Interview with Terry Lloyd


Interview with Terry Lloyd


Terry Lloyd’s older was a wireless operator in Bomber Command and became a prisoner of war. Terry was also determined to join the RAF as aircrew. However, he was rejected due to his eyesight and served on Air Sea Rescue launches. Terry was posted to Oban but then was concerned that he would be posted on to Iceland and he found the Scottish winters harsh enough. He applied for an overseas posting in the hopes that he would be posted somewhere warm. He was posted to Freetown, Sierra Leone. While spending time in the sea with friends the man next to him was attacked by a shark and was dragged under the water several times before they were able to rescue him and get him to their truck and to the hospital.

Temporal Coverage





02:04:39 audio recording


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Hello. My name is Terry Lloyd. I was called up in 1942 when I was eighteen and wanted to go into the Royal Air Force. This is what I’d had in mind for some time before my call up. In fact, this surprised my parents because my brother who was two years older than me volunteered when he was seventeen and a half for aircrew and was accepted as a wireless operator. A wireless operator in aircrew and on one of his raids in ’41, early ’41 he was shot down over the Black Forest in Germany whilst he was in his Halifax bomber. Now, he was the only survivor. He remembers being blown out of the aircraft and managed to get his ‘chute open because he’d been wearing it while he was sitting at his wireless operator’s desk. He landed in the trees and was unable to bury his parachute as instructed or advised. Anyway, he fell at the bottom of one of the big trees and was pretty dazed he said and he watched the sunrise because it was a night raid that he was on and he was able to sort of work out which was east and which was west because of the sunrise. But that wasn’t much help to him because he didn’t really know where he was and what direction to go or even what to do. Please excuse my voice but it’s pretty croaky. Due to my age perhaps. Anyway, later on two, two children came by and saw him and ran away and soon after that a German truck pulled up with soldiers in and took him prisoner where he stayed in Stalag 4b until the end of the war. Now, this knowledge to my parents raised alarm in them because they knew I wanted to join the Air Force and oddly enough I wanted to go into aircrew and they said, ‘Well, we nearly lost one of our sons. This other younger one now wants to do the same thing.’ But I have to say that I had no fear about going in or the fact that my brother was the only survivor from his Halifax. I suppose when you are young and you’re looking forward to some form of adventure even though it be in the armed forces. Anyway, I went for interview and they quickly found out through my medical that I was shade blind and they said they couldn’t accept me into aircrew because of that. They illustrated it by saying, ‘If we want you to bomb the green target we don’t want you to bomb the red target.’ It wasn’t as bad as that because I could play snooker and the only ball I get mixed up with is the brown one with the reds. But anyway, I went for interview and failed as I’ve just told you and I had a plan B. Plan A for me was to get into aircrew. I would have liked to have become a pilot but nevertheless they wouldn’t accept me and so they said, ‘Now, what would you like to do? We need flight mechanics to work on the aircraft. All types of aircraft engines in all the various stations and bases where our planes are based.’ And I said, ‘No. Although I understand engines, internal combustion engines that’s not what I wanted to do. If I can’t go into aircrew I’d like to go in to Air Sea Rescue. Onto the high speed launches that go out to sea in the Channel or anywhere around the coast of the UK. And in fact, anywhere where there was a theatre of war.’ That means the Middle East, etcetera where we had bases all over the place. Now then, they agreed reluctantly because they were sinking so badly then in 1942 they really did want aircrew and if it hadn’t been for my eyes I’m sure they would have accepted me. But I have to say that probably due to my shade blindness I’m still here now to tell the tale because so many aircrew were lost that I might have been one of them. Anyway, I’m here to tell the tale now and to tell you that they did accept me for Air Sea Rescue and Marine Craft in the RAF. So, then they said to, ‘Go home and we’ll send for you. You’ll get a posting as to where to go.’ Well, my first posting I briefly stayed at Dover and when I got there they said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve been posted.’ And they said, ‘Well, have you, have you been to Corsewall for training?’ I said, ‘No and in the meantime I had one or two trips out from Dover in the high speed launches. No.’ I didn’t even know where Corsewall was. So they said, ‘Well, we’ll have to sort you out get you sent for training.’ But that took about a week for them to sort me out. They said, ‘You’re untrained so you can’t do anything but you can enjoy, enjoy the trip and do what you’re told. If you’re told to hold that rope do so but don’t take anything on yourself. Only do what you’re asked or told to do.’ Anyway, time went by and they said, ‘Oh, we’ve heard from RAF Records and you’re now posted to Stockton on Tees to a base called Thornaby. An aerodrome called Thornaby.’ So I got my railway warrant and made my own way up to to Stockton on Tees. I arrived there late at night and made enquiries as to where Thornaby Aerodrome was and so I walked in the dark in the blackout to the, to Thornaby air station and they said, ‘Hello. What are you doing at this time of night?’ I said, ‘I’ve just been posted here.’ ‘Posted? Where’s your papers?’ So I gave my papers to the sergeant in the, in the guardroom and he said, ‘It says here MBC. What does that mean?’ I said, ‘Motorboat crew.’ He said, ‘We’ve got no bloody motorboats here.’ He said, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing here.’ He said, ‘Anyway, it’s late at night.’ And he said, ‘Doss down in the cell. I’ll give you a cup of cocoa and in the morning go and get your breakfast and then report to the orderly room.’ So, this is what I did. I reported to the orderly room, and they said, ‘MBC? What’s that?’ I said, ‘Motorboat crew.’ And they repeated what the sergeant said, saying, ‘There are no bloody motorboats here. I don’t know what you’re doing.’ Anyway, they said, ‘We’ll sort you out.’ And they were a long long time. I was there about three weeks I would think and in the meantime they gave me a job to do and that was to look after the billiard and games room and table tennis room in the NAAFI building. To keep it clean, to make sure people weren’t abusing it and generally look after it. So that wasn’t too bad but it entailed all the hours I was there. I didn’t get a relief until I closed at night but I was close to the NAAFI so I could get refreshment and things. Well, along came the posting. No correct that. They came to me. They told me to report to the Orderly Office and I did and they said, ‘Oh we found out where you should be. You should be at West Hartlepool.’ So I said, ‘What’s at West Hartlepool?’ They said, ‘Well, we’ve discovered that we’ve got two boats there in the harbour that we use for target towing.’ And they said that Thornaby was a training, training base for pilots on the end of their course and this was to give them experience in to bombing targets. Particularly targets at sea because all the aircraft were, had some bombers sent over on lease lend by America via Canada. So this is what the Coastal Command were using for bomber training. And anyway, I I arrived there and I said, ‘Why have I been here so long?’ I mean the base at West Hartlepool where the two boats were someone at the aerodrome was its parent, parent base as it were and the, and the bombers that we tow targets for out in the North Sea were from Thornaby. They were everything to do with Thornaby. They sent a truck twice a week to St [unclear] and pick up laundry and deliver laundry etcetera. The base at Stockton. No. The base at West Hartlepool where the two launches were we had a large house in the centre of town commandeered for our use and we had a sergeant and a flight sergeant in charge of us and there was the equivalent of three crews. I think the idea being that one crew would be at sea and available to be at sea for target towing any day and the other one would be on standby and the other one, the crew of the other one would have to do all the crews and orderlies back in the big house because we had one volunteer, a deckhand who was an ex-merchant seaman and he was an excellent cook. So not only did he get the job as cook but he enjoyed it and he was very good but we used to have to peel his potatoes and do all the other things like washing up the pots and pans and keeping the house clean. Anyway, I stayed there for some time and I enjoyed going out to sea with the high speed launches. They were the seaplane tenders. As you know they were pretty fast and we used to tow what I called a snorkel target. It was on about a hundred and fifty yards of line and it had a secondary line attached to it that you could pull the target to submerge. The target was in the shape of a mini submarine. It was about six or seven foot long painted bright yellow with an imaginary coning tower etcetera and didn’t represent a very big target of course but then the bombers were up in the air anyway. I suppose something like fifteen, twenty thousand feet when they dropped their bombs and we used to have to score on a board similar to a dartboard where, where the bombs dropped in relation to the target and the centre of the dartboard as it were was the target. And then we had to put on the top of each sheet because each plane that came in had its own sheet sent to us from Thornaby to identify the plane and we would identify where the smoke bombs fell in relation to the target itself. And these were done by us sitting on deck watching in the spray because they didn’t care about what the sea conditions were. Only if flying conditions were ok. So if flying conditions were good they flew and they didn’t ring up and say, ‘You boys, do you want to go out today? It looks pretty rough.’ And we’d say, ‘Well, it is too rough for us to tow your target but when it comes down they’ll let you know or you let us know and we’ll do it. But it’s ridiculous going out in this weather when you won’t see the target at all, at times.’ Anyway, I stayed there for some time. I still hadn’t been trained. I still hadn’t been trained. This is most most peculiar ad I think it was because the formation of the Air Sea Rescue and Marine Craft section was in its infancy and because of that they weren’t very well organized and hence I got, I got lost somewhere in the organization and they overlooked me altogether. It seemed as though [laughs] almost as though I didn’t exist. Nobody knew about Marine Craft. Marine Craft. Only the pilots and squadrons that had got to go through all this bombing practice. But I mean for the orderly room at the main station not to put two and two together. Sending a truck twice a week to Stockton on Tees with supplies etcetera and they didn’t, they didn’t associate my title of motorboat crew with their boats or anything at all. It was just as though it was a mystery trade. ‘I didn’t know we had motorboats in the Royal Air Force,’ they would say. Anyway, eventually I did get a posting to Corsewall. Now, Corsewall was the Marine Craft Section Training Base for the RAF sailors and we was on an eight week course to learn everything. Unlike the Royal Navy if you go in as a gunner or a rigger or an electrician or signalman that is what you did and that’s what you were trained to do. But we were trained to be all around sailors. I mean I was trained in Morse Code, in semaphore, in the use of aldis lamps for signalling, boat construction, harbours, the layout of various harbours. What all the lights and everything meant because quite often you’d be coming in from the sea in pitch black conditions on a night with no moon or anything at all and your only guide would have been the lights. The harbour lights which all meant something. Whether they were black, red, green or brown and regardless of my shade blindness I was able to distinguish the different lights. For instance, when I became a coxswain then you would have to bring your own launch into a harbour or anything and like I said if it was pitch black you were coming in blind. The only thing you had to guide you was, was the harbour lights and the buoys and things. So anyway, I I enjoyed the course because I was dead keen having been rejected for aircrew. I forgot all about that and thought well I’m lucky to have got my plan B to become part of the RAF Marine Craft Section and Air Sea Rescue Section. And so I worked very hard at my course and I passed out fairly high and I passed out as an AC1, aircraftman rather than what I went into the course with AC2. And then when the course was over they said, ‘Where would you like to be posted?’ So I said, my home being in London I said, ‘I’d like to be posted to Dover, Ramsgate. Any of those places around the east coast which have Air Sea Rescue Units.’ They said, ‘Ok.’ I went home on leave after my course and whilst I was home I got my posting and a rail warrant and it said you are posted to Stranraer. Stranraer, in Scotland and I knew that that meant the training school. So I thought well at last they’ve recognised me. They know who I am. I’ve been trained for eight weeks and now, now they’re actually posting me. And so what happened was after, after Stranraer I was posted to, I was posted to Oban. Oban on the northwest coast of Scotland. And I thought well it was nice of them to ask me where I’d like to be posted because I said Dover, Hastings, Newhaven all those places in the south coast which were busy at that time with rescue work because of the planes flying to and fro to Germany and France and of course we were there to pick up all and everybody. It didn’t matter whether they were American. Even Germans. Even German pilots that had been shot down and we would rescue them if we could and of course they became prisoners of war. So anyway, here I am at Oban and I thought well that’s nowhere [laughs] Nowhere near Dover or the south east coast which I’d asked to be posted to. Well, I mean when you’re called up in the forces you can’t dictate what they’re going to do with you. You’re their property and they post you where they like and where they need you most perhaps. So I arrived in Oban and it was a nice town and there were two squadrons of Flying Boats there. One of Catalinas and one of Sunderlands. The Catalinas were flown by Australians and the Sunderlands were a British squadron. Anyway, I was assigned to an Air Sea Rescue pinnace. That’s a pinnace which had been converted for Air Sea Rescue work with a hull which is quite spacious was converted into a sick bay and places for wounded to be treated. And my skipper who was a flight sergeant he was a regular. He’d been, he’d been in the Air Force some time before the war as a regular and he was a very good seaman. He, he said, ‘I’ll make, I’ll make a seaman out of you yet.’ He said to me. But he didn’t have to much trouble because I was so keen to learn and do everything correctly. I think he noticed this because he used to let me handle the launch quite a bit. Perhaps coming into the harbour and going out. Coming in was always difficult because if you come in too fast you can whack the side of the hull and damage it. But he could see I was keen to learn and he recommended me pretty quickly for for [pause] excuse me. He recommended me pretty quickly for coxswain training. So I went, went [pause] I was assigned to a coxswains course and passed out and became a corporal second coxswain and I was then assigned to sea plane tender work around the two squadrons of Flying Boats because they, they were flying around the clock. They could go out and stay out for fourteen fifteen hours before they came back and so it meant that they were taking off and coming back in the daylight and at night. So we were on standby all the time. The most dangerous time for a Flying Boat is the landing on the water. Water drags. It’s not like landing on ice. It drags and if the pilot has got it wrong and the nose dips too far down then it will sort of go under the water and the water will flood in very quickly. If the pilot and co-pilot couldn’t get out and the rest of the crew in a Sunderland you were doomed. And so this happened on one occasion when I was there but I wasn’t on duty at the time and the Sunderland crashed and nose-dived into the water and I think they managed to rescue about three or four of them and the others couldn’t get out and subsequently drowned. So I was beginning to enjoy this work but at the same time I wasn’t on the high speed launches, the whalebacks which I wanted to be on to enjoy the thrill of the speed and the importance and urgency of the work they had to do. So I persevered and I was there for a whole year. Now, Oban is reputed to have some of the wettest, wettest winters in the country.
[voice off tape]
I’ll have to pop off now. Someone is coming.
[recording paused]
We were asked if we’d like to stay for the wedding and my skipper, Ginger said, ‘No, we’d better go back because we’re due back.’ So Skiff, our fitter marine sergeant he hit on a good idea. He said, ‘Why don’t we radio back and tell them we’ve got engine trouble and we’ll be back as soon as we can.’ And so we did this and said we didn’t know how long the repair would take to get the engines going. We were not sure because we had three engines and if one was kaput and unworkable there was always two others. Anyway, we got away with it and we stayed for the wedding that night. Slept on board and left early in the morning. But it was a good, good day out. Now then, the Air Sea Rescue pinnace was also used for other things. There was often fishermen and amateur yachtsman with their boats that got into trouble in the seas around the Western Isles which faces onto the Atlantic and can be very rough at times. And we were several times rescuing stricken, stricken yachts and other things and would often tow them back to Oban. You know, to safety again. We didn’t have any crashes there other than the Sunderland I was telling you about because the Flying Boats weren’t on the bombing raids. They were on patrol of the Atlantic hunting for the submarines and they didn’t get into too much.
[voices off tape]
That’s ok then.
[recording paused]
Hello. Sorry about the interruptions. It’s very difficult to find a place that’s going to be quiet. There’s something going on all the time in this house. Anyway, going back to Oban on the, on the west of Oban is the large island of Mull. Quite large. And on the northwest tip of that island was an HSL base there. The parent place being Oban for servicing and maintenance and everything and that was there for any rescue work required northwest of that in to the Atlantic. When I say that the Air Sea Rescue picked up pilots and aircrew we were like lifeboats. If there was an emergency call to anywhere particularly to the lifeboats and they relayed it to us we would go because all our, all our launches even the pinnaces were generally faster than the lifeboats of those days. The lifeboats of today are wonderful things but the lifeboats of those of the 1930s and ‘40s weren’t fast and we would often get there before. Before they could. And so we didn’t always get the messages because if it, if it was not too far away they would know that by the time that we got around the Isle of Kerrera to the Atlantic they would be halfway there or whatever. But I didn’t get a chance to prove that. As I said I had to do as I was told and I was coxswaining the standby Flying Boats that patrolled the seaway where the, where the Flying Boats landed and took off. Now, the other thing about Oban was that some of my mates were being posted to Iceland. Quite a few of them. It had got to be quite regular and I thought to myself good God if they posted me [laughs] posted me to Iceland I shall freeze to death. It’s bad enough up here in Oban but they had Air Sea Rescue bases up in Iceland as well and so the boys, some of the boys were posted there and I thought oh I can’t stand that. I couldn’t stand that. It’s bad enough here in the winter in Oban. So I thought well I know one way I could get out of this so I volunteered for overseas service. I went to the orderly room, stated my purpose and made my application for overseas service and they said, ‘Most peculiar. Why is that?’ I said, ‘Well, I’d sooner be posted to a warm area. The tropics or somewhere or the Middle East than Iceland and with a bit of luck I’ll get a posting.’ They said, ‘You still could get a posting to Iceland specifically now that you’ve volunteered.’ So anyway, I volunteered and it was accepted by Records and the rules were that if you volunteered for overseas service you could get fourteen days and you were due fourteen days embarkation leave. And then when you came back to your base which in my case would have been Oban you await your posting overseas and because you’ve already had your leave, embarkation leave within three months you can be posted immediately from your base where you are. And so I did this and waited and waited and about two or three weeks went by and I still didn’t hear anything about a posting but obviously my base officers heard about this and I was asked or told to report to the CO the next, the following day because he wanted to see me and the sergeant said not to worry. ‘You’re not on a charge so you’ll be ok. I’m not sure what he wants to talk to you about but you’re not on a charge.’ So in I went and to see the CO and he said, ‘Hello Lloyd,’ he said, ‘Have a seat. Have a seat.’ And I thought well that’s not too bad then to be able to sit down in front of your CO but at his request I did so and he said, ‘Now,’ he said, ‘I understand that you’ve volunteered for overseas service.’ I said, ‘Yes sir.’ He said, ‘Why is that?’ And I explained to him that I didn’t really want to go to Iceland. And he again reiterated that now that I’d volunteered I could easily be sent to Iceland because I’d had my embarkation leave. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘So, so other than that why? Why would you want to go?’ I said, ‘Well, I just don’t fancy being up in Iceland during the winter if I can avoid it. I’m not trying to dodge service. I’ll go anywhere except Iceland.’ I said, ‘So I’m waiting now for my posting.’ He said, ‘Well, now listen to me.’ He said, ‘I’ve seen you around the town.’ The town was quite small so there was only say four or five pubs that you could socialise in and quite frequently you’d be rubbing shoulders with your officers and the CO in the same pub. And he said, ‘I’ve see you out and about the town with the girls.’ He said, ‘Now, let me tell you this if you’ve got one of the young ladies of this town into trouble I shall have you back.’ I said, ‘No sir. No. That’s not, not the reason.’ He said, ‘Well, if it is and it transpires I shall have you back here.’ So he said, ‘Anyway, I’ve given you my views. They’re my thoughts and that’s what will happen if it comes to my notice.’ He said, ‘But anyway best of luck, Lloyd. I hope that you get your wish and go somewhere where it’s warm.’ So anyway, I came away and it didn’t occur to me what a get out that could have been. I mean if you had slipped up with a girl in the town it wouldn’t have been in my, my character to have slipped away slyly. I would have probably faced up to the consequences whatever they may have been but I can see now that if you got away with this posting you could get away with being responsible for some poor girl’s pregnancy. Anyway, time went by and in come the posting from from Records to Oban where I was and there were several of us all on the same posting overseas. That’s all we knew. We didn’t know where we going or anything and Tom Kelly my pal he was also amongst loads of us who’d got to report. We had to report to Blackpool. Was it Blackpool? Anyway, it slipped my mind where we reported to but it was a holding base for the RAF personnel who were going to go overseas and we were billeted in in houses around you know the old boarding houses of Blackpool and the big cinemas one of which was closed was confiscated by the RAF to issue out kit. Overseas kit. The, the light khaki coloured shorts, trousers and things that we had to wear. And we all of us were quite, you know curious where are we going? Where are they going to send us? We couldn’t get a word out of anybody. Nobody at all. And then we had to have a series of inoculations and they marched us, there were about twenty four of us I think, they marched us down to the sick bay and because there wasn’t room in the sick bay we lined up outside and the sick bay orderlies came out and injected us in the street one at a time [laughs] And we had several inoculations against so many different things. Sleeping sickness. Everything. And we, we were then told to go back and one of the boys that night became very feverish and felt very ill and he had got what was known as inoculation fever. Anyway, he did survive. They still did him out the next day at the sick quarters. And one of the other boys who was against inoculations spent the whole evening sucking his arm and biting and sucking trying to suck out the inoculation fluid. I’m not sure that it was possible because once it gets into your blood stream it’s there isn’t it. In it goes. So anyway, time came for us to assemble and then we were marched up to Blackpool again and given a sort of overseas do and don’t thing and a troop ship do and don’t thing. A big lecture in this cinema and then we went back to our billets because the following day we reported to Liverpool docks to do the troops in. I’m just trying to think of her name. It’ll come to me in a minute. Anyway, we got aboard and the ship had been converted. She was, she was a liner, a passenger liner but we were in what could have been like a dining room full of, full of bunk beds, wooden bunk beds and, and I was allocated an upper bunk but the rows of bunks were so close together that you couldn’t, you couldn’t jump down and get dressed or undressed if someone else was down there. You had to wait your turn. That’s how little room there was and we were packed in like sardines. The ship was pretty good in as much as the catering was reasonable for so many thousands of troops on board and what we did find out from the crew was that she did a round trip. She did from, from Liverpool to West Africa. From West Africa to South Africa. From South Africa down to America, a long time in America and then up, up to, up to eastern coast of America and then brought American troops over to, to England. And it’s in America where she revictualed. I meant she went right up to to Canada where she was then reloaded with troops coming back. Coming to England to join in the affray. And so they told us that she had been a fast liner in her day. Before the war there was a trophy called the Blue Riband which was open to all liners. All liners. All passenger liners and the Blue Riband was for the fastest time to cross the Atlantic and at one time she held it. But only for a week or two when another new ship came along and beat her time. So we said, ‘Oh, that sounds ok.’ So we left Liverpool harbour on a summer’s evening. Had a lovely evening and we passed through the north of Ireland out into the Atlantic where it seemed that we joined a convoy. So we thought oh that’s fine. There were several destroyers and things supporting this convoy but by sunset when we looked out astern the convoy was barely seen. You could barely see it and we said to one of the crew, ‘We’ve left the convoy. Why have we left the convoy?’ He said, ‘Well, she’s a fast ship and she can outrun the U-boats.’ Well, we knew that their scheme of things the U-boats would hunt in wolf packs and while you were avoiding one wolf pack you could easily run towards another one. So anyway, when we, when we put our first port of call was Freetown, West Africa and when we got there we said to one of the crew, you know, ‘Where are you off to next?’ They said, ‘South Africa.’ We hadn’t been told. We hadn’t been told to disembark yet but then it came across that our section was to prepare for disembarkation so we knew we were going to stay here at Freetown in West Africa. And it’s an enormous harbour Freetown but during the war it wasn’t developed at all because Sierra Leonne was and always had been a very poor [pause] poor country. And so these big ships, these big troop ships had to lie in the centre of the bay and everything had to be transported back to shore on lighters and tugs and other small boats to unload the passengers, ourselves and all the gear and all the equipment that had got to come off as well. So we said, ‘Well, we’ve heard about South Africa and how well the South Africans treat the Air Force there who were there mainly to train to fly as pilots. But anyway, we were, we were bundled into trucks, Army lorries and off we went to to a place called Jui which is just around the bend of the harbour. Inside the harbour and then up a large river which I forget the name of as I’ve forgotten the name of the ship but it’ll come back and this was a base where there were two squadrons of Sunderland Flying Boats stationed there and our job was as we did at Oban was to supply all the marine requirements necessary. Also we had, also we had an Air Sea Rescue launch. It was a whaleback and I tried to get on board as crew and second coxswain but I couldn’t and I had to wait ‘til someone to go home after their tour of duty because the tour of duty at Freetown because of the tropicals I suppose was twelve months and after you’d done your tour of months you were sent home. Then because of the rare type of malaria with the strong type of malaria they wouldn’t send you say, again when you went back from a service in West Africa they wouldn’t send you for instance to India where there was another strain of the mosquitoes and malaria. And so you could be unlucky. Come back from West Africa, be back for about six months and then find yourself posted back to West Africa. I met several fellas who had been but of course I was there as the war was drawing to a close and I was there actually when D-Day happened. So I’m going to have a break now so hang on.
[recording paused]
Now, in, in West Africa I was assigned to the same sort of work as I was doing in Oban. That was stand by flying for take-off and landings. But despite that we still had several calls out to sea. There were two calls that I was involved in. That was to go, I was supposed to be off duty that day because on the, on the standby flying you did a twenty four hour shift and twenty four hours off and they wanted crew to go out, oh I forget about twenty miles out in the Atlantic to a Sunderland that had ditched. I’m not sure what the trouble was. Probably engine trouble and she couldn’t take off again so we had to go out to tow her home and the Atlantic Sea was quite rough in as much as the huge waves, the swells were as high as, as a semi-detached house which meant that when we were towing and we had to put a long tow on, a long rope so as for it to act as a spring and not pull the front end of the Sunderland when it snatched. And when, when the swell was in between the Sunderland and us who were towing it when it was at its height we couldn’t see the Sunderland at all. You know, it was, it was just as though we were towing a ghost, a ghost boat or something and then when the swell reached us and we went over the top with that and down then we would see the Sunderland again briefly. But it was a rough old trip and in that respect it took a long long time because you couldn’t speed, you couldn’t snatch, you couldn’t pull the front of the Sunderland out. And then there was another one where they’d actually been shot up and the plane, you know was not flyable anymore and they’d landed. And it was beginning to sink and several of the crew because there was about eight or nine at least on a Sunderland crew were injured and so we had to get out there. Again, I was mustered as a crew for the, for the Air Sea Rescue Launch and again we had to go and this time we took the other pinnace on the base which was a utility all around vessel which had its own winch and could lead heavy things on board and was ideally designed for towing as well. And so we all went to the Air Sea Rescue Launch and the utility pinnace to to bring them back. So the work that I did was varied except that it broke my sleep pattern because it was though we could doss down on the boat out in the middle of the bay was a barge. A barge that had been anchored alongside the flight path as you might say which was marked off by buoys and the buoys were all made or utilised from the floats of the, from under the wings of a Sunderland. They were sunk and moored there permanently and converted with car batteries on board for night lights so we could go along and light every one up so that at night there was a flight path lit by lights and so that was interesting but to be on board for twenty four hours and we got our rations of course. You always got double rations when you were at sea and we, we would come in in the morning about 7 o’clock in the morning and change over our boats to the next crew and we were going to take them out to, to do a tour of duty. A twenty four hour tour. I don’t know whether this is going over very well but I’m doing my best because it’s coming from memory. One of the other jobs that I got to do when I was supposed to be off duty was to go upriver. Oh, seven miles or so upriver to all the villages, the native villages that were developed alongside the river mainly because there was water there and fish in the river of course so the natives who had no sort of occupation. There was no agriculture to talk of. I suppose they relied on fish as a large, large part of their diet. Ground nuts are a natural, natural vegetation of West Africa and I suppose they supplemented their food with, with what we call peanuts. When our, when our few trips didn’t get into Freetown harbour because of the U-boats it was a happy hunting ground in the Atlantic outside Freetown. You’d got the ships coming over from America. You’d got the ships coming up from South Africa and going down with supplies and food and troops and airmen hoping to become pilots by training in South Africa. And then you had the convoys and ships coming from the UK trying to get their supplies into North Africa, Freetown etcetera. And so it was very very busy and there was always something going on and we would be called out to pinnaces and the Air Sea Rescue Launch to search for any survivors after, after the U-boats had sunk several of the, several of the convoy steamers as it were. And so there was that job and the, the job I was telling you about coming up river was to spray anti-malaria and anti-mosquito but they didn’t like us going in to their villages and spraying everywhere to try and subdue the activity of the of, the mosquitoes. The mosquitoes of course live in the swamps. That’s where they breed. In the swamps. That mucky heady feeling that you get through the heat and the swamps and of course these people living in the villages near the big river which I forget the name of they were subject to malaria but I don’t know whether they had some of their own cures or whether some of them were you know, immune to it. But they survived there but they didn’t like us going to their villages. We went there once when on one occasion in the middle of a ceremony they were sacrificing a goat for some reason or other and they slit the goat’s throat and drained the blood out into a dirty looking earthenware bowl and then passed it around to the elders who drunk it. And I suppose the remainder of the carcase of the goat was eventually cooked for food. But I mean we weren’t there to interrupt with their religious beliefs or whatever they did and so apart from explaining to the elders that we were there really to do good and not, not harm they sort of reluctantly accepted us going around spraying everywhere and that could take all day and use up all the spray that we had on board. That was another job of the varied types we could do. The rescue work of people was confined to the Atlantic where the ships were being sunk and where there weren’t many planes other than our Flying Boats who were on patrol and they usually could get into trouble on their way home. That’s, that’s what happened to them. Another job I had was to take my launch out to an island, I forget the name of it, it was a leper island and I had about eight, eight to a dozen medical people on board who were going to this island to meet and talk and associate with the lepers on the colony. And my wife said, ‘Did you go ashore?’ I said, ‘No. I put the bow of my launch on to the small wooden pier that they had there and let everybody get off. Then I went and lay out at sea waiting for a signal for them to come and pick them up and take them home.’ So that was an interesting and at one time worrying thought. I thought well I suppose if some of the people that went ashore got the bug or whatever it is and then come aboard my launch we could brush alongside them or whatever when we were making tea or whatever we were doing. But I managed to get away with that. The other reason that I managed to escape any serious bouts of malaria was I believe because I spent most of my time out in the bay at sea away from the swamps where the mosquitoes lived and bred. And so I escaped going down with malaria but when I got home about three months after I got home the medication that I’d been told to take as well when I got home had expired and I’d got none left and then I broke down with malaria. My, the bed was steaming. My mother came in because I was living at home then, my mother came in and the steam was coming from underneath the bedclothes and she went and got me a clean pair of pyjamas and I put them on and within about ten minutes they were soaking wet as well. And my mother wasn’t quite sure about malaria. I said, ‘Go to the doctor and ask him for some Mepacrine tablets. That’s what we were taking.’ And she, she went along to the doctor who had never heard of Mepacrine. It was something which the armed forces were using and wouldn’t be a great call for it here in the UK with the lack of malaria and so he said, ‘Well, all I can give you is the old remedy of Quinine.’ So she came back and I had some of that and eventually the fever of the malaria if it’s not too serious you can overcome it which I did and the reason I think I erupted was because the Mepacrine I’d been given to take home and keep taking for three months, once that expired and the effects got out of my system there was no Mepacrine in my system to combat the malaria. And so it had been lying there waiting to erupt and that’s what it did. But it’s all gone now. I think I had it again very mildly about two years later because it can keep coming back if you don’t treat it and I’ve had none since for the last, last fifty years or more. No signs of malaria, fingers crossed. So that was, that was my time in in Freetown and the camp name was Jui. That was where we were based and it was quite a big camp. It was Nissen huts joined together in H formation so there was two end on end and another one forming the cross for the H and then two more. So you could walk through five Nissen huts all at the same time and we had showers which which were pretty good and we had to walk over duck boards all the time because there were some sort of worms that could get into your feet and cause you a lot of trouble. And so we had to shower on the duck boards and then dry ourselves on the duck boards and then put your sandals on or whatever you wore and keep your feet off the ground because these insects find their way in via your foot and then cause you a lot of rouble. So the other thing about Freetown and Jui on one, one of my off days, a lot of, one of my off days off duty we saw a truck, a ten hundred weight truck with some guys in it who we recognised and we said, ‘Where are you off to?’ Because we were, we were free. There was nowhere to go but we were free and they said, ‘We’re going to Lumley Beach.’ Which is around the headland of Freetown harbour and they were going to this beach for a swim because it was just like a tropical beach type thing you see on the films or in the travel magazines except that it wasn’t very long. I suppose the length of the bay altogether was no more than a hundred yards. Anyway, we said, ‘Well, can we come?’ They said, ‘Jump aboard.’ So we jumped aboard this truck and off we went to this bay, Lumley Beach and when we all jumped off we realised we hadn’t got any, any swimming trunks with us. The others had because they’d planned to go and they were, they were three aircraft, aircrew boys that we recognised from the planes with them and one other officer who was what did they call them? [pause] He was there to represent the Canadian, the Canadian boys. There was a lot of Canadians. One of the squadrons was a Canadian squadron, a lot of them and he was the Canadian liaison officer whose job was to make sure that everything so far as the conditions for the Canadian troops and servicemen were ok and reasonable. And he was snow white. He’d only just come out. Anyway, we decided well there’s nobody about here. There’s nobody else on the beach. Only us. So we took our shorts off and went skinny dipping as they call it and we all ran into the sea with a tennis ball. Now, what we did we formed a big circle and then threw the tennis ball around to each other. But the beach was when you walked into the water you could walk about twenty yards, twenty five yards where the water would be up to your thighs and then all of a sudden there was a big dip into deep water. So it was like a shelf and we were swimming partly in the shallow water and partly in the, in the deep water throwing the ball around and the guy next to me was this liaison officer I was telling you about. Excellent swimmer. Whenever you missed the ball you had to swim after and he was a fine swimmer. Strong. A strong swimmer you could see and he was next to me and all of a sudden there was a huge splash and he was taken down. And what had happened he was attacked by a Tiger shark and he was taken down and he came up and because he was a strong swimmer he tried to swim away but each time, about three times I think he tried to get away the shark took him down again and was biting chunks out of him. Anyway, to our surprise the shark disappeared and swum away. We could only vaguely see the dorsal fin sticking up out of the water here and there and my conclusion was that when we saw the injuries of the fella the shark had got a mouthful and just swam off to chew and digest it. Because what we did we floated him ashore on his back and when we got him on the shore we told the other guys to back their truck down onto the beach and we laid our towels on the bare boards of the truck. Laid our towels and we went to lift him up to lay him in the back to take him to the Naval hospital which was about seven miles away I suppose and when they went to pick him up I was standing there and one guy picked up his ankles and the other around his neck and his shoulders. When they picked him up of course he sagged in the middle. So they said, ‘Come on. Come on. Don’t hang around. Give us a hand.’ So I put my hands and arm underneath his back and his bum to support him to lower him into the truck and there was nothing there. The shark had taken a lump out of his bum and one half of his rib cage. The right side of his rib cage was missing and a lung was hanging out. Anyway, we got him into the truck and two of the guys sat on the wheel arches, the rear wheel arches tending to him laying on our towels and the one where the lung was hanging out he was holding it in position to try and stop it falling out altogether because at that time they were still working. The lungs were still working breathing in air. Taking air and everything and supplying the heart with oxygen. Anyway, we hung around and thought well we’ll wait to hear because we can’t get back until the truck come back, truck comes back to pick us up and it did after about two hours. It came back and, and we said, ‘How did you get on?’ They said, ‘Oh, he died before we got there through lack of blood.’ But he just came to briefly and looked into the eyes of the guy who was holding his lung and said, ‘Thanks pal,’ in a Canadian American accent and that was very sad. And we all went back and I vowed I would never swim in the Atlantic or in the sea around West Africa again. A bit difficult because I fell overboard twice and each time the launch I was on was going so fast that somebody luckily spotted me. I was doing a jimmy riddle over the stern and it hit a wave and the boat lurched and I fell overboard. Somebody saw me and shouted, ‘Man overboard.’ But when a launch is travelling fast it’s going to take a wide sweep to turn it around. You can’t turn around on a sixpence as it were if it was stationery. If it was stationery you could put engines in ahead and engines in reverse and that would pivot the vessel around and you could get around very quickly. But here was a launch travelling at speed and somebody spotted me and said they took a wide sweep to come back to me. I in the meantime put my head down and tried to swim as I thought towards the direction of the launch and I swam. I swam like the devil because I was, this was after the shark accident and I was watching out for that deadly dorsal fin to appear. Anyway, the launch eventually got to me and picked me up and I was completely exhausted. I could have hardly moved a limb or anything else. I’d used all the, all the energy and resources in my body to try and swim away which wouldn’t have been very good or much, much help if I had have been attacked again by a shark. But anyway I, as I said, I said I wouldn’t swim again but I did I think on one or two occasions when it was very tempting and very hot. But that, that experience lives in my mind even now. When I, when I’m anywhere around the UK or Europe swimming in the sea I have this deadly feeling of and the experience of the shark because when he attacked the fellow it could have been me. I was right next to him and I don’t think the only thing was because he was so white and had a gold identity bracelet and a gold watch on that sharks are very inquisitive and they went for him. Or it, it went for him and I was lucky I’m here to tell the tale. Not a nice way to die I would have thought. Anyway, that’s a pretty good summary of life at Jui in West Africa. If we applied, well we didn’t apply, we didn’t get any leave because there was nowhere to go but you could be off duty say for forty eight hours or twenty four hours and then you could apply through the guard room to go into town which was about five miles away. You had to get a lift on a lorry that was going that way on RAF business and we’d get a lift in to Freetown but we were told to stay, stay in groups of four and not to get separated from your group because of the dangers of being knifed or kidnapped or whatever. Anyway, I was walking along and I’d got my bush hat on and saw a group of black youths and one of them ran up to me and he had, wore a hat of some sort and he took it off, put it across his chest and my chest to hide his hand and in my breast pocket where my wallet was he was trying to fish it out very very skilfully. I only just noticed and then I pushed him away and told him to bugger off as it were but he would have had my wallet if he could have had. And then there was a part of the town called, out of bounds to troops and all types of service personnel but by then we’d been drinking and we were very well on the way and we saw a sign in this out of bounds part which said, “Dancing.” So we thought oh dancing. We’ll go there. We went there. We went in. We paid. I forget what it was. A small sum and then ushered upstairs to where the ballroom was, the dance hall was supposed to be and we went in and the place was completely empty. There were four young girls, black girls sitting there together and they welcomed us in and gave us some wine and they had an old wind-up gramophone with some old gramophone records and they put these on and they were terrible. And when they said, ‘You dance with me.’ You know. None of us did. We said, ‘No. No, thank you very much. We’ll just sit here and enjoy the wine.’ Well, after a little bit about four big black youths came in and we thought oh they may be partners to the girls who were dancing but they looked at us threateningly and talked to us and talked to themselves and at the end of this room were like large French windows and a balcony leading out into the street and outside this place was an Army lorry with its canvas cover hood over the back. And so when we could see that we were going to be attacked we ran down to the end of the dance hall or ballroom whatever you call it and through the French windows hopped over the balcony railing onto the roof of this lorry and went. When we were safe on top of it luckily we didn’t break it or split it but we were there and the driver and his mate got out and looked at us and said, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ You know. ‘You know you shouldn’t be on our lorry and you shouldn’t be in this area.’ So they got us down. We sat in the lorry and they took us the local service police. The military Police Station in Freetown who immediately put us in another truck and drove us to Jui, back to our camp and told that we would be put on a charge for being in native quarters which were declared out of bounds. And so we did and we all got up. We all got on a charge and the next day we were all charged. Now, I had a fairly clean record but the other three lads who I was with which was probably why we got drunk and why we got into native quarters out of bounds was because they were, they were devil may care types. They’d been in trouble before. They’d done jankers and all that before. So when the officer taking the case started to look at their records he read that one of them had a bad record etcetera. Number two was also a bad record and he didn’t bother to look at any number three and four and I was number four on the end of the line. So he painted us all with the same brush and we all got a weeks jankers on the camp which meant we couldn’t use the NAAFI. We couldn’t do anything. All our spare time when we were not on duty was taken up with chores like washing up in the, in the Mess halls doing all sorts of things. Tidying up the rooms of the officers and other things and on top of that we had to put our full, full battledress uniform on such as it was. That was a heavy, a heavy rucksack on our backs and the rifle. I mean a rifle was quite happy and then they gave us a about half hour on the Square, on the Parade Square dripping wet with sweat and fatigue and then they’d say, ‘Off you go and we’ll see you tomorrow.’ And we would go back and have a shower and get, get ready for the rest of the days chores that we would have to do as part of our punishment. But anyway, we survived that all as you do and then the time came that VE Day we got to hear about that. We were still there and I said to my wife I’m sure that had I not been in Africa but in the UK we contributed in our own small way as a small unit of the RAF by supplying launches to to Dunkirk and also to the invasion. Support craft we were. We were categorised as. So we missed all that and when we came home the VE celebrations had all gone and been done with and so we missed, we missed the invasion, we missed VE Day and we missed all the celebrations. But after that we went home and awaited another posting and another posting came. We’d had our disembarkation leave of fourteen days and this time it said report to Thorney Island which is next to Hayling Island on the south east coast in the Portsmouth Southampton regions. So when I got to Thorney Island it was a, it was a subsidiary of Newhaven Air Sea Rescue full run base and because we were further around, a bit further around the coast we were there on hand to cut down time and if we had to go out to sea and the Channel to, to rescue anybody. But all our rescues apart from one, one single engine pilot came down he was, he was not, not training. He was supposed to be testing some equipment fitted to the aircraft connected to radar and for some unknown reason he crashed. He crashed and the water he crashed in was at low tide and so the plane wasn’t completely submerged. But he couldn’t, he couldn’t move because underneath the plane and all around was thick mud and if you’d have got into it it would have got up to your waist and you couldn’t have walked. Anyway, we, we went out and waited for the tide to rise and then we went out in rubber dinghies which had no draft at all to rescue this guy. And then the next day we were sent out with a couple of electrical fitters, RAF electrical fitters to remove some of the equipment that they wanted. They didn’t want to leave it there for the plane to be covered in salt water eventually. So we had to take them out again to bring them back. And all the other rescues around [pause] around that area Hayling Island, Thorney Island, Chichester and that there were a lot of wealthy boat owners and the war was over as far as they were concerned and they were out in their boats and out of their depth very often and we’d receive distress calls to go and rescue them. And so we, we were engaged in some of our time in going out to rescue them particularly late in the evening when they realised they wouldn’t get back. There was something wrong with their boat or the engine or the rudder or the sails. All sorts of problems or somebody was quite ill and they wanted to get back quickly and they knew that our boats once we picked them up we would be quick back to base at Thorney Island. So now that’s where, I wasn’t demobbed from there. I I received a message from my CO who at Thorney Island because we were that sort of subsidiary base of Newhaven which was a main base. He was a warrant officer and he, he was an unpleasant man. Well occasionally you could hear him say something humorous but he never smiled with it. He never smiled at all and it was a bit of a misery really. But he seemed to take delight in making other people feel uncomfortable and he called me into the office and said, ‘Look, Lloyd, I’m sending you on an NCOs course.’ I said, ‘Why’s that?’ He said, ‘Have you been on an NCOs course?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well you’re going. You’re going to go on one. There’s one operating at Cardington in Bedfordshire,’ he said, ‘And I’m sending you.’ I said, ‘But listen,’ I said, 'Within three months of now I could receive my demob papers. I could be going out of the, of the Air Force altogether.’ I said, ‘At the very most six months I would have thought.’ He said, ‘No. No. You haven’t been on an NCOs course so you’re going.’ And there was nothing I could do about that. He’d made up his mind that I was going to go. And when I got to this course it was for corporals and sergeants who had been promoted overseas and hadn’t, hadn’t been on an NCOs course. I hadn’t been overseas when I was promoted but I was shortly afterwards when I was both promoted and sent abroad from Oban. But anyway, when we got there the sergeants, there were no flight sergeants only sergeants and corporals. We were there and we were given dungarees and, and our rank meant nothing at all. The square bashing type of NCOs that were in charge of us were all corporals. The same type as you had when you were on your initial square bashing and so the fact that you had probably been an NCO longer than the instructor or you may have being a sergeant be of a higher rank in as much as he was a corporal and and his trainees could have been sergeants but wearing dungarees didn’t mean anything. They were just like rookies and we had to go through all the rigmarole of the square bashing that we’d done before. Rifle training including bayonet charging and all the rest of it and an assault course and cross country running. All this lasted, I think the course was two or three weeks, I can’t remember now and it was in December. I forget what year it would be. It was in December and we all formed up and we were going to march to some woodland area outside. Outside Bedford I suppose. Cardington where we were based and we arrived in this forest area and there were already some bell tents erected from the previous course I would presume. But we had to dig fresh latrines and they were just a trench. A trench twelve, fourteen foot long about three or four foot deep and the width of a couple of spades as it were and then we had to find a log in the forest and cut down to form the seat that we sat on that stretched between each end of the, of the latrine trench. And of course, it snowed and not only, not only had I been abroad I’d been in Africa and my blood was still thin and I felt the cold terribly. But nevertheless we got through that with no end results other than that when we took our things off and went back to camp we were back with our, with our rank. Corporal or sergeant or whatever, you know. And the only thing I noticed different was that I was in charge of a Nissen hut at Thorney Island with some of the boat crews and I because of the, I have to say the word the bullshit that was used by the, by the, by the [pause] excuse me I’m being interrupted.
[recording paused]
Sorry for the pause there but my wife just came in and she wasn’t aware I was trying to record and we’re both on zimmer frames I’m afraid so a bit awkward. But anyway, that’s, that’s, that was my time at Thorney. We did a few rescues there. The only one was the RAF, RAF rescue was the plane that came down with the radar equipment on board and then all the rest were these wealthy boat owners who lived around Chichester with their lovely launches and sailing yachts. Anyway, then I got a posting. I thought my posting days were over. My posting days were over and I got a posting to Gosport which is one side of Portsmouth. Got Portsmouth itself on one side. The other side of the harbour is Gosport. Anyway, I’ll tell you about Gosport in a moment. My wife’s just come in.
[reporting paused]
Hello then. Well, now I’m due for demob now from Gosport and whilst I was at Gosport in the, early 1943 I think it would be. Yeah. Early 1943? Hang on. The very bad winter. It was either ’43 or ’47. That’s not very close is it? But there you are. Forgive me for my ninety two years. I don’t always get it right but I’ve always tried. Now, that was a terrible terrible winter and I was there for several months and naturally I was down at the docks on seaplane tender work because they had about four or five pinnaces there that used to go out every day beyond the Isle of Wight. Beyond [unclear] on torpedo recovery. Thornaby was an air sea, air sea, it was called an ASWDU. That’s Air Sea Warfare Development Unit and so on the camp and on the station at Thornaby, Thorney Island rather were Naval and RAF personnel billeted in separate dormitory dormitories of course but nevertheless walking around the campus in different uniforms. It wasn’t hard to see airmen walking alongside or behind or with fellows in typical Naval uniform. Anyway, these pinnaces down at the docks used to go out for the exercises that were taken west of the Isle of Wight out in the Atlantic where they were firing and using torpedoes. Both the Navy and the Air Force and these, these torpedo’s warheads were filled with oil and the warheads painted yellow and when the, when the torpedo had finished its run it was stopped and sink tail first with its head sticking up and of course its head which was the warhead was painted yellow which made it easier for us to spot. And then we’d go alongside it and try and get it on board. Very difficult trying to get torpedoes on board in a choppy sea with the boats swerving from one side to the other and the torpedoes swinging on the, on the lines of the winch that you’re trying to pick it up with. Anyway, then the oil that was spilling, your sea boots would be slipping along the wooden deck. It was a precarious sort of job really. Much more difficult than launching the Navy or the Air Force boys in their planes or boats. We’d launched torpedoes. Yeah. That was reasonably, reasonably clean and easy work I would imagine because it would be the torpedo would be in its rack and ready for the button to press to release it for its target. But once it had done it’s run as I just explained, and the sea was choppy that’s an entirely different matter trying to pick it up and save it. I suppose the idea was they were too expensive to leave and probably dangerous too because they were big heavy things. Anyway, I had to do one or two trips on those but most of the time I was on ferry work with the STs. And then funnily enough in the evening when, when the Navy lads were given time ashore in the evening they, they had to catch what was known as the Liberty boat. Their boat would have a Liberty boat to take all those who were permitted to go ashore for the evening and sometimes of course they would miss them and if they missed the Liberty boat, their own Liberty boat then they didn’t get another chance. The captain of their boat, their ship wouldn’t put another liberty boat on. ‘Sorry, you missed the boat. You’re late. Bad luck.’ So we used to go around in the evening about half past sixish I suppose in my, my seaplane tender and we used to go around all the boats, quite a number of Royal Naval boats in Portsmouth Harbour and they’d know why we were coming because we would await a signal from them but the boys had got left behind and we would pull alongside and pick them up and take them to to Portsmouth for an evening ashore. And we didn’t want any money or anything you know. It was an exercise for us to get out in the launch and get around the harbour and have a look and it was a good opportunity for them not to waste their time ashore. So as we were approaching Portsmouth harbour itself and dockside they would toss a few ship’s, ship’s woodbine packets into the wheelhouse as sort of a thank you payment. Now, ship’s woodbines were nothing like your ordinary Woodbines. I remember smoking a woodbine, or nearly one, it burned a hole in my throat almost. But the ship’s woodbines were lovely. Lovely cigarettes like, like Players. Players and Gold Flake and things like that. So that was one of the things that occupied my mind at Gosport except that it was terribly terribly cold. Just a minute. What date did I get demobbed in? Was it ’47?
Other: Yeah.
As I said the winter of 1946/7 was very very bad. Due to limited amount of transport on the road there were snowdrifts and where snow had been cleared to the side of the road there were great lumps of it frozen and there had been no snow clearing, no gritters, nothing to break it up. Not even enough traffic to sort of squelch it down and it it remained like that oh for at least three weeks to a month. It was a terrible terrible winter. But somehow or other and I don’t know why when I got a weekend leave I would come up from Havant, near Thorney Island, by train to Waterloo and then spend my thirty six or forty eight hours leave at home. And then to get back, to get back to camp on a Monday morning in time for parade you had to be back by at least 7 o’clock and I found this very difficult and the only way I could do that was to go to Waterloo where I’d have missed the last train back to Southampton, Portsmouth etcetera and they had like a rough dormitory where you could pay about a shilling I think it was for a mug of cocoa and a bed which was just like a rack really you slept on and you’d also leave a note as to what time you wanted to be called in the morning to catch the early train to get you to, to Portsmouth. Well, this was, this was a bit of a racket and on the Monday after you’d gone through all this Sunday night business you were whacked. So I decided to buy an ex-Army dispatch rider’s motorbike and there was a firm called Pride and Clarke in South London who had bought, started to buy up a lot of government surplus and motorbikes and I went along there and selected a Royal Enfield which wasn’t a bad old bike. Not a lot of punch in it because it was side valve and not overhead valve but it used to get my up and down from Portsmouth, Gosport to London quite successfully. The only trouble was that most of the journeys back on a Sunday night which meant I hadn’t got trains to catch or anything and I could be back in time to be on parade on Monday. The only trouble was nine times out of ten it used to rain and although I had a zippered front padded Air Force pilots kapok built flying suit which covered you from head to ankle the braid used to peak under my chest and seep through the zip fasteners running down the front into my, into my underpants and when I used to get back to my actual billet, my Nissen hut I would take my clothes off and wring my pants out. Like wringing them out from a wash basin. But anyway, that did help and I did enjoy most of the rides. It didn’t rain every time but quite a few times and there was a certain amount of joy in riding my own motorbike to Portsmouth and then back to London and all over and it was handy because you could give, I used to give a pal a lift back to London on a Saturday if it was a thirty six hours or on a Friday it if was a forty eight. So that was one of the worst winters that I can ever remember because nothing thawed. There was no thaw at all and the lumps in the road were breaking the springs and axels of vehicles because they were so rock hard that a lot of vehicles were breaking down. To say nothing of the freeze up itself which would freeze up, freeze up diesel. It could. It could freeze diesel into a sort of a slurry where it could no longer evaporate into a, into a spray to go in to the diesel pumps before it was compressed to ignite. So that’s where I finished up actually and after that I stayed with my parents and my father said, ‘What are you going to do, son?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. I’d like to stay doing what I’ve been doing. That’s being in charge of motor launches.’ And the only place I could think of was the Thames River Pleasure Boats weren’t really organised after the war then. They were building up but I thought no. I’ll try Thames River Police and having been trained as a coxswain I thought I’d be halfway there but I understand you had to do time as an ordinary copper before you can go for selection to a specialised trade. So I went along to the local Police Station one evening and there was a big sergeant standing behind a desk and he said, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘I’ve come to make an enquiry.’ ‘About what?’ He said. I said, ‘About joining the Thames River Police.’ He said, ‘Well, you can’t just come here and say you want to join the Thames River Police. You’ve got to come here and become a constable first. You’ve got to do at least two years on the beat before you can specialise. Ask to specialise in different things like a police dispatch rider, a dog handler, all these things which you would like to do and so all this takes time.’ But anyway, he looked at me and he lifted the flap up on the desk and said, ‘Come here. Come stand against this wall.’ And against the wall was measurements in inches and feet and he made me stand with my back to the wall and he said, ‘Now, it’s like this at the Metropolitan Police.’ He said, ‘Every constable is issued with a helmet. Now, there’s two reasons why we issue our constables with a helmet. One is to protect their head to an extent from attack or damage and the other one is to make them look fractionally taller than they really are.’ He said, ‘But I’m afraid they don’t make helmets tall enough for you son.’ He said, ‘You’re not tall enough.’ And I was five foot seven but there were police regulations in those days about height and I think I missed by about one inch. Five eight I would have been ok. So I came away disappointed with that and then I tried BOAC who said they were going to develop a Flying Boat Station down at Southampton to combat the luxury liners that could do the Atlantic run in three or four days. I think they could. But they said you know the rich people could fly in these Sunderlands adapted for passenger carrying and catering and tea and something and they could do it in say ten, twelve hours which a lot of people went for. But it never got off the ground. They took my name etcetera and said, ‘Yes. We shall be needing people like yourself. Good boat handlers because all the Flying Boats would be moored out. Out in the bay in the sea so we’ll need good boat handlers.’ So I said, ‘Ok then, well I’ll look forward to hearing from you.’ And I never did because the whole scheme was abandoned and it would have been a bit sad if I’d have gone into it, started to enjoy it and then been made redundant afterwards. So it didn’t occur to me to apply to the Thames, Thames River Authority who patrolled the river from right up to Henley right the way down to Southend. And it just didn’t occur to me to apply there because I probably would have got a job there. Anyway, I then had to give up the idea of being a coxswain in or around anywhere in London and so I turned my head to what I thought was an up and coming industry. An area to be in. And that was in refrigeration. Not many families after the war had refrigerators. Quite a few did I know but I would say the majority of ordinary working class people didn’t have a fridge. Couldn’t afford one. And I worked for this firm that produced a home fridge which was recognised as a reasonable price and I went along to apply for a job and they said, ‘What would you like to do? We’ve got vacancies in the office or on the workshop side.’ I said, ‘Well, I want to learn all about refrigerators. I want to learn what makes them go, what makes them stop. Stop. And what keep them running without, without trouble. So they said, ‘Ok. Well, you can start in the workshop.’ Which I did and there were three other fellows in the workshop who were very good. What they didn’t know about refrigerators was wasn’t worth thinking about and they taught me how to assemble, install and repair and diagnose what was wrong with any refrigerator. And so I went into the assembly part after that to assemble new refrigerators for distribution and for sale. And from then, from then I said I wanted to be a service engineer. Outside engineer. And they bought a new, a new Ford van. They’d got some other vans but they, they called me in and said, ‘We understand from your father that you’re a good driver and we understand from other people. Now, we’re going to give you this van and send you out servicing but we want you to look after it.’ So of course I was almost queen of the servicing fleet really. Brand new van and everything and I enjoyed that. But then the firm after about three or four years of success where they must have made a fortune decided to shift it to South Africa. South Africa and they said that they’d like me to go. They’d pay my fares, find me accommodation etcetera etcetera. Settled. Settled down into the same job in South Africa and of course by then I was courting my wife, Sadie and I didn’t, she didn’t want to go to South Africa and I didn’t want to go without her anyway. So we let that slip by and that that’s the work that I did and then I I decided that I would try local government. The reason for this was my wife was an engineer’s secretary. Her father was chief mechanical engineer at one of the depots where all the lorries were kept and I saw it as being a steady sort of job and I then just wanted to be a normal guy with a steady job and a lovely girlfriend and wife. So I applied for a job. Fortunately, locally where I live. Depot stock which meant that recording all the activities of all the machinery and work, work types and jobs and games that left the depot. And from there I realised that if you were interested and showed an interest in the type of work you did they would allow you one day release to study in your particular field. In mine it was clerical and administrative work as seen and done by local government officers and so I took the advantage for day release. Along came the exams and I passed that one and then I went on to a higher examinations and another one which involved all the technicalities of running a depot. What the vehicles were used for etcetera. How you were allowed to use them, how much tax and other stuff would be required to run them etcetera and that’s where I stayed. In local government. And I retired in 1983 or ‘4, I think it was and I’ve been retired ever since. I had one or two little knockabout jobs but nothing serious and I’ve enjoyed my retirement with my wife who also retired from local government. So I think this is the end of my story now. It may have been a little long, drawn out and boring and I’m sure you will edit, edit it to the bits that you think are interesting enough but I have to say that although I never really achieved my dream of being a second coxswain on a whaleback I did experience several trips out as a second coxswain but not in a permanent capacity. I wanted to become one of the permanent crew but they saw me as a useful coxswain for using, using all the other launches and types of vehicles, types of crafts that they had. So I do hope this has been useful and interesting for some of you who read it and if there’s anything you’ve got my name and address. If there is anything you want to know or query with me afterwards I’d be, I’d be only too happy. I have to apologise for a third time I think for being so slow in returning this to you but I spent in all six months in hospital from one bout of four months and one bout of two months and I had to learn to walk all over again. I won’t go into all the details because it’s quite, quite complicated but I caught severe pneumonia twice in hospital and nearly went overboard on both those occasions. But anyway, we’re here now to tell the tale. Good luck to you all. It’s a wonderful idea that you have and I hope that my delay hasn’t stopped you. I can understand if you go forward without my tales but you’ve got them anyway and I hope you enjoy them. Bye for now. Best of luck.


“Interview with Terry Lloyd,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 20, 2024,

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