Interview with Jim Copus. Two

Title

Interview with Jim Copus. Two

Description

Jim Copus was born in Watlington and volunteered for the Royal Air Force when he was eighteen. After training, he flew operations as a mid-upper gunner with 97 Squadron from RAF Bourn. On one operation he realised that it was very quiet. He could not get a response on his intercom so left the turret to investigate. He found that he was alone in the aircraft and seeing the escape hatch was open he grabbed his parachute and made his escape from the stricken aircraft. He landed near a farmhouse and following his arrest he was sent to Stalag Luft 1. He was a prisoner of war for fifteen months before the camp was liberated by the Russians and he was repatriated. Following his demobilisation, he worked in insurance, the Metropolitan Police and as manager of kennels.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-02-24

Contributor

Julie Williams

Rights

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

Format

01:16:28 Audio Recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ACopusJ160224

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and we’re in Hemel Hempstead with Jim Copus and with his daughter Andrea and son in law John and we’re going to talk about, the date today is the 24th of February 2016 and we are going to talk about Jim’s career and how he was shot down and what he did in prisoner of war camp and so Jim what’s the earliest recollection you have from a family point of view?
JC: From the family. Well I always remember being at school and I went to, as you got a little older you had to -
JH: Andrea can we stop it because I think -
AH: Oh.
CB: I think we’re just stopping a mo because -
AH: Yeah.
CB: Because the washing machine is probably going to drown this as a background?
AH: And then it goes on to spin.
CB: Well that’s a point as well isn’t it?
AH: Yes.
JH: Yeah.
CB: Your clothes -
AH: Yeah.
CB: Will be very well washed Jim.
JH: [?] Three times now.
CB: Well, yes, exactly. Yes.
AH: Oh I know how to do it now.
JC: I always remember school because as you got a little older you, we used to send out two, two boys out of school just before closing time or lunch time to make sure that the children got across the road because it was a main road outside the school and I always remember that. That was a long time ago too. Yeah.
CB: So what did your parents do?
JC: My parents? My parents, my father was a wood, wood machinist in Princes Risborough.
CB: And when did you leave school?
JC: When did I leave school? When I was fourteen.
CB: And what did you do?
JC: I went into a shop. We worked, went as an errand boy at a shop in Watlington for a year. Then I moved up to Stokenchurch where I got a full time job in a carpentry place.
CB: Was that doing an apprenticeship?
JC: No that wasn’t an apprenticeship. No. No.
CB: And then what?
JC: Well, after that the war broke out and I joined the RAF. [laughs]
CB: Why did you choose the RAF?
JC: [Laughs] That’s a very good question. I wouldn’t like to say why. Well, I didn’t fancy the army put it that way. I didn’t like the idea of having to go on road marches and God knows what and I thought well I’d join the RAF to see what goes on and I enjoyed it. I must admit. I enjoyed what I did. And er no.
CB: So you were a volunteer for air crew. How did that occur?
JC: I volunteered for that. They were asking for air crew and I put my name down and I was accepted. There were four of us went together. All went down in to London and three of them were rejected. I was the only one who got through.
CB: So that was at Lords Cricket Ground was it?
JC: Yes. That’s right. Lords. I always remember that. Lords Cricket Ground.
CB: And when you were there what did you do?
JC: We stayed there for, stayed at Lords Cricket Ground for just over a week and then we went back to our stations until we got called back again.
CB: So where did you, where did you go from Lords then?
JC: From Lords I think I went up to er just outside Cambridge if I remember rightly. Yeah. I can’t exactly say the name of the place but it was near Cambridge if it wasn’t in Cambridge. I was there and -
CB: What did you do there?
JC: I volunteered for aircrew and there again I got accepted. I went into London and got interviewed and everything else and got interviewed to go, go and join the aircrew and I did that and that’s more or less what is all that’s on here.
CB: What were, what were the options that they gave you for aircrew?
JC: They didn’t give me any options. They just asked you, ‘Do you want to join the aircrew,’ I said, ‘Yeah. It didn’t make any difference to me. Aircrew was aircrew and I thought, at the time anyway.
CB: Yeah.
JC: And I just said well fair enough. I wanted to go in the air force, join the air crew.
CB: Which year was this?
JC: Pardon?
CB: Which year was this? 1940?
JC: Nineteen yeah 1940, ‘40 yeah, ’40, ‘41 that’s right because I went in I actually got called up in the beginning of 1942.
AH: You signed -
JC: Pardon?
AH: You signed up early didn’t you? You went down yourself to sign up. I remember you telling me because you didn’t want to be told where to go.
JC: Well. Yeah. You remember maybe more than me.
AH: Yes.
CB: That’s ok. So what I understand we’re talking about is that you, like a number of people wanted to get in on the act.
JC: Yeah well -
CB: So you volunteered when you were underage.
JC: I mean the war, the war was on and youngsters wanted to, they didn’t want to stay at home when there was a war on. You can understand that -
CB: Yeah.
JC: I suppose.
CB: Yeah. So you were born in 1922.
JC: Yes.
CB: So the war started when you were seventeen.
JC: Yes.
CB: And you couldn’t join then.
JC: And it had to wait till I was eight -
CB: Exactly. You waited till you were eighteen.
JC: I waited until I was eighteen.
CB: 1940.
JC: Yeah and I took myself to, I took myself to Reading and volunteered.
CB: Did you?
JC: Yeah. Yeah, because I wasn’t twenty I was eighteen.
JC: Yeah. Now you became an air gunner but did you train as a wireless operator/air gunner?
JC: No, I was trained as -
CB: Only as an air gunner.
JC: As an air gunner. Yeah.
CB: Ok. So where did you go for that?
JC: Oh dear. Just let me think where I went for that. Air Gunnery School. I think it was in, down the south if I remember rightly. Yeah. Down south halfway down in the half of England but I can’t remember exactly the name.
CB: Right.
JC: I wish I could.
CB: The reason I ask you is because some people did wireless operator training as well.
JC: Yes.
CB: And that was south of Bristol.
JC: Ah no I didn’t go into the wireless operating.
CB: At all.
JC: I didn’t like, I wasn’t interested in the wireless operating.
CB: Right.
JC: No.
CB: So what attracted you to being an air gunner?
JC: Being a young, young man, wanting to do something you know what I mean and that’s about all I think. It wasn’t any particular reason that I -
CB: Had you done any shooting beforehand?
JC: No.
CB: But you liked the idea of -
JC: I liked the idea of the, yes, I suppose to but I hadn’t done any shooting.
CB: Right. And how did the training go? What did they do first of all when you learned to be an air gunner?
JC: Well -
CB: Was it shotguns or what?
JC: Pardon?
CB: Did they train you on shotguns?
JC: No they didn’t. We never used shotguns. We just went in and the next thing I knew I was, the aeroplane was there and the turret was there and they showed me. They had turrets there that you could get in and use to show you how to -
CB: On the ground.
JC: On the ground. Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
JC: And that, that was it.
CB: And they gave you targets to shoot at.
JC: Well no they didn’t even give targets in those days. Not enough space I don’t think [laughs]. No. I don’t remember having to target shoot on the ground.
CB: So you did the ground training.
JC: Oh yes we did trained, yeah.
CB: Then you put them into, they put you into planes where there was a turret in the aeroplane.
JC: Yes. Yeah.
CB: Where was that?
JC: Let me think now, where that was. Somewhere in the Midlands somewhere. I’m not quite certain.
CB: Ok.
JC: Exactly. It’s such a long time ago.
CB: I know. I know.
JC: To remember.
CB: So then there was there were planes that didn’t have an upper gun but had forward or rear turrets and then when you got onto the heavies they had a mid-upper gunner
JC: Some aircraft, don’t forget some of the aircraft never had rear turrets. Not like the ones on the Lancaster for instance. We had a built in turret and also we had a mid-upper turret which I had. I was a mid-upper gunner.
CB: Right.
JC: On the turret.
CB: Did you have a choice and you decided that was the one you wanted or -
No. I don’t think we had a, we went as gunners and that was the one that they gave me and I was quite happy with it because it was a, when I say, when you, if you look at the aircraft and see the turret you’ll find it’s in a wonderful position to see everything and I was quite happy with that.
CB: It’s the one position where you can see everything going on.
JC: Yeah.
CB: ‘Cause the turret would go right around would it?
JC: Oh yes.
CB: Three sixty degrees.
JC: And you could see everything so there was nothing to stop -
CB: Right.
JC: You seeing it so it was good.
CB: And from that position unless there was a mechanism to stop it you could end up shooting off the tail. How did that come about? How -
JC: Oh yes well you had -
CB: Was that avoided?
JC: You had two handles -
CB: Right.
JC: And if you let go you’d stop.
CB: Oh.
JC: You wouldn’t just keep going around and around.
CB: No.
JC: You’d go as far as you wanted to go.
CB: So how was the turret controlled then? You just said two handles.
JC: Yeah.
CB: What did the handles do?
JC: Well, the two handles -
CB: Each did something different.
JC: It was one was for firing the guns and the other one was just to keep moving whatever you wanted on the turret.
CB: The traverse of the turret.
JC: Yes.
CB: Which, which ones did you use for raising or lowering the guns?
JC: Oh God, I wouldn’t know. It’s such a long time ago.
CB: Was that by twisting?
JC: Yes.
CB: Twisting them.
JC: Just twist them -
CB: The handles and the guns -
JC: The guns would go up or down. Whichever way you wanted it but it’s such a long time ago.
CB: Sure.
JC: To remember little things.
CB: But some of these things really, the system was similar to riding a bike in that you had two handles.
JC: Well yeah.
CB: Is that right?
JC: You had two and you’d know exactly what you were doing.
CB: Yeah.
JC: Yeah.
CB: What about the sight. What kind of -
JC: The sight -
CB: Aiming site did you have?
JC: We had a, like a spotlight sort of thing. Yeah. With a -
CB: Was it a circle with a cross in it?
JC: Yes.
CB: Ahum.
JC: Yes.
CB: And did it have some calibration so that -
JC: No. No calibration.
CB: How did you work the range out?
JC: I don’t remember any calibrations on it.
CB: OK.
JC: But er -
CB: I wondered if you had to adjust it to -
JC: Adjust it.
CB: Depending on the type of aircraft you thought -
JC: Yeah.
CB: Was coming at you.
JC: That’s right.
CB: So if it was a 109.
JC: Well -
CB: It’s a smaller aeroplane than if it was a JU88.
JC: That’s right. It was faster anyway. Yeah. Yes.
CB: So how did you adjust the sights for that?
JC: You couldn’t. Not really.
CB: Right.
JC: No. Not to my, not to my knowledge. I can’t remember that. Adjusting it. It was there and you used it. Used it.
CB: So here you are in the mid upper turret.
JC: Pardon?
CB: Here you are in the mid upper turret.
JC: Yeah.
CB: And in flying in the aeroplane what are you doing as the plane is flying along?
JC: Well just looking around. Keeping an eye on everything. Making sure that you see what’s going on. Keeping in touch, you keep in touch with the crew and, not that you say much to the crew because if they’re talking and you want to butt in you, you wouldn’t do that but you could always sit in the turret and look around and see everything that was going on.
CB: Ahum.
JC: Yeah.
CB: And was one of your responsibilities to call up evasive action to the pilot if necessary. So if something, if a fighter is attacking -
JC: Oh yeah.
CB: What do you do? What do you do then?
JC: You just call it. You tell him exactly what’s going on. Yeah.
CB: So are you giving him a commentary?
JC: Oh yeah you’d always make sure that you knew exactly where the aircraft was coming from and what position it was in, obviously but again it’s such a long time ago now to remember.
CB: How many times was your plane attacked?
JC: How many times did -
CB: Was -
JC: We get attacked?
CB: Yes.
JC: Let me think. No, I don’t think we got attacked more than twice. Not actual attacked itself. No. All that I, the last thing I remember is in the aircraft we were up in the aircraft and a fighter plane came up behind us and hit, attacked and I was sitting in the turret and I thought, ‘That’s funny. It’s so quiet.’ So, I looked down the fuselage and I couldn’t see anything so I got out of the turret, went down into the fuselage and looked along. There was nobody there and I walked along and I saw the open hatch so I put my parachute on and dropped. Just like that. [laughs]
CB: So the normal -
JC: Not an easy thing to do.
CB: No.
JC: I can assure you.
CB: What? Trying to, you mean getting out?
JC: Yeah. Well, I mean -
CB: Why wasn’t it easy?
JC: They’re only small holes.
CB: Right.
JC: And you got a parachute on your front and -
CB: How do you do it? Do you sit on the edge or what do you do to get out?
JC: Well yes, you do, the best thing to do is to sit down on the edge of the turret and then drop. Drop in.
CB: Right.
JC: Yeah.
CB: And the parachute is on your front rather than on your back. Is it?
JC: It’s on the front.
CB: Right.
JC: Yeah.
CB: So what’s the procedure? You sit on the edge of the door -
JC: Just go in.
CB: The hatch.
JC: Sit on the the hatch.
CB: And then what?
JC: Sit on the floor and just drop through the hole.
CB: Ok. So you’ve dropped through the hole. Then what?
JC: You drop through the hole and you see the plane go above you.
CB: Right.
JC: Yeah.
JH: [and you say, ‘Oh shit]
AH: Yeah.
JC: And you think to yourself, ‘Oh.’
CB: Ok.
JC: Then then again it doesn’t take long because when you’re dropping at that height and speed you, it soon seems a long way away so I pulled my cord and my parachute opened straight away.
CB: Right.
JC: And I went down. Yeah. I had no problems with the parachute. Except landing. I landed up against some, somebody’s back door with a metal fence. I didn’t hit, I didn’t hit the fence but I was very close to it I can assure you but they came out and picked me up and sat me down on a seat outside and then the local gendarmes came.
CB: Then what?
JC: I was taken away. As a prisoner of war.
CB: What was their reaction in the house to your arrival?
JC: Oh no problems. They didn’t, they had no reaction whatsoever. No.
CB: These were Germans?
JC: They were Germans, yeah.
CB: Whereabouts?
JC: Pardon?
CB: Whereabouts was this?
JC: Oh I’m just trying to think of where it was. Southern, Southern Germany. Yeah. No. I can’t say I exactly know exactly where it was. I think I’ve got a record of that have I?
AH: I have yeah. I’ve got all that information.
CB: Ok we’ll look that up.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
AH: I can tell you. I’ve got it all here. On the way to [?]
CB: We’ll pick up various bits on the way but when you’re coming down by parachute are you able to see the ground because it’s the middle of the night isn’t it?
JC: Oh yes. You couldn’t, I didn’t see anything. The next thing I know I was on the ground and I picked myself up and sat down on the ground and when I did look I was just about from this chair from that settee there -
CB: Five, six feet yeah.
JC: To an iron fence and I was very close but I didn’t touch it. And then people came out of the house and stood around and just watched me. Looked at me. And then the Germans arrived. Picked me up. Took me away but no, no there were no hard, you know, there was no, no, no hurt, nobody got hurt anyway, put it that way. I didn’t get hurt.
CB: No.
JC: I was lucky.
AH: You had a bar of chocolate you offered to -
JC: Pardon?
AH: You said you had a bar of chocolate that you went to take out -
JC: Oh yeah.
AH: And they all recoiled as though you were going for a gun.
JC: Oh yeah.
AH: But then you took the chocolate out.
JC: I gave, I offered it to them but they wouldn’t take it.
AH: No.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Your chocolate bar.
JC: Pardon?
CB: Your chocolate bar.
JC: Yeah, it was -
CB: Was in your breast pocket was it?
JC: Yeah, used to have it in -
CB: Right.
JC: I offered it to the children.
CB: Oh the children were there were they?
JC: Yeah they came out as well. I wanted to give it but they wouldn’t take it so -
CB: What sort of age were they? What age were the children?
JC: Oh I don’t know. About nine, ten I suppose. Something like that. Oh it was -
CB: So the policeman came, it was a policeman was it who came or a soldier who came?
JC: No they were -
CB: To take you away.
JC: What do you mean?To make out, it was, it was soldiers that came out to pick me up.
CB: Right.
JC: Oh yes. Yeah. And there were no problems. There was no ill treatment whatsoever and the language, well I can’t remember anything going, extraordinary going on. They just picked me up, took me out and put me on transport and then in to town and that was it.
CB: Then what?
JC: It was there that I got, well, put away in a cell and then I was just taken from there to interrogation but that was ok. No problems.
CB: What was the interrogation like? What did they say?
JC: Well nothing, there was no problem. They just wanted to know where I was from, what I was doing and they knew I was a flier because I had my flying kit with me and flying boots and so there was no ill treatment whatsoever. I didn’t expect, I suppose I did in my own mind I expected some trouble but didn’t get any trouble whatsoever.
CB: So what did you tell them?
JC: Didn’t tell them anything. I just said I’m from there and they saw and -
CB: But you were, you were supposed to give them your number and rank were you?
JC: Well yes I suppose they say that you give them the number, rank and name but from there onwards it’s up to them and I waited until a vehicle came along and I got inside this vehicle and they took me into town where I was transferred to a local prison. Yeah.
CB: How many people in the prison?
JC: Pardon?
CB: How many other people in the prison?
JC: Oh I didn’t see anybody, oh there was one other person there. That’s all. But I didn’t speak to him.
CB: Was he also RAF?
JC: Yeah, he was RAF.
CB: But not your crew.
JC: Not my crew. No. No. I hadn’t seen him before.
CB: Right. So from this prison that was just a holding point.
JC: Yeah it was just a holding -
CB: What happened next?
JC: Well you were there for a few days and then you got, they came along and, ‘Raus,’ picked you up, put you in a van and away you went to a, to a big camp.
CB: And where was that?
JC: Oh God knows.
CB: What was it, what was the Stalag Luft?
JC: Stalag Luft something but I couldn’t tell you exactly -
AH: One.
JC: What it was.
CB: Stalag Luft 1.
JC: Stalag Luft well no Stalag Luft 1, was, that was in the north. That’s where I finished up.
CB: Ah.
JC: Stalag Luft 1.
CB: Right.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Eventually.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. So how long were you in the camp that they took you to?
JC: Fifteen months.
CB: Oh were you?
JC: Yeah.
CB: So the time you were shot down, when was that, we’re talking about when, 1943 are we? Or -
AH: March ’44.
CB: March ’44.
JC: March ‘44. That’s right. Yeah.
CB: Right ok.
AH: I can give you all the dates.
CB: And then from there you were held in the prison. Were they all air force people in the prison or was it a mixture?
JC: They were mixtures. They were mixtures. There were a lot of Polish, Polish prisoners of war there.
CB: Army.
JC: Because we were up in the Baltic.
CB: Oh.
JC: On the Baltic side and they were the ones that was doing all the work. The Poles from Poland. We didn’t have to do any work but they, they did. They were the ones that were doing all the -
CB: Because you were NCOs, senior NCOs.
JC: Yeah.
CB: So what rank were you at that stage?
JC: I was a warrant officer.
CB: Oh you were then.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Right. So what did you do when you were in the prison camp?
JC: Well there wasn’t much to do I can assure you. You just walked around from place to place. We tried to get into, into a, whatever you could get yourself into if you know what I mean. You had to keep yourself occupied.
CB: Yeah.
JC: Or busy otherwise you’d have gone crazy but I managed.
CB: So the camps were normally split between commissioned officers, NCOs and other ranks.
JC: Yeah.
CB: So -
JC: Well, I had, I had NCOs and sometimes you had ordinary ranks there.
CB: Yeah.
JC: But lower ranks went to another camp.
CB: Yeah.
CB: So who ran your camp?
JC: Who ran?
CB: Who ran it? The Germans obviously but who ran it from an allied point of view.
JC: Oh yeah.
CB: The senior who? The warrant officer was it?
JC: Yeah, they were, I forget what his name was. Now. He was responsible for our actions to them if you know what I mean.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
JC: So he was answerable to them. Anything that was going on he would come to us to explain what was necessary or what new orders had been brought out. Have you got that, yeah?
CB: What rank was he?
JC: He was, let me think what he was, he was only a second lieutenant
CB: Oh he was an officer.
JC: Oh he was an officer. Yeah. Oh yeah.
CB: Right.
JC: Yeah.
CB: And what were the activities that you were given to do?
JC: We, as prisoners of war we, and being air crew, we didn’t have to do anything.
CB: No, but they kept you occupied.
JC: Well -
CB: And that’s why I asked about the senior person there.
JC: Yes.
CB: ‘Cause he had a responsibility to keep you busy.
JC: He, they did, I suppose, in a sense but you went, walked around from one camp er one billet to another billet to communicate. That’s about all. Yeah.
CB: So were there people running language classes and -
JC: Pardon?
CB: Were there people running language classes and things like that?
JC: You didn’t, no there wasn’t very very I mean nearly everybody could speak English.
CB: No. I’m talking about the British and Commonwealth prisoners. What were they, what activities did they have because some camps -
JC: Well they either –
CB: Had languages, some did plays, acting and -
JC: Well the Polish, there were a lot of Polish prisoners of war there.
CB: Yeah.
JC: Where I was and they were all, but some of them were working. Some of them worked, some of them had to work, some as didn’t. It depended. No. It’s I know it’s a long time ago and I can’t always remember everything that took place but I remember the Polish.
CB: Yeah.
JC: They were there.
CB: What was the food like?
JC: Well, the Germans were very, well they didn’t have a great deal themselves. Put it that way. We had a bowl of soup or whatever. Whatever they called it, more or less bread. Bread in a bowl of soup and that’s what you got for the day. We didn’t get a great deal.
CB: Ok. When? What time of day were you fed?
JC: Fed? Usually around about 1 o’clock in the daytime. Sometimes it was after, later in the day because they were waiting for food to come in.
CB: Oh.
JC: Yeah. You couldn’t, we couldn’t, you couldn’t say you would be the same day, the same times. One day to the next sometimes.
CB: And what was the soup?
JC: Pardon?
CB: Was it potato soup, vegetable soup? What was it?
JC: Well, you could call it vegetable soup yes but there wasn’t a lot of vegetables in it but it was more liquid than, than anything else but they, don’t forget the Germans were very short of food. I don’t know whether you knew that. God, yes the Germans were very short of food but they were very good. They always made sure that we had our ration so I had no complaints in that respect.
CB: So when you were shot down what was your weight roughly? Body weight. What was your body weight roughly when you were shot down?
JC: My body weight. I wouldn’t like to say. No more than eight stone. Eight stone. Something like that.
CB: What was your height? What was your height?
JC: I was 5, 5’4, 5’5.
CB: Right.
JC: Something like that.
CB: Ok. Yeah.
JC: I’m not quite certain.
CB: And then when you finished at the prisoner of war camp what was your body weight?
JC: My body weight even then because the food that they had was coming from Poland. Russia. So there was no actual added, separate, you know, food. That was once you got that and then we got away from the, the Americans came and then we went home. Yeah.
CB: But what do you think happened to your body weight during that time?
JC: Oh my body weight must have dropped considerably but I suppose I didn’t notice it at the time.
CB: Right. No, so -
JC: I’m not, I’m not what I’d call a big, big man now.
CB: No.
JC: I never have been. I’ve always kept a reasonable weight.
CB: But what was fitness like? Were people reasonably fit?
JC: Yes. Yes I think reasonably were reasonably fit for prisoners of war. Yes. I’d say they were
CB: And was that because there were regular PTI classes? Did they have people out on parade and doing exercises?
JC: Well we, no, we didn’t always have to parade. No. Sometimes you paraded. Other times you didn’t.
CB: But did they get people running around the camp to keep fit?
JC: No. We never got running around the camp, I don’t remember running around the camp.
CB: Football?
JC: Pardon?
CB: Football?
JC: Well yes we used to play sport. Oh yes, yes we had a ball but we didn’t run around unnecessarily if you know what I mean.
CB: So you’re in big long buildings are you? What was the accommodation?
JC: The accommodation. Well they were like billets. Long huts separated like that. There must have been quite a few of those. I wouldn’t like to say how many.
CB: How many in, how many in a hut?
JC: Four to a room.
CB: Four to a room.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Right.
JC: Four to a room.
CB: So they were proper beds. Not bunk beds.
JC: Pardon?
CB: Were they bunk beds or were they ordinary beds?
JC: Well not bunk beds. They were separated. You could move them around, put them where, but there weren’t many you know, the springs weren’t all that wonderful [laughs] but it’s such a long time ago now. Trying to remember everything. Gosh.
CB: Now the continental winters are very cold. The continental winters can be very cold. So -
JC: Oh yes. Yes.
CB: What was it like from that point of view?
JC: Yes and as I say we were up on the Baltic and although the weather up there was better there than lower down because they were getting snow and God knows what whereas we were fortunate up there. So but you just tried to keep warm and running and doing exercises and trying to keep yourself warm. That’s all you could do.
CB: So each day when you were fed where would you be fed? In your room? Was there a communal -
JC: They would come around, the troops would come out with it in buckets.
CB: Right.
JC: Yeah.
CB: And how did you get the food then? How did you receive the food?
JC: Each one was dished out into like a -
[Noise of something falling down in the room]
CB: Sorry. It’s ok.
AH: Leave it.
CB: Into a tin?
JC: Pardon?
CB: What was the soup put into?
JC: Yeah it just went into a tin and you helped yourself. Dished up to you. Yeah. Like a billy can. Yeah.
CB: Right. Ok. And what happened on Sundays?
JC: Sunday. I don’t think it made any difference.
CB: Church parade?
JC: I don’t think so. No. I think every day was the same.
CB: Right. And what about people who became unwell. What were the facilities for that?
JC: The facilities were very good in that respect I think. They were looked after. They went into confinement into billets so yes they was confined.
CB: They had a sort of sick quarters did they?
JC: Yeah.
CB: The equivalent of sick quarters.
JC: Yeah. I suppose that’s what you’d call it. Yes.
CB: And was it a German doctor or a British one?
JC: No, it was always German doctors. Yeah.
CB: And nurses?
JC: Americans.
CB: No. Nurses? German nurses?
JC: No. No there was no nurses. They was all men. No. No, they wouldn’t have females.
CB: No.
JC: No.
CB: And what about clerics. Were there padres on, in the camp? Were there padres in the camp?
JC: Graves?
CB: Padres. Clerics.
JC: Clerics.
CB: Yes.
JC: Well yes I suppose there was. A couple I suppose but you’d never notice much.
CB: No. So you were eighteen months in this camp.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Where was the second camp?
JC: Where was the second?
CB: Where was the second camp?
JC: No. I was in that one camp and nothing. I was in that one camp all the time. I don’t remember going into a second camp.
CB: Ok. So at the end of the war then who came to the camp or were you moved out?
JC: Oh the Germans pulled out. It was strange because when we woke up in the morning all the, all the Germans had pulled out so we were left with our own officers and that on the, on the camp and that was it.
CB: So then what?
JC: You just had to wait until we got ordered out, marched out.
CB: So you’re on the Baltic. You’re on your own -
JC: Yeah.
CB: Because there are no guards. Where did you march to?
JC: Where did we march too? We were marched into Germany. We couldn’t go anywhere. We didn’t go out. We stayed in Germany.
AH: The Russians -
CB: The Russians must have been there because the Americans -
AH: Liberated you.
CB: The Americans weren’t in that part of Poland and Germany so who were the people, who were the troops who came to liberate the camp?
JC: Just trying to think who they were. I’ve got an idea it was the Americans that came.
AH: No.
CB: I don’t think so.
AH: No.
CB: Because this was far too far east -
AH: No.
JC: No.
CB: For Americans.
AH: Russians.
JC: Well you’ve got -
AH: Yeah. I’ve got it here. It was the Russians.
CB: They must have been Russian.
AH: It was definitely the Russians.
JC: Well yes there were a lot of Russians obviously. I’m not going to say there wasn’t but -
AH: He’s forgotten.
CB: Ok.
AH: I’ve got it all here.
CB: That’s ok.
JC: You’ve got it all down there.
CB: Yeah.
JC: Good.
CB: So then after you were in that camp they then marched you somewhere else or did they put you in a ship or trucks or what did they do?
JC: Yes, they, after the war, trying to, trying to think back -
CB: Yeah.
JC: To what happened. It’s very difficult. Obviously there was quite a few prisoners of war there and they had to shift them somehow and I don’t know how they shifted them. I’ve got an idea they had troop, troop trains.
CB: Right.
JC: Yeah, trains up there. Yeah.
CB: And do you remember how you got back to England?
JC: No, not really. I don’t know. I can’t remember how I got back -
CB: Ok.
JC: To England.
AH: I’ve got it here.
JC: Have you got anything there?
CB: So how did they come back?
AH: Well they were marched to airfields and then he returned in an US aircraft.
JC: Yeah.
AH: A B17. Taken to Biggin Hill.
JC: Went to Biggin Hill.
CB: Right.
JC: Yeah.
CB: So you were brought in a B17.
JC: Yeah.
AH: But that was
JC: To Biggin Hill.
AH: There was quite a gap between -
JC: Yeah.
AH: You know -
JC: Yeah.
AH: The liberation of the camp and getting back.
JC: It were.
AH: It doesn’t give dates but -
CB: Well it was a major operation.
AH: Yeah.
JC: Well yes it would be.
AH: They were in -
JC: Because they could carry more -
AH: They were in camp for two weeks anyway.
CB: Yeah.
AH: After it was liberated.
JC: The American aircraft could carry more troops, passengers, than the others.
CB: So you get flown back to Britain.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Then what? So it’s Biggin Hill that they’ve landed you.
JC: Yeah. We landed at Biggin Hill and then we just went and made sure that we went for a medical and the next thing we went down to make sure that we were, went to camp for food. So they did look after us when we got back here. There was no problem about that. Yeah.
AH: It says you were given two weeks leave to make up your mind whether to stay in the RAF or not.
JC: No.
AH: That’s what, that’s what it, you know -
CB: Ok. So you get back. They give you some leave.
JC: Yes.
CB: And then you decide whether you want to stay or whether you want to come out of the RAF.
JC: Come out of the RAF.
CB: So what did you do?
JC: I think I came out. Did I?
AH: Yeah.
JC: Yeah. I enjoyed it.
CB: And then what did you do?
JC: Er -
CB: Because before the war you had been doing wood working.
JC: That’s right.
CB: Carpentry.
JC: Yeah, carpentry.
CB: So what did you do when you returned ‘cause you’re now a warrant officer -
JC: Yeah.
CB: In the RAF.
JC: Oh God. I’m trying, trying to remember now. I think it was, wasn’t it Stokenchurch I was working?
AH: You went into the police.
CB: Oh did you join the police.
AH: Joined the police.
JC: Pardon?
CB: Did you join the police force?
JC: I did join the Met, Met police yes but I’m just trying to think when it was. I was in London and I volunteered into the Met police. No, I’ve had a, I’ve loved, I mean I’ve enjoyed myself.
CB: Yeah.
JC: Whatever I’ve, whatever I’ve been doing.
CB: Yeah.
JH: Didn’t he become an insurance company clerk?
JC: I enjoyed it.
AH: Sorry.
JH: He trained to be an insurance clerk.
AH: Oh, yes, that’s true. Yes.
JH: I think he’d done something before.
CB: So when you came back you had -
AH: Oh wait a second.
CB: Did you have a choice of things you could have done. I’m going to stop briefly now.
[Machine pause]
CB: So we’re restarting now because you’ve got back to Biggin Hill and what did the air force offer you to do? What options?
JC: No. I don’t think -
CB: You could stay or leave. So what -
JC: Stay or leave. Yeah.
CB: Did you decide to do?
JC: No. I can’t, do you know -
CB: You decided to stay.
JC: Yeah. But -
CB: And they offered you something to do.
JC: Yes. What it was now I can’t remember. Driving. That’s what I was –
CB: So you learned to drive did you?
JC: Yeah, I did.
CB: What sort of vehicles?
JC: You know. Big, you know, big ones, not just a car but a van -
CB: Trucks.
JC: Sort of thing. But again once we did that we had to drive the smaller ones as well. No. I got a licence on it. I got my driving licence as well so that made me happy.
CB: So did you then stay on and drive in the RAF or did you decide to leave?
JC: No. I decided to leave.
CB: And then what did you do?
JC: I went into insurance.
CB: Ok.
JC: Again. Didn’t I?
CB: And what was the company?
JC: Hearts of Oak.
CB: And how was that?
JC: In some, that was good. That was right on the, down near Kings Cross. Yeah. Hearts of Oak. No, I did that for a while and then I decided I wanted to do something else and that was it.
CB: So what was your choice after Hearts of Oak? What did you decide to do?
JC: What, after I decided to leave –
CB: Hearts of Oak.
JC: What did I do now?
CB: Was that when you became a policeman was it?
JC: Yes. Obviously that was it. That’s right. I left. I had to, yes. Yes. Then I joined the Metropolitan Police.
CB: How long did you work for them?
JC: Fourteen years. Yeah, it must have been. It must have been at least fourteen years. Then I came out.
CB: Then what? You’re still a relatively young man so what did you do then?
JC: What did I do? I’m just trying to think what I did after that.
AH: Partnership. And you then had the kennels.
JC: Oh I went in, I went in to insurance.
AH: No.
JC: Pardon?
AH: You went in to -
CB: You’ve done that.
JC: Oh I’ve done that. Did I?
AH: You went in to partnership with [Rex?] and had the kennels.
JC: Pardon?
AH: You went in to partnership with [Rex?] and you had the kennels.
JC: Ah the kennels.
AH: Yeah.
JC: That’s right. We, we had boarding kennels. That’s right. I remember now. [With Rex?]
CB: Where were they?
JC: That was in, off the er -
AH: Bushey.
JC: Pardon?
AH: Bushey.
JC: Bushey.
AH: Yeah.
JC: Yeah.
AH: Near –
JC: Not Bushey, no.
AH: Yeah, it was down in Bushey.
JC: Well we ran in part of Bushey, yes.
AH: Yeah. King’s -
CB: So that ran for a while.
JC: Pardon?
CB: That was boarding kennels for dogs.
JC: Yeah. Boarding dogs and, yeah boarding dogs and we used to board people’s animals. Yeah. That was good. I enjoyed that. Noisy but it was good. Yeah. We got plenty of things because you had plenty of dogs every so often and they’d only come in for maybe a couple of weeks and then they’d go and another lot would come in. So –
CB: How long did you do that for?
JC: Two years.
AH: No.
JC: Two or three years, I suppose.
AH: At least ten.
JC: Pardon?
AH: At least ten.
CB: More than ten. More than ten years.
AH: At least ten years.
JC: Did I?
AH: Yeah.
JC: Oh alright. You know more than me.
CB: Ok. So we’re going to stop there just for a mo.
JC: Ok. Sorry about -
[machine pause]
CB: Who do you remember as members of your crew? Who was the skipper?
JC: Cooper.
CB: Ok.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Sergeant pilot or, what was he?
JC: He was an officer. He’d just got his commission.
CB: Right.
JC: Cooper.
CB: Nav?
JC: Married.
AH: No. Navigation.
CB: Navigator.
AH: Navigator.
JC: Oh.
AH: I’ve got it actually.
JC: I forgot what he was called. I remember him.
AH: I’ve got it all here.
JC: Navigator. He was a little short stocky man from the north. In the midlands. [laughs] I can’t remember his name.
CB: Ok then. Wireless operator.
JC: Smith. Smith. Smith. Would be Smithy. Yeah.
AH: Sergeant Whicher. Who was Whicher?
JC: Whicher. Yeah. He was the, now what was he?
CB: Engineer was he?
JC: Engineer. That’s right he was an engineer.
AH: MacFadden.
JC: Pardon? No.
AH: You’ve got another one. He’s Flight Sergeant MacFadden.
JC: Yes, flight sergeant.
CB: Was he the rear gunner or what was he?
AH: No, Hind. R Hind was the rear gunner and he was the only one that was killed on the, he didn’t survive.
CB: Right. So it sounds as though it was a rear attack -
JC: Yeah.
CB: On the aircraft doesn’t it?
AH: Well no he was alive. He went down with the plane.
CB: Oh.
JC: No he -
AH: He didn’t get out did he? We don’t know ever what happened. I mean we know he’s buried out in –
JC: Yeah well I don’t remember. I mean as I said to you, said that he was the only one to die.
AH: Yeah.
CB: Yes.
JC: But I wouldn’t, I don’t remember that because -
AH: No. You’ve told me -
JC: When I left the -
AH: Yeah.
JC: When I got out the plane and looked in the fuselage I couldn’t see anybody and I went down the, walked down to the front and the hatch was open so I put my parachute on and jumped. I didn’t see anything or anybody else.
AH: No but he would have been right at the back -
JC: He could have been.
AH: Of the plane, so -
JC: Yeah. Could have been.
CB: So you jumped out. There was nobody at the front.
JC: No.
CB: Why was the plane going down? Why had everybody got out?
JC: Why?
CB: Was it on fire or what was it?
JC: Well the machine, the aircraft had been hit from the behind.
CB: Right.
JC: The night fighter had come up behind us and fired right through the cabin.
CB: Oh had it?
JC: Yeah.
CB: But nobody in the, was hit. The other people -
JC: Well not to my knowledge. I don’t know. I mean I would –
CB: It went under your feet.
JC: Nothing underneath. I was fine. I was up in the mid upper turret.
CB: Yes.
JC: And obviously the pilot came up to the tail -
CB: Yeah.
JC: And fired down, went down the fuselage and they all disappeared so, and the hatch was open.
CB: Yes. I just wondered whether you knew why the plane had come down.
JC: Well –
CB: I mean was it because the engines had been hit? What was the matter?
JC: Our plane.
CB: Yeah.
JC: Ah.
CB: What was the matter with it?
JC: Well I knew we’d been hit because the way the aircraft was flying.
CB: Oh.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Go on. How was it flying?
JC: Well it was, it was going down and we should have been flying along.
CB: Yeah.
JC: And, but it wasn’t sharp, if you know what I mean
AH: Yeah [?]
JC: It gave me a chance to get out of the aircraft and down and of course when I looked –
AH: [?]
JC: When I got down into the aircraft there was nobody in the -
AH: Haven’t seen it for a long time.
CB: At the front
JC: Cockpit whatsoever.
CB: No.
JC: Completely empty. I was the last one to leave.
AH: Yeah.
CB: And did you ever meet up with the rest of the crew?
JC: No.
CB: Do you know what happened to them?
JC: Not really. No. No. I don’t know what happened to the crew.
CB: So you were captured, taken prisoner, you got back to Britain. Did you ever try to make contact with the crew? Find out what had happened to them?
JC: Well obviously I did. Yes.
CB: And what happened?
JC: I tried but -
CB: Yeah.
JC: Didn’t have much success.
CB: Right. So you don’t know whether they survived or not.
JC: No. I don’t know whether, have you heard anything Andrea?
AH: MacFadden’s family did get in touch with me. He died many years ago.
JC: Did he?
AH: They came to see you and you told them a lot and gave them a lot of information. This is quite a few years ago but he died and he never talked about it.
CB: No.
JC: No.
AH: So they couldn’t find anything so they found out more from my dad about their flying days but the crew seemed to, no they didn’t seem to socialise after, or meet up, contact after the war.
JC: No.
AH: At all. They all seemed to go their own way.
CB: Why do you think that was?
AH: No idea. I never really got that out of, it just never seemed to be -
JC: Well. I suppose it was the end of the war and they just wanted to get away from it all.
CB: Yes. I think it’s an interesting question. Why is it -
JC: I don’t know.
CB: People didn’t talk.
JC: Don’t know. Don’t know.
CB: When did you meet your wife? When did you meet your wife, Jim?
JC: When did I leave?
CB: When did you meet?
AH: When did you meet mummy?
CB: Sheila.
AH: Yeah.
CB: When did you meet her?
JC: When did I meet Sheila?
AH: Yeah. You were training weren’t you? In London.
JC: Oh I was staying in London. Yeah. That’s where I met my wife. Yeah.
CB: What, was she a WAAF?
JC: Sheila.
CB: Was she a WAAF?
JC: She wasn’t in, no, she wasn’t, she was -
AH: No.
JC: She was working in a big company down in London. Camden Town wasn’t it?
AH: Yeah she was quite a bit, she was younger, quite a bit younger so she wouldn’t have been working probably.
JC: Yeah she would.
AH: To begin with, she was never, in fact she was evacuated at the beginning of the war. Hated it. Said to her mother, ‘If you don’t come and collect me I’m leaving. I’m walking home,’ sort of thing. Came back, lived in London all through the bombings and the air raids and everything.
JC: Yeah.
AH: So she was too, she wouldn’t have been working.
CB: What was her date of birth?
AH: Oh ‘32 that would have been -
JH: She used to keep it secret.
AH: Yeah. There’s about ten years difference -
JH: I have got it.
AH: Isn’t there?
CB: Right.
JH: [from my clearance forms?]
CB: So -
AH: Probably ten year’s difference.
JC: Northwest, in London.
AH: Yeah, mummy’s date of birth. Can you remember that? Mummy’s date of birth.
JC: Whose?
AH: Mummy.
JC: When was she born?
AH: Sheila.
JC: Oh Sheila.
AH: Yeah. When, what’s her date of birth?
JC: I can’t remember.
AH: Well maybe -
JC: It’s so many years ago now sorry.
AH: Yeah its, probably -
CB: Ok. Different question.
AH: Yeah.
CB: When were you married?
JC: A good question. Been married about twenty six years, twenty six, twenty seven. No. More than that because -
AH: No. When you got married.
JH: [?]
AH: I know when you -
CB: I’m going to stop just for a moment.
JC: Yeah.
[Machine pause]
CB: So we’re out of sequence now but we’re talking about the point when the aircraft was lost so the engagement, the aircraft. You were shot down were you? By a fighter.
JC: Yes.
CB: And what type of fighter was it. It was in the dark.
JC: It was in the dark. I don’t think we would have seen it. I’ve got an idea it was a single engine fighter.
CB: Oh.
JC: But nobody, nobody could say one way or the other.
CB: Ok so when did you know that the plane was crippled.
JC: What my plane?
CB: Yes.
JC: When I looked down to the fuselage and found that I was the only one left in it.
CB: Yes. What made you do that?
JC: I don’t know.
CB: Had you called up?
JC: I looked down and I just saw and I couldn’t get no replies from any of the –
CB: Oh I see.
JC: From the, you see.
CB: Right.
JC: And I looked down and there was nothing there so I thought I’d get down and when I walked along the corridor to the front entrance it was all open.
CB: There was nobody there.
JC: So I just went with it.
CB: It sounds like the intercom wasn’t working, and what what did you know about the plane that shot you down?
JC: Nothing.
CB: Did you see it?
JC: No.
CB: Right.
JC: No.
CB: But did anybody shoot at it?
JC: Nobody. There was nobody else there to my knowledge.
CB: No, but before then.
JC: Before? No, nobody. No we never heard any machine gun fire or saw anything, tracers or anything. I would have seen it because I was in the mid upper.
CB: Yes.
JC: And that was in the best position to see anything.
CB: Yes.
JC: But there was nothing in the air.
CB: Right.
JC: Nothing at all.
CB: So is it possible that the plane was underneath and so nobody could see?
JC: Well, there is, there is that possibility that he came up behind us and then he, yes. I imagine that was what happened. I don’t know. I can’t say for sure but that would be the obvious position for him to come up behind and then shoot.
CB: What did you know, what did you understand about the word scarecrow?
JC: Scarecrow?
CB: Ahum.
JC: No. Don’t know anything about scarecrow.
CB: Ok. Because, but also what do you know about the upward firing guns of the night fighters. Did you know about those?
JC: No.
CB: Right.
JC: No. No.
CB: The reason I ask the question is because you didn’t see anything and it sounds as though the rear gunner didn’t. Is that right?
JC: Well as far as I know he didn’t see anything.
CB: But the aircraft was crippled.
JC: Yeah.
CB: That would suggest the possibility that it was hit by one of the bigger night fighters with upward firing cannon.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Which they called Schrage Musik.
JC: Yeah. Oh -
CB: And that was aimed at the port inner.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Tank.
JC: That could have happened, that could have happened but as I say that’s nothing I can say about that.
CB: No.
JC: I can’t guarantee that.
CB: But was there any fire on the aircraft?
JC: No fire. No, because when I looked in, down the fuselage there was no fire at all.
CB: Right. And what about the bombs? Were they still in the aircraft or had they been dropped?
JC: Oh they’d all been jettisoned. Jettisoned.
CB: You hadn’t reached the target.
JC: Oh we hadn’t reached the target. No.
CB: No.
JC: Oh no.
CB: How far away were you from the target? Roughly.
JC: We were flying up towards, yeah oh about fifteen miles I suppose.
CB: And what sort of height were you flying?
JC: We were up at twenty, nineteen to twenty one, eighteen, no between eighteen and twenty one thousand. I couldn’t give you anything closer than that.
CB: No. Did you, did the pilot tend to change the height -
JC: No.
CB: Regularly or always keep the same?
JC: No. It stayed the same.
CB: Right. And could you see any other bombers?
JC: No.
CB: Even in your, even from your position -
JC: No.
CB: You couldn’t see anything?
JC: Couldn’t see anything. No.
CB: Oh.
JC: No.
CB: And you, could you –
JC: It was pitch black
CB: Yeah, and was at fifteen miles would you be able to see the target -
JC: Fifteen miles.
CB: At that point?
JC: No. You wouldn’t have been able to see the target at fifteen miles away.
CB: No.
JC: Not at that height.
CB: So were you a standard bomber or were you Pathfinder?
JC: I was a Pathfinder.
CB: You were Pathfinders.
JC: We were Pathfinders.
CB: So you were out front. You were ahead of -
JC: Yes we were -
CB: The stream.
JC: In the front.
CB: Yes.
JC: We were leading, you know. Actually Pathfinders, just because they were the Pathfinders you didn’t have to be in front. You could be backing up. You get what I mean.
CB: I do. So -
JC: I don’t know if we were backing up or whether we were in the front.
CB: So backing up would mean what?
JC: Back up. You’d have a gap between you and the other aircraft.
CB: With the purpose of doing what?
JC: Pardon?
CB: What was the purpose of that?
JC: Well to make sure that there was nothing in between you and the fighters couldn’t come in between you.
CB: Yeah.
JC: Yeah.
CB: But as a Pathfinder there was one at the front so the backup was to do another marking job. Was it?
JC: Yeah. Yes. Yes.
CB: So you were to re-mark the target. Is that the idea?
JC: That’s what the idea was. Yeah.
CB: Right. So you would go in slightly ahead of the rest of the stream.
JC: Yes slightly ahead of the rest and the others would follow and then you’d have a backup.
CB: Yeah.
JC: Yeah.
CB: So when the bombs went, were dropped, your bombs, how long did you have to fly straight and level before you could turn?
JC: Well once they’ve gone the aircraft would lift.
CB: Oh yeah.
JC: And then you could just go.
CB: But you had to take the picture first.
JC: We didn’t take pictures.
CB: No. There was a camera just under the pilot.
JC: Yes but whether he could have taken -
CB: So –
JC: Them or not I don’t know.
CB: No.
JC: No.
CB: But the purpose of that was to show where the bombs had dropped.
JC: Yeah.
CB: And that was -
JC: Well I can imagine all that but -
CB: Just a single camera but a single shot based on -
JC: Yeah.
CB: The flare ‘cause you, when did you, when did the flare get dropped after the bombs?
JC: The flare was dropped after the bombing. Well, I never saw any flares.
CB: Right. Because you were on the top so you couldn’t see that.
JC: Couldn’t see any. We never saw any –
CB: No.
JC: Flares. No.
CB: So what I was getting at was that my understanding is that you had the pilot had to run the plane for anther period. At twenty thousand feet it would be longer than if it was ten thousand feet.
JC: Yeah.
CB: So that the flare could be dropped to illuminate the target to show what was happening.
JC: Oh well it would do but like I say -
CB: Which was about twenty to forty seconds.
JC: Yes. These things, don’t forget they when they happened they happened very quickly.
CB: Yes quite. That’s why I’m asking you.
JC: [?]
CB: Yeah.
JC: You must know that.
CB: Yes.
JC: And you take your eye off, if you take your eye off it you lose something. So -
CB: The gunners were the key people to get the pilot to take evasive action.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Did you ever instruct the pilot on evasive action and what was it?
JC: No. No. No, the only time we’d mention anything was if we saw something.
CB: Yeah.
JC: But other than that the pilot would be doing his own job.
CB: And a final question. The gunners are on the aeroplane looking backwards but you’re looking all the way around. Under what circumstances would you fire the guns?
JC: Under what circumstances? Well I wouldn’t be, you wouldn’t fire the guns unless you were certain that the target was in front, whatever you were facing. You wouldn’t just fire anywhere. You’d wait until you saw exactly what you were firing at.
CB: Right. When you were being attacked.
JC: Yeah. If we were being attacked.
CB: Yeah. Ok.
JC: Yeah because I mean if you could do that you could even shoot somebody else down.
CB: Yeah.
JC: And you wouldn’t like that. God.
CB: What was the attitude of the crew towards these raids?
JC: What? What -
CB: Going on operations, what was the attitude of the crew? How did they feel about it?
JC: Well they felt, they felt they were happy with it. There were no problems. They didn’t, they never complained. No. I think they were all pleased to get back.
CB: Right.
JC: Imagine. No.
CB: And in the squadron or on other squadrons what did you know about LMF?
JC: LMF. Well it was lack of moral fibre wasn’t it? Yeah. Well, I never came across any of it ‘cause everybody, everybody I ever met and was on with there was never any mention of LMF. The plane was there and they’d go and that was it. All come back. No. Know what it was. Lack of moral fibre but I don’t think any of them, I never, I never heard of any one being treated that way.
CB: What did they do to them after, if they were -
JC: I don’t know.
CB: Branded that way? Do you know?
JC: No. I never did find out because I never saw one.
CB: No.
JC: Do you know whatever happened to them?
CB: Well there is a story about it.
JC: Oh is there.
CB: Yeah. Which is that they were paraded in front of the rest of the station -
JC: Oh.
CB: And had their stripes removed and their brevets.
JC: Well -
CB: Publically.
JC: Well, I don’t know. I’ve never seen it and I’ve never heard of it -
CB: No.
JC: So I didn’t take any notice of things like that.
CB: No. Well –
JC: No.
CB: Clearly there wasn’t a problem there.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Where were you billeted?
JC: Where were I billeted? Where the hell was it? No. Just up in the, we were billeted up in, wait a minute, where were we, we were in Northern France, Northern France up towards Poland.
CB: Ok. Yeah but when you were stationed at Bourn, RAF Bourn near Cambridge.
JC: Yeah.
CB: What was the billet arrangements?
JC: What was the arrangement?
CB: Yeah. So were you all in one nissen hut?
JC: Not necessarily no. Not all in one. No, because usually you find four in one and three maybe in another.
CB: Oh.
JC: No, we never stayed actually all in -
CB: You never had everybody together.
JC: No. I don’t think we -
CB: Was the captain, the pilot a commissioned, was he a -
JC: Most, yeah they got, most they did eventually get commissioned.
CB: Yes.
JC: Yes.
CB: Right.
JC: They weren’t all, not when they first started.
CB: But when you were flying with your crew what was the rank -
JC: He got commissioned. He got commissioned while he was -
CB: Did he?
JC: When we started, just after we started.
CB: Right.
JC: Yeah.
CB: So he wasn’t billeted with you.
JC: No. No. No.
CB: No. Right. And for social, when they were on socials did, what did the crew do?
JC: Well they never mixed much put it that way.
CB: Oh really.
JC: No.
AH: Oh really.
JC: No. They just went in their own ways and that was it.
CB: So was that, do you think, because you weren’t all in one nissen hut or because of the -
JC: Well I don’t really know -
CB: Temperament of the people.
JC: What it was all about. Don’t forget everybody had their own ways of living and displaying things. I don’t know. It’s very difficult, a very difficult question to answer. You’ve got people, you’ve got to read people’s minds and it’s not always possible to do that under those circumstances because if things happen they happen quickly as you appreciate.
CB: So you’ve got a crew of seven. Did, were you closer to -
JC: Well -
CB: Some of the members than others?
JC: Crew of seven.
CB: There was seven in the aircraft.
JC: Oh yes seven in the aircraft.
CB: Yeah.
JC: But they were all in different positions.
CB: I know. Sorry what I meant was, socially did you tend to get together?
JC: Oh once we were stationed [and ok?] either, if we were there for a couple of nights or somewhere then we’d get together. Yes.
CB: Yeah.
JC: But other than that no.
CB: Were you more friendly with some of the crew members than others or –
JC: No. I mean -
CB: Just with everybody.
JC: Everybody, everybody got on fine.
CB: Yeah.
JC: I never found any animosity.
CB: No.
JC: Amongst the crews. You know.
CB: ‘Cause some crews would only go out together.
JC: No.
CB: And everybody at the same time.
JC: Yeah, well you don’t know, I mean -
CB: But not with yours.
JC: Yeah.
CB: Right. Finally what was the most memorable thing -
JC: What was the -
CB: About, what would you say was the most memorable experience of your time in the RAF?
JC: My most memorable. Well I don’t think I had anything, you know. We just took it in our stride. We knew what we were doing we used to go in the afternoon and get briefed and then we’d go for a meal and then we’d go, stay together, we’d, once you, once you got briefed you stayed together as members of the crew.
CB: Right.
JC: You didn’t leave and then you’d go and have your meal, go out, go to your locker room, get all your kit.
CB: Right.
JC: Put it on, go together back to the aircraft and that was it so there was no chance of anybody going from one to another. They stayed together.
CB: What sort of rituals did people have before they went on ops?
JC: Well yes a ritual but nothing that you could say anything there was no nothing back behind it put it that way. I know people might think there was but why would they do that because they wouldn’t know whether they were going to get killed or not?
CB: So were people, how did people feel about the flight, the operation before they left?
JC: Well I suppose like anything else mostly because as I say most of our flights were at night so it was always dark when you went, well most of the time anyway by the time you got into top of Germany it, nervous maybe but but I never heard any complaints regarding that at all so I wouldn’t like to say one way or the other.
CB: How many ops did you do in total?
JC: I’m just trying to think myself. Do you remember?
AH: I think it was about six or seven.
JC: Either six or seven yeah six or seven operations.
AH: Yeah.
JC: Until we got shot down. Yeah. I know that.
CB: What do you think being a Pathfinder did for your likelihood of survival?
JC: Being a Pathfinder? No. I don’t think being a Pathfinder made any difference whatsoever. Not really.
CB: On the basis of whether the Germans could identify who you were -
JC: No.
CB: In the air.
JC: No. I don’t think so. There was nothing, no way, no way the Germans could identify one aircraft from another. To my knowledge anyway. Because there was no signals given. Once you were airborne, once you’d left the ground, field there was no communications between aircraft. Not to my knowledge anyway as an air gunner.
CB: Ok good. Final. I keep saying final but this is the final one.
JC: What’s that?
CB: What do you, what sticks in your mind most about your, what sticks in your mind most about the time when you were a prisoner of war.
JC: That’s a good question because I think the most, thing that was in everybody’s mind was how long we were going to be here because nobody knew how long you were going to be a prisoner of war and prisoners, don’t forget, prisoners were coming in regularly. Daily. Five or six would turn up one night. Two or three the next day. You’d never know how many was going to turn up and how long you were going to be there but it wasn’t until the Germans pulled out completely that we knew we were coming home eventually. Then we had to wait for aircraft to bring us home.
CB: Jim Copus in Hemel Hempstead thank you very much.
[machine pause]
CB: Right. Andrea’s just going to tell us the extra bit about the prison camp and the end of the time. What was that?
AH: Yes I think my father’s sort of forgotten towards the end when the Germans realised that they were losing the war and the, sort of, Germans, you know, were getting rather, sort of, jittery and you know, and they knew that, you know, they weren’t going to, sort of, be in power for much longer and they sort of then just left the camp and it was the Russians that were coming through. Although my father’s sort of spoken they were pretty awful to the villages and the treatment of the locals. They weren’t very nice people let’s put it that way although they liberated the prisoner of war camp and in fact one of the Russians, they gave my father some money, you know, sort of exchanged a note which we had for many years and now we can’t find it but it was in somewhere you know that we had at home and so but as you say they liberated them and then they sort of made their own way back sort of, eventually to, I’m not really sure of the actual details of, you know, how they got our physically from the camp, apart from just walking out. Who oversaw it because the Russians just sort of you know left them to it. They didn’t sort of aid them or help them in that respect apart from liberating.
CB: Ok.
AH: And that’s it really.
CB: And this is Stalag Luft 1.
AH: Stalag Luft 1.
CB: Yeah.
AH: Right in the north.
CB: Right. Thank you.

Collection

Citation

Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Jim Copus. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 22, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8387.

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