entering this up in the log and with that it must have been no more than about five minutes later from the first bang, ten at the most, the pilot said, ‘Christ, look at this.’ And the whole of the port wing was virtually opened up in flames.
Interviewer: But as far as you know you weren’t attacked by an aircraft.
DM: Nothing at all. Well, several of us had doubts about it. You know there was all sorts of possibilities. It could just be mechanical failure particularly as we were due for a major overhaul. Could even have been sabotage was one theory. Somebody could have. The aircraft was parked not far from the main road. Not a main road of course but it wasn’t out in the country. Somebody had somehow or other slipped something in there to go off at certain times. You just never know. The Irish for instance. But there was absolutely nothing and we had a first-class crew as I’ve said. I mean the rear gunner and the mid-upper they were very sharp and neither of them saw anything. The bomb aimer didn’t see anything not the pilot of course. But that’s just how it happened and it moved on swiftly to, the pilot said, ‘Right, you’d best get out.’ And that we did. The bomb aimer was down there anyway getting the hatch out. The engineer was watching him, you know [laughs] Hurry. I was then next.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: That’s right. And behind me was the wireless operator thumping on my back.
Interviewer: You all went out the front. The front bit.
DM: Oh yes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: We did. Yes. And I said, ‘Hang on, hang on, they haven’t got the thing out yet.’ You know. But anyway, we soon got down there and we went. Again, personally I remember going through sheets of flame but nothing else. I was unconscious almost immediately. I don’t even recollect pulling the rip cord but I probably had it in my hand. Must have had, I suppose, mustn’t I? Nothing else would pull it would it? [laughs] And that was it, you know. No sight of the aircraft or anything else. I was unconscious. Somewhere on the way down I regained consciousness and thought oh dear, here we are and the, it was swinging as they do and the drill was to get hold of the ropes and pull to stop this. But at that point before I’d even made one pull, out again unconscious. And the next thing that I knew was I was easing myself up into a sitting position in a forest with a parachute partly held up in the trees but I wasn’t on it sort of thing fortunately and about a foot of snow everywhere.
Interviewer: So do you think you hit your head on something getting out the aircraft?
DM: Well, yes. I found out, not for two or three days later I found that I had a cut straight across the top of my head. I had hair of course so [laughs] it wasn’t quite so evident. But and that’s all I knew and there was, there was a possibility as I say going through these flames and there were aerials at [unclear] weren’t there? It’s just a possibility but I really don’t know.
Interviewer: Right.
[recording cuts]
Interviewer: You land on the ground. Have you guys still got your boots on?
DM: Oh yes.
Interviewer: Because you were quite lucky because often they —
DM: Well, I had one of the new type but the Canadian he lost one of his boots and that put paid to his escape.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: But I had the new black ones and the knife in the top where you cut off the top.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And I did. I went to all the trouble of doing that there and then I think. Maybe not even waited until the next morning.
Interviewer: So you had your escape boots on. You cut it down to a shoe.
DM: A shoe.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: What was your first thought when you landed? You woke up and —
DM: Well, that was a bit odd. I mean I was sort of sitting there and thinking, you know is this really happening? Virtually pinched myself to thinking well maybe I’m dreaming all this. But not so. Anyway, I first of all as I say I was on the ground and I sort of undid the parachute harness and sat up and then I got up on my feet and fell down. Again, tried it again and fell down. Now, my father had given me one of those tiny flak bottles of navy rum and his idea was if you come down in the drink this just might save your life. So I thought now is the time for the rum and so I had a half of it probably and I could stand up then [laughs] Foolishly I went and found, out of the forest and to a village and there was dogs barking and this that and the other. You know I was obviously not fully compos mentis you know because of what I was doing. But I did walk in there for a little bit. Nobody came out. This would be around 9 o’clock. Nine to 10 o’clock.
Interviewer: Do you know which village?
DM: In the evening.
Interviewer: Which village you were near?
DM: I have no idea because I didn’t see any more of it.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: But then I went back in to the forest and eventually laid down in the snow and went to sleep. Woke up. I don’t know quite how long I’d slept but I woke up and I was like a board myself because of the temperature.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And I’d got as I say the battledress. I even lost my helmet. And then, well shall we have a look at the date because I’ve got —
[recording paused]
Interviewer: Yeah. [unclear] yeah.
DM: 28th of January. I hid in the forest all day and I found a railway line nearby and walked in an easterly direction on it at night. The following day I hid/slept at the foot of the stack. Rain all day. Walked to the station at Lübbenau. L U B B E N A U. Tried to board a train but unsuccessful. Slept on stack in the railway yard.
Interviewer: So your intention was try to get to Belgium or France.
DM: Well, yeah. Tried. The thing was that we’d had a lecture from a chap who came around. Not just that one but this particular chap he’d got back having been shot down in that sort of area and he got to Stettin and he got, was lucky enough to get on a ship to Sweden. I think it was Sweden rather than Norway and he was, they’d got him home of course and he was going around the stations telling us this tale.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Which he’d managed to do it. So, I thought well here I am. It’s an awful long way to make for France and go on that way which wouldn’t have been any better possibly anyway but —
Interviewer: So you were trying to get to Stettin.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: And, you know it would be obviously a gamble but also maybe pretty unlikely. I don’t know whether he was the only one who ever did it but could have been so.
Interviewer: Yeah. That’s alright. So you tried to get on a train. Yeah. So, that was the 30th. Yes.
DM: The 30th. Yes. I woke at dawn and went into the fields. I checked the canal and found the canal which is comes up later and a small Dutch barn. In the evening I returned to the canal. I beg your pardon I returned to Lübbenau but no train stopped. I discovered a three inch cut on the top of my head and scratches on my face. Nothing to eat at this stage. Water from a field dyke in the rubber bag.
Interviewer: Yeah. So you had your escape kit with you.
DM: Oh yes. Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah. Which had the water purifying —
DM: No. Just a bag.
Interviewer: Just a bag to carry the water in.
DM: Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And —
Interviewer: Horlicks tablets and —
DM: That’s right.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yes. That sort of thing.
Interviewer: Get it quite —
DM: I’d had a few of those of course.
[recording cuts]
DM: Yes, well on the 31st I was in a Dutch barn. At daylight I saw workmen heading for a canal and I followed. I was seen by them and one man on a bicycle shouting to me to stop, in French and he turned out to be a French POW. So, you know it suddenly dawned on me he’s speaking French [laughs]. So, I stopped and he knew full well who I was and what I was about. That’s right. There was this group of French that I’d seen. They were all French prisoners of war working on the canal. They gave me food and beer and said to be in the same place the next morning. Oh, wait a minute. Have I done that right? [pause] Yeah. More or less. The thing was that I should have said that they came, the whole group of them came past near where —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: I met the other Frenchman and two of them came to me and they gave me bread and a bottle of beer and that sort of thing straightaway from what they’d saved at lunchtime themselves.
Interviewer: Where was their camp? Was it at Lubenec?
DM: No, that was at Raddusch. Yes. Where are we? Saw the workmen [pause] Oh that’s right. That’s right. They came with this bread and stuff. Other things as well and a bottle of beer and they said to be in the same place the next morning. So of course, I went back to this Dutch barn to sleep and I was there in good time to see them come. On the 1st of February that should be, at 8 am they came and they brought more food and drink and a letter from Rene, which I call Rene [Danch] who was like a full, you know all these people of course had been in the Army full time, you know. They were conscripts. This was why they were prisoners of war. Rene [Danch] and he was like a sergeant major or a warrant officer, something like that and he had perfect English. But anyway, they came and they brought a letter from Rene. At 5pm two of them came in the forest with full French uniform to wear over my clothes and a beret. On train which was just a one coach thing [unclear] and we had to stand on the piece at the end which wasn’t enclosed, you know, rather than go and sit in the seats.
Interviewer: So what was, was this train just to take workmen?
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Backwards and forwards.
DM: They travelled on it daily.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: From Raddusch to this canal site.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And I had this khaki overcoat and trousers and beret and we just stood there. Then when we got off the train we went to Raddusch, R A D D U S C H. Rene came up beside me at the station, took my arm and started talking to me in English you see. I should say maybe at this stage that the reason he had this good English was that he’d escaped with our troops at Dunkirk and they’d been training and whatnot mainly up in Scotland although he didn’t have a Scottish accent [laughs] but nevertheless he’d learned the language very well and his German was fluent as well, and French. However, he was, you know he explained where they were and how things were there and helped me with whatever they could do.
Interviewer: So basically these chaps held camp.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: They’d get on a train each day to work. They’d come back on the train.
DM: That’s right. Well —
Interviewer: Unsupervised by the Germans.
DM: Well, slightly but only slightly.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: It was a barn on a farm in the village of, or maybe it was a small town. I don’t know but they had it to themselves entirely. Ground floor and all blocked, you know paving but nothing going on in the way of farming. And they had all the downstairs and then they also had upstairs and they did their own thing. One of the number stayed at the camp all day and he had to cook a meal for them coming back in the evening. Then into the evening about 9 o’clock two German soldiers came just with rifles just to say, I don’t think they even bothered to count them but it was a routine sort of thing.
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: And then that was it as far as they were concerned. But as far as the actual, on my first night there they talked to me for a while and then they said, ‘You’ll have to go upstairs,’ you know, ‘Because the Germans could turn up any time.’ Explained all this and then as soon as that was gone they, they had gone again. I could hear them walking on these cobbles of course. I knew they’d been and gone. And they said, you know they wanted to know this, that and the other but there was only him that had any real English. And then sort of had a party and they’d got a big board about so big and they’d done what you called, what you might call a glop. It was not cake. They’d made it up by mixing cake and chocolate and all that sort of thing and they had a cross of Lorraine and the big V like this and everybody was going to get a piece of this you see [laughs] And I said about the cross, you see ‘Oh the Cross of Loraine,’ I said. Oh, oh, you can imagine [laughs] Anyway, that was very good. They had beer, they had schnapps I think but I didn’t take part in much of that because I didn’t like the schnapps. But I had, I had a drink. I had a drink with them.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And then when that was over we didn’t go out that evening but after that most evenings was work ‘til the Germans had departed. They used to take me out for a walk around the village. A little. Just three or four of us sort of thing. Just a bit of exercise because I had to spend all day up in this loft thing either on the bed or walking about. They had a big huge pile of potatoes in one corner which was, they’d got for their own use and this, that and the other. The person who was doing the catering [laughs] he used to bring me [pause] where are we? [Pause] Oh, breakfast was toast and American coffee. Lunch was chips, bread and margarine. I’ve got it here. Which goes on to another day that there was an American POW camp not too far away apparently because apart from this group who were working on the canal the other people mainly were working on the railways and several of them were as firemen on the locomotive and of course they were coming back with all the stories of the damage that was being done by the bombing so they were cheered with that. And anyway, they had also along the railways there was Americans there too, you see. Well, they spread the word amongst the Americans that they’d got me and so when they came back the second night they came back with what? Oh, that’s right. They sent me food, chocolates, cigarettes, a razor, soap and a note to which I replied. One of the Frenchmen in the camp I was in he fixed a large parcel of food which was intended for me to take with me when I left them.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: And I’d still keep the uniform and all that.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: As a Frenchman. So that was good.
Interviewer: So how long did you stay with them?
DM: Well, the plan was as I say it again of course there were at another camp they claimed that they could probably get me in to a wagon which wouldn’t be open ‘til it got to Stettin and then it was up to me to get out of it and find a boat as best you can. And so —
Interviewer: So they were going to move you from their house, their farm to a camp.
DM: That’s right.
Interviewer: And from there you were going to get to Stettin.
DM: That’s correct. Yes. Then I took this box with me. Rene [Danch] and a friend, another one of them took me on a train in my French coat, trousers and beret to Cottbus. They had to fix up a [[unclear] for that. I don’t know how they did it but as far as I didn’t talk that’s all it needed. And when we got off the train at Cottbus there were two men waiting for us you see so we all went, all five of us and they said, they were saying among themselves obviously we’ll have a drink. So they go in to this [pause] I know where we are. It’s [pause] oh dear. Well, it’s sort of, it was a bar and it was quite large, a lot of tables and full of Germans nearly. Anyway, they got a place on the table and we all sat there together and had the beers and obviously there’s something they were doing regularly, you know. The Germans didn’t mind. They knew who they were and they were all welcome in the buffet [laughs] And anyway, then after maybe twenty minutes or so we we’d had the drink and so we all went outside and all shook hands and parted company. I went with the two from the big camp and Rene and his friend would return on the train no doubt to Raddusch. I’ve got the waiting room above there.
[recording cuts]
DM: Said goodbye to Rene and went with the other POWs to their camp.
Interviewer: This was on the 5th of —
DM: The 5th of February, yes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yeah. Now the next. Oh, no. No, this is still applicable to that day. It was we walked about one and a half miles and also whilst we were doing so it was evident that there was a raid. There was sirens going and a raid coming on. We thought it was British aircraft making a raid not far away but we didn’t know where. We got in to the camp and allocated a bed in two tiers. I was on the bottom and after all the guards had left because they had a similar thing. They didn’t have guards on the job, you know. It was a big camp.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: But they didn’t bother to guard it day and night.
Interviewer: Did they just get up check they were there.
DM: That’s right. Yeah. From time to time. So, and then they ushered me into their sort of own little office where they, several of them could speak some English. There was a French man who I think was an officer and that was Saturday evening until the early hours and four or five other French people with this one particular one some with good English. Questions, questions, questions. ‘When are the Allies going to invade?’ And I said, ‘Well, soon.’ And assured them, you know that there were gliders everywhere waiting and various other obvious equipment that led you to believe that it couldn’t be long which cheered them up no end. Then eventually to bed about 2am and I stayed in the camp. Supposedly this is the next day [crank] ill in bed, no problem but I was bitten all over by fleas. In the evening they were tipped off about a possible search by the Gestapo so I was taken by two other people to an empty cottage near Cottbus. The plan to come back. Their plan was to come back the next evening and get me into this goods wagon to Stettin. The railway [pause] oh yeah, that was it. There was just one Frenchmen. One of the same Frenchmen came the next evening. I had to stay in this cottage. It was completely empty and there was nothing close by but I could see a lot of people on the roads and railway and so on because they were, you know nearby. After all you know they couldn’t do it. They made me feel better. I mean with the biggest [unclear] was getting out of the damned thing wasn’t it?
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: You know if there’s nobody outside to help.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: So maybe it was a blessing. However, I stayed the night and the next day close to road and railway watching all day with several scares but nothing happened.
[recording cuts]
DM: I left the cottage and walked to the rail track. On the 8th of February I left the cottage at dusk on the rail track. No luck with trains. Too fast. Went into the fields in daylight. Snow and hail all day. Walked into Peitz, P E I T Z the village at [pause] I haven’t said where. But it was snowing. The train standing, oh yeah that’s right. There was a train standing in the station and I climbed into a box on the end of a goods wagon. They had those with the break wheels in didn’t they?
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: A little sentry box —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: On the end and a seat. Two stops where they offloaded some of the trucks between me and the engine and they actually uncoupled me. So, you know I thought oh dear I’m going to be stuck somewhere. They might even want to come up and put the brake on. However, they didn’t. They backed up and reconnected having dropped off a wagon or two and off we went and apart from the two stops there we went all the way to Frankfurt on Oder. The train stopped in the sidings. That was evident because you know there was no hissing or anything like that any longer to do with the brakes. Then I walked on the tracks northwards where I was planning to go. Heavy snow. There was a signal box up on an embankment and it was quite high up and as I walked by two Germans opened a window and they were both yelling at me and it took a little while to dawn on me that they were probably telling me to get out of the track because I was walking in the middle, the easiest place because there was a train coming up. And there I was. I was, you know I’d [laughs] I naturally very soon forgot about their warning and I was back in the middle of the track and a very close shave with a train came behind me and he, you know literally it wasn’t coming. It was there. You know, it was o, it had no intention of stopping and there was a lot of goods wagons on behind it. But anyway, they were both looking out but as soon, I turned around and saw it I thought ooh. I threw myself on to the side and we were actually on a bridge and there was a railing to grab and I was clear. They were, as I looked up and they were looking out straight at me thinking that they’d got me probably. Fortunately. Well, from their point of view it didn’t matter maybe but that was how it worked out and dived off the track on to the bridge. That’s right. I was wet through and about exhausted. I ‘saw’ a person walking ahead of me. I don’t know whether there was anybody or it was just an hallucination.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: However, I went on and eventually it became it was coming light and I spotted this barn at Lebus. L E B U S. I slept on the straw and awake at 10am. A young Russian, it turned out to be a young Russian, a young lad anyway came up the ladder because in this barn I got under the door to get in and on the left hand side was machinery and some straw and stuff but on the right you went up a ladder and the whole thing was full of straw leading to the roof. To the level anyway and the tile roof was up above. That’s right. Well, his eyes nearly popped out of his head because I was in my white long johns. Well, everything else was wet through you know.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: I’d got down in the straw. He saw me and went to fetch another Frenchman who worked on the farm. He obviously you know thought best tell him and see what happened. Well, he took me to his camp in Lebus. Not the first night, I think it was the second night and gave me a meal which was good and he dried my clothes. Back to the barn at night. And then he brought me a large bottle of milk and food and took my clothes to dry then. I stayed in the barn all day because I hadn’t got the clothes back for one thing. Went across the road to the farm where the Russian boy and a girl lived and they were only in their teens and they were living together and sort of slave labourers on the farm like the Frenchman was in a way. They dried my shoes and I had a shave, slept in the barn and stayed there all day because there was no point in going out in the daylight you know because the roads were impassable apart from on foot. You couldn’t ride a bike on them anyway. Vehicles were alright obviously but it was pretty grim. And I went to the railway station Saturday night but no train passed through. Back to the barn before daylight proper and I slept again. Stayed in the barn on Sunday night. Awake about 8.30 am. That means the following day I think. About 10am a car, oh I should say at the end of the barn because the barn was separate from the farm. It was one side of the road and the farm was over the other side of the road and there was a bridge, air bridge really. It weren’t a [unclear] bridge and I could see the road and the farm fields and as I awake about 8.30.
[recording cut]
DM: About 10am a car pulled up outside the barn and three Gestapo men because of their boots and uniform and one soldier with a rifle came in to the barn. I was in straw in the, down in the straw.
[telephone ringing]
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yeah. Just a minute. Hang on. Hang on.
[recording paused]
Right. Came in to the barn. I was down in the straw but was soon found and believed given away by some other Frenchman in the camp where they took me for a meal. It must have been. They took me across to the farmhouse and somebody made some coffee and they tried to question me. Well, they were hopeless. They had no English and all I kept saying, writing down or speak it was number, rank and name.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: From there we went out again and the solder with the rifle and I had told me to take me into the village. Anyway, we’d only got about a hundred yards if that and they came up —

Part 3.
DM: They put me in a little snug with a door and then a few minutes later they opened the door and the Frenchman was there in his braces and that was it sort of thing. I sort of just looked and then attempted to sort of show no recognition at least and then looked away and that was it. But he nodded or whatever they’d asked him. It was me. I was the one and they shut the door again. Just a few minutes later they opened up the door and said, ‘Come on out,’ and there was a huge brown table. You couldn’t have got it in this room and they said, ‘Sit down and everybody gets a beer,’ including me [laughs] Extraordinary really. Anyway, we were back in the car quite soon and we left the farm. Left the village there to go to the Gestapo offices in Frankfurt on Oder in the car. While I was there, I’ve got notes about this but I remember that the first thing of significance was I got out of the car and there was this magnificent building for the Gestapo Headquarters of that area and it had a staircase which took you up to only, well twice the height of our stairs and we had to go up in to this higher part. Later on it curved around and it took us literally about twenty minutes at least to get to the next floor because every few steps somebody came along and they were explaining to them, ‘Well, why? What’s —’ They all wanted to know [laughs] and of course they hadn’t seen much war at Frankfurt on Oder.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And anyway, we eventually got in there and the chap in charge was turned out to be really quite a toff. He was, you know, he said, ‘You can keep your own stuff.’ And the only thing that went missing was my two pounds and three half crown coins.
Interviewer: Yeah. Right.
DM: And the stuff I had in this box. Still kept it. Razor and all this sort of thing. They didn’t mind and well that was it for that time but at night I had to stay in the, in that place and there was nowhere properly secure but there was a lift and there was a space in between it about as big as half this room and they, you know gates, metal gates that were expanding and he explained that somebody who, somebody in the building would come up every hour and hold the bucket to it so that I could relieve myself if necessary. And there was nothing to sleep on at all. Just concrete floor and anyway I did sleep and then the next morning the man who was in charge oh, by the way there was another little thing was he said, ‘Do you want to freshen up?’ You know because there was sort of a private little wash place, toilet immediately off the office without going out and I said, ‘Right. Thank you.’ So I got my gear out, shaved, washed and this, that and the other. But then I still had to hang about there and all through the day there was girls coming in with a sheaf of papers you know, came to see this, well I don’t know what they would refer to me as but anyway at that stage and so you know but all excuses obviously. I mean the paperwork I think [laughs] ridiculous. They hadn’t seen one like me before. Anyway, in the afternoon another fella turned up on, a younger fella in his ordinary everyday suit so the cells, those who were dressed, those who were dressed right they were the bosses sort of thing. No, no jackboots for them and he said the best he could that we were going down the road to the civvy prison and he showed me a pistol in his jacket pocket sort of thing so you’re not running off. I said [laughs] ‘Right. I won’t be doing that.’ So he took me, you know in the mid-afternoon he took me to this prison. Well, it was a place which was literally hundreds of years old. The walls were at least three foot thick and very old. Stove pipes running up to give some comfort and they put me in a cell with a boy. Well, he wasn’t much more than a boy. A youth. And he was in his best suit. I didn’t get out of him why he was in there but some misdemeanour and we, despite him having no English, me having no German we carried on a conversation and I found out, he told me things which I understood about the Hitler jugend and things of that sort. And I told him things you know that I thought he ought to know. Anyway, when it came dark there was no light so the only thing was to go to bed. It was a two tier bunk. I begged to grab the bottom one and a blanket. Whatever, and of course I was very soon fast asleep because, you know I was tired anyway. Then at some point, I don’t, didn’t check the time but it would probably be around nine, 10 o’clock in the evening he was shaking the bed and with that there was, oh he was pointing up to the window which was right up there and there’s a huge red glow. And I thought ah. Theres something going on. It’s markers. You know. Pathfinders.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: With that, boom and one really big bang which was close but I mean it was evident there weren’t, well after a few minutes they weren’t going to come and move us from the cell. Walls three foot thick.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: You stood a chance of surviving anything like that so I got back on the bed and went to sleep. And the odd thing about this was that the next morning you know he was up when I woke up and he never spoke a word. He just looked at me all the time. He was flabbergasted or something of the sort. Not, didn’t utter a word. They brought us a couple of bowls of sort of a soup stuff. Nothing much stronger than that. And then possibly around 10 o’clock it was [pause] yeah a soldier came on his own. Another soldier with a rifle. He came for me. I noted it was probably about 10am and we went to the station. Oh no, we went back to the office first and they gave me these things that they’d kept you know and even the food and odds and ends. Not your French uniform of course. However, we were to catch a train to Berlin.
Interviewer: Had they interrogated you at all really?
DM: Well no. They had no ability.
Interviewer: There was no —
DM: Two or three people came and had a go but I mean —
Interviewer: They couldn’t speak English.
DM: No.
Interviewer: Right. Ok. Fine.
DM: No. Nothing really at all.
Interviewer: So roughly what date was this by this stage?
DM: Well, we were back to, down here to the 16th February.
Interviewer: Oh right. Fine. Ok.
DM: Yeah. It started, it was the 15th I think when they came to the farm.
Interviewer: Yeah. 16th.
DM: 16th 17th.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Anyway, I decided as I said that there was just these markers. One bomb. sleuth attack to draw them off.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: From Berlin.
Interviewer: You got the train the following day.
DM: Yeah. Well, that’s right. He [pause] that’s right. A soldier came. That’s right. I’ve already said that haven’t I? On the train to Berlin. We got to the station but we’d missed the train that we should have caught and we went to call at the Gestapo offices first and get these bits and then we went. And the first thing was the fact that we had to wait about two hours. He was trying to take me into a refreshment room at the station. Well, they wouldn’t have that. Whoever was in charge said no. They weren’t having that. Anyway, then took me in the same area to a dormitory which was set up for German personnel to spend the night there you know. These were two tiered jobs again. Bathroom, showers and whatnot and there was only one other chap there. One German there. He said, you know, ‘Do you want to use the facilities?’ So I had a wash up, had a shave and then to top it all he was blacking his boots and said, ‘Do you want to do that?’ So I had this bloke put some blacking on my shoes [laughs] However, we, then they got to Berlin. Well, we went on to this the next train to Berlin. We had to stand in the side corridor and it was full of people being brought home from the Russian front because they had these frames holding their arms up and they had their heads bandaged up and all sorts. So I got talking, in inverted commas, to some of these and the same thing applied. No English. No German. But we nattered about it and it was evident the Russian Front was where they’d come from.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Pleased to be leaving no doubt and all that and —
Interviewer: Hang on.
[recording cuts]
DM: Oh, and then so we got in to Berlin and we went on a tramcar to Stackau, S T A C K A U Airfield. I don’t know quite where it was regarding Berlin centre. A couple of people interrogated me. They did have good English and they checked around for any hidden compasses and all that sort of thing and then took me down to a bunker which was like an air raid shelter on camp and when I walked in there was six, no seven other people there And the one I became very friendly with was the navigator. A chap called Don Hall who had been a semi-senior civil servant as it happened and they’d been shot down the night before over Berlin. Came down on, in Berlin which was very dicey and the reason was that there was only as far as I knew there was only one thing happened and that was that whoever shot this thing it killed the pilot. And that was it. They all had to get out and they all came down in the streets of Berlin. However, they all got to this stage.
Interviewer: So —
DM: Sorry.
Interviewer: So the interrogation up to this date had been pretty amateur so far.
DM: No. None at all.
Interviewer: No.
DM: To speak of, no. So anyway, we met up. There were, there was a little thing. They were suspicious of me and thought I was a plant because of my shoes being blacked and all washed and shaved. They couldn’t believe it. Anyway, they did eventually.
Interviewer: What squadron were they from?
DM: I think he was 100 was it? He was at Ludford Magna.
Interviewer: 101. Yeah.
DM: They were —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: This, they didn’t have bombs.
Interviewer: Yeah, special. Yeah. ABC.
DM: Yes, that was —
Interviewer: Airborne cigar.
DM: That’s right. Cigar.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. And they were on their 30th trip.
Interviewer: Good God.
DM: Yeah. And the, well the pilot was dead of course and the rest of them managed to bale out. We went on a coach to catch the Paris Express at Juterbog to Frankfurt on Main. We didn’t go up to Paris obviously. Frankfurt on Main where the place —
Interviewer: Dulag Luft. Yeah.
DM: That’s right. Coolers, solitary confinement and that was what they did. Put everybody in a separate cell sort of thing. Mine was terribly terribly hot so the next day I did mention it and they turned it down so [laughs] whether it was not by design or not I couldn’t know. Excuse me. That was about 6pm when we got in there but I got very hot. Not allowed anything to read. Just think, in inverted commas about the situation. Walked up and down the cell seven hundred times the first day and up to one thousand four hundred times on the second day and so on. Proper interrogation was, you went in to, out of the cell and into a special room set up. On the wall there was a plan of our flight plan.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Precisely. And there was two of them but one of them did the talking and I adopted the same attitude as before. Number, rank and name and eventually he said, ‘Oh well, if you’re not willing to cooperate we’ll send you back to the Gestapo,’ because he knew about that episode. That’s what he threatened. That’s right. Being returned to the Gestapo means no talking. Back to the cell and nothing happened. No more interrogation as a large number of Brits and Americans were coming to the camp following raids with heavy losses.
Interviewer: What date was that approximately?
DM: That was I think the 24th of February.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: And we left, well we had a night there. Did I? Yes. That’s right. The 23rd I’ve got here. All cells were emptied and we were pushed into a big room with everybody being cleared out for the reception of these Americans and Brits you know. We were scarcely room to stand let alone sit down but we had to spend the night there. And I happened to be nearby a squadron leader and I told him or he asked what I’d been doing you know. It had gotten to that. I explained some of this and he said, ‘Oh —’ you know. ‘Damned good show.’ Sort of thing [laughs] He’d been there for some weeks.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And they were taking him out but he said, ‘I’m not finished. I’ve got to come back here.’ So they obviously thought more interrogation would be fruitful with him. There was, that’s right no room to sit down. On the 24th of February we left and went to the Dulag Luft. While I was there I was sort of pointed out, one of about four to go on a little duty. Push a hand cart to another place in town and get some mattresses. Extra mattresses [laughs] Anyway, saw a little bit of Frankfurt.
[recording cut]
DM: And then the 25th or 26th we were on a train about at the Dulag Luft they gave you a thing, it looked like a suitcase with pyjamas in, a towel, soap and shaving kit, things like that. You know. Which set you up a bit. Very good really. And on a train, wagons of course to Stalag Luft 6 but it was, took days and a bit tortuous.
Interviewer: Which was, Stalag Luft 6 was which one? Was that — [unclear]
DM: No. Heydekrug.
Interviewer: Heydekrug. Sorry.
DM: Yes. I think it was 6, wasn’t it?
Interviewer: Yes. Yeah.
DM: I think it was 6.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yeah. So that and oh and the journey up we went through Lebus and Raddusch [laughs] funnily enough. So I realised you know that we might so I was —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Looking out for it.
Interviewer: Yeah. And you got to Heydekrug.
DM: Yeah. Across Poland that was.
Interviewer: Yeah. Into Estonia.
DM: No. No. It was East Prussia.
Interviewer: East Prussia. Right.
DM: Right.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: You know, there was Latvia and Lithuania.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Were a bit higher.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: Very close to Lithuania the camp was.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: I believe.
Interviewer: When you got there what was the camp like?
DM: Well, it was well occupied. The thing was that there were three lagers. There was one for British, one for Canadians and one for Americans and because of our arrival, maybe it was a bit unexpected or something they put us in with the Americans for a few days. And that was an eye opener too. I mean they weren’t like us at all [laughs] They got, we got parcels one day when we were in this situation and quite a number you know not just one or two but there was quite a percentage of them. They sat on a, you know a long seat with a table here with the parcel and they ate the lot. You know. It’s supposed to be for the week. Amazing.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Anyway, it was only three or four days and they moved us into the British part.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: And as it happened I was sent with two or three others into a small hut rather than a brick building, much bigger and all the other chaps when I got to know them they’d all escaped in the past and they were kept in this one hut you know near the gate for security reasons. And, you know they said, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Nothing really.’ I did tell them of course what it was but anyway I don’t think that ever really fussed them.
Interviewer: Do you remember who the other people in the hut were?
DM: Well, I got to know them quite well. Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah. Can you remember some of their names?
DM: Oh dear. No. Not now. There was one little fellow who was quite a card and I did know him quite well but I can’t remember [pause] Rupert. Rupert [Greenhalgh], yeah. Rupert [Greenhalgh]. Yes. And they all had a history of getting out of camps.
Interviewer: Who was in charge of Heydekrug from the British point of view?
DM: I don’t know. No. I can’t remember.
Interviewer: Richard [Green]
DM: Oh yes. He was. Of course. Yes. Richard [Green]that’s right.
Interviewer: A man of honour. Yes.
DM: That’s right.
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: Well, was the camp well run?
DM: Yes. I think it was. I mean we got a parcel every week at the beginning and there was no hassle really you know so long as you just did what was required. Walked around the perimeter you know several times a day and there was things to do. It had been established quite some time. They had two full orchestras and they had people putting on shows, you know. Acting and so on and it was all free to go when it came around and showers were available [coughs] excuse me, once a week. And the food, you know they did, they didn’t provide much but we had the parcels so —
Interviewer: I presume the Red Cross got you through.
DM: Yes. We were not badly off at all at that stage.
Interviewer: Was there much attempt to escape whilst you were there?
DM: Well, they talked of it but I mean by the time we got there when the invasion was likely to come up and everybody knew that there wasn’t the same interest that there had been previously. I never got involved with any of it. [coughs] excuse me.
Interviewer: So life goes on in the camp.
DM: Yes.
Interviewer: But then the Russians start coming towards —
DM: Yes, precisely.
Interviewer: What happened then?
DM: We heard this gunfire and so on and the Russians because they sort of advanced didn’t they maybe I don’t know forty or fifty miles, stopped and then cleared up everything they’d come through and then did it again. Well, we were fortunate really in that they stopped not far short of us but you could hear all of the fighting and so on the day, one day and then it’s quiet after that.
Interviewer: Yes.
DM: There was another incident happened while we were at that camp and somebody, we were out enjoying the sunshine and somebody said, ‘Ay, look at this.’ And it was one of the big rockets you know that eventually dropped on London. Not the flying bombs thing.
Interviewer: The V-2s.
DM: V-2.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Going up into the stratosphere. So saw one of those but you know what if there was a target I don’t know but it was inside German territory before the Russians came. But —
[recording cut]
DM: Then they started, within a couple of days they’d moved us out. They said you know you were going out of here. Everybody and I was in virtually the last group to leave just by chance and we went into a camp in Poland at —
Interviewer: At dawn.
DM: Dawn. That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: So you marched from Heydekrug.
DM: No. No. No.
Interviewer: On a train.
DM: No, we didn’t have any marching really. We were very lucky in that respect.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And there was some stuff we picked up you know. One or two bits of clothing and things that were helpful but other people just left because they couldn’t carry it all because you could only take what you could carry.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: And then after about three or four weeks I would think at dawn the train again to Fallingbostel. Yeah. Fallingbostel.
Interviewer: When you got to Fallingbostel what state was that camp in?
DM: Well, word was that it had been empty for some time because they’d had Russians there and there had been typhus which they’d well obviously they’d got rid of it because we didn’t suffer with it. But there was a lot of Army people already in the camp and the Air Force contingent was relatively small. But they were well organized and they were, you know the first night or two we slept in a room which had forty bods. But we got one later where we just two tiers.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And this Don Hall and myself we were together and I think it was there where they confiscated the palliases. They were straw filled.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Anyway, we, we were [unclear] board but again it wasn’t a full board all the way so one of us suggested well why don’t we put them together, sleep together on the bottom part which we did and which was a much better solution. But gradually the parcels, they’d have, one a week was the plan of course but it became one between two for the week and then you might get another one each but eventually it was just half a box each every week. And we obviously slipped into a certain amount of malnutrition. It was peculiar in that to walk around the perimeter you had to consciously think about putting one foot in front of the other and we were quite thin but not dangerously so obviously because we could still walk and, but much of that and it would have been like Belsen I suppose.
Interviewer: So where were you at Fallingbostel when the Americans arrived?
DM: No. No. No. We —
[recording cut]
DM: We were moved out. They said we were going to I think it was to, a place near Berlin. Anyway, we were walking east. We did get extra food by being out in the country, you know pulling up onions and various things. Anyway, it was only about three days the Germans in charge of us decided they weren’t going any further east. They would go west. Meet the Brits.
Interviewer: So you were heading east from Fallingbostel.
DM: Headed east first.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
DM: But then as I say —
Interviewer: They changed their mind.
DM: Three days they thought no. No. Because by then the Russians were virtually at Berlin I think.
Interviewer: Right.
DM: And then we had the incident with the parcel. That’s right. We were diverted off the ordinary road to pick up a parcel.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Each. I think. Or one between two. I’m not sure. And we’d just left there, we were in this long column. Must have been half a mile long and on a road with dykes each side and then fields and then suddenly we had the fighter attack by our own people.
Interviewer: Do you know what sort of fighter they were? Was it —
DM: Typhoons.
Interviewer: Typhoons.
DM: I think, yes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Yeah. I mean we’d seen them around all the time and they were dipping their wings to us recognising what we were but this particular party they did recognise us but too late according to what we heard later.
Interviewer: So they attacked you and several were killed.
DM: Yeah. They were. Yeah. There was one chap not far from me got hit in the head and he’d been a prisoner since the early 1940. But actually there was more Germans killed although there was only one them to probably what thirty or forty of us. They had more casualties than we did. I think maybe because they didn’t run.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: I mean we, firstly we went in a dyke and then somebody came on top of me and I can remember thinking that’s good. Anyway, soon as the first attack we got up and ran in to the fields and again there was some firing and explosions from the road fortunately but I can remember diving into the ground you know to get in to it. To get underneath the surface.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: I remember I scraped all my —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Forehead and nose in doing so. But anyway, that was it. Then he’d gone and then we of course it was disarray. The Germans didn’t know what to do any more than we did but they said that there is a farm up the road. We’re going to stay there and that we did. But unfortunately, this Don Hall who was sharing everything we were he was ill and it turned out to be pneumonia. So they put him in a hospital nearby and I sort of carried on with the stuff we’d got until it came to an end.
Interviewer: So where were you eventually released [unclear]?
DM: Oh, well we moved onto another farm. Just one day or two. Stayed the night and when we went on the farms of course all the stock of pigs and chickens anything like disappeared [laughs] within almost minutes. Anyway, we survived it and the —
[recording cut]
DM: After a couple of days the next morning there was no activity and there was no guards to be seen anyway. And anyway, word went around, you know the guards had gone and there was one officer stayed and there was two or three guards but that was it. Anyway, we still didn’t get to know anything and then we were down by the entrance into the yard. I happened to be anyway and there was a jeep coming. A chap with a red cap you know in it and he came you know fairly fast up to that point. I’m supposed to be recording this. He was sort of holding the wheel and up on his as he was putting the brake on came up like this, ‘No bloody souvenirs.’ [laughs] And you could see the jeep disappearing up the road. Maybe he’d had some experience.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Anyway, he said, well, ‘We can’t help you obviously. I can’t do much for you but there’s a place if you walk up the road. There’s a village. There’s an empty school where you can sleep if that’s what you want and nearby there’s a field full of vehicles and you’re welcome to go and see what you can do and make your own way to Luneburg.’ So we did stay in this place that night. The next morning four of us went together and we found a [pause] oh dear —
Interviewer: Kubelwagen, was it?
DM: It doesn’t really, eh?
Interviewer: Kubelwagen. Volkswagon.
DM: No. No. Well, possibly. Yeah. I think maybe it was. Or a French car. Anyway —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: It was four seater.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: We got a tank of petrol out of another vehicle so we had plenty of fuel and we also picked up a box. A wooden box filled with cans of meat, you know. Round cans two deep and they were, well we established that they were beef like. Cooked beef in these tins. You know, ridiculous really but we thought well that would be something we were allowed to eat. However, we went on as far as we could. I was the only driver as it happened. I passed my test in 1939 before the war started. And so off we went and “POW” on the front just above the windscreen we’d written so that any police or anything directing traffic they would know where we wanted to go and then set us on the right road. Anyway, it began to come dark so we thought we’re not going on in the dark and we stopped and close to a farm house as it happened by luck and with that a soldier who hadn’t been, not a POW he was a sergeant and we explained we were POWs, been POWs and we needed somewhere to stay. He said, ‘Oh, well why not here.’ And he goes thumping on the door and tells them in English you know, ‘I’ve got four men here want to sleep here.’ [laughs] Anyway, they didn’t mind. They let us in and we sort of selected one room. Well obviously, spare and we said that was, they didn’t understand but we said, ‘We don’t want to inconvenience you any more than we must. We’ll sleep two on the bed and one each side on straw.’ So they obliged. We went in their pantry and chose, the first thing I spotted was a jar of preserved gooseberries. I said, ‘We’ll have that and we’ll have a chicken.’ You know. So she did us a smashing meal for the evening. Anyway, then we went to bed. The next morning we got up and dressed, went out in the village and —
[recording cut]
DM: Quite close by we came across an Army vehicle with a trailer which was a signals unit and we talked to them and said we want to go to [pause] where did I say? Luneburg.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Oh, he said, ‘Well, we’re going to Luneburg this afternoon if you’d like to go with us.’ So, ‘Oh yeah. Rather.’ So we went back to the farm, put this box of meat in. There was all [unclear] and a bag of sugar. A big bag of sugar. And they said, you know, ‘There you are. Come and come have a look at the vehicle. It’s yours.’ So they were really pleased and anyway we went to with these other fellas and they took us to the big barracks at Luneburg. The first thing they as you walked in they gave you a round tin of fifty cigarettes I think it was wasn’t it? And anyway, obviously we had plenty of food and all that sort of thing. It was just I think three days probably there relaxing and then they said, ‘Right, there are some American lorries coming to take you to an airfield called Diepholz.’ And they did and they took us and we were in bell tents we were. That evening was when Churchill was speaking on the radio saying that it was all over and this, that and the other. So we listened to that, had a meal and a few drinks and that sort of thing. The next morning some other vehicles came and took us to this airfield, Diepholz. We went on board a Dakota and they flew us to Brussels. We had proper accommodation there and also the ladies of the city were putting on a banquet as it were in some official building and we were all invited. And they were really posh ladies you know sort of thing. You could tell by their jewellery and what not. Mostly, fairly mature, you know. They weren’t girls so we weren’t interested in them not that I would have been anyway I’m sure. I was only thinking about getting home.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: But we had a magnificent meal and then we had a bit of a stroll around the city and looked at this and that and the group I was with returned to where we’d been stationed then. The next morning more vehicles took us to the Brussels Airport and this time we joined a little crowd and they said, ‘Right. Well, you’re going in this Lancaster.’ I still had my old brevet on so the navigator he came for us, he said, ‘Oh, I see you’re a nav.’ He said, ‘You can come down the front with me.’ So that was nice. Flew over the Channel, see the white cliffs of Dover.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: To [pause] oh dear. In Sussex. Tangmere.
Interviewer: Tangmere was it? Yeah, you landed at Tangmere. Yeah.
DM: Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And to move on a bit the sergeant came and he said, ‘Now you dump all your clothes. Everything.’ And got rid of them and there was a sort of the blue hospital garments and a towel and soap and so on, showers and then he said, ‘Well, you can, it’s up to you but we can, you can go to bed and sleep right through tomorrow if you want or you could get up again about three —’ No, 5 o’clock. Something like that, ‘And we guarantee to have you fully clothed in uniform, fed and all the rest of it. Money, medical and out of here on a train home.’ Oh, we’ll all do that. Get up early which we did.
[recording cut]
DM: So that’s how it worked out.
Interviewer: So you got back to, back home.
DM: Immingham.
Interviewer: Immingham.
DM: It was at the time. Yes. Yeah.
Interviewer: Right. Did you ever think of staying in the RAF?
DM: Well, a bit. Yes. There was one time and as a matter of fact I was hanging about at the airfield at Killingholme to get some petrol coupons because we were entitled. Father’s car was there you know so and I drove it more than he ever did because he hadn’t had it long before the war started. I’d passed my test so I did most of the driving until it was laid up. Excuse me. And I think it was a squadron leader came, looked at my brevet and whatnot. Medals, such as there were and they, he said, ‘Do you fancy a tour in —’ [pause] Now, would you say Persia? It was wasn’t it? Now Iraq or something?
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: That’s right. The Persian Gulf and what not. Training navigators. So I said I don’t know about that. Anyway, I gave it a few minutes thought and I thought no. I’ll not bother with that. Too quick to go away again really from the comforts of home.
Interviewer: So you got demobbed fairly quickly out of the RAF.
DM: Well, not actually by choice. The first thing was that I now what? How did it work out? [pause] There was certain things you could do but eventually they said you’ve got to remuster if you want to stay in. But I couldn’t get out straightaway mark you. I must say that because my release code was forty, and when they made the first announcement they said any prisoner of war release group forty four or higher could go now. No. No, the other way around wouldn’t it?
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: I was forty four. Forty was —
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Out. Because my father was out in days [laughs] He’d been there from the very beginning. I think your age had something to do with it as well. So what to do? So and then they say you’ve got to remuster if, you know you can’t just keep drawing your warrant officer’s pay [laughs] and doing virtually nothing. Did have a session of spud picking when I was in charge of a couple of [muggins] and shared it out at the end of the day. That was in Shropshire I think somewhere. Anyway, as regards to remustering we got together two or three of us, all warrant officers of course. They said, ‘Oh, look here a driving course.’ So I said, ‘Well, yeah, I can drive but — ’ I said, ‘Anyway, yeah if you want to do that.’ They couldn’t drive you see. So, I said I’ll go on that. So that’s what we did at Melksham. Anyway, I didn’t actually complete the course. We never got on the articulated vehicles because one of the same chaps he came running in sort of thing. He said, ‘There’s a notice on the board POWs up to group —’ whatever — ‘Can go.’ So we all said, ‘Right. Well, we’d better apply.’ That wasn’t the end of it either [laughs] because this was coming up December time.
Interviewer: Of ’45.
DM: Hmmn?
Interviewer: December ’45.
DM: Yeah. Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: And, and they said, ‘Oh well, there’s some courses you can go on if you wish.’ And so I thought, ‘Well, I’ve been in insurance you see so I thought if I could do some swatting up and whatnot it might help and it would be better for me going in to Civvy Street in December January, February.’ And I went to Sunninghill Park near Sunningdale and Sunninghill Park, the house we were in was demolished for the Duke of York and his —
Interviewer: Oh yeah.
DM: To build on that site.
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: [unclear]
Interviewer: Yeah.
DM: Anyway, there was a chap and myself he was likewise a POW warrant officer and he had a motorbike. He used to go out on that. It was neither taxed nor insured [laughs] but there was one day he was doing something else and he said, ‘You can take the motorbike if you like.’ So I said, ‘Alright. I’ll try it.’ And I’d never ridden a motorbike. Anyway, I did go for a spin but nothing much more because I didn’t care for it a lot and I resolved there and then I wasn’t having a motorbike I would always have cars when I got out and I did precisely that. I had work within the month.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah. So looking back on the war and your service in the RAF any reflections, any thoughts about it?
DM: Well, on the whole it was enjoyable I must admit you know. There were moments when it wasn’t but on the whole it was a good experience.
Interviewer: What was your view of the French people who had helped you?
DM: Oh well I —
Interviewer: Did you contact them again or did you —
DM: Well, only two and one didn’t last very long but the Rene [Danch] as I mentioned before probably was we kept in touch but not straightaway. It was later on. Actually, we took the caravan down there and went to his house without warning [laughs] and he was delighted. He had three or four daughters grown up and his wife and this, that and the other. It all sort of went on from there. They came and of course oh well yeah well that was it. They came and stayed with us. We went there, stayed with them although we had the caravan but they still insisted we slept in their house and so then later on their daughter she went to —

Citation

This Interview was recorded by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire., “Interview with Dougie Marsh,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 18, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/46473.

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