Interview with Ronald George Doble


Interview with Ronald George Doble


Ron Doble grew up in London and joined the Air Training Corps and the fire watchers when war was declared. He volunteered for the Air Force when he was 18 and trained as an air gunner. He talks about the conditions in his turret and the mishaps he had with his crew. Ron was never operational and left the RAF in 1947. He then returned to his former job as a panel beater were he stayed until he retired. When he retired be became involved in the Air Crew Association.




Temporal Coverage




01:40:15 audio recording

Conforms To


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CB: So this is the introduction to the interview that I’m having with Mr Ron Doble. My name’s Chris Brockbank and we’re at [omitted] Haddenham, and we’re going to be talking about his experiences, er, in training and, er, in life in general with the RAF and what he did afterwards and he was with 97 Squadron. So Ron, would you mind starting please with what your earliest recollections were, your family and how you came to join the RAF?
RD: Well I was born, er, in London, in Hammersmith, um, from a very working class people, my family, er, my father was a driver on the Great Western Railway and my mother was an ex— believe it or not, nun, who was kept by the nuns and ill-treated etcetera, which is something, but there you go, um, and she left or got out of it and met my father and they both got married. Then I was born and that was it. I lived in Richard’s Street, which was, um, very near the Gaumont British Studios where the film stars used to come and I used to look down there and see some of them getting out of their cars, very interesting actually. From there I, I left school, at, er, just nearly fourteen and the war had just started. I didn’t do a great deal regarding that but I joined the ATC, Air Training Corps, 336 Squadron it was, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there [cough] beg your pardon and, um, during this time of course the war had just more or less started and, er, all we could think about was, or all I [emphasis] could think about, was to get into the RAF and do flying and be a great heroic person [laugh] and shoot down thousands of aircraft and how wonderful it would be, not realising really it would have been a nightmare in some cases, maybe not for the likes of me myself personally but for the likes of people that I know, have known and known very well, great friends. I then went to — oh dear, where did I join up in London?
CB: At Lords.
RD: Yeah. Went to Lords, had a bit of breakfast, got kitted out with the stuff and then sent from there to Grove Court [background noise] to Grove Court which was, er, Air Crew Receiving Centre and while we were there we were put to really rigorous, um, oh dear, discipline [emphasis] but being all youngsters, of course, you always had a bit of fun altogether, sort of thing, and one thing or another, and it was a great laugh in a way. In other ways it wasn’t but there you go. So what happened, one of the things that happened there, we were put into rooms next to each other, this lot in this room and us lot in this room, and we thought we would go and have a little mess around with the other lot, not anything violent or anything like that, just a laugh. So away we went and, er, somebody joined this mix-up, er, picked up a biscuit, a set of biscuits, which were three mattresses that were on the bed for you, for your sleeping, and he, he just got into this crowd of guys all messing around but within that was a mess tin and, unfortunately, the mess tin took off and went through a window, and we were all flabbergasted so we all shot to the window and looked out, low and behold, the grass and things had fallen on a, a flight sergeant with, with fifty guys on parade down below. So we thought, ‘Oh my God.’ So we went to our rooms quickly but that wasn’t not quick enough because the next second up come the flight sergeant, Chiefie we used to call him, and, um, we were all put on a charge. So that was a good start [laugh] for the start of our — whatever. Anyway we were marched in front of the, um, guy in charge of the place, group captain, and it was quick march, quick march, left right, left right. Walked in and saluted and he said, ‘Right disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful going on. This is not what we do or should do.’ So he said, ‘Therefore I’m giving you five days confined to barracks and each one of you will pay threepence halfpenny for all the damage that you’ve caused.’ So we thought, ‘Right.’ Left, right, left right and out we went, and that was the end of that. The confined to barracks was nothing really, let’s face it, because we weren’t allowed out or went on relief from there for the period of time we were there which was, er, about six weeks. [cough] What happened then was we were sent to — that’s right, Yatesbury. I was because I was picked as a wireless operator air gunner. This was a nine month course, um, which was to take me nearly to the end of the war. But anyway, what happened then was we all, well not all of us, part of us went off to Yatesbury. We did a radio course and learnt the Morse code and things and then we were suddenly told that they didn’t want radio wireless operators anymore. So that curtailed my training there and we were sent back, typical business, but sent back to Scarborough which was another receiving centre for aircrew. And while we were there the powers that be thought, ‘Right we’ll give them something to do.’ So they put us on a so-called aptitude test and this aptitude test was to determine whether you were fit and able to be aircrew or other things, OK? So away we went. We had to march so far, run so far, swim. Swimming, by the way, um, I should always remember being in the little place where you changed and then waiting to see whether they gave you a slip, and the slip was like a little loin cloth to cover your vital parts up but the flight sergeant came along and said, ‘What the hell are you waiting here for some of you guys.’ And we said, ‘Well, where’s the slip? He said, ‘No bloody slip here.’ He said, ‘You get in that water.’ He said, ‘And the swimmers will help the non-swimmers.’ So we all jumped in and did our bit and then got out [cleared throat]. We had various, various things, mental things as well. One of them that really struck me was the fact that put in front of you was, was a box, in the box was squares of wood, painted on top was half black and half white and you had so many seconds to turn these things round to see how many you could do, and what surprised me quite a bit was that some of the guys turned them round completely so at the end of it there was hardly any score, which was amazing really. Anyway, that went on and then we were told, ‘Right, you’ve done that. You’re going to Locking, RAF Regiment place, Locking.’ We got there and we were kitted out with army stuff and boots and gaiters and given, um, a rifle — and, er, didn’t know what to do with it but, um, anyway while we were there we were put to different things such as crawling through tunnels [background noise] and one thing or another. So we got through that and then posted on the — at Scarborough posted on a notice board would be exactly what you, your aptitude made of what you were capable of. But I must stress that when you joined up you knew what you were going to be, or supposed to be, if you passed the test, but with this thing you went to it and it was just luck of the draw, that’s all I can say. Because some of us got through and much to my amazement, I was really chuffed, I got through as an air gunner, fine, three-month’s course, yeah? So — but some of them didn’t get thorough, didn’t reach these — full [?] marks so they were designated, believe it or not — don’t forget that we were all volunteers — they were designated to be Paratroops, um, down the coal mines or in the Army and then there was a big clear out then. And then we were posted to ITW, Initial Training Wing, at Bridgenorth.
CB: Right, we’ll stop there just for a mo. [interview stopped at 0:13:42:9 and restarted 0:13:45:07]
RD: Before we went to ITW, sorry I’m getting a bit mixed we were sent to [ cough] Clapham, in London, Wandsworth and we were put on an educational course [slight laugh] and we went to the — we were stationed at Victoria Rise, which was a, a block of, um, rooms on the hill, and we were marched from there to the tram and the tram took us down to Wandsworth College and we went in the College and we’d do four or five hours learning different things, which was, which was quite good actually and, of course, big head here put his foot in it again because on, on the desk [cough] beg your pardon, was a, a pressure thing, what do you call it? A U-tube and he was showing us the way you, you varied the pressure. So big head here thought, ‘Oh well, I’ll have a go at that.’ So instead of blowing carefully I went there and went like that and the whole lot of mercury, well part of it, shot out the top of this tube and went all over the place and mercury is like little ball bearings. So we got all the lads to go round and pick up all these little ball bearings and put it back in the tube before the teacher come back. We thought it was funny but I didn’t at the time. Just something, one of the bloody stupid things I normally did. So there we go. So what happened then was we were there and we done that and then we were going on to ITW but, a big but, during this time we were sitting there and all of a sudden this aircraft, er, came over and it was quite low and quite noisy. And we thought, ‘Oh good God, I wonder what that is.’ And the thing cut out and went down and we were on the hill and then we just saw a big bang and, er, that was the V1. So the V1 thing started coming over then. What happened then was the course was abandoned at the college, as normal, and we were given, four of us, each, each of us four, four lads were given a truck with a driver and we were told to go to these bomb sites and help out with rescuing people or helping in general. Well, regarding rescuing people that was ridiculous really. I mean, you’re walking over, er, debris and stuff and, er, I know it sounds awful but it [background noise] probably did more damage than [unclear] anyway we were taking off of that and told us that, um, we’ll be responsible for all valuables and moveable objects in these bombed out buildings, er, and one instance was whilst we went to a four storey building, we looked around for valuables, we took those and I must impress none of these guys, none of us kept one penny of anything that we found but [cough] it was handed over to the van driver so, OK, and he had to report back and hand that in, um, anyway we got to the — one of the points was we got to the top story of this four [cough] four-storey building and there was a grand piano there. So we were told we’d have to move the grand piano and the only way you could move the grand piano was to put it out of the shattered window. There was no frame or anything and lower it down on straps. Well, the guy that was with us was supposed to have been a removal van, man so we put the strap around. It was one strap and a couple of ropes and we, we managed to lift this piano up and put it on the ledge of the window [cough] and then the guy said, ‘Right give it a little push and then we’ll lower it down.’ So we gave it a little push and, low and behold, the piano just disappeared down. The ropes went through our hands, we couldn’t hold it, and it hit the bottom of this place in the area and made a lovely booming sound but that was the end of thing. So really and truly we didn’t achieve a lot there. But we did, we did help, I must admit we did help. So then we were, we were went to ITW at Bridgenorth, Initial training Wing Bridgenorth, and then we did our ITW there and then from there I went on to Dalcross I think, which is now Inverness.
CB: Airport.
RD: Dalcross, um, I forget the name of the — similar[?] something — Air Gunnery School and that was really something, that really was something, but by now of course the war was getting very close to the end. So got in these Wellingtons and, er, it is most odd but I got a picture up there, you can see later, you probably know anyway they were just, er, lattice work and fabric [cough] but very very strong, very reliable, anyway I got in that, my first time in there I was given a suit and, er, all the bits and pieces. And away we went and we had to do drogue firing, and, er, air to sea firing and also, er, camera work with Spitfires and Hurricanes, um, that’s right, yep. Spitfires and Hurricanes, um, that’s right, yep. Well, this course was to me the, the height of what I had to achieve because I didn’t want to fail this. This is what from a little lad in the ATC up till then I had to get in that Lanc or whatever and do, um, some work. So anyway the end of that came and I did very well, um, and they made a new idea of, of drogue firing which was called a quarter cross under. And, amazingly enough, I got a hundred and sixteen hits out of six hundred rounds and another one I got what? Thirty-two hits I think. It’s in the logbook. And when I got — passed all the tests and I did very well actually and, er, the guy handing out the wings congratulated me on my scoring, sort of thing, so I was quite chuffed about that. From there we went to Moreton-in-Marsh which was 21 Operational Training Unit and again on Wellingtons but these were really doing the job, flying around and God knows what. So I’d only done about twenty odd hours at Dalcross and nothing high altitude so when I got there I was put amongst a pool of half a dozen guys and there was a chap there called Squadron Leader Corbesley [?] and, and his crew [cough] and they were well into their course but their gunner was sick with appendicitis so, low and behold, out come the boss of the gunnery section and said, ‘Right Doble, you done well on the final test you can do well on this I’m sure.’ So he put me in the crew with Pete Corbesley, um, oh I forget their names now, bless them. The bomb aimer Ted Heywood [?]— anyway, so away we went. Now this flight was a high altitude bombing flight and also a night-time drogue firing. Right, so I’ve got all the kit on and everything and I’d never done this before. It was a four hour or five hour trip [cough] oxygen and all the rest of it. So in the turret I got, which was good. I managed to get in that. That was OK, lovely, and away we went on our, on our, on our, um, job. We did the bombing and all the rest of it and then I had to do the drogue firing. Now, nobody had told me much about what to do because I’d missed that part of the course or I’d been shoved in halfway through. What I had to do was to get out the turret, put the little emergency bottle on, put the drogue down the flare chute and let it out on a winch, and then get back in and look for the drogue, which was — had a little light inside, fire at it when I’m finished, come back, wheel it in and do it. Right, I went out, I got in the turret, looked and I thought, ‘That’s funny, where’s the drogue?’ And then I saw this thing doing a complete circle behind the aircraft [slight laugh] and the drogue had gone out there and hadn’t streamed so it was just like a parcel. And when I looked and this thing’s whirling round I thought, ‘My God.’ All I could think was whether it would cut the tail off. Obviously it couldn’t but I thought, ‘Oh gee whiz,’ so and the skipper said, ‘You OK gunner?’ I said, ‘Yeah I’m just starting now.’ So I fired a few rounds and all the rest of it and then I quickly got out, put the bottle on and had to wind this thing back. So I wound it back and then I had a nice silk scarf and that got tangled up winding in the wings. So I had to wind it back a bit and get the scarf out and fiddling about and then suddenly I felt a bit woozy but anyway I managed to get the drogue in, undid it and — yeah and then I thought, ‘Right I’ll get back in now.’ But I felt a bit odd. So as I tried to move I couldn’t really move properly and I looked down and this little bottle I think had, I think they had about fifteen minutes, I’m not sure but I think they had, um, and it had run out. So there so there I was stuck halfway down at the end of this dark tunnel, um, gasping for breath and there are things on the side where you can get it in but you can’t really see them. And lucky enough [clears throat] the navigator pulled his curtain back and had a look and I said, er, you know, ‘Can you help me, you know?’ Sort of thing. So he come down and looked and said, ‘Oh yeah,’ and plugged it in and said then I was OK. I got back in the turret and away we went. We did the job and got back and I thought, ‘My goodness me. That was the [clock chimes] first long range high altitude trip and it was a nightmare.’ [laugh] All because of my own fault possibly but there you go. That went on there and there was another a bit of a thing. The Wellies were getting a bit old by now and, um, one little thing was in the turret I felt a bit of wet and God knows what and when I looked the hydraulic pipe had broken and saturated me with hydraulic oil. So that was one thing and, um, the next thing was, on another trip we did, um, I was in the turret and a big cloud of smoke and stuff come up through the turret and I thought, ‘Oh my God. It’s going to catch alight.’ [clock chimes] So I quickly got out the turret and I said to the skipper, ‘Skipper, it looks as if the turret’s on fire.’ [slight laugh] I mean, I know it sounds funny but it’s not funny, it’s not [slight laugh]. So he said, ‘Well is there any flames? I said, ‘No, no, no there’s no flames.’ So he said, ‘Right, well stand by it and see what happens.’ And then I said, ‘Oh, it’s alright now.’ The smoke had disappeared. So he said, ‘Oh good.’ He said, ‘OK then. Carry on. Get back in your turret.’ Well, I said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘I’m not getting back in there.’ I said, ‘Because if it’s on fire this thing might fall off or something.’ I said, ‘No, I’ve had enough of that’. So he said, ‘Yeah, OK gunner come up front.’ So I went up front and it was a twin flying thing, a Wellington with twin controls, and I sat in there in the — this seat and the skipper was there and [cough] I finished, finished that. He let me fly the thing but I couldn’t ruddy fly it, you know. I sat there and he said, ‘OK, you take over governor and see how you get on.’ So it was night time so I didn’t know what to do. I thought, ‘Well if I hold the stick still then the thing just goes.’ So I held the stick still and then all of a sudden all the dials started going round. Well my little brain said, ‘Oh blow me, I’m over speeding, there’s too much power.’ You know, so I leant forward to get the throttles and he said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Well I’m throttling back.’ ‘Don’t do that.’ He said [cough], ‘Look out there.’ He said, ‘And you’ll see the horizon, even though it’s dark.’ He said, ‘Where’s the horizon?’ And of course the horizon was up there [unclear] long way down so he, he sorted that out and we landed and that was the end of that. OK. [background noise]
CB: Yeah, you only had yourself to look after.
RD: Absolutely, you know, it was your responsibility. If something happened well that’s it. It was just bad luck. But getting back to my opinion about it all was the fact that — I know for a fact that lots of these aircraft were, were, um, destroyed. I mean, Nuremburg I think was one and another one, Leipzig, um, where you got ninety-five aircraft knocked down in one night.
CB: Yeah.
RD: Um, that is one of the reasons why we went on all this business to start of my career, if you can call it that. They wanted air gunners. Oh and something I missed out by the way —
CB: That’s OK.
RD: I’m sorry about that.
CB: No don’t worry. We can pick it up. What, what did you miss out?
RD: Well, what happened was, when we were at St Johns Wood, at the ACRC, um, they called for volunteers but air gunners. Now we were all different grades. Well, obviously I went down ‘cause I wanted to be an air gunner and so, being stupid, [noise] it’s only a three month course or something like that and I’ll be on operations, um, so we all queued up and along came the groupie [?] and he talked to some and talked to some and he come to me and he said, ‘How old are you son?’ I said, ‘Eighteen Sir.’ He said, ‘Well bugger off!’ And, er, I went with a few of the others, you know. So he was quite human, put it that way. I mean I was only a kid wasn’t I? Let’s face it. We were all kids, high spirited and, er, mind you we learnt quick, well I [emphasis] didn’t. The people that did these ops, hundreds of ops and things, tours, they were incredible people. The other thing that strikes me as well — can I go on? Was the fact that, as you know, if you didn’t do the op — [background noise]
CB: Now here’s your tea Ron —
RD: Yes, thank you very much.
CB: So some of these people —
RD: [noise] Shall I carry on? So, some of these people, as you know, I’ve known an instance of a guy who done thirty ops and he was told he’d got to do an extra five, um, you know, before he was taken out and he said, ‘I’m not doing it.’ He said, ‘ I’ve had enough. I’ve done my bit and that’s it.’ And that’s where this business of LMF comes in and they were sent to Eastchurch, where the LMF place was, and they were demoted, AC2s, and, er, I don’t know, just, used as spare parts I suppose. But it was awful really, absolutely terrible, um, and quite a few, quite a few did that. I don’t know and that’s, that’s what gets me [emphasis]. If I’d done quite a few ops, how would I have felt? I don’t know now. I would love to have known but you don’t know. But there you go. Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, OTU. So we finished up at OTU. My pilot, by the way, was a squadron leader. He was quite important and he was a Spitfire photo reconnaissance pilot originally and he was on a high flying operation over Italy at the time and he was, er, shot down and he was captured by the Italians and put in a prisoner camp. But the, the Italians surrendered and left the Germans there but when this happened he got away and he was transported back to England, believe it or not, and that’s when he came onto the OTU for multi-engined aircraft to go back, back to that and he was getting on a bit as well, so that’s it. So from there we went to 1653 HCU. I can’t quite remember.
CB: At North Luffenham?
RD: It was Lindholme, Lind— I don’t know. Some of them we were — one of them in there in my book we were sent to the Heavy Conversion Unit there and then moved halfway through to another operational place, airfield.
CB: OK. 1653 was North Luffenham.
RD: Yeah, was it? Oh well, I might have it wrong, I might even have it wrong, it was North Luffenham. But anyway, from there we went to, um, a squadron, that’s it, in Lincolnshire.
CB: Just before we get on to that could you just explain what you please did at the HCU?
RD: Oh, yeah, well what we did at — sorry. Obviously — what happened at the Conversion Unit was, you come from Wellingtons, which were rather a sparse looking aircraft, but ground [?] crew very reliable, to the Lanc which got a bit more room, er, the turrets weren’t much better than the old, er, Wellington, um, and what we did there was, um, touch and go and all the rest of it. And then, um, high flying and bombing etcetera and when we finished that we went on to squadron, I think it was — yeah, the squadron I was at was Hemswell in Lincolnshire. Hemswell, that’s right and when I got there I my pilot [unclear] and the crew but he had a heart problem, poor old boy, and, er, he was demoted from squadron— from wing commander down to squadron leader, sorry, and, er, we never saw him again. So I was left again without a crew. So again I’m the spare Charlie. So we all sat in the gunnery place and then along pops the gunnery leader and said, ‘Right, Doble, you’re flying with so and so. Right, Doble, you’re flying with so and so.’ And I flew away with Squadron Leader Bretherton. I think this is a well-known name, I’m not sure, but he was a nice guy. [clears throat] But all this time, all this time, things are moving regarding the air crew itself. Um, a — and I can understand it really, with the sergeant ground crew were sharing their mess with youngsters, sergeants, um, with nothing like their service or whatever. And it wasn’t, wasn’t a very happy scene at that time and they were obviously looked at, it was looked into and the powers that be said, ‘Well, as from — whatever date it was — you won’t be sergeants any more, you’ll be gunners in grades. There’ll be Gunner 2 and Gunner 1 and Master Gunner and your rank would not be there. It will be there but it will be a crown with, um, G2, G1 or Master, Master Gunner.’ And that was equivalent to sergeant, flight sergeant and warrant officer. The war had ended and I still hadn’t got into it and that was — that did it for me as far as I was concerned [cough]. I was pushed from pillar to post, didn’t do a great deal of flying and I got a bit fed up. So I thought, ‘Right I’m going to leave.’ So I left. We all got together actually and said we were fed up with this business and, I don’t know, about twenty of us decided we’d leave the RAF and — oh sorry, during this time the thing that came out was you could serve three years or five years if you wanted to, early on, and we had all signed up for three years and you were given fifty pounds a year for the three years, for a five — no, for the three years, that’s right. So we signed up, fine. Sorry, this is before things happened, sorry, before the squadron. Sorry about that. So we’d all signed up so what happened when we got to Hemswell, the war had ended, we were messing around and we all decided then — they’d de-ranked us and we were fed up with it. So we thought, ‘Right what we’ll do we’ll leave.’ And there was a clause in the thing that you signed that said if you had an apprenticeship, um, you could say that you want to continue with your apprenticeship and you’d be let off the signing up [cough] so about twenty-five of us turned up outside the office and we all marched in one by one into the boss and we all said, ‘We want to continue with our apprenticeship serg.’ And there was no messing about. It was, ‘OK that’s it, OK that’s it.’ And that was the end of it. I was sent to Filey, near Scarborough, kitted out with my suit and trilby hat and stuff and, er, released from the RAF. And then I came home and I was fed up really, I really was and, um, the other thing was coming back into Civvy Street was most strange because I was only a kid when I went in and I’d lived with loads of people and then suddenly bumph you’re out and you were on your own. And living in London there wasn’t much going on there as far as I was concerned and money was tight. So, um, that’s what we did.
CB: Where was your apprenticeship? Where was your apprenticeship?
RD: Oh sorry, yeah, that was at Rootes, Rootes Group in Acton, and we were making Sunbeams, Talbots and, um, Humbers bodies and during this time I was there, of course, I was working on all these things. I was a panel beater. And, er, there was lots of lead used on these old bodies. They don’t use it now, but what it was was when they were assembled they were hand assembled, so there was no real strict conforming, so when they came off the body with the doors the doors wouldn’t fit. The body was all weird. So it all had to be jacked out and messed about and then the joints were, were spot-welded, so that had to be covered with lead and I got the job of, amongst other guys, finishing lead so I did that and, um, got lead poisoning. So what happened then was my teeth started feeling awful and my gums — and I couldn’t at a piece of bread. So I went to the hospital and they said, ‘Well there’s only one thing for it. We’ll have to take all your teeth out.’ So they took all my teeth out and by then Rootes, Rootes Group had shut down their production on Talbots and we were out of a job but my union [emphasis] had taken up the lead poising business because there were others obviously. There were some that were really bad. They could hardly walk with this business. It got into their bones. So, um, that was it and then what happened then was I got a letter from the union with a cheque and the cheque was for a hundred pounds which I suppose nowadays would be — what, a thousand? And that was it, in settlement of my claim but obviously some of the old boys never made it I don’t — anyway that was it. So we left that. What did I do then? [cough] Um, oh that’s right, I took up motor cycling. I mean, that was good. My little bike was passing cars on the road and the rest of it. So I took up motor cycling. I met my dear wife and she used to sit on the back and terrified but she liked it. But we had good fun and I met lots of people and I, I got a job, er, as a panel beater on car repairs in Haddenham, where we are now, across on the estate, industrial estate, and I did that until I retired. And then when I retired I took up the Air Crew Association and I met some lovely people. Ah they were great guys. They are now [emphasis]. Look at, look at my mate here, you know. They are, they’re so helpful and lovely, all of them. And that’s what I done and I became the welfare officer. At one time we’d left [unclear] when I was squadron bomb aimer and, er, we used to go round all the guys and cheer them up or have a chat, exactly, more or less like you guys are doing really, all voluntary, but well done and absolutely loved doing it. And then, er, as time went on and I gave that up. I used to organise lots of trips, didn’t I? And one of the trips I, I managed to get was I wrote to, um, the Mem— Memorial Flight, Lincoln, and they wrote back and said, ‘Yeah, come up and we’ll give you a flight.’ So I went up with two of my mates [cough] I think that’s [unclear] there and, low and behold, and we got a trip in a Lancaster, which was quite nice. What else did we do?
CB: I’m going to stop it there because your drink is —
RD: Oh yeah —
CB: [background noise] Now after refreshments we’re just picking up on a few things now. So Ron, er, it’s difficult to understand when you haven’t experienced it what it was like in gunnery training. What was the first thing they did to teach you how to shoot from an aircraft?
RD: Right, so what they did was, um, you first go on the rifle range, obviously, at the gunnery school and then you would go to a turret, um, which was fired into the butts and then you sat in that and, er, you operated it and you fired it and that was fine. Then you were taught, um, the amount of deflection you gave to each aircraft, so you had to learn — yeah, really — I still — you had to learn the wing span of the aircraft. So you had to identify the aircraft. If it’s an ME109 — I forget now, I’ve got it somewhere, it’s thirty-odd feet, and then you had to, um, in your mind, give a little bit of leeway or whatever there and then the other thing was — it was silly really, in my opinion, but I’m, I’m probably wrong, but all the training was done by what they called curve pursuit. That’s what they called it. It’s in the book somewhere.
CB: And what did that mean?
RD: Curve pursuit — it meant you fly here and the aircraft would come here, the Spitfire or Hurricane or whatever, and supposedly a German aircraft, and it would come round and then it would —
CB: In a curve.
RD: Start firing and then break down or break down that way. So you had to give your deflection and it would be — I forget now, um, anyway you had to gradually bring it in to the, to the dock and the dock would be when that’s right astern.
RD: But the attacking aircraft would never get into that positon because they come along that like and then they dived down and away. They wouldn’t make a dead, a dead shot.
CB: OK but if I can just ask you another question there though because these are technical phrases really? So what do you mean by deflection?
RD: Well deflection is when the bullet leaves the gun you got — it’s got to go from there to the aircraft and also the aircraft is moving at a speed so you’ve got to fire —
CB: Ahead of it.
RD: In front of the aircraft all the time and gradually decreasing it, you get what I mean? There’s the sight there. It starts off there, um, and you’re gradually decreasing the, the deflection until its zero right behind you.
CB: Cause as it gets close —
RD: But you get —
CB: Yes but the further away it is the greater the deflection because the bullet has to go further.
RD: That’s right and then the bullets wouldn’t strike anyway really. The proper, proper range, where you can do damage really was two hundred yards but you opened fire at six hundred yards.
CB: Rihgt, OK. And how many rounds were there in — for each gun?
RD: Oh, there were hundreds. There used to be in the old aircraft there used to be a can and they’d fill it up but these aircraft, the Wellie as well, they found there was not enough bullets so in the aircraft hallway up there’s a big, um, storage thing —
CB: A drum.
RD: A steel box, steel box, and they’re laid like that, flexible links [cough] and they’d go down this chute onto the power, power roller sort of thing, right, that drags them along and it would go along there, quite a good, a nice job, under the turret —
CB: This is the rear turret?
RD: Yep. And then to the guns so you’d have one, two, three, four, four of each, and once you’d put them in the breach and locked it down then, when you fired, the strength of the round going in pulled the bullets along so, you know, they just kept feeding in, sort of thing.
CB: Yeah, OK.
RD: [cough] Very uncomfortable, um, and the controls were like a motorbike controls, um, left, right, up, down and triggers. No heating, um, but they did have one plug which would be for an electric suit and if you were lucky enough you got an electric suit. They did have them but they were a bit troublesome. But anyway, on this particular night, I had an electric suit and we did a high, high trip and it was absolutely freezing cold, um, your eyes ice up and you got to watch the oxygen because, er, your spittle sort of goes in the oxygen tube and then it ices up, so you got to make sure it’s clear by cracking it, you know, so you can breathe. How many people passed out or whatever I don’t know but that’s what you had to do, um, what else was there?
CB: So the gunsight itself, what is like that?
RD: Oh yeah, it was the old-fashioned one —
CB: Was a circle, was it?
RD: It was just a little round thing like that with a hood, that’s all, with a sight that’s projected by light at the bottom, know what I mean?
CB: So there was spot in the middle of it, was there?
RD: A dot in the middle.
CB: Yeah, a dot.
RD: And a circle.
CB: Right and —
RD: And when the aircraft got close, um, you got it right on the outside and you gradually decreased it. It was all luck of the draw really. And then — oh, yes, that’s right, the electric suit — so this one — another drama — I plugged in the suit and, er, when you’re high up you tend to sweat a little bit, believe it or not, just on the back of the neck and things and, of course, this bloody suit when I moved my neck like that it was going [buzzing sound] it was sending a small charge through. Oh dear and this part here was beautifully warm, really, really, really warm. This was there so I had to keep turning it off and get freezing cold, turn it on and get it warm and everything. Anyway what happened when I got back I complained, took it off, and low and behold, my jumper had — a big polo neck thing had a ruddy big hole in it [laugh] and it went through that and it went onto my battle dress [laugh]. It didn’t burn my skin but what was happening it was shorting out there [cough] and burning my clothes [laugh]. That was another saga and that was it.
CB: You were lucky not to get fried.
RD: Well yeah [laugh] but it was, it was so damn cold. It really, really was.
CB: So what temperature would it have been outside?
RD: Jesus, I don’t know, I don’t know, minus twenty?
JL: Probably more than that, depends what height you were at.
CB: More likely to be minus forty.
RD: Forty yes, you know, that is —
CB: But very cold anyway.
RD: That’s bloody cold. But one plane I flew in at the Conversion Unit had been an ex-squadron Lancaster, it’s time had expired or whatever, and it been sent to the Conversion Unit and I saw pictures of this as well, it did happen. The visibly with perspex and the turret visibly really is very limited because the guns were there, the sight’s there, and you’ve got panels, so what they did they cut the hole, um, glass area off —
CB: The back.
RD: So yeah. So when I got in this thing you were literally sat there with nothing, just obviously the guns and stuff, but, um, cor that must have been bloody cold but they did it. Thing is they had to do it, didn’t they? Because, you know, they were losing aircraft left, right and centre. And the other thing is, the silly thing that I think is, um, quite a while before, um, these ops become more frequent, um, they were losing aircraft. They couldn’t understand it. What was happening, as you all know now probably, was the fact that they had these Messerschmitt would, would up and firing cannon at an angle. Well, you’re sitting here and you can’t see down there, and these things used to come along like that and just blast the old cannon into the aircraft. And that’s it, you — well they’d always put it into the wing, not to the fuselage, because with the bomb load they could kill theirselves — put it into the wing, engine caught fire and that’s it. They knew about this but the thing was to put a turret in — the first Lancaster, the very very first Lancaster built — I don’t know whether you know this — but there was an under turret. But the powers that be, they were on about bomb load, so they took the turret out and made more space for a bomb bay [cough] so they were coming underneath there and doing that. So, um, one squadron, I think it was 77, a Halifax Squadron, um, they cut a hole and put a .5 drill on the mounting, um, to make sure that they could see what was going on underneath but I don’t think that was very good. But that was where most of the casualties were, underneath, firing, not direct, not this silly curve pursuit thing. They wouldn’t do that, that was daft. Then the Lanc, er, the Lincoln was a stretched Lanc really, very nice, different, a little bit of comfort and in the turret totally different. There were 2.5s [cough] pardon, two half inch Browning and, er, a little desk. It was amazing really. You could put your hands out and a single column which fired by a button on top and you could do all this and that would do all that instead of doing all this and the sight was, um, what they called a gyro-sight. It was on the front — was — it had ME109, FW190, Heinkel 111 and the idea was you identified the aircraft you turned this thing round to whatever aircraft you identified, which would feed into this system, the wing span, and the sight itself would be, I think — let me think, yeah, diamonds, yeah, you understand?
CB: Yep.
RD: Little white diamonds, one in the middle, and when you moved the turret these diamonds in this screen would, would — were black. You know what I mean? You know, you would start off there, they were black, and when you come astern it would — and that was the gyro-sight, which is quite successful really, but how many were shot down like that I don’t know. It was quite a nice sight and the heating was incredible, there was heating as well, um, quite comfortable actually, very good [cough].
CB: OK. Just going back to gunnery school, how did they teach you to do deflection shooting before you got in the turret?
RD: Well — no —
CB: Clay pigeon?
RD: Yeah.
CB: So how much of that did you do?
RD: That’s it.
CB: How much of that did you do?
RD: It was quite a bit and you know it’s the usual thing you’d start behind there so the clay went out like that. You had to deflect, you know, because the thing’s dropping isn’t it? Fire and then you go on the quarter which is again, er, more or less, a detraction and then on the beam, which would be, um, full [?] deflection and then on the spar [?], which would be going the other way, you do less. It’s quite — you know, it was fairly easy because you didn’t sight it. Well people must know, you just covered the clay, you know what I mean? And — but you had to follow on and that was the thing.
CB: It was to [unclear]
RD: So many, you know, so many would sight it up and stop and pull the trigger and, of course, it was too late but it was the flow. That’s it.
CB: And that, that taught you the importance of flow?
RD: Yeah. So that was it.
CB: And fast forward when you went to 97 Squadron.
RD: Sorry?
CB: You went to 97 Squadron. Did you — so was the war in Europe over by then?
RD: Yeah. We were called the —
CB: The Tiger Squadron.
RD: Tiger Force.
CB: Tiger Force.
RD: But of course that fell through, didn’t it? I think, I think it was a good thing too because the Lincoln wasn’t, wasn’t sorted for that sort of thing. You know, um, what the [unclear] forces were doing — they were doing — what two or three thousand miles, fifteen hundred miles, you know? And the old Lanc — well, it, it was alright. And of course what the fuel you put on then it lessened the bomb load and that’s why they did away with this under-turret and why didn’t fit one. They knew what was going on. I know for a fact. I‘ve seen photos of the Lanc wing with bullet holes in it and they put rods through and it shows you that the, the cannon shells were going in at an angle underneath the aircraft.
CB: Did they, um, tell you about that?
RD: No.
CB: What do you understand about scarecrow?
RD: Yes, well that didn’t take place. I’m sorry, it didn’t take place, in my [emphasis] opinion. I’ve spoken to many people and seen different things [clock chimes] and, er, no they were flames, explosives. They’d been hit in the bomb bay and, er, just — but they thought they were scarecrows, big, big, big guns firing scary things up them and big explosions, you know. But that’s in my opinion. I mean, I’m just saying.
CB: There was, there were lots of different situations in, obviously, in the war but how did you get on with the people who joined up with you and did you keep in touch with them for a period?
RD: Yeah, I kept in touch. I’ve got a photo there, see. Yeah, I had great friends. Fred Davies, he was a Welshman, he was a nice guy. Yeah, there was no, no animosity, nothing, right? None whatsoever, in, in my lot, put it that way. [clock chimes]
CB: The crew went together well?
RD: No animosity or anything. Really lovely. [clock chimes]
CB: And as far as mates were concerned, how many of those did you lose on the way?
RD: Well, I lost two, that’s right, yeah, two gunners, well two crews and that was the course at OTU.
CB: What happened to them?
RD: [clears throat] Well one of them was coming into land on the runway and at night. [clock striking] This was the thing, at night, and, er, it landed short and went in the forest. I’ve got some pictures of that somewhere and, er, smashed a tree [?] and that was it. And the other one was a friend of mine and Sandy and I go to Botley because that’s where they’re buried. And this crew — they were nice. There was Robin, Robbie I called him. He was rear gunner and there was the navigator. The pilot was called Ferdinando and they also had on board instructors so I should think there was probably on board five —eight people. And what it was, we, we, were on the way back to the aerodrome at Morton and a big weather front came in and we were told — it said by radio, you know, watch it there’s a bit dodgy weather and we managed, believe it or not, got in fine. We landed, perhaps because we’d got a good pilot, Pete, you know, he’d done it before. And while we were standing there waiting for the truck to come along and load our stuff in, in the distance on the hill — it was only six hundred foot high, apparently, they found out afterwards — there was a big red glow come up and died down quickly and we all thought, ‘What the hell’s that?’ And, er, I thought no more of it. And then in the morning of course when, when we went for breakfast there was, um, pictures of this and there was the Lincoln [?] and they were all killed and Robbie was too. He was a great character. Yeah.
CB: So next you went to the HCU and the HCU you went to 97 Squadron but the war finished. So how did everybody feel about that?
RD: Well we stopped [laugh] sorry. That’s the reason why I left anyway [cough]. Not only that they’re demoting you and bringing in these new grades and chucking you in — you hadn’t got a mess then I suppose. I don’t know where you went. They didn’t have a gunners’ mess, whatever, I don’t know. You just felt let down. You know what I mean?
CB: Let down because —
RD: Well I was —
CB: Because you hadn’t seen the action, is that what you meant?
RD: There was that to it but it was the way you were treated after the war — it was, it was just falling to bits, you know, I mean, as you say, the aircraft — the economy [?] of it was time-expired bloody Lancs and squadrons. The Wellingtons were well on their way out really. And also the morale was there. I mean, when you’ve got a group of guys together and they’re doing something, you know, dodgy [laugh] flying and — you don’t know what’s going to happen, put it that way. Then you become very close but then, as I say, look at myself. I was told to fly with them and fly with them and fly with them. I didn’t even know the crew. Then when Pete left so there was nothing, as far as I was concerned, and the war, that had ended, and I thought, ‘Well, what is there?’ And they started coming out with these aircraft that could — jets, you know. Oh yes, that’s right, sorry. There’s a little thing I must tell you as the fact that when we was there on the Lincolns we were told that there would be an exercise with Canberra’s, you know, so we got in the aircraft, I got in the aircraft and that was it. Then these Canberras were going to do a diving attack on our aircraft. So I’d got this gyro-sight, so the Canberra was way up there, carrying on the same course, and I’m looking at that and thinking, ‘Right, when you come down I’ll get you.’ And, er, he came down. I went like that and the gyro-sight toppled, get what I mean?
CB: Absolutely.
RD: It was, it was too quick. So that’s another thing, I mean [laugh]. Useless, isn’t it. What can you do?
CB: Sure.
RD: You know, you get the 262s, you know, and had you got plenty more of them they could have done a lot of damage.
CB: What sort of experiences were fed back when you were in the HCU? Because a lot of the crews had been on operations. So what did you get from that?
RD: Well they were quite happy, you know, really, I suppose but, um, I never doubted that, they’d done their tour or whatever, um, yeah, we were alright. But of course the thing is, with the older people in the RAF — I’m not talking about peacetime, wartime as well — the older people in the RAF. I mean, we were, we were at a dance, er, I forget where it was. Anyway, I was — I’d got my buddy [?] and things. It might have been Morton or somewhere and [cough] the guys were having a few beers like everybody else and enjoying it, lovely, and then in the morning we were told to go to the cinema, all sergeant aircrew to go to the cinema. So we went to the cinema and there was the CO and he said, ‘Right.’ He said, ‘I’ve never seen such a disgusting display of behaviour by all you people at this dance.’ He said, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself.’ And I heard it at school as well. They used to tell me, ‘You’re nothing like your fathers and your people before you.’ ‘You’re a disgusting young people and to pee in the middle of a bloody dance floor.’ He said, ‘It’s just the top of the thing. That’s disgusting.’ So we thought, ‘Yeah, that’s nice isn’t it? That’s typical of what’s going to go on.’ So we left there and it turned out it was a ground crew sergeant that pissed on the floor. So there you go. Not that I’m saying anything about the ground crew. They were lovely. We all had our moments, I must admit.
CB: How did the air — the crew of your aircraft get on with the ground crew?
RD: Lovely, yeah, but then again you didn’t see a lot of them unless you walked around and spoke to them. Yeah, they were fine, um, but you read reports of course that they were not fine, you know. They were — you know there’s a bloke, his statement I got upstairs [cough] written by some — in my opinion — brain has gone — about ground crew, he said they — a whole list of it, they hated us, they did this, they did that [cough]. It’s all rubbish. That’s how it, um, came about, you know, by their state of mind. Obviously they must have had a bad time or something like that and that was it. I don’t know whether that’s —
CB: Did you keep in touch with your crew after the war?
RD: Yes. Yeah. I’ve got some photos there —
CB: I’m going to stop this now. [background noise]
RD: All the pictures that you see of the Lincoln now. They’ve taken the gun turret out, mid-upper, I don’t know why.
CB: Just on this topic. We are talking now about gunnery again about equipment. How did you feel about using point 303s instead of .5s? Because the Lincoln had .5s.
RD: I used to think at that time that was, that was OK because, um, if I remember rightly, I think at six hundred yards, no four hundred yards, you get an area of a twenty two foot six square.
CB: A cone.
RD: So, you know, you’ve got a chance of hitting but a little 303 like that [cough] on the under plate on the front of these aircraft would just bounce off unless you got a lucky hit, which they did, they did at times, I must admit they did. But the 20 mill that was alright, my God that was — phew, bloody hell, that was a thing that was. And to load them you had to get in the turret and, and drop a, an arming tool down a hook and you had to drop it down to the breach, hook on the 20 mil cannon shell, and then pull it up, um, into the breach.
CB: This was the belt, the belt of shells.
RD: But the thing was you had to be very careful because some of the shells were impact used and if you got hold of it and pulled it like that you could blow yourself up. [cough] I think they discontinued those anyway. But they did with the turret. It was too much. I was as deaf as a post anyway.
CB: Ok. Thank you. I’m going to stop it now. [interview paused at 1:23:14:01 and restarted 1:23:16:2]
RD: Now we’ve glossed over [background noise] what you did after leaving school before joining the RAF. So you left school at fourteen Ron, what did you do before you joined the RAF and where did you live?
RD: At fourteen I went to Rootes and they were building, at that time, the stern frame and the centre section, wing centre section, of the Blenheim and, um, my first job there was to put behind a guillotine, which I had visions of one of these French guillotines coming down and chopping my head off, but it was a machine obviously and it cut metal, and I was the holder-upper on the guillotine, and my job was to go behind the guillotine. The guy operating it was there and I used to hold it and, er, it would cut and then I would put it down and cut, put it down and —
CB: This is aluminium sheet is it? Sheet aluminium?
RD: Alclad.
CB: Alclad.
RD: Alclad. Yeah, I used to do that and then there was guys going round with rivets and the rivets had to be normalised and, um, they were put in salt baths for a certain amount of time and all us guys had trays and at certain times of the day, and when I was free from this guillotine, you were given these rivet, rivet boxes and you had to go round to each guy, take his old rivet box and give him new a rivet box and that would go all the way through the cycle so that the rivets were always soft, yeah? And would harden with age. And then I was offered a job, sheet metal work, right, and I was taken on by the union as a, as an apprentice for sheet metal work and I used to do a bit of riveting and a bit of this and a bit of that, and shaping things and that, and, um, I think that was — that went on for — oh how long? Three years, that’s right, three years. By that time I could do a pretty good job at, um, panel beating. I was knocking out dents or whatever in the aluminium stuff and that. And then of course the end of the time came and, er, I got my calling up papers. I went to — what’s the name of the place? The house in London?
CB: What, to Lords?
RD: No. It’s a building. Oh God, Air Ministry RAF place — it’s got a name. Anyway, I went to there and that’s where all the things, medicals were done, and I went to that and then in my log book you’ll see A3B, A3B, NL what it was I got to do this thing, the length of leg, and I think it had to be thirty, thirty inches, yeah, and when they shoved me up — it was very crude in a way. They shoved me up against a, a back wall and then they would measure your leg length and mine was twenty-nine. So I got one guy pushing me back like this and the other guy pulling my legs to try and get the extra inch but it didn’t work out. So I could, according to that, I could never be a pilot because I didn’t have the leg length [cough]. [unclear] Of course, er, there was a little guy who used to fly, um, Kittyhawks and stuff and I used to take him to the Air Crew Association and, um, his job was to liaison with people, with these aircraft, and I always remember a little tale he said was, er, when he was in the Far East, he was told to fly from — I don’t know where it was, Libya to Malta, and he was told in — where the headquarters were — but this was a special message for the admiral in Malta, so he said, ‘ I’ve just come from a trip.’ And they said, ‘No you cannot worry about that, get in the aircraft and do this job because it’s very, very important.’ OK, gets in his Spitfire, flies off and lands in Malta and he said, ‘I’ve got a very special secret message for the admiral.’ So he had — was escorted to the — I don’t know where it was, the naval base, and went in front and saluted and gave the admiral this, er, this envelope [cough] and, um, the admiral went over there near the window and sort of opened the thing, ‘Oh, jolly good, jolly good, yeah. I bet the odds on that will be really great.’ He said, ‘OK, you can go and get yourself a meal now.’ And it was a tip. [laugh]
CB: For racing.
RD: For horse racing in Malta.
CB: [background noise] Ron was, um, in London during the war before he joined the RAF so what was it like Ron when you were in London and experiencing the air raids?
RD: I was only fourteen at the time [clears throat] and the war started. The sirens went and everybody panicked and run around, and got under tables and things, but then it was the all clear. And then nothing happened at all for quite some time, until one day above, in the sky above us, and over London itself there were vapour trails, loads and loads of vapour trails, and aircraft way up high, and then a smudge of smoke from where we were on the horizon. If you got upstairs and looked out you could see a smudge of smoke and that was when they first started bombing the docks and they caught fire, several of the granaries and other places along there, which really made a blaze, and all this was going on in a relatively small area of London called the East End [cough]. Unfortunately, that is where the real English people were, the cockneys, the, the miners, the coal — you know, the dockers, all sorts of things, and, er, living a very frugal life. But these bombs came down and wiped out a lot of the East End and then the fire got even worse and you could see the red on the horizon. I thought it was a good idea but — it’s silly again — but me and my mate said, ‘Let’s have a bike ride up there and see if we can see what’s going on somewhere.’ But we, we rode up there through London itself, near the East End, and then we were turned back because the police were there and God knows what, um, and then at night, they started to bomb at night, and this went on for, oh dear, four or five months maybe, maybe more. But every night, without doubt, without any problem, the siren would sound and then the bombers would come over. Then in the morning when it got light the all-clear would go. There was no guns, nothing. They just came over and did what they did. Then one night, one particular night, we were all there and waiting for the sirens to go and the sirens went, and we had an Anderson shelter in the garden and we went down there, sort of thing, and then the guns started. You never heard [cough] anything like it [chime] and all the guns down south were created in London, you know, mobile guns and everything and, um, they just fired hundreds of shells up in the air but they didn’t, they didn’t, they couldn’t target anything. They didn’t know anything about where they were or anything. They just fired everything and the idea was, apparently, I found out, was to raise morale of people — ‘cause every night they sat there and the bombs were coming on top of them and nothing was happening. So this, er, lot went up and — but they still carried on bombing and, er, we had a few two roads up that, um, dropped and killed some people and then they hit the gas, a big gasometer there, which was quite something that. That went up in a big flare [chimes]. It was a good mark but quite frankly I didn’t see, where I was in the west of London, I didn’t see a great deal. The one thing they did drop was an oil bomb which was a barrel full of crude oil with a detonator on it and that come down in Shepherds Bush Green. It didn’t do any damage but it made a mess, black muck everywhere. I can’t — that’s it as far as I was concerned, er, and then I joined the ATC and through that I used to cycle to the ATC and come back. And then I joined the fire watchers [slight laugh]. They brought out a thing, dousing the incendiaries, because this is what, what caused so much problem in London and everywhere, thousands of incendiaries came down, burned the roof and burned the place out. So they brought out voluntary fire parties and what you did you got together as a neighbourhood and you were issued with a stirrup pump and a bucket and, er, told how to put these fires out by laying on the floor and pressing the thing and one thing or another but if you pressed — put water directly on it it would just explode so you had to be very careful [cough]. So I did that for a while and then, as I say, I joined the ATC and used to go there and then the bombing receded then because that was the time, I believe, that the Germans were going into Russia. They wanted all their aircraft over there, most of them, and that was it. Then I joined the ATC. The V1s that caused — I’ve spoken to you about, at Clapham, when we were on the preliminary air crew training course, er, that was another sort of thing. Oh and by the way, um, when I was home, home in London I had a five-day leave — Chiswick was quite near us — but there one tremendous great explosion and, er, it blew some houses down and things and, er, people didn’t hear any aircraft or anything. And that was the actual first V1 rocket that hit the, hit the ground in London.
CB: First V2.
RD: V2, sorry, V2, yeah.
CB: Were there many refugees from the east of London coming your way. What happened with them?
RD: They all went in hotels and things along what they call Bayswater Road, which runs along Hyde Park, and they were all put in there, loads and loads of them, quite a lot from Malta to help them out, um, very good actually. They really looked after them I must admit, um, what was I going to say? Oh, the other thing is, what surprised me was after the war, er, Malta had, had been saturated with bombs and so many killed and this place was just wrecked. But they began to build it up and there was a guy apparently, I think called Mintoff, which was the president of all of them, the boss, and he asked our government for a million pound to help with the job and it was refused. Typical politics I suppose I’m afraid. But that’s life. Thank you very much.
CB: Thank you Ron. [recording device stops at 1:39:12:6 and restarts 1:39:17:01] This is just a summary of Ron’s situation. Even though he joined the RAF on 31st of January 1944 at Lords and Grove Court he never became operational during the hostilities. He’d chosen to be an air gunner and, er, was sent on a wireless operator course, with a view to then going to air gunner. However he ended up being shunted from pillar to post instead of actually going to, er, straight squadron operations. So various training he undertook included RAF regiment and educational training. He eventually left the RAF in 1947.


Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Ronald George Doble,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 26, 2024,

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