Interview with Eric Haynes


Interview with Eric Haynes


He served at the Marine Aircraft Research Establishment





01:07:35 audio recording


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This is Eric Haynes speaking. Born Bromley, Kent the 25th of June 1919. Joined the RAF VR on the 4th of the 9th 1939 as a photographer. Number 910552. Now, aged ninety six. Mustered 3rd of the 1st 1940. Changed from photographer to service police. Initial training Morecambe. Posted RAF Cosford 9th 2nd 1940. Police HQ Uxbridge 12th of the 7th 1940. Police course number 145. Posted 7 FTS Peterborough the 24th of the 8th 1940. Unit changed to 13 EFTS 9.1.’41. Further change the 25th Polish EFTS on the 1st of June 1941. Remustered posted to Corsewall the 24th of the 8th 1942. NBC course 132. Stranraer the 5th of the 12th 1942. Posted back to Corsewall on the 5th of the 7th 1942. The second to last coxswains course. Posted to Helensburgh the 28th of the 8th 1943. Went on detachment to Balloch, Loch Lomond the 3rd of the 1st 1944, IC detachment. Seaplane tender 384. Helensburgh MAEE 21st of the 8th ’44 to the 9th the 9th ’44. Balloch returned 9th of the 10th 1944. Moved to Helensburgh in July 1945. Coxswain pinnace 84. Discharged 28th of the 1st 1946. Was deckhand on a whole range of boats and flying units. Flying Boat units. Coxswain. Sea Plane Tender 384 built by [unclear] marine. Later the pinnace either 68 or 84. I’m not sure of the number at Felixstowe. When I reported to Uxbridge in January ’40 there was said to be no vacancy at the Photo School. Would I go on the police? I said yes. A big mistake. Medical, kitted out, learned to salute, off to Morecambe for initial training. The train was snowed up on the way with two hundred recruits on board. Army sent to dig us out. Brylcreem boys. Six weeks initial training in the snow and ice. Posted to RAF Cosford u/t police. Selected to be a wing commander for full station parade in front of the King George VI to open the Fulton block. A new state of the art design in barrack construction. The King arrived via royal train into Cosford’s own railway station. The station was at the centre of receiving a large number of airmen from France prior to Dunkirk. Later a large number of French airmen. Having schoolboy French was pressed into help record the French. The officers had a large amount of French currency which was taken away under armed guard to Wolverhampton to add to De Gaulle’s Free French movement. July to Uxbridge six weeks police course 145. Posted 7FTS Peterborough. Billeted out. The camp accommodation was full. They were enroute to Canada. Promoted to acting corporal. Soon after arrival a Fairey Battle nosedived out of control near the guardroom killing the pilot. The first Christmas now in camp. A new unit. 13 EFTS. Officers served the men. WAAFs were not allowed to sit with the men. They sat with the sergeants. Hated gate duty. Hawker biplanes and Fairey Battles were gone. In came large numbers of Tiger Moths and a hundred or so u/t pilots. Collecting airmen absent without leave I did not mind travelling Scotland and Ireland etcetera. On one occasion had to visit Aldergrove in Northern Ireland with two days spare. Sergeant police said he was going to Nutts Corner. ‘Want to come?’ ‘Yes.’ Arrived, saw what looked like several hundred Irish navvies with wheelbarrows and spades levelling the ground for the runway. No bulldozer. Looked like some film scene. Slaves building the pyramids. June ’41 EFTS moved out and in came 25 Polish EFTS and Polish 7 AFU. Many camp services were made civilian and under contract to de Havillands with British officers. With the London bombing shows Peterborough theatre had its share of shows. It became routine for sergeants to entertain the chorus girls on a Saturday night and the leading stars to the Officer’s Mess. New SWO took exception. Raid one night. Service police outside. Sergeant quarters suddenly exit a large number of scantily dressed ladies directed to a coach back to their hotel. Sergeants paraded on Monday and received a ticking off. Decided to have a go at getting off the police. Always interested in watches and clocks. Made a study, acquired some knowledge and skill of repairing. Had a chat with the engineering officer. He said it was a hard job without going to the school. Arranged for me to work in the instrument section in my off duty times. Corporal IC very helpful. Lent me his course books. Went with him to do DIs, daily inspections. One problem. The Tiger Moth did not have autopilot but he convinced me you wouldn’t get a question on that in Group 2 but I did not, I did read about it in his notes. Trade test board at Halton. The first question — “Describe DI on autopilot. Must answer.” Did my best never having seen an autopilot. Officer interview. ‘You have done well. All questions bar one which is a must answer so I can’t pass you.’ Explained we only have Tiger Moths. He said, ‘See if I can get you experience on another unit.’ But never did. My sergeant said, ‘Hard luck.’ Tip keep a weathered every day on DROs. Early 1942, July ’42 appeared on DROs, “Any airmen with small boat experience apply for transfer to motorboat crew.” Thinks I have sailed a few times Isle of Wight, fished at Herne Bay, knew the pointed end from the blunt end. Applies. Adjutant approves. Within three days posted to Corsewall. Kirkcolm. Orderly room finds [unclear] Hands over revolver. Last night out with a WAAF lady friend, early breakfast, off to Kirkcolm. Booked in, found a bed for the night. Parade in the morning with other new arrivals. MBC course starts in two weeks. Spent time felling trees. Six weeks course rowing, flags, pumps, semaphore, knots etcetera. Passed. Seven days leave. The fourth day policeman arrives at home door. Envelope. Sign. Opens. Posted RAF Stranraer. Rail warrant. Letter note to say demoted from acting corporal to LAC. Returned [pause] return at once. Arrive Stranraer. How’s the camp? Workshop, stores etcetera were commandeered buildings. Booked in. The following morning to tailors. Remove stripes. On with the brand new LAC badges. Reports to Marine Section on PO. Sergeant Woods looks at me. Nice new LAC badge with the marks where the stripes had been but asks no questions. Have to get you kitted out. Oilskins. Sou’wester etcetera. Work on any boat as detailed. Duty crew about once a week. Very short handed. On crash tender tomorrow with Corporal Pengelly. A handsome lad chased by the WAAFs. Ex-longshoreman. I was to learn a lot from him. A month later worked and every type of boat, a marine tender, a refueller, [unclear] sea plane tender and pinnace. The last Flying Boat had left and in came new Sunderlands and Catalinas. Weather very bad. Constantly cold and wet. One morning on parade could see red verey lights going up over the harbour. Sergeant ordered us to break ranks and double to the harbour finding all duty crew out. ST towing a Sunderland. A marine tender trying to tow a Catalina with difficulty. Another Sunderland and a Catalina adrift. All hands out with other boats. Cat was beached in the harbour before we could reach it. The Sunderland had a damaged float and filled with water. Taken in tow but capsized before we could beach it and sunk. All [unclear] crews were saved. A few days later SOS from Wig Bay. Sunderland arriving soon. Has been shot at. Requires immediate slipping. ST and two marine tenders sent. Sunderland lands, taxis to slip, marine tenders turn it around, tail trolley fixed followed by legs, up slip. A lot of water in even though the crew had plugged many of the holes. One injury on board. Waiting ambulance. With the marine team work safely slipped. Following Catalina arriving after dark. Patrol. Low cloud. Circles around times unable to see the flare path. Gets lower, runs into a nearby hill, catches fire, all crew lost. Everybody very quiet. Sunderland from Wig Bay on the 3rd of the 2nd ’43 lost power on all four engines. Believed twenty on board. Ditched off Ailsa Craig. The only injury the MO taken ashore by the Girvan Lifeboat. The rest picked up by our pinnace. Harbour is on ST but we hit a big wave at the exit of Loch Ryan. Stove in the clear view. Coxswain decides to return to Stranraer. The pinnace later returns with crew and passengers, cold and seasick but otherwise ok. Later a Catalina lost a propeller while taxiing, hits the cockpit and kills the New Zealand pilot. A serious event followed. Most hands had gone to launch, lunch. Sergeant Woods plus two hands on duty crew responded to urgent request to refuel a Catalina. Refuels Cat. Hoses returned and stowed. Sergeant presses the buttons to start main engines. Explosion. Fire in the engine compartment. Activates all fire station systems, throws in more extinguishers gets burned face and hands. Explosion blew a hatch off the engine compartment knocked one hand overboard which we recovered. Fire extinguished. Sergeant Woods rushed ashore. Catalina picked and been cut adrift, taken in tow, put on new buoy. Woods was hospitalised, recovered, commissioned. Never came back to unit. What I did not know Woods had recommended me for a second class coxswain’s course so off to Corsewell again. Engines, navigation, first aid, Morse, guns. Passed. Posted at Marine Aircraft Establishment at Helensburgh. One old sweats said, ‘Lucky sod.’ Helensburgh station was actually at Rhu, entrance to the Gare Loch. Arrives to find no marine CO. Being run by two corporal first class coxswains. Very short of MBCs and coxswains due to overseas posting. Full assortment of aircraft. the first Sunderland built prototype K4774 worked to support evaluation and testing and development of anything to do with aerial warfare, rescue etcetera. Group Captain Webster CO, of Schneider Trophy Fame. A highly skilled pilot. Did not seem to have a lot of time for the Marine Section. Queen Mary and Elizabeth were often in the Clyde bringing in US troops. Group Captain Webster seemed to know officers on board ships. When they were in he would order a CT, ST to take him out to the ship. And as climbing on board departing order, ‘Hang on cox, I shan’t be long.’ Two to three hours later a parcel brought by a seaman to the gangway and the group captain followed. I never did find out what was in the parcel. Goodies I suppose. Contraband I guess. My first job at Rhu was to get a disused fire float in service. Two days with a green MBC and engineer who had never seen a Meadows engine before or the Coventry Climax engine and pump. Got all working, cleaned up, trial run. Coxswain Corporal Ramsey came down to look and let it be known that he had no experience of a fire float. WO Ritchie a regular marine coxswain arrives to be our marine CO. Turned out to be very good. Two coxswain first classes were promoted to sergeants. Myself and another LAC Cox promoted to corporal. Ritchie took me off the fire float and made coxswain of ST384. A Brook Marine built boat. SD369 was handed over to Corporal Andy Macmillan. Ritchie posted, set about extending our knowledge. First was navigation and tuition. Duty coxswain every five days. Due to run it in between we were expected to do communication work on the Clyde. Transport scientific officers and photographers to testing. Testing venues. A catamaran boat arrived powered by two Napier Sea Lion engines and a propeller unit underneath the hold but could be revolved to drive the boat in any direction. All coxswains to have a go. Write a feasibility report. The vibration caused by a leak nearly sunk the boat one night. Marine crew called out. The boat slipped. Never went in the water again. Designed by Pemberton Billing a very early pilot, ex-MP, racing car ace. Engines engineer’s workshop had been commandeered from a local Scot and he in return did some rigging work for us and was allowed on the beach. Spotted Christmas Eve covering up something with seaweed. As soon as he had gone one of the lads walked down to see what was under the seaweed. Observed waving a bottle in the air. Others went down to see what. A large crate, jammed inside was several bottles of Canadian rye whisky. Takes all out bar one. One for now, one for tonight’s duty crew, one for tomorrow’s crew, one for Ritchie who liked a drop. All very happy. Boxing morning after breakfast I was sitting on my bed. Service police arrived. ‘Corporal. You’re wanted on the phone.’ Ritchie calling, ‘Grab your coat. A car is coming down for you to take you to the Marine Office.’ Arrived to find Ritchie and Squadron Leader Hobley. Hobley straight away says, ‘I understand you have been around Loch Lomond.’ ‘Yes sir.’ Thinking, what next? ‘We have to have some marine support there. WO Ritchie will fill you in,’ and departs. Ritchie says, ‘You have to take 384 and a crew up the Clyde to Dumbarton. Be lifted out. Road to transport. Transport to Balloch. Launch in the River Leven into Loch Lomond. You may have to live on board for a while. Ritchie I knew had taken a pinnace to the Faroes early on and knew the drill. Pots, bedding, rations, mooring anchor, extra fuel, spares, tools, binoculars, hand bearing compass. Twenty four hours to prepare. Off tomorrow. Dumbarton. Denny’s Boatyard. Marine MU. Lifted out. Staff worked all night and refiled the bottom. Back to Rhu. Packed our kits. Early morning transport to Balloch. Ritchie, with Ritchie arrives to see crane in position and an ST arriving. Group Captain Burley in charge. Climb on board the ST, lifted and placed in the river which was in full flood following fast. Flowing fast. Starts engines. Lifting gear released and slowly up the river to the loch. Twice up on the station steel pier. Makes contact with Captain MacDonald, captain of the Prince Edward, the larger of the two paddle steamers and in charge. Captain showed me his chart of Loch Lomond. Got [unclear] number. Mentioned a hut on the pier belonging to the Navy not used. Could use that. Could use the walk-in pier for a slipway. Got organised for a meal at night. Very cold. No heating on the seaplane tender. Only two Bunsen burners for limited cooking. First night on board up early to get warm. Breakfast. Just cleared up when Ritchie arrives with a lot more gear. Gave him a chart number, mentioned the hut, thought it was a good idea. Left me to organise. I went with him to the police station. One room in a house, sergeant and two constables. Ritchie makes an arrangement for me to use their phone as a secure line to Rhu. Hands over [unclear] form. The police are good. Arrange a four bed cubicle in a government hostel for workers of the [unclear] victualling yard. One more cold night and then the hostel. Warm. Hot shower. Breakfast and evening meal. Lunch on board with our rations. Ritchie had brought over six Brown’s rescue dinghies. Rope, [unclear] There was a scrap of paper with a very rough sketch of the lower end of Loch Lomond with Inchmurrin, the large island marked. A line of dinghies a hundred yards apart parallel with the island. Do the first trial this afternoon if possible. Could we have a bicycle? Yes. First dinghy mooring we found the water a lot deeper than Ritchie imagined. Urgent request for double amount of mooring line. Fourth day on bicycle set about mooring all the dinghies. Later gets on bicycle to the [unclear] torpedo works at Alexandria. Finds an officer on a [unclear] and request use of hut. He was curious why only a corporal was negotiating. Explained I was corporal IC on detachment doing some work on Loch Lomond. Hands me the keys. ‘Get your officer to confirm the request.’ Passed on a message to WO Ritchie. He came with more rations and pay, inspected the mooring. More dinghies. Said, ‘Phone Rhu each morning at 08:00 hours for orders.’ Soon orders came. ‘Be ready tomorrow. Receive scientific officers and two photographers at 08:00 hours. Get positioned a hundred and fifty yards to the left of the first dinghy.’ Positioned early. A Walrus flies over. Pilot waves and disappears. Ten hours, 10:00 hours appears low, flies around, comes in from a higher position, dives, levels out and drops an unarmed bomb. Goes straight into the water and disappears. Boffin gives the thumbs down sign. Second bomb gives one big bounce and heads in our direction so move boat further away from the line of dinghies. Third and fourth do exactly what was required. They hit the water and bounced twice before dropping in. One photographer had been put ashore so that action was filmed from two angles. Boffins said, ‘We will have to make some changes to the fins. Back shortly.’ One boffin was James Hamilton. Straight from university. The boffins had an argument as to what formula to use to ascertain the speed of the bomb forward on entering the water. Many years later my sharp eyed brother noticed in the obituary in the Times, Sir James Hamilton, noted aeronautical engineer specialised in wing design. Joined Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment 1943. Felt sorry for our one photographer we put on shore at Inchmurrin for a couple of hours and it was very cold. We rode him back in a dinghy and he had a job to get back in to the ST. We revived him with hot tea, wrapped him in our blankets and he revived. The wireless operator, LAC Evans had now joined the crew. Supplied with steel hooks. The next job to recover anti-submarine bombs, testing the fuses we were [pause] which were activated for various depths. A further device to make bomb float afterwards. Quite a number of flights and all bombs were recovered. Next aircrew searching for ditched aircrews in Norwegian waters were having difficulty in communicating plan with the, with the searching aircraft. The plan was to fly kites near Ben Lomond, transmit a signal, aircraft would fly over and measure the signal strength. The boffin had difficulty with the kites. Several attempts with different kites. On one occasion waited all day for aircraft to come over. We had wireless silence. Unbeknown to us it was D-Day. Overruled the boffin. Crossed over the Loch to Luss. Found the police station in the village and phoned Rhu. Found that the aircraft was u/s and was grounded at Prestwick. End of project. Abrahams, our new group captain decided time for relaxation on the unit. More sport and a day out for a coach and a lorry load of airmen and WAAFs. So Inverbeg, north end of Loch Lomond. ST384 to take party of mainly WAAFs among them LAWC Lily Hall, an Officer’s Mess steward I was later to marry. A good day was had by all. Picnic from the cookhouse. Beer from the NAAFI. Cricket match, HQ versus the Marine Section. The next job attempt to fly a radio controlled scale model of SRA1, a jet propelled fighter Flying Boat. Model had been made rocket propelled. The rocket never gave enough power to take off. CO Abrahams had flown over in a Walrus, landed and tied up to the stern of the ST384. He only had one crew to restart the engine. It takes two men. Borrows my engineer to start Walrus. I proceed at nearly full speed. Walrus taxis up behind and Bob the engineer jumps to the stern of the ST384 very white faced. Others grab Bob. I go to port. Walrus goes to starboard. Bob recovers from his flight and the boffins go back to Farnborough to think. We had some propeller problem. Side of boat damage as well. Lifted the bombs. Ritchie enquired could we use the railway slip trolley to lift 384 out? Carry out repairs. Introduced WO Ritchie to Captain Macdonald who said, ‘It’s very expensive.’ Have to raise steam with the winch house to move the trolley. Designed to slip a thousand ton ship. ST only eight tons. Gives address for the invoice and we are hauled out. Carpenters arrive. Engineer could not remove prop, thinks about the same size as a torpedo propeller. On my bike to Alexandria works to see my friend the RN officer. Explains problem. In ten minutes have a three leg prong drawer and back to Balloch. Remove prop in a few minutes and back to Alexandra with the drawer and thanks. While 384 was up the slip the weather turned bad. Rain and thunder. In the hostel one evening a visit from the police. ‘Come quickly to station. Pitreavie on the phone. Lancaster crash on Ben Lomond.’ Phoned Pitreavie. Informed I was the nearest RAF personnel. Explained only a corporal. I see a small detachment built up slip. My unit was at Rhu, near Helensburgh. Could get help.’ ‘Do that.’ Rang duty officer, related call from Pitreavie. Flight lieutenant Russell, car and ambulance. Be over in a few minutes. Thirty minutes. Maybe forty minutes. Can you show the way?’ ‘Yes. I’ve been up Ben Lomond in daylight but want torches.’ Ok. Police round up some crew from the pubs and hotel. Convoy arrives and off to and towards Drymen, Balmaha and towards Rowardennan. Unable to drive much further. Gets on foot. Our worst fears was confirmed by a red glow in the sky. Soon afterwards met a police constable and two shepherds. They had been to the crash. The Lancaster was upside down on a [unclear] near the summit blazing. No sign of life. Flight Lieutenant Russell holds conference. In view of the weather conditions and the police report wait ‘til daylight. Meanwhile fire engine from [unclear] arrives. Flight lieutenant thanks them but you can’t do anything. In morning found the rear gunner some distance from the wreck but he had been catapulted out of the crash. End of September got a few days back at Rhu. Married my Lily. Seven days leave. Back to Balloch. Sudden order. Return to Rhu. In a few hours lifted moorings, filled the ST with all our gear in the hut, generator, field drums, bicycle, down the mast, into the River Leven. Lifted on a trolley, Dumbarton. Hut for key. Returned to the RN. On the way rigged the mast, hoisted the ensign and down the Clyde to Rhu. While I had been on leave they had another try at Rhu with the SRA1. The rocket exploded and destroyed the model but no one was hurt. The Seafire Spitfire had departed. The Coronado Flying Boat Based on a Liberator design was here for evaluation. The sign had crashed injuring the pilot. I was detailed to tow a Martin Mariner from Greenock to Rhu. The tow came adrift soon after starting and the Mariner was in danger of floating back to a line of new Sunderlands. Quick action by my part and the crew reestablished the tow thus preventing the Mariner from crashing into the other aircraft. Got commended for the action. Sunderland, a Sunderland had semi-circular hoops attached to each side to carry chariots. Human torpedoes. On trials my job was to recover the chariot crews when, who were frogmen kitted. Kitted and weighted boots and waistbands to keep them upright on the torpedo. The job was to get them out of the water. It was soon discovered without some means of quick release of the boots and weights that even with two strong MBCs on the crash ladders it was very hard to get the frogmen out of the water. Even worse had it have been on the rough sea. Now married, sleeping out pass, ST384 was put up the slip and I was detailed to do work in the office, bring all our charts up to date from Notice to Mariners. During this time Corporal Steddy I see shore party lost his twin brother. Took command of the shore party in Corporal Steddy’s absence. Came back a very quiet man. No jokes. War is a terrible thing. Two new boats arrive. Sea plane tender given to Corporal Andy Stewart of 4146 design. A fifty foot diesel refueler arrived. Was given to Corporal Reid. Back on the water again given a stopwatch. STs had no speedometers. Go up the Gare Loch there are three white posts one mile apart. Calculate your speed at various engine speeds. Late one night arriving back from a coastal trip put David Mann, an LAC deckhand, long time hand, good at steering instructed him what lights to aim for while I spruced myself up to meet Lillian. Comes into the wheelhouse, sees strange lights moving. Realised David was heading straight for the beach at speed. Quickly shut down engines, turned hard of port and headed off to Rhu. Realising David was colour blind gave me a problem. If I sent him for marine medical he might be taken off marine work. Chat with WA Ritchie. He puts David on shore party. Christmas 1944 workload had dropped. Duty runs short. A duty crew one day standby on a buoy. Crew playing cards. Plenty of tea. Decides I will fill a little time doing a bit of fishing. Within a minute or so caught a fair sized cod. Repeated the process and two more. Continues in rapid succession. Gets quite excited. Lads dropped their cards. Another line. Realised we were in the middle of a shoal. Filled two buckets and two large boxes. The relief crew arrives. Gave them some fish. Our crew had the most. I took one box to the officer’s mess. The chef there had already got their fish so it was shared out among the WAAFs who lived in Dumbarton or Glasgow. Lillian had our landlady’s fish and some for the friends. The practice there was to get the fish open, gut and fill with sliced onion and potato and bake. Many of the unit was Scotch. They preferred to celebrate Hogmanay. However, there was a good esprit de corps in the Marine Section. Andy MacBurn and I had talked over the Christmas arrangements. Said how hard it was for the duty crew and police on pier to be locked in over Christmas dinner while we were dining and they were doing nothing. WO, we talked to WO Ritchie. He said he would speak to Squadron Leader Hobley who referred it to the CO and it was ok’d. Lock up the pier while Christmas lunch is on. Andy and I got the many lads to wash their white pullovers and without our jackets and sou’wester hats on we marched in for Christmas lunch. Cheers all around including the officers and the CO. The only one who didn’t clap was the SWO. The small Naval, Royal Naval party that had been present for the chariot trials were still on the unit. The events occurred. Two events occurred and they were pressed into use. The photographer coming ashore had dropped a very valuable cine camera in the water. Frogmen recovered the camera. Later an electrician doing a DI on a Catalina near Rosneath shore moorings flicked the wrong switch and dropped an armed depth charge. Panic calls when he realised what he had done. It was nearing half tide flood. Rapid calculations ashore. Quality of the Navy. I was on one of two assays to stop all ships movement in the area. About two hours to safely disarm the depth charge for the water was then deep enough to fire the charge. Frogman dives. In about ten minutes arrives at the surface holding the fuse in hand. Seemed like an hour. Panic over but we knew the fuse settings were often not always accurate. Got called into the office one day. ‘Shut the door.’ Squadron Leader Hobley, now wing commander sitting there. ‘You know the speed chart you did for your boat?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘We have had a little model, a new model made of the SRA1 constructed and been through the wind tunnels tests. Now, water tests want you to tow the model up the Gare Lock in as low a speed, windspeed as possible. Usual observers and the photographers. Devise, devise a method of towing free of boat’s wash at known speeds. Grids painted on the side of a hull.’ Decided on a long pole fastened to deck forward of the wheelhouse with pulley at the end. Attach line to the model on to SD384. After several false starts requiring low speed and right light it had been done at dawn when it was found the wind speed in the Gare Loch was often low or at its lowest. My final [unclear] from Rhu was to take a party of Army and Air Force officers to Loch Striven where there was a disabled French battleship. Put them on board and ahead was a tank landing craft. Radio communication established. Told to lay off several yards forward of the tank landing craft. Anchored. Time five minutes. Two minutes thirty seconds tank landing craft had been fitted with I think two hundred rocket missiles. These were all fired in about one minute. Photographer’s cameras whirling. Thinks what horrible things man can do to kill other men. Later I was hospitalised at Gleneagles Hotel. A military hospital during the war and was in bed Victory in Europe Day. The day it was declared local ladies came in and we received one egg and a bottle of Guinness. Soon back on duty in time for a nasty accident off Troon. A Wellington that had flown many tests etcetera at Balloch and other venues was to drop a test batch of depth charges. One went off prematurely blowing off the tyre of the Wellington which dived straight in with the loss of three crew. The pilot I believe was Flight Lieutenant Wilson who had piloted any plane required for testing purposes from Prestwick all war, all the war. What a sad moment for his family and unit losing such a good pilot and a crew. About this time Lillian was put in charge of the Officer’s Mess to prepare for a banquet. All officers, some from the Command and important government person. I saw her preparations the night before. The picture, it looked like a picture of Buckingham Palace with all the Royal Northern Yacht Club finery. The following day I was ordered to march all available crews to the pier at short notice in our working clothes including the coxswains and marched to the HQ where we found the aircrew, pilots, scientists and ourselves. Probably about fifty or sixty personnel paraded. The important person was Sir Stafford Cripps, the then minister for aircraft production. He went along the line to every one person and thanked each one for their work. CO Abrahams explaining to Stafford Cripps the work that that person was doing. About June 1945 rumours were afoot MAE was moving back to peacetime base at Felixstowe. This became real when it was appeared on the DROs. All married personnel living in the area were to submit form to stores for how many containers were required to move their effects. Lillian and I realised now we were part of the RAF family. In our living out quarters we had managed to gather the beginnings of a home. Bedding, a few crocs, books, table lamp, pots and pans, a bookcase and stool I had made, a few tools. We packed it all and returned to camp quarters. ST384 was slipped, inventory checked on cradle ready for transport to Felixstowe. I was to go on advanced party. Lillian, now a corporal rear party to hand over the officer’s mess back to the Royal Northern Yacht Club. Marine advanced party, Sergeant Muir, self, six MBCs and two engineers coach and rail. Late night arrival. RN cookhouse still working Felixstowe. It was Lillian and I’s first parting and my first time back in barracks. The first time since leaving Uxbridge. Forty odd officers and NCOs and airmen all in one room first night. Navy were moving out. Contractors in the following day and one room was allocated to Marine Section with two NCO rooms. I had one. Corporal Macmillan had the other. When the main party arrives after a couple of weeks they were supposed [pause] there were supposed to be twelve or fourteen marine craft already here and some MBCs. Sergeant Muir and I had a walk around to see what we had inherited. We were allocated a part of a large hangar. Also, a small World War One hangar in a Royal Marine workshop. The second hangar had been bombed early in the war and had been a spare parts stores and it had been just left. The Navy had used that main hangar for repairs to their MTBs. Felixstowe marine craft were found. One ST and one marine tender in dock among the MTBs. Several more on grass, overgrown at the east end of the camp. One ST was sunk in the mud at the entrance to the dock visible at low water which we temporarily patched and towed to the slipway. Later worked on and brought into use. Their refueller was red rust. The engines in the workshop. Our refueller together with the ST384 and the marine tender arrived. Got all three launched and ready for, fuelled and ready for use. Two Sunderlands arrive with more MBCs and Ritchie, WO Ritchie who looked around and remarks quietly, ‘What a shambles.’ Puts me temporary IC. Sergeant Muir and Ritchie fly back to Rhu. I am allocated a gang of ex-prisoners of war, volunteers, Italians to clean up. Orders clear everything away from the camp and dump in the sea off Languard Point. Paint, clothing, spares. All [unclear] Nothing useable and unusable stuff. War is very wasteful. Main party arrives into some hall in Felixstowe. Wash and brush up. Issued with rifles, Command band arrives and they march with the CO leading to MAEE back to its base. Very shortly afterwards VJ Day is announced. CO comes on the tannoy. Announces end of hostilities. August the 15th 1945. Cease work. Day off. But for many it was more than a day. Everyone rushed to barracks, into best blue and off. Some went home, others to their girlfriends or find a pub that had some beer. There was a big shortage of beer at the time. Some off to London. I was duty crew. Brought ST384 into dock, tied up. Changed. The only place on the camp that had beer was the Sergeant’s Mess. WO Ritchie rounded up the corporals that were still on camp and took us into the Sergeant’s Mess that had just had a beer delivery. Corporals, sergeants and officers were there celebrating. Officer’s Mess steward brought in large platters of sandwiches. The CO came in and went to everyone and spoke individually. I tried to phone Lillian at Rhu but the lines were jammed. Did get her the following day. Most of the rear party had disappeared. Large bonfire on the beach. The same at Felixstowe. Naval ratings had lit a huge bonfire on the waste ground outside camp entrance and it was still burning two days afterwards. The Polish MTBs at the entrance to the dock fired all their ammunition and flares over Harwich. Never heard of anyone being hurt. No one dared say on parade tomorrow. Men were still coming back a week afterwards. Autumn gales. Offline boats moved to moorings to Harwich. All buoys occupied. We had had many German aircraft brought to the unit from a base, a Luftwaffe base in Schleswig Holstein. VJ over. Settles down to peacetime way of life. 07:45 parade on square. 08:00 hours Reveille. Hoist flag. Dismissed. Groups marched to their workspaces. All aircraft from Rhu had arrived. Two Sunderlands were allocated to fly to German Flying Boat base similar to MAEE in Schleswig Holstein an area to be handed over to the Russians. Aim to snatch anything of importance. Plans, datas, models, trophies, a sample of their Flying Boats plus six yachts. So we acquired a four engine Dornier, a two engine Dornier, a Heinkel, a Blohm Voss three engine diesel and some other types of Flying Boats. Of the six yachts with scratch crews on board they were sailed back one sunk on route, the crew saved. Four to Lowestoft. The fifth, a large training yacht at [unclear] was sailed in Harwich waters and anchored. Just before this event I was called in to [unclear] there. Adjutant Wing Commander Hobley says, ‘We are having a GP Pinnace added to the fleet. Want you to take command.’ Thought am I going to get my third stripe? Hesitation in my reply. Ritchie comes in. ‘You have the experience our first class coxswains do not.’ ‘Yes. I’ll do my best.’ Phone call from Lillian to say rear party was coming in two days. Told her my news. Meanwhile another new arrival a Shetland Flying Boat. The biggest ever built to date. In two weeks we find lodgings. A sleeping out pass. Pinnace arrives but by my records I have some doubt as to the number. Sixty eight or eight four built by Phillips of Dartmouth. Clean up. Hands over my trusted 384. New crew. First job tow the [unclear] out past the [unclear] lighthouse enroute to Calshot. The Shetland lands nearby, stops engines and requests tow. Ebb tide in full flow. The only grass line we had, the only tow line we had was a grass line. Putting such a large aircraft was really more strain than the rope could stand. It got thinner. Requested more tow lines from shore. Dropped the speed to a crawl after a slow tow put the Shetland on a buoy. Called in to Wing Commander Hobley’s office the following day. Shetland pilot reports you had or did not seem to have enough power to pull the Shetland. Said I had plenty of power. Reserve power. But was frightened of the tow failure. Answer replace tow with a [unclear] line. Urgent request for a new tail line which arrived in two days. Autumn gales. All flying boats moved to moorings in the Harwich waters. All buoys occupied. No room for the Dornier two engine. Left on buoy near the main pier head. Snatched off the moorings in the first gale and sunk. Stayed with the pinnace overnight as guard ship and shone searchlight on the aircraft to keep an eye on things. Tied up at pier some some days later. CO Abrahams comes on board, takes off his hat, says, ‘Nice boat.’ Replies, ‘Yes, and good for the crew.’ Stands there for a while and then says, ‘Have you ever thought of taking a commission? I would be prepared to recommend you. Think about it.’ Talks to Lillian. She did not mind what I did but she didn’t want separation that service life could bring. Would go along with what I decided. I also had a civilian job to go back to with more money. Lillian wanted her own house and a family. So grass appeared to be greener in the other field. Interview with CO Abrahams. Declined his offer. Thanked him for the interest in my career. Offered married quarters. Given date for first class coxswain’s course. Education officer arranged for mechanical ONC on day release start of the new year. Lillian was held in high regard for Officer’s Mess. Seemed everything was being done to keep us. Turned down married quarters. A few days out of the blue came my demob. Was taken, the pinnace was taken out of the water and handed over. Three days later I was on my way to Cardington for first stage of demob. Lillian as married WAAF, serving airman husband followed a week later. The work I had been involved in at the MAEE was only a part of the MAEE activities. Other coxswains were involved in a whole range of support activities. Developing rescue equipment, different marks of Sunderland overload. Aircraft stalls landings. Lillian and I had forty five years together before she passed away.


“Interview with Eric Haynes,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 18, 2024,

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