Interview with John De Hoop

Title

Interview with John De Hoop

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2015-08-27

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

00:16:30 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ADeHoopJ150827, PDeHoopJ1501

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

JD: I’m John De Hoop and I’m doing this recording for the archives of Bomber Command. I war started when I was at school and I was evacuated down to Sussex and I came back to London in early 1940. We had a period of what we called a phoney war, not very much happened so many other children came back and I came back to London and then I hadn’t been here long and the blitz had started and so I joined the Home Guard to start with and then when I decided after I’d passed the age of 17 and had to think what I was going to do in the forces I decided I’d like to go into air crew and so I joined the air training core and in due course I went to St John’s wood and which was the centre where one was received for air crew and I had decided that I would go for a wireless operator primarily because at that time and we’re talking about 1943 I thought that if I went as a pilot the course would take so long the war would be over and I wouldn’t have the chance of seeing any action (coughs) the sort of thing a youngster thinks about and so I joined at St John’s wood and was very well received we had our food we in London zoo which seemed to be a very appropriate place and then in due course when kitted out I went to ITW which was the first port of call for air crew and did the usual square bashing and when that was finished we all went our separate ways, pilots, navigators and bomb aimers went mostly to North America and the rest of us, in other words air gunners and wireless operators, we were being trained in the UK and I went to radio school Yatesbury in Wiltshire where I had my first experience of flying in a, a Dominie which was a twin engine bi plane and a crew that consisted of five of us trainees and one instructor and we had six months training operating a wireless and learning the Morse code which was very difficult for many people usually most of us got brain washed and found ourselves sitting down in the underground looking at adverts and converting them into Morse code because we’d got so drilled into doing it so that completed the wireless op and from then on we went for an air gunnery course which I went to in the North of Scotland which was very interesting and a complete change from radio had one or two interesting experiences one I remember was hearing about the fleet air arm which was nearby which also did training and they used to have an aircraft pulling a target and on the Moray Firth was a ship which took shots at the target and on one occasion apparently the first two shots from the ship burst in front of the aircraft much to the perturbation of the pilot who signalled back will you kindly note that I am pulling this target not pushing it anyway after that little reminiscence finished the gunnery course we then got our flying breve which was an air gunners breve we had on our sleeves a wireless badge so that was our that was our title whilst operator air gunner and so from there I went to an advanced flying unit which was in Northern Ireland where we flew in Hensons just the pilot and myself training, practicing sending messages to various ground stations after completing that we we then all had to go to operational training unit which was where all the crews met up together and in other words you had your pilots, navigators bomb aimers air gunners and wireless operators and we were given some time to crew ourselves up but if you were not completely crewed up then that was made up for you by the powers that be and I finished up in a crew with three New Zealander’s, pilot, navigator and bomb aimer who were all commissioned and the two gunners and myself were Sergeants we were aged coming up to 19 the New Zealander’s were a bit older so we started our training there on Wellington Bombers which was had been the first line bomber at the beginning of the war but now was relegated to to just for training. They were quite ancient but we managed to survive in flying them and from there we then moved on to a heavier conversioned unit which was Stirling bombers they were the British first four engined aircraft used in the war. They were not a success and soon got relegated to training but they were quite a big aircraft and having four engines we then had to have a flight engineer who joined us making up a compliment of seven so we then did training on the Stirling and when that was completed we went on to Lancaster finishing school so that was our first experience of the Lancaster which of course was a number one operational bomber and we did our period of training on that and then it was a question of what squadron you went to. As we had three New Zealander’s and there was a New Zealand squadron in the group which was stationed in East Anglia we went to 75 New Zealand Squadron which had quite a reputation, some of it perhaps not happily like for example having bigger number of casualties than practically any squadron but we also did the biggest number of operations and there we operated primarily on German targets we did two or three mine laying trips mine laying was considered particularly frightening I suppose if that’s the right word because you only went to two or three at a time and you went long distances the Baltic for example and of course you were entirely open to German radar and could easily be picked up and it was not uncommon to lose one out of three which happened to us, we went out to Oslo Fjord the the detail there was that you flew very low over the sea only a few hundred feet to keep below the enemy radar until you got near to where you had to drop the mine and then you had to rise to 9000 feet in order that when you dropped the mine it could activate itself by the time it hit the water and of course at that point in time you could be picked up by enemy radar. Apart from those three those three mine laying trips, the rest of them were day trips and night trips on German targets primarily the day trips were becoming more popular when I was on the squadron because we had invaded Normandy, we had occupied most of France and we had the use of the airfields close up to the German border which meant that a lot more fighter aircraft were available that could cover the distances required and so we had large escorts that meant that we could do daylight raids where prior to D day we only did night trips and these we accomplished, the RAF were not the best at formation flying the Americans were very good because they did primarily all daylight trips but we had not done so we tended to be a bit scattered in our bomb stream but at least we could see each other when we did night trips of course when you had three of four hundred or more going to a target there were quite often collisions there was no way of avoiding them you hoped you would feel the slip stream of aircraft around you so that you would be aware that there were other aircraft around and it was very important that you arrived at your target at the appropriate time so that you were spread out the danger bit more than anything else I suppose was coming in over the target obviously anti-aircraft fire could be extremely heavy and you you had to when getting flying to your target you had to go straight level running up to the actual targets which meant that however heavy the anti-aircraft fire was you just had to keep straight and level so that the target was hit and you had the opportunity of the target flash, the target flashing from the aircraft which took a picture of where your target had been hit or not so that was target life and at 25 operations our skipper who had done an operation tour before he finished at 25 the rest of us had to go on to 30 which was the normal full first so we were left without a pilot but our flight commander took us over and so we did three with him but then he finished that was his lot and they decided to let us go after 28 rather than 30 so we were allowed off two I didn’t complain and from then it was a question of going on to training other folk going as an instructor and that’s when I started getting a bit tired and bored of instructing wherever I was at the time and so I volunteered to go back for my second tour but then the war came to an end and thousands of other air crew were drifting about what could be what could be found for us to do, so in the end I had to go on an admin course so when I came back from that I was posted as an agertent to an RAF station, in the meantime of course we had had a general election but I didn’t have a vote because I was considered too young I was under 21 when the election came so I didn’t get a vote then but however I finished up as an agertent and in which I chased around lots of erks and made them do lots of things I found it quite an interesting occupation we had towards the end of 1946 we were allowed to wear civilian clothes off duty and we were given clothing coupons so I went into Plymouth the local town to buy some civilian clothes and there were very few shops there, they had all been bombed but there was a big Victorian house which had a ground floor turned into a store so I went in there and all I could buy was a pair of corduroy trousers and a rather shaggy jacket so that’s what I bought and the first evening I was free I went into the forces club in Plymouth and went into the bar and there were all these chaps there wearing corduroy trousers and hairy jackets so that was rather a waste of time I merely exchanged one uniform for another and in fact because so many of us were dressed like this when the bar opened at 6 30 in the evening it became known as the rush of the gabardine swine which bible readers will see the see the joke and so from then on it was waiting for my de-mob and when it came out, I’d got married towards the end of the war so I came out and I had to find myself somewhere to live and somewhere to work and I found the first few years after the war in many ways much more trying than being in the air force and that was the story of my experience.
MJ: On behalf of the International Bomber Command, I would like to thank John Dehoop in Sussex for his recording on the 27th August 2015, once again thank you.

Collection

Citation

Mick Jeffery, “Interview with John De Hoop,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 23, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8404.

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