Interview with Charles Frederick Green


Interview with Charles Frederick Green


Charles Frederick Green was born in Peckham, London, in 1921. On leaving school he began an apprenticeship with a printing company, acting part-time as a police courier, before becoming an Air Raid Precaution warden. He then volunteered for the Royal Air Force and was accepted for gunnery training in January 1941. He began at Number 2 Gunnery School at RAF Dalcross. He crewed up at 24 Operational Training Unit at RAF Honeybourne, joining a predominantly Canadian crew. After a time at 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit, he was posted to 429 Squadron at RAF Leeming. He began operations at the end of 1943 and completed thirty four operations with 429 Squadron, most to German targets. He was in the crew which had a famous mascot, a Pocahontas doll. After a period of leave, he joined 75 Squadron at RAF Mepal, acting as a mid under gunner in specially-adapted Lancasters. He took part in operations to support the D-Day landings and later in Operation Manna. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After two tours, he performed ground crew duties at RAF Padgate. After the war he became a printer for a newspaper company in Sheffield. He discusses the matter of lucky charms and superstitions, as well as veterans’ feelings after the war.







01:37:24 audio recording


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BW: This is Brian Wright from International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Flying Officer Charles Green at 3.15pm on Tuesday the 29th of March 2016 at his home in Poulton, Lancashire. Start off with, Flying Officer Green, can you tell me where you were born and what your date of birth is please?
CG: My date of birth is 28 10 ‘21. I was born in Peckham, South East London.
BW: How many people were in your family? Did you have brothers and sisters?
CG: I’ve got two brothers. I did have a sister who passed away soon after she was born I’m afraid.
BW: And growing up, what sort of family life did you have?
CG: Oh great. Alright. Brilliant. Yes.
BW: I mean you were in sort of South East London actually in -
CG: Well I -
BW: The urban area weren’t you?
CG: That’s right but I was born in 1921 but in 1930 my parents wanted to move out of London which we did eventually and in 1930 we went to Dagenham in Essex.
BW: Right.
CG: Which was very countrified at that time. No buses, no trains or anything like that.
BW: And no large factories there like there are now.
CG: Sorry?
BW: No large factories there like there are now.
CG: No not now no. It’s different again now.
BW: And -
CG: Apparently -
BW: And, so what was your schooling like?
CG: What was what?
BW: Your schooling like. What sort of subjects did you do at school?
CG: Hist, oh dear, just the usual. Arithmetic, history, geography, things like that but we didn’t touch trigonometry and maths and all that until 1935. Halfway through 1935 [background noise] we went on to a bit of trigonometry and maths and all that but by that time it was a bit too late for me to pick it up.
BW: And so what, what, what year did you finish school? How old were you when you finished your schooling?
CG: I was fourteen. 1935. Christmas 1935 I left. Fourteen.
BW: And what happened after that? Where did you, where did go after that?
CG: After that I, my, my father got me in to the printing industry, Brown Knight and Truscott’s in London and I started to serve a seven-year apprenticeship in the machine room but there again the war came along and halfway through and put a stop to it. In which, first off I went on to the, when the war started I went on the ARP and then ran messages for the police. We all did. All half a dozen of us, of a gang of us and as I say we continued with the ARP at weekends and at night and then when 1941 came I was, I was nineteen then so I volunteered for the RAF which I went to the late, during '41 I went to the technical college to try and improve me grammar, education if you like and eventually I got called up. I got my RAF papers January 1942 and reported to the RAF at Lords Cricket Ground on the 26th of January 1942 and that was it. I was in the RAF.
BW: So just going back to the early part of the war because you’d gone in to the civilian -
BW: [unclear] forces as an ARP.
CG: Yeah the first off -
BW: And -
CG: Sorry?
BW: That’s alright and you must have, did you see much of the Blitz at that time because Dagenham isn’t that far from London?
CG: Oh yes. Going up to work it took us, it took my father and meself ages to get, a couple of hours to get to work because of the previous night’s bombing, the traffic was all haywire. Trains were, it was a case of getting on the underground so many stations, getting off, getting on a bus, two more, a couple of miles, to getting off again, getting back on the train into London and then walking from there to your firm where you worked with all the firefighters doing their work trying to clear up and knocking down buildings because, which was the, well you can imagine, pandemonium really. You were supposed to start work at eight, eight o’clock in the morning but we were getting there about half past ten like everybody else. Everybody else was the in the same boot you know it wasn’t just us.
BW: Yeah.
CG: Everybody [unclear]. And the same thing at night when you used to knock off at six and you didn’t get home 'till about eight or nine o’clock. Just a similar thing in reverse.
BW: And so you were working as an apprentice at this time.
CG: [unclear].
BW: But you doing your ARP in the evening and weekends.
CG: Yeah.
BW: So -
CG: Well I was doing it at night.
BW: Yeah.
CG: If you were on and then at weekends yeah but previous to that we used to run, we started running messages for the police ‘cause they didn’t have a, didn’t have a ruddy big police force at that time so that they asked for youths who weren’t in the forces who had a bike would they run messages for the police so we volunteered and then when they got the reserves, the police reserves, they didn’t want us obviously so we took up this air raid post. Yeah.
BW: Did you get to see any of the messages or know what the messages were about that you were running for the police?
CG: Oh no. I don’t know. No, we got, I took, I only took one or two if I remember.
BW: Right.
CG: Yeah no just had to go to someone else, knock on the door to give them a message. Nothing, nothing, well there was one for me, personal. Apparently somebody had been killed in London and we had to notify the parents. The police did but because they didn’t have anybody available they sent me but when I got there, weren’t anybody in. They were out. So eventually the police came looking for me to take me, yeah. That’s right that [laughs]. Oh dear.
BW: And how did it feel as an ARP seeing the bombers come over during a raid?
CG: Well it was at night. You didn’t see them actually. You heard them but yeah oh yeah and sometimes the odd one dropped a bomb too, accidentally or whatever and when they went back they had to perhaps get rid of one which was like we used to do.
BW: Yeah. Yeah.
CG: But yeah. Aye.
BW: And what drew you to the RAF? You mentioned that you volunteered and got your call-up papers in January ‘42 so you’d had a good long spell really.
CG: Oh twelve months.
BW: ’41. Twelve months as an ARP.
CG: Yeah. Twelve months. I volunteered in January ‘41 and they said it’ll be quite a while so that’s when I went, I went on to this technical college to try and improve my how’s your father grammar.
BW: Yeah.
CG: But oh education I suppose you might say. It’s a long time ago in it?
BW: What drew you to the RAF though as opposed to say to the army and navy?
CG: Sorry?
BW: What drew you to the RAF as opposed to the army or navy?
CG: Well I didn’t, I didn’t fancy the navy or the army to be honest. My prescription, prescription my conscription was coming up. I’d have to go in whatever happened but I wanted to choose what I wanted to go in if I could and I was leaning towards the RAF. Yes.
BW: And did you want to be air crew from the outset or did you prefer to go -
CG: Well that was -
BW: As ground crew?
CG: When in front of the selection board they said, ‘You’re wanting to be wireless operator / air gunner?’ So I said, ‘Yes.’ They said, ‘Well what’s wrong with, why don’t you want to be a pilot?’ So I was frank, I said, ‘Well, I don’t think I’ve got the education qualities.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘We could teach you. You could go to classes.’ So I said, ‘That’s alright,’ so I went. That’s when the twelve months previous I went to try and improve but, and when I first went in the RAF they sent me down to Brighton for air crew, air crew but it was all, I couldn’t do it. Trigonometry, maths. I couldn’t do that then. No. No. I knew I couldn’t but I tried, but there you are.
BW: And so you went straight -
CG: So -
BW: In as wireless op / air gunner.
CG: Yeah. Yes, I went wireless operator / air gunner and I finished up as an air gunner. Yeah. There was a wireless course but it's so complicated it would take me ages to explain that.
BW: And so once you’d joined up and had your basic training and then went on to the air gunnery course -
CG: Yeah.
BW: You started flying Ansons. Is that right?
CG: Yes. That was the first thing. I went through the ordinary course, you know the normal, normal gunnery taking it, taking guns to bits and putting them together and target practice and all that business and then, and then we went to air to air firing and we tried it on, we flew Ansons. That’s it.
BW: And were you assessed at these stages as to your accuracy of -?
CG: At the end of it yes. Yeah. Firing at a moving drogue. It was a ruddy job, we didn’t get very good results. Nobody did. And then from there oh dear Ansons yeah. From there -
BW: You said you went -
CG: That was -
BW: On to Whitleys.
CG: That was, where was it now? Ansons. No it wasn’t. I went to, oh I went oh that was ITW [?]. Went to Dalcross. Dalcross, oh I can’t see it. Oh Dalcross was the gunnery school. We finished up there. Oh dear.
BW: So looking at your logbook here it says 2 Air Gunnery School.
CG: Yeah but -
BW: Ansons.
CG: That’s right. Ansons. Yeah. And then we went to Honeybourne. Whitleys.
BW: Okay.
CG: It should be.
BW: Yeah. 24 OTU flying Whitleys.
CG: Whitleys. That’s right. Then from there we went to Croft. Halifaxes to start training. Start operations. Is that right? Should be.
BW: That’s right. Now this says 1664 Conversion Unit.
CG: Conversion Unit. Yeah that’s it. That was from the Whitley to the Halifax. Four, the Halifax, the four engine, similar to the -
BW: Yeah.
CG: Similar to the Lanc.
BW: How did you find that? What was that like when you started flying in those?
CG: Oh well the only thing it was a different kind of turret. You see on the Halifax, when you were on the Halifax it was electrically operated. In fact when you got in the turret you had a little joystick to move, move it around, with a button on top to press to fire your guns but on a Lancaster it was oil controlled and you had kind of a motorbike effect so when you held it you held it like a motorbike and if you depressed, depressed your hands that would move the turret and your fingers were in a guard and if you, the triggers were in the guard and if you squeezed the triggers it fired the guns.
BW: And so this is completely different from normal firing where people would look -
CG: Oh yeah.
BW: Through the fore sight and the rear sight.
CG: Oh yeah.
BW: And have the butt of the rifle in the shoulder. This is -
CG: Oh yeah, no, nothing yeah.
BW: Sort of using the guns to the side. Yeah.
CG: They were machine guns, yeah and then when I went — when I went on the Lancaster at the end I went underneath a point five and that was the nearest I can tell you about that is that that’s what the Yanks use in their Fortresses as near enough and you only had the one but they used to fire seven hundred and fifty a minute and you just sat, sat down there just in case somebody, you know, enemy came underneath ‘cause that’s what they were doing. The Messerschmitts, the Germans had the Messerschmitt 109, I think it was the 109 and they had an upper upward pointing gun and they used to fly under the bombers, point the gun and just fire.
BW: These would be the Messerschmitt 110s would they?
CG: 109.
BW: Well the 109 was a single engine fighter wasn’t it?
CG: That’s right yeah.
BW: But the, the 110 was a twin engine fighter.
CG: Yes. Yeah.
BW: With the cockpit and the cannon in the rear.
CG: Twin booms I think. Yeah.
BW: Yeah.
CG: But then they were a long time, long time doing that, bringing that underneath gun. They should have had it before. Anyway they brought that out and that’s how after I’d finished my first tour of ops when they recalled me again to my second one and that was to man the underneath gun. And that was at Mepal. 75 Squadron.
BW: Just coming back to your time on 429 Squadron you’ve gone through -
CG: 429 Canadian.
BW: That’s right. You’d gone through your conversion unit.
CG: That’s right.
BW: And you’ve now been posted to Leeming.
CG: That’s right again.
BW: 429 Squadron. It’s unusual perhaps that RAF crews serve with a Canadian unit as mixed. You would expect perhaps Canadian -
CG: Yeah.
BW: Crews complete. Were you a mixed crew?
CG: Yeah. Oh yes. The, in fact the navigator was a, was a Russian. His name, they called him Corkie. His parents had escaped from Russia at the revolution, Russian revolution. Bannoff his name was.
BW: Bannoff.
CG: Yeah.
BW: B A N O V?
CG: Bannoff I think it was. Bannoff. Yes that’s right. He was.
BW: And on this first crew do you remember who your pilot was?
CG: Oh yeah. Mitchell. He was a great bloke.
BW: And what, were they all NCOs? Was he an NCO as well?
CG: At the beginning yes but he was the first one to get commissioned.
BW: And do you recall his first name?
CG: I can. I ought to. We always called him Mitch. Leonard. Leonard. I think I’m right there. Leonard. Yeah. Don’t suppose it matters a lot though really but -
BW: And so with a Halifax you had a crew of five.
CG: No. No. Seven.
BW: Seven.
CG: Yeah. Oh yeah.
BW: Okay.
CG: Very good.
BW: Do you recall the others? The wireless operator.
CG: Yes. Yes just give me a minute then.
BW: That’s okay.
CG: The engineer was Bill Lawrence [pause]. The navigator was Corkie Bannoff [pause]. The wireless operator was Jamie Jameson.
BW: Jamie Jameson.
CG: Yeah. Used to call him Jamie. James, yeah, that’s it. Jameson. Yeah. Who else is there? Bannoff. How many have you got there?
BW: Including yourself that’s five. So there’s two gunners.
CG: Two more.
BW: There’s a rear gunner.
CG: Oh rear gunner.
BW: And mid up.
CG: Hunter. Eugene. Gene Hunter. Oh and the bomb aimer. The bomb aimer was, oh I can’t remember him now. Bomb aimer. Thompson. Tommy Thompson [pause]
BW: So he was the bomb aimer.
CG: That’s it. Yeah. You should have seven now.
BW: And the rear gunner was Gene Hunter.
CG: Gene Hunter yeah.
BW: Which left you as the mid upper.
CG: Seven.
BW: And that and you yourself would be -
CG: I was the mid upper.
BW: Yeah.
CG: At 429. It was 75 when I went the other one and I can’t tell you the crews on that one because they were all different crews every time. More or less.
BW: And how did you crew up with your Halifax guys? How did you meet and form as a crew?
CG: Oh yes it was after the, after the gunnery course. Then we went to this station, I think, it wasn’t Honeybourne. It was another station. We were all mixed. Pilots, navigators and everything and then this chap came around to me and, ‘We need a mid-upper. How about it?’ I said, ‘Yes. Okay.’ And that was it and I was, I was a member of Mitch’s crew. And I stayed. Luckily enough we stayed together all the time until we finished the tour.
BW: Did you socialise together at all?
CG: Sorry?
BW: Did you socialise together at all as a crew?
CG: Sorry again.
BW: Did you socialise together at all as a crew? Did you go out for drinks and dances -
CG: On occasions. On occasion -
BW: And things with each other?
CG: But to be, they had the money. We had, I forget whether it was thirty, no it was thirty bob when I was training. No don’t quote that I’m not sure. We didn’t get the money they got. I mean Bill Lawrence, we used to come down, we were upstairs in a room. When we came down they used to sit round here, all the other five, Canadians. They were alright. They were great. All around. A bundle of notes, back, you know, betting.
BW: Just used to throw them down on the floor to bet on the game.
CG: Oh Jeez and we had thirty bob. What could you do?
BW: Yeah.
CG: I mean they went out obviously and say, ‘Come on.’ ‘No. No.’ I couldn’t have, couldn’t sponge on people all the time like that.
BW: So who, who were the Canadians in your crew? You mentioned the Russian. Corkie. And you yourself were the Brit.
CG: Yeah.
BW: So the other five then of the seven must have all been Canadians.
CG: Except for Bill Lawrence the navigator, er engineer. He was English. Newcastle lad.
BW: So two Brits, four Canadians.
CG: Five Canadians.
BW: Five Canadians.
CG: Two Brits, five Canadians. Is that right? Should be. Yeah.
BW: And what were facilities like on the base for you?
CG: Oh alright. Yeah. Well it was a Canadian squadron. I mean we were sponsored by CPR, Canadian Pacific Railways. And we were told that if we went over there we would get free rides, free train rides. No trouble. And the other squadron 427, there were two squadrons on the station 427, they were sponsored by MGM. Metro Goldwyn Mayer and they got free, free films anywhere they were.
BW: Did you give your aircraft a name?
CG: U-Uncle, first one.
BW: U-Uncle.
CG: And then we had to have another one because we came on leave and while we were away another crew took it and it went in. It went down in the channel. So we lost that one. We got Q for Queenie I think. It should tell you in me book. Me logbook. What the name of the, what the name of the aircraft was.
BW: I’ll just have a look here. You started, it says you started flying in Z-Zulu. By -
CG: Was that training?
BW: The look of it. Those would be your first missions in December.
CG: Well it could have been yeah. Z- Zebra was it? Yeah. Q-Queenie mainly I thought but of course I might be a bit, I might be a bit rusty now.
BW: That’s alright. And you were in B flight?
CG: Yeah. Well, I can’t tell you. I wouldn’t say that. I don’t know without looking at that. Now when I was at Mepal 75 I was on one, one plane only. Every time it flew I flew. L for London that one. Funny wasn’t it, but when that flew I flew and left and when I left the station, I was finished it was still there so-
BW: Right.
CG: It was alright yeah.
BW: So while you were based at Leeming with 429 did your crew share the same barracks?
CG: Oh yes we had a house like this.
BW: Right.
CG: Yeah.
BW: Sort of a detached house in the, was it off base or was it on base?
CG: On base yeah.
BW: Right. It was a block. A block. Yeah it was. Not a, not a long block, it was a short block of houses if I remember. They called them married quarters but they weren’t then of course and Bill Lawrence and me we shared the upstairs bedroom, two beds. The other room which had three beds was the navigator, wireless operator and bomb aimer. No the bomb aimer was downstairs with Mitch. The pilot.
BW: So you’re starting to fly operations now and you mentioned earlier that your first one was mine laying.
CG: That’s right.
BW: And it says Christmas Eve 1943.
CG: That’s right.
BW: That was your trip out.
CG: Yeah.
BW: To -
CG: Kiel Canal.
BW: Kiel Canal.
CG: Yeah and we were told later that the Admiral Scheer had been sunk so whether that was a bit of propaganda I don’t know. You had to take everything with a pinch of salt if you could.
BW: And before -
CG: We were followed back one day early on one of the trips if you want to know it might be there, I don’t know, by a Focke Wulf 190.
BW: Right. It’s not, just looking at this it’s not listed.
CG: That’s with 429 Squadron.
BW: Yeah. And what happened? How –
CG: He picked us up after we left the target and both Gene and me said, ‘Mitch a ruddy fighter behind us.’ ‘What is it?' he said, he asked. ‘190.’ ‘Well how far?’ ‘Oh its way back. Out of range. No good firing.’ So he said, ‘Well keep an eye on it all the time.’ Oh I can ruddy, it’s amazing how you can put out some of these and I don’t know whether I’ve had the cup of tea or not. ‘Keep an eye on it,’ he says, ‘but don’t forget the other sides of the plane because he might be a decoy,’. ‘Cause they used to do that you see or they’d put one over there on the port side and the other one would come in on the starboard. Something like that. Which we did. Kept an eye on him. All the time. A Focke Wulf 190 and you could always tell a Focke Wolf, reckon it was just like an ordinary, like a carrot, you see an ordinary carrot how it take, yeah that was it and he followed us right back to the Channel 'till we got to the French coast to come home and he banked off and went. Now why, never know. Never know that. Whether it was his first trip or whether he was trying to waste time I don’t know. But we never, 'cause we couldn’t find out but he followed us all the way back to the coast. French coast, 'till we crossed over to the Channel.
BW: But he picked you out as an individual bomber.
CG: Yeah. I don’t know.
BW: And you weren’t in a stream at that point. Were you not?
CG: What us?
BW: Yeah.
CG: Oh no we, when you got over there you just went in. You didn’t, you just followed, followed your target, your course and went in. Yeah. By the time you got in there was flak and fighters you just, searchlights, so you just had to do what you could. Yeah.
BW: And thinking about the mine laying operation.
CG: Yeah.
BW: I believe they were carried out at pretty low level, about three hundred feet at night. Is that right?
CG: Oh I can’t remember now, that. No. I can’t remember that one. I remember is our first trip you said? Yeah that’s right. We were all on edge looking out for ruddy fighters. Yeah we got, no I can’t. I remember we got over the canal, Kiel Canal wasn’t it? That’s it. And Mitch said, ‘Let it go,’ and the bloody plane went up because it does with the weight and he said, ‘Right. Let’s get off back.’ And that was it, I can’t remember much more about that.
BW: And when you prepared yourselves for a typical mission did you have any mascots or lucky charms or rituals or anything like that you went through?
CG: Oh yes I did. Well I could have brought it. I’ve got it upstairs. I should have brought it. Well it’s in there. I can show you. I’ve got a metal thing like a -
BW: Like a little plaque.
CG: For shaving -
BW: Oh I see.
CG: What they did in the First World War. Now my grandmother, my father’s mother gave it to him at the beginning of 1914 war and said to him, ‘Carry this in your pocket throughout the war,’. ‘Cause I wasn’t born then obviously which he did and on the night before I went into the RAF, we were playing monopoly and that. When we finished my mum and dad said, ‘Now take this son' and he explained what it was and I said, ‘Well what is it?’ He said he carried that. So my mother and father were asking me to carry it which I put in my pocket and I carried that throughout the war and I’ve still got it now.
BW: And that was in, that was in your left breast pocket was it?
CG: That’s it.
BW: On your battledress -
CG: Yeah.
BW: Jacket.
CG: Any my mum, my mother said take one of those Mon, what, Monopoly? What was I saying, no, what was that race game you used to run. Yeah. Was it Monopoly? No it wasn’t a race game was it? I had a little silver shoe.
BW: Yes. That, that was the one. They used it. There was a car, there was an iron and a little shoe, the boot.
CG: That’s it.
BW: That was Monopoly.
CG: I always used to have that when we played.
BW: Right.
CG: I’ll take, I said I’ll take the shoe and I pinned it down and I kept it on my jacket right near the end of the war.
BW: Right up on the left collar.
CG: Yeah. I get up. It’s on there. And I was at a peacetime, the war was over and they asked me to play for football, football game. I said yeah, I quite like football. So I took my jacket off for a goalpost and I lost my ruddy thing.
BW: Ah.
CG: I always curse that I lost it but I’ll show you my dad’s thing if you want.
BW: Ok.
CG: If they had time to shave they wouldn't have the ruddy time to shave.
BW: I see. It’s like a steel mirror.
CG: Yeah. That’s right. Of course you can’t see -
BW: It comes in a little -
CG: You can’t see it now.
BW: Leather case. And it has an inscription on the top, ‘Good luck from mum’. And it has been well used but like you say.
CG: My grandmother must have done that. Not, I didn’t, my mum didn’t.
BW: That feels actually quite heavy. Almost as though -
CG: Yeah.
BW: As if it would stop a bullet.
CG: Well I don’t know. Thank goodness I didn’t have to.
BW: That’s great and you’ve still got that –
CG: Yeah.
BW: After all these years.
CG: Yeah.
BW: So there’s a few sort of keepsakes here. You’ve just mentioned -
CG: It was only a bit bobs. Yeah.
BW: Your whistle which you used for coming down in the sea.
CG: That’s the first, that’s the first grenade I threw. What was left of it?
BW: Right. Pin off a grenade. Where did you throw that?
CG: Pulled the pin out.
BW: Yeah.
CG: When I was practicing, when you first go in more or less.
CG: All the identity discs.
BW: I see.
BW: Yeah. Original dog tags.
CG: Sorry?
BW: Original dog tags.
CG: Yeah. That’s empty. That’s the, well that’s that haven’t you?
BW: That’s your DFC box yeah.
CG: I’m forgetting what some of these are now.
BW: They look like medal ribbons.
CG: Oh aye, they’re my brevet.
BW: Yeah.
CG: My brevet.
BW: Air gunner’s brevet.
CG: These are all my ’39-‘45 star. And -
BW: Oh yeah.
CG: Well you don’t want to see all these do you? Really. Them, you know what you, ribbons.
BW: Yes. Yes.
CG: Yeah. You’ve seen them.
BW: Ribbons to go on the uniform.
CG: I’ll have a full time job putting these in again. Anyway, that’s about it I think. Oh that’s what I was given I think. Prayer book. Oh no that’s what my wife was given because she, she helped with the Trinity Hospice.
BW: Right. This is a millennium medal. And your wife was in the, it looks like she was -
CG: She was in the WAAF.
BW: In the WAAF.
So just coming back to your time on 429 Squadron we were talking initially about rituals and mascots which led us to look at your, some of your, some of your memorabilia. What I wanted to ask you there was a pilot on the squadron called Jim Brown who came up with a, a description and I wonder whether this might sound familiar to you but not necessarily about your aircraft. But –
CG: No.
BW: He said the procedure for boarding the aircraft for an operation was a cigarette and a silent prayer I suppose each in his own way and then you’d go out and piss on the tail wheel for good luck. The only guy to complain was a tail gunner who said, ‘How would you like me to piss on the cockpit?’ [laughs] That’s Canadian humour I suppose.
CG: Yeah.
BW: But there was -
CG: I must tell you about 429 then. We had the wireless operator’s aunt or relation sent him a mascot. Pocahontas. Have you heard of her?
BW: Yes.
CG: We had it. So Mitch said, ‘we don’t want a ruddy Pocahontas.’ So he said, ‘yeah we do.’ Anyway, we took it and this first trip we had a bit of a dicey do so Mitch said, ‘we’ll throw that ruddy Pocahontas over the side. Open the door. Open the window,’ and that. So the wireless operator said, ‘no. No. We’re keeping it.’ So he said, so Mitch said, ‘right I’ll put it to the vote. All those that want it thrown out. All those who want to keep.’ We all decided to keep it and we did and his wife’s got it now.
BW: Right.
CG: Pocahontas. His wife’s got it.
BW: And was it like a little stuffed doll?
CG: Indian squaw. Indian squaw. It was about that big.
BW: Yeah. Oh.
CG: Doll.
BW: About twelve inch high. Yeah. Twelve inch high doll.
CG: Yeah.
BW: And he kept it in the, on board with him during the flight did he?
CG: I’ve got a photo of it. No, you’re going to be here all ruddy night.
BW: That’s alright.
CG: I’ve got a photo of it upstairs somewhere. Yeah.
BW: Right.
CG: Pocahontas.
BW: But you didn’t yourself smoke during those days did you?
CG: No. Well no not really.
BW: What was the, what would you say the attitude of the crew was during your tour of operations? Some have described it as being if you get through three they, the command think you’ve paid off your training and your life expectancy was eleven missions and this guy, this pilot Brown who I mentioned before he said if you, it gives you a kind of fatalistic attitude of eat, drink and be merry because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Did you feel that sort of attitude -
CG: We did at times.
BW: Within the squadron?
CG: Yeah. We did. You just kept, you know hoping everything would turn out alright. It was only one, one trip I knew. Munster. I didn’t want to go on that for some reason. Didn’t want to, but we went anyway but that was when, yeah, that was Munster yeah but we went on it but it was just one of those things, that’s all. Not much.
BW: And so -
CG: Some people did. Some crew, not our crew but some other crews they didn’t want to do this or didn’t want to fly there. In fact there was one, we were at briefing when we came back and we were sat there waiting to go in for our briefing and used to get questions you know, you know that? Not briefing. You get questions. You know that. Not briefing. It was interrogation afterwards. Interrogation.
BW: Yes when you landed -
CG: That’s it.
BW: And you were debriefed. Yeah.
CG: Yeah and this chap, this air gunner came in and he was ruddy crying. Absolutely crying. A bloke. You know. And he was trembling all over and he was saying, ‘never again. I’m not going never again. Never again.’ And I ushered him out quick. Oh I can see him now that lad. Irish I think he was. In fact, so they say, I don’t know how true it was or whether the rest of his crew had said it but they’d been hose-piped. He’d been in the turret and hose-piped. That means he was sat in the turret and he had had two fighters coming in and he’d be going like that with his gun you see.
BW: So he’d be moving the turret from side to side trying -
CG: Yeah.
BW: To hit both aircraft.
CG: Yeah trying to shoot, just shooting, firing at will sort of thing.
BW: Yeah.
CG: Now, that’s all I knew about it. Everybody was talking about it but. And then we then one day we were called out on parade. All of them. The whole station called out on parade. Everybody on the parade ground. Everybody. And they marched this lad out, air gunner, and stripped him of his, stripped him off of his, he’d been court martialled ‘cause he wouldn’t, wouldn’t fly again. And they stripped his tapes off and his brevet off and everything. And he was just an ordinary airmen then which I think is shocking that. I mean if a bloke can’t do it he can’t do it can he? I mean hell. Bloody hell fire. We had one or two more trips but like Karlsruhe that was ruddy electric storms from the time we went in 'till we left the French coast and they lost a hell of a lot then because planes were coming out all over the place and they blamed, they said it was the Met trouble, Met men, Met men, they always got the blame. Oh dear anyway that’s going back a long way now. All that.
BW: And this same Irish air gunner was demoted to airman. Did he stay on the base or did you hear of him again?
CG: I didn’t hear about him again. Maybe he was, I guess he would have been posted somewhere. Yeah. He wouldn’t stay, I don’t think he would stay on the station. They wouldn’t allow that I don’t think unless they were that ruddy cruel but I know they marched him off and that was it. Yeah.
BW: And as a gunner did you see many aircraft or em flak shells come your way at all? I mean were there –
CG: Oh we got –
BW: Instances where you were let’s say fully occupied in your job.
CG: We got shrapnel marks when we got back. Yeah. We got caught in searchlights on one but Mitch did a ruddy quick dive and we got out of that but there was always ruddy flak going up all over the place and you had to keep your eyes open for ruddy fighters. But I don’t know whether to tell you, I don’t know, on our third or fourth trip we’d done our bombing and Mitch says to Corkie, the navigator, ‘right, Corkie, give us a course for home now. We want to get back quick,’ So, Corkie, the navigator said, he said, ‘I’m sorry Mitch,’ he said, ‘I’ve lost, I’ve lost track.’ ‘Sodding hell,’ he said, Mitch said, ‘well find it as soon as you can.’ So, well he said, ‘keep going. Look out for any landmarks you might see.’ This is pitch black. Landmarks. We went on for about two or three minutes. All of a sudden the bomb aimer, who was sat in the front, he said, ‘hey Mitch, what’s all those lights in front?’ So of course I moved my turret to have a look and it was bloody lights. Electric. So Corkie the navigator said, ‘oh I’ve got it now,’ he said, ‘the lights. They’re good.’ He said, ‘that’s Switzerland.’ So Mitch said, ‘that’s what?' He said, ‘that’s Switzerland. We can take, we can take a plot from there.’ So Mitch said, ‘Wait a minute,’ he said, ‘that’s Switzerland. We can land there and get interned for the rest of the war. What do you think lads?’ He said, ‘I’ll put it to the vote. We can, if you want we can go down, get interned, finished for the war or we can get back, try and get back. What do you want to do?’ And we all said, ‘let’s try and get back Mitch.’ And that was it. Yeah. The lights. I remember turning my turret to look. I thought bloody hell where’s that then I thought, didn’t think it was ruddy Switzerland. Yeah. And then we had a job getting back then because of the ruddy petrol. By the time we got back Mitch gave us the object that, ‘do you want to bail out? I don’t know whether we’re going to make the Channel.’ ‘No we’re staying’ and just before we got to the Channel he said, ‘I’m telling you now we may have to ditch and get into a dinghy. So I’m giving you the option to bail out or stay in.’ ‘Oh we’ll stay in Mitch.’ We got across and as we got, as we crossed the coast Mitch told the wireless operator to call up on the wireless the nearest ‘drome. We’ve got to land. Emergency. Must land right away which we did and we got a call, oh I can’t remember that now, we got a call and we came in. We landed and when we got in the chap who took us in at the end he came and told us afterwards, he said, ‘you didn’t have much petrol left lads,’ he said. Yeah.
BW: That was a good decision though.
CG: Yeah. They all come back. It all comes back don’t it?
BW: Yeah.
CG: Bloody hell. You’ll never get, I’ll have to give you bed and breakfast the way we’re going.
BW: And so coming, coming out over the coast you’d obviously had the -
CG: [?] trips.
BW: The double hazard of flak ships and -
CG: The what?
BW: Coastal batteries. Coming out over the coast of France you’d have the double hazard because you’d have the coastal batteries.
CG: Oh yeah that were oh they were there.
BW: The flak ships and the channel.
CG: Yeah they were still following yeah. Yeah. By the way I didn’t mention that me Legion of, not Legion of honour. Me, what do they call it when you get from the king and queen from the king, signed it. The citation.
BW: Yes.
CG: My citation for my DFC. Have you seen it?
BW: No.
CG: Well it’s there if you want to see it.
BW: Okay. We’ll have, we’ll have a look in a, in a minute or two.
CG: Yeah.
BW: If that’s okay.
CG: Yeah. Carry on. Sorry.
BW: That’s alright. So this would now have been early ‘44 when you were part way through your tour. And -
CG: I finished my tour then, ’44.
BW: And so were you involved in missions in the run up to D-Day? There was a -
CG: Oh yes we did D-Day.
BW: Change, change in Bomber Command tactics there.
CG: Went over on D-Day because as we were coming back you could see them going across, the lads, the ships. The navy, the, whatever they were navy, navy, the boarding ships, you know.
BW: Yeah landing, landing, landing craft.
CG: They were going across as we were coming back.
BW: And so was that early morning? Very early morning.
CG: Well it tells you what time. What time did we land? Or take off and land. It gives –
BW: Ok. Let’s have a look just further through it’s -
CG: June ‘44 wasn’t it?
BW: Yes.
CG: That would be 429 Squadron.
BW: Quite a few night ops in the Ruhr Valley and then -
CG: 429 Squadron it would be.
BW: That’s right. Now this is interesting because you, it says here on the 5th of June.
CG: June, that’s it.
BW: A night operation taking off at 22.34.
CG: That’s it.
BW: In U-Uncle and your operation was to Merville Franceville, it says here.
CG: That would have been one of the, one of the places just, just over past over the beach I should think. I don’t know. I can’t remember now.
BW: Yeah that that sounds about right. They were quite common to be hitting targets just inland.
CG: Yeah. Yeah.
BW: Of where the beachhead was supposed to be. Did you, were you told in advance that this was in support of D-Day? Did you know the invasion -
CG: Oh no we were just going. Yeah. Nobody said anything about that. We just, not as far as I can remember anyway. No. No. It mean it was over seventy years ago.
BW: Sometimes you might -
CG: Yeah they do, they stick.
BW: Crews might have -
CG: Yeah they do.
BW: Might have had an inkling that this was for the invasion.
CG: Yeah we did.
BW: Sometimes.
CG: Because when we were coming back like I say Mitch, Mitch made some remark about, ‘hey lads, there’s the lads going across. The invasion.’ So they must have said something. Oh I don’t know. I can’t remember now. Not to be honest but you could see all the ships, all the barges going across yeah. Could look down, we could see them going down as you looked down.
BW: And when you realised that was the invasion -
CG: Yeah.
BW: How did that feel?
CG: Yeah and when we got back of course we knew. Everybody knew then.
BW: How did that feel? To look down on the armada.
CG: Yeah I thought oh hell the lads, you know, going across there. I mean they went through a hell of a lot didn’t they? Landed in France first off. We’d been over obviously I think to, to soften some of the targets up beyond. Yeah [pause] no.
BW: And then moving on to mid ’44. When did you finish your first tour? It looks, looks like it was -
CG: It would have been just after D-Day was it?
BW: July.
CG: ‘44
BW: Let’s have a look.
CG: D-Day was ‘44. Yeah.
BW: That’s right. Completion of tour July 9th ‘44 and you’d flown 34 trips.
CG: That’s it. That’s when we -
BW: Thirty four ops.
CG: Finished. End of tour ‘cause we did thirty and we thought we’d finished and when Mitch went to report back, he came back, he said ‘they want us to carry on ‘cause they’re short of crews.’ So we thought oh hell ‘cause we thought we’d finished the thirty. Thirty was a tour. So anyway we did go on. We said, ‘alright.’ Carried on. We did four more and then we got back he was called back in again. He said, ‘you’re finished. That’s it.’ And that was it. Until they called me up again. They sent for me end of ‘44 wasn’t it? That’s it. End of ’44.
BW: And so did you, did Mitch ask the crew to vote again whether they wanted to continue with the other four trips or was it just -
CG: Oh no. As far as I remember now we were waiting by the, by the aircraft waiting for Mitch to come back because he had to report, they had to report and he came back. He said, ‘sorry,’ something about, ‘oh lads. They’re short of crews and they want us to carry on for a bit. Just a few.’ So, well everybody said, ‘yeah, alright.’ So we did four more and then when we got from there we, you got, he had to go back and he came back and he said, ‘that’s it lads. We’ve, end of tour.’ Yay. End of the tour. That was it.
BW: Did you go out and celebrate?
CG: I think we did yeah. At that time oh blimey yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And then from then I was just playing, mucking about on the station doing anything, you know. Going in the mess, having a cup of coffee and all that until they sent me on my indefinite leave and I was home, oh weeks of indefinite leave. I was home. Great. And then towards the end of ‘44 I got this telegram. Oh that’s only a thing. A telegram saying, ‘go to your local police station. Pick up a railway warrant for RAF Feltwell.’ And I remember saying to my dad, I said to me dad, ‘where the hell is Feltwell, dad? He said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘we’ll go, I’ll come with you. We’ll go to the police station.’ So we went down one evening down the police station oh yeah, looked up some books. It’s, it’s where it is. I don’t know where it is now. Is it Cambridgeshire or something, is it?
BW: Yes.
CG: Yes. So I said, he said, ‘well what’s on there then?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘I’ve just got to report,’ I said, thinking it was a ground job but when I got there it was this. It was about, I don’t know it was a hell of a lot. About twenty I think. All in the same boat and we’d all, everybody had done one tour and when it came out that they wanted us to man a point five gun in, in a plane, in the Lanc 'cause we were all up in arms what about all these people, bloody people, all these blokes teaching everything. Gunnery leaders. No they want somebody who’s done a tour. All that bloody rubbish you know. So we had to go on a course. We went on a course. I don’t know how long it was. Two or three weeks. Something like that. So had somebody showing us how to take the point five because it was a bigger, bigger gun. Taking it on. Seven hundred and fifty rounds a minute it fired. How to take it together, how to put it up together you know they showed us all that and we never had to do any armouring with it but then they came around after, looking for, oh no we’d had our leave, and they said, on the Tuesday they came and said, ‘right you’re going to your squadrons today lads,’ and there was two to a squadron. This fella, the funny fluke the same fella I knew at 429. Him and I went to 75 Squadron. I went on one flight and he went on the other flight and there were only us two who were going on this but the others went to other squadrons of course. Yeah, and that was it and we had to carry on.
BW: Just out of interest you mentioned before when you were in the Halifax you were on 303 guns.
CG: On what, sorry?
BW: When you were on the Halifax you were on flying and using 303 Brownings and then in the Lancaster you used just two, point five inch -
CG: Oh yeah on a on a -
BW: Heavy machine guns.
CG: On a Halifax I had four 303s. One thousand one hundred and fifty rounds a minute. And then I went, when I went on [79] I just had the one. The big one though.
BW: Yeah. Faster. Yeah.
CG: Like the American things.
BW: Yeah.
CG: Similar to that. Seven hundred and fifty a minute.
BW: How did you find them in terms of using them?
CG: Oh different altogether.
BW: Were they more powerful and -
CG: Oh yes stronger. The, what’s its name?
BW: Point five.
CG: The small one had a range of three hundred yards. I can’t remember now on the big one but it had a ruddy big bullet like that.
BW: Yeah. About twelve inch long.
CG: Yeah.
BW: And -
CG: But –
BW: Sorry go on.
CG: All I, all I had was a hole in the floor, you know. I had a chair if I wanted but I’m not being ruddy brave but you couldn’t see much. I had to get down. I should get down and look. Look. Look like that see.
BW: Lean forward.
CG: See if anybody was there. Coming off the seat now. I couldn’t do it now.
BW: Now this is interesting because I’ve seen the term and you’ve used it yourself as a mid under gunner on a Lancaster and can you just describe what that entailed?
CG: What a mid under gunner?
BW: Mid under gunner yeah because we normally think of Lancasters as just having the front, rear and mid upper.
CG: No.
BW: But this is a position actually on the underside the aircraft.
CG: Originally it was what they called the H2S, it was the navigation thing. I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard of it and it helped the navigator and bomb aimer. It was, it was underneath, in between, do you know where it is? Was?
BW: Yes. Yes.
CG: Well they took that out, took all that and just put the gun in. That’s all and I was sat there by the hole with a point five.
BW: Just a single point five calibre -
CG: Yes.
BW: Gun.
CG: Just one. You could swing it around, you could move it of course.
BW: Okay.
CG: Yeah oh yeah. Nothing else. Yeah.
BW: So this wasn’t like the ball turret on a Flying Fortress where you were actually belted in to it and able to swivel.
CG: Oh no I wasn’t belted in. No.
BW: You were just sat around the -
CG: I sat on the chair.
BW: Turret with a hole yeah.
CG: Yeah.
BW: And pointing the gun underneath.
CG: That’s it.
BW: But you had -
CG: Just looking at -
BW: You had to crouch forward to look -
CG: I did, yeah.
BW: Through the hole.
CG: Yeah I did because -
BW: To see the target.
CG: I was sat like that. They was like that but I preferred to get down and get, I know it’s self-preservation but really you get down by the, I used to look like this. Yeah. I was plugged in.
BW: Yeah.
CG: Electric suit and all that.
BW: Yeah.
CG: Thank goodness. And yeah you could see it back like that. You can imagine a hole.
BW: Yeah.
CG: You get down you can see better can’t you?
BW: Sort of probably leaning forward.
CG: Yeah.
BW: You didn’t lie down. You perhaps knelt or crouched.
CG: Sorry?
BW: You didn’t lie down in the, in the Lancaster.
CG: Well I knelt down mainly.
BW: Yeah.
CG: But I leaned across.
BW: Yeah.
CG: Knelt down and leaned to look at one side.
BW: Yeah.
CG: And whatever, whichever I wanted to keep an eye out.
BW: Yeah.
CG: Keep a lookout.
BW: That’s interesting. That is interesting.
CG: I mean, I suppose every gunner had a, did what they wanted but that was the best way I could think of because I could hold the guns at the same time and swing it round look down, get down, then bring it down. See. Point the gun at where ever I was looking at so if I did see anybody I could, there you are.
BW: And that must have been quite an uncomfortable position I suppose.
CG: It was really yeah it was yeah. I mean you had all your flying kit on. Mae West and all the, all the harness, you know, for your chute and your chute by the side of you. Yeah it was really but if I was, there again self-preservation you do what you can can’t you? Everybody was doing their bit sort of thing. The rear gunner was there. Mid upper. So we had eight in a crew then.
BW: I was just going to say because -
CG: Yeah.
BW: The normal compliment as -
CG: Yeah.
BW: You said is seven.
CG: That’s right.
BW: And with the mid under you were the eighth.
CG: Yeah but I know it sounded you had to do. You had two choices put the seat there like this. Then you had the, you would have to bend down and look down and then.
BW: Yeah.
CG: And look like that.
BW: Yeah.
CG: Bloody bloke could be there before you knew where you were.
BW: Yeah.
CG: So -
BW: You couldn’t see properly.
CG: No. You couldn’t.
BW: When you were sat on the little seat.
CG: You couldn’t see much. You could only see -
BW: Yeah.
CG: So far but when I got down on my knees if you like.
BW: Yeah.
CG: And stretched you could see right back.
BW: Yeah.
CG: You could see if anybody was coming. ‘Cause I mean it would be in and out in no time. A fighter. A Messerschmitt or Focke Wulf.
BW: And did any of them try it?
CG: Sorry?
BW: Did any of them try it?
CG: No. Thank goodness. Oh bloody hell, thank goodness. Oh no. Oh dear.
BW: And I believe you flew the first three missions with 75 Squadron with Bill Mallon.
CG: Come again.
BW: I believe you flew your first three operations with a pilot called Bill Mallon.
CG: Oh I couldn’t, I can’t remember now. I had different pilots every time at Mepal. Yeah. You see, I was on L for London. That was the one. When that flew I flew but if it wasn’t on that night I wasn’t on. It was as easy that. So whichever crew came out, it was, well I didn’t have far to go. Only across the road to the runway from where I was, where the mess was and I was lucky. All I had to do was walk from here across the road and I was there. So -
BW: Literally less than a hundred yards presumably.
CG: Yeah. Near. I never knew unless I went in to, well I did go in to briefing but I never knew who the crew was because there were so many and there’d be seven and they’d always sit together and I was kind of odd man out if you like because I didn’t have a proper crew so I went out to the plane and when I went out I watched to see who was walking towards L for London and I thought well that’s them.
BW: And was that because there were relatively few aircraft with an under gun?
CG: Yeah. Only two on our squadron. Now there was other squadrons because when we went out that morning to go to our various squadrons there was only two that got off for Mepal. That was me and Taffy. Taffy Duggan. Now the others were left, others stayed in, stayed in the van and they went off to whatever squadrons they were going to in the group I should think as far as I know. If I can remember as well. There’s only two got on our squadron. One, one for each flight.
BW: And was Taffy with you on 429?
CG: Sorry?
BW: Was Taffy with you on 429?
CG: Well, he was, he was with another crew.
BW: I see.
CG: He was in –
BW: Okay.
CG: 429, yeah 429 squadron but he had another crew.
BW: Yes.
CG: Flew with another crew. Yeah.
BW: And so there were just the two of you taken from 429, posted to 75.
CG: Well we weren’t taken from it we -
BW: Sorry you completed your tour. Yes.
CG: We finished our tour there so we were.
BW: Yes. Yeah.
CG: Written off then. Finished.
BW: Yeah.
CG: But he must have got the telegram same time as I got mine to report to Feltwell.
BW: Yes.
CG: And all that, yeah.
BW: Yeah. Sorry that was my misuse of words I said taken but obviously you’d finished your tour and went to 75.
CG: Yeah and when we went we got detailed for Mepal. Both of us. But as I say he went on one flight. I can’t remember the flight now. A or B and I went on the other one. And his was, mine was L for London and his was M for Mother.
BW: And you’d flown previously with a Canadian Squadron and 75 Squadron was actually a New Zealand squadron.
CG: New Zealand. That’s right. Yeah.
BW: So you never really flew -
CG: Quite a few like that.
BW: With an RAF Squadron did you?
CG: Yeah, yeah different, different ones, you know. South Africans I think and as far as I know. I don’t know about that though.
BW: So by this time in late ‘44 and early ‘45 what were your missions like at this time? Were there more daylight missions as opposed to night?
CG: Well, it tells you in the book. Nights and days. If, whatever, whatever is in red is night. Whatever is in blue or black is daylight.
BW: Okay. So -
CG: If it says DNO, DNC duty carried out. Or if it’s DNCO duty not carried out. There must have been something wrong. We got a bit of bother or something.
BW: Okay. And so -
CG: But all in red was night trips. All in other colours blue or whatever, black, is daylight.
BW: Yeah. So you got a couple of night raids here. One Hohenasperg [?]
CG: Where?
BW: Hernburg.
CG: Oh I can’t see I can’t see sorry.
BW: At the top there. It looks like H O E N
CG: OPS. Ops to oh I don’t know. I can’t pronounce that myself. It took four and a half, five hours near enough. It doesn’t say what it was does it? Oh Zinzan, I remember him. Yeah, I do remember that name. Ops to, it would be, it would be Belgium somewhere Dutch I think. I don’t know. Sorry I can't.
BW: That’s okay. No problem.
CG: I don’t know where that is.
BW: But there’s a few into Germany in, in February and most of them moving in to March and exactly seventy one years ago there are towns like Salzbergen, [?], Gelsenkirchen, Essen, Munster, Ham. They’re all daylight raids.
CG: Were they? I can’t remember now. Yeah, if they’re in, if it says DNCO, it’s in red.
BW: Yeah.
CG: It’s a night trip. Any other colour it’s a day trip.
BW: Yeah, that’s right.
CG: 429 we did mainly nights. At 75 mainly days I think. Yeah.
BW: That’s right. Did you sense the war was coming to an end at this point?
CG: Well we knew the lads were doing well but we didn’t know. No, didn’t. You know, well I didn’t know. No. I mean they were advancing well and the Russians, the Russians were doing their bit so it was getting towards that way yeah. Must have thought that. Yeah. Must have done.
BW: And you mentioned that your Lanc had done quite a number of missions. Did you get, did it get to a hundred?
CG: What the plane? Oh I don’t know. We, when I left it was still, still working. Yeah. But the war was over then when I left. Oh yeah. The war was over when I left wasn’t it? Near enough. I left in er -
BW: Can you describe how it, how you heard about the end of the war and what it felt like?
CG: Oh yeah.
BW: And how it felt like.
CG: Because we were in a big group when I got back from a trip we were in a big group talking and they said the war’s nearly over, almost over. Nearly over. And the gunnery, I got a message, ‘the gunnery leader wants to see you Chas.’ And I thought, ‘Oh ruddy hell what’s happened. I haven’t done anything.’ First thing on my mind. And when I went in he said, ‘you’re finished. I’ve just got, I’ve got a message from Group,’ he said from here. Here you are, he said, ‘you’re finished.’ I said, ‘What do you mean finished?’ ‘No more. No more. You’re finished. In fact, I want, there’s only one trip to do. Wingco is going to deliver food to The Hague but don’t forget it’s not been signed yet,’ that was it. Yeah. ‘It’s not been signed yet and - ‘
BW: So -
CG: ‘So don’t, so keep your guns on safe.’ I remember this, ‘keep your guns on safe but keep an eye out because there might still be some Nazis still flying around ‘cause the treaty’s not been signed. The war’s still on.’ So I said, ‘right.’ And that’s the only, I disobeyed him then because I thought if there’s going to be some ruddy stupid Nazi walking, running about I’m having my guns ready. So I turned them on ready. Blow that game I thought and then when we got over to The Hague and they were all waving I just lifted my guns up like that to get out of the way just in case but no. Nobody came and then when we got back within a few days, three or four days, a week perhaps war finished hadn’t it? War finished on June the 5th was it?
BW: May 8th.
CG: Something like that.
BW: Yeah.
CG: It will tell you there when, the date of my last trip. It took, what day was my last trip? It would be that Hague thing yeah.
BW: Just having a look here. So, yes, now this is the 7th of May.
CG: Yeah that’s it.
BW: In Lancaster R.
CG: R?
BW: And -
CG: What? At Mepal?
BW: Yes. It’s got Lancaster R on the -
CG: Can I have a look?
BW: Yes. Certainly.
CG: Oh yes, the wing commander. That’s it. Yeah. That was that. Yeah. Just before I finished. About a month before the war finished. Before the war finished wasn’t it. And Tugwell called me in, he said ‘will you do one more trip'. That’s when he said about me finishing. I said, ‘what is it?’ He said, ‘the Wingco’s going to drop some food over The Hague.’ That’s when he told me to keep watch, watch for the Germans coming around and he, yeah, that’s it. So the war finished about a month after wasn’t it?
BW: It would be a day after.
CG: Oh day after.
BW: Yeah.
CG: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah.
BW: But this was Operation Manna I believe which was dropping food to the starving Dutch.
CG: Come again.
BW: I said this would be Operation Manna which was dropping food supplies to the Dutch.
CG: Yeah that’s right. Dropping food for The Hague.
BW: Yeah.
CG: What date was that? That was just before the war finished.
BW: Yeah 7th of May -
CG: That’s it.
BW: You’ve got there.
CG: That’s what I thought that’s made my 50th trip [pause]. Then that was it then I think. No more.
MW: Yeah. It says here completion of tour, second tour June 10th 1945 and you’d done fifteen and a third trips it says.
CG: When did I finish?
BW: 10th of June 1945.
CG: Yeah. June. That would be it then. That’s what. Yeah.
BW: What was the wing commander’s name? It’s spelt B A I G E N T . How do you pronounce it? Is it Baigent?
CG: Oh I remember him yeah. Baigent I think it was. Baigent. Wing Commander Baigent. B A I G E N T. That’s it.
BW: And you could see, on that trip you could see all the people.
CG: On the top waving. Waving.
BW: Waving.
CG: ‘Cause we were dropping food. Yeah. And the whole country was a mass of water. The Germans had opened the dams and flooded the country. Yeah. I could see that. It was just like the ruddy ocean it was. Full of water. I thought bloody hell and they were on top of this building. The Hague I think it was. Going ruddy mad waving. Dropped food for them. Bloody hell. Aye a long time now and they’re still ruddy arguing, fighting somewhere or other aren’t they? Ruddy hell.
BW: But the Dutch really appreciated that from you know from all records the Dutch really appreciated-
CG: Oh the Dutch did.
BW: The food.
CG: We keep on hearing about that yeah. Yeah, the Dutch, yeah they did. Oh they were great.
BW: Do you keep in touch with any of your former crewmates?
CG: Well I used to write to them and everything. Speak to them. But unfortunately they’ve all, all died but I still, I still keep in touch with the pilot, Mitch, his wife because she, she’d, they married in Dagenham. Ilford, Essex and we went to their wedding and believe it or not the bloody doodlebug came over. Went on though thank goodness. But she went back with him to Canada but we still keep in touch but he passed away I’m afraid. And I used to keep in touch with Bill Lawrence’s wife but I haven’t heard from her from ages so I don’t know.
BW: You mentioned a guy called Zinzan.
CG: Who?
BW: Zinzan. The New Zealander.
CG: Oh he was a pilot. Yeah. The name came back to me then. Zinzan yeah.
BW: What do you recall about him?
CG: Just he was a pilot that’s all. But I have, I have heard of another interesting thing but with all this was going on I didn’t intend this it’s only because where I go of a morning for a coffee there’s a bloke there who was in the army and he had one of these things. I don’t know. Not a tape recorder. Not -
BW: A smartphone.
CG: It could be, it could pick up anything anywhere and anything. He said to me one morning, ‘you were in the RAF Charles weren’t you? I said, ‘yeah.’ He said, ‘what squadron were you in?’ I said, ‘429, 75.’ He said, ‘do you ever get newsletters?’ I said, ‘no they wouldn’t have, they wouldn’t have a news place over here.’ I said, ‘they would have one in Canada and New Zealand.’ Anyway, he fiddled with this. He came back five minutes later. He said, ‘they have one in Scampton.’ So I said, ‘oh bloody hell.’ He said, ‘anyway, I’ve asked them to send you one in time.’ So I said, ‘right. Oh very good.’ So what was we on about first off? It’s gone.
BW: We were talking about Zinzan. The pilot that you knew. Zinzan.
CG: Oh yes.
BW: And you were keeping in touch with Mitch and –
CG: Another chap got on the phone to me. I said, ‘who is it?’ He said he lives in Sheffield. I said, ‘well what about it?’ He said, ‘well he’s telling me', I said, ‘what do you mean he’s telling you?’ ‘On this,’ he said. ‘He’s telling me that, he’s got your name down in his father’s logbook.’ I said, ‘come on, you’re having me on somewhere here.’ He said, ‘no,’ he said. Anyway to cut a long story short he said, ‘can I give you his name?’ I said, ‘yes.’ He said, ‘he wants to be in touch.’ Which he did. He’s writing a book and he wanted to have a word with me about, can I mention my name in his book he said because his father was an engineer on one of the planes that I was ‘cause it’s in his logbook.
BW: That’s right. His name’s Bob Jay.
CG: Who?
BW: Bob Jay.
CG: Oh well sod me. And do you know where he lives?
BW: I don’t know where he lives but I have -
CG: You ain’t got his address?
BW: I can, I can probably get it but he has a website up for 75 Squadron.
CG: Oh has he, has he been in touch with you then?
BW: Well no that, we haven’t been in touch but I found his website.
CG: Oh I don’t know about them. Yeah.
BW: Which is basically -
CG: Yeah I’ll leave it to you.
BW: A site for where all these experiences are logged and he mentions -
CG: Yeah.
BW: Exactly like you say his father is the flight engineer called Bob Jay and you flew your first three trips with that crew.
[doorbell rings]
CG: Oh there’s somebody at the ruddy door. Just a second.
BW: Alright.
CG: I thought I saw somebody walking up there.
BW: I’ll just pause the recording while we’re doing that.
CG: Oh dear me.
[recorder pause]
BW: What I’m just going to show you here is a list of the crew which were in your first aircraft for your first three trips and this is the pilot Bill Mallon.
CG: Where? Oh -
BW: On the top here.
CG: Is that him there?
BW: That’s him there.
CG: Oh blow me.
BW: And that is Bob Jay the flight engineer you mentioned, that picture there.
CG: Oh sod, blow me.
BW: And that is, that is his description.
CG: Where?
BW: This line here.
CG: Sergeant Robert ‘Bob’ Alfred Jay. Yeah. Mid upper gunner. Who was the mid upper gunner then? Sergeant Doug Cook. Flying officer, oh dear. He got me wrong number down hasn’t he. He’s got 187. No. 178730 that’s right. Sorry. Flew first three ops with, yeah, oh blow me. Yes.
BW: So -
CG: He got on to me on the 'phone and he said could he, could he do this and write and I said yeah.
BW: There’s quite a lot of information about 75 Squadron.
CG: Yeah.
BW: On the internet where this relative of Bob’s has put all the information. Where he’s put his website.
CG: Yeah.
BW: There’s a lot of information about 75 squadron and so that’s where your name appears as well as part of the crew list.
CG: Yeah. Blow me. It’s funny that.
BW: So -
CG: Yeah oh we had a chat ‘cause he had one or two things ‘cause he was writing a book but he’s got, he’s got my marriage wrong. I married in ‘49 not ‘47. He got me number wrong.
BW: Right.
CG: And he got my rank wrong so I want to get, so can you give me his 'phone number then?
BW: I don’t have it with me.
CG: Oh.
BW: But what I’ll do I’ll have a look over the next few days at the website.
CG: Yes.
BW: And I’ll get in touch with him. If I can’t see his phone number or contact details on the internet I will get in touch with him and I’ll ask him to contact you.
CG: Yeah.
BW: If that’s alright.
CG: Okay then. Please.
BW: So it’ll take a few days but I’ll ask him to get in touch with you.
CG: Oh yeah. Yeah. I appreciate what you’re doing.
BW: That’s okay.
CG: Yeah.
BW: And, and that should sort him out for you really. So apart from that we’ve now got to the end of your second tour and you’ve finished at the end of the war.
CG: Yeah.
BW: What then happened after that? Were you waiting to be demobbed?
CG: No.
BW: Or –
CG: No. Let me think now. 1945 wasn’t it? No, I went to, I went on, no I went to Hereford, admin course and that’s where I learned, a chap came up to me a mate what was there said, ‘hey you got a gong.’ I said, ‘what do you mean I got a gong?’ That’s when I, he said, oh no it wasn’t that mate. No, no I got a letter from my parents, that’s it. No. He said, ‘come on.’ he said, ‘you live in Dagenham don’t you?’ I said, ‘yeah.’ He said, ‘I live in Chadwell Heath.’ He said, ‘I’m going home for a couple of days now we’ve, do you want a lift?’ I said, ‘brilliant.’ So I put the letter in my pocket and when I got in the car going home, opened the letter, it said, ‘you’ve got the DFC.’ It was in the local paper and I didn’t know anything about it. I thought 'oh sod me what have I got that for', blah blah you think to yourself and that was it. Then ‘cause we had the Christmas off I think it was, something like that. And we went, he picked me up in Dagenham again, went back to the course and that’s where I finished up going on ground duties. Adjutant, assistant adjutant and all that business and I finished up at Padgate as a flight commander training recruits that was the main thing. The adjutant thing was only a couple of weeks to give someone leave but other than that I was knocking about leave and all that and then they sent me to, I was at Coningsby wasn’t I? At Coningsby interviewing these army, navy whatever about medals. I had a long list of what you, what you’re entitled to and what not. Did that. I went to Padgate, well I told that. Where I used to meet then Marge yeah and then training recruits and that’s where I finished up. Got demobbed then. Eventually.
BW: And when you left the RAF what happened then?
CG: Well I went, I lived I lived in London, Essex and Marge lived in Sheffield and I thought shame ‘cause we were both getting on well together. So she said, ‘you can come and live here if you want.’ She said for, nothing like that what you’re thinking.
BW: No. No. No. No.
CG: Nothing like that.
BW: No. I know what you mean.
CG: So, they only had a small cottage that was falling to bits. To cut a long story short they boarded it upstairs so separate rooms and parents and all of us so we lived like that for a while. So, depending on a date was the 20th, 30th no 31st of April 19....., April that was it 31st of April 1949 and we got, we got married then.
BW: And what happened to you career wise after that? Where did you work?
CG: I got a job at that, that was another piece of luck, have you got time? Well I thought when I got there I was at Sheffield I thought sodding hell what am I going to, I’m halfway through an apprenticeship, wartime. So I went down to see me parents my father, me parents and he said, ‘well,‘ he said, ‘I don’t know what you'll do.’ He said, ‘you’re tied. Tied to Dennis Truscott. He’s opened the, I know the firm got bombed but he opened a small one now’. So he said, ‘go and have a word with him.’ So I went down, went to London to Dennis Truscott, explained it all, ‘well,’ he said, ‘Well if you want to break the apprenticeship you can. Wartime,’ he said. 'Wartime'. 'Being wartime'. He said, ‘you’d have been finished by now.’ So he said, ‘yes. if you get, get somebody to, where you’re going to live to take it on.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘right.’ So I did that. So I went back, told Marge. So that was great. So I said yes. I’ve got to find somewhere now here to take me on printing. So he said, so I went to the, I went to the employment exchange as it was then and the chap said, ‘well there is an interrupted apprenticeship scheme.’ So I said, ‘oh can I go into that?’ He said 'yes.' Anyway to cut a long story short he put me on to the union, he got me to the, on to the union. He put me down, put me down for interrupted apprenticeship scheme. It was on the war thing, it was, carried on after the war for so many years. He put me on to the name of the union official so I went to see him. So I explained it all to him. He said, ‘oh blow me. I don’t know. I don’t know who could take you on.’ He said, ‘I’ll tell you what,’ he said, I’ll ring up so and so. He’s the runs the newspaper, The Star, The Sheffield Star which he did. So he said, ‘yes, he’ll have a word with you.’ So I went down to see, Mr Bloomfield, it was, manager, and when I went into his office he had a RAF tie on. I thought cracker. So he said, ‘yeah I think we can,’ and I got my interrupted apprenticeship scheme and got it there so I started at The Star and then but about twelve months later they said they were going to move. They were going to Stockport and I thought 'oh no.' Well I went home and said to Marge, ‘Marge they’re going to Stockport.’ ‘Oh I don’t want to go there.’ So I went back. While I was there I was general print then. General print. So I thought I wonder if I’d get into other newspapers, so I asked for permission, asked to see one of the other managers of other newspapers so he said funny thing, he said, ‘we want someone, yeah.’ And that was it I got into newspapers and The Star at Sheffield.
BW: How long were you there?
CG: From 1960 when we moved across to, no, hang on a minute. No, no, no, no, no, no. Sorry. Oh dear. War finished. It would have January or something 1949 wouldn’t it? I was demobbed in 1949 wasn't I. No I can’t remember. I was married in ‘49. I was demobbed in ‘47 wasn’t it? ‘47. Went all through that, got the job at The Star. We came here on holiday, got fixed up with a house.
BW: And this is Poulton.
CG: Yeah.
BW: Where you came on holiday.
CG: We got fixed up with the house and I remember saying to Marge, ‘there’s only one other thing Marge.’ She said, ‘what’s that?’ What’s that? ‘I’ve got to get a job.’ That was it. Yeah. ‘I’ve got to get a job.’ She said, ‘oh hell.’ I said, ‘I’ll go to the local paper. There must be a local paper here.’ I said, ‘I’ll see if they’ve got any vacancies.’ So I went in, in to the local paper but he was, the manager was off for lunch so I went back out again for a coffee and went back again about two o’clock and I remember this, it sticks with you, he said yes lad what, not lad, ‘what can I do for you? What do you want to know?' Something. ‘Well I just called in to see you want any, have you got any vacancies?’ So he said, ‘well what, what do you do?’ I said, ‘I’m a rotary printer.’ ‘Blow me,’ he said, like that. He said, ‘you must be psychic.’ I said, ‘how do you, what do you mean?’ ‘We’re advertising for one. Come with me downstairs,’ so we went downstairs. The machines were running, picked a paper off the thing, opened it up, ‘wanted: newspaper printer’. He said, ‘we’ll go upstairs, we’ll have a chat, if we’re in agreement the job’s yours,’ he said but I said, ‘wait a minute. I’m on holiday.’ I said, ‘I can’t stay.’ ‘Don’t worry about that. Whatever you’re doing now, job, you’ll have to give notice.’ I said, ‘yes. A fortnight.’ He said, ‘well don’t worry. Doesn’t matter about that. If you want the job it’s yours.’ We had a chat, money and all that and he said, ‘yes the job’s yours.’ He said, ‘all I want you to do now is go home, write me a letter, apply for the job but don’t worry about it, it’s yours, I’m promising it to you. It’s yours,’ he said, ‘apply for it and I return it, the jobs yours and that’s it.’ He said, ‘you tell me what date you’ll be able to start.' So that was it.
BW: Brilliant.
CG: Went back to Sheffield, told Marge. Bloody hell. I couldn’t have, I couldn’t planned it like that.
BW: Yeah just landed lucky.
CG: Just happened like that. Just happened and I went back and in the month, went to the removal people and everything like that, got it all lined up and we came here on her birthday 24th of July.
BW: Wow.
CG: 1960 and when we came in I said, ‘here you are Marge. Birthday present [laugh]. Bloody hell. Honestly, the way it happened. Just like a great big bloody jigsaw falling into place, I got a job.
BW: Yeah.
CG: And everything.
BW: And so -
CG: Amazing.
BW: What was the local paper called here?
CG: Star. No. The Evening Gazette.
BW: The Evening Gazette.
CG: Yeah.
BW: And how long were them for on the prints. The printers.
CG: Oh I was there for 1960 until I retired in ‘84, 1984 yeah. At the time my wife had lost her mum and dad and I thought, ‘84 I was due to retire in ‘86 I think it was and there was a scheme on if you remember because people were out, wanted work or something that you could, you could retire on a full pension and if not it could be made up by the government. I did lose. So I took two years earlier so I could retired at 64 at ’84.
BW: Brilliant.
CG: Everything worked out. It’s funny how it worked out though.
BW: Yeah.
CG: I couldn’t have done it if I'd planned it by bloody blueprint.
BW: But that’s great that’s -
CG: We often spoke about that yeah.
BW: Yeah. Well that’s just what you need isn’t it?
CG: And when we went out the house we went to several. They were ruddy rubbish, you know, toilets in the kitchen, all that sort of thing and then we came up here, ‘oh great, Marge.’ Well that was it then.
BW: And you’ve been here ever since.
CG: Yeah. Yeah.
BW: How have you kept in touch with Bomber Command? How do you feel about the sort of commemorations?
CG: Well I belonged to the air crew ACRC, was it? Air crew.
CG: You know, the club. Air crew club.
BW: Air crew association.
CG: And the bomber, Air Gunners Society. I used to have that. I belonged to that mainly but they went defunct. They must have done because I haven’t heard anything. Must be getting on I guess and that would be about it.
BW: How do you, how do you rate the sort of recent commemorations of Bomber Command effort looking back at it?
CG: Well I, I never kept in touch. I should have done. I would have like to have done when the aircrew thing went I thought well that must not be going then but I never got any, I never heard any, never had any gen, information about it. Only the air gunners I used to get a journal every, every couple of months. Kept in touch. And for a while we belonged to a club. Yeah we used to go, belong to the air crew club. Used to go along to the hotels on Blackpool every so often. I bought a ticket for a raffle and what did I buy, what did I win? A bloody big picture like that of a Lancaster. Bloody hellfire. It’s up in the spare room now on the wall. Oh dear.
BW: Are you, are you pleased that Bomber Command is being commemorated and remembered these days?
CG: Have I been to any? Oh no.
BW: Are you pleased that Bomber Command is being remembered these days?
CG: I’m sorry I didn’t get it again.
BW: Are you pleased that Bomber Command is being remembered these days?
CG: Oh yes. Oh definitely yes they should. Bomber leader Harris did a good job I think. Yeah, I know what people say but he was only working on orders from Mr Churchill and all that business because Churchill went to see the Russian leader if you, I don’t know whether you know and Russia he was telling Churchill about not doing something and Churchill said we’ll bomb this and bomb that which we did and came back and yet there was all that trouble over Dresden. All they had to do was call it an open city and they wouldn’t have got bombed would it? And we heard there was, read since that they were passing troops through there and there were POWs working there as well. So it wasn’t an open city as such but if they’d have called it an open city it would never have been bombed and Harris was only doing what he was told. Bomb these ruddy cities. I didn’t go on it anyway. I went -
BW: I was going to say you weren’t on that raid.
CG: I was on the other one. Chemnitz. It was close on nearby. There were two big ones that day. Chemnitz and Dresden but I was on the Chemnitz one. A long trip that if I remember.
BW: Have you been to the memorial at Green Park?
CG: No I haven’t yet, I’d like to go sometime but no. I don’t, I think. Yeah.
BW: But from your point of view you’re glad that Bomber Command is being recognised.
CG: Oh yeah blimey they should have been. Yeah. More so. You know what? Bomber Command. The chap in charge, Harris. He was the only number one leader of all the, of all of them that didn’t get recognised by Churchill and it was wrong that. It was absolutely wrong. What Harris did he was only carrying out orders.
BW: Have you had the opportunity to go to the memorial site that the Bomber Command Centre has begun at Lincoln? At Canwick Hill.
CG: Would I go?
BW: Have you been?
CG: Oh I haven’t. No.
BW: It was unveiled in October last year.
CG: Yeah it would be a great thing that. No. I’ve got, I’ve got two brothers down south. I don’t very often see them now but I can’t see properly and I can’t walk properly. You’re a, you’re a lag on somebody aren’t you when you go? Somebody having to look after you or push you or whatever.
BW: I know what you mean.
CG: No. I generally go, like last year I went down to the memorial in Poulton. Laid a wreath with another chap. We both did it together ‘cause he was in the army on D-Day landings and all that and he got the medal, Croix de Guerre whatever you call it. Yeah.
BW: Yeah because you’ve been awarded that yourself as well. You got the Croix de Guerre and that’s, that’s quite a high honour -
CG: Oh yeah.
BW: From France, you know. So very good. I think that that’s all the questions that I have for you.
CG: Well I haven’t minded. I don’t mind.
BW: So -
CG: Anything I answered, I’ve never answered, anybody answered me I said yes, so and so and that was it. I didn’t think it was going to be all this. I don’t think I would have -
BW: Well that’s alright.
CG: No it’s alright but yeah.
BW: Thank you very much for your time.
CG: No that’s okay I don’t mind. It’s alright. It’s a great but you’re welcome.
BW: So we’ll, we’ll leave it there so thank you very much for again Flying Officer Green for your time and -
CG: Any time if you, yeah.
BW: Your memories for the Bomber Command Centre.
CG: Yeah.
BW: Thank you.


Brian Wright, “Interview with Charles Frederick Green ,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 12, 2024,

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