Interview with Charles Baron

Title

Interview with Charles Baron

Description

Charles Baron grew up in London and volunteered for aircrew in 1940. He trained as a navigator and on radar. He later volunteered for overseas duties and was posted to India where he flew intruder missions over Burma.
After the war he worked training Indian Air Force ground personnel and with the British Bombing Survey. When he left the Air Force he qualified as a Chartered Secretary and worked in India and the UK.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-03-21

Contributor

Jackie Simpson

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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

01:09:51 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ABaronC160321

Coverage

Conforms To

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

AH: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre, the interviewer is Anna Hoyles, the interviewee is Charles Baron. The interview is taking place at Mr. Baron’s home in Louth Lincolnshire on 23rd March 2016.
CB: Here we are I volunteered for aircrew 1940, you can have a copy of this [laughs], I think the calling up system was somewhat chaotic at that time because it took the authorities another eight months to send me my calling up papers, the instructions were that I report RAF Uxbridge where I was issued with a uniform for an AC2/UT/AIROBS i.e. that means an Aircraft Hand Second Class under training for Air Observer close brackets, I volunteered for pilot but my eyesight test discovered that I was partly colour blind and that made it no good so err, when ‘cos I oh yes yes well then I’ll read this and then you’ll see what’s what’s useful and what isn’t, umm err, I volunteered for pilot but my eyesight was partly colour blind I remember that I had whilst I was at Uxbridge I was posted to Uxbridge and that’s where I got this funny title, which consisted of roast beef stroke yorkshire pudding followed by plum duff I remember being impressed and pleased that I had volunteered for aircrew as a meal that size and nature had not been at our table for years. I was then given a train ticket to Blackpool and billeted with several others in a seaside boarding house there were about ten of us recruits billeted there and most of them were friendly except well yes that’s nothing, I spent six weeks marching up and down the promenade after six weeks parading at Blackpool we were posted to a receiving wing based at Stratford on Avon I was here for two or three weeks and wasted my time as it was merely a holding post pending a vacancy for proper training at an Initial Training Wing ITW, this was well worth the wait as early in 1941 I was posted to Number Two ITW Initial Training Wing and billeted in Emmanuel College Cambridge I shared students quarters with two other navigation trainees, tell you I had it soft, the courses were for me actual luxury as I realised quite soon that I had what I had missed by not going to university for further education [laughs]. There was some forty of us billeted in different colleges we livened the local populace by marching everywhere at one hundred and forty paces per minute I remember our first drill lesson [laughs] ? standing for attention and being lectured by an instructor who was an obvious Londoner, I remember very ‘stinctly his first instruction relating to smart appearance which was, [how do I read this] ‘now tomorra I want all your buttorns cleaned’ [imitating a London accent] that was exactly what he said [laughs]. At Cambridge we were initiated in the mysteries of air navigation, air recognition, meteorology, morse and similar too many to remember in detail, the course lasted eight weeks I passed the course and was promoted to LAC Leading Aircraft Hand with my daily pay increased from two and six a day to five and six a day [emphasis]. We were then posted to Sealand near Chester for onward transmission by sea to Florida where where we due to spend six months being thoroughly trained in air navigation by Pan Am pretty good hey, on arrival at our embarkation port Avonmouth four of us found that our papers had not been received and the ship left without us [laughs], we were returned to Cambridge and you can imagine our feelings, this time we were billeted at Downing College where we cooled our heels for some weeks before I was called before the CO and asked if I would be prepared to volunteer for a highly secretive and dangerous training [whispers], as I would have been prepared to go anywhere to serve and play some useful part in the war I said ‘yes please sir’, after a day or so I was sent to Air Ministry where I was given some very odd looking diagrams to study and provide answers to various questions passed out and satisfactorily shortly after my return to Downing College I was posted to Prestwick. At Prestwick I was introduced to air born radar instead of six months full training by Pan Am I received six hours air training in a Blenheim 3 which was a twin engined bomber which had been furnished with a radar set for me to study during which time my training consisted of using the radar to instruct my pilot to follow and close with a target aircraft at night until he could actually see the target I was using a radar set to do this you see and I had to understand how to operate it the object would have then been to be able to shoot down the target I was passed [coughs] above average and then promoted to Sergeant Navigator Radar with a daily pay increase from five and six to, you’ll never guess, thirteen shillings a day [whispers] this equated to four pound eleven a week and was more than I had ever earned as a civilian [laughs], had I been passed average I would have been posted to an operational training unit for further training before being posted to an operational squadron I was bypassed because I passed above average, I think I told you, I was sent to Canadian Operational Squadron at Accrington Northampton er Northumberland where I spent several interesting months, our operation area was the North East included such targets as Newcastle and Durham so I expected a good deal of activity however compared to Southern England it was [?] and disappointing, I teamed with a Canadian pilot Sergeant Hughie Gorr we became very close friends and after the war we exchanged home visits, he and I stayed together as a crew for about three years. He proved his worth as a talented pilot on many occasions but one in particular sticks in my memory that happened quite soon after I was posted to Accrington the squadron oh yes this was Number 406 Canadian Squadron also maintained, you can have a copy of this photocopy of this no problem at all, also maintained a detachment at Scorton near Catterick in Yorkshire where all crews spent about one week in four, on one occasion we were on patrol at night there when one of our two engines failed and Hughie said ‘I think I can make it on one engine if you give me a course for base’ I duly did so but very shortly afterward the other engine failed [laughs] and Hughie said ‘bail out’ I opened the rear hatch and was halfway out of the aircraft with my parachute on and Hughie said ‘ooh I can see base and I am going to make a glide landing’ bearing in mind that this was dead of night his confidence was a tribute to his piloting skill when we less than a thousand feet and too late to bail out he said ‘oh lord it’s a dummy’ in other words a dummy was a false runway close to the proper runway and built to mislead enemy activity, I reluctantly climbed back in the aircraft er closed the rear hatch and settled down to await my fate it was then considered to control the engineless aircraft but kept the wheels up and made a crash landing in a field roughly fifty yards from a small wood I then climbed out [whispers] with a bruised knee, and that was that was quite an experience, er as enemy air activity was very low the squadron was posted for a year to Scotland not far from Prestwick where I had received my radar baptism this posting was also not terribly exciting and when volunteers were called to venture overseas to join the Middle East battle Hughie and I were happy to do so we were then posted to Wilmslow in Cheshire to be fully kitted out for overseas duties and then to Avonmouth where we boarded a steamer bound for Freetown in Sierra Leone our ship was part of a convoy on arrival at Freetown after surviving a few submarine scares we then boarded another steamer bound for Takoradi in the Gold Coast what was called the Gold Coast er that’s now Ghana of course, which went without convoy protection but fortunately we had no attacks from enemy submarines, we learnt while on board to Takoradi that all the passengers were aircrew and that the RAF had built an airport there for the purpose of ferrying fighter aircraft to the war zone in the Middle East, the aircraft had been shipped separately, this is very interesting, in knock down form for assembly in Takoradi the reason for this was that the Germans controlled the Mediterranean and it was considered to wasteful to fly direct aircrew had to wait a few days while the aircraft arrived and were assembled and then flown in convoy to the war zone across Africa, the route from Takoradi to the base in Egypt called Abu Suweir was a long one and we had to stop several times for refuelling and this meant overnight stops at Maiduguri Nigeria, El Fasher in Darfur, Wadi Halfa on the Southern Nile and finally up the Nile to Abu Suweir that’s how we got to Egypt. Unfortunately when we landed at Takoradi I was bitten [laughs] I was bitten by an annapolis mosquito and spent the next three weeks in a military hospital recovering from malaria this meant that Hughie and I missed our convoy and so our Beaufighter was three weeks late we were further delayed because our plane suffered a magneto drop and we had to leave our convoy for an emergency landing in another strip at El Geneina this meant we had to wait another week or so while a replacement engine was flown out to us finally we flew on our own the rest of the way by the time we arrived in Egypt, Montgomery had won the battle of El Alamein, it’s the story of my life [turning pages over] experience. We stayed in Egypt with 89 Squadron for about six months 89 was commanded by a well known commander called Wing Commander Stainforth he was a magnificent pilot and 89th Squadron he was given what was about three times the size of a normal RAF Squadron having a detachment as far away as Malta, Abu Seweir was comparatively quiet and our duties were largely uneventful patrols though I do remember coming out of cloud over Alexandria being mistaken by a JU88 by our own Mediterranean fleet and hastily removing ourselves from a concentrated anti-aircraft barrage. Now around the time this time Hughie was seconded temporarily for ferry duties and I was a spare navigator a squadron leader pilot who had completed his tour of Whitley bombers was posted to 89 Squadron to learn to fly Beaufighters the aircraft Beaufighter and I acted as navigator while Hughie was away Squadron Leader Clements had great difficulty in mastering the Beaufighter which tended to swing to starboard on take off and landing one day we took off as usual but squadron leader temporarily lost control and we were at right angles from the runway before we had got to the end we then wondered around the sky while I showed him our various points of interest Port Said, Alexandria and so on and eventually we approached our own airfield and he began his descent on landing he failed to control the swing tendency but this time on the landing the aircraft was once again at right angles to the runway [laughs] and heading straight for to a Hurricane which was occupied the Hurricane was, its’s engine, where are we, was running because the chocks had not been removed because the people who pulled the chocks away the aircraft er yeah the airmen who pulled them away couldn’t quite rightly saw that if they stayed where they are they would get killed by us you see, so anyway, I still remember I had not yet been [?] so he so that he was stationery I still remember the look of absolute panic on the face of the hurricane pilot as we removed his starboard wing [laughs] can you imagine that as we went by [laughs] the nearest the furthest away he could get so yes so fortunately he didn’t get hurt at all the squadron leader added to our problems by turning around in ever decreasing circles and the undercarriage finally collapsed on the ground we stopped I had a slightly bruised knee for the second time I also remember Squadron Leader Clements saying ‘I’m terribly sorry flight sergeant’ I was a flight sergeant by then my own reply had better not be printed. Fortunately Hughie returned the following day there was very little action around this time and when early in 1943 we were asked to volunteer for a three month detachment in India where the Japanese were reputed to be bombing Calcutta heavily and frightening the local population many of whom ran panic stricken into the jungle we gladly responded positively the volunteer flight of eight Beaufighters was commanded by Flight Lieutenant George Nottage a first class chap he and I became great friends after the war, after an interesting albeit uneventful side trip Dum Dum Airport Calcutta with various stops in the Gulf and in Bombay we arrived and moved to RAF airfield at Bicarchi [?] we then found that the enormous Japanese bombing turned out to be three Mitsubishi bombers flying at night with their lights on, I’m not joking, and carrying antipersonnel bombs, the night after we arrived the first of our eight crews on night readiness was piloted by a chap called Flight Sergeant Pring sure enough three Japanese bombers in formation with their lights on approached Calcutta and Pring duly shot them all down in four minutes his radar navigator W Warrant Officer Phillips didn’t have a much to do, two nights later three more Japanese bombers approached Calcutta this time shot down by an Australian flight lieutenant, the name escapes me, and his radar navigator Warrant Officer Moss unfortunately Moss could not have been looking at his radar set at the time because he overlooked the Jap fighter that was shadowing his three bomber friends and he shot the Beaufighter down happily happily, there is no tragedy in this so unhurt when they crash landed they were picked up by Burmese Irregulars [?] called Force 136 who looked after them and they were taken to the nearest allied post and in due course returned to us, thereafter Japanese night bombing ceased because they didn’t know about radar you see radar was so important to us enough in the war it was one of the keys that got us the win, I forgot to mention on arrival at Dum Dum we were told that as were now under RAF India Command our service was to last three years and not three months [laughs] you can imagine our reply [laughs] but I wouldn’t tell you. Consequently we spent most of our time in Burma what is now Bangladesh we were based in Chittagong resorted to intruder flights over Burma where our targets were mainly trains and convoys of lorries these were fairly long flights and I remember in particular Rangoon and Mandalay we also dropped the occasional senior officers to Infall [?] where the 14th Army were besieged the airport there used to be attacked during the day but we managed without incident, er one hot summer day what’s all this about, oh yes this is interesting, one hot summer day in 1943 I was laying on my Charpoy [?], do you know what Charpoy it’s a straw bed, er where am I oh yes, er perspiring freely, wh en an officer came to my billet and told me to quote his own words ‘George wants you’ and I asked ‘why?’ and the officer didn’t know ‘I don’t know go and ask him’ I duly presented myself at the officers mess and in due to course to George Flight Lieutenant Knowledge Flight Lieutenant Nottage came to the door and said ‘oh hello Charlie move your move your stuff in here you’re an officer now’ that’s how I got promoted this was the sum total of my officer training it’s silly isn’t it [laughs] but it’s true [laughs]. As an officer in addition to my navigation duties I was given various jobs i.e. savings officer, officers mess, bar officer and entertainments officer, every Friday I sat at the end of the airmen’s weekly pay parade and collected such amounts as such as each airman gave paid from his weekly wage to be handed a savings certificate in return for his donation which I then banked. My bar officer duties consisted of replenishing stocks from weekly visits to Calcutta and setting prices for all the different types of alcohol initially I made myself very unpopular by raising the prices but this changed completely when I opened the bar for free for the five days around Christmas, I am considered to be responsible for the squadron leader admin acquiring DT’s. My most memorable experience as an entertainments officer was when I learnt that Vera Lynn was visiting the area this was just after the end of the war in Europe actually and Egypt and so on, I made an emergency flight to Calcutta and at short notice given an appointment and I successfully persuaded her to come to Bicarchi and giver a concert there which was of course highly successful despite the fact the only date we could offer was the Sunday at which she said ‘well it’s me day off really but I’ll do it for the boys’ what a wonderful person she is. Shortly after my pilot and various other officers having completed their flying duties were flown home, my flying duties were also completed but instead of being flown home I was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and posted to Basci [?] Air Quarters in Delhi there I was initially responsible for organising the various training headquarters throughout India for Indian Air Force Ground Crew, excuse me, nearly finished. After a few months I was transferred to the organisational department with the grand title of ORG1A here I was once again promoted to squadron leader and was involved with planning the invasion of Singapore unfortunately somebody dropped an atom bomb and ruined all my work subsequently I handled various aspects of construction on airfields under our control and exceptionally after the war ended this included the Indian Officer Building of British Overseas Aircraft. At long last I was posted home with my wife, not this one [laughs], Winnie was a WAF corporal whom I had met in Accrington years ago we’d been in correspondence since then and she followed me to India via Ceylon at the first opportunity but the disparity in our ranking met with some disapproval but we still married in Delhi and gave a popular ceremonial drinking party on arrival in England in 46 after due leave with my new family [?] er oh yes well after that I mean you don’t want to know you won’t
AH: I wouldn’t mind knowing what you did after the war?
CB: Oh right, my work at Air Ministry was a member of the British bombing survey I was posted to Air Ministry to assist in the analysis of the different bombing targets as instructed by Air Marshall Bomber Harris you’ve heard of him, his policy of bombing towns to break the morale of the German people was considered [coughs] correctly in my view as wrong both strategically and morally because the carriage that resulted the carnage that resulted failed completely to break the German civilian aircraft German civilian morale and cost our Bomber Command fifty per cent casualties the highest casualty rate of any arm of any service in allied command that’s true Bomber Command, well I had an elder brother he didn’t last there you go. On my release later in 1946 the RAF paid for a short course in business admin and a posting for two years, do you still want to hear that, at six pounds per week [laughs] er in a repetition woodworking company specialising in turnery where I was supposed to continue my business training in fact I was in effect an underpaid office manager my boss was so pleased with me that he doubled my pay to twelve pounds per week ‘cos he only paid six of it and the government paid the other however when the two years were completed and the government subsidy of six pounds per week ceased his attitude changed during this time I qualified as a Chartered Secretary my workload kept on increasing and after blazing row I left, still go on. It took me a few months to find a decent job during this time I kept the family in funds by selling insurance door to door you know life insurance door to door for the United Friendly Insurance Company, the branch I worked for used to give a ballpoint every week to the salesman who sold the most insurance during the week after five weeks I had acquired five ballpoint pens and the inducement for all salesmen ceased, during this time I kept on answering advertisements for office managers as a result of which I recognised I acquired a recognised office managers job in Thetford ooh six hundred and fifty a year getting all right, Winnie and Rosalind remained in the rented flat in London for a few months as it took me some time to find suitable rented accommodation in Thetford, er well nothing there really nothing. We stayed in Thetford until 1969 1949 sorry the company I served manufacturing company raw material moulded pulp the raw material was discarded cardboard boxes which by immersion into water produced articles such as baby baths, trays and flower bowls we were in fact the largest producer of babies baths in England, it had another division in a branch factory in Newmarket using vulcanised fibre to make two thirds of Britain’s coal miners helmets at that time the miners workforce in the UK numbered seven hundred thousand, one of the papier mache formed the basis for motorcycle crash helmets which we sold to a firm called Helmets Limited for the vast sum of two shillings and ten pence, when the Duke of Edinburgh initiated the idea that all cyclists should wear crash helmets I persuaded my company to market a new product as we had the equipment and the technique to make completed cyclists and motorcyclists helmets, I was given carte blanche by my boss to devise a new production line and advertise and market the product which I named the Centurion this product rapidly became the most successful of all work and profit doubled during that time I qualified by correspondents course as an AC as a cost and works accountant now enjoys a more prestigious title a cost and management accountant ACMA the company was owned by an absentee board of directors I was congratulated by the chairman who said that as a result of what I had done about the crash helmet I would be given a bonus of one hundred pounds this resulted in my leaving the company and taking a job in Calcutta as chief cost accountant for the largest group of paper mills in India at three times my previous salary, oh you don’t know anymore it goes on you know, well basically after that oh yes of course I was in India, gr oooh, oh yes that could be interesting actually. I left my family with Winnie daughter Rosalind aged eight then she’s now sixty nine now she’s seventy no rising seventy still going strong.
Other: No, no you mean Winnie you mean no no no you don’t mean Ros.
CB: I mean Rosalind her daughter is nearly seventy yes that’s right, er how could she be nearly seventy then? Oh yes of course she can but I’m ninety five. In Aiden I bought a blue Rolex Oyster Royal for fourteen pounds which I still have, [laughs] must be worth a hundred or two, we landed in Bombay proceeded by rail to Calcutta here we were met taken by road to Chandannagar [?] which is on the Hooghly River about thirty miles away where we billeted in a very large flat in a compound with other paper mill executives, errr well nothing very well yes [laughs] well I’ll show you how it changed my life I was soon advised that as cost accountant I was responsible for all the accounts and I controlled the stores at that time two large paper mills the largest being in Chittiga and the other where I was based in Chandannagar [?] I was provided with a chauffeur driven limousine which enabled me to visit both mills every day Monday to Friday at each of which there was a storekeeper controlling very valuable stores for equipping the papermill machines at each mill a large area was allocated for storing of thousand tonnes of bamboo sticks for bamboo we made the paper out of the bamboo, ah and having been cut down by contractors from miles around the bamboo was weighed on arrival before being unloaded and the moisture content which varied from freshly cut forty percent moisture down to seasoned around ten percent was weighed at the main at the mill weighbridge and the contractors were paid only for the seasoned weight this was obviously capable of corruption between the contractor and the weighbridge keeper I very soon found that corruption was endemic in the end this was an example I appointed a [?] the weighbridge keepers who were Indian but understood and spoke English as at the time I spoke no Urdu one of the weighbridge keepers said to me ‘don’t worry Barron saab while I am in your backside no harm shall come to you’ it was impossible to sack anybody at the as the union was very strong so I merely had him sidestepped the other stores housed in large buildings which were locked up out of working hours by the storekeeper this was also subject to corruption and as the chief engineer British was also corrupt I found in due course that control was virtually impossible, the Head Office was in Calcutta and my own boss whose title was simply the boss my own boss he was number one and I was number four answered my query on the subject of corruption by saying tongue in cheek ‘you can take anything which you can eat or drink but nothing which crackles or rings’ there you go, social life was good especially for me, after a few months Winnie took Rosalind home to England we’d already booked Rosalind for a place in boarding school I’d taken the oh yes I’d taken the opportunity to play my violin and in fact I joined the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra as deputy lead violinist the orchestra was composed largely of amateurs like myself and it was conducted by a Welsh Englishman David Jacobs whose family owned several jute mills as Calcutta was on the world circuit of prestigious soloists and I was the only fairly knowledgeable musician we occasionally entertained famous names such as [?] and I was placed next to him keep him entertained at dinner in the luxurious head office dining room [?] and I took to each other and we had a most stimulating discussion about the life of a professional musical soloist he invited me to call on him at the Savage Club in London whenever I managed to get back to England unfortunately he died before my first home leave, I did call on David Jacob’s family in London to go and see, err [flicks through pages], oh yes [laughs] the work conditions were not without interest and occasional excitement as for example when my office was invaded by some hundreds of bamboo coolies demanding a rise in wages this was understandable because they were quote “outcasts” unquote and were at the lowest possible rate of pay thirty rupees per month about ten shillings per week of fifty pence as we now call it my hands were tied but I did manage to have their pay increased as a result of my representation on their behalf at head office this put them on equal pay with the next cast rank above whose member well the members were not at all pleased. I was rather more for more fortunate than the chief engineer of a large engineering company in Calcutta when his workforce through him in the boiler [laughs], as the executive responsible for labour relations throughout both paper mills I was chairman of the grading committee, er oh yes mmm, you don’t want to know about all that, oh yes well during this time yes I got a Dear John letter from Winnifred telling me she was leaving me and wanted to marry my best friend I was naturally devastated there had been no hint of this before I left England, my six months furlough was not due for about another year but my company were good enough to bring my furlough forward for a few months during this time I managed to divorce Winnifred and put Rosalind into a good private school and then er when I came back I had time to spare and I it was six months you see and after a couple of months I got a temporary job in National Farmers by the National Farmers Union as a representative of Joe Nickerson and Company have you heard of them well it’s very big locally er it’s a seed growing company which offered to pay me adequately for introducing a new lawn seed called “Agrosstistolernepherous” [?] to retail seed sundries man and they gave me free rein to go where I wished and call on retail seed sundries man and after, I’m cutting this short, after a few weeks I decided to report and after initial annoyance that I had not sent them weekly reports Nickerson were delighted with the number of seed sundries men I had appointed added to their customers, the annual summer dinner dance I was invited to attend as their guest the organiser was the managing director’s PA and who introduced herself to me during the course of the evening her name was Janet Franklin and we were married about one month afterwards, unfortunately I received an urgent call from my Indian employers to return to India immediately a flight [coughs] a flight had been booked for me to return on Christmas Day which meant I had to leave Janet behind for about two months while she had while she put her local affairs in order and she joined me a eighteen months later ahhh [long sigh]. I soon realised that the salary I received in India could be equalled with the greatest of difficulty and required considerable initiative and therefore initially having qualified for management accountant I decided to use it in the field of management consultancy so the first company I joined was a firm of charlatans and I left them to try my luck as a self employed consultant at this I was reasonably successful but my plants were rarely close to our home in Sussex being largely in Scotland and Northern England and this necessitated almost continued absence so when Jan Janice, not this lady, was hospitalised following a miscarriage we decided on her release to look for a home much closer to her family living in Grimsby and near Louth where she had been educated so then sixty one sold the house er in Sussex where we lived um for seven thousand five hundred pounds er and then we bought The Elms no we bought The Elms for seven thousand five hundred I think we sold the Sussex one for about the same The Elms was a large six bedroom house here in Louth er and then I was introduced to a gentleman called Ken Addison who was a general manager of a polythene film extrusion company owned by Pickford Paper Mills Ken was very anxious to run his own company but had no capital neither did I however in my travels I had made friends with a well to do business man named Anthony Jowell who was prepared to invest three thousand pounds and we needed about ten thousand although I had no money of my own my financial reputation was such that I was offered three thousand by the bank which was then the National Provincial Bank and Addison had a friend in the scrap metal motoring business and I persuaded his friend to buy three thousand to buy one thousand shares and make a shareholder for three thousand pounds and he did so the odd two thousand shares I presented to Ken Addison and he was the MD and I was the financial director that’s when we made some money real money, er do you want to know how [laughs], got pages yet, is that enough?
AH: Yeah [laughs] thank you its very interesting
CB: Cos I made another I started another company double glazing after this we sold our company that was where made some real money the first time but do you know what taxation was then? Maximum taxation of anything over one hundred thousand earnings was eighty five percent and capital gains that was the cheapest way out that was forty percent so when we sold our company we had to give the government forty percent of it doesn’t happen now its about fifteen not fair is it.
Other: If you remember tax on unearned tax on unearned income as opposed to earned income was ninety eight percent.
CB: Yeah the maximum
Other: Can you believe it?
CB: Ninety eight percent for unearned income if you were a rich person that’s the sort of money that they ought to be charging the very rich now but they don’t do they? Well that’s about roughly it oh yes the other company was double glazing
Other: Yes
CB: Yes Primo Windows
Other: Primo Windows
CB: Of course you don’t come from this area and I sold that after ten years having got this three thousand pounds and I sold that for another three hundred thousand ten years later so there we are okay.
AH: And where were you from originally?
CB: Pardon
AH: And where were you from originally?
CB: Islington.
AH: Really.
CB: Yes, 17 Chapel Market second floor above a shop of a er shop anyway where I shared two rooms with my mother, father, two brothers and a sister that was where I started.
AH: And why did you want to join the RAF?
CB: Where did?
AH: Why did you join the RAF?
CB: Well I I thought what a marvellous thing what a wonderful thing to be able to do fly like that
Other: And there was a war on too.
CB: Yes and there was a war on it was either RAF [burps] or army or navy and not being a very good swimmer navy was out for me and the army I didn’t fancy being in those blasted trenches all the time and the RAF sounded much more interesting and they accepted me so there we are [takes a drink], so I can let you have a copy of the relevant stuff if you want it [sifts through papers] er
Other: I can print some off
CB: Yes can you print pages four, five,
Other: Yes I’ll just go get it turned on
CB: Six and seven and eight I think that will do. And er at that time er I was given a job with the British Bombing Survey Unit er what the start of it actually the chap in charge was an air marshall I mean he was this was to have to investigate an air chief marshall’s duties so I I was I was a senior assistant to the bod [?] I forgot who it was now it was a very very well quite a well known name.
Other: Well that was Harris wasn’t it?
CB: No no that was the chap we were investigating.
Other: Oh right yes okay. So which is two cups I think they were actually these are clean.
CB: No these are new ones.
Other: Yes they are, there you go.
AH: Thank you.
Other: Did you have sugar? Lots of musical terms on there [laughs]
CB: Yes, er I can’t the trouble is my memory is not good it really isn’t and I.
Other: Very good you’ve just got ninety five years of memories to to drag out that’s the thing it’s the hard drive that’s full.
CB: What?
Other: The hard drive is full.
CB: Yes [laughs] I reckon.
AH: So what did you do exactly when you were there?
CB: When, when? I was well I had an office and a secretary I think yeah I did and I er I visited a I forget where a lot of information about how many aircraft which type of aircraft had had a percentage more er knocked down by the Germans and so on all sorts of things like that a lot of statistics and the statistic showed um cos I said the best things to do is to look at all the places that we were told to bomb by Harris and what the results were and he kept on um er he kept on giving the giving air command giving er fighter command the instructions to go bomb towns more than military targets and that’s why I said we killed a lot of German civilians and as a result of that that was part of my report when I said that we we er um unnecessarily went for these and put as my real reason which wasn’t quite my real reason the fact that we lost so many aircraft of our own fruitlessly that was really the sum total of what I found and he was disgraced and sent sent er but I wasn’t the only one there we were we were there was about a good half dozen of us going different areas and so on and so forth it was an important thing British Bombing Survey Unit there I had it all written down there so if you want to know [laughs] that’s what I was mainly in charge of or partly in charge anyway all right.
AH: And what reaction did you get to your report?
CB: Report well the report was then read by the top brass in Air Ministry and in due course he got the sack [laughs] well he was er he was dismissed to some very minor post in South Africa and er had no real power or duties after that and it’s only recently that some some idiots have started to resurrect him er as what a wonderful good chap he was but he really wasn’t there you are history can be distorted sometimes.
AH: And was the general view of like your family what did they think of Harris at the time?
CB: He was well they knew nothing any apart from the fact that I had lost a brother who was a navigator on Lancaster’s er I was lucky I was stuck where well I started before he did er and er didn’t get involved in bombing I was night fighting and intruding [?] and you were fine in there
AH: Where was your brother stationed?
CB: Pardon.
AH: Where was your brother stationed?
CB: Oh stationed in England and er his grave which we have visited is at er
Other: Hanover
CB: Hanover in Germany.
Other: That was very emotional wasn’t it?
CB: It was yes yes, he was he was a brainy fellow too and er he was a much brighter bloke more intelligent fellow than his elder brother who was a bit of a well nothing important shall we say yes.
AH: What was your brother called?
CB: Well he was originally christened Emmanuel but then people called him Manny and he didn’t like that so he rechristened himself Ernest and he was then called Ernie [laughs] in the same way as well I might as well admit I was born and christened my parents christened me Cyril and I didn’t like Cyril particularly in the air force where they made fun of it so I said my name was Charles and I have been Charles ever since now well it began with C so that was enough [laughs].
Other: You couldn’t do that nowadays could you [laughs] in fact it is much easier to change your surname than your given name.
CB: Well there you go.
AH: And what was it like working with when you started training on radar did you know anything about it before?
CB: Nothing whatso, well nobody did it was a high ever so secretive and as I say it was a very very important arm of the of the armed forces because we got to it before the Germans did and in consequence our our bomber um our defence night fighter defence er and day fighter for that matter ‘cos you could see them from oh even miles away so then [?] you could trace them it starts off with a ground office you’ve seen those photographs of WAFS with the stick in their hand [laughs] you can see their underclothes and there all round the table pointing at things and these are the directions that they are pointing at because you got the table was the map and they pointed to all and were told as they were told they pointed towards them and it was all done by the people controlling the radar because the radar it was a way of controlling um it would start off with a name radio direction finding that was what it was you see and they are all around us you can’t feel them or anything but there they all are and it was fantastic I wish I could remember the chap who discovered how to use them because he got highly decorated for it I think we met himah what was his name no good if it comes to be I’ll let you know but you can find that out anyway.
AH: Was it difficult to learn?
CB: We didn’t have much time did you, er I um my sole instruction of reading I had to read two tubes were two air tubes and various funny pictures upon them er one the left hand one had a line there straight along and that was the line started with the ground and ended and ended much in line with the heavens and if you were at ten thousand feet for example a little blip occurred at ten thousand it was all measured so that you would know if he was above you or below you and also how much above or how much and the distance and then you had another one like that another line like that and and there it was to the right of the left of the line either they were east or west as you were flying and however near you were or near they were to you or however further away and the idea was for us to move to use the radar which we could direct which we could find where if there was an aircraft in front of us within our our distance and our distance at that time was above er the distance we were above the ground so the higher we went the longer the tine the longer the line and this little blip was you could have a half dozen blips er above or below and there was there was also you could tell friend from foe by because they had a little er piece of equipment that once the little thing you looked at looked for and once you got the line you tried to follow it and catch it catch up with it then your pilot who had who had in a Beaufighter ohhh um four canon and six machine guns you could then shoot it down and he wouldn’t even know what hit him you see and a lot of people did that when the time came I was quite good at it as it so happens er it was as a sergeant a flight sergeant although we were on duty a lot when the commanding officer or senior officer came and there was a raid on he took over and he then went up when there was an aircraft there to get shotdown before we got a chance at it we used to get very cross about that but we weren’t officers [laughs] but there we are there all sorts of things I could teach you it would take years.
AH: Did you have to stare at it all the time?
CB: No no if the er we had loudspeakers attached to our ears and if the command if we heard there was ‘action is required’ or whatever we then we then stared we then stared at but we used it for all sorts of other reasons we used it for I had a map in front of me and if I wanted to get to a particular place a particular place say we were fifty miles away I could er I could use the radar to check where the objective was roughly and then get closer to it and closer to it until the pilot could see it so it was quite interesting – ahh I can’t remember it all that well it was a long time ago.
AH: What were the Beaufighters like?
CB: Oh great stuff um I’ll show you one.
Other: Oh right where is it its not a very big one
CB: There’s your Beaufighter [shows a picture] the pilot was there and I was there okay and we communicated by radar by telephone that’s it very manoeuvrable it was oh yeah and he was thank heaven for me he was a first class pilot and he seemed to think I was a decent navigator so we got on well in fact we got to know each other and he visited us after the war and we visited him in Canada, yes but he’s dead now died of natural causes.
AH: How come you went to a Canadian Squadron?
CB: That was when at the time it was the nearest definite one that was available that’s all I cannot tell you why I was picked in the Canadian Squadron or not I was very pleased about it eventually it didn’t make any difference to me whether it was Canadian or English but the Canadians were a good lot they really were, yeah I imagine that they were ones that had been they had been fully equipped and were and had so they were granted an airfield and off we went.
AH: And when you were flying to Rangoon and Mandalay were they Beaufighters as well?
CB: Oh yeah yes they were Beaufighters as well very very serviceable aircraft then they were outgrown in speed er and er by the Mosquitoes you heard of the Mosquitoes and I but the last couple of months they finally because we were the forgotten air force really out in India um we had to put up with Mos with Beaufighters for two and a half years really and then for a few a couple of months that was all I was I converted to Mosquitoes and then they said ‘no you are an officer now we’ve got an office for you now in Delhi go there so we went there do as you are told’.
Other: It was in Delhi where everybody ran screaming into the when the Japanese came over everybody ran screaming into the woods in Delhi.
CB: No from Calcutta which is east east they came and they took over Burma
Other: Oh yes
CB: And eventually they couldn’t they didn’t take over what is it now part of India called Bangladesh no it’s separate now which was Bengal which was at this end of Burma and so they never took that over completely although the British Army had a had an army which was defended they defended itself for who what was the number of that [?] well it’s in there somewhere I think anyway and er they defended themselves but they didn’t couldn’t defend them from the Japanese taking over Burma and that was when we had to fight from in the air to get it back and at that time the east part er the north east that way we managed to hang on to that bit and I was stationed at Chittagong you’ve heard of Chittagong look at the map and you’ll get a rough idea I suppose it would interest everybody it would interest at that time all we wanted to do was get home of course but three years [laughs] – and as I always did what I was told I got promoted [laughs].
Other: Don’t believe a word of it [laughs]
AH: Could you describe a flight for example to Rangoon?
CB: Could I describe a flight most of the time it was boring it just went boom boom boom for a thousand miles or so from where we were was it no it wasn’t quite as far as that it was about six or seven hundred miles oh yeah easy um that’s right then we had to find where we told to shoot at which we did through radar [laughs] and fly back unhurt we were lucky.
AH: What did you do in your spare time?
CB: How dare you [laughs] I don’t know what I did in my spare time probably got drunk half the time we had quite a lot to drink but that was in our spare time we were not supposed to well we had those of us who survived anyway had the common sense not to get drunk so that we couldn’t operate decently after all we had a family at home.
AH: Were there other people that didn’t though?
CB: Well people did get killed yes, Pring the man who shot those first three he didn’t survive so it was one of those things, ah.
Other: Still there can’t be many more survivors around really.
CB: Oh there are.
Other: No there can’t be you’ve got to be
CB: No not now who are still alive
Other: You’ve got to be seventy five upwards haven’t you at least may be more
AH: Yeah more may be
CB: Oh yes you won’t have any youngsters, I was always twenty years younger than the century very easy to remember.
AH: And was your father in the First World War?
CB: He was but er he wasn’t English he was Rumanian and my mother was Lithuanian and I am a Jew as you’ve gathered.
AH: So when did they come to Britain?
CB: Oh they came they came to Britain from their relative countries before the First World War before the First World War to escape the er Pogroms, Russian Russian and Rumanian Pogroms and er they had relatives that I lost touch with I’m afraid a long time ago they had relatives in Manchester and er and er in London so er we ended up in London and er I cannot understand this but we ended up in London but the people who to be honest I can’t explain it but the people who they got in touch with who they were related both my mother’s relatives related to people in Manchester why my parents and co ended up in London and settled there I just cannot tell you but they did and of course there was quite a large Jewish population in the east end of London and er.
Other: Anyway London was nearer to Europe.
CB: London was nearer to Europe so it was easier to get to I suppose yes, there is so much of my early years I just cannot understand the domestic situation all I know is that we were not very well off you see there we are.
AH: Were you aware of the build up were you like Cable Street and?
CB: Cable Street
AH: Yes
CB: Cable Street that was Jewish yes that was Jewish but we didn’t live there that was the east end for some reason or other we settled in I no there was in Chapel Street London it was a Rumanian Jewish settlement and it was a market and they used to have stalls stalls stalls rather outside shops some of them quite a few of them had er either owned or rented the shop and were quite well to do but my parents did have a shop and had to rent a stall so there we are no we weren’t very well off shall we say [laughs] there you go it happens.
Other: So the remote chance of you being in North Lincolnshire at this point in time amazing isn’t it.
CB: Well as I say that that you’ll find in there as to where why we came to Lincolnshire why I came to Lincolnshire we didn’t come together my first wife had gone off with my best friend and my second wife I hadn’t met until I er was asked by these Nickersons who were very very wealthy farmers in where we are very wealthy now and er by Nickersons to er and I volunteered I put an advert in the Times ‘cos I’d done the divorcing bit and I had four months to spare before I went back from my six months furlough back to my accounting firm in India you see and er it was then I put this advert in the Times saying I had this four months did anybody want to employ me and they did having interviewed me here some in Grimsby yes and given me this job er particularly it was rather nice for them no no no this was a long time after after [?] I’m getting myself confused I’m sorry but er
Other: You know there used to be in the time when lots of people worked in India and other places and they would normally do two and a half years overseas and then come back for six months.
CB: This is what I did.
Other: This is what he did and I’ll tell you they were a bit of a menace sometimes because they were coming back with nothing to do for six months can you imagine it.
CB: Well as I say.
Other: Particularly if they didn’t have families you know.
CB: Well I had lost my first wife I’d divorced my first wife and her daughter had been born then Rosalind who’s alive now but er I’d got her into what’s the name of the top class school?
Other: Roedean
CB: I got her into Roedean so she had a Roedean education and on holiday she used to be with my sister my sister had a home in London and it was quite a nice home her husband was the you see that carpet there in the next room have you had a look at it it’s a very good one he used to be the branch manager of Derry and Toms Carpeting department [laughs] and I got that comparatively cheaply but I suppose probably wouldn’t make much difference now I’ve had it some considerable time but it’s a very nice carpet do you want to have a look at it? [laughs]

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Citation

Anna Hoyles, “Interview with Charles Baron,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 18, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8352.

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