Interview with Peter Olney


Interview with Peter Olney






00:23:22 audio recording


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These are the memoirs of Peter John Olney now aged 93 years and recorded on the 27th February 2016 I served in the Royal Air Force from October 1942 to November 1946. In pre-war years 1930 to 39. I spent many school holidays in company with and offices of a professional Sailor and Fisherman on the Thames estuary, and I gained experience in handling and general management of relative small sea going craft. In the early war years I served in old school flight of my school ATC No 726 Squadron. I was called for pre service registration in Sept 1941 and there interviewed by an Army officer who accepted my wish to serve in the Air Sea Rescue service. A month or so later I received a questionnaire requesting details of my nautical experience and knowledge of navigation gained from the ATC. Having joined the RAF in the Autumn of 1942 at RAF Cardington a pre-war home of airships R100 & R101 after kitting out posted to Blackpool a recruit training centre there I discovered as a result of my replies to my questionnaire mentioned previously I had been accepted as an AC2 in the trade of MBC and then been allotted trade pay since the first day of my enlistment my pay was therefore higher than that of my fellow recruits at a pay parade one of the officers suggested quite firmly that I went to a Post Office prior to returning to our billet and deposit some of the cash. In December I was posted to RAF Corsewall a Marine Craft training centre situated on a large country estate on the south shore of Loch Earn in the south west of Scotland. After completing training there I was posted to RAF Calshot near Southampton the pre-war centre of marine craft and from there sent with an officer and other crew members to Dartmouth where we took over from the boat builders a new Air Sea Rescue 60ft Pinnace No 1309 after sea trials we sailed around the coast of south west England then the coast of wales and the isle of man to the Air Sea Rescue base at Larne Northern Ireland and I believe the number of that Air Sea Rescue base was No 58 I served at that base for twelve months during which time I was detached with a crew to Portree isle of Skye which was subsequently opened as an air sea rescue base and whilst at Portree we were directed to the islands of Colonsay and Oronsay. As we were making fast at one of these islands we received a crash call it had said that a light house officer had seen a plane crash just short of the island of Tiree we went there but just before we arrived we were told that no aircraft was missing, we wondered if it was just an exercise. That evening we returned direct to Portree. In the darkness I could see the moon and the lights from Northern Ireland when we returned to Larne in Northern Ireland. When we returned to Larne. I was detached once more for a Cox’ns course at RAF Corsewall, Larne was a quite place but in the spring of 1944 we were posted to a Mobile ASR unit No 32 & 33 ASR which at the time was attached to 27 ASR at Dover, we went there with Flying Officer Storey and crew and after our arrival engaged on patrols in the English Channel. On one of those patrols we undertook our first rescue we were directed to an American crew who were on the water between Dover and Calais. Calais then being held by the Germans, Spitfires were circling overhead to protect us a Walrus aircraft came down and took four of the crew and we returned six, on our journey back to Dover one of the American crew commented to me that he wou8ld no longer be frightened of coming down in the Channel for he had not even got his feet wet. Subsequently in June 44 probably the 1st of June we were directed to our base at Poole in \Dorset. Unfortunately when of the Isle of Wight we developed steering failure and after some difficulty in steering with two of us in the steerage locker and the use of the engines a marine craft was sent out to us from Calshot and towed us back to that station, on the way we passed through a crowded anchorage of assault vessels which were there for the assault in Normandy , our boat was slipped almost immediately we still slept aboard and the following morning we awoke to find that all of the vessels in the crowded waterway had left…it was D Day. Our craft having been repaired was then sent with us to Poole in Dorset which was to be our base for a while. The following Morning D Plus ONE we rendezvoused with an aircraft control vessel in mid-Atlantic and were there dispatched to a crew that were on the water near the Cherbourg peninsula on the way and very near to the French coast a water spout appeared in our wake we were under attack further waterspouts appeared but as a target we were extremely small and were a considerable distance away from the French coast and the danger was only slight. However we were withdrawn and a craft approaching from a different direction made the rescue. We subsequently made patrols based from Poole and Calshot and as our allied armies took over the coast of Normandy and advanced eastwards we patrolled the coast and naturally any damaged aircraft the crews were disinclined to cross the channel but put down in Northern France. Often then we operated from the harbour at Cherbourg and from the Mulberry harbour that was created at Arromanches in France. As the allied armies advanced eastwards and liberated Belgium we then were dispatched to Ostend with other crews of 32 & 33 ASR and berthed at what had been the E Boat pens reinforced concrete structures built by the Germans to protect their E Boats from attacks and damage from RAF Bombers. On one occasion we were directed to amphibian Walrus aircraft which was on the sea a few miles north of Ostend it one American airman aboard we were told the American aircraft had disintegrated presumably from damage sustained over Germany and broke up in the air a number of parachutes were seen but after surveillance only one parachute was seen on the water and the Walrus aircraft rescued the airman concerned we transferred that airman to our launch and escorted the Walrus which had lost power and was unable to take off to a beach near Ostend. I subsequently contacted that American airman sent him a photograph this was many years after the war ended and he told me that he had been down in the channel for some time, following this action all of the crew were saved. Shortly before the end of the war when I was on a junior NCO’s course my boat was called to a damaged after being Mined craft that was on fire when I made a perilous rescue of a single sailor who was that boat this was witnessed by the Navy who gave Three Cheers for the RAF and subsequently three members of my crew were decorated for their Bravery. Our HSL had been slightly damaged during that rescue and we were directed back to Felixstowe for repairs whilst there Hostilities Ceased and we witnessed the surrender of a flotilla of E Boats their bows were vastly different to our HSL’s they were more like the bow of a submarine. And whilst there we were directed to Norway we travelled up the East Coast of England and parts of Scotland and crossed the North Sea from there, we finally berthed in Oslo at the very top of Oslo Fjord and berthed amongst Oslo airport ferry pool subsequently were berthed by the island of Gressholmen the island was two or three kilometres into the Fjord from Oslo centre and I took over control of a German pinnace with initially a German crew to ferry members of our staff to Oslo when required. It was strange that ocean going boats were sent to Oslo because it took us at least half a day to reach them at sea, and only on one occasion were directed to the open sea when German transport aircraft I believe Junkers were being ferried from Norway back to Germany but we enjoyed Oslo and were there until November 1945 when were directed back again to the UK, I was then posted as an individual to Scotland and was employed with a Sea Plane Tender servicing and towing etc. Flying Boats that returned from the Far East for Maintenance and for mothballing. I was discharged from the Royal Air Force in November 1946 and did subsequently enrolled in the University of London and a London Hospital and qualified as a Doctor in 1953 as an Addendum of the above record I have to add that on our return from Norway we passed along the west coast of Sweden and unfortunately or perhaps fortunately we developed minor engine trouble and put into Gothenburg Sweden had not be in the war and it was a delight full surprize to find all of the shops fully lit and fully stocked there only shortage was of western cigarettes I being a non-smoker had Hoarded my ration to pass to my father but I could not resist the temptation to trade them for some Swedish currency with which I purchased a rather voluminous Handbag for my mother which she treasured for many years and I purchased some elegant fishing equipment for my father and purchased a watch a Swiss made watch which I still have in my possession…..Thank you I should also make note of one incident which occurred when we were in Ostend which is both amusing and ….. we were patrolling along the north coast of France when we approached too close to Dunkirk which was still held for a short while by the Germans as the allies had by passed the Dunkirk area as the priority was to capture ground of far greater value for supply purposes we were channelled again off Dunkirk when a shell exploded close to the beam of us, I was on the wheel and opened the throttles both faster than our fitter liked he was coming through the engine room hatch to complain to me when another shell exploded he rapidly returned below to make certain our engines were going at full speed unfortunately this fitter Joe Newton was subsequently Drowned in a boating accident in Norway.


“Interview with Peter Olney,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 16, 2024,

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