Interview with Bill Moore. Two


Interview with Bill Moore. Two


Bill Moore joined the Royal Air Force after spending time in the Air Defence Cadet Corps, qualifying as an observer. He tells of his family history in wartime and his transatlantic trip, landing in New York before heading to Canada for his training. He went to 138 Squadron and tells of his time flying Lysanders from RAF Tempsford, taking members of Special Operations Executive over the France and also of dropping supplies to the Resistance. He also tells that on one of these operations, his aircraft had to be helped by local villagers to get airborne again. As well as Lysanders, William flew in Hudsons, Stirlings, Halifaxes and Lancasters in Bomber Command. Bill tells about 138 Squadrons part in Operation Manna - he received the Legion of Honour from France and also a Dutch Medal of Commendation. He also tells of his time after the war when he returned to the building trade working in Rhodesia and Zambia.

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02:45:48 audio recording


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 18th of March 2016 and I’m meeting with Bill Moore who was an Observer with the RAF and he is accompanied by his friend Tony Boxall. And we’re going to talk about Bill’s life from the earliest days to the periods after the war. So, Bill, could you start by telling us about your early days?
WM: Well, I was, I was born in a town called Dunoon in the West of Scotland in 1924 and I was, at that time, I was the eldest of three children, I became that, and then of course what happened? We moved house from a little single ended cottage and we moved in to a brand new council house. And of course we gradually became a family of five. I was the eldest of course, as I said, with —
CB: Keep going.
WM: With two sisters and two brothers. My, my father was a slater and plasterer, Builder, and my mother had been what later on in life people called them Land Army girls because she’d done that during the First World War and my father had been in the Royal Scots Fusiliers right through, right through the First World War. And later on he, he was, he was taken on ship board to India where they, they actually were the garrison at various towns for a, for a few years up to there, you know. Alright. And then, and then of course what happened was that he came back to Dunoon and met and married my mother and as I say he also then went back into the building trade, you know. That is the sort of life that people did, they were in the army and then back into Civvy Street and later on in life that’s exactly what happened to us. Now, I, I attended Dunoon Grammar School all the way though, Right from the infant class right through into, into High School and I enjoyed it. I was never a person who didn’t enjoy school and at the same time after school I worked in various sort of capacities like in butchers shops and deliveries and all these sort of things that, in those days, people had to do to help augment the family incomes. I left, I left school when I was thirteen. The reason why was because the incomes that they could draw at that time wasn’t sufficient to keep the family going and being the eldest one I was out of school, as I say, at thirteen and I [pause] I was employed. I was employed by people called the Richmond Park Laundry which is, or was at that time, the biggest laundry in Glasgow but which is now gone. Then what happened then was, was that the war clouds were coming and I joined the Air Defence Cadet Corps. The Air Defence Cadet Corps was the forerunner of the Air Training Corps. And of course to do that we had to go to Abbotsinch, which is now Glasgow Airport and that was where we, we got the feeling for the Royal Air Force. Also that was where I saw my first Wellington and we certainly fell in love with it because all the other aircraft that we had seen from there, there on for many years was all the old ones that had been scattered around the country. Then of course, when the, when the Air Training Corps started we changed over, we volunteered for that and on the, on the Tuesday night I joined up and signed up. I went back again on the Friday night and the Friday night I became a flight sergeant which was instant promotion. And the reason for that was, was that I had been in the Air Defence Cadet Corps. We er, what we did was we, we had courses run in the Dunoon Grammar School by teachers who had become officers in the Air Training Corps and one particular gentleman there — Mr D. J. McDermid was the one that I’d looked up to for many years through the Boys Brigade and other organisations like that. And also a Mr Oswald Brown. And Mr Oswald Brown was the mathematics teacher and of course he was the one who actually taught us the rudiments of navigation. And we did that until we were old enough to, to volunteer for the Royal Air Force. Now, during, during that time we sat the examinations and all the way up through till we were actually ready for the aircrew selection. When I was old enough I went to Edinburgh and I was on the selection course there. I come out with very high marks and I got my little silver badge and I then became a member of the Royal Air Force. We, we didn’t get a number but we had various facts and figures written down about what we were. Then of course you had to wait your turn until such times as, as they had space for you. Well that’s what they said. So you got called up and then of course you were VR. And we eventually went to London and, of course, with that of course that was ACRC and that was at Lord’s Cricket Ground along with many other people which was quite strange. I met one or two chaps that day from all over the country, Some of them that I was with for quite a long time and before we actually finished at ITW. From, from London of course we went to ITW and my ITW was Number 17 in Scarborough based at the [pause] now what was it? Based at one of the, one of the hotels in Scarborough. And likewise of course in Scarborough there was about five other different ITWs. My, my hotel that I eventually landed up with was the Adelphi Hotel which was right above the Italian Gardens in Scarborough itself. In the Italian Gardens there was all the swimming pool and all the little offices attached to the swimming pool and that is where we did all the navigation and training like that, in the actual [pause] actual course at Scarborough. The gymnastics, the PT and all that other stuff was held at Scarborough College which was a very good asset. We had our own swimming pool in the Italian Gardens so that was also very good for us. Most of our drill and disciplinary actions was taught on the esplanade in front of the Adelphi Hotel and above the Italian Gardens. We [pause] we had a small, a small flight, and a few days after we were beginning to settle down, we got quite a surprise and we had a group of Belgian boys came across and joined us. They joined us there and it was a very good experience because most of them had been through High School and their English was very good compared with our limit in French or whatever dialect they said that they spoke. But it was very good because we got a good background of the continent which most of us had never had. Well, on completing of the ITW course I was given a job which was a temporary thing, I became the rations officer and I used to deliver all the foodstuffs from the main offices in Scarborough to all the different ITWs and that lasted for a couple of weeks. It was very good to get a responsibility like that because you really had to make sure that everything was right on the button. Otherwise, the sergeants and people in charge of all the kitchens as you went around certainly were very tough on you. During, during that particular time we, we went round all, all the various ITWs in Scarborough and as a matter of courtesy we actually visited one after the other and they did the same to us. And then of course we used to always go on a journey, see all the different church parades, you know. And an aside to one thing was my great friend here — and Ernie Taylor his name, who later became a fighter pilot in Spitfires and Hurricanes and Mosquitos, and although we were in Scarborough at the same time and been on parades at the same time and did various other things we never actually met up and we didn’t meet up officially until I came here in nineteen eighty — [pause] I beg your pardon, in [pause] yeah, 1983, when I returned from Africa. But that’s a different story, I can come back to that one. When people had vacancies for us then we went to different places from Scarborough. Well the first place that I went to was to Scone, Scone in Scotland. Just outside of Perth, and that was where we were, we were flying on Tiger Moths. We did the course there And anybody who has ever been to Scone Airport always remember that they had a bump in the, in the runway and when you went down there you lost the horizon, then all of a sudden you were airborne, and if you missed the bump you were always in trouble. But that was it, it was a good thing to know. And the instructors there were mainly, mainly chaps who’d, who had served all over world with the Royal Air Force. A lot of them had been out in the desert, various ones, And they had been recalled for to train people like us. Especially at Scone near where we were. Well we, we actually graduated from there and in those days you said that you were a LAC, Leading Aircraftsman, Which was quite good, It meant that you got a few more shillings in your pocket but that was about all it was. Sometimes they didn’t even have time to issue the propeller to you, but before you knew where you were you were away doing something else. But anyway, what happened to us, I say us because there was a few from 17 ITW, we, we went to a place called Broughton-in-Furness. Now Broughton-in-Furness — that, that was a, like an escape course, or a commando course or whatever you wanted to call it but really and truly it was like an escape course and you were taught all the rudiments of, of the bush. Well, as a matter of fact being a country boy I quite excelled in that and I got the red lanyard again which I already had when I’d been at Scarborough which gave you a little bit of authority, but as soon as the parades were off you took the lanyard off and that was it. But the lanyard, lanyard was just to give you that bit of authority for parades etcetera, etcetera. From, from there we went to, to Manchester, to Heaton Park. Now, Heaton Park you were either billeted in the Nissen huts which was standard accommodation, about fourteen men to a hut, or you were lucky enough to be billeted outside in somebody’s back room, Or front room, And we enjoyed that for, for a couple of weeks. We were actually put in to a lady’s front room, Two of us, And that was a chap called Alec Kerr and myself, And Alec was one of the ones that, from Peterborough, that I had met on that first, first day in London. It seemed to be that we kept bobbing up wherever we were on, maybe because Kerr and Moore was near enough on the alphabetical list. But anyway we shared the room there and if we gave the lady a half a crown a week each she used to leave the window open so that there was no bother about coming home at night time. But that was, that was more or less just across the road or nearby to Heaton Park. We never took advantage of it, always made sure that we were in before midnight although you were supposed to be the same as the camp, in about half past ten, you know. Well once we got over that stage we were called up into the park and put into a Nissen hut, the same as everybody did, and then we did some more drill and discipline and listened to the Royal Air Force tunes that was drummed into you so that you’d know whatever was being sounded was what you did. And of course if the, if the tunes came up to a certain degree then you had to — whatever you were doing — you had to march to attention, and if you got caught not marching to attention when these tunes were being played you found yourself on KP or something else like that. I managed to avoid that so I was quite lucky. Maybe it’s because it was drummed into my head that you always smartened yourself up whenever these tunes were played. Anyway, we, we eventually got we didn’t really do a lot of, we had a lot of talks on various things but we didn’t do any stuff for examinations. But all of a, all of a sudden you began to, you began to assemble in to different groups, your name was put here and then was put there and it wasn’t alphabetical either and the next thing you knew that you were ABC or DEF or whatever else it was, and eventually these groups were how you were going to be posted away from, from Heaton Park. And with that at Heaton Park — Heaton Park I was, I was KL and KL and M was quite good for me, I didn’t know too much about it and neither did anybody else. But one day, one day we were fitted out with kit and we were told that we would probably go to Rhodesia, And everybody said, ‘Oh. We’re going to Rhodesia. Oh that’s — that’s a cushy number there. You go all the way in the boat and then you go to Cape Town and then you go on a train and you go all the way up to either Salisbury or Bulawayo.’ Well everybody thought oh this is, this is good, anyway , that was a special uniform you got for going to Rhodesia, it was different from those who went to South Africa. Anyway, what happened then was that we, we started assembling in these groups. So the groups one day were 12 o’clock noon, the bell went and we formed up and the next thing we were told, ‘Get your kit together. You’re off.’, ‘Oh. We’re off. Where are we going?’, ‘We’re not telling you where you’re going. You’re off.’ So we got all this kit and we went to Liverpool and [pause] a little memento here of a ship called the Andes, A N D E S, which was a brand new ship just before the war. That ship had come up the Clyde in to the Holy Loch in all its glory because it was supposed to be on the South American run. And it was a beautiful ship, all brand new, And we boarded this ship in Liverpool. And who was beside me? Alec Kerr. Oh, ‘Alec. How did we manage this?’, He said, ‘I don’t know.’ He says, ‘Just the names seemed to come up again and we’re here together.’ I said, ‘Oh good.’ So, anyway we went down to K deck, I thought it wasn’t bad, it was well down in the ship but being a new ship it was quite good. Anyway, we, we stayed there overnight. The ship didn’t move. And we had another fellow with us there and his name was Ted Weir, and Ted Weir was thirty three. Thirty three. And we were only leaving UK. So he said, ‘My God,’ he said, ‘my wife’s expecting a baby,’ and we said, ‘What? You’re an old man for having a baby.’ He said, ‘Yes. I’ve just got word.’ I said, ‘What are you going to do?’ He said, ‘I’m going to slip off tonight and go and see the baby. In case I never get another chance.’ I said, ‘Alright. Alright Ted. How are you going to do it?’ He said, ‘I’m going to go down the anchor [inaudible].’ I said, ‘Well if you don’t come back you’re in big trouble.’ Anyway, about 2 o’clock in the morning and he came back. We hadn’t moved. So Ted Weir, thirty three plus, had seen his baby, a little boy with ginger hair like him, so he was quite happy. But we never saw the baby, we never saw photographs but we were told plenty about him. So anyway around about mid-day the next day the Andes took off. So anyway away we go, away we go down the Mersey and around the top of Northern Ireland. We were sailing well and it was good weather, we went, ‘Oh this is a piece of cake. Nice cruise we’re on on a ship.’ So there we go. Judgement, you know. I said, ‘We’ve left. We’ve left Ireland now. We’re heading for the Bay of Biscay.’ Anyway, that night we were up on a deck and I said to, I said to Alec and Ted, I said, ‘This ship’s going the wrong way.’ And they said, ‘You and your Clyde navigation.’ I said, ‘Me and my Clyde navigation. We’re going the wrong way.’ So, in the morning we were back in Liverpool, right back where we left. Anyway, we wondered what was going to happen there, so we were told to keep our kit all close together and all the rest of it. Anyway, I looked across from where we were, out and I said to, I said to Alec, I said, ‘The 534.’ And Ted Weir said, ‘What’s the 534?’, I said, ‘I’m not telling you. You might be a spy,’ you know. He says, ‘Come on Bill. Tell me. What’s the 534?’, ‘Oh a 534’s got three funnels hasn’t it?’ He said, ‘Yes.’, ‘Well that’s the Queen Mary.’ [pause] So we, we were twelve hours later, we were on the Queen Mary and the next thing we knew we were heading west. So where did we go? We landed up in New York. We were only in New York about twenty four hours, a bit longer. We had a great crossing, everything was fine. And as I say we got in to New York and we had a bit of shore time which was unusual. We were given strict instructions that you would be in the chucky if, if you didn’t come back in time. So anyway they trusted us so off we went, came back, and we, we were taken to the train station as they call it there. And we were all put on these lovely trains with beds and everything, you know, so, oh this is ideal. Anyway, it was American trains and sometime, sometime the following morning we pulled out and we wondered where, where we were going. There was all sorts of bets on, we were going to Arizona, we’re going to this, we’re going to that. No, no, we didn’t go there. We went to Moncton, New Brunswick, in Canada. And that’s where we, where we started getting a bit of trouble because we, we didn’t have much uniform. Some of it, we’d changed some of the stuff, you know. Typical Air Force . You weren’t allowed this if you had that and things like that. Anyway, we walked around there and the saying up there was like a squaw and later on in life I used to call like a ‘Matabeleland nanny,’ you know. Anyway, we got up there and Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick was the centre in Canada where, where people were sent all over Canada and sometimes down to the States etcetera, etcetera, you know, so once we get up there then we found out what we were actually going to do. Anyway, Alec Kerr and Ted Weir and myself, we were still together and, well it was more luck than judgement, and we didn’t do much there. As a matter of fact we learned, we learned all the names for Canadian names, American names for things. Pie a la mode for a sweet and this, that and the next thing. All the fancy things which we thought we might be getting to eat. Although the diet there was terrific compared to what we had in the UK, the UK diet was excellent. Plain Jane and no nonsense but when we got to, we got to New Brunswick we even got ice cream and things like that. Anyway, one day we, our names appeared on, on a notice board and we were deftly got different parades as people called it in the Air Force , you know. Now, when you join the Air Force you volunteer, butthat’s the last time you ever volunteer for anything, so by this time we were just told what we were going to do. So some people were down for pilots, some people for navigators, some people for wireless operators, all sorts of different things come up, you know, and then of course there was various other bits and pieces that came up, you know. Anyway, we went off in the train and about five, about five days later we got to Winnipeg. We changed trains in Winnipeg, all the way across to Canada to there. We’d actually been in one train and one bed and we used to get off and stretch our legs and get an hour or so while they put new coal and stuff on the, on the train and then we went back on and away we went to the next station. And we had quite a wee bit, and there was one, there was one time I was off and somebody says, ‘You’d better have a haircut’. I said, ‘Alright. I’ll have a haircut’. So I went in and typical me, you know, I went in and I said, ‘Can I have a haircut please?’, ‘Yes. How would you like it?’, ‘Oh I don’t want it, I don’t want it too short and I don’t want it long otherwise I’ll be in trouble’., ‘We’ll give you a Canadian one’., ‘Ok. Fine’. Anyway, I got settled back in the chair and the next thing I knew it cost me fifteen bucks because I went to sleep. I’m still a person who could go to sleep with just sitting, sitting around for a few minutes. Anyway, when I woke up, he says, ‘Yes. You agreed. Every time I told you what you wanted you nodded your head’. I said, ‘Oh. Thank you very much’. So I was fifteen bucks short. Anyway, that was alright. Well, eventually from from Winnipeg we went up to Manitoba. Dauphin, Manitoba. Right up, right up in the top of Manitoba itself, right up north, Dauphin and Paulson and various places like that. And we looked around for the town. It was a hamlet. Dauphin wasn’t too bad but Paulsen, I think it was twelve, twelve houses that was there, you know and we had, we had more people in the camp then there were civilians around us, you know. Anyway, that was quite good. We, we went training there and we did, we did the basics of gunnery there, and started off with the, we had 22s and we did a lot of clay pigeon shooting in the hangars because by this time there was six feet of snow outside, you know. And we didn’t, we didn’t go very far, but we got one or two flights in those Ansons, the early ones, so that wasn’t bad. Getting us accustomed to, to flying as they called it and then, and then of course what happened after that was that they began to tell us what we were going to do. Well some of the chaps, some of the chaps were down as pilots and they went off to another ‘drome nearby. Some of us took in navigation, and some, some took in wireless and gunnery. But what we did was we did the whole lot, we did POSB, you know. And that was, that was the, we all took the full course pilot — pilot, observer, navigator the whole thing, you know. We were beginning to find out what it was all about. It was very gentlemanly, there was civilian pilots and civilian instructors, things like that. All sort of chaps in their early thirties — early forties or thirties and they were our instructors. Anyway, about a few weeks later we were divided up again and this time it was a full, a full gunnery course that we did, everybody had to do that. We had a full gunnery course, and then we had a wireless course, and that kept us the whole time. Even the gunnery course kept us going the whole time. And you might, you might have, instead of maybe having five or six courses for gunnery or something like that they slackened down so you were beginning to realise what you were actually going to do. So what we did then, what we did then was we went across to the pilot’s school. They never told you whether you failed or otherwise. They would say we need seven pilots and that was seven pilots. The first seven in the list became pilots and the rest of us then went in for, for navigation and bomb aiming, and we still carried on with the wireless and we still carried on with the gunnery. Then of course we went up and the next thing, the next thing what we knew was we were concentrating more on navigation than we were anything else although we still carried on every now and again, keep our hand in at wireless, at wireless and gunnery. Well we actually graduated in each of these places and were passed on to different, different sections there and then we had a big change. We went over to Dauphin. Dauphin, Dauphin was quite, quite a town by their standards, there were shops in the village and places like that and we got quite friendly with the local people, and I got friendly with a couple who’d come out from Scotland many years ago. And they had a grown up family of a son who was already in the Air Force and a daughter and there was another girl who stayed with them and she was the fiancé of the son. Anyway, that’s another little story. Anyway, we were quite friendly with them and visited them when we could and had the usual, we had our Christmas lunch there for a start. We went to dances, we went to everything in our spare time, the usual sort of thing. Made ourself, we were told to mix which was very good. And then of course we went up through and you actually, you actually graduated or you failed. If you didn’t graduate and you failed then you were sent to a straight gunnery school and that was, that was to be, that was just to be on a gunnery course. There was no shame to it, it was a good course. Other people went to wireless operator and gunnery, that was also a good course but certainly a little bit different. Anyway, we did, we went on to the straight navigation course and that was, that was fine. Then of course we graduated. You didn’t get any, any stripes, you didn’t get any. You just, just moved out and of course by that time they had, they had AC2s and AC1s instead of the, instead of the LACs so we never did get these props, but we were changed from LACs to AC1s. Anyway, the next thing we knew we had, we had a week’s leave, a week to ten days leave and which was very nice. We got rail warrants for where we could go and all the rest of it, that was ideal. And then we came back and when we come back from there we actually got posted to different places and I got posted to a place called Portage la Prairie. Now Portage la Prairie is a very special, a very special school. Portage la Prairie was Number 7 Observer School. In other words you are doing things slightly different from navigation and we concentrated a lot on [pause] on different, different subjects and one of them of course was low flying and be able to map read. That was quite easy in Canada but, anyway, later on it was a different story. But that was, that was Portage la Prairie. Now Portage la Prairie is still going today and every four years the commandant of Portage la Prairie comes across here to the UK and he and his family take up residence here, and I have, I have met three different families now that came from Portage la Prairie. Anyway, going back, going back to Portage we did this specialised training, navigation etcetera, etcetera like that and observer training and then we, we went in to, we went into Winnipeg. We went to Winnipeg and we attended various courses in there which we didn’t really know what it was all about but it was courses that we were really specialists in. That was what it was, we were specialists in different things, you know. Then we went back of course to, we went back of course to the main station again, and then we got leave. We got some leave and I managed to, I managed to get to see quite a bit of Canada. And then the next thing we knew we were back in Moncton. Moncton, New Brunswick. In Moncton, New Brunswick we had, we had maybe a week or a couple of weeks or whatever, whatever was, until we actually got sent back to the UK. Now, when, when that, when that happened you were called in to a room and we were allowed two big full size kit bags. One that you could take your Air Force kit in and one that you could put all your civilian stuff in, including all the things that you’d bought when you were in Canada and the States and things like that. [pause] And then of course what happened, you were told that you might have a preference of flying back which meant that you could only take one, one kit bag with you and that would, that would be your service kit bag and the other one would come later. On the other hand if you, if you went by sea, returned by sea, you could take the two of them. So at that time everybody thought, ‘Oh well. Everything we’ve saved up for is in that other kit bag.’ [laughs] So we opted to try and get back by, back by sea. So anyway that did happen and we went down, we went down to, [pause] we went down to the railway station this day with all our kit and there we were heading towards the sea. So we went down and when we went down there, there was a ship there. And this ship that was in the dock, I recognised it, and I was just saying to the fellows that were with me, my other two friends had gone, but other ones, I said, ‘This looks like the Empress Line, you know’, ‘Oh. Empress. How do you know that?’ I said, ‘They used to sail down the Clyde every Friday night and we used to watch them, you know. So, anyway, this one turned out and it was named the Empress of Scotland, you know. As I was walking around it I picked up a little bit of information. It used to be the Empress of Japan and during the war they had changed it, changed it from the Empress of Japan to the Empress of Scotland. So, that was Halifax that we were in. So what we did was one day we up-anchored and away we went and of course as we were going out there we were, we had some little ships, something like the corvettes that we had in the UK, and they followed us out quite a bit in to the Atlantic. Then one morning they weren’t there, so you were on your own. Anyway, we, we were sleeping once again away down in the depths of the ship and we said, ‘You know, if we go down there and we are in the mid-Atlantic and we get torpedoed I don’t think we’d ever get out of there you know’, because we timed it and the timing was pretty good because we’d done two or three different runs. And we said, ‘Oh bugger it. We’ll try and sleep up on deck’, but by this time it was summer weather so we actually slept up on deck. And then one day I looked up and I said, ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I know where we are’, I said, ‘We’re heading for the Clyde’. And we did. And we sailed right up the Clyde, up to Gourock and we lay off Gourock there and I saw a lot of the older men who were working on the boats there that I knew from my home town. Dunoon area. But we weren’t allowed to talk to anybody. We were told, ‘No, No, No, No, We don’t want anybody to know where you’ve come from or anything like that.’ So we got down and got onto a boat which was called the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Mary 2 was a passenger boat that used to ply between Gourock and Greenock and Dunoon on the Clyde but she was bare by this time and she was painted grey the same as the rest. But she was used to ferry people from the liners across to Gourock or Princes Pier, and what happened then was that you went on a train to somewhere, you know. And of course eventually, eventually we did that. And we landed up, landed up in, we landed up in Yorkshire, that’s where we got to, you know. And we got there and we were billeted in one of the colleges and that was great. There was running hot and cold water and things like that and at night you could get out and you could go up to the pub because you’d already been given some money, British money, and we had two or three days there, you know and during this time this friend of mine and I’d met up with Alec Kerr again and we, we went in to this pub and I looked in this big mirror, you know and I said, ‘Look, I know that chap, that Canadian over there’. He said, ‘No you don’t’, I said, ‘Look. I’ll bet you a couple of pints’. He says, ‘Are you sure? Alright I’ll take you on’, ‘Alright’. I said. I said, ‘Yeah. I’m sure. Are you betting against me?’ He said, ‘Yeah. You don’t. There’s so many Canadians here’. Anyway, I went up to him and I said, ‘Oh by the way that was a nice wristwatch that you gave to your girlfriend at Christmas’. He was just about ready to put his [inaudible] up. He said, ‘Why?’ I said ‘Because I took her to a dance’, you know. And I said, ‘Draw that back’, I said, ‘Your names Nicholson, you know. And your, your girlfriend is staying with your mother and father because your parents are working on the railway’, you know. [laughs]. So what he was going to do to me, you know. Anyway, it was quite fun. We had, we had these couple of pints and we had a good night and he had to go his way and we went ours, I never saw him again after that. But it was quite strange. By the time I got home my mother and his mother had been corresponding, you know and she knew all about him and all the rest of it and that was it, you know. And apparently, apparently, the other one knew all about me, you know. [laughs] But from there, from there we, we were, we were back in the Royal Air Force, you know. It was entirely different again you know. Back in the Royal Air Force. This time we were shipped, shipped down to [pause] where would we call it? [pause] My kid’s staying there at the moment. I’ll get back to it. Let me get this. [pause] What — it was a station. The station is Halfpenny Green, you know and we, there were several of us went there, about a half a dozen, but other ones were scattered all over the place, you know. And once, once we get into Halfpenny Green we discovered that we were on specialised training of low level flying on the, on the new Anson, you know. And we did all sorts of stuff but this time of course it was Royal Air Force pilots and they were a lot of chaps who had actually been on service and they’d been lucky enough to have done a tour on something or someway and landed up there on the same as us, low level flying. But as I say most of them were actually stationed there and knew they were there for a while. Anyway, we went, we went there and we actually wondered why we were doing this because really and, really and truly it was just about the only thing we did. We did the night flying and we did this, we did that. We was also a lot of it was either moonlight or daylight. Anyway, what happened then was, of course what we didn’t know was that we’d been selected, selected for duties where, where your low level flying and stuff like that was good, you know. Of course, anyway, by that time that was one of the things we wondered why but you never asked too much. And then of course you had some night flying where you’re up flying low over Wales and all the rest of it and going, actually doing bombing runs under different bridges there and things like that just to keep your hand in, and then eventually we went to, we went to different, different stations again, you know. From [pause] from there [pause] sorry about that.
CB: Do you want to stop for a mo?
WM: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Ok.
[Recording paused]
WM: I had a break there.
CB: We’re re-starting.
WM: Fine.
CB: Ok.
WM: From there we were actually transferred to a secret ‘drome. We didn’t believe it was secret until we got there. As a matter of fact on the way everybody was saying it must, it must be like an ordinary station, and then as we, as we get nearer there with the talk that was coming back to us it really was secret, and that turned out to be Tempsford. Now, the big thing about that was, was that the first thing you did when you get inside you get lined up and you had a nice, sort of friendly talk. And they said, ‘Right you’ve now got to sign the Secrets Act again but this time it’s for real.
CB: Right.
WM: If you talk about anything and it gets out anywhere you will be shot, that’s how serious it is. And as a matter of fact a couple of times the little pub there — The Wheatsheaf — was closed because they thought that it might have been that some information might have been getting out through the pub. There was always the chance that somebody might have said something, although , as I say, we were sworn to secrecy. Now, what we didn’t realise at the time was what we were going to do because nobody told us and nobody would tell us. Now, after, after about a week I think what had been they were actually assessing our characters as they could see them there. They began to take confidence in us and give us that little bit of confidence, you know, and then we found out what it was all about. At that time the CO come in and he spoke to us and he told us what it was all about. And then we realised to what extent the secrecy was demanded because not only was the fact was that the people you were taking in to the occupied countries were in danger of their life but you also were. And what was given to us was, ‘You don’t communicate with them, and they don’t communicate with you’. I do know for a fact that the Americans later on when they started getting into things they used to call the people Joe’s and things like that, but we were not for that at all. We did not say, we did not take, if you turned around and say, ‘You’ve got a bunch of Joe’s there’ well right away people would know you had a bunch of people and where they come from. But the big thing about it was that in most times you just went out on one aircraft to one airfield, and that wasn’t too bad at all. Although there was a couple of occasions where about twenty agents who had been rounded up and all shot out of hand by somebody who had given, given them away, and that happened to be a person of the same nationality. We don’t like to say exactly what it was, I know people have written about it. But on the other hand is this, that we don’t like to think that, that the people helping our agents once on the ground was people that gave them away but it’s a sad story to say that it was. The worst part of that from time to time was in Holland, you know. And the bad thing about it was that the man who was responsible for so many deaths at one time was actually based in London, you know. He was, he was a, he was a Dutchman, yeah, and of course the Dutch people are still horrified about that, you know. That their own people could give them away, you know. Anyway, what did happen was that we were told exactly what was going to happen was that you would be allocated a pilot because then by that time I was classified as an observer. You had your pilot and you and he actually spoke over about what was going to happen. Once we knew where we were going and how many people we were liable to be taking. Well the thing is this. You can all imagine about Lysanders, they can’t carry very many people, but the lighter the people were the more we could actually take and that was a fact. And of course we were, we were told all sorts to keep our weight down. Now, I can assure you that it wasn’t too hard to do that but at the same time you had to make sure that you kept within limits. Now, when, when an operation was on, whatever was going to happen, however you wanted to count it or name it then everybody, everybody who was concerned once again knew what was going on. They knew how secret it had to be, they knew that people’s lives were depending on it, whether it was the team flying them out or the people going out. Now, what did, what did happen was that going back, going back to the time of navigating and taking everything on the map-readings and being able to do that. Nine times out of ten we were jolly lucky but sometimes you might have been landing in a field which was next door to the one that you were supposed to be landing, and the ground wasn’t exactly good. But, of course, the fields that we were landing on had, nothing had been done to them since the pre-war days and one or two of them had been glider schools that people had been taught to glide from, because then these fields had been disbanded and walked away from, you know, and people kept away from them. But they were the kind of fields that were the best for landing on. They had been, they had been more or less gone over in early days because gliding, gliding in Europe was quite a sport before the war. It wasn’t too, too strong in the UK but in, in Europe it was very strong from time to time, you know. And of course, as I say taking, taking people in it was the big thing was to make sure where you were going, how long it would be and as much as possible you had to be exactly on time because a few minutes either way could have cost people their lives because there was people that was coming in to meet the ones that was being taken in and there was also people further along the lines to receive them, so everything had to be timed exactly. If you had strong headwinds going across to the continent and you might have lost twenty minutes or things like that. That was too bad but at the same time, at the same time you had to try and do something about it. And the best thing that we used to do was to try, try and get that little bit extra speed and keep down as low as we could, then of course you had, you had more dangers than you normally would have with wires and all the rest of it, you know. But everything was done more or less by moonlight and that was as best as we could do it. The big, the big thing about it was trust. Now, with the early, the early days there was quite a few of the chaps who were flying there had, had been flying over that area either as people who had money and could fly about etcetera, etcetera or they were people who had been in flying clubs, so they were the best people to get some of the ideas from of how you could do it. Now, the big thing too was that we had, we had some officers with us who were exceptional in whatever it was, whether they were pilots or whether they were navigators or whether they were doing exactly what we were doing, you know because [pause] when they, when they told you about things you certainly listened to them.
WM: After a while we actually got, we got some twin-engined aircraft from America and with them they were quite good because they were actually designed to land in the Prairies in Canada or America and their undercarriage was strong. That the likes of the fields that we were operating on they could be taken in and that was, that was one of the good things that happened there. Now there was one particular night and we were loaded up with guns and ammunition and all these sort of things for the Maquis and we had our target where we had to take it to. Anyway, we set off and we had just the three of us in the aircraft. There was the skipper, myself and another chap who, well, nowadays you would call him a loadmaster or something like that. He was the chap that made sure that the load was alright, well maybe that was where the name came from, I don’t know, but that was what he always had to do. Anyway, this particular night we came in to this ‘drome which had been an airfield for, for the [pause] I beg your pardon, an airfield for the gliders. As we came up and we turned around we began to sink. And we felt, well, that would be alright. Nobby turned around and said, ‘Its alright Bill. Once we get rid of this stuff we’ll rise alright’. you know. So Jim, in the back, shouts, ‘Well I bloody well hope so. I don’t want to be kept around here for a while’, you know. Anyway, what did happen was that the Maquis came there with their person in charge, they got all their stuff away and off they went into the bush and that was the end of them. They were gone. Anyway, we tried to get out and we hadn’t got out at all, we’d got out a little bit. Not bad. Anyway, the leader of the group on the ground, and it was a lady, and what she says was, ‘We’ll get you out. Don’t worry. We’ll get you out.’ And we said, ‘How?’, ‘Oh we’ll get you out’. So she actually went to the village and she rounded up everyone in the village and of course they weren’t supposed to move, they weren’t supposed to go out after dark, but man, woman and child all came out to help get us out and of course they had to try and find articles that would help. Anyway, when they were half way up they met a German sergeant, and the German sergeant said, ‘Right. You people. You shouldn’t be out at night time. What are you doing?’ Or words to that effect. And she says, ‘We’re trying to get your big black aircraft out of the mud and the Gestapo’s going to shoot us all including you if we don’t get the job done’. So he says, ‘That’s alright. I’ll go and look after the village and you can get the aircraft out’. So, anyway, he went back to the village and they got us out, but that was about an hour and a half on the ground instead of, at the most, twenty minutes. And as I say when we took off that was one of the best take-offs we ever had because we made sure that she was up and ready to go. But the only thing, time, well, what used to happen to us was we used to get the odd chap on the ground who heard an aeroplane coming and you used to hear ‘bang, bang’ and he would shoot at us with a rifle or something like that, or sometimes even thought it was somebody with a shotgun because we didn’t know it at the time but when you got back again you found the results on your aircraft. And these old aircraft, they could take it you know which was, which was a big thing. But that that was the nearest that we got to ever being interned because we were, we were very lucky. I put, I put it down to each of us doing our own work, you know and able to do the job that we set out to do. There’s the big black box down there if you want to take it home and use it. Would you like to use it?
CB: Yeah.
WM: [laughs] Do you know what it is?
CB: No. What is it?
WM: What is it Tony?
TB: I don’t know. What are we talking about?
WM: In there. Around this side. [pause] Down.
TB: That. No. Where am I looking?
CB: We’ll have a look in a minute.
TB: Yeah.
WM: Over there.
TB: Ok.
WM: No. The big thing. The big thing down there.
TB: I don’t know.
WM: It’s alright. It’s been shifted. The girl shifted it. Sorry. I beg your pardon for this.
CB: That’s alright.
WM: It’s —
TB: Not this.
WM: No. It’ not that, Tony.
CB: We’ll have a look in a minute.
TB: Yeah.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
WM: Sorry. Sorry about that.
CB: That’s alright.
WM: Ok. Not to worry Tony.
TB: Oh.
WM: I know where it is now.
TB: Oh.
WM: She shifted it. I’ve got somebody that comes in, I beg your pardon, anyway , as I say between, between our training and respect for each other and what we did, I reckon that is why we survived. And not only that but the code of silence that we had. Now, what did happen was that later on, later on, once, once it started getting where they didn’t need so many people on the ground in Europe then we moved over to Tuddenham and then to Bomber Command, you know. And then later on all the station and everything else moved away from Tempsford across to Tuddenham, you know. And what happened was that the chap that I was flying with in the beginning, a chap called Murray, by that time he was, he was our wing commander. And he was the wing commander for 138 Squadron after the war as well for quite some considerable time, you know. Now, what happened, what happened to me was that on Bomber Command we did, we did thirty six ops on Bomber Command over and above what we did for the other ones but from time to time, our people just called them trips, there was no such thing as tours with us. It was if the old man let you off for a few days you got off for a few days. If he couldn’t afford to let you go you didn’t get, that’s how it was and you also had to make sure that you didn’t talk about what you were doing there. And that wasn’t just on the oath but that was also on the comradeship that we, that we had there, you know. Anyway, after that, after the end of the war the next thing we did was to fly back, fly back all our ex-prisoners of war and we were flying them back and also we were designated to take displaced persons down through France, down to the South of France, you know, and they had special camps there for them, to help them get rehabilitated, you know. And one of the biggest ones was at Istres you know.
CB: The who?
WM: Ist ISTRVS. In the south of France.
TB: Istrvs.
WM: Then of course, after a while there was three crews selected with their Lancasters and their ground crews and we went to RAF Benson. And we didn’t know what we were doing at first but eventually we found out what it was and one of the things that Churchill wanted was to have everything photographed from the air. The likes of London and cities like that we photographed them all from two thousand feet, then smaller towns. went I down gradually to about ten, fifteen thousand feet, and then of course the countryside was at twenty thousand feet. We didn’t only do the UK and Ireland but we also did right from the North of Norway all the way, right down to the Mediterranean and as far around to the east as we could go and come back on the fuel that we had. And that was an operation that had been put in place by Churchill when he was still in office, you know.
CB: So this was coastline? Coastlines?
WM: Sorry?
CB: Just the coastlines.
WM: No. No. Internal cities. Everything.
CB: Right.
WM: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Ok.
WM: Now we had bases, we had bases in Norway, we had bases in France, we had bases all over. And that was 138 squadron.
CB: Then what?
WM: Then I went. I was told I wasn’t going to get made up to another rank that I thought I was going to get and —
CB: What was that?
WM: A warrant officer then. And I didn’t get that and by that time instead of going out on class A, I took class B which was an early release for anybody who had been in the building trade and essential industries like that and that’s what I did from there, I took that and back in to the building trade.
CB: So what did you do in the building trade?
WM: Well we, we started, we revamped the family business and carried out many jobs, many contracts, but in the end we were finding out that all the spivs were getting the jobs instead of honest contractors. And then one day I decided now that enough’s enough and I said to the family, ‘Right’, the younger brothers, ‘You can take over the business. I’m going’. I didn’t know where I was going to but eventually I landed up in Africa with the African, what it was, was that the, the Mandela, Mandela, which was a trading store in Africa had started up a building section and they recruited me to go and take over a dozen sights there, you know. And that’s when we started building the schools and the hospitals and the universities and all sorts of things like that. First of all in the Nyasaland, as it was and then, and then in the Rhodesias and then that became the Federation. And then that went ahead by leaps and bounds until the UK government gave the countries away. And then eventually I came back here after fifty years.
CB: Where did you retire to?
WM: Well I retired here because I retired supposedly in 1980. What happened, my wife didn’t want me around the house so I went consulting, and I was a consultant for the Zimbabwe government, Zambian government and Namibia and Mozambique and Northern South Africa wasn’t it? [pause] Yeah.
CB: What made you choose this area?
WM: Well, what happened was that I came, I used to fly around here but also the fact was that I came back here in 1991 when one of my nieces and nephews were staying here and he’d been given, got a job as a bank manager from Africa to be here. And I rather liked it, and eventually my wife and I decided to come here, you know, and now that all my family are either in here or down in the Bournemouth area.
CB: How many children have you got?
WM: Three. Three children and then six, six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. Yeah.
CB: What was your wife’s name?
WM: Phillis. P H I L L I S. Like that.
CB: Yeah. Ah fantastic. Yeah. And when was she born?
WM: On the 1st of February 1926.
CB: When were you married?
WM: The 3rd of January 1947.
CB: So when were you actually demobbed?
WM: The end of February 1946.
CB: Ok. You talked about a lot of interesting things and one of the questions really is, we haven’t touched on is, what were the planes you were using when you were with 138? On the agent’s side.
WM: The twin engines were Hudsons.
CB: Right.
WM: Yeah. And then of course we had the single engines then.
CB: Did you, did you fly in Lysanders?
WM: Yes.
CB: You did. Right.
WM: Yes.
CB: How many people could you take in a Lysander?
WM: Well it all depended on the weight that you were carrying, you know. Yeah.
CB: But if it was just agents.
WM: Well that was, well that was, you could get three in, you know.
CB: As well as you and the pilot.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Ok. And in the Hudson?
WM: Well the Hudson mainly was, we took quite a few people on board, yes, about ten of them but we were mostly on the Hudsons taking in supplies to the Maquis.
CB: So how often did you air drop the supplies? Or how often did you land them?
WM: Well on the air drop, on the air drop was between, between fifteen and twenty, yeah, and then the land drops. The land ones, we landed with them, the special stuff. That was about five or six. Five or six.
CB: Six people.
WM: No, No.
TB: Six times.
WM: Six drops.
CB: Six drops. Yeah. Right.
WM: Yeah.
TB: How many Lysander trips did you do?
WM: Eh?
TB: How many Lysander trips did you do?
WM: About twelve altogether.
CB: Twelve Lysander trips. Ok. And Hudson? Because sometimes you didn’t find the location did you? So —
WM: No, we went, no well, we always seemed to, always seemed to be quite lucky that way. We were, you know. You know turn around and say it might have been the field next door or something like that but it wasn’t far away. We always managed to get our targets and get our stuff away.
CB: But it took exceptional navigational skill in the dark to be able to get to these places.
WM: It was.
CB: So what was the, what was the real key to that?
WM: Well they told me I had a countryman’s eyes.
CB: Because not everybody could do it.
WM: No, that’s right. As I said right at the beginning when I told you about the Clyde and the Clyde navigation.
CB: Yeah.
WM: The stars and things like that. You know, as a, as a boy I used to wander the countryside in the dark and it didn’t matter what the weather was.
CB: Right. So you had an eye for it.
WM: Oh yes. Aye.
CB: So the navigation itself. What were you flying? What height were you flying on the transit?
WM: Well the, no more than a thousand feet.
CB: Right. So that made it difficult.
WM: It did.
CB: To see laterally.
WM: That’s right.
CB: And when you got to the target then, where you were going to land, how did you do approach that? Did you do a straight in or did you fly over and around or —
WM: It all depends. If you recognised it and the code looks right you went straight in. Sometimes you buzzed it a couple of times because you weren’t sure whether it was a decoy or not. Because once or twice where the Jerries had set up decoys.
CB: So you were warned off were you?
WM: Yeah. Well it was the people on the ground you know.
CB: That’s what I meant, yeah.
WM: They always seemed to manage to do something that upset the Jerrie’s decoys. However, there were one or two chaps [pause] that didn’t.
CB: Yeah. The, so you’re coming at a thousand feet. Is this a wooded area or does it tend to be open country?
WM: Well most of them were open areas that we landed in, you know. Oh yeah.
CB: And how would they know you were coming in practical terms. At the last minute.
WM: Oh well. I would say they had a rough time of when we’d be there. That was what it was.
CB: So were they using lights to identify?
WM: Sometimes you had lights because we used to even take the lights in to them, you know. And sometimes the remote areas — sometimes they, they had little bush fires.
CB: Right.
WM: I call them bush fires. That’s from Africa, bush fires.
CB: Yeah. Yeah. So in landing they were fairly small strips.
WM: Oh yes.
CB: So how did you know, because you’ve got wind to consider?
WM: Yeah.
CB: How would you know which direction to approach for landing?
WM: Well, well you’d try and find your winds on the way through.
CB: Right.
WM: Yeah.
CB: And what navigation aids were you using?
WM: Well mostly, mostly, most of it was the navigator’s computer. There was a computer on the knee. But nine —
CB: The Dawson Computer.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
WM: Nine times out of ten, nine times out of ten it was just the old fashioned hit and run, you know.
CB: You didn’t have Gee.
WM: Oh no, not at that time. We never got Gee until we were flying in, we never had Gee until we, we flew in Lancasters.
CB: Right. Ok. So when you, when you were loading up to leave in the winter what was happening? Was the aeroplane sinking in? Is that what you were talking about earlier?
WM: Yeah. That’s what you had to watch out for.
CB: What did they do to help that?
WM: Well our people were very good because you know they made sure everything was alright for us but the ones on the other side as much as possible they had firm ground for us, you know.
CB: So you land the aeroplane. You had to taxi back.
WM: Yeah.
CB: In order to take off again.
WM: That’s right.
CB: How long are you on the ground between?
WM: Well, as I say, about twenty minutes.
CB: Right.
WM: Well, some, some of these trips. Other ones were a wee bit longer you know.
CB: The Lysander could get in a pretty small spot could it?
WM: Oh yes. Yeah. As a matter of fact most of the first groups — they used to land on the roads.
CB: Oh did they?
WM: Oh yes. Aye. Used to land on the roads.
CB: Between the trees.
WM: Yeah. ‘Cause you could do that with the Lysanders. Aye.
CB: What was the loss rate? Did people tend to —?
WM: Well I’ll tell you about it if you give me a few minutes.
CB: Yeah.
WM: I’ll give you it exactly, you know.
CB: Right. I’ll stop just for a moment.
WM: Yeah. Sure.
[Recording paused]
CB: Right. We’re talking about the loss rates in 138 in the flying over Europe.
WM: 138 Squadron. The Royal Air Force Association. The Royal Air Force, I beg your pardon. Royal Air Force. At Tempsford, during the time we were there we lost nine hundred and ninety five agents.
CB: Blimey. So when. When’s that from when to?
WM: That was right through the war.
CB: Right.
TB: When you say lost do you mean —
WM: Lost.
TB: What? Captured by the Germans.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Ok.
WM: We dropped twenty nine thousand containers.
CB: Yeah.
WM: We dropped seventy, we dropped ten thousand packages.
CB: Yeah.
WM: And there was seventy — seven zero aircraft lost.
CB: On the SOE operations.
WM: Yeah. And there was three hundred air crew lost. The motto for 138 squadron is “For Freedom”. “For Freedom.”
CB: Right.
WM: It may be that you’ll come across some day — the United States Air Force 7th Airlift Squadron came to be with us and they actually adopted our motto — “For Freedom.”
CB: Now, what were the aircraft used? Because we’ve talked about the Hudson —
WM: Yeah.
CB: And the Lysander.
WM: Oh yes.
CB: But were you using bigger planes as well?
WM: Oh yes. Of course. We used, used Stirlings and Halifaxes.
CB: In the squadron.
WM: Oh yes.
CB: Part of the same squadron.
WM: Oh yes.
CB: So they had lots of different aeroplanes. Yeah.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Right.
WM: Yeah. We used Whitleys. We used everything.
CB: Yeah.
WM: We used to say that the junk that the old man didn’t want they used to pass it down to us.
TB: How did the Stirlings and Halifaxes get off then because they needed quite a long runway didn’t they?
WM: Yeah. Well that was, that was fine there at Tempsford.
CB: Tempsford had a long runway so that was ok.
TB: But the other end?
CB: It’s a standard A airfield.
TB: The other end then. How did they didn’t actually — they didn’t actually land in those?
CB: They didn’t land those.
WM: No, no .
CB: They didn’t land at the —
WM: No. They were for the heavy stuff they were dropping.
CB: Yeah. So fast forward then to going to Tuddenham.
WM: Yeah.
CB: That was because the SOE bit stopped.
WM: That’s right.
CB: What did 138 do from Tuddenham?
WM: Well we were on Bomber Command.
CB: Yes. So what type of bombing were you doing there?
WM: Well we were on a lot of the big ones that was available at that time. Yeah.
CB: Right.
WM: Including, including the various ones like [pause] Where was one? There was the Kiel one.
CB: Yeah.
WM: The Kiel. Then there was, was —
TB: Did you do Cologne?
CB: And a, so you did a lot of different raids there.
WM: Yes.
CB: What, what about D-day because you got the Legion of Honour.
WM: Yeah. On, well, apart from the Legion of Honour wasn’t only just for D-day.
CB: No.
WM: That was for all the stuff we were doing for the French, you know.
CB: Right. Ok.
WM: But during D-day time what we were doing, we were dropping H2S. It seems a funny thing for us to be doing a thing like that, but H2S and you did so many trips during that particular time they just called it one. One day. One day. They didn’t call it, didn’t call it so many trips.
CB: Right.
WM: That was one day.
CB: Right. Ok. So what were you actually doing? What were you actually doing at that time?
WM: That was, we were dropping, we were actually dropping, dropping —
CB: Window.
WM: Window.
CB: Yeah.
WM: But at the same —
CB: Not H2S.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Because H2S is the radar isn’t it?
WM: That’s right.
CB: Yeah.
WM: Well H2S is our side.
CB: Yeah.
WM: Whereas, whereas the window was against the Germans so —
CB: Yeah. Quite.
WM: But of course, on the other hand we’d divert and do a short bombing run somewhere else. Somewhere, somewhere else.
CB: Oh as well.
WM: To try and convince them that we were all over the place.
CB: Yes. Yes.
WM: So one flight might go off after twenty minutes, another one after half an hour and go and drop something, and things like that.
CB: Right. Ok.
WM: Yeah.
CB: So just on timings. When did you start with 138 squadron at Tempsford?
WM: When?
CB: When was that?
WM: When. In Tempsford? Well we went back to Tempsford at the beginning of March.
TB: What year?
WM: Yeah.
CB: Nineteen forty —?
WM: 1945.
CB: Right.
WM: Yeah.
CB: But originally when did you go to Tempsford?
WM: Oh Tempsford. Not Tempsford, no, that was Tuddenham.
CB: Yeah.
WM: That was Tuddenham.
CB: Yeah. So when did you go to Tempsford?
WM: ‘41, ‘42
CB: Ok.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Right. And from then you went to Tuddenham.
WM: Tuddenham was at the end.
CB: Right. What did you do in the middle?
WM: Tempsford.
CB: Always Tempsford.
WM: Always Tempsford.
CB: Yeah. Ok. Good.
WM: It didn’t matter what job come up, we were a Tempsford squadron. Yeah.
CB: Ok. Good. Thank you very much.
WM: And that is, that is and that was very important was that we were. Well 219 Squadron came and joined us from time to time you know but I had nothing, I had nothing to do with them, you know.
CB: The same idea. You don’t talk to each other.
WM: Much the same idea. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Right. So when you were at Tuddenham and you were in Lancasters, how many sorties? How many ops did you do?
WM: That was thirty six.
CB: That was thirty six. Ok.
WM: Yeah.
CB: So that that until the end of the war.
WM: That’s right.
CB: Ok. And how did the crew get on?
WM: Oh, we had a great crew. What we, what we did, we went back to a place called Langar.
CB: In Nottinghamshire. Yes.
WM: In Nottingham. And that’s where we, where we picked up the rest of the crew.
CB: Right.
WM: And also there was one funny one we picked up, and what he was, he was the youngster, just come right out of university and we didn’t know how many languages he could speak but he could speak just about everything on the continent. And he used to carry his black box with him wherever he went and he used to, he used to speak into that. We never knew exactly what he was doing but we had an idea that he was talking to the German control.
CB: Yeah.
WM: And everything else like that.
CB: Yeah.
WM: A very important job, but as I say he was just straight out of university.
CB: But he was completely detached from the rest of the crew.
WM: No, no, no.
CB: On the ground I meant.
WM: He was a part of the crew.
CB: No. On the ground.
WM: Oh, on the ground. On the ground, yeah. He’d his own, he had his own station on the aircraft. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Where was that?
WM: Yeah. He was behind the radio operator.
CB: Right.
WM: Because they had to work together on it.
TB: But you dropped food stuffs into Holland as well didn’t you?
WM: Oh yes. That, we were on, we were on that drop.
CB: On Manna.
WM: Oh yeah.
CB: Operation Manna. Yeah.
WM: Yeah.
CB: How many drops did you do on that?
WM: We did, at the beginning we did three in one, three a day.
CB: Right.
WM: We did that for about fifteen days.
CB: Yeah.
WM: Aye. Yeah.
CB: And what height would you be flying for that?
WM: Well some of it we were just over, some of it, at the beginning there was about a thousand feet, then it was down to six hundred, you know. But there was one, one little story which is quite, quite a good one. We, it was the first Sunday we were on the run and we were on our second, second run, anyway what happened, As we were flying up, you see what had happened the ladies, we called it ladies, we used to call it ladies they had made white crosses like that.
CB: The WAAFs.
WM: Yeah. Well we said that was.
CB: Yeah.
WM: We didn’t really know but the women used to say it was them.
CB: Yeah.
WM: And what it was that became our drop zones.
CB: Oh I see. Right.
WM: And that was inside —
CB: In Holland.
WM: Football grounds and thing like that.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
WM: Enclosed areas. Anyway, what happened was as we were coming in and just about ready for the drop and I saw this other Lanc coming in like that.
CB: Oh.
WM: And I said, ‘You’re bringing sprogs, you know’, and we went a little bit that way and dropped because we couldn’t do anything else, we’d already gone, you know. More or less gone. Top they went and the stuff went outside and landed here.
CB: Right. On the outside of the designated area.
WM: On the railway, you know.
CB: Yeah.
WM: Yeah. Anyway, what happened was that years later we’d just opened a rugby ground in Africa and I was saying, I said, yeah, I said one of the stories I was saying, ‘And there we were, we dropped the food’. This lad came across. ‘And the stuff fell outside on the bloody railway line’, you know. And I said, ‘It looked like a whole lot of little black ants around a sugar lump, you know. In Africa that was.
CB: Yeah.
WM: All of a sudden I had a hand on my shoulder, and I looked around and somebody bigger than Tony, or he seemed bigger than Tony. I said, ‘What is it?’ He said, ‘You nearly killed me’, I said, ‘What?’, ‘You nearly killed me’. I said, ‘How?’ He said, ‘That was, I was that first lot of black ants’. And there’s another lady here, she was at church with us on Wednesday and she was five year old then and what happened was that her mother heard the bombers coming in and she, her granny said, ‘Hide under the table. Hide under the table. We’re going to get bombed. Going to get bombed’. And her mother said, ‘They’re very low’. The next thing they saw these funny things coming down because that was before the arrangements were made.
CB: Oh.
WM: And that was on to like a golf course. An open area. It wasn’t any good for landing.
CB: No.
WM: It was undulating stuff, you know. And what, what happened was that as I say she was five year old and that was the stuff landing right in front of her, you know.
CB: Amazing.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
WM: And she’s here.
CB: Is she? What an extraordinary thing.
WM: And the number, the number of people that I’ve met is terrific. Well Tony was with us.
TB: Yeah.
WM: Tony was with us. I had a photograph here. Well it’s not a photograph.
TB: Yeah.
WM: There’s a painting done by a Dutchman, you know that was bigger than that.
CB: Right.
WM: No. It’s not there now Tony. It’s gone, my daughter’s got it. Like that. A great big mural, yeah. And he had it, he gifted it that day we were up there at Lincoln and it shows you the Lancasters all coming in, dropping the food and all the rest of it, you know and he actually gave me one just bigger, a little bit bigger than that envelope there.
TB: But the Germans were allowed to eat the food as well that was meant —
WM: Oh yes.
TB: There were people.
CB: They were starving too.
WM: Oh yeah. Well that was one of the reasons why, why, well, do you know the story behind it? Right. The people in Holland, both indigenous ones and members of the German armed forces, were starving and two young Canadian officers, lieutenants, had been talking to their CO and said, ‘Hey man, can’t we do something about that? These people are starving’. And he says, ‘We’ve got plenty of food’.
CB: These were army officers.
WM: Yeah. ‘We’ve got plenty of food. Let’s give some to them’. He said, ‘How are we going to do that?’ He says, ‘Let us go in and see the German. See if he’ll allow it’. He said, ‘They might, you never know’. The two of them. No guns, no nothing like that, no knives, and they went in and they walked right into the German headquarters and demanded to see the number one. So they got in there and they put their case to them that the aircraft coming in wouldn’t drop bombs as long as you didn’t shoot at them, and we’ll drop food and you can share it. Of course he thought that was a good idea. You can share it. Anyway, that happened. So the first thing that people said was, ‘Where are we going to get containers?’ Everybody said, ‘138 squadron. They’ve got hundreds of them’, you know. And so we had. And what they, did they next thing we knew there was American, American trucks, Canadian trucks, all of that coming on to our secret ‘drome, you know, with food. And of course they were all loaded up and taken to us and put in these containers. That’s why I’m saying about contained looked like. They must have had quite a job trying to get into it of course, you know.
CB: Yeah.
WM: But that, that was the first lot of containers that were been dropped. Then they used to drop them in the reinforced mail sacks, you know. Well they were, they were run up special. People were running up up them special night and day to drop, so we could drop, so we could drop them.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
WM: Some of them were great big things. They weren’t small, you know. Aye.
CB: So even at six hundred feet the power of the drop would have been —
WM: Oh well.
CB: Difficult for the —
WM: Well that was, that was —
CB: They were breaking.
WM: Well, that was the chance. Yeah. But most of our containers were alright because —
CB: Yeah.
WM: They were used to being dropped, you know.
CB: No. Quite.
TB: [inaudible] Lancasters were dropping the food?
CB: Eh?
TB: Were they using Lancasters?
WM: Lancasters. Yeah.
CB: Lots of squadrons did it.
WM: Oh yes. There was.
CB: Yeah.
WM: Aye.
CB: Right. What was the most memorable thing about your experience in the RAF?
WM: It was when we were dropping the food to Holland and the response that we got. Yeah.
CB: What? What was the response?
WM: Oh terrific.
CB: In what way? How did they demonstrate it?
WM: Oh well. The crowds. Hundreds of people come out and waving to you and everything like that. And the, and the messages that was coming across, illicit radios and everything else. The airwaves were full of it. Aye.
CB: Were they?
WM: Aye. Oh yes.
CB: And then after the war did anybody go back to Holland to see? What?
WM: Oh yes. Yeah. Not only that, for quite a number of years they held food drops there, cheese drops. I was, in the beginning, alright but then I was away for fifty years. It still carried on during that time, and what used to happen was that the Dutch people came, came across on light aircraft and they brought all these little parachutes with these, you know these wee round cheeses and used to drop them at the various Royal Air Force Association homes on one special day at one special time. Yeah. And that was the food drops.
TB: ‘Cause you’re got a Dutch reward haven’t you as well? As well.
WM: Aye. I’ve got a Dutch medal. Yeah.
CB: What’s that called? What’s that called?
WM: Would you like to see it?
CB: Yeah.
[Recording pause]
CB: So we’re talking about your Dutch award for Manna. What’s that called?
WM: I’ve got it. Yeah. Yeah. That’s it.
CB: What’s it say?
WM: Thank you. “Thank you Canada and Allied Forces. Awarded the Medal of Remembrance. Thank you Liberators. 1945. To Mr W.T. Moore.”
CB: This is a plaque on the wall.
WM: Yes.
CB: Yes. Framed.
WM: Yes.
CB: Yes. And then after the war there were regular contacts but you were abroad.
WM: Yeah.
CB: So you didn’t get involved.
WM: That’s right.
CB: Yeah.
WM: Since I’ve returned I’ve been highly involved with them.
CB: Yes. That’s really good. And this year, on the seventieth, last year just gone, the seventieth anniversary. Did you go to Holland?
WM: No. I didn’t. I didn’t manage to go.
CB: Right.
WM: But I had quite a number of Holland and Dutch people come here and saw me.
CB: Did you? Fantastic.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Can I just wind things back a little. Tell me about the crew. How, at Langar you crewed up. How did that happen?
WM: Well [laughs] it was an old RAF system.
CB: Go on.
WM: Open the hangar door, everybody goes in and they shut the hangar door and you’re told to, to crew up. In other words you have to try and find a crew. And well we were alright, Nobby and I were alright, we knew each other.
CB: That’s the pilot.
WM: That’s right.
CB: What was his name?
WM: Noble. Noble.
CB: Noble. Right.
WM: Yeah. Because I had a few pilots before that but he was the one they were going to fly Lancasters with, you know, and so then we —
CB: Who took the initiative in selecting the rest of the crew?
WM: Well, it just happened that, happened to be we that were standing around and this old man came around, you know and we said, ‘Oh he looks alright. He’s got experience. What’s your name?’ ‘Graham. Graham Wilson’, ‘What are you?’, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I’m a tail gunner’, We said, ‘Oh bugger off. We don’t want, you’re six feet and odd and you don’t tell us that’, you know. ‘You’re something else’, you know. Anyway, Graham Wilson became the tail gunner. He was, he was already twenty five plus twenty six.
CB: Yeah. An old boy. Yes.
WM: I know about that but —
CB: Yeah.
WM: And of course, then of course we had we had Jimmy Dagg. Jimmy Dagg from New Zealand and he became, he became our, [pause] well what he, what he actually did was he was our radar man. He was a radar man. He looked after all the radar equipment, and operating that as well. And then we had, we had radar, we had the wireless operator. We had a wireless operator and he was a signaller, Wireless Op/AG. He was a signaller as they called themselves, and he came from across the Clyde from me and his name was Dave Mitchell. [pause] Then of course the mid-upper, the mid-upper gunner, well he come from Canterbury. Peter. Peter Enstein and he and the family have a, have a hotel in Canterbury still, you know.
TB: You met up with one of them at the ITV do didn’t you?
WM: Sorry?
TB: You met up with someone at the ITV do.
WM: Yeah.
TB: Who was that?
WM: Well, that was that, that was the same ones that we met later on in life. Yes.
CB: Who was the flight engineer?
WM: The flight, the flight —
CB: Flight engineer.
WM: The flight engineer was Gus. He come from, he came from London, you know.
CB: Gus.
WM: Yeah, Gus Mitchell. Not Mitchell [pause] Oh what was his second name. Gus. Oh I’ll come back to him in a minute.
CB: Yeah. Ok.
WM: Sorry about that.
CB: Right. Now, anything else that we need to cover that comes to your mind particularly?
WM: Well, just about [pause] Well I think we’ve been covering it in general. We’ve covered in general, you know.
CB: Yes.
WM: We haven’t gone into designated drops and designated flights and —
CB: Ok.
WM: Where people got shot up and things like that.
CB: Yeah. Well that’s —
WM: I haven’t done that.
CB: No. Can you do that?
WM: I haven’t done that on purpose.
CB: Oh right. Ok.
WM: I haven’t done that on purpose.
CB: Yeah.
WM: We were quite lucky. We were quite lucky. We went in, in to Bomber Command as a crew and we come out as a crew. We were lucky.
CB: Yeah.
WM: We, the pilots I had earlier on for the small and light aircraft and things like that the most memorable one to me was this chap as I say when I started off he was a, he was a pilot officer, you know, and he finished up as the, as the wing commander. And with that he [pause] he actually, well to me he was a person who deserved everything he ever got because he was, he was a first class team leader, he was a first class gentleman. If he told you a thing then he meant it, he didn’t elaborate on it, you know. And his name was Rob Murray. Of course he had various, various high decorations during his time.
CB: Yeah. Such as?
WM: Well he got all the high ones.
WM: That’s right.
CB: And bars?
WM: Well he did. He did, yes.
CB: So, when you were on operations, what was the most challenging thing on that? So you’re on the Lancaster —
WM: Well on a Lancaster the main challenging thing was to watch out for night fighters.
CB: Right.
WM: You know, by that time your navigational aids were good but the worst thing about it was the German night fighters. Because there were so many young crews, as I call them, shot down before they even left the UK. The likes of chaps just about ready to shove off the cliffs there, you know, they got shot down, you know.
CB: The night fighters were in that close were they? On the way to meet you.
WM: Oh yes. Now then and also at night time on the return trips. That was also the night fighters rejoice.
CB: Right.
WM: Oh yes. You don’t hear a lot about that but there was a lot of chaps were actually shot down here.
CB: Yeah.
WM: On the return.
CB: Yeah.
WM: On the return journey.
CB: And what about the British night fighters that were counteracting those?
WM: Oh well that was up to my Jimmy Dagg and our boffin boy to do that. To try and, try and keep our special signals going. Aye.
CB: So Jimmy Dagg was, where was he operating? Behind the signaller.
WM: Yeah. That’s right.
CB: And who was your bomb aimer?
WM: I did the bomb aimer as well as that because I did, I did the navigating and the bomb aimer.
CB: Oh did you? Right.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Ok. Right. And so when you were on the sorties in the night obviously.
WM: Yeah.
CB: In the squadron. Then what, you were in a stream.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Did you ever see other aircraft while you were there?
WM: Oh yes, yes. Oh yes, we did.
CB: How close did any of them get?
WM: Well I think sometimes within a hundred metres. And other than that you had to watch out for chaps who were either too low or too high. Or too quick on the bomb release. Yeah.
CB: Any coming down from above you?
WM: Oh yes. But you know the thing is that if you went straight through on the guidelines of what you were told to do you were much safer than if you tried to do something different.
CB: Right.
WM: Aye.
CB: So because you’ve got the extra person on board then you’re doing the bomb aiming as well as the navigation.
WM: That’s right. That’s right.
CB: So the practicality is on the run in. How far out from the target are you doing straight and level.
WM: Well a lot of that depended on the territory and the terrain and how it was at night time you know. But generally, generally in later days when the pathfinders were going it was twenty, thirty miles and more.
CB: And you are, you are not. You are releasing the bombs as the bomb aimer.
WM: Yeah.
CB: But you’re not controlling the aircraft. Is that right?
WM: No. Well you did control the aircraft.
CB: Oh.
WM: Because you were controlling the pilot.
CB: That’s what I meant, you’re telling the pilot.
WM: Oh yes.
CB: Rather than having the remote.
WM: Yeah. Oh yes.
CB: Yourself.
WM: Oh yeah. The thing is as I often joke about coming out of the road here at night time I say to people, ‘Left. Left. Left. Left. Right.’
CB: Yes.
WM: You know.
CB: And then you had to do the photoflash afterwards. So how soon would that be after you’d released?
WM: Well that. All that, that depended on how the target was.
CB: Right.
WM: But what you did was you counted in. You say each, each lot of bombs were [pause] were going to go off at different heights because they were different types of bomb types you were going. It wasn’t just all the same type
CB: Ok. So what were the types?
WM: Well you had everything from the small incendiaries, well the nuisance bombs, you know.
CB: Yeah.
WM: The big incendiaries that used to drop and probably set two or three buildings going you know.
CB: Right. So your load would be a mixture of high explosive.
WM: That’s right.
CB: And incendiaries.
WM: Normally was.
CB: So the photoflash was to illuminate the target.
WM: Oh to try and, yeah.
CB: And when did the camera fire. How did that happen?
WM: Well that was timed, that, we didn’t —
CB: Automatic.
WM: We didn’t actually do the timing.
CB: Right.
WM: That was actually arranged ahead of time you know.
CB: So if you weren’t at the right height for the original calculation.
WM: Yeah.
CB: What happened?
WM: Well then, then of course they could give you, could give you, you know say whether you were actually within that area or not, you know.
CB: Yes.
WM: Oh yes.
CB: Ok.
WM: A lot of people turn around say now that it was scattered and all the rest of it but a lot of them didn’t realise that you might have had a change of wind. The wind might have went up from fifty or sixty knots to about a hundred knots.
CB: Right. And how did you detect that change?
WM: Well, well what you did was you were finding your winds all the time and that. You had to try and allow for that you know.
CB: But you’re not using a sextant.
WM: That was the old days.
TB: Looking out the window.
CB: So you’re using Gee.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Are you? And GH.
WM: Oh yeah. Yeah.
CB: And GH?
WM: And of course. Yeah. And otherwise H2S, you know.
TB: H2S. Yeah. Just a quick one —
WM: Once you, once you started on H2S you know it was a different story entirely.
CB: So what could you see with H2S?
WM: Well if you had water around you it was excellent. If you were going up alongside a canal you had excellent because the more water you had around you the better it was.
CB: The contrast.
WM: Yeah.
CB: So how did you use H2S? For navigation? Or could you use it for the actual bombing?
WM: Well we could use it, could use it for navigation. You could use it for bombing as well. Oh yes.
CB: But what was the downside of using H2S?
TB: The tracking.
WM: [laughs] You should know what that was.
TB: Yeah. Yeah.
WM: That was as bad as the night fighter.
TB: Yeah. Yes.
CB: So the practicality of it is that you’d only switch it on occasionally.
WM: Well the trouble was the better you were on the other instruments, the better your crew were on the other instruments, the safer you were.
CB: Yeah.
WM: Once you got the run ups and different things like that you then you were taking your chances.
CB: Yeah. To what extent were you aware of the German system of upward firing guns in night fighters?
WM: Well the thing is, the thing is this. With that —
CB: The Schrage music.
WM: It was something, it was something your rear gunner was dreading because after a certain angle he’d no control over that at all but if he, if he was on his, on his proper lateral defences for the aircraft, fine . Now, it’s, you couldn’t turn, you couldn’t turn around, turn around and say that the rear gunner missed something you know because it was a big bit of sky you know.
CB: How many times did you get fired on from a fighter?
WM: Very seldom. I dare say we actually got fired directly on with the other ones but we were aware of them, you know.
CB: And did you do many corkscrews?
WM: Oh yes, quite a few. Quite a few of them. Yeah. That that was a lot of the targets like Kiel and places like that that was when you did a lot of corkscrews was on that.
CB: Yeah. And they were using box flak were they?
WM: Yeah. Well you see, along, along the canals and that you had your pockets because, you know, the canal was where there had been several good attempts or big attempts at different things. Like one night we went out on the Friday nights and we bombed this battleship, you know and we actually put it on its side, you know. And the Sunday night we were called up again and somebody said, ‘you’ve got to go and so and so’. And a voice chipped up and said, ‘Hey are you wanting us to right and put it back up the way it was before?’ [laughs] That was a fact, that’s what he said. That was actually recorded as being recorded. [laughs]
CB: So when you were bombing shipping what bombs were you using?
WM: You had a medium height bomb you know but we weren’t in for the shipping direct we weren’t in a lot of these special ones.
CB: Right.
WM: But dropping bombs. Dropping bombs in the submarine pens, nowwe had the big ones for them as well.
CB: You did carry the big ones.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Ok.
WM: But you see the thing is this. We had a modern, we had a modern Lancaster, the most up to date one, yeah, And the thing about them was, was that you were, you were dropping. Later on what we were doing although we thought we were dropping on submarine pens, it wasn’t. We were dropping them because the V2s and the V2s were in there and at the beginning we didn’t even know that there was V2s and V1s, we just thought they were submarine pens because the amount of damage that the government believed was going to come on the London area was going to be horrendous and there could have been, you know. It was bad enough the likes of people down this area knew about the V2s and V1s and things like that.
CB: Yeah. Sure.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Right. Do you want to stop there for a mo?
TB: How did they discover, the Germans discover —
[Recording paused]
CB: What was the role, the difference between you, sorry, the wireless operator and Jimmy Dagg. So Jimmy Dagg —
WM: Well the wireless operator had, as you say wireless.
CB: Yeah.
WM: He had his official work to do.
CB: Yeah. Signaller.
WM: Yes.
CB: Right.
WM: When Jimmy was doing this other thing you had, you had lots of stuff that was introduced that Jimmy used to use, you know. A lot of it, we never touched it, we never touched it, you know. Same as the, same as the youngster with his black box, we never saw what was inside that.
CB: So, Ok. Who was the youngster then?
WM: Eh?
CB: Who was the youngster?
WM: Well, he was young Weir.
CB: Oh he was young Weir was he?
WM: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Right.
WM: But we never, well maybe a bit [laughs] [coughs] we didn’t, we didn’t treat him as a kid, you know, but we did actually look after him, you know, because by the time we were doing that we were, you know, we had quite a few things under our belts sort of thing, you know. Yeah.
CB: So he only came in later did he?
WM: That’s right.
CB: Right. Ok.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Where did you meet your wife and when?
WM: Oh I met my wife in 1944 in Dunoon, in Scotland.
TB: Up there.
WM: There it is. There. Up there.
TB: Yeah.
WM: That’s the picture up there.
CB: Yeah.
WM: But what it was, was we got, we got some leave and I managed to persuade the old man to give us a few days extra. And I said, ‘It takes us two days to get there and two days to get back again, you know’. And he said, ‘Ok’. So we got about ten, got about ten days and that, and that was the July of ‘44. As I say we thought we deserved a, we deserved a bit of a rest after what we’d been doing for D-day and all the rest of it, you know.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
WM: Yeah.
CB: And how many other bombers did you see blow up?
WM: Quite a few actually but you were never sure whether it was your ones or the enemy that had been got at, you know.
CB: How do you mean your ones?
WM: I mean, I mean our aircraft. Some other Lancasters.
CB: Which, whether it was a German plane that blew up.
WM: Yeah.
CB: Or a British one.
WM: That’s right.
CB: Ok.
WM: Sometimes they went, they went puff too. Yeah. But no, no, it was hard to say.
CB: And your rear, Graham Wilson in the back.
WM: Yeah.
CB: At six feet he was squashed in. Did you have the later .5 machine guns in the rear turret?
WM: Yeah. Yeah. We had that. I’ll tell you what we did, I never mentioned this with —
CB: Previously.
WM: At one time from [pause] this was one of the sort of trips that we did from [pause] from Tuddenham. We, we went up to Abbotsinch and we got new engines put in, you know, and , well they turned around and said these ones were getting a bit old and so they were but we got these new engines put in.
CB: More powerful.
WM: Powerful. We could fly faster, fly further, fly higher, all the rest of it. Anyway, there was only three. So anyway we went up there and we got up to Abbotsinch which is now Glasgow airport, you know. I knew it as Abbotsinch as a kid, you know. Anyway, we left that aircraft. We had taken our own ground crew with us.
CB: Oh.
WM: We were told to do that, they also got leave, and we went home and all the rest of it. We didn’t scatter because everybody came and stayed with my mother, you know. Anyway, we got back and they had these new engines and the ground crew were back. They also had a couple of Scotsmen in the ground crew and we had to test these new engines and fly them around and give a report. So we used to take the chiefy, if you know what a chiefy is. Do you know what a chiefy is?
CB: Yeah. The chief technician. Yeah.
WM: No, no.
CB: The ground crew chief.
WM: No.
CB: Oh. Which one?
WM: No. A chiefy was a flight sergeant.
CB: Oh.
WM: [laughs] That is where it came from.
CB: Yes.
WM: The equivalent from the, from the Navy.
CB: Right.
WM: Was the chiefy.
CB: Right.
WM: And the flight sergeant became a chiefy. But anyway their chiefy came along and we got these engines back and had to run them up, so we did that and we had a couple of days flying around and one night in the, in the mess and the naval boys were shooting a line about HMS Forth and the submarines in the Holy Loch and they said that nobody could get near them, you know. Well, I’ll tell you what, I just, I never said a word and I’d told the crew already you don’t mention anything about. They might have guessed my accent a bit but, you know. Anyway, so anyway what we did we went into Paisley and we got a whole lot, a whole lot of little bags of lime, you know, and we loaded it up in the Lancaster and we took off. So, we had, we had permission to fly anywhere we wanted as long as it wasn’t in one of these defensive barrages, you know, whatever they call them. Anyway, we decided that we’d go and see The Forth. So we got in, we revved her up, we took off, we went across the Clyde to Erskine. We went up in to Loch Lomond and flew up Loch Lomond and flying low, used to flying low, then we jumped. We jumped over the section where the Norsemen used to draw their boats across Loch Lomond to Loch Long. And we jumped across there, down Loch Long, moved over into Loch Eck, down Loch Eck, Glen Massan and then we just opened up the throttle. Full throttle right down the Holy Loch and dropped all this stuff on HMS Forth and all the submarines and got the hell out of it, you know. Anyway, we got, we did, we went away down the Isle of Arran and all the way around about, the bottom of the Clyde, you know, and back up again about an hour later, you know. So, eventually we landed and this lieutenant commander sent for us, and we paraded in front of him, all scraggly buggers, you know. None of us had proper uniform on, we’d just what we used to use around the aircraft you know. Anyway, he says, ‘You’re all on a charge’. ‘Why sir?’, ‘Well it’s my Lancaster that did this, AC-Charlie, and I won’t have it’. I said, ‘What do you mean your Lancaster, sir?’ He said, ‘Well they’re based here and they’re my Lancasters. I’m in trouble for them’. I said, ‘Oh. Why’s that?’, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘You made a mess of the Forth’. ‘Don’t you remember the other night in the mess? All these naval boys were saying it was impossible, you know’. ‘Well. Dismissed. We’ll see you later when you come back from your next job’. So we went up and went up north and we loaded up with bombs and eventually the idea was to go up into Leningrad, you know, so called Leningrad then, you know and the siege. A lot of people thought the siege was just like across the road there you know but it wasn’t, it was about forty or fifty miles away, you know, but at the same time old Jerry had it all wrapped up, you know. But the Russians had their great bunkers there that you could land a Lancaster on. Well they had, they used to say, ‘Watch the bloody holes in the runway’. But they used to fill them in all the time. Anyway we landed there, got under this big, what was supposed to be bomb proof shelters, you know. Well we knew what we were doing the other side but anyway that was it. So we stayed there until the wind changed because we couldn’t have the wind that we came in on otherwise we’d be flying over the Jerries’ lines immediately, you know, at low level. So we waited until the wind changed, right, Gulf of Finland, away, good.Back up were Russian bombs then, Back right down we dropped the Russian bombs. Now this was all his majesty’s ideas and I don’t mean the King either. This was Winston Churchill’s ideas to show what, what we could do, you know. Anyway, we went back to Lossiemouth and back again and back again and we were lucky, you know. We had a few chips and things like that. Anyway, the last time we got to Lossiemouth they said. ‘No. It’s finished. You did enough’. ‘Oh thank you very much. Where do we go now?’, ‘Go back to Abbotsinch.’ Back to Abbotsinch and all the boffins came up from the, from a factory which is, well the factory’s about twenty minutes in a motor car, you know. About five minutes in a aeroplane, you know.
CB: Yeah.
WM: But that’s where they used to make these engines, you know. Anyway, all the boffins were there. Took the, took the engines off, took them away again and then we went up to see the old man as we call a lieutenant commander. So we got up there and I knocks on the door. No lieutenant commander, full commander. And I said to the boys, I said, ‘Oh this is alright. He’s been posted somewhere’, you know. He wasn’t posted somewhere, he’d been promoted to full commander which is just under a captain in the Navy . Yeah. So I saw his secretary, a very nice young lady, I got on well with her, you know. Anyway, we said to her, ‘When can we see the boss?’ Well, she said, ‘I’ll make an appointment for you’,’ Alright’. The next morning appointment everybody had their best blues on, shining, buttons polished, boots polished. She led us in. He was out in his other office. ‘Come in. [pause] Morning gentleman. Why are you here?’ I said, ‘Beg your pardon sir. You’re the one who told us to come back here when we come back and you would sentence us to that escapade that we had’. ‘Don’t know anything about it’. I said, ‘But —‘, ‘I don’t know anything about it’. He said, ‘Good trips boys?’ ‘Yes’, ‘And they had theirs?’,’ Yes’. ‘My Lancasters’. So there it was. Nothing happened about it.
CB: That was lucky. Yeah.
WM: But the, there was a great friend of mine. He’d got a book, another book I think over there somewhere. Anyway, he’s written it. Peter. Peter Lovatt, you know.
TB: Oh that’s the bloke you met at the what’s name isn’t it?
WM: Sorry?
TB: That’s the one you met at —
WM: Oh right
CB: Is it there Tony?
TB: Yeah.
WM: Eh?
TB: Yeah.
WM: One on submarines, and one on this, and one on that.
CB: Yes. Lots of captains on HMS Forth.
WM: That’s right.
CB: Yes.
WM: And [pause] and of course as I say what happened was that I lost touch. And you know the Millies? [pause] Well the Millies are sponsored by the ITV and The Sun newspaper and one of the first ones that was done I was asked to go on it. Anyway, I’d been, I’d been speaking to a young lady at the Bomber Command luncheon on the Sunday.
CB: Yes.
WM: And this thing was going to happen about ten days later, you know. But at that time I didn’t know. So, anyway, what happened was that I couldn’t, I couldn’t find him anywhere. I’d written to him, we’d lost touch and that was it, you know. Anyway, I even got a letter from him. It took fourteen years to come to me, I got it though. Fourteen years to come to me. Anyway, I tried to find him, couldn’t find him. Anyway, on the, on the Saturday [pause] no, I’ll tell you a sad thing that happened was on the Sunday I’d been at the Bomber Command luncheon and my wife was dead and my children said, ‘No dad. You must go and we’ll see to everything at the moment.’ So, anyway on the Friday we had the service and on the Saturday morning my daughter got a phone call saying that I was wanted for something special for the Millies. We’d never heard about the Millies. Anyway, she got to know a bit more than I did and then apparently this lady went to work to try and find Peter and she found his son playing golf and then that led to them finding Peter. And then of course on the Wednesday I got a car that came here for me. I was warned about this. First of all they said black tie and wearing black tie is fine. The next one was lounge suit, yeah, that’s fine. Next one was blazers and badges, that’s fine, you know.Anyway, what did happen was that I took the whole lot and I got dressed here in the dickie suit. All the way down to London, just myself in this green tomato carriage. The next thing I knew we stopped at this hotel. ‘No. Keep in where you are’. ‘Where are we going now?’ ‘Just you wait and see. I’ve got my orders not to lose you’. I said, ‘Oh. Thank you’. So they took us to Number 10. So that was fine. So we had a photographic session and shaking hands and all this. And then we got taken back to the hotel. We went to the Dorchester first and we, we had drinks there and then they said, ‘Time up. Everybody in’. And we had buses by this time, great big buses, you know, and the driver had already told us that, ‘You sit in the place where you are because I’ve got you on camera and you don’t dare go and move. Or another bus’. Anyway, we got back to the hotel and somebody says, ‘How about dinner?’ ‘No. You’ll get dinner where we’re going’. ‘Where are we going?’ ‘We’ll take you there’. So we don’t know where we’re going. So all done up in dickie suits and medals and this, that and the next thing. And we get there and we’re at the War Museum and it’s all lined up like Hollywood. All these searing lights and all this thing and we get escorted up. Once again, in the bus they said, ‘Have you got your number?’ The bloke next to me, he keep talking away to me and he turned out to be with, he was the boss of the Royal Navy you know. And he was down in the dumps because they’d just took his aeroplanes away that day, you know. He wasn’t very happy with them, you know. On the other side of me was a young pilot officer who’d a brand new DFC up here, you know. Anyway, that was fine. Anyway, we got there and they said, ‘Right. As you come up if you get a green ticket you go to the right. You get a red ticket you go to the left.’ Alright. I got a red ticket. I’m going this way and all these film stars and all these other high [unclear] and had a great run ‘cause you meet everybody because that’s the idea of the two lots. Then all of a sudden somebody shouts out. ‘Ready. The doors will be open in five minutes ladies and gentlemen. And after you get in through the doors there’s toilets on the right and the left that you may use’. [laughs] Anyway, we get there and then of course they tell us what table we’re at. Then I find out that I’m with another five Bomber Command boys. Bomber Command. Five. Five and one is six. Something wrong. Anyway, we go back. We go, we sit down and we get our nibbles and this, that and the next thing and that’s the beginning of a good evening, you know. Plenty of wine coming around you know. Very nice. Good stuff. Then the next thing I noticed that there were people going up to the platform. So this man went up and this lady went up and this man went up and eventually, ‘Bomber Command. Table Thirteen.’ We go up. There’s still six. Anyway, we get up there and as we get up one of the chaps, about his size, what does he do? He falls down through the trapdoor. Honestly all you could see was he was down to about my size. [laughs] So, anyway, what happens then is that we’re beginning to get the idea there’s presentations going on. So we got this presentation, a beautiful glass ornament we’ll call it, a beautiful thing. We’ve got it. Anyway, what happened, we got that and everybody else had moved away when they got theirs and this presenter, that fella, same height as me, white hair and this young blonde girl. She was here and he was there and wouldn’t they let me move. No. Then the next thing was the roll of the drums. ‘Brrmbrrrm brummmm brmmm’. What happens?
TB: Peter comes in.
WM: They have it like that programme, “Your Life.” Eventually what happens, I get to see something. I thought to myself it can’t bloody well be. There’s Peter Lovatt there and of course they said to me, ‘What would you like to do tonight?’ I said, ‘I don’t know but I’m beginning to think my imaginations’, you know. Anyway, apparently my accent was broader than it should be. Anyway, what happened, It was Peter. They’d found him and they had him dickied up and they had him there after all these years. Yeah.
TB: [inaudible]
CB: Extraordinary.
TB: Yeah.
[Recording paused]
CB: We’re restarting. So what you’ve got is a plate here.
WM: Right.
CB: Yeah.
WM: Now —
CB: So they presented to you.
WM: Now, when we went in to the, when we went in there, on the table, there were lovely sets of plates were all on the table and of course everyone was admiring them and reading them. And then of course when we came back from being on the platform they had disappeared, you know. But unbeknown to us they’d made up bags. Extremely heavy, strong, beautiful carved out, set out plastic bags. Now in the audience was my friend. Who?
CB: This is your pilot?
WM: Camilla.
CB: Oh Camilla.
WM: Camilla and her husband.
CB: Right.
WM: So, anyway, what happened during the time we were going around and they went outside and then everybody came back inside after the toilet, you know. What happened then was that we were at the tables and the VIPs came around to greet us although everybody told us we were the VIPs and not the ones coming to greet us. So, anyway, the Prince of Wales and his good lady was coming around and they got to me and I was told that, you know, we could talk to them. They’re here, we could talk to them. You’re the VIPs and you can tell them any stories you like so long as you don’t go on too long, you know. Maybe they knew me. Anyway, what happened, when they came to me I said, ‘Good evening ma’am. Good evening sir. Thank you very much for coming tonight. We’re very happy to see you here’. I said, ‘By the way can I tell you a little story about your granny’. That’s to him. And Camilla takes out a wee book, I’ve got one of them here, yeah, h, a little book like that, you know, and her pen. I said, ‘This is a story’, I said, ‘In 1960 I built a race course for your granny and I was given ten days to build it while she went on a cruise up and down Lake Nyassa in Africa’, and of course then the ears were going but I hurried the story up. So, anyway, anyway Camilla’s busy writing and she says, ‘This is going to be our story at Christmas’. Christmas is only a few days away, you know. ‘This is going to be our story. Nobody knows that one’, you know. So, anyway she writes down all this stuff about what I told her and all the rest of it, you know. And I said, ‘I hope you can read that’, and she said, ‘Yes. I better’. I says, ‘Ok’. And Charles is watching her. Anyway, the next thing that happens, the next thing that happens is he says, ‘Is that all?’ I says, ‘Aye. I can tell you a lot of stories about your mum if you like too’, you know. He says, ‘Another time’, he says. I said, ‘Alright, we’ll make it another time’, [laughs]. Anyway, I’ve met them several times since. Anyway, what did happen the people on the platform turned about to these ones? Yeah. Now, he’s a secretary for Bomber Command and has been for generations. There’s myself there and this was my nominated girlfriend for the evening. Well the thing is this, she’s married now and got a baby now. [laughs] And this is the one that fell down the hole. Well there you are.
CB: Fantastic.
WM: This is us shaking hands on the — yeah. That’s my friend Peter Lovatt.
CB: Yeah.
TB: Have you heard from him since? Have you heard from him since?
WM: Oh yes. Aye.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Bill Moore. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 22, 2024,

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