Interview with George Dunn


Interview with George Dunn


George Dunn DFC joined the Royal Air Force in June 1941 and initially trained as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, before training in Canada as a Pilot. He flew aircraft such as Avro Ansons and Airspeed Oxford.
He tells of his experiences as ‘second dickey’ on trips to Essen and Kiel, before joining No. 76 Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse, flying Handley Page Halifaxes. He also spent time on 10 Squadron and was finally transferred to 608 Squadron based at Downham Market in Suffolk flying Mosquitos.
George tells of his trip to Malta, and flying Spitfires that were being renovated for the Greek Air Force.
George flew 30 operations flying Halifaxes and a further 14 flying the Mosquito.
After the war, George returned to his previous company, Pickfords, where he worked as a Branch Manager before retiring at the age of 60.







01:34:14 audio recording


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 8th March 2017 and I’m, I’m in Saltdean with George Dunn to talk about his experiences in life, and particularly in the RAF. So what are your earliest recollections of life, George?
GD: I think probably er, when I went to infants school, which was about five and er, that was at West Meads Infant School in Whitstable. From there I went to the Oxford Street Boys Council School and er, I was quite good at football and er, I played and was captain of the juniors, and then the seniors, and er, I did actually get picked for the county but that’s another story, because it happened just after I left school er, where did we go from there?
CB: What did father do? What did your father do?
GD: My, my father was a plasterer, I had two sisters er, one is two years younger than me, and the other one is er, twelve years younger than me, she still lives in Whitstable and the other one lives in er, New South Wales, Australia. I left school when I was fourteen and er, joined Pickfords the removal company as a junior clerk. I stayed with them in, in the, in the following years, I played football for various local sides, and er, I can remember the day that the war broke out. I was sitting round a little radio set that my father had bought with Black Cat tobacco coupons er, we weren’t very well off so that was one way of getting a, getting a radio set. I don’t know how many cigarettes he must have smoked to get it [laughs]. I can well remember, we were all sitting round this radio set on the day that war was declared, anxiously waiting for Mr. Chamberlain to er, make his announcement er, which he did at eleven o’clock I think it was, and it was a funny feeling ‘cos one minute we were at peace, and in the blink of an eyelid, we were at war and of course we were all wondering what it was going to mean, er going on a bit er, when the blitz started on London I used to stand on the er, cliffs at Whitstable and could see all these hordes of German bombers coming up the Thames Estuary. Because Whitstable is on the North Kent coast and er, it was er, it was an awful sight because you knew what was going to happen when they reached London. I also saw a lot of the Battle of Britain er, which er took place obviously mostly over Kent and Sussex, and I think possibly that might have influenced me in why I joined the RAF. The other reasons that I joined is, for one thing I have a fear of drowning, and I didn’t fancy the army ‘cos one always had a picture in the background, the trenches and er, the terrible slaughter that went on in the First World War so I thought well I’ll go for the RAF. When I went up to Chatham, er this, I would be eighteen at that time, this was in January 1941, I went up to Chatham and er decided that I would apply for wireless operator air gunner. We had to do a written, a written exam and er, when I went to the interview, I think there were three RAF officers there, and they said, ‘why have you applied to er, er for a WOPAG?’ So I said, ‘well I don’t really think that I’m sufficiently educated to er, go for anything higher like a pilot’, and they said, ‘well we’ve had a look at your results and we think you are qualified, so would you consider er changing to under training pilot?’ So I said, ‘well yes, I’d be quite happy to.’ I was quite elated to think that er, then er, National Registration Card was stamped U/T pilot, under training pilot. I wasn’t called up until June of that year 1941 and I went down to um, oh prior to that, of course, after I volunteered at Chatham, I did go to Uxbridge to be sworn in, going back to er, being called up, I went down to Babbacombe and spent a week there getting kitted up er, listening to er, lectures on Air Force Law er. and that sort of thing and doing drill, and at the end of that er week, we were then posted to initial training wing, which was number eight at Newquay. That was a six week course which involved er, going back to partially mathematics, basic navigation, Air Force Law, Morse Code, and then at the end of that, I was posted up to a transit camp at er, West Kirby in the Wirral. I had only been there a short while when I was strickened down with appendicitis and peritonitis and er, I was on the dangerously ill list, my parents were sent for to come up because I was not expected to live er, anyway fortune favoured me and I did recover. At the end of that, I was given three weeks, I spent three weeks in an RAF hospital, had two operations and er, at the end of that was given three weeks sick leave er, after which I had to go to RAF Holton for a, a full medical at the end of that they said, ‘we’re going to put you on six months home service, you won’t be able to go abroad.’ Which rather disappointed me because er, there was very little elementary flying being done in England at that stage, nearly all the flying was being done under the Commonwealth Air Training Scheme at Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia and er, lots of places in Canada When I got back to er West Kirby after sick leave, within about three days, I found I was on draft for Southern Rhodesia. Well, I’d always I’d always fancied Canada so I went up to the warrant officer and I said er, ‘can’t send me to Southern Rhodesia,’ showed him my card which said six months home service. So I was taken off draft, spent a few more weeks there just kicking the heels, and then was sent to another transit camp at Heaton Park in Manchester. There again it was a question of weeding gardens, picking up litter, literally didn’t know what to do with you. A few days before Christmas, I suddenly was told I was on draft for Canada, so this time I kept quiet and I was on tenterhooks right up until the day we set sail, which was Christmas Eve and er, on the ship, and we set off. It was a an awful ship er from Norway, it was called “The Bergensfjord” and the weather was atrocious across the Irish Sea, and for thirty six hours I was absolutely stricken down, along with many others, with sea sickness. We were, we were just, people were just laying all over the ship, in the toilets, absolutely prostrate, anyway we finally recovered and we got to, to Halifax Nova Scotia I think it was, er New Year’s Day or thereabouts. From there we caught the train down to Moncton, which was a Royal Canadian Air Force Base, and when we got there that evening, the dining table was a sight to behold. There was butter, sugar, milk, ice cream, steak, you name it, it was there, and we thought if this is what we’re going to get for the next nine months or so, it’s gonna be great. We then went on to er, I was posted to Saskatchewan, which took us three days to get there on, on the train, the seats were just slatted on this train so our backsides had got quite a few dents in when we got there er, it was snowing practically the whole way and quite deep snow at, at er a little place called Caron. There was nothing there apart from the RAF or the RCAF base and er a couple of grain elevators and two or three cottages, it was about eighteen miles west of Moose Jaw, so I did my er, elementary training there on Tiger Moths, which I think was sixty hours, and from there I was posted to a place called Weyburn, which was south east of Moose Jaw, and that was on er twin engine Avro Ansons. At the end of that course, we got our wings and after that we were posted back to Moncton, which included er a week’s leave which I spent with some distant relatives in Toronto, also called Dunn. From there we went up to Halifax again and er, we were shipped back to this country er, arriving here at Greenock, from Greenock we went down to Bournemouth to await a posting er, to carry on the further flying. I went to er Little Rissington and from there er, to Chipping Norton, which was a satellite of er Rissi, and did a er short course on Air Speed Oxfords, which was about I think forty five hours, that was to get used to er the flying conditions in this country because of course, Canada was well lit up, but this country was under blackout conditions so it was quite, quite a change. On completion of that course, I was sent up to er, Lossiemouth er, on er OTU on Wellingtons 1C’s and it was there that we formed our crew, initially of five people. Now the way a crew was formed was quite casual, we were strolling around in a hanger, in my case I um, met up with a chap from Ayr who was a bomb aimer, and he said, ‘are you crewed up yet?’ and I said, ‘no.’ He said er, ‘do you fancy crewing up with me or me with you?’ I said, ‘yeah fair enough.’ he said, ‘I happen to know another Scotsman called er Todd, Jock Todd, he’s a wireless operator. If you like I’ll have a word with him,’ so that was made three of us, we then met up with er, er a pilot officer [phone ringing]. Shall I take that?
CB: So you’ve got your wireless operator.
GD: And er, he said -
CB: And, your bomb aimer.
GD: And he said um, ‘oh I know um, I’ve also met up with pilot office and navigator from Belfast, he’s not crewed up with anyone,’ so we got introduced and er, that made four of us and um, I forget now we, we, we met up with a little Canadian rear gunner er, a little chap called Dixie Dean er, so he made up the five which was all you needed at um OUT. From there we did our, we did our course, and er were then posted to um, Rufforth, which was a Heavy Conversion Unit, Halifaxes er, near York. Whilst we were there er, Reg the navigator knew of another gunner, a mid upper gunner who was er remustered physical training instructor, and er so that made us up with six and then the flight engineer was the only one that was actually allocated. This chap came up to me, his name was Ferris Newton, and he said, ‘er are you George Dunn?’ I said, ‘yes,’ he said, ‘oh I’ve been allocated as your flight engineer,’ so I said, ‘fair enough.’ Well of course it was a bit of a bonus er having him, because it turned out that not only did he own a car but his wife and his mother ran a pub at Horsforth near Leeds, so we used to er get seven of us, if you can believe it, in a Morris 8, that was three in the front and four in the back, and we would go over to er Horsforth from er Rufforth, and er well now perhaps I’m jumping the gun a bit. We didn’t go there then, we waited till we got on squadron, anyway when we got to Rufforth, I’d hardly my feet had hardly touched the ground and they said, ‘you’ve got to go off to 10 Squadron at Melbourne to do your two second dickie trips,’ because a pilot, had to go and do two trips with an experienced crew before he was allowed to take his own crew on operations, but at that time I hadn’t even set foot in a Halifax, most pilots did a few hours flying and then they were sent off, but in my case I was sent off virtually straight away, and of course, of all of all trips, the first one was er Essen, which was probably the worst target that you could er imagine having to go to, probably the most heavily defended town in the Ruhr, so I did two I did Essen that night and Kiel the following night and then went back to um Rufforth to start the conversion on the Halifaxes. And of course, the first thing the others wanted to know, you know, ‘how did you get on George? What was it like?’ so I said, ‘well put it this way, when you go on your first trip make sure that you got a clean pair of underpants with you.’ [laughs] Anyway we, we got through our Heavy Conversion Unit and er we were then posted to 76 Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse. Now at Linton, there were two squadrons operating at the same time, 76 and 78. I did five trips, I think it was, from there with the crew and then sadly they said, ‘your um, your whole squadron is going to a place called Holme on Spalding Moor.’ What had happened was that the Canadian group, number six group, was being formed and they were given all the peacetime stations, and this applied to the Australians as well but both the Australians and the Canadians said, ‘look our chaps are not going in to Nissen Huts, if they go do operations on raids over Germany, there going to have something decent to live in,’ so we were shipped out to a Nissen Camp, and the Canadians and the Australians got all the peacetime stations so that’s where we finished. We carried on our tour from Holme on Spalding Moor, and of course during that during that period, when we got the nights off, we would pile in this Morris 8, three in the front and four in the back, and off to um “The Old Ball” at er Horsforth, and of course the locals were very good to us, we stayed overnight er, one or two of us stayed in the pub, the others were put up by some of the customers, they were very hospitable there’s no doubt about it, and of course, we’d go off back early in the morning, the following morning feeling a bit worse for wear. So where do we go from there?
CB: So when you came to the end, did you do thirty ops per tour?
GD: I did thirty, the rest of the crew didn’t because I had two in front of them.
CB: Yes with somebody else, with another captain did you?
GD: When I went to Number 10 Squadron.
CB: Yes.
GD: Yes.
CB: Right, so what happened then?
GD: Well when we finished our tour of course, we were all split up which was a bit emotional, and from the first morning, following our last trip, the following morning I was woken up by the adjutant and said, ‘sorry, but we’ve got a rather sad task for you. You’ve got to take four coffins containing two Mosquito crews which collided nearby, you’ve got to take them to um, York Station to go to their respective er, er towns where they were being being buried,’ er which was a little bit of an anti-climax because you know, there was only one er place beside the driver, the rest of us had to sit in the back with the coffins. So there we were, we were split up, and er I went to um er OTU at Finningley, Wellingtons again, 1C’s, er I didn’t stay at Finningley long because they had a satellite station at Worksop, and er there I was instructing. I did two instructors courses, one on Wellingtons at Church Broughton and another one, a month at the Central Flying School at er Lulsgate Bottom, which is now Bristol Airport. I carried on instructing until I think it was just before Christmas ’45, and er I saw a notice on the er on the board about er, they wanted er Mosquito crews, well I’d already become friendly with a, with a navigator who was in the navigation section at Worksop, and er I said to him, ‘how do you fancy going back on ops, on Mossis?’ He said, ‘I’m a bit fed up with instructing,’ I said, ‘yeah well so am I,’ so we volunteered to go back and er, we were posted to er, Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire, and from there to er, a satellite station at Barford St. John, which was just outside of Banbury. We did short, I did about four or five hours dual on a Mosquito before I went solo and from there we were posted to 608 Squadron, which was a main force Mosquito Squadron at Downham Market in Norfolk. I did a number of trips there, mostly to Berlin, and then a friend of mine who was on a Mosquito met flight at Whitton said, ‘there’s a vacancy come up for a crew with us on a met flight, do you fancy it?’ So we said, ‘yes,’ we weren’t, we weren’t all that happy at 608 Squadron, I don’t know why but the atmosphere wasn’t the same as when it was on Halifaxes, so we moved to Whitton on this met flight, and er I did er a few ops on that and then war, the war finished and then I stayed on er, I stayed on the met flight, we moved to er Upwood er near Peterborough, and then it was disbanded. It was the 1409, the met flight, and it was disbanded, and we went on to 109 Squadron which was being converted to a met flight, er from there, we had very three quick moves, we went to Woodhall Spa, Wickenby, and Hemswell, all within a month, and then whilst we were at Hemswell, there was a request, they wanted to start a met flight er Mosquitos, at er Malta. So they got ten crews together er and er I’d still got my navigator, and we flew out in a Stirling to Malta and when we got there, the er powers that be said, ‘what are you lot doing here? We don’t know anything about you,’ so we, we appointed, well most of the pilots were flight lieutenants, there’s no other rank above that, so we appointed a spokesman and he went and saw the CO, the Group Captain Station Commander, he said, ‘well I don’t know what’s going on,’ he said, ‘we’ve got no idea of what you are doing there, we, we weren’t told,’ so they gave us er, they gave us an old hut on the far side of Luqa Airfield, they gave us an old lorry to transport us so we just spent a lovely six weeks in Malta going to Valletta and Silema, they didn’t want to know us. Anyway they, whilst we were there, I did manage to get one or two ferry trips in er from Italy in Mosquitos, and er eventually they decided that they weren’t going to form a met flight after all, so we were split up, I went to um a, a, a transit camp at El Marso, which was er well, and my navigator which was just outside Cairo and er literally just kicked our heels. We went into Cario most days, sunbathing at er one of the hotels swimming pools, and then eventually I er got a posting to Ismailia and my navigator got a posting to Heliopolis, which is a suburb of Cairo, and when, and when I got to Ismailia, I reported to the er flight commander, who was er Flight Lieutenant Tommy Grace, I said, well told him the story that I’d been through Malta and we’d er we weren’t required after all and er I said, ‘I don’t know what I’ve come here for?’ I said er, ‘what aircraft do you fly?’ He said, ‘we fly Spitfires,’ so I said, ‘well I haven’t flown a single engine aircraft since I flew a Tiger Moth er when I first er started flying.’ ‘Oh,’ he said ‘I shouldn’t worry about it,’ he said, ‘you’ll soon get used to it,’ gave me the pilots notes on the Spitfire. In those days, there was no dual er Spitfires so er I just got in and went off, and what we were doing, basically we were renovating um aircraft, mostly Spitfires for er the Greek Air Force. We testing them and then there were two Greek pilots there and once we passed them, they had to pass them out and then when we got er about ten Spitfires ready, we used to take them over to Athens with a Lancaster escort to do the navigating and er refuel at er Cyprus, and come back to Egypt in a Lanc as passengers, and of course whilst I was there I managed to get a a trip in a Hurricane, a Mustang and various other training aircraft. Harvard, a thing called a Fairchild Argus, er an Auster, a Proctor. it was a free for all [laughs].
CB: How long were you doing that for?
GD: And then er this would be and then it got to um, it would be, I suppose about May and I had a phone call to say I was wanted over at a tented camp, everything was tents, the mess, the living quarters, everything was tents. There wasn’t a building there apart from the hangars and they said er, ‘we’ve got some Halifaxes here that er we want testing, and we haven’t got a, there’s not a Halifax pilot in the area anywhere that we can know of.' Well just a few weeks prior to that, an engineering officer had also been posted from Kasfareet where I was then, to this place at er Kilo 40, which was known as Gebel Hamzi and um, he’s gone to sleep look [laughs].
CB: He’s doing all right.
GD: [Laughs] and er there were some Yugoslav pilots there who er had never flown Halifaxes, so I had to take them up, test these Halifaxes and er pass these er Yugoslav pilots out to fly them.
CB: Where had they come from then?
GD: Don’t know where they come from, er and then of course whilst I, whilst I was there, I got the opportunity of flying a couple back to this country and er also in that time, I flew, I think it was a couple of Mosquitoes back here, er and my last flight in June ’47 was to bring a Halifax back here which I left at er Thetford.
CB: But what was your unit? If you were flying these things and ferrying them, what was the unit? Was it an MU or was it a squadron?
GD: No, no, no, it wasn’t a squadron. I’ll tell you what it was [opens a draw looking for something].
CB: So just get them. So your unit was at Ismailia still but it was actually an MU as well as flying base?
GD: Well that’s, that’s what it was called, 132 MU.
CB: MU yes.
GD: There was no squadron.
CB: No.
GD: No squadron or anything like that.
CB: What I meant was, MU didn’t normally -
GD: Just 132 and 132 MU
CB: Yes. [Pause] So when you, you delivered the aircraft, Halifax or Mosquito, how did they get you back there?
GD: I came back in used to come back in the York
CB: Ah.
GD: Yeah, where are we [flipping through pages of book] yeah came back in the York from Lyneham.
CB: Lyneham. So you’d fly all these planes into Lyneham would you?
GD: No, no er, one, once I went to Gosforth with one and then we’d nip home for a few days leave and er report back to Lyneham for for, ‘cos that was transport command.
CB: Right. So why were these planes being brought back, what had happened to their crews?
GD: I don’t know, you know, I don’t even know why they were there.
CB: Because the Yugoslav pilots were flying the Halifaxes.
GD: I don’t know where they went to, I was only there, when did I go there, October ’46 I went to Kilo 40 [looking through book], yes I was only there for, only there for a short period.
CB: Yes, but what was the reason for you going out to Ismailia in the first place?
GD: Well that was when, that was when we, we didn’t form the met flight er see.
CB: Right.
GD: When they split us all up at Malta, I don’t know where the others went to but my navigator and myself found ourselves at El Marsa, at this transit camp near Cairo.
CB: So when you returned the Halifaxes to Britain, was it just the two of you on the plane?
GD: Oh no, no.
CB: You had a full crew?
GD: No, no, no we didn’t have gunners, just er er wireless op, navigator, flight engineer, and pilot.
CB: Right.
GD: No, no need for gunners.
CB: No.
GD: And then of course we used to have to clear customs er when we got back here in those days.
CB: What were you bringing back - figs?
GD: [Laughs] Oh they were very hot the customs yeah. I brought a Mosquito back once and they were, they were quite thorough, went all through the fuselage and everything.
CB: What did people bring back then carpets or? I mean a serious point because in the Middle East they made carpets.
GD: Well I suppose people, a few people tried to get back cigarettes and booze, usual thing, but er it wasn’t worth it. No they were too thorough.
CB: So that’s October ’46, you didn’t leave until ’47 so what did you do the rest of the time?
GD: Well I was flying, um doing mostly flying Spitfires on testing.
CB: Because at the MU they’d been repairing them.
GD: Yes, yes.
CB: Any hiccups with that, when you were test flying?
GD: No, no they were, they were in pretty good condition, yeah, but I mean, see there’s one there, Halifax in January er I brought it back to Manston for customs clearance and then took it up to Scotland, to a place called Edsel, but for the life of me, I don’t know how I got back from there. Must have been by rail I think, then the next thing was coming back I, I delivered it to Edsel on the 17th January and flew back in a York a week later.
CB: How long did it take in a York to fly to Ismailia, you made a load of stops?
GD: Er fourteen hours, we went to er Castel Benito and then on to El Marsa, Palestine.
CB: Castel Benito.
GD: No Egypt, North Africa.
CB: Ah yes, in Libya, yes. So how did you find those ferry trips, were they exciting, boring or-
GD: Oh boring, nothing to do, I mean they weren’t comfortable.
CB: What sort of height would you fly?
GD: Oh no idea really.
CB: To keep cool I was thinking.
GD: Wouldn’t be, wouldn’t be that high I shouldn’t think.
CB: No.
GD: Probably around fifteen thousand, probably yes.
CB: So what was the most memorable point about your service in the RAF would you say?
GD: Are you talking about an operation? oh I think um, probably the raid on Peenemunde which er -
CB: How did that go?
GD: Well from our point of view, it went very well but er not so, because when we er, when we went to the briefing er that afternoon, the first thing we noted was that there was extra RAF Police on the door, which we thought was rather unusual and er of course when we got inside and everbody was there and they drew the curtains back, we saw the er the red ribbon going right the way up the North Sea across Denmark to keep us clear of the flak on the North German coast. But er when we were in the briefing, you know, they, they pulled the curtains back and when we saw this track and then it finished up at this vague point on the Baltic coast. I mean we were used to bombing from about eighteen, nineteen thousand feet on German cities you know, big areas, and this target and we weren’t told the precise nature of what was going on there, all we were told was that it was a research station connected with radar, but that it was a very important raid as far as we were concerned, as far as this country was concerned. Because we thought, well I mean, it was just five hundred and ninety six aircraft, what are five hundred and ninety six aircraft doing on a target not much bigger than about two football stadiums, where we were used to er, I mean huge areas. What could possibly be there that would warrant a maximum effort from Bomber Command and of course initially, it was gonna, the raid was gonna take place in three waves, two bomber, two bomber groups in each wave. Now initially, 4 Group which was Halifaxes, together with another Group, I can’t remember which one it was, was scheduled to go in last. Our aiming point was the living quarters where all the scientists and the technicians were, but the schedule was changed, we were moved from the last wave to the first, because they were frightened that our aiming point was gonna to be obscured by smoke from the smoke detonators, so they moved us to the first wave. Which as it turned out was very fortunate from our point of view, I mean we, we ran in on our final run in, er the flak was only light and we, we bombed and turned out and came away, but of course when the raid was halfway over, the night fighters arrived because what had happened in, in with the main force, there were about a small force of Mosquitoes I think it was, about eight that went on to Berlin because they wanted them to think that it was a raid on Berlin. So the Mosquitoes veered off to Berlin, we veered left to Peenemunde and of course, over the previous months Peenemunde had got a bit complacent, because at one time, when Berlin was bombed, although it was about um, I think it was about sixty miles away, the air raid sirens and that all went off at Peenemunde and everything was shut down so it interrupted their all their work. But then of course, Peenemunde was never bombed, it was always Berlin, so of course they got complacent, so when we got there that night, they had no idea that was there was going to be a raid, and over Berlin the Mosquitoes had been dropping window, you know the little slips of aluminium which had been previously used on Hamburg, and the night fighters of course were at their usual height, looking for the heavy bombers at eighteen, twenty, twenty one thousand, and they weren’t there and it was er the, the ground controllers were in turmoil they, the -.
CB: The German ones?
GD: Yeah the German ones. The night fighters were saying well where are they, and the ground controllers couldn’t tell them, and it wasn’t until one pilot happened to spot the fires at Peenemunde about halfway through the raid, that they realised that it was Peenemunde that was being bombed. So of course all the night fighters and I mean it was a perfect night, it was no cloud, er moonlight, we, we went in at seven thousand feet instead of eighteen, nineteen thousand, and er of course once the night fighters got there, they had a field day. We finished up losing forty aircraft, nearly three hundred men
CB: Amazing
GD: So that change from us going from the third to the first wave, I might not have been talking to you now.
CB: Yes yes, saved you. So how long was that flight?
GD: Well it was about seven hours forty I think.
CB: Right.
GD: Seven hours forty I think.
CB: Now going over the Baltic and then, first of all over Denmark and then over the Baltic, how close did you get to Sweden?
GD: Oh not that close the, the main place that we had to er miss if possible was Flensburg, that was a bit of a hot spot for flak, seven hours forty, and then we had er, we had a bad hydraulic leak, so when we came back, we were diverted to a place called Wymeswold in er Lincolnshire, we had to leave the aircraft there it was.
CB: Oh, did you.
GD: Yes, couldn’t fly it back.
CB: So you got the undercarriage down by winding it down did you?
GD: No, no we got the undercarriage down all right, we had no flaps.
CB: Oh I see.
GD: We didn’t have any flaps.
CB: Mmm, okay, so that was the most memorable event of your ops?
GD: The only other thing the, the nearest I suppose I got to getting the chop was um when I was instructing at er Worksop. I was in charge of night flying one night and I had a pupil by the name of Flying Officer Jennings, he was quite experienced, he’d come from flying training command, and he was down to do circuits and bumps, and the, it was a bit like this er, the weather was, it was a bit hazy, not bad not as bad as this, and I said to him, ‘well I’ll come with you on the first circuit, just to make sure that the weather conditions are okay for you to carry on.’ er and I’d arranged for, after we landed, for him to taxi round to the take off point where er transport, I got out, transport picked me up and he went off on his next circuit. When he came round and for some reason, he overshot. Now why he overshot I don’t know whether it was, whether he made an error on his approach or whatever I, I don’t know, anyway that was it, never saw him again. It turned out he crashed at er somewhere near Nottingham and at the, I had to go down to the, I had to go down to the Court of Enquiry and eventually it was found that a prop line had come off so -
CB: Was that the implication it destroyed the aircraft because of vibration or the blade hit the pilot?
GD: I don’t know, I didn’t get the full result, all I know a prop line had come off it would I mean er I don’t know whether he had a chance to feather it or so that was that was a bit of a near do [laughs].
CB: Yeah, How did you like being an instructor?
GD: Oh it was all right but it, it got a bit, it got a bit boring after a while, you know, when you were teaching somebody circuits and landings all that, and then you’d have to go on a cross country with them when they were doing there um, er navigation, they were doing their cross countries you had to er sort of sit there for four or five hours.
CB: Now what about the social life surrounding all of this, how did that work?
GD: Well squadron life was actually quite good because there was no er no bull at all, you know, we didn’t have, we didn’t have parades or anything like that. I mean a typical day would be, we’d go down to flights about nine, nine thirty, report to flight commander, have a look up when they decided whether there was ops on that night, you know, and look at the battle order and see whether you were on. And then er you might go and do an air test if er, there’d been something wrong with your aircraft might go and do an air test, or you might go down to the intelligence office, spend an hour down there, you might go on sometimes, we’d do what you call dry dinghy drill. We’d go out to the dispersal and practice, getting out if we had to ditch um, we might go and do a bit of aircraft recognition, go down the parachute section have a look at them packing parachutes. By lunchtime you were free to do what you want, I mean I played football, I played cricket, I played squash, tennis er it was quite um a sort of casual life apart from the er you know the operations and that the rest of it, was, was quite nice.
CB: Now the successful flight of an aircraft is partly based on ground crew, so how did they, what were they like.
GD: We had a smashing ground crew, you couldn’t, you couldn’t have done the job without them. I mean er we used to take them down to the pub for a beer every now and again, but er you know, you relied on them doing their job properly.
CB: And how many planes did they look after, one, two?
GD: Ooh. I would think, I mean the people that looked after our plane were, always looked after that one and they probably have another, maybe another one, another two.
CB: A topic that comes up occasionally is LMF. What experience did you have of that?
GD: Lack of moral fibre.
CB: Yes.
GD: Yeah we did have one chap that er got er turfed off, he was always turning back, flying officer, and always turning back for some reason or the other until they um they cottoned on to him er and he was shipped off to Sheffield, stripped of his rank.
CB: What did they do to make an example of him, at the station. Did they do anything?
GD: No, one minute they were, there the next minute they were gone, it was all very quick. That was the only, that was the only case that I remember that stood out er.
CB: But that was your squadron?
GD: Yeah.
CB: Was it, how many squadrons on the airfield?
GD: Only ours
CB: Only yours.
GD: Except for Linton.
CB: Yes.
GD: Before we split up with 78, 78 went to Breighton, we went to Holme on Spalding Moor.
CB: And how many aircraft would there be in the squadron?
GD: Er probably about thirty.
CB: So four flights?
GD: Three.
CB: Three flights.
GD: A, B, and C.
CB: Ok.
GD: Roughly ten aircraft a flight.
CB: Some of the raids were quite dicey, others were quiet. How many times did you get chased by fighters?
GD: We never got, we were lucky, we never got chased by a fighter. We got involved with flak quite a bit ‘cos the Ruhr, most of my er trips were to the Ruhr, and er that was pretty heavy for flak there.
CB: So on the run in, can you just talk us through how that worked, what was the timespan you had to settle down before on your way in, so how would that work?
GD: You tried, you tried to get on to your course, your final course for the run in, and then for say five minutes roughly, you were in the hands of the bomb aimer, completely in his hands, you know. He would say, ‘right, left, left, steady, steady, a bit more left,’ until he got to the stage when he would say, ‘bombs are gone,’ and then of course, you had to wait, you had to stay on course for your photo flash.
CB: So how was the, the time you had to stay on course depended on your height for the photo flash to drop, so who worked that out, was that prescribed before you set off?
GD: Yes I mean height, height didn’t really come into it because you knew you were going in at say er eighteen, nineteen thousand, I mean you knew that before you started.
CB: Yes that’s what I meant.
GD: That would be your bombing height so the er flash was er, would follow on from there, but you definitely, that was the worst part, making sure that you stayed until flash operated.
CB: So the bombs went, you were some way from the target when the bombs went?
GD: We were still, yes.
CB: Because of their parabola of the fall.
GD: Forward fall, yes.
CB: And photo flash went how soon after the bombs were released.
GD: Approximately half a minute.
CB: Right, so on balance, you’d have to be steady in order to take your picture, for how long roughly?
GD: About half a minute.
CB: Right, and who operated the camera the bomb aimer or -
GD: That was automatic.
CB: Oh automatic, and what did they do with that picture?
GD: Went to intelligence you might, I don’t think I’ve actually got any, any um somewhere, that’s the sort of picture, look that could be taken, that was probably, that was probably er er a flare.
CB: Yeah, blowing in the wind.
GD: Yeah, but you would, you would hopefully try and get ground detail if possible in the flash.
CB: So what about the smoke, to what extent was smoke over the target a problem for you?
GD: Well yeah, I mean basically, I mean, you bombed on the reds and greens put down by pathfinders.
CB: By pathfinders yeah.
GD: And it was, if it was um er, cloud of course, you did, they did air markings which was called whanganui, I think the air markers but of course, that wasn’t all that accurate.
CB: To what extent could you see other aircraft in the vicinity?
GD: You could see if they were close enough and of course, you did see aircraft being shot down as well.
CB: How did you feel about that?
GD: Hard luck.
CB: Yes.
GD: Not us, I mean my friend Dave at Balcombe we were talking about, they were involved in a mid-air collision.
CB: Were they?
GD: With another Lancaster, they lost six foot of their wing.
CB: And still kept flying?
GD: Managed to get back and land safely.
CB: What about the one that hit them?
GD: The what?
CB: What about the one that hit them?
GD: All went down, all killed.
CB: Oh were they.
GD: Yes.
CB: So effectively, the propeller sliced off the end of the wing but that completely jiggered the other aircraft?
GD: Yeah, well they’d got no aileron, you see.
CB: Right.
GD: The aileron went.
CB: Right.
GD: So he had a job, he had a job to er, I think they lost an engine as well I think on that, so they had yeah er, quite a job bringing it back.
CB: So as a pilot, how would you handle a three engine with bad damage?
GD: Well you’ve got, you’ve got trimming tabs which er would allow you to make sure that the aircraft would go the way you wanted it to, er the trimming tabs of course were actually on the ailerons, but of course on one side, they’d gone.
CB: Yes.
GD: Of course you could, you could feather the engine, you see, where the prop, where the prop blades turn, so you got the least wind resistance.
CB: Yes, so er your speed would normally be what?
GD: Halifax, about a hundred and sixty.
CB: Oh, was it knots or miles per hour?
GD: Knots.
CB: Right, so that’s a hundred and sixty, hundred and seventy five miles an hour. Now were the other bombers in the stream at different heights, so was there a level that the Halifaxes flew at, and a different one that the Lancasters flew at?
GD: Yes.
CB: Why was that?
GD: Well you obviously tried to er spread the raid out as much as you could, if you had everybody, if you had sort of six hundred aircraft, all flying at the same height, whereas Stirlings would be down here, Halifaxes would be there, Lancasters would be there, but er there was always a risk of course and it did happen, that er you would get hit by somebody else’s bomb.
CB: Yeah. Did you see any of that happening?
GD: No, well you saw an explosion but you wouldn’t know what caused it.
CB: No, and thinking of explosions, to what extent did you see aircraft shot down from underneath by Germans, German night fighters?
GD: They hadn’t got that when we on [unclear].
CB: Oh they hadn’t.
GD: No schlagermusic.
CB: Schlagermusic
GD: Yeah, no, that came a bit later.
CB: Okay, so I think we’ve covered a huge range of things but after you left the RAF, what did you do?
GD: I went back to Pickfords, I did my um er, B Licence in London and er went to London School of Air Navigation, but there were so many of us on the market and of course, I mean, in my digs alone, there were nineteen pilots and, and they had about five courses running at the same time, I mean the, the civil airlines hadn’t really got going, the people that scored were the RAF pilots that were seconded to British European Airways before they were demobbed, before the war finished perhaps, but er ‘cos they got in on the ground floor. I mean they’d, in fact I went into the gents, I think it was in was it in Malta, and I stood next to my flight commander at er Holme on Spalding Moor, he was with er British European Airways.
CB: Oh, was he, right.
GD: So, so I, I, I er, I tried one or two places to get a job, but er there was nothing doing, so I went back to Pickfords, because they had to keep your job open you see, all, all companies had to keep your job available for you and in any case, they were, they were half the people anyway, the company and I stayed with them until I retired.
CB: At sixty five.
GD: Sixty.
CB: Sixty. What was you doing at Pickfords then?
GD: I was a branch manager.
CB: Right.
GD: Mmm.
CB: Round here?
GD: And we had a travel business as well.
CB: So where were you operating from, from Pickfords?
GD: Well when I came out the RAF, I went back to Hearne Bay for a while um, for a couple of years, and then I was posted up to Lancashire, er stayed there for about six and a half years, and then down to Aldershot, where I was, I was there for eleven years, and then finally down to here, where I retired. I retired early because there was those were when the pressure started being put on people to produce more [laughs], I’d had enough of that, I did, I didn’t stop work, I, I found several, I used to work for other removal companies, doing estimating and er I went up to London, stood in for the training officer that suddenly went back to Australia. I was there for six months doing the, doing their training so er I didn’t actually pack up work.
CB: As far as associations concerned, was there a squadron association running for many years that you were associated with?
GD: No, not, not to start with, er 76 Squadron Association of course is still going today, um did go to one or two reunions and I also went to two Bomber Command reunions.
CB: Yes.
GD: Where the first one I think was run by the Evening Standard or it was at the Albert Hall.
CB: Oh the Albert Hall.
GD: And everyone was shouting, ‘we want butch, we want butch,’ [laughs].
CB: He’d gone to South Africa. So how do you feel about the, getting the position of getting the clasp now for Bomber Command but not having -
GD: Well I mean quite honestly, when you look at it and you see what it is, and it took all that time and all that argument and, and discussion, and when you finish up with not, I wasn’t bothered about it.
CB: Right, how did you feel about bombing?
GD: Oh I mean don’t forget that. What was I, was, I had my twenty first birthday two weeks after I’d finished my tour on Halifaxes and I mean in those days, an eighteen to twenty year old was a lot different to an eighteen twenty year old today. We were a lot more naïve and don’t forget, I’d seen a lot living at Whitstable, I’d seen all these hordes of German bombers going up to London, and of course places like Coventry and Plymouth and er Southampton, all those places got very badly bombed. And er er no I mean war is war, and women and children are going to get killed, it’s unavoidable. I mean if you take er factories, er take the Ruhr for example, if you’ve got factories, you are going to have people living near them, workers and er not all bombs are going to hit the factory. I, I’ve never felt any guilt about it and of course Bomber Command did get a bad press after the war, what with Dresden.
CB: So when the RAF memorial was unveiled, how did you feel about that?
GD: I thought that was something, it was well worthwhile, well worth waiting for.
CB: ‘Cos you were there?
GD: Yeah it was, it’s a marvellous monument, it’s a marvellous memorial. I mean the sculpture is beautiful. No I think it was, it should have happened a lot earlier, I mean not so much for the people that survived but for the fifty five and half thousand that didn’t.
CB: Yes.
GD: Was a lot you know I mean out of a hundred, what’s it, a hundred and twenty five?
CB: A hundred and twenty five thousand.
GD: Over five fifty five and half killed.
CB: Fifty five thousand five hundred.
GD: It’s a big percentage.
CB: Yes 44.4.
GD: Well take Peenemunde for example.
CB: Yes.
GD: You know fourteen aircraft, nearly three hundred men in one night, and that was only one raid in the war.
CB: Good. Thank you very much indeed, really interesting, fascinating actually.
CB: Just as a recap George, in your early days, when you were at OTU and then HCU and then on the squadron, er how did you go through training for evading fighters? Did you have fighter affiliation? How did that work?
GD: Well the only fighter affiliation we had was when we were at, not on the squadron. I didn’t do any on the squadron but on HCU, we’d just go off and then er we knew that somewhere, usually it was a spitfire who would er appear from nowhere, your gunners, your gunners would be on the alert and er give you the instruction you know, ‘corkscrew right, corkscrew left, dive,’ and er I think we only did about two when I was on HCU two fighter affiliations.
CB: But there would always be a corkscrew in the affiliation would there?
GD: Yes.
CB: And in earnest, how often did you have to use er, corkscrew?
GD: Only once, er I’m trying to think which raid it was, um we got, we got coned.
CB: Oh yes by searchlights.
GD: By one of the um, one of the radar patrolled searchlights, and of course, you were like a, like a, once you’re coned with the blue one, all the others come on and you’re like a fairy sitting on top of a Christmas tree and er straight away, you corkscrew out. We didn’t have to corkscrew because of a fighter but only because of the er getting coned.
CB: And that worked did it?
GD: That worked yeah, but um, er it’s not pleasant.
CB: No.
GD: You just sit sitting up there er, you know, as I say with a like a fairy on a Christmas tree [laughs], you know, you’re the focal point and you’ve gotta get out of it as soon as you can, but fortunately that was the only time we had to do it in combat. We, we were lucky on our tour, we had, I would say, I mean apart from the heavy flak which you got er most of the time um, we, we didn’t get attacked by a fighter and um we had probably a reasonably good tour.
CB: Much damage to the aircraft from flak?
GD: Yeah a few flak holes, yeah, nothing serious.
CB: Ground crew reaction to damaging their aeroplane?
GD: Yeah [laughs], what you bring it like that for [laughs], you ought to know better [laughs].
CB: Did it cost you a beer or two?
GD: Yes [laughs], yes.
CB: So with the ground crew, how did the liaison go?
GD: Oh very well, in fact I kept in touch with one of our ground crew after the war, er a fellow called Johnnie, Johnnie somebody, lived in Stoke Newington.
CB: Was he the chiefy?
GD: No, not the chiefy.
CB: And with the ground crew, who was the main, the person normally linking with them in the aircrew. Was it the pilot or would it be the engineer?
GD: Well both really er because you see, you had the engine fitter, the airframe fitter, the instrument fitter, the instrument man, the armourer, so er they were all they were all involved.
CB: Because you were on the fighting edge of technology in those days, so did you have Gee?
GD: Yeah.
CB: And how did you feel about the use of Gee?
GD: Very good, only trouble was you only got it to about five degrees east.
CB: And you didn’t have GH in those days?
GD: No of course, pathfinders of course came in with H2S and Oboe. I mean the marking the PFM marking was good, yes.
CB: And you’d know the colour of the markers before you set off, would you?
GD: Yes, I mean basically you bombed on the reds.
CB: Right.
GD: Or if not the reds, the green back ups.
CB: Would there always be a master bomber hovering?
GD: No the master bomber, there was a master bomber on Peenemunde, Group Captain Searby, and he directed the er he would say, you know, ‘ignore so and so, or bomb so and so, stop, stop the creepback,’ or whatever.
CB: Was the creep a problem?
GD: Pardon?
CB: Was, was creep much of a problem on targets?
GD: Well it wasn’t providing you stuck to bombing the indicators that you were supposed to, but of course there were some crews you know, that er got a bit hesitant, and er just get rid of them quick and of course if you’ve got fires showing up, you might have your red and green markers, but then you might have fires back coming back, but they weren’t marked so er yeah, there were, there was a bit of creepback sometimes.
CB: Did they have to remark sometimes?
GD: Well I don’t know because you see, you were once you’d done your bombing run.
CB: Yes.
GD: You don’t know what was going on other than that, but we didn’t have any, we didn’t have any master bomber, we didn’t have any master bombers apart from Peenemunde. On er the only other time I was involved with a master bomber was er when we went to er, I think it was Kiel er with a Mosquito, we had a, we had a [looking through book] a special camera.
CB: On the Mosquito?
GD: On that particular night we had a special camera, and we had to er report the um weather conditions to the er master bomber
CB: Right.
GD: On that I don’t know when that was, ‘46 [looking through book], and yeah must have been the last, must have been probably the last one, yeah, we were hit that one, there we were hit in, on both nose cones on er Mosquitos.
CB: By flak?
GD: On a Berlin, yeah, flak hits on both spillers.
CB: Oh, on the spillers.
GD: Yes.
CB: So you were lucky not to lose the engines?
GD: Well yeah because if they’d hit the, if they’d have hit the glycol tanks, that would have been it, there wouldn’t have been any time hardly to -
CB: Was there a particularly vulnerable point on the Mosquito?
GD: No not really, only the engines, ‘cos liquid cooled, so if you got hit with a, if your glycol got punctured, then that was it.
CB: So, you did thirty ops on your first tour.
GD: Yes.
CB: How many did you do on Mosquitos?
GD: Fourteen.
CB: And what stopped that?
GD: The war ended.
CB: Right, now you’ve got a DFC, when was that awarded?
GD: After the completion of the tour on the Halifaxes.
CB: On the Halifaxes, your first tour, do you have the citation for that?
GD: Mm somewhere [laughs].
CB: Only I’m just wondering how they worded it you see?
GD: Oh haven’t got it that I know of, it could be somewhere amongst the debris up in the loft [laughs].
CB: So when you were commissioned was that expected or unexpected?
GD: Unexpected I think, mind you, I think most pilots got commissioned round about halfway through their tour, I mean it was quite a, I was just told that I’d been recommended and went up before the group captain and that was it, it came through.
CB: What did he say?
GD: I can’t remember.
CB: You’re a jolly good.
GD: Funnily enough the next time I met him, he was a Group Captain Hodson, and er when I was at Ismailia, for my sins, I was Tennis Officer [laughs], and er the Group Captain there was a chap called Fletcher, and he called me in one day and he said, ‘I’ve got the Air Vice Marshall coming over from 205 Group in Cairo to play tennis with me, so I want you to make sure everything is tickety boo.’ You know, we had a, we had a pro, a pro, a civilian tennis chap there and he said, I want of course the AOC turned up, I don’t know what he came in, whether he came in an Oxford or not, turned up and Group Captain Fletcher introduced me and it was the same Group Captain that interviewed me for my commission.
CB: Small world. So he said?
GD: He did look at me and he said, ‘I’ve got an idea we might have met before.’ I said, ‘yes sir,’ I said, ‘you interviewed me for my commission,’ ‘that’s it,’ he said, ’76 Squadron.’ Air Vice Marshall Hodson.
CB: Thinking of senior officers and operations, how often did Group Captains and even Wing Commanders go on ops?
GD: It’s funny you should say that, we lost two fairly quickly.
CB: Two which?
GD: Two Group Captains, two Station Commanders.
CB: Did you?
GD: The first one was um er I can’t think of this name, I think his name was er, he got bombed in fact I think there might have been three There was one when the squadron was at Driffield and Driffield was bombed and the station commander was killed.
CB: Early in the war?
GD: Would be, yeah.
CB: Battle of Britain?
GD: And er Group Captain Whittley went as second pilot to a chap called um Jock, it’s in the, it’s in the [unclear] book, oops.
CB: The cups gone over, have you got a cloth.
GD: Group Captain Whittley.
CB: This is the squadron history, is it?
GD: Yeah, see the dawn breaking.
CB: Right.
GD: Er [looking through book] Group Captain John Whittley 1576, yeah, Group Captain Garaway was the one that lost his life in the um he was er
CB: In the bombing raid?
GD: Linton, Linton Station Commander, Group Captain Garaway OBE was struck and killed by fragments from an anti-personnel bomb whilst leading a team to extinguish a serious incendiary blade er blaze, and then of course Whittley followed him. Ah yes, another one 76 [looking through book], yes he flew with er a chap called Jock Cary er and er four were killed, Group Captain Whittley, Pilot Officer David and Sergeants’ Davis and Strange evaded capture and then there was a Wilson, just wondered what happened to him. I think there were three Group Captains in 76 who were lost.
CB: Who were Station Commanders?
GD: Yes.
CB: Were they were allowed to fly, encouraged to fly or how did it work?
GD: They were not encouraged to fly really, they would only do one trip, a trip every now and again.
CB: Yes.
GD: You see even the squadron commanders didn’t. I mean the squadron commander squadron leader, he could probably take up to a year to do his tour because he might only fly once a month.
CB: The wing commander.
GD: And the wing commander.
CB: He’d be the wing commander, the squadron commander.
GD: No that was the flight commander, the squadron commander again, he would only fly er our um, our er squadron commander was a chap called Don Smith, oh what’s a name, a squadron commander that left a week, a fortnight before I joined Cheshire, he was at 76 at Linton and he’d just gone when I joined, yeah.
CB: He had an American wife who used to play the piano in the mess.
GD: Yes, yes.
CB: That came from an earlier interview. Right I think we’ve done extraordinarily well.
GD: That was the code name for um, sky marking, nearly all the er code names for marking were New Zealand, you had Paramata um, what else Paramata.
CB: Oh right.
GD: Paramater.
WT: Betemangui here and how did you and I understand the pathfinders went in which were hugely Mosquitos?
CB: They were Lancasters.
GD: They were both.
WT: And they dropped flares?
GD: Yes
WT: On the bombing area on the area?
GD: Known as target indicators.
WT: How long before you, the bombers, followed them in to bomb, how soon after the flares or whatever it was that were dropped, did the bombers actually come in?
GD: Well I can’t answer that right, because er when we, every trip that I went on the target was nearly always alight when we got there, it would only be the people that were actually in the very first wave that would that would know that.
WT: Right.
GD: I wouldn’t think it wouldn’t be long because er you see once the indicators had gone down, the ground people would know that that was going to be a raid so they would want to get the bombs dropping er fairly quickly.
WT: But I mean were they actually flares that were dropped so they’d burn out fairly quickly?
GD: Oh no, no, they kept alight for a while.
WT: And when you couldn’t see the ground you mentioned sky marking.
GD: Sky marking. Whanganui.
WT: How does that work?
GD: Well they were coloured lights in the sky that would hover, which is why sky marking wasn’t all that accurate because you see they -
CB: They would drift.
GD: They would drift, a ground marker.
WT: Don’t flares drift ground markers?
GD: Oh no, because they’d be actually on the ground, they’d be burning.
WT: Yes.
GD: On the ground
WT: No I meant, sorry I’m being a bit pedantic, but if you’ve got quite a strong wind, and okay, they would allow for that, but I mean, they aren’t going to get it right all the time, you could find that the flares have moved away from the target but therefore?
GD: But that would only happen before they hit the ground,
WT: Right.
GD: Wouldn’t it? If you were dropping a target indicator.
WT: Yes.
GD: It could move before it hit the ground but they, they would know the wind and they would that would be allowed for.
WT: So the accuracy of the pathfinders, for what I’m really getting to, who dropped the flares not only was it critical, but they were very accurate.
GD: Yes because don’t forget, they had what they called Oboe which was er direction where the lines crossed and er they um, Oboe was quite accurate and they would, they would drop their target indicator according to the grat[unclear]
CB: This is transmitters sending out a signal in a line that would then converge in the point where the bomb was to be dropped, that was in the later part of the war.
WT: Very good.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with George Dunn,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 23, 2024,

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