Interview with John Derek "Bill" Bailey. One


Interview with John Derek "Bill" Bailey. One


John Derek ‘Bill’ Bailey volunteered for the Air Force when he was 18 and trained as a bomb aimer in Canada. When he arrived he caught scarlet fever and spent five weeks in an isolation hospital. He flew operations as a bomb aimer with 103 and 166 Squadrons from RAF Elsham Wolds and RAF Kirmington.




Temporal Coverage




01:57:37 audio recording


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HB: This is an interview for the International Bomber Command Centre Digital Archive between Harry Bartlett, volunteer interviewer and Mr John Derek Bailey who is normally known as Derek and in the RAF was known as Bill. Pilot officer. And his service number was 198592 and Derek was born on the 2nd of February 1924. Right, Derek. Obviously, we’re interested in what you did before the war as well. So, you know, what, what, where did you actually live before the war?
JDB: I lived on Railway Farm and Shackerdale Farm at Wigston.
HB: Oh right. Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: You’ll know where Shackerdale Farm was.
HB: Yes.
JDB: Because it’s near to where you now live.
HB: Yes. Yes.
JDB: But it’s now gone of course.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Their farm is a housing estate.
HB: Yes, absolutely.
JDB: On both, both sites actually.
HB: Did you, did you go to school in the Wigston area, Derek?
JDB: Yes I did. I went to, I went to school on the Saffron Lane Estate at a junior school and I did the, them days eleven plus exam which I passed and I got accepted to go to the Gateway School in Leicester and then the authorities found or discovered that where we lived on the farm which was then Railway Farm at the time which is up alongside the cemetery.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Was actually in the county of Leicester and not in the city. So they wouldn’t let me go to the Gateway School.
HB: Oh dear.
JDB: So, so I therefore ended up going to South Wigston Intermediate School and there I remained until I passed the, there was a school leaving examination. It was called the EMEU, the East Midland Education Union and I passed that and I was then fourteen and a half and I was supposed to stay at school ‘til I was fifteen but because I’d passed this exam and finished they let me leave school in August and I went to work as a trainee draughtsman which is what I wanted to do, at Constone, in South Wigston and then the war started of course. I left school in 1938 and then I was still working there at Constone and the building materials, the reconstructed stonework that Constone manufactured became a sort of luxury building side, side stream thing and they finished up building air raid shelters mainly which minimised the need for a draughtsman so I, I got a bit fed up and I decided I’d like to leave and you had to go to the Labour Exchange. You couldn’t just do what you wanted in those days and so I went and they allowed me to leave Constone and I was sent to Fred Edling at Blaby to work there and I got on very well with Fred. I did a bit of draughtsmanshiping for him and -
HB: What did he do? What was that firm doing?
JDB: He was road transport.
HB: Right.
JDB: And he was the first, first haulier in Leicester, Leicestershire, to have a low loader and doing what you might call heavy haulage and I got on alright there. Very well. And so on my eighteenth birthday, I’d already made my mind up about this because I was in the Air Training Corps when it was formed in 1941 and I decided I wanted to go into the air force. You had to be eighteen. And on my eighteenth birthday I got on my bike and went down to Ulverscroft Road in Leicester and enlisted in the Royal Air Force and I went home and told my mum I’d just joined the Air Force and she burst in to tears of course.
HB: Yeah. Well you would wouldn’t you?
JDB: Yeah. And anyway so it was now I did the various acceptance tests and all that sort of thing and then they said, ‘Ok, you’re in,’ and I was given, I got a letter actually from Sir Archibald Sinclair who was the secretary of state for something or other, air I suppose and I was given what was called deferred service and so I was sent, I was, I was given a number and everything, sent home to carry on doing what I was doing until they sent for me and so -
HB: So when, when would that be, Derek?
JDB: Well I joined on the 2nd of February of course and they gave me this deferred service to wait until I was called so I was working for Fred and he, he said to me, he had an office in London as well, in Deptford and he said, the manager down there was, got called up, so he said to me, ‘Would you go down and run London office for the time being ‘til you go?’ And I was only eighteen mind.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Anyway, I said, ‘Yes.’ So one Monday morning on to one of his lorries, as a passenger of course and off we went to London and I’d been down there for, I can’t remember a time, a few weeks anyway and I said I’d like to come home for the weekend so he said ok so on one of the lorries again, back home and when I got home there was a letter waiting for me from the air ministry and it was to give me joining instructions to report to Air Crew Reception Centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground.
HB: Oh right.
JDB: On the 27th of July 1942. You can never forget some of these dates can you?
HB: No. No. No. I wouldn’t have thought. Yeah.
JDB: Yeah. The 27th of July.
HB: They’re important.
JDB: I reported, reported to Lord’s Cricket Ground and that started my RAF career then. So do you want me to just go on?
HB: Derek, whatever you want to tell me. I’m, I’m enthralled now. I mean when you went to the, to Lord’s Cricket Ground.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Did you do tests to decide what branch you were going to go in or –
JDB: Oh no.
HB: Did you just get brought in?
JDB: No. I should have told you that. When I joined and I went over to Birmingham for attestation as they called it and medicals and God knows what and I had the medical. They said, I wanted to be a pilot you see and they said, they did the medicals and said, ‘Sorry. You can’t be a pilot but you can be a navigator.’ I said, ‘Well why can’t I be a pilot then?’ He said, ‘Because you’ve got a defect in your eyesight. You -
HB: Oh.
JDB: It’s a convergency problem and you would probably try to land an aircraft about twelve or fifteen feet off the deck.’
HB: Right.
JDB: And so –
HB: Not something you want to do.
JDB: No. No. That’s right. ‘So you, so you’ll have to be, you’ll be a UT navigator.’ So that’s what I went to be. Now then. We got to Lord’s Cricket Ground. There, we were there for I think it was either two or three weeks. It wasn’t long and you got all your jabs for this, that and every other bloody thing and oh this one, I remember one morning we were on parade. Now, I was among those who were one up because we’d already done the drill.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: We could do that.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: We didn’t have to be taught and so on and one morning we were on parade and some sadistic bloody corporal calls out names, ‘Right. One pace forward the following. Bailey JD.’ I went, ‘Yes,’ and that was me and about another two guys and he said, ‘You’ve volunteered to give a pint of blood.’ I said, ‘Oh. Oh thank you very much corporal.’ Oh no. No. That’s alright. You know so, I said ‘What do you want a pint of my blood for?’ He said, ‘Well you’ve got an unusual blood group and they need your blood to group other people’s blood.’ But, now I don’t understand that. But -
HB: No. No but -
JDB: Anyway, that’s -
HB: Yeah.
JDB: What was said.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And that was just one of the things.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
JDB: Then we were marched off to the cinema to watch gory VD films and -
HB: Yeah.
JDB: You know, keep clear.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And all that sort of thing and then after I think it was about three weeks, they said, ‘Right you’re being posted now to await your next posting. You’re going to Ludlow to a camp until you’re posted to Initial Training Wing,’ and we went to Ludlow which, there were three wings there of all UT aircrew.
HB: UT’s under training.
JDB: Under training.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: UT air crew and there were so many airmen in Ludlow that they only let one wing out on the town each night. Not that that prevented us doing so but anyway that was, that was Ludlow. So it was three weeks at Ludlow and then the posting came through and I was lucky. I got a nice posting to, I’ve forgotten the number of the ITW now but it’s in, it’s in, I’ve got a record of it somewhere and off we went by train to Ludlow and we got, yeah we got off the train, ‘Fall in, pick up your kit,’ kitbag on your back. March down to, I was billeted in the Torbay Hotel on the seafront.
HB: Oh.
JDB: On the harbour. It’s not called the Torbay Hotel now but it, you can still see where it was written on the wall and there we were and we were at Torbay in Paignton until New Year’s Day would you believe and in that time we did various subjects like, well all sorts of subjects. Meteorology, air navigation, armoury, gunnery. The Browning 303 machine gun, the mainstay of nearly everything.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: I remember a corporal armourer giving a lecture on the Browning 303 machine gun. He’d got one on the desk in front of him and he said, it was his party piece, he starts off saying, ‘This is the Browning 303 machine gun. It works by recoil action. When the gun is fired the bullet nips smartly up the barrel hotly pursued by the gasses.’ [laughs]
HB: I like it. It was a good description.
JDB: I always remember that Harry.
HB: Yeah. Good description. Yeah.
JDB: It was a party piece that was.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Anyway -
HB: So this, this was New Year’s Day. 19 -
JDB: New Year’s Day 1943.
HB: ‘43 right.
JDB: Yeah and I hadn’t my great coat on up till that day.
HB: Oh.
JDB: And we were posted from there to Brighton and it was like going to the bloody North Pole.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Compared with Paignton and then we were, and Brighton was a holding unit. You’ll hear that word a lot actually.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Holding units while waiting to go somewhere else and we got there and we marched up and down and roundabout and all that and, and one day whoever it was, I can’t remember, probably a sergeant or flight sergeant got us on parade and said, ‘Right, now then, the air ministry have invented a new trade in the air crew trades and it’s called an air bomber.’ Instead of a navigator dropping the bombs as well he hadn’t got time to do that so we now have got a trade called air bomber and the air bomber will be the second pilot, he will be the radar navigator, he will drop the bombs and various other things. The Daily Sketch had a full front page and it said, “This guy’s job is no joke” and it listed our full list of jobs. [laughs]
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Anyway, this guy who had gone on parade said, ‘The air ministry have invented this new trade. Now, anybody who would like to volunteer to move from UT navigator to air bomber we will guarantee a quick posting instead of being sat here for weeks on end,’ And so, so of course Derek Bailey was one of those who stepped forward.
HB: Right.
JDB: Very quickly and within a week we were on our way to Heaton Park, Manchester ready for embarkation to Canada.
HB: Oh right.
JDB: And -
HB: So, how did you, so you went to Heaton Park.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Got booked in there, and then from there you went to Canada.
JDB: Went up to go to Glasgow to board ship.
HB: Oh right. So you went from Glasgow. Right.
JDB: Yeah from Port Glasgow. It was on a ship called the Andes and the minute it left the Clyde I was seasick and I was seasick till I got off in Halifax.
HB: Oh no.
JDB: Nova Scotia.
HB: Oh dear.
JDB: Yeah. Anyway, so then we were in Canada. We went from Halifax, Nova Scotia on the train to Monkton.
HB: Right.
JDB: New Brunswick. Which was a massive camp for all air crew who went to Canada for training. Went through Monkton and came back through Monkton.
HB: Oh right.
JDB: It was a massive place.
HB: So, what, what was its purpose? Just a –
JDB: Just a transit camp.
HB: Just a transit to get you in, get you sorted.
JDB: That’s it, get you with some extra bits of kit.
HB: Right.
JDB: Like, we got there in the winter of course and it was bloody cold you know and if you were to walk around without your ears covered up they’d be frozen.
HB: Oh dear.
JDB: Anyway. So that was it the. Eventually they got us on a train and sent us out to Carberry in Manitoba to another, which was an, which was a training station. Pilot training. And they just sent us there to be housed until they were ready for us where we were supposed to be and we got to Carberry and we, and every so often on the way over through Ottawa and Montreal and where else did we go? Where the train stopped and they took some bodies off with scarlet fever.
HB: Oh dear.
JDB: And we got to Carberry and we’d been there about a day and I got my sore throat and whatever and I’d got it, scarlet fever, along with others and I spent five weeks in hospital just feeling alright and doing nothing but you know. I went from, they took me, took us from Carberry to a place called Brandon in Saskatchewan in an isolation hospital. You know scarlet fever is highly, what’s the word I want?
HB: Contagious.
JDB: That’s it. And, and there we were. Then we got two weeks leave, sick leave, after the five weeks. Myself and another bloke from Manchester we got five weeks, no, two weeks sick leave and all the pay for the five weeks as well had accrued and off we went on the train to Winnipeg and had a holiday in Winnipeg.
HB: Oh dear.
JDB: Yeah. Lovely.
HB: I bet you enjoyed that.
JDB: Oh we did.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: We did. I learned to skate among other things. Anyway, and then eventually we got posted off to Picton, Ontario which was number 31 Bombing And Gunnery School and that’s where we did our first bomb dropping and air firing of, not a Browning, it was Vickers gas operated -
HB: So -
JDB: Machine.
HB: When you got to Picton -
JDB: Yeah.
HB: The, were, were you actually going up in aircraft?
JDB: Oh yeah. When we got to Picton that was the start of the serious business of training.
HB: Right.
JDB: And we were, you were learning bomb aiming and air gunnery.
HB: Right.
JDB: We used to do, the air firing was shooting at drogues towed by Lysanders. I don’t know if you were aware of what they are.
HB: The, the, yeah. Yeah.
JDB: A Lyssie.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. High wing and over the top.
JDB: That’s it. Yeah. That’s it. Yeah. And -
HB: So where were you firing from? What sort of, were you flying from an aircraft?
JDB: From a, from a Bolingbroke which is a Canadian built Blenheim.
HB: Right. A Bolingbroke.
JDB: Bolingbroke. Yeah. It was the same, same aircraft.
HB: Right.
JDB: But Canadian built as a Blenheim.
HB: Right.
JDB: Oh and the bombing we did from Ansons.
HB: Oh yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Ansons. With ten pound practice bombs.
HB: Right.
JDB: We did eight in an exercise normally.
HB: And how often, how often would you expect to sort of go up and do that in your time there? Would that be every couple of days?
JDB: I count them in my logbook.
HB: Right. It would be sort of every few days would it?
JDB: Oh yeah. Yeah. And then when we finished at Picton, that part of the training, we were moved to Mount Hope which is at the end side of lake, what lake is that one? No, not Erie. Lake Ontario.
HB: Lake Ontario. Yeah.
JDB: Yeah. Of course it is. So Picton is sort of one side of Toronto, in the, Picton [island in the lake].
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And Mount Hope was the other end at Hamilton. Mount Hope is now Hamilton Airport.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
JDB: And they have, they have, I’ve been there in the last few years. They have there the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum I think they call it and they’ve got a load of aircraft there including one Lancaster.
HB: Oh right.
JDB: Which are all flying examples. They haven’t got any statics. They don’t have, don’t want static aeroplanes. They want aeroplanes that can fly and so that’s at Mount Hope and we did our navigation part of the training there and having completed that we then got our wing, our single wing. It, it was what used to be called a flying arsehole. The old brevvy was. You know.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: And then having got that presented on wings parade I think, I think we were back in England, we got back to England and the air ministry decided that that was going to be abolished, that wing, and we were going to have a single wing like other trades and it would say, it would have a B in it so that’s what I’ve got and -
HB: So when, so you finished your training.
JDB: At Mount Hope.
HB: At Mount Hope.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: And then you came back through Monkton.
JDB: Back through Monkton.
HB: And you got back to England.
JDB: Well we got back to, yeah. There were about a dozen of us put on to the ship, the Mauretania, when we came back and we were put on and we were sergeants now. We got promoted to sergeant at the same time as getting the wing.
HB: Right.
JDB: And, yeah that’s right and we were put on the ship and we were sent, well there were, I think about a dozen of us. The OC troops was a squadron leader and we were his crew and we said, ‘What are we here for?’ He said, ‘Well tomorrow we’re embarking a load of American,’ you know, their Pioneer Corps type.
HB: Right.
JDB: You know, engineers or whatever you call them and these Americans all came on board and that was a joke if ever you’ve seen one. We got them all. They didn’t know where they were going. They thought they were going to Iceland and then they said, they were saying to us, ‘Well, where do we pick up the convoy then?’ We should have said, ‘What convoy.’ [laughs]
HB: Oh dear, oh dear.
JDB: Oh dear. ‘Well we just go and nip off smartly and keep out the way of bloody U-boats if any.’ And so that was that.
HB: So was the Mauretania. Was that a liner?
JDB: It was. Yeah. It was quite a -
HB: A big.
JDB: Modern liner.
HB: Right. Yeah.
JDB: That was. Funnily enough a pal of mine who lived in Hinckley and he died recently but he, I told him I’d been on the Mauretania he was an avid cruiser and he produced a photograph of the Mauretania for me.
HB: Lovely. Lovely.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Oh that’s very -
JDB: Yeah
JB: So where, what sort of dates are we talking about you getting back to England then?
JDB: It was not long before Christmas 1943.
HB: Right. Well that’s a good long time then.
JDB: We were there, we were over there nearly a year.
HB: Blimey.
JDB: Within a year.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And I came home. We landed in Liverpool and we went to Harrogate which was a holding unit, another holding unit. Holding unit for air crew returning from abroad.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: After training. Pending posting to the next training unit so there we were at Harrogate, over Christmas actually. But just before Christmas as I say we went home on leave in December and we got, I got, I think we got about a week’s leave so went home in December and I went home and saw my grandad in Wigston in Bushloe End.
HB: Oh right, yeah.
JDB: And, I think he was in Bushloe End still. No they weren’t. They were in Manor Street, they lived in Manor Street then and my grandad he was eighty five and he said to me, ‘Hello boy,’ he said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to come home.’ And within a week he’d passed away.
HB: Oh.
JDB: And I went to the funeral while I was home.
HB: Oh.
JDB: Amazing. And then we went back, back to Harrogate and we were billeted in the Grand Hotel overlooking Valley Gardens in Harrogate and waiting where to go and then we, we, we got moved to another little holding unit as part of the, I’m trying to think of the name of the place between Preston and Blackpool.
HB: Padgate?
JDB: Who?
HB: Padgate?
JDB: No.
HB: No that was further up wasn’t it?
JDB: No the -
HB: That was Blackpool.
JDB: No that was further down. There was -
HB: Preston. Blackpool.
JDB: There’s a prison there now. I think it might be an open prison.
HB: Oh.
JDB: On the camp where we were and I’ve forgotten the name of it. It begins with K. Oh never mind anyway it doesn’t matter very much. I could easily find out. It’s about half way between Preston and Blackpool.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: And we were stuck there for a few weeks and then got posted to North Wales to near Pwllheli and Ansons. It was a, it was an Advanced Flying Unit and it was equipped with Ansons and we did the bombing in, in the cove off, off the, just off the coast by Pwllheli.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And that was only a few weeks, you know. Went and did a bit of infra-red bombing and one thing or another.
HB: I was just going, I was just going to ask you Derek about the bomb sights because the time you went in for the training they must –
JDB: They were Mark 9 bomb sights up till now.
HB: Yeah. Right.
JDB: Ok.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: If you want to know more about that I can tell you but –
HB: Yeah.
JDB: But they were Mark 9 bomb sights up to that, up to this point.
HB: Right.
JDB: Then when we’d done the bombing bit we went to the 9, number 9 OAFU Observer Advanced Flying Unit. We were split into two parts. The bombing bit was at, just outside Pwllheli at, I forgot what it was called now. Aber some bloody thing. It would be in Wales wouldn’t it?
HB: Abersoch.
JDB: No, not quite as far -
HB: No.
JDB: As that. Anyway, we got moved then to Llandwrog which is Caernarfon Airport as such now and we’d got Ansons again but in the navigation role and we just roamed around the Irish Sea. They had an infra-red target on the end of the pier at Douglas on the Isle of Man and various other places and -
HB: So an infra-red target. What, what would that have been?
JDB: Infra-red, well a camera with, an infra-red camera pointing upwards and if you flew over it with an open shutter camera you get a trace.
HB: Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: You know, you could work out where your bombs would have fallen.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: And various other types of funny targets they used as well and anyway that was at Llandwrog and then they put, one morning we went in and they’d put a list up of various OTU’s, that’s Operational Training Units that you could express a preference for which you went to.
HB: Very nice.
JDB: Would you believe?
HB: Yeah, very nice.
JDB: And so you’d got found, on this list one was Desborough and I thought that’ll do me. That’s not far from home. So I put down for Desborough. When, when we came to be formed up to go and they said, ‘Righto. This group here, you’re going to Peplow aren’t you?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I thought we were going to Desborough.’ ‘Well. Well, it’s Peplow.’ Anyway, off we went to Peplow and I still thought we were going to bloody Desborough. Anyway, we ended at Peplow which happens to be over by Newport, Salop.
HB: Yeah
JDB: Shropshire.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Where my daughter now lives. She lives just by there. Anyway, we got to, we got, finally got to Peplow. There we were. The next day there was a load of aircrew there just arrived. Pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, engineers, oh no we didn’t have a flight engineer at that stage. Gunners and so on and we were all, all were put in to a hangar, a big hangar and wandering around like bloody lost sheep and he said, ‘Right sort yourselves out, get yourself into crews of seven.’ And that’s how we -
HB: And that was it.
JDB: Formed a crew.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Somebody came to me and said, ‘I’m in George Knott’s crew. Can you join us as a bomb aimer?’ I said, ‘Yeah, ok.’ And that was it. Just so. Just like that.
HB: And these were blokes, you’d not, obviously not met any of these other guys other than the bomb aimers.
JDB: Well no.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: We just met for the first time.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: All of us. So we did and then we had, then we did our training there.
HB: So, so in that hangar from that day.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: You came, all came together as a group of seven.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: So that’s your pilot.
JDB: I think we had seven at that stage but we only had one gunner on Wellingtons you see. So that -
HB: So you were crewing up for Wellingtons.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Right.
JDB: Oh that’s what we were crewing up for.
HB: Right.
JDB: I think we only had one gunner. We picked a second gunner up somewhere else and then when we got to Heavy Conversion Unit. Yeah. That was our next move. We went to a Heavy Conversion Unit at Sandtoft up near Doncaster.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
JDB: Which is, which was, a Halifax, equipped with Halifax 2s and 5s. Merlin engined Halifaxes and the bloody accident record there was so bad that it was named Prangtoft.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Instead of Sandtoft. Yeah.
HB: Because, because it was a while before they changed the engines wasn’t it?
JDB: Well yeah.
HB: In the Halifax.
JDB: Yes and 4 Group which was the only group to operate Halifaxes. They, they got Halifax 3s which were radial engined.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And they were a superb aeroplane but they were useless at the others. Bloody terrible things. They were nice and comfortable for the crew.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: But the performance was, left a bit to be desired.
HB: So when you went to the Heavy Conversion Unit -
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Did you carry on with Wellingtons or did you move to the Halifaxes?
JDB: No. Moved straight to the Halifaxes.
HB: You went into the Halifaxes. Right.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Halifaxes and then when we’d finished on conversion to Halifaxes we then got posted to Lanc Finishing School to do only a week for the pilot to convert from Halifax to Lancaster. And -
HB: Right.
JDB: The Lancaster was a superb aeroplane. Still is.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Superb. We got, went on this and they gave you, gave us a familiarisation flight and, for the skipper and I can always remember going on this flight. We did a ninety degree turn in to two dead engines you know, them down.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Without losing any height.
HB: Blimey.
JDB: Superb aeroplane it was and that was at, and I’ve been trying to think of the name of the bloody place and I can’t at the moment, where we did that but it was about halfway between Lincoln and the Humber.
HB: Would it be in your logbook?
JDB: Yes. It would.
HB: Here you are. Let me have a look and I’ll see if I can find that. So what date are we talking about roughly there?
JDB: I can’t remember.
HB: Oh. This is, yeah this is it this is marked air bomber. Air bomber, navigation. Wow.
JDB: Yeah [laughs]
HB: Yeah.
JDB: We never used the term air bomber really. It was a bomb aimer.
HB: It was, I was going to say it was something I hadn’t come across until I started doing this.
JDB: Well it was a B on the brevvy for starters.
HB: Yeah. Right. Hang on a minute. Where are we? That’s obviously Canada that is. ’43.
JDB: Yeah it would be on a bit Harry.
HB: ‘43 and we’ve got 83 OTU at Peplow.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. That’s all on the Wellington and then we’ve got Sandtoft at Doncaster.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: You did a bit of night flying at Sandoft then.
JDB: Oh yeah.
HB: Yeah. Where are we now? C flight. Hemswell.
JDB: Hemswell. That’s it.
HB: Hemswell. Familiarisation. Yeah.
JDB: Number 1 Lanc Finishing School.
HB: Yeah. Yes. Yes. I found that now.
JDB: Yeah. And from there we went to 103.
HB: Right. Because you had a pilot there, that was your Lancaster there was SCF2 and BCX.
JDB: There was the one that we got shot up. That was the second trip.
HB: Right. Yeah so that, so that takes you through, that takes you through to August ’44.
JDB: That’s right. Yeah. It was after D-Day.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Just after D-Day.
HB: Yeah. Blimey. Oh right yeah now it really starts doesn’t it?
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Elsham Wolds.
JDB: Yeah. Look at that first operation at Elsham.
HB: Yeah. 11th of August 1944. I’m reading this obviously Derek because, because, you know, your eyes aren’t so clever now.
JDB: I can’t even see it.
HB: And the pilot officer was Knott. Pilot Officer Knott. Air bomber. Cross country. That was, so that was your training flights.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Cross country air-sea firing and then, what? There’s one here. I’ve seen this before and I’ve never thought to ask about it Derek. It’s got the 24th of August 1944 and it’s got Knott and your duties as air bomber and it’s got Y cross country. What does the Y mean?
JDB: Y. Oh it was, Y cross country. It was, it was a radar.
HB: Ah.
JDB: Now what were we using ‘cause we were using Gee and -
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Y. I think it might have been the start of H2S.
HB: Oh right. Yeah. Yeah, I’ve heard of H2S so -
JDB: Yeah.
HB: That would be like the forerunner then. Yeah.
JDB: Yeah. I think so. Something, something like that.
HB: Blimey and then yeah, you’re right. Then it’s your first operation and you’re straight in to Stettin.
JDB: Yeah. Just look at that -
HB: Stettin.
JDB: First operation. The time.
HB: Nine hours twenty five.
JDB: Nine hours twenty five minutes airborne.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: In a bloody Lancaster.
HB: At night. Yeah.
JDB: At night.
HB: Blimey, that, that is a, is a long -
JDB: That’s a long drag.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Believe me.
HB: Mind you, Stettin, Stettin was always a good -
JDB: Stettin. Yeah we went up over Sweden to get there. That’s why it took so long.
HB: Did the Swedes not complain?
JDB: Yeah they did.
HB: Did they?
JDB: They fired. They opened fire but they’re flak was at about ten thousand feet and we were at eighteen.
HB: Oh right so they did, so the Swedes -
JDB: They were very -
HB: The Swedes actually opened fire on you.
JDB: Oh yeah they were very accomo, they had to you see
HB: Yeah.
JDB: They were very accommodating.
HB: Yeah. What are, now what are you trying to say Derek [laughs] are you trying to say they were either bad gunners or they perhaps the -
JDB: No. I’m saying that they were very accurate gunners.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: And made sure the flak didn’t go up near us.
HB: [laughs] I understand that. Blimey. So that, and that and that was with a five hundred pound LD, seven cans thirty pounds and seven cans four pound incendiaries.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: That’s a good load, that’s a good load. It’s still -
JDB: It is on that maximum range.
HB: Yeah. I was going to say that is on a long one like that.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: And then your next one is [Argonville?].
JDB: Yeah. We got shot to pieces.
HB: Yeah and you say it’s shot to pieces right.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: You tell me what you, what you remember of being shot to pieces and I’ll tell you what you’ve written in your logbook.
JDB: Damaged by flak haven’t I?
HB: Yeah. That’s all it says.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: What happened there then?
JDB: Well at [Argonville] it was a flying bomb sight and we, that first trip when we went to Stettin it was, it was a doddle apart from weariness. We didn’t have any opposition apart from anti-aircraft fire which was sporadic to say the least and then we thought oh [Argonville] it’s only in France bloody hell piece of [?] it was. We got, we were briefed to bomb as I remember I think about seven thousand feet and we got over there and the target was cloud obscured. Couldn’t see it at all so the, and it was a master bomber raid so the master bomber called us up and said that, ‘Target obscured by cloud,’ called main force you know.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Descend to, descend to, I can’t remember exactly but say four thousand feet or five thousand feet, descend to five thousand feet or whatever it was. ‘No opposition.’ That was the master bomber who turned out to be, I understand the master bomber was Mr VC himself as a wing commander. What’s his name?
HB: Guy Gibson.
JDB: No.
HB: Cheshire.
JDB: Cheshire.
HB: Len Cheshire.
JDB: Correct.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Wing Commander Cheshire. So anyway we descended, we broke cloud and there were bloody shells bursting around us.
HB: Crikey.
JDB: I was looking out the front of the aircraft and there were two shell bursts right in front of me. And so I was down the front, down the nose, ready to drop the bombs and Paddy the rear gunner shouts, ‘We’re on fire skip,’ and we weren’t on fire. It was all the hydraulic fluid buggering off and we, we sort of over flew the target. I pressed the tit and nothing happened and so we did a circuit and I changed the main fuse and I pressed the tit again and nothing happened again so we couldn’t drop the bombs so we, we left the target area and started to make our way home. We were going to come up the North Sea and drop the bombs so, this was all my job you see. My responsibility. So I got the wireless op to help me and we, once we got over the dropping zone in the North Sea I got with me my piece of wire and dropped all the bombs manually.
HB: Oh.
JDB: Into the North Sea.
HB: Yeah
JDB: And then we then we realised we’d got no hydraulics so we couldn’t, we couldn’t do anything with the undercarriage or the flaps but you could, you could blow the undercarriage down by compressed air.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
JDB: But you could only do it once and once you’d done it you’d done it, you know and then -
HB: Yeah.
JDB: They were down –
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And they had to stay down so we made our way back to, towards Elsham and we were flying with, I think we put the wheels down at some point. I can’t remember, and we were going to do a flapless landing and, you know, which we did actually.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And we did, we did a bit of a hairy landing, rolled down the runway and hoped we could stop because we’d got no brakes either. No brakes and whatever and eventually we got the aircraft to the end of the runway and rolled it on to dispersal and a shell had burst just under the bloody bomb bay. God, we were near to it you know and all the wiring had gone and the hydraulic pipes had, were fractured and that’s where all the hydraulic fluid had gone and –
HB: That was -
JDB: Well that was that.
HB: Somebody was sitting on your shoulders that day weren’t they?
JDB: Well yeah that’s right. And then George went into briefing and got a right bollocking. He said, ‘You only just missed the bloody sergeant’s mess when you came in to land, Knott.’
HB: That’s George, that’s George. Is that Pilot Officer Knott? The pilot. George
JDB: Yeah. Yeah.
HB: Blimey.
JDB: He was not a happy chappy.
HB: I’m not surprised. So who, who were, what were the names of your crew on that one Derek?
JDB: The crew, there was my, there was George Knott was the skipper.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: I was the bomb aimer of course. Ron Archer was the nav.
HB: The navigator.
JDB: Yes.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
JDB: Wally Williams was the flight engineer. Gus Leigh, I sent him a card today and I hope he’s still alive. He lives, he lives in Ripon.
HB: Right.
JDB: And where was I?
HB: Gus.
JDB: Gus. His name’s not Gus it’s Wilf.
HB: Wilf.
JDB: But we always called him, he was always known as Gus.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: In the air force. Anyway. Wilf Leigh, he was the wireless operator. He was the old man of the crew as well as it happened.
HB: How old was he then?
JDB: Well I was twenty one, I think. No I wasn’t. I was twenty -
HB: Yeah.
JDB: When I did my operations. He was about well I’m not quite sure. I think he was about six years older than me.
HB: Oh a real old fella then.
JDB: Well, yeah. I mean I can account for all of my crew except the gunners.
HB: Right.
JDB: I’ve never been able to find them. Anyway, I’ll tell you about him later.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: But where, where was I? Yeah. That’s it.
HB: So you have Gus Leigh
JDB: Is the wireless op.
HB: Which gunner? He was the wireless op.
JDB: Jock Gregg, John Gregg was the mid upper and a little, little guy called, was the youngest member of the crew actually was Paddy Anderson was the rear gunner. He was only a small chap. Fitted in to the rear turret quite nicely. Yeah.
HB: [laughs] Right. And this was, that, that was, the Lancaster designation for that one was PM Papa Mike.
JDB: Yeah. PM was the -
HB: And then it was.
JDB: Designation letters -
HB: Yeah.
JDB: for 103.
HB: For 103 yeah.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: So that, and that was N. The letter N for that. Would that be for Nan in those days?
JDB: Nan, yes. N.
HB: N-Nan. Yeah. Yeah. ‘Cause I’d forgotten ‘cause you’d gone into that and by now.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: You were then posted obviously to Elsham Wolds.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Into 103 squadron then.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: So at some stage George Knott between Hemswell and Elsham Wolds he got promoted to pilot officer.
JDB: Yes. That’s right.
HB: So that was, that was another party then was it?
JDB: No. He was, he, it was automatic promotion up to flight lieutenant.
HB: Right.
JDB: George was a, what happened was while we were at Sandtoft George was then a flight sergeant. We were an all NCO crew.
HB: Right. Yeah.
JDB: And George got sent for while we were at Sandtoft to see the station commander and he went in to see him and he said to him, ‘Right. Flight sergeant, you are, you are to apply for a commission. The air ministry have decided that captains of four-engined aircraft shall be commissioned.’ So George said to the station commander, ‘But I don’t want to be commissioned sir. I have an all NCO crew and I’d like to stay with them.’ And he said, ‘It is air ministry policy Knott. You will do as you’re told.’
HB: Blimey. Yeah. I mean that’s, that’s not exactly, that’s not an argument you’re going to win is it?
JDB: No. Are you alright?
HB: Yeah. I’m just, I’m just making sure that we’re on track with the recorder ‘cause it did let me down once so I’m very very cautious of it. Making sure it’s working right. Yeah. It’s working fine.
JDB: And there we are.
HB: Yeah so then, I mean looking at this you’ve got quite a few daylight operations.
JDB: Yes.
HB: And there was one here caught my eye which was Cap Gris Nez.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: The only Gris Nez I know is sort of the Channel Islands.
JDB: No. Cap Gris Nez is near Calais.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Right
[Door opens.]
JDB: Hello Henry.
Other: Hello grandad.
JDB: Hello George.
HB: Here’s the boys. I tell you what we can do. We, ‘cause you sound like you need a drink.
JDB: You’re alright Harry.
HB: We’ll just pause it a minute.
[machine paused]
HB: Right. Resuming, resuming the interview.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: And we’re looking at, its now round about twenty to four.
JDB: Blimey.
HB: And today is the 7th I forgot to say that at the beginning. It’s the 7th of December.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: 2016
JDB: Yeah.
HB: You see I was getting excited ‘cause you got your logbook out. So, right, so you did obviously things like Le Havre and Calais.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Were all in, all in support of the drive forward in to Europe.
JDB: Yeah. All in support of the troops on the ground.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: ‘Cause if you recall all of those things the channel ports were sort of all bypassed by the ground forces and surrounded.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And sort of tidied up afterwards.
HB: Right.
JDB: And not, not a pretty sight at times, I can tell you.
HB: No. No they must have been quite difficult on that one. So, yeah, so there was, so we’re going through from August the 11th ‘44 when you start with 103 and we get to the 28th, yeah 28th of September ‘44 and that’s, and you summarise that. You’ve done, blimey, one two, three, four. You’ve done well over ten daylight, thirteen, fourteen, fourteen daylight ops there and then we come to the 19th of October and you’re joining 166 squadron now.
JDB: Yes. That’s right.
HB: At Kirmington.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: So -
JDB: Well -
HB: What was Kirmington like at that time?
JDB: What do you mean?
HB: Well what was it like as an airfield then? ‘Cause it’s -
JDB: Oh it was a perfectly functional airfield. They had got rid of all of their Wellingtons and were fully equipped with, with Lancs and the reason we went there was because they had to form a new A flight at Kirmington and they pinched two crews from 103 and we were one of the two.
HB: Oh right. So you didn’t volunteer for it obviously you were just -
JDB: Oh no. No. We just were told just do it.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: You know.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And Kirmington was a more pleasant place to be than Elsham because Elsham was up on top of the Wolds you know going towards the Humber and the road from Barnetby up to the Humber Bridge goes through the middle of the airfield.
HB: Oh right. Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Yeah. And there’s a water works up there where there’s a big memorial to 103 and 576 squadron. They shared that airfield.
HB: Yeah. ‘Cause I mean here you’re doing, you’re back on doing, well you’ve got a six hour night operation there to Essen. That’s what, that’s October ‘44 and you’ve got, oh you got hit again then on an operation to Cologne.
JDB: Where?
HB: Cologne.
JDB: Oh yeah. Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Again another one of those little simple statements. “Aircraft damaged by flak,” you know.
JDB: Well yeah. Not badly though.
HB: Oh that was a bit better was it that time?
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. But what’s intriguing me here is -
JDB: Sorry.
HB: What’s intriguing me Derek is there’s another one to Cologne the following night and you’re taking off at twenty seven minutes past five and it’s got, you’ve written in your logbook. “Aborted. Rear gunner unconscious.”
JDB: Yeah. He was. We did a crew check. A crew check. No response from Paddy. Went down to him and he was out cold and I think it turned out to be a trapped pipe, oxygen pipe or some bloody thing.
HB: Oh right.
JDB: I can’t remember exactly.
HB: So that, so obviously that that was abortive. I mean, how far you were in to it? Can you remember?
JDB: No. Not far.
HB: No far. Oh right.
JDB: Didn’t count.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Didn’t count for the count up, you know.
HB: Oh right. Oh dear. Oh right yeah ‘cause yeah that’s I see what you mean two hours fifteen minutes and it was five hours forty for the previous one. So, so then, I mean, blimey you still did some fairly lengthy ops didn’t you?
JDB: Oh yeah once we got over to Leipzig area doing [Moritzburg? Loren?] and things like that.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: They were all a pretty long way.
HB: Got Freiburg, seven, seven hours fifteen.
JDB: Freiburg.
HB: Freiburg. Yeah.
JDB: Yeah. That’s in, down in the south of France. Down near the Swiss border.
HB: Right. Yeah. But you still, I see even you have still got these gardening operations dropping mines.
JDB: Oh yeah. Yeah.
HB: What, ‘cause did they not count?
JDB: Oh yes they counted.
HB: They counted then did they?
JDB: Oh yeah. One of them was a long distance. We went up to Oslo Fjord with one.
HB: I’ve got one here marked it just says operation, ops gardening Norwegian waters. Six one thousand eight hundred pound mines.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: And that was six hours forty five, that one.
JDB: Yeah that would be the one up Oslo Fjord.
HB: So, what, what was the threat there, Derek? Do you know?
JDB: What do you mean?
HB: Well you were mining off Norway.
JDB: Well we were mining in the Kattegat and the Skagerrak. We were mining channels, shipping channels which were taking troops and goods from Germany to Norway.
HB: Ah.
JDB: That was the thing. The danger to us there was flak ships mainly.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. [pause] Yeah, Yeah.
JDB: Say nothing Sue. Thanks.
HB: You’re very kind. Thank you. We’ve just had out refreshments delivered. Absolutely superb. Thank you. There’s just one little thing in here just caught my eye and that’s, where are we now? [coughs] Excuse me. November 1944. The 28th. You’re flying AS G-George and you’ve got flying officer Knott, George Knott. And then you’ve got a Flying Officer Yates.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: And you’ve got written in there fighter affiliation Y bombing, practice bombing Alkborough.
JDB: Yeah. That was a non-operational. It’s blue.
HB: Yeah. Oh right.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: ‘Cause it just said -
JDB: A training flight.
HB: It just says six bombs and then it says sixty five yards dash twenty thousand.
JDB: Sixty five yards area at twenty thousand feet.
HB: [cough] Excuse me.
JDB: He was George’s buddy.
HB: So what would he just have been?
JDB: He was another pilot.
HB: Yeah. Just for the hell of it or -
JDB: I don’t know why.
HB: Would he be observing?
JDB: I can’t remember why they were both together. I’m sure.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: I don’t even know what we were doing. I can’t remember that.
HB: Right. And then the following, the following day you go to Dortmund and again one of those, “Aircraft damaged by flak again.”
JDB: Oh that was a gaggle flying day.
HB: A gaggle flying day [laughs]. Go on then. You’re all flying in a V formation? No?
JDB: Well, we went in to briefing. I remember this one, we went to briefing and the CO stands up there and says, ‘Right gentlemen today you will be gaggle flying as an experiment.’ We said, ‘Yes. Alright. What’s gaggle flying then?’ He said, ‘Well what you do you all take off as normal then we want one of the squadron aircraft to formate on another one of the squadron aircraft. Say you got two and all form up in twos like that and then all the twos, when you’re all ready, sort of close in together carefully and that’s called gaggle flying and the reason you’re doing that is because we’re having a bit of a charmed life at the moment but we’re going to get bounced if we’re not careful.’
HB: Right.
JDB: So we’ve got to be, we’re practicing some defensive formations.
HB: Ah right.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Right. That, that makes, that makes sense a bit now.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: So this was a way of bringing you together.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: To increase your fire.
JDB: That’s it.
HB: Your fire power as a defensive thing.
JDB: Yeah. And it was a bloody disaster I might say.
HB: Was it?
JDB: Yeah. It was on that day.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Because, if I remember, was the, was the target Dortmund?
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Well we got into this gaggle flying thing and we had the lead aircraft had got three, I think, flight commanders probably but they painted the tail fins all bright yellow on the three leaders and they formed up into a Vic.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: To lead the formation. Everybody then packed in behind them you see.
HB: Oh blimey.
JDB: That was the theory.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: So we start off and it was daylight of course. We went over the Rhine and, no we didn’t, before we got to the Rhine we detected that we were I think it was three minutes early, going to be three minutes early on target so the lead navigator ‘cause being in this bloody gaggle we had to follow the leaders you see and the, the leader decided that to lose the three minutes we were going to do a dog leg. A three minute dog leg. You do, if you’re flying there you do a forty five degrees three minutes, forty five degrees back and join up where you were and then you’ve lost two minutes or three minutes whatever it was.
HB: Right.
JDB: So, so we’re doing this dog leg and where does the apex of the dog leg take us do you think?
HB: Oh no.
JDB: Straight over Dusseldorf.
HB: Oh my.
JDB: Bang. Bang. Bang. You know.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And there were bloody aircraft going everywhere you know. I saw, I saw a Lanc go across and take a tail off another one.
HB: Oh no.
JDB: Oh yeah. It was, it was dreadful. You wouldn’t do gaggle flying at night anyway you see would you?
HB: No. Well, it sounds dangerous enough in the daytime.
JDB: So I don’t know whether they did any more gaggle flying. I didn’t.
HB: Yeah. So was that, was that, so that would be your squadron plus -?
JDB: It was probably the whole of 1 Group I should think. At least.
HB: Right.
JDB: I could find out. It’s in the diaries.
HB: Oh no. No. Worry not. Worry not. Yeah. Yeah. Oh right ‘cause -
JDB: While I think about it.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Can I just tell you Harry?
HB: Yeah.
JDB: The “Bomber Command Diaries” which I’ve got.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: I’ve told you about.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: It was out of print when we looked. Now the other week Sue and I went to East Kirkby.
HB: Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Right.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And they’ve got a good bookshop in there.
HB: Yes they have.
JDB: As you know I’m sure.
HB: Yes they have. Yes.
JDB: And blow me what did they have there a soft back “Bomber Command Diaries” so it’s in print again.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: But in soft back.
HB: Yeah. Like we, like we were saying earlier on what I’ll do, what I’ll do is I’ll check with Dr Dan Ellin who runs the oral history.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: And the digital project. I’ll check with his office and with Peter Jones who you spoke to on the phone.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: But I’m fairly confident that that’s been mentioned before.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: So I’m fairly confident they’ll have a copy.
JDB: Sure to have been –
HB: Yeah but if they haven’t then obviously -
JDB: Yeah but they’ve got, they’ve got it in soft back at East Kirkby.
HB: And that’s, yeah, oh right well I’ll point him at that if we’re missing one of them
JDB: Yeah. Anyway -
HB: Yeah ‘cause we’re leading up here we’ve come to December ‘44 and we’re leading up to this business at St Vith.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: For the Battle of the Bulge. I mean, I’m looking at this and you’ve gone what one two three four, you’ve gone four night ops, not too many days apart and I think your last, your last one in your book, in your logbook on that one is -
JDB: [Sights?]
HB: C mining off Kattegat. That was a night flight.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: But you got diverted to Lossiemouth.
JDB: Wait a minute. Oh no that was the, that was the Oslo Fjord one when we got diverted Lossiemouth.
HB: Right.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Right. ‘Cause that again, I mean that’s damn near six hours.
JDB: Yeah. Yeah.
HB: That one and then you had, you had one that you had because you had to fly out of Lossiemouth base obviously.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: But then you had one which was abortive on the 21st of December. You only got an hour in the air on that one.
JDB: Oh that was, that was sea mining.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Yeah it was, the H2S was U/S.
HB: Oh right.
JDB: So we couldn’t do it.
HB: I mean just, the H2S is the, in the aircraft what purpose does the H2S have?
JDB: Well it’s ground mapping radar.
HB: Right. Right.
JDB: It was essential for sea mining because we used to use a identifiable spot on the coast or whatever which was a good return on H2S on screen. You get a good return and you can identify and that’s a datum to start from where to drop your mines.
HB: Right.
JDB: Normally. As it happens that one on Oslo Fjord it was a visual because it was in a channel. An island in the mainland that we were mining. We did it visually.
HB: Right. And then on the 26th we’ve got the Battle of the Bulge going on.
JDB: Yeah St Vith.
HB: Yeah and that’s four hours ten minutes.
JDB: Yeah. Well it was a fairish way you know.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Nearly in the Ruhr isn’t it? Not far from the Ruhr valley.
HB: And this is, this is the, this is the op we were talking about earlier where you’re at Kirmington.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: And just take me through it again because this is, this is intriguing to me. You’re actually still lining up and the airfield is covered in fog.
JDB: Yeah. The whole of Lincolnshire was under a blanket of sea fog which had rolled in and it was there for a day or two.
HB: Right.
JDB: And you know we got up on, got out of bed early, very early, like 3 o’clock on Boxing Day being, still being under the influence a bit and I remember George -
HB: You’d had a good Christmas, you’d had a good Christmas.
JDB: Climbing up the ladder to get in to the aircraft. It wasn’t our aircraft actually. It was Alan Yates’ aircraft. Ours, ours was already got some mines loaded on it and once they were loaded on to an aircraft they were not taken off.
HB: Right.
JDB: Until they were dropped. So old George climbed up the ladder to get in and it slipped and he fell and it sobered him up.
HB: So you’d all been on the beer the night before then.
JDB: Well it was Christmas Day.
HB: For Christmas. Yeah.
JDB: We’d got a truce supposedly.
HB: Oh right.
JDB: And then there we were hurtling over frozen France.
HB: So, so you go out first thing in the morning, get the aircraft ready.
JDB: No. Well, it was ready. No -
HB: Yeah.
JDB: We went straight to briefing.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: When you got up, you get a bloke come in, at that time in the morning a corporal come around the hut saying, ‘Wakey wakey get your feet on the deck,’ you know.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Briefing at so and so. And everybody did, you know.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Went and sat in the aeroplane and waited to hear some verey cartridges go off which were white ones. Scrub.
HB: What, what could you on that one, the first one on that day then what could you see from the aircraft?
JDB: Nothing.
HB: Absolutely nothing.
JDB: No, could just, you couldn’t see anything. It was absolutely dense and, but it was only about two hundred feet off the deck you see.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: It was like a blanket had been rolled down.
HB: Yeah. So that one got knocked on the head. That was -
JDB: Well it just scrubbed.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And you go back to the buses would take you back to the, we went back to the mess, I think, not even to the briefing room.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And then they’d say briefing again, re-briefing or, I can’t remember we had a re-brief or we went straight to the aircraft.
HB: Yeah and the second time obviously the aircraft is still bombed up and ready.
JDB: Yeah. All ready to go.
HB: And was that AS B Baker?
JDB: Well it wasn’t our aircraft.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: It was Alan Yates.
HB: Yeah sorry it’s in your book here AS B Baker. Yeah.
JDB: Baker. We considered to be ours was AS Charlie.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve noticed there’s a lot of AS Charlie in there.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Definitely. Yeah. So, so you’ve gone back to the aircraft and it, and it’s still covered in fog.
JDB: Yeah and we sit there and think are we going to get another scrub? We did have another scrub. We had two scrubs as I remember and then eventually we got there. Eventually we were waiting for the scrub and it came time to start engines and this time there was no scrub so we started the engines and then we see a marshaller with two bloody lamps doing this in front of him, ‘follow me,’ sort of thing
HB: So he was circling his lamps telling you to get in behind.
JDB: Yeah. Telling us to get going and we followed him to the end of the runway.
HB: Oh blimey.
JDB: And set the gyro up to the heading and let it go.
HB: So you’re actually taking off on a compass bearing as opposed to -
JDB: Yeah. That’s right. Absolutely.
HB: Visual.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Blimey. I bet that was a bit -
JDB: Yeah. It all worked alright as it happened. Yeah.
HB: I like that phrase. It all worked alright and there were, there were, I mean obviously no problems for yourself but I presume everybody else got off as well did they?
JDB: Oh yeah. Yeah.
HB: And you say it was only up to about two hundred feet.
JDB: Yeah. You know. Sort of, we got off the deck and started climbing out and we were still on full boost and we were out in clear sky.
HB: Oh lovely.
JDB: Absolutely clear. Wonderful.
HB: So when you looked down all you can see is –
JDB: A blanket of fog.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: And then, and then obviously the op starts. You’re off to St Vith.
JDB: Went down over the south coast somewhere. I think we crossed over the coast somewhere round about Brighton I should say.
HB: Yeah. And then what would you do? You’d sort of turn up a bit wouldn’t you?
JDB: Yeah. Yeah we did, we sort of -
HB: Go up to it.
JDB: Yeah. Went across the channel and then sort of turned left and headed towards Belgium I suppose.
HB: Yeah, because you had quite a, quite a good old bomb load on there.
JDB: Yeah. Well it was a short range, you see you used to measure it. If, if we went to the aircraft and we said, we would say to the armourers or the ground crew, say ‘How much petrol have we got on boys?’ They’d say, ‘You’ve got a full load skip.’ And say, oh in that case we’ve not got many bombs and we’re going a long way.
HB: Right.
JDB: If we’d got a full bomb load like seven tons it was a full bomb load and the minimum fuel. You wouldn’t be going very far.
HB: So you, you always had a rough idea.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: What you might expect before you even got to the briefing.
JDB: Well if we’d been out to the aircraft.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: And checked. Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: In fact the last one, our last raid was to Zeitz, which was right over by Leipzig and you know being your last trip we thought oh bloody hell but then again we were getting well on over that way then.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I was going to say because it’s pushed on now I mean, I mean St Vith I’ve given you that photograph of the Lancaster actually -
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Involved in bombing St Vith. I mean it looked, it looked fairly clear as a target.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: So I’m presuming, it’s like you said, I think you said to me on the phone that it was frosty and bright.
JDB: Oh yes it was.
HB: All the way.
JDB: Yeah. Yeah.
HB: All the way but you still managed to get yourself damaged by flak again.
JDB: Well we didn’t. No.
HB: Which is becoming a bit of a habit Derek.
JDB: We didn’t. No. I’ll tell you what there weren’t much flak at all because any flak that was coming up was a bit sporadic and it would be from their, you know their ATH which could be used as ground artillery or anti-aircraft.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: But, no there wasn’t much at all. It was when we got back we were in the circuit at Binbrook and we were going around and I was looking out of the window and it was on the starboard side and I was looking out the window I said.
HB: On the what side?
JDB: Starboard.
HB: On the starboard side.
JDB: Yeah
HB: Right.
JDB: I said, ‘Hey Skip, there’s a bloody hole in the wing.’ So he said, ‘Where?’ I said, ‘Well, between the two engines.’ And he said, ‘How big is it?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. About six inch across I suppose.’ He said, ‘Oh we’ll have a look when we get down.’ So when we landed we parked on the bloody grass somewhere. They had Lancasters parked everywhere at Binbrook.
HB: And that was because -?
JDB: It was the fog still.
HB: This is the business where Binbrook was sticking up out of the fog.
JDB: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah.
HB: The only one you could get in.
JDB: That’s right.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: So we got out and had a look at this bloody hole in the wing and it was a nice neat hole on top and underneath it was a jagged metal hanging down so obviously a shell had gone up and come down and gone through the wing coming down.
HB: Oh right.
JDB: And it didn’t explode.
HB: Oh that was lucky.
JDB: So we were dead lucky again.
HB: So how far away would that hole be from the fuel tanks then?
JDB: Right between them. It might have been clip on.
HB: Blimey. That’s another -
JDB: I’ve got a model of a Lanc somewhere with the fuel tanks in.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: So –
HB: Yeah.
JDB: I could show you a bit.
HB: Yeah I mean it’s, I mean that’s that’s another one like the other one goes off right next to the bomb bay and that one goes through right through.
JDB: Right.
HB: Right through the fuel tank. Do you want to grab your tea Derek because it will be getting cold?
JDB: Oh yeah. That’s alright. I let it get cold.
HB: Can you reach it? Do you want me to grab it?
JDB: No. It’s alright I can reach it.
HB: Right.
JDB: No problem.
HB: Yeah. ‘Cause that, I mean as I say the bits and bobs I’ve read about the St Vith raid was it, was it was, it was very accurate and it -
JDB: Well it should have been. It was in broad daylight.
HB: [It didn’t stop?]
JDB: At about I think we bombed from about ten thousand feet which was only about half our normal operational bombing height.
HB: Yeah. That’s, yeah that’s, that’s pretty, pretty tight there. And then we’re in to 1945.
JDB: I’ve got some battle orders. I don’t think I’ve got one for that. It tells you. Have you got any battle orders?
HB: I’ve seen them. I’ve seen them and they’ve got, they’ve got quite a few but I mean that’s that’s something, you know like I said we’ll come on to after we’ve -
JDB: Oh some people have got a load of them.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. When we’ve had a bit of a chat I’ll explain to you in more detail what we do about copying stuff and that.
JDB: Fair enough.
HB: But yeah I mean I mean we get to January and it says here this is to certify that Flight Sergeant Bailey JD has completed his first tour of operations.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: At 103 squadron Elsham Wolds and 166 squadron at Kirmington.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Blimey. So that’s what 44.35 hours with 103 and 130 hours 10 minutes with 166. One hundred and seventy four hours.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Which is a fair old time in the air that, Derek.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: What of that, of that as you obviously, you know you’ve come to the end of your tour. What, what was you feeling at that time about how Bomber Command were doing or how things were going?
JDB: Well I don’t know. I didn’t have any particularly hard feelings as far as I recall. I went home on leave and I had my twenty first birthday.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: No. I’ll rephrase that. I went home on leave, indefinite leave pending a posting.
HB: Right.
JDB: Somewhere else and eventually I got a gram, report 90, I think 90 OTU isn’t it at Lossiemouth?
HB: 20.
JDB: 20 OTU.
HB: Yeah two zero OTU.
JDB: Yeah, that’s it.
HB: It says Wellington.
JDB: That’s right.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Report Lossiemouth forthwith and so I spent then my twenty first birthday, all of it, travelling from South Wigston to bloody Lossiemouth.
HB: Oh dear. Well it’s, you know, I mean everybody else has a party. You were on a train. I suppose -
JDB: Well we all did it and I -
HB: Yeah.
JDB: You know, you wonder, well if I’d taken another day nobody would have even known.
HB: No. I was curious Derek because obviously we’ve got to, you know, early 1945.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: And D-Day has happened and -
JDB: That’s right while well we -
HB: Heading for the Rhine and everything else. I just wondered how, you’ve done, you’ve done your tour, you know, you, you’ve spent that time in the air, and I was just was wondering how, what your reaction was. Like, you know your tour’s finished and how did you feel in yourself that things were going to go?
JDB: Well a bit of relief I suppose.
HB: Yeah. And what did you think the future held for you at that point? ‘Cause obviously the war’s still going on but -
JDB: Well, well what happened was I went to Lossiemouth as I would say and I was teaching. I was a bombing instructor. I did various courses and all the rest of it and I became commissioned and I was in the bomb plotting office one day and in, one of the flight commanders walked in and said, ‘I’m going back on ops, who’s coming? I want a bomb aimer.’ You know. And I said to him, I stepped forward and joined him and we got a crew together and we went off to Swinderby to join Tiger Force and we were going to Okinawa. That was what I thought at the time.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And then, I must have been bloody mad.
HB: Well I was just going to ask you the question Derek. You know when this, this sorry I’ve forgotten, I’ve forgotten the name your said that came in and said, ‘I need a bomb aimer.’
JDB: Oh you won’t know that. It was one of the flight commanders.
HB: Oh right. So, so nobody actually sort of -
JDB: Well he’s in there actually, as a pilot then when I was at Swinderby.
HB: Right. We’ve got Yates, Lomas, Kennedy, Richards. Oh no. That’s, you’re still instructing there I think.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: I think you’re still instructing there, Derek. Where are we? Hang on. Yeah. Circuits and landings. Ah 1660 Conversion Unit Swinderby.
JDB: That’s it.
HB: Johnson.
JDB: That’s him. Johnson.
HB: Flight lieutenant Johnson. Yeah.
JDB: Johnson.
HB: Because the question I was going to ask Derek was I mean I’ve heard of Tiger Force and I’ve done a little bit of reading about it but this guy comes in and says, ‘I’m looking for a bomb aimer,’ and did you actually, anybody, sort of think to sit people down and say, ‘Look. We’re forming Tiger Force and we’re going to go out to the Far East,’ or was it all just you know well sort of word of mouth. A rumour or something.
JDB: Well I don’t know. I mean it got whispered around I suppose. I mean Tiger Force was basically number 9 squadron.
HB: Right.
JDB: Well, it was, no, start again 5 Group.
HB: Right 5 Group. Yeah.
JDB: 5 Group became Tiger Force and this guy knew. He got to know somehow or other and he decided he wanted to go back on ops.
HB: Right.
JDB: And he was a squadron leader and to go back on ops he had to duck a, duck a rank. He went back to flight lieutenant.
HB: Flight Lieutenant. Oh right so ah that explains it then because it threw me. So he’s, he’s a wing commander.
JDB: No. No.
HB: Sorry a -
JDB: A squadron leader.
HB: A squadron leader but because he wants to carry on operationally.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Right. He then comes down to flight lieutenant -
JDB: Yes.
HB: While you’re at 1660 Conversion Unit at Swinderby.
JDB: Yes.
HB: Blimey because I mean, I’m looking, just looking in your logbook here so it’s all you know back to the trade.
JDB: That was Flight Lieutenant Johnson.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Oh that that makes sense now. That makes sense now. Lots and lots of cross country training and night, and a lot of night flying there.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: On that one.
JDB: We had to do that conversion because he did his first tour on Halifaxes.
HB: Yeah. Ah right. Yeah. That explains it then.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: That explains it. Yeah. And that takes you up to the 5th of September 1945 and then we’ve got 7th of September 1945 you’re signing, you’re signing that off and that’s your summary for number 1 course.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: I don’t know. It’s quite a lot of, there’s quite a lot of stuff in there Derek. It’s, I mean, we’re, I’m sort of skating over it a bit because I know, you know, you’ve written various things about your time there. I mean one of the things I’m interested in and the archive is interested in is you come, you come to, you come to the end of your time operationally.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: You’re sitting at, where were you? I’ve forgotten where you were now? You’re still at Swinderby.
JDB: No. Operationally?
HB: Yeah.
JDB: No. I was at Kirmington.
HB: So you went, so, yeah. You finished at Kirmington on your tour of operations.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: You then go to Swinderby to do the conversion.
JDB: No.
HB: ‘Cause -
JDB: After, after Kirmington I went to Lossiemouth as an instructor.
HB: Ah right. Right. Yes. Sorry. Yes I’ve turned, I’ve turned two pages over in your book, in your logbook Derek. Unforgiveable really. Yes. That explains it and then from Lossiemouth you end up at Swinderby. So you come, you come to the end of that time and the war in Europe’s finished.
JDB: Yeah and the Japanese war.
HB: The Japanese, the Far East has finished. What did you, what was your feeling then? You’ve come to the end of it all. You’ve survived.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: How did you feel about all that?
JDB: Well, I wanted, at that point I wanted to stay in the Royal Air Force.
HB: Yeah.
IJDB: I didn’t want to come back to Civvy Street and I applied for a extended service commission.
HB: Yeah. Sorry -
JDB: So -
HB: That’s me knocking the table. Sorry mate.
JDB: It’s alright.
HB: Yeah, you, so you applied for -
JDB: An extended service commission.
HB: Right.
JDB: I was, at the time, when I, when I got to this I was, I became an equipment officer, made redundant aircrew and became an equipment officer. So I applied for an extended service commission and I couldn’t get an answer from air ministry despite being at a command headquarters and having access to the [peace tap?] that I still couldn’t get an answer so I had to make up my mind if I was going back to civvy street or not at that point and I was under threat from my employer who would have been, or my potential employer again, about, you know, saying, ‘You either come now, don’t you dare sign on for any longer. Either you come back now or there will be no job.’
HB: Right.
JDB: So I had to make my mind up and in the end I opted to come out. Yeah.
HB: So that would have been mixed feelings really then wouldn’t it?
JDB: I was, like so many other people Harry, I was confused.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: I must say. I was confused.
HB: You know from other people I’ve spoken to it was the majority of people found it a difficult time. I mean in the wider context, I mean you’ve taken part with Bomber Command in, you know, a major part of the European war, and the theatre of war so what was, what were your feelings, what were your feelings about your part in all that?
JDB: I don’t know. I didn’t really consider it.
HB: Right.
JDB: I didn’t feel, are you talking about the guilt?
HB: What, however you felt about it.
JDB: No.
HB: You know, I’ve heard so many different -
JDB: No. I never felt any guilt whatsoever.
HB: Right.
JDB: Because I thought we were doing what was demanded of us to do and what we needed to be done.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And no more than that.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: But I know that some people did have reservations and, I don’t know. It’s a very very difficult question that, Harry.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: It really is.
HB: What, what did you think about any sort of support or the government’s view, after, afterwards?
JDB: Hereafter. Well there was a bit of cheating went on wasn’t there? I mean you’ve not mentioned the dreaded word have you?
HB: No. Go on. You carry on Derek.
JDB: And the dreaded word is, clever of me isn’t it? I can’t even remember the dreaded bloody word. What raised all the Cain about bombing? Where was it? In Eastern Germany.
HB: The target.
JDB: Yeah. The target. Yeah.
HB: Dresden.
JDB: Dresden. Thank you. That’s what caused all the trouble at the end was Dresden. I never bombed Dresden. I finished long before that. But if I’d been given orders to bomb Dresden I would have bloody bombed Dresden. End of story.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: To be honest I didn’t know enough about Dresden at the time.
HB: No.
JDB: I didn’t know enough, much about a lot of the places that I –
HB: No.
JDB: Plastered. But I mean the talk about Dresden and all the rest of it you could equally pick on places like Freiburg, or Freiburg which is in my book.
HB: Yes.
JDB: There was, the casualties in Freiburg were nearly as horrendous as, as Dresden and that was not for the type of place it was but they got it wrong. Somebody got it very very wrong on an intelligence basis because Freiburg was meant to be packed full of troops defending the Rhine.
HB: Right.
JDB: At it’s southern end.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And it proved not to be the case but it was very lightly defended. It was, it was, as far as Bomber Command was concerned it was an easy target really.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: And I do think that some people, including me had certain misgivings about that when we knew but we didn’t know at the time. We didn’t know. It was just another target but it was afterwards when they released information that you thought well that really, really wasn’t quite right you know.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: But what can you do? You can’t put the clock back.
HB: No. That’s, that’s true. That’s true.
JDB: And whether any other places came up like that I really don’t know.
HB: No. I mean it obviously you’ve come to the end of your RAF and you’ve made that difficult decision to -
JDB: Yeah.
HB: To pick up your civilian life again.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: So, what, you come back to Leicestershire to start working for, was it Edling?
JDB: Edling
HB: Yeah
JDB: And then we had nationalisation of the transport industry if you recall.
HB: No. I’m still a bit slightly a bit young for that Derek.
JDB: Yes.
HB: But yes I have read about it.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: And so -
HB: So by now you’re twenty, twenty two.
JDB: What? When I came out?
HB: No. Yeah twenty, just trying to work it out. Twenty -
JDB: I was twenty three.
HB: You were, yeah twenty three.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Sorry. So you’re twenty three. Footloose and fancy free. You’ve got your demob suit and your RAF half a wing.
JDB: [laughs] Yeah.
HB: And what’s, what’s Bill Bailey doing, doing now? What’s he, what were you -
JDB: What? Now, Bill
HB: What were you looking forward to then? You’ve picked up your civilian life again.
JDB: Well I was working in the transport industry. I moved on to another company. I spent forty years with Star Roadways. Over forty years actually and that’s it. What one might call a normal life I suppose.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: I spent twenty years in the Air Training Corps.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: After I’d, after a spell. I retired when I was fifty six so, and I did twenty years so I must have been thirty six when I got talked into doing the Air Training Corps.
HB: Because you, ‘cause you got, you got a rank through the Air Training Corps didn’t you?
JDB: Oh yeah. I retired as squadron leader.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: I got a letter from the air ministry. Well it’s not the air ministry is it? But thanking me for my service.
HB: Just, just stepping back now into the war just two quick sort of questions for, just for you to have a think about. Tell me. What was, what was the silliest daftest thing you can remember?
JDB: The daftest?
HB: Yeah. In your, in your service, in your operations.
JDB: That I did.
HB: Well whoever, whatever.
JDB: Oh.
HB: As long as it’s clean mind.
JDB: I think, I think [laughs] I require notice of that one.
HB: Well that’s why I don’t tell people.
JDB: Oh dear. I don’t know. The daftest thing. There must have been some.
HB: Yeah. Did you, did you all go out as a crew to the pub when you were on stand down?
JDB: Well, we did in, especially up at Kirmington yeah.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Because there was nowhere else to go other than the pub in the village.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Which was called the Marrowbone and Cleaver. Commonly known as The Chopper. And -
HB: How did you get down there? Bike. Bus.
JDB: Well no it was only -
HB: Anything with wheels.
JDB: [a bit?] away from where we, where the huts were. We were in Brocklesby Wood in nissen huts. It was a, what did I, I don’t know.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: I can’t think off-hand of any particularly wild thing.
HB: We’ll perhaps, we’ll perhaps leave that one and -
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Let you come back to that.
JDB: Except when I gave a girl a lift from Barnetby station back to camp on the cross bar of my bloody bike. I got talking to her on the train coming from Lincoln.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And apparently she was going to Kirmington.
HB: Was she a WAAF then or –
JDB: Yeah she was a WAAF.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: She became a good friend and I mean that. Only.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Only that. Wouldn’t have anything else I think.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: The WAAFs were very cagey actually you know.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And rightly so.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And I think it was that you put yourself in the position of a WAAF if you started getting to a very serious situation she’d probably think well Christ I might get pregnant and he might get killed next week.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: You know.
HB: Yeah. What was, when you, I mean you moved off Wellingtons and you moved on to lancs?
JDB: Yeah.
HB: What was your relationship with your ground crew like?
JDB: Very very good.
HB: Did you always have the same ground crew?
JDB: Well, when we were at Peplow on Wellingtons no I don’t think we got to know the ground crew hardly at all. Really.
HB: Right. Right.
JDB: On the squadron it was different.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: You were more a team there, there and one of our ground crew was on leave when we did our last operation but he came, he came back from leave to meet us, to see us when we arrived back from our last trip -
HB: Wow.
JDB: That’s the sort of guys they were and funnily enough, where was it I got posted to? Bloody hell.
HB: Was that - ?
JDB: Oh I know. When we got posted to Lossiemouth. That’s right. I and my skipper both got posted to Lossiemouth. When I went up there to be an instructor George went as well and when I got there after that long trip I went down, down the road in the morning and there was an officer coming towards me so I slung one up as you do and then I realised it was my skipper. Yeah.
HB: Oh right.
JDB: And then I met a bloke, a bloke did the opposite to me later on and, an airman, and he turned out to be our bloody engine mechanic.
HB: Oh right he’s air mech.
JDB: And I couldn’t believe it. Ginge we called him.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And he turned out he’d been posted somewhere and he was the bloody camp postman. He’d been made redundant.
HB: Oh right. Yeah.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: Wow yeah.
JDB: I can’t remember where that happened now.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: Oh dear.
HB: Did you, did you manage to keep in touch with your crew after the war?
JDB: Now, that is a very very, what’s the word I want? I don’t know? A funny question because we didn’t.
HB: Right.
JDB: For a, for a long time, no. George, George the skipper he died quite young. He got a DFC by the way, he did.
HB: Did he? Right. Yeah.
JDB: When he’d finished a tour of ops a captain gets a DFC.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And apparently, I didn’t meet him but George died quite young. He was a rugby player rugby league. Played at Wakefield. And he died. I kept in touch with my navigator for quite a number of years. He, ‘cause he emigrated to Canada and he worked in a hospital in Ottawa.
HB: Oh right.
JDB: And I did meet up with him. He used to come over to the UK every year and I did used to meet with him and we used to have squadron reunions up at Hull and I met up with. I’ve got some photographs actually.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: About, how many of us were there? There was myself, Wally, Wally Williams we located and he was my, the flight engineer. He had a bloody hip replacement operation and it killed him.
HB: Oh dear.
JDB: Ron died a few years ago in Ottawa. The mystery is I’ve never, I’ve not been able to find any trace by any means of the gunners. The two gunners. And quite recently I’ve come to a conclusion that it’s possible because during our tour they, I know that Paddy missed a couple of flights with us and we had to take a spare bod and I think it might have applied to both of them. Now if it did when we finished our tour of operations they would have to stay there on the squadron and finish their thirty operations.
HB: Oh right. Yes.
JDB: Spare bodding with somebody else.
HB: Yeah.
JDB: And it may be that they did that and were lost.
HB: Right.
JDB: I don’t, I really don’t know and it’s, I’ve tried all manner of ways of trying to find them and I can’t.
HB: You know, I mean there are one or two bits and bobs now on the internet. We can, we can perhaps have a little look into but well that’s, I thank you for that Derek. Yeah.
JDB: Oh and you know and otherwise, oh Wally Williams we found late on and then he had this hip replacement and died and then his wife lived in Chichester and I’ve not heard from them for a few years so I think she must have passed away as well.
HB: Oh right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
JDB: Who else was there?
HB: You got -
JDB: Oh Gus I think is still alive. Up in Ripon I think.
HB: Yeah. Yeah. That’s the one you just sent the card to.
JDB: Yeah. Yeah.
HB: What was his name? Wilf?
JDB: Leigh. Wilf Leigh.
HB: Wilf Leigh. Yeah.
HB: Right. Wow. That’s made. What, what I want to do Derek is I’m going to finish the actual interview now.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: But obviously there’s some other bits and bobs and I’d like if possible to come back.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: In the future to speak to you again.
JDB: Yeah.
HB: And we’ll record that and we’re just going to have a look through your bag of goodies today. So it’s now twenty to five. It’s, we’re fortunately we’re still on the 7th of December 2016. We haven’t gone around the clock so I’m just going to terminate the interview at this, at this time and then there will obviously be a phase two.
JDB: Yeah. Ok



Harry Bartlett, “Interview with John Derek "Bill" Bailey. One,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 6, 2023,

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