Interview with Bertie Salvage


Interview with Bertie Salvage
Salvage, Bertie-Cold War-World War II


Bertie Salvage joined the RAF in 1939 as an apprentice and initially began his technical training at RAF Cranwell before training was transferred to RAF Halton and also shortened because of the start of the Second World War. Bertie was present when Lord Trenchard addressed the ground staff at the station. Bertie was sent to South Africa to work on aircraft there for the Empire Training Scheme. He was then posted to Japan in the post war years. He progressed in his career with post war aircraft including the V bombers and then on to missiles systems such as Skybolt and Blue Steel.

Temporal Coverage




01:38:46 audio recording


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 and





Interviewer: I’m with Bertie Salvage in his home in Stamford.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: And Bertie served a good long time in the Air Force.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: And so, to start. I understand Bertie that your first encounter with the RAF was when you joined up. Was it 1939?
BS: 1939. On October the 6th 1939. And —
Interviewer: Yeah. I mean, you know, did you that was at the beginning of the Second World War.
BS: Well, it was. The war had broken out early September and it was a Sunday afternoon and we were home and the air raid siren went off for the first time. We were all sitting down to Sunday dinner in Southend on Sea where I —
Interviewer: This is the famous first day of the war.
BS: Yes, it was. The first day of the war. Then of course we all rushed outside. Of course nothing happened, you know. It was, it was just a false alarm. But anyway, I had received notification that I had passed the RAF exam as an aircraft apprentice to go to Cranwell and so I then received information in early September that I was to report to Cranwell on the 6th of October 1939. So this was, this duly happened. I went to Cranwell. I was inducted as an aircraft apprentice at RAF Cranwell. The instrument maker apprentices and the wires and electrical mechanic apprentices were being trained at Cranwell at the time. The other trades were being trained at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. So they were the two schools really and also some at Cosford. They were boy entrants. Anway, so it was quite a fierce trades really from the comforts of home to the, to the spartan conditions of the RAF as it then was in 1939. We were in huge barrack blocks at Cranwell where they had forty to a room you know. Iron bedsteads left over from the Great War I think [laughs] and very very far, very strong discipline you know. Very firm discipline which it had to be for young boys I suppose just joining the Air Force but I settled down and we did basic training on the square. Just for a few weeks you know. Two or three weeks basic training and drill and all that sort of thing. Learned to keep ourselves neat and tidy, our uniforms. To keep the barrack rooms clean and everything else. And of course, it was very very tough the discipline but you know some, in some respects you appreciated it. I enjoyed it really. Well, then we settled in on our technical training. We used to march down to the workshops every day at Cranwell and this went on and on and the, the one thing I do remember is that going over into 1940 just about the time of just before Dunkirk when the Germans had invaded the low countries we used to march to the workshops every day and during that early period when the Germans were still invading France they used to play patriotic music over the tannoy system as we were marching to work. Such things as, “We’re Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line.” [laughs] And of course that didn’t ever happen. Things like that you know. It was quite an amazing time to go through really at that period leading up to Dunkirk. Anyway, so the training went on. I found it very interesting. The technical training. All the aircraft. The aircraft electrical instrument systems and all that you know and also quite a lot of electrical information. Electrical instruction as well because a lot of instruments were, you know operated by electricity or electrical systems and you know so that went on sort of quite happily. And then in 1940 around about August time the instrument maker schools was moved out to Halton with the apprentices of the other trades. RAF Halton. It was a wonderful change because Halton is a lovely part of the country you know in Buckinghamshire whereas Cranwell was —
Interviewer: Flat.
BS: We didn’t like it very much up there. Dismal sort of area there. So we got to Halton and but, but in the interim period sort of you know we had a month’s leave actually. Four weeks leave in the changeover between going from Cranwell to Halton and I went home to Southend on Sea and I watched lots of the Battle of Britain going on with all the aerodrome above us coming up the Thames Estuary and we had a grandstand view really, Southend unfortunately.
Interviewer: And what was the feeling like in the country at that time?
BS: Very patriotic. Very patriotic. Yeah.
Interviewer: And was there a, you know a real fear of invasion at that stage?
BS: Well, there was a fear of, well there was but somehow we used to have the feeling it can’t happen to us. You know that sort of British feeling that —
Interviewer: Stiff upper lip and all that.
BS: Stiff upper lip and all that. Oh yes. There was the fear but it was, it was a defiance really. No one is bloody going to invade us sort of thing, you know. But of course, we were right on the, down at Southend where my old home was that was right on the sort of, you know if they had invaded it would be one of the first places that they would come in through I would have thought.
Interviewer: What was the news reporting? Was it, was, did you hear what was going on?
BS: Oh yes. Oh, the news reporting was very good. We, we knew all the time what was going on. I saw quite a few battles when I was, that month I was home. I saw quite a few aerial dogfights you know but one minute they were there and then they were gone you know. It was that —
Interviewer: Very fleeting.
BS: Very fleeting you know. Basically your question. I went through. I went and got in to the autumn of 1940 when they started the bombing on London. We used to get home occasionally on a forty eight hour pass. I went through London, through a couple of Blitzes you know and quite often I had to take shelter in the deep air raid, deep underground stations that they’d allocated to be air raids sort of shelters for people. So I experienced that and there were terrible scenes I saw you know before going on to Halton. So, that was, that was something to remember really, you know. So anyway, we, we continued our training at Halton which was, you know, very good. And then I actually because of the war they forced short the apprentice —
Interviewer: Training.
BS: Training from three years to well, less than two years.
Interviewer: Yes, I was going to say I was surprised.
BS: Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: That you were —
BS: Oh yes.
Interviewer: That you spend time in training.
BS: Yes. So, I passed, I passed out actually in July 1941 and I wasn’t eighteen. I was still only seventeen. I passed out and our training wasn’t complete but they considered we had been trained sufficiently to be able to take part. We’d learn more as we went along.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: Having joined a squadron.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: You see.
Interviewer: Learning on the job.
BS: That’s right. Yes. So, nineteen, I was in the, when I was left Halton I was posted to RAF Marham in Norfolk to 218 Squadron. There were two squadrons there. The Wellington squadron. Wellingtons. 115 and 218 but Wellingtons. Basically, Wellington bombers and I always remember in the train going from, up from Halton to, to Marham it was a lovely sunny day in July we heard for the first time the subject about the Russians. The Germans invading Russia. That was the first time we had heard that Russia had come into the war you see. And so we got to, got to Marham and of course straightway I was pitchforked on to the squadron and it was very interesting you know being inducted into servicing the Wellingtons. We used to have to also apart from looking after all the instrument systems, instrument repairs and replacement we had also responsibility for the navigation system as well you know because it was astral navigation in those days you know and also the oxygen system. So we had to, in those days you had to physically change the oxygen bottles after every trip, you know. Quite a lot of bottles too. That was quite a job. So that’s one of my little jobs I had to do. But one of the funny things was that the aircraft apart from dropping bombs they used to drop leaflets over Germany. I still have a sample. And also fake ration cards so the Germans would probably pick up these fake ration cards to help deplete the German rations you see. I’ve still got one of those somewhere. Anyway, so that was that but the basic thing I’ll always remember is that of course in those days bombing was, at the time we thought it was very effective but it was not very effective. There was an awful lot of missed targets.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: An awful lot of mixed targets.
Interviewer: Area bombing. Yeah.
BS: That’s right, and but the sad thing was you know the aircrew used to come out and used to get the captains of a bomber was only about nineteen or twenty you know. The responsibility that the lads took on then in those days was quite, it really was quite [pause] but I thinking back on it now I hardly ever saw any sign of fear. They were laughing and joking. They used to wee on the wheels for good luck and things like that you know. And the old air gunners would let off the guns into the night sky just to check on them you know in the turrets. You know and, but they always seemed to set off in a very good mood. But of course, when they didn’t come back or came back badly damaged you know often with blood. On one occasion I remember the, one came back and the rear turret was just a mass of blood and gore.
Interviewer: Yes, I heard somebody else says that.
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: And the damage that the, that the Wellington could take with geodetic construction was quite amazing really. Old Barnes Wallis had designed them very well indeed you know. And then once, I’d been there a few weeks when the film people came to take a, they made a film called, “One of Our Aircraft is missing.” And they came to shoot at the early stages of the aircraft taking off from our, they came around to our dispersal and they took photos of us ground crew waving to the aircraft as they took off in to the night sky on their bombing missions.
Interviewer: Did they? So that was just done for the camera was it?
BS: that was done for the camera really you know. And I did see and I did have a copy afterwards that I actually saw the back of me and three others just waving like mad to the aircraft that took off into the night sky. But it was a very very very poignant really. They take off into the dusk you know. Disappear. Of course, all grass airfields then. There was no runways. No runways. They were all grass airfields. And so which was quite an embarrassment really later on because in the Autumn of 1941 we converted to Stirlings. We were the second squadron to be, I’ll just get this for you [pause] to be converted to, sorry to be converted to Stirlings.
Interviewer: Oh, I think I’ve seen this photograph before. Yes.
BS: Yes. It’s a special. There was only a few copies made.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: That’s one of the few.
Interviewer: A nice looking aeroplane.
BS: Yes. But very heavy. Very big. Much bigger than the Lanc you know. They carried a bigger bomb load. But of course, the trouble with the Stirling was that the Hercules engines didn’t have the power really to get them over the Alps and they had to struggle like hell to get over to bomb Northern Italy as they used to go and bomb Turin quite a lot. But they used to struggle to get over the Alps and I think they realised that they were built like a tank. Like a fortress inside. But they just didn’t have the power really and I think actually when it came into about 1943 they were actually taken off full line bombing and became towers for the gliders and things like that.
Interviewer: It's a shame because everybody now looks back and thinks —
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: The Lancaster was the only bomber.
BS: Oh no. No. The Stirling was she was ever she was very good in every respect bar the fact she was underpowered. But I’ve flown in a Stirling and I’ve flown, I had to get every chance I could. Air testing, you know. Those I used to fly. I’ve flown I a Stirling. I’ve flown quite a few times in Wellingtons. You know, on the air tests. I used to like to sit in the rear turrets. Quite fun. And you know so I got one for experience really and the, and another snag with the Stirling was that it was the first aircraft that ever had the electrical undercarriage. And old DC motors they requires three thick cables to really get the power through and it was quite a thing to see a Stirling with one wheel collapsed and like this on the airfield. Like you know and had to jack them up to —
Interviewer: I wonder why they went for electric motors rather than —
BS: I don’t know.
Interviewer: Metal damage to cope with if the hydraulics had been —
BS: I think so. I think it was an experiment really you know. They were coming in to a new era and you know so, you know I think they—
Interviewer: A bit embarrassing if you have a generator failure.
BS: Oh yes. And of course, they realised being as these were such big heavy aircraft that the grass airfield was not very good at all. You know, they used to —
Interviewer: They used to get waterlogged, didn’t they?
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: Some of these old grassed airfields.
BS: Yeah. So soon after that that, I left the country by then that they decided to build runways you see. So, you know I, people say to me oh there’s the lady who I’m very good friends with at the moment. She’s quite a bit younger than me but if I talk about the olden days she doesn’t want to know. ‘Oh, don’t talk about the past.’ The past. But you get to my age you think about it. It’s life to you, you know what I mean?
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: My memory is still so fantastically good really, you know. Way back to those days it’s as clear as a bell really.
Interviewer: And didn’t you tell me that you remember Trenchard coming?
BS: Oh sorry. Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: He lived up to his Boom Trenchard.
BS: Oh yes. Yes.
Interviewer: Trenchard. Big man.
BS: When the, I hadn’t been at Marham very long, perhaps, are we still oh dear. I hadn’t been at Marham very long when it was a bit of a miserable sort of day and of course we were working in the hangars and they used to say, ‘Come on. Get outside.’ You know. Assembled on the tarmac outside the hangars because there’s going to be someone giving a talk. So we went outside and stood in a big sort of circle. And suddenly this figure appeared and he was introduced as to Lord Trenchard you see and there he was in his uniform and his rather flat sort of hat. It wasn’t, a bit of a squashed looking hat on his head and he gave us a pep talk you see about how, what a wonderful job we were doing. To keep up, lads, you know. You know, sort of you know and we’ve got the Germans on the run [laughs] you know [laughs] We bloody well hadn’t at that time.
Interviewer: So you took it with a pinch of salt.
BS: Oh yes. I stood quite close to him actually. He had a moustache if I remember rightly.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: But we weren’t told of course at the time it hadn’t really perhaps got around to me by then but we were told that he was the father of the Royal Air Force.
Interviewer: Absolutely.
BS: So it was a privilege to remember that, you see.
Interviewer: Yes. Yes.
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: And the thing that they say about Trenchard was that when forming the Air Force one of the things he really concentrated on was very good training.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: To make sure not just the air crew but —
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: To make sure that the ground crew had got all the skills.
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: Which is what, which is quite interesting that you —
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: Did spend quite a good time in training even though it was in the Second World War.
BS: Oh absolutely. Oh yes. And something else I was going to say. I’ve forgotten. Oh, dear its gone from me.
Interviewer: And when the Air Force —
BS: Oh yes. Yes. Yes. He was, was the founder of the Aircraft Apprentice Scheme in 1923. He started it all up at Halton and it’s a wonderful training you know.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: As a boy of sixteen, just sixteen to be pitchforked from home into that, you know. The sheer discipline and we learned to look after ourselves. Do our own —
Interviewer: Sewing.
BS: Sewing and —
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: And keeping our barrack rooms clean. Kit inspection once a week. Everything had to be absolutely spot on, you know. The officer used to come around with the —
Interviewer: And the aircraft apprentices have got a very good reunion and —
BS: Oh well, yes. The Halton Apprentices Association. In fact, I’ve got a book there written by an air vice marshall. Ex-aircraft apprentice who used to, we used to see him actually in our reunions down at Halton and it’s about the life of an aircraft apprentice. I’ll get it out some time and show you.
Interviewer: And the good thing is —
BS: I’ll look it up.
Interviewer: And the interesting thing is how many formal aircraft apprentices made air rank —
BS: Oh yes.
Interviewer: Very senior ranks.
BS: They did. They did. Apart from the technical training which you of course enlarged. I mean, by the time I finished at the RAF I was very highly qualified. Instruments, electronically and everything else. You know, all the courses I went on and all that work on the V bombers. So, you know, it was, it was the sheer sort of discipline that that regulated your life and you know —
Interviewer: A good start.
BS: Oh yes.
Interviewer: A good start. And did you say you’d, I think you just said you were just saying that you were moving on from Marham. How long did you spend there?
BS: So I was at Marham from July ‘til March ’41.
Interviewer: And then what was next?
BS: Then what happened then was I’ll tell you a funny little story. Can I just recap a bit but when, when I passed out from Halton and I went to Marham and when I went home of course we used to get forty eight passes at any time. Not just at weekends. In the middle of the week or any time. Forty eight hour pass.
Interviewer: When you could be spared.
BS: When you could be spared.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: And my father who was a very very patriotic man. My father served right through the first war in the Royal Artillery, through all the modern hell of Passchendaele. You couldn’t meet a more patriotic man. King and country man everything. The fact I went in the the Air Force absolutely wonderful to him you know. Anyway, I went home on my first leave you see. And , ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Where’s your propellers on your arms?’ He thought I was going to be a leading aircraftsman straight away. Of course, I passed out as AC1 not AC2 [laughs] you see. I didn’t get quite the response then, you know. So, so that was that. So that was a funny story really going back. Yes, so what happened then was in March, early March ’42 I was posted overseas. You never knew where you were going abroad in the wartime. You never knew where you were going but overseas. So I went home on embarkation leave for a fortnight. When I got home my mother said, Southend on Sea, my mother said, ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘Dad’s in hospital, ill. Oh, he’s got congestion of the lungs.’ So I went down to see him. He was very poorly in hospital at Rochford in Essex and anyway within a couple of days he had died.
Interviewer: Oh, that’s —
BS: While I was on embarkation leave. Of course, I had two sisters at home and so that was a blow. So I got a weeks extension you know for his funeral. We buried him down in, we got him buried. And so I I left home, my mother and sisters and went back to Marham to clear and went to [pause] first of all we went, I was sent up to Blackpool. Blackpool was what you called a personnel distribution centre for people going over. PDC they called it. And —
Interviewer: Was that Squire’s Gate?
BS: No. No.
Interviewer: Actually at Blackpool.
BS: That was, we were in civvy billets in Bloomfield Road opposite the football ground. Well they were all civvy billets in those days you see.
Interviewer: Right.
BS: And the nice house, a very nice house we were in. Anyway, we were there for a fortnight and in that time we were all kitted out for overseas. You had an idea perhaps where you were going in those days the sort of kit you got really and we were kitted out at Marks and Spencer’s and Woolworths were military kitting out places you see.
Interviewer: Fantastic.
BS: So we had to barter around Blackpool from one to the other being kitted out and straightaway we knew we weren’t going to India because we didn’t get a pith helmet. The pith helmet. They had the pith helmets to go into India you see. We had the old fashioned [taupes?] that they used in the sort of semi-tropical countries you know like Africa and places like that. So I had a [taupe?] I had all the rest of the khaki drill issued and then we set off. After a fortnight we were what they called drafts in those days. Then we set off by train. Took us all day in the train. Of course, no sort, they had no sort of corridor trains. They were all bloody single compartments.
Interviewer: Separate compartments. Yeah.
BS: And we finished up. Where the hell are we going to? We finished up it turned out in Avonmouth in Bristol.
Interviewer: And you still don’t know where you’re going.
BS: No. Not a clue. Not a clue. No. No. They wouldn’t tell you. So we’d not a clue. We got to Avonmouth. We offloaded from the train at the dockside and there was this big old grey steamer there for troops. She had been called the Island Princess. She had been a Argentine meat boat apparently which had been converted to a trooper. Troop carrier. So we staggered up the gangplank. Don’t know how I staggered up with kit bags. Full blooming kitted on. Your [taupe] Great coat. All the rest of our equipment. We staggered up the gangplank on to the, and straight down the gangways right down to a lower deck. One of the holds had been converted into a troop deck you see. Got down there and we were the last line of portholes going down. The Army were underneath. They didn’t have any portholes. We had the Army on board as well. And there were two hundred of us on the troop deck and we were all sleeping on hammocks and we had sort of mess tables going from the centre out to the sides of the ship you see where we allocated so many to a mess table each you see. About I don’t know about ten or twelve. Something like that. And hammocks had to be stowed in special stowage and your ordinary kit was on racks above you. So, so that was something getting used to and when we came had to sleep at night we we hung our hammocks up you know and when we all slung our hammocks we were sort of more or less touching one another you know. You always had to sleep head to toe for obvious reasons and if anybody was seasick in the night God it was hell.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: Bloody awful.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: You can imagine.
Interviewer: I don’t want to contemplate it. I did I did three years in the Navy and —
BS: Oh, did you?
Interviewer: I don’t want to contemplate what it could have been like.
BS: So, so anyway so that was the old troopship and, but I got used it. Actually, I enjoyed it. Anyway, we sailed out in the and we sailed out to Greenock, picked up the rest of the convoy at Greenock and we stayed there overnight and —
Interviewer: But when the ship sailed did you still not know where the ship was going?
BS: No. Not a clue. We hadn’t got a clue. No.
Interviewer: That’s incredible.
BS: Well, I hadn’t got a clue and we sailed up the Irish Sea to Greenock and there we picked up the rest of the convoy. We sailed next day. There was ships from horizon to horizon.
Interviewer: So also and when was this?
BS: This was the end of March ’42. The height of the U-boat war.
Interviewer: Wow.
BS: The height of the U-boat war and, and there were sort of Naval vessels sort of you know going around all the time but of course the convoy had to go to the speed of the slowest ship. Eight knots. That was, that was the and we were kept one in front and one behind, you know, liners. Troopers. All grey and horizon to horizon and it was just ships everywhere. And of course, I never even gave a thought to blooming U-boats. I can remember standing on the bloody bow in the heaving North Atlantic enjoying it. Isn’t this wonderful. I never gave a thought we could bloody well be torpedoed at any time, you know. Its youth you see. Nothing can happen to me.
Interviewer: No.
BS: So anyway, so we kept going day after day after day and getting colder and colder. We were going, we thought we were going a bit north. Anyway, eventually we, we changed course and fortunately you know we saw a couple of Condors came over but, but no we didn’t, nobody was attacked at that time. Or at least after we changed direction of course I knew we were going south and eventually after about a couple of weeks or more, two and a half weeks we landed up in Freetown in Sierra Leone and we anchored there for a couple of days. And I can remember the old [unclear] coming alongside with the natives in them wanting to sell —
Interviewer: Sell things. Yeah.
BS: Including their sister ships [laughs] but rain. I’ve never known rain like it in my life. Anyway, we, we set sail again. By this time the convoy was somewhat spoiled. The faster ships they let go ahead at this point you see. But anyway, we kept, we sailed on and on and on. Eventually we must have, well I still had no idea where we were going. No idea at all, you know what was happening. Where we were going. So we got down to the South of Africa. We’re going around the Cape and suddenly we were sitting down to an evening meal down on the mess decks and suddenly bang and the whole ship shuddered like hell. So the boat sirens, alarms went so we, there wasn’t panic but we went up several ladders to the upper, to the boat decks and we stood at our boat stations. There was the Acali raft station on the bloody boat. We had an Acali raft station. And the ship just, just over there was going down. You know, she was the Naval vessel had turned back and was going towards it. So we stayed, we stayed at boat stations for what must have been well over an hour. We went down again and just sat down again when another bang went up and another ship had been hit. You know sort of further away. So, and then we were told over the tannoy that we’d actually arrived into an enemy minefield laid by the Japanese ocean going submarines and not to say anything about it. Right. Well, the next day we had these little leaflets handed out to us about conditions sort of in South Africa and we were told, our draft were told that we were going to be staying in South Africa you see. Well, you know I was absolutely over the moon about this because my eldest sister in ’39, had emigrated to South Africa and so I thought at least there. Only at the last moment two days after that we docked in Durban. And the wonderful thing is I don’t know if you’ve been told about this but all the convoys used to dock in Durban in those days. They were met by a lady on the end of the moles singing and she used, as the troop ships moved in towards the harbour she’d stand on the end of the mole, this lady in a long white dress and she was singing beautifully to all the ships as they came in. She did this every time a convoy came in to Durban during the war. Singing. Beautiful singing. And we docked and we were offloaded and we were taken to a transit camp. You see what happened was that the, it was a rest camp really and all the troops going up to North Africa you know RAF and Army used to —
Interviewer: Stop there.
BS: Have a week or a fortnights rest in Durban. At Clairwood before going out to North Africa you see. The campaign there. But we were only there for about a week because we were staying in South Africa and I was told my post would be to a place called Port Alfred down in the Cape, Eastern Cape, near Port Elizabeth. And what had happened was the Empire Training Scheme. They trained all the aircrew in South Africa, Rhodesia, America.
Interviewer: Canada.
BS: And Canada. Right. So I was posted there and of course the aircraft were Ansons and Oxfords and Old Fairey Battles.
BS: So of course, I was over the moon because I mean and the first the thing is to go back when we were in Durban. The residents of Durban were so patriotic they used to talk about home as England not South Africa.
Interviewer: Really?
BS: All English speaking and English-speaking South Africans and every evening outside Clairwood camp there would be lines and lines of cars of Durban residents lining to take the troops to their homes to give them a —
Interviewer: Dinner.
BS: Meal.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: And look after them and give them a good time. I remember the first night or second night we were there I was, went out with my friend intending to go in to Durban just to see things and a car pulled up just as we and we were, ‘Come on lads.’ You know. ‘Would you like to come home with us?’ So we said, ‘Yes, please.’ He turned out to be the chief education officer for Durban and we went to his beautiful house. They had three lovely daughters and of course it was, and after war torn England it was a paradise coming there. It was. It was. It was peacetime. It was beautiful living conditions you know.
Interviewer: So life was beginning to look up.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: At this stage.
BS: And because a lot of the chaps had perhaps come from poor homes. It must have been quite an eye opener going to some of these houses you know.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: Being looked after like that. You know it really must have been quite fantastic. So anyway, so and of course all the time I was in South Africa I kept on very good friendly terms with the family and I used to go up there sometimes on leave. Anyway, I got to Port Alfred and with the, I was with the Instrument Section and we had, you know the, the Ansons and Oxfords were used for navigator training and bomb aimer training you know. And air gunner training also and the Fairey Battles were used for target towing. And could you [laughs] I don’t really know much about the old Fairey Battle but they lost —
Interviewer: I’ve seen, I’ve seen photographs.
BS: They’d lost an awful lot in France.
Interviewer: And they were retired from active service pretty quickly weren’t they?
BS: Oh, they lost a lot in France. Anyways, you know how you take your life in your hands as a young boy I would fly in anything because I loved flying you see and I remember having a couple of flights in Fairey Battles and oh God, spewing glycol and petrol over the ruddy place you know. It was [laughs].
Interviewer: And was the flying school run by Airwork’s?
BS: No.
Interviewer: Or was it run —
BS: No. No.
Interviewer: By the RAF?
BS: No, it was run by the either the South African Air Force and the RAF between them. So on, on the camps you see there were quite a few camps out there they were, we were a mixture of South African Air Force and RAF. But the RAF were the main trainers. Do you know what I mean? They were the main experienced people. The South African Air Force were there as sort of because this was South Africa and our CO was a colonel, South African colonel you see. So that was fine. Ok. And so it, it was a lovely mixture really but the Air Force were the main operators as you might say. The RAF. Port Alfred and 43 Air School and —
Interviewer: And as you say their duty —
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: Was to push out all the air crews.
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: To go back to Europe.
BS: Oh yes. That’s they used to come over and they would be there for quite a few weeks and of course it’s a wonderful atmosphere to train them in in peacetime.
Interviewer: Well, that’s why they set these schools up.
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: A — get them away from the war and B —
BS: Yes, that’s right.
Interviewer: In good weather conditions.
BS: That’s right. I mean the flying or navigating was perfect really and of course it was all astra navigation in those days. I mean you think back to life over here during the bombing period of those years. I mean that’s why the Americans didn’t do it up because they weren’t trained in astra navigation like our chaps were you see. You know night navigation. That’s why they took on all the —
Interviewer: That was the day raids.
BS: Day. Day bombing you see. So and I often used to go up you know on these trips with them. You know, I used to love to fly as much as I could.
Interviewer: And was there a lot of work to be done repairing the aircraft?
BS: Oh lord, yes. I mean you know it’s all the time. I mean and the wonderful thing is despite the fact that there was a war on and losses in shipping through U-boat activity and that sort of thing we never went short of spares. You know, it’s marvellous really.
Interviewer: So somebody back in England must have been doing their job to get all the spares sent out.
BS: Oh, the production in this country was absolutely wonderful when you think of it during the war. All firms like, you know like little engineering firms, workshops used to have contracts for for making spares and things like that you see. The, the organisation was absolutely fantastic, you know.
Interviewer: So and going back to Trenchard again.
BS: Oh, that’s right.
Interviewer: He set the, he set the Air Force up and made sure everybody was trained.
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: So when it needed to work it could.
BS: Well, when you come back to it in 1934 they set up the five year plan. They built all those airfields like Cottesmore, Luffenham, Wittering, eventually Scampton all built on the same plan. You go to any station and they were all exactly the same virtually.
Interviewer: Similar. Similar layouts.
BS: Oh yes. H blocks and the officer’s mess. Sergeant’s Messes. Pretty well pretty much the same. This is and if it hadn’t been for that five year plan we’d have been the hell’s way in ‘39 when the war broke out.
Interviewer: How long did you get to stay in South Africa then?
BS: So anyway, so I stayed in South Africa until July ’45.
Interviewer: Oh, so you —
BS: I was there for over three years.
Interviewer: You were there for three years.
BS: Yeah. So —
Interviewer: Was that normal for for people to spend that much time there?
BS: Yes. Well, you couldn’t get home. There was no, there was no time limit to a tour in those days.
Interviewer: And presumably they wanted to cut down on the amount of troop transports.
BS: That’s right. That’s right.
Interviewer: And so it made sense to keep you there for a good long time.
BS: That’s right. I came back when the European war was over. So all the time I was out there I was very fortunate because my sister was living in Johannesburg and so the first leave I got I went up and stayed with her. Wonderful for me really. And of course, the other fellas didn’t have that. And I had some wonderful leaves and went all over the country and my sister’s husband he was working in the gold mines of Johannesburg. He joined the South African Air Force and he went up to North Africa. To a campaign up there against Rommel you see. The South African Air Force and my sister she, because her husband had gone up there she took the chance. She came down to Port Alfred and lived in the local hotel there. So —
Interviewer: Your sister on [unclear] —
BS: Yes [laughs] it was a most unusual situation really but it just so happened. It was luck.
Interviewer: You’ve got to make these things work for you haven’t you?
BS: But that’s right. Just luck. So that was that. Then in, as I say in —
Interviewer: Then again when you were serving there in the, in the sort of towards the end of the Second World War was it obvious that you heard about D-Day presumably.
BS: Oh, oh yes.
Interviewer: You heard about how the war was going.
BS: Yes. Yes. Oh yes. About [pause] what was it? In July? About January ’45 I was posted up to Pretoria to Robert’s Heights, Voortrekkerhoogte because that was Afrikaner speaking. Have you been to South Africa?
Interviewer: No. Not yet.
BS: Oh, you’ll have to go.
Interviewer: It’s on my list of places to go.
BS: Well, yeah. Yeah. Well, I want to go back again on this scheme that they’re running for veterans to go back.
Interviewer: Oh brilliant.
BS: And visit. Visit where with a grant from the lottery.
Interviewer: Great.
BS: So if I had somebody who would go with me I’d love to go back. Anyway, so I was posted up to Pretoria to a big air depot there. We were, we were sort of a big where they used to service all the aircraft instruments. They’d come in that were US you know, unserviceable. So by this time I’d been promoted to corporal.
Interviewer: Was that a big jump up to corporal?
BS: Yeah, well —
Interviewer: As in responsibility?
BS: Oh yes. Oh yes. I mean you know you know I thought it was anyway. You know.
Interviewer: Well, they always say corporal, the two ranks in the Air Force that are most important are the corporal and the warrant officer.
BS: Oh yes. Well, corporal because you, yes, oh yes. Yes. It was fine. Yes. And so, and then as I say in July ’45 or when, when yes we did know the war was coming to an end of course and then because it was so down, I always remember VE Day out there. We all paraded on the parade ground and were given a formal talk by the station commander there. He was another South African of course and immediately of course we were given the day off you see. So my friend and I we decided to go into Johannesburg. No. Into, into, that’s right into Pretoria itself and we were picked up by a South African colonel going in his car. Of course, we used to hitch hike all over. He took us to his house. I had a lovely time. We got as drunk as hell you know [laughs] We didn’t bloody well bother. Had a wonderful time. So that was how I spent VE Day really. I got back to Pretoria and then of course we were hanging about really for a week or two still doing our jobs of course because aircraft things still had to be serviced and looked after. And then we were posted. So July, at the end of June we were told, you know we were due to go home so we, we were taken down to Cape Town. Went down by train from Johannesburg on the, on the what do they call the wonderful train? The Blue Train they call it.
Interviewer: Blue Train. Yeah.
BS: Which went right down through Kimberley and the beautiful South African landscape down to Cape Town and we were there for about ten days or so in transit to Cape Town and of course it was lovely because Cape Town is a lovely area you know altogether. A beautiful place. And then we embarked on the Alcantara. A ship. A troop ship. Still the same conditions as the one I went out on really.
Interviewer: But this time no U-boats shooting at you.
BS: No. No. No U-boats but I’ll tell you what as soon as we sailed out from Cape Town they operated the gassing system which kept, gave you warnings of submarines. Oh, magnetic mines. That’s what they —
Interviewer: Magnetic, gassing for magnetic mines.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: And then Aztec obviously —
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: For detecting submarines.
BS: And I always remember that because we had it on the way out there. They have these what do they call the machine guns? The Oerlikons. They used to practice those every day and oh the noise they made.
Interviewer: This is after VE Day.
BS: Oh yeah. Well, of course I mean you know I mean things were still the same. I mean things hadn’t altered. It took time to. Of course, we sailed back in just over two and a half weeks. Nearly three weeks. So it was a much quicker easier time than —
Interviewer: And when you left South Africa did you know your time in the Air Force was coming to an end or was it?
BS: No. No. Because I was a regular.
Interviewer: You joined up as a regular.
BS: Oh, I was in for twelve years.
Interviewer: Ok. So, so when you signed up in 1939 you knew you were in for twelve years.
BS: [unclear] Oh that’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: So presumably a lot of people that were with you were conscripted.
BS: Well, obviously, yes. You had conscripted, you had a release, demob number they called it. And the lower the demob number the older you were you know.
Interviewer: The quicker they were posted to —
BS: The quicker you were out. But they never started demobbing until about August really. I mean this is what I gather the film on TV, one of these Foyles War things a guy came back from North Africa. He was out. Well, he wouldn’t have been out just like that. He’d have waited weeks you know. Things like that you notice.
Interviewer: Well looking at it the demob procedure was very well done.
BS: It was very well done. Everything was so organised believe me and I mean even the demob suits. I mean the lovely beautiful material. They were wonderful material. Shirts, all the ties.
Interviewer: A pair of shoes.
BS: Coat, hat, shoes. Everything.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: I mean —
Interviewer: And a suitcase was it?
BS: And a suitcase.
Interviewer: And a suitcase.
BS: That’s right. Yes. So anyway, so we got, oh yeah it was a very very pleasurable voyage. Actually, I enjoyed troopship life because you know funnily enough just to go back a bit going out to South Africa was where I learned to play chess and bridge on the deck for days on end. In the afternoon you were quite free and you’d sit about on deck you know and play cards or [pause] so I know quite a few games like that and you know so, oh I thought it was tough, spartan conditions. You know the food was very spartan and and once you got over the morning with boat drill and all that sort of thing. Of course, you know it’s, it was [pause] anyway so we got back through to Liverpool and, oh yes I’m sure it was Liverpool we docked at. And then of course we were sent our demob disembarkation leave and I went back down to Southend to my home.
Interviewer: And you’d been away —
BS: To my mum.
Interviewer: And you’d been away for a good long time then.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: When you —
BS: Yeah. Can I go back a little bit?
Interviewer: Of course you can.
BS: My two sisters at home who had left home the younger one she joined the Wrens and she was actually stationed down in the tunnels at Dover. They had tunnels under the castle which they had and she was a wireless operator there and she was involved in all that recording all the traffic on the Channel. Which they did you know with the German traffic and everything else. She was involved in that. My other sister who’d been a dressmaker joined the RAF and became a radio operator. Wonderful things they trained girls to do.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: She hadn’t a clue what electricity was almost and here she was just an ordinary dressmaker joined the Air Force and they trained her to be a wireless op down at Yatesbury. Is it Yatesbury? Yes.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: Yes, that’s right. Yatesbury.
Interviewer: Near Bristol.
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: Yes. Down there. And you know she qualified and eventually she was posted to Chichsands Priory which was an out station of —
Interviewer: Bentley Priory. Bletchley Park.
BS: Bletchley Park.
Interviewer: Bletchley Park.
BS: And she used to listen to all the German aircraft recording messages and pass it on to Bletchley Park. So an ordinary dressmaker. You see the people see they trained people up to do in the war you know.
Interviewer: And the responsibilities that they had.
BS: And the responsibility.
Interviewer: At a very young age.
BS: I know. Yes.
Interviewer: So much so that certainly after the, when the war came to an end a lot of women who had been trained wanted to keep, use that training.
BS: Well exactly. Oh yes. And she found it useful my, this other sister because when I got back from South Africa she was still in, still in the WAAF and about the following year she wanted to go out and join my sister in South Africa. But you couldn’t get passage anywhere at that time on the ships or anywhere and so she got together another group of like minded people and they bought an ex-Naval air sea rescue launch. Only about sixty seventy feet long. These twenty thirty people and they equipped it and they had these petrol engines with huge fifty gallon drums of, of fuel latched on the deck and they set off for South Africa. Took them three months to get there and she eventually did get there and of course it was in all the papers at the time. This wonderful trip made by these people.
Interviewer: That must have been an experience.
BS: And then when they got there they sold their boat and my sister went up to join my other sister up in Johannesburg. Well, that’s another story but so, you know those sorts of things people did you know in those days. Anyway, so, so that so I got home and when I got back I was home for a month and then I wondered where I was going to get posted to and of all places I was posted to RAF Westwood at Peterborough. There was an RAF station there training, training Free French Air Force pilots.
Interviewer: Is that just north of Peterborough?
BS: No. It’s on the edge of Peterborough. Right on the edge. Do you know Peterborough?
Interviewer: I do but I, I —
BS: If you go out to Westwood area it was you know the bit that was the Baker Perkins factory there. It was just at the back of Baker Perkins. In fact, the airfield stretched right up to Baker Perkins fence and that was all RAF Westwood. It’s all housing now and factories.
Interviewer: Yes, I knew there was an airfield around but I wasn’t sure where it was.
BS: So I was stationed there. I was stationed there for a short while and then after a few months, I wasn’t there all that long really I was posted to Japan.
Interviewer: Right. And we’ll talk about that in the next recording.
BS: Yes. Ok.
[recording paused]
Interviewer: I’m with Bertie Salvage and we’re talking about his experiences in the RAF and after your time in the Second World War Bertie I understand you ended up in Japan.
BS: Yes. It must have been sometime in early ’46 I was posted to Japan. Of course, this came as quite a surprise to me. Of all places to go to. To the occupation force in Japan because at that time Honshu, the main island was divided into half. The Americans occupied the upper part and the British Commonwealth Occupation Force as it was called occupied the lower half of Honshu, you know which was between Army and RAF. And what, what they’d done is when the occupation forces moved in they’d taken over old Japanese military establishments including airfields and when I got there I was posted to a place called Miho which had been another Japanese airfield where they trained the Kamikaze pilots. And the south, the south of Japan, or the south west southwest corner of Japan. But anyway going back to to going we set off from Tilbury in an old boat called the SS Ranchi and this had been an old P&O boat you know. Quite an old boat and it had been fitted out as a troop ship and it took us six weeks to get to Japan believe it or not. We think these days they are there in about sixteen hours. Almost. Not quite. A bit more than that but it took us six weeks to get there. All through the Med and down through stopping off at, in Port Said, Aden, Columbo, Singapore. It was quite, Shanghai, Hong Kong then into a place called Kure in Japan which had been a big Japanese naval base. And it had been fantastic, you know the thought of going to Japan. You know this place that we’d all heard of as you know created such, you know treated, given our boys such a bad time in the war in the Far East and it was quite a fascinating thought of going there. Anyway, arrived at Kure and going through the Japanese inland sea was quite an experience. All the little volcanic islands which were quite picturesque. Eventually landed at Kure. Anyway, we were entrained across to Miho, this ex-Japanese base and of course it’s quite interesting to see the Japanese landscape. It was very hilly and mountainous. Very forested all over. Of course it’s a volcanic, volcanic origin Japan so it is, you know it is very hilly. So we landed at Miho and I was posted on to, well basically 17 Squadron Spitfires but 11 Squadron was there as well and basically I was really working on both squadrons but administratively I was sort of on the strength of 17 Squadron. And the object of the, was although we were an occupation force the main job really was to patrol the sea around Japan off the, across the Yellow Sea and you know as far on the way across towards China and all over that area for some reason or other. But anyway, so that was very interesting being there.
Interviewer: Did you get to see much of the country at all?
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: Whilst you were there.
BS: Yes. I got, I just to go back a bit it was interesting because all these, all the domestic staff on the camp were Japanese. Ex-Japanese Army and lots and lots of Japanese, and lots and lots of Japanese girls used to come on the camp every day doing all the menial tasks. In fact, the funny thing was that the, I was a corporal when I went there still and whilst had been there nearly a year I was promoted to sergeant. After I was promoted to sergeant I was moved to the Sergeant’s Mess. I was given my own sort of room and I was issued with a room girl who used to attend to all my domestic requirements. She used to clean my room and keep doing my washing and ironing and everything else. So that was quite an experience in itself and whilst I was there we had a NAAFI canteen of course which we, which we used to use and this was staffed by English girls in the WRVS who had been sent in to to run the canteens for the troops you see. And I happened to meet the manageress of the local NAAFI canteen and get to know her quite well. Gladys. And she, like the other girls were living in the Officer’s Mess. They were given the honorary rank of flight lieutenant because there was no other sort of way we could accommodate them really.
Interviewer: The equivalent. Yeah.
BS: You see. Because the Japanese were really off limits in the sense, in the sense that when you went out in Japan we were pretty well limited to we’d go in the shops and things. We weren’t really supposed to go in their houses and that sort of thing you know. You know, we were and all our provisions were you know were provided by either America, Australia or New Zealand or Australia. They used to come from all over the, the western world one might say. Of course, the Japanese had nothing. They had only rice and fish to eat you see. Of course, they weren’t ever proper meat eaters before that. They’d sort of produced dairy herds and that sort of thing. They lived on rice and fish. Anyway, so that was the situation there. So I got to know Gladys very very well and we eventually at the time I was there we, we courted as one might say and eventually I married her in Japan. And by this time she had been sent down to Iwakuni which was the main RAF base headquarters down, down near Kure. The RAF airfield at Iwakuni and it was the Communication Flight there. They had Dakotas there which they used to supply the, communicate with the RAF other establishments in Honshu and she got posted there to the WRVS canteen there and I wangled, by this time I’d been promoted to sergeant, by this time I wangled a posting down there myself you see. I think they took pity on me at Miho. Anyway, so I was posted down to Iwakuni as well. It was at Iwakuni that Gladys and I had as service wedding. And of course the funny thing was that of course I was working on the Dakotas there and the funny thing was that she was living in the Officer’s Mess there and I I was living in the Sergeant’s Mess. So after we got married we had to go back to the same situation. The only time I could see her was in the Officer’s Mess at Iwakuni. The WRVS had a separate sort of living room you see and I could visit her in this living room, you know. The only time I could see her inside anywhere. This went on for about nearly two months after which time we came home. But it was very interesting and when we did get married there we, we had a honeymoon up at a place called Koana just outside Tokyo. This was a beautiful hotel on the shores of the Pacific. It had been built by the Japanese to house the 1940 Olympic games which never took place. To house the contestants and everybody. So this was taken over as one of the leave hostels. Of course, what happened was that when the occupation force moved into Japan they sorted out all different sort of different sort of posh places around the country for troops to have a break.
Interviewer: R&R. Yeah.
BS: And one of them was at [Kyrenia?]. At Kyoto. Beautiful old famous beauty spot in Japan and going back a bit before I was married to Gladys I had a weeks leave up at Kyoto which was very fine indeed. It was up in the American sector actually near Tokyo. Anyway, so Gladys and I went to Koana. This was an absolutely wonderful fortnight and we actually had a week at Koana and a week down in Kobi at a beautiful Japanese house which had been the residence of the Baron Simotomo who had been executed as a war criminal and they’d taken over his old house as one of the leave hostels as it were. So we had the second week of our honeymoon there and it was absolutely fantastic. But the one of the things that you could see was in the distance to the top of Mount Fuji sticking up. You know with this white top. So that was that. Anyway, when it came time to come home I, we came home on a the old Dilwara which was a properly built troop ship and they used to call it the kit badge because they painted the big blue band around. And of course, Gladys came home first class as officer status.
Interviewer: Oh very nice.
BS: Whereas I of course was on the troop deck with the senior NCOs. Second class. So she came home first class and I came home second class and the only time I could see her was on the second class promenade deck. I wasn’t allowed through to the bloody first class either [laughs] Oh dear.
Interviewer: Only the Air Force could do that.
BS: And the thing is we had of course like all ships had OC troops on board. Like all troops had a usually a colonel who sort of late on in years.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: You might say.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: And at one stage she was, poor old Gladys got seasick. She wasn’t a good sailor and I got special treatment from the OC troops to go down to her cabin to give her first aid [laughs] Oh, it was, anyway we stopped off at Singapore and Columbo and we managed to get to shore and spend a bit of time together. BS: Not much though. So the only sort of married life I had was when we got back home to England really. So, but going back to but as 17 and 11 Squadrons on American Independence Day, the 4th of July, isn’t it?
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: We were invited, the whole, both squadrons were invited up to a place called [pause] called [pause] Oh dear. The name’s gone from me for the moment but a big airfield near Tokyo which the Americans had taken over. Kizarizu. Kizarizu. That’s the name of the place. And we were invited up there to help take part in their celebrations you see. As I’ve got pictures of the two squadrons all lined up at Kizarizu. Which I, which I took when I was there. And we had a nice two or three days there really at the Americans are very —
Interviewer: Very hospitable and all that.
BS: Very very hospitable.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: And they had [pause] yes what the hell, oh yes the famous American fighter. Lightnings I think they called them.
Interviewer: P38 was the twin engine.
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: With the tail booms.
BS: That’s right. But before that going back to when I was at Miho the, the New Zealand air force they had corsairs used to land on —
Interviewer: They’re air craft carrier Corsairs yeah.
BS: And I’ve actually worked to service Corsairs as well.
Interviewer: Well, the Royal Navy had them as well of course.
BS: Yeah. That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: Yes. So a corsair. They were nice aircraft. And so anyway so after six weeks we got back to England and of course when we got back to England Gladys the WVS, she had been in the Far East you see and of course when the, when the war ended she was moved up with the occupation forces so she was there before me you see. So anyway got back to England she was, and of course she went across to her home which was at Withernsea, East Yorkshire and I went for debriefing as it were to that place up on the Wirral. An old RAF station there. What was it? I’ve forgotten the name of it now but it was it was a sort of like a distribution place you know where you used to go for debriefing after being overseas and what not.
Interviewer: Before my time.
BS: [unclear] and all that and, yes. And of course, I and then of course I went on disembarkation leave and of course I went across to Gladys’ home in Withernsea on the East Yorkshire coast and for the first time I met her parents. It was ever so funny that. And, but I must say I did enjoy my time in Japan. It was eighteen months or so. It was quite an experience. Oh yes. Another thing I forgot to mention is that when I was at Iwakuni we were very near Hiroshima and I went to Hiroshima several times and I saw it in its devastated stated and all that and going back to that time unfortunately I lost my first wife to cancer. Breast cancer. She contracted it in 1954. ’54, and she died in 1960 and at the time they did wonder if she had picked up radio activity.
Interviewer: Out in Japan.
BS: Yes. Because we went to Hiroshima several times and you know saw it and also saw Nagasaki too at one time. So, anyway but Tokyo also Tokyo was an absolute mess as well. That was bombed to hell.
Interviewer: And did you get any feeling for what the Japanese thought about the war?
BS: The Japanese. Well, typical of the Oriental mind as soon as the Emperor said stop, finished and it was all bowing and cowing. Every time you spoke to the Japanese it was always like this. Even the military. And in fact, I don’t know whether you know it but after the war was finished when we, when we sort of took back Sumatra and Java like that we used the Japanese forces to control all the blooming rebels. They came under our control and we were, we were organising all their troops that were still there and they were as obedient as anything.
Interviewer: They had a very strong sense of leadership.
BS: This was their nature. Very very strong.
Interviewer: Very hierarchical —
BS: Yes. Of course.
Interviewer: Society.
BS: The Japanese on a parade if the officer was just for you to turn around and hit the sergeant, hit a corporal the corporal would pick a private out and give him a thrashing. That’s why we used to hand the can back as I say.
Interviewer: Hand the can back. I haven’t heard that before.
BS: Oh yeah. Hand the can back. Oh yeah. Yeah. Pass the can back yes. Hand the can back. Yeah.
Interviewer: But you enjoyed your time there.
BS: Oh, I enjoyed all my Air Force career. Every bit of it. I had, I didn’t want to leave. The only reason why I left I was over fifty five, late forties when I came out it’s because we were at Wittering and we’d bought a house in Stamford. My son was at Stamford School and of course it’s a very good school.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: Stamford School. And my daughter was coming up for there and so I was due to be posted to Aden or due to be posted abroad And we didn’t want any. I didn’t think Gwen wanted to move, my second wife that is so we decided and I’d had this very good job offered me with PERA at Melton Mowbray so —
Interviewer: As we say it’s a no brainer at that stage probably to—
BS: Well, yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: It was Production Engineering and Research Association and I was offered a job as a senior author there. Of course, with of my technical experience in the RAF.
Interviewer: It was time to leave.
Interviewer: Yeah. The wonderful technical training I had in the Air Force was second to none.
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: And all the way through. You had your basic training but you keep on going on course after course after course.
BS: Again, back to —
Interviewer: I mean courses had six months.
BS: Back to that old training again.
Interviewer: Yes. I mean my electronic training and technical training was second to none when I came out.
BS: Ok. Well, we’ll talk about that in the next session.
Interviewer: Yes.
[recording paused]
BS: Do a quick sort of lead into that really.
Interviewer: Ok. Well, I’m with, I’m still with Bertie Salvage and we’ve gone through the Second World War. We’ve talked a little bit about time after the Second World War and now we’re starting to talk about his —
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: Memories of the V Force and you know —
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: 1954 onwards.
BS: That’s right. Well, just to go back to 1951. I was posted out to Egypt. The Canal Zone. For three years on Deversoir on the Canal. On the Canal, you know.
Interviewer: Did that posting come out of the blue or did you ask for that?
BS: Oh no. That came out the blue because I can always remember when we came back from Japan going through the bloody Suez Canal I looked across at the bleak desert area and all the different military camps and I thought oh God I hope I never get posted here.
Interviewer: Yes. I hear that’s what most people say their first —
BS: I know I was posted out to Deversoir in Egypt. Of course, it was a bit of, a bit of a hammer blow to take but I actually it was quite nice there really. It was right on the edge of the Great Bitter Lake. I was on 249 Squadron. 213, on Vampires. And of course it was my first real, I had worked on Meteors before but it was my first real experience to be working on jet aircraft. They were lovely aircraft, the Vampire.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: Have you ever flown one?
Interviewer: No. No.
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: No.
BS: It took us, anyway so I worked on that and so in 1954 I got posted back to England and after my month’s disembarkation leave I was posted to RAF Gaydon. Never even heard of it before. But Gaydon had been a wartime station which they were re-starting again you know sort of —
Interviewer: They started to put some money into some of the —
BS: It had been held in like a sort of mothball condition.
Interviewer: Care and maintenance.
BS: Care and maintenance. Mothballed. And so they decided to start that off and start that off as as the initial V bomber training station you know. Of course, there would just be the V bombers. What happened was that the Victor, the Vulcan and the Victor were the first ones to be designed but they were going to take a long time to get into, into operations so they decided to as a stop gap to build the Valiant which Vickers had said they could build far quicker for them as a, as a stop gap and really until the Victors and the Vulcans were available. So I was posted to RAF Gaydon as an instructor on the Technical Training School. Of course it was going to be the OCU.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: The aircrew were going to be trained there and also the ground crew people servicing the aircraft you see. So I was posted on to be the instructor on instruments on the, on the Valiant first of all. So of course, when I got there I think the very first Valiant was there. Anyway, I was straightaway sent away on long courses. I had quite a few weeks down at Vickers at Weybridge where they were being made, built there. I went to different other manufacturers of different instruments and things. GPI and Mark 4s, these all sorts.
Interviewer: The navigation equipment on the aeroplane.
BS: Yeah. Yes. And also the NBS bombing system which they used. And so I went on these long courses and I got back to Gaydon eventually and by that time of course I think another sort of couple of others were there or something and we set up the school. And I was in instruments, we had all the other trades, instruments, air frames, armaments you know and so of course I had to straight away set about creating all my instruction notes, my instruction techniques and programmes. All the, when you go in to instructing you have that all to do.
Interviewer: Yes. I remember that. Yes.
BS: Because, [unclear] because you really start to learn other things you know. You really start to realise how much do I know about my job and that sort of thing. And when it came to start teaching of course it was, it was a bit tough at first but I really got into it you know.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: And I got so used to writing up the authorship, authoring my own notes that it I found it very interesting indeed.
Interviewer: And working with the manufacturers is normally quite —
BS: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: You get a lot of job satisfaction if you —
BS: Yeah. I went to Coventry to HSD, Hawker Siddeley Dynamics and everywhere and also to [pause] no that was later on I went to Ferranti when I was on the Blue Steel. So, you know. So, yes you got used to it. I spent quite a month or two I suppose going around different manufacturers. Cheltenham down to —
Interviewer: Smiths.
BS: To Smiths. Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: You know, all sorts of different places. Anyway, of course you collate all this knowledge, put it all together and you know and, and the first day I had to instruct, you know the chaps are sitting there. I thought it was, you know it was quite an experience really.
Interviewer: And what rank are you by now?
BS: I was still a sergeant.
Interviewer: Still a sergeant. Yeah.
BS: Yes. Promotion was a bit slow and anyway I was going to go for the chief tech which I got a bit later on.
Interviewer: And what was living I mean England was still rationing going on in this period.
BS: Yeah, so what happened was when I first went to Gaydon of course there were no married quarters so they said to us go and find yourself a hiring somewhere and we’ll take it on. So I looked around South Warwickshire. I don’t know whether you know South Warwickshire. It’s a lovely county.
Interviewer: Not really. It’s a nice part of the world though, isn’t it?
BS: [unclear] and all down Stratford Upon Avon. All down that way because we were near Stratford you see and so I found myself a little —
Interviewer: This was before the M40 of course.
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: I found myself a little village called, down near Moreton in the Marsh called called Brailes and I found a little tiny cottage there. A country cottage. And so I moved Gladys down there, my wife with, who had our first boy then, our son by then. She was also, no she had got the two boys by then. We had two sons. So she came and so I was living out. It was about twelve miles away from there so I used to go in and backwards and forwards to Gaydon every day. So we were living in married and they started to build married quarters but they weren’t going to be ready for another year you see. So, so that went on really and of course getting to know the aircraft better and the chaps coming through. It used to be a fortnight, two weeks course or two or three weeks and then would be about a week and then have another lot come in then.
Interviewer: And is National Service still going on at this stage?
BS: And I’m going to say this, oh yes, National Service run to 1960 ’61. So National Service but what impressed me was a lot of national service chaps coming through HN, Higher National Certificate. Well trained chaps.
Interviewer: Chaps that decided to join the Air Force rather than —
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: And they were a two year commitment were they?
BS: The two year commitment.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: But they were most interesting to teach because they were so receptive. I bet you could tell them something they’d know straightaway through their engineering background. They were a joy to teach really you know. They were so good. It’s like it was during the war of course where they had all these skilled people in from outside and —
Interviewer: The interesting thing to me if people joined on a two year National Service if they spent a year or eighteen months training they would be only be productive for six months.
BS: Oh, I know. That’s right. Well, they used to spend about six months training I suppose up to the basic mechanics but I’d get these chaps in and you know they were highly really highly qualified.
Interviewer: And of course, in the early 50s of course, there was a massive expansion of the Air Force because of Korea.
BS: Oh yes. That’s right.
Interviewer: And a lot of training schools were set up then.
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: A lot of aircrew were pumped through.
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: And obviously there would have been all the Meteor training outfits.
BS: That’s right. Yes. So I was at, I was at Leconfield when the Korean War was on and we sent aircraft. Oh yes, when I was at Gaydon the Suez Crisis erupted.
Interviewer: ’56.
BS: Well, because I’d just come back from Suez only the previous year.
Oh, of course. Yes.
BS: And I was, I got we went through quite a lot of trouble out there with it before it fully broke out really. You know had a lot of trouble really. Anyway, but the Suez Crisis broke out and of course we had to get involved in that and we sent two or three Valiants out there with bombed up and ready to go and you know.
Interviewer: They went to Malta, didn’t they?
BS: They went to Malta.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: Yes. The service sort of evolved in that. So after, oh about 1957 or thereabouts we had the first Victors and so yes I also went then. I went on. I was taken off and went on the quite a few [unclear] of course to Handley Page at Radlett and did the Victor. On the Victor. So when I came back I was trained up on the Victor but what happened was that because it was a bit of a struggle to teach on two aircraft like that because we still had the Valiants there. A few Valiants. They had another chap come in to supplement me to, you know on the Victor so I did a bit of teaching on the Victor but this other guy sort of did more and more of that really on the actual instrumentation side. So I still sort of really concentrated on the Valiant. But I did, when he was away I used to do the Victor as well you know. So but very similar the systems really you know. Particularly the NBS system and the navigation equipment and everything else and basically the flying was pretty much it was just the layouts and things. But general principles were the same. So it was all very interesting though while I was there. So I suppose do you want me to go on from there?
Interviewer: Yeah, I just wondered, you know —
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: So how long did you stay on at Gaydon?
BS: Sorry?
Interviewer: How long did you spend at Gaydon then?
BS: At Gaydon, I was, what happened was when I was at Gaydon unfortunately while I was there my first wife contracted cancer and she was given basically first of all two years to live then she actually lived for five so although I was really screened on this instructing job. It was how shall I put it? More heavily emphasised that I was screened because of Gladys’ illnesses.
Interviewer: Yeah. Domestic situation. Yeah.
BS: And through that time I was put up for a branch commission in the engineering branch but I had to turn it down because I couldn’t leave my wife, you see.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
BS: So that, so that was that but anyway that didn’t matter. So that was that so, and then, so she died in 1960 and eventually I left in 1962. I was posted to RAF Newton. Not got posted but I was despatched there on the Skybolt course because I was designated. Because of my experience of technical you know side of thing they decreed that I should go on the Skybolt.
Interviewer: They needed someone to bring Skybolt into service.
BS: So I went to Newton for six months. I’d all the instrumentation electronic side of control and guidance of the Skybolt missile.
Interviewer: And did you get out to America?
BS: No.
Interviewer: During that time.
BS: Unfortunately, I got back to Gaydon and we were given a couple of weeks to pack up and we’d packed up almost with a few, well with a week I think of going to America. My wife was, well the whole family was going to go together to Denver in Colorado and then after that we were going to go down to Florida to Eginton or Eglington.
Interviewer: Eglin.
BS: Eglin.
Interviewer: Not Elgin. Eglin.
BS: We had to go to Eglin.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: Down on the Caribbean.
Interviewer: On the —
BS: Yes. Where we were —
Interviewer: The Florida coast.
BS: Two years and got fully Skybolt trained to come but a week or two before they decided to ditch Skybolt in favour of the Polaris for the submarine as a strategic missile.
Interviewer: Well, my understanding is Skybolt isn’t doing very well and —
BS: Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: JFK met with Macmillan.
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: And —
BS: Yeah. That’s right.
Interviewer: JFK offered, the Americans offered to give the Brits the chance to develop it and, and Macmillan thought the best way out of that was to buy Polaris instead.
BS: That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: Which JFK agreed to.
BS: Yes. So that’s why I didn’t go. So that, so that was that finished. So of course I was then it was a few weeks in. I was a chief technician by this time well I had been for a flight sergeant. Anyway, so I think because of my Skybolt experience they decided that I should go to Blue Steel.
Interviewer: Quite logical. Yes.
BS: Yes, so because of my, so back I went to Newton and because I’d already done the Skybolt six months I was spared the initial training on Blue Steel because it was still the basic sort of training on electronics you see.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: So I went back to Newton for three months on the Blue Steel system itself. So I went back in, that was 1963 and I went back until March 1964 or March or April of ’64. So I learned all the, when I was involved on Blue Steel what was the control, the guidance system. The inertial navigation system, the control system which was the gyro control like auto pilot.
Interviewer: You had an inertia navigator didn’t it?
BS: Oh yes. Yeah, I did, I had to go to Ferrantis for that, you know. And also the flight rules computer. I was involved with all this, that [unclear] on that so I was really fully technically trained on the control and guidance system of the Blue System. I don’t think there’s many people left.
Interviewer: Just a handful I think probably that remember it.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: In any details.
BS: Anyway, so that was very interestingly and fantastically the courses I went on what you learned.
Interviewer: Who built the missile Blue Steel? Do you remember?
BS: It was HSD, Coventry.
Interviewer: Oh, Hawker Siddeley. Yeah.
BS: Yes. So, we went across there again as well. So, so I went back to Newton for that and eventually then I got posted to, well it was either Scampton or Wittering. We didn’t know. Anyway, I was, I was posted to Scampton, to Wittering. But of course, all the time I was at Wittering we had this strong liaison with Waddington with, with Scampton.
Interviewer: Scampton.
BS: Because I mean the systems on the two were, the Blue Steels were identical really. I mean —
Interviewer: A missile is identical it’s just —
BS: A missile. Yes.
Interviewer: It’s just a question of how it plugged in to the aeroplane.
BS: That’s right. Yes. But so when I went to Wittering they had built a huge new hangar there with all the servicing workshops and offices. Administrative parts and also the HTP as you called it.
Interviewer: High test peroxide.
BS: Yeah. The —
Interviewer: The Gin Palace.
BS: The Gin Palace. Yes. That was right next to the hangar and they were closely associated so I was straightway when I went to Wittering I was put in the, they had a, you know the laboratories and the calibration rooms of the workshops for the controls guidance systems. And so I was put in, I was put in charge of that really and you know obviously had staff who would be trained up like me but so for several, a year or two I was involved in the service and maintenance of the systems going on the missile.
Interviewer: And can you remember any test firings and things like that?
BS: Well, yes. I didn’t actually. I think they took off from the Welsh coast didn’t they?
Interviewer: They would have fired probably some in the Aberporth range.
BS: Yeah. The Aberporth ranges. Yes.
Interviewer: Yeah but —
BS: But I never went over there. Some people did but I never got in because I was involved in the, in the servicing.
Interviewer: Servicing.
BS: Testing and calibration of the systems really, you know.
Interviewer: And it was quite a complicated piece of kit, was it? My understanding was that you had to align the inertial and fly [unclear] and then —
BS: Oh lord. Oh yes. Yes. You did. Yes. You did all that and of course we had in the iron department as we called it we had a higher complex system of calibration instruments to land the [tryoscopic] the brake hold, brake control charge had to be absolutely perfectly set up and [unclear] you know you set that with the oscilloscopes and that sort of thing and the Flight Rules Computer, the FRC, what happened was that the, the Blue Steel would be dropped from about forty thousand feet. The motor would kick in, climb up to about sixty thousand, fly for about two hundred miles, then freefall on the target. That was the [pause] Now as soon as it was launched they got up to altitude then the control system would fit in, it would click in to the control and guide the thing directed by the Flight Rules Computer which was the FRC. So the computer would take it to target with the controls being functioned by the control system provided.
Interviewer: And Ferranti I presume did all the, did that part of the —
BS: That’s right. Yes. Yes, it’s from the [INC] to the FRC to the control system and they did. Everything would lock off at a certain point and it would just freefall on to target. That’s the, that was the theory. But so all three were closely combined really. [INC[ IN, THE FRC, the control system.
Interviewer: And how did they get on regarding the aeroplane and guiding the missile when it was loaded with its, with the weapon?
BS: Well, I’ve been, well let’s put it this way I never actually went out to the, out of the QRA system. What happened was that there used to be at least one, perhaps sometimes two at the end of the runway. Quick Retaliation Aircraft they called it. The QRA. And there was always an aircraft, one or two out there all the time.
Interviewer: Loaded up and ready to go.
BS: And the crew on board as well. Ready to go within minutes you know. To take off and there would have been a guard out there I assume. I never actually went out there.
Interviewer: So if you had to service the missile —
BS: Oh yes.
Interviewer: The warhead would be taken off.
BS: Oh lord, yes. Well, I was all the time you never did any servicing unless the missile was actually in the hangar. Not to the point of its control system. Oh yes. They’d take the pod out and then they’d bring the missile in. The pod was put in, you know —
Interviewer: So the warhead was called the pod, was it?
BS: The pod.
Interviewer: Ok.
BS: The pod, yeah. I saw several. Well, I saw. I never had anything to do with them but I mean they used to keep we had the bomb dump at Wittering. It’s still there I think.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
BS: The Navy used to, the Navy used it.
Interviewer: Well, the bomb dump at Wittering was used, you know.
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: It was the first bomb dump for the first nuclear weapons.
BS: I think it’s still functioning is it? They, I think they were —
Interviewer: I’m not too sure what it’s used for now.
BS: I think I’ve seen Navy vehicles going in there. Yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah. Quite possibly being used as a storage area.
BS: Yes. Yeah. Oh yes. Yes. It was. I never actually went in it but I, you know, I know where it was [unclear] but I never actually went inside but yes they used to. There was a lot of, a lot of fuss when they used to be loading them up with the pod you know but that was quite, and then of course as I was saying what [pause] what was it? About 1967 or thereabouts they decided that they wanted more people to come into the system. Technicians you know. And they decided to set up the Blue Steel Training School. Technical Training School at Wittering. In the Blue Steel hangar. And I was appointed, because of my instructing experience, my vast experience they asked me to set it up and run it as as organiser and also to instruct myself as a flight sergeant at this time. Instruct. Instruct. Instruct on it you see as well as organise all the other trades. So we, we, we have this scheme running. We used to have them in for about a week or two and teach them the systems, you know. So I was running that, the Technical Training School there because of my experience.
Interviewer: And did that do that do, that did all the training for Blue Steel so chaps would come down from Scampton and to do the course with you.
BS: Well, I think Scampton had, I think they must have had their own scheme because I don’t remember people coming from Scampton. I think they had their own scheme running up there. I’m pretty sure because I was just really involved with those coming into Wittering really. But I’m sure they must have done. So I was heavily involved with that. So you see my experience is very deep on the technical side on the ring of steel.
Interviewer: The thing that appeals to me is the fact that you started on learning your trade back in 1939.
BS: That’s right. Yes.
Interviewer: And here we are thirty years on.
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: Still using the basics of electrics.
BS: Oh, that’s right.
Interviewer: But applying it into a much more modern system.
BS: Oh, [unclear] all, I mean I didn’t know a thing about electronics and a finite mechanism you know and the correlation between the two mechanics to electrics and backwards and forwards. You know what I mean.
Interviewer: The beginning of digital computing.
BS: The transfers, oh yes. Oh yes. That was a appealing. The FRC was. Of course, it was all sort of transistors then. You know, transistor technology. So, you know and, and of course, you know apart from being taught you learn a lot through reading too. You know, it’s all —
Interviewer: And you must have seen a terrific change in the Air Force to have gone from the Second World War.
BS: Oh, right through.
Interviewer: To the time of Korea.
BS: Oh yes.
Interviewer: And conscription still going on.
BS: Listen, this is about me. I think —
Interviewer: National Service.
BS: I went through the most fascinating period really right through to, you know from basic things like this blooming Valentia.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: To —
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: To, to V bombers, you know. And of course, at Cosford they have the, the Cold War hangar there.
Interviewer: They do, yes. Yeah.
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: I’ve been just the once.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: And I must go again.
BS: Yes, I, pardon?
Interviewer: I’ve just been the once and I must go again.
BS: Yeah, well you see my daughter lives at Lichfield so it’s only just a stone’s throw from there so when I go, I’ve been once or twice you know. She takes me there. Yes and of course they’ve got a Blue Steel there. And I’ll tell you where else I saw Blue Steel. Out at Newark. You know out at Newark.
Interviewer: At the Air Museum.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: I think there’s one.
BS: I found it a pretty tatty when I went down.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: [unclear]
Interviewer: That’s the problem with museums. They get things in quite bad condition sometimes.
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: And they have to allocate them time.
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: To renovate them.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: And bring them up to —
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: Their former glory.
BS: And the amazing thing is, or the sad thing is that there’s only one Valiant and that’s at Cosford. That’s the only one. The only is one that is in existence now.
Interviewer: Well, the problem with you know the large aeroplanes is that if you leave them out in the open —
BS: Oh aye, well —
Interviewer: They rot very quickly.
BS: They do.
Interviewer: So I know the Irish museum —
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: Say they have a problem with big aeroplanes.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: They just don’t have the room for them all.
BS: No. No.
Interviewer: And they’re wondering when the TriStar retires.
BS: That’s right.
Interviewer: Where they’re going to have space to put one of those.
BS: Yes. Yes. So you know so when the Blue Steel they decided to start phasing about ’69 ’70. I just stayed on for a bit longer then I decided to retire from the Air Force.
Interviewer: Time for pastures new.
BS: Didn’t really want to go but I was really, circumstances made it. But fortunately, I went in to a very very good job at PERA and of course [pause] do you want me to go on?
Interviewer: Yes. Keep going.
BS: When I went to PERA at Melton Mowbray I don’t know whether you know or have heard of it.
Interviewer: No, I’ve not heard of them.
BS: Production Engineering and Research Association. They trouble shoot for the engineering industry. They’ve experts in every field.
Interviewer: And did, did they approach you or did you hear about it?
BS: No. I heard about them so I approached them and they wanted to interview me and I got the job before I left the Air Force.
Interviewer: Fabulous.
BS: Yeah. So that was it. So I, they have this, all these different departments for troubleshoot. Expert top engineers and you know —
Interviewer: Sounds a fantastic organisation.
BS: These particularly the machine tool industry would send people there on courses and they would have experts from PERA go to different factories to give them advice on production engineering.
Interviewer: Sounds fantastic.
BS: So they always had this large technical authorship department as well which they write up handbooks for different industries you know. So I applied but of course because of my RAF experience they had a contract. They had a contract with the Admiralty.
Interviewer: Right.
BS: To write up the manuals for the nuclear submarines at Barrow. So I was sent up to bloody Barrow in Furness on this contract. I was on HMS Churchill for months writing up the control systems on the nuclear submarines of the of the CO2 scrubber systems. You know the air is scrubbed clean and it’s ejected into the deep water to leave the oxygen to go back into the, into the hull. You know. And I wrote up all these you see because of my experience. But you know so that was a very fascinating really. So, so anyway after a couple of years I one of the member firms was a firm called Newall Engineering Group at Peterborough here. They wrote, they produced these, these very very sophisticated machine tools. Grinders and jig borers and things like that for the machine tool for the mainly for the automotive industry. You know, car factories. So they were a member firm of PERA and they were looking for a, and we used to write books for them. But they wanted their own chief author you see. So I applied and I got the job. I wanted to come nearer home.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: I was so fed up with —
Interviewer: Yes. Yeah, you get —
BS: Yeah.
Interviewer: Commuting gets a bit wearing.
BS: That’s right. It’s interesting but you know.
Interviewer: No I thought —
BS: So I thought I would come so it was a very very good job and I’d be my own boss there you know and [unclear] so I went to PERA. I went to —
Interviewer: Right.
BS: Newalls at Peterborough and I had to really convert my mind but using basic engineering knowledge to these highly sophisticated machine tools. Jig borers and high speed grinders which used to grind crank shafts and [cannon] shafts. And that was fascinating because you use your basic engineering knowledge. Although I didn’t know anything about them you still get through.
Interviewer: Yeah, its —
BS: You, you have to spend all the time in the drawing office with them and the designers. The people and really pick their brains really.
Interviewer: But if you’d been trained well in the first place it’s not difficult —
BS: Oh no.
Interviewer: To pick up something new is it?
BS: No. No. Not at all.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: And the idea being that you were, you could have this information, collate it write it in a presentable form you know people could read and understand, take it back and do you understand? Can you read it? And they would make, they would criticise.
Interviewer: Yeah.
BS: You know so you —
Interviewer: Critique.
BS: So that’s right so then you produce the complete manual. The interesting thing was that we supplied the machines all over the world to, to China, to, to Russia, to, to Sweden, to France to, you know all sorts of places we sold machines to, particularly Russia.
Interviewer: Did you get to travel there?
BS: Oh no. I didn’t unfortunately.
Interviewer: No.
BS: But my books of course had to be translated in to the —
Interviewer: The native language.
BS: Exactly. So as soon as I had produced a manual for machines that were going somewhere I had to get it and I had to go to the translator, we used to translate it in London. I used to go down to the translators, get the books translated, bring it back and then all us engineers used to come across you know to check the machines before going to the different countries. And they’d want to read the manual so you had to give them the manual in their language for to see if they understood you know and usually you know they went down pretty well really. And the thing is that trans, technical translation is not like ordinary translation it has to be done by A — a national of the country concerned which was just going plus the fact it has to be an engineer.
Interviewer: Yes. You’ve got it. Yes.
BS: So you’ve got to have the two. There’s no good getting a chap whose learned Russian or French to do it.
Interviewer: Yes.
BS: It’s got to be a national of the country concerned.
Interviewer: Have you ever read any books, manuals on Japanese hifi you’ll know.
BS: Oh, I know.
Interviewer: It says press button B to —
BS: In my experience I’m, oh I’m very critical of that. Very critical. So that was that really. So —
Interviewer: Well, very well. Thanks for telling me about your, a little bit of time about your time after you left the Air Force.
BS: Yes.
Interviewer: Thank you.
BS: Yeah.


This Interview was recorded by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire., “Interview with Bertie Salvage,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 24, 2024,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.