Interview with Arthur Atkinson


Interview with Arthur Atkinson


Arthur Atkinson was born in Lancaster, and worked in the local Co-Op until he joined the Royal Air Force. He trained as a wireless operator and served at RAF Ringway before being posted to RAF Coningsby and later RAF Skellingthorpe with 61 Squadron. His first operation to Stuttgart was a disaster when the compass failed to work and they landed at RAF Westonzoyland. Over all he completed three daylight and 31 night time operations. He met his wife while in Lincolnshire. After he was de-mobbed he continued to travel with the Royal Air Force as a civilian managing Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes. He also continued his love of flying, joining various flying schools and eventually buying a microlight with his son and flying around Coningsby again. Arthur settled in Lincoln after retiring.







00:40:54 audio recording

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MC: Ok so If you tell us about when and where you were born, and then go on from there.
AA: Yeah, I was born in Lancaster in Lancashire in 1922, went to a normal school, elementary school then I won a scholarship to the local Grammar school but , we didn’t have a lot of money so I wasn’t able to take up the scholarship so I carried on schooling at the elementary as long as I could and then when I left school, the Headmaster, I was head boy in the school by the time I left, and the headmaster got me a job at the local accountant, which was fine but in those days five shillings didn’t go a long way. So, in no time at all I had to leave there and got a job with the local coop behind the counter which I hated, I hated it from the first day and I decided then and there as soon as I was old enough I would join the RAF. That was my ambition I’d had one flight in an Avro 504 the open cockpit type with a local chap that came and that set me off I volunteered for the Royal Air Force as wireless operator, I always wanted to be a wireless operator and got my number at pad Gate I was accepted I got my number but unfortunately, they sent me home for deferred service which didn’t suit me at all. I was home for about six months and at the end of six months I was so fed up I wrote a letter to the Air ministry, saying “have you forgotten me?” and a week later my papers came. Then I reported to Blackpool to the initial training wing and wireless school, did my wireless training over Woolworth’s in Blackpool and then down to Compton Bassett to finish off with and when I qualified as a wireless operator I was posted to Ringway airport Manchester which then was RAF Ringway doing ground wireless operating duties there for about eighteen months until I was put under draft to go overseas as a ground wireless operator. Well a friend of mine on the same draft said “this isn’t good enough”, we were both waiting for aircrew training by then, so I went on embarkation leave, he went to see the CO and said “look you know this isn’t playing the game” so the CO agreed with him, and when I came back from leave embarkation leave found I’d been taken off the draft, and in a short while I was posted down to Yatesbury on a refresher course then went through the usual mill of flying training at Yatesbury.
MC: What sort of aircraft were you flying in?
AA: Proctor’s, little Proctor’s, Dominie, to start with then little Proctor’s then I did an EFU at Boddington near to Ha’penny Green then gunnery course down at Stormy Down in Wales. Then I finally qualified at the Operational training unit at Market Harborough and was crewed up by self-selection, I saw a pilot walking along and I liked the look of him and asked him if he wanted a wireless operator and did, he had a Bomb aimer, asked me if I knew any gunners which I did, and eventually we crewed up. Went through the training and finally posted to Coningsby 61 squadron.
MC: Who was your skipper and crew then?
AA: Bob Acott, Basil. M. Acott but we called him Bob. The only thing was that we hadn’t had leave for ages and they said you can’t go on leave until you’ve done at least one operation with the squadron but unfortunately before we went on Ops we had to a couple of cross countries and unfortunately our navigator suffered from airsickness and every time we took off he was ill so this delayed us somewhat and we were not very happy about it anyway eventually they swapped him for another navigator Dickie Ward he was a good lad, and we were put on the list to go to Stuttgart our first op. This was a disaster completely from start to finish. We took off, we hadn’t been flying long and it was fairly obvious our DR compass wasn’t working properly, anyway we pressed on and it was our first trip it was a press on type anyway after hours and hours it seemed to me we didn’t find Stuttgart we found a glowing under a cloud, a red glow in some clouds and thought this must be it so we unloaded the bombs there which was, whether it was Stuttgart or not I don’t know any way we tried to, we left the bombing area tried to fly back to the UK still wondering all over the place with this DR compass which wasn’t working properly we hadn’t flown long before bomb aimer checked the bombays and found a thousand pound bomb had been hung up so we opened the doors and we let that go I don’t know who got it but we were over Germany so it didn’t really matter a lot, we carried on flying wandering all over Europe I should think and after ages and ages the rear gunner said he thought he saw the coastline underneath, well that’s great so approximate course to England we kept flying and flying and nothing happened and a bit later on he spoke up and said “I’m sorry skipper, I was wrong the first time I can clearly see the coast below now” so then the skipper said, “well that’s alright but I don’t think we’ve got enough fuel to get across the Channel now” so he said “I’ll tell you what…” he got on to all of the crew and he said “we've got to make a decision, you can either bail out, in which case you would be prisoners of war, or we can try cross, get across the channel and if necessary we will have to ditch, what do you want to do?” universal decision we'll try and get across the channel so off we went over ten tenths cloud we flew on and we flew on but nothing was happening then suddenly through a break in the clouds we saw a beacon flashing now I couldn’t establish where it was, and all this time I’d been trying to get my radio set to work to find out where we were unfortunately every time I wound out my trailing aerial it was shorting out and I couldn’t get any power on the transmitter and very little on the receiver. So anyway we got to this beacon and the skipper flew round and round it and said “we’ve got another decision to make” the first decision wasn’t a good one but anyway we had found this beacon and we flew round it and he said “the only thing is, if it’s a land marker you can bail out but if it’s a sea marker you’ll drown, on the other hand if I decide to ditch the aircraft thinking it’s a sea marker, and it’s a land marker there’s going to be one hell of a bang” so anyway flying around this beacon trying to make our minds up suddenly an airfield lit up beneath us and there it was full runways, perimeter the lot marvellous we’ll land there so we went round to land wheels down, wheels wouldn’t come down, bomb aimer tried the flaps, the flaps wouldn’t work so we overshot. We came round again and this time we blew the wheels down with a compressed air tank that was behind my head in the wireless compartment and they fortunately came down and locked and with the flight engineer pumping like mad on the flaps he managed to hit the ground and roll along Well I went to the back of the aircraft open the door and I saw a chap on a bicycle with a blue torch and I said “aye mate where’s this then?” and he said “Westonzoyland “, I thought what the hell we have landed in Holland it sounded Dutch to me “Westonzoyland!” I said, “where’s that?”, he said “Somerset”. So, there we were got some sort of transport went to the Flying control tower saw the chap that had put the lights on and he said, “the first time you went and you didn’t land, I put my hand out to switch off the lights off again but I thought I’d give them one more chance”. It’s a good job he did, so we thanked, we ran to and thanked the beacon crew because I had been firing red, red greens the pilot had been saying ‘hello darkie this is spot null tear calling darkie’. Flashing the nose light SOS doing all sorts while we circle this beacon, when we went to the flying control we saw a Warrant officer in charge of the signal flight who’d been to the mess for a couple of mugs of tea for him and the WAAF that was working on the radio set, as he came through the door with the two mugs of tea, there was the WAAF under the bench unconscious; the same thing had happened about a fortnight before and an aircraft had called up in distress and then they hadn’t been able to contact it, gone across the Bristol channel crashed into the Welsh mountains , now she thought she was listening to a ghost when she heard us so she passed out under the bench so she was a lot of help. But anyway, it all worked out very nicely, but we had to stay down there for three days while they flew ground crews down from Coningsby to fix the aircraft everything was wrong with it, took them three days to fix it then we went back to Coningsby and then we went on leave. Now in some ways Harry our navigator, this sick navigator saved our lives because while we were on leave they did the Nuremberg raid and the Berlin raid and lost 95 aircraft as you know, so that was very fortunate. After that we carried on and did another thirty three ops, I think it was and then we finally finished our tour of ops, I was posted down to 17 OTU Silverstone as an instructor and stayed there until I was de-mobbed in 1946.
MC: So, you did thirty four ops, more than normal?
AA: Yes, but that was because some bright spark decided that French targets it’s easier than German targets so you had to do three French targets to count as one operation. That’s why it’s got the thirty three, thirty four.
MC: So, you did a few daylight raids?
AA: Yeah, we did about three daylight raids I think but I didn’t believe this business about being easier, because one night my crew, were stood down and the wireless operator in S-sugar was sick so I was told to fly with them. Pilot officer Hallet In S-Sugar so we took off, well after the briefing I was quite pleased in a way that I’d been put with this crew, because it was ten minutes over France flying bomb sites but this was a doddle so off we went got to this flying bomb site just across the channel no flack just lots and lots of searchlights and fighters circling round the outside waiting for us and as we went into bomb they were attacking us three at a time, I have never corkscrewed so hard in my life as I did with Hallet. But anyway, before we had taken off on the ops I was talking to a couple of chaps and the crew wasn’t with me, I was talking to two wireless operators , well three actually Kemish, Donahue, Sutton there was four of us talking and when I came back from the ten minutes over France, Kemish and Donoghue were no longer there, I think there was twenty two aircraft lost on that ten minutes and two were from our squadron and both of them wireless operators, I was chatting to them before we took off, so that was that anyway apart from the normal flying after that there wasn’t a great lot to talk about . I remember one occasion when I was working on the set, suddenly there was a brilliant white flash and I wondered what the hell it was it was like daylight in the cockpit I jumped up on the step stuck my head out the astrodome just in time to see a wing sailing past with two engines on it, and the propellers going round. An aircraft had blown up just in front of us, and the skipper pulling back on the stick trying to miss it so we didn’t hit the damn thing, anyway apart from that I think the rest of their trips were fairly quiet .
MC: So, were most of these daytime raids were following the invasion?
AA: That’s right, yeah, I can show you if you like?
MC: So, this is your logbook?
AA: Yeah.
MC: Its very neat!
AA: Yeah, there’s not a lot in it, I think about eight German targets, and the rest were French but as I said they weren’t as easy as they said they were and eventually of course they rescinded that.
MC: So most of them were fairly uneventful, apart from the ones you told me about?
AA: That's right. Yeah.
MC: So, following the operations you did where did you go then …. what did you do then following when you finished your ops?
AA: Well as I said I went down to 17 OTU at Silverstone and was there until I was demobbed in 46.
MC: Yeah, so your first flight obviously was err….
AA: Traumatic!
MC: Traumatic to say the least even though you didn’t meet any enemy action, during your other operations did you come across any other…you must have come across flack?
AA: Well we saw the flack, it didn’t bother me much it was quite interesting in daylight black puffs it looked very harmless you know it didn’t look dangerous at all. That was my air force career yeah.
MC: So, what happened, so then you did, you did your 19 RFS?
AA: After the war I joined the RAF volunteer reserve because I still couldn’t get the RAF feeling that I liked, I loved being in the RAF to be honest so I joined the RAFVR and used to go down at weekends first to Liverpool, at Liverpool and then we were over at Oulton Park the other side of Birkenhead then finished up at Woodvale, Southport flying at weekends then back to work as a civilian on Monday morning, a fortnights camping every year and that was great until it finally packed up in about 1952 I think round about then. So, then I joined Blackpool Gliding club and got a glider pilots licence just to keep flying and then when that packed up the next flying I did was on the back of my son’s microlight. We bought a microlight aircraft between us, he got the pilot’s licence and I just sat in the back flying around Coningsby, again. When the squadron moved across from Coningsby back from Skellingthorpe we were detailed to fly the aircraft but lot of stuff came by road when we landed we were given a dispersal for the aircraft I left my flying boots at the back near the Elsan and when we had lunch and came back to the aircraft my boots had gone so somebody helped himself, I went to the stores to see if I could get a spare pair and he said “What! I can’t let you have any more flying boots what if you don’t come back from an op I will be one pair of boots short”, which I didn’t like the attitude there so I wouldn’t buy them, he said I could get them on the 664b and I could pay for them, so I thought I’m not damn well paying for them. Just as well id done because when I was demobbed I had to pay for them, six guineas I think.
MC: So, you were demobbed in when? When were you demobbed?
AA: In ‘46’ Whitsontide ?
MC: What did you do after the war then?
AA: I went back to my old job for just six months, oh I’ve got a procession of jobs now and then I went to for work for the Associate of British cinemas as an assistant cinema manager, well a trainee to start with I stuck that for a couple of years and then I left there and went, I was married by then with a son and digs were hard to find so when the area manager came to see me , well first of all I was at Barrow in Furness as assistant cinema manager then I was transferred back to my home town of Lancaster then he came in one day and said “we are transferring you to the Regal Rochdale” and I thought well no you’re not, finding digs was difficult, I packed the job in and went to work for the Shell Oil company down at the Heysham Refinery in the materials office and unfortunately after a while there was a clash of personalities between me and the materials superintendent so I left there, got a job managing a shop in Morecambe seaside town selling pottery, glass wear and fancy goods, and looking out the window I saw all these salesmen coming past in their cars and I thought that looks like a good life much more interesting than this. So, when a chap came in selling me paper, wrapping paper and paper bags and things, or trying to I mentioned to him, and he said, “well come and work for me”, so I did and I stuck that for a couple of years. But I soon found out that being a salesman on the road wasn’t as good as it looked it was hard, hard work you’d have a good week one week and you couldn’t go wrong, the week after you couldn’t sell a thing, no it wasn’t good at all. So, I scanned the local paper and saw a job advertised at the North-west electricity board in the offices so I applied and got the job; in fact, I got two jobs at the same time. One was a job at the what was it…. the aircraft factory Lostock near Bolton I’ve forgotten the name of the aircraft now, well anyway that was one job and I also got the North-west electricity job as well. One would have meant changing home again so I stopped in Lancaster and took the electricity board job and I worked there for eight years until I got bored. I worked first of all on the cash desk as a cashier and then debt collecting and doing all sorts of things. Then I moved into the offices because it looked more in my line in the records office but I then found that I only had three day’s work on a five-day week, so for two days I was scratching around with looking for something to do and I soon got bored with that. So I applied again to the civil service and to NAAFI I saw an advert for NAAFI so the civil service said I could be taken on as a temporary employee it would take some time to become permanent but the NAAFI sent me a railway warrant to come down and see them which I did and of course because I’d worked initially in the Coop as a grocer I knew a little bit about it and then I’d managed the shop in Morecambe as a shop manager they offered me a job as a NAAFI shop manager and I asked could I go to Germany and they said yes we can send you to Germany but your wife will have to stay behind because we can’t accommodate her, I said in that case it’s no good to me, so the chap who was interviewing me said, “well would you be interested in going further afield, in which case your wife could join you ?” I said, “well yes I would” my ears pricked up then and he mentioned North Africa so I thought yes that will do for me, so I signed on there and then went back home, gave my notice in to the electricity board and on the appointed date went down to London, London Airport first day with the NAAFI London Airport flying out to North Africa. So, they sent me fortunately to Casto Benito known as RAF Idris. There was a little family shop there on an RAF station which suited me down to the ground I became an honorary member of the Sergeants mess, and I was in my element there was Air Force all around me but I didn’t have to take any orders because I was civilian and that was fine I was there three year, I had a three year contract I came back to the UK in 1964 , sent me on leave and I stayed on leave and the weeks went by and the months went by and I was still on leave but my salary was being paid into the bank so I wasn’t too concerned . Anyway, suddenly one Friday about four months after I’d being home I got a telegram ‘come down and see us’. So, I went down to see them and apparently two of the officials had been going to lunch and one of them had said “by the way what are you doing with Atkinson?” he said, “well he’s abroad isn’t he?”, “no” he said, “he’s at home on leave.” So that sparked the telegram, when I got down they said would I like to go back to Tripoli again this time to take over the main shop in Tripoli centre which dealt with the Embassy, all the Army, RAF units, any ships coming into Tripoli harbour I dealt with them, so I took the job on and I found it was losing £30 a day was this shop I took over, I didn’t like this so I put measures in to put this right, and in no time at all we were making a profit and this was noted at NAAFI headquarters. So, then it was decided that we would pull out of Tripoli altogether close down, the troops were coming home there were to be no units left in North Africa. So I had to close the shop down and reduce all the stock, close it down came back to the UK went to the headquarters in Peel Court in London for an interview and they said we would like you to attend a board which I did, I didn’t know it at the time but it was a commissioning board for what they called ‘Officials of the Corporation’ because when you became an official you had to be commissioned in the Army as well , on the Army reserve so I thought any how that would do me so I was successfully interviewed particularly with my record of making this shop profitable and they sent me for eighteen months training up and down the country various places, I went down to Plymouth for the ships I went to Scotland for bomb exercise I was all over the place learning about NAAFI official duties and eventually I was qualified and was sent to Anglesey. So, I was on Anglesey for eighteen months and then I got a notification they wanted me to Germany to Bielefeld so I was posted across to Bielefeld for three years.
MC: So, did you have a rank then?
AA: Well the thing is I had a road accident on Anglesey, I stopped my car to post a letter walked across the road and came back and saw a heavy lorry coming towards me so I leaned into the back of my car out of its way and put my foot out and it ran over my foot. Anyway, so when the paper came through with my army commission as a Second Lieutenant in the RASC or logistics core as they call it now, I had to send them back, I said I’m sorry but in view of my injury traversing rough terrain is no good to me because I knew that they sent the district managers on exercise with the Army with the acting rank of Captain in Logistics core, I thought well I can’t wander around hopping about like this to see over NAAFI contingent so as I say I sent the paper back and said I’m sorry that’s it so I didn’t get my commission but I was an honorary Second Lieutenant and when I went to Germany I was given Officers quarters and attended officers Messes and that sort of thing but officially I was a civilian. I did three years in Bielefeld, came back to England posted to Lincolnshire cause my wife came from Boston so this was fine, I spent three years here and then was posted again to Germany to Osnabruck for another three years that was fine I enjoyed that, holidays on the continent down to Italy and all over the place and then came back here again and then in 1982 there was a restructuring programme and all district managers of aged sixty or approaching sixty were dispensed with, but it was a pretty good deal they said that…..I was called down to London most surprised to learn that my service was no longer be required after a certain date when I was sixty in September but that I would get a pension from NAAFI based on the assumption that I reached sixty five which was fair enough so I was retired early at sixty and that was it, and I’ve lived in Lincoln ever since .
MC: I’d just like to go back to your earlier days when you did Air Gunnery training at first didn’t you?
AA: Yes.
MC: Did you, you got your…. so, it was your first brevet?
AA: Yeah that was at Stormy Down.
MC: And you got the Air gunnery brevet.
AA: I did.
MC: And what rank did you get there?
AA: Sergeant.
MC: So, you were Sergeant yeah.
AA: Yeah
MC: So, when you did your Wireless operating training, your brevet changed did it?
AA: Err it was still…. I can’t remember when it changed to be sure, but I know it was changed to an S , Signals but air gunner initially.
MC; That’s brilliant Arthur thank you very much for that. This interview was conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre and the interviewer was Mike Connock and the interviewee was Mr Arthur Atkinson the interview took place at Mr Atkinson’s home in Lincoln on the 23rd June 2015.
AA: Syerston for afternoon tea in Hanson’s and then back to work on a Monday morning.
MC: And this was where?
AA: This was in the volunteer reserve from RAF Woodvale, flying Anson’s. It was great. When I was recalled for my aircraft retraining from RAF Ringway, Manchester I went down at ACRC; Aircrew recruiting centre in London for various things one of them of course was a medical and when we had the medical we found that I had a weak left eye so they said “we will have to get you a pair of special goggles with a lens in the left eye”, fair enough, but unfortunately when my Squad was posted on, the goggle hadn’t come back and I had to wait for them so I was kept back one week when I should have been with my original squad. Then my original squad went on and were posted to India on flying boats.
MC: Oh right.
AA: And because I was kept back a week on a different squad, I finished up on Bomber Command, but if I hadn’t finished up on Bomber Command and being posted to Coningsby I wouldn’t have met my wife. [laughs].
MC: Yes, that’s right.
AA: Because one of the first places I went too was the Gliderdrome in Boston dancing. and met her there, and once we’d met we were together for sixty-three years.
MC: Goodness me.
AA: She died in 2007.
MC: So where did you…you obviously went to Coningsby and from Coningsby you moved on to Skellingthorpe?
AA: Skellingthorpe yeah.
MC: That’s where you did the major part of your tour?
AA: I did all my tour at Skellingthorpe yeah.
MC: All your tour at Skellingthorpe yes!
AA: Yes, all the incidents of interest that I can remember on the ground were at Skellingthorpe, apart from losing my flying boots. We had a mid-upper gunner. He was a Canadian and he used to ride around on a bicycle and he finished up, he got bicycles for the whole crew and we all rode around on bicycles, where he got them from we don’t know but he painted his apple green and I was flying, I was riding down to flights one morning with him got to the MP post and the MP pulled him over and asked him where he got his bike from, apple green, he finished up being court martialled but he said he’d been in a pub in Lincoln, he missed the bus back to camp and somebody offered him a bike so he thought better than walking so he said “I bought the bike and cycled back then I found out next morning it was a service bike but I’d paid good money for it so I painted it apple green” and he stuck to it and got away with it. We all in best blues at the court martial ready to give evidence to say what a good bloke he was, including Bob Acott but they only called Bob and the navigator in and he got away with a severe reprimand but they took him off flying while he was under court martial in case he got killed, they could court martial him if he got killed [laughs] but he was a good lad.
MC: So, the skipper and who, who got the awards you say?
AA: Pilot Bob Acott got the DFC, and Trevor Ward, Ken wrote a book about he got the DFC.
MC: Oh yeah, yeah
AA: Oh dear, we told Ken about the episodes when we one a flew across country to Scotland and our flight engineer Bob, Bill Rudd said to Bob, we were at 20,000 feet on across country one of these two cross countries that were before we went on ops, and Bill Rudd said to Bob “Bob, if you get injured when we’re flying over Germany, you know you’re damaged in any way, who’s going to bring the aircraft back?”. Bob said, “well I haven’t given it a lot of thought really.” He said, ‘Well I think I should!’ He was like that Bill was, so Bob said, “all right fair enough, you can if you like.” He said, “in that case I should have a go at flying it, shouldn’t I?” So, Bob Acott policeman steady said, “you’ve got a good point there.” So, the two of them changed seats at 20,000 feet, then the aircraft stalled it just fell out the sky with the flight engineer in the pilot seat, you know the only left-hand control in a Lanc. Oh god, I clipped my chute on, whether this is what finished the navigator I don’t know, he clipped his chute on, I said “which way are we going out”. I said, “well we can’t go out the front because these two silly buggers are trying to change seats again” [laughs]. Of course, in the back of your mind there’s always that instruction ‘you do not leave the aircraft without the Pilots instruction’ but I thought he’s in no position to instruct anyway, every time they got it in a level keel pushing the stick forward, you know, it stalled again and it kept coming down and we were coming down like a falling leaf. Anyway, they finally changed seats then the flight engineer was running up and down the aircraft finding what had gone wrong, when we found out what had gone wrong it was the trimming tabs on the elevator he’d kicked them as they were changing seats again in, up so that…. Oh dear. And Bill Rudd the same flight engineer he had a chop WAAF, he waved to this WAAF every time he took off, then one time he was waving to her, and waving to her stretching his head round to wave to her and his intercom plug came out as we were tearing down the runway, to take off, so when Bob Acott said ‘full power’, nothing happened Bill wasn’t on intercom we had a full bomb load so I heard him say’ full power’ and eventually he took his, he had to leave belting…we just staggered off Doddington Road end. Bill Rudd, another time on importance we were diverted to Ford, or Tranmere as the sea approached the runway instead of putting full flap down, he took flap off and I could swear the props hit the sea, oh that was our flying. This chap was posted to our crew at Winthorpe and we very soon realised a little bit, not very good we said to Bob, we should get rid of him Bob, this chaps not, well somebody’s got to take it. But he’d been thrown out from the previous crew he’d being in, they’d wised him up and got rid of him. Bob Acott wouldn’t
MC: So, you were always having to compensate for him?
AA: He should have got a medal, the Iron Cross, First Class, he did his dam to kill us [laughs] but we even survived Bill Rudd, I hope that’s not on tape.
MC: It is, [laughs]
AA: Oh dear, a bit of a lad. I saw him later on in the war, I’d been down to Boston with the wife because she came from Boston and I was in Lancaster, I’d driven down in the car and on the way back we were diverted through Harrogate that’s where he lived and I thought he was so keen a medal, was Bill he wanted to climb in the wing and put the engine fire out with a fire extinguisher and stuff like that. Anyway, I suddenly saw a big board and it said, ‘W. Rudd Demolition Contractor’ and I thought this is too much of a coincidence, so I took the address and followed it round and there he was in the garden digging his garden with a …talking to a chap at the same time, I said “Hello Bill, how’s it going? “He, looked at me, he didn’t know, he hadn’t a clue who I was till I provided him what had happened, oh dear that was the only time I saw him. But Dougie May our bomb aimer, I suddenly decided Dougie and me got on very well so I suddenly decided I’d like to see him again if I could so I got the telephone directory out and looked through all the names in Birmingham, he lived in Birmingham and the first one I tried it was his wife answered I said “I’m looking for a chap called Douglas May that served in Bomber Command during the war”, she said “yes, my husband did”, I said “well just go and ask if he remembers Acott’s shower” so that’s exactly what she said, and he was back on the phone in two seconds, went down to see him and I had him and his wife staying here in this house when the memorial was opened we went and I’ve got a video of us marching, the first march we ever did when the memorial was opened, but unfortunately he’s died since.
MC: Did you get to see any of the other crew, the skipper and that did you meet up?
AA: No I didn’t unfortunately no, because we all went to different, I was posted to Silverstone, I know Bob Acott went down to Swinderby, Dougie went somewhere in London I don’t know where the hell he went and of course Trevor Bowyer left us after twenty ops because it was his second tour, and I don’t know what happened to the mid-upper, Al Bryant after his court martial because he didn’t fly with us again.
MC: Oh, didn’t he?
AA: No. presumably went back to Canada, but Dougie was the only one that I met.
MC: So where was the skipper from?
AA: The skipper was from London, he was on the Metropolitan Police. Anyway, I never offered you a cup of tea.
MC: Oh no, you are alright thank you. Thanks lovely thank you Arthur.
AA: So that’s all right then!



Mike Connock, “Interview with Arthur Atkinson,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 18, 2024,

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