interview with Oliver Gomersal


interview with Oliver Gomersal


Oliver Gomersal was navigator with 621 Squadron stationed in East Africa and Aden. On 2 May 1944 his Wellington successfully attacked a German submarine, U852.




Temporal Coverage





01:35:43 audio recording


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CB. Today is Monday 30th June 2016, my name is Chris Brockbank and we are meeting today Oliver Gomersal who was a, an Observer in Coastal Command during the war and has been a resident of Buxton all his life. Oliver how did you come to, what are the earliest recollections you have of life?
OG. Well I was born in Buxton in May 1921, I had me 95th Birthday Day [cough] just the week before I am speaking. Oh I have been very, very lucky for various reasons. I have had two life saving cancer operations by the Hospital at Stepping Hill, Stockport and I eh owe them my life twice otherwise I would have disappeared twenty years ago. What intrigues me is the trouble they got to with me even as an old man and that applies to other people as well. So nobody knocks National Health to me. But eh anyway I was brought up in Buxton, went to the infants school there as everybody else did and then went onto what was called an Elementary School [cough] you went to until you were fourteen and then left school and got a job but I was lucky and got a Scholarship to Buxton College which was the local Secondary or Grammar School and eh with em I didn’t leave until I was sixteen. I had my two particular friends were reasonable good Cricketers and in 1937 we all played in the College Cricket Team which that year never lost a match. Later on in my RAF Career I played cricket for the, for an RAF Cricket team in Aberystwyth, Odiham and Brighton, I have played on the County Ground at Brighton. After the war when I returned home I took up Tennis as me main sport. Anyway back to school days eh after I left Buxton College in 1937 I eh went to an Uncle at Teddington on Thames in Middlesex, he had a small printing works. The family idea was that I learn the printing trade and eventually take it over. Sadly the war started and eh you couldn’t get paper and the actual demand for diminished considerably because quite a lot of it is; “how shall I say.” Not luxury work, but it isn’t necessary.[cough] So I came back to Buxton and very fortunately got a job in the Borough Treasurers Office. The Borough Treasurers Son was a big pal of mine at Buxton College so I suspect there was a little bit of collusion like that but I was very lucky to get another job at that stage and I worked for a year and a half in the Treasurers before going into the Air Force but I eh in 1940 I joined the Home Guard and I had just over a year in the Home Guard which was very very useful pre military training indeed and eh [cough] I went to Cardington where the Airship Hangers were still evident there and was interviewed by a panel of three Officers for the eh Air Force and eh decided I could undertake training as an Observer eh which of course was both an Navigator and a Bomber Aimer in those days, combined job and eh when I, the tribunal told me they were quite happy to accept me for training. The Chairman of the panel said “Now Gomersal don’t forget, Observers are brains of the Air Force” So I had always got that up me sleeve of course. Anyway I was eh, four or five months before I was called up, went to Aircrew receiving centre which was Lords Cricket Ground in London where fellows were pouring in mostly for Navigator and Pilots training because the initial training was exactly the same and I was embodied in a group of chaps who were all going to be Observers and we were sent after a fortnight to Aberystwyth [cough] to do the preliminary course there where we started to learn about Air Force Administration and to march and do as you are told and clean the room and all these sort of things that they emphasise when you go in to let you know that you are there to do as you are told and sadly half way through the course I got what turned out to be a low grade Pneumonia and ended up in the RAF Hospital at Cosford eh for four or five weeks but eventually I was declared reasonably fit and after a Medical Board in Kingsway the Air Force sort of Medical Board I was passed to carry on with the Training which I did. And eh, I started from scratch again the ITW course with a whole group of Pilots but when we finished the course after two or three months then I was posted to eh the Elementary Navigation School at Eastbourne as it was called then and eh we had then oh I suppose three months there where we did quite a lot of the basic eh school work as it were of Navigation. Again we went through it in, in Flying School with eh flying of course applying the same things in practice, but really the guts of course was at Eastbourne. The trained a whole host of fellows there. While I was there it was bombed by a eh Fighter Bombers, German Aircraft from the other side of the Chanel. I remember one morning we were doing PT in the Park and eh at Eastbourne and a Corporal was in charge of us and we could hear an aircraft behind us and suddenly the Corporal shouts “Get down it’s a Gerry” and we had only got Gym kit on, we looked up and we could see this aircraft coming and I actually saw the bomb leave the aircraft but it was nearly over us we knew it was going to hit us. But I could tell you I have never felt so naked in me life. We literary virtually went and hid under the bushes, ones natural instincts. But anyway their information was very very good, the bomb hit one of the hotels at the front used by the RAF, but fortunately they had a very late lunchtime and so there were no aircraft, air cadets in there but sadly there were some WAAFs who were eh preparing the meal and so on and some of them were casualties. So the German information, intelligence was very good indeed.But em we finished there and I was eh sent to West Kirby where they got drafts ready for overseas and I joined one to go to South Africa where eh [cough] Pilots were trained up in Rhodesia and there were five Air Schools in the Cape training Bomb Aimers and Navigators and we went to Oaksthorne, it is now famous for where all the ostrich farms are and eh did the Navigation course there. Also the bombing course, the bombing course was about fifteen miles from Oaksthorne itself. And when we done the bombing the Pilots used to amuse themselves by flying low and making the ostriches run which I thought was rather a dirty trick, but there we are. Now of course it is quite famous for eh visitors and people going to South Africa for a trip round usually get to Oaksthorne one way or another if they are doing the Cape. We did an Air Gunnery course at the end of our training at a place called Port Alfred for three weeks. We returned by the most spectacular train journeys there are in South Africa to Cape Town where I happen to have an Uncle, an Aunt my, my Fathers youngest Sister and she said she had never had any of her family under her roof before. I just had two days there and I was last but two on a posting back to UK. And eh my main pal whose name alphabetically was further along the line from mine stayed there for a fortnight. My Aunt took him and another pal all round and gave him. But anyway I came back to England and we went to Harrogate which was a Personnel Training Course there eh and, and a Transit Camp and eh from there we were posted to Blackpool to train for Coastal Command following rather sad circumstances. The course was called GR General Reconnaissance and it was for co-operation with the Navy and it was extra eh Navigational Patrols and somewhat rather more complicated that you needed in Bomber Command. And eh we got there because twelve people from eh the GR School in Canada, eh were torpedoed coming back to England. So they picked twelve of us at random and said “Right you are going to have a rush course at Squires Gate and then you will fill in where these chaps were going to go.” So that happened and then eventually some of us were picked to go to a new Squadron that was being formed in East Africa. As the eh Mediterranean was being open for shipping it was decided it was safe to send convoys there and down the Suez Canal instead of all the way round the Cape to get to India and the eh East. So our Squadron was formed to patrol the Gulf of Aden and the North West areas of the Indian Ocean because of the expected increase in submarine both with the Germans and the Japanese. So after OTU where we all joined together as a Crew, got to know each other, eh where we did trips out into the North Atlantic we did a Ferry Training course at Torbay in South Wales here we did as part of the course, two Operational trips out in the Atlantic, one was out in the North part of the Bay of Biscay. We didn’t actually see anything but we started of in the night and came back in the day light. In the night session we passed a Hospital Ship, I can still remember it was lit by floodlights to show its sides and the big red cross, quite an interesting thing to see in the middle of the night. Six of us done a fan, a fan area flight so that we spread out and by the time we got back we were able to report what shipping we had seen and anything like that. I don’t think there was much about but at least the Headquarters of Coastal Command would know it was clear up to a certain point. We then went to a eh, fly out our own aircraft [cough] which the Pilot and the eh Wireless Operator had picked up fresh from the factory[cough]. After we had done various tests including an endurance, fuel consumption test and I remember this, I had to work this out and it done one and a half air miles per gallon which as a motorist later in life seemed to be rather in excess. But eh we then flew out to East Africa, we set off from Hearne at the back of Bournemouth, I think it is now Bournemouth Airport. And at the dead of night flew down the English Chanel dodging the French coast and then down across the Bay of Biscay. Eh when we passed the North Cape of eh of France I we, we put the Radar on, we had a primitive Radar it was called ASV or Air to Surface Vessels, it didn’t always work very well as I say and it was a somewhat primitive one but eh [cough] we were able to detect the cliffs at the top West, North West Corner of France and we were about forty miles away which was just right. If there was a rough sea it didn’t work very well and if there were no features on the shore line it didn’t show the difference between the sea and the shore. Cliffs were ok, fortunately we were just about where I hoped we would be. I must say on this trip out the Meteorological Forecast was absolutely bang on. We got I, I flew on the met wind and we were in the right place going, I think it was Cape Finistere, we were there ok and em, er we went still in darkness, down the Spanish coast and it came light when we were off Portugal. Portugal of course, when you look at the map there eh, shore line is rather bent from North to South. So as we got half way down Portugal, the, the coastline receded and it came back when we got to, I think it is Cape, either Cape St Vincent I think it is at the bottom. I took what is called a running fix of that, where you take two Astro, two compass bearings about eight or nine minutes apart. By transferring one position line you can get a fix within a mile which is very useful and then we flew from that onto North Africa and finished up at Rabat or Rabat, Sale as it is called in Morocco and airfield that had been taken over by the Americans. We were there about a week [cough] “pardon me” because the Atlas Mountains were covered in cloud and our aircraft well loaded with petrol would only get a thousand feet or so above there highest point. They didn’t want us the risk of running in to them, so we waited for a week and we were able to continue the journey and we flew from there to Castel Benito which is in Libya and eh we were warned that we must get an early start because we were flying against time. In other words because we were flying East we lost an hour of the daylight. We got there ok, the next morning we set of for Cairo, the same thing happened, the day seemed a bit shorter, we got to eh and airfield on the outskirts of Cairo, transit airfield and eh, not too far from the Pyramids. In fact when we got the Pyramids in view the Pilot said to me “we can see the Pyramids Oliver so come forward and have a look.” So I went and stood bye the two Pilots and I thought to myself “oh they are just like their photographs.” Well that was a silly thing to think ‘cause so they should be. To see them in real life having seen so many photographs of them it wasn’t quite the impact that I thought it might be. Anyway we stayed at this Transit Camp, Cairo West I think it was called and I had a tent in the sand, let into the sand. Amongst other things we had to have an engine seen there, I think we were ten days there which allowed me to get into the Pyramids. Now the people are queuing up to get, I understand. I went through on me own with a Dragger Man which was interesting and em went round Cairo and em then we set off from there for a flight down the Nile Valley to Khartoum. We followed the Nile for a certain distance and then it went to the left and we went straight on. We got there ok and of course it was sandy there, we had a night there and the next day we were routed to go to Nairobi and this was a very interesting flight. After leaving the sandy desert and the bare landscape around Khartoum as we got into East Africa and Kenya the vegetarian started and we left the sandy rough area behind us. We stopped for lunch at Juba and eh I remember while we were sitting at the bare wooden table where we got out lunch there were Chameleons flitting around up, onto the roof. I am sure they learned if they hung around the table there were crumbs to be picked up. Also the waiters were tall austere eh; Sudan, very impressive indeed. Then we set off again after lunch got to the edge of Lake Victoria and from there we turned left and went into Nairobi where of course we were back to civilisation again. After, oh we handed all our logs of the trip in then, we had to go to Air Headquarters there and hand them in and say if we had any problems on the way out or something like that. Then we after a week we flew down to Mombasa on the Coast which was a initially where our Squadron was formed. From there we flew up to Mogadishu which was where most of the aircraft were, Italian Somalia land eh. It was a beautiful town the Italians are very, very artistic. Good Engineers indeed and the towns they built in East Africa were, were worth seeing they really were, it is sad to see the state they have got into now. I always tell people when we were at some of the eh outstations there in the eh Horn of Africa, we lived rough, we shaved when we felt like it and eh we flew out Convoy Escorts and things from there. I have a photograph of all of us at one of the huts and we look a real gang of Pirates. I always say with that photograph “Those are the first Pirates in Somalia Land now.” But anyway sometimes after three months they moved our main Headquarters for Major Servicing from Nairobi to Aden and when we got back from the trip to Nairobi for engine change and things like that, when we got back to Mogadishu the Squadron had all left and gone to Aden. So we then had a very interesting trip over the edge of Abyssinia. I wish I could remember more about it but anyway we landed at Aden two days before Christmas and jollifications were held because drinks were cheap in that area, I am not saying they were very good, they were available. After that we carried on the normal life which we done from Mogadishu, Convoy Escorts and anti Submarine looking for submarines where the Naval Intelligence in the area were able to pick up the German Submarines broadcasting back to their Headquarters in Germany which they did every morning. And so they were able in due course, in May, next May to warn the aircraft that there was a submarine working its way up East Africa. We took of one morning about four o’clock in the morning, went down the shipping lane, these shipping lanes were where the Convoys went, of the Germans obviously knew all about them. About half past five in the morning just gone light we spotted a German U Boat happily making its way up the shipping lane. By the time it spotted us Eh, eh we were, lost height, gone down to about five hundred feet and the eh Pilot dropped the eh depth charges on where it had just eh, gone under the water. It was the result of an exercise we done at Silloth at OTU where we practiced dropping bombs on a boat that was towed or a target that was towed by motor boat. Then we did it for real he made a very good judgement of where the eh, eh submarine might be. Apparently got a depth charge each side of it and blew it to the surface. Now this is a very good indication of how ones mind can work in emergencies or slowly. The phrase time stood still was brought home to me, because I had been with another Crew, I never had anything wrong with me in that area a lot of the chaps had sub tropical diseases and so on. Eh I had to fly another aircraft where there Navigator got sick and I in fact got twenty more Operational trips in than the rest of my Crew. I had been flying with another Crew when they thought they saw a submarine conning tower but they were never quite sure. I thought, “Well I am not missing this.” So I got in the conning tower was able, in the eh astro dome and I was able to see the full attack more than anybody else. So I saw the approach while Stephenson the Front Gunner using his guns managing to hit the conning tower of the submarine just before it submerged. And then as the Pilot lined up for his attack [cough] as he pressed the button the depth charges went off, were released, I could feel the aircraft rise. Then I turned round and I could see them hanging in the air and I thought to myself “Get down, get down you blighters, get down.” Now according to the physics that I learned at school the force of gravity and the speed of things dropping they could only have been in the air, one and a half seconds and yet to me that was almost an eternity. I said “Get down, get down you blighters get down.” They did get down and the submarine disappeared. After about ten minutes flying round at about five hundred feet the nose of the submarine appeared and the Pilot shouted to the Second Pilot “Harvey get the camera out, they will never believe us.” And they got the camera out and took some photographs and then it disappeared again and then a minute or two later it eh resurfaced. We were looking at it with interest. I remember I was getting some messages ready to send off and I heard the Second Pilot who was a Canadian say “Gee they are shooting at us.” And eh [cough] we cleared of as quick as we could doing a Cork Screw and the Rear Gunner managed to keep the German Gunners heads down and I realise, although he never got any mention afterwards we probably owe our lives to him. Anyway we cleared off and eventually when we thought we were out of range of their guns, they got an anti aircraft gun which kept us three miles away. If we got any nearer they started shooting again at us, but our job was in that situation to shadow the submarine because in the aircraft there was some little wireless signal apparatus you could turn on and it made a little beacon and the other aircraft could tune in and home on you. So we did that and our job was to keep in reasonable sight to the submarine which turned round two or three ways and eventually set of on a zig zag course roughly South which I reported back over the radio. Many years later I got to know a man who had been in the Air Force who was seconded to eh British Airways, Overseas Airways and he became part of a Flying Boat eh service from Durban, up to, it was known as the Horseshoe run. They came up to the Middle East, turned right and went down to Calcutta, went to Karachi, loaded up went across India to Calcutta. At the end of my Air Force Career was fortunate to have a trip across India from Karachi to Calcutta in one of these em, they were a variant of the Short Sunderland Flying Boat civilian version [cough] and it was a very interesting trip indeed.One of the highlights of me life, because they say if you had a trip in one of those flying boats. I have forgotten the name of the service but you never forget it and that’s quite true. But anyway “Where have I got to?” We were with the submarine for three or four hours and then our petrol was getting short another aircraft turned up when we were there it had homed on our beacon and went into attack. We started to attack but the other one was three or four miles ahead of us so we couldn’t make a diversionary attack because his attack was over. Eventually four more aircraft came Wellingtons and dropped depth charges on it but the Commander of the submarine was so efficient that he had the air, submarine taking evasive action and it was such a big one that it was blown up but landed back in the water and it was still able to proceed at about twelve knots. One or two of the other aircraft photographed it in motion as it were but eventually [cough] it was beached on the East African coast and I have a photograph in the book since of it still there. I don’t know any scrap iron merchants in East Africa but there is a jolly good haul there where the hull could cope with it. Then we continued normal anti eh submarine trips and eh Convoy Escorts at the rest of our time until we finished our year, which was the length of our tour in East Africa. Then we went from there to eh, the Middle East er I was commissioned at the end of my time with the Squadron. It caused rather a bit of amusement ‘cause I apparently [cough] when we finished the Navigation course at Oaksthorne I done rather well in the examinations and been commissioned and nobody told me and certainly nothing in writing and I, I continued to be a Sergeant and later a Flight Sergeant [cough] “pardon me” on the Squadron eh and just as we had been cleared the Station for, for eh posting to the Middle East and dispersal, the Adjutant sent for me one day and said “Have you been applying for a commission?” I said “Well not really but I understood I had been granted one at Flying School but I never heard any more.” He said “Well I have had a signal from the Air Ministry stating you have got to be commissioned immediately with seniority back to March 1943.” So there we were. I had been cleared on the Station so I was in no mans land sort of thing. Anyway to deal with it administratively I had to go round the important parts of the Aden set up with an arrival chit in one hand and a clearance chit in the other. Now all forces will understand completely what that meant because to gazette me as an Officer through the Aden Headquarters I had to be officially one of their Stations. So I went round the Aden, saw about ten different Officers of various sorts and eh they booked me in with the clearance chit eh, eh the arrival chit and then they cleared me with the clearance chit all within three minutes and nobody but nobody turned a hair so I can only assume that that was an operation that happened from time to time. I has always tickled me very much but eh from then on I was an Officer, I was a Pilot Officer for three months and then I was told that I could become a Flying Officer and I had that for three or four months and then eh I, I funnily enough I had friends in Bristol, Family friends and I went to see them and eh from the Station where I was in Odiham in Hampshire [cough] and I went in the main library in Bristol and found there the copies of the London Gazette where all Officers promotions, registrations promulgated and I found the eh actual number where I was eh promoted to a Flight Lieutenant. So I went back to my Station at Odiham and said to the chap in charge of the Section I was in “By the way I found me Flight Lieutenant.” So he said “You had better put it up.” I went to the Camp tailors and they did the necessary so there I was a Flight Lieutenant. But eh I thought well after I finish with the Squadron I shall do much flying, have a rather interesting time perhaps, but by jove I couldn’t have been more wrong. [cough] We went to eh, after returning to England we went to eh a place in North Yorkshire eh which was acting as a transit camp for eh retraining Aircrew and eh we had em tests of various sorts, intelligence tests and so on and we were given the option of several things. Now they were looking for people to train as Officers to deal with the expanding Transport Command. We did a course to deal with working out the centre of gravity of a loaded aircraft and things like that. Dealing with passengers and freight and we ended the course at em; name escapes me at the moment, in Wiltshire and em when we passed out there we went to em another RAF Station at the end of the trunk road, trunk route out for India. And it was very exciting to go into a big hanger to see the floor split up into portions. Say Malta, Cairo, Karachi and they put the freight for the aircraft into those sections and so on. Anyway eh after that course I was posted to Odiham in Hampshire where I stayed for, we were loading aircraft the last two months of the war and all sorts of interesting things put on. We were loading Dakotas and by George they were workhorses, they were marvellous. Then the war finished and eh we were loading petrol for Fighters at one time and then we were sending out more normal things, passengers. Then eh I was asked if I would go to Tarrant Rushton in; oh, haven’t got my maps of the County and supervise a job transferring what is called a complete Federacy Issue, that is all the cash, hard cash in the Country. The Czech Government in exile had had a complete set of currency printed by Waterman’s[?] the famous printers and it was kept in a cave underground near Colerne, near Bath. My particular pal had been an Armourer and had been at Colerne so when they asked for a volunteer I said “Yes I’ll go.” I thought it would be interesting to see Colerne. By then there were only about four aircraft a day leaving or arriving at em Odiham where I was and so I was in charge of the eh boxed up cash, mostly notes. The idea was that a Squadron; of Lancs, not Lancasters “What is the other big four engined aircraft?”
CB. Halifax.
OG. Halifax’s based there and we loaded them up, the cash was brought in big heavy boxes and were loaded into the Bomb Bay. I had to work out the centre of gravity of the loaded aircraft ‘cause we had to weigh all these and eh work out where the centre of gravity would be and eh all the weight of the aircraft and so on. Anyway there were about ten flights per day to eh; the capital of Czechoslovakia.
CB. Prague.
OG. Prague and eh we did this for a number of days, by the time they were all shifted. Oh by the way there were some officials from the Czech National Bank sent over to assist. There were three Czech Soldiers back with every load to be repatriated and if they were forced to land on any land in Europe they got and armed guard because of all the Cash they had. I did a summary and analysis of all the Flights there were I think a hundred and thirteen flights all together and we carried three hundred and thirteen Soldiers to be repatriated. And the RAF measures it’s Freight in pounds so the summary I did at the end of all these was over five hundred thousand pounds of freight. I after we finished of I went back to Odiham and then reported to Transport Command Headquarters[cough] for Europe in North London near Harrow and when I got there I gave them the paperwork. I done all the clerical work which documented the full load and they were rather pleased with it and there was a vacancy at Copenhagen Airport for one of the RAF Traffic Staff. They offered me that which naturally I took. Well when I went to Copenhagen, I was there for the three months it was like going to a land of milk and honey after England and I had a very interesting time there. I, I got to know a gentleman, one of the eh; Army Officers on the Movements side there was a man with the unusual name of Captain Duck, D,U,C,K. [spelt out] never met the name since. Anyway he palled me up, or palled up with me and said “Oh I go and see a Czech Civilian once a week and he has told me to bring a pal if I want to, do you want to come?” and we went and after two weeks Captain Duck was posted so this Norwegian Gentleman, Czech, sorry this Danish Gentleman who spoke very, very good English said eh “Well don’t you stop coming Oliver, you come and see me once a week.” He had an Office in eh Pra, eh.
CB. Copenhagen.
OG. Now where did I just say? Copenhagen, he had an Office in Copenhagen. He was an Importer of textiles for making suits and so on. I knew he had been to England anyway after I had known him six or seven weeks the subject had never come up before. He said “Where do you live in England Oliver?” I said “A place called Buxton, south of Manchester.” I always aligned it to Manchester because most people knew where that was. “Oh but Oliver this is marvellous I have been there.” It turned out on one of his trips to England to buy cloth, he had been to eh eh eh place at Leake where they made cloth or mostly what they do was silk. The people in charge there called Stanard in that time said to him “Where have you booked?” and he had booked in a public house in the area [cough] they said “Oh you mustn’t stay there our Mother has a nice house and flat near the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton, you must go and stay with her.” Which he did, and I said to him “Well that is about as the crow flies, three hundred yards from where I live.” Wasn’t it strange that he should know Buxton as near as that. Anyway I was posted from there to Prague as relief Commanding Officer which someone wanted to thank me for the job I had done there. I was there for two or three weeks. Incidentally when I was there the river Vitava froze up, froze over and we were issued with Arctic Kit, so I could quite shoot a line that I had Tropical Kit issued when I was in Africa and later on Arctic Kit although I never had occasion to wear it. One of my line shoots. From there I was as I say sent back to Prague for a week or two, I think it was three weeks as relief Commanding Officer. And then just when I was thinking about when I would get my demob I was posted to Singapore on the Traffic Management there and I spent probably five months there and then I was posted home by sea. So I was very lucky I had the most interesting time in Transport Command, I met a lot of interesting people as well. Part of me life I look back on with great interest. Well I returned back to Buxton and returned to the Surveying, the Borough Department in Buxton.
CB. We are going to have a break there.
CB. What we just want to do now, please Oliver is just go back on one or two points, so when you were at OTU, so where was the OTU?
OG. Siloth in Cumberland.
CB. Right and it’s right on the coast.
OG. Yeah, we used to fly down the South of Ireland into the Atlantic or up North over the Hebrides.
CB. So before you did that, then you all arrived as individuals at Silloth ready to join the OTU. So when you arrived how did you come to Crew up what was the process.
OG. A very tricky problem but in ours it was laughable.
CB. And where was it?
OG. At Silloth.
CB. Yeah but where, in a hanger or in a big room or?
OG. Oh it was in a room somewhere, only we got the message, “Oh they are crewing up in room so and so there, hurry up.” And when we got there there were six Crews, five had crewed up and there was one Pilot left and just my Crew and so we had to take him you see. It turned out he was a duff chap, I didn’t care for him eh, he is the sort of bloke who I think could have had a drink problem eventually. But eh the few trips we did with eh screened Pilots acting as checkers of his ability they never let him fly on his own. I went one trip eh in the area, local flying I think it is called but fortunately after three trips it was decided he wasn’t fit to let loose with a Crew in a Wellington and he was off the course. Whatever happened to him I don’t know and I don’t care [cough]. So we got a new Pilot from Flying School a chap called Roy Mitchell and he was just as good as the other chap was bad, so we were very lucky. Another bee in my bonnet nobody has ever mentioned eh, he didn’t survive the war like the rest of us. He was killed, he was an Instructor somewhere and in December 1945 he was killed in a crash and the shock killed his Mother. We arranged he went up to the Middle East as an Instructor, I came back to England newly commissioned but I said to him “I have friends in London I shall certainly be seeing, Tedington way.” I had lived [unclear] lodge we had their little girl as an evacuee and the next doors little girl in Buxton during the war. Her daughter, the landladies daughter who was six when I first new her is now in a home and she is eighty; four now.[cough]. And another little girl the next door neighbour, I am in touch with both of them I have kept in touch all our lives. Eh, I have three friends who were Pilots, they lost their lives and in each case a parent died soon afterward, I am sure the shock killed them. One woman Roy Mitchells Mother and two of their Fathers lost their lives in a very short time of loosing their own lives. And I am sure if you equate that through all the British and Commonwealth Forces. I suppose French Forces, American Forces, Russian Forces, German Forces a lot of people died because of shock like that. I am sure eh, eh my experience of it is common and it is a side issue that nobody ever talks about or thinks about now but it has struck me, quite close to me. Eh anyway [cough] I will take another swig and I will talk about crewing up.
CB. Right ok, hang on.
OG. I get husky ‘cause my throat is a little from time to time you know this cough and cold that was going around, I had it for five and a half weeks, some people have it for a day or two.
CB. Right, crewing up is slightly different here because it was a smaller number of people. So you just said there were enough people for five, six crews. Five of them had already crewed up by the time you had walked in the room. How many of the rest, how many people there did you know before you moved into the room?
OG. None of them and as I say the first Pilot we got, because he was the only one left. He was rather a poor type and very fortunately the Instructors, the Flying Instructors soon rumbled him and he was taken off the course. I don’t honestly think we would even lived to get on Operations if we continued with him, but anyway we eventually got a chap who was just as good as he was bad. And with our little affair with the German Submarine and dust up with that he got the DFC quite rightly, our friend Stevie got the DFM the Front Gunner.
CB. What about the other members of the Crew, who were they.
OG. We were told you want to go to so and so room they are crewing up. Time we got there why we weren’t told earlier I don’t know. But eh, the Pilot were all strangers to each other ‘cause up until then we had done our own little thing and the three Wireless Operator, Air Gunners we had had all been friends at the Wireless School, so they were three friends so they would stick together and I was the Navigator. We had a Canadian Second Pilot who [cough] while eh we had to wait when our First Pilot was taken of the course. We had a weeks leave while they sorted some new chap out for us and I brought this Canadian back to my home town, Buxton. We had a very pleasant week together and eh when we went back we got a new Pilot and he was a jolly good chap and eh Roy Mitchell. Sadly not to survive the war, but eh that was how we crewed up, it was a rather hit and miss affair altogether. So how I would have decided I have not the faintest idea. There were three Canadian Pilots as Captains and eh there we are. I had no choice in the matter, none of us did. Eh, we kept two of the Wireless Operator, Air Gunners but one of them disappeared after some months when we got to Africa. He had what is politely called a social disease. I won’t say any more about him but he was replaced by odd bods from then on till we got a Warrant Officer Wireless Operator on his second tour and we kept him for the last half year we were eh Operating. But no this is, we just met as strangers and that was it. You got to know each other except this chap we lost, he was a Glaswegian, I couldn’t understand half he said, then I am sure he couldn’t understand me, so we never had much to do with each other. That’s how we were crewed up, it was a very hit and miss affair altogether. But I am quite sure you can’t decide who you like and who you don’t like and who you favour eh when you are just jumbled together for the first time. But that was it, it worked out ok for the rest of us.
CB. So here you are, you have all, you all joined as the last Crew of six, did you all go away to eat after that or what happened. How did you, how did you gel together?
OG. Well we did standard exercises to teach us A. How to fly a Wellington as a Crew, the Pilots to pilot it, me to Navigate it. The Wireless Operators to work with the tackle there and the primitive eh Radar ASV, Air to Surface Vessels [cough]. We had graded exercises where we flew three hours, four hours up to I suppose seven or eight hours. Eh further afield all the time and eh got used to flying over the sea. There were no towns to recognise, geographical features over the sea. So instead of two hour flights in eh the training aircraft eh Oxfords and the other one, I have just forgotten the name.
CB. Ansons.
OG. Ansons thats it, Ansons yes, so of course we had to get used to flying for quite a number of hours. The longest trip we did actually, or I did was with another Crew not me own, when we found some survivors from a torpedoed ship and got them picked up by the Navy. We were airbourne for just under ten hours of that one.Stayed with them after we found them as long as we could. Eh but eh, eventually the, the trips got longer and at the far end of the course we did most of the night flying as well. So there we are, so by the time we had finished we were then a Crew able to be posted to a Squadron we went down to Torbay[?] in South Wales for a fortnight picked up a brand new Wellington. Got used to that and did what in the Navy called running in trials and flew out to East Africa all the way across North Africa a most interesting flight indeed and a very good end to our Apprenticeship.
CB. Now at OTU, you are at OTU you are learning how to search for ships as well as escort them. So the fan system could you just describe how the fan system worked.
OG. Some of the exercises were for the Pilot, some were for the Air Gunners and eh indeed the one for the Pilot, I repeat, depth charges were released by the Pilot pressing the button but you had to drop them from fifty or sixty feet over the sea, no higher than that and of course you had got to judge your height pretty carefully. So he had two or three exercises where he had to do low level bombing over something target towing by a Motor Boat. As I said in something I wrote about it a very useful exercise for the Pilot for when we had to do it for real, nine months later on. But em I of course had the increasing length of navigation trips eh and em we didn’t really have much wireless help because, because of the Germans flying in the area as well. They didn’t want our beacons that they could use as well as us. So the, the radio contact was only the walkie talkie within five or ten miles of the Airfield itself. That’s how we crewed up and we took it for granted that one of the other Crews, the six that were crewed up that day actually landed in the Solway Firth. They had something wrong with an engine and they went there. They all got out ok but one of them the Navigator couldn’t swim and one of the Wireless Operators, a South African who was a very good swimmer, so he saved his life. I think he got a British Empire Medal for that but otherwise we all went our different ways. But eh two or three of the aircraft that were there when I was ended up on the same Squadron as I was. We flew out over oh eight week, six, seven or eight weeks to form the Squadron. We got there about three quarters of the way through.
CB. So your Squadron was Six Twenty One.
OG. 621 yeah.
CB. And what would be a standard days activity, what would you be doing?
OG. Well we had lectures of various sorts [cough] of course when we got to Aden it was rather warm there and I was fortunate I could stand hot weather. The wife used to say I was twice as lively in hot weather. I never had a thing wrong with me in the year I was there in the year and a quarter and some of my friends had minor tropical diseases and things that I mentioned before. Fly when Navigators were sick I never had a thing wrong I was very fortunate. But em the rest of my Crew were sent on a course up to Middle East on one occasion when I was flying with somebody else and eh thing like that. Actually the programme there was you only worked or attended the Crew Room in the mornings and then the afternoons you started early of course. Then the afternoon was your own, we went to bed or something brilliant like that. There was an active football completion in our Liaison Forces, you see there were quite a lot of Army people there. Up to the end of the First War Aden was a Navy Protectorate, was administered by the Army from India, it came under the Indian Army. My old, when I was in the Printer Works the foreman of the composing room eh had been in the Indian Army and he used to say “Gusog, no more beer in Aden” in his Cockney voice. I, I never was able to get in touch with him to tell him I spent a year in Aden and its environs, but there we are so that was it. But it, after the first war the Government tried the experiment of making the Royal Air Force the paramount Military Force their and so the AOC was the Senior Military Figure and it was administered from Aden up to the second war. Of course when the Italian war started all the Italian Colonies in East Africa they were doing Operation Flights from Aden. These Airfields where they could get at them and bombing them, this went on, well the Italian war was on. You know it is never mentioned now the East African Campaign. It was the most successful Campaign of the whole war. And eh when he started, Mussolini of course thought he could get in on the act and be part of the winning side without much trouble. The Italian Forces and eh Native Troops in East Africa outnumbered the British Forces and Native Troops by nine to one, I will repeat that nine to one. But when the South Africans came up from eh Cape Town area, East Africans they advanced from the South and they mopped the Italians up and the British Forces from Khartoum advanced to the other side of Eritrea which the Italians had taken over and after a year and a half they had really pushed all the Italians out and we took over. British Forces took over the Administration of what had been Italian East Africa. And but it is completely forgotten now it was an absolutely successful war. Just as a by line in 1941 Easter I remember being at home while I was waiting to be embodied in the Air Force Eh we had what became one of the original outside broadcasts was our eh eh Commentator from the BBC in Perham the North part where they were about to do the last attempt to push the Italians out who were in a top of a Mountain. These British forces had to fight their way up the mountain and we listened to the broadcast of this in Buxton. Little did I know that in three years later in 1944 I would be on leave in Assmore in Eritrea and be able to go to Kirin. There was a bus run to Kirin and just beyond it and I went one day to see Kirin. When I got to Kirin and got off the bus there was the eh cemetery with all these poor chaps who had fought their way up to the top of the mountain or did their best to, which they did successfully, but lost their lives in the eh,activity. Em there was a, all the graves are there and the chap in charge of them was a middle aged South African Officer so when he found out that I did my training in South Africa, oh stop and have a cup of tea and so on. I stayed with him till about an hour later catching the bus to return to Asmara. It was horrible to me to think I had heard it A.over the radio and to be on the spot where all these poor chaps had died. It is a forgotten war now but it was the most successful I would say of any of the Operations undertaken.
CB. Very interesting.
OG. Only as a spectator.
CB. So now going if we may to talk about the attack on the Submarine again.So Oliver just what I would want to now cover please is.
OG.Is the submarine.
CB. Ok when you became, how did you become aware of the attack, can you just talk us through can you, how did you get to know about it?
OG. Well we were going that way it was coming up this way.
CB. I know but how did you get to know about it in the aircraft, somebody shouted?
OG. Oh, the Navy had very good intelligence in East Africa and when the submarine must have radioed back to Germany periodically and they caught that and they knew it was coming up the coast. It had gone round the Cape and torpedoed a couple of ships on the way round. And because eh, they thought they had killed everybody on rafts and that sort of thing but three of them survived and lived long enough to give evidence against them. That’s why the Captain, Commander Eck and two other Officers were executed at the end of the war. It was a, I have got a book about the trial because it was a classic trial at Nuremburg. Nothing to do with the submarine and Eck but because it was a classic trial. I have got back up there somewhere.
CB. That is an important point that came out of it. Here we are, your Squadron had been notified about the presence of a submarine, you were flying along as a Crew, so what was the process.
OG. It was a standard anti submarine patrol because they didn’t let anybody who was liable to be caught by the Germans that they could hear this, even I am told even the Captains of the like Frigates and Destroyers that were searching. They told them where to search but they did not give them the information that so for the Captain they couldn’t divulge it you see. So we set off as I say at four o’clock in the morning, edge of the Horn of Africa and the to go down the shipping lane. By jove we were,I tell you something, five thousand feet. There were some clouds and the Pilot said to the Second Pilot who was flying “You had better come down a bit, little lower Harvey.” I always had a joke that eh if we ever got in that situation the eh, eh Pilot who would be having a pee at the back or something and that is how it had worked out. He had gone down there and eh he,he got in the astrodome and had a look and this in the distance and eh came up to the front and told the Second Pilot who was flying, get out quick and I will get in. That was it, Stevie was rushed into the Front Turret, Front Gun Turret so there you are.
CB. So how many miles are you from the submarine when it was sighted.
OG. [Slight pause] I should think about eight miles something like that.
CB. And what sort of speed would you have been flying?
OG. Oh we flew at 135 knots true air speed [Hello dog] which was em 150 miles an hour that was our standard cruising speed.
CB. Right ok, then at, at that speed you are closing the seven or eight miles and descending all the way?
OG. Well actually the submarine was coming up there, we were here. So the Pilot flew like that so that he got a head on run. Time to get in position, I can only assume the didn’t spot us until it was a bit too late for them. I found out since that this submarine was a type that [cough] took rather a long time to submerge and that was it’s undoing. But he, he, he it was all up when he pressed the button, by jove he was spot on.
CB. And you, you were the Navigator em in the plane, once you knew this was happening what did you do?
OG. Well I, first of all I have to send an alarm signal. The RAF code for I have observed a submarine or spotted one was 465. The Merchant Navy similar signal was SS,SS so we sent 465 SS, SS, 465 so both the Merchant Navy in the area and the RAF anybody listening in. The Wireless Operator at the time was a, was the Australian Ted Turner and Ted told me he had received all these messages going along and the different tones. So the Wireless Operator is toned up, picking their own tone what they are listening to. But he said “When you send SOS everybody else hears it and the clear of the air leave it open to the SOS.” He said it was marvellous to be clear of all the signals and that sort of stuff. But that’s what I did, gave the Wireless Operator this alarm signal to send out and time and so on. And then I have to send out what is called a First Sighting Report and then with rough details. Roughly where it is and so on and then after ten minutes when I have had chance to pin point on the chart exactly where we were er as far as I knew and the information about the submarine eh that it had submerged that was about eight or nine minutes later. Then it came up, so I sent another one to say it was zig zagging, it. What Roy Mitchell tried to do was drive it to the East African coast. But it did sort of circles and then zig zagged southwards. I put that in the message that it was zig zagging southwards, then after that it was firing at us with a big gun. We, we got three miles from it until it stopped firing, if we got any nearer that it started using the big gun again. And eh our job was to say shadow it so we could home other aircraft onto it which is what we did. They turned up after about an hour.
CB. And what sort of attack did they make. Same sort of thing, you have got to drop depth charges as I say between fifty and sixty feet so you have to get right down. So our Front Gunners were shooting at the Germans and they were shooting back. Six or seven of the Germans were killed sadly but that was that. But they would have, they were specifically ordered to patrol that area to torpedo troop carrying ships of course you see they were reinforcing the Burmese war in India and there were quite a lot of Troop Carrying Ships. In fact I went on a WEA Course about about Gardens[?] many years after the war and the chap giving the talks had actually been out to eh Burma as a Soldier on one of these ships. We may well have done a Convoy Escort round the ship. We, we used to patrol round it, or convoys something like that ahead ‘cause the submarines used to lie in wait.
CB. How many, how many ships might there be in a convoy?
OG. It varied, I think probably I have seen eh. They weren’t as big as the Atlantic Convoys but I have seen ten or fifteen up the Persian Gulf.
CB. Just going back to the attack, you hear on the intercom whats going on, what did you after you.
OG. What happened, was Stevie was, what you do.
CB.Stevie being the Gunner at the front?
OG. Wall Stevenson the bloke you met. The Pilot there he is looking from straight ahead down to left, Steve who is in the Second Pilots seat he is looking straight ahead down to the right and Stevie spotted it because it was sort of over there you see. Stevie said “What the so and so is that?” I heard him on the intercom you see so I suppose I probably went and had a look myself and I could probably see it was probably eight or ten miles away. You could see the wake very clearly in that case. So then the Pilot comes and gets over the main spar and into the Pilots seat and takes over and looses height, it was just eh he had just ordered Harvey to come down three or four thousand feet cause we were going through some clouds and they would be in the way. So he would say come down to two thousand feet so that’s where we were. We would be going about five minutes when Stevie spots this. So I went to have a look and I could see it in the distance. See the wake and he got lower and lower and lower, they must have been quite late spotting us fortunately because we got quite near to it comparatively speaking before it started to go down. And as I said it was one that went down rather slowly and eh then we went over it eh Roy Mitchell the Pilot said “Have they dropped, have they gone off.” I said “yes they’ve gone off a treat.” But that is after watching them hang and they were there and eh.
CB. So you are watching them where?
OG. The Astrodome that was the bubble the Perspex for taking Astroshots a very good place for having to look at things. And eh, so then I came back and eh gave the alarm signals. I may have told you on the run in ‘cause it was a submarine and that was it. If there were any English submarines in the vicinity we were eh told, roughly where they were, but anyway that was that [cough] I will wet me whistle again.
CB. That is it, we will stop there for a minute.
OG. One of the topics Oliver that comes up with Bomber Command is the question of LMF and in your circumstance there was completely different activity but what was the main concern there and did you ever hear about or experience the situation of LMF?
OG. No I can’t remember anything like that eh I remember one of our Instructors who had been in Coastal Command in Northern Ireland he said by the end the, the tour by the way for Coastal Command was twelve months. He said there were chaps there who had been flying for twelve months over the Atlantic and he said they got quite “Bomb Happy” isn’t the word but they had had enough sort of thing but it was a mental, not the same quite thing exactly, they were just browned off didn’t care whither they lived or died from that point of view there. But we, I was lucky I never felt anything like that my main worry was once with the later Air Marshall [cough] one of the engines stopped when we were about a hundred miles off the eh Horn of Africa. Anyway very fortunately it picked up again, he turned for home and he got there ok. And there was a little emergency airfield right on the Horn of Africa a place called Alular. There was actually a lighthouse there which they kept on during the war. I sent a signal to say we were heading for Alular and by the time we got there the engine was still going along. So we decided we go the other hundred miles to the little airfield at Mendicasin[?] now it is on the laps of Buckaso [unclear] on the borders of Italian and British Somaliland.But eh I can’t remember any other fellows got tired particulary but then again we didn’t see much of other Crews. There were three or four detachments at Mendicasin a place called Shushibab [?] also in the middle of the Horn of Africa and Socotra in Aden itself.So we were all split up, two or three aircraft at each back to Aden for then servicing. So eh but there were chaps on the Squadron after we started getting reserves eh that eh I didn’t know. I met one of them after the war by accident being the Second Pilot of a plane. We lost eh in the year I was there four aircraft. Two crashed and were burned up, sadly they was with them and eh one it was a flight [cough] as the one I done to Nairobi with the Pilot, Navigator and Wireless Operator. They set off to go to Khartoum and they were never heard of again. No hide nor hair, no wireless message of any sort, no emergency. They were never heard of or seen again sad. And one, one ditch in the Gulf of Aden eh the Pilot didn’t survive but eh two, two of the Crew were picked up,they were still alive when they got to them. But of course they finished Operations privations and problems they had was life threatening to them under those circumstances they wouldn’t go back on flying probably, but there we are.
CB. What was the major concern about flying over the sea?
OG. Well we just took, took it as a matter of course. Eh we agreed if we had to land we would all stick with the aircraft and the dingy. That reminds me of something you mentioned earlier about eh, eh a chap who, that was what you call sabotage. [cough] One of the chaps who was on our Squadron 621 has got something on the internet which I have got a copy of. And eh they were the first aircraft on our Squadron to get out and land in East Africa. And when they did the first Major Service they found that eh if you go in the, drop in the water there is an explosive that goes of which inflates, causes the dingy to be inflated. Well after they got to East Africa and had the first Major Service, this eh bomb, I will call it the explosive thing it wasn’t there [cough] and something else was broken. They found out that the tall bedding[?] where we all got ready for the big trip out to prime[?] the aircraft there had been a saboteur and he had taken this bomb inflator out, it wouldn’t inflate, and he had broken something else, battered it with a hammer. The signs were quite apparent and apparently when they reported this back, this chap was found and eh executed as a saboteur. But the CO told them, he said “You are jolly lucky to have got here.” But anyway that was it. So you couldn’t tell but eh it didn’t bother me, things kept going over the sea. I got so I could tell the wind speed and direction from the white caps and things like that, little side issues that come with experience.
CB.So that is an important part about navigation isn’t it, how do you navigate over the sea?
OG. Dead reckoning and there were no radio beacons. There are small ones within twenty miles of the little airstrips, something like that but that is no good if you are three or four hundred miles away. And em very fortunately the period in between the monsoons was relatively calm and the wind was pretty steady so it was a big help that was. In the Monsoons we didn’t fly unless we had to eh it was eh, it was during the monsoon that we flew out to Socotra and landed and for the first time I was very nearly air sick. ‘Cause the winds changed round and it comes from the South West back towards India and it hits Socotra where there was the mountains and it goes up and down them and forms eddies. And eh the late Air Marshall had our aircraft there and he hit a monster air pocket coming in because of this turbulence and crashed the aircraft. One of the Ground Crew who had seen it said they had dropped from about fifty feet straight onto the ground and set it on fire. Fortunately, they all got out of the different escape hatches and the Pilot told them to clear of quick because the depth charges blew up in about thirty seconds. There was a bit of a [pause] fire engine at Socotra, it came down and the Pilot told them to clear of quickly in case these blew up, which they did. I lost my parachute, they had taken our aircraft because there’s wouldn’t start. [cough] I left my parachute in, fortunately I got me Navigation kit and bag out. But Sandy Phillip, one of our Crew, Wireless Operator he left some personal things in, photographs of his wife, they all went to blazes so there we are.
CB. Good thank you we are just going to pause there, just finally where were you demobbed and when?
OG. Hednesford
CB. Where was that?
OG. [pause] I am getting now I can’t remember place names, I can point to them on the map, Hednesford is in Staffordshire. It was eh eh a regular station but they used it as a demob centre. And eh when I appeared there for my demob there was a chap there that had been in the very first mob I was in at Aberystwyth five years before. He was a Flight Lieutenant as well we recognised each other, so that was rather interesting to me. I, but you see some of those early group photos of ITW and OTU be interesting to know how many of those chaps survived ‘cause most of them would go into Bomber Command Aye.
CB. Right thank you.
CB. Right so now Oliver we have covered a lot of things in you Air Force side. Just give us a snippet of what you done in Civilian life afterwards. Before the war you had been with the Council.
OG. I will read this out.
CB. No just give us the main points.
OG. Exactly what you want yeah.
CB. Just the main points, we are on yes.
OG. Right, In autumn 1946 I resumed my job in the Treasures Department in the Costing Office. Furnishing costs on the various jobs undertaken by the road maintenance teams. All the work on maintenance, of all various buildings owned by the Council, the Town Hall the Pavilion Gardens, the Baths, Sewage Works, Water Works and all the Council Houses. The Gas Works and Electricity undertaking which we also owned were nationalised next year and all that work was carried out by the Surveyors Department. In 1963 [cough] I moved to the Highways Department on Market Street and put in charge of the Office and Highways stores for eight years. A very interesting part of the job because this is where eventually it was all happening. Then in 1971 I returned to the Surveyors department as Chief Clerk until local Government reorganisation in 1974 when I became a Senior Administrator in the Technical Services Department, which dealt with similar work over the now grouped North Derbyshire towns of Borough of High Peak. Taking retirement in 1979 I also served on a council committee of admin officers in like departments. I always considered myself very lucky to have married my wife Marjorie who known and loved by such a wide circle of people until here death in 2008. We enjoyed interesting holidays over England, Scotland and Wales being members of both the National Trust and English Heritage. A recent check reveals that we had visited over 120 of the National Trust venues many of them several times. [cough] In 1951 jointly with my Sister Margaret we bought the first Vespa Scooter to be sold in Buxton which allowed me to expend my, expand my horizons over surrounding counties. In fact I went to the last weekend of the Festival of Britain in 1951 and stayed with friends in Teddington. I bought my first car in 1965 a lovely little Wolsey Hornet which went out of production three years later. I had a car up to 2008 but failing eyesight caused me to give up. My training as a Navigator gave me a particular interest in travelling round our country and I was able to do much of it on B roads which was still quiet. For sporting activities I played in Buxton College first eleven cricket team with [cough] my lifelong friends of Harold [cough] Barstow and Ken Loundes during the summer of 1937 a team which never lost a match. Whilst at Teddington I played with the second team of one of the local clubs for two seasons visiting a variety of grounds in the London area. During my time in the RAF I played for my Station on three occasions, at Aberystwyth, Brighton on the County Ground and at Odiham. After playing tennis in Buxton local parks I became a member and later treasurer of Buxton Gardens Lawn Tennis Club. Situated at the end of the Promenade and now a car park. One year my partner and I won the mixed doubles championship. During this period I was a member of main committee of the Buxton Lawn Tennis Championship held every year on both grass and hard courts. It finished in 1954 due to rapid demand for expenses we actually had the [cough] all England Ladies Championships at Buxton. Wimbledon wanted it but because we had it first they couldn’t get it until this period when the Buxton Council had to stop on[?] our new tennis tournament. On the horticultural side I hope my Father with his larger op [unclear] for seven years until he died. When I later went to Moseley Road I managed to have a good floral display in containers and troughs both in the front and sides of the house and on the back patio. Many eh of the flowers I grew from seed. In 1980 I was invited to join the Buxton Archaeological and History Society where I was eventually made a life member and at the time of speaking in 2016 I am the longest active member there. I still, the last talk I gave was at the AGM in February this year. I had a particular interest in Buxton history particularly the development of local Government and the first local board in 1859 the late Mr Glyn Jones [unclear] Chief of High Peak kindly gave access to the early records. I addressed the Society on a number of occasions and contributed at various times to the periodic and newsletter which the subscribed, which eh was started doing in my term as Chairman. My most important work was to make a study of the subscribers to the Buxton Ballroom in the Crescent which from when it opened in 1788 until the final year in 1840 no one else appears to have done it in the detail I went to. So I like to think that I made a reasonable contribution to Buxton history. In eighteen nine, sorry in 1986 I met my Mike Langham and Colin Wills who just completed their first book Buxton Waters in type script and they asked me to read their rough draft in case they had made any statements to which the Buxton Residents would raise their eyebrows. This is the start of a happy improved friendship which included their next six books or so. We were all delighted when Mike was awarded a Doctorate in local history and saddened by his early death. From about 1962 I started making a collection of antique boxes, tea caddies, desk boxes and snuff boxes and various items of tring which after giving some to friends will eventually go to the National Trust. After giving about fifty of our Fathers collection to the local museum and art gallery and twenty or so to friends in memory of our Parents the remainder are willed to the Buxton and Opera House Trust. When the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme was set up I was a representative of Moseley Road for the first ten years of its existence passing it on when I was eighty years of age, quite an interesting job. In about 1990 I was invited to join the Committee of Friends of Buxton Hospital on which I served for a number of years helping with efforts to raise money. At one time I was the Chairman this brought me a whole new spectrum of friends of course. Because of my knowledge of local history I have been sought of for various local publications from 1984 to 2015 for which due acknowledgement was printed. I now found at the age of eighty, ninety five I am consulted for my memory of the late 1920’s and 30’s, all rather a pleasure I never expected to have.
CB. Brilliant that is really good.
OG. I have had my finger in a lot of pies, I have been very lucky I have had a very interesting life.
CB. Thank you very much Oliver.
OG. I hope that is roughly what you want.
CB. I think that will do exactly what we want.



Chris Brockbank, “interview with Oliver Gomersal,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 1, 2023,

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