Interview with William Cooke


Interview with William Cooke


William Cooke joined the Royal Air Force at the age of 18, becoming a rear gunner on Lancasters. He followed his brother and sister into the RAF.
Tells of his spell of guard duty on board a troop ship, and losing one of the people he was showing around.
William was based at 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit at Winthorpe, then No. 5 Lancaster Finishing School in Syerston, and then on 49 Squadron, as a rear gunner on Lancasters.
He flew a variety of aircraft, including Wellingtons with the Operational Training Unity, Avro Ansons on an Air Gunner course, Avro Lancasters and the American B24 Liberator at Kola Airfield.
He tells of his experiences after he and his crew went to India in 1944, after his skipper was posted there and flying operations to Rangoon and Burma.
William tells of how Lancasters fly at night, his bombing raid on a tanker and his encounter with a Mosquito which did not give any identification. He also tells of his crash and the death of his skipper.
William was demobbed in February 1947, and after the war worked for local water authorities until they were incorporated into Severn Trent. He retired just before his 65th birthday.








01:30:24 audio recording


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MH. So good afternoon to persons listening to this tape. Today is the 2nd of September 2015, eh, I am Mark James Hunt, I am one of the volunteers with the International Bomber Command Centre at Lincoln. I have, today, the privilege in interviewing Mr William H Cooke at his home address in Mansfield, eh, and what we are going to do is, Mr Cooke is going to commence the interview and take us through his activities prior to being called up, then through his time with the RAF, subsequently to the RAF and then onwards to his association etc. So at this time, I am going to ask Mr Cooke to take over and start to recount his tale please.
WC. Right, well, I left school at fourteen into not much of a job, just an errand van-come drivers job, eh, which I stayed with until I got called up at eighteen. Eighteen and a half I actually almost to the day, when I went down to St Johns Wood for aircrew training. Eh, the ,usual thing there we, eh, the usual tape, parades etc, one of which I remember quite well. It was about midday, we were doing a great coat parade, which meant we were on parade in full kit with our great coats on, as I say, the middle of the summer this was, so it was a bit warm, and eh the, the sergeant in charge and the officer in charge, who was taking the thing, were going behind each mans’ great coat and measuring it from the floor to see the correct length of this great coat, which went on for quite a while. Until all of a sudden there was a bit of a commotion, and one of the lads in the back row of the parade collapsed, obviously it, it had got a bit too much for him, the weather had finally managed to get to him. So that was the end of that parade. From there we went to Bridlington, I can’t remember the name of the unit there, but we did the initial square bashing and the start of training on morse code and aircraft recognition etc, and the Browning Machine Gun of course. From there, we went to Bridgenorth I believe, I can’t remember what that station was called, but from there [cough “excuse me”] we had, I believe brief week or so leave and then we went to the Gunnery School, Air Gunnery School in Northern Ireland. Eh, that course lasted till just before New Years Day on eh, that would be 1944, eh I was lucky I got through very well and passed that top of the course, so I did ok there and from there we, I went back to England. Eh, again a bit amusing, we came back on the eh, Steamer from Larne onto Stranraer, and we couldn’t actually dock properly at the eh, Stranraer, so we had to off load from the Steamer onto a smaller boat, with full kit, kit bags etc, and then we went to the dock, and we had to climb up a wooden ladder up the side of this dock, again with full kit etc, and half way up, an MP, service policeman at the top, called to us “have your passes ready when you get up”. You can imagine what the result of that was. Somebody said, “I was [unclear] do you want that as well?” Anyway, it was a great relief when we first actually then got hold of the side of the dock, to see two RAF police corporals meeting up with a bunch of bolshie sergeants with bright shining stripes on their arms. We just went in for a bit of a fun do, you know. Anyway, from there, I think from there we went home to leave and I was on leave for a few weeks, because the passing through process then was held up along the line. And from there I went to [cough] Upper Heyford I think it was, to start eh, OTU training, OUT at Upper Heyford and its satellite Barford St John. And from there, where did we go from there? Let me think. I think from there we went to Scampton I believe was the next one for a short, what was supposed to be a commando course, which turned out to be just a few weeks filling in again. So from there er, the process gets held up you see, and from there, we went to eh Winthorpe on 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit, and eh, after, after getting through that we went to Scampton. No, yes, no, yes, we did a few weeks at Scampton, and then we went to Syerston, No. 5 Lanc Finishing School and from there, the big day, we were posted to a Squadron. Eh at Squadron, I think we arrived one day and we did a short test run with another pilot, and then our skipper went on the next operation, and after that we were said to be ready for operations, and the first one was Guiros. And eh, that was the operation that the man I had been hoping to be crewed up with, eh, went on and he got lost. His crew didn’t return. Anyway, from there on it was just a matter of doing ops, getting leave every six weeks or I think it was and until we completed the, well eh, partly completed, I beg your pardon, partly completed the tour because then the station, the squadron was transferred to Fulbeck Station, and we completed our operational our there just before Christmas 1944. Again short leave, end of tour leave, and we came back and the skipper went into the Flight Office, came out looking as though he had seen a ghost, because he said, “I have been posted to India”, and he was due to be married in Easter, but anyway he got a special leave and got married. So four of us, after a brief minutes think said, “well, we’ll come with you, skipper”. And eh, from there, then of course, it was a case of, I think we went to Morecombe I believe, for holding until we were ready to get on board the troop ship. The troop ship was the Union Castle Line, “Cape Town Castle” and the length of time on board I think would be about a month, or something like that, to India. I always remember I did a guard duty on there. Believe it or not, we had WAAFs on board so whether it was a case of keeping the aircrew from the WAAFS or the WAAFs from the aircrew, I don’t know. We were on parade, we were on guard rather, we’d take a number of lads round the ship, and on one, one of the guards that I was on, I had to take these chaps round and take them down below decks, and of course, it was dusk while I was doing this, and at dusk I believe on board these troop ships, all the doors are automatically closed. So in going down looking for this bloke and I had lost him, I was about quarter of an hour relieving him because I couldn’t find my way from this side to that side, I had to go up and round. Anyway I got, I found him and that was that. We docked at Bombay, Mumbai as it’s called now, and eh, from there, we went to Poona, Poona for a short while and in that time we were transferred to a place called Mahabulishma for a eh, eh, jungle training course, and they used to send us out with water bottle and rations and a map, and find your way back, sort of thing, and that was it. And eh, it was quite interesting that, because we did, I think, the last one we did was about two or three days out, we had to stay out and manage on what we got and of course, the day we went on that particular course, we were taken out on lorries and before breakfast, everybody had been into the local shop stocking up on whatever food they could get, hiding it so that the CO wouldn’t see it and then loading it on at the last minute, you know, off we went. Eh, and unfortunately, with some of the chaps, they got back a bit early, they got back a bit early and instead of staying out for the last night, they went back in, going into their own beds, you see. The CO, being a keen sort of bloke, went round next morning and rousted all these people out and said, “what you have brought back with you, that’s it for the day”, and he took them out and they had to go for another days walking back. Eh, anyway, when we had finished that we were posted then to Kola Airfield, eh, and then we were then converted onto the American B24, the Liberator Bomber, and eh, I was there, if I remember rightly, I was there on VJ day, no, no, beg your pardon, VE day, and eh, they put the airfield out of bounds because they thought maybe some bright spark would go up there and start one up and run it down the line with the other aircraft. All that, we had a bit of a booze up, but that is about all we did get then on VE day. And then we were posted to, from there, we would go to a Squadron which was 99 Squadron Dubalia, after riding across India on the railways, not the railways we got now [telephone ringing “excuse me”] 99 Squadron, yes the Pilot went on eh, eh, eh, another Operation with a different Crew, just to get him set in as it were, and then we did two Operations. The first one was somewhere down to, I believe it was Billing, near eh, now what was it, Rangoon I think in that area, which I think was supposed to be a, a, a Japanese transit camp but anyway. The second one was a ten thousand ton tanker in the area, which was supposed to be the largest tanker the Japanese had there and obviously if we could get that out of commission, that would do a big deal towards the ending of the War, because no petrol if they couldn’t get that sorted. Ah, it was the middle of the monsoon, bad weather all the way, I think we sent seven aircraft, four of which had to turn back due to bad weather and, and one thing and another. The other three got through and they were all damaged some way or another, either by weather or by anti-aircraft. In our case, we were damaged badly by anti-aircraft fire, in fact it took the starboard fin and rudder off. By a miracle we managed to keep flying and get back from the Gulf of Siam area to Burma, to Rangoon, Burma. Eh, we were on, on the last approach to landing and just at the last minute or so, it fell out, more or less fell out of the sky and unfortunately, the skipper was killed so that was the end of our flying as it, because shortly after that eh, the war ended. You know the, the Japs, the Yanks dropped the Atom Bombs and that was the end of fighting for everybody and from then on, which would be from 1945, June I think it was, June ‘45 from then on until ’47, March ’47, we were employed on any kind of job we were needed. We were virtually spare, all aircrew were virtually spare men after that, and I did work in a canteen liaison office in Calcutta. Eh, I then was transferred to Dumdum Airport, which I think is now the airport for Calcutta and eh, we were loading freight and mail onto various aircraft and all that kind of stuff. Then I from, before, shortly before I left there, I went to flying control recording landings and take offs and all that kind of stuff. Eh, I remember I was on duty, I think it was on, it would be the night, either the afternoon shift or the night shift, when the demob numbers came up and my number was among them. So that was it, next day, get your clearance chit, get around everybody, get a signature and on the eh, 15th of February, which was my birthday, I was on the bus down to eh, I think it was on the bus, I think it was to [unclear] station in Calcutta, to travel from there to eh, Bombay again to return home. In fact, the officer that I should have been working with passed me on the bus, and asked me what I was doing on the bus. “I said I’m going home, thank you very much Sir”. And then, as I say again, about a eh, months journey back again. I thought I was going to go on board the troop ship as a warrant officer, because they called me out as a warrant officer on parade, but when I got on board the ship, I was suddenly back down to sergeant again, I was remustered as a sergeant, so I didn’t get a cabin, I got a hammock down below somewhere. And eh, it was ok, but that was on the P & O Liner Moortan, one of the older liners. Very deep draught and it was quite reasonable that was, apart from the fact that the food was awful [laugh], I am not sure whether it was coming back from India or when we were going out. We went down for a midday meal and eh, we were served tripe and onions, that was the meal. Of course, it turned out it was also the meal for the afternoon meal. One thinks, you know, somebody here is doing alright out of in catering. I mean, If you take the fact that about three, I think it was about three thousand on board the Cape Town Castle, and some of them was coming back. Well, how many people, out of three thousand, would eat tripe and onions for a meal [laugh]. So you know, they would obviously not make all that up much anyway, and what was left was buckshee [laugh]. Anyway, we landed in Southampton and eh, this was in 1947. and eh, the country had been under a deep freeze and snow and everything all over the place, for several weeks and it had just started to thaw. So we managed to get up from there by train, to again somewhere on the East Coast of England, I can’t remember the name of the place, to be discharged, you know. I got me civvy suit and all the bits and pieces, and several, I remember we had to have a medical, and for some reason, I was, I had to go back and have a check-up several times. I don’t know what it was. Anyway they got rid of me, I must have been fit enough to have got rid of [laugh], and as I say I was back home. I managed to get as far as Nottingham on the train, I think it was. Well, all the local trains and the buses had finished then. So, remembering what my Dad had said about being in the Eighteen War, and getting back from Nottingham one time by cadging a lift on a GPO van, I went round to the side of the station, where the GPO place was, and the gentleman was good enough to give me a lift back to Mansfield. He dropped me on, on White Hart Street and I had about say ten minutes to quarter of an hours walk to get home, ‘cause it was chucking it down with rain and I had no great coat or mac, but I’d got my kit bag and all that I needed and I was home, that was it mate. Knocked my Mum and Sister up at about two o clock in the morning and tears all round, you know, that was it, I was back. After that, it was a case of trying, seeing my old boss eh, having a word with him, I didn’t go back to that job. For the next few years, I was in one job or another, on insurance, trying to be a travelling salesman and then I went onto a bakers round. I did delivery to shops on a bakers round and then I finally managed to get to work with a the local, one of the local water authorities, which later became incorporated in all the other water authorities. I worked there on a pumping station for about eight years, and then on in, in Mansfield, in an office with the water authority and finally, when Severn Trent took over, I finished my, I did thirteen years travelling to Nottingham, in the control room at Nottingham, before being retired one day before my 65th birthday. Well at least with the, with the holidays I had saved, one day before my 65th birthday. From then on, I have been enjoying a life of leisure, apart from working at home of course, the wife kept me busy on various things, altered the house quite considerably, so I have used my time fairly well. And a few years ago, my son, youngest son, got me involved with the 49 Squadron Association and the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association, so I have been involved with them up to the present time. Eh, hopefully I shall live a short while longer and enjoy the rest of my time.
MH. Good. Ok, I have been scribbling notes as you can see. Can I take you all the way back to when we commenced, eh, you were fourteen when you left school.
WC. Yeah
MH. What year would that have been?
WC. 1939, just prior to the war starting. That summer when the war started.
MH. Do you remember how or where you were when Neville Chamberlain made his famous statement on the 3rd of September?
WC. Off hand, no I, I was probably at work I suppose, because it was in the daytime I think, as I say, I was an errand lad and I was just learning whatever was needed doing on that particular day at work and that was my job to do it [laugh].
MH. Do you remember when you first heard that war had been declared?
WC. I can’t remember that, no I am afraid not, no.
MH. And did you have any Brothers, Sisters?
WC. Yeah I, I had an elder brother who was very nearly twenty years older than me, he’d been called up to the RAF, and he was on 106 Squadron Lancasters as a rigger. My sister was also on a Lancaster Squadron in the WAAFs before I got called up. So obviously, I was going to go on Lancasters some way or another. I went for aircrew selection and I think I might have been ok for pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, but I knew that if I went for that, I probably would not have got into the war, it would be over before I was trained. So after that, I didn’t know what would have happened if I had stayed in there, so if I go for gunner, at least then I shall be in and six months training and I shall be a sergeant. Again, cash played a role in it, although we weren’t paid handsomely, I think we got, I think we got seven shillings a day as a sergeant, plus a shilling a day flying pay [laugh], that’s five pence now.
MH. Forty pence a day, crazy. Were you influenced at all by your brother and sister and the service they were in?
WC. Oh yes, obviously they were in the RAF, so I decided more than anything else going in the RAF. I always wanted to fly from a lad, you know, you get these urges to be up in the air. I didn’t think somehow that I would be able to be a pilot, navigator, I might have been, but I thought well, I can do the other I am sure, so I’ll be a gunner.
MH. You did some training at Bridlington and Bridgenorth, and then you went air gunner training in Northern Ireland.
WC. Yeah.
MH. Can you describe the conditions overall, where you slept em, and your food and that sort of thing?
WC. Well, it rained a fair bit in Northern Ireland, which it usually does [laugh], generally speaking, it wasn’t, I didn’t think it was too bad although I was taken ill while I was training there. I had two in hospital or at least off sick, and that changed the course that I was on. I was put back two weeks and that’s when the chap that I was already picked out to fly with carried on, on his course and I followed on a fortnight later, you see. But eh, all in all, it wasn’t too bad, I didn’t think, there, it seemed to be ok, you know.
MH. And the food was ok?
WC. Food was reasonable, yeah, yeah.
MH. ‘Cause rationing was in heavily wasn’t it.
WC. Oh yeah, rationing, yeah, as far as food’s concerned, against the civilian diet, it was as good as some, better in some ways, you know, all through, until we got to India, all through, the foods been quite reasonable I thought, myself, in the services.
MH. You were able to maintain your weight?
WC. Oh yeah, in fact, I put on some, I was a lad when joined up, I was more of a man when I got through it all.
MH. You would be the first person in military history to put weight on. OK, so you came out top of your course in ’44, and you then got sent to the OTU at Upper Hayford.
WC. Yeah.
MC. Do you remember what aircraft you were on at that time.
WC. Wellingtons, on Wellingtons, Ansons on the air gunner, Wellingtons on the OTU.
MH. How would you describe them. How would you, you know, describe them as far as aircraft go?
WC. It was, I reckon it was a good aircraft, the Wellington, very good. There is only one thing that I found with that eh, I don’t know what happened with the design but we used to do air firing to a drogue, we used to tow a drogue behind, and you had to feed this drogue out through the middle, a hole in the floor, half way up the aircraft. And you let it out, no, no, I beg your pardon, no, not a drogue, no, no, when you had been flying about two hours, you had to pump oil from one tank into the engine tank. The pump was located in the middle of the aircraft. The only snag was, there wasn’t an oxygen point at the middle of the aircraft. So when you went down there, you pumped for a while and then went back and had a few breaths of oxygen [laugh], and then went back and pumped a bit more. I don’t know how it, it come about, it was just a fault, a tiny fault really, but important if you were doing the pumping but other than that, I thought that the Wellington was a fine aircraft.
MH. And within the Wellington, the basic design, they have a front turret and a rear turret, but on the odd occasion, did they have any other weapons?
WC. Well I was never involved in anywhere there were other weapons, but I believe, I’m not sure, I believe possibly there was a fitting half way through the side window, but I never saw that in operation at all.
MH. Being an air gunner, how did you find the turrets, were they restricting?
WC. No, they were reason, being sort of small, I fitted in quite well, you know. They were ok, there was no problem as far as I was concerned for room, they were a bit draughty occasionally, of course, but apart from that, I was always, I was always comfortable in the turrets on the Wellington and the Lancaster. But the mid upper turret on a Lancaster, the Halifax was the same, the seat was a block of rubber on a, on a hanger, on a sort of canvas strap. You got in and you pulled it underneath, and you hung it on the other side, and that’s where you sat for the next four, five, six hours or seven, whatever it was the length of the trip. But it was ok, I was ok with it.
MH. For those not in the know, can you take us through and what you would have done upon entry into the aircraft, like your pre-flight check as far as a gunner would go, what would you have to do?
WC. Well eh, both the rear gunner and myself, we had to go into the turret, check the guns, make sure the fire and safety switch on each one was in the right position, safe to take off. When you were airborne, on an operation, put them onto fire so that you were ready. Check the sights, all those kind of thing like that, make sure you could see round the turret, operate the turret controls, make sure everything worked ok. And a far on a Lancaster, the mid upper gunner, before he got into his turret, actually had to check, there was a compass, a compass that hung, I can’t remember what, what the kind of compass it was, but it was hung just inside the door of the Lancaster if I remember rightly, and we used to have to check that, call it back to the pilot and the navigator to see that they tallied, they were all tallying the same reading, you see. That was about it, then, as far as, as far as the gunners were concerned. Of course, the others up the front end, they had their own checks to do.
MH. Did you come across any problems at any time?
WC. Not, well, again the only problem I had, we were doing a DI you know, Daily Inspection, and I was checking the front turret and there is a pin which fits in so that you can actually loosen the guns to move them around to do the delivery, and I dropped one of these pins, and it fell down on the, and it took me quite while to, ‘cause it’s just a little cotter pin that fits in, you fitted it in, put it in and that was it, and it took me quite a while to find that, but other than that, that was about it, it was quite ok. Can’t think of anything else, we had a period on the Lancaster when we were introduced to this new radar turret, it was highly secret and according to what the boffins told us, if ,even in ,in tenth tenth clouds shall we say, if you have got an enemy aircraft and got it sighted correctly, you could guarantee seventy, sixty percent hits even without seeing the targets. It was good and that was it, you know. We trained on that and I don’t think it lasted long, I don’t know why but you know, I don’t think that, for some reason, it was, I don’t know whether it was never used for any time, I don’t know. I really, as I say, we didn’t use it as such, we nearly did but [laugh] very nearly did.
MH. Would you like to take the listeners through the time that the Mosquito decided to follow you.
WC. Ah, yeah, well that is the time when we nearly used it. We were flying in cloud, and the rear gunner picked up various Lancasters giving the code back and then he picked up a signal that didn’t give any recognition signal so he said. “it’s coming in, I can see it’s so far”, and I think the wireless operator read out the range to him, you know. He said, “I’ll give it a bit longer”, and we kept going, and I said to the skipper. “better corkscrew, skipper, and see if we can lose him that way”, but this particular aircraft followed us down in a corkscrew, which he shouldn’t have done if it was an RAF one. But, as I say, he wasn’t giving a signal, and I said, “well, this is it, looks like this is it, you know”. The rear gunner said, “well, I’ll give him another few seconds”, he said, “and then I’m going to open fire”, and in those few seconds, we all came out of the cloud, and I looked at the aircraft, and it was an RAF Mosquito, and I said, “for Christ sake, don’t shoot”, you know, or somebody will be in trouble. Anyway he must have seen us at the same time so he broke away and that was it. But that was the only time we were nearly in trouble [laugh]
MH. You were saying to me earlier regarding the use of your guns.
WC. Yeah, we never did, not on the first set of operations. No we didn’t, we were lucky we didn’t get picked up by any German fighters, and we didn’t have any incidents where we were close enough to fire at anything on the ground, would have been a waste of time. Beside of which, we were carrying tracer bullets in the rounds, so we would have given our position away pretty sharpish. So, we counted ourselves being lucky we got away without any problems. We did the full tour and that was it.
MH. You mentioned tracers erm, for those not in the know.
WC. Yeah.
MH. What would have been the make up, and how would they have fitted in with the rounds that you were firing?
WC. If I can remember, it was a group of five, there was one tracer. one incendiary eh, no, no, yeah, one tracer, one incendiary, one armour piercing and the other two would be general purpose, the ordinary bullet, you know. So as I say, you got the tracer every fifth round and it, it would show up fairly well and as I say, it would show up where you were as well, that was the only trouble [laugh]. I don’t think we had that eh, eh, amount of tracer wouldn’t have altered it all as far as I can remember. We didn’t load the guns, the armourers did that for us, you know, and as I say, we didn’t fire them anyway so we were ok. Other than air to air firing, if there was somebody towing a drogue and we sign like that. But I know when we used to do this Village Inn training, we used to do some camera gun tests, and the result when we saw it on the screen, it was remarkable. On an ordinary camera gun exercise, without this Village Inn, the sight would be wandering about fairly well. On that it wandered straight on and that was it, it stayed on pretty well, just floated about a little bit, not bad, not much. So it would have guaranteed some good, good results.
MH. So you went to 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit at Winthorpe
WC. Yeah
MH. And then onto the Lancaster Finishing School at Syerston, which always tickles me.
WC. Yeah.
MH. A finishing school for the Lancasters.
WC. Yeah.
MH. I will take you back to St Johns Wood if I may just briefly, em, how did you and your skipper, how did you all come to meet up?
WC. Well we met up at Upper Heyford at the OTU there, and it has been said in lots of ways and lots of programmes, it was a kind of haphazard kind of setting up. You all met in the Squadron, in the sergeants mess I think it was, and you went round, or in a hanger somewhere, and you went round, “do you need a couple of gunners, skipper?” or do you need, you know, and that was how you met. You picked up, we tried with a couple of other, I think Australian, we tried to Crew up, but they were already Crewed up, you see, and then we came across our own Skipper, Jack Parkin, he was a Flight Sergeant then, he had been flying, I think, on a Gunnery School, Ansons on a Gunnery School. Anyway we, that’s how you met up, we met him and he’d already got a navigator and a bomb aimer or something, and we finally got the crew of six before you got the flight engineer. The flight engineer joined at the Heavy Conversion Unit when you went on to four engines.
MH. Right, ok, so you eventually got posted to a Squadron.
WC. Yeah.
MH. And now you are all together.
WC. Yeah.
MH. All seven having all completed and everything having gone LFS. Eh, what can you tell us regarding the missions, the type of missions that you had, where they went em, bomb loads, that sort of thing?
WC. Well the first one was just over eight hours to that French railway depot, Gefores I think it was, eh, so that was, I can’t remember actually the details of the various trips, but eh, have you got that list?
MH. Yes.
WC. Yeah, got that.
MH. And got your log book there if you wanted to refer to it.
WC. Yes, if you wanted to, that gives you the exact ones. We landed away from our own drome on two occasions, one was to a eh, I think it was another Lancaster Squadron at Burn in Yorkshire, and the other was Horsham St Faith, the American Base flying Liberators. We rather shook them up a bit when we told them what bomber we had landed with and what we had dropped, especially next day when we opened the bomb doors and showed them what a bomb bay looked like [laugh]. Eh, well apart from that we, we were pretty ok, you know. We went, we came back, we were lucky, we didn’t encounter any fighters or anything like that, so it was ok.
MH. Did you see any other aircraft when you were on a mission coming to grief?
WC. Oh on occasions, yes we did see occasions, I can’t remember again which trips, but you we, we, I think we, in fact I think it was on the first day light they did, the just, all the Lancasters were on a daylight, probably about two hundred or so, and they had been on night trips. Well on a night trip, you each went your own individual way. What was happening on this day light, they were all flying the same way on odd heights and odd courses. And I saw one Lancaster release its bomb load and there was another one underneath, and it went straight through the wing and that was it, so that was seven men down. I can’t remember seeing anyone getting out of it because it just went down. Anyway, we did see one or two aircraft come to grief with flak or fight. Well I don’t know if it were flak or fighters, they were in flame generally and eh -
MH. So how did you feel at that time, how did that make you feel in seeing that? Because I couldn’t imagine that, and I’m sure the listeners can’t imagine seeing that side.
WC. Yeah.
MH. How did you feel personally and how, in any way, did that affect you.
WC. Well if I said it bothered me a great deal, I would probably be right. It did upset me of course, but you were doing a job, and you got to keep your eyes on what you were doing. You could not give too much thoughts to the other people unfortunately. I mean, it sounds a bit horrible that, but this is it, you know, you have a job to do and you, generally speaking on these trips, you had to concentrate all the time. Especially at night, because, you know, you were staring into darkness and you are trying to look for other aircraft, and find out anything you can about what’s going on. So you didn’t have much time to worry about other aircraft, other than when you saw something, that was it.
MH. When you were in the bomb stream, on a night time, how, how did you feel the presence of another aircraft, how did affect how you?
WC. You got the turbulence, you know, you. would be flying along, fairly straight and level, then suddenly, it would be, that meant that you had crossed the turbulence from another, the slipstream of another aircraft. You know you would probably be weaving slightly like this, and you just hit one of those and you knew that somewhere up front, there was another Lancaster. So you had to be even more aware then, because they were damned near as dangerous as what the fighters were. If you were in, I mean, you didn’t stand a chance if you did collide with one, that was it.
MH. Fulbeck, Christmas ’44.
WC. Christmas ’44.
MH. End of tour.
WC. Yeah.
MH. Any high jinks went on?
WC. Actually we were flopping away, although we were finished, we had a drink, we took the ground crew down to the local, Leadenham I think it is, I can’t remember the name of the place, just from Fulbeck. But as I think I said, I had volunteered to go with the skipper and we started having injections for getting ready. So we went, of course, to have a drink of beer, on an injection you knew you had it, matey [laugh]. I, I vaguely remember I had a girlfriend, I think, on that Squadron, a WAAF, and she more or less had to support me all the way back to the Squadron. I hadn’t had much to drink really but eh. Then that was it, when we cleared the Squadron, we went to, where did we go from there? I think that was Morecombe, I think from there, and then wait until the troop dhip was ready. We spent about a week or more in Liverpool docks, because for one reason or another, they couldn’t get the, we couldn’t make up the convoy. I remember actually the day we were moving out of the dock, the captain of the ship ordered everybody away from the rails, get away from, because what was happening, you see, everybody was looking over the rails, several hundred, probably a thousand people on one side, and it was tending to. It only had a narrow gap to get through, so instead of going through straight, he was going through at a slight angle, it would have scaped his paint, so he said, “everybody away from the rails”. But that was, that, I think about it and laugh every time, I stood a guard duty on board a troop ship. There weren’t many chances for the SS to catch us there, you know, in the middle of the ocean, not really [laugh].
MH. So you land in India.
WC. Yeah.
MH. What were your first thoughts about India, it must have been completely different to Mansfield.
WC. Yeah.
MH. What were your first thoughts when you got to India?
MC. Well they talk about the mystic East, in my impression it was the mystic, where the smells were coming from. It was, it was hot and it was a bit smelly, you got used to it after a while, and of course, you got to watch out for everything you got in India. You got the Delhi Belly as it is sometimes called, and then you got any kind of skin infection that was floating around at the time. Prickly heat, boils, tinia, all these things, all due, all due to the sweat on your uniform irritating your skin, you see. And eh, you could get things for some of those. If you got tinia, which is a rash in the private parts and that’s putting it politely, well the treatment was Whitfields, either Whitfields ointment or Whitfields lotion, which is, I think Whitfields lotion is surgical spirits with a max salts, Epsom salts or something like that in it, you know, and the ointment is just vaseline with this stuff. Well Vaseline and, and that is not too bad, it stings a bit, but the, the lotion, it stings a bit sharpish [laugh]. A friend of mine got it and he said, “they have given me this from the sick bay and I’ve got to bath it with this, you see”. I said, “be very careful, don’t, don’t be too liberal with it because it stings. I have had the ointment on mine and I know that’s a wake up call anytime”. He put it on, dabbed it on - Ohhh! - It suddenly hit him what he’d done and he was very cautious from then on, very cautious. There was a, I remember in one of the magazines that the services used to send out, there was a joke in there, and it was a picture of the CO sitting at his desk, and there was a recruit fresh out from England in a uni, you know, different type, almost different type of uniform, and he said, of the medical officer, that was it, where he was going. He said, “I’ve got prickly heat sir”, and, and you know, and under, underneath him like “Prickly Heat!” and the CO and the MO were absolutely covered in these spots. Printed with an explanation mark “Prickly Heat!” [laugh]. It could be a very irritating thing that, you know, you just came out in spots, little red spots all over you. It wasn’t dangerous or really, it was very uncomfortable at times, you would be sitting there, then -OH! - it was just like somebody sticking a pin in and as I say, it could be uncomfortable.
MH. Did you suffer anything else in India?
WC. Yes I did. After the crash we had, when we got back up to Calcutta to the Squadron, then back down to Calcutta, we had to go through various medicals after a crash, you know, you were checked up and everything, and I went to the eh, the other Gunner went in and he was ok, they checked him out alright. The MO took my temperature and pulse, he says, “are you feeling ok?” I said, “I’m fine thanks”. He said, “well, there is something wrong, come back tomorrow”. So I went back the next day and same thing again. He said “there is definitely something”, he says, “come back again tomorrow”. Next day, I didn’t go back to him, I went to sick quarters. I got Denghi Fever and it hit me then. It’s very similar to Malaria, they only way they can tell is by a blood test, and if it’s Malaria if not, it’s Denghi Fever. I had a fortnight, I think it was a fortnight, in hospital then, and part of the time, I’m not sure what was going on or anything, you get a bit delirious, you know, it’s a fever and is spread again by a Mosquito, just the same as Malaria. The time I came out of that, the rest of the crew had also come to Calcutta, and the second pilot had been posted home sick. The other gunner, he had been moved to somewhere, he had been posted away and that was it. I was on my own then in the Transit Camp for a couple of months or so more before the wireless operator, who had been injured in the crash, actually came up from Rangoon and I met him then. And from then on, we spent time together, more time actually, as odd job men as you might say, than we did as Crew.
MH. I want to get, if possible, your impression of the Avro Lancaster as an aircraft, be honest, and then the B24 Liberator and be honest.
WC. This won’t get me thrown out will it?
MH. No, it won’t.
WC. Well the Lancaster was the four engined bomber in my opinion, I believe the Halifax was just as good but, of course, more was made of the Lancaster, the Dambusters and all these kind of raids, and that special 617 Squadron made it a well known and well thought of aircraft. It was very good, there was no doubt about that. As I say, I never flew the Halifax, but I think that was equally as good. And as I say, don’t make too much of it but I think the B24 Liberator, in my opinion, because there is no doubt it saved my life, that it was almost as good as the Lancaster. Designed for a different area of combat. The Lancaster was designed to go three or four hours out and three or four hours back and carry a bigger load because it was lightly armed as well. The Liberator, the same, as the American idea was we will go in and fight our way in and fight our way back. It didn’t work actually, that didn’t, but nevertheless it was designed with that idea and for use over the Pacific on long range jobs. [pause while the telephone is answered].
MH. So in your impression, B24 was a good aircraft?
WC. A very good aircraft, yes, no doubt about it.
MH. But the Lancaster would be your pick of the two?
WC. Ah, yeah, well as I say, they were designed with different aims and you can’t, you can compare them but you can’t compare them as to what one would do against another. Not really, because they were designed for a different purpose. Long range, far more long range is the Liberator, the B24, otherwise it was a good aircraft.
MH. Comfort wise, though, on operations.
WC. Well yeah, yeah, they were reasonable you know. Having said that, on a, on a Lancaster, when you went on an operation, you got a flask of coffee, sandwiches, bars of chocolate and chewing gum. The two trips we did out in India on a Liberator, it was take your water bottle and here’s a K Ration. So, again, that was not due to anything other than the, the area you were in, you know, there was no doubt about that. The Far East didn’t get the same treatment as the European war got. It was definitely a forgotten War in some respects.
MH. For a Layman like myself, can you describe your flying kit for a European operation.
WC. Yeah.
MH. And then your flying kit in India
WC. Well for a, a, an operation in England, you were issued with long johns and long sleeved vests to start with and your shirt, no collar and tie because of the possibility that if you ditched, you could get strangled with it. Then your battle dress, and then on that we, I used to have a, a an electric inner suit and a padded brown outer suit, gauntlets, helmet, goggles, oxygen mask and eh, that was about it, as I say, your sandwiches and everything were already on. On the Far East you didn’t need that kind of thing, of course your parachute etc and may west of course, but that in the Far East, it was just shorts, KD because you were warm enough, you see. KD and eh, parachute and may west again, and that was it, you know. It was, it was perfectly ok because we didn’t fly to any height that would be cold any way, you know. We were ok.
MH. I will briefly take you back to your second operation, but I am not going to dwell on it as we spoke before.
WC. Yeah.
MH. You were after this ten thousand tanker.
WC. Yeah.
MH. I think we have the name of it here, Er, “Toho Maroo”, ten thousand tons.
WC. Yeah.
MC. And then got later sunk.
WC. Yeah.
MC. So she did eventually get sunk?
WC. Yeah, she did eventually get sunk, yeah.
MH. So you set off in heavy rain, monsoon.
WC. Monsoon.
MH. Four aircraft had come back.
WC. Yeah.
MH. And the three of you continued.
WC. Yeah.
MH. Independently or in a flight?
WC. Independently, because the weather was so bad, you couldn’t fly together, it wouldn’t have been safe, I don’t think, but in any case, we were all individually sent you see.
MH. And then, could or couldn’t see the target, couldn’t find the target?
WC. Well we found the target, yeah, and in fact, as we were running up towards the target, we could see that there was a Lancaster, eh Lancaster, a Liberator just flying away from it. I don’t know if he had tried to do a successful bombing run or not, but he tried to get away from it and eh, then as I say, we went in, well we were a sitting target really, the, the Destroyer just sat there and waited till we got there and wallop, and that was it.
MH. So the tanker was being escorted at the time.
WC. Escorted yes, by a Japanese destroyer, yeah.
MH. It was that, that caused the ack ack.
WC. Yeah, yeah, I can’t remember, I don’t, I don’t know whether I blacked out or what, but the actually bracketing of the anti-aircraft fire, our aircraft was all over the place. I don’t know whether it, what happened as I say, and for a few, maybe half a minute in there, I had no idea what was, what was happening, and then we started flying level. Well up the front, I couldn’t see anything of the back, what the aircraft was like at the back, but we were flying something like reasonable. I saw that my intercom had gone, would, would do anyway that, I thought that I’m no good here, I can’t sit as a no, nothing in front, no way I can be of any use, so I will get out and see what’s happening. So I centred the turret, unlocked the doors, turned round and got out the turret, and as I say, there should have been two men there, instead of which the bomb, the nose wheel doors were open and nobody was there so it was a bit worrying for a second or two, but I could see that the pilots were still there. So I got out and reported to the skipper what had happened up front, and then went back, then I found out that the bombs were in a mess so we could jettison some but there was just this one. It was sort of hanging like that, you know, instead of being right and it wouldn’t jettison, so I just had to get rid of it by unscrewing the whole fixture, it was only about, it was only about so big. But four bolts you know, just had to get them off and then had to get these bolts away from the thing and let it drop. It. It went eventually, thank God [laugh].
MH. When you came out of your turret, who did you expect to find there?
WC. I should have been two men there, there should have been the navigator and the bomb aimer there.
MH. But there was nobody.
WC. There was nobody.
MH. Great, and then you could what, see the feet of the two pilots?
WC. Yeah, you could look back up the aircraft and you see the feet. Not far, but you could see, I think it went underneath them in the middle and you could get by. But you could just see the feet on the flight deck you see.
MH. I think you mentioned to me earlier that having gone back towards the bomb bay and everything, that at that point, you were able to see the damage that had been caused.
WC. No I didn’t know, I didn’t know, I knew there had been some damage, but I didn’t know what it was at all. I knew actually, I knew once I got to the bomb bay, because there were two long range fuel tanks should have been in the bomb bay, in the first part of the bomb bay, and they had gone. I think when the ack ack hit us and we were thrown about, they must have broken loose and fell away. Anyway I thought, that’s it, you know, we are obviously now not too well off for fuel but we are flying. So I went back and had a look, got rid of the bombs, eventually and that’s why I went back, and the rear gunner said, “look out there” [laugh], and it wasn’t there.
MH. So for clarification for persons listening, Mr Cooke has gone back to the rear of the aircraft eh, the rear, turret, gunner has pointed out there, the starboard fin and rudder had gone. Totally.
WC. Totally, just as if it would have chopped off or taken a hack saw, it was as clean as a whistle.
MH. So you were down to a crew of how many at that point ?
WC. One, two, three, four, five, six I think it was. One, two, three, four, yes, six.
MH. So six persons are still on board.
WC. Yeah.
MH. Your skipper has decided to keep going.
WC. Keep going, get back home.
MH. Even with the loss of fuel.
WC. Yeah
MH. And you are flying from the Gulf of Siam.
WC. Yeah.
MH. To Rangoon.
WC. Rangoon in Burma, yes.
MH. Would you like to say what happened in Rangoon or not?
WC. Well, yeah, no problem, as I said we, we, we hadn’t, again with the navigator going, we hadn’t got any maps. It was just keep going until you find somewhere, you know, and we found the Irrawaddy Delta I think it’s called, the river that runs down through Burma, and we found a way, we found Rangoon. We came in to try and land at Rangoon, and the ground control says, ”you shouldn’t land here because it is not a fight, it’s not a bomber airfield, you can’t land here it’s not a bomb”, etc. Eh, I mean, a bit of a daft thing to say when you saw the state we were in. Anyway we carried on, we made, I think, one circuit, and on the second circuit, we were coming and in, now whether then the skipper applied flaps and undercarriage down, and that altered the flight characteristics or what I don’t know, but we were going round, and I suddenly heard the engines rev up full power and we went straight in – wallop - and that was it, and the aircraft itself broke into, broke up roughly where we were in the middle, and the eh, you know. One engine was still running, the prop had sheared off and it was still going full belt. The second pilot said, “I switched it off and it stopped”, [laugh] anyway I didn’t realise then that the skipper had, I went up front, got out went up front, “are you ok?” I’ll go and get, I can see some lights, I’ll go and get help. So I set off across this Paddy Field, they tell me it was six foot deep in places, I don’t think that was right, but anyway I was well muddied up with the paddy field. Got to what was an ambulance and I said, “I’ll take you back”. They said, “No, no you stop here, we’ll find it, it’s ok”, and I was then, I just got out of my uniform because it was stinking mud, anyway got rid of that, and then we just waited until the second pilot and the other gunner, he was just behind me, we were on board and I think the flight engineer too, I can’t remember, I can’t remember that chappie, I didn’t know, the one we picked up on Squadron, you see. And anyway from there, when we were unloaded, we went off to the hospital and they got us into the hospital and got us a bed and got me some pyjamas. I don’t know, I think Butch got some pyjamas as well, I am not sure, but anyway they said, “right, get into bed and then take this tablet, don’t take it until you get into bed”, which I did. I took the tablet and that is the last thing I remember until the next day [laugh], It worked efficiently, it knocked me out like a punch up the hooter. And then, the next day, when we were more or less able to get about, you know, they brought the wireless operator in. Of course the two, the flight engineer and the second pilot were flying officers, so they went to a different place than we did and eh, they eh, as I say, the wireless operator came in and I asked him how the skipper was, and he said, “he’s dead”. That shook me up quite a bit, but then we were there for a couple or three days, and they managed to get the wireless operator to start drinking and eating, because they said if he doesn’t he will have to be put on a drip. We got him working and then probably the next day after that, when we got him back to something like a normal carry on, we were shifted to, out of the hospital to a sick quarters, and eh, down step on shall we say, because we did have a bed in the hospital, when we got to the sick quarters, we got a stretcher on the floor with a bit of a mossie net over the top. Again neither of us had anything to cope with, so we were in a room with an Army bloke, Army private I think he was. So when he went for his a meal, he said can we borrow your tackle. I think we had a plate and a mess tin and a knife and fork between us, two of us and we were there for another two or three days, I can’t remember when, but the second pilot came in there and said, “get writing back to your Mum”, he says, “or they will be getting word that you have been injured”, you know. We did that and then from there I say we, I got this uniform, they got me a uniform, in fact we all got one. The second pilot had gone into the stores officer for something and said we need some uniforms for these two, and eh, I think there was about six uniforms in the stores ah, eh, eh green, eh forest green, a dark green anyway, and they were all the same size. The second pilot, I think he was about five ten or six foot so you can imagine what mine looked like. I got, I got a local, local dirty wallah, a tailor bloke came along, and he took it and measured me and I could get it, I could wear it the next day but eh, the waist sort of was here and sort of went out like that [laugh], and he didn’t know much about stripes and crowns, so I got three stripes, they went sort of like that and a little bit less and a little bit less, and the crown on top of that. It made virtually a diamond on my arm, you know, but I got them and I had no hat so as I say, we flew back with that kind of uniform, best we could get. They took us, they took us up to the Squadron and we got kit from the squadron, they sent us down to a transit camp then in Calcutta, and I have got that entry from the CO in the log book. And eh, from then, that’s when I was taken ill when we were doing this medical after the crash, and when I came out of hospital, I was on my todd, there was nobody and I spent some time in that Transit Camp doing nothing, just virtually doing nothing. The local, as far as I can remember it, the local eh, Indian Officers clubs and various things, you know, they would send around an invitation for twenty or thirty men to go and use their swimming baths and have tea and that. You were on your best behaviour no, eh, it was very nice, no eh, I am not mocking it, it was ok, but it was still definitely them and us, you know what I mean, but it was ok [pause to answer telephone]
MH. We will just pause for a second.
MH. So you were then in a Transit Camp.
WC. Yeah.
MH. And then?
WC. Yeah, I was coming up for Warrant Officer at the time, you know, in aircrew, you were sergeant for a year, if you lived, you were flight sergeant after a year, and if you lived again, you were a warrant officer after another year. So I was coming up for warrant officer, I went to see the adjutant I suppose, asked about it, “very well”, he said, “we can’t promote you if you are not doing any specific work”. So I got a job in this canteen liaison office in Calcutta. I went down there and we were sending parcels back for the lads, they’d come in with a chitty and pay the cash, and we, they’d buy something in town and we’d make it up, we had a tailor on running, and he would make it up, sew it up, stick the labels on and then sent it back, and we would supervise all that, you see and eh, and eh, as I say, I spent a while doing that. Then I was, I was shovelled onto another officer who was doing actually canteen liaison, that was it, he was working out the beer and liquor rations for the various stations in the Calcutta area. He got demobbed and he went off sharpish, and I was left doing that for while and then as I say, they came round looking for odd bods not doing important work and they got posted to Dumdum, and I was working on freight mail there, working on loading aircraft, that was ok and eh -
MH. How about your apprentice loader?
WC. Aye.
MH. Your apprentice loader and what happened.
WC. Yeah, yeah, he was a new starter on the, on the, he was one of the, I won’t say coolies, he was one of the Native Bearers we used to call them I think, and eh, we got this load to put on a Dakota and we backed up to the Dakota, and we were going very merrily and chucking the parcels off and chucking them on the aircraft. Well he grabbed a parcel that he thought was a parcel and chucked it up the aircraft, but it was a dinghy and of course, doing that triggered off the CO2 bottle, and the dinghy went up like, almost like a miniature bomb inside the aircraft and eh, the next thing, I looked up the runway and this lad was going like the clappers up the runway. But we fetched him back and I explained it to the officer in charge of that loading area, aircraft and he said, “ok”, he could barely keep a straight face. He said, “ok”, he says, “we’ll let him off”, he says, “get him back to work and it will be ok”.
MH. Your time in India and your time at Dumdum airport wasn’t the only incident you had. You had one particular, one on the Lancaster I believe, on the FIDO trip?
WC. Oh, that was on 49 Squadron that was, yeah, yeah. It was eh, an ordinary trip as far as I can remember, I can’t remember where it was supposed to be, anyway we went out to our aircraft, got on board and everything checked out or seemed to be, then we got a mag drop on one engine, a very big one, and they couldn’t fix it so that was it. The CO said, “get onto the standby aircraft and take that one”. So we get onto that and all this takes a fair bit of time, you know, so we gets on, checks up again, and by now the bulk of the other aircraft had now taken off. So we gets into the line, last in the line of course, and as we gets up to the runway, we see that there is a Lancaster, burst tyre, right at the end of the take off runway, which means we had to go up to the next junction runway, come back on that and down the runway and turn at the bottom and then take off. All the others went and we were called to the runway and nipping along at a fair pace, you know, And eh, as I say, that is when the skipper said words to the effect of, “oh dear, oh dear, we haven’t got any brake pressure”, and the only thing he could do was to rev up engines on one side to turn the aircraft that way, and run half off the runway, onto the grass and over the FIDO pipes, which eventually stopped us. There were three, I think they were about inch and a half diameter pipes on a, sat on a triangle you know, they went, they got two nice marks where the wheels went, and that was it. But as I say, we thought this is it, we’re ok now, we’ve had our crisis, tried to take off but we couldn’t hack it, but we should be alright. We got off and the CO was asking what had happened and all that, and another officer came up and said, “if we get permission, to take off straight away and fly direct, it could just about get there for the rest of them”, you see, and that’s where I suddenly, nearly, kneed a no, no area [laugh], I think it was one of the most frightening times that was, those few minutes but the CO, he knew what he was on about and he said, “no way”, and that were it, we got away with it. But I can still think back to that, if you send them direct, Oh my God [laugh].
MH. How much damage did you do to the spare aircraft, the standby aircraft, how much damage was done to it?
WC. Well it was, it, it wasn’t any as far as I remember, it wasn’t any real damage. The brake pressure had gone and it had just spun it off and the FIDO pipes actually stopped it. It went over it and it had stopped any momentum on the grass, and I don’t think there was any real damage other than the loss of brake pressure.
MH. So we come to demob.
WC. Yeah.
MH. Fifteenth of February 1947.
WC. Yeah, it was March by the time we got in and it was the end of the very bad winters frost and snow, it had started to melt and there were floods all over. Is one ok, not far off. And eh, and as I say, I managed to get back by train to Nottingham but there were no more trains or buses into Mansfield from there, so I cadged a lift on a GPO van. He dropped me in Mansfield about ten minutes, quarter of an hour from home. It was throwing it down with rain, but I was home and that was it mate [laugh].
MH. You said that you were greeted by your Mum and your Sister.
WC. Yeah
MH. What happened to your elder Brother.
WC. Well he was married, of course, I think he was demobbed by then, but he was at home obviously, you see.
MH. So he had beaten you out of demob then?
WC. Oh yeah, yeah, he was in before me and out before me.
MH. Was your Sister still in the WAAFS at that time.
WC. No, no actually she got pregnant and she got out of the WAAFS, you know, and she had a very bad time of it too. But anyway, she survived that and as I say, by then she got these arrangements made to go to America.
MH. And 49 Association.
WC. Yeah.
MH. Going strong
WC. Yeah.
MH. How long have you been in it?
WC. I would say, I would say at least five years I think, I think Steve got us in about the turn of the century, something like that, and we had a, a reunion and it was at Woodhall Spa. Can’t remember the name of the hotel, but this hotel during the war was the officers mess for 617 Squadron.
MH. The Petwood.
WC. The Petwood that was it, yeah, that’s it, and we had the reunion there and we went to the memorial on the November. We didn’t get into the, the reunions after that for a while for some reason, well the wife has not been too well as I say, being diabetic, and her eyes are now beginning to go so she really needs somebody to set the things up for her, you see. But eh, we did, we did get to this last years reunion, just overnight and she went into one of the local care centres in town and stayed there and eh, as I say, we went and had a reunion, quite nice too. A fair number turned up, you know, and then the memorial, on memorial Sunday, we go to Fiskerton church and then we go up to the airfield and lay a wreath, we have had a fly past there too. The Lancaster, you know, comes and sees us.
MH. Could I ask you finally then, for your opinions of how Bomber Command is thought of, how you think it is portrayed to the public of today erm, and what you see as Bomber Commands legacy from the war as such?
WC. Well I didn’t realise it when I came back from India, but there was a bad time when the, you know, we were not all that popular it, it didn’t fit with the politicians what we had been doing. But I think now it is generally turning round, they are beginning to realise just what was been done by Bomber Command and how useful it was, because they were the only branch of the forces that could actually fight the Germans all the time, they were going all the time you see. I think eh, nowadays they are still a good deterent, I think, I think you know we can, they do well for what they are doing. Eh, I think the general public has a better regard for Bomber Command now than it did some years ago. It went through that bad spell you know, when everybody thought that we were naughty boys, bombing like the Germans did and all that. They are getting now to think that they did a damn good job and that’s it. So I think it is getting, getting a better publicity now shall we say, better rating shall we say. I hope that there is not any chance that they might have to do what we did then. I don’t think it will come to that because, anyway, anyone with common sense can see if, if it comes to that where there is a worldwide, there won’t be any world. It’ll, It’ll be done if they every use the nuclear weapons, it only needs one to use them and I am afraid we shan’t be able to stop it. We will have to, we will have to retaliate whether we want to or not and unfortunately everybody will have to retaliate and it will be all over. Which is as long as the politicians keep this in the back of their minds, it’s a good thing, it’s a good thing because I shouldn’t think anyone will be daft enough, I would have thought, to let it go that far.
MH. So is there anything else you would like to add, is there anything else you would like to say in relation to your time in Bomber Command and subsequently -
WC. Other than since I have been out, I have had one or two rough spells but ok, I am doing nicely now thank you very much, and this retirement job is the best one I have had [laugh] and it’s the longest one too and the rest of the time, it’s been a few years here and a few years there or move to somewhere else in the same industry, you know. And this No. 8 Little Barn is the best place I’ve been working with [laughs].
MH. Thank you very much.
WC. You’re welcome.
MH. Erm, Mr Cooke, this afternoon, been a privilege. It’s been a great pleasure to meet you and your Son. I’m going to stop the tape, if something comes to mind, we can add it on. I’m going to stop the tape now.



Mark Hunt, “Interview with William Cooke,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 29, 2023,

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