Interview with Douglas Joss

Title

Interview with Douglas Joss

Description

Douglas was born in Aberdeen, the eldest of 5 children. He signed up for the Royal Air Force in October 1938 and trained as a Flight Rigger, becoming a Leading Aircraftsman after training.
During his time as a Leading Aircraftsman, he tells of working with George Stainforth, the last Schneider Trophy Pilot for Britain, and his experiences of meeting Douglas Bader whilst he was training to get his Royal Air Force wings back.
Douglas spent time in the Gold Coast, assembling aircraft such as Maryland Kitty Hawks before moving further inland to Nigeria and tells of his run-in with the Foreign Legion, before contracting Malaria and being sent home.
After recovering from Malaria, Douglas then trained as a Flight Engineer before being posted to the Heavy Conversion Unit on Handley Page Halifaxes, and then on to Avro Lancasters with 12 Squadron.
After his time in 12 Squadron, Douglas volunteered for the Pathfinder Force but was sent overseas to India and Singapore instead where he was involved in the sending home of wives and families from Siam Road, who were interred by the Japanese.
Douglas completed 32 operations, doing 2 extra operations to allow his bomb aimer to completed his tour of duty and he left the Royal Air Force with the rank of Squadron Leader.

Creator

Date

2015-10-07

Temporal Coverage

Coverage

Language

Type

Format

01:47:00 audio recording

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Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

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This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Contributor

Identifier

AJossDA151007

Transcription

CB: We’re rolling now. My name is Chris Brockbank and we are in Wendover speaking with Squadron Leader Douglas Joss, and the witnesses today are Brenda Ponton and Janet Ford and we're talking about the background experiences and the wartime experiences of Squadron Leader Joss. So over to you Douglas.

DJ: Oh, where do you want me to start?

CB: So if you start, please, with your earliest days in the family.

DJ: In the family?

CB: Yep.

DJ: I was born in Aberdeen, the eldest of five, and I was born in Aberdeen and then my father at the time, who had been in the First World War, he and his brother came back. He wanted to be a vet but his parents couldn't afford to send him further. The brother, the older one, got the money and he went to Aberdeen University and became a very well-known doctor in Nottingham. Dad wanted to be a vet and he couldn't anyway, but they said you can go out to East Africa as an assistant with the vet's out there doing research on sleeping sickness in cattle [coughs]. I think it's quite amusing that when I was born, he and my mother [coughs] decided what I was, should be called. Charlie after one of her twin brothers. When somebody you know, these people said he got killed in the First World War and somebody told her if you name him after somebody who's dead, your son will be dead within a year and she was daft enough to believe that so she changed my name to Douglas. We turned up eventually to join my father in Uganda and Kampala and he, she called me Douglas, and he said, ‘what's this Douglas business’, so she told him that. He said, ‘bloody madness. We said we’d call him Charlie and I'll call him Charlie’, so for twelve months he called me Charlie and she called me Douglas so you can see why I'm a bit of a mixed-up kid. Oh dear [coughs], anyway, while we were out there my sister Dora was born In Kampala. My son last year, year before, went out with my other son. Two sons went on a tour of Uganda, I said call in to Saint James's Church in Kampala and you’ll find out that I was baptised there by the Reverend Pitz, Pitz, you can never forget a name like that [coughs], I beg your pardon, sorry which he did and they did and they made him very welcome and said to him — well that's by the way. When we came back, he couldn't get back into the veterinary business at all and then he went in for post office and became what they call an SC and T In those times, sorting clerk and telegraphist and we went to Angal, which is not far north and he was postmaster. It's a tiny little post office and I recall visiting him there because I was fascinated how he would sit and receive telegrams with a Morse key which he’d learnt during the war in the Army, you know they'd took the old Morse out and you remember telegrams used to come out on a strip of paper, which they stuck on a telegram when it went out. So that's why we went there and we stayed there until he was offered a better job in Coventry and we moved to Coventry, and he was there. I met one or two lads who were in the Air Force, well [unclear] it might slip off a bit, I was in the Scouts while I was there, there’s a bit that comes up later on that. I remember the two lads, they were in the RAF and they came on leave, I became interested so I said to the family I think I'll go and join the Air Force and seeing mum was having a struggle to pay our fares and everything, we moved from our house at twenty-one shillings a week to a council house at fourteen shillings a week because we were hard up. I can't believe it, I can remember her crying because she hadn’t got tuppence to go to the Women's Institute and get cup of tea. However, err — where was I. I'll just remember there, it's there I decided to go in the Air Force anyway and she didn't want me to go in. Then the war was loomed. Jimmy Wales was my, if you like, Patrol Leader in the Scouts and I — mum didn't want me to go in the Air Force. Anyway this business of war looming in thirty-eight, I says well if I don't go there you know what will happen, I'll go and be called up in the Army and that will be worse. So she signed up to let me go. My father was uninterested, he says you please yourself and that's what I did and I went in Air Force in the [coughs], in the end of thirty-eight [coughs], October thirty-eight. I was tested then but because they were having trouble filling or building all the training schools which were expanding so rapidly at that time, I was sent home and they said we’ll call you back again, so go home. After I'd been tested and I actually went in, in the January of thirty-nine. You can get my number off that 632261, which I remember well. And I was sent from there down to Pembroke Dock just – I was sent as HCH, aircraft hands, labourers if you like. I'll interrupt you there, that's the first place I got a chance to fly in a Short Sunderland. Can I get you off your seat? Come here. My brother found a poster somewhere and he bought it for me. Now look in the right-hand corner. Can you see that poster was painted from the spot I was photographed in 1939? The beginning of thirty-nine and you can tell he stood — the photographer must have been, the painter must have been standing where I stood there from, absolutely [unclear] so that's it. So that's literally the first aircraft I flew in, the Sunderland.

CB: Right. Very interesting. Yes.

DJ: By that time it had been decided I should be a flight rigger. I don’t think there was any choice. I think I was told I would be a flight rigger, chippy, as it had an element of woodwork in it which fascinates me, I wasn't, I guess, I loved it. I became a chippy rigger and went from there to do basic training at Henlow, and then from Henlow down to — what’s the name of it? Weston-super-Mare, Locking, from Locking, down to Locking where I did my twelve months training as a rigger and passed out as a glorious LAC Leading Aircraftman. Whilst I was there I had a bosom pal, Ernie Morton, with whom I remained in close contact till last year. He died last year, didn't he?

BP: A few years ago.

DJ: Ernie.

BP: A few years ago.

DJ: Was it two years ago?

BP: A few years ago.

DJ: We remained close all that time and we were bits of lads, we were a bit naughty and we heard that on King’s Birthday they have a parade and then a day off, and we said we'll try and get out of parade, you know. We hated them but they had big boxes there and the two of us got into this great big box [coughs] to keep away from this parade and after, I don't know how long, everything was so quiet we got out. We were fools, they’d all been given the day off and they'd gone and we stayed in this, this bloody box for hours to get out of this. My memory of Ernie all these days. Anyway from there, when I first passed out as LAC, I was posted to Upavon which is the Central Flying School. Now Central Flying School, I went in as a rigger. You, you, I don't know what you did in the Air Force

CB: I flew.

DJ: Well, well you weren't an airman fitter or rigger then?

CB: No, No.

DJ: No. Well in those days we were given an aircraft, that was your aircraft and you serviced it to give it all its flying. I was allocated to a very famous bird called George Stainforth, the last Schneider trophy pilot who won the Schneider trophy for us and he had the last Fairey Battle, not bigger [unclear], not Fairmount. What's it called? Oh dear. He had the last — left in the Air Force. It will come to me in a minute. Anyway it was his he didn't like anybody flying it. It was a biplane, fighter biplane.

CB: A Gladiator was is it? Was it a Gladiator?

DJ: No, no it was very sharp and almost a forerunner of the Spitfire, if you like.

CB: Hawker Fury?

DJ: I've got a picture.

CB: Well we can pick it up in a minute.

DJ: Doesn’t matter it will come and he was — two things about him. Upavon had its own golf course, it still has I think, or it’s an Army unit. He made me act as his caddy when I was due days off, which hacked me off no end and he also, when he was away (it's a Fury, the Hawker Fury, his aircraft), he would say to me, ‘Joss, put that out of service, I don't want anybody else flying out, make it unserviceable so if anybody else had it, you could in all honesty, say it's unserviceable’. So I made it unserviceable, I’d take something out or I’d do something anything I used to do to make it unserviceable until he came back and there. Another chap came along at the time to get his wings back, a bloke named Bader, Douglas Bader, he came back there to be trained back up to get his wings back because you know he'd lost his wings when he'd lost his legs, and he came back there and I — he was being taught first of all in a Tutor a Hawker a, a –

CB: Avro Tutor?

DJ: Avro Tutor.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: He went in a Tutor and I helped him in and out of the aircraft. I have a memory of him, bearing in mind he was a Flight Lieutenant that day and I was still the LAC, a lady came up in a red sports car, about this high it is, and she said ‘do you know Douglas Bader’ and I said ‘yes ma'am’, she said ‘I'm his mum, can you tell me where I can find him?’ So I found him and introduced him, didn't introduce him and I says ‘come on, your Mum's waiting to see you over there’, which was lovely. And she — one thing that was ridiculous to me at the time was, isn't it lovely two of Douglas’s friends, and as for an LAC and a Flight Lieutenant being friends was just hairy fairy stuff, I laughed. Now if I might go right back to Halton they got Douglas down and told him a, an open day here and I reminded him of this case. I said ‘your mother came up to me’ I said, ‘she had a red MG that was half painted, it was being repainted, it was red and half grey and an MG’, and he said ‘I can't remember that’. I said ‘well she came’, he said ‘I know she came to drop it’. I said ‘I flew with you there’, you know, because if you did a major inspection, you flew with that aircraft if you could just to make sure you've done the job properly and he couldn't remember this at all. Anyway he was very kind. When he went back to the station [unclear], another Battle of Britain pilot a [unclear] at Halton, he came to see me one day and said he'd had a letter from Douglas thanking me for looking after him with his time here and it says if you see Joss you can tell him. I have now checked my log book and he was dead right, we did have a car which was half painted, ‘cause my mother was alive in those days, well his mother and I said ‘well yes she came along with a half painted car’. A fond memory. Well I thought that was touching. I’ve got a cutting of a newspaper cutting of Douglas Bader and I having a chat which was rather nice. Anyway, going right back to Upavon, a notice came up said volunteers required to go abroad in a not too pleasant surroundings. Now this was where my friend Ernie and I split up. I said ‘come on Ernie, let's go to that’, I talked him into everything except that. He wouldn't go, he’d met a girl, fool that he was [laughs], you see [coughs], and he preferred to stay with the girl rather than the excitement of going abroad [coughs]. I was told ‘we're not telling you where you're going but you've got to go up to London Hospital, in London with a bunch of other boys, to have special inoculations against yellow fever’ and I didn't know where that was. Anyway we went to London and we came back and went on a troop ship eventually in [pause], just south of Glasgow, whatever it was. Anyway it was a troop ship we got on and half way out we found out we were all going to the Gold Coast, to a place called Takoradi and what Takoradi was doing there was aircraft. The Maryland Kitty Hawk, Mohawks were coming in pieces and we were then, we were assembling them there. And it was known as the white man's grave in those days. All the expats that lived out there, all had spine pads you wore on your shirt, a big padded cloth which went shoulder to shoulder and down your back so your spine didn't get hurt. Needless to say, the RAF took no notice whatsoever and we worked in shirt sleeves all the time for they could get away with it, and the locals were very hacked off with this as it reduced their income because they got paid for that job. So I was there for a bit and once we hadn’t been there all that long and I got malaria three, four times while I was there. Which wasn't very nice. Again a request came up for volunteers to go up country so, like an idiot, ‘yes please I'd love to go’, and I went there and I went via Nigeria Lagos, to a place called Maiduguri in northern Nigeria and funnily enough it was a place called Jos, which is, which is where, where the locals lived. All the expats would go there because it was higher and it was better climate. But I was there and I went for — there for up to Maiduguri. We were in mud huts. I've got photographs of them here somewhere [coughs] which wasn't very nice, the water was fetched from the river of Lake Chad and boiled. All the water used for cooking, for washing, for everything else was from there and we were invited to the Lake Chad Polo sports club. They do Polo, they do most sports but there was all the expats and Europeans over there and there were two people and I heard two people talking and they said the name Joss, you see, and I said ‘yes’, and the chap turned around and he said ‘yes what?’ I said ‘you mentioned Joss, that's my name’, he said ‘no, I was talking about the town Jos where we go for a break’, he said ‘where do you come from?’ So I told him as much as I’ve told you and he said ‘any other relatives named Joss?’ I said ‘yes, my uncle's a doctor’, he says, ‘I shared a billet with him in Edinburgh would you believe’. He said he's quite honoured really and we became very friendly with him, he was the local civilian white Doctor and he used to [coughs], used to treat all the, the — his favourite story of the West African Winter Force, before the WAFs, before the RAF WAFs they were called, the WAFs, West African Winter Force, he used to have job finding his shoes to see them, because the smallest they would take were tens, they were big but he said ‘they're brutal’. I said ‘what do you mean they're brutal?’ he said ‘well one of them got me to circumcise him and next day he came back and he asked me to put stitches back on him’, you know because he was out with his girlfriend performing, tore his stitches and could he put them back in again. I thought that seemed a silly past time to me [laughs] [coughs] so that was there. And while I was in fortinamy, I went from there to French Patrol Africa, fortinamy on Lake Chad, and while I was there de Gaulle visited us. I got another rollicking there because he came in there called a [unclear] Flying wing. I've got a photograph of it there. There was only three of them ever made. They were given to de Gaulle. One was his private plane. Whatever happened to the other two I don't know. His pilot was a civilian, it was Jim Mollison, Amy Johnson's husband and he flew him about all over the world and over the country. After his visit I had a French Captain say ‘you come here English, English come here, you're very rude, very naughty’ he said, ‘they’re playing the National Anthem and you're walking around taking no notice’. I said ‘I was taking photographs’, which I was. ‘I'm sorry I didn't recognise it’. ‘Didn't recognise our national anthem? Well, that's disgraceful’ he said and the other thing he said ‘that flag of yours is higher than ours, get it down’. We’d got an old pole and put up our RAF Ensign [laughs] [coughs] so we had a Sergeant and a Corporal, Ginger Bunsen and Willie Downie which was four of us. He said ‘well you better fetch it down’, so he fetched it down this homemade flag pole and I fetched our flag down about four inches. I wasn't going to do anymore I thought it was enough but he got a bit stroppy with me about that and made me fetch it down another foot [laughs], so I was there and I got malaria again. Then he had a very, to me, unusual treatment. I had beforehand was being, was — quinine and all sorts but he said ‘no, lie on your stomach’, which I did and on my back he had little oval bottles which he heated and he placed on my back. He says ‘that will take all the fever away’, and I thought he was, he was a Martinique and I thought the man’s a bloody witch doctor. I don't know what he did but it worked beautifully and I mentioned it to doctors since and said that we’ve heard of this but never known anybody, and I says ‘well I had my malaria taken out of me by little bottles which are heated up and put it on’. My back was covered in bruises after they all came off. Anyway, I was in the village one day and we were on the edge of the British, of the Foreign Legion village and I saw a young lad, an Arab lad, come running out and a Legionnaire running after him and kicked him from behind and knocked him flat and started to kick him. I didn't know what he was doing, but I picked up a bit of wood and I hit this Legionnaire on the back of the head and said ‘stop doing that to that boy, he's only a boy’, and what he says, he says ‘I caught him stealing something’ and I said ‘I don't care’. The next thing is I'm picked up by the Legion and put in their billet with some Italian prisoners. Now this was interesting though, because if you wanted to go to the loo, you all had to go or none. If you're all bursting they’d say right outside and march and you’d march to the loo and you stood there and you performed if you did and you were taken back. Anyway, the French Captain at the time was Mercenaire, Captain Mercenaire, he said ‘I don't think you’d better stay here in the in fortinamy’ and he sent me back to Maiduguri and they sent up an Army Captain who took me back to Maiduguri. ‘What the devil did you do?’ I said ‘I only knocked this bloke out with a bit of wood really’ and he thought that was worthwhile.

CB: [laughing]

DJ: They took me back to Maiduguri and I stayed there and the doctor there, (isn't it funny how you remember these things talking), was South African, a Doctor Tatz, T A T Z, and he said ‘well I'm not letting you back on the airfield, you can become my assistant. I'll find you jobs to do in the, in the sick quarters’, which was a sort of a mud Hospital. South African [unclear] which I did until I had a – what do they call it? A rigor, you know, a relapse of the malaria, of the malaria. He said ‘well you're not much use to us out here, you'd better go home’. So I went home and they flew us down to, to Lagos and we got on a French troop ship that brought me back to the UK. And there when I came back my first visit, to would you believe, Lincoln, where I was in Newark. I was posted to Newark, Ossington which is just outside Newark and I was there but I kept getting relapses and they sent me to Cranwell to hospital there for a long time until I was — got rid of it and they came in one day and said ‘we need some volunteers and you people have had malaria’. And I was in a ward with others and they said they're some expert to [pause] examine me, tests going on, on some tests that I was told you’re having these relapses. I’ve got — a moment [unclear], I forget there was, two eights, three eights, twenty-four of us put in this ward and they said ‘any of you willing to go on these examinations’, yes said I and they said ‘we will draw for it, one of you will have a liquid one, one of you will have pills, the other one will have a jab in the bum’. You can guess, of course, which one I got.

CB: [laughing]

DJ: A jab in the bum and that's that but it worked. After that I didn't get a relapse, well I did some years later but a very mild one. It worked and they said and I [unclear] here used to be the centre of tropical medicine for the RAF and they told them about that and they took notes that you're taken and they said we've heard about those tests can you, can you tell us, can and I said yes, and they said can you remember the doctor, but I couldn't but I remember the day and they took notes of this and I've never had any since at all no relapses. Anyway, where are we now?

CB: What year are we in now and month?

DJ: Oh, now I'm at Ossington, Ossington which is B42. Whilst I was there we had — oh, I applied to be a flight engineer and I got back on from a general office saying no your application is turned down, they got so many applicants for flight engineers, every fitter and rigger wants to be a flight engineer and so you've had it. Anyway, you may remember they had an Inspector General, well used to have in the RAF, and he came on inspection that day and I'd been on nights and I was the standing by the bed and he came along the billets and talked to everybody and was very friendly, and he came down our billet and the old station officer said ‘attention!’ And we had to stand there out of bed and we’d been on nights and we were made to get up out of bed, and I was standing there in my pyjama trousers only. Anyway, he came and he was quite amused and said ‘I'm sorry you shouldn't do that. Anybody got any complaints’. [unclear] well what’s your trouble and the old Station Master was glaring at me, I said ‘well, I applied to be a flight officer and I've been turned down, I want to be air crew’, and he turned to his ADC, take this man's name, who turned to the station master and said take this man's name and I thought well that's the end of that. Two weeks later the tannoy went. I was a corporal then. Corporal Joss report to Station Commander immediately, don't stop to take your overalls off. So I went over and he said ‘you're a cheeky bugger Joss, aren't you? You stopping the Inspector General’, he was only an Air Vice Marshal, I said ‘well he asked’ and he said ‘well he's replied, and he says if you're prepared to take a gunner, you can go’. Which section? [unclear] Oh well I said ‘I can go Wednesday, tomorrow’, he said ‘don't be ridiculous, I'll let you know when you go’. He said you've got to go for selection first of all. So it was only about a week later I went down to — what’s that place near the Zoo in London?

CB: Lords, Lords.

DJ: No it was all blocks of flats. It was near there, anyway they were big blocks of flats just outside London Zoo because we were was [unclear] London Zoo when the selection went on and who turned up there, going right back now to my scouting friend, you'll see his name on there. Wales [coughs], and by this time I've done three years service you see, so I was an old hand, I'd got a GC, you know the one stripe you have for three years behaviour. Well he didn't want to go so I said stick with me, I'll look after you, I'll see you through, we’ll stick together on this.So we went through the things and he said we'll both [unclear] and I went up to the people, the class taking notes of sending and posting or whatever, and I said this chap [unclear], he's got to come with me, his parents asked that I look after him. And they said I've heard some tales but they said alright. So — where was the first place we went? Bridlington. Now I've got a very happy memory of Bridlington. They billeted us in — they emptied the council houses in the town and put us all in the houses, but I don't know where the whole Village went. And then one day we were parading all over the place, down near the Harbour and they said right, back here tonight at, I think they said eight o'clock, at the harbour. So we went back at eight o'clock to the harbour and we were all given a flying suit, just looked like an overall, and a life jacket and the other thing is, we were given a thing which was like a whistle, he said fasten your whistle onto [unclear] you must have seen it [unclear] on the collar, he said ‘what you are going to do in the dark. You are going to jump in the harbour in the dark and you will find a dinghy upside-down. You've got to find it, put it the right way up and as soon as you blow your whistle so they all come together, soon as you fill it with seven people, you can come in and have some supper’. And that's what we did. I remember pitch black, freezing flipping cold and we had a man named — I remember him [pause], Mogford was his name, no it wasn't, it was whatever it will come to me — Shadmaniham. He said ‘I can't swim I'm not going in there’. They said if you don't go in there, you're off the course and you're finished and we all liked him. He was a — I remember, he was a Sheffield steel worker or had been. Anyway we're all lined up, eleven o'clock, it was pitch black and we saw them throw this dingy and move it right out to the middle of the harbour in the dark. There wasn't a light anywhere and, and this man Shadmaniham says ‘well I'm not going in’ so one or two of us nodded like this you see. We just grabbed him and ran with him and jumped and took him with us. He was screaming like mad and he jumped in with us. Anyway we kept hold of him. Jimmy Wales was still with me then, we grabbed him and we started blowing our whistles and he wouldn’t move, you know swam or floated whatever you like until we got near the whistle. And we eventually found the dinghy, got in to it and we managed to turn it upright and dragged this lad in, and he said ‘I would never have done that if you hadn't done that’ but he says ‘I didn't want to lose my place, I didn't want to be thrown out’. So that's my one and only fairly memory of Bridlington. I hated it, it was terrifying, it really was awful. I don't know how many people they did that to but we did that. Anyway from there [pause] Andreas on the Isle of Man, where we did [unclear] re- training. Now then [long pause] my log book. Can I, can I read it out of my logbook because I'm very proud of this. If I can find it. Where is it? Where's the front page?

CB: This is one of the first entries in your log book.

DJ: Yeah. It says here, D Joss, air gunner. With affect from the 21st June forty-three. Squadron Leader Tooth signed it. Qualified air gunner and this is the bit I like, over the page. Theory - above average. Practical - outstanding and I like that, and the reason I got that is, I used to go four or five in the back of an Anson at the time and you had to climb into a turret on the back of the Anson and [unclear] flew with a dinghy trailing way behind and you shot at that. The rounds in the gun were dipped different colours so they’d know who had red or green or blue and they know who had hit the drone. Two of the other lads were terrified they wouldn't, they didn’t get out they didn't want to go in the turret, they didn’t, so I said let me go in there I'll do yours, I'll do yours, you see as a result, of course, I got no end of drogue colours. My, their colours and mine were in there and I got the credit for it. Anyway, above average theory. Outstanding - practical. Results - average. Recommended for commission at a later date after first experience and that was signed by Squadron Leader Tooth, OC Training Wing, Number One Air Gunnery Squad. So that's my proud possession. Exercises [pause] I shot two hundred rounds there and two hundred rounds there and so on. So there, that's that.

CB: That's really good. Do you want to have a break for a bit?

DJ: [Unclear]. The other four of us. My grandparents and her brother said ‘we’ll send two of them up to us in Aberdeen and they can stay with us until you get posted’. So I went and stayed with the grandparents and my sister went with my mother's brother. [Unclear] we were only going to go for a short time until she felt better but both of us stayed, lived up there for a further eighteen months. Really until we were summoned back.

CB: This is when the youngest was born?

DJ: Yeah.

CB: Right

DJ: And when mum had got over all that lot, she said she wanted us back and back we went. And we left Aberdeen and went back there. But I, I've been back once, only once since [unclear] the and memories came flooding back. Yes I have a brother, who is going to stay with us next week, he was also born in Aberdeen. Anyway where had I got to?

CB: Just, just briefly there, you moved, the family moved south and went to Coventry.

DJ: Yes.

CB: So we’re now from the narrative you've reached so far, got to 1942.

DJ: Two.

CB: But what was the experience of the family of being in Coventry during the bombing?

DJ: Ahh. This thing says we moved in the November and I was on a troop ship on the way to West Africa, and on the radio we heard this and I knew nothing about. I didn't hear from them and anyway, when I went at Takoradi [unclear] just, I was getting quite desperate I want to see the padre. One always visited the padre [unclear] and I told him about this and I said can't you do anything for me and he said he’d I’ll do what I can. He apparently had got permission to signal the police in Coventry to find out what had happened to family.

CB: This is Operation Moonlight Sonata so 17th, 18th November forty, yeah. OK.

DJ: And he did and they were very good. They said, police Coventry said to [unclear] the family were alright and well. They were all well and alright. I got a letter eventually from my mother and men used to [unclear] phone the [unclear] and what amazes me they got the pleasure when it used to take three weeks or three months sometimes to get the mail. There's only one amusing bit that I know of at the time. They could hear, where we lived in Radford in the corner of Coventry, they could all hear the bombing going on further in the town and Mum apparently, when she went to have a look to see what was happening, see if there's any flames and she opened the door and a bomb went off not far away. Blew the door and her in the kitchen and she laid on her back with the door handle in her hand. The rest of family thought this was hilarious and they all burst out laughing she says ‘there's me lying there, in pain and didn't know what happened and the kids are all standing there around laughing and I'm still holding the door handle in my hand’ [laughs].

CB: [laughs] what an extraordinary thing.

DJ: So for the rest of the time the letters, I got they referred about the tin can they had in the garden and they baked on for some months before they got power back on in the house. She did that. Dad was, he did, I don't know what he did during the war there, he did something. I think he was a, a warden for the Post Office, he used to go on the roof in the Post Office and do things there, an air raid warden.

CB: Umm.

DJ: That's the only thing, his contribution there. I tried to persuade him to go and join the Army. Now we weren't very friendly, I don't know why, he didn't bother, he didn't like us kids, he, he had nothing to do with us. He never came to school, he never came to anything. We weren't unfriendly but he was never, never friendly. Took no part in us. And I said well you were in the Army experience with the First World War, why don't you go and see if you want to go in the Post Office at Nottingham. Why I said that, his brother was a doctor in Nottingham, had been. He got an MC in the First World War and a Barterat in the second, would you believe. However, I said the Army Post Office is in Nottingham, you can go and stay with Uncle Joss as he was called or something, they'll give you a job in the post office but he wouldn't. He said no he’s staying at home and that was it as far as I was concerned. That was his contribution to the war, it was nothing at all.

CB: Ok, thank you very much. So now picking up on where we were before, you’re at, in the Isle of Man.

DJ: Oh yes.

CB: And you’ve — so we’re talking about 1943.

DJ: Yes.

CB: And the practical outstanding recommended for a commission later.

DJ: Yeah.

CB: So at that stage, what happened next?

DJ: Well, I was the most senior, if you like, cadet or recruit at the time in the thing because I’d done a bit of service in. So when our course had finished they said you're all going back to Loughborough, which I was pleased about because we did our college at Loughborough. You're going to Loughborough to join an aircrew, a bomber crew. It was quite amusing ‘cause the old ferry port of — and there were some RAF police on the side shouting ‘can we have the Senior NCO for this lot’, you see, and we said ‘where is the Senior NCO for this lot’, and all our lot are standing there looking round until one of them reminded me - you're the senior. Oh God I said the first time I've been given a Senior NCO job, you see, so I had to get them off and march them there and we were put on coaches, some of us and we were posted, moved to Loughborough. Now I don't know what the system was to become crewed down there in those Bomber Command days. Do you know what they — well I'll tell you anyway.

CB: They put you in a hanger.

DJ: Well.

CB: To crew up.

DJ: Well what it was, it was a big place anyway and there was enough to make seven, you know there's so many gunners. Two of each and there’s navigators and bomb aimers and flight engineers and pilots. Now I didn't drink, never drank and when we went there, I’m with Jimmy and I, I said stick with me Jimmy we’ll get on the same crew and they, they got us all together and they said now we're going to leave you and we’ll assemble tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock or whatever, and if you haven't formed yourself into a crew of seven or six because we picked up [unclear] late, then we will form you. So we didn't want to be [unclear] Jimmy and I looked round, we didn't know what to do. He didn't drink either and he was very proud of the fact that he was a Kings Scout. He was always on about this being a Kings Scout was Jimmy. We used to get him to do all sorts of jobs because he did that [coughs] and we saw a bloke sitting in the corner, quiet, ‘cause all the others did the obvious thing and said let's go down the pub and sort ourselves out, you see. Jimmy and I didn't want to go and we saw these chap sitting quietly in the corner and we said why do you [unclear] and he said ‘well I don't drink, I don't like bother’. ‘Well’, I said, ‘well Jimmy and I don't drink, shall we join up’, and that's how we got Len the Navigator and we looked around and there was other people about, and we said any of you teetotallers who don't like pub life and we picked up the bomb aimer and that was [unclear], and there was some flight lieutenants there, pilots so, oh no they were pilots, just commissioned or NCO pilots a lot of them. You know, most of them were sergeants in the early days and we said, look at him, he's a flight lieutenant, he must have experience, so we went to him and said ‘have you got a crew’, and he said no, so we said ‘well look, we've got a crew here, there’s him, there’s him, there’s him and him, we’ve got them all, would you like to be our pilot?’ Yes he says, alright I'll be that, which was a mistake.

CB: This was Wood, Chippy Wood this was, was it?

DJ: No this wasn’t.

CB: Oh it wasn't, oh right.

DJ: No this wasn’t Chippy no, this was a pilot whose name I can't remember. It's in here, it doesn't matter

CB: Yes, ok.

DJ: We got him and they said right you as a crew are going to Castle Donington to do some twin engine to enable you to practice, you see on Wellingtons. So we all turned up there and they told us we were going to do service and bombs first of all, you see, which was fair enough. We all did service and bombs, except that our pilot could have — whatever it was we don't know. He took off three times and he landed straight ahead three times in ploughed fields or in the grass. He went helling off like a mortal fire bell, as you know.

CB: I was coming to that, ok, go on.

DJ: They took him off and there so there was us crew as referred to as a headless crew and then they said, well you go to your training in your own various department, gunners, navigators or what, but we didn't, we used to go into Derby and to dances and all the rest, you see, much more fun. Anyway the old [unclear], whatever this chaps name, I must find it, if I can find it, in here.

CB: So he was shipped away?

DJ: Would you believe it, a flight lieutenant, he was made OC Station Bicycle.

CB: Oh right.

DJ: And I couldn't get over that.

CB: Right, nice one [laughs]

DJ: I just couldn't believe it.

CB: Interesting connotation, station bicycles.

DJ: I can't find his flipping name.

CB: Some of them were even metal.

DJ: It doesn't matter. Sleight, s, l, e, i, g, h, t and we all — the tannoy went and the crews were to assemble in OC Flying Wing, Wing Commander. So we all trooped back in there and marched in and stood there, and he said ‘right crew, we've got you a new pilot. There he is’, and there's a chap sitting in the corner. He unfolded himself and he was six foot five. He'd lost his crew, he was the only survivor from a crew that had bailed out somewhere and he was the only one surviving.

CB: Gosh.

DJ: And the first thing that happened he said to us, I thought this was hilarious he, he says ‘come on what will we do, I tell you what let's go down the pub so we get to know each other’ and I said ‘you're going to be upset about this, you’ve just inherited the only all teetotal crew in the RAF’. ‘God Almighty’, he said, he said ‘I'm going to have you stuffed and put in the Imperial War Museum after the war’. He said they can't be, I said yes that's what you've got. Anyway we came good. Chippy and I fixed up particularly and we became very, very good personal friends as well — he was a terrific pilot, he was lovely. Anyway, by the time we did a few ops. I don't have it in there. At, from Castle Donington we were posted to [long pause], I can't remember but this is where I was put on a Halifax.

CB: Yes, this is the HCU now.

DJ: Yes, the HCU. Yes, Heavy Converse Unit, yes [long pause], Wellington, Wellington, Wellington, Wellington. I can't find it [long pause], Wellington, Wellington, Wellington, the Wellington, Wellington HE [pause] and we had instructor pilots. We had different pilots there, one was an Officer Pilot Palmer and one who was [unclear] and one who was a Woodland and one was a Palmer [pause], but we only did five hours on that, on thingme there. There was one interesting incident there.

CB: Are we on Halifaxes now?

DJ: No it was —

CB: Are we on Wellingtons or Halifaxes?

DJ: Halifaxes.

CB: Right, ok

DJ: Three. Where we met, I did three ops in the Halifaxes, I can't see why I haven't written it in here. I suppose it was in my log book, I don't know. Anyway there was an incident there which I thought was interesting, nobody else did, but I did. We were doing service and bombs and we used the Halifax at nights, at night cross country and come back but they told us, the gunners, keep your guns loaded because the Germans have been coming and if they saw lights, go on in a — you maybe know all of this, they would attack aircraft landing. The German fighters would get you so we had to go round and if you're going to land and old Chippy would say are you loaded Doug, and I would say yes I am and loaded up my guns just in case. What happened then is we went in for a very nice landing, the tail goes down with a bit of a bump, my guns, which I hadn't switched security on went - brrrr, brrr - right across the Officer's Mess.

CB: [laughs]

DJ: When we came off the aircraft and back in, he said your crews wanted by the station commander. He said ‘how the hell did that happen?’ I had to put my hand up and I said ‘well I forgot to put on my safety catch when we landed’. He said ‘at least you had the sense to land them loaded’. That's all he said. He says ‘well bugger off, use your loaf in the future’ but that's it. And I said, was it Honington? Is it Honington? There's a place up I think it was Honington. Anyway, I was shown the bullet holes later on, on the side of the Officers Mess. It was just one burst that went, you know, I quickly switched off. So there's a memory. Anyway I thought, I hate this aircraft because you know, we were right down and to get past that big column at the back of the thing into the turret was [unclear], I thought if I have to get out of this it will take me hours. Anyway we were sent for and were told we were going to a place called Wickenby. That's 12 Squadron. They've taken A Flight off 12 Squadron and made it into 626 Squadron and you're going to join 626 Squadron at Wickenby. And I've been in touch with them ever since.

CB: So the Halifax was 12 Squadron?

DJ: No the Halifax —

CB: No, the HCU was the Halifax

DJ: Yes, HCU, and the 12 Squadron was all Lancs.

CB: Yeah, ok. Do you want to stop for a bit?

DJ: It so happens that the only apprentice which got a VC was at 12 Squadron and they’ve got a memorial service to him — 3rd of November?

BP: Yes.

DJ: Yes, 3rd of November this year they're doing that. He was the only bloke that got a VC. He was an apprentice there, but anyway we were there so we started. Now then it's all — you’ve got it all here written down for you in that thing I've given you.

CB: Ok.

DJ: Every operation is in there and we were the first crew to go for three months. Complete a tour in three months, while the others were being [unclear]. The first crew to come back in three months, you know, only with a minor injury or [unclear] and you were hit by flak occasionally but if you look in that you can get every op in that one. So there.

BP: You did an extra, you did an extra one.

CB: Just to, just to recap. So you were on Halifax, you did only three ops on that.

DJ: Yes, and then we were transferred to, to Wickenby.

CB: Yes, to Halifax.

DJ: To help form 626 Squadron.

CB: Yes, yes Lancaster. Ok. Good.

DJ: We did a — it's all there, I won’t go through —

CB: Where, where —

DJ: But they're all in there.

CB: Yes.

DJ: And when we came home, we were hit by flak sometime, quite a peppering we got and the — it burst in the perspex cover of the bomb aimers nose bit.

CB: Yep.

DJ: And old Dom was there and he said ‘no skipper, I've been hit, my face is covered in blood’ and skipper said ‘well come on back up here, we’ll look at you on the bench’ and he said ‘no I'll stay here’. I thought, here we go, here’s a medal going and left him. Anyway, he says when we were coming back, he radioed in, injury aboard, medical standing by and it really is funny, well it was at the time. When they came and the ladder that went in to came out at the front, he’d got a bit of perspex stuck in his oxygen mask in the end of his nose. No wonder he was covered in blood, it was going in there, about as big as a pencil [laughs], we thought all this was absolutely hilarious [laughs]. Anyway, the medics took him off and they said, ‘well bit of shock here, we better put you in bed you know, to see that you're alright’. Anyway, he was alright. He came back to us two days, well three ops later. Towards the end of the tour, because we’d finish the tour, the station commander came down. He used to meet those that had done their tour and he said congratulations, you know, all you can go off now on two weeks leave except you [unclear], you missed a couple of ops, you've got to do a couple or two to pack up. Chippy didn't even hesitate, he said, no he's not, we’ll do another tour because we're not letting him fly with another strange crew. He just felt infinity and we were all such good friends and we knew each other so well, so we did the extra to make a total of thirty-two and make him finish his tour and that was alright [long pause].

CB: Amazing.

DJ: So, and that's me in the Bomber Command.

CB: When you, when he wasn't around, who was the stand in air bomber?

DJ: Oh I couldn't tell you.

CB: No but was it one person who — both times or a different, sorry, the same person both times or how did they select them?

DJ: Where, which bit?

CB: When, when your man was wounded.

DJ: Oh we were just told that there was a spare bomb aimer, you know, come and join our crew. I couldn't tell you his name now. Well I don't think it's even in my log book, I'm pretty sure it's not. We were just given a gash one and he would have been a gash one, you see, for somebody else had he done another tour. Ok [pause]

CB: Ok. So that's fine, thank you. So you did thirty-two ops. What happened after that?

DJ: Oh, well I volunteered for [pause], what do they call, a song about — Dambusters for the, what do they call those that [pause].

BP: Don’t know. Pathfinders?.

DJ: No, no, which lay the markers. What do they call that?

CB: The —

DJ: Always used to lay markers.

CB: The markers, the markers.

DJ: The markers.

CB: Well they were, they were the Pathfinders.

BP: Pathfinders.

DJ: Pathfinders.

CB: Yes.

DJ: Well I volunteered for the Pathfinders.

CB: Right.

DJ: And they said no. I said well alright can I go overseas, they said yes [laughs]. So the next thing is, after a bit of time, I’m on a troop ship on the way to India. I got about three weeks leave I think, and then I — Gourock was it, is it Gourock, yes I was in Gourock, and I sailed from there, again not knowing where I was going at the time until we were well on the way, and then they said we were going to India, first to Bombay and that happened. Went to Bombay. Went ashore. I chummed with a bloke named — for a pilot officer to chum up with a wing commander was just not very friendly, but I chummed up with a dentist who was, who'd been to India and was an old hand and knew it all, and we got on very well. So we went to India and then we went ashore at Bombay, under the gateway to India, opposite that beautiful hotel that got attacked. The Taj, it was named after the famous Taj, it was the Taj hotel. And there, from there I was sent to Delhi which was then the Far East Air Force Headquarters, and they said ‘well we've got no use for you here, we’ll send you down to a place called Chittagong’, which was in Assam. And I said what am I to do there and they said [unclear] and we were hoping we might be able to release or get some prisoners released, in which case you'd be responsible for sorting them out and touring them home. So we went to Chittagong and I got a real rollicking there, because amongst other things I did, was issue a certificate for the amount of alcohol to each unit. Five to airman and NCOs and a bottle, you could have whiskey or scotch, went to officers. Terrible that in the middle of the war, wasn't it, and I, somehow I forget one of the blokes [unclear] he was a group captain, he wrote me a snotty letter because he’d been late in getting this chit to get the stuff from the Indian we had there, not a NAAFI, it was a sort of, I don't know they weren't called NAAFI, I forget what they're called now, but it was, it used to issue the sort of stuff that NAAFIs issued, and I got this stinking letter from this group captain that said he was delayed and nobody had their drink, and don't you realise we’re at the frontier, and all the rest of it. So I was just a flying officer then, I wrote back a stupid letter to him saying that I'm very sorry I couldn't get the Japanese to coincide their retreat with your thirstiness. About sixteen years ago, I phoned him up from [unclear], who was Air Officer Banham who was the OEC. What do they call it? In the air — Middle East Air Force. No it wasn't, it was called — it was, whatever it was.

CB: Far East Air Force.

DJ: They used north just off — what’s the capital? Rangoon. He was, he was a very good AOCH. He sent me for there. He says now come and I’d stand to attention for him. He said, I can see him standing there, he says ‘you don't look like an idiot to me, Joss’ and I said ‘what makes you say that sir?’ He says ‘you write bloody rude letters to [unclear], not even in the third party, you write it in the English party, you don't do service mail like that’ and he says ‘will you go back up to Chittagong, we've got a job for you in a bit’. So I went back up to Chittagong and the next thing is new we’re assembling up all the air, Middle East Air Force. that bit of it anyway, HQ 22 Group or 24 Group. We were going to assemble, going down to Bangalore.

CB: This is all in Burma?

DJ: No, this is —

CB: No the earlier bit?

DJ: No going down to India. He said ‘we're sending, the whole units moving down there. The train had come in, a special train loaded with all our stuff. We're going to fly the others down or they're going to go down eventually. You, Joss, for being an idiot, are going to be in charge of that train down to Bangalore’ and I said ‘who will I have with me’. He said ‘you've got six Indians’, or what do they call them, followers. ‘ You've got six followers’. And I said ‘what about rations and food?’ He said ‘use your initiative boy, you've got six followers, tell them you need to be fed and they’ll sort you out’, and I thought, god this is awful. Would you believe it? It took me over six days to go from Chittagong to Bangalore, we were right down the outside of India. It was a one trick track and if there's trains coming up, we'd park, we parked sometimes overnight, sometimes just for a couple of hours, sometimes for five or six hours and the old [unclear] would come along, ‘hello Sar, we stop here and make you cha?’ ‘Yes’ I says ‘please make me cha’. I said ‘I want some food, any chance?’ They said no money. I said ‘I've got some money’, I give him some, he said ‘I buy chicken, I buy eggs’, and that was my journey and it was fascinating, absolutely. I was the only European, if you like, on the train all the way round to Chittagong to, to, to — what did I say it was?

BP: Bangalore, Bangalore.

DJ: Bangalore, yes. What was the place called outside? Yelahanka, and we were all in Yelahanka, and he said, told us what we're going to do, we’re moving back up to Bombay now, to assemble for re-entry in to Malay in Singapore. And you're joining the Army in Bangalore for landing in Singapore. So l thought lovely [unclear] stuff, you see. So we got — oh, while we were there, they announced that the war in Europe, VE, where you know — the war, peace was there. It went hilarious. We were very stupid really. We had decided, everybody wanted a paddy and we went into Bangalore and we got a little [pause] bola. Oh, what do they call them? You know the two-wheeled carts you pull it, the two wheeled cart. The cha bola? Oh no cha is a tea. Well whatever it was. He was the bloke that used to tow these things and we said to him ‘how many rupees you get if you work all day?’ ‘Oh Sar [unclear] five, six rupees’. So we had a whip round and we took the money and put it in his hand and said no more work today. We will take you home and we put him in the cart. No, no, no, I can't do that. We put him in and made him show us the way home. We towed him to his home and we were told afterwards that we did him a grave disservice. He’d lost face [unclear] towing him, you know and about five Europeans towing a thingme right through the Indian quarter in the back of the [laughs], so we were surprised why he wasn't very grateful. Anyway, from there back up to Bombay. Troop ships again. On our way and we were, we were in the Indian Ocean. We stopped at, what is, what is the place in the South? Sri Lanka, but we weren't allowed ashore, but we carried on sailing and the announcement made then that Japan had packed in and we carried on, and we went to the, the, the pass between Malaya and, and a bit of land, I forget what it is. Anyway, we moved off a place, the stip, Malacca. We moved off the stip and we had ropes on the side of the ship to get down you see, and I might have a photograph of it, and a sailor says to me as I was going down the ship, he says ‘mate’, he says ‘if you had any sense in you, why don't you load that gun of yours’. I’d got a pistol in here but I hadn’t loaded it. He says ‘you're going ashore, you don't know what's going to happen to you there, you want to load that’. Oh yes I thought, I’d better, which I didn’t. But we went into LST, Landing Ship Tanks and we went ashore, not a — no opposition whatsoever and this, a chap I'd got pally with too always seemed [unclear] we decided to walk into Kuala Lumpur as best we could. So we said, they said find your own transport and so we went there and two Japanese came along in a little van sort of thing, which we told to come out and surrender and they came out no bother. And we took the key off them and pinched this car, you see. We went into Kuala Lumpur and this chap and I. I remember he was a Glasgow policeman, he was a big strong chap. He says ‘come on let's get out the way, we don't want to get involved in this’. So we stood and watched the rest of the troops march into Kuala Lumpur, you know, we stood by the side of them. It was, it was fascinating and there again the same air commodore that I met at Bangalore, Paddy Banham , The Air Commodore, the Earl of Banham was known as Paddy Banham. He sent for me. He says ‘Joss, you can use your intelligence, I've got a little job for you’, and I said ‘oh yes, sir’. He says ‘have you got any transport?’ I said ‘yes sir, I've got a very nice thing’. ‘Oh good’ he said. We did — this lad says shall we hand it in now? I said ‘no, no, no if we do hand it in the senior officers will take it off us’. We’ve unclipped our gold bands, which we’d kept. He says ‘if you go down to Singapore, and there's a conference call there by the Army to reallocate accommodation for the Navy, the Air Force and us. Now what you’re to do, you’ll find the instructions down there, you’ll find some [unclear]’ and he produced a list of who or what we needed accommodation for. His own, something and various other officers and the various units. Six health units and he says you're not to take up any new units from the Japanese. It’s only the units only previously [unclear], you know, used by the Japanese. So I thought — so I went down there. I, this lad, who's quite a [unclear] we looked in, we were told, we knew where the Japs had come out of. And you've heard of Raffles Hotel, well next to that used to be Raffles Institute, which is a block of flats overlooking Padang, so we went in there and they were very nice flats, so we said that's ours, his and mine. Paddy then came down and, oh yes, there’s an interesting thing, I was sent for by an Army colonel and he says, I was a flight lieutenant by now, I'd really got on, he says where's the RAF representative on this allocation and accommodation? I said I'm it. He sent a signal up to Paddy Banham saying, you know, we've only got this. I think I was a flight attendant or a flying officer, or whatever I was there. He said, he says we haven't got any proper representative and Paddy said, I don't know what the Army and Navy do, but flying officers here are perfectly capable of sorting out accommodation for their officers. Which the army didn't like that. I did.

CB: [laughs]

DJ: But it didn’t matter we were sent in there. Anyway, Paddy Banham came down about three days, four days later and he says ‘right, could you arrange to meet at the Raffles Hotel’. He says ‘now you're taking me to the accommodation reserved for me’, and we’d found him a rather nice place. And the bugger he says, ‘no before we go there, can you take us to where you're going because we know what’ll happen’. So we said ‘yes sir’. So we took him in this place and he said ‘and I'll have that, I'll have that, you can move that to mine’. He took all the prime bits of furniture and statues and all things that the Japs had collected, removed into his flat. He said ‘right you can keep it now’ Joss’. So I was there. Now then if, I go right back to the beginning, when I joined the Air Force, originally I joined for six years. My six years came up round about that time and I got a message. You are entitled, now the war is over, to be demobilised as you’ve performed your six years and you'll be shipped home, you see, so there's that. I thought — oh, and the job I had there was sending Prisoners of War and families, wives at Siam Road. Very few people have heard of Siam Road which was a women's prison where they kept them interred. I was to sort — I sorted them all that and put them on ships home or flew them where there was aircraft possible, so that was my job while I was there, which I quite enjoyed. Lots of, few people knew about Siam Road but the women had a rough time because it was very difficult. Some of the women started fighting with each other ‘cause of extra rations allegedly. Some of them were given favours, some Japanese in exchange for food which they would give them because they had their kids, and they slept on raffia floors and their child beside them. These huts had about forty or forty-five women and kids all inside Siam Road. Anyway, we got them on troop ships and sent those home. Then the signal come, I was to move and go home on the next suitable troop ship, which I did. Came home, went to Padgate, was signed off, given a civvy suit and, and I think some money, I don't know how much. Went home on two months demob leave. I’d been home forty-eight hours and a telegram came. Please get in touch with me and a number to ring. We’d like you to stay in the Air Force. Would you like to cancel demobilization, if so, you’re to report to a place, you’ll know about, Silverstone. Now, you are to join a squadron leader, god, I can’t remember his name, and close the station down. So here again, I have affected history because I went there with this bloke, he lived in Towcester. He was a farmer and he’d been sent there for his demob but to close this down, you see. He used to go home every night, he’d phone me every morning as a station hand, do you need me? No. Alright I’ll ring you tomorrow. So I was left to close the station down which was just getting trucks, taking stuff and all these instructions came in about where it was all to go and the rest of it was funny. Now going away to my sister and my middle sister was very pally with a girl called Ken Richardson who was a Senior Engineer for Raymond Mays, a [unclear] war. Have you heard the name Raymond Mays, a racing driver before the war? He was his engineer and he was on the, the testing and research for Jag, and Lou sent me a note saying can you get me on the telephone, which I did. She says he’s looking out for an Air Ford, a disused Air Ford to do track runs, round and round the track. So she says can he come to you? I said well I don’t know, I’ll check with Air Ministry, which I did, and they said yes, providing they’ll take out one hundred thousand pounds third party insurance, which I did, they did. The rest is history. They’ve stayed there ever since, so there you are. I opened up Silverstone. Yes I did. Really, I was on old telly. Was it my fiftieth Birthday?

BP: I can’t remember now.

DJ: They came and interviewed me here. And they says, can you show us [unclear] looking at photographs. I said I’m not doing any of that sort of cliché, I said, everybody wants to look at photographs, I haven’t got any, but there you are. I closed Silverstone and that was it. And then I went to [pause] Bridgehill, I was based there, I went to Bridgnorth to close that. RAF Bridgnorth was where all recruits came through at the time. You know of it? And I closed that. And then from there I was posted to [pause] Acklington was it? Acklington, Northumberland. Was it Acklington? Yes it was, close to Acklington. They rebuilt that, I stayed there and I had the only really unhappy days there. I had a CO who was a real bully, a rank bully. He made my life purgatory [coughs], the kind — I was there SAO, Senior Admin Officer. The, I was squadron leader by this time and he. Oh I’m sorry. Oh hold on, I’ve jumped, I’ve jumped because —

CB: From Silverstone?

DJ: Before that. Oh, I was sent back to Upavon. The one place where I’d been as an airman, as command drafting officer with the peace staff, dealing with a post in every rank below officer, and then they said, well we’ll move to the intake shelter recruits. You’re to go to Cardington, you know, the lone hangers.

CB: Yep.

DJ: And I was there, I forget, about six months and then we got a signal coming through, your posted. Upavon, back to Upavon where I’d been as an NAC. I said lovely ‘cause I knew it. You’ll go back there as command [unclear] officer. The night before a phone call said ‘we forgot to tell you, you’re promoted to squadron leader. Get your rank put properly on your dress and report properly dressed to the AOC there CNC’, so that’s when I got squadron leader. Anyway, that was lovely, I enjoyed that. I had a good time RAF [unclear] when I was back up to Acklington now and I had this CO. The kind of silly things he did. If I was duty officer for the day, he’d ring me up and says the horses from a field are loose on the airfield. Get rid of them. I said ‘yes sir’. So I did what any squadron leader would do and rung the orderly sergeant. I said ‘there’re some horses on the airfield, get rid of them’. He said ‘yes sir’ he said, ‘I’ll get the orderly corporal to do that’ which I through was perfectly right and proper.

CB: Yep.

DJ: And anyway, this damned Dennis Sutton his name was, he was called Zebedee by all the troops, Zebedee, he said the next day ‘did you get the horses off the airfield Joss?’ I said ‘yes sir’. He says ‘no’ he says, ‘you didn’t hear me. I said did YOU get the horses off the airfield’. I said ‘no, I told the sergeant, who I believe told the corporal’. He said ‘I told YOU to do it’, and that’s the way he behaved with me. He, he disliked me as much as I disliked him, we didn’t get on. So I then put in an application to get posted. Wing commander admin was Tanner, wing commander, he came to my office and said ‘can you withdraw this?’ I said ‘no, I want to get away from here as soon as possible’. He says ‘well, he says the station officer has had to move, the station medical officer has asked for a move and now you’ve asked for a moved’. I says ‘what about you?’ He says ‘never mind me, will you withdraw it?’ I says ‘no’. Anyway, I had a phone call from Air Ministry. Oh, going back a bit before I closed Padgate, I’d had all the recruits came into Padgate so I had three hundred troops at anytime there, anyway, when the phone call went and said this application of yours to get moved, how soon can you be ready? I says in about two hours, I said ‘where am I going?’ And they said ‘well we thought we’d send you to, to Halton’. ‘Oh’ I said, ‘you couldn’t do better if you’d given me the choice of the Air Force, I’d go back to Halton apprentices’. It would just suit me down to the ground. I like the area and I like working with the youngsters, so I said alright. They said ‘we’ll give you ten days’. I said ‘you can give me 10 minutes. I can be on my way’ and I stayed here until — I don’t know how long I’d been here, nearly four years, and then my son here was saying one day, he says ‘I suppose you will be on the move again sometime, you’ve been here sometime’. I said ‘yes I will’, and it dawned on me. I’d never, all my moves, I’d never consulted my family but anyway, I just excepted I’d come home and say were going to here were going to there and I said [coughs], ‘do you not want to move?’ He says no I’d like to stay here. My wife said the same and my younger son said ‘well if you’re asking me, I’d like to stay here too’. So, I was chatting with somebody that I was thinking of coming out and these lovely coincidence. I had a pal here who was a training officer at Handley Page Aircraft Company. He came round one day, he says you’re talking about leaving, I said yes. He says the training officer, the welfare office, training officer at Handley Page has died, they’re looking for another one and they’re looking for an ex-Air Force chap, you’re just the man says he. He knew me and I said I am so he put me in touch with their [pause] whatever he was, director of personnel, who, would you believe it, was an ex Halton apprentice and he says would you like to go for an interview. I says ‘can I be very rude to you and say would you like to come over here and look round your old alma mater and have lunch in the MESS and that’. I did. He did, he came over and it was lucky, everywhere I went people couldn’t have been nicer to me and very polite, and he said, ‘by god, you get on well, just the lad for the job’. He said ‘how soon can you get out?’ I said ‘I don’t know’ and I waited. I put in my application to get out. They made me wait three months. I came out, stayed here until [coughs] sixty-nine, and then I thought it’s time I came out and be bone idle and there you are. That’s your lot.

CB: Fantastic.

BP: Lovely.

DJ: Sorry.

CB: Right let’s have a break. Thank you.

DJ: I had a nice refreshing cup of tea with a [bleep] bloke named Bob Martin who used to be my boss and he was —

CB: This, this is interrupting a moment. This is when you were posted to Spitalgate?

DJ: Yes.

CB: And the Dutch people?

DJ: Yes the Dutch people there. My boss was Bob Martin who was responsible for flying aspects and I was responsible for the admin of these Dutch recruits, which was lovely. I was there and when they passed out Prince Bernard came across to inspect them and give them their wings and the rest of it. Now Bob and I had been very kind to these Dutch boys, we used to take them into Nottingham for parties and took them home and did all sorts, and Prince Bernard he said to me he said, ‘the lads have been saying you’ve been so kind and very good, I’m going to send you an honorary George the order of the honorary of something or other. It came. The bloody station commander kept one and the, I think his equivalent officer kept the other, we never got it at all, they kept it. It’s a pity, I fancied that ‘cause the thing went round your neck.

CB: What an extraordinary thing.

DJ: The station commander, it’s interesting. I told you I was teetotal, I didn’t have any, the Mess had — what was it a we just mentioned it — at Grantham.

CB: Oh Spitalgate.

DJ: Yes Spitalgate.

CB: Yes.

DJ: Yes, pre war officers didn’t stand in a bar, you gave all your drinks to stewards. Were you pre war?

CB: No, no.

DJ: No, you gave a steward your drink and —

CB: You were served it at the table.

DJ: But they, they — what you call it? They split off the mess main lounge and put a bar one side and a lounge the other, which was fine. Now the lads I was there with were good fun, they really was, and bearing in mind, I wasn’t very old. We decided we’d have a cycle race in the lounge one day, so they moved the settees and the chairs, piled them all up in the middle and we all got the cycles, went round. I hit this wall, went through it, I got off the bike to meet the station commander standing against the bar, and I said ‘good evening sir’. ‘Evening Joss’. He shook his head like this. Anyway, you may remember, they used to fill in a confidential report regularly and in the column, thirteen sixty-nine it was called, and besides when he put in mine, drinks regularly but drinks unwisely, and he says, you can’t put that about Joss, he said he doesn’t drink at all he is teetotal. He says rubbish. He says ‘I’ve seen him as pissed as a fart. He rode through a wall, took his hat off to me and said hello and walked out again as though nothing had happened’. Anyway, that was alright. He sent for me for a bit, he said you’ve been posted again. I shouldn’t have missed this important bit because it’s really important. He says you’re going to Germany to PA to Air Vice Marshall Spackman. That was a lovely job, oh I did enjoy it. He was, he was a bachelor. He was big, about six foot four and he was a joy to work for, AVM Spackman, CBS, Charles Basil Slater and I was his PA and he lived alone in a house just up on the hill, you know. A German had been thrown out and he was there and I, everywhere I went, I went with him. What he didn’t know and I knew now because I’m about five foot six and he was about six foot three, well everywhere we were known, everybody else referred to here’s mutton Geoff coming along, you see, we were and I was there — my little office I had was between his air vice marshal and the CNC was [pause], it will come to me, I can’t remember. His CNC was in a room that side. These had been bedrooms in a hotel at Buckeberg, [unclear] rather, and every time the two of us would meet each other, they’d go through my office, you see, and I was leaping up and down and they both said ‘don’t keep jumping up and down Joss, when we come through, if we want to speak to you we’ll tell you’. Anyway the CNC came through and stood in front of me one day and he says I’ll be, I’m posting you Joss. ‘Oh’, I said, ‘I don’t want to go and leave the air marshal here’. I says ‘I do enjoy it here and I don’t want to be posted thank you. Can’t you stop it?’ and he says and he called Spackers, ‘Spackers, come in here’, he says ‘I can’t get your PA to leave you. He’s crying his eyes out here because you’re moving him’. Of course, Spackers came in and said to him ‘now your being unkind sir, tell him what you’re going to do with him’. He says ‘I want you to be NCO at Scharfoldendorf which is Leave Centre in the Harz Mountains’. I says ‘goodbye sir’. I’d just refused to go and I said goodbye. Now I was there just over a year and Korea started, and they wanted gunnery leaders to go onto Sunderlands and out to Korea, and I was to be posted home, which really hacked me off. Anyway, the post had come through and I couldn’t do anything about it but I can show you something if you can lift this across. When I left the Germans there, I had got on so well with them they, they commandant of whatever the Germans call these camps they had, he’d been very good to them and the, the people —

CB: What the prisoner of war camp?

DJ: He didn’t want him tried at all.

CB: Right.

DJ: This colonel. Anyway he was a good — he made this at my station as a farewell present. That’s Scharfoldendorf [laughs]

CB: Amazing.

DJ: It really is lovely. He knew he had me in tears.

CB: Amazing model complete with swimming pool.

DJ: Yes, yeah. That was the [unclear]

BP: Oh, I say.

DJ: It was a sort of Officers Mess.

BP: Wow.

DJ: And that was my house in this corner, I didn’t even know. No, no that’s the Mess, the red roof’s the Mess. That was my house but I didn’t live in it, I preferred to live in the Mess with the blokes, it was just paradise. In, in the winter you could skate down the hill, we had skating into [unclear] and then [unclear]. It was a gliding school as well and the gliders were launched, you will like this, if you didn’t know of it, they launched them with elastic bands. They would get three either side, six elastic bands and it was a very steep drop and they would run pulling this elastic band and shoot the gliders off the end. We put up barriers to stop them falling over. And then as they were, what upset me there was I was posted home. I had arranged for my brother to come here [coughs] and when I got home, I met another old air gunner that I knew and he said ‘oh you lucky devil, I would love to go there’. By that time I was married, and my wife had had our first. He said ‘I’d love to do that job you know’. I said ‘well I didn’t want to go if I could help it’, so we put in a joint application to swap. I got to stay there and he went to thingme, so he went there and I stayed there, so that was it. What the devil did I do after that? Oh yes, went to Aden [laughs], sorry about this.

BP: [laughs]

CB: It’s alright.

DJ: I forgot about it. Went to Aden, did a good two years in Aden and came back [pause] to Bridgnorth to close it. That was a bit before Bridgestone. So that’s it, I’m sorry I missed that bit. Good job you’re sitting there [pause].

CB: Well we’ll have a break now. Thank you.

DJ: I, I —

CB: Hang on.

DJ: I got a —

CB: So we’re now back at, when you were in Germany and the Berlin airlift.

DJ: I was at the hospital, RAF hospital [coughs] and this little redhead was there and I was, I shared, four of us in a bay, two soldiers and two airmen, and we made a hell of a lot of noise apparently with our radios and that, and the matron said to her go and stop them making that noise or I’ll be in trouble. She came in and said ‘you stop it’, I said ‘if you marry me, I’ll stop making the noise and I’ll stop there’. She died after we’d been married fifty-two years.

CB: Really.

DJ: Yes.

CB: Fantastic.

DJ: Every time she was on duty she’d come there or I’d go and fetch her and there we are, so that was that business. What else have I forgot?

BP: The Berlin airlifts.

DJ: Oh yes. Well that was during the Berlin airlifts, yes. That was, you know we went down to the airlift. I don’t know which one he wanted.

CB: So Spackman was something to do with the Berlin airlift?

DJ: He, he was the senior air staff officer. SASO, Senior Air Staff Officer, in fact, he was acting CNC for a while. Oh yes, there is one interesting bit on that. He couldn’t and he was pally with an American called, he was very popular name down the American staff, oh he was well known. Anyway it didn’t matter. They couldn’t decide whether the first airlifts should be fighter escorted or not because the Russians, and he debated with him and anyway we were there. Anyway he said ‘we’ve got to make our mind up’. He said ‘get me onto the Prime Minister’. So we had a call to the Prime Minister, who was Clem Attlee at the time, and oh yes I’ll tell you about him in a bit. He used to get through to his secretary and he would switch on a recorder and so would I, and I would say the airbus was at the scene and wants to speak to the pilot, and they had a [unclear plane noise in the background] and [unclear] in fact. You as a man on the door must make a decision. Whatever decision you make I promise to back you. Are you recording it? He says yes sir I am. He says alright. I will leave it to you. Let me know. So they rang off and he rang off, this was about, oh, two in the afternoon. He says ‘I don’t want to be disturbed or spoken to’ he says ‘I don’t want to be disturbed’ he says put me through to General [long pause] oh dear, well known American General. Anyway, whatever it was put through to him and they nattered away. I said ‘do you want this recording’, he said ‘yes I do’, so we did and then I had to listen on all the time and they decided no escort, no fighter escort. He says alright. And he came into the office with me and he says put me through to the Prime Minister again, and so I put him through to the Prime Minister again and his, his secretary or whoever it was says, are we recording, and I says yes, we’re recording, I said, do you want to go through there as it was lonely, he says I’m going through and then I’d hear him say message to Mr Prime Minister and I suspect them on to you and I would put them through. And he says ‘we’ve decided sir, no fighter escort’. ‘Very good’ says the Prime Minister, Clem Attlee, ‘I’m glad. That’s a decision I was hoping you would make’. But when I thought of it afterwards, there’s a bloke he could of incited war his rate of pay as an air vice marshal at the time was three thousand a year. Can you believe it? An air vice marshal, a bloke, the future, the country was on his hands. So that was it and that was old Spackers. He and my only collusion with the Prime Minister. He came out later on to visit, he says ‘I’ll come out and visit you’ said the Prime Minister. By this time I was up at [unclear] and old Spackers rang me and he says ‘I’m bringing the Prime Minister, he’s coming out Joss. He says can you lay on a reasonable lunch’, I says ‘yes sir’. He says ‘I’m bringing the Prime Minister, he’s coming out and spending a day, a look round [unclear] and he and I want to chat informally’. So that’s fine. He did — that week, the lass that become my wife was just visiting me at the time, she used to have to get a lift back to her, her thing which was near the same place in Buckeberg and so I said to old Spackers ‘look’ I said, ‘I’ve got a nursing sister here, got to get back tonight. When he’s taking Clem back to Buckeberg to fly home, could you give her a lift back’. He says ‘yes, she can sit in the front with the driver’. Anyway later on, old the Spackers said to me, ‘that nurse, that lovely nurse, are you going to marry he?’ I says ‘quite likely sir’. He says ‘well I would, she spent the whole bloody journey telling me how lucky I was to have you as one of my commanding officers’ [laughs].

BP: [laughs]

CB: [laughs]

DJ: It sounded fairly typical so fancy me forgetting that. There you are.

CB: Thank you. Let’s, let’s have a break now.

DJ: Yes please.

CB: Because you could do with a lemonade of some kind.

DJ: Yes.

CB: Let me start [pause]. So we’re restarting with Douglas talking about the operational experiences after HCU where the squadron was on Halifaxes, and then changed to Lancaster’s and so could you just tell us your experience as in operations, please, including the nice bits and the not so good?

DJ: Well, it’s very different. There were some bits that were less worrying. It would be much easier if I look at this as we chat.

CB: OK.

DJ: Because I remember, I can remember some instances which were, you know, when we were hit by flak and another one you see there’s one op that I remember which after D-Day.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: We did north of Caen and we were bombing when the Germans were still north of Caen on the Tuesday, and we were told to bomb Caen but to miss the church. It had a big red cross on the top, it is being used as a hospital. So as we bombed north where the Germans were, you know, nearer the sea, and they said — now beside me there’s another Lancaster and I knew the squadron because you all had squadron numbers, and it hit by flak and its engine went on fire. Within seconds we saw two jump out, paratroopers. Now the sad thing is, they jumped a bit early because if you’re on German lines, you got taken prisoner, but the pillar, the, the, their pilot was an ace really, you, you could see this hell of a mess, this thing was burning, it got worse and worse and he banked it round, going over the sea and the others all bailed out then. We counted them out so we know they all went out, dropping in the sea. My skipper, he went down as low as he could and he said to the wireless op, signal that there’s all these aircrew in the sea, signal the position, exactly to the wireless op. And the wireless op says to Len, what Len, what position, what position and there, anyway we didn’t bother because we saw the Navy about four or five small aircraft come and pick these up and would you believe they were back on the squadron alright the next day, anyway which was lovely. But their pilot, I think, did a superb job because eventually it, it just burst into flames and went into the sea and he got an immediate DMC when he got back. He did. But that was, that was really quite exciting. It was worrying really.

CB: Did you see any scarecrows?

DJ: Oh yes. Well, the flaming balls they used to shoot up and they’d look like an aircraft had exploded. might be seeing exploded aircraft so you weren’t sure which was which.

CB: Did you, did you know what the scarecrow really was?

DJ: Well, well we were told it was a, a sort of offensive bomb which exploded in the air.

CB: Right, but, but what was the reality?

DJ: Well, we just used to feel sorry for them. Really you didn’t —

CB: OK.

DJ: You didn’t have any sort of — you’d say Christ, and we were — I remember a bomb going down and we said look there’s one going down, come on, get out. It was a shout for them to come on get out of —

CB: Yeah.

DJ: The skipper said ‘never bloody mind them, you look round to see what’s coming to us. Ignore them’.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: You can’t do anything for them.

CB: Yeah, yeah. What, what I meant is did you, the, the official line was that these explosions were from a particular type of German munition. Were you aware of what the reality was and how they were hit?

DJ: We were told.

CB: And what was that?

DJ: Because we couldn’t recognise, well we were told this is what they were called. Were they exploding dustbins or something they called it.

CB: Oh I see right. So the, the reason for the question is because this was a way of concealing to air crew.

DJ: Yeah.

CB: The fact that the German night fighters had upward firing cannon.

DJ: Yeah.

CB: Which shot the plane down from underneath and I just wondered if you were aware of that?

DJ: No.

CB: Right.

DJ: No, no at least if I was I can’t remember.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: Yeah.

CB: And that was called Schrage Musik.

DJ: Was it?

BP: You, you had the incident where it was very cold. Without the electricity, you didn’t have the electricity. Douglas?

DJ: Sorry.

BP: You had your incident —

DJ: Oh well, this is, we’d been, you know mine laying, was dropping mines outside —

CB: Yeah. Gardening.

DJ: Outside the port, gardening.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: The other side of Denmark, you know.

CB: Yes.

DJ: The sea there. On the way back there was a hell of a storm. It was quite bad and the skipper he says ‘I’ll try and get over this’, and he climbed and climbed and said, ‘I can’t get over it so I’ll go down’. As he went down, we were struck by lightning. He said ‘Christ I can’t see, I can’t see. It’s blinded me. Come on’. He called to Jim and Don, ‘hold this prop for me, hold the stick for me, hold the stick for me I can’t see’. And my — four turrets, there’s a stream of flames. What are they called? Whatever lightning calls it. There’s a name for this I gather.

CB: Right.

DJ: And they were just circles of flames and I thought, God, it’s going to set us on fire too. But he couldn’t see, and Don and Mac were, were together flying the plane, that’s the bomb aimer and the flight engineer, they were flying the plane together. They were talking, I was listening to all this which wasn’t very nice at all.

CB: Oh.

DJ: Anyway, and the skipper then says, ‘its coming back, its coming back, I can see a bit, it’s coming back’ and eventually he said ‘yes it’s cleared’, now which was about I suppose ten minutes, quarter of an hour and he says ‘I still can’t get over this thing’ and he says ‘we’ll go under it’. So we went down and he crossed the North Sea at about two hundred feet, which is frightening in itself. He went down and down to get under it and he says ‘well I can’t go down any further, are you holding on’, holding on and climbed back up and as it was, you know the, the storm cleared a bit and he got up to a reasonable height and got us back, but I don’t know if it’s in my log book that a pilot was blinded.

CB: So what about other experiences that were slightly or considerably disturbing? What was the most disturbing situation?

DJ: Well it was — you know, it’s memories.

CB: When was your Le Havre operation?

DJ: September the — I’ll tell you here, because that’s in here [long pause], the 21st of [unclear] bombs brought back, low cloud, in danger of hitting our own troops so the trip was disallowed.

CB: Right.

DJ: We’d been there and were shot at but we weren’t allowed to do it. Then the very next day we went to [unclear] troops and armoured concentration. The last commission that day. So that was handy, that was nice.

CB: What date was that?

DJ: That was the 26th of September forty-four.

CB: When you were commissioned?

DJ: Yeah.

CB: OK.

DJ: And —

CB: So could you just tell me —

DJ: It was 17th Le Havre, it was the 6th of September, 17th Le Havre. To accentuate the surrender of German Garrison, which I found out later was [unclear], there was no German Garrison in Le Havre.

CB: At all?

DJ: No.
CB: Right

DJ: They were out, this as I say, there was this big, very almost mountains behind it, hills all the way round Le Havre.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: They were all up there.

CB: Not in the town?

DJ: They told us they were laughing like a drain at us busy bombing the centre and killing off the froggies.

CB: Yeah. So they didn’t get hit at all?

DJ: Well —

CB: The Germans?

DJ: No not much because we weren’t aiming at them, we were aiming, you know, right in the centre. Even though our aim was good, it was just it shouldn’t have been there.

CB: Did, did you have Pathfinder that day?

DJ: I couldn’t tell you.

CB: Oh.

DJ: It doesn’t mention here so it would mention in there if they were, it would tell you.

CB: Yeah. OK

DJ: In that thing it tells you how many Pathfinders accompanied us.

CB: Yeah. OK. What other experiences were memorable in your —

DJ: It’s difficult to say. Yes, Dijon, I can’t remember the date, we got one engine hit, put it out of commission and the skipper decided we’d come back, we wouldn’t come back straight up, north of France. He turned out towards the Wash to the Bay of Biscay and we went out there and he went as low as he could, and we were going quite low, about four or five hundred feet, something like that and a very brave pilot, a JU88 came up behind us, even lower, and I blasted him and I know I hit him but I never saw him go down, but I thought he had bags of guts to come under there but he disappeared. There but that was —

CB: This is day time is it or night?

DJ: And the next. Sorry?

CB: Is this night time or day time?

DJ: Night time.

CB: Right.

DJ: And so we went out over the North Sea and came in on the Channel and we were sort of over Southampton or somewhere like that, and the next thing, I don’t know why I wasn’t paying attention but, I suddenly looked and there right behind us was a Beaufighter. He’d seen a Lanc come in there and he’d got in behind us and I hadn’t seen him coming. It was disgraceful, but I didn’t tell, I didn’t own up to this until later on, but this Beaufighter was there. He realised it was us and ‘cause, you know, we’d, we had the different colours of the day you could shoot, and then he veered off and left us. But we got back, but we come back on three engines all the way.

CB: How many times did you engage fighters?

DJ: Oh god knows, again I’ll have to look. So let’s say about ten or twelve.

CB: Right.

DJ: But some of them just came and didn’t stay, you know, like I remember when we went to — we were going to the Rhine somewhere and I saw a Messerschmitt come round behind me and I just, I saw him there, he was going to bank in to come round and I blasted him when he went up. I did about four hundred rounds something like that, and when he saw that he cleared off. And then another one. And we saw, but we didn’t realise at the time but, Jimmy and I both thought it was a Jet. It came on and it started blasting in our stream, you know the four hundred, sometimes in the stream, four hundred loads, sometimes —

CB: Yeah.

DJ: You’ll see in that how many each op had. And he started blasting, you could see him blasting and they had a point five cannon at our stupid 303s, which was the worst thing ever they gave us, and he just came through blasting and then cleared off, but we didn’t see him get any Lancs at all.

CB: Right.

DJ: But sometimes you were in the middle of four hundred loads, it could be a bit frightening, you know there was the odd occasion when Jimmy would shout, you know, cooks report, cooks report because a bomber tumbling down from a Lanc, you know. Some of the naughty ones would fly too high and their bombs would come down between our main plane and tier one, two or three times I remember that happening.

CB: So explain, could you explain what you mean by that, I mean why were they bombing from too high?

DJ: Because they, the, the story was they wanted to get away from the flak and leave us to get the flak.

CB: Oh, I see.

DJ: It was a bit naughty to let the lower aircraft have the flak and they would get up above us, but it was one of those things we were told about.

CB: Yeah. So they released their bombs, not on the target, is that right?

DJ: No, mostly on the target.

CB: It was? Right.

DJ: But too high.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: Above other Lancs.

CB: Yeah, yeah.

DJ: I mean it was mentioned about, on many briefings it would be mentioned.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: You know, just remember who you’re flying above.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: Do take care.

CB: Right. So what other times do you think you hit other, hit fighters? On what other occasions?

DJ: I don’t, I don’t, I, I can’t remember. There’s two, the two Messerschmitt. There was Jimmy [unclear] from the BFM.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: I’m not positive on them because I don’t know. This was, these are not very accurate, you just bung in what you think at the time. It’s a reminder.

CB: You’re just looking at the log book at the moment.

DJ: Yes.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: I got a few there. Incidentally you know the French Governor decided to give the —

BP: The Légion d'Honneur

DJ: Légion d'Honneur, it was an honour to people that were on the thing. Then they sent one to Len and they sent me a note saying I’d be getting one but I don’t know when it was coming but I haven’t had it.

CB: Right.

DJ: That was some time ago.

CB: So that’s a French Embassy job isn’t it? Are you following that up by any chance?

DJ: It was on my fifth op. Yes. Dijon.

BP: We tried but —

DJ: Come back with query fighters but no damage.

CB: What date was that?

DJ: That was on the 5th of July.

CB: Right. Forty-four?

DJ: And then going on to the 18th of July at Caen. Hit by flak. Starboard fuel tank holed, which was frightening because we were worried that that was on fire.

CB: Yeah.

DJ: And then next week, 20th July, Martin Lars at [unclear], we had two combats. Number one was [unclear] 210. Number two I couldn’t identify what his name was.

CB: Just in general terms, how did you feel about going on these bombing raids?

DJ: Well I never doubted I’d get back alright. I used to get, my mouth used to get a bit dry, as a bloke said that’s when you discover that blood was brown, you know you get a bit [unclear]

CB: This is right. Yes.

DJ: You get a bit excited.

CB: Your underwear changed. Yes. How did the crew in general feel about these operations?

DJ: Well I don’t think we discussed, you know, unless there was an incident we did.

CB: Yeah. Well I think we’ve covered an awful lot and thank you very much for all the time.

DJ: The other bit that might be in your log. On my twelfth op to [unclear]. We were fully escorted by USA Thunderbolts and Mustangs.

CB: Oh. That made you feel better.

DJ: Yes, oh to see any fighters on your side. Yeah.

BP: I think the fact that they concluded all their ops means something.

CB: Thirty-two of them.

BP: I mean were they lucky. I mean, what, how, you know —

CB: I’m going to stop it now.

Collection

Citation

Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Douglas Joss,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 17, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/6086.

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