Interview with Andrew Deytrikh


Interview with Andrew Deytrikh


Andrew Deytrikh’s family emigrated from Russia in 1919 and he was born in the Isle of Wight. He grew up in London before being employed in a laboratory testing metals. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1940 and after training as a pilot he joined 66 Squadron at RAF Portreath protecting merchant convoys, and then went on bomber escort duty. Towards the end of the war he became a test pilot and was then selected as part of the Occupation Forces as a Russian interpreter. He met his wife who was a plotter in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and married in 1945. Post war he worked testing metals at a laboratory and became an air attaché at the Foreign Office in Finland for three years. On his return he worked for the Government Office. He retired at the age of sixty five.







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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is 26th April 2016 and we are in Crowthorne with Andrew Dektesh and we are going to talk about his experiences, I mean’t to say Deytrikh, I beg your pardon, and we’re going to talk about his experiences in the RAF from the earliest days that you remember Andrew.
AD: Very well, ah we start now do we?
CB: Yes please. So where were you born?
AD: Ventnor, Isle of Wight.
CB: And tell us about the family and schooling and things like that?
AD: Well the family came over from Russia in Nineteen Nineteen, and they came over with the whole family on a British destroyer in the Black Sea from the Black Sea and they were allowed to leave the ship at Malta when the grandfather went all the way to London via trains and to to get a visa for the entire family to come and live in England, this he did and er as far as I can remember we have no further journey by sea except by train through er through Italy and north north of Malta, my sister was already born her name was Natalie and the parents then relied on the grandfather’s funds to be able to either purchase or to rent a big enough house into which they could share with the entire family and er as far as I can remember the the number in the family was quite con considerable and er the family was really quite large and they did have a young man called Serge and he after not too long in England he left to get educated in America how he got there or which ship he used I’ve no idea but anyhow he went there and he settled there well away from us and of course he er he did really very well indeed elec in the electrical system, he used to come and visit the family which then had settled or rented a house in Earls Court and there we remained for quite a considerable number of years until in fact the war broke out as far as I can remember we didn’t and the various families either got married here and then they went there way but not necessarily abroad. Can we have a few minutes.
CB: Right now we’re just now talking about your parents and what they did so starting with your mother and then your father, so what did your mother do?
AD: My mother took up sewing and she started a workshop in Knightsbridge where she could also employ English people to teach her how to sew and this she did remarkably successfully because she didn’t require any more teachers for quite a long time she cottoned on to doing all kinds of dresses for all kinds of people and eventually she was really doing too much, because my father was unable to find a job and he learnt how to be a taxi driver in London and for this purpose he required the knowledge that all taxi drivers in London know they know where all the streets are and of course he didn’t he used to go round on a bicycle in London to try and learn where all the streets were and where they went and what he could use and the way they actually did it and he did become a a taxi driver to bring in some money of some sort not very much but he used to drive the taxi at night because he didn’t want to be seen as a taxi driver amongst all his his gentle gentlemen friends [laughs] well he didn’t know [unclear] so he drove the taxi at night.
Other: [unclear]
CB: So Andrew when Dad wasn’t out taxi driving what was he doing?
AD: Well there was very little he could by which to earn some money so I think he must have spent a little while playing tennis at the Anglo Russian Sports Club in Chiswick and er that’s where I think he spent quite a lot of time because he didn’t like driving in in the daylight virtually he liked to do it at night for reasons that er are probably embarrassed then if if some of his friends saw him driving a taxi.
CB: Okay.
AD: And that’s that’s where I think he he started like that and then he was able to learn how to make ladies handbags because then they could sell handbags in the sewing in the sewing department where mother was in in Knightsbridge and it was a very nice place she’d she where she found the money was grandfather but grandfather he overstepped the mark with his money and they all lost the money with the with the er.
CB: The crash?
AD: With the crash let’s see Nineteen Twenty Four that’s when the family had to somehow fall apart and find different things to live in.
CB: And where were you at school during this time?
AD: Needless to say you would always find somebody who wants to make a name for themselves and this headmaster he took a liking to all the Russians emigres who came and they all had to find schools for their Russian born born children so he used to make it especially cheap for the poor Russians who had no money at all so how my moth how my parents managed to send me to the school and it was a lovely school we were beaten quite frequently because we er either I had no money no manner no manners at all or something like that but anyhow we found one headmaster and we were very sorry to leave the school in the end I was beaten three times I think but this was this was proper beating this wasn’t the cane the cane like at the main schools in Lon in England this was on your bare bottom with a rubber er shim shoe[?] so in other words every time we played sport which was very nearly every day we all had to get under under the shower so everybody could see thTB who’d been flogged today and all the markings were on on the bottoms of course [laughs] but anyhow it didn’t do me any harm I think I was beaten twice for lying or something like that I’ve never lied since even through all my life through my [laughs] with er in my in my adult adulthood I’ve never lied really it hasn’t been necessary to lie.
CB: So Prep School was run to age thirteen so where did you go?
AD: Polytechnic Regent Street
CB: Okay.
AD: But the headmaster wanted to send me to one of the expensive schools which we couldn’t afford and er I think they knew the person who ran ran that school they were in the Polytechnic Regent Street and whether I got into there at a reduced fee or whatever it was I don’t know but all I know is that my mother and my father they owed money for my schooling for quite a number of years later and she and she paid it if all off in the end she paid it all off in the end.
CB: So what did you do at the Poly at Polytechnic?
AD: I learnt how to speak English and how to behave myself [laughs] and this is where they taught us properly they put on the gowns and they wore the, what do you call those things?
CB: Mortarboards.
AD: Mortarboards that’s it I miss out words now.
CB: That’s all right okay.
AD: Mortarboards that’s right and we had to say [unclear] there was no none of this coming over without a tie and all this carry on but now they don’t know how to respect their teachers at all or the teachers don’t want to be respected.
CB: So what age did you leave there and what did you do?
AD: I was one year late I had to spend another year in the fifth form because I missed a year I had to have two glands removed I think that was it, and my two friends they both were in the higher form and when they left one joined the Air Force and the other joined the Navy the Fleet Air the Fleet Air Arm and that’s what I went for I’d thought I’d go and learn how to fly on those bi-planes what do you call them?
CB: Swordfish.
AD: Swordfishes that’s it and they turned me down despite the fact they were short of pilots they turned me down do you know why? Come on guess.
CB: Because you didn’t have a British name?
AD: That’s right well it was more than that I didn’t have British parents didn’t have they were foreign ‘oh we don’t take foreigners’ so I immediately joined the Air Force they took you straight away.
CB: Yes.
AD: They didn’t bother to interview you at all they wanted you [laughs] so I was very happy there I think I would have had a watery grave if I’d joined the Fleet Air Arm.
CB: So what age did you leave school?
AD: It was either seventeen or eighteen.
CB: Did you go straight in the RAF or did you have to go somewhere else first?
AD: No I got a job and I liked liked chem chem chemistry I loved doing at a chemistry shop and it was a firm in Langley Bucks not very far and I got a job in the laboratory that did test testing of the metal that was melted in in this firm and they used to produce en en engines or something to do with the Fleet Air Arm exactly what they did produce I don’t know but it was all ra secret so I believe something to do with submarines and then I stayed there I remained there for about a year or a year and a half and er that brought me up to November Four November Forty I think that’s what it was and that’s when the name of an airfield gone again where they built the –
CB: Oh Cardington.
AD: Cardington.
CB: Yes.
AD: Where I where I started with Cardington only to be told that I wasn’t worth the money they paid me [laughs] they said ‘you’re not worth anything as an AC2’ that’s what I was told [laughs] though I didn’t believe them at all I said ‘we must be worth something’ anyhow it all turned out the end.
CB: So what did you do at Cardington?
AD: Inoculations all the time, marching that’s about it.
CB: It was an initial training wing?
AD: Yes it was it was.
CB: And then what?
AD: And then I volunteered for pilot training and luckily I got it they didn’t alter it in the end which they did with some boys anyhow we got we got sent to [unclear] they called it the English Riviera.
CB: What um Tor Torquay?
AD: Torquay that’s it we got to Torquay where we given timber made rifles to do guard duty on certain certain places [unclear] and I waited to go on the first course of the pilot’s course that’s where I waited.
CB: How long did you have to wait?
AD: It seemed an awful long time but it wasn’t.
CB: Right.
AD: Within one year I was already on the squadron.
CB: So.
AD: Already trained and er I could fly straight away.
CB: Really so where did you go from Torquay?
AD: Yes give me time.
CB: So this next thing was your elementary flying training wasn’t it?
AD: Yes Cam Cambridge I think that’s right we were billeted in where all the students were billeted.
CB: University students yes?
AD: Yes but we didn’t do any flying there I was still able to do do my maths and I was really glad because I came top at maths [laughs] but you see none none of the other chaps who were volunteering to go they they hadn’t done they hadn’t done anything but they didn’t do very well at school I’m afraid.
CB: So from Cambridge didn’t you get any flying in Cambridge?
AD: No then I think I went to Hull Brough that’s it.
CB: Okay.
AD: That’s it Brough Tiger Moths.
CB: Okay yes.
AD: And that was the bit change it was lovely and once you’d um finished with Brough with the Tiger Moths it was that next next aeroplane which was [unclear].
CB: The Harvard next was it?
AD: Similar to the Harvard.
CB: Manchester.
AD: No no better than that no it was a big one forgot a single engine big one.
CB: Okay.
AD: I’ve got it in the log book.
CB: Well we’ll have a look in a minute.
AD: I’ve got it in there.
CB: But where did you go for that?
AD: From there?
CB: Yes to do that flying training? So you went to Brough and did your initial training?
AD: Yes I did.
CB: So there then you had to go to the advanced training?
AD: Yes that’s right.
CB: So where was that?
AD: Ah that’s gone too.
CB: Okay we’ll get to that.
AD: Does everybody have this trouble?
CB: Some do.
AD: Oh obviously not everybody [laughs].
CB: It’s a big variety but er in practical terms the fighter group was different from heavies so you didn’t do twin engine so?
AD: No I didn’t.
CB: So after you were on this other one
AD: It’s a well known its a well known light aeroplane brilliant.
CB: It’ll come to us in a minute okay.
AD: Yes.
CB: So when you’d done that at what stage did you get your wings then or later on?
AD: No it was later on Scotland
CB: Yes
AD: On the starboard side [laughs].
CB: Oh er
AD: Actually
CB: Montrose?
AD: Sorry.
CB: Montrose?
AD: Yes yes it was Montrose it was Montrose oh that’s where I think I got my wings.
CB: Yes okay, and what were you flying in Montrose?
AD: I think we’d got some clapped out old Spitfires that had been worn out with during the Battle of Britain [laughs].
CB: Yes I can believe it.
AD: I think well my log book will tell me.
CB: Yes, shall we pause for a mo, is your log book handy?
AD: Oh yes it is.
CB: So we’ve talked about you being we’ve talked about you being at Brough for the elementary flying school.
AD: Yes
CB: Er where you’re on Tiger Moths, we’ve talked about where you were at Montrose where you were on the Milesmaster [?] that we were struggling for earlier.
AD: Yes
CB: Then you went to the OTU the Operational Training Unit at Grangemouth so what happened then?
AD: It’s a complete blank I can’t really remember very much.
CB: What were you flying ‘cos now you’re on the advanced aeroplanes? So you are on the Hurricane and Spitfires now at the OTU?
AD: Yes yes could be, now I remember the first flight in the Spitfire it terrified me [laughs].
CB: Did it in what way?
AD: Well I I never had anything ahead of me for so long it was over six foot and I couldn’t see how am I going to and they’d keep on telling me ‘oh you’ve got to apply rudder on take off because it’ll its going to wind round to the left or to the right’ and I couldn’t get all that but I did.
CB: You did.
AD: But I did in the end.
CB: So because you couldn’t see over the nose you had to weave when you were taxiing?
AD: Oh yes that that.
CB: And so that was the first challenge wasn’t it?
AD: [Laughs] It was and of course what happens [coughs] you find your so slow that you’re boiling before you get to the end of the runway to take off so you had to shut it down and cool it down and then start starting it up all over again.
CB: So what was there an electric starter or did they have to bring the triac k [?]
AD: Oh trolleyack [?] yes.
CB: Yes
AD: [Laughs] Everything was with the trolleyack [?] [laughs].
CB: So what was the reaction of the ground crew let alone the aircrew when you overheated?
AD: Well they well there fed up with all these students though who are coming here.
CB: Messing up their aeroplanes?
AD: Well that’s it, then they’ve got to take the trolleyack[?] up to the aeroplanes we couldn’t tow it because there was nothing to tow it on to.
CB: On the aeroplane? How did they get the trolleyack[?] out there did they have to push it or?
AD: Pull pull it.
CB: They did.
AD: Oh yes.
CB: Basically on foot?
AD: I think so.
CB: Which is why they didn’t like it?
AD: They said ‘well you could quite easily take off in this as long as you go quickly’ we didn’t want to go quickly anyway [laughs].
CB: So you’ve done your taxiing and you’re not boiling so what’s the next part of the procedure?
AD: Well to keep it straight down the runway.
CB: So you progressively apply left rudder do you or right rudder?
AD: I I can’t remember I think yes it could have been.
CB: Well one rudder or the other.
AD: It could have been right rudder [laughs] I can’t remember which way it swung [laughs].
CB: Right but the point of the question is thT opening throttle you were encouraged to do gently and then correct with pressure on the rudder is that right?
AD: Yes.
CB: And then you’d get the tail up fairly quickly would you?
AD: Yes not not too far.
CB: Right.
AD: Otherwise you’d lose your propeller [laughs].
CB: Any incidents of that?
AD: No.
CB: Not you but the others?
AD: Not me I don’t think I ever had a any terrible incidents.
CB: So now you are taking off at what point do you retract the undercarriage?
AD: Once once you are airborne.
CB: Immediately?
AD: Yes because you are going to get too hot you want to cool you all down [laughs].
CB: Okay so the significance of that is the speed or the fact that the undercarriage itself is blanking?
AD: Yes it’s blanking it all.
CB: The radiator?
AD: Yes.
CB: Right so now you are climbing what are you climbing at roughly?
AD: I should think about a hundred and thirty or a hundred and forty.
CB: Oh quite slow?
AD: Yes.
CB: So you’re not on full throttle because you don’t want to overheat immediately?
AD: I I don’t want to run out of fuel either [laughs].
CB: Right so we’re at the OTU still so you can’t so there are no dual Spitfires so?
AD: No.
CB: So how did the instruction go?
AD: Well it went very well and there there were no difficulties on that first flight really nothing that frightened me.
CB: Okay so did you ever have a situation where the instructor flies beside you in another Spitfire?
AD: No they didn’t have the spare ones I don’t think they were running out of numbers of Spitfires.
CB: Were they?
AD: I think so.
CB: So how long would your flight be when you were at the OTU?
AD: I think the first one was only half an hour I think that was enough I think for me.
CB: That was just general handling what did you do just do did you do any aerobatics?
AD: I did only what the instructor told me I did I don’t want to do anything I I hadn’t been told what to do and I stuck rigidly to that.
CB: Right.
AD: And I’ve never had any difficulties really.
CB: So on you’re you’re doing er what did you do left hand circuits?
AD: Yes.
CB: So you are coming in go down downwind and then you go crosswind?
AD: Yes.
CB: And when you are turning what’s the main concern there to get right?
AD: Not to go down too quickly.
CB: Because?
AD: Because your you’ve still got flaps to do.
CB: Right so when do you put the flaps down?
AD: Once you are in in a straight line.
CB: On final.
AD: Yes.
CB: And when you are coming in what speed are you coming in on final?
AD: It had to be over well over seventy.
CB: Right, what’s the stalling speed of a Spitfire?
AD: Er I think it was about sixty five or something like that you didn’t want to lose seventy.
CB: No, so at the OTU there’s no dual so do they alternate between flying a Spitfire and flying a Manchester or what did they do or Master rather did they check you out regularly in a Master?
AD: Yes they used to dual a Spitfire circuit in the in the other one.
CB: In the Master.
AD: Yes.
CB: So did your hours at the OTU then you are ready for squadron?
AD: Yes you were ver very ready to go to Cornwall I didn’t even know where Cornwall was [laughs].
CB: So your first you joined 66 Squadron at Portreath.
AD: I did.
CB: How did that work?
AD: I had to wait a rather long time to get to get I wanted to hurry up and get on with it they didn’t want you to go too too quickly they didn’t want to take any risks with damaging an aeroplane because we were very short of aeroplanes.
CB: Because we are talking about Nineteen Forty Two here aren’t we early Forty Two that’s why they were worried about aeroplanes?
AD: Yes yes it was yes.
CB: So the characteristic from your log book of um er your time there is that you moved stations regularly why was that?
AD: It was er constantly rumoured that we were moving.
CB: Do you know why?
AD: Not really whether it’s because they were just having a general er exception or the number of hour days you could have at one station I don’t know.
CB: So going back to first station Portreath?
AD: Yes.
CB: When you arrived what happened the CO said?
AD: The C I’m trying to think who the CO was now I think he’s probably signed here [looking through log book].
CB: What I mean’t was what did he actually tell you because you arrive having come from the OTU?
AD: ‘Some somebody will take care of you and tell you all all about the Spitfire now you’d better get out and go and go find out what he wants you to do’ I think he’d [unclear].
CB: That would be a flight commander would it?
AD: That would be the flight commander yes.
CB: And how many flights in a squadron?
AD: Er [sighs] flights in a squadron there are only ttwo.
CB: Right.
AD: Although we are separated three times but there are it is only two two squadrons no what am I talking about two flights normally makes up a squadron.
CB: So the reason I am asking this is because the OTU had no dual and so?
AD: No.
CB: No dual control aircraft because the Spitfire in the war didn’t have a dual control arrangement.
AD: No we didn’t.
CB: So I am just wondering how you were effectively inducted into the squadron which was a front line operation?
AD: I don’t think they paid too much attention to that all I know is I had to wait a long time.
CB: Yes.
AD: Till I was allowed to go on flying and join the people who do the er –
CB: The circuits?
AD: No not the circuits no the patrols over the over the ships coming coming into England.
CB: Right so that was really my next point which was on your operation what was your first operation?
AD: That was follow me for the next hour and a half.
CB: So its shipping protection is it?
AD: Yes.
CB: Patrols?
AD: It was the convoys.
CB: Convoys?
AD: Yes we had to do the convoys.
CB: And this is all in the ?
AD: And this is all everyday everyday the convoys.
CB: Right so what sort of numbers of convoys were there many of them?
AD: Well they all took such a long time that you you only had one hour above them so they just move along like that.
CB: The merchants ships in those days were lucky to do seven knots.
AD: Well it did take a long time and of course the Germans sometimes used to bur to come bur burst in and hope to catch you unawares.
CB: What sort of height would you be flying at for convoy protection?
AD: It was only not very high about two thousand feet or a thousand feet because they all came in er low level.
CB: Oh the Germans all came in low level did they?
AD: They did yes.
CB: Where were they coming from?
AD: They were coming from either Cherbourg or that’s a what’s that piece of France that juts out?
CB: Any part of Normandy, Brittany?
AD: Yes Brittany that’s it.
CB: So which aircraft were they using?
AD: They were using 109’s and some of them had the pleasure of flying their 190’s and the 190’s were really quite an effect effective machine.
CB: So when you joined the squadron which model of Spitfire did you have?
AD: I had the 5 I think it was the 5 or could have been the one before it.
CB: The 4?
AD: Well I’m not so [unclear] that I ever flown the 4.
CB: So mainly 5’s and then you were flying over the convoys?
AD: Yes.
CB: And relatively low who was giving cover to you high up?
AD: The good lord.
CB: Right, so did you get jumped by the Germans?
AD: No but if there was a panic we were too late for it because we would have found out at home and by the time you get to the convoy they’ve gone.
CB: Yes, so apart from convoy patrols what else were you doing from in the early days?
AD: We used to be on readiness at the er runways edge every so often.
CB: Quick reaction?
AD: That’s it and when you spent an hour at the end of the runway you were hoping you can go home [laughs] and have a coffee or something like that [laughs].
CB: ‘Cos in the summer time it would be getting quite hot?
AD: It was well it did.
CB: What about in the winter oh well this was summer time.
AD: Well no.
CB: Oh no this is winter you were at Portreath. When you went to Italy what did you do there that was only short?
AD: Well we
CB: In Hampshire.
AD: Well we were always very busy.
CB: Were you?
AD: Because it’s very near the coast and it didn’t take long to go to go to get on onto a convoy that had been attacked.
CB: Right so now you are over the convoy what opportunities did you have to have a go at shooting at the Germans yourself?
AD: Very little because they didn’t come over in hordes as they did during the Battle of Britain they there wasn’t anybody to shoot at unless they were going to come over low fast and get in and get out.
CB: So how often did they get caught?
AD: Not well they didn’t do that all that often because I think even they were afraid to be caught.
CB: So moving on from there then you went up to the Orkneys so apart from the fact that what was the locals attitude to you?
AD: Well the local attitude was ‘why do you have to make such a lot of noise we don’t want all this we don’t want your aeroplanes’ so they were sad to see us so we were trying to be polite in the end.
CB: Did you have special briefings on how not to react?
AD: No no we didn’t but I don’t think it had a lot of them had twigged that they didn’t like us.
CB: Right.
AD: I don’t think many of them understood that.
CB: Just their temperament was it?
AD: We did have I did have a friend of two that I did know and I think I got the message from him that that ‘don’t you realise that you’re are a nuisance here’ well that.
CB: Well that was the basis of the hostility was it?
AD: It was.
CB: Not that you were English but because
AD: No not nothing to do with being English.
CB: Because you made a lot of noise?
AD: No.
CB: And what were you there to do?
AD: To catch the high fliers air er German aeroplanes that used to fly nice and high and we couldn’t get at them because they were too too high so what did they do they dismantled all the armour-plating that the pilot had round his seat and made the aircraft lighter so you could get up [laughs].
CB: How successful was that?
AD: It wasn’t very successful because we didn’t like it [laughs] we didn’t like it.
CB: So how high could you get?
AD: I think er the ones that we flew there they we were locked in remember we couldn’t get out without pulling something and we didn’t believe that the hood would open if we had pulled it I don’t know there are things I will never know.
CB: No.
AD: I can never understand why the engineering officer could couldn’t very well pull the thing for us to tell us and say ‘now this is the way it’ll work’ and it [unclear]
CB: You were screwed in because it was pressurised is that what it was why were they screwing you into the plane?
AD: A As well we didn’t we never liked the noise it made so we used to leave it off we didn’t use it.
CB: Leave what off?
AD: The high pressure thing.
CB: Ah right, so what was the seal like when you were up in the aeroplane then?
AD: Well it we didn’t care so long as we could breathe it was the oxygen we didn’t really care.
CB: Because you were young and it didn’t matter.
AD: Yes it always helped somebody else or it might well so you didn’t just worry too much about it.
CB: No, where were the German planes coming from?
AD: Norway.
CB: And what were they?
AD: Sorry.
CB: What German aeroplanes were they?
AD: They were the big weather weather ones wwith four engines the ones that would be easy to shoot down.
CB: The Condors?
AD: Yes.
CB: And you couldn’t get up there?
AD: We couldn’t get up there [laughs].
JS: How high could you fly Andrew?
AD: Well there I think thirty five thousand miles oh um feet was about the maximum we could make.
CB: And these people were above that?
AD: But towards the end we er we could mmmake for forty odd thousand.
CB: Could you?
AD: Yes but it was still falling out of the sky.
CB: Of course, so after you were in Scotland then you came down to the south so what were you doing in the south you were at Church Stanton then it was Redhill, Kenley?
AD: Yes Kenley and that’s all virtually in the Lon London area so we weren’t very far away from London.
CB: No, did you have any business coming towards you?
AD: Sorry.
CB: Did you have much coming in?
AD: No we were never if they were warning us they were always either late getting us airborne.
CB: Right.
AD: And when they got you airborne the controller would come on and say ‘sorry you’re too late dark they’ve gone’.
CB: Changing the subject slightly how much of bomber escort did you do?
AD: Quite a lot.
CB: And what was your role in bomber escort how did that work?
AD: To make certain you were both sides of the air of the er squadron of bombers er you could have a flight each on each side or if you if you were lucky you could be appointed the on the tail of at the tail of the bomber crew to make certain you could actually spot them coming coming for coming to chase them we er needed somebody at the end.
CB: Right, and er so you are escorting the bombers are you above them marginally or the same height or what?
AD: Not not well you are slightly above them so to give you a little bit of speed speed if you are attacked if they are attacking the bombers.
CB: So er what sort of bombers were you escorting in your experience did they tend to be the same?
AD: I’ve forgotten the names I’ve forgotten the names now.
CB: No, but did they tend to be medium bombers or bigger ones or?
AD: Medium ones.
CB: Always British RAF or were they American what were they?
AD: They could have been American too but the poor Americans they never knew where they were half the time [laughs].
CB: What navigationally?
AD: Yes [laughs].
CB: Right.
AD: I think only one chap er er the leader knew where where he was going.
CB: Yes.
AD: All the others didn’t seem to care they just followed him.
CB: Yes well they worked on the bomb leader principle didn’t they the bombing leader?
AD: Well we don’t know what principle really [laughs] so far they didn’t learn off our principles.
CB: So flying close to the bombers is a variation of what we talked about earlier is that actually quite a dangerous position to be in or was there always top cover when you were doing that in other words other squadrons flying high up?
AD: Well if you’re flying close and they want you close you’ll know that there’ll be others there.
CB: Above?
AD: Above or below we sometimes used to fly below them.
CB: On what basis to stop them coming up?
AD: Yes because.
CB: Because they’ve got to climb up?
AD: Because they’ve got their guns and shoot upwards.
CB: Oh right okay yes.
AD: So I suppose.
CB: Were you briefed about the upward firing?
AD: No we weren’t.
CB: Guns?
AD: No we weren’t I’m afraid I didn’t know about it.
CB: Right so I’m just trying to establish why you mentioned them firing up do you mean that they were flying upwards and shooting or that they were guns mounted to fire upwards?
AD: No whether the upward firing ones were night fighters possibly they could have been night fighters I don’t know whether they um but we never came across them.
CB: And you didn’t in daylight?
AD: We didn’t no.
CB: How often did you have to do night sorties?
AD: Not very often but when you did you had to go and do it.
CB: Yes.
AD: But you see the Spitfire was such a poor aeroplane to have as a night fighter you had these these big exhaust pipes either side of the of the aircraft so whichever side you looked at you had to blink your eyes.
CB: Because?
AD: Well because of the light.
CB: From the exhaust?
AD: They are very very bright at night they shone they really shone very well.
CB: And so how often did you engage in air to air combat with German aircraft yourself?
AD: Myself very seldom because when you could see that there were squadrons or they er or two squadrons as the case may be they would probably disappear very shortly and you either had to know to do something quickly and unless unless you did they would go away very quickly.
CB: What were their tactics really?
AD: Not to excite the Spitfire in anyway I think [laughs].
CB: So you’re escorting the bombers the Germans are coming in what are they doing exactly?
AD: Yes and then when they when you see the Germans coming in your squadron commander will say ‘turn turn about you’ve got to turn about you’ve all got to do a very tight turn’ and then what happened you lost the bombers all of a sudden come out where are all the aeroplanes and you are on your own that’s what hap that’s what does happen.
CB: So did the Germans have a technique for dealing with that to take advantage of it?
AD: Well you see since you can’t join you can’t join up again because you didn’t know where they are you come out of the your tight turn and there’s nothing there.
CB: Because you’ve missed the Germans in the first place is that what you mean?
AD: Well yes you have missed them or they have stop or they have stopped going at going at the er British bomb bombers or Americans as the case may be.
CB: Now in Bomber Command one of the important parts of their training particularly at the Heavy Conversion Unit and afterwards was well and at the OTU was fighter affiliation.
AD: Yes.
CB: So that’s when the fighters are making mock attacks on the bombers.
AD: Yes.
CB: How often did you have to do that?
AD: Occasionally but it was very occasional er it wasn’t a permanent thing or a weekly thing or a monthly thing.
CB: And how were you briefed about how to deal with it?
AD: Well I think they did have the occasional person from either from a bomber squadron or a friendly bomber squadron who could send somebody over to er to talk about it.
CB: Ah.
AD: I think that did happen but it didn’t happen very often.
CB: But I’m talking about where you’re flying and pretending to attack the bombers.
AD: Oh I see.
CB: That’s the fighter affiliation.
AD: Yes, no I don’t you know I can’t remember very much bomber affiliation with us.
CB: By the look of it you weren’t stationed in areas where there wouldn’t be much of that to do anyway.
AD: They’d only be there when we have to escort meet meet er two squadrons or three squadrons of bombers at a specific time they weren’t really good with the time.
CB: No who weren’t?
AD: No they weren’t.
CB: The bombers?
AD: Yes.
CB: And what do you mean by that?
AD: They were always late and we were always short of fuel.
CB: Right.
AD: Well we can’t very well give up escorting them once there over the target you can’t do that you’ve got to ssstay on and then have less fuel to go and land with but anyhow it did work out in the end.
CB: When you were flying bomber escorts what communication was possible between the bombers and the fighters?
AD: None I don’t think the squadrons commanders were ever given the frequency so they can get so they can talk to them.
CB: No. Again changing the subject er how many there were dogfights taking place on and off sometimes there was no dogfight but people got shot down how many people do you know or did you know of who were shot down?
AD: I think I can only assume that they were shot down I can’t because they just didn’t arrive back for tea or er lunch or whatever it was.
CB: So if they weren’t shot down what else could have happened to them?
AD: They could have run out of oxygen which is and then they fly into the sea and they don’t know that they are anywhere near the sea it was just terribly sad when they run out of oxygen and he doesn’t know he’s run out of oxygen.
CB: Can they not tell that they’re short of oxygen there’s no gauge for it?
AD: I think you probably reach a certain amount of hope possibility of thinking that way what’s going what’s going to stop you from flying into the sea.
CB: Right.
AD: Well that’d be one thing.
CB: Okay so.
AD: And we did have one case where the poor the poor boy he just flew straight into the sea.
CB: And being shot down how many people did you know who were shot down?
AD: Well my squadron commander was.
CB: What happened to him?
AD: Ah but he was still our squadron commander he was he managed to land somewhere near England.
CB: Did you ever get shot down?
AD: No.
CB: Did you ever get damage to your aircraft?
AD: I was frightened at one stage just when we had to do a tight turn because the bombers were being attacked well I when you find that you forgotten where all the aeroplanes are where why have they disappeared and they do disappear and you don’t know which direction they’ve disappeared and I was being followed by somebody who was trying to shoot me down in fact three of them they were I had three people on my tail and luckily I was on my way home and I was above them and I could see I could see the shots going passed me on either side and I could see in my mirror three of them having a happy time shooting at me so I thought I’d put put a finish to that all and I turned round and opened up all my guns everyone that would fire I would fire now and I’ll get somebody or one of them and all of a sudden they disappeared all three of them I couldn’t find them they ww when I looked for them.
CB: And its interesting in that circumstance you’re higher than them?
AD: Yes.
CB: How did you turn round?
AD: As quickly as I could.
CB: Yes but up, down, sideways or what?
AD: On the straight straight at them I was going as I aimed myself straight at them.
CB: Yes.
AD: So at least er something will be damaged but you don’t know but you’ll never know.
CB: No.
AD: You’ll never know.
CB: But you wouldn’t do a loop up or go down?
AD: Oh no.
CB: You’d come round hard?
AD: No nnot not in the turn I was keeping that for my down my downward thrust because that’s where I where I wanted the speed and they just vanished all three of them so with any luck I frightened them.
CB: Yes. So what guns did you have on the plane in those at that time?
AD: Well two were canons yes and er and four machine guns.
CB: Right, so that’s the Spitfire the earlier Spitfire that’s a 5 is it?
AD: I think that was a 6.
CB: 6.
AD: It could no the 6 was up in The Orkneys.
CB: What was different about the 6 then?
AD: Well I think it had four blades.
CB: Ahh
AD: I think I had four blades at that time.
CB: Right, so what so you had Spitfire 5 as time moved on what was the different ranges of Spitfires you moved to models?
AD: It was all to do with the len the length of the nose which seemed to be increasing all the time.
CB: So after the 5 did you go to a 9 a Spitfire 9?
AD: Yes we did have 9’s in the end.
CB: And they had four 20mm canons?
AD: No not four I think four was too much for the for the er Spitfire the whole thing shakes a bit but it was very nice to have the canons there but you don’t have all that amount of ammunition to fire.
CB: No, so what did they um what was the reason given for having so few canons just two?
AD: One er one on each wing.
CB: Yes, but why didn’t they put four on did they explain why they didn’t?
AD: I think they had had difficulty in fit fitting them to start off with to have two too close together two close together I don’t think the aeroplane would have liked it too much.
CB: Right, so you kept with the same squadron throughout the war?
AD: Yes.
CB: And er your log book your first log book runs out before I can see beyond Nineteen Forty Three where did you go in Forty Four and Forty Five you were in Hornchurch in Forty Three?
AD: Yes
CB: But you stayed on fighters flying all the time didn’t you?
AD: No well yes I did fly but not operationally.
CB: Okay.
AD: I got taken taken off operations flying just before D Day.
CB: Oh.
AD: I said ‘I’ve been waiting for this day and I’m not going anywhere I want to stay stay for the big day ’ and I did stay for the big day and after the er after that that’s when I went I I left the squadron.
CB: To do what?
AD: To fly with the people who actually make the Spitfire what’s the name of it?
CB: What Vickers Supermarine?
AD: What?
CB: Vickers yes.
AD: I went to work for Supermarines as one of the test pilots.
CB: In the south?
AD: Yes.
CB: Yes.
AD: Oh yes just er just very near Salisbury.
CB: Right they also had a plant at Marston at Swindon.
AD: Yes well they did yes but we used to go on on certain airfields where they were producing Spitfires and they needed testing.
CB: Yes and that’s what you did?
AD: I was I was able to do that mark you they didn’t want me to go to go there they wanted to have me in training command and nobody ever wants to go to training command [laughs] and I certainly didn’t because that would have been one way to get killed very quickly because er that’s where all the deaths happened at er in the training command.
CB: Right
AD: Or that’s that’s where we thought it all happened.
CB: Yes
AD: [Unclear] I thought Kyle was coming for you?
CB: So you worked as a test pilot how long did you do that for?
AD: I think about nearly two years.
CB: Oh did you.
AD: Yes but then I got sent to Germany.
CB: After the war this is?
AD: That was after the war this was after the war yes it was called no it’s gone.
CB: What the airfield?
AD: No not the airfield what the whole thing was called.
CB: Oh I see right.
AD: What we called it a certain thing.
CB: Well the occupation forces?
AD: The occup it was part of the occupation.
CB: Yes.
AD: Yes.
CB: Right so where were you based there this was with the squadron again was it?
AD: No no oh no this was completely different this was completely different.
CB: So let’s go back a step so you’re still a test pilot when the war finishes were you when the war in Europe finished?
AD: WWhen I when I finished it was.
CB: As a test pilot?
AD: The war the war was still on.
CB: As a test pilot?
AD: Yes.
CB: Oh right okay.
AD: Yes it was.
CB: Okay so where did you have a ground job next or what?
AD: Well it was a ground job but er it was er a pppeculiar ground job they took me on as part of the occupation forces as a Russian interpreter which I could manage.
CB: Because you kept up your Russian?
AD: Oh yes.
CB: Throughout.
AD: Well I had to pass exams and everything yes.
CB: Right.
AD: They didn’t do anything without.
CB: No no.
AD: Something you just [unclear] no.
CB: So you were a part of the occupying forces?
AD: Yes I was part of part of the occupying.
CB: Well how were you employed as an interpreter?
AD: On the borders with the Russians.
CB: Right so you’re in your full uniform?
AD: Yes.
CB: Acting for whom it was part of the administration was it it wasn’t the RAF you were working for at that moment is that right?
AD: Well well the RAF paid me.
CB: Yes.
AD: But who who the money come from this I don’t I didn’t didn’t know.
CB: No, so the war is finished let’s go back a bit though but um because your wife you met in the RAF where did you meet her?
AD: Hornchurch.
CB: Okay and what was she doing there?
AD: She was er a plotter.
CB: Right on the airfield or nearby?
AD: Nearby.
CB: And er how did you keep in touch with her throughout the war?
AD: Very poorly [laughs] because we weren’t allowed to be too ffriendly with the WAFS [laughs] and you probably know we weren’t allowed to get closer than about one or two feet or something like whatever it was [laughter] [unclear] but it didn’t make any difference to me I paid no attention to that when I did bring her back after the dance it was the station dance that I went to I dropped her outside the guard room and what did I do I kissed her which is def which is absolutely verboten [laughs] and it was outside the guard room but they weren’t on duty [laughs] and that was at Hornchurch.
CB: So you got away with that one?
AD: Yes but there was nobody there to say ‘oh you shouldn’t have done this or you couldn’t do that’ or whatever it is.
JS: What rank was she Andrew?
AD: Sorry
JS: What was her rank?
CB: What rank was she?
AD: Oh she was a leading aircraftswoman.
JS: Oh right.
AD: She didn’t want a commission she was very happy as she was.
CB: Why did she not want a commission because we’ve come across this before wife’s not wanting a commission why was that?
AD: They probably I don’t know I can’t think why not I said ‘anybody can get a commission whose reasonably intelligent’ and I’ve been in as a plotter and you’ve got very good remarks about your situation why don’t you want to be no she didn’t want to command anybody and er tell them to march properly or left foot or right foot or whatever it is she didn’t want any of that.
CB: Now the plotting of aircraft is what she was doing?
AD: Yes.
CB: It didn’t take place on the airfield did it it took?
AD: Near nearby.
CB: Was it?
AD: It was nearby it wasn’t on the airfield.
CB: So how did you come to meet her then if she didn’t actually work at the airfield?
AD: I met her at the dance.
CB: Oh at the dance.
AD: Yes I met her at the dance whether I had met her before the dance I don’t know but all but all I know is I was very glad that I had met her.
CB: Gosh.
JS: Can I interrupt?
CB: Yes.
JS: Andrew she was an LACW1 and you were an officer?
AD: Yes.
JS: Was it an officers mess dance or a sergeants mess dance?
AD: No it was the station dance.
JS: The station dance oh yes.
AD: The station dance.
JS: Did you know the protocol of officers taking WAF’s out WAFS that were LACW1, 2’s or whatever ?
AD: Well I did but I still would but I still used to take her out I did I did.
CB: But you weren’t supposed to?
AD: But I wasn’t going to be told.
JS: That’s it.
AD: [Laughs].
JS: We did have station dances where all ranks were included.
AD: Yes they were.
JS: That’s right yes.
AD: They were included all ranks.
JS: They were very few and far between weren’t they very infrequent should I say?
AD: Yes or there was an er occasion of some sort on the station or something like that.
CB: And um how did you you didn’t get married until Forty Five was that after hostilities finished or wqs the war still on?
AD: The war was still on.
JS: In Japan.
CB: No in Europe?
AD: In Japa.
CB: Was the war in Europe still on?
AD: No no it wasn’t no when I got to Germany the war was all over and I made use of my German language the way I learnt it at school anyhow it was, you’re a lovely boy.
CB: So I am just trying to establish how you came to be married when and what what made you decide to do it then?
AD: Because I was off off off operations.
CB: Right.
AD: I wasn’t flying over Deutschland anymore.
CB: And why didn’t you get married before then?
AD: Because I was on operations.
CB: Right and
AD: I had no intention of getting married while I was on operations.
CB: Because yes but why?
AD: Well [sighs] because I wouldn’t have wanted to leave her er a wife alone virtually I suppose.
CB: Right now you did your stint in Germany then what happened as part of the occupying forces what happened next?
AD: Oh I’ve got to think this I think when I got back from Germany I think we handed in our our things and that was it.
CB: You were demobbed?
AD: Yes.
CB: Do you remember where you were demobbed?
AD: No I don’t.
CB: Okay, so now out of the airforce what did you do next?
AD: I suppose I was off looking for a job to do but also [coughs] I I did join the Royal Aux Auxiliary Air Force because I obviously hadn’t had enough.
CB: That happened immediately did it they took you on?
AD: Yes straight away.
CB: And er where were you living and where did you fly from?
AD: I was living in a very posh place that was for rich people and it was North Kensington and it was a we had to share a flat in those days we shared a flat with somebody else and it was it was a lovely flat and that’s where we were living.
CB: As a family or just you and your wife?
AD: Er I think we’d had Catherine by then.
CB: Right, so what job did you do when you left the RAF what’s your first job when you left the RAF what was that?
AD: I’m trying to think.
CB: Oh you are.
AD: Yes I it [laughs] it is working but
CB: I’ll stop
AD: It’s not working very it’s not working very
CB: I’ll stop for a bit
AD: For a short period of time.
CB: So what did you do?
AD: I analysed metals in a laboratory that’s what it was and it was a very nice interesting job going to be paid very much more than five pounds a week and I think because of that I decided to think of something else and I couldn’t think of what to do but the Auxiliary Air Force was a godsend because they paid us they paid us not not normal kind of money that you’d expect but they paid sufficient to make it possible to buy a loaf of bread or whatever it is.
CB: So how much commitment was there in a month being in the Auxiliary Airforce did you have to do something every week or how did it work?
AD: Oh I used to go every week this was money to go to the airfield and fly [laughs] it was extra money but exactly how much I can’t I can’t remember it was whatever they were prepared to pay.
CB: So you started with Spitfires how did that progress over the years in aircraft?
AD: It progressed very nicely I was going through a second period of I wonder if I really want to fly that Spitfire anymore but anyhow it didn’t last very long then we had Vampires and um Meteors
CB: How did you find those after flying the piston engine?
AD: Lovely.
CB: What about the Vampires?
AD: There was no difficulties there.
CB: Right, the Vampire compared with the Meteor what was that like?
AD: The Meteor was better ‘cos there were two engines and it was a oohh a stronger aeroplane and it had two engines and it was nice.
CB: Were you always stationed at the same place for the Auxiliary Air Force or did you have other a variety?
AD: No we moved from Hendon we moved to er I’ll get it in a minute.
CB: Yes it’s okay.
AD: North Weald North Weald it’s just across the way virtually.
CB: Yes yes.
AD: And then I think I moved into my first house so I think I had to borrow money from my my bits of my family who were prepared to lend us the money to bor to bor to borrow the necessary amount.
CB: What um what was the rank what was your promotion like how did that work?
AD: Well I was still a flight lieutenant but I was a senior flight lieutenant I was in charge of all the other other boys that had been taken on because the CO of my 66 Squadron took over from John Cunningham who was the first CO Auxiliary CO had given up because he was doing too much test flying in in er his company and er this chap he took he took over now why have I said that he did take over there that’s right and he and he became the six the 66 Squadron although the squadron itself was 604.
CB: Right Auxiliary Air Force?
AD: That was that was the big change I ever had was 604.
CB: So when did you get promoted to squadron leader or did you jump that and go straight to wing commander?
AD: No I didn’t jump anything I had to pass the exams at [laughs] and in the end I hadn’t passed the exams for squadron leader that’s right and then it all all altered slightly because they were short of er of all these people would get taken on as er in the Foreign Office you’re taken on by the Foreign Office virtually.
CB: Oh.
AD: As and air attaché that’s it I became an air attaché.
CB: Did you really?
AD: Yes I became an air attaché because of my Russian know knowledge and Finland is only round the corner there.
CB: So you went to Finland?
AD: I went to Finland.
CB: How long did that last?
AD: Three years.
CB: As a wing commander?
AD: Yes.
CB: So they re-engaged you effectively as a did they or were you an auxiliary did you have auxiliary on here?
AD: No because they’d given up the auxiliaries when I when I left unfortunately.
CB: So this is the mid fifties is it?
AD: Yes Fifty Three to Fifty Six I think I was in Finland.
CB: Right
AD: Yes.
CB: A nd that’s the origin of the name of your house?
AD: That is quite correct oh you’ve guessed that have you [laughs].
CB: So what did you do there?
AD: I became a spy as all attachés are spies except undercover you didn’t you didn’t behave like a spy you attended all the necessary meetings that all these chaps had and er the Russians were the big spymasters I’ve got a photograph of all the spies that I did work with if you’d like to see them
CB: Fascinating.
AD: Would you?
CB: Yes.
AD: They were they were from Norway from er from er I can’t [unclear] I’ll show you the photograph yes.
CB: Right so you were working as an air attaché from Fifty Three to Fifty Six what did you do after that you returned to England what did you do?
AD: I worked for the Government in the Government Office.
CB: Right the books on there.
AD: It could it could well be it could well be.
CB: [Laughs] And then when did you retire from work altogether?
AD: I don’t know.
CB: Was it sixty or sixty five or?
AD: Yes I must have been sixty five I should think.
CB: Thank you very much that was really interesting.
AD: And here’s a photograph of the first squadron I went in Portreath as a young man and I must have been twenty.
CB: Really



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Andrew Deytrikh,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 5, 2024,

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