Interview with Peter Banting

Title

Interview with Peter Banting

Description

Peter Banting grew up in London and was a member of the Air Training Corps before he volunteered for the Royal Air Force. After training he flew operations with 75 Squadron from RAF Mepal and 7 Squadron RAF Oakington. After the war he trained to be an architect.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-03-15

Contributor

Gemma Clapton

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

Format

00:43:28 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ABantingP160315

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is David Meanwell. The interviewee is Peter Banting. The interview is taking place at Mr Banting’s home in East Molesey on the 14th, 15th of March 2016.
DM : Ok if we start off with when you were born and where you were brought up.
PB : Well I was born in 1923 and I was brought up in Brixton. I was born in Brixton too.
DM : Right ok, and tell me, tell me a little about what lead you to join the air-force and when you actually joined up.
PB : Well I was a founder member of the Cadet Corps and that was started, I believe, in about 1940, I believe, and I was one of the first to join it in Brixton. It was number 50F ATC and I remember it well going there and, eh, many people, many people of my age were there as well, and ‘Will I get in?’ I said.’ Will I get in?’ [chuckle] And they did accept me and that’s how it all started.
DM : Did you actually do any flying in the ATC?
PB : No, no, no, but there was one really wonderful experience we had. We attended Biggin Hill Aerodrome, that would be 1941, and ok the Battle of Britain was over but they were doing, eh,[unclear] they were going over to France low level, very, very dangerous and that’s when I had my first trip actually. I was very fortunate to go up in a Blenheim. They they allowed us to go up in a Blenheim. It was wonderful. Yes, and we saw there was a Spitfire squadron, and we saw it coming in and land. Marvellous, marvellous experience. We were there for two weeks.
DM : Ok -
PB : Hmm.
DM : So then you joined up? When did you actually join up?
PB : July 1942.
DM : Right.
PB : Yes.
DM : And what was the-?
PB : No, Sorry, actually, I joined up in December 41 and I wasn’t called up until July 42.
DM : Right
PB : Yes. St John’s Wood. We all went to St John’s Wood.
DM : Right. Did you have a sort of ambition when you joined up what you thought you’d like to do?
PB : Erm, I just wanted to fly with the RAF. I-I- It was day-to-day. You know? One took one day as it came and that was it, and enjoyed it and from that day on, I had a wonderful experience. I love the RAF[chuckle] still do.[chuckle] and I’m a member of the RAF Club at that.
DM : So, when you were actually called up, which was, you said, July-
PB : Yes, yes.
DM : What actually happened then?
PB : Well, we went to St John’s Wood, where the cricket field was, and were stationed there and after that we went to Ludlow, I remember. We camped at Ludlow it was summer and we were all in tents and that decided where we would go for ITW (Initial Training Wing), and there was a corporal in our tent, and he asked me where I wanted to go. And I said ‘I’d like to go to Cambridge.’ He said ‘Right and I did.’ [Gentle laugh] And he fixed it and I went to Cambridge and had a lovely time in Cambridge, wonderful, with the Initial Training Wing. I think we were about three months there, yeah three months. And after that, after the three months initial training where you had certain exams, you were taught to dismantle a Browning gun and put it all altogether again, Morse code, navigation, and elementary stuff you know that sort of thing and after that we were sent to an Elementary Flying Training School for selection as to whether you’d be a pilot, navigator or a bomb aimer and that’s when, that was in Oxford. I got there in December, erm that would have been December 1942 and we were tested, we had I suppose I don’t know how many hours, I suppose, about thirty hours on Tiger Moths and I was tested and very fortunately I made a perfect circuit and bump and I was selected to be a pilot. I didn’t know that for a long time we were sent to Manchester, the training centre in Manchester and that decided [mumble], and we were all lined up one day and we all carefully listened to what he was going to say, he said and he called out all these names and my name came out, ‘Banting. Pilot.’ I was delighted [chuckle] of course. And then I think there were after Manchester we were sent to up to Scotland and there when we got to Scotland by train, we saw outside in the sea the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and I mean, there was a cheer when we saw it. We saw this ship and thought ‘My God. Is this gonna take us to Canada? And it did.’ And it was a four-and a-half hour trip, a four-and-a-half day trip and all the way through we were a bit concerned ‘cause some in ’43 that’s when the U-boats really, were really active, but[unclear] we the ship zig-zagged all the way through and I suppose a normal journey would have taken three days and we took four-and-a-half days and we landed at Halifax and from Halifax after a few days I was sent out to, erm, to DeWinten Flying School. And then I got chicken pox and I had, I think it was, two weeks leave in Vancouver. What a trip that was. They made such a fuss of us. Absolutely wonderful. And came back and I got scarlet fever and I couldn’t fly a bloody thing. I was absolutely hopeless. So unfortunately, or fortunately I think, it probably saved my life, but fortunately I was regraded to be bomb-aimer and I went on a bomb-aimers course. And sent to Leffbridge[?] for the bombing course. And what year would that have been? I’m trying to think now, that would be, er, ’43 March ’43. That would be the summer of ’43 so until that took most of the summer. And from then, having completed that course went to Edmonton in Canada for navigation course and bomb aiming course and the rest of it. So I finished in December 1943 in Canada. Came back and to Monkton, which is the centre for air-crew to be despatched back to Britain. And we were told under no circumstances, we had two weeks leave, under no circumstances will you be allowed to go past the barrier to get to America. Don’t try it. Well that was a challenge [long chuckle] and I knew you had to have it was called a short H form, and I got this short H form and I filled in everything with everyone’s agreement that we should go and a great friend of mine Pat Russell was with me and I had armed with this form we went to the barrier and there was an American there. And he said ‘Right. I’ll just phone your base and see if it’s ok.’ Left me on my own and when back to the phone completely out of sight and I thought God this is it we’re gonna be despatched back. That was a nice try. He came back and said ‘Ok, you’re ok.’ In other words he was trying, to see, to see if we’d escaped. So we got on the train and we had a most wonderful time in New York where we were entertained by a family and stayed with them and that was an experience to be in New York in 1944 it was then. Wonderful. And that was an experience in itself, and we came back, when we came back to Monkton, we, erm, we went, went to the port and there was a ship waiting and it was The Andes. It was called The Andes. Nothing like the QE, nothing at all [chuckle]. I mean it really was. It was a hell ship. We were in hammocks and they were crowded into a tiny area and that took a bit longer. That took six days ‘cause it was slower and we got back to Liverpool I think it was. Came back to a centre. Now after this it gets a bit blurred and my memory fades on this but, erm, I remember we went to somewhere up north near Northumbria near there for the centre. Came back and I might refer to my logbook now It might give a little indication of what happened after that [turning of pages] Leftbridge AFU[turning of pages] [whistling] Sorry to keep you waiting. But it’s -
DM : No no.
PB : It’s all here somewhere. Oh yes I remember now we went to Harrogate. We went to Harrogate as a centre which decided where we’d crew up. And we were all there together, pilots, navigators, bomb-aimers and I was crewed up with somebody called Rothwell. My pilot an Australian, and a very tall man. A blonde man, and he, I found out later he was three years younger than me. Now had I known then he would have been treated me with greater respect , he was three years younger than me. He didn’t at all. Anyways he was a great chap and you know I still see him. He’s in America. [pause]
DM : And off we go,
PB : And I still see him. He comes over regularly. He’s a great chap and he brought his son once and I remember when his son was there we went to a little pub, and had a look in the river. A very lovely day and it brought it all back and I remember describing one of the episodes to, to his son and he was very pleased with that. Anyway the other members of the crew, if I remember, we had Paddy Key at rear-gunner. He was a Northern Ireland guy. Erm John Turner mid upper gunner, erm Wellard was the wireless operator. Bob Wellard he was much older than us and he was called Pop ‘cause he was twenty-eight. And a nice guy, twenty-eight, well he was twenty-eight then, so if he was twenty-eight then, five years older than me. So I’m ninety-two he’d be- he’d be over a hundred so I doubt very much if he is till with us. Navigator he got scarlet fever and he only did five ops with us and he disappeared from the scene. I can’t remember his name. And, of course, Jack Pond was the engineer and Ken Rothwell was our skipper. And that was the crew. [Coughs] So we crewed up and I think we went very shortly after that to Operational Training Units on Ansons. The only thing about Ansons that I detested I had to wind down the undercarriage, you know. That was a rotten job. And that was, I don’t know how long, probably about two months there at Operational Training and then we went to Chedburgh for the heavy conversion unit from Ansons to heavies. They were Stirlings. And I don’t, can’t remember how long we were there but to cut a long story short we ended up at 75 New Zealand Squadron, Mepal, that would be December 1944. But our first ops weren’t until January 1945 and I going out of my logbook really ‘cause that picks it up [turning of pages] 75 New Zealand Squadron [turning of pages]. Here we go. My first operation was on the 22nd of January 1945 and the skipper was the commander. His name was Wing Commander Baygent[?]. He was a New Zealander. Now I discovered later I didn’t realise this is quite amazing. I looked at this guy and I’m like oh god he’s a very old guy, well-experienced and I’m ok. I learnt later he was the same age as me. We had a Wing Commander Baygent Commanding Officer of the 75 New Zealand Squadron and he was twenty-one. I was absolutely amazed at that. I didn’t discover that until much later. But that first operation, I mean when I went up and I saw a wall of flakin front of me at the target, the target was Duisburg on the Rhine. And when I saw this wall of flakI thought ‘My God. How the bloody hell we gonna get out of that?’ And it was really quite, you know, that wasn’t a nice experience. But he was a good pilot but there’s one thing that he did do, that was very naughty actually. We got over, I dropped the bombs on the target and then he put the aircraft down in nosedive to get out of the flack. Now you’re not supposed to that, you’re supposed to fly straight and level. So when you’re over the target you take a photograph of where the bombs had gone. Now according to the records, when it was later, all my bombs dropped in the river because he the angle of the aircraft, you see, was such that it photographed what was behind and not in front so I never really forgave him for that but he got us out of it anyway. That’s the main thing. So that was my first op 22nd of January. Next one was on the 28th and we did them quite regularly, 28th, 29th and going all the way though about two or three a week. Now I’ve all the ones listed here, which we won’t do. On the 28th of January went to Cologne. All our targets were military targets. We didn’t carpet bomb and I’m very glad to say that. And all our targets because of the landings and the military operations going on behind the Rhine and it was decided that we’d bomb things like railway junctions mainly railway junctions, most of our targets were railway junctions and very rarely factories or anything like that. So that’s what we did mainly. Now 28th of January Cologne. Then 29th of January Krefeld and I notice it took to get there five, five-and-a-half hours to get there and back from Krefeld. [Turning of pages] I won’t list them all, but included are Monchengladbach, Wiesbaden, Dortmund, and then very sadly I notice on the 16th of February 1945 the New Zealand squadron, my best mate Pilkington was shot down and I got a note here when it happened. It was on the 16th of February on a trip to Dortmund. Now after that Vessel, we went to Wesel, now Wesel was very much in the papers at the time because that it was a key centre for troops to, apparently it was a centre for troops to rest before they went back to the front. Vessel, Dortmund, Geinsenfeld[?], Karmann, Karmann, Werneuchen[?] and then I, please forgive lack of German accent, my German accent is appalling, I don’t know any German at all. Not like my grandson. Saltzbergen, Desare[?], Gilsencaershan[?], Essen. Now Essen I got a note here, this is, this is fascinating. This was an amazing, what an experience that was. It was biggest daylight raid in the history of the RAF. I don’t know how many, it doesn’t say how many aircraft. I did note that. It was the 11th of March 1945 and what an amazing sight that was. Over the clouds, bright, bright sun of course, and to see these aircraft. It did seem, I don’t know how many there were but it seemed like a million to me. It was absolutely incredible. You know tail to tail and wing to wing. That was an amazing experience. And unfortunately during that we saw quite a few of them shot down when we got over Germany ‘cause it was daylight. [Turning of pages] Now after that the skipper came and had a little talk to us. He said : ‘Now look you’re doing quite well, how do you feel about going over to Pathfinders?’ So we had a little chat and I said :’That’s great, you know. Let’s go to Pathfinders.’ So we were then sent to Pathfinder Night Training Unit at Warboys.
[External noise] Door bell.
PB : We were at the Pathfinders Unit Warboys from the 17th of March ’45 until the 31st of March when we were posted the 7 Squadron at Oakington. Now coming back to Pathfinding Night Training, the skipper there was Group Captain McAddy[?] D.S.O., D.F.C, A.F.C, S.C.F.C., and etc etc etc. Now we really got very friendly with him after the war with 7 Squadron with the Pathfinder Association and at one of the, that’s a bit out of sequence but never mind, he did give us the book and inscribe it. I’ll read out the inscription. He said : Signed for Peter Banting and the child bride Hazel [cough] with my warmest regards the Pathfinder battle cry – Press on Regardless. Hamish, RAF Wyton. That was written on the 15th of August 1992. So that was that. So coming back to reality, we were posted to 7 Squadron and our first operation there was on the 2nd of April to Nordhausen, and Pathfinders are so different. If I can briefly describe our operations on Pathfinders. We went in, the first Pathfinders went in and dropped illuminating flares over the target, there was a general illumination, then there was back-up where they dropped coloured flares on the target so that was really pinpointed. The master bomber up above was usually in a Mosquito and he was directing incoming aircraft onto the target. So the first ones that came in dropped it accurately on the target, now if it drifted away backers up drifted different coloured flares onto the target. So there’s a new target which was seen by the master bomber up above and he redirected the aircraft onto the correct coloured target. That’s how it worked, but the thing is with Pathfinders was we dropped. We dropped these illuminating flares and you know whatever but we have to go round again and drop the bombs. So every trip that we did was counted two ops really and that’s why after thirty ops, normally everyone got a D.F.C. or a D.F.M. and who did that on Pathfinders. Now coming to what we actually did again, it’s coming near to the end of the war isn’t it? North of Hamburg, I won’t describe them all, Hamburg, Kiel now, we did go to Kiel. Now the interesting thing about Kiel. At Kiel there was a German battleship. It was a cross between a cruiser and a battleship called the Deutschland. Now I am convinced that I sunk it like everybody else who on that trip but it was sunk at that trip and I’m sure I did it you never know do you? So, that was Kiel and we went to Kiel again on the 13th of April but by then the battleship was suck so we weren’t so worried about that. We were told when we went to Potsdam[?] that Hitler was probably there, that was on the 14th of April and we were told that he was likely to be there, so we dropped our bombs very accurately on where he was. Bremen, and then on 24th of April that was it. I was awarded the Pathfinder badge on the 26th of May 1945 after the war. But the most memorable trips to me were after the war. The Dutch were starving in May 1945 and it was decided that they would receive an airdrop of food. And on the 4th of May 1945 we went to Rotterdam and dropped food for them, and that was quite amazing and it was an enormous target area and they had in white stone around the target area. Thank you, after that we went to Lubeck and Guyancourt[?], landed in Germany picked up prisoners of war and brought them back. That was quite amazing. That was a wonderful experience, and when I was at Lubeck I raided the German store brought back a perfect German uniform and a helmet. Now I, later I very carefully packed this German uniform away in a brown bag and put it in the loft to keep it safe, and then a couple of months later I thought : I’ll have a look at it, and a shower of moths came out, totally ruined. That was that, so unfortunately no more German uniform and I gave the German helmet away, but I’ve still got an armband somewhere or other, a German armband. [Turning of pages] And so that was really the end of my flying experiences during the war. We, then of course, after the war, after the European war that is, we were training as the Tiger Force to go out to India to fight the Japanese. We were trained at low level bombing but nevertheless August came and the end of the war. That was it. But I was in the RAF until discharged, and really I wasn’t really doing very much after that. I was very fortunate to be maintained onto 7 Squadron and funny enough 7 Squadron as a whole after the war went back to Mepal where 75 New Zealand, 75 New Zealand, Squadron was. So I had a few girlfriends there and met up with them again too [chuckle]. So that’s really the war experience, my total war experiences.
DM : So we came to the end of the war came to, August Victory in Japan, did ever think about staying in the air force? Did you ever consider that?
PB : Well, funnily enough at the end of the war I ended up as a Warrant Officer, I had an interview with the Commanding Officer. He said : ‘Look, maybe you’d like a commission but it’d mean signing on for a couple of years. Would you like to do that?’ I thought it over and said ; ‘No, but very, very I’m glad you’ve done that I was very honoured, but I do feel that I’ve got to get back to what I want to do which is architecture and being an architect and that was that. And that’s what I did, an architect after six years training. And I met my wife, my wife of long years standing lived next door to me in Brixton and we got engaged, but I said to her : ‘Look, do you mind? You’ve got a long wait.’ She didn’t mind. So it was a long course, it was, how long was it? It was seven year course really, well really, five years really on studying and part of it was when I was working, and we got married in 1951. Yes, but the other part of all this after the war was ‘The Pathfinder Association’. I was on a train going into London once when I saw a guy opposite me had a Pathfinder tie, very distinctive blue with, we used to call it, a sight hawk, a yellow eagle on his tie. And I said : ‘Are you a Pathfinder?’ And he said : ‘Yes.’ I said : ‘So was I.’ He said : ‘What squadron?’ So I told him. He said : ‘Well come and see us.’ And he was the secretary of the Pathfinders Association Jimmy Hughes, and we became great buddies and we used to go out regularly and I used to go up to the RAF Club at- I wasn’t a member then, and my wife came with me to the RAF club and we became great buddies, and his wife also was also heavily involved.
DM : So when you, when you when became a member of 7 Squadron Pathfinders-
PB : Yes, Yes.
DM : What, what did the missions entail for you? Was there something specific you did on each mission? Was it all a mish-mash?
PB : Oh no, it was all very carefully controlled. Each member of the team had his own particular job but coming to my job. Erm I had to, when I went through France I was responsible for the radar navigation. At that time had a very, very, very excellent radar system which consisted of H2S which was a circular screen which showed exactly where we were on a map and Gee where we were accurately pinpointed. But when we got to the target we were all briefed on what we had to do, and it varied enormously, we were either marking targets either, er, either giving (sorry) yes, we either had to mark targets or illuminate the targets. Each crew was given their specific job at the time, you either had to mark the targets back up with flares, illuminate the target and we were all given a different job at a different time. We all had our own specific job at that particular time and it varied. Each trip we had, we had different things to do. Either illumination or marking targets or backing up flares. It was always different. It was always specific, but every time once we’d down it, we have to back round again and drop the bombs. And that, that was a bit painful, but nevertheless we did it. And, of course, the flakwas really concentrated on those specific areas we were at. That’s briefly what we did. It was a wonderful crew . Bob Wellard what he used to do, always used to do was put on AFM, all the way, all the way through, over France, even over German sometimes – The American Forces Network. And there was always the same disc jockey pushing out the same old things , you know, the same old things we always used to listen to. I [unclear] to meeting Glenn Miller, of course, and that, that was a good experience. We liked that. But coming back to what we actually did, mid-upper gunner was wonderful really, he, we saw Fokker Wolf coming at us once, and I can’t remember where the target was at that time but the Fokker Wolf came at us and made a burst and disappeared from view. We don’t know if he was frightened or lost his way, I don’t know. And that was pretty awful but the worst experience I think we ever had was, I don’t know the target, but the Germans had a radar system. It was a big blue light that illuminated a very great area and picked up most aircraft. We were on our own and this blue light picked us up, once it picked us up all the searchlights in bloody Germany came in on us, and once they came in on you, they no matter where you flew another battery of searchlights picked you up. So we had these searchlights, we must have been, I think, I think it must have at least ten minutes. We had these detailed searchlights on us and the, I could hardly see I was blinded by them. And we came back that night like a bloody colander. And the rear-gunner at the back, I don’t know how he survived, ‘cause the tail plane was virtually shot to pieces. I think that was the worse thing we ever had. But Ken Rothwell what a pilot. He, what we called, corkscrewed and when you corkscrew a Lancaster, and we had a full bomb load at the time, that made it worse. You go down to the left, to the port, and then you turn-around and climb up to the starboard, to the right, up again to the port and then you climb up again to the port and then down and he evaded them. I don’t know how he did it, but he evaded them.
DM : Were all the crew N.C.O.’s? Or were ..
PB : Actually the skipper he got a commission.
DM : Right.
PB : Yes.
DM : Did that change the dynamics at all.
PB : Not at all. No, he was a buddy. I mean, I think it was quite wrong in a way. The Americans didn’t see it that way, who nearly all got commissions. But we were all as one, you know really. It didn’t matter what rank you were. He was the pilot, you were the bomb aimer and there was a navigator there. The rest were N.C.O.’s, yes, yes.
DM : Did you, when you, see from what you said earlier on, you kept the same crew apart from the navigator, who got scarlet fever?
PB : Yes. Yes that’s right.
DM : But other than that the same crew all the way through.
PB : All the way through.
DM : 75 Squadron and 7 Squadron.
PB : Yes, yes.
DM : So did you use to socialise off base as well as on base?
PB : Oh yes.
DM : Did you go to the pub?
PB : Oh, we went to the pub. Oh yes, we all went to the pub together. We had a great time. It was a lovely war. It was wonderful really when I think of those guys on the ground who were, you know, there battling away constantly in danger. We were in danger some of the time. The rest of the time we had a good life, came back to our bunks, and you know, and well fed when we came back. We had an aircrews breakfast which er, which consisted of bacon and eggs, and a tot of brandy. That was great, yeah.
DM : Will you, when you, I don’t know if you can remember particularly, but were there perhaps any missions early on when you were filled with trepidation?
PB : Oh, yes. Well there were trips when you lost an engine and came back on three engines. We had a hang-up once, we came back and the skipper said : ‘Don’t drop it on land, go over, drop in the Channel.’ And fortunately, it went off. It landed in the Channel. And I went back to the Carney[?] officer and said : ‘There’s something wrong with that bomb release system.’ And he said : ‘Well, I will check it out.’ And he checked it out, and came back and said : ‘No. It’s perfect. There’s nothing wrong with it.’ Went on leave and the aircraft blew up in mid-air. The whole crew were killed. So, so that was terrible. So there was something wrong with it, but never found out what caused it.
DM : Did you ever have problems with fog when you came back?
PB : No. No. No, we always came back, luckily, when the weather forecast was excellent. We usually came back at night, of course. We were told though that the Germans at night were waiting above when we landed to see if they could knock out any Lancasters when we landed. We didn’t see any though.
DM : I was gonna ask if you any trouble with intruders, but you never saw any?
PB : No.
DM : Or knew of anything?
PB : No. None at all. No. I think they were all busy fighting Russia. [Chuckle] Anyway we didn’t see that.
DM : So was it ’46 that you actually came out of the air force? When was that?
PB : September ’46.
DM : ’46. That’s when you resumed your training?
PB : Well, I started my training.
DM : Started your training.
PB : I wanted to be and I was going to be, and I started my training, as an, as an architect. I went to the Brixton School of Building, which was just around the corner funnily enough - So I had to walk there.
DM : So was that something you’d wanted to do before you joined the air-force?
PB : No, not really. No, no. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Before I joined the air-force I very fortunate I got a job at the Ministry of Aircraft Production on Millbank. I must have been, I was seventeen. Yes, I was seventeen. And I joined the air-force then when I was the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Wonderful job, counting the aircraft as they came out of the factory, literally. And I had access to all these figures, and they had accurate estimates of what should be produced and the factory ones that were produced. And I could see how many Hurricanes, Halifaxes, Spitfires, not Lancasters, were produced every, every week. And I was in the direct, in the fort, the very direction of aircraft production, which was the first floor of Millbank. I often go back, but it’s all changed now. They’ve taken it all away. It’s all gone They’ve gutted it and done again. They’ve really, really started the whole thing all over again.
DM : So, I imagine from what you’re saying it was while you were in the air-force you, sort of, firmed up the idea that you would like to train to be an architect.
PB : I think, I think oh yes yes.
DM : Any particular reason for that?
PB : Well I like to say I knocked them all down so I’m building them all back up again, but it wasn’t that at all. [Chuckle]. No, it wasn’t that. I just felt that I could draw and I felt I’d like to do it. And luckily I found the right niche.
PB : So after the war, you get a career, you get a wife and then a family, I imagine. Did you keep in touch with the crew or any other colleagues from the air-force.
PB : Only Ken. And I’ll tell you how this happened. I knew Ken was an Australian. So I phoned up the Australian Pathfinder Association, and they said : ‘Oh Ken, yes we know who he is. Yes, he’s living in America now.’ So I said : ‘Whereabouts?’ He said : ‘New England.’ So I phoned up every Rothwell there was in New England and I got all sorts of funny replies. Mostly American. And then one day I said : ‘This is a voice from the past. You probably don’t know me.’ He said : ‘Hello Peter.’ He knew my voice. Huh. That’s how it started. And we’re friends now, we still see him. He came over, he used to come over here regularly to march at the Cenotaph. I still march every year at the Cenotaph. And he used to come over, but he’s my age, of course, and he finds it difficult to get around, like I do. So he doesn’t do that anymore. Great family. Got to know them. He’s been in this room.
DM : What career path did he follow?
PB : He was, he was the head of a college, in, I don’t know exactly what. But he was the head of a college in New England. He went into teaching. He met his wife in Sweden when he went on holiday once, I believe. And she’s American. Hmm, yeah.
DM : So, after the, after the war was there a period in your life when, obviously you would never forget what had happened in the air-force and your time in Bomber Command, but did you, sort of, move away from it, and then perhaps come back to it and then join associations later?
PB : I put it right out of my mind. It was another world. Disappeared. And right up until fairly recently been totally out of my mind, except when Ken comes over. That brings it back a bit. But, no, it’s another world. Every life has its cycles and that was a cycle that disappeared. And this is my own particular cycle now, it’s been like that since the end of the war. No, I don’t think of it. I very rarely think of it. It’s another world. Another person. In fact, I often think of that person who did those things as my own son you know, and you know, nothing to do with me. Strange, but no another episode totally forgotten and this brings it all back.
DM : Hmm.
PB : And I get a bit emotional about it now I’m afraid but that’s the way it was. Hmm.
DM : Did you go to the dedication of the memorial in London?
PB : Yes, we did. We did do that. My wife and I went to the dedication. And because I was, was signing books. I, because, was signing books for an organisation that was raising money for the maintenance of it. Because I was signing books I was invited with my wife. And when we were there, suddenly it was quite silent and suddenly there was, some of us heard a noise and round and it was a Lancaster coming over. It was only those who looked around that were aircrew that recognised that sound. This Lancaster came over and dropped all these poppies. Wonderful.
DM : So, you didn’t know that was going to happen?
PB : No,no, no. It was out of the blue. Yeah great experience. Yeah, I like the memorial very much, but I find one fault with the sculptures. They all look about thirty-five or forty. We weren’t that age. All of us were kids. Twenty-one.
DM : Yeah, I think -
PB : Twenty-two.
DM: - like when you see your representation in the films. Most of the actors are far too old.
PB : Yeah. It’s a lovely memorial. I think, ‘ Thank God it’s there,’ but the figures there I didn’t recognise.
DM : Do you have any opinions on how Bomber Command were treated after the war? As opposed to other people who had fought in it on other fronts and other-
PB : We were disappointed because we were in the same dangers as any other members of the forces, and we did feel a little bit let down that we weren’t recognised. And I think it was political football in a way, and I think it was all to do with the bombing of areas which were civilian occupied and I doubt it ever involved in that, anyway. Nevertheless it was a bit of let-down, yeah I felt that.
DM : So perhaps, whilst there’s recognition now, it’s very late because a lot of the people who survived the war are no longer with us.
PB : Yes,it is. Yes. The wonderful people who did make a great thing of thing of this, I’m very glad they did. I’m very grateful to them. But much later, of course, it was recognised and we were awarded a clasp and I was very honoured to be invited to Number 10 Downing Street by the Prime Minister with many others to receive the clasp. And that was an amazing experience. Going up the staircase with all the former Prime Ministers going up to the top floor and the Prime Minster. Gave a wonderful speech and he, he summarised the losses which was roughly a hundred-and-fifty thousand took part and fifty thousand died, fifty-five thousand died, and he knew all these facts and he knew all the statistics. And after the little presentation he came up to us and gave us the clasp. We didn’t go up to him, he came up to us. That was magnificent and then we were ushered into another room where there were tables set out and there were about five to each table, and there was a vacant seat at each table. I sat down at one with my wife, and shortly after he came and sat next to me and I was delighted with chatting away. And I said to him : ‘When the coach came in they searched for bombs and underneath the coach, you know, it’s very flat and there could have been bombs there so they searched for them.’ And I said to him later at the table, I said : ‘They looked for bombs under here. You need have bothered as we’re used to having bombs underneath us.’ And he thought that was quite funny. And had lovely meal there and that was wonderful. That was tremendous. That was a long living experience with me. Yeah. Yes my wife has been stalwart with me since my training days in the RAF, she lived next door to me, and I had wonderful letters and we kept this correspondence, she was only a child then you see. She was only twelve. When I was seventeen she was five years younger than me, and I’d always thought of her as a child and then much later she grew up and I grew up a bit more and we did get married in 1951 and very happily too. She’s till upstairs [Chuckle]. And very happily married. We’ve had three children. Unfortunately my son died, he went to America and he got a job in America and he was an accountant with Airbus, and he contracted cancer, unfortunately. But the other two girls are doing well, one of them is an architect like myself and the other is a very senior, very senior officer in the National Health Service. Yes.

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Citation

David Meanwell, “Interview with Peter Banting ,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 16, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8350.

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