Daphne Brownlie Interview


Daphne Brownlie Interview


Daphne Brownlee joined the Royal Air Force and joined a Bomber Command Operational Training Unit at Kinloss, and worked in Flying Control.
She tells of the hours she and her colleagues worked and also what life was like on the base, including her first salute and her experience with the Commanding Officer’s inspection.
Daphne tells of an incident concerning the aircraft crash of a Liberator containing the Duke of Kent and how the Observer Corps first reported it to her, and her dealings with other Air Groups.
Daphne was then posted to Stanmore where she worked in the Filter Room, where she worked with information received from Radar Stations, where information concerning aircraft was collated.
She tells of her time in London, showing ex-Prisoners of War round London, her reunion with her future husband and how she knocked out a medium weight champion of the Navy.
Daphne was also in Egypt, at Arasheia, and relates her experiences during the troubles there








01:02:00 Audio File


IBCC Digital Archive


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Interviewer: This interview is on the 27th of December 2016 at 14:05 and I’m speaking to Daphne Brownlee at her home in Burgess Hill. I’d like to ask you Daphne, how you started with the RAF.
DB: Well, I was of an age when I was ‒, I could join the armed services and there was a war on, and it seemed the obvious thing to do was to join a service, and I did. I particularly wanted to join the WRENs because my brother was in the Navy and we were very close to each other, and I wanted to be in the same service as he was in, and when I told him ‒, it was the days when the WRENs wore those dreadful hats, and he said, ‘I’m not having a sister of mine looking like a village postwoman’. So I joined the WAAF and no sooner had I joined the WAAF, then the WRENs had those snazzy little hats and I never quite forgave them for that. Er ‒, I did have a few months after I’d actually joined the WAAF, before I was actually called up, and I did a very short course at Derby Technical College, a secretarial course, and at least I learnt to type which has stood me in good stead ever since. Anyway, I was called up and I went to Innsbrook. It was a training centre and when you went there, you had no job or you had no idea what you were going to do. You were interviewed, and talked to, and then you were never asked what you wanted to do, you were told what you were going to do. Slight incident at Innsbrook which might be of interest, one morning we were taught how to salute, which was something that I never really wanted to do, but I did realise one had to do it. When I was coming away, this is on the station itself, there was nothing there except sort of military personnel, and there was this man that’s walking up towards me, and he’s got braid halfway up his arms and all over his hat, and I had no idea what rank he was but I did realise that I had to salute him, and I looked to my right and left and couldn’t find anywhere to divert off the straight and narrow, so we eventually came face to face and I saluted. Well I thought I’d saluted, and he didn’t know what I’d done because I think he would be in trouble today actually, because he took me in his arms and he said, ‘Excuse me, my dear, were you saluting me or wiping the sweat off your brow?’ So that was my first salute, well my first salute. I don’t know there’s anything else actually happened there. The finishing parade was actually taken by the Duke of Kent and that was the first time I’d ever seen a man wear makeup, but that was about the only other thing of note I think. Then I went to, oh ‒, I can’t remember the name of the place, can’t remember the place, but it was where special duties people were sort of sorted out, whether they were going to be going to filter rooms or ops rooms or what they’re going to do, and I was sent straight up to Inverness and worked on ‒, and posted to a place called Kinloss, which was a Bomber Command OTU, where they were training the boys on Whitleys and I worked in flying control there. There was just two of them on watch, our two WAAF. We worked the most extraordinary hours, we went on duty at 8 o’clock in the morning and we’d come off at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Then we would have twenty-four hours off and we’d go on duty at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and we’d work right the way through to 8 o’clock next morning. When I say work, we were very busy when the planes were taking off and again we were very busy when the planes were returning, but providing there was ‒, everything was straightforward and there was no emergencies, we could more or less put our feet up and, well, I don’t know about sleep but certainly relax for quite a length of time. So it wasn’t really as long as it sounded and where we worked there was the OC night flying, who changed every night, there was a wireless operator who took endless messages from the aircraft, and there was the flight path gang, and the only person who had a kettle was the flight path gang so we all mixed together quite considerably, that’s if you wanted a cup of tea. I don’t know ‒
Interviewer: It’s started again.
DB: We were billeted in a private house, just outside the camp, which was really occupied by WAAF officers. We were working in flying control. We were just half a dozen girls and two on three watches, and we were put in the attic and we weren’t supposed to be there. I mean, we weren’t supposed to make too much noise, we weren’t supposed to put a gramophone on. Well, we were just there and we, you could walk into camp, I mean it wasn’t that far in actual fact, but I don’t know quite how we got there but we all had bicycles which we cycled into camp. And it was a very peculiar station in as much as that the CO was a great one for ‒, well I think he liked to call it discipline, we just called it bull. I mean you had to walk on the right hand side of the road and you had to have your collar ‒, hair off your collar and you had to have your buttons polished, and if they weren’t, you were on a charge, which usually consisted of being marched in front of your CO and saluting and being talked to and goodness knows what. But he had so many people put on a charge, I mean every officer on the camp knew he had to charge anyone who was doing the slightest thing wrong. But we used to have an awkward parade every night rather than go in front of the CO, and I was very off with, on the awkward parade but I once got away with ‒, well I feel I got the better of him. We had [unclear] living quarters actually where I was living, in a Nissan hut on a [unclear] in the garden of a private house but it was still not on camp, but we had big ablution blocks and we had this hut which was all bathrooms, and I came off night duty and I went to have a bath, and there was a notice on the door that said, “the CO’s inspection”. Well it was already about quarter to nine and I thought, the CO is never going to be inspecting anything at quarter to nine in the morning. So I got in my bath and I, of course, I’d only been there about five minutes or something, there was a CO inspection. None of the doors had any locks on them so, and coming down the row of baths I could hear the door being opened, and I mean the sergeant would open the door and sort of he’d say, ‘Sir’, and I mean, I could just see it happen, although it was in my imagination, he would stand back and the CO would march forward and he would look around and say, ‘Yes, that’s OK’ and walk on to the next one. Well, my door was flung open and words, ‘Sir’ and sir stepped forward and there I was ‒
Interviewer: That’s a lovely story. I love that story [laugh]. Did you get involved in anything like amateur dramatics or did you ‒? [unclear]
DB: No, I didn’t. There was nothing like that really going on. Er were, I mean all the WAAF were living on camp and they were drivers and cooks and things. We didn’t really have much to do with them at all. It was just ‒
Interviewer: Any sport? Did you have to do ‒?
DB: Yes, I got involved. That’s another story.
Interviewer: That’ll do [laugh].
Other: My Mum’s quite sporty.
Interviewer: Oh I see. And did they have any dances?
DB: No.
Interviewer: No? Because I know on the main bomber stations, they were quite, you know, they had dances and that sort of thing.
DB: This was an OTU, but as far as the sport was concerned, it wasn’t ‒
Interviewer: What incident?
Other: No, I’ve been wondering about that.
Interviewer: Do you want to talk about it beforehand and then if I think ‒
Other: No. Well, I think I can ask your advice.
Interviewer: OK
Other: I think because of your involvement, I think it’s perfectly all right.
Interviewer: OK
Other: But what it is, the, I don’t know if you remember the Duke of ‒?
Interviewer: Oh yes, the crash in the Liberator. Yes, I remember that.
Other: Mum was rather involved in that.
Interviewer: Oh were you?
Other: In that you reported it as enemy plane, didn’t you?
DB: Well I was ‒, I was working in flight control this particular evening.
Other: Well, don’t go into the details, Mum, because you don’t want to have to repeat it for the tape.
DB: No, that’s right.
Other: I just want to check with Dee whether ‒
DB: [unclear] within the next two days for no reason at all except that they didn’t like my face.
Other: Oh, I don’t think it was because it was that they didn’t like your face. It’s just that they wanted to keep it quiet.
DB: Well, that’s what I’m saying.
Other: And it was kept quiet. So much of that was kept quiet. To this day it’s still kept quiet.
Interviewer: Well, they have, recently on TV, they’ve done a thing about it so I don’t think there’s any reason why you should keep it quiet.
Other: And it’s not as though you were involved in any sort of conspiracy. You were just a player in the story.
Inerviewer: Yes, that’s right.
Other: And I think it’s very interesting and your part of it is interesting.
DB: Yes, yes.
Other: And I have been thinking about that actually, and personally I think, you know, I imagine for you ‒.
Interviewer: Well, at the end of the day I’m just recording your memories. I’m not the person who will try to describe them, but yes, it will be very interesting because it’s something from somebody who was there. So, yes, I would love you to mention the incident.
Other: And your part was very minor.
Interviewer: Yes.
Other: But very interesting.
Interviewer: Yeah, yes, I would agree with Alison, that’s the sort of real nitty gritty thing we wouldn’t normally get except that you were there so no, I’m really happy to hear that one, so right ‒
DB: I didn’t have really have to be trained for because it was the same thing as I had been doing at Kinloss more or less. Anyway, on this particular evening, night flying had finished, and we were all sort of, more or less, dozing off in our seats and I had a call from, oh what’s the er ‒, the Observer Corps, who said that there was a fire on the mountainside which looked a bit like an aeroplane, but they had no advance warning of anything flying and what were they to do? Were they to go up and try and rescue people or was it not a plane? And I said, ‘Well, night flying has finished but I will ask around’. I rang up every aerodrome in our group and no-one had anything flying at all. I rang up the adjoining group and asked them if they had anything that had flown into our area and they hadn’t told me, and they said, ‘No, nothing had been flying at all’. So I rang up the Observer Corps and said, ‘If it is an aeroplane, it’s hostile, ‘cause we had nothing flying whatsoever and so let them burn ‘til morning [laugh]’. Anyway, about an hour later, I had a telephone call from the adjoining group who sort of said, they had actually in fact had had an aeroplane that had flown into our area and they had lost contact with it and they were really rather worried. Could they tell them why I was asking, and so anyway, I told them and they said, ‘Oh dear’. I said, ‘What do you mean ‘Oh dear’?’ And they said, ‘Well the plane that we’ve lost, there was a VIP on board’. I said, ‘Like who?’ and they said, ‘Like the Duke of Kent’. And there I told them to let him burn. Anyway, I didn’t see any point of reporting it to anyone else because it was perfectly straightforward, whoever was on board or not. But about two days later, the warrant officer came along and told me that I didn’t work in flying patrol liaison anymore, and I said, ‘Why? What have I done?’ And I must say that this incident did sort of cross my mind, and he said, well the warrant officer said, ‘I’d been thinking all day what I could tell you and I can only come out with the truth’. And I said, ‘Well there’s nothing wrong in the truth’. He said, ‘Well you might not like it’. I said, ‘Well hard luck’. So he said, ‘Well, the fact is, the wing commander has just been up and he personally chose the girls who worked on flying patrol and he didn’t choose you, and he doesn’t like your face, so I’m afraid you don’t work here anymore’. Which, as time goes by, I do wonder if it was my face that really got me the sack or whether they didn’t like what I’d done about the Duke of Kent. Anyway, ‒. Although I was sacked from that particular job, I was asked, I was told, that I could choose which job I’d like to do in the ops room. The choice was mine and if I’d like a posting, I could have a posting to wherever I wanted. Whether this all went with having an ugly face or not, I don’t know, but I got the job, you know, the transfer, the job that I was interested in, and I said that I didn’t want a posting at that particular moment but about two or three months later, or sometime later anyway, I said that I’d like to go down to Stanmore, and I was there within two days. So it did have some advantages. So that’s how I ended up at Stanmore. And I was not in an ops room, I was in a filter room. Does anyone know what a filter ‒? The difference between an ops room and a filter room was, an ops room, the girls plotted aircraft that were observed by the Observer Corps, and a filter room where plots came down from ‒ not anything anyone had seen, but from radar stations, information from radar stations, and a different station saw aeroplanes in different ways. I mean there were HCL was it? High something aircraft and L, well some saw high and some saw low. Some saw all kinds of different things but that wasn’t my job to ‒, but you got plots on the same aeroplanes from different radar stations, and they had what was known as a filter officer, who worked out exactly how many aeroplanes they were, or she thought they were, and what height they were, and then she put down a big arrow in the direction that it was going, and the height and the number and the identification was given by the controller, who sat on the balcony, and he identified the planes from information that ‒, well, I say I and a good few others gave him. We were known as ‒, oh Christ, movement liaison section, which meant that we had a row of telephones which were incoming phones, and we sat there and we had information from groups and stations and things about anything, any aeroplane that was crossing the coast, and the number, and the height and the time and what-have-you, and we gave this information to the controller, who from our information identified it, and we not only told the controller, we had to tell the Army, whose guns they were going to fly over, and we had to tell the Navy, whose ships they were going to fly over, who never took any notice at all, um. And that was simply, fairly simple with aeroplanes that were going out, but it was a different matter when they were coming home, because you got all kinds of stragglers who might have been ‒, the aeroplane might have been injured or the crew might have been injured or you might even have got aeroplanes on the water, and we had to sort of ‒. I say we, someone had to work out whether it was a plane or a boat or, you know, if it needed Air Sea Rescue. We had to tell everyone that was concerned. But as I say it was quite tricky when they were coming home, not that I had any decisions to make, but I did have people I had to tell if ‒, and I suppose really that was the job I did at Stanmore. We worked six hours on and we had twelve hours off, which meant we worked a little earlier each day and we worked a shift earlier and very occasionally we’d have four shifts. It didn’t happen very often and it never lasted for very long, but it did occasionally happen and in which case we still worked a three shift programme, but one shift had fifty-two hours off and that made it possible for quite a lot of people to actually get home for a night or what-have-you. While ‒, before I came down to Stanmore I was still working at ‒, well I think I was working at Inverness at the time. Ian actually was ‒, did a training for his second lot of ops and he was trained as a pathfinder, and when he was trained he went down as a flight commander to 35 Squadron based at Graveley, and he only did ‒, I honestly can’t tell you how many, but it was sort of five or six ops and he was shot down and was a prisoner of war for ‒, well for a month after the war. I think he went on an unfortunate long march and they didn’t get home just because the war was over. They ‒, well that’s another story really but ‒. So, oh, by now of course, I am engaged. I was engaged before he went back on ops and er ‒, so I waited, I waited two years for him to come home as a PoW and once you’d been home, he had six weeks leave. Oh ‒, lunch is ready [unclear]. I’ll move on to it and there now just after the war we did have a little more time off now and then, I mean, we could get long weekends and things if we didn’t do it too often. And I went down to ‒. Ian still hadn’t come from PoW camp, but his sister was working at a radar station at Beachy Head in Eastbourne and I went down to spend a weekend with her after the war, and I was sleeping in whoever’s bed happened to be on night duty, and this particular night, she was on night duty, so I mean, I didn’t know anyone there and I was just had all night and nothing to do, and they came round to the billet, they said there was some ex-Australian PoWs had just arrived and they were giving a dinner at The Grand Hotel, and if any females liked to come along they’d be very welcome, because the boys hadn’t seen anyone for sometimes years. What’s that? Anyway, so I went along. And first of all, I was seen by a boy who very soon disappeared and never came back and I did say to someone else, ‘I wonder what’s happened to the fellow next door to me’. And they said, ‘Oh, he’s flat out in the Gents’. So he had said to me he just had to go and ring his grandmother up or something. Anyway, so I had this other fellow came and sat next to me and chatted away and he said he’d be very pleased if ‒. He’d never been to England before, he’d be very pleased if I could show him round. And I said, ‘Well there’s a couple of snags there’, I said, ‘One of them is that I’m not from Eastbourne, I’m from London’. ‘London! Oh that’s even better. Far more excited to see London than Eastbourne. After all, I’m dumped in Eastbourne, I can wander round here but I can’t wander round London’. So anyway, he used to come up about two or three times a week and I used to show him round, and on this particular evening, I kept saying, ‘I must go because the last tube’s going home, back to Stanmore’. ‘Oh no, no, no, don’t worry about that. In fact, I’ll put you in a taxi’. And I said, ‘You know it’ll cost ‒ ‘. ‘Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about anything. I’ll just put you in a taxi’. So the time came when he just put me in a taxi and said, ‘Take her to ‒’, and he opened the door and he said, ‘Get out Daphne, I can’t afford that’. [Laugh]. So I said, ‘Well that’s all very well but the last tube’s gone. What am I going to do?’ So he said, ‘Well you’ll have to come back to the billet with me and see what they can do’. I mean, he was an Australian. We went back to his billet, which was a Commonwealth sort of place, and a man on the door was sort of booking people in and out and what-have-you, and Stan said that he had this girl with him who had nowhere to stay for the night, could she stay there? And this man looked me up and down, up and down again, and what-have-you. And he said, ‘Well yes, alright, but you must make arrangements here and now when you are going to see her again tomorrow, because you won’t see her between now and then’. And so we said whatever we said, and I was escorted to this room. The door was unlocked. I was put in there. There were six beds in there. There was no one sleeping in there at all except me, and I was locked in [laugh] and I was unlocked again, I don’t quite know what time in the morning, but was escorted passed all these Australians, all shaving in their underpants and goodness knows what, and I was taken to the loo and the bathroom and I was delivered outside the front door where I was [unclear]‒. Anyway, eventually Ian came home and I did say to Stan ‒, and I mean there was no romance, he knew I was engaged and all the rest of it. I rang up Stan and I said, ‘Ian’s home and so that’s the end of my little escorting duties’, and he said, ‘Oh dear, never mind, thank you very much’. I said, ‘You’ll just have to find yourself another WAAF’, and he said, ‘Yes I will, won’t I?’ So he found himself another WAAF, which happened to be Ian’s sister, and he married her [laugh]. So ‒, but after the war, Ian had quite a lot of cousins and they’d all seen quite a bit of each other during their childhood, and they were all quite friendly, and they used to get together occasionally and have the odd party, and they all got together and were dashing away about their childhoods, and Stan and I used to get in a corner and natter away about our showing around London [laugh], but that was a coincidence. Sorry ‒, I had this aunt who lived in Lowndes Square and ran a restaurant. When I was at Stanmore I used to go there quite often, ‘cause I used to get fed, get cigarettes and whisky and goodness knows what. It was always well worth making the effort, not to mention the ten-bob note that I usually had shoved in my hand as I left. Anyway, Aunty Vi had this helper, Jack, who actually we used to have him for Christmas after the war because he was in a home nearby where we lived, and well, he’d been so good to me during the war. But my aunt had been on the stage and apparently, although I didn’t know it at the time but Jack and she used to play sort of fisticuffs when they couldn’t agree about something. Anyway, one day Jack said to me, ‘Put your hands up’, and I put my hands up and he put his hands up, and I didn’t know he was joking but I didn’t really think he was going to lay me out or anything, but anyway I saw an opportunity and thrust my, threw my right hand forward and fist closed, and Jack took a step backwards to avoid my thing and hit his head on the door and passed straight out, and was just crumpled unconscious thing on the floor, and when he came round he said, ‘Do you know what you’ve just done?’ And I said, ‘well, I just laid you out. I’m very sorry about that’. He said, ‘No,’ he said, ‘I didn’t mean that’. He said, ‘You just laid out the medium weight championship of the Navy’ [laugh]. Champion of the Navy. So you want to watch my right fist [laugh].
Interviewer: Then you got married?
DB: It was a great anti-climax actually the end of the war, because I thought for years, Ian would be home and that would be that and everything would be fun. Anyway, it was a month later before he actually managed to get home, and because I was engaged to an ex-PoW, I was entitled to a week’s leave, which I took, but if I’d been married, I could have had six weeks leave. So, although I was in London and Ian’s parents were living in London and he was returned to London, we got married in Derbyshire six days later and I got my six weeks leave [laugh] and I was discharged from Stanmore. That was my last job and then, believe it or not, having been abroad for over two years, his first posting was overseas and he was away for another two years, and I was not allowed ‒, I mean I didn’t have enough points or anything to go with him or anything so I had my first child when Ian was abroad and I had my second child when was also abroad, but I can’t quite think ‒
Other: Palestine, Palestine.
DB: Oh, was it the Berlin Airlift, was it?
Other: When I was born, I think he was in Palestine. Berlin airlift maybe Hamish, and Palestine me, I think. Carry on.
DB: I can’t think where Ian was when I had my second child but he was also abroad. Er ‒, yes, so we had ‒, we were married for sixty-seven years before he died, which I’ve never forgiven him for actually. But we did have a lot of partings, we had a lot of partings, and they weren’t just for a week here or there, and you know they were for a year or two here and there. I think the most frustrating perhaps one was when he was on the Berlin airlift. They were only attached there. No one was ‒. I think they were only attached really because they couldn’t cope with any wives there. It was, I think it was ‒, well, how we ever won the Berlin airlift I don’t know but anyway, Harrogate was full of wives whose husbands were on the airlift, and I mean, we had nothing to do all day except look after our children and go out to coffee and things, and we’d go out to coffee and because there was nothing to go home for, perhaps we wouldn’t go home, perhaps we’d sort of stay the night, but because the boys were already attached in Berlin, they never knew when they were coming home. I mean their aeroplanes had to come home to be serviced, because they were only attached and someone had to fly them home. So that’s when the boys would come over for two or three days, but sometimes they’d go home and the house would be empty, and of course their wives perhaps have been out to coffee two days beforehand and still hadn’t come home [laugh]. Oh yes, and I do remember, Alison, I was trying to get you christened and I never knew when Ian’d be home. I mean the vicar was very understanding and said he was quite willing to do everything at short notice, but he did want a bit of notice and ‒, well one minute they weren’t there and the next minute they were at the door. But you were just a baby. Our landlord lived in the bottom flat and we lived in the next flat. I was alone with these two children and the landlord, he’d had TV I think and he didn’t go out to work, but his wife did. He used to spend all day at home and he was very, very, tall and my young son was not over tall, and when Hamish (that’s my son) put his hand up and Mr - whatever his name, put his hand down, they didn’t meet. But they used to spend an awful lot of time together and when his wife used to come home in the evening, she used to say, ‘You’ll never guess what those two have been up to today’. [Laugh] and they were very friendly, this little short one and this very tall one. When we, Ian was posted to Egypt, the married quarters were very difficult to come by and they had a system, whereas while you were waiting for a married quarter, you moved into a flat, in my case, Arasheia, and you bought the furniture and everything, and you lived there until you qualified for a married quarter but while we were there, the troubles broke out. This was 19‒, early 1950s I think, and I don’t know quite ‒, so we lived in this town. It wasn’t anywhere near the airfield where Ian worked, but he used to have to get up in the very early hours of the morning and leave and just came back at weekends. Anyway he came back this particular weekend and said, ‘Don’t let Hamish go to school in the morning, or Monday morning, because we’re expecting troubles from the Egyptians’. Now, I used to have a girl who came and helped me with the children. What help I needed I don’t know, but she came in and she said, ‘Where’s Hamish?’ So I said ‒. No, she said, ‘What’s Hamish doing at home?’ And I said, ‘Well I’m not sending him to school because they’re expecting troubles’. ‘Oh, what a lot of nonsense’, she said and she got hold of him by the collar and took him, and put him on the school bus and that was that. The next day she came in and she said, ‘What’s Hamish doing at home?’ So I said, ‘Well, why shouldn’t he be at home?’ ‘ Because we’re expecting the trouble and I’ll just go and rescue him off the bus’. Which she did. Which she did. Anyway, the wing commander’s wife came along and said was I going to the NAAFI, and I thought, ‘Well the wing commander’s wife, perhaps she knows more than I do and more than a local girl does’, so I says, ‘I’ll go to the NAAFI with you’. And I left the two children in the flat with this Egyptian girl. Anyway all was well while we did our shopping, but on our return journey there was a whole mob at the top of the street, all sort of shouting and screaming and going on, and so we hurried home. I wouldn’t say we ran but we increased our speed a little, got to the flat (we were living on the fourth floor), I went up there and the flat was empty. There was no Egyptian girl looking after my two children and in fact, the two children, they were all missing, and I had a look round here, there and everywhere and along the corridor and what-have-you, and in the end, I went up onto the flat roof, and by this time the mob were surrounding the base of the flat. I can’t remember now if they were chucking something up or whether they weren’t, but it was a long chuck, but the flat roof of the flat was covered in broken stones and what-have-you, and this girl and the two children were carrying these stones to the edge of the flat and letting them fly down on the mob [laugh]. And anyway, I got them down to the flat and, having got them there and settled down, and Hamish said, ‘I’ve left Jimmy on the flat’. Now Jimmy was his chameleon, and I don’t know if you know anything about chameleons, but of course they just fade into the background, and there were we, on this flat roof, with the odd missile coming up, and looking for Jimmy, who had faded into the background, faded into the stone background [laugh]. Anyway, we found him in the end and all was well, but then I was left and they were expecting trouble down in Suez, and Ian was down in Suez helping evacuate all the families, and no one expected any trouble in Arasheia, where it all happened and anyway, he didn’t get home for a week, and I wasn’t allowed to go out without an armed escort, so life was really quite a bit difficult. I was having to borrow people’s husbands with guns to take me shopping. And then after a week, the RAF evacuated us. We went into a canal captain’s house, who was on holiday, which was quite nice because we were right by the canal. We waited there until we got a married quarter, which we did. They’d just built these married quarters and we thought we were jolly lucky to get one, but we were just shown into this married quarter and they said, ‘There you are’. Every saucepan was wrapped up in greasy paper and the grease was stuck to everything. We had to put the beds together. We just had to do everything. That was a bit of an ordeal as well but at least we were on camp and we did manage to stay there for about two and a half years, not that particular camp, we were moved around but at least we were in married quarters.
DB: My husband really didn’t talk much about the war. You had to sort of ask him questions if ‒, he’d never bring the subject up. Anyway, one day when we were living down in Salcombe, he had a letter that had been forwarded to him from Air Ministry, and this was from a boy who had lived in Denmark, and this boy had been very interested in British medals, and shortly beforehand he’d bought a DFM with a log book. When he read the log book, the last entry was all about being shot down almost in his own back garden and so, of course, he got particularly interested and he did a little bit of research into this aeroplane, and he discovered that everyone in the aeroplane had been killed except two of them, and Ian was the only one left who was sort of still contactable and that was because he was still in the Air Force. And anyway this letter from this Dane had been written to Ian and sent to the Air Force, and the Air Force had forwarded it on to him. Anyway, as a result of this letter, he came to see us for a weekend and asked us back to Denmark, whereupon Ian was shown the tree where he had landed. He landed in a forest and he was very cross because his parachute got stuck in a tree and he couldn’t bring it down and sort of bury it like he was supposed to. Anyway, this man in his research, he’d gone into really a lot of detail and he said to Ian ‒ , well I was with him, ‘Follow me’, and we went along through the wood, and we came to a collection of little buildings, and this man pointed a door out to Ian and said, ‘Go and knock on that door’, which Ian did, and he was told that was the door he knocked on after he’d been shot down, and during that visit, Ian met a girl who had been working as a maid in the house and she’d been ordered to make a coffee. I mean he was shot down on his way out to Berlin, not on his way back, so it was comparatively early in the evening. She was told to make him a coffee but she wasn’t allowed to bring it through, and she was saying she’d left the door open a crack so that she was looking through the crack at him and, you know, she was absolutely terrified. I suppose it would be about midnight or something. Well, she was just terrified. He also met ‒, as the war went on, they had taken the parachute down, the Danes had, and hidden it. Towards the end of the war, when it was obvious who was going to win, they took the parachute out and he met a lady who was confirmed in a dress made out of his parachute. He went round a building where he was taken when he was first captured, and they wanted to know which room he was interrogated in and he didn’t know. He just knew it was a corner room and it was now what do you call them? The place you go to before you wait for your trial. Oh, I can’t remember what it’s called. Anyway, he went round the three corners and they said, ‘It must have been in this fourth corner then’. And Ian said, ‘Well I don’t think I’d recognise it’. Anyway, much to his surprise, the warden knocked on the door and waited until he was invited in and these ‒, not prisoners, what do you call them? Oh God, I can’t think what you’d call them. Anyway, he was invited in and he said these (I’ll call them prisoners for want of a better word) were told that Ian was there at one time, and they said, ‘Did you get away with whatever you’d done?’ and Ian said, ‘No, I was captured for two years’. And they said, ‘Oh good gracious me, I hope that doesn’t happen to us’. Anyway, it seemed ‒, remand home, that’s it, remand home, it seemed very slack to me for a remand home, but then we were taken down into the dungeons and we were shown the bed where the prisoners could be sort of tied down and tortured and goodness knows what, so perhaps it wasn’t quite so ‒. Anyway, about two or three years later we were invited by the mayor of somewhere or other [unclear], to go to a dedication of a stone to the aeroplane. Where the aeroplane had actually landed, at this farmhouse, they had found quite a large piece of granite which they had pushed down to where the plane landed, and it was dedicated to the aircraft and they had quite a ‒, oh, processions and religious dedications and goodness knows what, all to this aeroplane, which I thought was a really nice gesture, and the granddaughter, I don’t know if she was even born at that particular time, but anyway I got in contact with her. She used to translate letters from her mother to me at Christmas and things like that. There was a time when she used to come to England every other year, and she always used to come and see us while she was over here. That was ‒. I don’t think I’ve seen her for the last four or five years actually, but she’s then, she’s had twins since then and I think she’s got other things to do than visit here, there, and everywhere. Anyway, I think that was jolly nice of the Danes and I still ‒. I’ve just had a card from Henry and Henrietta, which is the name of the couple who ‒. Oh, and Ian was asked over on one occasion, he was a schoolteacher, to go to the school and give the school various classes, a lecture, and everything, which was very interesting, but well that’s another sort of thing really, just to see the difference in schools.
Other: The Danes wrote a book.
DB: Oh yes, and this Henry, he did in fact actually get interested in aeroplanes which landed round about Denmark, and he ended up by writing a book, about half a dozen of them, but it is in Danish and somewhere in the house there is a book, I don’t know where, and it doesn’t really mean anything if I found it. I’m talking about an ops room clock now and you’ll find that it’s divided into various colours which were ‒. Sorry, I’m just checking on the clock. I wish I had one. It was red, yellow and then blue, and the plotters, when they were putting down their plot, they looked at the clock and, if the big hand, when the red hand was say red, they’d use red disks, and as soon as the hand moved onto yellow, they’d then use the yellow disks, and when it came round to red again, all the previous reds were removed so you never had anything on the clock on the table that was more than fifteen minutes old.



Denise Boneham, “Daphne Brownlie Interview,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed January 26, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8364.

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